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OR, RELIGIOUS POEMS;
CONSISTING OF FABLES, VISIONS, EMBLEMS, &c.
Deus ora movet: Sequar ora moventem
THE AMARANTHINE CROWN DESCRIBED BY MILTON.
A CROWN inwove with amarant and gold;
I SHALL not trouble the public with excuses for venturing to send these Religious Poems into the world; having long since observed, that all apologies made by authors, far from gaining the end proposed, serve only to supply an ill-natured critic with weapons to attack them. This being the case, it shall suffice me to say, that I drew up the present writings for my own private consolation under a lingering and dangerous state of health, which it has pleased God to make my portion: nor had I any better opportunity or power of discharging the duties of my profession to mankind. The goodness of my cause may perhaps supply the defects of my poetry; since, in this sense, "the very gleanings of the grapes of Ephraim will be better than the vintage of Abiezer." I promise my readers no extraordinary art in composition or style; but flatter myself they will find some nature, some flame, and some truth.
to conjecture. Nor shall it be dissembled, but that I had a great inclination to give a paraphrase (or metaphrase rather) of the xxviiith chapter of Deuteronomy; which, I believe, hath It is never yet been turned into English verse. doubtless one of the noblest pieces of poetry in Holy Scripture; being at the same time sublime, and yet plain; seemingly familiar, and yet richly diversified.
In this chapter, the change of ideas and events from a state of obedience to a state of disobedience, exhibits a power of language, imagery, and just thinking, which no un-inspired writings ever have laid claim to with justice, or ever shall, But, when I came to take a closer view of the precipice and its dangers, “my heart trembled," as Job says, "and was moved out of its place;" I threw down the pencil in despair, and left the undertaking to some abler hand; namely, to some future Milton, Dryden, or Pope.
Parables, fables, emblematic visions, &c. are the most ancient method of conveying truth to mankind. Upwards of forty of the finest and most poetical parts of the Old and New Testament are of this cast, and force their way upon the mind and heart irresistibly, though they are written in prose.
From a just sense of this humble simplicity, I have here translated the plainest and least figurative parable that our Blessed Saviour has delivered to us, relating only to a few un-ornament. ed circumstances in agriculture. ·
To express such humble allusions with clearness, propriety, and dignity, was, it must be confessed, one of the hardest pieces of poetry I ever yet undertook; nevertheless, I flattered myself that I was in some degree master of one part of the subject (namely, the culture of land) upon which the parable is founded.
Yet the great and real difficulty still recurred;
How far I have succeeded in this, or any other
Upon the whole, I may perhaps venture to persuade myself, that the intention of the present work is commendable, and that the work when perused, may prove useful (more or less) to my fellow-christians.
Conscious of my own inabilities, and being de, sirous that the reader may receive soine advantage by casting his eyes over these poems, I have added in a few notes, the most remarkable passages I had an eye to in the Holy Scriptures, and in the writings of the primitive fathers; they being the only compass and charts which I have made use of in my navigation.
A mixture of pleasing and instructive poetry cannot fail to engage the attention of all rational and serious readers: "For, as it is hurtful to drink wine, or water, alone; and as wine mingled with water is pleasant, and delighteth the taste; even so speech, finely framed, delighteth the ears of them that read the story."
2 MACCAB. Ch. ult. v. ult.
WHEN vernal show'rs and sunshine had un-
Th' industrious peasant left his early bed,
Some seeds by chance on brashy 3 grounds he threw,
And some the winds to flinty head-lands blew ;
Some seeds he ventur'd on ungrateful lands,
LONG e'er th' Ascréan bard had learnt to sing,
Or Homer's fingers touch'd the speaking string;
True poetry, like Ophir's gold, endures All trials, yet its purity secures; Invert, disjoint it, change its very name, The essence of the thoughts remains the same. Something there is, which endless charms affords, And stamps the majesty of truth on words.
The son of Gideon', 'midst Cherizim's snow, Unskill'd in numbers taught the stream to flow, With conscious pride disdain'd the aids of art, And pour'd a full conviction on the heart: His Cedar, Fig-tree, and the Bry'r convey The highest notions in the humblest way.
