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What shall amend, or what absolve our fate? 644 Anxious we hover in a mediate state, Betwixt infinity and nothing; bounds, Or boundless terms, whose doubtful sense confounds. Unequal thought, whilst all we apprehend, Is, that our hopes must rise, our sorrows end; As our Creator deigns to be our friend. 650
I said;—and instant bade the priests prepare The ritual sacrifice, and solemn prayer. Select from vulgar herds, with garlands gay, A hundred bulls ascend the sacred way. The artful youth proceed to form the choir, They breathe the flute, or strike the vocal wire. The maids in comely order next advance, They beat the timbrel, and instruct the dance. Follows the chosen tribe from Levi sprung, Chanting by just return the holy song. 660 Along the choir in solemn state they passed, The anxious king came last. The sacred hymn performed, my promised vow I paid; and bowing at the altar low, Father of Heaven! I said, and judge of earth! Whose word called out this universe to birth; By whose kind power and influencing care The various creatures move, and live, and are; But, ceasing once that care, withdrawn that power, They move, alas, and live, and are no more: 670 Omniscient Master, omnipresent King, To thee, to thee, my last distress I bring.
Thou, that canst still the raging of the seas, Chain up the winds, and bid the tempests cease; Redeem my shipwrecked soul from raging gusts Of cruel passion, and deceitful lusts; From storms of rage, and dangerous rocks of pride,
Let thy strong hand this little vessel guide 678
(It was thy hand that made it) through the tide
Impetuous of this life; let thy command
Direct my course, and bring me safe to land.
If, while this wearied flesh draws fleeting breath,
Not satisfied with life, afraid of death,
It haply be thy will, that I should know
Glimpse of delight, or pause from anxious woe;
From now, from instant now, great Sire! dispel
The clouds that press my soul; from now reveal
A gracious beam of light; from now inspire
My tongue to sing, my hand to touch the lyre;
My opened thought to joyous prospects raise; 690
And, for thy mercy, let me sing thy praise.
Or, if thy will ordains, I still shall wait
Some new hereafter, and a future state;
Permit me strength, my weight of woe to bear,
And raise my mind superior to my care.
Let me, howe'er unable to explain
The secret labyrinths of thy ways to man,
With humble zeal confess thy awful power;
Still weeping hope, and wondering still adore.
So in my conquest be thy might declared: 700
And, for thy justice, be thy name revered.
My prayer scarce ended, a stupendous gloom
Darkens the air, loud thunder shakes the dome;
To the beginning miracle succeed
An awful silence, and religious dread.
Sudden breaks forth a more than common day:
The sacred wood, which on the altar lay,
Untouched, unlighted, glows.
Ambrosial odour, such as never flows
From Arab's gum, or the Sabaean rose, 710
Does round the air revolving scents diffuse;
The holy ground is wet with heavenly dews;
Celestial music (such Jessides'i lyre,
Such Miriam's timbrel would in vain require)
Strikes to my thought through my admiring ear,
With ecstasy too fine, and pleasure hard to bear:
And lo! what sees my ravished eye; what feels
My wondering soul; an opening cloud reveals
A heavenly form embodied, and arrayed
With robes of light. I heard: the angel said,
Cease, man of woman born, to hope relief,
From daily trouble, and continued grief.
Thy hope of joy deliver to the wind;
Suppress thy passions, and prepare thy mind.
Free and familiar with misfortune grow,
Be used to sorrow, and inured to woe.
By weakening toil, and hoary age o'ercome,
See thy decrease, and hasten to thy tomb.
Leave to thy children tumult, strife, and war,
Portions of toil, and legacies of care.
Send the successive ills through ages down;
And let each weeping father tell his son,
That, deeper struck, and more distinctly grieved,
He must augment the sorrows he received.
The child to whose success thy hope is bound,
Ere thou art scarce interred, or he is crowned;
To lust of arbitrary sway inclined
(That cursed poison to the prince's mind!)
Shall from thy dictate, and his duty rove,
And lose his great defence, his people's love.
Ill counselled, vanquished, fugitive, disgraced,
Shall mourn the fame of Jacob's strength effaced.
Shall sigh the king diminished, and the crown
With lessened rays descending to his son;
Shall see the wreaths, his grandsire knew to reap
By active toil and military sweat,
Pining incline their sickly leaves, and shed
Their falling honours from his giddy head.
By arms, or prayer unable to assuage
Domestic horror, and intestine rage,
Shall from the victor and the vanquished fear,
From Israel's arrow, and from Judah's spear;
Shall cast his wearied limbs on Jordan's flood,
By brother's arms disturbed, and stained with kindred
Hence labouring years shall weep their destined race,
Charged with ill omens, sullied with disgrace.
Time, by necessity compelled, shall go
Through scenes of war, and epochas of woe.
The empire lessened in a parted stream,
Shall lose its course-
Indulge thy tears; the heathen shall blaspheme;
Judah shall fall, oppressed by grief and shame;
And men shall from her ruins know her fame.
New Egypts yet, and second bonds remain,
A harsher Pharaoh, and a heavier chain.
Again, obedient to a dire command,
Thy captive sons shall leave the promised land.
Their name more low, their servitude more vile,
Shall on Euphrates' bank renew the grief of Nile.
These pointed spires that wound the ambient sky,
Inglorious change, shall in destruction lie
Low, levelled with the dust; their heights unknown,
Or measured by their ruin. Yonder throne
For lasting glory built, designed the seat
Of kings for ever blessed, for ever great,
Removed by the invader's barbarous hand,
Shall grace his triumph in a foreign land.
The tyrant shall demand yon sacred load
Of gold and vessels set apart to God. 779
Then by vile hands to common use debased,
Shall send them flowing round his drunken feast,
With sacrilegious taunt, and impious jest.
Twice fourteen ages shall their way complete:
Empires by various turns shall rise and set;
While thy abandoned tribes shall only know
A different master, and a change of woe;
With downcast eyelids, and with looks aghast,
Shall dread the future, or bewail the past.
Afflicted Israel shall sit weeping down,
Fast by the streams, where Babel's waters run; 700
Their harps upon the neighbouring willows hung,
Nor joyous hymn encouraging their tongue,
Nor cheerful dance their feet; with toil oppressed,
Their wearied limbs aspiring but to rest.
In the reflective stream the sighing bride,
Viewing her charms impaired, abashed shall hide
Her pensive head; and in her languid face
The bridegroom shall foresee his sickly race;
While ponderous fetters vex their close embrace.
With irksome anguish then your priests shall mourn 800
Their long neglected feasts' despaired return,
And sad oblivion of their solemn days;
Thenceforth their voices they shall only raise,
Louder to weep. By day your frighted seers
Shall call for fountains to express their tears;
And wish their eyes were floods. By night from dreams
Of opening gulfs, black storms, and raging flames,
Starting amazed, shall to the people show
Emblems of heavenly wrath, and mystic types of woe.
The captives, as their tyrant shall require, 810
That they should breathe the song, and touch the lyre,
Shall say: can Jacob's servile race rejoice,