Edward Young.

Night thoughts on life, death and immortality online

. (page 6 of 24)
Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 6 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

An unobtrusive tender of your hearts, 625

Abhorring violence ! who halt indeed }
But, for the blessing, wrestle not with Heav'n !
Think you my song too turbulent ? too warm ?
Are passions, then, the pagans of the soul ?
Reason alone baptiz'd ? alone ordain'd 630

To touch things sacred ? Oh for warmer still !
Guilt chills my zeal, and age benumbs my pow'rs j
Oh for an humbler heart, and prouder song !
THOU, my much-injur'd theme ! with that soft eye,
Which melted o'er doom'd Salem, deign to look
Compassion to the coldness of my breast ;
And pardon to the winter in my strain !
Oh ye cold-hearted, frozen, formalists !
On such a theme, J t is impious to be calm ;
Passion is reason, transport temper, here^
Shall Heav'n, which gave us ardour, and has shewn
Her own for Man so strongly, not disdain
What smooth emollients in theology,
Recumbent virtue's downy doctors preachy
That prose of piety, a lukewarm praise ?
Rise odours sweet from incense uninftam'd ?



Devotion, when lukewarm, is undevout ;

But when it glows, its heat is struck to Heav'n ;

To human hearts her golden harps are strung ;

High Heav'n's orchestra chants Amen to Man. 650

Hear !> or dream I hear, their distant strain,
Sweet to the soul, and tasting strong of Heav'n,
Soft-wafted on celestial Pity's plume,
Through the vast spaces of the universe,
To cheer me in this melancholy gloom ? 655

Oh when will Death (now stingless), like a friend,
Admit me of their choir ? Oh when will Death
This mould'ring, old> partition- wall throw down !
Give beings, one in nature, one abode ?
Oh Death divine ! that giv'st us to the skies ! 660
Great Future ! glorious Patron of the past,
And present ! when shall I thy shrine adore ?
From Nature's continent, immensely wide,
Immensely blest, this little isle of life,
This dark, incarcerating colony, 665

Divides us. Happy day ! that breaks our chain j
That manumits ; that calls from exile home ;
That leads to Nature's great metropolis,
And re-admits us, through the guardian hand
Of elder brothers, to our Father's throne ; 670

Who hears our Advocate, and, through his wounds
Beholding Man, allows that tender name.
'T is this makes Christian Triumph a command :
'T is this makes joy a duty to the wise ;
'T is impious, in a good man, to be sad. 675

Seest thou, LORENZO ! where hangs all our hope ?
Touch'd by the cross, we live, or more than die ;
That touch which touch'd not angels ; more divine


Than that, which touch'd confusion into form,
And darkness into glory ; partial touch ! 680

Ineffably pre-eminent regard !
Sacred to Man, and sovereign through the whole
Long golden chain of miracles, which hangs
From Heav'n through all duration, and supports
In one illustriousand amazing plan, 685

Thy welfare, Nature ! and thy God's renown ;
That touch, with charm celestial, heals the soul
Diseas'd, drives pain from guilt, lights life in death,
Turns earth to Heav'n, to heav'nly thrones transforms
The ghastly ruins of the mould'ring tomb ! 690

Dost ask me when ? When HE who dy'd returns ;
Returns, how chang'd ! Where then the man of woe ?
In glory's terrors all the Godhead burns ;
And all his courts, exhausted by the tide
Of deities triumphant in his train, 695

Leave a stupendous solitude in Heav'n ;
Replenish'd soon, replenish 'd with increase
Of pomp, and multitude ; a radiant band
Of angels new ; of angels from the tomb.

Is this by fancy thrown remote ? and rise 700

Dark doubts between the promise and event ?
I send thee not to volumes for thy cure ;
Read Nature ! Nature is a friend to truth ;
Nature is Christian ; preaches to mankind ;
And bids dead matter aid us in our creed. 705

Hast thou ne'er seen the comet's naming flight ?
Th' illustrious stranger passing, terror sheds
On gazing nations, from his fiery train
Of length enormous, takes his ample round
Through depths of ether ; coasts unnumber'd worlds,

M 2


Of more than solar glory j doubles wide 711

Heav'n's mighty cape, and then revisits earth,

From the long travel of a thousand years.

