ON THE ETERNITY OF THE SUPREME BEING.
1 HAIL, wond'rous Being, who in power supreme
2 Exists from everlasting, whose great name
3 Deep in the human heart, and every atom
4 The Air, the Earth, or azure Main contains
5 In undecypher'd characters is wrote —
6 IN COMPREHENSIBLE! — O what can words,
7 The weak interpreters of mortal thoughts,
8 Or what can thoughts (tho' wild of wing they rove
9 Thro' the vast concave of th' aetherial round)
10 If to the Heaven of Heavens they'd wing their way
11 Adventurous, like the birds of night they're lost,
12 And delug'd in the flood of dazzling day. —
13 May then the youthful, uninspired Bard
14 Presume to hymn th' Eternal; may he soar
15 Where Seraph, and where Cherubin on high
16 Resound th' unceasing plaudits, and with them
17 In the grand Chorus mix his feeble voice?
18 He may — if Thou, who from the witless babe
19 Ordainest honour, glory, strength, and praise,
20 Uplift th' unpinion'd Muse, and deign'st t' assist,
21 GREAT POET OF THE UNIVERSE, his song.
22 Before this earthly Planet wound her course
23 Round Light's perennial fountain, before Light
24 Herself 'gan shine, and at th' inspiring word
25 Shot to existence in a blaze of day,
26 Before "the Morning-Stars together sang,
27 And hail'd Thee Architect of countless worlds
28 Thou art — all-glorious, all-beneficent,
29 All Wisdom and Omnipotence thou art.
30 But is the aera of Creation fix'd
31 At when these worlds began? Could ought retard
32 Goodness, that knows no bounds, from blessing ever,
33 Or keep th' immense Artificer in sloth?
34 Avaunt the dust-directed crawling thought,
35 That Puissance immeasurably vast,
36 And Bounty inconceivable, could rest
37 Content, exhausted with one week of action —
38 No — in th' exertion of thy rigteous power,
39 Ten thousand times more active than the Sun,
40 Thou reign'd, and with a mighty hand compos'd
41 Systems innumerable, matchless all,
42 All stampt with thine uncounterfeited seal.
43 But yet (if still to more stupendous heights
44 The Muse unblam'd her aching sense may strain)[Page 295]
45 Perhaps wrapt up in contemplation deep,
46 The best of Beings on the noble theme
47 Might ruminate at leisure, Scope immense
48 Th' eternal Power and Godhead to explore,
49 And with itself th' omniscient mind replete.
50 This were enough to fill the boundless All,
51 This were a Sabbath worthy the Supreme!
52 Perhaps enthron'd amidst a choicer few,
53 Of Spirits inferior, he might greatly plan
54 The two prime Pillars of the Universe,
55 Creation and Redemption — and a while
56 Pause — with the grand presentiments of glory.
57 Perhaps — but all's conjecture here below,
58 All ignorance, and self-plum'd vanity —
59 O Thou, whose ways to wonder at's distrust,
60 Whom to describe's presumption (all we can —
61 And all we may —) be glorified, be prais'd.
62 A Day shall come, when all this Earth shall perish,
63 Nor leave behind ev'n Chaos; it shall come
64 When all the armies of the elements
65 Shall war against themselves, and mutual rage,
66 To make Perdition triumph; it shall come,
67 When the capacious atmosphere above
68 Shall in sulphureous thunders groan, and die,
69 And vanish into void; the earth beneath
70 Shall sever to the center, and devour
71 Th' enormous blaze of the destructive flames.
72 Ye rocks, that mock the raving of the floods.[Page 296]
73 And proudly frown upon th' impatient deep,
74 Where is your grandeur now? Ye foaming waves,
75 That all along th' immense Atlantic roar,
76 In vain ye swell; will a few drops suffice
77 To quench the inextinguishable fire?
78 Ye mountains, on whose cloud-crown'd tops the cedars
79 Are lessen'd into shrubs, magnific piles,
80 That prop the painted chambers of the heavens,
81 And fix the earth continual; Athos, where;
82 Where, Tenerif's thy stateliness to-day?
83 What, Aetna, are thy flames to these? — No more
84 Than the poor glow-worm to the golden sun.
85 Nor shall the verdant vallies then remain
86 Safe in their meek submission; they the debt
87 Of nature and of justice too must pay.
88 Yet I must weep for you, ye rival fair,
89 Arno and Andalusia; but for thee
90 More largely and with filial tears must weep,
91 O Albion, O my country! Thou must join,
92 In vain dissever'd from the rest, must join
93 The terrors of th' inevitable ruin.
94 Nor thou, illustrious monarch of the day;
95 Nor thou, fair queen of night; nor you, ye stars,
96 Tho' million leagues and million still remote,
97 Shall yet survive that day; Ye must submit,
98 Sharers, not bright spectators of the scene.
99 But tho' the earth shall to the center perish,
100 Nor leave behind ev'n Chaos; tho' the air
101 With all the elements must pass away,
102 Vain as an ideot's dream; tho' the huge rocks,
103 That brandish the tall cedars on their tops,
104 With humbler vales must to perdition yield;
105 Tho' the gilt Sun, and silver-tressed Moon
106 With all her bright retinue, must be lost;
107 Yet Thou, Great Father of the world, surviv'st
108 Eternal, as thou wert: Yet still survives
109 The soul of man immortal, perfect now,
110 And candidate for unexpiring joys.
111 He comes! He comes! the awful trump I hear;
112 The flaming sword's intolerable blaze
113 I see; He comes! th' Archangel from above.
114 "Arise, ye tenants of the silent grave,
115 " Awake incorruptible and arise:
116 "From east to west, from the antarctic pole
117 " To regions hyperborean, all ye sons,
118 "Ye sons of Adam, and ye heirs of Heaven —
119 " Arise, ye tenants of the silent grave,
120 "Awake incorruptible and arise."
121 'Tis then, nor sooner, that the restless mind
122 Shall find itself at home; and like the ark,
123 Fix'd on the mountain-top, shall look aloft
124 O'er the vague passage of precarious life;
125 And, winds and waves and rocks and tempests past,
126 Enjoy the everlasting calm of Heaven:[Page 298]
127 'Tis then, nor sooner, that the deathless soul
128 Shall justly know its nature and its rise:
129 'Tis then the human tongue new-tun'd shall give
130 Praises more worthy the eternal ear.
131 Yet what we can, we ought; — and therefore, Thou,
132 Purge Thou my heart, Omnipotent and Good!
133 Purge Thou my heart with hyssop, lest like Cain
134 I offer fruitless sacrifice, and with gifts
135 Offend and not propitiate the Ador'd.
136 Tho' Gratitude were blest with all the powers
137 Her bursting heart could long for, tho' the swift,
138 The fiery-wing'd Imagination soar'd
139 Beyond Ambition's wish — yet all were vain
140 To speak Him as he is, who is INEFFABLE.
141 Yet still let reason thro' the eye of faith
142 View Him with fearful love; let truth pronounce,
143 And adoration on her bended knee
144 With heaven-directed hands confess His reign.
145 And let th' Angelic, Archangelic band
146 With all the Hosts of Heaven, Cherubic forms,
147 And forms Seraphic, with their silver trumps
148 And golden lyres attend: — "For Thou art holy,
149 " For Thou art One, th' Eternal, who alone
150 "Exerts all goodness, and transcends all praise."
About this text
Title (in Source Edition): ON THE ETERNITY OF THE SUPREME BEING.
Author: Christopher Smart
Themes: God; religion
Genres: blank verse; essay
References: DMI 32675
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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.