Treasure Island

Anne Kingsmill Finch

(April 1661 - 5 August 1720 / Sydmonton, Hampshire)

All Is Vanity


I

How vain is Life! which rightly we compare
To flying Posts, that haste away;
To Plants, that fade with the declining Day;
To Clouds, that sail amidst the yielding Air;
Till by Extention into that they flow,
Or, scatt'ring on the World below,
Are lost and gone, ere we can say they were;
To Autumn-leaves, which every Wind can chace;
To rising Bubbles, on the Waters Face;
To fleeting Dreams, that will not stay,
Nor in th' abused Fancy dance,
When the returning Rays of Light,
Resuming their alternate Right,
Break on th' ill-order'd Scene on the fantastick Trance:
As weak is Man, whilst Tenant to the Earth;
As frail and as uncertain all his Ways,
From the first moment of his weeping Birth,
Down to the last and best of his few restless Days;
When to the Land of Darkness he retires
From disappointed Hopes, and frustrated Desires;
Reaping no other Fruit of all his Pain
Bestow'd whilst in the vale of Tears below,
But this unhappy Truth, at last to know,
That Vanity's our Lot, and all Mankind is Vain.

II

If past the hazard of his tendrest Years,
Neither in thoughtless Sleep opprest,
Nor poison'd with a tainted Breast,
Loos'd from the infant Bands and female Cares,
A studious Boy, advanc'd beyond his Age,
Wastes the dim Lamp, and turns the restless Page;
For some lov'd Book prevents the rising Day,
And on it, stoln aside, bestows the Hours of Play;
Him the observing Master do's design
For search of darkned Truths and Mysteries Divine;
Bids him with unremitted Labour trace
The Rise of Empires, and their various Fates,
The several Tyrants o'er the several States,
To Babel's lofty Towers, and warlike Nimrod's Race;
Bids him in Paradice the Bank survey,
Where Man, new-moulded from the temper'd Clay,
(Till fir'd with Breath Divine) a helpless Figure lay:
Could he be led thus far--What were the Boast,
What the Reward of all the Toil it cost,
What from that Land of ever-blooming Spring,
For our Instruction could he bring,
Unless, that having Humane Nature found
Unseparated from its Parent Ground,
(Howe'er we vaunt our Elevated Birth)
The Epicure in soft Array,
The lothsome Beggar, that before
His rude unhospitable Door,
Unpity'd but by Brutes, a broken Carcass lay,
Were both alike deriv'd from the same common Earth?
But ere the Child can to these Heights attain,
Ere he can in the Learned Sphere arise;
A guilding Star, attracting to the Skies,
A fever, seizing the o'er labour'd Brain,
Sends him, perhaps, to Death's concealing Shade;
Where, in the Marble Tomb now silent laid,
He better do's that useful Doctrine show,
(Which all the sad Assistants ought to know,
Who round the Grave his short continuance mourn)
That first from Dust we came, and must to Dust return.

III

A bolder Youth, grown capable of Arms,
Bellona courts with her prevailing Charms;
Bids th' inchanting Trumpet sound,
Loud as Triumph, soft as Love,
Striking now the Poles above,
Then descending from the Skies,
Soften every falling Note;
As the harmonious Lark that sings and flies,
When near the Earth, contracts her narrow Throat,
And warbles on the Ground:
Shews the proud Steed, impatient of the Check,
'Gainst the loudest Terrors Proof,
Pawing the Valley with his steeled Hoof,
With Lightning arm'd his Eyes, with Thunder cloth'd his Neck;
Who on the th' advanced Foe, (the Signal giv'n)
Flies, like a rushing Storm by mighty Whirlwinds driv'n;
Lays open the Records of Fame,
No glorious Deed omits, no Man of mighty Name;
Their Stratagems, their Tempers she'll repeat,
From Alexander's, (truly stil'd the GREAT)
From Cæsar's on the World's Imperial Seat,
To Turenne's Conduct, and to Conde's Heat.
'Tis done! and now th' ambitious Youth disdains
The safe, but harder Labours of the Gown,
The softer pleasures of the Courtly Town,
The once lov'd rural Sports, and Chaces on the Plains;
Does with the Soldier's Life the Garb assume,
The gold Embroid'ries, and the graceful Plume;
Walks haughty in a Coat of Scarlet Die,
A Colour well contriv'd to cheat the Eye,
Where richer Blood, alas! may undistinguisht lye.
And oh! too near that wretched Fate attends;
Hear it ye Parents, all ye weeping Friends!
Thou fonder Maid! won by these gaudy Charms,
(The destin'd Prize of his Victorious Arms)
Now fainting Dye upon the mournful Sound,
That speaks his hasty Death, and paints the fatal Wound!
Trail all your Pikes, dispirit every Drum,
March in a slow Procession from afar,
Ye silent, ye dejected Men of War!
Be still the Hautboys, and the Flute be dumb!
Display no more, in vain, the lofty Banner;
For see! where on the Bier before ye lies
The pale, the fall'n, th' untimely Sacrifice
To your mistaken Shrine, to your false Idol Honour!

