Quâ nihil majus meliusve terris
Fata donavere, boni{que} divi,
Nec dabunt, quamvis redeant in aurum
Tempora priscum.
HOR. Lib. IV. Ode II.
1 FAIREST and foremost of the train that wait
2 On man's most dignified and happiest state,
3 Whether we name thee Charity or love,
4 Chief grace below, and all in all above,
5 Prosper (I press thee with a pow'rful plea)
6 A task I venture on, impell'd by thee:
7 Oh never seen but in thy blest effects,
8 Nor felt but in the soul that heav'n selects,
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9 Who seeks to praise thee, and to make thee known
10 To other hearts, must have thee in his own.
11 Come, prompt me with benevolent desires,
12 Teach me to kindle at thy gentle fires,
13 And though disgrac'd and slighted, to redeem
14 A poet's name, by making thee the theme.
15 God working ever on a social plan,
16 By various ties attaches man to man:
17 He made at first, though free and unconfin'd,
18 One man the common father of the kind,
19 That ev'ry tribe, though plac'd as he sees best,
20 Where seas or desarts part them from the rest,
21 Diff'ring in language, manners, or in face,
22 Might feel themselves allied to all the race.
23 When Cook lamented, and with tears as just
24 As ever mingled with heroic dust,
25 Steer'd Britain's oak into a world unknown,
26 And in his country's glory sought his own,
27 Wherever he found man, to nature true,
28 The rights of man were sacred in his view:
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29 He sooth'd with gifts and greeted with a smile
30 The simple native of the new-found isle,
31 He spurn'd the wretch that slighted or withstood
32 The tender argument of kindred blood,
33 Nor would endure that any should controul
34 His free-born brethren of the southern pole.
35 But though some nobler minds a law respect,
36 That none shall with impunity neglect,
37 In baser souls unnumber'd evils meet,
38 To thwart its influence and its end defeat.
39 While Cook is loved for savage lives he saved,
40 See Cortez odious for a world enslaved!
41 Where wast thou then sweet Charity, where then
42 Thou tutelary friend of helpless men?
43 Wast thou in Monkish cells and nunn'ries found,
44 Or building hospitals on English ground?
45 No Mammon makes the world his legatee
46 Through fear not love, and heav'n abhors the fee:
47 Wherever found (and all men need thy care)
48 Nor age nor infancy could find thee there.
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49 The hand that siew 'till it could slay no more,
50 Was glued to the sword-hilt with Indian gore;
51 Their prince as justly seated on his throne,
52 As vain imperial Philip on his own,
53 Trick'd out of all his royalty by art,
54 That stripp'd him bare, and broke his honest heart,
55 Died by the sentence of a shaven priest,
56 For scorning what they taught him to detest.
57 How dark the veil that intercepts the blaze
58 Of heav'ns mysterious purposes and ways;
59 God stood not, though he seem'd to stand aloof,
60 And at this hour the conqu'ror feels the proof.
61 The wreath he won drew down an instant curse,
62 The fretting plague is in the public purse,
63 The canker'd spoil corrodes the pining state,
64 Starved by that indolence their mines create.
65 Oh could their antient Incas rise again,
66 How would they take up Israel's taunting strain!
67 Art thou too fall'n Iberia, do we see
68 The robber and the murth'rer weak as we?
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69 Thou that hast wasted earth, and dared despise
