BOOK THE FIRST.
FULL fleetly, thirty years of strife have
Since I—the dreamer—in yon prison-hold,
Struck my lone harp of rude and cheerless tone,
With hand unskilful, and perchance, too bold
For dainty ears that love the chords of gold,
Touched by sleek charmers, known by accent bland
And silken smile; and deem your rhyming scold
Of Power and Privilege; a fiery brand
That lordly men should quench, in this old queenly land.
Full fleetly fly the years! Gray Age hath come,
And Mind is slow,—for blood and brain are chilled,
And Memory maunders, or her tongue is dumb
As death, when she should tell what forms have filled
The soul with awe—what joys or throes have thrilled
The heart—throughout Life's changeful day:
A task that, once, young Memory deftly trilled,
And lightly, as a laughing child at play,
Till dull Age came, and chid the happy power away.
Old Age heath come, and my long-chosen task
Is unfulfilled—for, I have loitered long
As well as chosen. Yet a man may ask,
And wisely, if the loitering hath been wrong
Fools gather wisdom, and the weak grow strong,
Not seldom, by delay: good thoughts have grown
Where evil flourished. When the fitful throng
And tempest of our noon of life are gone,
The calm oft comes, in glory, with the setting sun.—
Almighty and all-glorious Lord of all!
Eternal Source of life, and Fount of light!
A poor, dark wanderer, at Thy feet I fall—
Forgiving Father, at Thy feet! Thy bright
Pervading Presence in the darksome night
Of wandering watched me: Thou went ever near,
Although I owned Thee not, and from Thy sight
Afar I fled, soul-palsied with the fear
That there was nought beyond the tomb: that dread
O God! I thank Thee that I never lost
Heart-worship for Thy Son—the Christ—the Blest!
That, while my reason wandered, driven and tost
From doubt to deeper doubt, until the quest
For Truth oft ended in Despair's unrest—
The torturous, wild unrest of fell Despair!—
Yet, in my gloom, that sorrowing Visage drest
In rays of moral beauty seemed to share
My sorrow, and to say—"Come hither! learn to bear
"My yoke, poor wanderer, and thou shalt find rest:
Rest from vain labour: from thy spirit's pain—
Swift ease: come hither, to thy Saviour's breast!"
Sweet Lord, I come! my labour hath been vain
My search for rest. Unbind my heavy chain
Of sin: release me, Saviour, with Thy good
And powerful hand: wash out my guilty stain
Of rebel pride in Thy atoning blood!
In brokenness of heart, I come—my Lord—my God!
Thou givest peace not as the world doth give!
To me Thy peace be given—that, while this thread
Of mortal life is spun, my soul may live
For Thee alone; and I may humbly tread
My fatherland, from side to side, and spread
Thy truth. Help me to preach it to the Poor
Who strive to think out, while they toil for bread,
The mystery of existence, and explore
That sea's vast bounds where mightiest thinkers ne'er
Thou sees them, pitying Father, in their doubt
And darkness! And Thy just and sovereign gaze
Is fixt upon the mimesters who beclout
Themselves anew with rags of Rome, and raise,
Once more, for idol, with old pomps, and blaze
Of gold, and bannered splendours, and the sheen
Of lamps and candles, and the fragrant praise
Of incensed-chaunt, their starry-vestured Queen—
The lowly mother of the lowly Nazarene!
The toiling thousands grope for saving truth,
And yearn to find;—but ye seek not to save
Your untaught brethren with the words of ruth
And tenderness. It is for altars brave,
And gay bedizenments, ye hotly crave:
Dalmatica, and chasuble, and cope,
Biretta, rubied cross, and ivoried stave
Episcopal:—to have these toys ye hope—
But, for Christ's truth, still let the toiling thousands
Out on your childish greed for gew-gaws: toys
On which your martyred sires could scarcely look
Without a frown! Are there no nobler joys
Within your grasp? Have ye for these forsook
The simple truths your fathers loved? They shook
The Romish slavery off; and freedom, then,
Truly became your birthright: if ye brook
Meekly the Papal yoke to wear again,
Will your sons look ye in the face, and call ye—Men?
The toiling thousands think upon the Past,
And its fierce martyr-fires; and, while they yearn
To fathom Mind's deep mysteries, feel no haste
To look for light from darkness, or to learn
Lessons from hildings who deserve their scorn.
In homely tongue, they ask—"No better tools
For digging out the Truth do doctors earn
Than these, within their costly halls and schools?
Do they build colleges to breed and foster fools?"
And then they settle down in doubt, or try
A resting-place in restless doubt to find
In vain: for, still, the agonising cry,
Aloud, is heard of Doubt half-maddening mind;
And, still, they grope for Truth—the inly blind!
Or, in disgust, they give up thinking;—game
And bet, like lords! on horses; and behind
Cast care and conscience; or the viler drame
Play out of sottishness and sensualism and shame!
O for the gift to earth of some great souls!
O for the birth of men to found a new
And nobler chivalry than decks the rolls
Of real or mimic war! O that a few
Among the Schooled and Privileged would thew
Their wills with high resolve, and grandly rise
To throw their hearts among the crowd,—the True
To champion, and cast down the forms of Lies—
Warriors for Good, old Evil's power to antagonize!
