Poems on Various Subjects (Coleridge)/Religious Musings
What tho' first,
In years unseason'd, I attun'd the Lay
To idle Passion and unreal Woe?
Yet serious Truth her empire o'er my song
Hath now asserted: Falshood's evil brood,
Vice and deceitful Pleasure, She at once
Excluded, and my Fancy's careless toil
Drew to the better cause!
THIS is the time, when most divine to hear,
As with a Cherub's "loud uplifted" trump
The voice of Adoration my thrill'd heart
Rouses! And with the rushing noise of wings
Transports my spirit to the favor'd fields5
Of Bethlehem, there in shepherd's guise to fit
Sublime of extacy, and mark entranc'd
The glory-streaming Vision throng the night.
Ah not more radiant, nor loud harmonies
Hymning more unimaginably sweet10
With choral songs around th' Eternal Mind,
The constellated company of Worlds
Danc'd jubilant: what time the startling East
Saw from her dark womb leap her flamy Child!
Glory to God in the Highest! Peace on Earth!15
Yet Thou more bright than all that Angel Blaze,
Despised Galilæan! Man of Woes!
For chiefly in the oppressed Good Man's face
The Great Invisible (by symbols seen)
Shines with peculiar and concentred light,
When all of Self regardless the scourg'd Saint
Mourns for th' Oppressor. O thou meekest Man!25
Meek Man and lowliest of the Sons of Men!
Who thee beheld thy imag'd Father saw.
His Power and Wisdom from thy awful eye
Blended their beams, and loftier Love sate there
Musing on human weal, and that dread hour30
When thy insulted Anguish wing'd the prayer
Harp'd by Archangels, when they sing of Mercy!
Which when th' Almighty heard, from forth his Throne
Diviner light flash'd extacy o'er Heaven!
Heav'n's hymnings paus'd: and Hell her yawning mouth35
Clos'd a brief moment.
Lovely was the Death
Of Him, whose Life was Love! Holy with power
He on the thought-benighted Sceptic beam'd
Manifest Godhead, melting into day40
What Mists dim-floating of Idolatry
Split and mishap'd the Omnipresent Sire:
And first by Terror, Mercy's startling prelude,
Uncharm'd the Spirit spell-bound with earthy lusts
Till of it's nobler Nature it 'gan feel45
Dim recollections; and thence soar'd to Hope,
Strong to believe whate'er of mystic good
Th' Eternal dooms for his Immortal Sons.
From Hope and stronger Faith to perfect Love
Attracted and absorb'd: and center'd there50
God only to behold, and know, and feel,
Till by exclusive Consciousness of God
All self-annihilated it shall make
God it's Identity: God all in all!
We and our Father one!55
And blest are they,
Who in this fleshly World, the elect of Heaven,
Their strong eye darting thro' the deeds of Men
Adore with stedfast unpresuming gaze
Him, Nature's Essence, Mind, and Energy!60
And gazing, trembling, patiently ascend
Treading beneath their feet all visible things
As steps, that upward to their Father's Throne
Lead gradual—else nor glorified nor lov'd.
They nor Contempt imbosom nor Revenge:65
For they dare know of what may seem deform
The Supreme Fair sole Operant: in whose sight
All things are pure, his strong controlling Love
Alike from all educing perfect good.
Their's too celestial courage, inly arm'd——70
Dwarfing Earth's giant brood, what time they muse
On their great Father, great beyond compare!
And marching onwards view high o'er their heads
His waving Banners of Omnipotence.
Who the Creator love, created might75
Dread not: within their tents no Terrors walk.
For they are Holy Things before the Lord
Aye-unprofan'd, tho' Earth should league with Hell!
God's Altar grasping with an eager hand
Fear, the wild-visag'd, pale, eye-starting wretch,80
Sure-refug'd hears his hot pursuing fiends
Yell at vain distance. Soon refresh'd from Heaven
He calms the throb and tempest of his heart.
His countenance settles: a soft solemn bliss
Swims in his eye: his swimming eye uprais'd:85
And Faith's whole armour glitters on his limbs!
