Robert Pollok (19 octubre 1798 a 15 septiembre 1827) era un poeta escocés conocido por su obra, The Course of Time, publicada en el año de su muerte.
Pollok nació en Norte Moorhouse Granja, Loganswell Renfrewshire, Escocia. Las fuentes difieren en el año exacto de su nacimiento, algunos dando 1789, otros 1798 y 1799.
Estudió en la Universidad de Glasgow. Durante este tiempo, anónimamente publicó tres poemas: Helen of the Glen, The Persecuted Family, and Ralph Gemmell.
No tiene la Dicha en la tierra
Trillado camino ni fija ciudad,
Ni en sola una forma se encierra;
Se encarna do imperen Justicia y Bondad.
Doquiera, enjugándole el llanto,
Al huérfano triste refugio se dé;
Doquiera con bálsamo santo
Heridas se cierren que el ojo no ve;
Doquiera secreto, naciente,
Se ahogue el impulso de mala pasión;
Doquiera virtud se alimente,
Doquiera á la injuria responda el perdón;
Allí de la célica cumbre
La Dicha ha bajado risueña á reinar;
Envuelta en pacífica lumbre
¡Miradla! allí tiene su templo y su altar.
Nota: Traducción de Miguel Antonio Caro incluída en el libro Traducciones poéticas (1889).
The Course Of Time.
The Course Of Time. Book I.
Eternal Spirit! God of truth! to whom
All things seem as they are; thou who of old
The prophet's eye unscaled, that nightly saw,
While heavy sleep fell down on other men,
In holy vision tranced, the future pass
Before him, and to Judah's harp attuned
Burdens that made the pagan mountains shake,
And Zion's cedars bow—inspire my song;
My eye unscale; me what is substance teach,
And shadow what, while I of things to come,
As past rehearsing, sing the Course of Time,
The second Birth, and final Doom of man.
The muse, that soft and sickly wooes the ear
Of love, or chanting loud in windy rhyme
Of fabled hero, raves through gaudy tale
Not overfraught with sense, I ask not; such
A strain befits not argument so high.
Me thought, and phrase, severely sifting out
The whole idea, grant—uttering as 'tis
The essential truth—Time gone, the Righteous saved,
The Wicked damned, and Providence approved.
Hold my right hand, Almighty! and me teach
To strike the lyre, but seldom struck, to notes
Harmonious with the morning stars, and pure
As those of sainted bards, and angels sung,
Which wake the echoes of eternity—
That fools may hear and tremble, and the wise
Instructed listen, of ages yet to come.
Long was the day, so long expected, past
Of the eternal doom, that gave to each
Of all the human race his due reward.
The sun—earth's sun, and moon, and stars, had ceased
To number seasons, days, and months, and years
To mortal man: hope was forgotten, and fear;
And Time, with all its chance and change, and smiles,
And frequent tears, and deeds of villany,
Or righteousness—once talked of much, as things
Of great renown, was now but ill remembered;
In dim and shadowy vision of the past,
Seen far remote, as country, which has left
The traveller's speedy step, retiring back
From morn till even: and long, eternity
Had rolled his mighty years, and with his years
Men had grown old: the saints, all home returned
From pilgrimage, and war, and weeping, long
Had rested in the bowers of peace, that skirt
The stream of life; and long, alas, how long!
To them it seemed, the wicked who refused
To be redeemed, had wandered in the dark
Of hell's despair, and drunk the burning cup
Their sins had filled with everlasting wo.
Thus far the years had rolled, which none but God
Doth number, when two sons, two youthful sons
Of Paradise, in conversation sweet,
(For thus the heavenly muse instructs me, wooed
At midnight hour with offering sincere
Of all the heart, poured out in holy prayer,)
High on the hills of immortality,
Whence goodliest prospect looks beyond the walls
Of heaven, walked, casting oft their eye far thro'
The pure serene, observant, if returned
From errand duly finished, any came,
Or any, first in virtue now complete,
From other worlds arrived, confirmed in good.
Thus viewing, one they saw, on hasty wing
Directing towards heaven his course; and now,
His flight ascending near the battlements
And lofty hills on which they walked, approached.
For round and round, in spacious circuit wide,
Mountains of tallest stature circumscribe
The plains of Paradise, whose tops, arrayed
In uncreated radiance, seem so pure,
That nought but angel's foot, or saint's elect
Of God, may venture there to walk; here oft
The sons of bliss take morn or evening pastime,
Delighted to behold ten thousand worlds
Around their suns revolving in the vast
External space, or listen the harmonies
That each to other in its motion sings.
And hence, in middle heaven remote, is seen
The mount of God in awful glory bright.
Within, no orb create of moon, or star,
Or sun gives light; for God's own countenance,
Beaming eternally, gives light to all;
But farther than these sacred hills his will
Forbids its flow—too bright for eyes beyond.
This is the last ascent of Virtue; here
All trial ends, and hope; here perfect joy,
With perfect righteousness, which to these heights
Alone can rise, begins, above all fall.—
And now on wing of holy ardour strong,
Hither ascends the stranger, borne upright;
For stranger he did seem, with curious eye
Of nice inspection round surveying all,
And at the feet alights of those that stood
His coming, who the hand of welcome gave,
And the embrace sincere of holy love;
And thus, with comely greeting kind, began.
Hail, brother! hail, thou son of happiness!
Thou son beloved of God! welcome to heaven!
To bliss that never fades! thy day is past
Of trial, and of fear to fall. Well done,
Thou good and faithful servant, enter now
Into the joy eternal of thy Lord.
Come with us, and behold far higher sight
Than e'er thy heart desired, or hope conceived.
See, yonder is the glorious hill of God,
'Bove angel's gaze in brightness rising high.
Come, join our wing, and we will guide thy flight
To mysteries of everlasting bliss;—
The tree, and fount of life, the eternal throne,
And presence-chamber of the King of kings.
But what concern hangs on thy countenance,
Unwont within this place? perhaps thou deem'st
Thyself unworthy to be brought before
The always Ancient One? so are we too
Unworthy; but our God is all in all,
And gives us boldness to approach his throne.
Sons of the highest! citizens of heaven!
Began the new arrived, right have ye judged:
Unworthy, most unworthy is your servant,
To stand in presence of the King, or hold
Most distant and most humble place in this
Abode of excellent glory unrevealed.
But God Almighty be for ever praised,
Who, of his fulness, fills me with all grace,
And ornament, to make me in his sight
Well pleasing, and accepted in his court.
But if your leisure waits, short narrative
Will tell, why strange concern thus overhangs
My face, ill seeming here; and haply too,
Your elder knowledge can instruct my youth,
Of what seems dark and doubtful unexplained.
Our leisure waits thee; speak—and what we can,
Delighted most to give delight, we will;
Though much of mystery yet to us remain.
Virtue—I need not tell, when proved, and full
Matured—inclines us up to God, and heaven,
By law of sweet compulsion strong, and sure;
As gravitation to the larger orb
The less attracts, thro' matter's whole domain,
Virtue in me was ripe—I speak not this
In boast, for what I am to God I owe,
Entirely owe, and of myself am nought.
Equipped, and bent for heaven, I left yon world,
My native seat, which scarce your eye can reach,
Rolling around her central sun, far out,
On utmost verge of light: but first to see
What lay beyond the visible creation
Strong curiosity my flight impelled.
Long was my way and strange. I passed the bounds
Which God doth set to light and life and love;
Where darkness meets with day, where order meets
Disorder dreadful, waste and wild; and down
The dark, eternal, uncreated night
Ventured alone. Long, long on rapid wing,
I sailed through empty, nameless regions vast,
Where utter Nothing dwells, unformed and void.
There neither eye, nor ear, nor any sense
Of being most acute, finds object; there
For ought external still you search in vain.
Try touch, or sight, or smell; try what you will,
You strangely find nought but yourself alone.
But why should I in words attempt to tell
What that is like which is—and yet—is not?
This past, my path descending still me led
O'er unclaimed continents of desert gloom
Immense, where gravitation shifting turns
The other way; and to some dread, unknown,
Infernal centre downward weighs: and now,
Far travelled from the edge of darkness, far
As from that glorious mount of God to light's
Remotest limb—dire sights I saw, dire sounds
I heard; and suddenly before my eye
A wall of fiery adamant sprung up—
Wall mountainous, tremendous, flaming high
Above all flight of hope. I paused, and looked;
And saw, where'er I looked upon that mound,
Sad figures traced in fire—not motionless—
But imitating life. One I remarked
Attentively; but how shall I describe
What nought resembles else my eye hath seen?
Of worm or serpent kind it something looked,
But monstrous, with a thousand snaky heads,
Eyed each with double orbs of glaring wrath;
And with as many tails, that twisted out
In horrid revolution, tipped with stings;
And all its mouths, that wide and darkly gaped,
And breathed most poisonous breath, had each a sting,
Forked, and long, and venomous, and sharp;
And in its writhings infinite, it grasped
Malignantly what seemed a heart, swollen, black,
And quivering with torture most intense;
And still the heart, with anguish throbbing high,
Made effort to escape, but could not; for
Howe'er it turned, and oft it vainly turned,
These complicated foldings held it fast.
And still the monstrous beast with sting of head
Or tail transpierced it, bleeding evermore.
What this could image much I searched to know,
And while I stood, and gazed, and wondered long,
A voice, from whence I knew not, for no one
I saw, distinctly whispered in my ear
These words—This is the Worm that never dies.
Fast by the side of this unsightly thing,
Another was portrayed, more hideous still;
Who sees it once shall wish to see't no more.
For ever undescribed let it remain!
Only this much I may or can unfold—
Far out it thrust a dart that might have made
The knees of terror quake, and on it hung,
Within the triple barbs, a being pierced
Thro' soul and body both: of heavenly make
Original the being seemed, but fallen,
And worn and wasted with enormous wo.
And still around the everlasting lance
It writhed convulsed, and uttered mimic groans;
And tried and wished, and ever tried and wished
To die; but could not die—Oh, horrid sight!
I trembling gazed, and listened, and heard this voice
Approach my ear—This is Eternal Death.
Nor these alone—upon that burning wall,
In horrible emblazonry, were limned
All shapes, all forms, all modes of wretchedness,
And agony, and grief, and desperate wo.
And prominent in characters of fire,
Where'er the eye could light, these words you read,
“Who comes this way—behold, and fear to sin!”
Amazed I stood; and thought such imagery
Foretokened, within, a dangerous abode.
But yet to see the worst a wish arose:
For virtue, by the holy seal of God
Accredited and stamped, immortal all,
And all invulnerable, fears no hurt.
As easy as my wish, as rapidly
I thro' the horrid rampart passed, unscathed
And unopposed; and, poised on steady wing,
I hovering gazed. Eternal Justice! Sons
Of God! tell me, if ye can tell, what then
I saw, what then I heard—Wide was the place,
And deep as wide, and ruinous as deep.
Beneath I saw a lake of burning fire,
With tempest tost perpetually, and still
The waves of fiery darkness, 'gainst the rocks
Of dark damnation broke, and music made
Of melancholy sort; and over head,
And all around, wind warred with wind, storm howled
To storm, and lightning, forked lightning, crossed,
And thunder answered thunder, muttering sounds
Of sullen wrath; and far as sight could pierce,
Or down descend in caves of hopeless depth,
Thro' all that dungeon of unfading fire,
I saw most miserable beings walk,
Burning continually, yet unconsumed;
For ever wasting, yet enduring still;
Dying perpetually, yet never dead.
Some wandered lonely in the desert flames,
And some in fell encounter fiercely met,
With curses loud, and blasphemies, that made
The cheek of darkness pale; and as they fought,
And cursed, and gnashed their teeth, and wished to die,
Their hollow eyes did utter streams of wo.
And there were groans that ended not, and sighs
That always sighed, and tears that ever wept,
And ever fell, but not in Mercy's sight.
