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Nor had he cause; a warning was denied:
How many fall as sudden, not as safe;
As sudden, though for years admonish'd home!
Of human ills the last extreme beware;
Beware, Lorenzo, a slow sudden death.
How dreadful that deliberate surprise!
Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is push'd out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
If not so frequent, would not this be strange?
That 'tis so frequent, this is stranger still.
Of man's miraculous mistakes this bears
The palm, ‘That all men are about to live,
For ever on the brink of being born.'
All pay themselves the compliment to think
They one day shall not drivel: and their pride
On this reversion takes up ready praise;
At least, their own; their future selves applaud
How excellent that life they ne'er will lead.
Time lodg'd in their own hands is folly's vails;
That lodg'd in fate's to wisdom they consign.
The thing they can't but purpose, they postpone.
'Tis not in folly not to scorn a fool,
And scarce in human wisdom to do more.
All promise is poor dilatory man,
And that through every stage: when young indeed
In full content we sometimes nobly rest,
Unanxious for ourselves; and only wish,
As duteous sons our fathers were more wise.
At thirty man suspects himself a fool,
Knows it at forty and reforms his plan;
At fifty chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves, and re-resolves, then dies the same.
THE DEATH OF FRIENDS.
[From Night III.]
Our dying friends come o'er us like a cloud,
To damp our brainless ardours; and abate
That glare of life which often blinds the wise.
Our dying friends are pioneers, to smooth
Our rugged pass to death; to break those bars
Of terror and abhorrence Nature throws
'Cross our obstructed way; and thus to make
Welcome as safe, our port from every storm.
Each friend by fate snatched from us is a plume,
Pluck'd from the wing of human vanity,
Which makes us stoop from our aërial heights
And, damp'd with omen of our own decease,
On drooping pinions of ambition lower'd,
Just skim Earth's surface, ere we break it up,
O'er putrid earth to scratch a little dust
And save the world a nuisance. Smitten friends
Are angels sent on errands full of love;
For us they languish and for us they die,
And shall they languish, shall they die, in vain?
Ungrateful, shall we grieve their hovering shades
Which wait the revolution in our hearts?
Shall we disdain their silent soft address,
Their posthumous advice and pious prayer? Senseless as herds that graze their hallow'd graves, Tread under-foot their agonies and groans, Frustrate their anguish and destroy their deaths?
[From Night IV.]
O thou great arbiter of life and death,
Nature's immortal, unmaterial sun,
Whose all-prolific beam late call'd me forth
From darkness, teeming darkness where I lay,
The worm's inferior, and in rank beneath
The dust I tread on, high to bear my brow,
To drink the spirit of the golden day,
And triumph in existence; and could know
No motive, but my bliss; and hast ordain'd
A rise in blessing, with the patriarch's joy,
Thy call I follow to the land unknown.
I trust in thee and know in whom I trust;
Or life, or death, is equal; neither weighs:
All weight in this-O let me live to thee!
THE STREAM OF LIFE.
[From Night V.]
Is it, that life has sown her joys so thick
We can't thrust in a single care between?
Is it, that life has such a swarm of cares
The thought of death can't enter for the throng?
Is it, that time steals on with downy feet,
Nor wakes indulgence from her golden dream?
To day is so like yesterday, it cheats;
We take the lying sister for the same.
Life glides away, Lorenzo, like a brook;
For ever changing, unperceived the change.
In the same brook none ever bathed him twice,
To the same life none ever twice awoke.
We call the brook the same; the same we think
Our life, though still more rapid in its flow;
Nor mark the much, irrevocably laps'd
And mingled with the sea. Or shall we say
(Retaining still the brook to bear us on)
That life is like a vessel on the stream?
In life embark'd we smoothly down the tide
Of time descend, but not on time intent,
Amused, unconscious of the gliding wave;
Till on a sudden we perceive a shock;
We start, awake, look out; what see we there?
Our brittle bark is burst on Charon's shore.
[JOHN BYROм, born in 1691 at Kearsale, near Manchester, was educated partly at Merchant Taylors' and partly at Trinity College, Cambridge. For some time he read medicine. Afterwards he practised and taught stenography. Then the paternal estate fell in to him, and he removed from London to Manchester, where he lived in great repute for many years, and died in 1763. His poems were published at Manchester in two volumes.]
Byrom's is a figure rather curious than notable, rather amiable than striking. He had many turns and accomplishments, and many holds upon life. He loved learning, for instance, and had scholarship enough to write with point upon scholarly subjects. Again, it is certain that he was a man who could love; for he gave over medicine and the chance of medical honours merely to follow up and win the lady he was wooing to wife. Then, as became Weston's successful rival, the teacher who had improved upon Weston's own system, and had Hoadley and Chesterfield for his pupils, he was keenly interested in stenography, and not only lectured on it to his classes (his lectures, by the way, are said to have been full of matter and of wit), but read papers about it before the Royal Society. Also, he was curiously versed in theology and philosophical divinity; he held advanced opinions on the dogmas of predestination and imputed righteousness; he is known for a disciple of William Law, a student of Malebranche and Madame Bourignon, a follower of Jacob Boehmen, for whose sake he learned German, and some of whose discourse he was at the pains of running into English verse. And above all was he addicted to letters and the practice of what he was pleased to think poetry. Add to this, that he was a good and cheerful talker, whose piety was not always pun-proof ( Hic jacet Doctor Byfield,
volatilis olim, tandem fixus'), but who was capable on occasion of
right and genuine epigram, and the picture is complete. As
revealed in it, Byrom is the very type and incarnation of the
Verse was his organ; he wrote it more easily and delightedly
than prose. From his schooldays onwards, when, as he declares,
a line of metre was more to him than a dozen themes, down to the
last hours of his life,
'Him, numbers flowing in a measured time
Him, sweetest grace of English verse, the rhyme,
Choice epithet and smooth descriptive line,
Conspiring all to finish one design,
Smit with delight '—
and as that delight usually took on palpable shape, it appears to
us expressed in more epistles, songs, pastorals, hymns, essays,
satires and epigrams, than nowadays one
cares to consider.
came amiss to Byrom in the way of subject. He was
interested in everything, and said his say about everything; and
always in metre. It was alike in metre that he sang
the praises of Joanna Bentley, the Phoebe of his first pastoral, and
did battle with Comberbatch in the good cause of Rhyme against
alike in metre that he recorded the gaieties of
that say was
It was in
metre that he
Tunbridge and the dangers of the Epping stage, the grisly glories of the heroic Figg'so fierce and sedate-and the solemn charm of Eastertide and the Nativity. It was in metre that he confuted Middleton, differed from Hervey, emended Horace and Homer, discoursed on the nature of Pentecost, expounded William Law, and explained the Mystical Cobbler. anatomised beaux and astrologers, made fables and apologies and epigrams, criticised verses and theologies, spoke breaking-up addresses, painted the free and happy workman, and set forth the kindred mysteries of poesy and shorthand. He prattled incessantly, and always in numbers. copy of verses could he define the nature and characteristics of enthusiasm ; not otherwise could he submit to the Royal Society his theory that George the Cappadocian had somehow been foisted into the place of Gregory the Roman as England's patron To respect him it is really necessary to remember that he wrote chiefly for his own amusement and his friends', and published but a little of the much that he produced.
Not otherwise than in a