Rhymed Plea For Tolerance - Dialogue II.

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  By no faint shame withheld from general gaze,
  'Tis thus, my friend, we bask us in the blaze;
  Where deeds, more surface-smooth than inly bright,
  Snatch up a transient lustre from the light.

  Yet as rich hues, in loom of nature spun,
  The rose itself, will fade in torrid sun;
  Or diamond to vapour fleet away,
  In the fierce furnace of the focal ray;
  True virtues thus, of finer frame or hue,
  In that unnatural glare of public view,
  Their beauty lose—and lose their essence too. 

  Applause least wins, where hearty thoughts engage,
  'Tis the mere Actor frets him for a Stage.—

  Nor Man alone now strives for saintly fame,
  The passion steals o'er many a gentle Dame;
  And faith, that once held timid course—to pray,—
  Now throbs in furious lust of public sway.
  How could I dream, that thou shouldst e'er affect,
  Gay, flirting Phyllis, leadership of sect?
  Frank and fond-hearted then, if not discreet;
  The censor now, and terror of the street.

  Yet, Phyllis, by thy new evangelism
  Though puzzled sore, I never called it schism.
  Knelt at thy bible-rout, where chairs were hassocks,
  And petticoats expounded texts—like cassocks;
  With penny contributions wage no war,
  Nor breathed one comment on thy ball-bazaar.
  If thoughts will rise, when simpering Rosa barters
  For coin of whisker'd cornet ladies' garters;
  If gallopade be scarce a saint-like frolic,
  And waltz, though winning, hardly apostolic;

  Earth thus for heaven to tax may yet be meet,
  Odour of gain, spring whence it will, is sweet;
  And if, in sooth, sprout forth some small abuses,
  Yet all come sanctified to pious uses.

  License thus far, far Saint, my creed accords—
  But blame I must that tongue, "whose words are swords."
  If holier now, dear Phyllis, than of yore,
  And great the gain—be tolerant yet the more;
  For of all humours by which soul is crost,
  A piety, turned acrid, cankers most.—

  Melancthon! well didst thou thy mother sway
  To keep her aged feet in the old way;
  With life's first lights to cheer its evening gloom,
  And drop, in placid temper, to the tomb.—

  As quiet leaf, that sleeps on summer trees,
  Will turn and tremble to the awakening breeze;

  As glassy lake, that wood and sky reflects,
  Or ruin, boast of ancient architects,
  Let the gale rise, and clouds come clustering o'er,
  With wave upheaved runs darkening to the shore;
  Sensitive Woman thus (as some have thought,
  With sympathies, yet more than logic, fraught,)
  O'er her sweet rest should winds of doctrine blow,
  Quick as the leaf, will vibrate to and fro,
  Or break from anchorage, where she rode at ease,
  And whelm her own, and wreck her household's peace.

  And yet Devotion, though from high her birth,
  Was made to dwell amid the ties of earth,
  And, with her own melodious prayer to blend
  All gentle names of family and friend.
  And if not always in her eager ears
  Responses ring, immediate from the spheres,
  Yet sweetest echoes back from earth are given,
  That if not heavenly all,—still speak of heaven.

  But, Woman, Thou, who o'er the craving soul
  Would'st nought but heaven's unmingled music roll;

  Thou, soon or late, shalt feel th' o'erwrought desire
  On the strained strings or languish or expire;
  And then Hypocrisy—forgive the word—
  Steals in and—for Devotion—smites the chord;
  Or through that gentle breast, by stealth, in glide
  The vexing demons of Dispute and Pride.

  Ah! then, when daily joys less fondly press,
  When Sister—Friend—or Husband win thee less,
  Through thine own bosom stern inquiry move,
  And sift, if this, indeed, be Holy Love!

  Giver of gifts! Disposer of my life!
  Oh! save me from a Controversial Wife!
  Each Gospel lesson be it her's to prize,
  But more its Duties than its Mysteries;
  Her sigh to guilt,—her tear to suffering given,—
  And, night and morn, her own sweet prayer to heaven;
  But let no demon tempt her to the claim
  Of Parlour-Disputant's ill-sorted fame;

  Such theologic triumphs all not worth
  One happy household-look—one quiet evening hearth.

  Thou Faith, with whom, when purest,—group unriven—
  Link Charity, for earth—and Hope, for Heaven—
  (Group lovelier than those favourite Three of Jove,
  By fabling chisel wreath'd for classic love
  Before whose upward glances, glory-fraught,
  Words quail, and faints the ineffectual thought;
  Yet, downward from that high communion sped,
  Then, sweetest Comforter of sorrow's bed;
  'Tis thine in human hearts, unforced, to grow,
  Dropt gently in from all we see and know;
  And, of all earthly spots, thou lov'st to dwell,
  Unvex'd, in home affection's tranquil cell.
  To thee, plain prayer—proud mass—each varying toll—
  All are but types, whose essence is the soul;
  Tests—synods—these thy spirit loves, nor lacks,
  But warder's bolt abhors and lictor's axe. 

  Louis, by servile France misnamed the Great,
  (In France when kingship stood at higher rate)
  Say, could he hear, where now, most Stately Shade,
  He loves to plan some Stygian masquerade;
  —Or, following up the bent of mortal will,
  Along Cocytus weaves the grave quadrille;
  —Or rather, leaving now that fabled plain,
  To take, as suits our theme, a graver strain;—
  Say—would he still his earthly dogmas hold?—
  And meek, yet steadfast faith, and conscience bold,
  These would he deem that Kings—that God—should pay
  With dragonnades on earth and pains for aye?
  Or of a wise Repentance feel the weight,
  And o'er each bitter edict weep—too late?

  Ye who on mortal man temptations shower,
  One trial spare, and prove him not with Power!

  For, as changed soil still modifies the seed,
  As clime adds fierceness, gentleness, to breed;

  As chemists mark, when like approaches like,
  How strong affinities will rush to strike;
  As generous wine that makes the cheerful glad,
  Transforms the dull to stern—the wild to mad;
  So Faith, in harsh or gentle bosom sown,
  Shapes here a Calvin—here a Fénélon—
  Him who his Lord's own spirit seemed to wake,
  And him, who burned Servetus at the stake.

