Jane Taylor was an English poet and novelist. She wrote the words to the song “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, which is widely known, but it is generally forgotten who wrote it.
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Famous Jane Taylor poems
The Good-Natured Girls
Two good little children, named Mary and Ann,
Both happily live, as good girls always can;
And though they are not either sullen or mute,
They seldom or never are heard to dispute.
If one wants a thing that the other would like
Well,what do they do? Must they quarrel and strike?
No, each is so willing to give up her own,
That such disagreements are there never known.
If one of them happens to have something nice,
Directly she offers her sister a slice;
And never, like some greedy children, would try
To eat in a corner with nobody by!
When papa or mamma has a job to be done;
These good little children immediately run;
Nor dispute whether this or the other should go,
They would be ashamed to behave themselves so!
Whatever occurs, in their work or their play,
They are willing to yield, and give up their own way:
Then now let us try their example to mind,
And always, like them, be obliging and kind.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are,
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
When the blazing sun is set,
And the grass with dew is wet,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Then the traveler in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see where to go
If you did not twinkle so.
In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye
Till the sun is in the sky.
As your bright and tiny spark
Lights the traveler in the dark,
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Little baby, lay your head
On your pretty cradle-bed;
Shut your eye-peeps, now the day
And the light are gone away;
All the clothes are tucked in tight;
Little baby dear, good night.
Yes, my darling, well I know
How the bitter wind doth blow;
And the winter’s snow and rain
Patter on the window-pane:
But they cannot come in here,
To my little baby dear;
For the window shutteth fast,
Till the stormy night is past;
And the curtains warm are spread
Round about her cradle-bed:
So till morning shineth bright,
Little baby dear, good night.
THERE was one little Jim,
‘Tis reported of him,
And must be to his lasting disgrace,
That he never was seen
With hands at all clean,
Nor yet ever clean was his face. . . .
His friends were much hurt
To see so much dirt,
And often they made him quite clean;
But all was in vain,
He got dirty again,
And not at all fit to be seen.
It gave him no pain
To hear them complain,
Nor his own dirty clothes to survey:
His indolent mind
No pleasure could find
In tidy and wholesome array.
The idle and bad,
Like this little lad,
May love dirty ways, to be sure;
But good boys are seen
To be decent and clean,
Although they are ever so poor.
Aims At Happiness
HOW oft has sounded whip and wheel,
How oft is buckled spur to heel,
How many a steed in short relay
Stands harnessed on the king’s highway,
How many a pleasure-freighted sail
Has danced before a summer gale,
How oft along the dusty road
The long machine has borne its load,
How many a step !–and all to find
What has no place but in the mind,
(Unbound to ocean, earth, or air
And he who does not find it there,
For what he seeks would vainly look,
Though steersman made to Captain Cook.
Panting for pleasure never yet possessed,
Since restless man first sought an earthly rest,
Felix projected many a fair essay,
To make life fritter pleasantly away ;
And ’twas his firm intent to range and roam
For what, if found at all, is found at home.
But still restrained beneath a tutor’s care,
No wonder that he could not find it there :
And then, his father’s ways, and mother’s whim,
Were most intolerable bores to him.
But these are grievances which soon give way,
Fathers and mothers die–and so did they.
Now, with an income of sufficient size
To gratify his wishes as they rise,
He wants for nothing that can bliss confer,
Freedom nor gold ;–‘ Well, are you happy, sir ?’
Hear him with peevish restlessness reply,
–‘ Not yet, sir, but I shall be by and by.
–I can’t endure this old paternal spot,
Nor ever could, in fact ;–I tell you what
I mean to sell the place and build a cot.’
How happy they whom poverty denies
To execute the projects they devise !
But Felix, well supplied with evil’s root,
Endured the penance while he plucked the fruit.
–He sold his house, relenting all the while,
And built his cottage, quite in cottage style ;
Each rural ornament was quick bespoke ;
And down they came, all fresh from London smoke.
The tasty trellis o’er the front is seen,
With rose and woodbine woven in between :
Within, the well-paid artist lays it out,
To look ten times more rural than without :
The silver paper, or the stuccoed wall,
Are here discarded–’tis enchantment, all–
Arcadian landscapes, ‘neath Italian skies
Profusely glow, and ‘Alps o’er Alps arise ;’
In bright relief Corinthian columns stare,
Intwined with leaves that grow by magic there ;
And there you sit, all safe and snug at home,
And gaze at Spain and Turkey, Greece and Rome.
Ah, there he sits ! poor Felix, sits and yawns,
In spite of paper trees and painted lawns.
–It did at first, when all was fresh and new,
While people wondered, for a day or two :
But always, always, that eternal view !
Yes, there they are ! behold it when he will,
The dancing shepherds, always standing still ;
The mountains glowing just the same as ever ;
And there the rising sun, that rises never ;
Oh, he would give the gaudy trappings all,
For a brown wainscot or a whited wall !
Felix, at length, while groaning with ennui,
All in a breath, bethought him of the sea :
–Ah ! that was it !–choked up with hills and trees,
Who could exist ! he panted for a breeze.
So, off he sped forthwith, and travelling post,
Like a king’s messenger, he seeks the coast ;–
From yon steep hill, descries with ardent glee,
The first blue strip of horizontal sea ;
Again ’tis lost for many a weary mile,
He thirsting to behold it all the while :
At length bare hills bespeak his near advance ;
–Now straight before him rolls the wide expanse ;
The road, with sudden turn and steep descent,
Reveals it to him to his heart’s content,
But so abrupt and near, it seems as though
Himself, and chaise, and all, to sea must go.
And now the crowded lodgings searching through,
For one to suit him, with a fine sea-view,
He’s forced, at last, though not for want of cash,
To take a shabby room and single sash ;
Where, ‘twixt two sloping roofs, there just may be
A slice triangular of rolling sea,–
A narrow stint ; and there he sits alone,
Refreshed with zephyrs from the torrid zone,
And watching all the morning, scarce can fail
To spy a passing oar or distant sail :
‘How pleasant,’ then, in languid tone, he’ll cry,
‘To sit and see the boats and ships go by !’
Now ’tis high water, and with hundreds more,
He goes to catch a breeze along the shore ;
Or pace the crowded terrace, where one sees
Fashion and folly, beauty and disease.
–The waning belle, come down to sport her face,
And try her fortune at a watering-place ;
The alderman, wheeled out in gouty chair ;
The love-sick girl, sent down for change of air ;
The sickly child, to bathe his crippled knee ;
The hopeless hectic, come to try the sea ;
The queer-faced artist, standing like a post,
To watch the effect of sun-set on the coast :
Then one, perchance, who differs from the rest,
As much as–Oh, too much to be expressed !
He, nature’s genuine lover, casts his eye,
Lit up with intellect, on sea and sky,
Drinks in the scene, and feels his bosom swell
With what he could not, what he would not tell ;
(They would have stared and sneered, or thought him mad,
Or wondered at his oddness, if he had.)
He goes unnoticed by the motley race ;
But not so they–he has an eye to trace
The lines of character in every face.
His, not the broad, unmeaning, vacant stare ;
He does but turn to study nature there :
The eye of suffering ventures not to meet,
Detects the latent smirk of self-conceit,
The even arch with hopeless dulness fraught,
The wandering eye, bespeaking distant thought,
The languid smile, that strives to smooth in vain
Features contracted by incessant pain ;
–Nor his, the cold, severe, sarcastic quest ;
A pure philanthropy has warmed his breast ;
And many a generous sigh from thence will steal,
For woes and vices that he cannot heal.
Meantime the vacant tribes that pass him by,
Possessed, like him, of ear, and heart, and eye,
(At least, if some might question it, I know
Any anatomist would tell you so)
See not, nor feel, nor hear a word of this,
But find in common objects common bliss.
To them the sea is water, and the sky
Is full of stars, they think, and blue, and high :
‘Delightful, charming, pleasant,’ they agree,
–All that of course–one must admire the sea.
And then they gape and turn, or stop to chat
With Mrs. This, and then with Mr. That.
–And such was Felix –and he wondered still,
Since he was neither ugly, old, nor ill,
Why town nor country, villa, land, nor sea,
Made him as happy as he wished to be.
Instead of wondering, had he been inclined
To sit and speculate about his mind ;
Observe its inward work and native bent,
And trace the hidden springs of discontent ;
Mark its high destiny, and learn from thence,
Not to insult it with the joys of sense ;
–Then were he nearer to the envied goal,
Than e’er before, with body versus soul :
The very mental effort were a feast,
Itself, akin to happiness at least.
But this he knew not, and with fruitless aim
Soon posted back no wiser than he came.
The lessons taught at Disappointment’s knee,
Some dunces cannot learn, no more could he.
Where next he sped to find the mystic spell,
And how he failed, the time would fail to tell ;
So close his story with a little fable,
Hoping the muse will drop it on his table.
The World In The Heart
–BUT if the foe no more without presides,
There is an inner chamber where it hides ;
In that strong hold prepares its last defence ;
And none but heavenly arms can drive it thence.
This is the Christian’s conflict,–he alone
Pursues its flight to that interior throne.
This is the test that makes his title clear ;
For only they approve their aim sincere,
Who seek the flattering world to dispossess
Where none but God and conscience have access.
All modes by man devised to purchase bliss,
Full well he knows are cheaper far than this :
Hence the attempt, with penance, pain, and loss,
And prayers, and alms, to frame a lighter cross.
To travel barefoot to some hallowed shrine,
If this would do, how soon should Heaven be mine !
–To walk with God ; resigning every weight,
To run with patience up to Zion’s gate ;
To hold affections fixt on things above ;
To value heavenly more than earthly love ;
To dread the frown of God’s discerning eye
More than the world’s opprobrious calumny ;
To keep faith’s prospects prominent and clear ;
To seek not rest, nor wish to find it here ;
Is harder work–too hard for arms like ours,
Opposed by principalities and powers,
Had He not covenanted to supply
Helmet and shield from Heaven’s armory.
A ceaseless round of mummery to fulfil,
Leaves the world’s empire unmolested still :
Nor more effective every outward way,
By which we seek to disavow its sway.
The downcast look, grave habit, slow address,
Are vain attempts to make the labour less ;
There is an inward army to pursue ;
A mere external conflict will not do.
They who sincerely bid the world depart
Not only from the house, but from the heart,
Retreating wisely, where its torrent roars,
And anxious still to shut it out of doors,
Contract their wishes to the sober size
Of fire-side comfort, and domestic ties ;
Yet they should deem the battle but begun,
Nor think at such light cost the victory won.
Whatever passes as a cloud, between
The mental eye of faith and things unseen,
Causing that better world to disappear,
Or seem unlovely, and the present dear,
That is our world, our idol, though it bear
Affection’s impress, or devotion’s air.
