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Then he, “Reply to that thy wish demandeth
I give not, save to do it. Work unstayed
With fair request in silence fitly bandeth.' Then from the bridge we our descent essayed,
Where on the eighth embankment it abutteth,
And then the gulf was plain to me displayed. Therein a fearful mass my vision glutteth
Of serpents, in their kind so strange and varied,
That memory from my veins the blood yet shutteth. No more let Libya boast her deserts arid,
By Asp and Amphisbena double-headed,
Pareas, Chelyder, and Cenchris shared ; Nor pests so poisonous ever or so dreaded
Did all the lands of Ethiopia shew,
Or those wherein the Red Sea is imbedded. Midst this exuberance of cruel woe
No refuge nigh, nor heliotrope to blind them
Did naked panic-stricken spirits go.
Which tail and head unto their loins applied,
And in a loathsome knot in front did bind them. And lo, at one who past our station hied
A serpent made, and straightway him had bitten
Where to the shoulders is the neck-bone tied. Nor O nor I so quickly e'er was written
As he up flared and burnt, and falling turned
To ashes wholly; and in such wise smitten As upon earth he lay in death inurned,
The dust itself by its own power uprearing,
At once the selfsame man to life returned. 'Tis thus we learn, of olden sages hearing,
The phenix dies, and then again reviveth
New born, at his five hundredth year's appearing. In life on herb nor blade nor ear he thriveth,
But tears of incense and amomum solely,
And nard and myrrh for his last shroud contriveth, Like him who falls by demon force unholy,
That down to earth, he knows not how, doth hale him,
Or other seizure that constrains him wholly ; When rising up he feels his senses fail him,
And stares around and gasps, nor understandeth
His state, all lost in the sore pains that ail him;
O how severe God's judgments are, down poured
My guide his name and race; who thus implored
Made answer, 'I from Tuscany was rained
Short time ago, into this gulf abhorred.
To live in bestial more than human fashion,
And in Pistoia's den fit home obtained.'
And ask what crime hath cast him here; I knew him
Once for a man of blood and evil passion.'
But turned towards me mind and face grief-shaken,
Stained with the piteous shame that darted through him.
Me in the misery thou hast now descried,
Than when I was of the other life forsaken.
Thus low I here am set, because I spoiled
The sacristy's fair wealth ; whereof was tried
Reft of the Neri first Pistoia wasteth;
Then, Florence laws and citizens renewing,
In mists and turbid battle-clouds conveyed;
And with impetuous storm and bitter tasteth
Where, when the storm-clouds o'er their heads have broken,
150 Thus much for thee to grieve at have I spoken.'
(To be continued.)
MUSINGS OVER THE CHRISTIAN YEAR
AND LYRA INNOCENTIUM.
A most tender description of the gracefulness of decay, where the hand of ruin has been softly laid, begins the poem, reminding us of some of the lovely spots where lie the remnants of old religious houses.
• Far opening down some woodland deep,
The relics dear to thought;
What ruthless Time has wrought.'
These thoughts seem to have been called up by the reading of Sir Robert Kerr Porter's travels among the wastes that cover the deserted cities of Asia
· Where slowly, round his isles of sand,
Winds to the pearly main.'
The description, so wonderfully barmonizing with the voices of the prophets, must have filled the imagination of the poet, for it has resulted in one of his most remarkable realizations of scenery only known through the eyes and words of others, and animated by a soul that gives the whole a signification. There lies the lost city in utter desolateness, full of loathsome creatures ; and on the horizon stalks the majestic lion, actually noted by the traveller; while to the poet he recalls the lion of Daniel's great vision, the emblem of the Assyrian Empire, when his wings overshadowed the nations, and they adored no power greater in heaven or earth. Those mighty wings are gone, the golden head of the statue—nay, the whole statue itself—of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which perhaps his image at Dura commemorated, has been as utterly overthrown as breezes strew on ocean's sand the fragments of a child.'
To understand the ensuing verses, we must remember that Babel is the very emblem of the presumptuous ambition of the world, ever resulting in dispersion and confusion. Whenever man's selfish glory is brought to naught, it is again the Babel overthrow, and still the various cries of discomfiture rise up “hoarse and jarring all.'
