The Two Harps
I tarried on the strains to hang
Outfloating from yon ancient trees;
Strains from two airy harps, that rang
Responsive to the minstrel breeze.
One, chaunting to the wind that wooed,
Swang full on every gazer's eye;
The other, far within the wood,
Low breathed its hermit melody.
This told a tale of nought but gladness;
Of frolic nymphs on tiptoe stealing;
And feats of wine and festive madness;
Gay Fauns that danced and Satyrs reeling.
The other sighed so sad a tone,
Methought some desolate child of air
Had made those very strings his own
To vent heart-broken anguish there.
Each harp was sweet; yet while—not vain—
Thrilled thro' the sense the livelier din,
That other sweetest—saddest strain—
My inmost spirit drank it in.
Then deem not, deem not—Emmeline!
That Abra's frolic glance of glee
From thee my steadfast faith can win,
From thee, my gentlest love! from thee.
E'en now when 'mid yon blazing room
A dream of joy—she floats inspired,
I come to court the tender gloom,
Where thou dost love to sit retired;
And while she bids the rest rejoice
With winning word—with winning wile—
I turn to catch thy plaintive voice—
I flee—to win thy thoughtful smile.
Let frolic from her dark eyes peep;
Mine be the blue which tear-drops fill;
For if her charm of joy strike deep,
Thy pensive spells sink deeper still.
The Gods Of Greece
Ye Gods of Greece! Bright Fictions! when
Ye ruled, of old, a happier race,
And mildly bound rejoicing men
In bonds of Beauty and of Grace;
When worship was a service light,
And duty but an easy bliss,
And white-hued fanes lit every height;
Then—what a sparkling world was this.
Creation, then but newly born,
Felt all the glowing trust of youth;
And pulses, yet, were all unworn,
And poesy was very truth;
And Gods were spread thro' earth and air,
And looked or spoke, in sight or sound;
And who but loved to worship there,
Where they were mingling all around?
Not then was yonder radiant sun
Mere globe of fire, as now they say;
But Phoebus urged his chariot on,
A guiding God!—and made the day.
Each hoary hill, each thymy mount,
Some fond presiding Oread tended;
And Naiads bent by every fount
From which a gushing stream descended.
'Twas Daphne's voice—so taught the creed—
That murmur'd from yon laurel tree;
'Twas Syrinx from the hollow reed
Out-sighed her plaintive melody.
No bird sent forth that fervent trill;
'Twas Philomel the song supplying;
And Venus wept, on yonder hill,
O'er young Adonis, gored and dying.
And then, if perfumed airs came breathing,
At eve, from off th' Ægean shore,
While little waves, their white foams wreathing,
The green-hued deeps were fleecing o'er;
From mountain-cave, beneath the rock,
'Twas Zephyrus out-sped the breeze;
'Twas Proteus—leading forth his flock
To feed along the verdant seas.
The Gods—not then they held it scorn
To mate with old Deucalion's race;
And many a Demigod was born,
Fit progeny from such embrace.
And deeper faith—intenser fire—
Fed Sculptor's chisel—Poet's pen;
What nobler themes might Art require
Than Gods—on earth, and God-like Men?
Yea! Gods then watched with loving care,
(Or such, at least, the fond belief)
E'en lifeless things of earth and air,
The cloud—the stream—the stem—the leaf.
Iris—a Goddess!—tinged the flower
With more than merely rainbow hues;
Great Jove himself sent down the shower,
Or freshened earth with healing dews.
E'en Beauty's self more beauteous seemed,
When Ganymede a God could thrall;
And Youth, to fancy, youthlier beamed,
And Souls were more heroical.
Where Hymen stood for priest, the heart
In sweeter bonds than our's was wed;
Nay—life more gently seemed to part,
When 'twas the Parcæ cut the thread.
And temples shone like palaces,
And game, and victor's coronal,
And festal dance, 'mid flowers and trees,
And song and bowl were Sacred—all.
E'en at the last doomed hour of death
No terrors scared the death-bed room;
A kiss beguiled the parting breath,
A Genius welcom'd to the tomb.
If but the willing Graces bent
O'er deed or rite with smile approving;
If but the Muses gave consent
Or cheered, perchance, with accent loving;
The Gods forebade no pleasure—then—
Nor doomed it—sin; nor held it—folly;
But deigned to share the joys of men;
The Beautiful, was still the Holy!
