Thomas Parnell

(1679 - 1718 / Ireland)

Jonah - Poem by Thomas Parnell

Thus sung the king—some angel reach a bough
From Eden's tree to crown the wisest brow;
And now thou fairest garden ever made,
Broad banks of spices, blossom'd walks of shade,
O Lebanon! where much I love to dwell,
Since I must leave thee Lebanon, farewel!

Swift from my soul the fair Idea flies,
A wilder sight the changing scene supplies,
Wide seas come rolling to my future page,
And storms stand ready when I call, to rage.
Then go where Joppa crowns the winding shore,
The prophet Jonah just arrives before,
He sees a ship unmooring, soft the gales,
He pays, and enters, and the vessel sails.

Ah wou'dst thou fly thy God? rash man forbear,
What land so distant but thy God is there?
Weak reason, cease thy voice.—They run the deep,
And the tir'd prophet lays his limbs to sleep.
Here God speaks louder, sends a storm to sea,
The clouds remove to give the vengeance way;
Strong blasts come whistling, by degrees they roar
And shove big surges tumbling on to shore;
The vessel bounds, then rolls, and ev'ry blast
Works hard to tear her by the groaning mast;
The sailors doubling all their shouts and cares
Furl the white canvas, and cast forth the wares,
Each seek the God their native regions own,
In vain they seek them, for those Gods were none.
Yet Jonah slept the while, who solely knew,
In all that number, where to find the true.
To whom the pilot: sleeper, rise and pray,
Our Gods are deaf; may thine do more than they.

But thus the rest: perhaps we waft a foe
To heav'n itself, and that's our cause of woe;
Let's seek by lots, if heav'n be pleas'd to tell;
And what they sought by lots, on Jonah fell:
Then whence he came, and who, and what, and why
Thus rag'd the tempest, all confus'dly cry,
Each press'd in haste to get his question heard,
When Jonah stops them with a grave regard.

An Hebrew man you see, who God revere,
He made this world, and makes this world his care,
His the whirl'd sky, these waves that lift their head,
And his yon land, on which you long to tread.
He charg'd me late, to Nineveh repair,
And to their face denounce his sentence there:
Go, said the vision, prophet, preach to all,
Yet forty days and Nineveh shall fall.
But well I knew him gracious to forgive,
And much my zeal abhor'd the bad shou'd live,
And if they turn they live; then what were I
But some false prophet when they fail to die?
Or what I fanci'd had the Gentiles too
With Hebrew prophets, and their God to do?
Drawn by the wilful thoughts, my soil I run,
I fled his presence and the work's undone.

The storm increases as the prophet speaks,
O'er the toss'd ship a foaming billow breaks,
She rises pendant on the lifted waves
And thence descries a thousand watry graves,
Then downward rushing, watry mountains hide
Her hulk beneath in deaths on ev'ry side.
O, cry the sailors all, thy fact was ill,
Yet, if a prophet, speak thy master's will,
What part is ours with thee? can ought remain
To bring the blessings of a calm again?

Then Jonah—mine's the death will best atone
(And God is pleas'd that I pronounce my own)
Arise and cast me forth, the wind will cease,
The sea subsiding wear the looks of peace,
And you securely steer. For well I see
Myself the criminal, the storm for me.

Yet pity moves for one that owns a blame,
And awe resulting from a prophet's name;
Love pleads, he kindly meant for them to die,
Fear pleads against him, lest they pow'r defy:
If then to aid the flight abets the sin,
They think to land him, where they took him in.
Perhaps to quit the cause might end the woe,
And God appeasing, let the vessel go.
For this they fix their oars and strike the main,
But God withstands them, and they strike in vain.

The storm increases more with want of light,
Low black'ning clouds involve the ship in night,
Thick batt'ring rains fly thro' the driving skies,
Loud thunder bellows, darted light'ning flies,
A dreadful picture night-born horrour drew,
And his, or theirs, or both their fates, they view.

Then thus to God they cry; Almighty pow'r,
Whom we ne'er knew 'till this despairing hour,
From this devoted blood thy servants free,
To us he's innocent, if so to thee;
In all the past we see thy wond'rous hand,
And that he perish, think it thy command.

This pray'r perform'd, they cast the prophet o'er,
A surge receives him and he mounts no more;
Then stills the thunder, cease the flames of blue,
The rains abated and the winds withdrew,
The clouds ride off, and as they march away,
Thro' ev'ry breaking shoots a chearful day;
The sea, which rag'd so loud, accepts the prize,
A while it rolls, then all the tempest dies,
By gradual sinking, flat the surface grows,
And safe the vessel with the sailors goes.
The Lion thus, that bounds the fences o'er,
And makes the Mountain-Ecchoes learn to roar,
If on the lawn a branching deer he rend,
Then falls his hunger, all his roarings end,
Murm'ring a while, to rest his limbs he lays,
And the freed lawn enjoys its herd at ease.

Bless'd with the sudden calm, the sailors own
That wretched Jonah worship'd right alone,
Then make their vows, the victim sheep prepare,
Bemoan the prophet, and the God revere.

