ENTHUSIASM; AND OTHER POEMS,
BY SUSANNA STRICKLAND, (NOW MRS. MOODIE.)
LONDON: SMITH, ELDER, AND CO. 65, CORNHILL. MDCCCXXXI.
The Deluge 37
The Avenger of Blood 44
The Overthrow of Zebah and Zalmunna 49
Paraphrase, (Psalm XLIV.) 57
Paraphrase, (Isaiah XL.) 59
The Vision of Dry Bones 61
The Destruction of Babylon 65
To the Memory of Mrs. Ewing 70
To the Memory of R. R. Jun. 74
An Appeal to the Free 77
The Earthquake 85
Lines, written amidst the ruins of a church on the coast of Suffolk 89
The Old Ash Tree 94
The Nameless Grave 97
The Pause 98
The Warning 104
Lines on a new-born Infant 106
The Christian Mother's Lament 108
The Child's first Grief 110
The Lament of the Disappointed 113
Hymn of the Convalescent 116
Youth and Age 120
Mary Hume 123
The Spirit of Motion 126
Lines written during a gale of wind 129
The Spirit of the Spring 132
O come to the Meadows 135
Thou wilt think of me, Love 139
The Forest Rill 142
To Water Lilies 146
The Reapers' Song 153
Fancy and the Poet 159
Night's Phantasies 163
Songs of the Hours 169
The Luminous Bow 177
The Sugar Bird 179
The Dream 181
The Ruin 184
Winter calling up his Legions 193
There's Joy, &c. 200
Morning Hymn 206
Evening Hymn 210
TO JAMES MONTGOMERY, ESQ.
With sincere admiration of his genius as a poet, his virtues as a Christian, and his character as a man, this Volume is most respectfully inscribed, by his obliged servant,
Reydon, Suffolk, Jan. 1st. 1831.
Oh for the spirit which inspired of old The seer's prophetic song—the voice that spake Through Israel's warrior king. The strains that burst In thrilling tones from Zion's heaven-strung harp, Float down the tide of ages, shedding light On pagan shores and nations far remote: Eternal as the God they celebrate, Their fame shall last when Time's long race is run, And you refulgent eye of this fair world,— Its light and centre,—into darkness shrinks, Eclipsed for ever by the glance of Him Whose rising sheds abroad eternal day. Almighty, uncreated Source of life! To Thee I dedicate my soul and song; In humble adoration bending low Before thy footstool. Thou alone canst stamp A lasting glory on the works of man, Tuning the shepherd's reed, or monarch's harp, To sounds harmonious. Immortality Exists alone in Thee. The proudest strain That ever fired the poet's soul, or drew Melodious breathings from his gifted lyre, Unsanctioned by thy smile, shall die away Like the faint sound which the soft summer breeze Wins from the stately lily's silver bells; A passing murmur, a half-whispered sigh, Heard for a moment in the deep repose Of Nature's midnight rest—then hushed for ever! Parent of genius, bright Enthusiasm! Bold nurse of high resolve and generous thought, 'Tis to thy soul-awakening power we owe The preacher's eloquence, the painter's skill, The poet's lay, the patriot's noble zeal, The warrior's courage, and the sage's lore. Oh! till the soul is quickened by thy breath, Wit, wisdom, eloquence, and beauty, fail To make a just impression on the heart; The tide of life creeps lazily along, Soiled with the stains of earth, and man debased Sinks far below the level of the stream. Alas! that thy bright flame should be confined To passion's maddening vortex; and the soul Waste all its glorious energies on earth!— The world allows its votaries to feel A glowing ardour, an intense delight, On every subject but the one that lifts The soul above its sensual, vain pursuits, And elevates the mind and thoughts to God! Zeal in a sacred cause alone is deemed An aberration of our mental powers. The sons of pleasure cannot bear that light Of heavenly birth which penetrates the souls Of men, who, deeply conscious of their guilt, Mourn o'er their lost, degraded state, and seek, Through faith in Christ's atonement, to regain The glorious liberty of sons of God! Who, as redeemed, account it their chief joy To praise and celebrate the wondrous love That called them out of darkness into light,— Severed the chain which bound them to the dust, Unclosed the silent portals of the grave, And gave Hope wings to soar again to heaven!—
Oh, thou bright spirit, of whose power I sing, Electric, deathless energy of mind, Harp of the soul, by genius swept, awake! Inspire my strains, and aid me to portray The base and joyless vanities which man Madly prefers to everlasting bliss!— Come! let us mount gay Fancy's rapid car, And trace through forest and o'er mountain rude The bounding footsteps of the youthful bard, Yet new to life—a stranger to the woes His harp is doomed to mourn in plaintive tones. His ardent unsophisticated mind, On all things beautiful, delighted, dwells. Earth is to him a paradise. No cloud Floats o'er the golden promise of the morn. Hope daily weaves fresh roses for his brow, Shrouding the grim and ghastly phantom, Death, Beneath her soft and rainbow-tinted wings. Ere Care has tainted with her poisonous breath Life's opening buds, all objects wear to him A lovely aspect, and he peoples space With creatures of his own. The glorious forms Which haunt his solitude, and brightly fill Imagination's airy hall, atone For all the faults and follies of his kind. Nor marvel that he cannot comprehend The speculative aims of worldly men: Dearer to him a leaf, or bursting bud, Culled fresh from Nature's treasury, than all The golden dreams that cheat the care-worn crowd. His world is all within. He mingles not In their society; he cannot drudge To win the wealth they toil to realize. A different spirit animates his breast. Their eager calculations, hopes, and fears, Still flit before him, like dim shadows thrown By April's passing clouds upon the stream, A moment mirrored in its azure depths, Till the next sunbeam turns them into light!—
Rashly confiding, still to be deceived, Our youthful poet overleaps the bounds Of probability. He walks this earth Like an enfranchised spirit; and the storms, That darken and convulse a guilty world, Come like faint peals of thunder on his ear, Or hoarser murmurs of the mighty deep, Which heard in some dark forest's leafy shade But add a solemn grandeur to the scene.— The genial tide of thought still swiftly flows Rejoicing onward, ere the icy breath Of sorrow falls upon the sunny fount, And chains the music of its dancing waves.— What is the end of all his lovely dreams— The bright fulfilment of his earthly hopes? Too often penury and dire disease, Neglect, a broken heart, an early grave!— Oh, had he tuned his harp to truths divine, With saints and martyrs sought a heavenly crown, How had his theme immortalized his song!—
Behold the man, who to the poet's fire Unites the painter's fascinating art; His touch embodies all that fancy brings To charm the mental vision, and he dives Into the rich and shadowy world of thought, Soars up to heaven, or plunges down to hell, In search of forms to mortal eyes unknown, To animate the canvass. His bold eye Confronts the king of terrors. Through the gates Of that dark prison-house of woe and dread Hails the infernal monarch on his throne, Crowned with ambition's diadem of fire.— Unsatisfied with all that Nature gives To charm the wandering heart and roving eye, He would portray Omnipotence.—Rash man! Reason revolting shudders at the act.— God is a Spirit without form or parts; And canst thou, from a human model, trace The awful grandeur of Creation's King? Nature supplies thee with no perfect draught Of human beauty in its sinless state. Man bears upon his brow the curse of guilt, The shadow of mortality, that marks, E'en in the sunny season of his youth, The melancholy sentence of decay.— Is it from such the painter would depict The vision of Jehovah?—and from eyes, Dimmed with the tears of passion, woe, and pain, Seek to portray the dread all-seeing eye, Which at a momentary glance can read The inmost secrets of all hearts, and pierce The dark and fathomless abyss of night? Oh, drop the pencil!—Angels cannot gaze On Him who sits upon the jasper throne, Robed in the splendour of immortal light; But cast their crowns before him whilst they veil The brow in rapt devotion and adore!—
Nature will furnish subjects far beyond The grasp of human genius. Didst thou e'er, On mossy bank or grassy plot reclined, Watch the effect of sunlight on the boughs Of some tall graceful ash, or maple tree? Each leaf illumin'd by the noon-tide beam Transparent shines.—Anon a heavy cloud Floats for a moment o'er the car of day, And gloom descends upon the forest bowers; A ray steals forth—and on the topmost twig Falls, like a silver star. From leaf to leaf The glory spreads, shoots down the rugged trunk And gilds each spray, till the whole tree stands forth Arrayed in light.—This is beyond thy art. All thy enthusiasm, all thy boasted skill, But poorly imitates a forest tree.
