Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DEATH; PINDARIC ODE, by CHARLES COTTON



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DEATH; PINDARIC ODE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: At a melancholic season
Last Line: There is no refuge, but the friendly grave.
Subject(s): Death; Dead, The


I

AT a melancholic season,
As alone I musing sat,
I fell, I know not how, to reason
With myself of Man's estate,
How subject unto Death and Fate;
Names that mortals so affright,
As turns the brightest day to night,
And spoils of living the delight,
With which, so soon as life is tasted,
Lest we should too happy be,
Even in our infancy,
Our joys are quash'd, our hopes are blasted;
For the first thing that we hear,
(Us'd to still us when we cry)
The nurse to keep the child in fear,
Discreetly tells it, it must die,
Be put into a hole, eaten with worms;
Presenting Death in thousand ugly forms;
Which tender minds so entertain,
As ever after to retain,
By which means we are cowards bred,
Nurs'd with unnecessary dread,
And ever dream of dying 'till we're dead.

II

Death! thou child's bug-bear, thou fool's terror,
Ghastly set forth the weak to awe;
Begot by fear, increased by error,
Whom none but a sick fancy ever saw,
Thou who art only fear'd
By the illiterate, and tim'rous herd,
But by the wise
Esteemed the greatest of felicities.
Why, sithence by an universal law,
Entail'd upon mankind thou art,
Should any dread, or seek t' avoid thy dart,
When of the two, fear is the greatest smart?
O senseless Man, who vainly flies
What Heaven has ordain'd to be
The remedy
Of all thy mortal pains, and miseries.

III

Sorrow, want, sickness, injury, mischance,
The happiest man's certain inheritance,
With all the various ills,
Which the wide world with mourning fills,
Or by corruption, or disaster bred,
Are for the living all, not for the dead,
When Life's sun sets, Death is a bed
With sable curtains spread,
Where we lie down
To rest the weary limbs, and careful head,
And to the good, a bed of down
There, there no frightful tintamarre
Of tumult in the many headed beast,
Nor all the loud artillery of war,
Can fright us from that sweet, that happy rest,
Wherewith the still, and silent grave is blest;
Nor all the rattle, that above they keep,
Break our repose, or rouse us from that everlasting sleep.

IV

The grave is privileg'd from noise, and care,
From tyranny, and wild oppression,
Violence has so little power there,
Ev'n worst oppressors let the dead alone;
We're there secure from Princes' frowns,
The insolences of the Great,
From the rude hands of barb'rous clowns,
And policies of those that sweat
The simple to betray, and cheat;
Or, if some one with sacrilegious hand,
Would persecute us after Death,
His want of power shall his will withstand,
And he shall only lose his breath;
For all that he by that shall gain,
Will be dishonour for his pain,
And all the clutter he can keep
Will only serve to rock us whilst we soundly sleep.

V

The Dead no more converse with tears,
With idle jealousies and fears,
No danger makes the dead man start,
No idle love torments his heart,
No loss of substance, parents, children, friends,
Either his peace, or sleep offends;
Nought can provoke his anger, or despite,
He out of combat is, and injury,
'Tis he of whom Philosophers so write,
And who would be a Stoic let him die,
For whilst we living are, what man is he,
Who the World's wrongs does either feel, or see,
That possibly from passion can be free?
But must put on
A noble indignation
Warranted both by virtue, and religion.

VI

Then let me die and no more subject be,
Unto the tyrannizing pow'rs,
To which this short Mortality of ours,
Is either preordain'd by Destiny,
Or bound by natural infirmity,
We nothing, whilst we here remain,
But sorrow and repentance gain,
Nay, ev'n our very joys, are pain:
Or being past,
To woe, and torment turn at last:
Nor is there yet any so sacred place,
Where we can sanctuary find,
No man's a friend to sorrow, and disgrace;
But flying one, we other mischiefs meet;
Or if we kinder entertainment find,
We bear the seeds of sorrow in the mind,
And keep our frailty, when we shift our feet.
Whilst we are men we still our passions have,
And he that is most free, is his own slave,
There is no refuge, but the friendly Grave.





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