Edward Young.

Night thoughts on life, death and immortality online

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What close connexion ties them to my theme. 235
First, what is true ambition ? The pursuit
Of glory, nothing less than Man can share.
Were they as vain as gaudy-minded Man,
As flatulent with fumes of self-applause,
Their arts and conquest animals might boast, 240.
And claim their laurel crowns, as well as we ;
But not celestial. Here we stand alone ;
As in our form, distinct, pre-eminent ;
If prone in thought, our stature is our shame ;
And Man should blush, his forehead meets the skies.
The visible and present are for brutes, 246

A slender portion, and a narrow bound !
These Reason, with an energy divine,
O'erleaps ; and claims the future and unseen !
The vast unseen ! the future fathomless ! 250

When the great soul buoys up to this high point,
Leaving gross Nature's sediments below,
Then, and then only, Adam's offspring quits
The sage and hero of the fields and woods,
Asserts his rank, and rises into Man. 25$

This is ambition : This is human fire.

Can Parts or Place (two bold pretenders !) make
LORENZO great, and pluck him from the throng ?

Genius and Art, Ambition's boasted wings,
Our boast but ill deserve. A feeble aid i 260?

Dedalian engin'ry ! If these alone


Assist our flight, Fame's flight is Glory's fall.

Heart-merit wanting, mount we ne'er so high,

Our height is but the gibbet of our name.

A celebrated wretch when I behold, 265

When I behold a genius bright, and base,

Of tow'ring talents, and terrestrial aims ;

Methinks I see, as thrown from her high sphere,

The glorious fragments of a soul immortal,

With rubbish mix'd, and glitt'ring in the dust. 270

Struck at the splendid, melancholy sight,

At once Compassion soft, and Envy, rise

But wherefore Envy ? Talents angel-bright,

If wanting worth, are shining instruments

In false Ambition's hand, to finish faults 275

Illustrious, and give infamy renown.

Great ill is an atchievement of great pow'rs.
Plain sense but rarely leads us far astray.
Reason the means, Affections chuse our end ;
Means have no merit, if our end amiss. 280

If wrong our hearts, our heads are right in vain ;
What is a PELHAM'S head, to PELHAM'S heart ?
Hearts are proprietors of all applause.
Right ends, and means, make wisdom : Worldly-wise
Is but half-witted, at its highest praise. . 285

Let Genius then despair to make thee great ;
Nor flatter Station : What is Station high ?
J T is a proud mendicant j it boasts, and begs ;
It begs an alms of homage from the throng,
And oft the throng denies its charity. 290

Monarchs, and ministers, are awful names :
Whoever wear them, challenge our devoir.
Religion, public order, both exact


External homage, and a supple knee,

To beings pompously set up, to serve 295

The meanest slave ; all more is merit's due,

Her sacred and inviolable right ;

Nor ever paid the Monarch, but the Man.

Our hearts ne'er bow but to superior worth ;

Nor ever fail of their allegiance there. 300

Fools, indeed, drop the Man in their account,

And vote the mantle into majesty.

Let the small savage boast his silver fur ;

His royal robe unborrow'd, and unbought,

His own, descending fairly from his sires. 305

Shall Man be proud to wear his livery,

And souls in ermine scorn a soul without ?

Can place or lessen us, or aggrandize ?

Pigmies are pigmies still, though perch'd on Alps ;

And pyramids are pyramids in vales. 310

Each man makes his own stature, builds himself:

Virtue alone out-builds the pyramids ;

Her monuments shall last, when Egypt's fall.

Of these sure truths dost thou demand the cause ?
The cause is lodg'd in Immortality. 315

Hear, and assent. Thy bosom burns for pow'r ;
What station charms thee ? Til instal thee there ;
J T is thine. And art thou greater than before ?
Then thou before wast something less than Man.
Has thy new post betray J d thee into pride ? 320

That treach'rous pride betrays thy dignity j
That pride defames humanity, and calls
The being mean, which staffs or strings can raise.
That pride, like hooded hawks, in darkness soars,
From blindness bold, and tow'ring to the skies. 325



J T is born of Ignorance, which knows not Man :

An angel's second ; nor his second, long.

