To Mr. R—[ed.]
[ed.], ON HIS Benevolent Scheme for rescuing Poor Children from Vice and Misery, BY PROMOTING SUNDAY SCHOOLS.
Robert Raikes (1736-1811), printer, philanthropist and early founder of Sunday schools in Gloucester in the 1780s. He was a subscriber to Poems on Several Occasions
1 O, R—! my timid soul would fain aspire
2 To rapture such as thine; to the pure zeal
3 Which fires thy soul in blest Religion's cause.
4 Say, can I catch one saint, one glimmering spark,[Page 48]
5 To warm my cheerless bosom? Will the flame
6 Which ever seeds thy fervency of soul,
7 Illumine mine? Ah, no! on me 'twere lost;
8 My faculties, my poverty of thought,
9 Wou'd ever disappoint the grand design,
10 And render great commissions all abortive.
11 Vain were the hope to save a ruin'd world!
12 Ev'n Jesu's sufferings ne'er convinc'd the whole;
13 Then shall an atom the fix'd axis move,
14 And win a world from hell? Thou greatly dar'st,
15 Yet limited thy power; stand forth, ye few!
16 You who wou'd give a lustre to your name,
17 And prove the grand impression of Jehovah;
18 Who weep, like R—, the glory of your God,
19 Defac'd, demolish'd, beauty trod in dust;[Page 49]
20 Leave not the wreck deserted on the beach,
21 Where Ignorance, Vice, and loud-mouth'd Reprobation,
22 Exulting yell, and wring the melting soul:
23 O! freeze, to hear the hoary-headed sinner,
24 With ceaseless profanation, taint the air;
25 Grown old in dark stupidity, he treads,
26 Fearless, tho' feeble; on the verge of fate
27 Sin leaves him not; and innate flames of vice
28 Still fiercely burn; the fact exists in will:
29 The last remain of life presents a gloom
30 Which frights the shrinking soul; lo! back she starts,
31 Struck with dire horror, loth to hear the sound,
32 The dreadful summons of offended Heaven —
33 She lingers — the strong blast to atoms rends
34 The frame which held her. — O! ye better souls,
35 Ye nobler few, who slumber in your race,[Page 50]
36 Tho' well begun, and forwarded with hope,
37 Say, will you see a fellow-spirit lost,
38 Thus swallow'd in the ever-yawning gulf,
39 That frights the mental eye, and e'en appals
40 The man who firmest stands, nor lend your aid
41 To save him, as a soul once meant for Heaven?
42 O, think! the coming hour will soon be yours;
43 Let not a form which bears your Maker's image
44 Defeat the end of being: know 'tis yours,
45 In heavenly tints to dip the infant soul;
46 To raise the new idea, lift it high,
47 Ev'n to Jehovah's Throne: the ductile mind,
48 Pliant as wax, shall wear the mould you give;
49 Sharp Gratitude you've call'd to life, shall cut,
50 In cyphers deep, the now expanded heart;
51 And, ev'n beyond the chambers of the grave,[Page 51]
52 The joyous spirit shall your records bear,
53 To meet your eyes when trembling worlds expire.
54 What then shall live, or stand in that dread hour,
55 But acts like these, when panting spirits call
56 For every little test to aid their plea?
57 May yours resound, supported in the blast
58 By grateful Infants, and by ripen'd Man,
59 To whom you gave perfection. Angels smile,
60 And songs of glory shake the vault of Heaven.
61 Not to the vain I lift my poor appeal,
62 Who never yet have dar'd to own a soul,
63 Or name a Deity with heart-felt joy;
64 'Tis to the mind who feels like generous R—,
65 Whose heart can mourn, whose manly eye can melt,
66 At the dread thought of human souls destroy'd. [Page 52]
67 What pen, tho' dipp'd in horror's deepest dye,
68 Can justly paint the poor unletter'd tribe,
69 Assembled in a groupe? The florid youth,
70 Robust, impetuous, ardent in his strength,
71 Lively and bounding as the skipping roe,
72 The blush of beauty blowing on his cheek;
73 Within, a strong epitome of hell;
74 There vices rage, and passions wildly roar;
75 Strong appetites, which never knew restraint,
76 Scream for indulgence, till the soul distract,
77 Seizes in haste the draught of poisons mix'd
78 When sin began, and ruin'd nature fell;
79 The dire infusion stronger grows by time;
80 And still fermenting, sins on sins arise,
81 In order horrible. Thus ever lost,
82 The poor benighted soul ne'er hopes to light[Page 53]
83 On Gilead's sovereign balm, its worth not known,
84 Or long misus'd; ah! hapless, hapless state,
85 Where Immortality itself is sick,
86 And hopes annihilation. Dreadful thought!
87 Poor miserable refuge! poorer still
88 The soul who hopes to find it. O, befriend,
89 Ere 'tis too late, the tender, budding mind,
