Oh, Youth! could dark futurity reveal
Her hidden worlds, unlock her cloud-hung gates,
Or snatch the keys of mystery from time,
Your souls would madden at the piercing sight
Of fortune, wielding high her woe-born arms
To crush aspiring genius, seize the wreath
Which fond imagination's hand had weav'd,
Strip its bright beams, and give the wreck to air.
Forth from Cimmeria's nest of vipers, lo!
Pale envy trails its cherish'd form, and views,
With eye of cockatrice, the little pile
Which youthful merit had essay'd to raise;
From shrouded night his blacker arm he draws,
Replete with vigor from each heavenly blast,
To cloud the glories of that infant sun,
And hurl the fabric headlong to the ground.
How oft, alas! through that envenom'd blow,
The youth is doom'd to leave his careful toils
To slacken and decay, which might, perchance,
Have borne him up on ardor's wing to fame.
And should we not, with equal pity, view
The fair frail wanderer, doom'd, through perjur'd vows,
To lurk beneath a rigid stoic's frown,
'Till that sweet moment comes, which her sad days
Of infamy, of want, and pain have wing'd.
But here the reach of human thought is lost!
What, what must be the parent's heart-felt pangs,
Who sees his child, perchance his only child!
Thus struggling in the abyss of despair,
To sin indebted for a life of woe.
Still worse, if worse can be! the thought must sting
(If e'er reflection calls it from the bed
Of low oblivion) that ignoble wretch,
The cruel instrument of all their woe;
Sure it must cut his adamantine heart
More than ten thousand daggers onward plung'd,
With all death's tortures quivering on their points.
Oh! that we could but pierce the siren guise,
Spread out before the unsuspecting mind,
Which, conscious of its innocence within,
Treads on the rose-strew'd path, but finds, too late,
That ruin opes its ponderous jaws beneath.
Lo! frantic grief succeeds the bitter fall,
And pining anguish mourns the fatal step;
'Till that great Pow'r who, ever watchful stands,
Shall give us grace from his eternal throne
To feel the faithful tear of penitence,
The only recompense for ill-spent life.