'Thrice only since'the Vision of Daniel in the prime of the Babylonish Empire, have the nations on that haughty height met to scale the heaven like the first Babel builders. The 'fierce bear' of Persia, and the leopard keen’ of Macedon, actually did come to the height of their pride at Babylon. There Darius bade no prayer to be offered to god or man save himself; there Alexander received the Greek ambassadors, who awarded him divine honours. There—no further off than at Arbela—the last Darius Aled to ignominious death and misery; there, in the very Babylonian palace, Alexander's ring lay on his empty throne, and his generals plotted, fought, slew, and rushed forth to divide the prey in renewed confusion. And though Rome did not in like manner make Babylon the seat and centre of empire, it was on the very borders of the Mesopotamian province that her power received the first check; and her dominion, like the rest, making an attempt at worldly unity and universal empire, became again dispersion and destruction!
For never shall the crowns of earth be all united on one brow; there never shall be one earthly empire uniting all power.
Only the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of the Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.' Worldly union becomes confusion ; heavenly unity can and shall be. In His Church even the confusion of tongues begins to be healed; for with one voice, one prayer, one creed, the same notes of praise unite us, and there shall be one speech.
But ambition need not mourn, though on no edifice of man shall it ever be possible to mount aloft: 'He that ruleth his own spirit is greater than he that taketh a city;' and 'to him that overcometh' shall it be given to sit with Christ in His Throne for ever and ever.
The poem in the Lyra is on 'Hours of Prayer,' founded upon the noticeable manner in which these hours are marked by acts of grace from Heaven-the descent of the Holy Spirit at the third hour, St. Peter's vision at the sixth, and the angel's message to Cornelius in the evening. If our God is ever ready to grant, and untired in giving, should we not be equally ready to ask? If we talk of the tedium of observing these fixed hours, we are answered that to our Lord they were hours of agony-scourging at morn, the piercing of the nails at noon, the pains of death at evening-and for whom ?
All day the blue sky is over us, all night the dew descends; the earth lies open to heaven all day, and we should ever be stretching out our hands for blessing. Let the world smile, we will kneel and keep each Passion hour with praise, as He has commemorated it with gifts of power.
Tats Whitsun Tuesday poem has the peculiar melody that seems always the characteristic of the author, and belongs to the most universally beloved of his writings—the Morning and Evening Hymns, as well as to the three scarcely as much known as they deserve, Morning, Evening, and Midnight at Sea. It is Bishop Ken's measure, with a little more of modern musicalness,
This Tuesday, coming in an Ember week, is selected for the sigh of the anxious pastor, and the reply thereto; leading the weary eye to compare present trifles with martyrdom, and then to look to the Chief Shepherd.
• He is th' eternal mirror bright,
Then the self-abnegation of the Saviour's life is drawn out, step by step, from His Birth to His Ascension-nay, to the glimpses of His intercession in Heaven. This is His pastoral course even unto the end of the world, and the pattern of all who would follow Him afar in His Ministry. It is held up for adoration and imitation by the Church year by year. The "white-robed souls' taking on them the pledge, and being sworn in as leaders in His host, are called on to listen
• And wheresoe'er in earth's wide field
How awful, how increasingly awful, the pastor himself felt his charge, must be felt when glancing at that deeply personal "Fragment,' at page 272 of the Miscellaneous Poems-a meditation drawn from him by the thought of quitting his flock at Coln St. Aldwyn, and resigning his charge.
This day itself in the Lyra, however, has one of the sweet bright Lessons of Nature,' suited to the lovely season of Whitsuntide. The bird's nest, with the callow young, cherished so tenderly by the winged mother, is made to teach the 'nestling of the Holy Dove' how life is cherished by the hovering brooding Wings of Love and Power-always the symbol of the Almighty, always His chosen token of tender protection.
'He shall defend thee under His Wings, and thou shalt be safe under His feathers; His faithfulness and truth shall be thy shield and buckler.' Again, the eagle cherishing his nest, the hen gathering her brood under her wings, each is made a symbol to assure us that
When sorrow comes to thy calm nest
Early or late, as come it will,
And hide thee deep in Jesus' Will.' Let the dove-note of prayer call upon Him; and even as the eagle feedeth his young,
Him cherub-borne in awful state,
The Food of His elect to be,
And veiled brow, and trembling knee.'
And thus as the nestling is cherished, warmed, and fed, into flight and song, so beneath those Wings, fed by that Food, we may'gather might to soar and sing,' to mount up with eagles' wings, and sing with saints and angels.
In both poems that version of the Son of Comfort' is taken which explains it
, not as the son of exhortation, but as the son of consolation ; and thereby The Christian Year draws a picture of the world as a room