They who the quiet walks of life may choose,
Partly for Heaven’s sake, partly for the muse ;
Whose taste had led them from the giddy train,
Even if conscience did not say ‘refrain ;’
Though wise and good the choice, had need beware,
They shun an obvious, for a hidden snare ;
The fair, bright paths of wit and learning may
Lead off directly from the narrow way.
The pride of intellect, the conscious height
The soul attains to in her mental flight,
At length may cause a less exalted seat
To seem too lowly at the Saviour’s feet.
Music, the pencil, nature, books, the muse,
Have charms, and Heaven designed them for our use ;
Yet who that knows and loves them, but could tell
The world disguised in all, in each may dwell,
With charm as fatal, with a spell as strong,
As that which circles pleasure’s vacant throng.
‘Tis true : and therefore some pronounce in haste,
(Urged less by conscience than by want of taste)
A sweeping censure on the cultured mind ;
And safety hope in ignorance to find.
Alas ! they know not how the world can cheat ;
Or rather, know not their own heart’s deceit :
The ground that lies uncultured and unsown,
With rampant weeds is quickly overgrown.
And they who leave the mental field undrest,
Deeming all knowledge useless but the best,
And give those hours that duty freely spares,
Not to superior, but to vulgar cares,
Will find these lead from heavenly converse back,
Not less than those, and by a meaner track.
‘Twas by no mental feast, no studious thought,
Her soul was cumbered, and her Lord forgot,
Who lost the unction of His gracious word,
Which, waiting at His feet, another heard.
Those toils engrossed her that may hold the heart
In closest bondage from the better part :
And though that board was spread for such a guest,
As none may now bid welcome to a feast,
Her guest, her Lord reproved her, as He will
The busy Marthas, serving, cumbered still.
Ask the good housewife, mid her bustling maids,
If ne’er the world her humbler sphere invades.
But if (unconscious of its secret sway)
She own it not, her eager looks betray.
Yes, there you find it, spite of locks and bars,
Hid in the store-room with her jams and jars ;
It gilds her china, in her cupboard shines,
Works at the vent-peg of her home-made wines,
Each varied dainty to her board supplies,
And comes up smoking in her Christmas pies.
The charms of mental converse some may fear,
Who scruple not to lend a ready ear
To kitchen tales, of scandal, strife, and love,
Which make the maid and mistress hand and glove ;
And ever deem the sin and danger less,
Merely for being in a vulgar dress.
Thus the world haunts, in forms of varied kind,
The intellectual and the groveling mind ;
Now, sparkling in the muse’s fair attire,
Now, red and greasy at the kitchen fire.
And were you called to give a casting voice,
One to select, from such a meagre choice,
Deciding which life’s purpose most mistook–
Would you not say,–the worldly-minded cook ?
Not intellectual vanity to flatter ;
–Simply, that mind precedence claims of matter.
And she, whose nobler course is seen to shine,
At once, with human knowledge and divine ;
Who mental culture and domestic rites
In close and graceful amity unites ;
Striving to hold them in their proper place,
Not interfering with her heavenly race ;
Whose constant aim it is, and fervent prayer,
On earthly ground to breathe celestial air ;–
Still, she could witness how the world betrays,
Steals softly in by unsuspected ways,
Her yielding soul from heavenly converse bears,
And holds her captive in its silken snares.
Could she not tell the trifles that are brought
To rival Heaven, and drive it from her thought ?
–Her heart (unconscious of the flowery trap)
Caught in the sprigs upon a baby’s cap ;
Thence disengaged, its freedom boasts awhile,
Till taken captive by the baby’s smile.
But oh, how mournful when resistance fails,
The conflict slackens, and the foe prevails !
For instance–yonder matron, who appears
Softly descending in the vale of years ;
And yet, with health, and constant care bestowed,
Still comely, embonpoint, and à la mode.
Once in her youthful days, her heart was warm ;
At least, her feelings wore devotion’s form ;
And ever since, to quell the rising doubt,
She makes that grain of godliness eke out.
With comfort still, the distant day she sees,
When grief or terror brought her to her knees ;
When Christian friends rejoiced at what she told,
And bade her welcome to the church’s fold.
There still she rests, her words, her forms the same ;
There holds profession’s lamp without the flame :
Her Sabbaths come and go, with even pace ;
Year after year you find her in her place,
And still no change apparent, saving that
Of time and fashion, in her face and hat.
She stands or kneels as usual, hears and sings ;
Goes home and dines, and talks of other things ;
Enjoys her comforts with as strong a goût
As if they were not fading from her view
And still is telling what she means to do :
Talks of events that happen to befall,
Not like a stranger, passing from it all,
But eager, anxious in their issue still,
Hoping this will not be, or that it will ;
Getting, enjoying, all that can be had ;
Amused with trifles, and at trifles sad :
While hope still whispers in her willing ears,
‘Soul, thou hast goods laid up for many years.’
A few brief words her character portray–
–This world contents her, if she might but stay.
When true and fervent pilgrims round her press,
She inly wishes that their zeal were less.
Their works of love, their spirit, faith, and prayers,
Their calm indifference to the world’s affairs,
Reproach her deadhess, and she fain, for one,
Would call their zeal and ardour overdone.
But what her thought is–what her hope and stay
In moments of reflection, who shall say ?
–Time does not slacken, nay, he speeds his pace,
Bearing her onward to her finished race :
The common doom awaits her–‘dust to dust ;’
The young may soon receive it, but she must.
What is the Christian’s course ?–the Scriptures say,
‘Brighter and brighter to the perfect day !’
Oh ! does her earthly mind, her anxious heart,
Clinging to life, not longing to depart,
Her languid prayer, her graces dim and faint,
Meet that description of the growing saint ?
Let her inquire (for far is spent the night)
If she be meetened for that world of light :
Where are her fondest, best affections placed ?–
Death may improve but not reverse the taste :
Does she indeed the things of time prefer ?
Then surely Heaven could not be Heaven to her.
Are there not portions of the sacred word,
So often preached and quoted, read and heard,
That, though of deepest import, and designed
With joy or fear to penetrate the mind,
They pass away with notice cold and brief,
Like drops of rain upon a glossy leaf ?
–Such as the final sentence, on that day,
When all distinctions shall be done away,
But that the righteous Judge shall bring to light,
Between the left-hand millions, and the right ?
Here, in His word, in beams of light, it stands,
What will be then demanded at our hands ;
Clear and unclouded now the page appears,
As even then, illumed by blazing spheres.
–The question is not, if our earthly race
Was once enlightened by a flash of grace ;
If we sustained a place on Zion’s hill,
And called Him Lord–but if we did His will.
What, if the stranger, sick and captive, lie
Naked and hungry, and we pass them by !
Or do but some extorted pittance throw,
To save our credit, not to ease their woe !
Or, strangers to the charity whence springs
The liberal heart, devising liberal things,
We, cumbered ever with our own pursuits,
To others leave the labour and its fruits ;
Pleading excuses for the crum we save,
For want of faith to cast it on the wave !
–Shall we go forth with joy to meet our Lord
Enter His kingdom, reap the full reward ?
–Can such His good, His faithful servants be,
Blest of the Father ?–Read His word and see !
What, if in strange defiance of that rule,
Made not in Moses’, but the Gospel school,
Shining as clearly as the light of Heaven,
‘They who forgive not, shall not be forgiven,’
We live in anger, hatred, envy, strife,
Still firmly hoping for eternal life ;
And where the streams of Christian love should flow,
The root of bitterness is left to grow ;
Resisting evil, indisposed to brook
A word of insult, or a scornful look ;
And speak the language of the world in all,
Except the challenge and the leaden ball !
What if, mistrustful of its latent worth,
We hide our single talent in the earth !
And what if self is pampered, not denied !
What if the flesh is never crucified !
What if the world be hidden in the heart,–
Will it be, ‘Come, ye blessed !’–or, ‘Depart ?’
Who then shall conquer ?–who maintain the fight ?
E’en they that walk by faith and not by sight :
Who having ‘washed their robes and made them white,’
Press towards the mark, and see the promised land,
Not dim and distantly, but near at hand.
–We are but marching down a sloping hill,
Without a moment’s time for standing still ;
Where every step accelerates the pace,
More and more rapid till we reach the base ;
And then, no clinging to the yielding dust !
An ocean rolls below, and plunge we must.
What plainer language labours to express,
Thus, metaphoric is employed to dress :
And this but serves on naked truth to throw
That hazy, indistinct, and distant glow,
Through which we wish the future to appear,–
Not as indeed it is,–true, awful, near.
And yet, amid the hurry, toil, and strife,
The claims, the urgencies, the whirl of life,–
The soul–perhaps in silence of the night–
Has flashes, transient intervals of light ;
When things to come, without a shade of doubt,
In terrible reality stand out.
Those lucid moments suddenly present
A glance of truth, as though the Heavens were rent ;
And through that chasm of pure celestial light,
The future breaks upon the startled sight :
Life’s vain pursuits, and Time’s advancing pace,
Appear with death-bed clearness, face to face ;
And Immortality’s expanse sublime,
In just proportion to the speck of time :
While Death, uprising from the silent shades,
Shows his dark outline ere the vision fades ;
In strong relief against the blazing sky,
Appears the shadow as it passes by.
And though o’erwhelming to the dazzled brain,
These are the moments when the mind is sane.
For then, a hope of Heaven–the Savior’s cross,
Seem what they are, and all things else but loss.
Oh ! to be ready–ready for that day,
Would we not give earth’s fairest toys away
Alas ! how soon its interests cloud the view,
Rush in, and plunge us in the world anew !
Once Paul beheld, with more than mortal eye,
The unveiled glories of the upper sky :
And when descending from that vision’s height,
(His faith and hope thenceforward turned to sight)
When he awoke and cast his eye anew,
Still aching, dazzled, wondering at the view,
On this dark world, how looked it ? mean and dim ;
And such it is, as then it seemed to him.
As when the eye a moment turns to gaze,
Adventurous, on the sun’s meridian blaze,
The shining orb pursues whete’er it roves,
And hides in gloom the fields, the hills, the groves :
‘Twas thus he saw the things that sense entice,
Fade in the glorious beam of Paradise ;
And felt how far eternal joys outweigh
The light afflictions of our fleeting day.
Well might he then press forward to the prize,
And every weight, and every woe despise !
Oh, with what pity would his bosom glow,
For this poor world, and those who walk below,
When fresh from glory–fraught with Heaven, he viewed
The busy, eager, earth-bound multitude !
Each groping where his loudest treasure lies ;
One at his farm, one at his merchandize :
–To see the cumbered Christian faintly strive
To keep his doubtful spark of grace alive,
By formal service, paid one day in seven,
And brief, reluctant, misty thoughts of Heaven.
How he would weep, expostulate, and pray !