And Sorrow and Repentance, and Despair,
Among them walked, and to their thirsty lips
Presented frequent cups of burning gall.
And as I listened, I heard these beings curse
Almighty God, and curse the Lamb, and curse
The Earth, the Resurrection morn, and seek,
And ever vainly seek, for utter death.
And to their everlasting anguish still,
The thunders from above responding spoke
These words, which, thro' the caverns of perdition
Forlornly echoing, fell on every ear—
“Ye knew your duty, but ye did it not.”
And back again recoiled a deeper groan.
A deeper groan! Oh, what a groan was that!
I waited not, but swift on speediest wing,
With unaccustomed thoughts conversing, back
Retraced my venturous path from dark to light;
Then up ascending, long ascending up,
I hasted on; tho' whiles the chiming spheres,
By God's own finger touched to harmony,
Held me delaying—till I here arrived,
Drawn upward by the eternal love of God,
Of wonder full and strange astonishment,
At what in yonder den of darkness dwells,
Which now your higher knowledge will unfold.
They answering said; to ask and to bestow
Knowledge, is much of Heaven's delight; and now
Most joyfully what thou requir'st we would;
For much of new and unaccountable,
Thou bring'st; something indeed we heard before,
In passing conversation slightly touched,
Of such a place; yet rather to be taught,
Than teaching, answer what thy marvel asks,
We need; for we ourselves, tho' here, are but
Of yesterday—creation's younger sons.
But there is one, an ancient bard of Earth,
Who, by the stream of life sitting in bliss,
Has oft beheld the eternal years complete
The mighty circle round the throne of God;
Great in all learning, in all wisdom great,
And great in song; whose harp in lofty strain
Tells frequently of what thy wonder craves,
While round him gathering stand the youth of Heaven
With truth and melody delighted both;
To him this path directs, an easy path,
And easy flight will bring us to his seat.
So saying, they linked hand in hand, spread out
Their golden wings, by living breezes fanned,
And over heaven's broad champaign sailed serene.
O'er hill and valley, clothed with verdure green
That never fades; and tree, and herb, and flower,
That never fades; and many a river, rich
With nectar, winding pleasantly, they passed;
And mansion of celestial mould, and work
Divine. And oft delicious music, sung
By saint and angel bands that walked the vales,
Or mountain tops, and harped upon their harps,
Their ear inclined, and held by sweet constraint
Their wing; not long, for strong desire awaked
Of knowledge that to holy use might turn,
Still pressed them on to leave what rather seemed
Pleasure, due only, when all duty's done.
And now beneath them lay the wished for spot,
The sacred bower of that renowned bard;
That ancient bard, ancient in days and song;
But in immortal vigour young, and young
In rosy health—to pensive solitude
Retiring oft, as was his wont on earth.
Fit was the place, most fit for holy musing.
Upon a little mount, that gently rose,
He sat, clothed in white robes; and o'er his head
A laurel tree, of lustiest, eldest growth,
Stately and tall, and shadowing far and wide—
Not fruitless, as on earth, but bloomed, and rich
With frequent clusters, ripe to heavenly taste—
Spread its eternal boughs, and in its arms
A myrtle of unfading leaf embraced;
The rose and lily, fresh with fragrant dew,
And every flower of fairest cheek, around
Him smiling flocked; beneath his feet, fast by,
And round his sacred hill, a streamlet walked,
Warbling the holy melodies of heaven;
The hallowed zephyrs brought him incense sweet;
And out before him opened, in prospect long,
The river of life, in many a winding maze
Descending from the lofty throne of God,
That with excessive glory closed the scene.
Of Adam's race he was, and lonely sat,
By chance that day, in meditation deep,
Reflecting much of Time, and Earth, and Man:
And now to pensive, now to cheerful notes,
He touched a harp of wondrous melody;
A golden harp it was, a precious gift,
Which, at the day of judgment, with the crown
Of life, he had received from God's own hand,
Reward due to his service done on earth.
He sees their coming, and with greeting kind,
And welcome, not of hollow forged smiles,
And ceremonious compliment of phrase,
But of the heart sincere, into his bower
Invites. Like greeting they returned; not bent
In low obeisancy, from creature most
Unfit to creature; but with manly form
Upright, they entered in; though high his rank,
His wisdom high, and mighty his renown.
And thus deferring all apology,
The two their new companion introduced.
Ancient in knowledge!—bard of Adam's race!
We bring thee one of us, inquiring what
We need to learn, and with him wish to learn—
His asking will direct thy answer best.
Most ancient bard! began the new arrived,
Few words will set my wonder forth, and guide
Thy wisdom's light to what in me is dark.
Equipped for heaven, I left my native place;
But first beyond the realms of light I bent
My course; and there, in utter darkness, far
Remote, I beings saw forlorn in wo,
Burning continually, yet unconsumed.
And there were groans that ended not, and sighs
That always sighed, and tears that ever wept
And ever fell, but not in Mercy's sight;
And still I heard these wretched beings curse
Almighty God, and curse the Lamb, and curse
The Earth, the Resurrection morn, and seek,
And ever vainly seek for utter death:
And from above the thunders answered still,
“Ye knew your duty, but ye did it not.”
And every where throughout that horrid den,
I saw a form of Excellence, a form
Of beauty without spot, that nought could see
And not admire—admire, and not adore.
And from its own essential beams it gave
Light to itself, that made the gloom more dark;
And every eye in that infernal pit
Beheld it still; and from its face, how fair!
O how exceeding fair! for ever sought,
But ever vainly sought, to turn away.
That image, as I guess, was Virtue, for
Nought else hath God given countenance so fair.
But why in such a place it should abide?
What place it is? What beings there lament?
Whence came they? and for what their endless groan?
Why curse they God? why seek they utter death?
And chief, what means the Resurrection morn?
My youth expects thy reverend age to tell.
Thou rightly deem'st, fair youth, began the bard;
The form thou saw'st was Virtue, ever fair.
Virtue, like God, whose excellent majesty,
Whose glory virtue is, is omnipresent;
No being, once created rational,
Accountable, endowed with moral sense,
With sapience of right and wrong endowed,
And charged, however fallen, debased, destroyed;
However lost, forlorn, and miserable;
In guilt's dark shrouding wrapt however thick;
However drunk, delirious, and mad,
With sin's full cup; and with whatever damned
Unnatural diligence it work and toil,
Can banish virtue from its sight, or once
Forget that she is fair. Hides it in night,
In central night; takes it the lightning's wing,
And flies for ever on, beyond the bounds
Of all; drinks it the maddest cup of sin;
Dives it beneath the ocean of despair;
It dives, it drinks, it flies, it hides in vain.
For still the eternal beauty, image fair,
Once stampt upon the soul, before the eye
All lovely stands, nor will depart; so God
Ordains—and lovely to the worst she seems,
And ever seems; and as they look, and still
Must ever look upon her loveliness,
Remembrance dire of what they were, of what
They might have been, and bitter sense of what
They are, polluted, ruined, hopeless, lost,
With most repenting torment rend their hearts.
So God ordains—their punishment severe,
Eternally inflicted by themselves.
'Tis this—this Virtue hovering evermore
Before the vision of the damned, and in
Upon their monstrous moral nakedness
Casting unwelcome light, that makes their wo,
That makes the essence of the endless flame:
Where this is, there is Hell—darker than aught
That he, the bard three-visioned, darkest saw.
The place thou saw'st was hell; the groans thou heard'st
The wailings of the damned—of those who would
Not be redeemed—and at the judgment day,
Long past, for unrepented sins were damned.
The seven loud thunders which thou heard'st, declare
The eternal wrath of the Almighty God.
But whence, or why they came to dwell in wo,
Why they curse God, what means the glorious morn
Of Resurrection,—these a longer tale
Demand, and lead the mournful lyre far back
Thro' memory of Sin, and mortal man.
Yet haply not rewardless we shall trace
The dark disastrous years of finished Time:
Sorrows remembered sweeten present joy.
Nor yet shall all be sad; for God gave peace,
Much peace, on earth, to all who feared his name.
But first it needs to say, that other style,
And other language than thy ear is wont,
Thou must expect to hear—the dialect
Of man; for each in heaven a relish holds
Of former speech, that points to whence he came.
But whether I of person speak, or place;
Event or action; moral or divine;
Or things unknown compare to things unknown
Allude, imply, suggest, apostrophize;
Or touch, when wandering thro' the past, on moods
Of mind thou never felt'st, the meaning still,
With easy apprehension, thou shalt take;
So perfect here is knowledge, and the strings
Of sympathy so tuned, that every word
That each to other speaks, tho' never heard
Before, at once is fully understood,
And every feeling uttered, fully felt.
So shalt thou find, as from my various song,
That backward rolls o'er many a tide of years,
Directly or inferred, thy asking, thou,
And wondering doubt, shalt learn to answer, while
I sketch in brief the history of Man.
The Course Of Time. Book II.
Thus said, he waked the golden harp, and thus,
While on him inspiration breathed, began.
As from yon everlasting hills, that gird
Heaven northward, I thy course espied, I judge
Thou from the Artic regions came? Perhaps
Thou noticed on thy way a little orb,
Attended by one moon—her lamp by night;
With her fair sisterhood of planets seven,
Revolving round their central sun; she third
In place, in magnitude the fourth; that orb—
New made, new named, inhabited anew,
(Tho' whiles we sons of Adam visit still,
Our native place; not changed so far but we
Can trace our ancient walks—the scenery
Of childhood, youth, and prime, and hoary age—
But scenery most of suffering and wo,)
That little orb, in days remote of old,
When angels yet were young, was made for man,
And titled Earth—her primal virgin name:
Created first so lovely, so adorned
With hill, and lawn, and winding vale;
Woodland and stream, and lake, and rolling seas;
Green mead, and fruitful tree, and fertile grain,
And herb and flower: so lovely, so adorned
With numerous beasts of every kind, with fowl
Of every wing and every tuneful note;
And with all fish that in the multitude
Of waters swam: so lovely, so adorned,
So fit a dwelling place for man, that as
She rose complete at the creating word,
The morning stars—the Sons of God, aloud
Shouted for joy; and God beholding, saw
The fair design, that from eternity
His mind conceived, accomplished, and, well pleased,
His six days finished work most good pronounced,
And man declared the sovereign prince of all.
All else was prone, irrational, and mute,
And unaccountable, by instinct led:
But man He made of angel form erect,
To hold communion with the heavens above,
And on his soul impressed His image fair,
His own similitude of holiness,
Of virtue, truth, and love; with reason high
To balance right and wrong, and conscience quick
To choose or to reject; with knowledge great,
Prudence and wisdom, vigilance and strength,
To guard all force or guile; and last of all,
The highest gift of God's abundant grace,
With perfect, free, unbiassed will.—Thus man
Was made upright, immortal made, and crowned
The king of all; to eat, to drink, to do
Freely and sovereignly his will entire:
By one command alone restrained, to prove,
As was most just, his filial love, sincere,
His loyalty, obedience due, and faith.
And thus the prohibition ran, expressed,
As God is wont, in terms of plainest truth.
Of every tree that in the garden grows
Thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree
That knowledge hath of good and ill, eat not,
Nor touch; for in the day thou eatest, thou
Shalt die. Go, and this one command obey
Adam, live and be happy, and, with thy Eve,
Fit consort, multiply and fill the Earth.
Thus they, the representatives of men,
Were placed in Eden—choicest spot of earth;
With royal honour, and with glory crowned,
Adam, the Lord of all, majestic walked,
With godlike countenance sublime, and form
Of lofty towering strength; and by his side
Eve, fair as morning star, with modesty
Arrayed, with virtue, grace, and perfect love;
In holy marriage wed, and eloquent
Of thought and comely words, to worship God
And sing his praise—the giver of all good.