A Nero quilting his imperial throne,

And courting glory from the tinkling string,

But faintly shadows an immortal soul, 330

With empire's self, to pride, or rapture, fir'd.

If nobler motives minister no cure,

Ev'n Vanity forbids thee to be vain.

High worth is elevated place : } T is more ;
It makes the post stand candidate for thee ; 335

Makes more than monarchs, makes an honest man j
Though no exchequer it commands, 't is wealth ;
And though it wears no ribband, 't is renown ;
Renown, that would not quit thee, though disgraced,
Nor leave thee pendent on a master's smile. 340

Other ambition Nature interdicts ;
Nature proclaims it most absurd in Man,
By pointing at his origin, and end ;
Milk and a swathe, at first, his whole demand ;
His whole domain, at last, a turf or stone ; 34$

To whom, between, a world may seem too small.

Souls truly great> dart forward on the wing
Of just ambition, to the grand result,
The curtain's fall ; there, see the buskin'd chief
Unshod behind this momentary scene, 350

Reduc'd to his own stature, low or high,
As vice, or virtue, sinks him, or sublimes ;
And laugh at this fantastic mummery,
This antic prelude of grotesque events,
Where dwarfs ore often stilted, and betray 355

A littleness o: : soul by worlds o'er-run,
And nations h in blood. Dread sacrifice




/ . / too- .


To Christian pride ! which had with horror shock' d

The darkest Pagans, offer'd to their gods.

O thou Most Christian enemy to peace ! 360

Again in arms ? again provoking fate ?

That prince, and that alone, is truly great,

Who draws the sword reluctant, gladly sheaths ;

On empire builds what empire far outweighs,

And makes his throne a scaffold to the skies. 365

Why this so rare ? Because forgot of all

The day of death ; that venerable day,

Which sits as judge ; that day, which shall pronounce

On all our days, absolve them, or condemn.

LORENZO, never shut thy thought against it 5 370

Be levees ne'er so full, afford it room,

And give it audience in the cabinet.

That friend consulted (flatteries apart),

Will tell thee fair, if thou art great or mean.

To doat on aught may leave us, or be left, 375

Is that ambition ? Then let flames descend,

Point to the centre their inverted spires,

And learn humiliation from a soul,

Which boasts her lineage from celestial fire.

Yet these are they the world pronounces wise ; 380

The world, which cancels Nature's right and wrong.

And casts new wisdom : Ev'n the grave man lends

His solemn face to countenance the coin.

Wisdom for parts is madness for the whole.

This stamps the paradox, and gives us leave

To call the wisest weak, the richest poor,

The most ambitious, unambitious, mean ;

In triumph, mean ; and abject, on a throne.

Nothing can make it less than mad in Man,

T 2


To put forth all his ardour, all his art, 390

And give his soul her full unbounded flight,
But reaching Him, who gave her wings to fly.
"When blind Ambition quite mistakes her road,
And downward pores, for that which shines above,
Substantial happiness, and true renown j 395

Then, like an idiot gazing on the brook,
We leap at stars, and fasten in the mud j
At glory grasp, and sink in infamy.

Ambition ! pow'rful source of good and ill !
Thy strength in Man, like length of wing in birds,
When disengaged from earth, with greater ease, 401
And swifter flight, transports us to the skies :
By toys entangled, or in guilt bemir'd,
It turns a curse j it is our chain, and scourge,
In this dark dungeon, where confm'd we lie, 405

Close-grated by the sordid bars of Sense ;
All prospect of eternity shut out j
And, but for execution, ne'er set free.

