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But him of resolute and unchanging will;
Whom, nor the plaudits of a servile crowd,
Nor the vile joys of tainting luxury,
Can bribe to yield his elevated soul
To tyranny or falsehood, though they wield
With blood-red hand the sceptre of the world.
All things are sold: the very light of heaven
Is venal; earth's unsparing gifts of love,
The smallest and most despicable things
That lurk in the abysses of the deep,
All objects of our life, even life itself,
And the poor pittance which the laws allow
Of liberty, the fellowship of man,
Those duties which his heart of human love
Should urge him to perform instinctively,
Are bought and sold as in a public mart
Of undisguising selfishness, that sets
On each its price, the stamp-mark of her reign.
Even love is sold; the solace of all woe
Is turned to deadliest agony, old age
Shivers in selfish beauty's loathing arms,
And youth's corrupted impulses prepare
A life of horror from the blighting bane
Of commerce: whilst the pestilence that springs
From unenjoying sensualism, has filled
All human life with hydra-headed woes.
Falsehood demands but gold to pay the pangs
Qf outraged conscience; for the slavish priest
Sets no great value on his hireling faith:
A little passing pomp, some servile souls,
Whom cowardice itself might safely chain,
Or the spare mite of avarice could bribe
To deck the triumph of their languid zeal,
Can make him minister to tyranny.
More daring crime requires a loftier meed :
Without a shudder the slave-soldier lends
His arm to murderous deeds, and steels his heart,
When the dread eloquence of dying men,
Low mingling on the lonely field of fame,
Assails that nature whose applause he sells
For the gross blessings of the patriot mob,
For the vile gratitude of heartless kings,
And for a cold world's good word, viler still
There is a nobler glory which survives
Until our being fades, and, solacing
All human care, accompanies its change ;
Deserts not virtue in the dungeon's gloom,
And, in the precincts of the palace, guides
Its footsteps through that labyrinth of crime;
Imbues his lineaments with dauntlessness,
Even when, from power's avenging hand, he takes
Its sweetest, last and noblest title—death;
The consciousness of good, which neither gold,
Nor sordid fame, nor hope of heavenly bliss,
Can purchase; but a life of resolute good,
Unalterable will, quenchless desire
Of universal happiness, the heart
That beats with it in unison, the brain,
Whose ever-wakeful wisdom toils to change
Reason's rich stores for its eternal weal.
This commerce of sincerest virtue needs
No mediative signs of selfishness,
No jealous intercourse of wretched gain,
No balancings of prudence, cold and long;
In just and equal measure all is weighed,
One scale contains the sum of human weal,
And one, the good man's heart.
How vainly seek The selfish for that happiness denied To aught but virtue 1 Blind and hardened, they Who hope for peace amid the storms of care, Who covet power they know not how to use, And sigh for pleasure they refuse to give:– Madly they frustrate still their own designs; And, where they hope that quiet to enjoy Which virtue pictures, bitterness of soul, Pining regrets, and vain repentances, Disease, disgust, and lassitude, pervade Their valueless and miserable lives.
But hoary-headed selfishness has felt
Its death-blow, and is tottering to the grave:
A brighter morn awaits the human day,
When every transfer of earth's natural gifts
Shall be a commerce of good words and works;
When poverty and wealth, the thirst of fame,
The fear of infamy, disease and woe,
War with its million horrors, and fierce hell,
Shall live but in the memory of time,
Who, like a penitent libertine shall start,
Look back, and shudder at his younger years.
VI. ALL touch, all eye, all ear, The Spirit felt the Fairy's burning speech. O'er the thin texture of its frame, The varying periods painted, changing glows; As on a summer even, When soul-enfolding music floats around, The stainless mirror of the lake Re-images the eastern gloom, Mingling convulsively its purple hues With sunset's burnished gold.
Then thus the Spirit spoke: It is a wild and miserable world ! Thorny, and full of care, Which every fiend can make his prey at will. O Fairy ! in the lapse of years, Is there no hope in store ? Will yon vast suns roll on Interminably, still illuming The night of so many wretched souls, And see no hope for them? Will not the universal Spirit e'er Revivify this withered limb of Heaven?
