Archive for January 9th, 2015

Friday, 9 January 2015

Excerpt from “Death: A Poetical Essay” by Beilby Porteus

Friend to the wretch, whom every friend forsakes,
I woo thee, Death! In Fancy’s fairy paths
Let the gay Songster rove, and gently trill
The strain of empty joy. Life and its joys
I leave to those that prize them. At this hour,
This solemn hour, when Silence rules the world,
And wearied Nature makes a gen’ral pause;
Wrapt in Night’s sable robe, through cloysters drear
And charnels pale, tenanted by a throng
Of meagre phantoms shooting cross my path
With silent glance, I seek the shadowy vale
Of Death. Deep in a murky cave’s recess
Lav’d by Oblivion’s listless stream, and fenc’d
By Shelving rocks and intermingled horrors
Of yew’ and cypress’ shade from all intrusion
Of busy noontide beam, the Monarch sits
In unsubstantial Majesty enthron’d.
At his right hand, nearest himself in place
And frightfulness of form, his Parent Sin
With fatal industry and cruel care
Busies herself in pointing all his stings,
And tipping every shaft with venom drawn
From her infernal store; around him rang’d
In terrible array and mixture strange
Of uncouth shapes, stand his dread Ministers.
Foremost Old Age, his natural ally
And firmest friend: next him diseases thick,
A motly ran; Fever with cheek of fire;
Consumption wan; Palsy; half warm with life,
And half a clay-cold lump; joint-tort ‘ring Gout,
And ever-gnawing Rheum; Convulsion wild;
Swol’n Dropsy; panting Asthma; Apoplex
Full-gorg’d. There too the Pestilence that walks
In darkness, and the Sickness that destroys
At broad noon-day. These and a thousand more,
Horrid to tell, attentive wait; and, when
By Heaven’s command Death waves his ebon wand,
Sudden rush forth to execute his purpose
And scatter desolation o’er the Earth.

From: Porteus, Beilby, Death: A Poetical Essay (5th Edition), 1772, H. Hughs: London, pp. 5-7.

Date: 1759

By: Beilby Porteus (1731-1809)