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law of life } Call it a hypothesis, and experiment
upon it. Carry into practice, well justified of your
conscience, the words which the Man spoke, for
therein he says himself lies the possibility of your
acceptance of his mission ; and if, after reasonable
time thus spent, you are not yet convinced enough
to give testimony — I will not annoy you by saying
to faciSy but — to conviction, I think neither will you
be ready to abandon the continuous experiment."
These Roman Catholics have thus met with Jesus,
come into personal contact with him : by the doing


of what he tells us, and by nothing else, are they
blessed. What if their theories show to me like a
burning of the temple and a looking for the god
in the ashes ? They know in whom they have
believed. And if some of us think we have a more
excellent way, we shall be blessed indeed if the
result be no less excellent than in such men as
Faber, Newman, and Aubrey de Vere. No man needs
be afraid that to speak the truth concerning such
will hasten the dominance of alien and oppressive
powers ; the truth is free, and to be just is to be
strong. Should the time come»again when Liberty is
in danger, those who* have defended the truth even in
her adversaries, if such there be, will be found the
readiest to draw the sword for her, and, hating not,
yet smite for the liberty to do even them justice. To
give the justice we claim for ourselves is, if there be
a Christ, the law of Christ, to obey which is eternally
better than truest theory.

I should like to give many of the hymns of Dr.
Faber. Some of them are grand, others very lovely,
and some, of course, to my mind considerably repul-
sive. He seems to me to go wrong nowhere in
originating — he produces nothing unworthy except
when he reproduces what he never could have enter-
tained but for the pressure of acknowledged authority.
Even such things, however, he has enclosed in pearls,
as the oyster its incommoding sand-grains.

His hymn on The Greatness of God is profound ;
that on The Will of God is very wise ; that to The
God of my Childhood is full of quite womanly tender-



ness : all are most simple in speech, reminding us in
this respect of John Mason. In him, no doubt, as in
all of his class, we find traces of that sentimentalism
in the use of epithets — small words, as distinguished
from homely, applied to great things — of which I
have spoken more than once ; but criticism is not to
be indulged in the reception of great gifts — of such
a gift as this, for instance : —


O Lord ! my heart is sick,
Sick of this everlasting change ;
And hfe runs tediously quick
Through its unresting race and varied range :
Change finds no likeness to itself in Thee,
And wakes no echo in Thy mute eternity.

Dear Lord ! my heart is sick

Of this perpetual lapsing time,

So slow in grief, in joy so quick,
Yet ever casting shadows so sublime:
Time of all creatures is least like to Thee,
And yet it is our share of Thine eternity.

Oh change and time are storms
For lives so thin and frail as ours;

For change the work of grace deforms
With love that soils, and help that overpowers ;
And time is strong, and, like some chafing sea.
It seems to fret the shores of Thine eternity.

Weak, weak, for ever weak !
We cannot hold what we possess j

Youth cannot find, age will not seek, —
Oh weakness is the heart's worst weariness :
But weakest hearts can lift their thoughts to Thee;
It nukes us strong to think of Thine eternity.



Thou hadst no youth, great God !
An Unbeginning End Thou art ;

Thy glory in itself abode,
And still abides in its own tranquil heart :
No age can heap its outward years on Thee :
Dear God ! Thou art Thyself Thine own eternity !

Without an end or bound
Thy life lies all outspread in light ;
Our lives feel Thy life all around,
Making our weakness strong, our darkness bright \
Yet is it neither wilderness nor sea.
But the calm gladness of a full eternity.

Oh Thou art very great
To set Thyself so far above !

But we partake of Thine estate,
Established in Thy strength and in Thy love:
That love hath made eternal room for me
In the sweet vastness of its own eternity.

Oh Thou art very meek
To overshade Thy creatures thus !

Thy grandeur is the shade we seek ;
To be eternal is Thy use to us :
Ah, Blessed God ! what joy it is to me
To lose all thought of self in Thine eternity

Self- wearied. Lord ! I come ;
For I have lived my life too fast :

Now that years bring me nearer home
Grace must be slowly used to make it last ;
When my heart beats too quick I think of Thee,
And of the leisure of Thy long eternity.

Farewell, vain joys of earth !
Farewell, all love that is not His I

Dear God ! be Thou my only mirth,
Thy majesty my single timid bliss!
Oh in the bosom of eternity
Thou dost not weary of Thyself, nor we of Thee I


How easily his words flow, even when he is saying
the deepest things ! The poem is full of the elements
of the finest mystical metaphysics, and yet there is no
effort in their expression. The tendency to find God
beyond, rather than in our daily human conditions,
is discernible ; but only as a tendency.