But let us leave the painter. Let us turn To those, who never swept the sounding lyre Or grasped the pencil,—ardent minds that hold A deep communion with the winds and waves, The youthful worshippers at Nature's shrine: What says the soft voice of the plaintive breeze, Mournfully sweeping through the forest boughs, In airy play moved gently by its breath? To such it hath a language, and it wins A tender echo from the youthful heart.—
With throbbing bosom Nature's student treads The sylvan haunts, exultingly leaps forth To hail the coming of the genial spring, Shedding around from her green lap the buds, In winter's rugged casket long enshrined, To form the chaplet of the infant year.— Young pensive moralist!—'tis sweet to muse On beauties which escape the vulgar eye, To talk with Nature 'mid her woodland paths, And hear an answering voice in every breeze.— You court her beauties with a lover's zeal; You hear her voice, nor understand the sound Which speaks to you—to all. The volume spread Before your dazzled eyes, so rich with life, Is a closed book—a fair illumined scroll, Traced in strange characters, unknown to you. Would you unfold the mystery, and read The record the eternal hand of God Has, of himself, on Nature's tablets graved? You must explore another wondrous book, Of deeper interest far—the book of life— The glorious volume of unsullied truth!— Time's rapid and undeviating march Tramples down empires, blots out names that once Bid fair for perpetuity of fame. Truth is alone eternal as the God Who on this everlasting basis placed His own immutable and moveless throne. Time to these writings daily adds new force, Deepening the traces of Jehovah's love, His fathomless, unbounded love to man.— Peruse this volume, and then walk abroad And meditate in silence on the scenes Which lately charmed your unassisted sense, Till your soul burns within you, and breaks forth In holy hymns of gratitude and praise.—
Faith gives a grandeur to created things, Beyond the poet's lay or painter's art, Or upward flight of Fancy's eagle wing;— Earth is the vista through which heaven is seen By him who, journeying through life's narrow vale, Seeks in the objects which around him rise To hold communion with his God! to trace The wisdom, goodness, majesty, and love, That clothed the lilies of the field, and twined The simple diadem of buds and leaves, So rich in their diversity of shade, Round Nature's brow,—and o'er the rugged hills Cast the light floating veil of purple haze, Which harmonizes to its own soft hue The broken precipice and barren heath. Here admiration may have ample scope: The spirit soaring upward drinks in light From other worlds, and in the choral song Of happy birds among the forest bowers, Hears the seraphic and harmonious strains That angels chant around the eternal throne!— To him there is an anthem in the breeze, A burst of triumph in the thunder's peal, Which, slowly rolling through the troubled air, Strikes man with terror, and yet praises God!—
O'er Fancy's glass another shadow flits, Which shows a bolder aspect than the gay Impassioned votaries of Nature wear. Mark his majestic port, his eagle eye, The stern erection of his haughty brow, Partially shaded by the snowy plumes That lightly wave and wanton in the breeze.— Is this a pensioner of hope?—Is this A dreamer of wild dreams?—All eyes are turned To gaze upon him, as with measured step The weaponed warrior slowly passes by.— Oh, this is one of War's tremendous sons, Glory's intrepid champion: his stout heart Leaps, as the war-horse, to the trumpet's sound, And hails the storm of battle from afar. He loves the press, the tumult, and the strife, Where horror holds the gory steeds of death, And slaughter hews a passage for the brave!— He too is an enthusiast!—his zeal Impels him onward with resistless force, Severs his heart from nature's kindred ties, And feeds the wild ambition which consumes All that is good and lovely in his path. He flashes, like a meteor, on the sight, Seen 'mid the angry thunder-clouds of war, Seeking a living name in fields where Death Holds his imperial banquet, and the blood Of thousands flows to furnish forth the feast.
There was a time when softer feelings held Their mild dominion o'er that haughty breast; When at his mother's feet, a rosy boy, He wove bright garlands for his artless brow, And sought, with playful dalliance, to detain The busy hand that could not pause to bind His cumbrous wreath, or answer the caress Of him who climbed her knees to steal the kiss. But even at those tender years, his braid Of April blossoms was his crown; the twig Of golden willow, with white daisies bound, His jewelled sceptre; and the mossy bank, Where he reclined in floral state, his throne; The lambs that sported in the yellow meads His lawful subjects; while his azure eye Looked up to heaven with all a child's delight, And thought that earth was only made for him.— How often has he wept for that fair moon, That shed her trembling glory o'er his path; Wearied his slender limbs to reach the spot On which the rainbow based its splendid arch, And felt his heart with disappointment beat When the fair pageant faded from his view.—
Ah, simple boy!—well had it been for thee Had thy ambitious longings been confined To objects wisely placed beyond thy grasp. But years stole on—thy ardent spirit broke Its childish trammels, and with eager joy Explored the warlike annals of the past, And called up spirits of the mighty dead, To set their hostile armies in array, And fight for thee their sanguine battles o'er. Oh, while such visions burst upon thy sight, Whilst shouts of victory and dying groans Rang on thine ear—time backward rolled his tide, Rome in her ancient splendour proudly rose, And murdered Caesar lived again in thee!
Young fiery soldier!—let us track thy steps Through danger's stormy paths, to win the goal Of all thy lofty and ambitious hopes. Wedded to glory, thy brave heart springs forth To win thy bride from valour's armed hand, And pluck the laurel from the brow of death. A novice in the camp and new to arms, The bugle lulls thee to repose, the trumpet Thrills on thy sleeping ear, and bids thee dream Of deathless fields in fancy fought and won. At length the day of trial comes—the day Which puts thy boasted courage to the proof— Thy first in battle, and perchance thy last. The camp is broken up, the air is rent With strains of martial music, the loud neigh Of prancing steeds, impatient for the strife, With clang of arms, and oft-repeated shouts Of warriors, who impatiently leap forth With reckless hardihood to meet their doom.
With beating heart, firm step, and flashing eye, The young recruit of glory proudly grasps The standard he must only yield with life. The march commences—deep excitement grows To fiery expectation—he forgets, Amidst the hurried interest of the scene, The crown he fights for only can be won Through seas of slaughter and the waste of life. Alas! how few devoted hearts like his Survive their first engagement with the foe. Death strikes the hero to the dust. He falls In honour's mantle, the triumphant cry Of victory on his pallid lip expires! But what are conquests of the bow and spear, And Alexander's victories, compared With the stern warfare which the soul maintains Against the subtle tempter of mankind— The base corruptions of a sinful world— An evil conscience and a callous heart? Oh, vanquish these!—and through the gates of death Triumphant pass and win a heavenly crown!—
Oh, that my soul could find a voice to speak; That human language could express the thoughts Which fill the secret chambers of the brain. In vain the lips pour forth harmonious sounds; In vain the eager eye is raised to heaven, Swimming in tears, and bright with ecstasy,— The senses still are debtors to the heart, Which, trembling, throbs for utterance in vain. Does the salvation of a deathless soul Kindle no hope in the possessor's breast? Awaken no desire to be restored To that most pure and perfect state of bliss Man by transgression lost?—the noble thought Of claiming kindred with the skies, give birth To no anticipations of delight— Joys such as angels share, and saints, who dwell Within the circle of Jehovah's throne? A light is breaking on my mental eye; Visions of glory in succession rise And fill the airy palace of the soul. I see afar the promised land. An arch Of golden radiance canopies the gates Of that celestial city—Beautiful! Unbuilt by hands—the New Jerusalem— And holy to the Lord; the happy home Of pilgrims, who to reach that heavenly shrine Sojourned as strangers on this goodly earth, Counting all things but loss—yea, life itself— To win an entrance through those gates of pearl, And dwell within the temple of their God! Alas! earth's dusky shadow lies between My ardent spirit and that blissful shore: Eye hath not seen, nor mortal ear hath heard, How then can mortal pen portray, the joys Prepared for those who live and die in Christ!
Before me flows the rapid stream of time, Dark, fathomless, encumbered with the wrecks Of twice three thousand years. They too shall sink Beneath those turbid waters, swallowed up In the vast ocean of eternity; Leaving few fragments on the boundless waste To tell to coming years that such have been. How shall the naked spirit cross the flood, And land in safety on the happy shore? 'Tis not an earthly pilot that can steer So frail a bark through such a stormy tide. Cannot the eye of faith look up and see The clouds of sorrow part—the day-star rise Above life's trackless ocean, shedding light Upon the darkened nations? From its beams The mist of error flies, the angry waves Of passion, which so long have vexed the world, Are hushed to rest; controlled by Him who rose From tranquil sleep, and to the roaring waste Of midnight waters, mustering all their wrath, Said, "Peace, be still." The howling winds obeyed, And silence sank upon the storm-tossed main!—
Oh look to Him! and to his glorious word. His universal sovereignty demands That deep devotion of the heart which men Miscall enthusiasm!—Zeal alone deserves The name of madness in a worldly cause. Light misdirected ever leads astray; But hope inspired by faith will guide to heaven! To win the laurel wreath the soldier fights; To free his native land the patriot bleeds; And to secure his crown the martyr dies! For beauteous Rachel Isaac's son endured Seven years of bitter servitude, and deemed The weary months but moments to obtain From crafty Laban's hand his promised bride. To prove his friendship for the man he loved, The generous Jonathan forgot his claims To royalty, intent to save the life Of him whom God had called to fill his throne. And wilt thou feel less zealous to regain The love and favour of thy heavenly King, And shrink because the path to glory lies Up the steep hill of duty? He who saved, Amidst the tempest on Gennesaret, Peter, when sinking in the waves, will aid Thy feeble steps, and guide thee to the rock Of everlasting strength!—
Spirit divine! Whose name I erst invoked, whose influence fills The narrow confines of this human breast,— If I have dared to sing of truths sublime, Oh, shed a glory round my rugged lyre— Hallow the feeble strains that would reveal The dazzling light, which streaming from thy wings, Gilds all the dark and troubled tide of thought. Lifted by thee above the gulf of time My eye explores the regions of the blessed, And hopes long chained to earth are raised to heaven. Never, while reason holds her steady rein, To curb imagination's fiery steeds, May I to joyless apathy resign The high and holy thoughts inspired by thee!