In Nathan's fable strong and mild conspire,
Omniscience, vested with full pow'r to choose,
True flame of verse, O sanctifying fire 6! Warm not my genius, but my heart inspire! On my cleans'd lips permit the coals to dwell Which from thy altar on Isaiah fell 7! Cancel the world's applause; and give thy grace To me, the meanest of the tuneful race. Teach ine the words of Jesus to impart With energy of pow'r, but free from art. Thy emanations light and heat dispense; To sucklings speech, to children eloquence !Like Habakkuk 8, I copy, no indite; Tim'rous like him, I tremble whilst I write ! But Jeremiah with new boldness sung, When inspiration rush'd upon his tongue 9. The pow'rs of sacred poesy were giv'n By Him that bears the signature of Heav'n 10.
On trodden paths a casual portion fell: Condemn'd in scanty penury to dwell, And half-deny'd the matrix of a cell; While other seeds, less fortunate than they, Slept, starv'd and naked, on the hard high-way, From frost defenceless, and to birds a prey. Here daws with riotous excesses feed,
And choughs, the cormorants of grain, succeed;
Another portion mock'd the seedsman's toil,
And lurid-hemloc, ting'd with pois'nous stains.
The well-turn'd soil with auburn brightness shone,
Man's Saviour thus his parable exprest;
| Whenever adverse fortune choaks the way,
The men of pow'r and pomp resemble seeds Sown on rich earth, but choak'd with thorns and weeds.
Religion strikes them, but they shun the thought;
THE gift of knowing is to all men giv'n ❝;
When specious doctrines hover round a mind
The seeds upon a flinty surface cast,
Constant to nothing, and in nothing long;
Patient of censure, yet condemning none :
• Imbecillior colonus quàm ager. Columella. "To sin against knowledge is a greater offence than an ignorant trespass; in proportion as a fault, which is capable of no excuse, is more heinous than a fault which admits of a tolerable defence"" J. Mart. Resp. ad Orthod. “Ignorance will not excuse sin, when it is a sin
Anon. Vet. 7"He that is idle tempts Satan to set him to work." Chrysost. Hom. Pious Jeremy Taylor once said to a lady, "Madam, if you do not employ your children, the devil will," The son of Sirach gives also the following advice: "Send thy son to labour, that he be not idle; for idleness teacheth much evil." C. xxxiii, v. 27.
8" We are all careful about small matters, and negligent in the greatest; of which this is the reason, we know not where true felicity is.” St. Hieron.
9 The preacher writes beautifully upon this subject. Ecclus. C. ii. "My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for trial, set thy heart aright, and constantly endure, and make not haste in time of trouble;" i. e. be not impatient to get over thy trouble. "Cleave unto him, and depart not away, that thou mayest be increased at thy last end. Whatsoever is brought upon thee take cheerfully, and be patient when thou art changed to a low estate. For gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity.-Look at the generations of old, and see, did ever any trust in the Lord and was confounded? or did any abide in his fear and was forsaken? or whom did he ever despise, that called upon him? for the Lord is full of compassion and mercy; he forgiveth sins, and saveth in time of affliction.-Wo be to the siuner that goeth two ways;" i, e, that hath recourse
&c. The grandeur of scriptural sublimity, or simplicity, admits of few or no embellishments. George Sandys, in the reign of Charles I. seems only to have known this secret.
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
Mark, c. i. v. 35.
Impearl'd with dew, the rosy Morn
TO THE READER.