What a pity that the sects are so slow to become
acquainted with the grand best in each other !

I do not find in Dr. Newman either a depth or a
precision equal to that of Dr. Faber. His earlier
poems indicate a less healthy condition of mind.
His Dream of Gerotttius is, however, a finer, as more
ambitious poem than any of Faber's. In my judg-
ment there are weak passages in it, with others of
real grandeur. But I am perfectly aware of the
difficulty, almost impossibility, of doing justice to
men from some of whose forms of thought I am
greatly repelled, who creep from the sunshine into
every ruined archway, attracted by the brilliance
with which the light from its loophole glows in its
caverned gloom, and the hope of discovering within
it the first steps of a stair winding up into the blue
heaven. I apologize for the unavoidable rudeness
of a critic who would fain be honest if he might ;
and I humbly thank all such as Dr. Newman, whose
verses, revealing their saintship, make us long to be
holier men.

Of his, as of Faber's, I have room for no more than
one. It was written off Sardinia.


O say not thou art left of God,

Because His tokens in the sky
Thou canst not read : this earth He trod

To teach thee He was ever nigh.
He sees, beneath the fig-tree green,

Nathaniel con His sacred lore;
Shouldst thou thy chamber seek, unseen

He enters through the unopened door.
And when thou liest, by slumber bound,

Outwearied in the Christian fight,
In glory, girt with saints around.

He stands above thee through the night.
When friends to Emmaus bend their course.

He joins, although He holds their eyes :
Or, shouldst thou feel some fever's force.

He takes thy hand. He bids thee rise.

Or on a voyage, when calms prevail.

And prison thee upon the sea,
He walks the waves, He wings the sail,

The shore is gained, and thou art free.

Sir Aubrey de Vere is a poet profound in feeling,
and gracefully tender in utterance. I give one short
poem and one sonnet.

Love thy God, and love Him only :
And thy breast will ne'er be lonely.
In that one great Spirit meet
All things mighty, grave, and sweet
Vainly strives the soul to mingle
With a being of our kind :
Vainly hearts with hearts are twined :
For the deepest still is single.
An impalpable resistance
Holds like natures still at distance.
Mortal ! love that Holy One !
Or dwell for aye alone.
s.L. IV. Y


I respond most heartily to the last two lines ; but
I venture to add, with regard to the preceding six,
" Love that holy One, and the impalpable resistance
will vanish; for when thou seest him enter to sup
with thy neighbour, thou wilt love that neighbour as


Ye praise the humble : of the meek ye say,

" Happy they live among their lowly bowers ;

" The mountains, and the mountain-storms are ours."

ThuSj self-deceivers, filled with pride alway,

Reluctant homage to the good ye pay,

Mingled with scorn like poison sucked from flowers —

Revere the humble ; godlike are their powers :

No mendicants for praise of men are they.

The child who prays in faith " Thy will be done"

Is blended with that Will Supreme which moves

A wilderness of worlds by Thought untrod ;

He shares the starry sceptre, and the throne :

The man who as himself his neighbour loves

Looks down on all things with the eyes of God !

Is it a fancy that, in the midst of all this devotion
and lovely thought, I hear the mingled mournful tone
of such as have cut off a right hand and plucked
out a right eye, which had not caused them to offend }
This is tenfold better than to have spared offending
members ; but the true Christian ambition is to fill
the divine scheme of humanity — abridging nothing,
ignoring nothing, denying nothing, calling nothing un-
clean, but burning everything a thank-offering in the
flame of Hfe upon the altar of absolute devotion to
the Father and Saviour of men. We must not throw


away half his gifts, that we may carry the other half
in both hands to his altar.

But sacred fervour is confined to no sect. Here it
is of the profoundest, and uttered with a homely
tenderness equal to that of the earliest writers. Mrs.
Browning, the princess of poets, was no partisan.
If my work were mainly critical, I should feel bound
to remark upon her false theory of English rhyme,
and her use of strange words. That she is careless
too in her general utterance I cannot deny ; but in
idea she is noble, and in phrase magnificent. Some
of her sonnets are worthy of being ranged with the
best in our language — those of Milton and Words-


When some Beloveds, 'neath whose eyelids lay
The sweet lights of my childhood, one by one
X Did leave me dark before the natural sun,
And I astonied fell, and could not pray,
A thought within me to myself did say,
" Is God less God that thou art left undone ?
Rise, worship, bless Him ! in this sackcloth spun.
As in that purple ! " — But I answer, Nay !
What child his filial heart in words can loose,
If he behold his tender father raise
The hand that chastens sorely ? Can he choose
But sob in silence with an upward gaze ?
And my great Father, thinking fit to bruise.
Discerns in speechless tears both prayer and praise.


