The Complaint: or Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality/Night IV
NIGHT IV. THE CHRISTIAN TRIUMPH:
CONTAINING OUR ONLY CURE FOR THE FEAR OF DEATH ; AND
PROPER SENTIMENTS OF HEART ON THAT INESTIMABLE
BLESSING. TO THE HONOURABLE MR. YORKE.
A MUCH indebted muse, O Yorke ! intrudes. Amid the smiles of fortune, and of youth, Thine ear is patient of a serious song. How deep implanted in the breast of man The dread of death ! I sing its sov'reign cure.
Why start at death ? Where is he ? Death arriv'd. Is past ; not come, or gone, he's never here. Ere hope, sensation fails ; black-boding man Receives, not suffers, death's tremendous blow. The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave; The deep damp vault, the darkness, and the worm ; These are the bugbears of a winter's eve, The terrors of the living, not the dead. Imagination's fool, and error's wretch, Man makes a death, which nature never made ;
NIGHT IV. 53
Then on the point of his own fancy falls ; And feels a thousand deaths, in fearing* one.
But were death frightful, what has age to fear ? If prudent, age should meet the friendly foe, And shelter in his hospitable gloom. I scarce can meet a monument, but holds My younger; ev'ry date cries " Come away." And what recalls me ? Look the world around, And tell me what : The wisest cannot tell. Should any born of woman give his thought Full range, on just dislike's unbounded field ; Of things, the vanity ; of men, the flaws ; Flaws in the best ; the many, flaw all o'er ; As leopards, spotted, or, as Ethiops, dark ; Vivacious ill ; good dying immature; (How immature, Narcissa's marble tells !) And at his death bequeathing endless pain ; His heart, tho' bold, would sicken at the sight, And spend itself in sighs, for future scenes.
But grant to life (and just it is to grant To lucky life) some perquisites of joy; A time there is, when, like a thrice-told tale, Long-rifled life of sweet can yield no more, But from our comment on the comedy, Pleasing reflections on parts well-sustain'd, Or purpos'd emendations where we fail'd, Or hopes of plaudits from our candid judge, When, on their exit, souls are bid unrobe, Toss fortune back her tinsel, and her plume, And drop this mask of flesh behind the scene.
With me, that time is come; my world is dead ; A new world rises, and new manners reign : For3ign comedians, a spruce band ! arrive, To push me from the scene, or hiss me there.
54 THE COMPLAINT.
What a pert race starts up ! the strangers gaze, And I at them ; my neighbour is unknown ; Nor that the worst : ah me ! the dire effect Of loit'ring here, of death defrauded long; Of old so gracious (and let that suffice), My very master knows me not.
Shall I dare say, peculiar is the fate ? I've been so long remember'd, I'm forgot. An object ever pressing dims the sight, And hides behind its ardour to be seen. When in his courtiers' ears I pour my plaint, They drink it as the nectar of the great ; And squeeze my hand, and beg me come to-morrow. Refusal ! canst thou wear a smoother form ?
Indulge me, nor conceive I drop my theme : Who cheapens life, abates the fear of Death : Twice told the period spent on stubborn Troy, Court favour, yet untaken, I besiege ; Ambition's ill-judg'd effort to be rich. Alas ! ambition makes my little less ; Embitt'ring the possess'd : Why wish for more ? Wishing, of all employments, is the worst ; Philosophy's reverse ; and health's decay ! Were I as plump as stall'd theology, Wishing would waste me to this shade again. Were I as wealthy as a south-sea dream, Wishing is an expedient to be poor. Wishing, that constant hectic of a fool ; Caught at a court ; purg'd off by purer air, And simpler diet ; gifts of rural life !
Blest be that hand divine, which gently laid My heart at rest, beneath this humble shed. The world's a stately bark, on dang'rous seas, With pleasure seen, but boarded at our peril ;
NIGHT IV. 55
Here, on a single plank, thrown safe ashore,
I hear the tumult of the distant throng,
As that of seas remote, or dying- storms :
And meditate on scenes, more silent still ;
Pursue thy theme, and fight the fear of Death.