Glad, in each other glad, and glad in hope;
Rejoicing in their future happy race.
O lovely, happy, blest, immortal pair!
Pleased with the present, full of glorious hope.
But short, alas, the song that sings their bliss!
Henceforth the history of man grows dark:
Shade after shade, of deepening gloom descends:
And Innocence laments her robes defiled.
Who farther sings, must change the pleasant lyre
To heavy notes of wo. Why—dost thou ask,
Surprised? The answer will surprise thee more.
Man sinned—tempted, he ate the guarded tree,
Tempted of whom thou afterwards shalt hear;
Audacious, unbelieving, proud, ungrateful,
He ate the interdicted fruit, and fell;
And in his fall, his universal race;
For they in him by delegation were,
In him to stand or fall—to live or die.
Man most ingrate! so full of grace to sin—
Here interposed the new arrived—so full
Of bliss—to sin against the Gracious One!
The holy, just, and good! the Eternal Love!
Unseen, unheard, unthought of wickedness!
Why slumbered vengeance? No, it slumbered not.
The ever just and righteous God would let
His fury loose, and satisfy his threat.
That had been just, replied the reverend bard;
But done, fair youth, thou ne'er had'st met me here:
I ne'er had seen yon glorious throne in peace.
Thy powers are great, originally great;
And purified even at the fount of light.
Exert them now; call all their vigour out;
Take room; think vastly; meditate intensely;
Reason profoundly; send conjecture forth;
Let fancy fly; stoop down; ascend; all length,
All breadth explore; all moral, all divine;
Ask prudence, justice, mercy ask, and might;
Weigh good with evil, balance right with wrong,
With virtue vice compare—hatred with love;
God's holiness, God's justice, and God's truth,
Deliberately and cautiously compare
With sinful, wicked, vile, rebellious man,
And see if thou can'st punish sin, and let
Mankind go free. Thou fail'st—be not surpris'd.
I bade thee search in vain. Eternal love—
Harp lift thy voice on high—Eternal love,
Eternal, sovereign love, and sovereign grace,
Wisdom, and power, and mercy infinite,
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God,
Devised the wondrous plan—devised, achieved;
And in achieving made the marvel more.
Attend, ye heavens! ye heaven of heavens, attend!
Attend, and wonder! wonder evermore!
When man had fallen, rebelled, insulted God;
Was most polluted, yet most madly proud;
Indebted infinitely, yet most poor;
Captive to sin, yet willing to be bound;
To God's incensed justice, and hot wrath
Exposed; due victim of eternal death
And utter wo—Harp lift thy voice on high!
Ye everlasting hills!—ye angels bow!
Bow ye redeemed of men! God was made flesh,
And dwelt with man on earth! the Son of God,
Only begotten, and well beloved, between
Men and his Father's justice interposed;
Put human nature on; His wrath sustained;
And in their name suffered, obeyed, and died,
Making his soul an offering for sin;
Just for unjust, and innocence for guilt,
By doing, suffering, dying unconstrained,
Save by omnipotence of boundless grace,
Complete atonement made to God appeased;
Made honourable his insulted law,
Turning the wrath aside from pardoned man.
Thus Truth with Mercy met, and Righteousness,
Stooping from highest heaven, embraced fair Peace,
That walked the earth in fellowship with Love.
O love divine! O mercy infinite!
The audience here in glowing rapture broke—
O love, all height above, all depth below,
Surpassing far all knowledge, all desire,
All thought, the Holy One for sinners dies!
The Lord of life for guilty rebels bleeds—
Quenches eternal fire with blood divine.
Abundant mercy! overflowing grace!
There whence I came, I something heard of men;
Their name had reached us, and report did speak
Of some abominable horrid thing
Of desperate offence they had committed;
And something too of wondrous grace we heard;
And oft of our celestial visitants
What man, what God had done, inquired; but they,
Forbid, our asking never met directly,
Exhorting still to persevere upright,
And we should hear in heaven, tho' greatly blest
Ourselves, new wonders of God's wondrous love.
This hinting, keener appetite to know
Awaked; and as we talked, and much admired
What new we there should learn, we hasted each
To nourish virtue to perfection up,
That we might have our wondering resolved,
And leave of louder praise, to greater deeds
Of loving kindness due. Mysterious love!
God was made flesh, and dwelt with men on earth!
Blood holy, blood divine for sinners shed—
My asking ends—but makes my wonder more.
Saviour of men! henceforth be thou my theme!
Redeeming love, my study day and night!
Mankind were lost, all lost, and all redeemed!
Thou err'st again—but innocently err'st;
Not knowing sin's depravity, nor man's
Sincere and persevering wickedness.
All were redeemed? not all—or thou had'st heard
No human voice in hell. Many refused,
Altho' beseeched, refused to be redeemed;
Redeemed from death to life, from wo to bliss!
Can'st thou believe my song when thus I sing?
When man had fallen, was ruined, hopeless, lost;
Ye choral harps! ye angels that excel
In strength! and loudest, ye redeemed of men!
To God—to Him that sits upon the throne
On high, and to the Lamb, sing honour, sing
Dominion, glory; blessing sing, and praise:
When man had fallen, was ruined, hopeless, lost,
Messiah, Prince of peace, Eternal King,
Died, that the dead might live, the lost be saved.
Wonder, O, heavens! and be astonished, earth!
Thou ancient, thou forgotten earth! Ye worlds admire!
Admire, and be confounded! and thou Hell!
Deepen thy eternal groan—men would not be
Redeemed—I speak of many, not of all—
Would not be saved for lost, have life for death!
Mysterious song! the new arrived exclaimed;
Mysterious mercy! most mysterious hate!
To disobey was mad, this madder far,
Incurable insanity of will.
What now but wrath could guilty men expect?
What more could love, what more could mercy do?
No more, resumed the bard, no more they could:
Thou hast seen hell—the wicked there lament;
And why? for love and mercy twice despised;
The husbandman, who sluggishly forgot
In spring to plow, and sow, could censure none,
Tho' winter clamoured round his empty barns;
But he who having thus neglected, did
Refuse, when Autumn came, and famine threatened,
To reap the golden field that charity
Bestowed—nay, more obdurate, proud, and blind,
And stupid still, refused, tho' much beseeched,
And long entreated, even with Mercy's tears,
To eat what to his very lips was held
Cooked temptingly—he certainly, at least,
Deserved to die of hunger unbemoaned.
So did the wicked spurn the grace of God;
And so were punished with the second death.
The first, no doubt, punition less severe
Intended, death belike of all entire;
But this incurred, by God discharged, and life
Freely again presented, and again despised,
Despised, tho' bought with Mercy's proper blood—
'Twas this dug hell, and kindled all its bounds
With wrath and inextinguishable fire.
Free was the offer, free to all, of life
And of salvation; but the proud of heart,
Because 'twas free, would not accept; and still
To merit wished; and choosing—thus unshipped,
Uncompassed, unprovisioned, and bestormed,
To swim a sea of breadth immeasurable,
They scorned the goodly bark, whose wings the breath
Of God's eternal Spirit filled for heaven,
That stopped to take them in—and so were lost.
What wonders dost thou tell? to merit, how?
Of creature meriting in sight of God,
As right of service done, I never heard
Till now: we never fell; in virtue stood
Upright, and persevered in holiness;
But stood by grace, by grace we persevered;
Ourselves, our deeds, our holiest, highest deeds
Unworthy aught—grace worthy endless praise.
If we fly swift, obedient to his will,
He gives us wings to fly; if we resist
Temptation, and ne'er fall, it is his shield
Omnipotent that wards it off; if we,
With love unquenchable, before him burn,
'Tis he that lights and keeps alive the flame.
Men surely lost their reason in their fall,
And did not understand the offer made.
They might have understood, the bard replied—
They had the Bible—hast thou ever heard
Of such a book? the author God himself;
The subject God and man; salvation, life
And death—eternal life, eternal death—
Dread words! whose meaning has no end, no bounds—
Most wondrous book! bright candle of the Lord!
Star of eternity! the only star
By which the bark of man could navigate
The sea of life, and gain the coast of bliss
Securely; only star which rose on Time,
And, on its dark and troubled billows, still,
As generation drifting swiftly by
Succeeded generation, threw a ray
Of heaven's own light, and to the hills of God,
The everlasting hills, pointed the sinner's eye:
By prophets, seers, and priests, and sacred bards,
Evangelists, apostles, men inspired,
And by the Holy Ghost anointed, set
Apart and consecrated to declare
To earth the counsels of the Eternal One,
This book—this holiest, this sublimest book,
Was sent—Heaven's will, Heaven's code of laws entire
To man, this book contained; defined the bounds
Of vice and virtue, and of life and death;
And what was shadow, what was substance taught.
Much it revealed; important all; the least
Worth more than what else seemed of highest worth:
But this of plainest, most essential truth—
That God is one, eternal, holy, just,
Omnipotent, omniscient, infinite;
Most wise, most good, most merciful and true;
In all perfection most unchangeable:
That man—that every man of every clime
And hue, of every age, and every rank,
Was bad—by nature and by practice bad;
In understanding blind, in will perverse,
In heart corrupt; in every thought, and word,
Imagination, passion, and desire,
Most utterly depraved throughout, and ill,
In sight of Heaven, tho' less in sight of man,
At enmity with God his maker born,
And by his very life an heir of death:
That man—that every man was farther, most
Unable to redeem himself, or pay
One mite of his vast debt to God—nay, more,
Was most reluctant and averse to be
Redeemed, and sin's most voluntary slave;
That Jesus, Son of God, of Mary born
In Bethlehem, and by Pilate crucified
On Calvary—for man thus fallen and lost,
Died; and, by death, life and salvation bought,
And perfect righteousness, for all who should
In his great name believe—that He, the third
In the eternal Essence, to the prayer
Sincere should come, should come as soon as asked,
Proceeding from the Father and the Son,
To give faith and repentance, such as God
Accepts—to open the intellectual eyes
Blinded by sin; to bend the stubborn will,
Perversely to the side of wrong inclined,
To God and his commandments, just and good;
The wild rebellious passions to subdue,
And bring them back to harmony with heaven;
To purify the conscience, and to lead
The mind into all truth, and to adorn
With every holy ornament of grace,
And sanctify the whole renewed soul,
Which henceforth might no more fall totally,
But persevere, though erring oft, amidst
The mists of time, in piety to God,
And sacred works of charity to men:
That he, who thus believed, and practised thus,
Should have his sins forgiven, however vile;
Should be sustained at mid-day, morn, and even,
By God's omnipotent, eternal grace;
And in the evil hour of sore disease,
Temptation, persecution, war, and death,
For temporal death, altho' unstinged, remained,
Beneath the shadow of the Almighty's wings
Should sit unhurt, and at the judgment-day,
Should share the resurrection of the just,
And reign with Christ in bliss for evermore:
That all, however named, however great,
Who would not thus believe, nor practise thus,
But in their sins impenitent remained,
Should in perpetual fear and terror live;
Should die unpardoned, unredeemed, unsaved;
And at the hour of doom, should be cast out
To utter darkness in the night of hell,
By mercy and by God abandoned, there
To reap the harvests of eternal wo.
This did that Book declare in obvious phrase,
In most sincere and honest words, by God
Himself selected and arranged; so clear,
So plain, so perfectly distinct, that none
Who read with humble wish to understand,
And asked the Spirit, given to all who asked,
Could miss their meaning, blazed in heavenly light.
This book—this holy book, on every line
Marked with the seal of high divinity;
On every leaf bedewed with drops of love
Divine, and with the eternal heraldry
And signature of God Almighty stampt
From first to last—this ray of sacred light,
This lamp, from off the everlasting throne,
Mercy took down, and in the night of Time
Stood, casting on the dark her gracious bow;
And evermore beseeching men, with tears
And earnest sighs, to read, believe, and live:
And many to her voice gave ear, and read,
Believed, obeyed; and now, as the Amen,
True, Faithful Witness swore, with snowy robes
And branchy palms surround the fount of life,
And drink the streams of immortality,
For ever happy, and for ever young.
