William Cullen Bryant |
Oh! could I hope the wise and pure in heart
Might hear my song without a frown, nor deem
My voice unworthy of the theme it tries,--
I would take up the hymn to Death, and say
To the grim power, The world hath slandered thee
And mocked thee.
On thy dim and shadowy brow
They place an iron crown, and call thee king
Of terrors, and the spoiler of the world,
Deadly assassin, that strik'st down the fair,
The loved, the good--that breath'st upon the lights
Of virtue set along the vale of life,
And they go out in darkness.
I am come,
Not with reproaches, not with cries and prayers,
Such as have stormed thy stern insensible ear
From the beginning.
I am come to speak
True it is, that I have wept
Thy conquests, and may weep them yet again:
And thou from some I love wilt take a life
Dear to me as my own.
Yet while the spell
Is on my spirit, and I talk with thee
In sight of all thy trophies, face to face,
Meet is it that my voice should utter forth
Thy nobler triumphs: I will teach the world
To thank thee.
--Who are thine accusers?--Who?
The living!--they who never felt thy power,
And know thee not.
The curses of the wretch
Whose crimes are ripe, his sufferings when thy hand
Is on him, and the hour he dreads is come,
Are writ among thy praises.
But the good--
Does he whom thy kind hand dismissed to peace,
Upbraid the gentle violence that took off
His fetters, and unbarred his prison cell?
Raise then the Hymn to Death.
God hath anointed thee to free the oppressed
And crush the oppressor.
When the armed chief,
The conqueror of nations, walks the world,
And it is changed beneath his feet, and all
Its kingdoms melt into one mighty realm--
Thou, while his head is loftiest, and his heart
Blasphemes, imagining his own right hand
Almighty, sett'st upon him thy stern grasp,
And the strong links of that tremendous chain
That bound mankind are crumbled; thou dost break
Sceptre and crown, and beat his throne to dust.
Then the earth shouts with gladness, and her tribes
Gather within their ancient bounds again.
Else had the mighty of the olden time,
Nimrod, Sesostris, or the youth who feigned
His birth from Lybian Ammon, smote even now
The nations with a rod of iron, and driven
Their chariot o'er our necks.
Thou dost avenge,
In thy good time, the wrongs of those who know
No other friend.
Nor dost thou interpose
Only to lay the sufferer asleep,
Where he who made him wretched troubles not
His rest--thou dost strike down his tyrant too.
Oh, there is joy when hands that held the scourge
Drop lifeless, and the pitiless heart is cold.
Thou too dost purge from earth its horrible
And old idolatries; from the proud fanes
Each to his grave their priests go out, till none
Is left to teach their worship; then the fires
Of sacrifice are chilled, and the green moss
O'ercreeps their altars; the fallen images
Cumber the weedy courts, and for loud hymns,
Chanted by kneeling crowds, the chiding winds
Shriek in the solitary aisles.
Who gives his life to guilt, and laughs at all
The laws that God or man has made, and round
Hedges his seat with power, and shines in wealth,--
Lifts up his atheist front to scoff at Heaven,
And celebrates his shame in open day,
Thou, in the pride of all his crimes, cutt'st off
The horrible example.
Touched by thine,
The extortioner's hard hand foregoes the gold
Wrong from the o'er-worn poor.
Whose tongue was lithe, e'en now, and voluble
Against his neighbour's life, and he who laughed
And leaped for joy to see a spotless fame
Blasted before his own foul calumnies,
Are smit with deadly silence.
He, who sold
His conscience to preserve a worthless life,
Even while he hugs himself on his escape,
Trembles, as, doubly terrible, at length,
Thy steps o'ertake him, and there is no time
For parley--nor will bribes unclench thy grasp.
Oft, too, dost thou reform thy victim, long
Ere his last hour.
And when the reveller,
Mad in the chase of pleasure, stretches on,
And strains each nerve, and clears the path of life
Like wind, thou point'st him to the dreadful goal,
And shak'st thy hour-glass in his reeling eye,
And check'st him in mid course.
Thy skeleton hand
Shows to the faint of spirit the right path,
And he is warned, and fears to step aside.
