Pretence. Part I - Table-Talk
A. —True! nor recant I—true! I did engage
That e'en in this most seeming virtuous age,
With no vast stretch, with no far-scenting wind,
Fit game for Satire were not hard to find.
Nay, would you question? let us cast around
'Mid our home walks, and loosely try the ground.
If Folly fly, her flight is full in view;
If Guilt have coverts, we may track them through.
B. —Dost thou then doubt this matchless excellence,
Our age's boast?
A. —Nay, deem it—half—Pretence.
Whether she flit through high judicial halls,
Or snugly nestle in cathedral stalls;
Whether to crowded mart she make resort;
Or proudly perch in senate or at court;
Or, reared remote, accomplish her desires
'Mid fields, the haunts of justices and squires;
After long beat, by failure undeterred,
I ne'er, at least, could flush this phoenix-bird.
As fossil growths, yet not like ours, are found;
As maladies through centuries run their round,
(So saith the Leech, his cane beneath his chin,)
And leprosies went out, when nerves came in;
E'en so, I deem, some equal average
Its good and ill metes out to every age;
In each its own peculiar virtue flowers;
Each grows its vicious weed; Pretence is Ours.
To seem, not be, our ever-anxious aim,
Such is our vice, beneath a double name;
In turn by Folly nursed, and crafty Sense,
And now Pretension called, and now Pretence.
This seeks a vain display; this seeks to hide;
And one from Interest springs, and one from Pride;
Sometimes apart; more oft, in holy tether,
Like sovereigns leagued, they rule and rob together.
But oh! what type may paint each varying form,
Shadow or light, the zephyr or the storm?
Prompt as aërial clouds that drift and wreathe;
Changeful of hue, as seas that roll beneath;
They take all colours, turn at every call;
Shift through a thousand shapes, and cheat in all.
Blest are the brutes untaught! to Nature true,
Their earliest instincts last their Being through;
On man, scarce swaddled yet, grave teachers tend,
Yet not a lesson holds him to the end.
Mistaken mother! why, in gentle sooth,
On us instil your cradle-creed of truth?
Mere nursery tale; our after sole concern
To live a lie, and all our lore unlearn.
Oh Faith! with childhood thou art found alone,
That ne'er suspects a guilt, except its own.
With happy play tired out, it drops to bed,
And leaves, sleep-seized, the little prayer unsaid;
And this it is, full sure, the innocent sin,
That, all next day, grieves its poor heart within;
Its pretty self it scarce enough can chide,
But dreams all good of all the world beside.
And still, sweet child! from each misgiving free,
Sport on 'mid snares, as yet no snares for thee;
And love the fair-browed visions, while they last,
And cling to Faith, which will but fleet too fast.
The youth, who long hath trod with trusting feet,
Starts from the flash which shows him life's deceit;
Then, with slow footstep, ponders, undeceived,
On all his heart, for many a year, believed;
But hence he eyes the world with sharpened view,
And learns, too soon, to separate false from true.
Yet keenest searcher, though his lanthorn light,
Veered sudden round, flash many a rogue to sight,
Foiled, oftener still, by deep hypocrisies,
Must ask, at length, not what each does, but is;
With sadder, subtler wisdom learns to scan,
And tests, more oft, the action by the man.
Seen from new points what various comment bear
In life, as landscape, shows of Dark or Fair!
How misty motives hinder truth to spy!
How deeds but flare to cheat the observer's eye!
What searching sermon wrought that solemn turn
In Aspro's faith? the man was always stern.
Swerved to Rome's worship, what conviction strong
Swayed Gusto? love for picture and for song.
When Servio gave that vote for liberty,
A place refused might hint the reason why.
When Hirco raised yon Magdalen from the dust,
Who doubts 'twas Charity that pimped to Lust?
Or thin or deep, all tricked in some disguise;
Discreet observance just what satisfies;
Looks free, hearts closed; or but by license drawn,
Like water, sentried in a garrison;
We shift, with easy air, our things of dross,
Counterfeit medals with a well-feigned gloss,
While each receives the other's coin untold,
And counters, by convention, pass for gold.
To show—to hide—to seem what we are not.
Some willing feigners—some constrained by lot—
(For who would combat naked needs must fail,
Where others sheathe in visor and in mail)
Lo! here of half the virtues, which we count,
The mighty secret, and the true amount.
And feign they might, from my poor comment free,
Myself to criticise enough for me,
So each, snug nestled in his borrowed skin,
Would cease to bawl for praise with sturdy din.
But when, false claims not timorous to discuss,
All clamour forth 'For models look on Us,'
Mere silent scorn no longer I may nurse,
And honest indignation vents the verse.
But come, if still conviction poise in doubt,
And see if facts may bear our thesis out.
Forth then we fare, and, no wide tract surveyed,
Pause where the Lombards plied their ancient trade;
Where still, 'mid tawny ledgers, loves to hold
His daily watch the Sacred Thirst of Gold,
And sniffs, by noon-lit lamp, in dusky lane,
The rich, rank odours steamed around from gain.
Yet these but breathe the city's morning air,
No vesper-star must see Sir Balaam there,
For Pride, long since, hath whispered in each ear,
That gold, at such a rate, were bought too dear.
Soon some vast tract reluctant Ceres yields,
The lake is wound, and parked a hundred fields,
And mansion huge, at Wealth's supreme command,
Like snowy mountain, glistens o'er the land;
And clump-encircled, and plantation-bound,
Proud as its lord scorns all the country round;
While each excess luxurious city loves
Parades its pride, or riots, through the groves.
There Taste, run mad, on high, like Muezzin, set,
Shouts o'er the roof from many a minaret,
Or shows, right happy, to the gaping clown
The Moorish front, and pillars upside down.
Antiques within—'tis so the broker calls—
And varnished Raphaels, vouched originals;
There books, unread, bedizened all and new,
Flaunt in the gold their writers never knew;
Puzzling the host, there sparkle hard-named wines,
De Reyniere scarce might count the varying vines;
And there, while flatterers swill in thirsty strife,
Capricious smiles or frowns the haughty wife.
Are these, grave Whittington, respected Shade!
Are these thine ancient, simple sons of trade?
B. —I grant 'tis luxury; yet the race who moil
May rightly claim remission from their toil;
And if excess unduly there be found,
'Tis but degree; and who shall fix the bound?
A. —And so shall Satire graduate each offence,
Nor treat Pretension as she treats Pretence;
Shall merely smile to mark the smaller spot,
But justly frowns indignant on the blot.
She smiles when Balaam quits his old resort,
And city-friends, to leave his card at court;
And smiles to see the new-bought blazonry
Far flaming from his chariot, flashing by.
She frowns on knavish show, that yet awhile
Tricks out some tottering credit, to beguile,
Then bursts, at once, in ruin, wide and deep,
Whence orphans pine and widowed mothers weep.
She frowns on seals to broken contracts set,
And the long file that glooms the last gazette,
Which honest Gripus reads with clenching fist,
Then sends his own pure name to swell the list.
She frowns on hollow scheme, on puffed-up share,
And that late gulf, fraud-scooped, in Gresham's square;
(The ravening Southsea flowed not more profound,
A gulf, not greedier, cleft Rome's forum ground)
Round which, in gamester strife, all England stood,
City and court—and all for England's good!
Nor closed we saw it, till those jaws between
Pride, Conscience, Honour, all were tumbled in;
All! for the chance some lucky hit affords
To strut a Croesus and to herd with lords.
'He who would taste of true felicity,'
Quoth Martial, 'let his friends his equals be;'
'Pares Amici;' which Servilio hears,
And inly renders, 'let your friends be Peers.'
Servilio—thus I mask a once-loved name—
Be he our type; the race are all the same;
With whom through childhood's trusting bowers I strayed;
Conversed with school-boy earnestness or played;
Our young affections wreathed in strictest twine;
Of his love jealous; all his quarrels mine;
And still we loved, as years familiar ran
From childhood up to youth; from youth to man;
Servilio scarcely knows my name of late;
Servilio, now, may only know the Great.
On a low pony asked, as suits, to ride,
Him late I saw, with pity for his pride,
Straining, in vain, behind the spanking blood,
And happy to receive his Lordship's mud.
For days his Grace's well-watched pathway trod,
A bow perchance he wrests or wins a nod;
Then, home returned, his own full pride he wakes,
Bows, like the Duke; and gives the nod he takes.
You meet Servilio with his only boy,
A very dream of love! a living joy!
'Why, 'tis a cherub every heart to stir,
Your own sweet child?'—'Sir Simon's godchild, Sir.'
Ignobly proud to tell the honour done,
And happier in the sponsor than the son!
Such are the tribe in Grandeur's skirts who nest,
And soil, with reptile crawl, his crmined vest.
Keep Us alike from cold and fawning friends;
Where flattery begins, there friendship ends.
Friendless the Great, whom friended most we call;
A King—the most unfriended wretch of all!
Where'er his palace-gate its front shall rear,
Be graved thereon 'No friendship enters here.'
His easy days Charles Stuart—not the First—
Best of companions, if of Kings the worst;
Whiled gaily, with a witty, merry crew,
Friends! nay, not courtiers—loving all and true!
How true, how loving—tell that proving hour
When Death shall lay his clay-cold hand on Power;
Yea, even before hath ceased the death-bed knell,
Let many a kingly couch, deserted, tell.
The closing hour hath passed, which, soon or late,
Must pass o'er all; a monarch lies in state;
In lonely state; for Love hath gone, and Sorrow,
To plan the crowning pageant for to-morrow.
Now, let thy fancy pierce yon glimmering room,
That coffin's only guard one sordid groom;
Mark how, the prowling night-rat scarce forbid,
The varlet snores beside the ready lid.
And what his dreams? Are they of kingly fame,
A weeping people, and a world's acclaim?
Ah, no! he dreams of some contested grace,
Trapping or plume, his perquisite of place;
Mutters his greedy discontent, half loud,
And gropes, with sleep-tied hand, to clutch the shroud!
Yet, e'en for him, deserted thus who dies,
Ere long shall statues gleam; shall columns rise;
And epitaphs Servility shall bring;
Who lauds dead Kingship, flatters living King.
City and court found each so strictly true,
Grave seats of Themis! turn we now to you.
B. —Let Prudence prompt, and spare each learned hall.
A. —If Prudence prompt, say rather, 'Praise them all;'
Thus, so we trust, the eulogistic rhyme
May turn to profit in the fitting time,
And haply, when we stand arrest to move,
No Midas curl his brows, an adverse Jove.
