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The amiable Poet * from whom I have taken my motto, after showing the superiority of the Sacred over the Profane Histories, some instances of which I have noticed in my Introduction, concludes with the following remark, which I may apply to myself with far more propriety than it was used by the Author: “ I am far from assuming to myself to have 6 fulfilled the duty of this weighty undertaking; 66 and I shall be ambitious of no other fruit from 66 this weak and imperfect attempt of mine, but “ the opening of a way to the courage and in“ dustry of some other persons, who may be “ better able to perform it thoroughly and suc“ cessfully.”
Oh for the sacred energy which struck
The harp of Jesse's son! or for a spark
Of that celestial flame which touch'd the lips
Of bless'd Isaiah *; when the Seraphim
With living fire descended, and his soul
From sin's pollution purg'd! or one faint ray,
If human things to heav'nly I may join,
Of that pure spirit which inflam'd the breast
Of Milton, God's own poet! when, retir'd
In fair enthusiastic vision rapt,
The nightly visitant deign'd bless his couch
With inspiration, such as never flow'd
From Acidale or Aganippe's fount !
Then, when the sacred fire within him burnt,
He spake as man or angel might have spoke,
When man was pure, and angels were his guests.
It will not be. - Nor prophet's burning zeal,
Nor muse of fire, nor yet to sweep the strings
With sacred energy, to me belongs;
Nor with Miltonic hand to touch the chords
That waké to ecstasy. From me, alas !
The secret source of harmony is hid;
The magic powers which catch the ravish'd soul
* Isaiah, chap. vi. VOL. I.
In melody's sweet maze, and the clear streams
Which to pure fancy's yet untasted springs
Enchanted lead. Of these I little know !
Yet, all unknowing, dare Thy aid invoke,
SPIRIT OF Truth ! to bless these worthless lays:
Nor impious is the hope; for thou hast said,
That none who ask in faith should ask in vain.
You I invoke not now, ye fabled Nine !
I not invoke you, though you well were sought
In Greece and Latium, sought by deathless bards,
Whose syren song enchants; and shall enchant,
Thro' Time's wide-circling round, tho’ false their faith,
And less than human were the gods they sung.
Tho' false their faith, they taught the best they knew;
And (blush, O Christians !) liv'd above their faith.
They would have bless'd the beam, and hail'd the day
Which chas'd the moral darkness from their souls.
Oh ! had their minds receiv'd the clearer ray
Of Revelation, they had learn’d to scorn
Their rites impure, their less than human gods,
Their wild mythology's fantastic maze.
Pure Plato! how had thy chaste spirit hail'd A faith so fitted to thy moral sense ! What hadst thou felt, to see the fair romance Of high imagination, the bright dream Of thy pure fancy, more than realis'd ! Sublime enthusiast ! thou hadst bless'd a scheme Fair, good, and perfect. How had thy wrapt soul Caught fire, and burnt with a diviner flame! For e'en thy fair idea ne'er conceiv'd Such plenitude of bliss, such boundless love, As Deity made visible to sense.
Unhappy BRUTUS ! philosophic mind!
Great midst the errors of the Stoic school !
How had thy kindling spirit joy'd to find
That thy lov'd virtue was no empty name!
Nor hadst thou met the vision at Philippi ;
Nor hadst thou sheath'd thy bloody dagger's point
Or in the breast of Cæsar or thy own.
The Pagan page how far more wise than ours !
They with the gods they worshipp'd graced their song:
Our song we grace with gods we disbelieve!
Retain the manners, but reject the creed.
Shall fiction only raise poetic flame ?
And shall no altars blaze, O TRUTH, to thee ?
Shall falsehood only please, and fable charm ?
And shall eternal Truth neglected lie,
Because immortal, slighted or profan’d?
Truth has our rev'rence only, not our love;
Our praise, but not our heart: a deity,
Confess’d, but shunn'd; acknowledg’d, not ador’d;
Alarm'd we dread her penetrating beams;
She comes too near us, and too brightly shines.
Why shun to make our duty our delight? Let pleasure be the motive, disallow All high incentives drawn from God's command : Where shall we trace, through all the page profane, A livelier pleasure and a purer source Of innocent delight, than the fair book Of holy Truth presents ? for ardent youth, The sprightly narrative; for years mature, The moral document, in sober robe Of grave philosophy array'd; which all Had heard with admiration, had embrac'd