THOUGHTS in PRISON: SUNDAY, March 2, 1777. WEEK THE SECOND. The Retrospect.

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Thoughts in Prison, Edited by Charles J. Rzepka
TEI

THOUGHTS in PRISON:
SUNDAY, March 2, 1777.

WEEK THE SECOND.
The Retrospect.



Oh, not that thou goest hence--sweet drooping flower,
1
Surcharg'd with Sorrow's dew!--Not that thou quitt'st
2
This pent and feverish gloom; which beams with light,
3
With health, with comfort, by thy presence cheer'd,
4
Companion of my life, and of my woes
5
Blest soother! Not that thou goest hence to drink
6
A purer air, and gather from the breath
7
Of balmy Spring new succour, to recruit
8
Thy waning health, and aid thee to sustain,
9
With more than manly fortitude, thy own
10
And my afflictive Trials! Not that here,
11
Amidst the glories of this genial day,
12
Immur'd, thro' iron bars I peep at Heaven,
13
With dim, lack-lustre eye! --Oh, 'tis not this
14
That drives the poison'd point of torturous Thought
15
Deep to my spring of life! It is not this
16
That prostrate lays me weeping in the dust,
17
And draws in sobs the life-blood from my heart!
18
Well could I bear thy Absence: well, full well;
19
Tho' Angel comforts in thy converse smile,
20
And make my dungeon Paradise!--Full well
21
Could I sustain thro' iron bars to view
22
The golden Sun, in bridegroom-majesty
23
Taking benignant Nature to his love,
24
And decking her with bounties! Well, very well
25
Could I forego the delicate delight
26
Of tracing nature's germens, as they bud;
27
Of viewing Spring's first children, as they rise
28
In innocent sweetness, or beneath the thorn
29
In rural privacy; or on gay parterre
30
More artful, less enchanting!--Well, very well
31
Could I forego to listen,--in this house
32
Of unremitted din,--and nought complain;
33
To listen, as I oft have stood with Thee
34
Listening in fond endearment to the voice
35
Of Stock-dove, thro' the silence of the wood
36
Hoarse murmuring:--Well, oh could I forego
37
These innocent, tho' exquisite delights,
38
Still new, and to my bosom still attun'd
39
In moral, mental melody!--Sweet Spring!
40
Well could I bear this sad exile from Thee,
41
Nor drop one tear reluctant: for my Soul,
42
Strong to superior feelings, soars aloft
43
To eminence of misery!--Confin'd
44
On this blest day--the Sabbath of my God!
45
--Not from his House alone, not from the power
46
Of joyful worship with assembling Crouds,  [1] 
47
But from the labours once so amply mine,
48
The labours of his love. Now, laid aside,
49
Cover'd my head with ignominious dust,
50
My voice is stopp'd! and, had I e'en the power,
51
Strong shame, and stronger grief would to that voice
52
Forbid all utterance!--Ah, thrice hapless voice,
53
By Heaven's own finger all indulgent tun'd
54
To touch the heart, and win th' attentive soul
55
To love of Truth Divine: how useless now,
56
How dissonant, unstrung!--Like Salem's harps,
57
Once fraught with richest harmony of praise,
58
Hung in sad silence by Euphrates' stream,
59
Upon the mournful willows! There they wept,
60
Thy captive People wept--O God!--when Thought
61
To bitter memory recall'd the songs,
62
The dulcet songs of Sion! Oh blest songs,
63
Transporting chorus of united hearts,
64
In cheerful music mounting to the praise
65
Of Sion's King of Glory!--Oh the joy
66
Transcendant, of petitions wing'd aloft
67
With fervour irresistible from throngs
68
Assembled in thy earthly Courts, dread King
69
Of all-dependant Nature!--looking up
70
For all to Thee, as do the Servants' eyes
71
Up to their fostering Master! Joy of joys,
72
Amidst such throng'd assemblies to stand forth,
73
To blow the Silver Trumpet of thy Grace;
74
The gladsome year of Jubilee to proclaim,
75
And offer to the aching Sinner's heart
76
Redemption's healing mercies! And methinks
77
(--Indulge the pleasing reverie, my soul!
78
The waking dream, which in oblivion sweet
79
Lulls thy o'erlabour'd sense!) methinks, convey'd
80