70 Alike the wrath and mercy of the skies,
71 Thy pomp is in the grave, thy glory laid
72 Low in the pits thine avarice has made.
73 We come with joy from our eternal rest,
74 To see th' oppressor in his turn oppress'd.
75 Art thou the God the thunder of whose hand
76 Roll'd over all our desolated land,
77 Shook principalities and kingdoms down,
78 And made the mountains tremble at his frown?
79 The sword shall light upon thy boasted pow'rs,
80 And waste them, as thy sword has wasted ours.
81 'Tis thus Omnipotence his law fulfils,
82 And vengeance executes what justice wills.
83 Again the band of commerce was design'd
84 T' associate all the branches of mankind,
85 And if a boundless plenty be the robe,
86 Trade is the golden girdle of the globe:
87 Wise to promote whatever end he means,
88 God opens fruitful nature's various scenes,
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89 Each climate needs what other climes produce,
90 And offers something to the gen'ral use;
91 No land but listens to the common call,
92 And in return receives supply from all;
93 This genial intercourse and mutual aid,
94 Cheers what were else an universal shade,
95 Calls nature from her ivy-mantled den,
96 And softens human rockwork into men.
97 Ingenious Art with her expressive face
98 Steps forth to fashion and refine the race,
99 Not only fills necessity's demand,
100 But overcharges her capacious hand;
101 Capricious taste itself can crave no more,
102 Than she supplies from her abounding store;
103 She strikes out all that luxury can ask,
104 And gains new vigour at her endless task.
105 Hers is the spacious arch, the shapely spire,
106 The painters pencil and the poets lyre;
107 From her the canvass borrows light and shade,
108 And verse more lasting, hues that never fade.
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109 She guides the finger o'er the dancing keys,
110 Gives difficulty all the grace of ease,
111 And pours a torrent of sweet notes around,
112 Fast as the thirsting ear can drink the sound.
113 These are the gifts of art, and art thrives most
114 Where commerce has enrich'd the busy coast:
115 He catches all improvements in his flight,
116 Spreads foreign wonders in his country's sight,
117 Imports what others have invented well,
118 And stirs his own to match them, or excel.
119 'Tis thus reciprocating each with each,
120 Alternately the nations learn and teach;
121 While Providence enjoins to ev'ry soul
122 An union with the vast terraqueous whole.
123 Heav'n speed the canvass gallantly unfurl'd
124 To furnish and accommodate a world;
125 To give the Pole the produce of the sun,
126 And knit th' unsocial climates into one.
127 Soft airs and gentle heavings of the wave
128 Impel the fleet whose errand is to save,
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129 To succour wasted regions, and replace
130 The smile of opulence in sorrow's face.
131 Let nothing adverse, nothing unforeseen,
132 Impede the bark that plows the deep serene,
133 Charg'd with a freight transcending in its worth
134 The gems of India, nature's rarest birth,
135 That flies like Gabriel on his Lord's commands,
136 An herald of God's love, to pagan lands.
137 But ah! what wish can prosper, or what pray'r,
138 For merchants rich in cargoes of despair,
139 Who drive a loathsome traffic, gage and span,
140 And buy the muscles and the bones of man?
141 The tender ties of father, husband, friend,
142 All bonds of nature in that moment end,
143 And each endures while yet he draws his breath,
144 A stroke as fatal as the scythe of death.
145 The sable warrior, frantic with regret
146 Of her he loves, and never can forget,
147 Loses in tears the far receding shore,
148 But not the thought that they must meet no more;
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149 Depriv'd of her and freedom at a blow,
150 What has he left that he can yet forego?
151 Yes, to deep sadness sullenly resign'd,
152 He feels his body's bondage in his mind,
153 Puts off his gen'rous nature, and to suit
154 His manners with his fate, puts on the brute.
155 Oh most degrading of all ills that wait
156 On man, a mourner in his best estate!
157 All other sorrows virtue may endure,
158 And find submission more than half a cure;
159 Grief is itself a med'cine, and bestow'd
160 T' improve the fortitude that bears the load,
161 To teach the wand'rer, as his woes encrease,
162 The path of wisdom, all whose paths are peace.
163 But slav'ry! virtue dreads it as her grave,
164 Patience itself is meanness in a slave:
165 Or if the will and sovereignty of God
166 Bid suffer it awhile, and kiss the rod,
167 Wait for the dawning of a brighter day,
168 And snap the chain the moment when you may.
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169 Nature imprints upon whate'er we see
