« PreviousContinue »
And as those nightly tapers disappear
Canst thou by reason more of godhead know
Those giant wits in happier ages born,
Nor did remorse to expiate sin prescribe : Whether some soul encompassing this ball
But slew their fellow-creatures for a bribe : Unmade, unmoy'd; yet making, moving all ; The guiltless victim groan'd for their offence; Or various atoms, interfering dance,
And cruelty and blood was penitence. Leap'd into form, the noble work of chance; If sheep and oxen could atone for men, Or this great all was from eternity;
Ah! at how cheap a rate the rich might sin! Not ev’n the Stagirite himself could see ;
And great oppressors might Heaven's wrath beguile And Epicurus guess'd as well as he ;
By offering his own creatures for a spoil ! As blindly grop'd they for a future stale;
Dar'st thou, poor worm, offend Infinity? As rashly judg'd of providence and fate :
And must the terms of peace be given by thee? But least of all could their endeavors find Then thou art Justice in the last appeal; What most concern'd the good of human-kind : Thy easy God instructs thee to rebel : For happiness was never to be found;
And, like a king remote and weak, must take But vanish'd from them like enchanted ground. What satisfaction thou art pleas'd to make. One thought content the good to be enjoy’d;
But if there be a power too just and strong, This every little accident destroy'd :
To wink at crimes, and bear unpunish'd wrong. The wiser madmen did for virtue toil;
Look humbly upward, see his will disclose A thorny, or at best a barren soil :
The forfeit first, and then the fine impose :
See God descending in thy human frame;
And all his righteousness devolv'd on thee.
The deist thinks he stands on firmer ground; Of man is made against Omnipotence, Cries eupexa, the mighty secret's found :
Some price that bears proportion must be paid , God is that spring of good ; supreme, and best ; And infinite with infinite be weigh’d. We made to serve, and in that service blest. See then the deist lost: remorse for vice, If so, some rules of worship must be given, Not paid ; or, paid, inadequate in price: Distributed alike to all by Heaven:
What farther means can reason now direct, Else God were partial, and to some denied Or what relief from human wit expect ? The means his justice should for all provide. That shows us sick ; and sadly are we sure This general worship is to praise and pray:
Still to be sick, till Heaven reveal the cure : One part to borrow blessings, one to pay :
If then Heaven's will must needs be understood, And when frail Nature slides into offence, Which must, if we want cure, and Heaven be good, The sacrifice for crimes is penitence.
Let all records of will reveal'd be shown; Yet, since the effects of providence, we find, With Scripture all in equal balance thrown, Are variously dispens'd to human-kind;
And our one sacred book will be that one. That Vice triumphs, and Virtue suffers here, Proof needs not here ; for whether we compare A brand that sovereign justice cannot bear; That impious, idle, superstitious ware Our reason prompts us to a future state ;
Of rites, lustrations, offerings, which before, The last appeal from fortune and from fate : In various ages, various countries bore, Where God's all-righteous ways will be declar'd; With Christian faith and virtues, we shall find The bad meet punishment, the good reward. None answering the great ends of human-kind
Thus man by his own strength to Heaven would soar, But this one rule of life, that shows us best And would not be oblig'd to God for more. How God may be appeas’d, and mortals blest. Vain wretched creature, how art thou misled Whether from length of time its worth we draw, To think thy wit these godlike notions bred ! The word is scarce more ancient than the law : These truths are not the product of thy mind, Heaven's early care prescrib'd for every age; But dropt from Heaven, and of a nobler kind. First, in the soul, and after, in the page. Reveal'd religion first inform’d thy sight,
Or, whether more abstractedly we look, And reason saw not till faith sprung to light. Or on the writers, or the written book, Hence all thy natural worship takes the source : Whence, but from Heaven,could men unskill'd in arts, "Tis revelation what thou think'st discourse. In several ages born, in several parts, Else how com'st thou to see these truths so clear, Weave such agreeing truths ? or how, or why, Which so obscure to heathens did appear ? Should all conspire to cheat us with a lie? Not Plato these, nor Aristotle found :
Unask'd their pains, ungrateful their advice, Nor he whose wisdom oracles renown'd.
