Page images





Deus ora movet: Sequar ora moventem
Rite Deum!-


A CROWN inwove with amarant and gold;
Immortal Amarant! a flow'r which once
In Paradise fast by the tree of life
Fegan to bloom; but soon for man's offence
To Heav'n remov'd, where first it grew; there
And flow'rs aloft, shading the fount of life.
Par. Lost, 1. III, v. 352.


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;
Difficile est propriè communia dicere.

How far I have succeeded in this, or any other
particular, is more than I shall take upon me

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.

[blocks in formation]


WHEN vernal show'rs and sunshine had un-
The frozen bosom of the torpid ground, [bound
To wake the flow'rs and vivify the air,
When breezes from the western world repair

Th' industrious peasant left his early bed,
And o'er the fields his seeds for harvest spread,
With equal hand, and at a distance due,
(Impartially to ev'ry furrow true)
The life-supporting grain he justly threw'.
As was the culture, such was the return;
Of weeds a forest, or a grove of corn⚫.
But, where he dealt the gift on grateful soils,
Harvests of industry o'er-paid his toils.

Some seeds by chance on brashy 3 grounds he threw,

And some the winds to flinty head-lands blew ;
Sudden they mounted, pre-mature of birth,
But pin'd and sicken'd, unsupply'd with earth:
Whilst burning suns their vital juice exhal'd,
And, as the roots decay'd, the foliage fail'd.

Some seeds he ventur'd on ungrateful lands,
Tough churlish clays, and loose unthrifty sands;
The step-dame soil refus'd a nurse's care:
The plants were sickly, juiceless, pale, and bare.


LONG e'er th' Ascréan bard had learnt to sing,

Or Homer's fingers touch'd the speaking string;
Long e'er the supplemental arts had found
Th' embroid'ry of auxiliary sound;
The Heav'n-born Muse the paths of nature chose:
Emblems and fables her whole mind disclose,
Victorious o'er the soul with energy of prose !


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,
The suppliant's meekness and the poet's fire:
Till waken'd nature bade the tears to flow,
And David's muse assum'd the voice of woe 4.
The wise, all-knowing Saviour of mankind
Mix'd ease with strength, and truth with em-
blem join'd:

Omniscience, vested with full pow'r to choose,
O'erlooks the strong, nor does the weak refuse 5.
Leaves pageantry of means to feebler man,
And builds the noblest, on the plainest plan;
Divine simplicity the work befriends,
And humble causes reach sublimest ends.

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.

[blocks in formation]

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;
Next wily pigeons take their silent stand,
And sparrows last, the gleaners of the land.

Another portion mock'd the seedsman's toil,
Dispens'd upon a rich, but weedy soil:
Fat unctuous juices gorg'd the rank-fed root;
Hence, where the life-supplying grain was spread,
And plethories of sap produc'd no fruit.
The rav'nous dock uprears its miscreant head;
Insatiate thistles, tyrants of the plains;

And lurid-hemloc, ting'd with pois'nous stains.
What these might spare, th' incroaching thorns
Exhaust earth's virtue, and perplex the land 4
At last, of precious grain a chosen share
Was sown on pre-dilected land with care;
(A cultur'd spot, accustom'd to receive
All previous aids that industry can give;}

[blocks in formation]

The well-turn'd soil with auburn brightness shone,
Mellow'd with nitrous air and genial sun:
An harmony of mould, by nature mixt!
Not light as air, nor as a cement fix'd:
Just firm enough t' embrace the thriving root,
Yet give free expanse to the fibrous shoot;
Dilating, when disturb'd by lab'ring hands,
And smelling sweet, when show'rs refresh the

Scarce could the reapers' arms the sheaves con-
And the full garners swell'd with golden grain;
Unlike the harvests of degen'rate days,
One omer sown, one hundred-fold repays:
Rich product, to a bountiful excess!-
Nor ought we more to ask, nor more possess.
The harvest overcomes the reapers' toil;
So feeble is the hind, so strong the soil 5.