Here, like a shepherd gazing from his hut,
Touching his reed, or leaning on his staff,
Eager ambition's fiery chace I see ;
I see the circling hunt, of noisy men,
Burst law's inclosure, leap the mounds of right,
pursu'd, each other's prey ;
As wolves, for rapine ; as the fox, for wiles ;
Till Death, that mighty hunter, earths them all.
Why all this toil for triumphs of an hour ? What tho' we wade in wealth, or soar in fame ? Earth's highest station ends in " Here he lies :" Arid " dust to dust" concludes her noblest song. If this song lives, posterity shall know One, tho' in Britain born, with courtiers bred, Who thought ev'n gold might come a day too late ; Nor on his subtle death-bed plann'd his scheme For future vacancies in church or state ;
Some avocation deeming it to die,
Unbit by rage canine of dying* rich ;
Guilt's blunder ! and the loudest laugh of hell.
O my coevals ! remnants of yourselves ! Poor human ruins, tott'ring o'er the grave ! Shall we, shall aged men, like aged trees, Strike deeper their vile root, and closer cling, Still more enamour'd of this wretched soil ? Shall our pale, wither'd hands, be still stretch'd out, Trembling, at once, with eagerness and age ? With av'rice, and convulsions, grasping 1 hard ? Grasping at air ! for what has earth beside ?
56 THE COMPLAINT.
Man wants but little ; nor that little, long ; How soon must he resign his very dust, Which frugal nature lent him for an hour ! Years unexperienc'd rush on numerous ills ; And soon as man, expert from time, has found The key of life, it opes the gates of death.
When in this vale of years I backward look, And miss such numbers, numbers too of such, Firmer in health, and greener in their age, And stricter on their guard, and fitter far To play life's subtle game, I scarce believe I still survive : and am I fond of life, Who scarce can think it possible, I live ? Alive by miracle ! or, what is next, Alive by Mead ! if I am still alive, Who long have buried what gives life to live, Firmness of nerve, and energy of thought. Life's lee is not more shallow, than impure, And vapid ; sense and reason show the door, Call for my bier, and point me to the dust.
O thou great arbiter of life and death ! Nature's immortal, immaterial sun ! Whose all-prolific beam late call'd me forth From darkness, teeming darkness, where I lav 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 let me live to thee !
NIGHT IV. 57
Tho' nature's terrors, thus, may be represt ; Still frowns grim Death ; guilt points the tyrant's
And whence all human guilt ? From death forgot. Ah me ! too long I set at nought the swarm Of friendly warnings, which around me flew ; And smil'd, unsmitten : small my cause to smile ! Death's admonitions, like shafts upwards shot, More dreadful by delay, the longer ere They strike our hearts, the deeper is their wound ; O think how deep, Lorenzo ! here it sting's : Who can appease its anguish ? How it burns ! What hand the barb'd, invenom'd thought can draw ? What healing hand can pour the balm of peace ? And turn my sight undaunted on the tomb ?
With joy, with grief, that healing hand I see ; Ah ! too conspicuous ! it is fix'd on high. On high? What means myphrensy? I blaspheme; Alas ! how low ! how far beneath the skies ! The skies it forin'd ; and now it bleeds for me But bleeds the balm I want yet still it bleeds ; Draw the dire steel ah no ! the dreadful blessing What heart or can sustain, or dares forego ? There hangs all human hope : that nail supports The falling universe : that gone, we drop ; Horror receives us, and the dismal wish Creation had been smother'd in her birth Darkness his curtain, and his bed the dust ; When stars and sun are dust beneath his throne ! In heaven itself can such- indulgence dwell? what a groan was there ! A groan not his. He seiz'd our dreadful right ; the load sustain'd ; And heav'd the mountain from a guilty world. A thousand worlds, so bought, were bought too dear ;
58 THE COMPLAINT.
Sensations new in angels' bosoms rise ; Suspend their song ; and make a pause in bliss.
O for their song* ; to reach my lofty theme ' Inspire me, night ! with all thy tuneful spheres ; Whilst I with seraphs share seraphic themes, v And show to men the dignity of man ;
Lest I blaspheme my subject with my song.
