On Mr Howard's Account Of Lazarettos


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Mortal! who, armed with holy fortitude,
The path of good right onward hast pursued;
May HE, to whose eternal throne on high
The sufferers of the earth with anguish cry,
Be thy protector! On that dreary road
That leads thee patient to the last abode
Of wretchedness, in peril and in pain,
May HE thy steps direct, thy heart sustain!
'Mid scenes, where pestilence in darkness flies;
In caverns, where deserted misery lies;
So safe beneath His shadow thou may'st go,
To cheer the dismal wastes of human woe.
O CHARITY! our helpless nature's pride,
Thou friend to him who knows no friend beside,
Is there in morning's breath, or the sweet gale
That steals o'er the tired pilgrim of the vale,
Cheering with fragrance fresh his weary frame,
Aught like the incense of thy sacred flame?
Is aught in all the beauties that adorn
The azure heaven, or purple lights of morn;
Is aught so fair in evening's lingering gleam,
As from thine eye the meek and pensive beam
That falls like saddest moonlight on the hill
And distant grove, when the wide world is still!
Thine are the ample views, that unconfined
Stretch to the utmost walks of human kind:
Thine is the spirit that with widest plan
Brother to brother binds, and man to man.
But who for thee, O Charity! will bear
Hardship, and cope with peril and with care!
Who, for thy sake, will social sweets forego
For scenes of sickness, and the sights of woe!
Who, for thy sake, will seek the prison's gloom,
Where ghastly Guilt implores her lingering doom;
Where Penitence unpitied sits, and pale,
That never told to human ears her tale;
Where Agony, half-famished, cries in vain;
Where dark Despondence murmurs o'er her chain;
Where gaunt Disease is wasted to the bone,
And hollow-eyed Despair forgets to groan!
Approving Mercy marks the vast design,
And proudly cries - HOWARD, the task be thine!
Already 'mid the darksome vaults profound,
The inner prison deep beneath the ground,
Consoling hath thy tender look appeared:
In horror's realm the voice of peace is heard!
Be the sad scene disclosed; fearless unfold
The grating door, the inmost cell behold!
Thought shrinks from the dread sight; the paly lamp
Burns faint amid the infectious vapours damp;
Beneath its light full many a livid mien,
And haggard eye-ball, through the dusk are seen.
In thought I see thee, at each hollow sound,
With humid lids oft anxious gaze around.
But oh! for him who, to yon vault confined,
Has bid a long farewell to human kind;
His wasted form, his cold and bloodless cheek,
A tale of sadder sorrow seem to speak:
Of friends, perhaps now mingled with the dead;
Of hope, that, like a faithless flatterer, fled
In the utmost hour of need; or of a son
Cast to the bleak world's mercy; or of one
Whose heart was broken, when the stern behest
Tore him from pale affection's bleeding breast.
Despairing, from his cold and flinty bed,
With fearful muttering he has raised his head:
What pitying spirit, what unwonted guest,
Strays to this last retreat, these shades unblest?
From life and light shut out, beneath this cell
Long have I bid the cheering sun farewell.
I heard for ever closed the jealous door,
I marked my bed on the forsaken floor,
I had no hope on earth, no human friend:
Let me unpitied to the dust descend!
Cold is his frozen heart, his eye is reared
To Heaven no more, and on his sable beard
The tear has ceased to fall. Thou canst not bring
Back to his mournful heart the morn of spring;
Thou canst not bid the rose of health renew
Upon his wasted cheek its crimson hue;
But at thy look, (ere yet to hate resigned,
He murmurs his last curses on mankind),
At thy kind look one tender thought shall rise,
And his full soul shall thank thee ere he dies!
Oh ye, who list to Pleasure's vacant song,
As in her silken train ye troop along;
Who, like rank cowards, from affliction fly,
Or, whilst the precious hours of life pass by,
Lie slumbering in the sun! Awake, arise,
To these instructive pictures turn your eyes;
The awful view with other feelings scan,
And learn from HOWARD what man owes to man!
These, Virtue! are thy triumphs, that adorn
Fitliest our nature, and bespeak us born
For loftier action; not to gaze and run
From clime to clime; nor flutter in the sun,
Dragging a droning flight from flower to flower,
Like summer insects in a gaudy hour;
Nor yet o'er love-sick tales with fancy range,
And cry, 'Tis pitiful, 'tis wondrous strange!
But on life's varied views to look around,
And raise expiring sorrow from the ground:
And he who thus has borne his part assigned
In the sad fellowship of human kind,
Or for a moment soothed the bitter pain
Of a poor brother, has not lived in vain!
But 'tis not that Compassion should bestow
An unavailing tear on want or woe:
Lo! fairer Order rises from thy plan,
Befriending virtue, and adorning man.
That Comfort cheers the dark abode of pain,
Where wan Disease prayed for relief in vain;
That Mercy soothes the hard behest of law;
That Misery smiles upon her bed of straw;
That the dark felon's clan no more, combined,
Murmur in murderous leagues against mankind;
That to each cell, a mild yet mournful guest,
Contrition comes, and calms the laboring breast,
Whilst long-forgotten tears of virtue flow;
Thou, generous friend of all, to thee we owe!
To thee, that Pity sees her views expand
To many a cheerless haunt, and distant land!
Whilst warm Philanthropy extends her ray,
Wide as the world, and general as the day!
HOWARD! I view those deeds, and think how vain
The triumphs of weak man, the feeble strain
That Flattery brings to Conquest's crimson car,
Amid the bannered host, and the proud tents of war!
From realm to realm the hideous War-fiend hies
Wide o'er the wasted earth; before him flies
Affright, on pinions fleeter than the wind;
Whilst Death and Desolation fast behind
The havoc of his echoing march pursue:
Meantime his steps are bathed in the warm dew
Of bloodshed, and of tears; but his dread name
Shall perish, the loud clarion of his fame
One day shall cease, and, wrapt in hideous gloom,
Forgetfulness bestride his shapeless tomb!
But bear thou fearless on; the God of all,
To whom the afflicted kneel, the friendless call,
From His high throne of mercy shall approve
The holy deeds of Mercy and of Love:
For when the vanities of life's brief day
Oblivion's hurrying wing shall sweep away,
Each act by Charity and Mercy done,
High o'er the wrecks of time, shall live alone,
Immortal as the heavens, and beauteous bloom
To other worlds, and realms beyond the tomb.
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