Thus, at the destinM period, shall return

HE, once on earth, who bids the comet blaze : 715

And, with him, all our triumph o'er the tomb.

Nature is dumb on this important point ;
Or hope precarious in low whisper breathes ;
Faith speaks aloud, distinct ; ev'n adders hear,
But turn, and dart into the dark again. 720

Faith builds a bridge across the gulph of Death,
To break the shock blind Nature cannot shun,
And lands thought smoothly on the farther shore.
Death's terror is the mountain Faith removes ;
That mountain-barrier between Man and Peace. 725
'T is Faith disarms destruction ; and absolves
From ev'ry clam'rous charge, the guiltless tomb.
Why disbelieve? LORENZO ! *' Reason bids,
All-sacred Reason." Hold her sacred still ;
Nor shalt thou want a rival in thy flame : 730

All-sacred Reason ; source, and soul, of all
Demanding praise, on earth, or earth above !
My heart is thine : Deep in its inmost folds,
Live thou with life ; live dearer of the two.
Wear I the blessed cross, by fortune stampt 735

On passive Nature, before thought was born ?
My birth's blind bigot ! fir'd with local zeal !
No ; Reason rebaptiz'd me when adult ;
Weigh'd true, and false, in her impartial scale';
My heart became the convert of my head ; 740

And made that choice, which once was but my fate,
* 6 Qn argument my faith is built ;"


Reason pursu'd is Faith ; and, unpursu'd
Where proof invites, 't is Reason, then, no more :
And such our proof, that, or our faith is right, 745
Or reason lies, and Heav'n design'd it wrong :
Absolve we this ? What, then, is blasphemy ?

Fond as we are, and justly fond of Faith,
Reason, we grant, demands our first regard ;
The mother honour'd, as the daughter dear. 750

Reason the root ; fair Faith is but the flow'r :
The fading flow'r shall die ; but Reason lives
Immortal as her Father in the skies.
When Faith is virtue, Reason makes it so.
Wrong not the Christian ; think not Reason yours ;
*T is Reason our great Master holds so dear ; 756
*T is Reason's injur'd rights his wrath resents ;
'T is Reason's voice obey'd, his glories crown ;
To give lost Reason life, he pour'd his own j
Believe, and shew the reason of a man ; 760

Believe, and taste the pleasure of a god ;
Believe, and look with triumph on the tomb.
Through Reason's wounds alone thy Faith can die ;
Which dying, tenfold terror gives to Death,
And dips in venom his twice-mortal sting. 765

Learn hence what honours, what loud Pseans, due
To those, who push our antidote aside ;
Those boasted friends to Reason, and to Man,
Whose fatal love stabs ev'ry joy, and leaves
Death's terror heighten'd gnawing on his heart. 770.
These pompous sons of Reason idoliz'd
And vilify'd at once ; of Reason dead
Then deify'd, as monarch? were of old i


What conduct plants proud laurels on their brow ?

While love of truth thro' all their camp resounds, 775

They draw Pride's curtain o'er the noon-tide ray,

Spike up their inch of reason, on the point

Of philosophic wit call'd argument ;

And then, exulting in their taper, cry,

" Behold the sun j" and, Indian-like, adore. 780

Talk they of morals ? O thou bleeding Love !
Thou Maker of new morals to mankind !
The grand morality is love of Thee.
As wise as Socrates, if such they were
(Nor will they 'bate of that sublime renown) j 785
As wise as Socrates, might justly stand
The definition of a modern fool.

A Christian is the highest style of Man.
And is there, who the blessed cross wipes off,
As a foul blot, from his dishonour'd brow ? 790

If angels tremble, 't is at such a sight :
The wretch they quit, desponding of their charge,
More struck with grief or wonder, who can tell ?