Starving their gain, and martyrdom their price. Hast thou a wit so deep, or so sublime,
If on the book itself we cast our view, Or canst thou lower dive, or higher climb? Concurrent heathens prove the story true :
The doctrine, miracles ; which must convince, Then let us either think he meant to say
Then for the style, majestic and divine, Flew high; and as his Christian fury rose,
Damn'd all for heretics who durst oppose. Commanding words; whose force is still the same Thus far my charity this path has tried ; As the first fiat that produc'd our franja,
A much unskilful, but well-meaning guide: All faiths beside, or did by arms ascend ,
Yet what they are, ev'n these crude thoughts were bred Or sense indulg'd has made mankind their friend : By reading that which better thou hast read. This only doctrine does our lusts oppose :
Thy matchless author's work : which thou, my friend, í Unfed by Nature's soil, in which it grows; By well translating better dost commend :
Cross to our interests, curbing sense and sin; Those youthful hours which, of thy equals most
And the severe delights of truth enjoy'd.
Witness this weighty book, in which appears Transcending nature, but to laws divine;
The crabbed toil of many thoughtful years, Which in that sacred volume are contain'd; Spent by the author, in the sisting care Sufficient, clear, and for that use ordain'd ?
Of rabbins' old sophisticated ware But stay: the deist here will urge anew,
From gold divine; which he who well can sort No supernatural worship can be true;
May afterwards make algebra a sport. Because a general law is that alone
A treasure, which is country-curates buy, Which must to all, and everywhere, be known: They Junius and Tremellius may defy: A style so large as not this book can claim, Save pains in various readings, and translations ; Nor aught that bears reveal'd religion's name. And without Hebrew make inost learn'd quotations. "Tis said the sound of a Messiah's birth
A work so full with various learning fraught, Is gone through all the habitable Earth :
So nicely ponder'd, yet so strongly wrought, But still that text must be confin'd alone
As Nature's height and Art's lasi hand requir'd: To what was then inhabited and known :
As much as man could compass, uninspir'd. And what provision could from thence accrue Where we may see what errors have been made To Indian souls, and worlds discover'd new? Both in the copier's and translator's trade : In other parts it helps, that, ages past,
How Jewish, popish, interests have prevail'd, The Scriptures there were known, and were embrac'd, And where infallibility has fail'd. Till sin spread once again the shades of night: For some, who have his secret meaning guess d, What's that to these, who never saw the light? Have found our author not too much a priest. Of all objections, this indeed is chief
For fashion-sake he seems to have recourse
To pope, and councils, and tradition's force :
Could not but find the weakness of the new :
If God's own people, who of God before Much more may strangers who ne'er heard his name. Knew what we know, and had been promis'd more, And though no name be for salvation known, In fuller terms, of Heaven's assisting care, But that of his eternal Son's alone;
And who did neither time nor study spare Who knows how far transcending goodness can To keep this book untainted, unperplext, Extend the merits of that Son to man?
Let in gross errors to corrupt the text, Who knows what reasons may his mercy lead ; Omitted paragraphs, embroil'd the sense, Or ignorance invincible may plead ?
With vain traditions stopt the gaping fence, Not only charity bids hope the best,
Which every common hand pull’d up with ease. But more the great apostle has exprest :
What safety from such brushwood-helps as these ? “ That if the Gentiles, whom no law inspir'd, If written words from time are not secur’d, By nature did what was by law requir'd;
How can we think have oral sounds endur'd ? They, who the written rule had never known, Which thus transmitted, if one mouth has fail'd, Were to themselves both rule and law alone : Immortal lies on ages are entail'd : To nature's plain indictment they shall plead ; And that some such have been, is prov'd too plain, And by their conscience be condemnd or freed.” If we consider interest, church, and gain. Most righteous doom! because a rule reveal'd O but, says one, tradition set aside, Is none to those from whom it was conceal'd. Where can we hope for an unerring guide ? Then those who follow'd reason's dictates right; For since th' original Scripture has been lost, Liv'd up, and lifted high their natural light; All copies disagreeing, maim'd the most, With Socrates may see their Maker's face, Or Christian faith can have no certain ground, While thousand rubric-martyrs want a place. Or truth in church-tradition must be found. Nor does it balk my charity, to find
Such an omniscient church we wish indeed ; Th' Egyptian bishop of another mind:
'Twere worth both Testaments; cast in the creed For though his creed eternal truth contains, But if this mother be a guide so sure, "Tis hard for man to doom to endless pains
As can all doubts resolve, all truth secure,
Then her infallibility, as well
Restore lost canon with as little pains,
But first they would assume, with wondrous art, As truly explicate what still remains :
Themselves to be the whole, who are but part Which yet no council dare pretend to do; Of that vast frame the church ; yet grant they were Unless like Esdras they could write it new : The handers-down, can they from thence infer Strange confidence still to interpret true,
A right t'interpret? or would they alone, Yet not be sure that all they have explain'd Who brought the present, claim it for their own? Is in the blest original contain’d.
