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Christopher Anstey

(1724-1805 / England)

Charity; A Poetical Paraphrase


Had it pleas'd him, from whom all wisdom flows,
Him, who each good, each perfect gift bestows,
With knowledge to exalt my feeble mind,
Bright as e'er shed its lustre on mankind;
Though on my lips persuasive accents hung,
Soft as the music of an angel's tongue,
Still should I languish, still my soul despair,
Wert thou, sweet Charity, a stranger there;
Vain were my voice, as sounding brass that rings
To deeds of heroes, or the pomp of kings,
Vain as the tinkling cymbal, that displays
Man's gaudy pride--but not th'Almighty's praise.--

Could I in various languages expound
All subtile texts, all mysteries profound,
Could I by faith the solid rocks displace,
And make the mountains tremble from their base,
Still, in my breast shouldst thou refuse to reign,
My faith were fruitless, and my knowledge vain.

Though the rich produce of my worldly store
In alms profuse, I lavish on the poor,
Yet all unmov'd their mournful tales can hear,
Nor for their sufferings drop one silent tear;
If ne'er from god--like pity's sacred source
My bounty flow, nor heav'n direct its course,
If vanity provoke the generous deed--
Mean is the gift, and small will be its meed;

Though to a martyr's glory I aspire,
And seek my triumphs in the torturing fire,
Firm and undaunted to my latest breath
Brave the slow flame, and court the ling'ring death;
If thy sweet virtues from my soul depart,
Thy Christian love be foreign from my heart,
He best can tell, who all our thoughts surveys,
How vain the boast, the profit, and the praise.

Tis thine the raging passions to control,
To calm, to strengthen, and confirm the soul,
Teach slighted worth with patience to sustain
The pow'rful man's neglect, the fool's disdain,
Th'ungrateful friend's revolt; or keener pang
(Keen as the bearded steel, or serpent's fang,)
That waits (too oft, alas!) the perjur'd vow,
And lost affectionc's cold and scornful brow:

The silent eloquence of kindness meek
Beams from thine eyes, and mantles in thy cheek;
From envy free and pride's o'erbearing sway
Thou tak'st thy mild and inoffensive way;

Grace in thy gestures and thy looks is seen;
Gentle thy words, and courteous is thy mien,
Thou scorn'st to cast the proud indignant frown
On other's merits, or to boast thine own,
Oe'r anger, hatred, or revenge to brood,
Record the evil, and forget the good;

Or aught, that can thy neighbour's peace destroy,
Make the base subject of thy barbarous joy;
If just the censure that affects his fame,
'Tis thine to pity, not increase his shame;
If false the charge, thy soul can know no rest,
Till truth appear, and heal his wounded breast:

Forbearing all, and trusting still to find
Some virtues 'mid the failings of mankind,
Thou o'er their faults canst draw the friendly veil,
The better part believe, the worse conceal,
Still hope that time their frailties may remove,
And wait the hour with patience and with love.

Doctrines shall cease, and inspiration fail,
The gift of languages no more prevail,
Knowledge shall fade away; but thou shalt bloom,
Thy graces flourish in the life to come.

Ah! what are all the boasted pow'rs of man
But emblems of his own contracted span?
In part alone he knows, in part is given
Wisdom to teach, and lead the way to heaven,

To heav'n's blest regions, where perfection reigns,
And knowledge absolute her throne maintains;
There when the soul, in search of purer day,
Loos'd from mortality's impris'ning clay
Shall swifter than the forked lightning dart,
His vain attainments shall like shades depart,
And vision infinite of truths divine
That far beyond his weak conception shine,
Drown the faint glimmerings of his mental rays
In one all--pow'rful and immortal blaze.

So when the Night around th'etherial fields
In clouded state her ebon sceptre wields,
Millions of orbs amid the starry zone
With glittering gems adorn her sable throne;
But when, the world's bright lamp, the golden sun
Bursts from the East his glorious course to run
Lost in th'effulgence of his radiant fire
Those feeble ministers of Light expire.

In life's first spring, in childhood's playful age,
What trifles charm, what idle cares engage!
How narrow, how confus'd the sense appears,
Till reason dawn, and light our riper years!
Tis then with judgment and discretion fraught
We slight the objects of our infant thought;
Chang'd is each passion, each desire, and aim,
No more our actions, or our words the same;

Yet greater still the change, that shall translate
Man from his earthly to his heavenly state,
From partial Knowledge shall his soul redeem,
And clear from doubts his intellectual beam,
Cast the dark glass away that dims his sight,
And gild his prospect with celestial Light,
Bear him beyond the follies, and the strife,
And painful pleasures of this sinful life.--
--Oh glorious change! that shall such light display,

And ope one perfect and eternal day!
Where in th'Almighty's presence we shall shine,
See, and adore his attributes divine,
His pow'r, his wisdom, and his mercy own,
And Him shall know--as we ourselves are known!

Whilst in these gloomy vales of life we stray,
Hope cheers our souls, and Faith directs our way;
But when to yon bright realms of joy we soar,
Faith shall expire, and Hope be known no more:
Faith shall be lost in Certainty's abyss,
And Hope absorb'd in everlasting Bliss;
But Thee, Thou fairest Grace, nor death, nor doom,
Nor ever--rolling ages shall consume,
Thou with congenial spirits mix'd above
Shall fill all Heaven with Harmony and Love,
In splendor seen, and full perfection known
Thy station fix by God's eternal throne;
There with compassion all our errors scan,
And plead the cause of frail and sinful Man.

Submitted: Thursday, October 07, 2010

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