Tantane, tam patiens, nullo certamine tolli
1 WHY weeps the muse for England? What appears
2 In England's case to move the muse to tears?
3 From side to side of her delightful isle,
4 Is she not cloath'd with a perpetual smile?
5 Can nature add a charm, or art confer
6 A new found luxury not seen in her?[Page 104]
7 Where under heav'n is pleasure more pursued,
8 Or where does cold reflection less intrude?
9 Her fields a rich expanse of wavy corn
10 Pour'd out from plenty's overflowing horn,
11 Ambrosial gardens in which art supplies
12 The fervor and the force of Indian skies,
13 Her peaceful shores, where busy commerce waits
14 To pour his golden tide through all her gates,
15 Whom fiery suns that scorch the russet spice
16 Of eastern groves, and oceans floor'd with ice;
17 Forbid in vain to push his daring way
18 To darker climes, or climes of brighter day,
19 Whom the winds waft where'er the billows roll,
20 From the world's girdle to the frozen pole;
21 The chariots bounding in her wheel-worn streets,
22 Her vaults below where ev'ry vintage meets,
23 Her theatres, her revels, and her sports,
24 The scenes to which not youth alone resorts,
25 But age in spite of weakness and of pain
26 Still haunts, in hope to dream of youth again,[Page 105]
27 All speak her happy — let the muse look round
28 From East to West, no sorrow can be found,
29 Or only what in cottages confin'd,
30 Sighs unregarded to the passing wind;
31 Then wherefore weep for England, what appears
32 In England's case to move the muse to tears?
33 The prophet wept for Israel, wish'd his eyes
34 Were fountains fed with infinite supplies;
35 For Israel dealt in robbery and wrong,
36 There were the scorner's and the sland'rer's tongue,
37 Oaths used as playthings or convenient tools,
38 As Int'rest biass'd knaves, or fashion fools,
39 Adult'ry neighing at his neighbour's door,
40 Oppression labouring hard to grind the poor,
41 The partial balance and deceitsul weight,
42 The treach'rous smile, a mask for secret hate,
43 Hypocrisy, formality in pray'r,
44 And the dull service of the lip were there.
45 Her women insolent and self-caress'd,
46 By vanity's unwearied finger dress'd,[Page 106]
47 Forgot the blush that virgin fears impart
48 To modest cheeks, and borrowed one from art;
49 Were just such trifles without worth or use,
50 As silly pride and idleness produce,
51 Curl'd, scented, furbelow'd and flounc'd around,
52 With feet too delicate to touch the ground,
53 They stretch'd the neck, and roll'd the wanton eye,
54 And sigh'd for ev'ry fool that flutter'd by.
55 He saw his people slaves to ev'ry lust,
56 Lewd, avaricious, arrogant, unjust,
57 He heard the wheels of an avenging God
58 Groan heavily along the distant road;
59 Saw Babylon set wide her two leav'd brass
60 To let the military deluge pass;
61 Jerusalem a prey, her glory soil'd,
62 Her princes captive, and her treasures spoil'd;
63 Wept till all Israel heard his bitter cry,
64 Stamp'd with his foot and smote upon his thigh;
65 But wept and stamp'd and smote his thigh in vain,
66 Pleasure is deaf when told of future pain,[Page 107]
67 And sounds prophetic are too rough to suit
68 Ears long accustom'd to the pleasing lute;
69 They scorn'd his inspiration and his theme,
70 Pronounc'd him frantic and his fears a dream,
71 With self-indulgence wing'd the fleeting hours,
72 Till the foe found them, and down fell the tow'rs.
73 Long time Assyria bound them in her chain,
74 Till penitence had purg'd the public stain,
75 And Cyrus, with relenting pity mov'd,
76 Return'd them happy to the land they lov'd:
77 There, proof against prosperity, awhile
78 They stood the test of her ensnaring smile,
79 And had the grace in scenes of peace to show
80 The virtue they had learn'd in scenes of woe.
81 But man is frail and can but ill sustain
82 A long immunity from grief and pain,
83 And after all the joys that plenty leads,
84 With tip-toe step vice silently succeeds.
85 When he that rul'd them with a shepherd's rod,
86 In form a man, in dignity a God,[Page 108]
87 Came not expected in that humble guise,
88 To sift, aud search them with unerring eyes,
89 He found conceal'd beneath a fair outside,
90 The filth of rottenness and worm of pride,
91 Their piety a system of deceit,
92 Scripture employ'd to sanctify the cheat,
93 The pharisee the dupe of his own art,
94 Self-idolized and yet a knave at heart.
95 When nations are to perish in their sins,
96 'Tis in the church the leprosy begins:
