A poem by Susanna Moodie

Oh for the spirit which inspired of old
The seer's prophetic song--the voice that spake
Through Israel's warrior king. The strains that burst
In thrilling tones from Zion's heaven-strung harp,
Float down the tide of ages, shedding light
On pagan shores and nations far remote:
Eternal as the God they celebrate,
Their fame shall last when Time's long race is run,
And you refulgent eye of this fair world,--
Its light and centre,--into darkness shrinks,
Eclipsed for ever by the glance of Him
Whose rising sheds abroad eternal day.
Almighty, uncreated Source of life!
To Thee I dedicate my soul and song;
In humble adoration bending low
Before thy footstool. Thou alone canst stamp
A lasting glory on the works of man,
Tuning the shepherd's reed, or monarch's harp,
To sounds harmonious. Immortality
Exists alone in Thee. The proudest strain
That ever fired the poet's soul, or drew
Melodious breathings from his gifted lyre,
Unsanctioned by thy smile, shall die away
Like the faint sound which the soft summer breeze
Wins from the stately lily's silver bells;
A passing murmur, a half-whispered sigh,
Heard for a moment in the deep repose
Of Nature's midnight rest--then hushed for ever!
Parent of genius, bright Enthusiasm!
Bold nurse of high resolve and generous thought,
'Tis to thy soul-awakening power we owe
The preacher's eloquence, the painter's skill,
The poet's lay, the patriot's noble zeal,
The warrior's courage, and the sage's lore.
Oh! till the soul is quickened by thy breath,
Wit, wisdom, eloquence, and beauty, fail
To make a just impression on the heart;
The tide of life creeps lazily along,
Soiled with the stains of earth, and man debased
Sinks far below the level of the stream.
Alas! that thy bright flame should be confined
To passion's maddening vortex; and the soul
Waste all its glorious energies on earth!--
The world allows its votaries to feel
A glowing ardour, an intense delight,
On every subject but the one that lifts
The soul above its sensual, vain pursuits,
And elevates the mind and thoughts to God!
Zeal in a sacred cause alone is deemed
An aberration of our mental powers.
The sons of pleasure cannot bear that light
Of heavenly birth which penetrates the souls
Of men, who, deeply conscious of their guilt,
Mourn o'er their lost, degraded state, and seek,
Through faith in Christ's atonement, to regain
The glorious liberty of sons of God!
Who, as redeemed, account it their chief joy
To praise and celebrate the wondrous love
That called them out of darkness into light,--
Severed the chain which bound them to the dust,
Unclosed the silent portals of the grave,
And gave Hope wings to soar again to heaven!--

Oh, thou bright spirit, of whose power I sing,
Electric, deathless energy of mind,
Harp of the soul, by genius swept, awake!
Inspire my strains, and aid me to portray
The base and joyless vanities which man
Madly prefers to everlasting bliss!--
Come! let us mount gay Fancy's rapid car,
And trace through forest and o'er mountain rude
The bounding footsteps of the youthful bard,
Yet new to life--a stranger to the woes
His harp is doomed to mourn in plaintive tones.
His ardent unsophisticated mind,
On all things beautiful, delighted, dwells.
Earth is to him a paradise. No cloud
Floats o'er the golden promise of the morn.
Hope daily weaves fresh roses for his brow,
Shrouding the grim and ghastly phantom, Death,
Beneath her soft and rainbow-tinted wings.
Ere Care has tainted with her poisonous breath
Life's opening buds, all objects wear to him
A lovely aspect, and he peoples space
With creatures of his own. The glorious forms
Which haunt his solitude, and brightly fill
Imagination's airy hall, atone
For all the faults and follies of his kind.
Nor marvel that he cannot comprehend
The speculative aims of worldly men:
Dearer to him a leaf, or bursting bud,
Culled fresh from Nature's treasury, than all
The golden dreams that cheat the care-worn crowd.
His world is all within. He mingles not
In their society; he cannot drudge
To win the wealth they toil to realize.
A different spirit animates his breast.
Their eager calculations, hopes, and fears,
Still flit before him, like dim shadows thrown
By April's passing clouds upon the stream,
A moment mirrored in its azure depths,
Till the next sunbeam turns them into light!--

Rashly confiding, still to be deceived,
Our youthful poet overleaps the bounds
Of probability. He walks this earth
Like an enfranchised spirit; and the storms,
That darken and convulse a guilty world,
Come like faint peals of thunder on his ear,
Or hoarser murmurs of the mighty deep,
Which heard in some dark forest's leafy shade
But add a solemn grandeur to the scene.--
The genial tide of thought still swiftly flows
Rejoicing onward, ere the icy breath
Of sorrow falls upon the sunny fount,
And chains the music of its dancing waves.--
What is the end of all his lovely dreams--
The bright fulfilment of his earthly hopes?
Too often penury and dire disease,
Neglect, a broken heart, an early grave!--
Oh, had he tuned his harp to truths divine,
With saints and martyrs sought a heavenly crown,
How had his theme immortalized his song!--

Behold the man, who to the poet's fire
Unites the painter's fascinating art;
His touch embodies all that fancy brings
To charm the mental vision, and he dives
Into the rich and shadowy world of thought,
Soars up to heaven, or plunges down to hell,
In search of forms to mortal eyes unknown,
To animate the canvass. His bold eye
Confronts the king of terrors. Through the gates
Of that dark prison-house of woe and dread
Hails the infernal monarch on his throne,
Crowned with ambition's diadem of fire.--
Unsatisfied with all that Nature gives
To charm the wandering heart and roving eye,
He would portray Omnipotence.--Rash man!
Reason revolting shudders at the act.--
God is a Spirit without form or parts;
And canst thou, from a human model, trace
The awful grandeur of Creation's King?
Nature supplies thee with no perfect draught
Of human beauty in its sinless state.
Man bears upon his brow the curse of guilt,
The shadow of mortality, that marks,
E'en in the sunny season of his youth,
The melancholy sentence of decay.--
Is it from such the painter would depict
The vision of Jehovah?--and from eyes,
Dimmed with the tears of passion, woe, and pain,
Seek to portray the dread all-seeing eye,
Which at a momentary glance can read
The inmost secrets of all hearts, and pierce
The dark and fathomless abyss of night?
Oh, drop the pencil!--Angels cannot gaze
On Him who sits upon the jasper throne,
Robed in the splendour of immortal light;
But cast their crowns before him whilst they veil
The brow in rapt devotion and adore!--

Nature will furnish subjects far beyond
The grasp of human genius. Didst thou e'er,
On mossy bank or grassy plot reclined,
Watch the effect of sunlight on the boughs
Of some tall graceful ash, or maple tree?
Each leaf illumin'd by the noon-tide beam
Transparent shines.--Anon a heavy cloud
Floats for a moment o'er the car of day,
And gloom descends upon the forest bowers;
A ray steals forth--and on the topmost twig
Falls, like a silver star. From leaf to leaf
The glory spreads, shoots down the rugged trunk
And gilds each spray, till the whole tree stands forth
Arrayed in light.--This is beyond thy art.
All thy enthusiasm, all thy boasted skill,
But poorly imitates a forest tree.

But let us leave the painter. Let us turn
To those, who never swept the sounding lyre
Or grasped the pencil,--ardent minds that hold
A deep communion with the winds and waves,
The youthful worshippers at Nature's shrine:
What says the soft voice of the plaintive breeze,
Mournfully sweeping through the forest boughs,
In airy play moved gently by its breath?
To such it hath a language, and it wins
A tender echo from the youthful heart.--

With throbbing bosom Nature's student treads
The sylvan haunts, exultingly leaps forth
To hail the coming of the genial spring,
Shedding around from her green lap the buds,
In winter's rugged casket long enshrined,
To form the chaplet of the infant year.--
Young pensive moralist!--'tis sweet to muse
On beauties which escape the vulgar eye,
To talk with Nature 'mid her woodland paths,
And hear an answering voice in every breeze.--
You court her beauties with a lover's zeal;
You hear her voice, nor understand the sound
Which speaks to you--to all. The volume spread
Before your dazzled eyes, so rich with life,
Is a closed book--a fair illumined scroll,
Traced in strange characters, unknown to you.
Would you unfold the mystery, and read
The record the eternal hand of God
Has, of himself, on Nature's tablets graved?
You must explore another wondrous book,
Of deeper interest far--the book of life--
The glorious volume of unsullied truth!--
Time's rapid and undeviating march
Tramples down empires, blots out names that once
Bid fair for perpetuity of fame.
Truth is alone eternal as the God
Who on this everlasting basis placed
His own immutable and moveless throne.
Time to these writings daily adds new force,
Deepening the traces of Jehovah's love,
His fathomless, unbounded love to man.--
Peruse this volume, and then walk abroad
And meditate in silence on the scenes
Which lately charmed your unassisted sense,
Till your soul burns within you, and breaks forth
In holy hymns of gratitude and praise.--

Faith gives a grandeur to created things,
Beyond the poet's lay or painter's art,
Or upward flight of Fancy's eagle wing;--
Earth is the vista through which heaven is seen
By him who, journeying through life's narrow vale,
Seeks in the objects which around him rise
To hold communion with his God! to trace
The wisdom, goodness, majesty, and love,
That clothed the lilies of the field, and twined
The simple diadem of buds and leaves,
So rich in their diversity of shade,
Round Nature's brow,--and o'er the rugged hills
Cast the light floating veil of purple haze,
Which harmonizes to its own soft hue
The broken precipice and barren heath.
Here admiration may have ample scope:
The spirit soaring upward drinks in light
From other worlds, and in the choral song
Of happy birds among the forest bowers,
Hears the seraphic and harmonious strains
That angels chant around the eternal throne!--
To him there is an anthem in the breeze,
A burst of triumph in the thunder's peal,
Which, slowly rolling through the troubled air,
Strikes man with terror, and yet praises God!--

O'er Fancy's glass another shadow flits,
Which shows a bolder aspect than the gay
Impassioned votaries of Nature wear.
Mark his majestic port, his eagle eye,
The stern erection of his haughty brow,
Partially shaded by the snowy plumes
That lightly wave and wanton in the breeze.--
Is this a pensioner of hope?--Is this
A dreamer of wild dreams?--All eyes are turned
To gaze upon him, as with measured step
The weaponed warrior slowly passes by.--
Oh, this is one of War's tremendous sons,
Glory's intrepid champion: his stout heart
Leaps, as the war-horse, to the trumpet's sound,
And hails the storm of battle from afar.
He loves the press, the tumult, and the strife,
Where horror holds the gory steeds of death,
And slaughter hews a passage for the brave!--
He too is an enthusiast!--his zeal
Impels him onward with resistless force,
Severs his heart from nature's kindred ties,
And feeds the wild ambition which consumes
All that is good and lovely in his path.
He flashes, like a meteor, on the sight,
Seen 'mid the angry thunder-clouds of war,
Seeking a living name in fields where Death
Holds his imperial banquet, and the blood
Of thousands flows to furnish forth the feast.

There was a time when softer feelings held
Their mild dominion o'er that haughty breast;
When at his mother's feet, a rosy boy,
He wove bright garlands for his artless brow,
And sought, with playful dalliance, to detain
The busy hand that could not pause to bind
His cumbrous wreath, or answer the caress
Of him who climbed her knees to steal the kiss.
But even at those tender years, his braid
Of April blossoms was his crown; the twig
Of golden willow, with white daisies bound,
His jewelled sceptre; and the mossy bank,
Where he reclined in floral state, his throne;
The lambs that sported in the yellow meads
His lawful subjects; while his azure eye
Looked up to heaven with all a child's delight,
And thought that earth was only made for him.--
How often has he wept for that fair moon,
That shed her trembling glory o'er his path;
Wearied his slender limbs to reach the spot
On which the rainbow based its splendid arch,
And felt his heart with disappointment beat
When the fair pageant faded from his view.--

Ah, simple boy!--well had it been for thee
Had thy ambitious longings been confined
To objects wisely placed beyond thy grasp.
But years stole on--thy ardent spirit broke
Its childish trammels, and with eager joy
Explored the warlike annals of the past,
And called up spirits of the mighty dead,
To set their hostile armies in array,
And fight for thee their sanguine battles o'er.
Oh, while such visions burst upon thy sight,
Whilst shouts of victory and dying groans
Rang on thine ear--time backward rolled his tide,
Rome in her ancient splendour proudly rose,
And murdered C├Žsar lived again in thee!

Young fiery soldier!--let us track thy steps
Through danger's stormy paths, to win the goal
Of all thy lofty and ambitious hopes.
Wedded to glory, thy brave heart springs forth
To win thy bride from valour's armed hand,
And pluck the laurel from the brow of death.
A novice in the camp and new to arms,
The bugle lulls thee to repose, the trumpet
Thrills on thy sleeping ear, and bids thee dream
Of deathless fields in fancy fought and won.
At length the day of trial comes--the day
Which puts thy boasted courage to the proof--
Thy first in battle, and perchance thy last.
The camp is broken up, the air is rent
With strains of martial music, the loud neigh
Of prancing steeds, impatient for the strife,
With clang of arms, and oft-repeated shouts
Of warriors, who impatiently leap forth
With reckless hardihood to meet their doom.

