The Grave (Blair, 1788)

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The Grave (1788)
by Robert Blair
551261The Grave1788Robert Blair






The house appointed for all living. Job.



Printed for, and sold by the Booksellers in
Town and Country. March, 1788.





WHILST some affect the sun, and some the shade,
Some flee the city, some the hermitage;
Their aims as various, as the roads they take
In journeying thro' life;—The task be mine
To paint the gloomy horrors of the Tomb;
Th' appointed place of rendezvous, where all
These travellers meet.—Thy succours I implore,
Eternal King! whose potent arm sustains
The keys of hell and death.—The Grave, dread thing!
Men shiver, when thou art nam'd: Nature appall'd
Shakes off her wonted firmness—Ah! how dark
Thy long-extended realms, and reuful wastes;
Where nought but silence reigns, and Night, dark Night,
Dark as was Chaos, are the infant sun
Was roll'd together, or had try'd his beams
Athwart the gloom profound.—The sickly taper,
By glimmering through the low-brow'd misty vaults,
(Furr'd round with mouldy damps, and ropy slime.)
Lets fall a supernumerary horror,
And only serves to make thy night more irksome.

Well do I know thee by thy trusty Yew,
Chearless, unsocial plant; that loves to dwell
'Midst skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms:
Where light-heel'd ghosts and visionary shades
Beneath the wan cold moon (as same reports)
Embody'd, thick, perform their mystic rounds.
No other merriment, dull tree, is thine.

See yonder hallow'd Fane;—the pious work
Of names once fam'd, now dubious or forgot,
And bury'd midst the wreck of things which were:
There lie interr'd the more illustrious dead.
The wind is up; Hark! how it howls! Methinks
Till now I never heard a sound so dreary;
Doors creak, and windows clap, and Night's foul bird
Rooks, in the spire, screams loud; the gloomy isles,
Black plaister'd, and hung with shreds of scutcheons
And tatter'd coats of arms, send back the sound
Laden with heavier airs, from the low vaults
The mansions of the dead.— Rous'd from their slumbers,
In grim array the grisly spectres rise,
Grin horrible, and obstinately sullen
Pass and repass, hush'd as the foot of Night
Again the screech-owl shrieks; ungracious sound!
I'll hear no more, it makes one's blood run chill.

Quite round the pile, a row of reverend elms,
(Coæval near with that,) all ragged shew
Long lash'd by the rude winds. Som rift half down
Their branchless trunks; others so thin a top,
That scarce two crows can lodge in the same tree.
Strange things, the neighbours say, have happen'd here;
Wild shrieks have issu'd from the hollow tombs;
Dead men have come again, and walk'd about;
And the great bell has toll'd, unrung, untouch'd

(Such tales their chear, at Wake or Gossiping,
When is draws neat to witching time of night.)

Oft, in the lune church-yard at nigh I've seen
By glimpse of moon-shine, chequering thro' the trees,
The school-boy with his satchel in his hand,
Whistling aloud to bear his courage up,
Ad lightly tripping o'er the long flat stones,
(With nettles skirted, and with moss o'ergrown;)
That tell in homely phrase who lie below.
Sudden he starts, and hears, or thinks he hears!
The sound of something purring at his heels;
Full fast he flies, and dares not look behind him,
Till out of breath he overtakes his fellows;
Who gather round, and wonder at the tale
Of horrid Apparition, tall and ghostly,
That walks at dead of night, or takes his stand
O'er some new open'd grave; and (strange to tell!)
Evanishes at crowing of the cock.

The new made Widow too, I've sometimes 'spy'd,
Sad sight! slow moving o'r the prostrate dead;
Listless, she crawls along in doleful black,
Whilst bursts of sorrow gush from either eye.
Fast falling down her now untasted cheek.
Prone on the lowly grave of the dear man
She drops; whilst busy meddling Memory,
In barbarous succession, musters up
The past endearments of their softer hours,
Tenacious of its theme. Still, still she thinks
She sees him, and indulging the fond thought,
Clings yet more closely to the senseless turf,
Nor heeds the passenger who looks that way.

