[Page 114]


1 AT once to raise our reverence and delight,
2 To elevate the mind, and please the sight,
3 To pour in virtue at th' attentive eye,
4 And waft the soul on wings of extasy;
5 For this the painter's art with nature vies,
6 And bids the visionary saint arise;
7 Who views the sacred forms in thought aspires,
8 Catches pure zeal, and as he gazes, fires;
9 Feels the same ardour to his breast convey'd,
10 Is what he sees, and emulates the shade.
11 Thy strokes, great Artist, so sublime appear,
12 They check our pleasure with an awful fear;
13 While, thro' the mortal line, the God you trace,
14 Author himself, and Heir of Jesse's race;
15 In raptures we admire thy bold design,
16 And, as the subject, own the hand divine.
17 While thro' thy work the rising day shall stream,
18 So long shall last thy honour, praise, and name.
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19 And may thy labours to the Muse impart
20 Some emanation from her sister art,
21 To animate the verse, and bid it shine
22 In colours easy, bright, and strong, as Thine.
23 Supine on earth an awful figure lies,
24 While softest slumbers seem to seal his eyes;
25 The hoary sire Heaven's guardian care demands,
26 And at his feet the watchful angel stands.
27 The form august and large, the mien divine
28 Betray the
a Jesse.
founder of Messiah's line.
29 Lo! from his loins the promis'd stem ascends,
30 And high to Heaven its sacred Boughs extends:
31 Each limb productive of some hero springs,
32 And blooms luxuriant with a race of kings.
33 Th' eternal plant wide spreads its arms around,
34 And with the mighty Branch the mystic top is crown'd.
35 And lo! the glories of th' illustrious line
36 At their first dawn with ripen'd splendors shine,
37 In DAVID all express'd; the good, the great,
38 The king, the hero, and the man complete.
39 Serene he fits, and sweeps the golden lyre,
40 And blends the prophet's with the poet's fire.
41 See! with what art he strikes the vocal strings,
42 The God, his theme, inspiring what he sings!
43 Hark, or our ears delude us from his tongue
44 Sweet flows, or seems to flow, some heavenly song.
45 O! could thine art arrest the fleeting sound,
46 And paint the voice in magic numbers bound;
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47 Could the warm sun, as erst when Memnon play'd,
48 Wake with his rising beam the vocal shade:
49 Then might he draw th' attentive angels down,
50 Bending to hear the lay, so sweet, so like their own.
51 On either side the monarch's offspring shine,
52 And some adorn, and some disgrace their line.
53 Here Ammon glories; proud, incestuous lord!
54 This hand sustains the robe, and that the sword.
55 Frowning and fierce, with haughty strides he towers,
56 And on his horrid brow defiance low'rs.
57 There Absalom the ravish'd sceptre sways,
58 And his stol'n honour all his shame displays:
59 The base usurper Youth! who joins in one
60 The rebel subject, and th' ungrateful son.
61 Amid the royal race, see Nathan stand:
62 Fervent he seems to speak, and lift his hand;
63 His looks th' emotion of his soul disclose,
64 And eloquence from every gesture flows.
65 Such, and so stern he came, ordain'd to bring
66 Th' ungrateful mandate to the guilty King:
67 When, at his dreadful voice, a sudden smart
68 Shot thro' the trembling monarch's conscious heart;
69 From his own lips condemn'd; severe decree!
70 Had his God prov'd so stern a Judge as He.
71 But man with frailty is ally'd by birth;
72 Consummate purity ne'er dwelt on earth:
73 Thro' all the soul tho' virtue holds the rein,
74 Beats at the heart, and springs at every vein:
75 Yet ever from the clearest source have ran
76 Some gross allay, some tincture of the man.
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77 But who is he deep musing in his mind,
78 He seems to weigh in Reason's scales, Mankind;
79 Fix'd Contemplation hold his steady eyes
80 I know the Sage
b Solomon.
; the wisest of the wise.
81 Blest with all man could wish, or prince obtain,
82 Yet his great heart pronounc'd those blessings vain.
83 And lo! bright glittering in his sacred hands,
84 In miniature the glorious temple stands.
85 Effulgent frame! stupendous to behold!
86 Gold the strong valves, the roof of burnish'd gold.
87 The wandering ark, in that bright dome inshrin'd,
88 Spreads the strong light, eternal, unconfin'd!
89 Above th' unutterable glory plays
90 Presence divine! and the full-streaming rays
91 Pour thro' reluctant crowds intolerable blaze.
92 But stern Oppression rends Reboam's reign;
93 See the gay prince, injurious, proud, and vain!
94 Th' imperial sceptre totters in his hand,
95 And proud Rebellion triumphs in the land.
