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BLAIR-A. D. 1700-46.
See yonder hallow'd fane !—the pious work
Quite round the pile, a row of reverend elms,
Wild shrieks have issued from the hollow tombs:
Oft, in the lone church-yard at night I've seen,
The new-made widow, too, I've sometimes spied,
Invidious grave! how dost thou rend in sunder
The eglantine smell’d sweeter, and the rose
Of conquerors, and coronation-pomps, Assum'd a dye more deep, whilst ev'ry flower In glory scarce exceed. Great gluts of people Vied with its fellow plant in luxury
Retard th' unwieldy show; whilst from the caseOf dress.-Oh! then, the longest summer's day Seem'd too, too much in haste: still the full heart And houses' tops, ranks behind ranks close wedg'd Had not imparted half: 'twas happiness
Hang bellying o'er. But tell us, why this waste ? Too exquisite to last. Of joys departed,
Why this ado in earthing up a carcass
Midst all the gorgeous figures you exhibit,
You make this mighty stir ?—'Tis wisely done: Branding our laughter with the name of madness. What would offend the eye in a good picture, Where are the jesters now? the man of health The painter casts discreetly into shades. Complexionally pleasant? where the droll,
Proud lineage, now how little thou appear'st! Whose ev'ry look and gesture was a joke
Below the envy of the private man! To clapping theatres and shouting crowds,
Honor, that meddlesome officious ill, And made ev’n thick-lip'd musing Melancholy Pursues thee ev'n to death ; nor there stops short. To gather up her face into a smile
Strange persecution ! when the grave itself Before she was aware ? Ah! sullen now,
Is no protection from rude sufferance. And dumb as the green turf that covers them.
Absurd ! to think to over-reach the grave, Where are the mighty thunderbolts of war?
And from the wreck of names to rescue ours ! The Roman Cæsars, and the Grecian chiefs, The best concerted schemes men lay for fame The boast of story? Where the hot-brain'd youth Die fast away: only themselves die faster. Who the tiara at his pleasure tore
The far-fam'd sculptor, and the laureld bard, From kings of all the then discover'd globe ;
Those bold insurers of eternal fame, And cry'd, forsooth, because his arm was hamper'd, Supply their little feeble aids in vain. And had not room enough to do its work?
The tapering pyramid, the Egyptian's pride, Alas! how slim, dishonourably slim,
And wonder of the world! whose spiky top And cram'd into a space we blush to name!
Has wounded the thick cloud, and long outliv'd Proud royalty ! how alter'd in thy looks!
The angry shaking of the winter's storm; How blank thy features, and how wan thy hue! Yet spent at last by th' injuries of heav'n, Son of the morning! whither art thou gone?
Shatter'd with age, and furrow'd o'er with years, Where hast thou hid thy many-spangled head,
The mystic cone with hieroglyphics crusted, And the majestic menace of thine eyes
Gives way. O lamentable sight! at once Felt from afar? Pliant and powerless now
The labor of whole ages lumbers down; Like new-born infant bound up in bis swathes, A hideous and mis-shapen length of ruins. Or victim tumbled flat upon his back,
Sepulchral columns wrestle but in vain That throbs beneath the sacrificer's knife.
With all-subduing Time; his cankering hand Mute, must thou bear the strife of little tongues,
With calm deliberate malice wasteth them: And coward insults of the base-born crowd;
Worn on the edge of days, the brass consumes, That grudge a privilege thou never hadst,
The busto moulders, and the deep cut marble, But only hop'd for in the peaceful grave,
Unsteady to the steel, gives up its charge. Of being unmolested and alone.
Ambition, half convicted of her folly, Arabia's gums and odoriferous drugs,
Hangs down the head and reddens at the tale. And honours by the herald duly paid
Here all the mighty troublers of the earth, In mode and form, ev’n to a very scruple;
Who swam to sov’reign rule thro' seas of blood; Oh cruel irony! these come too late;
The oppressive, sturdy man-destroying villains, And only mock, whom they were meant to honour. Who ravag'd kingdoms, and laid empires waste, Surely there's not a dungeon-slave that's bury'd
And in a cruel wantonness of power In the high-way, unshrouded and uncoffin'd,
Thinn'd states of half their people, and gave up But lies as soft, and sleeps as sound as he.