170 That has a heart and life in it, be free;
171 The beasts are chartered neither age nor force
172 Can quell the love of freedom in a horse:
173 He breaks the cord that held him at the rack,
174 And conscious of an unincumber'd back,
175 Snuffs up the morning air, forgets the rein,
176 Loose fly his forelock and his ample mane,
177 Responsive to the distant neigh he neighs,
178 No stops, till overleaping all delays,
179 He finds the pasture where his fellows graze.
180 Canst thou, and honour'd with a Christian name,
181 Buy what is woman-born, and feel no shame?
182 Trade in the blood of innocence, and plead
183 Expedience as a warrant for the deed?
184 So may the wolf whom famine has made bold
185 To quit the forest and invade the fold;
186 So may the ruffian who with ghostly glide,
187 Dagger in hand, steals close to your bed-side;
188 Not he, but his emergence forc'd the door,
189 He found it inconvenient to be poor.
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190 Has God then giv'n its sweetness to the cane
191 Unless his laws be trampled on in vain?
192 Built a brave world, which cannot yet subsist,
193 Unless his right to rule it be dismiss'd?
194 Impudent blasphemy! so folly pleads,
195 And av'rice being judge, with ease succeeds.
196 But grant the plea, and let it stand for just,
197 That man make man his prey, because he must,
198 Still there is room for pity to abate
199 And sooth the sorrows of so sad a state.
200 A Briton knows, or if he knows it not,
201 The Scripture plac'd within his reach, he ought,
202 That souls have no discriminating hue,
203 Alike important in their Maker's view,
204 That none are free from blemish since the fall,
205 And love divine has paid one price for all.
206 The wretch that works and weeps without relief,
207 Has one that notices his silent grief,
208 He from whose hands alone all pow'r proceeds,
209 Ranks its abuse among the foulest deeds,
210 Considers all injustice with a frown,
211 But marks the man that treads his fellow down.
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212 Begone, the whip and bell in that hard hand,
213 Are hateful ensigns of usurp'd command,
214 Not Mexico could purchase kings a claim
215 To scourge him, weariness his only blame.
216 Remember, heav'n has an avenging rod;
217 To smite the poor is treason against God.
218 Trouble is grudgingly and hardly brook'd,
219 While life's sublimest joys are overlook'd.
220 We wander o'er a sun-burnt thirsty soil
221 Murm'ring and weary of our daily toil,
222 Forget t' enjoy the palm-tree's offer'd shade,
223 Or taste the fountain in the neighb'ring glade:
224 Else who would lose that had the pow'r t' improve
225 Th' occasion of transmuting fear to love?
226 Oh 'tis a godlike privilege to save,
227 And he that scorns it is himself a slave.
228 Inform his mind, one flash of heav'nly day
229 Would heal his heart and melt his chains away;
230 'Beauty for ashes' is a gift indeed,
231 And slaves, by truth enlarg'd, are doubly freed:
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232 Then would he say, submissive at thy feet,
233 While gratitude and love made service sweet,
234 My dear deliv'rer out of hopeless night,
235 Whose bounty bought me but to give me light,
236 I was a bondman on my native plain,
237 Sin forg'd, and ignorance made fast the chain;
238 Thy lips have shed instruction as the dew,
239 Taught me what path to shun, and what pursue;
240 Farewell my former joys! I sigh no more
241 For Africa's once lov'd, benighted shore,
242 Serving a benefactor I am free,
243 At my best home if not exiled from thee.
244 Some men make gain a fountain, whence proceeds
245 A stream of lib'ral and heroic deeds,
246 The swell of pity, not to be confin'd
247 Within the scanty limits of the mind,
248 Disdains the bank, and throws the golden sands,
249 A rich deposit, on the bord'ring lands:
250 These have an ear for his paternal call,
251 Who makes some rich for the supply of all,
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252 God's gift with pleasure in his praise employ,
253 And THORNTON is familiar with the joy.
254 Oh could I worship aught beneath the skies,
255 That earth hath seen or fancy can devise,
256 Thine altar, sacred liberty, should stand,
257 Built by no mercenary vulgar hand,
258 With fragrant turf and flow'rs as wild and fair
259 As ever dress'd a bank or scented summer air.
260 Duely as ever on the mountain's height
261 The peep of morning shed a dawning light;
262 Again, when evening in her sober vest
263 Drew the grey curtain of the fading west,
264 My soul should yield thee willing thanks and praise
265 For the chief blessings of my fairest days:
266 But that were sacrilege praise is not thine,
267 But his who gave thee and preserves thee mine:
268 Else I would say, and as I spake, bid fly
269 A captive bird into the boundless sky,
270 This triple realm adores thee thou art come
271 From Sparta hither, and art here at home;
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272 We feel thy force still active, at this hour