Not dead to noble sympathies, and words
Fraternal, are the crowd that doubt, and dare
The depths of sin. In every heart are chords
That vibrate to the touch of humblest player
Or lordliest, if responding chords declare
Their touch is truly human. Patrons smart
And scented,—teachers with the lofty air
Of condescension, seem to the stalwart, swart,
And sturdy sons of Labour—Things without a heart.
How long will this new dotage last—your strife
To re-enthrone old Priestcraft? Do ye dreams
That ye can veritably restore to life
The dead putrescence? 'Midst the whirl of steam,
The speed of telegraphs, and lightning-gleam
Of knowledge which proclaims the Reign of Law,
Will toiling men a truth your bold tale deem
That ye can make your Maker; and with awe
Bow down, in trembling fear of your anathema?
They neither fear ye, nor your curse: your creed
Is monstrous to their common sense: they pine
For rest in Truth, not mockery. Strive to lead
The toiling crowd to reverence and enshrine
The Real Presence of the Lord Divine
Within their hearts, and let your acts reveal
That, while ye say ye love the Lord benign,
Ye truly serve Him; and, with grateful zeal,
Devout, responsive crowds will welcome your appeal.―
The night falls fast, and finds me brooding thus
O'er evils that afflict my fatherland:—
The night falls fast, yet brightly luminous
Beam out the cotton mills that round me stand,
Where garish gas turns night to day; and hand,
And eye, and mind of myriad toilers win
The wealth of England, but cannot command
A certainty of bread,—though, for her sin,
Woman, like man, doth weave, and watch, and toil,
Their toil now ceases, and my toil comes next.
I gather them around me, and essay
To teach them how to solve the "questions vext"
That puzzle and perplex them through the day,
Amid the din of wheels, and sweat and fray
Of factory life. Some yawn with weariness;
Some frown; some sneer; some seem but clods of clay:
But some look all aglow with bright excess
Of rapt conviction which their minds doth overbless.
My task ends all too soon. I wish the hours
Could stand; or these till morn could sit, and hear,
And think. But drowsiness their frames overpowers;
And, ere day dawns, they must the call austere
O' the factory-bell obey—Toil's chanticleer!
But, let it cheer my heart that, through each week
I can my task pursue,—although the sere
And yellow leaf be mine;—and freely speak—
Fearing no frowns, nor listening for applauses sleek.
What hand—what stranger hand—shall close these eyes,
I cannot know,—or who stretch out my feet;
What hushed voice say—"A breathless corpse he lies,
His wanderings o'er: prepare the winding-sheet!"
Anxious to make my pilgrimage complete,
I will work on, rejoicing, let betide
What may, on earth. I covet the bright seat
He promised them that love Him, close beside
His throne of love—my glorious Lord, the Crucified!
I fear, no longer, that my being destroyed
Shall be, when men shall lay this body low;
That Mind shall perish in the mindless void,
And I shall cease to think, and feel, and know,
Although for ever there shall be the glow
Of thought and feeling in God's Universe.
The risen Christ with life shall re-endow
My soul; and ne'er shall sin again amerce
My Christ-enfranchised being with Death's benumbing
For ever with my Lord, who said, "I am
The Resurrection and the Life," I trust
To be; and to that trust I cleave. Still maim
And blind is Mind, and blind and maim it must
Remain, how Mind shall live when dust to dust
Returns. But, since we cannot know the state
Beyond the grave, all-unperturbed robust
And patient souls should wait—unfaltering wait,
And calmly,—for the spirit-life emancipate.—
Midnight hath come. I would that gentle sleep
Would visit me; but seldom comes repose,
Now age is raught. Thought the long watch doth keep,
To wander o'er the Past, with operose
And feeble steps, or vainly seeks to unclose
The barriers of the Future, till the brain
Is worn and wildered. Then, the startled doze
Of nervousness succeeds, or, hours of pain;
And, seldom, o'er the sense, Sleep spreads her blissful
I sought for slumber, and, unwontedly,
Sweet Slumber, swiftly, on my eyelids laid
Her hand, full gently—as, on mother's knee,
A gentle mother's hand is softly stayed
Upon her helpless child.
Again, I strayed—
Or seemed to stray—in spirit, beyond the bound
Of earthly life: no longer, now, affrayed
With visioned forms that agonised and frowned
With rage, or sat in emblemed pomp, enthroned and
I dreamed I walked the "land of pure delight,
Where everlasting spring abides, and never
Wither the flowers;" where neither worm nor blight
Attaints their bloom, for ever and for ever:
Where neither sin nor death again can sever
The noble Army of Martyrs from their Lord,
Or unto pain again their souls deliver.
To Jesu's heaven of bliss, it seemed, I soared,
Where myriads of His saints God and the Lamb adored.
But I knew not 'twas heaven, as first I woke—
Or seemed to wake—when I escaped from earth.
Upon my spiritual sight a vision broke
So like the "dear, dear land"  that gave me
So like the woods, and vales, and hills where mirth
And glee were rife in childhood,—that it seemed
I had but lately left my Mother's hearth
To wander forth, and gather flowers that gleamed
With strange, unearthly splendour. Thus I dimly
I wandered in the pathway of a wood
Where delicatest wind-flowers round me lay,
Like snow new fall'n; and spring-born bluebells stood,
In slender tallness, peering o'er the array
Of humble violets and pied pansies gay,
With mimic pride; while, waving overhead,
Young silken beech-leaves and slim birchen-spray
Fleckt the pure light that from above was shed;
And still I seemed some well-known woodland path to
Yet, evermore, methought, no earthly hue
The trees and flowers displayed; while neither cloud
Nor shade there seemed to be. And, soon, a new
And dazzling light revealed a smiling crowd
Of childlike forms—but, dimness, like a shroud,
Swiftly enwrapped the vision; and terrene,
Again, seemed all things. Then, arose a proud
And terraced pile of mountains ever green;
And I sped on to reach them, through a lowlier scene.
