When stern Misfortune, monitress severe!
Dissolves Prosperity's enchanting dreams,
And, chased from Man's probationary sphere,
Fair Hope withdraws her vivifying beams.
If then, untaught to bend at Heaven's high will,
The desp'rate mortal dares the dread unknown,
To future fate appeals from present ill,
And stands, uncall'd, before th' Eternal throne!
Shall justice there immutably decide?
Dread thought! which Reason trembles to explore,
She feels, be mercy granted or denied,
'Tis her's in dumb submission to adore.
Yet, could the self-doom'd victim be forgiven
His final error, for his merits past;
Could virtuous life, propitiating Heaven
With former deeds, extenuate the last:
Then GOLDSMID! Mercy, to thy humble shrine,
Angel of heaven beloved, should wing her flight,
Should in her bosom bid thy head recline,
And waft thee onward to the realms of light.
And, oh! could human intercession plead,
Breathed ardent to'ards that undiscover'd shore,
What hearts unnumber'd for thy fate that bleed,
Would warm oblations for thy pardon pour.
Misfortune's various tribes thy worth should tell,
Whose acts to no peculiar sect confined;
Impartial, with expansive bounty fell,
Like heaven's refreshing dews on all mankind.
Where stern Disease his rankling arrows sped,
While Want, with hard inexorable band,
Strew'd keener thorns on Pain's afflictive bed,
And urged the flight of life's diminish'd sand.
By hostile stars oppress'd, where Talent toil'd,
Encountering fate with perseverance vain;
The Merchant's hopes, when War's dire arm despoil'd,
Or tempests 'whelm'd in the remorseless main.
GOLDSMID! thy hand benign assuagement spread,
Sustain'd pale sickness, drooping o'er the tomb;
Raised modest Merit from his lowly shed,
And gave Misfortune's blasted hopes to bloom.
Yet wealth, too oft perverted from its end,
Suspends the noblest functions of the soul;
Where, chill'd as Apathy's cold frosts, extends,
Compassion's sacred stream forgets to roll.
And oft, where seeming Pity moves the mind,
From self's mean source the liberal current flows;
While Ostentation, insolently kind,
Wounds while he soothes, insults while he bestows.
But thy free bounty, undebased by pride,
Prompt to anticipate the meek request,
Unask'd the wants of modest Worth supplied,
And spared the pang that shook the suppliant's breast.
Yet say! on Fortune's orb, which o'er thy head
Blazed forth erewhile pre-eminently bright,
When dark Adversity her eclipse spread,
And veil'd its splendours in petrific night!
Did those, thy benefits had placed on high,
Who revell'd still in wealth's meridian ray;
Did those impatient to thy succour fly,
Anxious the debt of gratitude to pay?
Or, thy fall'n fortunes coldly whispering round,
Scowl'd they aloof in that disastrous hour?
On keen Misfortune's agonizing wound
Did foul Ingratitude her poisons pour?
If thy distress such aggravation knew,
Thy first reverse could such perdition wait;
Well might Despair thy generous heart subdue,
And Desperation close the scene of fate.
Yet while Distraction urged her purpose dire,
Rose not, at Nature's interposed command,
The sacred claims of Brother, Husband, Sire,
To win the weapon from thy lifted hand?
Ah, yes! and ere that agony was o'er,
Ere yet thy soul its last resolve embraced,
What pangs could equal those thy breast that tore,
Thy breast with Nature's tenderest feelings graced?
Those only which, at thy accomplish'd fate,
That home display'd, thy smiles were wont to bless;
That dreadful scene what language can relate,
What words describe that exquisite distress.
The Muse recedes--in Grief's domestic scene
Th' intrusive gaze prophanes the tears that flow:
Drop, Pity! there thy hallowed veil between;
Guard, Silence! there the sacredness of woe.
Nor let the sectarist, whose faith austere
Pretends alone to point th' eternal road;
Proud of his creed, pronounce with voice severe,
All else excluded from the blest abode.
If error thine, not GOLDSMID! thine the fault,
Since first thy infant years instruction drew;
From youth's gradations up to manhood taught
That faith to reverence which thy fathers knew.
In Retribution's last tremendous hour,
When its pale captives, long in dust declined,
The grave shall yield, and time shall death devour,
When He who saved, shall come to judge mankind.
While Christian-infidels shall tremble round,
Who call'd HIM Master! whom their acts denied:
Imputed faith may in thy deeds be found,
And thy eternal doom those deeds decide.