To Ham's lov'd shades, --dear favourite shades, by Peace
81
And pure Religion sanctify'd,--I hear
82
The tuneful bells their hallow'd message sound
83
To Christian hearts symphonious! Circling Time
84
Once more hath happily brought round the day,
85
Which calls us to the Temple of our God:
86
Then let us haste, in decent neatness clad,
87
My cheerful little Household, to his Courts.
88
So lov'd, so truly honour'd! There we'll mix
89
In meek, ingenuous Deprecation's cry;
90
There we'll unite in full Thanksgiving's choir,
91
And all the rich melodiousness of praise.
92
I feel, I feel the rapture! David's harp
93
Concordant with a thousand voices sounds:
94
Prayer mounts exulting: Man ascends the skies
95
On wings of Angel-fervour! Holy writ
96
Or speaks the wonders of Jehovah's power,
97
Or tells, in more than mortal majesty,
98
The greater wonders of his Love to Man!
99
Proofs of that love, see where the mystic Signs,
100
High emblems of unutterable Grace,
101
Confirm to Man the zeal of Heaven to save,
102
And call to Gratitude's best office!
103
--------Wise
104
In all thy sacred institutions, Lord,
105
Thy Sabbaths with peculiar wisdom shine;
106
First and high argument, Creation done,
107
Of thy benign solicitude for Man,
108
Thy chiefest, favourite creature. Time is thine:
109
How just to claim a part, who giv'st the whole!
110
But oh, how gracious, to assign that part
111
To Man's supreme behoof, his soul's best good;
112
His mortal and his mental benefit;
113
His body's genial comfort! Savage else,
114
Untaught, undisciplin'd, in shaggy pride
115
He'd rov'd the wild, amidst the brutes a brute
116
Ferocious; to the soft civilities
117
Of cultivated life, Religion, Truth,
118
A barbarous stranger. To thy Sabbaths then
119
All hail, wise Legislator! 'Tis to these
120
We owe at once the memory of thy works,
121
Thy mighty works of Nature and of Grace;--
122
We owe divine Religion; and to these
123
The decent comeliness of Social Life.
124
Revere, ye earthly Magistrates, who wield
125
The Sword of Heaven,--the wisdom of Heaven's plan,
126
And sanctify the Sabbaths of your God!
127
Religion's All: With that or stands or falls
128
Your Country's weal! but where shall she obtain
129
--Religion, sainted Pilgrim,--shelter safe,
130
Or honourable greeting;--thro' the land,
131
If led by high and low, in giddy dance,
132
Mad Profanation on the sacred day
133
Of God's appointed rest, her revel-rout
134
Insulting heads, and leaves the Temple void?
135
--Oh, my lov'd Country! oh, ye thoughtless Great,
136
Intoxicate with draughts, that opium-like
137
For transient moments stupefy the mind,
138
To wake in horrors, and confusion wild!--
139
But soft, and know thyself! 'Tis not for Thee,
140
Poor Destitute! thus groveling in the dust
141
Of self-annihilation, to assume
142
The Censor's office, and reprove mankind.
143
Ah me,--thy day of duty is declin'd!
144
Thou, rather, to the quick probe thine own wounds;
145
And plead for mercy at the Judgement-seat,
146
Where Conscience smites thee for th' offence deplor'd.
147
Yet not presumptuous deem it, Arbiter
148
Of human thoughts, that thro' the long, long gloom
149
Of multiplied transgressions, I behold
150
Complacent smiling on my sickening Soul,
151
"Delight in thy lov'd Sabbaths!" Well Thou know'st--
152
For Thou know'st all things,--that the cheerful sound
153
Of that blest day's return, for circling weeks,
154
For months, for years, for more than thrice seven years,
155
Was music to my heart! My feet rejoic'd
156
To bear me to thy Temples, haply fraught
157
With Comfort's tidings; with thy Gospel's truth,
158
The Gospel of thy Peace! Oh, well Thou know'st,
159
Who knowest all things, with what welcome toil,
160
What pleasing assiduity I search'd
161
Thy heavenly Word, to learn thy heavenly Will;
162
That faithful I might minister its truth,
163
And of the high Commission nought keep back
164
From the great Congregation!  [2]  Well thou know'st,