Invidious Grave—how dost thou rend in sunder
Whom Love has knit, and Sympathy made one?
A tie more stubborn far than Nature's band.
Friendship! mysterious cement of the soul;

Sweetner of life, and solder of society;
I owe thee much. Thou hast deserv'd from me,
Far, far beyond what I can ever pay.
Oft have I prov'd the labours of thy love,
And the warm efforts of the gentle heart,
Anxious to please.—Oh! when my friend and I
In some thick wood have wander'd heedless on,
Hid from the vulgar eye; and sat us down
Upon the sloping cowslip cover'd bank,
Where the pure limpid stream has slid along
In grateful errors thro' the underwood,
Sweet-murmuring: Methought the shrill-tongu'd Thrush
Mended his song of love; the sooty Black-bird
Mellow'd his pipe, and softn'd ev'ry note:
The Eglantine smell'd sweeter, and the Rose
Assum'd a dye more deep; whilst ev'ry flower
Vy'd with its fellow-plant in luxury
Of dress.—Oh! then, the longest summer's day
Seem'd too, too much in haste: still the full heart
Had not imparted half: 'Twas happiness
Too exquisite to last. Of joys departed
Not to return, low painful the remembrance!

Dull Grave.—thou spoil'st the dance of youthful blood,
Strik'st out the dimple from the check of Mirth,
And ev'ry smirking feature from the face;
Branding our laughter with the name of madness.
Where are the jesters now? the men of health,
Complexionally pleasant? Where the Droll,
Whose ev'ry look and gesture was a joke
To clapping theatres and shouting cronds,
And made even thick-lip'd musing melancholy
To gather up her face into a smile
Before she was aware! Ah! sullen now,
And dumb, as the green turf chat covers them.

Where are the mighty thunderbolts of war?
The Roman Cæsars, and the Græcian Chiefs,
The boast of story? Where the hot-brain'd youth?
Who the Tiara at his pleasure tore
From Kings of all the then discover'd globe;
And cry'd, forsooth, because his arm was hamper'd,
And had not room enough to do its work?
Alas! how slim, dishonourably slim,
And cram'd into a space we blush to name!
Proud Royalty! how alter'd in thy looks!
How blank thy features, and how wan thy hue.
Son of the morning! whither art thou gone?
Where hast thou bid thy many-spangled head,
And the majestic menace of thine eyes
Felt from afar? Plaint and powerless now,
Like new-born infant wound up in his swathes,
Or victim tumbled flat upon its back,
That throbs beneath the sacrificer's knife.
Mute, must thou bear the strife of little tongues,
And coward insults of the base-born croud;
That grudge a privilege, thou never hadst,
But only hop'd for in the peaceful Grave,
Of being unmolested and alone.
Arabit's gums and odoriferous drugs,
And honours by the heralds duly paid
In mode and form, ev'r to a very scruple;
Oh cruel Irony! these come too late;
And only mock, whom they were meant to honour.
Surely there's not a dungeon-slave, that's bury'd
In the high-way, unshrouded and uncoffin'd,
But lies as soft, and sleeps as sounds as he.
Sorry pre-eminence of high descent
Above the vulgar born, to rot in state!

But see! the well-plum'd Herse comes nodding on
Stately and slow; and properly attended
By the whole sable tribe, that painful watch
The sick man's door, and live upon the dead,

By letting out their persons by the hour,
To mimid sorrow, when the hearts's not sad.
How rich the trappings! now they're all unfurl'd,
And glittering in the sun; triumphant entries
Of Conquerors, and Coronation-pomps,
In glory scarce exceed. Great gluts of people
Retard th' unwieldy show, whilst from the casements
And houses tops, ranks behind ranks close wedg'd,
Hang bellying o'er. But tell us, why this waste?
Why this ado in earthing up a Carcase
That's fall'n into disgrace, and in the nostirl
Smells horrible?— Ye undertakers tell us,
'Midst all the gorgeous figures you exhibit,
Why is the principal conceal'd, for which
You make this mighty stir?— 'Tis wisely done;
What would offend the eye in a good picture,
The painter casts discreetly into shades.

Proud Lineage, now how little thou appear'st
Below the envy of the private man.
Honour, that middlesome officious ill,
Pursues thee ev'n to death; nor there stops short.
Strange persecution when the Grave itself
Is no protection from rude suffrance.