96 Curs'd with Corruption's ever-fruitful spring,
97 A beardless Senate, and a haughty King.
98 There Asa, good and great, the sceptre bears,
99 Justice attends his peace, success his wars:
100 While Virtue was his sword, and Heaven his shield,
101 Without controul the warrior swept the field;
102 Loaded with spoils, triumphant he return'd,
103 And half her swarthy sons sad Ethiopia mourn'd.
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104 But since thy flagging piety decay'd,
105 And barter'd God's defence for human aid;
106 See their fair laurels wither on thy brow,
107 Nor herbs, nor healthful arts avail thee now,
108 Nor is Heaven chang'd, apostate prince, but Thou.
109 No mean atonement does this lapse require;
110 But see the Son, you must forgive the Sire:
111 He,
c Josaphat.
the just prince with every virtue blest,
112 He reign'd, and goodness all the man possest,
113 Around his throne, fair happiness and peace
114 Smooth'd every brow, and smil'd in every face.
115 As when along the burning waste he stray'd,
116 Where no pure streams in bubbling mazes play'd,
117 Where drought incumbent on the thirsty ground,
118 Long since had breath'd her scorching blasts around;
119 The
d Elisha.
prophet calls, th' obedient floods repair
120 To the parch'd fields, for Josaphat was there.
121 The new-sprung waves, in many a gurgling vein,
122 Trickle luxurious thro' the sucking plain;
123 Fresh honours the reviving fields adorn,
124 And o'er the desart Plenty pours her horn.
125 So, from the throne his influence he sheds,
126 And bids the Virtues raise their languid heads:
127 Where'er he goes, attending Truth prevails,
128 Oppression flies, and Justice lifts her scales.
129 See, on his arm, the royal eagle stand,
130 Great type of conquest and supreme command;
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131 Th' exulting bird distinguish'd triumph brings,
132 And greets the Monarch with expanded wings.
133 Fierce Moab's sons prevent th' impending blow,
134 Rush on themselves, and sall without the foe.
135 The pious Hero vanquish'd Heaven by prayer;
136 His faith an army, and his vows a war.
137 Thee too, Ozias, fates indulgent blest,
138 And thy days shone, in fairest actions drest;
139 Till that rash hand; by some blind frenzy sway'd,
140 Unclean, the sacred office durst invade.
141 Quick o'er thy limbs the surfy venom ran,
142 And hoary filth besprinkled all the man.
143 Transmissive worth adorns the pious
e Jotham.
144 The father's virtues with the father's throne.
145 Lo! there he stands: he who the rage subdued
146 Of Ammon's sons, and drench'd his sword in blood,
147 And dost thou, Ahaz, Judah's scourge, disgrace,
148 With thy base front, the glories of thy race?
149 See the vile King his iron sceptre bear
150 His only praise attends the pious
f Hezekiah.
151 He, in whose soul the virtues all conspire,
152 The best good son, from the most wicked sire.
153 And lo! in Hezekiah's golden reign,
154 Long-exil'd Piety returns again;
155 Again, in genuine purity she shines,
156 And with her presence gilds the long-neglected shrines.
157 Ill-starr'd does proud Assyria's impious
g Sennacherib.
158 Bid Heaven to arms, and vaunt his dreadful sword;
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159 His own vain threats th' insulting King o'erthrow,
160 But breathe new Courage on the generous foe,
161 Th' avenging Angel, by divine command,
162 The fiery sword full-blazing in his hand,
163 Leant down from Heaven: amid the storm he rode,
164 March'd Pestilence before him; as he trod,
165 Pale Desolation bath'd his steps in blood.
166 Thick wrapt in night, thro' the proud host he past,
167 Dispensing death, and drove the furious blast;
168 Nor bade Destruction give her revels o'er,
169 Till the gorg'd sword was drunk with human gore.
170 But what avails thee, pious Prince, in vain
171 Thy sceptre rescued, and th' Assyrian slain?
172 Ev'n now the soul maintains her latest strife,
173 And Death's chill grasp congeals the found of life.
174 Yet see, kind Heaven renews thy brittle thread,
175 And rolls full fifteen summers o'er thy head;
176 Lo! the receding sun repeats his way,
177 And, like thy life, prolongs the falling day.
178 Tho' Nature her inverted course forego,
179 The day forget to rest, the time to flow,
180 Yet shall Jehovah's servants stand secure,
181 His mercy fix'd, eternal shall endure;
182 On them her ever-healing rays shall shine;
183 More mild, and bright, and sure, O sun! than thine.
184 At length, the long-expected Prince behold,
185 The last good King; in ancient days foretold,
186 When Bethel's altar spoke his future fame,
187 Rent to its base, at good Josiah's name.