273 Enjoy immunity from priestly pow'r,
274 While conscience, happier than in antient years,
275 Owns no superior but the God she fears.
276 Propitious spirit! yet expunge a wrong
277 Thy rights have suffer'd, and our land, too long,
278 Teach mercy to ten thousand hearts that share
279 The fears and hopes of a commercial care;
280 Prisons expect the wicked, and were built
281 To bind the lawless and to punish guilt,
282 But shipwreck, earthquake, battle, fire and flood,
283 Are mighty mischiefs, not to be withstood,
284 And honest merit stands on slipp'ry ground,
285 Where covert guile and artifice abound:
286 Let just restraint for public peace design'd,
287 Chain up the wolves and tigers of mankind,
288 The foe of virtue has no claim to thee,
289 But let insolvent innocence go free.
290 Patron, of else the most despised of men,
291 Accept the tribute of a stranger's pen;
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292 Verse, like the laurel its immortal meed,
293 Should be the guerdon of a noble deed,
294 I may alarm thee, but I fear the shame
295 (Charity chosen as my theme and aim)
296 I must incur, forgetting HOWARD'S name.
297 Blest with all wealth can give thee, to resign
298 Joys doubly sweet to feelings quick as thine,
299 To quit the bliss thy rural scenes bestow,
300 To seek a nobler amidst scenes of woe,
301 To traverse seas, range kingdoms, and bring home
302 Not the proud monuments of Greece or Rome,
303 But knowledge such as only dungeons teach,
304 And only sympathy like thine could reach;
305 That grief, sequester'd from the public stage,
306 Might smooth her feathers and enjoy her cage,
307 Speaks a divine ambition, and a zeal
308 The boldest patriot might be proud to feel.
309 Oh that the voice of clamor and debate,
310 That pleads for peace 'till it disturbs the state,
311 Were hush'd in favour of thy gen'rous plea,
312 The poor thy clients, and heaven's smile thy fee.
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313 Philosophy that does not dream or stray,
314 Walks arm in arm with nature all his way,
315 Compasses earth, dives into it, ascends
316 Whatever steep enquiry recommends,
317 Sees planetary wonders smoothly roll
318 Round other systems under her controll,
319 Drinks wisdom at the milky stream of light
320 That cheers the silent journey of the night,
321 And brings at his return a bosom charged,
322 With rich instruction, and a soul enlarged.
323 The treasured sweets of the capacious plan
324 That heav'n spreads wide before the view of man,
325 All prompt his pleased pursuit, and to pursue
326 Still prompt him, with a pleasure always new:
327 He too has a connecting pow'r, and draws
328 Man to the center of the common cause,
329 Aiding a dubious and deficient sight
330 With a new medium and a purer light.
331 All truth is precious if not all divine,
332 And what dilates the pow'rs must needs refine,
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333 He reads the skies, and watching ev'ry change,
334 Provides the faculties an ampler range,
335 And wins mankind, as his attempts prevail,
336 A proudcer station on the gen'ral scale.
337 But reason still unless divinely taught,
338 Whate'er she learns, learns nothing as she ought;
339 The lamp of revelation only, shows,
340 What human wisdom cannot but oppose,
341 That man in nature's richest mantle clad,
342 And graced with all philosophy can add,
343 Though fair without, and luminous within,
344 Is still the progeny and heir of sin.
345 Thus taught down falls the plumage of his pride,
346 He feels his need of an unerring guide,
347 And knows that falling he shall rise no more,
348 Unless the pow'r that bade him stand, restore.
349 This is indeed philosophy; this known,
350 Makes wisdom, worthy of the name, his own;
351 And without this, whatever he discuss,
352 Whether the space between the stars and us,
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353 Whether he measure earth, compute the sea,
354 Weigh sunbeams, carve a fly, or spit a flea,
355 The solemn trifler with his boasted skill
356 Toils much, and is a solemn trifler still,
357 Blind was he born, and his misguided eyes
358 Grown dim in trifling studies, blind he dies.
359 Self-knowledge truly learn'd, of course implies
360 The rich possession of a nobler prize,
361 For self to self, and God to man reveal'd,
362 (Two themes to nature's eye for ever seal'd)