Thou sett'st between the ruffian and his crime
Thy ghastly countenance, and his slack hand
Drops the drawn knife.
But, oh, most fearfully
Dost thou show forth Heaven's justice, when thy shafts
Drink up the ebbing spirit--then the hard
Of heart and violent of hand restores
The treasure to the friendless wretch he wronged.
Then from the writhing bosom thou dost pluck
The guilty secret; lips, for ages sealed,
Are faithless to the dreadful trust at length,
And give it up; the felon's latest breath
Absolves the innocent man who bears his crime;
The slanderer, horror smitten, and in tears,
Recalls the deadly obloquy he forged
To work his brother's ruin.
Thou dost make
Thy penitent victim utter to the air
The dark conspiracy that strikes at life,
And aims to whelm the laws; ere yet the hour
Is come, and the dread sign of murder given.
Thus, from the first of time, hast thou been found
On virtue's side; the wicked, but for thee,
Had been too strong for the good; the great of earth
Had crushed the weak for ever.
Schooled in guile
For ages, while each passing year had brought
Its baneful lesson, they had filled the world
With their abominations; while its tribes,
Trodden to earth, imbruted, and despoiled,
Had knelt to them in worship; sacrifice
Had smoked on many an altar, temple roofs
Had echoed with the blasphemous prayer and hymn:
But thou, the great reformer of the world,
Tak'st off the sons of violence and fraud
In their green pupilage, their lore half learned--
Ere guilt has quite o'errun the simple heart
God gave them at their birth, and blotted out
Thou dost mark them, flushed with hope,
As on the threshold of their vast designs
Doubtful and loose they stand, and strik'st them down.
Alas, I little thought that the stern power
Whose fearful praise I sung, would try me thus
Before the strain was ended.
It must cease--
For he is in his grave who taught my youth
The art of verse, and in the bud of life
Offered me to the muses.
Oh, cut off
Untimely! when thy reason in its strength,
Ripened by years of toil and studious search
And watch of Nature's silent lessons, taught
Thy hand to practise best the lenient art
To which thou gavest thy laborious days.
And, last, thy life.
And, therefore, when the earth
Received thee, tears were in unyielding eyes
And on hard cheeks, and they who deemed thy skill
Delayed their death-hour, shuddered and turned pale
When thou wert gone.
This faltering verse, which thou
Shalt not, as wont, o'erlook, is all I have
To offer at thy grave--this--and the hope
To copy thy example, and to leave
A name of which the wretched shall not think
As of an enemy's, whom they forgive
As all forgive the dead.
Rest, therefore, thou
Whose early guidance trained my infant steps--
Rest, in the bosom of God, till the brief sleep
Of death is over, and a happier life
Shall dawn to waken thine insensible dust.
Now thou art not--and yet the men whose guilt
Has wearied Heaven for vengeance--he who bears
False witness--he who takes the orphan's bread,
And robs the widow--he who spreads abroad
Polluted hands in mockery of prayer,
Are left to cumber earth.
Shuddering I look
On what is written, yet I blot not out
The desultory numbers--let them stand.
The record of an idle revery.
G K Chesterton |
Isaiah Bunter has disappeared into the interior of the Solomon Islands, and it is feared that he may have been devoured by the natives, as there has been a considerable revival of religious customs among the Polynesians.
--A real paragraph from a real Paper; only the names altered.
It was Isaiah Bunter
Who sailed to the world's end,
And spread religion in a way
That he did not intend.
He gave, if not the gospel-feast,
At least a ritual meal;
And in a highly painful sense
He was devoured with zeal.
And who are we (as Henson says)
That we should close the door?
And should not Evangelicals
All jump at shedding Gore?
And many a man will melt in man,
Becoming one, not two,
When smacks across the startled earth
The Kiss of Kikuyu.
When Man is the Turk, and the Atheist,
Essene, Erastian, Whig,
And the Thug and the Druse and the Catholic
And the crew of the Captain's gig.