To want the rest; now, like a storm that's spent, Sorry pre-eminence of high descent,
Lie hush'd, and meanly sneak behind thy covert. Above the baser-born, to rot in state.
Vain thought! to hide them from the general scorn But see! the well-plum'd herse comes nodding on, That haunts and dogs them like an injur'd ghost Stately and slow; and properly attended
Implacable. Here too the petty tyrant, By the whole sable tribe, that painful watch Whose scant domains geographer ne'er notic'd, The sick man's door, and live upon the dead, And, well for neighb'ring grounds, of arm as short, By letting out their persons by the hour,
Who fix'd his iron talons on the poor, To mimic sorrow, when the heart's not sad.
And grip'd thein like some lordly beast of prey, How rich the trappings! how they're all unfurld, Deaf 10 the forceful cries of gnawing hunger, And glittering in the sun; triumphant entries And piteous plaintive voice of misery
(As if a slave was not a shred of nature,
Trusts only in the well-invented knife ? Of the same common nature with his lord ;)
With study pale, and midnight vigils spent, Now tame and humble, like a child that's whipp'd, The star-surveying sage, close to his eye Shakes hands with dust, and calls the worm his Applies the sight-invigorating tube ; [space, kinsman;
And travelling through the boundless length of Nor pleads his rank and birthright. Under ground Marks well the courses of the far-seen orbs Precedency's a jest; vassal and lord,
That roll with regular confusion there, Grossly familiar, side by side consume.
In ecstacy of thought. But ah! proud man ! When self-esteem, or others' adulation,
Great heights are hazardous to the weak head;
Beauty! thou pretty plaything! dear deceit! Disarm’d, dishonour'd, like a wretch that's gagg'd
Great man of language! whence this mighty change! The grave discredits thee: thy charms expung'd, This dumb despair, and drooping of the head? Thy roses faded, and thy lilies soil'd,
Though strong persuasion hung upon thy lip, What hast thou more to boast of? Will thy lovers And sly insinuation's softer arts Flock round thee now, to gaze and do thee homage! In ambush lay about thy flowing tongue ; Methinks I see thee with thy head low laid,
Alas! how chop-fall'n now! Thick mists and silense Whilst surfeited upon thy damask cheek
Rest, like a weary cloud, upon thy breast The high-fed worm, in lazy volumes rollid,
Unceasing. Ah! where is the lifted arm, Riots unscar’d.-For this, was all thy caution? The strength of action, and the force of words, For this, thy painful labours at thy glass ?
The well-turn'd period, and the well-tun'd voice, T' improve those charms, and keep them in repair, With all the lesser ornaments of phrase! For which the spoiler thanks thee not ? Foul feeder! Ah! fled for ever, as they ne'er had been! Coarse fare and carrion' please thee full as well, Raz'd from the book of fame : or, more provoking, And leave as keen a relish on the sense.
Perchance some hackney hunger-bitten scribbler Look how the fair one weeps !—the conscious tears Insults thy memory, and blots thy tomb Stand thick as dew-drops on the bells of flow'rs: With long flat narrative, or duller rhymes, Honest effusion! the swoll'n heart in vain
With heavy halting pace that drawl along; Works hard to put a gloss on its distress,
Enough to rouse a dead man into rage, Strength too! thou surly, and less gentle boast And warm with red resentment the wan cheek. Of those that laugh loud at the village ring!
Here the great masters of the healing art, A fit of common sickness pulls thee down
These mighty mock defrauders of the tomb, With greater ease, than e'er thou didst the stripling Spite of their juleps and catholicons, That raslıly dar'd thee to th' unequal fight.