At the end of the 12th stanza in this poem, I had several inducements for venturing to The first change the ode into heroic measure. was, that I might diversify the doctrinal part from the descriptive. The second was, that our excellent and most learned poet, Cowley, had given me his authority for making this change, in his poem de Plantis. But the third and truer reason was, that I found it next to impracticable, to deliver short, unadorned, didactical sentences consistently with the copiousness, irregularity, and enthusiasm peculiar to ode-writing.-Let the reader only make the experiment, and I flatter nyself he will join with me in opinion.-Nor have I departed any further than in a metaphor or two from that original simplicity which characterises my author, however difficult and self-denying such an undertaking might be in a poetical composition. What gave me warning was, that Castalio and Stanhope had both spoiled Thomas a Kempis by attempting to adorn him with flowery language, false elegance, and glaring imagery. And, by the way, to this cause may be attributed the miscarriages of many poets, (otherwise confessedly eminent) in their paraphrases of the Psalms of David, the Book of Job,
to man as well as God. "Wo unto him that is faint-hearted; for he believeth not, therefore shall be not be defended. Wo unto you that have lost patience: what will ye do when the Lord shall visit you?-they that fear the Lord will say, we will fall into the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of men: for as his majesty is, so is his mercy."
In like manner St. Chrysostom informs us, "That, in proportion as God adds to our tribulation, he adds likewise to our retribution."
This river takes its rise from one of the highest ice-mountains in Switzerland.
2 The species of larch-tree here meant is called sempervirens: the other larches are deciduis foliis.
3 Tip-toe. Shakespeare.
4" Before we engage in worldly business, or any common amusements of life, let us be careful to consecrate the first-fruits of the day, and the very beginning of our holy thoughts unto the service of God."
St. Basil. Thomas à Kempis had no manifest infirmities of old-age, and retained his eye-sight perfect to the last.
All that I have ever been able to learn in Ger many upon good authority, concerning him, is as follows: He was born at Kempis, or Kempen, a small walled town in the dutchy of Cleves, and diocese of Cologn. His family-name was Hamerlein, which signifies in the German language a little bammer. We find also that his parents were named John and Gertrude Hamerlein. He lived chiefly in the monastery of Mount St. Agnes; where his effigy, together with a prospect of the monastery, was engraven on a plate of copper that lies over his body. The said inonastery is now called Bergh-Clooster, or, as we might say in English, Hill-Cloyster. Many strangers in their travels visit it. Kempis was certainly one of the best and greatest men since the primitive ages. His book of the Imitation of Christ has seen near forty editions in the ori
"Come unto me (Messiah cries) All that are laden and oppress'd: To Thee I come (my heart replies) O Patron of eternal rest!
Who walks with me (rejoins the voice)
ng I've thy painful foot-steps trod,
Plain nature, un-scholastic sense:-
"Blest with each boon that simpler minds desire,
And gave the world to worldlings and their heirs;
ginal Latin, and above sixty translations have
In the engraving on copper above-mentioned, and lying over his grave, is represented a person respectfully presenting to him a label on which is written a verse to this effect:
Poet in sentiment! he feels
The flame; nor seeks from verse his aid!
Oh! where is Peace? for Thou its paths hast Verse decks them with a slight cymarr 11;
To which Kempis returns another strip of paper, Not icy prose could damp his fire:
In poverty, retirement, and with God. He was a canon regular of Augustins, and subprior of mount St. Agnes' monastery. He composed his treatise On the Imitation of Christ in the sixty-first year of his age, as appears from a note of his own writing in the library of his
6 Imitation of Christ, Lib. I. c. i.
7" Solitude is the best school wherein to learn the way to Heaven." St. Jerom. "Worldly honours are a trying snare to men of an exalted station; of course their chief care must be, to put themselves out of the reach of envy by humility." Nepotian.
Stealer of marches, subtile foe,
Awkward in time, and sour'd with self-disgrace,
rewards of the happy."
"The pleasures of this world are only the momentary comforts of the miserable, and not the St. August. Cætera solicita speciosa incommoda vitæ Permisi stultis quærere, habere malis. Couleius de Plant.
Thus spoke the venerable sage
By this time morn in all its glory shone;
9 This parenthesis was inserted by way of imitating the famous parenthesis in Horace's Ode, which begins
Qualem ministrum fulminis alitem, &c.
Even from the flower till the grape was ripe, hath my heart delighted in Wisdom."
Ecclus. c. li. v. 15. "A thin covering of the gause, or sarsnetkind. Dryd. Cymon & Iphigen, 12 Jonab, c. iv. v. 6.