And while those Gods so deigned to share
Our mortal pleasures, downward bending,
We too to their Empyrean air
In noble strife were upward tending.
Ah! generous Creeds, that blossom'd forth
'Mid southern Græcia's softer bowers,
What blight-wind from our bitter North
Hath seared your hues and shrunk your flowers?
Too proud for earlier leading-strings
Our world disdains each old Ideal;
And, clogged with mere prosaic things,
Plods heavily life's sullen Real.
Idalian smiles! Jove's lofty brow!
Pan! the Wood-nymphs! all are gone!
Bright as ye were, bright Fictions!—now—
Ye live in Poet's dream—alone.
Who hath not longed, by converse fired or book,
To break him sudden from his own home-nook,
(There, in cramp nest, too long, like dormouse curled)
And speed from land to land, and scan the world?
But Time and Space stood ready to forbid
Or Niagara—or the Pyramid.
'Soon shall thy arm, Unconquer'd Steam! afar
Drag the slow barge and drive the rapid car.'
Some twice five lustres since, so sang the bard:
Bold was the prophecy; the credence hard.
The jeerer jeered; the thinker stood aloof
In pause; 'but now the time hath given it proof.'
Did Venus win from Vulcan, Mighty Power!
That thou shouldst strain a day within an hour?
And lend her thy twin spirits, Force and Speed,
To break down distance for some gentle need?
And did Minerva join Cythera's prayer?
Or bribe thee with some gift of science rare,
For her young sages, or of state or law,
Within vacation half a world to draw?
And (not as when, of old, men plodded slow
'To Pyrenean or the river Po')
Fling forth each acolyte, as suits him best,
To Moslem East, or Transatlantic West?
Then snatch the senator, o'er land and main,
Home to his voters and the house—again?
Or from his poetry and picturesque
Whirl back the future chancellor to his desk?
The fire-wheeled bark would part. Storm saith her 'Nay'
With blustering throat; yet lo! she bursts away.
In vain around her curl the landward seas;
In vain—to stop her—strains the landward breeze.
Not like you white winged loiterers, taken aback
By the fierce blast, and foiled of skilful tack;
At anchor tossing still, with close-reefed sail,
Sick of delay, yet bondsmen of the gale;
She, in mad surf tho' forced awhile to reel,
And heave and dive, from bowsprit down to keel,
Asserts, full soon, her self-selected course,
And conquers wind and wave by inner force.
And while swift smoke, as from volcano's mouth,
(Such Pliny saw) is hurried, north or south,
By the head wind; (the swiftlier driven back,
The more to show what power would thwart her track)
She, leaving coast and bay far, far, behind,
As all contemptuous of that bullying wind;
And fluttering round to unresisting spray
Each coming wave, that would contest her way;
Unoared, uncanvassed, marches on, until
Instinct almost she seems with human will.
Like some strong mind, that, shipped on fortune's bark,
Holds onward still, unflinching to the mark;
And loves, or so might seem, to breast and urge
Thro' life's worst seas, and scoffs at wind and surge.
But now her prow hath touched the foreign strand;
And harnessed, lo! the iron coursers stand.
Fire hoofed, with fuming nostril; us to bear,
Swift as swift arrow, thro' the whistling air.
We mount the car. And what our course may stay,
Strength—Victory—Companions of our way!
On—on we rush. A hundred leagues forecast,
And lo! a hundred leagues already past.
On—on we rush. A hundred pictures tost
On the quick eye—right—left—and yet not lost.
For as fast eagle, fastest when he flies,
Battle or prey, the things he loves, descries;
So the brief pictures We; as sudden caught
By rapid eye for yet more rapid thought.
And not alone shall glancing vision win
Each larger feature of the sweeping scene,
Wood, stream, or hill; but many a smaller charm,
Croft,—garden,—lowly roofs of village farm;
(Which from some causeway lowlier, lovelier seem;
Fond homes for fancy; landscape in a dream
With mowers beside their noon-side flagon gay;
And children, tumbling in the tedded hay.
Or—as for contrast—the slow-furrowing plough;
Or feeding kine, that (all accustomed, now)
On as we flash along the echoing ways,
Lift not their quiet heads; but calmly graze.