Many believed; but more the truth of God
Turned to a lie, deceiving and deceived;—
Each, with the accursed sorcery of sin,
To his own wish and vile propensity
Transforming still the meaning of the text.
Hear! while I briefly tell what mortals proved,
By effort vast of ingenuity,
Most wondrous, though perverse and damnable;
Proved from the Bible, which, as thou hast heard,
So plainly spoke that all could understand.
First, and not least in number, argued some,
From out this book itself, it was a lie,
A fable framed by crafty men to cheat
The simple herd, and make them bow the knee
To kings and priests,—these in their wisdom left
The light revealed, and turned to fancies wild;
Maintaining loud, that ruined, helpless man,
Needed no Saviour. Others proved that men
Might live and die in sin, and yet be saved,
For so it was decreed; binding the will,
By God left free, to unconditional,
Unreasonable fate. Others believed debased,
That he who was most criminal,
Condemned, and dead, unaided might ascend
The heights of Virtue; to a perfect law
Giving a lame, half-way obedience, which
By useless effort only served to show
The impotence of him who vainly strove
With finite arm to measure infinite;
Most useless effort! when to justify
In sight of God it meant, as proof of faith
Most acceptable, and worthy of all praise.
Another held, and from the Bible held,
He was infallible,—most fallen by such
Pretence—that none the Scriptures, open to all,
And most to humble-hearted, ought to read,
But priests; that all who ventured to disclaim
His forged authority, incurred the wrath
Of Heaven; and he who, in the blood of such,
Though father, mother, daughter, wife, or son,
Imbrued his hands, did most religious work,
Well pleasing to the heart of the Most High.
Others, in outward rite, devotion placed;
In meats, in drinks; in robe of certain shape—
In bodily abasements, bended knees;
Days, numbers, places, vestments, words, and names—
Absurdly in their hearts imagining,
That God, like men, was pleased with outward show.
Another, stranger and more wicked still,
With dark and dolorous labour, ill applied,
With many a gripe of conscience, and with most
Unhealthy and abortive reasoning,
That brought his sanity to serious doubt,
'Mong wise and honest men, maintained that He,
First Wisdom, Great Messiah, Prince of Peace,
The second of the uncreated Three,
Was nought but man—of earthly origin;
Thus making void the sacrifice Divine,
And leaving guilty men, God's holy law
Still unatoned, to work them endless death.
These are a part; but to relate thee all
The monstrous, unbaptised phantasies,
Imaginations fearfully absurd,
Hobgoblin rites, and moon-struck reveries,
Distracted creeds, and visionary dreams,
More bodiless and hideously misshapen
Than ever fancy, at the noon of night,
Playing at will, framed in the madman's brain,
That from this book of simple truth were proved,
Were proved, as foolish men were wont to prove—
Would bring my word in doubt, and thy belief
Stagger, though here I sit and sing, within
The pale of truth, where falsehood never came.
The rest, who lost the heavenly light revealed,
Not wishing to retain God in their minds,
In darkness wandered on: yet could they not,
Though moral night around them drew her pall
Of blackness, rest in utter unbelief.
The voice within, the voice of God, that nought
Could bribe to sleep, though steeped in sorceries
Of Hell, and much abused by whisperings
Of Evil Spirits in the dark, announced
A day of judgment, and a judge,—a day
Of misery, or bliss;—and being ill
At ease, for gods they chose them stocks and stones,
Reptiles, and weeds, and beasts, and creeping things,
And Spirits accursed—ten thousand Deities!
(Imagined worse than he who craved their peace,)
And bowing, worshipped these as best beseemed,
With midnight revelry obscene and loud,
With dark, infernal, devilish ceremonies,
And horrid sacrifice of human flesh,
That made the fair heavens blush. So bad was Sin!
So lost, so ruined, so depraved was man!—
Created first in God's own image fair!
Oh, cursed, cursed Sin! traitor to God,
And ruiner of man! mother of Wo,
And Death, and Hell,—wretched, yet seeking worse:
Polluted most, yet wallowing in the mire;
Most mad, yet drinking Frenzy's giddy cup;
Depth ever deepening, darkness darkening still;
Folly for wisdom, guilt for innocence;
Anguish for rapture, and for hope despair;
Destroyed destroying; in tormenting pained;
Unawed by wrath; by mercy unreclaimed;
Thing most unsightly, most forlorn, most sad—
Thy time on earth is past, thy war with God
And holiness: but who, oh who shall tell,
Thy unrepentable and ruinous thoughts?
Thy sighs, thy groans? Who reckon thy burning tears,
And damned looks of everlasting grief,
Where now, with those who took their part with thee,
Thou sitt'st in Hell, gnawed by the eternal Worm—
To hurt no more, on all the holy hills?
That those, deserting once the lamp of truth,
Should wander ever on, from worse to worse
Erroneously, thy wonder needs not ask:
But that enlightened, reasonable men,
Knowing themselves accountable, to whom
God spoke from heaven, and by his servants warned,
Both day and night, with earnest, pleading voice,
Of retribution equal to their works,
Should persevere in evil, and be lost—
This strangeness, this unpardonable guilt,
Demands an answer, which my song unfolds
In part directly, but hereafter more,
To satisfy thy wonder, thou shalt learn,
Inferring much from what is yet to sing.
Know then, of men who sat in highest place
Exalted, and for sin by others done
Were chargeable, the king and priest were chief.
Many were faithful, holy, just, upright,
Faithful to God and man—reigning renowned
In righteousness, and, to the people, loud
And fearless, speaking all the words of life.
These at the judgment-day, as thou shalt hear,
Abundant harvest reaped; but many too,
Alas, how many! famous now in Hell,
Were wicked, cruel, tyrannous, and vile;
Ambitious of themselves, abandoned, mad;
And still from servants hasting to be gods,
Such gods as now they serve in Erebus.
I pass their lewd example by, that led
So many wrong, for courtly fashion lost,
And prove them guilty of one crime alone.
Of every wicked ruler, prince supreme,
Or magistrate below, the one intent,
Purpose, desire, and struggle day and night,
Was evermore to wrest the crown from off
Messiah's head, and put it on his own;
And in His place give spiritual laws to men;
To bind religion—free by birth, by God,
And nature free, and made accountable
To none but God—behind the wheels of state;
To make the holy altar, where the Prince
Of life incarnate bled to ransom man,
A footstool to the throne; for this they met,
Assembled, counselled, meditated, planned,
Devised in open and secret; and for this
Enacted creeds of wondrous texture, creeds
The Bible never owned, unsanctioned too,
And reprobate in heaven; but by the power
That made, (exerted now in gentler form,
Monopolizing rights and privileges,
Equal to all, and waving now the sword
Of persecution fierce, tempered in hell,)
Forced on the conscience of inferior men:
The conscience that sole monarchy in man,
Owing allegiance to no earthly prince;
Made by the edict of creation free;
Made sacred, made above all human laws;
Holding of heaven alone; of most divine,
And indefeasible authority;
An individual sovereignty, that none
Created might, unpunished, bind or touch;
Unbound, save by the eternal laws of God,
And unamenable to all below.
Thus did the uncircumcised potentates
Of earth debase religion in the sight
Of those they ruled—who, looking up, beheld
The fair celestial gift despised, enslaved;
And, mimicking the folly of the great,
With prompt docility despised her too.
The prince or magistrate, however named
Or praised, who knowing better, acted thus,
Was wicked, and received, as he deserved,
Damnation. But the unfaithful priest, what tongue
Enough shall execrate? His doctrine may
Be passed, tho' mixed with most unhallowed leaven,
That proved to those who foolishly partook,
Eternal bitterness:—but this was still
His sin—beneath what cloak soever veiled,
His ever growing and perpetual sin,
First, last, and middle thought, whence every wish,
Whence every action rose, and ended both—
To mount to place, and power of worldly sort;
To ape the gaudy pomp and equipage
Of earthly state, and on his mitred brow
To place a royal crown: for this he sold
The sacred truth to him who most would give
Of titles, benefices, honours, names;
For this betrayed his Master; and for this
Made merchandise of the immortal souls
Committed to his care—this was his sin.
Of all who office held unfairly, none
Could plead excuse; he least, and last of all.
By solemn, awful ceremony, he
Was set apart to speak the truth entire,
By action, and by word; and round him stood
The people, from his lips expecting knowledge;
One day in seven, the Holy Sabbath termed,
They stood; for he had sworn in face of God
And man, to deal sincerely with their souls;
To preach the gospel for the gospel's sake;
Had sworn to hate and put away all pride,
All vanity, all love of earthly pomp;
To seek all mercy, meekness, truth, and grace;
And being so endowed himself, and taught,
In them like works of holiness to move;
Dividing faithfully the word of life.
And oft indeed the word of life he taught;
But practising, as thou hast heard, who could
Believe? Thus was religion wounded sore
At her own altars, and among her friends.
The people went away, and like the priest,
Fulfilling what the prophet spoke before,
For honour strove, and wealth, and place, as if
The preacher had rehearsed an idle tale.
The enemies of God rejoiced, and loud
The unbeliever laughed, boasting a life
Of fairer character than his, who owned,
For king and guide, the undefiled One.
Most guilty, villanous, dishonest man!
Wolf in the clothing of the gentle lamb!
Dark traitor in Messiah's holy camp!
Leper in saintly garb!—assassin masked
In Virtue's robe! vile hypocrite accursed!
I strive in vain to set his evil forth.
The words that should sufficiently accurse,
And execrate such reprobate, had need
Come glowing from the lips of eldest hell.
Among the saddest in the den of wo,
Thou saw'st him saddest, 'mong the damned, most damned.
But why should I with indignation burn,
Not well beseeming here, and long forgot?
Or why one censure for another's sin?
Each had his conscience, each his reason, will,
And understanding, for himself to search,
To choose, reject, believe, consider, act:
And God proclaimed from heaven, and by an oath
Confirmed, that each should answer for himself;
And as his own peculiar work should be,
Done by his proper self, should live, or die.
But sin, deceitful and deceiving still,
Had gained the heart, and reason led astray.
A strange belief, that leaned its idiot back
On folly's topmost twig—belief that God,
Most wise, had made a world, had creatures made,
Beneath his care to govern, and protect,—
Devoured its thousands. Reason, not the true,
Learned, deep, sober, comprehensive, sound;
But bigoted, one-eyed, short-sighted Reason,
Most zealous, and sometimes, no doubt, sincere—
Devoured its thousands. Vanity to be
Renowned for creed eccentrical—devoured
It's thousands: but a lazy, corpulent,
And over-credulous faith, that leaned on all
It met, nor asked if 'twas a reed or oak;
Stepped on, but never earnestly inquired
Whether to heaven or hell the journey led—
Devoured its tens of thousands, and its hands
Made reddest in the precious blood of souls.
In Time's pursuits men ran till out of breath.
The astronomer soared up, and counted stars,
And gazed, and gazed upon the Heaven's bright face,
Till he dropt down dim-eyed into the grave:
The numerist in calculations deep
Grew gray: the merchant at his desk expired:
The statesman hunted for another place,
Till death o'ertook him, and made him his prey:
The miser spent his eldest energy,
In grasping for another mite: the scribe
Rubbed pensively his old and withered brow,
Devising new impediments to hold
In doubt the suit that threatened to end too soon:
The priest collected tithes, and pleaded rights
Of decimation to the very last.
In science, learning, all philosophy,
Men laboured all their days, and laboured hard,
And dying, sighed how little they had done:
But in religion they at once grew wise.