Resign to fate. Proud Æsculapius' son ! What groan was that I heard ?-deep groan indeed! Where are thy boasted implements of art, With anguish heavy laden! let me trace it: And all thy well-cramm'd magazines of health? From yonder bed it comes, where the strong man, Nor hill nor vale, as far as ship could go, By stronger arm belabour'd, gasps for breath Nor margin of the gravel-bottom'd brook, Like a hard-hunted beast. How his great heart Escap'd thy rifling hand ;—from stubborn shrubs Beats thick! his roomy chest by far too scant Thou wrung'st their shy-retiring virtues out, To give the lungs full play:—What now avail And vex'd them in the fire: nor fly, nor insect, The strong-built sinewy limbs, and well-spread Nor writhy snake, escap'd thy deep research. shoulders?
But why this apparatus : why this cost? See how he tugs for life, and lays about him, Tell us, thou doughty keeper from the grave! Mad with his pain !—Eager he catches hold Where are thy recipes and cordials now, Of what comes next to hand, and grasps it hard, With the long list of vouchers for thy cures? Just like a creature drowning; hideous sight! Alas! thou speakest not. The bold impostor Oh! how his eyes stand out, and stare full ghastly! Looks not more silly, when the cheat's found out. Whilst the distemper's rank and deadly venom Here the lank-sided miser, worst of felons ! Shoots like a burning arrow cross his bowels, Who meanly stole (discreditable shift!) And drinks his marrow up.—Heard you that groan? From back and belly too, their proper cheer, It was his last.-See how the great Goliah,
Eas'd of a tax it irk'd the wretch to pay Just like a child that brawl'd itself to rest, [boaster, To his own carcass, now lies cheaply lodg'd, Lies still.—What mean'st thou then, O mighty By clam'rous appetites no longer teas'd, To vaunt of nerves of thine? what means the bull, Nor tedious bills of charges and repairs. Unconscious of his strength, to play the coward, But ah! where are his rents, his comings-in? And fee before a feeble thing like man;
Aye! now you've made the rich man poor indeed: That, knowing well the slackness of his arm, Robb’d of his gods, what has he left behind?
Oh cursed iust of gold! when for thy sake,
The shameless hand be foully crimson'd o'er The fool throws up his int'rest in both worlds: With blood of its own lord.—Dreadful attempt ! First starv'd in this, then damn’d in that to come.
Just reeking from self-slaughter, in a rage How shocking must thy summons be, O Death! To rush into the presence of our Judge ; To him that is at ease in his possessions ;
As if we challeng'd him to do his worst, Who, counting on long years of pleasure here,
And matter'd not his wrath Unheard-of tortures Is quite unfurnish'd for that world to come!
Must be reserv'd for such: these herd together; In that dread moment, how the frantic soul
The common damn'd shun their society, Raves round the walls of her clay tenement,
And look upon themselves as fiends less foul. Runs to each avenue, and shrieks for help,
Our time is fix’d, and all our days are number'd; But shrieks in vain! How wishfully she looks How long, how short, we know not :- this we know, On all she's leaving, now no longer her’s!
Duty requires we calmly wait the summons, A little longer, yet a little longer,
Nor dare to stir till Heaven shall give permission : O might she stay, to washı away her stains,
Like sentries that must keep their destin'd stand, And fit her for her passage ! Mournful sight! And wait th' appointed hour, till they're reliev'd. Her very eyes weep blood ; and every groan Those only are the brave who keep their ground, She heaves is big with horror: but the foe,
And keep it to the last. To run away Like a staunch murd'rer, steady to his purpose,
Is but a coward's trick: to run away Pursues her close through every lane of life,
From this world's ills, that at the very worst Nor misses once the track, but presses on ;
Will soon blow o'er, thinking to mend ourselves, Till forc'd at last to the tremendous verge,
By boldly vent'ring on a world unknown, At once she sinks to everlasting ruin.
And plunging headlong in the dark ;—'tis mad: Sure 'tis a serious thing to die, my soul !