165
--Sole, sacred witness of my private hours,--
166
How copiously I bath'd with pleading tears,
167
How earnestly in prayer consig'd to Thee
168
The humble efforts of my trembling pen;
169
My best, weak efforts in my Master's cause;
170
Weak as the feather 'gainst the giant's shield,
171
Light as the gosmer floating on the wind,
172
Without thy aid omnipotent! Thou know'st,
173
How, anxious to improve in every grace,
174
That best to Man's attention might commend
175
Th' important message, studious I applied
176
My feeble talents to the holy art
177
Of 'suasive Elocution; emulous
178
Of every acquisition which might clothe
179
In purest dignity the purest work,
180
The first, the highest office man can bear;
181
"The Messenger of God!" And well Thou know'st,
182
--For all the work, as all the praise is Thine--
183
What sweet success accompanied the toil:
184
What harvests bless'd the seed-time! Well thou know'st,
185
With what triumphant gladness my rapt Soul
186
Wrought in the vineyard! how it thankful bore
187
The noon-day's heat, the evening's chilly frost,
188
Exulting in its much-lov'd Master's cause
189
To spend, and to be spent! and bring it home
190
From triple labours of the well-toil'd day,
191
A body by fatigue o'erborne; a mind
192
Replete with glad emotions to its God!
193
Ah, my lov'd Household! ah, my little round
194
Of social Friends! well do ye bear in mind
195
Those pleasing evenings, when, on my return,
196
Much-wish'd return--Serenity the mild,
197
And Cheerfulness the innocent, with me
198
Enter'd the happy dwelling! Thou, my Ernst,
199
Ingenuous Youth! whose early spring bespoke
200
Thy summer, as it is, with richest crops
201
Luxuriant waving; gentle Youth, canst Thou
202
Those welcome hours forget? or Thou--oh Thou!
203
--How shall I utter from my beating heart
204
Thy name, so musical, so heavenly sweet
205
Once to these ears distracted!--Stanhope, say,
206
Canst thou forget those hours, when, cloth'd in smiles
207
Of fond respect, Thou and thy Friend have strove
208
Whose little hands should readiest supply
209
My willing wants; officious in your zeal
210
To make the Sabbath evenings, like the day,
211
A scene of sweet composure to my Soul!  [3] 
212
Oh happy Sabbaths!--Oh my Soul's delight!
213
Oh days of matchless mercy! matchless praise!
214
Gone, gone, for ever gone! How dreadful spent,
215
Useless, in tears, and groans, and bitter woe,
216
In this wild place of horrors! --Oh, return,
217
Ye happy Sabbaths!--or to that lov'd realm
218
Dismiss me, Father of Compassions, where
219
Reigns one eternal Sabbath! Tho' my voice,
220
Feeble at best, be damp'd, and cannot soar
221
To strains sublime, beneath the sorrowing sense
222
Of base Ingratitude to thee, my God,
223
My Father, Benefactor, Saviour, Friend;--
224
Yet, in that realm of rest, 'twill quickly catch
225
Congenial harmony! 'twill quickly rise
226
Even from Humility's weak, trembling touch;
227
Rise with the glowing Seraph in the choir,
228
And strive to be the loudest in thy praise.
229
Too soaring thought! that, in a moment sunk
230
By sad reflection, and convicting guilt,
231
Falls prostrate on the earth.--So, pois'd in air,
232
And warbling his wild notes about the clouds,
233
Almost beyond the ken of human sight;
234
Clapp'd to his side his plumy steerage, down
235
Drops--instantaneous drops the silent Lark!
236
--How shall I mount to Heaven? how join the choir
237
Celestial of bright Seraphim? Deprest
238
Beneath the burden of a thousand sins,
239
On what blest dove-like wing shall I arise,
240
And fly to the wish'd rest?
241
--Of counsel free,
242
Some to my aching heart, with kind intent,
243
Offer the poisonous balsam of desert;
244
"Bid me take comfort from the cheering view
245
"Of deeds benevolent, and active life
246
"Spent for the weal of others!" Syren-songs,
247
Soon hush'd by howlings of severe Reproach,
248
Unfeeling, uncompassionate, and rude,
249
