To Isaac Walton
Walton! dear Angler! when, a school-freed boy,
Of varnished rod and silken tackle proud,
I sought the brooks, or by some still deep pool,
Still, or stirred only by the gentle west—
Lay stretched at noon, and watched my trembling float,
Thou wert my sole companion; and I conned,
Studious, thy varied precepts o'er and o'er.
And though, since then, full many a taste be changed,
And me the fisher's simple sport no more
Wins from light sleep, ere yet the streaky dawn
Hath tinged the steaming wave with yellow light;
Nor keeps me lingering on the grassy brink,
Till sober night be fallen, and all lies hushed
Beneath the silent moon; save—only heard—
The stream's faint ripple, and the leaping trout.
By fits upflashing in the silvery beam,
Startling the general pause, then pressing it,
Thus interrupted, deeper on the heart;
Yet still, old man! I love the soothing power
Thy rural landscapes breathe, like vernal breeze,
Freshening the soul; I love thy pastoral songs,
Those simple chauntings of the elder time,
Thy contemplative vein, thy sweet content,
And e'en thine antique phrase hath charms for me.
And long as woods and skies and watered shores,
And spring's and summer's change and changeful hours,
Have power for pleasure—thou shalt please me still.
E'en now, when winter locks the still deep lake
In fastest frost, and stately-winding streams
Rest motionless, and prattling brooks are mute;
By my warm hearth, at evening's thoughtful hour,
I love to sit and turn thy charmèd page,
Till, answering to the gentle sorcery,
Fair images and thoughts, that slumbered long,
Of parted years awake; and, memory-led,
Once more I seem to tread the banks of Dove,
Those verdant banks—and list his water's flow,
And catch his eddies, glittering in the sun;
Breathing the freshness of a second spring,
While all my boyish days revive again.
Sacred Gipsy Carol - Epilogue
Where shall Devotion find her fitting food?
'Twas asked; and it was answered, 'Every where.'
Whate'er the region, bring but thou the mood,
And, high or low, her nutriment is there.
Her's—road-side chapel; her's—cathedral roof;
The holy reverence, which bends—aloof;
The love familiar, that delights to cling.
Her's—purest Godhead, veiled in depth of skies;
The Being, unapproachable—unseen;
And her's—the visible; for peasant eyes
By village painter robed in red or green.
Come, lead me thou to yonder ancient pile,
Where the built organ, through its thousand flutes,
Peals majesty; and incense, all the while,
Is circling up 'mid arches and volutes;
And as we wander thro' the wond'rous fane,
Or kneel us, trust me! I shall feel, like thee,
Nay, cope and robe. But come thou too, with me,
To where yon worshipper, more picturesque
Than graceful, in his coat of many a flaw,
Is humbly hymning to that Saint grotesque,
'From forth his scrannel-pipe of wretched straw.'
And then avouch, (not bearing less in mind
The glorious strains that roll these roofs along,)
That there Devotion too fit food may find
In the rude notes of that street-chaunted song.
So deemed our elder race. Their faith—they knew—
Was strong for daily wear; a stuff to trust.
No flimsy robe, hung up the whole week thro',
'And but for Sunday-service cleansed from dust;'
But a stout faith, that free from formalism,
(On which Devotion's name too oft we dub,)
In week-day life nor found, nor sought, a schism;
But mingled with it; and could bear the rub.
Or, must we come in smoother phrase array'd,
(Tho' truth, I ween, might spare such silken grace,)
Their faith (like Una, wheresoe'er she stray'd)
Could make 'a sunshine in the shady place.'
And far above, as abstract thought may reach,
And far beneath, as human instincts go,
Could find congenial atmosphere in each;
No theme too lofty, as no love too low.
With such interpretation would I leaven
That ladder-vision, erst by Jacob seen;
Its foot on common earth; its top in heaven;
And God's mild angels on each step between.
My travels' dream and talk for many a year,
At length I view thee, hoary Silchester!
Pilgrim long vowed; now only hither led,
As with new zeal by fervent Mitford fed,
Whose voice of poesy and classic grace
Had breathed a new religion on the place.
'Scaped from the pride, the smoke, the busy hum
Of our metropolis, a later Rome,
How sweet to win one calm, uncrowded day,
Where congregated man hath passed away!
For these old city-walls, a half-league round,
Are but the girdle now of rural ground;
These stones from far-off fields, toil-gathered thence
For man's protection, but a farm's ring-fence;
The fruit of all his planning and his pain
By Nature's certain hand resumed again!
Yet eyes instructed, as along they pass,
May learn from crossing lines of stunted grass,
And stunted wheat-stems, that refuse to grow,
What intersecting causeways sleep below.
And ploughshare, deeplier delving on its path,
Will oft break in on pavement quaint or bath;
Or flax-haired little one, from neighbouring cot,
Will hap on rusted coin, she knows not what;
'Bout which, though grave collectors make great stir,
Some pretty pebble found had more contented her.
From trees that shade thine amphitheatre,
Hoarse caws the rook, and red-breast carols clear;
All silent else! nor human foot nor call
Are heard to-day within its turfy wall;
Gone—many a century since—its shouts—its shows.
Here thought may now hold commune with repose.
Yet sheds the sun no other evening glow,
Than tinged these walls two thousand years ago;
While leaves, e'en such as then in autumn fell,
Twirling adown with faint decaying smell,
Mix with the pensive thoughts of ruin well.
These walls already reared did Cæsar see?
Rose they, Stonehenge! coevally with thee,
Whose years, in prose untold or Druid-rhyme,
Still baffle thought—the riddle of old Time?
Or was it Rome first fixed to fortify
This pleasant spot? deserted when? or why?
What name, familiar to historic ear,
Ruled this hill-circled track, Proconsul here;
And master of these fields, though fair they be,
Sighed for his sunny vines beyond the Tyrrhene sea?
Within these bounds when Jove's high altar stood,
Was the oak worshipped in yon sloping wood?
And did cach creed, as creeds are wont to do,
The other scorn, and hold itself the true?
Declare, Geologist! what ancient sea
These flinty nodules fashioned, thus to be
Ruin or rock, as each—a mystery!
Thy very name a puzzle! Yet, I wis,
Seanning these flints, 'twas 'Castrum Silicis,'
My books away, I vouch not how it is;
For heavy tomes of antiquarian lore
Burden the traveller much, if reader more.
In vain for Cicerone round I seek;
Speak, ancient bulwarks! your own story speak;
Vexed heretofore by dilettanti lungs,
How often have I wished that stones had tongues!
Can He explain, stretched silent as his fold,
Perchance of Latin blood, yon shepherd old,
Himself a crumbling ruin of fourscore?
'The Romish folk, he says, dwelt here of yore;'
'Tis all he knows—the learned searce know more.
Slow I muse on, in idle question lost,
If knowledge or if mystery please the most.
We loved that Upper Austrian land;
And who, that knows, would love it less?
Which, as it seems, alike the hand
Of God and man conspire to bless.
His stream-dispensing hills, that tower,
Man's happy, lowly, household bower,
On sunny slope, in quiet dell,
These well may win a fond farewell.
How may we e'er forget the power
Of those huge hills, at sunset hour?
Peak and black ridge upheaved on high
Athwart the gorgeous evening sky,
While brightest waves beneath were rolled
In amethyst or living gold.
Or how the beams that loved to wake
With morning touch Gemunden's lake;
Or that pale moon which paused to light
Dark Traunstein's solitary height?
Nor more, Fair Land! may we forget
Thy Happy with thy Lovely met.
Those rural dwellings snug and warm,
And strong to meet the winter storm.
With casement green, and vine around;
Each in its plot of garden ground.
The most—beneath. But some that creep
Where the sun beckons up the steep;
Near neighbours to the beechen grove,
Which mingles with the pines above.
And every little mountain-plain,
Of herb profuse or waving grain;
Where all that eye beholds is rife
With signs of well-contented life.
O Liberty! thou sacred name!
Whate'er reproach may thee befall,
From judgment just or spiteful blame,
To thee I cling—on thee I call.
And, yet, thou art not All in All;
And, e'en where thou art worshipp'd less,
In spite of check, in spite of thrall,
Content may spring, and happiness.
And tho', man's rightful claim to cheer,
Thy fuller beams be wanting here;
Yet happy they, if right I spell,
The folk within this land who dwell.
Here no hard look, no dogged eye,
Meets, to repel, the passer by;
But observation loves to scan
Mild greetings sped from man to man;
Bland courtesies; kind words that fall
From each to each, and all to all.
And here is woman's bending grace,
That bends reply; and answering face,
With servile smile not falsely deckt,
But honest smile from self-respect.
While peasant boy, with curly pate,
And arm surcharged with book and slate,
Gives frank reciprocating look,
The fruit—I ween—of slate and book.
Nor lack there signs to speak a sense
Imbibed of holier influence.
For if there be or nook or spot
More lovely than the rest;
Beside the brook, beneath the grot,
Some chapel neat is drest;
Whenceforth the Virgin-Mother seen,
In azure robe depict' or green,
From that her ever-blessed face
Sheds softer beauty o'er the place.
Or He, who died on holy-rood,
Is there, with thoughts of deeper mood
To sanctify the solitude.
'Tis true—for me their accents rung
In fact, as name, a stranger-tongue.
A cloud, if words alone could speak,
Thro' which no ray of thought might break.
But soul of ready sympathy
Finds semaphore in silent eye.
And smiles that play from silent lips
Clear what were else the heart's eclipse.
And One was with me, who could spell
Whate'er each tongue might say,
And oft, I ween, their sense would tell
In better phrase than they.
And all that German land was known
To him, familiar as his own.
Their states, their dynasties he knew,
Their folk, how many or how few;
Each tale of conquest, battle, siege,
Right, custom, tenure, privilege,
With all that appertaineth; down
From Cæsar or from King to Clown;
And all that priest or jurist saith
Of modes of law or modes of faith.
And he had comment, full and clear,
The fruit of many a travelled year;
But more, by meditation brought
From inner depths of silent thought;
Or fresh from fountain, never dry,
Of undisturbed humanity.
When first among these hills we came,
The Autumn lingered bright;
But winter now begins to claim
His old ancestral right.
He speaks intelligible speech
In the red yellow of the beech;
And mingles with the breeze a touch
Of polar air; in sooth not much;
But such as serves to hint the day,
When he shall rule, not far away.
Fall'n leaves are straggling down the brook,
With something of prophetic look;
Whose little eddies circle round
With more, methinks, than summer sound.
While the strong rivers, now more strong,
With dimmer current sweep along.
And frequent gust and chilling rain,
That meet the traveller on the plain,
Are telling tale of wintry war
Amid the topmost peaks—afar.
Scarce longer, Hills of whitening brow!
Man's summer day endures;
And snowy flakes are falling, now,
On other heads than yours;
And colder, dimmer currents roll
From Time or Chance to chill the soul.
Our fervent youth's adventurous blood
Defies or place or clime,
And dares the mountain or the flood,
Thro' winter's stormiest time.
When sober eld, grown weak or wise,
Seeks gentler scenes and milder skies.
So we will seek a milder sky,
By where slow roads up creep
Atween the summits, cresting high,
Of some huge Alpine steep;
By easier way thenceforth to glide
Adown the smooth Italian side.
With choice before us, shall we go
Where Stelvio winds his road,
Above the realms of thawless snow,
To where green things refuse to grow,
Primeval frosts' abode?
Then—beating cloud, and bitter wind,
And torrent fierce left all behind—
lDrop down to Como's southern bowers,
And drink the breath of orange flowers?
Or else, in idle boat reclined,
Hang loitering round that little bay,
Where erst inquiring Pliny lay
Thro' long observant hours;
Or haply nursed some inner dream,
Beside his intermitting stream?
Or rather shall we follow, now,
The waters as they roll
From rugged Brenner's lowlier brow
Adown the steep Tyrol;
To where Catullus loved to wake
His sweetest harp on Garda's lake?
Rich is the land, (all own its power,)
The land for which we part,
Italia!—rich in every dower
Of nature and of art.
And rich in precious memories—more—
From fragrant urns of classic lore.
But whether 'mid Etrurian bowers,
Where gallery spreads and palace towers;
Or where, beneath cerulean day,
Bright Naples clasps her double bay;
Or where steep-fallen Anio roves,
All peaceful now, thro' Tibur's groves;
On thee, contentment's happy home,
Land of bright stream and hill!
Fair Austrian land! where'er we roam,
Our hearts shall ponder still.
Dorchester Amphitheatre .
By Rome's old amphitheatre I stood,
Still pretty perfect, on the Weymouth road,
Within some half a mile of Dorchester.
There had I come, as others come, to feed
A curious eye, and win such thoughts as spring
From sense of contrast 'twixt the ideal Past
And the fact-speaking Present. In good sooth
Strange contrast did I find; for all within
The oval boundary of that fair arena
Was seen to spread a most unclassic growth
Of vile potatoes! Plant, to me it seems,
Aye somewhat vile to view; which, when the World
New-found first gave it to our older climes,
She gave with true utilitarian aim,
Far more for use than beauty. But these were
Of all most vile; black spotted, with torn leaves
And draggled stalks; dank and disconsolate
As Autumn rains and trampling feet could make them.
Some pauper-hand had sown the ragged crop;
No peasant's, but some mean suburban hand;
Whether with license from the corporation,
Or of his own coarse will I might not learn,
'Twas a sore check to fancy; and, full sure,
Fine lady or yet finer gentleman,
Fastidious dandlers of their own sweet wills,
At once had quitted, in a brisk disgust,
But I had learned (a lesson time will teach)
To make the best of matters, and, beside,
'Tis a wise pride, through the mind's alchemy,
To draw a pleasure from poor promisings
Nor hard the task; for let but patience watch
The process, and up-comes, in no long time,
Through subtile ducts of feeling or of thought,
The good which lurks in all things.