Now tho' you fear to loose the pow'r to breath,
Now tho' you tremble, Fancy, dive beneath;
What world of wonders in the deep are seen;
But this the greatest—Jonah lives within!
The man who fondly fled the Maker's view,
Strange as the crime has found a dungeon too.
God sent a monster of the frothing sea,
Fit by the bulk to gorge the living prey,
And lodge him still alive; this hulk receives
The falling prophet as he dash'd the waves.
There newly wak'd, from fanci'd death he lies,
And oft again in apprehension dies:
While three long days and nights depriv'd of sleep,
He turn'd and toss'd him up and down the deep.
He thinks the judgment of the strangest kind,
And much he wonders what the Lord design'd;
Yet since he lives, the gift of life he weighs,
That's time for pray'r, and thus a ground for praise;
From the dark entrails of the whale to thee,
(This new contrivance of a hell to me)
To thee my God I cry'd, my full distress
Pierc'd thy kind ear, and brought my soul redress.
Cast to the deep I fell, by thy command,
Cast in the midst beyond the reach of land;
Then to the midst brought down, the seas abide
Beneath my feet, the seas on ev'ry side;
In storms the billow, and in calms the wave,
Are moving cov'rings to my wand'ring grave;
Forc'd by despair I cry'd; how to my cost
I fled thy presence, Oh for ever lost!
But hope revives my soul, and makes me say,
Yet tow'rds thy temple shall I turn and pray,
Or if I know not here, where Salem lies,
Thy temple's heav'n, and faith has inward eyes.
Alas the waters which my whale surround,
Have thro' my sorr'wing soul a passage found;
And now the dungeon moves, new depths I try,
New thoughts of danger all his paths supply.
The last of Deeps affords the last of dread,
And wraps its funeral weeds around my head:
Now o'er the sand his rollings seem to go
Where the big mountains root their base below;
And now to rocks and clefts their course they take,
Earth's endless bars, too strong for me to break;
Yet from th' Abyss, my God! thy grace divine
Hath call'd him upward, and my life is mine.
Still as I toss'd, I scarce retain'd my breath,
My soul was sick within, and faint to death.
'Twas then I thought of thee, for pity pray'd,
And to thy temple flew the pray'rs I made.
The men whom lying vanity insnares
Forsake thy mercy, that which might be theirs.
But I will pay—my God! my King! receive
The solemn vows my full affection give,
When in thy temple, for a psalm, I sing
Salvation only from my God my king.

Thus ends the prophet, first from Canaan sent,
To let the Gentiles know they must repent:
God hears, and speaks; the Whale at God's command,
Heaves to the light, and casts him forth to land.

With long fatigue, with unexpected ease,
Oppress'd a while, he lies aside the seas,
His eyes tho' glad, in strange astonish'd way
Stare at the golden front of chearful day;
Then slowly rais'd he sees the wonder plain,
And what he pray'd, he wrote to sing again.

The song recorded brings his vow to mind,
He must be thankful, for the Lord was kind;
Strait to the work he shun'd, he flies in haste,
(That seems his vow, or seems a part at least,)
Preaching he comes, and thus denounc'd to all,
Yet forty days and Nineveh shall fall,
Fear seiz'd the Gentiles, Nineveh believes,
All fast with Penitence, and God forgives.

Nor yet of use the prophet's suff'ring fails,
Hell's deep black bosom more than shews the Whales,
But some resemblance brings a type to view,
The place was dark, the time proportion'd too.
A race, the Saviour cries, a sinful race,
Tempts for a sign, the pow'rs of Heav'nly grace,
And let them take the sign, as Jonah lay,
Three days and nights within the fish of prey;
So shall the Son of Man descend below,
Earth's op'ning Entrails shall retain him so.

My soul now seek the song, and find me there,
What Heav'n has shewn thee to repel despair;
See where from Hell she breaks the crumbling ground,
Her hairs stand upright, and they stare around;
Her horrid front, deep-trenching wrinkles trace,
Lean sharp'ning looks deform her livid face;
Bent lie the brows, and at the bend below,
With fire and blood, two wand'ring eye-balls glow;
Fill'd are her arms with num'rous aids to kill,
And God she fancies but the judge of ill;
Oh fair-ey'd Hope! thou see'st the passion nigh,
Daughter of Promise, Oh forbear to fly!
Assurance holds thee, fear would have thee go,
Close thy blue wings and stand thy deadly foe;
The judge of ill is still the Lord of grace,
As such behold him in the Prophet's case;
Cast to be drown'd, devour'd within the sea,
Sunk to the deep, and yet restor'd to day.

Oh love the Lord my soul, whose present care
So rules the world, he punishes to spare.
If heavy grief my downcast heart oppress,
My body danger, or my state distress,
With low submission in thy temper bow,
Like Jonah pray, like Jonah make thy vow,
With hopes of comfort kiss the chast'ning rod,
And shunning mad despair, repose in God;
Then whatsoe'er the Prophet's vow design,
Repentance, Thanks, and Charity be mine.


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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 17, 2010



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