Poems

All Is Vanity

I

How vain is Life! which rightly we compare
To flying Posts, that haste away;
To Plants, that fade with the declining Day;
To Clouds, that sail amidst the yielding Air;
Till by Extention into that they flow,
Or, scatt'ring on the World below,
Are lost and gone, ere we can say they were;
To Autumn-leaves, which every Wind can chace;
To rising Bubbles, on the Waters Face;
To fleeting Dreams, that will not stay,
Nor in th' abused Fancy dance,
When the returning Rays of Light,
Resuming their alternate Right,
Break on th' ill-order'd Scene on the fantastick Trance:
As weak is Man, whilst Tenant to the Earth;
As frail and as uncertain all his Ways,
From the first moment of his weeping Birth,
Down to the last and best of his few restless Days;
When to the Land of Darkness he retires
From disappointed Hopes, and frustrated Desires;
Reaping no other Fruit of all his Pain
Bestow'd whilst in the vale of Tears below,
But this unhappy Truth, at last to know,
That Vanity's our Lot, and all Mankind is Vain.

II

If past the hazard of his tendrest Years,
Neither in thoughtless Sleep opprest,
Nor poison'd with a tainted Breast,
Loos'd from the infant Bands and female Cares,
A studious Boy, advanc'd beyond his Age,
Wastes the dim Lamp, and turns the restless Page;
For some lov'd Book prevents the rising Day,
And on it, stoln aside, bestows the Hours of Play;
Him the observing Master do's design
For search of darkned Truths and Mysteries Divine;
Bids him with unremitted Labour trace
The Rise of Empires, and their various Fates,
The several Tyrants o'er the several States,
To Babel's lofty Towers, and warlike Nimrod's Race;
Bids him in Paradice the Bank survey,
Where Man, new-moulded from the temper'd Clay,
(Till fir'd with Breath Divine) a helpless Figure lay:
Could he be led thus far--What were the Boast,
What the Reward of all the Toil it cost,
What from that Land of ever-blooming Spring,
For our Instruction could he bring,
Unless, that having Humane Nature found
Unseparated from its Parent Ground,
(Howe'er we vaunt our Elevated Birth)
The Epicure in soft Array,
The lothsome Beggar, that before
His rude unhospitable Door,
Unpity'd but by Brutes, a broken Carcass lay,
Were both alike deriv'd from the same common Earth?
But ere the Child can to these Heights attain,
Ere he can in the Learned Sphere arise;
A guilding Star, attracting to the Skies,
A fever, seizing the o'er labour'd Brain,
Sends him, perhaps, to Death's concealing Shade;
Where, in the Marble Tomb now silent laid,
He better do's that useful Doctrine show,
(Which all the sad Assistants ought to know,
Who round the Grave his short continuance mourn)
That first from Dust we came, and must to Dust return.

III

A bolder Youth, grown capable of Arms,
Bellona courts with her prevailing Charms;
Bids th' inchanting Trumpet sound,
Loud as Triumph, soft as Love,
Striking now the Poles above,
Then descending from the Skies,
Soften every falling Note;
As the harmonious Lark that sings and flies,
When near the Earth, contracts her narrow Throat,
And warbles on the Ground:
Shews the proud Steed, impatient of the Check,
'Gainst the loudest Terrors Proof,
Pawing the Valley with his steeled Hoof,
With Lightning arm'd his Eyes, with Thunder cloth'd his Neck;
Who on the th' advanced Foe, (the Signal giv'n)
Flies, like a rushing Storm by mighty Whirlwinds driv'n;
Lays open the Records of Fame,
No glorious Deed omits, no Man of mighty Name;
Their Stratagems, their Tempers she'll repeat,
From Alexander's, (truly stil'd the GREAT)
From Cæsar's on the World's Imperial Seat,
To Turenne's Conduct, and to Conde's Heat.
'Tis done! and now th' ambitious Youth disdains
The safe, but harder Labours of the Gown,
The softer pleasures of the Courtly Town,
The once lov'd rural Sports, and Chaces on the Plains;
Does with the Soldier's Life the Garb assume,
The gold Embroid'ries, and the graceful Plume;
Walks haughty in a Coat of Scarlet Die,
A Colour well contriv'd to cheat the Eye,
Where richer Blood, alas! may undistinguisht lye.
And oh! too near that wretched Fate attends;
Hear it ye Parents, all ye weeping Friends!
Thou fonder Maid! won by these gaudy Charms,
(The destin'd Prize of his Victorious Arms)
Now fainting Dye upon the mournful Sound,
That speaks his hasty Death, and paints the fatal Wound!
Trail all your Pikes, dispirit every Drum,
March in a slow Procession from afar,
Ye silent, ye dejected Men of War!
Be still the Hautboys, and the Flute be dumb!
Display no more, in vain, the lofty Banner;
For see! where on the Bier before ye lies
The pale, the fall'n, th' untimely Sacrifice
To your mistaken Shrine, to your false Idol Honour!

