THOUGHTS in PRISON:
SUNDAY, March 2, 1777.
WEEK THE SECOND.
Oh, not that thou goest hence--sweet drooping flower,
Surcharg'd with Sorrow's dew!--Not that thou quitt'st
This pent and feverish gloom; which beams with light,
With health, with comfort, by thy presence cheer'd,
Companion of my life, and of my woes
Blest soother! Not that thou goest hence to drink
A purer air, and gather from the breath
Of balmy Spring new succour, to recruit
Thy waning health, and aid thee to sustain,
With more than manly fortitude, thy own
And my afflictive Trials! Not that here,
Amidst the glories of this genial day,
Immur'd, thro' iron bars I peep at Heaven,
With dim, lack-lustre eye! --Oh, 'tis not this
That drives the poison'd point of torturous Thought
Deep to my spring of life! It is not this
That prostrate lays me weeping in the dust,
And draws in sobs the life-blood from my heart!
Well could I bear thy Absence: well, full well;
Tho' Angel comforts in thy converse smile,
And make my dungeon Paradise!--Full well
Could I sustain thro' iron bars to view
The golden Sun, in bridegroom-majesty
Taking benignant Nature to his love,
And decking her with bounties! Well, very well
Could I forego the delicate delight
Of tracing nature's germens, as they bud;
Of viewing Spring's first children, as they rise
In innocent sweetness, or beneath the thorn
In rural privacy; or on gay parterre
More artful, less enchanting!--Well, very well
Could I forego to listen,--in this house
Of unremitted din,--and nought complain;
To listen, as I oft have stood with Thee
Listening in fond endearment to the voice
Of Stock-dove, thro' the silence of the wood
Hoarse murmuring:--Well, oh could I forego
These innocent, tho' exquisite delights,
Still new, and to my bosom still attun'd
In moral, mental melody!--Sweet Spring!
Well could I bear this sad exile from Thee,
Nor drop one tear reluctant: for my Soul,
Strong to superior feelings, soars aloft
To eminence of misery!--Confin'd
On this blest day--the Sabbath of my God!
--Not from his House alone, not from the power
Of joyful worship with assembling Crouds, 
But from the labours once so amply mine,
The labours of his love. Now, laid aside,
Cover'd my head with ignominious dust,
My voice is stopp'd! and, had I e'en the power,
Strong shame, and stronger grief would to that voice
Forbid all utterance!--Ah, thrice hapless voice,
By Heaven's own finger all indulgent tun'd
To touch the heart, and win th' attentive soul
To love of Truth Divine: how useless now,
How dissonant, unstrung!--Like Salem's harps,
Once fraught with richest harmony of praise,
Hung in sad silence by Euphrates' stream,
Upon the mournful willows! There they wept,
Thy captive People wept--O God!--when Thought
To bitter memory recall'd the songs,
The dulcet songs of Sion! Oh blest songs,
Transporting chorus of united hearts,
In cheerful music mounting to the praise
Of Sion's King of Glory!--Oh the joy
Transcendant, of petitions wing'd aloft
With fervour irresistible from throngs
Assembled in thy earthly Courts, dread King
Of all-dependant Nature!--looking up
For all to Thee, as do the Servants' eyes
Up to their fostering Master! Joy of joys,
Amidst such throng'd assemblies to stand forth,
To blow the Silver Trumpet of thy Grace;
The gladsome year of Jubilee to proclaim,
And offer to the aching Sinner's heart
Redemption's healing mercies! And methinks
(--Indulge the pleasing reverie, my soul!
The waking dream, which in oblivion sweet
Lulls thy o'erlabour'd sense!) methinks, convey'd
To Ham's lov'd shades, --dear favourite shades, by Peace
And pure Religion sanctify'd,--I hear
The tuneful bells their hallow'd message sound
To Christian hearts symphonious! Circling Time
Once more hath happily brought round the day,
Which calls us to the Temple of our God:
Then let us haste, in decent neatness clad,
My cheerful little Household, to his Courts.
So lov'd, so truly honour'd! There we'll mix
In meek, ingenuous Deprecation's cry;
There we'll unite in full Thanksgiving's choir,
And all the rich melodiousness of praise.
I feel, I feel the rapture! David's harp
Concordant with a thousand voices sounds:
Prayer mounts exulting: Man ascends the skies
On wings of Angel-fervour! Holy writ
Or speaks the wonders of Jehovah's power,
Or tells, in more than mortal majesty,
The greater wonders of his Love to Man!
