AN HYMN OF HEAVENLY LOVE.
Before this world's great frame, in which all things
Are now contained, found any being place,
Ere flitting Time could wag his eyas wings
About that mighty bound which doth embrace
The rolling spheres, and parts their hours by space,
That high eternal power, which now doth move
In all these things, moved in itself by love.
It loved itself, because itself was fair,
For fair is loved; and of itself begot
Like to itself his eldest son and heir,
Eternal, pure, and void of sinful blot,
The firstling of his joy, in whom no jot
Of love's dislike or pride was to be found,
Whom he therefore with equal honour crowned.
* * * * *
Out of the bosom of eternal bliss,
In which he reignéd with his glorious Sire,
He down descended, like a most demisse _humble._
And abject thrall, in flesh's frail attire,
That he for him might pay sin's deadly hire,
And him restore unto that happy state
In which he stood before his hapless fate.
* * * * *
- blessed well of love! O flower of grace!
O glorious Morning-Star! O Lamp of Light!
Most lively image of thy Father's face!
|Eternal King of Glory, Lord of might!
|Meek Lamb of God, before all worlds behight!
How can we thee requite for all this good?
|Or what can prize that thy most precious blood?
||equal in value.
Yet nought thou ask'st in lieu of all this love
But love of us for guerdon of thy pain:
Ay me! what can us less than that behove?
Had he required life of us again,
Had it been wrong to ask his own with gain?
He gave us life, he it restored lost;
Then life were least, that us so little cost.
But he our life hath left unto us free--
Free that was thrall, and blessed that was banned; enslaved; cursed.
Nor aught demands but that we loving be,
As he himself hath loved us aforehand,
And bound thereto with an eternal band--
Him first to love that us so dearly bought,
And next our brethren, to his image wrought.
Him first to love great right and reason is,
Who first to us our life and being gave,
And after, when we faréd had amiss,
Us wretches from the second death did save;
And last, the food of life, which now we have,
Even he himself, in his dear sacrament,
To feed our hungry souls, unto us lent.
Then next, to love our brethren that were made
Of that self mould, and that self Maker's hand,
That we, and to the same again shall fade,
Where they shall have like heritage of land, the same grave-room.
However here on higher steps we stand;
|Which also were with selfsame price redeemed,
|That we, however, of us light esteemed.
And were they not, yet since that loving Lord
Commanded us to love them for his sake,
Even for his sake, and for his sacred word,
Which in his last bequest he to us spake,
We should them love, and with their needs partake; _share their
Knowing that, whatsoe'er to them we give, [needs._
We give to him by whom we all do live.
Such mercy he by his most holy rede instruction.
Unto us taught, and to approve it true,
Ensampled it by his most righteous deed,
Shewing us mercy, miserable crew!
That we the like should to the wretches shew,
And love our brethren; thereby to approve
How much himself that loved us we love.
Then rouse thyself, O earth! out of thy soil,
In which thou wallowest like to filthy swine,
And dost thy mind in dirty pleasures moyle, defile.
Unmindful of that dearest Lord of thine;
Lift up to him thy heavy clouded eyne,
That thou this sovereign bounty mayst behold,
And read through love his mercies manifold.
Begin from first, where he encradled was
In simple cratch, wrapt in a wad of hay, a rack or crib.
Between the toilful ox and humble ass;
And in what rags, and in what base array
The glory of our heavenly riches lay,
When him the silly shepherds came to see,
Whom greatest princes sought on lowest knee.
From thence read on the story of his life,
His humble carriage, his unfaulty ways,
His cankered foes, his fights, his toil, his strife,
His pains, his poverty, his sharp assays, temptations or
Through which he passed his miserable days,
Offending none, and doing good to all,
Yet being maliced both by great and small.
And look at last, how of most wretched wights
He taken was, betrayed, and false accused;
How with most scornful taunts and fell despites
He was reviled, disgraced, and foul abused;
How scourged, how crowned, how buffeted, how bruised;
And, lastly, how 'twixt robbers crucified,
With bitter wounds through hands, through feet, and side!
* * * * *
With sense whereof whilst so thy softened spirit
Is inly touched, and humbled with meek zeal
Through meditation of his endless merit,
Lift up thy mind to th' author of thy weal,
And to his sovereign mercy do appeal;
Learn him to love that lovéd thee so dear,
And in thy breast his blessed image bear.
With all thy heart, with all thy soul and mind,
Thou must him love, and his behests embrace; commands.
All other loves with which the world doth blind
Weak fancies, and stir up affections base,
Thou must renounce and utterly displace,
And give thyself unto him full and free,
That full and freely gave himself to thee.
* * * * *
Thenceforth all world's desire will in thee die,
And all earth's glory, on which men do gaze,
Seem dust and dross in thy pure-sighted eye,
Compared to that celestial beauty's blaze,
Whose glorious beams all fleshly sense do daze
With admiration of their passing light,
Blinding the eyes and lumining the sprite.
Then shalt thy ravished soul inspiréd be
With heavenly thoughts far above human skill, reason.