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188 Blest, happy prince! o'er whose lamented urn,
189 In plaintive song, all Judah's daughters mourn;
190 For whom sad Sion's softest Sorrow flows,
191 And Jeremiah pours his sweet melodious woes.
192 But now fall'n Sion, once the fair and great,
193 Sits deep in dust, abandon'd, desolate;
194 Bleeds her sad heart, and ever stream her eyes,
195 And anguish tears her, with convulsive sighs.
196 The mournful captive spreads her hands in vain,
197 Her hands, that rankle with the servile chain;
198 Till he,
h Zorobabcl.
Great Chief! in Heaven's appointed time.
199 Leads back her children to their native clime.
200 Fair Liberty revives with all her joys,
201 And bids her envy'd walls securely rise.
202 And thou, great hallow'd dome, in ruin spread,
203 Again shall lift sublime thy sacred head.
204 But ah! with weeping eyes, the ancients view
205 A faint resemblance of the old in you.
206 No more th' effulgent glory of thy God
207 Speaks awful answers from the mystic cloud:
208 No more thine altars blaze with fire divine,
209 And Heaven has left thy solitary shrine.
210 Yet, in thy courts, hereafter shalt thou see
211 Presence immediate of the Deity,
212 The light himself reveal'd, the God confest in thee.
213 And now at length the fated term of years
214 The world's desire have brought, and lo! the God appears.
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215 The Heavenly Babe the Virgin Mother bears.
216 And her fond looks confess the parent's cares,
217 The pleasing burden on her breast she lays,
218 Hangs o'er his charms, and with a smile surveys.
219 The Infant smiles, to her fond bosom prest,
220 And wantons, sportive, on the mother's breast.
221 A radiant glory speaks him all Divine,
222 And in the Child the beams of Godhead shine.
223 But now alas! far other views disclose
224 The blackest comprehensive scene of woes.
225 See where man's voluntary sacrifice
226 Bows his meek head, and God Eternal dies!
227 Fixt to the Cross, his healing arms are bound,
228 While copious Mercy streams from every wound.
229 Mark the blood-drops that life exhausting roll,
230 And the strong pang that rends the stubborn soul!
231 As all death's tortures, with severe delay,
232 Exult and riot in the noblest prey,
233 And can'st thou, stupid man, those sorrows see,
234 Nor share the anguish which He bears for Thee?
235 Thy sin, for which his sacred Flesh is torn,
236 Points every nail, and sharpens every thorn;
237 Canst thou? while Nature smarts in every wound,
238 And each pang cleaves the sympathetic ground!
239 Lo! the black sun, his chariot backward driven,
240 Blots out the day, and perishes from Heaven:
241 Earth, trembling from her entrails, bear a part,
242 And the rent rock upbraids man's stubborn heart.
243 The yawning grave reveals his gloomy reign,
244 And the cold clay-clad dead start into life again.
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245 And thou, O tomb, once more shalt wide display
246 Thy satiate jaws, and give up all thy prey.
247 Thou, groaning earth, shalt heave, absorpt in flame,
248 As the last pangs convulse thy labouring frame;
249 When the same God unshrouded thou shalt see,
250 Wrapt in full blaze of Power and Majesty,
251 Ride on the clouds; whilst, as his chariot flies,
252 The bright effusion streams thro' all the skies.
253 Then shall the proud dissolving mountains glow,
254 And yielding rocks in fiery rivers flow:
255 The molten doluge round the globe shall roar,
256 And all man's arts and labour be no more.
257 Then shall the splendors of th' enliven'd glass
258 Sink undistinguish'd in the burning mass.
259 And O! till earth, and seas, and Heaven decay,
260 Ne'er may that fair creation fade away;
261 May winds and storms those beauteous colours spare,
262 Still may they bloom, as permanent as fair,
263 All the vain rage of wasting time repell,
264 And his Tribunal see, whose Cross they paint so well.


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About this text

Author: Robert Lowth
Themes: art; painting; biblical history
References: DMI 24529

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Source edition

Pearch, G. A collection of poems in four volumes. By several hands. Vol. IV. [The second edition]. London: printed for G. Pearch, 1770, pp. 114-123. 4v. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T116245; DMI 1137; OTA K093079.004) (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [(OC) 280 o.791].)

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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 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 4.0.0.