Yea, Prince of Earth let Man assume to
Nay more—of Man let Man himself be God,
Yet without God, a slave of slaves is he;
To others, wonder; to himself, a rod;
Restless despair, desire, and desolation;
The more secure, the more abomination.
Then by affecting power, we cannot know
By knowing all things else, we know him less.
Nature contains him not. Art cannot show him.
Opinions idols, and not God, express.
Without, in power, we see him everywhere;
Within, we rest not, till we find him there.
Then seek we must; that course is natural—
For owned souls to find their owner out.
Our free remorses when our natures fall—
When we do well, our hearts made free from doubt—
Prove service due to one Omnipotence,
And Nature of religion to have sense.
Questions again, which in our hearts arise—
Since loving knowledge, not humility—
Though they be curious, godless, and unwise,
Yet prove our nature feels a Deity;
For if these strifes rose out of other grounds,
Man were to God as deafness is to sounds.
* * * * *
Yet in this strife, this natural remorse,
If we could bend the force of power and wit
To work upon the heart, and make divorce
There from the evil which preventeth it,
In judgment of the truth we should not doubt
Good life would find a good religion out.
If a fair proportion of it were equal to this, the poem would be a fine one, not for its poetry, but for its spiritual metaphysics. I think the fourth and fifth of the stanzas I have given, profound in truth, and excellent in utterance. They are worth pondering.
We now descend a decade of the century, to find another group of names within the immediate threshold of the sixties.
LORD BACON AND HIS COEVALS.
Except it be Milton’s, there is not any prose fuller of grand poetic embodiments than Lord Bacon’s. Yet he always writes contemptuously of poetry, having in his eye no doubt the commonplace kinds of it, which will always occupy more bulk, and hence be more obtrusive, than that which is true in its nature and rare in its workmanship. Towards the latter end of his life, however, being in ill health at the time, he translated seven of the Psalms of David into verse, dedicating them to George Herbert. The best of them is Psalm civ.—just the one upon which we might suppose, from his love to the laws of Nature, he would dwell with the greatest sympathy. Partly from the wish to hear his voice amongst the rest of our singers, partly for the merits of the version itself, which has some remarkable lines, I have resolved to include it here. It is the first specimen I have given in the heroic couplet.