Shall Pagan pages glow celestial flame,
And Christian languish ? On our hearts, not heads,
Falls the foul infamy : my heart ! awake.
What can awake thee, unawak'd by this,
" Expended deity on human weal ?"
Feel the great truths, which burst the tenfold night
Of heathen error, with a golden flood
Of endless day : to feel, is to be fir'd ;
And to believe, Lorenzo ! is to feel.
Thou most indulgent, most tremendous pow'r ! Still more tremendous, for thy wond'rous love ! That arms, with awe more awful, thy commands ; And foul transgression dips in sev'nfold night ; How our hearts tremble at thy love immense ! In love immense, inviolably just ! Thou, rather than thy justice should be stain'd, Did'st stain the cross ; and work of wonders far The greatest, that thy dearest far might bleed.
Bold thought ! shall I dare speak it, or repress ? Should man more execrate, or boast, the guilt Which rous'd such vengeance ? which such love
inflam'd ? [arms,
O'er guilt (how mountainous !) with out-stretcht Stern justice, and soft-smiling love embrace, Supporting, in full majesty, thy throne, When seem'd its majesty to need support, Or that, or man, inevitably lost:
NIGHT IV. 59
What, but the fathomless of thought divine,
Could labour such expedient from despair,
And rescue both ? Both rescue ! both exalt !
O how are both exalted by the deed !
The wondrous deed ! or shall I call it more ?
A wonder in Omnipotence itself !
A mystery no less to gods than men !
Not, thus, our infidels th' eternal draw A God all o'er, consummate, absolute, Full-orb'd, in his whole round of rays complete : They set at odds heaven's jarring attributes ; And, with one excellence, another wound ; Maim heaven's perfection, break its equal beams, Bid mercy triumph over God himself, Undeified by their opprobrious praise : A God all mercy, is a God unjust.
Ye brainless wits ! ye baptiz'd infidels ! Ye worse for mending ! wash'd to fouler stains ! The ransom was paid down ; the fund of heaven, Heaven's inexhaustible, exhausted fund, Amazing, and amaz'd, pour'd forth the price, All price beyond : tho' curious to compute, Archangels fail'd to cast the mighty sum : Its value vast, ungraspt by minds create, For ever hides, and glows, in the Supreme.
And was the ransom paid ? It was : and paid (^What can exalt the bounty more ?) for you. The sun beheld it no, the shocking scene Drove back his chariot : midnight veil'd his face ; Not such as this ; not such as nature makes ; A midnight nature shudder'd to behold ; A midnight new ! a dread eclipse (without Opposing spheres) from her Creator's frown ! Sun ! didst thou fly thy Maker's pain ? or start
60 THE COMPLAINT.
At that enormous load of human guilt, Which bow'd his blessed head ; o'envhelm'd his cross; Made groan the centre ; burst earth's marble womb, With pangs, strange pangs ! deliver'd of her dead ? Hell howl'd ; and heaven that hour let fall a tear; Heaven wept, that men might smile ! Heaven bled,
Might never die !
And is devotion virtue ? Tis compell'd : What heart of stone but glows at thoughts like these ? Such contemplations mount us ; and should mount The mind still higher ; nor ever glance on man, Unraptur'd, uninflam'd. Where roll my thoughts To rest from wonders ? Other wonders rise ; And strike where'er they roll : my soul is caught : Heaven's sovereign blessings, clust'ring from the
Rush on her, in a throng, and close her round, The pris'ner of amaze ! In his blest life, I see the path, and, in his death, the price, And in his great ascent, the proof supreme Of immortality. And did he rise ? Hear, ye nations ! hear it, O ye dead ! He rose ! he rose ! He burst the bars of death. Lift up your heads, ye everlasting gates ! And give the king of glory to come in. Who is the king of glory ? He who left His throne of glory, for the pang of death : Lift up your heads, ye everlasting gates ! And give the king of glory to come in. Who is the king of glory ? He who slew The rav'nous foe, that gorg'd all human race ! The king of glory, he, whose glory fill'd Heaven with amazement at his love to mar ;
And with divine complacency beheld Pow'rs most illumin'd, wilder'd in the theme.
