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His phrase grows big with immortality,
And he, poor insect of a summer's day!
Dreams of eternal honours to his name;
Of endless glory and perennial bays.
He idly reasons of eternity,
As of the train of ages,—when, alas !
Ten thousand thousand of his centuries
Are, in comparison, a little point
Too trivial for accompt.-0, it is strange,
'Tis passing strange, to mark his fallacies ;
Behold him proudly view some pompous pile,
Whose high dome swells to emulate the skies,
And smile, and say, my name shall live with this
Till Time shall be no more; while at his feet,
Yea, at his very feet, the crumbling dust
Of the fallen fabric of the other day
Preaches the solemn lesson. He should know
That Time must conquer; that the loudest blast
That ever fillid Renown's obstreperous trump
Fades in the lapse of ages, and expires.
Who lies inhumed in the terrific gloom
Of the gigantic pyramid? or who
Rear'd its huge walls ? Oblivion laughs, and
says, The prey is mine.-They sleep, and never more Their names shall strike
the ear of man; Their memory bursts its fetters.
Where is Rome? She lives but in the tale of other times ; Her proud pavilions are the hermit's home, And her long colonnades, her public walks, Now faintly echo to the pilgrim's feet, Who comes to muse in solitude, and trace, Through the rank moss reveal'd, her honour'd dust. But not to Rome alone has fate confined
The doom of ruin ; cities numberless,
Tyre, Sidon, Carthage, Babylon, and Troy,
And rich Phænicia—they are blotted out,
Half-razed from memory, and their very name
And being in dispute.-Has Athens fallen?
Is polish'd Greece become the savage seat
Of ignorance and sloth ? and shall we dare
And empire seeks another hemisphere.
Where now is Britain?_Where her laurell'd names,
Her palaces and halls? Dash'd in the dust,
Some second Vandal hath reduced her pride,
ind with one big recoil hath thrown her back
To primitive barbarity.--Again,
Through her depopulated vales, the scream
Of bloody Superstition hollow rings,
And the scared native of the tempest howls
The yell of deprecation. O'er her marts,
Her crowded ports, broods Silence; and the cry
Of the low curlew, and the pensive dash
Of distant billows, breaks alone the void.
Even as the
That marks where stood her capitols, and hears
The bittern booming in the weeds, he shrinks
From the dismaying solitude.--Her bards
Sing in a language that hath perished;
And their wild harps suspended o’er their graves,
Sigh to the desert winds a dying strain.
Meanwhile the Arts, in second infancy, Rise in some distant clime, and then, perchance, Some bold adventurer, fill'd with golden dreams,
Steering his bark through trackless solitudes,
Where, to his wandering thoughts, no daring prow
Hath ever plough'd before, -espies the cliffs
Of fallen Albion. To the land unknown
He journeys joyful ; and perhaps descries
Some vestige of her ancient stateliness :
Then he, with vain conjecture, fills his mind
Of the unheard-of race, which had arrived
At science in that solitary nook,
Far from the civil world; and sagely sighs,
And moralizes on the state of man.
Still on its march, unnoticed and unfelt,
Moves on our being. We do live and breathe,
And we are gone. The spoiler heeds us not.
We have our spring-time and our rottenness;
And as we fall, another race succeeds,
To perish likewise. Meanwhile Nature smiles-
The seasons run their round_The Sun fulfils
His annual course—and heaven and earth remain
Still changing, yet unchanged-still doom'd to feel
Endless mutation in perpetual rest.
Where are concealed the days which have elapsed?
Hid in the mighty cavern of the past,
They rise upon us only to appal,
By indistinct and half-glimpsed images,
Misty, gigantic, huge, obscure, remote.
Oh, it is fearful, on the midnight couch, When the rude rushing winds forget to rave, And the pale moon, that through the casement high Surveys the sleepless muser, stamps the hour Of utter silence; it is fearful then To steer the mind, in deadly solitude, Up the vague stream of probability : To wind the mighty secrets of the past,
And turn the key of Time! Oh! who can strive
To comprehend the vast, the awful truth,
Of the eternity that hath gone by,
And not recoil from the dismaying sense
Of human impotence? The life of man
Is summ'd in birth-days and in sepulchres:
But the Eternal God had no beginning;
He hath no end. Time had been with him
For everlasting, ere the dædal world
Rose from the gulf in loveliness.—Like him
It knew no source; like him 'twas uncreate.
What is it then the past Eternity!
We comprehend a future without end;
We feel it possible that even yon sun
May roll for ever: but we shrink amazed-
We stand aghast, when we reflect that Time
Knew no commencement. That heap age on age,
And million upon million, without end,
And we shall never span the void of days
That were, and are not but in retrospect.
The Past is an unfathomable depth,
Beyond the span of thought : 'tis an elapse
Which hath no mensuration, but hath been
For ever and for ever.
Change of days
To us is sensible; and each revolve
Of the recording sun conducts us on
Farther in life, and nearer to our goal.
Not so with Time,-mysterious chronicler !
He knoweth not mutation ;-centuries
Are to his being as a day, and days
As centuries.-Time past, and Time to come,
Are always equal; when the world began
God had existed from eternity.
Now look on man
Myriads of ages hence.-Hath time elapsed?
Is he not standing in the self-same place
Where once we stood ?—The same eternity
before him, and is yet to come;
His past is not of longer span
Though myriads of ages intervened;
For who can add to what has neither sum,
Nor bound, nor source, nor estimate, nor end?
Oh, who can compass the Almighty mind?
Who can unlock the secrets of the High?
In speculations of an altitude
Sublime as this, our reason stands confess'd
Foolish, and insignificant, and mean.
Who can apply the futile argument
Of finite beings to infinity?
He might as well compress the universe
Into the hollow compass of a gourd,
Scoop'd out by human art; or bid the whale
Drink up the sea it swims in.-Can the less
Contain the greater? or the dark obscure
Infold the glories of meridian day?.
What does Philosophy impart to man
But undiscover'd wonders ?-Let her soar
Even to her proudest heights-to where she caught
The soul of Newton and of Socrates,
She but extends the scope of wild amaze
And admiration. All her lessons end
In wider views of God's unfathom'd depths.
Lo! the unletter'd hind, who never knew
To raise his mind excursive to the heights
Of abstract contemplation, as he sits
On the green hillock by the hedge-row side,
What time the insect swarms are murmuring,
And marks in silent thought, the broken clouds