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Poems on Serious and Sacred Subjects.

by William Hayley.

ON THE FEAR OF DEATH:

AN EPISTLE TO A LADY.

1768.

THE FEAR OF DEATH.

Thou! whose superior, and aspiring mind Can leave the weakness of thy s.e.x behind; Above its follies, and its fears can rise, Quit the low earth, and gain the distant skies: Whom strength of soul and innocence have taught To think of death, nor shudder at the thought; Say! whence the dread, that can alike engage Vain thoughtless youth, and deep-reflecting age; Can shake the feeble, and appal the strong; Say! whence the terrors, that to death belong?

Guilt must be fearful: but the guiltless too Start from the grave, and tremble at the view.

The blood-stained pirate, who in neighbouring climes, Might fear, lest justice should o’ertake his crimes, Wisely may bear the sea’s tempestuous roar, And rather wait the storm, than make the sh.o.r.e; But can the mariner, who sailed in vain In search of fancy’d treasure on the main, By hope deceiv’d, by endless whirlwinds tost, His strength exhausted, and his viands lost, When land invites him to receive at last A full reward for every danger past: Can he then wish his labours to renew, And fly the port just opening to his view?

Not less the folly of the timorous mind, Which dreads that peace, it ever longs to find; Which worn with age, and tost in endless strife On this rough ocean, this tempestuous life, Still covets pain, and shakes with abject fear, When sickness points to death, and shews the haven near.

The love of life, it yet must be confest, Was fixed by Nature in the human breast; And Heaven thought fit that fondness to employ.

To teach us to preserve the brittle toy.

But why, when knowledge has improv’d our thought, Years undeceived us, and affliction taught; Why do we strive to grasp with eager hand, And stop the course of life’s quick-ebbing sand?

Why vainly covet, what we can’t sustain?

Why, dead to pleasure, would we live to pain?

What is this sentence, from which all would fly?

Oh! what this horrible decree–to die?

Tis but to quit, what hourly we despise A fretful dream, that tortures as it flies.– But hold my pen!–nor let a picture stand Thus darkly coloured by this gloomy hand: Minds deeply wounded, or with spleen opprest, Grow sick of life, and sullen sink to rest: But when the soul, possest of its desires, Glows with more warmth, and burns with brighter fires; When friendship soothes each care, and love imparts Its mutual raptures to congenial hearts; When joyful life thus strikes the ravish’d eye, ‘Tis then a task, a painful task to die.

See! where Philario, poor Philario! lies, Philario late the happy, as the wise!

Connubial love, and friendship’s pleasing power Fill’d his good heart, and crown’d his every hour: But sickness bids him those lost joys deplore, And death now tells him, they are his no more.

Blest in each name of Husband, Father, Friend, Must those strong ties, those dear connexions end?

Must be thus leave to all the woes of life His helpless child, his unprotected wife?

While thus to earth these lov’d ideas bind, And tear his lab’ring–his distracted mind: How shall that mind its wretched fate defy?

How calm his trouble, and how learn to die?

In vain would Faith before his eyes display The opening realms of never-ending day; Superior love his faithful soul detains Bound, strongly bound, in Adamantine chains.

But lo! the gates of pitying Heaven unfold: A form, that earth rejoices to behold.

Descends: her energy with sweetness join’d, Speaks the bright mission for relief design’d: See! to Philario moves the flood of light; And Resignation bursts upon his sight: See! to the Cross, bedew’d with sacred gore, Humbly she points, and bids the world adore; Then sweetly breathing in his soul inspires A Christian spirit, and devout desires.– Hark! his last wish, his dying pray’r’s begun: “Lord, as in Heaven, on earth thy will be done!”

Calm is his soul; his painful struggles cease; He bows adoring, and expires in peace.

O! Resignation; thou unerring guide To human weakness, and to earthly pride, Friend to Distress, who canst alone controul Each rising tumult in the mad’ning soul; ‘Tis thine alone from dark despair to save, To soothe the woes of life, and terrors of the grave: Thro’ this rough world a.s.sist me with thy power!