IV

As Vain is Beauty, and as short her Power;
Tho' in its proud, and transitory Sway,
The coldest Hearts and wisest Heads obey
That gay fantastick Tyrant of an Hour.
On Beauty's Charms, (altho' a Father's Right,
Tho' grave Seleucus! to thy Royal Side
By holy Vows fair Stratonice be ty'd)
With anxious Joy, with dangerous Delight,
Too often gazes thy unwary Son,
Till past all Hopes, expiring and undone,
A speaking Pulse the secret Cause impart;
The only time, when the Physician's Art
Could ease that lab'ring Grief, or heal a Lover's Smart.
See Great Antonius now impatient stand,
Expecting, with mistaken Pride,
On Cydnus crowded Shore, on Cydnus fatal Strand,
A Queen, at his Tribunal to be try'd,
A Queen that arm'd in Beauty, shall deride
His feeble Rage, and his whole Fate command:
O'er the still Waves her burnisht Galley moves,
Row'd by the Graces, whilst officious Loves
To silken Cords their busie Hands apply,
Or gathering all the gentle Gales that fly,
To their fair Mistress with these Spoils repair,
And from their purple Wings disperse the balmy Air.
Hov'ring Perfumes ascend in od'rous Clouds,
Curl o'er the Barque, and play among the Shrouds;
Whilst gently dashing every Silver Oar,
Guided by the Rules of Art,
With tuneful Instruments design'd
To soften, and subdue the stubborn Mind,
A strangely pleasing and harmonious Part
In equal Measures bore.
Like a new Venus on her native Sea,
In midst of the transporting Scene,
(Which Pen or Pencil imitates in vain)
On a resplendent and conspicuous Bed,
With all the Pride of Persia loosely spread,
The lovely Syrene lay.
Which but discern'd from the yet distant Shore,
Th' amazed Emperor could hate no more;
No more a baffled Vengeance could pursue;
But yielding still, still as she nearer drew,
When Cleopatra anchor'd in the Bay,
Where every Charm cou'd all its Force display,
Like his own Statue stood, and gaz'd the World away.
Where ends alas! this Pageantry and State;
Where end the Triumphs of this conqu'ring Face,
Envy'd of Roman Wives, and all the Female Race?
Oh swift Vicissitude of Beauty's Fate!
Now in her Tomb withdrawn from publick Sight,
From near Captivity and Shame,
The vanquish'd, the abandon'd Dame
Proffers the Arm, that held another's Right,
To the destructive Snake's more just Embrace,
And courts deforming Death, to mend his Leaden Pace.

V

But Wit shall last (the vaunting Poet cries)
Th' immortal Streams that from Parnassus flow,
Shall make his never-fading Lawrels grow,
Above this mouldring Earth to flourish in the Skies:
'And when his Body falls in Funeral Fire,
When late revolving Ages shall consume
The very Pillars, that support his Tomb,
'His name shall live, and his best Part aspire.
Deluded Wretch! grasping at future Praise,
Now planting, with mistaken Care,
Round thy enchanted Palace in the Air,
A Grove, which in thy Fancy time shall raise,
A Grove of soaring Palms, and everlasting Bays;
Could'st Thou alas! to such Reknown arrive,
As thy Imagination wou'd contrive;
Should numerous Cities, in a vain contest,
Struggle for thy famous Birth;
Should the sole Monarch of the conquer'd Earth,
His wreathed Head upon thy Volume



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