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- The Library - 2/4 -


By patient hope, and length of days, endear'd: Expecting nations hail'd it from the press; Poetic friends prefix'd each kind address; Princes and kings received the pond'rous gift, And ladies read the work they could not lift. Fashion, though Folly's child, and guide of fools, Rules e'en the wisest, and in learning rules; From crowds and courts to "Wisdom's seat she goes And reigns triumphant o'er her mother's foes. For lo! these fav'rites of the ancient mode Lie all neglected like the Birthday Ode. Ah! needless now this weight of massy chain; {2} Safe in themselves, the once-loved works remain; No readers now invade their still retreat, None try to steal them from their parent-seat; Like ancient beauties, they may now discard Chains, bolts, and locks, and lie without a guard. Our patient fathers trifling themes laid by, And roll'd, o'er labour'd works, th' attentive eye: Page after page the much-enduring men Explored the deeps and shallows of the pen: Till, every former note and comment known, They mark'd the spacious margin with their own; Minute corrections proved their studious care; The little index, pointing, told us where; And many an emendation show'd the age Look'd far beyond the rubric title-page. Our nicer palates lighter labours seek, Cloy'd with a folio-NUMBER once a week; Bibles, with cuts and comments, thus go down: E'en light Voltaire is NUMBER'D through the town: Thus physic flies abroad, and thus the law, From men of study, and from men of straw; Abstracts, abridgments, please the fickle times, Pamphlets and plays, and politics and rhymes: But though to write be now a task of ease, The task is hard by manly arts to please, When all our weakness is exposed to view, And half our judges are our rivals too. Amid these works, on which the eager eye Delights to fix, or glides reluctant by, When all combined, their decent pomp display, Where shall we first our early offering pay? To thee, DIVINITY! to thee, the light And guide of mortals, through their mental night; By whom we learn our hopes and fears to guide; To bear with pain, and to contend with pride; When grieved, to pray; when injured, to forgive; And with the world in charity to live. Not truths like these inspired that numerous race, Whose pious labours fill this ample space; But questions nice, where doubt on doubt arose, Awaked to war the long-contending foes. For dubious meanings, learned polemics strove, And wars on faith prevented works of love; The brands of discord far around were hurl'd, And holy wrath inflamed a sinful world:- Dull though impatient, peevish though devout, With wit disgusting, and despised without; Saints in design, in execution men, Peace in their looks, and vengeance in their pen. Methinks I see, and sicken at the sight, Spirits of spleen from yonder pile alight; Spirits who prompted every damning page, With pontiff pride and still-increasing rage: Lo! how they stretch their gloomy wings around, And lash with furious strokes the trembling ground! They pray, they fight, they murder, and they weep,- Wolves in their vengeance, in their manners sheep; Too well they act the prophet's fatal part, Denouncing evil with a zealous heart; And each, like Jonah, is displeased if God Repent his anger, or withhold his rod. But here the dormant fury rests unsought, And Zeal sleeps soundly by the foes she fought; Here all the rage of controversy ends, And rival zealots rest like bosom-friends: An Athanasian here, in deep repose, Sleeps with the fiercest of his Arian foes; Socinians here with Calvinists abide, And thin partitions angry chiefs divide; Here wily Jesuits simple Quakers meet, And Bellarmine has rest at Luther's feet. Great authors, for the church's glory fired, Are for the church's peace to rest retired; And close beside, a mystic, maudlin race, Lie "Crumbs of Comfort for the Babes of Grace." Against her foes Religion well defends Her sacred truths, but often fears her friends: If learn'd, their pride, if weak, their zeal she dreads, And their hearts' weakness, who have soundest heads. But most she fears the controversial pen, The holy strife of disputatious men; Who the blest Gospel's peaceful page explore, Only to fight against its precepts more. Near to these seats behold yon slender frames, All closely fill'd and mark'd with modern names; Where no fair science ever shows her face, Few sparks of genius, and no spark of grace; There sceptics rest, a still-increasing throng, And stretch