Tall ship! proud steed! let loftier poets dream;
I plod for thee, most unpoetic Steam!
Thou used, yet scorned! till thro' some chance we find
A poesy in man's all-conquering mind.
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.
Not alway from the lessons of the schools,
Taught evermore by those who trust them not,
Though in fine phrase tricked out, or bodied forth
In solid saw, spring forth the fairest fruits
Of wisdom or of duty. Spirits there are
Who, rather from the forms of outward nature—
Those teachers who in our dull colleges
Have never taken degree—rejoice to cull
Their doctrine; nutriment to grosser sense,
If alien, yet with finer essences
Not unassimilate! Such win their lore
Through many a sympathy, from 'stones, and trees,
And running brooks;' from every sound and thing;
Yea, from far less; from films of sounds and things;
The airiest shadow flitting o'er the mead;
The last thin whisper of the evening breeze;
The faintest hue that dies along the main.
Such thoughts dost Thou, beloved Moon, shed forth
For poets, which from them we gather up
Not scant; and I have had them of my own,
Gentle and fair, and, as I fain would deem,
Not unpoetic quite, though never stamped
With countermark of verse; I all unskilled
Of measure, or the thoughts themselves too swift
Or subtile for the workmanship of words
And yet, though woven of thy most delicate rays,
Or snatched, as might be, from quick-vanishing stars,
Twinkling and gone, not thence, would I believe,
Mere passing thoughts, but fitted to endure,
For profit of the meditative mind,
As yon sweet stars and Thou, fair Moon, endurest.
For I have loved Thee from my childhood up
Till now; from when, beneath far tropic skies,
Forth guided by my ancient Afran nurse,
Whose ebon face strange contrast made with Thine,
I first observed Thee; and, observing, wondered
If those, thy seeming features, nose and mouth,
And steadfast eyes, were really such as ours,
And asked of her, like wondering. Nor when
To these fair isles conveyed, a growing school-boy,
From forth our play-ground's narrow boundary,
I spied thee, 'mid blue ether, in thy freedom
Careering, even like the white-sailed ship
That sped me hither; or if I beheld thee,
When sultry summer-airs forbade to sleep,
Slanting, at midnight, through th' uncurtained window,
On the half-testered bed, uncurtained too,
Our youngster couch; not then could I withhold
To gaze upon Thee; pensive half—half glad,
I scarce knew which nor wherefore, with a vague
Unsatisfied delight. And as, in days
Ere chivalry was gone, some youthful knight,
Of high-born damsel, whom he ne'er might reach,
Enamoured, worshipped still her peerless beauty,
And dress'd his thoughts on hers, and thus imbibed
Civility with love; not less, fair Idol,
On thee I hung in thy removèd sphere,
And duly paid my visionary vows
To thy bright purity; nor was the soul,
E'en in those stripling-days, as now I deem,
Wholly by such communion unrefined.
Nor seldom did I win from thy sweet light
A more creative and less pensive joy;
Such joy as kindly Fancy oft will weave
For childhood; kindlier still, if she desert not
Our after-years. 'Twas when dim-floating clouds
Were hung in the still west, and there had hung
From hour of parted twilight. They had watched
The sinking Sun's last glory, and caught thence,
Around his golden garment clustering,
A passing radiance not their own; but now,
Though rayless, hueless, still they lingered here,
As in persisting love (so spirits, they say,
Will hover round loved spots); nor lingered here
In vain; for Thou didst bring a second day
Less bright than his; but not less beautiful.
Sun of the Midnight! Then those pallid clouds,
Each in its turn by thy soft light lit up,
Grew to a living dream-land. Earth and Sea,
In all their shows, were there, with semblances
Of man, or beast, or monster. Not an image
Through childhood's brain had flitted, won, perchance,
From tale of nurse or grandsire, or out-gleaned
From story-book, thumbed o'er and o'er again,
But there found type or home. What mattered it,
In that free hour, of tyrant pedagogue,
Or brute school-comrade, tyrant more than he;
Or grammar rule, perplexing easy speech;
Or cramp obdurate sum, tried ten times o'er
On the smeared slate? I recked not of them then—
I thought not of them! No discoverer
By land or sea, to cape or central range
Tacking his own proud name, to dream thenceforth
Of immortality;—no conqueror—
No! not the Norman, broadly parcelling
Among his mailèd knights and barons bold
New territory—was more lord than I
In that my flaky kingdom; free to give,
Make or unmake, at pleasure! Yon far cloud,
Floating like island in its sea of sky,
Should be the spot for Crusoe! There Saint George
Was fighting with the dragon, while below
Paced slowly Bunyan's Pilgrim with his staff!