  "Mighty, we shout, is Truth, and must prevail,"
  Nor, till the glove be thrown, begin to quail.
  Then in her scutcheon we suspect a flaw,
  And harness, for the battle, strong in law;
  And as the doubtful duel draws more near,
  More doubt the verdict of the Ithuriel spear;
  'List some stout Pleader—Second for the fight,
  And pack a jury—to decide the right.

  Yet Truth from Themis asks nor sword nor mace,
  Give but the quiet balance in their place.
  Who with brute force her temperate cause defends,
  Her plaint must bide—"Protect me from my friends;"

  And thence may ponder on His patient word,
  Who bade the hot disciple "Sheath his sword!"

  Beneath the proud Pantheon's girdling dome
  When found all vagrant Deities a home,
  From some fond votary each received a prayer,
  And Nemesis and Até had their share.
  But when that vast idolatry was gone,
  And Faith, less darken'd, worshipp'd but the One,
  To Him each worshipper, in selfish guise,
  Transferred his favourite Virtue or his Vice.
  In Love, Love found his godhead.—The Severe
  Felt not the Love, and bowed alone to Fear.
  Each culled some different text—Self-Will to stay—
  Or read the self-same text—a different way.

  So—Passions still were Deities—and Schism,
  As free to choose—but sourer Pantheism;—
  And hence 'twixt sect and sect, when strifes arose,
  And banded Converts widened off to Foes,
  The scornful Sadducee would jeer amain
  At Discord and the Furies come again! 

  Thus Doctrines, rebel natures meant to bind,
  Themselves, more oft, are govern'd by each Mind,
  Most have two Creeds.—The one from Ritual known,
  The other, Temper-moulded, and our own.—

  Reason may balance with her patient poise,
  But Temper-creeds admit no compromise.
  —As Friends, far sundered by the Atlantic main,
  To friendship cling, and sigh to meet again;
  Yet when to Village Neighbourhood they draw,
  Like other neighbours, stickle for a straw;
  So minds that muse, with no unkindly heed,
  Where mountain doubts divide, on distant creed;
  Let but some two approach so near together,
  Mere feather parts, will quarrel for that feather;
  And fume that, won almost to concert pitch,
  Accord should there, abruptly, make its hitch.

  Some from themselves wide differing, yet sincere,
  Swerved by disturbing fancies, swiftly veer;
  Or if, like Saurian monsters, turned with pain,
  Once turned—dart forward fiercely straight again;

  Now grasp the Whole, now some stray Scrap recal,
  (For Text or Context oft is difference all)
  Yet, Bosom-pride of every change the root,
  For each would Suffer, or would Persecute;
  —Had Martyrs or Inquisitors become,
  And dared—or lit—your fires, Madrid and Rome.

  The Goule—'tis story of Arabian strain—
  Her rice picked up with bodkin, grain by grain;
  And nature thus, we scarce know why, imparts
  Her needle intellects and pin-point hearts—
  We scarce know why, unless her aim hath been
  Word-Critic shrewd, or Theologian keen,
  Who, dull to what precedes, or follows next,
  Clips out his Godhead from some single text.

  Seize we, with wider scope, the Gospel's Whole,
  Flux dim with clear, and fuse along the soul.
  Then—when our Form beams forth, of perfect mould,
  And not one drossy fragment specks its gold;
  —Then, let Comparison together strike
  This and That Image—and oh! how unlike. 

  So Scripture text may serve man's Mortal Foe,
  So Scripture text hath wrought our weal or woe;
  Now interceding Saint, that leads to God,
  Hired Bravo now, that stabs at Hatred's nod.
  He least perplexed through discrepance shall move,
  Who makes his running comment—Christian Love.

B.—  But now, concede, we neither hang nor burn;
  Tests are mere Forms.—From ours you'll scarcely turn.
  What Virtue—Wisdom—own, if Thou reject,
  Of Prejudice—of Pride—thyself suspect.

A.—  But where Compliance helps to mend our store,
  'Twere wisdom to suspect ourselves yet more.
  —All courtesy to faith of foeman shown,
  I deem not well to parley with our own.

  Nor well to pledge, where Tests—grown Forms—disjoin
  The inward Spirit from the outward Sign;
  For that first Insincerity, confess'd,
  Sheds its far tinge of Doubt on all the rest.

  Who Truth on Falsehood builds, with idiot hand
  But piles his granite on a shifting sand.

  Bold Gelon, called at length to pastoral cares,
  Sifts through the test he scorns and stoutly swears.
  Servio, with wiser heart, if weaker head,
  To 'scape dilemma, gulps the oaths unread.

  Whoe'er to "sticking place" his heart would screw
  For Faith, or Fair,—at least should deem them true.
  Worn Creeds have pluck'd new strength from rival Schism,
  But die beneath a bought Indifferentism.

  Why must Authority on oaths insist,
  When thus we take and break them, as we list?
  And where the justice of a penal due,
  That holds the frank and lets the cunning through?

  Reared up in Paley's qualm-controlling school,
  Our good old Granta's comfortable rule—

  You say Subscription scarce was meant to bind—
  But is there here no martyrdom of mind?
  Accept—and lurks no Snare for conscience by?
  Refuse—and threats no starving Penalty?
  If now no Alva torture for the state,
  Is there no Alva in a private Hate?
  No Force, when lacking plaint of guiltier deed,
  We criminate a neighbour for his Creed?

  That neighbour on thy manor starts a doubt,
  Or from thy favourite vestry votes thee out.
  The law forbids to stab the man or stone.—
  Hint him not Orthodox, thy work is done.
  Let honest fools cry, "Shame." Thou, unperplexed,
  Shalt show good warrant in some twisted text;
  Whilst hand with thine each coward foe shall link,
  With Thee combining,—if like Him they think.

  Perchance, the very Courts shall help thee through;
  For truth and justice have, long since, been two.

