When all the fiercer passions cease
(The glory and disgrace of youth):
When the deluded soul in peace,
Can listen to the voice of truth:
When we are taught in whom to trust,
And how to spare, to spend, to give,
(Our prudence kind, our pity just),
'Tis then we rightly learn to live.
Its weakness when the body feels,
Nor danger in contempt defies:
To reason when desire appeals,
When, on experience, hope relies:
When every passing hour we prize,
Nor rashly on our follies spend:
But use it, as it quickly flies,
With sober aim to serious end:
When prudence bounds our utmost views,
And bids us wrath and wrong forgive:
When we can calmly gain or lose, -
'Tis then we rightly learn to live.
Yet thus, when we our way discern,
And can upon our care depend,
To travel safely, when we learn,
Behold? we're near our journey's end.
We've trod the maze of error round,
Long wand'ring in the winding glade:
And, now the torch of truth is found,
It only shows us where we stray'd:
Light for ourselves, what is it worth,
When we no more our way can choose?
For others, when we hold it forth,
They, in their pride, the boon refuse.
By long experience taught, we now
Can rightly judge of friends and foes,
Can all the worth of these allow,
And all their faults discern in those;
Relentless hatred, erring love,
We can for sacred truth forego;
We can the warmest friend reprove,
And bear to praise the fiercest foe:
To what effect? Our friends are gone
Beyond reproof, regard, or care;
And of our foes remains there one,
The mild relenting thought to share?
Now 'tis our boast that we can quell
The wildest passions in their rage;
Can their destructive force repel,
And their impetuous wrath assuage:
Ah! Virtue, dost thou arm, when now
This bold rebellious race are fled;
When all these tyrants rest and thou
Art warring with the mighty dead?
Revenge, ambition, scorn, and pride,
And strong desire, and fierce disdain,
The giant-brood by thee defied,
Lo! Time's resistless strokes have slain.
Yet Time, who could that race subdue,
(O'erpowering strength, appeasing rage,)
Leaves yet a persevering crew,
To try the failing powers of age.
Vex'd by the constant call of these,
Virtue a while for conquest tries:
But weary grown and fond of ease,
She makes with them a compromise:
Av'rice himself she gives to rest,
But rules him with her strict commands;
Bids Pity touch his torpid breast,
And Justice hold his eager hands.
Yet is their nothing men can do,
When chilling age comes creeping on?
Cannot we yet some good pursue?
Are talents buried? genius gone?
If passions slumber in the breast,
If follies from the heart be fled;
Of laurels let us go in quest,
And place them on the poet's head.
Yes, we'll redeem the wasted time,
And to neglected studies flee;
We'll build again the lofty rhyme,
Or live, Philosophy, with thee:
For reasoning clear, for flight sublime,
Eternal fame reward shall be;
And to what glorious heights we'll climb,
The admiring crowd shall envying see.
Begin the song! begin the theme! -
Alas! and is Invention dead?
Dream we no more the golden dream?
Is Mem'ry with her treasures fled?
Yes, 'tis too late,--now Reason guides
The mind, sole judge in all debate;
And thus the important point decides,
For laurels, 'tis, alas! too late.
What is possess'd we may retain,
But for new conquests strive in vain.
Beware then, Age, that what was won,
If life's past labours, studies, views,
Be lost not, now the labour's done,
When all thy part is,--not to lose:
When thou canst toil or gain no more,
Destroy not what was gain'd before.
For, all that's gain'd of all that's good,
When time shall his weak frame destroy
(Their use then rightly understood),
Shall man, in happier state, enjoy.
Oh! argument for truth divine,
For study's cares, for virtue's strife;
To know the enjoyment will be thine,
In that renew'd, that endless life!
— “Reflections,’’ by George Crabbe (1754-1832)