Thursday, July 27, 2017

Equanimity in Death By George Watson-Taylor 1813 (Poem)

Equanimity in Death By George Watson-Taylor 1813 (Poem)

Too long, oh! Death, have guilt and fear and shame:
In horrors clad thee, and traduced thy name;
Too long have drawn thee, to the sickly mind,
The grim, relentless Tyrant of Mankind.
But, whilst with awe beneath thy pow'r I bend,
And count the groans that oft thy steps attend,
Still be it mine, in firm and even strain,
To mark some blessings in thy boundless reign;
Mine, through thy various shapes, in thee to trace,
A great instructor of the human race,
And oft, as Hope's unkind delusions end,
To man the truest, as the only friend.

Placed on this chequered scene of joy and woe,
'Tis Death that marks our fixt career below:
Conceive but once his vast dominion o'er,
We should be angels, and be men no more;
The blest or curst, would here decide their fate,
And this anticipate a future state.
As soon as reason on the mind descends,
We learn that Death this anxious being ends,
That nothing mortal can escape his rage,
Nor youthful beauty, nor decrepid age,
Nor wealth, nor pow'r, the creatures of the day,
Which, like neglected misery, pass away
This certain knowledge in the soul presides,
Tinctures each fancy, and each action guides,
On prosperous Vice bids ceaseless cares attend,
And proves, for ever, suffering Virtue's friend.
Though Heav'n hath wisely, to fulfil it's plan,
Ordain'd that Death should awe the heart of man,

While flush'd in youth's and vigor's full career,
And hoary age delays the distant year,
Yet Death himself creates not such dismay,
As those the horrors which prescribe his way;
Or racking agony, or lingering pain,
Or feverish madness scorching up the brain,
Or dreams the guilty for themselves prepare,
When Hope recedes, and flings them to Despair,
Or melting circumstance, when warm in youth,
Pursuing pleasure, in the paths of truth,
Loving and lov'd, we watch around our bed
A weeping family recline the head,
And oft with pray'rs, that hope for no reply,
But the sad echo of the parting sigh,
Beg still one effort, still on earth to stay—
And yet we feel our spirit fleet away;
Or when from private, to some general end,
Death summons all his terrors to attend,

And drives them onward with gigantic stride,
Where War, his favourite, pours his sanguine tide;
Where in the city, busy once with trade,
But now by pestilence a desert made,
On livid bodies, in terrific state,
He sits, enthron’d—Silence his sole co-mate;
On sleeping towns, where burst nocturnal fires;
Where Famine, gnawing its own frame, expires;
Or hovering o'er the abyss profound,
With wrecks of ruined mansions strewed around,
He points where thousands found one common grave;
Or, with the tempest, rides upon the wave.
These are the scenes from which the soul recoils;
These stamp with dread the close of earthly toils:
But when her period Nature can fulfil,
And life recedes, obedient to her will,
No pangs, no horrors on our couch await,
Peace seals our eyes, Hope points a happier fate.

The Seer, as old as Time's imagined form,
Who, calm within, finds all without a storm;
Who long hath fathomed life's delusive wave,
And tried all human sufferings—but the grave;
Who knows the gifts of sense are nearly past,
And those of intellect must fail at last;
Who sees an offspring to supply his place,
From whom his name can ne'er sustain disgrace;
Dies, as the ripened corn, when autumn calls,
To bless the swain's propitious labor falls;
Composed he contemplates th' approach of Death,
And e'en with joy restores to Heav'n his breath.
Sacred's the death-bed of the reverend man,
Whose days have filled his great Creator's plan:
If aught on earth true wisdom can impart,
If aught on earth can fix man's wavering heart,
There is our school-– oh! Addison, 'twas thine,
When, Genius, Virtue weeping thy decline,

