An Epistle To An Afflicted Protestant Lady In France.

A poem by William Cowper

Madam,—A stranger’s purpose in these lays
Is to congratulate, and not to praise.
To give the creature the Creator’s due
Were sin in me, and an offence to you.
From man to man, or e’en to woman paid,
Praise is the medium of a knavish trade,
A coin by craft for folly’s use design’d,
Spurious, and only current with the blind.
The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown;
No traveller ever reach’d that blest abode,
Who found not thorns and briers in his road.
The world may dance along the flowery plain,
Cheer’d as they go by many a sprightly strain,
Where Nature has her mossy velvet spread,
With unshod feet they yet securely tread,
Admonish’d, scorn the caution and the friend,
Bent all on pleasure, heedless of its end.
But He, who knew what human hearts would prove,
How slow to learn the dictates of his love,
That, hard by nature and of stubborn will,
A life of ease would make them harder still,
In pity to the souls his grace design’d
To rescue from the ruins of mankind,
Call’d for a cloud to darken all their years,
And said, “Go, spend them in the vale of tears.”
O balmy gales of soul-reviving air!
O salutary streams, that murmur there!
These flowing from the fount of grace above,
Those breathed from lips of everlasting love.
The flinty soil indeed their feet annoys;
Chill blasts of trouble nip their springing joys;
An envious world will interpose its frown,
To mar delights superior to its own;
And many a pang experienced still within,
Reminds them of their hated inmate, Sin:
But ills of every shape and every name,
Transform’d to blessings, miss their cruel aim:
And every moment’s calm, that soothes the breast,
Is given in earnest of eternal rest.
Ah, be not sad, although thy lot be cast
Far from the flock, and in a boundless waste!
No shepherd’s tents within thy view appear,
But the chief Shepherd even there is near;
Thy tender sorrows and thy plaintive strain
Flow in a foreign land, but not in vain;
Thy tears all issue from a source divine,
And every drop bespeaks a Saviour thine—
So once in Gideon’s fleece the dews were found,
And drought on all the drooping herbs around.

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