The book's a common largess to mankind; More safe, and much more modest 'tis, to say Not more for them than every man design'd: God would not leave mankind without a way: The welcome news is in the letter found; And that the Scriptures, though not everywhere The carrier's not commission'd to expound. Free from corruption, or entire, or clear,
It speaks itself, and what it does contain, Are uncorrupt, sufficient, clear, entire,
In all things needful to be known is plain. In all things which our needful faith require. In times o'ergrown with rust and ignorance, If others in the same glass better see,
A gainful trade their clergy did advance : "Tis for themselves they look, but not for me : When want of learning kept the laymen low, For my salvation must its doom receive,
And none but priests were authoriz'd to know: Not from what others, but what I believe. When what small knowledge was, in them did dwell; Must all tradition then be set aside ?
And he a god who could but read and spell ; This to affirm, were ignorance or pride.
Then mother-church did mightily prevail : Are there not many points, some neerful sure She parcel'd out the Bible by retail : To saving faith, that Scripture leaves obscure ? But still expounded what she sold or gave; Which every sect will wrest a several way, To keep it in her power to damn and save : For what one sect interprets, all sects may: Scripture was scarce; and, as the market went, We hold, and say we prove from Scripture plain, Poor laymen took salvation on content; That Christ is God; the bold Socinian
As needy men take money good or bad : From the same Scripture urges he's but man. God's word they had not, but the priest's they had. Now what appeal can end th' important suit? Yet whate'er false conveyances they made, Both parts talk loudly, but the rule is mute. The lawyer still was certain to be paid.
Shall I speak plain, and in a nation free In those dark times they learn'd their knack so well, Assume an honest layman's liberty ?
That by long use they grew infallible : I think, according to my little skill,
At last a knowing age began t'inquire To my own mother-church submitting still, If they the book, or that did them inspire : That many have been sav'd, and many may, And, making narrower search, they found, though Who never heard this question brought in play
Consulted soberly his private good ;
"Tis true, my friend, and far be flattery hence, With the whole tenor of the work divine :
This good had full as bad a consequence : And plainliest points to Heaven's reveal'd design; The book thus put in every vulgar hand, Which exposition flows from genuine sense, Which each presum'd he best could understand, And which is forc'd hy wit and eloquence. The common rule was made the common prey ; Not that tradition's parts are useless here: And at the mercy of the rabble lay. When general, old, disinterested, clear:
The tender page with horny fists was gallid; That ancient fathers thus expound the page, And he was gifted most that loudest bawlid : Gives truth the reverend majesty of age :
The spirit gave the doctoral degree: Confirms its force by biding every test ;
And every member of a company For best authorities, next rules, are best.
Was of his trade, and of the Bible free. And still the nearer to the spring we go
Plain truths enough for needful use they found; More limpid, more unsoil'd, the waters flow, But men would still be itching to expound: Thus first traditions were a proof alone;
Each was ambitious of th' obscurest place, Could we be certain such they were, so known: No measure ta’en from knowledge, all from grace. But since some flaws in long descent may be, Study and pains were now no more their care ; They make not truth, but probability.
Texts were explain'd by fasting and by prayer: Ev'n Arius and Pelagius durst provoke
This was the fruit the private spirit brought; To what the centuries preceding spoke.
Occasion'd by great zeal and little thought. Such difference is there in an oft-told tale : While crowds unlearn'd, with rude devotion warm, But truth by its own sinews will prevail.
