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Pullid down the tyrants India served with dread,
And raised thyself, a greater, in their stead ?
Gone thither arm’d and hungry, return'd full,
Fed from the richest veins of the Mogul,
A despot big with power obtain'd by wealth,
And that obtain'd by rapine and by stealth ?
With Asiatic vices stored thy mind,
But left their virtues and thine own behind,
And, having truck'd thy soul, brought home the fee,
To tempt the poor to sell himself to thee?
Hast thou by statute shoved from its design
The Saviour's feast, his own blest bread and wine,
And made the symbols of atoning grace
An office key, a picklock to a place,
That infidels may prove their title good
By an oath dipp'd in sacramental blood ?
A blot that will be still a blot, in spite
Of all that grave apologists may write,
And though a bishop toil to cleanse the stain,
He wipes and scours the silver cup in vain.
And hast thou sworn on every slight pretence,
Till perjuries are common as bad pence,
While thousands, careless of the damning sin,
Kiss the book's outside, who ne'er look within ?*
* It is proper to insert here, from the first edition, (pp. 123-4,) a remarkable passage, for which the next passage was substituted in the second and all subsequent ones.
Hast thou admitted with a blind, fond trust,
The lie that burn'd thy fathers' bones to dust,
That first adjudged them heretics, then sent
Their souls to heaven, and cursed them as they went ?
The lie that Scripture strips of its disguise,
And execrates above all other lies,
The lie that claps a lock on mercy's plan,
And gives the key to yon infirm old man,
Who once insconced in apostolic chair
Is deified, and sits omniscient there;
The lie that knows no kindred, owns no friend
But him that makes its progress his chief end,
That having spilt much blood, makes that a boast,
And canonizes him that sheds the most!
Away with charity that soothes a lie,
And thrusts the truth with scorn and anger by'
Hast thou, when Heaven has clothed thee with
disgrace, And, long provoked, repaid thee to thy face, (For thou hast known eclipses, and endured Dimness and anguish, all thy beams obscured, When sin has shed dishonour on thy brow, And never of a sabler hue than now ;) Hast thou with heart perverse and conscience sear’d, Despising all rebuke, still persevered, And, having chosen evil, scorn’d the voice That cried, Repent! and gloried in thy choice ? Thy fastings, when calamity at last Suggests the expedient of a yearly fast, What mean they? Canst thou dream there is a power In lighter diet at a later hour, To charm to sleep the threatenings of the skies, And hide past folly from all-seeing eyes? The fast that wins deliverance, and suspends The stroke that a vindictive God intends, Is to renounce hypocrisy ; to draw Thy life upon the pattern of the law; To war with pleasures, idolized before; To vanquish lust, and wear its yoke no more. All fasting else, whate'er be the pretence, Is wooing mercy by renew'd offence.
Hast thou within thee sins, that in old time Brought fire from heaven, the sex-abusing crime, Whose horrid perpetration stamps disgrace Baboons are free from, upon human race ? Think on the fruitful and well-water'd spot That fed the flocks and herds of wealthy Lot,
Shame on the candour and the gracious smile
Bestow'd on them that light the martyr's pile,
While insolent disdain in frowns express'd
Attends the tenets that endured that test !
Grant them the rights of men, and while they cease
To vex the peace of others, grant them peace;
But trusting bigots whose false zeal has made
Treachery their duty, thou art self-betrayed. Cowper, no doubt, withdrew this striking passage in consequence of his having become intimate with the amiable family at Weston Hall.
Where Paradise seem'd still vouchsafed on earth,
Burning and scorch'd into perpetual dearth,
Or, in his words who damn'd the base desire,
Suffering the vengeance of eternal fire;
Then Nature injured, scandalized, defiled,
Unveil'd her blushing cheek, look'd on, and smiled;
Beheld with joy the lovely scene defaced,
And praised the wrath that laid her beauties waste.
Far be the thought from any verse of mine,
And farther still the form’d and fix'd design,
To thrust the charge of deeds that I detest,
Against an innocent unconscious breast :
The man that dares traduce, because he can
With safety to himself, is not a man.
An individual is a sacred mark,
Not to be pierced in play or in the dark ;
But public censure speaks a public foe,
Unless a zeal for virtue guide the blow.