  Lo! where yon Pleader-knave—Paine's perfect growth—
  With well-fee'd horror probes some Sectary's oath.
  With "Sir, you this reject"—or "this believe."
  (The judge—perchance—no stickler in his sleeve
  Then doffs that mask devout—just one hour worn—
  For curse habitual, and a sceptic scorn.

  And who but grieves, when dooms dogmatic part
  From Priesthood's lip—more rarely from his heart;
  To that, more oft, some milder reading taught
  By gentle nature, or by critic thought.
  What though his voice subdued, and shrinking eye
  Speak word and thought contending inwardly;
  What though, stern Athanase, (if Sainted once,)
  Thy curses win from Mercy no response;
  Yet, dropped on soil of Ignorance or Pride,
  To Hate they spring, and man from man divide;
  Of old—to pyre of martyrdom gave birth,
  Now agonise some dear domestic hearth,
  When son or husband, starting from the thrall,
  Incredulous hates—then madly doubts of all.

  Where Bigotry in voice of vengeance speaks,
  Himself fore-slays the very end he seeks.
  Some kneeling Faith near Tolerance still is found,
  Intolerance wafts Scepticism round;
  Or else to other folds drives clean away
  Whom sophist tongues had never lured to stray.

  Benign examples, on which all may look,
  Plead more for creed than preachment or than book,
  Of many a rising schism repress the spark,
  Or win the rebel back and save the ark.

  —Yet, spite of time and trial, still the same,
  Our explications and our oaths we frame;
  Frame for eternity!—though every year
  Steal silent on, its own Interpreter.
  The Forms meanwhile remain, a seemly crust,
  Till some Chance hurtle—and the things are dust!
  Like dust or petty nuisance scorned; but yet
  Potent, till then, to torture or to fret.

  Lore, from calm bowers, by Cam and lsis laved!

  Lore, by fond Youth with cheated transport craved!
  'Tis yours to lure the young Enquirer on,
  Through many a path, that tracks from ages gone,
  Till, where Thought's vistas open yet more free,
  Subscription blocks the way—and bans Degree;
  And, while a thousand powers of prospect stir,
  Would strain to beg some loop-hole glimpse from Her.

  Who crouches through that low and narrow door,
  To him his Fate cries sternly—"Think no more."
  Hard to abstain, but perilous to press,
  Where after-thought may bring "the more or less";
  And Thou be held, as fast or loose thy thrall,
  Socinian here—there Evangelical.

  If Thought will rise, let Thoughtlessness dispute it;
  A strenuous idler, fiddle it, or flute it;
  Be wise in tulips, learned on a haunch—
  Your little Thinker is the truly Staunch;
  Or better—let thy life with deeds be fraught,
  Such as heaven loves—but still abstain from Thought! 

  Beneath the surface of yon level deep
  Lurk rifting rocks, and gulfing currents sweep.
  And what are Creeds, planed down by State Decree,
  But the smooth treachery of a summer sea?
  This Leo learned, Rome's Pilot, to his cost,
  When half his freight of ancient faith was lost.—

  And now, scarce less, a strange horizon lowers,
  And Change, His church that wreck'd, may burst on Ours;
  Burst, as of old, like Luther's lightning shock,
  The fold half-crush, and dissipate the flock.

  Hence more, as earthly meed may seem less sure,
  Cleanse we our faith;—for honest held, if poor.
  Soldier, for conscience his good sword who draws,
  Should have to boast, at least, a sterling cause.

  That scattered creeds shall scarce converge to one,
  If observation, century-school'd, have shown;
  As adders deaf to each dogmatic word,
  Nor much conciliated by the sword;

  'Twere now as well another course to trim,
  If not for wisdom, merely for the whim;
  And since Authority so long hath tried,
  And failed at last—take Tolerance for a guide.

  But if Authority we needs must have,
  With rod to smite and fetter to enslave;
  Her let me worship, venerably old,
  Tiara-bound, and vesture starred with gold;
  And hear—'mid crosses, shrines, her anthems roll,
  And incense breathe, at once, through sense and soul;
  As tost, in fragrant wreathings, to and fro,
  Amid the pictured dreams it lingers slow
  Of thoughtful Raffaelle or vast Angelo.

  Blind wisdom theirs, who bade old Harshness stay,
  And Beauty—half that soothed it—tore away.

  —Plain English Scripture doth right well for me;
  But if its blessed meanings still must be

  Read in another's sense—mine strictly bound—
  Me then let loftier Latin peal around,
  Where antique mass intones its deep delight,
  And far tradition rules, in Reason's spite.

  Ye Senator-Economists, who plan
  Substantial blessings for Elector-man;
  Embodying each your own, or prompter's scheme,
  Canal or corn law—currency or steam;
  For one brief hour, these loftier cares at rest,
  Weave one poor speech, to plead for Minds Opprest.
  Let trade, if so ye deem, unfetter'd be,
  But leave the Conscience, like the trader, free.
  Tithes—and tithe-proctors, if ye will, control,
  But dogmas harsh, not less, that tithe the soul.
  Let Charity no more be ruled a sin,
  Nor Justice, but by license, smuggled in;
  Nor holy rights of Tolerance left to guess,
  But Love, like Hate, by statute taught express.
  Disused though long, impeach her not of loss,
  But trumpet-sound her, at the public Cross;

  —Yet not for dole, at will withheld, or given,—
  But birth-right, like the genial air of heaven.—
  If round us yet ancestral rancours throng,
  To you, ye Senates, half pertains the wrong;
  —But ill a backward legislation suits,
  The law 'twas Orpheus gave, and not the Brutes.

B.—  Yet ours is "Toleration practical"—

A.—  If fit the freedom, why retain the thrall?
  —Rightful our Creed, like ancient Christian men
  Why strained to hide and worship in a den?
  —Why still condemned beneath your sway to pine?
  Speak, Athanasius! speak, ye Thirty-nine!

  Wise is it, thus to bid us weep or laugh?
  Half to perplex and turn to bigots half?
  While of old disputants on our free sense
  Ye harness thus the hates or the pretence,
  Ye too, like charioteers who curb and strain,
  May chance, when least ye fear, to snap the rein. 