Proofs of that love, see where the mystic Signs,
High emblems of unutterable Grace,
Confirm to Man the zeal of Heaven to save,
And call to Gratitude's best office!
In all thy sacred institutions, Lord,
Thy Sabbaths with peculiar wisdom shine;
First and high argument, Creation done,
Of thy benign solicitude for Man,
Thy chiefest, favourite creature. Time is thine:
How just to claim a part, who giv'st the whole!
But oh, how gracious, to assign that part
To Man's supreme behoof, his soul's best good;
His mortal and his mental benefit;
His body's genial comfort! Savage else,
Untaught, undisciplin'd, in shaggy pride
He'd rov'd the wild, amidst the brutes a brute
Ferocious; to the soft civilities
Of cultivated life, Religion, Truth,
A barbarous stranger. To thy Sabbaths then
All hail, wise Legislator! 'Tis to these
We owe at once the memory of thy works,
Thy mighty works of Nature and of Grace;--
We owe divine Religion; and to these
The decent comeliness of Social Life.
Revere, ye earthly Magistrates, who wield
The Sword of Heaven,--the wisdom of Heaven's plan,
And sanctify the Sabbaths of your God!
Religion's All: With that or stands or falls
Your Country's weal! but where shall she obtain
--Religion, sainted Pilgrim,--shelter safe,
Or honourable greeting;--thro' the land,
If led by high and low, in giddy dance,
Mad Profanation on the sacred day
Of God's appointed rest, her revel-rout
Insulting heads, and leaves the Temple void?
--Oh, my lov'd Country! oh, ye thoughtless Great,
Intoxicate with draughts, that opium-like
For transient moments stupefy the mind,
To wake in horrors, and confusion wild!--
But soft, and know thyself! 'Tis not for Thee,
Poor Destitute! thus groveling in the dust
Of self-annihilation, to assume
The Censor's office, and reprove mankind.
Ah me,--thy day of duty is declin'd!
Thou, rather, to the quick probe thine own wounds;
And plead for mercy at the Judgement-seat,
Where Conscience smites thee for th' offence deplor'd.
Yet not presumptuous deem it, Arbiter
Of human thoughts, that thro' the long, long gloom
Of multiplied transgressions, I behold
Complacent smiling on my sickening Soul,
"Delight in thy lov'd Sabbaths!" Well Thou know'st--
For Thou know'st all things,--that the cheerful sound
Of that blest day's return, for circling weeks,
For months, for years, for more than thrice seven years,
Was music to my heart! My feet rejoic'd
To bear me to thy Temples, haply fraught
With Comfort's tidings; with thy Gospel's truth,
The Gospel of thy Peace! Oh, well Thou know'st,
Who knowest all things, with what welcome toil,
What pleasing assiduity I search'd
Thy heavenly Word, to learn thy heavenly Will;
That faithful I might minister its truth,
And of the high Commission nought keep back
From the great Congregation! 
Well thou know'st,
--Sole, sacred witness of my private hours,--
How copiously I bath'd with pleading tears,
How earnestly in prayer consig'd to Thee
The humble efforts of my trembling pen;
My best, weak efforts in my Master's cause;
Weak as the feather 'gainst the giant's shield,
Light as the gosmer floating on the wind,
Without thy aid omnipotent! Thou know'st,
How, anxious to improve in every grace,
That best to Man's attention might commend
Th' important message, studious I applied
My feeble talents to the holy art
Of 'suasive Elocution; emulous
Of every acquisition which might clothe
In purest dignity the purest work,
The first, the highest office man can bear;
"The Messenger of God!" And well Thou know'st,
--For all the work, as all the praise is Thine--
What sweet success accompanied the toil:
What harvests bless'd the seed-time! Well thou know'st,
With what triumphant gladness my rapt Soul
Wrought in the vineyard! how it thankful bore
The noon-day's heat, the evening's chilly frost,
Exulting in its much-lov'd Master's cause
To spend, and to be spent! and bring it home
From triple labours of the well-toil'd day,
A body by fatigue o'erborne; a mind
Replete with glad emotions to its God!
Ah, my lov'd Household! ah, my little round
Of social Friends! well do ye bear in mind
Those pleasing evenings, when, on my return,
Much-wish'd return--Serenity the mild,
And Cheerfulness the innocent, with me
Enter'd the happy dwelling! Thou, my Ernst,
Ingenuous Youth! whose early spring bespoke
Thy summer, as it is, with richest crops
Luxuriant waving; gentle Youth, canst Thou
Those welcome hours forget? or Thou--oh Thou!