Speak low to me, my Saviour, low and sweet,
From out the hallelujahs sweet and low,
Lest I should fear and fall, and miss thee so,
Who art not missed by any that entreat.
Y 2


Speak to me as to Mary at thy feet —
And if no precious gums my hands bestow, \
Let my tears drop like amber, while I go
In reach of thy divinest voice complete
In humanest affection — thus, in sooth
To lose the sense of losing ! As a child.
Whose song-bird seeks the wood for evermore.
Is sung to in its stead by mother's mouth ;
Till sinking on her breast, love-reconciled.
He sleeps the faster that he wept before.

Gladly would I next give myself to the exposition
of several of the poems of her husband, Robert
Browning, especially the Christmas Eve and Easter
Day ; in the first of which he sets forth in marvellous
rhymes the necessity both for widest sympathy with
the varied forms of Christianity, and for individual
choice in regard to communion ; in the latter, what
it is to choose the world and lose the life. But this
would take many pages, and would be inconsistent
with the plan of my book.

When I have given two precious stanzas, most wise
as well as most lyrical and lovely, from the poems of
our honoured Charles Kingsley, I shall turn to the
other of the classes into which the devout thinkers
of the day have divided.

My fairest child, I have no song to give you ;

No lark could pipe to skies so dull and grey;
Yet, ere we part, one lesson I can leave you
For every day.

Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;
Do noble things, not dream them, all day long ;
And so make life, death, and that vast for-ever
One grand, sweet song.


Surely these last, who have not accepted tradition
in the mass, who believe that we must, as our Lord
demanded of the Jews, of our own selves judge
what is right, because therein his spirit works with
our spirit, — worship the Truth not less devotedly
than they who rejoice in holy tyranny over their




And now I turn to the other class — that which,
while the former has fled to tradition for refuge from
doubt, sets its face towards the spiritual east, and in
prayer and sorrow and hope looks for a dawn — the
noble band of reverent doubters — as unlike those of
the last century who scoffed, as those of the present
who pass on the other side. They too would know ;
but they know enough already to know further, that
it is from the hills and not from the mines their aid
must come. They know that a perfect intellectual
proof would leave them doubting all the same ; that
their high questions cannot be answered to the intel-
lect alone, for their whole nature is the questioner;
that the answers can only come as questioners and
their questions grow towards them. Hence, grow-
ing hope, blossoming ever and anon into the white
flov/er of confidence, is their answer as yet ; their
hope — the Beatific Vision — the happy-making sights
as Milton renders the word of the mystics.

It is strange how gentle a certain large class of the
priesthood will be with those who, believing there


is a God, find it hard to trust him, and how fierce
with those who, unable, from the lack of harmony
around and in them, to say they are sure there is
a God, would yet, could they find him, trust him
indeed. " Ah, but," answer such of the clergy and
their followers, " you want a God of your own making."
" Certainly," the doubters reply, " we do not want a
God of your making : that would be to turn the uni-
verse into a hell, and you into its torturing demons.
We want a God like that man whose name is so often
on your lips, but whose spirit you understand so little
— so like him that he shall be the bread of life to all
our hunger — not that hunger only already satisfied
in you, who take the limit of your present conscious-
ness for that of the race, and say, * This is all the
world needs : ' we know the bitterness of our own
hearts, and your incapacity for intermeddling with its
joy. We

have another mountain-range, from whence
Bursteth a sun unutterably bright ;

nor for us only, but for you also, who will not have
the truth except it come to you in a system autho-
rized of man."

I have attributed a general utterance to these men,
widely different from each other as I know they are.

Here is a voice from one of them, Arthur Hugh
Clough, who died in 1 861, well beloved. It fol-
lows upon two fine poems, called TJie Questioning
Spirit, and Bethesda, in which is represented the
condition of many of the finest minds of the pre-


sent century. Let us receive it as spoken by one
in the foremost ranks of these doubters, men re-
viled by their brethren who dare not doubt for fear
of offending the God to whom they attribute their
own jealousy. But God is assuredly pleased with
those who will neither lie for him, quench their dim
vision of himself, nor count that his mind which they
would despise in a man of his making.

Across the sea, along the shore,

In numbers more and ever more,

From lonely hut and busy town,

The valley through, the movmtain down,

What was it ye went out to see,

Ye silly folk of Galilee ?

The reed that in the wind doth shake?

The weed that washes in the lake ?

The reeds that waver, the weeds that float ? —

A young man preaching in a boat.