  Of tangled problems why thus large your list?
  Christian to be must each turn casuist?
  By cobweb clues how hard our way to find!
  'Tis not with gossamers we lead the blind;
  And, left to hair-split logic's breaking line,
  What Theseus-Faith may triumph o'er the mine?

  Your zig-zag ray distracts our straight desire,
  Or tempts, like ignis fatuus, to the mire;
  Light would ye proffer—let it aid—not mar,
  To focus drawn and fixed as polar star,
  Nor hard to find, and never kindled hot,
  To martyrize dim sight which finds it not.

  Thee, Charity, did peace-persuading Paul
  Wisely prefer, the rarest gem of all;
  For Alms he knew, full oft, the gifts of Pride,
  And Faith, erewhile, by Selfishness supplied;
  —But thee, of Meekness born, and Self-control,
  The very scarcest product of the soul.
  In strife apart our other Virtues flee,
  When not in sister union held by Thee;

  And, breaking from their old harmonious chime,
  Jar, in each other's ears, like Guilt or Crime;
  But where thy presence is, there all the rest
  Cluster in Love, and that one spot is blest.

  And proofs have been, if ancient tale may move,
  Of Faith unconquered and unconquered Love;
  Who, trailed amid the Arena's brutal crew,
  Died for belief, and prayed for those who slew;
  And still of these, though much in sooth they fail,
  Fragments are found to win us to the tale.
  As when some mighty tree hath met the shock
  Of storm or axe; a ruin—or a block;
  Though high in air no more its branches toss,
  The wreck remains—to tell how vast it was.

  "To tame the proud—the fettered slave to free,
  These are imperial arts and worthy thee."
  Allow me, thus, in English phrase to quote,
  When "glorious John" translates what Virgil wrote.
  Nor ill, in truth, some loftier virtues throve,
  When bowed the darkened world to Gentile Jove;

  Nor were long years, ere purer faith was born,
  Of household loves and duties all forlorn;
  And every land hath known, since first it saw
  Seed cast on furrow, wise restraint of Law;
  —But—Humbled Heart! that lesson first was given
  In Galilee; to temper sterner leaven,
  Make Heaven of Earth; then lead from Earth to Heaven.

  Thence Virtue—not to Action prompted less,—
  Yet harder glory won from Passiveness;
  And, peacefully sublime, brooked sweetly, there,
  Her doubled task—to Do and to Forbear.

  —Oh! bitter produce of that Christian tree,
  For Loving kindness and for Charity!
  One sheltering sky—one earth to feed the root—
  The Brethren pluck—and Hatred is the fruit!
  The pious bandit thus, Abruzzi's son,
  His dagger bears and crucifix in one;
  The point full sharp for deeds of blood and guilt,
  And our meek Saviour carved upon the hilt. 

  —With differing optics earth and sky we view,
  And what to Me is dark, beams bright to You.
  Nay things, the very same to sight confest,
  With differing impulse strike upon the breast.
  Say then, if Outward Forms,—the plainest speech
  Of nature, various aspects yield for each;
  If mountain peak, and forest's deep abyss,
  To thee indifferent, mould another's bliss;
  How then may Mere Conceptions, clear far less,
  To all alike conveyed, alike impress?
  Of Will, of Thought, the measure who shall find,
  Or strain one dogma on each varying mind?

  When from our North the Zephyr-breeze shall blow,
  And Tides flow equalised, nor high, nor low;
  On the lithe Pard when shows each spot alike,
  And with one colour eyes from Beauty strike;
  Then bring the pattern of thy Choosing Wit,
  And bid all human race conform to it.

  Or rather, as each herb selects from earth
  The vital food that fosters best its birth;

  Even so, let Individual Minds drink in
  The nurture to their spirit most akin;
  Freely by each his own calm progress won,
  And—of Faith's "many mansions" found the One.

  Then ceaseless why, in village and in town,
  'Twixt sect and sect, dispute of up and down?
  With secular why mix religious strife,
  To add one pang the more to worried life?
  If coming worlds at pleasure we divide,
  In this why walk not kindly, side by side?
  In guild why thus contentious ever meet?
  Why thwart our pavement? why not light the street?

B.—  But Faith is Will.

A.—  So taught Bray's easy Vicar,
  And innocently wondered folk should bicker;
  —Next, held each stickler-obstinate,—not dim—
  Last, hated all, no weathercocks, like him.

  —Oh! milky maxim! And not his alone,—
  Now Metaphysic claims it for his own;
  And having twisted,—doubted,—talked,—his fill—
  Decrees, at last, dogmatic, "Faith is Will."

  —And when the crowd, of old, was clustering thick
  Round the last throb of dying Heretic,
  Inquisitors, I ween, might well instil
  The very self-same maxim, "Faith is Will."
  —Convenient phrase! that serves his several turn,
  Who wills to flatter, or who wills to burn!
  Or saves the brambled foot from thorns that goad,—
  Of our Theology the Royal Road!

  On crust-when Stoic dined, in robe of stuff,
  "Tenacious! Just!" the phrase went well enough;
  But, for a race 'mid silks and clarets cast,
  Trite is the maxim, and the mode o'erpast.

  To him, who wills a borough or a place;
  To him, who wills a living from His Grace;

  —Wills, for his son, a rich and pious wife;
  Or, for himself, unpersecuted life
  Or him, whose heart and brain, tired fairly out,
  Will sweet repose from logic and from doubt;
  I too, well pleased to thrive and to be still,
  I too, full oft could echo—"Faith is Will"—
  Though checked, as oft, by him, whose honest heart
  To Conscience clings, and spurns the Trimmer's part.

  Where varying Creeds diverge, like vista-views,
  In separate lines, and Thought stands free to choose,
  If honest Prejudice oppose some hill
  To block the best—thus far let Faith be will.
  But hold no commune with that Faith polite,
  Which, knowing black for black, would will it white;
  And taunts each slower creed which dares gainsay,
  Or clasps not yet, her option of to-day,
  And feasts with every rite in every grove,
  And veers by turns to Titan and to Jove.