97 The priest whose office is, with zeal sincere
98 To watch the fountain, and preserve it clear,
99 Carelessly nods and sleeps upon the brink,
100 While others poison what the flock must drink;
101 Or waking at the call of lust alone,
102 Infuses lies and errors of his own:
103 His unsuspecting sheep believe it pure,
104 And tainted by the very means of cure,
105 Catch from each other a contagious spot,
106 The foul forerunner of a general rot:[Page 109]
107 Then truth is hush'd that heresy may preach,
108 And all is trash that reason cannot reach;
109 Then God's own image on the soul impress'd,
110 Becomes a mock'ry and a standing jest,
111 And faith, the root whence only can arise
112 The graces of a life that wins the skies,
113 Loses at once all value and esteem,
114 Pronounc'd by gray beards a pernicious dream:
115 Then ceremony leads her bigots forth,
116 Prepar'd to fight for shadows of no worth,
117 While truths on which eternal things depend,
118 Find not, or hardly find a single friend:
119 As soldiers watch the signal of command,
120 They learn to bow, to kneel, to sit, to stand,
121 Happy to fill religion's vacant place
122 With hollow form and gesture and grimace.
123 Such when the teacher of his church was there,
124 People and priest, the sons of Israel were,
125 Stiff in the letter, lax in the design
126 And import of their oracles divine,[Page 110]
127 Their learning legendary, false, absurd,
128 And yet exalted above God's own word,
129 They drew a curse from an intended good,
130 Puff'd up with gifts they never understood.
131 He judg'd them with as terrible a frown,
132 As if, not love, but wrath had brought him down,
133 Yet he was gentle as soft summer airs,
134 Had grace for other sins, but none for theirs.
135 Through all he spoke a noble plainness ran,
136 Rhet'ric is artifice, the work of man,
137 And tricks and turns that fancy may devise,
138 Are far too mean for him that rules the skies.
139 Th' astonish'd vulgar trembl'd while he tore
140 The mask from faces never seen before;
141 He stripp'd th' impostors in the noon-day sun,
142 Show'd that they follow'd all they seem'd to shun,
143 Their pray'rs made public, their excesses kept
144 As private as the chambers where they slept.
145 The temple and its holy rites profan'd
146 By mumm'ries he that dwelt in it disdain'd,[Page 111]
147 Uplifted hands that at convenient times
148 Could act extortion and the worst of crimes,
149 Wash'd with a neatness scrupulously nice,
150 And free from ev'ry taint but that of vice.
151 Judgment, however tardy, mends her pace
152 When obstinacy once has conquer'd grace.
153 They saw distemper heal'd, and life restor'd
154 In answer to the fiat of his word,
155 Confess'd the wonder, and with daring tongue,
156 Blasphem'd th' authority from which it sprung.
157 They knew by sure prognostics seen on high,
158 The future tone and temper of the sky,
159 But grave dissemblers, could not understand
160 That sin let loose speaks punishment at hand.
161 Ask now of history's authentic page,
162 And call up evidence from ev'ry age,
163 Display with busy and laborious hand
164 The blessings of the most indebted land,
165 What nation will you find, whose annals prove
166 So rich an int'rest in almighty love?[Page 112]
167 Where dwell they now, where dwelt in antient day
168 A people planted, water'd, blest as they?
169 Let Egypt's plagues, and Canaan's woes proclaim
170 The favours pour'd upon the Jewish name;
171 Their freedom purchas'd for them, at the cost
172 Of all their hard oppressors valued most,
173 Their title to a country not their own,
174 Made sure by prodigies 'till then unknown,
175 For them, the state they left made waste and void,
176 For them, the states to which they went, destroy'd;
177 A cloud to measure out their march by day,
178 By night a fire to cheer the gloomy way,
179 That moving signal summoning, when best
180 Their host to move, and when it stay'd, to rest.
181 For them the rocks dissolv'd into a flood,
182 The dews condens'd into angelic food,
183 Their very garments sacred, old yet new,
184 And time forbid to touch them as he flew,
185 Streams swell'd above the bank, enjoin'd to stand,
186 While they pass'd through to their appointed land,[Page 113]
187 Their leader arm'd with meekness, zeal and love,
188 And grac'd with clear credentials from above,
189 Themselves secur'd beneath th' Almighty wing,
190 Their God their captain*
* Vide Joshua v. 14., lawgiver, and king.