For he had seen–but there the verse must stay :
Paul could not utter–nor his pencil draw,
Yet, there it is–that glory that he saw :
Now, even now –whatever vain designs
Engross our worldly spirits–there it shines !
Oh ! place it not at time’s remotest bounds
In doubtful distance, when the trump shall sound ;
Since what we hope for,–yes, and what we fear,
Is even near as death,–and death is near !
The quiet chamber where the Christian sleeps,
And where, from year to year, he prays and weeps ;
Whence, in the midnight watch, his thoughts arise
To those bright mansions where his treasure lies,–
How near it is to all his faith can see !
How short and peaceful may the passage be !
One beating pulse–one feeble struggle o’er,
May open wide the everlasting door.
Yes, for that bliss unspeakable, unseen,
Is ready–and the veil of flesh between
A gentle sigh may rend–and then display
The broad, full splendour of an endless day.
–This bright conviction elevates his mind ;
He presses forward, leaving all behind.–
Thus from his throne the tyrant foe is hurled,
–This is the faith that overcomes the world.
YE powers fantastic ! goblin, sylph and fay,
Whose subtle forms no laws material sway ;
Ethereal essences, that dart and glide
Wherever pleasure or caprice may guide ;
Who leap with equal ease, if ye are bid,
A lady’s thimble and a pyramid,
And scale, alike regardless of a fall,
The parlour fender and the Chinese wall,
Slip through a key-hole, ‘neath the listed door,
Or from the smallest crevice in the floor ;
Or steer your way (and man’s devices mock)
Through the dark mazes of a patent lock ;–
Of you I sing not–but my theme shall be
Of things as quick and volatile as ye,
–Those busy, subtle pronouns, I and Me.
Unsought, and unexpected they appear ;
No barriers heed they, and no laws revere;
But wind and penetrate, with dextrous force,
Through all the cracks and crannies of discourse.
Of those with whom self proves the darling theme,
Not all indulge it in a like extreme ;
Some have the sense to cover it no doubt ;
Would they had sense enough to root it out !
We therefore bring, as first upon the list,
The loud, loquacious, vulgar egotist ;
Whose I’s and Me’s are scattered in his talk,
Thick as the pebbles on a gravel walk.
Whate’er the topic be, through thick and thin
Himself is thrust, or squeezed, or sidled in.
Conceiving thus his own importance swells,
He makes himself a part of all he tells ;
And still to this he winds the subject round :
Suppose his friend is married, sick, or drowned,
He brought about the match, he lets you know ;
Told him about Miss B. a year ago ;
Or never shall forget, whate’er ensues,
How much he felt when first he heard the news.
A horseman thrown, lay weltering in the mud;
He thought of something that would stop the blood.
A neighhour had a quarrel with his wife ;
He never saw such doings in his life !
A fire broke out at midnight in the town ;
He started up, threw on his flannel gown,
Seized an old hat full twice as large as his,
And said, says he , ‘I wonder where it is !’
Was doubtful if ’twere best to stay or go,
And trembled like a leaf, from top to toe.
In vain at times, some modest stander-by,
Catching a pause to make his brief reply,
Cries, ‘dear!’ or ‘only think!’ or, ‘so did I ;’
For he, by no such obstacles deterred,
Runs on, must tell his tale, and will be heard.
Woe to themselves, and woe to small and great,
When two good egotists are tête-à-tête !
A battle this, though not of swords, but tongues,
And he the victor who has strongest lungs.
Too eager each in what himself recites,
To see how little interest it invites,
Each takes the attention his companion shows,
For pleasure in the story as it goes ;
Though judging by himself, he might have known,
He is but waiting to begin his own,
Watching some gap in the opponent’s speech
To force it in–like soldiers at a breach.
Few talkers can detain themselves to weigh
The true impression made by what they say ;
And of all talkers, egotists are last
E’en to suspect that they may talk too fast,
But often, while pursuing their career,
Rejoiced that while they speak the rest must hear,
Some dry observer, whom they scarce perceive,
Sits smiling in his philosophic sleeve,
Impelled (while others carelessly condemn)
To blush for human nature and for them.
But ’tis not only with the loud and rude
That self betrays its nature unsubdued ;
Polite attention and refined address
But ill conceal it, and can ne’er suppress :
One truth, despite of manner, stands confest–
They love themselves unspeakably the best.
Many monopolists of words have been
Unconscious quite of their besetting sin ;
Of strong susceptibility possessed,
Enraptured oft, and oft as much distrest,
They deem themselves, nor others deem them less,
Affectionate and feeling to excess :
The charge of selfishness, or unconcern
In other’s weal, with indignation spurn,
And think their failing and their weakest part,
Is having, as the phrase is–too much heart.
But tender hearts as well were hearts of stone,
If what they feel is for themselves alone.
Have you no knowledge of this species ? then
Take fair Matilda for a specimen ;
Compare the sketch with faces you have known,
And ere you quite discard it–with your own.
What ! has Matilda , then, no heart to feel
Generous emotion for another’s weal ?
Oh yes, she has–the doubt she would declare
Hard and unjust to her , beyond compare ;
Her friends’ and neighbours’ interests to forget
She were the last to bear the blame–but yet
Engrossed by cares and interests of her own,
In fact , she gladly lets her friends alone ;
Too eager, and too busy to reflect,
What others may, and what they do expect.
Calm observation, and acute survey
Of others and ourselves, are swept away
By that strong, rude velocity of thought,
Which meets no proper barrier where it ought,
But rushes on, impetuous and unstemmed :–
Astonished, and abashed, and self-condemned,
Would stand Matilda , could she once be shown
Not other people’s failings, but her own ;
And see, how borne on that perpetual tide,
She thinks and talks of self, and none beside :
Then might she learn to check its rapid force,
Abate its swiftness, and divert its course,
Make it through other fields meandering go,
And drain, in time, the selfish channel low.
Matilda’s friend, as few besides had done,
(A patient, quiet, unpretending one)
Sits cheerful and unwearied day by day,
To hear, as usual, what she has to say.
By long experience, now at length, she learns
To drop all reference to her own concerns ;
The insipid ‘dear !’ or ‘sure !’ too well declares
Impatience in discussing those affairs ;
And then, the eager tone and altered brow,
How much her own are dearer–so that now,
–Whether her heart be aching, or it swell
With some sweet hope, ‘twould be a joy to tell–
She cheeks the inclination, to attend
To some new project of her eager friend :
–How she intends, as soon as winter’s o’er,
To make a passage to the nursery door,
Enlarge the parlour where she loves to sit,
And have the Turkey carpet made to fit ;
Or, how she means next spring to go to town,
And then to have her aunt and uncle down.
Or if more intellectual in her mood,
How she employs her hours of solitude ;
–Her plans, how much they fail, or how succeed ;
What last she read, and what she means to read ;
What time she rises, and what time retires,
And how her deeds fall short of her desires.
All this is very well, perhaps you cry ;
True, if her friend might whisper, ‘so do I.’
Whene’er from home Matilda has to go,
With the same theme her letters overflow ;
Sheet after sheet in rapid course she sends,
Brimful and crossed, and written at both ends,
About her journey, visits, feelings, friends :
Still, still the same !–or if her friend had cast
Down in a modest postscript in her last,
Some line, which to transactions may refer,
Of vital consequence, perhaps, to her–
Matilda , in reply, just scrawls, you know
Along that slip on which the seal must go,
‘I’m glad, or grieved, to hear of so and so.’
How can she pardon such unkind neglects ?
Why ’tis poor human nature, she reflects ;
Judging with kindness, candour, and good sense,
Takes it from whence it comes, without offence :
And she, with meekness gifted to endure
The evil she laments, but cannot cure,
Too wise to censure or resent the ill,
Sees it, and smiles, as even friendship will ;
Resolves to watch herself with double toil,
And root the selfish weeds from nature’s soil.
–And so should we, for we are selfish all,
Without one real exception since the fall
Good nature and good sense in some, ’tis true,
Do much the vicious temper to subdue ;
While some unwittingly allow its growth,
Who yet might fair pretensions make to both.
Of all impostors he least wisdom shows
Who can and does upon himself impose.
Self-knowledge of all knowledge is the best ;
By most pretended, but by few possessed.
That true philosophy not understood,
The aim to do ourselves or others good
Proves weak ;–for they who to themselves are blind,
Rarely attain the knowledge of mankind.
But self-acquaintance is a certain guide ;
That key unlocks ten thousand hearts beside ;
There, in a glass, the common cast is shown ;
–He knows the world who truly knows his own.
The tattered wretch, who scrapes his idle tunes
Through our dull streets on rainy afternoons,
The lawless nuisance of the king’s highway,
Houseless and friendless, wander where he may :
Suspected, spurned, unbound by social ties,
With none to mourn or miss him when he dies ;
Still, to himself, that vagrant man appears
The central object of revolving spheres,
Not less than he, who sweeps with regal robe
Half the circumference of the peopled globe.
All seem for him, that eye or thought can view,
The ground he treads, and heaven’s ethereal blue,
The sheltering hovel he has gained from far,
And the hint glimmer of the utmost star.
Nought he regards by art or nature made,
But as it serves his pleasure or his trade ;
Mankind, should he define them, this the sense,
–Things bearing purses–purses yielding pence :
The ranging doors that meet his practised eye,
But places seem where he may knock and try ;
Where’er he stands, creation’s dearest spot ;–
For what were all to him if he were not ?
‘Twas thus I mused as he was passing by,
Roused by the tones of his harsh minstrelsy ;
And smiled and marvelled that such low estate
Wrought not indifference in him to his fate :
Till, unperceived, my roving thoughts had flown,
Far from his fate and feelings, to my own ;
And deep engraven in my heart I saw
The same strong influence and imperious law.
Self, self, with all the weight of woe it bears,
All its infirmities, and wants, and cares,
Its untold bitterness, its shame and ill–
Why is it magnified and worshipped still ?
When shall we break that bondage and be free–
See our own interests but as others see ?
And feel, as down the ceaseless stream we pass,
But viewless atoms in the mighty mass !
To view ourselves with stern and stoic eye,
Calm and unbiassed, like a stander-by,
Keeping aloof, and looking from above,
Detached from interest, prejudice, self-love,–
This, while it humbles, yet exalts the mind
Above the common level of mankind.
The soul that knows its mean and bounded length
Makes some approach to grandeur and to strength :
Conscious of littleness it learns to tower,
Knowing its feebleness, attains to power :
This makes the grand distinction that befalls,
Between the mind that soars and that which crawls.
That is a vulgar mind, which never learns
The just dimensions of its own concerns ;
But sunk in petty interests, private cares,
Fancies vast import in its small affairs.