--How shall I utter from my beating heart
Thy name, so musical, so heavenly sweet
Once to these ears distracted!--Stanhope, say,
Canst thou forget those hours, when, cloth'd in smiles
Of fond respect, Thou and thy Friend have strove
Whose little hands should readiest supply
My willing wants; officious in your zeal
To make the Sabbath evenings, like the day,
A scene of sweet composure to my Soul! 
Oh happy Sabbaths!--Oh my Soul's delight!
Oh days of matchless mercy! matchless praise!
Gone, gone, for ever gone! How dreadful spent,
Useless, in tears, and groans, and bitter woe,
In this wild place of horrors! --Oh, return,
Ye happy Sabbaths!--or to that lov'd realm
Dismiss me, Father of Compassions, where
Reigns one eternal Sabbath! Tho' my voice,
Feeble at best, be damp'd, and cannot soar
To strains sublime, beneath the sorrowing sense
Of base Ingratitude to thee, my God,
My Father, Benefactor, Saviour, Friend;--
Yet, in that realm of rest, 'twill quickly catch
Congenial harmony! 'twill quickly rise
Even from Humility's weak, trembling touch;
Rise with the glowing Seraph in the choir,
And strive to be the loudest in thy praise.
Too soaring thought! that, in a moment sunk
By sad reflection, and convicting guilt,
Falls prostrate on the earth.--So, pois'd in air,
And warbling his wild notes about the clouds,
Almost beyond the ken of human sight;
Clapp'd to his side his plumy steerage, down
Drops--instantaneous drops the silent Lark!
--How shall I mount to Heaven? how join the choir
Celestial of bright Seraphim? Deprest
Beneath the burden of a thousand sins,
On what blest dove-like wing shall I arise,
And fly to the wish'd rest?
--Of counsel free,
Some to my aching heart, with kind intent,
Offer the poisonous balsam of desert;
"Bid me take comfort from the cheering view
"Of deeds benevolent, and active life
"Spent for the weal of others!" Syren-songs,
Soon hush'd by howlings of severe Reproach,
Unfeeling, uncompassionate, and rude,
Which o'er my body, panting on the earth,
With wounds incurable insulting whirls
Her iron scourge: accumulates each ill
That can to Man's best fame damnation add:
Spies not one mark of white throughout my life;
And, groaning o'er my anguish, to Despair,
As my sole, sad resource, indignant points!
But not from You,--ah cruel, callous Foes,
Thus to exult, and press a fallen Man!--
Nor even from You, tho' kind, mistaken Friends,
Admit we counsel here. Too deep the stake,
Too awful the inquiry--how the Soul
May smile at Death, and meet its God in peace--
To rest the answer on uncertain Man!
Alike above your friendship or your hate,
Here, here I to[we]r triumphant! and behold
At once confirmed security and joy,
Beyond the reach of mortal hand to shake,
Or for a moment cloud.--Hail, bleeding Love!
In thy humiliation deep and dread,
Divine Philanthropist, my ransom'd soul
Beholds its triumph, and avows its cure!
Its perfect, free salvation! Knows or feels
No merit, no dependence, but thy Faith,
Thy Hope and Love consummate! All abjures;
Casts all,--each care, each burden, at the foot
Of thy victorious Cross: Its heart and life
One wish, one word uniting--ever may
That wish and word in me, Blest Lord, unite!--
"Oh, ever may in me Thy will be done!"
Firm and unshaken, as old Sion's Hill,
Remains this sure Foundation: who on Christ,
The Corner-Stone, build faithful, build secure:
Eternity is theirs. Then talk no more,
Ye airy, vague, fantastic Reasoners,
Of the light stubble, crackling in the fire
Of God's investigation; of the chaff
Dispers'd and floating 'fore the slightest wind,--
The chaff of human merit! Gracious God!
What pride, what contradiction in the term!
Shall Man, vain Man, drest in a little power
Deriv'd from Nature's Author; and that power
Holding, an humble tenant, at the will
Of Him who freely gave it; His high will,
The dread Supreme Disposer: shall poor Man,
A beggar indigent and vile,--enrich'd
With every precious faculty of soul,
Of Reason, intellect; with every gift
Of animal life luxuriant--from the store
Of unexhausted bounty; shall he turn
That bounty to abuse? lavish defy
The Giver with his gifts,--a rebel base!