With beating heart, firm step, and flashing eye,
The young recruit of glory proudly grasps
The standard he must only yield with life.
The march commences--deep excitement grows
To fiery expectation--he forgets,
Amidst the hurried interest of the scene,
The crown he fights for only can be won
Through seas of slaughter and the waste of life.
Alas! how few devoted hearts like his
Survive their first engagement with the foe.
Death strikes the hero to the dust. He falls
In honour's mantle, the triumphant cry
Of victory on his pallid lip expires!
But what are conquests of the bow and spear,
And Alexander's victories, compared
With the stern warfare which the soul maintains
Against the subtle tempter of mankind--
The base corruptions of a sinful world--
An evil conscience and a callous heart?
Oh, vanquish these!--and through the gates of death
Triumphant pass and win a heavenly crown!--

Oh, that my soul could find a voice to speak;
That human language could express the thoughts
Which fill the secret chambers of the brain.
In vain the lips pour forth harmonious sounds;
In vain the eager eye is raised to heaven,
Swimming in tears, and bright with ecstasy,--
The senses still are debtors to the heart,
Which, trembling, throbs for utterance in vain.
Does the salvation of a deathless soul
Kindle no hope in the possessor's breast?
Awaken no desire to be restored
To that most pure and perfect state of bliss
Man by transgression lost?--the noble thought
Of claiming kindred with the skies, give birth
To no anticipations of delight--
Joys such as angels share, and saints, who dwell
Within the circle of Jehovah's throne?
A light is breaking on my mental eye;
Visions of glory in succession rise
And fill the airy palace of the soul.
I see afar the promised land. An arch
Of golden radiance canopies the gates
Of that celestial city--Beautiful!
Unbuilt by hands--the New Jerusalem--
And holy to the Lord; the happy home
Of pilgrims, who to reach that heavenly shrine
Sojourned as strangers on this goodly earth,
Counting all things but loss--yea, life itself--
To win an entrance through those gates of pearl,
And dwell within the temple of their God!
Alas! earth's dusky shadow lies between
My ardent spirit and that blissful shore:
Eye hath not seen, nor mortal ear hath heard,
How then can mortal pen portray, the joys
Prepared for those who live and die in Christ!

Before me flows the rapid stream of time,
Dark, fathomless, encumbered with the wrecks
Of twice three thousand years. They too shall sink
Beneath those turbid waters, swallowed up
In the vast ocean of eternity;
Leaving few fragments on the boundless waste
To tell to coming years that such have been.
How shall the naked spirit cross the flood,
And land in safety on the happy shore?
'Tis not an earthly pilot that can steer
So frail a bark through such a stormy tide.
Cannot the eye of faith look up and see
The clouds of sorrow part--the day-star rise
Above life's trackless ocean, shedding light
Upon the darkened nations? From its beams
The mist of error flies, the angry waves
Of passion, which so long have vexed the world,
Are hushed to rest; controlled by Him who rose
From tranquil sleep, and to the roaring waste
Of midnight waters, mustering all their wrath,
Said, "Peace, be still." The howling winds obeyed,
And silence sank upon the storm-tossed main!--

Oh look to Him! and to his glorious word.
His universal sovereignty demands
That deep devotion of the heart which men
Miscall enthusiasm!--Zeal alone deserves
The name of madness in a worldly cause.
Light misdirected ever leads astray;
But hope inspired by faith will guide to heaven!
To win the laurel wreath the soldier fights;
To free his native land the patriot bleeds;
And to secure his crown the martyr dies!
For beauteous Rachel Isaac's son endured
Seven years of bitter servitude, and deemed
The weary months but moments to obtain
From crafty Laban's hand his promised bride.
To prove his friendship for the man he loved,
The generous Jonathan forgot his claims
To royalty, intent to save the life
Of him whom God had called to fill his throne.
And wilt thou feel less zealous to regain
The love and favour of thy heavenly King,
And shrink because the path to glory lies
Up the steep hill of duty? He who saved,
Amidst the tempest on Gennesaret,
Peter, when sinking in the waves, will aid
Thy feeble steps, and guide thee to the rock
Of everlasting strength!--

Spirit divine!
Whose name I erst invoked, whose influence fills
The narrow confines of this human breast,--
If I have dared to sing of truths sublime,
Oh, shed a glory round my rugged lyre--
Hallow the feeble strains that would reveal
The dazzling light, which streaming from thy wings,
Gilds all the dark and troubled tide of thought.
Lifted by thee above the gulf of time
My eye explores the regions of the blessed,
And hopes long chained to earth are raised to heaven.
Never, while reason holds her steady rein,
To curb imagination's fiery steeds,
May I to joyless apathy resign
The high and holy thoughts inspired by thee!

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