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A pleasure without loss, a treasure without stealth.

Who can forget — never to be forgot—

The time that all the world in slumber lies,
When like the stars the singing angels shot

To earth, and heaven awaked all his eyes

To see another sun at midnight rise?
On earth was never sight of peril fame ; pareil: equal.

For God before man like himself did frame,
But God himself now like a mortal man became.
*****
The angels carolled loud their song of peace ;

The cursed oracles were stricken dumb ;
To see their Shepherd the poor shepherds press ;

To see their King, the kingly Sophies come ;

And them to guide unto his master's home,
A star comes dancing up the orient.
That springs for joy over the strawy tent,
Where gold, to make their prince a crown, they all present.

No doubt there are here touches of execrable taste,
such as the punning trick with man and manners,
suggesting a false antithesis ; or the opposition of
the words deprave and deprive; but we have in them



THE LAST HYMN, 153

only an instance of how the meretricious may co-exist
with the lovely. The passage is fine and powerful,
notwithstanding its faults and obscurities.
Here is another yet more beautiful :

So down the silver streams of Eridan,i ' - '

On either side banked with a lily wall,
Whiter than both, rides the triumphant swan,

And sings his dirge, and prophesies his fall.

Diving into his watery funeral !
But Eridan to Cedron must submit
His flowery shore ; nor can he envy it,
If, when Apollo sings, his swans do silent sit^

That heavenly voice I more delight to hear
Than gentle airs to breathe ; or swelling waves

Against the sounding rocks their bosoms tear;^
Or whistling reeds that rutty ^ Jordan laves,
And with their verdure his white head embraves ; adorns.

1 The Eridan is the Po. — As regards classical allusions in con-
nexion with sacred things, I would remind my reader of the great
reverence our ancestors had for the classics, from the influence they had
had in reviving the literature of the country. — I need hardly remind
him of the commonly-received fancy that the swan does sing once —
just as his death draws nigh. Does this come from the legend of
Cycnus changed into a swan while lamenting the death of his friend
Phaeton? or was that legend founded on the yet older fancy? The
glorious bird looks as if he ought to sing.

2 The poet refers to the singing of the hymn before our Lord went
to the garden by the brook Cedron.

^ The construction is obscure just from the insertion of the to before
breathe, where it ought not to be after the verb hear. The poet does
not mean that he delights to hear that voice more than to breathe gentle
airs, but more than to hear gentle airs (to) breathe. To hear, under-
stood, governs all the infinitives that follow ; among the rest, the winds
{to) chide.

"• Rut is used for the sound of the tide in Cheshire. (See Halli^velVs
Dictionary.) Does nitty mean roaring? or does it describe the deep,
rugged shores of the Jordan ?



154 ENGLAND'S ANTIPHON.

To chide the winds ; or hiving bees that fly
About the laughing blossoms'^ of sallowy,^
Rocking asleep the idle grooms ^ that lazy lie.
And yet how can I hear thee singing go,

When men, incensed with hate, thy death foreset ?
Or else, why do I hear thee sighing so.

When thou, inflamed with love, their life dost get,*
That love and hate, and sighs and songs are met ?
But thus, and only thus, thy love did crave
To send thee singing for us to thy grave.
While we sought thee to kill, and thou sought'st us to save.

When I remember Christ our burden bears,
I look for glory, but find misery ;

I look for joy, but find a sea of tears ;

I look that we should live, and find him die j
I look for angels' songs, and hear him cry :

Thus what I look, I cannot find so well ;

Or rather, what I find I cannot tell.
These banks so narrow are, those streams so highly swell.

We would gladly eliminate the few common-place
allusions ; but we must take them with the rest of
the passage. Besides far higher merits, it is to my
ear most melodious.

One more passage of two stanzas from Giles
Fletcher, concerning the glories of heaven: I quote
them for the sake of earth, not of heaven.

Gaze but upon the house where man embowers :
With flowers and rushes paved is his way ;

Where all the creatures are his servitours :
The winds do sweep his chambers every day,
And clouds do wash his rooms ; the ceiling gay,

1 A monosyllable, contracted afterwards into bloom. ' Willows.

' Groom originally meajis just a man. It was a word much used
when pastoral poetry was the fashion. Spenser has herd-grooms in his
Shepherd's Calendar. This last is what it means here : shepherds.

* Obtain, save.



THE PURPLE ISLAND, 155

Starred aloft, the gilded knobs embrave :
If such a house God to another gave,
How shine those glittering courts he for himself will have !

