The Vicissitudes Experienced In The Christian Life - Poem by William Cowper
I suffer fruitless anguish day by day,
Each moment, as it passes, marks my pain;
Scarce knowing whither, doubtfully I stray,
And see no end of all that I sustain.
The more I strive the more I am withstood;
Anxiety increasing every hour
My spirit finds no rest, performs no good,
And nought remains of all my former power.
My peace of heart is fled, I know not where;
My happy hours, like shadows, passed away;
Their sweet remembrance doubles all my care;
Night darker seems, succeeding such a day.
Dear faded joys and impotent regret,
What profit is there in incessant tears?
Oh thou, whom, once beheld, we ne'er forget,
Reveal thy love, and banish all my fears!
Alas! he flies me--treats me as his foe,
Views not my sorrows, hears not when I plead;
Woe such as mine, despised, neglected woe,
Unless it shortens life, is vain indeed.
Pierced with a thousand wounds, I yet survive;
My pangs are keen, but no complaint transpires
And, while in terrors of thy wrath I live,
Hell seems to loose it less tremendous fires.
Has hell a pain I would not gladly bear,
So thy severe displeasure might subside?
Hopeless of ease, I seem already there,
My life extinguished, and yet death denied.
Is this the joy so promised--this the love,
The unchanging love, so sworn in better days?
Ah! dangerous glories! shewn me, but to prove
How lovely thou, and I how rash to gaze.
Why did I see them? had I still remained
Untaught, still ignorant how fair thou art,
My humbler wishes I had soon obtained,
Nor known the torments of a doubting heart.
Deprived of all, yet feeling no desires,
Whence then, I cry, the pangs that I sustain
Dubious and uninformed, my soul inquires,
Ought she to cherish or shake off her pain?
Suffering, I suffer not--sincerely love,
Yet feel no touch of that enlivening flame;
As chance inclines me, unconcerned I move,
All times, and all events, to me the same.
I search my heart, and not a wish is there
But burns with zeal that hated self may fall;
Such is the sad disquietude I share,
A sea of doubts, and self the source of all.
I ask not life, nor do I wish to die;
And, if thine hand accomplish not my cure,
I would not purchase with a single sigh
A free discharge from all that I endure.
I groan in chains, yet want not a release;
Am sick, and know not the distempered part;
Am just as void of purpose as of peace;
Have neither plan, nor fear, nor hope, nor heart.
My claim to life, though sought with earnest care,
No light within me, or without me, shews;
Once I had faith, but now in self–despair
Find my chief cordial and my best repose.
My soul is a forgotten thing; she sinks,
Sinks and is lost, without a wish to rise;
Feels an indifference she abhors, and thinks
Her name erased for ever from the skies.
Language affords not my distress a name,--
Yet it is real and no sickly dream;
'Tis love inflicts it; though to feel that flame
Is all I know of happiness supreme.
When love departs, a chaos wide and vast,
And dark as hell, is opened in the soul;
When love returns, the gloomy scene is past,
No tempests shake her, and no fears control.
Then tell me why these ages of delay?
Oh love, all–excellent, once more appear;
Disperse the shades, and snatch me into day,
From this abyss of night, these floods of fear!
No--love is angry, will not now endure
A sigh of mine, or suffer a complaint;
He smites me, wounds me, and withholds the cure;
Exhausts my powers, and leaves me sick and faint.
He wounds, and hides the hand that gave the blow;
He flies, he re–appears, and wounds again--
Was ever heart that loved thee treated so?
Yet I adore thee, though it seem in vain.
And wilt thou leave me, whom, when lost and blind,
Thou didst distinguish and vouchsafe to choose,
Before thy laws were written in my mind,
While yet the world had all my thoughts and views?
Now leave me, when, enamoured of thy laws,
I make thy glory my supreme delight?
Now blot me from thy register, and cause
A faithful soul to perish from thy sight?
What can have caused the change which I deplore?
Is it to prove me, if my heart be true?
Permit me then, while prostrate I adore,
To draw, and place its picture in thy view.
'Tis thine without reserve, most simply thine;
So given to thee, that it is not my own;
A willing captive of thy grace divine;
And loves, and seeks thee, for thyself alone.
Pain cannot move it, danger cannot scare;
Pleasure and wealth, in its esteem, are dust;
It loves thee, e'en when least inclined to spare
Its tenderest feelings, and avows thee just.
'Tis all thine own; my spirit is so too,
An undivided offering at thy shrine;
It seeks thy glory with no double view,
Thy glory, with no secret bent to mine.
Love, holy love! and art thou not severe,
To slight me, thus devoted, and thus fixed?
Mine is an everlasting ardour, clear
From all self–bias, generous and unmixed.
But I am silent, seeing what I see--
And fear, with cause, that I am self–deceived,
Not e'en my faith is from suspicion free,
And that I love seems not to be believed.
Live thou, and reign for ever, glorious Lord!
My last, least offering I present thee now—
Renounce me, leave me, and be still adored!
Slay me, my God, and I applaud the blow.
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