True, the philosopher himself is caught
Absorbed, at times, in low and selfish thought ;
But here the difference lies, that he can smile
At that contracted temper all the while ;
And thence his soul, with glad transition, springs
Tired and disgusted up to nobler things.
Poor human nature ! whither should it flee,
Undone, infirm, and weak beyond degree,
But to the well of life ? that healthful tide,
Whose waters, when by humble faith applied,
Raise up the impotent, restore the blind,
And cure the inveterate maladies of mind.
He knows, who fashioneth our hearts the same,
Every minutia of their inmost frame ;
To which in that blest volume he has writ,
The line and precept admirably fit :
They reach, not actions only, but the thought
That tends to folly–not alone are brought
Against the act that does our neighbour wrong,
–They teach the egotist to hold his tongue.
How vainly may we follow and digest
What human wits and moralists attest ;
E’en those who studied human nature most,
Shakespeare and Johnson, Locke and all the host ;
And even pore in vain on that bright page
Which teaches and consoles from age to age ;
Unless we come imploring help and cure,
Guilty and impotent, and blind and poor,
Asking for ‘all things new,’ by faith and prayer ;
–Not with some little failing here and there,
Which, proving inconvenient where it stands,
We wish completely taken off our hands ;–
But seek (accounting all beside it loss)
A thorough renovation at the cross.
Then would the healing streams of mercy wind
Throughout the sickly mazes of the mind ;
The weed of selfishness would droop and die,
And plants of charity their place supply ;
That fruitful stream, refreshing as it flows,
Would make the desert blossom as the rose.
Thank you, pretty cow, that made
Pleasant milk to soak my bread
Every day and every night,
Warm, and fresh, and sweet, and white.
Do not chew the hemlock rank,
Growing on the weedy bank;
But the yellow cowslips eat,
That will make it very sweet.
Where the purple violet grows,
Where the bubbling water flows,
Where the grass is fresh and fine,
Pretty cow, go there and dine.
Here’s a beautiful earth and a wonderful sky,
And to see them, God gives us a heart and an eye;
Nor leaves us untouch’d by the pleasure they yield,
Like the fowls of the heaven, or the beasts of the field.
The soul, though encumber’d with sense and with sin,
Can range through her own mystic chambers within;
Then soar like the eagle to regions of light,
And dart wondrous thoughts on the stars of the night.
Yea, more, it is gifted with vision so keen,
As to know the unknown and to see the unseen;
To glance at eternity’s numberless days,
Till dazzled, confounded, and lost in the maze.
Nor will this suffice it, oh wonderful germ,
Of infinite blessings vouchsafed to a worm!
It quickens, it rises, with boundless desires,
And heaven is the lowest to which it aspires.
Such, such is the soul, though bewilder’d and dark –
A vital, ethereal, unquenchable spark;
Thus onward and upward by nature it tends.
Then wherefore descends it? ah! whither descends?
Soon droops its light pinion, borne down by a gust,
It flutters, it flutters,-it cleaves to the dust;
Then feeds upon ashes – deceived and astray;
And fastens and clings to this perishing clay.
For robes that too proud were the lilies to wear –
For food we divide with the fowls of the air –
For joy that just sparkles, and then disappears,
We drop from heaven’s gate to this valley of tears.
How tranquil and blameless the pleasures it sought,
While it rested within the calm region of thought!
How fraught with disgust, and how sullied with woe,
Is all that detains and beguiles it below!
Oh Thou, who when silent and senseless it lay,
Didst breathe into life the inanimate clay,
Now nourish and quicken the languishing fire;
And fan to a flame that shall never expire!
THERE was a youth–but woe is me :
I quite forgot his name, and he,
Without some label round his neck,
Is like one pea among a peck.
Go search the country up and down,
Port, city, village, parish, town,
And, saving just the face and name,
You shall behold the very same
Wherever pleasure’s train resorts,
From the Land’s End to Johnny Groat’s ;
And thousands such have swelled the herd
From William, down to George the Third.
To life he started–thanks to fate,
In contact with a good estate :
Provided thus, and quite at ease,
He takes for granted all he sees ;
Ne’er sends a thought, nor lifts an eye,
To ask what am I ? where ? and why ?–
All that is no affair of his,
Somehow he came–and there he is !
Without such philosophic stuff,
Alive and well, and that’s enough.
Thoughts ! why, if all that crawl like train
Of caterpillars through his brains,
With every syllable let fall,
Bon mot, and compliment, and all,
Were melted down in furnace fire,
I doubt if shred of golden wire,
To make, amongst it all would linger,
A ring for Tom Thumb’s little finger.
Yet, think not that he comes below
The modern, average ratio–
The current coin of fashion’s mint–
The common, ball-room going stint.
Of trifling cost his stock in trade is,
Whose business is to please the ladies ;
Or who to honours may aspire
Of a town beau or country squire.
The cant of fashion and of vice
To learn, slight effort will suffice :
And he was furnished with that knowledge,
Even before he went to college.
And thus, without the toil of thought,
Favour and flattery may be bought.
No need to win the laurel, now,
For lady’s smile or vassal’s bow ;
To lie exposed in patriot camp,
Or study by the midnight lamp.
Nature and art might vainly strive
To keep his intellect alive.
–‘Twould not have forced an exclamation
Worthy a note of admiration,
If he had been on Gibeon’s hill,
And seen the sun and moon stand still.
What prodigy was ever known
To raise the pitch of fashion’s tone !
Or make it yield, by any chance,
That studied air of nonchalance,
Which after all, however graced,
Is apathy, and want of taste.
The vulgar every station fill,
St. Giles’ or James’s –which you will ;
Spruce drapers in their masters’ shops,
Rank with right honourable fops :
No real distinction marks the kinds–
The raw material of their minds.
But mind claims rank that cannot yield
To blazoned arms and crested shield
Above the need and reach it stands
Of diamond stars from royal hands ;
Nor waits the nod of courtly state,
To bid it be, or not be great.
The regions where it wings its way
Are set with brighter stars than they :
With calm contempt it thence looks down
On fortune’s favour or its frown ;
Looks down on those who vainly try,
By strange inversion of the eye,
From that poor mole-hill where they sit,
To cast a downward look on it :
As robin, from his pear-tree height,
Looks down upon the eagle’s flight.
Before our youth had learnt his letters,
They taught him to despise his betters
And if some things have been forgot,
That lesson certainly has not.
The haunts his genius chiefly graces
Are tables, stables, taverns, races ;–
The things of which he most afraid is,
Are tradesmen’s bills, and learned ladies
He deems the first a grievous bore,
But loathes the latter even more
Than solitude or rainy weather,
Unless they happen both together.
Soft his existence rolls away,
To-morrow plenteous as to-day :
He lives, enjoys, and lives anew,–
And when he dies,–what shall we do !
Down a close street, whose darksome shops display
Old clothes and iron on both sides the way ;
Loathsome and wretched, whence the eye in pain
Averted turns, nor seeks to view again ;
Where lowest dregs of human nature dwell,
More loathsome than the rags and rust they sell ;–
A pale mechanic rents an attic floor,
By many a shattered stair you gain the door :
‘Tis one poor room, whose blackened wails are hung
With dust that settled there when he was young.
The rusty grate two massy bricks displays
To fill the sides and make a frugal blaze.
The door unhinged, the window patched and broke,
The panes obscured by half a century’s smoke :
There stands the bench at which his life is spent,
Worn, grooved, and bored, and worm-devoured, and bent,
Where daily, undisturbed by foes or friends,
In one unvaried attitude he bends.
His tools, long practised, seem to understand
Scarce less their functions, than his own right hand.
With these he drives his craft with patient skill :
Year after year would find him at it still :
The noisy world around is changing all,
War follows peace, and kingdoms rise and fall ;
France rages now, and Spain, and now the Turk ;
Now victory sounds ;–but there he sits at work !
A man might see him so, then bid adieu, —
Make a long voyage to China or Peru ;
There traffic, settle, build ; at length might come
Altered, and old, and weather-beaten, home,
And find him on the same square foot of floor
On which he left him twenty years before.
–The self-same bench, and attitude, and stool,
The same quick movement of his cunning tool
The very distance ‘twixt his knees and chin,
As though he had but stepped just out and in.
Such is his fate–and yet you might descry
A latent spark of meaning in his eye,
–That crowded shelf, beside his bench contains
One old worn volume that employs his brains :
With algebraic lore its page is spread,
Where a and b contend with x and z ;
Sold by some student from an Oxford hall,
–Bought by the pound upon a broker’s stall.
On this it is his sole delight to pore,
Early and late, when working time is o’er :
But oft he stops, bewildered and perplexed,
At some hard problem in the learned text ;
Pressing his hand upon his puzzled brain
At what the dullest school-boy could explain.
From needful sleep the precious hour he saves
To give his thirsty mind the stream it craves :
There, with his slender rush beside him placed,
He drinks the knowledge in with greedy haste.
At early morning, when the frosty air
Brightens Orion and the northern Bear,
His distant window ‘mid the dusky row,
Holds a dim light to passenger below.
–A light more dim is flashing on his mind,
That shows its darkness, and its view confined.
Had science shone around his early days,
How had his soul expanded in the blaze !
But penury bound him, and his mind in vain
Struggles and writhes beneath her iron chain.
–At length the taper fades, and distant cry
Of early sweep bespeaks the morning nigh ;
Slowly it breaks,–and that rejoicing ray
That wakes the healthful country into day,
Tips the green hills, slants o’er the level plain,
Reddens the pool, and stream, and cottage pane,
And field, and garden, park, and stately hall,–
Now darts obliquely on his wretched wall.
He knows the wonted signal ; shuts his book,
Slowly consigns it to its dusky nook ;
Looks out awhile, with fixt and absent stare,
On crowded roofs, seen through the foggy air ;
Stirs up the embers, takes his sickly draught,
Sighs at his fortunes, and resumes his craft.
HOW is it that masters, and science, and art,
One spark of intelligence fail to impart,
Unless in that chemical union combined,
Of which the result, in one word, is a mind ?
A youth may have studied, and travelled abroad,
May sing like Apollo, and paint like a Claude,
And speak all the languages under the pole,
And have every gift in the world, but a soul.
That drapery wrought by the leisurely fair,
Called patchwork, may well to such genius compare ;
Wherein every tint of the rainbow appears,
And stars to adorn it are forced from their spheres
There glows a bright pattern (a sprig or a spot)
‘Twixt cluster of roses full-blown and red hot ;
Here magnified tulips divided in three,
Alternately shaded with sections of tree.
But when all is finished, this labour of years,
A mass unharmonious, unmeaning appears ;
‘Tis showy, but void of intelligent grace ;
It is not a landscape, it is not a face.
‘Tis thus Education (so called in our schools)
With costly materials, and capital tools,
Sits down to her work, if you duly reward her,
And sends it home finished according to order.