Thou bad'st the world-deluded youth attend,
And learn, from thee, how calm the Christian's end.
Though all should live in triumph thus to die,
And quit this world without one painful sigh,
Yet reason never would suppress the tear,
Which Nature wakes for those who once were dear;
When life's best ties are from our bosoms torn,
"Tis base to feel not, it is good to mourn.
Whene'er, as twilight veils some Gothic pile,
Deepening the shades along each dusky aisle,
With pausing step and wandering eye ye tread,
In speechless awe, the mansions of the dead,
Check not the chilling throb, the starting tear,
They rise not from the source of selfish fear;
The pang's delicious; to our kind 'tis due,
A pang the sensual bosom never knew;
It springs from mingled thoughts of glories past,
Of deeds, that in remembrance only last,

Of beauty withered in its youthful prime,
Of laughing childhood cropt before its time,
Of soft affections rudely rent in twain,
Of sighs by kindred bosoms heaved in vain,
Of all the ills that on our nature wait,
Of one great close, and of a future state,
Till, with mortality familiar grown,
In others' sufferings we forget our own,
And marking whither all our efforts tend,
Wonder we tremble when they reach their end:
And if perchance thou turn'st th' incautious eye,
Where the lov’d relics of a parent lie,
Hide not, thou feeling youth, that face of woe,
Breathe forth thy sighs, and let thy sorrows flow:
Lovely and graceful is the filial tear;
To Nature sacred, and to Virtue dear.
It is, oh! Heav'n, it is a dreadful state,
For those, who round a dying parent wait,

An only parent; to observe the fire,
The latest glimmerings on the eye expire,
To hear the sigh that tells us all is o'er,
To feel the grasp, that feels of life no more,
To see the fountain dried that gave us birth,
Left unconnected wanderers on the earth—
It is most dreadful: Yet that bitter day
Is fraught with lessons that can ne'er decay;
We then are taught our real state to know,
To feel the nothingness of all below;
A spark divine our humbled soul inspires,
It springs, it soars above this world's desires,
Above its anguish, wings to Heav'n it's way,
And seeks it's parent in the realms of day.
While thus for others we indulge our grief,
And by indulging give the soul relief,
With calmer mind should we ourselves prepare
To meet that fate which all alike must share.

By long experience man is forced to know,
That Virtue only can that pow'r bestow:
For let the scarlet and the lawn be rolled.
To deck the frame in many a flowing fold;
Let Wealth, let Luxury provide the store,
And Hospitality expand the door,
Let Learning prate the jargon of the schools,
Frail Human Wisdom teach it's frailer rules;
Let all of earthly good our wish await,
Till Fancy find no whim to swell our state,
Not less we fear to die;—and should there dwell,
Locked in the wary heart's profoundest cell,
Some guilt unpurged, these treach'rous worldly charms
But furnish Death with more successful arms.
The victim hurries where the feast invites,
The shade is there, and blasts the genial rites;
He seeks the couch, but sleep forsakes his eyes,
Or, if he nod, in every dream he dies;

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In vain the desperate would his God deny,
His conscience stings, and gives his hopes the lie;
Till, like the bark that, struck on every side,
At last is swallowed in the whelming tide;
He sinks, assailed by every mortal dread,
Despair triumphant, Hope for ever fled.
Such, mighty Master of the human heart,
The awful lessons which thy scenes impart,
Such hath thy searching Genius drawn the end
Of him, whose bed the guilt-bred fiends attend,
Who bid to show, if yet of Grace Divine
Some hope he cherish, “dies and makes no sign:”
Or, though no actual crimes disturb his rest,
If Virtue never warmed the groveling breast,
If sensual pleasures he alone can know,
And mole-like blind, hath fixt his heav'n below,
The dread of dying ne'er can be withstood,
For loss of life is loss of all his good;

And, as the bird, in captive fetters bound,
Oft spreads its wings, yet never quits the ground,
If once his wavering soul to Heav'n aspires,
'Tis soon dragged downwards by its low desires,
Till, like a victim to the altar led,
Struggling and groaning, low he bows his head.
Whene'er, indeed, to future judgments blind,
Prevailing passions triumph o'er the mind,
They show that Death is neither good nor ill,
But as they lose, or gratify their will.
Whene'er some fancied blessing we pursue,
And hold the fleeting object just in view,
When Expectation, thrilling on the nerves,
With equal force, the place of Pleasure serves:
Or when Success prolongs the golden dream,
And when we taste Enjoyment's nectared stream,
He comes, to mortal man the bitterest foe,
His passage marked by screams of hopeless woe;

