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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From ‘Night Thoughts’
By Edward Young (1681–1765)
 
Procrastination

BY nature’s law, what may be, may be now:
There’s no prerogative in human hours.
In human hearts what bolder thought can rise
Than man’s presumption on to-morrow’s dawn?
Where is to-morrow? In another world.        5
For numbers this is certain; the reverse
Is sure to none: and yet on this perhaps,
This peradventure, infamous for lies,
As on a rock of adamant we build
Our mountain hopes, spin out eternal schemes,        10
As we the fatal sisters could out-spin,
And big with life’s futurities expire.
Not e’en Philander had bespoke his shroud,
Nor had he cause; a warning was denied:
How many fall as sudden, not as safe;        15
As sudden, though for years admonished home!
Of human ills the last extreme beware;
Beware, Lorenzo, a slow sudden death.
How dreadful that deliberate surprise!
Be wise to-day; ’tis madness to defer:        20
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is pushed out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves        25
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
If not so frequent, would not this be strange?
That ’tis so frequent, this is stranger still.
Of man’s miraculous mistakes this bears
The palm,—“That all men are about to live,        30
Forever on the brink of being born.”
All pay themselves the compliment to think
They one day shall not drivel: and their pride
On this reversion takes up ready praise,—
At least, their own; their future selves applaud        35
How excellent that life they ne’er will lead.
Time lodged in their own hands is folly’s vails;
That lodged in fate’s to wisdom they consign.
The thing they can’t but purpose, they postpone.
’Tis not in folly not to scorn a fool,        40
And scarce in human wisdom to do more.
All promise is poor dilatory man,
And that through every stage: when young indeed,
In full content we sometimes nobly rest,
Unanxious for ourselves; and only wish,        45
As duteous sons, our fathers were more wise.
At thirty man suspects himself a fool,
Knows it at forty and reforms his plan;
At fifty chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;        50
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves, and re-resolves,—then dies the same.
 
The Death of Friends

OUR dying friends come o’er us like a cloud,
To damp our brainless ardors; and abate
That glare of life which often blinds the wise.        55
Our dying friends are pioneers, to smooth
Our rugged pass to death; to break those bars
Of terror and abhorrence Nature throws
’Cross our obstructed way; and thus to make
Welcome as safe, our port from every storm.        60
Each friend by fate snatched from us is a plume
Plucked from the wing of human vanity,
Which makes us stoop from our aerial heights,
And, damped with omen of our own decease,
On drooping pinions of ambition lowered,        65
Just skim earth’s surface ere we break it up,
O’er putrid earth to scratch a little dust
And save the world a nuisance. Smitten friends
Are angels sent on errands full of love:
For us they languish, shall they die, in vain?        70
Ungrateful, shall we grieve their hovering shades
Which wait the revolution in our hearts?
Shall we disdain their silent soft address,
Their posthumous advice and pious prayer?
Senseless as herds that graze their hallowed graves,        75
Tread underfoot their agonies and groans,
Frustrate their anguish and destroy their deaths?
 
Aspiration

O THOU great arbiter of life and death,
Nature’s immortal, unmaterial sun,
Whose all-prolific beam late called me forth        80
From darkness—teeming darkness where I lay,
The worm’s inferior, and in rank beneath
The dust I tread on—high to bear my brow,
To drink the spirit of the golden day,
And triumph in existence; and could know        85
No motive but my bliss; and hast ordained
A rise in blessing, with the patriarch’s joy,—
Thy call I follow to the land unknown.
I trust in thee, and know in whom I trust:
Or life, or death, is equal; neither weighs;        90
All weight in this,—Oh, let me live to thee!
 
Silence and Darkness

TIRED nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep!
He, like the world, his ready visit pays
Where fortune smiles, the wretched he forsakes:
Swift on his downy pinions flies from woe,        95
And lights on lids unsullied with a tear.
  From short (as usual) and disturbed repose,
I wake: how happy they who wake no more!
Yet that were vain, if dreams infest the grave.
I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams        100
Tumultuous; where my wrecked desponding thought
From wave to wave of fancied misery
At random drove, her helm of reason lost:
Though now restored, ’tis only change of pain,
(A bitter change!) severer for severe:        105
The day too short for my distress! and Night,
Even in the zenith of her dark domain,
Is sunshine to the color of my fate.
  Night, sable goddess! from her ebon throne,
In rayless majesty, now stretches forth        110
Her leaden sceptre o’er a slumbering world:
Silence, how dead! and darkness, how profound!
Nor eye, nor listening ear, an object finds;
Creation sleeps. ’Tis as the general pulse
Of life stood still, and Nature made a pause—        115
An awful pause!—prophetic of her end.
And let her prophecy be soon fulfilled:
Fate! drop the curtain,—I can lose no more.
  Silence and darkness! solemn sisters! twins
From ancient night, who nurse the tender thought        120
To reason, and on reason build resolve
(That column of true majesty in man),
Assist me: I will thank you in the grave;
The grave, your kingdom—there this frame shall fall
A victim sacred to your dreary shrine.        125
But what are ye?—Thou, who didst put to flight
Primeval silence, when the morning stars
Exulted, shouted o’er the rising ball,
O Thou! whose Word from solid darkness struck
That spark, the sun,—strike wisdom from my soul;        130
My soul which flies to thee, her trust, her treasure,
As misers to their gold, while others rest.
 
Formalism

O YE cold-hearted, frozen formalists!
On such a theme ’tis impious to be calm;
Passion is reason, transport temper, here!        135
Shall Heaven, which gave us ardor, and has shown
Her own for man so strongly, not disdain
What smooth emollients in theology
Recumbent virtue’s downy doctors preach,—
That prose of piety, a lukewarm phrase?        140
Rise odors sweet from incense uninflamed?
Devotion, when lukewarm, is undevout;
But when it glows, its heat is struck to heaven,
To human hearts her golden harps are strung;
High heaven’s orchestra chaunts Amen to man.        145
 
The Better Part

NO man is happy, till he thinks, on earth
There breathes not a more happy than himself:
Then envy dies, and love o’erflows on all;
And love o’erflowing makes an angel here:
Such angels all, entitled to repose        150
On Him who governs fate. Though tempest frowns,
Though nature shakes, how soft to lean on Heaven!
To lean on Him on whom archangels lean!
With inward eyes, and silent as the grave,
They stand collecting every beam of thought,        155
Till their eyes kindle with divine delight;
For all their thoughts, like angels, seen of old
In Israel’s dream, come from, and go to, heaven:
Hence are they studious of sequestered scenes;
While noise and dissipation comfort thee.        160
  Were all men happy, revelings would cease,—
That opiate for inquietude within.
Lorenzo! never man was truly blessed,
But it composed and gave him such a cast
As folly might mistake for want of joy.        165
A cast unlike the triumph of the proud;
A modest aspect, and a smile at heart.
Oh for a joy from thy Philander’s spring!
A spring perennial, rising in the breast,
And permanent as pure! no turbid stream        170
Of rapturous exultation swelling high;
Which, like land floods, impetuous pour awhile,
Then sink at once, and leave us in the mire.
What does the man who transient joy prefers?
What but prefer the bubbles to the stream?        175
 
 
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