Soft hills sloped gently towards a verdant vale:
Like the loved hills that bound thy vale, O Trent!—
And, midway, in the valley wound the trail
Of a bright river, like a filament
Of sparkling silver. On its banks were blent
Trent's floral riches—as I did misdeem—
Theo vernal crocus prankt with transient
And blushing beauty; cranesbill's sky-born gleam
Intense—looking like eyes of angels, in my dream;
The huge-leaved butter-bur, with flowers so quaint;
Clustered marsh-marigolds that did bedaze
My eyes, till I withdrew them by constraint;
And still more dazzling was the golden blaze
Now, again, with rays
Of light encircled, childlike creatures smiled
Upon me. Unaffrayed, but in a maze
I stood; for none looked like an earth-born child:
They seemed too pure for souls derived from men defiled.
"What are ye, beauteous things?" methought I spake.
Silent, they beckoned me with smiles of grace;
And dimness soon again seemed to o'ertake
My vision—for, they faded till no trace
Remained of their bright forms. I trod, apace,
The vale, yearning to win the height sublime
O' the terraced mountains; but the winning face
Of some fair flower, so dear to childhood's time,
Brought back my thoughts, in wonder still, to childhood's
What virgin purity the flowers that grew
Nigh the bright winding river seemed to wear—
Sweet Cicely, and meadow-sweet, and rue!
And cuckoo-flowers and chervils bloomed so fair,
They were as magnets to my eyes; and there
I lingered, when I fain would have begone
To climb the mountains, and behold what rare
Large prospect from their summits might be won
Of that rich floral realm so sweetly halcyon.
I stooped to pluck a lily from the marge
Of the fair river, since it grew so near,
And bloomed so dazzling white and grandly large;
But, ere I touched it, suddenly in my ear
Streamed music, soft as whispers, and yet clear
And sweet as that sweet "Pastoral Symphony"
Oft heard on earth—the dulcet harbinger
Of lofty praise, and holy and heavenly glee:
Charmed prelude to the burst of angel minstrelsy.
Still sweeter grew the sounds, and fairer bloomed
The flowers, till rapt thoughts strengthened that I trode
No earthly soil, but precincts to bliss-doomed
Celestial realms, where vigour is bestowed
On franchised souls to fit them for their load
Of bliss—the "weight of glory" which they bear—
"Far more exceeding and eternal,"—who see God:
They who eternal joys beyond compare
Esteem, with "light affliction" saints on earth may share.
The thought that I was heir of bliss so great,
And that earth's life of sin and sorrow and pain
Was past, began, well-nigh, to tribulate
The soul with ecstasy: an overgain
Of bliss, it seemed, for one who knew the stain
Of sin—though all forgiven—henceforth to dwell
With endless joy. But soon, in tuneful strain,
Some unseen choral band, with jubilant swell,
Above, around me, pealed these words delectable:—
"Spirit, rejoice! thy mortal life is past:
This land of living light no cloud can gloom:
Sin cannot reach it, with her fatal blast:
Here flowers can never fade, but ever bloom:
Here pain, or sin-bred anguish cannot come:
Death vanquisheth Man's dust, but not the soul:
Man's spirit is no tenant of the tomb—
No prisoner to the grave. Rejoice, thy dole
Is ended; and thy soul hath reached her happy goal!
"Welcome, new heritor of bliss! begin
To enter on thy rest. Let no alloy,
Or thought that thou hast known the stain of sin,
Lessen thy rapture, or thy bliss destroy.
Onward and prove the fulness of that joy
Thy Saviour promised. He thy debt hath paid,
And thou art free! Prepare for blest employ
Through countless ages! Joys that never fade
Are thine: increasing joys thy essence shall pervade!
"Onward, and join the dear companions blest
Thou soon shalt meet: they who thy Saviour loved
And served, and openly His Name confessed;
Nor to deny their Lord were weakly moved
When bad men threatened, but were faithful proved
Through lives of suffering, and in deaths of shame:
They who proclaimed that holy truth behoved
Their bodies should be given unto the flame
With joyous haste, so they might homage Jesu's Name!"
The glittering band of childlike creatures beamed
Above me, as the jubilant strain surceased,
That, now I knew, was theirs. Then, as I dreamed,
They vanished; and I entered on glad quest
For some I yearned to see among the Blest—
Some who the martyr's crown obtained by faith,
In fiery flames, and nobly did attest
The power of faith to draw the sting of death:
Who died exulting in their Lord with their last breath!
My fatherland's intrepid martyrs were
The souls I longed to meet; and wish devout
I felt to gaze on reverend Latimer,—
The memory of whose nobleness oft wrought
Deep love within me, in my days of doubt
And wandering. Forthwith, as in dungeoned plight, 
The soul with intellective power seemed fraught
To realize her wish; and, clothed with light,
The grand old martyr was revealed unto my sight!
And with him Ridley walked, in radiant dress
Of pure white robes; and garland-crowns they wore
Of flowers that did transcend in beauteousness
And splendour the fair flowers upon the shore
Of the bright river, though I deemed, before,
These were all-peerless. Hand in hand appeared
The shining martyrs. As, for Christ, of yore,
To burn together they nor shrunk, nor feared,
So were they to each other, now, in bliss endeared.