Ralph Waldo Emerson |
Trees in groves,
Kine in droves,
In ocean sport the scaly herds,
Wedge-like cleave the air the birds,
To northern lakes fly wind-borne ducks,
Browse the mountain sheep in flocks,
Men consort in camp and town,
But the poet dwells alone.
God who gave to him the lyre,
Of all mortals the desire,
For all breathing men's behoof,
Straitly charged him, "Sit aloof;"
Annexed a warning, poets say,
To the bright premium,—
Ever when twain together play,
Shall the harp be dumb.
Many may come,
But one shall sing;
Two touch the string,
The harp is dumb.
Though there come a million
Wise Saadi dwells alone.
Yet Saadi loved the race of men,—
No churl immured in cave or den,—
In bower and hall
He wants them all,
Nor can dispense
With Persia for his audience;
They must give ear,
Grow red with joy, and white with fear,
Yet he has no companion,
Come ten, or come a million,
Good Saadi dwells alone.
Be thou ware where Saadi dwells.
Gladly round that golden lamp
Sylvan deities encamp,
And simple maids and noble youth
Are welcome to the man of truth.
Most welcome they who need him most,
They feed the spring which they exhaust:
For greater need
Draws better deed:
But, critic, spare thy vanity,
Nor show thy pompous parts,
To vex with odious subtlety
The cheerer of men's hearts.
Sad-eyed Fakirs swiftly say
Endless dirges to decay;
Never in the blaze of light
Lose the shudder of midnight;
And at overflowing noon,
Hear wolves barking at the moon;
In the bower of dalliance sweet
Hear the far Avenger's feet;
And shake before those awful Powers
Who in their pride forgive not ours.
Thus the sad-eyed Fakirs preach;
"Bard, when thee would Allah teach,
And lift thee to his holy mount,
He sends thee from his bitter fount,
Wormwood; saying, Go thy ways,
Drink not the Malaga of praise,
But do the deed thy fellows hate,
And compromise thy peaceful state.
Smite the white breasts which thee fed,
Stuff sharp thorns beneath the head
Of them thou shouldst have comforted.
For out of woe and out of crime
Draws the heart a lore sublime.
And yet it seemeth not to me
That the high gods love tragedy;
For Saadi sat in the sun,
And thanks was his contrition;
For haircloth and for bloody whips,
Had active hands and smiling lips;
And yet his runes he rightly read,
And to his folk his message sped.
Sunshine in his heart transferred
Lighted each transparent word;
And well could honoring Persia learn
What Saadi wished to say;
For Saadi's nightly stars did burn
Brighter than Dschami's day.
Whispered the muse in Saadi's cot;
O gentle Saadi, listen not,
Tempted by thy praise of wit,
Or by thirst and appetite
For the talents not thine own,
To sons of contradiction.
Never, sun of eastern morning,
Follow falsehood, follow scorning,
Denounce who will, who will, deny,
And pile the hills to scale the sky;
Let theist, atheist, pantheist,
Define and wrangle how they list,—
Fierce conserver, fierce destroyer,
But thou joy-giver and enjoyer,
Unknowing war, unknowing crime,
Gentle Saadi, mind thy rhyme.
Heed not what the brawlers say,
Heed thou only Saadi's lay.
Let the great world bustle on
With war and trade, with camp and town.
A thousand men shall dig and eat,
At forge and furnace thousands sweat,
And thousands sail the purple sea,
And give or take the stroke of war,
Or crowd the market and bazaar.
Oft shall war end, and peace return,
And cities rise where cities burn,
Ere one man my hill shall climb,
Who can turn the golden rhyme;
Let them manage how they may,
Heed thou only Saadi's lay.
Seek the living among the dead:
Man in man is imprisoned.
Barefooted Dervish is not poor,
If fate unlock his bosom's door.
So that what his eye hath seen
His tongue can paint, as bright, as keen,
And what his tender heart hath felt,
With equal fire thy heart shall melt.
For, whom the muses shine upon,
And touch with soft persuasion,
His words like a storm-wind can bring
Terror and beauty on their wing;
In his every syllable
Lurketh nature veritable;
And though he speak in midnight dark,
In heaven, no star; on earth, no spark;
Yet before the listener's eye
Swims the world in ecstasy,
The forest waves, the morning breaks,
The pastures sleep, ripple the lakes,
Leaves twinkle, flowers like persons be,
And life pulsates in rock or tree.