The Fairy calmly smiled In comfort, and a kindling gleam of hope Suffused the Spirit's lineaments. Oh! rest thee tranquil; chase those fearful doubts, Which ne'er could rack an everlasting soul, That sees the chains which bind it to its doom. Yes! crime and misery are in yonder earth, Falsehood, mistake, and lust; But the eternal world Contains at once the evil and the cure. Some eminent in virtue shall start up, Even in perversest time: The truths of their pure lips, that never die, Shall bind the scorpion falsehood with a wreath Of ever-living flame, Until the monster sting itself to death.
How sweet a scene will earth become ! Of purest spirits, a pure dwelling-place,
Symphonious with the planetary spheres;
When man, with changeless nature coalescing,
Will undertake regeneration's work,
When its ungenial poles no longer point
To the red and baleful sun
That faintly twinkles there.
Spirit, on yonder earth, Falsehood now triumphs; deadly power Has fixed its seal upon the lip of truth !
Madness and misery are there! The happiest is most wretched . Yet confide Until pure health-drops, from the cup of joy Fall like a dew of balm upon the world. Now, to the scene I show, in silence turn, And read the blood-stained charter of all woe, Which nature soon, with re-creating hand, Will blot in mercy from the book of earth. How bold the flight of passion's wandering wing, How swift the step of reason's firmer tread, How calm and sweet the victories of life, How terrorless the triumph of the grave! How powerless were the mightiest monarch's arm, Vain his loud threat, and impotent his frown How ludicrous the priest's dogmatic roar ! The weight of his exterminating curse How light ! and his affected charity, To suit the pressure of the changing times, What palpable deceit !—but for thy aid, Religion but for thee, prolific fiend, Who peoplest earth with demons, hell with men, And heaven with slaves |
Thou taintest all thou look'st upon —the stars,
Which on thy cradle beamed so brightly sweet,
Were gods to the distempered playfulness
Of thy untutored infancy: the trees,
The grass, the clouds, the mountains, and the sea,
All living things that walk, swim, creep, or fly,
Were gods: the sun had homage, and the moon
Her worshipper. Then thou becamest a boy,
More daring in thy frenzies: every shape,
Monstrous or vast, or beautifully wild,
Which from sensation's relics, fancy culls;
The spirits of the air, the shuddering ghost,
The genii of the elements, the powers
That give a shape to nature's varied works,
Had life and place in the corrupt belief
Of thy blind heart: yet still thy youthful hands
Were pure of human blood. Then manhood gave
Its strength and ardour to thy frenzied brain;
Thine eager gaze scanned the stupendous scene,
Whose wonders mocked the knowledge of thy pride:
Their everlasting and unchanging laws
Reproached thine ignorance. Awhile thou stoodst
Battled and gloomy; then thou didst sum up
The elements of all that thou didst know ;
The changing seasons, winter's leafless reign,
The budding of the heaven-breathing trees,
The eternal orbs that beautify the night,
The sun-rise, and the setting of the moon,
Earthquakes and wars, and poisons and disease,
And all their causes, to an abstract point
Converging, thou didst bend, and call'd it God!
The self-sufficing, the omnipotent,
The merciful, and the avenging God |
Who, prototype of human misrule, sits
High in heaven's realm, upon a golden throne,
Even like an earthly king; and whose dread work,
Hell, gapes for ever for the unhappy slaves
Of fate, whom he created in his sport,
To triumph in their torments when they fell
Earth heard the name; earth trembled, as the smoke
Of his revenge ascended up to heaven,
Blotting the constellations; and the cries
Of millions butcher'd in sweet confidence
And unsuspecting peace, even when the bonds
Of safety were confirmed by wordy oaths
Sworn in his dreadful name, rung through the land ;
Whilst innocent babes writhed on thy stubborn
And thou didst laugh to hear the mother's shriek
Of maniac gladness as the sacred steel
Felt cold in her torn entrails'
Religion thou wert then in manhood's prime:
But age crept on : one God would not suffice
For senile puerility; thou framedst
A tale to suit thy dotage, and to glut
Thy misery-thirsting soul, that the mad fiend
Thy wickedness had pictured, might afford
A plea for sating the unnatural thirst
For murder, rapine, violence, and crime,
That still consumed thy being, even when [light
Thou heardst the step of fate;—that flames might
Thy funeral scene, and the shrill horrent shrieks
Of parents dying on the pile that burn’d
To light their children to thy paths, the roar
Of the encircling flames, the exulting cries
Of thine apostles, loud commingling there,
Might sate thy hungry ear
Even on the bed of death !