That his brave death-words rose within my mind,
Seemed quickly known unto the martyred sire;
And, that I feared their failure, he divined:
Whereat—unknowing that blest souls in higher
Ascents of purity the power acquire
To read their brethren's thought—I, speechless, stood
In wonder. Bravely, as if he marched the fire
Again to welcome with old hardihood,
He upward glanced, and thus his faith unshaken shewed:—
Fear not, young heir of heaven! harbour no doubt
That Truth shall triumph. Falsehood's fellest power
The candle never shall again put out
We lighted up for England, in that hour
We dared the flame,—while, 'mong the crowds from tower
And hall and cloister, some that saw the deed
With fear at first, felt soon they would not cower
'Fore tenfold tortures; and, in flames, did read
This truth: the 'Martyrs' blood shall be the Church's seed!'
"Fear not for Truth—for Christi's s own glorious Truth!
Falsehood may, yet, put forth spasmodic force,
Again and oft, and vaunt her purity and youth,
Though every step of her foul crooked course
Speaks her decrepit. Despots may endorse
Her lies for truth, to prop their crumbling thrones;
And fools the gay-trickt harridan may nurse
And fondle; but rotten are her very bones:
Her scrannel songs scarce serve to drown her dying groans.
"Onward, young heir of Jesu's happy heaven!
We go on messages of mercy sweet,
Once more, to earth: such blest employ hath given
The Lamb to His glad saints. Thee soon shall greet
Dear souls familiar by their names: thy meet
And loving teachers: till a convoy bright
Of angels, swift, shall bring thee to the feet
Of Jesus throned, amid His saints in white;
And thou shalt worship with them in supernal light!"
Away, they sped!—the shining Martyr pair—
On their blest errand, with most eager love,
To do their loving Master's will. To share
Their work, methought, I coveted, and strove
To follow them. But, sweetest strains above,
Around me swelled, until I sank o'erpowered
With ecstasy of sweetness—though I longed to prove
The service of that heaven where saints adored,
In myriad throngs of love, their glorious risen Lord.
"Onward, still onward!"—did the sweet chaunt swell,
From unseen choristers—"Thou wilt not find
Thy rest in rapture. They on earth who dwell
Miss their chief happiness because, with blind
Perception of true bliss, they stay behind
To reap the lesser joys that virtue gives,
And toil not for the greater. God designed
The soul for duty; and he who, tireless, strives
To render duteous service unto God derives
"Still higher bliss from every duteous deed.
God did engraft in moral natures sense
Of praise and blame; and holiest natures feed
On consciousness of duty done, and thence
Derive, for God's sweet service, more intense
And holy and earnest zeal: blest avarice
It is, to covet largest opulence
Of zeal for duty: who rest in rapture miss
True good: eternal service is eternal bliss!"
And, now, grew visible a glorious band
Of spirits I seemed intuitively to know:
The gallant Martyrs of my fatherland:
Our noble Cobham; Hooper, the firm foe
Of slavish pomps; young Bilney, with faith's glow
Exultant; praying Bradford—devotee
So true and holy; Philpot, with the brow
Of high intelligence; Anne Askew, she
Who cheered her fellow-sufferers with such holy glee;
And melancholy Mary's victims: Rogers, first
On whom her priests, watching like wolves for prey,
Contrived to slake their sanguinary thirst;
Saunders, who burnt at Coventry; and they—
A hero-crowd besides—who, in the day
Of vengeful Gardiner, and power of Rome
Retrieved, and Bonner's savage zeal to slay,—
In Smithfield left their ashes, without gloom
Clasping the flames, triumphing in their fiery doom.
With these came Bainham, who, when fire had raged
And burned his nether limbs, aloud proclaimed
"This is a bed of roses!"—so assuaged
His faith fierce pain! The weaver humble-named,
Too,—Tomkins,—'neath whose wrist a taper flamed,
Held by brute Bonner, who thus vainly thought
To fright his victim; Hawkes, who threw his maimed
And burning arms aloft, to quell the doubt
Of trembling lovers who this sign of him had sought;
Hunter, the gentle boy whose mother and sire
Rejoiced that God to them so brave a child
Had given, to bear Him witness in the fire;
Farrar, who, at Caermarthen, his foes foiled
So stoutly in the flames; Tindal, who toiled
For future ages, and received the crown
Of martyrdom,—by treachery foul beguiled;
With steadfast Lambert, who the tiger frown
Undaunted bore of Henry seated on his throne.
Brave Rowland Taylor with this martyred host
Came nobly on. But there was one aside
Who walked, as if for him there were no boast
Among his brethren—no exultant pride:
'Twas Crammer, seeming with himself to chide,
Even in heaven! With these came many more
Who burned in England; while, great souls allied
In faith and fervour, whom in her heart's core
Of reverence faithful Scotland long hath proudly bore,
Came with them: noble Hamilton, whom proud
And sensual Beatoun dragged to death, but fell,
Himself a victim to his country's loud
Demand for vengeance; holy Wishart, well
And worthily ranked with martyrs vincible
By neither man nor demon; Renwick bold;
With crowds whom Power and Priestcraft could not
The men who did the Solemn Covenant hold
As sacred:—men of high, heroic, martyr mould.