Man's Saviour thus his parable exprest;
He that hath ears to hear, may feel the rest.

| Whenever adverse fortune choaks the way,
When danger threats, or clouds o'ercast the day,
This plant of casualty, unfix'd at root,
Shakes with the blast, and casts his unripe fruit;
But, when the storms of poverty arise,
And persecution ev'ry virtue tries,
Mindless of God, and trusting to himself 8,
He strands Heav'n's freightage on a dang'rous
Averse to learn, and more averse to bear, [shelf.
He sinks, the abject victim of despair!

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;
Behold the profit, and yet profit nought.
Heav'n's high rewards they silently contemn,
And think the present world suffices them.
Mean-while ambition leads the soul astray,
Far from its natal walk, th' ethereal way;
Int'rest assassins friendship ev'ry hour,
Truth warps to custom,conscience bends to pow'r,
Till all the cultivating hand receives
Is empty blossom, and death-blasted leaves.
Idiots in judgment, baffled o'er and o'er;
Still the same bait, still circumvented more;
Self-victims of the cunning they adore!
Wise without wisdom, busy to no end;
Man still their foe, and Heav'n itself no friend !
The chosen seed, on cultur'd ground, are they
Who humbly tread the evangelic way.
The road to Heav'n is uniform and plain :
All other paths are serpentine and vain.
The true disciple takes the word reveal'd,
Nor rushes on the sanctu'ry conceal'd,
Whilst empty reas'ners emptiest arts employ;
Nothing they build, and all things they destroy!
The provident of Heav'n unlocks his store,
To clothe the naked, and to feed the poor:
To each man gen'rous, and to each man just,
Conscious of a depositary trust.


THE gift of knowing is to all men giv'n ❝;
All know, but few perform, the will of Heav'n;
They hear the sound, but miss the sense convey'd,
And lose the substance, whilst they view the

When specious doctrines hover round a mind
Which is not vitally with Heav'n conjoin'd,
The visionary objects float and pass
Transient as figures gliding o'er a glass:
Each but a momentary visit makes,
And each supplies the place the last forsakes.-
Satan for ever fond to be employ'd,
(And changing minds ev'n ask to be destroy'd7,)
Marks well th' infirm of faith; and soon supplies
Phantoms of truth, and substances of lyes:
Killing the dying, he a conquest gains;
And, from a little, steals the poor remains.
Reason, man's guardian, by neglect, or sleep,
Loses that castle, he was meant to keep.

The seeds upon a flinty surface cast,
Denote the worldly-wise, who think in haste:
Who change, for changing's sake, from right

to wrong,

Constant to nothing, and in nothing long;
To day they hear the word of God with joy,
To morrow they the word of God destroy;
Indiff rent, to assert or to deny :
With zeal they flatter, and with zeal decry.
Such is the fool of wit! who strives with pains
To lose that paradise the peasant gains.-

Patient of censure, yet condemning none :
Placid to all, accountable to One.
Ev'n in prosperity he fears no loss,
Expects a change, and starts not at the cross.
All injuries by patience he surmounts;
All suff'rings God's own med'cines he accounts9:

• 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

in itself."

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

[blocks in formation]

&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.
DEEP in avale, where cloud-born Rhyne 1
Through meads his Alpine waters roll'd,
Where pansies mixt with daisies shine,
And asphodels instarr'd with gold;
Two forests, skirting round the feet
Of everlasting mountains, meet,
Half parted by an op'ning glade;
Around Hercynian oaks are seen.—
Larches 2, and cypress ever green,
Unite their hospitable shade.

Impearl'd with dew, the rosy Morn
Stood tip-toe on the mountain's brow;
Gleams following gleams the Heav'ns adorn,
And gild the theatre below:
Nature from needful slumber wakes,
And from her misty eye-balls shakes
The balmy dews of soft repose:
The pious lark with grateful lays
Ascends the skies, and chants the praise
Which man to his Creator owes 4.
When lo! a venerable sire appears,
With sprightly footsteps hast'ning o'er the plain;
His tresses bore the marks of fourscore years,
Yet free from sickness he, and void of pain:
His eyes with half their youthful clearness shones
Still on his cheeks health's tincture gently glow'd,'
His aged voice retain'd a manly tone,
His peaceful blood in equal tenour flow'd.
At length, beneath a beechen shade reclin'd,
He thus pour'd forth to Heav'n the transports of
his mind.


