I ask’d an aged man,
a man of cares,
Wrinkled and curved, and white with hoary hairs:
“Time is the warp of life,” he said; “Oh tell
The young, the fair, the gay, to weave ’t well!”
I ask’d the ancient, venerable dead—
Sages who wrote, and warriors who bled:
From the cold grave a hollow murmur flow’d—
“Time sow’d the seed we reap in this abode!”
I ask’d a dying sinner, ere the tide
Of life had left his veins: “Time?” he replied,
“I’ve lost it! Ah, the treasure!” and he died.
I ask’d the golden sun and silver spheres,
Those bright chronometers of days and years:
They answer’d: “Time is but a meteor’s glare,”
And bade me for Eternity prepare.
I ask’d the Seasons, in their annual round,
Which beautify or desolate the ground;
And they replied (no oracle more wise):
“’Tis Folly’s blank, and Wisdom’s highest prize!”
I ask’d a spirit lost, but oh! the shriek
That pierced my soul! I shudder while I speak.
It cried, “A particle! a speck! a mite
Of endless years—duration infinite!”
Of things inanimate, my dial I
Consulted, and it made me this reply:
“Time is the season fair of living well—
The path of glory, or the path of hell.”
I ask’d my Bible, and methinks it said:
“Time is the present hour—the past is fled:
Live! live to-day; to-morrow never yet
On any human being rose or set.”
I ask’d old Father Time himself at last,
But in a moment he flew swiftly past—
His chariot was a cloud, the viewless wind
His noiseless steeds, which left no trace behind.
I ask’d the mighty Angel who shall stand
One foot on sea, and one on solid land;
“By Heaven!” he cried, “I swear the mystery’s o’er;
Time was,” he cried, “but time shall be no more!”
REV. J. MARSDEN.
* * * * *
[Illustration: Letter F.]
Fine writing, according to Mr. Addison, consists of sentiments which are natural without being obvious. There cannot be a juster and more concise definition of fine writing.
Sentiments which are merely natural affect not the mind with any pleasure, and seem not worthy to engage our attention. The pleasantries of a waterman, the observations of a peasant, the ribaldry of a porter or hackney-coachman; all these are natural and disagreeable. What an insipid comedy should we make of the chit-chit of the tea-table, copied faithfully and at full length! Nothing can please persons of taste but nature drawn with all her graces and ornament—la belle nature; or, if we copy low life, the strokes must be strong and remarkable, and must convey a lively image to the mind. The absurd naivete of Sancho Panza is represented in such inimitable colours by Cervantes, that it entertains as much as the picture of the most magnanimous hero or softest lover.