I saw this shining host, and knew the chaunt
Was theirs; and one upraised me with a smile;
And on I journeyed with them, while descant
They joined, how holy joys the spirit thrill
That thirsts some higher duty to fulfil,
Nor counts on rapture for reward, or ease,
Or rest, but evermore to service still
Aspires; and how the soul new service sees
Before it, ever; and thus eternal pleasures please.
And then, conversing of the work they loved,
They told each other of the sights just seen
On earth,—for, soon, my wistful spirit proved
That these glad souls to mother Earth had been,
To cheer God's children in their earthly teen,—
And how they loved the loving sweet employ:
And then, by turns, they drew some picture sheen
Of holy suffering and of holy joy,
And patient faith and trust no suffering could destroy.
Some told of mother's love, and watchings pale,
Beside a dying child; and some pourtrayed
The dread heartbrokenness that bowed a frail
Old man whom Death had robbed of all the aid—
The earthly aid—he had, and lowly laid
His loving life-companion in the grave;
While some rehearsed how pining sorrow preyed
Upon the hearts of children who, to save
Their dying parents, watched them with devotion brave.
And some depictured how a virgin flower
Of loveliness no words could tell declined
Upon its fragile stem, from hour to hour—
A loving maid beloved: two intertwined
And beauteous natures: in the youth the mind,
And in the maid the form, being fair as heaven;
And how she slept in death, and the youth pined
Away in grief, for that all bliss seemed given
With her on earth: with her all bliss away was riven!
The shipwrecked sailor, in the ocean wide—
Others described—and how his last lorn prayer
Was for his bosom's love, the tender bride
He left on land, far off—the home so fair
He decked so daintily, with shells so rare
And foreign beauteous things; and how the dread
Mysterious boding in her heart despair
Succeeds, and daily her tears for him are shed,
Long ere some lone survivor tells her he is dead.
And others told of negro slaves, and pain
And torture meekly borne by many a thrall
Who never breathed offence to those for gain
Who bought and sold him, but obeyed their call
To wait and toil when he could scarcely crawl
To do their fiendish bidding. Others shewed
How some bore ignominy that would not fall
Before men's idols, though it seemed the load
Would crush them: still the knee to Baal they never
The noble courage, in the Battle of Life,
Of peaceful warriors—others eulogised;
The men who with vindictiveness and strife
And hate and malice, daily agonised;
And strove to show mankind howe'er they prized
Red Victory's brow with laurel chaplet green,
Her real features were the Fiend's disguised.
And then they shewed how all who tried to wean
Men from War's madness suffered persecution keen.
With loving grief—such grief as saints can feel
In heaven—some told of hard oppression borne
By a poor widow, toiling at the wheel
Or loom, with hungered frame, sore weary and worn,
To keep her fatherless ones from sin and scorn,—
Yet meeting sympathy from none—but sneers
From bestial tempters she doth meekly spurn.
And how the meek one leans on Him Who hears
His saints' low cry, and bottles up His tried ones' tears.
And then they spoke of heavenly condolence
They bore to sorrowers: strength to fortify
The suffering with belief in Providence
That fills the cup of grief and trial nigh
Unto the brim in wisdom, and doth try
His saints in love, but never lets the cup
Run o'er; that counts each tear, that hears each sigh,
Of all His contrite ones; and, when they droop,
Sends heavenly help to bear their fainting spirits up.
Of resignation, and of steadfast faith
When bad men persecute the good, and rage
And threaten them with chains and torturous death,
They told;—and how, on holy embassage
They went to bear such help, their lineage
Of suffering rendering them the bearers meet.
And gratefully, they said—Mind could not gauge
The Love Divine that sent them forth to greet
And strengthen struggling saints by earthly foes beset;
And that themselves, thus, with the Paraclete
Divine should share the work of comforting
God's saints was a reward ineffably sweet;
And had they known what the Eternal King
Designed them for, it would have drawn the sting
Of torture in their martyrdom till praise
Had filled their souls; and, like a bird on wing
Each would have soared, exultant, with glad lays,
Above all thought of pain, in the devouring blaze!
Thus while they held sweet descant, glode
Around us, oft, bands of the bright young quire
I saw when first I seemed the blest abode
Of saints to enter; and I felt desire
Grow strong to know them. Ne'er seemed they to
But ever floated on, with rapturous eyne
Betokening how they did the speech admire
Of God's glad martyrs, who the scheme benign
Extolled that did to them sweet ministering work assign.
Ere I could ask, one answered my thought's quest.
"These are," said he, "but scanty companies
Of that great myriad army of the Blest
Of which they all are numbered. Hither, when hies
A soul from earth, these meet it, and surprise
The welcome soul with sounds and looks of love,
And thus prepare it for the exercise
Of all the powers within its essence wove
By the Great Maker, that it may for ever prove
"The blessedness of being, which God hath given,
These are the souls of infants: they of whom
The Saviour said of such the kingdom of heaven
Is. Deem thou not He meant they hither come
As if heaven were all infants' bright heirloom
By native right of innocency. Each soul
From Adam born is born in sin; and doom
Of sin these 'scape, because Christ suffered dole
For them, and makes, by grace, their sin-grained spirits
Of such the kingdom of heaven is; and young
They are for ever! Thus, by Divine decree,
They who by actual sin of thought or tongue
Were never stained do first salute the free
And happy souls who join our jubilee
In heaven. Old sin-stained earth they visit never,
Since sin or guilt they never knew: while we
Revisit sin's abode: the Great Life-giver
Thus serving, thus His service blest enjoying ever!"