  Not Swallows, whom the instinct of the year
  Convenes for flight, with swifter motion veer,

  When all the tiny birds in long array
  First cloud with cindery wing the clear blue day,
  Then, as by signal, suddenly to view
  Glance their white breasts and change the squadron's hue.
  Not rapid more (to illume that mighty dome,
  "The world's great wonder and e'en thine, oh Rome!"
  When loftier festivals their pomp prepare)
  The fiery transmutation flames in air.
  There, while innumerous eyes on that vast ring
  Of tempered lamps, serene as moonbeam cling,
  Hands all unseen bright flambeaux toss on high,
  And the changed fires flash ruddy round the sky;
  —But Faith, I ween, with steadier light should burn,
  Nor quite at will, like glancing Swallow, turn.

  But where stern statutes summon state-bound men
  Old creeds to quit, or—quitting—clasp again,
  And sorely-hunted Faith pursuit bemocks
  With season-shifted hue, like Arctic fox,
  Of such Compliance deem not We quite ill
  Though prone it be to mould Belief on Will.

  Our Prosperous Faith, unthreatened yet, may frown,
  But hard it is to wear the Martyr's crown;
  And justly hence high guerdon waits on them,
  Who, spite its thorns, have dared that diadem.

  Yes, Conscience, thy strong Presence can constrain
  To view, with scarce a smile, e'en Southcote's train.
  Corrupt their text may be, or weak its gloss,
  But Soul Sincere to gold can coin the dross.

  Truth's ancient Landmarks, parting Good from Ill,
  These well to know nor labour asks nor skill;
  Conscience hath writ life's daily duties plain,
  Nor lets the Moral vibrate with the Brain;
  But Creeds that from ideal regions come,
  And 'mid unvisioned objects seek their home,
  —Each with some favourite phantasy imprest,—
  On this they muse or rave, and scorn the rest.
  Hence Syria saw her silent Hermits brood,
  Hence whirl'd the Priestess 'mid the Delphic wood;
  Hence Swedenborg "presumed empyreal air"—
  Hence Tongues Prophetic screech in Regent Square.

  Calm Reason may deplore such Freaks should be;
  But, if they find their Followers, leave them Free.

  Some think a Sabbath feast no grievous sin;
  Some on their Sabbath let no stranger in.
  This creed with cheerful dance accords right well,
  This deems a pirouette a step for hell.
  If sour Geneva bear a Sunday play,
  Give we, as mildly, every faith its way;
  For many a Pilgrim Prayer, to Us unknown,
  By its own pathway travels to the Throne.

  Where mighty congregations throng amain,
  And pulpit-thunders shake the astonished fane,
  And through far roofs long-volumed organs peal,
  There are, who then alone consent to feel.
  Others, Shy Souls! whom silken crowds perplex,
  Polemics tire, and Actor Preachers vex,
  Love more, like Hermit, near his cross of stone,
  To pace, at eve, the silent turf alone,
  And softly breathe, or inly muse, a prayer,
  And find, not less, the General Father there. 

  And whencesoe'er the glow—from Outward Sense,
  Or fully fed by Inner Heart intense;
  What wins to love his God and Neighbour best,
  Be this, for each, the object and the Test.

  "Built in the eclipse, and rigged with curses dark,"
  With Puritan I quarrel not, though stark;
  But let him breast along his Narrow Sea,
  Right easy, if he keep but clear of Me.
  —Yet some a Sabbath galls, o'er-strictly set,
  —As hounds, kept long at walk, in kennel fret—
  And then the silent niece, the meek-eyed wife,
  Shrink from the prelude growl of coming strife,
  As, 'neath the thraldoms of a tedious day,
  Strained chords of temper, one by one, give way.
  E'en Thou, the saccharine of all week-day men—
  Confess, my Friend! art somewhat acid then.

  —Oft too, on minds not abstract quite, nor pure,
  Long-stretched devotions that but ill endure,
  Slander, who thrives on leisure unemployed,
  Slander drops in, to fill the uneasy void;

  And duly makes, if not in holiest guise,
  Her Sabbath day, a day of Sacrifice!

  Thy Creed, like Country, is thy Birth's, not Thine;
  The unconscious Baptism of some frontier line;
  Swathed round Thee by yon sweep of Mountain ridge,
  Swerved by a Rivulet, changing at a Bridge.
  On this side or on that by hazard thrown,
  For regal rights we battle or our own;
  And here or there, as first we draw our breath,
  Theology decrees us Life or Death.
  Such, where thou partest with thy ten-yards span
  Of Polity and Faith the various man,
  Such thoughts, St. Maurice! to thy Bridge will cling,
  Around its antique arches clustering,
  Calvin and Leo, Landaman and King,

  Or e'en old Pagan Jove, who first saw thrown
  Those arches o'er thy waters, Rapid Rhone.

  All that feeds eye and ear—our earliest books,—
  Fond childhood's hill-side walks, and playmate brooks,—
  Tale of old martyr—picture—bust—or song—
  These stoutly chain, or hurry hearts along
  With force than reasonings and than truth more strong.

  Or, if Conviction's guileless sophistry
  Steal in, with kisses, at the Mother's knee;
  'Mid toils, so seeming-slight, yet firmly set,
  What after-growth may struggle with the net?

  'Tis thus th' Affections clasp what Faith denies,
  For creed who quits must snap a thousand ties.
  Him tolerate we, whom Conscience strains to stray,
  And him—who simply plods the beaten way. 

B.—  False or absurd, what, treat all creeds alike?
  Nor Ridicule to shame, nor Law to strike?
  'Twere like the man, so fearful, or so civil,
  He burned a taper both to Saint and Devil.

A.—  False creeds have thriven, e'en when by Laws comprest,
  And Ridicule been busy with the best.
  Where creeds no public decencies offend,
  Nor with forced nostrums our poor creeds would mend,
  To pass them gently by is Wisdom's plan;
  Let Force sway brutes, but Reason keep for man;
  Nay deem unsafe with Ridicule to smite;
  Laughter may err; but Mercy must be right.