Ye sold to sense ! ye citizens of earth !
(For such alone the Christian banner fly 3) 795

Know ye how wise your choice, how great your gain ?
Behold the picture of earth's happiest man :
" He calls his wish, it comes ; he sends it back,
And says he cali'd another ; that arrives,
Meets the same welcome ; yet he still calls on j 800
Till one calls him, who varies not his call,
But holds him fast, in chains of darkness bound,
Till Nature dies, and Judgment sets him free j
A freedom far less welcome than his chain."


But grant Man happy ; grant him happy long j 805
Add to life's highest prize her latest hour j
That hour, so late, is nimble in approach,
That, like a post, comes on in full career :
How swift the shuttle flies, that weaves thy shroud !
Where is the fable of thy former years ? 810

Thrown down the gulph of time j as far from thee
As they had ne'er been thine ; the day in hand,
Like a bird struggling to get loose, is going ;
Scarce now possess'd, so suddenly 't is gone ;
And each swift moment fled, is death advanc'd 815
By strides as swift : Eternity is all ;
And whose eternity ? Who triumphs there ?
Bathing for ever in the font of bliss !
For ever basking in the Deity !

LORENZO! who? Thy conscience shall reply. 820
O give it leave to speak ; 't will speak ere long,
Thy leave unask'd : LORENZO ! hear it now,
While useful its advice, its accent mild.
By the great edict, the divine decree,
Truth is deposited with Man's last hour ; 825

An honest hour, and faithful to her trust ;
Truth, eldest daughter of the Deity ;
Truth of his council, when he made the worlds ;
Nor less, when he shall judge the worlds he made ;
Though silent long, and sleeping ne'er so sound, 830
Smother'd with errors, and oppress'd with toys,
That heav'n-commission'd hour no sooner calls,
But from her cavern in the soul's abyss,
Like him they fable under ^Etna whelm'd,
The goddess bursts in thunder, and in flame \ 835


Loudly convinces, and severely pains.

Dark Daemons I discharge, and Hydra-stings ;

The keen vibration of bright truth is hell :

Just definition ! though by schools untaught.

Ye deaf to truth ! peruse this parson'd page, 840

And trust, for once, a prophet, and a priest ;

" Men may live fools, but fools they cannot die."



JLORENZO ! to recriminate is just.

Fondness of fame is avarice of air.

I grant the man is vain who writes for praise.

Praise no man e'er deserv'd, who sought no more.

As just thy second charge. I grant the muse 5
Has often blush'd at her degenerate sons,
Retain'd by Sense to plead her filthy cause ;
To raise the low, to magnify the mean,
And subtilize the gross into refin'd :
As if to magic numbers' pow'rful charm 10

'T was giv'n, to make a civet of their song
Obscene, and sweeten ordure to perfume.
"Wit, a true pagan, deifies the brute,
And lifts our swine-enjoyments from the mire,.



The fact notorious, nor obscure the cause. 15

We wear the chains of Pleasure, and of Pride :
These share the man ; and these distract him too ;
Draw difPrent ways, and clash in their commands.
Pride, like an eagle, builds among the stars ;
But Pleasure, lark-like, nests upon the ground. 20
Joys shar'd by brute-creation, Pride resents ;
Pleasure embraces : Man would both enjoy,
And both at once : A point how hard to gain !
But what can't wit, when stung by strong desire ?

Wit dares attempt this arduous enterprise. 25

Since joys of Sense can't rise to Reason's taste j
In subtle Sophistry's laborious forge,
Wit hammers out a reason new, that stoops
To sordid scenes, and meets them with applause.
Wit calls the Graces the chaste zone to loose j 30
Nor less than a plump god to fill the bowl :
A thousand phantoms, and a thousand spells,
A thousand opiates scatters, to delude,
To fascinate, inebriate, lay asleep,
And the fool'd mind of Man delightfully confound. 35
Thus that which shock'd the judgment, shocks no more;
That which gave Pride offence, no more offends.
Pleasure and Pride, by nature mortal foes,
At war eternal, which in Man shall reign,
By Wit's address, patch up a fatal peace, 40

And hand in hand lead on the rank debauch,
Prom rank, refin'd to delicate and gay.
Art, cursed Art ! wipes off th' indebted blush
From Nature's cheek, and bronzes ev'ry shame.
Man smiles in ruin, glories in his guilt, 45

And Infamy stands candidate for praise.


