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But should we get there, how shall we get home?
What a terrible deal of bad road we have past,
Slipping and sliding; and if we should come
To a difficult stile, I am ruined at last.
Oh this lane!
Now it is plain
That struggling and striving is labour in vain.
Stick fast there, while I go and look.
Don't go away, for fear I should fall!
I have examined it every nook,
And what you have here is a sample of all.
Come, wheel round;
The dirt we have found
Would be an estate at a farthing a pound.
Now, Sister Anne, the guitar you must take;
Set it, and sing it, and make it a song. I have varied the verse for variety sake, And cut it off short, because it was long. 'Tis hobbling and lame, Which critics won't blame, For the sense and the sound, they say, should be the same.
FOUNDED ON A FACT, WHICH HAPPENED IN JANUARY, 1779.
Where Humber pours his rich commercial stream,
There dwelt a wretch, who breathed but to blaspheme.
In subterraneous caves his life he led,
Black as the mine, in which he wrought for bread.
When on a day, emerging from the deep,
A Sabbath-day, (such Sabbaths thousands keep !)
The wages of his weekly toil he bore
To buy a cock—whose blood might win him more;
As if the noblest of the feathered kind
Were but for battle and for death designed;
As if the consecrated hours were meant
For sport, to minds on cruelty intent.
It chanced, (such chances Providence obey,)
He met a fellow-labourer on the way,
Whose heart the same desires had once inflamed,
But now the savage temper was reclaimed.
Persuasion on his lips had taken place;
For all plead well who plead the cause of grace.
His iron-heart with Scripture he assailed,
Wooed him to hear a sermon, and prevailed.
His faithful bow the mighty preacher drew,
Swift as the lightning-glimpse the arrow flew.
He wept; he trembled; cast his eyes around,
To find a worse than he; but none he found.
He felt his sins, and wondered he should feel.
Grace made the wound, and grace alone could heal.
Now farewell oaths, and blasphemies, and lies!
He quits the sinner's for the martyr's prize.
That holy day was washed with many a tear,
Gilded with hope, yet shaded too by fear.
The next his swarthy brethren of the mine
Learned by his altered speech, the change divine,
Laughed when they should have wept, and swore the day
Was nigh when he would swear as fast as they.
"No," said the penitent: "such words shall share
This breath no more ; devoted now to prayer.
Oh! if thou seest, (thine eye the future sees,)
That I shall yet again blaspheme, like these,
Now strike me to the ground, on which I kneel,
Ere yet this heart relapses into steel;
Now take me to that heaven I once defied,
Thy presence, thy embrace !"—He spoke, and died!
TO THE REV. MR. NEWTON,
ON HIS RETURN FROM RAMSGATE.
That ocean you have late surveyed,
Those rocks I too have seen;
But I, afflicted and dismayed,
You tranquil and serene.
You from the flood-controlling steep
Saw stretched before your view,
With conscious joy, the threatening deep,
No longer such to you.
To me, the waves that ceaseless broke
Upon the dangerous coast,
Hoarsely and ominously spoke
Of all my treasure lost.
Your sea of troubles you have past,
And found the peaceful shore;
I, tempest-tossed, and wrecked at last,
Come home to port no more.
What is there in the vale of life
Half so delightful as a wife,
When friendship, love, and peace combine
To stamp the marriage bond divine?
The stream of pure and genuine love
Derive its current from above;
And earth a second Eden shows,
Where'er the healing water flows;
But ah, if from the dikes and drains
Of sensual Nature's feverish veins,
Lust, like a lawless headstrong flood,
Impregnated with ooze and mud,
Descending fast on every side
Once mingles with the sacred tide,
Farewell the soul-enlivening scene!
The banks that wore a smiling green,
With rank defilement overspread,
Bewail their flowery beauties dead;
The stream polluted, dark, and dull,
Diffused into a Stygian pool,
Through life's last melancholy years
Is fed with overflowing tears,
Complaints supply the zephyr's part,
And sighs that heave a breaking heart.
A POETICAL EPISTLE TO LADY AUSTEN,
Dec. 17, 1781.
