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Except when life declines, even sober cups.
Weak withering age no rigid law forbids,
With frugal nectar, smooth and slow with balm,
The sapless habit daily to bedew,
And give the hesitating wheels of life
Gliblier to play. But youth has better joys:
And is it wise when youth with pleasure flows,
To squander the reliefs of age and pain ?
What dextrous thousands just within the goal
Of wild debauch direct their nightly course !
Perhaps no sickly qualms bedim their days,
No morning admonitions shock the head.
But, ah! what woes remain ! life rolls apace,
And that incurable disease, old age,
In youthful bodies more severely felt,
More sternly active, shakes their blasted prime;
Except kind Nature by some hasty blow
Prevent the lingering fates. 'For know, whate'er
Beyond its natural fervour hurries on
The sanguine tide; whether the frequent bowl
High-season'd fare, or exercise to toil
Protracted ; spurs to its last stage tired life,
And sows the temples with untimely snow.
When life is new the ductile fibres feel
The heart's increasing force; and, day by day,
The growth advances : 'till the larger tubes
Acquiring (from their elemental veins *
* In the human body, as well as in those of other animals, the larger blood vessels are composed of smaller ones ; which, by the violent motion and pressure of the fluids in the large vessels, lose their cavities by degrees, and degenerate into impervious
Condens'd to solid chords) a firmer tone,
Sustain, and just sustain, th' impetuous blood.
Here stops the growth. With overbearing pulse
And pressure, still the great destroy the small;
Still with the ruins of the small grow strong.
Life glows meantime, amid the grinding force
Of viscous fuids and elastic tubes;
Its various functions vigorously are plied
By strong machinery; and in solid health
The man confirm'd long triumphs o'er disease.
But the full ocean ebbs : there is a point,
By Nature fix'd, when life must downward tend.
For still the beating tide consolidates
The stubborn vessels, more reluctant still
To the weak throbs of th' ill supported heart.
This languishing, these strength’ning by degrees
To hard unyielding unelastic bone,
Through tedious channels the congealing flood
Crawls lazily, and hardly wanders on;
It loiters still; and now it stirs no more.
This is the period few attain; the death
Of Nature; thus (so Heav'n ordaind it) life
Destroys itself; and could these laws have chang'd,
Nestor might now the fates of Troy relate ;
And Homer live immortal as his song,
chords or fibres. In proportion as these small vessels become solid, the larger must of course become less extensile, more rigid, and make a stronger resistance to the action of the heart, and force of the blood. From this gradual condensation of the smaller vessels, and consequent rigidity of the larger olles, the progress of the human body from infancy to old age is accounted for.
What does not fade? the tower that long had stood The crush of thunder and the warring winds, Shook by the slow, but sure destroyer, Time, Now hangs in doubtful ruins o’er its base. And finty pyramids, and walls of brass, Descend: the Babylonian spires are sunk; Achaia, Rome, and Egypt moulder down. Time shakes the stable tyranny of thrones, And tottering empires crush by their own weight This huge rotundity we tread grows old ; And all those worlds that roll around the Sun, The Sun himself, shall die ; and ancient Night Again involve the desolate abyss: 'Till the great Father through the lifeless glooma Extend his arm to light another world, And bid new planets roll by other laws. For through the regions of unbounded space, Where unconfin'd Omnipotence has room, Being, in various systems, fluctuates still Between creation and abhorr'd decay : It ever did, perhaps, and ever will. New worlds are still emerging from the deep ; The old descending, in their turns to rise.
THROUGH various toils th' adventurous Muse has
past; But half the toil, and more than half, remains. Rude is her theme, and hardly fit for song;
Plain, and of little ornament; and I
But little practis'd in th’ Aonian arts.
Yet not in vain such labours have we tried,
If aught these lays the fickle health confirm.,
To you, ye delicate, I write; for you
I tame my youth to philosophic cares,
still paler by the midnight lamps.
Not to debilitate with timorous rules
A hardy frame; nor needlessly to brave
Inglorious dangers, proud of mortal strength,
Is all the lesson that in wholesome years
Concerns the strong. His care were ill bestow'd
Who would with warm effeminacy nurse
The thriving oak which on the mountain's brow
Bears all the blasts that sweep the wint'ry Heaven,
Behold the labourer of the glebe, who toils
In dust, in rain, in cold and sultry skies !
Save but the grain from mildews and the flood,
Nought anxious he what sickly stars ascend.
He knows no laws by Esculapius given;
He studies none.
Yet him nor midnight fogs
Infest, nor those envenom'd shafts that fly
When rabid Sirius fires th' autumnal noon.
His habit pure with plain and temperate meals,
Robust with labour, and by custom steel'd
To every casualty of varied life;
Serene he bears the peevish eastern blast,
And uninfected breathes the mortal south.
Such the reward of rude and sober life;
Of labour such. By health the peasant's toil
Is well repaid ; if exercise were pain
Indeed, and temperance pain. By arts like these
Laconia nurs'd of old her hardy sons ;
And Rome's unconquer'd legions urg'd their way,
Unhurt, through every toil in every clime.
Toil, and be strong. By toil the flaccid nerves
Grow firm, and gain a more compacted tone;
The greener juices are by toil subdu'd,
Mellow'd and subtiliz'd; the vapid old
Expell’d, and all the rancour of the blood,
Come, my companions, ye who feel the charms
Of Nature and the year ; come, let us stray
Where chance or fancy leads our roving walk :
Come, while the soft voluptuous breezes fan
The fleecy Heavens, enwrap the limbs in balm,
And shed a charming languor o'er the soul.
Nor when bright Winter sows with prickly frost
The vigorous ether, in unmanly warmth
Indulge at home ; nor even when Eurus' blasts
This way and that convolve the lab'ring woods,
My liberal walks, save when the skies in rain
Or fogs relent, no season should confine
Or to the cloister'd gallery or arcade.
Go, climb the mountain ; from th' ethereal source
Imbibe the recent gale. The cheerful morn
Beams o'er the hills; go, mount th' exulting steed.
Already, see, the deep-mouth'd beagles catch
The tainted mazes; and, on eager sport
Intent, with emulous impatience try
Each doubtful trace. Or, if a nobler prey
Delight you more, go chase the desperate deer ;
And through its deepest solitudes awake
The vocal forest with the jovial horn.
But if the breathless chase o'er hill and dale