« AnteriorContinuar »
in which our poet flourished. The great merit of these songs, most undoubtedly, consists mainly in the pious ardor and genuine devotional feeling that characterize them. The reader is attracted at once by the deep tone of earnest piety they manifest. There seems to be a constant effort in the poet's mind to give utterance to his devotional feelings in words of earnestness and power ; such words as shall not dishonor the high and noble theme he had chosen for his subject. It can readily be discovered that they give utterance to the language of his heart, and that the influence of that heart's holiest affections was the happiest inspiration of his verse. If there is any truth in those sweet lines of Cowper:
"The poet's lyre, to fix his fame,
Should be the poet's heart:
Than ever blazed by art;' then good George Herbert has made sure his claim to remembrance, and left behind him something which posterity will not willingly let die.
Wherever deep and holy love for sacred things is esteemed, there the verses of George Herbert will find many ardent admirers. They are the pure and free-will offerings of a heart consecrated to pious uses, and attuned to sacred harmonies; the soft breathings of a devotional spirit, that seem too pure for earth.
When he sings of the church where he so loved to worship, it is with all the earnest enthusiasm, if not with the inspiration, of that poble song of Solomon's, commencing,
'Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair. Thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks; thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Mount Gilead. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely. Thy temples are like a piece of pomegranate within thy locks. Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot within thee.'
And Herbert loved the church because it was the fold where he could gather the flock that had been given him to tend. The church on earth was to him an emblem of the spiritual church .eternal in the heavens.' His gentle spirit seems radiant with love whenever he sings of its quiet retreats, and the rich solemnities of its glorious worship.
The poems styled 'The Temple' are preceded by a long 'poem as a preface, called “The Church Porch, where he would have the reader linger before entering the sanctuary. Here the poet takes occasion to give sage counsel and most excellent advice, the better to fit the mind for the contemplation of the sacredness of the sanctuary beyond. He would purify the spirit from the dross of earthly vices; he would have it purged of the contaminations of earth, before entering the temple where the Divine Presence loved to dwell.
And no one can read the advice embodied in this introductory poem, but must rise from the perusal with the conviction that it contains a most admirable code of morality, enforced by the wisest precepts. Independent of its religious tone, it may be said to contain the choicest principles, enforced by illustrations that carry conviction to the mind at once. In the rude measure of the time, it holds up virtue in all its beauty to our approbation, and lays bare the hideousness of vice.
Is lust within, polluting, corrupting, and withering the soul, his warning is:
* BEWARE of lust! it doth pollute the soul
Whom God in baptism washed with His own blood:
The holy words cannot be understood.
Much less toward GOD, whose lust is all their book?'
*Take not His name who made thy mouth, in vain;
It gets thee nothing, and has no excuse.
But the cheap swearer, through his open sluice,
Lets his soul run to naught.' Remembering in whose sight'lying lips are an abomination, and the sacredness of whose sanctuary is polluted by falsehood, he breaks forth with indignant tone :
"Lie not, but let thy heart be true to God,
Thy mouth to it, thy actions to them both.
The stormy working soul spits lies and froth.
A fault which needs it most grows two thereby.' Extravagance, the fruitful mother of debt, penury, and want, which bas desolated as many homes, withered as many hearts, and destroyed as many lives as the sword, he thus rebukes :
NEVER exceed thy income: youth may make
Even with the year; but age, if it will hit,
As the day lessens, and his life with it.
Before thy journey fairly part with all.' The dangers that wait on suretyship, and the madness of yielding to its pressing importunities, are thus boldly delineated :
* Yet be not surety. If thou be a father,
Love is a personal debt. I cannot give
Both friends should die, than hinder them to live.
And are her sureties ere they are friends'.' The spirit in which we should enter the ballowed courts of the sanctuary is set forth thus :
*WHEN once thy foot enters the church, believe
Space will not permit us to make farther extracts from the Porch. Enough has been given to show its tone and character. The poems called “The Temple, thus introduced, are a series of devotional songs upon sacred subjects, overflowing with ardent feeling, and manifesting the existence of a piety as fervent as it is rare. In his verses on Prayer, we have an apt illustration of our author's style and devotional ardor:
"Prayer, the church's banquet, angels' age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The Christian's plummet, sounding heaven and earth.' The quiet stillness of the Sabbath morn, and the blessings that accompany it, invoke such lines as these:
'O DAY most calm, most bright!
The fruit of this, the next world's bud;
Writ by a Friend, and with his blood;
The week were dark, but for thy light;
On which heaven's palace arched lies;
And hollow rooms with vanities:
In God's rich garden: that is base
Threaded together on tinie's string,
Of the eternal, glorious King.
Blessings are plentiful and rife,
More plentiful than hope.' In his verses styled the 'Odor,' we have an exemplification of the poet's love for his Divine MASTER, expressed with that fervency which betokens the sincerity of his adoration :
“How sweetly doth My MASTER sound — My Master!
Unto the taster,
An oriental fragrance – My Master!' The little poem entitled “Jesu,' although it has neither the merit of smoothness nor any poetical beauty, is strongly illustrative of the purely saint-like piety of the author. Dr. Sanderson was enraptured with this little production, and used to style it a gem of rare conceit.' We see nothing in it to warrant the praise. It certainly has no other merit than the fervor it manifests, and the conceit embodied in it is rude and farfetched:
"Jesu is in my heart; His sacred name
Is deeply carved there: but the other week
Even all to pieces, which I went to seek;
After where, “es,' and next where 'u' was graved.
I set me down to spell them, and perceived
And to my whole is ‘Jesu.” Space will not permit us to make farther extracts. Those that we have given illustrate the pious ardor of the subject of our sketch, while at the same time they give evidence of some claim to take position with the minor poets of his day. His prose compositions undoubtedly possess
noore merit than his poetical, and clearly entitle him to rank with the best of his contemporaries. The beautiful simplicity of the character of our poet has never been surpassed in any age. His disposition was of a most sweet and engaging nature, adorned with all the graces of a most saint-like piety. He lived like a saint,' says his enthusiastic biographer, old Walton, and like a saint did he die.' The Sunday before his death, raising himself from his bed, he called for his instrument, and, having tuped it, played and sang that verse from his poems, commencing:
"THE Sundays of man's life,
Threaded together on time's string.' Like the dying swan :
"As death darkened his eye and unplumed his wings,
His sweetest song is the last he sings.' Burlington, N. J., June 27.
GEM-ENCRUSTED gleams the forest,
With ice-diamonds laden low,
Crisp is crushed the frozen snow;
Netted o'er the wintry way,
Fretted o'er with frozen spray.
Dancing leaps the flickering flame-light
Fitful measures on the hearth;
Crackling with a quiet mirth;
Haunted by corroding care,
Which come, pointing to despair.
Right before me sits a maiden
With a sweet and earnest face,
Bright revealings that I trace;
For their genius-birth with pride,
Gazing — worshipping - I sighed.
Slight her fairy form, and perfect
In its rich and classic mould,
Won to life from marble cold.
Fill her heart with love's soft glow,
She is colder than the snow.