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From fruitful beds and flowery borders,
Parcelled to wasteful ranks and orders,
Where state grasps more than plain truth needs,
And wholesome herbs are starved by weeds,
To the wild woods I will be gone,
And the coarse meals of great Saint John.
When truth and piety are missed
Both in the rulers and the priest;
When pity is not cold, but dead,
And the rich eat the poor like bread;
While factious heads with open coil
And force, first make, then share, the spoil;
To Horeb then Elias
And in the desert grows the rose.
Hail crystal fountains and fresh shades,
Where no proud look invades,
No busy worldling hunts away
The sad retirer all the day!
Hail, happy, harmless solitude !
Our sanctuary from the rude
And scornful world ; the calm recess
Of faith, and hope, and holiness!
Here something still like Eden looks ;
Honey in woods, juleps in brooks :
And flowers, whose rich, unrifled sweets
With a chaste kiss the cool dew greets
When the toils of the day are done,
And the tired world sets with the sun.
Here flying winds and flowing wells,
Are the wise watchful hermit's bells;
Their busy murmurs all the night
To praise or prayer do invite ;
And with an awful sound arrest,
And piously employ his breast.
When in the east the dawn doth blush,
Here cool fresh spirits the air brush.
Herbs straight get up; flowers peep and spread;
er praise, and bow the head :
Birds, from the shades of night released,
Look round about, then quit the nest,
And with united gladness sing
The glory of the morning's King.
The hermit hears, and with meek voice
Offers his own up, and their, joys :
Then prays that all the world might be
Blessed with as sweet a unity.
If sudden storms the day invade,
They flock about him to the shade,
Where wisely they expect the end,
Giving the tempest time to spend ;
And hard by shelters on some bough
Hilarion's servant, the sage
O purer years of light and grace!
Great is the difference, as the space,
"Twixt you and us, who blindly run
After false fires and leave the sun.
Is not fair nature of herself
Much richer than dull paint and pelf?
And are not streams at the spring-head
More sweet than in carved stone or lead.
But fancy and some artist's tools
Frame a religion for fools.
The truth, which once was plainly taught,
With thorns and briers now is fraught.
Some part is with bold fables spotted,
Some by strange comments wildly blotted ;
And Discord, old corruption's crest,
With blood and blame have stained the rest.
So snow, which in its first descents
A whiteness like pure heaven presents,
When touched by man is quickly soiled,
And after trodden down and spoiled.
O lead me, where I may be free
In truth and spirit to serve Thee !
Where undisturbed I may converse
With thy great Self; and there rehearse
Thy gifts with thanks; and from thy store,
Who art all blessings, beg much more.
Give me the wisdom of the bee,
And her unwearied industry !
That from the wild gourds of these days,
I may extract health, and Thy praise,
Who canst turn darkness into light,
And in my weakness show Thy might.
Suffer me not in
To seek refreshment from a plant
Thou didst not set ; since all must be
up, whose growth is not from Thee. 'Tis not the garden, and the bowers, Nor sense and forms, that give to flowers Their wholesomeness; but Thy good will, Which truth and pureness purchase still.
Then since corrupt man hath driven hence Thy kind and saving influence, And balm is no more to be had In all the coasts of Gilead ; Go with me to the shade and cell, Where thy best servants once did dwell. There let me know Thy will, and see Exiled religion owned by Thee ; For Thou canst turn dark grots to halls, And make hills blossom like the vales, Decking their untilled heads with flowers, And fresh delights for all sad hours ; Till from them, like a laden bce, I may fly home, and hive with Thee !
SWEET, harmless lives! on whose holy leisure Waits innocence and pleasure,
Whose leaders to those pastures and clear springs
Were patriarchs, saints, and kings ;
How happened it that in the dead of night
You only saw true light,
While Palestine was fast asleep, and lay
Without one thought of day ?
Was it because those first and blessed swains
Were pilgrims on those plains,
When they received the promise, for which now
'Twas there first shown to you ?
'Tis true, he loves that dust whereon they go
That serve him here below,
And therefore might for memory of those
His love there first disclose ;
But wretched Salem once his love, must now
No voice nor vision know,
Her stately piles, with all their height and pride,
Now languished and died.
No costly pride, no soft-clothed luxury,
In those thin cells could lie ;
Each stirring wind and storm blew through their cots,
Which never harbored plots ;
Only content and love and humble joys,
Lived there without all noise ;
Perhaps some harmless cares for the next day
Did in their bosoms play,
As where to lead their sheep, what silent nook,
What springs or shades to look ;
But that was all; and now with gladsome care
They for the town prepare ;
They leave their flock, and in a busy talk
All towards Bethlehem walk
To see their soul's great Shepherd, who was come,
To bring all stragglers home;
Where now they find him out, and, taught before,
That Lamb of God adore,
That Lamb whose days great kings and prophets wished
And longed to see, but missed.
The first light they beheld was bright and gay,
And turned their night to day; But to this later light they saw in him,
Their day was dark and dim.
When first my youthful, sinful age
Grew master of my ways.
Appointing error for my page,
And darkness for
I flung away, and with full cry
Of wild affections, rid
In post for pleasures, bent to try
All gamesters that would bid.
I played with fire, did counsel spurn,
Made life my common stake;
But never thought that fire would burn,
Or that a soul could ache.
Glorious deceptions, gilded mists,
False joys, fantastic flights,
Pieces of sackcloth with silk lists,
These were my prime delights.
I sought choice bowers, haunted the spring,
Culled flowers, and made me posies;
Gave my fond humors their full wing,
And crowned my head with roses.
But at the height of this career
I met with a dead man,
Who, noting well my vain abear,
Thus unto me began :
Desist, fond fool, be not undone,
What thou hast cut to-day
Will fade at night, and with this sun
Quite vanish and decay.