So I went not;
But, laid at length upon the topmost edge
Of that green circus, failed not soon to win
Full recompence. For the benignant air
Was very bliss to breathe; and evening, now,
Was slanting her long shadows o'er the land,
And, with her shadows, peace! All told of peace,
Insensate things and things of life; each flake
Of floating cloud, like white-sailed bark becalmed,
That paused in the blue sky; the thrifty rook,
Last labourer in the newly furrowed field,
Seen wending homeward on slow-waving wing;
And unyoked ox that, tranquil still, though freed,
Swayed leisurely by, to food and needful rest
In stable or night pasture. Nor did man
Not profit by the hour; but stole him forth
From out the precinct of the toiling town
To taste, abroad, our nobler human rest,
Which links with meditation; pondering, now,
The quiet of the plain; now sending forth
Freed thought to travel 'mid the circling hills.
Who may misprize Dorchestrian hills? What though
They tower to no such height as looks with scorn
Over a dwindled plain; what though no crags
Be there to fortify; no forest belts
To gird them midway round; yet theirs, instead,
Are graceful slopes with shadowy dips between;
And theirs are breezy summits, not too high
To recognise familiar sights, and catch
Familiar sounds of life, the ploughman's call
Or tinkling from the fold. Yet thence the eye
Feeds on no stinted landscape, sky and earth
And the blue sea; and thence may wingèd thought,
Which ever loves the vantage ground of hills,
Launch amid buoyant air, and soar at will.
Fair, amid these, art thou, camp-crested Mount,
In some far time, for some forgotten cause,
Named of the Maiden. Nor doth surer lore
Attest if Briton or if Roman wound
Those triple trenches round thee; regular
As terraces, by architect up-built
For princely pleasure-ground, or those, far-famed,
By ancient hunters made—so some have deemed—
Or else by Nature's self in wild Glenroy.
Along thy sides they stretch, ring above ring,
Marking thee from afar; then vanish round
Like the broad shingly banks, which ocean heaves
In noble curves along his winding shore.
The passing wayfarer with wonder views
E'en at imperfect distance, their bold lines,
And asks the Who? the Wherefore? and the When?
Wafting his spirit back into far times,
And dreaming as he goes. But whoso stays,
And climbs the turf-way to thy tabled top,
Shall reap a fuller wonder; shall behold
Thy girdled area, of itself a plain,
Where widely feeds the scattered flock; shall mark
Thy trenches, complicate' with warlike art,
And deep almost as natural ravine
Cut in the mountain; or some startling rent
In the blue-gleaming glacier; or as clefts,
Severing the black and jagged lava-walls,
Which old Vesuvius round his crater flings,
Outworks, to guard the mysteries within.
But these are smooth and verdant. Tamed long since,
Breastwork abrupt and pallisaded mound
Are, now, but sloping greensward; as if Nature,
Who vainly her mild moral reads to man,
Still strove to realize the blessed days,
By seers avouched, by statesmen turned to dreams,
When war shall be no more.
So mused I there!
As who had failed to muse? But now the sun,
Silently sunken, with departing light
Had fused the whole horizon; not alone
His western realm, but flooded refluent gold
Back to the southern hills, along whose tops
Are seen to stretch, in far continuous line,
Sepulchral barrows. Brightly-verdant cones
I marked them rise beneath his earlier ray;
But now they stood against that orange light
Each of a velvet blackness; like the bier
Before some high-illumined altar spread
When a king lies in state; and well might seem
To twilight fantasy, like funeral palls,
Shrouding the bones of aboriginal men,
Who there had lived and died, long ere our tribes
Had heard the name or felt the conquering arms
Of Rome or Roman; or as yet had seen,
Mocking their hearths of clay and turf-built huts,
The prætor's quaint mosaic or tiled bath;
Or heard our hard-school task, the phrase of Terence,
Bandied in common parlance round the land.
This was the hour of Fancy, Spirit shy!
Who weaves no dreams beneath the garish day,
Or if indeed she weave, yet tells them not,
So fearful of the comment, or the jeer.
Nay, still the more from vulgar guess to hide
Her visionary themes, will oft put on,
With harmless treachery, worldly masquerade
Of common-place or business; squaring now
Some dull frivolity of daily life,
Visit or etiquette; now poring o'er
Law book or ledger, or long-drawn report
Of grave committee, just as if she prized
The things she seems to ponder but when night
Is in the heaven, her natural day begins.
Then, like yon star, which, when the morning sun
Came forth, first trembled, and then dropt away
To unobserved seclusion, and yet now
Once more hangs thoughtful in the twilight sky;
E'en so doth Fancy venture forth again
To float among the tinted clouds of eve;
And—hovering now—now car-like borne along—
Imbues her visions with their loveliest hues,
And gives them back yet lovelier of her own.
Ere long, uncontradicted and more bold,
She gives command to Matter and to Space
To work her bidding; and behold! the Twain,
Like Genii-servants of the lamp or ring,
Contract themselves at once, or else dilate
As she would have it. Nor may Time oppose
His realm's remoteness, parted by the gulf
Of cycled centuries; for she knows to weave
Her gossamer threads so subtile, yet so strong,
That linkèd by the long invisible line,
Present and Past are one.
This was her hour,
The potent hour of Fancy! As of old
The games were just beginning; and I saw
The rural dwellers hastening o'er the plain
By ones, and twos, and threes; some quaint to view
With their own painted skins, and some hirsute
In spoil of wolf or bear. A denser mass
Poured from the crowded city; helm and gown,
The soldier and civilian; and, ere long,
These circling seats, almost obliterate' now,
And where the shy mole-cricket, undisturbed,
Creaks his funereal note, were thronged with looks
So eager—so intent—it seemed as if
No desolation e'er could touch the place.
Mingled they sat, conquered and conqueror;
The intruder and the native of the land;
Fair British damsel by dark Roman maid;
And whoso had but scanned, with curious eye,
The multitude there met, had singled out
Each separate race, distinct as then they showed,
Ere holy marriage rites, and lapse of years,
Had fused the swarthy South and paler North
Into one blended beauty.
Relaxed not, and behold! the games went on.
But here no wretched gladiator died,
To stimulate the jaded taste corrupt
Of a luxurious city, mingling blood
And sport together; here no lordly brute,
Pride of his woods, tiger nor spotted 'pard
Was brought to bathe his beautiful sides in gore.
But simple games were here, befitting well
Remoter province. Yet there wanted not
The course of chariots, seven times rapt around
The level circus; nor impetuous speed
Of the foot-racer swift; nor clenchèd hand
With cestus mailed; nor strong transcendent arm
Whirling the discus far and far away.
Here too were jugglers' feats, with many a feint
Of the quick hand, deceiving eye and guess;
Perchance transmitted down from those who strove
With Moses, when the rods to serpents rolled
In ancient Egypt, aye for magic famed;
And whose strange sorceries even now perplex
The traveller, and send him doubting home.
And graceful dancers here from Southern Gaul
Wove their gay measures, with half-wingèd feet
Quivering in air, as if the air were half
Their element; nor was there lack of song
From smooth Italian clime, nor of sweet flute,
Breathing some lay, on slope of Aready
First framed by love-sick shepherd; courting now
Barbarian ears; which yet delighted heard,
And treasured up the strain.
Him too I saw—
(For Fancy bodied forth whate'er she willed)—
The shepherd-minstrel of remotest time,
Zampognatore, who, with moving arm,
From the pressed bag compels the struggling air
Into a liquid music. He had strayed
From his Calabrian home, lone wanderer,
For humble gain, thus far; and such, e'en now,
Gay Naples! when returning Christmas brings
High festival, amid thy crowded streets
Are seen and heard, hymning each sacred shrine.
In simple sheep-skin clad, they wend along,
(Rude vesture! worn of old, when men first watched
Their feeding flocks along the grassy hills,)
And seem like records of an earlier world,
Linking the Past and Present. And, full oft,
(If Fancy might presume on holy ground,)
Me would she fondly lure to dream that such
As these, perchance, in old Judæa's land,
The missioned angel summoned from their folds,
To learn the glorious birth in Bethlehem!
A pause—and, lo! two well-trained wrestlers come,
Briton with Roman matched; and as they stand
Eyeing each other, face to face, erect,
Look like bold statues, which some master-hand
Hath wrought to best proportion. Soon their arms
Are grasping each the other's at full length.
Anon they stoutly close; and while they strive
Each one to stir the other from the base
Of his firm footing, you behold them rock
Like gallant vessels in a stormy surge,
Whose proud yards almost touch the deep; or trees
Full-foliaged, which, when some mighty wind
Sweeps through the forest, stagger to and fro,
Full soon to fall! A thousand straining eyes,
And utter silence, and suspended breaths,
Are waiting on the contest; till, at last,
By one collected effort whirled amain,
Prostrate the Roman lies. Then all at once
Bursts a loud shout from the rude tribes around,
Mixed with the broad uncultured laugh. Yet one
Stood there, who joined not in the laugh nor shout,
A chieftain of the land! but deeply groaned
Within his inmost soul to mark his race,
Firm as they were of valour and of limb,
Thus to the stranger bowed. Yet wherefore groan?
Finite is human wrong; while Justice holds
Eternally—to balance and redress—
Her righteous scales above.
Not far away,
In modest beauty sat a British maid,
That chieftain's daughter. She nor heard the shout,
Nor marked the triumph. All her thoughts, the while,
Were in the Imperial City; thither led
By tale of young centurion, whose dark plume,
As he bent o'er her, nearer and more near,
Soft-shadowed her sweet face. From him she heard
Of mighty amphitheatres, within
Whose ample bounds a hundred chariots roll;
Then—flooded to broad lakes—a hundred barks
Glide o'er their vast arenas. Passing by,
In pity to that pitying heart of hers,
Combat of man or beast, he spoke of shows
More gentle, that enforced no shuddering ear.
He told her of the nodding elephant,
Huge and compact of bulk, and girt with tower;
And dromedary of ungainly stride;
And still more rare, and stranger still of form,
Camelopard; yet prized for sinuous grace
Of neck, and delicate step, and loving eye,
Mild as her own.
She, with half doubting eyes,
Expanding as he spoke, sat by and listened,
Scarce knowing if she might believe or not;
Hard though it were such speaker not to trust.
Then would he tell her of proud palaces,
Temples, and towers; yet most he loved to speak
Of his own native home, their Sabine farm;
Where still his mother dwelt, 'mid their own fields,
Their fruitful olive trees and tents of vine;
Vaunting his dear Penates; yet therewith
Mingling, as if by chance, some gentle word
Of Cupid and of Hymen.
Thence I turned
To the benign Proconsul. He was one,
Or so imagination loved to feign,
Of Rome's first blood, tracing his lofty line,
Through long-drawn pedigree and consular fast,
To race of Lelius or of Scipio;
And thence fore-born large thoughts to interweave
Of statesman and of sage. Some warrior-pride
He well might feel, beholding all around
His steadfast soldiery, and the strong walls
Of the near city, and those camp-crowned hills,
Plucked from their fierce defenders. Yet his heart
Was gentle, and his mind full-fraught with lore
From history won, and humanized by power
Of mild philosophy; nor lacked he love
For Maro's polished strain, or bolder song
Of old Mæonides. And now, e'en now,
Amid this throng and tumult of the games,
There seemed to flit athwart his pensive brow
Such thoughts, as oft, at eve, will touch the soul
Of him who sojourns in a foreign land.
Say, did he think on his own native Rome
And fallen empires? on Etruria old,
Gone like a dream—on Carthage, vanish'd too—
And the razed walls of proud Jerusalem?
Then ask himself if that barbarian flood,
Rolled from the stormy regions of the North,
Billow on billow, and o'erhanging now
In dread suspense, should yet withhold its wave;
Or burst in vengeance on sweet Italy,
Whelming her ancient glories? Did he muse
How, then, each conquered realm, long tributary,
The Dacian tribes, wide Gaul and mountain-Spain
Should snap their bonds? and e'en this isle remote
Start from its vassalage, perhaps to pluck
Itself—some shred of empire?
Thus far might warn from shrine of thoughtful mind,
Or yet more thoughtful heart, deceiving not.
But not far thoughts, nor deep humanities,
Nor clear experience from old histories won,
Might hint of all the coming. Who might tell
How ships, contemptuous of the guiding shore,
Should breast right onward o'er strange seas, and find
A world as yet unknown; all bold to dare
—Though still beat back—the beakèd promontory,
For ever weltered round by stormy waves,
From which the trireme bark had shrunk amazed?
Then burst on other oceans, all unguessed
Till now, far-spread and thousand-islanded,
Amid new climates and beneath new stars?
Not well-known constellations; not the Twins,
Orion, nor the ancient Pleiades;
But stars yet unbeheld; which when, at first,
The helmsman viewed, he doubted his own eyes,
Perchance grown old, or else with watching worn,
And questioned if he read aright; or if
To mar the boldness of presumptuous man,
Who dared (for so might be) forbidden seas,
The very heavens themselves were changed.
Might'st Thou, Proconsul mild! (albeit full-stored
With lore of statesman, and far-reaching thought)
How might'st thou dream that this barbarian isle,
O'er which it seemed half-exile e'en to rule,
This Britain utterly from the world shut out,
Should rise from strife to strife, from strength to strength,
Foremost among the nations; conquering
O'er lands and seas to which the Roman realm,
In its most lordly day, was but a speck?
That she should shed her laws, her polity,
Her cultured language, and her peaceful arts,
All she had stored from her own toils, and all
That came from Rome or Greece transmitted down,
A glorious gift! o'er half the peopled globe?