There stood the magic steed, which whirled away
Young Calmaralzaman; there drove the bark,
Rapt fiercely by invisible force along,
To split, with Sinbad, on the loadstone shore!
But when came classic lessons, and all fresh
From lore of Tooke's Pantheon—a new world
Peopled with deity—I knew how thine,
In the far days of famed Antiquity,
Had been no slighted worship; glorious then
Of my new knowledge, and fantastical
As innocent childhood is, I longed to have been
The shepherd youth, of whom then first I read,
Endymion; Endymion, loved in Latmos!
(Ah! me, quaint shepherd, not of crook, but satchel,
And guessing, at that age, how much of love!)
And, in my foolishness, almost I craved
Those Pagan days again. Then would recur
The holy teachings of the primal book,
'The Sun to rule the day, and Thou the night,'
And wake to wiser musings. Mixture strange
Of sacred and profane! Yet each in turn
Struck its own chord, and made Thee dearer still.
Nor me when onward years had loosed at length
From 'prisonment of school-boy, and left free
To choose my own observatories, when
And where I willed, frank-breathing mountain-top
Or wide-viewed plain, did I less love thy light,
Sweet Moon; and, e'en amid the revelries
Of the mad city, when thy thoughtful beam
Hath met me, sliding slow from temple to tower,
Or pausing on the broad and silent street,
Beneath that pause more broad and yet more silent;
How oft hath the wild will of wayward youth
Received in Thee a monitor, not vain,
To calm and summon home. But if, far rather,
Thou wert seen planing o'er some lovely region,
From city remote, to thy attempering ray
More native; making its day-loveliness
Yet lovelier; softening with diffused beauty
Near plain; or making with long narrow line
The distant sea; or, slanted with soft step
Almost to earth, wert streaming light behind
Some ancient wood, more forward thence to fling
Its huge black outline; Thou thyself chance-spied
Through the tall stems; or else wert stealing down
The shadowy dingle, pensively to rest
By the hushed waters of some bosomed lake;
'Mid scene like this, to love most harmonised,
How dearer was thy presence! By such mirror,
(Mirror of Dian! aptly named by those
Who dwelt near Nemi's wooded wave,) how oft
Fixed have I stood to watch thy dream-like image,
And then upturned me from the soft reflection
To view thy very Self in the high heaven.
There wert Thou, with the same unaltered features
Which mocked my childhood; features still, indeed,
So Science tells, but features of a world,
Visible continents and circling seas,
With all their promontories. Trancèd thus,
(My childish fancies weaned, but love unbated,)
How fondly have I longed, how deeply yearned
To know Thee nearer; yearned to climb thy hills,
And thread thy peaceful valleys; there, perchance,
To meet some loved one lost; and well content,
With such sweet compensation, to forego
This native earth of ours, by folly and guilt
Too often marred; and yet, though often marred,
Beautiful still; and still more beautiful
That Thou, fair Moon! dost shed thy peace upon it.
That peace, how deep! this night of thousand stars,
That hide themselves abashed from the bold sun,
But hang, all fondly, on thy gentler brow—
How calm! Yet not o'er calmer skies alone,
Mild Moon! is thy dominion Thou dost sway
The very storm to obey thy peacefulness.
When winds are piping, and the chargèd clouds,
As if out-summoned by that warlike music,
First in black squadrons rush; then sternly muster
In sullen mass, on either side the heaven,
Like armies face to face, with space between;
'Tis then Thou glidest forth; like some pale nun,
Unhooded, whom a high and rare occasion
Wrests from her sanctuary, to interpose
In mortal quarrel, so Thou glidest forth,
And lookest thy mild bidding; and the winds
Are silent; and those close-compacted clouds,
Disbanding, fleet in tender flakes away,
And leave the world to thy tranquillity.