See French and Italian spread out on her lap ;
Then Dancing springs up, and skips into a gap ;
Next Drawing and all its varieties come,
Sewed down in their place by her finger and thumb.
And then, for completing her fanciful robes,
Geography, Music, the use of the Globes,
&c. &c. which, match as they will,
Are sown into shape, and set down in the bill.
Thus Science distorted, and torn into hits,
Art tortured, and frightened half out of her wits,
In portions and patches, some light and some shady,
Are stitched up together, to make a young lady.
ONE day a sage knocked at a chemist’s door,
Bringing a curious compound to explore.–
‘Behold ! said he, as from his vest he drew it,
‘This little treasure in a golden cruet :
A life, a long one, for my locks are grey,
In ceaseless toil has slowly passed away,
To gain that treasure, now my search must stop,
And see, I have but saved this little drop !
To know the worth and nature of the prize,
I bring it here for you to analyze.
The best philosopher could never quite
Its origin and essence bring to light ;
But you, they say, by some mysterious arts,
Reduce all substances to simple parts :
–Your nomenclature differs, sir, from his,
We call it happiness, –and here it is.’
And now the learned chemist strove to guess
With what this curious stuff would coalesce :
First sprinkled on a layer of golden dust,
But this recoiled, and seemed to gender rust ;
Now sundry essences in turn he tries,
Distilled from all that golden dust supplies–
–Castles and villas, titles, vassals, land,
Coaches, and curricles, and fours-in-hand,
Silks, jewels, equipages, parties, plays,
Madeira, venison, turtle-soup, and praise ;–
But strove in vain a union to produce
With one of these, and that small drop of juice ;
As though impatient of the vain essay,
It did but effervesce and fume away.
With more success the chemist next imparts
Extracts from the belles lettres and the arts.
No sooner do they reach it, than he sees
It has some small affinity with these ;
But yet, his nicest skill could not prevent
A large residuum of discontent.
Two curious phials next he brings to view,
The first bright green, the next of roseate hue ;
And first unstopped them with the greatest care,
For when exposed to atmospheric air
They frequently evaporate, and vain
All efforts then to bottle them again.
Essence of friendship from the former flows ;
And though the drop it did not decompose,
The chemist said, it rather seemed to fix,
Or float upon the surface, than to mix.
Long from the next a trembling drop suspends,
–That roseate phial–and at last descends ;
‘Ah,’ cried the chemist, with reviving glee,
‘A perfect coalition here I see !
Distilled from love this gentle fluid came ;’–
And then he told the sage its Latin name ;
Then looked again, to watch the process on,
But found, alas ! the sage’s prize was gone !
The sudden contact caused a heat extreme
It could not brook, so passed away in steam.
Alone the essence pale and watery lay ;–
The sage demands his treasure with dismay ;
They search the cruet, and behold it hid,
At last, in pearly drops upon the lid.
Though foiled, the patient chemist will not stop,
But aiming still to decompose the drop,
A potent acid cautiously applies,
And straight it separates in wondrous wise.
For first, appears at bottom of the phial
A large precipitate of self-denial ;
Of patience, next, a copious layer is laid ;
Of conscience, twenty scruples nicely weighed ;
Humility and charity, they find,
With half a dram of self-esteem combined ;
Labour, attached to energy of soul,
And moderation to correct the whole ;
Feeling and taste in airy gas unite,
And knowledge rises in a flame of light.
The World In The House
PILGRIMS who journey in the narrow way,
Should go as little cumbered as they may.
‘Tis heavy sailing with a freighted ship ;
‘Tis pleasant travelling with a staff and scrip.
Gold clogs the path, dispose it how we will ;
Makes it fatiguing as we climb the hill :
And ’tis but here and there you may descry
The camel passing through the needle’s eye.
‘Love not the world ;’–most merciful decree
That makes its friendship enmity to Thee !
Oh, if God had not said it,–did I know
Some way to bliss through luxury and show ;
Might I have followed Christ to heaven’s door,
With gold and purple, in my coach and four ;
I dare not choose it–I would rather wait
A safer convoy at the rich man’s gate.
See yonder modern mansion, light and fair,
Reared just beyond the taint of London air :
But not beyond, by many a dale and hill,
The taint of manners more unwholesome still.
Wide spreads in front the soft and sloping lawn,
With carriage roads in sweeping circles drawn :
The ample gardens, neat and well disposed,
Stretch far behind, by hectared walls enclosed ;
The shrubbery-walks in serpent windings run ;
The costly green-house blazes in the sun.
Rare fruits and flowers the gardener’s skill employ,
More than the pampered owners can enjoy.
Within, a palace shines, superbly planned ;
No pains nor cost were spared to make it grand :
Our thrifty merchants, fifty years ago,
Nor thought nor dreamed of such a stately show.
The bloated master stalks delighted thence,
Proud of the thing, more proud of the expense.
Here dwells an old professor in his nest,
With comely wife and dashing daughters blest ;
They, fresh from school, with all the native graces
They once possessed, quite polished off their faces ;
A trifling, useless, unharmonious train,
Accomplished, artificial, showy, vain ;
In all they do and say, and look and wear,
Aping the rank they were not born to bear :
And she, his help-meet, ever in her pride,
Teasing and pleading on the worldly side ;–
Such is his household, such, perchance, that he
Would blush to ask the Apostle Paul to tea.
–Not that the show and fashion of the place,
Itself, could certify the want of grace ;
(Though bounds there are, so wise and safe to keep,
That watchful Christians rarely overleap
But ’tis his soul retains the earthly leaven,
Would fain keep terms and compromise with Heaven ;
Striving, with pain, in Zion’s paths to plod,
But keeping Mammon for his household god.
Thus live our merchant and his hopeful train,
Bound to the world, nor would they break the chain.
Its laws they own, its stamp and image bear,
There lies their portion, and their hearts are there.
Where then appears the faith they yet profess ?–
Not in their looks, their language, or their dress ;
But some cold forms remain, and some restraints,
To keep their name and place among the saints.
They never dance ; they never play at cards ;
One day in seven he duly still regards :
That tasty chapel, twice on Sabbath day,
Sees him and his set out in fair array.
And much they praise–the ladies and their sire,
The favourite preacher whom they all admire ;
Some soft, and sleek, and seraph-spoken boy,
The rabble’s wonder and the ladies’ toy ;
Snatched immature from academic bowers,
To dress up truth in artificial flowers.
Besides, our fair professor’s name behold,
On neat Esquired committee-lists enrolled,
And long subscription-rows, that bring to light
Name, place, donation, and the annual mite ;
Duly proclaiming every right hand deed,
Trusting the left has never learnt to read.
A little gold, a morning or a day,
Spent in the cause, he freely gives away :
Perhaps, his pious zeal may even reach
The neat dimensions of an annual speech,
Gliding in well-turned compliments along,
To every titled Christian in the throng.
The ladies too, his daughters, draw up rules
For lady-charities, and Sunday schools ;
Set down their names, their fair committees call ;
Busy and pleased, if they may manage all.
Meantime, the pious bustle, praised and told,
Has cost them nothing but their father’s gold.
How customs and opinions change their place !
Religion, now, is scarcely in disgrace :
Her outward signs, at least, will even raise
Your credit high in these convenient days.
Fashion, herself, the cause of virtue pleads,
Becomes chief patroness of pious deeds,
And lets us e’en pursue, without restraint,
What once had stamped us puritan and saint.
The good is done,–let fashion bear her part,
And claim the praise, with all the Christian’s heart
Motives are all in Heaven’s impartial eye ;
But ’tis not ours to doubt and give the lie :
Let each grant credit to his neighbour’s share,
But analyze his own with utmost care,–
That thus the scale is turned, the praise is due
To Him, who hears and owns the righteous few ;
Whose silent prayers and labours Heaven employs
To do the good, while others make the noise.
–‘Tis trite to praise the country’s green retreats,
Opposed to city smoke and noisy streets :
And scores of epithets, all ready strung,
That theme will furnish to be said or sung.
The limpid streamlet and the whispering breeze
Slip into rhyme with such spontaneous ease,
That he must be an humble scribe indeed,
Who could not write it–or who loves to read.
Trite though it be, it is a task I choose ;
A hackneyed theme befits an humble muse :
But leaving rills to ripple, woods to wave,
And birds to warble out the other stave,
I sing the choicest fruit of country air,
–The human plant that buds and blossoms there.
Happy the mother, who her train can rear
Far ‘mid its breezy hills from year to year !
There healthful springs the body, and combined
With health, more precious, to the precious mind.
Not that there dwells a charm in country air,
Or chemic power, to bleach the Ethiop fair :
Romantic hope !–The poisonous breath of vice
Tainted the very airs of Paradise.
Sin spreads in every soil, in every gale ;
O’er-runs alike the mountain and the vale
But springs in cities, rank and noisome both,
Their foul and sultry vapour speeds its growth. ‘
Youth’s sweetest grace, simplicity, is seen
Sporting with native smiles in meadows green,
In pleasant gardens, on the daisied ground,
Where simple joys, and few besides are found.
The knowing, forward, pert, and showy miss,
Springs rarely up in such a soil as this ;
For such a plant exotic, send us down
Some hot-house produce of the polished town.
The rage for competition, show, and style,
Is London’s plague, and spreads for many a mile.
No rank, nor age, escapes that vulgar sin,
Breathed in its nurseries,–in its schools worked in :
And thus the mania, in maturer years,
In every form of pride and pomp appears,
As each were striving for a near approach–
Climax of grandeur !–to the lord mayor’s coach.
–How short the triumph, many a prison cell,
And many a pining family could tell.–
The bridal equipage, in half a year
Brought to the hammer of the auctioneer,
Suffices not to liquidate the debt,
And fame’s last bugle sounds in the Gazette.
Regions of intellect ! serenely fair,
Hence let us rise, and breathe your purer air.
–There shine the stars ! one intellectual glance
At that bright host,–on yon sublime expanse,
Might prove a cure ;–well, say they, let them shine
With all our hearts,–but let us dress and dine.
There are, above the petty influence placed,
By human science and a mental taste.
The man who feels the dignity of thought,
By culture much refined, by science taught,
To loved pursuits devoted, looks below,
With true contempt upon the paltry show :
Compared with those in pleasure’s vortex hurled,
He loves it not, and lives above the world.
But happier he who views the toys of time
From loftier heights, from regions more sublime ;
Who walks with God while yet he sojourns here ;
His hopes still climbing to a brighter sphere.
–Is he of wealth and earthly good possessed ?
He takes Heaven’s bounty with a cheerful zest.
His quarrel with the world you might not note
From texture, cut, or colour of his coat ;
For studied plainness, whether dress or speech,
Defeats the very end it aims to reach.