There to survive, when she, perchance, may be
What Rome and Greece are now!
Change deep as this,
What oracle might bring thee to believe?
Or that, in tract of time, a day could come,
When, in this very amphitheatre,
A common plant—its lonely tenant now—
By a chance-traveller scanned—should summon up,
To dim the glories of departed Rome,
The mightier marvel of a new-found world?
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.
A Day At Tivoli - Prologue
Fair blows the breeze—depart—depart—
And tread with me th' Italian shore;
And feed thy soul with glorious art;
And drink again of classic lore.
Nor sometime shalt thou deem it wrong,
When not in mood too gravely wise,
At idle length to lie along,
And quaff a bliss from bluest skies.
Or, pleased more pensive joy to woo,
At twilight eve, by ruin grey,
Muse o'er the generations, who
Have passed, as we must pass, away.
Or mark o'er olive tree and vine
Steep towns uphung; to win from them
Some thought of Southern Palestine;
Some dream of old Jerusalem.
Come, Pilgrim-Friend! At last our sun outbreaks,
And chases, one by one, dawn's lingering flakes.
Come, Pilgrim-Friend! and downward let us rove
(Thy long-vow'd vow) this old Tiburtian grove.
See where, beneath, the jocund runnels play,
All cheerly brighten'd in the brightening day.
E'en in the far-off years when Flaccus wrote,
('Tis here, I ween, no pedantry to quote,)
Thus led, they gurgled thro' those orchard-bowers
To feed the herb—the fruitage—and the flowers.
Come, then, and snatch Occasion; transient boon!
And sliding into Future all too soon.
That Future's self possession just as brief,
And stolen, soon as given, by Time—the Thief.
Well! if such filching knave we needs must meet,
Let us, as best we may, the Cheater cheat;
And, since the Then, the Now, will flit so fast,
Look back, and lengthen life into the Past.
That Past is here; where old Tiburtus found
Mere mountain-brow, and fenc'd with walls around;
And for his wearied Argives reared a home
Long ere yon seven proud hills had dream'd of Rome.
'Tis here, amid these patriarch olive trees,
Which Flaccus saw, or ancestry of these;
Oft musing, as he slowly strayed him past,
How here his quiet age should close at last.
And here behold them, still! Like ancient seers
They stand; the dwellers of a thousand years.
Deep-furrow'd, strangely crook'd, and ashy-grey,
As ghost might gleam beneath the touch of day.
All strangely perforate too; with rounded eyes,
That ever scan the traveller as he hies:
Fit guardians of the spot they seem to be,
With centuries seen, and centuries yet to see.
Who treads this pallid grove, by moonlight pale,
Might half believe the peasant's spectre tale
Of Latian heroes old, that come to glide
Along these silent paths at even-tide;
Or Sibyl, wan with ghastly prophecy,
From her near fane, as whilom, wandering by.
But Morning, now, and sunny vines are here,
From tree to tree gay-gadding without fear;
Or else in verdant rope their fibres string,
As if to tempt the little Loves to swing;
Or, tricking silvery head and wrinkled stem
With tendril-curl, or leafy diadem;
A sportive war of graceful contrast wage,
The Grave and Gay—green Youth and hoary Age.
Hence we may feel Resounding Anio's shock,
As his full river thunders from his rock.
Yet mark! meanwhile adown its own small dell
How falls or winds each little cascatelle.
With no rude sound—with no impetuous rush;
But blandly—fondly—or by bank or bush.
Or floats in air; as when mild mermaid frees
(Or so they feign) her tresses to the breeze;
And careless, for a while, of coral bower,
Basks on the sunny sands till noontide's scorching hour.
How sweet! to have such gentle waters near;
Just soothing, ne'er disturbing eye nor ear.
Nor deem I those unblest, whom choice—or fate—
Leads to prefer the Lesser to the Great.
'Repose, thou better privilege than fame.'—
So felt, we know, the great historic name,
Mecænas; he who owned those villa-halls,
All stately once, tho' now but rifted walls.
And hither, wisely truant, oft would come,
Forth from the smokes, the toils, the strifes of Rome.
For, tho' defaced, discolour'd, broken, bow'd,
Yet were they then of gold and ivory proud.
Or far beyond what proudest wealth might do,
From thoughtful art a nobler triumph drew.
There, dark-hued urns, with mythic picture fraught,
Time's treasures! stood, from old Etruria brought;
Which even then had claim'd uncounted date,
When you great Rome was yet a struggling state.
Or marble vases there, in white array,
Beam'd back an added lustre to the day.
Or, better, when the gladly-welcom'd guest
Came to the banquet, rich with every zest,
From lamp of chisell'd bronze, adjusted light
Threw out some Phidian marvel on the night;
Evoking, heightening thus, in form or face,
Each subtler beauty or diviner grace.
Nor yet, when hours of feast had found their close,
Or jaded statesman sighed for short repose,
Was wanting, there, some well-befitting room,
Nor all-too bright, nor quite subdued to gloom,
Whose odoriferous cedar-shelves along
Fair scrolls were ranged; philosophy or song.
There, all our Lost might be. All Livy told,
(Where now?) and all Menander limned of old,
Fresh from the life; with sweet Simonides;
And glorious Sappho, —greater yet than These.
And then, perchance, you small and sinuous rill,
In open day now glittering down the hill,
Slid underground its tube-directed path,
To feed or sculptured fount or perfumed bath.
Their graceful rites, their gorgeous prides are gone;
Their proudest monument a crumbled stone!
Yet if the marble and the bronze decay,
Their storied memories fade not thus away;
But cluster still, tho' dying centuries toll,
Beadrolls for thought, and relics for the soul.
Hence here have bowed, thro' farthest tracts of time,
Genius and Lore, from every cultured clime.
And hence, no less, thro' many a countless year,
Like us, shall unborn pilgrims worship here.
And how may pilgrim stand on spot like this,
Nor feel what flitting wayfarer he is?
Here, where the joys, the griefs, the hopes, the fears,
The busy doings of three thousand years,
Since first Tiburtus made these hills his hold,
Have dreamed their dream, and mingle with the mould.
Men pass like cloud, or wave, or morning dew:
A thought nor very deep, nor very new.
Yet who, as here, shall find him, face to face,
In presence of that Mighty Commonplace,
And not imbibe the moral of the spot,
Accept the general doom—and murmur not?
Yet, if All die, there are who die not All;
(So Flaccus hoped), and half escape the pall.
The Sacred Few! whom love of glory binds,
'That last infirmity of noble minds,
'To scorn delights, and live laborious days,'
And win thro' lofty toil undying praise.
What if for These, now verging to the tomb,
As yet, nor laurels spread nor myrtles bloom;
Proud mortgagees they stand of Fame's estate,
And for the brave reversion bear to wait.
Nay, what tho' never from th' ungrateful soil
Green chaplets spring, for guerdon of the toil;
In calm content their avarice sublime
May well forego those unpaid debts of Time;
Who, e'en while clutching at the generous pelf,
Priz'd ever, most, the virtue for itself.
So go we musing on. But, as we go,
Just glimpse yon lizard frisking to and fro.
Now here—now there—now straightly fixed he lies;
Then turns him sudden in a mock surprise.
Give him this southern wall, this sprightly sun,
And Past and Future are to him as One.
Tell him of either, (for he loves to talk
With loiterer, pausing on his easy walk,)
Tell him of either, and, with eyes that glisten,
And head aslant, awhile he seems to listen,
Then jerks him merry off, as if to say,
'Good Sirs! for me sufficient is the day.'
So, should grave memories ever come to press
Life's present hour with thought of past distress;
Or future years o'erhang us, vague or dim,
Why, we may come and take a hint from him.
And who not thus delights him, who or what,
In such a clime, or animate or not?
These hill-side vines; this wide expanding plain;
These fields—of pasture, here; and there, of grain;
These twisted chesnuts, with their cheery green;
Yon darker cypress, spired above them seen;
Which, many a century, land-mark, there, hath stood,
Self-lifted obelisk, immortal wood;
Those aloes, that with sworded panoply
Still warn the pilgrim, who would dare too nigh;
Yon steeply climbing town; that rocky height;
Seem they not living in the living light?
For each grey flake hath faded from the view,
And all around is one Ausonian Blue.
Not the fresh dawn, not evening's tenderest hour,
Speak to the spirit with a deeper power.
As eye and heart strain up that azure air,
What light—what love—what fixedness is there!
Transient—we know—Eternal—let it seem!
With such blue sky we only ask to dream.
E'en he, (behold! him in that shaggy coat)—
Yon goat-herd, with his only browsing goat,
On the hill-slope; beside that humming stream;
This heaven above; how can he help but dream!
He ne'er was train'd in thronging city vast,
For some huge deck to shape the mighty mast;
To face, in ship, the deadly Afran breeze;
Or drop the anchor deep in Arctic seas,
Like our stern sons. Yet not for this despise,
Albeit in seeming vacancy he lies.
Not idle they the most, who idlest seem;
Nor lost are all the hours in which we dream.
In trade's dim workshops all unused to moil,
Small share is his of luxuries won by toil.
But luxuries he hath not unrefin'd,
That please, perchance, yet more his southern mind.
Mere idlesse pleases; as supine he lies,
And gazing upward thro' the blazing skies,
Wins shifting colours to his dazzl'd eyes;
Or red or azure. And delights to see
The brilliant mockeries as they come and flee;
And wonders, why? Or makes of each a gem,
Such as might grace a pontiff's diadem;
Ruby or sapphire. Strange to me—or you;
But, here, All love this dreamy 'Nought-to-do.'
Or by tradition's tongue, or ruin old,
Of his own land's great deeds hath he been told;
And asks himself, erewhile, with wishful pain,
Why may not those brave days return again?
And tho' still mingling in confusion quaint
Profane and Sacred; Warrior and Saint;
Yet each in turn hath taught him, if need were,
Like This, to suffer—or, like That, to dare.
Think too that These were they, whose flags, unfurl'd
Beneath Rome's eagle crest, once shook the world.
Yon peasant-girl, —you mark'd her where she stood,
In her just pride of conscious womanhood—
(Against yon column now she leans awhile,
Graceful, you'll own, as milkmaid by a stile.)
Behold her in her country's old costume;
Is lady statelier in a palace room?
Too poor, we know; perchance, too inly great,
The town's last mode to wish to imitate.
Barefooted—but with no submissive mien;
In beauty's regal right—a lawful queen.
Such type to Michael's chisel had given a law;
And Raphael's self but painted what he saw.
In region, where not oft the Dryad charms
Town-loving Signor to his woods and farms;
And palaces, within proud city shut,
But rarely neighbour on the peasant's hut;
(He'privileg'd—or doom'd—by lot of birth
To see, but seldom, these the Lords of earth
'Mid equals rear'd, what other should he be
But equal too—a freeman 'mid the free?
Our nobler civil rights to him unknown,
Yet all his social freedom—all his own.
But where wealth's stringent or out-doling hand
From point to point wide stretches o'er a land;
In power or bounty ever seen or felt,
Like lictor's fasces or an almsman's belt;
Tho' order hence, with all its blessings, flow, —
As fertilizing waters guided go—
Yet as, henceforth, we lose the stream that played
Thro' its own runnels, free and not afraid;
So there, by wealth or purchased or controlled,
Word—gesture—look—in native frankness bold—
Are quelled, like sprite, beneath the Wand of Gold.
Again—(prolix beyond the thing I ought,
You kindly bear, and let me speak my thought)
In land—where from the plough men rushed to arms,
Just saved a state, and then re-sought their farms—
I love these breathings free; these heads erect;
I love, in look and speech, this brave neglect.
With ancient memories they better suit
Than balanced phrases or observance mute.
Nay, for a spot like this seem least unmeet,
As in high natures Grand and Simple greet.
Is this the race down-dwindled to a weed?
A rotted trunk? or but a buried seed?
Which, if the storm should rise and floods up-tear
The shrouding soil, and give it back to air,
Shall sprout again; no longer matter brute;
But gladden'd with green leaves and its own glorious fruit.
Oh Italy! if fallen (as some delight
To say thou art), yet fallen from what vast height;
Oh Italy! thou land of memories dear,
Yet not for these alone we prize thee here;
But gladly take thee, with acceptive heart,
Not for thy 'hast been,' but for what thou art.
For who that knows thy seas of brightest wave,
Their shelving shores or rocky steeps that lave;
Thy lakes, 'mid mountains laid, in soft blue length,
Like Beauty guarded at the feet of Strength;
Thy landscape, seen at morn or evening hour,
Town—village—cresting chapel—arch or tower;
Rich art—rich nature—each on each that press,
Till the sense aches with very loveliness;
Thy corn with fruitage mixed; thy realms of vine,
For ever beauteous—if they droop, or twine;
Thy balmiest clime, which daily tasks can leaven
With bliss, from out the common air of heaven;
Man's natural bearing; woman's easy grace;
From very rags—in gesture and in face;
Thy dark-eyed childhood's ever-ready smile
Of playful innocence or playful wile;
Or knows thy human nature's better part,
Swift thought, swift feeling, and the kindly heart;
And knows, beside, what thousand pulses beat
To win thy glories back, with generous heat;
Who but for thee must fervent vows forecast,
And hope thy Future, while he dreams thy Past?
But now 'tis Mid-day! and the deep retreat
Of Anio's grot must shield us from the heat.
'Twas in such deep recess Salvator's touch
Won its dark truth, and Gaspar fed on such.
Lo! the rapt river along its channel'd ledge
Precipitous hurrying to that dizzy edge.
Now, for one breathless moment, high uphung,
Like curled sea-wave; then—forth, as foamy, flung.
