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Alexander Pope (1688–1744). Complete Poetical Works. 1903.

Poems: 1708–12

The Dying Christian to His Soul

  • This Ode was written, we find [in 1712], at the desire of Steele; and our Poet, in a letter to him on that occasion, says,—‘You have it, as Cowley calls it, just warm from the brain; it came to me the first moment I waked this morning; yet you ’ll see, it was not so absolutely inspiration, but that I had in my head, not only the verses of Hadrian, but the fine fragment of Sappho.’ It is possible, however, that our Author might have had another composition in his head, besides those he here refers to: for there is a close and surprising resemblance between this Ode of Pope, and one of an obscure and forgotten rhymer of the age of Charles the Second, Thomas Flatman. (Warton). Pope’s version of the Adriani morientis ad Animam was written at about this date, and sent to Steele for publication in The Spectator. It ran as follows:—
  • ‘Ah, fleeting Spirit! wand’ring fire,
  • That long hast warm’d my tender breast,
  • Must thou no more this frame inspire,
  • No more a pleasing cheerful guest?
  • Whither, ah whither, art thou flying,
  • To what dark undiscover’d shore?
  • Thou seem’st all trembling, shiv’ring, dying,
  • And Wit and Humour are no more!’

  • I
    VITAL spark of heav’nly flame,

    Quit, oh quit, this mortal frame!

    Trembling, hoping, ling’ring, flying,

    Oh, the pain, the bliss of dying!

    Cease, fond Nature, cease thy strife,

    And let me languish into life!

    Hark! they whisper; Angels say,

    Sister Spirit, come away.

    What is this absorbs me quite,

    Steals my senses, shuts my sight,

    Drowns my spirits, draws my breath?

    Tell me, my Soul! can this be Death?

    The world recedes; it disappears;

    Heav’n opens on my eyes; my ears

    With sounds seraphic ring:

    Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!

    O Grave! where is thy Victory?

    O Death! where is thy Sting?