But now contempt is mocking thy grey hairs;
Thou art descending to the darksome grave,
Unhonoured and unpitied, but by those
Whose pride is passing by like thine, and sheds,
Like thine, a glare that fades before the sun
Of truth, and shines but in the dreadful night
That long has lowered above the ruined world.
Throughout these infinite orbs of mingling light,
Of which yon earth is one, is wide diffused
A spirit of activity and life,
That knows no term, cessation, or decay;
That fades not when the lamp of earthly life,
Extinguished in the dampness of the grave,
Awhile there slumbers, more than when the babe
In the dim newness of its being feels
The impulses of sublunary things,
And all is wonder to unpractised sense:
But, active, stedfast, and eternal, still
Guides the fierce whirlwind, in the tempest roars,
Cheers in the day, breathes in the balmy groves,
Strengthens in health, and poisons in disease;
And in the storm of change, that ceaselessly
Rolls round the eternal universe, and shakes
Its undecaying battlement, presides,
Apportioning with irresistible law
The place each spring of its machine shall fill ;
So that, when waves on waves tumultuous heap
Confusion to the clouds, and fiercely driven
Heaven's lightnings scorch the uprooted ocean
Whilst, to the eye of shipwrecked mariner, [fords,
Lone sitting on the bare and shuddering rock,
All seems unlinked contingency and chance:
No atom of this turbulence fulfils
A vague and unnecessitated task,
Or acts but as it must and ought to act.
Even the minutest molecule of light,
That in an April sunbeam's fleeting glow
Fulfils its destined, though invisible work,
The universal Spirit guides; nor less
When merciless ambition, or mad zeal,
Has led two hosts of dupes to battle-field,
That, blind, they there may dig each other's graves
And call the sad work glory, does it rule
All passions: not a thought, a will, an act,
No working of the tyrant's moody mind,
Nor one misgiving of the slaves who boast
Their servitude, to hide the shame they feel,
Nor the events enchaining every will,
That from the depths of unrecorded time
Have drawn all-influencing virtue, pass
Unrecognised or unforeseen by thee,
Soul of the Universe ! eternal spring
Of life and death, of happiness and woe,
Of all that chequers the phantasmal scene
That floats before our eyes in wavering light,
Which gleams but on the darkness of our prison,
Whose chains and massy walls
We feel but cannot see.
Spirit of Nature! all-sufficing Power.
Necessity thou mother of the world !
Unlike the God of human error, thou
Requirest no prayers or praises; the caprice
Of man's weak will belongs no more to thee
Than do the changeful passions of his breast
To thy unvarying harmony: the slave,
Whose horrible lusts spread misery o'er the world,
And the good man, who lifts, with virtuous pride,
His being, in the sight of happiness,
That springs from his own works; the poison-tree,
Beneath whose shade all life is withered up,
And the fair oak, whose leafy dome affords
A temple where the vows of happy love
Are register'd, are equal in thy sight:
No love, no hate thou cherishest; revenge
And favouritism, and worst desire of fame,
Thou knowest not: all that the wide world contains
Are but thy passive instruments, and thou
Regard'st them all with an impartial eye
Whose joy or pain thy nature cannot feel,
Because thou hast not human sense,
Because thou art not human mind.