On such a night it was, so wildly fitful,
That Thou, Conductress of my way, didst lead me
To where the mighty mystery of Stonehenge
Broods o'er the silent plain, and with mute power
Rules the vast circuit of its sea-like space,
As Thou dost rule the sky. For many a mile
I journeyed, pondering on the days when Thou
Wert shining o'er the Druid; being to him
His Sun, his chronicler of months and years,
And sanctifier of his rites most holy!
And musing on the rites—the priest—all gone!
Thou and that lonely fane the sole abiders!
In my inmost spirit I felt how the dead Past
Controuls the living Present; binding awe
And melancholy, of high strain or low,
Not solely on the' imaginative mind,
That 'mid mere earthly precinct asks no home,
But e'en on fleshlier natures, which escape not
Foresight of their own doom, to vanish in turn.
So did I reach to where uprose those pillars
'Mid their sepulchral barrows; turfy tombs!
Which yet outlast the marble. At the first
All indistinctly visioned; but, ere long,
When Thou wert lucent in the open path
Which winds had swept before Thee, then I saw them
In their huge steadfastness; and felt their power
Unutterable, and in wonder stood!
Then too I longed to chase away those clouds
Which still were flocking round Thee, like the ghosts
Of fabled Orcus; and to question Thee
Of all the past; as the great Florentine,
Who saw the triple vision, reverently
Questioned mild Maro 'mid the dim sojourn.
Say, Moon! for Thou didst shine o'er Paradise
From the beginning; its sole light by night,
Thou and the stars; ere yet that other light
From the preventing sword with double tongue
Flamed at the gateway; and hast seen the shepherds
In old Chaldæa watchers of those stars,
And of thy nightly course, with each event
Of after-rolling time; say, who first planned
The mystic round of those gigantic columns?
Who dragged the masses from their yawning quarries,
And planted on such bases as might scorn
The earthquake, and uphung rock upon rock?
Are they, as some have dreamed, unconquered relics
Of a young world; survivors of the flood;
Reared by a first-born strength mightier than ours?
Or if indeed the work of men like us,
In what far cyele? Stood they here before
Elder Assyria, or ere Egypt was?
Before those pyramids, or ere the towers
Of Belus old? Or did they rise, thus rude,
And curl their uncouth ring in that same age
Which saw the fair-proportioned Parthenon,
In its first finish of Pentelic marble,
Outsparkle from the hand of Phidias?
Say, for Thou knowest; Thou hast seen of each
The birth and the old age; hast seen the rites
Of either worship, Pallas's or Thine;
Beheld thine oaken or her olive-wreath
Hung on each altar; and beholdest, now,
The vaunted wonder of each famous temple,
The Celtic circle and the Grecian frieze,
Was it, O Moon! in prescience
Of populous champaigns turned to pallid wastes;
And temples—fallen; and roofless palaces;
And monuments—men know not whose they were;
Making our solid earth seem but a play-place
For Mutability; was it for this
That Thou didst choose the undecaying sea
For thy peculiar realm? Towers, built like rocks,
Crumble and strew the region; forests old
Are treeless wastes; where hills, up-peaked, yawn now
Deep gulfs; such foot-marks Mutability
Leaves on the land. But, for the ocean-waves,
Myriads of sharp-keeled ships have cut athwart them
To their safe ports, and left behind no furrow;
Ten thousand gallant barks with all their trim
Have sunk, yet where they sunk remains no sign;
Tempest hath wrenched the Pharos from its rock,
And toppled down, with every tended light,
To gorge the surge they lit; Earthquake hath flung
Whole cities to the deep; yet o'er the fragments,
Acanthus, or volute, or fluted column,
Or causeway, clattering once with proud-horsed chariot,
It rolls as heretofore. This isle of ours
What if no Earthquake rend! yet change steals o'er it
Slowly, but surely; and, ere yet the half
Of our threescore-and-ten be past, we learn
The lesson. Nor alone the works of Man,
The long-trimmed avenue, or hall ancestral,
On which our youngling wonder loved to gaze,
Are sought for and are gone; yon very headland
Which now thy light is lifting from the waves,
Or struck by storm, or fretted by still frost,
Wears not the form it wore when, yet an urchin,
Timidly bold, I scrambled on its edge
Precipitous, and, warned a hundred times,
Would still gaze giddily down. And yet the waters
Are circling round its base, as seems, no other
Than those my childhood knew; and such, no doubt,
The woad-stained aboriginal beheld,
When his flat coracle from off his shoulder
He slipped upon them; such the unflinching Roman
Stemmed with the strong oar of his beakèd galley;
And such the more impetuous Norman blood
Swept through, to win a kingdom in a day.