Saadi! so far thy words shall reach;
Suns rise and set in Saadi's speech.
And thus to Saadi said the muse;
Eat thou the bread which men refuse;
Flee from the goods which from thee flee;
Seek nothing; Fortune seeketh thee.
Nor mount, nor dive; all good things keep
The midway of the eternal deep;
Wish not to fill the isles with eyes
To fetch thee birds of paradise;
On thine orchard's edge belong
All the brass of plume and song;
Wise Ali's sunbright sayings pass
For proverbs in the market-place;
Through mountains bored by regal art
Toil whistles as he drives his cart.
Nor scour the seas, nor sift mankind,
A poet or a friend to find;
Behold, he watches at the door,
Behold his shadow on the floor.
Open innumerable doors,
The heaven where unveiled Allah pours
The flood of truth, the flood of good,
The seraph's and the cherub's food;
Those doors are men; the pariah kind
Admits thee to the perfect Mind.
Seek not beyond thy cottage wall
Redeemer that can yield thee all.
While thou sittest at thy door,
On the desert's yellow floor,
Listening to the gray-haired crones,
Foolish gossips, ancient drones,—
Saadi, see, they rise in stature
To the height of mighty nature,
And the secret stands revealed
Fraudulent Time in vain concealed,
That blessed gods in servile masks
Plied for thee thy household tasks.
John Donne |
I long to talk with some old lover's ghost,
Who died before the God of Love was born:
I cannot think that he, who then loved most,
Sunk so low as to love one which did scorn.
But since this god produced a destiny,
And that vice-nature, Custom, lets it be,
I must love her that loves not me.
Sure, they which made him god meant not so much,
Nor he in his young godhead practised it;
But when an even flame two hearts did touch,
His office was indulgently to fit
Actives to passives.
Only his subject was; it cannot be
Love, till I love her that loves me.
But every modern god will now extend
His vast prerogative as far as Jove.
To rage, to lust, to write to, to commend,
All is the purlieu of the God of Love.
Oh were we wakened by this tyranny
To ungod this child again, it could not be
I should love her who loves not me.
Rebel and atheist too, why murmur I
As though I felt the worst that love could do?
Love might make me leave loving, or might try
A deeper plague, to make her love me too,
Which, since she loves before, I'm loth to see;
Falsehood is worse than hate; and that must be,
If she whom I love should love me.
Maxine Kumin |
You have forty-nine days between
death and rebirth if you're a Buddhist.
Even the smallest soul could swim
the English Channel in that time
or climb, like a ten-month-old child,
every step of the Washington Monument
to travel across, up, down, over or through
--you won't know till you get there which to do.
He laid on me for a few seconds
said Roscoe Black, who lived to tell
about his skirmish with a grizzly bear
in Glacier Park.
He laid on me not doing anything.
I could feel his heart
beating against my heart.
Never mind lie and lay, the whole world
For Roscoe Black you might say
all forty-nine days flew by.
I was raised on the Old Testament.
In it God talks to Moses, Noah,
Samuel, and they answer.
People confer with angels.
animals converse with humans.
It's a simple world, full of crossovers.
Heaven's an airy Somewhere, and God
has a nasty temper when provoked,
but if there's a Hell, little is made of it.
No longtailed Devil, no eternal fire,
and no choosing what to come back as.
When the grizzly bear appears, he lies/lays down
on atheist and zealot.
In the pitch-dark
each of us waits for him in Glacier Park.
Rudyard Kipling |
I ate my fill of a whale that died
And stranded after a month at sea.
There is a pain in my inside.
Why have the Gods afflicted me?
Ow! I am purged till I am a wraith!
Wow! I am sick till I cannot see!
What is the sense of Religion and Faith :
Look how the Gods have afflicted me!
How can the skin of rat or mouse hold
Anything more than a harmless flea?.
The burning plague has taken my household.
Why have my Gods afflicted me?
