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Into thy dark, unknown, mysterious caves,
And secret haunts, unfathomably deep,
Beneath all visible retired, none went,
And came again, to tell the wonders there.
Tremendous Sea! what time thou lifted up
Thy waves on high, and with thy winds and storms
Strange pastime took, and shook thy mighty sides
Indignantly, the pride of navies fell;
Beyond the arm of help, unheard, unseen,
Sunk friend and foe, with all their wealth and war;
And on thy shores, men of a thousand tribes,
Polite and barbarous, trembling stood, amazed,
Confounded, terrified, and thought vast thoughts
Of ruin, boundlessness, omnipotence,
Infinitude, eternity; and thought
And wondered still, and grasped, and grasped, and grasped
Again ; beyond her reach, exerting all
The soul, to take thy great idea in,
To comprehend incomprehensible ;
And wondered more, and felt their littleness.
Self-purifying, unpolluted Sea!
Lover unchangeable, thy faithful breast
For ever heaving to the lovely Moon,
That, like a shy and holy virgin, robed
In saintly white walked nightly in the heavens,
And to the everlasting serenade
Gave gracious audience; nor was wooed in vain.
That morning, thou, that slumbered not before,
Nor slept, great Ocean! laid thy waves to rest,
And hushed thy mighty minstrelsy. No breath
Thy deep composure stirred, no fin, no oar;
Like beauty newly dead, so calm, so still,
So lovely, thou, beneath the light that fell
From angel-chariots, sentinelled on high,
Reposed, and listened, and saw thy living change,
Thy dead arise.” The vain endeavors of man to escape death and the thoughts of death are thus described :
“ He turned aside, he drowned himself in sleep,
In wine, in pleasure ; travelled, voyaged, sought
Receipts for health from all he met; betook
To business, speculate, retired ; returned
Again to active life, again retired;
Returned, retired again ; prepared to die;
Talked of thy nothingness, conversed of life
To come, laughed at his fears, filled up the cup,
Drank deep, refrained ; filled up, refrained again;
Planned, built him round with splendor, won applause,
Made large alliances with men and things,
Read deep in science and philosophy,
To fortify his soul; heard lectures prove
The present ill and future good; observed
His pulse beat regular, extended hope ;
Thought, dissipated thought, and thought again;
Indulged, abstained, and tried a thousand schemes,
To ward thy blow, or hide thee from his eye;
But still thy gloomy terrors, dipped in sin,
Before him frowned, and withered all his joy.
Still feared and hated thing! thy ghostly shape
Stood in his avenues of fairest hope;
Unmannerly and uninvited, crept
Into his haunts of most select delight.
Still, on his halls of mirth, and banqueting,
And revelry, thy shadowy hand was seen
Writing thy name of—Death.”
The following is the gentle call of nature to man :
" The Seasons came and went, and went and came,
To teach men gratitude ; and as they passed,
Gave warning of the lapse of Time, that else
Had stolen unheeded by. The gentle Flowers
Retired, and, stooping o'er the wilderness,
Talked of humility, and peace, and love.
The Dews came down unseen at evening-tide,
And silently their bounties shed, to teach
Mankind unostentatious charity.
With arm in arm the forest rose on high,
And lesson gave of brotherly regard.' As an accompaniment, we give part of the lament over the general decay of nature.
“ Ye flowers of beauty, penciled by the hand
Of God, who annually renewed your birth,
To gem the virgin robes of Nature chaste,
Ye smiling-featured daughters of the Sun !
Fairer than queenly bride, by Jordan's stream
Leading your gentle lives, retired, unseen;
Or on the sainted cliffs on Zion hill
Wandering, and holding with the heavenly dews,
In holy revelry, your nightly loves,
Watched by the stars, and offering, every morn,
Your incense grateful both to God and man;
Ye lovely gentle things, alas! no spring
Shall ever wake you now! ye withered all,
All in a moment drooped, and on your roots
The grasp of everlasting winter seized!
