From The International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art, and Rare Manuscripts, Volume XXX, Editor-in-Chief: Harry Thurston Peck; The International Bibliophile Society, New York; 1901; pp. 11261-11264.
YOUNG, EDWARD, an eminent English poet, courtier, and clergyman; born at Upham, near Winchester, in 1681; died at Welwyn, Hertfordshire, April 12, 1765. He was educated at Winchester School, and at All Souls’ College, Oxford. In 1712, he commenced a career as poet and courtier. In 1728 Young completed his series of seven satires: “The Universal Passion — The Love of Fame.” At forty-five Young took orders in the Anglican Church, and was presented to the living of Welwyn in Hertfordshire, and received the honorary dignity of one of the chaplains to his Majesty. His best-known work is “Night Thoughts,” the first portion of which was published in 1742, the last in 1744. Young’s poetical works include panegyrics, odes, epistles, satires; a few dramatic pieces, the best of which is the tragedy of “Revenge” (1721); and the “Night Thoughts.”
BY nature’s law, what may be, may be now:
There’s no prerogative in human hours.
In human hearts what bolder thought can rise
Than man’s presumption on to-morrow’s dawn?
Where is to-morrow? In another world.
For numbers this is certain; the reverse
Is sure to none: and yet on this perhaps,
This peradventure, infamous for lies,
As on a rock of adamant we build
Our mountain hopes, spin out eternal schemes.
As we the fatal sisters could out-spin,
And big with life’s futurities expire.
Not e’en Philander had bespoke his shroud,
Nor had he cause; a warning was denied:
How many fall as sudden, not as safe;
As sudden, though for years admonished home!
Of human ills the last extreme beware;
Beware, Lorenzo, a slow sudden death.
12262 How dreadful that deliberate surprise!
Be wise to-day; ’t is madness to defer:
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is pushed out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
If not so frequent, would not this be strange?
That ’t is so frequent, this is stranger still.
Of man’s miraculous mistakes this bears
The palm — “That all men are about to live,
Forever on the brink of being born.”
All pay themselves the compliment to think
They one day shall not drivel: and their pride
On this reversion takes up ready praise, —
At least, their own; their future selves applaud
How excellent that life they ne’er will lead.
Time lodged in their own hands is folly’s vails;
That lodged in fate’s to wisdom they consign.
The thing they can’t but purpose, they postpone.
’T is not in folly not to scorn a fool.
And scarce in human wisdom to do more.
All promise is poor dilatory man,
And that through every stage: when young indeed,
In full content we sometimes nobly rest,
Unanxious for ourselves; and only wish,
As duteous sons, our fathers were more wise.
At thirty man suspects himself a fool,
Knows it at forty and reforms his plan;
At fifty chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves, and re-resolves, — then dies the same.
OUR dying friends come o’er us like a cloud,
To damp our brainless ardors; and abate
That glare of lie which often blinds the wise.
Our dying friends are pioneers, to smooth
Our rugged pass to death; to break those bars
Of terror and abhorrence Nature throws
’Cross our obstructed way; and thus to make
11263 Welcome as safe, our port from every storm.
Each friend by fate snatched from us is a plume
Plucked from the wing of human vanity,
Which makes us stoop from our aerial heights,
And, damped with omen of our own decease,
On drooping pinions of ambition lowered,
Just skim earth’s surface ere we break it up,
O’er putrid earth to scratch a little dust
And save the world a nuisance. Smitten friends
Are angels sent on errands of love:
For us they languish, shall they die, in vain?
Ungrateful, shall we grieve their hovering shades
Which wait the revolution in our hearts?
Shall we disdain their silent soft address,
Their posthumous advice and pious prayer?
Senseless as herds that graze their hallowed graves,
Tread underfoot their agonies and groans,
Frustrate their anguish and destroy their deaths?
O THOU great arbiter of life and death,
Nature’s immortal, unmaterial sun,
Whose all-prolific beam late called me forth
From darkness — teeming darkness where I lay,
The worm’s inferior, and in rank beneath
The dust I tread on — high to bear my brow,
To drink the spirit of the golden day,
And triumph in existence; and could know
No motive but my bliss; and hast ordained
A rise in blessing, with the patriarch’s joy, —
Thy call I follow to the land unknown.
I trust in thee, and know in whom I trust:
Or life, or death, is equal; neither weighs;
All weight in this, — Oh, let me live to thee!
TIRED nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep!
He, like the world, his ready visit pays
Where fortune smiles, the wretched he forsakes:
Swift on his downy pinions flies from woe,
And lights on lids unsullied with a tear.
From short (as usual) and disturbed repose,
I wake: how happy they who wake no more!
11264 Yet that were vain, if dreams infest the grave.
I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams
Tumultuous; where my wrecked desponding thought
From wave to wave of fancied misery
At random drove, her helm of reason lost:
Though now restored, ’t is only change of pain,
(A bitter change!) severer for severe:
The day too short for my distress! and Night,
Even in the zenith of her dark domain,
Is sunshine to the color of my fate.
Night, sable goddess! from her ebon throne,
In rayless majesty, now stretches forth
Her leaden sceptre o’er a slumbering world:
Silence, how dead! and darkness, how profound!
Nor eye, nor listening ear, an object finds:
Creation sleeps. ’T is as the general pulse
Of life stood still, and Nature made a pause —
An awful pause! — prophetic of her end.
And let her prophecy be soon fulfilled:
Fate! drop the curtain, — I can lose no more.
Silence and darkness! solemn sisters! twins
From ancient night, who nurse the tender thought
To reason, and on reason build resolve
(That column of true majesty in man),
Assist me: I will thank you in the grave;
The grave, your kingdom — there this frame shall fall
A victim sacred to your dreary shrine.
But what are ye? — Thou, who didst put to flight
Primeval silence, when the morning stars
Exulted, shouted o’er the rising ball,
O Thou! whose Word from solid darkness struck
That spark, the sun, — strike wisdom from my soul;
My soul which flies to thee, her trust, her treasure,
As misers to their gold, while others rest.