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From Mr. Phillips to the Earl of Dorset.
Copenhagen, March 9, 1709.
frozen climes and endless tracks of snow, From streams that northern winds forbid to flow, What present shall the Muse to Dorset bring, Or how, so near the Pole, attempt to sing? The hoary winter here conceals from sight All pleasing objects that to verse invite. The hills and dales, and the delightful woods, The flow'ry plains, and silver streaming floods, By snow disguis'd, in bright confusion lie, And, with one dazzling waste, fatigue the eye.
No gentle breathing breeze prepares the spring, No birds within the desert region sing. The ships, unmov'd, the boist'rous winds defy, While rattling chariots o'er the ocean fly. The vast Leviathan wants room to play, And spout his waters in the face of day. The starving wolves along the main sea prowl, And to the moon in icy valleys howl. For many a shining league the level main Here spreads itself into a glassy plain: There solid billows, of enormous size, Alps of green ice, in wild disorder rise. And yet but lately have I seen, e'en here, The winter in a lovely dress appear. Ere yet the clouds let fall the treasur'd snow, Or winds begun thro' hazy skies to blow, At ev'ning a keen eastern breeze arose ; And the descending rain unsullied froze. Soon as the silent shades of night withdrew, The ruddy morn disclos'd at once to view
The face of nature in a rich disguise,
And brighten'd every object to my eyes:
For ev'ry shrub, and every blade of grass,
And ev'ry pointed thorn, seem'd wrought in glass,
In pearls and rubies rich the hawthorns shew,
While thro' the ice the crimson berries glow.
The thick-sprung reeds the wat'ry marshes yield
Seem polish'd lances in a hostile field.
The stag, in limpid currents, with surprise
Sees crystal branches on his forehead rise.
The spreading oak, the beech, and tow'ring pine,
Glaz'd over, in the freezing æther shine.
The frighted birds the rattling branches shun,
That wave and glitter in the distant sun.
When, if a sudden gust of wind arise,
The brittle forest into atoms flies:
The crackling wood beneath the tempest bends,
And in a spangled show'r the prospect ends;
Or, if a southern gale the region warm,
And by degrees unbind the wintry charm,
The traveller a miry country sees,
And journeys sad beneath the dropping trees.
Like some deluded peasant Merlin leads
Thro' fragrant bow'rs, and thro' delicious meads;
While here enchanted gardens to him rise,
And airy fabrics there attract his eyes,
His wand'ring feet the magic paths pursue;
And, while he thinks the fair illusion true,
The trackless scenes disperse in fluid air,
And woods, and wilds, and thorny ways, appear:
A tedious road the weary wretch returns,
And, as he goes, the transient vision mourns.
ON LIFE, DEATH, AND IMMORTALITY. To the Right Hon. Arthur Onslow, Esq. Speaker of the House of Commons. TIR'D Nature's sweet restorer, balmy Sleep! He, like the world, his ready visit pays Where Fortune smiles; the wretched he forsakes: Swift on his downy pinion flies from woe, And lights on lids unsullied with a tear.
From short (as usual) and disturb'd repose
I wake: how happy they who wake no more!
Yet that were vain, if dreams infest the grave.
I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams
Tumultuous; where my wreck'd desponding thought
From wave to wave of fancied misery
At random drove, her helm of reason lost.
Though now restor'd 'tis only change of pain,
(A bitter change!) severer for severe:
The day too short for my distress; and night,
Ev'n in the zenith of her dark domain,
Is sunshine to the colour of my fate.
Night, sable goddess! from her ebon throne,
In rayless majesty, now stretches forth
Her leaden sceptre o'er a slumbering world.
Silence how dead! and darkness how profound!
Nor eye nor listening ear an object finds;
Creation sleeps. 'Tis as the general pulse
Of life stood still, and Nature made a pause;
An awful pause! prophetic of her end.
And let her prophecy be soon fulfill'd:
Fate drop the curtain; I can lose no more.
Silence and Darkness! solemn sisters! twins
From ancient Night, who nurse the tender thought
To reason, and on reason build resolve,
(That column of true majesty in man)
Assist me: I will thank you in the grave;
The grave your kingdom: there this frame shall fall A victim sacred to your dreary shrine.
But what are ye?
Thou, who didst put to flight
Primeval Silence, when the morning stars,
Exulting, shouted o'er the rising ball;
O Thou! whose word from solid darkness struck
That spark, the sun, strike wisdom from my soul;
My soul, which flies to thee, her trust, her treasure,
As misers to their gold, while others rest.
Through this opaque of nature and of soul, This double night, transmit one pitying ray, To lighten and to cheer. O lead my mind, (A mind that fain would wander from its woe) Lead it through various scenes of life and death, And from each scene the noblest truths inspire. Nor less inspire my conduct than my song; Teach my best reason, reason; my best will Teach rectitude; and fix my firm resolve Wisdom to wed, and pay her long arrear: Nor let the phial of thy vengeance, pour'd On this devoted head, be pour'd in vain.
The bell strikes One. We take no note of time
But from its loss: to give it then a tongue
Is wise in man. As if an angel spoke
I feel the solemn sound. If heard aright,
It is the knell of my departed hours.
Where are they? With the years beyond the flood.
It is the signal that demands dispatch:
How much is to be done? My hopes and fears
Start up alarm'd, and o'er life's narrow verge
Look down-on what? A fathomless abyss.
A dread eternity! how surely mine!
And can eternity belong to me,
Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour?
How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,
How complicate, how wonderful, is man!
How passing wonder He who made him such!
Who center'd in our make such strange extremes
From different natures marvellously mix'd,
Connexion exquisite of distant worlds!
Distinguish'd link in being's endless chain!
Midway from nothing to the Deity!
A beam etherial, sullied and absorpt!
Though sullied and dishonour'd, still divine!
Dim miniature of greatness absolute!
An heir of glory! a frail child of dust!
Helpless immortal! insect infinite!
A worm! a god!-I tremble at myself,
And in myself am lost. At home a stranger,
Thought wanders up and down, surpris'd, aghast,
And wondering at her own. How reason reels!
O what a miracle to man is man!
Triumphantly distress'd! what joy! what dread! Alternately transported and alarm'd!
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.
"Tis past conjecture; all things rise in proof.
While o'er my limbs Sleep's soft dominion spread,
What though my soul fantastic measures trod
O'er fairy fields, or mourn'd along the gloom
Of pathless woods, or down the craggy steep
Hurl'd headlong, swam with pain the mantled pool,
Or scal'd the cliff, or danc'd on hollow winds
With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain!
Her ceaseless flight, tho' devious, speaks her nature
Of subtler essence than the trodden clod;
Active, aërial, towering, unconfin'd,
Unfetter'd with her gross companion's fall.
Ev'n silent night proclaims my soul immortal;
Ev'n silent night proclaims eternal day!
For human weal Heav'n husbands all events:
Dull sleep instructs, nor sport vain dreams in vain.
Why then their loss deplore that are not lost?
Why wanders wretched Thought their tombs around
In infidel distress? Are angels there?
Slumbers, rak'd up in dust, etherial fire?
They live! they greatly live a life on earth
Unkindled, unconceiv'd, and from an eye