Poetry And Reality - Poem by Jane Taylor
THE worldly minded, cast in common mould,
With all his might pursuing fame or gold,
And towards that goal too vehemently hurled
To waste a thought about another world,
Has one advantage which yon lofty host,
His intellectual betters, may not boast :
Neither deceiving nor deceived, he knows
He and religion are inveterate foes ;
He loves it not, and making no pretence,
He shows his honesty, if not his sense.
But we have seen a high-flown, mental thing,
As fine and fragile as libella's wing,
All soul and intellect, the ethereal mind
Scarcely within its earthly house confined,
On heaven oft casting an enraptured eye,
And paying compliments to the Most High ;
And yet, though harsh the judgment seem to be,
As far from Heaven, as far from God, as he :
Yes, might the bold assertion be forgiven,
A poet's soul may miss the road to Heaven !
--'Tis Sabbath morning, and at early hour,
The poet seeks his own sequestered bower :
The shining landscape stretches full in view ;
All heaven is glowing with unclouded blue ;
The hills lie basking in the sunny beams,
Enriched with sprinkled hamlets, woods, and streams :
And hark ! from tower and steeple, here and there,
The cheerful chime bespeaks the hour of prayer.
The poet's inmost soul responsive swells
To every change of those religious bells ;
His fine eye ranging o'er the spacious scene,
With ecstacy unutterably keen ;
His mind exalted, melted, soothed, and free
From earthly tumult, all tranquillity ;--
If this is not devotion, what can be ?
But, gentle poet, wherefore not repair
To yonder temple ? God is worshipped there.
Nay, wherefore should he ?--wherefore not address
The God of nature in that green recess,
Surrounded by His works, and not confined
To rites adapted to the vulgar mind ?
There he can sit, and thence his soul may rise,
Caught up in contemplation, to the skies,
And worship nature's God on reason's plan :
--It is delusion, self-applauding man !
The God of nature is the God of grace ;
The contrite spirit is his dwelling-place ;
And thy proud offering, made by reason's light,
Is all abomination in His sight.
Let him distinguish (if he can indeed)
Wherein his differs from the deist's creed :--
Oh, he approves the Bible, thinks it true,
(No matter if he ever read it through)
Admits the evidence that some reject,
For the Messiah professes great respect,
And owns the sacred poets often climb
Up to the standard of the true sublime.
Is this then all ? is this the utmost reach
Of what man learns when God descends to teach ?
And is this all--and were such wonders wrought,
And tongues, and signs, and miracles, for nought ?
If this be all, his reason's utmost scope,
Where rests his faith, his practice, and his hope ?
'Deny thyself '--that precept, binding still
As when first issued, how does he fulfil ?
Where lies the cross that he would daily bear ?
Where that reproach the Saviour's flock must share ?
What is the dear indulgence he denies ?
Which of his virtues is a sacrifice ?
Is it his aim to keep the world at bay--
Where then the faith that overcomes its sway ?
How has he learned the easy yoke to take,
And count all things but loss for Jesus' sake ?
Nay, this is all irrational, absurd ;--
And yet, it is the Bible, word for word :
Well, but it grates upon his classic ear ;--
'He that hath ears to hear it, let him hear.'
Ne'er could he take, his gentle lips within,
So unpoetical a word as sin ;
He knows it not, and never felt its chains,
While unmolested in his heart it reigns ;
His self complacence is its own reward--
He wants not such a Saviour as the Lord.
Pride and indulgence, fallen nature's fruit,
Religion strikes at, to the very root ;
And where they hold an undisputed rule,
That heart was never in the Gospel school.
And he that makes religion turn and wind,
To suit the delicacy of his mind,
Bids God's own word his proud caprice obey,
Takes what he likes, and throws the rest away,
The man, whatever he may boast beside,
Is still a slave to intellectual pride.
His heathen altar is inscribed, at best,
To 'God unknown,' unhonoured, unaddressed ;
His Heaven, the same Elysian fields as theirs,
--Much such a world as this, without its cares ;
Where souls of friends and lovers, two and two,
Walk up and down, with nothing else to do.
He, in that path the ancient sceptic trod,
'Knows not the Scripture, nor the power of God ;'
Nor loves nor looks to Sion's heavenly gate,
Where many mansions for believers wait ;
Where ransomed sinners round their Saviour meet,
And cast their crowns rejoicing at His feet ;
And where, whate'er pursuits their powers employ
His presence makes the fulness of their joy.
--This is the bliss to which the saint aspires,
This is that 'better country' he desires ;
And ah ! while scoffers laugh, and sceptics doubt,
The poor way-faring man shall find it out.
Indulgence slumbers in the arms of pride,
This sin with that in closest bonds allied ;
And he is still an epicure in kind,
Who lives on pleasure, though it be refined.
'Tis true, the love of nature--genuine taste,
Has ever minds of finest texture graced,
And they who draw no soft emotion thence,
Possess but half a soul, and want a sense :
Yes, and the Christian poet feels its force
With double zest, and tastes it at its source.
--But mark our fond enthusiast where he strays ;
In pensive musings glide his tranquil days ;
In nature's beauties, not content to find
That bliss subordinate which God designed,
--With soothing influence, mid corroding cares,
To cheer the hour of leisure duty spares ;--
It is his very end and chief employ,
To view, invoke, adore it, and enjoy :
He deems his aim and happiness well placed,
Counfounding picturesque, with moral taste.