And thus transfigured with a dreadless awe,
A solemn hush of soul, meek he beholds
All things of terrible seeming. Yea, and there,
Unshudder'd, unaghasted, he shall view90
E'en the Seven Spirits, who in the latter day
Will shower hot pestilence on the sons of men.
For he shall know, his heart shall understand,
That kindling with intenser Deity
They from the Mercy-seat—like rosy flames,95
From God's celestial Mercy-seat will flash,
And at the wells of renovating Love
Fill their Seven Vials with salutary wrath,
To sickly Nature more medicinal
That what soft balm the weeping good man pours100
Into the lone despoiled trav'ller's wounds!
Thus from th' Elect, regenerate thro' faith,
Pass the dark Passions and what thirsty Cares
Drink up the spirit and the dim regards
Self-center. Lo they vanish! or acquire 105
New names, new features—by supernal grace
Enrob'd with Light, and naturaliz'd in Heaven.
As when a Shepherd on a vernal morn
Thro' some thick fog creeps tim'rous with slow foot,
Darkling he fixes on th' immediate road 110
His downward eye: all else of fairest kind
Hid or deform'd. But lo, the bursting Sun!
Touched by th' enchantment of that sudden beam
Strait the black vapor melteth, and in globes
Of dewy glitter gems each plant and tree:115
On every leaf, on every blade it hangs!
Dance glad the new-born intermingling rays.
And wide around the landscape streams with glory!
There is one Mind, one omnipresent Mind,
Omnific. His most holy name is Love.120
Truth of subliming import! with the which
Who feeds and saturates his constant soul,
He from his small particular orbit flies
With blest outstarting! From himself he flies,
Stands in the Sun, and with no partial gaze125
Views all creation, and he loves it all,
And blesses it, and calls it very good!
This is indeed to dwell with the most High!
Cherubs and rapture-trembling Seraphim
Can press no nearer to th' Almighty's Throne.130
But that we roam unconscious, or with hearts
Unfeeling of our universal Sire,
And that in his vast family no Cain
Injures uninjur'd (in her best-aim'd blow
Victorious Murder a blind Suicide)135
Haply for this some younger Angel now
Looks down on Human Nature: and, behold!
A sea of blood bestrew'd with wrecks, where mad
Embattling Interests on each other rush
With unhelm'd Rage!140
'Tis the sublime of man,
Our noontide Majesty, to know ourselves
Parts and proportions of one wond'rous whole:
This fraternizes man, this constitutes
Our charities and bearings. But 'tis God 145
Diffus'd thro' all, that doth make all one whole;
This the word superstition, him except,
Aught to desire, Supreme Reality!
The plenitude and permanence of bliss!
O Fiends of Superstition! not that oft150
Your pitiless rites have floated with man's blood
The skull-pil'd Temple, not for this shall wrath
Thunder against you from the Holy One!
But (whether ye th' unclimbing Bigot mock
With secondary Gods, or if more pleas'd155
Ye petrify th' imbrothell'd Atheist's heart,
The Atheist your worst slave) I o'er some plain
Peopled with Death, and to the silent Sun
Steaming with tyrant-murder'd multitudes;
Or where mid groans and shrieks loud-laughing trade160
More hideous packs his bales of living anguish;
I will raise up a mourning, O ye Fiends!
And curse your spells, that film the eye of Faith;
Hiding the present God, whose presence lost,
The moral world's cohesion, we become165
An Anarchy of Spirits! Toy-bewitch'd,
Made blind by lusts, disherited of soul
No common center Man, no common fire
Knoweth! A sordid solitary thing,
Mid countless brethren with a lonely heart170
Thro' courts and cities the smooth Savage roams
Feeling himself, his own low Self the whole,
When he by sacred sympathy might make
The whole one self! self, that no alien knows!
Self, far diffus'd as Fancy's wing can travel!175
Self, spreading still! Oblivious of it's own,
Yet all of all possessing! This is Faith!
This the Messiah's destin'd victory!
