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WHY weeps the muse for England? What appears
In England's case, to move the muse to tears?
From side to side of her delightful isle
Is she not cloth'd with a perpetual smile?
Can Nature add a charm, or Art confer
A new-found luxury not seen in her?
Where under heav'n is pleasure more pursued,
Or where does cold reflection less intrude 2
Her fields a rich expanse of wavy corn,
Pour’d out from Plenty’s overflowing horn;
Ambrosial gardens, in which Art supplies
The fervour and the force of Indian skies;
Her peaceful shores, where busy Commerce waits
To pour his golden tide through all her gates;
Whom fiery suns, that scorch the russet spice
Of eastern groves, and oceans floor'd with ice,
Forbid in vain to push his daring way
To darker climes, or climes of brighter day;
Whom the winds waft where'er the billows roll,
From the world’s girdle to the frozen pole ;
The chariots bounding in her wheel-worn streets,
Her vaults below, where ev’ry vintage meets ;
Her theatres, her revels, and her sports;
The scenes to which not youth alone resorts,
But age, in spite of weakness and of pain,
Still haunts, in hope to dream of youth again;
All speak her happy; let the muse look round
From East to West, no sorrow can be found:
Or only what, in cottages confin'd,
Sighs unregarded to the passing wind.
Then wherefore weep for England 2 What appears
In England's case to move the muse to tears?
The prophet wept for Israel; wish'd his eyes
Were fountains fed with infinite supplies:
For Israel dealt in robbery and wrong;
There were the scorner's and the sland’rer's tongue;
Oaths, us’d as playthings or convenient tools,
As int’rest biass'd knaves, or fashion fools;
Adult'ry, neighing at his neighbour's door;
Oppression, lab’ring hard to grind the poor;
The partial balance, and deceitful weight;
The treach’rous smile, a mask for secret hate;
Hypocrisy, formality in pray’r,
And the dull service of the lip were there.
Her women, insolent and self-caress'd,
By Vanity’s unwearied finger dress'd,
Forgot the blush, that virgin fears impart
To modest cheeks, and borrow'd one from art;
Were just such trifles, without worth or use,
As silly pride and idleness produce;
Curl’d, scented, furbelow'd, and flounc'd around,
With feet too delicate to touch the ground,
They stretch'd the neck, and roll'd the wanton eye,
And sigh’d for ev'ry fool that flutter'd by.
He saw his people slaves to ev'ry lust,
Lewd, avaricious, arrogant, unjust;
He heard the wheels of an avenging God
Groan heavily along the distant road;
Saw Babylon set wide her two-leav’d brass
To let the military deluge pass;
Jerusalem a prey, her glory soil'd,
Her princes captive, and her treasures spoil’d:
Wept till all Israel heard his bitter cry,
Stamp'd with his foot, and smote upon his thigh :
But wept, and stamp'd, and smote his thigh in vain;
Pleasure is deaf when told of future pain,
And sounds prophetic are too rough to suit
Ears long accustom'd to the pleasing lute:
They scorn’d his inspiration and his theme,
Pronounc'd him frantic, and his fears a dream;
With self-indulgence wing’d the fleeting hours,
Till the foe found them, and down fell the tow’rs.
Long time Assyria bound them in her chain,
Till penitence had purg’d the public stain,
And Cyrus, with relenting pity mov’d,
Return'd them happy to the land they lov’d;
There, proof against prosperity, awhile
They stood the test of her ensnaring smile,
And had the grace in scenes of peace to show
The virtue they had learn’d in scenes of woe.
But man is frail, and can but ill sustain
A long immunity from grief and pain;
And after all the joys that Plenty leads,
With tiptoe step Vice silently succeeds.
When he that rul’d them with a shepherd's rod
In form a man, in dignity a God,
Came, not expected in that humble guise,
To sift and search them with unerring eyes,
He found conceal’d beneath a fair outside,
The filth of rottenness, and worm of pride;
Their piety a system of deceit,
Scripture employ'd to sanctify the cheat;
The Pharisee the dupe of his own art,
Self-idoliz’d, and yet a knave at heart.
When nations are to perish in their sins,
Tis in the church the leprosy begins;
The priest, whose office is with zeal sincere
To watch the fountain, and preserve it clear,
Carelessly nods and sleeps upon the brink,
While others poison what the flock must drink;
Or, waking at the call of lust alone,
Infuses lies and errors of his own;
His unsuspecting sheep believe it pure ;
And, tainted by the very means of cure,
Catch from each other a contagious spot,
The foul forerunner of a gen'ral rot.
Then Truth is hush'd, that Heresy may preach;
And all is trash, that Reason cannot reach:
Then God's own image on the soul impress'd
Becomes a mock’ry, and a standing jest;
And faith, the root whence only can arise
The graces of a life that wins the skies,
Loses at once all value and esteem,
Pronounc'd by graybeards a pernicious dream:
Then Ceremony leads her bigots forth,
Prepar'd to fight for shadows of no worth;
While truths, on which eternal things depend,
Find not, or hardly find, a single friend:
As soldiers watch the signal of command,
They learn to bow, to kneel, to sit, to stand;
Happy to fill religion's vacant place
§ hollow form, and gesture, and grimace.
* Such, when the †. of his church was there, *
#. and priest, the sons of Israel were;
Stiff in the letter, lax in the design
And import, of their oracles divine;
Their learning legendary, false, absurd,
And yet exalted above God's own word;
They drew a curse from an intended good,
§d up with gifts they never understood.
He judg’d them with as terrible a frown,
As if not love, but wrath, had brought him down :
Yet he was gentle as soft summer airs,
Had grace for others’ sins, but not for theirs;
Through all he spoke a noble plainness ran—
Rhet’ric is artifice, the work of man;
And tricks and turns, that fancy may devise,
Are far too mean for Him that rules the skies.
Th’ astonish’d vulgar trembled when he tore
The mask from faces never seen before ;
He stripp'd th’ impostors in the noonday sun,
Show'd that they follow’d all they seem'd to shun;
Their pray'rs made public, their excesses kept
As private as the chambers where they slept;
The temple and its holy rites profan'd
By mumm'ries, he that dwelt in it disdain’d;
Uplifted hands, that at convenient times
Could act extortion and the worst of crimes,
Wash’d with a neatness scrupulously nice,
And free from ev’ry taint but that of vice.
Judgment, however tardy, mends her pace
When Obstinacy once has conquer'd Grace.
They saw distemper heal’d, and life restor'd,
In answer to the fiat of his word;
Confess'd the wonder, and with daring tongue
Blasphem'd th’ authority from which it sprung.
They knew by sure prognostics seen on #.
The future tone and temper of the sky;
But, grave dissemblers! could not understand
That Sin let loose speaks Punishment at hand.
2- Ask now of history's authentic page,
And call up evidence from ev’ry age;
Display with busy and laborious hand
The blessings of the most indebted land;
What nation will you find, whose annals prove
So rich an int’rest in Almighty love?
Where dwell they now, where dwelt in ancient day
A people planted, water'd, blest as they?
Let Egypt's plagues and Canaan’s woes proclaim
The favours pour’d upon the Jewish name:
Their freedom purchas'd from them at the cost
Of all their hard oppressors valued most;
Their title to a country not their own
Made sure by prodigies till then unknown;
For them the states they left, made waste and void;
For them the states to which they went, destroy’d;
A cloud to measure out their march by day,
By night a fire to cheer the gloomy way;