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Thou, in the centre of divinity,
Before the birth of ages had'st thy spring,
Where thou didst sweetly smile amidst the Three
Most undivided One, and traversing
Those heights and depths of glorious pleasure, through
Eternity's immense expansion flow.
Thence, when the world burst out from nothing, Thou
Let'st out some streams created souls to cheer;
With which sweet influence when they 'gan to glow,
All bosoms straight of it enamour'd were ;
Which, as their richest, dearest jewel, in
The temple of their hearts obtain❜d its shrine.
Goods were no longer goods, compar'd with Thee;
Parents and children were no more of kin,
If they disturb'd thy consanguinity:
Their tenderer selves, though lying treasur'd in
The bosom of their love, they thence would throw,
Counting no wives so near them as wert Thou.
For thy sweet sake they durst rejoice to bear
All bitterness, and not to blush at shame;
Their joints, limbs, skin, they readily could spare,
Yea and allow their precious name and fame
A prey to injury, so they by them
May Thee and thy security redeem.
The buried captive, whose dark dungeon is
His antidated and his sadder grave,
Though banish'd thus from vital happiness,
Yet hugs his life as dearly, as the brave
And freest gallant who his lust can please
With all the fat of pleasure and of ease.
The leper, clothed in his winding sheet
By his disease, abhors the thought of death;
Life still is, ev'n in his dead body, sweet;
And full as precious he reputes his breath
As lovely virgins, whose fair features' dress
Of native roses and of lilies is.
He whom a cancer gnaws, had rather feed
That monster, than the worms; nor sticks to buy
Wounds, cauterisms, dismemb'rings; and be dead
In part, a mangled life a while to try.
On piteous stilts he'll rather choose to creep
Than in a sumptuous tomb lie down to sleep.
The cursed traitor fettered alive
In death's strong iron chair, though sadly sure
Abandon'd he in vain for life shall strive,
Yet will, in mighty love, of it endure
To feed on his own arms, that so he may,
Though by self-torture, live one other day.
He who disjointed on the rack doth lie,
Though now his shatter'd life be scarcely his,
After a thousand deaths, is loth to die;
And ne'er-thought treasons willing to confess :
Confess he will what needs must be his death,
Only to gain a little longer breath.
Thus all the gall that sharpest misery
Into the heart of mortal life can pour,
Meets there such resolute powers of suavity
As conquer all its bitterness; such store
Of precious mystic delicacies, as
Eas❜ly outweigh the heaviest sorrows' mass.
Vicissitude, how doth thy welcome change
Cheer up the world, which else would droop and faint!
Strange things thou long permit'st not to be strange,
Since with all companies thou canst acquaint;
For thy cameleon's skin no colours meets
But with compliance fairly them it greets.
When wisdom fram'd this world's vast fabric, she,
As nature's noble sport and recreation,
Firmly enacted thy uncertainty
For ever certain in its variation;
That as God knows no change, so all things else
May feel the motion of mutation's pulse.
Night first was every thing; then day burst forth,
But soon the ev'n restored night again;
Yet crept she in the morn behind the earth,
And suffer'd light her full twelve hours to reign:
Thus have all ages only been the play
Of interwoven checquer'd night and day.
Who seeth not how beauteous generation
Fails not to tread on foul corruption's heels;
And how corruption, by sure circulation,
Upon the back of generation steals:
Whilst by this trade of interchange, from wombs
Death takes its constant rise, and life from tombs !
When peevish winter's blasts churlishly blow
His frozen Scythia all about the earth,
Commanding nature in a bed of snow
To lie and sleep, and let no bud peep forth ;
What hopes would fancy she could break again
Out from the bondage of her icy chain?
Yet when the sun leaps in the lusty ram,
Forthwith the spring takes heart, embraved by
The neighbourhood of his enliv'ning flame,
And clothes the world with fresh fertility:
Cashiering frost and snow, and changing Queen
Tellus's white mantle to a lovelier green.