Oh ye! who all life's energies combine The fadeless laurel round your brows to twine, Pause but one moment in your brief career, Nor seek for glory in a mortal sphere. Can figures traced upon the shifting sand Washed by the mighty tide, its force withstand? Time's stern resistless torrent onward flows, The restless waves above your labours close, And He who bids the bounding billows roll Sweeps out the feeble record from the soul.
The glorious hues that flush the evening sky Melt into night, and on her bosom die; Through the wide fields of heaven's immensity The gold-tipped billows of that crimson sea Flash on the awe-struck gazer's dazzled sight, The rich out-gushings from the fount of light; Yet oft, concealed beneath that splendid form, We hail the herald of the coming storm; The fiery spirit over half a globe Spreads the bright tissue of his beamy robe, And, ere the day-king veils his glowing crest, Shrouds the dark tempest in his burning vest; O'er earth and heaven his gorgeous banner flings, And gilds with borrowed light his sable wings— And those who view with rapture-lifted eyes The short-lived pageant of the summer skies, Behold it vanish like a fearful dream, And death and desolation mar its beam. So when we seek above life's sea of tears To raise a monument for future years, If built on earth the fabric will decay, Oblivion's hand will sweep the pile away; The proudest trophies of the mightiest mind Fade in her grasp, nor leave a wreck behind; She o'er earth's ruins spreads her misty pall, And time's unsparing ocean swallows all; Hope for a moment gilds the spoiler's shroud, As parting sunbeams tinge the lurid cloud; The transient glory cheats the gazer's sight; The storm rolls on—'tis universal night!
Say did not man inherit, at his birth, A higher promise than the things of earth; Views more exalted than this world can give, And hopes that, deathless as the soul, outlive The wreck of nature, and the common doom That hourly sweeps her myriads to the tomb? His mental powers, unfettered by the clod, Soar o'er time's gulf, and reach the throne of God. Oh what a privilege it is to know That death chains not the immortal soul below! Through the dark portals of the grave upborne, Leaving the care-worn sons of earth to mourn, On wings of light the new-born spirit flies To seek a home and kindred in the skies.
Oh what are earthly crowns and earthly bliss, And pride's delusive dreams, compared with this? Ambition's laurel, purchased with a flood Of human tears and stained with kindred blood, Once gained, converted to a crown of thorns, Pierces the aching temples it adorns— Not Sappho's lyre, nor Raphael's deathless art Can twine the olive round the bleeding heart; In heaven alone the promised blessing lies, And those who seek—must seek it in the skies! Seek it through Him who, humbling human pride, Wept o'er man's fall, and for his ransom died; Poured out his blood on the accursed tree, To break the chain and set the captive free. Heaven bowed its glory on the cross to teach That greatness man's lost nature could not reach, The true humility, which stoops to rise, And, leaving earth, claims kindred with the skies.
How many pages have been blotted o'er With heartfelt tears, that now are read no more; And, like the eyes that long have ceased to weep, In dust and darkness quite forgotten sleep! Dead to the world as if they ne'er had been The favoured actors in one little scene. The scene is changed—and, like their fleeting-fame, The fickle world adores another name. They knew the price at which its praise was bought; The glittering bauble was not worth a thought; Yet, Esau like, a better birthright sold, And for base counterfeit exchanged the gold!
Ere man presumptuously his genius boasts, Let him reflect upon the countless hosts, The untold myriads, of each age and clime, That sleep forgotten in the grave of time. What were their names! Go ask the silent sod Their deeds—their record lives but with their God! At every step we tread on kindred earth, Nor know the spot that gave our fathers birth. Oh! could we call before our wondering eyes All that have lived—and bid the dead arise, From the first moment the Creator spoke The word of power, and light through darkness broke, And see earth covered with the mighty tide Of all who on her bosom lived and died, What a stupendous thought would fill the soul Could we behold life's breathing ocean roll Its human billows onward—and the mass The grave has swallowed, down from Adam, pass In one unbroken stream—the brain would reel— Lost in immensity, would cease to feel! Whilst living, ah, how few were known to fame! One in a million has not left a name,— A single token, on life's shifting scene, To tell to other years that such has been. Yet man, unaided by a hope sublime, Thinks that his puny arm can cope with time; That his vast genius can reverse the doom, And shed a deathless light upon his tomb; That distant ages shall his worth admire, And young hearts kindle at the sacred fire Of him whose fame no envious clouds o'ercast, Yet died forgotten and unknown at last.
Oh think not genius, with its hallowed light, Can break the gloom of an eternal night; For splendid talents often lead astray The unguarded heart, and hide the narrow way, While the unlearned and those of low estate, With faith's clear eye behold the living gate, Whose portals open on the shoreless sea Where time's strong ocean meets eternity. Across the gulf that stretches far beneath Lies the dark valley of the shade of death— A land of deep forgetfulness,—a shore Which all must traverse, but return no more To this sad earth, to dissipate our dread, And tell the mighty secrets of the dead. Enough for us that those drear realms were trod By heavenly footsteps, that the Son of God Passed the dark bourne and vanquished Death, to save The weary wanderers of life's stormy wave.
Why then should man thus cleave to things of earth? Daily experience proves their little worth— Or waste those noble qualities of mind, For wise and better purposes designed, In the pursuit of trifles, which confer No solid pleasure on their worshipper; Or in the search of causes that are known And guided by Omnipotence alone? A height his finite reason cannot reach, And all his boasted learning fails to teach? While the bewildering thought overwhelms his brain, Death comes to prove his speculations vain!
Is he deserving of a better doom Who will not raise a hope beyond the tomb? Who, quite enamoured with his fallen state, Clings to the world and leaves the rest to fate; Prefers corruption to his Maker's smile, "And shuns the light because his deeds are vile?" The man who feels the value of his soul, Presses unwearied towards a higher goal; Leaving this earth, he seeks a brighter prize, And claims a crown immortal in the skies. The child of pleasure may despise his aim, And heap reproach upon the Christian's name, May laugh his faith, as foolishness, to scorn:— These by the man of God are meekly borne. His glorious hope no infidel can shake; He suffers calmly for his Saviour's sake.—
The world's poor votary seeks in vain for peace: He cannot bid the voice of conscience cease Its dire upbraidings; in his heartless course He meets at every turn the fiend Remorse, Who glares upon him with her tearless eye, That sears his heart—but mocks its agony. He hears that voice, amid the festive throng, Speak in the dance and murmur in the song, A death-bell, pealing in the midnight chime, Whose awful tones proclaim the lapse of time, And e'en the winged moments as they fly Seem to proclaim—"Rash mortal, thou must die! Soon must thou tread the path thy fathers trod, And stand before the judgment-seat of God!"— He hears—but seeks in pleasure's cup to drown The dread that weighs his ardent spirit down; Derides the warning voice in mercy sent; Rejects the thought of after-punishment; In folly's vortex wastes the spring of youth, Nor, till death summons, owns the awful truth; Feels it too late to calm the agonies Remorse has kindled—and despairing, dies!
But in the breast where true religion reigns There is a balm for all these mental pains; A sweet contentment, felt, but undefined, A full and free surrender of the mind To its divine-original; a trust Which lifts to heaven the dweller of the dust. The pilgrim, glowing with a hope divine, Counts not the distance to the heavenly shrine; He meets with guardian spirits on the road, Who cheer his steps and ease his heavy load. Serenely journeying to a better clime He does not shudder at the lapse of time; But calmly drinks the cup of mortal woe, And finds that peace the world cannot bestow; That promised joy which brightens all beneath, And smooths his pillow on the bed of death; That perfect love which casteth out all fear, And wafts his spirit to a happier sphere!—
Fame is a dream—the praise of man as brief As morning dew upon the folded leaf; The summer sun exhales the pearly tear, And leaves no trace of its existence there. Seek not for immortality below, But fix your hopes beyond this vale of woe, That when oblivion gathers round thy sod, A lasting record may be found with God!—
Visions of the years gone by Flash upon my mental eye; Ages time no longer numbers, Forms that share oblivion's slumbers, Creatures of that elder world Now in dust and darkness hurled, Crushed beneath the heavy rod Of a long forsaken God!
Hark! what spirit moves the crowd? Like the voice of waters loud, Through the open city gate, Urged by wonder, fear, or hate, Onward rolls the mighty tide— Spreads the tumult far and wide. Heedless of the noontide glare, Infancy and age are there,— Joyous youth and matron staid, Blooming bride and blushing maid,— Manhood with his fiery glance, War-chief with his lifted lance,— Beauty with her jewelled brow, Hoary age with locks of snow: Prince, and peer, and statesman grave, White-stoled priest, and dark-browed slave,— Plumed helm, and crowned head, By one mighty impulse led— Mingle in the living mass, That onward to the desert pass!
With song and shout and impious glee, What rush earth's myriads forth to see? Hark! the sultry air is rent With their boisterous merriment! Are they to the vineyards rushing, Where the grape's rich blood is gushing? Or hurrying to the bridal rite Of warrior brave and beauty bright? Ah no! those heads in mockery crowned, Those pennons gay with roses bound, Hie not to a scene of gladness— Theirs is mirth that ends in madness! All recklessly they rush to hear The dark words of that gifted seer, Who amid a guilty race Favour found and saving grace; Rescued from the doom that hurled To chaos back a sinful world.— Self-polluted, lost, debased, Every noble trait effaced, To rapine, lust, and murder given, Denying God, defying heaven, Spoilers of the shrine and hearth, Behold the impious sons of earth! Alas! all fatally opposed, The heart of erring man is closed Against that warning, and he deems The prophet's counsel idle dreams, And laughs to hear the preacher rave Of bursting cloud and whelming wave!