About the sacred viands buzz and swarm. Tradition written therefore more commends The fly-blown text creates a crawling brood; Authority, than what from voice descends : And turns to maggots what was meant for food. And this, as perfect as its kind can be,
A thousand daily sects rise up and die; Rolls down to us the sacred history:
A thousand more the perish'd race supply: Which, from the universal church receiv’d, So all we make of Heaven's discover'd will, Is tried, and after, for itself believ'd.
Is, not to have it, or to use it ill. The partial papists would infer from hence The danger's much the same ; on several shelves Cheir church, in last resort, should judge the sense. If others wreck us, or we wreck ourselves.
What then remains, but, waving each extreme, Ere canvas yet was strain'd, before the grace The tides of ignorance and pride to stem?
Of blended colors found their use and place,
Or cypress tablets first receiv'd a face.
As man grew polish'd, picture was enhanc'd :
But all came forward in one common view; To learn what unsuspected ancients say:
No point of light was known, no bounds of art; For 'tis not likely we should higher soar
When light was there, it knew not to depart,
Not languish'd, and insensibly decay'd.
Rome rais'd not art, but barely kept alive, If after all they stand suspected still,
And with old Greece unequally did strive : For no man's faith depends upon his will ; Till Goths and Vandals, a rude northern race, 'Tis some relief, that points not clearly known Did all the matchless monuments deface. Without much hazard may be let alone :
Then all the Muses in one ruin lie, And, after hearing what our church can say, And rhyme began t'enervate poetry. If still our reason runs another way,
Thus, in a stupid military state, That private reason 'tis more just to curb,
The pen and pencil find an equal fate. Than by disputes the public peace disturb.
Flat faces, such as would disgrace a screen,
Unrais'd, unrounded, were the rude delight
At length, in Raphael's age, at once they rise, For while from sacred truth I do not swerve, Stretch all their limbs, and open all their eyes. Tom Sternhold's or Tom Shadwell's rhymes will serve. Thence rose the Roman, and the Lombard line :
One color'd best, and one did best design.
Thy genius gives thee both ; where true design,
Postures unforc'd, and lively colors, join.
Likeness is ever there ; but still the best,
Where light, to shadne descending, plays, not strives, ONCE I beheld the fairest of her kind,
Dies by degrees, and by degrees revives. And still the sweet idea charms my mind : Of various parts a perfect whole is wrought : True, she was dumb; for nature gaz'd so long, Thy pictures think, and we divine their thought. Pleas'd with her work, that she forgot her tongue; Shakspeare, thy gift, I place before my sight: But, smiling, said, “ She still shall gain the prize ; With awe, I ask his blessing ere I write; I only have transferr’d it to her eyes."
With reverence look on his majestic face; Such are thy pictures, Kneller: such thy skill, Proud to be less, but of his godlike race, That Nature seems obedient to thy will ;
His soul inspires me, while thy praise I write,
Contemn the bad, and emulate the best.
When most they rail, know then, they envy most.
Like women's anger, impotent and loud. Yet, when we walk, they shoot before the sight; While they their barren industry deplore, With us approach, retire, arise, and fall ;
Pass on secure, and mind the goal before. Nothing themselves, and yet expressing all. Old as she is, my Muse shall march behind, Such are thy pieces, imitating life
Bear off the blast, and intercept the wind. So near, they almost conquer in the strife ; Our arts are sisters, though not twins in birth : And from their animated canvas came,
For hymns were sung in Eden's happy earth : Demanding souls, and loosen'd from the frame. But oh, the painter Muse, though last in place,
Prometheus, were he here, would cast away Has seiz'd the blessing first, like Jacob's race. His Adam, and refuse a soul to clay ;
Apelles' art an Alexander found ; And either would thy noble work inspire,
And Raphael did with Leo's gold abound; Or think it warm enough without his fire.
But Homer was with barren laurel crown'd. But vulgar hands may vulgar likeness raise ; Thou hadst thy Charles awhile, and so had I, This is the least attendant on thy praise :
But pass we that unpleasing image by. From hence the rudiments of art began;
Rich in thyself, and of thyself divine ; A coal, or chalk, first imitated man:
All pilgrims come and offer at thy shrine. Perhaps the shadow, taken on a wall,
A graceful truth thy pencil can command; Gave outlines to the rude original ;
The fair themselves go mended from thy hand.
