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Solomon on the Vanity of the World, A Poem. In Three Books. - Power. Book III.

The Argument

Solomon considers man through the several stages and conditions of life, and concludes, in general, that we are all miserable. He reflects more particularly upon the trouble and uncertainty of greatness and power; gives some instances thereof from Adam down to himself; and still concludes that All Is Vanity. He reasons again upon life, death, and a future being; finds human wisdom too imperfect to resolve his doubts; has recourse to religion; is informed by an angel what shall happen to himself, his family, and his kingdom, till the redemption of Israel; and, upon the whole, resolves to submit his inquiries and anxieties to the will of his Creator.

Come then, my soul: I call thee by that name,
Thou busy thing, from whence I know I am;
For, knowing that I am, I know thou art,
Since that must needs exist which can impart:
But how thou camest to be, or whence thy spring,
For various of thee priests and poets sing.

Hearest thou submissive, but a lowly birth,
Some secret particles of finer earth,
A plain effect which Nature must beget,
As motion orders, and as atoms meet,
Companion of the body's good or ill,
From force of instinct more than choice of will,
Conscious of fear or valour, joy or pain,
As the wild courses of the blood ordain;
Who, as degrees of heat and cold prevail,
In youth dost flourish, and with age shalt fail,
Till, mingled with thy partner's latest breath,
Thou fliest, dissolved in air and lost in death.

Or, if thy great existence would aspire
To causes more sublime, of heavenly fire
Wert thou a spark struck off, a separate ray,
Ordain'd to mingle with terrestrial clay,
With it condemn'd for certain years to dwell,
To grieve its frailties, and its pains to feel,
To teach it good and ill, disgrace or fame,
Pale it with rage, or redden it with shame,
To guide its actions with informing care,
In peace to judge, to conquer in the war;
Render it agile, witty, valiant, sage,
As fits the various course of human age,
Till, as the earthly part decays and falls,
The captive breaks her prison's mouldering walls,
Hovers awhile upon the sad remains,
Which now the pile or sepulchre contains,
And thence, with liberty unbounded, flies,
Impatient to regain her native skies?

Whate'er thou art, where'er ordain'd to go,
(Points which we rather may dispute than know)
Come on, thou little inmate of this breast,
Which for thy sake from passions'l divest
For these, thou say'st, raise all the stormy strife,
Which hinder thy repose, and trouble life;
Be the fair level of thy actions laid
As temperance wills and prudence may persuade
By thy affections undisturb'd and clear,
Guided to what may great or good appear,
And try if life be worth the liver's care.

Amass'd in man, there justly is beheld
What through th whole creation has excell'd,
The angel's forecast and intelligence:
Say, from these glorious seeds what harvest flows?
Recount our blessings, and compare our woes:
In its true light let clearest reason see
The man dragg'd out to act, and forced to be;
Helpless and naked, on a woman's knees,
To be exposed or rear'd as she may please,
Feel her neglect, and pine from her disease:
His tender eye by too direct a ray
Wounded, and flying from unpractised day;
His heart assaulted by invading air,
And beating fervent to the vital war;
To his young sense how various forms appear,
That strike this wonder, and excite his fear;
By his distortions he reveals his pains;
He by his tears and by his sighs complains,
Till time and use assist the infant wretch,
By broken words, and rudiments of speech,
His wants in plainer characters to show,
And paint more perfect figures of his wo,
Condemn'd to sacrifice his childish years
To babbling ignorance, and to empty fears;
To pass the riper period of his age,
Acting his part upon a crowded stage;
To lasting toils exposed, and endless cares,
To open dangers, and to secret snares;
To malice which the vengeful foe intends,
And the more dangerous love of seeming friends:
His deeds examined by the people's will.
Prone to forget the good, and blame the ill;
Or, sadly censured in their cursed debate,
Who, in the scorner's or the judge's seat
Dare to condemn the virtue which they hate:
Or would he rather leave this frantic scene,
And trees and beasts prefer to courts and men,
In the remotest wood and lonely grot
Certain to meet that worst of evils, thought,
Different ideas to his memory brought,
Some intricate, as are the pathless woods,
Impetuous some, as the descending floods;
Wit
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:03 min read
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Matthew Prior

Matthew Prior was an English poet and diplomat. more…

All Matthew Prior poems | Matthew Prior Books

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    "Solomon on the Vanity of the World, A Poem. In Three Books. - Power. Book III." Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 17 Sep. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/27399/solomon-on-the-vanity-of-the-world,-a-poem.-in-three-books.---power.--book-iii.>.

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