Soon seemed we to have raught the mountains green,
And up their terraced sides, uncoiling, climbed,
Beholding myriad forms so bright, the sheen
Of all earth's gold and gems would have been dimmed
Beside their beauty. Countenances sublimed
From mortal care and fear and doubt they wore;
And, as they clomb the mountains, sweetly hymned
Their grateful joy, their earthly fight being o'er,
Of sin the stain and torture they should know no more.
They sang not praise because from fiery flame,
Or fiercer bodily pain, they were set free,—
Although they out of great tribulation came;—
But joyous hymns they sang set to the key
Of purest love, because their leprosy
Of guilt was cleansed, and o'er them sin's dread reign,—
By Him Who captive led captivity,—
Was broken, never to be resumed again:
Thus, as they climbed, they sang their ever grateful
"We come, O God, from holy work on earth,
To adore in heaven Thy glorious majesty!—
Father of all, and Son who once had birth
'Mong sinful men, and Holy Spirit, Three
In One, the Triune God!—to bow the knee
With all for whom Christ's precious blood hath
And angels fair!—to join heaven's jubilee,
With all the fallen whom Thou hast redeemed,
And all on whom for aye Thy unbroken smile hath
"For ever blessed be Thy Holy Name!
Great Giver of existence and of thought!
Let all Thy saints return Thee sweet acclaim
For all the wonders which Thy hand hath wrought—
For all the bliss with which our life is fraught—
For all Thy long-forbearance when the sway
Of rebel Sin we owned, and foully fought
Against Thy sovereign love, from day to day.
We bless Thee that Thou didst not cast our souls away!
"For ever blessed be Thy Holy Name!
Thou didst in mercy seek Thy wandering sheep,
When, lost in sin, and lost to sense of shame,
We wandered still, and had no will to creep
Back to Thy feet in penitence, and weep
To have such love as Thine so vilely spurned.
Great God, what wondrous mercy dost Thou keep
For men! We never had to Thee returned,
Hadst Thou not sought us: never should for sin have
"But Thou didst love us, and dost love men still—
E'en sinful men on earth; Thou dost not leave
Them in their sins, and helplessness of ill:
Them Thou dost seek, and grant a long reprieve
To their rebellion—drawing them to grieve
For sin, and win Thy sweet forgiving love!
Thy sweet forgiving love we feel, and cleave
To Thee, as all Thy saints in heaven have clove
For ages; and for aye Thy loving smile shall prove!
"We bless Thy Holy Name we never here
Shall grieve Thy holiness, indulge desire
Or thought of sin, or ever feel a fear
Of falling! Evermore in us the fire
Divine shall burn to love Thee, and acquire
Still holier zeal; for Thou wilt guide our aim
To serve Thee, while to Thee our souls aspire,
And still wilt feed in us the holy flame!
For ever and ever blessed be Thy Holy Name!"
So sang the myriad shining forms that climbed
The mountains ever green. And, as I glanced
Along their ranks, I saw their steps were timed:
So that in triumph-march the hosts, entranced
With joy, up by the terraces advanced,—
While newer hosts of shining ones, from earth,
Still more their numbers and their joys enhanced,—
For upward still they clomb, all sending forth
The pæans of their grateful joy and holy mirth.
Lo! when the hosts the mountain heights had won,
How shall I tell the glory of my dream?—
The golden crystal walls before us shone—
Those lofty walls adorned with sparkling gem
Of every name; and those twelve gates with beam
Resplendent of one matchless pearl:—the blest
Apocalyptic vision God did deem
Him worthy of who on the loving breast
Of Christ, on earth, so often found a loving rest!
The new Jerusalem—the home, I saw,
Of God's dear saints for whom the Lamb's own blood
Was shed; and on the angels gazed with awe,
Who, at the pearly gates o' the City of God,
In panoply of light, as keepers, stood.
I thought their eyes pierced through me—but, behold!
They oped the mighty gates; and, like a flood,
The Martyr-hosts—who in their Lord were bold—
Streamed in, with songs of triumph, on the floor of gold!
I went not with them; for methought the band
With which I marched, to whom heaven's realm was new,
Were marshalled by an angel with a wand
Of silver, till he other bands outdrew
From the great host; and soon he loudly blew
The golden trumpet which hung by his side—
And forth from out the gates a convoy flew
Of wingèd seraphim, who smiling cried:
"The Lamb unto the marriage-supper calls the Bride!
"Come in, ye blessed of the Lord, come in!
Receive the mansions by your Lord prepared:
The glorious Crown of Life ye now shall win!
His truth and love ye have on earth declared:
With Him the hate of wicked men ye shared:
And though ye were not called to prove your faith
In the fierce flames which His confessors dared,
Ye have been faithful in your lives, till death.
Come in! receive from His own hands the blooming
"Of immortality. Come in, come in,
Ye blessed of the Lord! receive the bright
Reward!—the crown of glory ye shall win!"—
And now we seemed upborne on bands of light
By the winged seraphim, with gentle flight,
Into the City of God, even to the throne
Of God and of the Lamb: into the sight,
All-glorified, of Him who wore the crown
Of thorns, but now gives crowns of life unto His own!