Here—in long lance-like flakes—straight down; while, there—
As if were all uncoiled Medusa's hair,
The serpent-waters twirl and hiss in air.
Or else, in black and rocky cauldron bound,
For ever eddy round and round and round;
Wakening the thought, or sadden'd or sublime,
Of endless toil, or never-ending time.
All types from clashing waters—all are here;
All types and all emotions; sound and fear;
Pent agonies, that struggle for relief;
Free gushing tears; dishevelled locks of grief;
Mad angers; sullen pause; re-bursting ire;
With flood still swifter than pursuing fire.
Yet beauty too. But such as poets shed
Round the great vision of that snake-tress'd head,
Perplexing beauty—beauty wreathed with dread.
'Tis a great scene! Yet, not by it opprest,
We feel its greatness in a buoyant breast.
For (not as when some wild Helvetian flood
Dives down its sombre depth of piny wood)
Here, all around, hath Gladness flung her braid
Of green festoons, and scattered light and shade.
Or rather—if the word were fitlier won—
Not shade, but shadow—playmate of the sun.
Gloom glorified! as suits a southern clime;
And (bear the phrase) a Cheerfuller Sublime.
E'en far within the grot Light sports with Dark;
Here—a long arrowy streak; and there—a spark.
If disappearing, soon to re-illume;
Like festive fire-fly, glancing thro' the gloom;
Or old Venetian masquer, richly dight,
Who, 'neath his waxen torches' orange light,
With gems and spangles glitters on the night.
Who, Anio! that hath come, or soon or late,
To this thy shrine, but deems the day—a date;
Whence to recal at will, his whole life's length,
Thy voice—thy speed—thy beauty and thy strength?
Whether thou tinklest from some mountain-rest,—
Thy birth-place—where the eagle builds his nest;
Or cruel bandit plants him; thence to strain
His greedy vision o'er the cowering plain;
Or whether, wandered from thy native hills,
(As strong and stronger grown from clustering rills)
Thou pausest for a while in silent lake,
Where that she-wolf her passing thirst might slake,
Who (prowled to Tiber down and destined thus)
Suckled great Rome in infant Romulus;
Or holdest on by feudal tower, or hall
From Cæsars named, or nameless ruined wall;
Or by quaint villa; such as after days
For Este's princely line made pride to raise;
Where, many a time, thy rushing wave would roll
Intenser power o'er Ariosto's soul;
Brightening, thro' secret sympathies, the lay,
Which here he loved to weave (or so they say);
And which for aye—like thee—shall flow along
As wild—as smooth—as playful and as strong;
Whether thou speak of simple Sabine farms,
Or call, as now, to song—or art—or arms;
Be welcome every dream thou waftest down,
And every tale; but most of old renown.
Tell us of statesman—warrior—bard—or sage—
Wonder or love of many a famous age—
What time, by seas shut in and rocky strand,
And all-undreaming of the Roman brand,
Our Britain lay, a yet unhistoried land.
Hail and Farewell! Resounding Anio!
And now, Fair Stream! with milder current flow
On 'mid thy vines and pasture; till thou come
'Neath the proud walls of twice Imperial Rome.
Thence, with old Tiber, soon to sport thee free
'Mid the blue waters of the Tyrrhene sea.
Thou, Pilgrim-Friend! (we know) wert never one,
Mere idle praiser of the days foregone;
Nor striving still to shroud with poor pretence
Of classic feeling gap of week-day sense;
But ever, in thy wisdom, taking heed
That worthy life is made of daily deed.
And tho' (by shrewd Saint Stephen stolen, of late,
From converse of thy friends—to serve the state)
It thee befits to pay thy studious vow
To Hansard rather than to Livy—now;
Yet hence, methinks, 'tis joyance doubly sweet
In this, the dream-land of our youth to meet;
Together turn again the classic page,
And win us back our boyhood's loftier age;
And church and state for some brief weeks eschew;
And make again this Ancient World our New.
But, here, far back the scroll must be unroll'd;
Here, where ten centuries do not make the Old.
Where old they deem in antiquarian thought
Some work by Ancus or by Tarquin wrought.
That tunnel huge, or prison Mammertine;
Or old may grant the Fabian—Julian—line;
But half a Modern make our Constantine;
And, as they pass his structures, on their way,
Scarce note them—as but things of yesterday.
Small matter! Old or new, we'll list the while,
As Ciceroni teach us—or beguile.
And, if some tales for question seem to call,
In sifting Niebuhr's spite, accept them all.
Where Curtius leapt, believe the very spot;
Or muse with Numa in th' Egerian grot.
Yea—sweet for him, by parent doomed to court—
Unwilling suitor—ancient law-report;
Awhile to snatch him from the hated thrall
Of pleader's desk, or point-contesting hall;
And sweet, not less, for thee, who legislate,
To 'scape committee-room and dull debate;
Corn question—currency—and funded debt;
French marriage—and the treaty of Utretcht;
And leaving—not too long—our own dear land,
To hail—as we of late—the Belgic strand;
Thence, o'er their ill-laid rail, right glad to roll,—
Tho' shaken sore—to this Ausonian Goal.
Not stately Bruges might detain us, now,
Nor Meuse, soft-gliding 'neath her fortress'd brow;
More pleased some while to thrust from off the scene
Battles and sieges, Marlborough and Eugene.
Nay, prizing thee, old Legendary Rhine!
Less for thy legends than thy climbing vine.
Nor yet in famed Helvetia tarrying long,
Tho' there green vales and glittering mountains throng;
And We aye pleased to feel the bosom swell,
By Uris rock, at thought of William Tell.
But onward still our purposed way we take
O'er tall Gothard and by Locarno's lake;
Or climbing slow, or if in full career,
With Rome! Rome! Rome! in heart and eye and ear.
Still thirsting; till at last we came to stand,
Glad Exodites! in it—our Promised Land.
And what our Pisgah view? Crushed piles of state
The walls within; and dun and desolate
Campagna round; with bridge and tower destruct
By age or war; and ruined aqueduct
Athwart the fading twilight. And is this
A Forum? or a vast Necropolis?
Temples—for tombs; a nation's dust beneath;
With silence round, that fears almost to breathe;
And city-solitude, so strangely drear,
The Living seem to have no business—here.
If in some vineyard ground our step be stayed,
Awhile, beside the peasant's delving spade;
(Now—vineyard; once—Patrician's client court,
When that near Forum was a world's resort)
As up and up the rank black mould is cast,
The very earth seems odorous of the Past.
Each after each, behold in turn out-thrown
Tile—faded stucco—scrap of sculptured stone.
Anon—some shattered urn, or broken frieze;
Power—turned to skeleton! His fragments—These.
Ruins and fragments! Is it these that Ye
From your own thriving land come forth to see?
We answer, 'Yea;' these are the things that We
From our own thriving land come forth to see.
We come to see how ancient power may die,
And ponder on a realm's mortality.
Yet, seeing how survive the Good—the Just;
In goodness and in justice learn to trust.
We come, as in fond youth, to sympathize,
Thro' backward ages, with the Great and Wise;
And feel—as then—some throb thro' inner heart,
Where life's low interests claim no smallest part.
We come from restless plan and restless deed,
Ambition's instrument, or habit's need,
To find the Calm which generous leisures give,
And less in act than meditation live.
We come from wit's and jest's enlivening strife,
And all the dearer bliss of household life,
To feed on pensive thoughts; yet not the less
To win a pleasure from our pensiveness.
And if those grave and pensive thoughts (and such
Our case may be) should press the heart too much;
'Twere not so very far to find our way
Mid glorious art, that tells of no decay.
Where beams each high conception just the same
As when from Grecian chisel first it came.
Tho' mortal-born, of beauty that might mate
With archetype celestial increate.
Nay, beauteous more than in their glittering prime,
Tinged softly by the sun-set hues of Time.
Then, if some friend should come, with best intent,
To warn of hours all uselessly misspent;
He too may learn (nor is the lore abstruse)
That uselessness, like this, is noblest use.
That while the busy serfs of wealth and power
Fawn only on the Present's sordid hour,
(No lofty thought or back—or forward—cast)
We pluck our nobler Present from the Past.
Nor pause we there, but, starting forth anew,
From thence shape out a nobler Future too.
This long discourse hath led us far away
'Mid other themes from our Tiburtian day,
But now again, with renovated grace,
We bow before the Genius of the Place,
Full of the scene around; and all-intent,
As slow we travel up this steep ascent,
To win the passing pictures, as they rise
From present hour, or ancient memories.
For here, glance where eye may, or footstep fall,
Or new or old, 'tis picture—picture—All.
This structure near, mere peasant's dwelling-place,
Is not itself without some claim of grace.
Its terraced roof, square tower, and arching gate
To Art, long since, thro' picture consecrate.
For Creed of Art hath not alone to do
With reason'd faith, but with tradition too;
And Beauty's self we hold for most divine,
When Memory stands Priestess at her shrine.
Behold! its sunward wall. How all-ablaze
With one full glow of ripest, yellowest maize;
Whose rich-ribbed cylinders, in order strung,
Seem tassels, for some festal rite uphung.
Or each might be fit cresting ornament
For regal canopy, or warrior-tent.
No brighter hues hath Ceres in her horn;
No cheerier ever broke from saffron morn.
More golden—ne'er from furnace-fires were rolled
Than these, sun-wrought in vegetable gold.
Which almost might requite his absent ray,
Themselves a sun-shine for each clouded day.
While yon ripe gourds, that strew the court-yard floor,
Beam upward, each a mass of glittering ore.
But now, with these our rural splendours done,
And we, like them, full-saturate with sun;
How fresh it is, as, step by step, we mount,
To watch the gushings of that marble fount.
Its cistern—some antique sarcophagus;
(Here, Old and New for ever mingle—thus)
While its raised cup, whenceforth the Naiads toss
O'erbrimming wave, is fringed with greenest moss.
(For, in these lands comes oft from mere neglect,
What art long while might ponder to effect.)
Each pendent tuft, with sparkling spray bedript,
Seems it not emerald, with diamond tipt?
And then those female forms, with braided hair,
And heads erect, that classic urns up-bear;
(From forth whose shapely rims dewed vine-leaves drop;—
Thrust partly in, escaping lymph to stop.)
These, as around the cistern's edge they throng,
Say, might not These to Grecian Art belong?
Whoe'er from life's mere prose awhile would flee,
Should roam with us this land of reverie.
Where museful fancy needeth not the aid
Of cloister dim, or silent colonnade,
Or solitary shore, or moonlight glen,
But meets her visions 'mid the haunts of men;
And feels in broadest sun-light round her stream
From every waking fact some answering dream.
And how that lofty Past exalts the Now!
That churl—a Cincinnatus at the plough!
Yon kite, slow circling up the Blue—afar—
An augury! or be it peace or war.
Those very geese, out clamouring, one and all,
The Sacred Birds that saved the Capitol!
And lo! thro' yonder arch those oxen twain;
On slowly swaying that grape-loaded wain.
Right goodly creatures, beautiful to view!
Dark-hoofed—dark-maned—the rest of creamy hue;
With large soft eyes. All soft as Here's were,
('Tis Homer's simile, so we may dare)—
When their pride slept, and love alone was there.
Now, thro' the spacious court behold they go;
Now, pause beside the pillared portico.
With foliage drest, and that rich ruby freight,
Nay—draw they not, in sacrificial state,
A Bacchic offering to some temple's gate?
Mark the broad wheels—but two! That yoking bar,
Just as of old! No wain—but ancient car!
And they, above the piled up grapes who ride,
Their naked limbs with purpling vintage dyed,
The Fauns! And here, ere long, the rest shall be:
Look with poetic eyes and thou shalt see
Bacchante lithe; and jesting Satyr near;
With broad Silenus, staggering in the rear,
Tho' doubly propped; while gay goat-footed Pan
'Mid pipe and cymbal triumphs in the van.
Then that old Crone, with lifted tambourine,
Which still she smites; and some strange rhythm between,
Or, rather, mixed; while to the double sound
A dark-tress'd girl is dancing round and round,
That Crone, with hair unkempt, yet scarce uncouth,
(So well it suits) and that fore-thrusting tooth,
Keen—almost prescient—tooth of prophetess;
(A flitting fancy, which I may not press)
That Crone shall be our Sibyl! And that Girl,
Still hurried round and round in dizzier whirl;
With her wild eye almost to frenzy fired,
(Such look in Delphi had been held inspired)
And flashing locks, and every flashing limb,
She shall be Priestess! and that Song—the Hymn!
And wherefore, 'No?' Why may not this be chaunt
From Pythian tripod or Dodona's haunt?
For, as some stream, by ancient fragments hid,
From earthquake—flung; or mighty hill—down slid;
(That cumber, many a league, the valleys round
With huge grey rock or grass-grown earthy mound
Still holds its silent way 'neath all that hides,
Then at some far-off point once more outglides,
Another stream; another, yet the same;
E'en those, who quaff, may guess not whence it came;
No otherwise this mystic rhythm may flow,
Far winding on, from ages long ago;
Some Grecian chaunt, its secret course unknown,
And heard, at last, in region not its own.
Old customs die not, but sprout forth again;
The names distorted, while the things remain.
Fane, 'Church' baptized, sees new-named votaries vow,
And old Chief Augur is Prime Pontiff, now.
E'en Jove himself, Great Jove Capitoline,
Rules in strange semblance o'er a later shrine.
His twice-fused bronze transformed, by pious feint,
From Pagan Deity to Christian Saint.
At this you smile; and who would smile refuse?
But when the smile is o'er, 'twere well to muse.
