The World In The House - Poem by Jane Taylor
PILGRIMS who journey in the narrow way,
Should go as little cumbered as they may.
'Tis heavy sailing with a freighted ship ;
'Tis pleasant travelling with a staff and scrip.
Gold clogs the path, dispose it how we will ;
Makes it fatiguing as we climb the hill :
And 'tis but here and there you may descry
The camel passing through the needle's eye.
'Love not the world ;'--most merciful decree
That makes its friendship enmity to Thee !
Oh, if God had not said it,--did I know
Some way to bliss through luxury and show ;
Might I have followed Christ to heaven's door,
With gold and purple, in my coach and four ;
I dare not choose it--I would rather wait
A safer convoy at the rich man's gate.
See yonder modern mansion, light and fair,
Reared just beyond the taint of London air :
But not beyond, by many a dale and hill,
The taint of manners more unwholesome still.
Wide spreads in front the soft and sloping lawn,
With carriage roads in sweeping circles drawn :
The ample gardens, neat and well disposed,
Stretch far behind, by hectared walls enclosed ;
The shrubbery-walks in serpent windings run ;
The costly green-house blazes in the sun.
Rare fruits and flowers the gardener's skill employ,
More than the pampered owners can enjoy.
Within, a palace shines, superbly planned ;
No pains nor cost were spared to make it grand :
Our thrifty merchants, fifty years ago,
Nor thought nor dreamed of such a stately show.
The bloated master stalks delighted thence,
Proud of the thing, more proud of the expense.
Here dwells an old professor in his nest,
With comely wife and dashing daughters blest ;
They, fresh from school, with all the native graces
They once possessed, quite polished off their faces ;
A trifling, useless, unharmonious train,
Accomplished, artificial, showy, vain ;
In all they do and say, and look and wear,
Aping the rank they were not born to bear :
And she, his help-meet, ever in her pride,
Teasing and pleading on the worldly side ;--
Such is his household, such, perchance, that he
Would blush to ask the Apostle Paul to tea.
--Not that the show and fashion of the place,
Itself, could certify the want of grace ;
(Though bounds there are, so wise and safe to keep,
That watchful Christians rarely overleap
But 'tis his soul retains the earthly leaven,
Would fain keep terms and compromise with Heaven ;
Striving, with pain, in Zion's paths to plod,
But keeping Mammon for his household god.
Thus live our merchant and his hopeful train,
Bound to the world, nor would they break the chain.
Its laws they own, its stamp and image bear,
There lies their portion, and their hearts are there.
Where then appears the faith they yet profess ?--
Not in their looks, their language, or their dress ;
But some cold forms remain, and some restraints,
To keep their name and place among the saints.
They never dance ; they never play at cards ;
One day in seven he duly still regards :
That tasty chapel, twice on Sabbath day,
Sees him and his set out in fair array.
And much they praise--the ladies and their sire,
The favourite preacher whom they all admire ;
Some soft, and sleek, and seraph-spoken boy,
The rabble's wonder and the ladies' toy ;
Snatched immature from academic bowers,
To dress up truth in artificial flowers.
Besides, our fair professor's name behold,
On neat Esquired committee-lists enrolled,
And long subscription-rows, that bring to light
Name, place, donation, and the annual mite ;
Duly proclaiming every right hand deed,
Trusting the left has never learnt to read.
A little gold, a morning or a day,
Spent in the cause, he freely gives away :
Perhaps, his pious zeal may even reach
The neat dimensions of an annual speech,
Gliding in well-turned compliments along,
To every titled Christian in the throng.
The ladies too, his daughters, draw up rules
For lady-charities, and Sunday schools ;
Set down their names, their fair committees call ;
Busy and pleased, if they may manage all.
Meantime, the pious bustle, praised and told,
Has cost them nothing but their father's gold.
How customs and opinions change their place !
Religion, now, is scarcely in disgrace :
Her outward signs, at least, will even raise
Your credit high in these convenient days.
Fashion, herself, the cause of virtue pleads,
Becomes chief patroness of pious deeds,
And lets us e'en pursue, without restraint,
What once had stamped us puritan and saint.
The good is done,--let fashion bear her part,
And claim the praise, with all the Christian's heart
Motives are all in Heaven's impartial eye ;
But 'tis not ours to doubt and give the lie :
Let each grant credit to his neighbour's share,
But analyze his own with utmost care,--
That thus the scale is turned, the praise is due
To Him, who hears and owns the righteous few ;
Whose silent prayers and labours Heaven employs
To do the good, while others make the noise.
--'Tis trite to praise the country's green retreats,
Opposed to city smoke and noisy streets :
And scores of epithets, all ready strung,
That theme will furnish to be said or sung.
The limpid streamlet and the whispering breeze
Slip into rhyme with such spontaneous ease,
That he must be an humble scribe indeed,
Who could not write it--or who loves to read.
Trite though it be, it is a task I choose ;
A hackneyed theme befits an humble muse :
But leaving rills to ripple, woods to wave,
And birds to warble out the other stave,
I sing the choicest fruit of country air,
--The human plant that buds and blossoms there.
Happy the mother, who her train can rear
Far 'mid its breezy hills from year to year !
There healthful springs the body, and combined
With health, more precious, to the precious mind.
Not that there dwells a charm in country air,
Or chemic power, to bleach the Ethiop fair :
Romantic hope !--The poisonous breath of vice
Tainted the very airs of Paradise.