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)
In purest day-light shall rejoice,
Incapable to err, or fall.
With thee I walk, my gracious God;

ng I've thy painful foot-steps trod,
Redeemer, Saviour, Friend of all 61
"Heav'n in my youth bestow'd each good
Of choicer sort: in fertile lands
A decent patrimony stood,
Sufficient for my just demands,
My form was pleasing; health refin'd
My blood; a deep-discerning mind
Crown'd all the rest,―The fav'rite child
Of un-affected eloquence,

Plain nature, un-scholastic sense:-
And once or twice the Muses smil'd!

"Blest with each boon that simpler minds desire,
Till Heav'n grows weary of their nauseous pray'rs,
I made the nobler option to retire 7,

And gave the world to worldlings and their heirs;
The warriors laurels, and the statesman's fame,
The vain man's hopes for titles and employ,
The pomp of station, and the rich man's name,
I left for fools to seek, and knaves t'enjoy;
An early whisper did its truths impart,
And all the God conceal'd irradiated my heart.
"Happy the man who turns to Heav'n,
When on the landscape's verge of green
Old-age appears, to whom 'tis giv'n
To creep in sight, but fly, unseen!

ginal Latin, and above sixty translations have
been made from it into modern languages.
Our author died August the 8th, 1471, aged
92 years.

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:

[ocr errors]

Poet in sentiment! he feels

The flame; nor seeks from verse his aid!
The veil which artful charms conceals,
To real beauty proves a shade.
When nature's out-lines dubious are,

Oh! where is Peace? for Thou its paths hast Verse decks them with a slight cymarr 11;
True charms by art in vain are drest.

To which Kempis returns another strip of paper, Not icy prose could damp his fire:
inscribed as follows:
Intense the flame and mounting high'r,
Brightly victorious when opprest!

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,
Sinon of stratagem and woe!
Thy fatal blows, ah! who can ward?
Around thee lurks a motley train
of wants, and fears, and chronic pain,
The hungry Croats of thy guard.
"(Thus on the flow'r-enamell'd lawn,
Unconscious of the least surprize,
In thoughtless gambols sports the fawn,
Whilst veil'd in grass the tygress lies.
The silent trait'ress crouches low,
Her very lungs surcease to blow:
At length she darts on hunger's wings;
Sure of her distance and success,
Where Newton could but only guess,
She never misses, when she springs 9.)
"More truly wise the man, whose early youth 1
Is offer'd a free off'ring to the Lord,
A self-addicted votary to truth,
Servant thro' choice, disciple by accord!
Heav'n always did th' unblemish'd turtle choose,
Where health conjoin'd with spirit most abounds:
Heav'n seeks the young, nor does the old refuse,
But youth acquits the debt, which age com-

Awkward in time, and sour'd with self-disgrace,
The spend-thrift pays his all, and takes the
bankrupt's place."

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
Who ne'er imbib'd Mæonian lore,
Who drew no aids from Maro's page,
And yet to nobler flights could soar.
Taught by the Solyméan maid;
With native elegance array'd,
He gave his easy thoughts to flow;
The charms which anxious art deny'd
Truth and simplicity supply'd,
Melodious in religious woe.

By this time morn in all its glory shone;
The Sun's chaste kiss absorb'd the virgin-dew 1
Th' impatient peasant wish'd his labour done,
The cattle to th' umbrageous streams withdrew:
Beneath a cool impenetrable shade,
Quiet, he mus'd. So Jonas safely sate [play'd)
(When the swift gourd her palmy leaves dis-
To see the tow'rs of Ninus bow to fate 12.

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.

« EelmineJätka »