Yes! when the sweeping storm of time Has sung its death-dirge o'er the ruined fanes And broken altars of the almighty fiend Whose name usurps thy honours, and the blood Through centuries clotted there, has floated down The tainted flood of ages, shalt thou live Unchangeable! A shrine is raised to thee, Which, nor the tempest breath of time, Nor the interminable flood, Over earth's slight pageant rolling, Availeth to destroy, The sensitive extension of the world. That wondrous and eternal fane, Where pain and pleasure, good and evil join, To do the will of strong necessity, And life in multitudinous shapes, Still pressing forward where no term can be, Like hungry and unresting flame Curls round the eternal columns of its strength.
I was an infant when my mother went
To see an atheist burned. She took me there:
The dark-robed priests were met around the pile;
The multitude was gazing silently;
And as the culprit passed with dauntless mien,
Tempered disdain in his unaltering eye,
Mixed with a quiet smile, shone calmly forth:
The thirsty fire crept round his manly limbs;
His resolute eyes were scorched to blindness soon ;
His death-pang rent my heart! the insensate mob
Uttered a cry of triumph, and I wept.
Weep not, child ! cried my mother, for that man
Has said, There is no God.
There is no God . Nature confirms the faith his death-groan seal’d : Let heaven and earth, let man's revolving race, His ceaseless generations, tell their tale; Let every part depending on the chain That links it to the whole, point to the hand That grasps its term ' Let every seed that falls, In silent eloquence unfold its store Of argument: infinity within, Infinity without, belie creation; The exterminable spirit it contains Is nature's only God; but human pride Is skilful to invent most serious names To hide its ignorance.
The name of God Has fenced about all crime with holiness, Himself the creature of his worshippers, Whose names and attributes and passions change, Seeva, Buddh, Foh, Jehovah, God, or Lord, Even with the human dupes who build his shrines, Still serving o'er the war-polluted world For desolation's watch-word; whether hosts Stain his death-blushing chariot wheels, as on Triumphantly they roll, whilst Brahmins raise A sacred hymn to mingle with the groans; Or countless partners of his power divide His tyranny to weakness; or the smoke Of burning towns, the cries of female helplessness, Unarmed old age, and youth, and infancy, Horribly massacred, ascend to heaven In honour of his name; or, last and worst, Earth groans beneath religion's iron age, And priests dare babble of a God of peace, Even whilst their hands are red with guiltless blood, Murdering the while, uprooting every germ Of truth, exterminating, spoiling all, Making the earth a slaughter-house !
O Spirits through the sense By which thy inner nature was apprised Of outward shows vague dreams have roll'd, And varied reminiscences have waked Tablets that never fade; All things have been imprinted there, The stars, the sea, the earth, the sky, Even the unshapeliest lineaments Of wild and fleeting visions Have left a record there To testify of earth.
These are my empire, for to me is given The wonders of the human world to keep,
And fancy's thin creations to endow
With manner, being, and reality;
Therefore a wondrous phantom, from the dreams
Of human error's dense and purblind faith,
I will evoke, to meet thy questioning.
Ahasuerus, rise !
A strange and woe-worn wight Arose beside the battlement, And stood unmoving there. His inessential figure cast no shade Upon the golden floor ; His port and mien bore mark of many years, And chronicles of untold ancientness Were legible within his beamless eye : Yet his cheek bore the mark of youth ; Freshness and vigour knit his manly frame; The wisdom of old age was mingled there With youth's primaeval dauntlessness; And inexpressible woe, Chasten’d by fearless resignation, gave An awful grace to his all-speaking brow.
Is there a God!—ay, an almighty God,
And vengeful as almighty! Once his voice
Was heard on earth: earth shudder'd at the sound;
The fiery-visaged firmament express'd
Abhorrence, and the grave of nature yawn'd
To swallow all the dauntless and the good
That dared to hurl defiance at his throne,
Girt as it was with power. None but slaves
Survived,—cold-blooded slaves, who did the work
Of tyrannous omnipotence ; whose souls
No honest indignation ever urged
To elevated daring, to one deed
Which gross and sensual self did not pollute.