Children of song, ye birds that dwelt in air,
And stole your notes from angels' lyres, and first
In levee of the morn, with eulogy
Ascending, hailed the advent of the dawn;
Or, roosted on the pensive evening bough,
In melancholy numbers, sung the day
To rest ;-your little wings, failing , dissolved,
In middle air, and on your harmony
Perpetual silence fell !"
Pride is thus set forth as the great cause of man's fall :
“ Pride, self-adoring pride, was primal cause
Of all sin passed, all pain, all wo to come.
Unconquerable pride! first, eldest sin,
Great fountain-head of evil! highest source,
Whence flowed rebellion 'gainst the Omnipotent,
Whenee hate of man to man, and all else ill.
Pride at the bottom of the human heart
Lay, and gave root and nourishinent to all
That grew above. Great ancestor of vice!
Hate, unbelief, and blasphemy of God;
Envy and slander, malice and revenge ;
And murder, and deceit, and every birth
Of damned sort, was progeny of pride.
It was the ever-moving, acting force,
The constant aim, and the most thirsty wish
Of every sinner unrenewed, to be
A god; in purple or in rags to have
Himself adored. Whatever shape or form
His actions took, whatever phrase he threw
About his thoughts, or mantle o'er his life,
To be the highest, was the inward cause
Of all; the purpose of the heart to be
Set up, admired, obeyed. But who would bow
The knee to one who served and was dependant ;
Hence man's perpetual struggle, night and day,
To prove he was his own proprietor,
And independent of his God, that what
He had might be esteemed his own, and praised
As such. He labored still and tried to stand
Alone, unpropped, to be obliged to none;
And in the madness of his pride, he bade
His God farewell, and turned away to be
A god himself; resolving to rely,
Whatever came, upon his own right hand.” For the sake of specimens varying from each other as much as possible in character, we quote the following, though aware that it may suggest an unfavorable comparison with the masterly sarcasm of Cowper. It is from a description of the dead raised, and assembled for judgement.'
“ It was a strange assembly ; none, of all
That congregation vast, could recollect
Aught like it in the history of man.
No badge of outward state was seen, no mark
Of age, or rank, or national attire,
Or robe professional, or air of trade.
Untitled stood the man that once was called
My lord, unserved, unfollowed; and the man
Of tithes, right reverend in the dialect
• Of Time addressed, ungowned, unbeneficed,
Uncorpulent; nor now, from him who bore,
With ceremonious gravity of step,
And face of borrowed holiness o'erlaid,
The ponderous book before the awful priest,
And opened and shut the pulpit's sacred gates
In style of wonderful observancy
And reverence excessive, in the beams
Of sacerdotal splendor lost, or if
Observed, comparison ridiculous scarce
Could save the little, pompous, humble man
From laughter of the people,--not from him
Could be distinguished then the priest untithed.”
The next is a description given with a touch of tenderness.
“ Wrinkled with time,
And hoary with the dust of years, an old
And worthy man came to his humble roof,
Tottering and slow, and on the threshold stood.
No foot, no voice, was heard within. None came
To meet him, where he oft had met a wife,
And sons, and daughters, glad at his return;
None came to meet him; for that day had seen
The old man lay, within the narrow house,
The last of all his family, and now
He stood in solitude, in solitude
Wide as the world ; for all, that made to him
Society, had fled beyond its bounds.
Wherever strayed his aimless eye, there lay
The wreck of some fond hope, that touched his soul
With bitter thoughts, and told him all was passed.
His lonely cot was silent, and he looked
As if he could not enter. On his staff,
Bending, he leaned; and from his weary eye,
Distressing sight! a single tear-drop wept.
None followed, for the fount of tears was dry,
Alone and last, it fell from wrinkle down
To wrinkle, till it lost itself, drunk by
The withered cheek, on which again no smile
Should come, or drop of tenderness be seen." We have room for only one more extract from a passage, to us the most natural, simple, and affecting in the Poem. It is supposed to describe the author's early hopes, wishes, and disappointments; and does, indeed, seem to come from the heart.