Calm every thought! adorn my latest hour, Sustain my spirit, and confirm my mind, Serene tho’ feeling, chearful tho’ resign’d!

And thou! my friend, while thus in artless verse Thy mind I copy, and thy thoughts rehea.r.s.e; Let one memorial, tho’ unpolish’d, stand Rais’d to thy friendship by this grateful hand!

By partial favour let my verse be tried, And ‘gainst thy judgement let thy love decide!

Tho’ I no longer must thy converse share, Hear thy kind counsel, see thy pleasing care; Yet mem’ry still upon the past shall dwell, And still the wishes of my heart shall tell: O! be the cup of joy to thee consign’d, Of joy unmix’d, without a dreg behind!

For no rough monitor thy soul requires, To check the frenzy of too rash desires; No poignant grief, to prove its latent worth, No pain to wean it from the toys of earth; Thy soul untroubled can alike survey This gloomy world, and Heaven’s immortal day: Then while the current of thy blood shall flow, While Heaven yet lends thee to thy friends below; Round thee may pleasure spread a chearful scene, Mild as thy heart, and as thy soul serene!

And O! when Time shall bid thee yield thy breath, And take thy pa.s.sage thro’ the gates of death, May that last path without a pang be trod, And one short sigh conduct thee to thy G.o.d!

FELPHAM:

AN EPISTLE TO HENRIETTA OF LAVANT.

1814.

FELPHAM.

Hail Felpham! Hail! in youth my favorite scene!

First in my heart of villages marine!

To me thy waves confirm’d my truest wealth, My only parent’s renovated health, Whose love maternal, and whose sweet discourse Gave to my feelings all their cordial force: Hence mindful, how her tender spirit blest Thy salutary air, and balmy rest; Thee, as profuse of recollections sweet, Fit for a pensive veteran’s calm retreat, I chose, as provident for sure decay, A nest for age in life’s declining day!

Reserving Eartham for a darling son, Confiding in our threads of life unspun: Blind to futurity!–O blindness, given As mercy’s boon to man from pitying Heaven!

Man could not live, if his prophetic eyes View’d all afflictions, ere they will arise.

Think, gentle friend, who saw’st, in chearful hour Thy poet planning a sequestered tower, And gayly rearing, in affection’s pride, His little villa by the ocean’s side; Encircled then by friendly artists, three, Full of sweet fancy, and of social glee, Think what sensations must have pierc’d his breast Had a prophetic voice this truth exprest: O’er thy new fabric ere six year’s have fled Lonely thou’lt mourn all these dear inmates dead.

The unrelenting grave absorb’d them all, And in the shade of this domestic wall, Which, as it rose re-echoed to their voice, And heard them in gay presages rejoice Of future studies, works of special note!

That each, to deck these precincts, would devote.

Here robb’d of them, their leader, and their friend, Of their kind visions feels the mournful end, Afflicted, and alone!–Yet not alone!

Their hovering spirits make this scene their own.

O sweet prerogative of love sublime!

Which so can soften destiny, and time, That grief-worn hearts, by Fancy’s charm revive!

The lost are present! the deceas’d alive!

Yes! ye dear buried inmates of my mind!

Your converse still within these walls I find; In hours of study, and in hours of rest, You still to me my purest thoughts suggest: My heart’s propensities you cherish still To Heaven thanksgiving! and to earth good-will!

In you I still behold affection’s smile, Which can all troubles of the heart beguile; I hear your kind approvance of my zeal, When, anxious all your merits to reveal, Having consign’d your bones to sacred earth, My mind aspir’d to memorize your worth.

Grateful employment of the feeling soul!

That, in despite of sorrow’s dark controul Keeps the pure form of deathless virtue bright By just commemoration’s soothing light!

For such employment thou wast aptly made, Thou dear sequester’d cell! in whose calm shade Thy lonely bard might suit his plaintive strain, To solemn music from the murmuring main!

Belov’d marine retreat! I oft recall The night, I first repos’d within thy wall: A night devoted, at a friend’s desire, To touch the chords of a sepulchral lyre!