Olympian Zeus, upon his golden throne;
Calm Pallas, glorious in her Parthenon;
Or rudest Sibyl, from her rocky cave,
Mid spiky aloes, issued forth to rave;
Or curling smokes, o'er Judah wont to rise
From bull or goat, in barbarous sacrifice;
These, for rank falsehoods, while the most eschew,
In stern contempt for Gentile and for Jew;
These, for imperfect truths, let us accept;
Instalments of the universal debt;
Acknowledgment, we know, far off and dim;
Yet, not the less, acknowledgment of Him,
'In every age, in every clime adored;
(So sang the bard,) Jehovah—Jove—or Lord.'
This preachment o'er, (which yet you mildly bear,
Of preachments all-impatient as you are),
Yon church, whence now intones the holy mass,
If so you please, we'll enter as we pass.
For churches here (with reverence be it said)
Are not too holy held for week-day tread.
But each, at will and unrebuked for wrong,
May come and muse their column'd aisles along:
And some high influence win, or grave delight
From picture, incense, or the chaunted rite;
Or find fit hour, as every passing day
Its joy or sorrow brings—to praise or pray.
But now with festal silks the shafts are bound,
And glittering fringes edge the arches round.
Of granites red, or cippolino grey,
Or carvings quaint, small sight for us—to-day.
We quarrel not. There are, we know, who hate,
Or half unchristian deem such pious fête.
Yet silvered Saints, and Virgin fancy-drest
For peasant-worshipper may be the best.
Rare entrance his, or none, thro' palace gate;
Be this his palace hall—his room of state.
Or let him bring his humble sorrows here,
Secure, at least, of one Great Listener's ear.
These types, so falsified, from earliest youth
Have been to him the very types of truth;
And his own toil hath helped the monthly dole
That gilds the shrine, and bids the organ roll.
Worships—like tastes—have each their power and tone;
Church ne'er was meant for Dilletant' alone.
And Christians, such as would all rites confine
To their own forms, are Christians none of mine.
Then spare him, Critic! as he kneels in this
His ill-drest fane, and loves for God's—and his.
'Of all the ills unhappy mortals know,
A life of wandering is the greatest woe.'
So thought Ulysses; but we think not so.
And blest it is, with pilgrim-staff in hand,
At our own will to roam each ancient land,
(Of which in school-boy volume first we read,
Yet never dared to hope our feet should tread)
And test with manhood's sense the dreams of youth,
Nor lose the vision, and yet win the truth.
If nature-led; to track with pleasant pains
Their mountain-wilds and cultivated plains.
If student; in some shy monastic crypt,
To try old text by new found manuscript.
If vowed to art; its each attempt explore,
From primal Ægypt, or the Xanthian shore,
To where in Greece it triumphed; deified
And deifying; then like mortal died.
In this bright land again to spring to life,
And strive again; scarce conquered in the strife.
But he who to the land, that sent him forth,
Brings back but this, brings product little worth.
Huge virtuoso—true! But driveller blind
Beside the larger soul—the deeper mind—
Which, learning man, hath learnt to love mankind.
Our hostel hold us now; not undistrest
By pleasant toil; for pleasures must have rest.
Here, sit—or sleep—or scrawl the pane—your fill;
Or rhyme—like me, (against Minerva's will!)
Who for sublimer flight nor bold nor strong,
May just achieve to journalize in song.
Yet for brief space. For now, it seems, we dine:
Lo! here, wild boar—and, here, Falernian wine;
With figs—ripe grapes—and rarest wheaten bread.
And who may tell but here the board was spread
For genial Flaccus and for Maro—thus—
Two thousand years ago, as now for us?
Just fancy! when they sat, as here we sit,
The frolic—and the wisdom—and the wit.
And here came he, the blood of ancient kings,
To find the joyance equal converse brings.
With them gay chatting, as the whim might be,
Of one's arch Phillis, one's sweet Lalage.
Or last year's visit to Bandusia's fount;
Or journey planned to yon Soractes' mount.
Or laughing back, with still-recurring glee,
Those sparkling days from Rome to Brindisi.
Here too the Cæsar might consort with them;—
His Purple laid aside and Diadem—
Well-pleased, amid their talk and easy cheer,
To glimpse his own great Rome—yet feel it not too near.
What glimpse (had glimpse been given) of years to come!
The conquering Goth; and that twice pillaged Rome.
Gone! eagles—banners—lances—lictors' rods;
The temples crumbling o'er their crumbled Gods.
All steadfast as they seemed, his ancient stock
Uprooted from their Capitolian rock.
The far-off realms, they swayed but with the sword,
Crouched at a swordless pontiff's slightest word.
Their mighty palace (of each glory reft,
Nor marble frieze, nor porphyry pillar left;
Nor floor, as once, with rich mosaic spread;
Nor hues cerulean arching overhead)
Roofless and void; and only, now, renowned
As larger ruin 'mid the ruins round.
The baths with rubbish choked; the fountains dry;
The green acanthus, as in mockery,
(And wild, as when by chance in wicker sown,
It gave, of old, its graceful hint to stone)
Wandering, at will, amid those very halls,
Where once 'twas carved for golden capitals.
Some lingering terrace but a loftier spot,
Whence to discern that his own Rome was not.
Thee, Flaccus! the self-promised not to die,
A kindlier star hath sped thy prophecy.
Or song itself fulfils its own desire;
Realms fade away, and dynasties expire;
Yet on from age to age sounds thine—with Maro's lyre.
But here, by rightful and peculiar lot,
Ye hover most, the Genii of the spot.
Of memory—vision—feeling—thought—a part;
Heard from each lip, or borne in every heart.
Brave bliss! What braver may to bard belong?
Save its own joy from self-requiting song.
Diverse the strains. Yet would we figure how
Together oft ye trod this favorite brow.
Not now in jocund converse, as of late,
But each his inner theme to meditate.
Thou, it might be, some polished lyric verse;
Now, fondly dallying; now, brightly terse.
Or precept, each with its own wisdom rife,
That models—here—a poem; there—a life.
Or else wouldst hie thee to the busy street,
To sketch some silly pride or grave conceit.
Then round to us the playful picture turn,
And bid us in that glass ourselves re-learn.
Meanwhile (so dream we on) the Mantuan Bard
To yon tall peak hath paced the silent sward.
Thenceforth to scan, in prospect calm and free,
The various plain, from hill to circling sea.
Pale region, now; with culture ill be-sped;
Then, one wide Georgic, bright beneath him spread.
Or, not unprompted by that far sea-line,
Would ponder o'er th' Eneian tale divine;
Till clear before him, and in perfect plan,
The Heroic Vision stood — 'Arms and the Man.'
Once more I move you (our third flask is done,
And lo! the shadows lengthen in the sun)
To view yon time-hued fane, at this soft hour,
When eye and spirit best may feel its power.
Laud we the Gods! No connoisseur is near,
With his clipp'd talk our frank delight to sear.
Who, while a thousand admirations crave,
Still harps and harps on arch and architrave;
And, vowed to his five orders, fain would school
Our kindling spirits with his three-foot rule.
Scarce more, if we might choose our time and place,
Here would we wish that nobler critic race,
Esthetical; who stand on tiptoe still,
And see far less with eyesight than with will.
Would-be discoverers, on vague voyage bent;
Interpreters 'of meanings never meant;'
Of the true creed, but whose ecstatic faith
O'erpasseth ever what the Gospel saith;
These, while the smaller critics tease or vex,
With their dim dreams disturb us—or perplex;
Or, if such comment sound not civil quite,
Daze out our clearness with their too much light.
Digressive thus, ere passing thoughts be gone,
I crave your leave, and idly ramble on,
(You still indulging) till I bring you near
Our famous temple—and behold it!—here.
Amid these varying tales of ruin old,—
Some, scantly gathered up; some, falsely told—
Sibyl's or Vesta's we may hardly tell:
But he, who first devised, devised it well,
Here, where it stands, with circling columns bound,
And placed—how calm! above the gulf profound,
To tame these rugged rocks—this torrent's stress—
With power of Beauty and of Gentleness.
So might we feign, some fair high-lineaged queen
Rules o'er a raging crowd with look serene.
So too, when some great Master hath designed
To paint in human form th' Eternal Mind;
And humbly dares essay that lofty brow,
Which holds the Past—the Future—and the Now;
Awhile we pause before his art severe;
Then, reverent bend; yet less in love than fear.
But when, ere long, around those awful brows
In graceful curve his cherub-group he throws;
Each with its little arms—beneath—above—
Outstretch'd to clasp, and childhood's look of love;
Behold! those awful brows no longer lower,
But Sense of Love hath soothed the Sense of Power.
So—Pilgrim-Friend! our pleasant day is sped:
'To-morrow, to fresh woods;' to-night, to bed.
Yet from these heights throw one more glance abroad,
And some few moments dream with dreamy Claude.
Beneath—are field and stream and lake and wood,
And site, where ancient city stands—or stood.
Around—the hills. That—here—in bay recede,
As if for nestling culture taking heed;
Or boldly—there—indent the level plain,
Like promontory pronged into the main.
As parts for other clime th' unwilling day,
See! how that far Campagna sinks away.
A sea of purpled land, now, seems to be;
Now, scarce distinguished from the purple sea.
E'en while we gaze, how vanish on the view
Each bright—each fair—each fading—faded—hue!
A pensive light, while aught of light remains;
Then—pensive veil for these Deserted Plains!
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.
Rhymed Plea For Tolerance - Dialogue Ii.
By no faint shame withheld from general gaze,
'Tis thus, my friend, we bask us in the blaze;
Where deeds, more surface-smooth than inly bright,
Snatch up a transient lustre from the light.
Yet as rich hues, in loom of nature spun,
The rose itself, will fade in torrid sun;
Or diamond to vapour fleet away,
In the fierce furnace of the focal ray;
True virtues thus, of finer frame or hue,
In that unnatural glare of public view,
Their beauty lose—and lose their essence too.
Applause least wins, where hearty thoughts engage,
'Tis the mere Actor frets him for a Stage.—
Nor Man alone now strives for saintly fame,
The passion steals o'er many a gentle Dame;
And faith, that once held timid course—to pray,—
Now throbs in furious lust of public sway.
How could I dream, that thou shouldst e'er affect,
Gay, flirting Phyllis, leadership of sect?
Frank and fond-hearted then, if not discreet;
The censor now, and terror of the street.
Yet, Phyllis, by thy new evangelism
Though puzzled sore, I never called it schism.
Knelt at thy bible-rout, where chairs were hassocks,
And petticoats expounded texts—like cassocks;
With penny contributions wage no war,
Nor breathed one comment on thy ball-bazaar.
If thoughts will rise, when simpering Rosa barters
For coin of whisker'd cornet ladies' garters;
If gallopade be scarce a saint-like frolic,
And waltz, though winning, hardly apostolic;
Earth thus for heaven to tax may yet be meet,
Odour of gain, spring whence it will, is sweet;
And if, in sooth, sprout forth some small abuses,
Yet all come sanctified to pious uses.
License thus far, far Saint, my creed accords—
But blame I must that tongue, 'whose words are swords.'
If holier now, dear Phyllis, than of yore,
And great the gain—be tolerant yet the more;
For of all humours by which soul is crost,
A piety, turned acrid, cankers most.—
Melancthon! well didst thou thy mother sway
To keep her aged feet in the old way;
With life's first lights to cheer its evening gloom,
And drop, in placid temper, to the tomb.—
As quiet leaf, that sleeps on summer trees,
Will turn and tremble to the awakening breeze;
As glassy lake, that wood and sky reflects,
Or ruin, boast of ancient architects,
Let the gale rise, and clouds come clustering o'er,
With wave upheaved runs darkening to the shore;
Sensitive Woman thus (as some have thought,
With sympathies, yet more than logic, fraught,)
O'er her sweet rest should winds of doctrine blow,
Quick as the leaf, will vibrate to and fro,
Or break from anchorage, where she rode at ease,
And whelm her own, and wreck her household's peace.
And yet Devotion, though from high her birth,
Was made to dwell amid the ties of earth,
And, with her own melodious prayer to blend
All gentle names of family and friend.
And if not always in her eager ears
Responses ring, immediate from the spheres,
Yet sweetest echoes back from earth are given,
That if not heavenly all,—still speak of heaven.
But, Woman, Thou, who o'er the craving soul
Would'st nought but heaven's unmingled music roll;
Thou, soon or late, shalt feel th' o'erwrought desire
On the strained strings or languish or expire;
And then Hypocrisy—forgive the word—
Steals in and—for Devotion—smites the chord;
Or through that gentle breast, by stealth, in glide
The vexing demons of Dispute and Pride.
Ah! then, when daily joys less fondly press,
When Sister—Friend—or Husband win thee less,
Through thine own bosom stern inquiry move,
And sift, if this, indeed, be Holy Love!
Giver of gifts! Disposer of my life!
Oh! save me from a Controversial Wife!
Each Gospel lesson be it her's to prize,
But more its Duties than its Mysteries;
Her sigh to guilt,—her tear to suffering given,—
And, night and morn, her own sweet prayer to heaven;
But let no demon tempt her to the claim
Of Parlour-Disputant's ill-sorted fame;
Such theologic triumphs all not worth
One happy household-look—one quiet evening hearth.
Thou Faith, with whom, when purest,—group unriven—
Link Charity, for earth—and Hope, for Heaven—
(Group lovelier than those favourite Three of Jove,
By fabling chisel wreath'd for classic love
Before whose upward glances, glory-fraught,
Words quail, and faints the ineffectual thought;
Yet, downward from that high communion sped,
Then, sweetest Comforter of sorrow's bed;
'Tis thine in human hearts, unforced, to grow,
Dropt gently in from all we see and know;
And, of all earthly spots, thou lov'st to dwell,
Unvex'd, in home affection's tranquil cell.
