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“ When as my soul grew strong in solitude,
“ And on the lowliest flowret of the field
“ The kindly dew-drops shed. And then I felt " That he who form'd this goodly frame of things “ Must needs be good, and with a Father's name "I callid on him, and from my burthen'd heart “ Pour'd out the yearnings of unmingled love. “ Methinks it is not strange then, that I fled “ The house of prayer, and made the lonely grove
My temple, at the foot of some old oak
Watching the little tribes that had their world .“ Within its mossy bark; or laid me down “ Beside the rivulet whose murmuring “ Was silence * to my soul, and mark'd the swarm
* Thro' the scene are faintly heard Sounds that are silence to the mind.
" Whose light-edged shadows on the bedded sand “ Mirror'd their mazy sports; the insect hum, “ The flow of waters, and the song of birds
Making most holy music to mine ear : “Oh! was it strange, if for such scenes as these “ Such deep deveutness, such intense delight “ Of quiet adoration, I forsook “ The house of worship? strange that when I felt “ That God had made my Spirit quick to feel “ And love what'eer was beautiful and good, “ And from ought evil and deform'd to shrink • Even as with instinct; father! was it strange “ That in my heart I had no thought of sin “ And did not need forgiveness?"
As she spake The Doctors stood astonish'd, and some while They listen'd still in wonder. But at length A Priest replied,
“ Woman thou seemst to scorn “The ordinances of the holy Church,
“ And, if I rightly understand thy words, “ Thou sayest that Solitude and Nature taught " Thy feelings of religion, and that now “ Masses and absolutions and the use “Of mystic wafer, are to thee unknown. “ How then could nature teach thee true religion,
Depriv'd of these? Nature can teach to sin,
of Heaven, “ And from the penal fires of purgatory “ Absolve the soul. Could Nature teach thee this? “ Or tell thee that St. Peter holds the keys, “ And that his successor's unbounded power “ Extends o'er either world ? Altho' thy life “ Of sin were free, if of this holy truth
Ignorant, thy soul in liquid flames must rue “ Transgression."
Thus he spake; the applauding look Went round. Nor dubious to reply the Maid Was silent.
“ Fathers of the holy church, “ If on these points abstruse a simple maid “ Like me, should err, impute not you the crime “ To self-will'd reason, vaunting its own strength “ Above the eternal wisdom. True it is “ That for long time I have not heard the sound “Of mass high-chaunted, nor with trembling lips “ Partook the mystic wafer : yet the bird “ That to the matin ray prelusive pour'd " His joyous song, methought did warble forth “Sweeter thanksgiving to Religion's ear “ In his wild melody of happiness, “ Than ever rung along the high-arched roofs « Of man.
Yet never from the bending vine “ Pluck'd I its ripen'd clusters thanklessly, “Of that good God unmindful, who bestow'd “The bloodless banquet. Ye have told me, Sirs, “That Nature only teaches man to sin ! “ If it be sin to seek the wounded lamb, “ To bind its wounds, and bathe them with my tears,
* This is what Nature taught | No, Fathers! no,
" It is not Nature that can teach to sin :
« Nature is all Benevolence, all Love, “ All Beauty ! In the greenwood's simple shade “ There is no vice that to the indignant check “ Bids the red current rush ; no misery there ; “ No wretched mother, that with pallid face “And famine-fall'n, hangs o'er her hungry babes, « With such a look, so wan, so woe-begone, “ As shall one day, with damning eloquence, “ Against the mighty plead 1 Nature teach sin ! “O blasphemy against the Holy One, “Who made us in the image of Himself, “Who made us all for happiness and love, “ Infinite happiness, infinite love, “ Partakers of his own eternity.
Solemn and slow the reverend Priest replied, “ Much, woman, do I doubt that all-wise Heaven “ Would thus vouchsafe its gracious miracles