But first offences needs must come! Even now
(Black Hell laughs horrible—to hear the scoff!)180
Thee to defend, meek Galilæan! Thee
And thy mild laws of Love unutterable,
Mistrust and Enmity have burst the bands
Of social Peace; and list'ning Treachery lurks
With pious fraud to snare a brother's life;185
And childless widows o'er the groaning land
Wail numberless; and orphans weep for bread!
Thee to defend, dear Saviour of Mankind!
Thee, Lamb of God! Thee, blameless Prince of Peace!
From all sides rush the thirsty brood of war!190
Austria, and that foul Woman of the North,
The lustful Murd'ress of her wedded Lord!
And he, connatural Mind! whom (in their songs
So bards of elder time had haply feign'd)
Some Fury fondled in her hate to man,195
Bidding her serpent hair in tortuous folds
Lick his young face, and at his mouth imbreathe
Horrible sympathy! And leagued with these
Each petty German Princeling, nurs'd in gore!
Soul-harden'd barterers of human blood! 200
Death's prime Slave-merchants! Scorpion-whips of Fate!
Nor least in savagery of holy zeal,
Apt for the yoke, the race degenerate,
Whom Britain erst had blush'd to call her sons!
Thee to defend the Moloch Priest prefers205
The prayer of hate, and bellows to the herd
That Deity, accomplice Deity
In the fierce jealousy of waken'd wrath
Will go forth with our armies and our fleets
To scatter the red ruin on their foes! 210
O blasphemy! to mingle fiendish deeds
With blessedness! Lord of unsleeping Love,
From everlasting Thou! We shall not die.
These, even these, in mercy didst thou form,
Teachers of Good thro' Evil, by brief wrong215
Making Truth lovely, and her future might
Magnetic o'er the fix'd untrembling heart.
In the primeval age a dateless while
The vacant Shepherd wander'd with his flock
Pitching his tent where'er the green grass wav'd.220
But soon Imagination conjur'd up
An host of new desires: with busy aim,
Each for himself, Earth's eager children toil'd.
So Property began, twy-streaming fount,
Whence Vice and Virtue flow, honey and gall.225
Hence the soft couch, and many-colour'd robe,
The timbrel, and arch'd dome and coftly feast
With all th' inventive arts, that nurs'd the soul
To forms of beauty, and by sensual wants
Unsensualiz'd the mind, which in the means230
Learnt to forget the grossness of the end,
Best-pleasur'd with it's own activity.
And hence Disease that withers manhood's arm,
The dagger'd Envy, spirit-quenching Want,
Warriors, and Lords, and Priests—all the sore ills 235
That vex and desolate our mortal life.
Wide-wasting ills! yet each th' immediate source
Of mightier good. Their keen necessities
To ceaseless action goading human thought
Have made Earth's reasoning animal her Lord;240
And the pale-featur'd Sage's trembling hand
Strong as an host of armed Deities!
From Avarice thus, from Luxury and War
Sprang heavenly Science: and from Science Freedom.
O'er waken'd realms Philosophers and Bards245
Spread in concentric circles: they whose souls
Conscious of their high dignities from God
Brook not Wealth's rivalry; and they who long
Enamour'd with the charms of order hate
Th' unseemly disproportion; and whoe'er250
Turn with mild sorrow from the victor's car
And the low puppetry of thrones, to muse
On that blest triumph, when the patriot Sage
Call'd the red lightnings from th' o'er-rushing cloud
And dash'd the beauteous Terrors on the earth 255
Smiling majestic. Such a phalanx ne'er
Measur'd firm paces to the calming sound
Of Spartan flute! These on the fated day,
When flung to rage by Pity eloquent men
Have rous'd with pealing voice th' unnumber'd tribes260
That toil and groan and bleed, hungry and blind,
These hush'd awhile with patient eye serene
Shall watch the mad careering of the storm;
Then o'er the wild and wavy chaos rush
And tame th' outrageous mass, with plastic might265
Moulding Confusion to such perfect forms,
As erst were wont, bright visions of the day!