These slaves built temples for the omnipotent fiend,
Gorgeous and vast: the costly altars smoked
With human blood, and hideous paeans rung
Through all the long-drawn aisles. A murderer
His voice in Egypt, one whose gifts and arts
Had raised him to his eminence in power,
Accomplice of omnipotence in crime,
And confidant of the all-knowing one.
These were Jehovah's words.
From an eternity of idleness
I, God, awoke ; in seven days' toil made earth
From nothing ; rested, and created man :
I placed him in a paradise, and there
Planted the tree of evil, so that he
Might eat and perish, and my soul procure
Wherewith to sate its malice, and to turn,
Even like a heartless conqueror of the earth,
All misery to my fame. The race of men
Chosen to my honour, with impunity
May sate the lusts I planted in their heart.
Here I command thee hence to lead them on,
Until, with harden’d feet, their conquering troops
Wade on the promised soil through woman's blood,
And make my name be dreaded through the land.
Yet ever-burning flame and ceaseless woe
Shall be the doom of their eternal souls,
With every soul on this ungrateful earth,
Virtuous or vicious, weak or strong,-even all
Shall perish, to fulfil the blind revenge
(Which you, to men, call justice) of their God.
The murderer's brow Quiver'd with horror.
God omnipotent, Is there no mercy 2 must our punishment Be endless will long ages roll away, And see no term? Oh wherefore hast thou made In mockery and wrath this evil earth : Mercy becomes the powerful—be but just : O God! repent and save.
One way remains: I will beget a son, and he shall bear The sins of all the world ; he shall arise In an unnoticed corner of the earth, And there shall die upon a cross, and purge The universal crime; so that the few On whom my grace descends, those who are mark’d As vessels to the honour of their God, May credit this strange sacrifice, and save Their souls alive : millions shall live and die, Who ne'er shall call upon their Saviour's name, But, unredeemed, go to the gaping grave. Thousands shall deem it an old woman's tale, Such as the nurses frighten babes withal: These in a gulf of anguish and of flame Shall curse their reprobation endlessly, Yet tenfold pangs shall force them to avow, Even on their beds of torment, where they howl, My honour, and the justice of their doom. What then avail their virtuousdeeds, their thoughts Of purity, with radiant genius bright, Or lit with human reason's earthly ray : Many are called, but few will I elect. Do thou my bidding, Moses 1
Even the murderer's cheek Was blanched with horror, and his quivering lips Scarce faintly uttered—O almighty one, I tremble and obey !
O Spirit ! centuries have set their seal
On this heart of many wounds, and loaded brain,
Since the Incarnate came : humbly he came,
Weiling his horrible Godhead in the shape
Of man, scorned by the world, his name unheard,
Save by the rabble of his native town,
Even as a parish demagogue. He led
The crowd; he taught them justice, truth, and
peace, In semblance ; but he lit within their souls The quenchless flames of zeal, and blest the sword He brought on earth to satiate with the blood Of truth and freedom his malignant soul. At length his mortal frame was led to death. I stood beside him : on the torturing cross No pain assailed his unterrestrial sense ; And yet he groaned. Indignantly I summed The massacres and miseries which his name Had sanctioned in my country, and I cried, Go! go! in mockery. A smile of godlike malice reillumed His fading lineaments.-I go, he cried, But thou shalt wander o'er the unquiet earth Eternally. The dampness of the grave Bathed my imperishable front. I fell, And long lay tranced upon the charmèd soil. When I awoke hell burned within my brain,
Which staggered on its seat; for all around
The mouldering relics of my kindred lay,
Even as the Almighty's ire arrested them,
And in their various attitudes of death
My murdered children's mute and eyeless sculls
Glared ghastly upon me.