Begin the song! Pleas—Bench—whate'er the name,
Crack the round globe, they stand in fearless fame!
Truth's ancient ramparts, built to guard and stem,
Pretence found never resting-place in them!
There no convenient fictions lie for truth,
But deed avowed is deed in very sooth!
No merely formal there prevails o'er fact,
But essence stamps its character on act!
There too the Moral Sense, severely keen,
A very prude, keeps trembling quarantine;
Refuses still, indignantly sublime,
Or shuddering takes her tainted fee from crime!
And there, within should plague-spot chance to steal,
Pure Spurcio sits to fumigate and heal!
B. —Ironic thus your skin you scarce shall save;
For—spite the opinion old Trebatius gave—
Had these, our courts, tried Flaccus, much I doubt
If even his wit had borne him harmless out.
A. —The smoke, the riches and the strifes of Rome
Right glad I quit; come, rural blisses! come.
To sweet retreats, unostentatious bowers,
We wend us now; to fields and farms and flowers!
'God made the country and man made the town,'
Or true or false, so Cowper wrote it down;
And fields, I ween, might boast a purer race,
Ere change of manners grew on change of place,
While yet broad Trent and Cumbrian mountains bold
Were real barriers, guarding habits old.
Then if the goodman, or the goodinan's wife,
Sighed sore to view the far-famed city's strife,
Soon the rough waggon stage and quagmire road
Stirred fond remembrance of the old abode.
E'en when amid the mighty city set,
E'en there they gazed, less wonder than regret;
Till, back returning from the great event,
Their life's one pride, they died—at home—content.
For such dull bliss our age hath too much wit;
Home, now, no resting-place, but place to quit.
In endless change we live; in change we die;
Found scarcely one, of all life's flitters by,
The turf to tenant where his fathers lie.
For ancient village lane, irriguous, deep,
Through moss and wreathing roots that loved to creep;
For church-way paths, through meadows wandering free;
Sweet records of an old civility;
By many a faded generation trod,
Who simply sought their fathers' house of God,
There, where it rose, with old grey tower serene,
From forth the elm-trees on the village green,
Ere town and country yet were clustered thick
With trim new-fangled chapels of red brick;
For these—fork forth new roads, like branching veins,
And strong thro' each the living current strains,
Till every pulse from fevered city's heart
Fires with fierce throb the realm's extremest part.
'When shall I see the country once again?'
Thus sighed the Latian bard his ancient strain;
But we—his sylvan longings should we share—
Must ask not when we shall behold, but where.
For now, as travels on mid wigwamed hills
The civilizing power, that taints or kills,
Along each British valley's sweet approach
Whirls in the city with the whirling coach;
Cigars and waltzes; latest caps; last news
Of Crockford's—Almack's—justice-rooms and stews,
And controversial preachers, and French shoes.
Its vices roused, its roughness ill smoothed down,
Each village now would ape the lordly town;
'Rustic' mere term for what no longer is,
And all the land one vast metropolis.
Thou best companion of the wise and good,
For so the wise have named thee, Solitude!
If wise and good but co-exist with thee,
Like Indian tribes, they soon must cease to be.
For lo! Publicity with searching spell
Hath pierced the shade of every household cell;
The day's gazette her scroll of magic might,
Within—without—she pours unnatural light;
Bids the keen beam thro' cottage, palace—pass,
And shows each tenant as in house of glass,
Till, like sun-loving plants, life's general crew
Lives but in one broad glare of public view.
Scorning all bliss from home-bred duties wrought,
And all just pride of individual thought,
Distorted worth she gives, with twisting lens,
To vulgar show and proudly-base expense.
Scorning no less, so gaping crowds approve,
'That perfect witness of all-judging Jove,'
Which, fallen on evil days, and poor and blind,
Its grand composure breathed o'er Milton's mind,
She stamps, instead, on a theatric age
The false and conscious movements of the stage,
Till, perfect actors grown, men play life's part
To the last scene with calculated art.
Vexed by hypocrisies, or chafed by pride,
'What walls shall guard us, or what shades shall hide?'
Where'er we turn, for ever—ever nigh,
Publicity pursues us as we fly;
At every hour, in each remotest place
Prescribes the phrase, or modifies the face;
Of pettiest hamlet pettiest deed notes down,
And makes the country fastuous as the town.
So now, when rural squires would meet to dine,
The county press must vaunt the vast design;
E'en as when Muckworm his town-feast would blaze,
Himself the paragraph both writes and pays.
And not alone where roaring feast goes round,
Is heard the pride-proclaiming trumpet's sound;
On Charity, scarce charity if told,
It waits, as 'mid the Pharisees of old;
And if gorged wealth, with patronizing air,
Buy some small pasteboard at a Serious Fair;
Or keep his oldest friend, broke down and grey,
Just one degree above mere parish pay,
The ready newsman, on our modest plan,
Makes known to Heaven 'The Charitable Man.'
So left hands learn each action of the right,
And not a bushel now conceals a light.
The Great themselves, who, from their loftier sky,
Might view small glories with disdainful eye,
The very Great themselves—
B. —Nay, spare the Great,
The world will swear, 'tis envy all or hate.
A. —Yet falsely swear. Nor sect's nor party's slave,
Each topic free to choose, or gay or grave;
With equal friends, and peaceful daily bread,
Me envy quits, to fret the Great instead.
Nay, more! Each lingering glory fond to trace,
The Muse hath ever loved an ancient race;
Loved, where she might, to deck with sweetest rhyme
Each precious relic of the olden time,
And snatch and wreathe anew, with greenest bay,
The fading chaplets Age would cast away;
But when, as now, low-stooping to Pretence—
B. —Was Walpole then such perfect innocence?
A. —Yet, if Sir Robert knew each patriot's price,
Pretence, at least, was not his age's vice.
No idle blushes—no grimaces made—
The account was rendered in, and Cato paid.
If guileful they, yet ours the graver guile;
We cheat with vows—they cheated with a smile.
Yes! now—pretences—oaths—have current use
To blanch the apostate's plea—the knave's excuse.
Himself lynx-eyed, this finds a people's mind
Besotted deep, and lends his blaze to blind.
This vows reform; reform full deftly planned
To hinder warmer heart and franker hand.
'To shirk one's party' Gyro damns for sin,
Nor 'rats' from his, as long as they keep in.
Old Syphax cries, 'I hate a party's thrall,'
And, pledged to none, receives his bribes from all.
E'en loftiest natures, with ambition curst,
Hard penalty! to lead must follow first;
And when the rest, at length, the van concede,
Keep the old track, and only just precede;
On useful knavery hold the bridle slack,
And, when seems useful, rein frank honour back;
With falsehood, nay with treachery, oft must mate,
And greatness lose, in striving to be great.
Hence, if, at last, the struggling will thou bend,
And stoop to herd awhile for worthiest end;
Add thy proud venture to their vulgar wares,
Nor scorn to let thy motives mix with theirs;
Yet, in disgust, thou oft shalt quit the band,
To take, like Abdiel, solitary stand;
Or, held impracticable and high-flown,
Left, if not leaving, find thyself alone.
And what for him who leans on others' part,
But disappointed hopes, and sickening heart!
In freedom reared, for treachery deemed too young,
A nation's hopes on high-born Cassius hung.
When stormy senates raised the stern debate,
Of power he seemed to save a sinking state;
And many a bold, confiding heart, I wis,
Had pledged its dearest, holiest hopes to his.
Gods! how we felt, when, strong in honour's might,
For England's fame he rose, for England's right;
Hurled his proud threats, impeachment and disgrace;
Flashed—flamed—then perorated—snug in place!
Greatness is goodness, else not worth a pin;
Mere talent's greatness stirs no chord within,
But, like keen razor plied the surface o'er,
Acts simply on the surface, and no more.
Sick to the core of thin or deep Pretence,
The attack, false-motived, or as false defence;
Of furious partisan, and dirty job,
And bribing candidate, and greedy mob;
Sick of great names, wherewith all Europe rings,
Of peoples sick, and ministers, and kings,
In soul I turn to scenes beloved of yore,
And fret for Greeks and Catholics no more.
Granta! beneath whose mildly-cloistering bowers
Swift years I passed, made up of idlest hours;
Ere yet on hearts, in flowing frankness bold,
Unfeeling Time had fixed his freezing hold;
For still this praise be thine, gone spirit of youth!
Thy very vices had their touch of truth—
Granta! for thee though wreath I never won,
Granta! receive again thy world-tired son;
Pleased, as of old, by thy calm stream to stray,
And where youth smoothly sped, dream age away.
In vain! To college halls, to churchmen's bowers
The feigning spirit pierces and o'erpowers;
Gains on the vulgar thought, nay—finer sense,
Watches his hour, and whispers the pretence.
Rufus, the scape-grace of a public school,
Focus of mischief! scorner of each rule!
Not held quite 'raff,' nor quite without a flaw,
If tried by school-boy honour's nicer law,
To Alma came; as if to show how place
Could work no miracle; at least in grace.
Still his old duns relate his every shift;
Still proctors tell how wary or how swift;
Boon friends—how very prone his clay to wet;
While fellow-freshmen never can forget
His strange good luck, or judgment in a bet;
How oft he cleaned 'em out on Bibury course,
And what a hand he was to sell a horse.
E'en when the bishop's mild ordaining hand
Had stricter rule imposed with gown and band,
Our deacon yet of strictness little smacked,
Nor made he vast pretence to what he lacked.
But when his lot befell to settle down,
A well-paid curate in a thriving town,
Where mammon and devotion, each a pride,
'Twixt prayer and pelf th' ambitious crowd divide,
To his clear interests never quite a dunce,
A change came o'er the outward man at once.
You know him, now, by somewhat straighter hair;
And a strained look of sanctimonious care,
Which, as must seem, no worldly thought distracts;
And a huge quarto pocket, stuffed with tracts;
And sermon sour; and week-day talk austere;
Save when he holds some female follower's ear;
Such gifts to rich preferment needs must come,
Or win a trusting wife—with half a plum.
But these—the coarser clays—the common strain!
On gifted Hiero muse with deeper pain;
Hiero—who poor beneath the tempting stole,
Still proudly kept the freedom of his soul;
Nor on another's mind could grant it good
To screw the fetters which himself eschewed;
Till placed, as chanced, a minister beside,
Those vows he changed, and quelled that barren pride.
