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“When as my soul grew strong in solitude, " I saw the eternal energy pervade “ The botindless range of nature, with the sun “ Pour life and radiance from his fiamy path, “ And on the lowliest flowret of the fielä “ The kindly dew-drops shed. And then I felt “That he who formu'd this goodly frame of things • Must needs be good, and with a FATHER's name "I call’d 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
As she spake
“ Woman thou seems 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, “But 'tis the Priest alone can teach remorse, “ Can bid St. Peter ope the gates 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 fames 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 ! 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.