Absurd to think to over-reach the Grave,
And from the wreck of names to rescue ours.
The best concerted schemes men lay for fame,
Die fast away: only themselves die faster.
The far-fam'd Sculptor, and the laurell'd Bard,
Those bold ensurancers of deathless fame,
Supply their little feeble aids in vain.
The tapering Pyramid, the Egyptian's pride
And wonder of the world; whose spiky top
Has wounded the thick cloud, and long out-liv'd
The angry shaking of the winter's storm:
Yet spent at last by th' injuries of heaven,
Shatter'd with age, and furrow'd o'er with years,

The mystic cone with hieroglyphics crusted,
At once gives way. Oh! lamentable sight:
The labour of whole ages, lumbers down,
A hideous and mishapen length of ruins.
Sepulchral columns wrestle but in vain
With all-subduing Time: her cank'ring hand
With calm deliberate malice wasteth them:
Worn on the edge of days the brass consumes,
The busto moulders, and the deep-cut marble
Unsteady to the steel, gives up its charge.
Ambiton half convicted of her folly,
Hangs down the head, and reddens at the tale.

Here all the mighty Troublers of the earth,
Who swam to sov'reign rule thro' seas of blood;
Th' oppressive, sturdy, man-destroying Villains,
Who ravag'd kingdoms and laid empires waste,
And in a cruel wantonness of power
Thinn'd states of half their people, and gave up
To want, the rest: now, like a storm that's spent,
Lie hush'd, and meanly sneak behind the covert.
Vain thought! to hide them from the general scorn,
That haunts, and dogs them like an injur'd ghost
Implacable—Here too the petty Tyrant,
Whose scant domains Geographer ne'er notic'd,
And well for neighbouring grounds, of arm as short;
Who fix'd his iron talons on the poor,
And grip'd them like some lordly beast of prey;
Deaf to the forceful cries of gnawing Hunger,
And piteous plaintive voice of Misery:
(As if a Slave was not a shred of nature,
Of the same common nature with his Lord):
Now tame and humble, like a child that's whipp'd,
Shakes hands with dust, & calls the worm his kinsman;
Nor pleads his rank and birth-right.—Under groud
Precedency's a jest; Vassal and Lord
Grossly familiar, side by side consume.

When self-esteem, or others adulation,
Would cunningly persuade us we were something
Above the common level of our kind;
The Grave gainsays the smooth-complexion'd flat'ry,
And with blunt truth acquaints us what we are.

Beauty—thou pretty play thing, dear deceit,
That steals so softly o'er the stripling's heart,
And gives it a new pulse, unknown before,
The Grave discredits thee: thy charms expung'd,
Thy roses faded, and thy lilies soil'd,
What hast thou more to boast of? Will thy Lovers,
Flock round thee now, and gaze to do thee homage?
Methinks I see thee with thy head low laid,
Whilst surfeited upon thy damask cheek
The high-fed worm, in lazy volumes roll'd,
Riots unscar'd.—For this, was all thy caution?
For this, thy painful labours at thy glass?
T'improve those charms, and keep then in repair,
For which the spoiler thanks the not. Foul feeder,
Coarse fare and carrion please thee full as well,
And leave as keen a relish on the sense.
Look how the fair one weeps!—the conscious tears
Stand thick as dew-drops on the bells of flow'rs:
Honest effusion! the swoln heart in vain
Works hard to put a gloss on its distress.

Strength too—thou surly, and less gentle boast
Of those that laugh loud at the village-ring:
A fit of common sickness pulls thee down
With greater ease, than e'er thou didst the stripling
That rashly dar'd thee to th' unequal fight:
What groan was that I heard?—Deep groan indeed!
With anguish heavy laden; let me trace it;
From yonder bed it comes, where the strong man,
By stronger arm belabour'd, gasps for breath,
Like a hard-haunted beast. How his great heart
Beats thick! his roomy chest by far too scant

To give the lungs full play—What now avail
The strong-built sinewy limbs, and well spread shoulders
See how he tugs for life, and lays about him,
Mad with his pain!—Eager he catches hold
Of what comes next to hand, and grasps it hard
Just like a creature drowning; hideous sight!
Oh! how his eyes stand out, and stare full ghastly!
Whilst the distemper's rank and deadly venom
Shoots like a burning arrow cross his bowels,
And drinks his marrow up.—Heard you that goan?
It was his last.—See how the great Goliah,
Just like a child that brawl'd itself to rest,
Lies still—what mean'st thou then, O mighty boaster!
To vaunt of nerves of thine? What means the Bull,
Unconscious of his strength, to play the coward,
And flee before a feeble thing like man;
That knowing well the sickness of his arm,
Trusts only in the well invented knife?