363 Are taught by rays that fly with equal pace
364 From the same center of enlight'ning-grace.
365 Here stay thy foot, how copious and how clear
366 Th' o'erflowing well of Charity springs here!
367 Hark! 'tis the music of a thousand rills,
368 Some through the groves, some down the sloping hills,
369 Winding a secret or an open course,
370 And all supplied from an eternal source.
371 The ties of nature do but feebly bind,
372 And commerce partially reclaims mankind,
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373 Philosophy without his heav'nly guide,
374 May blow up self-conceit and nourish pride,
375 But while his province is the reas'ning part,
376 Has still a veil of midnight on his heart:
377 'Tis truth divine exhibited on earth,
378 Gives Charity her being and her birth.
379 Suppose (when thought is warm and fancy flows,
380 What will not argument sometimes suppose)
381 An isle possess'd by creatures of our kind,
382 Endued with reason, yet by nature blind.
383 Let supposition lend her aid once more,
384 And land some grave optician on the shore,
385 He claps his lens, if haply they may see,
386 Close to the part where vision ought to be,
387 But finds that though his tubes assist the sight,
388 They cannot give it, or make darkness light.
389 He reads wise lectures, and describes aloud
390 A sense they know not, to the wond'ring crowd,
391 He talks of light and the prismatic hues,
392 As men of depth in erudition use,
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393 But all he gains for his harangue is Well
394 What monstrous lies some travellers will tell.
395 The soul whose sight all-quick'ning grace renews,
396 Takes the resemblance of the good she views,
397 As di'monds stript of their opaque disguise,
398 Reflect the noon-day glory of the skies.
399 She speaks of him, her author, guardian, friend,
400 Whose love knew no beginning, knows no end,
401 In language warm as all that love inspires,
402 And in the glow of her intense desires
403 Pants to communicate her noble fires.
404 She sees a world stark blind to what employs
405 Her eager thought, and feeds her flowing joys,
406 Though wisdom hail them, heedless of her call,
407 Flies to save some, and feels a pang for all:
408 Herself as weak as her support is strong,
409 She feels that frailty she denied so long,
410 And from a knowledge of her own disease,
411 Learns to compassionate the sick she sees.
412 Here see, acquitted of all vain pretence,
413 The reign of genuine Charity commence;
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414 Though scorn repay her sympathetic tears,
415 She still is kind, and still she perseveres;
416 The truth she loves, a sightless world blaspheme,
417 'Tis childish dotage, a delirious dream,
418 The danger they discern not, they deny,
419 Laugh at their only remedy, and die:
420 But still a soul thus touch'd, can never cease
421 Whoever threatens war to speak of peace,
422 Pure in her aim and in her temper mild,
423 Her wisdom seems the weakness of a child,
424 She makes excuses where she might condemn,
425 Reviled by those that hate her, prays for them;
426 Suspicion lurks not in her artless breast,
427 The worst suggested, she believes the best;
428 Not soon provoked, however stung and teaz'd,
429 And if perhaps made angry, soon appeas'd,
430 She rather waves than will dispute her right,
431 And injur'd, makes forgiveness her delight.
432 Such was the pourtrait an apostle drew,
433 The bright original was one he knew,
434 Heav'n held his hand, the likeness must be true.
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435 When one that holds communion with the skies,
436 Has filled his urn where these pure waters rise,
437 And once more mingles with us meaner things,
438 'Tis ev'n as if an angel shook his wings;
439 Immortal fragrance fills the circuit wide,
440 That tells us whence his treasures are supplied.
441 So when a ship well freighted with the stores
442 The sun matures on India's spicy shores,
443 Has dropt her anchor and her canvas furl'd,
444 In some safe haven of our western world,
445 'Twere vain enquiry to what port she went,
446 The gale informs us, laden with the scent.
447 Some seek, when queazy conscience has its qualms,
448 To lull the painful malady with alms;
449 But charity not feign'd, intends alone
450 Another's good theirs centers in their own;
451 And too short-lived to reach the realms of peace,
452 Must cease for ever when the poor shall cease.
453 Flavia, most tender of her own good name,
454 Is rather careless of a sister's fame,
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455 Her superfluity the poor supplies,
