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difficult end in the management of the allegory is
reached, is admirable. I have omitted three stanzas.

I cannot give much from William Cowper. His
poems — graceful always, and often devout even
when playful — have few amongst them that are ex-
pressly religious, while the best of his hymns are
known to every reader of such. Born in 173 1, he
was greatly influenced by the narrow theology that
prevailed in his circle ; and most of his hymns are
marred by the exclusiveness which belonged to the
system and not to the man. There is little of it in
the following : —

Far from the world, O Lord, I flee,

From strife and tumult far ;
From scenes where Satan wages still
* His most successful war.

The calm retreat, the silent shade.

With prayer and praise agree.
And seem by thy sweet bounty made

For those who follow thee.

There if thy spirit touch the soul.

And grace her mean abode.
Oh with what peace, and joy, and love.

She communes with her God !


There, like the nightingale, she pours

Her solitary lays,
Nor asks a witness of her song.

Nor thirsts for human praise.

Author and guardian of my life, 1

Sweet source of light divine,
And — all harmonious names in one —

My Saviour, thou art mine !

What thanks I owe thee, and what love —

A boundless, endless store —
Shall echo through the realms above

When time shall be no more.

Sad as was Cowper's history, with the vapours of a
low insanity, if not always filling his garden, yet ever
brooding on the hill-tops of his horizon, he was, through
his faith in God, however darkened by the introver-
sions of a neat, poverty-stricken theology, yet able to
lead his life to the end. It is delightful to discover
that, when science, which is the anatomy of nature,
had poisoned the theology of the country, in creat-
ing a demand for clean-cut theory in infinite affairs,
the loveliness and truth of the countenance of living
nature could calm the mind which this theology had
irritated to the very borders of madness, and give a
peace and hope which the man was altogether right
in attributing to the Spirit of God. How many have
been thus comforted, who knew not, like Wordsworth,
the immediate channel of their comfort ; or even,
with Cowper, recognized its source ! God gives while
men sleep.



William Blake, the painter of many strange and
fantastic but often powerful — sometimes very beau-
tiful pictures — wrote poems of an equally remarkable
kind. Some of them are as lovely as they are care-
less, while many present a curious contrast in the
apparent incoherence of the simplest language. He
was born in 1757, towards the close of the reign of
George H. Possibly if he had been sent to an age
more capable of understanding him, his genius would
not have been tempted to utter itself with such a wild-
ness as appears to indicate hopeless indifference to
being understood. We cannot tell sometimes whether
to attribute the bewilderment the poems cause m us
to a mysticism run wild, or to regard it as the reflex
of madness in the writer. Here is a lyrical gem,
however, although not cut with mathematical pre-


To find the western path,

Right through the gates of wrath

I urge my way ;
Sweet morning leads me on :
With soft repentant moan,

I see the break of day


The war of swords and spears,
Melted by dewy tears,

Exhales on high ;
The sun is freed from fears,
And with soft gratefiQ tears,

Ascends the sky.

The following is full of truth most quaintly ex-
pressed, with a homeliness of phrase quite delicious.
It is one of the Songs of Innocence, published, as we
learn from Gilchrist's Life of Blake, in the year 1789.
They were engraved on copper with illustrations by
Blake, and printed and bound by his wife. When
we consider them in respect of the time when they
were produced, we find them marvellous for their
originality and simplicity.

Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too ?
Can I see another's grief.
And not seek for kind relief ?
Can I see a falling tear.
And not feel my sorrow's share ?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow filled ?
Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear ?
No, no ; never can it be !
Never, never can it be !
And can he, who smiles on all,
Hear the wren, with sorrows small —
Hear the small bird's grief and care.
Hear the woes that infants bear.
And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast ?
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant's tear ?


And not sit both night and day,
Wiping all our tears away?
Oh, no ! never can it be !
Never, never can it be !

He doth give his joy to all ;
He becomes an infant small;
He becomes a man of woe ;
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh.
And thy Maker is not by ;
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.

Oh ! he gives to us his joy,
That our grief he may destroy :
Till our grief is fled and gone.
He doth sit by us and moan.

There is our mystic yet again leading the way.