The theme, the joy, how then shall man sustain? Oh the burst gates ! crush'd sting- ! demolish'd
throne ! [heaven !
Last gasp ! of vanquish'd death. Shout earth and This sum of good to man. Whose nature, then, Took wing, and mounted with him from the tomb ! Then, then, I rose ; then first humanity Triumphant past the crystal ports of light, (Stupendous guest !) and seiz'd eternal youth, Seiz'd in our name. E'er since, 'tis blasphemous To call man mortal. Man's mortality [tion
Was, then, transferr'd to death ; and heaven's dura- Unalienably seal'd to this frail frame, This child of dust man, all-immortal ! hail ; Hail, heaven ! all lavish of strange gifts to man ! Thine all the glory ; man's the boundless bliss.
Where am I rapt by this triumphant theme, On Christian joy's exulting wing, above Th' Aonian mount ! Alas ! small cause for joy ! What if to pain immortal ? If extent Of being, to preclude a close of woe ? Where,, then, my boast of immortality ? I boast
it still, tho' cover'd o'er with guilt;
For guilt, not innocence, his life he pour'd; 'Tis guilt alone can justify his death ; Nor that, unless his death can justify Relenting guilt in heaven's indulgent sight. If, sick of folly, I relent; he writes My name in heaven, with that inverted spear (A spear deep-dipt in blood !) which pierc'd his sido, And open'd there a font for all mankind, Who strive, who combat crimes to drink, and live :
62 THE COMPLAINT.
This, only this, subdues the fear of death.
And what is this ? Survey the wondrous cure : And at each step, let higher wonder rise ! " Pardon for infinite offence ! and pardon Thro' means that speak its value infinite ! A pardon bought with blood ! with blood divine ! With blood divine of him, I made my foe ! Persisted to provoke ! tho' woo'd, and aw'd, Blest, and chastis'd, a flagrant rebel still ! A rebel, 'midst the thunders of his throne ! Nor I alone ! a rebel universe ! My species up in arms ! not one exempt ! Yet for the foulest of the foul, he dies, Most joy'd, for the redeem'd from deepest guilt ! As if our race were held of highest rank ; And Godhead dearer, as more kind to man !"
Bound, ev'ry heart ! and ev'ry bosom, burn ! O what a scale of miracles is here ! Its lowest round, high planted on the skies ; Its tow'ring summit lost beyond the thought Of man or angel ! O that I could climb The wonderful ascent, with equal praise ! Praise ! flow for ever, (if astonishment Will give thee leave) my praise ! for ever flow ; Praise ardent, cordial, constant, to high heaven More fragrant, than Arabia sacrific'd, And all her spicy mountains in a flame.
So dear, so due to heaven, shall praise descend, With her soft plume (from plausive angel's wing First pluck'd by man) to tickle mortal ears, Thus diving in the pockets of the great ? Is praise the perquisite of ev'ry paw, Tho' black as hell, that grapples well for gold ? Oh love of gold ! thou meanest of amours !
NIGHT iv. 63
Shall praise her odours waste on virtue's dead, Embalm the base, perfume the stench of guilt, Earn dirty bread by washing ^Ethiops fair, Removing- filth, or sinking it from sight, A scavenger in scenes, where vacant posts, Like gibbets yet untenanted, expect Their future ornaments ? From courts and thrones, Return, apostate praise ! thou vagabond ! Thou prostitute ! to thy first love return, Tby first, thy greatest, once unrival'd theme. .
There flow redundant ; like Meander flow, Back to thy fountain ; to that parent pow'r, Who gives the tongue to sound, the thought to soar, The soul to he. Men homage pay to men, Thoughtless beneath whose dreadful eye they bow In mutual awe profound, of clay to claj%_, Of guilt to guilt ; and turn theiiHback on thee, "CfreaTstre */ whom thrones celestial ceaseless sing ; To prostrate angels, an amazing scene ! O the presumption of man's awe for man ! Man's author ! end ! restorer ! law ! and judge ! Thine, all ; day thine, and thine this gloom of night, With all her wealth, with all her radiant worlds : What, night eternal, but a frown from thee ? What heaven's meridian glory, but thy smile ? And shall not Draise be thine, not human praise ? While heaven's high host on hallelujahs live ? O may I breathe no longer, than I breathe My soul in praise to him, who gave my soul, And all her infinite of prospect fair, Cut thro' the shades of hell, great love ! by thee Oh most adorable ! most unador'd ! [end ?