And if a sullen cloud, as sad as night,

In which the sun may seem embodied,
Depured of all his dross, we see so white.

Burning in melted gold his watery head,

Or round with ivory edges silvered ;
What lustre super-excellent will he
Lighten on those that shall his sunshine see
In that all-glorious court in which all glories be !

These brothers were intense admirers of Spenser.
To be like him Phineas must write an allegory ;
and such an allegory ! Of all the strange poems in
existence, surely this is the strangest. The Purple
Island is man, whose body is anatomically described
after the allegory of a city, which is then peopled
with all the human faculties personified, each set
in motion by itself. They say the anatomy is cor-
rect : the metaphysics are certainly good. The action
of the poem is just another form of the Holy War
of John Bunyan — all the good and bad powers
fighting for the possession of the Purple Island.
What renders the conception yet more amazing is the
fact that the whole ponderous mass of anatomy and
metaphysics, nearly as long as the Paradise Lost,
is put as a song, in a succession of twelve cantos,
in the mouth of a shepherd, who begins a canto every
morning to the shepherds and shepherdesses of the
neighbourhood, and finishes it by folding-time in the
evening. And yet the poem is full of poetry. He
triumphs over his difficulties partly by audacity, partly
by seriousness, partly by the enchantment of song



156 ENGLAND'S ANTIPHON.

But the poem will never be read through except by
students of English literature. It is a whole; its
members are well-fitted ; it is full of beauties — in
parts they swarm like fire-flies ; and yet it is not a
good poem. It is like a well-shaped house, built of
mud, and stuck full of precious stones. I do not care,
in my limited space, to quote from it. Never was
there a more incongruous dragon of allegory.

Both brothers were injured, not by their worship of
Spenser, but by the form that worship took — imitation.
They seem more pleased to produce a line or stanza
that shall recall a line or stanza of Spenser, than to pro-
duce a fine original of their own. They even copy lines
almost word for word from their great master. This
is pure homage : it was their delight that such adapta-
tions should be recognized — ^just as it was Spenser's
hope, when he inserted translated stanzas from Tasso's
Jerusalem Delivered in The Fairy Queett, to gain the
honour of a true reproduction. Yet, strange fate for
imitators ! both, but Giles especially, were imitated by
a greater than their worship — even by Milton. They
make Spenser's worse : Milton makes theirs better.
They imitate Spenser, faults and all : Milton glorifies
their beauties.

From the smaller poems of Phineas, I choose the
following version of

PSALM cxxx.

From the deeps of grief and fear,

O Lord, to thee my soul repairs :
From thy heaven bow down thine ear j

Let thy mercy meet my prayers.



HE GIVETH HIS BELOVED SLEEPING. 157

Oh ! if thou mark'st what's done amiss,
"What soul so pure can see thy bliss ?

But with thee sweet Mercy stands,

Sealing pardons, working fear.
Wait, my soul, wait on his hands ;

Wait, mine eye ; oh ! wait, mine ear :
If he his eye or tongue affords,
Watch all his looks, catch all his words.

As a watchman waits for day.

And looks for light, and looks again :

When the night grows old and gray,
To be relieved he calls amain :
^ So look, so wait, so long, mine eyes,

To see my Lord, my sun, arise.

Wait, ye saints, wait on our Lord,

For from his tongue sweet mercy flows ;

Wait on his cross, wait on his word ;
Upon that tree redemption grows :

He will redeem his Israel

From sin and wrath, from death and hell.

I shall now give two stanzas of his version of the
127th Psalm.

If God build not the house, and lay
The groundwork sure — whoever build,

"U cannot stand one stormy day.
If God be not the city's shield.

If he be not their bars and wall.

In vain is watch-tower, men, and all.

Though then thou wak'st when others rest, '
Though rising thou prevent'st the sun,

Though with lean care thou daily feast,
Thy labour's lost, and thou undone;

But God his child will feed and keep.

And draw the curtains to his sleep.

Compare this with a version of the same portion
by Dr. Henry King, Bishop of Chichester, who, no

14



158 ENGLAND'S ANTIPHON.



great poet, has written some good verse. He was
about the same age as Phineas Fletcher.

Except the Lord the house sustain,
The builder's labour is in vain ;
Except the city he defend,
And to the dwellers safety send,
In vain are sentinels prepared,
Or armed watchmen for the guard.

You vainly with the early light

Arise, or sit up late at night

To find support, and daily eat

Your bread with sorrow earned and sweat ;

When God, who his beloved keeps.

This plenty gives with quiet sleeps.