Vision of holiest love, how shall I tell
Thy sweetness!—or the splendour of that brow
Of awfullest majesty, for earthlings spell
In characters that men may read! O may I know
That smile ineffable when hence I go
To meet my Judge!—but all earth's languaged lore
Could not my soul with potency endow
To tell my dream: all earth-made speech were poor
To unveil the glory that the King in His beauty wore!
The plenitude of pardon for all sin:
Eternal freedom from all sin and stain:
Welcome to mansions that should now begin,
And never fail—eternal welcome!—Pain
For ever ended, under His sweet reign
Of health, and light, and love, and bliss!—Largess
Of knowledge bounteous: things obscure made plain:
The soul become, in heaven, close auditress
Of the Eternal Word, whose accents overbless
The high archangels, as the saints in light:
Rapt consciousness no ceasing there should be
Of His all-gladdening smile: no darkening night
Of error—but bright perpetuity
Of rectitude: the soul from wrong set free,
That growth in wisdom of His works and ways
Might fill her enlarging powers with ecstasy,—
So that all souls, for aye, should grateful raise
To the All-Blest, All-Blessing One, their gladsome
All mortal words are mean! More, far, of love—
Love bliss-endowing, bliss-entrancing, dwelt
In that one look that, from the throne above,
Glanced on my soul, than all the soul hath felt
On earth of joys in tenderness that melt
Our nature. And 'twas bliss ALL felt; and ALL
In speechless awe of overbliss, now knelt,
And loved, and worshipped, while it seemed to appal
The soul to experience bliss so beatifical!
Ten thousand times ten thousand harps of gold,
Tuned by the fingers of the angelic throng,
Forthwith began sweet prelude to unfold—
Harmonious prelude trumpets did prolong
Of cherub and seraph—to the choral song
Of all the host, unfallen and redeemed,
Of highest heaven. What voices, clear and strong,
Led the vast choir? They on whose foreheads beamed
The mark the Lamb had set: His Martyrs diademmed!
"Worthy the Lamb, that once for men was slain—
For sinful men!"—the holy martyrs cry.
"Worthy, redeeming Lord, Thou art to reign"—
Responded myriad angels holy and high—
"Who didst Thyself the souls of sinners buy
From endless pain; and didst Thy Father's rule
Of righteousness for ever justify!"
"We bow," the archangels cried, "at Thy footstool,
O co-eternal Son, divinely pitiful!"
"O Father!" sang all heaven, "we laud Thy Name
For Thy eternal purpose made so clear
In giving Him to suffering and to shame—
Thy only begotten Son, so loved and dear
Unto Thy heart divine—who hath no peer
In all created life—Thy Son, who hath
In Thine own bosom ever dwelt, that here,
In this Thy heaven of love, men, saved by faith
In Him, might live for ever saved from Thy just wrath!"
"O Spirit Divine!" sang on the general host
Of men and angels, "we adore Thy pure
Long-suffering love for man! O Holy Ghost,
Who didst so long the sight of sin endure—
Whose purity hath striven the foul to cure,
And conquered!—by whose sovereign breath
Sinners were born again,—their forfeiture
Of heaven was cancelled,—and they found the path
Up hither, by Thy light: made heirs of heaven, through
"Eternal Triune God!" sang ransomed men
And sinless babes, and principalities
And powers, and holy creatures with the ken
All-spiritual—the creatures full of eyes!—
And angel and archangel companies,
And cherubim and seraphim; and, from
The macrocosm of God, myriads of guise
And form man cannot name, devoutly come
To welcome God's loved saints to their eternal home:
"Eternal Triune God! Who wert, and art,
And art to come! Thrice holy, sovereign One!
Thyself sole Life, who dost their life impart
To all that live—Thyself sole Mind, the boon
To know who giv'st to all that think—sole Sun
The light who giv'st to all that live and feel—
Sole Strength, their strength who giv'st to all that on
The solid worlds or ether move—reveal
Thyself who dost, in glory and love unspeakable!
"We hymn Thy everlasting love, O Lord!
Thy love which gives us happy life, in thought
And act, Thy will in doing, and the reward
For ever finding in our work. Full fraught
Are all Thy works with love; and, by Thee taught,
For ever, thus, we work in love, and find
Our bliss enlarging ever; nor shall aught
Restrain or bound the bliss Thou hast designed
For all that do Thy will: the bliss with service joined.
"O God, our greatest bliss is that we love
Thee, and Thou lovest us. And Thou hast made
Us capable of loving more, and wove
In all our natures powers that, well essayed
In Thy blest service, Thou wilt ever aid
And strengthen, till for higher service still
Our being is fitted, and our thoughts all stayed
On Thy perfections. Father, let Thy will
Be done! With that desire alone our spirits fill!
"Thy will is happiness to all that live.
It was Thy everlasting love that moved
Thee to create, and happy life to give.
No other life Thou ever giv'st. They roved
From blessedness to bale, and swiftly proved
Their folly, who misused the freedom fair
Thou didst endow them with: for, it behoved
All spiritual natures should be free,—to share
Thy blest approval, or Thy righteous blame to bear.
"Thy wisdom, as Thy power and love, adored
For ever be, by all that think and know!
We see not all Thy purposes, O Lord!
Not yet—although throughout the ages grow
Our essences in knowledge—do they glow
With full perception of Thy works and ways.
All-perfect One, Thou haste no yoke-fellow!
Afar, full oft, in awe we stand and gaze,
Or sink beneath the effulgence of Thy glory's rays!
"We see not all Thy purposes, or aim.
