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Solomon, again seeking happiness, enquires if wealth
and greatness can produce it; begins with the magnificence of gardens and buildings, the luxury of music and feasting; and proceeds to the hopes and desires of love. In two episodes are shewn the follies and troubles of that passion. Solomon still disappointed, falls under the temptations of libertinism and idolatry; recovers his thoughts, reasons aright, and concludes, that as to the pursuit of pleasure, and sensual delight, All is
VANITY AND VEXATION OF SPIRIT.
RY then, O man, the moments to deceive,
That from the womb attend thee to the grave ; For wearied nature find some
Health be thy hope; and pleasure be thy theme:
From the perplexing and unequal ways,
Where ftudy brings thee; from the endless maze,
Which doubt persuades to run, forewarn’d, recede
To the gay field, and flowery path, that lead
To jocund mirth, soft joy, and careless ease:
Forsake what may instruct, for what may please;
Eslay amusing art, and proud expence:
And make thy reason subject to thy sense.
I commun’d thus: the power of wealth I try'd,
And all the various luxe of costly pride,
Artists and plans reliev'd my folemn hours;
I founded palaces, and planted bowers.
Birds, fishes, beasts of each exotic kind,
I to the limits of my court confin'd.
To trees transferr'd I gave a second birth;
And bid a foreign shade grace Judah's earth.
Fish-ponds were made, where former forests grew
And hills were levell’d to extend the view.
Rivers diverted from their native course,
And bound with chains of artificial force,
From large cascades in pleasing tumult rollid,
Or rose through figur’d ftone, or breathing gold.
From furthest Africa's tormented womb.
The marble brought, erects the spacious dome,
Or forms the pillars long extended rows,
On which the planted grove, and pensile garden grows.
The workmen here obey'd the master's call,
To gild the turret, and to paint the wall;
To mark the pavement there with various stone;
And on the jasper steps to rear the thronc:
The spreading cedar that an age had stood,
Supreme of trees, and mistress of the wood,
Cut down and carv'd, my shining roof adorns,
And Lebanon his ruin'd honour mourns.
A thousand artists shew their cunning power,
To raise the wonders of the ivory tower.
A thousand maidens ply the purple loom,
To weave the bed, and deck the regal room;
"Till Tyre confesses her exhausted store,
That on her coast the Murex * is no more;
'Till from the Parian isle, and Libya's coaft,
The mountains grieve their hopes of marble loft;
And India's woods return their just complaint,
Their brood decay'd, and want of Elephant.
My full design with vast expence atchiev'd,
I came, beheld, admir'd, reflected, griev'd;
I chid the folly of my thoughtless hafte :
For, the work perfected, the joy was paft.
To my new courts fad thought did ftill repair;
And round my gilded roofs hung hovering care.
In vain on filken beds I fought repose;
And restless oft from purple couches rose;
Vexatious thought itill found my flying mind
Nor bound by limits, nor to place confin'd;
Haunted my nights, and terrify'd my days;
Stalk'd through my gardens, and pursu'd my ways
Nor shut from artful bower, nor lost in winding maze.
Yet take thy bent, my soul ; another sense
Indulge; add music to magnificence:
Effay, if harmony may grief controll;
Or power of sound prevail upon the soul.
• The Murex is a shell-fith ; of the liquor whereof a purple colour is made.
Often our seers and poets have confeft,
That music's force can tame the furious beast;
Can make the wolf, or foaming boar restrain
His rage; the lion drop his crested main,
Attentive to the song; the lynx forget
His wrath to man, and lick the minstrel's feet.
Are we, alas! less savage yet than these?
Else music sure may human cares appease.
I fpake my purpose; and the chearful choir
Parted their shares of harmony: the lyre
Soften'd the timbrel's noise; the trumpet's sound
Provok'd the Dorian fute (both sweeter found
When mix'd); the fife the viol's notes refin'd
And every strength with every grace was join'd.
Each morn they wak'd me with a sprightly lay;
Of opening Heaven they sung, and gladfome day.
Each evening their repeated skill express'd
Scenes of repose, and images of rest:'
Yet still in vain; for music gather'd thought:
But how unequal the effects it brought!
The soft Ideas of the chearful note,
Lightly receiv'd, were ealily forgot:
The folemn violence of the graver
Knew to strike deep, and leave a lasting wound.
And now reflecting, I with grief desery
The fickly lust of the fantastic eye;
How the weak organ is with seeing cloy’d,
Flying ere night what it at noon enjoy’d.
And now (unhappy search of thought!) I found
The fickle ear foon glutted with the found,
Condemn'd eternal changes to pursue,
Tir’d with the last, and eager of the new.
I bad the virgins and the youth advance,
To temper music with the sprightly dance.
In vain! too low the mimic-motions seem;
What takes our heart, must merit our esteem.
Nature, I thought, perform’d too mean a part,
Forming her movements to the rules of art;
And vex'd I found, that the musician's hand
Had o'et the dancer's mind too great command.
I drank; I lik'd it not: 'twas rage; 'twas noise;
An airy scene of transitory joys.
In vain I trusted, that the flowing bowl
Would banish sorrow, and enlarge the soul.
To the late revel, and protracted feast
Wild dreams succeeded, and disorder'd rest;
And, as at dawn of morn fair reason's light
Broke through the fumes and phantoms of the night;
What had been said, I ask'd my soul, what done;
How flow'd our mirth, and whence the source begun?
Perhaps the jest that charm’d the sprightly croud,
And made the jovial table laugh so loud, -
To some false notion ow'd its poor pretence,
To an ambiguous word's perverted sense,
To a wild sonnet, or a wanton air,
Offence and torture to the sober ear:
Perhaps, alas! the pleasing stream was brought
From this man's error, from another's fault;
From topics which good-nature would forget,
And prudence mention with the last regret.