their widening wings ten thousand strong; Some in close fight their dubious claims maintain; Some skirmish lightly, fly, and fight again; Coldly profane, and impiously gay, Their end the same, though various in their way. When first Religion came to bless the land, Her friends were then a firm believing band; To doubt was then to plunge in guilt extreme, And all was gospel that a monk could dream; Insulted Reason fled the grov'lling soul, For Fear to guide, and visions to control: But now, when Reason has assumed her throne, She, in her turn, demands to reign alone; Rejecting all that lies beyond her view, And, being judge, will be a witness too: Insulted Faith then leaves the doubtful mind, To seek for truth, without a power to find: Ah! when will both in friendly beams unite, And pour on erring man resistless light? Next to the seats, well stored with works divine, An ample space, PHILOSOPHY! is thine; Our reason's guide, by whose assisting light We trace the moral bounds of wrong and right; Our guide through nature, from the sterile clay, To the bright orbs of yon celestial way! 'Tis thine, the great, the golden chain to trace, Which runs through all, connecting race with race; Save where those puzzling, stubborn links remain, Which thy inferior light pursues in vain:- How vice and virtue in the soul contend; How widely differ, yet how nearly blend; What various passions war on either part, And now confirm, now melt the yielding heart: How Fancy loves around the world to stray, While Judgment slowly picks his sober way; The stores of memory, and the flights sublime Of genius, bound by neither space nor time; - All these divine Philosophy explores, Till, lost in awe, she wonders and adores. From these, descending to the earth, she turns, And matter, in its various forms, discerns; She parts the beamy light with skill profound, Metes the thin air, and weighs the flying sound; 'Tis hers the lightning from the clouds to call, And teach the fiery mischief where to fall. Yet more her volumes teach,--on these we look As abstracts drawn from Nature's larger book: Here, first described, the torpid earth appears, And next, the vegetable robe it wears; Where flow'ry tribes, in valleys, fields, and groves, Nurse the still flame, and feed the silent loves; Loves where no grief, nor joy, nor bliss, nor pain, Warm the glad heart or vex the labouring brain; But as the green blood moves along the blade, The bed of Flora on the branch is made; Where, without passion love instinctive lives, And gives new life, unconscious that it gives. Advancing still in Nature's maze, we trace, In dens and burning plains, her savage race With those tame tribes who on their lord attend, And find in man a master and a friend; Man crowns the scene, a world of wonders new, A moral world, that well demands our view. This world is here; for, of more lofty kind, These neighbouring volumes reason on the mind; They paint the state of man ere yet endued With knowledge;--man, poor, ignorant, and rude; Then, as his state improves, their pages swell, And all its cares, and all its comforts, tell: Here we behold how inexperience buys, At little price, the wisdom of the wise; Without the troubles of an active state, Without the cares and dangers of the great, Without the miseries of the poor, we know What wisdom, wealth, and poverty bestow; We see how reason calms the raging mind, And how contending passions urge mankind: Some, won by virtue, glow with sacred fire; Some, lured by vice, indulge the low desire; Whilst others, won by either, now pursue The guilty chase, now keep the good in view; For ever wretched, with themselves at strife, They lead a puzzled, vex'd, uncertain life; For transient vice bequeaths a lingering pain, Which transient virtue seeks to cure in vain. Whilst thus engaged, high views enlarge the soul, New interests draw, new principles control: Nor thus the soul alone resigns her grief, But here the tortured body finds relief; For see where yonder sage Arachne shapes Her subtile gin, that not a fly escapes! There PHYSIC fills the space, and far around, Pile above pile her learned works abound: Glorious their aim- to ease the labouring heart; To war with death, and stop his flying dart; To trace the source whence the fierce contest grew, And life's short lease on easier terms renew; To calm the phrensy of the burning brain; To heal the tortures of imploring pain; Or, when more powerful ills all efforts brave,


The Library - 2/4

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