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TEXTS CHIEFLY ALLUDED TO IN BOOK I.
“ The words of the Preacher the Son of David King
“ of Jerusalem.” Ecclefiaftes, chap. i. ver. 1. “ Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of
“ vanities, all is vanity.” Ver. 2. “ I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am
“ come to great estate, and have gotten more wis“ dom than all they that have been before me in “ Jerusalem : yea my heart had great experience of
“ wisdom and knowledge.” Ver. 16. “ He spake of trees, from the cedar-tree that is in
“ Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out “ of the wall : he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, “ and of creeping things, and of fishes.” 1 Kings,
chap. iv. ver. 33. “ I know, that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for
“ ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing “ taken from it; and God doeth it, that men should
“ fear before him.” Ecclefiaftes, chap. iii. ver. 14. “ He hath made every thing beautiful in his time :
“ also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no “ man can find out the work that God maketh from
“ the beginning to the end.” Ver. 11. “ For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that
“ increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow.” Chap. i.
ver. 18. “ And further, by these, my son, be admonished : of
6 making many books there is no end: and much “ study is a weariness of the flesh.” Chap. xii. ver. 12.
Solomon, seeking happiness from knowledge, convenes
the learned men of his kingdom; requires them to explain to him the various operations and effects of Nature; discourses of vegetables, animals, and man; proposes some questions concerning the origin and situation of the habitable earth; proceeds to examine the system of the visible heaven; doubts if there may not be a plurality of worlds ; ,inquires into the nature of Spirits and Angels ; and wishes to be more fully informed as to the attributes of the Supreme Being. He is imperfectly answered by the Rabbins and Doctors ; blames his own curiosity; and concludes, that, as to Human Science, All is Vanity.
TE Sons of men, with just regard attend,
Observe the Preacher, and believe the Friend, Whose serious Muse inspires him to explain, That all we act, and all we think, is vain ; That, in this pilgrimage of seventy years, O’er rocks of perils, and through vales of tears,
Destin'd to march, our doubtful steps we tend,
Happiness, object of that waking dream,
But O! ere yet original man was made,
Born, as I was, great David's favourite son,
My body cloth'd with every outward grace,
I said; and sent my edict through the land:
The vegetable world, each plant and tree, Its feed, its name, its nature, its degree, I am allow'd, as Fame reports, to know, From the fair cedar on the craggy brow Of Lebanon nodding supremely tall, To creeping moss and hyssop on the wall : Yet, just and conscious to myself, I find 55 A thousand doubts oppose the searching mind.
I know not why the beach delights the glade With boughs extended, and a rounder shade; Whilst towering firs in conic forms arise, And with a pointed spear divide the skies : - 60 Nor why again the changing oak should shed The yearly honour of his stately head; Whilst the distinguish'd yew is ever seen, Unchang’d his branch, and permanent his green.
Wanting the fun, why does the caltha fade ? 65
Whence does it happen, that the plant, which well We name the sensitive, should move and feel? Whence know her leaves to answer her command, And with quick horror fly the neighbouring hand ?
Along the sunny bank, or watery mead, 90 Ten thousand stalks the various blossoms spread : Peaceful and lowly in their native soil, They neither know to spin, nor care to toil ;