And yet, presumptuous, arrogant, deceived,
Assume a pride for actions not his own;
Or boast of merit, when his All's for God,
And he that All has squander'd! Purest Saints,
Brightest Archangels, in the choir of Heaven,
Fulfilling all complete his Holy Will,
Who plac'd them high in glory as they stand;
Fulfil but Duty! Nay, as owing more
From love's supreme distinction, readier veil
Their radiant faces with their golden plumes;
And fall more humbled 'fore the Throne they hymn
With gratitude superior. Could bold Pride
One Moment whisper to their lucid souls
Desert's intolerable Folly,--down
Like Lucifer, the Morning-star, they'd fall
From their bright state obscur'd! Then, proud, poor worm,
Conceiv'd in sins, offending from thy youth,
In every point transgressor of the Law
Of Righteousness; of Merit towards God
Dream, if thou canst; or, madman if thou art,
Stand on that plea for Heav'n,--and be undone!
Blest be thy tender mercy, God of Grace!
That 'midst the terrors of this trying Hour,
When in this midnight, lonely, prison-gloom,
My inmost soul hangs naked to thy view;
When, undissembled in the search, I fain
Would know, explore, and balance every thought
(For oh, I see Eternity's dread Gates
Expand before me, soon perhaps to close!)--
Blest be thy Mercy, that, subdued to Thee,
Each lofty vain imagination bows;
Each high idea humbled in the dust,
Of self-sufficient righteousness my Soul
Disclaims, abhors, with Reprobation full,
The slightest apprehension!--Worthless, Lord,
Even of the meanest Crumb beneath thy Board.
Blest be thy Mercy, that, so far from due,
I own thy Bounties, manifold and rich,
Upon my Soul have laid a Debt so deep,
That I can never pay!--And oh! I feel
Compunction inexpressible, to think
How I have us'd those Bounties! Sackcloth-clad,
And cover'd o'er with ashes, I deplore
My utter worthlessness; and trembling own,
Thy Wrath and just Displeasure well might sink
In deeper floods than these, that o'er my head
Roar horrible,--in fiery floods of woe,
That know nor end nor respite! But, my God,
Blest be thy Mercy ever! Thou'st not left
My Soul to Desperation's dark dismay!
On Calvary's Hill my mourning eye discerns
With Faith's clear view, that Spectacle, which wipes
Each tear away, and bids the heart exult!
There hangs the Love of God! There hangs of Man
The Ransom; there the Merit; there the Cure
Of human Griefs--The Way, the Truth, the Life!
Oh Thou, for sin burnt-sacrifice complete!
Oh Thou, of holy Life th' exemplar bright!
Perfection's lucid Mirror! while to Thee
Repentance scarce dare lift her flowing eyes,
Though in his strong Arms manly Faith supports
The self-convicted mourner!--Let not Love,
Source of thy matchless Mercies, aught delay,
Like Mary, with Humility's meek hand
Her precious box of costly Nard to pour
On thy dear Feet, diffusing thro’ the House
The odour of her Unguents! Let not Love,
Looking with Gratitude's full Eye to Thee,
Cease with the hallow'd fragrance of her works
To cheer thy lowliest Members; to refresh
Thee in thy Saints afflicted! Let not Love
Cease with each spiritual Grace, each Temper mild,
Fruits of thy Holy Spirit,--to enrich,
To fill, perfume and sanctify the Soul,
Assimilate to Thee, sweet JESU! Thee
That Soul's immortal Habitant. How blest,
How beyond value rich the privilege,
To welcome such a Guest! How doubly blest
With such a signature,--the Royal Stamp
Of thy Resemblance, Prince of Righteousness,
Of Mercy, Peace and Truth! Oh more and more
Transform me to that Image! More and more,
Thou New Creation's Author, form, complete
In me the Birth divine; the heavenly Mind,
The Love consummate,--all-performing Love,
Which dwelt in Thee, its Pattern and its Source;
And is to Man, happy regenerate Man,
Heaven's surest Foretaste, and its Earnest too.
The thought delights and cheers, though not elates:
Through pensive Meditation's sable gloom
It darts a ray of soft, well-temper'd light,
A kind of lunar radiance on my Soul,
Gentle, not dazzling! Thou, who knowest all,
Know'st well, thrice gracious Master! that my heart
Attun'd to thy dear Love, howe'er seduc'd
By worldly adulation from its Vows,
And for a few contemptible, contemn'd
Unhappy moments faithless; well thou know'st
That Heart ne'er knew true Peace but in thy Love:
That Heart hath in thy Love known thorough Peace!