With error in ambition justly charg'd,
Find we LORENZO wiser in his wealth ? 410

What if thy rental I reform ? and draw
An inventory new to set thee right ?
Where, thy true treasure ? Gold says, " Not in me :'*
And, * 6 Not in me," the di'mond. Gold is poor ;
India 's insolvent : Seek 'it in thyself, 415

Seek in thy naked self, and find it there ;
In being so descended, form'd, endow'd ;
Sky-born, sky-guided, sky-returning race !
Erect, immortal, rational, divine !
In senses, which inherit earth, and heav'ns ; 420

Enjoy the various riches Nature yields j


Far nobler ; give the riches they enjoy ;

Give taste to fruits, and harmony to groves ;

Their radiant beams to gold, and gold's bright sire :

Take in, at once, the landscape of the world, 425

At a small inlet, which a grain might close,

And half create the wondrous world they see.

Our senses, as our reason, are divine.

But for the magic organ's powerful charm,

Earth were a rude, uncolour'd chaos still. 430

Objects are but th' occasion ; ours th' exploit ;

Ours is the cloth, the pencil, and the paint,

Which Nature's admirable picture draws ;

And beautifies creation's ample dome.

Like Milton's Eve, when gazing on the lake, 435

Man makes the matchless image Man admires.

Say then, shall Man, his thoughts all sent abroad

(Superior wonders in himself forgot),

His admiration waste on objects round,

When Heav'n makes him the soul of all he sees ? 440

Absurd ! not rare ! so great, so mean, is Man.
What wealth in senses such as these ! what wealth

In Fancy, fir'd to form a fairer scene

Than Sense surveys ! In Mem'iy's firm record,

Which, should it perish, could this world recall 445

From the dark shadows of o'erwhelming years,

In colours fresh, originally bright,

Preserve its portrait, and report its fate !

What wealth in intellect, that sov'reign pow'r !

Which Sense, and Fancy, summons to the bar ; 450

Interrogates, approves, or reprehends ;

And from the mass those underlings import,

From their materials sifted, and refin'd,


And in Truth's balance accurately weigh' d,

Forms Art, and Science, Government, and Laws ;

The solid basis, and the beauteous frame, 456

The vitals and the grace of civil life !

And manners (sad exception!) set aside,

Strikes out, with master-hand, a copy fair

Of His idea, whose indulgent thought, 460

Long, long, ere chaos teem'd, plann'd human bliss.

What wealth in souls that soar, dive, range around,
Disdaining limit, or from place, or time ;
And hear at once, in thought extensive, hear
Th* Almighty Fiat, and the trumpet's sound j 465
Bold, on creation's outside walk, and view
What was, and is, and more than e'er shall be ;
Commanding, with omnipotence of thought,
Creations new in Fancy's field to rise !
Souls, that can grasp whate'er th' AL.MIGHTY made,
And wander wild through things impossible ! 471

What wealth, in faculties of endless growth,
In quenchless passions violent to crave,
In liberty to chuse, in pow'r to reach,
And in duration (how thy riches rise !) 475

Duration to perpetuate boundless bliss !

Ask you, what pow'r resides in feeble Man
That bliss to gain ? Is Virtue's, then, unknown ?
Virtue, our present peace, our future prize,
Man's unprecarious, natural estate, 480

Improveable at will, in Virtue lies j
Its tenure sure ; its income is divine.

High-built abundance, heap on heap ! for what ?
To breed new wants, and beggar us the more j
Then, make a, richer scramble for the throng*


Soon as this feeble pulse, which leaps so long

Almost by miracle, is tir'd with play,

Like rubbish from disploding engines thrown,

Our magazines of hoarded trifles fly ;

Fly diverse j fly to foreigners, to foes ; 490

New masters court, and call the former, fools

(How justly !) for dependence on their stay.

Wide scatter, first, our play-things ; then, our dust*

Dost court Abundance for the sake of peace ?
Learn, and lament thy self-defeated scheme : 495
Riches enable to be richer still :
And, richer still, what mortal can resist ?
Thus wealth (a cruel task-master !) injoins
New toils, succeeding toils, an endless train !
And murders Peace, which taught it first to shine.
The poor are half as wretched as the rich j 50!