With study pale, and midnight vigils spent,
The star-surveying sage, close to his eye
Applies the sight-invigorating tube;
And travelling thro' the boundless length of space,
Marks well the courses of the far-seen orbs,
That roll with regular confusion there,
In ecstasy of thought. But ah! proud man,
Great heights are hazardous to the weak head:
Soon, very soon, thy firmest footing fails;
And down thou dropp'st into the darksome place,
Where nor device, nor knowledge ever come.

Here the tongue-warrior lies, disabled now,
Disarm'd, dishonour'd, like a wretch that's gagg'd,
And cannot tell his ail to passers by.
Great man of language,—whence this mighty change?
This dumb despair, and drooping of the head?

Tho' strong persuasion hung upon thy lip,
And sly Insinuation's softer arts,
In ambush lay about thy flowing Tongue;
Alas! how chop-falln'n? Thck mists and silence
Rest, like a weary cloud, upon thy breast
Unceasing.—Ah! where is the lifted arm,
The strength of action, and the force of words,
The well-turn'd period, and the well-tun'd voice,
With all the lesser ornaments of Phrase?
Ah! fled for, as they ne'er had been,
Raz'd from the book of Fame: or more provoking,
Perchance some hackney hunger-bitten Scribbler
Insults thy memory, and blots thy tomb
With long flat narrative, or duller rhimes,
With heavy halting pace that drawl along;
Enough to rouse a dead man into rage,
And warm with red resentment the wan check.

Here the great masters of the Healing-art
These mighty mock-defrauders of the Tomb,
Spite of their Juleps and Catholicons
Resign to fate.—Proud Esculapius' son!
Where are thy boasted implements of Art,
And all the well-cram'd magazines of health?
Nor Hill, nor Vale, as far as ship could go,
Nor margin of the gravel-bottom'd Brook,
Escap'd thy rifling hand:— from stubborn shrubs
Thou wrung'st their shy retiring Virtues out,
And vex'd them in the fire: nor fly, nor insect,
Nor wreathy snake, escap'd thy deep research.
But why this apparatus? why this cost?
Tell us, thou doughty keeper from the Grave
Where are thy Receipts and Cordials now,
With the long list of vouchers for thy cures?
Alas! thou speakest not.—The bold impostor
Looks not more silly, when the cheat's found out.

Here the lank-sided Miser, worst of fellons,

Who meanly stole (discreditable shift,)
From back, and belly too, their proper cheer;
Eas'd of a tax, it irk'd the wretch to pay
To his own carcase; now lies cheaply lodg'd
By clam'rous Appetites no longer teaz'd.
Nor tedous Bills of charges and repairs.
But ah! where are his rents, his comings-in?
Ay! now you've made the rich man poor indeed.
Robb'd of his gods, what has he left behind?
Oh! cursed lust of gold; when for thy sake,
The fool throws up his interest in both Worlds:
First starv'd in this, then damn'd in that to come.

How shocking must thy summons be, O Death!
To him that is at ease in his possessions;
Who counting on long years of pleasure here,
Is quite unfurnish'd for that world to come!
In the dread moment, how the frantic Soul
Raves roud the walls of her clay Tenement,
Runs to each avenue, and shrieks for help,
But shrieks in vain!—How wishfully she looks
On all she's leaving, now no longer her's!
A little longer, yet a little longer.
Oh! might she stay, to wash away her stains,
And fit her for her passage.—Mournful sight;
Her very eyes weep blood; and every Groan
She heaves is big with horror.—But the Foe,
Like a staunch murd'rer steady to his purpose,
Pnrsues her close through e'ry lane of Life,
Nor misses once the track, but presses on;
Till forc'd at last to the tremendous Verge,
At once she sinks to everlasting ruin.

Sure 'tis a serious thing to die; My soul,
What a strange moment must it be, when near
Thy Journey's end, thou hast the gulph in view!
That awful gulph, no mortal e'er repass'd
To tell what's doing on the other side.
Nature runs back and shudders at the sight,

And ev'ry life-string bleeds at thought of parting;
For part they must: Body and soul must part;
Fond couple; link'd more close than wedded pair.
This, wings its way to its almighty Source,
The Witness of its actions, now its Judge;
That, drops into the dark and noisome Grave,
Like a disabled pitcher of no use.

