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VISIONS IN VERSE: 8. LIFE, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Let not the young my precepts shun
Last Line: The genius suddenly withdrew.
Subject(s): Human Behavior; Life; Conduct Of Life; Human Nature

LET not the young my precepts shun;
Who slight good counsels are undone.
Your poet sung of Love's delights,
Of halcyon days and joyous nights;
To the gay fancy lovely themes;
And fain I'd hope they're more than dreams.
But, if you please, before we part,
I'd speak a language to your heart.
We'll talk of Life, though much, I fear,
The' ungrateful tale will wound your ear.
You raise your sanguine thoughts too high,
And hardly know the reason why:
But say Life's tree bears golden fruit,
Some canker shall corrode the root;
Some unexpected storm shall rise;
Or scorching suns, or chilling skies;
And (if experienc'd truths avail)
All your autumnal hopes shall fail.
'But, poet, whence such wide extremes?
Well may you style your labours dreams.
A son of sorrow thou, I ween,
Whose visions are the brats of Spleen.
Is bliss a vague unmeaning name—
Speak then the passions' use or aim;
Why rage desires without control,
And rouse such whirlwinds in the soul;
Why Hope erects her towering crest,
And laughs, and riots in the breast?
Think not, my weaker brain turns round,
Think not, I tread on fairy ground.
Think not, your pulse alone beats true—
Mine makes as healthful music too.
Our joys, when life's soft spring we trace,
Put forth their early buds apace.
See the bloom loads the tender shoot,
The bloom conceals the future fruit.
Yes, manhood's warm meridian sun
Shall ripen what in spring begun.
Thus infant roses, ere they blow,
In germinating clusters grow;
And only wait the summer's ray,
To burst and blossom to the day.'
What said the gay unthinking boy?—
Methought Hilario talk'd of joy!
Tell, if thou canst, whence joys arise,
Or what those mighty joys you prize.
You'll find (and trust superior years)
The vale of life a vale of tears.
Could Wisdom teach, where joys abound,
Or riches purchase them, when found,
Would scepter'd Solomon complain,
That all was fleeting, false, and vain?
Yet scepter'd Solomon could say,
Returning clouds obscur'd his day.
Those maxims, which the preacher drew,
The royal sage experienc'd true.
He knew the various ills that wait
Our infant and meridian state;
That toys our earliest thoughts engage,
And different toys maturer age;
That grief at every stage appears,
But different griefs at different years;
That vanity is seen, in part,
Inscrib'd on every human heart;
In the child's breast the spark began,
Grows with his growth, and glares in man.
But when in life we journey late,
If follies die, do griefs abate?
Ah! what is life at fourscore years?—
One dark, rough road of sighs, groans, pains, and tears!
Perhaps you'll think I act the same,
As a sly sharper plays his game:
You triumph every deal that's past,
He's sure to triumph at the last;
Who often wins some thousands more
Than twice the sum you won before.
But I'm a loser with the rest,
For Life is all a deal at best;
Where not the prize of wealth or fame,
Repays the trouble of the game;
(A truth no winner e'er denied,
An hour before that winner died.)
Not that with me these prizes shine,
For neither fame nor wealth are mine.
My cards!—a weak plebeian band,
With scarce an honour in my hand.
And, since my trumps are very few,
What have I more to boast than you!
Nor am I gainer by your fall!
That harlot Fortune bubbles all.
'Tis truth (receive it ill or well)
'Tis melancholy truth I tell.
Why should the preacher take your pence,
And smother truth to flatter sense?
I'm sure physicians have no merit,
Who kill through lenity of spirit.
That Life's a game, divines confess,
This says at cards, and that at chess:
But if our views be center'd here,
'Tis all a losing game, I fear.
Sailors, you know, when wars obtain,
And hostile vessels crowd the main,
If they discover from afar
A bark, as distant as a star,
Hold the perspective to their eyes,
To learn its colours, strength, and size;
And when this secret once they know,
Make ready to receive the foe.
Let you and I from sailors learn
Important truths of like concern.
I clos'd the day, as custom led,
With reading, till the time of bed;
Where Fancy, at the midnight hour,
Again display'd her magic pow'r,
(For know, that Fancy, like a sprite,
Prefers the silent scenes of night.)
She lodg'd me in a neighbouring wood,
No matter where the thicket stood;
The Genius of the place was nigh,
And held two pictures to my eye.
The curious painter had portray'd
Life in each just and genuine shade.
They, who have only known its dawn,
May think these lines too deeply drawn,
But riper years, I fear, will shew,
The wiser artist paints too true.
One piece presents a rueful wild,
Where not a summer's sun had smil'd:
The road with thorns is cover'd wide,
And Grief sits weeping by the side;
Her tears with constant tenor flow,
And form a mournful lake below;
Whose silent waters, dark and deep,
Through all the gloomy valley creep.
Passions that flatter, or that slay,
Are beasts that fawn, or birds that prey.
Here Vice assumes the serpent's shape;
There Folly personates the ape;
Here Avarice gripes with harpies' claws;
There Malice grins with tygers' jaws;
While sons of mischief, Art and Guile,
Are alligators of the Nile.
Ev'n Pleasure acts a treacherous part,
She charms the sense, but stings the heart;
And when she gulls us of our wealth,
Or that superior pearl, our health,
Restores us nought but pains and woe,
And drowns us in the lake below.
There a commission'd angel stands,
With desolation in his hands!
He sends the all-devouring flame,
And cities hardly boast a name:
Or wings the pestilential blast,
And lo! ten thousands breathe their last:
He speaks—obedient tempests roar,
And guilty nations are no more:
He speaks—the fury Discord raves,
And sweeps whole armies to their graves:
Or Famine lifts her mildew'd hand,
And Hunger howls through all the land.
Oh! what a wretch is man, I cried,
Expos'd to death on every side!
And sure as born, to be undone
By evils which he cannot shun!
Besides a thousand baits to sin,
A thousand traitors lodg'd within!
For soon as Vice assaults the heart,
The rebels take the demon's part.
I sigh, my aching bosom bleeds;
When straight the milder plan succeeds.
The lake of tears, the dreary shore,
The same as in the piece before.
But gleams of light are here display'd,
To cheer the eye and gild the shade.
Affliction speaks a softer style,
And Disappointment wears a smile.
A group of Virtues blossom near,
Their roots improve by every tear.
Here Patience, gentle maid! is nigh,
To calm the storm, and wipe the eye;
Hope acts the kind physician's part,
And warms the solitary heart;
Religion nobler comfort brings,
Disarms our griefs, or blunts their stings;
Points out the balance on the whole,
And Heav'n rewards the struggling soul.
But while these raptures I pursue,
The Genius suddenly withdrew.

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