To float before them, when, the Summer noon,
Beneath some arch'd romantic rock reclin'd
They felt the sea-breeze lift their youthful locks,270
Or in the month of blossoms, at mild eve,
Wandering with desultory feet inhal'd
The wafted perfumes, and the flocks and woods
And many-tinted streams and setting Sun
With all his gorgeous company of clouds275
Extatic gaz'd! then homeward as they stray'd
Cast the sad eye to earth, and inly mus'd
Why there was Misery in a world so fair.
Ah far remov'd from all that glads the sense,
From all that softens or ennobles Man,280
The wretched Many! Bent beneath their loads
They gape at pageant Power, nor recognize
Their cots' transmuted plunder! From the tree
Of Knowledge, ere the vernal sap had risen,
Rudely disbranch'd! O blest Society!285
Fitliest depictur'd by some sun-scorcht waste,
Where oft majestic thro' the tainted noon
The Simoom fails, before whose purple pomp
Who falls not prostrate dies! And where, by night,
Fast by each precious fountain on green herbs 290
The lion couches; or hyæna dips
Deep in the lucid stream his bloody jaws;
Or serpent rolls his vast moon-glittering bulk,
Caught in whose monstrous twine Behemoth yells,
His bones loud crashing!295
O ye numberless,
Whom foul Oppression's ruffian gluttony
Drives from life's plenteous feast! O thou poor Wretch,
Who nurs'd in darkness and made wild by want
Dost roam for prey, yea thy unnatural hand300
Liftest to deeds of blood! O pale-eyed Form,
The victim of seduction, doom'd to know
Polluted nights and days of blasphemy;
Who in loath'd orgies with lewd wassailers
Must gaily laugh, while thy remember'd Home305
Gnaws like a viper at thy secret heart!
O aged Women! ye who weekly catch
The morsel tost by law-forc'd Charity,
And die so slowly, that none call it murder!
O loathly-visag'd Suppliants! ye that oft310
Rack'd with disease, from the unopen'd gate
Of the full Lazar-house, heart-broken crawl!
O ye to scepter'd Glory's gore-drench'd field
Forc'd or ensnar'd, who swept by Slaughter's scythe,
(Stern nurse of Vultures!) steam in putrid heaps!315
O thou poor Widow, who in dreams dost view
Thy Husband's mangled corse, and from short doze
Start'st with a shriek: or in thy half-thatch'd cot
Wak'd by the wintry night-storm, wet and cold,
Cow'rest o'er thy screaming baby! Rest awhile,320
Children of Wretchedness! More groans must rise,
More blood must steam, or ere your wrongs be full.
Yet is the day of Retribution nigh:
The Lamb of God hath open'd the fifth seal:
And upward rush on swiftest wing of fire325
Th' innumerable multitude of Wrongs
By man on man inflicted! Rest awhile,
Children of Wretchedness! The hour is nigh:
And lo! the Great, the Rich, the Mighty Men,
The Kings and the Chief Captains of the World,330
With all that fix'd on high like stars of Heaven
Shot baleful influence, shall be cast to earth,
Vile and down-trodden, as the untimely fruit
Shook from the fig-tree by a sudden storm.
Ev'n now the storm begins: each gentle name,335
Faith and meek Piety, with fearful joy
Tremble far-off—for lo! the Giant Frenzy
Uprooting empires with his whirlwind arm
Mocketh high Heaven; burst hideous from the cell
Where the old Hag, unconquerable, huge,340
Creation's eyeless drudge, black Ruin, sits
Nursing th' impatient earthquake.
Pure Faith! meek Piety! The abhorred Form
Whose scarlet robe was stiff with earthly pomp,345
Who drank iniquity in cups of gold,
Whose names were many and all blasphemous,
Hath met the horrible judgement! Whence that cry?
The mighty army of foul Spirits shriek'd,
Disherited of earth! For She hath fallen350
On whose black front was written Mystery;
She that reel'd heavily, whose wine was blood;
She that work'd whoredom with the Dæmon Power
And from the dark embrace all evil things
Brought forth and nurtured: mitred Atheism;355
And patient Folly who on bended knee
Gives back the steel that stabb'd him; and pale Fear
Hunted by ghastlier terrors than surround
Moon-blasted Madness when he yells at midnight!
Return pure Faith! return meek Piety!360
The kingdoms of the world are your's: each heart
Self-govern'd, the vast family of Love
Rais'd from the common earth by common toil
Enjoy the equal produce. Such delights
As float to earth, permitted visitants!365
When on some solemn jubilee of Saints
The sapphire-blazing gates of Paradise
Are thrown wide open, and thence voyage forth
Detachments wild of seraph-warbled airs,
And odors snatch'd from beds of amaranth,370
And they, that from the chrystal river of life
Spring up on freshen'd wing, ambrosial gales!
The favor'd good man in his lonely walk
Perceives them, and his silent spirit drinks
Strange bliss which he shall recognize in heaven.375
And such delights, such strange beatitude
Seize on my young anticipating heart
When that blest future rushes on my view!
For in his own and in his Father's might
The Saviour comes! While as to solemn strains380
The thousand years lead up their mystic dance,
Old Ocean claps his hands! the Desert shouts!
And soft gales wafted from the haunts of Spring
Melt the primœval North! The mighty Dead
Rise to new life, whoe'er from earliest time385
With conscious zeal had urg'd Love's wond'rous plan
Coadjutors of God. To Milton's trump
The odorous groves of earth reparadis'd
Unbosom their glad echoes: inly hush'd
Adoring Newton his serener eye390
Raises to heaven: and he of mortal kind
Wisest, he first who mark'd the ideal tribes
Down the fine fibres from the sentient brain
Roll subtly-surging. Pressing on his steps
Lo! Priestley there, Patriot, and Saint, and Sage,395
Whom that my fleshly eye hath never seen
A childish pang of impotent regret
Hath thrill'd my heart. Him from his native land
Statesmen blood-stain'd and Priests idolatrous
By dark lies mad'ning the blind multitude 400
Drove with vain hate: calm, pitying he retir'd,
And mus'd expectant on these promis'd years.
O Years! the blest preeminence of Saints!
Sweeping before the rapt prophetic Gaze
Bright as what glories of the jasper throne405
Stream from the gorgeous and face-veiling plumes
Of Spirits adoring! Ye, blest Years! must end,
And all beyond is darkness! Heights most strange!
Whence Fancy falls, fluttering her idle wing.
For who of woman born may paint the hour,410
When seiz'd in his mid course the Sun shall wane
Making noon ghastly! Who of woman born
May image in his wildly-working thought,
How the black-visag'd, red-eyed Fiend outstretcht
Beneath th' unsteady feet of Nature groans415
In feverish slumbers—destin'd then to wake,
When fiery whirlwinds thunder his dread name
And Angels shout, Destruction! How his arm
The mighty Spirit lifting high in air
Shall swear by Him, the ever-living One,420
Time is no more!
Believe thou, O my soul,
Life is a vision shadowy of Truth,
And vice, and anguish, and the wormy grave,
Shapes of a dream! The veiling clouds retire,425
And lo! the Throne of the redeeming God
Forth flashing unimaginable day
Wraps in one blaze earth, heaven, and deepest hell.
Contemplant Spirits! ye that hover o'er
With untir'd gaze th' immeasurable fount 430
Ebullient with creative Deity!
And ye of plastic power, that interfus'd
Roll thro' the grosser and material mass
In organizing surge! Holies of God!
(And what if Monads of the infinite mind?)435
I haply journeying my immortal courfe
Shall sometime join your mystic choir! Till then
I discipline my young noviciate thought
In ministeries of heart-stirring song,
And aye on Meditation's heaven-ward wing440
Soaring aloft I breathe th' empyreal air
Of Love, omnific, omnipresent Love,
Whose day-spring rises glorious in my soul
As the great Sun, when he his influence
Sheds on the frost-bound waters—The glad stream445
Flows to the ray and warbles as it flows.
- David Hartley.