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The dust of Ophir, or the Tyrian fleece,
All that art, fortune, enterprise can bring, If
envy, scorn, remorse, or pride the bosom wring ? 17 “Let Vanity adorn the marble tomb
With trophies, rhymes, and ’scutcheons of renown,
In the deep dungeon of some Gothic dome,
Where night and desolation ever frown.
Mine be the breezy hill that skirts the down,
Where a green, grassy turf is all I crave,
With here and there a violet bestrown,
Fast by a brook, or fountain's murmuring wave; And many an evening Sun shine sweetly on my grave. 18 “And thither let the village swain repair;
And, light of heart, the village maiden gay,
To deck with flowers her half-disheveli'd hair,
And celebrate the merry morn of May:
There let the shepherd's pipe the livelong day
Fill all the grove with love's bewitching woe;
And when mild Evening comes in mantle gray,
Let not the blooming band make haste to go; No ghost, nor spell, my long and last abode shall know. 19 “For though I fly to 'scape from Fortune's rage,
And bear the scars of envy, spite, and scorn,
Yet with mankind no horrid war I wage,
Yet with no impious spleen my breast is torn:
For virtue lost, and ruin'd man I mourn.
O man! creation's pride, Heaven's darling child,
Whom Nature's best, divinest gifts adorn,
Why from thy home are truth and joy exiled, And all thy favourite haunts with blood and tears defiled ? 20 “ Along yon glittering sky what glory streams!
What majesty attends Night's lovely queen!
Fair laugh our valleys in the vernal beams;
And mountains rise, and oceans roll between,
And all conspire to beautify the scene:
But, in the mental world, what chaos drear!
What forms of mournful, loathsome, furious mien !
0, when shall that Eternal Morn appear, These dreadful forms to chase, this chaos dark to clear? 21 “0 Thou, at whose creative smile, yon Heaven,
In all the pomp of beauty, life, and light,
Rose from th' abyss; when dark Confusion, driven
Down, down the bottomless profound of night,
Fled, where he ever flies thy piercing sight!
0, glance on these sad shades one pitying ray,
To blast the fury of oppressive might,
Melt the hard heart to love and mercy's sway,
And cheer the wandering soul, and light him on the way!”
22 Silence ensued; and Edwin raised his eyes
In tears, for grief lay heavy at his heart.
“And is it thus in courtly life," he cries,
“That man to man acts a betrayer's part?
And dares he thus the gifts of Heaven pervert,
Each social instinct, and sublime desire ?
Hail, Poverty! if honour, wealth, and art,
If what the great pursue and learn'd admire,
Thus dissipate and quench the soul's ethereal fire!”
23 He said, and turn'd away; nor did the Sage
O’erhear, in silent orisons employ’d.
The Youth, his rising sorrow to assuage,
Home, as he hied, the evening scene enjoy'd:
For now no cloud obscures the starry void;
The yellow moonlight sleeps on all the hills;
Nor is the mind with startling sounds annoy'd;
A soothing murmur the lone region fills
Of groves, and dying gales, and melancholy rills.
24 But he from day to day more anxious grew,
The voice still seem'd to vibrate on his ear:
Nor durst he hope the hermit's tale untrue;
For man he seem'd to love, and Heaven to fear;
And none speaks false, where there is none to hear.
“Yet, can man's gentle heart become so fell?
No more in vain conjecture let me wear
My hours away, but seek the hermit's cell;
'Tis he my doubt can clear, perhaps my care dispel.”
25 At early dawn the Youth his journey took,
And many a mountain pass'd and valley wide,
Then reach'd the wild; where, in a flowery nook,
And seated on a mossy stone, he spied
An ancient man: his harp lay him beside.
A stag sprang from the pasture at his call,
And, kneeling, lick'd the wither'd hand that tied
A wreath of woodbine round his antlers tall,
And hung his lofty neck with many a floweret small.
26 And now the hoary Sage arose, and saw
The wanderer approaching: innocence Smiled on his glowing cheek, but modest awe Depress’d his eye, that fear'd to give offence. “Who art thou, courteous stranger? and from whence? Why roam thy steps to this sequesterd dale?” "A shepherd boy,” the Youth replied, “far hence
My habitation; hear my artless tale;
Nor levity nor falsehood shall thine ear assail.
27 “Late as I roam’d, intent on Nature's charms,
I reach'd at eve this wilderness profound;
And, leaning where yon oak expands her arms,
IIcard these rude cliffs thine awful voice rebound;
For in thy speech I recognise the sound.
You mourn'd for ruin'd man, and virtue lost,
And seem'd to feel of keen remorse the wound,
Pondering on former days, by guilt engross'd,
Or in the giddy storm of dissipation toss’d.
28 “But say, in courtly life can craft be learn’d,
Where knowledge opens and exalts the soul?
