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But could with joy his years of folly trace,
Broken and old in Bathsheba’s embrace ;
Could follow him, where-e'er he stray'd from good,
And cite his fad example ; whilft I trod
Paths open to deceit, and track'd with blood.
Soon docile to the secret acts of ill,
With smiles I could betray, with temper kill;
Soon in a brother could a rival view,
Watch all his acts, and all his ways pursue.
In vain for life he to the altar fled :
Ambition and revenge have certain speed.
Ev’n there, my soul, ev'n there he should have fell ;
But that my interest did my rage conceal. 485
Doubling my crime, I promise, and deceive;
Purpose to say, whilst swearing to forgive.
Treaties, persuasions, sighs, and tears, are vain :
With a mean lye curs’d vengeance I sustain ;
Join fraud to force, and policy to power ; 490
Till, of the destin’d fugitive fecure,
In solemn state to parricide I rise ;
And, as God lives, this day my Brother dies.
Be witness to my tears, celestial Mufe !
In vain I would forget, in vain excuse,
495 Fraternal blood by my direction spilt ; In vain on Joab's head transfer the guilt : The deed was acted by the subject's hand; The sword was pointed by the King's command.. Mine was the murder; it was mine alone :
500 Years of contrition must the crime atone;
Nor can my guilty foul expect-relief,
But from a long sincerity of grief.
With an imperfect hand, and trembling heart,
Her love of truth superior to her art,
505 Already the reflecting Muse has trac'd The mournful figures of my actions paft. The penfive Goddess has already taught, How vain is Hope, and how vexatious Thought; From growing childhood to declining age, 512 How tedious every step, how gloomy every Nage. This course of vanity almost compleat, Tird in the field of Life, I hope retreat In the still fades of Death: for dread and pain, And griefs, will find their shafts elanc'd in vain,
515 And their points broke, retorted from the head, Safe in the grave, and free
Yet tell me, frighted Reason! what is Death ?
Blood only 1topp'd, and interrupted breath ;
The utmost limit of a narrow span,
And end of motion which with Life began.
As smoke that rises from the kindling fires
Is seen this moment, and the next expires ;
As empty clouds by rising winds are toit,
Their ficeting forms scarce sooner found than loft ; 525
So vanishes our state, so pass our days;
So Life but opens now, and now decays :
The cradle and the tomb, alas ! so nigh;
To live, is scarce distinguish'd from to die.
Cure of the Miser's wish, and Coward's fear, Death only thews us, wliat we knew was near. N 4
With courage therefore view the pointed hour ;
Dread not Death's anger; but expect his power;
Nor Nature's law with fruitless forrow mourn;
But die, O mortal man ! for thou wast born.
535 Cautious through doubt, by want of courage wise, To fuch advice the Reasoner still replies.
Yet measuring all the long-continued space,
Every successive day's repeated race,
Since Time first started from his pristine goal,
Till he had reach'd that hour wherein my soul
Join'd to my body swell’d the womb; I was,
(At least I think so) nothing: must I pafs
Again to nothing, when this vital breath,
Cealing, configns me o’er to rest and death?
Must the whole man, amazing thought ! return
To the cold marble, or contracted urn:
And never shall those particles agree,
That were in life this individual He?
But, fever'd, must they join the general mass,
Through other forms and shapes ordain’d to pass;
Nor thought nor image kept of what he was ?
Does the great word, that gave him fense, ordain,
That life shall never wake that sense again?
And will no power his finking spirits save
555 From the dark caves of death, and chambers of the
Each evening I behold the setting sun
With downward speed into the ocean run:
Yet the same light (pass but some Meeting hours)
Exerts his vigour, and renews his powers ;
Starts the bright race again : his constant flame
Rises and sets, returning still the same.
I mark the various fury of the winds ;
These neither seasons guide, nor order binds ;
They now dilate, and now contract their force ; 565
Various their speed, but endless is their course.
From his first fountain and beginning ouze,
Down to the sea each brook and torrent flows :
Though sundry drops or leave or swell the stream;
The whole still runs, with equal pace, the same ; 570
Still other waves fupply the rising urns ;
And the eternal food no want of water mourns.
Why then must Man obey the sad decree,
Which subjects neither sun, nor wind, nor sea ?
A flower, that does with opening morn arise,
And, flourishing the day, at evening dies;
A winged Eastern blast, just skimming o'er
The ocean's brow, and finking on the lhore;
A fire, whose flames through crackling stubble fly;
A meteor shooting from the summer sky; 580
A bowl adown the bending mountain rollid;
A bubble breaking, and a fable told;
A noon-tide shadow, and a midnight dream ;
Are emblems, which with femblance apt proclaim
Our earthly course : but, O my soul ! so fast SSS
Must Life run off, and Death for ever last?
This dark opinion, sure, is too confin'd :
Elle whence this hope, and terror of the mind?
Does something still, and somewhere yet remain,
Reward or punishment, delight or pain?
590 Say :
Say : shall our relicks second birth receive ?
Sleep we to wake, and only dię to live ?
When the sad wife has clos'd her husband's eyes,
And pierc'd the echoing vault with doleful cries;
Lies the pale corpse not yet entirely dead,
The spirit only from the body fled;
The grosser part of heat and motion void,
To be by fire, or worm, or time, destroy'd ;
The soul, immortal substance, to remain,
Conscious of joy, and capable of pain ?
600 And, if her acts have been directed well, While with her friendly clay she deign'd to dwell, Shall the with safety reach her pristine seat ? Find her rest endless, and her bliss compleat? And, while the bury'd Man we idly mourn, Do Angels joy to see his better half return ? But, if she has deform’d this earthly life With murderous rapine, and seditious Nrife; Amaz’d, repuls’d, and by those Angels driven From the athereal feat and blissful Heaven,
610 In everlasting darkness must the lie, Still more unhappy, that the cannot die ?
Amid two seas, on one small point of land,
Weary'd, uncertain, and amaz’d, we stand ;
On either side our thoughts inceffant turn;
Forward we dread; and looking back wc mourn;
Losing the present in this dubious baite,
And lost ourselves betwixt the future, and the past.
These cruel doubts contending in my brcali,
My reason staggering, and my hopes, oppress’d,