Tremble Earth! the awful doom That sweeps thy millions to the tomb Hangs darkly o'er thee,—and the train That gaily throng the open plain, Shall never raise those laughing eyes To welcome summer's cloudless skies; Shall never see the golden beam Of day light up the wood and stream, Or the rich and ripened corn Waving in the breath of morn, Or their rosy children twine Chaplets of the clustering vine:— The bow is bent! the shaft is sped! Who shall wail above the dead?
What arrests their frantic course? Back recoils the startled horse, And the stifling sob of fear Like a knell appals the ear! Lips are quivering—cheeks are pale— Palsied limbs all trembling fail; Eyes with bursting terror gaze On the sun's portentous blaze, Through the wide horizon gleaming, Like a blood-red banner streaming; While like chariots from afar, Armed for elemental war, Clouds in quick succession rise, Darkness spreads o'er all the skies; And a lurid twilight gloom Closes o'er earth's living tomb!
Nature's pulse has ceased to play,— Night usurps the crown of day,— Every quaking heart is still, Conscious of the coming ill. Lo, the fearful pause is past, The awful tempest bursts at last! Torrents sweeping down amain With a deluge flood the plain; The rocks are rent, the mountains reel, Earth's yawning caves their depths reveal; The forests groan,—the heavy gale Shrieks out Creation's funeral wail. Hark! that loud tremendous roar! Ocean overleaps the shore, Pouring all his giant waves O'er the fated land of graves; Where his white-robed spirit glides, Death the advancing billow rides, And the mighty conqueror smiles In triumph o'er the sinking isles.
Hollow murmurs fill the air, Thunders roll and lightnings glare; Shrieks of woe and fearful cries, Mingled sounds of horror rise; Dire confusion, frantic grief, Agony that mocks relief, Like a tempest heaves the crowd, While in accents fierce and loud, With pallid lips and curdled blood, Each trembling cries, "The flood! the flood!"
THE AVENGER OF BLOOD.
There were two sons of Ashur at work in the field, And one to the other his passion revealed— As the white barley bowed to the stroke of his scythe, He burst out in accents exultingly blithe—
"I have wooed a young maid!—I have wooed and I've won, On a lovelier face never glanced yon bright sun; To the tall stately cedar my love I'll compare, With her eyes' shaded glory, her long raven hair, And her bosom as white as the snow when it gleams On Lebanon's heights, ere washed down by the streams. She has ravished and filled my rapt soul with delight; She's more dear to my heart than yon heavens to my sight."—
"And who is the chosen?" his comrade replied, Whilst the deepest of crimson his swarthy cheek dyed, His severed lips trembled, his eagle eye fell With a glance on his kinsman that urged him to tell.— "'Tis Iddo's bright daughter!"—The words were scarce said— At the feet of his brother young Simeon lay dead.— It was but one blow on those temples so fair, One fierce cry of anger and jealous despair; And shuddering with horror his stern rival stood, And gazed on those features disfigured with blood.—
Weep, fratricide, weep!—'tis in vain that you cast Your arms round that pale form, the struggle is past; 'Tis in vain that chilled heart to your bosom you press, Its stillness increases your frantic distress. You have scattered the gems in youth's beautiful crown, And his sun at mid-day has in darkness gone down; He never shall bind for your false love a wreath, The hand of the bridegroom is stiffened in death. Then dash from those wild eyes the fast-flowing tear, And fly!—for the City of Refuge is near.— There's a murmur of voices, a shout on the wind, Fly! fly! the Avenger of Blood is behind!—
He fled like an arrow just launched from the bow, O'erwhelm'd with remorse and distracted with woe; The victim of passion—he'd gladly give all Life's dearest enjoyments that hour to recall. The stain on his hands added wings to his flight, As onward he sped through the shadows of night, And his startled ear caught in the wind's fitful moan, As it swept through the forest, a faint dying groan; The leaves rustling near sent a chill to his heart, And oft backward he glanced with an agonized start, And felt on his throat, parched and swollen with dread, The soul-thrilling grasp of the phantom-like dead. That pang was too great for the sinner to bear, And his fears found a voice in wild shrieks of despair!
But the night and its long noon of horrors is past, A broad line of light on the blue hills is cast, And the city of refuge before him appears, Like a beacon of hope, giving rest to his fears— "But hark!—the avenger of blood is at hand; Dost thou hear the loud shouts of his death-dooming band? The trampling of horses rings sharp on the breeze, And armour is glancing at times through the trees; On! on! for thy life!—if they compass the plain, Thy sentence is sealed and all rescue is vain?"—
He strains every nerve—he redoubles his speed, And strength is supplied in the moment of need, The race is for life—and the city is won, Ere its broad towers reflect the first beams of the sun.—
One proud glance of triumph the fugitive threw On the band of pursuers that burst on his view, He shook his clenched hand—and a tremulous cry Rose and died on his pale lips their wrath to defy; But the effort, too mighty, has severed in twain His heart-strings—he staggers and sinks to the plain, And the cold dews that moisten that toil-crimsoned face Tell that death claims his victim, the prize of the race, That the city no refuge to guilt can afford— He has found an Avenger of Blood in the Lord!
THE OVERTHROW OF ZEBAH AND ZALMUNNA.
Who are ye, who through the night Onward urge your desperate flight? Far and wide the hills repeat The hurried tread of armed feet, Ringing helm and dying groan, The crash of chariots overthrown, And muttered curse and menace dire, As warriors in their rage expire. From the vengeance of the Lord, From the terrors of the sword, From Karkor's field, with slaughter red, Have Zebah and Zalmunna fled.
He who checked their haughty boast, Hard upon that flying host Presses, with avenging spear Flashing on their scattered rear: Nor can hills of slaughter tire The pursuer's burning ire; Still along the hills are poured Shouts of "Gideon and the Lord."
Morning spread her wings of light O'er the sable couch of night: Back the shades of darkness rolled, Glowed the purple east with gold, And the young day's rosy glance Gleamed on broken helm and lance, Ere the fearful chase was won, Ere the fierce pursuit was done, Or the slayer staid his hand, Or the warrior sheathed his brand, Or rested from the sanguine toil, Or paused to share the princely spoil, And pealed along the host the cry, "The Lord hath won the victory!"
Lo! Zebah and Zalmunna come, Unheralded by trump or drum; Harp and timbrel now are mute, Cymbal loud and softer flute. And where are they, the bands that rent At morn with shouts the firmament? Like clods, far stretched o'er plain and hill, Their limbs are stiff, their lips are still! Broken is the arm of war; Quenched in night is Midian's star!
Hot with toil, and stained with blood, Yet still in spirit unsubdued, To the champion of the Lord Midian's princes yield the sword. Pomp and power, and crown and life, All were staked on that fell strife: All are lost!—yet still they bear A monarch's pride in their despair; A warrior's pride, that will not yield Though vanquished on the battle-field.
"Captives of my bow and spear! Zebah and Zalmunna, hear: God hath smitten down the pride Of Midian on the mountain's side; Ye are given, a helpless prey, Into Israel's hand to-day: Gideon's arm is strong to spare Princes, boldly now declare The form and bearing of the brave Who at Tabor found a grave?"
His head the high Zalmunna raised, A moment on the victor gazed, And paused until the tide of thought The image back to memory brought: His reply was stern and brief— "As thou art—were they, O chief! Each a regal crown might wear, Each might be a monarch's heir."—
With a sudden start and cry, Quivering lip and blazing eye, Gideon smote his clenched hand Fiercely on his battle brand— "Smitten down with spear and bow, All my father's house lie low, Brethren of one mother born— As their sun went down at morn, Neither crown nor regal state Shall exempt you from their fate!— By the Lord of Hosts I swear, Had your souls been known to spare The men whom ye at Tabor slew, Such mercy I had shown to you! Up Jether!—for thy kindred's sake, Thy father's sword and spirit take; Let Zebah and Zalmunna feel A brother's vengeance in the steel!"
Eagerly the blood-stained brand Grasped young Jether in his hand, While the spirit of his race Lighted up his kindling face, And his soul to vengeance woke As he nerved him for the stroke! "Now for Gideon and the Lord!" He said—then sudden dropped the sword, As from a palsied arm; and pressed His hand upon his heaving breast; And the burning crimson streak Faded from his altered cheek, As he backward slowly stepped, And turned away his head and wept.
All unbidden to his eyes Visions of his home arise: The play-mates of his early years; The spot that kindred love endears; The sunny fields; the rugged rocks; The valley where they fed their flocks; The still, deep stream; the drooping pride Of willows weeping o'er the tide. And are they gone—the young and brave, Who oft in sport had stemmed that wave? When, fainting from the mid-day heat, They sought at noon that cool retreat; While one among the youthful throng Poured forth his ardent soul in song, And bade his harp's wild numbers tell How Israel fled and Egypt fell!