The palinodia soon, in graceful sort,
For this he meant it—kisses hands at court;
'A charming candour' all the maids avow,
And the meek mitre veils his blushing brow.
Oh! ruined promise of a brighter hour!
Oh! throb for honour, ill exchanged for power!
So some sweet forest plant, born for the shade,
To richer soil, or sunnier skies conveyed,
Tho' there with stem to worthless stature grown,
Offends with a coarse blossom—not its own.
B. —If these be facts, or only talk severe,
I stand in doubt, and interrupt you here;
Yet frankly own, if half you say be true,
Satire, e'en now, may find enough to do.
A. —When least—then best. In my own doing's spite,
Little love I the Satire which I write.
Harsh drugs, tho' given but to drive ailments out,
Will sometimes in the giver wake a doubt;
And this the Satirist still must take in trust,
E'en those hate him who own his Satire just.
Rhymed Plea For Tolerance - Prefatory Dialogue
A.— Yes, I confess, I do regret the times
When Pope and Dryden knit their manly rhymes;
When Sense, to Fancy near, like light and shade
Each chasing each, their due succession made;
Or, wisely intermingled, wrought to view
Some master-work, not brilliant more than true.
That sister-reign is o'er; and, Queen sublime,
Fancy alone now rules each realm of rhyme;
And too fastidious direct to borrow
From human heart its homely joy or sorrow,
Distils her loves and hatreds, smiles and tears
From flowers and moon-beams, clouds and gossamers,
And fierce by turns or languishingly fine,
Burns, shivers, sobs and throbs through every line.
On as I read, what marvel, if perplext—
Now by half phrases, now half meanings vext;
Now by descriptions tired, that find no close,
Now strained by unimaginable woes;
'Mid flickering lights, to no one focus brought;
'Mid mirage mists, still baffling thirsty thought;
And nightmare fantasies from drowsy grot,
And far similitudes that liken not;
Where, style and story, all is wild or dim
As Pythian oracle or Orphic hymn;
What marvel if my wondering spirit seem
To drift amid the fragments of a dream,
And mocked by moony mysteries all too long,
Crave the clear sense of Pope's and Dryden's song.
Ye, thus who write in spite of critic law,
How had their satire kept your freaks in awe!
And, to sole sway controlling her pretence,
Bound Fancy down to compromise with Sense!
B.— Nay, call not up your satirists,—railers all,
From Gifford downward up to Juvenal.
A.— 'Tis true, of all that ink satiric page,
Few dip the pen from purely virtuous rage.
'Tis true, each stroke erased, not honest quite,
And blackened leaves not few must turn to white
Gone with the trash of many a blockhead's brains,
And perished, too, some else immortal strains.
Fond of the frail applause that waits on wit,
Curio deals right and left each reckless hit;
Dines at their board, then sketches, to the life,
His simple neighbour or his neighbour's wife;
Nay, should the need be pressing, without ruth,
To win a smile will gently wrest a truth.
Yet deem not Curio cruel. Merely gay
He wounds, like gamesome tiger, all in play.
And what, if once he broke an honest heart,
Wit stands his bail—it was but pride of art.
Keen surgeons thus, where milder means might heal,
Will sometimes fly, too fondly, to the steel.
Thus idle sportsmen, over-proud to kill,
Will maim and murder, just to show their skill.
Stern Milo never strove to raise a smile;
Satire with him is but a vent for bile.
Fretful of stomach and of soul severe,
The vice he marks, and paints it broad and clear
So broad, so clear, that his unblushing text
Mends not the present age, and taints the next.
The dilettanti these. Then comes the trade,
With portraits drawn and fitted, ready made;
Prepared, as hunger prompts them, or the metre,
To hang on hapless James or fated Peter.
Some clothe their subjects all in masquerade,
Like great incognitos thence more displayed
From Rome or Greece the gauzy drapery bring,
Then wink and whisper, 'Nero means the king.'
Pimp of the soul, this tickles prurient ears,
Resistless bait, with living characters;
Ambiguous facts gleans up, nor one rejects—
All he half knows, and all but half suspects;
Then o'er each page his nauseous notes he throws,
And tastes, for verse too dull, provokes with prose.
So mountebanks, who know their craft full well,
Loose jests hitch in to bid their poisons sell;
The crowd corrupt flock round with eager eyes,
And buy at once their nostrums, and despise.
Sage Furio's deeplier speculating quill
A nephew's name rhymed from his uncle's will;
Then changed, like serpent's skin, the satirist's tone,
Wound round that uncle, and rhymed in his own.
Not Boileau knew with subtler art to raise
On satire's ground adroit relief of praise;
Boileau, who swooped on every feebler thing,
But tamed his beak in flattery for a king.
These are the vile—but his a viler part,
Who makes his prey some woman's breaking heart,
And pours on penitence his caustic in,
Till the seared frailty hardens into sin.
Or, if the better nature, somewhat nice,
Though dropt to frailty, yet revolt at vice,
And, deeply sorrowing and repenting deep,
Cling to the pardon meant for those that weep;
Each day to some atoning duty given,
Yet deeming all she may too scant for heaven;
Still, not the less, around her home forlorn,
Whirls he the unpitying blast of public scorn,
Till wrecked She sink beneath the driving gale,
Like some unsheltered flow'ret, meek and pale,
That, meant for warmer suns and gentler skies,
Hangs its dejected head, and pines, and dies.
Oh! deem for such I hold a scorn like thine—
Better than this the workshop, or the mine—
Or rag-man's trade, or scavenger's, obscene—
A toil more innocent, and quite as clean.
But when, more strong than pulpit and than laws,
Satire her voice uplifts in virtue's cause,
—Stern as the clang from Joshua's trumpet blown,
When the stout walls of Jericho crashed down—
That powerful voice I hail in honest trust,
Join in the fray and vaunt our quarrel just.
With joy I see, beneath the withering blast,
Forth from their holds the conscious vices haste;
Follies and coxcombries their stations yield,
And many a bluff pretension quit the field;
While, 'mid the scared and scampering herds of flight,
Virtue stands firm, and smiles in temperate might.
B.— Thus exercised, e'en I her power revere—
A.— And what though Satire, sometimes too austere,
With reckless onset, whirl away together
Guilt's braving plume, and Folly's harmless feather,
They, who on public stage uncalled appear,
Must take the fortune of the theatre.
And, though I ne'er would grant the searching knife
To probe the trembling quick of private life,
Some wife's, some sister's gentle heart to strain,
The good uncertain, but assured the pain;
Yet still, if so it chance, on private ground,
(Such weeds on virtue's soil are often found)
Some happy folly show its smirking pride,
Too gaily tempting to be passed aside;
Some butt legitimate for gamesome wit;
Why—we must sketch the trifler—bid him sit.
Yet here let satire veil with quaint disguise,
And, while our mirth she tickles, cheat our eyes—
Throw in a whisker—hide a blotch that shows—
And, if not yet be-purpled, tint the nose;
That, while 'the sketch is nature,' all agree,
Nor friend nor foe shall whisper, 'This is he.'
Yet, I re-echo, when by shame unawed,
Some bold intruding villain stalks abroad—
Honour and right who counts as things of straw,
Evading, or perhaps above, the law;
Some prætor knave, half India in his purse,
Some royal favourite, a nation's curse;
Who not content to pamper vice, his own,
Crawls to his Prince's ear and taints the throne;
Some statesman, chafed at liberty's least word,
Whose will would change the pandeets for the sword;
Some patriot, reckless the mad crowd to drive
On danger's brink, if he thenceforth may thrive;
Some muck-worm prelate, earthly gains made sure,
Who leaves a bloated million from the poor;
Some title-hunting judge, whose slanting sight
Can meanly blink a wrong, or wrest a right,
Shifting th' unsteady scales from hour to hour,
Or crushing freedom with the mace of power;
Him (and that worst corruption as I name,
The kindling passion almost bursts to flame)—
Him let the verse with eager hate pursue,
Till seized, and bound, and dragged to public view.
Beneath the well-earned scourge he writhe at length,
And own that Satire hath her hour of strength.
Truth—justice—freedom—these are your's—are mine;
These to no power unquestion'd we resign;
These who invades, or rich, or learn'd, or high,
His meet reward, drinks satire's chalice dry.
'Twas thus of old, when plague his arrows sped—
(Of moral plagues we have our store instead—)
Thy lazarets, fair Venice, could confine
The noblest, proudest, of each ancient line;
Great names, for whom immortal Titian wrought,
And gave to time each beaming brow of thought;
Yet stern o'er these the state-physician stood,
And stoutly drenched them for the public good.
B.— So be it. For the guilty, great or rich,
Her cup let satire, conscience have her twitch.
A.— Yet rank, with crime though stained, hath many a charm
Satire to soothe, nay, conscience to disarm.
Where, chafing at the bold affront, he sits,
Levéed by hungry knaves and fawning wits,
See venal Eloquence—oh! task unmeet—
Cull fairest flowers and strew them at his feet.
See Poesy, that plies a shameless trade,
A prostitute in vestal robes arrayed,
For him her lyre attune, and wreathe her bays,
And brim, with Hebe smile, her cup of praise,
Whose lulling draught, like oil to waves applied,
Steals o'er each rising throb of guilt and pride.
'Gold too, thou puissant lord where'er we roam,
Yet Britons find thee powerful most at home;
Standard with us of manners and of worth,
Far more than virtue—rival e'en of birth.
On every rank though now this rule be prest,
'Rise if thou canst—keep sternly down the rest,'
E'en where frore coteries their ice oppose,
Thy ray can pierce, dissolving as it goes;
Slides through saloons for proud Precedence built,
And glints its softening hues on vulgarest guilt.
Peeps forth some stigma, wresting Honour's groan,
'True, 'tis a blotch, yet such as friend may own.'
But where the Pylades who dares to note
With recognition frank a threadbare coat?
B.— Thus guarded, why attempt the rich—the great?
Let the muse pause, admonish'd ere too late,
Ere yet, suspended by a single thread,
Stern 'ex officio' tremble o'er her head.
Let learning, talent, weep o'er Wakefield's tomb,
Share thou the grief, but shun the kindred doom.
A.— True! some have made a quarry of a king,
But found a minister a dangerous thing;
Tenacious, sensitive, resentful more;
While e'en the best are ticklish, if not sore.