A creed in print, tho' never understood;
A theologic system on the shelf,
Was spiritual lore enough, and served their turn;
But served it ill. They sinned, and never knew;
For what the Bible said of good and bad,
Of holiness and sin, they never asked.
Absurd—prodigiously absurd, to think
That man's minute and feeble faculties,
Even in the very childhood of his being,
With mortal shadows dimmed, and wrapt around,
Could comprehend at once the mighty scheme,
Where rolled the ocean of eternal love;
Where wisdom infinite its master stroke
Displayed; and where omnipotence, opprest,
Did travel in the greatness of its strength;
And everlasting justice lifted up
The sword to smite the guiltless Son of God;
And mercy smiling bade the sinner go!
Redemption is the science, and the song
Of all eternity: archangels day
And night into its glories look; the saints,
The elders round the throne, old in the years
Of heaven, examine it perpetually;
And every hour, get clearer, ampler views
Of right and wrong—see virtue's beauty more;
See vice more utterly depraved, and vile;
And this with a more perfect hatred hate;
That daily love with a more perfect love.
But whether I for man's perdition blame
Office administered amiss; pursuit
Of pleasure false; perverted reason blind;
Or indolence that ne'er inquired; I blame
Effect and consequence; the branch, the leaf.
Who finds the fount and bitter root, the first
And guiltiest cause whence sprung this endless wo,
Must deep descend into the human heart,
And find it there. Dread passion! making men
On earth, and even in hell, if Mercy yet
Would stoop so low, unwilling to be saved,
If saved by grace of God—Hear, then in brief,
What peopled hell, what holds its prisoners there.
Pride, self-adoring pride, was primal cause
Of all sin past, all pain, all wo to come.
Unconquerable pride! first, eldest sin—
Great fountain-head of evil—highest source,
Whence flowed rebellion 'gainst the Omnipotent,
Whence hate of man to man, and all else ill.
Pride at the bottom of the human heart
Lay, and gave root and nourishment to all
That grew above. Great ancestor of vice!
Hate, unbelief, and blasphemy of God;
Envy and slander; malice and revenge;
And murder, and deceit, and every birth
Of damned sort, was progeny of pride.
It was the ever-moving, acting force,
The constant aim, and the most thirsty wish
Of every sinner unrenewed, to be
A god:—in purple or in rags, to have
Himself adored: whatever shape or form
His actions took; whatever phrase he threw
About his thoughts, or mantle o'er his life,
To be the highest, was the inward cause
Of all—the purpose of the heart to be
Set up, admired, obeyed. But who would bow
The knee to one who served and was dependent?
Hence man's perpetual struggle, night and day,
To prove he was his own proprietor,
And independent of his God, that what
He had might be esteemed his own, and praised
As such—He laboured still, and tried to stand
Alone unpropped—to be obliged to none;
And in the madness of his pride he bade
His God farewell, and turned away to be
A god himself; resolving to rely,
Whatever came, upon his own right hand.
O desperate frenzy! madness of the will!
And drunkenness of the heart! that nought could quench
But floods of wo, poured from the sea of wrath,
Behind which mercy set. To think to turn
The back on life original, and live—
The creature to set up a rival throne
In the Creator's realm—to deify
A worm—and in the sight of God be proud—
To lift an arm of flesh against the shafts
Of the Omnipotent, and midst his wrath
To seek for happiness—insanity
Most mad! guilt most complete! Seest thou those worlds
That roll at various distance round the throne
Of God, innumerous, and fill the calm
Of heaven with sweetest harmony, when saints
And angels sleep—as one of these, from love
Centripetal withdrawing, and from light,
And heat, and nourishment cut off, should rush
Abandoned o'er the line that runs between
Create and increate; from ruin driven
To ruin still, thro' the abortive waste:
So pride from God drew off the bad; and so
Forsaken of him, he lets them ever try
Their single arm against the second death;
Amidst vindictive thunders lets them try
The stoutness of their heart; and lets them try
To quench their thirst amidst the unfading fire;
And to reap joy where he has sown despair:
To walk alone unguided, unbemoaned,
Where Evil dwells, and Death, and moral Night;
In utter emptiness to find enough;
In utter dark find light; and find repose
Where God with tempest plagues for evermore:
For so they wished it, so did pride desire.
Such was the cause that turned so many off
Rebelliously from God, and led them on
From vain to vainer still, in endless chase.
And such the cause that made so many cheeks
Pale, and so many knees to shake, when men
Rose from the grave; as thou shalt hear anon.
The Course Of Time. Book III.
Behold'st thou yonder, on the crystal sea,
Beneath the throne of God, an image fair,
And in its hand a mirror large and bright!—
'Tis truth, immutable, eternal truth,
In figure emblematical expressed.
Before it Virtue stands, and smiling sees,
Well pleased, in her reflected soul, no spot.
The sons of heaven, archangel, seraph, saint,
There daily read their own essential worth;
And as they read, take place among the just;
Or high, or low, each as his value seems.
There each his certain interest learns, his true
Capacity; and going thence, pursues,
Unerringly thro' all the tracts of thought,
As God ordains, best ends by wisest means.
The Bible held this mirror's place on earth:
But, few would read, or, reading, saw themselves.
The chase was after shadows, phantoms strange,
That in the twilight walked of Time, and mocked
The eager hunt, escaping evermore;
Yet with so many promises and looks
Of gentle sort, that he whose arms returned
Empty a thousand times, still stretched them out,
And grasping, brought them back again unfilled.
In rapid outline thou hast heard of man;
His death; his offered life; that life by most
Despised; the Star of God—the Bible, scorned,
That else to happiness and heaven had led,
And saved my lyre from narrative of wo.
Hear now more largely of the ways of Time;
The fond pursuits and vanities of men.
Love God, love truth, love virtue, and be happy:—
These were the words first uttered in the ear
Of every being rational made, and made
For thought, or word, or deed accountable.
Most men the first forgot, the second none.
Whatever path they took, by hill or vale,
By night or day, the universal wish,
The aim, and sole intent, was happiness:
But, erring from the heaven-appointed path,
Strange tracks indeed they took through barren wastes,
And up the sandy mountain climbing toiled,
Which pining lay beneath the curse of God,
And nought produced: yet did the traveller look,
And point his eye before him greedily,
As if he saw some verdant spot, where grew
The heavenly flower, where sprung the well of life,
Where undisturbed felicity reposed;
Though Wisdom's eye no vestige could discern,
That happiness had ever passed that way.
Wisdom was right: for still the terms remained
Unchanged, unchangeable; the terms on which
True peace was given to man; unchanged as God,
Who, in his own essential nature, binds
Eternally to virtue happiness;
Nor lets them part through all his Universe.
Philosophy, as thou shalt hear, when she
Shall have her praise—her praise and censure too,
Did much, refining and exalting man;
But could not nurse a single plant that bore
True happiness.—From age to age she toiled;
Shed from her eyes the mist that dimmed them still;
Looked forth on man; explored the wild and tame,
The savage and polite, the sea and land,
And starry heavens; and then retired far back
To meditation's silent shady seat;
And there sat pale, and thoughtfully, and weighed
With wary, most exact and scrupulous care,
Man's nature, passions, hopes, propensities,
Relations and pursuits, in reason's scale;
And searched and weighed, and weighed and searched again,
And many a fair and goodly volume wrote,
That seemed well worded too, wherein were found
Uncountable receipts, pretending each,
If carefully attended to, to cure
Mankind of folly;—to root out the briers
And thorns, and weeds that choked the growth of joy;—
And showing too, in plain and decent phrase,
Which sounded much like wisdom's, how to plant,
To shelter, water, culture, prune, and rear
The tree of happiness; and oft their plans
Were tried;—but still the fruit was green and sour.
Of all the trees that in Earth's vineyard grew,
And with their clusters tempted man to pull
And eat,—one tree, one tree alone, the true
Celestial manna bore which filled the soul,
The tree of Holiness—of heavenly seed,
A native of the skies; tho' stunted much,
And dwarfed, by Time's cold, damp, ungenial soil,
And chilling winds, yet yielding fruit so pure,
So nourishing and sweet, as, on his way,
Refreshed the pilgrim; and begot desire
Unquenchable to climb the arduous path
To where her sister plants, in their own clime,
Around the fount, and by the stream of life,
Blooming beneath the Sun that never sets,—
Bear fruit of perfect relish fully ripe.
To plant this tree, uprooted by the fall,
To earth the Son of God descended, shed
His precious blood; and on it evermore,
From off his living wings, the Spirit shook
The dews of heaven, to nurse and hasten its growth.
Nor was this care, this infinite expense,
Not needed to secure the holy plant.
To root it out, and wither it from earth,
Hell strove with all its strength, and blew with all
Its blasts; and Sin, with cold consumptive breath,
Involved it still in clouds of mortal damp.
Yet did it grow, thus kept, protected thus;
And bear the only fruit of true delight;
The only fruit worth plucking under heaven.
But, few, alas! the holy plant could see,
For heavy mists that Sin around it threw
Perpetually; and few the sacrifice
Would make by which alone its clusters stooped,
And came within the reach of mortal man.
For this, of him who would approach and eat,
Was rigorously exacted to the full:—
To tread and bruise beneath the foot, the world
Entire; its prides, ambitions, hopes, desires;
Its gold, and all its broidered equipage;
To loose its loves and friendships from the heart,
And cast them off; to shut the ear against
Its praise, and all its flatteries abhor;
And having thus behind him thrown what seemed
So good and fair—then must he lowly kneel,
And with sincerity, in which the Eye
That slumbers not, nor sleeps, could see no lack,
This prayer pray:—“Lord God! thy will be done;
Thy holy will, howe'er it cross my own.”
Hard labour this for flesh and blood! too hard
For most it seemed: so, turning, they the tree
Derided, as mere bramble, that could bear
No fruit of special taste; and so set out
Upon ten thousand different routes to seek
What they had left behind; to seek what they
Had lost—for still as something once possest,
And lost, true happiness appeared: all thought
They once were happy; and even while they smoked
And panted in the chase—believed themselves
More miserable to-day than yesterday—
To-morrow than to-day. When youth complained,
The ancient sinner shook his hoary head,
As if he meant to say: Stop till you come
My length,and then you may have cause to sigh.
At twenty, cried the boy, who now had seen
Some blemish in his joys: How happily
Plays yonder child that busks the mimic babe,
And gathers gentle flowers, and never sighs.
At forty in the fervour of pursuit,
Far on in disappointment's dreary vale,
The grave and sage-like man looked back upon
The stripling youth of plump unseared hope,
Who galloped gay and briskly up behind—
And moaning wished himself eighteen again.
And he of threescore years and ten, in whose
Chilled eye, fatigued with gaping after hope,
Earth's freshest verdure seemed but blasted leaves,—
Praised childhood, youth and manhood, and denounced
Old age alone as barren of all joy.
Decisive proof that men had left behind
The happiness they sought, and taken a most
Erroneous path; since every step they took
Was deeper mire. Yet did they onward run—
Pursuing Hope that danced before them still,
And beckoned them to proceed—and with their hands,
That shook and trembled piteously with age,
Grasped at the lying Shade, even till the Earth
Beneath them broke, and wrapt them in the grave.
Sometimes indeed when wisdom in their ear
Whispered, and with its disenchanting wand
Effectually touched the sorcery of their eyes,
Directly pointing to the holy Tree,
Where grew the food they sought, they turned, surprised
That they had missed so long what now they found.
As one upon whose mind some new and rare
Idea glances, and retires as quick,
Ere memory have time to write it down;
Stung with the loss, into a thoughtful cast,
He throws his face, and rubs his vexed brow;
Searches each nook and corner of his soul
With frequent care; reflects, and re-reflects,
And tries to touch relations that may start
The fugitive again; and oft is foiled;
Till something like a seeming chance, or flight
Of random fancy, when expected least,
Calls back the wandered thought—long sought in vain:
Then does uncommon joy fill all his mind;
And still he wonders, as he holds it fast,
What lay so near he could not sooner find:
So did the man rejoice, when from his eye
The film of folly fell, and what he day
And night, and far and near, had idly searched,
Sprung up before him suddenly displayed;
So wondered why he missed the tree so long.
