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A MAN PERISHING IN THE SNOW;
From whence Reflections are raised on the Miseries of Life.
As thus the snows arise: and foul, and fierce,
All winter drives along the darken'd air;
In his own loose-revolving fields, the swain
Disaster'd stands; sees other hills ascend,
Of unknown joyless brow; and other scenes,
Of horrid prospect, shag the trackless plain:
Nor finds the river, nor the forest, hid
Beneath the formless wild; but wanders on
From hill to dale, still more and more astray;
Impatient flouncing through the thrifted heaps,
Stung with the thoughts of home: the thoughts of
Rush on his nerves, and call their vigour forth
many a vain attempt. How sinks his soul!
What black despair, what horror fills his heart!
When for the dusky spot, which fancy feign'd
His tufted cottage rising through the snow,
He meets the roughness of the middle waste,
Far from the track and blest abode of man;
While round him night resistless closes fast,
And ev'ry tempest howling o'er his head,
Renders the savage wilderness more wild.
Then throng the busy shapes into his mind,
Of cover'd pits, unfathomably deep,
A dire descent; beyond the pow'r of frost,
Of faithless bogs; of precipices huge,
Smooth'd up with snow; and what is land, unknown,
What water, of the still unfrozen spring,
In the loose marsh or solitary lake,
Where the fresh fountain from the bottom boils.
These check his fearful steps, and down he sinks
Beneath the shelter of the shapeless drift,
Thinking o'er all the bitterness of death,
Mix'd with the tender anguish nature shoots
Through the wrung bosom of the dying man,
His wife, his children, and his friends unseen.
In vain for him th' officious wife
The fire fair-blazing, and the vestment warm;
In vain his little children peeping out
Into the mingled storm, demand their sire
With tears of artless innocence. Alas!
Nor wife, nor children more shall he behold, Nor friends, nor sacred home. On ev'ry nerve
The deadly winter seizes; shuts up sense;
And o'er his inmost vitals creeping cold,
Lays him along the snows, a stiffen'd corse
Stretch'd out, and bleaching in the northern blast.
Ah, little think the gay licentious proud,
Whom pleasure, pow'r, and affluence surround,
They who their thoughtless hours in giddy mirth,
And wanton, often cruel, riot waste;
Ah, little think they, as they dance along,
How many feel, this very moment, death,
And all the sad variety of pain.
How many sink in the devouring flood,
Or more devouring flame! How many bleed,
By shameful variance betwixt man and man!
How many pine in want, and dungeon glooms,
Shut from the common air, and common use
Of their own limbs! How many drink the
Of baleful grief, or eat the bitter bread
Of misery! Sore pierc'd by wintry winds,
many sink into the sordid hut
Of cheerless poverty! How many shake
With all the fiercer tortures of the mind,
Unbounded passion, madness, guilt, remorse!
How many, rack'd with honest passions, droop
In deep retir'd distress! How many stand
Around the death-bed of their dearest friends,
And point the parting anguish! Thought, fond man,
Of these, and all the thousand nameless ills,
That one incessant struggle render life
One scene of toil, of suff'ring, and of fate,
Vice in his high career would stand appall'd,
And heedless rambling impulse learn to think;
The conscious heart of charity would warm,
And her wide wish benevolence dilate;
The social tear arise, the social sigh;
And into clear perfection, gradual bliss,
Refining still, the social passions work.
MUTT'RING, the winds at eve, with blunted point,
Blow hollow-blust'ring from the south. Subdu'd,
The frost resolves into a trickling thaw.
Spotted the mountains shine; loose sleet descends,
And floods the country round. The rivers swell,
Of bonds impatient. Sudden from the hills,
O'er rocks and woods in broad brown cataracts,
A thousand snow-fed torrents shoots at once!
And where they rush, the wide-resounding plain
Is left one slimy waste. Those sullen seas
That wash'd th' ungenial pole, will rest no more
Beneath the shackles of the mighty north;
But, rousing all their waves, resistless heave.
And hark! the length'ning roar continuous runs
Athwart the rifted deep: at once it bursts,
And piles a thousand mountains to the clouds.
Ill fares the bark, with trembling wretches charg'd,
That, tost amid the floating fragments, moors
Beneath the shelter of an icy isle,
While night o'erwhelms the sea, and horror looks
More horrible. Can human force endure
Th' assembled mischiefs that besiege them round?
Heart-gnawing hunger, fainting weariness,
The roar of winds and waves, the crush of ice,
Now ceasing, now renew'd with louder rage,
And in dire echoes bellowing round the main.
More to embroil the deep, Leviathan
And his unwieldy train in dreadful sport
Tempest the loosen'd brine, while thro' the gloom,
Far from the bleak inhospitable shore,
Loading the winds, is heard the hungry howl
Of famish'd monsters, there awaiting wrecks.
Yet Providence, that ever-waking eye,
Looks down with pity on the feeble toil
Of mortals lost to hope, and lights them safe
Through all this dreary labyrinth of fate.