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RELIGIOUS THOUGHT IN OLD ENGLISH 
VERSE 



RELIGIOUS THOUGHT 



IN 



OLD ENGLISH VERSE 



BY 



REV. C. J. ABBEY 

RECTOR OF CHKCKENDON, OXON. 
LATE FELLOW OF UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, OXFORD 









\ 



LONDON 



SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & COMPANY 
Limited 



FETTER LANE, FLEET STREET, E.G. 
1892 

All rights reserved 



/I f- 13 



PREFACE 

IN the following pages I have endeavoured to 
illustrate the main current of religious thought in 
English poetry through the long period of 1 100 years 
which elapsed between Caedmon and the end of the 
last century. I am careful to say the main current. 
It has been an interest and a pleasure to me to trace 
through each passing century the general stream of 
religious thought flowing steadily and calmly on, 
affected far less than might have been expected by 
the changing circumstances and questions of the time. 
Those deeper and more personal feelings which so 
often find a natural and appropriate vent in poetry 
have little in common with the spirit of controversy. 
In religious poetry, so far as it is the language of the 
heart, even the Reformation itself, great as the move- 
ment was, made itself felt not so much in the disputa- 
tious and argumentative form which it displayed in 
most prose writings of that period, but simply, for the 
most part, in the evident enlargement of the general 
field of graver thought. Not unfrequently, it would be 
difficult to determine from internal evidence on which 
side the writer of the poem had ranged himself. Often 
again, although the theological views of the author are 
obvious enough, they serve chiefly to tone the feeling 



vi Preface 

and colour the language without in any way withdraw- 
ing the poem as a whole from that common stock of 
Christian literature in which all may find sympathy 
and interest. In compiling this work, I have never, in 
the writings of any century, found the slightest diffi- 
culty in selecting passages which would not be likely 
to jar discordantly with the distinctive religious or 
ecclesiastical opinions of the great majority of my 
readers. Though I have always kept this purpose in 
view, I have hardly ever found that it formed any 
hindrance to the choice of such lines as seemed to me 
on other grounds most adapted for quotation, either 
for the interest of their thought, or the beauty of their 
language, or as characteristic and illustrative of their 
writer. 

The earliest English is of course to all practical 
purposes a different language from our own. Funda- 
mentally the same from the very beginning, its identity 
is so disguised by disused inflections, by changed 
orthography, by obsolete words, by local dialect, and by 
all the manifold changes which attended a language 
in full process of growth, and perpetuated, until the 
invention of printing, only by manuscript or word of 
mouth, that all the earlier portion of these volumes 
would have been, to a great extent, unintelligible to 
other than learned readers, if I had quoted passages in 
their original form. I have therefore rendered them 
into ordinary English, endeavouring always to make as 
little change as was compatible with converting them 
into a thoroughly readable form. I have, however, made 



Preface vii 

it a general rule to give in a footnote the first line or 
two of each extract in its original form. I have con- 
tinued to the last to give the modern spelling. I 
thought on the whole that some loss of freshness and 
individuality would be more than compensated by the 
convenience of reading without any needless distraction 
in the form. As regards early English and its dialects, 
I should add that I have no pretension to personal 
scholarship on this subject, but that the admirable 
glossaries provided by the Early English Text Society 
and by other editors greatly facilitated a task which 
otherwise might have been beyond my power. As it 
is, I do not think I have made any serious mistakes in 
my renderings. 

I have pleasure in mentioning the special thanks 
I owe to Mr. Palgrave, Professor of Poetry in the 
University of Oxford, for some valuable suggestions 
and information, and for the kind spontaneous loan of 
many of his books. I have made some, but only a 
very sparing use of his excellent Treasury of Sacred 
Song. Indeed, I had very nearly completed my task 
prior to the publication of that work. 



CONTE NTS 



CHAPTER I 



FROM C^DMON TO THE CONQUEST 



PAGE 

Csedmon, ; , . i 

Vercelli Codex, ... 6 

Aldhelm, .... 7 

Beowulf, .... 7 

Cynewulf, .... 8 

' Legend of St. Andrew,' . 9 
Exeter Codex, . . .n 

' Legend of St. Guthlac,' . 13 



PAGE 

' The Wanderer,' . . .14 
' The Wonders of Creation,' . 15 
' The Sea Farer, ' . . .16 
' The Departed Soul's Address 

to the Body,' . . .17 
'The Supplication,' . 17 

Bede, 18 

Salomon and Saturn, . . 19 



CHAPTER II 

THE TWELFTH AND THIRTEENTH CENTURIES 



The Proverbs of Alfred, . . 23 

Godric, . . . . .24 

Orm or Ormin, . . -25 

Nicholas de Guildford, . . 29 

Layamon, . . 30 

' Story of Genesis and 

Exodus,' . . . -32 

The Bestiaries, . . -34 

' Poema Morale,' . . -35 

' The Passion of Our Lord,' . 36 

' Sinner Beware,' . . -37 

Thomas Hales, . . - 37 

' Orison of Our Lord,' . . 38 

' Song on the Passion,' . . 38 

' Duty of Christians,' . . 39 

' Three Sorrowful Tidings,' . 39 

' A Lutel Soth Sermoun,' . 40 



' St. Margaret,' . . .41 

' The Crucifixion,' ... 42 

' The Assumption,' . . 42 

' Hymn to God,' . . -43 

' Hymn to Our Saviour,' . 43 

' Cursor Mundi,' . . -45 

Robert of Gloucester,' . . 47 

Early Romances, . . -49 

' King Horn,' . . -49 

' Havelok the Dane,' . . 50 

' Floriz and Blancheflur,' . 51 

'Arthur,' . . . .51 

'Joseph of Arimathea,' . 53 

' Merlin,' . . . -54 

' Sir Launcelot,' . . -54 

' Morte Arthure,' . . 55 

' Sir Gawaine,' . . 5*> 



CHAPTER III 



THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY 



PAGE 

Early English Psalter, . . 58 
' The Pearl,' .... 60 
' The Clean of Heart,' . . 62 
'Jonah,' .... 63 
Robert Mannyng, de Brunne 

(' The Handlyng Synne'), . 65 
Adam Davy, . . . .71 
'Precepts from Ecclesiasticus,' 71 
1 A Song of Joy for Christ's 

Coming,' . . . -72 
William de Shoreham, . . 72 
Richard Rolle ('The Pricke 

of Conscience '), . . -73 



Dan Michel of Northgate 

('The Ayenbit of Inwyt,') . 74 
William Langland ( ' Vision 

concerning Piers Plowman'), 74 
Lawrence Minot, . . -78 
Geoffrey Chaucer, . . -79 
John Gower, ... .80 
' Symbols of the Passion,' . 82 
Alphabet Verses, . . -83 
' Quia Amore Langueo,' . 83 

' How the Goode Wif thaught 

hir Daughter,' . . -85 
John Barbour, . . .86 



CHAPTER IV 



THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY 



John Lydgate, ... 88 
William Billyng, ... 90 
Thomas Brampton, . . 91 
John Audelay, ... 93 
' The Service of the Church,' 96 
' The Complaint of Christ,' . 96 
Richard de Castro, . . 98 
' The Love of Jesus,' . 99 

' The Periods of Man's Life, ' . 99 
' Revertere,' . . . 100 
' Now is well,' . . 101 

' Though thou be'st king,' . 101 
Vision of Philibert, . . 101 
John Wotton, . . .102 
' Christ's Pleading,' . . 103 
Early Carols, . . .104 
James I. of Scotland, . .108 



Robert Henryson, . .109 
' Ratis Raving,' . . . 1 1 1 
William Dunbar, . . .112 
Gavin Douglas, . . .113 
Miracle-Plays, . . .114 
'Noah,' . . . .116 
' The Nativity,' . .118 
'The Crucifixion,' . . 120 
' The Descent into Hell,' . 120 
' Mary Magdalene,' . . 121 
' Christ's Entry into Jeru- 
salem,' . . . 121 
'The Purification,' . 122 
' The Temptation ' (John 

Bale), . . . 124 

' Godlie Queene Hester,' 125 



XI 





CHAPTER V 




THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 




PAGE 




PAGE 


Stephen Hawes, . 


. 127 


Edmund Spenser, 


153 


Sir Thomas More, 


. 128 


William Shakespeare, . 


156 


Anne Askewe, 


129 


Abraham Fraunce, 


I 5 8 


John Croke, 


129 


Henry Lok, .... 


159 


Miles Coverdale, . 


130 


Robert Southwell, 


160 


Sir Thomas Wyat, 


. 132 


Richard Denys, . 


164 


Earl of Surrey, 


133 


Barnaby Barnes, . 


164 


Lord Vaux, . . 


134 


Henry Constable, 


165 


John Haryngton, . 


135 


William Hunnis, . 


165 


Walter, Earl of Essex, . 


136 


Edward Bolton, . 


1 66 


Robert, Earl of Essex, . 


136 


Samuel Rowlands, 


1 68 


Francis Kynwelmersh, . 


137 


Gervase Markham, 


169 


Jasper Heywood, . 


- 138 


Samuel Nicholson, 


169 


Robert Crowley, . 


138 


' Here is the Spring,' . 


170 


Thomas Tusser, . 


. 141 


Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, 


171 


' Say well and Do well,' 


. 141 


Sir John Davies, . 


174 


Richard Edwards, 


. 142 


John Danyel, 


176 


Archbishop Parker, 


H3 


Sir Walter Raleigh, 


176 


Francis Thynne, . 


143 


'Jerusalem,' 


178 


' The Shippe of Safegarde, 


' ' 144 


Carols, .... 


179 


Thomas Proctor, . 


M4 


Miles Coverdale's Psalms, 


179 


Nicholas Breton, . 


144 


Thomas Sternhold, 


1 80 


' Songe of the Lambe's 


'The Gude and Godlie 




Feast,' 


MS 


Ballates' (J. and R. 




Thomas Becon, 


MS 


Wedderburn), . 


1 80 


George Gascoigne, 


146 


Sir David Lyndesay, 


185 


Sir Philip Sydney, 


. 148 


The Bannatyne MS., 


1 88 


Countess of Pembroke, . 


. ISO 


William Lauder, . 


189 


Humphrey Gifford, 


151 


Alexander Montgomery, 


190 


William Byfd, 


153 


Alexander Hume, 


191 


Thomas Churchyard, . 


153 James I. of England, . 


192 




CHAPTER VI 




THE 


SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 




Lord Bacon, 


. 195 Phineas Fletcher, 


20 1 


Princess Elizabeth, 


. 197 


Giles Fletcher, 


202 


Sir John Harington, 


. 198 


Thomas Pestel, 


2O5 


Sir John Beaumont, 


198 Ben Jonson, 


2O6 



Xll 



Contents 



Patrick Hannay, . 


PAGE 

. 208 


Nicholas Billingsly, 


Michael Drayton, 


. 210 John Austin, 


/John Donne, 


. 211 Henry King, Bishop, . 


njeorge Herbert, . 


. 214 vRichard Crashaw, 


Robert Aylet, 


. 219 


John Quarles, 


Thomas Campion, 


. 220 


Abraham Cowley, 


John Amner, 


. 220 Edmund Waller, . 


William Loe, 


. 221 


Wigglesworth, 


Charles Fitzgeoffrey, 


. 222 


Robert Herrick, . 


George Sandys, . 


223 


John Milton, 


Sir Henry Wotton, 


. 223 


% Andrew Marvell, . 


Sir W. Alexander (Earl 


of 


'Nicholas Postgate, 


Stirling), . 


. 225 Sir Thomas Browne, 


William Cartwright, 


225 Samuel Grossman, 


Francis Quarles, . 


. 226 'A Small Garland,' etc. 


Alexander Rosse, . 


230 Henry More, 


Patrick Carey, 


. 233 , Earl of Roscommon, 


William Drummond, . 


. 235 Theophilus Dorrington, 


Joseph Beaumont, 


237 


Charles Cotton, . 


Joseph Hall, 


239 


Sir William Davenant, . 


Francis Row, 


240 John Bunyan, 


William Bradford, 


240 Thomas Flatman, 


Peter Heylyn, 


. 241 Richard Baxter, . 


Earl of Westmoreland, . 


. 241 ; John Mason, 


William Habington, 


242 tfLenry Vaughan, . 


Christopher Harvey, 


. 244 Sir Edward Sherburne, 


Thomas Fuller, . 


. 246 John Dryden, 


Richard Standfast, 


. 247 John Norris, 


James Shirley, 


. 248 James Chamberlayne, . 


Jeremy Taylor, Bishop, 


. 248 


Thomas Shepherd, 


George Wither, . 


250 John Pomfret, 




CHAPTER VII 


THE 


EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 


Thomas Ken, Bishop, . 


. 308 Matthew Prior, . 


Lady Chudleigh, . 


. 310 


John Hughes, 


Countess of Winchelsea, 


- 310 


Elizabeth Thomas, 


Elizabeth Rowe, . 


3" 


Joseph Addison, . 


Samuel Wesley, sen. , . 


3H 


Alexander Pope, . 


Samuel Wesley, jun., . 


- 316 


John Gay, . 


Sir Richard Blackmore. 


3i6 


Thomas Tickell, . 


Thomas Parnell, . 


320 


William Broome, . 



253 
253 
255 

257 
258 

259 
262 
263 

265 
269 

281 

282 

283 

284 

285 
285 
287 
288 
289 
290 
291 

293 
293 
295 

296 

299 

299 
300 

304 
304 
305 



321 
323 
324 
325 
330 
336 
336 

337 



Contents 



xin 



Aaron Hill, .... 338 

Old and New Psalm Versions, 339 

Psalms and Hymns, . . 343 

Isaac Watts, . . . 347 

Philip Doddridge, . . 354 

Simon Browne, . . . 358 

Joseph Stennett, . ' . . 358 

James Thomson, . . . 359 

Edward Young, . . . 365 

Robert Blair, . . .368 

Mark Akenside, . . . 369 

William Hamilton, . . 370 

Walter Harte, . . . 371 

Thomas Gray, . . . 373 

William Mason, . . . 375 

Samuel Johnson, . . . 378 

Oliver Goldsmith, . . 379 

William Shenstone, . . 379 

Samuel Boyse, . . . 379 

William Thompson, . . 380 

Christopher Smart, . . 380 

John Byrom, . . . 381 

John Gambold, . . . 383 

James Derrick, . . . 384 

Thomas Chatterton, . . 385 

Elizabeth Carter, . . . 386 

HYMNODY OF THE METHODIST 

AND EVANGELICAL REVIVAL : 

Charles Wesley, . . 387 

John Wesley, . . . 392 

William Williams, . . 393 

Robert Seagrave, . . 393 

John Cennick, . . . 393 

William Hammond, . . 394 

Thomas Olivers, . . 394 

John Bakewell, . . 395 

John Beveridge, . . 396 

Commander Kempenfelt, . 396 

Rowland Hill, . . . 396 

Robert Robinson, . . 398 



PAGE 

Joseph Hart, . . . 398 
Anne Steele, . . . 399 
Samuel Stennett, . . 399 
Samuel Medley, . . 400 
Edward Perronet, . . 400 
Dr. Gibbons, . . . 400 
Other Hymn- writers, . 401 
Walter Shirley, . . 402 
Thomas Haweis, . . 402 
Augustus Toplady, . . 403 
William Romaine, . . 405 
John Newton, . . . 405 
William Cowper's hymns, . 408 
Other Hymn-writers, . 411 
Moses Brown, . . .411 
Philip Skelton, . . .412 
Nathaniel Cotton. . . 412 
William Cowper, . . . 413 
Hannah More, . . .417 
The Poets and Slave-Eman- 
cipation, . . . -419 
James Hurdis, . . . 420 
Anna L. Barbauld, . .421 
George Crabbe, . . 422 
William Blake, . . . 423 
Samuel T. Coleridge, . . 425 
Robert Southey, . . . 432 
William Wordsworth, . . 437 
Charles Lamb, . . . 442 
Thomas Campbell, . . 444 
Robert Burns, . . . 444 
James Beattie, . . . 445 
James Grahame, . . . 445 
Ralph Erskine, . . . 446 
1 Thomas Blacklock, . . 447 
Michael Bruce, . . . 448 
Logan ; Cameron ; Morrison ; 

H. Blair, . . . -44^ 
General remarks on the Sacred 

Poetry of i8th Century, . 449 



INDEX, 



453 






RELIGIOUS THOUGHT IN 
OLD ENGLISH VERSE 



CHAPTER I 

FROM C^EDMON TO THE CONQUEST 

THE century and a half which followed the introduction 
of Christianity into Anglo-Saxon England was a most 
eventful period, and very fruitful in social advancement. 
Between the landing of Augustine, in 597, and the 
death of Bede, in 735, the nation, in embracing Chris- 
tianity, took quite a new form, passed out of savagery 
'into comparative civilisation, and started firmly on the 
progressive course that henceforth lay before it. It was 
in about the middle of this period that Caedmon wrote 
the first of our sacred poets, and well worthy to head 
the long roll which was to follow. He died about 680 ; 
and his remarkable poems on the Creation and other 
biblical subjects were written between the middle of the 
seventh century and that date. His life carries us back 
almost to the dawn of Christianity in England. Hilda,, 
a lady of royal blood, the noble-hearted prioress of his 
convent at Whitby, had been converted to the faith by 
Paulinus, first bearer of the Gospel to the English of 
Northumbria. She had remained staunch to her re- 
ligion through the time of heathen reaction which 
followed upon Edwin's defeat by Penda. When new 
missionaries had been called in from lona, and Cuthbert 
was winning himself a saintly memory by his aposto- 
lical labours in the northern counties, Hilda, no less 
venerated than he, was a sort of prophetess among her 

A 



2 Religious Thought in 

people, consulted by kings and bishops, and gaining a 
special fame to her religious house by the unusual know- 
ledge of Scripture which distinguished the priests and 
monks who had been trained there. 

In this monastery Caedmon was one of the humblest 
dependants, a poor neat-herd, ignorant of Latin and 
unable to read. A man of grave and earnest tempera- 
ment, he loved to listen to narratives from Scripture, 
and to muse upon them afterwards ; but had little taste 
for the minstrelsy which delighted his companions. 
When, therefore, on any festal evening, the harp was 
passed round, he would go out before his turn arrived. 
I continue the account in the words of King Alfred's 
translation from Bede : ' Now it so happed that at one 
tide he left the house where the Ale was held, and went 
out to the neat-stall, the ward of which was that night 
trusted to him. And when at fitting time he laid his 
limbs to rest and slept, there stood by him in his dream 
some man, who hailed and greeted him, and named him 
by his name, " Caedmon, sing me somewise ! " Then 
answered he, and quoth : " I cannot sing aught ; and 
for that I could not, I went forth out of the Ale, and 
came hither." Then quoth he that was speaking to 
him, " Yet must thou sing to me." Quoth he, ' What 
shall I sing? " Quoth he, " Sing to me of the beginning 
of things." When he got this answer, then 'gan he 
forthwith to sing, in praise of God the Maker, verses * 
and words which he had never heard. And the burden 
of them is this : 

Now shall we praise the Uprearer of the realm 
Of the high heaven, and the Maker's might, 
And His mind's wisdom, Father of the world ; 
Yea, of all wondrous workings He hath set 
The first forthcomings Lord for evermore ! 
He for earth's children roofed the round of heaven, 
And laid this lower earth, Holy in all, 
Guardian of men, great God for evermore. 2 

1 'Verses' was one of the Latin words which were early taken into 
English use. 

2 In most of these renderings from First English, something of the 
alliteration of the original has been preserved. 



Old English Verse 3 

' Then he arose from sleep and held fast in mind all that 
he had sung while sleeping, and put together with them 
in like measure many other words of God-worthy song.' 1 

Such is the story how Caedmon began to be a bard 
of Christian verse. Great and deservedly great grew 
his fame. His prioress, and his countrymen far and 
wide, deemed him no less inspired than any prophet of 
old, and his verses became to the popular ear a sort of 
English Bible. There can be no question that they 
influenced largely and for a lengthened time the tone 
of religious and general thought in early England. 

It is a striking coincidence that just a thousand years 
after Caedmon told in verse the story of Creation, of the 
apostate angels, and of Man's temptation and fall, the 
very same theme should have been again handled by 
the greatest of our sacred poets. Nor was it a mere 
coincidence. Milton appears to have contemplated the 
writing of Paradise Lost as early as 1642, but it was 
not till 1658 that he regularly began the work. Two 
years before this date the poems of Caedmon were 
printed for the first time by Milton's old friend, Francis 
Dujon. Francis Junius (for this is the name by which 
he is better known) had long devoted much study to 
the Teutonic languages. The one extant manuscript 
of Caedmon had been presented to him by Archbishop 
Usher, and it is in every way probable that Milton may 
have conversed with his friend about this remarkable 
work of the" forefather of English sacred song, and have 
heard extracts from it It may even have suggested 
the subject of Paradise Lost. 

The following lines are a nearly literal rendering from 
the earlier part of Caedmon's story of Creation : 

Gladness had they at onset, gleam and glow,' 
That throng of angels : bright their heavenly bliss, 

1 These verses begin in the original thus : 

Nu we sceolan herian heofon-riches weard 
Metodes mihte, and his mod-gethone 
Wera Waldor-faeder. 

King Alfred's Anglo-Saxon Trans, of Bede ; Thorpe's Cadmon, xxi. 



4 Religious Thought in 

Their blitheness great. Thanes throned in strength on high, 

They loved their Lord of life, and with full heart 

Joyful they praised their King, and judged themselves 

To be most blessed in the bliss of God. 

They knew no sin, they worked no wickedness, 

But lived in rest with Him who liveth ever, 

Seeking nought else in Heaven but right and sooth. 1 

Then, later, after telling how pride entered into the 
archangel's heart, and how the rebel spirits were hurled 
from heaven, and how earth was created, that by God's 
new-born creation the vacant seats might be replenished, 
the poem continues : 

Then Satan, sorrowing, spake he who should sway 

In hell henceforth, and hold its gloomy depths, 

God's angel heretofore, white in the heavens ; 

Till his soul spurred him on, and most of all 

An overweening heart, that he would ne'er 

Give the Lord's mighty word its worthy meed. 

So seethed sore thoughts within him, round his soul ; 

And hot within him heaved the wrathful fires. 

And thus he quoth brake the words from his breast : 

' Oh, how unlike is this strait stead of woe 

To that which erst we knew in heaven's height, 

Which my Lord laid upon me ! Now no more 

Of Him who wieldeth all things must we own, 

Which once we ruled, our realms and royalties. 2 

Ah ! might I wield my hands ! and might one tide 
Fare forth from hence one only winter's span ! 

Then would I with this crew But round me lie 

These iron bonds, rides me this writhing chain.' 3 

As a sort of counterpart to Adam and Eve's morning 
hymn of praise to their Creator in Milton's great work, 
I may quote from Caedmon's paraphrase part of the 
Song of the Three Children : 

1 Hsesdon gleam and dream heora ord-fruman 
Engla threatas ; beorhte blisse : 

Wses heora blsed micel, thegnas thrym-fseste. 

2 Satan mathelode, sorgiende sprsech, sethe helle forth 
Healdan sceolde, gyman thass grundes. 

3 Wa la ! ahte ic minra hand a geweald, and moste ane tid 
Ute weorthan wesan, ane winter-stunde, 

Thonne ic mid thys werode ac licgath me ymbe 
Irenbendas, rideth racentan sal. 



Old English Verse 5 

All the world-powers in their beauteousness, 
Kind Father, bless Thee ! Thy works one and all, 
Heaven and angels, .... 

the stars in the sky, 

Soft showers and dews, and Thee all spirits praise, 
O Mighty Lord ! The burning fires, the bright 
Summer, and light and darkness, nights and days, 
And every land, each hallow in their kind 
The great Upholder. Thee, the sleet and snow, 
The bitter wintry weather, fleeting clouds, 
The pale bright gleams of lightning, all earth's depths, 
Highlands and hills, bless the Eternal Lord. 

And Thee Thy holy ones, with their hearts' strength 
The souls and spirits of all righteous men 
Praise Thee, the Lord of life, Giver of boons. 

Father of Might, Lord of each kith of men ! 

True Son of the Creator, Saviour of souls ! 

Helper of men ! we praise Thee ! and Thee, Holy Ghost, 

Giver of Wisdom ! God on Thy glory-seat, 

We worship Thee, and with our prayers upraise. 1 

Quiet as Caedmon was in his peaceful cell at Whitby, 
the blood of a warlike race stirred within him whenever 
his theme led him to tell of any scene of battle. There 
is much vividness and fire in the lengthened account 
which he gives of Abraham's encounter with the four 
kings. So also, when he describes the approach of 
Pharaoh's army, when the Israelites were encamped by 
the Red Sea, his imagination may well have recurred 
to hard-fought battle-fields where his countrymen had 
met the hosts of Mercia, and to moorland ravens and 
wolves from the Cheviots descending on the scene of 
carnage : 

Then waxed the warriors' hearts 
Distrustful : for, behold ! forth from the South, 
Athwart the holt, a glittering array, 
Strode on the strength of Pharaoh. Now were spears 
Held fast for onset ; onward drew the war, 
With clash of clanging standards, where they trod 
The utmost marches of the Egyptian land. 

1 Thorpe's Ctzdmon, liii. : 

Dhe gebletsige, bylywit Fseder, 
Woruld-crasfta wlite. 



6 Religious Thought in 

The dusky birds of battle screamed around, 

A dewy-feathered throng, thirsty for blood, 

As scenting slaughter, and the wolves howled forth, 

Hungry for meat, their hateful even-song. 1 

What little remains of Csedmon's paraphrases from 
the New Testament seems decidedly inferior to those 
of earlier portions of the Bible. 

In a manuscript found at Vercelli in 1822, left there 
apparently by some early English pilgrim, is an in- 
teresting poem ascribed on some reasonable grounds to 
Caedmon. A few lines of it occur in Runic characters 
upon the Northumbrian Cross of Ruthwell, and the 
name of Caedmon, which was not, however, an un- 
common one, is also engraved upon the stone. The 
poem is mixed, as might be expected, with a good deal 
of superstitious reverence for the actual visible cross, 
which is represented as telling in a vision its own story. 
But this materialism is so intimately joined in the poem 
with the deepest Christian feeling, that it readily lends 
itself to a more purely spiritual conception of the Cross 
of Christ. I give a translation of the latter part of it 
in modern rhyme, keeping as nearly as I can to the 
original : 

He most in the Doom may hope for rest 

Who bears in his bosom of signs the best, 

Who seeks through the might of the Cross to dwell 

With the Lord, whom on earth he had loved so well. 

I prayed at the foot of the Holy Rood, 

Breathing its power, and blithe of mood, 

I had yearned from my heart for an end of life, 

Weary of longings, faint with strife. 

But now I would live, and my strength shall be 

Christ's blessed Cross of Victory ; 

And, oftener and more than the world around, 

I will seek me aid on that holy ground. 

Few are the friends who can serve me here ; 

They have found in heaven a purer sphere : 

They have left the world, and they learn above, 

With the glorious King, a Father's love : 

1 Thorpe's Cadmon, xlv. : 

Tha him eorla moclh 
Ortrywe weordh. 



Old English Verse 7 

And I daily wait for the blessed morn, 

When the Cross on whose arms my Lord was borne 

Shall raise me from this poor life to joy, 

To eternal bliss, and without alloy, 

With the happy saints, in the feast of God. 

May the Lord befriend me, on earth who trod, 

And who died for man on the Cross of Shame, 

Who hath loosed our bonds, and bid us claim 

Life, and a heavenly home. He died, 

And in souls by the nether fires tried 

Was quickened anew hope's gladsome light, 

When the Son of God, with conquering might, 

Led forth to the realm of peace the throng 

Of redeemed spirits, with triumph song, 

As a King Almighty ; and angel choirs, 

And saints whom the love of heaven inspires, 

Rejoiced with a holy joy to greet 

The Lord on His throne His rightful seat. 1 

The sacred songs of Aldhelm, Csedmon's sainted 
contemporary at Malmesbury, are unfortunately not 
extant. He was a scholar of renown, and wrote various 
Latin treatises, but was well aware of the power which 
Verse in their native tongue could exercise over the 
minds of a rude peasantry. It vexed him to see the 
people rushing back into the country from the mass 
without one further thought of sacred things. And so, 
abbot though he was, he would often post himself as a 
minstrel on the bridge and check them in their haste 
by charming their ear with song. Then, when he had 
thoroughly gained the attention of the throng, he would 
introduce here and there a story from sacred writ or 
some word of timely admonition. He gained more, 
says the Chronicler, by so doing than if he had dealt 
severely and ' cum excommunicatione.' 

The poem of Beowulf may date in its existing form 
from the beginning of the eighth century. It is essen- 
tially a Scandinavian saga, thoroughly infused with the 
spirit of the old heathenism. The exploits of the hero 

1 J. M. Kemble's Poetry of the Codex Vercelle>isis t \'&a t T > : 'The Holy 
Rood : a Dream,' lines 231-310 : 

Dhe him XT in breostum bereclh 
Beacna selest. 



8 Religious Thought in 

from whom its name is taken are told in it how he 
vanquished Grindel, the horrible monster of the fens, 
and lost his life at a later time in a fierce combat with 
a dragon. But here and there Christian passages occur 
in it, probably the interpolations of Cynewulf or some 
other English poet. - Such, for instance, are the follow- 
ing lines : 

They knew not Him who meted earth and sky, 
The Judge of deeds, the Lord, the mighty God ; 
They knew not how to praise the Lord of heaven. 1 

And later : 

Yet he bethought him of his strength, the gift 
Which largely God had given ; and holy trust 
Had he in Him who only hath the sway, 
His Stay and Hope, and so o'ercame the foe, 
And quenched in fight the grisly fiend of hell. 

Such also are the words expressive of hope of amend- 
ment and amelioration after death : 

Well shall it be to him who may 

After his death-day 

Seek the Lord, 

And in his Father's bosom 

Crave peace. 2 

There has been much controversy about the poet 
Cynewulf, who has strangely incorporated his name in 
detached Runic characters in various poems preserved 
in the Exeter and Vercelli Manuscripts. According to 
one view, he did not live till the age preceding the 
Norman Conquest, and was identical with Kenewulf, 
abbot of Peterborough, who died in 1014. Another 
leading opinion is that he was Cynewulf, a bishop of 
Lindisfarne in 780. Professor Morley is most inclined 
to the belief that he lived in the eighth century, but 
that he was neither priest nor monk ; that he was a 
man of noble birth who had taken a vigorous part in 

1 S. Thorpe's Beowulph, etc., 1835, vol. ii. : 
Metod hie ne cuthon. 

- Wei bith thasm the mot 
^Efter death dcege. 



Old English, Verse 9 

the life and action of his age, and that it was he to 
whom we owe the beautiful sea-faring Ode of toilsome 
travel told in The Wanderer. 

Without further preface, I will bring before the 
reader some passages of sacred song, most of them by 
Cynewulf, from the Vercelli and Exeter books. The 
Vercelli Codex opens with a long poem entitled The 
Legend of St. Andrew. It tells how St. Matthew 
carried the Gospel to the Mermedonians, a race of 
cannibals and sorcerers, but was cast in prison, and had 
his eyes put out. A drink also had been given to him 
which drove men into eating grass like cattle. His 
reason, however, was preserved to him by the special 
grace of God, and St. Andrew was sent to release him 
from his sufferings, and was rowed thither by three men, 
who, though he knew it not, were an incarnation of the 
Holy Trinity. The rest of the poem tells of the deeds 
of the apostle when he reached the land, of his recovery 
of St. Matthew, of the persecutions he endured, of the 
judgments that fell upon the land, and of the final con- 
version of the people. We may notice in passing how 
evidently saintly legends of this kind were intended to 
give a Christian tone to the minstrelsy which formed 
so conspicuous a part of old Teutonic gatherings. The 
story begins with the ' Hweat ! ' the premonitory signal 
of the harp, and then, in words well calculated to catch 
the ear of a warlike race, proceeds to tell ' of the twelve 
who in days of yore were heroes gloriously blessed, 
servants of the Lord, the renown of whose warfare 
failed not when banners pressed. These were famous 
men throughout the earth, pious leaders and bold in 
warfare, brave warriors, when shield and hand guarded 
the helmet on the battle-field.' 

The first passage I will quote is that which embodies 
the mandate of Christ to go forth into all lands, and 
preach the Gospel to every creature : 

Twas Christ's behest, 
The Glorious King, 
(We are His thanes 



to Religious Thought in 

To battle bid) 
Wielder and Worker, 
In strength of sway, 
The King by right, 
One endless God 
Of all things made, 
Grasping in hold, 
With holy might, 
Both earth and Heaven, 
Great Conqueror ! 

Himself hath said 
Father of folk 
And bid us fare 
Past yawning depths 
To save Him souls. 
' Fare forth o'er all 
Earth's widest span, 
Even so far 

As the vast water rounds, 
Or as the steadfast plains 
Stretch on your way. 
Tell forth throughout the towns 
The bright belief, 
O'er the wide-bosomed world. 
I give unto you peace ; 
And in your hearts 
I whet the keen set will 
Of truest good.' x 

The second passage is where St. Andrew is on his 
way to Mermedonia. A great storm had arisen, and 
the apostle tells the mysterious rowers of a similar 
tempest which had once burst over the Lake of Galilee 
when Christ was in the boat : 

So did it hap of old : 
We on the sea-boat, 
Over the striving surge, 
Riding the billows, 
Ventured the fords. 
Gruesome and grim to us 
Was the fell water's rage. 
Wildly the streaming tide 
Beat on the sea-board ; 

1 Vercelli Codex : Legend of St. Andrew, 644-72 : ' Swa thset Crist 
behead. ' 



Old English Verse \ \ 

Flood back to flood again 

Answered the roar ; 

While there arose 

From its deep boiling breast, 

On to the boat's lap, 

Terror and dread. 

There the Almighty One, 

He who all men hath made, 

On the surge-cleaving ship 

Restfully waited. 

But our men became 

Filled with fear, 

And through the keel-ship 

Calling aloud, 

Prayed for peace, 

Boon from the blessed. 

Soon rose the King, 

Bliss-giver to angels ; 

Stilled the waves, 

The weltering waters, 

Chode the wild wind, 

And the sea settled ; 

The eddied tide-flood 

Waxed smooth. 

Joy our hearts cheered, 

When that we saw 

Neath the high sun-track, 

How that the winds and waves, 

How the dread water-flood, 

Was scathed und scared, 

Fearing the Lord. 1 

The Exeter Codex is a valuable collection of early 
English poetry, presented by Bishop Leofric to his 
Cathedral Church about the middle of the eleventh 
century. Its earlier part consists of hymns, probably 
by Cynewulf, to the Saviour, and the Virgin Mary, and 
on the Nativity, the Crucifixion, the Ascension, the 
Harrowing of Hell, and the Last Judgment. The tone 
of them all is gravely devotional and very earnest. I 
give a rendering of part of one on the Nativity: 

Warder and Wielder, 

Maker of man, 

1 Vercelli Codex, 875-920 : 

Swa gesselde jii 
That we on sae-bate. 



1 2 Religious Thought in 

Come, and Thy mildness 
Tenderly show ! 
All of us need it ; 
We, Thy mother's kin, 
Yearn to Thy mystery, 
Vainly endeavouring 
To know the Father. 

Bless thou this mid-earth 
By Thine incoming, 
Saviour Christ ! 
Ope thou the golden gates, 
They that in days of old 
Long stood locked. 
High Lord of heaven, 
Seek us, O seek us, 
(Sorely we need Thee) 
By Thine own coming 
Lowly to earth ! 

The wolf, the wicked one, 
Ranging in darkness, 
Widely hath scattered, 
Lord, Thy flock, 
Which, .in the old days, 
Thou with Thy life-blood 
Hast dearly bought. 
He, the baleful One, 
With cruel clutch, 
Though our souls rebel, 
Holds us in thrall. 

Wherefore to Thee, O Christ, 
Warder and Guard, 
Earnest, from depths of heart, 
Warmly we pray. 
Help us, O ! speedily, 
Banished from, heaven, 
Weary and faint. 

So may the Slayer 
Into the gulph of hell 
With scathe be driven ! 
So may Thy handywork, 
Moulder of men ! 
With right arise 
Into the heavenly, 
The noble realm ! 
Whence the swart spirit 
In the foul lust of sin, 



Old English Verse 13 

Drew and beguiled us, 
That we of glory reft 
Should in an endless harm 
Painfully drudge. 

But do Thou speedily, 
Lord everlasting, 
Shield of all beings, 
Quench our Destroyer, 
The death of our people, 
O Living God ! l 

The Legend of St. Guthlac is a paraphrase of a Latin 
poem by Felix of Croyland. But there is nothing in it 
of the stiffness of a translation from an alien tongue. 
It is a story full of tender devotional feeling, touchingly 
and poetically told. Near the beginning he describes 
with vivid force a great struggle between the power of 
good and evil in the critical turning-point of Guthlac's 
life. Afterwards comes a tale of sore combats with 
terrible temptations, of angelic comforters, of conquests 
over evil, and, finally, the account of his saintly death. 
Here is a fair picture of the Christian life : 

They in their breast bear 

Bright belief, 

Holy Hope, 

A clean heatt ; 

They worship the Wielder. 

They have wise thoughts, 

Hastening on their onward way 

To their Father's home. 

They speed to gear the Spirit's house, 

And with wariness 

The fiend o'erfight, 

Brotherly kin 

Are fain to feel, 

After God's will. 

Their souls they freight 

With godly cares ; 

Heaven's king's behests 

They frame on earth's fields. 

They ban all baneful spite, 

And seek prayer, 



1 Exeter Codex: On the Nativity, ed. by B. Thorpe, 1842 : pp. 15-17 = 
' Cum nu sigores.' 



14 Religious Thought in 

Shrink from sin, 

Hold sooth and right. 

They shall not rue 

After hence-going 

Into the holy burgh. 

Forthwith they fare 

To Jerusalem. 

There they for aye 

In happiness 

God's face 

Gladly behold, 

In kin and friendship. 

There in sooth they dwell, 

Beauteous, bright, 

For furthest length, 

In the bliss 

Of the land of the living. 1 

The Wanderer is the pensive reverie of an aged 
man, who, long ago, had lost by death a powerful and 
generous liege, and had wandered away from his 
country, lonely and an exile, in quest of a new home, 
sailing through the rime and snows of the Northern 
seas. There runs throughout it a strong sense of 
loneliness, as he muses over the ever-changing tide of 
the world, of the hardships of life, the manifold forms 
of death, his own sad memories, his dreams of home, 
his recollections of good friends long ago departed. 
But amidst it all there is a deep spirit of pious trustful- 
ness, and of firm faith in the guiding hand of God. It 

begins with gratitude for the lovingkindness he had 
met with, and ends with the exclamation : 

O well for him who seeketh grace, 
And comfort of his Father's face, 
In whom all fastness standeth. 2 

The poem on The Endowments and Pursuits of 
Men is like some Greek choral hymn, passed through 
a Christian mould. It tells in length how each of the 
dwellers among the people receives from God his 

1 Exeter Book, 150 : 'Beradh in breostum.' 

2 Id. : The Wanderet, 293 : ' Wei bidh tham the him are secedh. " 



Old English Verse 15 

separate gifts, in wisdom or in craft, in comeliness or 
strength, in council or in war, in eloquence, in skill of 
books, in hymnody and song, and knowledge of 
mysteries. Thus excellently doth the Lord dispense 
His bounty, and show to man His tender mercies. So 
doth He quell pride, that no man may deem that he 
alone is great, and, for that greatness, arrrogance injure 
him. The Various Fortunes of Men may be looked 
upon as a sort of companion-piece to it. The poem is 
full of a reverential feeling of the mystery of life, and 
that God rules all the infinite circumstances of destiny, 
in darkness indeed beyond man's exploring, but yet in 
wondrousness, mercy, and love. A review of the evils 
and woes which beset mankind in nowise shakes the 
poet's faith in the control of an all-wise providence, and 
thus he concludes : 

Even thus wondrously 
Has the great God of all, 
Over mid earth, 
Crafts of mankind 
Moulded and made ; 
And to each one on earth 
Of the great kin of man 
Dealt His decrees. 
Wherefore let each one 
Yield to Him thanks for all, 
Which He in His mercies 
To man hath awarded. 1 

The Wonders of Creation is yet again on a kindred 
topic. It is a pondering over 'the web of mystery 
(rune),' which is everywhere spread over the earth, and 
shows a mind keenly alive to the beauty of created 
things. The following translations into modern English 
will, I think, be found very close to the original : 

The deeply-heeding man, whose mind is set 
Strongly to live, will search the hoarded craft 
Of words that tell of wondrous, hidden things 
In all that God hath shaped. 



1 Exeter Book : The Various Fortunes of Men, 332 : ' Swa hroetlice. ' 



1 6 Religious Thought in 

But as for thee, if thou wouldst learn such lore, 
Behold, I ope to thee the power of God. 
And if thy thought can reach widely and far, 
Then, grasp its teaching. Yet be well aware, 
It is not in the bourne and bound of man 
Further to fathom the deep things of God 
Than the Lord's gift enables. Only thank 
High God, the Everlasting, who doth give 
Fit store of wit, whereby each soul of man 
If it but strive to keep the King's behest, 
And faint not feebly on the path He set 
May rise with ease to the blest realm on high. 

Lo, each morn, 

Comes the light brightness o'er the misty hills, 
Wading o'er eastern waves, winsome and fair. 
Yea, it bears light to every kin of man, 
That all to whom our King hath given sight 
May feel its cheer. 

Until at eventide 

O'er depths of western waters forth it fares. 
Gloom calleth gloom, and soon the coming night 
Holdeth the bidding of the Holy Lord. 1 

A Father's Instruction to his Son is a didactic poem 
stored with the soundest religious morality. It is re- 
presented as the teaching of ' a man skilled in mind, old 
in goodness, wise-fast in words, so that he was held well 
worth,' who entreats his dear son to ' let his mind hold 
the far-forth writings and the dooms of the Lord.' 

The Sea Farer is a song of travel and toil, and of 
the wild joy of waters. Thence, by a natural transition, 
it passes on to muse with a manly pathos on the pil- 
grim's journey of life, its deep thoughts, its trials, and 
aspirations. It is a fine poem, and is doubtless by the 
same author as The Wanderer. I may refer the reader 
to a part of it as rendered by Professor Morley in the 
second volume of his English Writers. The swooping 
flight and wild cry of the sea-bird stirs a responsive 
chord in the heart of the sea-farer : 

1 Exeter Book: The Wonders of Creation, 367 : ' Deop hydig mon. ' 



Old English Verse 1 7 

Loud cries the lone flier, 
And stirs the mind's longing 
To travel the way that is trackless, 
The death-way over the flood ; 

and he muses upon the life and death, and, most of all, 
the memories of the blest, whose true deeds are cherished 
among men on earth, while their glory grows among the 
angels of God in the life everlasting. 

The Departed Soul's Address to the Body is found 
both in the Exeter and Vercelli books, and is in two 
parts, according as he to whom the Spirit had been 
given had lived well or ill. It perhaps dates from a 
time not very much prior to the Conquest. The follow- 
ing is a version of a passage in the first of the two : 

God sent me to thee by His angel. 

From heaven, a living soul ; 
With the Holy Blood He bought thee, 

And delivered thee from dole. 
But thou thou didst bind me captive, 

Didst hold me in cruel thrall ; 
And I could not but dwell within thee, 

Penned in by the fleshly wall. 
Thou didst crush me with lusts and sinning ; 

And it seemed to thy death-day 
Long as ten thousand winters 

That I tarried still thy prey. 
Thou didst sit midst wine and feasting, 

And never, alack ! didst think 
How I craved for the Lord's own body, 

How I longed for the Spirit's drink. 1 

I must give one more quotation only from the Exeter 
Codex, from the first part of the Supplication : 

Help rne, O Holy Lord, 
Shaper of earth and heaven, 
And of their wonders all, 
My Glory-King ! 
Eternal Lord ! 
Mighty and manifold ! 
Hearken, great God ; 
Lo, I do trust to Thee 

1 Exeter Book : A Departed Soul's Address to the Body, 368 : ' And 
se thurh engel.' 

B 



1 8 Religious Thought in 

Body and soul, 

Words and works, 

And all my divers thoughts, 

wise God. 
Giver of light ! 

1 pray Thee betoken, 
Lord, to my soul, 
How I may heedfully 
Mark Thy great will, 
Live to Thee only, 
Soothfast King ! 
A.nd in my heart 
Good rede up-raise. 
Weakly, more weakly 
Than it were well, 

O God, my Maker, 

Have I hearkened to Thee : 

Yet, let not him, the Thief, 

Scathe me in night. 

O living God, 

Do Thou forgive 

My bitter, baleful deeds ! 

Not bootless in my prayer, 

If but I come to Thee. 

O, give me time, my God, 

And a wise heart ; 

Give me a will to bear, 

A mind to heed, 

All that, O faithful Lord, 

Thou dost in trial send. 1 

Bede (c. 673-735) has not left any English verse ; but 
his Latin poem on the Domesday was early trans- 
lated into the vernacular. Some authorities, however, 
ascribe the Latin original to Alcuin. The first English 
manuscript which contains it is of the tenth century. I 
give a rendering of a short extract from it : 

I rede thee, be thou quick with rueful tears ; 
Forestall the anger of the eternal Judge. 
Why dost thou lie in dust, burdened with shame, 
O flesh ! and sins ? Ah, why not cleanse away, 
With tears poured forth, thy load of troublous sin ? 
Why ask not for thyself bathings and salves, 

1 A Supplication, 1-32, in id. 452 : ' Ahelpe min, se halga dryhten.' 



Old English Verse 1 9 

Leechdoms of life from Him the Lord of life ? 

Glad is the Son of God in throes of grief, 

And when thou judg'st thyself for sins on earth. 

Never will heaven's God for guilt and wrong 

Wreak wrath twice over upon any man. 

Slight not the heaving groan, the sorrowing cry, 

And of forgiveness this the ready time. 1 

The same manuscript contains poetical paragraphs 
of the Lord's Prayer, and of the Doxology. I append 
a version of the lines on the ' Et nunc et semper ' of the 
latter : 

And now for evermore Thy faithful works, 

And Thy great might abideth, clear to all. 

They tell of Thine high wisdom far and wide, 

And throughout all the world they stand for aye. 

Thy handiwork, O God, hearkens Thy word, 

And groweth ever ; all things praise the Lord, 

The songs of saints, clean tongues, and Christian books, 

All this mid earth, and we men call aloud 

Here on its ground ' To Thee be thanks and praise, 

Thy will unchanging, Thine own steadfast law. ;2 

Salomon and Saturn is the English form of a story 
in dialogue, which was for many centuries exceedingly 
popular in almost every country of Europe. It contains 
both Northern and Oriental elements, and varies in the 
most singular ways ; ' at one time a solemn and serious 
piece of mystical theosophy ; at another, a coarse but 
humorous parody ; at another (in the French), still 
further degraded.' The First-English or Anglo-Saxon 
is the earliest extant version of it, and ' is the only one 
in which it is solemnly and seriously treated.' 3 There 
is much that is figurative i'n it, much that is fantastic 
and exaggerated, much that sounds like mere rhapsody. 
In the first part the Paternoster is personified, with 
much embellishment of Eastern hyperbole, and in the 

1 Bede's De Domes Dage, 75-91 ; Early English Text Soc. 1876 : ' Ic 
Irere the thu beo hrseclra mid hreowlicum tearum.' 

2 Paraphrase on the Doxology, 11. 30-40, in id. : ' And nu symle thine 
sodhan weore.' 

3 Kemble's Introduction, p. 2. 



2o Religious Thought in 

dialogue Salomon, in answer to Saturn, descants upon 
its virtues. But the grave and strong religious feeling 
of our early forefathers in England has preserved it in a 
very remarkable manner from the course and flippant 
humour which often marked it on the Continent. The 
second part of the poem (our copy of which dates from 
the eleventh century) is a sort of general colloquy, in a 
series of riddling questions and answers, on theological 
and moral subjects, Scripture being greatly mixed up 
with allegory and legend. The following are a few lines 
picked from Salomon's encomium on the excellencies of 
the sacred Word : 

Golden the Word of God, and to man's soul 

Sweeter than milk and honey ! It can bring 
Him who hath strayed in shades of endless night 
Back by its blessed power into Christ's fold. 

It heals the lame, and to the blind gives sight, 
And to the deaf his hearing ; and the dumb 
Can praise the Lord again with unloosed tongue. 
The sinner finds a shelter ; and great God 
Himself makes dwelling in the Holy Word. 1 

In speaking of The Legend of St. Guthlac, reference 
was made to the idea of a man being encompassed in 
the time of temptation by unseen powers alike of good 
and evil. The thought seems to have deeply impressed 
itself upon the religion of the early English, for we find 
it again in this dialogue. The translation given is very 
literal : 

Quoth Salomon, .... 

' About him go 

Twain spirits : gladder one than brightest gold ; 
The other swarthier than the depths beneath. 
One cometh from the pains of steely hell ; 
The other teacheth him, that he hold love, 
His Maker's mercy, and his kinsmen's rede. 
Woe that the one should lead the man astray, 



1 The Dialogue of Salomon and Saturn, \ 73 ; ed. by J. M. Kemble 
for the ^ilfric Society, p. 138. 



Old English " Verse 2 1 

And draw him sinful to the worser side, 
To do the devil's will the whole day long ! 

Then going forth with tears, fares on his way 
The angel to his home, and sadly cries : 
" I could not from his heart drive out the stone, 
Which in its flinty weight cleaves to his soul !" ' * 

The following is a short quotation from the second 
part: 

Quoth Salomon, .... 

' A little while 

The leaf is green, then falloweth again, 
Falleth to earth, and turneth to its dust. 
E'en so shall fall they who work sin on earth, 
Who live in guilt, who hide their costly hoards, 
And guard them strongly in their fastnesses, 
Thereby to gladden fiends. Foolish, they ween 
That He the King of Heaven, Almighty God, 
Will hear them in their trouble, when they cry.' 2 

1 The Dialogue of Salomon and Saturn, 974-1007, p. 175 : 

Donne hine ymbegangath 

Gastas twegen ; other bith golde glsedra. 

2 Id. 625, p. 163. 



CHAPTER II 

THE TWELFTH AND THIRTEENTH CENTURIES 

IN all its most essential features the English language 
remained for a long period almost unaffected by the 
changes which followed at the Conquest. The vast 
mass of the people spoke under the Plantagenets the 
same tongue which their fathers had spoken under 
Edward the Confessor, and intermarriage between the 
two races who now lived side by side on English soil 
was so general, that English was doubtless the true 
mother-tongue of many a young heir to Norman baronies. 
But still, some few generations had to pass before either 
the English language or the English people emerged 
from the yoke under which each alike had fallen. The 
English Chronicle, not without many a wail of sorrow 
for the troubles which had fallen upon the land, con- 
tinued its old record. A few English homilies survive 
from the century that followed upon the Conquest. 
But otherwise the language of Egbert and of Alfred the 
Great, of Caedmon and of Cynewulf, was for the most 
part the spoken, but no longer the written language of 
the country. Clerks and learned men wrote in Latin. 
French was the tongue of the court and of law. Mean- 
while English was undergoing more rapidly than before 
the change which quickly affects any vernacular which 
is not guarded by literary men and grammarians. It 
was losing its inflexions, and being chipped and short- 
ened as it passed only from mouth to mouth. The 
great change by which the purity of the language was 
corrupted, and its powers enlarged was through a great 
influx of Norman. But French words were scarcely in 



Religious Thought in Old English Verse 2 3 

general operation until the latter part of the thirteenth 
century. Layamon's long poem of 56,000 lines, written 
in King John's reign, contained barely ninety words 
which were not of genuine English birth. 

The ' Proverbs of Alfred,' in the exact form in which 
they now survive to us, date from the time of Henry 
the Third. But the poem most likely belongs to the 
twelfth century, and may embody sayings which for 
some long time previous to that had been recited or 
sung by minstrels in many an English home. It is not 
supposed that the Witanagemote at Seaford is really 
historical, or that the sayings ascribed to King Alfred 
were all of them his. The English clung with tenacity 
to the memory of their noble-hearted ruler, and not 
only kept up a traditional memory of his teaching, but 
fathered upon him many wise sayings which, in the 
very same form, had long been a sort of common pro- 
perty of the Teutonic family, ascribed to Hendring or 
to any other venerated name. But whether the sub- 
joined words record a genuine tradition of Alfred or 
not, they are, at all events, worthy of him, and are 
inspirited by a very pure and high Christian sentiment. 
If they were composed in trie reign of Stephen, or in 
that of the first or second William, we can imagine with 
what pathetic yearning the English would turn from 
the miseries of their own time to the memory of days 
when they were free under their own heroic king : 

Alfred sate 

At Seaford, 'mongst his bishops, and his thanes, 
Proud earls, and knights, and his book-learned men, 

He, England's darling, comforter, and lord. 

Full strong was he, and lovesome. He was King 

And he was Clerk, and well he loved the word 

Of God. Ay, he was wise in all his words 

Wary in work : he was the wisest man 

On English ground. And thus he 'gan to teach 

How we might in the world worship attain, 
And bring our souls in one with Christ our King. 



24 Religious Thought in 

He spake, and bade us all dread Christ our Lord, 
Love Him, and please Him. He alone is good 
Above all goodness. He is wise, and He, 
Above all things of gladness, the one Bliss, 
The mildest Master, Father, Comforter 
Of all who love the one true Righteousness ; 
A King so rich in boon that none should lack 
Ought of His will, who in the world shall live 
Heedful of His high honour. 1 

Thus Alfred quoth : ' O son of mine, so dear, 
Sit thou beside me ; I will tell to thee 
True ways of life. O son of mine, I feel 
That my hue falloweth, my comeliness 
Grows wan, my strength is weak, my days on earth 
Are wellnigh o'er ; and soon we two must part. 
I must go hence ; but thou shalt tarry here 
In all my wealth. Hearken to what I say, 
Dear son, I charge thee. Be to all thy folk 
Father and fore-lord, father to the child, 
The widow's friend, the poor man's comforter, 
Shield of the weak. The wrong man bring to right 
With all thy strength, and guide thee, son, by law. 
So shall the Lord be with thee ; and, above all, 
First of all other thoughts, remember well 
Thy God, and pray that He may counsel thee 
In all thy deeds. So shall He be with thee, 
And help thee to do strongly all thy deeds.' 2 

It would have been interesting to have had some 
reminiscences in old English verse of the fervid emotions 
excited by the early Crusades, and also of that earnest 
revival of religion which stirred the hearts of the people 
in the days of Henry the First. A solemn and medi- 
tative strain of sacred poetry, as a mode of expressing 
deep religious feeling, had been quite in accord with 
the temperament of the English before the Conquest. 

1 The Proverbs of Alfred, 1-60 : 

Al Sevorde sete theynes monye, fele biscopes 

And feole bok-ilered, eorles prute, knyghtes egleche. 

- Id. xxx. 573-604 : 

Thus quad Alured : Sone min, swo leue, 
Site me nu bisides, and hich the wile sagen 
Sothe thewes. Sone min, ich fele, 
Thad min hew falewidth, and min wlite is wan. 



Old English Verse 2 5 

Doubtless, the same spirit remained. We can well 
believe that in the beginning of the twelfth century 
the religious movements of the day found expression 
in many a hymn sung in native English. But I am not 
aware that there are any English hymns now extant 
of the twelfth century, except a few verses written by 
St. Godric, a hermit of Finchall, near Durham, who 
died there in 1170. The good man himself thought 
highly of them, supposed that they had been put into 
his heart by special inspiration, and recommended 
them as a solace in pain, and strength in time of 
temptation. There is, however, nothing in the least 
degree worth quoting in the fragments of these hymns, 
collected by Ritson, in his Bibliographia Poetical 

The Ornmlum, as the author of it has called it from 
his own name, was written in unrhymed verse scarcely 
recognisable as verse, about the beginning of Henry 
the Second's reign, by Orm or Ormin, a canon-regular 
of St. Augustine. His aim was to put into simple 
English, adapted to recitation, the Gospel as read in 
the order of the Church, and to give a series of metrical 
homilies on their teaching. It had been the sugges- 
tion of his dear brother, Walter, who was one with 
him, he says, in brotherly love, one in baptism and 
faith, and one also in the canonical rule of life which 
both one and the other had adopted. To him he dedi- 
cated his completed work. Then, after some opening 
words : 

And for thee I have done it now, 

But all through Christ'es help. 
And now 'tis meet we both thank Christ 

That it is brought to end. 
I Ve gathered into this my book 

The gospels wellnigh all, 
Such as within the mass book are 

Through all the year at mass. 

1 One line from a petition to Saint Nicolas may be instanced as a pass- 
ing illustration of the northern English of that time : ' Tymbre us faire 
scone bus,' i.e. ' Build us a fair beautiful house.' 



26 Religious Thought in 

I have after the Gospel stood, 

That which the Gospel meaneth, 
That one should tell unto the folk 

Concerning their souls' need. 1 

And so he continues in the very simplest and homeliest 
strain, and with many repetitions, addressing himself 
in the most earnest sincerity of purpose to his untaught 
hearers : 

For all that e'er on earth is need 

For Christian folk to follow 
In faith, in deed they shall learn all 

In Gospel's holy lore. 
And, therefore, whoso learneth it, 

And doeth it indeed, 
He shall straightway be worthy held 

Saved through God to be. 
And, therefore, have I turned it 

Into the English speech ; 
For that I fain would have it so, 

That all our English folk 
With ear should listen unto it, 

With heart should it believe, 
With tongue should make its tidings known, 

With doing should fulfil it, 
And so should win 'neath Christendom, 

Through God, true soul-salvation ; 
And if that they will hearken it 

And follow it with deed, 
Then with Christ's aid I 've holpen them 

Shelter of Him to win. 
And I shall have, for this my toil, 

Good boon from God at last, 
If that I, for the love of God, 

And for the meed of heaven, 
Have turned it into English speech 

For their souls' weal and need. 2 

The following, on Luke vii., is a portion of his Gospel 
narrative : 

Augustus hight in olden time 
A Roman Kaiser-king, 

1 The Ormulum, ed. R. M. White ; Dedic. 25-36 : 
Ice itt hafe forthedd te, 

Ace all thurrh Cristess hellpe. 
- Id. 130, etc. : ' Forr al thatt refre own erthe iss ned.' 



Old English Verse 27 

And he had waxed Kaiser-king 

Of all man kin on earth ; 
And he 'gan thinking of himself 

And of his mickle wealth, 
And he began to think him thus 

So as the Gospel sayeth 
How that in sooth he well would know 

How much of fee would come 
If throughout all his kingdom, each 

A penny to him gave. 1 

To shepherds there, where they that night 

Were watching by their folds, 
That angel came, and stood them by 

With heaven's light and gleam. 
And forthwith as they looked on him, 

They were full sore afraid ; 
And God's bright angel then began 

To comfort and to cheer, 
And spoke them thus on God's behalf, 

With speech both sweet and mild : 
' Now be you not afeard of me 

But be ye very blithe, 
For I am sent from the high heaven 

To let ye ken God's will, 
To tell you, and all folk that be, 

Now cometh mickle bliss. 
To you is born this very day, 

For healing of your sins, 
A childling that is Jesus Christ, 

In full sooth know it ye ; 
And here hard by that child is born, 

E'en in King David's town, 
The town that highteth Bethlehem, 

Here on this Jewish ground. 
And further, I will show to you 

A thing for a true token : 
For soothly ye shall find the- child 

In winding clouts y-wounden. 
And He is in an ox-crib laid, 

And there 'tis ye may find him.' 
And soon anon as this was said 

By angel sent from God, 
A mickle crowd of angel throng 

Was come forth out of heaven. 



The Onnulum, 3270-80 : 

An Romanisshe Kaserrking 
Wass Augustuss gehatenn. 



28 Religioiis Thought in 

And all that shepherd folk them saw 

And heard what they did sing. 
They all did sing to God one song, 

In worship and in praise. 
And thus together did they sing 

'Tis as the Gospel sayeth 
'To God up in the Heaven's span 

Be worship praise and meed, 
And upon earth greeting and love, 

Through God's mild heartedness, 
To each man that shall have in him 

Good heart and aye good will.' 

I will give one more quotation from a more homiletic 
part of the discourse : 

Now mightest thou say here to me 

This word, if s'o befall : 
'To love both Go.d and also man 

Why should it -me beseem? 
It is enough that I love God, 

Whereby I may be saved.' 
Of this will I now show to thee 

That which I understand 
After such little wit whate'er 

My Lord hath lent to me. 
If that thou mightest love thy God, 

So as beliketh Him, 
Without that love of every man, 

Then mightest thou be saved 
Without that love of every man, 

Loving the Lord alone. 
But thou must this full truly know : 

It is not God's good will 
That either thou canst love Him much, 

Or gladly yield Him thrall, 
If that thou lovest not all men 

Like as thou lov'st thyself; 
And Christ thou dost not wholly love 

In all his twofold kind, 
If that thou hast not love for men 

Who share in Christ'es kind ; 
For Christ is God, and Christ is man, 

Both in His twofold kin. 



The Ormulum, 3337-84 : 

Till hirdess thcer thser thegg thatt nihht 
Biwoken theggre faldess. 



Old English Verse 29 

And if thou lovest right thy Lord, 

To men thou needs must show it. 
Meet 'tis that thou for love of God, 

Shouldst well love, mend, and help them. 1 

Nicholas de Guildford's Owl and Nightingale was 
written in Henry the Second's time. I quote from it a 
passage in which the nightingale is represented as de- 
scanting on sacred song in earth and heaven : 

' Owl, thou askest me,' she said, 

' Can I do any other deed 

Than sing throughout the summer's tide 

And scatter mirth both far and wide ? 

Why askest thou of crafts of mine ? 

Better my one than all of thine. 

Better from me one single lay . lW rr 

Than all that ever thou canst say. 

And I would tell thee' why it is : 

Know then, that man was born for this 

For blessedness of heaven above, 

Where there is song, and joy, and love. 

And thither presseth every man 

Who anything of goodness can. 

So there is song in holy kirk, 

And clerks begin their tuneful work, 

That men may think who hear the song, 

Whither they wend, and where belong, 

And holy mirth may not forget, 

But think thereof and reck of it, 

And, listening to the Churche's Steven, [voice] 

May deem how glad the bliss of heaven. 

And clerks they rise at mid of night 

And sing of yonder heaven's light ; 

And through the land the priests do sing, 

When that the light of day doth spring. 

And I help them all that I may, 

And sing with them both night and day ; 

And they through me be all the gladder, 

And to their song be all the radder (more willing) 

I warn all men unto their good, 

That they be blithe in heart and mood, 

1 The Onnnlum, 5150-80: 

Nu miht tu seygenn her to me 
Thiss word, giff thatt te thinnkethth. 



30 Religious Thought in 

And bid them seek the land on high 
Where song and joy shall be for aye.' x 

In John's reign, when Normandy was for the time 
lost to the Norman kings, and England was thrown 
back entirely upon herself, the English tongue, which 
for some time past had been gradually recovering its 
place as the language of the whole people, began more 
generally to assert itself again in literature. Then 
Layamon, priest of Ernley (Arley), on the banks of the 
Severn, wrote his chronicle in verse, in the last year or 
two of the twelfth century, or in the opening of the 
thirteenth. After much search and many travels, he 
got together the authorities for his projected work 
Bede in English, Albinus and Austin in Latin, and 
Wace's translation from Geoffrey of Monmouth in 
Norman-French, this latter being the one to which he 
was mainly indebted. With his three manuscripts 
before him, Layamon set to work. To use his own 
words : 

Then Layamon before him laid these books, 

And turned their leaves, and lovingly beheld them. 

(May the good Lord be gracious to his soul !) 

Then in his fingers took he up the quill, 

And so he wrote on book-skin, and true words 

He set together, gathering into one, 

Three books. And now thus prayeth Layamon : 

Each truly-hearted man who reads this book, 

And learns these lines; let him, for love of God, 

For his dear father's soul utter a prayer, 

And for his mother's soul who brought him forth 

To be a man ; and likewise let him pray 

For his own soul, that all may well befall him.- Amen. 

1 N. de Guildford's Owl and Nightingale, ed. Stratmann, 1868, 707- 
791: 

Ule, thu axest me, heo seide, 

Gif ich con eni other dede, 

Bute scingen in sume tide, 

And bringe blisse feor and wide. 

- Layamon 's Brut, or Chronicle of Britain; ed. Sir F. Madden; 3 
vols. 1847 : 

Layamon leide theos hoc, 

And tha leaf wende, 

Heom leofliche bi-heold. '. 45, vol. i. 3. 



Old English Verse 31 

In the course of his story, 1 Layamon never goes out 
of his way to moralise or make reflections, but when his 
subject naturally introduces anything directly connected 
with the history of religion in England, he describes it 
with evident zest and sympathy. The reader may be 
glad to have one or two nearly literal extracts. The 
first is where Arthur is told of the death of King 
Uther, and of his own succession to the British throne. 
The deputies found him in Brittany : 

Then said they, ' Hail, O Arthur, noblest knight ! 

When Uther must depart, he greeted thee, 

And bade thee, that in Britain rightful laws 

Thou hold, and help thy folk, and guard the realm, 

As good king should, and rid thee of thy foe, 

And drive him from the land. Likewise he prayed 

To the mild Son of God that thou do well, 

And hold thy land of God. So Uther died 

Uther Pendragon and thou art his son 

Arthur, and eke Aurelian is dead, 

Who was his brother.' Thus they 'gan to tell : 

But Arthur sat full still, and for one while 

Was faint, and wan of hue, and then anon 

Was red, as moved in heart ; then his full soul 

Outbroke, and what he spake was good. 

Thus spake he then Arthur, the noblest knight : 

' Lord Christ, Thou Son of God, O help us now, 

That I through life may hold God's holy laws !' 2 

The other passage I quote is the very familiar but 
ever interesting story of Gregory and the Angles : 

There was in Rome, by doom of God, a pope 
Right Gregory, a man well loved of God. 
It happed upon a time this pope would go 
Into a street, and, as he went, he saw 
Three very comely men of English birth, 
Fast bound, who should be sold, and even now 
The pence were told. Then asked the pope anon 
Who these fair men might be, and how they came, 

1 Layamon's long work is barely entitled to the name of a 'chronicle.' 
At the end of 32,241 lines he has not advanced beyond the old days of 
Athelstan. 

- Brut, 19,866, vol. ii. 412 : 

' Hail seo thu, Arthur, 
Athelest cnighten." 



32 Religious Thought in 

And whence they were, and in what land were born. 

Then answered one who was exceeding fair ; 

' Yea, we be heathen men, and hither led, 

Forth sold from land of Angles. Do thou free us, 

And we would ask for baptism.' Thus they spoke, 

These English, nobly born ; and Gregory, 

Beloved of God, felt pity, and he said, 

(For he was good of heart) ' I wis ye be 

Angles, to angels likest, for of all 

Upon this earth no kin is fair as ye ! ' 

Then the pope questioned them of many things, 

Their laws, their lands, and of their people's king ; 

And all they wist they told him. So when he 

Had given them baptism, and made them free, 

He turned to Rome, and beck'd a cardinal, 

A chosen clerk, and holy, called Austin. 

Then said the pope unto him, counselling : 

' Austin, thou needs must wend, with soothful thought, 

To England, to King Ethelbert, and preach 

God's gospel there, and thou shall speed thee well. 

I give thee forty right good clerks : but thou, 

See that to-morrow finds thee on thy way.' 1 

One of the early Scripture paraphrases is The Story 
of Genesis and Exodus, dating, in Mr. Morris's opinion, 
not later than 1250. The writer takes various salient 
incidents in the biblical accounts, and, like his fellow- 
writers of that period, does not scruple to mix them 
with fiction and legend. But there is interest in all 
these efforts made, a century or more before Wickliffe, 
to meet, in a popular form, the desire for some further 
knowledge of Scripture in a tongue which the people 
could understand. The following is the beginning of 
the prologue : 

Give love to him who rhymes a song, 
To teach with wit the unlearned throng, 
How they may heed with mindful look, 
Though they be learned in no book, 
To love their God and serve Him aye : 
He will requite them faithfully. 
Yea, all good and Christian men, 

1 Brut, 299,447, vol. iii. 180: 

Tha wes inne Rome a pape of Codes dome. 



Old English Verse 33 

Bearing peace and love between, 

Them Almighty God shall love 

Here below and there above ; 

Give them bliss and soul'es rest 

Which for evermore shall last. 

From Latin speech I draw my lay 

Into English, sooth to say. 

Christian folk who hear it may 

Be glad, as birds, to see the day, 

When to them the tale is sung, 

In easy words and mother tongue, 

Of bliss'es hill and sorrow's dale ; 

How Lucifer, that devil-dwale, [deceiver] 

Brought mankind to sin and bale, 

Held them shut in hellish mail, 

Till God, clad in our weed, 

To man forgiveness brought and rede, 

Undid whate'er the fiend would speed, 

And holp, when He saw mickle need. 

Father God of everything, 

Thou Lord Almighty, highest King, 

Whether that I read or sing, 

Give, I pray Thee, happy timing, 

Thee to praise in this my rhyming, 

Telling of the world's beginning. 1 

And so he begins the history of Creation, and how 
Satan, through pride and rebellion, 

Dragon became, who erst was knight, 
Darkness became, who erst was light ; 
And everything that held with him 
Murky became, and swart, and dim. 2 

Thus he tells of Jacob's dream 

At Luz he tarried out all night, 
A stone under his head set right, 
And slept, and saw in soothful dream 
From earth up unto heaven's beam 
A ladder stand, and thereupon 

1 The Story of Genesis and Exodus, 1-34, edited by R. Morris, 
E.E.T.S. No. 7: 

Man og to luven that rimes ren, 
The wisseth wel the logede men, 
Hu man may him wel loken, 
Thog he ne be lered on no boken. 

8 Id. 284 : ' Tho wurth he drake, that ear was knigt.' 

C 



34 Religious Thought in 

Angels down-coming and up-gone 
And the great God above on high 
Then Jacob roused, and speedily 
He heard Him speaking, ' God I am 
Of Isaac and of Abraham. 
This land I give unto thy seed, 
And in this wise I bid thee rede, 
That I will bring them here again 
Among all peoples blest amain.' 
Jacob awoke, and said in fear 
' God in this stead [place] is surely here, 
A place of dread is this, God's house, 
Here is the gate of heaven 'mongst us.' 1 

His story ends with some events recorded in the Book 
of Numbers, and so to the death of Moses. The con- 
cluding lines are : 

Beseech we now great God'es might, 
That He will make our soules bright, 
And shield us all from HelPes night, 
And lead us into gladsome light, 
Guide us to ways aloof from sin, 
At heaven's gate to enter in, 
And live in bliss with blessed men. 
With mouth and heart we say, Amen. 2 

Another favourite way of imparting religious instruction, 
in a form attractive to the common people, was to tell 
of the habits and properties, real or supposed, of certain 
animals, and then to allegorise them in a Christian sense. 
One of these so-called ' Bestiaries ' is supposed by Mr. 
Morris to be by the same author as the Genesis and 
Exodus just spoken of. It was written about the same 
date, 1250, and, like it, in the East Midland form of the 
language. Scraps from these curious compositions are 
often found in later writers. The natural history re- 
corded of the animals selected is of an astonishing kind, 
and the spiritual and moral applications often quaint 
and ingenious. Of the lion the characteristics specially 

1 The Story of Genesis and Exodus, 1603-20: 
He lay bi Luzan ut on nigt. 
A ston under hise heued rigt. 

a Id. 4155 : ' Biseke we nu godes migt.' 



Old English Verse 35 

dwelt upon are that he is accustomed to watch on 
a hill ; that when the hunter approaches he carefully 
erases his track by means of his tail ; that when the 
whelp is born it does not stir until the third day, when 
its sire calls aloud and wakes it ; and lastly, that the 
lion always sleeps with its eyes open. When these 
facts have all been turned into religious allegory, the 
parable passes on to the eagle, the serpent, and the ant. 
Of the latter it is said that 

As the ant shunneth barley, when she can store up wheat, 
So when we have the Gospel law, to shun the old law is meet. 1 

The following is from the Turtle-Dove. It is put in 
the original into more careful rhyme than most of the 
rest, perhaps as being intended to be sung : 

List every faithful man hereto : once at the Church'es gate, 
Think of it oft your soul did choose Lord Christ to be her mate. 
He is our soul's espoused ; O, love ye Him with might, 
And wend ye never from Him by daylight or by night. 
Though He from sight hath fared, yet be we to Him true ; 
When we have such an old love, why should we seek a new ? 
Believe we that He liveth aye, and up in heaven doth reign, 
And that from thence to judge the world on earth He comes 
again. 2 

I pass to some others of the religious poems of the 
thirteenth century collected by Dr. Morris in his Old 
English Miscellany. The Poema Morale may per- 
haps date from the first year or two of King John's 
reign. It embodies the solemn reflections of a man far 
advanced in years awaking to the shortcomings of his 
life, and anxious that the grave thoughts which come 
into his mind should warn and encourage others. It 
begins thus : 

A winter older than I was, I 'm older eke in lore ; 

My goods are greater than they were, my wit it should be more. 

1 A Bestiary, 291-94, E.E.T.S. No. 49 : 

The mire suneth the barlic, thanne ye fint te wete. 

2 Id. 714-29: 

List ilk lefful man her-to, and herof oft reche : 
Ure sowle atte kirke dure ches hire crist to meche. 



36 Religious Thought in 

Too long have I a child y-been in work, and eke in deed, 
And though my age be winter old, too young am I in rede. 
A life of little boon I 've led, and still, methinks, I lead ; 
And when I think me thereupon, full sorely do I dread. 
In childishness and idleness my life is wellnigh past : 
Too late have I bethought myself, unless God's kindness last. 
Many the idle word I Ve said ; sorely I speak the truth 
Many my headstrong deeds, whereof I 'm pinched now with ruth. 
Too often have I guilty been in work alike and word, 
Too mickle have I spent on self, too little laid in hoard : 
All that I liked best of old, that most mislikes me now ; 
For he who follows most his will, he cheats himself, I trow. 1 

Then he continues of the need of a man laying up for 
himself a treasure in heaven ; how no evil goes un- 
punished, no good unrequited, and how every one must 
go before his Lord and receive his wages according to 
his earnings. Each man shall be his own judge, and 
his own works will bear witness for or against him. 
Then comes a solemn and terrible picture of the doom 
of the wicked ; then of loving God with all our might 
and our neighbour as ourselves : 

For all that e'er we read or sing before God's holy board 
Holdeth and hangeth upon these the twain things of His Word. 
All law of God doth he fulfil, the new one and the old, 
Who hath within him there two loves, and will them well up- 
hold. 2 

I next quote from a poem on The Passion of Our 
Lord : 

Then came He toward Jerusalem upon a Palm Sunday, 
He had no princely robe of fur, He wore no robe of gray, 

[badger's fur] 

He had no steed to ride upon, He had no palefray, [palfrey] 
But meekly rode upon an ass, as I to you may say, 
And as He came into the burgh, thus riding as a King, 
Forth came the children unto Him, and sweetly they did sing, 

1 A Moral Ode, 1-14, in E.E.T.S. No. 49 : 

Ich am eldre than ich wes a winter and ek on lore, 
Ich welde more than ich dude, my wyt auhte beo more. 
Wei longe ich habbe child ibeo a werke and eke on dede 
Thuh ich beo of wynter old, to yong ich am on rede. 

2 Id. 305-8 : 

Al that me redeth and syngeth bivoren godes borde 
Al hit hongeth and hald bi thisse twain worde. 



Old English Verse 37 

'Yea, blessed must He be,' said they, 'that cometh in God's name,' 
Which filled the Jews and Pharisees with anger and with grame 

[malice]. 1 

From Sinner Beware! I extract one verse mainly to 
exemplify the metre : 

Naked, forsooth, and bare, 
With weeping and with care, 

We did begin to live, 
So from hence shall we fare, 
And all our boasting there 

In the grave lay and leave. 2 

In the poem On Serving Christ, the two first lines 
are: 

Why serve we not the Christ ? his health why want ? 
We who were christened at the holy font. 3 

The verses hitherto quoted from this collection of 
thirteenth century composition have been by unknown 
authors. But next comes a sort of divine love-song 
written by Thomas Hales, a Minorite friar, for a certain 
maiden who had dedicated herself to God. I quote a 
couple of stanzas from it : 

Sweet are the ways, if ye but knew, 

And goodly, of the Heavenly Child. 
Full fair is He, and bright of hue, 

His cheer is glad, His mood is mild, 
Lovesome His heart, trusty and true, 

Free heart, a soul with wisdom filled. 
Never, believe me, would ye rue, 

If ye to Him true worship yield. 

1 The Passion of Our Lord, 64-72, E. E.T. S. No. 49 : 

Tho he com toward ierusalem a palme sune-day 
Ne heclde he none robe of fowe ne of gray. 

2 Sinner Beware, 212-6 : 

Sothliche nakede and bare, 
With wope and with care, 

We come to thisse lyue. 
Al so we schule fare, 
And all ure prude thare 

Vor-leten and bileuen. 

3 On Serving Christ, 1-2 : 

Hwi ne serue we Crist and secheth his sauht, 
Seoththe vs wes at the font fulluht by-tauht. 



38 Religious Thought in 

Richest is He in all the land, 

Far as man speaketh with the mouth ; 
He bendeth all into His hand, 

In East and West, in North and South. 
Henry, the king of broad England, 

Holdeth of Him, and to Him boweth, 
Maiden, He bids thee understand 

That He would have thy willing troth. 1 

The next quotation is from an Orison of Our Lord : 

Thee, Jesu Christ Thee, Lord, I greet, 
Thee who wert born of maiden sweet. 
Thou underwentest all our woe, 
But without sin, right well we know. 
Thou, e'en as we, didst walk and speak ; 
Thou didst bear thirst and hunger eke. 
Buxom [obedient] wert Thou, and poor, I wis, 
A Master true, and nought amiss. 

Jesu, I greet Thee, Saviour mine, 
Thee, who for us didst suffer pain ; 
And wondrously by watch and fast 
For us Thy fair, dear limbs didst waste. 
That we do good, and evil leave 
Right good fore-teaching Thou didst give. 
No greater love than this may be, 
Than to bear death, us men to free. 2 

And so the poem continues with the last sufferings of 
our Lord. Another Song on the Passion bears more 
evident traces of the Romance, as it was being intro- 
duced from France, both in its tone and in the character 
of its versification. It begins with these verses : 

Summer is come and winter gone, 
Groweth the day both fair and long, 

And now the birdes every one 

Gladden themselves with merry song. 

1 A Luve Ron, 90-104, in E.E.T.S. No. 49. 
A swete, if thu iknowe, 

The gode thewes of thisse childe, 
He is feyr, and bright on heowe, 

Of glede chere, of mode mylde. 

An Orison of Our Lord, 1 1-25. 

Jhesuc ich the grete, as ich er seyde, 

Thu were ibore, louerd, of the swete mayde. 



Old English Verse 39 

Yet with care my heart is bound 
All amidst the joy that 's found 

In the land. 
All for a Child 
That is so mild 
In hand. 

Tender is He, in sooth, and good, 

And great in heart, and wise in thought, 
And far o'er brake, and bank, and wood, 
Long while in love He sought me out. 

And, behold, He hath found me 
. For the apple of a tree 

Y-bound. 

He brake the thong 

That was so strong 

With His wound. 

Jesu is that Childes name, 

And King He is in every land ; 
Yet of that King did they make game, 
And smote Him with a ruthless hand : 
They hung Him on the cruel tree, 
They gave Him woundes two and three. 

Yea, all 

Mocking looked up 
And gave the cup 
Of gall. 1 

From The Diity of Christians : 

There is day withouten night ; 

And there no heart shall sigh. 
There is peace withouten fright, 

In that realm heavenly. 
There is truth without unright, 

Ever and equally : 
All be alike, both churl and knight, 

Both rich and poor on high. 2 

Here are six lines on the world-old mystery of human 
life. It is entitled Three Sorrowful Tidings : 

Each day come to me tidings three ; 
And to my heart full sore they be : 

1 A Song on the Passion, 1-20, 30-39, in E. E.T. S. No. 49: 
Somer is comen and winter gon, 
This day beginning to longe. 

8 The Duty of Christians, 1-8, 72-80. 



4O Religious Thought in 

This irks me first, that I must go; 
This next, that ' when ' I cannot know ; 
But third there comes my foremost care : 
I know not ' whittle r ' I shall fare. 1 

I conclude my renderings from this collection of thir- 
teenth century verses with a rather amusing extract. 
It is from a piece entitled A Lutel Soth Sermun. It 
begins : 

Hearken to me ye good folk all 

And sit ye still adown. 
Listen, and I will tell to you 

A little Sooth Sermoun. 

Then, after a short preface about the fall of man and 
about the redemption by Christ, he first pronounces his 
warnings against the graver sins of violence and theft ; 
then he speaks against petty cheating in trade, chap- 
men who use short measures, bakers who palrn off on 
the poor bad bread, and brewers who brew bad ale. 
Then, in a lighter strain, of the lads and froward lasses 
who thought of their lovers more than of their prayer- 
books : 

Each one, when to Church he comes, 

On a holy day, 
Fain is he his love to see, 

If perchance he may. 
She beholdeth Walter-kin 

Glad with merry eye ; 
At home her Pater Noster is 

Locked up in her tie [chest]. 
Masses she and Matins 

Reckoneth for nought, 
Williekin or Wattiekin 

Be in all her thought. 
Robin carries Gillot dear 

With him to the ale ; 
There they two together sit, 

Sit, and tell their tale. 
He will quit her reckoning : 

Ever 'tis the same 

^ Three Sorrowful Tidings : 

Vyche day me cumeth tydinges threo, 
For wel swithe sore beoth heo. 



Old English Verse 4 1 

Evening she must go with him : 

Pincheth her no shame. 
Threaten father, threaten dame, 

That they her will beat. 
Robin she will not forego, 

Not for all their threat. 1 

And so the heedless girl comes to sorrow ; and the 
homilist again changes his tone, and beseeches the 
people that for God's love they will forsake their sins, 
and tread in the way to heaven. 

Stories of martyrs have always been to the popular 
mind a fascinating part of Christian literature. This 
taste was abundantly provided for in the lives of saints. 
The sufferings of St. Juliana are told in one of the 
manuscripts which survive from Anglo-Saxon times. 
Among the different versions of St. Margaret, Maiden 
and Martyr, the earliest, transcribed about 1230, ap- 
pears to have been composed in English about the 
middle of the twelfth century, and is therefore particu- 
larly interesting to students of early English. The 
torments to which the virgin was subjected by the 
tyrant Olybrius are told in a vivid narrative, doubtless 
all the more attractive by being so highly coloured. 
I quote from one of the prayers put into the mouth of 
the martyr. It is in alliterative verse : 

Dark are Thy dooms, dear Lord, but doughty all ; 

Both heaven and earth to Thee do bow and bend, 

For hope Thou art and help to all that hear Thee. 

Foster and father Thou to helpless bairns, 

The weal of wedded men, the widow's warrant, 

The meed of maidens, the world's winsomeness. 

O Jesu Christ, King-born, kindled of God, 

As light of learn (gleam), look, Lord, my Life, upon me ; 

1 A LutdSoth Serniun, 61-84, in E.E.T.S. No. 49 : 
Hwenne heo to chirche cumeth 

to thon holy daye, 
Euersych wile his leof iseo 

ther yef he may. 
Heo biholdeth Watekin 

mid sweth gled eye 
Atom his hire pater noster, 

biloken in hire teye. 






42 Religious Thought in 

Be mild to me, Thy Maiden ; for my father 
Drove me his only daughter from his door, 
And friends are foemen for thy love, O Lord ; 
But Thee I have, High Healer, Father, Friend. 1 

The following are some lines on Christ's Crucifixion, 
taken from, or suggested by a meditation of St. Augus- 
tine. The manuscript was given to the Durham Library 
by their prior between 1240 and 1258 : 

White was His hallowed breast, 

And red with blood his side ; 
Wan was His comely face ; 

His wound was deep and wide. 

Stiff were His outstretched arms, 

High spread upon the rood, 
And from five piteous wounds 

The streams ran down in blood. 2 

The lines next quoted come from a thirteenth cen- 
tury poem on the Assumption, taken most likely from 
the Latin : 

When Jesu Christ was slain on rood, 

And bore to die for our good, 

Then called He unto Him St. John ! 

Who was to Him his own kinsman, 

And His own mother called He too, 

And other none beside these two. 

Then said He, ' Woman, lo, thy child ! 

Here on the Cross this blood is spilled. 

Now am I hanged on this tree, 

And well, I wot, it reweth thee. 

My feet and hands with blood are red, 

And without guilt I bear this ded (death). 

My people who ought me to love, 

For whom I came from heaven above, 

My own, have put me thus to shame. 

I have no guilt ; theirs is the blame. 

I ask my Father for this boon, 

That He forgive it them full soon. 3 

1 Seinte Marherete, ed. by O. Cockayne ; E.E.T.S. No. 13 : 
Deorewurdhe drightin, thah thine domes derne beon, alle ha beodh duhti 
Alle heouenliche thing ant eordliche badhe buhedh the ant beiedh. 

2 Poems, etc., of Thirteenth Century, ed. by Furnivall, E.E.T.S. 
No. 15 : ' Wyth was his halude brest.' 

3 The Assuinpcioim, ed. by R. Lumby for E.E.T.S. No. 14: 'Whan 
Jhesu Crist was done on rode.' 



Old English Verse 43 

Three hymns dating from the earlier part of the 
thirteenth century are appended by Dr. Morris to some 
Early English homilies. The Hymn to God is by 
no means wanting in sublimity of thought. I quote 
the first four verses. The succeeding verses are mainly 
an amplification of the Lord's Prayer : 

Well it behoveth for to speak, to counsel, and to sing 

Of Him whom none may lightly reck, great King of every king ; 

For He may bind, and He may break, and He to bliss may 

bring, 
Lock and unbar at will, mighty o'er everything. 

Father of men, heaven's Lord, health, comfort, and delight ! 
The things that are and were all things are in Thy sight : 
To day thou giv'st the sun, the moon unto the night : 
Thy strength may no man tell, no man may tell Thy might ! 

Thy holy name be hallowed in heaven and in earth. 
Thou wroughtest fire, wind, water, and, for fourth, 
That of which men are made, the mould of holy earth. 

draw us nearer to Thee, Thou God that know'st our birth ! 

Father and Son, and Holy Ghost, one God in three-foldness, 
Thou hast no lack nor least ; Thou hast all holiness ! 
Well dost Thou wot, O God, our need, our helplessness ; 
But in Thy hand is might ; O look on us, and bless ? l 

A Hymn to Our Saviour is one in a collection of 
sacred and secular poems of Edward the First's reign : 

Ah, sweetest Jesu, King of bliss, 

Thou my heart's love, Thou my heart's ease, 

Jesu, Thy sweetness well I wis ; 

'Tis woe to him who Thee shall miss ! 

Ah, sweetest Jesu, my heart's light, 
In Thee is day, in Thee no night ; 
O give me strength, and give me might, 
That I may love Thee, Lord, aright ! 

Jesu, in Thee my heart finds boot : 
Within my heart O set the root 
Of Thy dear love, that is so swote ; [sweet] 
And blest by Thee forth may it shoot. 

1 Old English Homilies of the Twelfth Century : with Appendix, ed. 
by Rev, R. Morris; E.E.T.S. No. 53 : 'Hit bilimpeth forto speke, to 
reden, and to singe.' 



44 Religious Thought in 

O sweetest Jesu, my heart's gleam, 
And brighter than the bright sunbeam, 
Thou, who wast born in Bethlehem, 
Art music to my soul, I deem. 

Ah, sweetest Jesu, Lord of mine, 
My life, my heart, and all is Thine. 
Unlock my heart, set light therein 
And guard me from the tempter's tine. 

O sweetest Jesu, my soul's food, 

Sweet are Thy works, dear Lord, and good 

Thou boughtest me upon the rood ; 

For me Thou sheddest Thy heart's blood ! 

Sweet Jesu, it doth rue me sore 
The guilt that I have wrought of yore : 
Thy grace, Thy mercy, on me pour. 
Ah, Lord, I fain would sin no more. 

Jesu, well to him shall be 

Who in the bliss Thy face shall see ! 
If but Thy angels come for me 

1 seek not here for game or glee. 

Ah, sweetest Jesu, heaven's King, 
Fairest and best of every thing, 
O speed me well in my longing, 
And come to me at my ending. 1 

The following is the first verse of another hymn in the 
same collection : 

Little doth any man take heed, 

How straitly he is bound 
By Love that on the rood did bleed, 
And bought us with His wound. 
The love of Him hath made us sound, 
And cast the grisly ghost to ground. 

Ever and aye, both night and day, He beareth us in thought, 
He would not lightly lose what He so dear hath bought. 2 

1 Specimens of Lyric Poetry of the Reign of Edward I. , ed. by Th. Wright. 
Percy Society, vol. iv. No. xviii : 

Suete Jhesu, King of blysse 
Myn huerte love, min huerte lisse. 

2 Id, No. xl. : ' Lutel wot hit any mon.' 



Old English Verse 45 

The Cursor Mundi, or Course of the World, is a 
work of something the same character as the Ormulum. 
The four existing manuscripts of it as a whole are of 
various dates in the fourteenth century, but there is a 
copy of parts of it which is supposed to have been made 
about 1300. It was written originally in Norman- 
French, and was evidently translated into our own 
tongue by one who lived at a time when the line 
between Englishman and Norman and English and 
Norman-French was still tolerably strongly marked. 
There is something almost defiant in the loving tone 
with which he dwells upon the name of Englishman. 
Let, he says, the ' frankis-man ' the Frenchman have 
what is most profitable to him. But no Englishmen 
can understand it ; let them have what they can take 
in. Wherefore, he continues, I translate this book 

In to Inglis tong to rede, 

For the love of Inglis lede [people] 

Inglis lede of England. 1 

He writes with an earnest hope that the book may 
arrest the attention of those who have been living heed- 
lessly and for the world : 

And to those folk I speak the maist 

Who dwell in unwork and in waste, 

In trifling and in trewantise {"""SSS^T 

Jesu to me His good grace send 

That what I write may them amend. 2 

The Courier of the World carries its reader through 
the chief events the ' gestes principale ' of the Bible 
from beginning to end, not without many imaginary or 
legendary additions ; and, looking forward to the future 
of the world, descants of the coming of Anti-Christ, and 
of the Day of Judgment. It is written with much 
vigour, and was deservedly popular. The Bodleian 
manuscript is prefaced with the heading that ' This is in 

1 Cursor Mundt, 233, in E.E.T.S. ed. Morris. 

2 Id. 251 : ' And to thoo speke i alther-mast.' 



: 



46 Religious Thought in 

the best boke of alle : The Cours of the Werlde men 
dos hit calle.' The Trinity College (Cambridge) MS. 
calls it ' The boke of storyes that men callen Cursor 
Mundi.' It is quite possible that even in our own time 
a well-written series of Bible stories, not written for 
children, but easily and graphically told in simple verse, 
might still be in considerable demand. 

The following are some lines from the Story of the 
Flood'. 

When all was wrought, there was no bide ; 
The storms uprose on every side ; 
Sun and moon their beams must hide 
Murky was all this world so wide. 
The rain it fell full fierce and fast ; 
The burns o'erran ; the banks were burst ; 
The sea it rose ; the earth it clove ; 
The springs o'er all the world outdrove. 
Lightning with thunder fell and rain, 
The whole earth quaked and dinned again. 
Sun and moon had lost their light, 
All this world was turned to night. 
Men saw the woe with fear and awe ; 
Their cities fell both high and low. 
The water waxed o'er all the plains ; 
The beasts ran up to the mountains. 
Men and women went them with, 
Well they weaned to win them grith [peace]. 
But all for nought they toiled afoot, 
When they came there, it was no boot. 1 

The following is of St. Stephen's martyrdom : 

While they him with stoning quelled, 

Up to heaven his hand he held : 

Upon his knees he down him set, 

With prayer of price his Lord he greet. 

'Good Lord !' he said, 'to Thee, Jesu, 

Yield I my ghost, receive it now. 

Lord, these men forgive their plight, 

For of a sooth have they no sight.' 

With this his hallowed ghost he yold [yielded] 

To Jesu, that for him was sold. 2 



1 Cursor Mundi, 1761 : ' Quen al yras tift, was thar na bide.' 

2 Id. 11. 19,467-76, E. E. T. S. : ' Quils thai him with staning queld.' 



Old English Verse 47 

I also give a specimen of the practical teaching given 
in the book : 

Therefore this life he hath us lent 

To serve Him aye with our intent, 

To hold aye well His commandment ; 

If we do miss, do mendement. 

Ordained to travail is this life, 

Against our foes therein to strive. 

The flesh, the world, and the foul fiend 

Bounden are we to ward and fend. 

The flesh to ill lusts leadeth us ; 

Spiteful the world and covetous ; 

The fiend is fell with wrath and pride. 

These war with us on every side : 

These three then we must well forth drive 

If we would truly lead our life, 

For both may quell them man and wife [woman] 

That stalwartly against them strive. 

And if we stoutly will us steer, 

Christ'es good help shall be us near 

His help, and our own wisdom eke, 

If we will truly Him beseech. 

If we will use on them our might, 

They certes will be felled in fight. 1 

Robert of Gloucester's rhymed Chronicle was written 
in the thirteenth century. He speaks, for instance, of 
the great darkness of the day of the battle of Evesham 
in 1265. It is thought that he lived at Oxford, ap- 
pointed by the directors of the great abbey at Glou- 
cester to take charge at the University of the youths 
who had been trained by them. I will give an extract 
from his work in illustration of the First Crusade. He 
has been speaking of the famine and pestilence which 
worked ravage among the Crusaders in 1098 : 

Then many a one of hunger died ; how might the woe be more ? 
And amid all the Christian host was sorrow great and sore. 
No sort of hope was left to them of better time to come : 
They had not strength to carry arms, and so were overcome. 
At last our sweet Lord thought in mercy of that death : 
He came unto a holy man, and to him this word saith : 

1 Cursor Mundi, 23,741-63 : ' Forthi this lijf he has us lent.' 



48 Religioiis Thought in 

' Go, say unto the Christian men, those of the western land 

Aforetime led I them with love, and with a gentle hand ; 

I made them win the town of Nice, that great and strong city, 

And many another battle more, the while they served me. 

Yet though I did all this for them, faithless from me they 'wend ; 

In sin and lust most woefully they do their deeds of shame 

With paynims of a heathen land, mindless of my great name. 

The savour of their evil deeds has risen to heaven on high.' 

The good man fell at the Lord's feet in all humility. 

' O, if it be Thy will,' he said, 'good Lord, in this our need 

Help them e'en now, and still forgive their foul and sinful deed.' 

' Yea, I have helped them,' said the Lord, ' aforetime, well I wis, 

And I will help in time to come. But go, and bid them this, 

That they do turn again to Me ; so will I without fail, 

Even in these five days to come, be with them in battail.' 

Mark ye from this how e'en a few, by sin of lechery, 

May take away the grace of God from all their company. 

And then the holy man went forth, and told to every one 

That grace again was won to them, and wherefore grace had gone. 

So when they heard that grace was given, surely great joy was 

there ; 

And for three days were orisons, fasting, and solemn prayer. 
Yea, there were many masses, many processions made, 
And then with great devotion were many confessions said. 
And when each one had owned his sin with great devotioun, 
Then weeping put he on his mail, the while his tears ran down. 
In seven parts were ranged the host under knights brave and true. 
The Earl of Flanders led the first, and the great earl, Sir Hugh. 
Duke Godfrey ruled the next, and Earl Baldwin also ; 
Robert Courthose the third, as none could better do ; 
He was best knight of all, his peer you might not see. 
The Bishop next of Padua led the fourth company. 
Sir William de Montpellier in the fifth led the right, 
Sir Richard de Pruyce, and Tancred the good knight. 
The sixth the Earl of Rasquele, and with him Earl Beaumont. 
To these the government was given ; and after this was done, 
In honour of the Holy Ghost, a seventh then made they, 
And named Sir Raymond chief. Such was the whole array. 
Sir Raymond with good company kept stalwart watch behind, 
That if the men should suffer need, here they might refuge find. 
When all was ready as they would, they blest themselves each one, 
And asked God's grace, and so to battle went anon. 
There was great calling upon God, and many a weeping eye, 
Of them that tarried from the field, but might the fray descry, 
Of bishops who were there, and priests, men of religioun. 
And thereupon the clerkly men, with good devotioun, 
In seemly robes within the church 'gan unto God to cry, 
With tears, and with processions, and sang their litany 



Old English Verse 49 

And such like fitting orisons, praying to God for all ; 
And for to see the battle stood upon the high town wall.' J 

The early romances, prose and metrical, have very 
commonly a strain of religious thought inwoven in their 
fabric. The two earliest, both of them thoroughly 
English in character, are King Horn, and Havelok 
the Dane. King Horn, taken apparently from an old 
English lay, was written in French by Waldef, in the 
reign of Richard I. The earliest English manuscript 
of it dates from the latter half of the thirteenth century. 
The old English lay must have had its origin at a time 
when the terrible irruptions of the heathen Danes were 
yet more or less fresh in memory. But when the 
French version was made, the mind of Europe was in 
the full ferment of the Crusades ; and so the Pagans, 
who had doubtless been Danes in the original story, 
were converted into Saracens. The tale begins with 
an account of an invasion of these heathens into the 
land of King Murry, father of Horn. 

The Pagans came to land, 
And took it in their hand ; 
The folk they gan to quell, 
The churches they did fell. 2 

The king was slain, and Horn fell into the hands of 
the heathens. The queen, Godhild, fled. 

She went out of hall 

From her maidens all. 

Under a rock of stone , 

There she lived alone, 

There she served God, 

Against Pagan forbode [prohibition] : 

There she served Christ, 

Though no paynim wist, 

Ever she prayed for her child 

That Jesu Christ be to him mild. 

1 Robert of 'Gloucester 's Chronicle, z vols., ed. by T. Hearne, 1724 : 

Vor honger deyde monyon, hou mygte be more wo ? 
Muche was the sorwe, that among hem was tho. p. 404-6. 

2 King Horn, 1. 59 ; ed. by R. Lumby, E.E.T.S. No. 14 : 

The pains come to londe, 
And neme hit in here honde. 
D 



50 Religious Thought in 

Horn was in Pagan hand 
With the people of the land : 
Mickle was he fair in face ; 
Christ had made him so by grace. 1 

When Horn had conquered the Saracens, his first 
work was to rebuild the ruined churches. 

Horn let work, [caused to be built] 
Chapell and kirk, 
He let bells ring 
And masses sing. a 

At the end Horn and his queen Rymenhild came 
back to their land, and lived there and died amid the 
love of their people ; and the poem concludes with a 
Christianly aspiration : 

Now be they both dead, 
Christ to heaven them lead. 
Here ends the tale of Horn. 

Christ, that is heaven the King, 

Send us all His sweet blessing. Amen. 3 

Havelok the Dane is likewise of English origin, 
recovered into English from the French about 1280 A.D. 
The story of it is laid at Grimsby in Lincolnshire, pro- 
bably in the times of Ethelbert of Kent and Edwin of 
Northumbria. In the beginning there is a due reminder 
of Christian faith and duty : 

Christ make us ever so for to do 
That we may all come Him unto, 
And may He will it may be so ! 
Benedicamus Domino ! 4 

1 King Horn, \. 71, ed. by R. Lumby, E.E.T.S. No. 14 : 

He wenten ut of halle 

From hire maidenes alle. 
* M. 1379: 

Horn let wurche. 

3 Id. 1523 : 

Nu ben hi bothe dede. 

4 The Lay of Havelok the Dane, 1. 17-21, ed. by W. W. Skeat, for 
E.E.T.S. No. 4 (extra series). 

Krist, late us hevere so for to do, 
That we moten comen him to. 



Old English Verse 51 

It begins with telling of the good king Athelwold, 
who was loved by old and young, earl and baron, knight 
and bondsman, widows, maidens, priests and clerks, and 
all for his good works : 

He loved God with all his might, 

And holy Church, and sooth and right. 1 

The portion surviving of the story of Floriz and 
Blauncheflur, is, in its English form as taken from the 
French, of about the same date as Horn and Havelok. 
It ends with the lines, evidently a sort of pious formula 
proper to end a romance of any sort : 

After sorrow cometh bliss : 
Pray we that God grant us this, 
That we all may love Him so 
That we may to heaven go. Amen. 2 

Tennyson has so far familiarised to our age the general 
subject of Arthurian romance, that no readers are un- 
aware of the spiritual and religious element which per- 
vades it. We should indeed carry away a very mistaken 
idea of it, if we transferred to its original authors all the 
delicate idealism and mystic charm which are due in 
great measure to the conception of the modern poet. 
But the mystical and ideal element and the lofty spiritual 
tone were more or less present in it very early. Scarcely, 
however, from the first. In the fragmentary romance, 
Arthur, which is a sort of abstract, early in the fifteenth 
century, of the far earlier version by Geoffrey of Mon- 
mouth, written by him about the middle of the twelfth 
century, there is quite a religious tone, but it is of the 
simplest kind. ' The story is just that of a British king, 
founding the Round Table,conquering Scotland, Ireland, 
Gothland, and divers parts of France, killing a giant 
from Spain, beating Lucius, the Emperor of Rome, and 

1 The Lay of Havelok the Dane, 35 : 

He lovede gode with all his micht. 

2 Floriz and Blauncheflur, 1. 820, ed. Lumby, E.E.T.S. No. 14: 

. . After bale cometh bote 
God leve that us so mote. 



52 Religious Thought in 

returning home to lose his own life after the battle in 
which the traitor whom he had trusted, and who had 
seized his queen and his land, was slain.' 1 At intervals 
the teller of the story pauses, and calls upon his hearers 
to say a short prayer : 

Now rest ye all with me, 
And say a ' Pater' and ' Ave,'- 

or other words to a similar effect. The following is an 
extract from the story itself. Arthur had just received 
intelligence that ' the Emperor with his host were coming 
fast in great boast,' covering the land, in number four 
hundred thousand, a hundred and four and twenty, 
gathered to him of Christian and of Saracen, purposing, 
' with all his wit and labour,' to destroy the British king. 

With th' emperor, kings many a one 

And all their power, whole and some, 

Stronger men might no man see, 

As full of dread as they might be. 

But Arthur, he was not dismayed ; 

He trusted God and was well paid [satisfied], 

And prayed to the high Trinity 

Ever his help and stay to be ; 

And all his men with single voice 

Cried unto God with hearty noise : 

' Father in heaven, Thy will be done ; 

Defend Thy people from their foe'n, 

And let not godless heathen men 

Destroy Thy people Christian ; 

Have mercy on Thy servants' land, 

And keep them from the heathen's hand. 

The muckelness of man sans fail 

Giveth not victory in battail, 

But as Thy will in heaven is 

So falleth victory, we wis.' 3 

Such stories of Arthur had probably been a subject 
for Welsh and Breton lays for centuries. But the 

1 Arthur, ed. by F. J. Furnivall, E.E.T.S. No. 2. 

2 Id. 1. 189 : 

Now resteth alle wijth me. 

3 Id. \. 423 : 

Wyth the Emperour come kynges many oon 
And alle theire power hoolle and soome. 



Old English Verse 53 

regular cycle of Arthurian romance begins a little later 
than Geoffrey of Monmouth, with Walter de Map, the 
able, witty, and high-minded chaplain of Henry II. It 
was he who introduced into the old legend an ideal of 
holy purity in Sir Galahad, and the mystic story of 
the Holy Graal, which was once with the Knights of 
the Round Table a warrant of honour and peace in 
England, but which disappeared when men became 
sinful. There is no doubt that sight of the Graal 
means, in purpose, that 'the pure in heart shall see 
God.' ! 

Joseph of Arimathea, or The Romance of the San 
Graal, comes first. The English poem dates from 
about 1350, and follows in the main the French of 
Robert de Borron, written in prose before 1209. The 
original is supposed to have been written by Walter 
de Map about 1170, the general groundwork of the 
story, then entirely disconnected with Britain, being the 
so-called ' Gospel of Nicodemus.' The following is an 
extract from the commission which Joseph, after a forty 
years' captivity, was supposed to have received from 
Christ to preach the Gospel in the furthermost parts of 
the earth : 

' Walk, Joseph, in the world, and preach abroad my words 

Unto the proudest men ; and some of them will hear. 

And though men speak to thee with menace and with threat, 

Be thou no whit afraid, for thee they shall not harm.' 

' Lord, I was never clerk ; what if I should not know ? ' 

' Yea, loose thy lips atwain, and let the spirit work : 

Speech, grace, and voice shall spring forth from thy tongue, 

And wholly and at once all to thy lips shall come. 5 

So he sets forth afoot ; he takes the Holy Blood, 

And in the Father's name straightway he forthward wends. 2 

It is in this romance that we have the red cross of 
England accounted for, the old crusading device of the 
Knight Templars. Joseph is here described as making 

1 Cf. Morley's English Writers, iii. 134. 

2 Joseph of Arimathea, or The Romance of the San Graal, ed. by 
W. VV. Skeat for E.E.T.S. No. 44: 'And, Joseph, walk in the world 
and preche myne wordes.' 



54 Religious Thought in 

the red cross for the shield of Evelak, king of Sarras, 
when he was going out to war : 

Then Joseph took the shield, and shaped amidst of it 
A cross of ruddy cloth, and bade him thereupon, 
When stress and peril be at worst, to pray to Christ. 
For, verily, no man who gazes on that cross 
Shall fail to meet that day with safety in distress. 1 

The white ground of the shield was held to denote 
chastity, the red cross, martyrdom. It was a continua- 
tion of the legend that Sir Galahad found the shield at 
Avelon or Glastonbury, and that he died at Sarras, after 
commissioning Sir Percival to carry his heart to Arthur 
to be buried at Glastonbury, by the side of Evelak and 
Joseph. The Crusading element is visible throughout 
this story ; for Sarras was accounted the representative 
town of the Saracens, who were supposed to have 
received Christianity from Joseph of Arimathea, and 
afterwards to have become renegades to the faith. 2 

Merlin the Enchanter* was also originally by 
Walter de Map. In its English form it is a prose 
romance, with a marked religious tone running through 
it. It begins with several pages about the fall of man, 
and our Saviour's redeeming love. In it the story of 
the Holy Graal is recounted by Merlin to Uter Pen- 
dragon. It tells also how the void place at the Round 
Table, representing the vacant apostleship, should be 
filled again by one who was shortly to come that is to 
say, by King Arthur. 

Sir Launcelot, in its English form, was taken early 
in the sixteenth century from the French ; but the 
French, in all probability, from the Latin of Walter de 
Map. That religious feeling enters largely into this 
poem may be shown by the mere fact that more than 
800 lines of it are a sort of homily addressed by 
Amytans, ' the Master,' to Arthur, when the king was 

1 Joseph of Atimathea, 1. 445 : ' Josephe takes hys scheld, and schapes 
a-middes.' 

2 Skeat's Preface to Joseph of Arimathea, p. xliv. 

3 E.E.T.S. series, Nos. 10, 21, 36. 



Old English Verse 55 

disturbed by the threats of the mighty King Galiol. I 
quote a few lines : 

He made thee king, He made thee governour 
He made thee this and set in high honour. 

First, the beginning is of sapience, 
To dread the Lord and His magnificence ; 
And what thou hast perversely Him offended, 
While thou hast power, of free desire amend it. 1 

The virtue and the strength of victory, 
It cometh not of man ; it comes only 
Of Him in whom all power is : if He 
Be haply pleased with the ways of men, 
So only have they force against their foes. 2 

Home, therefore, to thy land thou shall repair, 
And govern thee as that I shall declare. 
Firstly, thy God with lowly homage serve, 
And His command with all thy might observe ; 
And then let pass the ever-blessed wand 
Of law with mercy jointly through thy land. 3 

The Morte d'Artkure is another of the cycle coming 
indirectly through the French from Walter de Map. 
The English version is thought by Sir F. Madden to 
have been written by the Scotch poet, Huchowne. Mr. 
Morris thinks it was written south of the Tweed, in the 
Northumbrian dialect, and somewhat altered by a Mid- 
land transcriber. The copy from which Mr. Perry has 
edited the text was written by Robert Thornton, Arch- 
deacon of Bedford in 1440. It is written in alliterative 
verse, with two accented alliterative syllables in the first 
part of each line, and one in the second. The story is 
one of bloodshed and warfare, terrible giants, and deeds 
of exaggerated prowess ; but frequently exhibits much 
pathos, and a lively sense of the beauties of nature, 
together with many devout reflections. For example, 
he begins : 

1 Sir Launcelot of the Lake, 1. 1341 ed. by W.'W. Skeat for E.E.T.S. 
No. 6. 

2 Id. 1. 1475 : 'The vertw and the strenth of victory.' 

3 Id. 1. 1597 : ' Wharfor thou shall in to thi lond home fair. 



56 Religious Thought in 

Now may the great and glorious God, through His own 
blessed grace, 

Shield us from shame-deeds and from sinful works, 

And give us grace to guide us rightly here, 

In this weak wretched world, by works of grace ; 

That we may come to His court, the kingdom of heaven, 

When souls shall part, and sunder from us fly, 

To be and bide, resting in bliss with Him ; 

And work me wit to write some goodly words, 

Not vain or void, but voice of praise to Him, 

To please and profit people who will hear. 1 

Sir Gawaine is a very interesting romance, both in 
subject and treatment, and also as a valuable example 
of Midland English early in the fourteenth century. 
The writer, or translator of it from Norman- French, 
has been thought by some to be Huchowne ; but, as 
Morris shows, it is almost certainly by the same West 
Midland author who wrote The Pearl, a poem to be 
spoken of in the next chapter. No knight of the Round 
Table, except Arthur himself, is more honoured in the 
old romance than Gawaine ' of alle knyghtes the kynge 
that undir Christe levede,' a knight in whom were 
embodied all graces of courage and truth, purity and 
devotion, wit and joyous courtesy : 

In his five wits found faultless was the knight, 
And never failed he in his fingers five, 
And fixed his faith in the five blessed wounds 
Which Christ bore on the cross, as the Creed tells. 2 

It is a gay, bright story, full of prodigy and mar- 
vellous adventure, with many details borrowed from 

1 Morte Arthure, 1. 9, ed. by G. G. Perry for E.E.T.S. No. 8 : 

Now grett and glorious Godd through grace of hymselvene 

Schelde us ffro schames-dede and synfulle werkes. 

2 Sir Gawayne and (he Green Knight, 1. 649, ed. by R. Morris for 
E.E.T.S. No. 4: 

Fyrst he wats fund en fautles in his fyue wyttes 
And efte fayled neuer the freke in his fyue fyngres, 
And alle his afyaunce vpon folde wats in the fyue woundes 
That cryst kast on the croys, as the crede telles. 



Old English Verse 57 

Chrestien de Troyes' Roman de Perceval ; but the 
moral teaching is throughout pure and high, its special 
teaching being chastity against strong temptation, while 
it inculcates more incidentally faith and bravery, chival- 
rous bearing and truth. Gawayne bore on his shield, 
in pure gold, that mystical pentangle of Solomon which 
was held to be symbolical of truth. Like most of the 
romances, it concludes with a devout aspiration : 

Now He that bore the crown of thorns, 
He bring us to His bliss. 1 

I have gone as far as the limits of my subject will 
permit in speaking of the religious element in the early 
romances. In doing so, I have partly gone beyond the 
bounds of the century with which the chapter is chiefly 
concerned. But it seemed better to avoid any need of 
reverting to this part of the subject afterwards. It will 
have been made evident that the religious element in 
many of the romances could not properly have been 
altogether omitted in this work. Doubtless, they were 
intended primarily for amusement, and many of them 
were entirely confined to this purpose. But many of 
them took an important and notable part in teaching 
and fostering the noblest elements of Christian chivalry. 

1 Sir Gawayne, 1. 2529 : 

Now that here the crone of thorne, 
He bryng ous to his blysse. 



CHAPTER III 

THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY 

VERY early in the fourteenth century, probably about 
1305, The Psalter, which had been translated into our 
vernacular as early as the eighth century, was rendered 
into rhyme and metre in a North-English version, the 
first predecessor of innumerable later attempts to trans- 
late the Psalms of David into English verse. I will give 
the first psalm as an example, and will so far depart 
from the plan I have throughout adopted, as to give 
the original English. I will put it into more generally 
intelligible English in a parallel column, and add a 
short running commentary in the notes : 



Sell * bern 2 that noght is gar. Blest is he that has not gone 

In the rede 3 of wicked man ; In the rede of wicked man ; 

And in strete of sinfulle noght he In street of sinful has not stood, 

stode, Nor sat in seat of evil flood. 
Ne sat in setel 4 of storme 5 ungode. 



Bot in lagh of Laverd his will be ai, In the Lord's law his will is aye ; 
And his lagh think he night and day. Of it he thinketh night and day. 

3- 3- 

And als 6 his live, swa sal it be And all his life, so shall it be 

Als 6 it fares bi a tre E'en as it fareth by a tree 

That stremes of watres set is nere, That streams of waters set is near, 

That gives his fruit in time of yhere ; And gives his fruit in time of year ; 

1 Like 'selig' in modern German, 'blest.' 

2 ' Bern,' from ' beorn,' a chief, a man, is probably connected with ' beran,' to bear, 
and so with ' bairn.' 

3 In the Latin 'in consilio.' 

4 ' A settle, 1 as in modern North-English. ' Setlan ' = to take seat or to settle. 

5 The Latin is ' in cathedra pestilentiae. 1 Probably pestilence was considered 
to arise largely from atmospheric disturbances, in which case ' storm ' and ' pestilence ' 
v/ould be nearly allied in idea. 

6 'Als' when it means 'as' is shortened from 'all se,' 'all swa,' = all-as. Compare 
the modern German ' als.' ' Als ' is also a dialectic variety for ' all." 

58 



Religious Thought in Old English Verse 59 

And lef of him to-dreve 7 ne sal ; And leaf of him scatter ne'er shall ; 

What swa he does sal soundefulle al. Whatso he doth is sound-full all. 

4- 4- 

Noght swa wicked men, noght swa ; Not so the wicked men, not so ; 
Bot als duste that wind yerthe 8 tas 9 But as winds toss dust to and fro ; 
fra.io 

5- . 5- 

And tharfore wike n in dome noght rise So in the doom they shall not rise, 
Ne sinfulle in rede of rightwise. Nor share in rede of righteous-wise. 

6. 6. 

For Laverd of rightwise wate the wai, The Lord of good men wots the way ; 
And gateis of wicked for-worth^sal ai. But bad paths are forthcast for aye. 

Blisse to the Fadre, and to the Sone, Bliss to the Father, and the Son, 

And to the Hali Gaste, wit with am And Holy Ghost, dwelling in one, 

wone ; 14 As first was, is, and aye shall be ; 

Als first was, es, and ai sal be ; In world of worlds bliss to the Three, IB 
In werld of werldes to the Thre. 

Some interesting religious poems, dating from the 
earlier part of the fourteenth century, have been pub- 
lished by Dr. Morris for the Early English Text 
Society. The name of the author is unknown. ' But,' 
says their editor, 'they are evidently the work of a 
man of birth and education ; the production of a true 
poet, and of one who had acquired a perfect mastery 
over that form of the English tongue spoken in his own 
immediate locality. . . . They contain many passages 
which, as Sir F. Madden truly remarks, will bear com- 
parison with any similar one in the works of Douglas 
or Spenser.' They are written in West Midland 
dialect, and apparently by the same author who wrote 
the valuable romance of Sir Gawain. They are all 
alliterative ; but the one first to be mentioned is also 
rhymed. It is a poem of about 1200 lines, a pathetic 

7 ' To-dreve ' ; ' to ' in composition meant not only our ' to,' but sometimes conveyed 
the idea of deterioration. Therefore ' to-drefian ' was to drive as conquered. 
I ' Yerthe.' In another MS. it'is ' the erthe '=the earth. 

9 ' Tas ' from ' taesan ' from which comes ' to tease.' It means to pluck, pull up, annoy. 

10 ' Fra' isshortened from ' fram '=' from,' 'fro.' 

1 ' Wike ' is ' weak,' and so ' mean,' ' wicked." 

2 ' Gate,' in the sense of ' way," is still used in some parts of England. 

13 From ' weorthan'=:' to become,' 'shall become,' 'put forth.' 

14 As in modern German ' wohnen ' = to dwell. From 'wunian.' Compareour 'wonted.' 

15 From The Anglo-Saxon and Early English Psalter, edited by J. 
Stevenson for the Surtees Society, 1845. 



60 Religious Thought in 

memorial of the death of his infant child, a little girl 
of two years old. He describes her as a precious pearl 
which he had lost ; and then tells of his vision when he 
had sunk in grief upon her grave among the summer 
flowers. In my quotation from it, I have endeavoured 
to keep as near to the original as I can consistently 
with preserving, in some measure, the alliteration as 
well as the rhyme, and with keeping free of the many 
words which would now be perfectly unintelligible to 
an ordinary English reader. 

Pearl 1 that might please a prince's eye, 

And set in glittering gold so clear, 
Not out of Orient Ind was aye 

Proved, I ween, her precious peer. 



1 As I have not been able to adhere quite as literally as I could wish to 
the text, I subjoin some of the original : 

Perle plesaunte to prynces paye [pleasure] 

To [very] clanly clos in golde so clere, 
Oute of oryent I hardyly saye 

Ne proued 1 neuer her precios pere. 

Alias ! I leste hyr in on erbere [arbour] 

Thurg gresse to grounde hit fro me yot ; 
I dewyne [pine] fordolked [in dole] of luf daungere 

Of that pryvy perle withouten spot. 
Sythen in that spote hit fro me sprange, 

Ofte haf I wayted wyschande that wele, 
That wont watz [was] whyle devoyde [do away] my wrange, 

And heuen [upraise] my happe and al my hele [health] ; 
That doth bot thrych [through] my hert thrange [pierce], 

My breste in bale bot bolne [swell] and bele [boil], 
Get [yet] thogt me neuer so swete a sange 

As stylle stounde [hour] let to me stele. 

I felle upon that floury flagt 

Suche odour to my hernez [brains] schot : 
I slode vpon a stepyng slagte [stroke] 

On that precios perle withouten spot. 
Fro spot my spyryt ther sprang in space, 

My body on balke [in partition] ther bod in sweuen [dream] 
My goste is gone in godez grace, 

In aventure ther mervaylez meuen [move]. 

Early English Alliterative Poems of Fourteenth Century, ed. by R. 
Morris forE.E.T.E., No I. 



Old English Verse 6 1 

Alas, I lost her in a grot 

Through grass to ground she from me fell,- 
That precious pearl without a spot, 

And pain and pine my heart befell. 
Oft wend I where I met that woe, 

And longing yearn for her I lost, 
My life and light when heart was low, 

Or when with care my soul was crossed. 
But when the thought did through me thrill, 

And when my breast did boil and bleed, 
There came through the calm air, and still, 

The sweetest song that ear could heed. 

Sweet odours o'er my senses shot ; 

I fell upon the flowers, where lay 
My precious pearl without a spot, 

Wafted in welcome sleep away. 
My spirit sprang from me in space, 

My body bode apart in dream ; 
Gone is my ghost, by heaven's grace 

To move in quest where marvels teem. 

So, through sights of wonder and beauty, he came in 
vision to a beautiful river, whose banks were of beryl, 
and its stones 

Bright glancing in the glittering deep, 

Gleam as through glass which glows with light ; 

As shines with stars o'er men asleep 
The welkin on a wintry night. 

The dear delight of down and dale, 
Of wandering waters, wood and plain, 

Built in me bliss, abated bale, 
Foredid my dole, destroyed my pain. 

As he passed on, a joy unspeakable flooded his soul, 
and he thought he saw Paradise on the further side of 
the stream. Anon he beheld a crystal cliff 

And at its foot a child full fair, 

(So well I knew that sweetest sight !) 
A maiden mild and debonnair, 

In gleaming robe of glistening white, 
Pure as pure gold beyond compare, 

So shone her sheen on yonder shore, 
Long as I looked upon her there, 

Ever I knew her more and more. 



62 Religious Thought in 

He was amazed and faint, and dare not speak. At 
last, to his great joy, she greeted him with a sweet look. 
Then he spoke, and told her of his sorrow for his lost gem : 

For since we two were torn in twain, 
I was a joyless jeweller. 

Then she answered that, so far from being a lost 
pearl, she was in a garden of bliss, where was neither 
wrong nor mourning ; and, in sooth, 

That thou didst lose was but a rose 

Which flowers and fades as nature bids. 

It was only in this better land that she had become in 
truth as a pearl of price. The father wonders how a 
little child who could neither please God nor pray to 
Him could be received into such bliss. She answers 
by telling the parable of the vineyard. She had not 
borne the burden and heat of the day, but neither had 
she sinned, and the Lord had been pleased to give 
to innocence no less than He gives to righteous- 
ness. God's good grace is both free and great ; and 
Christ Himself had called the children to Him. Then 
she tells of the love and glory of the Lamb of God. 
She shows him the outside of the heavenly Jerusalem, 
and as the moon began to rise he became aware of a 
mighty procession of maidens like his own pearl, 
crowned and in white robes, singing in praise of the 
Lamb, who went before them ; and she was there among 
them. At last he awakens, and the poem ends with 
words on the blessedness of being a good Christian, 
with God Himself for Lord and friend : 

Keep us, good God, Thy servants true, 
And pearls of price to please Thee aye. 

The next poem alliterative, but not in rhyme is a 
collection of stories from the Bible on the sore punish- 
ment with which God visits the sinner for all sins of 
impurity. It is the pure in heart who shall see God. 

Happy the atheling whose heart is clean, 

For with good cheer shall he look on the Lord. 1 

1 Line 27 : The hathel clene of his hert hapenez ful fayre, 

For he schal loke on our Lade with a bone chere. 



Old English Verse 63 

First come the story of the marriage feast, and of 
him who came in unclean array ; from which is drawn 
the lesson : 

O ware thee well that all thy weeds be clean, 
Honouring His holy day ; else thou hast harm. 
What are those weeds which ye may wrap ye in, 
They that shall show you shrouded pure and sheen ? 
Good works they are which thou in life has wrought ; 
See thou be found both fresh and fair in life. 
God loves the limbs all lapped in cleanly wise ; 
So see thy Saviour in His blissful seat. 1 

Then come the stories of the fall of angels and of 
men ; the story of the flood, of the destruction of Sodom 
and Gomorrah, of the taking of Jerusalem by Nebu- 
chadnezzar, of the captivity of the Jews, of the defiling 
of the holy vessels by Belshazzar, and of the wrath 
which fell upon him. Of this pollution of the sacred 
things he remarks : 

For when a soul is sanctified to God, 
He wholly holds and counts it as His own ; 
And loth is He to lose it through ill lust, 
As when a man is reft and robbed by wrong. 
Ware thee then of His wrath ; His wrath is hot, 
If what was once His own be found unclean ; 
Yea, be it but a basin or a bowl, 
Yet to defile it God doth fast forbid. 2 

The third poem, with its moral of patience under 
provocation, is the story of Jonah. In most Anglo- 
Saxon and Early English poems an episode from sea 
adventure is told with spirit. So it is here in the 
account of the storm which befell the ship where Jonah 
was on board. The following is part of it : 

Anon from north and east the noise begins, 

When blasts from both blow fierce on the blue main. 

1 Early Alliterative Poems, etc., 165 : 

Bot war the wel, if thou wylt, thy wedes ben clene 
And honest for the haly day, lest thou harme tache. 

2 Id. 1139: 

For when a sawele is sagtled and sakred to drygtyn, 
He holly haldes hit his and have hit he wolde. 



64 Religious Thought in 

Rough rack of clouds arose with thunder roar ; 
The sea sobbed sorely, marvel for to see. 
On the wan waters wrestle the strong winds, 
And the wild waves in madness welter high, 
Then bend into th' abyss where fishes breed. 

No joy could cheer the ship Jonah was in ; 
For round it reeled amid the rude turmoil ; 
The billows burst abaft and broke the gear, 
Then hurled upon a heap the helm and stern, 
And many a rope was marred, and then the mast. 
On the sea swung the sail ; athwart there swept 
Cold waters ; and a call and cry arose 
To cut the cords and cast out all the gear. 
Then many a lad leapt forth to lave thereout 
And scoop the scathful tide, fain to escape ; 
For though men's lot look hopeless, life is sweet. 1 

I may also quote some of the lines in which is 
rendered the divine remonstrance at Jonah's fretful 
impatience : 

What wonder I would help my handiwork ? 

Thou waxest wroth for cause of thy woodbine. 

Which caused thee no kind care its growth to keep, 

One hour it waxed, the next withered away ; 

And thou mislikest, and thy life would lose. 

But I, in mercy on the men I made, 

Relent to redeless souls who rue their sin. 

I made them for myself to be mine own ; 

Then kept I guard o'er them, with care to guide. 

If I make trip the travel of that time, 

And throw in dust yon town that turns from sin, 

That sorrow sore would sink into my soul 

Of many men who mourn their malice there. 

And some lack art to reason right and wrong ; 

And little bairns there be that ne'er wrought bale ; 

And many poor brute beasts be in the burgh, 
Who sin no sort to suffer grief of soul ; 
Shall I be wrath with them, when wights will turn 
And come to me as King, and keep my laws ? 2 

1 Early Alliterative Poems : Patience, 137 : 

Anon out of the north est the noys bigynes 

When bothe brethes con blowe vpon bio watteres. 
- Id. 496 : 

If I wolde help my honde work, haf thou no wonder 

Thou art waxen so wroth for thy wodbynde. 



Old English Verse 65 

Robert Mannyng, of the Abbey of Brunne (Bourne, 
near Deeping, Lincolnshire), lived in the reigns of 
Edward II. and Edward III. He tells us that he began 
his treatise entitled The Handlyng Synne in 1303. It 
is a very free paraphrase or adaptation, with frequent 
additions, of the Manuel de Peches, written in Norman- 
French by William of Waddington, and a great im- 
provement on the original. It is written in that 
southern dialect which was gradually becoming the 
English language, in a lively and interesting style well 
fitted to carry out the special purpose of its writer, 
which was to catch the attention of men who were 
ready anywhere for a tale, but were deaf to sedate and 
solemn preachers. 

For many be of such mannere 

That tales and rhymes will gladly hear. 

In games and feasts, and at the ale 

Love men to hark to pleasant tale, 

That oft may fall to vylanie, 

To deadly sin and like folly ; 

For such men have I made this rhyme, 

That they may better spend their time, 

And therein somewhat find to hear, 

As so to leave such foul mannere. 1 

The plan of the work is to go through first the Com- 
mandments, then the seven deadly sins, then the 
Sacraments, to expand each subject in its practical 
bearings, and to illustrate it with some tale or legend. 
It is an excellent book of its kind. De Brunne is, 
indeed, credulous in the extreme, and the more amazing 
a story is, the better it satisfies him. But the whole 
work is thoroughly infused with high Christian purpose, 
with an intense feeling of the evil of sin, and of the 
severance which it causes between man and God. He 
loves simple folk, hates all forms of oppression and 
meanness, and speaks out openly and straightforwardly 
against the vices he sees around him. Yet his verse is 

1 Robert of Brunne's Handlyng Synne, edited by F. J. Furnivall for the 
Roxburghe Club ; Prologue, 44-54 : ' For many ben of swyche manere.' 

E 



66 Religious Thought in 

never tinged with bitterness ; and we feel that Hearne 
must have been right in gathering that ' he was of a 
cheerful pleasant humour, addicted to virtue, but very 
blithe and merry whenever he saw a proper occasion.' 
As for the name of his book, the writer of it may speak 
for himself : 

For sin is handled, truth I say, 
In words and doings every day ; 
Sins great and little still we do ; 
Flesh and the fiend entice thereto. 

Another handling there should be, 
From sin by shrift to make thee free 
Handle thy sin in fear and dread, 
Or nought but pain will be thy meed ; 
Handle thy sins, and well them weigh, 
How they foredo each godly way. 
Handle thy sins in balance even, 
Else they forebar the way to heaven. 
Handle them straightway every one, 
And not one by itself alone. 
Handle them, so to rise from all, 
That after none may make thee fall. 1 

From the body of the book itself I take a first extract 
from the teaching on the First Commandment : 

If thou didst ever God forsake, 

Any time, or for need, \ 

Or for folly, or for dread, 

Or other chance that well thou know'st 

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost : 

For this is e'en the greatest sin 

That any man can fall within 

If thou hast sinned thus greatly, 

With sorry heart go ask mercy, 

For God is full of great pity, 

Ever at hand to give to thee. 

Dread thou not ; if thou wilt crave, 

His willing mercy shalt thou have. 

And this may full well proved be 

With tale of good authority. 

1 Handlyng Synne , Prologue, 80-110: 

We handel synne euery day 
In wurde and dede al we may, 



Old English Verse 67 

This tale is written all and some 
In the book Vita Patrum. 1 

Then the story is told of a monk who, under tempta- 
tion, gave up Christ and Christendom, and how the 
Holy Spirit departed from him, but, after his long and 
deep contrition, returned again, and flew, as a dove, into 
his mouth. 

The following is on the supreme obligation of the 
Sunday above all other holy days : 

Of feasts that holy Church lays down 

The holy Sunday is the crown ; 

For Sunday hath authority 

'Rove all that were, or yet shall be. 

For though the Pope, by his powere, 

Change all the feasts throughout the year 

E'en as he will, at his own will, 

Yet Sunday stands unchanged still. 

What holy days in harvest are, 

In Yule he may at will set there, 

And out of Yule take every feast, 

Change them, and set in the harvest. 

But yet he may for no reasoun 

Put Sunday up or put it down ; 

So Sunday above all the rest 

Hallow thou must and honour best. 2 

Speaking then of the various ways in which the holy 
day is dishonoured, he specially warns his hearers 
against spending its sacred hours at the idle gossip of 
' the ale : ' 

The tavern is the devil's knife ; 
It slayeth thee, or soul or life ; 
Yea, one of these 'twill surely do 
If commonly thou haunt thereto. 
It shorteneth life, too much drinking, 
And slays thy soul by backbiting. 9 

I next give extracts from two of the stories, premis- 
ing that, if the reader objects to the marvels, he can at 

1 Handlyng Synne, 156-170 : ' Gyf thou evere God forsoke. ' 
- Id. 805-20 : ' Of alle the festys that yn holy chyrche are.' 
3 Id. 1024-30 : ' Taverne ys the devilys knyfe.' 



68 Religious Thought in 

least praise the good teaching they are meant to 
enforce : 

FROM 'THE BACKBITING MONK.' 

There was a man of religidn, 

Who in one thing was a felon, 

In backbiting, as we have heard ; 

As many a one is in this world 

This monk was wont to say ill saws 

Behind the back of his fellaws, 

For he would fain be held the best 

Of all his house, and wiliest. 

A sickness took this monk ; he died, 

As God who rules us did provide ; 

And then he went to pains full hard, 

As will be showed aftenvard. 

The time befell, as it is right, 

When monks must rise at full midnight. 

And when the prayers were said and done, 

The brethren all to bed had gone ; 

But one was left behind a throwe [moment], 

Who the dead man had used to know. 

Now when he came from the chancel, 

His head he bowed a littel, 

And as he louted, turned pale. 

And saw one sit before the rail ; 

Never so grisly, foul a thing 

Saw he before in his knowing. 

To pass over details of what had befallen the unhappy 
ghost in regard of that unruly member, his tongue 
the monk conjured him to tell why he suffered. The 
figure answered : 

' I was a monk, thy own fellaw, 

Who suffer all this pain and shame ; 

Hight am I ' here he told his name 

' I was an evil backbiter, 

Wont of my freres ill words to bear, 

And wickedly of them to say 

All that I ever might betray, 

And unbelieving was I ay 

Of all my brethren night and day. 

The wicked words that I have said 

All woefully are on me laid. 

I must atone for them full dear 

With fell hard pains as ye see here.' 



Old English Verse 69 

He went, nor more again was seen, 
Sharp were his pains, full well I ween. 1 

FROM 'THE TALE OF THE MERCIFUL KNIGHT.' ' 

Two knights were in mortal feud. The son of the 
one, whose father had been slain, besieged the other in 
his castle so straitly, that for twelve months he never 
dared to come out of it. 

Now it was in the Lententide, 

When men should leave their wrath and pride. 

Then fell it on a Good Friday, 

The knight that in the castle lay 

Looked out and saw the people go 

To church, and from it, to and fro ; 

Barefoot the church they went within 

To ask for mercy for their sin. 

' Ah ! ' thought the knight, ' long time has gone, 

And mass at church have I heard none ; 

Whate'er God's will for me shall werche [work], 

I will arise, and go to church.' 

On his way to church, his foeman met him, and was 
about to slay him in vengeance for his father's death. 
But the knight asked mercy ' for His sake 

Who suffered death on the rood-tree 

This day, to save both me and thee, 

Forgiving them for His blood spilt. 

E'en so, forgive thou me this guilt.' 

His enemy listened, and stayed his hand, 
And said, ' Since thou hast me besought 
For Jesus' love that dear us bought 
Yea, for His love so true and dear, 
For this I grant thee my peace here.' 
This said, then down he doth alight, 
And in good love he kissed the knight : 
' Now are we friends that erst were wroth ; 
So go we now to the church both, 
In love and perfect charity, 
For His sake that bade peace to be.' 

Amid the joy of all the company, they went in : 
Before the cross, they kneeled down 
In worship of the Lord's passion. 

1 Handlyng Synne, 3556-3617 : 'Ther was a man of relygyun.' 



70 Religious Thought in 

And lo ! a marvel ; for 

The crucifix that there was laid 
His arms up from the cross uprai'd, 
And caught that knight his arms betwixt, 
And kissed him did that crucifix. 

The miracle was told of everywhere : 

So every man in that country 

Lived all the more in charity, 

And all the sooner men forgave 

What wrath to others they might have. 1 

I add a few lines from the story of Pers the Usurer. 
He had been hard and extortionate ; but his heart (the 
story relates how) became softened, and one day he 
gave the kirtle he was wearing to a poor man who 
came to him naked. The man went and sold the gar- 
ment, and Pers was troubled. But he slept, and in a 
dream he thought he saw 

God sitting in that kirtle clad, 
Which the poor man of him had had ; 
Who spake unto him full mildly : 
* Why weepest thou and art sorry ? 
Lo ! Pers (he said), this is thy clothe ! 
For that he sold it thou was wroth : 
But know this well, if that ye can, 
For me ye gave it the poor man. 
In what ye gave as charity, 
Every whit ye gave it me.' 2 

He writes of the slothful and indifferent, the rich 
sluggards who lie abed when the bell is calling to 
church, and of all who live for self-indulgence and 
ease : 

They think not of what men may spell [read] 

Of the Lord's word in the Gospel. 

' Be waking ! ' thus he saith to all, 

' What time your Lord who comes will call ' 

For then may hap when least ye ween 

He will call you : look ye be clean ; 

For if ye sleep at His calling, 

Ye come not in at the wedding. 

1 Handlyng Synne, 3800-3903 : ' And hyt was yn the lentyn tyde. ' 

2 Id. 5728-38 : ' Syttyng yn hys kyrtyl clade.' 






Old English Verse 7 1 

Thus the Lord calls us every day, 

With preacher's voice all that He may. 

But ye are slow, and lie asleep, 

When in your ears the preachers threpe [chide]. 1 

My last quotation from De Brunne shall be of good 
Bishop Grosseteste's love of music : 

Next his chamber ' by his study,' 

His harper's chamber was thereby, 

And many times by nights and days 

He had solace of notes and lays. 

One asked him once the reason why 

He had delight in minstrelsy. 

He answered him in this mannere 

Wherefore he held the harp so dear. 

' The harp,' he said, ' by thought and right 

Hath power to quench the devil's might. 

So he who thinks of it with wit 

Unto the cross will liken it. 

Another point comforteth me, 

That God hath sent unto a tree 

Such joy to list to with the ear. 

How much more joy then must be there, 

Where God doth in His glory dwell, 

Oft doth my harp unto me tell. 

Yea, all the joy and all the bliss 

Where God Himself, my Maker, is.' 2 

The next two extracts are from poems which were 
attributed by Warton and Ritson to Adam Davy, the 
marshal, writer of some Dreams about King Edward the 
Second (1307-27), copied in the same manuscript. 
Mr. Furnivall, their editor, differs from this opinion. In 
any case they belong to the fourteenth century. One 
of these poems is A Book of Moral .Precepts taken 
from Ecclesiasticus. I give a short extract : 

If that thou lovest wisdom, let the right have thy love ; 
Be not thou disobedient to them that are above ; 
Help thou the needy ; set thyself 'gainst him that is unmild ; 
Be merciful to widows, and to the fatherless child ; 



1 Handlyng Synne, 4342 : ' They thoghte nat of that men spelle. ' 

2 Id. 4748-67 : ' Next hys chaumbre besyde hys stody.' 



72 Religious Thought in 

Keep not thy wisdom hidden ; never withstand the right ; 
Against strong men and ireful contend not thou nor fight ; 
Answer the poor with mildness ; heed and tarry not 
To turn again to God, if thou in sin be brought. 1 

In A Song of Joy for Christ's Coming, referring to the 
verse ' Many prophets and kings,' etc., he says : 

But they that such grace had not, they that before us died, 
Often in prophecies of old, after our Lord they cried, 
After our Lord they cried with earnest will and long : 
No 'mendment did they see, but troubles great and strong, 
So long that they were weary, and so their voice grew still, 
And they forbore their cry, and yielded to God's will. 2 

William de Shoreham, Vicar of Chart-Sutton in Kent, 
in the time of Edward II. (1307-27), wrote a poem on 
the Sacraments, the Commandments, the deadly sins, 
and other religious and moral subjects. The following 
are a few verses from it : 

Methinks the rightful dwelling-place 

In heaven it is to men. 
But we are heavy ; heaven high up 

How shall we thither then ? 

By ladder ? 

How may that be ? How climb up there, 
In fear the foot should bladder [blister] ? 

Ay, but the ladder 's not of wood 

That may to heaven leste [reach] ; 
But by the one that Jacob saw, 

Lying asleep at rest. 

Now see ye this : 
That ladder it is charity ; 
Its rail clean living is. 

Jesus hath climbed there before, 

To teach us climb thereby. 
Now hie thee, man ! and follow well, 

Lest down a-ground ye sigh, 
Beweyled [beguiled] ; 

1 Poems from the Laud MS. 622 (Bod.), ed. by F. J. Furnivall for 
.E.T.S. 69. A Book of Precepts, etc. 15 : 

Gif thou lovest wisdom, look thou rigth loue ; 
Unbuxum ne be thou nougth to them that ben above. 

2 Id. A Story of Joy, etc. 146 : 

Ac thai that suich grace ne hadden, that to fore us come, 
After our Lorde thai gradden in the prophecie ylome. 



Old English Verse 73 

For if thou wilt not upward thus 
Of heaven thou hast failed. 1 

Richard Rolle, the Yorkshire hermit, retired from the 
world in the middle of Edward the Third's reign. In 
the seclusion of the priory at Hampole, four miles from 
Doncaster, he wrote some works in prose and verse 
which were for some time very popular. He died in 
1369. The Pricke of Conscience, written, as he says, 
for a spur to make the conscience tender, and to drive 
it to dread and meekness, is a long poem of nearly 
10,000 lines. It is not a book from which much can be 
gathered that commends itself to the religious feeling of 
our time. It is true to its name as ' a goad,' composed 
in an age in which incentives of fear were applied in a 
manner which now seems wholly repugnant both to the 
conscience and to the understanding. Yet here and 
there are some lines worth quoting. Thus, he says, of 
the hideousness of sin, if it could be truly realised : 

Sin is so foul, and such a grisly thing, 

That if a man might truly see his sin 

In the own very likeness it is in, 

He should for fear more quickly from it flee 

Than from the fellest devil he might see. 2 

The following extract is taken from a passage in 
which he puts a spiritual construction on the jewels and 
gold of the heavenly city : 

Such gold of heaven, lustrous, bright, and clean, 

Here in this world of ours was never seen. 

Nor such rich jewels, and so passing price, 

As in blest mansions of that Paradise. 

Yet, rightly judged, I deem these stones may be 

Good works, and that the gold is charity, 

Which among saints in heaven shall shine as clear 

In those whose works of love did shine forth here. 

1 Religious Poems of William de Shoreham, edited by T. Wright, Percy 
Society, 3 : 

Me seithe the rigte woneyynge 
Ine hevene hyt is to manne. 

2 Rolle de Hampole's Pricke of Conscience, edited by Morris for the 
Philological Society ; 1. 2353 : ' That syn es swa foule and swa grisly 
thing.' 



74 Religious Thought in 

The turrets bright of heaven, great and small, 

I liken unto towers of clear crystal ; 

But ne'er did crystal in this world below 

Shine with such clearness, with such splendour glow ; 

And, to the spirit's ken, those towers may be 

Such meed as there the good shall feel and see. 1 

In 1340, about the time when Richard Rolle 
wrote the work just referred to, another book with very 
much the same title was published by Dan Michel of 
Northgate, in the Kentish form of the language. It 
was called The Ayenbite of Inwyt, that is to say, ' The 
Again-biting of the Inner-wit,' or ' The Remorse of 
Conscience,' and was the translation of the French La 
Somme des Vices et des Verities, written in 1279 f r 
Philip II. The translation is written in prose, and is 
only mentioned here because of its preface and envoi 
which Dan Michel wrote in rhyme of the homeliest sort. 
The former begins : 

Lord Jesus, Almighty King, 

That mad'st and keepest every thing, 

Me that am thy own making 

To Thy bliss do Thou me bring. 2 

And the latter thus concludes : 

To him who made this book God give the bread 

Of heavenly angels, and thereto His rede, 

And take to Him his soul when he is dead. Amen. 3 

William Langland's Vision concerning Piers Plow- 
man, A.D. 1 362, is in many respects a very interesting 
one. But I have not here to speak of it in its historical, 
social, and ecclesiastical aspects, but simply as a reli- 
gious poem. This it thoroughly is. It is a vision 'of 
the origin, progress, and perfection of the Christian life,' 
and in many places may remind the reader of nothing 

1 Religious Poems of William de Shoreham, 9072-88 : ' And swa bryght 
gold, ne swa clene.' 

2 The Ayenbite of Inwyt (Morris), E.E.T.S. 23 : 'Lhord Jhesu, almigty 
kyng.' 

3 Id. : 

That this boc made God him yeve that bread 
Of angles of hevene. 



Old English Verse 75 

so much as of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. The times 
were thoroughly out of joint when he wrote. There was 
much suffering, discontent and trouble, great and crying 
corruption in the Church, and throughout the common- 
wealth vices and abuses which greatly vexed the soul 
of a man of austere uprightness, whose sympathies were 
strong and deep, who loved from his heart truth and 
freedom, and who kept his eyes steadily fixed on the 
Gospel model of life. He was keenly alive not only to 
the flagrant offences which he saw committed around 
him against Christian morality, but also to the depar- 
tures in the prevalent Church system from the purity 
and simplicity of the Gospel. He was no follower of 
Wycliffe ; but he constantly turned his eyes from the 
Church around him to contemplate what the Universal 
Church of Christ should be. And thus, often with 
fervour of imagination, sometimes with real sublimity, 
always with vehement earnestness, not unfrequently 
with biting humour, he vented his indignation against 
wrong, both among high and low, and pointed up to a 
higher ideal, and to the pure ' Mansion of Truth.' He 
is sorely' cumbered by the trammels of a tedious and 
perplexed allegory. It should be remembered, however, 
as one of its modern editors truly observes, that ' the 
necessity of avoiding anything of a personal nature 
obliged the satirist to shelter himself in allegory and 
generalities.' 1 The following is from a description of the 
home where Truth dwells : 

So com'st them to a court clear as the sun ; 2 

The moat of mercy ; in the midst the manor ; 

The walling of sound wit, lest wile should win it. 

The kernels [battlements] be of Christendom, mankind to save, 

All buttressed by belief, whereby is safety. 

1 T. A. Whitaker, in his Preface to the fourth edition. 

- Langland's metre lends itself to blank verse with very slight altering ; 
but in itself it is the old English alliterative verse, the full line having four 
accents, and its first half two alliterations, the latter one : 

So shalt thou come to a roiirt : as clear as the sun. 
The woat is of wercy : in the widst the wanor. 



76 Religious Thought in 

The houses are all heled [covered] both halles and chambers, 
The bars of buxomness [obedience], in one bond brethren. 
The bridge is Bid well [pray well], so the better speed. 
The pillars penance are, and prayers to saints, 
The hooks are almsdeeds, which the gates hang on. 
Grace hath the gate-ward, a good man for sooth. 
His man hath name 'Amend you.' 

Ride to ' Amend you ; ' meekly pray his Master 
To open and undo the high gates of heaven, 
That Adam erst and Eve against us shut. 

And if Grace grant thee in this wise to go, 
Thou shalt thyself in thy own heart see Truth, 
And soothe thy soul, and save thyself from pain. 
Also charge Charity a Church to make 
In thy whole heart, all truth therein to harbour. 

There seven sisters be that serve Truth ever, 

Porters at posternes that to th' place belong, 

One ' Abstinence,' and one ' Humility,' 

And ' Charity,' and ' Chastity,' are maidens chief ; 

' Patience,' and ' Peace,' are there, to help much people ; 

' Largeness,' [generosity] a lady that lets in full many ; 

Yea, none indeed of all may help him better. 

Hard is it, by my head, for any of all 
To get in-coming unless Grace abound. 1 

Then Piers Plowman goes on to bid even the repro- 
bates not to despair of grace : 

' By Christ,' a cutpurse quoth, ' I Ve no kin there ! ' 
'Nor I,' an ape-ward 2 saith, 'for ought I know !' 
' God wot,' a waferer 3 quoth, ' wist I this truth, 
I would no further afoot, for no friar's preaching ! ' 
' Yes,' quoth Piers Plowman, ' pushing all to good, 
Mercy is maid here, she hath might o'er all : 
She and her Son are sib [kin] to sinful men, 
And in their help hope thou no other thing 
Than to get grace, an but thou go betimes.' 4 

1 Visio W. de Piers Plouhiiian, passus viii. 232 : 

So shalt thow come to a court as cleer as the soune ; 
The mot ys of mercy, in myddes the manere. 

2 A wandering minstrel, who carried a monkey with him. 

3 A seller of thin cakes. 

4 Passus viii. 283 : ' By Cryst, quath a kitte-pors, ich haue no kyn 
there. ' 



Old English Verse 77 

I will quote a few lines only of what is said of 
Charity : 

Childlike is Charity, as saith holy Church, 
(' Nisi efficiamini sicut parvuli, et caetera.') 
Proud of a penny, as of a pound of gold, 
And all as glad of gown of poor grey russet 
As of a coat of cammok, or clear scarlet. 

Glad with the glad, as gurles [young people] when all are 

blithe, 

And sorry with the sorry ; e'en so children 
Laugh where men laugh, and lower where men lower. 

He thinks the best of men ; he believes in truth, 
and in doing to others as he would be done by. There 
is no pride in him. He takes sorrow and sickness as 
ministrations from heaven. He is kind and helpful, free 
from anxieties, trusting in providence, full of good 
deeds, earnest in repentance : 

Of death and eke of dearth dread was he never ; 
' Fiat voluntas tua ' feasteth him. 

Were I with him, never would I away 
Albeit I beg at every buttery hatch ! 

By clothing nor by carping knowst thou him, 

But through his works ye wot which way he goeth. 

Merry is he of mouth, sitting at meat, 

In company companionable, as Christ was. 

' Nolite tristes fieri, sicut hypocritas.' 

And I myself have seen him, sometimes in russet 

Or grey, sometimes in gries (rich fur) and gilt array. 

Edmund and Edward kings were each and saints, 

And chose them Charity and Chastity. 

I Ve seen him sing and read, as clerk also, 

And ride and run in poorest ragged clothes, 

But begging as a beggar ne'er beheld him. 

And in a friar's frock he was found once. 

To kings' courts comes he, if counsel be true ; 
If coveties be counsel, he comes not. 1 

Of Truth : 

Truth is the throne where sits the Trinity. 

1 Visio W. de Dowel, pass, xviii. 310 : 'Of deth ne of derthe drad was 
he neuere.' 



78 Religious Thought in 

Of Love : 

Love is most sovereign salve for soul and body, 
The plant of peace, of all virtues most precious. 

It is the lock of love that unlooseth grace, 

That comforteth all creatures cumbered with sin ; 

Love is the leech of life, looser of pain. L 

Sometimes he makes Piers Plowman a sort of personi- 
fication of the poor on earth, to whom Christ brought a 
special message of peace. For instance, he tells how he 
dreamt of the hosannas of the children, and how then 
in his vision he saw one riding on an ass, like unto the 
Samaritan, and somewhat to Piers Plowman : 

For Love hath undertaken 
That Jesus, being gentle, joust in Piers' arms, 
His helm and his habergeon. 

And he shall joust with the fiend and with the doom 
of death, and Lucifer shall fall. He will 

Forbite [charge] him down and bring death bale for ever, 
1 O mors, tua ero mors.' 

The following is from an account of our Lord's 
descent into hell : 

' What lord art thou ? ' quoth Lucifer. A voice aloud 
Quoth thus, ' The Lord of might and men, that made 
All things, the duke of this dim place ; undo 
Anon the gate, that Christ the King come in ! ' 
And with that breath hell brake, all Belial's bars, 
For any wight or ward. The gates oped wide. 
Patriarchs and prophets, people in darkness sitting, 
Sing with Saint John, ' See ye the Lamb of God ! ' 
4 Lo ! ' quoth the Lord, behold me, life and soul 
For sinful souls.' 2 

The poems of Lawrence Minot were written, as ap- 
pears by internal evidence, in 1352. They are patriotic 
verses written to celebrate the conquests of Edward III. 

1 Visio W. de Piers Plouhrnan, pass. ii. : 

Loue is the plonte of pees, and most preciouse of vertues. 
- Id. pass. xxi. 362 : 

' What lord art thu ? ' quath Lucifer ; a voys aloud seyde. 



Old English Verse 



79 



in Scotland and France, and would hardly be mentioned 
here, were it not for the interest that belongs to English 
poems of this early date. I quote briefly from some 
lines which tell how Edward the king came to Brabant 
and took homage of all the land : 

God, that shaped both sea and sand 
Save Edward, King of England, 
Save him, both body, soul and life, 
And grant him joy withouten strife. 

For he defendeth fast his right, 

And thereto Jesu grant him might, 

And so to do both night and day 

That it may be to Goddes pay (good pleasure). 1 

In Chaucer's poems, written in the last quarter of the 
fourteenth century, we do not look for much poetry of 
a distinctively religious sort. But wherever his song, 
in its bright course, does touch upon any such topic, we 
are sure to find it pure and genuine. Such is his picture, 
in the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, of the poor 
Parson ' rich of holy thought and work.' So also at the 
end of his Troilus and Cressida, where he closes his 
story of tender love by imploring his younger readers 
never to let earthly love so fill their minds as to lose 
sight of that supreme example of divine and heavenly 
love : 

O young and freshe folkes, he or she, 
In whom that love upgroweth with your age, 
Repair ye home from worldly vanity, 
And of your hearts upcast ye the visage 
To the great God, that after His image 
Made you, and think ye all is but a fair, 
This world that passeth soon, as flowers fair. 

And love ye Him, the which that right for love 
Upon a cross, our soule"s for to bey [buy], 
First died and rose, and sits in heaven above. 
For He will falsen no man, dare I say 
That will his heart all wholly on Him lay ; 
And since He best to love is, and most meek, 
What needeth feigned loves for to seek ? 

1 L, Minofs Poems, ed. by Ritson, 1825 : 

God that schope both se and sand 
Save Edward, King of Ingland. 



8o Religious Thought in 



And to the soothfast Christ, that died on rood 

With all my heart for mercy do I pray, 

And to the Lord right thus I speak and say : 

' Thou One and Two and Three, eterne in life, 
That reignest aye in Two and Three and One, 
Uncircumscribed, and all must circumscribe, 
From visible and invisible foe'n 
Defend us in Thy mercy every one. 1 

From the Romaunt of the Rose, though it is not 
quite certain that it is by Chaucer, I give the following 
extract : 

With muckle pain they win richesse, 
And dread them holdeth in distress 
To keepen that they gather fast : 
With sorrow they leave it at last : 
With sorrow they both die and live 
That unto riches their hearts give. 
And in default of love it is ; 
As showeth it full well, I wis 
For if these greedy, sooth to say, 
Both love"d and were loved again, 
And good love reigned over all, 
Such wickedness should ne'er befall ; 
But he should give that most good had 
To him that were in need bestad, 
And live withouten false usure 
In charity full clean and pure. 2 

John Gower, Chaucer's learned friend, published his 
Confessio Amanlis about 1393. King Richard the 
Second is said to have suggested the subject of it, when 
one day he met him accidentally on the Thames. It 
is a vast collection of stones taken indifferently from 
sacred and secular history, and arranged so as to illus- 
trate the evil affections which stand in the way of a true 
and pure love. He meant to amuse, but he meant also 
to edify. In his own words, he 

' Undertook 

In English for to make a book 
To stand between earnest and game.' 

1 Chaucer, Troilus and Creseide, end of book v. : ' O yonge fresshe 
folkes, he or she.' 

2 Romaunt of the Rose : ' With mochil pain thei winne richesse. ' 



Old English Verse 8 1 

Thus it is a work that lies near the borderland of re- 
ligious poetry, and must not be entirely passed over in 
this review. Gower was a man not without decided 
opinions on religious and ecclesiastical matters, and, 
though he detested the Lollards, he was keenly alive to 
many of the corruptions prevalent in the Church in his 
time. He did not spare to censure these, as he passes 
under survey the various forms of human sin. When 
he touches directly upon religion, it is mainly to insist 
upon good works resting on a true faith : 

And this belief is so certain, 

So full of grace and of virtue 

That he who calleth to Jesu 

In clean life furthered with good deed, 

He may not fail of heaven's meed. 

First did Christ work, and after taught, 

So that His deeds the word araught [explained] ; 

He gave examples in person. 

But they that have the words alone 

Are like the tree with leaves green, 

Upon the which no fruit is seen. 1 

Gower was strongly impressed with the unchristian 
lature of war, and frequently reverts to it. The con- 
tinual warfare he saw around him seemed to him 
/holly inconsistent with the rule of the Gospel and 
nth the law of Christ : 

And now to look on every side, 

A man may see the world divide, 

And war become so general 

Among the Christians over-all [everywhere], 

That every man now seeketh wreche [vengeance] ; 

And yet these clerks for ever preach 

And say that good deeds may not be 

Which stand not upon charity. 

I n5t [know not] how charity should stand 

Where deadly wars are taken in hand. 2 
aid so again : 

When that the Son of God was bore, 

He sent His angel down therefore ; 

1 Gower, Confessio Amantis, bk. v., de Fide: 'And this beleve 
so certayne.' 

Id. Prologue : ' And now to loke on every side. ' 
F 



82 Religious Thought in 

That night the shepherds heard him sing 
Peace to the men of well-willing 
In earth among us here. 

And eke nature war hath defended [prohibited] 

And in her law hath peace commended, 

Which is the chief of all man's wealth, 

And of man's life, and of man's health. 

But deadly war hath his covfne [hatching] 

Of pestilence and of famine, 

Of poverty and of all woe 

Whereof this world we blamen so. r , 

Till God Himself thereof do boot, ( , ^. ne n 

For everything which God hath wrought l ] 

In earth, war bringeth it to nought.' 1 

The collection of poems on the Cross, edited by Mr. 
Morris, are for the most part mere legends. But I may 
quote the following from The Symbols of the Passion, 
dating from the latter half of the fourteenth century : 

Lord, what may I for that yield Thee ? 
Thou askest nought but love of me. 
Lord, give Thou to me grace and might 
With all my heart to love Thee right. 
In life and death, in weal and woe 
Let my heart never turn Thee fro [from]. 
Ere it so be for thing unwrest [wicked], 
Lord, let my heart for Thy love brest [burst]. 2 

From a dialogue between Mary and the Cross, of 
about the same date : 

And many a prophet gan make moan 
And said, ' Lord, send thy Lamb, in rath, 

Out of the wilderness'es stone, 
And save me from the lion's tooth.' 3 

Some slight mention is due to some verses written 
at the end of the fourteenth century entitled an A B C 

1 Confessio Amantis, bk. iii., Contra motores guerre: 'When 
Goddes sonne.' 

2 The Symbols of the Cross in Legends of the Holy Rood, etc., ed. by 
R. Morris for E.E.T.S. 46 : 

Lord, what may i for that gylde the ? 
Thou desirdust nogt but loue of me. 

3 Dispute between Mary and the Cross in id. : 

And mony a prophete gan make mon. 



Old English Verse 83 

Poem on the Passion of Christ. Each stanza begins 
with a fresh letter, and the red and blue colours of the 
capitals may serve, it is said, as reminders of the ' rede 
wondis and strokis blue ' when the Lord was scourged. 
It was doubtless specially meant for the instruction of 
the young. The K stanza begins : 

l\. ING CHRIST was clad in poor weed. 
All the sin of human deed 
He hath bought full dear. 

The L stanza continues : 

JL.OVE made Christ from heaven to comyn ; 
Love made Him with man to wonyn [dwell], 

As clerks in gospel read, 
Love made His heart to bleed, 

With His blood our souls to feed 

To bring us to our meed. 1 

' Quia amore langueo ' is the refrain of a canticle of 
Christ's Love for the Soul of Man dating from about the 
end of the fourteenth century. The author is unknown. 
I quote some of the verses. The scanning is frequently 
much more by accent than by number of syllables. 

In a valley of this restless mind 

I sought in mountain and in mead, 
Trusting a true love for to find. 
Upon an hill then took I heed ; 
A voice I heard and near I yede [went] 
In great dolour complaining tho [then] : 
See, dear soul, how my sides bleed, 
Quia amore langueo. 

Upon this hill I found a tree, 

Under the tree a man sitting ; 
From head to foot wounded was he, 
His hearte blood I saw bleeding. 
A seemly man to be a King, 

A gracious face to look unto ; 
I aske'd why he had paining : 
He said, ' Quia amore langueo.' 



C Poem, E.E.T.S. 15-19. p. 245 : Kyng Crist was klad in 
pour wede.' 



84 Religious Thought iv 

' I am true Love that false was never ; 

Mine own man's soul I loved her thus. 
Because we would nowise dessever, 
I left my kingdom glorious. 
I purveyed her a palace full precious ; 
She fled, I followed, I loved her so, 
That I suffered this pain piteous 
Quia amore langueo. 

' My fair love and my spouse bright ! 

I saved her from beating, and she hath me bet ; 
I clothed her in grace and heavenly light ; 
This bloody shirt she hath on me set : 
For longing of love yet could I not let [hinder it] ; 

Sweete strokes are these ; lo ! 
I have loved her ever as I her het [promised] 
Quia amore langueo. 

' I crowned her with bliss and she me with thorn ; 

I led her to chamber and she me to die : 
I brought her to worship, and she me to scorn ; 
I did her reverence and she me villany : 
To love that loveth is no maistry [over-mastering]. 

Her hate made never my love her foe, 
Ask me then no questions why 
Quia amore langueo. 



' I sit on this hill for to see far, 

I look into the valley my spouse to see ; 
Now runneth she away ward, now cometh she narre [near], 
Yet out of my sight she may not be. 
Some wait their prey to make her to flee, 

I run to-fore [forward] and fleme [drive] her foe : 
Return, my soul, again to me, 
Quia amore langueo. 



' If thou be foul, I shall make thee clean, 

If thou be sick, I shall thee heal, 
If thou mourn ought, I shall thee mene [care for] ; 
Spouse, why wilt thou not with me deal ? 
Foundest thou ever love so leal ? 

What will thou, soul, that I shall do ? 
I may not unkindly thee appeal, 
Quia amore langueo. 






Old English Verse 85 

Long and love thou never so high, 

My love is more than thine may be. 
Thou gladdest, thou weepest, I sit thee by : 
Yet wouldst thou once, love, look at me ! 
Should I always feede" thee 

With children's meat ? my love, not so 
I will prove thy love with adversity, 
Quia amore langueo. 

' Wax not weary, mine own wife ! 

What meed is aye to live in comfdrt. 
In tribulation I reign more rife 
Ofter times than in disport. 
In weal and in woe I am aye to support ; 

My own wife, go not me fro ! 
Thy meed is marked, when thou art mort, 
Quia amore langueo.' 

The following lines are from a piece entitled How 
the Goode Wif thaught hir Daughter, written, says the 
edition. of 1597, nine years before the death of Chaucer, 
i.e. in 1391. Hazlitt does not think it quite so early. 
Similar religious and moral admonitions frequently 
recur in the subsequent age. 

Daughter, if thou wilt be a wife, and wisely werche [work], 

Look that thou love well God and holy Church. 

Go to church when thou may'st, let [stop] for no rain ; 

Better thou fare'st each day thou hast seen God ; 

Well thriveth he that loveth God, dear child. 

Blithely give thou thy tithes and offerings both : 
To poor men at the door be not thou loth, 
But give them blithely of thy good, be not too hard ; 
Seldom is that house poor, where God 's toward ; 
Treasure he hath that feeds the poor, dear child. 

The while thou sit'st in church, prayers shalt thou daily bid, 
Nor jangling shalt thou make with stranger nor with sibbe. 

[neighbour ; cf. gossip] 

And laugh thou none to scorn, nor old nor young ; 
But be thou of good bearing and good tongue ; 
Worship begins in thy good bearing, my dear child. 

Sweet of speech shalt thou be, glad, of mild mood ; 

True, word and deed ; in life and in soul, good ; 

Keep thee from sin, from villainy [low conduct], and shame ; 

Look that thou bear thee so, that no man say thee blame, 

For a good name fore-winneth, my dear child. 



86 Religious Thought in 



And if thy neighbours wife have rich attire, 

Make thou therefore no strife, and burn thou not as fire, 

But thank thou God for all that good that He hath given, 

So shalt thou, my good child, in great ease liv-en ; 

Who seldom thinketh [is disquieted] is at ease, dear child. 

Housewifely shalt thou go on ever}' working-day ; 
But pride and rest and idleness will do it all away. 
And when the holiday shall come, wise shalt thou be, 
That holiday, to worship, so shall God love thee. 
Be more for worship than for pride, dear child. 

Now have I taught thee, daughter, as did my mother me ; 
Think thereon night and day, forget not these things three 
Have measure, lowliness, and forethought, as I thee have taught, 
So whoso weddeth thee in nothing is by-caught. 
Better were child unborn than one untaught, dear child. 

Now thrift and thedam [prosperity] mayst thou have, my 

dear sweet bairn ; 

Of all our former fathers, that e'er were, or are-n, 
Of prophets and of patriarchs that ever were alive, 
A blessing may'st thou have, and well may'st ever thrive, 
Well is the child that well may thrive, dear child. 1 

John Barbour was Archdeacon of Aberdeen in 1357, 
and died in 1395. He knew England well, having often 
travelled in this country. His Bruce, a long poem in 
fourteen books, was completed in 1378. It is wholly 
historical, written to celebrate the deeds of the patriot 
king. But there was throughout it a tone of reverence ; 
and a few lines may be quoted here, relating a well- 
known incident of the battle of Bannockburn : 

When this was said, that now said I, 
The men of Scotland commonly 
Knelt them all down, to God to pray. 
And a short prayer there made they 
To God, to help them in that fight. 
And when the English king had sight 
Of them a-kneeling, quick said he, 
' They kneel, yon folk, to ask mercy.' 

1 Hazlitt's Remains of the Early Popular Poetry of England, 1864, 
vol. ii. 190-2 : 

Doughter, gif thou wilt ben a wif, and wiseliche werche, 
Loke that thou loue welle God and holy Cherche.' 



Old English Verse 87 

Sir Ingrahame said : ' Ye say sooth now ; 

Mercy they ask, but not of you ; 

For their trespass to God they cry. 

A thing I tell you sickerly [for certain], 

That yonder men will win or die. 

For fear of death they will not fly.' 

Barbour's Bruce, ed. by J. Jamieson, 1720, bk. ix. 69-82 : 

Quhen this wes said, that er said I, 
The Scottis men comounaly 
Knelyt all downe, to God to pray. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY 

ENGLISH sacred poetry in the fifteenth century is 
almost always in the minor key, plaintive and peni- 
tential. A deep feeling of religious fear on the one 
hand, and an earnest but trembling confidence in the 
greatness of Divine love on the other hand, are 
struggling, as it were, which is to have the mastery. It 
is often pathetic and beautiful ; but on the whole there 
is a shade of sadness upon it, which is doubtless in some 
degree borrowed from the external troubles of the 
period. 

The poetry of this century, religious as well as secular, 
commences with the composition of Dan John Lydgate, 
a monk of Bury St. Edmunds. He lived to advanced 
years, and died about 1446, nearly half a century later 
than his friend Chaucer. He is best known by his 
Story of Thebes. But he was a prolific writer, and, 
in addition to the many compositions which are un- 
doubtedly his, appears by internal evidence to have 
been the author of various anonymous poems, remain- 
ing to us from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. 
Others followed in his steps, and caught his tone of 
thought. I quote some verses from his Testament. 
It was written in his old age, and contains far more 
words taken from the French than most of his earlier 
poems : 

No song so sweet unto the audience [hearing] 
As Jesu is, that name full of pleasance ; 

Against all foes shield, buckler, and defence, 
To heavy hearts chief comfort in substance, 



Old English Verse 89 

Of ghostly gladness sovereign suffiscince, 
Chief heavenward guide unto the blest city, 

Gladdest resort of spiritual remembrance 
To whom all things created bow the knee. 

The prince was slain, the servant went at large ; 

And to redeem his subject from prisoun 
The Lord took on Him for to bear the charge, 
To quit mankind by obligatioun. 
Sealed with five wounds He payed our ransom 

Man to restore to Paradise his city\ 
Is not man bound, I ask this questioun 
To blessed Jesus for to bow the knee ? 

Within my closet, on my little couch, 

O blessed Jesu, and by my bedside, 
That me no foe, nor hurtful fiend may touch, 

Ever shall Jesu's name with me abide ! 

My precious lodestar, and my sovereign guide ! 
In this world here, alike on land and sea, 

Jesu, Jesu, for all folk provide 

Which to thy name devoutly bow the knee. 

There is no love that perfectly is grounded, 

But it in Jesus took original ; 
For upon Jesus perfectness is founded, 
Our tower, our fort 'gainst power infernal, 
Our portcullis, our bulwark, and our wall, 

Our shield and buckler 'gainst adversity, 
Our heritage, our guerdon eterndl 
To whom all things that are shall bow the knee. 

Do mercy, Jesus, ere that we hence pace 

Out of this perilous, dreadful pilgrimagej 
Beset with brigand foes in every place 

With fierce assault to hinder our passage ! 

Among the rest, I, that be fallen in age, 
Feeble and week with old infirmity, 

1 cry to Jesus for my sin's outrage, 

Right with whole heart thus kneeling on my knee. 

Let not be lost that thou hast bought so dear, 

With gold nor silver, but with thy precious blood. 
Our flesh is frail and short abiding here ; 

Malicious is the old serpent, fell and wood [raging] ; 
The world unstable, now in ebb, now flood ; 

All things I see in mutability. 
Against all these I hold this counsel good 
Mercy to ask of Jesus on my knee. 



9O Religious Thought in 



Let me not rest, O Lord, nor have quiet, 

But fill my soul with spiritual travail, 
To sing and say, O mercy, Jesu sweet ; 
Thou my protection art in the battail. 
Set Thou aside all other apparail ; 

Let me in Thee feel all my affiance. 
Treasure of treasures, Thou dost most avail. 
Grant ere I die shrift, pardon, repentance. 

I feel my heart broken and ruinous, 

Not pure for Thee, Jesu, therein to rest ; 
But as a wright comes to a broken house, 
Or artificer mends a riven chest ; 
So, Jesu, Thou of all wise men the best, 

Repair my thought broke with misgovernance, 
Visit my soul, unlock my steely breast, 

Grant, ere I die, shrift, pardon, repentance. 1 

The latter part of the poem represents the encourag- 
ing answer of our Saviour, and ends with the following 
verse : 

Tarry no longer toward thine heritage ; 

Haste on thy way, and be of right good cheer ; 
Go each day onward in thy pilgrimage ; 

Think that thou dost abide but short time here. 
Thy place is made above the starry sphere, 

No earthly palace wrought in such fair wise. 
Come on, my friend, my brother most enteer [wholly] ; 
For thee I gave my blood in sacrifice. 2 

In William Billyngs' poem on the Five Wounds of 
Christ, dating about 1400-30, occur those quaint lines, 
which may be familiar to the reader, upon ' Earth ' : 

Earth out of earth is wondrously wrought ; 

For earth hath gotten of earth a noble thing of nought ; 

Earth upon earth hath set all his thought, 

How earth upon earth may be high brought. 

1 Dan John LydgatJs Minor Poems: Testament, ed. by J. O. Halliwell 
for Percy Society : 

Ne song so swete unto the audience 
As is Jhesu, now so ful of plesaunce. 

2 Id. 

Terye no lenger toward thyn heritage 

Hast on thy weye and be of rihte good cheere. 



Old English Verse 9 1 

Earth upon earth yet would be a king ; 
But how earth shall to earth thinketh he nothing ; 
When that earth biddeth earth his rents home bring, 
Then shall earth out of earth have a piteous parting. 

Earth winneth upon earth both castles and towers ; 
Then saith earth to earth, ' This is all ours.' 
But when earth upon earth hath builded all his bowers, 
Then shall earth to earth suffer sharp showers. 

Earth buildeth upon earth, as mould upon mould ; 

And earth goeth upon earth glittering like gold, 

Like as earth unto earth never go sholde [should] ; 

And justly then shall earth go to earth sooner than he wolde. 

O Thou Lord, that madest this earth for this earth and 

sufferedst pains ill, 

Let never earth from this earth bear mischief and spill ; 
But let earth on this earth be ever working Thy will, 
So that earth from this earth may climb up to Thine high 

hill. 1 

Some meditations from the seven Penitential Psalms 
are supposed to have been written in 1414 by Thomas 
Brampton, a Franciscan monk, professor of theology. 
He introduces them with a preface about the circum- 
stances which led him to write these verses : 

In winter time, when it was cold, 

I rose at midnight from my rest, 
And prayed to Jesus that He wold 

Be help to me, for He might best ; 
And in my heart anon I kest [cast] 

How I had sinned, and what degree ; 
I cried, knocking upon my breast, 

' Ne reminiscaris, Domine ! ' l 

He repeated some verses from his book of prayers, and 
then went, with sorrowful heart, to his confessor, who 
instructed him to repeat the seven penitential psalms. 
The subsequent lines consist of a short meditation upon 

1 Corser's Collectanea Anglo- Poetica, ii. 284; and E. E.T.S. 4 (Furni- 
vall), 24 : 

Erth owt of erth is wondyrly wrought, 

For erth hath goten of erth a nobul thyng of noght. 

- T. Brampton's Paraphrases, ed. by W. H. Black for Percy Society : 
' In wynter whan the wedir was cold.' 



92 Religious Thought in 

each verse in these psalms, with the refrain in each case, 
* Ne reminiscaris, Domine.' I quote four of them : 
On Psalm xxxii. 4 x 

The hand of vengeance, more and more 

Is hard upon me, day and night ; 
The prick of conscience grieveth sore 

As often as I do unright. 
But mercy, Lord, as thou hast hight [promised] 

To all that turn them unto thee ! 
I know no succour in this plight 

But ' Ne reminiscaris, Domine ! ' 
On Psalm xxxviii. 4 2 

My guilt is grown above my head ; 

All wickedness in me is found ; 
My sins be heavy as heavy lead, 

They draw me down unto the ground. 
The fiend with craft hath me so bound, 

Both hand and foot, I may not flee. 
Nothing can make me safe and sound 

But ' Ne reminiscaris, Domine ! ' 
From Psalm li. io 3 

My heart hath been denied with sin ; 

My spirit was to thee untrue. 
O, cleanse me, therefore, Lord, within ! 

A rightful spirit, O, renew, 
That I may ever sin eschew, 

And if my heart shall froward be, 
Thy mercy still will I pursue 

With ' Ne reminiscaris, Domine.' 
From Psalm cxxx. 6 4 

Fully I trust that thou wilt keep 

My soul from mischief day and night ; 
For wheresoe'er I wake or sleep, 

With me is still an angel bright, 

1 Brampton's Paraphrases. The Latin verse is : ' Quoniam die nc nocte 
gravata est super me manus tua : conversus sum in serumna mea, dum 
configitur spina.' 

The hand of vengeaunce, more and more. 

3 ' Quoniam iniquitates mere supergressse sunt caput meum : et sicut 
onus grave gravatas sunt super me. ' 

My gylt is growyn over myn heed. 

3 ' Cor mundum crea in me, Deus : et spiritum rectum innova in visceri- 
bus meis.' 

Myn herte hath be dyffoyled with synne. 

4 ' A custodia matutina usque ad noctem : speret Israel in Domino.' 

I truste fully Thou wylt me kepe. 



Old English Verse 93 

Though He appear not to my sight 

Full tenderly he keepeth me ; 
He stirs my heart with all His might 

To ' Ne reminiscaris, Domine ! ' 1 

John Audelay, or Awdlay, was a devout monk who 
lived at the beginning of the fifteenth century in the 
monastery of Haghmon, in Shropshire, the ruins of 
which are still existing. In a short note inserted above 
the colophon of the manuscript, we are told that he was 
living in that religious house in the year 1426, and that 
he was blind and deaf. He tells in his poems that he 
had lived sinfully in earlier life. He detested the 
opinions of Wickliffe, and thought them perilous in 
the extreme ; but he was very earnestly desirous of 
a great reformation in religious life and discipline. 
This is all that is known of him. His writings, with 
the exception of some lines on Henry VI., are all of 
a religious character. He says of his book : 

As I lay sick in my langure, 

In an abbey here by west, 
This book I made with great dolour, 

When I might not sleep nor rest. 
Oft with my prayers my soul I blest, 

And said aloud to heaven's King : 
' I know, O Lord, it is the best 

Meekly to take Thy visiting ; 
Else well I wot that I were lorne [lost]. 
High above all lords be He blest, 
All that Thou dost is for the best ; 
By fault of thee was no man lost 

That is here of woman born. 2 

He assures his readers that what he wrote was not his 
own, for his own speech were but folly ; it was put 
into his heart by the Holy Spirit. Then he concludes 
his preface with the words : 

1 The Seven Penitential Psalms. Supposed to have been written by 
Thomas Brampton in the year 1414, ed. by W. H. Black for the Percy 
Society, 1841. 

- Poems of John Audelay, ed. by J. O. Halliwell for the Percy Society : 
As I lay seke in my langure, 
In an abbay here be west. 



94 Religious Thought in 

O look ye, sirs, I ask and pray, 

Since this I made with good intent, 
Revering God Omnipotent, 
Pray for me, ye that be present ; 

My name is John the blind Awdlay. 

In his principal work he discusses in verse a number 
of religious and moral subjects, such as the various sins, 
the Commandments, works of mercy, the five senses, 
faith, hope, and charity, the baptismal covenant, true 
wisdom, obedience as the test of love. Then, in the 
second part, he takes one after another some Latin 
text or moral proverb, and draws some lesson from it 
adapted to his times, in very simple but not unforcible 
verses. He is very much in earnest, ever kindly and 
charitable, but somewhat despondent about the evils 
around him. In dwelling upon one of his principal 
topics the duties of good monks and good priests he 
laments that these are not they who win the favour of 
the people. A priest who is spiritual and sedulous in 
his devotion is called among men a hypocrite, a nought, 
and a niggard : 

A holy priest men set not by ; 
They keep not of their company ; 
To them men be unkind. 

The popular favour is given to the ' mer (merry) mon ' 
and 'jolye araid,' the man who can harp and sing 

Thus is the wicked world pleased with vanity, 

And wittingly men anger God unwisely evermore. 
God of His grace grant them that be guilty, 

That here in life their deeds they mend therefore ; 
And never let them for their lust, Lord, be forelore [lost], 

But send them sorrow in their heart their sins to slake, 
And so into Thy court, and kingdom them restore ; 

And us, O Trinity, from all temptation take, 
That we thy hests fulfil. 1 

Especially he entreats his ' blessid broder Salomon ' to 
' spare not to say the sooth ' and ' move the matter 

1 Poems of John Audelay, 16 : ' Thus this wyckyd world is plesid with 
vanite. 



Old English Verse 95 

masterfully to priest and to frere,' without fear or 
flattery : 

Who spareth for to speak, he spareth for to speed ; 

And he that speaks and speedeth not, spells out but wind ; 

Better to speak and speed, than hold it in the mind. 1 

He finishes these admonitions by saying that he doubts 
not he shall have hard words for saying the sooth 
without fair words and flattery : 

I will not preach the people for to pay [please], 
Nor will I, by my knowledge, wrath my God, 
As God have mercy on me, John Audlay, 

At my most need. 

I reck not who it hear, 

Be it priest, or be it frere ; 

For men of fools may lere 

If they take heed. 2 

There is a good deal of fervour in some of his devo- 
tional poems, as in this : 

O Jesu, grant me grace to thirst 

For springs of life that aye shall last 

The well ever flowing, 
With all the longing of my heart 
To leave my sin with tears that smart, 

Here, Lord, in my living. 

Jesu, Thou saidst specially, 
' In manus tuas, Domine, 

Commendo spiritum meum.' 
Out of this world when I shall wend, 
My soul to Thee I recommend ; 

Father, to Thee I come ! 

And make me worthy, Father dear, 

That Thy sweet calling I may hear, 

In th' hour of my parting : 

1 Come unto me, chosen and blest 
And have the bliss that aye shall last 

For worlds without ending.' 3 

Poems of John Audelay, 28 : ' Whosoever sparys fore to speke, sparys 
for to spede. ' 
Id. 51 : 

. . . wyl preche the pepul apert hem for to pay. 

I nel not wrath my God at my wetyng. 
Id. 64 : ' O Jhesu, graunt me grace to thorst. ' 



96 Religious Thoiight in 

The following are some pleasing lines from a poem 
on The Service of the Church : 

When in the church ye kneel adown, 
With good heart and devotioun, 

Hold ye your hand up then ; 
And for yourselves ye first shall pray, 
Father and mother next, I say, 

And then for all thy kin ; 
And for thy friend, and for thy foe, 
For those that did thee good also, 

Many as thou canst myn [mind], 
And for the priest that singeth mass, 
That God forgive him his trespass, 

And for all that be therein. 
If that the priest who mass doth sing 
Shall not be after thy liking, 

Let not this hinder aught ; 
For thee his mass is good to hear 
As any monk's, or any frere ; 

Take thou this in thy thought. 
Yea, and although his prayer and boon 
Should not be hearkened half so soon 

As though he well had wrought ; 
Yet put away from you despair ; 
The Sacrament none may impair, 

If that wise men say ought. 1 

Some touching verses remain to us from the fifteenth 
century expressive of the Saviour's pleading against 
the sin and ingratitude of men. I quote a part of one 
of the earliest and best of them. It is entitled The 
Complaint of Christ, and dates from about 1430 : 

man, I love thee, whom lov'st thou ? 

I am thy friend ; why wilt thou feyne [hate] ? 

1 forgave thee, and thou me slough [slew] ; 

who hath rent our love in twain ? 
Turn to Me ! O bethink thee, how, 

Thou hast gone amiss ; come home again, 
And thou shalt be as welcome now 
As he that sin did never stain. 
Think what I said to Mawdelaine, 
And what to Thomas, he of Ind. 

1 grant thee bliss ; why lov'st thou pain ? 
Why art thou to thy friend unkind ? 

1 J. Audelay's Poems, 72 : ' Then in the cherche ye knele adowne.' 



Old English Verse 



97 



For of a friend the foremost prief [proof] 

Is love, and dread, and nought-displease ; 
Never was thing to me so lief [dear] 

As man, whom nothing can appease. 
For thee I suffered great reprief [reproof], 

Of heaven's bliss thy soul to seize [get possession of] : 
I was y-hanged as a thief : 

Thou didst the deed, I had th' unease ; 

Thou canst me never thank nor please, 
Nor do good deed, nor have me in mind. 

I am thy leech in thy disease : 
Why art thou to thy friend unkind ? 



Ah, I have bought thy love full dear ; 

Unkind ! why goest thou from mine ? 
I gave thee heart and blood in fere [alike] ; 

Unkind ! O why not give me thine ? 
Thou art an unkind homagere. 

For with my foe thou mak'st thy fyn [peace] ; 
Thou servest me with feeble cheer, 

To him thy heart will all incline ; 

And I am Lord of bliss and pyne [pain], 
And everything may loose and bind ; 

Against thee I my gates will tyne [bar] 
While thou art to thy friend unkind ! 

O man, bethink thee what thou art, 

Whence come, and whether thou art boun [bound], 
Whole thou mayst be to-day and qwart [in ease], 

To-morrow I may put thee down. 
Let meekness melt into thine heart, 

And think with grief on my passioun, 
Of my wide wounds, both deep and smerte [painful], 

The cross, the nails, the spear, the crown. 

Let dread and good discretioun 
Thy will towards me wholly bind ; 

Thou hast good wit, thou hast reasoun, 
And if thou wilt, thou may'st be kind. 

O Lord ! 'gainst Thee we will not plete [plead], 

For as Thou wilt it is and was. 
We have deserved Thy anger hete [hot], 

And now we yield us to Thy grace. 
Yea, we will bow, and Thou shall beat 

And chasten us for our trespass, 
And let mercy for us entreat 

That never fiend our souls may chase ! 
G 



98 Religious Thought in 

Ah, blessed Lady, fair of face, 

Help us, for far we be behind, 
And well may cry with tears, ' Alas, 

That we were to our Friend unkind !' Amen. 1 

From another collection of fifteenth century poems 
I quote the following, entitled Richard de Castro's 
Prayer to Jesus (c. 1430) : 

Jesu, Lord, that madest me, 
And with Thy blessed blood hast bought, 

Forgive that I have grieved Thee 

With words, with will, and eke with thought. 

Jesu, in whom is all my trust, 
Thou that didst die on the rood tree, 

Withdraw my heart from fleshly lust, 
And from all worldly vanity. 

Jesu, for Thy woundes smart, 

On feet and on Thy handes two, 
Make me meek and low of heart, 

And Thee to love as I should do. 

Jesu, for Thy bitter wound, 

That pierced e'en to Thy heart's root, 

For sin that hath my heart y-bound, 
Thy blessed blood must be my boot. 

And Jesu Christ, to Thee I call, 

Thou that art God and full of might, 

O keep me clean that I ne'er fall 
In deadly sin by day nor night. 

Jesu, for them I Thee beseech 

That anger Thee in any wise ; 
Withhold from them Thy hand of wreak, 

And let them live in Thy service. 

Jesu, most comfort for to see, 

Of all Thy saintes every one, 
O comfort them that careworn be 

And help them that be woe-begone. 

Jesu, O keep them that be good, 
And them amend that have grieved Thee, 

And send us fruits of earthly food 
As each man needs in his degree. 

1 Hymns Political and Religious, E. E.T.S. 15 : 'This is Goddis own 
complaynt.' 



Old English Verse 99 

Jesu, Thou Lord that hatest lies, 

Almighty God in Trinity, 
Stay Thou these wars, and send us peace, 

With lasting love and charity. 

Jesu, that art the Corner Stone 

Of all the holy Church on earth, 
Bring Thou Thy fold and flock in one, 

And call them rightly with one hirde- (shepherd). 1 

The following two stanzas are from a poem of about 
the same date, entitled The Love of Jesus : 

Love is a thought with great desire, 

And also of a fair loving ; 
I liken love unto a fire 

That slacken may for ne'er a thing. 
Love cleanseth us of all our sin, 

Love unto us our bliss shall bring ; 
Love the King's heart to us will win ; 

Love can of joy for ever sing. 

A longing in my heart is lent 

For love, such as I cannot let [restrain] ; 
His love he hath unto me sent 

That every bale and grief may fleet ; 
And since my heart was fired and brent [burned] 

With my Lord's love so dear and sweet, 
Away from me all sorrow went, 

And it and I no more will meet. 2 

In a poem of this collection, entitled by its editor 
The Mirror of the Periods of a Man's Life, the writer 
)ictures to himself, as in a dream, the earthly history 

of a human soul from the time when the babe was born 

into the world, and 

All alone as God him maked, 

Into a wild that child did go ; 
Till two in governance it taked 

An angel friend, an angel foe. 

story traces in its course the varied temptations and 
sins which beset the several periods of life from the 
time when the infant becomes conscious of good and 

1 Hymns to Christ, etc., ed, by T. J. Furnivall, E.E.T.S. 24 : Jhesu, 
3rd, that madist me.' 

2 Id. 84 : ' Love is a thougt with gret desyr.' 



ioo Religious Thought in 

evil, until the old man of a hundred years sinks into 
his grave. Towards its close, Wanhope (Despair) is 
represented as seeking to persuade the aged man that 
his sins have been too great for mercy, and that it is 
useless even to ask for it. But he returns answer that 
he will ask on unwearied 

For if perchance a man be wounded sore 
And ask no medicines, 'tis his will to die ; 

But God hath mercies still enough in store 
For worlds in thousands that for mercy cry. 1 

I must refer to only one more poem in this collection 
that named Revertere. It begins : 

In a noontide of a summer's day 

(The sun full merry shone that tide) 
I took my hawk all for to play, 

My spaniel running by my side. 
A pheasant hen soon gan I see 

My hound put up all fair to flight 
I sent my falcon, let him fly, 

It was to me a dainty sight. 

He ran on fast, but tumbled over a briar, and every 
leaf of it seemed to say ' Revertere ! ' (' Turn again ! ') 

O turn again, Man, I thee pray, 
And think in heart what thou hast been. 

It led him to study sore his life. He found that he 
had not well used the hot summer of his life. His heart 
had fled away, like the hawk, but not to God only, alas, 
after the pheasant, Pleasure : 

Then found I me far fled away 

From God in all His majesty. 
But now no thing my heart shall stay, 

But that I sing, 'Revertere.' 2 

My next quotation, from another collection of fif- 
teenth century verse, is from a poem which most likely 
dates from Edward the Fourth's reign : 

1 Hymns to Christ, etc. From the poem beginning ' In wyntir nygt or 
y waked." 

2 Id. ' In a noon-tijd of a somers day.' 



Old English Verse 101 

Now is well, and all things right, 
And Christ is come as a true knight, 
To be our brother, King of Might, 

The fiend to fend and all his ; 
Thus the fiend is put to flight. 

And all his boast abated is. 

Since it is so, let us well do, 

For there is none but one of two 

Heaven to get, or heaven forego ; 

Means beside none other is ; 
I counsel you, since it is so, 

Ye do well, to win ye bliss. 

Now is well, and all is well, 

And right well, so we have bliss ; 

And since, so, all is so well, 
I rede, we do no more amiss. 1 

The following are some verses from another poem 
in the same manuscript : 

Though thou be'st king and wear the crown, 
Though thou be'st lord of tower and town, 
I set not by thy great renown, 
But an thou will amend-es make, 

Sinful man, for Christes sake. 

Man, thou art both stiff and strong, 
Many a man thou hast done wrong ; 
' Well away ! ' shall be thy song, 
But an thou wilt amend-es make 

Sinful man, for Christes sake. 

Than, beware ! the way is scheder [sharply parted], 

Thou must scleder [slide down], thou wottest weder [whether], 

Body and soul, and all togeder, 

But an thou wilt amend-es make. 

Sinful man, for Christes sake. 2 

Among the poems of the age of Edward the Fourth, 
in the Parkington manuscript is one entitled The Vision 



1 Songs and Carols of Fifteenth Century, ed. by T. Wright for the 
Percy Society, 1847 : ' Now ys wele and all thyng arygt.' 

2 Id. 44 : ' Thow thou byst kyng and were the crowne.' 



iO2 Religious Thought in 

of Pkilibert respecting the Body and Soul. The Latin 
of which this is a metrical version is supposed to have 
been by Walter de Mapes. Such mutual recriminations 
of soul and body after death were, as I have before had 
occasion to remark, a subject that frequently occurs in 
in very early English poetry. The one now under 
notice is rather a long piece, out of which I quote two 
verses. The soul stands by the body weeping, and 
reproaches it : 

' I am a soul after the similitude 

Of God, a creature of right noble wise, 
Ordained to be of that great multitude, 

That to God's glory shall ascend and rise ; 

But thou, alas ! madest me to despise 

My God ; so well away the while ! 

For to eternal death he will us both exile.' 

At last the body, long upbraided, starts from its 
coffin, and retorts the charge : 

' Reason God gave to thee, and will, and mind, 
With divers goods he well endowed thee ; 

He gave thee all, and me he left behind, 
Thy subject made, in full simple degree. 
But thou wert negligent and ruled by me, 
Thou should'st in greater measure have the pain, 
In reason, as me-thinketh, of us twain.' J 

The English verses interspersed amid the Latin homi- 
letic teaching of John Wotton's Speculum Christiana 
(1418) have a certain interest, because this is said to 
have been the first printed volume in which English 
verse appeared. It will be seen from the extracts given 
that not much can be said for the intrinsic merit of the 
rhyme. The following is from a discourse on the Book 
of Wisdom : 

He calleth every man a king 

That here hath care or governing ; 

He bids them love God in His law, 

And teach it others to keep and knaw, 

1 Early English Miscellanies, selected by J. O. Halliwell from the 
Porkington MS. (Warton Society), pp. 12-39 : 

I am a sole after thi shnlytude 

Of God, a creatur in a rygt nobul wyse. 



Old English Verse 103 

And ever therein be most holy, 
And then in heaven they crown'd shall be, 
And have more worship and honour 
Than ever had king or emperour. 

And later on in the book : 

And some there be that give them mickle 
To the world that is both false and fickle ; 
On it their love the most they set, 
And it the love of God will let. 1 

The following are some lines from a poem written 
at the end of fifteenth century on the fly-leaf of a 
treatise of St. Bonaventura, printed at that date. It 
is a poem of ten stanzas, representing Christ pleading 
against man's mistrust. 

I bade thee ask, for hear I wold ; 

I bade thee seek, and I would save ; 
I bade thee trust and make thee bold : 

Ask of thy Brother thou shalt have. 

It grieved me more, the sin of Cain, 

Than Abel dying who was good ; 
And Judas' loss gave greater pain, 

Than that he sold me to the rood. 
Pilate and Herod were so wode [mad], 

Yet ne'er would I my ruth forbid, 
Though never men as they withstood. 

Mistrust thee never, man, for thy misdeed ! 

1 John Wotton, Speculum Christiana^ 1480. The following are the 
words as they stand. I quote them for the reason above mentioned : 

He calles euery man a kyng 
That here has cure or governyng, 
He biddes thaim loue god in hys lawe 
And teche it other to kepe and knawe. 

And ther aboute euer to be most helye 
And than schall they in hevene crouned bee 
And haue more worschip and hononre 
Than euer hadde kynge here or emperour. 

And somme they be that yeve them mekyll 
To the world that ys bothe fals and fekyll 
On hit their loue most they sette 
And hit the loue of God most wille let. 



IO4 Religious Thought in 

Full rather would I die again 

Than one drop of my mercy be found dry 
Full lief were I to suffer pain, 

To save a soul e'erlastingly. 
Great power have I, and mastery : 

And a King's word shall stand in stead. 
O man, why fly in thy folly ? 

Mistrust thou never, man, for thy misdeed ! 
Look upward to the cross, and see a thief : 

He asked for mercy, and that boon he got ; 
And also Paul, that did me great repreef [reproof], 

Worthy apostle was anon, I wot. 
The Magd'len mercy asked for her trespass ; 

And Peter thrice forsook me in his dread ; 
Yet who more worthy now in my palace ? 

Mistrust thee never, man, for thy misdeed ! x 

A great number of carols, and verses of a kindred 
character, have been preserved in two manuscripts of 
the fifteenth century, both of which have been edited 
by Dr. T. Wright in two separate volumes. One of 
these poems is shown by internal evidence to have been 
composed about 1362, and many of them may have been 
preserved in memory a number of years before they were 
copied out in the collections referred to. It is well 
known how very ancient some of the carols are which 
are even to this day traditionally repeated in country 
places. A great number of those in this collection pass 
from the Nativity to the Crucifixion ; and some, although 
headed by the Christmas greeting ' Novvel/ are entirely 
of the Passion. For example : 

' Mary mother, come and see ! 
Thy Son is nailed on a tree ; 
Hand and feet He may not go, 

His body's wounden all in woe. 
' Thy sweet Son that thou hast bor'n, 
To save mankind that was forlorn, 
His head is wreathen in a thorn, 
His bliss-ful body ail-to torn.' 

1 Pieces of Ancient Poetry from Unpublished Manuscripts and Scarce 
Books, Bristol, 1814, p. 41 : 

I bade the aske for * I wolde 

I bade the seche and I walcle save. 
The MS. is in parts imperfect and illegible. 



Old English Verse 105 

When he this tale began to tell, 
Mary would no longer dwell, 
But fast she hied her to that hill 

Where Jesus 'gan His blood to spill. 

' Ah, my sweet Son, that art so dear, 
Say wherefore have men hang'd Thee here ? 
Thy head is wreathen in a brere [briar] : 
My lovely Son, how is Thy cheer ? 

' Sweet limbs to which I gave their rest, 
That comely mouth that I have kissed 
Now on the rood is made thy nest : 

Dear Son of mine, say what is best?' 

' Woman, to John I thee betake ; 
John, keep this woman for my sake ; 
For sinful souls my death I take. 
On rood I hang for many's sake. 

' This part alone I needs must play ; 
For sinful souls I die to-day. 
There is no wight that go'th his way, 
Who of my pains the tale can say.' 1 

Among the carols of Henry the Sixth's time at 
latest, is the following curious legend for St Stephen's 
Day: 

Saint Stephen was a clerk in King Herod's hall, 

And served him of bread and cloth, as every king befall. 

Stephen out of kitchen came, with boar's head in hand : 
He saw a star was fair and bright over Bethlehem stand. 

He cast adown the boar's head, and went into the hall : 
' I forsake thee, King Herod, and thy works all. 

' I forsake thee, King Herod, and thy works all, 

There is a child in Bethlehem born is better than we all.' 

' What aileth thee, Stephen ? what is thee befall ? 
Lacketh thee either meat or drink in King Herod's hall ?' 



1 Songs and Carols from a MS. in the British Museum of the Fifteenth 
Century, ed. by T. Wright, No. xlv. : 

Mary moder, cum, and se, 
Thi sone is naylyd on a tre. 



io6 Religious Thought in 

' Lacketh me neither meat nor drink in King Herod's hall ; 
There is a child in Bethlehem born is better than we all.' 

' What aileth thee, Stephen ? art thou wode [mad], or 'ginnest 

to brede [brood] ? 
Lacketh thee either gold or fee, or any rich weed ? ' 

' Lacketh me neither gold nor fee, or any rich weed ; 

There is a child in Bethlehem born, shall help us at our need.' 

' That is all so sooth, Stephen, all so sooth, I wis, 
As this capon crow shall, that lieth here in my dish.' 

That word was not so soon said, that word in that hall, 
The capon crew ' Christus natus est ' among the lords all. 

' Rise up, my tormentors, by two, and all by one, 

And lead ye Stephen out of town, and stone him with stone.' 

Tooken they Stephen, and stoned him in the way ; 
And therefore is his even on Christes own day. 1 

Of other carols of this century, I can only find room 
for a few extracts : 

As they came forth with their offering, 
They met with Herod, that moody king. 
He asked them of their coming 

That tide, 
And thus to them he seyde : 

' From whence came ye, kinge"s three ? ' 
' Out of the East, as thou mayest see, 
To seeken Him that ever shall be 

Through right, 
Lord and King of might.' 

' When ye have at that king y-be, 

Come ye again this way by me, 

And tell me the sights that ye have see ; 

I pray, 
Ye go not another way.' 

Of Herodys that moody king, 

They took their leave, both old and ying, 

And forth they went with their offering, 

In sight, 
And their way came by night. 

1 Songs and Carols, ed. by T. Wright, xliv. : ' Seynt Stevene was a 
clerk in kyng Herowdes halle.' 



Old English Verse 107 

When they camen into the place 
Where Jesu with His mother was, 
They made offering with great solace, 

Not fear, 
With gold, incense, and myrrh. 1 

In this time rose a star clear, 
Over Bethlehem, bright as fer [fire], 
In token that He had no peer, 

Lord, and King and Emperour 

In this time, it is befall, 
He that died for us all, 
Born He was in asses stall 

Of Mary, that sweet flower. 

In this time camen three kings ; 
They camen from far, with rich things, 
For to maken their offerings 

On their knees with great honour. 

In this time, pray we 

To Him that died on the tree, 

On us have mercy and pity, 

And bring us all to His tower. 2 

' Nowel-el ! ' both old and ying, 
' Nowel-el ! ' now may we sing, 
In worship of our heavenly king, 
Almighty God in Trinity. 

Listen, lordings, kind and dear, 
Listen, ladies, with glad cheer ; 
A song of mirth now may ye hear, 

How Christ our brother He would be. 

An angel from heaven was sent full snel [quick]. 
His name is clepe"d Gabriel ; 
His errand he did do full snel ; 

He set on knee, and said ' Ave.' 

And said he, ' Mary, full of grace, 
Heaven and earth in every place, 
Within the time of little space, 
Reconciled it shall be.' 3 



1 Songs and Carols, ed. by T. Wright, xxxix. : ' As they kerne loryt 
with here ofteryng. ' 

2 Id. xlvii. : ' In this tyme ros a sterre cler. ' 

3 Id. Ix. : ' Nowel, el, bothe eld and ying.' 



io8 Religious Thought in 

Welcome be thou, Heavenly King, 
Welcome, born in one morning ; 
Welcome, for whom we shall sing, 
Welcome Yule. 1 



Sweet Jesus is come to us, 

This good time of Christmas ; 
Wherefore with praise sing we always, 

Welcome our Messias ! 

Hey now, now, now. 

The God almight and King of light, 

Whose power is over all, 
Give us of grace for to purchase 

His realm celestial. 
Hey, etc. 

Where His angels and archangels 

Do sing incessantly, 
His principates and potentates 

Do make great harmony. 
Hey, etc. 

With one accord serve we that Lord, 

With lauds and orison, 
The which hath sent by good assent, 

To us His only Son. 
Hey, etc. 

Lo, what kindness in our distress 

The Lord did show us then, 
The death to take all for our sake, 

And bring us from Satan. 
Hey, etc? 

One of the most distinguished men among the many 
who were proud to call Chaucer ' Master,' was James I. 
of Scotland, ' the greatest of the ill-starred Stewart line 
the best king who was ever a poet, and the best poet 
who was ever a king. . . . He was by nature a soldier 
and statesman, and equally by nature a man of letters. 

1 Songs and Carols, ed. by T. Wright, Ixvii : 

Wolcum be thou, hevene kyng, 
Wolcum, born in on morwenyng, 
Wolcum, for horn we xal syng, 

Wolcum, yol. 

2 Id. Ix. : ' Swet Jhesus is cum to us. ' 



Old English Verse 109 

While still a prisoner of Henry in the Round Tower of 
Windsor, he had converted the castle-yard into a court 
of martial exercise, and his chamber into a study. Out 
of doors, he became a horseman and a runner ; indoors, 
a musician, a lawyer, and, studying " his maisters dear," 
himself a poet.' 1 It was during his captivity (1405-24), 
during which he grew up from a young boy into the 
prime of manhood, that he wrote The King's Quair, 
(' The King's Book'), a sort of allegorical poem descrip- 
tive of his feelings, and mainly inspired by his love for 
Lady Jane Somerset, first cousin of Henry V., whom he 
afterwards married. Like many other writers of that 
age, he has mixed together very incongruously Scripture 
and mythology Christian images and pagan ones. I 
quote two stanzas from his poem, not by any means as 
being the best samples of his style, but as verses which 
express some of his graver and more devotional 
thoughts : 

Take Him before in all thy governance, 

That in His hand holdeth the helm of all ; 
And pray unto His ruling Providence 

Thy love to guide, and on Him trust and call, 
That cornerstone and ground is of the wall, 
That faileth not ; and trust, withouten dread, 
Unto His purpose soon He shall thee lead. 

For lo ! the work that first is founded sure, 

May better bear apace and higher be 
Than otherwise, and longer shall endure 

By manifold this may thy reason see 

And stronger to foreward adversity ; 

Ground therefore all thy work upon the stone, 

And thy desire shall forthward with thee go'en. 2 

Robert Henryson was a schoolmaster of Dunfermline, 
probably in the Benedictine convent there, and lived 

1 J. Nichols' Sketch of Scottish Poetry, E.E.T.S. 47, xviii. 

2 The Quair, maid be King James of Scotland, in Sibbald's Chronicle 
of Scottish Poetry, vol. i. : 

Tak him before in all thy governance, 

That in his hand the stere has of you all, 

And pray unto his hye purveyance, 

Thy lufe to gye, and on him traist and call.' 

Stanzas, cvi. -cvii. 



i io Religious Thought in 

during the latter half of the fifteenth century. The 
following is from The Abbay Walk : 

Alone as I walked up and down 

In an abbey was fair to see, 
Thinking what consolatioun 
Was best in all adversity, 
By chance I cast aside mine eye, 
And saw this written on a wall, 
In what estate man that thou be, 
Obey, and thank thy God for all. 

Thy kingdom and thy great empire, 

Thy royalty and rich array, 
Shall not endure at thy desire, 
But as the wind shall wend away, 
Thy goods and all thy goods so gay, 

When fortune list, shall from thee fall ; 
Since thou such samples seest each day, 
Obey, and thank thy God for all. 

Blame not thy Lord ; so is his will ; 

Spurn not thy foot against the wall ; 
But with meek heart and prayer, still 

Obey, and thank thy God for all. 

This changing, and great variance, 
Of earthly states or up or down, 
Comes neither through fortune nor chance, 
As some men say without reasoun ; 
But by the great provisioun 

Of God above that rule thee shall : 
Therefore, man, ever make thee boun [bound] 
To obey, and thank thy God for all. 

In wealth be meek, vaunt not thyself; 

Be glad in woful poverty ; 
Thy power and thy wordly pelf 
Is naught but very vanity. 
Remember Him that died on tree, 
For thy sake tasted bitter gall ; 
What His laws bid and set on he [high] 
Obey, and thank thy God for all. 

1 Sibbald's Chronicle of Scottish Poetry, vol. i. p. 183 ; Henryson's 
Abbay Walk : 

Allone as I went up and doun, 
In ane abbay was fair to se, 
Thinkand quhat consolatioun 
Was best in all adversitie. 



Old English Verse 1 1 1 

Some time in the fifteenth century an unknown writer, 
who says he was neither monk nor friar, wrote a poem 
in Lowland Scotch of over 2000 lines under the out- 
landish title of Ratis Raving, i.e. ' Raving or Mad 
Counsels.' He explains why he gave it this name. 

For now is endyt this matere 
The quhilk is ratis raving call'd 
But for no raving I it hald, 
But for richt wis and gud teching. 

It is an elaborate religious and moral essay in verse. 
First, of the temptations through the five senses. Then 
of fortitude, honesty, prudence, and temperance. Then 
of faith, hope, and charity. Then of the seven deadly 
sins. Then precepts in morals and manner. Then of 
the seven ages. Then of the virtues of good women, 
and so forth. I quote a few lines : 

The seven gifts of the Holy Ghost 

Are things which God hath blessed most, 

For they reach up right to the heaven ; 

And all that cometh of the seven 

Love, loyalty, and chastity, 

And all goodness, and all bounty, 

Spring up from them and from their place, 

As the divisions are of grace : 

That place stands true in all blitheness, 

And full of grace and all goodness. 1 

He had a very ill opinion of the moral state of his 
country at that time : 

For wit is turned to ill ingene [disposition], 
And falsehood comes in floods, I ween, 
And godliness is all foryet [forgotten], 
And malice porter at the gate ; 
And great lordship and seigniory 
Is all o'erta'en with tyranny, 
That aye with justice is a fed [at feud], 
And fosters felony in its stead. 

And kingship, that should have no peer, 
And kings of lands right broad and fair, 

1 Sibbald's Chronicle of Scottish Poetry, 649 : ' The sevyne giftis of the 
haly gaist.' 



1 1 2 Religious Thought in 

Just as they like, or as they deem, 
O'erturn the right they have to yeme, 
So right and law is laid to sleep. 
Is there no king these things to keep, 
Who will the good hold to the end, 
And so will all his lifetime spend ? 1 

William Dunbar (c. 1460-^. 1513) was educated at St. 
Andrews, and then entered the Franciscan Order. For 
a time he was a mendicant friar, and wandered England 
through ' from Berwick to Dover.' Between 1490 and 
1500 he was much employed on the Continent on 
political errands. He was a sort of unconscious pre- 
cursor of the Reformation, pelting freely and coarsely 
not only the general vices of his time, but in particular 
the abuses in the Church. Nor did he always dis- 
criminate whether ridicule were just or not. His poems 
are vigorous, and at one time were very popular, and some 
of them appeared in the first volume which issued from 
the Scottish press in 1508. Every copy, however, of 
that work was lost until a decayed and mutilated 
portion of it was discovered in 1788. The following is 
from Vanitas Vanitatuin \ 

Walk forth, thou pilgrim, while thou hast day-light, 
Haste from the desert, draw to thy dwelling-place ; 

Speed home, for now anon cometh the night, 
Which doth thee follow with unswerving chase ! 

Bend up thy sail, and win thy port of grace ; 

Ere that sure death o'ertake thee in trespass. 2 

The following four lines are from his Now cometh Age 
where Eolith has been : 

Is none so true a love as He, 
That for true love of us did de" ; 
He should be lov'd again, think me, 
That would to fain our love obtain. 3 



1 Sibbald's Chronicle of Scottish Poets, 1482 : ' For wyt is twrnyt in mail 
engyne,' etc. 

- Poems of William Dunbar, ed. by J. Small, p. 244 : ' Walk furth, 
pilgrame, quhile thow hes dayis lycht. ' 

3 Sibbald's Chronicle of Scottish Poetry, i. 23 : ' Is none so trew a luve 
as he.' 



Old English Verse 1 1 3 

Gavin Douglas, third son of Archibald, fifth Earl of 
Angus, ' the most learned and amiable of his illustrious 
race,' was born in 14/4, educated at St. Andrews and 
Paris, became Bishop of Dunkeld in 1515, and, getting 
involved in the civil war, retired to England, where he 
died in 1522. He is best known by his translation of 
Virgil ; but he also wrote, after the fashion of the poets 
of that age, a long allegory entitled TJie Palace of 
Honour, finished in 1 501, which is so far a religious poem 
that it has been in some respects compared to, or rather 
contrasted with, The Pilgrim's Progress. In either case 
the pilgrim is conducted under supernatural guidance to 
a glorious celestial city where bliss and goodness dwell, 
and many fail to reach it. But the resemblance does 
not go much further. In Douglas's poem there is the 
most extraordinary mixture of Christian ideas and per- 
sonages, and of others taken from the old classical 
mythology. It is enough to say that the Muse Calliope, 
by the appointment of Venus, is represented as setting 
forth the Christian doctrines of faith, baptism, and re- 
demption. I may quote the lines in which the nymph 
describes how virtue alone abides in lasting honour : 
To popes and bishops, prelates and primates, 
To emperors, kings, princes and potentates, 
Death sets the term and end of all their height ; 
They go, and then see ye what on them waits ! 
Nought else on earth but fame of their estates, 
And nought besides but virtuous works and right 
Shall with them wend, neither their pomp nor might. 
Virtue lives aye in lasting honour clear : 
Remember then that virtue hath no peer. 

For virtue is a thing so precious, 

Whereof the end is so delicious, 

The world can not consider what it is. 

It maketh folk perfect and glorious ; 

It maketh saints of people vicious ; 

It causeth folk live aye in lasting bliss ; 

It is the way to honour high, I wis ; 

It daunteth death and every vice with might ; 

Without virtue, woe to each worldly wight. 

Virtue is eke the sure and perfect way, 
And nothing else, to honour lasting aye. 
H 



H4 Religious Thought in 

Many have seen bad men a while abide, 

And then anon their glory fade away 

(Whereof we see examples every day). 

His earthly pomp is gone when that he died : 

Then is he with no earthly friend supplied 

Save virtue ; well for him who hath this feir [companion]. 1 

Bishop Douglas also wrote another semi-religious 
allegory in verse. It is entitled King Hart, meaning 
the heart of man in its progress through life. 

It is well known what delight was taken throughout 
the middle ages in the Miracle Plays or Mysteries, in 
which most of the leading events recorded in the Old 
and New Testaments, as well as many of a more 
apocryphal kind, were represented before the people 
in dramatic verse with all such show and pageantry as 
the resources of the age and place would permit Some 
writers have thought that their origin dates back to 
quite the first centuries of the Christian era. The 
X/3/o-To? Hd<r%cov, or Chrisfs Passion, is generally at- 
tributed to Gregory Nazianzen in the fourth century. 
It seems, however, most probable that religious drama 
had its beginning in mediaeval times with the excite- 
ment of the early Crusades, about which time they 
suddenly became common both in England and the 
Continent. 2 The first mention of them in this country 
is by Matthew of Paris, who, writing about 1240, says 
that Geoffrey, afterwards Abbot of St. Albans, brought 
out the miracle-play of St. Catherine while he was yet 
a secular person. This must have been at the end of 
the eleventh or the beginning of the twelfth century, for 
he was made Abbot in 1119, and had probably assumed 
the religious habit a long time previously. In the thir- 
teenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries they were very 
frequent and popular. The series of Chester Mysteries, 

1 Gavin Douglas's Palice of Honour. Works, ed. by J. Small, i. 75 : 
To papis, bischoppis, prelatis and primaitis, 
Empreouris, kingis, princes, potestatis. 

- Marriott's Preface, ix. Quarterly Review, vol. xlvi. p. 481. 



Old English Verse 1 1 5 

of which twenty-four are extant, begins in 1268, and con- 
tinues to 1 577. The Towneley collection, thirty in num- 
ber, acted at Widkirk Abbey in Yorkshire, date back 
(judging from internal evidence) almost as far. The York 
Mysteries began at the end of the thirteenth century. 
There is extant a very elaborate programme of the 
sacred pageant in that city for 1415, in which special 
parts are assigned to no less than a hundred trade 
guilds. 1 There are forty-two of the famous Coventry 
Mysteries still existing. In many places the clergy 
took part in them ; in others, especially in the later 
dates, they appear to have been almost entirely under 
the management of the laity. They were pressed, to a 
certain extent, into the service of the Reformation. 
Edward the Sixth is said by Bale to have written one, 
De Meretrice Babylonica ; and Queen Mary thought 
them so pernicious, from their connection with the new 
teaching, that she issued a proclamation against them. 
The last miracle-play represented in England is sup- 
posed to have been that of Christ's Passion, acted in 
the time of James the First at Eli House, Holborn, 
on a Good Friday, in the presence of thousands of 
people. Fragments, however, of the miracle-play of 
St. George are still common enough in country parts in 
the Christmas mummeries. 

The earliest miracle-plays were probably either in 
Latin or Norman-French. Even when English had 
become the prevailing tongue, they were sometimes 
much interlarded with Latin. But the spectacle was at 
all times eloquent to the eyes of the populace, and 
doubtless often left a deep impression on those who 
witnessed it. And when the scenes thus acted before 
them were worded in homely vernacular English, the 
better kind of religious dramas must have conveyed a 
great deal of very effective teaching. Even to the 
modern reader some of them are full of graphic, 
picturesque force ; and the rude, unlettered style, the 



1 A full list is given in the preface to Marriott's Collection of Mirach 
Plays, xviii. 



1 1 6 Religious Thought in 

rustic humour, the quaint touches of popular English 
life, however incongruous in themselves, all tended to 
inspire the spectators with a sense of vividness and 
reality. They differ indeed greatly in religious value. 
There are some of them in which the Scripture element 
seems little more than a cloak and pretence for the 
introduction of what would otherwise be undisguised 
farce. In some, on the other hand, there is only enough 
admixture of humour and common life to clothe the 
personages of the sacred history with a familiar colour- 
ing, such as would serve to bring them thoroughly 
home to the imaginations of the common people. 
As for irreverence, where none was intended or thought 
of, it can scarcely be spoken of as such. The Creator 
Himself, was, for instance, constantly introduced with- 
out the slightest sense of anything unfitting. In one of 
the later mysteries, written by John Bale, Bishop of 
Ossory, in 1535, entitled God's Promises a drama in 
which the distinctively religious element is everywhere 
made prominent the Divine Being is represented in 
each of the seven acts in interlocution successively with 
Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and John the 
Baptist. Occasionally, especially in the later periods, 
the mysteries almost merged into moralities, the Scrip- 
ture personages being blended with allegorical ones, 
and the serious element being the inculcation of certain 
virtues rather than the teaching of some Scripture fact 
or the illustration of some religious doctrine. 

I will quote a few passages, and first one which, with- 
out containing anything objectionable to modern feeling, 
will illustrate the broad humour which is continually 
found in these dramas. It is from The Deluge^ one of 
the Chester Mysteries. Noah and his wife and sons 
have just been represented as busily employed in getting 
tools and timber for building the ark : 

Noah, Now in the name of God I will begin 
To make the ship that we shall in, 
That we be ready for to swim 
At the coming of the flood. 



Old English Verse 117 

These boards I join together, 
To keep us safe from the weather 
That we may roam both hither and thither 
And safe be from this flood. 

After a few more lines, he declares that 

I hold all meet 

To sail forth at the next weete [tide]. 
This ship is at an end. 
Wife, in this castle we shall be keeped ; 
My children and thou, I would ye inleaped. 

Noah's wife. In faith, Noah, I had as lief thou hadst slept 
For all thy frankishfare, 
For I will not do after thy rede. 

Noah. Good wife, do as I thee bid. 

Noahs wife. By Christ not, or I see more need, 

Though thou stand all the day and rave. 

Noah. Lord, that women be crabbed aye ! 
And never are meek, that dare I say. 
This is well seen by me to-day, 
In witness of you each one. 

Good wife, let be all this beere [noise] 
That thou makest in this place here, 
For they all ween that thou art master, 
And so thou art, by St. John. 

( Then the animals are supposed to come in, the actors mentioning 
aloud their names, and bearing figures of them on parchment.") 

Japhet. Mother, we pray you altogether 
For we are here, your childer, 
Come into the ship for fear of the weather, 
For His love that you bought. 

Noah's wife. That will I not for your call, 
But if I have my gossips all. 

Shem. In faith, mother, yet you shall, 
Whether you will or not ! 

(She goes in.) 
Noah. Welcome, wife, into this boat ! 

Noahs wife. And have that for thy note ! 

(She gives him a box on the ear.) 

Noah. Aha ! marry, this is hot ! 
It is good to be still, 
Ah, childer, methinks this boat removes, 
Our tarrying here hugely me grieves ! 



i 1 8 Religious Thought in 

Over the land the water spreads. 
God do as He will ! * 

From The Nativity, one of the Coventry Mysteries : 

Shepherd I. Now God that art in Trinity, 

Thou saw my fellowes and me ; 

For I know not where my sheep or they be, 

The night it is so cold ! 

Now it is nigh the middle of the night, 

These clouds are dark and dim of light, 

That for them I can have no sight, 

Standing here on this wold. 

But now, to make their heartes light, 

Now will I full right stand upon this looe [knoll], 

And to them cry with all my might : 

Full well my voice they know : 

What, ho ! fellows ! ho ! ho ! ho ! 

Shepherd 2. Hark, Sim, hark ! I hear our brother on the*looe, 
That is his voice, right well I know. 
Therefore toward him let us go, 
And follow his voice aright. 
See, Sim, see where he doth stond : 
I am right glad we have him fond. 
Brother, where hast thou been so long, 
And this night it is so cold ? 

I st Shepherd. Eh, friends, there came a gust of wind with a 

mist suddenly, 

That forth of my way went I, 
And great heaviness made I, 
And was full sore afraid. 
Then for to go wist I not whither, 
But travelled on this down hither and thither. 
I was so put out with this cold weather, 
That near past was my might. 

$d Shepherd. Brother, now we be past that fright, 
And it is far within the night, 
Full soon will spring the day light, 
It draweth full near the tide. 
Here awhile let us rest, 
And repast ourselves of the best, 
Till that the sun rise in the East 
Let us all here abide. 

( Then the Shepherds draw forth their meat, and do eat and drink, 
and as they drink, they find the star, and say thus) 

1 The Deluge, a Chester miracle-play, ed. by Marriott, 6. 



Old English Verse 119 

Brother, look up and behold, 

What thing is yonder that shineth so bright ? 

As long as ever I have watch'd my fold, 

Yet saw I never such a sight in field. 

Aha ! now is come the time that old fathers have 

told, 

That in the winter's night so cold, 
A child of maiden born be He wold, 
In whom all prophecies shall be fulfilled. 

Shepherd I. Truth it is, without nay, 

So said the prophet Esay, 

That a child should be born of a maiden so 

bright, 

In winter nigh the shortest day, 
Or else in the middle of the night. 

Shepherd 2. Loved be God, most of might, 

That our grace is to see that sight, 
Pray we to Him, as it is right, 
If that His will it be, 

That we may have knowledge of this signification, 
And why it appeareth in this fashion ; 
And ever to Him let us give laudation, 
In earth while that we be. 
(Then the angels sing ' Gloria in Excelsis?}^ 

Later on, when Herod hears that he has missed the 
Wise Men : 

Herod. Another way ! out ! out ! out ! 

Have those false traitors done me this deed ? 

I stamp, I stare, I looke all about ! 

Might I them take, I should them burn at a 

glede [flame]. 

I rant, I roar, and now run I wode [mad] ! 
Ah, that these villain traitors should have marred 

my mode [temper] ! 

They shall be hanged, if I come them to ! 
(Here Herod rages in this pageant, and in the street also.} z 

1 The Nativity, a Coventry play, ed. by Marriott, p. 66 : 

Now God that art in trenete, 
Thow sawe my fellois and me. 
* Id. 83 : 

A nothur wey ! owt ! owt ! owt ! 

Hath those fawls traytors done me this ded ? 



1 20 Religious Thought in 

From The Crucifixion, one of the Tovvneley Mys- 
teries : 

Christus. My mother mild, thou change thy cheer, 

Cease of thy sorrow and sighing sere [several, 
manifold] ; 

It sits upon my heart full sore. 
The sorrow is sharp J suffer here ; 
But the dole thou durest, my mother dear, 

Marters [tortures] me mickle more. 
Thus willeth my Father that I fare. 

To loose mankind of bands ; 
His only Son will He not spare, 
To loosen that which bound was ere 

Full fast in fiendes' hands. 
The first cause, mother, of my coming 
Was for mankind's miscarrying : 

To salve their sore I sought. 
Therefore, mother, make none mourning, 
Seeing that man through my dying 

May thus to bliss be brought. 1 

From The Descent into Hell (Towneley series) : 

Christus, Ye princes of hell, open your gate, 
And let my folk forth go'n ; 
A prince of peace shall enter thereat, 
Whether ye will or no'n. 

Rybald. What art thou that speakest so ? 
Christus. A king of bliss that hights Jesus. 

Rybald. Yea, hence fast I rede thee go, 
And meddle thee not with us. 

Belzabub. Our gates I trow will last, 
They are so strong I wean. 
But if our bares brast [burst], 
For thee they shall not twyn [break a-twain]. 

Christus. This stede [place] shall stand no longer stoken 

[barred]. 
Open up, and let my people pass ! 

Rybald. Out, haro ! [the Norman war-cry] our bale is 

broken, 
And bursten are all our bands of brass ! 

1 The Crucifixion : a Tovvneley miracle-play, ed. by Marriott, 153 : 
' My mocler mylde, thou chaunge thi chere.' 



Old English Verse 121 

Belzabub. Haro ! our gates begin to crak, 
In sunder, I trow, they go ; 
And hell, I trow, will ail-to shak, 
Alas ! now I am woe ! 1 

From Mary Magdalene (Digby Manuscripts), an early 
and lengthened pageant of nearly 2300 lines : 

Mary Magd. When I saw you first, Lord, verily 

I ween'd ye had been Symond the gardenere. 

Christus. So I am for sooth, Mary ; 

Man's heart is my garden here. 

Therein I sow seeds of virtue all the year ; 

The foul weeds and vices I rend up by the rote ; 

When the garden is watered with tears clear, 

Then spring virtues, and smell full sote [sweet]. 2 

From Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, a Chester 
play : 

Peter and Philip have just announced to the keeper of the 
gate that Christ is coming into the city.} 

Keeper of Gate. Tidings, good men every one ! 
The prophet Jesus comes anon. 
Of His disciples yonder go'n 
Twain that were now here. 
For His marvels leeve [believe] aye upon, 
That he is very God's Son, 
Or else wonder were. 

\st Citizen. Ah ! Lord, blessed must thou be ! 
Him will I go now and see ; 
And so I rede that all may 
Thitherward take the way. 

id Citizen. Fellows, I leeve [believe] that Christ is He, 
Comen from God in majesty ; 
Else such marvels, as thinks me, 
He ne'er did day by day. 

$d Citizen. Lazarus He saved, so God me save, 
That four days had been in grave ; 
Therefore devotion now I have 
To welcome Him to this town. 

1 The Descent into Hell : a Towneley miracle-play, ed. by Marriott. 
' Extractio Animarum,' 167 : 'Ye prynces of helle, open youre gate.' 

1 Ancient Mysteries, from the Digby Manuscripts (Abbotsford Club); 
Mary Magdalene, 11. 1078-86 : 

Whan I sye yow fyrst, Lord, verely 

I wentt ye had byn Symond the gardenere. 



1 2 2 Religious Thought in 

4th Citizen. Branches of the palm tree 
Each one in hand take we, 
And welcome Him to this city 
With fair processioun. 

%th Citizen. With all the worship that I may, 
I welcome Him will to-day, 
And spread my clothes in the way 
As soon as I Him see. 

6th Citizen. These miracles approven apertly [evidently] 
That from the Father Almighty 
He is comen, mankind to buy : 
It may no other be. 

\st Boy. Fellows, I heard my father say 

That Jesus the Prophet will come to-day, 
Thither I rede we take the way, 
With branches in our hands. 

id Boy. Make we mirth all that we may 

Pleasant to that Lord's paie [satisfaction]. 
' Hosanna ! ; I rede by my faye 

To sing that we founde [begin]. 

( Then the boys shall go towards Jerusalem, singing ' Hosanna ! ' 
with palm branches in their hands, and the citizens shall 
strew their clothes in the way and sing, etc.; and then the 
Saviour enters, riding on an ass's colt.} 

From The Ptirification, one of the York Mysteries : 

Scene v. SIMEON'S HOUSE. 

Angel. Old Simeon, I say to thee 

Dress thyself forth in thine array. 
Come to the temple, there to see 
Jesus, the babe that Mary bore. 
Fear not, be bold. 

Sim. Ah, Lord, I thank Thee e'er and aye. 
Now am I light as bird on tree ; 
, My age is gone, I feel no fray ; 
Methinks for this that is told me 

I am not old. 

Now will I to yon temple go 
To see the Babe that Mary bore. 
He is my health in weal and woe 
And helps me ever from great care. 

1 The Chester Plays, ed. by T. Wright, ii. 8 : ' Tydings, good men 
everye one.' 



Old English Verse 123 



Scene vi. THE TEMPLE. 

{Simeon takes the babe in his arms.} 
Now come to me, Lord of all lands ; 
Come, Mightiest by sea and sands ; 
Come, Joy by street and eke by strands, 
On mould [earth]. 

Come, halse [embrace] me, Babe that art best born ! 
Come, halse me, Gladness of our morn ! 
Come, halse me, else I had been lorn 
Of old. 

Lord God, I thank Thee of Thy grace 
That Thou hast spared me a space, 
This Babe within my arms t' embrace, 
As prophecy doth tell. 

T thank Thee who my life hath lent, 
I thank Thee who this bliss hath sent, 
That this sweet Babe, in my arms hent [held] 
With mirth my might doth mell [mingle]. 

Ah, Babe ! blessed be Thou for aye, 
For Thou my Saviour art, I say, 
And here Thou rulest me, in fay, 
Through all my life. 

Now, blessed be Thy holy name, 
Thou that dost save us from all shame, 
Thou that dost guard us from all blame, 
And from all strife. 1 

Although the general spirit of the Reformation was 
unfavourable to the production of the scriptural plays 
which had been the delight of earlier generations, a few 
were written by the reforming party. John Bale 
(1495-1563), the learned Bishop of Ossory, wrote at least 
eleven, of which four survive. One was The Laivs of 
Nature, Man, and Christ, a second The Promises of 
God. A third was The Brefe Comedy or Enterlude 
of Johan Baptystes Preachynge in the Wyldernesse ; 
another of TJie Temptation of our Lord. John Bale 
was a Suffolk man, educated in a Carmelite [monas- 
tery, and afterwards at Jesus College, Cambridge. He 

1 The York Mystery Plays, ed. by L. Toulmin Smith, p. 444: ' Olde 
Symeon, I say to thee.' 



124 Religious Thought in 

became a Protestant, and at the death of Lord Crom- 
well, who had been a protector to him, was obliged to 
take refuge for six years in Holland. He was recalled 
by Edward VI., was first presented to the living of 
Bishopstoke, and afterwards made Bishop of Ossory, 
when he proved himself a zealous and strenuous ad- 
ministrator. Under Queen Mary, he narrowly escaped 
death by flight to the Continent. At Queen Elizabeth's 
accession he returned, and died at Canterbury, where 
he was a prebend. His principal work, a Latin account, 
in two folio volumes, of illustrious British writers, was 
published at Basle in 1549. The scriptural play on 
The Temptation was written in 1538. As a poem it is 
of no particular value, but it is very interesting in its 
quaint simplicity. The author himself, as ' Baleus 
Prolocutor,' is introduced as reciting the Prologue, 
which concludes with these lines : 

For assaults of Satan, learn here the remedy ; 
Take the word of God, let that be your defence ; 

So will Christ teach you, in our next comedy : 
Earnestly print it in your quick intelligence : 
Resist not the world, but with meek patience, 

If ye be of Christ. Of this hereafter ye shall 

Perceive more at large by the story as it fall. 1 

The personages in the play are our Lord, Satan, and 
two angels. I quote the passage where Satan enters : 
Satan (tentalor) 

Nowhere I further, but everywhere I noye [hurt] ; 

For I am Satan, the common adversary, 
An enemy to man, him seeking to destroy 

And to bring to nought, by my assaults most crafty. 

I watch everywhere, wanting no policy, 
To trap him in snare, and make him the child of hell. 
What number I win, it were very long to tell. 
I heard a great noise, in Jordan now of late, 

Upon one Jesus, sounding from heaven above : 
' This is mine own Son, which hath withdrawn all hate, 

And He that doth stand most highly in my love.' 

My wits this same sound doth not a little move : 

1 A Brefe Comedy or Interlude concernynge the Temptacyon of our Lord 
and Saver by Sathan in the Desert. Compiled by Johan Bale (M iscel- 
lanies, ed. by Grosart, i. ) 



Old English Verse 1 2 5 

He cometh to redeem the kin of man I fear : 
High time is it then for me the coals to stir. 

I will not leave Him till I know what He is, 
And what He intendeth in this same border here 

Subtilty must help, else all will be amiss. 
A godly pretence outwardly must I bear, 
Seeming religious, devout and sad in my gear. 

If He be come now for the redemption of man, 

As I fear He is, I will stop Him if I can. 

(Htc, simidata religione, Christum aggreditor.} 

It is a great joy, by my holydom, to see 

So virtuous a life in a young man as you be, 

As here thus to wander in godly contemplation, 
And to live alone in the desert solitary. 

Christus. Your pleasure is it to utter your phantasy. 

Satan. A brother am I, of the desert wilderness, 

And full glad would be to talk with you of goodness, 
If ye would accept my simple company. 1 

The Miracle Plays shaded into the later Moralities by 
very imperceptible gradations. Thus in Godlie Queene 
Hester' 2 published in 1561, there are brought upon the 
stage not only the historical personages connected with 
Esther's history, but also such allegorical characters as 
Pride, Adulation, and Ambition. In one of the more 
unblended moralities, Anima (the Soul of Man) enters 
as a maid, in white cloth of gold purfled with miniver, 
a mantle of black thereupon, and a rich chaplet with 
knots of gold. Divine Wisdom, arrayed in royal apparel, 
had been instructing her. When she enters, she speaks 
the praises of the Saviour who, when she was nought, 
had made her glorious, when she was in peril had 
guarded her, when she was ignorant had taught her, 
when she had sinned had corrected her, when she was 

1 A Brefe Comedy or Interlude concernynge the Tempt acyon of our Lord 
and Saver by Saffian in the Desert : 

No where I fourther, but euery where I noye, 
For I am Sathan, the commen aduersarye. ' 

The drama is given by Mr. Marriott as an example of one of the later 
miracle-plays, in his Collection of English Miracle Plays and Mysteries, 
1838, p. 220. 

2 Fuller's Worthies {Miscellanies}, ed. by Grosart, vol. iv. 



126 Religious Thought in Old English Verse 

heavy had comforted her, when she had fallen had 
raised her : 

When I come, thou receivest me most lovingly, 
Thou hast anointed me with the oil of mercy. 
Thy benefits, Lord, be innumerable. 1 

1 Ancient Mysteries, from the Digby Manuscript (Abbotsford Club) ; 
A Morality, 11. 311-325. 



CHAPTER V 

THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY 

STEPHEN HAWES was a disciple of Lydgate, whom he 
speaks of as his master with much respect and admi- 
ration. He was a native of Suffolk, spent some time 
in France, and was made a Groom of the Chamber 
to Henry VII. His Pastime of Pleasure, 1506, is an 
allegorical poem of some length. Towards the end it 
takes a more distinctly religious colour than in its 
previous course. The following is from the chapter 
entitled ' How Remembraunce made his epitaph on the 
Grave of the Knight (of La Grande Amour).' 

O earth on earth ! It is a wonder's case 

That thou art blind, and wilt not thyself know ; 

Though upon earth thou hast thy dwelling place, 
Yet earth at last must needs thee overthrow. 
Thou thinkest earth do be no earth I trow, 

For if thou didst thou wouldest then apply 

To forsake pleasure and to learn to die. 

Pride, Wrath, Envy, and other allegorical personages, 
continue in much the same strain, and then comes a 
verse concluded by two very familiar lines. I do not 
know whether Hawes was the originator of them, or 
whether he simply made use of a sort of proverbial 
saying. But it is rather a disappointment to find that 
he is speaking not so much of peace and rest following 
after care, as of darkness following upon light. 

O mortal folk, ye may behold and see 

How I lie here, sometime a mortal knight. 

The end of joy and all prosperity 

Is death at last, in his sure course and might : 
After the day cometh the darksome night ; 

For though the day be never so long, 

At last the bells ring unto evensong. 



128 Religious Thought in 

Then in your spirit inwardly despise 
The brittle world so full of doubleness, 

With the dull flesh, and O, right soon arise 
Out of your sleep of mortal heaviness. 1 

I am glad to introduce even a passing mention of 
Sir Thomas More (1480-1535). He may, in some sort, 
be entitled a writer of sacred poetry by virtue of his 
translation in English verse of the Rules of John Pieus, 
Earl of Mirandula. I quote four of the stanzas : 

Serve God for love then, not for hope of meed. 
What service may so desirable be 

As where all turneth to thine owne speed ? 
Who is so good, so lovely eke as He ? 
Who hath already done so much for thee : 
As He that first thee made, and on the rood 
Eft [after] thee redeemed with His precious blood ? 

Wherefore, good Lord, that full of mercy art, 
Unto Thy grace and sovran dignity 

We sely [poor] wretches cry with humble heart, 
Our sins forget, and our malignity ! 
With piteous eye of Thy benignity 
Friendly look on us once. Thine own we be ; 
Servants or sinners, whether it liketh thee : 

Sinners, if Thou our crime behold certdin, 
Our crime, the work of our uncourteous mind : 

But if Thy giftes Thou behold again 
Thy giftes, noble, wonderful, and kind 
Thou shalt us then the same persones find, 
Which are to Thee and have been long space 
Servants by nature, children by Thy grace. 

Grant, I Thee pray, such heat into mine heart, 

That to this love of Thine may be egdl [correspondent] ; 

Grant me henceforth from Satan's bonds to start, 
With whom me rueth long to have been thrall. 
Grant me, good Lord, and Creatdur of all, 
The flame to quench of all shameful desire, 
And in Thy love set all mine heart afire ! 2 

1 Stephen Hawes, The Pastime of Pleasure (Percy Society). 

2 The Workcs of Sir Thomas More, Knyght, sometyme Lord CAaun~ 
cellour of Englaiid, wrytten by him in the Englysh tonge, ed. by W. 
Rastell, 1557, pp. 32-3 : 

Serue God for loue, then, not for hope of meede, 
What seruice maie so desirable bee. 



Old English Verse 1 29 

Anne Askewe (1520-46), daughter of Sir William 
Askewe, who accepted the Reformed doctrines, and 
suffered death for her opinions in the truest spirit 
of a martyr, wrote some lines after her last examina- 
tion at Newgate, from which I take the following 
verses : 

Like as the armed knight 

Appointed to the field, 
With this world will I fight, 

And faith shall be my shield. 

Faith is that weapon strong 

Which will not fail at need ; 
My foes, therefore, among 

Therewith will I proceed. 

As it is had in strength 

And force of Christian way, 
It will prevail at length, 

Though all the devils say nay. 

Faith in the fathers old 

Obtained righteousness, 
Which makes me very bold 

To fear no world's distress. 

I now rejoice in heart, 

And hope bids me do so, 
For Christ will take my part, 

And cure me of my woe. 

And, finally, she concludes that for no passing gale 
should her ship drop timidly its anchor : 

I am not she that list 

My anchor to let fall, 
For every drizzling mist, 

My ship substantiall. 1 

John Croke was a serjeant-at-law in the reign of 
Henry vill. and Edward VI., and died in 1554. He 
was a very rich man, a Master in Chancery, the owner 
of estates in Buckinghamshire, and in 1547 member of 
Parliament for Chippenham. His translations into 

1 From The Female Poets of Great Britain, by Frederic Rowton, 
1848, p. 8. 

I 



130 Religious Thought in 

verse of thirteen Psalms and of part of Ecclesiastes 
have been published by the Percy Society. It will be 
enough to quote three verses from Psalm li. : 

With hyssop bitter tears, I mean 
Sprinkle me oft, my faults to know : 

Then, if that Thou wilt wash me clean, 
I shall be whiter than the snow. 

Unto mine ears, within short space, 
Of joy or bliss shall come the choice. 

The bones that bowed to Thee for grace- 
Shall in Thy mercy then rejoice. 

Offer we must for sacrifice 
A troubled mind, with sorrow's smart. 

Canst Thou refuse ? Nay, nor despise 
The humble and the contrite heart. 1 

Miles Coverdale (1488-1569), translator of the Bible, 
was brought up in the monastery of the Augustines 
at Cambridge, under the care of Dr. Barnes, who after- 
wards perished at the stake for his adherence to the 
Reformed doctrines. He received priest's orders in 
1515, and quickly became prominent among the leaders 
of the Reformation. His Bible, from which comes the 
Prayer-Book version of the Psalms, was published in 
1535 ; a later edition the 'Great Bible' in 1539, and 
his second 'Great Bible,' or ' Cranmer's Bible,' in 1540. 
After the execution of his constant patron, Thomas 
Cromwell, he went abroad. At Edward the Sixth's 
accession he returned to England, and was consecrated 
Bishop of Exeter in 1551. When Mary succeeded he 
was deprived and placed under arrest, but was suffered 
to leave the country at the earnest intercession of the 
King of Denmark. He took refuge at Geneva, and 
became so much influenced by the opinions prevalent 
there that, on his return to England in 1559, although 
he continued to preach, and subscribed himself to the 
last Bishop of Exeter, he declined holding any definite 

1 John Crake's ' Thirteen Psalms > ed. by Dr. Bliss ; Percy Soc. vol. xi. 
The Psalm begins : 'All myghty God, Lord Eternall.' 



Old English Verse 1 3 1 

office in the English Church. Among his other works 
is a collection of Goostly Psalmes and Spiritnall Songs. 
His metrical psalms are very rude and unadorned. The 
simplicity of his paraphrases of the Credo and Pater- 
Noster compensates for many defects. I quote, retain- 
ing the original spelling, his version of the Pater- 
Noster : 

O cure Father celestiall, 

Now are we come to praye to The. 

We are Thy chyldren, therefore we call ; 

Hear us, Father, mercifully. 

Now blessed be Thy godly name, 

And ever among us sanctified : 

There is none other but this same 

Wherby mankynde must be saved. 

Kirieleyson. 

Thy kyngdome come : reigne Thou in us, 
For to expell all synne awaye ; 
Let not Sathan dwell in thy house, 
To put The forth by nyght nor day. 
Fulfilled be Thy godly wyll 
Among us all, for it is ryght ; 
As they in heaven do it fulfyll, 
So let us do both daye and nyght. 

Kirieleyson. 

Our dayly bred geve us this daye ; 
And let us never perysh for nede. 
The litle byrdes Thou fedest alwaye ; 
Thyne own chyldren than must Thou fede. 
Our dettes are great ; forgeve us, Lorde, 
As we our detters all forgeve, 
And let us alwaye be restored 
To Thy mercy, that we may live. 

Kirieleyson. 

Tentacyon is sore in use 
And strongly now are we proved ; 
Good Lorde, Thou mayst us not refuse, 
We praye The with us to abyde : 
Not that alone, but helpe us out 
From parels all and ioperdy ; 
Let not evell sprete put us in doute 
Of Thy favour and great mercy. 

Kirieleyson. 1 

1 Remains of My Irs Coverdale, ed. for Parker Soc. by G. Pearson, p. 549. 



132 Religious Thought in 

The following are a few lines from an Easter Song : 

It was a marvelous great thynge 
. To se how death with death dyd fyght : 
For the one death gat the wynnynge, 
And the other death lost his myght. 

Alleluya. 1 

Sir Thomas Wyat, the Elder, and Henry Howard, 
Earl of Surrey, are names which are frequently coupled 
together. They were intimate friends. Both were 
great personages in court ; both held high office ; both 
were talented, witty, and accomplished ; both wrote 
verses full of love and sentiment, in a style formed in 
great measure upon the model of the Italian poets. 
Wyat was the elder by several years. He was born 
in 1503, and died in 1541. Surrey was charged with 
high treason, and beheaded a few days before the death 
of Henry VIII., in 1547. The general resemblance be- 
tween the two friends is remarkably and pathetically 
carried out in their religious verses. For in either case 
these compositions touchingly illustrate the emptiness, 
as compared with the deeper needs of human nature, 
of all that the world most values. Men said, admiringly, 
of Wyat, that in him were combined the wit of Sir 
Thomas More and the wisdom of Sir Thomas Cromwell. 
He gave splendid entertainments, and his acquaintance 
was everywhere courted. He was ambassador to the 
Emperor an office for which he was well fitted by his 
intimate knowledge of the political relations of the 
country. He was accounted also a discerning and 
generous patron of learned men. Surrey had held the 
jousts at Westminster against all comers, had been 
Field-Marshal in France, and had distinguished himself 
at Flodden Field. Meanwhile, in their religious medi- 
tations, we find Surrey dwelling on those passages in 
Ecclesiastes which tell of the vanity of all human pomps, 
and both Wyat and him humbling themselves before 
their Maker in the contrite outpourings of the Peni- 

1 Remains of Myles Coverdale, p. 564. 



Old English Verse 133 

tential Psalms. The following is a part of Sir Thomas 
Wyat's version of the Sixth Psalm : 

O Lord, I dread ; and that I did not dread 

I me repent, and evermore desire 
Thee, Thee to dread. I open here and spread 

My faults to Thee ; but Thou, for Thy goodness, 
Measure it not in largeness nor in breadth. 

Punish it not, as asketh the greatness 
Of thy furor, provoked by mine offence : 

Temper, O Lord, the harm of my excess 
With mending will, which I for recompense 

Prepare again ; and rather pity me, 
For I am weak, and clean without defence : 

More is the need I have of remedy. 
For of the whole the leech taketh no cure [care] ; 

The sheep that strayed the shepherd seeks to see : 
I, Lord, am strayed, and sick without recure [recovery]. 1 

The Earl of Surrey has left some verses in praise of 
these Psalms of Sir Thomas Wyat : 

Where he doth paint the lively faith and pure, 
The steadfast hope, the sweet return to grace, 
Of just David, by perfect penitence. 

They were quite in harmony with his own thoughts 
during his later days ; as also were the words of the 
Preacher : 

The world is false, man he is frail, and all his pleasures pain. 

Alas ! what stable fruit may Adam's children find, 

In that they seek by sweat of brow, and travail of their mind ? 

We that live on the earth, drawn toward our decay 

Our children fill our place awhile, and then they fade away. 2 

The following is from his paraphrase of the fourth 
chapter of Ecclesiastes : 

In humble spirit is set the temple of the Lord ; 
Where entering, look thy mouth and conscience may accord ; 
Whose Church is built of love, and decked with hot desire 
And simple faith. 

1 Wyafs Poems ; Chalmers' English Poets : 

Lord, I dreade, and that I did not dreade 

1 me repente, and euermore desyre. 

2 Surrey's Poems ; Chalmers' English Poets : 

The world is false, man he is frayle, and all his pleasures payne. 
Alas ! what stable frute may Adam's children fynde. 



134 ' Religious Thought in 



For aye He in His work doth rest, 

With gentle care to hear thy suit, and grant thee thy request. 
In boast of outward works He taketh no delight, 
Nor waste of words ; such sacrifice unsavoureth in His sight. 1 

Surrey also paraphrased several of the Psalms. 

Thomas, Lord Vaux (1511-62), descendant of an 
ancestor who had been Lord of Vaux in Normandy 
before he accompanied William I. to England, wrote 
some poems of which one or two are of a religious char- 
acter. The following are the two concluding stanzas 
of some verses on The Instabilitie of Youth : 
Thou that by power to life didst raise the dead ; 
Thou that of grace restor'dst the blind to sight ; 
Thou that for love Thy life and love out-bled ; 
Thou that of favour mad'st the lame go right ; 
Thou that canst heed and help in all assays, 
Forgive the guilt that grew in youth's vain ways ! 
And now since I, with faith and doubtless mind 
Do fly to Thee by prayer to appease Thy ire ; 
And since that Thee I only seek to find, 
And hope by faith to attain my just desire ; 

Lord, mind no more youth's error and unskill, 
And able age to do Thy holy will. 2 

The following is from his lines Of a Contented Spirit. 
I should like to have matched it with the very pleas- 
ing verses of Sir Edward Dyer My mynde to me a 
kyngdome is, and so to have included that writer 
among authors of sacred verse ; but whereas this by Lord 
Vaux may be considered as coming just within the 
verge of religious poetry, the other I am obliged to 
consider as standing just without. The arrangement 
of stanzas is that of Dr. Hannah in his interesting com- 
pilation from the 'Courtly Poets ' of I54O-I65O. 3 

1 Surrey's Poems ; Chalmers" English Poets : 

In humble sprite is set the temple of the Lorde, 
Wher yf thow enter, loke thy mouth and conscyence may accorde. 
9 Poems of Lord Vaux, ed. by Grosart. There is some little doubt 
whether part of this poem was not by J. Haryngton. But Mr. Grosart 
judges it far most probable that Haryngton merely wrote out the poem 
with some variations upon it. 

8 J. Hannah's Poems of Raleigh, Wotton, and other Courtly Poets (1540- 
1650), p. 132. 






Old English Verse . 135 

When all is done and said, 

In the end thus shall you find 
He most of all doth bathe in bliss 

That hath a quiet mind. 

And clear from worldly cares, 

To deem can be content 
The sweetest time in all his life 

In thinking to be spent. 

The body subject is 

To fickle fortune's power, 
And to a million of mishaps 

Is casual every hour ; 

And death in time doth change 

It to a clod of clay, 
When as the mind, which is divine, 

Runs never to decay. 

Our wealth leaves us at death, 

Our kinsmen at the grave : 
But virtues of the mind unto 

The heavens with us we have. 

Wherefore, for virtue's sake, 

I can be well content 
The sweetest time in all my life 

To deem in thinking spent. 1 

In a note to the verses quoted in the preceding page, 
John Haryngton was mentioned as the possible author 
of the verses more probably ascribed to Lord Vaux. 
Haryngton did not write much, but was quite able to 
hold his own among the minor poets of Queen Eliza- 
beth's Court. He stood high in the Queen's favour, 
and in Mary's reign had been confined in the Tower 
at the same time that she was, for correspondence with 
her. The following is the last verse of an Elegy written 
by him during his imprisonment : 

Death is a port whereby we pass to joy : 
Life is a lake that drowneth all in pain ; 

Death is so dear it killeth all annoy ; 

Life is so lewd [poor], that all it yields is vain ; 

For as by life to bondage man was brought, 

Even so by death all freedom too was wrought. 2 

1 Poems of Lord Vaux t ed. by Grosart, vol. iv. : ' When all is doen 
and saied.' 

a Sir J. Harrington's Nuga Antiques, ii. 332. 



1 36 Religioiis Thought in 

A hymn by Walter, Earl of Essex, who died in 1576, 
was written during intervals of great pain, and was 
sung by him very shortly before his death. ' The night 
following ' (runs a contemporary account), ' which was 
the night before he died, he called William Hewes, 
which was his musician, to play upon the virginal and 
to sing. " Play," said he, " My song, Will Hewes, and 
I will sing it myself." ' It was the following Hymn of 
Penitence : 

O heavenly God, O Father dear, cast down Thy heavenly eye 
Upon a wretch that prostrate here before Thy throne doth lie ; 
O pour Thy wretched oil of grace into my wounded heart ! 
O let the drops of mercy swage the rigour of my smart. 

My sinful soul, oppressed sore with care-full clog of sin, 

In humble wise submits itself, Thy mercy for to win. 

Grant mercy then, O Saviour sweet, to me most woefull thrall, 

Whose mournful eye to Thee, O Lord, doth still for mercy call. 

Thy blessed word I have despised upon a stubborn mind, 
And to the sway of worldly things myself I have inclined ; 
Forgetting heaven and heavenly powers, where God and saints 

do dwell. 
My life had like to tread the steps that leads the way to hell. 

But O my Lord, and loadstar bright, I will no more do so. 
To think upon my former life my heart doth bleed for woe : 
Alas, I sigh ; alas, I sob ; alas, I do repent, 
That ever my licentious life so wickedly was bent. 

Since thus therefore with doleful plaints I do Thy mercy crave, 

Lord, for Thy great mercy's sake, let me Thy mercy have ! 
Restore to life the wretched soul that else is like to die ! 

So shall my voice unto Thy name sing praise eternally. 

Now blessed be the Father first, and blessed be the Son, 
And blessed be the Holy Ghost by whom all things were done. 
Bless me, O blessed Trinity, with Thy eternal grace, 
That after death my soul may have in heaven a dwelling place. 1 

There is also a hymn which has been ascribed to 
Robert, Earl of Essex, the powerful favourite of Eliza- 
beth, which, in that case, would have been written just 

1 A Godly and -virtuous Song made by the Honorable the Earle of Essexe, 
late deceased, in Grosart, vol. iv. In the Paradyse of Daynty Devises, 
1 576, it has the initials of Francis Kynwelmersh ; but it appears from Mr. 
Grosart's investigations that there is no question about the real author- 
ship, and that F. K. are simply the initials of the copyist. 



Old English Verse 137 

before his execution. But its interest is lost, if, as ap- 
pears far more probable, it is simply a sort of elegy, 
written soon after his death by an anonymous author. 
It begins : 

Welcome, sweet Death, the kindest friend I have. 1 

In the Paradise of Dainty Devices (1575), there are 
two hymns by Francis Kynwelmersh, of whom little is 
known, except that he was a gentleman of Essex, that 
he was a member of Gray's Inn, and that in 1566 he 
joined with George Gascoigne in translating the Jocasta 
of Euripides. The following are two verses from his 
hymn for Christmas Day : 

This day to man came pledge of perfect peace, 

This day to man came love and unity, 
This day man's grief began for to surcease, 

This day did man receive a remedy 
For each offence and every deadly sin, 
With guilty heart that erst he wandered in. 

In Christes flock let love be surely placed ; 

From Christes flock let concord hate expel : 
Of Christes flock let love be so embraced, 

As we in Christ, and Christ in us may dwell. 
Christ is the author of all unity, 
From whence proceedeth all felicity. 2 

His Hymn for Whitsunday I quote in full : 

Come Holy Ghost, eternal God, and ease the woful grief, 
That through the heaps of heavy sin can nowhere find relief. 

Do Thou, O God, redress 

The great distress 

Of sinful heaviness. 

Come, comfort the afflicted thoughts of my consumed heart ; 
O rid the piercing, pricking pains of my tormenting smart. 

O Holy Ghost, grant me, 

That I by thee 

From sin may purged be. 

1 Essex Laste Voyage to the Haven of Happiness, Grosart, vol. iv. ; and 
Hannah's Courtly Poets, note 248. 

2 The Parody se of Daynty Devises; M. Edwards, 1576; ed. by Sir 
Egerton Brydges, in British Bibliographer, 1812, p. II. 



138 Religious Thought in 

Thou art my God : to Thee alone 

I will commend my cause ; 
Not glittering gold nor precious stone 
Shall make me leave Thy laws. 

O teach me then the way, 

Whereby I may 

Make Thee my only stay. 

My lips, my tongue, my heart and all 

Shall spread Thy mighty name : 

My voice shall never cease to sound 

The praises of the same. 

Yea, every living thing 

Shall sweetly sing 

To Thee, O heavenly King. 1 

An Easter Hymn in the same collection is by Jasper 
Heywood (1535-98). He was a Greek and Hebrew 
scholar of some note, and a Fellow first of Merton and 
then of All Souls. In 1562 he joined the Jesuits, and 
was placed in 1581 at the head of that body in England. 
The hymn in question is of no particular merit, but I 
quote the last verse, which is also the best : 

O man, arise with Christ therefore, 

Since he from sin hath made thee free. 
Beware thou fall in sin no more, 

But rise as Christ did rise for thee. 

So may'st thou Him in glory see, 
When He at day of doom shall say : 

Come thou, my child, and dwell with me. 
God grant us all to see that glorious day. 2 

Robert Crowley (1518-88) was a demy of Magdalen 
College ; then, after occupying himself for a few years 
as a printer, he took orders, and became a noted preacher. 
He was a strong Puritan, and, at Mary's accession, fled 
to Frankfort. After his return he was made Prebend 
and Archdeacon of Hereford. Afterwards he was 
Prebend of St. Paul's, and Vicar of St. Giles', Cripple- 
gate. But his strict and narrow opinions, and the zeal 
with which he propagated them, soon brought him into 

1 The Paradyse of Dayttty Devises, p. 6 : ' Come, holy ghost, eternall 
God, and ease the wofull greefe. ' 

s Id. p. 5 : 'O man, aryse with Christe therefore.' 



Old English Verse 139 

collision with the Archbishop, and he was deprived 
and suspended. He was, at a later date, Vicar of 
St. Lawrence Jewry, but soon resigned. He was an 
unwearied preacher of sermons and writer of pamphlets, 
and ever ready for public disputation with his oppo- 
nents. But he was also full of sympathy for the troubles 
of the poor keen also and bold in rebuking the abuses 
and the vices of his age. In 1550 he wrote a series of 
one and thirty vigorous remonstrances in rhyme against 
the varied evils he saw around him the State plun- 
dering the Church, the rich plundering the poor, the 
Puritan taxing the Papist with idleness, ignorance, and 
immorality, and anon letting in seven other spirits 
worse than those which had been driven out, brawlers 
and drunkards, usurers and forestallers, flatterers and 
backbiters, and swearers and dicers, and idle vagabonds, 
pluralities in the Church, discommoning of open lands, 
bribery in public offices, and so forth. In the same 
year he issued another book, also in verse, in which he 
sounded his trumpet of warning in lessons addressed 
severally to magistrates, gentlemen, women, merchants, 
lawyers, physicians, learned men, scholars, lewd priests, 
yeomen, servants, and beggars. His appeals are vigor- 
ous and very earnest, but by no means wanting in 
kindliness. I give an extract from The Gentleman's 
Lesson. As regards form, it has no pretence to being 
more than the merest rhyme : 

Thou that art born to land and rent, 

And art cleped a gentleman, 
Give ear to me, for mine intent 

Is to do the good I can. 

Thou art a man that God hath set 

To rule the rout in thy country : 
Wherefore thou hadst need for to get 

Good knowledge rather than money. 

First I advertise thee therefore, 
And require thee in Christ's name, 

That of knowledge thou get thee store 
And frame thy living to the same. 



140 Religious Thought in 

Get thee knowledge, I say, and then 
Thou shall perceive thine own degree 

To be such that, among all men, 
Thou hast most need learned to be. 

Thou shall perceive thou hast no time 
To spare and spend in banqueting ; 

For though thou watch till it be prime 
Thou shalt have enough to doing. 

Thou shalt not find any leisure 

To dice, to card, or to revel, 
If thou do once take a pleasure 

In using thine own calling well. 

Thy mind shall be still ravished 

With the desire to walk upright, 
And to see all vice punished, 

So much as shall lie in thy might. 

Thou shalt delight for to defend 

The poor man that is innocent, 
And cause the wicked to amend 

And the oppressor to repent. 

Thou shalt have delight in nothing 

Saving in doing thy duty ; 
Which is, under God and the king, 

To rule them that thou dost dwell by. 

Thou shalt not think that thou'mayest take 

Thy rent to spend it at thy will, 
As one that should no reckoning make 

For ought that he doth well or ill. 1 

And so he continues through 160 lines, concluding with 
the admonition to live night and day in God's fear. 

Crowley also wrote a poem on TJie Last Judgment, and 
a version of the Psalms of David. 

I must just mention Thomas Tusser's Hundred Good 
Points of Husbandry, published in 1557. It was well 
that a little handbook in verse, so popular that it ' was 
once probably, in the hands or committed to. the memo- 
ries of almost all the country gentlemen, and others con- 

1 Select Works of Robert Crowley, ed. by J. M. Cowper for E.E.T.S. 
p. 90 : ' Thou that arte borne to lande and rent.' 



Old English Verse 141 

nected with husbandry, in the kingdom,' 1 should, even 
in the most simple and unassuming way, recognise, amid 
all the routine of the farmer's life, the ruling hand of 
God, and the duty of thankfulness to Him. 

Now think upon God ; let thy tongue never cease 
From thanking of Him for His mighty increase. 2 

The following lines are from his poetical autobio- 
graphy, first added to the edition of 1573 of his Points 
of Husbandry : 

When all is done, learn this, my son, 
Not friend nor skill, nor wit nor will, 
Nor ship nor clod, but only God 

Doth all in all. 

Man taketh the pain, God giveth gain ; 
Man doth his best, God doth the rest ; 
Man well intends, God foizon [plenty] sends, 

Else want he shall. 3 

He was also the author of a Christmas carol which 
appears in collections. 

The two next extracts are from six poems, in which 
each verse ends with a refrain, given to J. Jegon, Master 
of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, by Richard Cox, 
Bishop of Ely, who was born in 1499, and died in 1581. 
It is not known who they were written by. 

SAY-WELL AND DO-WELL. 

Say-well, and do-well, they are things twain ; 
Thrice happy is he in whom both reign. 

Say-well is truly a worthy thing ; 
Of say-well great goodness doth not forth spring : 
Say-well from do-well differeth a letter ; 
Say-well is good, but do-well is better. 
Say-well, etc. 

Say-well is ruled by man some deal ; 
Do-well doth wholly to God appeal. 

1 Sir E. Brydges' advertisement to his edition of A Hundreth Good 
Poyntes of Husbandry. 

2 Id. : ' Nowe thinke upon God, let thy tonge neuer oease.' 

3 Thomas Tusker's Will and Poetical Autobiography, 1846. 



142 Religious Thought in 

Say-well saith goodly, and doth many please ; 
Do-well liveth godly, and doth the world ease. 
Say-well, etc. 

Say-well makes many to God's word cleave ; 
But for lack of do-well they quickly leave. 
If say-well and do-well were joined in a frame, 
All were won, all were done, got were the game. 
Say-well, etc. 

Say-well in danger of death is cold ; 
Do-well is earnest and wondrous bold, 
When say-well for fear doth tremble and quake, 
Do-well shall be jocund and jolly there make. 
Say-well, etc. 

Say-well is slipp'ry, and winketh whiles ; 
Do-well is simple, and without guiles. 
Where say-well for shame shall hide his face, 
Do-well shall triumph in every place. 
Say-well, etc. 

Say-well to silence is oftentimes bound ; 
Do-well is free in every stound [hour]. 
Say-well hath friends but here and there ; 
Do-well is welcome everywhere. 
Say-well, etc. 

Say-well in hand doth many things take 
Do-well an end of them doth make. 
Where say-well with many is quite down-cast, 
Do-well is trusty, and will stand fast. 
Say-well, etc. 

Say-well himself will oft advance ; 
Do-well doth neither jet [strut] nor prance, 
Yet do-well the world doth profit more 
Than say-well and his hundred store. 
Say-well, etc. 

Say-well in wordes is proper and trick [set-off], 
Do-well in deeds is nimble and quick : 
Lord, trick and quick together knit, 
So shall they pipe a merry fit. 
Say-well, etc. 1 

Richard Edwards (1523-66), Editor of the Paradise 
of Dainty Devices, and the chief contributor to it, wrote 

i Six Ballads with Burdens, from MS. in C. C. Coll. , Cambridge, ed. 
by Jas. Goodwin, Percy Society, 1844, vol. xiii. : 
' Say- well ys truly a worthy thyng, 
Off say- well greate goodnes noth furth spryng.' 



Old English Verse 143 

some sacred poetry of a didactic strain, not very note- 
worthy, but with some dignity of tone, as in the verses 
which begin 

Whoso will be accounted wise, and truly claim the name, 
By joining virtue to his deeds he must achieve the same. 1 

Edwards was a senior student of Christ Church, and 
in 1561 was appointed by Elizabeth a gentleman of the 
Royal Chapel and a Master of the Children of the 
Chapel. 

Archbishop Parker (1504-75) may just be mentioned as 
one of that great company of unsuccessful translators of 
the Psalms (1560). His version of the hundredth is a 
singular one, for which cause alone I quote it : 

joy, all men terrestriall ! 
Rejoyce in God celestiall ! 

1 byd not Jewes especiall, 

But Jewes and Greekes in generall ; 

Serve ye thy Lord heroicall, 

With joy of hart effectuall ; 

Seke ye hys sight potentiall 

With hymnes of myrth most musicall. 

His gates and courtes tread usuall 
With laudes and hymnes poeticall ; 
Geve thankes to hym continuall, 
And bless his name most liberall. 

For why ? this Lord so principall 

Is sweete, His grace perpetuall : 

Hys truth of word stand ever shall 

With hundreth thankes : thus ende we all. 2 

Francis Thynne's Debate between Pride and Lowliness 
a humorous tale with a religious moral to it was 
printed about 1568. It concludes with the epithyme 

Who purposeth to liven virtuose 

In favour of our God, let him take keep 

That Pride none office bears within his house ; 
For where he doth, Virtue is laid to sleep. 3 

1 Paradyse of Daynty Devises, p. 27 : ' Whoso will be accompted wise. 1 

2 Corser's Collectanea Anglo-Poetica, vol. ix. p. 109. 

8 Francis Thynne's Debate, etc., reprinted for the Shakespeare Society, 
1841, p. 81. 



144 Religious Thought in 

I extract the following few lines on Prayer from The 
Shippe of Safegarde, an allegorical poem on the Life 
of Man by G. B., letters which are supposed by Hazle- 
wood to stand, with initials reversed, for Barnaby Googe. 
Its date is 1569: 

A thousand happy hands may here be seen, 

Held up with heart unfeigned unto the skies, 

Washed in the waters of repentance clean, 

And purged pure with tears of weeping eyes ; 

A thousand tongues, from minds that well do mean, 

Yield up to God their fervent suits and cries 

At morning, noon, and night, continually. 1 

The following is from A Gorgious Gallery of Gallant 
Inventions, edited by Thomas Proctor in 1578. He 
himself largely contributed to that collection : 

Wherefore I wish that each degree 
With lotted chance contented be. 
Let not thy treasure make thee proud 
Nor poverty be disallowed. 
Remember who doth give and take : 
One God both rich and poor doth make. 
We nothing had, or ought shall have 
To bear with us unto our grave, 
But virtuous life, which here we lead 
On our behalf for grace to plead. 

Therefore, I say, thy lust refrain, 
And seek not after brittle gain ; 
But seek that wealth, the which will last 
When that this mortal life is past. 
In heaven is joy and pleasure still ; 
The world is vain and full of ill. 
Use not so ill thy worldly pelf, 
So that thou dost forget thyself. 
Live in this world as dead to sin 
And die in Christ, true life to win. 2 

Nicholas Breton, a somewhat prolific writer of verse, 
was an Oriel College man, a Roman Catholic in creed. 
He travelled much, and served as a captain under the 

1 Sir Egerton Brydges' British Bibliography, ii. 630 : ' A thousand 
happie hands.' 

3 From A Gallery, etc. , Heliconia, ed. T. Park : ' Wherfore I wishe 
that eche degree. ' 



Old English Verse 145 

Earl of Leicester in the Low Countries. From a hymn 
in his Small Handfull of Fragant Flowers (i 575), comes 
this aspiration of a Christian soldier : 

Arm us with faith to bear the shield 

And sword of heavenly purity : 
Crown us with helmet in the field 

Of Thy surpassing verity. 1 

In his Pilgrimage to Paradise (i 592), occur the lines : 

And on they walk, until anon they come 
Unto a church not built of lime or stone, 

But that true church of that immortal fame 
That is world's wonder, and heaven's love alone, 

Whose head is Christ, whose martyrs are His pillars ; 

All of whose members are His word's well-willers. 2 

In the earlier part of Elizabeth's reign religious 
verses were printed broadside, as sacred ballads, to be 
sung to bright tunes. This is from one headed Songe 
of the Lambe's Feast, printed 1576: 

I heard one say, 
' Come now away, 
Make no delay ; 

Alack ! why stand ye than ? [then 
All is doubtless 
In readiness ; 

There wants but gesse [guests] . 
To the Supper of the Lamb. 
For He's now blest 

In very deed, 
That 's found a guest 
In marriage weed.' 3 

Thomas Becon (151 1-70) was among the most popular 
of the Reformers. He was chaplain to Archbishop 
Cranmer. During the reign of Mary he took refuge in 
the Continent. After her death he returned and was 
rector of Bucklands, in Herefordshire, and prebend of 

1 A Small Handfull, etc. ; Heliconia, i. 20. 
3 Corser's Collectanea Anglo Poetica, iii. 2. 
3 Id. ii. 130 : 

I hearde one say 

Come now away. 
K 



146 



Religious Thought in 



Canterbury. I quote a few verses from A Newt 
Dialoge betwene the Angel of God and ye Shepherds of 
ye Felde : 

This Child alone, 
Sent from God's throne 
All kind of moan 

Shall put away. 
Whoso embrace 
His loving face 
Shall want no grace, 

Nor yet decay. 

He is the King, 
To whose bidding 
Every thing 

Obeyeth humbly. 
He is the Lord, 
By whose concord 
All things restored . 

Shall be plainly. 

He is the Peace, 
Which shall release 
All our disease 

And grievous pain. 
He is the Stay, 
He is the Way, 
By whom we may 

Glory attain. 

He is the Light, 
That is so bright 
In all men's sight 
To show the way. 
He is the Rock. 
If that we knock 
He will unlock, 
And help us aye. 1 

George Gascoigne, son of Sir G. Gascoigne, served 
with distinction under the command of the Prince of 
Orange in 1572. The year after, he accompanied 
Queen Elizabeth on one of her state progresses, and 
wrote one of the masques celebrated in her honour. 






1 Corser's Collectanea Anglo-Poetica, ii. 239 : ' This chylde alone.' 



Old English Verse 147 

He died in 1577. Among his religions poems his 
Good-Morrow and Good-Night are both pretty. In the 
former there is a fresh brightness like the air of a 
summer morning. I quote a few verses : 

You that have spent the silent night 

In sleep and quiet rest, 
And joy to see the cheerful light 

That riseth in the east : 
Now clear your voice ; now cheer your heart ; 

Come, help me now to sing : 
Each willing wight come bear a part 

To praise the heavenly King. 

Then, after, comparing the night to the night of death : 

Yet as this deadly night did last 

But for a little space, 
And heavenly day, now night is past, 

Doth show her pleasant face : 
So must we hope to see God's face 

At last in heaven on high, 
When we have changed this mortal place 

For immortality. 

And of such hope and heavenly joys 

As then we hope to hold, 
All earthly sights and worldly toys 

Be tokens to behold. 
The day is like the day of doom, 

The sun, the Son of man, 
The sky 's the heavens, the earth the tomb 

Wherein we rest till then. 

The rainbow bending in the sky, 

Bedecked with sundry hues, 
Is like the seal of God on high 

And seems to tell these news : 
That as thereby He promised 

To drown the world no more, 
So by the blood which Christ hath shed 

He will our health restore. 

The misty clouds that fall sometime 

And overcast the skies, 
Are like to troubles of our time 

Which do but dim our eyes. 



148 Religious Thought in 

But as such dews are dried up quite 

When Phoebus shows his face, 
So are such fancies put to flight 

Where God doth guide by grace 

The little birds which sing so sweet 

Are like the angels' voice 
Which render God His praises meet, 

And teach us to rejoice. 

His Good-Night begins thus : 

When thou hast spent the lingering day in pleasure and delight 
Or after tost and weary way, dost seek to rest at night ; 
Unto thy pains and pleasures past add this one labour yet 
Ere sleep close up thine eyes to rest, do not thy God forget, 
But search within thy secret thoughts what deeds did thee befall 
And if thou find amiss in aught, to God for mercy call. 

Sir Philip Sydney (1554-86) contributed to the sacred 
verse of the Elizabethan age. In an age when religious 
and poetical feeling were alike full of movement, his 
ardent, sensitive genius, ever eager to take an active 
part, intellectual, emotional, and physical, in the stir of 
life around him, could scarcely fail to give vent in 
song to the spiritual impulses of his nature. If he 
had not died so young, it is very likely that he might 
in later years have taken a more leading place among 
Christian poets. The following is the concluding- 
sonnet of the passionate struggle between love and 
duty which finds expression in his Astrophel and 
Stella : 

CX. ASPIRE TO HIGHER THINGS. 

Leave me, O Love, which readiest but to dust ; 
And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things ; 
Grow rich in that which never taketh rust ; 
Whatever fades but fading pleasure brings. 
Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might 
To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be ; 
Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light 
That doth both shine and give us sight to see. 
O take fast hold ; let that light be thy guide 
In this small course which birth draws out to death, 
And think how ill becometh him to slide, 
Who seeketh heaven, and comes of heavenly breath. 



Old English Verse 149 

Then farewell, world ! thy uttermost I see 
Eternal Love, maintain Thy life in me. 
Splendidis longum valedico nugis. 1 

Sydney's Translation of the Psalms was finished by 
his sister, the Countess of Pembroke. It was thought, 
until recently, impossible to distinguish her portion of 
them, but there is now evidence of some weight that it 
begins with the forty-fourth Psalm. I quote from the 
part which is reasonably ascribed to Sydney. 

From Psalm xvi. : 

Save me, Lord, for why ? Thou art 
All the hope of all my heart : 

Witness thou, my soul with me, 
That to God, my God, I say, 
Thou, my Lord, Thou art my stay, 

Though my works reach not to Thee. 

God my only portion is, 

And of my childs-part the bliss : 

He then shall maintain my lot. 
Say then, is not my lot found 
In a goodly pleasant ground ? 

Have not I fair partage got ? 

Ever, Lord, I will bless Thee, 
Who dost ever counsel me ; 

E'en when night with his black wing 
Sleepy darkness does o'ercast, 
In my inward reins I taste 

Of my faults a chastening. 

My eyes still my God regard, 

And He my right hand doth guard ; 

So can I not be opprest, 
So my heart is fully glad, 
So my joy in glory clad, 

Yea, my flesh in hope shall rest. 

For I know the deadly grave 
On my soul no power shall have ; 

For I know Thou wilt defend 
Even the body of Thine own 
Dear, beloved, holy one 

From a foul corrupting end. 

1 Sir Philip Sydney's Works, vol. i. 147, ed. by Grosart. 



1 50 Religious Thought in 

Thou life's path wilt make me know 
In whose view with plenty grow 

All delights that souls can crave ; 
And whose bodies placed stand 
On Thy blessed-making hand ; 

They all pleasures endless have. 1 

From Psalm xliii. : 

Send Thy truth and light, 

Let them guide me right 
From the paths of folly, 

Bringing me to Thy 

Tabernacles high 
In Thy hill most holy. 

To God's altars tho (then) 

I will boldly go, 
Shaking off all sadness ; 

To that God that is 

God of all my bliss, 
God of all my gladness. 

Then lo, then I will 

With sweet music's skill 
Grateful meaning show Thee. 

Then God, yea, my God, 

I will sing abroad 
What great thanks I owe Thee. 

Why art thou, my soul, 

Cast down in such dole ? 
What ails thy discomfort ? 

Wait on God, for still 

Thank my God I will, 
My only aid and comfort. 2 

From the Countess of Pembroke's Psalms I may 
quote a part of the ninety-fifth : 

Come, come let us with joyful voice 
Record and raise 
Jehovah's praise : 

Come, let us in our safety's rock rejoice. 
Into His presence let us go, 
And there with psalms our gladness show, 

1 Sir Philip Sydney's Works, iii. 113: 

Save me, Lord, for why, Thou art 

All the hope of all my heart. 
* Id. iil. 198. 



Old English Verse 151 

For He is God, a God most great 
Above all gods, a King in kingly seat. 

What lowest lies in earthy mass, 
What highest stands, 
Stands in His hand : 

The sea is His, and He the sea-wright was. 
He made the sea, He made the shore : 
Come let us fall, let us adore : 
Come let us kneel with awful grace 
Before the Lord, the Lord our Maker's face. 

He is our God, He doth us keep : 
We by Him led, 
And by Him fed, 

His people are ; we are his pasture sheep. 
To-day if He some speech will use, 
Do not, O do not you refuse 
With hardened hearts His voice to hear, 
As Massa now, or Meribah it were. 1 

Speaking generally of this version of the Psalms by 
Sir Philip Sydney and his sister, it seems to me nearly, 
if not quite, the best and most readable of any com- 
plete rendering in English verse. 

Humphrey Gifford's Posie of Gilloflowers was pub- 
lished about 1580. Very little is known of him except 
that he was connected by marriage with the ancient 
family of the Copes, that in some manner he 'served' 
Edward Cope of Eydon, and that he had convenient 
leisure among his books, ' with which exercise,' says he, 
' of all earthly recreations I am most delighted.' From 
his poems, I select one of much merit, In Praise of the 
Contented Minde : 

If all the joys that worldly wights possess, 
Were throughly scann'd, and ponder'd in their kinds, 

No man of wit, but justly must confess 
That they joy most that have contented minds ; 

And other joys which bear the name of joys 

Are not right joys, but sunshines of annoys. 



1 The Psalms of David, etc., by Sir Philip Sydney, and finished by the 
Countess of Pembroke, his sister, 1823 : ' Come, come lett us with joyfull 



152 Religious Thought in 

In outward view we see a number glad, 

Which make a show, as if mirth did abound, 

When pinching grief within doth make them sad ; 
And many a one in these days may be had, 

Which faintly smile, to shroud their sorrows so, 

When oftentimes they pine in secret woe. 

But every man that holds himself content, 
And yields God thanks, as duty doth require, 

For all the goods that He to us hath sent, 
And is not vexed with over great desire ; 

All such, I say, most quietly do sleep, 

When fretting cares do others waking keep. 

What doth avail huge heaps of shining gold, 
Or gay attire, or stately buildings brave, 

If worldly pomp thy heart in bondage hold? 
Not thou thy goods, thy goods make thee their slave ; 

For greedy men like Tantalus do fare ; 

In midst of wealth they needy are and bare. 

A wary heed that things go not to loss, 
Doth not amiss, so that it keeps the mean ; 

But still to toil and moil for worldly dross, 
And taste no joy nor pleasure for our pains 

In cark and care both day and night to dwell, 

Is nothing else but even a very hell. 

Wherefore I say, as erst I did begin, 
Contented men enjoy the greatest bliss ; 

Let us content ourselves to fly from sin, 
And still abide what God's good pleasure is. 

If joy or pain, if wealth or want befall, 

Let us be pleased, and give God thanks for all. 1 

I must add a few lines, from his Complaynt of a 
Sinner, on the world-long struggle between the spirit 
and the flesh : 

Ah me ! when that some good desire 

Would move me to do well, 
Affection fond makes me retire, 

And cause me to rebel. 
I wake, yet am asleep, 

I see, yet still am blind ; 
In ill I run with headlong race, 

In good I come behind, 

1 H. Gifford's Posit of Gilloflwers in Al. Grosart's Miscellanies, vol. i.: 
* If all the joyes that worldly wightes possesse.' 



Old English Verse 153 

Lo, thus in life I daily die, 

And dying shall not live, 
Unless Thy mercy speedily 

Some succour to me give. 

The following is from William Byrd's Psalms, Son- 
nets, and Songs (1588) 

Care for thy soul as thing of greatest price, 
Made to the end to taste of power divine, 

Devoid of guilt, abhorring sin and vice, 
Apt by God's grace to virtue to incline : 

Care for it so that by thy reckless train 

It be not brought to taste eternal pain. 

Care for thy soul as for thy chiefest stay ; 

Care for thy body for the soul's avail : 
Care for the world for body's help alway ; 

Care yet but so as virtue may prevail : 
Care in such sort as thou beware of this 
Care keep thee not from heaven and heavenly bliss. 1 

Thomas Churchyard (c. 1520-1604) was author of a 
number of poems of no very superlative character. The 
following stanza from Churchy ar de' s Chippes rises above 
his ordinary level : 

Here is no home nor harbouring house, 

But cabins built on sand, 
That every pirrie [gust] puffeth down, 

Or still on props do stand. 
Our fathers' spirits pass in peace 

The country that we crave, 
But we are strangers far from home 

That nothing certain have. 2 

Spenser's Faery Queen (1590) is a religious poem in a 
very noble sense, as representing a pure and beautiful 
ideal of the Christian character. ' I labour,' he says, in 
his preface to Sir Walter Raleigh, to portray the image 
of a brave knight, perfected in the twelve moral virtues, 

1 More Lyrics from Elizabethan Song-Books, edited by A. H. Bullen, 
1888, p. 1 6. 

1 Churchyards 's Chippes, by Thomas Churchyard, Gentilman, 1573 ; 
edited by J. P. Collier, p. 74: 

Here is no home nor harboring house, 
But cabbens built on sande. 



154 Religious Thought in 

. . . 'to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous 
and gentle discipline,' . . . clad in 'the armour of a 
Christian man specified by St. Paul.' He has carried 
out his aim in no narrow sense, and is always careful 
never to dwell so far disproportionately upon any one 
moral virtue as in any way to overcloud the high con- 
ception of truth and holiness, which is the general 
principle of all. There is throughout a very pure and 
delicate sense of earnest religion, in union with beauty, 
honour, and chivalry. A modern can scarcely fail to 
regret that the poem is cast in an allegorical form. He 
himself speaks in his preface of allegory as a ' dark 
conceit,' and acknowledges 'how doubtfully all alle- 
gories may be construed.' But whereas his age de- 
lighted in allegory, ours shrinks from it. However 
much a modern reader may admire and appreciate the 
great beauties of Spenser's chief poem, there are few 
who can persist without real weariness in a continuous 
perusal of it 

The very first stanzas of the Faery Queene give the 
key-note of the lofty religious idea which pervades the 
whole. They tell of the knight, bound on great ad- 
venture, and clad in mighty arms which bore the old 
dints of many a hard-fought field : 

And on his breast a bloody cross he bore, 

The dear remembrance of his dying Lord, 

For whose sweet sake that glorious badge he bore, 

And dead, as living, ever Him adored; 

Upon his shield the like was also scored, 

For sovereign hope which in His help he had. 

Right, faithful, true He was in deed and word. 

Nor was the lady who rode by his side less worthy of 
men's honour. By her was a milk-white lamb, and 

So pure and innocent as that same lamb 
She was in life and every virtuous lore. 

But my limits preclude any attempt to follow out the 
religious and moral purpose of the poem, and I must 
merely give a few short extracts in specific points. 

Of the interconnection of all Christian virtues : 



Old English Verse 155 

O goodly golden chain, wherewith y-fere [together], 
The virtues linked are in lovely wise, 
And noble minds of yore allied were 
In brave pursuit of chivalrous emprise ! 

Of the vanity of trusting on mere human strength in 
our spiritual warfare : 

What man is he that boasts of fleshly might, 
And vain assurance of mortality ? 
Which all so soon as it doth come to fight 
Against spiritual foes yields by and bye, 
Or from the field most cowardly doth fly. 
Nor let the man ascribe it to his skill, 
That thorough grace hath gained the victory : 
If any strength we have, it is to ill ; 
But all the good is God's, both power and eke will. 

Of ministering angels : 

How oft do they their silver bowers leave 
To come to succour us that succour want ! 
How oft do they with golden pinions cleave 
The flitting skies, like flying pursuivant, 
Against foul fiends to help us militant ! 
They for us fight, they watch and duly ward, 
And their bright squadrons round about us plant ; 
And all for love and nothing for reward : 
O why should heavenly God to men have such regard ? 

From his Hymn of Love : 

For Love is lord of Truth and Loyalty, 
Lifting himself out of the lowly dust, 
On golden plumes up to the purest sky, 

Ah me, dear Lord ! that ever I might hope, 

For all the pains and woes that I endure, 

To come at length unto the wished-for scope 

Of my desire, or might myself assure 

That happy port for ever to recure. 

Then would I think these pains no pains at all, 

And all my woes to be but penance small. 

Then would I sing of Thine immortal praise 
An heavenly hymn, such as the angels sing. 
And Thy triumphant name then would I raise 
Bove all the gods, Thee only honouring, 
My Guide, my God, my Victor, and my King; 
Till then, dread Lord, vouchsafe to take of me 
This simple song, thus framed in praise of Thee. 



156 Religious Thought in 

Spenser's noble Hymn of Heavenly Love is beautiful 
from beginning to end. But it is nearly three hundred 
lines in length, and I must be content to quote three 
stanzas near the end. He has just recited the story of 
our Saviour's life and death: 

Then let thy flinty heart, that feels no pain, 

Empierce'd be with pitiful remorse, 

And let thy bowels bleed in every vein 

At sight of His most sacred heavenly corse 

So torn and mangled with malicious force ; 

And let thy soul, whose sins His sorrows wrought 

Melt into tears, and groan in grieved thought. 

With sense thereof whilst so thy softened spirit 
Is inly touched, and humbled with meek zeal 
Through meditation of His endless merit, 
Lift up thy mind to th' author of thy weal, 
And to His sovereign mercy do appeal ; 
Learn Him to love, that loved thee so dear, 
And in thy breast His blessed image bear. 

Then shall thy ravished soul inspired be 
With heavenly thoughts, far above human skill, 
And thy bright radiant eyes shall plainly see 
The idea of His pure glory present still 
Before thy face, that all thy spirit shall fill 
With sweet enragement of celestial love 
Kindled through sight of those fair things above. 

A SONNET FOR EASTER DAY OR SUNDAY. 

Most glorious Lord of Life ! that on this day 

Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin, 

And, having harrowed hell, didst bring away 

Captivity thence captive, us to win : 

This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin ; 

And grant that we, for whom Thou diddest die, 

Being with Thy dear blood clean washed from sin, 

May live for ever in felicity ! 

And that Thy love we weighing worthily 

May likewise love Thee for the same again ; 

And for Thy sake, that all like dear didst buy, 

With love may one another entertain. 

So let us love, dear Love, like as we ought : 

Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught. 

Although the plays of Shakespeare (1566-1616) 
abound in passages rich in pure and lofty sentiment, 



Old English Verse 157 

it can scarcely be said that they contain anything 
which could be ranked as sacred poetry in the more 
limited sense of the term. Under such a restriction 
his 1 66th Sonnet might still be quoted : 

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth, 

Fooled by those rebel powers that thee array, 
Why dost thou pine within, and suffer dearth, 

Painting thy outward walls so costly gay ? 
Why so large cost, having so short a lease, 

Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend ? 
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess, 

Eat up thy charge ? is this thy body's end ? 
Then, soul, live thou upon thy servant's loss 

And let that pine, to aggravate thy store ; 
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross ; 

Within be fed, without be rich no more : 
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men, 
And Death once dead, there 's no more dying then. 

Characters of all kinds were naturally and truly con- 
ceived by the multitudinous genius of the great 
dramatist. But he has held aloof from the deeper 
springs of Christian feelings, as if in a spirit of reserve 
and reverence for mysteries which he would in no ac- 
count profane or dishonour, but which he could only 
faintly appreciate. Therefore he does but touch slightly 
upon truths of religion, and passes on, for example : 

Alas ! alas ! 

Why all the souls that were, were forfeiture ; 
And He that might the vantage best have took 
Found out the remedy. How would you be, 
If He, which is the top of judgment, should 
But judge you as you are ? 

The finest passages of a semi-religious character to be 
found in Shakespeare are such as have to do either with 
Christian practice or with a very general and undefined 
religious emotion. Both might be illustrated from the 
Merchant of Venice ; the one those noble words on 
mercy put into the mouth of Portia ; the other where 
Lorenzo says : 

Look how the floor of heaven 
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold ; 
There 's not the smallest orb which thou beholdest, 



158 Religious Thought in 

But in his motion like an angel sings, 
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims : 
Such harmony is in immortal souls ; 
But while this mouldy vesture of decay 
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it. 

A brief mention may here be made, but more for 
the sake of the form than of the matter, of the Psalms 
in English hexameters, published in 1591 by Abraham 
Fraunce, a barrister, who enjoyed the high esteem and 
friendship of Sir Philip Sydney. Although these early 
efforts to naturalise in our tongue the Latin metre are 
rather uncouth, they are not void of a certain graphic 
force. We are told that Spenser was interested in 
these experiments of Fraunce and Gabriel Harvey, and 
was at one time inclined himself to try them. The 
reader may be interested in an example of some lines 
from this curious version. I take a passage from the 
middle of the iO4th Psalm: 

Night-enlightening moon for certain times is appointed, 
And all-seeing sun knows his due time to be setting. 
Sun once so setting, dark night wraps all in a mantle, 
All in a black mantle : then beasts creep out fro' the dungeons ; 
Roaring hungry lions their prey, with greedy devouring, 
Claws and jaws, attend, but by God's only appointment : 
When Sun riseth again, their dens they quickly recover, 
And there couch all day : that man may safely the day-tirne 
His day's work apply, till day give way to the darkness. 

O good God, wise Lord, good Lord, and only the wise God, 
Earth sets forth Thy works, earth-dwellers all be Thy wonders. 
So be seas also, great seas, full fraught with abundant 
Swarms of creeping things, great, small : there ships be a- 

sailing, 

And there lies tumbling that monstrous huge leviathan. 
All these beg their food, and all these on Thee be waiting. 1 

Fraunce also wrote in hexameters the story of Christ's 
life and death, in a poem called Emmanuel. 

Henry Lok (Loke or Locke) has left some three or 
four hundred Sonnets of Christian Passions, etc., pub- 
lished in 1593-7. Although, from a poetical point of 

1 Certaine Psalmes, etc. , by Abraham Fraunce, in Grosart's Miscellanies, 
vol. iii. : ' Night enlightning moone for certaine tymes is apoynted.' 



Old English Verse 159 

view, they are not of a very high order, there are some 
which are much above the level of the rest, and the 
varied and deep religious feeling which throbs in them 
is sufficient of itself to give them an honourable place 
in the religious poetry of their age. Henry Lok was the 
son of a London merchant, and was employed in the 
service of the State in various secret and perilous mis- 
sions on the European continent and in the East. He 
appears to have passed through a good deal of trouble, 
and, in his later years, to have fallen into embarrassment 
and poverty. I quote three of the Sonnets : 

SONNET XIV. P. I. 

Behold, O Lord, a tree by highway side 

Unfruitful yet of any good for Thee. 
In highway side as yet I do abide, 

Where passers to Jerusalem I see : 

Though Summer grow, I cannot fruitful be, 
Unplanted by Thy grace in garden Thine : 

I do confess I am a wild fig-tree 
For want of moisture which am like to pine. 
Unto my prayers, Lord, do Thou incline ; 

Remove me home into Thy garden fair. 
Let me behold the face of Thy sunshine, 

Which may my withered leaves with life repair : 
So may's! Thou taste a fruit of wholesome kind, 
And leave a mark of mercy great behind. 1 

SONNET XXXV. P. 2. 

O heavenly Love, with God thou dwell'st for aye. 

Thou passest faith and hope in dignity ; 
Thou keep'st the law, thy feet step not awry, 

In all men's danger thou the surest stay ; 

To our request thou never sayest nay. 
Ne wrath, ne envy, move thee e'er a whit, 
Thou multitude of sins in man dost quit, 

Thou Law and Gospel both doth over-sway. 



1 Sundrie Sonnets of Christian Passions, by Henry Lok, in Grosart's 
ed. of Fuller's Miscellanies : 

Behold, O Lord, a tree by high way side, 
Unfrutefull yet of any good for Thee. 



160 Religious Thought in 

Thou dost with God aloft in honour sit : 
With God in counsel thou art always by ; 
Thou causest Christ man's weakness to supply, 

And makest us receive the fruit of it. 

And every whit of goodness that we have 

Love made Him send, who love therefore doth crave. 1 

SONNET LXIX. P. II. 

Why should he faint, or think his burden great, 

That hath a partner to support the same ? 

Why coward-like should he his honour shame, 
That hath a champion ready at intreat, 
Who can and doth death and confusion threat 

To all impediments which stop our way ? 