Where shall that praise begin which ne'er should Where'er I turn, what claim on all applause !
64 THE COMPLAINT.
How is night's sable mantle labour'd o'er, How richly wrought with attributes divine ! [pomp, What wisdom shines ! what love ! This midnight This gwgeous arch, with golden worlds inlay 'd ! Built with divine ambition ! nought to thee ; For others this profusion : Thou, apart, Above ! beyond ! Oh tell me, mighty mind ! Where art thou ? Shall I dive into the deep ? Call to the sun, or ask the roaring winds, For. their creator? Shall I question loud The thunder, if in that th' Almighty dwells ? Or holds he furious storms in streighten'd reins, And bids fierce whirlwinds wheel his rapid car ?
What mean these questions? Trembling I re- tract ;
My prostrate soul adores the present God : Praise I a distant deity ? He tunes My voice (if tun'd) ; the nerve, that writes, sustains : Wrapp'd in his being, I resound his praise : But tho' past all diffus'd, without a shore, His essence ; local is his throne (as. meet), To gather the disperst (as standards call The listed from afar) : to fix a point, A central point, collective of his sons, Since finite ev'ry nature but his own.
The nameless he, whose nod is nature's birth ; And nature's shield, the shadow of his hand ; Her dissolution, his suspended smile ! The great first-last ! pavilion'd high he sits In darkness from excessive splendour born, By gods unseen, unless thro' lustre lost. His glory, to created glory, bright, As that to central horrors ; he looks down On all that soars ; and spans immensity.
NIGHT IV. 65
Tho' night unnumber'd worlds unfolds to view, Boundless creation ! what art thou ? A beam, A mere effluvium of his majesty : And shall an atom of this atom- world Mutter in dust and sin, the theme of heaven ? Down to the centre should I send my thought Thro' beds of glitt'ring ore, and glowing gems, Their beggar'd blaze wants lustre for my lay ; Goes out in darkness : if, on tow'ring wing, I send it through the boundless vault of stars ! The stars, tho' rich, what dross their gold to thee, Great ! good ! wise ! wonderful ! eternal king ! If to those conscious stars thy throne around, Praise ever-pouring, and imbibing bliss ; And ask their strain ; they want it, more they want, Poor their abundance, humble their sublime. Languid their energy, their ardour cold, Indebted still, their highest rapture burns ; Short of its mark, defective, tho' divine, [alone ;
Still more This theme is man's, and man's Their vast appointments reach it not : they see On earth a bounty not indulg'd on high ; And downward look for heaven's superior praise ! First-born of ether ! high in fields of light ! View man, to see the glory of your God ! Could angels envy, they had envied here ; And some did envy ; and the rest, tho' gods, Yet still gods unredeem'd (there triumphs man, Tempted to weigh the dust against the skies) They less would feel, tho' more adorn, my theme. They sung creation (for in that they shar'd) ; How rose in melody, that child of love ! Creation's great superior, man ! is thine ; Thine is redemption } they just gave the key J
Vbt. fr. V
66 THE COMPLAINT.
'Tis thine to raise, and eternize, the song* ; Tho' human, yet divine ; for should not this Raise man o'er man, and kindle seraphs here ? Redemption ! 'twas creation more sublime ; Redemption ! 'twas the labour of the skies ; Far more than labour It was death in heaven. A truth so strange ! 'twere bold to think it true ; If not far bolder still, to disbelieve.
Here pause, and ponder : Was there death in
heaven ? [blow?