A supreme regard for science, and the worship of
power, go hand in hand : that knowledge is power
has been esteemed the grandest incitement to study.
Yet the antidote to the disproportionate cultivation
of science, is simply power in its crude form — breakinpr
out, that is, as brute force. When science, isolated
and glorified, has produced a contempt, not only for
vulgar errors, but for the truths which are incapable
of scientific proof, then, as we see in the French Revo-
lution, the wild beast in man breaks from its den, and
chaos returns. But all the noblest minds in Europe
looked for grand things in the aurora of this uprising
of the people. To the terrible disappointment that
followed, we are indebted for the training of Words-
worth to the priesthood of nature's temple. So was ht
possessed with the hope of a coming deliverance for


the nations, that he spent many months in France
during the Revolution. At length he was forced to
seek safety at home. Dejected even to hopelessness
for a time, he believed in nothing. How could there
be a God that ruled in the earth when such a rising
sun of promise was permitted to set in such a sea !
But for man to worship himself is a far more terrible
thing than that blood should flow like water : the
righteous plague of God allowed things to go as they
would for a time. But the power of God came upon
Wordsworth — I cannot say as it had never come
before, but with an added insight which made him
recognize in the fresh gift all that he had known and
felt of such in the past. To him, as to Cowper, the
benignities of nature restored peace and calmness
and hope — sufficient to enable him to look back and
gather wisdom. He was first troubled, then quieted,
and then taught. Such presence of the Father has
been an infinitely more active power in the redemp-
tion of men than men have yet become capable of
perceiving. The divine expressions of Nature, that
is, the face of the Father therein visible, began to heal
the plague which the worship of knowledge had bred.
And the power of her teaching grew from comfort
to prayer, as will be seen in the poem I shall give.
Higher than all that Nature can do in the way of di-
rect lessoning, is the production of such holy moods
as result in hope, conscience of duty, and supplication.
Those who have never felt it have to be told there
is in her such a power — yielding to which, the meek
inherit the earth.


Composed upon an evening of extraordinary spkndour and beauty.

Had this effulgence disappeared

With flying haste, I might have sent

Among the speechless clouds a look

Of blank astonishment ;

But 'tis endued with power to stay,

And sanctify one closing day,

That frail Mortality may see —

What is? — ah no, but what can be!

Time was when field and watery cove

With modulated echoes rang,

While choirs of fervent angels sang

Their vespers in the grove ;

Or, crowning, star-like, each some sovereign height.

Warbled, for heaven above and earth below,

Strains suitable to both. — Such holy rite,

Methinks, if audibly repeated now

From hill or valley could not move

Sublimer transport, purer love,

Than doth this silent spectacle — the gleam —

The shadow — and the peace supreme !

No sound is uttered, — but a deep
And solemn harmony pervades
The hollow vale^from steep to steep,
And penetrates the glades.
Far distant images draw nigh,
Called forth by wondrous potency
Of beamy radiance, that imbues
Whate'er it strikes with gem-like hues.
In vision exquisitely clear.
Herds range along the mountain side,
And glistening antlers are descried.
And gilded flocks appear.
2«» X


Thine is the tranquil hour, purpureal Eve !
But long as godlike wish or hope divine'
Informs my spirit, ne'er can I believe
That this magnificence is wholly thine !
From worlds nor quickened by the sun
A portion of the gift is won ;
An intermingling of heaven's pomp is spread
On ground which British shepherds tread !


And if there be whom broken ties

Afflict, or injuries assail,

Yon hazy ridges to their eyes

Present a glorious scale i

Climbing suffused with sunny air,

To stop — no record hath told where ;

And tempting Fancy to ascend,

And with immortal spirits blend !

— Wings at my shoulders seem to play !

But, rooted here, I stand and gaze

On those bright steps that heavenward raise

Their practicable way.

Come forth, ye drooping old men, look abroad,

And see to what fair countries ye are bound 1

And if some traveller, weary of his road,

Hath slept since noontide on the grassy ground.

Ye genii, to his covert speed.

And wake him with such gentle heed

As may attune his soul to meet the dower

Bestowed on this transcendent hour.


