A poem sacred to the memory of Sir Isaac Newton: By James Thomson.
Thomson, James, 1700-1748.
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A POEM Sacred to the Memory of Sir ISAAC NEWTON.
_SHALL the great Soul of NEWTON quit this Earth,
To mingle with his Stars, and every Muse,
Astonish'd into Silence, shun the Weight
Of Honours due to his illustrious Name!
But what can Man?—Even now the Sons of Light,
Page 6 In Strains such as delight the Ear of GOD,
Hail his Arrival on the Coasts of Bliss.
Yet am not I deterr'd, tho' high the Theme,
And sung to Harps of Angels; for with you,
Aetherial Flames! ambitious I aspire
In Nature's general Symphony to join.
AND what new Wonders can ye show your Guest!
Who, while on this dim Spot where Mortals toil
Clouded in Dust, from Motion's simple Laws
Could trace the boundless Hand of Providence,
Wide-working thro' this universal Frame.
HAVE ye not listen'd while he bound the Suns,
And Planets to their Spheres! Th' unequal Task
Of Humankind till then. Oft had they roll'd
O'er erring Man the Year, and oft disgrac'd
The Pride of Schools, before their Course was known
Full in its Causes and Effects to Him,
All-piercing Sage! Who sat not down and dreamt
Romantic Schemes, defended by the Din
Of specious Words, and Tyranny of Names,
But bidding his amazing Mind attend,
Page 7 And with heroick Patience Years on Years
Deep-searching, saw at last the System dawn,
And shine, of all his Race, on him alone.
WHAT were his Raptures then! how pure! how strong!
And what the Triumphs of old Greece and Rome,
By his diminish'd, but the Pride of Boys
In some small Fray victorious! When instead
Of shatter'd Parcels of this Earth usurp'd
By Violence unmanly, and sore Deeds
Of Cruelty and Blood, Nature herself
Stood all subdu'd by him, and open laid
Her every latent Glory to his View.
AND first our solar System he survey'd
With accurate Ken, and by the mingling Power
Of Gravitation and Projection saw
The whole in silent Harmony revolve.
Drawn to his lengthen'd Eye th' attending Moons,
Design'd to chear remoter Planets, were
By him in all their mix'd Proportions seen.
He also fix'd the wandering Queen of Night,
Whether she wanes into a scanty Orb▪
Page 8 Or waxing broad with her pale shadowy Light
In a soft Deluge overflows the Sky.
Her every Motion clear discerning, He
Adjusted to th' obsequious Main, and taught
Why now the mighty Mass of Waters swells
Resistless, heaving on the broken Rocks,
And the full River turning; till again
The Tide revertive, unattracted, leaves
A Yellow Waste of idle Sands behind.
THEN breaking hence, he took his ardent Flight
Thro' the blue Infinite; and every Star,
Which the clear Concave of a Winter's Night
Pours on the Eye, or Astronomic Tube,
Far-stretching, snatches from the dark Abyss,
Or such as farther in successive Skies
To Fancy only shine, at his Approach
Blaz'd into Suns. Th' enlivening Centre each
Of an harmonious System. All, combin'd,
And rul'd unerring by that single Power
Which draws the Stone projected to the Ground.
O UNPROFUSE Magnificence divine!
O Wisdom truly perfect! thus to call
Page 9 From a few Causes such a Scheme of Things,
Effects so various, beautiful, and great,
An Universe compleat! And O Belov'd
Of Heaven! into th' Almighty's Councils thus
To be admitted, and allow'd to scan
The rising, moving, wide-establish'd Frame.
HE too, unbaffled in his Aim, pursu'd
The Comet to' the long Elliptic Curve,
As round innumerous Worlds he wound his Way,
Till to the Forehead of the Evening-Sky
Reduc'd, the blazing Wonder glares anew.
THE Heavens are all his own. Finish'd by him
The fair Discovery lies; and every Eye
May lay the useless Telescope aside,
Unless it be to hold the great Acquests
By Newton made: Who from the wild Domain
Of the *French Dreamer rescu'd Heaven and Earth.
All Europe stood appall'd; but found it vain
To keep at Odds with Demonstration strong,
Page 10 And lingering to resist the awakening Force
Of Truth. At once their pleasing Visions fled,
With the gay Shadows of the Morning mix'd,
When Newton rose, our Philosophic Sun.
TH' Aerial Flow of Sound was known to Him,
From whence it first in wavy Circles breaks,
Till the touch'd Organ takes the Message in.
Nor could the darting Beam, of Speed immense,
Escape his swift Pursuit, and measuring Glance.
Even Light it self, which every thing displays,
Shone undiscover'd, till his brighter Mind
Untwisted all the shining Robe of Day;
And from the whitening, undistinguish'd Blaze,
Collecting every Ray into his Kind,
To the charm'd Eye educ'd the gorgeous Train
Of Parent-Colours. First the flaming Red
Sprung vivid forth; the tawny Orange next;
And then delicious Yellow; by whose Side
Fell the kind Beams of all-refreshing Green.
