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Of glorious acts by saints and angels done;
The record of the holy, just, and good.
Of all the phantoms fleeting in the mist
Of time, though meagre all, and ghostly thin,
Most unsubstantial, unessential shade,
Was earthly Fame. She was a voice alone,
And dwelt upon the noisy tongues of men.
She never thought; but gabbled ever on;
Applauding most what least deserved applause :
The motive, the result was nought to her :
The deed alone, though dyed in human gore,
And steeped in widow's tear, if it stood out
The prominent display, she talked of much,
And roared around it with a thousand tongues.
As changed the wind her organ, so she changed
Perpetually; and whom she praised to-day,
Vexing his ear with acclamations loud,
To-morrow blamed, and hissed him out of sight.
Such was her nature, and her practice snch:
But, Oh! her voice was sweet to mortal ears;
And touched so pleasantly the strings of pride
And vanity, which in the heart of man
Were ever strung harmonious to her note,
That many thought, to live without her song
Was rather death than life: to live unknown,
Unnoticed, unrenowned ! to die unpraised,
Unepitaphed ! to go down to the pit,
And moulder into dust among vile worms!
And leave no whispering of a name on earth!
Such thought was cold about the heart, and chilled
The blood. Who could endure it? who could choose,
Without a struggle, to be swept away
From all remembrance, and have part no more
With living men? Philosophy failed here,
And self-approving pride. Hence it became
The aim of most, and main pursuit to win
A name-to leave some vestige as they passed,
That following ages might discern they once
Had been on earth, and acted something there.
Many the roads they took, the plans they tried.
The man of science to the shade retired,
And laid his head upon his hand, in mood
Of awful thoughtfulness; and dived, and dived
Again, deeper and deeper still, to sound
The cause remote, resolved, before he died,
To make some grand discovery, by wbich
He should be known to all posterity.
And in the silent vigils of the night,
When uninspired men reposed, the bard,
Ghastly of countenance, and from his eye
Oft streaming wild unearthly fire, sat up;
And sent imagination forth; and searched
The far and near-heaven, earth, and gloomy hell,
For fiction new, for thought unthought before :
And when some curious rare idea peered
Upon his mind, he dipped his hasty pen,
And by the glimmering lamp, or moonlight heam,
That through his lattice peeped, wrote fondly down,
What seemed in truth imperishable song.
And sometimes too, the reverend divine,
In meditation deep of holy things,
And vanities of Time, heard Fame's sweet voice
Approach his ear-and hang another flower,
Of earthly sort, about the sacred truth;
And ventured whiles to mix the bitter text,
With relish suited to the sinner's taste.
And oft times too, the simple hind, who seemed
Ambitionless, arrayed in humble garb,
While round him spreading, fed his harmless flock,
Sitting, was seen, by some wild warbling brook,
Carving his name upon his favourite staff;
Or, in ill-favoured letters, tracing it
Upon the aged thorn; or on the face
Of some conspicuous oft-frequented stone,
With persevering wondrous industry;
And hoping, as he toiled amain, and saw
The characters take form, some other wight,
Long after he was dead, and in the grave,
Should loiter there at noon and read his name.
In purple some, and some in rags, stood forth
For reputation : some displayed a limb
Well-fashioned; some of lowlier mind, a cane
Of curious workmanship, and marvellous twist;
In strength some sought it, and in beauty more.
Long, long the fair one laboured at the glass,
And, being tired, called in auxiliar skill,
To have her sails, before she went abroad,
Full spread, and nicely set, to catch the gale
Of praise. And much she caught, and much deserved,
When outward loveliness was index fair
Of purity within : but oft, alas !
The bloom was on the skin alone; and when
She saw, sad sight! the roses on her cheek
Wither, and heard the voice of Fame retire
And die away, she heaved most piteous sighs,
And wept most lamentable tears ; and wbiles,
In wild delirium, made rash attempt,
Unholy mimickry of nature's work!
To re-create, with frail and mortal things,
Her wither'd face. Attempt how fond and vain!
Her frame itself, soon mouldered down to dust ;
And in the land of deep forgetfulness,
Her beauty and her name were laid beside
Eternal silence, and the loathsome worm,
Into whose darkness flattery ventured not;
Where none had ears to hear the voice of Fame,
The cheerful supper done, with serious face,
They round the ingle form a circle wide ; The Sire turns o'er, with patriarchal grace,
The big Ha’-Bible, once his father's pride : His bonnet reverently is laid aside,
His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare ; Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,
He wales a portion with judicious care; And • Let us worship God!' he says with solemu air.
They chant their artless notes in simple guise ;
They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim; Perhaps Dundee's wild warbling measures rise,
Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name; Or noble Elgin beats the heaven-ward flame,
The sweetest far of Scotia's holy lays. Compared with these, Italian trills are tame :
The tickled ears no heart-felt raptures raise ; No unison have they with our Creator's praise.
The priest-like father reads the sacred page,
How Abram was the friend of God on bigh; Or, Moses bade eternal warfare wage
With Amalek's ungracious progeny; Or, how the royal bard did groaning lie
Beneath the stroke of heav'n's avenging ire;
Or, Job's pathetic plaint and wailing cry;
Or, rapt Isaiah's wild, seraphic fire;
Or, other holy seers that tune the sacred lyre.
Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme,
How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed; How He, who bore in heaven the second name,
Had not on earth whereon to lay his head; How his first followers and servants sped ;
The precepts sage they wrote to many a land;
How be, who lone in Patmos banished,
Saw in the Sun a mighty angel stand;
And heard great Babylon's doom pronounc'd by.
Then, kneeling down, to Heaven's eternal King
The saint, the father, and the husband, prays : Hope • springs exulting on triumphant wing,'
That thus they all shall meet in future days, There ever bask in uncreated rays,
No more to sigh, nor shed the bitter tear Together hymning their Creator's praise,
In such society, yet still more dear, While circling time moves round in an eternal sphere.
Compared with this, how poor religion's pride,
In all the pomp of method and of art, When men display, to congregations wide,
Devotion's every grace except the heart ! The Power, incensed, the pageant will desert,
The pompous train, the sacerdotal stole; But haply, in some cottage far apart
May hear, well pleased, the language of the soul, And in his book of life the inmates poor enrol.