And thy bright radiant eyes shall plainly see
The Idea of his pure glory present still
Before thy face, that all thy spirits shall fill
With sweet enragement of celestial love,
Kindled through sight of those fair things above.
There is a companion to the poem of which these verses are a portion,
called An Hymne of Heavenly Beautie, filled like this, and like two
others on Beauty and Love, with Platonic forms both of thought and
expression; but I have preferred quoting a longer part of the former to
giving portions of both. My reader will recognize in the extract a fuller
force of intellect brought to bear on duty; although it would be unwise
to take a mind like Spenser's for a type of more than the highest class
of the age. Doubtless the division in the country with regard to many of
the Church's doctrines had its part in bringing out and strengthening
this tendency to reasoning which is so essential to progress. Where
religion itself is not the most important thing with the individual, all
reasoning upon it must indeed degenerate into strifes of words,
vermiculate questions, as Lord Bacon calls them--such, namely, as like
the hoarded manna reveal the character of the owner by breeding of
worms--yet on no questions may the light of the candle of the Lord, that
is, the human understanding, be cast with greater hope of discovery than
on those of religion, those, namely, that bear upon man's relation to God
and to his fellow. The most partial illumination of this region, the very
cause of whose mystery is the height and depth of its truth, is of more
awful value to the human being than perfect knowledge, if such were
possible, concerning everything else in the universe; while, in fact, in
this very region, discovery may bring with it a higher kind of conviction
than can accompany the results of investigation in any other direction.
In these grandest of all thinkings, the great men of this time showed a
grandeur of thought worthy of their surpassing excellence in other
noblest fields of human labour. They thought greatly because they aspired
Sir Walter Raleigh was a personal friend of Edmund Spenser. They were
almost of the same age, the former born in 1552, the latter in the
following year. A writer of magnificent prose, itself full of religion
and poetry both in thought and expression, he has not distinguished
himself greatly in verse. There is, however, one remarkable poem fit for
my purpose, which I can hardly doubt to be his. It is called Sir Walter
Raleigh's Pilgrimage. The probability is that it was written just after
his condemnation in 1603--although many years passed before his sentence
was carried into execution.
Give me my scallop-shell of Quiet;
My staff of Faith to walk upon;
My scrip of Joy, immortal diet;
My bottle of Salvation;
My gown of Glory, hope's true gage;
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.
Blood must be my body's balmer,--
No other balm will there be given--
Whilst my soul, like quiet palmer,
Travelleth towards the land of Heaven;
Over the silver mountains,
Where spring the nectar fountains--
There will I kiss
The bowl of Bliss,
And drink mine everlasting fill
Upon every milken hill:
My soul will be a-dry before,
But after, it will thirst no more.
Then by that happy blissful day,
More peaceful pilgrims I shall see,
That have cast off their rags of clay,
And walk apparelled fresh like me:
I'll take them first,
To quench their thirst,
And taste of nectar's suckets, sweet things--things to suck.
At those clear wells
Where sweetness dwells,
Drawn up by saints in crystal buckets.
And when our bottles and all we
Are filled with immortality,
Then the blessed paths we'll travel,
Strowed with rubies thick as gravel.
Ceilings of diamonds! sapphire floors!
High walls of coral, and pearly bowers!--
From thence to Heaven's bribeless hall,
Where no corrupted voices brawl;
No conscience molten into gold;
No forged accuser bought or sold;
No cause deferred; no vain-spent journey;
For there Christ is the King's Attorney,
Who pleads for all without degrees, irrespective of rank.
And he hath angels, but no fees.
And when the grand twelve million jury
Of our sins, with direful fury,
'Gainst our souls black verdicts give,
Christ pleads his death, and then we live.
Be thou my speaker, taintless Pleader,
Unblotted Lawyer, true Proceeder!
Thou giv'st salvation even for alms,--
Not with a bribéd lawyer's palms.
And this is my eternal plea
To him that made heaven, earth, and sea,
That, since my flesh must die so soon,
And want a head to dine next noon,--
Just at the stroke, when my veins start and spread,
Set on my soul an everlasting head:
Then am I ready, like a palmer fit,
To tread those blest paths which before I writ.
Of death and judgment, heaven and hell
Who oft doth think, must needs die well.
This poem is a somewhat strange medley, with a confusion of figure, and a
repeated failure in dignity, which is very far indeed from being worthy
of Raleigh's prose. But it is very remarkable how wretchedly some men
will show, who, doing their own work well, attempt that for which
practice has not--to use a word of the time--enabled them. There is
real power in the poem, however, and the confusion is far more indicative
of the pleased success of an unaccustomed hand than of incapacity for
harmonious work. Some of the imagery, especially the "crystal buckets,"
will suggest those grotesque drawings called Emblems, which were much
in use before and after this period, and, indeed, were only a putting
into visible shape of such metaphors and similes as some of the most
popular poets of the time, especially Doctor Donne, indulged in; while
the profusion of earthly riches attributed to the heavenly paths and the
places of repose on the journey, may well recall Raleigh's own
descriptions of South American glories. Englishmen of that era believed
in an earthly Paradise beyond the Atlantic, the wonderful reports of
whose magnificence had no doubt a share in lifting the imaginations and
hopes of the people to the height at which they now stood.
