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But let heav'n seize it, all at once 'tis fir'd;
How happy is the blameless-Vestal's lot? The world forgetting, by the world forgot: Eternal sun-shine of the spotless mind! Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd; Labour, and rest, that equal periods keep; 211 "Obedient slumbers that can wake and weep ;" Desires compos'd, affections ever even;
Tears that delight, and sighs that waft to heav'n. Grace shines around her with serenest beams, 215 And whisp'ring Angels prompt her golden dreams.
Ver. 201. But let heav'n seize it,] Here is the true doctrine of the Mystics, in which religion aids poetry. There are many such strains in Crashaw :
Happy soul! she shall discover
What joy, what bliss,
How many heavens at once it is
To have a God become a Lover!
And again, in a poem called The Flaming Heart, and in the Seraphical Saint Teresa in Crashaw, p. 195, all the tender feelings and sensibilities of an amorous virgin are applied to the Deity.
Ver. 212. Obedient slumbers, &c.] Taken from Crashaw. P.; whom also Milton honoured by borrowing some lines from his translation of Marino's Slaughter of the Innocents. See Crashaw in the Letters, vol. vii.
Ver. 215. Grace shines around her] Here follows some of the maxims and reflections of Fenelon :- God, in the beginning, disengages our hearts from impure pleasures by the taste he gives
For her th' unfading rose of Eden blooms,
us of a heavenly delectation. Animated by the tender sentiments of a new-born love, we exercise ourselves with a noble and masculine vigour in all the labours of an active virtue. The soul, ravished with the divine amiableness, is no longer to be touched with the seducing charms of a profane sensuality.
"God then proceeds to another operation in us, in order to destroy the mistaken love of ourselves; and this not by pleasures, but by sufferings. After having weaned us from earthly objects, he shuts us up within the solitary prison of our own being, to the end that we may experience the darkness, the weakness, and the emptiness, of it. He sets before our eyes all the secret abominations of our self-love, the impurity of those virtues that flow from it, and its usurpations upon the rights of the Divinity. What a source of torments must this be to a creature idolatrous of itself and of its own virtue! The soul finds nothing in itself that is worthy of its love; and being no longer able to endure its own society, flies away and forsakes itself to plunge and be swallowed in the love of that object who alone is lovely.
"Then it is that the importunate noise of the senses and the imagination becomes hushed, the tumultuous hurry of our thoughts and passions ceases, and the whole soul being brought into a profound silence, adores him in spirit and in truth, whose perfections are beyond all expression, and above all conception. But this silence is such as excludes only useless reflections, superfluous reasonings, and barren speculations, which interrupt the action of the heart. In loving God purely, we believe every thing he teaches, we observe every thing he commands, we hope for every thing he promises. For this predominant charity produces, animates, and perfects, in us all the virtues, human and divine."-For such opinions as these was the mild and amiable Fenelon condemned, at the instigation and by the intrigues of Bossuet, a violent and artful high-churchman, by the court of Rome; and, with an unexampled tone of modesty and submission, publicly confessed his errors in his own Cathedral Church. Read some delicate strokes of satire on the Mystics and Quietists in the 12th Epistle of Boileau Sur l'Amour de Dieu, and in his 10th Satire.
For her the Spouse prepares the bridal ring,
Far other dreams my erring soul employ,
When at the close of each sad, sorrowing day, 225
I hear thee, view thee, gaze o'er all thy charms,
I stretch my empty arms; it glides away.
To dream once more I close my willing eyes;
Ver. 218. wings of Seraphs] A late poet, speaking of a Hermit at his evening prayers, says beautifully:
Then, as my taper waxes dim,
Chant ere I sleep my measur'd hymn;
Ver. 219. For her] Copied exactly from the opinions and ideas of the Mystics and Quietists. There were but six Vestal Virgins at Rome; and it was with great difficulty the number was kept up, from the dread of the punishment for violating the vow, which was to be interred alive.
Alas, no more! methinks we wand'ring go
For thee the fates, severely kind, ordain
No pulse that riots, and no blood that glows.
Rise in the grove, before the altar rise,
Stain all my soul, and wanton in my eyes.
Ver. 241. methinks me wand'ring] I have been sometimes inclined to think, that some vision more appropriated, and drawn from her peculiar distress, would have been more striking. Virgil adds to Dido's dream a circumstance beautifully drawn from her own story:
And seeks her Tyrians o'er the waste in vain.
I waste the matin lamp in sighs for thee,
Thy image steals between my God and me,
While prostrate here in humble grief I lie,
Rise Alps between us! and whole oceans roll! 290
Thy oaths I quit, thy memory resign;
Ver. 274. Priests, tapers, temples,] Equal to any part of Sappho's Ode, so celebrated by Longinus for an assemblage of striking circumstances.