No frenzy half so desperate as this. What a strange moment must it be, when near Tell us, ye dead! will none of you, in pity Thy journey's end, thou hast the gulf in view! To those you left behind, disclose the secret? That awful gulf, no mortal e'er repass'd
Oh! that some courteous ghost would blab it out; To tell what's doing on the other side.
What 'tis you are, and we must shortly be. Nature runs back, and shudders at the sight, I've heard, that souls departed, have sometimes And every life-string bleeds at thoughts of parting! Forewarn'd men of their death: 'twas kindly done For part they must: body and soul must part; To knock, and give the alarm.—But what means Fond couple ;, link'd more close than wedded pair. This stinted charity ?_'Tis but lame kindness This wings its way to its Almighty Source, That does its work by halves.—Why might you not The witness of its actions, now its judge;
Tell us what 'tis to die? Do the strict laws That drops into the dark and noisome grave,
of your society forbid your speaking Like a disabled pitcher of no use.
Upon a point so nice ?—I'll ask no more: If death were nothing, and nought after death ; Sullen, like lamps in sepulchres, your shine If when men dy'd, at once they ceas'd to be, Enlightens but yourselves. Well, 'tis no matter; Returning to the barren womb of nothing,
A very little time will clear up all, Whence first they sprung, then might the debauchee And make us learn'd as you are, and as close. • Untrembling mouth the heavens:—then might the Death's shafts fly thick :-Here falls the villagedrunkard
swain, Reel over his full bowl, and, when 'tis drain'd, And there his pamper'd lord.—The cup goes round: Fill up another to the brim, and laugh [wretch
And who so artful as to put it by ?
See yonder maker of the dead man's bed,
The sexton, hoary-headed chronicle ! And by what way, whether by hemp or steel ; Of hard unmeaning face, down which ne'er stole Death's thousand doors stand open.-Who could A gentle tear; with mattock in his hand The ill pleas'd guest to sit out his full time, [force Digs thro’ whole rows of kindred and acquaintance, Or blame him if he goes ?-Sure he does well, By far his juniors! Scarce a skull’s cast up, That helps himself as timely as he can,
But well he knew its owner, and can tell When able. But if there's an hereafter;
Some passage of his life. Thus hand in hand And that there is, conscience uninfluenc'd
The sot has walk'd with death twice twenty years ; And suffer'd to speak out, tells ev'ry man;
And yet ne'er younker on the green laughs louder, Then must it be an awful thing to die :
Or clubs a smuttier tale :-when drunkards meet, More horrid yet to die by one's own hand.
None sings a merrier catch, or lends a hand [not, Self-murder!-Dame it not: our island's shame, More willing to his cup.--Poor wretch! he minds That makes her the reproach of neighbouring states. That soon some trusty brother of the trade Shall nature, swerving from her earliest dictate, Shall do for him what he has done for thousands. Self-preservation, fall by her own act ?