To thee, plain prayer—proud mass—each varying toll—
All are but types, whose essence is the soul;
Tests—synods—these thy spirit loves, nor lacks,
But warder's bolt abhors and lictor's axe.
Louis, by servile France misnamed the Great,
(In France when kingship stood at higher rate)
Say, could he hear, where now, most Stately Shade,
He loves to plan some Stygian masquerade;
—Or, following up the bent of mortal will,
Along Cocytus weaves the grave quadrille;
—Or rather, leaving now that fabled plain,
To take, as suits our theme, a graver strain;—
Say—would he still his earthly dogmas hold?—
And meek, yet steadfast faith, and conscience bold,
These would he deem that Kings—that God—should pay
With dragonnades on earth and pains for aye?
Or of a wise Repentance feel the weight,
And o'er each bitter edict weep—too late?
Ye who on mortal man temptations shower,
One trial spare, and prove him not with Power!
For, as changed soil still modifies the seed,
As clime adds fierceness, gentleness, to breed;
As chemists mark, when like approaches like,
How strong affinities will rush to strike;
As generous wine that makes the cheerful glad,
Transforms the dull to stern—the wild to mad;
So Faith, in harsh or gentle bosom sown,
Shapes here a Calvin—here a Fénélon—
Him who his Lord's own spirit seemed to wake,
And him, who burned Servetus at the stake.
'Mighty, we shout, is Truth, and must prevail,'
Nor, till the glove be thrown, begin to quail.
Then in her scutcheon we suspect a flaw,
And harness, for the battle, strong in law;
And as the doubtful duel draws more near,
More doubt the verdict of the Ithuriel spear;
'List some stout Pleader—Second for the fight,
And pack a jury—to decide the right.
Yet Truth from Themis asks nor sword nor mace,
Give but the quiet balance in their place.
Who with brute force her temperate cause defends,
Her plaint must bide—'Protect me from my friends;'
And thence may ponder on His patient word,
Who bade the hot disciple 'Sheath his sword!'
Beneath the proud Pantheon's girdling dome
When found all vagrant Deities a home,
From some fond votary each received a prayer,
And Nemesis and Até had their share.
But when that vast idolatry was gone,
And Faith, less darken'd, worshipp'd but the One,
To Him each worshipper, in selfish guise,
Transferred his favourite Virtue or his Vice.
In Love, Love found his godhead.—The Severe
Felt not the Love, and bowed alone to Fear.
Each culled some different text—Self-Will to stay—
Or read the self-same text—a different way.
So—Passions still were Deities—and Schism,
As free to choose—but sourer Pantheism;—
And hence 'twixt sect and sect, when strifes arose,
And banded Converts widened off to Foes,
The scornful Sadducee would jeer amain
At Discord and the Furies come again!
Thus Doctrines, rebel natures meant to bind,
Themselves, more oft, are govern'd by each Mind,
Most have two Creeds.—The one from Ritual known,
The other, Temper-moulded, and our own.—
Reason may balance with her patient poise,
But Temper-creeds admit no compromise.
—As Friends, far sundered by the Atlantic main,
To friendship cling, and sigh to meet again;
Yet when to Village Neighbourhood they draw,
Like other neighbours, stickle for a straw;
So minds that muse, with no unkindly heed,
Where mountain doubts divide, on distant creed;
Let but some two approach so near together,
Mere feather parts, will quarrel for that feather;
And fume that, won almost to concert pitch,
Accord should there, abruptly, make its hitch.
Some from themselves wide differing, yet sincere,
Swerved by disturbing fancies, swiftly veer;
Or if, like Saurian monsters, turned with pain,
Once turned—dart forward fiercely straight again;
Now grasp the Whole, now some stray Scrap recal,
(For Text or Context oft is difference all)
Yet, Bosom-pride of every change the root,
For each would Suffer, or would Persecute;
—Had Martyrs or Inquisitors become,
And dared—or lit—your fires, Madrid and Rome.
The Goule—'tis story of Arabian strain—
Her rice picked up with bodkin, grain by grain;
And nature thus, we scarce know why, imparts
Her needle intellects and pin-point hearts—
We scarce know why, unless her aim hath been
Word-Critic shrewd, or Theologian keen,
Who, dull to what precedes, or follows next,
Clips out his Godhead from some single text.
Seize we, with wider scope, the Gospel's Whole,
Flux dim with clear, and fuse along the soul.
Then—when our Form beams forth, of perfect mould,
And not one drossy fragment specks its gold;
—Then, let Comparison together strike
This and That Image—and oh! how unlike.
So Scripture text may serve man's Mortal Foe,
So Scripture text hath wrought our weal or woe;
Now interceding Saint, that leads to God,
Hired Bravo now, that stabs at Hatred's nod.
He least perplexed through discrepance shall move,
Who makes his running comment—Christian Love.
B.— But now, concede, we neither hang nor burn;
Tests are mere Forms.—From ours you'll scarcely turn.
What Virtue—Wisdom—own, if Thou reject,
Of Prejudice—of Pride—thyself suspect.
A.— But where Compliance helps to mend our store,
'Twere wisdom to suspect ourselves yet more.
—All courtesy to faith of foeman shown,
I deem not well to parley with our own.
Nor well to pledge, where Tests—grown Forms—disjoin
The inward Spirit from the outward Sign;
For that first Insincerity, confess'd,
Sheds its far tinge of Doubt on all the rest.
Who Truth on Falsehood builds, with idiot hand
But piles his granite on a shifting sand.
Bold Gelon, called at length to pastoral cares,
Sifts through the test he scorns and stoutly swears.
Servio, with wiser heart, if weaker head,
To 'scape dilemma, gulps the oaths unread.
Whoe'er to 'sticking place' his heart would screw
For Faith, or Fair,—at least should deem them true.
Worn Creeds have pluck'd new strength from rival Schism,
But die beneath a bought Indifferentism.
Why must Authority on oaths insist,
When thus we take and break them, as we list?
And where the justice of a penal due,
That holds the frank and lets the cunning through?
Reared up in Paley's qualm-controlling school,
Our good old Granta's comfortable rule—
You say Subscription scarce was meant to bind—
But is there here no martyrdom of mind?
Accept—and lurks no Snare for conscience by?
Refuse—and threats no starving Penalty?
If now no Alva torture for the state,
Is there no Alva in a private Hate?
No Force, when lacking plaint of guiltier deed,
We criminate a neighbour for his Creed?
That neighbour on thy manor starts a doubt,
Or from thy favourite vestry votes thee out.
The law forbids to stab the man or stone.—
Hint him not Orthodox, thy work is done.
Let honest fools cry, 'Shame.' Thou, unperplexed,
Shalt show good warrant in some twisted text;
Whilst hand with thine each coward foe shall link,
With Thee combining,—if like Him they think.
Perchance, the very Courts shall help thee through;
For truth and justice have, long since, been two.
Lo! where yon Pleader-knave—Paine's perfect growth—
With well-fee'd horror probes some Sectary's oath.
With 'Sir, you this reject'—or 'this believe.'
(The judge—perchance—no stickler in his sleeve
Then doffs that mask devout—just one hour worn—
For curse habitual, and a sceptic scorn.
And who but grieves, when dooms dogmatic part
From Priesthood's lip—more rarely from his heart;
To that, more oft, some milder reading taught
By gentle nature, or by critic thought.
What though his voice subdued, and shrinking eye
Speak word and thought contending inwardly;
What though, stern Athanase, (if Sainted once,)
Thy curses win from Mercy no response;
Yet, dropped on soil of Ignorance or Pride,
To Hate they spring, and man from man divide;
Of old—to pyre of martyrdom gave birth,
Now agonise some dear domestic hearth,
When son or husband, starting from the thrall,
Incredulous hates—then madly doubts of all.
Where Bigotry in voice of vengeance speaks,
Himself fore-slays the very end he seeks.
Some kneeling Faith near Tolerance still is found,
Intolerance wafts Scepticism round;
Or else to other folds drives clean away
Whom sophist tongues had never lured to stray.
Benign examples, on which all may look,
Plead more for creed than preachment or than book,
Of many a rising schism repress the spark,
Or win the rebel back and save the ark.
—Yet, spite of time and trial, still the same,
Our explications and our oaths we frame;
Frame for eternity!—though every year
Steal silent on, its own Interpreter.
The Forms meanwhile remain, a seemly crust,
Till some Chance hurtle—and the things are dust!
Like dust or petty nuisance scorned; but yet
Potent, till then, to torture or to fret.
Lore, from calm bowers, by Cam and lsis laved!
Lore, by fond Youth with cheated transport craved!
'Tis yours to lure the young Enquirer on,
Through many a path, that tracks from ages gone,
Till, where Thought's vistas open yet more free,
Subscription blocks the way—and bans Degree;
And, while a thousand powers of prospect stir,
Would strain to beg some loop-hole glimpse from Her.
Who crouches through that low and narrow door,
To him his Fate cries sternly—'Think no more.'
Hard to abstain, but perilous to press,
Where after-thought may bring 'the more or less';
And Thou be held, as fast or loose thy thrall,
Socinian here—there Evangelical.
If Thought will rise, let Thoughtlessness dispute it;
A strenuous idler, fiddle it, or flute it;
Be wise in tulips, learned on a haunch—
Your little Thinker is the truly Staunch;
Or better—let thy life with deeds be fraught,
Such as heaven loves—but still abstain from Thought!
Beneath the surface of yon level deep
Lurk rifting rocks, and gulfing currents sweep.
And what are Creeds, planed down by State Decree,
But the smooth treachery of a summer sea?
This Leo learned, Rome's Pilot, to his cost,
When half his freight of ancient faith was lost.—
And now, scarce less, a strange horizon lowers,
And Change, His church that wreck'd, may burst on Ours;
Burst, as of old, like Luther's lightning shock,
The fold half-crush, and dissipate the flock.
Hence more, as earthly meed may seem less sure,
Cleanse we our faith;—for honest held, if poor.
Soldier, for conscience his good sword who draws,
Should have to boast, at least, a sterling cause.
That scattered creeds shall scarce converge to one,
If observation, century-school'd, have shown;
As adders deaf to each dogmatic word,
Nor much conciliated by the sword;
'Twere now as well another course to trim,
If not for wisdom, merely for the whim;
And since Authority so long hath tried,
And failed at last—take Tolerance for a guide.
But if Authority we needs must have,
With rod to smite and fetter to enslave;
Her let me worship, venerably old,
Tiara-bound, and vesture starred with gold;
And hear—'mid crosses, shrines, her anthems roll,
And incense breathe, at once, through sense and soul;
As tost, in fragrant wreathings, to and fro,
Amid the pictured dreams it lingers slow
Of thoughtful Raffaelle or vast Angelo.
Blind wisdom theirs, who bade old Harshness stay,
And Beauty—half that soothed it—tore away.
—Plain English Scripture doth right well for me;
But if its blessed meanings still must be
Read in another's sense—mine strictly bound—
Me then let loftier Latin peal around,
Where antique mass intones its deep delight,
And far tradition rules, in Reason's spite.
Ye Senator-Economists, who plan
Substantial blessings for Elector-man;
Embodying each your own, or prompter's scheme,
Canal or corn law—currency or steam;
For one brief hour, these loftier cares at rest,
Weave one poor speech, to plead for Minds Opprest.
Let trade, if so ye deem, unfetter'd be,
But leave the Conscience, like the trader, free.
Tithes—and tithe-proctors, if ye will, control,
But dogmas harsh, not less, that tithe the soul.
Let Charity no more be ruled a sin,
Nor Justice, but by license, smuggled in;
Nor holy rights of Tolerance left to guess,
But Love, like Hate, by statute taught express.
Disused though long, impeach her not of loss,
But trumpet-sound her, at the public Cross;
—Yet not for dole, at will withheld, or given,—
But birth-right, like the genial air of heaven.—
If round us yet ancestral rancours throng,
To you, ye Senates, half pertains the wrong;
—But ill a backward legislation suits,
The law 'twas Orpheus gave, and not the Brutes.
B.— Yet ours is 'Toleration practical'—
A.— If fit the freedom, why retain the thrall?
—Rightful our Creed, like ancient Christian men
Why strained to hide and worship in a den?
—Why still condemned beneath your sway to pine?
Speak, Athanasius! speak, ye Thirty-nine!
Wise is it, thus to bid us weep or laugh?
Half to perplex and turn to bigots half?
While of old disputants on our free sense
Ye harness thus the hates or the pretence,
Ye too, like charioteers who curb and strain,
May chance, when least ye fear, to snap the rein.
Of tangled problems why thus large your list?
Christian to be must each turn casuist?
By cobweb clues how hard our way to find!
'Tis not with gossamers we lead the blind;
And, left to hair-split logic's breaking line,
What Theseus-Faith may triumph o'er the mine?
Your zig-zag ray distracts our straight desire,
Or tempts, like ignis fatuus, to the mire;
Light would ye proffer—let it aid—not mar,
To focus drawn and fixed as polar star,
Nor hard to find, and never kindled hot,
To martyrize dim sight which finds it not.
Thee, Charity, did peace-persuading Paul
Wisely prefer, the rarest gem of all;
For Alms he knew, full oft, the gifts of Pride,
And Faith, erewhile, by Selfishness supplied;
—But thee, of Meekness born, and Self-control,
The very scarcest product of the soul.
In strife apart our other Virtues flee,
When not in sister union held by Thee;
And, breaking from their old harmonious chime,
Jar, in each other's ears, like Guilt or Crime;
But where thy presence is, there all the rest
Cluster in Love, and that one spot is blest.