'Twas thus when once a sprightly kid had dared
The lion's den, the generous despot spared,
But spared in vain.—He 'scaped the monarch's might,
To die beneath the snarling jackal's bite.
Yet laureate Dryden, in no sparing sort,
Could lash, by turns, the people and the court.
On glowing wheels the satire swept along,
And no stern judge forbade the sounding song.
Pope followed next; by toil, by genius fit,
To point the lightest dart of polished wit;
To bend no less firm reason's bow of strength,
And give the high-drawn arrow all its length;
With art, to all beside himself denied,
And such successful art that art to hide,
His best aimed hit seemed but a casual glance,
And labour's finished work th' effect of chance.
His too a sportive scorn—the happy mean
Satire's fierce frown and ribald jest between—
A tempered vein yet feared not less by all,
The court, the town, the senate and the hall.
Him still untired successive lustres saw,
Yet on he wrote, and all unscathed by law.
Churchill, e'en him, the eloquent, the coarse,
The gifted spendthrift, profligate of force,
Spirit and power to scorn, degrade, belie,—
Even him the Dracos of his day passed by.
Statesmen of purer then, or hardier frame,
Or shunned the vice, or stoutly dared the blame.
Our prudish age, more sensitively nice,
Starts from the blame and merely hugs the vice.
B.— Yet these, your wits, oft leapt the boundary line,
The manor right, which conscience must define.
E'en when from sportive mood the chase arose,
Hatred too oft came mangling at the close.
A.— Yet one there was who spurned the lawless taint—
Monster, how rare! The poet and the saint!
Cowper—who, keen and free to choose his ground,
Still made the fence of truth his satire's bound;
Winged lighter follies with no rancorous aim,
And when he smote a vice, yet spared the name.
So still be Satire's chemistry refined,
Her sane drawn forth, mere acrid left behind.
Nay, when, perchance, some glowing guilt may seem
Justly to claim her penalty extreme,
Yet, let her think how oft th' envenomed blame
Of falsehood's tongue hath scarred some noblest name,
And, check'd awhile, suspend the bitter cup,
Lest Socrates himself should drain it up.
Nor turn away, e'en when hard words she use,
Nor always quite refined, our Moral Muse.
If busied oft amid the worthless brood,
Her best-loved themes are still the wise and good;
And strained, betimes, to weave satiric lays,
She strikes her favourite lyre to virtue's praise.
Just so, within that loathsome prison gate,
'Mid guilt and crime, and ribald laugh and hate,
Yon female Saint, with steadfast footstep, moves,
And bears the ill, because the good she loves;
Untainted walks amid that tainted leaven,
Sees earth's worst part, and communes still with heaven.
And thou, my Master-Bard, to whom belong
The heights, at once, of satire and sweet song;
Whom, as I read, my humbled hopes incline
Still but to read, and blot each verse of mine;
Though in thy strain harsh notes erewhile prevail,
'Sporus at court, or Japhet in a jail;'
Yet, led by thee, what purest thoughts engage!
With thee I rock a mother's cradled age,
Or following Harley to his dungeon cell,
'When the last lingering friend hath bade farewell,'
There learn, contemptuous of all meaner fame,
That poesy and virtue are the same.
B.— So stout your plea—almost I deem that You,
In nature's spite, would join the scribbling crew.
A.— Ironic, flout not thus the race sublime,
Founders of souls—immortal heirs of time;
When laws are changed, when dynasties are gone,
Names that shall live transcendent and alone.
When ruin drives, as ruin oft hath driven,
O'er realms, the favoured realms long deemed of heaven;
Thy peopled shores, my more than native land,
(Far be the day) like Tyre's, a desert strand;
Yet then—if prophet thought unscorned may press
Through time's far scope, nor faint beneath the stress—
O'er southern isles, now struggling from the deep,
When busy sounds of population sweep,
To dusky tribes shall these their power impart,
And of new clustering nations build the heart;
While coral reefs, where now but sea-birds throng,
Learn Bacon's sense and echo Milton's song.
Proud lot is his, whose comprehensive soul,
Keen for the parts, capacious for the whole,
Thought's mingled hues can separate, dark from bright,
Like the fine lens that sifts the solar light;
Then recompose again th' harmonious rays,
And pour them powerful in collected blaze—
Wakening, where'er they glance, creations new,
In beauty steeped, nor less to nature true;
With eloquence that hurls from reason's throne
A voice of might, or pleads in pity's tone;
To agitate, to melt, to win, to soothe,
Yet kindling ever on the side of truth;
Or swerved, by no base interest warped awry,
But erring in his heart's deep fervency;
Genius for him asserts the unthwarted claim,
With these to mate—the sacred Few of fame—
Explore, like them, new regions for mankind,
And leave, like theirs, a deathless name behind.
But ne'er for me 'twas meant, with daring prow,
To cleave wide oceans, unexplored till now;
And having gained some yet sea-shrouded clime,
Scale with intrepid foot its cliffs sublime;
Then point to some untravelled upland's brow,
Or green savannah, sweetly spread below;
Or gaily plunging thro' some new found glade,
Invite the rest 'to choice of sun and shade;'
Strange stream to track, refreshening unnam'd flowers,
Of sweeter scent, or brighter hue than ours;
Or taste the fruit, yet plucked by none but me,
Or the wild honey, spoil of forest bee.
Enough for me, to whom benignant heaven,
That still dooms best, far humbler lot hath given;
Enough for me, remote from tracks of praise,
To stray through well-known fields by trodden ways;
Musing of things, tho' neither new nor deep,
Well pleased to smile, and not too cold to weep;
Content, tho' conscious of no lofty call,
And if not high, thence fearless of a fall.
Yet in our Carib isle, young Savage yet,
—My earliest playmates of the race of jet;
With whom, unclad, I crawled or climbed at will,
And loved them then—and love in memory still;
There, if some palm-tree, to my wondering sight,
Strained up aloft—as seemed to infinite;
Or, flung from thunder-cloud, down-clashing rain
Smote the live rock, then upward steamed amain;
—Or when some day of languid heat was done,
And woke the land-breeze to the setting sun,
Wafting, how sweet! its perfumed snatches by,
From citrons or ananas clustering nigh;
Or from that garden-nook, with flowers o'ercrept—
My Mother's grave—the first o'er which I wept,
(For so in that fair isle our 'Parted slept
Or when from forth night's darkly blue expanse
Bright tropic stars by myriads met my glance,
Or countless fire-flies, frisking as in mirth,
Twinkled along—my little stars of earth;
All these, if fancy cheat not, breathed for me—
Young Savage yet—their silent poesy.
But when, o'er years, as yet of lore quite scant,
Uprose the horn-book—Glorious Visitant!
The Muses came with that expanding day,
First pious Watts, then—strange transition—Gray!
A chance-found book! Oh! how I loved to read
Of kingly Odin and the coal-black steed—
The gory shuttle, tossed from hand to hand,
And all the mysteries of that Runic land.
Still 'mid the depths my childish thought was drown'd,
But when the sense I miss'd I hung upon the sound.
The Sacred Volume, too, in that fond time,
Would stir me with its Beauteous or Sublime;
Yet pictures more than precepts for each age
Culls its own lore from that all-pregnant page.
There novice Childhood pores with curious eye,
There learns the Man—to live, the Sire—to die.
Then every image won, where all was new,
And more to win, the Wondrous was the True;
The stork, who knows th' appointed hour at hand;
The turtle heard soft murmuring thro' the land;
Ships that to Ophir or to Tarshish sail;
Then too the Cherubim and sword of flame,
And Red Sea rushing round as Egypt came,
And Burning Bush, and that dread issuing Voice,
With fearful joy—all bade my heart rejoice,
And then, as now, I thrilled beneath Prose speech
Of loftier power than Verse shall ever reach.
Next he, the lord of each upgrowing mind,
Poet and legislator of mankind,
Next Homer came—as yet, not He of Greek,
But Homer, such as Pope had made him speak.
What vows were straight for every hero sped,
The while, as temper willed, or fancy led,
We parted, like Seamander's branching tide,
This to the Grecian, this the Trojan side;
Then with mock sword, and slate, our mimic shield,
Hector or Ajax, overfought each field!
E'en now, when years their dawning tints of rose
Have lost, and hopes, like flowers, are fain to close;
E'en now I feel o'er life's descending hour
Steal back those joys with recollected power;
My school-boy days around me group anew,
And the heart's witness vouches Rogers true!
Thee, Shakspeare, half might memory overlook,
For thou to me wert Nature more than Book.
To thee my days, my nights, I loved to give,
Nor seemed, the while, so much to read—as live.
A further day maturer pleasures brought,
Yet Feeling still was powerful over Thought;
Then proud I heard the pomp of Dryden roll,
And humbly dared to measure Milton's soul.
Thus years trod upward, till the impatient mind
Stood on the verge of manhood unconfined;
A World beneath at will, and Alps sublime
Sparkling afar, a very bliss to climb;
And Pleasures then were an uncounted Sum,
And Being—but a Poesy to come.
Nay, I confess, in those tumultuous hours
When future life seemed glory all or flowers,
Yet to myself unknown—then who can blame?—
I 'scaped not quite the Calenture of Fame.
As one who sails with some long-lingering fleet,
Till his brain fevers with the tropic heat,
In the green hue that clothes the barren seas,
Views his own native fields, his village trees;
Vision or truth in vain he questions o'er,
The strong delusion gains him more and more;
Till down he dashes 'mid the ravening foam,
And the wave closes o'er his dream of home;
So on my youth the strong temptation came,
The cheating view, the feverish thirst of fame.
To me her sterile waves, her storm-ridged sands,
Were thrifty meadows all or furrowed lands.
Long time I gazed, long ponder'd on the brink,
And all but took the headlong plunge—in ink.
B.— Temptation mad! If such again allure,
And hellebore and blister fail of cure,
Why, let the critic lancet breathe a vein,
And free from folly at the expense of pain.
A.— Nor need. For, disenchanted now by truth,
Stand forth in real guise the dreams of youth.
Dicers I know them now in desperate game,
Mad jousters in the tournament of fame,
Where the too tempting prize though thousands miss,
Yet every rash adventurer deems it his.
—Mere doting usurers, their last guinea lent,
E'en avarice dozed in dreams of cent. per cent.,
Whom Hope, long Promiser that seldom pays,
Cheats with post-obit bonds of distant praise.
Oh lettered life, for men of rich degree
Soft cradle, rocking them to rickety,
Thou art for Him—the unstivered Wretch—to whom
Genius for curse was given—the treadmill's doom.