  Who Ridicule would make of Truth the test,
  He reasons ill, with moral not the best.
  Our mirth breathes oft-times from no zephyr-coast,
  And seldom is most wise, when keen the most.
  Jester—for jest—Wit asks for cutting sense—
  Heaven's milder canon bids Benevolence. 

  As keenest eye, closed in by cramping fence,
  Will lose, or soon or late, its wider sense;
  So least who knows least feels another's right,
  And Narrow Creed most oft is Narrow Sight.
  —And hence Intolerance, of all her sons,
  For her chief Aide-de-camp most loves a Dunce;
  Who, like dense Critic on Greek text obscure,
  Still rages most, when least his light is sure,
  And where an Angel's sense might pause in fear,
  Decides at once with statute or with sneer.

  Or Bigot shall himself exclude the ray
  From his own crypt, and then denies the day;
  But while, like fog, He dark and darker grows,
  And o'er all nature his own darkness throws,
  Love, like the bow that curves from yonder Blue,
  Cheers earth and sky, and nobly spans the Two.—

  The slowly judging eye—the doubting ear—
  The holy love of truth, the reverent fear—
  The philosophic brain, that loves to scan,
  May make a Sage, but spoil a Partisan.

  From struggling sects, such wiselier keep aloof,
  For Zealotry but seldom waits on Proof;
  The All—the None—concedes no ground between,
  And smiles, with bitter scorn, at "Golden Mean."

  But not alone within some cloister's bound,
  Or chapel trim, contracted creed is found.
  At good men's feasts, as where monks diet spare,
  The harsh, exclusive heart is everywhere.
  The Libertine, whose nights, whose every day,
  Wild orgies whelm of pleasure or of play;
  When Apoplexy, his first visit, knocks,
  Or Palsy helps, unasked, to shake the box;
  E'en he, at once, with new-born zeal is wroth,
  For Ignorance and Vice turn bigots both.

  Go! go! Thou frighted Neophyte and learn
  This wiser creed and milder truth discern.
  Where Penitence takes counsel but from Fear,
  Tho' in heaven's track—to heaven she comes not near.
  Back to the path, whence first we turned aside,
  'Tis frank Regret—'tis loving Hope must guide;

  But up the Steep and thro' the Eternal Gate
  No Penitence may pass which leagues with Hate.
  The "Joy in Heaven" is over them alone
  Who curse no Neighbour's sin, but weep Their Own.

  Little to know the lot of fervent Youth,
  Yet deem that little All—undoubted truth.
  For him each boundary line is coloured strong,
  And all is fiercely right, or fiercely wrong.
  Nor ill on Youthhood sits that generous rage,
  But let a wiser tolerance wait on Age.
  Firm on himself the rule of Strictness press'd,
  Each mild Exception keep he for the rest;
  Through many a meditation trained to know,
  How little sure our guesses here below;
  Through many a moral conflict, viewed or striven,
  Taught, ere he die, "Forgive to be Forgiven."

  In the Brain's chambers, as the Heart's deep frame,
  How oft is error, that which vice we name!
  And hopes—for Virtue—thoughts—for Truth—that try,
  How oft, by strange refractions, swerved awry!

  When Timour ravaged realms, in fierce delight,
  His dream was Providence, and Fated Right.
  When Ganges chokes some aged parent's breath,
  'Tis Filial Love prepares the work of death.
  Their falsest Creed, some Truth ill understood
  Their Foulest Act, some Misdirected Good.

  In minds, as nature, 'tis my doctrine still,
  The Good is essence, accident the Ill;
  And deeds, that win from virtue least consent,
  More oft o'erselfish than malevolent.
  To this, 'mid Virtue's wreck, I grapple fast,
  And cling in hope, like sailor to the mast.

  Mark, with observant eye, the inferior kinds,
  Through all their tribes how fondest instinct winds.
  Drink in of Infancy the answering smile,
  Ere petty passions touch it, to defile.
  Hear Youth his glorious aspirations roll,
  Ere worldliness steal in, to taint the soul.
  Of Manhood test the basest, earthliest leaven,
  And feelings mingle there might mix with heaven.

  These—not ascetic dogmas that degrade—
  Shall teach to love the beings God hath made,
  And—glorious fruitage from a noble stem—
  Lead on to love the God, who made, through Them!

  Who asks allegiance, as from heaven addrest,
  On sympathies akin to heaven must rest.
  Build Faith on fancies fine, or matter brute,
  Your subtilties we slight—your facts dispute.
  Reasonings may cheat us, if they soar or plod,
  But God is Love, and Love the test of God.

  When He with primal love bade hearts o'erbrim,
  'Twas not alone mankind to love—but Him.
  He gave us faith, in Him—th' Unseen—to trust,
  He gave us justice, Him to adore—the Just.
  Less to the senses spake than souls of men,

  And now would teach us, as he taught us then. 

  And when best logic's best-forged links decay,
  And e'en foundation-facts dissolve away;
  —Such logic as, perchance, Aquinas drew
  From facts, which sifting Brown for errors knew—
  (For truths undoubted, of one age the text,
  Are oft the scouted falsehoods of the next)—
  Faith then shall find in heart from hates aloof
  Her holiest hope and grasp her firmest proof.

  Such Faith be mine! Earth-lover, yet with wings
  To soar above the abyss of mortal things;
  And, if through doubtful skies sent forth to roam,
  With thought on Love still turned—Her ark and home.

  Fade tangible and visible combined,
  She lives, while conscience lives and mind is mind.
  Let Mutability through systems roll,
  She still is here, the Witness in the soul;
  And here, eternal as in heaven, shall stand,
  In tabernacle never made with hand!

  Instructors bland! your memories ne'er shall cease,

  Who teach us Wisdom, when ye teach us Peace;
  Who win to think, and prize each thought that flows
  O'er gentler hearts, from "meanest flower that blows;"
  And—our World's Book thus mildly understood—
  Find your own solace in a Creed of Good.

  Walton! who long in busy city pent,
  Yet most, 'mid streams and fields fulfilled his bent;
  Benign of spirit; and, though Simple Sage;
  How fondly have I turned his quiet page;
  And led by sedgy Lea, or clearer Dove,
  Inhaled, with him, the very breath of Love.