All my kith and kin are deceased,
Though they were as good as good could be,
I will out and batter the family priest,
Because my Gods have afflicted me!
My privy and well drain into each other
After the custom of Christendie.
Fevers and fluxes are wasting my mother.
Why has the Lord afflicted me?
The Saints are helpless for all I offer--
So are the clergy I used to fee.
Henceforward I keep my cash in my coffer,
Because the Lord has afflicted me.
I run eight hundred hens to the acre
They die by dozens mysteriously.
I am more than doubtful concerning my Maker,
Why has the Lord afflicted me?
What a return for all my endeavour--
Not to mention the L.
I am an atheist now and for ever,
Because this God has afflicted me!
Money spent on an Army or Fleet
Is homicidal lunacy.
My son has been killed in the Mons retreat,
Why is the Lord afflicting me?
Why are murder, pillage and arson
And rape allowed by the Deity?
I will write to the Times, deriding our parson
Because my God has afflicted me.
We had a kettle: we let it leak:
Our not repairing it made it worse.
We haven't had any tea for a week.
The bottom is out of the Universe!
This was none of the good Lord's pleasure,
For the Spirit He breathed in Man is free;
But what comes after is measure for measure,
And not a God that afflicteth thee.
As was the sowing so the reaping
Is now and evermore shall be.
Thou art delivered to thine own keeping.
Only Thyself hath afflicted thee!
Robert Burns |
I LANG hae thought, my youthfu’ friend,
A something to have sent you,
Tho’ it should serve nae ither end
Than just a kind memento:
But how the subject-theme may gang,
Let time and chance determine;
Perhaps it may turn out a sang:
Perhaps turn out a sermon.
Ye’ll try the world soon, my lad;
And, Andrew dear, believe me,
Ye’ll find mankind an unco squad,
And muckle they may grieve ye:
For care and trouble set your thought,
Ev’n when your end’s attained;
And a’ your views may come to nought,
Where ev’ry nerve is strained.
I’ll no say, men are villains a’;
The real, harden’d wicked,
Wha hae nae check but human law,
Are to a few restricked;
But, Och! mankind are unco weak,
An’ little to be trusted;
If self the wavering balance shake,
It’s rarely right adjusted!
Yet they wha fa’ in fortune’s strife,
Their fate we shouldna censure;
For still, th’ important end of life
They equally may answer;
A man may hae an honest heart,
Tho’ poortith hourly stare him;
A man may tak a neibor’s part,
Yet hae nae cash to spare him.
Aye free, aff-han’, your story tell,
When wi’ a bosom crony;
But still keep something to yoursel’,
Ye scarcely tell to ony:
Conceal yoursel’ as weel’s ye can
Frae critical dissection;
But keek thro’ ev’ry other man,
Wi’ sharpen’d, sly inspection.
The sacred lowe o’ weel-plac’d love,
Luxuriantly indulge it;
But never tempt th’ illicit rove,
Tho’ naething should divulge it:
I waive the quantum o’ the sin,
The hazard of concealing;
But, Och! it hardens a’ within,
And petrifies the feeling!
To catch dame Fortune’s golden smile,
Assiduous wait upon her;
And gather gear by ev’ry wile
That’s justified by honour;
Not for to hide it in a hedge,
Nor for a train attendant;
But for the glorious privilege
Of being independent.
The fear o’ hell’s a hangman’s whip,
To haud the wretch in order;
But where ye feel your honour grip,
Let that aye be your border;
Its slightest touches, instant pause—
Debar a’ side-pretences;
And resolutely keep its laws,
The great Creator to revere,
Must sure become the creature;
But still the preaching cant forbear,
And ev’n the rigid feature:
Yet ne’er with wits profane to range,
Be complaisance extended;
An atheist-laugh’s a poor exchange
For Deity offended!
When ranting round in pleasure’s ring,
Religion may be blinded;
Or if she gie a random sting,
It may be little minded;
But when on life we’re tempest driv’n—
A conscience but a canker—
A correspondence fix’d wi’ Heav’n,
Is sure a noble anchor!
Adieu, dear, amiable youth!
Your heart can ne’er be wanting!
May prudence, fortitude, and truth,
Erect your brow undaunting!