191 Crown'd with a thousand vict'ries, and at last
192 Lords of the conquer'd soil, there rooted fast,
193 In peace possessing what they won by war,
194 Their name far publish'd and rever'd as far;
195 Where will you find a race like theirs, endow'd
196 With all that man e'er wish'd, or Heav'n bestow'd?
197 They and they only amongst all mankind
198 Receiv'd the transcript of th' eternal mind,
199 Were trusted with his own engraven laws,
200 And constituted guardians of his cause,
201 Theirs were the prophets, theirs the priestly call,
202 And theirs by birth the Saviour of us all.
203 In vain the nations that had seen them rise,
204 With fierce and envious yet admiring eyes,
205 Had sought to crush them, guarded as they were
206 By power divine, and skill that could not err,[Page 114]
207 Had they maintain'd allegiance firm and sure,
208 And kept the faith immaculate and pure,
209 Then the proud eagles of all-conqu'ring Rome
210 Had found one city not to be o'ercome,
211 And the twelve standards of the tribes unfurl'd:
212 Had bid defiance to the warring world.
213 But grace abus'd brings forth the foulest deeds,
214 As richest soil the most luxuriant weeds;
215 Cur'd of the golden calves their fathers sin,
216 They set up self, that idol god within,
217 View'd a Deliv'rer with disdain and hate,
218 Who left them still a tributary state,
219 Seiz'd fast his hand, held out to set them free
220 From a worse yoke, and nail'd it to the tree;
221 There was the consummation and the crown,
222 The flow'r of Israel's infamy full blown;
223 Thence date their sad declension and their fall,
224 Their woes not yet repeal'd, thence date them all.
225 Thus fell the best instructed in her day,
226 And the most favor'd land, look where we may.[Page 115]
227 Philosophy indeed on Grecian eyes
228 Had pour'd the day, and clear'd the Roman skies;
229 In other climes perhaps creative art,
230 With pow'r surpassing theirs perform'd her part,
231 Might give more life to marble, or might fill
232 The glowing tablets with a juster skill,
233 Might shine in fable, and grace idle themes
234 With all th' embroid'ry of poetic dreams;
235 'Twas theirs alone to dive into the plan
236 That truth and mercy had reveal'd to man,
237 And while the world beside, that plan unknown,
238 Deified useless wood or senseless stone,
239 They breath'd in faith their well-directed pray'rs,
240 And the true God, the God of truth was theirs.
241 Their glory faded, and their race dispers'd,
242 The last of nations now, though once the first;
243 They warn and teach the proudest, would they learn,
244 Keep wisdom or meet vengeance in your turn:
245 If we escap'd not, if Heav'n spar'd not us,
246 Peel'd, scatter'd, and exterminated thus;[Page 116]
247 If vice receiv'd her retribution due
248 When we were visited, what hope for you?
249 When God arises with an awful frown,
250 To punish lust, or pluck presumption down;
251 When gifts perverted or not duly priz'd,
252 Pleasure o'ervalued and his grace despis'd,
253 Provoke the vengeance of his righteous hand
254 To pour down wrath upon a thankless land,
255 He will be found impartially severe,
256 Too just to wink, or speak the guilty clear.
257 Oh Israel, of all nations most undone!
258 Thy diadem displac'd, thy sceptre gone;
259 Thy temple, once thy glory, fall'n and ras'd,
260 And thou a worshipper e'en where thou mayst;
261 Thy services once holy without spot,
262 Mere shadows now, their antient pomp forgot;
263 Thy Levites once a consecrated host,
264 No longer Levites, and their lineage lost,
265 And thou thyself o'er ev'ry country sown,
266 With none on earth that thou canst call thine own;[Page 117]
267 Cry aloud thou that sittest in the dust,
268 Cry to the proud, the cruel and unjust,
269 Knock at the gates of nations, rouse their fears,
270 Say wrath is coming and the storm appears,
271 But raise the shrillest cry in British ears.
272 What ails thee, restless as the waves that roar,
273 And fling their foam against thy chalky shore?
274 Mistress, at least while Providence shall please,
275 And trident-bearing queen of the wide seas —
276 Why, having kept good faith, and often shown
277 Friendship and truth to others, findst thou none?
278 Thou that hast set the persecuted free,
279 None interposes now to succour thee;
280 Countries indebted to thy pow'r, that shine
281 With light deriv'd from thee, would smother thine;
282 Thy very children watch for thy disgrace,
283 A lawless brood, and curse thee to thy face:
284 Thy rulers load thy credit year by year
285 With sums Peruvian mines could never clear,
286 As if like arches built with skilful hand,
287 The more 'twere press'd the firmer it would stand.[Page 118]
