Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Gravity and Levity

Charles Morris, The Contrast, in Lyra Urbanica; or, The Social Effusions of the Celebrated Captain Charles Morris of the Late Life-Guards, vol. II (London: Richard Bentley, 1840), pp. 148-151:
You're surprised I'm so gay when so old,
    And say, what indeed is most true,
I live faster than you, twenty-fold,
    And yet I've most life of the two.
"What's the reason?" you ask—hear my voice!
    'Tis th' effect of the shade and the shine:
While a life of grave sense is your choice,
    Cheerful nonsense has ever been mine.

You bury in study and thought
    The spirits I use for my mirth;
Yours lie as entomb'd in a vault,
    While mine ever frolic on earth.
To raise yours all fails you avow;
    All equally fails to sink mine:
The Gravity wrinkles your brow,
    The Levity ever smoothes mine.

On you better fame will await,
    Better health will be ever my lot:
'Tis thus Heaven's balanced our fate;
    And each should enjoy what he's got.
Let us not, discontented, be led
    To envy each other his part;
But you be well pleased with your head,
    While I am content with my heart.

You pore, my friend, sun after sun,
    But fathom no bottom of Fate;
You just are as wise when you've done,
    As you were ere it puzzled your pate;
But plenty of gloom you obtain,
    To help you to fret and repine,
Till all becomes shade round your brain,
    And your wisdom's worse nonsense than mine.

Indeed, what is wisdom, what not,
    Has never much troubled my head;
For nothing but doubt have I got
    For all that I've thought or have read.
Ready mirth should repay Heaven's grace;
    And to me it's as clear as the sun,
Cheerful hearts alone keep the right pace
    When they gaily and merrily run.

Then suppose, for one moment, you try
    To leave the blue devils and Spleen,
And for once let your gloom-searching eye
    Take a peep into Life's gayer scene.
Come on!—I 'll unvapour your brains,
    And stir the low pulse in your breast,
Whisk the current of blood through your veins,
    And spur you to Joy and to Jest.

This night I've a revel sublime,
    A party that Jove would approve,
A sweet golden moment of time,
    High tinctured with Friendship and Love.
Come along, and you'll say, in a trice,
    "Adieu to the drones on the shelves!
I leave them to rats and to mice,
    Or to moulder and rot by themselves.

"Here I've found, what my ill-judging head
    Thought study alone could convey,
True wisdom, in cheerfulness bred,
    And Mirth ever gratefully gay.
In joy and devotion it springs,
    At once is both pleasant and wise;
And takes, for the blessing it brings,
    Man's homage of heart to the skies.

"Here my book-bury'd course I abjure;
    With my thanks for your cheering advice,
You have work'd a miraculous cure,
    And have melted full forty years' ice.
So, Plato and Zeno, good b'ye!
    B'ye Solon, and Socrates too!—
No longer with Heathens I'll die;
But live, like a Christian, with you!"

I'm taking a vacation for a couple of weeks, so there will be few or no blog posts during that time. May 10, 2011, marked the seventh year since I started this blog, so there are thousands of old posts to look at.

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