William Lisle Bowles 1762 (King's Sutton) – 1850
INSCRIBED TO THE DUKE OF LEEDS.
When Want, with wasted mien and haggard eye,
Retires in silence to her cell to die;
When o'er her child she hangs with speechless dread,
Faint and despairing of to-morrow's bread;
Who shall approach to bid the conflict cease,
And to her parting spirit whisper peace!
Who thee, poor infant, that with aspect bland
Dost stretch forth innocent thy helpless hand,
Shall pitying then protect, when thou art thrown
On the world's waste, unfriended and alone!
O hapless Infancy! if aught could move
The hardest heart to pity and to love
'Twere surely found in thee: dim passions mark
Stern manhood's brow, where age impresses dark
The stealing line of sorrow; but thine eye
Wears not distrust, or grief, or perfidy.
Though fortune's storms with dismal shadow lower,
Thy heart nor fears, nor feels the bitter shower;
Thy tear is soon forgotten; thou wilt weep,
And then the murmuring winds will hush thy sleep,
As 'twere with some sad music;--and thy smiles,
Unlike to those that cover cruel wiles,
Plead best thy speechless innocence, and lend
A charm might win the world to be thy friend.
But thou art oft abandoned in thy smiles,
And early vice thy easy heart beguiles.
Oh for some voice, that of the secret maze
Where the grim passions lurk, the winding ways
That lead to sin, and ruth, and deep lament,
Might haply warn thee, whilst yet innocent
And beauteous as the spring-time o'er the hills
Advancing, when each vale glad music fills!
Else lost and wandering, the benighted mind
No spot of rest again shall ever find;
Then the sweet smiles, that erst enchanting laid
Their magic beauty on thy look, shall fade;
Then the bird's warbled song no more shall cheer
With morning music thy delighted ear;
Fell thoughts and muttering passions shall awake,
And the fair rose the sullied cheek forsake!
As when still Autumn's gradual gloom is laid
Far o'er the fading forest's saddened shade,
A mournful gleam illumines the cold hill,
Yet palely wandering o'er the distant rill;
But when the hollow gust, slow rising, raves,
And high the pine on yon lone summit waves,
Each milder charm, like pictures of a dream,
Hath perished, mute the birds, and dark the stream!
Scuds the dreer sleet upon the whirlwind borne,
And scowls the landscape clouded and forlorn!
So fades, so perishes frail Virtue's hue;
Her last and lingering smile seems but to rue,
Like autumn, every summer beauty reft,
Till all is dark and to the winter left.
Yet spring, with living touch, shall paint again
The green-leaved forest, and the purple plain;
With mingling melody the woods shall ring,
The whispering breeze its long-lost incense fling:
But, Innocence! when once thy tender flower
The sickly taint has touched, where is the power
That shall bring back its fragrance, or restore
The tints of loveliness, that shine no more?
How then for thee, who pinest in life's gloom,
Abandoned child! can hope or virtue bloom!
For thee, exposed amid the desert drear,
Which no glad gales or vernal sunbeams cheer!
Though some there are, who lift their head sublime,
Nor heed the transient storms of fate or time;
Too oft, alas! beneath unfriendly skies,
The tender blossom shrinks its leaves, and dies!
Go, struggle with thy fate, pursue thy way;--
Though thou art poor, the world around is gay!
Thou hast no bread; but on thy aching sight
Proud luxury's pavilions glitter bright;
In thy cold ear the song of gladness swells,
Whilst vacant folly chimes her tinkling bells:
The careless crowd prolong their hollow glee,
Nor one relenting bosom thinks of thee.
Will not the indignant spirit then rebel,
And the dark tide of passions fearful swell!
Will not despight, perhaps, or bitter need,
Urge then thy temper to some direful deed!
Pale Guilt shall call thee to her ghastly band,
Or Murder welcome thee with reeking hand!
O wretched state, where our best feelings lie
Deep sunk in sullen, hopeless apathy!
Or wakeful cares, or gloomy terrors start,
And night and tempest mingle in the heart!
All mournful to the pensive sage's eye,
The monuments of human glory lie;
Fall'n palaces, crushed by the ruthless haste
Of time, and many an empire's silent waste,
Where, 'midst the vale of long-departed years,
The form of desolation dim appears,
Pointing to the wild plain with ruin spread,
The wrecks of age, and records of the dead!
But where a sight shall shuddering sorrow find,
Sad as the ruins of the human mind;--
As Man, by his GREAT MAKER raised sublime
Amid the universe, ordained to climb <
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"The Philanthropic Society" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 20 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/40958/the-philanthropic-society>.