ADDRESSED TO J. ATKINSON, ESQ. M. R. I. A.
Though long at school and college dozing.
O'er books of verse and books of prosing,
And copying from their moral pages
Fine recipes for making sages;
Though long with' those divines at school,
Who think to make us good by rule;
Who, in methodic forms advancing,
Teaching morality like dancing,
Tell us, for Heaven or money's sake.
What steps we are through life to take:
Though thus, my friend, so long employed,
With so much midnight oil destroyed,
I must confess my searches past,
I've only learned to doubt at last
I find the doctors and the sages
Have differed in all climes and ages,
And two in fifty scarce agree
On what is pure morality.
'Tis like the rainbow's shifting zone,
And every vision makes its own.
The doctors of the Porch advise,
As modes of being great and wise,
That we should cease to own or know
The luxuries that from feeling flow;
"Reason alone must claim direction,
"And Apathy's the soul's perfection.
"Like a dull lake the heart must lie;
"Nor passion's gale nor pleasure's sigh,
"Though Heaven the breeze, the breath, supplied,
"Must curl the wave or swell the tide!"
Such was the rigid Zeno's plan
To form his philosophic man;
Such were the modes he taught mankind
To weed the garden of the mind;
They tore from thence some weeds, 'tis true,
But all the flowers were ravaged too!
Now listen to the wily strains,
Which, on Cyrene's sandy plains,
When Pleasure, nymph with loosened zone,
Usurped the philosophic throne,--
Hear what the courtly sage's tongue
To his surrounding pupils sung:--
"Pleasure's the only noble end
"To which all human powers should tend,
"And Virtue gives her heavenly lore,
"But to make Pleasure please us more.
"Wisdom and she were both designed
"To make the senses more refined,
"That man might revel, free from cloying,
"Then most a sage when most enjoying!"
Is this morality?--Oh, no!
Even I a wiser path could show.
The flower within this vase confined,
The pure, the unfading flower of mind,
Must not throw all its sweets away
Upon a mortal mould of clay;
No, no,--its richest breath should rise
In virtue's incense to the skies.
But thus it is, all sects we see
Have watchwords of morality:
Some cry out Venus, others Jove;
Here 'tis Religion, there 'tis Love.
But while they thus so widely wander,
While mystics dream and doctors ponder:
And some, in dialectics firm,
Seek virtue in a middle term;
While thus they strive, in Heaven's defiance,
To chain morality with science;
The plain good man, whose action teach
More virtue than a sect can preach
Pursues his course, unsagely blest
His tutor whispering in his breast;
Nor could he act a purer part,
Though he had Tully all by heart.
And when he drops the tear on woe,
He little knows or cares to know
That Epictetus blamed that tear,
By Heaven approved, to virtue dear!
Oh! when I've seen the morning beam
Floating within the dimpled stream;
While Nature, wakening from the night,
Has just put on her robes of light,
Have I, with cold optician's gaze,
Explored the doctrine of those rays?
No, pedants, I have left to you
Nicely to separate hue from hue.
Go, give that moment up to art,
When Heaven and nature claim the heart;
And, dull to all their best attraction,
Go--measure angles of refraction.
While I, in feeling's sweet romance,
Look on each daybeam as a glance
From the great eye of Him above,
Wakening his world with looks of love!