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And ever may all heavy systems rest!
Yet some there are, even of elastic parts,
Whom strong and obstinate ambition leads
Through all the rugged roads of barren lore,
And gives to relish what their generous taste
Would else refuse. But may not thirst of fame,
Nor love of knowledge, urge you to fatigue
With constant drudgery the liberal soul.
Toy with your books; and, as the various fits
Of humour seize you, from philosophy
To fable shift: from serious Antonine
To Rabelais' ravings, and from prose to song.
While reading pleases, but no longer, read;
And read aloud resounding Homer's strain,
And wield the thunder of Demosthenes,
The chest so exercis'd improves its strength;
And quick vibrations through the bowels drive
The restless blood, which in unactive days
Would loiter else through unelastic tubes.
Deem it not trifling while I recommend
What posture suits : to stand and sit by turas,
As nature prompts, is best. But o'er your leaves
To lean for ever, cramps the vital parts,
And robs the fine machinery of its play.
'T is the great art of life to manage well The restless mind. For ever on pursuit Of knowledge bent, it starves the grosser powers: Quite unemployed, against its own repose It turns its fatal edge, and sharper pangs Than what the body knows embitter life. Chiefly where solitude, sad nurse of care, To sickly musing gives the pensive mind,
There madness enters
and the dim-ey'd fiend,
Sour Melancholy, night and day provokes
Her own eternal wound. The Sun grows pale;
A mournful visionary light o'erspreads
The cheerful face of Nature: Earth becomes
A dreary desert, and Heaven frowns above.
Then various shapes of cursid illusion rise :
Whate'er the wretched fears, creating fear
Forms out of nothing, and with monsters teems
Unknown in Hell. The prostrate soul beneath
A load of huge imagination heaves ;
And all the horrours that the murderer feels
With anxious flutterings wake the guiltless breast.
Such phantoms pride in solitary scenes,
Or fear, or delicate self-love creates.
From other cares absolv'd, the busy mind
Finds in yourself a theme lo pore upon ;
It finds you miserable, or makes you só.
For while yourself you anxiously explore,
Timorous self-love, with sick’ning fancy's aid,
Presents the danger that you dread the most
And ever galls you
Hence some for love, and some for jealousy,
For grim religion some, and some for pride,
Have lost their reason : some for fear of want,
Want all their lives; and others every day
For fear of dying suffer worse than death.
Ah ! from your bosoms banish if you can
Those fatal guests; and first the demon Fear,
That trembles at impossible events;
Lest aged Atlas should resign his load,
And Heaven's eternal battlements rush down.
Is there an evil worse than fear itself?
And what avails it that indulgent Heaven
From mortal eyes has wrapt the woes to come,
If we, ingenious to torment ourselves,
Grow pale at hideous fictions of our own?
Enjoy the present: nor with needless cares, (womb,
Of what may spring from blind misfortune's
Appal the surest hour that life bestows.
Serene, and master of yourself, prepare
For what may come ; and leave the rest to Heaven.
Oft from the body, by long ails mis-tun'd,
These evils sprung, the most important health,
That of the mind, destroy : and when the mind
They first invade, the conscious body soon
In sympathetic languishment declines.
These chronic passions, while from real woes
They rise, and yet without the body's fault
Infest the soul, admit one only cure;
Diversion, hurry, and a restless life.
Vain are the consolations of the wise ;
In vain your friends would reason down your pain.
O ye, whose souls relentless love has tam'd
To soft distress, or friends untimely fall’n !
Court not the luxury of tender thought ;
Nor deem it impious to forget those pains
That hurt the living, nought avail the dead.
Go, soft enthusiast ! quit the cypress groves,
Nor to the rivulet's lonely moanings tune
Your sad complaint.. Go, seek the cheerful haunts
Of men, and mingle with the bustling crowd;
Lay schemes for wealth, or power, or fame, the
Of nobler minds, and push them night and day... Or join the caravan in quest of scenes New to your eyes, and shifting every hour, Beyond the Alps, beyond the Appenines. Or more advent'rous, rush into the field Where war grows hot; and, raging through the sky, The lofty trumpet swells the madd’ning soul : And in the hardy camp and toilsome march Forget all softer and less manly cares.
But most, too passive when the blood runs low, Too weakly indolent to strive with pain, And bravely by resisting conquer fate, Try Circe's arts; and in the tempting bowl Of poison'd nectar sweet oblivion swill. Struck by the powerful charm, the gloom dissolves In
empty air, Elysium opens round; A pleasing phrenzy buoys the lighten’d soul, And sanguine hopes dispel your fleeting care; And what was difficult, and what was dire, Yields to your prowess and superior stars : The happiest you of all that e'er were mad, Or are, or shall be, could this folly last. But soon your Heaven is gone; a heavier gloom Shuts o'er your head : and as the thund'ring
stream, Swoln o'er its banks with sudden mountain rain, Sinks from its tumult to a silent brook ; So, when the frantic raptures in your breast Subside, you languish into mortal man; You sleep, and waking find yourself undone. For, prodigal of life, in one rash night You lavish'd more than might support three days
A heavy morning comes ; your cares return
With tenfold rage. An anxious stomach well
May be endur'd; so may the throbbing head ;
But such a dim delirium, such a dream,
Involves you; such a dastardly despair
Unmans your soul, as madd’ning Pentheus felt,
When, baited round Cythæron's cruel sides
He saw two suns, and double Thebes ascend.
You curse the sluggish port; you curse the wretch,
The felon, with unnatural mixture first
Who dar'd to violate the virgin wine.
Or on the fugitive champaign you pour
A thousand curses; for to Heav'n it wrapt
Your soul, to plunge you deeper in despair.
Perhaps you rue even that diviner gift,
The gay, serene, good-natur'd Burgundy,
Or the fresh fragrant vintage of the Rhine :
And wish that Heaven from mortals had withheld
The grape, and all intoxicating bowls.
Besides, it wounds you sore to recollect
What follies in your loose unguarded hour
Escap'd. For one irrevocable word,
Perhaps that meant no harm, you lose a friend.
Or in the rage of wine your hasty hand
Performs a deed to haunt you to the grave. (decay;
Add that your means, your health, your parts,
Your friends avoid you ; brutishly transform’d,
They hardly know you ; or if one remains
To wish you well, he wishes you in Heaven.
Despis’d, unwept you fall; who might have left
A sacred-cherish'd, sadly-pleasing name ;
A name still to be utter'd with a sigh.