Whose proud and painful privilege it is,
At once, to bear a double load of woe ;
To feel the stings of Envy, and of Want,
Outrageous Want ! both Indies cannot cure. 505

A competence is vital to content.
Much wealth is corpulence, if not disease 5
Sick, or incumber'd, is our happiness.
A competence is all we can enjoy.
O be content, where Heav'n can give no more !
More, like a flash of water from a lock,
Quickens our spirit's movement for an hour ;
But soon its force is spent, nor rise our joys
Above our native temper's common stream.
Hence disappointment lurks in ev'ry prize,
As bees in flow'rs ; and stings us with success.

The rich man, who denies it, proudly feigns j


Nor knows the wise are privy to the lie.

Much learning shews how little mortals know ;

Much wealth, how little worldlings can enjoy : 520

At best, it babies us with endless toys,

And keeps us children till we drop to dust.

As monkeys at a mirror stand amaz'd,

They fail to find what they so plainly see ;

Thus men, in shining riches, see the face 525

Of happiness, nor know it is a shade ;

But gaze, and touch, and peep, and peep again,

And wish, and wonder it is absent still.

How few can rescue opulence from want !
Who lives to Nature, rarely can be poor j 53*

Who lives to Fancy, never can be rich.
Poor is the man in debt ; the man of gold,
In debt to Fortune, trembles at her pow'r.
The Man of Reason smiles at her, and Death.
O what a patrimony this ! A being 535

Of such inherent strength and majesty,
Not worlds possest can raise it ; worlds destroy'd
Can't injure ; which holds on its glorious course,
When thine, O Nature ! ends ; too blest to mourn
Creation's obsequies. What treasure, this ! 540

The Monarch is a beggar to the Man.

Immortal ! ages past, yet nothing gone !
Morn without eve ! a race without a goal !
Unshorten'd by progression infinite !
Futurity for ever future ! life 545

Beginning still, where computation ends !
'T is the description of a Deity !
'T is the description of the meanest slave :
The meanest slave dares then LORENZO scorn ?


The meanest slave thy sovereign glory shares. 55

Proud youth ! fastidious of the lower world !

Man's lawful pride includes humility ;

Stoops to the lowest ; is too great to find

Inferiors ; all immortal ! brothers all !

Proprietors eternal of thy love. 555

Immortal ! what can strike the sense so strong,
As this the soul ? It thunders to the thought ;
Reason amazes ; gratitude o'erwhelms ;
No more we slumber on the brink of fate j
Rous'd at the sound, th' exulting soul ascends, 560
And breathes her native air ; an air that feeds
Ambitions high, and fans ethereal fires ;
Quick-kindles all that is divine within us ;
Nor leaves one loit'ring thought beneath the stars.

Has not LORENZO'S bosom caught the flame ? 565
Immortal ! Were but one immortal, how
Would others envy ! how would thrones adore !
Because 't is common, is the blessing lost ?
How this ties up the bounteous hand of Heav'n !
O vain, vain, vain, all else ! Eternity ! 570

A glorious, and a needful refuge, that,
From vile imprisonment in abject views.
J T is immortality, 't is that alone,
Amid Life's pains, abasements, emptiness,
The soul can comfort, elevate, and fill. 575

That only, and that amply, this performs ;
Lifts us above Life's pains, her joys above ;
Their terror those ; and these their lustre lose ;
Eternity depending covers all j

Eternity depending all atchieves ; 580

Sets Earth at distance ; casts her into shades j



Blends her distinctions ; abrogates her pow'rs :

The low, the lofty, joyous, and severe,

Fortune's dread frowns, and fascinating smiles,

Make one promiscuous and neglected heap, 585

The Man beneath j if I may call him Man,

Whom Immortality's full force inspires.

Nothing terrestrial touches his high thought ;

Suns shine unseen, arid thunders roll unheard,

By minds quite conscious of their high descent, 590

Their present province, and their future prize ;

Divinely darting upward ev'ry wish,

Warm on the wing, in glorious absence lost.

