In tears to her mother poor Harriet came,
Let us listen to hear what she says:
"O see, dear mamma, it is pouring with rain,
We cannot go out in the chaise.
"All the week I have long'd for this holiday so,
And fancied the minutes were hours;
And now that I'm dress'd and all ready to go,
Do look at those terrible showers! "
"I'm sorry, my dear, " her kind mother replied,
The rain disappoints us to-day;
But sorrow still more that you fret for a ride,
In such an extravagant way.
"These slight disappointments are sent to prepare
For what may hereafter befall;
For seasons of real disappointment and care,
Which commonly happen to all.
"For just like to-day with its holiday lost,
Is life and its comforts at best:
Our pleasures are blighted, our purposes cross'd,
To teach us it is not our rest.
"And when those distresses and crosses appear,
With which you may shortly be tried,
You'll wonder that ever you wasted a tear
On merely the loss of a ride.
"But though the world's pleasures are fleeting and vain,
Religion is lasting and true;
Real pleasure and peace in her paths you may gain,
Nor will disappointment ensue. "
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 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.
--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.