But, few returned from folly's giddy chase.
Few heard the voice of wisdom, or obeyed.
Keen was the search, and various and wide;
Without, within, along the flowery vale,
And up the rugged cliff, and on the top
Of mountains high, and on the ocean wave.
Keen was the search, and various and wide,
And ever and anon a shout was heard:
Ho! here's the tree of life; come, eat, and live!
And round the new discoverer quick they flocked
In multitudes, and plucked, and with great haste
Devoured; and sometimes in the lips 'twas sweet,
And promised well; but in the belly, gall.
Yet after him that cried again: Ho! here's
The tree of life; again they ran, and pulled,
And chewed again, and found it bitter still.
From disappointment on to disappointment,
Year after year, age after age pursued:
The child, the youth, the hoary headed man,
Alike pursued, and ne'er grew wise: for it
Was folly's most peculiar attribute,
And native act, to make experience void.
But hastily as pleasures tasted turned
To loathing and disgust, they needed not
Even such experiment to prove them vain.
In hope or in possession, Fear, alike,
Boding disaster, stood. Over the flower
Of fairest sort, that bloomed beneath the sun,
Protected most, and sheltered from the storm,
The Spectre, like a dark and thunderous cloud,
Hung dismally, and threatened, before the hand
Of him that wished, could pull it, to descend,
And o'er the desert drive its withered leaves;
Or being pulled, to blast it unenjoyed,
While yet he gazed upon its loveliness,
And just began to drink its fragrance up.
Gold many hunted, sweat and bled for gold;
Waked all the night, and laboured all the day.
And what was this allurement, dost thou ask?
A dust dug from the bowels of the earth,
Which, being cast into the fire, came out
A shining thing that fools admired, and called
A god; and in devout and humble plight
Before it kneeled, the greater to the less.
And on its altar sacrificed ease, peace,
Truth, faith, integrity; good conscience, friends,
Love, charity, benevolence, and all
The sweet and tender sympathies of life;
And to complete the horrid murderous rite,
And signalize their folly, offered up
Their souls, and an eternity of bliss,
To gain them—what? an hour of dreaming joy;
A feverish hour that hasted to be done,
And ended in the bitterness of wo.
Most for the luxuries it bought—the pomp,
The praise, the glitter, fashion, and renown,
This yellow phantom followed and adored.
But there was one in folly farther gone;
With eye awry, incurable and wild,
The laughing-stock of devils and of men,
And by his guardian angel quite given up—
The miser, who with dust inanimate
Held wedded intercourse. Ill guided wretch!
Thou mightst have seen him at the midnight hour,
When good men slept, and in light winged dreams
Ascended up to God,—in wasteful hall,
With vigilance and fasting worn to skin
And bone, and wrapt in most debasing rags,—
Thou mightst have seen him bending o'er his heaps,
And holding strange communion with his gold;
And as his thievish fancy seemed to hear
The night-man's foot approach, starting alarmed,
And in his old, decrepit, withered hand,
That palsy shook, grasping the yellow earth
To make it sure. Of all God made upright,
And in their nostrils breathed a living soul,
Most fallen, most prone, most earthy, most debased.
Of all that sold Eternity for Time
None bargained on so easy terms with death.
Illustrious fool! Nay, most inhuman wretch!
He sat among his bags, and with a look
Which hell might be ashamed of, drove the poor
Away unalmsed; and midst abundance died—
Sorest of evils! died of utter want.
Before this Shadow in the vales of earth,
Fools saw another glide, which seemed of more
Intrinsic worth. Pleasure her name—good name
Tho' ill applied. A thousand forms she took,
A thousand garbs she wore; in every age
And clime changing, as in her votaries changed
Desire: but, inwardly, the same in all.
Her most essential lineaments we trace;
Her general features every where alike.
Of comely form she was, and fair of face;
And underneath her eyelids sat a kind
Of witching sorcery that nearer drew
Whoever with unguarded look beheld;
A dress of gaudy hue loosely attired
Her loveliness; her air and manner frank,
And seeming free of all disguise; her song
Enchanting; and her words which sweetly dropt,
As honey from the comb, most large of promise,
Still prophesying days of new delight,
And rapturous nights of undecaying joy.
And in her hand, where'er she went, she held
A radiant Cup that seemed of nectar full—
And by her side danced fair delusive Hope.
The fool pursued enamoured, and the wise
Experienced man who reasoned much, and thought,
Was sometimes seen laying his wisdom down,
And vying with the stripling in the chase.
Nor wonder thou! for she was really fair;
Decked to the very taste of flesh and blood.
And many thought her sound within; and gay
And healthy at the heart: but thought amiss:
For she was full of all disease; her bones
Were rotten: consumption licked her blood, and drank
Her marrow up; her breath smelled mortally;
And in her bowels plague and fever lurked;
And in her very heart, and reins and life,
Corruption's worm gnawed greedily unseen.
Many her haunts: thou mightst have seen her now
With Indolence, lolling on the mid-day couch,
And whispering drowsy words; and now at dawn,
Loudly and rough, joining the sylvan horn;
Or sauntering in the park, and to the tale
Of slander giving ear; or sitting fierce,
Rude, blasphemous, malicious, raving, mad,
Where fortune to the fickle die was bound.
But chief she loved the scene of deep debauch,
Where revelry, and dance, and frantic song,
Disturbed the sleep of honest men. And where
The drunkard sat, she entered in, well pleased,
With eye brimful of wanton mirthfulness,
And urged him still to fill another cup.
And at the shadowy twilight—in the dark
And gloomy night, I looked, and saw her come
Abroad, arrayed in harlot's soft attire;
And walk without in every street, and lie
In wait at every corner, full of guile.
And as the unwary youth of simple heart,
And void of understanding, passed, she caught
And kissed him, and with lips of lying said:
I have peace-offerings with me; I have paid
My vows this day; and therefore came I forth
To meet thee, and to seek thee diligently,
To seek thy face, and I have found thee here.
My bed is decked with robes of tapestry,
With carved work, and sheets of linen fine;
Perfumed with aloes, myrrh, and cinnamon.
Sweet are stolen waters! pleasant is the bread
In secret eaten! the goodman is from home.
Come, let us take our fill of love till morn
Awake; let us delight ourselves with loves.
With much fair speech she caused the youth to yield;
And forced him with the flattering of her tongue.
I looked, and saw him follow to her house,
As goes the ox to slaughter; as the fool
To the correction of the stocks; or bird
That hastes into the subtle fowler's snare,
And knows not, simple thing, 'tis for its life.
I saw him enter in; and heard the door
Behind them shut; and in the dark, still night,
When God's unsleeping eye alone can see,
He went to her adulterous bed. At morn
I looked, and saw him not among the youths:
I heard his father mourn, his mother weep:
For none returned that went with her. The dead
Were in her house; her guests in depths of hell:
She wove the winding-sheet of souls, and laid
Them in the urn of everlasting death.
Such was the Shadow fools pursued on earth,
Under the name of pleasure,—fair outside,
Within corrupted, and corrupting still:
Ruined, and ruinous: her sure reward,
Her total recompence was still, as he,
The bard, recorder of Earth's Seasons, sung,
“Vexation, disappointment, and remorse.”
Yet at her door the young and old, and some
Who held high character among the wise,
Together stood,—and strove among themselves,
Who first should enter, and be ruined first.
Strange competition of immortal souls!
To sweat for death! to strive for misery!
But think not Pleasure told her end was death.
Even human folly then had paused at least,
And given some signs of hesitation; nor
Arrived so hot, and out of breath at wo.
Though contradicted every day by facts,
That sophistry itself would stumble o'er,
And to the very teeth a liar proved
Ten thousand times, as if unconscious still
Of inward blame, she stood, and waved her hand,
And pointed to her bower, and said to all
Who passed: Take yonder flowery path; my steps
Attend; I lead the smoothest way to heaven;
This world receive as surety for the next.
And many simple men, most simple, tho'
Renowned for learning much, and wary skill,
Believed, and turned aside, and were undone.
Another leaf of finished Time we turn,
And read of Fame, terrestrial Fame, which died,
And rose not at the Resurrection morn.
Not that by virtue earned, the true renown,
Begun on earth, and lasting in the skies,
Worthy the lofty wish of seraphim,—
The approbation of the Eye that sees
The end from the beginning, sees from cause
To most remote effect: of it we read
In book of God's remembrance, in the book
Of life, from which the quick and dead were judged;
The book that lies upon the throne, and tells
Of glorious acts by saints and angels done;
The record of the holy, just, and good.
Of all the phantoms fleeting in the mist
Of Time, tho' meagre all, and ghostly thin,
Most unsubstantial, unessential shade,
Was earthly Fame. She was a voice alone,
And dwelt upon the noisy tongues of men.
She never thought; but gabbled ever on;
Applauding most what least deserved applause:
The motive, the result was nought to her:
The deed alone, tho' dyed in human gore,
And steeped in widow's tears, if it stood out
The prominent display, she talked of much,
And roared around it with a thousand tongues.
As changed the wind her organ, so she changed
Perpetually; and whom she praised to-day,
Vexing his ear with acclamations loud,
To-morrow blamed, and hissed him out of sight.
Such was her nature, and her practice such:
But, O! her voice was sweet to mortal ears;
And touched so pleasantly the strings of pride
And vanity, which in the heart of man
Were ever strung harmonious to her note,
That many thought, to live without her song
Was rather death than life: to live unknown,
Unnoticed, unrenowned! to die unpraised!
Unepitaphed! to go down to the pit,
And moulder into dust among vile worms!
And leave no whispering of a name on earth!
Such thought was cold about the heart, and chilled
The blood. Who could endure it? who could choose,
Without a struggle, to be swept away
From all remembrance? and have part no more
With living men? Philosophy failed here;
And self-approving pride. Hence it became
The aim of most, and main pursuit, to win
A name—to leave some vestige as they passed,
That following ages might discern they once
Had been on earth, and acted something there.
Many the roads they took, the plans they tried.
The man of science to the shade retired,
And laid his head upon his hand, in mood
Of awful thoughtfulness; and dived, and dived
Again—deeper and deeper still, to sound
The cause remote—resolved, before he died,
To make some grand discovery, by which
He should be known to all posterity.
And in the silent vigils of the night,
When uninspired men reposed, the bard,
Ghastly of countenance, and from his eye
Oft streaming wild unearthly fire, sat up;
And sent imagination forth; and searched
The far and near—heaven, earth, and gloomy hell—
For fiction new, for thought, unthought before;
And when some curious rare idea peered
Upon his mind, he dipped his hasty pen,
And by the glimmering lamp, or moonlight beam,
That thro' his lattice peeped, wrote fondly down
What seemed in truth imperishable song.
And sometimes too, the reverend divine,
In meditation deep of holy things,
And vanities of Time, heard Fame's sweet voice
Approach his ear—and hang another flower,
Of earthly sort, about the sacred truth;
And ventured whiles to mix the bitter text,
With relish suited to the sinner's taste.
And oft-times too, the simple hind, who seemed
Ambitionless, arrayed in humble garb,
While round him spreading, fed his harmless flock,
Sitting was seen, by some wild warbling brook,
Carving his name upon his favourite staff;
Or, in ill-favoured letters, tracing it
Upon the aged thorn; or on the face
Of some conspicuous oft frequented stone,
With persevering wondrous industry;
And hoping, as he toiled amain, and saw
The characters take form, some other wight,
Long after he was dead, and in the grave,
Should loiter there at noon and read his name.
