Little baby, lay your head
On your pretty cradle-bed;
Shut your eye-peeps, now the day
And the light are gone away;
All the clothes are tucked in tight;
Little baby dear, good night.
Yes, my darling, well I know
How the bitter wind doth blow;
And the winter's snow and rain
Patter on the window-pane:
But they cannot come in here,
To my little baby dear;
For the window shutteth fast,
Till the stormy night is past;
And the curtains warm are spread
Round about her cradle-bed:
So till morning shineth bright,
Little baby dear, good night.
THERE was a youth--but woe is me :
I quite forgot his name, and he,
Without some label round his neck,
Is like one pea among a peck.
Go search the country up and down,
Port, city, village, parish, town,
And, saving just the face and name,
You shall behold the very same
Wherever pleasure's train resorts,
From the Land's End to Johnny Groat's ;
And thousands such have swelled the herd
From William, down to George the Third.
To life he started--thanks to fate,
In contact with a good estate :
Provided thus, and quite at ease,
He takes for granted all he sees ;
Ne'er sends a thought, nor lifts an eye,
To ask what am I ? where ? and why ?--
All that is no affair of his,
Somehow he came--and there he is !
Without such philosophic stuff,
Alive and well, and that's enough.
Thoughts ! why, if all that crawl like train
Of caterpillars through his brains,
With every syllable let fall,
Bon mot, and compliment, and all,
Were melted down in furnace fire,
I doubt if shred of golden wire,
To make, amongst it all would linger,
A ring for Tom Thumb's little finger.
Yet, think not that he comes below
The modern, average ratio--
The current coin of fashion's mint--
The common, ball-room going stint.
Of trifling cost his stock in trade is,
Whose business is to please the ladies ;
Or who to honours may aspire
Of a town beau or country squire.
The cant of fashion and of vice
To learn, slight effort will suffice :
And he was furnished with that knowledge,
Even before he went to college.
And thus, without the toil of thought,
Favour and flattery may be bought.
No need to win the laurel, now,
For lady's smile or vassal's bow ;
To lie exposed in patriot camp,
Or study by the midnight lamp.
Nature and art might vainly strive
To keep his intellect alive.
--'Twould not have forced an exclamation
Worthy a note of admiration,
If he had been on Gibeon's hill,
And seen the sun and moon stand still.
What prodigy was ever known
To raise the pitch of fashion's tone !
Or make it yield, by any chance,
That studied air of nonchalance,
Which after all, however graced,
Is apathy, and want of taste.
The vulgar every station fill,
St. Giles' or James's --which you will ;
Spruce drapers in their masters' shops,
Rank with right honourable fops :
No real distinction marks the kinds--
The raw material of their minds.
But mind claims rank that cannot yield
To blazoned arms and crested shield
Above the need and reach it stands
Of diamond stars from royal hands ;
Nor waits the nod of courtly state,
To bid it be, or not be great.
The regions where it wings its way
Are set with brighter stars than they :
With calm contempt it thence looks down
On fortune's favour or its frown ;
Looks down on those who vainly try,
By strange inversion of the eye,
From that poor mole-hill where they sit,
To cast a downward look on it :
As robin, from his pear-tree height,
Looks down upon the eagle's flight.
Before our youth had learnt his letters,
They taught him to despise his betters
And if some things have been forgot,
That lesson certainly has not.
The haunts his genius chiefly graces
Are tables, stables, taverns, races ;--
The things of which he most afraid is,
Are tradesmen's bills, and learned ladies
He deems the first a grievous bore,
But loathes the latter even more
Than solitude or rainy weather,
Unless they happen both together.
Soft his existence rolls away,
To-morrow plenteous as to-day :
He lives, enjoys, and lives anew,--
And when he dies,--what shall we do !
Down a close street, whose darksome shops display
Old clothes and iron on both sides the way ;
Loathsome and wretched, whence the eye in pain
Averted turns, nor seeks to view again ;
Where lowest dregs of human nature dwell,
More loathsome than the rags and rust they sell ;--
A pale mechanic rents an attic floor,
By many a shattered stair you gain the door :
'Tis one poor room, whose blackened wails are hung
With dust that settled there when he was young.
The rusty grate two massy bricks displays
To fill the sides and make a frugal blaze.
The door unhinged, the window patched and broke,
The panes obscured by half a century's smoke :
There stands the bench at which his life is spent,
Worn, grooved, and bored, and worm-devoured, and bent,
Where daily, undisturbed by foes or friends,
In one unvaried attitude he bends.
His tools, long practised, seem to understand
Scarce less their functions, than his own right hand.
With these he drives his craft with patient skill :
Year after year would find him at it still :
The noisy world around is changing all,
War follows peace, and kingdoms rise and fall ;
France rages now, and Spain, and now the Turk ;
Now victory sounds ;--but there he sits at work !
A man might see him so, then bid adieu, --
Make a long voyage to China or Peru ;
There traffic, settle, build ; at length might come
Altered, and old, and weather-beaten, home,
And find him on the same square foot of floor
On which he left him twenty years before.
--The self-same bench, and attitude, and stool,
The same quick movement of his cunning tool
The very distance 'twixt his knees and chin,
As though he had but stepped just out and in.
Such is his fate--and yet you might descry
A latent spark of meaning in his eye,
--That crowded shelf, beside his bench contains
One old worn volume that employs his brains :
With algebraic lore its page is spread,
Where a and b contend with x and z ;
Sold by some student from an Oxford hall,
--Bought by the pound upon a broker's stall.
On this it is his sole delight to pore,
Early and late, when working time is o'er :
But oft he stops, bewildered and perplexed,
At some hard problem in the learned text ;
Pressing his hand upon his puzzled brain
At what the dullest school-boy could explain.
From needful sleep the precious hour he saves
To give his thirsty mind the stream it craves :
There, with his slender rush beside him placed,
He drinks the knowledge in with greedy haste.
At early morning, when the frosty air
Brightens Orion and the northern Bear,
His distant window 'mid the dusky row,
Holds a dim light to passenger below.
--A light more dim is flashing on his mind,
That shows its darkness, and its view confined.
Had science shone around his early days,
How had his soul expanded in the blaze !
But penury bound him, and his mind in vain
Struggles and writhes beneath her iron chain.
--At length the taper fades, and distant cry
Of early sweep bespeaks the morning nigh ;
Slowly it breaks,--and that rejoicing ray
That wakes the healthful country into day,
Tips the green hills, slants o'er the level plain,
Reddens the pool, and stream, and cottage pane,
And field, and garden, park, and stately hall,--
Now darts obliquely on his wretched wall.
He knows the wonted signal ; shuts his book,
Slowly consigns it to its dusky nook ;
Looks out awhile, with fixt and absent stare,
On crowded roofs, seen through the foggy air ;
Stirs up the embers, takes his sickly draught,
Sighs at his fortunes, and resumes his craft.
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.
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.
--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.