He, while plump Publishers stand by and smile,
Whirls endless on his still revolving mile,
Sighs for his labour's end—sighs on—and dies the while!
How blest are they to whom the immortal lyre
Yields their full joy to listen and admire.
What anxious hopes, what jealous fears arise,
Ourselves the candidates and fame the prize.
The Student pale, with glory's passion fraught,
To glory gives his daily, nightly thought;
Day following day, long week succeeding week,
More strong his love, and paler grows his cheek,
While to that inner heart's consuming glow
The lofty Mistress still replies him 'No.'
Yet still lured on, tho' trembling for his pains,
When of ten blotted lines scarce one remains,
Of love, of fear, he knows each anxious turn,
Now fondly prizes, gladly now would burn
Till blest, at length, in Bulmer's loveliest dress,
Proudly his babe he shows, his darling of the press.
But as, not seldom, o'er the peasant's field,
His children's bread, with hope, with rapture till'd,
Comes sudden blight to mar his fondest aim,—
So fares it with the toiling Serf of fame.
Too soon, on hurrying wings, or grey or blue,
Sweeps o'er his hopes the Demon of Review,
Casts on his babe an eye of evil power,
And withers all his greatness in an hour.
Struggles awhile the strong but shrinking pride,
The hapless frame with genius still allied,
Struggles awhile, in vain; then, bending low,
Disdains, yet bows in anguish to the blow,
Spirits, I know, there are of steadfast force,
With genius linked, steel-strung and yet not coarse,
That proved, not worsted, in the Herculean thrall,
Rise, like Antæus, stronger from the fall.
But they, the most, whom weaker nerves sustain,
Shrink, like the plant, instinctive from the pain;
And some, like Keats, heart-stricken overmuch,
While the world sneer'd, have died beneath the touch.
Or grant, perchance, the splendid guerdon gained
Springs sorrow sudden on the good attained.
The critic's jest though 'scaped, or truth severe,
Yet comes the foe's loud laugh or silent sneer;
While every dunce would mar the hard-won fame,
And mix his hisses with the world's acclaim.
Or if thy verse, in high poetic spasm,
Hath stirred some unadvised enthusiasm;
Or calmlier-purposed, yet mean fears above,
Roused from drugged sleep duty, or human love;
Such love—such duty—as cold worldlings shun,
Or one, or both; or both more oft in one;
Then of those worldly tribes starts each thy foe,
The thoughtful wish derides—the impassioned glow,
And shouts it crime—to Teach—and guilt—to Know.
Nor foes alone, nor dunces, shall combine;—
E'en he, that earliest, best-loved friend of thine,
With whom thou brak'st the bread of trusting truth,
Sheltering beneath the sacred tents of youth;
With him, so love had planned, through scenes to go
Of mingled pleasure or partaken woe;
The last affections of the parting man
To close in fondness, as the boy's began —
E'en he, at length, takes up the torturer's part,
With surer knowledge barbs the unthought-of dart,
Or drives the poniard right into the heart.
But He for blighted hopes thus doomed to mourn,
And warmest friendship chilled with cold return,
And all too-conscious of the grief that stings,
Or soothed awhile yet startled by the strings,
Well may He shrink with touch of tuneful shell
To rouse the slumberers from their silent cell.
The long-loved lyre, that would renew his pains,
He views in secret anguish and abstains,
Like Zion's saddened harps, which willows bore
Once struck with cheerful hand—now struck no more!
Monster of faith! or should the friend forbear;
Should foes molest not, nay, should dunces spare;
Yet wait not less, to nip or prose, or rhyme,
The silent blights, the sealing frosts of Time.
Men fade like leaves! Leaves, budded from the pen,—
Forgive the equivoque,—fade fast as men.
Fanned by hope's vernal breeze awhile they play,
Or fondly flaunt in glory's summer ray;
But o'er their freshness steals th' unheeded year,
Words change their hues, and very thought grows sere,
'Till winter comes to rend each lingering name,
And prove how few the evergreens of fame.
E'en Ye, majestic band, to whom I owe,
By turns, or lofty thrill, or pause from woe;
E'en Ye, far-beaming lights from centuries past,
Or so despondence deems, shall fade at last.
O'er surging years, our arts—our arms that whelm,
Shall unborn races drift, or guide the helm,
Nor heed, perchance, amid their fate or care,
To ask of old Tradition what We were.
Then by that deluge sea, our destined grave,
Shall lonely Silence sit, and watch the wave,
Where of all glory's peaks, now proudly steep,
Scarce one lone Ararat shall spot the deep.
B.— Enough! when talk thus allegoric grows,
Fain would I yawn, and wish it at a close.
A.— Then here we part. Yet end we here to say,
This hand may ne'er presume to touch the bay.
For me more fit, at leisure laid along,
My days to cheat with charm of others' song,
And court in peace, nor mocked at nor admired,
Th' unpurchased duties of a life retired.
From guilt, from hate, as best I may, aloof;
Too weak to cast, too shy to meet reproof;
Yet proud, in Virtue's cause, faint voice to raise,
And be, for one brief hour, the thing I praise;
Well pleased, meanwhile, to see once more commence
The reign of temperate Fancy, leagued with Sense;
And, if the lash were plied with honest view,
Not much displeased that Sense were Satire too.
Rhymed Plea For Tolerance - Dialogue I
A.— That Preacher's strain I never could approve,
Who, but in driblets, dwells on Christian Love;
And when, in sooth, not wholly passing by,
Seems not so much to teach, as not deny;
Each controversial acre toils to till,
But Charity lets sprout or die at will.
Yet the heart vents still more indignant blame,
Where Lawgivers their sullen codes proclaim,
And idly would constrain the creed within,
As if Belief were Crime, and Tolerance—Sin.
And though, at length, our Senatorial Band,
Reluctantly—with cold and grudging hand—
Hath loosed faith's sterner statutes—yet a few
Retained, for old misdeeds to gall the Jew—
Those sterner statutes Custom's iron pen,
Rased from the Books, writes deeply still on Men.
Hence we of Tolerance little yet may boast,
Stranger, too long, to Freedom's vaunted coast,
For here tho' bigot Pride her mild disguise
Full oft assume, entrapping who relies,
(Like that far-fabled wolf who first beguiled
With grandam-speech and then devoured the child)
Yet not the less a ready rod he rears
To smite—where safe—whom more he hates than fears,
Nor slow, meanwhile, his own harsh heart to please
With that old unction, 'I am not like These.'
Deeds, that seem Love's, drip oft from saving Sense,
And many a slow concession filters thence;
But largest Prudence ne'er was Virtue's Whole,
Whose Love, a Spirit, gushes from the Soul;
Presumes no rights—deals round no patron glance,
Nor Toleration is, but Tolerance.
B.— If gush Our Love in no strong jet that towers,
To fall, refreshening round, in rainbow showers;
This praise, at least, accord us, 'Faith is Ours.'
A.— Alone, where Faith and Tolerance combine,
Religion deigns to rear her genuine shrine;
There finds companionship of kindred birth,
And then, as once the Angels, walks on earth.
And can I then but feel the deep offence,
When stern Intolerance leagued, and low Pretence,
In that pure fane, with foul intrusion, nest,
And crush her births—the loveliest and the best!
Such tax Religion pays—her glory's price—
Her style usurped by every masquing Vice.
Pebbles—though bright—fraud takes small heed to them,
But every rogue would counterfeit the gem.
B.— Nay now beware.
A.— Of all the wraths that burst,
A Saint's, unsainted, is, I know, the worst;
To lash the dire offence at once they turn,
And still, when conscious most, most fiercely burn.
But if the just reproof—your harder fate—
For plaint no room allow, nor open hate;
Each to his den, like venom'd adders crept,
Watchful the while, but moveless as they slept,
Some dark reprisal, there, they brood and hatch,
With deep low cunning, wisdom's overmatch,
And closely-guarded look and guarded word,
All smooth! aye, smoother than the smoothest sword!
Oh! thou, believe them never. If they swear,
Look to thyself, and still the more beware;
For he, who listens, walks, in treacherous trust,
O'er burning lava, and a fragile crust.
And hapless He, o'er whom with hanging weight
Broods silently a theologic hate.
In his simplicity he fears no shock,
So calm, so very moveless seems the rock.
But soon he feels, by stroke alone made known,
The sliding avalanche of slippery stone;
Then lies, an unsuspecting victim, low,
For 'twas from treacherous stillness came the blow.
B.— Then wherefore speak?
A.— Yet why should I be mute?
If right, allow me—or if wrong, refute,
And own that where Intolerance wakes the offence,
The verse that smites her is but self defence.
And what smooth doctrine wins us to applaud,
Where interest hints the gain, a pious fraud?
What schoolman's logic strains us to confess
A lie may suit with honest purposes?
For us; who flowers in honour's path would strew,
Nor much averse 'to give the Devil his due,'
We still will hold it shame and bitter ruth,
Where interest-minted falsehoods pass for truth.
And lo!—a church now beards each brothel door,
Yet Vice lives on as sensual as before.
To each its votaries throng and plight their troth,
And one same congregation serves for both.
For loitering worshipper small space allowed,
Now gasping aisles scarce hold the Sunday crowd.
Yet let thine eye pursue—God's service o'er—
Each solemn group through home's re-opening door;
There mark how soon the world resumes its place,
And earthly lusts rush in on heavenly grace.
See caustic slander there, see sneering craft
Mix up for thirsty hate some well-spiced draught;
Which lips, just reverent from the sacred cup,
Shall welcome with keen smile and drain it up.
Such, oft, is faith. A pageant but for gaze,
A gold-fringed drapery, kept for public days
Which to a closet, for the most, we trust,
And, but for sabbath service cleanse from dust!
As pilgrims, whose devotions else might faint,
Will worship oft the image for the saint;
As grasping misers come, ere long, to prize
Gold for itself, yet more than what it buys;
Thus—soon—the soul to mere external leans,
High ends forgets, and meanly dotes on means;
And, as in Social, so in Sacred, clings
Not to the Spirit, but the Forms of things;
Prims outward feature for the grace within,
Puts on the sackcloth, not throws off the sin;
Earth views and skies, nor worships at the view;
But, once a week, prays stoutly in a pew.
Just sees, just feels, as Custom shifts the prism,
And—born a Spirit—dies—a Formalism.
Might'st thou, e'en thou, most wise and holy Paul!