288 The cry in all thy ships is still the same,
289 Speed us away to battle and to fame,
290 Thy mariners explore the wild expanse,
291 Impatient to descry the flags of France,
292 But though they fight as thine have ever fought,
293 Return asham'd without the wreaths they sought:
294 Thy senate is a scene of civil jar,
295 Chaos of contrarieties at war,
296 Where sharp and solid, phlegmatic and light,
297 Discordant atoms meet, ferment and fight,
298 Where obstinacy takes his sturdy stand,
299 To disconcert what policy has plann'd,
300 Where policy is busied all night long
301 In setting right what faction has set wrong,
302 Where flails of oratory thresh the floor,
303 That yields them chaff and dust, and nothing more.
304 Thy rack'd inhabitants repine, complain,
305 Tax'd 'till the brow of labour sweats in vain,
306 War lays a burthen on the reeling state,
307 And peace does nothing to relieve the weight,[Page 119]
308 Successive loads succeeding broils impose,
309 And sighing millions prophecy the close.
310 Is adverse providence when ponder'd well,
311 So dimly writ or difficult to spell,
312 Thou canst not read with readiness and ease,
313 Providence adverse in events like these?
314 Know then, that heav'nly wisdom on this ball
315 Creates, gives birth to, guides, consummates all:
316 That while laborious and quick-thoughted man
317 Snuffs up the praise of what he seems to plan;
318 He first conceives, then perfects his design,
319 As a mere instrument in hands divine:
320 Blind to the working of that secret pow'r
321 That balances the wings of ev'ry hour,
322 The busy trifler dreams himself alone,
323 Frames many a purpose, and God works his own.
324 States thrive or wither as moons wax and wane,
325 Ev'n as his will and his decrees ordain;
326 While honour, virtue, piety bear sway,
327 They flourish, and as these decline, decay.[Page 120]
328 In just resentment of his injur'd laws,
329 He pours contempt on them and on their cause,
330 Strikes the rough thread of error right athwart
331 The web of ev'ry scheme they have at heart,
332 Bids rottenness invade and bring to dust
333 The pillars of support in which they trust,
334 And do his errand of disgrace and shame
335 On the chief strength and glory of the frame.
336 None ever yet impeded what he wrought,
337 None bars him out from his most secret thought;
338 Darkness itself before his eye is light,
339 And Hell's close mischief naked in his sight.
340 Stand now and judge thyself — hast thou incurr'd
341 His anger who can waste thee with a word,
342 Who poises and proportions sea and land,
343 Weighing them in the hollow of his hand,
344 And in whose awful sight all nations seem
345 As grasshoppers, as dust, a drop, a dream?
346 Hast thou (a sacrilege his soul abhors)
347 Claim'd all the glory of thy prosp'rous wars,[Page 121]
348 Proud of thy fleets and armies, stol'n the gem
349 Of his just praise to lavish it on them?
350 Hast thou not learn'd what thou art often told,
351 A truth still sacred, and believ'd of old,
352 That no success attends on spears and swords
353 Unblest, and that the battle is the Lord's?
354 That courage is his creature, and dismay
355 The post that at his bidding speeds away,
356 Ghastly in feature, and his stamm'ring tongue
357 With doleful rumor and sad presage hung,
358 To quell the valor of the stoutest heart,
359 And teach the combatant a woman's part?
360 That he bids thousands fly when none pursue,
361 Saves as he will by many or by few,
362 And claims for ever as his royal right
363 Th' event and sure decision of the fight.
364 Hast thou, though suckl'd at fair freedom's breast,
365 Exported slav'ry to the conquer'd East,
366 Pull'd down the tyrants India serv'd with dread,
367 And rais'd thyself, a greater, in their stead,[Page 122]
368 Gone thither arm'd and hungry, returned full,
369 Fed from the richest veins of the Mogul,
370 A despot big with pow'r obtain'd by wealth,
371 And that obtain'd by rapine and by stealth?
372 With Asiatic vices stor'd thy mind,
373 But left their virtues and thine own behind,
374 And having truck'd thy soul, brought home the fee,
375 To tempt the poor to sell himself to thee?
376 Hast thou by statute shov'd from its design
377 The Savior's feast, his own blest bread and wine,
378 And made the symbols of atoning grace
379 An office-key, a pick-lock to a place,
380 That infidels may prove their title good
381 By an oath dipp'd in sacramental blood?
382 A blot that will be still a blot, in spite
383 Of all that grave apologists may write,
384 And though a Bishop toil to cleanse the stain,
385 He wipes and scours the silver cup in vain.
386 And hast thou sworn on ev'ry slight pretence,
387 'Till perjuries are common as bad pence,[Page 123]