What then on earth ? On earth, which struck the Who struck it? Who ? O how is man enlarg'd, Seen thro' this medium ! How the pigmy tow'rs ! How counterpois'd his origin from dust ! How counterpois'd, to dust his sad return ! How voided his vast distance from the skies ! How near he presses on the seraph's wing- ! Which is the seraph ? Which the born of clay ? How this demonstrates, thro' the thickest cloud Of guilt, and clay condenst, the son of heaven ! The double son ; the made, and the re-made ! And shall heaven's double property be lost ? Man's double madness only can destroy. To man the bleeding cross has promis'd all ; The bleeding cross has sworn eternal grace ; Who gave his life, what grace shall he deny ? O ye ! who, from this rock of ages, leap, Apostates, plunging headlong in the deep ! What cordial joy, what consolation strong, Whatever winds arise, or billows roll, Our int'rest in the master of the storm ! Cling there, and in wreck'd nature's ruins smile ; While vile apostates tremble in a calm.
Man ! know thyself. All wisdom centres there ;
NIGHT IV. 67
To none man seems ignoble, but to man ; Angels that grandeur, men o'erlook, admire : How long shall human nature be their book, Degenerate mortal ! and unread by thee ? The beam dim reason sheds shows wonders there ; What high contents ! Illustrious faculties ! But the grand comment, which displays at full Our human height, scarce sever'd from divine, By heaven compos'd, was publish'd on the cross.
Who looks on that, and sees not in himself An awful stranger, a terrestrial god ? A glorious partner with the deity In that high attribute, immortal life? If a god bleeds, he bleeds not for a worm : I gaze, and, as I gaze, my mounting soul Catches strange fire, eternity ! at thee ; And drops the world or rather, more enjoys : How chang'd the face of nature ! how improv'd ! What seem'd a chaos, shines a glorious \vorld, Or, what a world, an Eden ; heighten'd all ! It is another scene ! another self ! And still another, as time rolls along ; And that a self far more illustrious still. Beyond long ages, yet roll'd Up in shades Unpierc'd by bold conjecture's keenest ray, What evolutions of surprising fate ! How nature opens, and receives my soul In boundless walks of raptur'd thought ! where gods Encounter and embrace me ! What new births Of strange adventure, foreign to the sun, Where what now charms, perhaps, whate'er exists, Old time, and fair creation, are forgot !
Is this extravagant ? Of man we form Extravagant conception, to be just :
68 TILE COMPLAINT.
Conception unconfin'd wants wings to reach him: Beyond its reach,
the godhead only, more.
He, the great Father ! kindled at one flame The world of rationals ; one spirit pour'd From spirit's awful fountain ! pour'd himself Thro' all their souls ; but not in equal stream, Profuse, or frugal, of th' inspiring- God, As his wise plan demanded ; and when past Their various trials, in their various spheres, If they continue rational, as made, Resorbs them all into himself again ; His throne their centre, and his smile their crown.
Why doubt we, then, the glorious truth to sing, Tho' yet unsung 1 , as deem'd, perhaps, too bold ? Angels are men of a superior kind ; Angels are men in lighter habit clad, High o'er celestial mountains wing'd in flight ; And men are angels, loaded for an hour, Who wade this miry vale, and climb with pain, And slipp'ry step, the bottom of the steep. Angels their failings, mortals have their praise ; While here, of corps ethereal, such enroll'd, And summon'd to the glorious standard soon, Which flames eternal crimson thro' the skies. Nor are our brothers thoughtless of their kin, Yet absent ; but not absent from their love. Michael has fought our battles ; Raphael sung Our triumphs ; Gabriel on our errands flown, Sent by the sovereign : and are these, O man ! Thy friends, thy warm allies ? And thou (shame
burn The cheek to cinder !) rival to the brute?
Religion's all. Descending from the skies To wretched man ; the goddess in her left
Holds out this world, and, in her right, the next ;
Religion ! the sole voucher man is man ;
Supporter sole of man above himself ;
Ev'n in this night of frailty, chang'e, and death,
She gives the soul a soul that acts a god.
Religion ! providence ! an after-state !
Here is firm footing ; here is solid rock !
This can support us ; all is sea besides ;
Sinks under us ; bestorms, and then devours.
His hand the good man fastens on the skies,
And bids earth roll, nor feels her idle whirl.