Quit, for brief season, heaven's eternal hall,
And for mere Saint made known—nor more—nor less,
Just prove our thresholds, in some simple dress,
With locks ill shorn, and labour-hardened skin,
I know not house polite would let thee in;
Nor, spite of all those glorious gifts of thine,
What bishop's civil wife would ask to dine.
But though Devotion's shows, probed more and more,
Might still be found more hollow at the core;
Belief, not Practice, prized at highest rate,
Barren Belief, or fruitful most in Hate;
Yet, as each Age, of cheerfulness or gloom,
On its own pilgrims dons its own costume;
As Guilds, whate'er the individual man,
Wear all one cloak—the livery of the clan;
So universal Britain now—no less,
Her motley motives shrouds in 'Godliness,'
—As smugglers clap run goods beneath a pall—
And that mere skin-deep covering serves for all.
And yet my friend, by no irreverence stirr'd,
Nor mocking 'Godliness,' I name that word!
Paul's word, no doubt, when, with uplifted hand,
He taught at Athens, 'mid the Gentile band;
Or when, in Judah, 'gainst her ancient yoke
He strove, and Felix trembled as he spoke.
But 'Godliness' then told of faith and love,
Mild Duties here, and holiest Hopes above;
Now some mere thought of Ritual import brings
Things change with Times and Meanings change with Things.
Some flashy hand-bill spreads the news of grace,
'To-day, a Mission Meeting will have place.'
Prompt at the call, pure Faith, Pretence, and Sin,
Interest and Fear, strange medley, all rush in;
There pious Hope, there wide expanding Love
Join in one prayer, to speed the herald dove;
There, too, each scheming son of Trade attends,
This, keen to gain—this, fearing loss of, friends;
Poor Cliens owns such summons sad for him,
Still he must fail not,—'tis my Lady's whim;
The village Galen, groaning inwardly,
Contributes there, perforce, his hard-carn'd fee;
Glad Sectaries profit by the occasion lent,
To waft o'er distant fields the dear Dissent;
There too the Rector's glebe its produce pours,
Seed for new church on far Australian shores;
Which, so he deems, to future tithe shall grow,
While Deans expand and purple Bishops blow.
The Borough Member too must join the tribe,
For speech, well timed, may save a costlier bribe;
There too his Lordship comes—perhaps a prank?
Not so—the chair, 'tis thought, befits his rank;
And, Ascot o'er, play slack at every hell,
'The thing seems proper,' and 'He might as well.'
Love-feast is this, where brother links with brother;
Or Gamester Club, where each would pluck the other?
B.— Yet, in one Bark and pledged one Course to steer,
These must be Tolerant, if not quite Sincere.
A.— Creeds—inward—outward—Doctrine of old sects,
Philosophy hath borne, but Heaven rejects.
God scarce may yield the Conscience thus to trim;
Mixed motives are for Man; the one for Him.
Though worldly shrewdness worldly work may do,
He loves alone the simple and the true.
Nay more. As kings, who cling to right divine,
Freedom to crush, though jealous, yet combine;
So these, though differing each, all join to assail
Who rashly dares to stand without their pale.
Nor him avails on Truth, for aid, to call,
Nor, Samson-like, assay to shake their wall;
That shaken wall, if chance so far he win,
Shall, with its block and rubble, whelm him in.
B.— Though Falsehood thus may cowl opinion in,
Or timid Prudence veil, to falsehood kin,
Frankness shall dare a course direct to steer;
We make—ourselves—the Spectres which we fear.
A.— So dreams the Youth.—Age dreads the tongue may slip,
And presses close the finger on the lip;
And pondering what the cunning Frenchman said,
'That truths there are to show and truths to shade,'
Tames to meek mien avowal's earlier pride,
And e'en from Friendship's ear submits to hide.
Hence warmth, nor honest doubt, is licensed here;
With hypocrites e'en silence is a sneer.
Frankness himself they strain, through fear, to aid,
Unwilling partner in the dirty trade.
For touch the mystery these their rites enclose,
Hint, or but look, what each in secret knows;
And, 'Drug the bowl,' they shout; 'Prepare the rods,'
'For he, like Socrates, denies the gods!'
Teacher of Truth, be this thy gracious charter,
To live imprisoned, or to die a martyr.
This lore each age hath learned—or old or new—
Derived alike from Christian and from Jew.
Hence thou, Geologist, take timely heed,
Nor let a quarry quarrel with a creed.
Truth may lie, fossil, in some cave, no doubt;
But 'twere a mad success to win her out;
For ere Thou lead, or She come safely forth,
Astræa must return once more to earth.
Rapt to some peak, or trailing on the ground,
For each how various Faith's horizon bound;
Yet, far as Soul Sincere is virtue's test,
What truly each perceives, for each is best.
Let Knowledge upward win from view to view,
But drag not—strain not with Procrustian screw.
B.— Duty, you grant, must rise in truth's defence.
A.— But Duty, oft, is Temper's mere pretence;
And ne'er is soul so deftly swayed to evil,
As when, in guise of Conscience, tempts the Devil.
—And if a heart be found, which rarely plies
To the fond need of human sympathies,
'Tis there Intolerance loves to fix her place,
Proud, as old Stylite, of her narrow base,
And wider worship views with aspect sour,
And crooks and more contracts from hour to hour.
B.— But Certainties, we hold, should doubt exclude—
A.— 'Twixt sect and sect, yet where the Certitude?
For very truth their dogmas all profess,
And who may dare decide 'twixt guess and guess?
Or every shifting shade perceive or say,
Which parts, not black from white, but grey from grey?
Various our means, one same our right to scan,
The judgment is for God, and not for Man;
And if that judgment of the all-seeing Throne—
No thought may dare, yet Tolerance is our own.
B.— But judge we must.
A.— Then let no blinding pride
Of dogmatism, but mild heart decide.
Where his own Wisdom bounds his Mercy's store,
The veriest Sage in charity is poor.
Perchance, who doomed us thus to disagree,
Planned this arena for our charity;
For beauteous end, bade Virtue—Weakness—join,
And turns our freedom's self to discipline.
By many a step we mount Heaven's awful stair,
And Love fits here, as Knowledge waits us there.
If e'er some slight misgiving thou should'st know
Of present creed—for thought will ebb and flow—
Straight, from thyself, the passing lesson take,
And spare another's for thine own mind's sake.
Faith, vowed unchangeable, may win Thee sorrow,
When Light—to-day—appears less Light—to-morrow.
But if thine own peculiar faith be fixed,
Yet earth is fully wide for creeds commixed.
Or, grant, that all must fuse to one consent,
Love more hath won than ever argument.
Nor need thine argument be rasping file;
Pour forth the milk of reason, not its bile;
Nay, if by foe ungentle scorn be shown,
Bear his Intolerance and chain down thine own.
As Poles Magnetic, like the like, repel,
So harsh with harsh refuses still to dwell;
But, proved with wiser gentleness aright,
Veers gladly round to greet its opposite;
Clasps, with a trembling joy, the new found heart,
Turns, as it turns, and clings and dreads to part.
Hence Church, which votaries would retain, when won,
Of hard, unsocial creed the taint should shun.
Exclusive dogmas train the heart to Pride,
Pride, bent on power, picks quarrel to divide;
And—lordliest sin of all the mortal seven—
Would rather 'reign in hell, than serve in heaven.'
And hence (so suicidal follies work)
Our kirk-born pride, ere long, rejects the kirk;
And—(as from public ball small gentry wheel
To squeeze select in parlour cribs genteel)
Comrades no longer—Leaders all would be,
In chapel snug, or pious coterie;
And—orthodoxy, like old empire, gone—
Like Satraps, split the realm—to seize a throne.
—'Twere better done—if Churches thus may thin—
Like ancient Rome to 'ascribe new nations in,
Far as we may each sacred Guild extend,
Hard names forbear—and greet as Friend to Friend.
B.— But, strongly feeling, strongly we express.
A.— Yet Permanence how little waits on Stress!
Half-Christian Plato! long thy mild controul
Clung to the musings of the thoughtful soul;
While harsher lore—the Cynic's bitter flow,
And all the dogmas of the Portico,
Dictators once—ruled but their little year,—
A story now—a moral—or a sneer.
Truth, self-assured, no wrathful flutter knows,
As sculptured strength is noblest in repose.
'Tis thus some Masterpiece of Grecian art
Speaks to the vision of the thoughtful heart,
And, mildly powerful, tames the gazer's breast
To the calm spirit of Majestic Rest.
Ye Suns, which every clime in order strike,
Ye generous Breezes, poured for all alike;
Hues, for all hearts outspread thro' western skies,
Fields—Woods—with each your odours, forms and dyes,
Which all may gaze upon or breathe at will,
And, if unlike, all odorous—beauteous—still;
From lip of blooming rose or lily's cup,
Or whencesoe'er, One incense offering up;
Do ye in sooth no exhortation read,
Ye mild Analogies! to milder creed?
And, more than these, Thou, all-recipient Mind!
That, not to flesh tenement confined,
Canst thence, as from some watch-tower's narrow bound,
Scan, like Astronomer, all ether round,
Or glance at will to each remotest place
Of earth's domain, the Denizen of Space;
Thou great Discoverer! chartered to explore
Far steppe, or central range, or circling shore,
From where, contracted to their pigmy span,
The Polar Race recedes almost from man,
To where Circassia's ever-favoured earth
Guards the fine impress of primeval birth;
Or cleavest th' unparcelled sea, our world's highway!
Or hung on planet, cycling far away,
Its path, its period with high thought canst dare,
Nor e'er dost stoop to doubt that Good is there;
Oh how (like felon who not heeds the link
Which galls his limb, so he but eat and drink)
Oh! how may'st Thou, to such brave height once risen,
Crouch down content in some sour dogma's prison?
Or if, descending from that height sublime,
We turn the records of historic time,
Of many a vanished age the deeds recal,
And think—and act—and grieve—and hope with All,
And finding Human—sympathize as Man,
Led onward thus to gentle thoughts and free,
Say why—Devotion!—are we doomed to be
But harsh and narrow when we link with Thee?
Let Thought with Love but teach us to expand,
And Love shall teach yet more to understand;
So he who climbs finds other hills in view
Far o'er the plain and climbs those others too;
And winning thus his prospect—part by part—
Stamps in the end All Nature on his heart.
B.— 'But Principles we hate, and not the Man.'