And proofs have been, if ancient tale may move,
Of Faith unconquered and unconquered Love;
Who, trailed amid the Arena's brutal crew,
Died for belief, and prayed for those who slew;
And still of these, though much in sooth they fail,
Fragments are found to win us to the tale.
As when some mighty tree hath met the shock
Of storm or axe; a ruin—or a block;
Though high in air no more its branches toss,
The wreck remains—to tell how vast it was.
'To tame the proud—the fettered slave to free,
These are imperial arts and worthy thee.'
Allow me, thus, in English phrase to quote,
When 'glorious John' translates what Virgil wrote.
Nor ill, in truth, some loftier virtues throve,
When bowed the darkened world to Gentile Jove;
Nor were long years, ere purer faith was born,
Of household loves and duties all forlorn;
And every land hath known, since first it saw
Seed cast on furrow, wise restraint of Law;
—But—Humbled Heart! that lesson first was given
In Galilee; to temper sterner leaven,
Make Heaven of Earth; then lead from Earth to Heaven.
Thence Virtue—not to Action prompted less,—
Yet harder glory won from Passiveness;
And, peacefully sublime, brooked sweetly, there,
Her doubled task—to Do and to Forbear.
—Oh! bitter produce of that Christian tree,
For Loving kindness and for Charity!
One sheltering sky—one earth to feed the root—
The Brethren pluck—and Hatred is the fruit!
The pious bandit thus, Abruzzi's son,
His dagger bears and crucifix in one;
The point full sharp for deeds of blood and guilt,
And our meek Saviour carved upon the hilt.
—With differing optics earth and sky we view,
And what to Me is dark, beams bright to You.
Nay things, the very same to sight confest,
With differing impulse strike upon the breast.
Say then, if Outward Forms,—the plainest speech
Of nature, various aspects yield for each;
If mountain peak, and forest's deep abyss,
To thee indifferent, mould another's bliss;
How then may Mere Conceptions, clear far less,
To all alike conveyed, alike impress?
Of Will, of Thought, the measure who shall find,
Or strain one dogma on each varying mind?
When from our North the Zephyr-breeze shall blow,
And Tides flow equalised, nor high, nor low;
On the lithe Pard when shows each spot alike,
And with one colour eyes from Beauty strike;
Then bring the pattern of thy Choosing Wit,
And bid all human race conform to it.
Or rather, as each herb selects from earth
The vital food that fosters best its birth;
Even so, let Individual Minds drink in
The nurture to their spirit most akin;
Freely by each his own calm progress won,
And—of Faith's 'many mansions' found the One.
Then ceaseless why, in village and in town,
'Twixt sect and sect, dispute of up and down?
With secular why mix religious strife,
To add one pang the more to worried life?
If coming worlds at pleasure we divide,
In this why walk not kindly, side by side?
In guild why thus contentious ever meet?
Why thwart our pavement? why not light the street?
B.— But Faith is Will.
A.— So taught Bray's easy Vicar,
And innocently wondered folk should bicker;
—Next, held each stickler-obstinate,—not dim—
Last, hated all, no weathercocks, like him.
—Oh! milky maxim! And not his alone,—
Now Metaphysic claims it for his own;
And having twisted,—doubted,—talked,—his fill—
Decrees, at last, dogmatic, 'Faith is Will.'
—And when the crowd, of old, was clustering thick
Round the last throb of dying Heretic,
Inquisitors, I ween, might well instil
The very self-same maxim, 'Faith is Will.'
—Convenient phrase! that serves his several turn,
Who wills to flatter, or who wills to burn!
Or saves the brambled foot from thorns that goad,—
Of our Theology the Royal Road!
On crust-when Stoic dined, in robe of stuff,
'Tenacious! Just!' the phrase went well enough;
But, for a race 'mid silks and clarets cast,
Trite is the maxim, and the mode o'erpast.
To him, who wills a borough or a place;
To him, who wills a living from His Grace;
—Wills, for his son, a rich and pious wife;
Or, for himself, unpersecuted life
Or him, whose heart and brain, tired fairly out,
Will sweet repose from logic and from doubt;
I too, well pleased to thrive and to be still,
I too, full oft could echo—'Faith is Will'—
Though checked, as oft, by him, whose honest heart
To Conscience clings, and spurns the Trimmer's part.
Where varying Creeds diverge, like vista-views,
In separate lines, and Thought stands free to choose,
If honest Prejudice oppose some hill
To block the best—thus far let Faith be will.
But hold no commune with that Faith polite,
Which, knowing black for black, would will it white;
And taunts each slower creed which dares gainsay,
Or clasps not yet, her option of to-day,
And feasts with every rite in every grove,
And veers by turns to Titan and to Jove.
Not Swallows, whom the instinct of the year
Convenes for flight, with swifter motion veer,
When all the tiny birds in long array
First cloud with cindery wing the clear blue day,
Then, as by signal, suddenly to view
Glance their white breasts and change the squadron's hue.
Not rapid more (to illume that mighty dome,
'The world's great wonder and e'en thine, oh Rome!'
When loftier festivals their pomp prepare)
The fiery transmutation flames in air.
There, while innumerous eyes on that vast ring
Of tempered lamps, serene as moonbeam cling,
Hands all unseen bright flambeaux toss on high,
And the changed fires flash ruddy round the sky;
—But Faith, I ween, with steadier light should burn,
Nor quite at will, like glancing Swallow, turn.
But where stern statutes summon state-bound men
Old creeds to quit, or—quitting—clasp again,
And sorely-hunted Faith pursuit bemocks
With season-shifted hue, like Arctic fox,
Of such Compliance deem not We quite ill
Though prone it be to mould Belief on Will.
Our Prosperous Faith, unthreatened yet, may frown,
But hard it is to wear the Martyr's crown;
And justly hence high guerdon waits on them,
Who, spite its thorns, have dared that diadem.
Yes, Conscience, thy strong Presence can constrain
To view, with scarce a smile, e'en Southcote's train.
Corrupt their text may be, or weak its gloss,
But Soul Sincere to gold can coin the dross.
Truth's ancient Landmarks, parting Good from Ill,
These well to know nor labour asks nor skill;
Conscience hath writ life's daily duties plain,
Nor lets the Moral vibrate with the Brain;
But Creeds that from ideal regions come,
And 'mid unvisioned objects seek their home,
—Each with some favourite phantasy imprest,—
On this they muse or rave, and scorn the rest.
Hence Syria saw her silent Hermits brood,
Hence whirl'd the Priestess 'mid the Delphic wood;
Hence Swedenborg 'presumed empyreal air'—
Hence Tongues Prophetic screech in Regent Square.
Calm Reason may deplore such Freaks should be;
But, if they find their Followers, leave them Free.
Some think a Sabbath feast no grievous sin;
Some on their Sabbath let no stranger in.
This creed with cheerful dance accords right well,
This deems a pirouette a step for hell.
If sour Geneva bear a Sunday play,
Give we, as mildly, every faith its way;
For many a Pilgrim Prayer, to Us unknown,
By its own pathway travels to the Throne.
Where mighty congregations throng amain,
And pulpit-thunders shake the astonished fane,
And through far roofs long-volumed organs peal,
There are, who then alone consent to feel.
Others, Shy Souls! whom silken crowds perplex,
Polemics tire, and Actor Preachers vex,
Love more, like Hermit, near his cross of stone,
To pace, at eve, the silent turf alone,
And softly breathe, or inly muse, a prayer,
And find, not less, the General Father there.
And whencesoe'er the glow—from Outward Sense,
Or fully fed by Inner Heart intense;
What wins to love his God and Neighbour best,
Be this, for each, the object and the Test.
'Built in the eclipse, and rigged with curses dark,'
With Puritan I quarrel not, though stark;
But let him breast along his Narrow Sea,
Right easy, if he keep but clear of Me.
—Yet some a Sabbath galls, o'er-strictly set,
—As hounds, kept long at walk, in kennel fret—
And then the silent niece, the meek-eyed wife,
Shrink from the prelude growl of coming strife,
As, 'neath the thraldoms of a tedious day,
Strained chords of temper, one by one, give way.
E'en Thou, the saccharine of all week-day men—
Confess, my Friend! art somewhat acid then.
—Oft too, on minds not abstract quite, nor pure,
Long-stretched devotions that but ill endure,
Slander, who thrives on leisure unemployed,
Slander drops in, to fill the uneasy void;
And duly makes, if not in holiest guise,
Her Sabbath day, a day of Sacrifice!
Thy Creed, like Country, is thy Birth's, not Thine;
The unconscious Baptism of some frontier line;
Swathed round Thee by yon sweep of Mountain ridge,
Swerved by a Rivulet, changing at a Bridge.
On this side or on that by hazard thrown,
For regal rights we battle or our own;
And here or there, as first we draw our breath,
Theology decrees us Life or Death.
Such, where thou partest with thy ten-yards span
Of Polity and Faith the various man,
Such thoughts, St. Maurice! to thy Bridge will cling,
Around its antique arches clustering,
Calvin and Leo, Landaman and King,
Or e'en old Pagan Jove, who first saw thrown
Those arches o'er thy waters, Rapid Rhone.
All that feeds eye and ear—our earliest books,—
Fond childhood's hill-side walks, and playmate brooks,—
Tale of old martyr—picture—bust—or song—
These stoutly chain, or hurry hearts along
With force than reasonings and than truth more strong.
Or, if Conviction's guileless sophistry
Steal in, with kisses, at the Mother's knee;
'Mid toils, so seeming-slight, yet firmly set,
What after-growth may struggle with the net?
'Tis thus th' Affections clasp what Faith denies,
For creed who quits must snap a thousand ties.
Him tolerate we, whom Conscience strains to stray,
And him—who simply plods the beaten way.
B.— False or absurd, what, treat all creeds alike?
Nor Ridicule to shame, nor Law to strike?
'Twere like the man, so fearful, or so civil,
He burned a taper both to Saint and Devil.
A.— False creeds have thriven, e'en when by Laws comprest,
And Ridicule been busy with the best.
Where creeds no public decencies offend,
Nor with forced nostrums our poor creeds would mend,
To pass them gently by is Wisdom's plan;
Let Force sway brutes, but Reason keep for man;
Nay deem unsafe with Ridicule to smite;
Laughter may err; but Mercy must be right.
Who Ridicule would make of Truth the test,
He reasons ill, with moral not the best.
Our mirth breathes oft-times from no zephyr-coast,
And seldom is most wise, when keen the most.
Jester—for jest—Wit asks for cutting sense—
Heaven's milder canon bids Benevolence.
As keenest eye, closed in by cramping fence,
Will lose, or soon or late, its wider sense;
So least who knows least feels another's right,
And Narrow Creed most oft is Narrow Sight.
—And hence Intolerance, of all her sons,
For her chief Aide-de-camp most loves a Dunce;
Who, like dense Critic on Greek text obscure,
Still rages most, when least his light is sure,
And where an Angel's sense might pause in fear,
Decides at once with statute or with sneer.
Or Bigot shall himself exclude the ray
From his own crypt, and then denies the day;
But while, like fog, He dark and darker grows,
And o'er all nature his own darkness throws,
Love, like the bow that curves from yonder Blue,
Cheers earth and sky, and nobly spans the Two.—
The slowly judging eye—the doubting ear—
The holy love of truth, the reverent fear—
The philosophic brain, that loves to scan,
May make a Sage, but spoil a Partisan.
From struggling sects, such wiselier keep aloof,
For Zealotry but seldom waits on Proof;
The All—the None—concedes no ground between,
And smiles, with bitter scorn, at 'Golden Mean.'
But not alone within some cloister's bound,
Or chapel trim, contracted creed is found.
At good men's feasts, as where monks diet spare,
The harsh, exclusive heart is everywhere.
The Libertine, whose nights, whose every day,
Wild orgies whelm of pleasure or of play;
When Apoplexy, his first visit, knocks,
Or Palsy helps, unasked, to shake the box;
E'en he, at once, with new-born zeal is wroth,
For Ignorance and Vice turn bigots both.
Go! go! Thou frighted Neophyte and learn
This wiser creed and milder truth discern.
Where Penitence takes counsel but from Fear,
Tho' in heaven's track—to heaven she comes not near.
Back to the path, whence first we turned aside,
'Tis frank Regret—'tis loving Hope must guide;
But up the Steep and thro' the Eternal Gate
No Penitence may pass which leagues with Hate.
The 'Joy in Heaven' is over them alone
Who curse no Neighbour's sin, but weep Their Own.
Little to know the lot of fervent Youth,
Yet deem that little All—undoubted truth.
For him each boundary line is coloured strong,
And all is fiercely right, or fiercely wrong.
Nor ill on Youthhood sits that generous rage,
But let a wiser tolerance wait on Age.
Firm on himself the rule of Strictness press'd,
Each mild Exception keep he for the rest;
Through many a meditation trained to know,
How little sure our guesses here below;
Through many a moral conflict, viewed or striven,
Taught, ere he die, 'Forgive to be Forgiven.'
In the Brain's chambers, as the Heart's deep frame,
How oft is error, that which vice we name!
And hopes—for Virtue—thoughts—for Truth—that try,
How oft, by strange refractions, swerved awry!
When Timour ravaged realms, in fierce delight,
His dream was Providence, and Fated Right.
When Ganges chokes some aged parent's breath,
'Tis Filial Love prepares the work of death.
Their falsest Creed, some Truth ill understood
Their Foulest Act, some Misdirected Good.
In minds, as nature, 'tis my doctrine still,
The Good is essence, accident the Ill;
And deeds, that win from virtue least consent,
More oft o'erselfish than malevolent.