As when a wretch, from thick, polluted air, Darkness, and stench, and suffocating damps, And dungeon-horrors, by kind fate, discharg'd Climbs some fair eminence, where ether pure Surrounds him, and Elysian prospects rise, His heart exults, his spirits cast their load ; As if new-born, he triumphs in the change ; So joys the soul, when from inglorious aims, And sordid sweets, from feculence and froth Of ties terrestrial, set at large, she mounts To reason's region, her own element, Breathes hopes immortal, and affects the skies.
Religion ! thou the soul of happiness ; And, groaning Calvary, of thee ! there shine The noblest truths ; there strongest motives sting ; There sacred violence assaults the soul ; There, nothing but compulsion is forborne. Can love allure us ? or can terror awe ? He weeps ! the falling drop puts out the sun ; He sighs the sigh earth's deep foundation shakes. If in his love so terrible, what then His wrath inflam'd ? his tenderness on fire ? Like soft, smooth oil, out-blazing other fires
Can prayer, can praise avert it ? Thou, my all ! My theme ! my inspiration ! and my crown ! My strength in age ! my rise in low estate ! My soul's ambition, pleasure, wealth ! my world! My light in darkness ! and my life in death ! My boast thro' time ! bliss thro' eternity ! Eternity, too short to speak thy praise ! Or fathom thy profound of love to man ! To man of men the meanest, ev'n to me ; My sacrifice ! my God ! what things are these ! What then art thou ? by what name shall I call
Knew I the name devout archangels use, Devout archangels should the name enjoy, By me unrival'd ; thousands more sublime, None half so dear, as that, which, tho' unspoke Still glows at heart : O how omnipotence Is lost in love ! Thou great philanthropist ! Father of angels ! but the friend of man ! Like Jacob, fondest of the younger born ! Thou, who didst save him, snatch the smoking brand From out the flames, and quench it in thy blood ! How art thou pleas'd, by bounty to distress ! To make us groan beneath our gratitude, Too big' for birth ! to favour, and confound ; To challenge, and to distance all return ! Of lavish love stupendous heights to soar, And leave praise panting in the distant vale ! Thy right too great, defrauds thee of thy due ; And sacrilegious our sublimest song. But since the naked will obtains thy smile, Beneath this monument of praise unpaid, And future life symphonious to my strain, (That noblest hymn to heaven !) for ever lie
Intomb'd my fear of death ! and ev'ry fear, The dread of ev'ry evil, but thy frown.
Whom see I yonder, so demurely smile ? Laughter a labour, and might break their rest Ye quietists, in homage to the skies ! Serene ! of soft address ! who mildly make An unobtrusive tender of your hearts, Abhorring violence ! who halt indeed ; But, for the blessing, wrestle not with heaven ! Think you my song too turbulent ? too warm ? Are passions, then, the pagans of the soul ? Reason alone baptiz'd ? alone ordain'd To touch things sacred ? Oh for warmer still ! Guilt chills my zeal, and age benumbs my pow'rs; 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, 'tis impious to be calm ; Passion is reason, transport temper, here. Shall heaven, which gave us ardour, and has shown Her own for man so strongly, not disdain What. smooth emollients in theology, Recumbent virtue's downy doctors preach, That prose of piety, a lukewarm praise ? Rise odours sweet from incense uninflam'd ? Devotion, when lukewarm, is undevout; But when it glows, its heat is struck to heaven; To human hearts her golden harps are strung ; High heaven's orchestra chants amen to man.
Hear I, or dream I hear, their distant strain, Sweet to the soul, and tasting strong of heavej
Soft- wafted on celestial pity's plume,
Thro' the vast spaces of the universe,
To cheer me in this melancholy gloom ?
Oh, when will death (now sting-less), like a friend,
Admit me of their choir ? O, 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 !
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,
Divides us. Happy day ! that breaks our chain ,
That manumits ; that calls from exile home ;
That leads to nature's great metropolis,
And re-admits us, thro' the guardian hand
Of elder brothers, to our Father's throne ;
Who hears our Advocate, and, thro' his wounds
Beholding man, allows that tender name.
