A PINDARIC ODE - Samuel Johnson Poems


Poems » samuel johnson » a pindaric ode



      Brave infant of Saguntum, clear
      Thy coming forth in that great year,
When the prodigious Hannibal did crown
His rage with razing your immortal town.
      Thou looking then about,
      Ere thou wert half got out,
    Wise child, didst hastily return,
    And mad'st thy mother's womb thine urn.
How summ'd a circle didst thou leave mankind
Of deepest lore, could we the centre find!

      Did wiser nature draw thee back,
    From out the horror of that sack;
Where shame, faith, honour, and regard of right,
Lay trampled on? The deeds of death and night
      Urg'd, hurried forth, and hurl'd
      Upon th' affrighted world;
    Sword, fire and famine with fell fury met,
    And all on utmost ruin set:
As, could they but life's miseries foresee,
No doubt all infants would return like thee.

  For what is life, if measur'd by the space,
       Not by the act?
Or masked man, if valu'd by his face,
       Above his fact?
      Here's one outliv'd his peers
      And told forth fourscore years:
    He vexed time, and busied the whole state;
      Troubled both foes and friends;
      But ever to no ends:
    What did this stirrer but die late?
How well at twenty had he fall'n or stood!
For three of his four score he did no good.

      He enter'd well, by virtuous parts
    Got up, and thriv'd with honest arts;
He purchas'd friends, and fame, and honours then,
And had his noble name advanc'd with men;
      But weary of that flight,
      He stoop'd in all men's sight
    To sordid flatteries, acts of strife,
    And sunk in that dead sea of life,
So deep, as he did then death's waters sup,
But that the cork of title buoy'd him up.

      Alas, but Morison fell young!
    He never fell,--thou fall'st, my tongue.
He stood, a soldier to the last right end,
A perfect patriot and a noble friend;
      But most, a virtuous son.
      All offices were done
    By him, so ample, full, and round,
    In weight, in measure, number, sound,
As, though his age imperfect might appear,
His life was of humanity the sphere.

  Go now, and tell out days summ'd up with fears,
       And make them years;
Produce thy mass of miseries on the stage,
       To swell thine age;
      Repeat of things a throng,
      To show thou hast been long,
    Not liv'd; for life doth her great actions spell,
      By what was done and wrought
      In season, and so brought
    To light: her measures are, how well
Each syllabe answer'd, and was form'd, how fair;
These make the lines of life, and that's her air.

      It is not growing like a tree
      In bulk, doth make men better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sear:
       A lily of a day
       Is fairer far, in May,
    Although it fall and die that night,
    It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be.

      Call, noble Lucius, then, for wine,
    And let thy looks with gladness shine;
Accept this garland, plant it on thy head,
And think, nay know, thy Morison's not dead.
      He leap'd the present age,
      Possest with holy rage,
    To see that bright eternal day;
    Of which we priests and poets say
Such truths as we expect for happy men;
And there he lives with memory, and Ben

  Jonson, who sung this of him, ere he went
       Himself, to rest,
Or taste a part of that full joy he meant
       To have exprest,
      In this bright asterism,
      Where it were friendship's schism,
    Were not his Lucius long with us to tarry,
      To separate these twi{-}
      Lights, the Dioscuri,
    And keep the one half from his Harry.
But fate doth so alternate the design,
Whilst that in heav'n, this light on earth must shine.

      And shine as you exalted are;
    Two names of friendship, but one star:
Of hearts the union, and those not by chance
Made, or indenture, or leas'd out t' advance
      The profits for a time.
      No pleasures vain did chime,
    Of rhymes, or riots, at your feasts,
    Orgies of drink, or feign'd protests;
But simple love of greatness and of good,
That knits brave minds and manners more than blood.

      This made you first to know the why
    You lik'd, then after, to apply
That liking; and approach so one the t'other
Till either grew a portion of the other;
      Each styled by his end,
      The copy of his friend.
    You liv'd to be the great surnames
    And titles by which all made claims
Unto the virtue: nothing perfect done,
But as a Cary or a Morison.

  And such a force the fair example had,
       As they that saw
The good and durst not practise it, were glad
       That such a law
      Was left yet to mankind;
      Where they might read and find
    Friendship, indeed, was written not in words:
      And with the heart, not pen,
      Of two so early men,
    Whose lines her rolls were, and records;
Who, ere the first down bloomed on the chin,
Had sow'd these fruits, and got the harvest in.