Such hues from their celestial urn
Were wont to stream before mine eye
Where'er it wandered in the mom
Of blissful infancy.
This glimpse of glory, why renewed?
Nay, rather speak with gratitude ;

1 Great cloudy ridges, one rising above the other, like a grand stair
up to the heavens. See Wordsworth's note.


For, if a vestige of those gleams

Survived, 'twas only in my dreams.

Dread Power ! whom peace and calmness serve

No less than nature's threatening voice,

If aught unworthy be my choice,

From THEE if I would swerve ;

Oh, let thy grace remind me of the light

Full early lost, and fruitlessly deplored ;

Which, at this moment, on my waking sight

Appears to shine, by miracle restored :

My soul, though yet confined to earth,

Rejoices in a second birth !

— 'Tis past ; the visionary splendour fades ;

And night approaches with her shades.

Although I have mentioned Wordsworth before
Coleridge because he was two years older, yet Cole-
ridge had much to do with the opening of Words-
worth's eyes to such visions ; as, indeed, more than
any man in our times, he has opened the eyes of the
English people to see wonderful things. There is
little of a directly religious kind in his poetry ; yet
we find in him what we miss in Wordsworth, an
inclined plane from the revelation in nature to the
culminating revelation in the Son of Man. Some-
how, I say, perhaps because we find it in his prose, we
feel more of this in Coleridge's verse.

Coleridge is a sage, and Wordsworth is a seer ; yet
when the sage sees, that is, when, like the son of Beor,
he falls into a trance having his eyes open, oi; when
feeling and sight are one and philosophy is in abey-
ance, the ecstaby is even loftier in Coleridge than in
Wordsworth. In their highest moods they seem
almost to change places — Wordsworth to become
sage, and Coleridge seer Perhaps the grandest hymn

X 2


of praise which man, the mouth-piece of Nature, utters
for her, is the hymn of Mont Blanc.


Before sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni.

Hast thou a charm to stay the morning star
In his steep course — so long he seems to pause
On thy bald awful head, O sovran Blanc ?
The Arve and Arveiron at thy base
Rave ceaselessly ; but thou, most awful Form !
Risest from forth thy silent sea of pines,
How silently ! Around thee and above
Deep is the air and dark, substantial, black,
An ebon mass : methinks thou piercest it
As with a wedge ! But when I look again.
It is thine own calm home, thy crystal shrine,
Thy habitation from eternity I

dread and silent Mount ! I gazed upon thee
Till thou, still present to the bodily sense,

Didst vanish from my thought : entranced in prayer

1 worshipped the Invisible alone.

Yet, like some sweet beguiling melody,
So sweet, we know not we are listening to it,
Thou, the meanwhile, wast blending with my thought,
Yea, with my life and life's own secret joy ;
Till the dilating soul, enwrapt, transfused,
Into the mighty vision passing — there
As in her natural form, swelled vast to Heaven !

Awake, my soul ! Not only passive praise
Thou owest ! Not alone these swelling tears,
Mute thanks and secret ecstasy ! Awake,
Voice of sweet song ! Awake, my heart, awake !
Green vales and icy cliffs, all join my hymn.

Thou first and chief, sole sovran ^ of the Vale !
O struggling with the darkness all the night,

^ The mountain.


And visited all night by troops of stars, 1
Or when they climb the sky or when they sink !
Companion of the morning-star at dawn,
Thyself earth's rosy star, and of the dawn^
Co-herald ! wake, O wake, and utter praise !
Who sank thy sunless pillars deep in earth?
"Who filled thy countenance with rosy light ?
Who made thee parent of perpetual streams?

And you, ye five wild torrents fiercely glad !
Who called you forth from night and utter death,
From dark and icy caverns called you forth, *
Down those precipitous, black, jagged rocks,
For ever shattered, and the same for ever?
Who gave you your invulnerable life,
Your strength, your speed, your fury, and your joy,
Unceasing thunder, and eternal foam?
And who commanded — and the silence came —
Here let the billows stiffen, and have rest? 4

Ye ice-falls ! ye that from the mountain's brow
Adown enormous ravines slope amain —
Torrents, methinks, that heard a mighty voice,
And stopped at once amid their maddest plunge ! —
Motionless torrents ! silent cataracts !
Who made you glorious as the gates of heaven
Beneath the keen full moon ? Who bade the sun
Clothe you with rainbows? Who, with living flowers
Of loveliest blue, spread garlands at your feet? —
God I let the torrents, like a shout of nations,
Answer! and let the ice-plains echo, God I
God! sing, ye meadow-streams, with gladsome voice !
Ye pine-groves, with your soft and soul-like sounds I
And they too have a voice, yon piles of snow.
And in their perilous fall shall thunder, God !