The priestly brotherhood, devout, sincere,
From mean self-interest and ambition clear,
Their hope in heaven, servility their scorn,
Prompt to persuade, expostulate, and warn,
Their wisdom pure and given them from above,
Their usefulness insured by zeal and love,
As meek as the man Moses, and withal
As bold as, in Agrippa's presence, Paul,
Should fly the world's contaminating touch,
Holy and unpolluted :-are thine such ?
Except a few with Eli's spirit blest,
Hophni and Phineas may describe the rest.
Where shall a teacher look in days like these,
For ears and hearts that he can hope to please ?
Look to the poor,—the simple and the plain
Will hear perhaps thy salutary strain :
Humility is gentle, apt to learn,
Speak but the word, will listen and return.
Alas, not so ! the poorest of the flock
Are proud, and set their faces as a rock;
Denied that earthly opulence they choose,
God's better gift they scoff at and refuse.
The rich, the produce of a nobler stem,
Are more intelligent at least,--try them.
O vain inquiry! they without remorse
Are altogether gone a devious course,
Where beckoning Pleasure leads them, wildly stray;
Have burst the bands, and cast the yoke away.
Now, borne upon the wings of truth sublime,
Review thy dim original and prime.
This island-spot of unreclaim'd rude earth,
The cradle that received thee at thy birth,
Was rock'd by many a rough Norwegian blast,
And Danish howlings scared thee as they pass’d;
For thou wast born amid the din of arms,
And suck'd a breast that panted with alarms.
While yet thou wast a groveling, puling chit,
Thy bones not fashion'd, and thy joints not knit,
The Roman taught thy stubborn knee to bow,
Though twice a Cæsar could not bend thee now:
His victory was that of orient light,
When the sun's shafts disperse the gloom of night.
Thy language at this distant moment shows
How much the country to the conqueror owes;
Expressive, energetic, and refined,
It sparkles with the gems he left behind.
He brought thy land a blessing when he came,
He found thee savage, and he left thee tame;
Taught thee to clothe thy pink'd and painted hide,
And grace thy figure with a soldier's pride;
He sow'd the seeds of order where he went,
Improved thee far beyond his own intent,
And while he ruled thee by the sword alone,
Made thee at last a warrior like his own.
Religion, if in heavenly truths attired,
Needs only to be seen to be admired;
But thine, as dark as witcheries of the night,
Was form’d to harden hearts, and shock the sight;
Thy Druids struck the well-strung harps they bore
With fingers deeply dyed in human gore;
And, while the victim slowly bled to death,
Upon the tolling chords rung out his dying breath.
Who brought the lamp that with awakening beams Dispell’d thy gloom, and broke away thy dreams, Tradition, now decrepit and worn out, Babbler of ancient fables, leaves a doubt: But still light reach'd thee; and those gods of thine, Woden and Thor, each tottering in his shrine, Fell broken and defaced at his own door, As Dagon in Philistia long before. But Rome with sorceries and gic wand Soon raised a cloud that darken'd every land; And thine was smother'd in the stench and fog Of Tiber's marshes and the papal bog. Then priests with bulls and briefs and shaven crowns, And griping fists and unrelenting frowns, Legates and delegates with powers from hell, Though heavenly in pretension, fleeced thee well; And to this hour, to keep it fresh in mind, Some twigs of that old scourge are left behind. * Thy soldiery, the pope's well-managed pack, Were train d beneath his lash, and knew the smack, And, when he laid them on the scent of blood, Would hunt a Saracen through fire and flood. Lavish of life to win an empty tomb, That proved a mint of wealth, a mine to Rome, They left their bones beneath unfriendly skies, His worthless absolution all the prize. Thou wast the veriest slave in days of yore, That ever dragg'd a chain, or tugg’d an oar ; Thy monarchs arbitrary, fierce, unjust, Themselves the slaves of bigotry or lust, Disdain'd thy counsels, only in distress Found thee a goodly spunge for Power to press. Thy chiefs, the lords of many a petty fee, Provoked and harass'd, in return plagued thee; Call’d thee away from peaceable employ, Domestic happiness, and rural joy, To waste thy life in arms, or lay it down In causeless feuds and bickerings of their own.