In ploughman phrase, “God send you speed,”
Still daily to grow wiser;
And may ye better reck the rede,
Then ever did th’ adviser!
Walt Whitman |
WHO learns my lesson complete?
Boss, journeyman, apprentice—churchman and atheist,
The stupid and the wise thinker—parents and offspring—merchant, clerk, porter
Editor, author, artist, and schoolboy—Draw nigh and commence;
It is no lesson—it lets down the bars to a good lesson,
And that to another, and every one to another still.
The great laws take and effuse without argument;
I am of the same style, for I am their friend,
I love them quits and quits—I do not halt, and make salaams.
I lie abstracted, and hear beautiful tales of things, and the reasons of things;
They are so beautiful, I nudge myself to listen.
I cannot say to any person what I hear—I cannot say it to myself—it is very
It is no small matter, this round and delicious globe, moving so exactly in its orbit
and ever, without one jolt, or the untruth of a single second;
I do not think it was made in six days, nor in ten thousand years, nor ten billions of
Nor plann’d and built one thing after another, as an architect plans and builds a
I do not think seventy years is the time of a man or woman,
Nor that seventy millions of years is the time of a man or woman,
Nor that years will ever stop the existence of me, or any one else.
Is it wonderful that I should be immortal? as every one is immortal;
I know it is wonderful, but my eyesight is equally wonderful, and how I was conceived in
mother’s womb is equally wonderful;
And pass’d from a babe, in the creeping trance of a couple of summers and winters, to
articulate and walk—All this is equally wonderful.
And that my Soul embraces you this hour, and we affect each other without ever seeing each
other, and never perhaps to see each other, is every bit as wonderful.
And that I can think such thoughts as these, is just as wonderful;
And that I can remind you, and you think them, and know them to be true, is just as
And that the moon spins round the earth, and on with the earth, is equally wonderful,
And that they balance themselves with the sun and stars, is equally wonderful.
Robert William Service |
Although the Preacher be a bore,
The Atheist is even more.
I ain't religious worth a damn;
My views are reckoned to be broad;
And yet I shut up like a clam
When folks get figgerin' on God;
I'd hate my kids to think like me,
And though they leave me in the lurch,
I'm always mighty glad to see
My fam'ly trot to Church.
Although of books I have a shelf
Of skeptic stuff, I must confess
I keep their knowledge to myself:
Doubt doesn't help to happiness.
I never scoff at Holy Writ,
But envy those who hold it true,
And though I've never been in it
I'm proud to own a pew.
I always was a doubting Tom;
I guess some lads are born that way.
I couldn't stick religion from
The time I broke the Sabbath Day.
Yet unbelief's a bitter brew,
And this in arid ways I've learned;
If you believe a thing, it's true
As far as your concerned.
I'm sentimental, I agree,
For how it always makes me glad
To turn from Ingersoll and see
My little girls Communion-clad.
And as to church my people plod
I cry to them with simple glee:
"Say, folks, if you should talk to God,
Put in a word for me.
Anne Kingsmill Finch |
Methinks this World is oddly made,
And ev'ry thing's amiss,
A dull presuming Atheist said,
As stretch'd he lay beneath a Shade;
And instanced in this:
Behold, quoth he, that mighty thing,
A Pumpkin, large and round,
Is held but by a little String,
Which upwards cannot make it spring,
Or bear it from the Ground.
Whilst on this Oak, a Fruit so small,
So disproportion'd, grows;
That, who with Sence surveys this All,
This universal Casual Ball,
Its ill Contrivance knows.
My better Judgment wou'd have hung
That Weight upon a Tree,
And left this Mast, thus slightly strung,
'Mongst things which on the Surface sprung,
And small and feeble be.
No more the Caviller cou'd say,
Nor farther Faults descry;
For, as he upwards gazing lay,
An Acorn, loosen'd from the Stay,
Fell down upon his Eye.
Th' offended Part with Tears ran o'er,
As punish'd for the Sin:
Fool! had that Bough a Pumpkin bore,
Thy Whimseys must have work'd no more,
Nor Scull had kept them in.