by Edward Young (1742)
Night Thoughts is a compilation of poems where each poem represents a different night. The poem provided below takes place on the first night. The reader is able to delve into Young’s mind while he searches for meaning in the philosophy of life. The melancholic tone of his work makes it more relatable while at the same time arouses the imagination of the reader.
This is the bud of being, the dim dawn,
The twilight of our day, the vestibule;
Life’s theatre as yet is shut, and death,
Strong death, alone can heave the massy bar,
This gross impediment of clay remove,
And make us embryos of existence free.
From real life, but little more remote
Is he, not yet a candidate for light,
The future embryo, slumbering in his sire.
Embryos we must be, till we burst the shell,
Yon ambient azure shell, and spring to life,
The life of gods, O transport! and of man.
Yet man, fool man! here buries all his thoughts;
Inters celestial hopes without one sigh.
Prisoner of earth, and pent beneath the moon,
Here pinions all his wishes; wing’d by heaven
To fly at infinite; and reach it there,
Where seraphs gather immortality,
On life’s fair tree, fast by the throne of God.
What golden joys ambrosial clustering glow
In His full beam, and ripen for the just,
Where momentary ages are no more!
Where time, and pain, and chance, and death, expire!
And is it in the flight of threescore years
To push eternity from human thought,
And smother souls immortal in the dust?
A soul immortal, spending all her fires,
Wasting her strength in strenuous idleness
Thrown into tumult, raptured, or alarm’d,
At aught this scene can threaten or indulge,
Resembles ocean into tempest wrought,
To waft a feather, or to drown a fly.
Where falls this censure? It o’erwhelms myself;
How was my heart encrusted by the world!
O how self-fetter’d was my grovelling soul!
How, like a worm, was I wrapt round and round
In silken thought, which reptile fancy spun,
Till darken’d reason lay quite clouded o’er
With soft conceit of endless comfort here,
Nor yet put forth her wings to reach the skies!