But when Affliction, with unvarying hand,
Bends e'en the proudest to it's dread command;
When Hope denies one transitory gleam,
And Misery o'er our fortunes rules supreme;
Bold by despair, or wrapt in sullen gloom,
Man treads unmov'd the pathway to the tomb:
Or, oft revolving on that certain day,
That sweeps at once each mortal pang away,
The soul imbibes a tender, softened strain,
And only sighs that last relief to gain.
How oft, indeed, the self-same breast by turns,
Now shakes with fear, and now with frenzy burns;
Now begs the final pang to end it's pain,
But, that removed, solicits life again.
The nymph, with pallid cheek and hollow eye,
Whose heart-struck griefs the balm of tears deny,
Who listened, loved, confided, was betrayed,
And now, of shame, but not of death, afraid,

Steals down the glade, at twilight's parting gleam,
To end her anguish in the fatal stream,
If stopt, and told her lover still is true,
Allows the justice to affection due,
And, e'er the tongue of slander lisps her name,
Will seal her honor, and secure her fame,
Feels that her bosom heaves with gentler sighs;
Joy tints her cheeks, and brightens in her eyes,
Till, fondly sheltered in a husband's arms,
She owns that Life hath still unnumber'd charms.
And, ah! how often when of friends possesst,
In wealth, in family, in virtue blest,
Man shrinks with trembling from that fearful day,
That's doomed to tear him from this scene away;
And yet if Fate, by one relentless blow,
Should lay this visionary fabric low,
Bereft of all whereon his joy was placed,
He finds this world a solitary waste

And, tird of life, and hating e'en the light,
He plunges desperate into endless night.
Behold that man, where yonder vessel tost,
Seems now in clouds, and now in billows lost,
See, whilst he shudders o'er a wat'ry grave,
A fate more dread pursues him than the wave;
A sudden flame bursts forth, it spreads, prevails,
Curls round the masts, and runs along the sails:
Fear shakes his heart; he thinks on those most dear,
And frantic agony succeeds to fear:
He hurries on, he raves, he rends his hair,
Oft mingles with his cries a broken pray'r;
Flies to the flood, but Death's gigantic form
Moves in the mingled horrors of the storm;
He turns; Death also turns, in form the same,
But robed in clouds and gleaming through the flame,
"Till, scorch'd his sinews and inflamed his blood,
He plunges headlong in the boiling flood:

A broken rafter bears him to the shore;
He safely lands, and all his fears are o'er;
To Hope's gay dreams the happy man confides,
She heaves his heart, and light his footstep guides
Towards his home: it is not to be found;
A fire had swept his mansion to the ground,
His wife, his children perished in the flame,
His all destroyed, and extinct his name:
Damp Horror chills his limbs, and o'er his sight
Swims the dim landscape in the shades of night:
Far different terrors now his soul invade,
That Death he dreaded, he invokes for aid,
And, in the transport of despair, he flies,
Down the cliff rushes, cleaves the deep, and dies.
Thus, when the Law Divine to man is lost,
On Passion's wayward torrent is he tost,
Far from that Faith, whose healing influence gives
Peace, to the broken heart of him, who lives,

And, if on Mercy firmly he relies,
Hope, to the parting soul of him, who dies.
If man through all his struggles we survey,
And mark the ills to which he lives a prey;
Ills, which on Virtue as on Vice await,
And know no end, but in a future state,
Too surely e'en the worldly one must find,
That Death is sent in mercy to mankind.
To yonder wretch, (of reason once possesst,
And ev'ry feeling of the human breast,)
Who now in rags and filth, pale, squalid lies;
Rolls to the empty air his vacant eyes;
Picks up the scatter'd straws, which round he throws,
Twists them in forms, or sticks them in his clothes;
Mutters much nonsense, sings, and laughs aloud,
And then in rage assails the mocking crowd;
To him, from joy debarred, and lost to fear,
Can Life be worth a wish, or Death, a tear?