On whom repose our trust we boldly may, 
He being judge, and placed in mercy's seat ? 

He sees our thoughts, and knows what we would say 
He doth our mouth to fit petition frame ; 
He hides our errors if our faith be lame, 

And He Himself doth also for us pray. 
We need but stay, and trust to His good will, 
And we are sure He will our wants fulfil. 8 

Robert Southwell (1561-95) is well known by name 
as one of the Jesuit Fathers who were cruelly executed 
in the reign of Elizabeth. His long imprisonment, his 
tortures, and ultimate death were justified to the Pro- 
testants of that age on political grounds. But, at all 
events, he endured all his sufferings in the true spirit of 
a Christian martyr. He was the son of an honourable 
Nottinghamshire family. He seems to have been a 
thoroughly good man, and is spoken in a letter of 1588 
as ' at once prudent, pious, meek, and exceedingly win- 
ning.' The example of Ignatius Loyola, who had died 
only four or five years before his birth, had filled him 
with a passionate fervour of religion. It was at his 
own earnest request that he was sent on a religious 
mission to England, at just the time when English feel- 
ing was exasperated to its utmost pitch against Roman 
Catholics, and when a detected Jesuit was almost 
certain to incur the penalties of high treason. 

1 Sundrie Sonnets, etc., by Henry Lok : O heavenly love, with God 
Thou dwelst for aye. 

2 Id. : ' Why should he faint or thinke his burden great ? ' 



Old English Verse 161 

Some of his poems were written in prison, but most 
of them at an earlier date. The longest of them, 
St. Peters Complaint, a soliloquy expressive of the 
Apostle's deep contrition at having denied his Lord 
cannot exactly be said to be either morbid or unnatural, 
but is infinitely less touching and suggestive than 
the three words which in Scripture tell of the repent- 
ance. Yet there are some fine verses in the poem, this 
especially : 

Love, where I loved, was due, and best deserved ; 

No love could aim at more love-worthy mark ; 
No love more loved than mine of Him I served ; 

Large use He gave, a flame for every spark. 
This love I lost, this loss a life must rue ; 
Yea, life is short to pay the ruth I owe. 1 

The following is from a hymn to Christ ; 

I praise Him most, I love Him best, all praise and love is 
His; 

While Him I love, in Him I live, and cannot live amiss. 

Love's sweetest mark, laud's highest theme, man's most de- 
sired light, 

To love Him life, to leave Him death, to live in Him delight. 

He mine by gift, I His by debt, thus each to other due, 

First friend He was, best friend He is, all times will try Him 
true. 

His knowledge rules, His strength defends, His love doth 
cherish all ; 

His birth our joy, His life our light, His death our end of 
thrall. 2 

From CONTENT AND RICH. 

I dwell in Grace's Court, 

Enrich'd with Virtue's rights ; 
Faith guides my wit ; love leads my will, 

Hope all my mind delights. 

My conscience is my crown, 

Contented thoughts my rest ; 
My heart is happy in itself, 

My bliss is in my breast. 

1 Robert Southwell's Complete Poems ; Saint Peter's Complaint, ed. by 
Grosart, 1872 ; stanza Ixxxiv. p. 32. 

2 Id. p. 70. 

L 



1 62 Religioiis Thought in 

Enough, I reckon wealth : 

A mean, the surest lot, 
That lies too high for base contempt, 

Too low for envy's shot. 

My wishes are but few, 

All easy to fulfil ; 
I make the limits of my power 

The bounds unto my will. 

I feel no care of coin, 
Well-doing is my wealth ; 

My mind to me an empire is, 
While grace affordeth health. 

I clip high-climbing thoughts, 
The wings of swelling pride ; 

Their fall is worst, that from the height 
Of greatest honour slide. 

Since sails of largest size 

The storm doth soonest tear, 

I bear so low and small a sail 
As freeth me from fear. 

No change of fortune's calms 
Can cast my comforts down ; 

When fortune smiles, I smile to think 
How quickly she will frown. 

And when in froward mood 

She proves an angry foe, 
Small gain I found to let her come, 

Small loss to let her go. 1 

From LIFE'S DEATH, LOVE'S LIFE. 

Who lives in love, loves least to live, 
And long delays doth rue, 

If Him he love, by whom he lives, 
To whom all love is due ; 

Who for our sakes did choose to live, 

And was content to die ; 
Who loved our love more than His life, 

And love with life did buy. 

Let us in life, yea, with our life, 

Requite His living love ; 
For best we live when least we live 

If love our life remove. 

1 South-well 's Complete Poems, ed. by Grosart, p. 72. 



Old English Verse 163 

Life out of earth hath no abode, 

In earth love hath no place ; 
Love settled hath her joys in heaven, 

In earth life all her grace. 

Mourn therefore no true lover's death ; 

Life only Him annoys. 
And when he taketh leave of life 

Then love begins his joys. 1 

From LOSS OR DELAY. 

Shun delays, they breed remorse ; 

Take thy time while time doth serve thee ; 
Creeping snails have weakest force, 

Fly their fault lest thou repent thee. 
Good is best when soonest wrought, 
Linger'd labours come to nought. 

Hoist up sail while gale doth last, 
Tide and wind stay no man's pleasure ; 

Seek not time when time is past, 
Sober speed is wisdom's leisure. 

After-wits are dearly bought, 

Let thy fore-wit guide thy thought. 

Time wears all his locks before, 
Take thy hold upon his forehead ; 

When he flies he turns no more, 
And behind his scalp is naked. 

Works adjourn'd have many stays, 

Long demurs breed new delays. 

Seek thy salve while sore is green, 
Fester'd wounds ask deeper lancing ; 

After-cures are seldom seen, 

Often sought, scarce ever chancing ; 

Time and place give best advice ; 

Out of season, out of price. 2 

A PREPARATIVE TO PRAYER. 

When thou dost talk with God, by prayer I mean, 
Lift up pure hands, lay down all lust's desires : 

Fix thoughts on heaven, present a conscience clean : 
Such holy balm to mercy's throne aspires. 

Confess faults' guilt, crave pardon for thy sin ; 

Tread holy paths, call grace to guide therein. 3 

1 South-well's Complete Poems, ed. by Grosart, p. 86. 

2 Id. 75. 3 Id. 185. 



164 Religious Thought in 

Some pleasing verses, In Praise of a Good Minde, 
quite in the spirit of the best Elizabethan writers, were 
written about 1590, by Rychard Denys. I quote some 
lines from the beginning of the poem : 

What thing of greater price 

On earth may any find, 
What gold or riches may compare 

With virtue of the mind ? 
The mind doth still possess 

In man a kingly place, 
And guides the steps of mortal wights, 

And rules in every case. 

Who that can rule his mind 

And thinks all pleasures vain, 
How great a Lord is he in thought, 

How princely doth he reign ! 
No worldly wealth can move 

His mind sin to obey, 
Nor force compel him once to yield 

Unto his own decay. 1 

Barnaby Barnes, son of a Bishop of Durham, 
was a soldier of Queen Elizabeth. In 1591 he held 
command in France under the Earl of Essex. His 
Divine Centurie of Spirituale Sonnets was published 
in 1595, with a preface which breathes a very fervid 
spirit of devotion. The verses themselves are by no 
means wanting in power of expression and in exaltation 
of feeling. The following are two of the sonnets : 

SONNET XXXVII. 

O my dear God ! how shall my voice prevail ? 

How shall my tongue give utterance to my mind ? 

Where shall my thankful heart free passage find ? 
My slender voice, tongue feeble, and' heart frail, 
Before they can give condign praise, will fail. 

I cannot celebrate in their due kind 

Thy glories numberless, which angels find 
E'en to surmount all angels' best travdil. 

1 Pieces of Ancient Poetry from Unpublished Manuscripts and Scarce 
Books, by N. G., Bristol (1814), p. 45. 



Old English Verse 165 

my dear God ! my comfort and soldce : 

My swift soul flies, with my divine thoughts' wings, 
E'en to Thy bosom. Oh ! let it embrace 

And triumph in my sweet salvation's springs : 
For I believe Thou wilt not me forsake, 
Who, for me, didst Thy Son a martyr make. 

SONNET XXXVIII. 

Gracious, Divine, and most Omnipotent ! 

Receive Thy servant's talent in good part, 

Who hid it not, but willing did convert 
It to best use he could, when it was lent : 
The sum, though slender, yet not all mispent, 

Receive, dear God of grace ! from cheerful heart 

Of him, that knows how merciful Thou art, 
And with what grace to contrite sinners lent. 

1 know my fault, I did not as I should ; 
My sinful flesh against my soul rebell'd ; 

But since I did endeavour what I could, 
Let not my little nothing be withheld 

From Thy rich treasuries of endless grace, 
But, for Thy sake, let it procure a place. 1 

Henry Constable, of St. John's College, Cambridge, 
was a Roman Catholic, who wrote in the latter part of 
the sixteenth century. The following are a few lines 
from one of the Spirituall Sonnettes to the Honour of 
God and His Sayntes, by H. C. The initials are almost 
certainly his : 

No marvel though Thy birth made angels sing, 
And angels' ditties shepherds' pipes awake, 
And kings, like shepherds, humbled for Thy sake, 
Kneel at Thy feet, and gifts of homage bring : 
For heaven and earth, the high and low estate, 
As partners of Thy birth make equal claim. 2 

William Hunnis, ' one of the gentlemen of her Majes- 
tie's honourable Chappel, and Maister to the Children 
of the same,' published in 1597 Seven Sobs of a Sorrow- 
ful Soule for Sinne, being David's Peenitentiall Psalms 

1 Poems of Barnabe Barnes : A Divine Centurie, etc. (Grosart), 1875, 
p. 179 : ' O my deare God ! how shall my voice prevaile?' 

2 Spiritttal Sonnettes, p. 4 ; Heliconia, ii. : 

No mervayle, though thy byrth mayd angells synge, 
And angell's dyttyes shepheyrds pypes awake. 



1 66 Religious Thought in 

framed into familiar Praters. They are paraphrased 
very freely. Thus, part of the 38th Psalm is made a 
text for the following : 

Sin may well be compared 

Unto a serpent vile, 
Which with his body, head, and tail, 

Doth many one beguile. 
For where the serpent's head 

To enter doth begin, 
Thereat the body with the tail 

Apace comes sliding in. 
The motions first of sin 

Unto the head apply ; 
And when the heart consents thereto, 

Then is the body nigh ; 
The fact once being done, 

Then is the serpent's tail 
With head and body entered in, 

Where he must needs prevail. 1 

The following is from his Handful of Honisuckles 

Short and Pit/lie Prayers Gathered by him : 

' ' 

O Jesu dear, do Thou with me 

Even as Thy will shall please ; 
Sweet Jesu, put me where Thou wilt 

To suffer pain or ease. 

Jesus, behold, I am but Thine 

Be I or good or ill ; 
Yet by Thy grace I ready am 

Thy pleasure to fulfil. 

Jesu, I am Thy workmanship ! 

Most blessed mayst Thou be ; 
Sweet Jesu, for Thy mercy's sake 

Have mercy now on me. 2 

In England's Helicon, a delightful collection of 
pastoral verse, published in 1600, is a Christmas Carol 
by Edward Bolton, a Roman Catholic, a scholar and 
antiquary of repute, attached to the household of the 
Duke of Buckingham. It is very melodious, and its 

1 Seven Penitential Sobs, by W. Hunnis, etc., 1597 : 'Sinne may wel 
be comparde.' 

A Handful of Honisticktes, by William Hunnis, 1597. 



Old English Verse 167 

Arcadian tone and delicate conceits of language were 
quite in accordance with the taste of that age : 

Sweet music, sweeter far 

Than any song is sweet : 

Sweet music, heavenly rare, 

Mine ears (O peers) doth greet. 
Yon gentle flocks, whose fleeces, pearl'd with dew, 
Resemble heaven, whom golden drops make bright, 
Listen, O listen, now ; O not to you 
Our pipes make sport to shorten weary night : 

But voices most divine 

Make blissful harmony ; 

Voices that seem to shine, 

For what else clears the sky ? 
Tunes can we hear, but not the singers see ; 
The tunes divine and so the singers be. 

Lo how the firmament 

Within an azure fold 

The flock of stars hath pent, 

That we them might behold ! 
Yet from their beams proceedeth not this light, 
Nor can their crystals such reflection give. 
What then doth make the element so bright ? 
The heavens are come down upon earth to live. 

But hearken to the song : 

Glory to glory's King, 

And peace all men among, 

These choristers do sing 
Angels they are, as also, shepherds, He, 
Whom, in our fear, we do admire to see. 

' Let not amazement blind 

Your souls,' said he, ' annoy : 

To you and all mankind 

My message bringeth joy.' 

For, lo ! the world's great Shepherd now is born, 
A blessed Babe, an infant full of power ; 
After long night uprisen is the morn 
Renowning Bethlehem in the Saviour. 

Sprung is the perfect day, 

To prophets seen afar ; 

Sprung is the mirthful May 

Which winter cannot mar. 
In David's city doth this Sun appear, 
Clouded in flesh ; yet, shepherds, sit we here ! J 

1 England's Helicon ; The Shepheard's Song, a Caroll or Himue for 
Christmas, p. 147 : ' Sweet musicke, sweeter farre.' 



1 68 Religious Thought in 

Samuel Rowlands published, in 1598, a series ot 
poems on the Passion of our Lord. They are not in 
any way remarkable ; but, for the sake of the thought 
expressed in them, I quote a stanza on the name 
' friend,' as addressed to the traitor Judas : 

To call thee friend, it doth thus much betoken, 
No cause in me hath cancelled love's desire, 
But thy revolting hath our friendship broken ; 
Unaltered I remain the same entire : 

If thou, with David, ' I have sinned,' couldst say, 
His answer thine 'Thy sin is done away.' 1 

The following verses from his Highway to Mount Cal- 
varie stand on a higher level of merit than most of his 
poems : 

Follow their steps in tears, 

And with those women mourn, 
But not for Christ ; weep for thyself, 

And Christ will grace return. 

Join thou unto the Cross ; 

Bear it of love's desire ! 
Do not as Cyrenaeus did, 

That took it up for hire. 

It is a grateful deed, 

If willing underta'en ; 
But if temptation set awork, 

The labour 's done in vain. 

The voluntary death 

That Christ did die for thee, 
Gives life to none but such as joy 

Cross-bearing friends to be. 

Up to Mount Calvary, 

If thou desire to go ; 
Then take thy cross and follow Christ , 

Thou canst not miss it so. 

When thou art there arrived, 

His glorious wounds to see, 
Say, but as faithful as the thief, 

' O Lord, remember me.' 2 

1 .S". Rowlands' Betraying of Christ, etc., 1598; Reprinted for the 
Hunterian Society, No. xxix. 

2 From Mrs. E. Charles' Voice of Christian Life and Song, 1873, p. 312. 



Old English Verse 169 

Among Rowlands' numerous productions are a num- 
ber of Bell-man's Sounds and Cries, to put us in mind of 
our Mortality. Here are two of them : 

Remember, man, thou art but dust ; 
There is none alive but die he must. 
To-day a man, to-morrow none, 
So soon our life is past and gone. 
Man's life is like a wither'd flower, 
Alive and dead all in an hour. 
Leave off thy sins, therefore, in time, 
And Christ will rid thee of thy crime. 



Arise from sin, awake from sleep ; 
The earth doth mourn, the heavens weep ; 
The winds and seas distempered bin, 
And all by reason of man's sin ; 
Wherefore arise, lay sleep aside, 
And call on God to be your guide. 
From raging sword and arrow's flight, 
And from the terrors of the night ; 
From fire's flame, from sin and sorrow, 
God bless you all ; and so, Good-morrow ! 1 

The following stanza, on the Soul of Man, is by 
Gervase Markham (1566-1637), a soldier of fortune, 
a good linguist, and a writer of works of agriculture 
and arboriculture. His Teares of the Beloved ; or The 
Lamentation of St. John, was published in 1600. 

Fly forth, my soul ; for sure this Word divine 

Hath power on thee to call thee back again ; 
Unseen thou art, my body doth thee shrine, 
Bodiless and immortal, subject to joy or pain : 
To none more like than to that hidden grace 
The Godhead hath, which Satan would deface. 2 

Samuel Nicholson, of whom little is known, except 
that he was a Master of Arts, wrote Acolastus his After- 
Witte, at the end of the sixteenth century. The follow- 
ing are a few stanzas from it : 

1 S. Rowlands' Heaven's Glory, etc., 1628; Hunterian Society, No. 
xxxvii. 

2 The Teares of the Beloved, by Gervase Markham ; ed. by Grosart, 
1871, p. 38. 



1 70 Religious Thought in 

Misguided heart, made alien from the form 

Of thy pure Maker's glorious creation ; 
Coward, why didst thou yield to Fancy's storm, 
And stoop to Lust, that foul abomination ? 

Had'st thou, with Reason's bit, checked raging Will, 
A small foresight might have forestalled this ill. 

O where was Prayer, the Soul's Ambassador, 
To muster heavenly troops of powerful aid, 
When Sin and Hell first laboured to deflower 
Thy body's Temple, God's unspotted maid ? 

Christ bids thee knock for help, and thou shalt have it ; 
Then let him helpless die that will not crave it. 

Thou should'st have summoned Hope and Charity, 
Mount-moving Faith, hot Zeal, and perfect Love, 
Free-given Grace, true Courage, Constancy, 
With such like gifts descending from above. 
The smallest handful of this holy band 
Had kept the dev'l from seizing on thy Soul. 

Look, as the chaff dispersed before the wind, 

Or, as the dew exhaled by the sun, 

Or, as a dream which, waking, none can find, 

Or, as a thought, ended ere well begun ; 

So fancies die, so soon we stifle evil, 

If we resist the motives of the devil. 

O heartless heart, false slave to false delight, 

Why didst thou tremble ere the trumpet sounded, 
Yielding thyself to sin before the fight, 

And dastardly depart the field unwounded ? 

When guides misguide themselves, the simple sort, 
By their ill-sample, render up the fort. 1 

The following lines I take from Professor Palgrave's 
Treasury of Sacred Song. They occur as prefatory to 
a Bible of 1594: 

Here is the Spring where waters flow 

To quench our heat of sin ; 
Here is the tree where truth doth grow 

To lead our lives therein ; 

Here is the Judge that stints [stays] the strife 

When men's devices fail : 
Here is the Bread that feeds the life 

Which death can not assail. 

1 Sam. Nicholson, M.A. : Acolastus his After- Witte, 1600, ed. by 
Grosart, 1876 : ' Misguided heart, made alyen from the forme.' 



Old English Verse 171 

The tidings of salvation dear 

Comes to our ears from hence ; 
The fortress of our faith is here, 

The shield of our defence. 

Then be not like the hog that hath 

A pearl at his desire, 
And takes more pleasure in the trough 

And wallowing in the mire. 

Read not this book in any case 

But with a single eye ; 
Read not, but first desire God's grace, 

To understand thereby. 

Pray still in faith with this respect 

To fructify therein ; 
That knowledge may bring this effect, 

To mortify thy sin. 

Then happy thou in all thy life, 

Whatso to thee befalls ; 
Yea, doubly happy shalt thou be 

When God by death thee calls. 

Among the many men of mark who adorned Queen 
Elizabeth's Court, Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke (1554- 
1628), was one of the most remarkable. Kinsman to 
Sir Philip Sydney, his school friend at Shrewsbury, his 
compeer in all chivalrous exercises, sharing with him 
his eager love for adventure, imbued like him with a 
deep vein of poetical thought, he was his bosom friend 
through life, and mourned his premature death with 
passionate and lasting grief. He was held in much 
honour by Elizabeth, James I., and Charles I., and, after 
holding several important posts of trust, and serving for 
Warwickshire in the House of Commons, he was made 
in 1614 Chancellor of the Exchequer and Privy Coun- 
cillor. He received the title of Lord Brooke in 1620. 
His was a pure and noble life. His poems, written in 
the intervals of active employment, were not published 
till after his death, and their chronology is uncertain. 
It is certain that some of them were not written till after 
the death of Elizabeth. If it did not seem natural that 
mention of him should be not far removed from that of 
Sir Philip Sydney, his poems might be considered as 
belonging almost more properly to the first part of the 



172 Religious Thought in 

seventeenth than to the closing years of the sixteenth 
century. 

His poetical writings are by no means of an ordinary 
kind. They are far from being easy reading. But 
they contain so much profound thought, that the careful 
reader of them, however baffled and puzzled he may 
often be, will not rashly pronounce that the difficulties 
he meets with do not often rise from intricacy of 
thought, rather than of language. Still, obscurity is no 
merit either in poets of our own day or in those of a 
preceding age. Language may have its limitations ; 
but a tolerable master of it should not often find it 
impossible to express in lucid words the subtler work- 
ings of his mind. In Lord Brooke's poems the thought 
is generally better than the composition. Some of his 
verses, especially those in the series entitled Ccelica, 
show that he was by no means without the power of 
writing melodiously, but his style is often cumbrous 
and perplexed ; so much so, that a hasty reader will 
most certainly pass upon them a judgment far less 
favourable than they deserve. 

In quoting a few of the verses, which are infused 
most definitely with the religious tone which more or 
less pervades them generally, I shall avoid the obscurer 
passages. I first give the concluding sonnet of the 
Cfzlzca, a fervent, but almost despairing, aspiration for 
the purging of the world's wickedness and the coming 
of a purer Kingdom of God : 

Sion lies waste, and Thy Jerusalem, 
O Lord, is fallen to utter desolation ; 

Against Thy prophets and Thy holy men 
The sin hath wrought a fatal combination, 

Profaned Thy name, Thy worship overthrown 

And made Thee, Living Lord, a God unknown, 

Thy powerful laws, Thy wonders of creation, 
Thy word incarnate, glorious heaven, dark hell, 

Lie shadowed under man's degeneration ; 
Thy Christ still crucified for doing well ; 

Impiety, O Lord, sits on Thy throne, 

Which makes Thee, living Lord, a God unknown. 



Old English Verse 173 

Yet unto Thee, Lord mirror of trangression 
We, who for earthly idols have forsaken 

Thy heavenly image, sinless, pure impression, 
And so in nets of vanity lie taken, 

All desolate, implore that to Thine own, 

Lord, Thou no longer live a God unknown. 

Yet, Lord, let Israel's plagues not be eternal. 
Nor sin for ever cloud Thy sacred mountains, 

Nor with false flames spiritual but eternal 

Dry up Thy mercy's ever springing fountains ; 

Rather, sweet Jesu, fill up time, and come 

To yield the sin her everlasting doom. 1 

Of the limitations of knowledge, and of the illimitable 
yearnings of the human mind which can only find 
satisfaction in the infinity of God : 

And as the mind, in her vast comprehension, 

Contains more worlds than all the world can find ; 
So knowledge doth itself far more extend 
Than all the minds of men can comprehend. 

A climbing height it is without a head, 

Depth without bottom, way without an end, 

A circle with no line environed, 

Not comprehended, all it comprehends ; 

Worth infinite, yet satisfies no mind 

Till it that infinite of the Godhead find. 2 

Of the Spirit of God in man : 

What is the chain which draws us back again, 
And lifts mankind unto his first creation ? 

Nothing in him .his own heart can restrain ; 
His reason lives a captive to temptation ; 

Example is corrupt, precepts are mixed ; 

All fleshly knowledge frail and never fixed. 

It is a light, a gift, a grace inspired, 
A spark of power, a goodness of the Good ; 

Desire in him, that never is desired ; 3 
An unity where desolation stood ; 

In us, not of us, a spirit not of earth, 

Fashioning the mortal to immortal birth. 4 

1 Lord Brooke's Works : Caelica, Sonnet ex., ed. by Grosart, iii. p. 142 : 
' Syon lyes waste, and Thy Jerusalem. ' 

2 Id. : Of Humane Learning, 1-2, vol. ii. 5. 

3 Which, I suppose, means ' a longing desire in man which is never 
asked in vain, ' ' desired ' being used in the ancient sense of ' missed. ' 

4 Id. : Of Religion, 2-3, vol. i. 239. 



174 Religious Thought in 

Of Divine wisdom being hidden to a presumptuous 
intellect : 

Then by affecting power, we cannot know Him ; 

By knowing all things else, we know Him less ; 
Nature contains Him not ; art cannot show Him ; 

Opinions, idols, and not God express. 
Without, in power, we see Him everywhere ; 
Within, we rest not till we find Him there. 

Then, man, rest on this feeling from above : 
Plant thou thy faith on this celestial way ; 

The world is made for use ; God is for love ; 
Sorrow for sin : knowledge but to obey ; 

Fear and temptation to refine and prove ; 
The heaven for joy. Desire thou that it may 

Find peace in endless, boundless, heavenly things ; 

Place it elsewhere, it desolation brings. 2 

In the last year of the sixteenth century, Sir John 
Davies (1570-1626) published his poem on the im- 
mortality of the soul, under the title Nosce Teipsum. 
It was the first philosophical poem which had hitherto 
been produced in England, and immediately attracted 
much attention. He had previously been rather under 
a cloud, having been expelled from the Middle Temple, 
whither he had passed from Queen's College, Oxford, 
on account of a violent quarrel at dinner-time in the 
common hall. He was now restored to his place as 
barrister, became a most active and useful member of 
the House of Commons, was sent as Solicitor-General 
to Ireland, and won a lasting name there both by his 
administration and by his valuable writings on the 
condition of that country. He was knighted, and was 
chosen Speaker of the First House of Commons in 
Ireland. He returned to England in 1620, and six 
years after, just before his sudden death by apoplexy, 
was appointed Lord Chief Justice of England. 

It would ill become a writer of this age to find fault 
with a conjunction of poetry and philosophic reason- 
ings. We owe a debt of gratitude to some of our best 

1 Lord Brookes Works : Of Religion, ed. by Grosart, vol. i. 7. 

2 Id. 114. 



Old English Verse 175 

poets for the deep and meditative thought which they 
have bestowed upon religious subjects, and upon the 
spiritual aspirations of the human soul. But it must 
be acknowledged that Sir John Davies's poem is rather 
too much of an argument trammelled by verse, and that 
consequently it is a little tedious. Some of its finest 
passages carry with them a reminiscence of Cicero, and 
in doing so are apt to remind the reader of them that 
their poetical form does not compare favourably with 
the noble prose of the Latin author. Still it is a poem 
of great merit, and inaugurated in a very worthy manner 
a fresh field for religious poetry in England. There is 
no consecutive passage in it better adapted for quota- 
tion than the concluding section of it : 

O ignorant poor man ! what dost thou bear 
Lock'd up within the casket of thy breast ? 

What jewels and what riches hast thou there ! 
What heavenly treasure in so weak a chest ! 

Think of her worth, and think that God did mean 

This worthy mind should worthy things embrace ; 
Blot not her beauties with thy thoughts unclean, 

Nor her dishonour with thy passion base. 
Kill not her quickening power with surfeitings ; 

Nor mar her sense with sensuality ; 
Cast not away her wit on idle things ; 

Make not her free-will slave to vanity. 
And when thou think'st of her eternity, 

Think not that death against her nature is ; 
Think it a birth, and when thou go'st to die, 

Sing like a swan, as if thou went to bliss. 

And if thou, like a child, didst fear before 

Being in the dark, where thou didst nothing see, 
Now I have brought thee torchlight, fear no more ; 

Now, when thou diest, thou canst not hoodwink'd be. 
And thou, my soul, which turn'd with curious eye 

To view the beams of thine own form divine, 
Know, that thou canst know nothing perfectly, 

While thou art clouded with this flesh of mine. 

Take heed of overweening, and compare 

Thy peacock'd feet with thy gay peacock's train ; 

Study the best and highest things that are, 
But of thyself an humble thought retain. 



176 Religwiis Thought in 

Cast down thyself, and only strive to raise 

The glory of thy Maker's sacred name : 
Use all thy powers, that blessed Power to praise 

Which gave thee power to be, and use the same. 1 

The following is from John Danyel's Songs for the 
Lute and Viol (1600) : 

If I could shut the gate against my thoughts, 
And keep out sorrow from this room within, 

Or memory could cancel all the notes 
Of my misdeeds, and I unthink my sin ; 

How free, how clear, how clean my soul should lie, 

Discharged of such a loathsome company ! 

But, O my Saviour, who my refuge art, 

Let Thy dear mercies stand 'twixt them and me, 

And be the wall to separate my heart, 
So that I may at length repose me free ; 

That peace, and joy and rest may be within, 

And I remain divided from my sin. 2 

The life of Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) is so 
intimately associated with the memories of Queen Eliz- 
abeth's reign, that although his Pilgrimage was, in all 
likelihood, not written in the sixteenth century, it may 
be mentioned here. His long imprisonment began in 
1603. It was most likely at this time, when he was in 
daily expectation of death, that he wrote these verses. 
He had long been accustomed to look death in the face 
bravely and fearlessly, yet with a tinge of sadness in 
his reflections upon it. And now, in the stillness of 
his dungeon, he could almost toy with the probability 
of execution on the morrow, and clothe a religious hope 
in gay hues of fancy through which runs a scarcely 
perceptible thread of melancholy : 

Give me my scallop shell of quiet, 

My staff of faith to walk upon, 
My scrip of joy, immortal diet, 

My bottle of salvation, 
My gown of glory, hope's true gage ; 
And thus I '11 take my pilgrimage. 

1 Sir John Davies's Nosce Teipsum, sect, xxxiv, Anderson's B. Poets, ii. 

2 Bullen's More Songs from Elizabethan Song- Books, 1888, p. 52. 



Old English Verse 177 

Blood must be my body's balmer ; 

No other balm will there be given ; 
Whilst my soul, like quiet palmer, 

Travelleth toward the land of heaven ; 
Over the silver mountains 
Where spring the nectar fountains : 

There will I kiss 

The bowl of bliss, 
And drink mine everlasting fill 
Upon every milken hill. 
My soul will be a-dry before ; 
But after it will thirst no more. 
Then by that happy blissful day 

More peaceful pilgrims I shall see 
That have cast off their rags of clay, 
And walk apparelled fresh like me. 

I '11 take them first 

To quench their thirst 
And taste of nectar suckets 

At those clear wells 

Where sweetness dwells 
Drawn up by saints in crystal buckets. 

And when our bottles and all we 

Are filled with immortality, 

Then the blessed paths we '11 travel 

Strew'd with rubies thick as gravel ; 

Ceilings of diamonds, sapphire floors, 

High walls of coral, and pearly bowers. 

From thence to heaven's bribeless hall 

Where no corrupted voices brawl ; 

No conscience molten into gold, 

No forged accuser bought or sold, 

No cause deferred, no vain spent journey, 

For there Christ is the King's Attorney, 

Who pleads for all without degrees, 

And He hath angels, but no fees. 

And when the grand twelve million jury 

Of our sins, with direful fury, 

Against our souls black verdicts give, 

Christ pleads His death and then we live. 

Be thou my speaker, taintless pleader, 
Unblotted lawyer, true proceeder ! 
Thou givest salvation even for alms, 
Not with a bribed lawyer's palms. 
And this is mine eternal plea 
To Him that made heaven, earth, and sea, 
M 



178 Religious Thought in 

That since my flesh must die so soon, 
And want a head to dine next noon, 
Just at the stroke when my veins start and spread, 
Set on my soul an everlasting head ! 
Then am I ready, like a palmer fit, 
To tread those blest paths which before I writ. 

Sir Walter was released in 1614, and went, under a 
Royal Commission, to Guiana, but on his return, in 
1618, was again thrown into the Tower, and capital 
sentence was quickly passed. The following verses, 
written, it is said, the night before his death, were 
found in his Bible : 

Even such is time, that takes in trust 
Our youth, our joys, our all we have, 

And pays us but with earth and dust ; 
Who in the dark and silent grave, 

When we have wandered all our ways, 

Shuts up the story of our days ; 

But from this earth, this grave, this dust, 

My God shall raise me up, I trust. 

To the latter part of the sixteenth century belongs 
a very familiar hymn, which in the next two centuries 
passed through many variations. The original of 
Jerusalem, my Happy Home, is in a quarto volume, 
dating probably from about 1616, and entitled A Song 
by F. B. P. The hymn itself is considered to be of 
Queen Elizabeth's time. Fourteen out of the twenty- 
six stanzas will be found in Lord Selborne's Book of 
Praise. I extract a few verses : 

Jerusalem, my happy home, 

When shall I come to thee ? 
When shall my sorrows have an end 

Thy joys when shall I see ? 

O happy harbour of the saints ! 

O sweet and pleasant soil ! 
In thee no sorrow may be found, 

No grief, no care, no toil. 

There lust and lucre cannot dwell, 

There envy bears no sway ; 
There is no hunger, heat, nor cold, 

But pleasure every way. 



Old English Verse 179 

Thy saints are crown'd with glory great ; 

They see God face to face ; 
They triumph still, they still rejoice, 

Most happy is their case. 

Quite through the streets with silver sound 

The flood of Life doth flow ; 
Upon whose banks on every side 

The wood of Life doth grow. 

Our sweet is mix'd with bitter gall, 

Our pleasure is but pain, 
Our joys scarce last the looking on, 

Our sorrows still remain. 

Ah, my sweet home, Jerusalem, 

Would God I were in thee ! 
Would God my woes were at an end, 

Thy joys that I might see ! 1 

Two very favourite old carols, the history of which 
is not known, may perhaps date from the sixteenth 
century. One is that beginning ' God rest you, merry 
gentlemen ; ' the other, ' A virgin most pure, as the 
prophets do tell.' 

The psalmody of the Reformed Church began in 
England in Henry the Eighth's time. About 1539 Miles 
Coverdale published versions of thirteen of the Psalms, 
together with Certain Spiritual Songs, many of which 
are borrowed from the German. He intended them 
not only ' for the comfort and consolation of such as 
love to rejoice in God and His Word,' but also with 
a hope of supplanting foolish songs among the young. 
On the title-page he addresses his book in rhyme, and 
after commending it first to the lover of God's Word, 
he continues 

Go, lytle Boke, amongd men's chyldren, 

And get the to theyr companye, 
Teach them to synge the Commaundements ten 

And other Ballettes of God's glorye : 

Be not ashamed ; I warrande the, 
Thogh thou be rude in songe and ryme, 

Thou shalt to youth some occasion be 
In godly sports to pass theyr tyme. 

1 Roundell Palmer's Book of Praise, p. 120, and his note, p. 492. 



1 80 Religious Thought in 

They do not, however, appear to have gained much 
circulation. They certainly did not deserve it. His 
versions of the Psalms l have no pretension to poetical 
expression, and not much to either rhyme or measure. 
It must have been very difficult to sing a verse like 
this : 

The waves of waters had wrapped us in ; 

Our soul had gone under the flood : 
The deep waters of these proud men 

Had run our souls over where they stood. 
The Lord be praised every hour, 
That would not suffer them us to devour, 

Nor in their teeth to suck our blood. 

Thomas Sternhold, Groom of the King's Chamber, 
published nineteen psalms in 1549, and dedicated them 
to Edward the Sixth. In 1551 he increased them to 
thirty-seven. Others were added, after Sternhold's 
death, by John Hopkins, and the collection was further 
added to by the English exiles of Geneva. 2 It was 
finally completed, printed with the tunes, and ' allowed ' 
in churches, in 1562. In Scotland it was very generally 
adopted, with some alterations, after 1564. Among 
other versions of the Psalms published in England for 
popular use in the sixteenth century may be mentioned 
one by John Daye, in 1563, one by John Bull in 1579, 
and another by Thomas Este in 1592. In England, as 
in Scotland and in Reformed Churches abroad, psalm- 
singing became, as the century advanced, a powerful 
religious agent. Bishop Jewell said, in one of his letters, 
that at St. Paul's Cross, after service, you might some- 
times see six thousand persons singing them. 3 

The Gude and Godlie Ballates, otherwise entitled A 
Compendious Book of Psalms and Spiritual Songs, appear 
to have been first published in 1570, in Scotland. The 

1 They may be found in the edition of Coverdale's works, published 
by the Parker Society. 

- D. Laing's Preface to his edition of The Glide and Godlie Ballates, 
p. xxx. , to which I am also indebted for other information on sixteenth 
century psalmody. 

3 Id. p. xxxii. 



Old English Verse 1 8 1 

compilers and, to some extent, the authors, of it are 
supposed to have been John and Robert Wedderburn. 
John was a priest at Dundee, who adopted the Reformed 
faith. He then fled to Germany, ' heard Luther and 
Melanchthon, and became very fervent and zealous.' 
He returned to his country in 1542, but had to fly 
from Cardinal Beaton into England. His younger 
brother Robert was Vicar of Dundee, and also had to 
take refuge abroad. 1 The Book of Godly Ballads was 
mainly Written abroad, and was largely made up of 
translations from the psalms and hymns of Germany, 
many of which were, in their turn, old Latin hymns, 
translated and adapted. Among the renderings from 
the German comes Luther's well-known Christmas song, 
Von Himmel hock da komm ich her, familiar to English 
readers in Miss Winkworth's translation, From heaven 
above to earth I come. In Wedderburn's version it 
begins : 

I come from heaven to tell 

The best Nowell that e'er befell : 

To you these tidings true I bring, 

And I will of them say and sing. 

The version of the Psalms, though very superior to 
Coverdale's, is not remarkable. The most interesting 
part of the book is the third section of it, which mainly 
consists of popular songs and ballads ' changed to godly 
purposes.' Throughout the sixteenth century this was 
evidently a frequent practice, and was by no means 
confined, as is sometimes supposed, to particular Pro- 
testant churches. An ancient collection of hymns, 
printed at Venice in 1512, shows that it was then a 
general custom in Italy to sing pious hymns to profane 
and popular melodies. 2 So also a Roman Catholic 
version of the Psalms in Flemish verse, printed in 1540, 
has the first line of a ballad printed at the head of every 
Psalm. It was, however, a much more common usage 
among the Protestant Churches of Holland, France, 

1 M'Crie's Life of Knox, quoted in Mr. D. Laing's Preface. 

2 Roscoe's Lorenzo de Medici, quoted in Mr. D. Laing's Preface. 



1 82 Religious Thought in 

and Switzerland. Coverdale and others introduced the 
custom into England ; and the same was done by 
Wedderburn and, a little later, by Youll in Scotland. 

We are used in certain hymn-books of our own days, 
especially in those of a more or less revivalist tone, to 
jingles and choruses, which undoubtedly delight the 
ears of the majority of those congregations to which 
they are particularly addressed, but which seem sadly 
deficient in dignity, if not in reverence, to more culti- 
vated and self-restrained minds. How acceptable to 
a coloured congregation in Carolina would be the hymn 
of which I quote the first verses, and with what gusto 
it would be sung ! 

Quho [who] is at my windo ? Quho, quho ? 
Go from my windo, go, go ! 
Quho callis thair, sa lyke a strangair ? 
Go from my windo, go ! 

Lord, I am heir [here], ane wretchit mortal, 
That for Thy mercy dois cry and call 
Unto The, my Lord Celestiall. 

Se quho is at thy windo, quho. 

How dare thow for mercy cry, 
Sa lang in sin as thow dois ly ? 
Mercy to have thou art not worthy. 
Go from my windo, go ! 

Nay, I call the nocht fra my dure I wis, 
Lyke any stranger that unknawin is ; 
Thow art my brother, and my will it is, 
That in at my dure thow go. 1 

It is almost more startling still to find in a collection 
of Godly Ballads one beginning 

With huntis up, with huntis up ; 
It is now partite day. 

This is the beginning, not exactly of a hymn, but of a 
Protestant song, which goes on to tell that it is the 
King of men is gone a-hunting, that the Apostles are 
the hounds, and the Pope the fox. 

1 Gude and Godlie Ballates, p. 116. 



Old English Verse 183 

But there is much that is touching in the following : 

All my hart, ay this is my sang, 
With dowbill mirth and joy amang ; 
As blyith as byrd my God to fang [lay hold upon] : 
Christ hes my hart ay. 

Quha [who] hes my hart hot heuinnis King ? 
Quhilk causis me for joy to sing, 
Quhome that I love atouir [above] all thing : 
Christ hes my hart ay. 

He is fair, sober, and bening [benign], 
Sweil, meik, and gentill in all thing, 
Maist worthiest to have louing : 
Christ hes my hart ay. 

For vs that blissil barne [bairn] was borne ; 
For vs He was baith rent and torne ; 
For us He was crownit with thorne : 
Christ hes my hart ay. 

For vs He sched His precious blude ; 
For vs He was naillit on the rude ; 
For us He mony battell stude : 
Christ hes my hart ay. 

Nixt Him to lufe His Mother fair, 
With steidfast hart, for ever mair ; 
Scho bure [she bare] the byrth, fred vs from cair : 
Christ hes my hart ay. 

We pray to God that sittis abufe, 
Fra Him let neuer our hartis remufe, 
Nor for na suddand worldly lufe : 
Christ hes my hart ay, 

He is the lufe of luivaris [lovers] all 
He cummis on vs when we call, 
For vs he drank the bitter gall : 
Christ hes my hart ay. 1 

The following also we can well imagine to have been 
popular, and not without reason, for its refrain rather 
clings on the ear. I quote the first three verses : 

All my Lufe, leif me not, 

Leif me not, leif me not ; 
All my Lufe, leif me not 

Thus myne alone. 

1 Gude and Godlie Ballates, p. 122. 



184 Religious Thought in 

With ane burding on my bak, 
I may not beir it I am sa waik ; 
Lufe, this burden from me tak 
Or ellis I am gone. 

With sinnis I am ladin soir [sore] 

Leif me not, leif me not ; 
With sinnes I am ladin soir, 

Leif me not alone. 
I pray The, Lord, thairfoir 
Keip not my sinnes in stoir 
Lowse [loose] me, or I be forloir [forlorn] 

And heir my mone. 

With Thy handis Thou hes me brocht, 

Leif me not, leif me not ; 
With Thy handis Thou hes me brocht, 

Leif me not alone. 
I was sauld, and thou me bocht 
With Thy blude Thovv hes me coft [purchased] ; 
Now am I hidder socht 

To The, Lord, alone. 

The following verses are a portion of a good speci- 
men of this sort of verse. The subject is the Passion 
of our Saviour, who is represented as setting forth to 
His Mother His purposes of salvation for man. In its 
whole form it is a close imitation of The Nutbrown 
Maid. I extract a short passage in which the duty of 
man to man is spoken of, and the great hope he is to 
set before him : 

The poor in need 
To clothe and feed, 

Part of his rent and wage 
He must bestow ; 
Remembering how 

All came of one lynage [lineage]. 
Forsaking sin 
He may me win, 

And to mine heritage 
I shall him take, 
His soul to make 

My spouse in marriage, 
For to persever 
With me for ever. 

1 Gude and Godlie Ballates, p. 192. 



Old English Verse 185 

With joy she may say then, 
That she hath won 
A kinge's son, 

And not a banished man. 

Sir David Lyndesay (1490-1558) was a keen and 
vigorous observer of the great religious movement of 
his time. He was admitted early into the service of 
the Scottish Court, was knighted and created Lyon 
King of Arms, and served in several important missions 
to foreign powers. A Protestant by natural character, 
he openly espoused the cause of the Reformation in. 
1566. Even before that time the rising party had owed 
not a little to the wit and energy with which, in his 
voluminous verse writings, he had borne witness against 
the corruptions of the predominant church. The 
earnestness of his religious feeling is very unmistakable. 
His principal, as it was also his latest, work, entitled 
The Monarchy, is a long poem of 6000 lines on the rise 
and fall of nations. In the beginning of it, like Milton, 
he invokes, he says, no Muse but the Great God Him- 
self, 

He who gave sapience to Solomon, 

To David grace, strength to the strong Sampson ; 

and then, with a prayer to the Saviour who died for us 
upon the Cross, 

Wherefore I shall beseech God's excellence 
To grant me grace, wisdom and eloquence, 
And bathe me with those dulce and balmy strands, 

Which on the Cross did speedily outspring 
From His most tender feet and heavenly hands : 
And grant me grace to write nor endite nothing 
But His high honours and his dear loving, 
Without whose help there may no good be wrought 
To His pleasure, good word, or work, or thought. 1 

The following are some lines on those capacities of 
man's spiritual nature which no mere earthly thing can 
satisfy. He had been speaking of the dissatisfaction 
of Solomon, and all his wealth and wisdom : 

1 Sir D. Lyndesay in The Monarchy, Prologue, E.E.T.S. 12: 'The 
quhilk gaif sapience to King Salomone.' 



1 86 Religious Thought in 

My son, the sooth if thou wouldst know, 

The verity I shall thee show. 

There is no worldly thing at all 

May satisfy a human soul. 

For it is so unsatiable, 

That heaven and earth may not be able 

One soul alone to make content, 

Till it see God omnipotent. 

Was never none, nor ne'er shall be 

Satiate, that sight till that he see. 

There is often not a little bitterness in his invectives 
against the corruptions of the Church, but it is ever the 
things which lie at the heart of religion which are dear- 
est to him. After a prayer expressed with a sort of 
fierceness of craving that God might ' make an hasty 
reformation on them which do tramp down the gracious 
word/ he concludes : 

O Lord ! I mak the supplicatioun, 

Supporte our Faith, our Hope, and Charityie. 2 

So also when he speaks of confession. It will not, I 
hope, be thought inconsistent with my purpose in this 
work of careful avoiding controversial questions,if I quote 
a few lines. For it was a point on which Lyndesay 
held quite moderate views. He saw not harm, but 
good, in occasionally seeking religious counsel and 
advice in a spiritual trouble. He aimed his shafts against 
the abuses of the system : 

And mickle Latin he did mummill, 
I heard no thing but hummil bummil. 
He showed me noght of God'es word, 
Which sharper is than any sword, 
And deep into our heart doth print 
Our sin, wherethrough we do repent. 
He put me nothing into fear 
Wherethrough I should my sin forbear ; 
He showed me not the malediction 
Of God for sin, nor the affliction, 
And in this life the great mischief, 
Ordained to punish lust and thief; 

1 Lyndesay's Fourth Book of The Monarchy, 5040-9 : ' My sonne, the 
suth gyf thow wald knaw.' 

2 Lyndesay's Fourth Book of The Monarchy, 2706-8. 



Old English Verse 187 

Nor showed he me of hell'es pain 

That I might fear and vice refrain. 

He counselled me not to abstain, 

And lead a holy life and clean. 

Of Christ'es blood no thing he knew, 

Nor of His promises full true, 

That save all such as will believe 

That Satan shall us never grieve ; 

He taught me not that I should trust 

The comfort of the Holy Ghost. 

He bade me not to Christ be kind [made kin to] ; 

To keep his law with heart and mind, 

And love and thank his great mercy 

From sin and hell that saved me ; 

And love my neighbour as my self ; 

Of this no thing he could me tell. 

But only prescribed certain forms and penances and 
pilgrimages which only lead to harm. 

To the great God omnipotent 

Confess thy sin and sore repent ; 

And trust in Christ (as writeth Paul) 

Who shed His blood to save thy soul ; 

For none can thee absolve but He, 

Nor take away thy sin from thee. 

If of good counsel thou hast need 

Or has not learned well thy creed, 

Or wicked vices reign in thee 

The which thou canst not mortifie, 

Or be in desperation 

And would have consolation, 

Then to a preacher true go, pass, 

And show thy sin and thy trespass ; 

Thou needest not to show him all, 

Nor tell thy sin both great and small, 

Which is impossible to be, 

But show the vice that troubles thee, 

And he shall of thy soul have ruth, 

And thee instruct into the truth, 

And with the word of A^erity 

Shall comfort and shall counsel thee ; 

The Sacraments show thee at length, 

Thy little faith to stark and strengthen] 

And how thou shouldst them rightly use 

And all hypocrisy refuse ; 

Confession first was ordained free 

In this sort in the Church to be.' 

1 Lyndesays Kitteis Confessioun, E.E.T.S. 47*: 'And mekle Latyne he 
did mummil.' 



1 88 Religious Thought in 

The following, by an unknown author, is from the 
Bannatyne Manuscript, a valuable collection of Scotch 
verse compiled in 1568 by George Bannatyne: 

O God, that in time all things didst begin, 

In time Thou madest earth and heaven of nought ; 

In time Thou boughtest man, redeemed his sin ; 

In time shalt Thou unmake what Thou hast wrought ; 

In time are safe all that Thy blood hast bought ; 

In time, good Lord, give peace, so that we may 

In time repent for every deed and thought 

Time in good time, for time will soon away. 

Our time shall pass away, and in short space ; 
Time beareth witness what I say is true ; 
Our fathers had time here in the like cause, 
Time passed with them, as with us passeth now ; 
Time tarried not with them ; away time drew, 
They tarried yet a time, as we to-day ; 
And time shall pass from us, God knoweth how : 
Take time, while time doth last ; time will away. 

In time ask grace ; in time take thou compassion ; 
In time of wealth mind time of wretched need ; 
In time give praise ; in time make God oblation 
In time fast, pray ; and give in time almsdeed ; 
In time offer thy heart ; for time doth still proceed ; 
Trusting to time, so time shall thee betray ; 
Speak thou in time, that so in time thou speed ; 
Take time while time doth last ; time will away. 

Now time draws in, and time goeth apace ; 

Trust not to time, lest time shall thee assail ; 

Now is the time of mercy and of grace ; 

The time of penitence, time to bewail ; 

Take thou this time, that time shall not prevail ; 

This is the time of measure ; that is the time of joy ; 

This time shall have an end ; that time shall never fail. 

But live thou loose from time, lest time lift all away. 1 

William Lauder was a Scotch poet who was born 
about 1520, and died in 1573. His earlier productions 
were the plays or semi-religious Moralities which were 

1 The Bannatyne MS., printed for the Hunterian Club, 1875, p. 227 : 
O God ! that in tyme all thingis did begin, 
In tyme thow maid hevin and erd of nocht ! 



Old English Verse 189 

then popular. One of these was performed in 1554, at 
the expense of the Edinburgh magistrates, on occasion 
of the entrance into Edinburgh of the Queen Regent, 
Mary of Guise : another, in which the seven planets 
were principal personages, was performed in 1558, in 
celebration of the marriage of the Queen of Scots. He 
soon afterwards joined the Reformers, and was ad- 
mitted as a minister in the Presbytery of Perth. In 
1556 he wrote, in a somewhat stern tone, on the office 
and duty of kings. His austere language was doubtless 
not unwarranted, for there was no less lawlessness and 
misrule in Scotland than in the preceding century. 
There is a fervour not unlike that of a Hebrew prophet 
in words such as these : 

And partiality smores [smothers] down 
Justice in every land and town. 

They know themselves that gifts be ta'en, 

To hurt the poor, and then let free 

The rich ; O Lord, to this have ee [eye], 

And help the poor that are in stress, 

Harried by robbers merciless. 

Know, kings, that there is no refuge, 

Except your judges justly judge 

The cause of every creature 

Both of the rich and of the poor, 

Your crown, your sceptre, sword and wand, 

They shall be ta'en out of your hand, 

And given to those, from you and yours, 

That will do justice at all hours. 

The malediction of the poor 

Shall on you and your seed endure 

Until that ye be rooted out. 

This shall not fail, without a doubt, 

But it shall light, when God shall please, 

Howe'er so much ye live at ease. 

Though God a while o'erlooks it now, 

Yet He, who doth behold and know, 

Shall judge ye when ye least shall ween 

And turn your mirth and joy to teen. 1 

1 Lauder's Compendious and Brief Tractate for the Faithful Instruction 
of Kings and Princes, ed. by FitzEdward Hall, E.E.T.S. 4, 1. 433: 
' Quhilk percialytye smoris doun. ' 



190 Religious Thought in 

So also in one of his minor poems, The Lamentation, 
published in 1568, a year of famine and plague: 

This world is worse than ever it was, 

Of mischief full and all malure [malheur], 

As false and fragile as the glass. 

How long, Lord, shall this world endure ? * 

Very little is known of Alexander Montgomery, 
though his poems were once very popular in Scotland. 
He was born in Ayrshire, probably about 1540, and 
died in the last decade of the sixteenth century. He is 
spoken of as Captain Montgomery, and about 1580 was 
employed in the Scottish Court. His allegory of TJie 
Cherry and the Sloe was his most popular work. Among 
his devotional poems is the following : 
Non tardes convert! ad Deum. 

Let dread of pain for sin in aftertime, 
. Let shame to see thyself ensnared so, 
Let grief conceived for foul accursed crime, 

Let hate of sin, the worker of thy wo, 
With dread, with shame, with grief, with hate, enforce, 
To dew thy cheeks with tears, to deep remorse. 

So, hate of sin shall make God's love to grow ; 

So, grief shall harbour hope within thine heart ; 
So, dread shall cause the flood of joy to flow ; 

So, shame shall send sweet solace to thy smart ; 
So love, so hope, so joy, so solace sweet, 
Shall make thy soul in heavenly bliss to fleet. 

Wo, where no hate doth no such love allure ! 

Wo, where such grief makes no such hope proceed ! 
Wo, where such dread doth not such joy procure ! 

Wo, where such shame doth not such solace breed ! 
Wo, where no hate, no grief, no dread, no shame 
No love, no hope, no joy, no solace frame ! 2 

Declina a malo, et fac bonam. 

Leave sin, ere sin leave thee ; do good, 

And both without delay : 
Less fit he will to-morrow be 

Who is not fit to-day. 3 

1 Lauder's Minor Poems, ed. by Furnivall, E.E.T.S. 41, 1. 26: 
' This warld is war nor ever it was. ' 

- Poems of Alex. Montgomery, ed. by D. Irving, 1821, p. 276. 
3 Id. 271. 



Old English Verse 191 

Alexander Hume (c, 1550-1609), son of Patrick 
fifth Baron of Polwarth, published his poems in 1599. 
Among them is a hymn of thanksgiving and triumph, 
written after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. 
He calls it The Song of the Lord's Soldiours. It begins, 
' O King of Kings, that sits above,' and tells with awe- 
struck and wondering gratitude of the ' means unlocked 
for by men,' whereby victory was given : 

Men may imagine, men may devise, 
Men may conclude, and enterprise, 
But Thou dost modify the end. 

As wax is melted by the fire, 

So by the Lord's consuming ire 
The might of man melts clean away ; 

To such as constantly believes 

Courage and good success He gives, 
And will not see their cause decay. 

Though for a time the proud prevail, 

Their glass will run, their force prevail 
Unto the Lord's eternal glore : 

And when before our foes we fall, 

Be sure our sins are cause of all, 
Which we should earnestly deplore. 

O Jah, our God, be Thou our guide, 

In battles be Thou on our side, 
And we shall neither fall nor flee ; 

Through Christ Thy Son our sins forgive, 

And make us in Thy law to live, 
That we may praise and worship Thee. 1 

He wrote also a bright, pretty poem of Thanks for a 
Summer Day, full of warmth and glow and sunlight 
It begins : 

O perfite light ! quhilk schaid [parted] away 

The darkness from the light ; 

and carries us from sweet dawn to hot noon, till at 
length the sun goes down in splendour : 

The gloming comes, the day is spent, 

The sun goes out of sight, 
And painted is the Occident 
With purple sanguine bright. 

1 Hume's Poems in Sibbald's Chronicle of Scottish Poetiy, vol. ii. p. 384. 



192 Religious Thought in 

The scarlet nor the golden thread, 

Who would their beauty try, 
Are nothing like the colour red, 

And beauty of the sky. 

Each tree is mirrored perfectly in the stream's clear 
depth, the trout are leaping, the air is musical with 
rustic sounds, such as might well tempt men to join in 
the hymn of peace : 

O ! then it were a seemly thing 

While all is still and calm, 
The praise of God to play and sing 

With cornet and with shalme. 

All labourers draw home at even 

And can to other say, 
Thanks to the gracious God of heaven 

Who sent this summer day. 1 

James the First of England (1603-1625 ; James VI. 
of Scotland, 1567-1603) would perhaps have valued 
above all other distinctions the fame of a poet and 
philosopher. ' But sen, alas ! (as he once wrote) God 
by nature hath denied me the like lofty and quick 
ingyne, ... I was forced to have refuge to the secound, 
which was to do what lay in me to set forth the praise 
of others when I could not merit the like by myself 
And certainly it was no small merit in this somewhat 
awkward and ungainly monarch that, whatever may 
have been his other defects, he was at all events quite 
in earnest in his patronage of genius and learning. 
Still if not a poet, he was at all events a rhymer, and 
now and then attained a somewhat higher level, as in 
the following sonnet, published in 1591, at the same 
time as his Victory of Lepanto. I quote without 
modernising any of the words : 

The azured vaulte, the crystall circles bright, 
The gleaming fyrie torches powdred there, 
The changing sound, the shyning beamie light, 
The sad and bearded fyres, the monsters faire, 

1 Hume's Poems inSibbald's Chronicle of Scottish Poetry, vol. ii. p. 384. 



Old English Verse 193 

The prodiges appearing in the aire, 
The rearding thunders, and the blustering winds, 
The foules in hew, in shape, in nature raire, 
The prettie notes that wing'd musicians finds ; 
In earth the sav'rie floures, the mettal'd minds [mines], 
The wholesome hearbes, the hautie pleasant trees, 
The sylver streames, the beasts of sundrie kinds, 
The bounded roares, and fishes of the seas, 
All these for teaching man the Lord did frame 
To do His will, whose glory shines in thame. 1 

The following stanza may be quoted, not for its 
poetry, but for the praiseworthy sentiment on the part 
of its royal author, from Ane ScJiort Poeme of Tyme, 
which he wrote as he was ' pansing ' [musing] in the 
fields at sunrise one fair summer morning, when he could 
not sleep nor nowise take his rest : 

But sen that tyme is sic a precious thing, 

I wald we sould bestow it into that 

Quhilk were most pleasour to our heavenly King. 

Flee ydilteth [idleness], which is the greatest lat [let]. 

Bot sen that death to all is destinat, 

Let us employ that tyme that God hath send us 

In doing weill, that good men may commend us. 2 

He also translated about this time some of the Psalms. 
For example : 

For lyons young at night beginnis to raire, 

And from their denns to crave of God some pray : 

Then in the morning, gone is all their caire, 

And homeward to their caves rinnis fast, fra day 

Beginne to kythe [appear] the sunne dois so them fray. 

Then man gois furth, fra tyme the sunne dois ryse, 

And while the evening he remains away 

At tesume [tiresome?] labours, where his living lyes. 3 

His complete version of the Psalms is of later date, I 
think after he was King of England. The following are 
a few lines from it : 

1 From his Maiesties Poeticall Exercises at Vacant Houres, ed. by 
R. Gillies, 1814. ' A sonnet.' 

2 Id. O. iii 

3 Id. N. iv. This particular Psalm (the iO3rd), is a translation by the 
King from Tremellius's Latin version. 

N 



1 94 Religious Thought in Old English Verse 



And therefore ye that are great kings, 

Be wise whate'er befall ; 
Ye that are judges of the earth, 

Be well instructed all. 
Serve ye the Lord with fervent fear, 

That He may you protect, 
And lift your heart aloft with joy, 

Yet trembling with respect. 1 



1 Psalm ii. 10. King James's Psalms, 1631. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 

THE only verses written beyond all possibility of 
question by Lord Bacon are Certaine Psalmes written 
by him during a sickness in 1624, and dedicated 'to his 
very good friend,' George Herbert. ' Where divinity and 
poesy met, he could not,' he said, ' make better choice.' 
The religious musings of so great a man would have an 
interest of their own even if they were wholly devoid of 
all poetical value. But, in themselves, they by no 
means deserve the tone of disparagement in which they 
have sometimes been spoken of. The iO4th Psalm, for 
instance, that noble hymn of Creation, is one that he 
paraphrases with much vigour. He seems to join in it 
from his heart : 

Father and King of powers, both high and low, 
Whose sounding fame all Creatures serve to blow ; 
My soul shall with the rest strike up Thy praise, 
And carol of Thy works and wondrous ways. 

As long as life doth last I hymns will sing 
With cheerful voice to the Eternal King : 
As long as I have being, I will praise 
The works of God and all His wondrous ways. 
I know that He my words will not despise ; 
Thanksgiving is to Him a sacrifice. 1 

Some particular expressions also in this Psalm are 
worthy of note. For example : 

Thence round about a silver veil doth fall 
Of crystal light, mother of colours all. 

1 The Poems of Lord Bacon, ed. by A. B. Grosart, 1870. 



196 Religious Thought in 

The earth : 

hath no pillars but His sacred will. 
The moon : 

so constant in inconstancy. 
The sea : 

There do the stately ships plough up the floods. 

He has given us a vivid imaginative picture in his 
paraphrase of the I37th Psalm: 

Whenas we sat all sad and desolate, 
By Babylon, upon the river's side, 

Eased from the tasks, which in our captive state 
We were enforced daily to abide, 
Our harps we had brought with us to the field 
Some solace to our heavy souls to yield. 

But soon we found we failed of our account : 
For when our minds some freedom did obtain, 

Straightways the memory of Sion's mount 
Did cause afresh our wounds to bleed again ; 
So that with present griefs and future fears 
Our eyes burst forth into a stream of tears. 

As for our harps, since sorrow stroke them dumb, 

We hanged them on the willow-trees were near 
Yet did our cruel masters to us come, 

Asking of us some Hebrew songs to hear. 

Taunting us rather in our misery 

Than much delighting in our melody. 

Alas, said we, who can once form or frame 

His grieved and oppressed heart to sing 
The praises of Jehovah's glorious name 

In banishment, under a foreign king ? 

In Sion is His seat and dwelling-place ; 

Thence doth He show the brightness of His face. 

Jerusalem, where God His throne hath set, 

Shall any hour absent thee from my mind ? 
Then let my right hand quite her skill forget, 
Then let my voice and words no passage find ; 
Nay, if I do not Thee prefer in all 
That in the compass of my thoughts can fall. 

Although there is not the same certainty that the 
following short poem is by Lord Bacon, there seems to 
be a very high degree of probability that it is his : 

The man of life upright, whose guiltless heart is free 
From all dishonest deeds and thoughts of vanity : 



Old English Verse 197 

The man whose silent days in harmless joys are spent, 
Whom hopes can not delude, nor fortune discontent ; 
That man needs neither tower nor armour for defence : 
He only can behold with unafifrighted eyes 
The horror of the deep, and terror of the skies ; 
. Thus scorning all the care that fate or fortune brings, 
He makes the heaven his book, his wisdom heavenly things ; 
Good thoughts his only friends, his wealth a well-spent age, 
The earth his sober aim and quiet pilgrimage. 1 

The Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I., who 
in 1613 married the Elector Palatine Frederic, and 
was grandmother to George I., gave Lord Harington 
some rather pretty verses composed by her, of which I 
quote a few : 

i. 

This is joy, this is true pleasure, 

If we best things make our treasure, 

And enjoy them at full leisure, 

Evermore in richest measure. 

II. 

God is only excellent, 
Let up to Him our love be sent ; 
Whose desires are set or bent 
On ought else shall much repent. 

IV. 

All the vast world doth contain, 
To content man's heart, are vain, 
That still justly will complain, 
And unsatisfied remain. 

VI. 

God most holy, high and great 
Our delight doth make complete ; 
When in us He takes his seat, 
Only then we are replete. 

VII. 

Why should vain joys us transport ? 
Earthly pleasures are but short, 
And are mingled in such sort, 
Griefs are greater than the sport. 



1 Verses made by Mr. Francis Bacon. Lord Bacon's Poems (Grosart) 



198 Religious Thought in 

XIX. 

O my God, for Christ his sake 
Quite from me this dulness take ; 
Cause me earth's love to forsake, 
And of heaven my realm to make. 

xxv. 

What care I for lofty place, 
If the Lord grant me His grace, 
Shewing me His pleasant face, 
And with joy I end my race. 

XXVII. 

O my soul, of heavenly birth, 
Do thou scorn this basest earth, 
Place not here thy joy and mirth 
Where of bliss is greatest dearth. 

XXVIII. 

From below thy mind remove, 
And affect the things above, 
Set thy heart and fix thy love 
Where thou truest joy shall prove. 1 

Sir John Harington, created knight by James I., son 
of the John Haryngton mentioned in the preceding 
chapters, from whose Nugae Antiquae the above verses 
are extracted, has included in the same work some of 
his own versions of the Psalms. 

Sir John Beaumont (1583-1627), elder brother of 
Francis Beaumont the dramatist, succeeded to the 
family estates of his ancient and honourable family in 
1605. He was made a baronet in 1626. His son who 
succeeded him fell on the King's side at the siege of 
Gloucester. He was himself a thorough royalist, a man 
in whose loyalty to the throne was ' that self-forgetting 
and beautiful devotion, which transfigured the meanest, 
and turned the Crown into an aureole.' 2 But he died 
before the civil troubles began, having spent most of 
his life at his pleasant country seat of Grace-Dieu in 

1 In Sir John Harington's Nugae Antiquae, ii. 411. 

2 Grosart. 



Old English Verse 199 

Leicestershire, 'a gentleman/ says Burton, 'of great 
learning, gravity, and worthiness.' His religious 
poems are full of genuine devotion, and contain many 
beauties, so that it is much to be regretted that his 
Crowne of Thames, a poem in eight books, has been 
lost. Sir Thomas Hawkins wrote of it in terms of great 
admiration. 

The following are a few lines from his poem on the 
Epiphany, addressed to the Faire Easterne Starre : 

Jerusalem erects her stately towers, 
Displays her windows, and adorns her bowers ; 
Yet there thou canst not cast a trembling spark. 
Let Herod's palace still continue dark : 
Each school and synagogue thy force repels ; 
There Pride enthroned in misty error dwells. 

While this weak cottage all thy splendour takes, 
A joyful gate of every chink it makes. 

Of the delights of knowledge, and of its limitation 
he says : 

knowledge ! if a heaven on earth could be, 

1 would expect to reap that bliss in thee : 

But thou art blind, and they that have thy light, 
More clearly know they live in darksome night. 

Here are some touching lines On my dear son 
Geruase Beaumont : 

Can I, who have for others oft compiled 
The songs of death, forget my sweetest child ? 
Which, like a flower crushed with a blast, is dead 
And ere full time hangs down his smiling head, 
Expecting with clear hope to live anew, 
Among the angels fed with heavenly dew. 
We have this sign of joy, that many days 
While on the Earth his struggling spirit stays, 
The name of Jesus in his mouth contains 
His only food, his sleep, his ease from pains. 
O may that sound be rooted in my mind 
Of which in him such strong effect I find. 
Dear Lord, receive my son, whose winning love 
To me was like a friendship, far above 
The course of nature, or his tender age, 
Whose looks could all my bitter griefs assuage. 



2OO Religious Thought in 

Let his pure soul, ordain'd sev'n yeers to be 
In that frail body, which was part of me, 
Remain my pledge in heaven, as sent to show 
How to this port at every step I go. 

There are many verses by Sir John Beaumont full 
of deep and sensitive Christian feeling on sin, and hope, 
and the comforts of grace and such other essentials of 
religion. But my last short quotation, chosen for its 
play of fancy, must be the concluding lines of a poem 
written in the last year of his life on the conjunction of 
the two festivals of the Annunciation and the Resur- 
rection : 

Let faithful souls this double feast attend 
In two processions : let the first descend 
The temple stairs, and with a down-cast eye, 
Upon the lowest pavement prostrate lie ; 
In creeping violets, white lilies, shine 
Their humble thoughts, and every pure design. 
The other troop shall climb, with sacred heat, 
The rich degrees of Solomon's bright seat, 
In glowing roses fervent zeal they bear 
And in the azure flower-de-lis appear 
Celestial contemplations, which aspire 
Above the sky, up to th' immortal quire. 1 

Sir John Beaumont's son, John, who succeeded to 
the baronetcy, and fell, as I have said, at Gloucester, a 
man of extraordinary physical strength, wrote in 1638 
an elegy 2 not wanting in poetry but chiefly noteworthy 
as being in memory of the Lycidas of Milton, Edward 
King. He must indeed have been a good man, and 
one of no ordinary parts, to have won the deep love 
and admiration of men so different as this ardent 
Cavalier and the immortal poet of Puritanism. 

Phineas and Giles Fletcher were brothers, both of 
them gifted with genuine poetical feeling. Their cousin, 
John Fletcher, is well known by name as a dramatic 
poet. Their father also, Elizabeth's ambassador to 
Muscovy, was a man of considerable literary ability. 

1 Sir J. Beaumonfs Poems, p. 68, 

- Appendix to above edition of Sir /. Beaumont's Poems, p. 328. 






Old English Verse 201 

Phineas(i584-i65o) was the elder of the brothers. He 
was educated at Eton and King's College, took orders, 
and held the benefice of Hilgay in Norfolk. His 
Purple Island was published in 1633, but had been 
written by him early in life. It is utterly spoilt as a 
poem by extraordinary want of judgment in the selec- 
tion of subject and its mode of treatment. The Purple 
Island is the body of man pervaded with ensanguined 
rills ; and the first five cantos are dedicated to a fanci- 
ful description of its anatomy, a topic which no possible 
skill could make other than displeasing. The rest of 
the poem is more endurable, and contains beauties 
which quite vindicate it from Pope's very depreciatory 
criticism. It is a continuous allegory, representing how 
the island is the battlefield of powers of good and evil. 
The virtues, represented as imaginary characters, de- 
fend it ; it is attacked by a hideous host of vices and 
unruly passions. In the end Christ comes to the rescue, 
and the story ends with the espousal of the Redeemer 
with Eclecta, His purified and glorious Church. 

From Canto I. 58: 

O Thou deep well of life, wide stream of love, 

More deep, more wide than widest deepest seas, 
Who, dying, death to endless death didst prove, 
To work this wilful, rebel island's ease ; 
Thy love no time began, no time decays, 
But still increaseth with decreasing days : 
Where then may we begin, where may we end Thy praise ? 

From Canto VI. 74-75 : 

Receive, which we can only back return 

(Yet that we may return, Thou first must give) 
A heart which fain would smoke, which fain would burn 
In praise for Thee, to Thee would only live. 
And Thou who sat'st in night to give us day, 
Light and inflame us with Thy glorious ray, 
That we may back reflect, and borrowed light repay. 

So we, beholding with immortal eye 

The glorious picture of Thy heavenly face, 

In his first beauty and true majesty, 

May shake from our dull souls these fetters base, 



202 Religious Thought in 

And mounting up to that bright crystal sphere, 
Whence Thou strik'st all the world with shuddering fear 
May not be held by earth nor hold vile earth so dear. 

From his paraphrase of Psalm cxxx. : 

From the deeps of grief and fear, 

O Lord, to Thee my soul repairs : 
From the heaven bow down Thine ear ; 
Let Thy mercy meet my prayers. 
O, if Thou markst 

What's done amiss, 
What soul so pure 
Can see Thy bliss ? 

As a watchman waits for day, 

And looks for light, and looks again ; 
When the night grows old and grey, 
To be relieved he looks amain ; 
So look, so wait, 

So long mine eyes 
To see my Lord, 
My Sun arise. 

Wait, ye saints, wait on our Lord ; 

For from His tongue sweet mercy flows : 
Wait on His Cross, wait on His word ; 
Upon that tree redemption grows. 
He will redeem 

His Israel 
From sin and wrath 
From death and hell. 

Giles Fletcher (c. 1588-1623) was two years or more 
younger than his brother Phineas, but died much 
earlier. He was at Trinity College, Cambridge, and 
afterwards held the living of Alderton in Suffolk. 
His one poem is Christ's Victory, published in 1610. It 
is a work the merits of which have been very variously 
estimated. Cattermole, in his interesting selections 
from the sacred poetry of the seventeenth century, was 
so struck with what he considered ' the extraordinary 
merit and interest of it,' that he reprinted the whole. 
He was anxious, he said, 'to impart to others a portion 
of the delight with which he had himself read this ex- 
quisite poem.' The judgment of others is far less 



Old English Verse 203 

favourable. For my own part, I think it an interesting 
and readable book, and that it contains some beautiful 
descriptions, but that it has such serious faults as to 
be entirely disqualified from a position among sacred 
poems of anything like the first order. I should have 
admired it far more if the subject had not been such a 
grave and lofty one. As it is, it seems to me ornate, 
too often wanting in simple dignity, too full of affec- 
tation and flowers of fancy. He followed Spenser, and 
a subject somewhat like Spenser's would have suited 
Fletcher better than one akin to that which Milton 
chose. And here it should be said that there is strong 
evidence that Milton had read the poem, and that he 
was influenced by his memories of it both in Comus 
and in Paradise Regained. 

The first Book of the poem tells of Chrisfs Victory 
in Heaven. It describes the arraignment of man before 
God by Justice, Mercy pleading on his behalf, and the 
Nativity of Christ. The following are some of the verses 
in which Justice personified is finely portrayed : 

x. 

She was a virgin of austere regard ; 
Not as the world esteems her, deaf and blind, 
But as the eagle, that hath oft compared 
Her eye with heaven's, so, and more brightly, shined 
Her lamping si^ht ; for she the same could wind 
Into the solid heart, and with her ears 
The silence of the thought loud speaking hears, 
And in one hand a pair of even scales she wears. 

XV. 

Upon two stony tables spread before her, 
She lean'd her bosom, more than stony hard ; 
There slept the impartial judge, and strict restorer 
Of wrong or right with pain or with reward ; 
There hung the score of all our debts, the card 

Where good, and bad, and life, and death were painted : 

Was never heart of mortal so untainted, 
But when that scroll was read, with thousand terrors fainted. 

XVI. 

Witness the thunder that Mount Sinai heard, 
When all the mount with fiery clouds did flame, 



204 Religious ThougJit in 

And wondering Israel, with the sight afeared, 
Blinded with seeing, durst not touch the same, 
But like a wood of shaking leaves became. 

On this, dread Justice, she, the living Law, 

Bowing herself with a majestic awe, 
All heaven, to hear her speech, did into silence draw. 1 

Of the greatness of man's hope of Victory : 

LXXVI. 

What hath man done that man shall not undo, 
Since God to him is grown so near akin. 
Did his sin slay him ? he shall slay his foe : 
Hath he lost all ? he all again shall win. 
Is sin his master ? he shall master sin. 

Too hard of soul with sin the field to try ? 

The only way to conquer was to fly. 
But thus long death hath lived, and now death's self shall die. 

Of the Nativity of Christ : 

LXXXII. 

The angels caroll'd loud their song of praise ; 

The cursed oracles were strucken dumb ; 

To see their Shepherd the poor shepherds press : 

To see their King the kingly sophies come ; 

And, them to guide unto his Master's home, 
A star comes dancing up the orient, 
That springs for joy over the starry tent, 
Where gold, to make their Prince a crown, they all present. 

The second Book, entitled Christ's Triumph on 
Earth, gives in an imaginative and rather fanciful form 
the story of the Temptation. The Tempter first ap- 
pears in the guise of a good old hermit ; and both in 
this part of the account and in the pictures which 
follow of the Den of Despair, of the False Angel of Pre- 
sumption, and of the Garden of Vain Glory, there is no 
lack of poetical power even where there is some offence 
against religions taste. 

The third Book, Christ's Triumph over Death, is the 
story of Christ's sufferings and death. The following 
are two stanzas upon the Hosannas of the multitude : 

1 G. Fletcher's Poems, Anderson's British Poets, vol. iv. 



Old English. Verse 205 

XXXII 

It was but now their sounding clamours sang, 
' Blessed is He that comes from the most High ! ' 
And all the mountains with ' Hosanna ! ' rung ; 
And now, ' Away with him away ! ' they cry, 
And nothing can be heard but ' Crucify ! ' 
It was but now, the crown itself they save, 
The golden name of king unto Him gave ; 
And now no king, but only Cassar they will have. 

XXXIII 

It was but now they gathered blooming may, 
And of his arms disrob'd the branching tree, 
To strew with boughs and blossoms all Thy way ; 
And now the branchless trunk a cross for Thee, 
And may, dismayed, the coronet must be : 
It was but now they were so kind to throw 
Their own best garments where Thy feet should go ; 
And now Thyself they strip, and bleeding wounds they show. 

The fourth Book, Christ's Triumph after Death, is 
of the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Bliss of Heaven, 
and the Beatific Vision of God. 

The following is by Thomas Pestel, a chaplain to 
Charles I. I borrow it from Professor Palgrave's 
Treasury of Sacred Song : 

A PSALM FOR SUNDAY NIGHT. 

O sing the glories of our Lord ; 

His grace and truth resound, 
And His stupendous acts record, 

Whose mercies have no bound. 

He made the all-informing light 

And hosts of angels fair ; 
'Tis he with shadows clothes the night, 

He clouds and clears the air. 

Those restless skies with stars enchased, 

He on firm hinges set ; 
The wave-embraced sea He placed 

His hanging cabinet. 

We in His summer sunshine stand, 

And by His favour grow ; 
We gather what His bounteous hand 

Is pleased to bestow. 



206 Religious Thought in 

When He contracts His hand, we mourn, 

And all our strength is vain ; 
To former dust in death we turn, 

Till He inspire again. 1 

It would perhaps scarcely have been expected that 
no devotional poetry of the seventeenth century should 
be more touching in depth of religious feeling than that 
which comes from the pen of the distinguished dramatist 
Ben Jonson (1574-1637). His powers were indeed great 
enough for any form of composition, and he fitly suc- 
ceeded Shakespeare as second only to him. But his 
strong and passionate temper was under insufficient 
restraint. His faults were all of the intemperate kind. 
They were blended nevertheless with much that was 
admirable, with a keen perception of what is good and 
beautiful, with an eager desire to contribute towards a 
reformation of manners, with tenderness and generosity. 
There is no wonder that there should be vigour, and 
impetuosity of religious feeling in the verses which 
express contrition for misdoing in the past, and a true 
desire to live nearer to God in time to come. The 
following is part of his Hymn to God the Father : 

Hear me, O God ! 

A broken heart 

Is my best part ; 
Use still Thy rod, 

That I may prove 

Therein Thy love. 

If Thouhadst not 

Been stern to me, 

But left me free, 
I had forgot 

Myself and Thee. 

For sin 's so sweet, 

As [that] minds ill bent 

Rarely repent, 
Until they meet 

Their punishment. 



1 From F. T. Palgrave's Treasury of Sacred Song, No. 89. 



Old English Verse 207 

But I '11 come in 

Before my loss 

Me further toss, 
As sure to win 

Under His cross. 

Such also is his prayerful cry to the blessed Trinity 
'the gladdest light dark man can think upon ' to receive 
his sacrifice of a troubled spirit. It begins : 

holy, blessed, glorious Trinity 
Of persons, still one God in unity, 
The faithful man's believed mystery, 

Help, help to lift 

Myself up to Thee, harrowed, torn, and bruis'd 
By sin and Satan, and my flesh misus'd ; 
As my heart lies in pieces, all confus'd, 

O take my gift ! 

There is also something very genuine in his answer to 
those who interpreted as ' melancholy ' the deep emotion 
of his soul. 

Good and great God ! can I not think of Thee 

But it must straight my melancholy be ? 

Is it interpreted in me disease, 

That, laden with my sins, I seek for ease ? 

O be Thou witness, that the reins dost know 

And hearts of all, if I be sad for show ; 

And judge me after, if I dare pretend 

To ought but grace, or aim at other end. 

As Thou art all, so be Thou all to me, 

First, midst, and last, converted One and Three ! 

My faith, my hope, my love ; and in this state, 

My Judge, my Witness, and my Advocate. 

Where have I been this while exiled from Thee ? 

And whither rapt ? Now Thou but stoopst to me. 

Dwell, dwell here still ! O, being everywhere, 

How can I doubt to find Thee ever here ? ' 

The following verses are from An Hymn on the 
Nativity of my Saviour : 

1 sing the birth was born to-night, 
The Author both of life and light ; 

1 B. Jensen's Poems, -Anderson's British Poets, vol. iv. 



208 Religious Thought in 

The angel so did sound it : 
And like the ravish'd shepherds said, 
Who saw the light and were afraid, 

Yet search'd, and true they found it. 

The Son of God, th' Eternal King, 
That did us all salvation bring 

And freed the soul from danger ; 
He whom the whole world could not take, 
The Word, which heaven and earth did make, 

Was now laid in a manger. 

What comfort by Him do we win 
Who made Himself the price of sin 

To make us heirs of glory ? 
To see this Babe, all innocence, 
A martyr born in our defence : 

Can man forget the story ? 

Lastly, I must quote the metaphor by which he 
illustrates life having its value not in length but in 
beauty. It occurs in the middle of an ode to two noble 
friends cut off in the prime of youth : 

It is not growing like a tree 
In bulk does make men better be ; 
Or standing long, an oak, three hundred year, 
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere : 
A lily of a day 
Is fairer far in May, 
Although it fall and die that night ; 
It was the plant and flower of light. 
In small proportions we just beauties see, 
And in short measures life may perfect be. 

Patrick Hannay, member of an old landed Scotch 
family, appears to have been born about 1590. He 
took a Master of Arts degree, followed King James to 
England on his accession to the English Crown, served 
as a soldier under the King of Bohemia, wrote a court 
elegy on the death of Queen Anne of Denmark in 1619, 
and in 1622 published his collected poems, the longest 
of which is Philomela. Between 1639 and 1646, he was 
returned to the Scotch Parliament as Commissioner 
for the burgh of Wigtown. The following is from his 
sonnets and songs : 



Old English Verse 209 

how my sin-clogg'd soul would soar aloft, 
And scale the crystal sky to seek remede ! 
But that foul sin (wherewith I stain it oft) 
Makes it to sink through doubt of my misdeed : 
In scroll of guilty conscience I read 

The rueful legend of my passed life ; 

The thought whereof maketh my heart to bleed, 

Finding my foul offences are so rife. 

Fear makes me faint to find such and so many 
; As there are ranked in that ragged scroll ; 

Despair doth say there was ne'er such in any ; 
Weeping cannot them wash, nor heart condole. 

What erst as trifles seemed to my sight 
Now are death-worthy : my late-liking sin 
Is now displeasing and would bar me quite 
All hope of help, since such I wallowed in. 

Hope to my heart my Saviour doth present 
With all His Passion proved for sinners' sake ; 
Yet none but he that doth from heart repent 
Can use of that great Satisfaction make : 

1 hold of Him by a firm faith must take, 
And all His suffering to myself apply : 
If penitence want not, nor faith be weak, 
Of heaven I know He cannot me deny. 

And thou, frail flesh, shame not now to begin 

Thee to submit to the reforming Spirit : 

Think of the byways thou hast wandered in, 

Which lead to death and hell-deserved merit. 

W 7 hy art thou proud ? Thou canst not heaven inherit ! 

Lie down in dust, do no works of thine own, 

But what the soul commands, O willing hear it ; 

By thy obedience let its rule be known. 

But, Lord, without Thy sweet assisting grace 
I can do nought, all my attempts are vain. 
I cannot come without Thou call, alas ! 
Grant me this grace, and bring me home again ; 
Let Thy blest Spirit, Faith, Hope, and Love remain 
Still in my soul : the flesh, the world and devil 
Deprive of power ; let them no more reign ; 
Or, if they tempt, deliver me from evil. 1 

1 Poetical Works of Patrick Hannay. From ed. of 1622 for Hunterian 
Club, 1875, P- 2 47- 

O 



2 i o Religious Thought in 

Michael Drayton (1563-1631), the prolific author of 
the Polyolbion a sort of topographical poem in thirty 
books as well as of much historical verse, published 
also (1630) some ' Divine Poems ' on the deeds of Noah, 
Moses, and David. They are not for the most part 
very interesting ; but the story of David's encounter with 
Goliath is told with a good deal of vivid force. I quote 
some lines from it : 

And now before young David could come in, 
The host of Israel somewhat did begin 
To raise itself ; some climb the nearest tree, 
And some the tops of tents, whence they might see 
How this unarmed youth himself would bear 
Against the all-armed giant (which they fear) : 
Some get up to the fronts of easy hills ; 
That by their motion a vast murmur fills 
The neighbouring valleys, that the enemy thought 
Something would by the Israelites be wrought 
They had not heard of, and they longed to see 
What strange and warlike stratagem 't should be. 
When soon they saw a goodly youth descend, 
Himself alone, none after to attend, 
That at his need with arms might him supply, 
As merely careless of his enemy : 
His head uncovered, and his locks of hair, 
As he came on, being played with by the air, 
Tossed to and fro, did with such pleasure move, 
As they had been provocatives of love : 
His sleeves stript up above his elbows were ; 
And in his hand a stiff short staff did bear 
Which by the leather to it, and the string, 
They easily might discern to be a sling. 
Suiting to these he wore a shepherd's scrip. 
Which from his side hung down upon his hip, 



And though he seemed thus to be very young, 
Yet was he well proportioned and strong, 
And with a comely and undaunted grace, 
Holding a steady and most even pace, 
This way or that way never stood to gaze, 
But like a man that death could not amaze, 
Came close up to Goliah, and so near 
As he might easily reach him with his spear. 



Old English Verse 2 1 1 

In meantime David, looking in his face, 

Between his temples, saw how large a space 

He was to hit steps back a yard or two 

The giant wondering what the youth would do ; 

Whose nimble hand out of his scrip doth bring 

A pebble stone and puts it in his sling : 

At which the giant openly doth jeer, 

And, as in scorn, stands leaning on his spear, 

Which gives young David much content to ,see ; 

And to himself thus secretly saith he 

Stand but one minute still, stand but so fast, 

And have at all Philistia at a cast ; 

When with such sleight the shot away he sent, 

That from his sling as 't had been lightning went, 

And him so full upon the forehead smit, 

W T hich gave a crack, when his thick scalp it hit, 

As't had been thrown against some rock or post, 

That the shrill clap was heard through either host. 

Staggering a while upon his spear he leant, 

Till on a sudden he began to faint ; 

When down he came like an old o'ergrown oak, 

His huge root hewn up by the labourer's stroke, 

That with his very weight he shook the ground ; 

His brazen armour gives a jarring sound 

Like a cracked bell, or vessel chanced to fall 

From some high place, which did like death appal 

The proud Philistines, hopeless that remain 

To see their champion, great Goliah, slain. 

When such a shout the host of Israel gave 

As cleft the clouds, and like to men that rave, 

O'ercome with comfort, cry, 'The boy, the boy, 

O the brave David, Israel's only joy, 

God's chosen champion ! O most wondrous thing ! 

The great Goliah slain with a poor sling ! ' * 

It may be remarked that in telling of the destruction 
of Pharaoh's host, Drayton refers to the Spanish Armada, 
which he appears to have seen from Dover, sweeping 
over the sea ' like a mighty wood.' 

His Harmonic of the Church consists of translations 
and paraphrases. 

John Donne (1573-1631) was born of Roman Catholic 
parents. While he was reading law at Lincoln's Inn 
his father died and left him a moderate competence. 



1 Drayton's David and Goliah, Anderson's British Poets, iii. 609. 



2 1 2 Religious Thought in 

He then gave up the law, devoted himself for some 
time to the questions between Roman Catholics and 
Protestants, and ultimately adopted the reformed faith. 
After spending some years in Spain and Italy, he 
became secretary to the Lord Keeper Egerton. In 
1612 King James persuaded him to take orders, and 
made him one of his Chaplains in ordinary. He was 
afterwards Preacher at Lincoln's Inn, Dean of St. Paul's, 
Vicar of St. Dunstan in the West, and Prolocutor of 
Convocation. His secular poems, some of which might 
better not have been published, were most of them 
written in his earlier years. His Progress of the Soul 
was published in 1601 ; his Divine Poems, Holy Sonnets, 
etc.; at various later dates. His sacred, as well as his 
secular poems, are often injured by affectations in 
language and carelessness of style ; and he was 
thought in his own time rather obscure and meta- 
physical. But there is feeling, devotion, and earnest- 
ness in his verses. He enjoyed the hearty friendship 
of George Herbert and other good men. In prose he 
wrote many essays, sermons, meditations, etc. 
From his sonnets : 

Death ! be not proud, though some have called thee 

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so ; 

For those thou thinkest thou dost overthrow 

Die not, poor Death ! nor yet canst thou kill me. 

From rest and sleep, which but thy picture be, 

Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow ; 

And soonest our best men with thee do go, 

Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery. 

Thou'rt slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, 

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell ; 

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well 

And better than thy stroke. Why swell's! thou then ? 

One short sleep past we wake eternally, 

And death shall be no more : Death, thou shalt die ! 

From The Cross : 

From me no pulpit, nor misgrounded law, 
Nor scandal taken*, shall this cross withdraw ; 
It shall not, for it cannot ; for the loss 
Of this cross were to me another cross. 



Old English Verse 2 1 

Better were worse, for no affliction, 

No cross is so extreme as to have none. 

Who can blot out the cross, which th' instrument 

Of God dew'd on me in the Sacrament ? 

From The Litany : 

Let not my mind be blinder by more light ; 
Nor faith, by reason added, lose her sight. 

From Good Friday : 

O think me worth thine anger ; punish me ; 
Burn off my rust and my deformity. 

From the paraphrase of Psalm cxxxviii. : 

By Euphrates' flowery side 

We did bide, 

From dear Juda far absented, 
Tearing the air with our cries ; 

And our eyes 
With their streams his stream augmented. 

When poor Sion's doleful state 

Desolate ; 

Sacked, burned, and enthralled, 
And the temple spoiled, which we 

Ne'er should see, 
To our mirthless mind we called, 

Our mute harps, untuned, unstrung, 

Up we hung 

On green willows near beside us, 
Where, we sitting all forlorn, 

Thus, in scorn, 
Our proud spoilers 'gan deride us. 

Come, sad captives, leave your moans, 

And your groans 
Under Sion's ruins bury ; 
Tune your harps, and sing us lays 

In the praise 
Of your God, and let 's be merry. 

Can, ah ! can we leave our moans, 

And our groans 
Under Sion's ruins bury? 
Can we in this land sing lays 

In the praise 
Of our God, and here be merry ? 



2 1 4 Religious Thought in 

No, dear Sion, if I yet 

Do forget 

Thine affliction miserable, 
Let my nimble joints become 

Stiff and numb. 
To touch warbling harp unable. 

Let my tongue lose singing still ; 

Let it still 

To my parched roof be glued, 
If in either harp or voice 

I rejoice, 
Till thy joys shall be renewed.' [ 

Among the worthies of the English Church none 
hold a higher place than George Herbert. He was 
born in 1593, a son of Sir Edward Herbert, and kins- 
man of the Earl of Pembroke. In 1619 he was orator 
to the University of Cambridge, in friendly intimacy 
with Sir Henry Wotton and Dr. Donne. About this 
time he was frequently at Court, was high in the king's 
favour, and was expected by his friends to become soon 
a Secretary of State. But his mind became set on 
other work than this. ' I will always,' said he, ' con- 
temn any title or dignity that can be conferred upon 
me, when I shall compare them with the title of being 
a priest, and serving at the altar of Jesus, my master. 
I can never do too much for Him that hath done so 
much for me as to make me a Christian.' In 1630 
King Charles gave him the living of Bemerton, where 
he lived profoundly reverenced by all his parishioners 
and neighbours for the few years that intervened before 
his early death in 1633. He must have been one of the 
few of whom it could be truly said that God was in all 
his thoughts, and the pure tone of his piety was yet 
further beautified by a most refined and poetic mind. 
Like Bishop Ken, he delighted in music and sacred 
song. On the Sunday before his death, we are told, 
that he rose suddenly from his bed or couch, called for 
one of his instruments, took it into his hand, and said: 

1 Dr. John Donne's Poems, Anderson's British Poets, iv. 



Old English Verse 215 

My God, my God, 

My music shall find Thee, 

And every string 
Should have His attribute to sing. 

Then, having tuned it, he played, and sang those familiar 
lines of his : 

The Sundays of man's life 

Threaded together on time's string 
Make bracelets to adorn the wife 

Of the eternal, glorious King. 

On Sunday heaven's door stands ope ; 

Blessings are plentiful and rife, 

More plentiful than hope. 

From a boy he had dedicated his poetical powers to 
the service of his Maker. Thus in some early New 
Year's verses to his mother he had written : 

Doth poetry 
Wear men's livery, only serve her turn ? 

Sure, Lord, there is enough in Thee to dry 

Oceans of ink ; for as the deluge did 
Cover the earth, so doth Thy majesty. 

He thought also that verse might touch the hearts of 
some who would not be reached in any other way : 

Hearken unto a verser, who may chance 
Rhyme thee to good, and make a bait of pleasure : 

A verse may find him who a sermon flies, 

And turn delight into a sacrifice. 

He has made his poetry the more full of teaching, 
because it abounds in pithy apophthegms. He delighted 
in proverbs, knew their value as a means of popular in- 
struction, and loved to condense his thoughts into short 
and often quaint sayings, which might dwell in the 
memory as proverbs do. 

The following are a few passages from his poems : 

Let thy heart be true to God, 
Thy mouth to it, thy action to them both. 
Slight those who say amid their sickly healths, 

' Thou liv'st by rule ! ' What doth not so but man ? 
Houses are built by rules, and commonwealths. 

Entice the trusty sun, if that thou can 
From his ecliptic line ! beckon the sky ! 
Who lives by rule then keeps good company. (Church Porch.} 



2 1 6 Religious Thought in 

Be thrifty, but not covetous : therefore give 
Thy need, thy honour, and thy friend his due. 

(Church Porch) 
Pitch thy behaviour low, thy projects high : 

So shalt thou humble and magnanimous be. 
Sink not in spirit : who aimeth at the sky, 

Shoots higher much than he who aims a tree. 
A grain of glory mixed with humbleness 
Cures both a fever and lethargicness. 

(Id.) 

Kneeling ne'er spoilt silk stocking ; quit thy state. 
All equals are within the Church's gate. 

(Id.} 

The worst speak something good ; if all want sense, 
God takes a text, and preacheth patience. 
He that gets patience, and the blessing which 

Preachers conclude with, hath not lost his pains : 
He that by being at Church escapes the ditch, 

Which he might fall in by companions, gains : 
He that loves God's abode, and to combine 
With saints on earth, shall one day with them shine. 

(Id.} 

If thou do ill, the joy fades, not the pains ; 
If well, the pain doth fade, the joy remains. 

(Id.) 
Philosophers have measured mountains, 

Fathomed the depths of seas, of states, and kings, 
Walked with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains. 

But there are two vast spacious things, 
The which to measure it doth more behove ; 
Yet few there are that sound them Sin and Love. 

( The Agony) 

If bliss had lain in art and strength, 
None but the wise and strong had gained it ; 
Where now by faith all arms are of a length, 
One size doth all condition fill. 
A peasant may believe as much 
As a great clerk, and reach the highest stature. 
Thus dost thou make proud knowledge bend and crouch, 
While grace fills up uneven nature. 

(Faith) 

Who goeth on the way which Christ hath gone 
Is much more sure to meet with Him than one 

That travelleth by-ways. 
Perhaps my God, though He be far before, 
May take me by the hand, and, more, 
May strengthen my decays. 

(Lent) 



Old English Verse 2 1 7 

He that loveth gold, though dross, 
Tells to all he meets his loss : 
He that sins, hath he no loss ? 

He that finds a silver vein, 
Thinks on it and thinks again : 
Brings thy Saviour's death no gain ? 

(Bareness) 

All may of Thee partake ; 
Nothing can be so mean 
Which with this tincture, ' for Thy sake,' 
Will not grow bright and clean. 

A servant with this clause 
Makes drudgery divine ; 

Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws, 
Makes that, and the action, fine. 

(The Elixir) 

Who is the honest man? 
He that doth still and strongly good pursue, 
To God, his neighbour, and himself, most true ; 

Whom neither force nor fawning can 
Inspire or wrench from giving all their due. 

Whose honesty is not 
So loose and easy, that a ruffling wind 
Can blow away, or glittering look it blind : 

Who rides his sure and even trot, 
While the world now rides by, now lags behind : 

Who, when great trials come, 
Nor seeks nor shows them ; but doth calmly stay, 
Till he the thing and the example weigh : 

All being brought into a sum, 
What place or person calls for, he doth pay. 

