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Verses sent to the Author on his Retirement,
BY MRS. ELIZABETH HIGGINS.
Cease, tempting Siren, cease thy flattering strain, sweet is thy charming song, but sung in vain:
when the winds blow, and loud the tempest roar, what fool would trust the waves, and quit the shore? early, and vain, into the world I came, big with false hopes, and eager after fame; till looking round me, ere the race began, madmen, and giddy fools, were all that ran; reclaim'd betimes, I from the lists retire, and thank the gods, who my retreat inspire. In happier times our ancestors were bred, when virtue was the only path to tread : give me, ye gods! but the same road to fame. Whate'er my fathers dar'd, I dare the same. Chang'd is the scene, some baneful planet rules an impious world, contriv'd for knaves and fools. Look now around, and with impartial eyes consider, and examine all who rise;
weigh well your actions and their teach'rous ends, how greatness grows, and by what steps ascends; what murders, treasons, purjuries, deceit;
how many crush'd, to make one monster great. Would you command? Have fortune in your power?' hug when you stab, and smile when you devour? be bloody, false, flatter, forswear, and lie, turn pander, pathic, parasite, or spy;
such thriving arts may your wish'd purpose bring, a minister at least, perhaps a king.
Fortune, we most unjustly partial call, a mistress free, who bids alike to all; but on such terms as only suit the base, honour denies and shuns the foul embrace. The honest man, who starves and is undone, nor fortune, but his virtue keeps him down. Had Cato bent beneath the conquering cause, he might have liv'd to give new senates laws; but on vile terms disdaining to be great, he perish'd by his choice, and not his fate. Honours and life, th' usurper bids, and all that vain mistaken men good-fortune call, virtue forbids, and sets before his eyes an honest death, which he accepts, and dies: O glorious resolution! noble pride!
more honour'd, than the tyrant liv'd, he dy'd; more lov'd, more prais'd, more envy'd in his doom, than Cæsar trampling on the rights of Rome. The virtuous nothing fear, but life with shame, and death's a pleasant road that leads to fame. On bones, and scraps of dogs let me be fed, my limbs uncover'd, and expos'd my head to bleakest colds, a kennel be my bed. This, and all other matyrdom for thee, seems glorious, all, thrice beautious honesty! judge me, ye powers! let fortune tempt or frown I stand prepar'd, my honour is my own.
Ye great disturbers, who in endless noise,
in blood and rapine seek unnatural joys; for what is all this bustle but to shun
those thoughts with which you dare not be alone? As men in misery, opprest with care, seek in the rage of wine to drown despair. Let others fight, and eat their bread in blood,
regardless if the cause be bad or good;
rich in himself, in virtue that outshines
Happy the man, of mortals happiest he, whose quiet mind from vain desires is free; whom neither hopes deceive, nor fears torment, but lives at peace, within himself content, in thought, or act, accountable to none, but to himself, and to the gods alone: O sweetness of content! seraphic joys! which nothing wants, and nothing can destroy. Where dwells this peace, this freedom of the mind! where, but in shades remote from human kind; in flowery vales, where nymphs and shepherds meet, but never comes within the palace gate.
Farewell then cities, courts, and camps, farewell,
how sweet the morn! how gentle is the night!
From hence, as from a hill, I view below the crowded world, a mighty wood in show, where several wanderers travel day and night, by different paths, and none are in the right.
Corinna, in the bloom of youth
But now grown old, she would repair
But love's a summer flower, that dies
with the first weather's changing,
the lover, like the swallow, flies
MEDITATION ON DEATH.
Enough, enough, my soul, of worldly noise, of aëry pomps, and fleeting joys; what does this busy world provide at best,
but brittle goods that break like glass, but poison'd sweets, a troubled feast,
and pleasures like the winds, that in a moment pass? thy thoughts to nobler meditations give,
and study how to die, not how to live.
How frail is beauty? Ah! how vain, and how short-liv'd those glories are, that vex our nights and days with pain, and break our hearts with care!
in dust we no distinction see,
such Helen is, such, Myra, thou must be. How short is life? why will vain courtiers toil, and crowd a vainer monarch, for a smile? what is that monarch, but a mortal man, his crown a pageant, and his life a span with all his guards and his dominions, he must sicken too, and die as well as we. Those boasted names of conquerors and kings are swallow'd, and become forgotten things: one destin'd period men in common have, the great, the base, the coward, and the brave, all food alike for worms, companions in the grave. The prince and parasite together lie,
no fortune can exalt, but death will climb as high.
Since truth and constancy are vain,
In courts and cities, could you see