Page images
PDF
EPUB

To reach a depth profounder still, and still
Profounder, in the fathomless abyss
Of folly, plunging in pursuit of death.
But ere be gain the comfortless repose
He seeks, and acquiescence of his soul
In heaven-renouncing exile, he endures---
What does he not, from lusts opposed in vain,
And self-reproaching conscience ? He foresees
The fatal issue to his health, fame, peace,
Fortune, and dignity; the loss of all,
That can ennoble man, and make frail life,
Short as it is, supportable. Still worse,
Far worse than all the plagues, with which his sins
Infect his happiest moments, he forebodes
Ages of hopeless misery. Future death,
And death still future. Not a basty stroke,
Like that which sends him to the dusty grave;
But unrepealable enduring death.
Scripture is still a trumpet to his fears:
What none can prove a forgery may be true:
What none but bad men wish exploded must.
That scruple checks him. Riot is not loud,
Nor drunk enough to drown it. In the midst
Of laughter his compunctions are sincere;
And he abhors the jest by which he shines.
Remorse begets reform. His master-lust
Falls first before his resolute rebuke,
And seems dethroned and vanquished. Peace ensues,
But spurious and short lived; the puny child
Of self congratulating pride, begot
On fancied innocence. Again he falls,
And fights again; but finds his best

essay
A presage ominous, portending still
Its own dishonour by a worse relapse ;
Till Nature, unavailing nature, foiled
So oft, and wearied in the vain attempt,
Scoffs at her own performance. Reason now
Takes part with appetite, and pleads the cause
Perversely, which of late she so condemned ;
With shallow shifts and old devices, worn
And tattered in the service of debauch,
Covering his shame from his offended sight.

“ Hath God indeed given appetites to man, “ And stored the earth so plenteously with means, “ To gratify the hunger of his wish; “ And doth he reprobate and will he damn, “ The use of his own bounty? making first “ So frail a kind, and then enacting laws “ So strict, that less than perfect must despair ? “ Falsehood! which whoso but suspects of truth “ Dishonours God, and makes a slave of man. “Do they themselves, who undertake for bire “ The teacher's office, and dispense at large “ Their weekly dole of edifying strains, “ Attend to their own music? have they faith “In what with such solemnity of tone “ And gesture they propound to our helief? “Nay---conduct hath the loudest tongue. The voice “ Is but an instrument, on which the priest “May play what tune he pleases. In the deed, “ The unequivocal authentic deed, “ We find sound argument, we read the heart.”

Such reasonings (if that name must need belong To excuses in which reason has no part) Serve to compose a spirit well inclined To live on terms of amity with vice, And sin without disturbance. Often urged, (As often as libidinous discourse Exhausted, he resorts to solemn themes Of theological and grave import) They gain at last his unreserved assent; Till, hardened his heart's temper in the forge Of lust, and on the anvil of despair, He slights the strokes of conscience. Nothing moves, Or nothing much, his constancy in ill; Vain tampering has but fostered his disease; 'Tis desperate, and he sleeps the sleep of death. Haste now philosopher and set him free. Charm the deaf serpent wisely. Make him hear Of rectitude and fitness, moral truth How lovely, and the moral sense how sure, Consulted and obeyed, to guide his steps Directly to the FIRST AND ONLY FAIR. Spare not in such a cause. Spend all the powers

Of rant and rhapsody in virtue's praise;
Be most sublimely good, verbosely grand,
And with poetic trappings grace thy prose,
Till it out-mantle all the pride of verse.---
Ah, tinkling cymbal, and high-sounding brass,
Smitten in vain ! such music cannot charm
The eclipse, that intercepts truth's heavenly beam,
And chills and darkens a wide-wandering soul.
The STILL SMALL VOICE is wanted. He must speak,
Whose word leaps forth at once to its effect;
Who calls for things that are not, and they come.

Grace makes the slave a freeman. 'Tis a change
That turns to ridicule the turgid speech
And stately tone of moralists, who boast,
As if, like him of fabulous renown
They had indeed ability to smooth
The shag of savage nature, and were each
An Orpheus, and omnipotent in song :
But transformation of apostate man
From fool to wise, from earthly to divine,
Is work for Him that made him. He alone,
And he by means in philosophic eyes
Trivial and worthy of disdain, achieves
The wonder : humanizing what is brute
In the lost kind, extracting from the lips
Of asps their venom, overpowering strength
By weakness, and hostility by love.