To this, 'mid Virtue's wreck, I grapple fast,
And cling in hope, like sailor to the mast.
Mark, with observant eye, the inferior kinds,
Through all their tribes how fondest instinct winds.
Drink in of Infancy the answering smile,
Ere petty passions touch it, to defile.
Hear Youth his glorious aspirations roll,
Ere worldliness steal in, to taint the soul.
Of Manhood test the basest, earthliest leaven,
And feelings mingle there might mix with heaven.
These—not ascetic dogmas that degrade—
Shall teach to love the beings God hath made,
And—glorious fruitage from a noble stem—
Lead on to love the God, who made, through Them!
Who asks allegiance, as from heaven addrest,
On sympathies akin to heaven must rest.
Build Faith on fancies fine, or matter brute,
Your subtilties we slight—your facts dispute.
Reasonings may cheat us, if they soar or plod,
But God is Love, and Love the test of God.
When He with primal love bade hearts o'erbrim,
'Twas not alone mankind to love—but Him.
He gave us faith, in Him—th' Unseen—to trust,
He gave us justice, Him to adore—the Just.
Less to the senses spake than souls of men,
And now would teach us, as he taught us then.
And when best logic's best-forged links decay,
And e'en foundation-facts dissolve away;
—Such logic as, perchance, Aquinas drew
From facts, which sifting Brown for errors knew—
(For truths undoubted, of one age the text,
Are oft the scouted falsehoods of the next)—
Faith then shall find in heart from hates aloof
Her holiest hope and grasp her firmest proof.
Such Faith be mine! Earth-lover, yet with wings
To soar above the abyss of mortal things;
And, if through doubtful skies sent forth to roam,
With thought on Love still turned—Her ark and home.
Fade tangible and visible combined,
She lives, while conscience lives and mind is mind.
Let Mutability through systems roll,
She still is here, the Witness in the soul;
And here, eternal as in heaven, shall stand,
In tabernacle never made with hand!
Instructors bland! your memories ne'er shall cease,
Who teach us Wisdom, when ye teach us Peace;
Who win to think, and prize each thought that flows
O'er gentler hearts, from 'meanest flower that blows;'
And—our World's Book thus mildly understood—
Find your own solace in a Creed of Good.
Walton! who long in busy city pent,
Yet most, 'mid streams and fields fulfilled his bent;
Benign of spirit; and, though Simple Sage;
How fondly have I turned his quiet page;
And led by sedgy Lea, or clearer Dove,
Inhaled, with him, the very breath of Love.
And me, if since, in ne'er forgotten hour,
That Lore of Love hath stirr'd with deeper power;
And taught yet keener glow—with wider aim—
Nature's own Priest, 'twas Wordsworth fed the Flame.
B.— Circle of Tolerance if thus vast you draw,
Useless our hulks! and every sage of law!
Of idlesse shall each Midas feel the strain,
And Sidney Cove her pilgrims crave in vain.
A.— If Crime she find, let Law just vengeance take;
But Crime of Creed—she doth not find, but make;
Like Æsop's wolf, who marked the lamb for prey,
Herself the Guilt invents; then turns to slay.
But He, each inner motive wise to scan,
Shall look with kindlier glance on erring man,
And, though the Lictor smite, refrain His rod;
For Tolerance, earth-rejected, dwells with God.
Pilots of Good! who guide o'er farthest seas,
Untired, our Bible-laden argosies;
To where, by populous Ganges, weed-like thrown,
The poor dejected Paria pines alone;
Or where, 'mid Polynesia's seas of blue,
Some island Seer proclaims his stern Taboo;
For these, with generous haste, unload your freight,
Our Faith, our Morals,—all—except our Hate.
By Indian streams, beneath Australian skies,
Countless as stars, ere long, our Fanes shall rise,
And white-robed Hopes each altar beam above;
But lay their first foundations deep in Love.
So shall your task be hailed indeed Divine,
And Heber's gentlest spirit bless each shrine.
I, in their turn, have known each various crew
Of all the sects, that ever Evans drew.
At morning meetings joined each gathering host,
And pledged at dinner many a dismal toast.
True, when I heard each straining leader teach
Of heights exclusive, all assumed to reach;
Left far behind all stretch of sympathy,
Beating the wing, in vain, to soar so high,
My grosser essence, all unused to bear
The tingling of those Alpine regions rare,
Dropt gladly down to breathe in common air;
To tread my own calm valley-paths again,
And talk of simple Creeds, with simple Men.
Yet as the traveller, who some lofty brow
Hath reached, whence spreads his journey past below,
Enough perceives to know how turned aside
His erring steps, if not henceforth to guide;
So I—well marked each controversial tribe—
Each race that will not, or that will, subscribe—
Conflicting tenets, each by each abhorred,
The other each to hate their sole accord;
Observed—how this asserts what that denies,
One takes the extreme, another qualifies;
Or, veering round, by turns affirms—retracts—
Now swerved by fancies—steadying now on facts;
What tangled strifes contending sects provoke,
The snow-white surplice, or Geneva cloak;—
If but t' asperge the new-born babe of sin,
Or plunge the full grown Baptist fairly in;—
How firmly this on Two—this leans on Seven—
Yet, right or wrong, in earnest All for heaven;—
I may not dare pronounce man's proper creed
So full in light, 'that he who runs may read.'—
Can own a Stray may honestly be out,
Nor quite would damn a Brother for a Doubt.
Instincts there are, I know, that rise and cleave,
Wind round the heart, and bind it to believe;
And Doctrines, such as early lore imparts,
And sheds, like morning dew, on Infant Hearts,
When o'er her lisping babe the Mother stands,
And moulds his prayer, and joins his little hands.
Yet these, Guides only for the straightway road,
That humbly leads, through duty, up to God;
But blind and helpless for the dangerous lee
Of wide theology's unfathomed sea;
These all desert the wretch, who hangs, perplex'd,
On the dark comment and the doubtful text;
Doomed, for his sins, to drift, and drive through all,
Mad or inspired, from Brothers up to Paul,
And force him, long by winds of doctrine blown,
To seize the helm—and work a course his own.
Oh Friend, be ours, of softer metal wrought,
To rock us in the creed each mother taught!
To others left the controversial leaf;
By others reaped its triumphs—and its grief!
Is it a boon, repose of soul to quit,
For all the pride of logic and of wit?
And, too vain-glorious for quiescent state,
Mix fiercely in dispute and learn to hate?
Is it a boon, when Love's and Friendship's voice
Call thee with them to trust and to rejoice,
Like some far planet thy lone course to wheel,
Nor feel, nor hope what others hope and feel.
When village-groups, for sabbath worship drest,
Throng the green churchyard where their Fathers rest,
And mourners, bending o'er the precious dust,
Win solace from the Bliss that waits the Just—
Is it a boon to approach that house of prayer,
And feel thy footstep hath 'no business there;'
To kneel thee, where thy boyhood knelt—and then
Weep in thy heart Thou 'canst not say Amen?'
Vainly with Guilt when groaning Virtue strives,
And, but in Heaven, not one sad hope survives;
Is it a boon thou, Knowledge, hast conferred,
To deem the strife unmarked, the groan unheard?
Ourselves to deem mere Atoms, random-hurled,
The Orphans of an Unregarded World?
And 'mid the body's, 'mid the soul's distress,
To clutch our utmost Hope—from Hopelessness?
Is it a boon, when Dissolution's strife
Hangs—trembling—o'er the bed of Child or Wife;
And the fond Sufferer turns amid her pain,
And looks, and strives to say, 'We meet again;'
Is it a boon to stand in anguish by,
And meet with some lip-phrase that clinging eye,
While the sad Sceptic Heart makes no reply?
Then, bending o'er the tomb to which she sank,
Present to feel—and Future—one mere Blank?
Oh! thou from Faith's mild bondage sadly free,
'Lone mariner, upon a shoreless sea;'
Oh! say, thou deeply wounded Child of Doubt,
Thus, in thy solitude of soul, shut out
From Nature's fondest, holiest sympathies,
Doth Knowledge—(vaunt it Knowledge)—pay for this?
Thee shall some Guiding Instinct's mild behest
Yet turn in season to the appointed nest.
On ever-questing wing 'twere hard to go,
For surer All we Feel than all we Know!
Hence Thou—though logic-mailed, shalt not disdain
Philosophy!—that mild enthusiast train;
Spirits, by nature's thousand harmonies
That touched, respond; and, without reasonings, wise,
Find types for faith, in earth—and sea—and skies.
Malvern—I love to track in thought, e'en now,
Our twilight path along thy turfy brow,
That tinted—oh! how fair! by Hallowing Even,
Rose, like a ladder step, 'twixt Earth and Heaven.
Eastward, o'er sunless valley, far beneath,
Wan shadows crept, our Human Vale of death;
While beamed, soft radiant, in the mellow west,
Mute as we gazed, the Mansions of the Blest!
Who, placed on that far-grasping promontory,
Not thus had imaged out life's Two-fold Story?
Or Who, beneath that sweet and silent air,
Not worshipped—as Our Spirits worshipped there?
But art Thou of those searching minds, in sooth,
That track, through Thought alone, the vein of truth?
A keen and subtile Intellect, yet stout
To drag Conviction from the depths of Doubt?
Then delve; but from thy toil keep pride apart;
And link to the Stern Brain a Trusting Heart.
So shalt thou reach Belief.—Not the mere Note,
Stale from some Teacher's tongue, and caught by rote;
Nor Dogma, from the forehead of a Dunce
That springs, his Pallas, cap-a-pee at once;
Nor love-taught Faith, as Knighthood fierce to start,
When Beauty smiles Belief into the heart;
And prompt, not less, let wrinkles—frowns—succeed,
To start, a Ready Recreant, from the Creed;
Not such Bold Trust, as Convict Wretches snatch
From desperate need of heaven's uplifted latch,
Whom Ghostly Comforters so cleanse—or paint—
Not one but dies, at least, a Three days' Saint;
Nor yet the dim assent from Anguish wrung,
From feeble signs scarce gleaned, or faltering tongue,
When speechless Palsy hangs the helpless head,
Or low Delirium plucks the dying bed;—
For when no Instinct of our vital Whole,
Nor early Lesson, woven with the soul,
Carefully, then, to concentration wrought
By the slow process of alembic Thought,
Belief is toil of Brain; 'tis Labour's dower,
Reared painfully, thro' frost—and sun—and shower,
And the slow growth of many a ripening hour,
That, like the Aloe's blossom, long to come,
Yet comes at last, and bears Immortal Bloom.
Thrice happy He, who—Conqueror at length,—
On such calm height repairs his weary strength;
And, more and more, sees darkness rolled away,
Till the full prospect brightens into day.
Yet—not for this, inflate' with new-born pride,
Looks he with scorn on all the world beside;
But downward casts benignant glances o'er
The minds that stray, where his had strayed before,
And hopes, and prays for All, before that Throne,
Where Knowledge—Goodness—Intellect are One.
And what though Some, not shunning to be taught,
Nay thirsty for the truth, yet find it not;
Like fainting travellers, through Arabian sand,
Where the shy fount still mocks the searching hand,
Condemned to tread the Doubter's dreary way,
To the last tinge of life's descending day.
Yet, e'en for these,—the Spirit bold and rude,
And all the irreverent Heat of Youth subdued,—
Slow rolling years at length have done their part,
While, from the Husband's and the Father's heart,
New feelings, household interests, budding out—
If not supplanting, yet o'ershadowing Doubt—
Produce, at length, the calm submitted mind,
That Past and Present scans with will resigned,
And onward pondering o'er the dark Untrod,
In humblest acquiescence rests on God.
And yet, such Faith though God perhaps permit,
Nor Church, nor Conventicle, deem it fit.
No sheltering niche have they for trembling Doubt;
Or true, or false, the Creed must still be stout.
Pledged to some Sect—less matter what that one—
But woe betide the Wretch that herds with none.
Each hath his own Prophetic Dream, I wis.—
His mad Millennium Scheme—and mine is This!
A greater than the old Saturnian birth
Shall come, when, o'er this vexed and vexing earth
Tolerance her wing shall spread, like Parent Dove,
And Faith be but another word for Love;
And Conscience, on no synods forced to wait,
Herself perform the work of Sect and State.
In thought I see the Destined Years unfold,
The Blissful Reign for eager earth foretold.
Lo! there the Few—by grateful nations loved—
The More—by man unmarked—by heaven approved—
Some Oberlin—but to his village known;
Some Titus, beaming virtue from a throne;
Minds with each hue of every faith imbued,
Like but in this—all followers of the Good.—
Here Bramin—there the Worshipper of Fire—
Mild Pagan here—there holy Christian sire—
From every Age and Clime—a beauteous band—
Priests—Sages—Bards—they wander hand in hand;
In tranquil converse quest for Truth Alone,
Nor chafe, though each believe that Truth his own;
Of rival creeds shake off the Hate or Fear,
And—wondrous! love more nearly, as more near;
Oft pondering, 'mid that strangely-peaceful scene,
How Theologic Hates had ever been!
B.— Translated hence to some Angelic Sphere,
Such Tolerance we may meet, but hardly here.
Meanwhile, like thee who rambles in discourse,
Must for Utopian pass, if not for worse.
A.— Utopian! 'tis a sneer I heed not much;
And—for what worse—confound not me with such.
Through Stranger-paths but little prone to range,
I keep the old, and leave, who will, to change;
But taught the Gospel came, that strifes should cease,
Deem, like Moravian, its best lesson—Peace;
On harder doctrines lean, in quiet trust,
And leave polemic folios—in their dust;—
But this point hold—howe'er each sect may brawl,
Where pure the life, where free the Heart from gall,
Whate'er the Creed, Heaven looks with Love on All!