388 While thousands, careless of the damning sin,
389 Kiss the book's outside who ne'er look within?
390 Hast thou, when heav'n has cloath'd thee with disgrace,
391 And long provok'd, repaid thee to thy face,
392 (For thou hast known eclipses, and endur'd
393 Dimness and anguish all thy beams obscur'd,
394 When sin has shed dishonour on thy brow,
395 And never of a sabler hue than now)
396 Hast thou with heart perverse and conscience sear'd,
397 Despising all rebuke, still persever'd,
398 And having chosen evil, scorn'd the voice
399 That cried repent — and gloried in thy choice?
400 Thy fastings, when calamity at last
401 Suggests th' expedient of an yearly fast,
402 What mean they? Canst thou dream there is a pow'r
403 In lighter diet at a later hour,
404 To charm to sleep the threat'nings of the skies,
405 And hide past folly from all-seeing eyes?[Page 124]
406 The fast that wins deliv'rance, and suspends
407 The stroke that a vindictive God intends,
408 Is to renounce hypocrisy, to draw
409 Thy life upon the pattern of the law,
410 To war with pleasures idolized before,
411 To vanquish lust, and wear its yoke no more.
412 All fasting else, whate'er be the pretence,
413 Is wooing mercy by renew'd offence.
414 Hast thou within thee sin that in old time
415 Brought fire from heav'n, the sex-abusing crime,
416 Whose horrid perpetration stamps disgrace
417 Baboons are free from, upon human race?
418 Think on the fruitful and well-water'd spot
419 That fed the flocks and herds of wealthy Lot,
420 Where Paradise seem'd still vouchsaf'd on earth,
421 Burning and scorch'd into perpetual dearth,
422 Or in his words who damn'd the base desire,
423 Suff'ring the vengeance of eternal fire:
424 Then nature injur'd, scandaliz'd, defil'd,
425 Unveil'd her blushing cheek, look'd on and smil'd,
426 Beheld with joy the lovely scene defac'd,
427 And prais'd the wrath that lay'd her beauties waste.[Page 125]
428 Far be the thought from any verse of mine,
429 And farther still the form'd and fixt design,
430 To thrust the charge of deeds that I detest,
431 Against an innocent unconscious breast:
432 The man that dares traduce because he can
433 With safety to himself, is not a man:
434 An individual is a sacred mark,
435 Not to be pierc'd in play or in the dark,
436 But public censure speaks a public foe,
437 Unless a zeal for virtue guide the blow.
438 The priestly brotherhood, devout, sincere,
439 From mean self-int'rest and ambition clear,
440 Their hope in Heav'n, servility their scorn,
441 Prompt to persuade, expostulate and warn,
442 Their wisdom pure, and giv'n them from above,
443 Their usefulness insur'd by zeal and love,
444 As meek as the man Moses, and withal
445 As bold as in Agrippa's presence, Paul,
446 Should fly the world's contaminating touch
447 Holy and unpolluted — are thine such?[Page 126]
448 Except a few with Eli's spirit blest,
449 Hophni and Phineas may describe the rest.
450 Where shall a teacher look in days like these,
451 For ears and hearts that he can hope to please?
452 Look to the poor — the simple and the plain
453 Will hear perhaps thy salutary strain;
454 Humility is gentle, apt to learn,
455 Speak but the word, will listen and return:
456 Alas, not so! the poorest of the flock
457 Are proud, and set their faces as a rock,
458 Denied that earthly opulence they chuse,
459 God's better gift they scoff at and refuse.
460 The rich, the produce of a nobler stem,
461 Are more intelligent at least, try them:
462 Oh vain enquiry! they without remorse
463 Are altogether gone a devious course,
464 Where beck'ning pleasure leads them, wildly stray,
465 Have burst the bands and cast the yoke away.
466 Now borne upon the wings of truth, sublime,
467 Review thy dim original and prime;[Page 127]
468 This island spot of unreclaim'd rude earth,
469 The cradle that receiv'd thee at thy birth,
470 Was rock'd by many a rough Norwegian blast,
471 And Danish howlings scar'd thee as they pass'd,
472 For thou wast born amid the din of arms,
473 And suck'd a breast that panted with alarms.
474 While yet thou wast a grov'ling puling chit,
475 Thy bones not fashion'd and thy joints not knit,
476 The Roman taught thy stubborn knee to bow,
477 Though twice a Caesar could not bend thee now:
478 His victory was that of orient light,
479 When the sun's shafts disperse the gloom of night:
480 Thy language at this distant moment shows
481 How much the country to the conqu'ror owes,
482 Expressive, energetic and refin'd,
483 It sparkles with the gems he left behind:
484 He brought thy land a blessing when he came,
485 He found thee savage, and he left thee tame,
486 Taught thee to cloath thy pink'd and painted hide,
487 And grace thy figure with a soldier's pride,[Page 128]
488 He sow'd the seeds of order where he went,
489 Improv'd thee far beyond his own intent,
490 And while he rul'd thee by the sword alone,
491 Made thee at last a warrior like his own.
492 Religion if in heav'nly truths attir'd,
493 Needs only to be seen to be admir'd,
494 But thine as dark as witch'ries of the night,
495 Was form'd to harden hearts and shock the sight:
496 Thy Druids struck the well-strung harps they bore,
497 With fingers deeply dy'd in human gore,
498 And while the victim slowly bled to death,
499 Upon the tolling chords rung out his dying breath.
500 Who brought the lamp that with awak'ning beams
501 Dispell'd thy gloom and broke away thy dreams,
502 Tradition, now decrepid and worn out,
503 Babbler of antient fables, leaves a doubt:
504 But still light reach'd thee; and those gods of thine
505 Woden and Thor, each tott'ring in his shrine,
506 Fell broken and defac'd at his own door,
507 As Dagon in Philistia long before.[Page 129]
508 But Rome with sorceries and magic wand,
509 Soon rais'd a cloud that darken'd ev'ry land,
510 And thine was smother'd in the stench and fog
511 Of Tiber's marshes and the papal bog:
512 Then priests with bulls and briefs and shaven crowns,
513 And griping fists and unrelenting frowns,
514 Legates and delegates with pow'rs from hell,
515 Though heav'nly in pretension, fleec'd thee well;
516 And to this hour to keep it fresh in mind,
517 Some twigs of that old scourge are left behind. *
* Which may be found at Doctors Common.
