Nothing (Passerat)

For works with similar titles, see Nothing.
Nothing  (1863) 
by Jean Passerat, translator not mentioned

sprightly poem, on the subject of "Nothing," is a tribute, or New Year's Day offering to Janus. As portrayed in Address on the opening of the Free Public Library of Ballarat East, on Friday, 1st. January, 1869

Janus is come, his festive Calends ask
A boon from me, unequal to the task;
No gift is mine, no tribute can I pay
Which suits the season, or the festive day;
Do then Castalian streams, my veins forsake,
Refuse my thirst of Poesy to slake?
And say shall He behold me giftless here
He who unlocks the portals of the year?
And all my other labors past and o'er—
Unsung, unhonored, shall he pass my door?
But now the well known beaten path I change,
And through untrodden fields at large I range.

Lo! while my Muse to ev'ry side doth turn
She nothing finds; do not the off'ring spurn
Nothing more precious than the costly gem,
And gold that glitter in a Diadem,
Here lend your thoughts, here shed your looks benign,
The theme is novel, and the subject mine—
The Greek and Roman sages tun'd their lyres,
To other lays, and glowed with loftier fires.
Yet while through Greece and Rome their verses rung
These ancient worthies nothing left unsung.

Wherever Ceres, thron'd above the skies,
Upon her laughing kingdoms casts her eyes,
Or where Oceanus, whose watry arms
Clasp with a sire's embrace Earth's varied charms,
His glances darts, he views midst small and great
Nothing annihilate or uncreate;
Nothing, immortal; but above the rest
Nothing, with happiness supremely blast
Then if such Majesty and power divine
Centre in this and thro' this object shine
What adoration should not we bestow,

What altars rear, what holy rev'rence owe?
Nothing is sweeter than the placid dawn
Come forth to sip the dew drops of the morn.
Nothing more lovely than the op'ning spring—
Nothing can more delight to mortal bring,
Than that dear spot where vying blossoms glow,
And murm'ring waters lull with constant flow.
Nothing is more enamell'd than the fields.
Nothing than Zephyrus, more fragrance yields.
Nothing is scared from rude war's alarms.
Nothing secure from sacrilegious arms.
Nothing while peace abounds is right or just
Nothing in violated leagues can trust.
Happy the man who Nothing has, for he
Fears not the robber, or incendiary;
Laughs theft to scorn, free from vexatious sports
And tedious quarrels of litigious Courts.
The sage who bows to virtuous Zeno's rules,
Revering precepts of the learned schools,
Views Nothing with surprise; his bounded hope
Extends to Nothing beyond Reason's scope.
Nothing to know was the Socratic plan
By which he formed a just and upright man.
This fav'rite science all his powers he lends,
To this the minds of youth he moulds and tends
This golden statute he the first proclaims,
The means of wealth, the hope of pious aims.
Know Nothing and behold you know I ween
All centered in Pythagoras's bean.

Many on Mercury will fain rely
And instant to their secret toil apply,
Midst dingy furnaces with care refine,
The exhumated treasures of the mine;
Till wealth consum'd by midnight watchings worn,
Their breasts by anxious speculation torn
They Nothing find their labor to repay
And Nothing will e'en to their latest day.
No measure meets it; nor can he command
Who counts the atoms of the Lybian sand,
Numbers to number it—Th' all-seeing eye
Of Phœbus passes it unnoticed by—
Nothing more lofty than the orbs of light
Which gem the etherial mantle of the night.
Nothing is finer than the Solar beams
More brilliant than the flood of fiery streams.

Touch it, it shrinks. What! without form or shape?
Hold, grasp it firmly ; let it not escape,
View it, 'tis magic sure, be not dismay'd,
Nothing is seen without or light or shade.
Nothing deaf, hears; dumb, speaks; or wingless flies
Walks without legs or feet, sees without eyes;
Nothing can wander thro' the fields of space
Without a change of its respective place,
Nothing can greater benefits impart
To suffering mortals than the healing art.
Let not the anxious youth who has felt the pow'r
Of shafts Idalian in a luckless hour,
Reek by enchanted circles to assuage
The ardent fires that in his bosom rage;
Nor pluck the verdure of the Dictæan sward,
Nor magic try, nor wizard's art abhorr'd.
Nothing has charms around, below, above,
To soothe the torments of despairing love.
Nothing recalls to life from shades below
Him who o'er Styx' sad wave is forced to go.
Nothing can bend the inflexible decree
Of murky Orcus' stubborn Majesty,
Or fatal web unravel, or avoid
The dart by which all human is destroyed.
The giant offspring of Titanian sires
Weltering, engulph'd in Phlœgeroeian fires,
Confess,—too late their sentence to remove,
Nothing more potent than the bolts of Jove!
The Gods fear Nothing.  Nothing doth extend
Beyond the world's remotest, farthest end.

But why should I my lengthn'd verse prolong,
And, singing nothing, thus dilate my song?
Nothing doth greater excellence bespeak
Than blush of virtue, mantling on the cheek.
Nothing superior to Heav'n's Monarch reigns,
Who calms the deep, and raging storm restrains.
But cease elaborate trifles to pursue,
And exquisite distinctions to renew!
Lest if my verse with self applause resound,
And ring my plaudits with a weary round,
Indignant censure may attend my lay
From Nothing too; so nothing more I say.

Copyright.svg PD-icon.svg This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.