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To build our altar, confident and bold,
And say as stern Elijah said of old
The strife now stands upon a fair award,
If Israel's Lord be God, then serve the Lord :
If he be silent, faith is all a whim,
Then Baal is the God, and worship him.
Digression is so much in modern use, Thought is so rare, and fancy so profuse, Some never seem so wide of their intent, As when returning to the theme they meant ; As mendicants, whose business is to roam, Make every parish, but their own, their home. Though such continual zig-zags in a book, Such drunken reelings have an awkward look, And I had rather creep to what is true, Than rove and stagger with no mark in view; Yet to consult a little, seem'd no crime, The freakish humor of the present time : But now to gather up what seems dispers’d, And touch the subject I design'd at first, May prove, though much beside the rules of art, Best for the public, and my wisest part. And first, let no man charge me that I mean To clothe in sable every social scene, And give good company a face severe, As if they met around a father's bier ; For tell some men, that pleasure all their bent, And laughter all their work, is life mis-spent, Their wisdom bursts into this sage reply, Then mirth is sin, and we should always cry.
To find the medium asks some share of wit,
And therefore 'tis a mark fools never hit.
But though life's valley be a vale of tears,
A brighter scene beyond that vale appears,
Whose glory, with a light that never fades,
Shoots between scatter'd rocks and opening shades,
And, while it shows the land the soul desires,
The language of the land she seeks, inspires.
Thus touch'd, the tongue receives a sacred cure
Of all that was absurd, profane, impure ;
Held within modest bounds, the tide of speech :
Pursues the course that truth and nature teach;
No longer labours merely to produce
The pomp of sound, or tinkle without use :
Where'er it winds, the salutary stream,
Sprightly and fresh, enriches every theme,
While all the happy man possess'd before,
The gift of nature, or the classic store, ...
Is made subservient to the grand design,
For which Heaven form’d the faculty divine.
So, should an idiot, while at large he strays,
Find the sweet lyre on which an artist plays,
With rash and awkward force the chords he shakes,
And grins with wonder at the jar he makes ;
But let the wise and well-instructed hand
Once take the shell beneath his just command,
In gentle sounds it seems as it complain'd
Of the rude injuries it late sustain'd,
Till, tun'd at length to some immortal song,
It sounds JEHOVAH's name, and pours his praise along.
sludiis florens ignobilis oti.
Virg. Geor. Lib.
HACKNEY'D in business, wearied at that car
Which thousands, once fast chain'd to, quit no more,
But which, when life at ebb runs weak and low, .
All wish, or seem to wish, they could forego ;
The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade,
Pants for the refuge of some rural shade,
Where, all his long anxieties forgot
Amid the charms of a sequester'd spot,
Or recollected only to gild o'er
And add a smile to what was sweet before,
He may possess the joys he thinks he sees,
Lay his old age upon the lap of ease,
Improve the remnant of his wasted span,
And, having liv'd a trifler, die a man.
Thus conscience pleads her cause within the breast,
Though long rebellid against, not yet suppress'd,
And calls a creature form’d for God alone,
For Heaven's high purposes, and not his own;
Calls him away from selfish ends and aims,
From what debilitates and what inflames,
From cities, humming with a restless crowd,
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud,
Whose highest praise is that they live in vain,
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain,
Where works of man are cluster'd close around,
And works of God are hardly to be found,
To regions, where, in spite of sin and woe,
Traces of Eden are still seen below,
Where mountain, river, forest, field, and grove,
Remind him of his Maker's power and love.
'Tis well if, look'd for at so late a day,
In the last scene of such a senseless play,
True wisdom will attend his feeble call,
And grace his action ere the curtain fall.
Souls that have long despis'd their heavenly birth,
Their wishes all impregnated with earth,
For three-score years employ'd with ceaseless care
In catching smoke and feeding upon air,
Conversant only with the ways of men,
Rarely redeem the short remaining ten.
Inveterate habits choke th’unfruitful heart,
Their fibres penetrate its tenderest part,
And, draining its nutritious powers to feed
Their noxious growth, starve every better seed.
Happy, if full of days—but happier far,
If, ere we yet discern life's evening star,
Sick of the service of a world that feeds
Its patient drudges with dry chaff and weeds,
We can escape from custom's idiot sway,
To serve the Sovereign we ware born t'obey. .
Then sweet to muse upon his skill display'd
(Infinite skill) in all that he has made !
To trace, in nature's most minute design,
The signature and stamp of power divine,
Contrivance intricate, express’d with ease,
Where unassisted sight no beauty sees,
The shapely limb and lubricated joint,
Within the small dimensions of a point,
Muscle and nerve miraculously spun,
His mighty work, who speaks and it is done,
Th’invisible in things scarce seen reveal'd,
To whom an atom is an ample field :
To wonder at a thousand insect forms,
These hatch'd, and those resuscitated worms,
New life ordain's and brighter scenes to share,
Once prone on earth, now buoyant upon air.
Whose shape would make them, had they bulk and
More hideous foes than fancy can devise ;
With helmet heads and dragon scales adornd,
The mighty myriads, now securely scorn'd,
Would mock the majesty of man's high birth,
Despise his bulwarks, and unpeople earth ;
Then with a glance of fancy to survey,
Far as the faculty can stretch away,
Ten thousand rivers pour'd at his command
From urns that never fail through every land;
These like a deluge with impetuous force,
Those winding modestly a silent course ;
The cloud-surmounting Alps, the fruitful vales;
Seas on which every nation spreads her sails ;