What was it ye went out to hear
By sea and land, from far and near ?
A teacher ? Rather seek the feet
Of those who sit in Moses' seat.
Go humbly seek, and bow to them.
Far off in great Jerusalem.
From them that in her courts ye saw,
Her perfect doctors of the law.
What is it came ye here to note ? —
A young man preaching in a boat

A prophet ! Boys and women weak t

Declare, or cease to rave :
Whence is it he hath learned to speak ?

Say, who his doctrine gave ?
A prophet? Prophet wherefore he

Of all in Israel tribes ? —
He teacheth with authority y

And not as d» the Scribes^


Here is another from one who will not be offended
if I class him with this school — the finest of critics as.
one of the most finished of poets — Matthew Arnold.
Only my reader must remember that of none of my
poets am I free to choose that which is most charac-
teristic : I have the scope of my volume to restrain me.


He saves the sheep ; the goats he doth not save I
So rang TertuUian's sentence, on the side
Of that unpitying Phrygian sect which cried :
" Him can no fount of fresh forgiveness lave,
Who sins, once washed by the baptismal wave ! "
So spake the fierce TertuUian. But she sighed,
The infant Church: of love she felt the tide
Stream on her from her Lord's yet recent grave.
And then she smiled, and in the Catacombs,
With eye suffused but heart inspired true.
On those walls subterranean, where she hid
Her head in ignominy, death, and tombs.
She her Good Shepherd's hasty image drew ;
And on his shoulders, not a lamb, a kid.

Of these writers, Tennyson is the foremost : he
has written the poem of the hoping doubters, the
poem of our age, the grand minor organ-fugue of
In Memoriam. It is the cry of the bereaved Psyche
into the dark infinite after the vanished Love. His
friend is nowhere in his sight, and God is silent.
Death, God's final compulsion to prayer, in its dread,
its gloom, its utter stillness, its apparent nothingness,
urges the cry. Moanings over the dead are mingled
with profoundest questionings of philosophy, the signs
of nature, and the story of Jesus, while now and then



the star of the morning, bright Phosphor, flashes a
few rays through the shifting cloudy dark. And if
the sun has not arisen on the close of the book, yet
the Aurora of the coming dawn gives light enough
to make the onward journey possible and hopeful :
who dares say that he walks in the full light ? that
the counsels of God are to him not a matter of
faith, but of vision ?

Bewildered in the perplexities of nature's enigmas,
and driven by an awful pain of need, Tennyson be-
takes himself to the God of nature, thus :


The wish, that of the hving whole
No life may fail beyond the grave ;
Derives it not from what we have

The likest God within the soul ?

Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams,
So careful of the type she seems,

So careless of the single life ;

That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds

She often brings but one to bear ;

I falter where I firmly trod,

And falling with my weight of cares
Upon the great world's altar-stairs

That slope thro' darkness up to God ;

I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,
And gather dust and chaff, and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,

And faintly trust the larger hope.

n «


3 =-


Once more, this is how he uses the gospel-talc :
Mary has returned home from the sepulchre, with
Lazarus so late its prey, and her sister and Jesus : —

Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
Nor other thought her mind admits
But, he was dead, and there he sits,

And he that brought him back is there.

Then one deep love doth supersede
All other, when her ardent gaze
Roves from the living brother's face,

And rests upon the Life indeed.

All subtle thought, all curious fears,
Borne down by gladness so complete,
She bows, she bathes the Saviour's feet

With costly spikenard and with tears.

Thrice blest whose lives are faithful prayers.
Whose loves in higher love endure ;
What souls possess themselves so pure,

Or is there blessedness like theirs ?

I have thus traced — how slightly! — the course of
the religious poetry of England, from simple song,
lovingly regardful of sacred story and legend, through
the chant of philosophy, to the full-toned lyric of
adoration. I have shown how the stream sinks in the
sands of an evil taste generated by the worship of
power and knowledge, and that a new growth of the


love of nature — beauty counteracting not contradict-
ing science — has led it by a fair channel back to the
simplicities of faith in some, and to a holy question-
ing in others ; the one class having for its faith, the
other for its hope, that the heart of the Father is a
heart like ours, a heart that will receive into its noon
the song that ascends from the twilighted hearts of
his children.

Gladly would I have prayed for the voices of many
more of the singers of our country's psalms. Especially
do I regret the arrival of the hour, because of the
voices of living uien and women. But the time is
over and gone. The twilight has already embrowned
the gray glooms of the cathedral arches, and is
driving us forth to part at the door.

But the singers will yet sing on to him that hath
ears to hear. When he returns to seek them, the
shadowy door will open to his touch, the long-drawn
aisles receding will guide his eye to the carven choir,
and there they still stand, the sweet singers, content
to repeat ancient psalm and new song to the prayer
of the humblest whose heart would join in England's


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