Then the pure Blue that swells autumnal Skies
Aetherial play'd; and then of sadder Hue
Emerg•d the deepen'd Indico, as when
The heavy-skirted Evening droops with Frost.
Page 11 While the last Gleanings of refracted Light
Dy'd in the fainting Violetaway.
These, when the Clouds distil the rosy Shower,
Shine out distinct adown the watry Bow,
While o'er our Heads the dewy Vision bends
Delightful, melting on the Fields beneath.
Myriads of mingling Dies from these result,
And Myriads still remain, th' exhaustless Source
Of Beauty ever-flushing, ever-new!
DID ever Poet image ought so fair,
Dreaming in whispering Groves, by the hoarse Brook!
Or Prophet, to whose Rapture Heav'n descends!
Even now the setting Sun and liveri'd Clouds,
Seen, Greenwich, from thy lovely Heights, declare
How just, how beauteous the refractive Law.
THE noiseless Tide of Time, all bearing down
To vast Eternity's unbounded Sea
Where the green Islands of the Happy shine,
He backward stem'd alone; and to it's Source
Ascending, mark'd it's Periods, and hung out
His Lights at equal Distances to guide
Historian, wilder'd on his darksome Way.
BUT who can number up his Labours? Who
His high Discoveries sing? When but a few
Of the deep-studying Race can stretch their Minds
To image what he knew, as clear as they
The Truths self-evident with which he link'd
His far thest Views. For is there ought that's great.
That's wonderful, and hard, deterring Search?
That was his Prize! and worthy of his Toil
Unfailing, Who the lonely Monarch reign'd
Of Science thin-inhabited below.
WHAT Wonder then that his Devotion swell'd
Responsive to his Knowledge! For could he,
Whose piercing mental Eye diffusive saw
The finish'd University of Things,
In all its Order, Magnitude, and Parts,
Forbear incessant to adore that Power
Who fills, sustains, and actuates the whole.
SAY, ye who best can tell, ye happy few,
Who saw him in the softest Lights of Life,
All unwithheld, indulging to his Friends
The vast, unborrow'd Treasures of his Mind.
O speak the wondrous Man! how mild, how calm,
Page 13 How greatly humble, how divinely good,
How firm, establish'd on eternal Truth,
Pure as his Faith, and active as his Love,
Fervent in doing well, with every Nerve
Still pressing on, forgetful of the Past,
And panting for Perfection! far above
Those little Cares, and visionary Joys
That so befool the fond, impassion'd Heart
Of over-cheated, ever-trusting Man.
AND say, ye downward, gloomy-minded Tribe,
Ye who, unconscious of those nobler Flights
That reach impatient at immortal Life,
Against the Prime, indearing Privilege
Of Being dare contend, say can a Soul
Of such extensive, deep, tremendous Powers▪
Enlarging still, be but a finer Breath
Of Spirits dancing thro' their Tubes awhile▪
And then for ever lost in vacant Air?
BUT hark! Methinks I hear a warning Voice,
Solemn as when some awful Change is come,
Sound thro' the World—"He's dead.—The Measure's full,
"And I resign my Charge.—Ye mouldering Stones
Page 14 That build the towring Pyramid, the proud
Triumphal Arch, the Monument effac'd
By ruthless Ruin, and whate'er supports
The worship'd Name of grey Antiquity,
Down to the Dust! What Grandeur can ye boast
While Newton lifts his Column to the Skies
Beyond the Waste of Time!—Let no weak Drop
Be shed for him. The Beauty in her Bloom
Cut off, the Joyous Youth, and darling Child,
These are the Tombs that claim the tender Tear,
And Elegiac Song, but Newton calls
For other Notes of Gratulation high,
That now he wanders thro' those endless Worlds
He here so well descry'd, and wondering talks,
And Hymns their Author with his glad Compeers.
O BRITAIN'S Boast! Whether with Angels thou
Sittest in dread Discourse, or Fellow Saints
Who joy to see the Honour of their Kind;
Or whether mounted on Cherubic Wing,
Thy swift Career is with the whirling Spheres,
Comparing Things with Things, in Rapture lost
And lowly Adoration for that Light
So plenteous ray'd into thy Mind below,
Page 15 From Light himself, O look with Pity down
On Humankind, a frail, erroncous Race!
Asswage the Madness of a frantic World!
But chiefly o'er thy Country's Cause preside,
And be her Genius call'd! Her Council steer,
Correct her Manners, and inspire her Youth!
For, guilty as she is, she brought thee forth,
And glorious in thy Name; she points thee out
To all her Sons, and bids them eye thy Star:
While in Expectance of th' arrousing Blast,
When Time shall be no more, thy sacred Dust
Sleeps with her Kings, and dignifies the Scene.