There may be an appearance of irreverence in the way in which he
contrasts the bribeless Hall of Heaven with the proceedings at his own
trial, where he was browbeaten, abused, and, from the very commencement,
treated as a guilty man by Sir Edward Coke, the king's attorney. He even
puns with the words angels and fees. Burning from a sense of
injustice, however, and with the solemnity of death before him, he could
not be guilty of conscious irreverence, at least. But there is another
remark I have to make with regard to the matter, which will bear upon
much of the literature of the time: even the great writers of that period
had such a delight in words, and such a command over them, that like
their skilful horsemen, who enjoyed making their steeds show off the
fantastic paces they had taught them, they played with the words as they
passed through their hands, tossing them about as a juggler might his
balls. But even herein the true master of speech showed his masterdom:
his play must not be by-play; it must contribute to the truth of the idea
which was taking form in those words. We shall see this more plainly when
we come to transcribe some of Sir Philip Sidney's work. There is no
irreverence in it. Nor can I take it as any sign of hardness that Raleigh
should treat the visual image of his own anticipated death with so much
coolness, if the writer of a little elegy on his execution, when Raleigh
was fourteen years older than at the presumed date of the foregoing
verses, describes him truly when he says:
I saw in every stander-by
Pale death, life only in thy eye.
The following hymn is also attributed to Raleigh. If it has less
brilliance of fancy, it has none of the faults of the preceding, and is
far more artistic in construction and finish, notwithstanding a degree of
Rise, oh my soul, with thy desires to heaven;
And with divinest contemplation use
Thy time, where time's eternity is given;
And let vain thoughts no more thy thoughts abuse,
But down in darkness let them lie:
So live thy better, let thy worse thoughts die!
And thou, my soul, inspired with holy flame,
View and review, with most regardful eye,
That holy cross, whence thy salvation came,
On which thy Saviour and thy sin did die!
For in that sacred object is much pleasure,
And in that Saviour is my life, my treasure.
To thee, O Jesus, I direct my eyes;
To thee my hands, to thee my humble knees,
To thee my heart shall offer sacrifice;
To thee my thoughts, who my thoughts only sees--
To thee myself,--myself and all I give;
To thee I die; to thee I only live!
See what an effect of stately composure quiet artistic care produces, and
how it leaves the ear of the mind in a satisfied peace!
There are a few fine lines in the poem. The last two lines of the first
stanza are admirable; the last two of the second very weak. The last
stanza is good throughout.
But it would be very unfair to judge Sir Walter by his verse. His prose
is infinitely better, and equally displays the devout tendency of his
mind--a tendency common to all the great men of that age. The worst I
know of him is the selfishly prudent advice he left behind for his son.
No doubt he had his faults, but we must not judge a man even by what he
says in an over-anxiety for the prosperity of his child.
Another remarkable fact in the history of those great men is that they
were all men of affairs. Raleigh was a soldier, a sailor, a discoverer, a
politician, as well as an author. His friend Spenser was first secretary
to Lord Grey when he was Governor of Ireland, and afterwards Sheriff of
Cork. He has written a large treatise on the state of Ireland. But of all
the men of the age no one was more variously gifted, or exercised those
gifts in more differing directions, than the man who of them all was most
in favour with queen, court, and people--Philip Sidney. I could write
much to set forth the greatness, culture, balance, and scope of this
wonderful man. Renowned over Europe for his person, for his dress, for
his carriage, for his speech, for his skill in arms, for his
horsemanship, for his soldiership, for his statesmanship, for his
learning, he was beloved for his friendship, his generosity, his
steadfastness, his simplicity, his conscientiousness, his religion.
Amongst the lamentations over his death printed in Spenser's works, there
is one poem by Matthew Roydon, a few verses of which I shall quote, being
no vain eulogy. Describing his personal appearance, he says:
- sweet, attractive kind of grace,
A full assurance given by looks,
Continual comfort in a face,
The lineaments of Gospel books!--
I trow, that countenance cannot lie
Whose thoughts are legible in the eye.
Was ever eye did see that face,
Was ever ear did hear that tongue,
Was ever mind did mind his grace
That ever thought the travel long?
But eyes and ears, and every thought,
Were with his sweet perfections caught.
His Arcadia is a book full of wisdom and beauty. None of his writings
were printed in his lifetime; but the Arcadia was for many years after
his death one of the most popular books in the country. His prose, as
prose, is not equal to his friend Raleigh's, being less condensed and
stately. It is too full of fancy in thought and freak in rhetoric to find
now-a-days more than a very limited number of readers; and a good deal of
the verse that is set in it, is obscure and uninteresting, partly from
some false notions of poetic composition which he and his friend Spenser
entertained when young; but there is often an exquisite art in his other
The first I shall transcribe is a sonnet, to which the Latin words
printed below it might be prefixed as a title: Splendidis longum