What difference do we find ? That the former has
the more poetic touch, the latter the greater truth.
The former has just lost the one precious thing in the
psalm ; the latter has kept it : that care is as useless
as painful, for God gives us while we sleep, and not
while we labour.



CHAPTER XII.

WITHER, HERRICK, AND QUARLES.

George Wither, born in 1588, therefore about the
same age as Giles Fletcher, was a very different sort
of writer indeed. There could hardly be a greater con-
trast. Fancy, and all her motley train, were scarcely
known to Wither, save by the hearing of the ears.

He became an eager Puritan towards the close of
his life, but his poetry chiefly belongs to the earlier
part of it. Throughout it is distinguished by a
certain straightforward simplicity of good English
thought and English word. His hymns remind me,
in the form of their speech, of Gascoigne. I shall
quote but little ; for, although there is a sweet calm
and a great justice of reflection and feeling, there is
hardly anything of that warming glow, that rousing
force, that impressive weight in his verse, which is
the chief virtue of the lofty rhyme.

The best in a volume of ninety Hymns and Songs
of the Church, is, I think, The Author's Hymn at the
close, of which I give three stanzas. They manifest
the simplicity and truth of the man, reflecting in their
very tone his faithful, contented, trustful nature.



i6o ENGLAND'S ANTIPHON.



By thy grace, those passions, troubles,

And those wants that me opprest,
Have appeared as water-bubbles.

Or as dreams, and things in jest :
For, thy leisure still attending,
I with pleasure saw their ending.

Those afflictions and those terrors,

"Which to others grim appear.
Did but show me where my errors

And my imperfections were ;
But distrustful could not make me
Of thy love, nor fright nor shake me.

Those base hopes that would possess me.

And those thoughts of vain repute
Which do now and then oppress me.

Do not. Lord, to me impute ;
And though part they will not from me,
Let them never overcome me.

He has written another similar volume, but much
larger, and of a somewhat extraordinary character.
It consists of no fewer than two hundred and thirty-
three hymns, mostly long, upon an incredible variety
of subjects, comprehending one for every season of
nature and of the church, and one for every occur-
rence in life of which the author could think as
likely to confront man or woman. Of these subjects
I quote a few of the more remarkable, but even from
them my reader can have little conception of the
variety in the book : A Hymn whilst we are wash-
ing ; In a clear starry Night ; A Hym7i for a House-
warming ; After a great Frost or Snow ; For one
whose Beauty is mtich praised ; For 07te upbraided
with Deformity ; For a Widower or a Widow deli-



GEORGE WITHER. i6i

vered from a troublesome Yokefellow ; For a Cripple ;
For a Jailor ; For a Poet.

Here is a portion of one which I hope may be
helpful to some of my readers.

WHEN WE CANNOT SLEEP.

What ails my heart, that in my breast

It thus unquiet lies ;
And that it now of needful rest

Deprives my tired eyes ?

Let not vain hopes, griefs, doubts, or fears,

Distemper so my mind ;
But cast on God thy thoughtful cares,

And comfort thou shalt find.

In vain that soul attempteth ought.

And spends her thoughts in vain,
Who by or in herself hath sought

Desired peace to gain.

On thee, O Lord, on thee therefore.

My musings now I place ;
Thy free remission I implore,

And thy refreshing grace.

Forgive thou me, that when my mind

Oppressed began to be,
I sought elsewhere my peace to find.

Before I came to thee.

And, gracious God, vouchsafe to grant.

Unworthy thoxigh I am.
The needful rest which now I want,

That I may praise thy name.

Before examining the volume, one would say that
no man could write so many hymns without frequent

S.L. 14*



i62 ENGLAND'S ANTIPHON.



and signal failure. But the marvel here is, that the
hymns are all so very far from bad. He can never
have written in other than a gentle mood. There
must have been a fine harmony in his nature, that
kept him, as it were. This peacefulness makes him
interesting in spite of his comparative flatness. I
must restrain remark, however, and give five out of
twelve stanzas of another of his hymns.

A ROCKING HYMN.

Sweet baby, sleep : what ails my dear ?

"What ails my darling thus to cry ?
Be still, my child, and lend thine ear

To hear me sing thy lullaby.
My pretty lamb, forbear to weep;
Be still, my dear ; sweet baby, sleep.

Whilst thus thy lullaby I sing,

For thee great blessings ripening be ;
Thine eldest brother is a king,

And hath a kingdom bought for thee.
Sweet baby, then forbear to weep ;
Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep.