All writ by Man in favour of the soul,
These sensual ethics far, in bulk, transcend.
The fiow'rs of eloquence, profusely pour'd
O'er spotted vice, fill half the letter'd world. 50

Can pow'rs of genius exorcise their page,
And consecrate enormities with song ?

But let not these inexpiable strains
Condemn the muse that knows her dignity ;
Nor meanly stops at Time, but holds the world 55
As 't is, in Nature's ample field, a point,
A point in her esteem ; from whence to start,
And run the round of universal space,
To visit being universal there,

And being's Source, that utmost flight of mind ! 60
Yet, spite of this so vast circumference,
Well knows, but what is moral, nought is great.
Sing syrens only ? Do not angels sing ?
There is in Poesy a decent pride,
Which well becomes her when she speaks to Prose, 65
Her younger sister ; haply not more wise.

Think'st thou, LORENZO! to find pastimes here?
No guilty passion blown into a flame,
No foible flatter'd, dignity disgrac'd,
No fairy field of fiction, all on flow'r, 70

No rainbow colours, here, or silken tale :
But solemn counsels, images of awe,
Truths, which eternity lets fall on Man
With double weight, through these revolving spheres,
This death-deep silence, and incumbent shade j 75
Thoughts, such as shall revisit your last hour j
Visit uncall'd, and live when life-expires ;
And thy dark pencil, Midnight] darker still

N 2


In melancholy dipt, embrowns the whole.

Yet this, ev'n this, my laughter-loving friends ! 86
LORENZO ! and thy brothers of the smile !
If what imports you most can most engage,
Shall steal your ear, and chain you to my song.
Or, if you fail me, know, the wise shall taste
The truths I sing; the truths I sing shall feel ; 85

And, feeling, give assent ; and their assent
Is ample recompense ; is more than praise.
But chiefly thine, O LITCHFIELD ! nor mistake j
Think not un-introduc'd I force my way ;
NARCISSA, not unknown, not unally'd, 93

By virtue, or by blood, illustrious youth !
To thee, from blooming amaranthine bow'rs,
Where all the language Harmony, descends
Uncall'-d, and asks admittance for the muse :
A muse that will not pain thee with thy praise ; 9
Thy praise she drops, by nobler still inspir'd.

O THOU ! blest Spirit ! whether the Supreme,
Great antenvundane FATHER ! in whose breast
Embryo creation, unborn being, dwelt,
And all its various revolutions roll'd ioo

Present, though future ; prior to themselves ;
Whose breath can blow it into nought again ;
Or, from his throne, some delegated pow'r,
Who, studious of our peace, dost turn the thought
From vain and vile, to solid and sublime ! 105

Unseen Thou lead'st me to delicious draughts
Of inspiration, from a purer stream,
And fuller of the god, than that which burst
From fam'd Castalia : Nor is yet allay'd
IVIy sacred thirst j though long my soul has rang'd no


Through pleasing paths of moral and divine*
By Thee sustained, and lighted by the stars.

By them best lighted arc the paths of thought ;
Nights are their days, their most illumin'd hours.
By day, the soul, o'erborne by life's career, 115

Stunn'd by the din, and giddy with the glare,
Reels far from reason, jostled by the throng.
By day the soul is passive, all her thoughts
Impos'd, precarious, broken, ere mature.
By night from objects free, from passion cool, 120
Thoughts uncontrolled, and unimpress'd, the births
Of pure electron, arbitrary range,
Not to the limits of one world cotifin'd J
But from ethereal travels light on earth,
As voyagers drop anchor for repose. 1 2 <

Let Indians, and the gay, like Indians, fond
Of feather'd fopperies, the sun adore :
Darkness has more divinity for me J
It strikes thought inward ; it drives back the soul
To settle on herself, our point supreme! 130

There lies bur theatre, there sits our Judge.
Darkness the curtain drops o'er life's dull scene ;
T is the kind hand of Providence stretch'd out
J T wixt Man and vanity ; 't is Reason's reign>
And Virtue's too ; these tutelary shades 13$

Are Man's asylum from the tainted throng.
Night is the good man's friend, and guardian too j
It no less rescues virtue, than inspires.

