Charity : A Paraphrase On 1 Cor. Chap. 13

A poem by Matthew Prior

Did sweeter Sounds adorn my flowing Tongue,
Than ever Man pronounc'd, or Angel sung:
Had I all Knowledge, Human and Divine,
That Thought can reach, or Science can define;
And had I Pow'r to give that Knowledge Birth,
In all the Speeches of the babbling Earth:
Did Shadrach's Zeal my glowing Breast inspire,
To weary Tortures, and rejoice in Fire:
Or had I Faith like That which Israel saw,
When Moses gave them Miracles, and Law:

Yet, gracious Charity, indulgent Guest,
Were not Thy Pow'r exerted in my Breast;
Those Speeches would send up unheeded Pray'r:
That Scorn of Life would be but wild Despair:
A Tymbal's Sound were better than my Voice:
My Faith were Form: my Eloquence were Noise.
Charity, decent, modest, easy, kind,
Softens the high, and rears the abject Mind;
Knows with just Reins, and gentle Hand to guide,
Betwixt vile Shame, and arbitrary Pride.

Not soon provok'd, She easily forgives;
And much She suffers, as She much believes.
Soft Peace She brings where-ever She arrives:
She builds our Quiet, as She forms our Lives;
Lays the rough Paths of peevish Nature ev'n;
And opens in each Heart a little Heav'n.
Each other Gift, which GOD on Man bestows,
It's proper Bounds, and due Restriction knows;
To one fixt Purpose dedicates it's Pow'r;
And finishing it's Act, exists no more.

Thus, in Obedience to what Heav'n decrees,
Knowledge shall fail, and Prophecy shall cease:
But lasting Charity's more ample Sway,
Nor bound by Time, nor subject to Decay,
In happy Triumph shall for ever live,
And endless Good diffuse, and endless Praise receive.
As thro' the Artist's intervening Glass,
Our Eye observes the distant Planets pass;
A little we discover; but allow,
That more remains unseen, than Art can show:

So whilst our Mind it's Knowledge wou'd improve;
(It's feeble Eye intent on Things above)
High as We may, We lift our Reason up,
By Faith directed, and confirm'd by Hope:
Yet are We able only to survey
Dawnings of Beams, and Promises of Day.
Heav'n's fuller Effluence mocks our dazl'd Sight;
Too great it's Swiftness, and too strong it's Light.
But soon the mediate Clouds shall be dispell'd;
The Sun shall soon be Face to Face beheld,

In all His Robes, with all His Glory on,
Seated sublime on His Meridian Throne.
Then constant Faith, and holy Hope shall dye,
One lost in Certainty, and One in Joy:
Whilst Thou, more happy Pow'r, fair Charity,
Triumphant Sister, greatest of the Three,
Thy Office, and Thy Nature still the same,
Lasting thy Lamp, and unconsum'd thy Flame,
Shalt still survive,
Shalt stand before the Host of Heav'n confest,
For ever blessing, and for ever bless'd.

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