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Seorching as molten brass, and every eye
Bloodshot with agony, yet none had power
To tear them off. With frantic yells of joy,
They crown'd me too, and, with the pang, I woke
THE RIDDLE OF LIFE.
COME, thou sage philosopher,
Thou who never yet didst err,
Who, with power almost divine,
Bid'st reluctant truth be thine,
And, unaided, canst unfold
All this cunning earth doth hold;
If any praise to thee be due,
If thou and thy report be true,
Incline thine ear, contract thy brow,
And summon all thy wisdom now;
And henceforth be thy name enhanced,
Solve me this riddle,-if thou canst.
First, let thy mental vision see
An infant on his mother's knee;
Nestled in softness, watch'd with care,
And hush'd by love's unconscious prayer;
Not yet responsive to the smile,
The fingers' play, or tender wile;
Not yet acquainted with the skies,
Or light even of its mother's eyes;
Thoughtless of heaven, though newly thence,
Ungifted by each finer sense,
Imperfect, perfect Innocence.
The bud into a blossom blown,
Next view him into boyhood grown;
Bright golden locks his brows adorn,
His brave brows that outshine the morn.
Clear honour glows upon his face,
And strength about him strives with grace;
Virtue is portion of his blood,
And health instructs him to be good;
All nature to his heart appeals,
And every thing he sees, he feels;
Her scenes committed to his mind,
A smooth transparent surface find,
Nor from the brittle mirror pass;
So, pictures painted upon glass;
All things to him are as they seem;
We doubt, nor wonder in a dream.
This weakness, honour'd sage, forgive,
It dies more quickly than we live.
Behold this rich and festive hall,
Where daylight struggles to the wall.
Through gorgeous hangings closely drawn,
That would, but cannot hide the dawn,
He sits alone,-by pleasure stung,
The empty goblet from him flung;
A busy fever in the vein,
A silent throbbing in the brain,
Madness at work and reason slain.
A portrait hangs above his head,
It lives in art, but she is dead.
Say, shall I o'er that moral dwell?
No, 't were too long a tale to tell.
Poor pleasure's child is passion's slave,
Bound in the rosy chains she gave;
He too enjoys his hour;-too late
Comes wisdom when it comes with fate.
Now mark the man of middle age,
Virtue his foe, and scorn his gage;
And well doth he the conflict wage.
See him, in conscious power secure,
Dispense injustice to the poor;
Hear how he doeth ill by stealth,
And from the needy draws his wealth,
With hand of grasping avarice,
That gives not once, and taketh twice;
Moved by a tiger soul within,
Spotted like the tiger's skin.
Hear from his lips the damning lie,
Long has his heart been hard, and long,
Though base, ere 't was impell'd to wrong;
But now a new refinement found,
Ground into keenness, it can' wound;
It feels not, but makes others feel;
The iron is refined to steel.
One scene, the last, is yet untold-
This infant, boy, and man, grown old;
Decrepitude his sole defence,
Gray hairs that claim no reverence;
All vice remember'd, good forgot,
A fear to live, a dread to rot,
A horror of he knows not what.
So long was virtue out of call,
Vice is become habitual:
Custom so strong of doing ill,
It never asks the leave of will,
But acts, still shifting the until.
And now Time bids him to begone
And not that hoary power alone;
The dust begins her prey to crave,
The worm cries to him from the grave;
The dead accuse him from the tomb,-
The child rebukes him from the womb;
The past, the present, the to-come,
Point to his dark and silent home.
What refuge now? what compromise
Will now avail? what truth,-what lies?
What huddled penitence?—He dies!
Honour to him who largely lends,—
His good name is the loan of friends;
Praise be to all where'er 't is due,
The quarry lends its marble too;
And praise to earth, whose mother's care
Has call'd him hence, and keeps him there.
Now then, thou sage philosopher,
If to the infant we recur,
And trace him through each onward stage,
To the long journey's end of age;
What by philosophy is found,
That reason may admit? expound.-
Tell me, was this unsullied child
From infancy to age beguiled?
Cozen'd by counters falsely play'd,
And to his dying hour betray'd;
The book of virtue interleaved,
And by the gloss of vice deceived?
Was this, or that, or what you will,
The active cause, the impulse still?
Say, is there some external sin,
That works into the heart within;
Did outward influence control,
Or was the bias in the bowl?
Why ponder? thou perhaps canst show,
More than to me was given to know;
Thou mayst unwind the stubborn mesh
That holds alike the soul and flesh;
Thou mayest with nicest skill define,
What error is, and what design;
And how, when virtues stagnant brood,
Evil is form'd from weaker good,
As petrified by water, wood.
O fool! thy vain philosophy,
For heaven too low, for earth too high,
Like some dense fog that hangs between
The orb and the eternal sheen,
Darkens the earth whereon we dwell,
Till Heaven the cloudy mist dispel.
What wisdom such as thine, can teach
Of each, or what is due to each?
One earnest prayer-one ray of faith,
One mind to all Religion saith,-
One heart, one hope, one conscious stay,-
Thy subtle folly melts away.
For earthly things is science given,
But Heaven is still the gift of Heaven.
HARK to the merry gossip of the Spring-
The sweet mysterious voice which peoples place
With an Italian beauty, and does bring
As 't were Elysium from the wilds of space
Where'er her wing inhabits! give it chase,
In other bowers the fairy shouts again;
Where'er we run it mocks our rapid race-
Still the same loose note in a golden chain
Rings through the vocal woods, and fills with joy the
Hail to thee, shouting Cuckoo! in my youth,
Thou wert long time the Ariel of my hope,
The marvel of a Summer! it did soothe
To listen to thee on some sunny slope,
Where the high oaks forbade an ampler scope
Than of the blue skies upward--and to sit
Canopied, in the gladdening horoscope
Which thou my planet flung-a pleasant fit,
Long time my hours endear'd, my kindling fancy
And thus I love thee still-thy monotony
The self-same transport flashes through my frame;
And when thy voice, sweet Sibyl, all is flown,
My eager ear, I cannot choose but blame.