Whom none can work, or woo, 
To use in anything a trick or sleight ; 
For above all things he abhors deceit ; 

His words and works, and fashion too, 
All of a piece, and all are clear and straight. 

Who never melts or thaws 
At close temptations : when the day is done, 
His goodness sets not, but in dark can run : 

The sun to others writeth laws, 
And is their virtue : Virtue is his sun. 

Who, when he is to treat 

With sick folks, women, those whom passions sway, 
Allows for that, and keeps his constant way : 

Whom others' faults do not defeat, 
But though men fail him, yet his part doth play. 



2i8 Religious Thought in 

Whom nothing can procure, 
When the wide world runs bias from his will, 
To writhe his limbs, and share, not mend, the ill 

This is the marksman, safe and sure, 
Who still is right, and prays to be so still. 

(Constancy) 

The following are some pathetic verses, expressing' 
that longing for a clearer vision, that craving after 
some present revelation of God to sight and sense, that 
spirit of, so to say, wondering remonstrance at the 
Creator being hidden from His creature, which presses 
more upon some minds than any other of the mysteries 
which encompass human life. It is entitled The 
Search. 

Whither, O whither, art Thou fled, 

My Lord, my Love ? 
My searches are my daily bread ; 

Yet never prove. 

My knees pierce th' earth, mine eye the sky ; 

And yet the sphere 
And centre both to me deny 

That Thou art there. 

Yet can I mark how herbs below, 

Grow green and gay ; 
As if to meet Thee they did know, 

While I decay. 

Yet can I mark how stars above 

Simper and shine, 
As having keys into Thy love 

While poor I pine. 

I sent a sigh to seek Thee out, 

Deep drawn in pain, 
Winged like an arrow, but my scout 

Returns in vain. 

I turned another having store- 
In to a groan, 

Because the search was dumb before ; 
But all was one. 

Where is my God ? What hidden place 

Conceals thee still? 
What covert dare eclipse thy face ? 

Is it Thy Will ? 



Old English Verse 2 1 9 

Finally I must mention, without any need of quoting, 
the delightful hymn in two stanzas, beginning ' Let all 
the world in every corner sing.' 

Herbert's poems are indeed a treasury of religious 
thought. Yet they have their faults. There is much 
that is obscure, much that is over-figurative and far- 
fetched. The obscurity in particular is sometimes very 
disappointing. Not very unfrequently there is a music, 
and an appearance of fine fancy in verses which, when 
read, leave no clear impression of their meaning. But 
where there is so much sober sense, joined with the 
most delicate and refined feeling, such profound piety, 
such love of the Church, such music, such play of 
imagination, when once we begin to select passages, it 
is hard to know where to stop. 

The Divine and Moral Specidations of Robert Aylet 
were published in 1625. The following is of 
Death : 

Come, let 's shake hands ; we in the end must meet : 
I have provided me this goodly chain 
Of graces, at thy coming thee to greet ; 
For thou will not for favour, gold, or gain 
Thy fatal stroke one moment here refrain. 
Well, close mine eyes, and dim my body's light : 
These shining gems for ever shall remain 
My soul for to enlighten ; oh, then smite ! 
It skills not when, not how, so as my heart stands right. 



Then witness, Death, that willing I lay down 
My body sure to put it on again, 
My fleshly baggage for a heavenly crown, 
My earthly bondage in the heavens to reign. 
I leave this tent of brittle clay, to gain 
In heaven a mansion, holy, spiritual. 
Lo, my corruption here I down have lain 
For incorruption, pure, angelical. 
And for a heavenly parlour, changed my earthly hall. 

Lord, this I crave ; direct me in the way, 
So shall I certainly attain my end : 
If well my part on mortal stage I play, 
Saints, angels, my beholders, shall commend 



220 Religious Thought in 

My action : God and Christ shall be my friend ; 
And when my flesh to nature's tyring room, 
From whence it came, shall quietly descend, 
It there shall rest until the day of doom, 
And then in heav'nly quire a singing-man become. 

Sweet Death, then friendly let me thee embrace ; 
He truly lives that, living, learns to die : 
Now smiling, like a friend, I see thy face, 
Not terrible, like to an enemy. 
But I with prayer end my melody : 
Lord, grant when death my passing-bell doth ring, 
My soul may hear the heavenly harmony 
Of saints and angels, which most joyful sing 
Sweet Hallelujahs to their Saviour, God, and King. 1 

Dr. Thomas Campion (c. 1567-1620) not to be con- 
founded with Edmund Campion the Jesuit who was 
executed in 1581 published his Divine and Moral 
Songs in 1612. He was a physician, but also a 
member of Gray's Inn, and was a writer both of Latin 
and English secular poetry, and of several masques. 
The following is from one of his poems : 
Awake, awake, thou heavy sprite, 

That sleep's! the deadly sleep of sin 
Rise now and walk the ways of light ! 

'Tis not too late yet to begin. 
Seek heaven early, seek it late ; 
True Faith still finds an open gate. 
Get up, get up, thou leaden man ! 

Thy track to endless joy or pain 
Yields but the model of a span ; 

Yet burns out thy life's lamp in vain ! 
One minute bounds thy bane or bliss : 
Then watch and labour while time is. 2 

From John Amner's Hymns (1615) : 

A stranger here, as all my fathers were 
That went before, I wander to and fro ; 

From earth to heaven is my pilgrimage, 
A tedious way for flesh and blood to go : 

O Thou that art the Way, pity the blind, 

And teach me how I may Thy dwelling find. 3 

1 Robert Aylet's Divine and Moral Meditations, etc. , 1655-54. 

2 Works by Dr. Thomas Campion, ed. by A. H. Bullen, p. 59. 

3 More Songs from Elizabethan Song-books, ed. by A. H. Bullen, 
1888, p. 2. 






Old English Verse 2 2 1 

From a manuscript in Christ Church, of about the 
same period : 

Turn in, my Lord, turn in to me, 

My heart 's a homely place : 
But Thou canst make corruption flee 

And fill it with Thy grace ; 
So furnished it will be brave, 
And a rich dwelling Thou shalt have. 1 

Dr. William Loe, or Leo, wrote his Songs of Sion 
about 1620. He held at different times various ap- 
pointments: as Vicar of Churcham, in 1593, Master of 
the Collegiate School at Gloucester (1600), Prebendary 
(1602) and Sub-dean (1605) of Gloucester, Pastor to 
the ' Merchant Adventurers ' at Hamburg, Preacher at 
Putney (1624), and at Wandsworth (1618), and Chaplain 
to the King, soon before his death in 1645. He was 
buried in Westminster Abbey. In his prose writings 
he is often somewhat bitter and violent in controversy 
with Roman Catholicism. But in his poems there is 
nothing but what is inspired by a spirit of deep and 
gentle piety. These Songs of Sion are all dedicated to 
different leading members of his Hamburg congrega- 
tion. They are written throughout in words of one 
syllable, not from any affectation, but from a not un- 
reasonable dislike to make use in sacred verse of the 
too pedantical conceits that were common in the 
writings of his day, and to draw rather from wells of 
pure English undefiled. ' I would fain,' he writes, ' make 
an essay to know whether we might express our hearts 
to God in our holy soliloquies in mdasillables in our 
owne mother tongue or no. It being a receaved opinion 
amogst many of those who seeme rather to be juditious 
than caprichious, that heretofore our English tongue, in 
the true idiome thereof, consisted altogether of mono- 
sillables, untill it came to be blended and mingled with 
the commixture of exotique languages.' 

1 More Songs fram Elizabethan Song-books, ed. by A. H. Bullen, 
1888, p. 122. 



222 Religious Thought in 

The following is from his lines on the Seven Words 
of Christ upon the Cross : 

A thief doth cry and call ; 

Christ hears him by and by : 
O soul, thy Christ will hear thee sure 

If thou dost call and cry. 

O learn, it is but one 

To whom Christ grants an ear, 
That sued to Him in death at last, 

And sought Him in his fear. 

Yet it is one, my soul, 

Lest thou shouldst faint and die, 
And that thy Christ would not thee hear 

In death when thou shall cry. 

And yet it is but one, 

Lest, soul, thou shouldst be proud, 

And think that God would hear thee still, 
When that thy cry is loud. 

O learn, sweet soul, by this, 

To sue to God in life 
And drive not off till death do come, 

To die in jar and strife. 1 

Charles Fitzgeoffrey (1575-1638) was Vicar of St. 
Dominic in Cornwall. Mr. Grosart speaks of him as a 
high-hearted, outspoken, patriotic man, and in the 
highest sense evangelical. The following lines are from 
The Blessed Birthday : 

Come, Faith, and fathom the profundities 

Of these so secret sacred mysteries : 

The line of Reason is too short to sound 

This sea, which neither bottom hath nor bound : 

The wisest here no wiser are than fools : 
Christ in a Stall was born, not in the Schools. 
His birth by th' Angel was not first made known 
To Scribes and Rabbins, but to Shepherds shown, 
People who in simplicity did live ; 
Dispute they could not, but they could believe. 
Unto His feast, which was for all men fitted, 
The Wise-men were the last that were admitted : 

3 Dr. Log's Poems, in Grosart's Miscellany: ' On the Seauen Words.' 



Ola English Verse 223 

Who humbly did fall down when they were come ; 
Their humane wisdom they did leave at home ; 
And thus their great Inviter more contented 
Than all the precious presents they presented. 1 

' Next to the Scripture poems,' said Richard Baxter, 
'there are none so savoury to me as Mr. George 
Herbert's, and Mr. George Sandys's.' Sandys, born 
1577, was a son of the Archbishop of York. He 
travelled extensively in France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt 
and Palestine, and also visited Virginia as Treasurer of 
the new colony. Charles I. was much attached to him, 
and during his captivity at Carisbrook found much 
pleasure in his paraphrases of the Psalms. These 
were published in 1636, and were followed by para- 
phrases of the other parts of Scripture in 1638. 

From Psalm cxxi. : 

To the hills thine eyes erect, 
Help from thence alone expect. 
He who heaven and earth has made 
Shall from Sion send thee aid. 
God, thy ever-watchful guide, 
Will not suffer thee to slide ; 
He, even He, who Israel keeps 
Never slumbers, never sleeps. 
He, thy Guard, with wings displayed 
Shall refresh thee in their shade. 
Suns shall not with heat infect, 
But their temperate beams reflect ; 
Nor unwholesome serene shall 
From the moon's moist influence fall. 
When thou travell'st on the way, 
When at home thou spend'st the day ; 
When sweet .peace thy life delights, 
When embroiled in bloody fights, 
God shall all thy steps attend, 
Now and evermore defend. 

Sir Henry Wotton (1568-1639) was educated at 
Winchester, thence passed to New College, and then 
to Queen's. After gaining high repute in Oxford for 
wit and learning, he travelled abroad for several years, 

1 Poems of Charles Fitzgeofrey, ed. by Grosart, p. 152. 



224 Religious Thought in 

then returned to England and became secretary to the 
Earl of Essex. On the attainder of that nobleman he 
again retired into Italy, and was engaged in the secret 
diplomatic service of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. At 
King James's accession, he came back to England, was 
knighted, and employed in many important embassies. 
In 1623, the provostship of Eton College was given him, 
and he then took deacon's orders. Besides his prose 
writings on The State of Christendom, on The Elements 
of A rchitecture, etc., he wrote a few poems. One of these, 
The Character of a Happy Life, is familiar to most 
readers, though I must quote it none the less. It is 
said to have been first printed in 1614: 

How happy is he born and taught 

That serveth not another's will ; 
Whose armour is his honest thought, 

And simple truth his utmost skill ! 

Whose passions not his masters are ; 

Whose soul is still prepared for death, 
Untied unto the world by care 

Of public fame or private breath ; 

Who envies none that chance doth raise, 

Nor vice ; who never understood 
How deepest wounds are given by praise, 

Nor rules of state, but rules of good. 

Who hath his life from rumours freed ; 

Whose conscience is his strong retreat ; 
Whose state can neither flatterers feed, 

Nor ruin make oppressors great ; 

Who God doth late and early pray 
More of His grace than gifts to lend ;' 

And entertains the harmless day 
With a religious book or friend. 

This man is freed from servile band 

Of hope to rise, or fear to fall ; 
Lord of himself, though not of lands ; 

And having nothing, yet hath all. 1 

I next extract the greater part of a hymn which he 

1 Poems from Reliquia Wottoniaiuz, etc. , in Hannah's Courtly Poets, 
90. It does not seem clear that this poem is strictly original, there being 
a German poem of the same age, very closely resembling it. Note in id. 



Old English Verse 225 

wrote during his embassy at Venice, when the plague 
was raging there : 

Thus, then, our Strength, Father of life and death, 
To whom our thanks, our vows, ourselves we owe, 

From me, Thy tenant of this fading breath, 
Accept those lines which from Thy goodness flow, 

And Thou, that wert Thy regal prophet's muse, 

Do not Thy praise in weaker strains refuse ! 

Let these poor notes ascend unto Thy throne, 
Where majesty doth sit with mercy crowned, 

Where my Redeemer lives, in whom alone 
The errors of my wandering life are drowned ; 

Where all the Choir of Heaven resound the same, 

That only Thine, Thine is the Saving Name ! 

Well then, my soul, joy in the midst of pain ; 

Thy Christ, that conquered hell, shall from above 
With greater triumph yet return again, 

And conquer His own justice with His love ! 
Commanding earth and seas to render those 
Unto His bliss, for whom He paid His woes. 

Now have I done ; now are my thoughts at peace ; 

And now my joys are stronger than my grief : 
I feel those comforts that shall never cease, 

Future in hope, but present in belief : 
Thy words are true, Thy promises are just, 
And Thou wilt find Thy dearly-bought in dust. 1 

Sir William Alexander, Earl of Stirling (1580-1640) 
wrote a number of poems and tragedies, some classical 
and others biblical. I quote a few lines from a long 
poem in twelve books upon Doomesday : 

Let not the godly man affliction fear ; 

God wrestle may with some, but none o'erthrows. 

Who gives the burden, gives the strength to bear ; 

And best reward the greatest service [obedience] owes [possesses] ; 

Those who would reap, they at the first must eare [plough], 

God's love, his faith, a good man's trouble shows. 2 

William Cartwright (1611-43) was a man f some 
note at Oxford, both as a preacher, and reader in 

1 Poems from Reliquicz Wottoniancc, 92. 

2 Poetical Works of Sir W. Alexander, Earl of Stirling, in 3 vols. 1870. 

P 



226 Religious Thought in 

metaphysics. When the Civil War broke out, he acted 
with zeal and efficiency for the King, who went into 
mourning for him when he died of camp-fever. His 
poems and plays were published in 1651. 

CONSIDERATION. 

Fool that I was, that little of my span 
Which I have sinned, until it styles me man, 
I counted life till now ; henceforth I '11 say 
'Twas but a drowsy lingering or delay : 
Let it forgotten perish, let none tell 
That then I was : To live is to live well. 
Off then, thou old man, and give place unto 
The Ancient of Days ! Let Him renew 
Mine age like as the eagles, and endow 
My breast with innocence, that he, whom thou 
Hast made a man of sin and subtly sworn 
A vassal to thy tyranny, may turn 
Infant again, and having all of child 
Want wilt hereafter to be so beguiled. 1 

Francis Quarles (1592-1644), son of an official in 
Elizabeth's Court, was a member of Lincoln's Inn, 
then Steward to the Princess Elizabeth, daughter 
of James I., and afterwards Secretary to Archbishop 
Usher in Ireland. When the Civil War broke out, 
his attachment to the King, whom he joined at 
Oxford, brought upon him the hostility of the 
Puritan party. His property was plundered, and 
various manuscripts which he had prepared for the 
press were destroyed. This loss he took so much to 
heart that it was thought to have hastened his death. 
One of his works, The Emblems, Divine and Moral, 
together with Hieroglyphics of the Life of Man, has been 
many times reprinted. It is not merely interesting for 
its quaintness, but valuable for the warm spirit of de- 
votion with which it is penetrated. Each poem is 
headed by a curious 'hieroglyphic,' or emblematic 
engraving, with a text and a Latin motto, and is illus- 
trated on the opposite page with quotations from the 

1 Cartwriglifs Poems, Chalmers's English Poets, vi. 528. 



Old English Verse 227 

early Fathers, and with a short epigram. I give an 
example : The hieroglyphic represents a heavenly globe 
at the top of a hill. A man is painfully riding up to 
it on an ass so slowly that he is outstripped by a snail, 
and looking back the while to the terrestrial world 
below, towards which another rider, mounted on a stag, 
is spurring at full speed. The motto is, ' Da mihi fraena, 
timor ; da mihi calcar, amor.' The text is from John 
iii. 19: ' Loving darkness rather than light.' The quota- 
tions are all three from St. Augustine. One is from 
his Exposition of the Psalms : ' Two several Ipvers built 
two several cities : the love of God buildeth a Jeru- 
salem ; the love of the world buildeth a Babylon. Let 
every one inquire of himself what he loveth, and he 
shall resolve himself of whence he is a citizen.' The 
other two are from The Confessions : ' All things are 
driven by their own weight, and tend to their own 
centre. My weight is my love ; by that I am driven 
whithersoever I am driven.' ' Lord, he loveth Thee the 
less, that loveth anything with Thee, which he loveth 
not for Thee.' The epigram is 

Lord, scourge my ass, if she shall make no haste, 
And curb my stag, if he should fly too fast ; 
If he be over swift, or she prove idle, 
Let love lend her a spur ; fear, him a bridle. 

The poem runs thus : 

Lord, when we leave the world, and come to Thee, 

How dull, how slug are we ! 
How backward ! how preposterous is the motion 

Of our ungain devotion ! 
Our thoughts are millstones, and our souls are lead, 

And our desires are dead : 
Our vows are fairly promised, faintly paid ; 

Or broken, or not made : 
Our better work (if any good) attends 

Upon our private ends ; 
In whose performance one poor worldly scoff 

Foils us, or beats us off. 
If Thy sharp scourge find out some secret fault 

We grumble or revolt ; 
And if Thy gentle hand forbear, we stray, 

Or idly lose the way. 



228 Religious Thought in 

Is the road fair? we loiter. Clogged with mire? 

We stick, or else retire : 
A lamb appears a lion ; and we fear 

Each bush we see 's a bear. 
When our dull souls direct our thoughts to Thee, 

As slow as snails are we. 
But at the earth we dart our winged desire, 

We burn, we burn like fire. 
Like as the amorous needle joys to bend 

To her magnetic friend ; 
Or as the greedy lover's eyeballs fly 

At his fair mistress' eye, 
So, so we cling to earth ; we fly and puff, 

Yet fly not fast enough. 
If pleasure beckon with her balmy hand, 

Her beck 's a strong command : 
If honour call us with her courtly breath, 

An hour's delay is death : 
If profit's golden-fingered charm inveigles, 

We clip more swift than eagles : 
Let Auster weep, or blustering Boreas roar, 

Till eyes or lungs be sore ; 
Let Neptune swell until his dropsied sides 

Burst into broken tides ; 
Not threatening rocks, nor winds, nor waves, nor fire, 

Can curb our fierce desire : 
Not fire nor rocks can stop our furious minds, 

Nor waves, nor winds ; 
How fast and fearless do our footsteps flee ! 
The light-foot roebuck 's not so swift as we. 1 

The following is an extract from the poem headed 
by an emblem which bears the motto, ' Phosphore redde 
diem : ' 

How long ! how long shall these benighted eyes 

Languish in shades, like feeble flies 
Expecting Spring ! How long shall darkness soil 

The face of earth, and thus beguile 
Our souls of sprightful action ; when will day 

Begin to dawn, whose new-born ray 
May gild the weathercocks of our devotion, 

And give our unsouled souls new motion ! 
Sweet Phosphor, bring the day ! 

Thy light will fray 
These horrid mists ; sweet Phosphor, bring the day ! 2 

1 Quarks' Jitiiblems, Divine and Moral, i. 13. - Id. i. 14. 



Old English Verse 229 

The following is headed by the emblem of a man in 
a cage, with the text, ' Bring my soul out of prison/ 
Ps. cxlii. 7 : 

My soul is like a bird ; my flesh the cage, 

Wherein she wears her weary pilgrimage 

Of hours as few as evil, daily fed 

With sacred wine, and sacramental bread. 

The keys that lock her in, and let her out, 

Are birth and death ; 'twixt both she hops about 

From perch to perch, from sense to reason ; then 

From higher reason down to sense again : 

From sense she climbs to faith ; where for a season 

She sits and sings ; then down again to reason : 

From reason back to faith, and straight from thence 

She rudely flutters to the perch of sense ; 

From sense to hope ; then hops from hope to doubt : 

From doubt to dull despair. 

Great Lord of souls, to whom shall prisoners fly 
But Thee ? Thou hadst Thy cage, as well as I ; 
And for my sake Thy pleasure was to know 
The sorrows that it brought, and feltst them too. 1 

My last quotation is from some verses under a hiero- 
glyphic of a closed lantern ; one of the patristic quota- 
tions is from St. Bernard : ' If thou be one of the foolish 
virgins, the congregation is necessary for thee ; if thou 
be one of the wise virgins, thou art necessary for the 
congregation.' 

Was man the highest masterpiece of Nature, 

The curious abstract of the whole creation, 

Whose soul was copied from his great Creator, 

Made to give light, and set for observation, 

Ordained for this ? to spend his light 
In a dark lantern cloister'd up in night ? 

Remember, O remember, thou wert set 

For men to see the great Creator by ; 
Thy flame is not thy own ; it is a debt 

Thou ow'st thy Maker. 

My God, my light is dark enough at lightest, 

Increase her flame, and give her strength to shine : 

'Tis frail at best : 'tis dim enough at brightest, 
But 'tis her glory to be foiled by Thine. 2 

1 Quarts' Emblems, Divine and Moral, v. 10. 2 fd. viii. 5. 



230 Religious Thought in 

Alexander Rosse, one of Charles the First's chaplains, 
a good and learned man, wrote among many other 
books one entitled Mel Heliconium, or Poetical Honey 
GatJiered out of the Weeds of Parnassus, published in 
1646, 'the fruit of some sequestered hours from his 
divinity exercises.' It is a quaint book ; his plan being 
to take, as a sort of text, some mythological story, and 
then to explain as a spiritual allegory what he calls ' the 
mysteries ' of it. Each allegory is concluded with some 
appropriate verses. Thus he symbolises from the story 
of Atlas, who was turned into a mountain by Perseus, 
son of Jupiter, because he refused to lodge him : 

Go to ! my soul, the doors unlock ! 
Behold, the Son of God doth knock, 

And offers to come in. 
O suffer not to go from hence 
So great a God, so just a Prince : 

That were a grievous sin ! 
Refuse not, then, to entertain 
So great a guest, who would so fain 

Come lodge and sup with thee. 1 

Again, Chiron was skilled in astronomy, music, and 
physic. Even so the Christian must be contemplative, 
and have his thoughts in heaven ; music must be in his 
heart, good words in his mouth, good deeds in his 
actions. Chiron was wounded in the foot by Hercules, 
and endured it without murmur. Patient suffering is 
a part of Christianity. But Chiron entreated Jupiter, 
who placed him among the stars, with a sacrifice in his 
hand, and an altar before him. Even so affliction mor- 
tifies the flesh, and makes the Christian meet for 
heaven. 

To gaze upon night's sparkling eyes, 
Which still are rolling in the skies, 

Is Chiron's head ; but we 
Must have his curing hands also, 
And feet which may endure God's blow 

And voice of melody. 

1 Mel Heliconium, by Alex. Rosse, His Majesties Chaplein in Ordinary, 
1646, p. 45. 



Old English Verse 231 

Our hands must work salvation, 
Our heads must meditate upon 

Heaven's shining canopy ; 
Our tongues must praise God's actions, 
The feet of our affections 

For sin must wounded be. 
I will before my Altar stand, 
With sacrifices in my hand, 

And thus to God will pray : 
Lord, heal these wounded feet of mine, 
Then make me as a star to shine, 

Or as the brightest day. 
Give me the head of knowledge, and 
A well-tuned tongue, a working hand, 

And feet which may Thy blow 
Endure ! O, wound me, so that I 
By wounds may be prepared to die 

And weaned from things below. 1 

The following stanzas are part of a longer poem than 
the rest, founded upon the story of Fortuna, daughter 
of Oceanus. They appear to me worthy to rank 
high in any record of the sacred poetry of our older 
writers : 

But as the fire refines the gold, 

And as the cold 
Revives the fire ; and as in frost 

The stars shine most : 
And as the palm lifts up his crest 
The higher that it is opprest : 

So crosses and affliction 

Which fall upon 
The just, makes not their faith to fail 

Nor courage quail ; 
Who shine, burn, sparkle, fructify 
As gold, fire, stars, and the palm-tree. 

I 'd rather have a blustering gale 

And swelling sail, 
Than lie becalmed in the main, 

And ne'er attain 

My wishe'd port ; O let the blast 
Of troubles drive me home at last ! 

1 Mel Heliconium, p. 94. 



232 Religious Thought in 

That tree is strong and firmly fixed 

Which is perplext 
With frequent storms, which when they blow, 

The roots below 

Take stronger hold ; O, if I were 
Strong as this tree my storms to bear ! 

The idle sword breeds rust, the cloth 

Begets the moth, 
Not worm ; the standing water dies. 

And putrifies : 

We first must tread the Camomell, 
Or else it will afford no smell. 

The pilot's skill how can we know 

Till tempests blow ? 
How is that soldier's valour seen 

Which ne'er had been 
In fight ? they scarce true soldiers are, 
That have no wound to shew, nor scar. 

Those soldiers which the General 

Calls out of all 
His army to attempt some great 

And brave exploit, 

Are those sure whom he means to grace 
With honour, and some higher place. 

Except we fight, there is no crown 

And no renown ; 
Unless we sweat in the vineyard 

There 's no reward : 
Unless we climb Mount Calvary, 
Mount Olivet we shall not see. 

God loves his sons, and them corrects 

Whom he respects, 
And whips them when they gad and roam, 

And brings them home, 
And fits them, that He may advance 
Them to their due inheritance. 



All whom God means shall bear his blows, 

He hard'neth those ; 
He wrestles with those sons of His 
Whom He will bless ; 



Old English Verse 233 

With Jacob if He make thee lame, 
He '11 bless thee and enlarge thy name. 

Lord, if this be Thy Providence, 

Teach me from hence, 
How I may patiently drink up 

That deadly cup 

Which Thy Son drank ; help me to bear 
His Cross, that I His Crown may wear. 1 

There is a pathetic interest in the aspirations which 
conclude the book, written as they were at the outbreak 
of the civil troubles : 

And let the good ship ride 
Called Charity, securely on the main ; 

Be pilot, Lord, and guide 
Her to the Cape of Good Hope ; let her gain 
The land of promise ; with the gale 
Of Thy good Spirit fill her sail. 

And let her compass be 
Thy word, and with the helm of discipline 

From sinful rocks keep me, 
And let the pole-star of Thy truth be seen ; 
Let Faith, the bright eye of my soul, 
Be always looking on that Pole. 

The man of Thy right hand 
Preserve, Lord, as the apple of thine eye ; 

And from this sinful land 
Let not true Love with her two sisters fly ; 
But as its name is Albion, 
So in it still let all be one ! * 

The poems of Patrick Carey were first published by 
Sir Walter Scott from a single MS. bearing the date 
1651. His verses show that he was a lawyer, a sup- 
porter of the Royalist party, and a High Churchman, 
or possibly a Roman Catholic. The following are 
from his Triolets : 

All those joys which caught my mind 

Now I find 

To be bubbles, full of wind : 

1 Mel Helicomum, p. 154. - Id. 176. 



234 Religious Thought in 

Glowworms, only shining bright 

When that we 

Clouded be 

By dark folly's stupid night. 

Looking up then I did go 

To and fro, 

When indeed they were below : 

For now that mine eyes see clear, 

Fair no more, 

Small and poor, 

Far beneath me they appear. 

But a nobler light I spy, 

Much more high 

Than that sun which shines i' th' sky 

Since its sight, all earthly things 

I detest : 

There to rest 

Give, O give me the Dove's wings. 

Another Triolet : 

Worldly designs, fears, hopes, farewell ! 
Farewell all earthly joys and cares ! 
On nobler thoughts my soul shall dwell. 
Worldly designs, fears, hopes, farewell ! 
All quiet, in my peaceful cell 
I '11 think on God, free from your snares. 
Worldly designs, fears, hopes, farewell ! 
Farewell all earthly joys and cares. 

I '11 seek my God's law to fulfil, 
Riches and power I '11 set at nought. 
Let others strive for them that will ; 
I '11 seek my God's law to fulfil : 
Lest sinful pleasures my soul kill, 
By folly's vain delights first caught, 
I '11 seek my God's law to fulfil, 
Riches and power I '11 set at naught. 

Yes, my dear God, I 've found it so ; 
No joys but Thine are purely sweet ; 
Other delights come mixed with woe. 
Yes, my dear Lord, I 've found it so. 
Pleasure at Courts is but a show : 
With true content in cells we meet ; 
Yes, my dear Lord, I 've found it so, 
No joys but Thine are purely sweet. 



Old English Verse 235 

From Dirige nos, Domine : 

Open thyself and then look in ; 
Consider what thou mightst have been, 
And what thou art now made by sin. 

Ashamed o' th' state to which th 'art brought, 

Detest and grieve for each past fault, 

Sigh, weep, and blush for each foul thought. 

Fear, but despair not, and still love ; 
Look humbly up to God above, 
And Him thou 'It soon to pity move. 

Resolve on that which prudence shows, 
Reform what thou dost well propose, 
And keep i' th' way thou hast once chose. 

Vice, and what looks like vicious shun ; 
Let use make good acts eas'ly done : 
Have zeal, as when th' hadst first begun. 

Hope strongly, yet be humble still : 
Thy good is God's ; what 's thine, is ill ; 
Do thus, and thee affect He will. 

William Drummond (1585-1649) 'the first Scotch 
poet who wrote in English with purity and elegance,' 
was son of Sir John Drummond, an officer in the Court 
of James VI. He lived a retired, tranquil life in his 
pleasant home at Hawthornden, where he devoted much 
of his time to classical studies, to poetry, and to writing 
the history of his country. He kept up a friendly in- 
tercourse with Ben Jonson and other English poets, 
also with several eminent men abroad, whose acquaint- 
ance he had made in a visit to France, Germany, and 
Italy. Without taking much personal share in the 
great struggle of his time, he was a thorough Cavalier 
in sympathy, and frequently had to suffer molestation 
on that account. His great grief at the King being 
brought to the scaffold is said to have shortened his 
life. 

Drummond's Flowers of Sion were published in 
1630. The Divine Poems, and the rest of his poetry, 
appeared partly in 1616, and partly in the complete 
edition of his works, which did not appear till 1711. 
The following are from the Flowers of Sion : 



236 Religious Thought in 

Love, which is here a care, 

That wit and will doth mar, 

Uncertain truce, and a most certain war, 

A shrill tempestuous wind. 

Which doth disturb the mind, 

And like wild waves all our designs commove : 

Among those powers above, 

Which see their Maker's face, 

It a contentment is, a quiet peace, 

A pleasure void of grief, a constant rest, 

Eternal joy which nothing can molest. 1 

Why, worldlings, do ye trust frail honour's dreams, 
And lean to gilded glories which decay ? 
Why do ye toil to registrate your names 
On icy pillars which soon melt away ? 
True honour is not here ; that place it claims 
Where black-browed night doth not exile the day 
Nor no far-shining lamp dives in the sea, 
But an eternal sun spreads lasting beams ; 
There it attendeth you where spotless bands 
Of spirits stand gazing on their sovereign Bliss, 
Where years not hold it in their cank'ring hands, 
But who once noble ever noble is. 
Look home, lest he your weakened wit make thrall, 
Who Eden's foolish gardener erst made fall. 

Sweet bird, that sing'st away the early hours 
Of winters past or coming, void of care, 
Well pleased with delights which present are, 
Fair seasons, budding sprays, sweet-smelling flowers 
To rocks, to springs, to rills, from leafy bowers, 
Thou thy Creator's goodness dost declare, 
And what dear gifts on thee He did not spare, 
A stain to human sense in sin that lowers. 
What soul can be so sick which by thy songs 
(Attired in sweetness) sweetly is not driven 
Quite to forget earth's turmoils, spites, and wrongs, 
And lift a reverent eye and thought to heaven ? 
Sweet, artless songster, thou my mind dost raise 
To airs of spheres, yea, and to angels' lays. 

Among the Divine Poems are various hymns, as for 
the several days of the week, the Sundays in Lent, 
the chief festivals of the Church, the Dedication of a 
Church, etc. 

1 DrummoncCs Works, Anderson's English Poets, vol. iv. 



Old English Verse 237 

Joseph Beaumont, Regius Professor of Divinity at 
Cambridge, and Master of Peterhouse, wrote during 
the civil troubles, and published soon after the Restora- 
tion, his poem of Psyche, or Loves Mystery. It is an 
inordinately long poem, of some four or five hundred 
thousand lines, telling in allegory the history of a 
human soul and its redemption by Christ. The soul 
is led by Grace and by her Guardian Angel. Lust, 
Pride, Heresy, Persecution, Spiritual Dereliction, beset 
her on her way, till she reaches eternal felicity at last. 
In proof and testimony of the Saviour's love to the 
soul, several of the cantos are devoted to a history of 
Christ's life on earth. This, at all events to a modern 
reader, constitutes far the most interesting part of the 
book, the incidents of the Gospel history, especially 
those of the Passion, being told with no small degree 
of imaginative force, and with a strong and powerful 
colouring, which is sometimes rather coarse, and some- 
times too histrionic, but exceedingly vivid, and, where 
it tells of suffering, terribly so. The rest of the narra- 
tive, however unreadable a great part of it now is, may, 
when books were comparatively few, and when allegory 
was still popular, have been to the taste of many, a sort 
of Pilgrim's Progress. In the preface to the second 
folio edition, Charles Beaumont, son of the author, says 
that the first edition had become very scarce and very 
dear, and that its republication had been ' earnestly and 
often desired by many.' Out of this great sea of verse 
I extract a few short quotations of man and his 
passion : 

What boots it, man, that nature's courtesy, 

Lifting his awful looks high towards heaven, 

Hath built his temples up with majesty, 

And into his hand imperial power given ? 
What royal non-sense is a diadem 
Abroad for one who 's not at home supreme ? 

How does this wild world mock him, when it lays 
Its universal homage at his feet ; 
Whom, whilst the air, the earth, the sea obeys, 
A saucy pack of passions dare to meet 



238 Religious Thought in 

With plain defiance, and presume to hope 
His pleasure shall go down, their pleasure up. 1 

Of ' the holy travellers through cold and frost ' reach- 
ing Bethlehem : 

The men were ice ; so were their doors, for both 
Hard frozen stood against poor-looking guests : 
Where'er they knocked the surly host was wroth, 
Crying ' My house is full.' Indeed those nests 
Were only courteous traps, which barred out 
All birds but such as store of feathers brought. 

Thus was the Universe's King shut out 

Of his own world as he was entering in : 

Long had the noble pilgrims patient sought, 

And yet could at no door admission win, 
And now night crowded on apace, and drew 
Their curtain, who as yet no lodging knew. 2 

Of the demoniac healed : 

But ne'er did air put on so calm a face, 

When every wind to its own home was blown, 

And heaven of all its storms delivered, as 

Redeemed he, now once again his own, 

Finding the furies which his heart did swell 
Had left himself within himself to dwell. 

Of zeal, fired by the Cup of Life : 

Oft have I seen brave spirits when they rose 
From this great Banquet, filled with generous rage, 
Fly in the face of vice, and nobly choose 
Against its stoutest ramparts to engage 

Their heavenly confidence : nor has their high 

Adventure failed to reach down victory. 

Oft have I seen them smile in sweet disdain 

Upon misfortune's most insulting look, 

Oft have I seen them kindly entertain 

Those guests faint human nature worst can brook, 
Grief, sickness, loss, oppression, calumny, 
Shame, plunder, banishment and poverty. 4 

1 Psyche, Canto v., stanzas I, 2. 2 Id. Canto vii., stanzas 134-6. 

8 Id. Canto x. stanza 297. 4 Id. Canto xii. stanzas 151-2. 



Old English Verse 239 

Of the Lord's Day : 

The other Sabbath was a shade of Thee ; 

And Thou the copy out of that which shall, 

Amid the triumphs of Immensity, 

Be all Heaven's everlasting festival ; 

That Sabbath, which no higher name shall know 
Than this, the Lord's Day ; and that day art Thou. 1 

Joseph Hall (i 574- 1656), bishop successively of Exeter 
and Norwich, is now best remembered by his Medita- 
tions, the one among his voluminous prose writings 
which has maintained a place in popular esteem. His 
satires, written in earlier life, while he was a fellow at 
Emanuel College, Cambridge, were the first English 
compositions of their kind. Although he had always 
been a vigorous defender of Episcopacy, he was in most 
respects a Puritan. He was sent in 1618 to the Synod 
of Dort with some other English Divines, preached a 
Latin sermon before the Assembly and was received 
with very special honours. When the Civil War broke 
out, he protested against the validity of laws passed 
during the compelled absence of the bishops from 
Parliament. He was committed to the Tower, and 
though released after a few months' captivity, had 
his revenues sequestered, and was reduced for the rest 
of his life to poverty. 

Bishop Hall translated into verse the first ten Psalms, 
but with no particular success. The following is part 
of one of his Anthems : 

Lord, what art Thou ? Pure life, power, beauty, bliss : 

Where dwell'st Thou? Up above, in perfect light ; 
What is Thy time ? Eternity it is : 

What state? Attendance of each glorious spright ;, 
Thyself, Thy place, Thy days, Thy state 
Pass all the thoughts of power create. 
How shall I reach Thee, Lord ? Oh, soar above, 

Ambitious soul : But which way shall I fly ? 

Thou, Lord, art way and end : What wings have I ? 

Aspiring thoughts, of faith, of hope, of love : 

Oh, let these wings, that way alone, 

Present me to Thy blissful throne. 2 

1 Psyche, Canto xv. stanza 113. 

2 Works of Joseph Hall, 1839, vol. xii. p. 317. 



240 Religioiis Thought in 

Francis Rous (1579-1658) a Cornishman, was Provost 
of Eton in 1643, member of Parliament for Devonshire 
in 1653, and for Cornwall in 1656. He was a Presby- 
terian, one of Cromwell's Privy Council, a 'trier of 
clerical candidates' and a lay member of the West- 
minster Assembly of Divines. His version of the 
Psalms was accepted and published by Parliament in 
1646. In 1649 the General Assembly of the Kirk of 
Scotland approved it, and it has been largely used there 
ever since. It is described as having vigour, though 
often prosaic and ungraceful. The version of the 23d 
Psalm, beginning ' The Lord 's my Shepherd, I '11 not 
want,' is considered his best. 1 

The following lines have an interest, as coming from 
the hand of William Bradford (1590-1657), one of the 
' Pilgrim Fathers ' who went to America in the May- 
flower. He was Governor of Plymouth in Massa- 
chusetts : 

PROVIDENCE AND THE PILGRIM. 

From my years young in days of youth, 

God did make known to me this truth, 

And call'd me from my native place 

For to enjoy the means of grace. 

In wilderness He did me guide, 

And in strange lands for me provide. 

In fears and wants, through weal and woe, 

A pilgrim, passed I to and fro : 

Oft left of them whom I did trust ; 

How vain it is to rest on dust ! 

A man of sorrow I have been, 

And many changes I have seen. 

Wars, wants, peace, plenty, have I known ; 

And some advanced, others thrown down. 

The humble poor, cheerful and glad ; 

Rich, discontent, sour and sad : 

When fears and sorrows have been mixt 

Consolations came betwixt. 

Faint not, poor soul, in God still trust, 

Fear not the things thou suffer must ; 

1 Duffield's English Hymns, 1886, p. 533. 



Old English Verse 241 

For whom He loves He doth chastise, 
And then all tears wipes from their eyes. 1 

The following are a few lines upon the treasures of 
Scripture. They are by Peter Heylyn (1600-62), chap- 
lain to Charles I., a divine of some note, who, in the 
time of the civil disturbances, took an active part in 
supporting the royal and ecclesiastical prerogatives : 

If thou art merry, here are airs ; 

If melancholy, here are prayers ; 

If studious, here are those things writ ; 

Which may deserve thy ablest wit ; 

If hungry, here is food divine ; 

If thirsty, nectar, heavenly wine. 

Read then ; but, first, thyself prepare 
To read with zeal and mark with care ; 
And when thou readst what here is writ, 
Let thy best practice second it : 
So twice each precept read shall be, 
First in the book, and, next, in thee. 2 

Mildmay, second Earl of Westmoreland (1601-1664), 
was Herrick's contemporary and friend. In the Civil 
War he declared for the King, and remained with him 
till 1663. He then submitted to the Parliament. His 
Otia Sacra was never published, but was privately 
printed for gifts in 1648. An impression of fifty copies 
of it was edited a few years ago by Mr. Grosart. 

The following is entitled To Kiss Gods Rod : 

Whatever God's divine 

Decree 
Awardeth unto mine 

Or me, 

Though 't may seem ill, 
With patience 
I am resolved to undergo, 
Nor to His purpose once say no, 
But moderate both mind and will : 
And conquering the rebellions of sense 
Place all content in true obedience. 3 

1 Stedman and llutchinson's Library of American Literature, 1889, 
i. 115. 

2 Quoted by F. Saunders in Evenings with the Sacred Poets, 232. 

3 Poems of Mildmay, Earl of Westmoreland, ed. by Grosart, p. 21. 

Q 



242 Religious Thought in 

I add two short extracts, more for the worthiness of 
the man than of his verse. 

From A Dedication of my First Son : 

Wherefore accept, I pray Thee, this 
Thou'st given, and my first son is. 

Let him be Thine, and from his cradleing 

Begin his service's first reckoning. 

Grant with his days Thy grace increase and fill 
His heart, nor leave there room to harbour ill, 
That in the progress of his years 
He may express whose badge he wears. 1 

From My Happy Life : 

First my God served, I do commend 
The rest to some choice book or friend, 
Wherein I may such treasure find 
T' enrich my nobler part, the mind ; 
And that my body health comprise 
Use too some moderate exercise ; 
Whether invited to the field, 
To see what pastime that can yield, 
With horse, or hound, or hawk, or t' be 
More taken with a well-grown tree 
Under whose shades I may rehearse 
The holy lays of sacred verse. 2 

William Habington (1605-1645) belonged to a Roman 
Catholic family, and was educated for the Jesuit order, 
which, however, he declined to enter. He married a 
daughter of the Earl of Northumberland, the ' Castara ' 
of his poems, which contain much that is admirable in 
purity and dignity of thought. The following is 
headed : 

Nox nodi indicat Scientiam. 

When I survey the bright 

Celestial sphere, 
So rich with jewels hung, that night 
Doth like an ^Ethiop bride appear, 

My soul her wings doth spread, 

And heavenward flies, 
Th' Almighty's mysteries to read 
In the large volumes of the skies. 

1 Poems of Mildmay, Earl of Westmoreland, ed. by Grosart, 1879, p. 83. 

2 Id. 135- 



Old English Verse 243 

For the large firmament 

Shoots forth no flame 
So silent, but is eloquent 
In speaking the Creator's name. 

No unregarded star 

Contracts its light 
Into so small a character, 
Removed far from our human sight, 

But if we steadfast look, 

We shall discern 
In it, as in some holy book, 
How man may heavenly knowledge learn. 

It tells the conqueror, 

That far-stretch'd power, 
Which his proud dangers traffic for, 
Is but the triumph of an hour ; 

That from the furthest North 

Some nation may, 
Yet undiscover'd, issue forth 
And o'er his new-got conquest sway. 

Some nation, yet shut in 

With hills of ice, 
May be let out to scourge his sin, 
Till they shall equal him in vice. 

And then they likewise shall 

Their ruin have ; ' 

For, as yourselves, your empires fall, 
And every kingdom hath a grave. 

Thus those celestial fires, 

Though seeming mute, 
The fallacy of our desires 
And all the pride of life confute. 

For they have watch'd since first 

The world had birth : 
And found sin in itself accurst, 
And nothing permanent on earth. 1 



From Cupio Dissolvi : 



For in the fire when ore is tried 
And by that torment purified, 



1 Habingioris Poems ; Chalmers's British Poets, vi. 476. 



244 Religious Thought in 

Do we deplore the loss ? 
And when Thou shalt my soul refine, 
That it thereby may purer shine, 

Shall I grieve for the dross ? 1 

Christopher Harvey (1597-1663) was appointed in 
1630 to the Rectory of Whitney, on the Wye, and in 
1639 to the Vicarage of Clifton, in Warwickshire. He 
was also for a time Master of Kington Grammar School 
in Herefordshire. His series of poems entitled The 
Synagogue, as well as his Schola Cordis, were both pub- 
lished in 1647, anonymously. He modestly called 
himself an imitator of George Herbert, and both in his 
devout churchmanly thought, and in the humours and 
subtleties of language with which his thoughts are ex- 
pressed, following in his teacher's steps. The Synagogue 
of Harvey has often been bound up, hot unaptly, with 
Herbert's Temple. Certainly in this case the disciple 
is not equal to his master ; but some of his poems are, 
in their originality and fervency of thought, something 
far better than mere imitation. The following is named 
Invitation : 

Turn in, my Lord, turn in to me ; 

Mine heart 's a homely place, 
But thou canst make corruption flee 

And fill it with Thy grace : 
So furnished, it will be brave, 
And a rich dwelling Thou shalt have. 

It was Thy lodging once before ; 

It builded was by Thee ; 
But I by sin set ope the door ; 

It rendered was by me ; [given up] 
And so the building was defaced 
And in Thy room another placed. 

But he usurps ; the right is Thine : 

O dispossess him, Lord ; 
Do Thou but say, ' This heart is mine,' 

He's gone at the first word ; 
Thy word 's Thy will, Thy will 's Thy power, 
Thy time is always. Now's mine hour. 

1 Habingtori 's Poems, 482. 



Old English Verse 245 

Now say to sin, ' Depart,' 
And ' Son, give me thine heart ! ' 
Thou, that by saying, ' Let it be,' didst make it, 
Canst, if Thou wilt, by saying, ' Give't me,' take it. 1 
The following is from The Seeding of the Heart : 

Lord, I have lain 

Barren too long, and fain 
I would redeem the time, that I may be 

Fruitful to Thee 
Fruitful in knowledge, faith, obedience, 

Ere I go hence ; 

That when I come 
At harvest to be reaped, and brought home, 

Thine angels may 
My soil in thy celestial garner lay, 

Where perfect joy and bliss 
Eternal is. 

If to entreat 

A crop of purest wheat, 
A blessing too transcendent should appear 

For me to bear, 
Lord, make me what Thou wilt, so Thou wilt take 

What Thou dost make, 

And not disdain 
To house me, though among Thy coarsest grain ; 

So I may be 
Laid with the gleanings gathered by Thee 

When the full sheaves are spent, 
I am content. 2 

Of the Bible : 

The Bible, that's the Book the Book indeed, 
The Book of books ; 
On which who looks, 
As he should do, aright, shall never need 
Wish for a better light 
To guide him in the night. 

It is the looking-glass of souls, wherein 
All men may see 
Whether they be 

Still, as by nature th'are, deform'd with sin ; 
Or in a better case, 
As new adorned with grace. 

1 Christopher Harvey's Poems, ed. by Grosart. The Synagogue, No. 57. 
- Schola Cordis, Ode 28. 



246 Religious Thought in 



'Tis the great magazine of spiritual arms, 
Wherein doth lie 
Th' artillery 

Of heav'n ready charged against all harms 
That might come by the blows 
Of our infernal foes. 



It is the index [pointer] to eternity ; 

He cannot miss 

Of endless bliss, 
That takes this chart to steer his voyage by. 1 

Of good doctrine preached without skill : 

So that the meat be wholesome, though 
The sauce shall not be toothsome, I '11 not go 

Empty away, and starve my soul 
To feed my foolish fancy. 2 

When the Liturgy was finally revised in 1661, the 
translation of Veni Creator, as it stands in our Consecra- 
tion and Ordination Services, ' Come, Holy Ghost, our 
Soul inspire,' was introduced. It is by Bishop Cosin, 
and is rather a shortened paraphrase than a translation 
of the old Latin hymn. 

Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), so well known by his 
History of the Worthies of England, was, before the 
Civil War, Prebend of Salisbury and Lecturer at the 
Savoy, to which preferments he was restored in 1660. 
He was a sincere but moderate Royalist, a learned man, 
and a very eminent preacher. His first publication, 1631, 
written while he was a Fellow of Sidney College, Cam- 
bridge, was a poem on David's Sin and Repentance, 
from which I take the following verses : 

Go, fond affectors of a flaunting strain, 

Whose sermons strike at sins with slanting blows; 

Give me the man that 's powerful and plain, 

The monster vice unmasked to expose : 

Such preachers do the soul and marrow part, 
And cause the guilty conscience to smart ; 
Such please no itching ears, but pierce the heart. 

1 Christopher Harvey's Poems, The Synagogue, No. 14. - Id. No. 15. 



Old English Verse 247 

This made King David's marble mind to melt, 

And to the former temper to return, 

Thawing his frozen breast, whenas he felt 

The lively sparks of Grace therein to burn, 
Which under ashes cold were choked before : 
And now he weeps, and wails, and sighs full sore, 
Though sure such sorrow did his joy restore. 

So have I seen one slumbered in a swound, 

Whose sullen soul into his heart did hie : 

His pensive friends soon heave him from the ground, 

And to his face life-water do apply : 

At length a long expected sigh doth strive 
To bring the welcome news, the man 's alive, 
Whose soul at last doth in each part arrive. 

Then to his harp he did himself betake, 

(His tongue-tied harp, long gone out of request) 

And next to this his glory must awake, 

The member he of all accounted best : 

Then with those hands, which he for grief did wring, 

He also lightly strikes the warbling string, 

And makes one voice serve both to sob and sing. 1 

Richard Standfast was Chaplain in Ordinary to 
Charles I., was deprived of his preferments during the 
Commonwealth, and reinstated at. the Restoration. He 
published some* poems in 1664. The following are the 
first and last verses of Complaint of a Sinner: 

Sin, sin 

With my life did begin, 
And I have lived therein 
All my days heretofore ! 
Sins of heart, head, hand and tongue, 
Through my life all along, 
Like a thread have they run, 
Binding me to be undone : 
Many and great are they grown ; 
And if justice scan the score, 
I must perish evermore. 

Grace, grace, 

In my heart do Thou place, 
That I may win the race 

1 Davit? s Heartie Repentance, etc., by Thomas Fuller, 1631 ; Grosart, 
1868. 



248 Religious Thought in 

Which Thy laws do require. 
Give me, Lord, I humbly sue, 
Grace to know, grace to do, 
Grace that may me so renew, 
And confirm and perfect too, 
That, when death shall claim his due 
Grace in glory may expire. 
This is all I do require. 1 

The following, from the well-known lines, beginning 
' The glories of our birth and state/ are by James 
Shirley, the dramatic poet (1596-1666): 

All heads must come 

To the cold tomb ; 
Only the actions of the just 
Smell sweet and blossom in the dust. 3 

Jeremy Taylor, whose piety, wit, and learning 
adorned the English Church throughout the troubled 
period of the Commonwealth, was born in the early 
years of the seventeenth century, and died in 1667. 
The son of a Cambridge tradesman, he entered Caius 
College at the age of thirteen, and there remained till 
he took his degree. Archbishop Laud was struck by 
his talents while he was supplying for a time the place 
of the Lecturer at St. Paul's Cathedral, procured his 
election as Fellow of All Souls, made him his chaplain, 
and gave him after a time the Rectory of Uppingham. 
In 1642 he was made Chaplain to the King, and, after 
the strife had broken out, attended him in his military 
movements. When the Royal cause was shattered, he 
was allowed to officiate for the Earl of Carbury at the 
Golden Grove in Carmarthenshire, and to teach a 
school. There he wrote his principal works, until, 
almost at a blow, he lost three sons by sickness. Then 
he went to London, and, not without great hazard, 
ministered to a congregation of Loyalists. He after- 
wards went to Ireland with Lord Conway, and, after 
the Restoration, was made Bishop first of Down and 

1 From Sir Egerton Brydges' British Bibliography, \. 71. 

2 E. Taylor's Flowers and Fruits from Old English Gardens, 1864, 119. 



Old English Verse 249 

Connor, and afterwards of Dromore. His Golden Grove, 
written during his retirement in Wales, treated of 
Things to be Believed, Things to be Done, Things to 
be Prayed for, and concluded with some hymns for 
festivals and solemn days. His vivid and exuberant 
imagination found freer scope in prose than in measure; 
but his poetry is by no means wanting in the qualities 
which gave splendour to his general style. The follow- 
ing is part of a hymn for Advent : 

When, Lord, O when, shall we 
Our dear salvation see ? 

Arise, arise ! 

Our fainting eyes 
Have longed all night ; and 'twas a long one too. 

But Thou hast given us hopes that we 
At length another day shall see 

Wherein each vile neglected place, 

Gilt with the aspect of Thy face, 
Shall be, like that, the porch and gate of heaven. 

How long, dear God, how long ! 

See how the nations throng : 

All human kind, 

Knit and combined 
Into one body, look for Thee their Head. 

Pity our multitude ; 

Lord, we are vile and rude, 

Headless, and senseless, without Thee, 
Of all things but the want of Thy blest face : 
O haste apace, 

And Thy bright self to this our body wed ! ; 

From the Second Hymn for Advent : 

Lord, come away : 

Why dost Thou stay ? 
The road is ready, and Thy paths, made straight, 

With longing expectation wait 
The consecration of Thy beauteous feet. 

Ride on triumphantly ; behold, we lay 

Our lusts and proud wills in Thy way. 

Hosanna ! welcome to our hearts ! Lord, here 

Thou hast a temple too, and full as dear 

As that of Sion, and as full of sin : 

1 Jeremy Taylor's Works , ed. by Bishop Heber, vol. xv. p. 76. 



250 Religious Thought in 

Nothing but thieves and robbers dwell therein : 
Enter and chase them forth, and cleanse the floor. 

And then, if our stiff tongues shall be 
Mute in the presence of Thy Deity, 
The stones out of the temple wall 
Shall cry aloud, and call 
Hosanna ! and Thy glorious footsteps greet. Amen. 1 

George Wither (1588-1667) is sometimes called the 
Puritan poet. The term is not quite correct, for he did 
not adopt Puritan opinions till 1646, and many of his 
poems were published long before this. His life was 
spent among many vicissitudes. He had been brought 
up in comfort, if not in luxury, and had spent two years 
at Magdalen College, Oxford, when a sudden reverse in 
his father's fortunes summoned him home to hold the 
plough. After a while he made his way to London, 
and entered at Lincoln's Inn. He soon became known 
as a writer of poetry and satire. Tho galling force with 
which he lashed the vices of the time made him enemies, 
and lodged him for some time in the Marshalsea prison, 
where he appears to have suffered great hardships. In 
1623 he published his Hymns and Songs of the Church. 
They were set to music by Orlando Gibbons, one of the 
best musicians of the day. In 1625 he acted a noble 
part in aiding the sick and dying in the Plague. In 
1631 he published his version of the Psalms. During 
the Civil Wars he threw himself with great vigour and 
vehemence into the Puritan cause, and at the Restora- 
tion was sent first to Newgate, then to the Tower. In 
1663 he was released, and was in London at the time 
of the second Plague and the Great Fire. He was always 
a man of simple piety and austere principle, and, though 
he changed and veered in politics, it was not from lack 
of honesty. He lost the Protector's goodwill through 
his wholly unbending demeanour to him. 

In his Hymns and Songs of the Church, Wither ren- 
dered into verse a good deal of the poetry both of the 

1 feremy Taylor's Works, p. 82. 



Old English Verse 251 

Old and New Testaments. The following is the second 
verse in the Song of Deborah : 

When Thou departedst, Lord, from Seir, 
When Thou leftst Edom's field, 
Earth shook, the heavens dropped there, 
The clouds did water yield. 

Lord, at Thy sight 

A trembling fright 
Upon the mountains fell : 

E'en at Thy look 

Mount Sinai shook, 
Lord God of Israel I 1 

These are followed by hymns for the holy days and fast 
days of the Church, and for other special occasions. I 
quote the first two stanzas out of sixteen of the Song 
for Good Friday : 

You -that like heedless strangers pass along, 
As if nought here concerned you to-day ; 

Draw near, and hear the saddest passion song 
That ever you did meet with on your way : 

So sad a story ne'er was told before, 

Nor shall there be the like for evermore. 

The greatest King that ever wore a crown, 
More than the basest vassal was abused ; 

The truest Lover that was ever known, 

By them He loved was most unkindly used ; 

And He that was from all transgressions clear, 

Was plagued for all the sins that ever were. 2 

Among his other hymns may be specially mentioned 
the carol, ' As on the Night before this Happy Morn' 3 
the psalm beginning, 'Come, O come, in pious lays, 
Sing we God Almighty's praise ' 4 the morning hymn, 
' Since Thou hast added now, O God, Unto my life an- 
other day,' and especially his evening hymn, ' Behold the 
sun, that seemed but now Enthroned overhead,' which 

1 George Wither 's Hymns and Songs of the Church, ed. by E. Farr. 
Song iii. 
z Id. Song Iv. 

3 Id. Song xlvi. It may be also seen in Sylvester's Garland of Christ- 
mas Carols, p. in. 

4 It is quoted in Lord Selborne's Book of Praise, as are also the 
Morning and Evening Hymns. 



252 Religious Thought in 

last I forbear quoting, only to give more room for a 
part of his delightful Lullaby Song: 

Sweet baby, sleep \ What ails my dear, 

What ails my darling thus to cry? 
Be still, my child, and lend thine ear 

To hear me sing thy lullaby. 
My pretty lamb, forbear to weep ; 
Be still, my dear ; sweet baby, sleep ! 

Thou blessed soul, what canst thou fear? 

What thing to thee can mischief do ? 
Thy God is now thy Father dear, 

His holy Spouse thy mother too. 
Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep ; 
Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep. 

While thus thy lullaby I sing, 

For thee great blessings ripening be ; 

Thine Eldest Brother is a King, 

And hath a kingdom bought for thee. 

Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep ; 

Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep. 

Sweet baby, sleep, and nothing fear; 

For whosoever thee offends 
By thy protector threatened are, 

And God and angels are thy friends. 
Sweet baby, etc. 

When God with us was dwelling here, 

In little babes He took delight ; 
Such innocents as thou, my dear, 

Are ever precious in His sight. 
Sweet baby, etc. 

A little infant once was He, 

And strength in weakness then was laid 

Upon His Virgin mother's knee, 
That power to thee might be conveyed. 

Sweet baby, etc. 

In this thy frailty and thy need 

He friends and helpers doth prepare, 

Which thee shall cherish, clothe, and feed 
For of thy weal they tender are. 

Sweet baby, etc. 



Old English Verse 253 

The wants that He did then sustain 

Have purchased wealth, my babe, for thee ; 

And by His torments and His pain 
Thy rest and ease secured be. 

My baby, etc. 

Thou hast, yet more, to perfect this, 

A promise and an earnest got 
Of gaining everlasting bliss, 

Though thou, my babe, perceiv'st it not. 
Sweet baby, etc. 

Among his other poems, 1 must simply refer to a 
pleasing Hymn for Anniversaries of Marriage, and to 
some pathetic lines on the Loss of an only Child)- 

Nicholas Billingsly published his Treasury of Divine 
Raptures in 1667. In it he has ranged a great variety 
of subjects in a series of short poems, under the first 
three letters of the alphabet. They are not very note- 
worthy, but some contain pithy expressions. Thus, 
under the heading Burdens : 

God never burthens us, but that He may 
Unburthen us of sin. 2 

John Austin, a Roman Catholic, published in 1668 his 
Devotions in the Ancient Way of Offices. Among the 
prayers and meditations there are a number of hymns. 
The following is from the Office for Sunday Lauds : 

Hark, my soul, how every thing 
Strives to serve the bounteous king : 
Each a double tribute pays, 
Sings its part, and then obeys. 

Nature's sweet and chiefest quire 
Him with cheerful notes admire ; 
Chanting every day their lauds 
Whilst the grove their song applauds. 

Though their voices lower be, 
Streams have too their melody ; 
Night and day they warbling run, 
Never pause but still sing on. 

All the flowers that gild the spring 
Hither their still music bring ; 

1 E. Taylor's Flowers and Fruits from Old English Gardens, p. 105. 
a Corser's Collectanea Anglo-Poetica^ ii. 204. 



254 Religious Thought in 

If heav'n bless them, thankful they 
Smell more sweet, and look more gay. 

Only we can scarce afford 
One short office to our Lord ; 
We on whom His bounty flows, 
All things gives and nothing owes. 

Wake for shame, my sluggish heart, 
Wake, and gladly sing thy part ; 
Learn of birds and springs and flowers 
How to use thy nobler powers. 

Call on nature to thy aid, 

Since 'twas He whole nature made ; 

Join in one eternal song, 

Who to one God all belong. 

Live for ever, glorious Lord ! 
Live by all Thy works adored ! 
One in Three, and Three in One, 
Thrice we bow to Thee alone. 1 

The following, by John Austin, I borrow from that 
interesting collection of poetry, Poems of the Inner 
Life: 

SEEKING GOD. 

Fain would my thoughts fly up to Thee, 

Thy peace, sweet Lord, to find ; 
But when I offer, still the world 

Lays clogs upon my mind. 

Sometimes I climb a little way 

And thence look down below : 
How nothing, there, do all things seem 

That here make such a show ! 

Then round about I turn my eyes 

To feast my hungry sight ; 
I meet with heaven in every thing, 

In every thing delight. 

I see Thy wisdom ruling all, 

And it with joy admire ; 
I see myself among such hopes 

As set my heart on fire. 

1 John Austin, Devotions in the Ancient Way of Offices, third ed. 1684, 
p. 76. 



Old English Verse 255 

When I have thus triumphed awhile, 

And think to build my nest, 
Some cross conceits come fluttering by 

And interrupt my rest. 

Then to the earth again I fall, 

And from my low dust cry, 
' 'Twas not in my wing, Lord, but Thine, 

That I got up so high.' 

And now, my God, whether I rise, 

Or still lie down in dust, 
Both I submit to Thy blest will ; 

In both, on Thee I trust. 

Guide thou my way, who art Thyself 

My everlasting end, 
That every step, or swift or slow, 

Still to Thyself may tend. 1 

Henry King (1592-1669) was a son of John King, 
Bishop of London. He himself, after holding various 
preferments, as the rectories of Chigwell, Fulham, 
Petworth, a prebend of St. Paul's, the archdeaconry of 
Colchester, and the deanery of Rochester, was con- 
secrated to the See of Chichester in 1641. When 
Chichester at the end of the next year surrendered to 
the Parliament, his goods were ransacked, his estates 
sequestrated, and he had to bear many indignities from 
the soldiery. After a short imprisonment he was per- 
mitted to find a home among his friends. At the 
Restoration the See of Chichester was restored to him. 
He was intimate with Isaac Walton, and with Dr. 
Donne, whom he speaks of in one of his letters as his 
' dear and incomparable friend.' He was also familiar 
with George Herbert, Hall, Ben Jonson, and Sandys. 
His version of the Psalms was published in 1651, 
his poems in 1657. His Psalms are not for the 
most part very successful. The following lines from 
Psalm cxxxix. are as worthy as any of quotation : 

How shall I from Thy spirit fly, 
Or Thy all-present power deny ? 

Poems of the Inner Life, 1877, p. 117. 



256 Religious Thought in 

If I climb Heaven, 'tis Thine own sphere ; 
If stoop to Hell, lo, thou art there, 
If borne upon the morning's wing, 
Far as the sea doth swell or spring 
Thy right hand shall protect and lead, 
Where'er my weary footsteps tread. 
If I pretend the darkness shall 
Upon me like a covering fall, 
Those heavy fogs, those mists of night, 
Will quickly clear and turn to light. 
The thickest shade, or blackest cloud, 
Can nothing from Thy knowledge shroud 
For darkness doth like noontide shine, 
Light'ned by brighter beams of thine. 1 

There is nothing, however, in King's poems equal to 
the tenderness and pathos of his elegy to the memory of 
his wife, from which I extract the following lines : 

Sleep on, my love, in thy cold bed, 

Never to be disquieted ! 

My last good-night ! Thou wilt not wake, 

Till I thy fate shall overtake : 

Till age, or grief, or sickness must 

Marry my body to the dust 

It so much loves ; and fill the room 

My heart keeps empty in thy tomb. 

Stay for me there ; I will not fail 

To meet thee in that hollow Vale : 

And think not much of my delay ; 

I am already on the way, 

And follow thee with all the speed 

Desires can make, or sorrows breed, 

Each minute is a short degree, 

And every hour a step towards thee. 

At night when I betake to rest, 

Next morn I rise nearer my West 

Of life, almost by eight hours' sail 

Than when sleep breathed his drowsy gale. 

The thought of this bids me go on, 

And wait my dissolution 

With hope and comfort. Dear (forgive 

The crime) I am content to live 

Divided, with but half a heart, 

Till we shall meet and never part.' 

1 Poems and Psalms of Henry King, ed. by J. Hannah, 1845. 
- Id. p. 27 The Exequy. 



Old English Verse 257 

Richard Crashaw (c. 1603-1650) was Fellow of Peter- 
House, Cambridge, but was ejected from his Fellowship 
in 1644 for refusing to take the Covenant. He some- 
time after adopted the Roman Catholic Faith, led to it 
by his enthusiastic admiration of the saintly mystic, 
St. Theresa. After suffering much from extreme 
poverty in Paris, he was introduced by the poet Cowley 
to the exiled Queen Henrietta, and through her in- 
terest became Secretary to one of the Cardinals, and 
Sub-Canon at Loretto. There is much tenderness and 
depth of feeling in his sacred verses, none the less 
discernible amid the quibs and conceits of language 
often affected by him. Sometimes, however, there is 
too much of the love-song in them. The following 
is from a poem To the Name of Jesus : 

Cheer thee, my heart ; 

For thou too hast a. part 

And place in the great throng 
Of this unbounded, all-embracing song. 

Powers of my soul, be proud, 

And speak aloud 

To all the dear-bought nations this redeeming name, 
And in the wealth of one rich word proclaim 

New smiles to nature. 

May it be no wrong, 

Blest Heaven, to you and your superior song, 
That we, dark sons of dust and sorrow, 

A while dare borrow 

The name of your delights and our desires, 
And fit it to so far inferior lyres ; 

Our murmurs have their music too, 

Ye mighty souls, as well as you, 

Nor yield the noblest nest 
Of warbling seraphims to the cares of love 
A choicer lesson than the loyal breast 

Of a poor panting turtle-dove. 1 

From the Divine Epigrams the following is one of 
two lines Upon the Sepulchre of our Lord; 

Here where our Lord once lay His head 
Now the grave lies burie*d. 

1 Crasha-Ms Poems, Anderson's English Poets, vol. iv. 
R 



258 Religious Thought in 

Another is on Two Men went up into the Tenipie to 
pray : 

Two went to pray ? O, rather say, 
One went to brag, th' other to pray : 
One stands up close and treads on high, 
Where th' other does not send his eye ; 
One nearer to God's altar trod ; 
The other to the altar's God. 

John, one of Francis Quarles's eighteen children was, 
like his father, a writer of sacred verse (1624-65). He 
was at Exeter College. Oxford, served as chaplain in the 
Royal forces, went abroad during the Commonwealth, 
and died of the plague in London. The following is 
from one of his hymns : 

Great God, Thy garden is defaced, 
The weeds thrive there, Thy flowers decay 

O call to mind Thy promise past, 
Restore Thou them, cut these away : 

Till then let not the weeds have power 

To starve or stint the poorest flower. 

Shall mountain, desert, beast, and tree, 
Yield to that heaven y voice of Thine, 

And shall that voice not startle me, 
Nor stir this stone, this heart of mine? 

No, Lord, till Thou new bore mine ear, 

Thy voice is lost, I cannot hear. 

Fountain of light and living breath, 

Whose mercies never fail nor fade, 
Fill me with life that hath no death, 

Fill me with light that hath no shade, 
Appoint the remnant of my days 
To see Thy power and sing Thy praise. 

Lord God of gods, before whose throne 
Stand storms and fire, O what shall we 

Return to heaven that is our own, 
When all the world belongs to Thee ? 

We have no offering to impart 

But praises and a wounded heart. 

What I possess, or what I crave 

Brings no content, Great God, to me, 



Old English Verse 259 

If what I would, or what I have, 

Be not possest and blest in Thee : 
What I enjoy, O make it mine, 
In making me, that have it, Thine. 1 

Abraham Cowley (1618-1667) was indeed a poet 
from a child, for his Pyramus and Thisbe, which holds a 
respectable place among his poems, was written in his 
tenth year, and before he was thirteen he was already 
the author of a volume of poetry. From Cambridge, 
where he was at college, he migrated to Oxford, as 
being the headquarters of the Royalists, to whom he had 
warmly attached himself. He there became an intimate 
friend of Lord Falkland. During the Commonwealth 
he was in Paris, secretary to the Earl of St. Alban's. 
In 1656, he was sent to England on a confidential 
mission, found himself in danger, and thought of retiring 
to America. After the Restoration he lived at Chertsey. 
His remains lie in Westminster Abbey between Chaucer 
and Spenser. As a poet, his name does not by any 
means rank with theirs, and, indeed, the artificial glitter 
of the style did more for a length of time to corrupt 
than to enrich the English tongue. Yet he was well 
worthy of high honour, as one who joined great wit, 
learning, and brilliancy to the virtues and humility of a 
good Christian man. 

Cowley did not write much sacred poetry of any 
interest, for his Davideis a poem in four books on the 
history of David was written in a form that did not 
suit his particular talents, and is very uninteresting. 
But he had a full perception of the capacity which 
sacred subjects have for poetical treatment. ' When I 
consider,' he writes, ' how many bright and magnificent 
subjects the holy Scripture affords and proffers, as it 
were, to poesy, in the wise managing and illustrating 
whereof the glory of God Almighty might be joined 
with the singular ability and noblest delight of man- 
kind, it is not without grief and indignation that I 

1 J. Quarles, in R. Cattermole's Sacred Poetry of the Seventeenth Century ', 
vol. ii. p. 363. 



Religious Thought in 

behold that divine Science employing all her inexhaust- 
ible riches of art and eloquence either in the wicked and 
beggarly flattery of great persons, or the unmanly 
idolizing of foolish women, or the wretched affectation 
of scurril laughter, or, at best, on the confused anti- 
quated dreams of senseless fables and metamorphoses.' 
It was time, he added, to recover poetry from its too 
general debasement, and ' to restore it to the kingdom 
of God, who is the father of it.' * 

The following is part of some verses on Reason: the 
Use of it in Divine Matters. He has been speaking of 
the vain expectation of visions and inspirations, in the 
hope of which some sacrifice the gift of reasoning, and 

Like senseless chemists, their own wealth destroy. 
Imaginary gold t' enjoy. 

Then he continues : 

In vain, alas ! these outward hopes are tried ; 

Reason within 's our only guide. 

Reason ! which (God be praised !) still walks, for'all 

Its old original fall : 

And since Itself the boundless Godhead join'd 

With a reasonable mind, 

It plainly shows that mysteries divine 

May with our reason join. 

The holy Book, like the eighth sphere, does shine 

With thousand lights of truth divine ; 

So numberless the stars, that to the eye 

It makes but all one galaxy. 

Yet reason must assist, too, for in seas. 

So vast and dangerous are these, 

Our course by stars above we cannot know 

Without the compass too below. 

Though reason cannot through faith's mysteries see, 

It sees that these and such there be, 

Leads to heaven doors, and there does humbly keep, 

And there through chinks and keyholes peep ; 

Though it, like Moses, by a sad command, 

Must not come into th' Holy Land, 

Yet thither it infallibly does guide, 

And from afar 'tis all descried. 2 

1 From the Preface to his Works. 

2 Cowley's Works. Anderson's English Poets. 



Old English Verse 261 



CHRIST'S PASSION. 

Enough, my Muse, of earthly things, 
And inspirations but of wind, 
Take up thy lute, and to it bind 
Loud and everlasting strings ; 
And on them play, and to them sing 
The happy mournful stories, 
The lamentable glories, 
Of the great Crucified King. 
Mountainous heap of wonders ! which dost rise 

Till earth thou joinest with the skies ! 
Too large at bottom, and at top too high, 
To be half seen by mortal eye. 
How shall I grasp this boundless thing ? 
What shall I play ? What shall I sing ? 
I '11 sing the mighty riddle of mysterious love, 
Which neither wretched man below, nor blessed spirits above, 

With all their comments can explain, 
How all the whole world's Life to die did not disdain. 

I '11 sing the searchless depths of the compassion divine, 

The depths unfathom'd yet 
By reason's plummet, and the line of coil ; 
Too light the plummet, and too short the line ; 
How the Eternal Father did bestow 
His own Eternal Son as ransom for His foe. 
1 '11 sing aloud, that all aloud may hear 
The triumph of the buried Conqueror. 
How hell was by its prisoner captive led, 
And the great slayer, Death, slain by the dead. 

Methinks I hear of murdered men the voice, 
Mixed with the murderer's confused noise, 

Sound from the top of Calvary : 
My greedy eyes fly up the hill, and see 
Who 'tis hangs there the midmost of the three ; 

Oh, how unlike the others He ! 
Look how He bends His gentle head with blessings from the 

tree ! 

His gracious hands, ne'er stretched but to do good, 
Are nailed to th' infamous wood, 
And sinful man does fondly bind 
The arms which He extends to embrace all human kind. 

Unhappy man ! canst thou stand by and see 
All this, as patient as He? 
Since He thy sin does bear. 



262 Religious Thought in 

Make thou His sufferings thine own, 

And weep, and sigh, and groan, 

And beat thy breast, and tear 

Thy garments and thy hair, 

And let thy grief, and let thy love 

Through all thy bleeding bowels move. 
Dost Thou not see thy Prince in purple clad all o'er, 

Not purple brought from the Sidonian shore, 

But made at home with richer gore ? 
Dost thou not see the roses, which adorn 

The thorny garland, by Him worn ? 

Dost thou not see the livid traces 

Of the sharp scourge's rude embraces ? 

If yet thou feelest not the smart 

Of thorns and scourges in thy heart, 

If that be yet not crucified, 
Look on His hands, look on His feet, look on His side. 

Open, oh ! open wide the fountains of thine eyes, 
And let them call 

Their stock of moisture forth where'er it lies, 
For this will ask it all. 
'Twould all, alas ! too little be, 
Though thy salt tears came from a sea : 
Canst thou deny Him this, when He 
Has opened all His vital springs for thee? 

Take heed ! for by His side's mysterious flood 
May well be understood, 

That He will still require some waters to His blood. 

Edmund Waller (1605-87) wrote some Divine Poems 
very near the close of a long life. Possessed of a large 
fortune, related to Cromwell and Hampden on the one 
side, and connected with some noble families on the 
other, gifted with wit, eloquence, and social powers, he 
might have occupied a very prominent position in the 
State. He had been chosen a member of Parliament 
in his eighteenth year, when James the First was reign- 
ing, and in his eightieth year was a member of the first 
Parliament of James the Second. Unfortunately for 
his fame, his public career was marred by time-serving ; 
and though he maintained a considerable position under 
five rulers, it was only by a pliancy which said more 
for his address than for his principles. It must be said, 
however, that his verses were never stained by anything 



Old English Verse 263 

unworthy or corrupt. His regret in his last declining 
years was, that he had not used his powers more de- 
finitely in the service of God. He concludes his poem 
On the Fear of God ; 

Wrestling with death, these lines I did endite ; 

No other theme could give my soul delight. 

that my youth had thus employed my pen ! 
Or that I now could write as well as then ! 
But 'tis of grace, if sickness, age, and pain, 
Are felt as throes when we are born again : 
Timely they come to wean us from the earth, 
As pangs that wait upon a second birth. 1 

The following are some fine lines upon the keener 
spiritual insight of advanced years : 

The seas are quiet when the winds give o'er, 
So calm are we when passions are no more ! 
For then we know how vain it was to boast 
Of fleeting things so certain to be lost. 
Clouds of affection from our younger eyes 
Conceal that emptiness which age descries. 

The soul's dark cottage, batter'd and decay'd, 
Lets in new light through chinks that time has made : 
Stronger by weakness, wiser men become, 
As they draw near to their eternal home. 
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view, 
That stand upon the threshold of the new. 

A couple of distichs from his poems may be 
added : 

A soul capacious of the Deity 
Nothing but He that made can satisfy. 

On the Fear of God. 

Love as He loved ! How can we soar so high ? 
He can add wings, when He commands to fly. 

On Divine Love. 

A poem of two hundred and twenty-four stanzas on 
the Day of Doom was published in 1673 anonymously, 
but is now attributed to a clergyman named Wiggles- 
worth. It begins thus : 

Still was the night, serene and bright, 

When all men sleeping lay ; 
Calm was the season, and carnal reason 
Thought so 'twould last for aye. 

1 Waller's Poems. Anderson's English Poets, vol. v. 



264 Religious Thought in 

Soul, take thine ease, let sorrow cease ; 

Much good thou hast in store ; 
This was their song, their cups among, 

The evening before. 

Wallowing in all kinds of sin, 

Vile wretches lay secure ; 
The best of men had scarcely then 

Their lamps kept in good ure [practice]. 
Virgins unwise, who through disguise, 

Among the best were numberd. 
Had closed their eyes ; yea, and the wise, 

Through sloth and frailty slumber'd. 

Like as of old, when men grew bold, 

God's threat'nings to contemn, 
Who stopt their ear, and would not hear, 

When mercy warned them ; 
But took their course, without remorse. 

Till God began to pour 
Destruction the world upon, 

In a tempestuous shower ; 

They put away the evil day, 

And still they drown'd their cares, 
Till drown'd were they, and swept away 

By vengeance unawares : 
So, at the last, whilst men sleep fast 

In their security, 
Surprised they are in such a snare 

As cometh suddenly. 

For at midnight broke forth a light 

Which turn'd the night to day : 
And speedily an hideous cry 

Did all the world dismay. 
Sinners awake, their hearts do ache, 

Trembling their loins surprised! ; 
Amazed with fear, by what they hear, 

Each one of them ariseth. 

They rush from beds with giddy heads, 

And to their windows run, 
Viewing this light which shines more bright 

Than doth the noonday sun. 
Straightway appears (they see 't with tears) 

The Son of God most dread ; 
Who with His train comes on amain, 

To judge both Quick and Dead ! * 

1 Corsen Colkctanea Anglo- Poetica, v. 128. 



Old English Verse 265 

The religious verses of Robert Herrick (1591-1674) 
are by no means wanting in beauty and interest. Her- 
rick was not ordained till he was approaching his fortieth 
year. He had gone late to Cambridge, and after leav- 
ing the University, undecided as yet what profession 
he should enter upon, had plunged wildly into all the 
revelries to which club life in London then invited 
young men of literature and wit. During the nine 
years thus spent, his Anacreonic effusions were all of 
love and wine and gay fancies. Then, at last, as he 
says in one of his poems, ' wiser conclusions ' came over 
him, and he longed to ' shape his function for more 
glorious ends.' He felt that he must break off the self- 
indulgences and entanglements of earlier life. He was 
ordained in 1629 to the vicarage of the little village of 
Dean Prior in Devon. This rural seclusion seemed 
something of a banishment to him ; and by contrast 
to the life and brightness of the society he had been 
used to, the people seemed to him 

churlish as the seas, 
And rude (almost) as rudest savages. 1 

When, being a thorough-going Royalist, he was ejected 
in 1647, he declared himself ' ravisht in spirit' at the 
thought of returning to London ' blest place of his 
nativitie.' Still his verses show that he was not unable 
to appreciate the tranquillities of a homely country life. 
At the time of his ejection, he thought nothing would 
ever induce him to return to it ; but at the Restoration 
he was well content to find his way again to his old 
parish, and he died there at the age of eighty-three. 

There had always been a vein of seriousness in 
Herrick's mirth. The remembrance of death lurked 
amid his gayest verses, as it does in the festive odes of 
Horace, or as it is imaged in the skull that peers out 
amid the grapes and satyrs of a Greek flagon. His 
entry upon holy orders inspired him with many new 
feelings of responsibility and purpose. But his general 

1 Herrick's Poems, ed. by A. B. Grosart. Hesperides 'To Dean-bourn.' 



266 Religious Thought in 

temperament was what it was before. There was the 
same irrepressible spirit of merriment, and of not too 
chastened humour, and the same interfused thread of 
thoughtfulness and grave reflection. In his poetry he 
had done with . 

my unbaptized rhimes, 
Writ in my wild unhallowed times, 

and was employing his pen in what he has entitled 
Noble Numbers. But even in his gravest and most 
solemn thoughts, he cannot refrain a jest at what 
strikes his fancy as humorous even in the most 
critical circumstances of life. Witness his Litany when, 
in thinking of the spiritual comfort he will need in the 
dread hour of death, a thought comes into his mind of 
the doctor standing helplessly by the patient whom he 
has given up. The Litany itself is a touching one and 
in part well known. Among the verses given here, I 
include those I have referred to : 

In the hour of my distress, 
When temptations me oppress, 
And when I my sins confess, 
Sweet Spirit, comfort me. 

When I lie within my bed, 
Sick in heart and sick in head, 
And with doubt discomforted, 
Sweet Spirit, comfort me ! 

When the house doth sigh and weep 
And the world is drown'd in sleep, 
Yet mine eyes the watch do keep. 
Sweet Spirit, comfort me ! 

When the artless doctor sees 
No more hope, but of his fees, 
And his skill runs on the lees, 
Sweet Spirit, comfort me ! 

When his potion and his pill 
Has, or none, or little skill, 
Meet for nothing but to kill, 
Sweet Spirit, comfort me! 



Old English Verse 267 

When the tapers now burn blue, 
And the comforters are few, 
And that number more than J true, 
Sweet Spirit, comfort me ! 

When the priest his last hath pray'd, 
And I nod to what is said, 
'Cause my speech is now decay'd, 
Sweet Spirit, comfort me ! 

When [God knows] I 'm tost about, 
Either with despair or doubt, 
Yet before the glass be out, 

Sweet Spirit, comfort me ! - 

The following verses are entitled The Goodness of Jiis 
Lord : 

When winds and seas do rage, 

And threaten to undo me, 
Thou dost their wrath assuage, 
If I but call unto Thee. 

A mighty storm last night 

Did seek my soul to swallow, 
But by the peep of light 

A gentle calm did follow. 

What need I then despair, 

Though ill stand round about me ; 

Since mischiefs neither dare 
To bark or bite without Thee. :i 

FROM SOME LINES ' TO GOD.' 

Make, make me Thine, my gracious God, 
Or with Thy staff, or with Thy rod ; 
And be the blow too what it will, 
Lord, I will kiss it, though it kill. 4 

SOME LINES 'TO HIS EVER-LOVING GOD.' 

Can I not come to Thee, my God, for these 

So very-many-meeting hindrances, 

That slack my pace, but yet not make me stay ? 

Who slowly goes, rids in the end his way. 

Clear Thou my paths, or shorten Thou my miles, 

Remove the bars, or lift me o'er the stiles ; 

1 i.e. more in number than true in friendship. 

" Herrick's Poems, iii. 132. z Id. iii. 174. 4 Id. iii. 138. 



268 Religious Thought in 

Since rough the way is, help me when I call, 
And take me up, or else prevent the fall, 
I ken my home ; and it affords some ease 
To see far off the smoking villages. 
Fain would I rest ; yet covet not to die 
For fear of future biting penury : 
No, no, my God, Thou know'st my wishes be 
To leave this life, not loving it, but Thee. 1 

ANOTHER. 

Thou bidst me come ; I cannot come ; for why, 
Thou dwell'st aloft, and I want wings to fly, 
To mount my soul, she must have pinions given ; 
For, 'tis no easy way from earth to heaven. 2 

HUMILITY. 

Humble we must be, if to Heaven we go, 
High is the roof there ; but the gate is low. 3 

My last quotation shall be from A Thanksgiving to 
God for his House : 

Lord, Thou hast given me a cell 

Wherein to dwell. 
A little house, whose humble roof 

Is weatherproof. 
Under the spars of which I lie 

Both soft and dry ; 
Where Thou, my chamber for to ward, 

Hast set a guard 
Of harmless thoughts, to watch and keep 

Me, while I sleep. 
Low is my porch, as is my fate, 

Both void of state ; 
And yet the threshold of my door 

Is worn by th' poor, 
Who thither come, and freely get 

Good words, or meat. 

Lord, 'tis thy plenty-dropping hand 

That soils [enriches] my land ; 

And giv'st me, for my bushel sown 
Twice ten for one ; 

Thou mak'st my teeming hen to lay 
Her egg each day ; 

1 HerricK s I'oetns, iii. 139. 

2 Id. 140. 3 Id. 156. 



Old English Verse 269 

Besides my healthful ewes to bear 

Me twins each year : 
The while the conduits of my kine 

Run cream [for wine] 
All these, and better thou dost send 

Me, to this end, 
That I should render for my part 

A thankful heart ; 
Which, fired with incense, I resign 

As wholly thine ; 
But the acceptance, that must be, 

My Christ, by Thee. 1 

The family of John Milton (1608-74) seems to have 
derived its name from Great Milton in Oxfordshire, 
where, until their lands were sequestered in the Wars 
of the Roses, his forefathers had held a position of some 
standing. His grandfather was a substantial yeoman, 
ranger of the forest of Shotover ; his father a scrivener 
of repute who lived in Cheapside and was particularly 
distinguished for his great musical talent. The poet 
in his boyhood had excellent tuition both at St. Paul's 
school, than which there was then no better school in 
England, and from Thomas Young his private tutor. He 
was an eager student, rarely, even at the age of twelve, 
leaving his books till midnight or later ; and when, in 
his seventeenth year, he went to Christ's College, Cam- 
bridge, was already well known for his skill in Latin 
and for the elegance of his Latin verse. His taste for 
English poetry was also early developed. 2 The versions, 
printed in his works, of the Ii4th and I36th Psalms 
were written by him when he was but fifteen. Of the 
poets, Spenser was his special favourite. At Cambridge 
he spent more than seven years, but without much 
satisfaction to himself. His temper, independent to a 
fault, could ill brook either the restraints of the some- 
what pedagogic discipline which the great youth of 
many of the students doubtless made necessary, or the 
dull scholastic formalities and narrow ecclesiasticism, 

1 HerricWs Poems, 135. 

2 Quoted in Grosart's Mem. Introd. to Herrick's Poems, ccvi. 



2 7O Religious Thought in 

which were apt to encumber the teaching. He left 
Cambridge in 1632, resolved at last not to take orders 
in the Church of England, with no idea of any other 
profession, but, as his letters show, with some great and 
fixed project in his mind. It was at this time he wrote 
his second sonnet, in which he says that though his 
inward ripeness may seem tardy 

Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow, 
It shall be still in strictest measure even [proportional] 

To that same lot, however mean or high, 
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heaven ; 

All is, if I have grace to use it so, 
As ever in my great Taskmaster's eye. 

His father had now retired from business and had 
settled at Horton in Buckinghamshire. There for five 
years in quietness and study Milton prepared himself, 
with a depth of purpose which had in it something of 
solemnity, for the vocation of a great poet. ' I have,' 
he wrote in 1641, an ' inward prompting which grows 
daily upon me, that by labour and intent study, which 
I take to be my portion in this life, joined with the 
strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave 
something so written to after times, as they would not 
willingly let it die.' And after speaking of the know- 
ledge and virtue requisite for the writer of 'a true 
poem,' he adds : ' This is not to be obtained but by 
devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit that can enrich 
with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his 
Seraphim with the hallowed fire of His altar, to touch 
and purify the lives of those whom He pleases.' 

In 1629, while he was yet at Cambridge, he had 
written the Ode on the Nativity. This fine poem bears 
marks of immaturity, of knowledge not yet fully as- 
similated, and of imagination not yet held firmly under 
constraint, but contains passages which quite presage 
the grandeur of Paradise Lost. Such are the words 
which tell of the general peace reigning throughout the 

1 Quoted in Mark Pattison's Milton, 1879, P- *6. 



Old English Verse 2 7 1 

* 

vast Roman Empire at the time when Christ was 
born 

No war, or battle's sound 
Was heard the world around : 

The idle spear and shield were high up hung, 
The hooke"d chariot stood 
Unstain'd with hostile blood ; 

The trumpet spake not to the arme'd throng, 
And kings sat still with awful eye, 
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by. 

Or the hymn of the angels on Christ's birth : 

Such music (as 'tis said) 
Before was never made 

But when of old the sons of morning sung, 
While the Creator great 
His constellations set, 

And the well-balanced world on hinges hung, 
And cast the dark foundations deep, 
And bid the welt'ring waves their oozy channel keep. 

Ring out, ye crystal spheres, 
Once bless our human ears, 

If ye have power to touch our senses so ; 
And let your silver chime 
Move in melodious time, 

And let the base of heaven's deep organ blow ; 
And in your ninefold harmony 
Make up full consort to th' angelic symphony. 

Such too are the splendid stanzas which represented 
the pagan deities vanquished and departing from the 
earth, beginning ' The oracles are dumb.' 

To the Horton period belong L' Allegro and // 
Penseroso, Lycidas, and Comus. There is nothing as 
yet of the Puritan in those beautiful and familiar lines 
in II Penseroso (1632) : 

But let my due feet never fail 
To walk the studious cloisters pale, 
And love the high embowed roof, 
With antic pillars massy proof, 
And storied windows richly dight 
Casting a dim religious light ; 
There let the pealing organ blow 
To the full-voiced quire below 



272 Religious Thought in 

K 

In service high, and anthems clear, 

As may with sweetness, through mine ear, 

Dissolve me into ecstasies, 

And bring all heaven before mine eyes. 

Neither was Milton a Puritan when he wrote, in 
Counts (1634), the last Cavalier mask ; introducing never- 
theless, gracefully and without effort, into the fantastic 
pageantry essential to these shows an element of 
spiritual beauty and nobility of purpose which raised it 
high above the level of other such representations. For 
example : 

This I hold firm ; 

Virtue may be assail'd but never hurt, 
Surprised by unjust force, but not inthrall'd ; 
Yea, even that which Mischief meant most harm, 
Shall in the happy trial prove most glory : 
But evil on itself shall back recoil, 
And mix no more with goodness, when at last, 
Gathered like scum, and settled tp itself, 
It shall be in eternal restless change 
Self-fed, and self-consumed : if this fail, 
The pillar'd firmament is rottenness, 
And earth's base built on stubble. 1 

From the exquisite dirge entitled Lycidas (1637), 
may be quoted those lines near the end : 

Weep no more, woful Shepherds, weep no more, 
For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead, 
Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor ; 
So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed, 
And yet anon repairs his drooping head, 
And tricks his beams, and with new spangled ore 
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky : 
So Lycidas sank low, but mounted high. 
Thro' the dear might of Him that walk'd the waves, 
Where other groves and other streams along, 
With nectar pure his oozy locks he laves, 
And hears the unexpressive nuptial song, 

' In a like spirit are the concluding lines : 

Love Virtue, she alone is free, 
She can teach ye how to climb 
Higher than the sphery chime ; 
Or if Virtue feeble were, 
Heaven itself would stoop to her. 



Old English Verse 273 

In the blest kingdoms meek of Joy and Love. 
There entertain him all the saints above, 
In solemn troops and sweet societies, 
That sing, and singing in their glory move, 
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes. 

In 1638 and part of 1639 Milton travelled in Italy, 
staying in Paris on his way, and in Geneva on his return. 
He then settled in London, and undertook the tuition, 
first of his nephews, and then of other pupils. The 
stormy years of fierce civil strife were very unfavourable 
to Milton's genius as a poet, nor is there occasion to 
speak here of the passionate fervour with which he 
dedicated all his powers to the service of the Republic. 
In 1648, when the Puritans were bent on supplanting 
Sternhold and Hopkins' Version of the Psalms, and 
again in 1653, Milton attempted the task, and failed in 
it. In 1649 the Parliamentary Council of State, who 
had resolved to employ the Latin tongue in their com- 
munications with foreign powers, appointed him their 
Secretary. His eyesight was already getting weak ; 
and the great labour which this office involved com- 
pleted the mischief. Early in 1652, at the age of forty- 
three, he was totally blind, and, though he continued to 
hold his Secretaryship, his political labours were very 
much restricted. It was about this time, before 1658, 
that he wrote the sonnet on his blindness, touching in 
its manly patience : 

When I consider how my light is spent 

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, 
And that one talent which is death to hide, 

Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent 

To serve therewith my Maker, and present 
My true account, lest he returning chide ; 
' Doth God exact day-labour, light denied ? ' 

I fondly ask : but Patience, to prevent 
That murmur, soon replies, ' God doth not need 

Either man's work or His own gifts ; who best 

Bear his mild yoke, they serve Him best : His state 
Is kingly : thousands at His bidding speed, 

And post o'er land and ocean without rest ; 
They also serve who only stand and wait. 
S 



274 Religious Thought in 

Although, at the Restoration, some of Milton's 
polemical works were burnt by the common hangman, 
he escaped harsh treatment personally. His outward 
circumstances were now pitiable. He, of course, lost 
his office ; his property was destroyed by confiscation 
and other losses. His political hopes were utterly 
ruined. He had not even a party ; for his determined 
independence of thought, and his habit of fearlessly 
pushing opinions to their utmost consequences, had 
estranged him more or less from all religious and 
political communions. Moreover, throughout his life his 
mind had always been a lonely one, dwelling in itself. 
His blindness completed the isolation. It is true that 
his third wife was kind and attentive to his material 
comforts ; but there does not seem to have been much 
further congeniality. It was in this solitude that he 
finally worked out the great poem which, amid all 
vicissitudes, and amid all other occupations, had ever 
been in his mind as the work he hoped to achieve: He 
had written a few lines of it in 1642 ; he systematically 
began it in 1648 ; it was finished in 1663 or rather later; 
it was published in 1667. His great poem rose up, 
majestic and sublime, amid the materialism and moral 
corruption which had set in after the Restoration. 1 
Secluded at last from the confusing turmoil of civil 
strife, the blind poet turned the whole powers of his 

1 I must quote here Ernest Myers's beautiful sonnet : 

MILTON. 
He left the upland lawns and serene air 

Wherefrom his soul her noble nurture drew, 

And reared his helm among the unquiet crew 
Battling beneath ; the morning radiance rare 
Of his young brow amid the tumult there 

Grew dim with sulphurous dust and sanguine dew ; 

Yet through all soilure they who marked him knew 
The signs of his life's dayspring, calm and fair. 

But when peace came, peace fouler far than war, 
And mirth more dissonant than battle's tone, 

He, with a scornful sigh of his clear soul, 

Back to his mountain clomb, now bleak and frore, 
And with the awful night he dwelt alone 

In darkness, listening to the thunder's roll. 