The village church, in reverend trees arrayed,
His favourite haunt--he loves that holy shade ;
And there he muses many an eve away,
Though not with others, on the Sabbath day.
Nor cares he how they spend the sacred hour,
But--how much ivy grows upon the tower.
Yes, the deluded poet can believe,
The soothing influence of a summer's eve--
That sacred spot--the train of pensive thought,
By osiered grave and sculptured marble brought,
The twilight gloom, the stillness of the hour,
Poetic musings on a church--yard flower,
The moonshine, solitude, and all the rest,
Will raise devotion's flame within his breast :
And while susceptive of the magic spell,
Of sacred music, and the Sabbath bell,
And each emotion nature's form inspires,
He fancies this is all that God requires.
Indeed, the Gospel would have been his scoff,
If man's devices had not set it off ;
For that which turns poor non-conformists sick,
Touches poetic feeling to the quick :
--The gothic edifice, the vaulted dome,
The toys bequeathed us by our cousin Rome,
The pompous festival, the splendid rite,
The mellow window's soft and soothing light,
The painted altar, and the white-robed priest,
(Those gilded keep-sakes from the dying beast)
The silken cassock, and the sable vest,
Please him so well that he endures the rest.
Like him, how many ! (could we make the search)
Who while they hate the Gospel, love ' the Church.'
That Gospel, preached by Jesus to the poor,
Simple, sublime, and spiritual, and pure,
Is not constructed, and was ne'er designed,
To please the morbid, proud, romantic mind :
'Tis not in flowers, or fields, or fancy found ;
Nor on Arcadian, nor on holy ground ;
'Tis not in poetry, 'tis not in sound ;
Not even where those infant lips respire
A heaven of music from the fretted quire,
Chanting the prayer or praise in highest key,
-- Te Deum , or Non nobis Domine.
--He shuns the world, but not alone its toys--
Its active duties, and its better joys :
'Tis true he weeps for crime--at least his muse ;
And sighs for sorrows that he never views ;
Indulges languid wishes that mankind
Were all poetical, and all refined ;
Forms lofty schemes the flood of vice to stem,
(But preaching Jesus is not one of them
And thus in waking dreams, from day to day,
He wears his tranquil, harmless life away.
But true benevolence is on the wing ;
'Tis not content to look sublime and sing ;
It rises energetic, to perform
The hardest task, or face the rudest storm.
--Crossing the poet's sacred haunt, behold,
One formed in other, and in ruder mould.
Rapid his pace--and see, he checks it not,
To gaze or muse on that sequestered spot :
Perchance his eye, untutored, only sees
In that fine shade, St. Something's church and trees ;
All lost on him its magic, all in vain
The bright reflection on the gothic pane ;
Or, should he feel the charm, he will not stay,
But mounts the stile, and plods his onward way.
'I wonder, rustic stranger, who thou art !'
--I'll tell thee, gentle bard, with all my heart--
A poor Itinerant--start not at the sound !
To yonder licensed barn his course is bound ;
To christened heathens, upon Christian ground,
To preach--or if you will, to rant and roar
That Gospel news they never heard before.
Two distant hamlets this same day have heard
His warning voice, and now he seeks the third.
No mitred chariot bears him round his See,
Despised and unattended, journeys he :
And want and weariness, from day to day,
Have sown the seeds of premature decay ;
There is a flush of hectic on his cheeks,
There is a deadly gasping when he speaks,
--How many a rich one, less diseased than he,
Has all that love can do, or doctor's fee ;
Nursed up and cherished with the fondest care,
Screened from the slightest blast of evening air ;
At noon, well muffled in his ermined gown,
Takes his short airing with the glasses down,
Each novel dainty that his taste may suit--
The quivering jelly, or the costly fruit,
Love racks invention daily to present,
And if he do but taste it, is content.
But not so he, nor such is his reward,
Who takes his cross, and follows Christ the Lord.
--A brief, coarse meal, at some unseemly board,
Snatched as the hasty intervals afford ;
Fresh from the crowded preaching-house to meet
The keen, night vapour, or the driving sleet ;
And then the low, damp bed, and yet the best
The homely hamlet yields its weary guest ;
And more than all, and worse than all to bear,
Trial of cruel mockings every where.--
That persecution, they who do His will,
And love their Lord in truth, shall suffer still ;
--Not such, indeed, as his fore-fathers saw,
(Thanks to the sheltering arm of civil law)--
But scorn, contempt, and scandal, and disgrace,
Which hunt His followers still, from place to place :
--Such are the hardships that his sickly frame
Endures, and counts it joy to suffer shame.
Yes, and he reaps the fruit of all his toll ;
He sows the seed, and God has blest the soil :
He sees the wicked man forsake his ways :
The scoffing tongue has learned to perfect praise ;
The drunken quits his revelry and strife,
And meekly listens to the word of life ;
The noisy village, wanton and profane,
Grows neat and decent, peace and order reign :
At length, wide districts hail the Gospel rays,
And the once savage miner kneels and prays,
Through his dark caverns shines the heavenly light,
And prejudice grows silent at the sight.
Now, let the light of nature boasting man,
'Do so with his enchantments,' if he can !--
Nay, let him slumber in luxurious ease,
Beneath the umbrage of his idol trees,
Pluck a wild daisy, moralize on that,
And drop a tear for an expiring gnat,
Watch the light clouds o'er distant hills that pass,
Or write a sonnet to a blade of grass.
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