Virtue, for ever frail, as fair, below,
Her tender nature suffers in the crowd, 149

Nor touches on the world, without a stain :
The world 's infectious ; few bring back at eve,


Immaculate, the manners of the morn.

Something we thought, is blotted ; we resolv'd,

Is shaken ; we renounc'd, returns again. 145

Each salutation may slide in a sin

Unthought before, or fix a former flaw.

Nor is it strange : Light, motion, concourse, noise,

All scatter us abroad j thought outward-bound,

Neglectful of our home-affairs, flies off 150

In fume and dissipation, quits her charge,

And leaves the breast unguarded to the foe.

Present example gets within our guard,
And acts with double force, by few repell'd.
Ambition fires ambition ; Love of Gain 155

Strikes, like a pestilence, from breast to breast ;
Riot, Pride, Perfidy, blue vapours breathe j
And Inhumanity is caught from Man,
From smiling Man. A slight, a single glance,
And shot at random, often has brought home 160
A sudden fever to the throbbing heart,
Of envy, rancour, or impure desire.
We see, we hear, with peril j safety dwells
Remote from multitude ; the world 's a school
Of wrong, and what proficients swarm around ! 165
We must or imitate, or disapprove ;
Must list as their accomplices, or foes ;
That stains our innocence j this wounds our peace.
From Nature's birth, hence, Wisdom has been smit
With sweet recess, and languished for the shade. 1 70

This sacred shade, and solitude, what is it ?
'T is the felt presence of the Deity.
Few are the faults we flatter when alone.
Vice sinks in her allurements, is ungilt,

x x /w -me &

t-'or atittii
f/it/e </r<t


,, ot/

/, ti//S fne/


At'm fo f/ie, t/frtut/t of f/ie



And looks, like other objects, black by night. 175
By night an atheist half-believes a God.

Night is fair Virtue's immemorial friend ;
The conscious moon, through ev'ry distant age,
Has held a lamp to Wisdom, and let fall,
On Contemplation's eye, her purging ray. 180

The fam'd Athenian, he who woo'd from Heav'n
Philosophy the fair, to dwell with Men,
And form their manners, not inflame their pride,
While o'er his head, as fearful to molest
His lab'ring mind, the stars in silence slide, 185

And seem all gazing on their future guest,
See him soliciting his ardent suit
In private audience : All the live-long night,
Rigid in thought, and motionless, he stands ;
Nor quits his theme, or posture, till the sun 190

(Rude drunkard, rising rosy from the main !)
Disturbs his nobler intellectual beam,
And gives him to the tumult of the world.
Hail, precious moments, stol'n from the black waste
Of murder'd time ! auspicious Midnight, hail ! 1 95
The world excluded, ev'ry passion hush'd,
And open'd a calm intercourse with Heav'n,
Here the soul sits in council ; ponders past,
Predestines future action ; sees, not feels,
Tumultuous life, and reasons with the storm ; 200
All her lies answers, and thinks down her charms.

What awful joy ! what mental liberty !
I am not pent in darkness ; rather say
(If not too bold) in darkness I'm embower'd.
Delightful gloom ! the clust'ring thoughts around 205
Spontaneous rise, and blossom in the shade j


But droop by day, and sicken in the sun.

Thought borrows light elsewhere; from that First Fire,

Fountain of animation ! whence descends

Urania, my celestial guest ! who deigns 2 1 o

Nightly to visit me, so mean ; and now

Conscious how needful discipline to Man,

From pleasing dalliance with the charms of Night

My wand'ring thought recalls, to what excites

Far other beat of heart ; NARCISSA'S tomb ( 215

Or is it feeble Nature calls me back,
And breaks my spirit into grief again ?
Is it a Stygian vapour in my blood ?
A cold, slow puddle, creeping through my veins ?
Or is it thus with all Men ? Thus with all. 220

What are we ? How unequal ! Now we soar,
And now we sink ; to be the same, transcends
Our present prowess. Dearly pays the soul
For lodging ill ; too dearly rents her clay.
Reason, a baffled counsellor, but adds 225

The blush of weakness, to the bane of woe.
The noblest spirit fighting her hard fate,
In this damp, dusky region, charg'd with storms,
But feebly flutters, yet untaught to fly ;
Or, flying, short her flight, and sure her fall. 230
Our utmost strength, when down, to rise again ;
And not to yield, though beaten, all our praise.