After the earnest ploughman hath by day
Worry'd himself, and earth, and water'd it
With his own sweat, cool night his head doth lay
Still on his crib, and teach him to forget
His toilsome work, whilst soft and gentle sleep
Yields him a crop of pleasant dreams to reap.
When tedious sickness, by her rampant fits,
Has in the body her sad revels kept,
Health takes her happy cue, and fairly quits
Her cheerly self; by her the veins are swept,
The stomach purg'd, the spirits, which 'gan to tire,
Rous'd and encouraged by vivid fire.
Though grief sometimes, conspiring with the night,
On wounded hearts disconsolation throws,
Yet comfort, dawning with the morning light,
Smootheth the sullen furrows of the brows,
And with its virgin beams of sweetness dries
The briny moisture of the clouded eyes."
Canto XVIII. opens with a tribute to the memory of the author's wife, from which we must quote a few stanzas.
"Sweet soul, how goodly was the temple, which
Heav'n pleas'd to make thy earthly habitation!
Built all of graceful delicacy, rich
In symmetry, and of a dangerous fashion
For youthful eyes, had not the saint within
Govern'd the charms of her enamouring shrine.
How happily compendious did'st thou make
My study when I was the lines to draw
Of genuine beauty! never put to take
Long journies was my fancy; still I saw
At home my copy, and I knew 'twould be
But beauty's wrong further to seek than thee.
Full little knew the world (for I as yet
In studied silence hugg'd my secret bliss,)
How facil was my Muse's task, when set
Virtue's and grace's features to express !
For whilst accomplish'd thou wert in my sight;
I nothing had to do, but look and write.
How sadly parted are those words; since I
Must now be writing, but no more can look!
Yet in my heart thy precious memory
So deep is grav'd, that from this faithful book
Truly transcrib'd, thy character shall shine;
Nor shall thy death devour what was divine.
Hear then, O all soft-hearted turtles, hear
What you alone profoundly will resent:
A bird of your pure feather 'tis, whom here
Her desolate mate remaineth to lament,
Whilst she is flown to meet her dearer love,
And sing among the winged quire above.
Twelve times the glorious sovereign of day
Had made his progress, and in every inn
Whose golden signs through all his radiant way
So high are hung, as often lodged been,
Since in the sacred knot this noble she
Deign'd to be ty'd to (then how happy) me.
Ty'd, ty'd we were so intimately, that
We strait were sweetly lost in one another.
Thus when two notes in musick's wedlock knit
They in one concord blended are together:
For nothing now our life but musick was ;
Her soul the treble made, and mine, the base.
How, at the needless question, would she smile
When ask'd, what she desir'd or counted fit?
Still bidding me examine mine own will,
And read the surest answer ready writ.
So center'd was her heart in mine, that she
Would own no wish, if first not wish'd by me.
Delight was no such thing to her, if I
Relish'd it not the palate of her pleasure
Carefully watch'd what mine could taste, and by
That standard her content resolv'd to measure.
By this rare art of sweetness did she prove
That though she joy'd, yet all her joy was love.
So was her grief: for wrong'd herself she held,
If I were sad alone; her share, alas!
And more than so, in all my sorrows' field
She duly reap'd: and here alone she was
Unjust to me. Ah! dear injustice, which
Mak'st me complain that I was lov'd too much!
She ne'er took post to keep an equal pace
Still with the newest modes, which swiftly run:
She never was perplex'd to hear her lace
Accus'd for six months' old, when first put on :
She laid no watchful leaguers, costly-vain,
Intelligence with fashions to maintain.
On a pin's point she ne'er held consultation,
Nor at her glass's strict tribunal brought
Each pleit to scrupulous examination :
Asham'd she was that Titan's coach about
Half heav'n should sooner wheel, than she could
Through all the petty stages of her dress.
No gadding itch e'er spurr'd her to delight
In needless sallies; none but civil care