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'Tis greatly wise to know before we're told
[From The Complaint, Night 1.] 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. 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 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 :
THE DEATH OF FRIENDS.
[From Night III.] Our dying friends come o'er us like a cloud, To damp our brainless ardours; and abate That glare of life which often blinds the wise. Our dying friends are pioneers, to smooth Our rugged pass to death; to break those bars Of terror and abhorrence Ņature throws 'Cross our obstructed way"; and thus to make Welcome as safe, our port from every storm. Each friend by fate snatched from us is a plume, Pluck'd from the wing of human vanity, Which makes us stoop from our aërial heights And, damp'd with omen of our own decease, On drooping pinions of ambition lower'd, 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 and for us they die, And shall they languish, shall they die, in vain ? 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 hallow'd graves, Tread under-foot their agonies and groans, Frustrate their anguish and destroy their deaths ?
[From Night IV.]
The worm's inferior, and in rank beneath
THE STREAM OF LIFE.
[From Night V.]
Is it, that life has sown her joys so thick
Or shall we say (Retaining still the brook to bear us on) That life is like a vessel on the stream ? In life embark'd we smoothly down the tide Of time descend, but not on time intent, Amused, unconscious of the gliding wave; Till on a sudden we perceive a shock; We start, awake, look out ; what see we there? Our brittle bark is burst on Charon's shore.
[JOHN BYROM, born in 1691 at Kearsale, near Manchester, was educated partly at Merchant Taylors' and partly at Trinity College, Cambridge. For some time he read medicine. Afterwards he practised and taught stenography. Then the paternal estate fell in to him, and he removed from London to Manchester, where he lived in great repute for many years, and died in 1763. His poems were published at Manchester in two volumes.]
Byrom's is a figure rather curious than notable, rather amiable than striking. He had many turns and accomplishments, and many holds upon life. He loved learning, for instance, and had scholarship enough to write with point upon scholarly subjects. Again, it is certain that he was a man who could love ; for he gave over medicine and the chance of medical honours merely to follow up and win the lady he was wooing to wife. Then, as became Weston's successful rival, the teacher who had improved upon Weston's own system, and had Hoadley and Chesterfield for his pupils, he was keenly interested in stenography, and not only lectured on it to his classes (his lectures, by the way, are said to have been full of matter and of wit), but read papers about it before the Royal Society. Also, he was curiously versed in theology and philosophical divinity ; he held advanced opinions on the dogmas of predestination and imputed righteousness; he is known for a disciple of William Law, a student of Malebranche and Madame Bourignon, a follower of Jacob Boehmen, for whose sake he learned German, and some of whose discourse he was at the pains of running into English verse. And above all was he addicted to letters and the practice of what he was pleased to think poetry. Add to this, that he was a good and cheerful talker, whose piety was not always pun-proof (* Hic jacet Doctor Byfield,