518 Thy soldiery the pope's well-manag'd pack,
519 Were train'd beneath his lash and knew the smack,
520 And when he laid them on the scent of blood:
521 Would hunt a Saracen through fire and flood.
522 Lavish of life to win an empty tomb,
523 That prov'd a mint of wealth, a mine to Rome,
524 They left their bones beneath unfriendly skies,
525 His worthless absolution all the prize.
526 Thou wast the veriest slave in days of yore,
527 That ever dragg'd a chain or tugg'd an oar;[Page 130]
528 Thy monarchs arbitrary, fierce, unjust,
529 Themselves the slaves of bigotry or lust,
530 Disdain'd thy counsels, only in distress
531 Found thee a goodly spunge for pow'r to press.
532 Thy chiefs, the lords of many a petty fee,
533 Provok'd and harrass'd, in return plagu'd thee,
534 Call'd thee away from peaceable employ,
535 Domestic happiness and rural joy,
536 To waste thy life in arms, or lay it down
537 In causeless feuds and bick'rings of their own:
538 Thy parliaments ador'd on bended knees
539 The sov'reignty they were conven'd to please;
540 Whate'er was ask'd, too timid to resist,
541 Comply'd with, and were graciously dismiss'd:
542 And if some Spartan soul a doubt express'd
543 And blushing at the tameness of the rest,
544 Dar'd to suppose the subject had a choice,
545 He was a traitor by the gen'ral voice.
546 Oh slave! with pow'rs thou didst not dare exert,
547 Verse cannot stoop so low as thy desert,[Page 131]
548 It shakes the sides of splenetic disdain,
549 Thou self-entitled ruler of the main,
550 To trace thee to the date when yon fair sea
551 That clips thy shores, had no such charms for thee,
552 When other nations flew from coast to coast,
553 And thou hadst neither fleet nor flag to boast.
554 Kneel now, and lay thy forehead in the dust,
555 Blush if thou canst, not petrified, thou must:
556 Act but an honest and a faithful part,
557 Compare what then thou wast, with what thou art,
558 And God's disposing providence confess'd,
559 Obduracy itself must yield the rest —
560 Then thou art bound to serve him, and to prove
561 Hour after hour thy gratitude and love.
562 Has he not hid thee and thy favour'd land
563 For ages safe beneath his shelt'ring hand,
564 Giv'n thee his blessing on the clearest proof,
565 Bid nations leagu'd against thee stand aloof,
566 And charg'd hostility and hate to roar
567 Where else they would, but not upon thy shore?[Page 132]
568 His pow'r secur'd thee when presumptuous Spain
569 Baptiz'd her fleet invincible in vain;
570 Her gloomy monarch, doubtful, and resign'd
571 To ev'ry pang that racks an anxious mind,
572 Ask'd of the waves that broke upon his coast,
573 What tidings? and the surge replied — all lost —
574 And when the Stuart leaning on the Scot,
575 Then too much fear'd and now too much forgot,
576 Pierc'd to the very center of thy realm,
577 And hop'd to seize his abdicated helm,
578 'Twas but to prove how quickly with a frown,
579 He that had rais'd thee could have pluck'd thee down.
580 Peculiar is the grace by thee possess'd,
581 Thy foes implacable, thy land at rest;
582 Thy thunders travel over earth and seas,
583 And all at home is pleasure, wealth and ease.
584 'Tis thus, extending his tempestuous arm,
585 Thy Maker fills the nations with alarm,
586 While his own Heav'n surveys the troubled scene,
587 And feels no change, unshaken and serene.[Page 133]
588 Freedom, in other lands scarce known to shine,
589 Pours out a flood of splendour upon thine;
590 Thou hast as bright an int'rest in her rays,
591 As ever Roman had in Rome's best days.
592 True freedom is, where no restraint is known
593 That scripture, justice, and good sense disown,
594 Where only vice and injury are tied,
595 And all from shore to shore is free beside,
596 Such freedom is — and Windsor's hoary tow'rs
597 Stood trembling at the boldness of thy pow'rs,
598 That won a nymph on that immortal plain,
599 Like her the fabled Phoebus woo'd in vain;
600 He found the laurel only — happier you,
601 Th' unfading laurel and the virgin too. *
* Alluding to the grant of Magna Charta, which was extorted from king John by the Barons at Runnymede near Windsor.
