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372                                               The Retreat

   HAPPY those early days, when I
Shin’d in my Angel-infancy!
Before I understood this place
Appointed for my second race,
Or taught my soul to fancy aught
But a white celestial thought:
When yet I had not walk’d above
A mile or two from my first Love,
And looking back—at that short space—
Could see a glimpse of His bright face:
When on some gilded cloud, or flow’r,
My gazing soul would dwell an hour,
And in those weaker glories spy
Some shadows of eternity:
Before I taught my tongue to wound
My Conscience with a sinful sound,
Or had the black art to dispense
A several sin to ev’ry sense,
But felt through all this fleshly dress
Bright shoots of everlastingness.
   O how I long to travel back,
And tread again that ancient track!
That I might once more reach that plain
Where first I left my glorious train;
From whence th’ enlightned spirit sees
That shady City of Palm-trees.
But ah! my soul with too much stay
Is drunk, and staggers in the way!
Some men a forward motion love,
But I by backward steps would move;
And when this dust falls to the urn
In that state I came, return.

373                                                    Peace

MY soul, there is a country
   Far beyond the stars,
Where stands a wingàed sentry
   All skilful in the wars:
There, above noise and danger,
   Sweet Peace sits crown’d with smiles,
And One born in a manger
   Commands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious Friend,
   And—O my soul, awake!—
Did in pure love descend
   To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
   There grows the flower of Peace,
The Rose that cannot wither,
   Thy fortress, and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges;
   For none can thee secure
But One who never changes—
   Thy God, thy life, thy cure.

374                                             The Timber

SURE thou didst flourish once! and many springs,
   Many bright mornings, much dew, many showers,
Pass’d o’er thy head; many light hearts and wings,
   Which now are dead, lodg’d in thy living bowers.
And still a new succession sings and flies;
   Fresh groves grow up, and their green branches shoot
Towards the old and still enduring skies,
   While the low violet thrives at their root.
But thou beneath the sad and heavy line
   Of death, doth waste all senseless, cold, and dark;
Where not so much as dreams of light may shine,
   Nor any thought of greenness, leaf, or bark.
And yet—as if some deep hate and dissent,
   Bred in thy growth betwixt high winds and thee,
Were still alive—thou dost great storms resent
   Before they come, and know’st how near they be.
Else all at rest thou liest, and the fierce breath
   Of tempests can no more disturb thy ease;
But this thy strange resentment after death
   Means only those who broke—in life—thy peace.

375                                            Friends Departed

THEY are all gone into the world of light!
       And I alone sit ling’ring here;
Their very memory is fair and bright,
           And my sad thoughts doth clear.
It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast,
       Like stars upon some gloomy grove,
Or those faint beams in which this hill is drest
           After the sun’s remove.
I see them walking in an air of glory,
       Whose light doth trample on my days:
My days, which are at best but dull and hoary,
           Mere glimmering and decays.
O holy Hope! and high Humility,
       High as the heavens above!
These are your walks, and you have show’d them me,
           To kindle my cold love.
Dear, beauteous Death! the jewel of the Just,
       Shining nowhere, but in the dark;
What mysteries do lie beyond thy dust,
           Could man outlook that mark!
He that hath found some fledg’d bird’s nest may know,
       At first sight, if the bird be flown;
But what fair well or grove he sings in now,
           That is to him unknown.
And yet as Angels in some brighter dreams
       Call to the soul, when man doth sleep:
So some strange thoughts transcend our wonted themes,
           And into glory peep.
If a star were confin’d into a tomb,
       Her captive flames must needs burn there;
But when the hand that lock’d her up gives room,
           She’ll shine through all the sphere.
O Father of eternal life, and all
       Created glories under Thee!
Resume Thy spirit from this world of thrall
           Into true liberty.
Either disperse these mists, which blot and fill
       My perspective still as they pass:
Or else remove me hence unto that hill,
           Where I shall need no glass.

376                                                The Night

John 2.3.

        THROUGH that pure Virgin-shrine,
That sacred vail drawn o’er thy glorious noon
That men might look and live as Glow-worms shine,
        And face the Moon:
     Wise Nicodemus saw such light
     As made him know his God by night.
        Were all my loud, evil days
Calm and unhaunted as is thy dark Tent,
Whose peace but by some Angels wing or voice
          Is seldom rent;
      Then I in Heaven all the long year
      Would keep, and never wander here.
        But living where the Sun
Doth all things wake, and where all mix and tyre
Themselves and others, I consent and run
          To ev’ry myre,
      And by this worlds ill-guiding light,
      Erre more then I can do by night.
        There is in God (some say)
A deep, but dazling darkness; as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
          See not all clear;
      O for that night! where I in him
      Might live invisible and dim.

377                                         Nature, Man, Eternity


The Bird

HITHER thou com’st: the busy wind all night
Blew thro’ thy lodging, where thy own warm wing
Thy pillow was. Many a sullen storm
(For which coarse man seems much the fitter born)
       Rained on thy bed
       And harmless head:
And now as fresh and cheerful as the light
Thy little heart in early hymns doth sing
Unto that Providence, whose unseen arm
Curbed them, and clothed thee well and warm.
       All things that be praise Him, and had
       Their lesson taught them when first made.
So hills and valleys into singing break;
And though poor stones have neither speech nor tongue,
While active winds and streams both run and speak,
Yet stones are deep in admiration.
       Thus praise and prayer here beneath the sun
       Make lesser mornings, when the great are done.



Weighing the steadfastness and state
   Of some mean things which here below reside,
Where birds like watchful clocks the noiseless date
   And intercourse of times divide,
Where bees at night get home and hive, and flowers
       Early as well as late,
Rise with the sun and set in the same bowers;
I would, said I, my God would give
   The staidness of these things to man! for these
To His divine appointments ever cleave,
   And no new business breaks their peace;
The birds nor sow nor reap, yet sup and dine,
       The flowers without clothes live,
Yet Solomon was never drest so fine.
Man hath still either toys or care;
   He hath no root, nor to one place is tied,
But ever restless and irregular
   About the earth doth run and ride,
He knows he hath a home, but scarce knows where;
       He says it is so far
That he hath quite forgot how to get there.
He knocks at all doors, strays and roams;
   Nay hath not so much wit as some stones have
Which in the darkest nights point to their homes,
   By some hid sense their Maker gave;
Man is the shuttle to whose winding quest
       And passage through these looms
God ordered motion, but ordained no rest.



I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light,
         All calm, as it was bright,
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years
            Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov’d, In which the world
         And all her train were hurl’d;
The doting Lover in his quaintest strain
            Did there Complain,

                 .     .      .      .      .     . 

Yet some, who all this while did weep and sing,
And sing, and weep, soar’d up into the Ring,
     But most would use no wing.

O fools (said I,) thus to prefer dark night
            Before true light,
To live in grots, and caves, and hate the day
      Because it shews the way,
The way which from this dead and dark abode
            Leads up to God,
A way where you might tread the Sun, and be
            More bright than he.
But as I did their madness so discuss
            One whisper’d thus,
This Ring the Bride-groome did for none provide
            But for his bride.


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