Anna Laetitia Barbauld

(20 June 1743 – 9 March 1825 / Leicestershire, England)

The Unknown God - Poem by Anna Laetitia Barbauld

To learned Athens, led by fame,
As once the man of Tarsus came,
With pity and surprise
Midst idol altars as he stood,
O'er sculptured marble, brass and wood,
He rolled his awful eyes.
But one, apart, his notice caught,
That seemed with higher meaning fraught,
Graved on the wounded stone;
Nor form nor name was there expressed;
Deep reverence filled the musing breast,
Perusing, “To the God unknown.”

Age after age has rolled away,
Altars and thrones have felt decay,
Sages and saints have risen;
And, like a giant roused from sleep,
Man has explored the pathless deep,
And lightnings snatched from heaven.
And many a shrine in dust is laid,
Where kneeling nations homage paid,
By rock, or fount, or grove:
Ephesian Dian sees no more
Her workmen fuse the silver ore,
Nor Capitolian Jove.
E'en Salem's hallowed courts have ceased
With solemn pomps her tribes to feast,
No more the victim bleeds;
To censers filled with rare perfumes,
And vestments from Egyptian looms,
A purer rite succeeds.
Yet still, where'er presumptuous man
His Maker's essence strives to scan,
And lifts his feeble hands,
Though saint and sage their powers unite,
To fathom that abyss of light,
Ah! still that altar stands.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, September 6, 2010



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