Doubt you this truth ? Why labours your belief ?
If Earth's whole orb, by some due-distant eye 595
Were seen at once, her tow'ring Alps would sink,
And level'd Atlas leave an even sphere.
Thus Earth, and all that earthly minds admire,
Is swallow'd in Eternity's vast round.
To that stupendous view, when souls awake, 600
So large of late, so mountainous to Man,
Time's toys subside ; and equal all below.

Enthusiastic, this ? Then all are weak,
But rank enthusiasts. To this godlike height
Some souls have soar'd ; or martyrs ne'er had bled.
And all may do what has by Man been done. 606
Who, beaten by these sublunary storms,
Boundless, interminable joys can weigh,
Unraptur'd, unexalted, iminflam'd ?
What slave unblest, who from to-morrow's dawn 6 id
Expects an empire ? He forgets his chain,
And, thron'd in thought, his absent sceptre waves.

And what a sceptre waits us ! what a throne I


Her own immense appointments to compute,

Or comprehend her high prerogatives, 615

In this her dark minority, how toils,

How vainly pants, the human soul divine !

Too great the bounty seems for earthly joy :

What heart but trembles at so strange a bliss ?

In spite of all the truths the muse has sung, 620
Ne'er to be priz'd enough ! enough revolv'd !
Are there who wrap the world so close about them,
They see no farther than the clouds ? and dance
On heedless Vanity's fantastic toe,
Till, stumbling at a straw, in their career, 625

Headlong they plunge, where end both dance and song ?
Are there, LORENZO? is it possible?
Are there on earth (let me not call them men)
Who lodge a soul immortal in their breasts j
Unconscious as the mountain of its ore j 630

Or rock, of its inestimable gem ?
When rocks shall melt, and mountains vanish, these
Shall know their treasure ; treasure, then, no more.

Are there (still more amazing !) who resist
The rising thought ? who smother, in its birth, 635
The glorious truth ? who struggle to be brutes ?
Who through this bosom-barrier burst their way ;
And, with revers'd ambition, strive to sink ?
Who labour downwards through th* opposing pow'rs
Of instinct, reason, and the world against them, 640
To dismal hopes, and shelter in the shock
Of endless night ? night darker than the grave !
Who fight the proofs of immortality ?
With horrid zeal, and execrable arts,
Work all their engines, level their black fires, 645

u 2


To blot from Man this attribute divine
(Than vital blood far dearer to the wise),
Blasphemers, and rank atheists to themselves ?

To contradict them, see all Nature rise !
What object, what event, the moon beneath, 650
But argues, or endears, an after-scene ?
To Reason proves, or weds it to Desire ?
All things proclaim it needful ; some advance
One precious step beyond, and prove it sure.
A thousand arguments swarm round my pen, 655
From Heav'n, and Earth, and Man. Indulge a few,
By Nature, as her common habit, worn j
So pressing Providence a truth to teach,
Which truth untaught, all other truths were vain.

THOU ! whose all-providential eye surveys, 660
Whose hand directs, whose Spirit fills and warms
Creation, and holds empire far beyond !
Eternity's inhabitant august !
Of two eternities amazing Lord !
One past, ere Man's, or Angel's, had begun ; 665
Aid ! while I rescue from the foe's assault
Thy glorious immortality in Man :
A theme for ever, and for all, of weight,

Of moment infinite ! but relish'd most

By those who love Thee most, who most adore. 670
Nature, thy daughter, ever-changing birth

Of THEE the great Immutable, to Man

Speaks wisdom ; is his oracle supreme ;

And he who most consults her, is most wise.

LORENZO, to this heav'nly Delphos haste ; 675

And come back all-immortal j all-divine :

Look Nature through, 't is revolution all ;


All change, no death. Day follows night; and night
The dying day ; stars rise, and set, and rise ;
Earth takes th* example. See the Summer gay, 680
With her green chaplet, and ambrosial flow'rs,
Droops into pallid Autumn : Winter grey,
Horrid with frost, and turbulent with storm,
Blows Autumn, and his golden fruits, away :
Then melts into the Spring : Soft Spring, with breath
Favonian, from warm chambers of the south, 686
Recals the first. All, to reflourish, fades.
As in a wheel, all sinks to reascend.
Emblems of Man, who passes, not expires.