Dear Anna,—Between friend and friend,
Prose answers every common end;
Serves, in a plain and homely way,
To express the occurrence of the day;
Our health, the weather, and the news,
What walks we take, what books we choose,
And all the floating thoughts we find
Upon the surface of the mind.
But when a poet takes the pen,
Far more alive than other men,
He feels a gentle tingling come
Down to his finger and his thumb,
Derived from nature's noblest part,
The centre of a glowing heart:
And this is what the world, who knows
No flights above the pitch of prose,
His more sublime vagaries slighting,
Denominates an itch for writing.
No wonder I, who scribble rhyme
To catch the triflers of the time,
And tell them truths divine and clear,
Which, couched in prose, they will not hear;
Who laboured hard to allure and draw
The loiterers I never saw,
Should feel that itching and that tingling
With all my purpose intermingling,
To your intrinsic merit true,
When called to address myself to you.
Mysterious are His ways, whose power
Brings forth that unexpected hour,
When minds, that never met before,
Shall meet, unite, and part no more:
It is the allotment of the skies,
The hand of the Supremely Wise,
That guides and governs our affections,
And plans and orders our connections:
Directs us in our distant road,
And marks the bounds of our abode.
Thus we were settled when you found us,
Peasants and children all around us,
Not dreaming of so dear a friend,
Deep in the abyss of Silver-End.1
Thus Martha, even against her will,
Perched on the top of yonder hill;
And you, though you must needs prefer
The fairer scenes of sweet Sancerre,2
Are come from distant Loire, to choose
A cottage on the banks of Ouse.
This page of Providence quite new,
And now just opening to our view,
Employs our present thoughts and pains
To guess, and spell, what it contains:
But day by day, and year by year,
Will make the dark enigma clear;
And furnish us, perhaps, at last,
Like other scenes already past,
With proof, that we, and our affairs,
Are part of a Jehovah's cares:
For God unfolds, by slow degrees,
The purport of his deep decrees;
Sheds every hour a clearer light
In aid of our defective sight;
And spreads, at length, before the soul
A beautiful and perfect whole,
Which busy man's inventive brain
Toils to anticipate, in vain.
Say, Anna, had you never grown
The beauties of a rose full blown,
Could you, though luminous your eye,
By looTcing on the bud descry,
1 An obscure part of Olney, adjoining to the residence of Cowper, which faced the market-place. 8 Lady Austen's residence in France.
Or guess, with a prophetic power,
The future splendour of the flower?
Just so, the Omnipotent, who turns
The system of a world's concerns,
From mere minutiae can educe
Events of most important use,
And bid a dawning sky display
The blaze of a meridian day.
The works of man tend, one and all,
As needs they must, from great to small;
And vanity absorbs at length
The monuments of human strength.
But who can tell how vast the plan
Which this day's incident began?
Too small, perhaps, the slight occasion
For our dim-sighted observation;
It passed unnoticed, as the bird
That cleaves the yielding air unheard,
And yet may prove, when understood,
A harbinger of endless good.
Not that I deem, or mean to call
Friendship a blessing cheap or small;
But merely to remark, that ours,
Like some of nature's sweetest flowers,
Rose from a seed of tiny size,
That seemed to promise no such prize;
A transient visit intervening,
And made almost without a meaning,
(Hardly the effect of inclination,
Much less of pleasing expectation),
Produced a friendship, then begun,
That has cemented us in one;
And placed it in our power to prove,
By long fidelity and love,
That Solomon has wisely spoken,—
"A threefold cord is not soon broken."
TO THE REV. MR. NEWTON,
RECTOR OF ST. MARY WOOLNOTH,
May 28, 1782.
Says the Pipe to the Snuff-box, I can't understand
What the ladies and gentlemen see in your face,
That you are in fashion all over the land,
And I am so much fallen into disgrace.
Do but see what a pretty contemplative air
I give to the company,—pray do but note 'em,—
You would think that the wise men of Greece were all there, Or, at least, would suppose them the wise men of Gotham.