Ah! no;—in pity let him quit a stage
Where shame and infamy increase with age,
Where, brute in figure, more a brute in mind,
He crawls, a living satire on his kind:
Ask him, who best hath lov'd, who most may mourn,
Some virtuous partner from his bosom torn,
When health and youth, domestic peace and love,
Gave them on earth a taste of bliss above,
Ask him, as just the mortal struggle's o'er,
And the last sigh hath bid him hope no more,
If all the world's select, concentred charms
Could tempt him to desert her clay-cold arms;
Or whether Fancy could a wish suggest,
To sooth awhile the anguish of his breast,
Save, that thou, Death, again should'st hurl thy dart,
And join the souls, which thou alone could'st part:
And, ah! to one, whose heart is doomed to prove
The deep despair that waits on luckless love,

Who, like the traveller, to the wat'ry glade,
By specious vapours of the night betrayed,
Though oft he pauses, still pursues his doom,
And courts the flame, which leads him to the tomb;
As days of secret grief by gradual stealth,
Blight on his youthful cheek the rose of health,
And withering all the vigour of his frame,
Leave him but just a shadow with a name;
To him, oh! Death, (whose heart no fear can move,
Touch'd by no error but that one of love,)
Thou'lt come no tyrant, but a soothing friend,
To whisper all his griefs are at an end,
And call his soul, from earthly loves away,
To those which flourish in eternal day.
When sects, unmindful of his glorious plan,
Measured their Maker by the scale of man;
When thro' the Church the rage of Hell prevailed,
And the flame tutored where the teacher failed,

When fired by bigotry, and soured by strife,
The Christian thirsted for the Christian's life,
As round the Sage, too upright to conceal
The sacred truth his heart is proud to feel,
The flames, directed through the faggots, spread,
Scorch all his limbs, and blaze around his head,
Whilst with up-lifted eyes, and folded hands,
In silent agony the Martyr stands,
The sigh, that bears the sufferer's soul to Heav'n,
Is breathed with pleasure and in mercy giv'n,
It bears it hence, from pain and grief away,
To peace and bliss that never can decay.
When Injury and Insult, hand in hand,
Tortur'd and ridiculed a silent land,
So deeply rivetted the blood-linked chain,
They scarcely left the courage to complain;
When Sacrilege, fatigued with toils below,
Aimed at the throne of Heav'n a senseless blow,

And vainly dreamt, that, by it's single nod,
It made, unmade, dethroned, enthroned the God,
(As nestling emmets, with their toil elate,
May mock awhile the distant pow'rs of fate,
Till one rude blast lays all their fabric bare,
And whirls the little reptiles wide in air,)
When right and wrong usurped each other's place,
Vice ruled supreme, and Virtue was disgrace;
When these afflictions, Gallia, curs'd thy land,
And yet in vain the weapon arm'd their hand,
Those sons, whom Vengeance hurried to the grave,
Were greatly blest, beyond the living slave.
And if, oh! Britain, nation truly free,
A rival power should dare to menace thee,
Would not thy sons indignantly reply,
“Free have we sprung, free lived, and free will die?’
Yes. Should the invader e'er approach thy shore,
Forth would at once unbidden millions pour,

Against the foe a living bulwark stand,
Till Death should lay their faces on thy strand.
This preference ’tis of Liberty to life,
Which sends thee matchless to the warlike strife,
Which makes thee generous, as it makes thee brave,
Less prone to cruelty than prompt to save,
And leads thee, with a frank and liberal heart,
To suffering states thy blessings to impart.
Still, still, dear Britain, nation truly free,
May Death be second to thy Liberty!
And oh! may he, who with unpolish’d lays,
Attunes to thee the strain of filial praise,
True to thine interest, to thine honor true,
Through life, unchang'd, these glorious ends pursue;
And when that hour shall come, which comes to all,
Not useless, not inglorious may he fall,
But to thy service yield his latest breath,
And snatch a wreath beyond the reach of Death!

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