Old English Verse 275 

inward vision to those eternal harmonies of most 
divine peace which man, created after God's own image, 
might once more regain, and which he had once 
possessed 

till disproportioned Sin 

Jarred against Nature's chime, and with harsh din 
Broke the fair music that all creatures made 
To their great Lord, whose love their motion sway'd 
In perfect diapason, whilst they stood 
In first obedience, and their state of good. 
O may we soon again renew that song, 
And keep in tune with Heaven, till God ere long 
To His celestial consort us unite, 
To live with Him, and sing in endless morn of light. 1 

Notwithstanding the grandeur, both of the general 
conception of Milton's sacred epic, and of the manner 
in which it is worked out, it must be said that it is not 
altogether satisfying. Evil in the world, and the hope 
of restitution from it, is indeed a subject of the very 
deepest interest. But Paradise Lost is, perhaps un- 
avoidably, too far away, too remote from this present 
world, greatly to touch the heart. It will never cease to 
be read, and, having been read, to be well remembered, 
and to leave its mark upon the mind of the reader ; and 
in no poem unless it be in some parts of the Hebrew 
Scriptures, or in some passages of ^Eschylus will he 
find more noble imagery, or a more majestic flow of 
rhythm. But neither as a great epic, nor as a great 
religious poem, has it much moving power. In one 
respect, its grandeur does certainly appeal directly to 
our own consciousness. It inspires and quickens a 
sense of mighty powers of good and evil environing 
human life. This impression would be far deeper still, 
if it were not that the poet carries on his story with a 
clear precision of, so to say, historical detail, which goes 
far to dissipate the dim mysterious outlines which stir 
imagination on its spiritual side. Milton's poem would 
be an intensely interesting one, if only we could forget 
as some have seemed to forget that it is not very 

1 Milton's lines : At a Solemn Music. 



276 Religious Thought in 

realities, but the inventions of the poet, which are before 
us in all their circumstances. Invention having so great 
a part in the poem, there is, in spite of its sublimity, 
something of delusion and disappointment in it. Sin 
and death, and all our woes, their entry into the world, 
and our redemption from them the most tremendous 
realities of our existence these are the solemn themes 
for which, in exalted words, he invokes the Holy Spirit's 
aid. They are questions too momentous to be dealt 
with quite successfully, even by the greatest and most 
earnest of poets, as materials upon which to rear up the 
stately but fictitious fabric of an imaginative epic. The 
epic seems best adapted to what lies on the borderland of 
history, where truth and fiction may freely blend. Europe 
before Milton's time had had enough, and far more than 
enough of allegory in its poetical literature ; yet it may, 
perhaps, be doubted whether the splendid imagery with 
which the genius of Milton has adorned Paradise Lost, 
might not have shone to yet greater advantage if the 
awful powers of sin had been clothed in a more con- 
fessedly imaginative form. As it is, many of the 
sublimest parts of the narrative are those which are 
least determinate in idea, and most suggestive to the 
imagination. Such are those passages where the form 
of the ruined archangel is dimly outlined in words 
which simply give by metaphor or otherwise a general 
idea of a dark, ominous being, colossal, terrible, and 
portentous : 

Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool 

His mighty stature ; on each hand the flames 

Driv'n backward slope their pointing spires, and, roll'd 

In billows, leave i' th' midst a horrid vale. 

Then with expanded wings he steers his flight 

Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air 

That felt unusual weight. 

And such appeared in hue, as when the force 
Of subterranean wind transports a hill 
Torn from Pelorus, or the shattered side 
Of thundering ^tna. 1 

1 Paradise Lost, i. 221-32. Cf. also iv. 987. 



Old English Verse 277 

Or again : 

So spake the grisly terror, and in shape, 
So speaking, and so threatening, grew tenfold 
More dreadful and deform : on th' other side 
Incensed with indignation, Satan stood 
Unterrify'd, and like a comet burn'd, 
That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge 
In th' arctic sky, and from his horrid hair 
Shakes pestilence and war. Each at the head 
LevelFd his deadly aim ; their fatal hands 
No second stroke intend, and such a frown 
Each cast at th' other, as when two black clouds, 
With Heaven's artillery fraught, come rattling on 
Over the Caspian ; then stand front to front 
Hov'ring a space, till winds the signal blow 
To join their dark encounter in mid air. 1 

Of a somewhat similar kind is that passage where 
the gates of death open out on the unimaginable abyss 
of night and chaos : 

On a sudden open fly 
With impetuous recoil and jarring sound 
Th' infernal doors, and on their hinges grate 
Harsh thunder, that the lowest bottom shook 
Of Erebus. She open'd ; but to shut 
Excell'd her power ; the gates wide open stood, 
That with extended wings a banner'd host 
Under spread ensigns marching might pass through 
With horse and chariots rank'd in loose array ; 
So wide they stood, and like a furnace mouth 
Cast forth redounding smoke and ruddy flame. 
Before their eyes in sudden view appear 
The secrets of the hoary deep, a dark 
Illimitable ocean, without bound, 

Without dimension, where length, breadth, and height, 
And time, and place are lost ; where eldest Night 
And Chaos, ancestors of nature, hold 
Eternal anarchy, amidst the noise 
Of endless wars, and by confusion stand. 2 

Sublimity is, of course, only one element in Milton's 
poetical genius, although a very characteristic one, so 
much so, that one could not with any fitness speak of 
Paradise Lost and quote from it only some passages of 
tranquil religious beauty. But if in a work on sacred 

1 Paradise Lost, ii. 704-15. 2 Id. ii. 880-97. 



278 Religious Thought in 

poetry I could only make one quotation from Milton's 
poems, it should be that exquisite hymn of our first 
parents in Paradise, beginning : ' These are Thy glorious 
works, Parent of Good,' 1 that noble anthem of a nature 
yet unstained by sin. Or else I would select from the 
end of the fifth and the beginning of the sixth books 
those lines full of stimulative religious force which tell 
of Abdiel, true to his loyalty amid all the hosts of the 
rebel angels : 

So spake the seraph Abdiel, faithful found, 
Among the faithless, faithful only he ; 
Among innumerable false, unmoved, 
Unshaken, unseduced, unterrify'd, 
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal ; 
Nor number, nor example, with him wrought 
To swerve from truth, or change his constant mind 
Though single. From amidst them forth he pass ; d 
Long way through hostile scorn, which he sustain'd 
Superior, nor of violence feard aught. 

On to the sacred hill 

They led him, high applauded, and present 
Before the seat supreme ; from whence a voice 
From midst a golden cloud thus mild was heard : 

Servant of God, well done ! well hast thou fought 
The better fight, who single hast maintain'd 
Against revolted multitudes the cause 
Of truth, in word mightier than they in arms ; 
And for the testimony of truth hast borne 
Universal reproach (far worse to bear 
Than violence) ; for this was all thy care 
To stand approved in sight of God, though worlds 
Judged thee perverse. 2 

There is much majestic pathos in the teachings of 
repentance and renewed life contained in the eleventh 
book and that passage in the twelfth, bright with the 
subdued radiance of such goodness and happiness as is 
still attainable on earth, which begins, ' Henceforth I 
learn that to obey is best,' and concludes : 

Only add 

Deeds to thy knowledge answerable ; add faith, 
Add virtue, patience, temperance, add love, 

1 Paradise Lost, v. 153. '- Id, v. 896-905; vi. 25-37. 



Old English Verse 279 

By name to come call'd Charity, the soul 
Of all the rest ; then wilt thou not be loath 
To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess 
A Paradise within thee, happier far. 

It has been said of Paradise Regained (1671) that 
' it is probably the most unadorned poem extant in any 
language.' The imaginative expansion in Milton's 
thought of the brief scriptural record of Christ's tempta- 
tion could not fail to have an interest. But poetry can- 
not dispense with its natural grace of ornament ; and 
therefore even Milton's genius could not redeem this 
austere poem from frigidity and even flatness. 

Samson Agonistes was published the same year. In 
style and outward form it is too much of a scholastic 
composition, but inwardly is full of suppressed force, 
and instinct with the thoughts which swelled in Milton's 
breast. Apart from this, its most striking feature is 
the wonderful manner in which the spirit of the Greek 
drama is incorporated with the intenser religious feeling 
of the Hebrews, while both alike are combined with 
the sentiment of the English Puritan, and with the 
poet's own personality. It may be added that there 
are passages in it which strongly call to mind our 
earliest religious poetry of the period before the Con- 
quest. The forty or fifty lines beginning : ' God of our 
fathers, what is man ? ' are singularly like some of the 
poetry ascribed to Cynewulf. Perhaps, however, the 
passage which most of all blends reminiscences of the 
Hebrew, the Greek, and the Anglo-Saxon poetry with 
sympathetic feeling for the Puritan poet himself, now 
in his old age, blind, saddened, and patient, and brave 
in a devout trust in the all-ruling providence of God, is 
the following passage : 

Chorus Oh, how comely it is, and how reviving 
To the spirits of just men long oppress'd, 
When God into the hands of their deliverer 
Puts invincible might 

To quell the mighty of the earth, th' oppressor, 
The brute and boist'rous force of violent men 
Hardy and industrious to support 



280 Religious Thought in 

Tyrannic power, but raging to pursue 

The righteous and all such as honour truth ; 

He all their ammunition 

And feats of war defeats, 

With plain heroic magnitude of mind 

And celestial vigour arm'd ; 

Their armories and magazines contemns, 

Renders them useless, while 

With winged expedition, 

Swift as the lighting glance he executes 

His errand on the wicked, who surprised 

Lose their defence distracted and amazed. 

But patience is more oft the exercise 
Of saints, the trial of their fortitude, 
Making them each his own deliverer, 
And victor over all 
That Tyranny or Fortune can inflict. 
Either of these is in thy lot, 
Samson, with might endued 
Above the sons of men ; but sight bereaved 
May chance to number thee with those 
Whom patience finally must crown. 1 

I give for a last extract from Milton some lines which 
may not be so well known as most that he wrote, 
though they are among his miscellaneous poems. They 
were found among Milton's MSS., with the inscription in 
his own hand, ' On Time : to be set on a clock-case.' 

Fly, envious Time, till thou run out thy race, 

Call on the lazy, leaden-stepping hours, 

Whose speed is but the heavy plummet's pace ; 

And glut thyself with what thy womb devours, 

Which is no more than what is false and vain, 

And merely mortal dross ; 

So little is our loss, 

So little is thy gain, 

For when as each thing bad thou hast entomb'd. 

And last of all thy greedy self consumed, 

Then long eternity shall greet our bliss 

With an individual kiss ; 

And joy shall overtake us as a flood, 

When every thing that is sincerely good 

And perfectly divine, 

With truth and peace and love shall ever shine 

1 Samson Agonistes, 1267-96. 



Old English Verse 281 

About the supreme throne 

Of Him, to Whose happy-making sight alone 

When once our heavenly-guided soul shall climb, 

Then, all this earthly grossness quit, 

Attired with stars, we shall for ever sit 

Triumphing over Death and Chance, and thee, O Time. 

Andrew Marvell (1620-78), a strong Puritan and 
wholly fearless and incorruptible in opposition to en- 
croachments on civil or religious liberty, and keen in 
lashing vice in high places, but quite alive also to wit 
and humour and to fine and delicate sentiment, has left, 
among his numerous satirical verses, a few religious 
poems so good that we may regret that he did not write 
more. He was the son of a clergyman of the English 
Church ; sat in Parliament for several years before his 
death as member for Hull ; was a friend and admirer of 
Milton, whom he appears to have first met while he was 
travelling in France and Italy, and when Milton was be- 
coming blind held under him the appointment of Assist- 
ant Latin Secretary to the Parliament of the Protectorate. 

Of his poems, that which is now most known, or 
known next best to his ode on Milton, in the Pilgrim's 
Song; of which the opening lines are : 

Where the remote Bermudas ride 
In th' ocean's bosom unespied, 
From a small boat that row'd along 
The list'ning winds received this song : 

' What should we do but sing His praise 
That led us through the watery maze 
Unto an isle so long unknown, 
And yet far kinder than our own.' 1 

The following is entitled A Drop of Dew: 

See, how the Orient dew, 
Shed from the bosom of the morn 
Into the blowing roses, 
Yet, careless of its mansion new, 
For the clear region where 'twas born, 

Round in itself incloses ; { '' f^o^df!^ 

And in its little globe's extent 
Frames, as it can, its native element. 

1 The Works of Andrew Marvell (ed. Thompson), iii. 228. 



282 Religious Thought in 

How it the puiple flower does slight, 

Scarce touching where it lies ; 
But, gazing back upon the skies, 
Shines with a mournful light. 

Like its own tear, 

Because so long divided from the sphere ! 
Restless it rolls, and unsecure, 

Trembling lest it grow impure, 
Till the warm sun pities its pain, 
And to the sky exhales it back again. 

So the soul, that drop, that ray, 
Of the clear fountain of th' eternal day, 
Could it within the human flower be seen, 
Remembering still its former height, 
Shuns the sweet leaves and blossoms green, 
And, recollecting its own light, 
Does, in its pure and circling thoughts, express 
The greater heaven in an heaven less. 

The following has been ascribed, though without 
certainty, to Dr. Nicholas Postgate, a Roman Catholic 
missioner, who was executed at the age of eighty-two, 
in 1679, the time of the Gates' plot panic. I take it 
from Palgrave's Treasury of Sacred Song : 

O THAT I HAD WlNGS LIKE A DOVE. 

O gracious God, O Saviour sweet, 

Jesus, think on me, 

And suffer me to kiss Thy feet, 
Though late I come to Thee. 

Behold, dear Lord, I come to Thee 

With sorrow and with shame, 
For when Thy bitter wounds I see, 

1 know I caused the same. 

Sweet Jesu, who shall lend me wings 

Of peace and perfect love, 
That I may rise from earthly things 

To rest with Thee above ? 

For sin and sorrow overflow 

All earthly things so high, 
That I can find no rest below, 

But unto Thee I fly. 

1 Works of Marvel!, 408. 



Old English Verse 283 

Wherefore my soul doth loathe the things 

Which gave it once delight, 
And unto Thee, the King of kings, 

Would mount with all her might. 

And yet the weight of flesh and blood 

Doth so my wings restrain, 
That oft I strive, and gain no good, 

But rise to fall again. 

Yet, when this fleshly misery 

Is master'd by the mind, 
I cry, ' Avaunt, O vanity ! ' 

And ' Satan, stand behind.' 

So thus, sweet Lord, I fly about 

In weak and weary ease, 
Like the lone Dove which Noah sent out, 

And found no resting place. 

My weary wings, sweet Jesu, mark, 

And, when Thou thinkest best, 
Stretch forth Thy arm from out the ark, 

And take me to Thy rest. 1 

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82), after an education at 
Winchester and Pembroke College, studied medicine at 
Montpellier and Padua, was created Doctor of Medicine 
at Leyden, gained a high medical reputation, and was 
knighted by Charles II. His Religio Medici was pub- 
lished in 1634, the year after his arrival in London from 
Holland. In the second part of this work, his subject 
leads him to speak of sleep. He held that sleep was, 
in some respects, a higher condition of existence than 
waking life. ' We are somewhat more than ourselves 
in our sleeps, and the slumber of the body seems to be 
but the waking of the soul. It is the ligation of sense, 
but the liberty of reason, and our waking conceptions 
do not match the fancies of our sleeps.' He goes on 
to say that, with himself, he often found that reason, 
devotion, and imagination were more active in his 
dreams than at any other time. Then, again, its like- 
ness to death added to its solemnity. 'In fine, I dare 
not trust it without my prayers, and a half adieu unto 

1 Palgrave's Treasury of Sacred Song, 15. 



284 Religious Thought in 

the world, and take my farewell in a colloquy with 
God.' 

The night is come, like to the day ; 
Depart not Thou, great God, away. 
Let not my sins, black as the night, 
Eclipse the lustre of Thy light. 

Thou, whose nature cannot sleep, 
On my temples sentry keep ; 
Guard me 'gainst those watchful foes 
Whose eyes are open while mine close. 
Let no dreams my head infest, 
But such as Jacob's temples blest. 
While I do rest, my soul advance, 
Make my sleep a holy trance ; 
That I may, my rest being wrought, 
Awake into some holy thought ; 
And with an active vigour run 
My course, as doth the nimble sun. 
Sleep is a death : O make me try, 
By sleeping, what it is to die ; 
And as gently lay my head 
On my grave, as now my bed. 
Howe'er I rest, great God, let me 
Awake again at least with Thee. 
And thus assured, behold I lie 
Securely, or to awake or die. 
These are my drowsy days ; in vain 
I do now wake to sleep again : 
O come that hour, when I shall never 
Sleep again, but wake for ever. 

' This (he continues) is the dormitive I take to bed 
ward ; I need no other laudanum than this to make me 
sleep : after which, I close mine eyes in security, content 
so to take my leave of the sun, and to sleep unto the 
resurrection.' J 

Samuel Grossman (1624-83), Prebendary of Bristol, 
wrote a little book of nine poems entitled The Youug 
Man's Meditations. Lord Selborne, at the York Con- 
ference in 1866, called attention to one of these hymns 

1 Sir T. Browne's Religio Medici, Pt. n., ed. by J. A. St. John, 1838, 
pp. 140-2. 



Old English Verse 285 

beginning, ' Sweet place, sweet place above ! ' * and the 
verses of it beginning ' Jerusalem on high,' z are now 
very well known. Sir R. Palmer, in his Book of Praise, 
also gives another, ' My life 's a shade.' 3 

The following are a few lines from a poem on St. 
Magdalene, from A Small Garland of Poems and Godly 
Songs, 1684, written by an English Roman Catholic 
who had taken refuge in Ghent. These religious verses 
were all adapted to the tunes of popular ballads. 

She doth esteem no greater bliss, 

No joy to be more sweet, 
Than with her tears to wash and kiss, 

To wipe and dry His feet. 

With love and fear she did draw near, 

Not willing to be seen ; 
She wash'd His feet most pure and clear, 

And He her soul made clean. 4 

Among the scholars and divines of England in the 
seventeenth century few were more noteworthy and 
admirable than Henry More (1614-87), the leader, as 
he may not improperly be called, of that eminent group 
of Christian Platonists which included Cudworth, John 
Smith, Norris, and others. He was the son of a well- 
to-do Grantham gentleman, of very pronounced pre- 
destinarian opinions. More tells us that while he was 
yet a boy at Eton, these doctrines, instilled into him by 
a father whom he greatly loved and venerated, sorely 
exercised his mind, and that he would constantly, as he 
paced the play-field, muse within himself how such 
things could be consistent with the justice and goodness 
of God. 5 From Eton he went to Christ's College, Cam- 
bridge, where he was contemporary with Milton. There 
he remained for the rest of a long life as Fellow and 
Tutor, tranquil and undisturbed through all the com- 

1 Sir R. Palmer's Book of Praise, cix. 

" Hymns Ancient and Modern, 233 ; Church Hymns, 394. 

3 Book of Praise, cliii. 

4 Corser's Collectanea Anglo- Poetica, vi. 414. 

5 See Grosart's ed. of Mare's Poems. Memorial Introduction, xiii. 



286 Religious Thought in 

motion of the civil war. His seclusion lessened in some 
respects his influence ; but in the Universities great 
numbers of friends and pupils hung with admiration 
on his words, and owed much to him both spiritually 
and intellectually. Never was a man more thoroughly 
devoted to what was good and pure and true, more 
intensely earnest to shun all that was sinful and ' to 
preserve his body as a well-strung instrument to his 
soul.' His rich imagination and profound learning 
glowed with the fire of a spiritual enthusiasm, so that 
what he wrote, though often rather phantastic and un- 
intelligible, is often a most attractive and inspiriting 
combination of mystic fervour and philosophic thought. 
His ideas of Divine Nature were always elevated ; his 
idea of the human capacity high and ennobling. His 
poetry is not equal to his prose, and not so poetical ; 
the form of his philosophical verse being, as a rule, 
somewhat prosaic, and disfigured by awkward words, 
while its spirit is rather frittered away by allegory. But 
a high and earnest purpose is ever apparent in it. His 
principal philosophical poem is the Song of the Soul, in 
which he treats of its life, of its immortality, of its pre- 
existence, of the infinity of worlds, and so forth. The 
following are stanzas from it : 

Of the power of the Spirit of Love : 

Even so the weaker mind, that languid lies 
Knit up in cage of dirt dark, cold, and blind 
So soon that purer flame of Love unties 
Her clogging chains, and doth her spright unbind, 
She soars aloft, for she herself doth find 
Well plumed ; so raised upon her spreaden wing, 
She softly plays, and warbles in the wind, 
And carols out her inward life and spring 
Of overflowing joy, and of pure love doth sing. 1 

Of True Piety : 

But true Religion sprung from God above, 
Is, like her fountain, full of Charity, 
Embracing all things with a tender love. 
Full of goodwill and meek expectancy, 

1 Grosart's ed. of Morels Poems, Psychathanasia, Bk. i. cant, i. 3. 



Old English Ver3e 287 

Full of true justice and sure verity, 
In heart and voice : free, large, even infinite, 
Not wedged in strait particularity, 
But grasping all in her vast active spright ; 
Bright lamp of God ! That men would joy in thy pure light ! J 

From 'THE PHILOSOPHER'S DEVOTION'; after lines on the 
goodness and wisdom and strength of God: 

Now myself I do resign, 
Take me whole, I all am Thine, 
Save me, God ! from self-desire, 
Death's pit, dark hell's raging fire, 
Envy, hatred, vengeance, ire : 
Let not lust my soul bemire ! 

Quit from these, Thy praise I '11 sing, 
Loudly sweep the trembling string, 
Bear a part, O Wisdom's sons ! 
Free'd from vain religions. 
Lo ! from far I you salute, 
Sweetly warbling on my lute, 
India, Egypt, Araby, 
Asia, Greece, and Tartary, 
Carmel tracts and Lebanon, 
With the Mountains of the Moon, 
From whence muddy Nile doth run, 
Or wherever else you wone ; [dwell] 
Breathing in one vital air, 
One we are, though distant far. 

Rise, at once let's sacrifice ! 
Odours sweet perfume the skies. 
See, how heavenly lightning fires 
Hearts enflamed with high aspires ! 
All the substance of our souls 
Up in clouds of incense rolls. 2 

A translation of the Dies Ires by the Earl of Ros- 
common (1633-84) is not wanting in pathetic force. 
The two closing lines of those quoted below were his 
own last utterance before he died : 

VIII. 

Thou mighty, formidable King, 
Thou mercy's unexhausted spring, 
Some comfortable pity bring ! 

1 Grosart's ed. of Morels Poems, Psychathanasia, Bk. ii. cant. ii. 6. 

2 Id. 181. 



288 Religious Thought in 



IX. 



Forget not what my ransom cost, 
Nor let my dear-bought soul be lost, 
In storms of guilty terror tost. 



X. 



Thou Who for me didst feel such pain, 
Whose precious blood the Cross did stain, 
Let not those agonies be vain. 



XI. 



Thou Whom avenging powers obey, 
Cancel my debt too great to pay 
Before the sad accounting day. 



XII. 



Surrounded by amazing fears, 

Whose load my soul with anguish bears, 

I sigh, I weep : accept my tears. 

XIII. 

Thou Who wert mov'd with Mary's grief, 
And, by absolving of the thief, 
Hast given me hope, now give relief. 

XIV. 

Prostrate, my contrite heart I rend, 
My God, my Father, and my Friend, 
Do not forsake me in the end ! * 

Roscommon's paraphrase of the I48th Psalm is not 
very successful. 

Theophilus Dorrington, Rector of Wittersham, pub- 
lished his Devotions in Psalms and Hymns in 1687. 
His verses are exclusively adapted from the Psalms, 
but are applied to the most various occasions of life. 
Thus, in addition to Church festivals, and State days 
of thanksgiving, etc., he has written others for recovery 
from sickness, for restoration from intemperance, the 
soldier's thanksgiving, the traveller's thanksgiving, the 
thanksgiving of the released prisoner. There are sea- 
man's and husbandman's hymns, for young men, for 
old men, for priests, and so forth. There are short 

1 Anderson's English Poets, vol. vi. 



Old English Verse 289 

hymns to be used when washing, when dressing, at 
going out, at entering into company, on looking at a 
sun-dial, on gazing at a prospect, and many other mis- 
cellaneous occasions. The following verses are intended 
to come into the memory ' when light is brought into 
a room ' : 

Enlighten, Lord, my eyes and mind, 

That so I may discern 
The wondrous things which they behold 

Who Thy just precepts learn. 

Thy word is to my feet a lamp, 

The way of truth to show ; 
A watch-light to point out the path 

In which I ought to go. 

On me, devoted to Thy fear, 

Lord, make Thy face to shine ; 
Thy statutes both to know and keep 

My heart with zeal incline. 1 

Charles Cotton (1630-87), succeeded to an encumbered 
family estate in Staffordshire. He went to Cambridge, 
and afterwards travelled abroad. In 1670 he went with 
a captain's commission to Ireland. Literature, how- 
ever, was his chief employment, and angling, which 
brought him into intimacy with Izaak Walton, his chief 
recreation. The following is from a Christmas Day 
hymn : 

Rise, shepherds, leave your flocks, and run ; 
The soul's great Shepherd now is come ! 
Oh ! wing your tardy feet, and fly 
To greet this dawning majesty ; 

Heaven's messenger, in tidings bless'd, 
Invites you to the sacred place, 

Where the blessed Babe of joy 
Wrapp'd in His holy Father's grace 

Comes the serpent to destroy 
That lurks in every human breast. 
To Judah's Bethlehem turn your feet, 
There you shall salvation meet. 



1 Theophilus Dorrington's Devotions, etc., 1707, p. 15. 
T 



290 Religious Thought in 

Let each religious soul then rise 
To offer up a sacrifice, 
And on the wings of prayer and praise 
His grateful heart to heaven raise ; 
For this, that in a stable lies, 
This poor neglected Babe, is He 

Hell and death that must control, 
And speak the blessed word, ' Be free,' 

To every true believing soul. 
Death has no sting, nor Hell no prize ; 
Through His merits great, whilst we 
Travel to eternity, 
And with the blessed angels sing 
Hosannahs to the heavenly King. 1 

Sir William Davenant (1606-1688), was a man of far 
from strict life, and much influenced by Hobbes' sceptical 
philosophy. But he evidently thought a good deal 
about the relation between faith and reason, and the 
mysteries of human life and of the Divine providence. 
I quote a few stanzas from his Gondibert (1650) : 

Of the Exercise of Man's Faculties on Things Infinite and 
Divine : 

For error's mist doth bound the spirit's sight, 
As clouds which make earth's arched roof seem low 

Restrain the body's eyes ; and still, when light 
Grows clearer upwards, heaven must higher show. 



In gathering knowledge from the sacred tree, 
I would not snatch in haste the fruit below ; 

But rather climb, like those who curious be, 
And boldly taste that which doth highest grow. 

For knowledge would her prospect take in height ; 

'Tis God's loved eaglet, bred by Him to fly, 
Though with weak eyes, still upward at the light, 

And may soar short, but cannot soar too high. 2 



1 C. Cottons Poems, Chalmers, iv. 729. 

2 Davenanfs Poems, Gondibert, ' Death of Astragon,' viii.-ix., xx. 
xxxiii. (Anderson, iv.). 



Old English Verse 291 

Of Praise, as that exercise of devotion in 'which all forms of 
faith may with one accord unite. Praise is 

The differing world's agreeing sacrifice ; 
Where heaven divided faiths united finds ; 
But prayer in various discord upward flies. 1 

For the following verses I am indebted to Palgrave's 
Treasury of Sacred Song : 

Frail Life ! in which, through mists of human breath, 
We grope for truth, and make our progress slow, 

Because by passion blinded ; till, by death 
Our passions ending, we begin to know. 

O harmless Death ; whom still the valiant brave, 

The wise expel, the sorrowful invite, 
And all the good embrace, who know the grave 

A short dark passage to eternal light. 2 

The Divine Emblems of John Bunyan (1628-88), A 
Book for Boys and Girls, published 1686, was only 
known to be existing in its shorter form until 1889, when 
a copy of the original work was discovered, and secured 
to the British Museum. It has now been reprinted in 
facsimile. It is, as its editor calls it, a sort of religious 
ysop, homely and unpolished, but not without touches 
of imagination worthy of the writer of Pilgrim's Pro- 
gress. He addresses it to children, with a sort of 
apology. They may call him, he says, a baby, for 
playing with them, but he would fain let them see how 
the ' fingle-fangles ' on which they dote may be gins 
and snares to entangle and destroy their souls. I give 
two or three illustrations from it : 

UPON THE WEATHERCOCK. 

Brave weathercock, I see thou 't set thy nose 
Against the wind, which way soe'er it blows. 
So let a Christian in any wise 
Face it with Antichrist in each disguise. 3 

1 Gondibert, canto 6, Ixxxiv. 

2 From Palgrave's Treasury of Sacred Song, Ixxxvi. 

3 John Bunyan's Divine Emblems, etc. , 1686 ; ed. with Life by J. Brown, 
D.D., 1889, No. Ixix. 



292 Religious Thought in 

OF THE MOLE IN THE GROUND. 

A mole 's a creature very smooth and slick, 
She digs i' th' dirt, but 'twill not on her stick. 
So 's he who counts this world his greatest gains, 
Yet nothing gets but's labour for his pains. 
Earth 's the mole's element ; she can't abide 
To be above ground ; dirt heaps are her pride ; 
And he is like her, who the worldling plays ; 
He imitates her in her works and ways. 

Poor idle mole, that thou should'st love to be 
Where thou nor sun, nor moon, nor stars can see. 
But oh, how silly 's he, who doth not care, 
So he gets earth, to have of heaven a share. 1 

The following is upon the same subject as his well- 
known sermon : 

UPON THE BARREN FIG-TREE. 

What, barren here ! in this so good a soil ! 
The sight of this doth make God's heart recoil 
From giving thee His blessing. Ban-en tree, 
Bear fruit, or else thy end will cursed be ! 

Art thou not planted by the water side ? 
Kno\v"st not thy Lord by fruit is glorified ? 
The sentence is, Cut down the barren tree ; 
Bear fruit, or else thy end will cursed be ! 

Hast not been digg'd about and dunged too ? 
Will neither patience nor yet dressing do ? 
The executioner is come, O tree, 
Bear fruit, or else thy end will cursed be ! 

He that about thy roots takes pain to dig, 
Would, if on thee were found but one good fig, 
Preserve thee from the axe ; but, barren tree, 
Bear fruit, or else thy end will cursdd be ! 

The utmost end of patience is at hand ; 
'Tis much if thou much longer here doth stand, 
O Cumber-ground, thou art a barren tree, 
Bear fruit, or else thy end will curse"d be ! 

Thy standing nor thy name will help at all, 
When fruitful tiees are spared, thou must fall ; 
The axe is laid unto thy roots, O tree, 
Bear fruit, or else thy end will cursed be ! 2 

1 John Bunyaifs Divine Emblems, No. xix. 2 Id. 



Old English Verse 293 

The Scriptural Poems ascribed to Bunyan on Job, 
Daniel, etc., are of doubtful authenticity, and, at all 
events, are very prosy. 

Thomas Flatman (1633-88), a barrister- at-law, pub- 
lished in 1674 some Poems and Songs, which passed 
through three or four editions. Among them are a 
Thought on Death, several lines of which Pope closely 
imitated in his Dying Christian, and two rather pretty 
morning and evening hymns. The latter of these is as 
follows : 

Sleep ! drowsy sleep ! come, close mine eyes, 
Tired with beholding vanities ! 
Sweet slumber, come and chase away 
The toils and follies of the day : 
On your soft bosom will I lie, 
Forget the world, and learn to die. 

Israel's watchful Shepherd, spread 
Tents of angels round my bed ; 

Let not the spirits of the air, 
While I slumber, me ensnare, 
But save Thy suppliant free from harms 
Clasp'd in Thine everlasting arms. 
Clouds and thick darkness are Thy throne, 
Thy wonderful pavilion : 
Oh, dart from thence a shining ray, 
And then my midnight shall be day ! 
That, when the morn in crimson drest 
Breaks through the windows of the East, 
My hymns of thankful praises shall arise 
Like incense or the morning sacrifice. 1 

In Richard Baxter (1615-91) the English Church 
lost, under Charles the Second's Act of Uniformity, a 
good and true-hearted man, of whom any church might 
have been proud. He had received holy orders from 
the Bishop of Winchester in 1638, and, though he soon 
after adopted several Nonconformist opinions, remained 
throughout his life wide and generous in his sympathies. 
In 1640 he was invited to help the Vicar of Kidder- 
minster, but through most of the Civil War was with 
the Parliamentary army, ever using his influence and 

1 Poems and Songs by T. Flatman, 1676, p. 45. 



294 Religious Thought in 

eloquence in favour of milder and more liberal views 
than those which were generally predominant there. 
At the Restoration he was made one of the King's 
Chaplains, and was offered the Bishopric of Hereford. 
He declined it, but would gladly have remained at 
Kidderminster, if the Act of Uniformity had been less 
unbending. The Saints Everlasting Rest had been pub- 
lished by him in 1650. In his later years he suffered, 
to the great shame of our rulers in Church and State, 
not a little indignity and persecution. His poetry is 
much varied in quality, much of it very indifferent, 
with passages here and there of great beauty, full of 
religious fervour. The hymn, ' Lord, it belongs not to 
my care,' is, most deservedly, too well known to need 
quoting here. Another excellent hymn of his is that 
which begins, ' Ye holy angels bright ! ' But it has 
been much improved and partly recast in 1858 by Chope. 
The following are some lines from The Resolution, 
written, he says, 'when I was silenced and cast out.' 
expecting imprisonment : 

What if in prison I must dwell ? 

May I not there converse with Thee ? 
Save me from sin, Thy wrath, and hell, 

Call me Thy child, and I am free. 
No walls or bars can keep Thee out ; 

None can confine a holy soul. 
The streets of Heaven it walks about, 

None can its liberty control. 

O loose these chains of sin and flesh ; 

Enlarge my heart in Thy commands. 
Could I but love Thee as I wish, 

How light would be all other bands ! J 

The following is from Love breathing Thanks and 
Praise : 

Here lies my pain ! this is my daily sore : 
I hate my heart for loving God no more. 

1 Poetical Fragments of R. Baxter. 



Old English Verse 295 

Do I not love Thee, when I love to love Thee ? 
And when I set up nothing else above Thee ? 
Next God Himself, who is my End and Rest, 
Love, which stands next Thee, I esteem my best. 1 

John Mason, Rector of Water Stratford, Bucks, was 
a devout and excellent man, though somewhat carried 
away in the latter part of his life by wild and ex- 
travagant notions. He died in 1694. His Songs of 
Praise were published in 1683. Among them is that 
hymn which tells of the living water in words which 
thrill with a more than common rapture of religious 
expectation : 

The stream doth water Paradise, 
It makes the angels sing. 

I may also quote the following : 

FROM SONG I. 

How great a Being, Lord, is Thine, 

Which doth all beings keep ! 
Thy knowledge is the only line 

To sound so vast a deep : 
Thou art a Sea without a shore, 

A Sun without a sphere ; 
Thy time is now and evermore ; 

Thy place is everywhere. 2 

FROM SONG IV. 

My God, Thou art my glorious Sun, 

By whose bright beams I shine ; 
As Thou, Lord, ever art with me, 

Let me be ever Thine. 
Thou art my living Fountain, Lord, 

Whose streams on me do flow ; 
Myself I render unto Thee 

To Whom myself I owe. 

I may add the following four lines : 

I come, I wait, I hear, I pray ! 

Thy footsteps, Lord, I trace ! 
I sing to think this is the way 

Unto my Saviour's face. 3 

1 Poetical Fragments of R. Baxter, 18. 

2 Songs of Praise by John Mason, 1859. 

3 Mason's Songs of Praise, and J. Shepherd's Penitential Cries, 1859. 



296 Religious Thought in 

The poems of Henry Vaughan (1621-95) contain, 
amid a good deal that is rather strained and tedious, 
some passages worthy of taking a very high place in 
English sacred verse. He was one of twin brothers in 
an ancient and honourable Welsh family connected 
with the Earls of Worcester. They were together at 
Jesus College, Oxford, in 1638, when Charles was hold- 
ing his court in that city. The two brothers, Henry 
and Thomas, attached themselves zealously to the 
Royal side. Thomas took up arms in the King's 
cause, then became ordained to the living of his own 
birthplace, was ejected by the Parliamentary Com- 
missioners, retired to Oxford and devoted his time to 
alchymy and Rosicrucianism. He wrote some fair 
poetry in English and Latin. Henry, meanwhile, had 
left Oxford to study medicine in London, where he 
became acquainted with Ben Jonson and other 
literary men of that day. He took his M.D. degree 
and settled in his old home at Newton, practising his 
profession, and employing his leisure in literature. In 
1649 ne na d a long and severe illness, during which he 
became impressed with deeper religious feelings than 
heretofore. He became acquainted with the poems of 
George Herbert, read them with delight, and was much 
influenced by them in his compositions. In 1650 he 
published the first part of his Silex Scintillans (Sparks 
from the Flint). This was in poetry. During the next 
few years his writings were chiefly essays and medita- 
tions in prose. In 1655 he published the second part 
of the Silex Scintillans. This was his last publication. 1 
During the forty years that followed he lived quietly in 
his pleasant home by the Esk, and died at the age of 
seventy-three. 

Nothing which he wrote is finer than the following, 
his In Memoriam of dear friends : 



1 Some, however, of his miscellaneous verses, chiefly of an early date, 
were published in 1678 by one of his Oxford friends. 



Old English Verse 297 

They are all gone into the world of light 

And I alone sit ling'ring here ; 
Their very memory is fair and bright, 

And my sad thoughts doth clear. 

It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast 

Like stars upon some gloomy grove, 
Or those faint beams in which the hill is drest 

After the sun's remove. 

I see them walking in an air of glory, 
Whose light doth trample on my days ; 

My days which are at best but dull and hoary, 
Mere glimmerings and decays. 

O holy hope, and high humility, 

High as the heavens above ! 
These are your walks, and you have showed them me, 

To kindle my cold love. 

Dear, beauteous death ; the jewel of the just ! 

Shining nowhere but in the dark ; 
What mysteries do lie beyond thy dust, 

Could man outlook that, mark ! 

He that hath found some fledged bird's nest may know, 

At first sight, if the bird be flown ; 
But what fair dell or grove he sings in now 

That is to him unknown. 

And yet, as angels in some brighter dream 
Call to the soul when man doth sleep, 

So some strange thoughts transcend our wonted themes 
And into glory peep. 

O Father of eternal life and all 

Created glories under Thee ! 
Resume Thy spirit from this world of thrall 

Into true liberty ! * 

FROM HIS VERSES ' ON THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT.' 

O day of life, of light, of love, 
The only day dealt from above ! 
A day so fresh, so bright, so brave, 
'Twill show us each forgotten grave, 
And make the dead like flowers arise 
Youthful and fair to see new skies. 

1 Si/ex Scintillans, Pt. ii. : H. Vaughatts Poems, ed. by H. F. Lyte, 
1847- 



298 Religious Thought in 

i All other days, compared to Thee, 
Are but light's weak minority, 
They are but veils and cyphers drawn 
Like clouds before thy glorious dawn. 
O come ! arise ! shine ! do not stay, 

Dearly loved day ! 

The fields are long since white, and I 
With earnest groans for freedom cry ; 
My fellow-creatures too say, Come ! 
And stones, though speechless, are not dumb, 
When shall we hear that glorious voice 

Of life and joys ? 
That voice, which to each secret bed 

Of my Lord's dead 

Shall bring true day, and make dust see 
The way to immortality ! 
When shall those first white pilgrims rise, 
Whose holy happy histories 
Because they sleep so long, some men 
Count but the blots of a vain pen ? 

Dear Lord, make haste ! 
Sin every day commits more waste : 
And Thy old enemy which knows 
His time is short, more raging grows. 1 

LOVE AND DISCIPLINE. 

Since in a land not barren, still 
(Because Thou dost Thy grace distil) 
My lot is fall'n, blest be Thy will ! 

And since these biting frosts but kill 
Some tares in me, which choke or spill 
The seed Thou sowest, blest be Thy skill ! 

Blest be Thy dew, and blest Thy frost ; 

And happy I to be so crost 

And cared by crosses, at Thy cost. 

The dew doth cheer what is distrest, 
The frosts ill weeds nip and molest ; 
In both Thou work'st unto the best : 

Thus, while Thy several mercies plot 
And work on me, now cold, now hot, 
The work goes on and slacketh not. 

For as Thy hand the weather steers, 
So thrive I best 'twixt joys and fears, 
And all the years have some green ears. 

1 Silex Scintillans, Pt. ii. p. 184. 



Old English Verse 299 

Sir Edward Sherburne (1618-1702) was a Roman 
Catholic, joined the King's army during the Civil Wars, 
and at the defeat of the Royal cause was much plundered 
and impoverished. All his later years were spent in 
studious quiet. 

GOOD FRIDAY. 

This day Eternal Love for me, 
Fast nailed unto a cursed tree, 
Rending His fleshy veil, did through His side 

A way to Paradise provide. 
This day Life died, and dying, overthrew 
Death, Sin, and Satan too. 
O happy day ! 
May sinners say, 
But day can it be said to be, 

Wherein we see 
The bright sun of celestial light 
O'ershadowed with so black a night ! 1 

No one would look for religious verses of any depth 
in the works of John Dryden (1631-1701). Still his 
mind was often occupied with the questions which 
were disputed between Roman Catholics and Protest- 
ants, and between Christianity and Deism. His Religio 
Laid, 1682, is simply an argument in verse on the 
relation of faith to reason : 

How can the less the greater comprehend ? 

Or finite reason reach Infinity ? 

For what could fathom God were more than He. 

Thus man by his own strength to heaven would soar ; 
And would not be obliged to God for more. 
Vain wretched creature, how art thou misled 
To think thy wit these godlike notions bred, 
These truths are not the product of thy mind, 
But dropt from heaven, and of a nobler kind. 
ReveaPd religion first inform'd thy sight, 
And reason saw not, till faith sprung the light. 

Most versions of the Veni, Creator Spiritus have more 
or less merit. Dryden's paraphrase of it is not equal 

1 Sir E. Sherbtirne's Poems, Chalmers's British Poets, vol. vi. p. 633. 



300 Religious Thought in 

to some, but would be thought good if there were not 
others better. The following is part of it : 

Creator Spirit, by whose aid 
The world's foundations first were laid, 
Come, visit every pious mind ; 
Come, pour Thy joys on human kind ; 
From sin and sorrow set us free, 
And make Thy temples worthy Thee. 

Refine and purge our earthly parts ; 
But, oh, inflame and fire our hearts ! 
Our frailties help, our vice control, 
Submit the senses to the soul ; 
And when rebellious they are grown, 
Then lay Thy hand, and hold them down, 
Chase from our minds th' infernal foe. 
And peace, the fruit of love, bestow ; 
And, lest our feet should step astray, 
Protect and guide us in the way. 
Make us eternal truths receive, 
And practise all that we believe : 
Give us Thyself, that we may see 
The Father and the Son by Thee. 

Half a century after the death of George Herbert, 
the tiny parish church of Bemerton again had its pulpit 
occupied by a rector whose name will ever stand high 
in the roll of English sacred poets. John Norris was 
born in 1657, and educated at Winchester, and Exeter 
College, Oxford. In 1680 he was elected Fellow of All 
Souls. In 1684 he published his Poems. In 1689 he 
was presented to the Rectory of St. Loe, in Somerset- 
shire, and in 1691 was transferred to that of Bemerton, 
Wilts. It was there that he published his sermons, 
essays, and philosophical works. He died there in 
1711, and on his tomb are the appropriate and sugges- 
tive words, ' Bene latuit.' Norris was one of the chief 
ornaments of that noble school of Christian Platonists, 
which about the same period numbered among its 
English adherents the names of Cud worth, Henry More, 
John Smith, Benjamin Whichcot, Widrington, and 
Wilkins. His religious poems are of a wholly different 
kind from those of his illustrious predecessor at Bemer- 



Old English Verse 301 

ton. Their charm chiefly consists in the expression 
they give to the yearnings and aspirations of the human 
soul for ideals of beauty and perfectness, not to be 
realised here in the flesh, but which it believes with a 
firm hope will be attainable in the fuller life of eternity 
If it be said, and that with truth, that his thought is 
somewhat enveloped in a sort of golden haze, yet this 
is an atmosphere not unsuited to the region of hope 
and undefined wistfulness in which a pure and philo- 
sophic mind, trained in a lofty creed, looks forward into 
the mystic future. The frequent fault of his verses is 
one very common in his age an artificial striving after 
sublimity of language, as distinguished from that of 
thought. The style of Pindar's odes had a fascination 
for verse-writers in the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries which was prejudicial in the extreme to simple 
purity of diction. Even the success which it now and 
then attained to was misleading. A majestic combina- 
tion of words, or a really grand figure of speech, might 
easily tempt the poet, or his imitators, to a soaring 
flight which could not be sustained, and which quickly 
degenerated into inflation and mannerism. Norris is 
not nearly so liable to this imputation as some of his 
contemporaries and successors ; but he is not free from it. 
The following little poem is entitled The Aspiration : 

How long, great God, how long must I 

Immured in this dark prison lie ! 
Where at the grates and avenues of sense 
My soul must watch to have intelligence ; 
Where but faint gleams of Thee salute my sight, 
Like doubtful moonshine in a cloudy night. 

When shall I leave this magic sphere, 

And be all mind, all eye, all ear ? 

How cold this clime ! and yet my sense 

Perceives even here Thy influence. 
Even here Thy strong magnetic charms I feel, 
And pant and tremble like the amorous steel. 
To lower good, and beauties less divine, 
Sometimes my erroneous needle does decline ; 

But yet so strong the sympathy 

It turns, and points again to Thee. 



302 Religious Thought in 

I long to see this excellence 

Which at such distance strikes my sense ; 
My impatient soul struggles to disengage 
Her wings from the confinement of her cage. 
To Thee, Thou only fair, my soul aspires 
With holy breathings, languishing desires. 

To Thee my enamoured, panting heart does move 

By efforts of ecstatic love. 

How do Thy glorious streams of light 

Refresh my intellectual sight ! 

Though broken, and strained through a screen 

Of envious flesh that stands between ! 

When shall my imprisoned soul be free, 
That she Thy native unconnected light may see, 
And gaze upon Thy beatific face to all eternity ? l 

The great problem, the solemn mystery of death, 
possessed a great fascination for his mind. He often 
alludes to it, as for example 

What a strange moment will that be, 

My soul, how full of curiosity, 
When wing'd, and ready for thy eternal flight, 

On the utmost edges of the tottering day, 

Hovering, and wishing longer stay, 
Thou shalt advance and have Eternity in sight ; 
Would'st Thou, great Love, this prisoner once set free, 
How would she hasten to be link'd with Thee. 

She 'd for no angel's conduct stay, 

But fly, and love on all the way. 2 

FROM 'SERAPHIC LOVE.' 

Through Contemplation's optics I have seen 
Him who is faiier than the sons of men, 
The Source of good, the Light archetypal. 

Beauty in the original, 

The fairest often thousand He, 

Proportion all and Harmony, 

All mortal beauty's but a ray 

Of His bright, ever-shining day 

A little, feeble, twinkling star, 
Which, now the sun 's in place, must disappear. 
There is but One that's good, but One that's fair. 

When just about to try that unknown sea. 

What a strange moment will that be ! 

1 Norrts's Poems, Grosart iii. 1 74. - Id. 63. 



Old English Verse 303 

But yet how much more strange that state 

When, loosen'd from th' embrace of this close mate, 
Thou shalt at once be plunged in liberty, 

And move as free and active as a ray 

Shot from the lucid spring of day ! 
Thou who just now wast clogg'd with dull mortality. 

That it may not seem as if Norris's religious verse 
were all of the contemplative and speculative kind, I 
give another quotation. It is from The Resignation. 

I '11 trust my great Physician still, 
I know what He prescribes can ne'er be ill ; 

To each disease He knows what's fit, 
I own Him wise and good, and do submit, 

I' 11 now no longer grieve or pine, 
Since 'tis Thy pleasure, Lord, it shall be mine. 

Thy medicine puts me to great smart, 
Thou 'st wounded me in my most tender part ; 

But 'tis with a design to cure, 
I must and will Thy sovereign touch endure. 

All that I prized below is gone, 
But yet I still will pray, ' Thy will be done ! ' 

Since 'tis Thy sentence, I should part 
With the most precious treasure of my heart ; 

I freely that and more resign 
My heart itself, as its delight is Thine ; 

My little all I give to Thee ; 
Thou gav'st a greater cost, Thy Son, to me. 

He left true bliss and joy above, 
Himself He emptied of all good but love : 

For me He freely did forsake 
More good than He from me can ever take. 

A mortal life for a divine 
He took, and did even that at last resign. 

Take all, great God ; I will not grieve, 
But still will wish that I had still to give. 

I hear Thy voice ; Thou bidst me quit 
My paradise ; I bless and do submit. 

I will not murmur at Thy word, 
Nor beg Thy angel to sheath up his sword. 1 

Among Norris's poems are a few Paraphrases. Those 
of parts of the I37th and I39th Psalms are excellent. 

1 Norris's Poems, Grosart iii, 162. 



304 Religious Thought in 

James Chamberlayne (c. 1660-1724) held the office of 
Gentleman-Usher to Prince George of Denmark. He 
was a man of very considerable acquirements, knew 
well Greek, Latin, High and Low Dutch, French, 
Portuguese, and Italian, and had some intelligent know- 
ledge of sixteen languages. He continued a work, once 
in much repute, which his father had begun, on The 
Present State of England, wrote or translated several 
theological, historical, and philosophical treatises, and 
was a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was a man 
of much piety, very anxious for the advancement of 
religion, and maintained an extensive correspondence 
with leading men abroad, who he hoped might do 
something to further these good designs. He wrote in 
verse a history of our Lord on earth, together with 
paraphrases of the Psalms, and some original poems 
(1680). The following is entitled Domine Jesu: 

The virtue of that balm which did distil 
From Thy pierc'd side infuse into my will, 
That Thy good pleasure here I may fulfil. 
Make me to Thee as to the centre move ; 
Each thought and act refine ; inflame my love 
To all Thy ways, that I may faithful prove. 
And since to Thee the Cross must be my guide, 
That joy which made Thee, make me to abide 
Its weight, that I in Paradise reside. 1 

Thomas Shepherd (1665-1739), who gave up a living 
in Buckinghamshire, and became the pastor of a Con- 
gregational church in Northampton, and afterwards of 
one at Braintree, Essex, was the author of Penitential 
Cries. They were published in 1692, and were often 
bound up with Mason's Songs of Praise. The following 
is from the 3Oth : 

My God, my God, my Light, my Love, 

Mine All in All to me ! 
Wilt Thou a gracious Father prove 

To souls that hang on Thee ? 



1 A Sacred Poem, etc., by James Chamberlayne, 1680, p. 182. 



Old English Verse 305 

My God, my God, my Light, my Love, 

Can'st Thou that soul forsake, 
That follows Thee with artless cries, 

Longing to overtake ? 

My God, my God, my Light, my Love, 

Come, come, with me abide ; 
Rejoice me with Thy presence, Lord, 

I have no joy beside. 

My God, my God, my Light, my Love, 

Hear Thou my mournful cry ; 
The God of Love hears from above, 

He will not see me die ! 1 

The poems of John Pomfret (1677-1703), Rector of 
Luton, once enjoyed a popularity of no ordinary kind. 
It is said that during 'the whole of the eighteenth 
century no other volume of poems was so often re- 
printed, or held in such popular estimation.' It was 
not among the critics and judges of poetry that they 
won this favour, but among the multitude, on whose 
scanty shelves lay a few books in common paper and 
coarse sheepskin. There Pomfret's Poems held an 
honoured place, scarcely second to Robinson Crusoe and 
Pilgrim's Progress. ' They were even printed in 
America in the middle of that century when so few 
books had been printed there that two pages might 
comprise the catalogue.' 2 Dr. Johnson 3 and Southey 4 
are both rather perplexed how to explain all this honour 
paid to a poet whose merits are not very great. Pro- 
bably the long immunity from fate which Pomfret's 
poetical reputation gained was chiefly owing to the 
pleasure which average human nature always finds in 
finding its own ideas those, at all events, which are 
most creditable or respectable smoothly clothed in 
language above, but not too much above, its own level. 
Much in the same way as among his secular poems 
The Choice touched with a light and easy hand those 

1 T. Shepherd's Penitential Cries, 1692. 

2 Quarterly Review, vol. xxxv. p. 189. 

3 Dr. Johnson's Lives of the Poets, vol. ii. p. 4. 

4 Southey's Later English Poets, vol. i. p. 96. 

U 



306 Religious Thought in 

objects of ambition which come most home to the 
heart of an ordinary Englishman in relation to material 
comfortableness, so, in handling sacred topics, Pomfret 
keeps well within the range of such religious and moral 
ideas as the bulk of well-meaning people can easily 
aspire to. In the poem, for instance, upon the Divine 
attributes, thoughts which all men are more or less 
alive to, of human life and of infinity, are suggested, 
without being entered into too deeply, and with too 
refined argument for a moderate and uncultivated 
intellect. Still, among very much that is mediocre, 
there are a few lines which rise quite above the level. 
Such are these, from the closing part of Pomfret's poem 
on the Judgment, which I borrow from Palgrave's 
Treasury of Sacred Song : 

ANGELS' SONG. 

O holy, holy, holy Lord, 
Eternal God, Almighty One, 
Be Thou for ever, and be Thou alone 
By all Thy creatures, constantly adored ! 

Ineffable, co-equal Three, 
Who from nonentity gave birth 
To angels and to men, to heaven and to earth, 
Yet always wast Thyself, and wilt for ever be. 
But for Thy mercy, we had ne'er possest 
These thrones, and this immense felicity 
Could ne'er have been so infinitely blest ! 
Therefore all glory, power, dominion, majesty, 

To Thee, O Lamb of God, to Thee 
For ever, longer than for ever, be. 

The following anonymous poem of the seventeenth 
century I take from Emily Taylor's Flowers and Fruits 
from Old English Gardens : 

THE CHILD'S DEATH. 

He did but float a little way 

Adown the stream of time ; 
With dreamy eyes watching the ripples play 
Or listening to their chime. 
His slender sail 
Scarce felt the gale : 



Old English Verse 307 

He did but float a little way, 

And, putting to the shore, 
While yet 'twas early day, 
Went calmly on his way, 

To dwell with us no more. 
No jarring did he feel, 
No grating on his vessel's keel ; 
A strip of yellow sand 
Mingled the waters with the land, 
Where he was seen no more : 
O stern word, Never more ! 
Full short his journey was ; no dust 

Of earth unto his sandals clave ; 
The weary weight that old men must, 

He bore not to the grave. 
He seem'd a cherub who had lost his way 
And wander'd hither : so his stay 
With us was short : and 'twas most meet 

That he should be no delver in earth's clod, 
Nor need to pause and cleanse his feet 

To stand before his God. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 1 

' THE Revolution,' remarks Hallam, ' did nothing for 
poetry. William's reign, always excepting Dryden, is 
our nadir in works of imagination.' 2 It must have 
seemed to many as if English poetry had almost died 
with the death of Dryden in 1701. 

Yet the very first year as we should commonly 
reckon it, of the eighteenth century was distinguished 
by a very notable accession to the treasures of sacred 
verse. Bishop Ken (1637-1711) first published his 
Morning, Evening, and Midnight Hymns in 1700, in 
the seventh edition of his Manual of Prayer for Win- 
chester Scholars. All three are beautiful, but the Mid- 
night Hymn excluded by its nature from all con- 
gregational hymn-books, and therefore not so popularly 
known is perhaps the most beautiful of them all. The 
good bishop himself used daily, immediately upon 
rising, to sing to his lute his Morning Hymn. He was 
accustomed, it appears, to adapt the words to his own 
tunes, for he was skilled in music, and his compositions 
were grave and solemn. The melody, however, to 
which the three hymns were originally printed, and 
which suffered in the course of time corruptions which 
changed its very structure, was Ravenscroft's version 
of Tallis's eighth tune. It will be found in the first 
appendix to the Life of Ken, by a Laywan(Lond. 1853). 

Ken's devotional poems were very numerous. To 
make and sing them was his recreation and chief 

1 The greater part of this Chapter is a revised reprint of an Essay in the 
1st ed. of Abbey and Overton's English Church in the Eighteenth Century. 

2 Hallam's Literature of Europe, vol. vi. p. 440. 

308 



Religioiis Thought in Old English Verse 309 

delight ; his anodyne 1 in seasons of wearying pain ; his 
comfort through many a sleepless night. The night- 
ingale warbling in the darkness troubles itself well-nigh 
as little about what listening men may think of 
its song, as Ken of the impression which his hymns 
might leave upon the ears of critics. ' His poems,' as 
Keble truly says, ' are not popular, nor probably ever 
will be. ... The narrative is often cumbrous, and the 
lyric verse not seldom languid and redundant.' 2 That 
simpler style, in which all his best verses are written, is 
constantly interrupted by a strained and artificial 
diction, in which he imitated Cowley, with none of 
Cowley's brilliancy. Ken himself was not blind to 
their faults. More than once he says he was inclined 
to burn them, and only refrained from doing so in the 
thought that verses which reflected the glow and 
raptures of his own soul might kindle other hearts 
also. 

There can be no object in quoting from the more 
prosaic or inharmonious verses which he often wrote. 
Many, however, of his lines are very beautiful. 

From Hymns on the Festivals : 

God sweetly calls us every day, 
Why should we then our bliss delay ? 

He calls to endless light, 

Why should we love the night ? 
Should we one call but duly heed, 
It would to joys eternal lead. 3 

From Gods A ttributes or Perfections : 

God's children love all human race 
In whom they God's dear image trace ; 

More likeness they attain, 

The greater love they gain : 
Saints in whom love is most express'd 
Fraternal charity loves best. 4 

1 See his very beautiful verses under the title An Anodyne quoted in 
Professor Paigrave's Treasury of Sacred Song. 

2 Quarterly Review, vol. xxxii. p. 230. 

3 Ken's Works, i. 383. The poem from which the stanza is taken 
has been adapted by Bishop W. Walsham How into an admirable hymn 
for St. Matthew's Day. 4 Id. ii. 89. 



310 Religious Thought in 

From Psyche: 

My God, Thou only art 
Able to know, keep, rule the heart ; 

O make my heart Thy care, 
Which I myself to keep despair. 
No rebels then will garrison my breast, 
Beneath Almighty wings my heart will live at rest ; 

Ken thus expresses his idea of a Christian pastor, in 
the first lines of his poem under that head : 

Give me the priest these graces doth possess 

Of an ambassador the just address ; 

A father's tenderness, a shepherd's care ; 

A leader's courage, which the cross can bear ; 

A ruler's awe, a watchman's wakeful eye ; 

A pilot's skill, the helm in storms to ply ; 

A fisher's patience, and a labourer's toil ; 

A guide's dexterity to disembroil : 

A prophet's inspiration from above ; 

A teacher's knowledge, and a Saviour's love. 

The following is a couplet which Mr. Godfrey 
Thring has inserted in his Church of England Hymn- 
Book : 

Submit yourself to God, and you shall find 
God fights the battles of a will resign'd. 2 

The works of three accomplished women may next 
claim notice. 

Lady Chudleigh, authoress of essays which obtained 
some repute, died in 1710. Her poems were published 
in 1703, and a third edition of them in 1722. In that 
entitled The Resolve? we may trace the spirit of an age 
in which religion was commonly arrayed, and some- 
times disguised, under the sober garb of contemplations 
upon reason and virtue. 

A miscellany of poems published anonymously 4 by 
the Countess of Winchelsea in 1713, would scarcely 
call for remark on the mere account of the two or three 
sacred pieces interspersed among its fables, moral 

1 Kerfs Works, iv. 201. 2 Appendix, Hymns for Private Use, 43. 

3 Quoted in Al. Dyce's Specimens of British Poetesses, 129. 

4 Miscellany Poems on several Occasions, written by a Lady, 1713. 



Old English Verse 3 1 1 

apologues, pastorals and Pindaric odes. It contains the 
story not unfrequently found in selections, and put a 
second time into verse by Hannah More, of the atheist 
and the acorn. 1 There is a paraphrase of the I48th 
Psalm, 2 written with much spirit, and appended to a 
poem on " the famous hurricane unparalleled in our 
latitudes of 1703. But her special title to notice rests 
almost entirely upon a poem which has only an indirect 
bearing, though not an unimportant one, upon that 
class of sacred poetry which finds its chief material in 
the more spiritual aspects of outward nature. Words- 
worth observes of her Nocturnal Reverie that, with the 
exception of a passage or two in the Windsor Forest of 
Pope, it is the only poetry of the period intervening 
between the publication of the Paradise Lost and The 
Seasons, in which external phenomena were contem- 
plated with any originality or genuine imagination. 3 

The name of Elizabeth Rowe (1676-1737) stands high 
among the writers of sacred poetry in the eighteenth 
century. She was daughter of a Mr. Singer, a Dissent- 
ing minister of good family and competent fortune, 
who once suffered imprisonment for Nonconformity, 
and was living in William lll.'s reign at Ilchester. 
Her earlier poems were published in 1696 under the 
title of Philomela : a name which soon became familiar, 
if not to the general throng 4 which haunted the literary 
coffee-houses, at least to all lovers of high-toned religious 
poetry. Both in her poetical and devotional writings 
there is a fervour which sometimes almost transgresses 
the bounds of sober piety, and which, in an age abhorrent 
of 'enthusiasm,' was looked upon with much suspicion 
even by those who most admired her talents. ' Some 
of her expressions,' says Watts, who edited, very soon 



1 Miscellany Poems, etc. 202. 

2 Id. 248. 

3 Wordsworth's ' Essay Supplementary to Preface,' Poet. Works, v. 213. 

4 ' Meets Philomela in the town 

Her due proportion of renown ? ' 
Lady Winchelsea's Poems. 'The Miser and the Poet,' Miscellany, 148. 



3 1 2 Religious Thought in 

after her death, her Devout Exercises of the Heart, ' are 
a little too rapturous and too near akin to the language 
of the mystical writers.' 1 'The reader will here find a 
spirit dwelling in flesh elevated into divine transports 
congenial to those of angels and unbodied minds.' 2 

Her character appears to have been one of much 
beauty. Her letters convey the idea of a bright and 
happy temperament. Half her property was dedicated 
to beneficent purposes, 3 and her poorer neighbours 
always found in her a most kindly friend ; while her 
amiable disposition and accomplished mind rendered 
her society courted in the best circles. 4 Her piety, 
wholly free from Puritan moroseness, was controlled 
and kept in balance without losing any of its impas- 
sioned ardour. It is interesting, too, to see in her the 
intimate friend of two good men so widely different 
from one another as Bishop Ken and Dr. Watts. 

Perhaps the poem which, both in its beauties and 
defects, is most characteristic of this author, is A Hymn 
in imitation of Canticles V- VII. Southey has on this 
account selected it for quotation in his book on the 
Later English Poets? It should be remembered that 
a hundred and fifty years ago, as in the preced- 
ing periods, the religious significance of the Book of 
Canticles was far more frequently dwelt upon in sermons 
and in religious works generally than has been the case 
in later years. 

Ye pure inhabitants of light, 

Ye virgin minds above, 
That feel the sacred violence, 

The mighty force of love ! 

By all your boundless joys, by all 

Your love to human kind, 
I charge you to instruct me where 

My absent Lord to find. 

1 Devout Exercises of the Heart, by Mrs. Rowe, ed. by Dr. Isaac 
Watts, second ed., 1737, Dedication. 
~ 2 Id. Preface by Watts, xiii. 

3 Works in Prose and Verse, etc. , i. Ixxvii. 

4 Watts' Preface to Devout Exercises, xviii. 

5 Southey's Later English Poets, i. 349. 



Old English Verse 313 

I Ve search'd the pleasant hills and vales, 

And climb'd the hills around, 
But no glad tidings of my love 

Among the swains have found. 

I Ve oft invoked him in the shades, 

By every stream and rock ; 
The rocks, the streams, and echoing shades 

My vain industry mock. 

I traced the city's noisy streets, 

And told my love aloud ; 
But no intelligence could meet 

Among the thoughtless crowd. 

I Ve search'd the temple round, for there 

He oft has blest my sight, 
And half unveil'd, of his lovely face 

Disclosed the heavenly light. 

But with these glorious views no more 

I feast my ravish'd eyes ; 
For veil'd with interposing clouds x 

My eager search he flies. 

Oh, could I in some desert land 

His sacred footsteps trace, 
I 'd with glad devotion kneel 

And bless the sacred place. 

Nor stormy winds should stay my course, 

Nor unfrequented shore, 
Nor craggy Alps, nor desert wastes, 

Where hungry lions roar. 

1 In her hymn, 'In vain the dusky night,' the same thought is well 
expressed in more sober language : 

' When, when shall I behold Thy face 

All radiant and serene, 
Without these envious, dusky clouds 

That make a veil between ? 

' When shall that long-expected day 

Of sacred vision be, 
When my impatient soul shall make 

A near approach to Thee ? ' 

The fervour of Mrs. Rowe's poetry might be instanced in a free but fine 
version of the 63d Psalm, beginning : 

' O God, my first, my last, my steadfast choice, 
My boundless bliss, the strength of all my joys.' 



3 1 4 Religious Thought in 

Through ranks of interposing death 

To his embrace I 'd fly, 
And to enjoy his blissful smiles 

Would be content to die. 1 

Ralph Thoresby enters into his diary for September 
loth, 1724, that he had been 'visited by that noted 
poet, Mr. [Samuel] Wesley 2 (1666-1735). Some 
mention is at all events due to the father of John and 
Charles Wesley, in his character as a writer of sacred 
poetry. Though his father and grandfather had been 
successively vicars of Charmouth, he was brought up, 
during his boyhood, in a Nonconformist academy. He 
afterwards became a staunch High Churchman, a friend 
of Robert Nelson 3 and other leading men of that party, 
an active promoter of the newly-founded Church 
Societies, 4 and somewhat over-eager in his opposition 
to Dissenters. 5 He declined an Irish bishopric, and 
became rector, first of South Ormsby, and afterwards 
of Epworth, both in Lincolnshire. His son Samuel, 
elder brother of John and Charles, in a poem entitled 
The Parish Priest, published in 1736, the year after his 
father's death, has left an affectionate and reverential 
tribute to his memory : 

A parish priest, not of the pilgrim kind, 6 
But fix'd and faithful to the post assign'd ; 
Through various scenes with equal virtue trod, 
True to his oath, his order, and his God. 

His looks the tenour of his soul express, 

An easy, unaffected cheerfulness, 

Steadfast not stiff, and awful not austere, 

Tho' courteous, reverend, and tho' smooth, sincere, 

In converse free, for every subject fit, 

The coolest reason joined to keenest wit. 7 

1 Works, etc. i. 131. 2 R. Thoresby's Diary, ii. 413 

3 C. F. Secretan's Life of Nelson, 101. 

4 G. G. Perry, Hist, of the Church of England, iii. 91. 

5 Letter of S. Wesley to Hearne, Reliq. Hearniatue, 40. 

6 This almost seems to hint at his brother, who had just started for 
Georgia. 

7 Poems on Several Occasions, by S. Wesley, Master of Blundell's 
School, Tiverton, etc., 1736, pp. 66-72. 



Old English Verse 315 

He tells that he was ' a guardian angel to the sick 
and poor, that there was not a Dissenter or a Papist in 
his parish, that he refused to read King James's Declar- 
ation, though expecting to be deprived for it, and that 
he was an indefatigable searcher after truth.' x This 
worthy clergyman was a voluminous writer of sacred 
poetry. His principal work was an heroic poem, in ten 
books upon The Life of Christ, published in i693- 2 It 
was received at the time with much applause. Nahum 
Tate bowed from the laureate throne, upon which he 
had just ascended, and feigned with proud humility 
that his own glories would by comparison grow dim : 

Even we, the tribe who thought ourselves inspired, 
Like glimmering stars in night's dull reign admired, 
Like stars, a numerous but a feeble host, 
Are gladly in your morning lustre lost. 3 

Luke Milbourne, also a translator of the Psalms, was 
no less effusive in his praise. But Pope makes Mil- 
bourne chief flamen in his empire of dulness, and puts 
into his mouth the dictum that ' Dulness is sacred in a 
sound divine.' 4 Perhaps, therefore, the praises of Mil- 
bourne and of Nahum Tate may not be altogether in- 
consistent with an opinion that Samuel Wesley's sacred 
heroics are tedious and prosaic. The book, however, 
brought its author for the time into considerable note. 
Poetry was just then, with few exceptions, at a very 
low ebb ; and encomiums were often freely lavished 
upon verses which would by no means satisfy a higher 
standard of poetical taste. And independently of its 
merits, whatever they might be, as a composition, a 
synoptical view of the Gospels, in a new form, and 
amply furnished with Scripture references, worked out by 
a man of no mean talent, was sure to deserve and obtain 
much respectful attention. It may be added that the 
work was brought out in very handsome form, in 

1 Poems on Several Occasions, by S. Wesley, Dedication. 

2 The Life of Christ, by S. Wesley : an Heroic Poem, 1693. 

3 Prefixed, with other complimentary verses, to the poem in the edition 
referred to. 4 Pope's Dunciad, ii. 352. 



316 Religious Thought in 

folio, illustrated with sixty admirable copperplates. In 
1704 he published and dedicated to Queen Anne a 
metrical History of the Old and New Testaments, also 
richly adorned with engravings. The poem which he 
described as ' the last effort of a retiring muse ' x was an 
elegy, written in 1715, upon the death of his revered 
friend, Robert Nelson. 

Samuel Wesley, the younger, died in 1739 only four 
years after his father. After leaving Christ Church he 
was second master for twenty years at his old school of 
Westminster. At the time of his death he was head- 
master of the Grammar School at Tiverton. He shared 
the poetical tastes common to his two brothers, and 
published in 1736 a collection of poems upon a variety 
of secular and sacred subjects. 2 His Battle of the Sexes, 
founded upon one of Addison's papers in the Guardian, 
is that by which he was best known. It is called by 
Alexander Chalmers ' a noble allegoric poem.' 3 What 
he wrote was sometimes humorous, but always pure 
and healthy in tone. Contemporary authors would, 
many of them, have done well to remember his homely 
advice 

If e'er to writing you pretend, 

Your utmost aid and study bend 

The paths of virtue to befriend, 

However mean your ditty ; 

That while your verse the reader draws 
To Reason and Religion's laws, 
None e'er hereafter may have cause 
To curse your being witty. 4 

The few hymns he wrote are not very noteworthy, 
though two or three of them, occasionally to be found 
in selections, contain some verses which would have 
been quite worthy of his brother Charles. 

Sir Richard Blackmore (1651-1729) was the favourite 
butt for the satire of the wits and poets of his day. He 

1 Prefixed to some editions of Nelson's Practice of True Devotion. 
- Poems on Several Occasions, 1736. 

3 Al. Chalmers's edition of 7 he Gziardian, note to No. 152. 

4 From Advice to One who was about to Write : Poems, etc. 



Old English Verse 317 

was a very worthy man, most anxious to promote 
the interests of religion and virtue. But he was afflicted 
with the cacoethes scribendi, and was unhappily pos- 
sessed with the idea that his lucubrations would be 
more effective and popular if they took a metrical 
form. All the spare moments of the estimable knight, 
as he drove from one patient to another, appear to have 
been dedicated to the composition of verses either for his 
next epic in ten books or for his version of the Psalms, 
or for his forthcoming volume of didactic poetry upon 
sacred and philosophical subjects. Effusions written, as 
Dryden said, 'to the rumbling of his chariot wheels,' 
and bearing for the most part scanty marks of revision, 
were very frequently a legitimate mark for the ridicule 
with which Dryden, Wycherley, Philips, Gay, Swift, 
Pope, and a host of others, overwhelmed each new pro- 
duction as it appeared from the press. 

Yet Blackmore had many admirers, and among them 
were some whose opinions are always worthy of respect. 
Addison, at the conclusion of one of his papers on 
Milton, called special attention to the poem (published 
ia 1712) on Creation. ' The work,' he said, ' was under- 
taken with so. good an intention, and is executed with 
so great a mastery, that it deserves to be looked upon 
as one of the most useful and noble productions in our 
English verse.' 1 Dr. Johnson said of this same poem, 
that ' if he had written nothing else it would have 
transmitted him to posterity among the first favourites 
of the English muse.' 2 Locke praised him ; and Dr. 
Watts thought that the success achieved by him had 
triumphantly confuted all theories of the impractic- 
ability of a worthy treatment in English poetry of Chris- 
tian subjects. 3 Molineux, a friend of Locke, even went 
so far as to declare that ' all our English poets except 
Milton have been ballad-makers in comparison with 
him.' 4 It may be added that his first epic, that of Prince 

1 Spectator^ No. 339. 3 I. Watts' Pref. to Horce Lyrics. 

2 Johnson's Lives, ii. 257. 4 Hearne's Reliquia, iii. 163. 



318 Religious Thought in 

Arthur, was decidedly popular, passing in two years 
through three editions. 

No doubt the comparative popularity which Black- 
more attained is one among many signs of the decadence 
of poetical taste which had set in soon after the middle 
of the seventeenth century. His style is almost always 
heavy and careless. Sometimes he becomes insuffer- 
ably tedious and prosaic x to an extent which more than 
justified the keenest banter of his opponents. Never- 
theless the wits did not do him justice. They had no 
wish to be fair to him. He had inveighed with all 
his might, not only against the immoralities of the 
stage, but against the general profanity and levity on 
serious or sacred subjects which so frequently disgraced 
the literature of his time. And, consequently, he made 
many enemies among a race of men than whom none 
were more skilled in barbing and polishing the epi- 
grams which sufficed for years to come to preserve 
his name to ridicule. Meanwhile, his works were not 
unvalued by a different class of readers. The poems 
which proceeded from his pen supplied, with all 
their faults, a deficiency which could not be satisfied 
by the sharp-witted writers who held them up to 
scorn. From its earliest infancy poetry has ever been 
the favourite channel through which the diviner faculty 
in man endeavours to find utterance. All the best 
poetry in the world, and that which has most touched 
the heart of men, has been either suffused with a 
certain mystical and spiritual element, or, at all events, 

1 What gleam of poetic feeling could be anticipated in a writer who 
could drone as follows ! (The passage comes from his Paraphrase of /ol>, 
chap, xiii.) 

Since you are pleased oft to enumerate 
God's wise and mighty works in this debate, 
I the same method have observed, to show 
That I his wonders know, no less than you. 
I do not your prolix discourses want, 
To prove those truths divine, I freely grant. 

Sir R. Blackmore's Paraphrases, etc., ed. 1716, p. 56. 

Some of his paraphrases, however, as that of the iO3d Psalm, are by no 
means wanting in spirit. 



Old English Verse 319 

has appealed to the deeper strings of our moral 
nature. It is untrue to the best sources of its inspira- 
tion if it is content for long together merely to sport, as 
it were, upon the surface of things ; still more so if it 
becomes flippant, unspiritual, immoral. During the 
period that followed upon the Restoration, this had been 
notoriously the prevailing character of English verse. 
And therefore among the more sober-minded of the 
educated community there were numbers who were 
heartily ready to greet, with an applause much more 
than proportionate to its intrinsic worth, a more healthy 
strain. They had begun to awaken to the surpassing 
merits of the Paradise Lost ; and, though the interval 
which separated a Milton from a Sir Richard Blackmore 
was wide beyond all comparison, they were all the 
better able to appreciate a more serious and reflective 
style of verse than they had of late been used to. They 
could welcome a very pedestrian muse in which they 
discerned sincerity and graver thought, in preference to 
one clad in the conventional garments and flaunting 
colours which had been fashionable. This may serve 
partly to explain the toleration that was extended to 
Blackmore's dulness. 

His writings were also in harmony with the general 
tone of thought which was being gradually formed in 
reference to the graver subjects of human contempla- 
tion. Poetry, far superior to his in spiritual power and 
in imaginative ability, would have fallen flat upon the 
ears of a prosaic generation which preferred to discuss 
its relations to the infinite from an altogether argu- 
mentative and ' common sense ' point of view. More- 
over, it was an age very devoid of poetical originality. 
Some affected to follow the French style ; some made 
Pindar their model ; some Virgil and the epic poets ; 
others imitated Horace. As for Blackmore, he set 
himself in his Creation to emulate Lucretius l in the 
character of a Christian philosopher. He wished, he 

1 Preface to his poem on Creation. 



3 2O Religious Thought in 

said, to make argument agreeable, and to adorn it with 
the harmony of numbers; 1 but where his object was 
mainly to instruct and reason, the ornaments of poetic 
eloquence were not to be expected. 

I think the following verses from the closing part of 
his paraphrase of the iO3d Psalm may be excepted 
from the general condemnation of heaviness : 

And all ye spirits of celestial race, 
Who far mankind in strength surpass, 
Who, free from stain, and with pure ardour warm, 
Your Lord's high orders perfectly perform, 
Strike your blest harps, your voices raise : 
With hallelujahs fill the skies around, 
Extol your God, and let your songs of praise 
From all your azure hills and crystal towers rebound ! 
Let all His wide dominions bless the Lord, 
Let Him by every creature be adored ! 

My soul, extend a vigorous wing ; 

Ardent to heaven direct thy flight, 
And, mingling rapture with the seraphs, sing 
Th' eternal triumphs, and exalt His might. 2 

Few names connected with the poetical literature of 
England in the eighteenth century are more familiar 
than that of Thomas Parnell (1679-1717). His story of 
Tlie Hermit is as well known as anything in the English 
language. Nor is its popularity in any way un- 
deserved. Hume, in his Essay on Simplicity and 
Refinement, said, in reference to this poem, that ' it is 
sufficient to run over Cowley once, but Parnell, after 
the fifteenth reading, is as fresh as at the first.' 3 His 
poetry in general has always given pleasure by the 
melody of its diction, and its polished but unaffected 
gracefulness. 4 Parnell was a clergyman, a man of 

1 Preface to his poem on Creation. 

2 Sir R. Blackmore's Paraphrases, 1716, p. 268. 

3 Quoted in Mitford's Life and Works of Parnell, p. 54. 

4 Campbell was a great admirer of Parnell. He praised the ' correct 
equable sweetness . . . the select choice of his expression, the clearness 
and keeping of his imagery, and the pensive dignity of his moral feeling : ' 
(Essay on English Poets, quoted by Cunningham in Johnson's Lives, 
ii. 93). 'The compass,' he elsewhere says, 'is not extensive, but its 
tone is peculiarly delightful :' T. Campbell, Specimens of English Poetry, 
iv. 62. 



Old English Verse 321 

warm, impulsive temperament ; too fond, it was said, of 
social indulgences ; but generous, benevolent, and a 
most delightful companion. He retained to the last 
the affectionate attachment of Pope, whose friendships 
were generally capricious and somewhat dangerous ; 
and his intimate acquaintance was much valued by 
other eminent men of literature, such as Addison and 
Steele, Swift and Arbuthnot. His works, which were 
all written between 1706 and his death in 1717, include 
a fair proportion of sacred poems. These putting out 
of the question his uninteresting studies of Scripture 
characters share in the sweet simplicity which gives 
the charm to his best verses on other subjects. They 
bear the stamp of his general character ; deficient in 
depth and fulness, but susceptible and ardent. His 
versification, smooth and easy as it is, is often injured 
by the too ready admission of seven-syllable lines 
among those of eight. 

The following are a few verses from his Way to 
Happiness : 

For He forsook His own abode 

To meet thee more than half the road. 

He laid aside His radiant crown, 

And love for mankind brought Him down 

To thirst and hunger, pain and woe, 

To wounds, to death itself below ; 

And He, that suffered there alone 

For all the world, despises none. 

To bid the soul that 's sick be clean, 

To bring the soul to life again, 

To comfort those that grieve for ill, 

Is His peculiar goodness still. 1 

Matthew Prior (1664-1721) paraphrased St. Paul's 
description of charity in smooth antithetical verses 
quite in the approved style of the period when he 
wrote, good in their way, but bearing to the original 
much the same relation as Pope's Homer to Homer 
himself. For example : 

Not soon provoked, she easily forgives, 
And much she suffers as she much believes : 

1 Parnell's Poems ; Anderson's British Poets, vol. vii. p. 59- 
X 



322 Religious Thought in 

Soft peace she brings wherever she arrives ; 
She builds our quiet, as she forms our lives, 
Lays the rough paths of peevish nature even, 
And opens in each heart a little heaven. 

His Solomon on the Vanity of the World, a poem in 
blank verse in three books, although the most studied 
and elaborate of all his productions, is very unreadable. 
His ode on the words, ' I Am that I Am/ written when 
he was quite a young man, is chiefly notable for the 
falsetto of its exaggerated intellectual humility- 
Then down with all thy boasted volumes, down 
Only reserve the sacked one : 

words which would have come consistently from the 
mouth of one of the earlier race of Particular Baptists, 
but were very absurd and unreal as spoken by Prior. 
There is, however, real force and earnestness in his 
Considerations on the 88t/i Psalm : 

Heavy, O Lord, on me Thy judgments lie. 
Accurst I am, while God rejects my cry. 
O'erwhelm'd in darkness and despair I groan ; 
And every place is hell ; for God is gone. 
O Lord, arise, and let Thy beams control 
Those horrid clouds, that press my troubled soul. 
Save the poor wanderer from eternal night, 
Thou that art the God of light. 

Downward I hasten to my destined place ; 
There none obtain Thy aid or sing Thy praise. 
Soon I shall lie in death's deep ocean drown'd : 
Is mercy there, or sweet forgiveness found ? 
O save me yet, while on the brink I stand ; 
Rebuke the storm, and waft my soul to land. 
O let her rest beneath Thy wing secure, 
Thou that art the God of power. 

Behold the prodigal ! to Thee I come, 
To hail my Father, and to seek my home, 
No refuge could I find, nor friend abroad, 
Straying in vice, and destitute of God. 
O let Thy terrors and my anguish end ! 
Be Thou my refuge, and be Thou my friend ! 
Receive the son Thou didst so long reprove, 
Thou that art the God of love. 1 

1 Parnell's Poews, 389. 



Old English Verse 323 

An Ode to the Creator, by John Hughes (1677-1720), 
one of the contributors to the Spectator, has sometimes 
been highly praised. But there is far too much in it of 
the grand, conventional style, too much straining after 
effect, too much self-consciousness on the part of the 
writer. It is very unequal in depth of thought and 
feeling to a poem from which he has evidently borrowed 
several of his ideas, that of Norris On the Creation. A 
similar remark may be made of The Ecstacy, the prin- 
cipal idea of which closely resembles that which the 
author just named has embodied in The Elevation. 
Both imagine the soul passing in rapturous contempla- 
tion through infinities of space upward to the presence 
of God. There is a stanza in Hughes not wanting in a 
certain kind of grandeur : 

And lo ! again the nations downward fly, 

And wide-stretch'd kingdoms perish from my eye. 

Heaven ! what bright visions now arise ! 
What opening worlds my ravish'd sense surprise ! 
I pass caerulean gulfs, and now behold 
New solid globes their weight, self-balanced, bear, 

Unpropt amid the fluid air, 
And all around the central sun in circling eddies roll'd. 

And now once more I downward cast my sight, 

When lo ! the earth, a larger moon, displays 

Far off, amid the heavens, her silver face, 

And to her sister moon by turns gives light ! 

Her seas are shadowy spots, her land a milky white. 1 

Compare this with Norris : 

Take wing, my soul, and upward bend thy flight 
To thy originary fields of light. 

Here's nothing, nothing here below 

That can deserve thy longer stay ; 

A secret whisper bids thee go 
To purer air, and beams of native day. 
Th' ambition of the tow'ring lark outvie 
And, like him, sing as thou dost upwards fly. 

How all things lessen which my soul before 
Did with the grovelling multitude adore ! 

1 ' Ode to the Creator : ' J. Hughes' Poems, Anderson, British Poets, 
vol. vii. p. 330. 



324 Religious Thought in 

Those pageant glories disappear 
Which charm and dazzle mortals' eyes : 
How do I in this higher sphere, 
How do I mortals with their joys despise ! 
Pure uncorrupted element I breathe, 
And pity their gross atmosphere beneath. 1 

Both are fine. But there is a spiritual power in the 
Christian Platonism of Norris, which is deficient in the 
more material conceptions of Hughes. To unite with 
the ideal notion of the ecstatic flight of the soul, ' a short 
view of the heavens according to the modern philosophy,' 
was a combination which needed a more masterly hand 
than his to treat successfully. 

A Hymn to Darkness, by Yalden, a Jacobite clergy- 
man of the earlier part of the eighteenth century, has 
sometimes been praised. It is, however, little more 
than an adaptation from a finer poem by Norris. 

The following verses by Elizabeth Thomas (1675- 
1730), the Corinna of Dryden, are of some interest, both 
in themselves and from the circumstances under which 
they were written. She had been brought up a rigid 
Calvinist. But reflection on the inscrutable mysteries 
of predestination and free-will perplexed and distressed 
her. When Burnet's Exposition of the Articles was in 
the press, in the last year of the seventeenth century, 
she waited eagerly for its publication, hoping to find in 
it some solution of her difficulties. It was with great 
disappointment that she found there little more than an 
impartial statement of different opinions. The lines 
here quoted, which she very often afterwards repeated 
to herself to confirm and tranquillise her faith, were 
thereupon written as the expression of a resignation to 
which she only attained after much mental struggle and 
many self-reasonings: 

Ah ! strive no more to know what fate 
Is preordained for thee : 

'Tis vain in this my mortal state, 
For Heaven's inscrutable decree 
Will only be revealed in vast Eternity. 

1 J. Norris 's Poems, 101, 



Old English Verse 325 

Then, O my soul ! 
Remember thy celestial birth, 
And live to Heaven while here on earth : 

Thy God is infinitely true 

All justice, yet all mercy too. 
To Him, then, through thy Saviour pray 
For grace to guide thee on thy way, 

And give thee will to do. 
But humbly, for the rest, my soul ! 
Let Hope and Faith the limits be 
Of thy presumptuous curiosity. 1 

The hymns which Joseph Addison (1672-1719) wrote 
are marked alike by the pure and tranquil tone of his 
piety, and by the polished simplicity of his style. On 
either of these accounts, however, they have sometimes 
been thought unsatisfactory by one or another class of 
readers. Although elevation, and even fervour of 
religious feeling, is by no means wanting in them, they 
have sometimes been complained of, 1 as by Wesley and 
his followers, as deficient in what they have called 
' unction.' On the other ground, the simplicity of their 
language often seemed like mere plainness to tastes 
which had been used to a more adorned and lyrical 
style of poetry. To be properly appreciated, they 
should be read as when they first appeared, during the 
summer and autumn of 1712, in the Saturday numbers 
of the Spectator. The delightful little homilies by which 
they were introduced, and of which they formed a part, 
throw a clearer light both upon their general character, 
and upon the impression they left upon the public 
mind. In the first, 3 headed by the familiar lines from 
Horace 

Si fractus illabatur orbis, 
Impavidum ferient ruinae 

Addison discourses to his readers on the fearless and 
cheerful confidence with which a good man, amid the 
cares and accidents of life, reposes in the love and 

1 Dyce's British Poetesses, 156. 

2 Cf. C. B. Pearson in Oxford Essays (1858), p. 142. 

3 Spectator, No. 441. 



326 Religious Thought in 

wisdom of an Almighty helper. The hope, the patience, 
the manful spirit, which such trust inspires, is truly its 
own reward, independently of the duty of faith and the 
supernatural blessing which accompanies it. Above 
all, 'When the soul is hovering in the last moments of 
its separation, when it is just entering on another state 
of existence, to converse with scenes and objects and 
companions that are altogether new, what can support 
her under such tremblings of thought, such fears, such 
anxiety, such apprehensions, but the casting of all her 
cares upon Him who first gave her being, who has con- 
ducted her through one stage of it, and will always be 
with her, to guide and comfort her in her progress 
through eternity?' And then remarking how beautifully 
this reliance upon God is represented by David in the 
23rd Psalm, he concludes the paper by his well-known 
version of it, ' The Lord my pasture shall prepare.' 

The second 1 is upon gratitude no difficult virtue, 
but one in which every generous mind feels pleasure. 
But if so, it should exalt the soul to rapture, when em- 
ployed upon the great object of all gratitude, the Giver 
of all our blessings. Greek and Latin poets constantly 
employed their talents in celebrating the praises of 
their deities ; yet ' our idea of the Supreme Being is 
infinitely more great and noble than what could possibly 
enter into the heart of a heathen.' The Jews have set 
us a magnificent example of divine poetry ; he could 
wish the Christian world would follow it. He then 
gives his readers the hymn beginning, ' When all Thy 
mercies, O my God ! ' 

The third 2 is upon the means to be used for the 
strengthening of faith. His first recommendation is, 
that when by reading a discourse a person is thoroughly 
convinced of the truth of any doctrine, and the reason- 
ableness of belief in it, he should never afterwards suffer 
himself to call it in question. It is an axiom in all 
science not to keep re-examining principles or argu- 

1 Spectator, No. 453. 2 Id. No. 465. 



Old English Verse 327 

ments, upon the truth of which we have once been 
satisfied ; in religion it is a necessary rule to prevent 
perpetual vacillation and perplexity. When Latimer 
grew old he could no longer trust his memory for 
reasons, but was wisely content to repeat before his 
questioners the articles of the faith in which he had long 
before made up his mind to live and die. He advises, 
however, secondly, that they who are competent to do 
so should always keep in memory, ready at hand, the 
arguments that had appeared strongest to them. 
Thirdly, he dwells upon the mutual strength which 
faith and the active practice of morality derive from 
one another. Fourthly, and above all, he insists upon 
the power of habitual adoration. ' The devout man 
does not only believe, but feels there is a Deity. He 
has actual sensations of Him.' Lastly he discourses on 
the value of retirement, and of the contemplations of 
God in the power and wisdom of His works. After 
citing, in reference to this, a remarkable passage from 
Aristotle, he repeats the Psalmist's words, ' The heavens 
declare the glory of God,' and concludes with his hymn, 
beginning 'The spacious firmament on high.' 1 

In the fourth, 2 alluding to a previous paper, in which 
greatness had been spoken of as a principal element in 
stirring the imagination, he remarks how often his 
imagination had been kindled, and ideas of the glorious 
majesty of God suggested to him, by the vastness and 
grandeur of the sea, even in a calm, still more when 
heaving with a tempest. He had read many accounts 
in the old poets of storms at sea, but none, to his mind, 
were equal in sublimity to that in the Psalm which tells 
of those who see the works of the Lord and his wonders 
on the deep. Nor did he speak without experience. 



1 Dr. Johnson was exceedingly fond of this hymn, and used to repeat 
it with a face beaming with enthusiasm. Hartley Coleridge liked it the 
least of Addison's hymns. ' I cannot away,' he said, 'with the "spangles" 
and the "shining frame." They remind me of tambour work. Perhaps 
if I had never read the Psalm, I might think the verses fine.' Essays and 
Marginalia, ii. 71. 2 Spectator, No. 489. 



328 Religious Thought in 

He had felt the blessing of faith and prayer amid the 
terrors of a great storm. The hymn that follows 
' How are Thy servants blessed, O Lord/ ' made by a 
gentleman at the conclusion of his travels,' was the 
expression of his own devout gratitude on the occasion 
when he narrowly escaped from shipwreck off the Coast 
of Liguria. 

The last * of the five papers, in which Addison clothed 
a part of his meditations in sacred verse, is shaped in 
the form of a letter from the worthy clergyman who 
had been represented as one of that circle of intimate 
friends of which the ' Spectator ' himself, Sir Roger de 
Coverley, and Will Honeycomb were principal mem- 
bers. He has been, he says, and still is seriously ill, 
and his thoughts are often employed in meditating on 
the great change to which he feels that he may be 
drawing near. He quotes, at length, a striking passage 
from Sherlock's Treatise on Death ; and then, dwelling 
in a few impressive words on his Christian faith being 
his one only support, he adds the hymn which he had 
composed during his sickness, ' When rising from the 
bed of death.' 

It will be readily understood that the effect and 
popularity of Addison's hymns were immensely en- 
hanced by the manner in which they appeared. Dr. 
Drake, in his edition of The English Essayists of the 
Last Century, quotes the remark of a contemporary 
writer, that ' all the pulpit discourses of a year scarce 
produced half the good as flowed from the Spectator of 
one day.' Extreme as this over-statement is as the 
suppression of all preaching for a few months would 
have quickly shown no doubt there was much truth in 
it, so far as regarded a very great number of the readers 
of the Spectator, We are told by Budgell that 20,000 
numbers were sometimes sold in one day ; and as each 
paper passed on an average through several hands, the 
circulation must be considered as something wholly un- 

1 Spectator, No. 513. 



Old English Verse 329 

paralleled in that age. Thoughts upon religion as well 
as upon morality, treated in a popular and attractive 
form, were brought into the homes and to the hearts of 
thousands who had long been comparative strangers to 
such reflections. There cannot be the least doubt that 
Addison's hymns, introduced as they were so aptly, and 
in terms so well fitted to appeal to the deeper feelings of 
Englishmen, clung to the memory of admiring readers 
to a greater extent than could have been expected from 
their intrinsic merit. 

That merit, however, is by no means inconsiderable. 
They were never meant for congregational singing, and 
though some of them are often found in collections 
intended for this purpose, they are, with an exception, 1 
out of place there. But there is none the less a deep vein 
in them of pure and devout piety. Mr. George Mac- 
donald, while acknowledging the charm which he finds 
in that hymn, especially of 'The spacious firmament on 
high,' fancies nevertheless that he sees in it 'a sign of 
the poetic times : a flatness of spirit, arising from the 
evanishment of the mystical element, begins to result in 
a worship of power.' The hymn, he adds, is good, yet 
' like the loveliness of the red and lowering west, it 
gives sign of a grey and cheerless dawn, under whose 
dreariness the child will first doubt if his father loves 
him, and next doubt if he has a father at all, and is not 
a mere foundling that nature has lifted from her path.' 2 
There would have been more force in these remarks, 
suggestive as they are, if Addison had written no other 
hymns than that which Mr. Macdonald has mainly in 
his mind. It is true that in all his writings there is a 
certain sobriety and reserve in his treatment of devo- 
tional subjects which not unfrequently gives almost an 
appearance of frigidity. Thus, God is nearly always 
spoken of as 'the Supreme Being.' This was owing 



1 Some verses from ' When all Thy mercies ' make an excellent hymn, 
which may yet become quite popular in public worship. 

2 England's Antiphon, 279. 



330 Religious Thought in 

partly to the general character of the papers among 
which they appeared, but in great measure also to the 
tone of Addison's mind. And yet it is perfectly clear 
that he was as strongly persuaded of the reality of that 
immediate intuition of God on the part of the believer, 
which is the root principle of all mysticism, and of a 
direct Divine influence upon the soul, as those who 
have expressed the same belief in the most rapturous 
terms of enthusiasm. 1 The poetical motto, which is 
intended to sound the keynote of the Essay in which 
the last of his hymns is introduced, is the line from 
Virgil 

Afflata est numine quando 
Jam propiore Dei, 

with Dryden's translation of it, 

When all the god came rushing on her soul. 

Nor could the sense of a direct contact of the spirit of 
man with Deity be more earnestly expressed than in 
those two fine lines in which he called to mind his com- 
munion with a higher Power in an hour of great peril : 

Whilst in the confidence of prayer, 
My soul took hold on Thee. 

A passing reference is due to the famous soliloquy in 
Cato. It may rank with sacred poetry, as worthily as 
the comparative purification of the stage which Addi- 
son's influence effected is worthy to be classed among 
his best deeds as a Christian moralist. 

