(Such pious lines!) when wanton Sappho’s live?
Who with His breath His image did inspire,
Expects it should foment a nobler fire;
Not love which brutes as well as men may know,
But love like His, to whom that breath we owe.
Verse so design’d, on that high subject wrote,
Is the perfection of an ardent thought;
The smoke which we from burning incense raise, 19
When we complete the sacrifice of praise.
In boundless verse the fancy soars too high
For any object but the Deity.
What mortal can with Heaven pretend to share
In the superlatives of wise and fair?
A meaner subject when with these we grace,
A giant’s habit on a dwarf we place.
Sacred should be the product of our Muse,
Like that sweet oil, above all private use,
On pain of death forbidden to be made,
But when it should be on the altar laid. 30
Verse shows a rich inestimable vein
When, dropp’d from heaven, ’tis thither sent again.
Of bounty ’tis that He admits our praise,
Which does not Him, but us that yield it, raise;
For as that angel up to heaven did rise,
Borne on the flame of Manoah’s sacrifice,
So, wing’d with praise, we penetrate the sky;
Teach clouds and stars to praise Him as we fly;
The whole creation, (by our fall made groan!)
His praise to echo, and suspend their moan. 40
For that He reigns, all creatures should rejoice,
And we with songs supply their want of voice.
The church triumphant, and the church below,
In songs of praise their present union show;
Their joys are full; our expectation long;
In life we differ, but we join in song.
Angels and we, assisted by this art,
May sing together, though we dwell apart.
Thus we reach heaven, while vainer poems must
No higher rise than winds may lift the dust. 50
From that they spring; this from His breath that gave,
To the first dust, th’immortal soul we have;
His praise well sung (our great endeavour here),
Shakes off the dust, and makes that breath appear.
He that did first this way of writing grace,
Conversed with the Almighty face to face;
Wonders he did in sacred verse unfold,
When he had more than eighty winters told.
The writer feels no dire effect of age,
Nor verse, that flows from so divine a rage. 60
Eldest of Poets, he beheld the light,
When first it triumph’d o’er eternal night;
Chaos he saw, and could distinctly tell
How that confusion into order fell.
As if consulted with, he has express’d
The work of the Creator, and His rest;
How the flood drown’d the first offending race,
Which might the figure of our globe deface.
For new-made earth, so even and so fair,