On this side, and on that, men see their friends Forbid it, Heaven. Let not, upon disgust,
Drop off, like leaves in autumn; yet launch out
Into fantastic schemes, which the long livers And jovial youth, of lightsome vacant heart, In the world's hale and undegeu'rate days
Whose every day was made of melody, (shrew, Could scarce have leisure for.–Fools that we are ! Hears not the voice of mirth: the shrill-tonguid Never to think of death and of ourselves
Meek as the turtle-dove, forgets her chiding. At the same time: as if to learn to die
Here are the wise, the generous, and the brave; Were no concern of ours.-0 more than sottish! The just, the good, the worthless, the profane, For creatures of a day in gamesome nood,
The downright clown, and perfectly well-bred; To frolic on eternity's dread brink
The fool, the churl, the scoundrel, and the mean, Unapprehensive; when, for aught we know, The supple statesman, and the patriot stern; The very first swol'n surge shall sweep us in. The wrecks of nations, and the spoils of time, Think we, or think we not, time hurries on
With all the lumber of six thousand years. With a resistless unremitting stream;
Poor man!- how happy once in thy first state! Yet treads more soft than e'er did midnight-thief, When yet but warm from thy great Maker's band, That slides his hand under the miser's pillow, He stamp'd thee with his image, and, well pleas'd, And carries off his prize. What is this world? Smil'd on his last sair work.–Then all was well. What but a spacious burial field unwallid,
Sound was the body, and the soul serene ; Strew'd with death's spoils, the spoils of animals Like two sweet instruments, ne'er out of tune, Savage and tame, and full of dead men's bones? That play their several parts.—Nor head, nor heart, The very turf on which we tread once liv’d; Offer'd to ache: nor was there cause they should; And we that live must lend our carcasses
For all was pure within: no sell remorse, To cover our own off-pring: in their turns
Nor anxious castings-up of what might be, They too must cover theirs.—'Tis here all meet, Alarm'd his peaceful bosom :-summer seas The shiv'ring Icelander, and sun-burnt Moor; Show not more smooth, when kiss'd by southera Men of all climes, that never met before ;
Just ready to expire.—Scarce importun'd, (winds And of all creeds, the Jew, the Turk, the Christian. The generous soil, with a luxuriant hand, Here the proud prince, and favourite yet prouder, Offer'd the various produce of the year, His sov’reign's keeper, and the people's scourge, And every thing most perfect in its kind. Are huddled out of sight.—Here lie abash'd
Blessed! thrice blessed days!—But ah! how short! The great negotiators of the earth,
Bless'd as the pleasing dreams of holy men; And celebrated masters of the balance,
But fugitive, like those, and quickly gone. Deep read in stratagems, and wiles of courts. Oh! slippery state of things.- What sudden turns! Now vain their treaty-skill.–Death scorns to treat! What strange vicissitudes in the first leaf Ilere the o'erloaded slave flings down his burden Of man's sad history!—To day most happy, From his gall’d shoulders ;—and when the cruel And ere to-morrow's sun has set, most abject! tyrant,
How scant the space between these vast extremes! With all his guards and tools of power about him, Thus far'd it with our sire:—not long he enjoy'd Is meditating new unheard-of hardships,
His paradise !—Scarce had the happy tenant Mocks his short arm,—and quick as thought escapes Of the fair spot due time to prove its sweets, Where tyrants vex not, and the weary rest.
Or sum them up, when straight he must be gone, Here the warm lover, leaving the cool shade, Ne'er to return again.—And must he go? The tell-tale echo, and the babbling stream, Can nought compound for the first dire offence (Time out of mind the fav’rite seats of love,) Of erring man?-Like one that is condemnd, Fast by his gentle mistress lays him down,
Fain would he trifle time with idle talk,
Not all the lavish odours of the place,
Or mitigate his doom.—A mighty angel,
With flaming sword, forbids his longer stay, That some rude interposing rock bas split.
And drives the loiterer forth; nor must be take Here is the large-limb'd peasant; here the child One last and farewell round. At once he lost Of a span long, that never saw the sun,
His glory and his Gud. If mortal now, Nor press'd the nipple, strangled in life's porch: And sorely maim’d, no wonder.-Man bas sion'd. Here is the mother, with her sons and daughters ; Sick of his bliss, and bent on new adventures, The barren wife; the long-demurring maid, Evil he would needs try: nor try'd in vain. Whose lonely unappropriated sweets
(Dreadful experiment! destructive measure! Smil'd like yon knot of cowslips on the cliff, Where the worst thing could happen, is success.) Not to be come at by the willing hand.
Alas! too well he sped :-the good he scorn'd Here are the prude severe, and gay coquette, Stalk'd off reluctant, like an ill-us'd ghost, The sober widow, and the young green virgin, Not to return ;-or if it did, its visits, Cropp'd like a rose before 'tis fully blown,
Like those of angels, short and far between: Or half its worth disclos'd. Strange medley here ! Whilst the black dæmon, with his hell-'scap'd traia, Here garrulous old age winds up his tale;
Admitted once into its better room,