A.— 'Tis dangerous thus to balance on a span;
For spite each nice distinction, logic-spun,
Thinker and Thought, to common minds, are one.
Not Calvin's self could snap the vulgar tether,
So burned the Man and Principles together.
Give Law her sword—to Faith her bough of peace;
For conscience Faith was meant, and not police;
No petty constable at wake or fair,
But the heart's silent guardian everywhere.
B.— 'Not Peace I came to send ye, but a Sword.'
'Tis Scripture text.
A.— And Calvin's ill-strained word.
Calvin—who made God's judgment—fore-decree,
And but some gloomier Dis his deity;
Whose doctrine was a Babel, jargoned o'er
With strifes of thought, as strifes of tongue, before;
—Election!—Reprobation!—terms as clear
As ancient Asia's mystic character,
The pilgrim puzzling, while he stoops to pick
From some half dubious site his lettered brick;
—Or catacomb, 'mid whose dim caverns crost,
Man 'finds no end, in wandering mazes lost.'
The particle divine—the guiding spark—
Love, that like sun-beam, beckons through the dark,
On Her I call'd, to cheer the abhorred gloom,
And echo'd every vault—'Predestined Doom.'
B.— Yet now—no Rothschild—greedy king to soothe,
Is strained to yield an ingot—or a tooth;
No star-chambers their penal dues devise,
Then priest-like, feed upon the sacrifice;
—The race were bigot then —now—each, at need,
Finds, at least here,—fit couch to suit his creed.
A.— And if thou choose some couch of theirs, 'tis well—
Or lend thy single wave their tides to swell;
But self-supporting Faith, that swears to none,
Or pledges Sacrament to God alone,
—Such as our holy Milton chose at last—
At this by every hand some stone is cast.—
Hence Worldly Calculation leagues with Scet,
Where breastworks guard and battle lines protect;
And, like shrewd knave, enlisted Regular,
Claims surety from acknowledged rights of war;
While the poor clown, unprivileged by drill,
Home who defends, is hanged or shot at will.
Thus faith, that fain would seem communion high,
—Let truth be told,—full oft is policy;
A home-insurance—a prudential plan—
By some avowed—through God to manage Man.
B.— Yet pause and say—this policy austere,
Till our third George's day scarce thriving here,
Whence sprouts it now?
A.— From league of pride and fear;
From league of anxious pride and courage lax,
For sway their sceptre, for defence their tax;
Such two-fold sword, as cunning fencers wield,
At once an edge to smite, and ward to shield.
When lofty Charles and ancient Privilege
Of new-mailed liberty first felt the siege,
Then first Old England rather groan'd, than rang,
With godly hymns and Barebones' nasal twang.
But then, not less, the godless cavalier
Flung his loose ballad on the offended ear;
And still, for so extremes extremes provoke,
Mocked the prim preachment with the ribald joke.
A following century struck a wiser mean;
The mass was then more cheerful, but more clean.
Yet then un-prudish Addison could win,
Then Pope deem'd raillery, unstarch'd, no sin;
Then scornful Swift could frolic with free touch,
And Peachum pleased a race that robbed not much.
Some even have played with Congreve's comic lyre,
Nor felt the tinder temp'rament take fire.
War with pretence satiric Fielding waged,
Yet thousands read of Blifil unenraged;
(For least who feign are least by banter crost,
'Tis doubtful titles stir the passions most
And follies forth, and forth e'en vices streamed,
Yet Man, meanwhile, was Better than he seem'd.
Then too our Second George, not over-staid,
Would lead his court to merry masquerade,
And if the mask chance-vices covered there,
'Twas not, as 'neath the Third, life's daily wear.
And Puritans, extinct, had ceased to rage,
And vex with holy war the graceful Stage;
And then if Constance, or discrowned Lear,
Had roused some loftier throb or deeper tear;
Or sweet Miranda's purest womanhood
Touched the fine sense of Beautiful and Good;
Or glorious Falstaff, raciest son of earth,
Shook from his sides immeasurable mirth;
Or free Autolycus, as nature free,
Had won to bear his rogueries for his glee,
E'en then—no follower of play-scourging Prynne
Denounced, as now, the Sympathy for Sin.
And then—though Wesley—strong in fervent youth,
Strong in man's weakness, strong in his own truth,
Followers, ere long, drew round him—Hope and Fear—
Rueful Pretence, and Penitence sincere;
Votaries, the most with little to resign,
Rude audience—from the workshop or the mine;
And though erewhile, at pride's or faith's command,
Some titled dowager would head the band;
For stimulants still charm fair devotee,
Chapel for church—for writ, extempore—;
And though a court, more decent than before,
With cowl and hood court-vices covered o'er,
And cast from Windsor's towers a monkish gloom;
Yet Frankness still had genial air and room—
Free, in the main, to pray—or sport—at will—
And our dear land was 'merry England' still.
—But when, as chanced, from limbs and wearied reins
France, slavery-stung, burst body-bands and chains;
Some were rejoiced—some doubted—some were sad—
But all, at length, allowed her freedom—mad—
Most for our own proclaimed a muzzle right,
Some would have slain—so much they feared the bite.
The danger, seen through mist, loomed large and near,
And Reason—Principles—were lost in Fear.
Then ancient statesmen took their daily range
Round one small spot, and shuddering talked of change;
—Or, niched, discreet, behind Prescription's shield,
In his own wrong, urged Valour to the field.
Wealth, 'mid his coffers, feared th' approaching war,
And ribboned Title trembled for his star;
Vague unused terrors crept upon the brave,
And scarce the scornful Bar its scorn could save.
The ready Pulpit joined the Statesman's game,
And Freedom walked our British soil in shame.
And then, though some of wiser, loftier views,
By Meditation kindled, or the Muse,
With peril not unthreatened, took their stand,
And taught 'unawed amid a slavish band,'
E'en these, though strong to bid the Few rejoice,
Yet found no echo in the general voice;
For still, o'er leaden brains and hearts of clay
Philosophy and Song both died away.
Nor well-starred They, to whom, in that sharp hour,
Heaven gave the gifts of Genius and of Power,
And poured upon their spirits, like a flood,
The heroic instincts of the Pure and Good.—
In world-shunn'd solitude alone they stood,
Feared and yet scorned,—half excommunicate,
Detraction joyed on all their steps to wait,
And infant foes were taught to lisp in hate.
Nor strange, if then, by force prevailing prest,
—For still 'mid storm the Pliant fares the best—
Apostate natures recantation sung;
Then with new vigour, virulent as young,
Well nigh to blood the ready rabble stung;
When Priestley, driven in distant lands to roam,
Himself the flames scarce 'scaped that wrapt his home.
—But thou, Transcendent Burke, Ambiguous Sage!
Great Light, at once, yet Darkener of our age!
Beneath thy home's necessities severe
A pensioned pleader, yet of soul sincere;
If thou, when zeal to blinding passion grew,
Could'st overlook the Many for the Few;
Lend thy strong hand to prop proud prelate lord,
And o'er the serf keep hung the feudal sword;
Yet that all-grasping sense, that fancy's fire,
That pictured speech, far ages shall admire;
That intellectual chivalry, whose pride
Was glorious combat on the weaker side;
That generous heart, which saw th' Oppressor low,
Then 'quite forgot his vices in his woe.'
Strange fear of Change beneath thy Sorcery grew,
And Kings perplexed and smote the Nations too;
And strengthened These on ancient forms to rest,
And cheated Those to hold old forms the best.
Such was the cup that met my youngling lip,
And, pressed in friendly guise, not hard to sip.
Yet from the draught full soon I learn'd to shrink,
As healthful stomachs loathe the sick man's drink.
Smooth as it was—and well contrived to steep
The drowsing sense in slavery's icy sleep;
Yet then, as nature kindly willed it should,
Forth from the proffered evil leapt a good;
Th' o'erstrong narcotic played a wholesome part,
And, with redeeming nausea, cleans'd the heart.
—Then first it was, in rising manhood warm,
Fondly I dared to gaze on Freedom's form.
Some high-born Grecian maid she seemed to be,
With open brow and wild eye glancing free—
Wild glancing eye, that yet could flash a frown,
If need there were, to awe presumption down.
Stirred deeply by her pure yet thrilling touch,
At glowing twenty I might glow too much;
But now the headlong age, that deems amiss,
Is past—and knowledge shows her as she is,
In the clear mirror of calm judging truth,
Almost the vision of my earliest youth;
E'en now, if force at home, or foreign arms,
Would quell that glancing eye, or soil those charms;
If lustful kings should mark her for their prey,
Or the vile mob, more fierce and lewd than they;
E'en now, with deeper, holier love adored,
I fly to shield or save her with the sword.
Yes—Kings might learn, if truth could reach a throne,
That Freedom's dearest rights are all their own.
That where the free-born soul hath leave to start,
Quickened themselves, and quickening every heart,
They lead—at will—a more devoted throng
Than e'er for Asian despot rolled along,
Lead to heroic life, or glorious graves;
But Themselves wither in a land of Slaves.
So wisdom deems. So Britain deemed no more,
And exiled Freedom fled the scoffing shore!
Soon—Freedom, queen of willing service, gone,
Hypocrisy usurped the vacant throne;
Cheered by the proud—the rich—the base—the dull—
And every fool, too cold to play the fool.
All in one grave demeanour primly deckt,
—For Gravity still cheats with most effect—
City and Court, all false and all afraid,
Low at her feet their solemn mummeries played.
The sneering Sceptic there, to swell the band,
Linked with the noisy Bigot, hand-in-hand;
There bold impetuous Speed, on fire to go,
Reined in by prudent Dulness, paced it slow;
And there, with all beguiling, few beguiled,
Augur looked Augur in the face, nor smiled.—
Then frighted Wealth, as new-scared converts use,
Repaired church pulpits and re-lined his pews;
In those new precincts dozed at morning prayer,
And when he took his evening nap, 'twas there.
Nor less in grave committee was he seen,
The district-Draco, with demurest mien;
While brief decorum nursed a double zest
For the coarse story and the tawdry jest.
'When Evil men conspire, the Good combine '
This flamed their flag device, their motto line.
By this each Mummer vowed, not swore, to stand,
And new-born statutes vermined thro' the land.
'Twas then, like loathsome worm, in loathsome sty,
The rank Informer swelled and Prompter Spy—
How fostered there let wiser heads decide,
By Love for Virtue or the Hates of Pride.
