On A Similar Occasion. For The Year 1792.

A poem by William Cowper

Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,
Atque metus omnes et inexorabile fatum
Subjecit pedibus, strepitumque Acherontis avari!—Virg.


Happy the mortal who has traced effects
To their first cause, cast fear beneath his feet
And death and roaring hell’s voracious fires!


Thankless for favours from on high,
Man thinks he fades too soon;
Though ‘tis his privilege to die,
Would he improve the boon.


But he, not wise enough to scan
His blest concerns aright,
Would gladly stretch life’s little span
To ages, if he might.


To ages in a world of pain,
To ages, where he goes
Gall’d by affliction’s heavy chain,
And hopeless of repose.


Strange fondness of the human heart,
Enamour’d of its harm!
Strange world, that costs it so much smart,
And still has power to charm!


Whence has the world her magic power?
Why deem we death a foe?
Recoil from weary life’s best hour,
And covet longer woe?


The cause is Conscience—Conscience oft
Her tale of guilt renews:
Her voice is terrible though soft,
And dread of death ensues.


Then anxious to be longer spared,
Man mourns his fleeting breath:
All evils then seem light, compared
With the approach of death.


‘Tis judgment shakes him: there’s the fear
That prompts the wish to stay:
He has incurr’d a long arrear,
And must despair to pay.


Pay!—follow Christ, and all is paid;
His death your peace ensures;
Think on the grave where He was laid,
And calm descend to yours.

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