Plato, the Philosopher, To His Friend Theon

by Philip Freneau

Philip Freneau

WHY, Theon, wouldst thou longer groan
Beneath a weight of years and woe,
Thy youth is lost, thy pleasures flown,
And time proclaims, "'Tis time to go."

To willows sad and weeping yews
With me a while, dear friend, repair,
Nor to the vault thy steps refuse,
Thy constant home shall soon be there.

To summer suns and winter moons
Prepare to bid a long adieu,
Autumnal seasons shall return
And spring shall bloom, but not for you.

Why so perplext with cares and toil
To rest upon this darksome road,
'Tis but a thin, a thirsty soil,
A barren and a bleak abode.

Constrain'd to dwell with pain and care,
These dregs of life are bought too dear,
'Tis better far to die than bear
The torments of another year.

Subjected to perpetual ills
A thousand deaths around us grow,
The frost the tender blossom kills,
And roses wither as they blow.

Cold nipping winds thy fruits assail,
The infant apple seeks the ground,
The peaches fall, the cherries fail,
The grape receives a fatal wound.

The breeze that gently ought to blow
Swells to a storm and rends the main,
The sun that charm'd the grass to grow
Turns hostile and consumes the plain;

The mountains waste, the shores decay,
Once purling streams are dead and dry—
'Twas nature's work—'tis nature's play,
And nature says, that all must die.

Yon' flaming lamp, the source of light,
In chaos dark shall shroud his beam
And leave the world to mother night,
A farce, a phantom, or a dream.

What now is young must soon be old,
Whate'er we love, we soon must leave,
'Tis now too hot, 'tis now too cold—
To live is nothing but to grieve.

How bright the morn her course begun,
No mists bedimm'd the solar sphere—
The clouds arise—they shade the sun,
For nothing can be constant here.

Now hope the longing soul employs,
In expectation we are blest;
But soon the airy phantom flies,
For, lo! the treasure is possest.

Those monarchs proud that havoc spread,
(While pensive nature dropt a tear)
Those monarchs have to darkness fled
And ruin bounds their mad career.

The grandeur of this earthly round,
Where Theon would forever be,
but a name, is but a sound—
Mere emptiness and vanity.

Give me the stars, give me the skies,
Give me the heaven's remotest sphere,
Above these gloomy scenes to rise
Of desolation and despair.

Those native fires that warm'd the mind
Now languid grown too dimly glow,
Joy has to grief the heart resign'd
And love itself is chang'd to woe.

The joys of wine are all you boast,
These for a moment damp thy pain;
The gleam is o'er, the charm is lost—
And darkness clouds the soul again.

Then seek no more for bliss below
Where real bliss can ne'er be found,
Aspire where sweeter blossoms blow
And fairer flowers bedeck the ground;

Where plants of life the plains invest
And green eternal crowns the year,
The little god within thy breast
Is weary of his mansion here.

Like Phosphor clad in bright array
His height meridian to regain
He can, nor will no longer stay
To shiver on a frozen plain.

Life's journey past, for death prepare,
'Tis but the freedom of the mind,
Jove made us mortal—his we are,
To Jove, dear Theon, be resign'd.

Last updated January 11, 2023