Proudly then Zalmunna spoke: "Dost thou think we dread the stroke Doomed to stretch us on the plain With the brave in battle slain? Leave yon tender boy to shed Tear-drops o'er the tombless dead: Like the mighty chiefs of old, Thou art cast in sterner mould. Rise, then, champion of the Lord, Rise! and slay us with the sword: Life from thee we scorn to crave, Midian would not live a slave! But when Judah's harp shall raise Songs to celebrate thy praise, Let the bards of Israel tell How Zebah and Zalmunna fell!"
O mighty God! our fathers told The wondrous works thou didst of yore; Thy glories in the days of old, Wrought on proud Egypt's hostile shore. Thy wrath swept through that guilty land; Before thy face the heathen fled; His people, with an outstretched hand, The Lord of Hosts in triumph led!
It was not counsel, spear, nor sword, A heritage for Israel won; It was Jehovah's awful word That led our conquering armies on. The heathen host—their warriors brave— Were scattered when the Lord arose; At his terrific glance, a grave Was found by Jacob's haughty foes!
God of our strength! Almighty Power! Our sure defence, our sword and shield, Still guide our hosts in danger's hour, Still lead our armies to the field. In thee we trust—what foe can stand The awful brightness of thine eye? Both life and death are in thy hand, And in thy smile is victory!
Rejoice O my people! Jehovah hath spoken! The dark chain of sin and oppression is broken; Thy warfare is over, thy bondage is past, The Lord hath looked down on his chosen at last. A voice from the wilderness breaks on mine ear— O Israel, rejoice! thy redemption is near: A path for our God the wild desert shall yield; He comes in the light of salvation revealed; His word hath declared, who speaks not in vain; He bends the high mountain, exalts the low plain; All flesh shall behold him, far nations shall bring Their glad songs of triumph to welcome their King!
As the grass of the field in the morning is green, So man, in his beauty and vigour, is seen A perishing glory, the beam of a day, A flower that will fade with the evening away: The breath of the Lord o'er its verdure shall pass; The freshness shall wither and fade like the grass; The flower from its stem the rude whirlwind may sever, But the word of our God is established for ever!
O Zion, that bringeth good tidings of peace, Raise thy voice in the song, thy afflictions shall cease; Arise in thy strength, banish every base fear, Tell the cities of Judah redemption is near: He comes! and his works shall his glory reveal; He comes! his lost children to succour and heal; In mercy and truth to establish his throne, That his name to the ends of the earth may be known!
THE VISION OF DRY BONES.
The Spirit of God with resistless control, Like a sunbeam, illumined the depths of my soul, And visions prophetical burst on my sight, As he carried me forth in the power of his might. Around me I saw in a desolate heap The relics of those who had slept their death-sleep, In the midst of the valley, all reckless and bare, Like the hope of my country, lie withering there,—
"Son of man! can these dry bones, long bleached in decay, Ever feel in their flesh the warm beams of the day; Can the spirit of life ever enter again The perishing heaps that now whiten the plain?" "Lord, thou knowest alone, who their being first gave: Thy power may be felt in the depths of the grave; The hand that created again may impart The rich tide of feeling and life to the heart.
"Lo, these dry bones are withered and shrunk in the blast, O'er their ashes the tempests of ages have past; And the flesh that once covered each mouldering frame With the dust of the earth is re-mingled again:— At the voice of their God, son of man, they shall rise; The light shall revisit their death-darkened eyes; Their sinews and flesh shall again be restored, They shall live and acknowledge the power of the Lord!"
And lo! as I prophesied o'er them, a sound, Like the rushing of water, was heard all around: The earth trembled and shook like a leaf in the wind, As those long-severed limbs to each other were joined, And flesh came upon them, and beauty and grace Returned, as in life, to each warrior's face. A numberless host they lay stretched on the sod, All glowing and fresh from the hand of their God.
But the deep sleep of death on each eyelid still hung; Each figure was motionless, mute every tongue: Through those slumbering thousands there breathed not a sound, And silence, unbroken, reigned awfully round:— "Raise thy voice, son of man! call the winds from on high, As viewless they sweep o'er the brow of the sky; And life shall return on the wings of the blast, And the slumber of death shall be broken at last."
I called to the wind—and a deep answer came In the rush of the tempest, the bursting of flame; And the spirit of life, as it breathed on the dead, Restored to each body the soul that had fled. Rejoicing to break from that dreamless repose, Like a host in the dark day of battle they rose; He alone who had formed them could number again The myriads that filled all the valley and plain.
"Son of man! in this numerous army behold My chosen of Israel, beloved of old. They say that the hope of existence is o'er, That no power from death's grasp can the spirit restore: He who called you my people is mighty to save, Your God can re-open the gates of the grave; From the chain of oblivion the soul can release, And restore you again to your country in peace!"
THE DESTRUCTION OF BABYLON.
An awful vision floats before my sight, Black as the storm and fearful as the night: Thy fall, oh Babylon!—the awful doom Pronounced by Heaven to hurl thee to the tomb, Peals in prophetic thunder in mine ear— The voice of God foretelling ruin near!
Hark! what strange murmurs from the hills arise, Like rushing torrents from the bursting skies! Loud as the billows of the restless tide, In strange confusion flowing far and wide, Ring the deep tones of horror and dismay, The shriek—the shout—the battle's stern array— The gathering cry of nations from afar— The tramp of steeds—the tumult of the war— Burst on mine ear, and o'er thy fated towers Hovers despair, and fierce destruction lowers; Within the fire—without the vengeful sword; Who leads those hosts against thee but the Lord?
Proud queen of nations! where is now thy trust?— Thy crown is ashes and thy throne the dust. The crowds who fill thy gates shall pass away, As night's dim shadows flee the eye of day. No patriot voice thy glory shall recall, No eye shall weep, no tongue lament thy fall.
The day of vengeance comes—the awful hour— Fraught with the terrors of almighty power; The arm of God is raised against thy walls; Destruction hovers o'er thy princely halls, Flings his red banner to the rising wind, While death's stern war-cry echoes far behind. When the full horrors of that hour are felt, The warrior's heart shall as the infant's melt; Counsel shall flee the learned and the old, And fears unfelt before shall tame the bold.
Woe for thee, Babylon!—thy men of might Shall fall unhonoured in the sanguine fight; Like the chased roe thy hosts disordered fly, And those who turn to strive but turn to die. Thy young men tremble and thy maids grow pale, And swell with frantic grief thy funeral wail; They kneel for mercy, but they sue in vain; Their beauty withers on the gore-dyed plain; With fathers, lovers, brothers, meet their doom, And 'mid thy blackened ruins find a tomb. Of fear unconscious, in soft slumbers blest, The infant dies upon its mother's breast, Unpitied e'en by her—the hand that gave The blow has sent the parent to the grave.
Queen of the East! all desolate and lone, No more shall nations bow before thy throne. Low in the dust thy boasted beauty lies; Loud through thy princely domes the bittern cries, And the night wind in mournful cadence sighs. The step of man and childhood's joyous voice Are heard no more, and never shall rejoice Thy lonely echoes; savage beasts shall come And find among thy palaces a home. The dragon there shall rear her scaly brood, And satyrs dance where once thy temples stood; The lion, roaming on his angry way, Shall on thy sacred altars rend his prey; The distant isles at midnight gloom shall hear Their frightful clamours, and, in secret, fear.
No more their snowy flocks shall shepherds lead By Babel's silver stream and fertile mead; Or peasant girls at summer's eve repair, To wreathe with wilding flowers their flowing hair; Or pour their plaintive ditties to the wave, That rolls its sullen murmurs o'er thy grave. The wandering Arab there no rest shall find, But, starting, listen to the hollow wind That howls, prophetic, through thy ruined halls, And flee in haste from thy accursed walls. Oh Babylon, with wrath encompassed round, For thee no hope, no mercy, shall be found: Thy doom is sealed—e'en to thy ruin clings The awful sentence of the King of kings!
TO THE MEMORY OF MRS. EWING.
WRITTEN AFTER PERUSING THE INTERESTING MEMOIR COMPOSED BY HER HUSBAND, THE REV. GREVILLE EWING.
Daughter of Scotland! may a stranger twine One cypress wreath around thy honoured urn?— Yet, when I meditate on faith like thine, I feel my breast with sacred ardour burn; Deep admiration checks the starting tear,— Such drops would stain a Ewing's holy bier!
Death was to thee a messenger of love; He met thee in the path thy Saviour trod, Bearing this blessed mandate from above, "Come, happy spirit—come away to God! Thy works of piety on earth are o'er,— Plume thy bright wing to reach the heavenly shore!"
Calm was thy exit from this troubled scene; Pain from thy lips no hasty murmurs wrung; With brow unruffled and with mind serene, Thy Saviour's praise employed thy faltering tongue: And though no kindling raptures marked thy flight, Thy faith unshaken showed that all was right!
Those who beheld thee in the burning hour, When fever raged in every throbbing vein, Oft shall recount the parting struggle o'er, The scene on memory's tablets long retain— Each gracious word, each kindly glance, that told The Christian's love, ere that warm heart was cold!
