He complains how soon the pleasing anxiety of life is over
by William Shenstone (1714-1763)
Ah me, my Friend! it will not, will not last,
This fairy scene, that cheats our youthful eyes;
The charm dissolves; th’ aerial music’s past;
The banquet ceases, and the vision flies.
Where are the splendid forms, the rich perfumes,
Where the gay tapers, where the spacious dome?
Vanished the costly pearls, the crimson plumes,
And we, delightless, left to wander home!
Vain now are books, the sage’s wisdom vain!
What has the world to bribe our steps astray?
Ere Reason learns by studied laws to reign,
The weakened passions, self-subdued, obey.
Scarce has the sun seven annual courses roll’d,
Scarce shown the whole that Fortune can supply,
Since, not the miser so caress’d his gold,
As I, for what it gave, was heard to sigh.
On the world’s stage I wish’d some sprightly part,
To deck my native fleece with tawdry lace!
’Twas life, ’twas taste, and—oh! my foolish heart!
Substantial joy was fix’d in power and place.
And you, ye works of Art! allured mine eye,
The breathing picture, and the living stone:
“Though gold, though splendour, Heaven and Fate deny,
Yet might I call one Titian stroke my own!”
Smit with the charms of Fame, whose lovely spoil,
The wreath, the garland, fire the poet’s pride,
I trimm’d my lamp, consumed the midnight oil—
But soon the paths of health and fame divide!
Oft, too, I pray’d; ’twas Nature form’d the prayer,
To grace my native scenes, my rural home;
To see my trees express their planter’s care,
And gay, on Attic models, raise my dome.
But now ’tis o’er, the dear delusion’s o’er!
A stagnant breezeless air becalms my soul;
A fond aspiring candidate no more,
I scorn the palm before I reach the goal.
Youth! enchanting stage, profusely bless’d!
Bliss even obtrusive courts the frolic mind;
Of health neglectful, yet by health caress’d,
Careless of favour, yet secure to find.
Then glows the breast, as opening roses fair;
More free, more vivid, than the linnet’s wing;
Honest as light, transparent e’en as air,
Tender as buds, and lavish as the Spring.
Not all the force of manhood’s active might,
Not all the craft to subtle age assign’d,
Not Science shall extort that dear delight,
Which gay Delusion gave the tender mind.
Adieu, soft raptures! transports void of care!
Parent of raptures, dear Deceit, adieu!
And you, her daughters, pining with despair,
Why, why so soon her fleeting steps pursue!
Tedious again to curse the drizzling day!
Again to trace the wintry tracks of snow!
Or, soothed by vernal airs, again survey
The self-same hawthorns bud, and cowslips blow!
Life! how soon of every bliss forlorn!
We start false joys, and urge the devious race;
A tender prey; that cheers our youthful morn,
Then sinks untimely, and defrauds the chase.