Which o'er my body, panting on the earth,
250
With wounds incurable insulting whirls
251
Her iron scourge: accumulates each ill
252
That can to Man's best fame damnation add:
253
Spies not one mark of white throughout my life;
254
And, groaning o'er my anguish, to Despair,
255
As my sole, sad resource, indignant points!
256
But not from You,--ah cruel, callous Foes,
257
Thus to exult, and press a fallen Man!--
258
Nor even from You, tho' kind, mistaken Friends,
259
Admit we counsel here. Too deep the stake,
260
Too awful the inquiry--how the Soul
261
May smile at Death, and meet its God in peace--
262
To rest the answer on uncertain Man!
263
Alike above your friendship or your hate,
264
Here, here I to[we]r triumphant! and behold
265
At once confirmed security and joy,
266
Beyond the reach of mortal hand to shake,
267
Or for a moment cloud.--Hail, bleeding Love!
268
In thy humiliation deep and dread,
269
Divine Philanthropist, my ransom'd soul
270
Beholds its triumph, and avows its cure!
271
Its perfect, free salvation! Knows or feels
272
No merit, no dependence, but thy Faith,
273
Thy Hope and Love consummate! All abjures;
274
Casts all,--each care, each burden, at the foot
275
Of thy victorious Cross: Its heart and life
276
One wish, one word uniting--ever may
277
That wish and word in me, Blest Lord, unite!--
278
"Oh, ever may in me Thy will be done!"
279
Firm and unshaken, as old Sion's Hill,
280
Remains this sure Foundation: who on Christ,
281
The Corner-Stone, build faithful, build secure:
282
Eternity is theirs. Then talk no more,
283
Ye airy, vague, fantastic Reasoners,
284
Of the light stubble, crackling in the fire
285
Of God's investigation; of the chaff
286
Dispers'd and floating 'fore the slightest wind,--
287
The chaff of human merit! Gracious God!
288
What pride, what contradiction in the term!
289
Shall Man, vain Man, drest in a little power
290
Deriv'd from Nature's Author; and that power
291
Holding, an humble tenant, at the will
292
Of Him who freely gave it; His high will,
293
The dread Supreme Disposer: shall poor Man,
294
A beggar indigent and vile,--enrich'd
295
With every precious faculty of soul,
296
Of Reason, intellect; with every gift
297
Of animal life luxuriant--from the store
298
Of unexhausted bounty; shall he turn
299
That bounty to abuse? lavish defy
300
The Giver with his gifts,--a rebel base!
301
And yet, presumptuous, arrogant, deceived,
302
Assume a pride for actions not his own;
303
Or boast of merit, when his All's for God,
304
And he that All has squander'd! Purest Saints,
305
Brightest Archangels, in the choir of Heaven,
306
Fulfilling all complete his Holy Will,
307
Who plac'd them high in glory as they stand;
308
Fulfil but Duty! Nay, as owing more
309
From love's supreme distinction, readier veil
310
Their radiant faces with their golden plumes;
311
And fall more humbled 'fore the Throne they hymn
312
With gratitude superior. Could bold Pride
313
One Moment whisper to their lucid souls
314
Desert's intolerable Folly,--down
315
Like Lucifer, the Morning-star, they'd fall
316
From their bright state obscur'd! Then, proud, poor worm,
317
Conceiv'd in sins, offending from thy youth,
318
In every point transgressor of the Law
319
Of Righteousness; of Merit towards God
320
Dream, if thou canst; or, madman if thou art,
321
Stand on that plea for Heav'n,--and be undone!
322
Blest be thy tender mercy, God of Grace!
323
That 'midst the terrors of this trying Hour,
324
When in this midnight, lonely, prison-gloom,
325
My inmost soul hangs naked to thy view;
326
When, undissembled in the search, I fain
327
Would know, explore, and balance every thought
328
(For oh, I see Eternity's dread Gates
329
Expand before me, soon perhaps to close!)--
330
Blest be thy Mercy, that, subdued to Thee,
331
Each lofty vain imagination bows;
332
Each high idea humbled in the dust,
333
Of self-sufficient righteousness my Soul
334
Disclaims, abhors, with Reprobation full,
335
