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THE DYING CHRISTIAN TO HIS SOUL.
VITAL spark of heav'nly flame !
Oh the pain, the bliss of dying !
Hark! they whisper ; Angels say,
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
breath? Tell me, my Soul, can this be death?
The world recedes ; it disappears !
With sounds seraphic ring :
O Death! where is thy Sting?
This Ode was written, we find, 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, namely Thomas Flatman; from whose dunghill, as well as from the dregs of Crashaw, of Carew, of Herbert, and others (for it is well known he was a great reader of all those poets), Pope has very judiciously collected gold. And the following stanza is, perhaps, the only valuable one Flatman has produced.
When on my sick bed I languish;
Be not fearful, come away! The third and fourth lines are eminently good and pathetic, and the climax well preserved, the very turn of them is closely copied by Pope; as is likewise the striking circumstance of the dying man's imagining he hears a voice calling him away.
Vital spark of heavenly flame,
CRJ TICIS M.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR MDCCIX.
* First advertised in the Spectator, No 65. May 15, 1711.