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I found my subjects amicably join
To lessen their defects by citing mine.
The priest with pity pray'd for David's race,
And left his text, to dwell on my disgrace.
The father, whilst he warn'd his erring son
The sad examples which he ought to shun,
Describ'd, and only nam'd not, Solomon.
Each bard, each sire, did to his pupil sing,
“ A wise child better than a foolish king."
Into myself my Reason's eye I turn'd,
And as I much reflected, much I mourn'd.
A mighty king I am, an earthly god;
Nations obey my word, and wait my nod:
I raise or sink, imprison or set free,
And life or death depends on my decree.
Fond the idea, and the thought is vain;
O'er Judah's king ten thousand tyrants reign ;
Legions of lust, and various powers of ill,
Insult the master's tributary will :
And he, from whom the nations should receive
Justice and freedom, lies himself a slave,
Tortur'd by cruel change of wild desires,
Lash'd by mad rage, and scorch'd by brutal fires.
“ O Reason! once again to thee I call; Accept my sorrow, and retrieve my fall. Wisdom, thou say'st, from Heaven receiv'd her
Her beams transmitted to the subject Earth :
Yet this great empress of the human soul
Does only with imagin'd power control,
If restless Passion, by rebellious sway,
Compels the weak usurper to obey.
O troubled, weak, and coward, as thou art,
Without thy poor advice, the labouring heart
To worse extremes with swifter steps would run,
Not sav'd by virtue, yet by vice undone !"
Oft have I said, the praise of doing well
Is to the ear as ointment to the smell.
Now, if some flies, perchance, however small,
Into the alabaster urn should fall,
The odours of the sweets enclos'd would die,
And stench corrupt (sad change!) their place
So the least faults, if mix'd with fairest deed,
Of future ill become the fatal seed;
Into the balm of purest virtue cast,
Annoy all life with one contagious blast.
Lost Solomon! pursue this thought no more:
Of thy past errors recollect the store ;
And silent weep, that, while the deathless Muse
Shall sing the just, shall o'er their heads diffuse
Perfumes with lavish hand, she shall proclaim
Thy crimes alone, and, to thy evil fame
Impartial, scatter damps and poisons on thy naine.
Awaking, therefore, as who long had dream'd,
Much of my women and their gods asham'd;
From this abyss of exemplary vice
Resolv'd, as time might aid my thought, to rise;
Again I bid the mournful goddess write
The fond pursuit of fugitive delight;
Bid her exalt her melancholy wing,
And, rais'd from earth, and sav'd from passion, sing
Of human hope by cross event destroy'd,
Of useless wealth and greatness unenjoy'd,
Of lust and love, with their fantastic train,
Their wishes, smiles, and looks, deceitful all, and
Texts chiefly alluded to in Book III.
• Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden
bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.”.
Eccles. chap. xii. ver. 6. “ The Sun ariseth, and the Sun goeth down, and
hasteth to his place where he arose. - Ch. i. 5. “ The wind goeth towards the south, and turneth
about unto the north. It whirleth about continually; and the wind returneth again, accord
ing to his circuit.”- Ver. 6. « All the rivers run into the sea: yet the sea is not
full. Unto the place from whence the rivers
come, thither they return again.” – Ver. 7. « Then shall the dust return to the earth, as it was : and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”
Ch. xii. 7. “ Now when Solomon had made an end of praying,
the fire came down from Heaven, and consumed the burnt-offering, and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house." 2 CHRON. vii. 1.
“ By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down ;
yea, we wept, when we remembered Sion," &c.
PSALM cxxxvii, 1. “ I said of laughter, it is mad; and of mirth, what
doth it?” — EccLEs. ii. 2. “ No man can find out the work that God maketh,
from the beginning to the end.” — Ch. iii. 11, 6 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." Ver. 14. « Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter;
fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man." - Ch. xii. 13.
Solomon considers man through the several stages
and conditions of life, and concludes in general,
that we are all miserable. He reflects more par-
ticularly upon the trouble and uncertainty of
greatness and power ; gives some instances thereof
from Adam down to himself; and still concludes
that all is vanity. He reasons again upon life,
death, and a future being ; finds human wisdom
too imperfect to resolve his doubts; has recourse
to religion; is informed by an angel, what shall
happen to himself, his family, and his kingdom
till the redemption of Israel ; and, upon the whole,
resolves to submit his inquiries and anxieties to
the will of his Creator.
Come then, my soul; I call thee by that name, Thou busy thing, from whence I know I am :
For, knowing what I am, I know thou art;
Since that must needs exist, which can impart.
But how cam’st thou to be, or whence thy spring ?
For various of thee priests and poets sing.
Bear’st thou submissive, but a lowly birth,
Some separate particles of finer earth,
A plain effect which Nature must beget,
As motion orders, and as atoms meet ;
Companion of the body's good or ill,
From force of instinct, more than choice of will ;
Conscious of fear or valour, joy or pain,
As the wild courses of the blood ordain ;
Who, as degrees of heat and cold prevail,
In youth dost flourish, and with age shalt fail ;
Till, mingled with thy partner's latest breath,
Thou fly'st dissolv'd in air, and lost in death?
Or, if thy great existence would aspire To causes more sublime, of heavenly fire Wert thou a spark struck off, a separate ray, Ordain'd to mingle with terrestrial clay ; With it condemn'd for certain years to dwell, To grieve its frailties, and its pains to feel ; To teach it good and ill, disgrace or fame, Pale it with rage, or redden it with shame; To guide its actions with informing care, In peace to judge, to conquer in the war; Render it agile, witty, valiant, sage, As fits the various course of human age; Till as the earthly part decays and falls, The captive breaks her prison's mouldering walls ; Hovers awhile upon the sad remains, Which now the pile or sepulchre contains ;