Where Fortune lavishes her gifts unearn'd,
Can selfishness the liberal heart control ?
Is glory there achieved by arts as foul
As those that felons, fiends, and furies plan?
Spiders ensnare, snakes poison, tigers prowl:
Love is the godlike attribute of man.
0, teach a simple youth this mystery to scan.
29 “Or else the lamentable strain disclaim,
And give me back the calm, contented mind,
Which, late exulting, view'd in Nature's frame
Goodness untainted, wisdom unconfined,
Grace, grandeur, and utility combined:
Restore those tranquil days that saw me still
Well pleased with all, but most with humankind;
When Fancy roam’d through Nature's works at will
, Uncheck’d by cold distrust, and uninform’d by ill.”
30 “Wouldst thou,” the Sage replied, “in peace return
To the gay dreams of fond romantic youth,
Leave me to hide, in this remote sojourn,
From every gentle ear the dreadful truth:
For if my desultory strain with ruth
And indignation make thine eyes o'erflow,
Alas! what comfort could thy anguish soothe,
Shouldst thou th’extent of human folly know? Be ignorance thy choice, where knowledge leads to woe. 31 “But let untender thoughts afar be driven;
Nor venture to arraign the dread decree:
For know, to man, as candidate for Heaven,
The voice of the Eternal said, Be free:
And this divine prerogative to thee
Does virtue, happiness, and Heaven convey;
For virtue is the child of liberty,
And happiness of virtue; nor can they
Be free to keep the path, who are not free to stray.
32 “Yet leave me not. I would allay that grief,
Which else might thy young virtue overpower;
And in thy converse I shall find relief
When the dark shades of melancholy lour;
For solitude has many a dreary hour,
Even when exempt from grief, remorse, and pain :
Come often then; for haply, in my bower,
Amusement, knowledge, wisdom thou mayst gain :
If I one soul improve, I have not lived in vain.
33 And now, at length, to Edwin's ardent gaze
The Muse of history unrolls her page:
But few, alas! the scenes her art displays,
To charm his fancy, or his heart engage.
Here chiefs their thirst of power in blood assuage,
And straight their flames with tenfold fierceness burn:
Here smiling Virtue prompts the patriot's rage,
But, lo! ere long, is left alone to mourn,
And languish in the dust, and clasp th' abandon'd urn.
34 " Ambition's slippery verge shall mortals tread,
Where ruin's gulf, unfathom’d, yawns beneath ?
Shall life, shall liberty be lost,” he said,
“For the vain toys that Pomp and Power bequeath?
The car of victory, the pluime, the wreath
Defend not from the bolt of fate the brave:
No note the clarion of Renown can breathe,
To alarm the long night of the lonely grave,
Or check the headlong haste of time's o'erwhelming wave.
“Ah, what avails it to have traced the springs
That whirl of empire the stupendous wheel?
Ah, what have I to do with conquering kings,
Hands drench'd in blood, and breasts begirt with steel?
To those whom Nature taught to think and feel
Heroes, alus ! are things of small concern;
Could History man's secret heart reveal,
And what imports a heaven-born mind to learn, Her transcripts to explore what bosom would not yearn ? 36 “This praise, O Cheronean sage, is thine!
(Why should this praise to thee alone belong ?)
All else from Nature's moral path decline,
Lured by the toys that captivate the throng;
To herd in cabinets and camps, among
Spoil, carnage, and the cruel pomp of pride;
Or chant of heraldry the drowsy song,
How tyrant blood o'er many a region wide
Rolls to a thousand thrones its execrable tide.
37 “0, who of man the story will unfold,
Ere victory and empire wrought annoy,
In that Elysian age, (misnamed of gold,)
of love and innocence and joy,
When all were great and free! man's sole employ,
To deck the bosom of his parent Earth;
Or toward his bower the murmuring stream decoy,
To aid the floweret's long-expected birth, And lull the bed of peace, and crown the board of mirth? 38 “Sweet were your shades, 0 ye primeval groves !
Whose boughs to man his food and shelter lent,
Pure in his pleasures, happy in his loves,
eye still smiling, and his heart content:
Then, hand in hand, Health, Sport, and Labour went;
Nature supplied the wish she taught to crave;
None prowi'd for prey, none watch'd to circumvent;
To all an equal lot Heaven's bounty gave:
No vassal feard his lord, no tyrant feard his slave.
39 “But, ah! th' Historic Muse has never dared
To pierce those hallow'd bowers: 'tis Fancy's beam
Pour'd on the vision of th' enraptur'd bard,
That paints the charms of that delicious theme.
Then hail, sweet Fancy's ray! and hail, the dream
That weans the weary soul from guilt and woe!
Careless what others of my choice may deem, 7 Plutarch is called “Cheronean sage,” from Cheronea, a town in Bæotia, where he was born and lived.