90 Now choak'd by ignorance; cherish the spark,
91 The particle of Godhead, which impels
92 To good if nourish'd, if o'erwhelm'd must die!
93 Ye sacred few, who shudder at the sound
94 Of blasphemy, breath'd from the tender lip
95 Whose lisping accent Innocence shou'd guide,
96 Whose heart shou'd white-rob'd Purity adorn:
97 O, think, how lost the beauteous reprobate[Page 54]
98 Of twelve or fourteen years, nurs'd up in sin;
99 On whose sweet form her bounteous Maker smil'd,
100 And gave as the grand stroke of fair Creation:
101 Her passions soft and gentle; pure her thought,
102 Her soul so Angel-like, it spoke perfection;
103 Eyes form'd to bend the stubborn breast of man
104 To more than human softness; accents mild
105 To charm his ear, and sooth his sullen soul,
106 When panting in the iron grasp of woe!
107 O, she was meant so perfect, fair, and good,
108 That Angels with unusual ardour gaz'd,
109 Bless'd the fair form, and hail'd the joyous hour!
110 But ah! down, down she sinks, for ever lost,
111 For ever tarnish'd, blasted in the bud;
112 The early falsehood points the flowing tongue,
113 The artful leer deforms the eager eye;[Page 55]
114 The smile ost practis'd, deeply to deceive;
115 Each soft allurement Heaven so frankly gave,
116 All, all, devoted to eternal shame:
117 Charming in sin, too oft she meets her fate,
118 So early, that the most obdurate weeps,
119 And gives that pity she was form'd to raise.
120 Awake, ye rich, that sleep! awake to save!
121 And infants, yet unborn, in choral song,
122 Shall bless the hand which form'd a social father,
123 A father on whose lip instruction hangs,
124 Who snatches from the burning flame the brand!
125 The poor illiterate, chill'd by freezing want,
126 Within whose walls pale Penury still sits,
127 With icy hand impressing every meal,[Page 56]
128 Cannot divide his slender hard-earn'd mite
129 Betwixt his bodily and mental wants;
130 The soul must go — for hunger loudly pleads,
131 And Nature will be answer'd; thus his race,
132 Envelop'd, groping, sink in vulgar toils;
133 To eat and sleep includes the soul's best wish;
134 And mean deceit, and treacherous, low-phras'd guile,
135 Fill the vast space for better purpose given.
136 Oppress'd like you, so Amram's son once felt,
137 O'erburthen'd with a gross inconstant race;
138 Fain wou'd ye to their promis'd Canaan guide
139 These wretched wanderers, lead them to their rest,
140 As nursing fathers bear the sucking babe;
141 Fain wou'd ye to the sheltering hive allure,
142 And fix the swarm where endless pleasures flow. [Page 57]
* Not wishing to diminish a spirit of Religion, but in allusion to the Second Chapter of Numbers, Verse 17; "And I will take off that spirit which is upon thee, and I will put it upon them."Take off, great God! some portion of thy spirit,
144 Too much for one weak form; o'erpower'd he sinks,
145 Yet glories in the flame; and fainting thus,
146 Wou'd lift a world to Heaven. Omniscient Power!
147 Bring forward yet thy seventy elect!
148 Bid them to thy great mandate fix their seal,
149 And loudly sound — "Ye chosen, aid my people;
150 Guide them, I charge you, thro' the dreary wilds,
151 Support the faint, and tell the lazy-blind,
152 Who, mole-like, never saw, nor ever wish'd it;
153 O, tell them, 'tis in Mercy you are given;
154 That unto you I gave extensive souls,
155 Great faculties, and ample means, to save[Page 58]
156 Souls I thought worth creating. Then rejoice,
157 That you are thus commission'd; open'd fair
158 To you the path of glory, while their souls
159 Wander in darkness, and despair to find
160 Salvation without help. To you I give
161 The means; then answer well your sacred charge."
162 Ye Heaven-attempting souls, where virtues lie
163 Listless, inactive, waiting but the call
164 Of great Jehovah, listen to his voice,
165 A voice ne'er heard in vain; hark! hark! it sounds
166 From Misery's lowest shed; the accent soft,
167 The humble sigh, the infant's early tear,
168 The husband's stifled, sympathetic groan,
169 The mother's feelings, more than ever felt,
170 Tho' borne in silence and in pensive mood. [Page 59]
171 These are all shades in which the Godhead's seen;
172 Well felt those woes where great Religion sits
173 On the house-top, and sheds her heavenly dews
174 On the poor group; — be't yours to fix her there.
175 In dress like this, Omniscience softly tries
176 Your friendly doors, and thus disguis'd, oft meets
177 The stern repulse, and virtue-killing frown.