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 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!
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.
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.