Touch’d not in vain!–The faithful tribute brought To cureless grief the lenitive, she sought; And Lushington, thro’ tearful anguish, smil’d On truth’s memorial of her darling child.

Little I thought, when eager to bestow The heart’s pure offering on parental woe, How soon my filial pride, and friend most dear, Would claim the “meed of a melodious tear.”

Dear sacred shades of Cowper! and my Son!

Who, in my fond affection, liv’d as one!

Congenial inmates! on whose loss I found The sweetest light of life in darkness drown’d!

Oft have ye witness’d, while, in this calm cell, Ye watch’d the lonely bard, ye lov’d so well, Oft have ye witness’d, how his struggling mind Labour’d affliction’s fetters to unbind, Ere his o’er-burthen’d faculties could cope With that ambitious task of tender hope, To render justice to you both; and frame } Memorials worthy of each honour’d name: } A debt the heart must feel! & truth, and nature claim! } Your smile, dear visionary guests of night!

O’er my nocturnal hours breath’d new delight; Made me exult in labour, plann’d for you!

Its progress from your inspiration grew: The toil was sweet, that your approvance cheer’d; For what your love inspir’d, that love endear’d.

Nor unregarded by the fair, and great, Was your recluse in this sequester’d state; When I began, by just records, to prove How Cowper merited our country’s love; The loveliest regent of poetic taste; First of the fair; with all attractions grac’d!

Friend of the muses! and herself a muse!

Her bright eyes dimm’d with sorrow’s sacred dews, The high-born beauty, in whose lot combin’d All–that could charm and grieve a feeling mind, Shar’d with me, in my cell, some pensive hours; Herself most eloquent on Cowper’s powers, Urg’d to his willing Eulogist his claim To public grat.i.tude, and purest fame.

The memoir, as by gradual toil it grows, Endears the tranquil scene, in which it rose; And sheds, since public favor blest the page, A soothing l.u.s.tre on my letter’d age.

The dues of faithful memory fondly paid To him, devotion’s bard! dear sacred shade!

Then my paternal hand was prompt to raise To that blest pupil, who had shar’d his praise A similar record of tender truth; The genuine portraiture of studious youth– Task of such pleasing pain, as pierc’d the heart Of Daedalus, the sire of antient art!

When, in fond zeal, his busy hand begun To mould the story of his hapless son, But falter’d, while, o’erwhelm’d in mournful thought, He work’d, and wept upon the work, he wrought.

Ah peerless youth! whose highly-gifted hand Could all varieties of skill command, Ere illness undermin’d thy powers to use The Sculptor’s chizzel, and the Painter’s hues!

Had thy ascending talents, unenchain’d, Of studious life the promis’d zenith gain’d, Confederate arts would then have joy’d to see Their English Michael Angelo in thee.

But never be it by true love forgot, Thou hast a higher, and a happier lot!

The prime of blessings, in a world like this, Is early transit to the realms of bliss: Thence thy pure spirit oft will charm to rest Those pangs of fond regret, that pierce my breast, When recollection mournfully surveys Unfinish’d products of thy studious days.

Ah what a host of filial fair designs: Where, springing from the heart, the fancy shines, Thy enterprising mind had here bestow’d, To honour Felpham as thy sire’s abode!

All to thy mental eyes were present here; The scene, we join’d to deck, all yet endear, Tho’ hardly embrios of plastic grace, Many yet want their features, and their place.

These vacant circlets, that still court mine eye, Can I survey, without a bursting sigh, When fond remembrance tells me that from these Thy filial hand, tho’ robb’d of strength and ease, Yet inly conscious of ingenious power, Resolv’d, in labour’s first reviving hour, To fashion portraits claiming just regard, The Tuscan sculptor! and the Grecian bard!

Whom ’twas thy hope in marble to create As honour’d guardians of thy poet’s gate; There is no spot within this Villa’s bound, E’en to the Turret’s topmost airy round, Which thy kind fancy, that no ills could check.

With sweet ideal projects fail’d to deck: Eager to fix around, below, above, Proofs of thy skill, and monuments of love!

———-

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