Sin spreads in every soil, in every gale ;
O'er-runs alike the mountain and the vale
But springs in cities, rank and noisome both,
Their foul and sultry vapour speeds its growth. '
Youth's sweetest grace, simplicity, is seen
Sporting with native smiles in meadows green,
In pleasant gardens, on the daisied ground,
Where simple joys, and few besides are found.
The knowing, forward, pert, and showy miss,
Springs rarely up in such a soil as this ;
For such a plant exotic, send us down
Some hot-house produce of the polished town.
The rage for competition, show, and style,
Is London's plague, and spreads for many a mile.
No rank, nor age, escapes that vulgar sin,
Breathed in its nurseries,--in its schools worked in :
And thus the mania, in maturer years,
In every form of pride and pomp appears,
As each were striving for a near approach--
Climax of grandeur !--to the lord mayor's coach.
--How short the triumph, many a prison cell,
And many a pining family could tell.--
The bridal equipage, in half a year
Brought to the hammer of the auctioneer,
Suffices not to liquidate the debt,
And fame's last bugle sounds in the Gazette.
Regions of intellect ! serenely fair,
Hence let us rise, and breathe your purer air.
--There shine the stars ! one intellectual glance
At that bright host,--on yon sublime expanse,
Might prove a cure ;--well, say they, let them shine
With all our hearts,--but let us dress and dine.
There are, above the petty influence placed,
By human science and a mental taste.
The man who feels the dignity of thought,
By culture much refined, by science taught,
To loved pursuits devoted, looks below,
With true contempt upon the paltry show :
Compared with those in pleasure's vortex hurled,
He loves it not, and lives above the world.
But happier he who views the toys of time
From loftier heights, from regions more sublime ;
Who walks with God while yet he sojourns here ;
His hopes still climbing to a brighter sphere.
--Is he of wealth and earthly good possessed ?
He takes Heaven's bounty with a cheerful zest.
His quarrel with the world you might not note
From texture, cut, or colour of his coat ;
For studied plainness, whether dress or speech,
Defeats the very end it aims to reach.
And yet, on all he has there stands imprest
One truth conspicuous--' This is not my rest.'--
From that divine remembrance ever springs
A moderated care for other things :
--Pilgrim and stranger in a desert spot,
He holds them all as though he held them not.
Peace, order, comfort, in his household reign ;
And more than these he seeks not to obtain.
His mansion, furnished in no costly style,
Oft makes his tasty neighbours stare and smile ;
But that unmoved and unavenged he bears,
Unless it be, sometimes, to smile at theirs.
His neat, plain parlour wants our modern air,
But comfort smiles on every object there.
--Tables of costly wood, and chairs whose mould
Bespeaks the fashion not a fortnight old,
The window drapery's elegant costume,
Arranged and deeply fringed to match the room,
Carpets, where eastern patterns richly crawl,
Vases, and mirrors blazing on the wall,
Cupids that wave their waxen flames in air,
Sideboards of plate, cut-glass, and china rare,--
These things he sees, and Oh ! surprising phlegm !
Wastes not a thought nor wish for one of them.
Still more surprising, that his house and board
Are plainer far than he could well afford !
No seasoned dainties on his table steal ;
Frugal, though ample, is the daily meal.
The 'olive plants' in graceful order sit ;
No greedy hands implore the savoury bit ;
Taught from the very cradle to despise
The wish for more than hunger's claim supplies.
A pampered body, and a vigorous mind,
Are things, he deems, that cannot be combined ;
And aiming thus the mental string to brace,
He rears a hardy, independent race.
His girls, a blooming train, their home adorn ;
Simply attired, and cheerful as the morn :
Industrious, active, frugal, like their sire ;
Trained to resist each frivolous desire ;
To scorn the trifles that the sex pursues,
And rise superior to its petty views.
Slightly accomplished, but their minds are fraught
With taste and knowledge, and inured to thought.
Year after year, four precious hours a day,
Is deemed by him too dear a price to pay
E'en for that art, which all the world reveres,
Up from the tradesman's daughter to the peer's.
Yet not with narrow, much mistaken view,
Would he deny them mental culture too ;
Though vulgar zealots love to state the case,
That human learning is a foe to grace ;
And rear their ill-bred, rude, illiterate youth,
To loathe their shackles, and despise the truth.
Religion here, in all her native grace,
Shines out serene in every heart and face ;
Nor e'er is banished, though pursuits may claim
Attention oft, that do not bear her name.
Thus he adorns the doctrine he avows ;
Thus in the fear of God, he guides his house.
And while it prospers, that memorial word,--
'The poor are always with you,' still is heard.
The hungry throng that crowd his open gate
Not there, like Lazarus, unregarded wait ;
Since each expensive pleasure is denied,
Which, while it starves the needy, pampers pride.
Many condemn his plan, and many deem
He carries things to an absurd extreme ;
Think he might live in style, and yet afford
A decent crum from his superfluous board :
--Still there were other poor, and still the sums
That style would cost might furnish other crums.
'Tis thus he argues, thus that order reads,
'Sell all thou hast, and give to him that needs.'
At that hard saying, many turn away ;
Let him who can, receive it, and obey.
Oh, for a soul magnanimous, to know,
Poor world, thy littleness, and let thee go !
Not with a gloomy, proud, ascetic mind,
That loves thee still, and only hates mankind ;
Reverse the line, and that my temper be,
--To love mankind, and pour contempt on thee!
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