1 These two lines are just the symbol for the life of their autho".

2 From the rose-light on the snow of its peak.

' They all flow from under the glaciers, fed by their constant meiting.
* Turning for contrast to the glaciers, which he apostrophizes in the
next line.


Ye living flowers that skirt the eternal frost !
Ye wild goats sporting round the eagle's nest!
Ye eagles, playmates of the mountain-storm !
Ye lightnings, the dread arrows of the clouds !
Ye signs and wonders of the element !
Utter forth God, and fill the hills with praise.

Thou too, hoar Mount ! with thy sky-pointing peaks,
Oft from whose 1 feet the avalanche, unheard,
Shoots downward, glittering through the pure serene
Into the depth of clouds that veil thy breast —
Thou too again, stupendous Mountain ! thou
That, as I raise my head, awhile bowed low
In adoration — upward from thy base
Slow-travelling with dim eyes suffused with tears —
Solemnly seemest, like a vapoury cloud,
To rise before me ! rise, O ever rise ;
Rise like a cloud of incense from the earth !
Thou kingly spirit throned among the hills !
Thou dread ambassador from earth to heaven !
Great hierarch ! tell thou the silent sky.
And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun,
Earth, with her thousand voices, praises God.

Here is one little poem I think most valuable, both
from its fulness of meaning, and the form, as clear as
condensed, in which that is embodied.

Which died before baptism.

" Be rather than be called a child of God,'
Death whispered. With assenting nod,
Its head upon its mother's breast

The baby bowed without demur —
Of the kingdom of the blest

Possessor, not inheritor.

1 Antecedent, /^iif.


Next the father let me place the gifted son, Hartley
Coleridge. He was born in 1796, and died in 1849.
Strange, wayward, and in one respect faulty, as his
life was, his poetry — strange, and exceedingly way-
ward too — is often very lovely. The following sonnet
is all I can find room for: —


She sat and wept beside his feet. The weight

Of sin oppressed her heart ; for all the blame,

And the poor malice of the worldly shame, .

To her was past, extinct, and out of date ;

Only the sin remained — the leprous state.

She would be melted by the heat of love,

By fires far fiercer than are blown to prove

And purge the silver ore adulterate.

She sat and wept, and with her untressed hair

Still wiped the feet she was so blest to touch ;

And he wiped off the soiling of despair

Fr ^m her sweet soul, because she loved so much.

I am a sinner, full of doubts and fears :

Make me a humble thing of love and tears.



The late Dean Milman, born in 1791, best known
by his very valuable labours in history, may be taken
as representing a class of writers in whom the poetic
fire is ever on the point, and only on the point, of
breaking into a flame. His composition is admir-
able — refined, scholarly, sometimes rich and even
gorgeous in expression — yet lacking that radiance
of the unutterable to which the loftiest words owe
their grandest power. Perhaps the best representa-
tive of his style is the hymn on the Incarnation, in
his dramatic poem. The Fall of Jeriistdem. But as an
extract it is tolerably known. I prefer giving one
from his few Hymns for Church Service,


When God came down from heaven — the living God —
What signs and wonders marked his stately way?

Brake out the winds in music where he trod?
Shone o'er the heavens a brighter, softer day?

The dumb began to speak, the blind to see,

And the lame leaped, and pain and paleness fled ;

The mourner's sunken eye grew bright with glee,
And from the tomb awoke the wondering dead.


When God went back to heaven— the living God-
Rode he the heavens upon a fiery car?

Waved seraph- wings along his glorious road?

Stood still to wonder each bright wandering star?

Upon the cross he hung, and bowed his head,

And prayed for them that smote, and them that curst ;

And, drop by drop, his slow life-blood was shed,
And his last hour of suffering was his worst.