Patriots have toiled, and in their country's cause
Bled nobly; and their deeds, as they deserve,
Receive proud recompense. We give in charge
Their names to the sweet lyre. The historic muse,
Proud of the treasure, marches with it down
To latest times ; and sculpture, in her turn,
Gives bond in stone and ever-during brass
To guard them, and immortalize her trust :
But fairer wreaths are due, though never paid,
To those, who, posted at the shrine of truth,
Have fallen in her defence. A patriot's blood,
Well spent in such a strife, may earn indeed,
And for a time ensure, to his loved land
The sweets of liberty and equal laws;
But martyrs struggle tor a brighter prize,

And win it with more pain. Their blood is shed
In confirmation of the noblest claim,
Our claim to feed upon immortal truth,
To walk with God, to be divinely free,
To soar, and to anticipate the skies.
Yet few remember them. They lived unknown
Till persecution dragged them into fame,
And chased them up to heaven. Their ashes flew
---No marble tells us whither. With their names
No bard embalms and sanctifies his song :
And history, so warm on meaner themes,
Is cold on this. She execrates indeed
The tyranny, that doomed them to the fire,
But gives the glorious sufferers little praise*.

He is the freeman whom the truth makes free,
And all are slaves beside. There's not a chain
That hellish foes, confederate for his harm,
Can wind around him, but he casts it off
With as much ease as Samson his green withes.
He looks abroad into the varied field
Of nature, and though poor perhaps, compared
With those whose mansions glitter in his sight,
Calls the delightful scenery all his own.
His are the mountains, and the vallies his,
And the resplendent river. His to enjoy
With a propriety that none can feel,
But who, with filial confidence inspired,
Can lift to heaven an unpresumptuous eye,
And smiling say---“ My Father made them all!"
Are they not his by a peculiar right,
And by an emphasis of interest his,
Whose eye they fill with tears of holy joy,
Whose heart with praise, and whose exalted mind
With worthy thoughts of that unwearied love,
That planned, and built, and still upholds, a world
So clothed with beauty for rebellious man?
Yes--ye may fill your garners, ye that reap
The loaded soil, and ye may waste much good
In senseless riot : but ye will not find
In feast, or in the chase, in song or dance,
A liberty like his, who, unimpeached

* See Hume.

Of usurpation, and to no man's wrong,
Appropriates nature as his Father's work,
And has as a richer use of your's than you.
He is indeed a freeman. Free by birth
Of no mean city; planned or ere the hills
Were built, the fountains opened, or the sea
With all his roaring multitude of waves.
His freedom is the same in every state;
And no condition of this changeful life,
So manifold in cares, whose every day
Brings its own evil with it, makes it less :
for he has wings, that neither sickness, pain,
Nor penury, can cripple or confine.
No nook so narrow but he spreads them there
With ease, and is at large. The oppressor holds
His body bound; but knows not what a range
His spirit takes, unconscious of a chain :
And that to bind him is a vain attempt
Whom God delights in, and in whom he dwells.

Acquaint thyself with God, if thou wouldst taste
His works. Admitted once to his embrace,
Thou shalt perceive that thou wast blind before :
Thine eye shall be instructed; and thine heart
Made pure shall relish, with divine delight
Till then unfelt, what hands divine have wrought.
Brutes graze the mountain top, with faces prone
And eyes intent upon the scanty herb,
It yields them; or recumbent on its brow
Ruminate heedless of the scene outspread
Beneath, beyond, and stretching far away
From inland regions to the distant main.
Man views it, and admires; but rests content
With what he views. The landscape has his praise,
But not its author. Unconcerned who formed
The paradise he sees, he finds it such,
And such well-pleased to find it, asks no more.
Not so the
mind, that has

been touched from heaven, And in the school of sacred wisdom taught To read his wonders, in whose thought the world, Fair as it is, existed ere it was. Nor for its own sake merely, but for his Much more, who fashioned it, he gives it praise ; Praise that from earth resulting, as it ought,

« PreviousContinue »