—'Twas thus by Pride and Fear the pact was built,
When Godliness held forth his hand to Guilt;
Yet hence his own snug vice each fondles free,
Safe in the cloak of that free-masonry.—
So when our Bacchus of the Colonnade
To cheap champagne invites and masquerade,
Sinner and Saint, coarse manners and foul skin,
Beneath the shrouding domino all slip in.
Then vaunt we not of 'pious.'—Oft as heard,
False, hackney'd as it is, I hate the word!
Whether on graceful Fry, with eloquent lip,
Or Stock-exchange Apostle—with his Scrip;
Or lean tub-orator, with way-worn feet,
Or well-paid club-itinerant, posting fleet;
Or quaker, proudly-plain, or judge be-furred,
The nauseous praise be hitched, I hate the word—
Term prostitute! like prostitute, allied
By turns, with fraud—with meanness or with pride.
In Gentile days, while yet the darkling crowd
Clashed shields to Mars, or low to Plutus bowed,
A Piety arose, of birth divine,
Like that, first known on earth in Palestine;
Teacher of doctrines, yet dissuading hate,
A scrip, his treasury,—and a staff, his state—
Mere Pilgrim, glory—gold—rejecting all,
And sprung too fresh from heaven, for earthly thrall.
—A farther day that sandal'd Pilgrim sees,
With 'mitred front, in courts and palaces.'
For simple scrip, huge coffers whence to draw,
For simple staff, sustaining sword of law.—
With statesmen leagued, with smooth expectants round,
New see to beckon,—family to found,—
Thus hardly placed beneath temptation's rod,
Ah! me—if Mammon share his heart with God!
O'er bustled with the World—this truth confess—
Religion drops, too oft, to Worldliness;
Of many a heaven-born hope foregoes the hold,
And every hour soils more with earthly mould;
Yet, decent ever, looks and moves with care,
And ushers Peccadillo in—with Prayer.
Let Saints to regal roofs make rare resort;
Not oft a Cloister purifies a Court.
Nay, let experience tell, the Royal Touch,—
—Least—when most fond—not aids Religion much;
Infects with human lusts, with worldly hopes,
And taints from Village Vicars up to Popes.
Faith's essence pure sublimes o'er King and Queen,
Nor should a Laïs ever make a Dean.
But if our Church and State must needs combine,
And at each levee bow some stout Divine,
—I, little bred in theocratic school,
Would rather there behold him bow, than rule.
—For when, in courtly service wax'd too great,
Some Laud, or some La Chaise, assumes the state;
Conscience must wait, all trembling, at his beck,
And burdened Faith, like camel, cower the neck;
Or free if these should stand and nought afraid,
Like Hermit Peter, he proclaims crusade;
Prudence, old pilot, dashes from the helm,
And, for some idle dictum, wrecks a realm.
And, hardly more, amid the quonum kind,
'In fair round belly, with good capon lined,
'And eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,'
Love I to see the Parish Pastor put;
There to discourse of partridges and hares,
And hold grave descant on the guilt of snares;
Then raise his tone, and feel, or feign, an ire,
Such as may please his Lordship or the Squire!
In yon low hut, yon orphan'd hearth anear,
Me more delights our Curate mild to hear,
With holier 'instances' and 'wiser saw,'
Than ever came from human wit or law.
Ah! me—if mammon scarcely less affect
Us too, the flock, establishment and sect!
In earthly coin all struggling to be paid,
And traders all—in grand or petty trade.
Frail the mere faith, in love not founded deep,
By every worldly interest lulled to sleep,
Be God himself, alone, our love, our pride;
For pay who serves, perchance may swerve aside.
Here earth's rich realms, there heaven's far-visioned coast,
What marvel, if the nearest tempt the most!
Blest days were those, ere clustering clubs had birth,
And men stood prized for individual worth.—
Ere yet the vain, the cunning, and the crazed
Coarse conclaves held—be-praising and be-praised;
Their force—mere pioneer for fortune's way—
Their meekness—but a mask for worldly sway.
Glad for themselves, not scornful for the rest,
—So best is praise to heaven, thro' love, addrest—
Then the meek Layman, and the Layman's wife,
Contented trod the sheltering vale of life;
Their docile hearts to sabbath lessons turned,
Nor dared to teach, but practised what they learn'd;
For trespasses forgiven implored, each day,
And, more than all, temptations kept away;
Each happy in the joy plain duty breeds,
And winning heaven e'en less with prayers than deeds.
The Pastor then 'to all the country dear'—
No platform orator—no pamphleteer—
Not basely busy for committee sway,
Nor plotting glories for some public day;
Not skilful with God's name to interlace
Smooth flatteries for villains high in place
Nor darting round, from undisputed chair,
O'er prostrate souls damnation and despair,
Down to degrade pure love of God's own law
To felon fear, by lashes kept in awe;
He, 'mid the shades of parish usefulness,
To his home flock did his whole soul address,
Or wrought, retired within that studious home,
Some learned toil for ages yet to come;
Nor harsh, meanwhile, nor loud; but mildly grave,
And still most mild, when most intent to save.
Such were the 'pious race' of other days,
And many a lingerer still deserves the praise.
But these, though heaven look kindly on the race,
Our Sancto-Critics deem devoid of grace;
A piety baptize of coarser frame,
And every busy bustler wins the name.
Where now our 'Pious Pastor?'—Seek him there,
In the stoved chapel, near the modish square,
Around where lady patronesses throng,
And list a sermon—as they list a song.
But not like him, whom Cowper's touch could show,
Of doctrine light, and pastor less than beau;
In pulpit tactics He more deeply wise
Of Calvin's creed the stirring lore applies;
Like him, with mystic phrase, succeeds to move,
And holds, like him, by threatenings more than love.
Nor shuns he now to vent the sound austere
Of hell, erst irksome to politer ear;
While, each to other wafts the penalty,
'For me th' angelic flower—its thorns for thee;'
Some pleasure strange e'en that dread word excites,
A 'belle horreur,' that tickles as it frights.—
Yet parish duties him suffice not half;
O'er farther flocks must stretch that pastoral staff.
His week-day works yon echoing hall must greet,
Where clashing chariots block the wrangling street;
Or hand-bill spread, or paragraph must teach,
Or his own modest after-dinner speech!
All are not such! One know I, mild, sincere,
From low ambition, as from avarice clear;
With tolerance blest, with lore, by toil unrolled;
All Grecian sage, all Hebrew bard, hath told;
Critic, yet shrinking from polemic strife;
And Teacher, whose best lesson is his life!
On him, and minds like his, when sad I sink,
My wearied heart, refreshening, turns to think—
But names, that Virtue shall be proud to shrine,
Too well I love, to mar with praise of mine!
Yon 'Pious' Layman—(not like him of yore)—
So well the pupil tests the teacher's lore—
Yon 'Pious' Layman—he whose bursting purse
For widows', orphans' trusts, is ne'er the worse;
Say whence could he the holy claim imbibe?
He found it in two words, 'subscribe—subscribe.'
Is there a mission—some enthusiast's dream?
Or new-planned church—a builder-preacher's scheme?
Some week-day sermon?—Jew-converting school?—
Pleased to be marked, and not unpleas'd to rule,
The busiest, boldest, of the gathering tribe,
He dins from door to door, 'subscribe—subscribe—'
For all his toil of body and of lung,
—Like Irus, stout of limb, and glib of tongue,—
The sole return his modest wishes dare,
The treasurer's office, and the voted chair;
The snug job contract, the consulting fee,
And all the honour of the charity!
Yet he, meanwhile, with looks that bear no part
With the low interests grovelling at his heart,
Can talk of labours, but for conscience, hard!
Then hint how virtue is its own reward,
And own some hopes of heaven—in humbleness!—
Though disappointed, none need miss it less,
Who, if in truth, no other world were his,
Hath schemed so well to be repaid in this!
There are, I know, with purest impulse fraught,
Impulse, not wildly good—but duty-taught,—
Who to no human eye their acts address,
Seen, or unseen, their instinct but to bless;
Their pity, but without its pride, impart,
Let gold pay gold, but conquer heart with heart.
Spirits like these no phrase of mine would wound,
For if not here, oh! where is holy ground?
And what tho' sometimes with this finer joy
A human frailty mingle its alloy;
And the pure ore of hearts, love-satisfied,
Some tinge betray, less pure, fused in by pride;
E'en then, t' assay the vessel's quality
But little prone, whence want may drink supply,
Not mine to intercept the flattering fame—
Their's be the vestry vote, the public name;
Nay, not the beadle, as he bustles by,
Shall doff his hat more civilly than I.—
But for the paltry tribe, who calculate,
Still ere they give, the profit and the rate;
Each pro and con. in balanced file arrayed,
And charity itself,—a thing of trade;
And e'en, when worldly least, then lent, not given;
Upcounting still their interest-score with heaven;
But for these ruffian-mendicants; (just such
Le Sage hath drawn—a musket for a crutch
Who quest for alms, in accent of command,
And in the name of pity, bid me stand;
Hectored by such, I prize at equal rate
Who robs me with the pistol, or the plate.—
Yet this might pass; and He, without my plaint,
A Worldling here, be worshipped there a Saint.
On saintly throne, by brother worldlings set,
The well-fumed Lama of his own Thibet!
But if he wield that most ill-gotten name,
A mace to batter down his neighbour's fame,
And crush who scorns to flatter; stung at this,
What marvel, if I paint him as he is!
Then from his full-blown pride and bursting bags,
Turn to revere sincerity in rags!
B.— If motive-sifting thus our deeds you touch,
The world will say that you refine too much.
A.— That Deeds are good or ill, as motive-wrought;
That holiest Forms, not Spirit-fed, are nought;
That Piety degrades her high-born strain,
In scramble with the mammon tribe for Gain;
That Charity of Heart is heaven's delight;
These are Plain Truths, and Maxims very Trite.
Yet, as still-trickling rain-drops, one by one,
Will wear their impress on obdurate stone;
As green trees clustering round our very door,
Seen daily, for that cause but please the more;
So Moral Truths, that seek not to surprise,
As more familiar, more attract the wise;
So Maxims Trite, their frequency their strength,
By repetition stamp themselves at length;
With oft-driven furrow, first, the Reason till;
Then, from the Reason, pass into the Will.—
Let Meditation deep—let Fancy bold—
Vaunt of new matter—I but dress the old;
Perchance ill dress; but striving nothing New,
Am well content to be accorded True.