And yet, on all he has there stands imprest
One truth conspicuous–‘ This is not my rest.’–
From that divine remembrance ever springs
A moderated care for other things :
–Pilgrim and stranger in a desert spot,
He holds them all as though he held them not.
Peace, order, comfort, in his household reign ;
And more than these he seeks not to obtain.
His mansion, furnished in no costly style,
Oft makes his tasty neighbours stare and smile ;
But that unmoved and unavenged he bears,
Unless it be, sometimes, to smile at theirs.
His neat, plain parlour wants our modern air,
But comfort smiles on every object there.
–Tables of costly wood, and chairs whose mould
Bespeaks the fashion not a fortnight old,
The window drapery’s elegant costume,
Arranged and deeply fringed to match the room,
Carpets, where eastern patterns richly crawl,
Vases, and mirrors blazing on the wall,
Cupids that wave their waxen flames in air,
Sideboards of plate, cut-glass, and china rare,–
These things he sees, and Oh ! surprising phlegm !
Wastes not a thought nor wish for one of them.
Still more surprising, that his house and board
Are plainer far than he could well afford !
No seasoned dainties on his table steal ;
Frugal, though ample, is the daily meal.
The ‘olive plants’ in graceful order sit ;
No greedy hands implore the savoury bit ;
Taught from the very cradle to despise
The wish for more than hunger’s claim supplies.
A pampered body, and a vigorous mind,
Are things, he deems, that cannot be combined ;
And aiming thus the mental string to brace,
He rears a hardy, independent race.
His girls, a blooming train, their home adorn ;
Simply attired, and cheerful as the morn :
Industrious, active, frugal, like their sire ;
Trained to resist each frivolous desire ;
To scorn the trifles that the sex pursues,
And rise superior to its petty views.
Slightly accomplished, but their minds are fraught
With taste and knowledge, and inured to thought.
Year after year, four precious hours a day,
Is deemed by him too dear a price to pay
E’en for that art, which all the world reveres,
Up from the tradesman’s daughter to the peer’s.
Yet not with narrow, much mistaken view,
Would he deny them mental culture too ;
Though vulgar zealots love to state the case,
That human learning is a foe to grace ;
And rear their ill-bred, rude, illiterate youth,
To loathe their shackles, and despise the truth.
Religion here, in all her native grace,
Shines out serene in every heart and face ;
Nor e’er is banished, though pursuits may claim
Attention oft, that do not bear her name.
Thus he adorns the doctrine he avows ;
Thus in the fear of God, he guides his house.
And while it prospers, that memorial word,–
‘The poor are always with you,’ still is heard.
The hungry throng that crowd his open gate
Not there, like Lazarus, unregarded wait ;
Since each expensive pleasure is denied,
Which, while it starves the needy, pampers pride.
Many condemn his plan, and many deem
He carries things to an absurd extreme ;
Think he might live in style, and yet afford
A decent crum from his superfluous board :
–Still there were other poor, and still the sums
That style would cost might furnish other crums.
‘Tis thus he argues, thus that order reads,
‘Sell all thou hast, and give to him that needs.’
At that hard saying, many turn away ;
Let him who can, receive it, and obey.
Oh, for a soul magnanimous, to know,
Poor world, thy littleness, and let thee go !
Not with a gloomy, proud, ascetic mind,
That loves thee still, and only hates mankind ;
Reverse the line, and that my temper be,
–To love mankind, and pour contempt on thee!
–A COSTLY good ; that none e’er bought or sold
For gem, or pearl, or miser’s store, twice told :
Save certain watery pearls, possessed by all,
Which, one by one, may buy it as they fall.
Of these, though precious, few will not suffice,
So slow the traffic, and so large the price !
It is for wrinkled brows, grey locks, and sighs,
Not for bright blooming cheeks and sparkling eyes ;
When those have faded, these as dimly shine–
Then, in their stead, Experience may be thine.
Books will assert, and sires and pulpits teach,
And youth may listen to their sober speech,
And smiling lips pronounce a careless ‘yes,’
While neither eye nor heart can acquiesce.
But grief extorts conviction ; brings to view
Those slightest words, and answers–‘very true.’
Surprised, reluctant, yet at last compelled
To own, what long in doubtful scale was held,
That life, whate’er the course our own has led,
Is much the same as what our fathers said.
A tattered cottage, to the view of taste,
In beauty glows, at needful distance placed :
Its broken panes, its richly ruined thatch,
Its gable graced with many a mossy patch,
The sunset lighting up its varied dyes,
Form quite a picture to poetic eyes ;
And yield delight that modern brick and board,
Square, sound, and well arranged, would not afford.
But, cross the mead to take a nearer ken,–
Where all the magic of the vision then ?
The picturesque is vanished, and the eye,
Averted, turns from loathsome poverty ;
And while it lingers, e’en the sun’s pure ray
Seems almost sullied by its transient stay.
The broken walls, with slight repairs embossed,
Are but cold comforts in a winter’s frost :
No smiling, peaceful peasant, half refined,
There tunes his reed on rustic seat reclined ;
But there the bended form and haggard face,
Worn with the lines that vice and misery trace.
Thus fades the charm, by vernal hope supplied
To every object it has never tried ;
–To fairy visions, and elysian meads,
Thus vulgar, cold reality succeeds.
When sanguine youth the plain of life surveys,
It does not calculate on rainy days.
Some, as they enter on the unknown way,
Expect large troubles at a distant day ;
–The loss of wealth, or friends they fondly prize ;
But reckon not on ills of smaller size,
Those nameless, trifling ills, that intervene,
And people life, infesting every scene ;
And there with silent, unavowed success,
Wear off the keener edge of happiness :
Those teazing swarms, that buzz about our joys,
More potent than the whirlwind that destroys ;
–Potent, with heavenly teaching, to attest
Life is a pilgrimage, and not a rest.
That lesson, learned aright, is valued more
Than all experience ever taught before ;
For this her choicest secret, timely given,
Is wisdom, virtue, happiness, and heaven.
Long is religion viewed, by many an eye,
As wanted more for safety by and by,
–A thing for times of danger and distress,
Than needful for our present happiness.
But after fruitless, wearisome assays
To find repose and peace in other ways,
The sickened soul–when Heaven imparts its grace,
Returns to seek its only resting place ;
And sweet Experience proves, as years increase,
That wisdom ways are pleasantness and peace.
Yes, and the late conviction, fraught with pain,
On many a callous conscience strikes in vain.
Blind to ourselves–to others not less blind,
We slowly learn to understand mankind.
Sanguine and ardent, indisposed to hold
The cautious maxims that our fathers told,
We place new objects in the fairest light,
And offer generous friendship at first sight ;–
Expect (though not the first-rate mental powers)
A mind, at least, in unison with ours ;
Free from those meaner faults, that most conspire
To damp our love, if not put out its fire.
Cold o’er the heart the slight expression steals,
That first some trait of character reveals ;
A fault, perhaps, less prominent alone,
But causing painful friction with our own.
Long is the harsh, reluctant thought supprest,
We drive the cold suspicion from our breast ;
But when confirmed, our generous love condemn,
Turn off disgusted with the world and them–
Resolve no more at Friendship’s fane to serve,
And call her names she does not quite deserve.
But this is rash–Experience would confess
That friendship’s very frailties chill us less
(Sincere and well-intentioned all the while)
Than the world’s complaisant and polished smile.
With other chattels, nameless in my verse,
Friends must be held ‘for better and for worse ;’
And that alone true friendship we should call,
Which undertakes to love us faults and all ;
And, she who guides this humble line could prove
There is, there is, such candid, generous love :
And from the life, her faithful hand could paint
Glowing exceptions to her own complaint.
But that, of all discoveries life can boast,
Which disappoints us and surprises most,
Is, when the pleasing veil that serves to hide
Self from itself, by chance is drawn aside.
As when, perhaps, some kindred mind is shown,
In which we trace a portrait of our own :
Dissolved at once, as by the morning ray,
The mists of self-delusion pass away,
As that bright moment’s unexpected glare
Shows us the best and worst of what we are.
–Or some chance word, in hasty converse dropt,
By which the wheel-work of the mind is stopt,
–That movement which in daily course goes round,
And leaves us just precisely where it found :
This casual word creates a wholesome pause ;
The startled mind its quick conclusion draws,
Perceives the form it wears to other eyes,
The proper level where its talents rise,
And ere returning to a different theme,
Sinks a degree or two in self-esteem ;
Then off it goes again, with little cost,
Save that the multiplying wheel is lost.
But if such sudden shock abate its force,
Experience aids it by a slower course :
Time, spite of fools and flattery, lets us see
Just what we are, not what we thought to be.
Midway in life we pause, compare with shame
Our present progress with our early aim ;
Look back on years with purpose high begun,
In which the task intended was not done,
And see beyond us a declining sun ;
–Fair opportunities for ever fled ;
The vigorous impulse dying, if not dead ;
And we, in knowledge, habit, temper, state,
Nothing superior to the common rate.
How false is found, as on in life we go,
Our early estimate of bliss and woe !
–Some sparkling joy attracts us, that we fain
Would sell a precious birth-right to obtain.
There all our hopes of happiness are placed ;
Life looks without it like a joyless waste ;
No good is prized, no comfort sought beside ;
Prayers, tears implore, and will not be denied.
Heaven pitying hears the intemperate, rude appeal,
And suits its answer to our truest weal.
The self-sought idol, if at last bestowed,
Proves, what our wilfulness required–a goad ;
Ne’er but as needful chastisement is given
The wish thus forced, and torn, and stormed from Heaven :
But if withheld, in pity, from our prayer,
We rave, awhile, of torment and despair,
Refuse each proffered comfort with disdain,
And slight the thousand blessings that remain ;
Meantime, Heaven bears the grievous wrong, and waits
In patient pity till the storm abates ;
Applies with gentlest hand the healing balm,
Or speaks the ruffled mind into a calm ;
Deigning, perhaps, to show the mourner soon,
‘Twas special mercy that denied the boon.
Our blasted hopes, our aims and wishes crost,
Are worth the tears and agonies they cost,
When the poor mind, by fruitless efforts spent,
With food and raiment learns to be content.
Bounding with youthful hope, the restless mind
Leaves that divine monition far behind,
But tamed at length by suffering, comprehends
The tranquil happiness to which it tends ;
Perceives the high-wrought bliss it aimed to share,
Demands a richer soil, a purer air ;
That ’tis not fitted, and would strangely grace
The mean condition of our mortal race ;
And all we need in this terrestrial spot,
Is calm contentment with ‘the common lot.’
Oh, who that takes a retrospective view
Of years, now fading in the distant blue,
The snares to which impetuous we had flown,
Restrained by God’s resistless arm alone.