TJie Christian Year of the Rev. John Keble (born
in 1800) is perhaps better known in England than
any other work of similar church character. I must
confess I have never been able to enter into the en-
thusiasm of its admirers. Excellent, both in regard
of their Hterary and religious merits, true in feeling
and thorough in finish, the poems always remind
me of Berlin work in iron— hard and delicate. Here
is a portion of one of the best of them.


Ye hermits blest, yc holy maids,
The nearest heaven on earth,
Who talk with God in shadowy glades,

Free from rude care and mirth ;
To whom some viewless teacher brings
The secret lore of rural things,
The moral of each fleeting cloud and gale.
The whispers from above, that haunt the twilight vale:

Say, when in pity ye have gazed

On the wreath 'd smoke afar.
That o'er some town, like mist upraised,

Hung hiding sun and star;
Then as ye turned your weary eye
To the green earth and open sky.
Were ye not fam to doubt how Faith could dwell
Amid that dreary glare, in this world's citadel?


But Love's a flower that will not die

For lack of leafy screen,
And Christian Hope can cheer the eye

That ne'er saw vernal green :
Then be ye sure that Love can bless
Even in this crowded loneliness,
Where ever-moving myriads seem to say,
Go — thou art nought to us, nor we to thee — away 1

There are in this loud stunning tide

Of human care and crime,
With whom the melodies abide

Of the everlasting chime ;
Who carry music in their heart
Through dusky lane and wrangling mart.
Plying their daily task with busier feet,
Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat.

There are here some indications of that strong re-
action of the present century towards ancient forms
of church Hfe. This reaction seems to me a further
consequence of that admiration of power of which I
have spoken. For, finding the progress of discovery
in the laws of nature constantly bring an assurance
most satisfactory to the intellect, men began to de-
mand a similar assurance in other matters ; and what-
ever department of human thought could not be
subjected to experiment or did not admit of logical
proof began to be regarded with suspicion. The
highest realms of human thought — where indeed
only grand conviction, and that the result not of
research, but of obedience to the voice within, can
be had — came to be by such regarded as regions
where, no scientific assurance being procurable, it
was only to his loss that a man should go wander-
ing : the whole affair was unworthy of him. And


if there be no guide of humanity but the intellect,
and nothing worthy of its regard but what that in-
tellect can isolate and describe in the forms peculiar
to its operations, — that is, if a man has relations to
nothing beyond his definition, is not a creature of
the immeasurable, — then these men are right. But
there have appeared along with them other thinkers
who could not thus be satisfied — men who had in
their souls a hunger which the neatest laws of nature
could not content, who could not live on chemistry,
or mathematics, or even on geology, without the
primal law of their many dim-dawning wonders —
that is, the Being, if such there might be, who
thought their laws first and then embodied them in
a world of aeonian growth. These indeed seek law
likewise, but a perfect law — a law they can believe
perfect beyond the comprehension of powers of whose
imperfection they are too painfully conscious. They
feel in their highest moments a helplessness that
drives them to search after some Power with a heart
deeper than his power, who cares for the troubled
creatures he has made. But still under the influence
of that faithless hunger for intellectual certainty,
they look about and divide into two parties : both
would gladly receive the reported revelation in Jesus,
the one if they could have evidence enough from
without, the other if they could only get rid of the
difficulties it raises within. I am aware that I dis-
tinguish in the mass, and that both sides would be
found more or less influenced by the same difficulties
— but more and less^ and therefore thus classified by


the driving predominance. Those of the one party,
then, finding no proof to be had but that in testimony,
and anxious to have all they can— delighting too in a
certain holy wilfulness of intellectual self-immolation,
accept the testimony in the mass, and become Roman
Catholics. Nor is it difficult to see how they then
find rest. It is not the dogma, but the contact with
Christ the truth, with Christ the man, which the
dogma, in pacifying the troubles of the intellect —
if only by a soporific, has aided them in reaching,
that gives them peace : it is the truth itself that
makes them free.

The worshippers of science will themselves allow,
that when they cannot gain observations enough to
satisfy them upon any point in which a law of nature
is involved, they must, if possible, institute experi-
ments. I say therefore to those whose observation
has not satisfied them concerning the phenomenon
Christianity, — " Where is your experiment .^ Why do
you not thus try the utterance claiming to be the

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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldEngland's antiphon → online text (page 18 of 19)