'Tis this makes Christian triumph a command :
'Tis this makes joy a duty to the wise ;
'Tis impious in a good man to be sad.
See 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 ! Ineffably pre-eminent regard ! Sacred to man, and sov'reign thro' the whole Long golden chain of miracles, which hangs From heav'n thro' all duration, and supports In one illustrious, and amazing plan, Thy welfare, nature ! and thy God's renown ;
NIGHT iv. 73
That touch, with charm celestial, heals the soul Diseas'd, drives pain from guilt, lights life in death ; Turns earth to heaven, to heavenly thrones trans- forms The ghastly ruins of the mould'ring tomb.
Dost ask me when ? When he who died 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, Leave a stupendous solitude in heaven ; Replenisht soon, replenisht 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 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. Hast thou ne'er seen the comet's flaming flight ? Th' illustrious stranger passing, terror sheds On gazing nations, from his fiery train Of length enormous, takes his ample round Thro'- depths of other ; coasts unnumber'd worlds Of more than solar glory ; doubles wide Heaven's mighty cape ; and then revisits earth, From the long travel of a thousand years. Thus, at the destin'd period, shall return He, once on earth, who bids the comet blaze : And, \vith him, all our triumph o'er the tomb.
Nature is dumb on this important point ; Or hope precarious in low whisper breathe Faith speaks alo.icl, distinct ; ev'n adders
74 THE COMPLAINT.
But turn, and dart into the dark again. Faith builds a bridge across the gulf 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. 'Tis 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 : 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 On passive nature, before thought was born? My birth's blind bigot ! fir'd with local zeal ! No ; reason re-baptiz'd me when adult ; Weigh'd true, and false, in her impartial- scale ; 'My heart became the convert of my head; And made that choice, which once was but my fate, " On argument alone my faith is built:" Reason pursu'd is faith ; and, unpursu'd Where proof invites, 'tis reason, then, no more : And such our proof, that, or our faith, is right, Or reason lies, and heaven design'd it wrong : Absolve we this ? What, then, is blasphemy ?
Fond as we are, and justly fond, of faith, Reason, we grant, demands out first regard ; The mother honour'd, as the daughter dear. Reason the root, fair faith is but the flower; The fading flower shall die ; but reason lives ^TmAorfcil, as her father in the skies.
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When faith is virtue, reason makes it so. Wrong not the Christian ; think not reason yours : 'Tis reason our great master holds so dear ; "Tis reason's injur'd rights his wrath resents ; 'Tis reason's voice obey'd his glories crown ; To give lost reason life, he pour'd his own : Believe, and show the reason of a man ; Believe, and taste the pleasure of a God ; Believe, and look with triumph on the tomb : Thro' reason's wounds alone thy faith can die ; Which dying, tenfold terror gives to death, And dips in venom his twice-mortal sting.
Learnhence what honours, what loud paeans, 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. Those pompous sons of reason idolized And vilified at once ; of reason dead, Then deified, as monarchs were of old ; What conduct plants proud laurels on their brow ? While love of truth thro' all their camp resounds, 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 :" and, Indian-like, adore.
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) As wise as Socrates, might justly stand The definition of a modern fool.
76 THE COMPLAINT.
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 ? If angels tremble, 'tis 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) 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 call'd another ; that arrives, Meets the same welcome ; yet he still calls on ; 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 ; A freedom far less welcome than his chain."
But grant man happy ; grant him happy long ; Add to life's highest prize her latest hour ; 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 ? Thrown down the gulf of time ; 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 'tis gone ; And each swift moment fled, is death advanc'd 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. O give it leave to speak ; 'twill speak ere long.
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Thy leave unaskt : 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 ;
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 ;
Tho' silent long, and sleeping ne'er so sound,
Smother'd with errors, and oppress'd with toys,
That heaven-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 ;
Loudly convinces, and severely pains.
Dark demons I discharge, and hydra-stings ;
The keen vibration of bright truth is hell :
Just definition ! tho' by schools untaught.
Ye deaf to truth ! peruse this parson'd page,
And trust, for once, a prophet, and a priest;
" Men may live fools, but fools they cannot die."