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Consulted soberly his private good,
And säv'd himself as cheap as 'e'er fie could.
"T'is true, my friend, (and far be flattery hence)
This good had full as bad a consequence :
The Book thus put in every vulgar haud,
Which each presum'd he best could understand,
The common rule was made the common prey,
And at the mercy of the rabble lay :
The tender page with horny tists was gall'd,
And he was gifted most that loudest bawl'd:
The Spirit gave the doctoral degree,
And every member of a company
Was of his trade, and of the Bible, free.
Plain truths enough for needful use they found,
But men would still be itching to expound :
Each was ambitious of the obscurest place,
No measure ta'en from knowledge, all from grace:
Study and pains were now no more their care,
Texts were explain'd by fasting and by pray'r;
This was the fruit the private spirit brought,
Occasion’d by great zeal and little thought.
While crowds unlearn'd, with rude devotion warm,
About the sacred viands buz and swarm,
The fly-blown text creates a crawling brood,
And turns to maggots what was meant for food.
A thousand daily sects rise up and die;
A thousand more the perish'd race supply:
So all we make of Heaven's discover'd will
Is not to have it, or to use it ill.
The danger's much the same, on several shelves
If others wreck us, or we wreck ourselves.
What then remains but, waving each extreme, The tides of ignorance and pride to stem. Neither so rich a treasure to forego, Nor proudly seek beyond our power to know;
Faith is not built on disquisitions vain ;
The things we must believe, are few and plain :
But since men will believe more than they need,
And every man will make himself a creed,
In doubtful questions 'tis the safest way
To learn what unsuspected Ancients say ;
For 'tis not likely we should higher soar
In search of Heav'n than all the church before:
Nor can we be deceiv'd, unless we see
The Scripture and the Fathers disagree.
If, after all, they stand suspected still,
(For no man's faith depends upon his will)
"Tis some relief, that points not clearly known,
Without much hazard, may be let alone ;
And, after hearing what our church can say,
If still our reason runs another way,
That private reason 'tis more just to curb,
Than by disputes the public peace disturb :
For points obscure are of small use to learn,
But common quiet is mankind's concern.
Thus have I made my own opinions clear,
Yet neither praise expect, nor censure fear;
And this unpolish'd, rugged verse I chose,
As fittest for discourse, and nearest prose :
For while from sacred truth I do not swerve,
Tom Sternhold's or Tom Shadwell's rhymes will
SACRED TO THE HAPPY MEMORY OF KING
CHARLES II. 1685.
Fortunati ambo! si quid mea carmina possunt,
Nulla dies unquam meinori vos eximet ævo.
Thus long my grief has kept me dumb:
Sure there's a lethargy in mighty woe,
Tears stand congeald, and cannot flow;
And the sad soul retires into her inmost room.
Tears, for a stroke foreseen, afford relief;
But, unprovided for a sudden blow,
Like Niobe we marble grow,
And petrify with grief.
Our British heaven was all serene;
No threatening cloud was nigh,
Not the least wrinkle to deform the sky;.
We liv'd as unconcern’d and happily
As the first age in Nature's golden scene.
Supine amidst our flowing store,
We slept securely, and we dream'd of more ;
When suddenly thie thunder-clap was heard :
It took is unprepar'd, and out of guard,
Already lost, before we fear'd.
The’amazing news of Charles at once were spread;
At once the general voice declard
• Our gracious Prince was dead.'
No sickness known before, no slow disease,
To soften grief by just degrees ;
But, like an hurricane on Indian seas,
The tempest rose;
An unexpected burst of woes;
With scarce a breathing space betwixt,
This now becalm’d, and perisbing the next.
As if great Atlas from his height
Should sink beneath his heavenly weight,
And with a mighty tlaw, the flaming wall,
(As once it shall,)
Should gape immense, and, rushing down, o'erwhelm
this nether ball;
So swift and so surprising was our fear:
Our Atlas fell indeed; but Hercules was near.
His pious brother, sure the best
Who ever bore that name,
Was newly risen from his rest,
And with a fervent flame
His usual morning vows had just addrest
For his dear Sovereign's health;
And hop'd to have 'em heard,
In long increase of years,
In honour, fame, and wealth.
Guiltless of greatness thus he always pray'd,
Nor knew nor wish'd those vows he made
On his own head should be repaid,
Soon as the ill-omen d rumour reach'd bis ear,
(Ill news is wing'd with fate, and flies: apace)
Who can describe the amazement of his face !
Horror in all his pomp was there,
Mute and magnificent, without a tear;
And then the hero first was seen to fear.
Half unarray'd he ran to his relief,
So hasty and so artless was his grief:
Approaching Greatness met him with her charms
Of power and future state;
But look'd so ghastly in a brother's fate,
He shook her from his arms.
Arriv'd within the mournful room, he saw
A wild distraction, void of awe,
And arbitrary grief unbounded by a law;
God's image, God's anointed, lay
Without motion, pulse, or breath,
A senseless lamp of sacred clay,
An image, now,
Amidst his sad attendants groans and cries ;
The lines of that ador’d, forgiving face,
Distorted from their native grace;
An iron slumber sat on his majestic eyes.
The pious Duke- -forbear, audacious Muse,
No terms thy feeble art can use
Are able to adorn so vast a woe :
The grief of all the rest like subject-grief did show;
His like a sovereign did transcend ;
No wife, no brother, such a grief could know,
Nor any name, but friend.
O wondrous changes of a fatal scene,
Still varying to the last !
Heav'n, though its hard decree was past,
Seem'd pointing to a gracious turn again.;
And Death's uplifted arm arrested in its haste.