If Death was nothing, and nought after death;
If when men dy'd, at once they ceas'd to be,
Returning to the barren womb of nothing,
Whence first they sprung; then might the Debachee
Untrembling mouth the Heavens:—Then might the Drunkard
Reel over his full bowl, and when 'tis drain'd,
Fill up another to brim, and laugh
At the poor bugbear Death. Then might the wretch
That's weary of the world, and tir'd of life,
At once give each inquietude the slip,
By stealing out of being when he pleas'd,
And by what way; whether by hemp, or steel.
Death's thousand doors stand open. Who could force
The ill-pleas'd guest to sit out his full time,
Or blame him if he goes?— Sure he does well
That helps himself, as timely as he can,
When able.—But if there's an Hereafter,
And that there is, Conscience, uninfluenc'd
And suffer'd to speak out, tells ev'ry man;
Then must it be an awful thing to die:
More horrid yet, to die by one's own hand.
Self-murder!—name it not: our island's shame:
That makes her the reproach of neighbouring states:
Shall Nature, swerving from her earliest dictate
Self-preservation, fall by her own act?
Forbid it Heaven!—Let not, upon disgust,
The shameless hand be souly crimson'd o'er
With blood of its own lord.—Dreadful attempt!

Just racking from self-slaughter, in a rage
To rush into the presence of our Judge;
As if we challeng'd him to do his worst,
And matter'd not his wrath.—Unheard of tortures
Must be reserz'd for such: these herd together;
The common Damn'd shun their society,
And look upon themselves as finds less foul.
Our time is fix'd, and all our days are number'd;
How long, how short, we know not:—this we know
Duty requires we calmly wait the summons
Nor dare to stir till Heav'n shall give permission:
Like Centries that must keep their destin'd stand,
And wait th' ppointed hour, till they're reliv'd.
Those only are the brave, that keep their ground,
And keep it to the last. To run away,
Is but a cowards trick: To run away,
From this world's ills, that at the very worst
Will soon blow o'er, thinking to mend ourselves
By boldly vent'ring on a world unknown,
And plunging headlong in the dark;—'tis mad;
No frenzy half so desperate as this.

Tell us, ye Dead; will none of you, in pity
To those you left behind, disclose the secret?
Oh that some courteous ghost would blab it out:
What 'tis you are, and we must shortly be.
I've heard, that souls departed, have sometimes
Forewarn'd men of their death:—'Tis kindly done
To knock, and give the alarm—But what means
This stinted charity?—'Tis but lame kindness
That does its work by halves.—Why night you not
Tell us what 'tis to die?— Do the strict laws
Of your society forbid your speaking
Upon a point so nice?—I'll ask no more:
Sullen, like lamps in sepulchres, your shine
Enlightens but yourselves. Well,—'tis no matter;
A very little time will clear up all,
And make us learn'd as you are, and as close,

Death’s shafts fly thick;—Here falls the vilage-swain
And there his pamper’d lord.—The cup goes round;
And who so artful as to put it by?
’Tis long since death had the majority;
Yet strange! the living lay it not to heart.
See yonder maker of the dead man’s bed,
The sexton, hoary-headed chronicle,
Of hard unmeaning face, down which ne’er stole
A gentle tear; with mattoc in his hand
Digs thro’ whole rows of kindred and acquaintance,
By far his juniors.—Scarce a skull’s cast up,
But well he knows its Owner, and can tell
Some passage of his life.—Thus hand in hand
The sot has walk’d with Death twice twenty years;
And yet, ne’er Yonker on the green laughs louder,
Or clubs a smuttier tale:—When Drunkards meet,
None sings a merrier catch, or lends a hand
More willing to his cup.—Poor wretch! he minds not
That soon some trusty Brother of the trade
Shall do for him what he has done for thousands.

On this side, and on that, men see their friends
Drop off, like leaves in autumn; yet launch out
Into fantastic schemes which the long Livers
In the world’s hale and undegenerate days,
Could scarce have leisure for.—Fools that we are,
Never to think of Death and of ourselves
At the same time: as if to learn to die
Were no concern of ours—Oh! more than sottish
For creatures of a Day, in gamesome mood,
To frolic on Eternity’s dark brink
Unapprehensive; when, for ought we know
The very first swoln Surge shall sweep us in.
Think we, or think we not, Time hurries on
With a resistless unremitting stream;
Yet treads more soft than e’er did midnight-thief,
That slides his hand under the Miser’s pillow
And carries off his prize.—What is this World?