With this minute distinction, emblems just, 690
Nature revolves, but Man advances ; both
Eternal, that a circle, this a line.
That gravitates, this soars. Th* aspiring soul
Ardent, and tremulous, like flame, ascends ;
Zeal, and Humility, her wings to Heav'n. 695

The world of matter, with its various forms,
All dies into new life. Life born from Death
Rolls the vast mass, and shall for ever roll.
No single atom, once in being, lost,
With change of counsel charges the MOST HIGH.

What hence infers LORENZO ? Can it be ? 701

Matter immortal ? And shall spirit die ?
Above the nobler, shall less noble rise ?
Shall Man alone, for whom all else revives,
No resurrection know ? Shall Man alone, 705

Imperial Man, be sown in barren ground,
Less privileg'd than grain, on which he feeds ?
Is Man, in whom alone is pow'r to prize
The bliss of being, or with previous paiu


Deplore its period, by the spleen of Fate, 710

Severely doom'd Death's single unredeem'd ?

If Nature's revolution speaks aloud,
In her gradation, hear her louder still.
Look Nature through, 't is neat gradation all.
By what minute degrees her scale ascends ! 715

Each middle nature join'd at each extreme,
To that above it join'd, to that beneath.
Parts into parts reciprocally shot,
Abhor divorce : What love of union reigns !
Here, dormant matter waits a call to life ; 720

Half-life, half-death, join there ; here, Life and Sense ;
There, Sense from Reason steals a glimm'ring ray ;
Reason shines out in Man. But how preserv'd
The chain unbroken upward, to the realms
Of incorporeal life ? those realms of bliss, 725

Where Death hath no dominion ? Grant a make
Half-mortal, half-immortal j earthy, part ;
And part ethereal ; grant the soul of Man
Eternal ; or in Man the series ends.
Wide yawns the gap ; connexion is no more ; 730
Check'd Reason halts ; her next step wants support ;
Striving to climb, she tumbles from her scheme ;
A scheme, analogy pronounc'd so true ;
Analogy, Man's surest guide below.

Thus far, all Nature calls on thy belief. 735

And will LORENZO, careless of the call,
False attestation on all Nature charge,
Rather than violate his league with Death ?
Renounce his reason, rather than renounce
The dust belov'd, and run the risk of Heav'n ? 740
O what indignity to deathless souls !


What treason to the majesty of Man !

Of Man immortal ! Hear the lofty style :

" If so decreed, th' almighty will be done.

Let earth dissolve, yon pond'rous orbs descend, 745

And grind us into dust : The soul is safe 5

The Man emerges ; mounts above the wreck>

As tow'rihg flame from Nature's fun'ral pyre j

O'er devastation, as a gainer, smiles >

His charter, his inviolable rights, 75<f

Well-pleas 'd to learn from thunder's impotence,

Death's pointless darts, and Hell's defeated storms."

But these chimeras touch not thee, LORENZO !
The glories of the world, thy sev'nfold shield.
Other ambition than of crowns in air, 755

And superlunary felicities,
Thy bosom warm. I'll cool it, if I can ;
And turn those glories that enchant, against thee.
What ties thee to this life, proclaims the next.
If wise, the cause that wounds thee is thy cure. 760

Come, my ambitious ! let us mount together
(To mount LORENZO never can refuse) ;
And from the clouds, where Pride delights to dwell,
Look down on Earth What seest thou ? Wondrou*

things !

Terrestrial wonders, that eclipse the skies* 765

What lengths of labourd lands ! what loaded seas !
Loaded by men, for pleasure, wealth, or war !
Seas, winds and planets, into service brought,
His art acknowledge, and promote his ends.
Nor can th' eternal rocks his will withstand ; 770

What level'd mountains, and what lifted vales !

Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 9 of 24)