Hence rightly didst Thou make the ocean-waves
Thine appanage; their very change constraining
To a vicissitude so fixed, that change
With them is but renewal.—Storm may smite them,
And flash their sprays all round, like wind-tost feathers,—
Still they re-plume their beauty; and, like Thee,—
Thou, waxing, waning; They, in ebb or flow—
Though ever changing are the same for ever.
Through what invisible controul Thou rulest
These willing waves, sublimer intellects
Have found and taught; and veneration waits
On their vast toils. But far-reached arguments
Of densities, and gravitating powers,
Mean distance—perigee, and apogee—
Forewarned eclipses—total or in part—
With each attraction, simple or combined,
Were never meant for hold unscientific
Of brain like mine; while lettered diagrams,
And algebraic symbols, line or cross,—
Strange as the shapes, which, in our Carib isle,
Rude Obi-wizard scrawls on hut or tree,
Or as demure astrologer erst traced
On vellum, when he sold the stars for gold—
These but perplex the more, like Cabala,
Searing the sense. Enough for me to know,
Through such chance-knowledge as mere hear-say brings,
And faith, if uninquiring yet sincere,
Enough for me to know, wide-ruling Moon!
That thine it is to lead the foam-edged surges
Along the shores; or up the sinuous harbour
Where ships ride inland, lifting their tall masts
Above the groves; or call them to the loch,
Whose briny inlet, winding from the main,
Tempts up the grampus 'mid the heathy hills.
Enough for me to know that Thou, no less,
Dost fill the curving horns of mightiest bay,
Whose indrawn waters are themselves a sea,
While kingdoms clasp it round. Or if I turn
From lore of book or chart to watch the billows
In-rolling from the deeps with joyous motion;
And catch their thousand faces glistening up
In thy clear light, and hear their thousand voices,
Like a whole people's at a jubilee;
Or if I see them, as I see them, now,
Beneath this calmest sky as smoothly spread,
And whitely, as an alabaster floor;
No touch of cloud and not a murmur on them;
E'en where they meet the shore scarce murmuring;
As all reposing in thy clement ray,
Yet ready to up-leap at thy least bidding;
Beholding this, what needs more formal warrant
From inky hand of gowned Philosophy
To prove that Thou art in full right their Queen?
And Queen Thou art in this thy realm of midnight,
And lovely as Queen-like; yet not lovely less
When Thou art lapsing on through either twilight,
Companion of the Evening or the Dawn.
For ever to the heart, which feeds on beauty,
The Evening and the Morning make the day;
Meridian Suns are mate-fellows of Earth,
But Morn and musing Eve consort with Heaven.
And ne'er did Dawn behold Thee lovelier yet,
Than when we saw Thee, one remembered day,
Thee and that brightest of all morning-stars,
Hang o'er the Adrian; not in thy full lustre,
But graceful with slim crescent; such as, erst,
Some Arab chief beheld in his own sky
Of purest, deepest azure; and so loved it,
So loved it, that he chose it for his symbol;
A peaceful symbol in a warlike banner!
And oft, I ween, in many a distant camp,
'Mid the sharp neigh of steeds, and clash of cymbals,
And jingle of the nodding Moorish bells,
When he hath caught that image o'er the tents,
Hath he bethought him of the placid hours
When Thou wert whitening his night-feeding flocks
On Yemen's happy hills; and then, perchance,
Hath sighed to think of war!
We too beheld Thee
With untired eye fixed upward; scarce regarding
(So deep the charm which Thou hadst wrapped around us)
Where reddening lines along the Eastward Sea
Spoke of the Sun's uprising. Up He rose,
From o'er the regions of the near Illyria,
Glorious, how glorious!—if less gladly hailed
As warning thy departure. Yet, some time,
Ye shone together; and we then might feel
How they, the ancient masters of that land,
The dwellers on the banks of Rubicon,
Who saw what we were seeing, uninstruct'
Of wiser faith, had, in no feigned devotion,
Bowed down to Thee, their Dian, and to Him,
Bright-haired Apollo! We too bowed our hearts,
But in a purer worship, to the One,
Who made, Alone, the hills and seas and skies,
And Thee, fair Moon, the Hallower of them all!