Thy memory is a pure and holy thing, Embalmed and treasured in the hearts of those Who saw thee, like an angel, ministering The precious balm that softens human woes. Thou didst not hide thy talent in the dust; Anxious that all should own the same high trust.—
Deeply concerned that other realms should share Those blessed promises so dear to thee,— That messengers of mercy should declare Glad tidings far beyond thy native sea;— Thy bounteous spirit compassed land and wave To send redemption to the soil-bound slave!
But not to foreign realms and climes alone Didst thou confine a Christian's sacred zeal; With all a mother's fondness for thine own, The deep devotion faith alone could feel, 'Twas thine the drooping penitent to cheer, And wipe from sorrow's eyes the gushing tear!
And like the faithful saints and priests of old, Thou with thy honoured partner didst go forth, Exploring barren heath and mountain hold, Far through the isles and highlands of the north, To teach the Gospel in each rocky glen, And bless with Scripture truths unlearned men!
Thy zeal was felt along the rugged wild, Heard round the hearth where pious maidens meet; And matrons oft shall tell the rosy child, Twining its wilding garlands at their feet, To bless her name—who, conquering selfish pride, Sought them on foot to tell how Jesus died!
Daughter of Scotland! when her bards shall trace The noble deeds of thy illustrious line, Thy sainted name a fairer page shall grace, A brighter wreath for thee the minstrel twine Than ever crowned thy warlike sires of yore, Than history ever gave or genius wore!
TO THE MEMORY OF R. R. JUN.
LATE OF IPSWICH, AND ONE OF THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS.
From thy sad sire and weeping kindred torn, Thine is the crown of everlasting life; On thy closed eye has burst a brighter morn, In realms where joy and peace alone are rife; Thy soul, in Christ, enlightened and new-born, Has meekly triumphed over nature's strife, And passed the dreary portals of the grave, Strong in the faith of Him who died to save!
Soldier of Christ! thy warfare now is o'er, Thy toils accomplished and thy trials done, And thou shalt weep and sigh, young saint, no more; With thee the scene is closed, the race is run. Death heaved the bar of that eternal door; The palm is gained,—the victory is won, And earthly sorrows shall no more alloy Thy soul's pure raptures in those realms of joy!
Ah! who would weep for thee?—the early blessed— Who that has mourned the tyranny of sin, The strong temptations which assail the breast, The fiery passions warring still within, But does not envy thee thy heavenly rest, And sighing, wish that they at length may win The narrow path thy faith and patience trod, And meet thee in the presence of thy God?
Though friends who loved thee weep above thy bier, And kindred anguish find in grief a voice, We will not mourn thy exit from this sphere, When angels in the heaven of heavens rejoice, When God's own hand hath wiped away each tear, And crowned with endless life thy happy choice. Oh blessed lot—oh change with rapture fraught, Surpassing human love—and human thought!
AN APPEAL TO THE FREE.
Offspring of heaven, fair Freedom! impart The light of thy spirit to quicken each heart. Though the chains of oppression our free limbs ne'er bound, Bid us feel for the wretch round whose soul they are wound; Whose breast is corroded with anguish so deep That the eye of the slave is too blood-shot to weep; No balm from the fountain of nature will flow When the mind is degraded by fetter and blow.
The friends of humanity nobly have striven, But the bonds of the heart-broken slave are unriven! Whilst Religion extends o'er those champions her shield, May they never to party or prejudice yield The glorious cause by all freemen espoused. A light shines abroad and the lion is roused; The crush of the iron has struck fire from the stone; Bid them back to the charge—and the field is their own!
Ye children of Britain! brave sons of the Isles! Who revel in freedom and bask in her smiles, Can ye sanction such deeds as are done in the West And sink on your pillows untroubled to rest? Are your slumbers unbroken by visions of dread? Does no spectre of misery glare on your bed? No cry of despair break the silence of night And thrill the cold hearts that ne'er throbbed for the right?
Are ye fathers,—nor pity those children bereaved Of the birth-right which man from his Maker received? Are ye husbands,—and blest with affectionate wives, The comfort, the solace, the joy of your lives,— And feel not for him whom a tyrant can sever From the wife of his bosom and children for ever? Are ye Christians, enlightened with precepts divine, And suffer a brother in bondage to pine? Are ye men, whom fair freedom has marked for her own, Yet listen unmoved to the negro's deep groan?
Ah no!—ye are slaves!—for the freeborn in mind Are the children of mercy, the friends of mankind: By no base, selfish motive their actions are weighed; They barter no souls in an infamous trade; They eat not the bread which is moistened by tears, And carelessly talk of the bondage of years;— They feel as men should feel;—the clank of the chain Bids them call upon Justice to cleave it in twain!—
Dark spirit! who through every age Hast cast a baleful gloom; Stern lord of strife and civil rage, The dungeon and the tomb! What homage should men pay to thee, Spirit of woe and anarchy?
Yet there are those who in thy train Can feel a fierce delight; Who rush, exulting, to the plain, And triumph in the fight, Where the red banner floats afar Along the crimson tide of war.
Who is the knight on sable steed, That comes with thundering tread? Dark warrior, slack thy furious speed, Nor trample on the dead: A youthful chief before thee lies, Struggling in life's last agonies.
Oh pause one moment in thy course, Those lineaments to trace; Dost thou not feel a strange remorse, Whilst gazing on that face, Where grace and manly beauty meet, To die beneath thy courser's feet?
Those sunny tresses scattered wide, And soiled with dust and blood, Were once a mother's fondest pride, When at her knee he stood, A rosy, playful, laughing boy, Her lonely heart's sole hope and joy.
But youth a glowing vision brought, And whispered glory's name, Renown, with every burning thought Linked to ambition, came: Like a young war-horse in his might, He panted for the desperate fight.
For civil discord rent the land, His warrior sire, afar, Against his sovereign raised the brand, The leader of the war: By honour fired the stripling draws His weapon in the royal cause.
Stretched bleeding on the battle-field His first, last strife is done; No more his hand the sword shall wield, His eyes behold the sun, Or his pale lips repeat the cry, The thrilling shout of victory!—
He struggles yet—the strife is o'er— The soul hath winged its flight, Again beholds its native shore, A spirit robed in light. What now avail his mother's cares— Her silent tears—her nightly prayers?
On that young soldier's prostrate form The warrior grimly smiled, As if he viewed in secret scorn That face so fair and mild; Why springs he to the fatal plain To gaze upon that form again?
Why does his eye in frenzy roll? Why is his clenched hand raised? What thought quick rushed across his soul, When on that boy he gazed? His quivering lip and swollen brow His mental agonies avow.
Can sorrow touch that iron heart, So long to mercy steeled? From those fierce eyes the big drops start, He sinks upon the field. Night closes round, the strife is done, That warrior sleeps beside his son!
There was no sound in earth or air, And soft the moonbeams smiled On stately tower and temple fair, Like mother o'er her child; And all was hushed in the deep repose That welcomes the summer evening's close.
Many an eye that day had wept, And many a cheek with joy grew bright, Which now, alike unconscious, slept Beneath the wan moonlight; And mandolin and gay guitar Had ceased to woo the evening star.
The lover has sought his couch again, And the maiden's eyes no longer glisten, As she comes to the lattice to catch his strain, And sighs while she bends to smile and listen. She sleeps, but her rosy lips still move, And in dreams she answers the voice of love.
Sleep on, ye thoughtless and giddy train, Sorrow comes with the dawning ray; Ye never shall wake to joy again, Or your gay laugh gladden the rising day: Death sits brooding above your towers, And destruction rides on the coming hours.—
The day has dawned—but not a breath Sighs through the sultry air; The heavens above and earth beneath One gloomy aspect wear— Horror and doubt and wild dismay Welcome the dawn of that fatal day.
Hark!—'tis not the thunder's lengthened peal! Hark!—'tis not the winds that rise; Or the heavy crush of the laden wheel, That echoes through the skies— 'Tis the sound that gives the earthquake birth! 'Tis the heavy groans of the rending earth!
Oh, there were shrieks of wild affright, And sounds of hurrying feet, And men who cursed the lurid light, Whose glance they feared to meet: And some sunk down in mute despair On the parched earth, and perished there.—
It comes!—it comes!—that lengthened shock— The earth before it reels— The stately towers and temples rock, The dark abyss reveals Its fiery depths—the strife is o'er, The city sinks to rise no more.
She has passed from earth like a fearful dream;— Where her pomp and splendour rose, There runs a dark and turbid stream, And a sable cloud its shadow throws; Pale sorrow broods in silence there, To mourn the perished things that were.
WRITTEN AMIDST THE RUINS OF A CHURCH ON THE COAST OF SUFFOLK.
"What hast thou seen in the olden time, Dark ruin, lone and gray?" "Full many a race from thy native clime, And the bright earth, pass away. The organ has pealed in these roofless aisles, And priests have knelt to pray At the altar, where now the daisy smiles O'er their silent beds of clay.
"I've seen the strong man a wailing child, By his mother offered here; I've seen him a warrior fierce and wild; I've seen him on his bier, His warlike harness beside him laid In the silent earth to rust; His plumed helm and trusty blade To moulder into dust!
"I've seen the stern reformer scorn The things once deemed divine, And the bigot's zeal with gems adorn The altar's sacred shrine. I've seen the silken banners wave Where now the ivy clings, And the sculptured stone adorn the grave Of mitred priests and kings.