In purple some, and some in rags, stood forth
For reputation: some displayed a limb
Well-fashioned: some of lowlier mind, a cane
Of curious workmanship, and marvellous twist:
In strength some sought it, and in beauty more.
Long, long the fair one laboured at the glass,
And, being tired, called in auxiliar skill,
To have her sails, before she went abroad,
Full spread, and nicely set, to catch the gale
Of praise. And much she caught, and much deserved,
When outward loveliness was index fair
Of purity within: but oft, alas!
The bloom was on the skin alone; and when
She saw, sad sight! the roses on her cheek
Wither, and heard the voice of fame retire
And die away, she heaved most piteous sighs,
And wept most lamentable tears; and whiles,
In wild delirium, made rash attempt,
Unholy mimickry of Nature's work!
To re-create, with frail and mortal things,
Her wither'd face. Attempt how fond and vain!
Her frame itself, soon mouldered down to dust;
And in the land of deep forgetfulness,
Her beauty and her name were laid beside
Eternal silence, and the loathsome worm;
Into whose darkness flattery ventured not;
Where none had ears to hear the voice of Fame.
Many the roads they took, the plans they tried.
And awful oft the wickedness they wrought.
To be observed, some scrambled up to thrones,
And sat in vestures dripping wet with gore.
The warrior dipped his sword in blood, and wrote
His name on lands and cities desolate.
The rich bought fields, and houses built, and raised
The monumental piles up to the clouds,
And called them by their names. And, strange to tell!
Rather than be unknown, and pass away
Obscurely to the grave, some, small of soul,
That else had perished unobserved, acquired
Considerable renown by oaths profane,
By jesting boldly with all sacred things,
And uttering fearlessly whate'er occurred;—
Wild, blasphemous, perditionable thoughts,
That Satan in them moved; by wiser men
Suppressed, and quickly banished from the mind.
Many the roads they took, the plans they tried:
But all in vain. Who grasped at earthly fame,
Grasped wind: nay worse, a serpent grasped, that thro'
His hand slid smoothly, and was gone; but left
A sting behind which wrought him endless pain:
For oft her voice was old Abaddon's lure,
By which he charmed the foolish soul to death.
So happiness was sought in pleasure, gold,
Renown—by many sought. But should I sing
Of all the trifling race, my time, thy faith,
Would fail—of things erectly organised,
And having rational, articulate voice,
And claiming outward brotherhood with man,—
Of him that laboured sorely, in his sweat
Smoking afar, then hurried to the wine,
Deliberately resolving to be mad:
Of him who taught the ravenous bird to fly
This way or that, thereby supremely blest:
Or rode in fury with the howling pack,
Affronting much the noble animal,
He spurred into such company: of him
Who down into the bowels of the earth
Descended deeply, to bring up the wreck
Of some old earthen ware, which having stowed,
With every proper care, he home returned
O'er many a sea, and many a league of land,
Triumphantly to show the marvellous prize:
And him that vexed his brain, and theories built
Of gossamer upon the brittle winds;
Perplexed exceedingly why shells were found
Upon the mountain tops; but wondering not
Why shells were found at all, more wondrous still!
Of him who strange enjoyment took in tales
Of fairy folk, and sleepless ghosts, and sounds
Unearthly, whispering in the ear of night
Disastrous things: and him who still foretold
Calamity which never came, and lived
In terror all his days of comets rude,
That should unmannerly and lawless drive
Athwart the path of Earth, and burn mankind:
As if the appointed hour of doom, by God
Appointed, ere its time should come: as if
Too small the number of substantial ills,
And real fears to vex the sons of men.—
These,—had they not possessed immortal souls,
And been accountable, might have been past
With laughter, and forgot; but as it was,
And is—their folly asks a serious tear.
Keen was the search, and various, and wide,
For happiness. Take one example more—
So strange, that common fools looked on amazed;
And wise and sober men together drew,
And trembling stood; and angels in the heavens
Grew pale, and talked of vengeance as at hand—
The sceptic's route—the unbeliever's, who,
Despising reason, revelation, God,
And kicking 'gainst the pricks of conscience, rushed
Deliriously upon the bossy shield
Of the Omnipotent; and in his heart
Purposed to deify the idol chance.
And laboured hard—oh, labour worse than nought!
And toiled with dark and crooked reasoning,
To make the fair and lovely Earth which dwelt
In sight of Heaven, a cold and fatherless,
Forsaken thing, that wandered on, forlorn,
Undestined, uncompassioned, unupheld:
A vapour eddying in the whirl of chance,
And soon to vanish everlastingly.
He travailed sorely, and made many a tack,
His sails oft shifting, to arrive—dread thought!
Arrive at utter nothingness; and have
Being no more—no feeling, memory,
No lingering consciousness that ere he was.
Guilt's midnight wish! last, most abhorred thought!
Most desperate effort of extremest sin!
Others preoccupied, ne'er saw true hope;
He seeing, aimed to stab her to the heart,
And with infernal chemistry to wring
The last sweet drop from sorrow's cup of gall;
To quench the only ray that cheered the earth,
And leave mankind in night which had no star.
Others the streams of pleasure troubled, he
Toiled much to dry her very fountain head.
Unpardonable man! sold under sin!
He was the Devil's pioneer, who cut
The fences down of virtue, sapped her walls,
And opened a smooth and easy way to death.
Traitor to all existence! to all life!
Soul-suicide! determined foe of being!
Intended murderer of God, Most High!
Strange road, most strange! to seek for happiness!
Hell's mad-houses are full of such; too fierce,
Too furiously insane, and desperate,
To rage unbound 'mong evil spirits damned!
Fertile was earth in many things: not least
In fools, who mercy both and judgment scorned;
Scorned love, experience scorned; and onward rushed
To swift destruction, giving all reproof,
And all instruction, to the winds: and much
Of both they had—and much despised of both.
Wisdom took up her harp, and stood in place
Of frequent concourse—stood in every gate,
By every way, and walked in every street;
And, lifting up her voice, proclaimed: Be wise,
Ye fools! be of an understanding heart.
Forsake the wicked: come not near his house:
Pass by: make haste: depart, and turn away.
Me follow—me, whose ways are pleastantness,
Whose paths are peace, whose end is perfect joy.
The Seasons came and went, and went and came,
To teach men gratitude; and as they passed,
Gave warning of the lapse of time, that else
Had stolen unheeded by: the gentle Flowers
Retired, and, stooping o'er the wilderness,
Talked of humility, and peace, and love.
The Dews came down unseen at evening-tide,
And silently their bounties shed, to teach
Mankind unostentatious charity.
With arm in arm the forest rose on high,
And lesson gave of brotherly regard.
And, on the rugged mountain-brow exposed,
Bearing the blast alone—the ancient oak
Stood, lifting high his mighty arm, and still
To courage in distress exhorted loud.
The flocks, the herds, the birds, the streams, the breeze,
Attuned the heart to melody and love.
Mercy stood in the cloud, with eye that wept
Essential love; and, from her glorious bow,
Bending to kiss the earth in token of peace,
With her own lips, her gracious lips, which God
Of sweetest accent made, she whispered still,
She whispered to Revenge:—Forgive, forgive!
The Sun rejoicing round the earth, announced
Daily the wisdom, power, and love of God.
The Moon awoke, and from her maiden face,
Shedding her cloudy locks, looked meekly forth,
And with her virgin stars walked in the heavens,
Walked nightly there, conversing as she walked,
Of purity, and holiness, and God.
In dreams and visions sleep instructed much.
Day uttered speech to day, and night to night
Taught knowledge: silence had a tongue: the grave,
The darkness, and the lonely waste, had each
A tongue, that ever said—Man! think of God!
Think of thyself! think of eternity!
Fear God, the thunders said; fear God, the waves;
Fear God, the lightning of the storm replied;
Fear God, deep loudly answered back to deep.
And, in the temples of the Holy One—
Messiah's messengers, the faithful few—
Faithful 'mong many false—the Bible opened,
And cried: Repent! repent ye Sons of Men!
Believe, be saved: and reasoned awfully
Of temperance, righteousness, and judgment soon
To come—of everduring life, and death.
And chosen bards from age to age awoke
The sacred lyre, and full on folly's ear,
Numbers of righteous indignation poured.
And God omnipotent, when mercy failed,
Made bare his holy arm; and with the stroke
Of vengeance smote; the fountains of the deep
Broke up; heaven's windows opened; and sent on men
A flood of wrath; sent plague and famine forth;
With earthquake rocked the world beneath; with storms
Above; laid cities waste; and turned fat lands
To barrenness; and with the sword of war
In fury marched, and gave them blood to drink.
Angels remonstrated: Mercy beseeched:
Heaven smiled, and frowned: Hell groaned: Time fled: Death shook
His dart, and threatened to make repentance vain—
Incredible assertion! men rushed on
Determinedly to ruin: shut their ears,
Their eyes to all advice, to all reproof—
O'er mercy and o'er judgment downward rushed
To misery: and, most incredible
Of all! to misery rushed along the way
Of disappointment and remorse, where still
At every step, adders, in pleasure's form,
Stung mortally; and Joys,—whose bloomy cheeks
Seemed glowing high with immortality,
Whose bosoms prophesied superfluous bliss,—
While in the arms received, and locked in close
And riotous embrace, turned pale, and cold,
And died, and smelled of putrifaction rank:
Turned, in the very moment of delight,
A loathsome, heavy corpse, that with the clear
And hollow eyes of Death, stared horribly.
All tribes, all generations of the earth,
Thus wantonly to ruin drove alike:
We heard indeed of golden and silver days;
And of primeval innocence unstained—
A pagan tale! but by baptized bards,
Philosophers, and statesmen, who were still
Held wise and cunning men, talked of so much,
That most believed it so, and asked not why.
The pair, the family first made, were ill;
And for their great peculiar sin incurred
The Curse, and left it due to all their race;
And bold example gave of every crime—
Hate, murder, unbelief, reproach, revenge.
A time, 'tis true, there came, of which thou soon
Shalt hear—the Sabbath Day, the Jubilee
Of Earth, when righteousness and peace prevailed.
This time except, who writes the history
Of men, and writes it true, must write them bad.
Who reads, must read of violence and blood.
The man who could the story of one day
Peruse; the wrongs, oppressions, cruelties;
Deceits, and perjuries, and vanities;
Rewarded worthlessnes, rejected worth;
Assassinations, robberies, thefts, and wars;
Disastrous accidents, life thrown away;
Divinity insulted; Heaven despised;
Religion scorned;—and not been sick at night,
And sad, had gathered greater store of mirth,
Than ever wise man in the world could find.
One cause of folly, one especial cause
Was this—few knew what wisdom was; tho' well
Defined in God's own words, and printed large,
On heaven and earth in characters of light,
And sounded in the ear by every wind.
Wisdom is humble, said the voice of God.
'Tis proud, the world replied. Wisdom, said God,
Forgives, forbears and suffers, not for fear
Of man, but God. Wisdom revenges, said
The world; is quick and deadly of resentment;
Thrusts at the very shadow of affront,
And hastes, by death, to wipe its honour clean.
Wisdom, said God, loves enemies, entreats,
Solicits, begs for peace. Wisdom, replied
The world, hates enemies; will not ask peace,
Conditions spurns, and triumphs in their fall.
Wisdom mistrusts itself, and leans on heaven,
Said God. It trusts and leans upon itself,
The world replied. Wisdom retires, said God,
And counts it bravery to bear reproach
And shame, and lowly poverty upright;
And weeps with all who have just cause to weep.
Wisdom, replied the world, struts forth to gaze;
Treads the broad stage of life with clamorous foot;
Attracts all praises; counts it bravery
Alone to wield the sword, and rush on death;
And never weeps, but for its own disgrace.