Well did that Sun fulfil his rising promise,
Showering redundant light, the live-long day,
O'er plain, and inland peak, and bluest sea;
And brightening the far mole, which Old Ancona
Hath reared upon the waves. Meanwhile thy form
(Faint and more faint, and, if might be, more fair;
And still, as near to lose Thee, loved the more)
Thinned to unseen. But as some morning dream,
Too sweet to part with, and which yet must fade
At touch of light, will oft unconsciously
Mix with the day, serener thoughts inweaving
Than sun-beams bring; or as some melody,
Closed on the ear, nor e'en by it remembered,
Will still its silent agency prolong
Upon the spirit, with a hoarded sweetness
Tempering the after-mood; e'en so didst Thou
Waft the bland influence of thy dawning presence
Over the onward hours.
Yet, Thou sphered Vestal!
If mine it were to choose me when to bend
Before thy high-hung lamp; and venerate
Thy mysteries; and feel, not hear, the voice
Of thy mute admonition; let it be
At holy vesper-tide, when nature all
Whispers of peace; if solemn less than night's,
More soothing still. Such season of the Soul
Obeys Thee best. For as the unwrinkled pool,
Stilled o'er by stirless Eve, will dimple under
The tiniest brushing of an insect's wing;
So, at that hour, do human hearts respond
To every touch of finer thought.
Such blessed eve was ours, when last we stood
Beside the storied shore of Gaëta,
Breathing its citroned air. Silence more strict
Was never. The small wave, or ripple rather,
Scarce lisping up the sand, crept to the ear
Sole sound; nor did we break the calm with movement,
Or sacrilege of word; but stayed in peace,
Of Thee expectant. And what need had been
Of voicèd language, when the silent eye,
And silent pressure of each linkèd arm,
Spokemore than utterance? Nay, whose tongue might tell
What hues were garlanding the western sky
To welcome thy approaching! Purple hues
With orange wove, and many a floating flake
Crimson or rose, with that last tender green
Which best relieves thy beauty. Who may paint
How glowed those hills, with depth of ruddy light
Translucified, and half etherial made,
For thy white feet to tread on? and, ere long—
Ere yet those hues had left or sky or hill,
One peak with pearling top confess'd thy Coming.
There didst Thou pause awhile, as inly musing
O'er realm so fair! And, first, thy rays fell partial
On many a scattered object, here and there;
Edging or tipping, with fantastic gleam,
The sword-like aloe, or the tent-roofed pine,
Or adding a yet paler pensiveness
To the pale olive-tree; or, yet more near us,
Were flickering back from wall reticulate'
Of ruin old. But when that orb of Thine
Had clomb to the mid-concave, then broad light
Was flung around o'er all those girding cliffs,
And groves, and villages, and fortress towers,
And the far circle of that lake-like sea,
Till the whole grew to one expanded sense
Of peacefulness, one atmosphere of love,
Where the Soul breathed as native, and mere Body
Sublimed to Spirit.
She, too, stood beside us,
Our human type of Thee; the Pure, the Peaceful,
The Gentle—potent in her gentleness!
And, as she raised her eyes to thy meek glory,
In the fond aspiration of a heart,
Which prized all beauty and all sanctity;
We saw, and loved to see, thy sainting ray
Fall, as in fondness, on her upturned brow,
Serene—like it. Alas! in how brief space
Coldly to glitter on her marble tomb!
She lies in her own land; far from the scene
Of that fair eve; but Thou, its fairer part,
Thou Moon! art here; and now we gaze on Thee
To think on Her; if still in sorrow, yet
Not without hope; and, for the time to come,
Though dear to us thy light hath ever been,
Shall love Thee yet the more for her sweet sake.
Once more that tomb hath opened! and She, who,
Companion of my wanderings as my life,
Thus far had listened to th' unfinished strain,
Shedding fond tears to hear a Sister's praise,
Now lies in death beside her. Fare thee well,
Thou faithful Heart! and Thou, dejected Song!
For now thy spell is broken—fare thee well.
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!