England's Antiphon

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Far have I clambered in my mind,
But nought so great as love I find: Deep-searching wit, mount-moving might, Are nought compared to that good sprite. Life of delight and soul of bliss! Sure source of lasting happiness!
Higher than heaven! lower than hell! What is thy tent? Where may'st thou dwell?

"My mansion hight Humility, is named.
Heaven's vastest capability.
The further it doth downward tend,
The higher up it doth ascend;
If it go down to utmost nought,

It shall return with that it sought."

Lord, stretch thy tent in my strait breast;

Enlarge it downward, that sure rest
May there be pight for that pure fire pitched.
Wherewith thou wontest to inspire
All self-dead souls: my life is gone;
Sad solitude's my irksome won; dwelling.
Cut off from men and all this world,
In Lethe's lonesome ditch I'm hurled;
Nor might nor sight doth ought me move,
Nor do I care to be above.

O feeble rays of mental light,
That best be seen in this dark night, What are you? What is any strength If it be not laid in one length
With pride or love? I nought desire But a new life, or quite to expire. Could I demolish with mine eye
Strong towers, stop the fleet stars in sky, Bring down to earth the pale-faced moon, Or turn black midnight to bright noon; Though all things were put in my hand-- As parched, as dry as the Libyan sand Would be my life, if charity
Were wanting. But humility
Is more than my poor soul durst crave That lies entombed in lowly grave; But if 'twere lawful up to send
My voice to heaven, this should it rend: "Lord, thrust me deeper into dust, That thou may'st raise me with the just."

There are strange things and worth pondering in all these. An occasional classical allusion seems to us quite out of place, but such things we must pass. The poems are quite different from any we have had before. There has been only a few of such writers in our nation, but I suspect those have had a good deal more influence upon the religious life of it than many thinkers suppose. They are in closest sympathy with the deeper forms of truth employed by St. Paul and St. John. This last poem, concerning humility as the house in which charity dwells, is very truth. A repentant sinner feels that he is making himself little when he prays to be made humble: the Christian philosopher sees such a glory and spiritual wealth in humility that it appears to him almost too much to pray for.

The very essence of these mystical writers seems to me to be poetry. They use the largest figures for the largest spiritual ideas--light for good, darkness for evil. Such symbols are the true bodies of the true ideas. For this service mainly what we term nature was called into being, namely, to furnish forms for truths, for without form truth cannot be uttered. Having found their symbols, these writers next proceed to use them logically; and here begins the peculiar danger. When the logic leaves the poetry behind, it grows first presumptuous, then hard, then narrow and untrue to the original breadth of the symbol; the glory of the symbol vanishes; and the final result is a worship of the symbol, which has withered into an apple of Sodom. Witness some of the writings of the European master of the order--Swedenborg: the highest of them are rich in truth; the lowest are poverty-stricken indeed.

In 1615 was born Richard Baxter, one of the purest and wisest and devoutest of men--and no mean poet either. If ever a man sought between contending parties to do his duty, siding with each as each appeared right, opposing each as each appeared wrong, surely that man was Baxter. Hence he fared as all men too wise to be partisans must fare--he pleased neither Royalists nor Puritans. Dull of heart and sadly unlike a mother was the Church when, by the Act of Uniformity of Charles II., she drove from her bosom such a son, with his two thousand brethren of the clergy!

He has left us a good deal of verse--too much, perhaps, if we consider the length of the poems and the value of condensation. There is in many of them a delightful fervour of the simplest love to God, uttered with a plain half poetic, half logical strength, from which sometimes the poetry breaks out clear and fine. Much that he writes is of death, from the dread of which he evidently suffered--a good thing when it drives a man to renew his confidence in his Saviour's presence. It has with him a very different origin from the vulgar fancy that to talk about death is religious. It was refuge from the fear of death he sought, and that is the part of every man who would not be a slave. The door of death of which he so often speaks is to him a door out of the fear of death.

The poem from which the following excerpt is made was evidently written in view of some imminent suffering for conscience-sake, probably when the Act of Uniformity was passed: twenty years after, he was imprisoned at the age of sixty-seven, and lay nearly a year and a half.--I omit many verses.

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