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) was on ly to a verv 
limited extent a writer of sacred poetry in the stricter 
meaning of the expression. 'Vital spark of heavenly 
flame,' the ambition of village choirs in old days, 2 was 
written in 1712. He had commented in a letter to 
Steele 3 on the well-known Animula, vagula, etc., of 
Hadrian, and was requested in return to compose an 
ode upon them, in two or three stanzas, which might 

1 Cp. Al. Knox, Remains, iii. 343. 

2 C. B. Pearson in Oxford Essays (1858), p. 161. 3 Spectator, No. 532. 



Old English Verse 331 

be set to music. 1 Pope complied, borrowing largely 
from the Thought of Death, by Flatman, a barrister, 
poet, and painter, who had died in 1688, the year 
Pope was born. 2 The verses from which the original 
idea was taken had been curiously characteristic of 
the dying emperor, the conflicting elements in whose 
varied character ' his earnestness and his levity, his 
zeal for knowledge and frivolity in appreciating it, his 
patient endurance and restless excitability' 3 are all 
reflected in the lines with which he beguiled the later 
moments of a painful and lingering malady. Pope's ode 
cannot be called even a free paraphrase of the words 
by which it was suggested ; it is simply a rendering of 
the general idea in a Christian sense. Yet it retains 
a good deal of the artificial tone which was perhaps 
almost inevitable in transferring, even with great altera- 
tions, to a Christian, in his most solemn hour, words 
so deeply stamped with the thought and special char- 
acter of the dying Roman. It is, however, by no means 
unworthy of the repute it gained. 

The sacred eclogue, entitled the Messiah, appeared 
first in the Spectator for May 14, 1712. More authors 
than one 4 have remarked upon what has been aptly 
called its ' flamboyant ' style, by which it contrasts most 
unfavourably with the sublime simplicity of Isaiah. 
Wordsworth refers to it as a special example of ' what 
is usually called poetic diction,' as compared with the 
genuine language of poetry. 5 

Pope's rendering of St. Francis Xavier's prayer comes 
with a sort of incongruity in the middle of his poems. 
It is as follows : 

Thou art my God, sole object of my love 
Not for the hope of endless joys above ; 

1 Miller's On Hymns, quoted in F. Saunders's Evenings with the 
Sacred Poets, 290. 2 Id. 

3 C. Merivale's Hist, of the Romans under the Empire (1862), vii. 490. 

4 F. Saunders's Evenings, etc., 291 ; G. Macdonald's England's Anti- 
phon, 285. 

5 W. Wordsworth, Appendix to Poems on Poetic Diction, v. 193, 
1850. 



33 2 Religious Thought in 

Not for the fear of endless pains below, 
Which they who love Thee not must undergo. 

For me and such as me, Thou deign'st to bear 
An ignominious cross, the nails, the spear ; 
A thorny crown transpierced Thy sacred brow, 
While bloody sweats from every member flow. 

For me in tortures Thou resign'dst Thy breath, 
Embraced me on the Cross, and saved me by Thy death. 
And can these sufferings fail my heart to move ? 
What bu Thyself can now deserve my love ? 

Such as then was, and is, Thy love to me, 
Such is, and shall be, still my love to Thee, 
To Thee, Redeemer ! mercy's sacred spring, 
My God, my Father, Maker, and my King ! 

He appears to have had the first verse of it in mind 
when he wrote in The Universal Prayer 

What conscience dictates to be done, 

Or warns me not to do 
This, teach me more than hell to shun, 

That more than heaven pursue. 

The verse and the sentiment which it contains is a 
noble one. Nevertheless the transition is as strong as 
it is characteristic, from the fervid personal devotion 
of the great Spanish missionary to the measured ' What 
conscience dictates ' of the renowned eighteenth century 
poet. 

Pope wrote little sacred verse ; but his special aim 
was to be a writer of ethical poetry, 1 with an ethical 
system based upon the strongest foundations of religion. 
The design of the Essay on Man approached very nearly 
to that of a sacred poem. Milton, in the solemn prelude 
to his great work, implores the illumining aid of the 
Holy Spirit 

That to the height of this great argument 

I may assert eternal Providence, 

And justify the ways of God to men. 2 

1 ' Pope's predilection for ethical poetry grew on him. ... In his last 
illness he compared himself to Socrates, dispensing his morality among 
his friends just as he was dying. ' J. Conington (on the poetry of Pope) , 
Oxford Essays (1858), p. 47. 

- Paradise Lost, i. 24. 



Old English Verse 333 

Pope echoes these words, and quotes the last line as the 
express purpose of his own undertaking. 1 Somerville, 
in his enthusiastic encomium upon the Essay, can hardly 
be said to have overstated the aspirations of the writer 
of it : 

Be it thy task to set the wanderer right, 
Point out her way in her aerial flight ; 
Her noble mien, her honours lost, restore, 
And bid her deeply think and proudly soar. 
Thy theme sublime and easy verse will prove 
Her high descent and mission from above. 
Let others now translate ; thy abler pen 
Shall vindicate the ways of God to men ; 
In virtue's cause shall gloriously prevail, 
When the bench frowns in vain, and pulpits fail, 
Made wise by thee, whose happy style conveys 
The purest morals in the softest lays, 
As angels once, so now we mortals bold 
Shall climb the ladder Jacob viewed of old ; 
Thy kind reforming muse shall lead the way 
To the bright regions of eternal day. 2 

The opinion of the clever hunting squire by whom these 
lines were written may not in itself be sufficient to 
establish that Pope had proposed to himself any such 
lofty object ; but it clearly shows that the Essay was 
regarded by some intelligent readers of his time as 
worthily accomplishing the high purpose which the 
author of it had laid down the vindication of a Divine 
providence overruling all human affairs. 

It is not within the scope of this chapter to enter 
closely into the real character of the Essay on Man. 
There is the less reason for doing so, as the subject has 
been ably discussed by some of the best writers of our 
day. It must not, however, be passed over entirely. 

Pope's Essay met the taste of the age. The prin- 
ciples of natural religion were being discussed by men 
of all views in every educated circle it may be rather 
said, in every place of public resort where men con- 
versed and reasoned. Fundamental questions relating 

1 Essay on Man, canto 1 6. 

2 W. Somerville's Poems : f To the Author of the Essay on 



334 Religious Thought in 

to the nature of the Divine attributes, the origin and 
cause of evil, the objects of human society, were exciting 
profound attention among all who advanced any pre- 
tensions to serious thought. 1 In the great controversy 
between Deists and the defenders of revealed religion 
they were being perpetually recurred to. A philo- 
sophical poem, therefore, on these subjects, proceeding 
from a poet whose talents were held in universal honour, 
was received with the most cordial welcome. But 
before the chorus of applause which greeted its first 
appearance had yet died away, the question was already 
asked, how far it redeemed the lofty promise of its ex- 
ordium. Was not its tendency rather a downward than 
an upward one? Did not its conclusions lead rather 
to scepticism, or to fatalism, than to a secure and reason- 
able faith? Pope was startled and disturbed to find 
that such an interpretation could be put upon his poem, 
and gladly availed himself of the powerful champion- 
ship of Warburton. The truth is, he had entered upon 
a task unfitted to his genius, and far too deep for him. 
He had intended, in a train of reasoning none the less 
philosophical for its poetical form, to grapple with diffi- 
culties which are as old as the reason of mankind, and, 
in doing so, to smooth the way of religion, and strengthen 
the foundations of morality. His labours had resulted 
in a poem, rich indeed in brilliant passages, and fasci- 
nating by the polished condensation of its periods ; but 
essentially vague and superficial, and open to very 
different constructions, according as the mind of the 
reader filled up for itself the gaps and deficiencies in 
the thought of the writer. ' Pope,' says Taine, ' is a 
poet if read in fragments.' 2 Much the same may be 
said of his philosophy. Where each separate idea is 
stated so effectively, it is at first difficult to realise 
that the solidity of the whole reasoning does not in any 
way correspond with the pointed impressiveness of the 
details. 

1 See Pattison's Introduction to his ed. of the Essay on Man, p. 4. 

2 H. Taine's Hist, de la Lift. Anglaise, Bk. in. chap. vii. 4. 



Old English Verse 335 

Yet the poem might have been a very noble one, if 
Pope had had the will and the power to carry out in a 
religious and meditative spirit the plan originally sug- 
gested to him. Bolingbroke seems to have pressed him 
to write an essay in verse upon the objects and destinies 
of human life, but to have advised that he should treat 
the subject not so much from an argumentative as from 
a poetical and imaginative point of view. 'The busi- 
ness,' he said, ' of the philosopher is to dilate, ... to 
press, to prove, to convince : and that of the poet to 
hint, to touch his subject with short and spirited strokes, 
to warm the affections, and to speak to the heart.' 1 
But Pope had far too much in common with his ' guide, 
philosopher, and friend ' to carry out the project with 
success. Although a steady believer in the grand truths 
of Revelation, 2 yet, as Hazlitt remarks, ' he was in poetry 
what the sceptic was in religion.' 3 He was critical and 
wholly unimpassioned ; he lacked enthusiasm ; there is 
no depth of feeling ; no grandeur of sentiment ; no 
imaginative power in anything he ever wrote. His 
special talents were great, but they were not of the 
kind which the task proposed to him specially demanded. 
The sound common sense, the keen observation of 
manners and character, the epigrammatic wit, the finished 
style, the harmonious flow of numbers, were all in- 
sufficient for such an undertaking. To all appearance 
he scarcely knew in what consisted the less obvious 
difficulties of his subject, what fires of world-old con- 
troversies lay smouldering under the ground over which 
he lightly trod, or what unsuspected conclusions might 
be drawn from the argument by which, with satisfaction 
to himself, he established the optimism of nature. His 
poem, even in its religious aspect, must not be unduly 
disparaged. There must have been very considerable 
merits in a work which was not only widely accept- 

1 'Bolingbroke to Swift,' quoted by J. Conington, in Oxford Essays, 
(1858), p. 44- 

- Q. Rev. xxxii. p. 310. 

3 W. Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Poets, 94. 



336 Religious Thought in 

able at a time when a too prudential system of 
religion generally prevailed, but which Kant and Dugald 
Stewart praised, 1 and which Toplady, most Calvinistic 
of the Evangelicals, quoted with the utmost approba- 
tion. 2 Only it was insufficient, 3 like much else that Pope 
wrote, both on its theoretic and on its emotional side. 4 
Before the end of the eighteenth century, the time had 
come when this was felt, not only by those who had 
been brought up in that more meditative school of 
thought, of which men like Coleridge and Wordsworth 
were representatives, but by thousands who could have 
given little reason for the distaste into which Pope's 
poems had fallen, except the practical one that they were 
not what they wanted. ' People still go to see Pope's 
house at Twickenham,' said Chateaubriand, of the years 
1792-1800, and pick sprays of the weeping- willow which 
he planted ; but his renown, like his willow, is a good 
deal decayed.' 5 In our day his merits and his defects 
alike are probably far more justly appreciated than they 
were either in his own age, or in that which immediately 
preceded our own. 

Gay wrote one or two short poems on semi-sacred 
subjects, a Night Contemplation and a Thought on 
Eternity ; but they are scarcely worthy of further notice. 
They are written stiffly. He was far more at home in 
writing fables to pleasant, easy verse. 

The elegy on Addison by Thomas Tickell (1686- 
1740) has been very highly praised by Dr. Johnson, 
Lord Macaulay, and others. The following are a few 
lines from it on the disembodied spirit : 

In what new region, to the just assign'd, 

What new employment please th' unbody'd mind ? 

1 Pattison, n. 

2 Toplady's Works, 1825: 'Christian and Philos. Necessity Asserted,' 
vol. vi. p. 84. 

3 Yet a writer in the Quarterly Review remarks fairly enough, ' For the 
contradictions and semi-sophistries of these striking essays the amazing 
difficulties of the subject should be rather held accountable than the poet. ' 
Quarterly Review, July 1862, 154. 

4 Pattison, 9. 

5 Essai sur la Litt. Angl., ii. 273. 



Old English Verse 337 

A winged virtue, through th' eternal sky, 

From world to world unwearied does he fly ? 

Or curious trace the long laborious maze 

Of heaven's decrees wheie wondering angels gaze. 

Does he delight to hear bold seraphs tell 

How Michael battled and the dragon fell ; 

Or, mix'd with milder cherubim, to glow 

In hymns of love, not ill essayed below ? 

Or dost thou warn poor mortals left behind, 

A task well suited to thy gentle mind ? 

William Broome (1687-1745), a clergyman in the 
eastern counties, left a few poems on Scriptural subjects, 
which may be found with his other works in the collec- 
tions of English poetry. There are lines in his Thoughts 
on the Death of my dear Friend, Elijah Fenton, which 
would well deserve to be quoted, if the whole piece had 
not been obviously framed upon the general model of 
Tickell's elegy. In truth, he was too much of an 
imitator ever to emerge from the lower ranks of the 
minor poets. His paraphrase, however, of Habakkuk 
iii. is by no means wanting in vigour. The following 
verses form part of it : 

But why, ah ! why, O Sion, reigns 
Wide-wasting havock o'er thy plains ? 
Ah me ! destruction is abroad ! 
Vengeance is loose, and wrath from God ! 
See ! hosts of spoilers seize their prey ! 
See ! slaughter marks in blood his way ! 
See ! how embattled Babylon 
Like an unruly deluge rushes on ! 

Yet though the fig-tree should no burthen bear, 
Though figs delude the promise of the year ; 
Yet though the olive should not yield her oil, 
Nor the parch'd glebe reward the peasant's toil ; 
Though the tired ox beneath his labours fall, 
And herds in millions perish from the stall, 

Yet shall my grateful strings 

For ever praise Thy name, 

For ever Thee proclaim, 
Thee everlasting God, the mighty King of kings. 1 

1 British Poets, vol. viii. p. 752. 
Y 



338 Religious Thought in 

Aaron Hill (1685-1750) was a man of much study, 
varied accomplishments, and multitudinous employ- 
ments, among which was the managership of Drury 
Lane Theatre. His poetry, though much praised by 
almost all literary contemporaries, 1 has not maintained 
the repute it once possessed. No doubt it shows much 
original power, but it is often somewhat affected, and 
sometimes turgid. Sceptical in many of his opinions, 
he was yet by no means wanting in religious feeling. 
He not unfrequently chose Scriptural subjects. As 
Prior had written a long poem on Solomon, and Parnell 
on Moses and David, so he wrote an epic in ten books, 
and in varied metres, on Gideon. His verses on the 
Judgment Day, which may be compared with those of 
Pomfret, Prior, and Watts, are very much wanting in 
real solemnity, but have something of the wild fantastic 
grandeur which characterises Martin's pictures. The 
version of David's elegy on Saul and Jonathan is good, 
and keeps close to the original ; others, however, of his 
paraphrases, as of the iO4th Psalm, and of the Song of 
Moses, have too much straining after effect, too much 
that reminds of stage action, to be pleasing. He also 
rendered into verse part of the Sermon on the Mount, 
an attempt which could hardly be so successful as to 
escape an air of being, if not irreverent, at all events out 
of place. His best verses are contained in that which 
is also his most sceptical poem, The Religion of Reason. 
It exhibits a man in the midst of doubt, in any case 
' undoubting God,' and waiting in suspense : 

Until at last, 

Death opening Truth's ba.rr'd gate, 'tis time to see 
God's meanings in the light His presence lends. 2 

Christopher Pitt (1699-1748), who used to be well 
known as the translator of Virgil's sEnetd, and whom 

1 As by Bolingbroke, Pope, Chesterfield, Thomson, Richardson, Mallet, 
Savage, etc. 

2 Hill's Poems, British Poets, viii. 731. Cf. Pope in the Essay on Man : 

Hope humbly then ; with trembling pinions soar ; 
Wait the great teacher Death, and God adore. 



Old English Verse 339 

Hervey calls ' the famous Mr. Pitt of New College,' * 
was the author of some paraphrases of part of the Book 
of Job, and of some of the Psalms. 

They have no claim to particular notice ; and I quote 
four lines simply to illustrate that characteristic bane 
of eighteenth century verses, the aspiring to the artifical 
graces of ' poetic diction :' 

To Thee my muse shall consecrate her lays, 
And every note shall labour in Thy praise ; 
The hallow'd theme shall teach me how to sing, 
Swell on the lyre, and tremble on the string. 2 

But it is full time to recur to the opening years of 
the century, and remark on the condition of congrega- 
tional hymnody at that time. 

The New Version was in most churches first begin- 
ning to supplant the old. It had been allowed 'by the 
Court at Kensington ' 3 the only authority upon which 
it rests in 1696. Nahum Tate (1652-1715), a year or 
two after, succeeded Shadwell as Court Poet. His 
personal character was not of a kind to do great credit 
either to his Laureate office, or to his yet higher function 
as chief hymnist to the Church of England. ' He was 
a good-natured fuddling companion,' says Southey, 
quoting from Oldys, ' and his latter days were spent in 
the Mint as a refuge from his creditors.' 4 He wrote 
some dramas of no great note, and was an accomplice 
with Shadwell in ' improving upon ' King Lear and 
others of Shakespeare's plays ; an offence, of which it 
must be said in extenuation, that Otway, Davenant, 
and Dryden, had done the same. 5 Nicholas Brady 
(1659-1716), his associate in versifying the Psalms, had 
been an active promoter of the Revolution, and was 
basking in royal favour as chaplain to the King and 
Queen. He was also rector of the two benefices of 
Clapham and Richmond. 

1 ' Meditation among the Tombs,' Works, vol. vi. p. 267. 

2 Pitt's Poems, British Poets, vol. viii. p. 812. 

3 C. B. Pearson, in Oxford Essays (1858), p. 121. 

4 Southey, Later English Poets, \. 173. 5 Qu. Rev. xxxv. 186-7. 



340 Religious Thought in 

It was not without a long struggle, which lasted in 
fact well into the present century, that Sternhold and 
Hopkins were at length fairly superseded, either by the 
New Version or by the later hymns. Their composi- 
tion was supported not only by the strong conservat- 
ism of the church, but by the deliberate authority of 
many men of ability and weight. Bishop Bull greatly 
preferred it to the one that had recently come in ; and 
his voice was constantly heard by his family very early 
in the morning or late at night, singing the familiar 
Psalms. 1 Bishop Beveridge was quite of the same 
opinion. He thought it purer and plainer English, and 
that it kept nearer to the text. 2 Hearne spoke with 
disgust of the ' intolerable alterations ' that had been 
made, especially in the change of fine English Saxon 
words for new-fangled phrases. 3 Bishop Horsley also 
defended it as a just and dignified rendering of the 
Psalms. 4 And in country places more especially, 
where few could read, it was no light matter to set 
aside words which, wedded to their own tunes, had 
been known by rote for what going back as it did 
to the earlier years of the Reformation must have 
seemed like time immemorial. For a long time, there- 
fore, yet to come, a great number, perhaps the bulk 
of rustic congregations, continued well satisfied with 
the psalmody they had learnt from their fathers ; and 
of many a pious village home it might be said jn Shen- 
stone's words : 

Here oft the dame, on Sabbath's decent eye, 
Hymne"d such Psalms as Sternhold forth did mete ; 
If winter 'twere, she to her hearth did cleave, 
But in her garden found a summer seat ; 
Sweet melody ! to hear her then repeat 
How Israel's sons, beneath a foreign king, 
While taunting foeman did a song entreat, 

1 R. Nelson's Life of Bull, p. 61. 

2 Defence of the Book of Psalms, etc., 1710, quoted in Nelson's Life 
of Bull, p. 62. 

3 ReUquia Hearniancz (Bliss), Oct. 2ist, 1723. 

4 C. B. Pearson, Oxford Essays, (1858), p. 124. 



Old English Verse 341 

All, for the nonce, untuning every string, 

Uphang their useless lyres small heart had they to sing. 1 

Yet notwithstanding use and association, and all else 
that could be said in favour of the Old Version, it was 
evidently full time that there should be some great 
improvement in church psalmody. This had sunk to 
a very low ebb, and it was long before it began to 
revive. The Old Version, with the exception of that 
of the looth Psalm, which was not by Sternhold and 
Hopkins at all, nor by their regular coadjutors, but by 
Kethe, an exile with Knox at Geneva in I554, 2 has 
very few real merits, and these, such as they are, not of 
a kind which society in the time of Queen Anne, or of 
the Georges, would readily appreciate. Among town 
congregations, therefore, it had fallen into general 
contempt. Robert Nelson, while reprobating such a 
pretext, says that not only were there very few who 
could be prevailed upon to join in psalmody, but that 
' the generality of those who are otherwise very serious, 
excuse themselves from the bad poetry of the Old 
Version. 3 The ' dids,' and ' ekes ' and ' ayes,' 4 and 
other obsolete words and phrases, gave great offence 5 
to a generation which prided itself upon improved and 
correct language. Wesley called it 'scandalous dog- 
gerel ; ' 6 Gay ridiculed Blackmore's version by saying 
that 

Sternhold himself he outSternholded. 7 

Watts thought it one chief cause of the ' entire neglect ' 
into which congregational singing had fallen ; 8 although 
said he in another place, some have got to think that 
there is danger in anything but ' a dull hymn or two at 

1 Shenstone's The Schoolmistress, written 1741. 

2 Saunders's Evenings -with the Sacred Poets, 275. 

3 Nelson's Life of Bishop Bull (1712), p. 62. 

4 Spectator, No. 204. 5 Nelson's Life of Bishop Bull. 

6 Quoted by Pearson in Oxford Essays, p. 140. 

7 Gay's Poems, ' Verses to be placed under the picture of England's 
Archpoet.' 

8 'Essay on the Improvement of Psalmody,' Works, vol. ix. p. 3. 



342 Religious Thought in 

church in tunes of equal dulness,' and that anything 
' that arises a degree or two above Mr. Sternhold is too 
airy for worship.' 1 The decline of psalmody, wrote 
Romaine in 1775, 'happened when vital religion began 
to decay among us, more than a century ago. It was 
a gradual decay, and went on till at last there was a 
general complaint against Sternhold and Hopkins. 
Their translation was treated as poor flat stuff. The 
wits ridiculed it ; the profane blasphemed it. Good 
men did not defend it. Then it fell into such contempt 
that people were ready to receive anything in its room.' 2 
It can scarcely be doubted that the New Version 
was, upon the whole, a decided improvement upon the 
older one. It has been much decried ; but if psalms 
only were to be used in Church to the exclusion of other 
hymns, it must form a large proportion of every selec- 
tion. Versions and paraphrases of Psalms were pro- 
duced in surprising abundance throughout the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries. In the Review just 
referred to a number of them are mentioned, and in 
some instances quoted. The list, including those of a 
somewhat earlier date, contains very great and very 
little names : Archbishop Parker, Sir Philip Sydney, 
Lord Bacon, Milton, George Herbert, Sandys, Bishop 
Hall, Bishop King, Patrick, Rouse, Wither, Sir John 
Denham, Addison, Ford, Milbourne, Blackmore, Miles 
Smyth, Goodridge, Barton, Woodford, Watts, Merrick, 
Mason. 3 To these may be added, in the seventeenth 
century, King James I., and in the eighteenth, a host of 
additional names, including Doddridge, Toplady, the 
three Wesleys, Elizabeth Rowe, Walter Harte, Smart, 
Darby, Christopher Pitt, Romaine, Bishop Home. If 
the list were to include all who had now and then 
paraphrased a Psalm or two, almost the greater part of 
the minor poets must be added. Watts, writing in 
1707, said that he had seen 'above twenty versions of 

1 Preface to his Lyric Poems. 

2 Romaine's Essays on Psalmody (1775), p. 104. 

3 Quarterly Review, vols. xxvi.-xxxii. 



Old English Verse 343 

the Psalter by persons of richer and meaner talents.' 1 
A modern writer tells us that ' since the Reformation 
there have been at least sixty-five musical versions of 
the whole book of Psalms, besides legions of less 
ambitious attempts.' 2 Some of those above enumerated, 
especially that by George Sandys, are no doubt very 
superior in poetical merit to the renderings of Tate and 
Brady. But superior poetical merit is only one of 
many qualifications for congregational psalmody, and 
it was not without fair grounds of reason that the New 
Version, although only ' allowed ' by authority, much as 
Wither's 3 and Blackmore's 4 were, should have firmly 
established itself, while its rivals all passed into greater 
or less obscurity. 

The New Version, however, did not do much towards 
a revival of congregational singing. ' Psalmody,' wrote 
Seeker in 1741, 'hath declined of late within most of 
our memories, very unhappily.' 5 And again, as Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury in 1766 : ' Nor will it be a small 
benefit, if in the course of your liturgical instructions 
you can persuade the bulk of your congregations to 
join in the decent use of psalmody, as their forefathers 
did, instead of the present shameful neglect of it by 
almost all, and the conceited abuse of it by a few.' 6 
Indeed, the abuses and negligences which very com- 
monly prevailed in the manner of conducting the 
singing, were quite as great hindrances to a solemn 
and instructive style of church music as any deficiencies 
in the metrical versions which were employed. 

In fact, congregational singing had, in the earlier part 
of the eighteenth century, fallen, through various reasons, 
into a very discreditable condition, both in the English 



1 ' An Inquiry into the Right Way of fitting the Book of Psalms for 
Christian worship,' Works, vol. ix. p. 27. 

2 Eraser's Magazine (1860), vol. Ixii. p. 312. 

3 Oxford Essays (1858), p. 141. 

4 Life of Blackmore, in Anderson's ed. of British Poets, vol. vii. p. 584. 

5 Second Charge as Bishop of Oxford. Seeker's Eight Charges, p. 65. 

6 Third Canterbury Charge, id. 319. 



344 Religious Thought in 

Church and among Dissenting communities ; and re- 
form of some kind or another was ardently desired by 
all who took any intelligent interest in this important 
part of public worship. ' In this situation,' writes an 
earnest champion of psalm-singing in contradistinction 
to what he called 'human compositions,' .'the hymn- 
makers find the Church, and they are suffered to thrust 
out the Psalms to make way for their own compositions, 
of which they have supplied us with a vast variety, 
collection upon collection, and in use too, new hymns 
starting up daily, appendix added to appendix, sung in 
many congregations, yea, admired by very high professors 
to such a degree that the Psalms are become quite 
obsolete, and the singing of them is now almost as 
despicable as it was some time among the profane. I 
know,' he adds, ' that this is a sore place, and I would 
touch it gently, as gently as I can with any hope of 
doing good. The value of poems above psalms is 
become so great, and the singing of men's words, so as 
quite to cast out the word of God, is become so uni- 
versal, except in the Church of England, that one scarce 
dare speak upon the subject. ... I blame nobody for 
singing human compositions. My complaint is against 
preferring men's poems to the good word of God, and 
preferring them to it in the Church. I have no quarrel 
with Dr. Watts, or with any living or dead versifier. 
I would not have all their poems burnt. My concern 
is to see Christian congregations shut out divinely in- 
spired Psalms, and take in Dr. Watts's flights of fancy, 
as if the words of a poet were better than those of a 
prophet.' * 

These words of a good man introduce us to a con- 
troversy that has long ago worn itself out, but which 

1 Romaine's Essay on Psalmody, pp. 105-6. In a later edition (1775) 
of this work, Romaine expunged his severe animadversions on modern 
hymns. 'We no longer,' said Toplady, 'read of Watts's hymns being 
Watts's whims.' (Toplady to Lady Huntingdon, Life and Times of 
Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, ii. 66.) The passage is, however, left, 
both as representing what was for a long time Romaine's own opinion 
and also a very common feeling among Churchmen. 



Old English Verse 345 

once interested and disturbed the minds of many worthy 
Christian people the question whether any hymns but 
those of David, and such others as are taken directly 
from Scripture, could properly be sung in the worship 
of the Church. There were some strait Nonconformists 
who objected to any kind of psalmody. The only 
Scriptural singing, they said, was from the heart. A 
strong party among the Baptists did not overcome their 
scruples on this point till after the middle of the century. 1 
Of course there was no such feeling as this in the English 
Church. And yet the Defences of Church Music, pub- 
lished by Dodwell, 2 by Dr. Bisse, 3 and by G. Payne, 4 
and some expressions in the Spectator;' seem to show 
that, owing probably to the very unsatisfactory condition 
into which congregational singing had fallen, there were 
many who would willingly have dispensed altogether 
with the musical part of the service. The extract, 
however, quoted from Romaine is but one instance 
among numberless others of a frequent opinion, which 
may perhaps be traced in every age of the Church until 
the present one. The hymns of the early Church were 
many ; and some very beautiful ones were composed by 
some of the most illustrious among its saints. But 
Chrysostom and others tell us that the Psalms consti- 
tuted the special, if not the exclusive, hymnody of 
Christian worship. 6 The use of other hymns was 
specially condemned by a canon of the Council of 
Laodicea in the fourth century, 7 and was made by St. 
Augustine a point of accusation against the Donatists. 8 



1 Ivimey's Hist. ii. 373, and Marlow's Discourse against Singing, 
quoted in Skeats's Hist, of the Free Churches, 92. 

2 Dodwell characteristically dwelt on the power of sacred music in re- 
pelling and disabling evil spirits : Brokesby's Life, 359. 

3 Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 120. 

4 ' Defence of Church Music : ' Sermon at the Anniversary Meeting of 
the Three Choirs. 

5 Spectator, No. 630. 

6 Felix Bovet, Histoire du Psautier, 14, and Appendix, 207. 

7 The 59th. See Id. 

8 Augustine, Ep. 19 ; in id. 



346 Religious Thought in 

The canon of Laodicea was repeated twelve centuries 
later in a decree of the Council of Braganza in I563. 1 
However certain it might be that Christian churches 
would not consent to be deprived of the public use of 
their rich and ever-increasing inheritance of sacred song, 
there was evidently something of a scarcely licensed 
irregularity in the use of these later hymns. A similar 
feeling existed to some extent in the Reformed Churches. 
The improvement of congregational singing was a 
special object with Wickliffe 2 and later reformers. Yet 
it was only in Germany that the ferment of religious 
feeling found any general vent in popular hymns. It 
may seem strange that translations of them were not 
largely introduced into England. But the foreign 
Protestant churches with which the English reformers 
were at one time brought into close intercourse, were 
chiefly Calvinistic, and Calvin was by no means inclined 
to permit the Psalms to be in the smallest degree sup- 
planted in the churches over which he exercised his 
dictatorship. He would not absolutely exclude other 
hymns ; ' but/ said he, ' you may search far and near, 
but you will not find better hymns than those of Holy 
Scripture.' 3 

The popular hymns, therefore, of the eighteenth 
century 'collection upon collection, appendix upon 
appendix ' were altogether a new phenomenon, if not 
in the Christian Church in general, yet at all events in 
England. They were caught up at once by large 
masses of the people ; but it cannot be wondered at that 
they were regarded by many with great suspicion, and 
often vehemently resisted. It is perfectly needless to 
recall the arguments by which they were supported or 
opposed. They maintained their ground, and have 
fairly won the day. Religion in England owes no in- 
significant debt to the hymns which the last century 



Augustine, Ep. 19. 

Fraser's Magazine (Sept. 1860), p. 300. 

Calvin's Preface to the Liturgy, quoted by Bovet, p. 207. 



Old English Verse 347 

produced in such copious abundance. The dissertations 
by which Watts, Toplady, and others prefaced their 
hymns, with the object of showing by careful arguments, 
derived alike from history and reason, that hymns other 
than those taken from Scripture might lawfully and 
properly be used in the public services of the Church, 
have no other interest now, except as memorials of past 
controversy. 

It may be said to be the peculiar privilege of 
hymn-writers, as of the composers of sacred verse in 
general, that to a great extent they write, not for any 
one society of Christians, but for the Church at large. 
Men whose theological views contrast most strongly 
meet on common ground when they express in verse 
the deeper aspirations of the heart, and the voice of 
Christian praise. Isaac Watts (1674-1748), like many 
others to whom we owe some excellent hymns, was a 
Dissenter. His father, a deacon of the Independents, 
had suffered imprisonment for his opinions at a time 
when toleration was scarcely yet known. Noncon- 
formity, which at the beginning of the eighteenth 
century was at about its lowest ebb, may well 
cherish his memory with gratitude, not only because of 
his hymns, but because 'his scholarship and his ac- 
quaintance with men of letters did much to redeem 
Dissent from the charge of narrowness and littleness,' 1 
and still more, because in days of inertness and in- 
difference he strenuously maintained the better traditions 
of the old Puritanism. He was a link also between the 
clergymen whose services had been unhappily lost to 
the English Church through the Act of Uniformity, and 
the pious revivalists whose energies failed at length to 
find scope within her borders in the last century. He 
had been the intimate friend of John Howe ; forty years 
later he became the friend and adviser of George 
Whitefield. 2 

His Hymns and Spiritual Songs were published in 

1 H. S. Skeats's Hist, of the Free Churches, p. 256. 2 Id. p. 257. 



348 Religious Thought in 

1707. ' Give us something better, young man/ had been 
the reply, 1 when he complained of the want of good 
hymns ; and he had set to work to attempt some remedy 
for the defect. His first hymn, published as a sample 
of what was to come, was upon Revelation v. 9 (a text 
with which his book was afterwards headed), and was 
entitled, with a want of religious modesty and taste 
which was his occasional fault, A New Song to the Lamb 
that was Slain? 

Watts's psalms and hymns are of very unequal merit. 
In the first place, he wrote far too many. Among four 
hundred hymns, and an almost corresponding bulk of 
verses in his adaptations of the Psalms, besides his 
Lyric Poems, there could not fail to be a great deal that 
might have been advantageously altered or omitted. 
But in any case his sacred poetry would have abounded 
in faults. The strong and narrow dogma of the school 
of religious thought to which he belonged is sometimes 
expressed with most repellent harshness. Watts held 
a most dismal view of human nature. There are pas- 
sages in his writings which show that he occasionally 
recoiled from following out his Calvinism to its ultimate 
consequences. But in his eyes the world was nothing 
but a dreadful ruin, 'wherein lie millions of rebels 
against their Creator, under condemnation to misery 
and death, who are at the same time sick of a mortal 
distemper, and disordered in their minds even to dis- 
traction. . . . Only here and there one attends to the 
proclamation of grace, and complies with the proposals 
of peace.' 3 The sufferings of mankind and he drew 
a dreadful and exaggerated picture of them he re- 
garded not as trials, not as wholesome chastisement, 
but as an imputed curse. ' And,' added he, ' it is most 

1 F. Saunders's Evenings with the Sacred Poets, p. 283. 

2 So also in its opening verse : 

Prepare new honours for His name, 
And songs before unknown. 

3 Watts's Ruin and Recovery of Mankind, 89, 90; quoted in J. Wesley's 
Works, ix. 375. 



Old English Verse 349 

abundant goodness that mankind have any comforts 
left, and that their miseries are not doubled.' 1 Even 
children, tender as he was to them, he regarded with 
a sort of compassionate shudder. ' Cast a glance/ he 
cried, ' at the sports of children from five to fifteen years 
of age. What toys and fooleries are these ! Would 
a race of wise and holy beings waste so many years of 
early life on such wretched trifles ? ' 2 As for the world, 
it is ' base as the dirt beneath my feet, and mischievous 
as hell.' 3 It need hardly be added that the terrors of 
a future state of punishment lose nothing in horror and 
hopelessness in Watts's descriptions. 

There are other blemishes in Watts's hymns. He 
often used expressions which grate acutely upon the 
ear of educated readers ; and whenever he abandoned 
the simple language of devotion, and attempted to 
decorate sacred subjects with poetical ornaments after 
the manner of the incomparable Mr. Cowley, 4 his lan- 
guage was apt to become strained, florid, and affected. 

Yet, notwithstanding the faults which occasionally 
disfigure them, his hymns were a true benefaction to 
the religion of the country. Doddridge, in a letter to 
Watts, dated April 5, 1731, gives a striking testimony 
to the impression they were capable of producing. He 
had been preaching to a large assembly of plain country 
people. After the sermon ' we sang/ he writes, ' one of 
your hymns, which, if I remember right, was the i4Oth 
of the Second Book, and in that part of the worship I 
had the satisfaction to observe tears in the eyes of 
several of the people ; and after the service was over 
some of them told me they were not able to sing, so 
deeply were their minds affected. . . . They were most 
of them poor people who work for their living ; yet on 
the mention of your name I found they had read several 
of your books with great delight, and that your psalms 

1 Watts's Ruin and Recovery of Mankind, p. 73. 

2 Id. p. 80. 

3 Id. ii. 10. 

4 Watts's Preface to the Lyric Poems. 



35O Religious Thought in 

and hymns were almost their daily entertainment.' 1 
The hymn in question was the following one : 

Give me the wings of faith, to rise 

Within the veil, and see 
The saints above, how great their joys, 

And bright their glories be. 

Once they were mourning here below, 

And wet their couch with tears ; 
They wrestled hard, as we do now, 

With sins, and doubts, and fears. 

I ask them whence their vict'ry came. 

They with united breath 
Ascribe their conquest to the Lamb, 

Their triumph to His death. 

They marked the footsteps that He trod, 

His zeal inspired their breast : 
And following their incarnate God, 

Possess the promised rest. 

Our glorious Leader claims our praise 

For His own pattern given, 
While the long cloud of witnesses 

Show the same path to heaven. - 

A hymn-writer who can produce such instances of 
popular appreciation has fulfilled one of the chief con- 
ditions of a successful hymn-writer. But Watts has 
received very high praise from cultivated critics. James 
Montgomery, while acknowledging that his hymns are 
often inferior in execution, ranks him, in somewhat 
exaggerated language, as second to David. 3 Dr. John- 
son, who held the strange opinion that no devotional 
subjects could be treated satisfactorily in verse, limited 
his praise to this, that 'Watts had done better than 
others what no man had done well.' 4 They at once 
attained a great reputation, chiefly no doubt among 
Dissenters, 5 but also among Churchmen, and in America 

1 Corresp. and Diary of Philip Doddridge, iii. 74. 
~ Hymns, Bk. ii. 140. 

3 Preface to the Christian Psalmist, quoted in Oxford Essays, p. 151. 

4 Lives of the Poets (Cunningham), vol. iii. p. 255. 

5 J. Newton's Apologia, Letter i. ; Works, p. 881. 



Old English Verse 351 

as well as in England. Rippon, who published his once 
well-known Selection towards the latter part of the 
century, even made in his preface a sort of apology for 
not leaving Watts's hymns in sole possession of the field. 
Great as their fame was, ' it might not,' he said, ' be 
improper to introduce others, . . . not intended directly 
or indirectly to set aside Watts, but because many 
supplementary ones were wanted.' 1 His psalms were 
scarcely less popular ; and copies of them were sold 
by thousands from the first date of their appearance in 
1718. They were not simply metrical versions in the 
usual sense of the word, but ' imitated in the language 
of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian 
state and worship.' 2 Such adaptations are apt to be 
not very natural ; and in one case, where the 75th 
Psalm is ' applied to the glorious Revolution by King 
William, or the happy accession of King George, the 
mixture of ideas becomes positively grotesque. Many 
are decidedly inferior to the New Version : others, how- 
ever, are of great merit. 

Many of Watts's psalms and hymns are very well 
known, as they deserve to be. Among the former are 
the 72nd, second part, 'Jesus shall reign where'er the 
sun,' the 84th, ' Lord of the worlds above,' the poth, ' O 
God, our help in ages past,' and the H7th, ' From all 
that dwell below the skies.' His paraphrase of the 
looth, ' Sing to the Lord,' is a favourite hymn in its 
greatly improved form as altered by Charles Wesley into 
' Before Jehovah's awful throne.' Its substance, however, 
was left unchanged. The I46th is memorable from an 
interesting association with Wesley's life. He expired 
while faintly endeavouring 3 to repeat the following 
lines : 

I '11 praise my Maker with my breath ; 

And when my voice is lost in death, 

Praise shall employ my nobler powers : 

1 Rippon 's Selection of Hymns, 1787, Preface. 

2 Title to The Psalms. 

2 Oxford Essays (1858), p. 150; Saunders, p. 286. 



352 Religious Thought in 

My days of praise shall ne'er be past, 
While life, and thought, and being last, 
Or immortality endures. 

Among his hymns, some of the best known are, 
'Come, let us join our cheerful songs,' 1 'Not all the 
blood,' 2 ' When I survey the wondrous Cross,' 3 ' Come 
Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,' 4 ' When I can read my 
title clear,' 5 ' I give immortal praise,' 6 'This is the day 
the Lord hath made/ and, above all, ' There is a land 
of pure delight.' 7 This last hymn is said to have been 
suggested by the charming landscape which met his 
eyes as he looked over the Southampton Water. 8 The 
beautiful hymn, ' How bright these glorious spirits 
shine,' is an improvement by Cameron on Watts's 4Oth, 
' What happy men or angels these.' 

Watts's songs for children may some of them excite 
a smile, and in other instances are tinged oppressively 
with the gloom of a part of his theology. But, as a 
whole, they well deserve the favour they have gained. 
Their homely simplicity commends itself to children, 
and clings to their memories. They are likely long to 
outlive many verses which are far superior to them as 
compositions,andwhich might be thought more attractive 
to the young. But among the moral songs there is one 
of great beauty that well-known comparison of a 
Christian's death to a summer sunset. William Wilber- 
force 9 speaks of it with special admiration. So do 
Toplady, 10 Southey, 11 and others ; and all readers, young 
and old, will agree with their opinion. 

Among them also is the cradle hymn beginning 
' Hush, my dear, lie still and slumber.' Like many of 
Watts's hymns there are lines in it which might well be 

1 Bk. i. 62. Bk. ii. 142. 3 Bk. iii. 7. 

4 Bk. ii. 34. Not to be confused with a better-known hymn, with the 
same beginning, by Simon Browne. 

5 Bk. ii. 1 10. 6 Bk. iii. 38. 7 Bk. ii. 56. 

8 Saunders, p. 284. 

9 Memoirs, v. 289 : quoted by R. A. Wilmot, Lives of S. Poets, ii. 137. 
Toplady 's Works, vi. 165. 

11 Southey's Specimens of the Later Poets, vol. ii. p. 96. 



Old English Verse 353 

spared. But, as a whole, it is quite equal to George 
Withers's ' Sweet baby, sleep ! ' and Mr. Palgrave justly 
says of it that ' few child-pictures have been drawn in 
words and colours of more perfect tenderness.' 

The religious feeling in the Lyric Poems is very 
devout, and they contain many fine lines. They are 
animate with the profoundest sense of the greatness of 
God, and with the most earnest desire to know and love 
Him better. I quote from them with the more pleasure, 
because, on reperusing them after a lapse of many 
years, I find that in the Essay of which, in the main, 
this chapter is a reprint, I spoke more slightingly of 
these poems than they at all deserve : 

FROM ' SELF-CONSECRATION.' 

Change me, O God ; my flesh shall be 
An instrument of song to Thee, 
And Thou the notes inspire. 

FROM 'THE FAREWELL.' 

Come, heaven, and fill my vast desires, 
My soul pursues the sovereign good ; 

She was all made of heavenly fires, 
Nor can she live on meaner food. 

FROM 'HAPPY FRAILTY.' 

My soul all felt the glory come, 

And breathed her native air, 
Then she remember'd heaven her home, 

And she a prisoner here. 

The following is of a clearer vision of God gained in 
sickness and pain : 

Oft have I sat in secret sighs 

To feel my flesh decay, 
Then groan'd aloud with frighted eyes, 

To view the tottering clay. 

But I forbid my sorrows now, 

Nor does the flesh complain ; 
Diseases bring their profit too, 

The joy o'ercomes the pain. 
Z 



354 Religious Thought in 

My cheerful soul now all the day 

Sits waiting here and sings ; 
Looks through the ruins of her clay 

And practises her wings. 

Faith almost changes into sight, 

While from afar she spies 
Her fair inheritance in sight 

Above created skies. 

Had but the prison walls been strong, 

And firm, without a flaw, 
In darkness she had dwelt too long, 

And less of glory saw. 

But now the everlasting hills 

Through every chink appear, 
And something of the joy she feels 

While she 's a prisoner heie. 

The shines of heaven rush sweetly in 

At all the gaping flaws : * 
Visions of endless bliss are seen, 

And native air she draws. 

O may these walls stand tottering still, 

The breaches never close, 
If I must here in darkness dwell, 

And all this glory lose. 

Or rather let this flesh decay, 

The ruins wider grow, 
Till, glad to see th' enlarged way, 

I stretch my pinion through. 

Among his Miscellaneous Thoughts in prose there are 
some poetical pieces of much merit. Such are those 
entitled The Sacred Concert of Praise, The Midnight 
Elevation, and especially the poem upon God concealed 
in Nature, which closes the short essay on Searching 
after God. 

The hymns of Philip Doddridge (1702-1750) were 
published in 1755, nearly half a century later than those 
of Watts. They were composed, however, at an earlier 
date, and this seems the natural place for mention of 
them. Nothing need here be said of his personal 
history, except only that he was one of the true worthies 
of the Christian Church. Like Watts, he was a Dis- 



Old English Verse 355 

senter, and steadily refused offers of preferment in the 
English Church. But he would have been glad if terms 
of comprehension could have been arranged, and engaged 
in correspondence upon the subject with several of the 
bishops. 

He was a copious hymn-writer, his published ones 
being three hundred and seventy-four in number. As 
a whole, they are by no means equal to those of Watts, 
or of many subsequent authors. It would be very 
difficult to find one out of all the number which could 
be ranked with any propriety as a first-clsss hymn. 
There is a staid gravity in them, and a sober piety 
which ensures respect, and gives them some devotional 
value. And they have few decided faults. But they 
are never likely to delight and animate as some hymns 
have the power of doing. They contain few fine verses. 
There is very little spring and rush in them. They are 
occasionally not unimpassioned, but even then there is 
some appearance of effort in them. Doddridge was 
very careless of his rhymes, and had little ear for 
melody. There is a want of music in his hymns. They 
are often prosaic, and, as a rule, too didactic. They 
lose in general character from a cause which doubtless 
added much to their immediate interest when first sung. 
It was his habit to compose hymns framed upon the 
substance of his sermons, to be sung line by line by his 
congregation, while the words he had preached were yet 
fresh in their memory. 1 Hymns written under such 
circumstances were likely to retain the traces of their 
origin, and to show too much of the preacher. 

Two of Doddridge's hymns are particularly well known 
from their inclusion among those which, until lately, 
were printed at the end of our prayer-books. One of 
these is the morning hymn for Christmas Day, ' High 
let us swell our tuneful notes ;' 2 the other is the familiar 
sacramental hymn, ' My God, and is Thy table spread.' 3 

1 Job Orton's Preface to Doddridge's Hymns, 

2 Hymn 201. 3 Hymn 171. 



356 Religious Thought in 

But neither of them has any special claim to the dis- 
tinction thus conferred. The Christmas hymn is by no 
means a striking one, and, notwithstanding the position 
of vantage which it so long occupied, has never attained 
any great popularity. His best hymn, and one which 
is rarely omitted in any collection, is ' Hark, the glad 
sound.' 1 That upon the subject of Mary's choice, 
' Beset with snares on every hand,' 2 is also good. 
Among other hymns by which he is best known are 
those commencing, 'Ye servants of the Lord,' 3 ' O God 
of Jacob, by whose hand,' ' Fountain of good, to own 
Thy love,' ' Lord of the Sabbath, hear our vows,' 4 ' Ye 
golden lamps of heaven, farewell,' 5 'Eternal source of 
every joy,' 6 ' Grace, 'tis a charming sound,' 7 and ' Awake 
my soul, stretch every nerve.' 8 The 295th, ' O ye 
immortal throng,' is also a notable hymn upon the 
subject, ' Christ seen of angels.' The 3O4th is closed by 
two graceful lines 

I '11 drop my burden at his feet 
And bear a song away. 

A fine stanza occurs in the 3O5th 

O Love beyond the stretch of thought ! 
What matchless wonders hath it wrought ! 
My faith, while she the grace declares, 
Trembles beneath the load she bears. 

His 295th hymn, upon the text, ' having a desire to 
depart and to be with Christ, which is far better,' 
though not adapted for congregational use, is one of 
much beauty, and has a personal interest of its own. 
It was written, he tells us in his diary, immediately upon 
awakening from a memorable dream in which his spirit 
seemed to have departed from him, and to have soared, 
with a sense of unutterable joy, into regions of the 
infinite. 9 The hymn 10 bears traces of the strong emotion 
under which it was composed. 

1 Hymn 203. " Id. 207. * Id. 210. 4 Id. 310. 

8 Id. 119. Id. 43. 7 j dm 286 . 8 fa 296 . 

9 Doddridge's Correspondence, iv. 357 (note). 

10 It begins, ' While on the verge of life I stand.' 



Old English Verse 357 

Among the hymns appended 'for use on particular 
occasions,' are two of his best. One is ' On recovering 
from sickness, during which much of the divine favour 
had been experienced.' 1 The other is 'an evening 
hymn, to be used when composing one's-self to sleep.' It 
is too long to be quoted at length, but the following is 
a part : 

What though downy slumbers flee, 

Strangers to my couch and me ; 

Sleepless, well I know to rest, 

Lodged within my Father's breast. 

While the empress of the night 

Scatters mild her silver light ; 

While the vivid planets stray 

Various thro' their mystic way ; 

While the stars unnumber'd roll 

Round the ever constant pole ; 

Far above the spangled skies 

All my soul to God shall rise ; 

Midst the silence of the night 

Mingling with those angels bright 

Whose harmonious voices raise 

Ceaseless love and ceaseless praise ; 

Through the throng his gentle ear 

Shall my tuneless accents hear : 

From on high doth he impart 

Secret comfort to my heart. 2 

Doddridge's Hymns for the Young never attained 
much note. George III. as a child was fond of them. 
' I must tell you,' writes Dr. Ayscough, his tutor, ' Prince 
George, to his honour and my shame, had learned 
several pages in your little book of verses, without any 
directions from me.' 3 

The motto of the Doddridges an old Devonshire 
family is Dum vzvimus, vivamus. The Doctor's 
epigram upon it is well known : 

' Live while you live,' the epicure would say, 
And seize the pleasures of the present day. 
' Live while you live,' the sacred preacher cries, 
And give to God each moment as it flies. 
Lord, in my life let both united be : 
I live in pleasure, while I live to thee. 

1 Hymn 364. 2 Id. 363. 3 Doddridge's Correspondence, vi. 375. 



358 Religious Thought in 

Among the earlier hymn-writers of the eighteenth 
century comes another eminent Nonconformist. Simon 
Browne (1680-1732) had distinguished himself by some 
spirited answers to Woolston and Tindal ; and was 
appointed in consequence to a post, occupied after him 
by Samuel Chandler and Dr. Lardner, a lectureship 
at the Old Jewry, established by leading Dissenters of 
different denominations, for the setting forth of the 
evidences of natural and revealed religion. His hymns, 
some of which have great merit, were published in 1720. 
That beginning ' Come, holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,' is 
well known, as slightly altered from the original, in 
modern hymnaries. Two other good compositions 
of this author will be found in Sir Roundell Palmer's 
Book of Praise, one on the Lord's Day, beginning 
'Welcome, sweet day, of days the best;' the other 
upon ' God our happiness.' * Some of Simon Browne's 
hymns are very far inferior to his best. He is 
sometimes extremely bald and prosaic, as when he 
ends a stanza 

That I may never more forget 

The whole, or any single debt ; 
or again 

Faith is the cogent evidence 

Of things unseen by mortal eyes. 2 

In the Baptist communion there was a succession of 
able ministers of the name of Stennett. Two of them 
were well-known hymn-writers. Samuel, who will be 
mentioned later, was grandson of Joseph Stennett (1663- 
1731), from whose writings I take the following lines : 

MARY MAGDALEN. 

A blessed day to me ! my Lord 's come hither, 
And He and I shall sup together. 
But how shall I 
Dare cast an eye, 
Or boldly look Him in the face, 
Who all my secret sins doth trace ? 

1 The Book of Praise, ccclvi. ; also in Rogers's Lyra Brifanntca, etc. 
8 From the 72nd in Dr. Patrick's Collection, 1786. 



Old English Verse 359 

When to adore Him 

Angels before Him 
About His throne in myriads hover ; 
Their faces with respect they cover. 

Yet, though I fear Him, 

I must draw near Him. 

Fear checks me, but my soul shall soon remove 
All the dividing bars by a resolved love. 1 

The period that elapsed between Watts and the 
Wesleys was less favourable to hymn-writing than to 
secular poetry of a semi-devotional and meditative 
character. 

James Thomson (1700- 1748) published his Seasons at 
intervals between 1726 and 1730. His poetry was of a 
sort quite new to the age. It seemed at first as if there 
were small likelihood of its being appreciated. The 
publisher, when at last one was found to undertake the 
work, thought for some time he had cause to regret a 
bargain which had, however, cost him little. But by 
degrees it found admirers, and before long had attained 
a wide popularity. The thoughtful and poetical obser- 
vation of natural objects had been for a long time so 
strangely neglected, that readers of literature, sated 
with the artificial style, and with a poetry which ever 
savoured of city life, turned with delight to Thomson's 
pages, and found in them a freshness which had all the 
zest of a new discovery. He was probably all the more 
admired for not being too much out of sympathy with 
his age. 2 A 'bard of nature/ as Thomson was speedily 
called, can do much to further and quicken an intelligent 
perception of outward phenomena, but he cannot do 
much towards originating a taste that has hitherto 
scarcely existed. Readers wondered and admired ; but 
the passages they chiefly admired were not those which 
Wordsworth, for example, and the lovers of Words- 
worth's poetry, would most appreciate. Thomson was 
more popular than he would otherwise have been, 
because, in close combination with lines which show a 

i Works of the late Joseph Stennett, 1732, vol. iv. p. 277. 

' Leslie Stephen, History of Thought in the Eighteenth Century, 360. 



360 Religious Thought in 

keenly observant eye for natural beauty, he was accus- 
tomed to add commonplaces and rhapsodies upon love, 
simplicity, integrity, 1 or the like ; such as might have 
occurred in any of the favourite poets of the time. 
These, remarks Wordsworth, or one or other of the 
stories he has interwoven in his narrative, are the places 
at which a well-worn copy of the Seasons was wont to 
open, and which were considered the choice pieces for 
selection in poetical extracts. 2 

The love of nature which Thomson, in spite of im- 
perfect appreciation, did so much to foster, blends very 
naturally with religious feeling. In truth, descriptive 
poetry, however exquisite of its kind, is without its 
greatest charm if it fails to bring ' the solemn beating 
heart of nature' 3 into some sort of communion with the 
higher and more spiritual faculties of the human soul. 
The perception of a spiritual aspect in nature may take 
many different forms according to the mind of the 
observer. It may be definitely religious, or it may be 
philosophical or mystical, or the animating principle 
may be a pure moral sentiment pervading the thought. 
It may exhibit itself in a reverential sense of the power 
or the wisdom or the love manifested in the order of 
creation. It may consist in a search for final causes, as 
where Sir Thomas Browne writes : ' The wisdom of 
God receives small honour from those vulgar heads that 
rudely stare about, and with a gross rusticity admire 
His works. . . . Every essence hath its final cause, and 
some positive end both of its essence and operation. 
This is the cause I grope after in the works of nature ; 
in this hangs the providence of God. To raise so 
beauteous a structure as the world and the creatures 
thereof, was but His art ; but their sundry and divided 
operations, with their predestinated ends, are from 
the treasury of his wisdom.' 4 It may be a feeling of 

1 L. Stephen's History of Thought, etc. 360. 

2 Wordsworth's Poetical Works, supplementary Essay to Preface. 

3 E. B. Browning's Poems, ' A Sea-side Walk. ' 
* Religio Medici, ii. 18. 



Old English Verse 361 

parable and hidden allegories concealed in material 
phenomena ; or it may be a sense of conjectured unity 
and mysterious sympathies between the energies that 
work in nature and in the soul of man ; or thoughts of 
correspondences between external influences and inward 
emotions material powers and human destinies ; or a 
grateful recognition of properties given to hill and wood, 
and sea and sky, to tranquillise and soothe the spirit ; 
or, on the other hand, the subjective principle may 
chiefly consist in the regretful feeling of an utter absence 
of sympathy between the inward and outward world, a 
sort of recoil from calm forces which seem utterly alien 
to our cares and joys. 

All sights are alike to Thy brightness ! 

What if Thou waken the birds to their song, dost Thou waken 
no sorrow ? 1 

Or it may be an oppressive realisation of the contrast 
between the blunders and sins of man, and the order 
and harmony which surrounds him. Or it may be 
simply an imaginative power by which in numberless 
ways natural objects are made suggestive of things that 
touch more closely our higher human interests. 

In Thomson's poem on the Seasons, the presence of 
the religious element is unmistakable. It is not ob- 
truded on the reader, but it evidently pervades the 
whole. If it had simply consisted in a feeling of the 
majesty and power of the Creator, as displayed in His 
works, it would have been no more than is noticeable 
in a great deal of the sacred poetry of the age in which 
he lived. It is remarkable, for instance, how many 
paraphrases were produced during the first half of the 
eighteenth century upon those psalms and chapters in 
the Book of Job, and other parts of Scripture, in which 
the general burden of the hymns is ' All ye works of 
the Lord, bless ye the Lord.' Religious feeling, un- 
settled by the great controversy of the age, was perhaps 
more than usually disposed to fall back upon thoughts 

1 C. Kingsley, Andromeda, 204. 



362 Religious Thought in 

of creative wisdom and almighty power. It will be 
remembered there was very little theoretical Atheism 
in that age, and what there was scarcely ever ventured 
to make itself heard. And Deism, while it dissociated 
theology from history, while it made the idea of God 
more and more an impersonal abstraction, and removed 
Him, as it were, to an ever-increasing distance from the 
ways and works of men, left the thought of Divine 
Creation comparatively inviolate. 

Thomson's theology, so far as it appears in his poems 
for this subject, as treated by him, did not bring him 
into contact with distinctively Christian doctrine was 
not unaffected by the vague and impersonal ideas which 
so often characterised the religious philosophy of the 
period. The thought of God in nature does, indeed, 
perpetually recur. But there are passages where the 
poet appears, at first sight, to speak as if the Being 
whom he worshipped were a remote abstraction, synony- 
mous, or nearly so, with the natural forces by which He 
works. For example : 

O nature ! all sufficient ! over all ! 

Enrich me with the knowledge of thy works. 1 

Or again 

Nature ! great parent ! whose unceasing hand 
Rolls round the seasons of the changeful year 
How mighty, how majestic are thy works ! 2 

The opening of the Hymns of the Seasons has some- 
thing of the same character : 

These, as they change, Almighty Father, these 
Are but the varied God. 3 

Such words, taken by themselves, might seem like the 
expression of a pantheistic creed which deified universal 
nature. The inference, however, would not be correct. 
It is obvious, both in the course of the noble hymn in 
question, and from other passages in his works, that 

1 Autumn. 2 Winter. 

3 Hymn of the Seasons. 



Old English Verse 363 

there was no real confusion in the poet's mind between 
nature and the Creator, before Whose unseen presence 
he reverently adored. That feeling of the presence of 
God in all His works had with him a life and reality 
which contrasted very strongly with the dry unsubstan- 
tial abstractions of the Deists. He could not think of 
God without thinking also of His works ; he could not 
muse with delight upon the beauty and the wonders 
he saw around him without meditating as well, not upon 
the power only, but on the love of their Creator. Uni- 
versal nature was as rich, to his eyes, in hope, as it was 
in full and varied life. He looked upon it as a pro- 
gressive scale ' life rising still on life in higher tone ' 
a Jacob's ladder, mounting 

up from unfeeling mould 
To seraphs burning round the Almighty's throne. 1 

This thought was continually present in Thomson's 
profounder reflections, and evidently suggested to his 
mind a solution of many difficulties, enabling him to 
look forward to a divine future, to which only the faint 
approaches were at present visible. Like most of the 
writers of his time, he had been much influenced by 
Pope. He has adopted Pope's optimism almost in his 
words, but in a far less crude and more imaginative 
form. A candid and close observer, he did not attempt 
to shut his eyes to, nor to gloss over, the manifold im- 
perfections of the present state of existence. But when 
he considered 

The mighty chain of beings, lessening down 

From Infinite Perfection to the brink 

Of dreary nothing, 2 

it seemed to him that, though we cannot penetrate the 
cloud which veils the will of Providence, it may be well 
concluded that this ' infancy of being ' 

cannot prove 

The final issue of the works of God 
By boundless love and perfect wisdom form'd 
And ever rising with the rising mind. 3 

1 Castle of Indolence, canto ii. 2 Summer. 3 Id. 



364 Religious Thought in 

Keble himself had not an intenser feeling that it was 
no mere poet's dream 

Which bids us see in heaven and earth, 

In all fair things around, 
Strong yearnings for a blest new birth 

With sinless glories crown'd ; 

W r hich bids us hear, at each sweet pause 

From care, and want, and toil, 
When dewy eve her curtain draws 

Over the day's turmoil, 

In the low chant of wakeful birds, 

In the deep weltering flood, 
In whispering leaves, these solemn words, 

' God made us all for good.' 1 

To Thomson's thought nature was full of promise, 
' awaiting renovation,' 2 a ' second birth,' when awaken- 
ing nature should 

hear 

The new creating word, and start to life 
In every heightened form, from pain and death 
For ever free. 3 

The Great Shepherd reigns, 
And His unsuffering Kingdom yet shall come. 4 

Man and nature, glorified spirits and spirits of men who 
' through stormy life toil tempest-beaten,' 5 were all, in 
his mind, component elements of the one vast order, 
one progressive scheme. Mankind may thwart their 
own great destiny. To them, therefore, in his allegori- 
cal poem, he cries 

Heavens ! can you then thus waste, in shameful wise, 

Your few important days of trial here ? 
Heirs of Eternity ! y-born to rise 
Through endless states of being, still more near 
To bliss approaching, and perfection clear, 
Can you renounce a fortune so sublime, 

Such glorious hopes, your backward steps to steer, 
And roll, with vilest brutes, through mud and slime ? 
No ! no ! yout heaven-touch'd heart disdains the sordid 
crime ! 6 

1 Christian Year, Fourth Sunday after Trinity. 

2 Autumn. 3 Winter. 
4 Hymn of the Seasons. 5 Summer. 
6 Castle of Indolence, canto ii. 



Old English Verse 365 

But God's order, in man or nature, now or hereafter, he 
perfectly trusted in, as ever and wholly good : 

Since God is ever present, ever felt, 

In the void waste, as in the city full ; 

And where He vital breathes, there must be joy. 

When ev'n at last the solemn hour should come, 

And wing my mystic flight to future worlds, 

I cheerful will obey ; there, with new powers, 

Will rising wonders sing : I cannot go 

Where universal Love not smiles around, 

Sustaining all yon orbs, and all their suns ; 

From seeming evil still educing good, 

And better thence again, and better still 

In infinite progression. But I lose 

Myself in Him in Light ineffable. 

Come then, expressive Silence, muse His praise. 1 

The works of Edward Young (1681-1765) are about 
as strong a contrast to those of Thomson as can be 
imagined. Transition from one to the other is almost 
like passing from a bright morning on a breezy down to 
the seclusion of a churchyard at midnight, or to the 
heavy air and hushed stillness of a shaded sick-room. 
The Seasons beam with day ; the Night Thoughts do 
indeed sparkle, but it is with the lustre of jewels upon 
black drapery flashing back the lamplight. The general 
merit and defects of Night Thoughts are well known. 
It obtained a very wide circulation, and was one of the 
few English books that won fame and appreciation in 
France. Nor was its popularity undeserved. Every 
page bears the stamp of originality, talent, and thought. 
Even its most glaring faults are many of them such as 
none but a clever man would fall into. It is no ordinary 
writer that could overload a poem with such surplusage 
of varied argument, such a surfeit of epigram and 
antithesis, such superabundance of skilful rhetoric. He 
is sometimes extravagant, sometimes enigmatical, some- 
times affected ; he is often tedious, oftener laboured ; he 
is uneven in the extreme : passages which rise into 
sublimity are followed by others which sink into utter 

1 Hymn of the Seasons. 



366 Religious Thoiight in 

bathos ; but the impression of intellectual and literary 
power is never lost sight of. 

Young's remarkable poem has two great faults which 
run through it from beginning to end. The first is a 
morbid gloom, which caused Warburton, at its first ap- 
pearance, to scout it as a ' dismal rhapsody.' * The 
other is that it is artificial. Such forced effort after 
force, however successful it may often be in the im- 
mediate effect produced, leaves behind it an unsatis- 
factory feeling of unreality. There is no sufficient 
reason to charge the poet with being insincere. He 
was an ambitious man, whose temper, naturally melan- 
cholic, had been crossed by disappointment. He thought 
he had been overlooked, and that he was entitled to 
honours and preferment which had been held back from 
him. Adulation of the great too common an offence 
in those days to be accounted as odious as it deserves 
to be seems to have been the worst point in his 
character. In other respects he appears to have de- 
served the high esteem in which he was held by those 
who knew him best. But his wit and cleverness, of the 
possession of which he was fully conscious, were a snare 
to him as a writer on sacred subjects. He was impressed 
in all sincerity with the solemnity of the thoughts which 
his theme suggested to him ; but he could not refrain 
from dressing them out with an art under which their 
genuineness was disguised. 

It is of course impossible within the limits of this 
chapter to enter into any sort of analysis of a poem 
which, amid much that is tedious, abounds in striking 
reflections not unfrequently disfigured midway by 
some ill-sorted phrase upon the problems of man's 
existence, his hopes, responsibilities, and fears, and the 
awe and mystery of which the universe is full. A few 
passages only can be quoted. 

Early in the First Night, there occur some pointed 
verses on the strange microcosm of human nature, which 

1 Warburton to Doddridge : Doddridge's Correspondence, vol. ii. p. 198. 



Old English Verse 367 

afford also a good example of the exaggerated anti- 
thetical style to which Young was prone : 

How poor, how rich, how abject, how august, 
How complicate, how wonderful is man ! 
How passing wonder He who made him such ! 
Who centred in our make such strange extremes ! 
From different natures marvellously mixed, 
Connection exquisite of distant worlds ! 
Distinguish'd link in being's endless chain, 
Midway from nothing to the Deity ! 1 
A beam eethereal, sullied and absorb'd ! 
Though sullied and dishonour'd, still divine ! 
Dim miniature of greatness absolute ! 
An heir of glory, a frail child of dust ! 
Helpless immortal ! insect infinite ! 
A worm ! a god ! I tremble at myself 
And at myself am lost ! At home a stranger, 
Thought wanders up and down, surprised, aghast, 
And wondering at her own. 2 

The following three lines are very beautiful : 

Talk they of morals ? O thou bleeding Love ! 
Thou maker of new morals to mankind ! 
The grand morality is love of Thee. 3 

He thus conceives of a future beatified state of soul 
and intellect: 

How great 

To mingle interests, converse amities, 
With all the sons of reason, scatter^ wide 
Through habitable space, wherever born, 
Howe'er endow'd ! To live free citizens 
Of universal nature ! To lay hold 
By more than feeble faith on the Supreme ! 
To call heaven's rich, unfathomable mines 
(Mines, which support archangels in their State) 
Our own ! To rise in science, as in bliss, 
Initiate in the secrets of the skies ! 
To read Creation ; read its mighty plan 
In the bare bosom of the Deity ! 
The plan and execution to collate ! 
To see, before each glance of piercing thought, 
All cloud-, all shadow, blown remote ; and leave 
No mystery but that of Love divine, 

1 Young was very rarely anything but original, but in these two lines he 
has borrowed from a previously quoted passage of Thomson. 

2 Night i. Id. iv. 



368 Religious Thought in 

Which lifts us on the seraph's flaming wing 
From earth's ' aceldama,' this field of blood, 
Of inward anguish, and of ontward ill. 1 

With Young should be mentioned Robert Blair (1699- 
1746), a poet of somewhat similar temperament. His 
poem entitled The Grave, published in 1762, is un- 
doubtedly a work of no ordinary character. It is rather 
grim and grisly, like his spectres ; but it shows much 
imaginative power, and is full of vigour and animation. 
Without being a sacred poem, its tone is thoroughly 
religious. Besides a charming incidental picture of 
summer in the country the more attractive by contrast 
with its surroundings there are some striking passages 
in it. Such is that which describes death coming with 
sudden horror upon one 

Who, counting on long years of pleasure here, 
Is quite unfurnished for that world to come. 2 

There are also some fine lines upon sin as compared 
with other evils, beginning 

What havoc hast thou made, foul master, sin ! 
Greatest and first of ills. The fruitful parent 
Of woes of all dimensions ! But for thee 
Sorrow had never been. All-noxious thing 
Of vilest nature ! Other sorts of evils 
Are hardly circumscribed, and have their bounds. 
The fierce volcano, from his burning entrails 
That belches molten stone and globes of fire, 
Involved in pitchy clouds of smoke and stench, 
Mars the adjacent fields for some leagues round, 
And there it stops. The big swol'n inundation, 
Of mischief more diffusive, raving loud, 
Buries whole tracts of country, threatening more ; 
But that too has its shore it cannot pass, 
More dreadful far than those sin has laid waste, 
Not here and there a country, but a world. 3 

A third passage pictures the tranquil death of a good 

man. The opening lines are : 

Sure the last end 

Of the good man is peace ! How calm his exit ! 
Night-dews fall not more gently to the ground, 
Nor weary, worn-out winds expire so soft. 4 

1 Night vi. 2 The Grave, 350-69. 3 Id. 601. 4 Id. 706. 






Old English Verse 369 

Mark Akenside (1721-1770) was another of those 
didactic writers on semi-religious subjects in whom the 
eighteenth century was prolific. His Pleasures of Im- 
agination was published in the first instance in 1744, 
but was rewritten in his later years, and appeared in a 
very altered form in 1772, soon after his death. It is 
well described by Jeffrey as ' a sort of classical and 
philosophical rapture, which no elegance of language 
could easily have rendered popular, but which had 
merits of no vulgar order for those who could study it.' 1 
It is, indeed, difficult reading. Not from any fault in 
thought or style : the versification flows musically ; 
Aikin calls it 'perhaps the most perfect specimen of 
blank verse that the language affords.' 2 But it is 
tedious, because the reader does not easily perceive 
what the writer is aiming at. It is a defect which was 
mainly owing to the nature of his subject. The re- 
ligious and ethical philosophy of the day was so divorced 
from history, and so vague and abstract in its nature, 
that a writer who wished to embody it in poetry, 3 and 
represent it to the eye by imagery, was tempted to have 
recourse to hollow allegorical figures personifications 
of ideas and qualities, which may adorn, but are certainly 
very apt to perplex, the argument. Akenside was an 
admirer of Shaftesbury's writings, and his Pleasures of 
Imagination is, to a great extent, a poetical exposition 
of that philosophy. A reflective and, in his way, a 
devout and religious man, imbued also with the loftier 
ideas of Plato, he escaped the levity of Shaftesbury, and 
was chiefly attracted by his speculations on the con- 
nection of beauty with truth and goodness, the operation 
of the imaginative upon the moral faculties, and the re- 
lations of pleasure with virtue. 

In the following lines Akenside is perhaps at his 
best : 

1 Francis (Lord) Jeffrey's Contributions to the Edin. Review, 166. 
- J. Aikin's Letters on English Poetry, 161. 

3 See some remarks of Leslie Stephen, Hist, of English Thought in the 
Eighteenth Century, ii. 365-6. 

2 A 



370 Religious Thought in 

For, from the birth 

Of mortal man, the Sovereign Maker said, 
That not in humble nor in brief delight, 
Not in the fading echoes of renown, 
Power's purple robes, nor Pleasure's flowing cup, 
The soul should find enjoyment ; but, from these 
Turning disdainful to an equal good, 
Though all the ascent of things enlarge her view, 
Till every bound at length should disappear, 
And infinite perfection close the scene. 

Call now to mind what high capacious powers 
Lie folded up in man ; how far beyond 
The praise of mortals may the eternal growth 
Of nature to perfection half divine 
Expand the blooming soul ! what pity then, * 
Should sloth's unkindly fogs depress to earth 
The tender blossom, choke the streams of life, 
And blast her spring ! 1 

William Hamilton (1704-1754) was an ardent Jacobite, 
who joined the Pretender in the movement of 1745. 
His Contemplation, which was published two or three 
years previous to that date, contains some pleasing lines. 
In 1746, after the defeat of Prestonpans, when he was 
wandering among the hills and moors in constant and 
imminent peril, he wrote some touching verses, of which 
the following is a part. It is a soliloquy with him- 
self: 

Now in this sad and dismal hour 

Of multiplied distress, 
Has any former thought the power 

To make thy sorrows less ? 

When all around thee cruel snares 
Threaten thy destined breath, 

And every sharp reflection bears 
Want, exile, chains or death, 

Can ought that's past in youth's fond reign 

Thy pleasing vein restore ? 
Lives beauty's gay and festive train 

In memory's soft store ? 



1 Pleasures of Imagination, i. 212-31. 



Old English Verse 371 

Or does the muse ? 'Tis said her art 

Can fiercest pangs appease , 

Can she to thy poor trembling heart 
Now speak the words of peace ? 

Yet she was wont at early dawn 

To whisper thee repose, 
Nor was her friendly aid withdrawn 

At grateful evening's close. 

Friendship, 'tis true, its sacred might 

May mitigate thy doom ; 
As lightning shot across the night 

A moment gilds the gloom. 

O God ! Thy providence alone 

Can work a wonder here, 
Can change to gladness every moan 

And banish all my fear. 

Thy arm, all powerful to save, 

May every doubt destroy ; 
And from the horrors of the grave 

New raise to life and joy. 

From this, as from a copious spring, 

Pure consolation flows ; 
Makes the faint heart 'mid sufferings sing, 

And midst despair repose. 

Yet from its creature gracious Heaven, 

Most merciful and just, 
Asks but, for life and safety given, 

Our faith and humble trust. 1 

Walter Harte (1700-1773), Vice-Principal of St. Mary 
Hall, Oxford, afterwards tutor to Lord Chesterfield's 
son, and finally Canon of Windsor, was the writer of 
some devotional poetry which has little in common with 
the general character of his age. He had been brought 
up among the best traditions of the Nonjurors. His 
father, whose memory he affectionately celebrates in a 
poem entitled Macarius, or the Christian Confessor, was 
a man who had been held in most deserved honour for 
his piety, his learning, and the self-denying simplicity of 
his life. He had energetically remonstrated with Judge 
Jeffreys in behalf of the victims of Monmouth's rebellion ; 

1 A Soliloquy, 1746. 



372 Religious Thought in 

and that truculent barbarian, if he did not relent at his 
intercessions, at all events respected the intercessor, for 
whom he obtained, unasked, a prebendary stall at Bristol. 
Ken and Kettlewell, Nelson, Dodwell, and Hooper were 
his friends. In Queen Anne's time, Lord Chancellor 
Harcourt showed his esteem for the stout-hearted Non- 
juror by offering him a bishopric. He declined it how- 
.ever, and died in seclusion in 1735. Walter Harte was 
a student and theologian of much the same type as his 
father, devoting himself especially to early patristic 
literature. 

Harte published various sermons, translations, poeti- 
cal miscellanies, and a carefully written history of 
Gustavus Adolphus. But his Divine Poems were what 
he considered his principal work. They appeared in 
1767. He was inclined to call them Emblems, after 
the example of Quarles, of whom he was an admirer. 
Chesterfield, on the other hand, who had a supreme 
contempt for that poet, wanted him to name them 
Moral Tales. Harte compromised the matter by call- 
ing them Parables, Fables, Emblematic Visions, etc. 
They sometimes give an idea of being rather laboured, 
and of being overburdened by the patristic allusions 
which he cites or refers to in the foot-notes. But his 
poetry is by no means of a commonplace order. In 
his Vision, of Thomas a Kempis J he has occasionally 
succeeded in rendering into fit verse some of the 
apophthegms of the Imitatio Christi. For example : 

With prayers thy evening close, thy morn begin ; 
But heaven's true Sabbath is to rest from sin. 

Or again 

Most would buy heaven without a price or loss ; 
They like the paradise, but shun the cross. 

His best poem is the Meditation on Christ's Death and 
Passion: An Emblem. It is headed with the motto 

Respice dum transis, quia sis mihi causa doloris. 
1 British Poets, vol. ix. pp. 857-60. 



Old English Verse 373 

Part of it is as follows : 

Haste not so fast on worldly cares employ'd ; 
Thy bleeding Saviour asks a short delay : 
What trifling bliss is still to be enjoy'd ? 
What change of folly wings thee on thy way ? 
Look back a moment, pause a while, and stay. 
For Thee thy God assumed the human frame ; 
For Thee the guiltless pains and anguish tried ; 
Thy passions (sin excepted) His became : 
Like thee He suffer'd, hungerM, wept, and died. 

From this one prospect draw thy sole relief, 
Here learn submission, passive duties learn ; 
Here drink the calm oblivion of thy grief; 
Eschew each danger, every good discern, 
And the true wages of thy virtue earn. 
Reflect, O man, on such stupendous love, 
Such sympathy divine, and tender care : 
Beseech the Paraclete thine heart to move, 
And offer up to heaven thy silent prayer. 

Thomas Gray was born in 1716 and died in 1771. 
Keble has remarked of his Elegy (1751), that, to the 
shameof the eighteenth century, it is about the only speci- 
men of ' the indirect, and perhaps the more effective, 
species of sacred poetry, produced in that age, which has 
obtained any celebrity.' x Its popularity was immediate ; 
in a very short time it passed through eleven editions. 
It may, in fact, be fairly said of it, that from the time 
of its first appearance it has always been one of the best- 
known poems in the whole range of English literature. 
Dr. Johnson, who did not at all appreciate Gray's other 
poetry, and has done him, for the most part, very scanty 
justice, had only commendation for the Elegy. ' Had 
Gray,' said he, ' written often thus, it had been vain to 
blame, and useless to praise him.' 2 

Gray was not the founder of a school of poetry in the 
sense that Cowley, or Dryden and Pope had been. His 
poetical works were few, and a good deal that he wrote 
was received with a sort of blank wonder, as if it were 
simply unintelligible. But he did much to refine and 

1 Quart. Rev. xxxii. 231. 2 Lives of the Poets, Hi. 427. 



374 Religious Thought in 

elevate taste. He was called ' Gothic ' in a sense that 
implied disparagement. In reality, the infusion of ideas 
derived from the Northern Sagas had a decidedly bene- 
ficial effect upon our literature, as having a freshness 
and a vigour in them which had for some time been 
wanting. Covvper used to maintain that Gray was the 
only sublime poet since Shakespeare. 1 At all events, 
there was in his work a simple dignity, an unaffected 
energy, which was peculiarly refreshing by contrast 
with the artificial graces and pomposities which had 
been too much in vogue. It has been said, with truth, 
that Gray was among the first Englishmen who showed 
any capacity for the appreciation of mountain scenery. 
In more than one way he was representative of a new 
tone of thought which, at the middle of the eighteenth 
century, was steadily but slowly gaining ground among 
cultivated men. Thirty or forty years earlier, the 
character of Gray's genius would have been so strikingly 
exceptional as to seem almost an anachronism. His 
writings mark with tolerable accuracy the termination 
of a period in poetical literature. For a long time 
previously there had scarcely been a poet in whom the 
influence of Pope, or at least of the style of thought and 
writing of which Pope was the most brilliant represent- 
ative, could not be distinctly traced. Gray was the first 
writer of poetry in that age who wholly emancipated 
himself from it. One distinguishing quality, however, 
they had in common. Not Pope even could outvie 
Gray in the polished finish of his verses. 

It is only by a certain latitude of interpretation that 
Gray can be included among writers of sacred poetry. 
Yet there is great religious beauty in the last verse of 
the Elegy : 

No further seek his merits to disclose, 
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode 
(There they alike in trembling hope repose), 
The bosom of his Father and his God. 

1 Cowper to J. Hill : quoted in Wilmott's Lives of Sacred Poets, 205. 






Old English Verse 



375 



The name of Gray naturally suggests that of his 
brother poet and intimate friend and biographer. 
William Mason (1725-1797) was an opulent clergyman, 
Fellow of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, and afterwards 
Rector of Aston, in Derbyshire, and Prebendary of 
York a man of many accomplishments, skilled in 
music and painting, keenly alive to the sublime and 
picturesque, and gifted with a most poetical imagina- 
tion. Without possessing anything like the erudition 
of his friend Gray, he was yet a competent scholar, and 
was particularly well read in old English and Italian 
poetry. In politics he was an enthusiastic Liberal. In 
theology he was orthodox. An active-minded and 
conscientious man, he did not allow his multifarious 
tastes to interfere with the duties of his callings. He 
was charitable and hospitable ; and a genial spirit of 
religion, traceable throughout all his life and works, 
shed a special brightness over all his later years. 

Mason's sacred poetry is varied in kind. His Sunday 
morning and evening hymns, written for use in York 
Cathedral, are tolerably well known. The former 
begins : 

Again returns the day of holy rest 
Which, when he made the world, Jehovah blest ; 
When, like His own. He bade our labours cease 
And all be piety, and all be peace. 

The latter : 

Soon will the evening star with silver ray, 
Shed its mild lustre on this sacred day ; 
Resume we then, ere sleep and silence reign, 
The rites that holiness and heaven ordain. 1 

Among his earlier odes, published in 1756, there is a 
fine paraphrase of the ' proverb against the King of 
Babylon' in the I4th chapter of Isaiah. It is entitled 
T/ie Fate of Tyranny. No paraphrase can vie with the 
sublimity of the simple text ; and in Mason's style 
there is generally some tendency to overload grand 

1 Works of W. Mason, ii. 467. 



376 Religious Thought in 

conceptions with a too great profusion of ornament. 
But there is certainly much grandeur in the following 
rendering of the passage beginning at the 7th verse 
(' The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet ; they break 
forth into singing,' etc.). It should be compared while 
read with the original : 

I 



He falls ; and earth again is free, 
Hark ! at the call of libeity, 

All nature lifts the choral song. 
The fir-trees on the mountain's head, 
Rejoice through all their pomp of shade ; 
The lordly cedars nod on sacred Lebanon : 
' Tyrant,' they cry, ' since thy fell force is broke, 
Our proud heads pierce the skies, nor fear the woodman's 
stroke.' 



Hell, fiom her gulph profound, 
Rouses at thine approach ; and all around 
The dreadful notes of preparation sound. 
See, at the awful call, 
Her shadowy heroes all, 
Ev'n mighty kings, the heirs of empire wide, 
Rising, with solemn state, and slow, 
From their sable thrones below, 

Meet and insult thy pride. 
What, dost thou join our ghostly train, 
A flitting shadow, light and vain ? 
Where is thy pomp, thy festive throng, 
Thy revel dance, and wanton song ? 
Proud king ! corruption fastens on thy breast ; 
And calls her crawling brood, and bids them share the 
feast. 

II 



O Lucifer ! thou radiant star ; 

Son of the morn ; whose rosy car 

Flamed foremost in the van of day : 

How art thou fall'n, thou king of light ! 

How fall'n from thy meridian height ! 
Who saidst, ' The distant poles shall hear me and obey. 
High o'er the stars my sapphire throne shall glow, 
And as Jehovah's self my voice the heavens shall bow.' 



Old English Verse 377 



He spake, he died. Distain'd with gore, 

Beside yon yawning cavern hoar, 

See where his livid corse is laid. 

The aged pilgrim passing by 

Surveys him long with dubious eye ; 
And muses on his fate and shakes his reverend head. 
Just Heav'ns ! is thus thy pride imperial gone ? 
Is this poor heap of dust the king of Babylon ? 

3 

Is this the man whose nod 
Made the earth tremble : whose terrific nod 
LevelPd her loftiest cities ? Where he trod 
Famine pursued and frown'd ; 
Till nature, groaning round, 
Saw her rich realms transform'd to deserts dry ; 
While at his crowded prison's gate, 
Grasping the keys of fate, 
Stood stern captivity. 
Vain man ! behold thy righteous doom ; 
Behold each neighb'ring monarch's tomb, 
The trophied arch, the breathing bust ; 
The laurel shades their sacred dust ; 
While thou, vile outcast on this hostile plain, 
Moulder's!, a vulgar corse, among the vulgar slain. 1 

Mason continued to write poetry in his old age. If 
it had somewhat lost in vigour, it gained in a deeper 
tone of serene and thankful piety. The following are 
the closing lines of his Religio Clerici, written in 1796 : 

Father, Redeemer, Comforter divine ! 

This humble offering to Thy equal shrine 

Here thy unworthy servant grateful pays, 

Of undivided thanks, united praise, % 

For all those mercies which at birth began, 

And ceaseless flowed through life's long lengthen'd span 

Propt my frail frame through all the varied scene, 

With health enough for many a day serene ; 

Enough of science clearly to discern 

How few important truths the wisest learn ; 

Enough of art ingenuous to employ 

The vacant hours when graver studies cloy ; 

Enough of wealth to serve each honest end, 

The poor to succour, or assist a friend ; 

1 Works of W. Mason, ii. 46-8. 



378 Religious Thought in 

Enough of faith in Scripture to descry 
That the sure hope of immortality, 
Which only can the fear of death remove, 
Flows from the fountain of Redeeming Love. 1 

At the risk of quoting at disproportionate length 
from the writings of this poet, the sonnet must be 
added which he wrote on his last birthday, February 
23d, 1797, only a few weeks before his death : 

Again the year on easy wheels has roll'd, 

To bear me to the term of seventy-two. 

Yet still my eyes can seize the distant blue 
Of yon wild Peak, and still my footsteps bold, 
Unpropp'd by staff, support me to behold 

How Nature, to her Maker's mandates true, 

Calls Spring's impartial heralds to the view, 
The snowdrop pale, the crocus spiked with gold ; 

And still (thank Heav'n) if I not falsely deem, 
My lyre, yet vocal, freely can afford 

Strains not discordant to each moral theme 
Fair Truth inspires, and aids me to record 

(Best of poetic palms !) my faith supreme 
Tn Thee, my God, my Saviour, and my Lord ! 2 

It has been before observed that Dr. Johnson (1709- 
1785) did not believe in the capabilities of devotional 
verse. For his own part, he possessed few of the more 
essential qualifications of a poet. ' His poems are the 
plain and sensible effusions of a mind never hurried 
beyond itself, to which the use of rhyme adds no beauty, 
and from which the use of prose would detract no force.' 3 
He rests for his fame upon other qualities than those 
which demand enthusiasm and imaginative power. 
Nevertheless, the closing lines of his Vanity of Human 
Wishes, published 1749, are well worthy of being 
quoted : 

Yet when the sense of sacred presence fires, 
And strong devotion to the skies aspires, 
Pour forth thy fervour for a healthful mind 
Obedient passions, and a will resign'd ; 

1 Works of W. Mason, 450. - la. ii. 131. 

2 Anderson's Life of Johnson, British Poets, vol. xi. p. 822. 



Old English Verse 379 

For love, which scarce collective man can fill ; 

For faith, that, panting for a happier seat, 

Counts death kind nature's signal of retreat : 

These goods for man the laws of heav'n ordain, 

These goods He grants, who grants the power to gain ; 

With these celestial Wisdom calms the mind, 

And makes the happiness she does not find. 1 

Oliver Goldsmith (1729-1774) was not a writer of 
sacred poetry. But the pure religious tone that runs 
through the Deserted Village, and the graceful picture 
it contains of simple unassuming piety place it on the 
same high level with Gray's Elegy. Poems such as 
these could scarcely fail to have a purifying and elevating 
influence upon the taste of those who read and appre- 
ciated them. William Shenstone's Schoolmistress, pub- 
lished in 1751, is a work of somewhat the same order, 
although its author was so afraid of the subject not 
being considered dignified enough for poetry, that he 
has a little disguised, under a certain air of caricature, 
its genuine simplicity and pathos. A few lines from it 
are quoted in a preceding page. 2 

Samuel Boyse (1708-1749) was one of those unhappy 
men in whom good impulses, joined to a weak and ill- 
regulated disposition, makes life a sad alternation of 
better purposes, relapse, and poignant repentance. He 
lived in want, and died a pauper. In 1741 he published 
a poem upon the Attributes of Deity, which Fielding has 
called 'a very noble one,' of which Pope said that it 
contained lines which he would willingly have owned, 
and which James Hervey spoke of in the warmest terms 
of admiration. This poem passed through a third edition 
in 1752. Its tone is devotional ; its language an easy- 
flowing imitation of the Essay on Man. But, notwith- 
standing contemporary praise, it certainly does not rise 
above a very ordinary level, and whatever there is of 
' noble ' in it is owing simply to the intrinsic grandeur 
of its subject, and not to any special thought or capacity 
on the part of its author. 

1 British Poets, vol. xi. p. 843. 2 Ante, p. 340. 



380 Religious Thought in 

William Thompson, Rector of Hampton Poyle, pub- 
lished in 1746 a religious poem in five books on Sickness. 
It is found in the Collection of English Poets, but is not 
very noteworthy. 

Christopher Smart (I722-I7/I) 1 was a writer of very 
considerable genius. At Cambridge, where he held a 
fellowship at Pembroke Hall, he five times took the 
Seatonian prize for a poetical essay upon a sacred 
subject, and his poems are among the best of that series. 
There is a want of carefulness and accuracy about them, 
but much talent, and the glow of warm religious feeling. 
After Smart had left Cambridge, where he had become 
very embarrassed in his circumstances, he gained a 
precarious living in London by literary work, and gained 
there the friendship and pity of Johnson, Goldsmith, 
Garrick, and other distinguished men. A strong pre- 
disposition to insanity will excuse the fits of reckless 
extravagance to which he was apt to give way. He 
composed what was generally considered his finest poem, 
The Song of David, whilst under confinement as a 
lunatic, indenting the lines with a key upon the wainscot. 

He sung of God, the mighty source 
Of all things, the stupendous force 

On which all things depend : 
From whose right arm, beneath whose eyes. 
All period, power, and enterprise 

Commence, and reign, and end. 
The world, the clustering spheres He made, 
The glorious light, the soothing shade, 

Dale, champaign, grove, and hill ; 
The multitudinous abyss 
Where Secrecy remains in bliss, 

And Wisdom hides her skill. 
Tell them ' I am,' Jehovah said 
To Moses, while Earth heard in dread, 

And smitten to the heart, 
At once above, beneath, around, 
All nature, without voice or sound, 

Replied, ' O Lord, Thou art.' 2 etc. 

1 British Poets, vol. xi. 

2 The poem, published in pamphlet form, is now scarce, but may be 
read in full in Palgrave's Golden Treasury. 



Old English Verse 381 

Amid all his failings, to whatever extent he was respon- 
sible for them, he was always keenly sensitive to the 
emotions whether of friendship or religion. He would 
often entreat his friends to pray with him and for him, and 
his religious poems were often written upon his knees. 
The following verses are from the closing part of his 
hymn on ' recovery from illness, a poem full of earnest- 
ness, and containing many beautiful lines : 

Ye strengthened feet, forth to his altar move ; 

Quicken, ye new-strung nerves, th' enraptured lyre ; 
Ye heaven-directed eyes, o'erflow with love ; 

Glow, glow, my soul, with pure seraphic fire ; 
Deeds, thoughts, and words, no more his mandate break, 
But to his endless glory work, conceive, and speak. 
O penitence ! to virtue near allied, 

Thou canst new joys e'en to the blest impart ; 
The listening angels lay their harps aside 

To hear the music of thy contrite heart ; 
And heaven itself wears a more radiant face, 
When Charity presents thee to the throne of grace. 

John Byrom 1 (1691-1763), was an able man, a Fellow 
of the Royal Society, a Jacobite in politics, warmly 
attached to the Church of England, yet not so as to be 
blind to her deficiencies. He had many sympathies in 
common with the Methodists ; but found teaching far 
more entirely congenial to his mind in the writings of 
William Law and the French and German mystics. 
The doctrines most completely repugnant to him were 
those of Calvinism, and views such as were held by 
James Hervey and others on justification and imputed 
merit. For the rest, he was an earnest, truth-loving 
man, who thought much for himself on all matters con- 
nected with religion, and had little in common with the 
most prevalent phases of theological thought. As a 
versifier, he has embodied many sound and suggestive 
reflections in wretched doggerel, using rhyme as a mere 
convenience of form. When, however, he set himself to 
write poetry instead of metrical essays, he showed a 

1 Chalmers's English Poets, vol. xv. 



382 Religious Thought in 

power and depth of feeling which place him among the 
foremost writers of sacred verse in the last century. 
The following is entitled 

THE DESPONDING SOUL'S WISH. 

My spirit longeth for Thee 

Within my troubled breast ; 
Although I be unworthy 

Of so Divine a guest. 

Of so Divine a guest 

Unworthy though I be ; 
Yet has my heart no rest 

Unless it come from Thee. 

Unless it come from Thee 

In vain I look around ; 
In all that I can see, 

No rest is to be found. 

No rest is to be found 

But in Thy blessed love ; 
O let my wish be crown'd, 

And send it from above. 

Another is entitled 

THE SOUL'S TENDENCY TOWARDS ITS TRUE CENTRE 

Stones towards the earth descend ; 

Rivers to the ocean roll ; 
Every motion has some end ; 

What is thine, beloved soul ? 

Mine is, where my Saviour is ; 

There with Him I hope to dwel : 
Jesu is the central bliss ; 

Love the force that doth impel. 

Truly thou hast answer'd right : 

Now may Heaven's attractive grace 

Toward the source of thy delight 
Speed along thy quickening pace 

Thank Thee for thy generous care ; 

Heaven, that did the wish inspire 
Through thy instrumental prayer, 

Plumes the wings of my desire. 

Now methinks, aloft I fly ; 

Now with angels bear a part : 
Glory be to God on high, 

Peace to every Christian heart. 






Old English Verse 383 

Perhaps, however, the most striking part of John 
Byrom's poetry is to be found in the series of religious 
epigrams under the heading ' Miscellaneous Pieces.' 
Three of them must be quoted : 

Let thy repentance be without delay. 
If thou defer it to another day, 
Thou must repent for one day more of sin, 
While a day less remains to do it in. 

If gold be offered thee, thou dost not say, 
' To-morrow I will take it, not to-day : ' 
Salvation offered, why art thou so cool, 
To let thyself become to-morrow's fool ? 

Faith, Hope, and Love were question'd what they thought 

Of future glory, which religion taught : 

Now Faith believed it firmly to be true, 

And Hope expected so to find it too ; 

Love answered, smiling with a conscious glow, 

' Believe ? expect ? I know it to be true.' 

His congregational hymns are some of them very 
indifferent. Yet sometimes, as in that beginning 'The 
Lord is my Shepherd, His goodness my song,' 1 there 
is a swing of words which may cause them to linger in 
the ear. He was the author of one well-known hymn, 
the Christmas carol beginning, ' Christians, awake, salute 
the happy morn.' 

John Gambold (1711-1777) is entitled to rank among 
the best writers of English religious poetry in the 
eighteenth century. He lived in the century, but he was 
not of it. His heart was far away among the earlier 
fathers of the Christian Church, so that those about him 
were struck by what seemed to them a curious but 
agreeable strangeness in his thought and conversation, 
as in one who was living not among the moderns, but 
with Polycarp or Ignatius or the primitive mystics. 
He held for some time the living of Stanton Harcourt, 
in Oxfordshire. But the English Church of that era 
was far from satisfying his ideas of what a Church 
should be. He dearly loved its Liturgy ; he preferred 

1 In J. Patrick's Collection of Psalms, 1786. 



384 Religious Thought in 

no other ecclesiastical order ; he had no dislike to its 
worship. Only ' he longed for intimate fellowship with 
a little flock, whose great concern was to build up one 
another in faith.' He thought he had discovered this 
in the community of the Moravian Brethren at Herrn- 
hutt. So he threw up his English benefice and joined 
them, and in time became one of their bishops, never, 
however, ceasing to regard himself as a member of 
the English Church. The following is from his sacred 
tragedy of Ignatius : 

Philo. Will God 

E'en yet between his helpless servants stand 
And a black day ? 