456 But if she touch a character, it dies.
457 The seeming virtue weigh'd against the vice,
458 She deems all safe, for she has paid the price,
459 No charity but alms aught values she,
460 Except in porcelain on her mantle-tree.
461 How many deeds with which the world has rung,
462 From pride in league with ignorance have sprung?
463 But God o'erules all human follies still,
464 And bends the tough materials to his will.
465 A conflagration or a wintry flood,
466 Has left some hundreds without home or food,
467 Extravagance and av'rice shall subscribe,
468 While fame and self-complacence are the bribe.
469 The brief proclaim'd, it visits ev'ry pew,
470 But first the 'Squire's, a compliment but due:
471 With slow deliberation he unties
472 His glitt'ring purse, that envy of all eyes,
473 And while the clerk just puzzles out the psalm,
474 Slides guinea behind guinea in his palm,
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475 'Till finding what he might have found before,
476 A smaller piece amidst the precious store,
477 Pinch'd close between his finger and his thumb,
478 He half exhibits, and then drops the sum;
479 Gold to be sure! throughout the town 'tis told
480 How the good 'Squire gives never less than gold.
481 From motives such as his, though not the best,
482 Springs in due time supply for the distress'd,
483 Not less effectual than what love bestows,
484 Except that office clips it as it goes.
485 But lest I seem to sin against a friend,
486 And wound the grace I mean to recommend,
487 (Though vice derided with a just design
488 Implies no trespass against love divine)
489 Once more I would adopt the graver stile,
490 A teacher should be sparing of his smile.
491 Unless a love of virtue light the flame,
492 Satyr is more than those he brands, to blame,
493 He hides behind a magisterial air
494 His own offences, and strips others bare,
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495 Affects indeed a most humane concern
496 That men if gently tutor'd will not learn,
497 That muleish folly not to be reclaim'd
498 By softer methods, must be made asham'd,
499 But (I might instance in St. Patrick's dean)
500 Too often rails to gratify his spleen.
501 Most sat'rists are indeed a public scourge,
502 Their mildest physic is a farrier's purge,
503 Their acrid temper turns as soon as stirr'd
504 The milk of their good purpose all to curd,
505 Their zeal begotten as their works rehearse,
506 By lean despair upon an empty purse;
507 The wild assassins start into the street,
508 Prepar'd to poignard whomsoe'er they meet;
509 No skill in swordsmanship however just,
510 Can be secure against a madman's thrust,
511 And even virtue so unfairly match'd,
512 Although immortal, may be prick'd or scratch'd.
513 When scandal has new minted an old lie,
514 Or tax'd invention for a fresh supply,
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515 'Tis called a satyr, and the world appears
516 Gath'ring around it with erected ears;
517 A thousand names are toss'd into the crowd,
518 Some whisper'd softly, and some twang'd aloud,
519 Just as the sapience of an author's brain
520 Suggests it safe or dang'rous to be plain.
521 Strange! how the frequent interjected dash,
522 Quickens a market and helps off the trash,
523 Th' important letters that include the rest,
524 Serve as a key to those that are suppress'd,
525 Conjecture gripes the victims in his paw,
526 The world is charm'd, and Scrib. escapes the law.
527 So when the cold damp shades of night prevail,
528 Worms may be caught by either head or tail,
529 Forcibly drawn from many a close recess,
530 They meet with little pity, no redress;
531 Plung'd in the stream they lodge upon the mud,
532 Food for the famish'd rovers of the flood.
533 All zeal for a reform that gives offence
534 To peace and charity, is mere pretence:
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535 A bold remark, but which if well applied,
