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Though clasp'd and cradled in his nurse's arms, He shines with all a cherub's artless charms. Man is the genuine offspring of revolt, Stubborn and sturdy, a wild ass's colt; His passions, like the watry stores that sleep Beneath the smiling surface of the deep, Wait but the lashes of a wintry storm, To frown and roar, and shake his feeble form. From infancy through childhood's giddy maze, Froward at school, and fretful in his plays, The puny tyrant burns to subjugate The free republic of the whip-gig state. If one, his equal in athletic frame, Or, more provoking still, of nobler name, Dare step across his arbitrary views, An Iliad, only not in verse, ensues: The little Greeks look trembling at the scales, Till the best tongue, or heaviest hand prevails.
Now see him launch'd into the world at large ; If priest, supinely droning o'er his charge, Their fleece his pillow, and his weekly drawl, Though short, too long, the price he pays for all, If lawyer, loud whatever cause he plead, But proudest of the worst, if that succeed,
Perhaps a grave physician, gath'ring fees,
Punctually paid for length’ning out disease;
No COTTON, whose humanity sheds rays,
That make superior skill his second praise.
If arms engage him, he devotes to sport
His date of life, so likely to be short;
A soldier may be any thing, if brave,
So may a tradesman, if not quite a knave.
Such stuff the world is made of; and mankind
To passion, int'rest, pleasure, whim, resigu’d,
Insist on, as if each were his own pope,
Forgiveness, and the privilege of hope,
But Conscience, in some awful silent hour,
When captivating lusts have lost their pow'r,
Perhaps when sickness, or some fearful dream,
Reminds him of religion, hated theme!
Starts from the down, on which she lately slept,
And tells of laws despis'd, at least not kept:
Shows with a pointing finger, but no noise,
A pale procession of past sinful joys,
All witnesses of blessings foully scorn'd,
And life abus'd, and not to be suborn'd.
Mark these, she says; these summond from afar,
Begin their march to meet thee at the bar;
There find a Judge inexorably just,
And perish there, as all presumption must.
Peace be to those (such peace as Earth can give)
Who live in pleasure, dead ev'n while they live;
Born capable indeed of heav'nly truth;
But down to latest age, from earliest youth,
Their mind a wilderness through want of care,
The plough of wisdom never ent’ring there.
Peace (if insensibility may claim
A right to the meek honours of her name)
To men of pedigree, their noble race,
Emulous always of the nearest place
To any throne, except the throne of Grace.
Let cottagers and unenlighten'd swains
Revere the laws they dream that Heav'n ordains;
Resort on Sundays to the house of pray'r,
And ask, and fancy they find, blessings there.
Themselves, perhaps, when weary they retreat
T' enjoy cool nature in a country seat,
T exchange the centre of a thousand trades,
For clumps, and lawns, and temples, and cascades,
May now and then their velvet cushions take,
And seem to pray for good example sake;
Thus hopes of ev'ry sort, whatever sect
Esteem them, sow them, rear them, and protect,
If wild in nature, and not duly found,
Gethsemane! in thy dear hallow'd ground,
That cannot bear the blaze of Scripture light,
Nor cheer the spirit, nor refresh the sight,
Nor animate the soul to Christian deeds,
(Oh cast them from thee!) are weeds, arrant weeds.
Ethelred's house, the centre of six ways,
Diverging each from each, like equal rays,
Himself as bountiful as April rains,
Lord paramount of the surrounding plains,
Would give relief of bed and board to none,
But guests that sought it in th' appointed ONE:
And they might enter at his open door,
Ev'n till his spacious hall would hold no more.
He sent a servant forth by ev'ry road,
To sound his horn, and publish it abroad,
That all might mark-knight, menial, high, and
low, An ordnance it concern'd them much to know. If after all some headstrong hardy lout Would disobey, though sure to be shut out,
Could he with reason murmur at his case,
Himself sole author of his own disgrace?.
No! the decree was just and without flaw;
And he, that made, had right to make, the law;
His sov’reign pow'r and pleasure unrestrain'd,
wrong was his, who wrongfully complain’d.
Yet half mankind maintain a churlish strife
With Him, the Donor of eternal life,
Because the deed, by which his love confirms
The largess he bestows, prescribes the terms.
Compliance with his will your lot ensures,
Accept it only, and the boon is yours.
And sure it is as kind to smile and give,
As with a frown to say, Do this, and live.
Love is not pedlar's trump'ry bought and sold:
He will give freely, or he will withhold;
His soul abhors a mercenary thought,
And him as deeply who abhors it not;
He stipulates indeed, but merely this,
That man will freely take an unbought bliss,
Will trust him for a faithful gen'rous part,
Nor set a price upon a willing heart.
Of all the ways that seem to promise fair,
To place you where his saints his presence share,