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Another plague of more gigantic arm
Arose, a monster, never known before,
Rear'd from Cocytus its portentous head
This rapid fury not, like other pests,
Pursu❜d a gradual course, but in a day
Rush'd as a storm o'er half the astonish'd isle,
And strew'd with sudden carcasses the land.
First, through the shoulders, or whatever part Was seiz'd the first, a fervid vapour sprung. With rash combustion thence, the quivering spark Shot to the heart, and kindled all within; And soon the surface caught the spreading fires. Through all the yielded pores, the melted blood Gush'd out in smoky sweats; but nought assuag'd The torrid heat within, nor aught reliev'd The stomach's anguish. With incessant toil, Desperate of ease, impatient of their pain, They toss'd from side to side. In vain the stream Ran full and clear, they burnt and thirsted still. The restless arteries with rapid blood
Beat strong and frequent. Thick and pantingly The breath was fetch'd, and with huge lab'rings heav'd.
At last a heavy pain oppress'd the head,
A wild delirium came; their weeping friends
Were strangers now, and this no home of theirs.
Harass'd with toil on toil, the sinking powers
Lay prostrate and o'erthrown; a ponderous sleep
Wrapt all the senses up: they slept and died.
In some a gentle horrour crept at first
O'er all the limbs; the sluices of the skin
Withheld their moisture, till by art provok'd
The sweats o'erflow'd; but in a clammy tide:
Now free and copious, now restrain'd and slow;
Of tinctures various, as the temperature
Had mix'd the blood; and rank with fetid steams:
As if the pent-up humours by delay
Were grown more fell, more putrid, and malign.
Here lay their hopes (though little hope remain'd)
With full effusion of perpetual sweats
To drive the venom out. And here the fates
Were kind, that long they linger'd not in pain;
For who surviv'd the Sun's diurnal race
Rose from the dreary gates of Hell redeem'd:
Some the sixth hour oppress'd, and some the third.
Of many thousands, few untainted 'scap'd ;
Of those infected, fewer 'scap'd alive :
Of those who liv'd, some felt a second blow;
And whom the second spar'd, a third destroy'd.
Frantic with fear, they sought by flight to shun
The fierce contagion. O'er the mournful land
Th' infected city pour'd her hurrying swarms:
Rous'd by the flames that fir'd her seats around,
Th' infected country rush'd into the town.
Some, sad at home, and in the desert some,
Abjur'd the fatal commerce of mankind :
In vain where'er they fled, the fates pursu'd.
Others, with hopes more specious, cross'd the main,
To seek protection in far distant skies;
But none they found. It seem'd the general air,
From pole to pole, from Atlas to the east,
Was then at enmity with English blood.
For, but the race of England, all were safe
In foreign climes; nor did this fury taste
The foreign blood which England then contain❜d.
Where should they fly? The circumambient Heaven
Involv'd them still; and every breeze was bane.
Where find relief? The salutary art
Was mute; and, startled at the new disease,
In fearful whispers hopeless omens gave. [pray'rs`;
To Heaven with suppliant rites they sent their
Heav'n heard them not. Of every hope depriv'd;
Fatigued with vain resources; and subdued
With woes resistless and enfeebling fear;
Passive they sunk beneath the weighty blow
Nothing but lamentable sounds was heard,
Nor aught was seen but ghastly views of death.
Infectious horrour ran from face to face,
And pale despair. 'T was all the business then
To tend the sick, and in their turns to die.
In heaps they fell: and oft one bed, they say,
The sick'ning, dying, and the dead contain'd.
Ye guardian gods, on whom the fates depend Of tottering Albion! ye eternal fires [powers That lead through Heav'n the wandering year! ye That o'er th' encircling elements preside! May nothing worse than what this age has seen Arrive! Enough abroad, enough at home Has Albion bled. Here a distemper'd heaven Has thinn'd her cities, from those lofty cliffs That awe proud Gaul, to Thulé's wintry reign; While in the west, beyond the Atlantic foam, Her bravest sons, keen for the fight, have dy'd The death of cowards and of common men: Sunk void of wounds, and fall'n without renown.
But from these views the weeping Muses turn, And the themes invite my wandering song.
THE choice of aliment, the choice of air,
The use of toil, and all external things,
Already sung; it now remains to trace
What good, what evil, from ourselves proceeds:
And how the subtle principle within
Inspires with health, or mines with strange decay
The passive body. Ye poetic shades
Who know the secrets of the world unseen,
Assist my song! for, in a doubtful theme
Engag'd, I wander through mysterious ways,
There is, they say, (and I believe there is,)
A spark within us of th' immortal fire,
That animates and moulds the grosser frame;
And when the body sinks, escapes to Heaven,
Its native seat, and mixes with the gods.
Meanwhile this heavenly particle pervades
The mortal elements; in every nerve
It thrills with pleasure, or grows mad with pain.
And, in its secret conclave, as it feels
The body's woes and joys, this ruling power
Wields at its will the dull material world,
And is the body's health or malady.
By its own toil the gross corporeal frame Fatigues, extenuates, or destroys itself.
Nor less the labours of the mind corrode
The solid fabric: for by subtle parts
And viewless atoms, secret Nature moves
The mighty wheels of this stupendous world.
By subtle fluids pour'd through subtle tubes
The natural vital functions are perform'd.
By these the stubborn aliments are tam'd;
The toiling heart distributes life and strength;
These the still-crumbling frame rebuild; and these
Are lost in thinking, and dissolve in air.
But 't is not thought, (for still the soul's employ'd,)
'T is painful thinking that corrodes our clay. All day the vacant eye without fatigue
Strays o'er the Heaven and Earth; but long intent
On microscopic arts, its vigour fails.
Just so the mind, with various thought amus'd,
Nor aches itself, nor gives the body pain.
But anxious study, discontent, and care,
Love without hope, and hate without revenge,
And fear, and jealousy, fatigue the soul,
Engross the subtle ministers of life,
And spoil the lab'ring functions of their share.
Hence the lean gloom that melancholy wears;
The lover's paleness; and the sallow hue
Of envy, jealousy; the meagre stare
Of sore revenge: the canker'd body hence
Betrays each fretful motion of the mind.
The strong-built pedant, who both night and day
Feeds on the coarsest fare the schools bestow,
And crudely fattens at gross Burman's stall;
O'erwhelm'd with phlegm lies in a dropsy drown'd,
Or sinks in lethargy before his time.
With useful studies you, and arts that please
Employ your mind; amuse, but not fatigue.
Peace to each drowsy metaphysic sage!