A little infant once was he,

And strength in weakness then was laid

Upon his virgin mother's knee,
That power to thee might be conveyed.

Sweet baby, then forbear to weep ;

Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep.

Within a manger lodged thy Lord,

Where oxen lay, and asses fed ;
Warm rooms we do to thee afford,

An easy cradle or a bed.
Sweet baby, then forbear to weep ;
Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep.



ROBERT HERRICK 163

Thou hast, yet more to perfect this,

A promise and an earnest got.
Of gaining everlasting bhss,

Though thou, my babe, perceiv'st it not.
Sweet baby, then forbear to weep ;
Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep.

I think George Withers verses will grow upon the
reader of them, tame as they are sure to appear at
first. His Hallelujah, or Britahi's Second Remem-
braiicer, from which I have been quoting, is well
worth possessing, and can be procured without
difficulty.

We now come to a new sort, both of man and poet
—still a clergyman. It is an especial pleasure to
write the name of Robert Herrick amongst the poets
of religion, for the very act records that the jolly,
careless Anacreon of the church, with his head and
heart crowded with pleasures, threw down at length
his wine-cup, tore the roses from his head, and knelt
in the dust.

Nothing bears Herrick's name so unrefined as the
things Dr. Donne wrote in his youth ; but the impres-
sion made by his earlier poems is of a man of far
shallower nature, and greatly more absorbed in the
delights of the passing hour. In the year 1648, when
he was fifty-seven years of age, being prominent as a
Royalist, he was ejected from his living by the domi-
nant Puritans ; and in that same year he published his
poems, of which the latter part and later written is his
Noble Numbers, or religious poems. We may wonder
at his publishing the Hesperides along with them, but
we must not forget that, while the manners of a time

M 2



i64 ENGLAND'S AN TIP HON.

are never to be taken as a justification of what is wrong,
the judgment of men concerning what is wrong will be
greatly influenced by those manners — not necessarily
on the side of laxity. It is but fair to receive his
own testimony concerning himself, offered in these
two lines printed at the close of his Hesperides:

To his book's end this last line he'd have placed :
Jocund his muse was, but his life was chaste.

We find the same artist in the Noble Numbers as in
the Hesperides, but hardly the same man. However
far he may have been from the model of a clergyman
in the earlier period of his history, partly no doubt
from the society to which his power of song made him
acceptable, I cannot believe that these later poems
are the results of mood, still less the results of mere
professional bias, or even sense of professional duty.

In a good many of his poems he touches the heart
of truth ; in others, even those of epigrammatic form,
he must be allowed to fail in point as well as in
meaning. As to his art-forms, he is guilty of great
offences, the result of the same passion for lawless
figures and similitudes which Dr. Donne so freely
indulged. But his verses are brightened by a certain
almost childishly quaint and innocent humour ; while
the tenderness of some of them rises on the reader
like the aurora of the coming sun of George Herbert.
I do not forget that, even li some of his poems were
printed in 1639, years before that George Herbert
had done his work and gone home : my figure stands
in relation to the order I have adopted.



LITANY TO THE HOLY SPIRIT. 165

Some of his verse is homelier than even George
Herbert's homeliest. One of its most remarkable
traits is a quaint thanksgiving for the commonest
things by name — not the less real that it is some-
times even queer. For instance :

God gives not only com for need,
But likewise superabundant seed ;
Bread for our service, bread for show ;
Meat for our meals, and fragments too :
He gives not poorly, taking some
Between the finger and the thumb,
But for our glut, and for our store.
Fine flour pressed down, and running o'er.

Here is another, delightful in its oddity. We can
fancy the merry yet gracious poet chuckling over the
vision of the child and the fancy of his words.

A GRACE FOR A CHILD.

Here a little child I stand.

Heaving up my either hand ;

Cold as paddocks though they be, frogs.

Here I lift them up to thee,

For a benison to fall

On our meat, and on us all. Amen.

I shall now give two or three of his longer poems,
which are not long, and then a few of his short ones.
The best known is the following, but it is not so well
known that I must therefore omit it.

HIS LITANY TO THE HOLY SPIRIT.

In the hour of my distress.
When temptations me oppress,
And when I my sins confess,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me.



i66 ENGLAND 'S ANTIPHON.



When I lie within my bed,
Sick in heart, and sick in head,
And with doubts discomforted.
Sweet Spirit, comfort me.

When the house doth sigh and weep,
And the world is drowned in sleep,
Yet mine eyes the watch do keep,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me.

When the artless doctor sees without skill.

No one hope, but of his fees.
And his skill runs on the lees,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me.