"I've seen the youth in his tameless glee, And the hoary locks of age, Together bend the pious knee, To read the sacred page; I've seen the maid with her sunny brow To the silent dust go down, The soil-bound slave forget his woe, The king resign his crown.
"Ages have fled—and I have seen The young—the fair—the gay— Forgot as if they ne'er had been, Though worshipped in their day: And school-boys here their revels keep, And spring from grave to grave, Unconscious that beneath them sleep The noble and the brave.
"Here thousands find a resting place Who bent before this shrine; Their dust is here—their name and race, Oblivion; now are thine! The prince—the peer—the peasant sleeps Alike beneath the sod; Time o'er their dust short record keeps, Forgotten save by God!
"I've seen the face of nature change, And where the wild waves beat, The eye delightedly might range O'er many a goodly seat; But hill, and dale, and forest fair, Are whelmed beneath the tide. They slumber here—who could declare Who owned those manors wide!
"All thou hast felt—these sleepers knew; For human hearts are still In every age to nature true, And swayed by good or ill: By passion ruled and born to woe, Unceasing tears they shed; But thou must sleep, like them, to know The secrets of the dead!"
THE OLD ASH TREE.
Thou beautiful Ash! thou art lowly laid, And my eyes shall hail no more From afar thy cool and refreshing shade, When the toilsome journey's o'er. The winged and the wandering tribes of air A home 'mid thy foliage found, But thy graceful boughs, all broken and bare, The wild winds are scattering round.
The storm-demon sent up his loudest shout When he levelled his bolt at thee, When thy massy trunk and thy branches stout Were riven by the blast, old tree! It has bowed to the dust thy stately form, Which for many an age defied The rush and the roar of the midnight storm, When it swept through thy branches wide.
I have gazed on thee with a fond delight In childhood's happier day, And watched the moonbeams of a summer night Through thy quivering branches play. I have gathered the ivy wreaths that bound Thy old fantastic roots, And wove the wild flowers that blossomed round With spring's first tender shoots.
And when youth with its glowing visions came, Thou wert still my favourite seat; And the ardent dreams of future fame Were formed at thy hoary feet. Farewell—farewell—the wintry wind Has waged unsparing war on thee, And only pictured on my mind Remains thy form, time-honoured tree!
THE NAMELESS GRAVE.
WRITTEN IN COVE CHURCH-YARD; AND OCCASIONED BY OBSERVING MY OWN SHADOW THROWN ACROSS A GRAVE.
"Tell me, thou grassy mound, What dost thou cover? In thy folds hast thou bound Soldier or lover? Time o'er the turf no memorial is keeping Who in this lone grave forgotten is sleeping?"—
"The sun's westward ray A dark shadow has thrown On this dwelling of clay, And the shade is thine own! From dust and oblivion this stern lesson borrow— Thou art living to-day and forgotten to-morrow!"
There is a pause in nature, ere the storm Rushes resistless in its awful might; There is a softening twilight, ere the morn Expands her wings of glory into light.
There is a sudden stillness in the heart, Ere yet the tears of wounded feeling flow; A speechless expectation, ere the dart Of sorrow lays our fondest wishes low.
There is a dreamy silence in the mind, Ere yet it wakes to energy of thought; A breathless pause of feeling, undefined, Ere the bright image is from fancy caught.
There is a pause more holy still, When Faith a brighter hope has given, And, soaring over earthly ill, The soul looks up to heaven!
Oh dread uncertainty! Life-wasting agony! How dost thou pain the heart, Causing such tears to start, As sorrow never shed O'er hopes for ever fled. For memory hoards up joy Beyond Time's dull alloy; Pleasures that once have been Shed light upon the scene, As setting suns fling back A bright and glowing track, To show they once have cast A glory o'er the past; But thou, tormenting fiend, Beneath Hope's pinions screened, Leagued with distrust and pain, Makest her promise vain; Weaving in life's fair crown Thistles instead of down.
Who would not rather know Present than coming woe? For certain sorrow brings A healing in its wings. The softening touch of years Still dries the mourner's tears; For human minds inherit A gay, elastic spirit, Which rises in the hour Of trial, with such power, That men, with wonder, find Sorrow is less unkind; That human hearts can bear All evils but despair, Or that anticipated grief Which, for a season, mocks relief.
Uncertainty still clings To earth's fair but fleeting things; And mortals vainly trust In fabrics formed of dust! We look into life's waste, And tread its paths in haste; The past—for ever flown; The present—scarce our own; While, cold and dim, before Stretches the shadowy shore, The dark futurity, which lies Beyond the glance of mortal eyes, Wrapped in the mystic gloom Which canopies the tomb. But faith can pour a light On the spirit's earthly night, And break that sullen shroud; As a star bursts through the cloud, To show the upward eye The clear, but distant, sky; The land of joy and peace, Where doubts and sorrows cease.
When the eye whose kind beam was the beacon of gladness From the glance of a lover turns coldly away, O'er the bright sun of hope float the dark clouds of sadness, And youth's lovely visions recede with the ray. Oh turn not where pleasure's wild meteor is beaming, And night's dreary shades wear the splendour of day, To the rich festive board where the red wine is streaming;— Can the dance and the song disappointment allay?
Oh heed not the Syren! for virtue is weeping Where passion is struggling her victim to chain, And Conscience, deep drugged, in her soft lap is sleeping, Till startled by memory and quickened by pain. Oh heed not the minstrel, when music is breathing In the cold ear of fashion his heart-searching strain; And pluck not the rose round Love's diadem wreathing; The garland by beauty is woven in vain.
The pleasures of life, like its moments, are fleeting; Oh let not its trifles your firm purpose move; But think as those moments are slowly retreating, How feebly against its enchantments you strove: Then turn from the world, and, its follies forsaking, Raise your eyes to the day-star of gladness above; There's a balm for each wound, though the fond heart is breaking, A Lethe divine in the fountain of Love!
LINES ON A NEW-BORN INFANT.[A]
Like a dew-drop from heaven in the ocean of life, From the morn's rosy diadem falling, A stranger as yet to the storms and the strife, Dear babe, of thy earthly calling!
Thine eyes have unclosed on this valley of tears; Hark! that cry is the herald of anguish and woe; Thy young spirit finds a deep voice for its fears, Prophetic of all that is passing below.
How short will the term of thy ignorance be! The winds and the tempests will rise, And passion will cover with wrecks the calm sea, On whose surface no shadow now lies.
Unclouded and fair is the morn of thy birth, The first lovely day in a season of gloom; Whilst a pilgrim and stranger thou treadest this earth, May the sunbeams of hope gild thy path to the tomb.
[Footnote A: Infant son (since dead) of Mr. James Bird, author of the Vale of Slaughden.]
THE CHRISTIAN MOTHER'S LAMENT.
THE FOLLOWING LITTLE POEM WAS SUGGESTED BY A PASSAGE IN THE MEMOIRS OF THE LATE MRS. SUSAN HUNTINGTON OF BOSTON, NEW ENGLAND.
Ah! cold at my feet thou art sleeping, my boy, And I press on thy pale lips, in vain, the fond kiss; Earth opens her arms to receive thee, my joy! And all I have suffered was nothing to this: The day-star of hope 'neath thine eyelids is sleeping, No more to arise at the voice of my weeping.
Oh, how art thou changed!—since the light breath of morning Dispelled the soft dew-drops in showers from the tree, Like a beautiful bud, my lone dwelling adorning, Thy smiles called up feelings of rapture in me; I thought not the sunbeams all brightly that shone On thy waking, at eve would behold me alone.
The joy that flashed out from those death-shrouded eyes, That laughed in thy dimples and brightened thy cheek, Is quenched—but the smile on thy pale lip that lies, Now tells of a joy that no language can speak. The fountain is sealed, the young spirit at rest, Ah, why should I mourn thee—my loved one—my blest?
THE CHILD'S FIRST GRIEF.[B]
Sorrow has touched thee, my beautiful boy! And dimmed the bright eyes that were dancing with joy; Thy ruby lips tremble, thy soft cheek is wet, The tears on its roses are lingering yet. On thy quick-heaving heart is thy little hand pressed; There is care on thy brow—there is grief in thy breast, And slowly and darkly the shadow steals o'er thee, For the first time the vision of death is before thee!
Meet emblem of childhood—that innocent dove Was the sharer alike of thy sports and thy love; Thy playmate is dead—and that tenantless cage Has stamped the first grief upon memory's page. And oh!—thou art weeping—Life's fountain of tears, Once unchained, will flow on through the desert of years; No joy will e'er equal thy first dawn of bliss, No sorrow blot out the remembrance of this!
Though reason may smile at the anguish which now Convulses thy bosom and darkens thy brow; The period may come, in thy journey through life, When sick of its falsehood, corruption, and strife, Thou vainly shall seek in thy desolate track To bring those sweet feelings and sympathies back; And thy spirit will murmur, when vexed and reviled, Oh would I could weep—as I wept when a child!
But let us not darken the landscape with gloom, And fling round the cradle the shade of the tomb, The sorrows of youth are like April's rash showers, Which though rapidly shed, strew our pathway with flowers: On the soft downy cheek, while the tear glistens bright, The young heart is leaping, all wild with delight; The glance of a sunbeam will banish its pain, And it joyously breaks into laughter again!