Likeness appears in every lineament;
THE COCK AND THE FOX:
OR, THE TALE OF THE NUN'S PRIEST. A nobler beauty in thy piece appears.
There liv'd, as authors tell, in days of yore, So warm thy work, so glows the generous frame, A widow, somewhat old, and very pocz: Flesh looks less living in the lovely dame.
Deep in her cell her cottage lonely stood, Thou paint'st as we describe, improving still, Well thatch'd and under covert of a wood. When on wild Nature we ingraft our skill; This dowager, on whom my tale I found, But not creating beauties at our will.
Since last she laid her husband in the ground, But poets are confin'd in narrower space, A simple sober life, in patience, led, To speak the language of their native place: And had but just enough to buy her bread: The painter widely stretches his command ; But huswifing the little Heaven had lent, Thy pencil speaks the tongue of every land. She duly paid a groat for quarter rent; From hence, my friend, all climates are your own, And pinch'd her belly, with her daughters two, Nor can you forseit, for you hold of none.
To bring the year about with much ado. All nations all immunities will give
The cattle in her homestead were three sows, To make you theirs, where'er you please to live; An ewe call d Mallie, and three brinded cows. And not seven cities, but the world would strive. Her parlor-window stuck with herbs around,
Sure some propitious planet then did smile, Of savory smell ; and rushes strew'd the ground. When first you were conducted to this isle : A maple-dresser in her hall she had, Our genius brought you here, t'enlarge our fame : On which full many a slender meal she made ; For your good stars are everywhere the same. For no delicious morsel pass'd her throat; Thy matchless hand, of every region free,
According to her cloth she cut her coat:
No poignant sauce she knew, nor costly treat,
Before the day was done, her work she sped,
If yet thou hast not reach'd their high degree, Her dancing was not hinder'd by the gout. "Tis only wanting to this age, not thee.
Her poverty was glad ; her heart content ; Thy genius, bounded by the times, like mine, Nor knew she what the spleen or vapors meant. Drudges on petty draughts, nor dare design
Of wine she never tasted through the year, A more exalted work, and more divine.
But white and black was all her homely cheer: For what a song, or senseless opera,
Brown bread, and milk, (but first she skimm'd her Is to the living labor of a play ;
bowls) Or what a play to Virgil's work would be,
And rashers of sing'd bacon on the coals.
On holy-days an egg, or two at most ;
For crowing loud, the noble Chanticleer;
So hight her cock, whose singing did surpass Good Heaven! that sots and knaves should be so The merry notes of organs at the mass. vain,
More certain was the crowing of the cock To wish their vile resemblance may remain! To number hours, than is an abbey-clock; And stand recorded, at their own request,
And sooner than the matin-bell was rung, To future days, a libel or a jest!
He clapp'd his wings upon his roost, and sung : Else should we see your noble pencil trace For when degrees fifteen ascended right, Our unities of action, time, and place:
By sure instinct he knew 'twas one at night. A whole compos’d of parts, and those the best, High was his comb, and coral red withal, With every various character exprest;
In dents embattled like a castle wall; Heroes at large, and at a nearer view:
His bill was raven-black, and shone like jet ; Less, and at distance, an ignobler crew.
Blue were his legs, and orient were his feet: While all the figures in one action join,
White were his nails, like silver to behold, As tending to complete the main design.
His body glittering like the burnish'd gold. More cannot be by mortal art exprest;
This gentle cock, for solace of his life, But venerable age shall add the rest,
Six misses had, besides his lawful wife; For Time shall with his ready pencil stand; Scandal, that spares no king, though ne'er so good, Retouch your figures with his ripening hand; Says, they were all of his own flesh and blood, Mellow your colors, and embrown the teint; His sisters both by sire and mother's side ; Add every grace, which Time alone can grant; And sure their likeness show'd them near allied. To future ages shall your fame convey,
But make the worst, the monarch did no more And give more beauties than he takes away. Than all the Ptolemys had done before :
When incest is for interest of a nation,