Dear Contemplation! my divinest joy!
When I thy sacred mount ascend,
What heavenly sweets my soul employ!
Why can't I there my days for ever spend?
When I have conquered thy steep heights with pain,
What pity 'tis that I must down again!
- yet I must: my passions would rebel
Should I too long continue here:
No, here I must not think to dwell,
But mind the duties of my proper sphere.
So angels, though they heaven's glories know,
Forget not to attend their charge below.
The old hermits thought to overcome their impulses by retiring from the
world: our Platonist has discovered for himself that the world of duty is
the only sphere in which they can be combated. Never perhaps is a saint
more in danger of giving way to impulse, let it be anger or what it may,
than in the moment when he has just descended from this mount of
We find ourselves now in the zone of hymn-writing. From this period,
that is, from towards the close of the seventeenth century, a large
amount of the fervour of the country finds vent in hymns: they are
innumerable. With them the scope of my book would not permit me to deal,
even had I inclination thitherward, and knowledge enough to undertake
their history. But I am not therefore precluded from presenting any hymn
whose literary excellence makes it worthy.
It is with especial pleasure that I refer to a little book which was once
a household treasure in a multitude of families, the Spiritual
Songs of John Mason, a clergyman in the county of Buckingham. The date
of his birth does not appear to be known, but the first edition of these
songs was published in 1683. Dr. Watts was very fond of them: would
that he had written with similar modesty of style! A few of them are
still popular in congregational singing. Here is the first in the book: