Its annual circuit round the sun
Again the toiling Earth has run,
Again as one sad year retires,
Another, new-born hope inspires.
Experience cannot quite control
This inward breathing of the soul,
Nor reason totally subdue,
Whilst our defeated plans we view
The eager wish, to plan anew
The restless vigor of the mind,
Whilst doom’d on Earth to be confin’d,
Will start by fits, to some new goal:
Will seek some visionary pole,
Yet chasten’d still must be her Sight,
For if her beam, too strongly bright,
Suddenly ’scape the raptur’d gaze,
The spirit, lost in dread amaze,
Toss’d from its balance unaware,
Becomes the victim of despair.
How then to navigate this shore?
Its currents stem? Its shallows explore?
To guard against each vortex wide?
To struggle with the foaming tide?
To shun the rocks? To clear the strands?
And work thro’ all the shifting sands?
To meet the shock of adverse winds,
When terror, circumspection blinds?
Our doubtful course compell’d to take,
Where fatal oft the first mistake,
How frequently, in early years,
When rash unthinking passion steers,
Is the poor bark borne wide astray,
Ne’er to regain its wonted way.
How often wrecked in sight of land,
While griev’d spectators wishing stand,
Unable to avert its fate,
Or of its course extend the date!
But blest with kindly gales and skies,
See yonder prosp’rous vessel flies,
The guide not more of virtue arm’d,
Or of its risques by fear alarm’d;
Smoothly it cuts its wat’ry way,
Nor ever meets one frowning day.
Yet shall we say that such are blest?
Or dare interpret heaven’s behest?
What to our thoughts may bliss appear,
Perhaps is made a proof severe
Of virtue which the storm could brave
But in the calm sea finds its grave.
Then let us not by shews be caught,
Nor, weak reject the bitter draught;
In anger, if the cup be given,
’Tis just we feel the scourge of heaven;
While oft in stern misfortune’s school
We learn our frailties to o’errule.
A conquest rare to be acquir’d
Possessing all our souls desir’d.
Be it in future then our pray’r
Those simple gifts alone to share,
Beings so prone to err can bear.
In this consoling thought to trust,
That heav’n is merciful and just:
That if resign’d we meet its will,
Intent our duties to fulfil,
We speed the dawn of that bright day
Which all our grief shall bear away,
Which brings the patient mourner rest,
And, as we suffer, makes us blest.