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O what a miracle to man is man!
Triumphantly distressed! What joy! what dread!
Alternately transported and alarmed!
What can preserve my life! or what destroy!
An angel's arm can't snatch me from the grave;
Legions of angels can't confine me there.
Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer:
Next day the fatal precedent will plead ;
Thus on, till wisdom is pushed 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 lodged in their own hands is Folly's vails ;
That lodged 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.
And why? because he thinks himself immortal.
All men think all men mortal but themselves;
Themselves, when some alarming shock of Fate
Strikes through their wounded hearts the sudden dread:
But their hearts wounded, like the wounded air,
Soon close; where, past the haft, no trace is found.
As from the wing no scar the sky retains,
The parted wave no furrow from the keel,
So dies in human hearts the thought of death
Even with the tender tear which nature sheds
O'er those we love, we drop it in their grave.
FOR A STATUE OF CHAUCER, AT WOODSTOC
SUCH was old Chaucer. Such the placid mien
Of him who first with harmony informed
The language of our fathers. Here he dwelt
For many a cheerful day. 'These ancient walls
Have often heard him, while his legend blithe
He sang; of love, or knighthood, or the wiles
Of homely life: through each estate and age,
The fashions and the follies of the world,
With cunning hand pourtraying. Though perchance
From Blenheim's towers, stranger, thou art come,
Glowing with Churchill's trophies; yet in vain
Dost thou applaud them, if thy breast be cold
To him, this other hero; who, in times
Dark and untaught, began with charming verse
To tame the rudeness of his native land.
Ask the faithful youth,
Why the cold urn of her whom long he loved,
So often fills his arms; so often draws
His lonely footsteps at the silent hour,
To pay the mournful tribute of his tears?
O! he will tell thee that the wealth of worlds
Should ne'er seduce his bosom to forego
That sacred hour, when stealing from the noise
Of care and envy, sweet remembrance soothes
With virtue's kindest looks his aching breast
And turns his tears to rapture. Ask the crowd
Which flies impatient from the village walk,
To climb the neighbouring cliffs, when far below
The cruel winds have hurled upon the coast
Some helpless bark; while sacred pity melts
The general eye, or terror's icy hand
Smites their distorted limbs and horrent hair,
While every mother closer to her breast
Catches her child, and pointing where the waves
Foam through the shattered vessel, shrieks aloud,
As some poor wretch that spreads his piteous arms
For succour, swallowed by the roaring surge,
As now another, dashed against the rock,
Drops lifeless down. O, deemest thou indeed
No kind endearment here by nature given
To mutual terror and compassion's tears?
No sweetly melting softness which attracts,
O'er all that edge of pain, the social powers,
To this their proper action and their end?
PLEASURES OF IMAGINATION.
Oh! blest of heaven, whom not the languid songs Of luxury, the Syren! not the bribes
Of sordid wealth, nor all the gaudy spoils
Of pageant honour can seduce to leave
Those ever blooming sweets, which from the store
Of nature fair imagination culls
To charm the enlivened soul! What though not all
Of mortal offspring can attain the heights
Of envied life; though only few possess
Patrician treasures or imperial state;
Yet nature's care, to all her children just,
With richer treasures and an ampler state,
Endows at large whatever happy man
Will deign to use them. His the city's pomp,
The rural honours his. Whate'er adorns
The princely dome, the column and the arch,
The breathing marble and the sculptured gold
Beyond the proud possessor's narrow claim,
His tuneful breast enjoys. For him, the spring
Distils her dews, and from the silken gem
Its lucid leaves unfolds: for him, the hand
Of autumn tinges every fertile branch
With blooming gold, and blushes like the morn,
Each passing hour sheds tribute from her wings;
And still new beauties meet his lonely walk,
And loves unfelt attract him. Not a breeze
Flies o'er the meadow, not a cloud imbibes
The setting sun's effulgence, not a strain
From all the tenants of the warbling shade