How, ever yielding to our own self–will,
We would refuse the good, and choose the ill,
He interposing still on our behalf,
Still safely guiding by His rod and staff ;
But with subdued, submissive heart would cry,
‘Choose Thou my portion, guide me with thine eye ;
One sole condition would I dare suggest–
That thou wouldst save me from mine own request !’
In many streams may trouble wind its course ;
But to ourselves we still must trace its source,
And ’tis a thing impossible, we find,
Go where we will, to leave ourselves behind.
Feeling that burden wearisome to bear,
We seek to shift the scene and change the air ;
From homespun cares commence our sanguine flight,
And on some verdant, peaceful vale alight.
Sweet is the scene, and sweet the tranquil hour ;
The harassed mind perceives its soothing power ;
For that short moment novelty can please,
Imagines health and joy in every breeze ;
That moment past, the quick returning mood
Spreads its own tinge on wood, and vale, and flood ;
The pearly heaven is tinctured with our pain,
And casts its faint reflection on the main ;
The hills’ bare outline seems to represent
The very features of our discontent ;
The rock’s fantastic fragments range as though
Fresh shivered to the pattern of our woe.
In vain we argue with ourselves, and prove
The scene delightful, just the kind we love ;
In vain we urge and strain the languid sense,
To wring a drop of happiness from thence :
Yet, charge not rocks and hills with thy complaint,
The scene is lovely, but the heart is faint :
Invite sweet peace and charity to flow,
And nature brightens to her purest glow.
When hope her seat to memory has resigned,
And our chief solace is to look behind,
Then shall we learn, perhaps too late, to know
That sin weighs heavier on the mind than woe.
Grief, genuine grief, that comes at God’s command,
In which our own misconduct has no hand,
Though, for the present, not a joyous thing,
Yet, when it passes over, leaves no sting.
The pains we feared, the ills we dreaded most,
Departed–seem a weak and harmless host ;
We suffered, wept, but now can smile serene,
And wonder that our anguish was so keen :
Or if some blow that struck the tenderest part,
Has left its deep impression and its smart ;
Still years allay it, and at length diffuse
A pleasing sadness that we would not lose.
But when by conscience, memory’s eye is cast,
Pained and reluctant, on the guilty past,
And sees life’s path bestrewed on every side
With sins and follies, thick and multiplied,
Follies for which our shame arrives too late,
Sins that Heaven only can obliterate,
And what slight efforts had restrained their powers–
How bitter the remembrance to this hour !
–Once in a town remote in Britain’s isle,
A female stranger lodged in humble style :
The village gossip, roused when first she came,
At last discovered little but her name ;
And scandal, weary with its fruitless quest,
Conjectured and invented all the rest.
Her quiet habits, and abstracted cast,
Repelled inquiry, and it dropt at last.
Her years were waning, and her whole array
Bespoke neglect, indifference, and decay ;
Yet no wild look betrayed a wandering brain,
–It was not ‘crazy Kate,’ nor ‘crazy Jane ;’
Nor high expression marked some sudden fall,
–A common care-worn person–that was all.
Year after year she wandered up and down,
Mid the dull out-skirts of that little town :
She loved a lonely turn, but ’twas her way
To put it off till towards the close of day ;
And there, all winter long, she might be met
Taking her walk as soon as sun was set.
When the dark sky foretold a stormy night,
And all the parlour fires were blazing bright,
Just as their social parties came to meet,
They used to see her pacing down the street.
‘Twas said she used a wishful eye to cast
On such a lively circle as she passed,
As though the smiling group and cheerful blaze
Waked some remembrance of her early days ;
But still her lonely wanderings would prefer,
For she was strange to them, and they to her.
Beyond the town some low, damp meadows lay,
Through which a sluggish stream pursued its way ;
Tall reeds in that slow, silent water stood,
And curling vapours rested on its flood :
This walk she chose, and though it seemed so dull,
It pleased her much, because her heart was full ;
And there, unheeded by the passing breeze,
She used to vent it in such words as these.
‘There’s something suits the temper of my mind
In the deep howlings of this wintry wind :
How the sky lowers ! all darkly overspread,
Save one horizon streak of awful red :
So lowers my sky, and that bright line appears,
Like the last glimmer of departed years.
If those who loved me then, could see this sight,–
–Me, wandering here on such a cheerless night,
A poor, lone stranger in this friendless wild,
How they would mourn for their deserted child !
But they are gone, and now these storms may blow,
And I, unheeded, wander to and fro,
And not in all this peopled world, find one
To screen and cherish me as they had done.
I thought the world was kinder, and would prove
Some compensation for my parents’ love :
I thought of friends–that once united band
With whom I used to journey hand in hand ;
But some are gone whence traveller ne’er returns,
The rest are eager in their own concerns ;
They might not spurn me, but I would not go
To tax them with the burden of my woe.
This rugged world affords, at last, no rest
Like the safe covert of a parent’s breast.
Oh, they had pity for my slightest pain,
I never sought their sympathy in vain !
–My dear indulgent father, how he strove
To train and win me by his patient love ;
Endured my froward temper, and displayed
A kind forbearance that was ill repaid ;
To thwart my little pleasures ever loth,
They yielded much, he and my mother both.
I was a sicky one, and all her skill,
And all her pity came when I was ill :
I can remember how she was distrest,
And took more thought for me than all the rest ;
And what a sweet relief it seemed to be
To lay my aching head upon her knee :
Then she would moan, and stroke my sickly cheek,
And I was better while I heard her speak.
Thus I was fostered, thus my early days
She would enliven in a thousand ways,
My slightest pleasure to her own prefer–
Yet, I grew up, and was not kind to her.
I grew up selfish, full of thoughts and cares
For my own good, but unconcerned for theirs ;
I had my tastes and pleasures, but despised
The homespun comforts that my parents prized ;
Warm friendships cherished, but I felt above
The common claims of duteous filial love :
I gave cold service, but the smile that cheers,
The softer tone that soothes declining years,
These I withheld–they felt it–and the dart
That wounded them, now rankles in my heart.
–They had their failings–ah, dear parents ! how
Those few infirmities are vanished now !
Would that I now could bear them, now too late,
Sustain and soothe instead of aggravate !
Would they could hear these wailings !–but they died–
There, there they sweetly slumber, side by side !
And would not lift a hand, nor raise an eye,
To bid me cease this unavailing cry.’
‘Twas thus, in those dull evenings, all alone,
She used, from time to time, to make her moan ;
And long frequented she the meadow’s side,
In that desponding way :–at last she died.
Far having wandered, let the muse rehearse,
And gather up the fragments of her verse.
–It seems, at last, Experience does but show
What sense and conscience witnessed long ago ;
Decides the whole dispute ‘twixt Heaven and Earth,
Proving her promise to be nothing worth ;
And that He knew our hearts and wants, who spoke
Of a light burden and an easy yoke.
Could we but credit Heaven’s unerring pen,
We need not wait till three-score years and ten.
–He says His ways are pleasant–not alone
To pure, bright spirits bending round the throne,
But pleasant, peaceful, suited to the powers
Of such poor sordid, earthly souls as ours ;
We doubt–and all Experience claims to do,
Is simply this–to prove the statement true.
Poetry And Reality
THE worldly minded, cast in common mould,
With all his might pursuing fame or gold,
And towards that goal too vehemently hurled
To waste a thought about another world,
Has one advantage which yon lofty host,
His intellectual betters, may not boast :
Neither deceiving nor deceived, he knows
He and religion are inveterate foes ;
He loves it not, and making no pretence,
He shows his honesty, if not his sense.
But we have seen a high-flown, mental thing,
As fine and fragile as libella’s wing,
All soul and intellect, the ethereal mind
Scarcely within its earthly house confined,
On heaven oft casting an enraptured eye,
And paying compliments to the Most High ;
And yet, though harsh the judgment seem to be,
As far from Heaven, as far from God, as he :
Yes, might the bold assertion be forgiven,
A poet’s soul may miss the road to Heaven !
–‘Tis Sabbath morning, and at early hour,
The poet seeks his own sequestered bower :
The shining landscape stretches full in view ;
All heaven is glowing with unclouded blue ;
The hills lie basking in the sunny beams,
Enriched with sprinkled hamlets, woods, and streams :
And hark ! from tower and steeple, here and there,
The cheerful chime bespeaks the hour of prayer.
The poet’s inmost soul responsive swells
To every change of those religious bells ;
His fine eye ranging o’er the spacious scene,
With ecstacy unutterably keen ;
His mind exalted, melted, soothed, and free
From earthly tumult, all tranquillity ;–
If this is not devotion, what can be ?
But, gentle poet, wherefore not repair
To yonder temple ? God is worshipped there.
Nay, wherefore should he ?–wherefore not address
The God of nature in that green recess,
Surrounded by His works, and not confined
To rites adapted to the vulgar mind ?
There he can sit, and thence his soul may rise,
Caught up in contemplation, to the skies,
And worship nature’s God on reason’s plan :
–It is delusion, self-applauding man !
The God of nature is the God of grace ;
The contrite spirit is his dwelling-place ;
And thy proud offering, made by reason’s light,
Is all abomination in His sight.
Let him distinguish (if he can indeed)
Wherein his differs from the deist’s creed :–
Oh, he approves the Bible, thinks it true,
(No matter if he ever read it through)
Admits the evidence that some reject,
For the Messiah professes great respect,
And owns the sacred poets often climb
Up to the standard of the true sublime.
Is this then all ? is this the utmost reach
Of what man learns when God descends to teach ?
And is this all–and were such wonders wrought,
And tongues, and signs, and miracles, for nought ?
If this be all, his reason’s utmost scope,
Where rests his faith, his practice, and his hope ?
‘Deny thyself ‘–that precept, binding still
As when first issued, how does he fulfil ?
Where lies the cross that he would daily bear ?
Where that reproach the Saviour’s flock must share ?
What is the dear indulgence he denies ?
Which of his virtues is a sacrifice ?
Is it his aim to keep the world at bay–
Where then the faith that overcomes its sway ?
How has he learned the easy yoke to take,
And count all things but loss for Jesus’ sake ?
Nay, this is all irrational, absurd ;–
And yet, it is the Bible, word for word :
Well, but it grates upon his classic ear ;–
‘He that hath ears to hear it, let him hear.’
Ne’er could he take, his gentle lips within,
So unpoetical a word as sin ;
He knows it not, and never felt its chains,
While unmolested in his heart it reigns ;
His self complacence is its own reward–
He wants not such a Saviour as the Lord.
Pride and indulgence, fallen nature’s fruit,
Religion strikes at, to the very root ;
And where they hold an undisputed rule,
That heart was never in the Gospel school.
And he that makes religion turn and wind,
To suit the delicacy of his mind,
Bids God’s own word his proud caprice obey,
Takes what he likes, and throws the rest away,
The man, whatever he may boast beside,
Is still a slave to intellectual pride.