IV

As Vain is Beauty, and as short her Power;
Tho' in its proud, and transitory Sway,
The coldest Hearts and wisest Heads obey
That gay fantastick Tyrant of an Hour.
On Beauty's Charms, (altho' a Father's Right,
Tho' grave Seleucus! to thy Royal Side
By holy Vows fair Stratonice be ty'd)
With anxious Joy, with dangerous Delight,
Too often gazes thy unwary Son,
Till past all Hopes, expiring and undone,
A speaking Pulse the secret Cause impart;
The only time, when the Physician's Art
Could ease that lab'ring Grief, or heal a Lover's Smart.
See Great Antonius now impatient stand,
Expecting, with mistaken Pride,
On Cydnus crowded Shore, on Cydnus fatal Strand,
A Queen, at his Tribunal to be try'd,
A Queen that arm'd in Beauty, shall deride
His feeble Rage, and his whole Fate command:
O'er the still Waves her burnisht Galley moves,
Row'd by the Graces, whilst officious Loves
To silken Cords their busie Hands apply,
Or gathering all the gentle Gales that fly,
To their fair Mistress with these Spoils repair,
And from their purple Wings disperse the balmy Air.
Hov'ring Perfumes ascend in od'rous Clouds,
Curl o'er the Barque, and play among the Shrouds;
Whilst gently dashing every Silver Oar,
Guided by the Rules of Art,
With tuneful Instruments design'd
To soften, and subdue the stubborn Mind,
A strangely pleasing and harmonious Part
In equal Measures bore.
Like a new Venus on her native Sea,
In midst of the transporting Scene,
(Which Pen or Pencil imitates in vain)
On a resplendent and conspicuous Bed,
With all the Pride of Persia loosely spread,
The lovely Syrene lay.
Which but discern'd from the yet distant Shore,
Th' amazed Emperor could hate no more;
No more a baffled Vengeance could pursue;
But yielding still, still as she nearer drew,
When Cleopatra anchor'd in the Bay,
Where every Charm cou'd all its Force display,
Like his own Statue stood, and gaz'd the World away.
Where ends alas! this Pageantry and State;
Where end the Triumphs of this conqu'ring Face,
Envy'd of Roman Wives, and all the Female Race?
Oh swift Vicissitude of Beauty's Fate!
Now in her Tomb withdrawn from publick Sight,
From near Captivity and Shame,
The vanquish'd, the abandon'd Dame
Proffers the Arm, that held another's Right,
To the destructive Snake's more just Embrace,
And courts deforming Death, to mend his Leaden Pace.

V

But Wit shall last (the vaunting Poet cries)
Th' immortal Streams that from Parnassus flow,
Shall make his never-fading Lawrels grow,
Above this mouldring Earth to flourish in the Skies:
'And when his Body falls in Funeral Fire,
When late revolving Ages shall consume
The very Pillars, that support his Tomb,
'His name shall live, and his best Part aspire.
Deluded Wretch! grasping at future Praise,
Now planting, with mistaken Care,
Round thy enchanted Palace in the Air,
A Grove, which in thy Fancy time shall raise,
A Grove of soaring Palms, and everlasting Bays;
Could'st Thou alas! to such Reknown arrive,
As thy Imagination wou'd contrive;
Should numerous Cities, in a vain contest,
Struggle for thy famous Birth;
Should the sole Monarch of the conquer'd Earth,
His wreathed Head upon thy Volume rest;
Like Maro, could'st thou justly claim,
Amongst th' inspired tuneful Race,
The highest Room, the undisputed Place;
And after near Two Thousand Years of Fame,
Have thy proud Work to a new People shown;
Th' unequal'd Poems made their own,
In such a Dress, in such a perfect Stile
As on his Labours Dryden now bestows,
As now from Dryden's just Improvement flows,
In every polish'd Verse throughout the British Isle;
What Benefit alas! would to thee grow?
What Sense of Pleasure wou'dst thou know?
What swelling Joy? what Pride? what Glory have,
When in the Darkness of the abject Grave,
Insensible, and Stupid laid below,
No Atom of thy Heap, no Dust wou'd move,
For all the airy Breath that form'd thy Praise above?