'T is vain to seek in Men for more than Man.
Though proud in promise, big in previous thought,
Experience damps our triumph. I, who late, 23^
Emerging from the shadows of the grave,
Where Grief detain'd me pris'ner, mounting high,
Threw wide the gates of everlasting day,


And call'd Mankind to glory, shook off Pain,
Mortality shook off, in ether pure, 240

And struck the stars ; now feel my spirits fail ;
They drop me from the zenith ; down I rush,
Like him whom fable fledg'd with waxen wings,
In sorrow drown'd but not in sorrow lost.
How wretched is the man, who never mourn'd ! 245
I dive for precious pearl, in Sorrow's stream :
Not so the thoughtless man that only grieves ;
Takes all the torment, and rejects the gain,
(Inestimable gain !) and gives Heav'n leave
To make him but more wretched, not more wise. 250

If wisdom is our lesson, (and what else
Ennobles Man ? what else have Angels learnt ?)
Grief! more proficients in thy school are made,
Than Genius, or proud Learning, e'er could boast.
Voracious Learning, often over- fed, 255

Digests not into sense her motley meal.
This book-case, with dark booty almost burst,
This forager on others' wisdom, leaves
Her native farm, her Reason, quite untill'd.
With mixt manure she surfeits the rank soil, -260
Dung'd, but not drest j and rich to beggary.
A pomp untameable of weeds prevails.
Her servant's wealth incumber'd Wisdom mourns.

And what says Genius ? " Let the dull be wise."
Genius, too hard for right, can prove it wrong ; 265
And loves to boast, where blush men less inspir'd.
It pleads exemption from the laws of Sense j
Considers Reason as a leveller ;
And scorns to share a blessing with the crowd.
That wise it could be, thinks an ample claim 270



To glory, and to pleasure gives the rest.
Crassus but sleeps, Ardelio is undone.
Wisdom less shudders at a fool, than wit.

But Wisdom smiles, when humbled mortals weep*
When Sorrow wouhds the breast, as ploughs the glebe,
And hearts obdurate feel her soft'ning show'r ; 276
Her seed celestial, then, glad Wisdom sows ;
Her golden harvest triumphs in the soil.
If so, NARCISSA ! welcome my Relapse j
I '11 raise a tax on my calamity, 280

And reap rich compensation from my pain.
I '11 range the plenteous intellectual field ;
And gather ev'ry thought of sovereign pow'r
To chase the moral maladies of Man ;
Thoughts, which may bear transplanting to the skies,
Though natives of this coarse penurious soil ; 286
Nor wholly wither there, where seraphs sing,
Refin'd, exalted,, not annull'd in Heav'n ;
Reason, the sun that gives them birth, the same
In either clime, though more illustrious there. 290
These choicely cull'd, and elegantly rang'd.
Shall form a garland for NARCISSA'S tomb ;
And, peradventure, of no fading flow'rs.

Say, on what themes shall puzzled choice descend?
" Th' importance of contemplating the tomb j 295
Why men decline it ; Suicide's foul birth ;
The various kinds of grief; the faults of age ;
And Death's dread character invite my song."

And, first, th' importance of our end survey'd.
Friends counsel quick dismission of our grief : 300
Mistaken kindness ! our hearts heal too soon.
Are they more kind than He wha struck the blow ?


Who bid it do his errand in our hearts,

And banish peace, till nobler guests arrive,

And bring it back a true and endless peace ? 305

Calamities are friends : As glaring day

Of these unnumber'd lustres robs our sight;

Prosperity puts out unnumber'd thoughts

Of import high, and light divine, to Man.

The man how blest! who, sick of gaudy scenes 310

Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 6 of 24)