« PreviousContinue »
either religious or civil, which are handled in it. The First Part, consisting most in general characters and narration, I have endeavoured to raise, and give it the majestic turn of heroic poesy. The Second, being matter of dispute, and chiefly concerning church-authority, I was obliged to make as plain and perspicuous as possibly I could; yet not wholly neglecting the numbers, though I had not frequent occasions for the magnificence of verse. The Third, which has more of the nature of domestic conversation, is, or ought to be, more free and familiar than the two former.
There are in it two episodes, or fables, which are interwoven with the main design; so that they are properly parts of it, though they are also distinct stories of themselves. In both of these I have made use of the common-places of satire, whether true or false, which are urged by the members of the one church against the other; at which I hope no reader of either party will be scandalized; because they are not of my invention, but as old, to my knowledge, as the times of Boccace and Chaucer on the one side, and as those of the Reformation on the other.
-Antiquam exquirite matrem,--
Et vera incessu patuit Dea.
A MILK-WHITE Hind,* immortal and unchang'd,
Fed on the lawns, and in the forest rang'd;
Without, unspotted; innocent, within;
She fear'd no danger, for she knew no sin:
Yet had she oft been chas'd with horns and hounds,
And Scythian shafts, and many-winged wounds
Aim'd at her heart; was often forc❜d to fly,
And doom'd to death, though fated not to die.
Not so her young; for their unequal line
Was hero's make, half human, half divine.
Their earthly mould obnoxious was to fate,
The' immortal part assum'd immortal state.
Of these a slaughter'd army lay in blood,
Extended o'er the Caledonian wood,
Their native walk; whose vocal blood arose,
And cried for pardon on their perjur'd foes.
Their fate was fruitful, and the sanguine seed,
Endued with souls, increas'd the sacred breed.
So captive Israel multiplied in chains,
A numerous exile, and enjoy'd her pains
The Roman Catholic church.
With grief and gladness mix'd, the mother view'd
Her martyr'd offspring, and their race renew'd;
Their corps to perish, but their kind to last,
So much the deathless plant the dying fruit surpass'd.
Panting and pensive now she rang'd alone,
And wander'd in the kingdoms once her own.
The common hunt, though from their rage restrain'd
By sovereign power, her company disdain'd,
Grinn'd as they pass'd, and with a glaring eye
Gave gloomy signs of secret enmity.
'Tis true, she bounded by, and tripp'd so light,
They had not time to take a steady sight:
For truth has such a face and such a mein
As, to be lov'd, needs only to be seen.
The bloody Bear*, an independant beast,
Unlick'd to form, in groans her hate express'd.
Among the timorous kind the quaking Haret
Profess'd neutrality, but would not swear.
Next her the buffoon Ape‡, as atheists use,
Mimic'd all sects, and had his own to choose;
Still when the Lion look'd his knees he bent,
And paid at church a courtier's compliment.
The bristled baptist Boar§, impure as he,
But whiten'd with the foam of sanctity,
With fat pollutions fill'd the sacred place,
And mountains levell'd in his furious race;
So first rebellion founded was in grace:
But since the mighty ravage which he made
In German forests had his guilt betray'd,
With broken tusks, and with a borrow'd name,
He shunn'd the vengeance, and conceal'd the shame;
The Independent sect.
So lurk'd in sects unseen.
False Reynard* fed on consecrated spoil:
The graceless beast by Athanasius first
Was chas'd from Nice, then by Socinus nurs'd;
His impious race their blasphemy renew'd,
And nature's King through Nature's optics view'd;
Revers'd they view'd him lessen'd to their eye,
Nor in an infant could a god descry:
New swarming sects to this obliquely tend,
Hence they began, and here they all will end.
What weight of ancient witness can prevail,
If private reason hold the public scale?
But, gracious God! how well dost thou provide
For erring judgments an unerring guide!
Thy throne is darkness in the' abyss of light,
A blaze of glory that forbids the sight.
O teach me to believe thee thus conceal'd,
And search no farther than thyself reveal'd;
But her alone for my director take
Whom thou hast promis'd never to forsake!
My thoughtless youth was wing'd with vain desires,
My manhood, long misled by wandering fires,
Follow'd false lights, and, when their glimpse was
My pride struck out new sparkles of her own.
Such was I, such by nature still I am;
Be thine the glory, and be mine the shame!
Good life be now my task: my doubts are done;
What more could fright my faith than Three in One?
Can I believe eternal God could lie
Disguis'd in mortal mould, and infancy?
That the great Maker of the world could die?
And, after that, trust my imperfect sense,
Which calls in question his omnipotence?
Can I my reason to my faith compel?
And shall my sight, and touch, and taste rebel?
Superior faculties are set aside;
Shall their subservient organs be my guide?
Then let the moon usurp the rule of day,
And winking tapers show the sun his way;
For what my senses can themselves perceive,
I need no revelation to believe.
Can they, who say the host should be descried
By sense, define a body glorified?
Impassable, and penetrating parts?
Let them declare by what mysterious arts
He shot that body through the opposing might
Of bolts and bars, impervious to the light,
And stood before his train confess'd in open sight:.
For, since thus wondrously he pass'd, 'tis plain
One single place two bodies did contain :
And sure the same Omnipotence as well
Can make one body in more places dwell.
Let Reason then at her own quarry fly,
But how can finite grasp infinity?
'Tis urg'd again, that faith did first commence
By miracles, which are appeals to sense,
And thence concluded that our sense must be
The motive still of credibility:
For later ages must on former wait,
And what began belief must propagate.
But winnow well this thought, and you shall find
"Tis light as chaff that flies before the wind. Were all those wonders wrought by power divine, As means, or ends, of some more deep design?