“ One of this mood I do remember well.
We name him not, what now are carthly names ?-
In humble dwelling born, retired, remote;
In rural quietude, 'mong hills, and streams,
And melancholy deserts, where the Sun
Saw, as he passed, a shepherd only, here
And there, watching his little flock, or heard
The ploughman talking to his steers; his hopes,
His morning hopes, awoke before him, smiling,
Among the dews and holy mountain airs;
And fancy colored them with every hue
Of heavenly loveliness. But soon his dreams
Of childhood fled away, those rainbow dreams,
So innocent and fair, that withered Age,
Even at the grave, cleared up his dusty eye,
And, passing all between, looked fondly back
To see them once again, ere he departed:
These fled away, and anxious thought, that wished
To go, yet whither knew not well to go,
Possessed his soul, and held it still awhile.
He listened, and heard from far the voice of fame,
Heard and was charmed; and deep and sudden vow
Of resolution, made to be renowned;
And deeper vowed again to keep his vow.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Thus stood his mind, when round him came a cloud,
Slowly and heavily it came, a cloud
Of ills, we mention not. Enough to say,
'Twas cold, and dead, impenetrable gloom.
He saw its dark approach, and saw his hopes,
One after one, put out, as nearer still
It drew his soul; but fainted not at first,
Fainted not soon.
He called philosophy, and with his heart
Reasoned. He called religion too, but called
Reluctantly, and therefore was not heard.
Ashamed to be o'ermatched by earthly woes,
He sought, and sought, with eye that dimmed apace,
To find some avenue to light, some place
On which to rest a hope ; but sought in vain.
Darker and darker still the darkness grew.
At length he sunk, and Disappointment stood
His only comforter, and mournfully
Told all was passed. His interest in life,
In being, ceased; and now he seemed to feel,
And shuddered as he felt his powers of mind
Decaying in the spring-time of his day.
The vigorous, weak became; the clear, obscure.
Memory gave up her charge, Decision reeled,
And from her flight Fancy returned, returned
Because she found no nourishment abroad.
The blue heavens withered, and the moon, and sun,
And all the stars, and the green earth, and morn
And evening, withered ; and the eyes, and smiles,
And faces, of all men and women, withered :
Withered to him; and all the universe,
Like something which had been, appeared; but now
Was dead and mouldering fast away. He tried
No more to hope, wished to forget his vow,
Wished to forget his harp; then ceased to wish.
That was his last. Enjoyment now was done.
He had no hope, no wish, and scarce a fear.
Of being sensible, and sensible
Of loss, he as some atom seemed, which God
Had made superfluous, and needed not
To build creation with; but back again
To nothing threw, and left it in the void,
With everlasting sense that once it was.”
Our demands upon a poet are higher perhaps than would be those of many of our readers. We have spoken of the evil done to Mr. Pollok's just fame by indiscriminate praise. In the fear lest we should fall into the same mistake with others, and let our zeal for the true faith for which he wrote lead us to over-estimate his poetic merit, it is possible that we may not have done him entire justice. We have therefore given more room to selections than we well knew how to spare, that those who have not already seen the Poem might not be induced by the character of our criticism to neglect reading it. If our remarks have been rigid, we trust we have made amends by extracts from the better portions of the work.
We cannot leave this poem without recommending it as a help to the meditations of the serious, and without expressing the wish that those inclined to think full well of human nature and their own hearts, and carelessly of what God requires of them, would read it also. There is an alarming and an increasing propensity in society to both of these errors; indeed, they are necessarily coupled. We know of few works better calculated than the one we are noticing, to put an end to the vain, the worse than vain fancies of a preeminently vain age.
We are also becoming more and more creatures of society. The increasing facilities of intercourse, with other circumstances, are helping to make us so. The tendency of this state of things is to give us what the world calls good-natured views of our fellowmen, or in other words, to make us less scrupulous concerning points of moral conduct, and indiscriminately familiar with the good and the unprincipled, and ready enough to expend upon ourselves something of this same good nature which we are