  And me, if since, in ne'er forgotten hour,
  That Lore of Love hath stirr'd with deeper power;
  And taught yet keener glow—with wider aim—
  Nature's own Priest, 'twas Wordsworth fed the Flame.

B.—  Circle of Tolerance if thus vast you draw,
  Useless our hulks! and every sage of law!
  Of idlesse shall each Midas feel the strain,
  And Sidney Cove her pilgrims crave in vain. 

A.—  If Crime she find, let Law just vengeance take;
  But Crime of Creed—she doth not find, but make;
  Like Æsop's wolf, who marked the lamb for prey,
  Herself the Guilt invents; then turns to slay.
  But He, each inner motive wise to scan,
  Shall look with kindlier glance on erring man,
  And, though the Lictor smite, refrain His rod;
  For Tolerance, earth-rejected, dwells with God.

  Pilots of Good! who guide o'er farthest seas,
  Untired, our Bible-laden argosies;
  To where, by populous Ganges, weed-like thrown,
  The poor dejected Paria pines alone;
  Or where, 'mid Polynesia's seas of blue,
  Some island Seer proclaims his stern Taboo;
  For these, with generous haste, unload your freight,
  Our Faith, our Morals,—all—except our Hate.
  By Indian streams, beneath Australian skies,
  Countless as stars, ere long, our Fanes shall rise,
  And white-robed Hopes each altar beam above;
  But lay their first foundations deep in Love.

  So shall your task be hailed indeed Divine,
  And Heber's gentlest spirit bless each shrine.

  I, in their turn, have known each various crew
  Of all the sects, that ever Evans drew.
  At morning meetings joined each gathering host,
  And pledged at dinner many a dismal toast.
  True, when I heard each straining leader teach
  Of heights exclusive, all assumed to reach;
  Left far behind all stretch of sympathy,
  Beating the wing, in vain, to soar so high,
  My grosser essence, all unused to bear
  The tingling of those Alpine regions rare,
  Dropt gladly down to breathe in common air;
  To tread my own calm valley-paths again,
  And talk of simple Creeds, with simple Men.

  Yet as the traveller, who some lofty brow
  Hath reached, whence spreads his journey past below,
  Enough perceives to know how turned aside
  His erring steps, if not henceforth to guide;

  So I—well marked each controversial tribe—
  Each race that will not, or that will, subscribe—
  High-Church—Low-Church,—and Evangelical;—
  Conflicting tenets, each by each abhorred,
  The other each to hate their sole accord;
  Observed—how this asserts what that denies,
  One takes the extreme, another qualifies;
  Or, veering round, by turns affirms—retracts—
  Now swerved by fancies—steadying now on facts;
  What tangled strifes contending sects provoke,
  The snow-white surplice, or Geneva cloak;—
  If but t' asperge the new-born babe of sin,
  Or plunge the full grown Baptist fairly in;—
  How firmly this on Two—this leans on Seven—
  Yet, right or wrong, in earnest All for heaven;—
  I may not dare pronounce man's proper creed
  So full in light, "that he who runs may read."—
  Can own a Stray may honestly be out,
  Nor quite would damn a Brother for a Doubt. 

  Instincts there are, I know, that rise and cleave,
  Wind round the heart, and bind it to believe;
  And Doctrines, such as early lore imparts,
  And sheds, like morning dew, on Infant Hearts,
  When o'er her lisping babe the Mother stands,
  And moulds his prayer, and joins his little hands.
  Yet these, Guides only for the straightway road,
  That humbly leads, through duty, up to God;
  But blind and helpless for the dangerous lee
  Of wide theology's unfathomed sea;
  These all desert the wretch, who hangs, perplex'd,
  On the dark comment and the doubtful text;
  Doomed, for his sins, to drift, and drive through all,
  Mad or inspired, from Brothers up to Paul,
  And force him, long by winds of doctrine blown,
  To seize the helm—and work a course his own.

  Oh Friend, be ours, of softer metal wrought,
  To rock us in the creed each mother taught!
  To others left the controversial leaf;
  By others reaped its triumphs—and its grief! 

  Is it a boon, repose of soul to quit,
  For all the pride of logic and of wit?
  And, too vain-glorious for quiescent state,
  Mix fiercely in dispute and learn to hate?

  Is it a boon, when Love's and Friendship's voice
  Call thee with them to trust and to rejoice,
  Like some far planet thy lone course to wheel,
  Nor feel, nor hope what others hope and feel.

  When village-groups, for sabbath worship drest,
  Throng the green churchyard where their Fathers rest,
  And mourners, bending o'er the precious dust,
  Win solace from the Bliss that waits the Just—
  Is it a boon to approach that house of prayer,
  And feel thy footstep hath "no business there;"
  To kneel thee, where thy boyhood knelt—and then
  Weep in thy heart Thou "canst not say Amen?"

  Vainly with Guilt when groaning Virtue strives,
  And, but in Heaven, not one sad hope survives;

  Is it a boon thou, Knowledge, hast conferred,
  To deem the strife unmarked, the groan unheard?
  Ourselves to deem mere Atoms, random-hurled,
  The Orphans of an Unregarded World?
  And 'mid the body's, 'mid the soul's distress,
  To clutch our utmost Hope—from Hopelessness?

  Is it a boon, when Dissolution's strife
  Hangs—trembling—o'er the bed of Child or Wife;
  And the fond Sufferer turns amid her pain,
  And looks, and strives to say, "We meet again;"
  Is it a boon to stand in anguish by,
  And meet with some lip-phrase that clinging eye,
  While the sad Sceptic Heart makes no reply?
  Then, bending o'er the tomb to which she sank,
  Present to feel—and Future—one mere Blank?

  Oh! thou from Faith's mild bondage sadly free,
  "Lone mariner, upon a shoreless sea;"
  Oh! say, thou deeply wounded Child of Doubt,
  Thus, in thy solitude of soul, shut out

  From Nature's fondest, holiest sympathies,
  Doth Knowledge—(vaunt it Knowledge)—pay for this?