The slightest apprehension!--Worthless, Lord,
336
Even of the meanest Crumb beneath thy Board.
337
Blest be thy Mercy, that, so far from due,
338
I own thy Bounties, manifold and rich,
339
Upon my Soul have laid a Debt so deep,
340
That I can never pay!--And oh! I feel
341
Compunction inexpressible, to think
342
How I have us'd those Bounties! Sackcloth-clad,
343
And cover'd o'er with ashes, I deplore
344
My utter worthlessness; and trembling own,
345
Thy Wrath and just Displeasure well might sink
346
In deeper floods than these, that o'er my head
347
Roar horrible,--in fiery floods of woe,
348
That know nor end nor respite! But, my God,
349
Blest be thy Mercy ever! Thou'st not left
350
My Soul to Desperation's dark dismay!
351
On Calvary's Hill my mourning eye discerns
352
With Faith's clear view, that Spectacle, which wipes
353
Each tear away, and bids the heart exult!
354
There hangs the Love of God! There hangs of Man
355
The Ransom; there the Merit; there the Cure
356
Of human Griefs--The Way, the Truth, the Life!
357
Oh Thou, for sin burnt-sacrifice complete!
358
Oh Thou, of holy Life th' exemplar bright!
359
Perfection's lucid Mirror! while to Thee
360
Repentance scarce dare lift her flowing eyes,
361
Though in his strong Arms manly Faith supports
362
The self-convicted mourner!--Let not Love,
363
Source of thy matchless Mercies, aught delay,
364
Like Mary, with Humility's meek hand
365
Her precious box of costly Nard to pour
366
On thy dear Feet, diffusing thro’ the House
367
The odour of her Unguents! Let not Love,
368
Looking with Gratitude's full Eye to Thee,
369
Cease with the hallow'd fragrance of her works
370
To cheer thy lowliest Members; to refresh
371
Thee in thy Saints afflicted! Let not Love
372
Cease with each spiritual Grace, each Temper mild,
373
Fruits of thy Holy Spirit,--to enrich,
374
To fill, perfume and sanctify the Soul,
375
Assimilate to Thee, sweet JESU! Thee
376
That Soul's immortal Habitant. How blest,
377
How beyond value rich the privilege,
378
To welcome such a Guest! How doubly blest
379
With such a signature,--the Royal Stamp
380
Of thy Resemblance, Prince of Righteousness,
381
Of Mercy, Peace and Truth! Oh more and more
382
Transform me to that Image! More and more,
383
Thou New Creation's Author, form, complete
384
In me the Birth divine; the heavenly Mind,
385
The Love consummate,--all-performing Love,
386
Which dwelt in Thee, its Pattern and its Source;
387
And is to Man, happy regenerate Man,
388
Heaven's surest Foretaste, and its Earnest too.
389
The thought delights and cheers, though not elates:
390
Through pensive Meditation's sable gloom
391
It darts a ray of soft, well-temper'd light,
392
A kind of lunar radiance on my Soul,
393
Gentle, not dazzling! Thou, who knowest all,
394
Know'st well, thrice gracious Master! that my heart
395
Attun'd to thy dear Love, howe'er seduc'd
396
By worldly adulation from its Vows,
397
And for a few contemptible, contemn'd
398
Unhappy moments faithless; well thou know'st
399
That Heart ne'er knew true Peace but in thy Love:
400
That Heart hath in thy Love known thorough Peace!
401
Hath frequent panted for that Love's full growth;
402
And sought occasions to display its Warmth
403
By Deeds of Kindness, mild Humanity,
404
And pitying Mercy to its Fellow-men!
405
And Thou hast blest me! and I will rejoice
406
That Thou hast blest me! Thou hast giv'n my Soul
407
The Luxury of Luxuries, to wipe
408
The tear from many an eye; to stop the groan
409
At many an aching heart. And Thou wilt wipe
410
The tears from mine, and Thou the groan repress:
411
And Thou--for oh, this beating Heart is thine,
412
Fram'd by thy Hand to Pity's quickest touch,--
413
Thou wilt forgive the Sinner; and bestow
414
Mercy, sweet Mercy! which, inspir'd by Thee,
415
He never had the power, and ne'er the Will
416
To hold from others, where he could bestow!
417
Shall he not then rest happily secure
418
Of Mercy, thrice blest Mercy from Mankind?
