Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
VII. Death: Immortality: Heaven
Soliloquy: On Immortality
Joseph Addison (1672–1719)
From “Cato,” Act V. Sc. 1.

SCENE.—CATO, sitting in a thoughtful posture, with Plato’s book on the Immortality of the Soul in his hand, and a drawn sword on the table by him.

  IT must be so—Plato, thou reasonest well!—
Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire,
This longing after immortality?
Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror,
Of falling into naught? Why shrinks the soul        5
Back on herself, and startles at destruction?
’T is the divinity that stirs within us;
’T is Heaven itself, that points out a hereafter,
And intimates eternity to man.
  Eternity!—thou pleasing, dreadful thought!        10
Through what variety of untried being,
Through what new scenes and changes, must we pass!
The wide, the unbounded prospect lies before me;
But shadows, clouds, and darkness rest upon it.
Here will I hold. If there ’s a Power above us        15
(And that there is, all Nature cries aloud
Through all her works), he must delight in virtue;
And that which he delights in must be happy.
But when? or where? This world was made for Cæsar.
I ’m weary of conjectures,—this must end ’em.        20
(Laying his hand on his sword.)
  Thus am I doubly armed: my death and life,
My bane and antidote, are both before me:
This in a moment brings me to an end;
But this informs me I shall never die.
The soul, secured in her existence, smiles        25
At the drawn dagger, and defies its point.
The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
Grow dim with age, and Nature sink in years;
But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,
Unhurt amid the war of elements,        30
The wrecks of matter, and the crush of worlds!

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