The Silly Vain Parade

There * * * * * * grinn’d, his conscience fear’d anew,
And scarcely with’d the doctrine false or true;
Scarce smil’d, himself secure from God to know,
So poor the triumph o’er so weak a foe.
In the deep midnight of his guilty mind,
Where not one solitary virtue shin’d,
Hardly, at times, his struggling conscience wrought
A few, strange intervals of lucid thought,
Holding her clear and dreadful mirrour nigher,
Where villain glow’d, in characters of fire.
Those few the tale dispers’d: His soul no more
Shall, once a year, the Beelzebub run o’er;
No more shall J — — n’s ghost her infant show,
Saw his hard nerves, and point the hell below;
Fixd in cold death, no more his eyeballs stare,
Nor change to upright thorns his bristly hair.
There Demas smil’d, who once the Christian name
Gravely assum’d, and wore with sober fame.
Meek, modest, decent, in life’s lowly vale,
Pleas’d he walk’d on; nor now had grac’d this tale;
But, borne beyond the Atlantic ferry, he
Saw wondrous things, his schoolmates did not see,
Great houses, and great men, in coaches carried;
Great Ladies, great Lord’s wives, tho’ never married;
Fine horses, and fine pictures, and fine plays,
And all the finest things of modern days.
Camelion like, he lost his former hue,
And, mid such great men, grew a great man too;
Enter’d the round of silly, vain parade;
His hair he powder’d, and his bow he made.
Shall powder’d heads, he cried, be sent to hell?
Shall men in vain in such fine houses dwell?
There Euclio — Ah my Muse, let deepest shame
Blush on thy cheek, at that unhappy name!
Oh write it not, my hand! the name appears
Already written: Wash it out, my tears!
Still, Oh all pitying Saviour! let thy love,
Stronger than death, all heights, and heavens above,
That on the accursed tree, in woes severe,
The thief’s dire guilt extinguish’d with a tear,
Yearn o’er that mind, that, with temptations dire,
Rank appetites, and passions fraught with fire,
By each new call without, each thought within,
Is forc’d to folly, and is whirl’d to sin;
In conscience spite, tho’ arm’d with hissing fears,
Strong pangs of soul, and all his country’s tears,
Is charm’d to madness by the old serpent’s breath,
And hurried swiftly down the steep of death.

Timothy Dwight: The Triumph of Infidelity (1788)

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