Oh, our early impressions are never forgot— And the wide earth contains not so lovely a spot As the fields that encircled the home of our youth, With all its dear visions of beauty and truth: No meads are so green, and no flowers are so fair As the wildings we gathered and garlanded there; And the dim eye grows bright whilst recounting the joy, The sorrows, and trials, and sports of the boy!
[Footnote B: Written to illustrate a plate by Westall, in Friendship's Offering, for 1830. To those who have not seen the picture, it may be proper to state, that the subject is a child weeping over a dead dove.]
THE LAMENT OF THE DISAPPOINTED.
"When will the grave fling her cold arms around me, And earth on her dark bosom pillow my head? Sorrow and trouble and anguish, have found me, Oh that I slumbered in peace with the dead!
"The forests are budding, the fruit-trees in bloom, And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; But my soul is bowed down by the spirit of gloom, I no longer rejoice as the blossoms expand.
"And April is here with her rich varied skies, Where the sunbeams of hope with the tempest contend, And the bright drops that flow from her deep azure eyes On the bosom of nature like diamonds descend.
"She scatters her jewels o'er forest and lea, And casts in earth's lap all the wealth of the year; But the promise she brings wakes no transports in me, Still the landscape looks dim through the fast flowing tear."
Thus sung a poor exile, whom Sorrow had banished From Joy's golden halls, in those moments when care Struck deep in her soul and Hope's sunny smiles vanished, And her spirit grew dark 'neath the scowl of despair.
But oh! there's a balm e'en for anguish like thine, And He who permitted the evil has given, In exchange for this lost earth, an Eden divine, Revealing to man all the glories of heaven.
Then hush these vain murmurs, arise from the dust, Submit to the hand who the dark chain can sever Of sorrow and sin:—God is faithful and just— Oh seek but his face and be happy for ever!
HYMN OF THE CONVALESCENT.
My eyes have seen another spring In floral beauty rise, And happy birds on gladsome wing Flit through the azure skies. Though sickness bowed my feeble frame Through winter's cheerless hours, Life's sinking torch resumes its flame With renovated powers.
Once more on nature's ample shrine, Beneath the spreading boughs, With lifted hands and hopes divine I offer up my vows. My incense is the breath of flowers, Perfuming all the air; My pillared fane these woodland bowers, A heaven-built house of prayer;
My fellow-worshippers, the gay, Free songsters of the grove, Who to the closing eye of day Warble their hymns of love. The low and dulcet lyre of spring, Swept by the vagrant breeze, Borne far on echo's spreading wing Stirs all the budding trees—
Again I catch the cuckoo's note That faintly murmurs near, The mingled melodies that float To rapture's listening ear. While April like a virgin pale Retreats with modest grace, And blushing through her tearful veil Just shows her cherub face.
'Tis but a momentary gleam From those young laughing eyes, Yet, like a meteor's passing beam, It lights up earth, and skies: But, ere the sun exhales the dew That sparkles on the grass, Dark clouds flit o'er the smiling blue, Like shadows o'er a glass.
But ah! upon the musing mind Those varied smiles and tears, Like words of love but half defined, Give birth to hopes and fears. The joyful heart one moment bounds, Then feels a sudden chill, Whispering in vague uncertain sounds Presentiments of ill.
When dire disease an arrow sent, And thrilled my breast with pain, My mind was like a bow unbent, Or harp-strings after rain; I could not weep—I could not pray, Nor raise my thoughts on high, Till light from heaven, like April's ray, Broke through the stormy sky!
YOUTH AND AGE.
Pilgrim of life! thy hoary head Is bent with age, thine eye Looks downward to the silent dead, Wreck of mortality!— The friends who flourished in thy day Have sought their narrow home; Their spirits whisper, "Come away!"—
My soul replies, I come.— I tread the path I trod a child, The fields I loved of yore; The flowers that 'neath my footsteps smiled Now meet my gaze no more. I stand beneath this giant oak! It was an aged tree, Hollowed by time's resistless stroke, When life was green with me. Its lofty head it proudly rears To greet the summer sky, Whilst, bending with the weight of years, I feebly totter by. And hushed are all the thousand songs That filled these branches high: Echo no more for me prolongs The woodland minstrelsy. Silence has gathered round life's hall; My friends are in the clay; I hear no more the footsteps fall, That cheered my early day; I see no more the faces dear, Which shone around my hearth: Bereft of all—I sojourn here— Still happy, though on earth!—
And canst thou smile when all are gone Who shared thy youthful prime; Content to wait and watch alone, To grapple still with time? How comes it that thou thus below Hast rest above the sod, Which brings to memory scenes of woe?
It is the will of God!
"He will come to night," young Mary said, And checked the rising sigh; And gazed on the stars that o'er her head Shone out in the deep blue sky. "Heaven speed his voyage!—though absent long, The painful vigil's o'er— The skies are clear—the breeze is strong— We meet to part no more!"
While yet she spoke a sudden chill O'er her ardent spirit crept; A sad presentiment of ill— She turned away and wept. Far off the sigh of ocean stole— The sweeping of the sounding surge— In plaintive murmurs o'er her soul, Like wailing of a funeral dirge.
And in the wind there is a tone Which whispers to her sinking heart— "Mary we meet in death alone; In realms of bliss no more to part." The moon has sunk in her ocean cave, Fled are the shades of night, And morning bursts on the purple wave In floods of golden-light.
The sudden stroke of the village bell Checks the fisher's blithesome song; He pauses to hear how rock and fell Its sullen tones prolong. "Some soul to its last account has sped: Dost thou hear that solemn sound?" "'Tis Mary Hume!"—his comrade said— "Last night her love was drowned!"
THE SPIRIT OF MOTION.
Spirit of eternal motion! Ruler of the stormy ocean, Lifter of the restless waves, Rider of the blast that raves Hoarsely through yon lofty oak, Bending to thy mystic stroke; Man from age to age has sought Thy secret—but it baffles thought!
Agent of the Deity! Offspring of eternity, Guider of the steeds of time Along the starry track sublime, Founder of each wondrous art, Mover of the human heart; Since the world's primeval day All nature has confessed thy sway.
They who strive thy laws to find Might as well arrest the wind, Measure out the drops of rain, Count the sands which bound the main, Quell the earthquake's sullen shock, Chain the eagle to the rock, Bid the sun his heat assuage, The mountain torrent cease to rage. Spirit, active and divine— Life and all its powers are thine! Guided by the first great cause, Sun and moon obey thy laws, Which to man must ever be A wonder and a mystery, Known alone to him who gave Thee sovereignty o'er wind and wave And only chained thee in the grave!
LINES WRITTEN DURING A GALE OF WIND.
Oh nature! though the blast is yelling, Loud roaring through the bending tree, There's sorrow in man's darksome dwelling, There's rapture still with thee!
I gaze upon the clouds wind-driven, The white storm-crested deep; My heart with human cares is riven— O'er these—I cannot weep.
'Tis not the rush of wave or wind That wakes my anxious fears, That presses on my troubled mind, And fills my eyes with tears;
I feel the icy breath of sorrow My ardent spirit chill, The dark—dark presage of the morrow, The sense of coming ill.
I hear the mighty billows rave; There's music in their roar, When strong in wrath the wind-lashed wave Springs on the groaning shore;
A solemn pleasure in the tone That shakes the lonely woods, As winter mounts his icy throne 'Mid storms and wasting floods.
The trumpet of the angry blast Peals loud o'er earth and main; The elemental strife is past, The heavens are bright again.
And shall I doubt the healing power Of Him who lives to save, Who in this dark appalling hour Can silence wind and wave?
Almighty Ruler of the storm! One beam of grace display, And the fierce tempests that deform My soul, shall pass away.
THE SPIRIT OF THE SPRING.
The spirit of the shower, Of the sunshine and the breeze, Of the dewy twilight hour, Of the bud and opening flower, My soul delighted sees. Stern winter's robe of gray, Beneath thy balmy sigh, Like mist-wreaths melt away, When the rosy laughing day Lifts up his golden eye.—
Spirit of ethereal birth, Thy azure banner floats, In lucid folds, o'er air and earth, And budding woods pour forth their mirth In rapture-breathing notes. I see upon the fleecy cloud The spreading of thy wings; The hills and vales rejoice aloud, And Nature, starting from her shroud, To meet her bridegroom springs.
Spirit of the rainbow zone, Of the fresh and breezy morn,— Spirit of climes where joy alone For ever hovers round thy throne, On wings of light upborne, Eternal youth is in thy train With rapture-beaming eyes, And Beauty, with her magic chain, And Hope, that laughs at present pain, Points up to cloudless skies.
Spirit of love, of life, and light! Each year we hail thy birth— The day-star from the grave of night That set to rise in skies more bright,— To bless the sons of earth With leaf—and bud—and perfumed flower, Still deck the barren sod; In thee we trace a higher power, In thee we claim a brighter dower, The day-spring of our God!—
O COME TO THE MEADOWS.
O come to the meadows! I'll show you where Primrose and violet blow, And the hawthorn spreads its blossoms fair, White as the driven snow. I'll show you where the daisies dot With silver stars the lea, The orchis, and forget-me-not, The flower of memory!
The gold-cup and the meadow-sweet, That love the river's side, The reed that bows the wave to meet, And sighs above the tide. The stately flag that gaily rears Aloft its yellow crest, The lily in whose cup the tears Of morn delight to rest.