602 Now think, if pleasure have a thought to spare,
603 If God himself be not beneath her care;
604 If bus'ness, constant as the wheels of time,
605 Can pause one hour to read a serious rhime;[Page 134]
606 If the new mail thy merchants now receive,
607 Or expectation of the next give leave,
608 Oh think, if chargeable with deep arrears
609 For such indulgence gilding all thy years,
610 How much though long neglected, shining yet,
611 The beams of heav'nly truth have swell'd the debt.
612 When persecuting zeal made royal sport
613 With tortur'd innocence in Mary's court,
614 And Bonner, blithe as shepherd at a wake,
615 Enjoy'd the show, and danc'd about the stake;
616 The sacred book, its value understood,
617 Receiv'd the seal of martyrdom in blood.
618 Those holy men, so full of truth and grace,
619 Seem to reflection of a diff'rent race,
620 Meek, modest, venerable, wise, sincere,
621 In such a cause they could not dare to fear,
622 They could not purchase earth with such a prize,
623 Nor spare a life too short to reach the skies.
624 From them to thee convey'd along the tide,
625 Their streaming hearts pour'd freely when they died,[Page 135]
626 Those truths which neither use nor years impair,
627 Invite thee, wooe thee, to the bliss they share.
628 What dotage will not vanity maintain,
629 What web too weak to catch a modern brain?
630 The moles and bats in full assembly find
631 On special search, the keen-ey'd eagle blind.
632 And did they dream, and art thou wiser now?
633 Prove it — if better, I submit and bow.
634 Wisdom and goodness are twin-born, one heart
635 Must hold both sisters, never seen apart.
636 So then — as darkness overspread the deep,
637 'Ere nature rose from her eternal sleep,
638 And this delightful earth and that fair sky
639 Leap'd out of nothing, call'd by the Most High,
640 By such a change thy darkness is made light,
641 Thy chaos order, and thy weakness, might,
642 And he whose pow'r mere nullity obeys,
643 Who found thee nothing, form'd thee for his praise.
644 To praise him is to serve him, and fulfil,
645 Doing and suff'ring, his unquestion'd will,[Page 136]
646 'Tis to believe what men inspir'd of old,
647 Faithful and faithfully inform'd, unfold;
648 Candid and just, with no false aim in view,
649 To take for truth what cannot but be true,
650 To learn in God's own school the Christian part,
651 And bind the task assign'd thee to thine heart:
652 Happy the man there seeking and there found,
653 Happy the nation where such men abound.
654 How shall a verse impress thee? by what name
655 Shall I adjure thee not to court thy shame?
656 By theirs whose bright example unimpeach'd
657 Directs thee to that eminence they reach'd,
658 Heroes and worthies of days past, thy sires?
659 Or his, who touch'd their hearts with hallow'd fires?
660 Their names, alas! in vain reproach an age
661 Whom all the vanities they scorn'd, engage,
662 And his that seraphs tremble at, is hung
663 Disgracefully on ev'ry trifler's tongue,
664 Or serves the champion in forensic war,
665 To flourish and parade with at the bar.[Page 137]
666 Pleasure herself perhaps suggests a plea,
667 If int'rest move thee, to persuade ev'n thee:
668 By ev'ry charm that smiles upon her face,
669 By joys possess'd, and joys still held in chace,
670 If dear society be worth a thought,
671 And if the feast of freedom cloy thee not,
672 Reflect that these and all that seems thine own,
673 Held by the tenure of his will alone,