Hath frequent panted for that Love's full growth;
And sought occasions to display its Warmth
By Deeds of Kindness, mild Humanity,
And pitying Mercy to its Fellow-men!
And Thou hast blest me! and I will rejoice
That Thou hast blest me! Thou hast giv'n my Soul
The Luxury of Luxuries, to wipe
The tear from many an eye; to stop the groan
At many an aching heart. And Thou wilt wipe
The tears from mine, and Thou the groan repress:
And Thou--for oh, this beating Heart is thine,
Fram'd by thy Hand to Pity's quickest touch,--
Thou wilt forgive the Sinner; and bestow
Mercy, sweet Mercy! which, inspir'd by Thee,
He never had the power, and ne'er the Will
To hold from others, where he could bestow!
Shall he not then rest happily secure
Of Mercy, thrice blest Mercy from Mankind?
Where rests it?--Resignation's meek-eyed power
Sustain me still! Composure still be mine:
Where rests it?--Oh mysterious Providence!
Silence the wild idea:--I have found
No Mercy yet; no mild Humanity:
With cruel unrelenting rigour torn,
And, lost in Prison, wild to all below!
So from his daily toil returning late
O'er Grison's rugged mountains, clad in snow,
The Peasant with astonish'd eyes beholds
A gaunt Wolf, from the pine-grove howling rush!
Chill horror stiffens him, alike to fly
Unable, or resist: the monster feeds
Blood-happy, growling, on his quivering heart!
Mean while light blazes in his lonely Cot
The crackling hearth; his careful wife prepares
Her humble cates; and thro’ the lattic'd light
His little ones, expecting his return,
Peep, anxious! Ah, poor victim, he nor hearth
Bright blazing, nor the housewife's humble cates,
Nor much-lov'd children henceforth more shall see!
But soft: 'Tis calm Reflection's midnight hour;
'Tis the Soul's solemn inquest. Broods a thought
Resentful in thy bosom? Art thou yet,
Penitent Pilgrim on Earth's utmost Bourn,
And Candidate for Heaven,--art thou yet
In Love imperfect? and has Malice place,
With dark Revenge, and unforgiving Hate,
Hell's blackest offspring?--Glory to my God!
With triumph let me sing, and close my Strain!
Abhorrent ever from my earliest Youth
Of these detested passions, in this Hour,
This trying Hour of keen oppressive Grief,
My soul superior rises; nor of these
Malevolent, a touch, the slightest touch
Feels, or shall ever harbour! Tho' it feels
In all their amplitude, with all their weight,
Ungentlest treatment, and a load of woe;
Heavy as that, which fabling Poets lay
On proud Enceladus! Tho' life be drawn
By Cruelty's fierce hand down to the lees;
Yet can my heart, with all the truth of Prayer,
With all the fervour of sincere desire,
Looking at Thee, thou Love of God and Man!--
Yet can my heart in life or death implore,
"Father, forgive Them as Thou pitiest me!"
Oh, where's the wonder, when thy Cross is seen!
Oh, where's the wonder, when thy Voice is heard;
Harmonious intercession! Son of God.
Oh, where's the wonder--or the Merit where,
Or what's the Task to love-attuned souls--
Poor fellow-creatures pitying, to implore
Forgiveness for them? Oh forgive my foes!
Best friends, perchance, for they may bring to Thee!
--Complete forgiveness on them, God of Grace!
Complete forgiveness, in the dreadful hour,
When most they need forgiveness! And oh such
As, in that dreadful hour, my poor Heart wants,
And trusts, great Father! to receive from Thee,
Such full Forgiveness grant;--and my glad soul
Shall fold them then, my Brethren, in thy House!
Thus do I soothe, and while away with song
My lonely hours; in dread confinement past,
Like thee, oh gallant Raleigh!--or like thee,
My hapless Ancestor, fam'd Overbury!--
But Oh, in this how different is our fate!
Thou, to a vengeful Woman's subtle wiles
A hapless Victim fall'st; while my deep gloom,
Brighten'd by Female Virtue, and the light
Of conjugal affection--leads me oft,
Like the poor prison'd Linnet, to forget
Freedom, and tuneful Friends, and russet Heath,
Vocal with native melody; to swell
The feeble throat, and chaunt the lowly strain;
As in the season, when from spray to spray
Flew Liberty on light elastic wing.
She flies no more:--Be mute, my plaintive Lyre!
March 15, 1777
2. END of the SECOND WEEK
 Good Friday, Easter, &c. once so peculiarly
happy--yet how past here!--What a sad want of the Spirit of Reformation! BACK