What? but a spacious burial-field unwall'd,
Strew'd with death's spoils, the spoils of animals.
Savage and tame, and full of dead men's bones.
The very turf on which we tread, once liv'd:
And we that live must lend our carcases
To cover our own off-spring:—In their turns
They too must cover theirs.—'Tis here all meet:
The shiv'ring Icelander, and sun-burnt Moor:
Men of all climes, that never met before;
And of all creeds, the Jew, the Turk, and Christian,
Here the proud prince, and favourite yet prouder;
His sov'reign's keeper, and the people's scourge,
Are huddled out of sight.—Here ly abash'd
The great negotiators of the earth,
And celebrated masters of the balance,
Deep read in stratagems, and wiles of courts.
Now vain their treaty-skill:—Death scorns to treat.
Here the o'erloaded slave slings down his burden
From his gall'd shoulders;—and when the cruel tyrant,
With all his guards and tools of pow'r about him;
Is meditating new unheard of hardships,
Mocks his short arm;—and quick as thought, escapes
Where tyrants vex not, and the weary rest.
Here the warm lover, leaving the cool shade,
The tell-tale echo, and the babbling stream,
(Time out of mind the fav'rite seats of love)
Fast by his gentle mistress lays him down,
Unblasted by foul tongue—Here friends and foes
Lie close; unmindful of their former feuds.
The lawn-rob'd prelate, and the plain presbyter,
E'er while that stood aloof, as shy to meet;
Familiar mingle here, like sister streams,
That some rude interposing rock had split.
Here is the large-limb'd peasant:—Here the child
Of a span long, that never saw the fun,
Nor press'd the nipple, strangled in life's porch.
Here is the mother with her sons and daughters;

The barren Wife; and long demurring Maid,
Whose lonley unappropriated sweets
Smil'd like yon knot of cowslips on the cliff,
Not to be come at by the willing hand.
Here are the Prude severe, and gay Coquet,
The sober Widow, and the young green Virgin,
Cropp'd like a rose, before 'tis fully blown,
Or half its worth disclos'd—strange medley here!
Here garrulous Old Age winds up his tale;
And jovial Youth of lightsome vacant heart,
Whose ev'ry day was made of melody,
Hears not the voice of mirth:—The shill-tongu'd Shrew,
Meek as the turtle-dove, forgets her chiding.
Here are the wise, the generous, and the brave;
The just, the good, the worthless, the profane,
The down right clown, and perfectly well-bred;
The fool, the churl, the scoundrel and the mean,
The subtle statesman, and the patriot stern;
The wreck of Nations and the spoils of time,
With all the lumber of six thousand years.

Poor Man—how happy once in thy first state!
When yet but warm from thy great Maker's hand
He stamp'd thee with his image, and well pleas'd
Smil'd on his last fair work. Then all was well.
Sound was the body, and the soul serene;
Like two sweet instruments, ne'er out of tune,
That play their several parts—Nor head, nor heart,
Offer to ache:—Nor was there cause they should;
For all was pure within:—No fell remorse,
For anxious castings-up of what might be,
Alarm'd his peaceful bosom:—Summer seas
Shew not more smooth when kiss'd by southern winds
Just ready to expire.—Scarce importun'd
The generous soil, with a luxurious hand,
Offer'd the various produce of the year,
And ev'ry thing most perfect in its kind.