419
Where rests it?--Resignation's meek-eyed power
420
Sustain me still! Composure still be mine:
421
Where rests it?--Oh mysterious Providence!
422
Silence the wild idea:--I have found
423
No Mercy yet; no mild Humanity:
424
With cruel unrelenting rigour torn,
425
And, lost in Prison, wild to all below!
426
So from his daily toil returning late
427
O'er Grison's rugged mountains, clad in snow,
428
The Peasant with astonish'd eyes beholds
429
A gaunt Wolf, from the pine-grove howling rush!
430
Chill horror stiffens him, alike to fly
431
Unable, or resist: the monster feeds
432
Blood-happy, growling, on his quivering heart!
433
Mean while light blazes in his lonely Cot
434
The crackling hearth; his careful wife prepares
435
Her humble cates; and thro’ the lattic'd light
436
His little ones, expecting his return,
437
Peep, anxious! Ah, poor victim, he nor hearth
438
Bright blazing, nor the housewife's humble cates,
439
Nor much-lov'd children henceforth more shall see!
440
But soft: 'Tis calm Reflection's midnight hour;
441
'Tis the Soul's solemn inquest. Broods a thought
442
Resentful in thy bosom? Art thou yet,
443
Penitent Pilgrim on Earth's utmost Bourn,
444
And Candidate for Heaven,--art thou yet
445
In Love imperfect? and has Malice place,
446
With dark Revenge, and unforgiving Hate,
447
Hell's blackest offspring?--Glory to my God!
448
With triumph let me sing, and close my Strain!
449
Abhorrent ever from my earliest Youth
450
Of these detested passions, in this Hour,
451
This trying Hour of keen oppressive Grief,
452
My soul superior rises; nor of these
453
Malevolent, a touch, the slightest touch
454
Feels, or shall ever harbour! Tho' it feels
455
In all their amplitude, with all their weight,
456
Ungentlest treatment, and a load of woe;
457
Heavy as that, which fabling Poets lay
458
On proud Enceladus! Tho' life be drawn
459
By Cruelty's fierce hand down to the lees;
460
Yet can my heart, with all the truth of Prayer,
461
With all the fervour of sincere desire,
462
Looking at Thee, thou Love of God and Man!--
463
Yet can my heart in life or death implore,
464
"Father, forgive Them as Thou pitiest me!"
465
Oh, where's the wonder, when thy Cross is seen!
466
Oh, where's the wonder, when thy Voice is heard;
467
Harmonious intercession! Son of God.
468
Oh, where's the wonder--or the Merit where,
469
Or what's the Task to love-attuned souls--
470
Poor fellow-creatures pitying, to implore
471
Forgiveness for them? Oh forgive my foes!
472
Best friends, perchance, for they may bring to Thee!
473
--Complete forgiveness on them, God of Grace!
474
Complete forgiveness, in the dreadful hour,
475
When most they need forgiveness! And oh such
476
As, in that dreadful hour, my poor Heart wants,
477
And trusts, great Father! to receive from Thee,
478
Such full Forgiveness grant;--and my glad soul
479
Shall fold them then, my Brethren, in thy House!
480
Thus do I soothe, and while away with song
481
My lonely hours; in dread confinement past,
482
Like thee, oh gallant Raleigh!--or like thee,
483
My hapless Ancestor, fam'd Overbury!--
484
But Oh, in this how different is our fate!
485
Thou, to a vengeful Woman's subtle wiles
486
A hapless Victim fall'st; while my deep gloom,
487
Brighten'd by Female Virtue, and the light
488
Of conjugal affection--leads me oft,
489
Like the poor prison'd Linnet, to forget
490
Freedom, and tuneful Friends, and russet Heath,
491
Vocal with native melody; to swell
492
The feeble throat, and chaunt the lowly strain;
493
As in the season, when from spray to spray
494
Flew Liberty on light elastic wing.
495
She flies no more:--Be mute, my plaintive Lyre!
496


1.         March 15, 1777


2.        END of the SECOND WEEK

Notes

(see also Works Cited)

[1] See Psalm lxxxiv. BACK

[2] Psalm xl. ver. 10. BACK

[3] Good Friday, Easter, &c. once so peculiarly happy--yet how past here!--What a sad want of the Spirit of Reformation! BACK

Published @ RC

October 2010