536 Would humble many a tow'ring poet's pride:
537 Perhaps the man was in a sportive fit,
538 And had no other play-place for his wit;
539 Perhaps enchanted with the love of fame,
540 He sought the jewel in his neighbour's shame;
541 Perhaps whatever end he might pursue,
542 The cause of virtue could not be his view.
543 At ev'ry stroke wit flashes in our eyes,
544 The turns are quick, the polish'd points surprise,
545 But shine with cruel and tremendous charms,
546 That while they please possess us with alarms:
547 So have I seen, (and hasten'd to the sight
548 On all the wings of holiday delight)
549 Where stands that monument of antient pow'r,
550 Named with emphatic dignity, the tow'r,
551 Guns, halberts, swords and pistols, great and small,
552 In starry forms disposed upon the wall;
553 We wonder, as we gazing stand below,
554 That brass and steel should make so fine a show;
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555 But though we praise th' exact designer's skill,
556 Account them implements of mischief still.
557 No works shall find acceptance in that day
558 When all disguises shall be rent away,
559 That square not truly with the Scripture plan,
560 Nor spring from love to God, or love to man.
561 As he ordains things sordid in their birth
562 To be resolved into their parent earth,
563 And though the soul shall seek superior orbs,
564 Whate'er this world produces, it absorbs,
565 So self starts nothing but what tends apace
566 Home to the goal where it began the race.
567 Such as our motive is our aim must be,
568 If this be servile, that can ne'er be free;
569 If self employ us, whatsoe'er is wrought,
570 We glorify that self, not him we ought:
571 Such virtues had need prove their own reward,
572 The judge of all men owes them no regard.
573 True Charity, a plant divinely nurs'd,
574 Fed by the love from which it rose at first,
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575 Thrives against hope and in the rudest scene,
576 Storms but enliven its unfading green;
577 Exub'rant is the shadow it supplies,
578 Its fruit on earth, its growth above the skies.
579 To look at him who form'd us and redeem'd,
580 So glorious now, though once so disesteem'd,
581 To see a God stretch forth his human hand,
582 T' uphold the boundless scenes of his command,
583 To recollect that in a form like ours,
584 He bruis'd beneath his feet th' infernal pow'rs,
585 Captivity led captive rose to claim
586 The wreath he won so dearly, in our name,
587 That thron'd above all height, he condescends
588 To call the few that trust in him his friends,
589 That in the heav'n of heav'ns, that space he deems
590 Too scanty for th' exertion of his beams,
591 And shines as if impatient to bestow
592 Life and a kingdom upon worms below;
593 That sight imparts a never-dying flame,
594 Though feeble in degree, in kind the same;
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595 Like him, the soul thus kindled from above,
596 Spreads wide her arms of universal love,
597 And still enlarg'd as she receives the grace,
598 Includes creation in her close embrace.
599 Behold a Christian and without the fires
600 The founder of that name alone inspires,
601 Though all accomplishments, all knowledge meet,
602 To make the shining prodigy complete,
603 Whoever boasts that name behold a cheat.
604 Were love in these the world's last doting years
605 As frequent, as the want of it appears,
606 The churches warm'd, they would no longer hold
607 Such frozen figures, stiff as they are cold;
608 Relenting forms would lose their pow'r or cease,
609 And ev'n the dipt and sprinkled, live in peace;
610 Each heart would quit its prison in the breast,
611 And flow in free communion with the rest.
612 The statesman skill'd in projects dark and deep,
613 Might burn his useless Machiavel, and sleep;
614 His budget often filled yet always poor,
615 Might swing at ease behind his study door,
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616 No longer prey upon our annual rents,
617 Nor scare the nation with its big contents:
618 Disbanded legions freely might depart,
619 And slaying man would cease to be an art.
620 No learned disputants would take the field,
621 Sure not to conquer, and sure not to yield,
622 Both sides deceiv'd if rightly understood,
623 Pelting each other for the public good.
624 Did Charity prevail, the press would prove
625 A vehicle of virtue, truth and love,
626 And I might spare myself the pains to show
627 What few can learn, and all suppose they know.
628 Thus have I sought to grace a serious lay
629 With many a wild indeed, but flow'ry spray,
630 In hopes to gain what else I must have lost,
631 Th' attention pleasure has so much engross'd.
632 But if unhappily deceiv'd I dream,
633 And prove too weak for so divine a theme,
634 Let Charity forgive me a mistake
635 That zeal not vanity has chanc'd to make,
636 And spare the poet for his subject sake.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): CHARITY.
Themes: charity
Genres: heroic couplet; essay

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Source edition

Poems: by William Cowper, of the Inner Temple, Esq. London: printed for J. Johnson, 1782, pp. []-211. [4],367,[1]p. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T14895; OTA K027775.000)

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.

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