674 Like angels in the service of their Lord,
675 Remain with thee, or leave thee at his word;
676 That gratitude and temp'rance in our use
677 Of what he gives, unsparing and profuse,
678 Secure the favour and enhance the joy,
679 That thankless waste and wild abuse destroy.
680 But above all reflect, how cheap soe'er
681 Those rights that millions envy thee, appear,
682 And though resolv'd to risk them, and swim down
683 The tide of pleasure, heedless of his frown,
684 That blessings truly sacred, and when giv'n
685 Mark'd with the signature and stamp of Heav'n,[Page 138]
686 The word of prophecy, those truths divine
687 Which make that Heav'n, if thou desire it, thine;
688 (Awful alternative! believ'd, belov'd,
689 Thy glory, and thy shame if unimprov'd,)
690 Are never long vouchsaf'd, if push'd aside
691 With cold disgust or philosophic pride,
692 And that judicially withdrawn, disgrace,
693 Error and darkness occupy their place.
694 A world is up in arms, and thou, a spot
695 Not quickly found if negligently sought,
696 Thy soul as ample as thy bounds are small,
697 Endur'st the brunt, and dar'st defy them all:
698 And wilt thou join to this bold enterprize
699 A bolder still, a contest with the skies?
700 Remember, if he guard thee and secure,
701 Whoe'er assails thee, thy success is sure;
702 But if he leave thee, though the skill and pow'r
703 Of nations sworn to spoil thee and devour,
704 Were all collected in thy single arm,
705 And thou couldst laugh away the fear of harm,[Page 139]
706 That strength would fail, oppos'd against the push
707 And feeble onset of a pigmy rush.
708 Say not (and if the thought of such defence
709 Should spring within thy bosom, drive it thence)
710 What nation amongst all my foes is free
711 From crimes as base as any charg'd on me?
712 Their measure fill'd — they too shall pay the debt.
713 Which God, though long forborn, will not forget;
714 But know, that wrath divine, when most severe,
715 Makes justice still the guide of his career,
716 And will not punish in one mingled crowd,
717 Them without light, and thee without a cloud.
718 Muse, hang this harp upon yon aged beech,
719 Still murm'ring with the solemn truths I teach,
720 And while, at intervals, a cold blast sings
721 Through the dry leaves, and pants upon the strings,
722 My soul shall sigh in secret, and lament
723 A nation scourg'd, yet tardy to repent.
724 I know the warning song is sung in vain,
725 That few will hear, and fewer heed the strain:[Page 140]
726 But if a fweeter voice, and one design'd
727 A blessing to my country and mankind,
728 Reclaim the wand'ring thousands, and bring home
729 A flock so scatter'd and so wont to roam,
730 Then place it once again between my knees,
731 The sound of truth will then be sure to please,
732 And truth alone, where'er my life be cast,
733 In scenes of plenty or the pining waste,
734 Shall be my chosen theme, my glory to the last.
About this text
Title (in Source Edition): EXPOSTULATION.
Author: William Cowper
Themes: patriotism; glory of the British nation
Genres: heroic couplet; essay
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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.
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- [THE TASK, A POEM, IN SIX BOOKS.] BOOK II. ()
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- [THE TASK, A POEM, IN SIX BOOKS.] BOOK IV. ()
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