If through the ages Ill survive, though Good
For ever with it war, and no reclaim
For evil-doers be found; if still the proud
Submit not to Thy rule, repentant bowed,
At length, 'fore Thy high will so holy and bright—
Thy all-wise will be done! For us, no cloud
Can hide the truth that Thou art true; and right
Are all Thy ways, O Holy Dweller in the Light!
"We know Thy will is that, like Thee, we war
Unceasingly with Evil, and condole
With those that suffer: that, to still the jar
Of disobedience in each human soul,
In Thy blest sight is blessed. No control
We have o'er loftier essences that fell
From holiness and bliss. If in the roll
Of ages, spiritual powers who now rebel
Shall to Thy love return—O Lord, it shall be well—
"For, such return unto Thy arms of love—
Unto Thy heart, that yearns all being to bless—
Shall to Thy saints and angels grateful prove
Thy wisdom, in its depths, how fathomless!—
How perfectly the spotless, bright impress
Of love is stamped on Thy great government,
Through all Thy realms of life and boundlessness!—
O Thou who art alone all-prescient,
Thy holy will be done—O Lord, all-excellent!
"Now round Thy throne again we grateful crowd,
And join our praise for all Thy goodness past,
Present, to come;—for all, with which endowed
Of intellect and strength, we feel Thou hast
Blest our existence! Giver of goodness vast,
Interminable, as of life, we hymn
The wondrous love with which Thou haste embraced
Alike, the wanderers who Thy gifts bedim,
But seek forgiveness,—and Thy steadfast seraphim!
"All praise be Thine—not ours—for constancy
Of service. Left, unguided, uninspired,
Unaided, unimpelled, O Lord, by Thee,
The brightness even of those Thou hast attired
With crowns of splendour, near Thee, had expired
In darkest wanderings of the will: the speed
With which we haste to go, with fervour fired,
Afresh, perpetually, on holy deed,
Had sunk to slowness, didst Thou not our fervour feed.
"Thy gladdening smile we feel to be our life:
And life it gives us now; happy, renewed
Existence, with the will and powers all rife
With zeal for high employ and amplitude
Of service: neither with less zest imbued
For lowliest work—so that we shelter fling
Round Thine own saints who suffer in the feud
With Evil,—or bold rebels, humbled, bring
Low at Thy feet in tearful penitence to cling.
We see the sign of love beneath Thy feet,
That now, with energy renewed, we do
Again on earth our errands. When we meet
Once more around Thy throne in bliss to bow—
Another round of duty done—not slow,
We trust, we shall have proved in zeal for Thine
All-righteous rule. Go with us, Father, go!—
Or vigour of saint and angel shall decline,
And we shall fail to execute Thy will benign.
"The presence of Thy visible glory, Lord,
We leave; but let us feel Thee ever near,
Where'er we go, and that Thou dost afford
Us loving aid while, serving in Thy fear,
We do our works of love. O Father! drear
The spaces of Thy universe would be
Without Thyself. Blest Father! ever cheer
Thy sons with consciousness that, while they flee
To do Thy will, Thou still art with them: they with
Their choral praise was ended; but my rhyme
Is all unworthy of the theme. Inane
Were all attempts the choir of that pure clime
Of highest heaven, and their ecstatic strain
Of holiest worship, with the grand refrain,
So oft repeated, of their grateful joy,
To celebrate. To leave God's high domain
They now prepared, in lower realms employ
To share: to help the Good, or Evil to destroy.
Bright order still they kept. Who led the van?
God's holy Martyrs—with no banner spread,
Or ensign—but they, first, with zeal began
The crystal walls to pass—to join the dread
Encounter, still, with Evil: firm their tread
Upon the golden floor! And, marshalled forth
By resident seraphim of heaven, were led
To the gates the myriad host, beside—on earth,
Or other realms of God where first their souls had
To re-enjoy their work for Him—their high
And rapturous toil of love and service blest.
The resident seraphs, and the beasts that cry—
Saying, "Holy, holy, holy!"—and never rest—
The spiritual creatures full of eyes—and drest
In white, the Elders crowned, who, by the sea
All-hyaline, before the Throne, attest
Likewise, perpetually, the sanctity
Of God Almighty—by His loving, high decree,
Remained in heaven—to me, to know 'twas given—
Ever with rapt and holy worship, there:
Within the Lamb's own light, in highest heaven
Remained to praise.
I heard a voice declare:
"Thou shalt return" as I the precincts fair
Of bliss prepared to leave. A thrill of bliss
Awoke me; and I, trembling, breathed a prayer:
"Lord! let me not by sin, or cowardice
In the discharge of duty, the blest guerdon miss
END OF BOOK I.
"Of joys ineffable, in Thy glad realm
Of heaven! Henceforth, through every waking hour
Let me be breathing prayer! If trouble whelm
My spirit, and dark shapes of evil lour
Upon me—even in the hour and power
Of darkness, Saviour, let me feel Thee near!
Through Thee, let me be more than conqueror
O'er sin, and sloth, and pride, and doubt, and fear;
And then, Thy voice saying, 'Come up hither!' let me
NOTES TO BOOK THE FIRST.
1. Stanza 24: an
allusion to the Hall of Suicide Kings, in Book I. of "The
Purgatory of Suicides."
Stanza 26: "Dear, dear land" ― dying speech of Gaunt, in
Shakespere's Richard II.
Stanza 40: another allusion to "The Purgatory of Suicides," Book
I. stanza 36.