Blessed! thrice blessed days!—But ah! how short!
Bless'd as the pleasing dreams of Holy Men;
But fugitive like those, and quickly gone.
Oh! slippery state of things.—What sudden turns;
What strange vicissitudes in the first leaf
Of man's sad history?———To-day most happy
And e'er tomorrow's sun was set, most abject.
How scant the space between these vast extremes?
Thus far'd it with cur Sire:—Not long h' enjoy'd
His paradise—Scare had the happy tennant
Of the fair spot, due time to prove its sweets,
Or sum them up; when strait he must be gone,
Ne'er to return again.—And must he go?
Can nought compound for the first dire offence
Of erring man!—Like one that is condemn'd,
Fain would he trifle time with idle talk,
And parley with his fate.———But 'tis in vain.
Not all the lavish odours of the place
Offer'd in incense can procure his pardon,
Or mitigate his doom.———A mighty Angel
With flaming sword forbids his longer stay,
And drives the loiterer forth; nor must he take
One last farewel round.—At once he lost
His glory, and his God.—If mortal now
And sorely maim'd, no wonder.—Man has sinn'd.
Sick of his bliss, and bent on new adventures,
Evil he would needs try: nor try'd in vain.
Dreadful experimeent! destructive measure!
(Where the worst thing could happen, is success.)
Alas! too well he sped:—The good he scorn'd,
Stalk'd off reluctant, like an ill-us'd ghost,
Not to return;—or if it did, its visits
Like those of Angels, short and far between;
Whilst the black Dæmon with his hell 'scap'd Train
Admitted once into its better room,
Grew loud and mutinous, nor would be gone;
Lording it o'er the Man: who now too late
Saw the rash-error, which he could not mend:

An error fatal not to him alone,
But to his future sons, his fortune's heirs,
Inglorious bondage!—Human nature groans
Beneath a vassalage so vile and cruel,
And its vast body bleeds through every vein.

What havock hast thou made, foul monster, sin!
Greatest and first of ills.—The fruitful parent
Of woes of all dimensions!—But for thee
Sorrow had never been.—All noxious thing,
Of vilest nature!—Other sorts of evils
Are kindly circumscribed, and have their bounds.
The fierce Vulcano, from his burning entrails
That belches molten stone and globes of fire,
Involv'd in pitchy clouds of smoke and stench,
Mars the adjacent fields, for some leagues round,
And there it stops.—The big-swoln inundation,
Of mischief more dissusive, raving loud,
Buries whole tracks of country, threat'ning more;
But that too has its shore it cannot pass.
More dreadful far than these! sin has laid waste;
Not here and there a country, but a world:
Dispatching at a wide extended blow
Entire mankind; and for their sakes defacing
A whole creation's beauty with rude hands;
Blasting the foodful grain, the loaded branches,
And making all along its way with ruin.
Accursed thing!—Oh! where shall fancy find
A proper name to call thee by, expressive
Of all thy horrors?—Pregnant womb of ills!
Of temper so transcendantly malign,
That toads and serpents of most deadly kind,
Compar'd to thee, are harmless.—Sicknesses
Of ev'ry size and symptom, racking pains,
And blust plagues, are thine.—See how the fiend
Profusely scatters the contagion round!
Whilst deep mouth'd Slaughter, bellowing at her heels,

Wades deep in blood new-spilt; yet for to-morrow
Shares out new work of great uncommon daring,
And inly pines till the dread blow is struck.

But hold—I've gone too far; too much discover'd
My father's nakedness, and nature's shame.
Here let me pause, and drop an honest tear,
One burst of filial duty and condolence,
O'er all those ample deserts death hath spread,
This chaos of mankind.—O great man-eater;
Whose ev'ry day is Carnival, not fated yet!
Unheard of epicure! without a fellow!
The veriest gluttons do not always cram;
Some intervals of abstinence are sought
To edge the appetite: Thou seekest none.
Methinks the countless swarms thou hast devour'd,
And thousands that each hour thou gobblest up:
This, less than this, might gorge thee to the full.
But ah! rapacious still, thou gap'st for more:
Like one, whole days defrauded of hsi meals.
On whom lank hunger lays her skinny hand,
And whets to keenest eagerness his cravings.
(As if diseases, massacres, and poison,
Famine and war, were not thy caterers.)

But know, that thou must render up thy dead,
And with high int'rest too.—They are not thine;
But only in thy keeping for a season,
Till the great promis'd day of restitution;
When loud diffusive found from brazen trump
Of strong lung'd cherub, shall alarm thy captives,
And rouse the long, long sleepers into life,
Day-light, and liberty—
Then must thy gates fly open, and reveal
The mines that lay long forming under ground,
In their dark cells immur'd; but now full ripe,
And pure as silver from the crucible,
That twice has stood the torture of the fire