  Thee shall some Guiding Instinct's mild behest
  Yet turn in season to the appointed nest.
  On ever-questing wing 'twere hard to go,
  For surer All we Feel than all we Know!

  Hence Thou—though logic-mailed, shalt not disdain
  Philosophy!—that mild enthusiast train;
  Spirits, by nature's thousand harmonies
  That touched, respond; and, without reasonings, wise,
  Find types for faith, in earth—and sea—and skies.

  Malvern—I love to track in thought, e'en now,
  Our twilight path along thy turfy brow,
  That tinted—oh! how fair! by Hallowing Even,
  Rose, like a ladder step, 'twixt Earth and Heaven.
  Eastward, o'er sunless valley, far beneath,
  Wan shadows crept, our Human Vale of death;
  While beamed, soft radiant, in the mellow west,
  Mute as we gazed, the Mansions of the Blest!

  Who, placed on that far-grasping promontory,
  Not thus had imaged out life's Two-fold Story?
  Or Who, beneath that sweet and silent air,
  Not worshipped—as Our Spirits worshipped there?

  But art Thou of those searching minds, in sooth,
  That track, through Thought alone, the vein of truth?
  A keen and subtile Intellect, yet stout
  To drag Conviction from the depths of Doubt?
  Then delve; but from thy toil keep pride apart;
  And link to the Stern Brain a Trusting Heart.

  So shalt thou reach Belief.—Not the mere Note,
  Stale from some Teacher's tongue, and caught by rote;
  Nor Dogma, from the forehead of a Dunce
  That springs, his Pallas, cap-a-pee at once;
  Nor love-taught Faith, as Knighthood fierce to start,
  When Beauty smiles Belief into the heart;
  And prompt, not less, let wrinkles—frowns—succeed,
  To start, a Ready Recreant, from the Creed;

  Not such Bold Trust, as Convict Wretches snatch
  From desperate need of heaven's uplifted latch,
  Whom Ghostly Comforters so cleanse—or paint—
  Not one but dies, at least, a Three days' Saint;
  Nor yet the dim assent from Anguish wrung,
  From feeble signs scarce gleaned, or faltering tongue,
  When speechless Palsy hangs the helpless head,
  Or low Delirium plucks the dying bed;—
  For when no Instinct of our vital Whole,
  Nor early Lesson, woven with the soul,
  Carefully, then, to concentration wrought
  By the slow process of alembic Thought,
  Belief is toil of Brain; 'tis Labour's dower,
  Reared painfully, thro' frost—and sun—and shower,
  And the slow growth of many a ripening hour,
  That, like the Aloe's blossom, long to come,
  Yet comes at last, and bears Immortal Bloom.

  Thrice happy He, who—Conqueror at length,—
  On such calm height repairs his weary strength;

  And, more and more, sees darkness rolled away,
  Till the full prospect brightens into day.
  Yet—not for this, inflate' with new-born pride,
  Looks he with scorn on all the world beside;
  But downward casts benignant glances o'er
  The minds that stray, where his had strayed before,
  And hopes, and prays for All, before that Throne,
  Where Knowledge—Goodness—Intellect are One.

  And what though Some, not shunning to be taught,
  Nay thirsty for the truth, yet find it not;
  Like fainting travellers, through Arabian sand,
  Where the shy fount still mocks the searching hand,
  Condemned to tread the Doubter's dreary way,
  To the last tinge of life's descending day.
  Yet, e'en for these,—the Spirit bold and rude,
  And all the irreverent Heat of Youth subdued,—
  Slow rolling years at length have done their part,
  While, from the Husband's and the Father's heart,
  New feelings, household interests, budding out—
  If not supplanting, yet o'ershadowing Doubt—

  Produce, at length, the calm submitted mind,
  That Past and Present scans with will resigned,
  And onward pondering o'er the dark Untrod,
  In humblest acquiescence rests on God.

  And yet, such Faith though God perhaps permit,
  Nor Church, nor Conventicle, deem it fit.
  No sheltering niche have they for trembling Doubt;
  Or true, or false, the Creed must still be stout.
  Pledged to some Sect—less matter what that one—
  But woe betide the Wretch that herds with none.

  Each hath his own Prophetic Dream, I wis.—
  His mad Millennium Scheme—and mine is This!
  A greater than the old Saturnian birth
  Shall come, when, o'er this vexed and vexing earth
  Tolerance her wing shall spread, like Parent Dove,
  And Faith be but another word for Love;
  And Conscience, on no synods forced to wait,
  Herself perform the work of Sect and State. 

  In thought I see the Destined Years unfold,
  The Blissful Reign for eager earth foretold.
  Lo! there the Few—by grateful nations loved—
  The More—by man unmarked—by heaven approved—
  Some Oberlin—but to his village known;
  Some Titus, beaming virtue from a throne;
  Minds with each hue of every faith imbued,
  Like but in this—all followers of the Good.—
  Here Bramin—there the Worshipper of Fire—
  Mild Pagan here—there holy Christian sire—
  From every Age and Clime—a beauteous band—
  Priests—Sages—Bards—they wander hand in hand;
  In tranquil converse quest for Truth Alone,
  Nor chafe, though each believe that Truth his own;
  Of rival creeds shake off the Hate or Fear,
  And—wondrous! love more nearly, as more near;
  Oft pondering, 'mid that strangely-peaceful scene,
  How Theologic Hates had ever been!

B.—  Translated hence to some Angelic Sphere,
  Such Tolerance we may meet, but hardly here.

  Meanwhile, like thee who rambles in discourse,
  Must for Utopian pass, if not for worse.

A.—  Utopian! 'tis a sneer I heed not much;
  And—for what worse—confound not me with such.
  Through Stranger-paths but little prone to range,
  I keep the old, and leave, who will, to change;
  But taught the Gospel came, that strifes should cease,
  Deem, like Moravian, its best lesson—Peace;
  On harder doctrines lean, in quiet trust,
  And leave polemic folios—in their dust;—
  But this point hold—howe'er each sect may brawl,
  Where pure the life, where free the Heart from gall,
  Whate'er the Creed, Heaven looks with Love on All!

© John Kenyon