VI

True, says the Man to Luxury inclin'd;
Without the Study of uncertain Art,
Without much Labour of the Mind,
Meer uninstructed Nature will impart,
That Life too swiftly flies, and leaves all good behind.
Sieze then, my Friends, (he cries) the present Hour;
The Pleasure which to that belongs,
The Feasts, th' o'erflowing Bowls, the Mirth, the Songs,
The Orange-Bloom, that with such Sweetness blows,
Anacreon's celebrated Rose,
The Hyacinth, with every beauteous Flower,
Which just this happy Moment shall disclose,
Are out of Fortune's reach, and all within our Power.
Such costly Garments let our Slaves prepare,
As for the gay Demetrius were design'd;
Where a new Sun of radiant Diamonds shin'd,
Where the enamel'd Earth, and scarce-discerned Air,
With a transparent Sea were seen,
A Sea composed of the Em'rald's Green,
And with a golden Shore encompass'd round;
Where every Orient Shell, of wondrous shape was found.
The whole Creation on his Shoulders hung,
The whole Creation with his Wish comply'd,
Did swiftly, for each Appetite provide,
And fed them all when Young.
No less, th' Assyrian Prince enjoy'd,
Of Bliss too soon depriv'd, but never cloy'd,
Whose Counsel let us still pursue,
Whose Monument, did this Inscription shew
To every Passenger, that trod the way,
Where, with a slighting Hand, and scornful Smile
The proud Effigies, on th' instructive Pile,
A great Example lay.
I, here Entomb'd, did mighty Kingdoms sway,
Two Cities rais'd in one prodigious Day:
Thou wand'ring Traveller, no longer gaze,
No longer dwell upon this useless Place;
Go Feed, and Drink, in Sports consume thy Life;
For All that else we gain's not worth a Moment's Strife.
Thus! talks the Fool, whom no Restraint can bound,
When now the Glass has gone a frequent round;
When soaring Fancy lightly swims,
Fancy, that keeps above, and dances o'er the Brims;
Whilst weighty Reason sinks, and in the bottom's drown'd;
Adds to his Own, an artificial Fire,
Doubling ev'ry hot Desire,
Till th' auxiliary Spirits, in a Flame,
The Stomach's Magazine defy,
That standing Pool, that helpless Moisture nigh,
Thro' every Vital part impetuous fly,
And quite consume the Frame;
When to the Under-world despis'd he goes,
A pamper'd Carcase on the Worms bestows,
Who rioting on the unusual Chear,
As good a Life enjoy, as he could boast of here.

VII

But hold my Muse! thy farther Flight restrain,
Exhaust not thy declining Force,
Nor in a long, pursu'd, and breathless Course,
Attempt, with slacken'd speed, to run
Through ev'ry Vanity beneath the Sun,
Lest thy o'erweary'd Reader, should complain,
That of all Vanities beside,
Which thine, or his Experience e'er have try'd,
Thou art, too tedious Muse, most frivolous and vain;
Yet, tell the Man, of an aspiring Thought,
Of an ambitious, restless Mind,
That can no Ease, no Satisfaction find,
Till neighb'ring States are to Subjection brought,
Till Universal Awe, enslav'd Mankind is taught;
That, should he lead an Army to the Field,
For whose still necessary Use,
Th' extended Earth cou'd not enough produce,
Nor Rivers to their Thirst a full Contentment yield;
Yet, must their dark Reverse of Fate
Roll round, within that Course of Years,
Within the short, the swift, and fleeting Date
Prescrib'd by Xerxes, when his falling Tears
Bewail'd those Numbers, which his Sword employ'd,
And false, Hyena-like, lamented and destroy'd.
Tell Him, that does some stately Building raise,
A Windsor or Versailles erect,
And thorough all Posterity expect,
With its unshaken Base, a firm unshaken Praise;
Tell Him, Judea's Temple is no more,
Upon whose Splendour, Thousands heretofore
Spent the astonish'd Hours, forgetful to Adore:
Tell him, into the Earth agen is hurl'd,
That most stupendious Wonder of the World,
Justly presiding o'er the boasted Seven,
By humane Art and Industry design'd,
This! the rich Draught of the Immortal Mind,
The Architect of Heaven.
Remember then, to fix thy Aim on High,
Project, and build on t'other side the Sky,
For, after all thy vain Expence below,
Thou canst no Fame, no lasting Pleasure know;
No Good, that shall not thy Embraces fly;
Or thou from that be in a Moment caught,
Thy Spirit to new Claims, new Int'rests brought,
Whilst unconcern'd thy secret Ashes lye,
Or stray about the Globe, O Man ordain'd to Dye!

Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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