Wisdom, said God, is highest, when it stoops
Lowest before the Holy Throne, throws down
Its crown abased, forgets itself, admires,
And breathes adoring praise. There wisdom stoops
Indeed, the world replied—there stoops, because
It must: but stoops with dignity; and thinks
And meditates the while of inward worth.
Thus did Almighty God, and thus the world,
Wisdom define. And most the world believed;
And boldly called the truth of God a lie.
Hence, he that to the worldly wisdom shaped
His character, became the favourite
Of men—was honourable termed; a man
Of spirit; noble, glorious, lofty soul!
And as he crossed the earth in chase of dreams,
Received prodigious shouts of warm applause.
Hence, who to godly wisdom framed his life,
Was counted mean, and spiritless, and vile.
And as he walked obscurely in the path
Which led to heaven, fools hissed with serpent tongue,
And poured contempt upon his holy head;
And poured contempt on all who praised his name.
But false as this account of wisdom was—
The world's I mean—it was its best: the creed
Of sober, grave, and philosophic men;
With much research and cogitation framed;
Of men, who with the vulgar scorned to sit.
The popular belief seemed rather worse,
When heard replying to the voice of truth.
The wise man, said the Bible, walks with God,
Surveys far on the endless line of life;
Values his soul; thinks of eternity;
Both worlds considers, and provides for both;
With reason's eye his passions guards; abstains
From evil; lives on hope, on hope, the fruit
Of faith; looks upward; purifies his soul;
Expands his wings, and mounts into the sky;
Passes the sun, and gains his father's house;
And drinks with angels from the fount of bliss.
The multitude aloud replied—replied
By practice, for they were not bookish men;
Nor apt to form their principles in words—
The wise man first of all eradicates,
As much as possible, from out his mind,
All thought of death, God, and eternity;
Admires the world, and thinks of Time alone;
Avoids the Bible, all reproof avoids;
Rocks conscience, if he can, asleep; puts out
The eye of reason; prisons, tortures, binds;
And makes her thus, by violence and force,
Give wicked evidence against herself:
Lets passion loose; the substance leaves; pursues
The shadow vehemently, but ne'er o'ertakes;
Puts by the cup of holiness and joy;
And drinks, carouses deeply in the bowl
Of death; grovels in dust; pollutes, destroys
His soul; is miserable to acquire
More misery; deceives to be deceived;
Strives, labours to the last to shun the truth;
Strives, labours to the last to damn himself;
Turns desperate, shudders, groans, blasphemes, and dies,
And sinks—where could he else?—to endless wo:
And drinks the wine of God's eternal wrath.
The learned thus, and thus the unlearned world,
Wisdom defined—in sound they disagreed;
In substance, in effect, in end the same;
And equally to God and truth opposed;
Opposed as darkness to the light of heaven.
Yet were there some that seemed well meaning men,
Who systems planned, expressed in supple words,
Which praised the man as wisest, that in one
United both; pleased God, and pleased the world;
And with the saint, and with the sinner had,
Changing his garb unseen, a good report.
And many thought their definition best;
And in their wisdom grew exceeding wise.
Union abhorred! dissimulation vain!
Could holiness embrace the harlot sin?
Could life wed death? could God with Mammon dwell!
Oh, foolish men! oh, men for ever lost!
In spite of mercy lost, in spite of wrath!
In spite of Disappointment and Remorse,
Which made the way to ruin ruinous!
Hear what they were:—the progeny of sin
Alike; and oft combined: but differing much
In mode of giving pain. As felt the gross,
Material part, when in the furnace cast,
So felt the soul the victim of remorse.
It was a fire which on the verge of God's
Commandments burned, and on the vitals fed
Of all who passed. Who passed, there met remorse.
A violent fever seized his soul; the heavens
Above, the earth beneath, seemed glowing brass,
Heated seven times; he heard dread voices speak,
And mutter horrid prophecies of pain,
Severer and severer yet to come:
And as he writhed and quivered, scorched within,
The Fury round his torrid temples flapped
Her fiery wings, and breathed upon his lips,
And parched tongue, the withered blasts of hell.
It was the suffering begun, thou saw'st
In symbol of the Worm that never dies.
The other—Disappointment, rather seemed
Negation of delight. It was a thing
Sluggish and torpid, tending towards death.
Its breath was cold, and made the sportive blood,
Stagnant, and dull, and heavy round the wheels
Of life: the roots of that whereon it blew,
Decayed, and with the genial soil no more
Held sympathy—the leaves, the branches drooped,
And mouldered slowly down to formless dust;
Not tossed and driven by violence of winds;
But withering where they sprung, and rotting there.
Long disappointed, disappointed still,
The hopeless man, hopeless in his main wish,
As if returning back to nothing felt;
In strange vacuity of being hung,
And rolled, and rolled his eye on emptiness,
That seemed to grow more empty every hour.
One of this mood I do remember well:
We name him not, what now are earthly names?
In humble dwelling born, retired, remote,
In rural quietude; 'mong hills, and streams,
And melancholy deserts, where the sun
Saw, as he passed, a shepherd only, here
And there watching his little flock; or heard
The plowman talking to his steers—his hopes,
His morning hopes, awoke before him smiling,
Among the dews, and holy mountain airs;
And fancy coloured them with every hue
Of heavenly loveliness: but soon his dreams
Of childhood fled away—those rainbow dreams,
So innocent and fair, that withered age,
Even at the grave, cleared up his dusty eye,
And passing all between, looked fondly back
To see them once again ere he departed.—
These fled away—and anxious thought, that wished
To go, yet whither knew not well to go,
Possessed his soul, and held it still awhile.
He listened—and heard from far the voice of Fame—
Heard, and was charmed; and deep and sudden vow
Of resolution made to be renowned:
And deeper vowed again to keep his vow.
His parents saw—his parents whom God made
Of kindest heart—saw, and indulged his hope.
The ancient page he turned; read much; thought much;
And with old bards of honourable name
Measured his soul severely; and looked up
To fame, ambitious of no second place.
Hope grew from inward faith, and promised fair:
And out before him opened many a path
Ascending, where the laurel highest waved
Her branch of endless green. He stood admiring;
But stood, admired not long. The harp he seized;
The harp he loved—loved better than his life;
The harp which uttered deepest notes, and held
The ear of thought a captive to its song.
He searched, and meditated much, and whiles
With rapturous hand in secret touched the lyre,
Aiming at glorious strains—and searched again
For theme deserving of immortal verse:
Chose now, and now refused unsatisfied;
Pleased, then displeased, and hesitating still.
Thus stood his mind, when round him came a cloud;
Slowly and heavily it came; a cloud
Of ills we mention not: enough to say
'Twas cold, and dead, impenetrable gloom.
He saw its dark approach; and saw his hopes,
One after one, put out, as nearer still
It drew his soul: but fainted not at first;
Fainted not soon. He knew the lot of man
Was trouble, and prepared to bear the worst:
Endure whate'er should come, without a sigh
Endure, and drink, even to the very dregs,
The bitterest cup that Time could measure out;
And, having done, look up, and ask for more.
He called Philosophy, and with his heart
Reasoned: he called Religion too, but called
Reluctantly, and therefore was not heard.
Ashamed to be o'ermatched by earthly woes,
He sought, and sought with eye that dimmed apace,
To find some avenue to light, some place
On which to rest a hope—but sought in vain.
Darker and darker still the darkness grew:
At length he sunk, and disappointment stood
His only comforter, and mournfully
Told all was past. His interest in life,
In being, ceased: and now he seemed to feel,
And shuddered as he felt; his powers of mind
Decaying in the spring-time of his day.
The vigorous, weak became; the clear, obscure;
Memory gave up her charge; decision reeled;
And from her flight fancy returned, returned
Because she found no nourishment abroad.
The blue heavens withered, and the moon, and sun,
And all the stars, and the green earth, and morn
And evening withered; and the eyes, and smiles,
And faces of all men and women withered;
Withered to him; and all the universe,
Like something which had been, appeared, but now
Was dead and mouldering fast away. He tried
No more to hope: wished to forget his vow:
Wished to forget his harp: then ceased to wish.
That was his last. Enjoyment now was done.
He had no hope—no wish—and scarce a fear.
Of being sensible, and sensible
Of loss, he, as some atom seemed which God
Had made superfluously, and needed not
To build creation with; but back again
To Nothing threw, and left it in the void,
With everlasting sense that once it was.
Oh, who can tell what days, what nights he spent,
Of tideless, waveless, sailless, shoreless wo!
And who can tell, how many, glorious once,
To others, and themselves of promise full,
Conducted to this pass of human thought,
This wilderness of intellectual death,
Wasted and pined, and vanished from the earth,
Leaving no vestige of memorial there!
It was not so with him: when thus he lay,
Forlorn of heart, withered and desolate,
As leaf of Autumn, which the wolfish winds,
Selecting from its falling sisters, chase
Far from its native grove, to lifeless wastes,
And leave it there alone to be forgotten
Eternally—God passed in mercy by,
His praise be ever new! and on him breathed;
And bade him live; and put into his hands
A holy harp, into his lips a song,
That rolled its numbers down the tide of Time.
Ambitious now but little to be praised
Of men alone; ambitious most to be
Approved of God, the Judge of all; and have
His name recorded in the book of life.
Such things were Disappointment, and Remorse:
And oft united both, as friends severe,
To teach men wisdom: but the fool untaught,
Was foolish still. His ear he stopped; his eyes
He shut; and blindly, deafly obstinate,
Forced desperately his way from wo to wo.
One place, one only place there was on earth,
Where no man ere was fool—however mad.
“Men may live fools, but fools they cannot die.”
Ah! 'twas a truth most true; and sung in Time,
And to the sons of men, by one well known
On earth for lofty verse, and lofty sense.
Much hast thou seen, fair youth! much heard; but thou
Hast never seen a death-bed, never heard
A dying groan. Men saw it often: 'twas sad,
To all most sorrowful and sad—to guilt
'Twas anguish, terror, darkness, without bow.
But O, it had a most convincing tongue,
A potent oratory, that secured
Most mute attention: and it spoke the truth
So boldly, plainly, perfectly distinct,
That none the meaning could mistake, or doubt.
And had withal a disenchanting power,
A most omnipotent and wondrous power,
Which in a moment broke, for ever broke,
And utterly dissolved the charms, and spells,
And cunning sorceries of Earth and Hell.
And thus it spoke to him who ghastly lay,
And struggled for another breath: Earth's cup
Is poisoned: her renown, most infamous;
Her gold, seem as it may, is really dust;
Her titles, slanderous names; her praise, reproach;
Her strength, an idiot's boast; her wisdom, blind;
Her gain, eternal loss; her hope, a dream;
Her love, her friendship, enmity with God;
Her promises, a lie; her smile, a harlot's;
Her beauty, paint, and rotten within; her pleasures,
Deadly assassins masked; her laughter, grief;
Her breasts, the sting of Death; her total sum,
Her all, most utter vanity; and all
Her lovers mad; insane most grievously;
And most insane, because they know it not.
Thus did the mighty reasoner Death declare;
And volumes more: and in one word confirmed
The Bible whole—Eternity is all.
But few spectators, few believed of those
Who staid behind. The wisest, best of men
Believed not to the letter full; but turned,
And on the world looked forth, as if they thought
The well trimmed hypocrite had something still
Of inward worth: the dying man alone
Gave faithful audience, and the words of Death
To the last jot believed; believed and felt;
But oft, alas! believed and felt too late.
And had Earth then no joys? no native sweets
No happiness, that one who spoke the truth
Might call her own? She had; true, native sweets;
Indigenous delights, which up the Tree
Of holiness, embracing as they grew,
Ascended, and bore fruit of heavenly taste:
In pleasant memory held, and talked of oft,
By yonder Saints who walk the golden streets
Of New Jerusalem, and compass round
The throne, with nearest vision blest—of these
Hereafter thou shalt hear, delighted hear;
One page of beauty in the life of man.