When his potion and his pill.
His or none or little skill,
Meet for nothing but to kill.
Sweet Spirit, comfort me.

When the passing-bell doth toll,
And the furies in a shoal
Come to fright a parting soul,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me.

When the tapers now burn blue,
And the comforters are few,
And that number more than true,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me.

When the priest his last hath prayed*
And I nod to what is said,
'Cause my speech is now decayed.
Sweet Spirit, comfort me.

When God knows I'm tossed about,
Either with despair or doubt,
Yet, before the glass be out,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me.

When the tempter me pursu'th
With the sins of all my youth,
And half damns me with untnith,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me.



THE WHITE ISLAND. 167



When the flames and hellish cries
Fright mine ears and fright mine eyes,
And all terrors me surprise,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me.

When the judgment is revealed,
And that opened which was sealed ;
When to thee I have appealed,
Sweet Spirit, comfort me.



THE WHITE ISLAND, OR PLACE OF THE BLEST.

In this world, the Isle of Dreams,
While we sit by sorrow's streams.
Tears and terrors are our themes.
Reciting ;

But when once from hence we fly,
More and more approaching nigh
Unto young eternity.

Uniting ;

In that whiter island, where
Things are evermore sincere ;
Candour here and lustre there.

Delighting :

There no monstrous fancies shall
Out of hell an horror call,
To create, or cause at all,

Aflrighting.

There, in calm and cooling sleep
We our eyes shall never steep,
But eternal watch shall keep,

Attending

Pleasures such as shall pursue
Me immortalized and you ;
\nd fresh joys, as never too

Have ending.



i68 ENGLAND'S ANTIPHON.



TO DEATH.

Thou bid'st me come away;
And I'll no longer stay
Than for to shed some tears
For faults of former years ;
And to repent some crimes
Done in the present times;
And next, to take a bit
Of bread, and wine with it ;
To don my robes of love,
Fit for the place above ;
To gird my loins about
With charity throughout,
And so to travel hence
With feet of innocence :
These done, I'll only cry,
" God, mercy ! " and so die.

ETERNITY.

O years and age, farewell !
Behold I go
Where I do know

Infinity to dwell.

And these mine eyes shall see
All times, how they
Are lost i' th' sea

Of vast eternity,

Where never moon shall sway
The stars ; but she
And night shall be

Drowned in one endless day.



THE GOODNESS OF HIS GOD.

When winds and seas do rage,
And threaten to undo me.

Thou dost their wrath assuage,
If I but call unto thee.



DIVINE EPIGRAMS 169



A mighty storm last night

Did seek my soul to swallow ;

But by the peep of light
A gentle calm did follow.

"What need I then despair

Though ills stand round about me ;
Since mischiefs neither dare

To bark or bite without thee ?



TO GOD.

Lord, I am like to mistletoe,
"Which has no root, and cannot grow
Or prosper, but by that same tree
It clings about : so I by thee.
"What need I then to fear at all .
So long as I about thee crawl ?
But if that tree should fall and die,
Tumble shall heaven, and down will I.

Here are now a few chosen from many that — to
borrow a term from Crashaw — might be called



DIVINE EPIGRAMS.

God, when he's angry here with any one,
His wrath is free from perturbation ;
And when we think his looks are sour and grim.
The alteration is in us, not him.



God can't be wrathful ; but we may conclude

"Wrathful he may be by similitude :

God's wrathful said to be when he doth do

That without wrath, which wrath doth force us to.



'Tis hard to find God ; but to comprehend
Him as he is, is labour without end.



15



I70 ENGLAND'S ANTIPHON.



God's rod doth watch while men do sleep, and then
The rod doth sleep while vigilant are men.



A man's trangression God does then remit,
When man he makes a penitent for it.



God, when he takes my goods and chattels hence,

Gives me a portion, giving patience :

"What is in God is God : if so it be

He patience gives, he gives himself to me.



Humble we must be, if to heaven we go ;
High is the roof there, but the gate is low.



God who's in heaven, will hear from thence,
If not to the sound, yet to the sense.



The same who crowns the conqueror, will be
A coadjutor in the agony.



God is so potent, as his power can that.

Draw out of bad a sovereign good to man.



Paradise is, as from the leam'd I gather,
A choir of blest souls circling in the Father.



Heaven is not given for our good works here ;
Yet it is given to the labourer.



One more for the sake of Martha, smiled at by so
many because they are incapable either of her blame
or her sister's praise.

The repetition of the name, made known
No other than Christ's full affection.


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