His heathen altar is inscribed, at best,
To ‘God unknown,’ unhonoured, unaddressed ;
His Heaven, the same Elysian fields as theirs,
–Much such a world as this, without its cares ;
Where souls of friends and lovers, two and two,
Walk up and down, with nothing else to do.
He, in that path the ancient sceptic trod,
‘Knows not the Scripture, nor the power of God ;’
Nor loves nor looks to Sion’s heavenly gate,
Where many mansions for believers wait ;
Where ransomed sinners round their Saviour meet,
And cast their crowns rejoicing at His feet ;
And where, whate’er pursuits their powers employ
His presence makes the fulness of their joy.
–This is the bliss to which the saint aspires,
This is that ‘better country’ he desires ;
And ah ! while scoffers laugh, and sceptics doubt,
The poor way-faring man shall find it out.
Indulgence slumbers in the arms of pride,
This sin with that in closest bonds allied ;
And he is still an epicure in kind,
Who lives on pleasure, though it be refined.
‘Tis true, the love of nature–genuine taste,
Has ever minds of finest texture graced,
And they who draw no soft emotion thence,
Possess but half a soul, and want a sense :
Yes, and the Christian poet feels its force
With double zest, and tastes it at its source.
–But mark our fond enthusiast where he strays ;
In pensive musings glide his tranquil days ;
In nature’s beauties, not content to find
That bliss subordinate which God designed,
–With soothing influence, mid corroding cares,
To cheer the hour of leisure duty spares ;–
It is his very end and chief employ,
To view, invoke, adore it, and enjoy :
He deems his aim and happiness well placed,
Counfounding picturesque, with moral taste.
The village church, in reverend trees arrayed,
His favourite haunt–he loves that holy shade ;
And there he muses many an eve away,
Though not with others, on the Sabbath day.
Nor cares he how they spend the sacred hour,
But–how much ivy grows upon the tower.
Yes, the deluded poet can believe,
The soothing influence of a summer’s eve–
That sacred spot–the train of pensive thought,
By osiered grave and sculptured marble brought,
The twilight gloom, the stillness of the hour,
Poetic musings on a church–yard flower,
The moonshine, solitude, and all the rest,
Will raise devotion’s flame within his breast :
And while susceptive of the magic spell,
Of sacred music, and the Sabbath bell,
And each emotion nature’s form inspires,
He fancies this is all that God requires.
Indeed, the Gospel would have been his scoff,
If man’s devices had not set it off ;
For that which turns poor non-conformists sick,
Touches poetic feeling to the quick :
–The gothic edifice, the vaulted dome,
The toys bequeathed us by our cousin Rome,
The pompous festival, the splendid rite,
The mellow window’s soft and soothing light,
The painted altar, and the white-robed priest,
(Those gilded keep-sakes from the dying beast)
The silken cassock, and the sable vest,
Please him so well that he endures the rest.
Like him, how many ! (could we make the search)
Who while they hate the Gospel, love ‘ the Church.’
That Gospel, preached by Jesus to the poor,
Simple, sublime, and spiritual, and pure,
Is not constructed, and was ne’er designed,
To please the morbid, proud, romantic mind :
‘Tis not in flowers, or fields, or fancy found ;
Nor on Arcadian, nor on holy ground ;
‘Tis not in poetry, ’tis not in sound ;
Not even where those infant lips respire
A heaven of music from the fretted quire,
Chanting the prayer or praise in highest key,
— Te Deum , or Non nobis Domine.
–He shuns the world, but not alone its toys–
Its active duties, and its better joys :
‘Tis true he weeps for crime–at least his muse ;
And sighs for sorrows that he never views ;
Indulges languid wishes that mankind
Were all poetical, and all refined ;
Forms lofty schemes the flood of vice to stem,
(But preaching Jesus is not one of them
And thus in waking dreams, from day to day,
He wears his tranquil, harmless life away.
But true benevolence is on the wing ;
‘Tis not content to look sublime and sing ;
It rises energetic, to perform
The hardest task, or face the rudest storm.
–Crossing the poet’s sacred haunt, behold,
One formed in other, and in ruder mould.
Rapid his pace–and see, he checks it not,
To gaze or muse on that sequestered spot :
Perchance his eye, untutored, only sees
In that fine shade, St. Something’s church and trees ;
All lost on him its magic, all in vain
The bright reflection on the gothic pane ;
Or, should he feel the charm, he will not stay,
But mounts the stile, and plods his onward way.
‘I wonder, rustic stranger, who thou art !’
–I’ll tell thee, gentle bard, with all my heart–
A poor Itinerant–start not at the sound !
To yonder licensed barn his course is bound ;
To christened heathens, upon Christian ground,
To preach–or if you will, to rant and roar
That Gospel news they never heard before.
Two distant hamlets this same day have heard
His warning voice, and now he seeks the third.
No mitred chariot bears him round his See,
Despised and unattended, journeys he :
And want and weariness, from day to day,
Have sown the seeds of premature decay ;
There is a flush of hectic on his cheeks,
There is a deadly gasping when he speaks,
–How many a rich one, less diseased than he,
Has all that love can do, or doctor’s fee ;
Nursed up and cherished with the fondest care,
Screened from the slightest blast of evening air ;
At noon, well muffled in his ermined gown,
Takes his short airing with the glasses down,
Each novel dainty that his taste may suit–
The quivering jelly, or the costly fruit,
Love racks invention daily to present,
And if he do but taste it, is content.
But not so he, nor such is his reward,
Who takes his cross, and follows Christ the Lord.
–A brief, coarse meal, at some unseemly board,
Snatched as the hasty intervals afford ;
Fresh from the crowded preaching-house to meet
The keen, night vapour, or the driving sleet ;
And then the low, damp bed, and yet the best
The homely hamlet yields its weary guest ;
And more than all, and worse than all to bear,
Trial of cruel mockings every where.–
That persecution, they who do His will,
And love their Lord in truth, shall suffer still ;
–Not such, indeed, as his fore-fathers saw,
(Thanks to the sheltering arm of civil law)–
But scorn, contempt, and scandal, and disgrace,
Which hunt His followers still, from place to place :
–Such are the hardships that his sickly frame
Endures, and counts it joy to suffer shame.
Yes, and he reaps the fruit of all his toll ;
He sows the seed, and God has blest the soil :
He sees the wicked man forsake his ways :
The scoffing tongue has learned to perfect praise ;
The drunken quits his revelry and strife,
And meekly listens to the word of life ;
The noisy village, wanton and profane,
Grows neat and decent, peace and order reign :
At length, wide districts hail the Gospel rays,
And the once savage miner kneels and prays,
Through his dark caverns shines the heavenly light,
And prejudice grows silent at the sight.
Now, let the light of nature boasting man,
‘Do so with his enchantments,’ if he can !–
Nay, let him slumber in luxurious ease,
Beneath the umbrage of his idol trees,
Pluck a wild daisy, moralize on that,
And drop a tear for an expiring gnat,
Watch the light clouds o’er distant hills that pass,
Or write a sonnet to a blade of grass.
The Squire’s Pew
A SLANTING ray of evening light
Shoots through the yellow pane ;
It makes the faded crimson bright,
And gilds the fringe again :
The window’s gothic frame-work falls
In oblique shadow on the walls.
And since those trappings first were new,
How many a cloudless day,
To rob the velvet of its hue,
Has come and passed away !
How many a setting sun hath made
That curious lattice-work of shade !
Crumbled beneath the hillock green
The cunning hand must be,
That carved this fretted door, I ween,
Acorn, and fleur-de-lis ;
And now the worm hath done her part
In mimicking the chisel’s art.
In days of yore (that now we call)
When the first James was king,
The courtly knight from yonder hall
Hither his train did bring ;
All seated round in order due,
With broidered suit and buckled shoe.
On damask cushions, set in fringe,
All reverently they knelt :
Prayer-books, with brazen hasp and hinge,
In ancient English spelt
Each holding in a lily hand,
Responsive at the priest’s command.
–Now, streaming down the vaulted aisle,
The sunbeam, long and lone,
Illumes the characters awhile
Of their inscription stone ;
And there, in marble bard and cold,
The knight and all his train behold.
Outstretched together, are expressed
He, and my lady fair,
With hands uplifted on the breast,
In attitude of prayer ;
Long visaged, clad in armour, he,–
With ruffled arm and bodice, she.
Set forth, in order as they died,
The numerous offspring bend ;
Devoutly kneeling side by side,
As though they did intend
For past omissions to atone,
By saying endless prayers in stone.
Those mellow days are past and dim,
But generations new,
In regular descent from him,
Have filled the stately pew ;
And in the same succession go,
To occupy the vault below.
And now, the polished modern squire,
And his gay train appear,
Who duly to the hall retire,
A season, every year,–
And fill the seats with belle and beau,
As ’twas so many years ago.
Perchance, all thoughtless as they tread
The hollow sounding floor,
Of that dark house of kindred dead,
Which shall, as heretofore,
In turn, receive to silent rest,
Another and another guest,–
The leathered hearse and sable train,
In all its wonted state,
Shall wind along the village lane,
And stand before the gate ;
–Brought many a distant county through,
To join the final rendezvous.
And when the race is swept away,
All to their dusty beds,
Still shall the mellow evening ray
Shine gaily o’er their heads;
While other faces, fresh and new,
Shall occupy the squire’s pew.
Who fed me from her gentle breast
And hushed me in her arms to rest,
And on my cheek sweet kisses prest?
When sleep forsook my open eye,
Who was it sung sweet lullaby
And rocked me that I should not cry?
Who sat and watched my infant head
When sleeping in my cradle bed,
And tears of sweet affection shed?
When pain and sickness made me cry,
Who gazed upon my heavy eye
And wept, for fear that I should die?
Who ran to help me when I fell
And would some pretty story tell,
Or kiss the part to make it well?
Who taught my infant lips to pray,
To love God’s holy word and day,
And walk in wisdom’s pleasant way?
And can I ever cease to be
Affectionate and kind to thee
Who wast so very kind to me,-
Oh no, the thought I cannot bear;
And if God please my life to spare
I hope I shall reward thy care,
When thou art feeble, old and gray,
My healthy arm shall be thy stay,
And I will soothe thy pains away,
Ans when I see thee hang thy head,
‘Twill be my turn to watch thy bed,
And tears of sweet affection shed,-
High on a bright and sunny bed
A scarlet poppy grew
And up it held its staring head,
And thrust it full in view.
Yet no attention did it win,
By all these efforts made,
And less unwelcome had it been
In some retired shade.
Although within its scarlet breast
No sweet perfume was found,
It seemed to think itself the best
Of all the flowers round,
From this I may a hint obtain
And take great care indeed,
Lest I appear as pert and vain
As does this gaudy weed.