But my soul, From sight and sense of the polluting woe Of tyranny, had long learned to prefer Hell's freedom to the servitude of heaven. Therefore I rose, and dauntlessly began My lonely and unending pilgrimage, Resolved to wage unweariable war With my almighty tyrant, and to hurl Defiance at his impotence to harm Beyond the curse I bore. The very hand That barred my passage to the peaceful grave Has crushed the earth to misery, and given Its empire to the chosen of his slaves. These have I seen, even from the earliest dawn Of weak, unstable, and precarious power; Then preaching peace, as now they practise war, So, when they turned but from the massacre Of unoffending infidels, to quench Their thirst for ruin in the very blood That flowed in their own veins, and pitiless zeal Froze every human feeling, as the wife Sheathed in her husband's heart the sacred steel, Even whilst its hopes were dreaming of her love; And friends to friends, brothers to brothers stood Opposed in bloodiest battle-field, and war, Scarce satiable by fate’s last death-draught waged, Drunk from the wine-press of the Almighty's wrath; Whilst the red cross, in mockery of peace, Pointed to victory! When the fray was done, No remnant of the exterminated faith Survived to tell its ruin, but the flesh, With putrid smoke poisoning the atmosphere, That rotted on the half-extinguished pile.
Yes! I have seen God's worshippers unsheath
The sword of his revenge, when grace descended,
Confirming all unnatural impulses,
To sanctify their desolating deeds;
And frantic priests waved the ill-omened cross
O'er the unhappy earth: then shone the sun
On showers of gore from the upflashing steel
Of safe assassination, and all crime
Made stingless by the spirits of the Lord,
And blood-red rainbows canopied the land.
Spirit! no year of my eventful being
Has passed unstained by crime and misery,
Which flows from God's own faith. I’ve marked
With tongues whose lies are venomous, beguile
The insensate mob, and, whilst one hand was red
With murder, feign to stretch the other out
For brotherhood and peace; and, that they now
Babble of love and mercy, whilst their deeds
Are marked with all the narrowness and crime
That freedom's young arm dares not yet chastise,
Reason may claim our gratitude, who now,
Establishing the imperishable throne
Of truth, and stubborn virtue, maketh vain
The unprevailing malice of my foe,
Whose bootless rage heaps torments for the brave,
Adds impotent eternities to pain,
Whilst keenest disappointment racks his breast
To see the smiles of peace around them play, To frustrate or to sanctify their doom.
Thus have I stood, through a wild waste of years
Struggling with whirlwinds of mad agony,
Yet peaceful, and serene, and self-enshrined,
Mocking my powerless tyrant's horrible curse
With stubborn and unalterable will,
Even as a giant oak, which heaven's fierce flame
Had scathed in the wilderness, to stand
A monument of fadeless ruin there;
Yet peacefully and movelessly it braves
The midnight conflict of the wintry storm,
As in the sun-light's calm it spreads
Its worn and withered arms on high
To meet the quiet of a summer's noon.
The Fairy waved her wand: Ahasuerus fled Fast as the shapes of mingled shade and mist, That lurk in the glens of a twilight grove, Flee from the morning beam: The matter of which dreams are made Not more endowed with actual life Than this phantasmal portraiture Of wandering human thought.
VIII. THE present and the past thou hast beheld: It was a desolate sight. Now Spirit, learn, The secrets of the future.—Time ! Unfold the brooding pinion of thy gloom, Render thou up thy half-devoured babes, And from the cradles of eternity, Where millions lie lulled to their portioned sleep By the deep murmuring stream of passing things, Tear thou that gloomy shroud.—Spirit, behold Thy glorious destiny!
Joy to the Spirit came. Through the wide rent in Time's eternal veil, Hope was seen beaming through the mists of fear: Earth was no longer hell; Love, freedom, health, had given Their ripeness to the manhood of its prime, And all its pulses beat Symphonious to the planetary spheres: Then dulcet music swelled Concordant with the life-strings of the soul; It throbbed in sweet and languid beatings there, Catching new life from transitory death.Like the vague sighings of a wind at even, That wakes the wavelets of the slumbering sea, And dies on the creation of its breath, And sinks and rises, fails and swells by fits: Was the pure stream of feeling That sprang from these sweet notes, And o'er the Spirit's human sympathies With mild and gentle motion calmly flowed.
Joy to the Spirit came, Such joy as when a lover sees The chosen of his soul in happiness, And witnesses her peace Whose woe to him were bitterer than death ; Sees her unfaded cheek