And inquisition of the forge.—We know,
Th' illustrious Deliverer of mankind,
The Son Of God, thee foil'd.—Him in thy pow'r
Thou could'st not hold:—self-vigorous he rose,
And, shaking off thy setters, soon retook
Those spoils his voluntary yielding lent;
(Sure pledge of our releasement from thy thrall;)
Twice twenty days he sojourn'd here on earth,
And shew'd himself alive to chosen Witnesses,
By proof so strong, that the most slow assenting
Had not a scruple left.—This having done,
He mounted up do heav'n.—Methinks I see him
Climb the ærial heights, and glide along
Athwart severing clouds; but the faint eye,
Flung backwards in the chace, soon drops its hold;
Disabled quite, and jaded with pursuing.
Heav'n's portals wide expand to let him in;
Nor are his friends shut out; as some great Prince
Not for himself alone procures admission,
But for his train;—It was his Royal will,
That where he is, there should his followers be.
Death only lies between—a gloomy path!
Made yet more gloomy by our coward fears;
But not untrod, nor tedious; the fatigue
Will soon go off. Besides there's no by-road
To bliss.—Then why, like ill-condition'd children,
Start we at transient hardships in the way
That leads to purer air, and softer skies,
And a ne'er setting sun!—Fools that we are!
We wish to be, where Sweets unwithering, bloom;
But straight our wish revoke, and will not go.
So have I seen upon a summer's ev'n,
Fast by the riv'let's brink, a Youngster play;
How wishfully he looks to stem the tide!
This moment resolute, next unresolv'd;
At last he dips his foot; but as he dips,
His fears redouble, and he runs away

From th' inoffensive stream, unmindful now
Of all the flow'rs that paint the further bank,
And smil'd so sweet of late.—Thrice welcome death!
That after many a painful bleeding step
Conducts us to our home, and lands us safe
On the long-wish'd for shore.—Prodigious change!
Our bane turn'd to a blessing!———Death disarm'd
Looses her felness quite.—All thanks to him
Who scourg'd the venom out.—Sure the last end
Of the good man is peace!—How calm his exit!
Night-dews fall not more gently to the ground,
Nor weary worn-out winds expire so soft.
Behold him in the evening-tide of life,
A life well spent, whose early care it was
His riper years should not upbraid his green:
By unperceiv'd degrees he wears away:
Yet, like the sun, seems larger at his setting.
(High in his faith and hopes,) look how he reaches
After the prize in view! and, like a bird
That's hamper'd, struggles hard to get away:
Whilst the glad gates of sight, are wide expanded
To let new glories in, the first fair fruits
Of the fast-coming harvest.—Then!—Oh then!
Each earth-born joy grows vile, or disappears,
Shrunk to a thing of nought.———Oh! how he longs
To have his passport sign'd and be dismiss'd!
'Tis done! and now he's happy:—the glad Soul
Has not a wish uncrown'd.———Ev'n the lag Flesh
Rests too in Hope of meeting once again
Its better half, never to sunder more.
Nor stall it hope in vain.—The time draws on
When not a single spot of burial-earth,
Whether on Land, or in the spacious Sea,
But must give back its long committed dust
Inviolate;———And faithfully shall these
Make up the full account;———not the least atom
Imbezzl'd or mislaid, of the whole tale.
Each soul shall have a Body ready furnish'd;

And each shall have his own.—Hence ye profane,
Ask not; how this can be?—Sure the same pow'r
That rear'd the piece at first, and took it down,
Can re-assemble the loose scatter'd parts,
And put them as they were.—Almighty God
Has done much more; nor is his arm-impair'd
Thro' length of days. And what he can; he will:
His faithfulness stands bound to see is done!
When the dread trumpet sounds, the slumb'ring dust,
(Not unattentive to the call,) shall wake:
And ev'ry joint possess its proper place,
With a new elegance of form, unknown
To its first state.—Nor shall the Conscious soul
Mistake its partner, bat amidst the croud,
Singling its other half, into its aims
Shall rush, with all th' impatience of a man
That's new come home, who having long been absent
With haste runs over ev'ry different room,
In pain to see the whole.—Thrice happy meeting!
Nor time, nor death, shall ever part them more.

'Tis but a night, a long and moonless night,
We make the grave our bed, and then are gone.

Thus, at the shut of ev'n, the weary bird
Leaves the wide air, and in some lonely brake
Cow'rs down, and dozes till the dawn of day,
Then claps his well-fledg'd wings, and bears away.


This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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