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Oh blest proficiency ! surpassing all That men erroneously their glory call, The recompense that arts or arms can yield, The bar, the senate, and the tented field. Compared with this sublimest life below, Ye kings and rulers, what have courts to show Thus studied, used and consecrated thus, On earth what is, seems formed indeed for us ; Not as the plaything of a froward child, Fretful unless diverted and beguiled, Much less to feed and fan the fatal fires Of pride, ambition, or impure desires, But as a scale, by which the soul ascends From mighty means to more important ends, Securely, though by steps but rarely trod, Mounts from inferior beings up to God, And sees, by no fallacious light or dim, Earth made for man, and man himself for him.
Not that I mean to approve, or would enforce, A superstitious and monastic course : Truth is not local, God alike pervades And fills the world of traffic and the shades, And may be feared amidst the busiest scenes, Or scorned where business never intervenes. But 'tis not easy with a mind like our's, Conscious of weakness in its nablest powers,
And in a world where, other ills apart,
The roving eye misleads the careless heart,
To limit thought, by nature prone to stray
Wherever freakish fancy points the way;
To bid the pleadings of self-love be still,
Resign our own and seek our Maker's will ;
To spread the page of scripture, and compare
Our conduct with the laws engraven there;
To measure all that passes in the breast,
Faithfully, fairly, by that sacred test ;
To dive into the secret deeps within,
To spare no passion and no favourite sin,
And search the themes, important above all,
Ourselves and our recovery from our fall.
But leisure, silence, and a mind released
From anxious thoughts how wealth may be increased,
How to secure, in some propitious hour,
The point of interest or the post of power,
A soul serene, and equally retired
From objects too much dreaded or desired,
Safe from the clamours of perverse dispute,
At least are friendly to the great pursuit.
Opening the map of God's extensive plan,
We find a li.tle isle, this life of man;
Eternity's unknown expanse appears
Circiing around and limiting his years:
The busy race examine, and explore Each creek and cavern of the dangerous shore, With care collect what in their eyes excels, Some shining pebbles, and some weeds and shells; Thus laden, dream that they are rich and great, And happiest he that groans beneath his weight: The waves overtake them in their serious play, And every hour sweeps multitudes
They shriek and sink, survivors start and weep,
Pursue their sport, and follow to the deep.
A few forsake the throng; with lifted eyes
Ask wealth of heaven, and gain a real prize,
Truth, wisdom, grace, and peace like that above,
Sealed with his signet, whom they serve and love ;
Scorned by the rest, with patient hope they wait
A kind release from their imperfect state,
And unregretted are soon snatched away
From scenes of sorrow into glorious day.
Nor these alone prefer a life recluse,
Who seek retirement for its proper use ;
The love of change, that lives in every breast,
Genius, and temper, and desire of rest,
Discordant motives in one centre meet,
And each inclines its votary to retreat.
Some minds by nature are averse to noise,
And hate the tumult half the world enjoys,
The lure of avarice, or the pompous prize,
That courts display before ambitious eyes ;
The fruits that hang on pleasure's flowery stem,
Whatever enchants them, are no snares to them.
To them the deep recess of dusky groves,
Or forest, where the deer securely roves,
ΤΙ fall of waters, and the song of birds,
And hills, that echo to the distant herds,
Are luxuries excelling all the glare
The world can boast, and her chief favourites share.
With eager step, and carelessly arrayed,
For such a cause the poet seeks the shade,
From all he sees he catches new delight,
Pleased fancy claps her pinions at the sight,
The rising or the setting orb of day,
The clouds that fit, or slowly float away,
Nature in all the various shapes she wears,
Frowning in storms, or breathing gentle airs,
The snowy robe her wintry state assumes,
Her summer heats, her fruits, and her perfumes,
All, all alike transport the glowing bard,
Success in rhyme his glory and reward.
Oh nature! whose Elysian scenes disclose
His bright perfections, at whose word they rose,
Next to that power, who formed thee and sustains,
Be thou the great inspirer
Still, as I touch the lyre, do thou expand
Thy genuine charms, and guide an artless hand,
That I may catch a fire but rarely known,
Give useful light though I should miss
renown, And, poring on thy page, whose
Bears proof of an intelligence divine,
May feel an heart enriched by what it pays,
That builds its glory on its Maker's praise.
Woe to the man, whose wit disclaims its use,
Glittering in vain, or only to seduce,
Who studies nature with a wanton eye,
Admires the work, but slips the lesson by ;
His hours of leisure and recess employs
In drawing pictures of forbidden joys,
Retires to blazon his own worthless name,
Or shoot the careless with a surer aim.
The lover too shuns business and alarms,
Tender idolater of absent charms.
Saints offer nothing in their warmest prayers,
That he devotes not with a zeal like their's ;
"Tis consecration of his heart, soul, time,
And every thought that wanders, is a crime.
In sighs he worships his supremely fair,
And weeps a sad libation in despair,
Adores a creature, and, devout in vain,
Wins in return an answer of disdain: