Poetical Works of John Oldham/Paraphrase upon the Hymn of St. Ambrose

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PARAPHRASE UPON THE HYMN OF ST. AMBROSE.

AN ODE.

i

TO Thee, God, we thy just praises sing,

To Thee, we Thy great name rehearse:
We are Thy vassals, and this humble tribute bring
To Thee, acknowledged only Lord and King,
Acknowledged sole and sovereign monarch of the universe!
All parts of this wide universe adore,
Eternal Father! Thy Almighty power;
The skies, and stars, fire, air, and earth, and sea,
With all their numerous nameless progeny,
Confess, and their due homage pay to Thee;
For why? Thou spak'st the word, and mad'st them all from nothing be.
To Thee all angels, all Thy glorious court on high,
Seraph and cherub, the nobility,

And whatsoever spirits be
Of lesser honour, less degree,
To Thee, in heavenly lays,
They sing loud anthems of immortal praise:
Still Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Hosts, they cry;
This is their business, this their sole employ,
And thus they spend their long and blessed eternity.

2

Farther than nature's utmost shores and limits stretch,

The streams of Thy unbounded glory reach;
Beyond the straits of scanty time and place,
Beyond the ebbs and flows of matter's narrow seas
They reach, and fill the ocean of eternity and space.
Infused like some vast mighty soul,
Thou dost inform and actuate this spacious whole;
Thy unseen hand does the well-jointed frame sustain,
Which else would to its primitive nothing shrink again.
But most Thou dost Thy majesty display
In the bright realms of everlasting day;
There is Thy residence, there dost Thou reign,
There on a state of dazzling lustre sit,
There shine in robes of pure refined light;
Where sun's coarse rays are but a foil and stain,
And refuse stars the sweepings of Thy glorious train.

3

There all Thy family of menial saints,

Huge colonies of blessed inhabitants,
Which death through countless ages has transplanted hence,
Now on Thy throne for ever wait,
And fill the large retinue of Thy heavenly state.
There reverend prophets stand, a pompous goodly show,
Of old Thy envoys extraordinary here,
Who brought Thy sacred embassies of peace and war,
That, to the obedient, this, the rebel world below.
By them, the mighty twelve have their abode,
Companions once of the incarnate suffering God,

Partakers now of all His triumphs there,
As they on earth did in His miseries share.
Of martyrs next, a crowned and glorious choir,
Illustrious heroes who have gained
Through dangers, and red seas of blood, the promised land,
And passed, through ordeal flames, to thy eternity in fire.
There, all make up the concert of Thy praise,
To Thee they sing, and never cease,
Loud Hymns and Hallelujahs of applause;
An angel-laureat does the sense and strains compose,
Sense, far above the reach of mortal verse,
Strains, far above the reach of mortal ears,
And all, a Muse unglorified can fancy or rehearse.

4

Nor is this concert only kept above,

Nor is it to the blessed alone confined;
But earth, and all thy faithful here are joined,
And strive to vie with them in duty and in love;
And, though they cannot equal notes and measures raise,
Strive to return the imperfect echoes of thy praise.
They through all nations own thy glorious name,
And everywhere the great Three-One proclaim:
Thee, Father of the world! and us, and Him,
Who must mankind, whom Thou didst make, redeem;
Thee, blessèd Saviour! Thee, adored, true, only Son
To man debased, to rescue man undone;
And Thee, Eternal, Holy Power!
Who dost by grace exalted man restore
To all he lost by the old fall and sin before;
You, blessed and glorious Trinity!
Riddle to baffled knowledge and philosophy,
Which cannot comprehend the mighty mystery
Of numerous One, and the unnumbered Three!
Vast topless pile of wonders! at whose sight
Reason itself turns giddy with the height,

Above the fluttering pitch of human wit,
And all, but the strong wings of faith, that eagle's towering flight.

5

Blessed Jesu! how shall we enough adore,

Or Thy unbounded love, or Thy unbounded power?
Thou art the Prince of Heaven, thou art the Almighty's heir,
Thou art the eternal offspring of the Eternal Sire:
Hail Thou, the world's Redeemer! whom to free
From bonds of death and endless misery,
Thou thought'st it no disdain to be
Inhabiter to low mortality;
The Almighty thought it no disdain
To dwell in the pure Virgin's spotless womb,
There did the boundless Godhead, and whole heaven find room,
And a small point the circle of infinity contain.
Hail, ransom of mankind, all great, all good!
Who didst atone us with Thy blood,
Thyself the offering, altar, priest, and God!
Thyself didst die, to be our glorious bail
From death's arrests, and the eternal flaming jail;
Thyself thou gav'st, the inestimable price
To purchase and redeem our mortgaged heaven and happiness;
Thither, when Thy great work on earth had end,
When death itself was slain and dead,
And hell with all its powers captive led,
Thou didst again triumphantly ascend;
There dost Thou now by Thy great Father sit on high,
With equal glory, equal majesty,
Joint ruler of the everlasting monarchy.

6

Again from thence, Thou shalt with greater triumph come,

When the last trumpet sounds the general doom.

And, lo! Thou com'st, and, lo! the direful sound does make
Through Death's wide realm mortality awake;
And, lo! they all appear
At Thy dread bar,
And all receive the unalterable sentence there.
Affrighted nature trembles at the dismal day,
And shrinks for fear, and vanishes away;
Both that, and time, breathe out their last, and now they die,
And now are swallowed up and lost in vast eternity.
Mercy, O mercy, angry God!
Stop, stop Thy flaming wrath, too fierce to be withstood,
And quench it with the deluge of Thy blood;
Thy precious blood which was so freely spilt
To wash us from the stains of sin and guilt;
O write us with it in the book of fate,
Amongst Thy chosen and predestinate,
Free denizens of heaven, of the immortal state.

7

Guide us, O Saviour! guide Thy church below,
Both way and star, compass and pilot Thou;
Do Thou this frail and tottering vessel steer
Through life's tempestuous ocean here,
Through all the tossing waves of fear,
And dangerous rocks of black despair.
Safe, under Thee, we shall to the wished haven move,
And reach the undiscovered lands of bliss above.
Thus low, behold! to Thy great name we bow,
And thus we ever wish to grow;
Constant, as time does Thy fixed laws obey,
To Thee our worship and our thanks we pay;
With these, we wake the cheerful light,
With these, we sleep and rest invite;
And thus we spend our breath, and thus we spend our days,
And never cease to sing, and never cease to praise.

8

While thus each breast, and mouth, and ear,

Are fillèd with Thy praise, and love, and fear.
Let never sin get room, or entrance there:
Vouchsafe, O Lord, through this and all our days,
To guard us with Thy powerful grace:
Within our hearts let no usurping lust be found,
No rebel passion tumult raise,
To break Thy laws, or break our peace,
But set Thy watch of angels on the place.
And keep the tempter still from that forbidden ground.
Ever, O Lord, to us Thy mercies grant;
Never, O Lord, let us thy mercies want;
Ne'er want Thy favour, bounty, liberality,
But let them ever on us be,
Constant as our own hope and trust on Thee.
On Thee, we all our hope and trust repose!
O never leave us to our foes,
Never, O Lord, desert our cause;
Thus aided and upheld by Thee,
We'll fear no danger, death, nor misery;
Fearless we thus will stand a falling world,
With crushing ruins all about us hurled,
And face wide gaping hell, and all its slighted powers defy.