Agathopus. A glorious day, O Philo, 

When persecution lowers ! I call it sunshine, 
Which quickens the dull bosom of the Church 
To bold productions and a bloom of virtues. 
Yes, such a worthy juncture I much long for, 
When Christian zeal, benumb'd and dead through ease, 
Glows with young life, feels the more copious flow 
Of ghostly aids ; and, as the dangers rise, 
Heightens its pulse and fills up all its greatness. 
Then is the time of crowns, of grants profuse, 
Complete remission, open Paradise, 
With power to intercede for common souls ; 
For generous motives of intenser duty, 
Which while the sufferer sees, serene and glad, 
He thanks the impious hand that help'd him forward. 1 

James Merrick (1720-1769), a fellow of Trinity 
College, Oxford, was spoken of by Bishop Lowth as 
' one of the best of men, and most eminent of scholars.' 
His talents were early in development. At the age of 
fourteen he published the Messiah, a Divine Essay, and 
while he was still a boy at school had translated Try- 
phiodorus, and was carrying on a correspondence with 
Reimarus, the learned professor of philosophy at Ham- 
burg. 2 He is best known by his paraphrases of the 
Canticles and Psalms. 3 Their fault is that they are too 

1 Ignatius, act i. sc. I. " Southey's Later English Poets, ii. 391. 

3 J. Merrick 's Poems on Sacred Subjects, 1 763. The Psalms Translated 
and Paraphrased, 1765. His version was introduced into many parish 
churches, but was found to be not very well adapted for congregational use. 



Old English Verse 385 

smooth, too elegant. They are sorely wanting in the 
nerve and majesty of the original, although, considered 
by themselves, they have much beauty. 
From the 23d Psalm : 

Lo, my Shepherd is divine, 
Care shall never more be mine ; 
In His pastures free and large 
He shall tend His happy charge. 

When I faint with summer heat, 
He shall lead my weary feet 
To the streams that still and slow 
O'er the verdant meadows flow. 

Till my latest hour draw near 
I will trust my Shepherd's care ; 
To my succour He will come 
And conduct me safely home. 1 

From one of his hymns : 

Lord, let Thy fear within us dwell, 

Thy love our footsteps guide : 
That love will all vain love expel, 

That fear all fear besides. 

Not what we wish, but what we want, 

Oh let Thy grace supply : 
The good unasked in mercy grant, 

The ills, though asked, deny. 2 

That extraordinary youth, Thomas Chatterton (1752- 
1770), whose boyish productions caused such stir in 
the literary world, and whose unhappy death has always 
seemed so piteous, must not be passed over without 
some short mention. It is useless to conjecture what 
might have been the ultimate character of this child of 
impulse. His proud, fiery genius, so restless as scarcely 
to allow even of the most necessary minimum of sleep, 3 
struggling without any audible murmur against neglect, 

1 Poems on Sacred Subjects, by J. Merrick, 1763, 13. 

2 In Godfrey Thring's Church of England Hymn-Book, No. 281. 

3 A friend, who shared his room, said that he never went to bed till 
very late, often not till three or four, and always got up with him at five 
or six. Anderson's Life of Chatterton (Brit. Poets, vol. xi. p. 308) 

2 B 



386 Religious Thought in 

indigence, and starvation, was sometimes tempted to 
defiant rebellion against God's will. Yet his life was 
pure, temperate, and amiable ; and the pathetic religious 
feelings which he has expressed in some of his verses 
might encourage the hope that the licentious impieties, 
to which in certain moods he gave utterance, were 
transient workings of an evil power which would have 
succumbed in later years to -holier influences. 

The following four verses are from The Resignation : 

O God, whose justice shakes the sky ; 

Whose eye this atom globe surveys ; 
To Thee, my only rock, I fly, 

Thy mercy in Thy justice praise. 

The mystic mazes of Thy will, 

The shadows of celestial light, 
Are past the power of human skill 

But what th' Eternal acts is right. 

O teach me, in the trying hour, 
When anguish swells the dewy tear, 

To still my sorrows, own Thy power, 
Thy goodness love. Thy justice fear. 

The gloomy mantle of the night, 

Which on my sinking spirit steals, 
Will vanish at the morning light, 

Which God, my East, my Sun, reveals. 1 

Dr. Johnson, remarking one day (May 15, 1784) that 
he had been dining at Mrs. Garrick's, with Mrs. Carter, 
Miss Hannah More, and Miss Fanny Burney, added 
that three such women were not to be found ; except 
Mrs. Lennox, he did not know where he could find a 
fourth. 2 The Mrs. Elizabeth Carter there mentioned 
was undoubtedly one of the most talented women in 
the last century. Garrick, in his epilogue to The In- 
flexible Captive, spoke of her with admiration as one 

Who, rich in knowledge, knows no pride, 
Can boast ten tongues, and yet not satisfied. 3 

1 Brit. Poets, vol. xi. p. 399. 2 Roswell'sJoAnsoti, iv. 244. 

3 Hannah More's Works, xi. 384. 



Old English Verse 387 

We find from a Russian review, written in May 1759, 
that the fame of her extensive linguistic acquirements 
in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Italian, Spanish, and 
German had reached that country. 1 She published, 
when scarcely over twenty, a volume on Sight and 
Colour according to the Newtonian philosophy, con- 
tributed some papers to the Rambler, etc., translated 
Arrian and Epictetus, and was also well skilled in most 
feminine accomplishments. She was born at Deal, 
where her father was Rector, in 1717, and died in 1816. 
In her poems, written at various intervals between 1735 
and 1795, and published in two volumes, there is no 
pretension to deep thought or great imaginative power, 
but a good deal of tranquil beauty. She constantly 
alludes to the calm of night or of evening, as if it had 
a special fascination for her. A feeling congenial with 
it pervades her verses, and gives them a subdued tone 
which is rather monotonous. There breathes through- 
out them all a gentle religious sentiment. An elegy, 
written something after the manner of Gray, beginning 
' Silent and cool the dews of evening pale,' is one of the 
most pleasing of her compositions. 

Nothing has been said hitherto of that great burst 
of hymnody to which the Methodist and Evangelical 
revival gave rise. Among these writers of hymns 
Charles Wesley stands of course pre-eminent. The 
number he wrote is something amazing. In more than 
forty different publications, exclusive of mere selections 
from former works, he sent out into the world, between 
1738 and 1785, 4100 hymns, and upwards of two thou- 
sand more were left at his death in manuscript. 2 Many 
of these must be placed in the highest order of devotional 
poetry. A widespread and passionate movement of 
feeling, of whatever kind it may be, rarely fails of evok- 
ing a poetical expression corresponding to it. But, as 
Isaac Taylor has observed, it certainly seems a remark - 



1 Quoted in Mrs. Carter's Life and Works, ii. 417. 

2 Lyra Brltannica, C. Wesley. 



388 Religious Thought in 

able providence that ' when myriads of uncultured and 
lately ferocious spirits were to be reclaimed, a gift of 
song such as that of Charles Wesley should have been 
conferred upon one of the company employed in the 
work.' 1 Without it, Methodism could scarcely have 
been the power that it was. When the voice of the 
great popular preachers no longer rang in the ear, and 
the ardent feeling they had stimulated was fading away, 
the hymns remained in the hands of the awakened 
hearers, hymns differing almost in kind from any they 
had known before. ' It may be affirmed,' adds the 
author just quoted, 'that there is no principal element 
of Christianity, no main article of belief, as professed 
by Protestant churches, that there is no moral or 
ethical sentiment, peculiarly characteristic of the Gospel, 
no height or depth of feeling proper to the spiritual 
life, that does not find itself emphatically and pointedly 
and clearly conveyed in some stanzas of Charles Wesley's 
hymns.' 2 John Wesley had no idea of their simply 
constituting a part of Christian worship, as songs of 
adoration and praise. He expressly called them ' a 
body of experimental and practical divinity.' 3 They 
formed a sort of supplemental Liturgy, thoroughly 
consonant, as a whole, in tone and spirit to the familiar 
prayers which were heard in the parish churches (for the 
Wesleys and Charles even more than his brother 
were Churchmen to the backbone), but specially adapted 
to keep alive the new spiritual impulse which had pro- 
duced such great effects. Personal and experimental, 
like the Psalms of David, they were also penetrated with 
the most vivid Christian feeling ; and if a few of them 
displayed a warmth of ardour which exceeded the 
ordinary bounds of sober religion, and disqualified them 
for being properly used in congregational worship, such 
incongruity would be less apparent in the more excited 
atmosphere of the class meeting. As appropriate to 



1 Wesley and Methodism, 90. 

3 John Wesley's Preface to edition of 1779. 



2 Id. 91. 



Old English Verse 389 

peculiar cases, words could scarcely be too glowing for 
those who felt that in very truth a new and heavenly 
life, of which they had before known nothing, had 
indeed been born anew in them. And Charles Wesley's 
hymns rarely offend by anything like the sentimentality 
and overwrought effusiveness which Watts sometimes 
permitted himself, and which were common in some of 
the Moravian ones. Very objectionable rhapsodies 
found their way into some of the Methodist hymn- 
books ; but John Wesley, especially in his later years, 
was very careful to expunge these, so far as he could 
bring them under his censorship. In this, as in many 
other ways, Methodism owed not a little to the sound 
practical sense which never for long together forsook 
him. It owed scarcely less to the cultivated ear and 
refined taste which chastened the devout outpourings of 
his brother's poetic talent. 

Southey has remarked of Wesley's hymns, that pro- 
bably no poems have been so much treasured in the 
memory, or so frequently quoted on a death-bed. 1 As 
long as time lasts, many of them are sure to hold an 
honoured place as a part of the heritage of the Christian 
Church. ' Jesus ! Lover of my Soul,' is perhaps the 
favourite among them all. This exquisite hymn fully 
deserves the admiration it has universally obtained. 
John Wesley thought that the funeral hymn ' Come, let 
us join our friends above ' was the sweetest of all that 
his brother wrote. 2 Popular opinion is quite at one with 
him as to its merits. It is probably in almost all col- 
lections, but is less known by its first line than by some 
which follow, as for instance the verses beginning ' One 
family, we dwell in Him.' Another which he was 
particularly fond of, and 'which Watts, with great 
nobility of spirit, said was worth all the verses which he 
himself had ever written,' 3 is the sacred poem (for it is 
that rather than a hymn) upon the wrestling of Jacob 

1 Referred to in Oxford Essays, 1858, p. 126. 

2 Saunders, 321. 3 Id. 322. 



39O Religious Thought in 

with the Angel, 'Come, O thou traveller unknown. 
Among his best-known hymns may be mentioned also, 
' Forth in Thy name, O Lord, I go/ verses full of pure 
and sober piety, ' O Love divine, how sweet thou art !' 
' Hark, the herald angels sing,' 1 'Thou Judge of quick 
and dead,' ' The heavens declare Thy glory, Lord,' ' O 
for a thousand tongues to sing,' ' Rejoice, the Lord 
is King,' ' Christ, whose glory fills the skies,' ' Hail, the 
day that sees Him rise,' ' Spirit of Truth,' 'O for a heart 
to praise my God,' ' Soldier of Christ, arise.' Among 
other hymns must be mentioned the one containing the 
beautiful verses : 

Take my soul and body's powers ; 

Take my memory, mind, and will, 
All my goods, and all my hoursy - 

All I know and all I feel, 
All I think or speak or do ; 
Take my heart ; but make it new. 

O my God, Thine own I am : 
Let me give me back thine own ; 

Freedom, friends, and health, and fame, 
Consecrate to Thee alone ; 

Thine to live, thrice happy I ! 

Happier still if Thine I die ! 2 

A simple and very pretty hymn for children begins, 
' Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.' The last seven, which 
are also among the best, of its fourteen stanzas may 
be found in Lord Selborne's Book of Praise? It is a 
great recommendation to the hymns of both Wesleys, 
that although they are often mystical in tone, and appeal 
persistently to the feelings, they are thoroughly prac- 
tical, never losing sight of active Christian morality. 

The doctrine of progress to perfection has a large 
part in these hymns. It may be too sanguine a creed, 
and one that rests on insufficient foundations ; it may 






1 C. Wesley's own words, however, were 

Hark, how all the welkin rings, 
Glory to the King of kings ! 

- Hymns Ancient and Modern, 636. 

* No. cclxxxviii., 'Lamb of God, I look to Thee.' 



Old English Verse 391 

be liable to the danger of encouraging self-delusion and 
presumption ; but at all events, it is a tenet that contains 
many elements of a truly noble faith. However varied 
according to different minds the possible ideal may be 
towards which we should aspire to advance, the hope of 
a near approximation to it through the aid of a Divine 
grace a hope too from which none are absolutely ex- 
cludedseems strongly adapted both to encourage 
nobler conceptions of what human nature can be en- 
abled to do, and to elicit a more trustful and loving 
dependence upon the Power without whose support all 
such aspirations are vain. 1 But, without entering into 
the doctrinal question, it is at all events historically 
evident that the theory of Christian perfection exercised 
an immense influence on the minds both of John and 
Charles Wesley, and that it gives a marked general 
character to their hymns. Thus we find such lines as 
these : 

Lord, I believe a rest remains 

To all Thy people known ; 
A rest where pure enjoyment reigns, 

And Thou art loved alone ; 

A rest where all our soul's desire 

Is fix'd on things above ; 
Where doubt, and pain, and fear expire, 

Cast out by perfect love. 2 

John Wesley was careful, however, to add, in his preface 
to the hymns of 1742, that perfection does not exempt 
from ignorance, mistake, temptation, and a thousand 
necessary infirmities, nor did it dispense from any of the 
ordinances. 

Some of the most beautiful of Charles Wesley's 

1 The Wesleyan tenet, starting from a wholly individual point of view, 
may be compared with the no less invigorating opinion of a possible pro- 
gress towards ultimate perfection on the part of the human race, as 
entertained by Wesley's contemporaries, W. Worthington (Essays on 
Redemption, 47) and Bishop Law (Considerations on Religion, advert, and 
pp. 205-22). 

2 Last hymn in vol. of 1741 : quoted in J. Wesley's ' Plain Account of 
Christian Perfection,' Works, vol. xi. p. 382. 



392 Religious Thought in 

hymns, considered as devotional poems for private use, 
are noticeable for the quietist or semi-mystical tone of 
piety which pervades them. Such is the hymn be- 
ginning ' Christ, my hidden Life, appear.' 1 

Charles Wesley must not be passed without a reference 
to the last lines written to his dictation as he lay in 
extreme feebleness, a short time before his death : 

Jesus, my only hope Thou art, 
Strength of my failing flesh and heart : 
Oh, could I catch a smile from Thee, 
And drop into Eternity ! 2 

John Wesley contributed some original hymns, but 
they are not distinguished from those which his brother 
wrote, and, with a few exceptions, it is not known which 
they are. All the translations from the German, twenty- 
nine in number, are his, as well as two from the French, 
and one from the Spanish. Some of these translations 
are very beautiful. Such, for instance, is the stanza 
which Richard Cobden is said to have repeated with his 
last breath : 

Thee will I love, my joy, my Crown, 
Thee will I love, my Lord, my God : 

Thee will I love beneath Thy frown 
Or smile, Thy sceptre, or Thy rod : 

What though my heart and flesh decay ? 

Thee shall I love in endless day. 3 

Such, again, is that from Paul Gerhardt, beginning : 

Commit thou all thy griefs 
And ways into His hands : 
To His sure truth and tender care, 
Who earth and heaven commands ; * 

or that from the German of Johan Scheffler, which 
begins and ends with the verse : 

O God, of good the unfathom'd sea ! 
Who would not give his heart to Thee ? 

Who would not love Thee with his might : 

1 Lord Selborne's Book of Praise, ccclvii. 

2 F. Saunders's Evenings, etc. , 323. 

3 S. W. Christopher's Hymn Writers and their Hymns , 16. 
* Book of Praise, ccccvi. 



Old English Verse 393 

O Jesu, Lover of mankind ! 
Who would not his whole soul and mind 
With all his strength to Thee unite ? 1 

Among his original hymns is a very fine one written 
upon the death of Whitefield, beginning 

Servant of God, well done ! 

Thy gloiious warfare 's past ! 
The battle fought, the race is run, 

And thou art crown'd at last. 2 

Among other Methodist writers must be mentioned 
first of all William Williams (1727-1791). He was a 
clergyman of the Church of England, and adhered to 
its communion. 3 Relinquishing the cure to which he 
had been ordained, he spent fifty years as an itinerant 
preacher in the Principality. The two hymns by which 
he is best known in England are, ' Guide me, O thou 
Great Jehovah,' and ' O'er those gloomy hills of darkness. 
The latter is a fine missionary hymn : and both are 
from the Welsh, translated either by himself or by 
William Evans. 4 

Robert Seagrave, a Cambridge graduate, who joined 
the Methodist movement at an early stage, published 
his Hymns for Christian Worship in 1742. Many of 
them are very indifferent, but there is one good hymn 
entitled The Pilgrim's Song (' Rise my soul, and stretch 
thy wings'). 

John Cennick (1717-1755) and William Hammond 
(d. 1783) were both Methodists for a time, and after- 
wards Moravians. The former published his hymns in 
1741-4. There is much beauty in one or two of them, 
as : 

Children of the heavenly King, 
As ye journey, sweetly sing : 
Sing your Saviour's worthy praise, 
Glorious in His works and ways. 

1 C. Rogers's Lyra Britannica, p. 624. 

2 C. B. Pearson, Oxford Essays, 1858, p. 149. 

3 H. S. Skeats' Hist, of the Free Churches, p. 406. 

4 C. Rogers's Lyra Brit. p. 630. 



394 Religious Thought in 

We are travelling home to God, 
In the way our fathers trod ; 
They are happy now, and we 
Soon their happiness shall see. 1 

Hammond was one of the Cambridge Methodists, and 
a man of some scholarship. His hymns, published in 
1745, are some of them much wanting in dignity. His 
best are perhaps the one beginning 

Awake, and sing the song 
Of Moses and the Lamb, 
Wake every heart and every tongue 
To praise the Saviour's Name. 

Sing of His dying love ; 
Sing of His rising power ; 
Sing how he intercedes above 
For those whose sins He bore. 

Sing, till we feel our hearts 
Ascending with our tongues ; 
Sing, till the love of sin departs, 
And Grace inspires our songs. 2 

Thomas Olivers (1/25-99) was a shoemaker by trade, 
who had been converted from a dissolute life 3 by the 
preaching of Whitefield. As an assistant to Wesley, 
he was indefatigable in the itinerant ministry, travelling 
it is said no less than 100,000 miles on horseback in 
twenty-five years. He afterwards held a fixed appoint- 
ment in Wesley's printing-office. He was the author 
of a very fine hymn or sacred poem, entitled The God 
of Abraham. A musical service, by which he had been 
much impressed, at the Jewish Synagogue in West- 
minster, suggested it to him, and he obtained the 
ancient melody from Leoni, the presiding Rabbi. 4 
Montgomery considered that there was not in our 
language 'a lyric of more majestic style, more elevated 
thought, or more glorious imagery.' 5 It is said to have 

1 Book of Praise, cxxvi. 2 Id. cxxvii. 

3 See a curious conversation with Toplady : Toplady's Works, vi. 172. 

4 Lyra Brit., note 670; Saunders's Evenings, etc. 328. 

5 Quoted by Saunders, id. 



Old English Verse 395 

had some influence in giving Henry Martyn an impulse 
to missionary work. 1 The following are three stanzas 
of it : 

The God of Abraham praise, 
Who reigns enthroned above ; 
Ancient of everlasting days, 

And God of love ! 
Jehovah ! Great I Am ! 
By earth and heaven confest ; 
I bow and bless the sacred name, 
For ever blest ! 

The God, who reigns on high, 
The great Archangels sing ; 
And ' Holy, holy, holy,' cry, 

' Almighty King ! 
Who was, and is, the same, 
And evermore shall be ! 
Jehovah ! Father ! Great I Am ! 
We worship Thee.' 

The whole triumphant host 
Give thanks to God on high ; 
' Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost !' 

They ever cry : 

Hail ! Abraham's God and mine ! 
I join the heavenly lays ; 
All might and majesty are Thine, 
And endless praise ! 2 

Clivers's hymn, ' Lo ! He comes with clouds descend- 
ing,' may be found in the Book of Praise side by 
side 3 with the finer and better-known version from 
Thomas of Celano, beginning with the same words, 
which Madan compiled out of an amalgamation of the 
compositions of Charles Wesley and Cennick. 

John Bakewell (1721-1819) was another friend and 
coadjutor of the Wesleys, as also of Toplady and others 
of the Evangelical party. The hymn by which he is 
most known is the one beginning ' Hail, Thou once 
despised Jesus.' 4 

1 Saunders's Evenings with the Sacred Poets. 

2 Lyra Brit. 450 ; Book of Praise, ccccxi. 3 Book of Praise, xc., xci. 
* Lyra Brit. 29 ; Book of Praise, Ixxi. 



396 Religious Thought in 

John Berridge (1716-1793) was Vicar of Everton, and 
one of the most popular of the Methodist preachers. 
He did not, however, dissociate himself from the English 
Church. Like Rowland Hill, who looked up to him as 
a friend and valued counsellor, he was a man of eccentric 
temperament, but of profound piety and indefatigable 
zeal. His Sion's Songs were published in 1785. Many 
of them are only versions of older compositions ; one, 
for instance, of his best 

Jesus, cast a look on me ; 
Give me sweet simplicity 1 

is altered from a hymn of Charles Wesley. Among 
those of which he was the sole author, the best is one 
which begins, ' O happy saints who dwell in light.' 2 

Commander Kempenfelt (1718-1782), of the 'Royal 
George,' was an associate of Whitefield and the Wesleys 
and a hymn-writer, as it appears, under the name of 
' Philotheorus.' Three of his hymns are given in the 
Lyra Britannica. The most striking of them is entitled 
The Alarm, and begins 

Hark ! 'tis the trump of God 
Sounds through the realms abroad, 
Time is no more ! 3 

Rowland Hill (1744-1833) was not what may be called 
a Methodist Churchman quite in the sense that the 
Wesleys, William Williams, Berridge, and others were. 
He was an ardent Calvinist, vehemently opposed to 
Wesley, 4 and holding opinions similar to those 
maintained by Whitefield among the Methodists, and 
Toplady among the Evangelicals. Notwithstanding 
the strong opposition which his Methodism excited, 
his attachment to the Church of England remained for 
a long time unabated. In 1773, three years after the 
time when he had been spoken of as Whitefield's 
probable successor, he was ordained to the curacy of 

1 Lyra Brit. 56 ; Book of Praise, cc. 

2 Lyra Brit. 57, and note 664 ; Book of Praise, cxiii. 

3 Lyra Brit. 349. 4 Toplady's Works, vi. 172. 



Old English Verse 397 

Kingston in Somersetshire. He commenced itinerant 
preaching within a year afterwards, but it was not until 
1780 that he contemplated the necessity of exercising 
his ministry outside the pale of the national church. 1 
To the last he never considered himself as altogether 
dissevered from it ; but outliving as he did, by more 
than a generation, the final breach between it and 
Methodism which followed upon John Wesley's death, 
he could scarcely be regarded throughout all the latter 
years of his life as other than a Nonconformist. It was 
the misfortune, or the fault, of the Church of England 
that there was no provision in it for such men as he, 
although he was one of whom any church might have 
been proud. The independent and ambiguous position 
which he assumed, as theoretically a Churchman, and 
practically a Dissenter ' a Dissenter within the Church, 
a Churchman among Dissenters ' 2 was one that could 
not be recognised without such an extension in the 
system of the National Church as seems even yet un- 
likely to be carried out, and was still more unlikely 
then. The impressive, witty, and warm-hearted preacher 
of the Surrey Chapel could do something to lower the 
'walls of partition,' 3 to remove prejudices, and to 
habituate his congregation not to the order only, but in 
a great degree to the spirit also of the English liturgy. 
He could not do much more for a Church from which 
he had received such ill usage, but from which he never 
altogether withdrew his attachment. 

One of Rowland Hill's best hymns ' We sing His 
love who once was slain' was published in 1774, at 
the end of a sermon for the poor. 4 The fine hymn, 
' Lo ! round the throne a glorious band/ is mainly his. 
His Divine Hymns for Children were designed as an 
appendix to those of Dr. Watts, 5 to which he was 
accustomed to attribute the strong religious impressions 

1 V. J. Charles, Life and Sayings of Rowland Hill, 34. 

2 Cabinet Annual Register for 1833, quoted in id. 76. 3 Id. 60. 

4 Josiah Miller, Our Hymns, 241. 

5 Preface to his Divine Hymns, second ed. 1794. 



398 Religions Thought in 

he had received while he was yet quite a child. 1 They 
were corrected by Cowper, and published in 1790. A 
Christmas hymn, the 39th, is perhaps the best, but they 
are all rather heavy, and not likely to be very attractive 
to the young. A hymn of some merit, beginning 
' Exalted high at God's right hand,' 2 appeared in a 
collection published by him in 1783. 

The impulse excited by the Methodist revival gave 
rise to many hymn-writers in the ranks of Dissent 
It must be sufficient to mention some of the principal 
ones. 

Robert Robinson (1735-1790) had been moved to a 
religious life by the preaching of Whitefield. A Cal- 
vinistic Methodist at first, he passed through various 
phases of Baptist, Congregational, and Unitarian opinion. 3 
The two hymns by which he is best known are, ' Come, 
thou fount of every blessing,' 4 and a Christmas hymn 
of much beauty, beginning, ' Mighty God, while angels 
bless Thee.' 5 To these may be added a third, assigned 
to him in Rippon's Selection, ' Christ the Lord is risen 
to-day.' 6 

Joseph Hart (1712-1768) published, in 1759, a book 
of original hymns which he prefaced with a remarkable 
sketch of his own spiritual experiences. 7 He tells how 
he was stirred in the midst of a licentious life by the 
preaching of Whitefield and the Moravians ; how after- 
wards he entertained horrible ideas of liberty, and 
plunged into wild Antinomianism ; and he gives a 
strange account, which might have been penned by 
Bunyan, of a fierce struggle between good and evil 
raging in an impassioned and hitherto uncontrolled 
nature, which has suddenly awakened to an intense 

1 Charlesvvorth, Life of Rev, Rowland Hill, p. 5. 

2 Book of Praise, cxii. ; Lyra Brit. 309. 

3 Lyra Brit. , 479 ; Saunders, 349. 

4 Lyra Brit, appendix, 671-2, and 680. 5 Id. 480. 

6 J. Rippon, Selection of Hymns (ist ed. 1787), cxli : it is given in the 
Book of Praise (lix. ) and elsewhere, as Charles Wesley's. 

1 Hymns composed on Various Subjects, by J. Hart, containing a brief 
and summary account of the author, 1759. 



Old English Verse 399 

perception of awful spiritual realities. 1 His hymns are 
sometimes, as might be expected, too personal, and 
occasionally they are too didactic. Moreover, they 
often assume the utter vileness of an ' unconverted ' 
nature. But some of them glow with warmth and 
simple earnestness. 

He was the author of a good hymn, 'Come, Holy 
Spirit, come ; let Thy bright beams arise,' 2 which is 
sometimes called the Methodist version of the Veni 
Creator. Another of his hymns is, ' Spirit of Truth, 
Thy grace impart.' 3 Joseph Hart was, however, not a 
Methodist, but an Independent, a community among 
whom his memory is much honoured. 4 

The poems and hymns of Anne Steele (1717-1778) 
were published by her in 1760, in two volumes, under 
the name of Theodosia. She was the daughter of a 
Baptist minister, of whose uncle Burnet once said, when 
a clergyman complained that his parishioners left their 
parish church to hear him, ' Go, and preach better than 
Henry Steele, and the people will return.' 5 She bore 
with exemplary patience a life of much physical suffer- 
ing ; and her hymns, in some of which there is a good 
deal of subdued and plaintive beauty, bear the traces of 
it. Among the best are, ' Come, weary souls, with sin 
distress'd,' 6 ' Father, whate'er of earthly bliss,' 7 ' Far 
from these narrow scenes of night,' 8 ' Father of mercies, 
in Thy word,' 9 and ' O Thou whose tender mercy 
hears.' 10 

Samuel Stennett (1727-1795) was a Baptist minister, 
a very worthy man, held in much respect by George III., 11 
as also by Romaine, Toplady, and other leading 
Evangelicals. 12 Thirty - four original hymns were 

1 Hymns composed on Various Subjects, pref. vi.-xv. and hymn 27. 

2 Lyra Brit. 273; Book of Praise, xcviii. 3 Thring, 239. 

4 Saunders's Evenings with. Sacred Poets, 295. B Saunders, 340. 

fl Rippon, cxvii. ; Schaff's Christ in Song. 7 Saunders, 340. 

8 Book of Praise, clx. 

9 Hymns Ancient and Modern, 531. 

10 Lyra Brit. 523; Book of Praise, ccccxxxvi. u Lyra Brit. 526. 

12 H. S. Skeats's Hist, of Free Churches, 447. 



400 Religious Thought in 

attached to his theological works, and he contributed 
some to Rippon's Selection. 

Samuel Medley (1738-1799) a midshipman at one 
time, but afterwards a Baptist minister published, at 
different dates, a very considerable number of hymns. 1 
Perhaps his best is one which may be found in the 
Book of Praise (cli.), beginning, ' Dearest of names, our 
Lord, our King.' 

The well-known hymn 'All hail, the power of Jesu's 
name' is by Edward Perronet, who published his 
Occasional Verses in 1785. He was a son of the vicar of 
Shoreham, associated with the Wesleys for some time, 
but afterwards became the minister of a thoroughly 
Dissenting congregation. 2 

Dr. T. Gibbons, a Congregationalist, published his 
Hymns adapted to Divine Worship in 1784. He is the 
author of the following hymn for a time of trouble : 

To Thee, my God, whose presence fills 

The earth, and seas, and skies, 
To Thee, whose Name, whose heart is Love, 

With all my powers I rise. 

Troubles in long succession roll, 

Wave rushes upon wave ; 
Pity, O pity my distress ! 

Thy child, Thy suppliant, save ! 

O bid the roaring tempest cease ; 

Or give me strength to bear 
Whate'er Thy holy will appoints, 

And save me from despair ! 

To Thee, my God, alone I look, 

On Thee alone confide ; 
Thou never hast deceived the soul 

That on Thy grace relied. 

Though oft Thy ways are wrapt in clouds 

Mysterious and unknown, 
Truth, Righteousness, and Mercy stand 

The pillars of Thy throne. 3 

1 Lyra Brit. 397. 2 Id. 459. 

3 Lyra Brit. 236 ; Book of Praise, cccxciv. 



Old English Verse 401 

There were many other Nonconformist writers of 
hymns in the latter half of the eighteenth century. 
Among them may be mentioned Christian Gregor 1 and 
other Moravian translators of German hymns ; Benja- 
min Wallin, a Baptist, who published his Evangelical 
Hymns and Songs in I/5O; 2 Darracott, a pupil and 
friend of Doddridge ; 3 John Needham, a Baptist, whose 
Devotional and Moral Hymns appeared in I7<58; 4 James 
Allen (1734-1804), among whose Christian Songs is a 
tolerably well-known hymn entitled 'Worthy the Lamb.' 5 
While at Cambridge he attached himself to Ingham, the 
most thorough High Churchman of the early Methodists, 
but afterwards became a member of the small sect called 
the Sandemanians. Benjamin Beddome (1717-1795) 
was a profuse writer of hymns which attain a respectable, 
but not a high level. Robert Hale edited, in 1817, as 
many as six hundred of them. 6 James Boden, George 
Burder,and Jehoida Brewerwere Congregationalist hymn 
writers of no great note. Two missionary hymns, ' Arm 
of the Lord, awake,' and ' Bright as the sun's meridian 
blaze,' and some general hymns of more than average 
merit, were published towards the end of the century 
by W. Shrubsole, who appears to have been a Noncon- 
formist. 7 John Fawcett and John Ryland were Baptists. 
The former one of the many who owed their first strong 
religious impressions to Whitefield's preaching pub- 
lished a volume of hymns, among which is, ' Lord, dis- 
miss us with Thy blessing, 8 in I782. 9 The latter was an 
Orientalist of some distinction, and an active promoter 
of missionary effort. He wrote some good hymns, 
especially one beginning ' Sovereign Ruler of the Skies,' 
upon the text, ' My times are in Thy hand.' 10 The 
Walworth Hymns, 1792, were by Joseph Swain, also a 



1 Ph. Schaff s Christ in Song. 

" Lyra Brit. 571. 3 Doddridge's Works, iv. 522. 

4 Lyra Brit. 437. 5 Id. 20. 

Id. 53. Several of his occur in Rippon's Collection. * 

Id. 502-5. 680, and Thring, 59. 8 Thring, 95. 

9 Id. 225. lu Id. 488; Book of Praise, ccx. ccxi. 

2C 



402 Religious Thought in 

Baptist 1 Ottwell Heginbotham, a Congregationalist, 
published some hymns in the last year of the century. 2 
The best is, perhaps, ' Thou boundless source of every 
good.' 3 Henry Moore, a pupil of Doddridge, was the 
author of some sacred poems of considerable merit, 
which did not, however, appear till after his death in 
1802, when they were edited by Dr. Aikin. 4 

Among the friends and coadjutors of the Countess 
of Huntingdon herself a writer of hymns were two 
clergymen who remained to the last, notwithstanding 
many discouragements, true to the Church of England. 
One of them was Walter Shirley, 5 her cousin (1725- 
1786). Each of his three brothers succeeded in turn 
to the earldom of Ferrers. He held the living of 
Loughrea, county Galway, and was a Calvinistic Evan- 
gelical preacher of great note both in England and 
Ireland. His well-known 'Sweet the moments, rich 
in blessing' was published in 1774 in Lady Hunting- 
don's hymn-book. The still more popular, ' Lord, dis- 
miss us with Thy blessing ' appeared the same year in 
the collections of Conyers and Harris. 

The other was Thomas Haweis (1732-1820), a strong 
Calvinist, one of the Countess's chaplains, 6 and rector, 
for fifty-six years, of Aldwinkle, in Northamptonshire. 
His Cannina Ckristo was published in 1792, with a 
preface in which he lamented the wretched condition 
of psalmody in the English Church, spoke of his rever- 
ence and admiration for the Book of Common Prayer, 
and said what he thought hymn-writers ought to aim 
at : ' I have wished, I fear, rather than have attained, 
to be pathetic without pomp, pointed without affecta- 
tion, to speak the language of simplicity without mean- 
ness, and to be childlike without being childish.' 7 His 
best-known hymn is that beginning 

1 Thring, 534. - Id. 297, 669. 3 Id. 451. 

4 Lyra Brit. 422 ; Book of Praise, ccclxii. ; Aikin's Letters, 295. 

5 Lyra Britannica, 673. 

6 He was a principal founder of the London Missionary Society, Miller, 
Our Hymns. 7 Carmina Christo, Preface. 






Old English Verse 403 

O Thou from whom all goodness flows, 
I lift my heart to Thee. 

Among them are some upon the chief festivals of the 
Church, and many which take a midway position between 
hymns and metrical versions of the Psalms. They all 
show much genuine fervour of feeling, but, as a whole, 
are not very noteworthy. 

Among those of the Evangelical party in the Church 
of England who had no direct connection with the 
movement which the Wesleys and Whitefield had set 
on foot, Toplady, Romaine, Newton, and Cowper are 
all well known as hymn writers. Augustus Toplady, 
Vicar, first of Blagdon, afterwards of Broadhembury, 
died in 1778, when he was only thirty-eight years old. 
He was a man of learning and talent, and gifted, it is 
said, with a fire and vivacity which made his preaching 
and conversation peculiarly impressive. A Calvinist 
of the most pronounced type, and holding his own 
views with passionate vehemence, he looked upon John 
Wesley as little better than Antichrist. 1 According to 
him, free-will was 'the gangrene which had vitiated the 
moral state of the country,' and Wesley was its arch- 
priest. Neither spared the other. Such violence of 
mutual denunciation was a weak point in the history 
of two good men. 

Toplady's celebrity as a hymn-writer would rest 
securely upon one only that which Dr. Pusey has 
justly called ' the most deservedly popular hymn, per- 
haps the very favourite very beautiful it is ' 2 ' Rock 
of ages, cleft for me.' There is no hymn better known 
or more highly valued in the homes of the poor ; and 
the most cultivated and refined intellect may well fail 

1 Thus we find Toplady writing of Wesley as follows: 'O that He, 
in whose hand the hearts of all men are, may make even this opposer of 
grace a monument of Almighty power to save ! God is witness how 
earnestly I wish it may consist wiih the Divine will to touch the heart 
and open the eyes of that unhappy man. I hold it as much my duty to 
pray for his conversion as to expose the futility of his writings against the 
truths of the Gospel.' Toplady to Taylor, Nov. 27, 1772, Works, vi. 158. 

- Quoted in Oxford Essays (1858), 143. 



404 Religious Thought in 

to recall words on which it can repose so gladly in the 
hour when strength fails, and the unseen world is near. 
Next, perhaps, in beauty to this memorable hymn are 
two sacred poems, one entitled The Dying Believer to 
his Soul (' Deathless principle, arise'), the other a Medi- 
tation written in Illness (' When languor and disease 
invade'), both of them glowing throughout with 'the 
joy of believing.' His ' Christ, whose glory fills the 
skies,' is a good and well-known morning hymn. ' I 
saw, and lo ! a countless throng,' a contemplation on 
Rev. vii. 9-17, is a fine ode. 'Holy Ghost, dispel our 
sadness,' is a variation from the German, in a stately 
measure, enriched with double rhymes. 

Toplady's hymns have many faults. His rhymes 
are often extremely careless. In one hymn we find 
' own ' rhyming with ' begun ' ' given ' with ' heaven,' 
' Saviour ' with ' ever/ ' Creator ' with ' nature,' ' seals ' 
with ' dispels,' etc. Nor is this at all an exceptional 
example. He is apt to employ a variety of confused 
metaphors ; sometimes he uses expressions which offend 
by their want of taste ; and occasionally he does not 
scruple to use an Alexander Selkirk metre which is 
particularly disagreeable to the ear when adapted to 
sacred subjects. Apart from all question whether state- 
ments of peculiar dogmatic views are not prosaic and 
inappropriate as introduced into a hymn, what solemnity 
can there be in such a jingle as the following? 

A debtor to mercy alone, 

Of covenant mercy I sing ; 
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, 

My person and off 'rings to bring. 1 

But when Toplady was bent upon instilling the special 
opinions of that school of religious thought to which he 
belonged, he had little thought for metre, rhyme, or 
melody. It seems inconceivable that the author of 
' Rock of ages ' could also write the following : 

1 Toplady's Works, vol. vi. hymn 9. 



Old English Verse 405 

Imputatively guilty then 

Our Substitute was made, 
That we the blessings might obtain 

For which His blood was shed. 1 

Many of his hymns are wholly disqualified for general 
use by his uncompromising Calvinism. 

Reference has already been made to the indignation 
felt by William Romaine (1714-1795) that the Psalms 
of David should be in any way supplanted in Church 
use by what he called ' man's poetry,' ' human composi- 
tions.' Holding these views, the worthy Evangelical 
clergyman was of course not a hymn-writer. He was, 
however, very desirous that congregational psalmody 
should be improved ; and hoped to contribute to this 
by a new version, in which each Sunday in the Church 
year should have suitable portions of the Psalms appro- 
priated to it. 2 Consequently he did not versify the 
whole of every Psalm. His rendering contrasts strongly 
both in its best features and its defects with that of 
James Merrick. There is often a certain roughness 
and want of finish in it ; often, on the other hand, a 
simplicity which is pleasing. 3 

John Newton (1725-1807) was a man of rto ordinary 
experiences. A special interest is conferred on the 
Olney Hymns by the remembrance that the benevolent 
Evangelical clergyman, who was the author of the 
majority of them, had been in earlier years among the 
worst of those who were engaged in the infamous slave 
trade on the Guinea coast. 4 

Newton's preface to the Olney Hymns, published 
1779, is very modest. His share in the work, he said, 
would have been far smaller had the original design 

1 Toplady's Works, hymn 13. 

2 Psalms by Romaine and Cumberland, suited for every Sunday in the 
Year, 1775. 

3 The second part of the 22d Psalm (for use on Good Friday) is an 
excellent example of this. 

4 It was a period, however, in which occasional fits of bitter remorse 
and excited religious feelings were succeeded by relapses into utter reck- 
lessness of profligate living. J. Newton's Authentic Narrative, 1764. 



406 Religious Thought in 

been carried out. It had been a source of keen regret 
to him that his friend Covvper had been prevented, ' by 
a long and affecting indisposition,' from contributing a 
much larger proportion of the hymns. For his own 
part, he added, he was a versifier, not a poet. His 
hymns were only for plain people, 'Though I would 
not offend readers of taste by a wilful coarseness and 
negligence, I do not write professedly for them. If the 
Lord whom I serve has been pleased to favour me with 
that mediocrity of talent which may qualify me for 
usefulness to the weak and the poor of His flock, without 
quite disgusting persons of superior attainments, I have 
reason to be satisfied.' x 

He was certainly quite right in judging of himself 
that he was no poet. The great majority of his hymns 
are entirely deficient of anything that approaches to 
distinct poetical merit. Undoubtedly, even in this 
respect, there is a very wide interval between his best 2 
and his worst. Some of the former are by no means 
unworthy of their place by the side of Cowper's ; some 
of the latter descend, as poetical compositions, into the 
level of mere doggerel. Thus to take a verse in which 
a mere incident of Bible history is referred to we read 
in a hymn based upon the life of Joseph, 

Though greatly distressed before, 

When charged with purloining the cup, 

They now were confounded much more ; 
Not one of them dared to look up. 3 

When the subject treated is of a more sacred and solemn 
nature as in the 9th hymn of the 3rd book the use 
of language in which there is no sense of dignity of 
expression becomes more positively offensive. His 
best hymns are of course free from such fault. Among 

1 Memoirs, 523. 

2 The last two lines of his finest hymn are very melodious in full har- 
mony with the thought they express : 

' And may the music of Thy Name 
Refresh my soul in death.' 

3 Olney Hymns, i. 21. 



Old English Verse 407 

these, the familiar one beginning ' How sweet the name 
of Jesus sounds,' 1 takes the first place; next to it one 
scarcely less well known, ' Come, my soul, thy suit 
prepare.' 2 There are several others, some of which 
contain verses very indifferent in point of composition, 
but which have deservedly attained a good deal of 
popularity from the depth 3 or tenderness of their re- 
ligious feeling. Such are those beginning, ' One there 
is above all others ; ' 4 ' Glorious things of Thee are 
spoken;' 5 'Time by moments steals away;' 6 'Safely 
through another week ; ' 7 ' Now let us join with hearts 
and tongues ;' 8 a short hymn, too, should be mentioned 
which is often sung at the close of service, ' May the 
grace of Christ our Saviour.' 9 

Several of Newton's hymns are too entirely reflections 
on his own personal experiences to be at all adapted for 
general use. A similar remark may be made of the 
striking and well-known meditation, admissible only as 
a hymn for private use, beginning ' 'Tis a point I long 
to know.' 10 

Many of his more didactic poems upon Scripture 
incidents and parables have merit of their own, if they 
are regarded not as hymns, which they scarcely are. nor 
as poetical compositions, which they scarcely pretend to 
be, but as short spiritual tales in verse, which people of 
little education might read with interest as such. That 
he had some such idea in his mind is the more probable 



1 Olney Hymns, i. 57. 2 Id. i. 31. 

3 The following are the words of a writer whom the character of 
J. Newton had impres-ed with very high respect : ' So valuable are some 
of Newton's hymns, from their deep knowledge of the hum n heart, their 
experience of our wants, and their application to our need, that probably 
no hymns have ever been written which have given greater help to de- 
pressed and anxious minds.' J. C. Colquhoun's W. Wilberjorce, his 
Friends and Times, 91. The Olney Hymns, especially that by Newton 
beginning 'Why should I fear the darkest hour?' were a special solace to 
that pure and noble spirit, Augustus Hare, in his last days. Memorials 
of a Quiet Life, ii. 32. 

4 Id. i. 53. s Id. i. 60. 6 Id. ii. 3. 

7 Id. ii. 40. 8 Id. iii. 39. 9 Id. iii. 101. 

10 Id.'\. 119. 



408 Religious Thought in 

from his having included among his hymns two or three 
sacred fables the Loadstone, the Spider and the Bee, 
and the Tamed Lion. 

It has been noticed as a remarkable and significant 
omission that, although a whole section of hymns is en- 
titled ' Ordinances,' there is no mention whatever among 
them of the sacrament of baptism. 1 

Cowper contributed sixty-eight of the Olney hymns, 
about a quarter of the whole collection. As a whole, 
they are by no means equal to much of his other poetry. 
The gloom, the narrowness, the austerity of his theology, 
are naturally more apparent in them than in poems 
where his religious ideas are less prominently expressed. 
On the other hand, there is in the best of them a 
plaintive tenderness, an elevation of sentiment, and a 
purity of tone, which are no less characteristic of the 
gentle and devout spirit of their author. Moreover, 
Cowper was not always bowed down with despondent 
fears about his spiritual state. The cloud which hung 
over him sometimes passed away and left him in the 
enjoyment of a calm and trustful happiness. In such a 
mood, he composed one of the most beautiful of all 
hymns that have ever been written. Each of the two 
writers had chosen the same text for their subject 
' Lovest thou Me ? ' There was a singular contrast in 
the mode of handling it. Newton's hymn took the 
form of an anxious argument with himself whether he 
did indeed love God or no, whether he were His or 
whether he were not. Cowper's ' Hark, my soul ! it is 
the Lord ' is that which contains those exquisite 
verses 

Can a woman's tender care 
Cease toward the child she bare ? 
Yes, she may forgetful be, 
Yet will I remember thee. 

Mine is an unchanging love, 
Higher than the heights above, 

1 C. B. Pearson, in Oxford Essays (1858), 145. 



Old English Verse 409 

Deeper than the depths beneath, 
Free and faithful, strong as death. 

Lord, it is my chief complaint, 
That my love is weak and faint ; 
Yet I love Thee and adore : 
O for grace to love Thee more ! ' 

Such, too, is the beautiful hymn beginning with the 
verse 

Sometimes a light surprises 

The Christian while he sings ; 
It is the Lord who rises 

With healing in His wings ; 
When comforts are declining, 

He grants the soul again 
A season of clear shining 

To cheer it after rain. 2 

But the frequent tone of Cowper's hymns is that of 
one who feels himself ' tempest-tossed and half a wreck,' 
clinging with pathetic tenacity to a hope which often 
seems scarcely sufficient to save him from despair : 

The billows swell, the winds are high 
Clouds overcast my wintry sky ; 
Out of the depths to Thee I call 
My fears are great, my strength is small. 3 

He feels desolate in spirit and God-forsaken, lost in the 
night, and beset by mysterious enemies : 

My soul is sad and much dismayed ; 

See, Lord, what legions of my foes, 
With fierce Apollyon at their head, 

My heavenly pilgrimage oppose ! 4 

Powers of darkness are around him, and his soul is dark 
within. And yet 

I see, or think I see, 

A glimm'ring from afar ; 
A beam of day that shines for me, 

To save me from despair. 6 

His best hymns are most of them in the minor key of 
prayerful submission to a sovereign Will, and of earnest 

1 Olnty Hymns, i. 118. 2 Id. iii. 48. 

3 Id. iii. 18. 4 Id. iii. 20. 5 Id. iii. 8. 



4io Religious Thought in 

longing for deliverance from an innate sinfulness which 
might yet be too strong for him. Among these may be 
mentioned those beginning ' Oh for a closer walk with 
God ; ' x ' God of my life, to Thee I call ; ' 2 ' What 
various hindrances we meet;' 3 'The billows swell;' 4 
' God moves in a mysterious way ; ' 5 ' There is a 
fountain ; ' 6 ' O Lord, my best desire fulfil,' 7 and that 
in which he declared his purpose of retiring from a 
world which seemed to him crowded with spiritual 
dangers : 

Far from the world, O Lord, I flee 
From strife and tumult far ; 

From scenes where Satan wages still 
His most successful war. 8 

Cowper's translations of the fervid but quietistic and 
somewhat unpracticable hymns of Madame Guyon 
arose out of a cause which forcibly exhibits the sad 
religious dejection which he could never for long to- 
gether overcome. ' Ask no hymns,' he wrote, ' from a 
man suffering by despair as I do. I could not sing the 
Lord's song, banished as I am, not to a strange land, 
but to a remoteness from His presence, in comparison 
with which the distance from east to west is no distance, 
is vicinity and cohesion. I dare not, either in prose or 
verse, allow myself to express a frame of mind which I 
am conscious does not belong to me : least of all can I 
venture to use the language of absolute resignation, 
lest only counterfeiting, I should for that very reason 
be taken strictly at my word, and lose all my remaining 
comfort. Can there not be found among those transla- 
tions of Madame Guyon somewhat that might serve 
the purpose? ... I have no objection to giving the 

1 Olney Hymns, \. 3. 2 Id. iii. 1 19. 

3 Id. ii. 60. 4 Id. iii. 18. 

5 Id. iii. 15. 'The history of this hymn is remarkable. In an 
interval of derangement Cowper thought it was the Divine will that he 
should go to a certain part of the river Ouse and drown himself; but the 
driver of the vehicle, missing his way, diverted him from his purpose, and 
thereupon were composed those memorable lines.' Saunders, 346. 

6 Id. i. 79 7 Id. iii. 19. 8 Id. iii. 45. 



Old English Verse 411 

graces of the foreigner an English dress, but insuperable 
ones to all false pretences and affected exhibitions of 
what I do not feel.' x 

Before passing from the hymnists of the latter part 
of the eighteenth century, a few others should yet be 
mentioned. Martin Madan and Mrs. Cowper were 
both cousins of William Cowper. To the former is 
owed the generally adopted variation from Charles 
Wesley and Cennick's, ' Lo ! He comes with clouds 
descending.' 2 Robert Hawker (1754-1830), vicar of a 
parish in Plymouth, was author of two hymns quoted 
in the Lyra Britannica one upon the name ' Abba, 
Father,' the other upon the word ' Amen.' 3 Joseph 
Carlyle (1759-1805) was professor of Arabic in Cam- 
bridge, and vicar of Newcastle. He was the writer of 
' Lord, when we bend before Thy throne.' 4 Bishop 
Home, best known by his Commentary, was the author 
of a few hymns ; Bishop Lowth of some versions from 
the Psalms. 5 The hymn, 'Jesus, and can it ever be,' 
was written in 1776 by Thomas Green of Ware, when 
he was only ten years old. 6 

John Newton's vicar and predecessor at Olney was 
Moses Brown, who is spoken of as 'an evangelical 
minister and a good man.' 7 The vicarage of Olney 
was only ^50 a year ; and Moses Brown had a family 
of thirteen children. His pecuniary difficuties being, 
therefore, very great, he was glad to accept the chap- 
laincy of Morden College, Blackheath, 8 and Newton suc- 
ceeded to the parochial cure. He was at one time much 
disappointed at not becoming Poet Laureate. 9 Certainly 
the tenure of this office did not, in the eighteenth 
century, imply any considerable poetical gift. Brown 
might have filled it quite as worthily as some who had 

1 H. Stebbing's Life of Cowper, ii. 

2 Lyra Brit. 648, 656, 675. Book of Praise, xc. 

3 Id. 288. 4 Id. 126. 

5 Oxford Essays, 1858, 142. 6 Saunders, 349. 

7 Cecil's Memoirs of J. Newton, 41. 

8 Id., and James Hervey's Works, vi. 270. 

9 M. Brown's Sunday Thoughts, fourth ed. 1781, part iii. 984-6. 



4 1 2 Religious Thought in 

held it before him. But he was only a very moderate 
poet. His poem on the Universe and his Sunday 
Thoughts received much praise, and the latter passed 
through at least four editions. But the circulation 
must have been almost entirely among a number of 
worthy people who cared little for the poetical in 
comparison with the religious merit of his poems. 
They were instructive and orthodox, mildly evangelistic, 
tolerant, except to Rome, suffused with a quiet appre- 
ciation of natural beauty, and appropriate, yet not too 
heavy, for Sunday reading. ' I hope,' wrote James 
Hervey, ' Divine Providence will give his Sunday 
Thoughts an extensive spread, and make them an 
instrument of diffusing the savour of true religion. 
Seldom, if ever, have I seen a treatise that presents the 
reader with so full yet concise a view, so agreeable yet 
striking a picture of true Christianity in its most im- 
portant articles, and most distinguishing peculiarities. 
Though I am utterly unacquainted with the author ' 
(they afterwards became intimate), ' I assure myself he is 
no novice in the sacred school.' x The Sunday Thoughts 
were first published in 1750: a fourth part, including 
some hymns, or Night Songs, was added in 1781. 

Philip Skelton. an Irish clergyman who published 
his hymns in 1784. His Song of Creation, interesting 
in thought and finely expressed, may be found in 
Professor Palgrave's Treasury of Sacred Song. 

Cowper was for some time under the care of Dr. 
Nathaniel Cotton (1707-1788), who kept a private 
establishment of high repute for persons of deranged 
intellect. The poet used to speak of him with the utmost 
gratitude, as a physician whose humanity was equal to 
his skill, and who was as capable of administering to 
the spiritual as to the physical maladies of his patients. 2 
He was a man also of some literary note. His Visions 
in Verse, published about 1751, attained a good deal of 

1 James Hervey's Works, vi. 47. 

2 Cowper's poem on ' Hope ;' Cowper's Letters, July 4th, 1765 ; Cecil's 
Memoirs of Newton, 45 ; Chalmers's Life of Cotton, 5. 



Old English Verse 4 1 > 

popularity, and deserved it, not as having any great 
poetical merit, but as embodying in smooth, easy-flowing 
measure the ideas of a sensible, benevolent, and religious 
mind. Each vision is a kind of allegory, in which some 
personified quality such as Pleasure, Health, Friendship, 
etc., is the principal character. Among Cotton's other 
poetical productions are a few hymns, one of which, 
beginning ' If solid happiness,' ends with this bright 
verse 

For conscience like a faithful friend, 
Shall through the gloomy vale attend, 

To aid our dying breath ; 
And faith shall fix our thankful eye 
Beyond the reach of death. 1 

Hitherto, William Cowper (1731-1808) has only been 
spoken of here as one among the hymn-writers of 
the latter half of the eighteenth century. It would 
be beyond the limits of the subject to remark upon his 
general merits as a poet. But in all his principal writ- 
ings the religious element is strongly marked. With 
two or three unimportant exceptions, all his poems date 
from a period when religious convictions had for a long 
time become altogether the controlling principle of his 
life. His genius was late in ripening. He was fifty 
years old before he was known as a poet. 

The best and most characteristic features of Cowper's 
poetry are very closely related to the strong Christian 
feeling which actuated him. Without it, his writings 
might not have been deficient in sweetness and pathos ; 
but they would have been deprived of that which con- 
ferred upon them those higher qualities which made his 
poems a turning-point in eighteenth century literature. 
His thorough earnestness, his transparent simplicity of 
moral aim, his devoted love of all goodness, his shrink- 
ing aversion from all forms of evil, his lively sense of a 
divine purpose and significance in all created works 
these principles, operating in a sensitive and poetical 

1 This hymn is not in Chalmers's edition. It is from Patrick's Col- 
lection. 1786. 



414 Religious Thought in 

temperament, were just what was wanted to give his 
poetry that simplicity, reality, and vigour which contrasts 
most favourably with the formalities and artificial graces 
which had been too popular before. It may be added 
that unaffected elevation of moral sentiment, such as 
that which in Cowper was based upon pure religious 
feeling, gives a beauty to poetry which is almost in- 
dispensable to its highest charm. 

The defects of Cowper's theology are easily separable 
from the solid core of Christian love and faith to which 
they are attached. But, as was inevitable in a nature 
such as his, they have left a strong impress on his 
poetry. Cowper has condemned Puritanism in strong 
words as dark and sullen, as harsh, intolerant, and 
severe, without smile, sweetness, or grace. In his own 
mind, as it is reflected both in his poems and in his 
letters, there is constantly a tenderness, a gentle gaiety, 
a perception of humour, which is quite the reverse of 
Puritan moroseness. Yet he was continually falling 
into the same extreme which he has censured. His 
poetry is never so unattractive as where it is made 
expressive of the severe and confined views of life 
peculiar to the school of religious thought in which his 
ideas were moulded. He is often very intolerant and 
precise. His own home, were it not for the constitutional 
morbidness which religious fears aggravated, but had 
not occasioned, would have been a very Eden in the 
midst of a sinful world. And living as he did, a recluse, 
in the pure and harmless round of his occupations, amid 
the tranquil pleasures of his garden and the country, 
his books, his painting, his hares, his bird-cages, and his 
own delicate and refined thoughts, among friends who 
loved him, and among the poor, to whom he was enabled 
to be an almoner as well as a kind and compassionate 
friend, ever walking truly with his God, he was impatient 
that the world in general could not live after a like 
pattern, and had small indulgence for its sins, and scanty 
sympathy for its weaknesses. He thought with some- 
thing like horror of the life of cities 



Old English Verse 4 1 5 

humming with a restless crowd, 
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud, 
Whose highest praise is that they live in vain, 
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain ; 
Where works of man are cluster'd close around. 
And works of God are hardly to be found. 1 

There seemed to him something radically wrong in such 
conditions of existence for 'a creature formed for God 
alone and for heaven's high purposes,' and he used all 
his powers as a Christian satirist to inveigh against 
them. Cowper was not wanting in sound practical sense 
and masculine power of reflection. He could lash 
irreligion and vice with a force and purity of tone which 
cannot fail to carry with it the sympathy of the reader. 
When, however, he descends to pass sentence upon 
trivial follies, or to speak of pursuits and pleasures 
which are simply not congenial to himself, he often 
loses all sense of proportion, and becomes the mere 
bigot. The best and wisest of counsellors is listened to 
with impatience if he declaims against pleasures which 
become noxious only by unreasonable or immoderate 
use, if cards and dancing are denounced as crimes, 2 
hunting as vulgarest brutality, 3 and he who would play 
a game of chess is asked how he can ' waste attention 
at the checkered board,' and concentrate his mind upon 
a trivial game, ' as if eternity were hung in balance on 
his conduct of a pin ? ' 4 Yet when the poet passed on to 
speak of those who devote themselves to grave studies 
of man or nature, he was even more than ever dazed 
by theological contempt, more than ever the zealot : 

I sum up half mankind 
And add two-thirds of the remaining half, 
And find the total of their hopes and fears 
Dreams, empty dreams. The million flit as gay 
As if created only like the fly, 
That spreads his motley wings in the eye of noon, 
To sport their season and be seen no more. 
The rest are sober dreamers, grave and wise, 
And pregnant with discoveries new and rare. 

1 Retirement. ~ Progress of Error. 

3 Id. and Conversation. 4 The Task, book vi. 



416 Religious Thought in 

Then follow a score or two of lines in which he pours 
contempt upon the ' seeming wisdom,' the ' airy reveries,' 
the ' plausible amusements,' the idle labours of the 
historian, the geologist, the astronomer : 

And thus they spend 

The little wick of life's poor, shallow lamp 
In playing tricks with Nature, giving laws 
To distant worlds, and trifling in their own. 1 

Much in the same style of thought is his impassioned 
tirade against the pride of those who refuse to acknow- 
ledge that man is by nature so dead in sin as not 
to possess any native beams of rectitude, any inborn 
love of virtue. 2 It was unfortunate that a poet like 
Cowper, whose religious influence on cultivated minds 
might have been so considerable, should have imbibed 
the mischievous persuasion that, to enhance the bless- 
ings of divine grace and the preciousness of Christian 
morals, all other elements of human nature must be de- 
preciated and disparaged. 

Apart from this, the religious thought that enters 
into Cowper's general poetry is often exceedingly 
beautiful. However much, in his darker hours, he 
might doubt whether he had any right to its joy, he 
never doubted that a Christian's faith was as rich in 
happiness as in holiness. All nature glowed to such an 
one with more than earthly brightness : 

He is the freeman whom the truth makes free. 

His are the mountains, and the valleys his, 
And the resplendent rivers : his to enjoy 
With a propriety that none can feel, 
But who with filial confidence inspired 
Can lift to heaven an unpresumptuous eye, 
And smiling say, ' My Father made them all ! ' 
Are they not his by a peculiar right, 
And by an emphasis of interest his, 
Whose eye they fill with tears of holy joy, 

1 The Task, book iii., and Charity, towards the middle. 
- Truth, near the close. 



Old English Verse 4 1 7 

Whose heart with praise, and whose exalted mind 
With worthy thoughts of that unwearied love 
That plann'd, and built, and still upholds, a world 
So clothed with beauty for rebellious man ? 

Acquaint thyself with God, if thou wouldst taste 
His works. Admitted once to His embrace, 
Thou shalt perceive that thou wast blind before. 
Thine eye shall be instructed ; and thine heart 
Made pure shall relish, with divine delight 
Till then unfelt, what hands divine have wrought. 1 



Happy who walks with Him ! whom what he finds 
Of flavour or of scent in fruit or flower, 
Or what he views of beautiful or grand 
In nature, from the broad majestic oak 
To the green blade that twinkles in the sun, 
Prompts with remembrance of a present God. 
His presence, who made all so fair, perceived, 
Makes all still fairer. As with him no scene 
Is dreary, so with him all seasons please. 2 

The poems of Hannah More (1744-1833) derive, no 
doubt, their chief value from the spirit that animates 
them. They are the verses of a refined and most 
benevolent woman, whose influence was great, and 
whose talents were exerted with a Christian-hearted 
purpose of doing good. Her poetical were almost as 
popular as her prose works. It is true their sale was in 
many instances very much promoted by the zeal of some 
good people, who believed that in the excited and 
anxious times which witnessed the outbreak of the 
French Revolution, her writings, full as they are of high 
principle, tact, and sound sense, were calculated to be 
of great service. In any case, they were widely read 
and much admired. Her poem, for instance, on Sensi- 
bility, although weighted rather than not by the Sacred 
Dramas, with which, in 1783, it was published, went 
through nineteen editions. 3 Sensibility, in her meaning 
of the word, was a quickness of moral perception, especi- 

1 The Task, book v. near close. 2 Id. vi. 

3 Hannah Moris Memoirs, by W. Roberts, i. 184. 

2D 



41 8 Religious Thought in 

ally to those simple but precious virtues of domestic life 
which Christian charity demands. The poem is chiefly 
addressed to girls growing up to womanhood. Yet it is 
not so much a poem as an essay written in pleasing verse. 
The following sensible and characteristic lines occur 
in one of the Solitary Musings, of which the first line is, 
'Lord, when dejected I appear:' 

O wayward heart ! thine is the blame ; 
Though I may change, God is the same. 
Not feebler faith, nor colder prayer, 
My state and sentence shall declare ; 
Not nerves and feelings shall decide 
By safer signs I shall be tried. 
Is the fixed tenor of my mind 
To Christ and righteousness inclined P 1 

Nor should her religious tales and ballads be passed 
over without notice. Many of them were adapted to 
popular tunes, and widely dispersed as tracts and broad- 
sheets. The following is a part of the conversation 
entitled Turn the Carpet, or The Two Weavers : 

Says John, Thou say'st the thing I mean, 
And now I hope to cure thy spleen ; 
The world, which clouds thy soul with doubt, 
Is but a carpet inside out. 

As when we view these shreds and ends, 
We know not what the whole intends ; 
So when on earth things look but odd, 
They 're working still some scheme of God. 

No plan or pattern can we trace, 
All wants proportion, truth, and grace ; 
The motley mixture we deride, 
Nor see the beauteous upper side. 

But when we reach that world of light, 
And view those works of God aright, 
Then shall we see the whole design, 
And own the Workman is divine. 2 

Some of Hannah More's best verses were written in 
1788, upon the slave-trade. They were verses well 
calculated to stir the conscience of her readers. Espe- 

1 Hannah More's Memoirs, 41. 2 Hannah More's Works, 17- 



Old English Verse 419 

cially she inveighed against 'the proud philosophy,' 
which affected to deny to the negro race a common 
share in the powers of our joint humanity. And 
earnestly she pleaded against the iniquitous inconsis- 
tency of slavery in a land of liberty : 

Shall Britain, where the soul of freedom reigns, 
Forge chains for others she herself disdains ? 
Forbid it, Heaven ! O let the nations know 
The liberty she tastes she will bestow. 1 

There is much religious pathos in the following : 

And if some notions, vague and undefined, 
Of future terrors have assail'd thy mind ; 
If such thy masters have presumed to teach 
As terrors only they are prone to preach 
(For should they paint Eternal Mercy's reign, 
Where were th' oppressor's rod, the captive's chain ?) 
If then thy troubled soul has learn'd to dread 
The dark unknown thy trembling footsteps tread 
On Him who made thee what thou art depend ; 
He who withholds the means accepts the end. 
Thy mental night thy Saviour will not blame ; 
He died for those who never heard His name. 
Not thine the reckoning dire of light abused, 
Knowledge disgraced, and liberty misused. 2 

In fact, the better poetry of the age was all, greatly 
to its credit, on the side of freedom and humanity 
prompt alike to animate Wilberforce in his exertions, 
and to console and encourage him under the partial 
failure which at first awaited his efforts. James Hurdis, 
in 1788, entreated his countrymen to put away from 
them a guilt which would surely bring righteous venge- 
ance upon them. 3 In 1792, Cowper addressed a noble 
sonnet to Wilberforce, bidding him not to be dis- 
heartened 

Friend of the poor, the wrong'd, the fetter-gall'd, 
Fear not lest labour such as thine be vain. 4 

Mrs. Barbauld dedicated a poem to him on the same 

1 Hannah More's Works, xi. 119. 2 Id, 117. 

3 James Hurdis's Poems, iii. 92. 

4 Cowper's Poems : Sonnet to William Wilberforce. 



420 Religious Thought in 

occasion. 1 James Montgomery not only wrote, but 
suffered imprisonment in the cause, through the offence 
which his unguarded vehemence had given. 2 Southey, 
in 1794, dedicated to the subject some of his early 
sonnets and lyrics verses glowing with indignation. 3 
Coleridge, in the same year, denounced the wrath that 
must thunder from the Holy One 

where hideous Trade 
Loud laughing packs his bales of human anguish. 4 

Campbell, in the last year of the century, wrote a fine 
apostrophe to Nature outraged by the wicked institu- 
tion : 

Eternal Nature ! when thy giant hand 

Had heaved the floods, and fixed the trembling land, 

When life sprang startling at thy plastic call, 

Endless her forms, and man the lord of all ! 

Say, was that lordly form inspired by thee 

To wear eternal chains and bow the knee ? 

Was man ordain'd the slave of man to toil, 

Yoked with the brutes, and fetter'd to the soil ; 

Weigh'd in a tyrant's balance with his gold ? 

No ! Nature stamp'd us in a heavenly mould ! 

She bade no wretch his thankless labour urge, 

Nor, trembling, take the pittance and the scourge ! 

No homeless Libyan, on the stormy deep, 

To call upon his country's name and weep ! s 

James Hurdis (1763-1801), whose verses on slavery 
have been referred to, was a Fellow of Magdalen 
College, and curate of Burwash in Sussex ; afterwards 
vicar of Bishopstone, and Professor of Poetry at Oxford. 
His gentle refinement, his cultivated love of Nature, 
his bright unclouded piety, make him one of the most 
charming of eighteenth-century poets. He was not, in 
the stricter sense of the word, a writer of sacred poetry, 

1 Barbauld's Works (Aikin), i. 173 : Epistle to W. Wilberforce. 

2 Memoirs of James Montgomery, by J. Holland and Jas. Everett, 166, 
and pref. to Poetical Works, i. xxvii. 

3 Southey's Poetical Works : Poems concerning the Slave Trade (1794), 
ii. 56. 

4 S. T. Coleridge's Poetical Works : Religious Musings, i. 87. 
6 Pleasures of Hope. 



Old English Verse 421 

but a vein of pure Christian feeling runs through all 
he wrote ; as when, musing on the resuscitation of all 
Nature in the spring, he exclaims 

But I shall live again, 

And still on that sweet hope shall my soul feed. 
A medicine it is, which with a touch 
Heals all the pains of life ; a precious balm, 
Which makes the tooth of sorrow venomless, 
And of her hornet sting so keen disarms 
Cruel Adversity. 1 

Anna Laetitia Barbauld 2 (1743-1825) might have been 
spoken of among the hymn-writers. Her hymns are 
only twelve in number, occupying a few pages at the 
end of her poetical works. But all of them are good of 
their kind, considered as devotional poems, not intended 
for congregational use. She published only those 
which she thought the best, acting, in this instance at 
least, on the excellent principle, ' I had rather it be 
asked of twenty pieces why they are not here, than of 
one why it is.' 3 Four of them, one for Easter Sunday, 
one on ' Pious Friendship,' and those beginning, ' Praise 
to God, immortal praise/ and ' Awake, my soul ! lift up 
thine eyes,' may be found in various selections. 

Among her general poems there are several of a 
sacred character. The lines which conclude her poems, 
' Life, I know not what thou art/ are worthy of Vaughan 
or Norris : 

Life ! we Ve been long together, 
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather ; 
Tis hard to part when friends are dear ; 
Perhaps 'twill cost a sigh, a tear : 



1 James Hurdis's Poems : The Village Curate. 

- Mrs. Barbauld was three years older than her brother Dr. Aikin. 
Their father was a dissenting clergyman, a friend of Doddridge. Mr. 
Barbauld's grandfather was a French Protestant who, as a boy, had been 
smuggled to England inside a cask. His father was an English clergy- 
man. He himself had been intended for the same profession, but had 
imbibed Nonconformist principles in Dr. Aikin's school. Mrs. Barbauld's 
celebrity as a teacher is well known. L. Aikin's Memoirs. 

3 Works of Anna L. Barbauld, -with Memoir, by Lucy Aikin, i. Ix. 



422 Religious Thought in 

Then steal away, give little warning ; 

Choose thine own time ; 
Say not ' Good-night,' but in some brighter clime 

Bid me good-morning. 1 

The earlier publications of George Crabbe (1756-1832) 
belong wholly to the eighteenth century. The Candidate, 
the Library, the Village, and the Newspaper appeared 
between 1780 and 1785. After that date, as if con- 
tented with the praise and popularity he had won, he 
retired into the seclusion of domestic and parochial life, 
so that when his Village Register was published twenty- 
two years afterwards, in 1807, he was welcomed alrr 
as a new writer. In the character, also, as well as in 
date of his poetry, he is a link between two periods 
The influence of Pope, the grand model of eighteenth- 
century poets, upon his style of thought and versifica- 
tion is constantly visible and frequently acknowledged, 
especially in his earlier works. In simplicity, on the 
other hand, in minuteness of observation, in his love of 
Nature, and in thorough sympathy with the poor, he 
belonged rather to that newer school of poetry of which 
there were few traces until the last century was drawing 
near its close. 

Crabbe's title to be ranked among authors of sacred 
poetry rests chiefly upon the Pilgrim's Song ' Pilgrim, 
burdened with thy sin,' etc., 2 in Sir Eustace Grey, a 
poem written in 1804. He gained his literary successes 
as the Christian moralist, the keen-eyed but kindly 
censor of humble life. While he was yet a young 
medical practitioner struggling against adverse circum- 
stances at Aldborough, his native place, he formed his 
purpose, and steadfastly kept to it : 

Be it my boast to please and to improve, 
To warm the soul to virtue and to love ; 
To paint the passions, and to teach mankind 
The greatest pleasures are the most refined ; 



1 Barbauld's Works, i. 262. 

2 G. Crabbe's Poetical Works, with his Letters, etc., by his Son, ii. 275. 



Old English Verse 423 

The cheerful tale with fancy to rehearse, 
And gild the moral with the charm of verse. 1 

Among the fragments of sacred poetry which occur in 
his early note-books, and which were published by his 
son among his other works, there is one dated 1778, 
upon the Resurrection, suggested by early spring flowers, 
and the following short aspiration, as he wandered in 
the late evening along the 'samphire banks' of the 
Suffolk coast : 2 

The sober stillness of the night 

That fills the silent air, 
And all that breathes along the shore, 

Invite to solemn prayer. 

Vouchsafe to me that spirit, Lord, 

Which points the sacred way, 
And let thy creatures' here below 

Instruct me how to pray. 3 

To the majority of his contemporaries, the poetry 
of William Blake (1757-1827) was as unintelligible 
as his painting. He was simply pitied as a madman, 
or scorned as a visionary mystic. His admirers in 
a later age have done him ample justice. 'He was a 
poet,' writes one of his editors, 'who in his best things 
has hardly fallen short of the large utterances of 
the Elizabethan dramatists, the pastoral simplicity of 
Wordsworth, the subtlety and fire of Shelley, and the 
lyrical tenderness of Tennyson.' 4 His simpler poems 
are many of them delightful. And the reader who will 
bear patiently with great faults wild fancies of a 
disordered imagination, obscurities, enigmas, paradoxes, 
eccentricities of religious and moral belief, extrava- 
gances of expression, metrical irregularities, and some- 
times grammatical carelessness will often find himself 
rewarded by a strain of poetry which in depth and 
sweetness may be said to exceed any that the eighteenth 
century has elsewhere produced. As a writer of sacred 

1 The Wish, id. ii. 310. " Id. i. n. :i Id. ii. 313. 

4 Preface to W. Blake's Poetical Sketches, ed. by R. H., 14. 



424 Religious Thought in 

poetry he had capacities of no ordinary kind. His 
words 

I am in God's presence night and day 
He never turns his face away 1 

were to him the expression of a reality as vividly im- 
pressed upon his conception as any outward object of 
sense could be to an ordinary mind. No one can read 
his poems without feeling convinced of this. He died 
in a very rapture of joy, composing and uttering almost 
to the very last ' songs to his Maker so sweetly, to the 
ears of his wife, that when she stood to hear him, he, 
looking upon her most affectionately, said, " My beloved, 
they are not mine, no, they are not mine." ' 2 None 
could be more persuaded than he was that death is in 
very truth the ' golden door ' of life, re-opening inlets of 
spiritual perception 3 among which the outward senses 
are the least and the most imperfect. In one of his 
poems he writes 

The door of death is made of gold, 
That mortal eyes can not behold ; 
But when the mortal eyes are closed, 
And cold and pale the limbs reposed, 
The soul awakes, and, wondering, sees 
In her mild hand the golden keys. 
The grave is heaven's golden gate, 
And rich and poor around it wait. 

One of the most beautiful of his Songs of Innocence, 
published in 1789, is that entitled On Another's Sorrow. 
Part of it runs thus : 

Can I see another's woe, 
And not be in sorrow too ? 
Can I see another's grief, 
And not seek for kind relief? 

Can I see a falling tear, 
And not feel my sorrow's share ? 
Can a father see his child 
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill'd ? 

1 From a MS. poem, quoted in Al. Gilchrist's Life of Blake, 310. 

2 Id. 361. 3 Cf. A. C. Swinburne's Life of Blake, 242. 



Old English Verse 425 

Can a mother sit and hear 
An infant groan, an infant fear ? 
No, no ; never can it be 
Never, never can it be. 

He doth give His joy to all ; 
He becomes an infant small ; 
He becomes a man of woe ; 
He doth feel the sorrow too. 

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh, 
And thy Maker is not by ; 
Think not thou canst weep a tear, 
And thy Maker is not near. 1 

His own heart was one that overflowed with wide sym- 
pathy ; but most of all was he full of tenderness towards 
little children. The following, entitled The Lamb, may 
be quoted as an example : 

Little lamb, who made thee ? 
Dost thou know who made thee ? 
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed 
By the stream and o'er the mead ; 
Gave thee clothing of delight, 
Softest clothing, woolly, bright ; 
Gave thee such a tender voice, 
Making all the vales rejoice ; 

Little lamb, who made thee ? 

Dost thou know who made thee ? 
Little lamb, I '11 tell thee ; 
Little lamb, I '11 tell thee. 
He is called by thy name ; 
For. He calls Himself a Lamb : 
He is meek, and He is mild 
He became a little child. 
He a child, and thou a lamb, 
We are called by His name. 

Little lamb, God bless thee, 

Little lamb, God bless thee ! 2 

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, although only born in 1772, 
was chronologically an eighteenth century poet. 1797 
has been very properly called his great poetical year ; 
and most of his noblest verses, including many that were 

1 W. Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, 34. 2 Id. 8. 



426 Religious Tlmight in 

not published till 1816, were composed before the close 
of the century. There could scarcely be a stronger illus- 
tration of the development of thought during the ninety 
years preceding, than the contrast between the poetry 
of Coleridge and that which flourished in the reign of 
Anne. 

Coleridge's verse is deeply penetrated with religious 
feeling, though he rarely wrote upon what are commonly 
called sacred subjects. It was so even at the time of 
his greatest speculative perplexities, when (to use his 
own words) ' I found myself all afloat : doubts rushed 
in ; broke upon me " from the fountains of the great 
deep," and " fell from the windows of heaven." The 
fontal truths of natural and revealed religion alike 
contributed to the flood ; and it was long ere my ark 
touched on an Ararat and rested.' 1 His was a mind 
that could not be satisfied without probing to the 
foundations of religion and morals ; and metaphysical 
difficulties, such as those which attended his meditations 
on personality in God as reconciled with infinity, sorely 
perplexed him. But, as he often has said, his difficulties 
were intellectual ; in feeling he never lost his hold on 
faith and goodness. ' My head was with Spinoza, 
though my whole heart remained with Paul and John.' 3 
He passed through a phase of zealous Unitarianism, 
but did not find what he wanted in it ; and gradually, 
as he exchanged Hartley's philosophy for views more 
nearly approaching those of Kant, and discerned more 
clearly the properties and limitations of the human 
mind, his intellectual perplexities cleared away, and 
he gained the satisfaction he craved in a fervid but 
thoughtful acceptance of Christianity as he found it 
set forth in the liturgy of the English Church. Before 
the nineteenth century had begun, the great struggle 
by which for some years past Coleridge's mind had 
been distracted the ferment of his thought on religious, 
philosophical, and political questions had compara- 

1 Life ofS. T. Coleridge, by James Gillman, i. 87. - Id. 



Old English Verse 427 

tively subsided, and his powerful intellect had taken its 
matured form. 

Through all this time, poetry had been no common 
solace to him. ' It has soothed my afflictions (he said) ; 
it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments ; it has 
endeared solitude; and it has given me the habit of 
wishing to discover the good and the beautiful in all 
that meets and surrounds me.' x Hence the great charm 
of much of his earlier poetry. It is the innermost record 
of a mind instinct with life and thought, always religious 
even amid its most disquieting doubts longing to be- 
lieve, even when it could not obedient to the rule of 
faith, even where reason affected to dispute its right to 
rule. 

Thrice holy faith ! Whatever thorns I meet, 
As on I totter with unpractised feet, 
Still let me stretch my arms and cling to thee, 
Meek nurse of souls through their long infancy. 2 

Like most young men of ability and promise Cole- 
ridge had been intensely interested in the great events 
which had been transacted across the Channel. At the 
outbreak of the Revolution he had been fired with the 
most sanguine expectations. Ardent love of freedom, 
eager sympathy with the poor and the oppressed, ex- 
pectations of a new order of society which would be 
truer, nobler, happier than had ever gone before, excited 
him into a sort of religious enthusiasm, as though the 
Saviour's kingdom were about to begin on earth, and 
the thousand years had reached their advent. He 
trusted that even the fury of the outbreak would be 
only as the storm that cleared the sky for halcyon days 
to follow ; or rather the opening of the seals, prelusive 
to the coming forth from God of the New Jerusalem. 

Transfigured with a dreadless awe, 
A solemn hush of soul, meek he beholds 
All things of terrible seeming : yea, unmoved, 
Views e'en th' unmitigable ministers 
That shower down vengeance on these later days. 

1 Life of S. T. Coleridge, by James Gillman, 101. 

2 To an Infant, written about 1794 : Poetical Works, i. 76. 



428 Religious Thought in 

For kindly with intenser deity 

From the celestial mercy-seat they come, 

And at the renovating wells of Love 

Have fill'd their vials with salutary wrath, 

To sickly nature more medicinal 

Than what soft balm the weeping, good man pours 

Into the lone, despoiled traveller's wounds. 

Lord of unsleeping Love 
From everlasting Thou ! we shall not die, 
These, even these, in mercy didst thou form 
Teachers of good through evil, by brief wrong 
Making truth lovely, and her future might 
Magnetic o'er the fixed, untrembling heart. 

The Lamb of God hath open'd the fifth seal : 
And upward rush, on swiftest wing of fire, 
The innumerable multitude of wrongs 
By man on man inflicted ! Rest awhile, 
Children of wretchedness ! The hour is nigh ! J 

His fervid anticipations of a blest future upon a reno- 
vated earth were destined to speedy and bitter dis- 
appointment. In his pathetic ode upon France, written 
in 1797, he has recorded the progress of his disenchant- 
ment, slow and unwilling, but none the less complete. 
The outburst of ' fierce and drunken passions ' the 
' loud scream of blasphemy ' 2 the shedding of innocent 
blood scarcely availed at first to awaken him from his 
golden dream : 

Ye storms that round the dawning east assembled, 
The sun was rising, though ye hid his light. 3 

It was not until France invaded the liberties of Switzer- 
land that he reluctantly relinquished his hopes. 

To Coleridge's mind, freedom was indeed a holy 
thing. In its highest sense it was 

the unfetterd use 

Of all the powers that God for use had given : 
But chiefly this, Him first, Him last to view, 
Through meaner powers of secondary things 
Effulgent, or through clouds that veil his blaze. 4 

1 Religious Musings (1794), 85-94. - France, an Ode, 1797, id. 130. 
3 Id. 4 The. Destiny of Nations, a Vision, id. 98. 



Old English Verse 429 

His hymn on national freedom was a devotional poem 
in quite a true sense of the word, 'prefaced by a reveren- 
tial appeal to the 

Eternal Father ! King Omnipotent ! 

To the Will Absolute, the One, the Good ! 

The I Am, the Word, the Life, the Living God. 1 

It seemed to him a work in all respects worthy of 
angelic ministrations to build up kingdoms and to guide 
with superhuman agency the destinies of nations. 2 In 
his patriotism there was the same deep religious tone. 
The sanctity of human life, not in the individual only, 
nor only in its family and social relations, but in its 
wider sphere of political action the loftiness of the 
ideal towards which its efforts should be directed the 
inspiring greatness of its capabilities these were 
thoughts which gave a very marked character to Cole- 
ridge's religious musings, and which were pointedly in 
contrast with the prevailing bias of the generation which 
immediately preceded him. Political life had so long 
been the almost recognised arena of low and worldly 
motives, of faction, intrigue, and corruption, that if the 
speculations of men of Coleridge's moral and intellectual 
power were apt to be somewhat mystical and over- 
wrought, sometimes erroneous and misleading, they 
were of very real value to the age. They were not 
only a most refreshing contrast to much that had gone 
before, but they contributed largely to the formation 
of a new mental epoch. There were many men whose 
names occur in the public history of the eighteenth 
century fully as fervid and earnest as he was. But for 
a long time previously there had not been many 
as there were many afterwards in whose minds the 
same conjunction of ideas would be associated as 
to Coleridge, when he left for a wider sphere of action 
the myrtle-covered walls of his pleasant Somerset 
cottage : 

1 The Destiny of Nations. - /</. 104. 



430 Religious Thought in 

I therefore go and join head, heart, and hand, 

Active and firm to fight the bloodless fight 

Of Science, Freedom, and the Truth in Christ. 1 

And no less was Coleridge sensitively alive both as 
a poet and as a religious man, to a sacred presence, a 
holy teaching, in outward nature. The Hymn before 
Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni, published in 1816, but 
written before the close of the last century, 2 does not 
lose by comparison with the noble hymn which Milton 
has put into the lips of our first parents. It certainly 
touches finer chords of feeling than any which James 
Thomson, even in his noblest passages, appealed to. As 
the contemplation of a spiritual mind deeply touched 
by the sublimer aspects of mountain scenery, how 
beautiful is this 

Thou too, hoar mount, with thy sky-pointing peaks, 

Oft from whose feet the avalanche, unheard, 

Starts downward, glittering through the pure serene 

Into the depth of clouds that veil thy breast 

Thou too again, stupendous mountain ! thou 

That as I raise my head, a while bowed low 

In adoration, upward from thy base 

Slow travelling with dim eyes suffused with tears, 

Solemnly seemest, like a vapoury cloud, 

To rise before me. Rise, O ever rise, 

Rise like a cloud of incense from the earth ! 

Thou kingly spirit throned among the hills, 

Thou dread ambassador from earth to heaven, 

Great hierarch ! tell thou the silent sky, 

And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun, 

Earth with her thousand voices praises God. 3 

Not that sublimity in nature was needed to kindle such 
sympathies ; for 

Nature ne'er deserts the wise and pure, 
No plot so narrow, be but nature there, 
No waste so vacant but may well employ 

1 Reflection on having left a Place of Retirement, 1798, id. i. 195. 

Oilman's Life of Coleridge, i. 308. He quotes an interesting criticism 
by Coleridge himself upon this poem, in answer to his friend Wordsworth, 
who had condemned it as ' mock sublime. ' The sentiment of it is un- 
doubtedly high-strung, but none the less genuine. 3 Works, i. 186. 



Old English Verse 431 

Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart 
Awake to love and beauty. 1 

Coleridge was no less persuaded than Wordsworth that 
poetry fulfilled a worthy and truly religious function in 
' awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of 
custom and directing it to the loveliness and wonders 
of the world before us, an inexhaustible treasure ; but 
for which, in consequence of the feeling of familiarity 
and selfish solicitude, we have eyes that see not, ears 
that hear not, and hearts that neither feel nor under- 
stand.' 2 He saw 

That outward forms, the loftiest, still receive 
Their finest influence from the life within ; 3 

and he and his brother poet, in a spirit into which 
devotional sentiment largely entered, set themselves to 
awaken among their countrymen the livelier suscepti- 
bilities which they had learnt thus highly to appreciate. 
la earlier life they sometimes worked together, and 
worked harmoniously with the same general purpose 
before each. Coleridge had not the exquisite poetical 
simplicity of Wordsworth, but he was quite equally 
alive to the spiritual side of nature. The outward 
universe was to his mind full of divine and mystic life, 
active, although unseen ; abounding in what might be 
called the emblems and reflections of a higher existence. 
The following are some fine lines from a poem 
written by Coleridge at the end of 1794 : 

He first by fear uncharm'd the drowsed soul, 
Till of its nobler nature it 'gan feel 
Dim recollections ; and thence soar'd to hope, 
Strong to believe whate'er of mystic good 
The Eternal dooms for His immortal sons ; 
From hope and firmer faith to perfect love 



1 The Lime-Tree Bower : 

2 Coleridge, upon the Lyrical Ballad, published by him and Words 
worth in 1798. Gillman's Life of Coleridge, i. 105. 

3 Poetical Works, ii. 151. Cf. the passage from Thomas Burnet's 
Archaol. Philos. with which he heads the Rime of the Ancient Mariner: 
Facile credo, plures esse Naturas invisibiles quam visibiles in rerum 
universitate. . . . Juvat quandoque in animo, tamquam in tabula, 
majoris et melioris mundt imaginem contemplari.' 



432 Religioiis Thought in 

Attracted and absorb'd, and centred there 
God only to behold and know and feel, 
Till by exclusive consciousness of God, 
All self-annihilated, it shall make 
God its identity, God all in all ! 
We and our Father one ! 

And blest are they 

Who in this fleshly world, the elect of heaven, 
Their strong eye darting through the deeds of men, 
Adore with steadfast unpresuming gaze 
Him, nature's essence, mind, and energy ; 
And gazing, trembling, patiently ascend, 
Treading beneath their feet all visible things 
As steps, that upwards to their Father's Throne 
Lead gradual. 

There is one mind, one omnipresent mind, 

Omnific, His most holy name is Love. 

Truth of subliming import ! with the which 

Who feeds and saturates his constant soul, 

He from his small, particular orbit flies 

With blest outstarting ! From himself he flies ; 

Stands in the sun, and with no partial gaze 

Views all creation, and he loves it all, 

And blesses it, and calls it very good ! 

This is indeed to dwell with the Most High ! * 

I conclude this notice of his poetry by quoting from 
verses written after the century had closed. The first 
is from the somewhat sad poem entitled Dejection, dating 
about 1803 : 

O Lady, we receive but what we give, 

And in our life alone does nature live : 

Ours is her wedding garment, ours her shroud ! 

And could we ought behold of higher worth, 
Than that inanimate cold world allow'd 
To the poor loveless ever-anxious crowd, 

Ah ! from the soul itself must issue forth 
A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud 

Enveloping the earth, 
And from the soul itself must there be sent 

A sweet and potent voice of its own birth, 
Of all sweet sounds the life and element ! 

1 Religious Musings, 1 794, id. i. 86. 



Old English Verse 433 

O pure of heart ! thou needst not ask of me 
What this strong music in the soul may be ! 
What and wherein it doth exist, 
This light, this glory, this fair luminous mist. 
This beautiful and beauty-making power : 
Joy, virtuous Lady, joy that ne'er was given 
Save to the pure and in their purest hour. 1 

The mind of Robert Southey (1774-1843) passed 
through a development which was in many respects 
closely analogous to that through which Coleridge passed. 
An intimate friendship had grown up between the two 
men while the former was at Balliol College, and the 
latter an undergraduate of a year and a half's longer 
standing at Jesus College, Cambridge. 2 Their tastes and 
feelings were in many respects congenial. Both were 
fired with the same enthusiastic expectations of a 
coming reign of universal brotherhood. The great 
experiment of republicanism in America, the moral 
crusade in England against slavery, above all the 
tremendous revolutionary outbreak in France, flattered 
their anticipations, and kindled them to a glowing 
heat. Like Kant and Klopstock, like Lavater and 
Alfieri, 3 and like many men of ability in England, their 
joy and hope were great, their disappointment pro- 
portionately bitter. 4 It is well known how the two 

1 Religious 'Musings, i. 237. 

2 Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, ed. by his Son, C. C. 
Southey, i. 210. 

3 Gillman's Life of S. T. Coleridge, i. 47. 

4 Cf. Shelley's fine lines : 

' The nations thronged around and cried aloud 
As with one voice, truth, liberty, and love ! 
Suddenly fierce confusion fell from heaven 
Among them, there was strife, deceit, and fear.' 

Prometheus Unbound, 

Thus, also, Sir S. Romilly wrote in May 1792: 'The conduct of the 
Assembly has not been able to shake my conviction that it [the Revolu- 
tion] is the most glorious event, and the happiest for mankind, that has 
ever taken place since human affairs were recorded.' In the September 
of that same year, he could scarcely find words strong enough to express 
his horror of the movement. Corresp. ii. 3. Quoted in W. Massey's 
Hist, of the Reign of George III., iii. 502. 

2 E 



434 Religious Thought in 

friends proposed to carry their theory into practice by 
heading a colony on the banks of the Susquehannah, 
where intellect and industry, pure philosophy and good 
agriculture, sound religion, cultivated poetry, and honest 
trade, should flourish together under a government of 
perfect equality in bonds of fraternity and peace. The 
pleasing vision collapsed through an unfortunate want 
of funds ; and England retained within her shores two 
young men whose voluntary banishment into the 
wilds of America would have left a blank in our literary 
history. 

Southey, like Coleridge, had been much disturbed in 
his religious convictions during the ferment of mind 
and feeling through which he had passed. He gave up 
all ideas of ordination, and his opinions were for a time 
very unsettled. ' They soon took the form of Unitari- 
anism, from which point they seem gradually to have 
ascended without any abrupt transitions as the troubles 
of life increased his devotional feeling, and the study of 
religious authors informed his better judgment, until 
they finally settled down into a strong attachment to 
the doctrines of the Church of England.' x Here again, 
except that the period of change was marked in Cole- 
ridge's case by much greater intensity of religious feel- 
ing, the course of development was strangely similar. 

Some very fine devotional passages might be selected 
from Southey's later poetry. Even Thalaba, which 
was begun in 1800, although an Arabian story, is in- 
debted to a nobler source than the Koran for its pure 
religious feeling and moral sublimity. 2 But the poems 

1 Life of Southey, \. 203. 

2 ' The design required that I should bring into view the best features 
of that system of belief and worship which had been developed under the 
covenant with Ishmael, placing in the most favourable light the morality 
of the Koran, and what the least corrupted of the Mahometans retain of 
the patriarchal faith. It would have been altogether incongruous to have 
touched upon the abominations engrafted upon it.' Southey's preface to 
eighth vol. of ed. of 1838. 'Thalaba is a poetic story of faith its spiri- 
tual birth, its might, its trials, and its victory such a story as none but a 
Christian poet could have told.' H. Read's Introd. to English Literature, 
p. 169. 



Old English Verse 435 

he wrote in his earlier days, before the close of the 
eighteenth century, are also marked by serious loftiness 
of aim. 'I may not,' he wrote in June 1797, 'live to 
do good to mankind personally, but I shall at least 
leave something behind me to strengthen those feelings 
and excite those reflections from whence Virtue must 
spring. In writing poetry with this end, I hope I am 
not uselessly .employing my leisure hours.' 1 In one of 
his first poems, dated 1793, The Triumph of Woman, a 
subject suggested by the third and fourth chapters of 
Esdras, he writes : 

And, loving beauty, learn 
To shun abhorrent all the mental eye 
Beholds deform'd and foul ; for so shall love 
Climb to the source of goodness. God of Truth ! 
All Just ! All Mighty ! I should ill deserve 
Thy noblest gift, the gift divine of song, 
If, so content with ear-deep melodies, 
To please all profitless, I did not pour 
Severer strains of Truth eternal Truth, 
Unchanging Justice, universal Love. 2 

Joan of Arc, published in 1795, is interesting as 
showing how, amid the unsettled opinions of his early 
manhood, he ever kept steadfastly in view the majesty 
of goodness, the sense of God's presence, the holiness of 
the Divine attributes, and the trust in immortality. 

The second book of The Vision of the Maid, pub- 
lished 1798, is quite Dante-like in the weird energy 
and moral force with which he imagines the future 
doom of the wanton, the epicure, the hypocrite, the 
cruel, and so forth. 

There is a very beautiful poem written by Southey 
during a tour in Portugal in 1796, after a visit to the 
Convent of Arrabida. It well expresses the natural 
transition by which a healthy mind passes out of an 
almost envious contemplation of peaceful seclusion, in 
the midst of natural beauty, from the sins and troubles 
of the outward world, to a sense of the active energies 

1 Life of Southey, i. 319. 2 Southey's Poet. Works, 82. 



436 Religious Thought in 

required of life in its youth and prime. Then rest duly 
earned may be indeed welcome. 

Happy then 

To muse on many a sorrow overpast, 
And think the business of the day is done, 
And as the evening of our lives shall close 
The peaceful evening with a Christian's hope 
Expect the dawn of everlasting day. 1 

The following was written in 1799 to the memory of 
his dear friend Edmund Seward : 



Not to the grave, not to the grave, my Soul, 

Descend to contemplate 
The form that once was dear ! 

The Spirit is not there, 
Which kindled that dead eye, 
Which throbb'd in that cold heart, 
Which in that motionless hand 
Hath met thy friendly grasp. 

The Spirit is not there ! 
It is but lifeless, perishable flesh 

That moulders in the grave ; 
Earth, air, and water's ministering particles 

Now to the elements 
Resolved, their uses done. 
Not to the grave, not to the grave, my Soul, 
Follow thy friend beloved, 
The Spirit is not there ! 



Often together have we talk'd of death ; 

How sweet it were to see 
All doubtful things made clear ; 
How sweet it were with powers 

Such as the Cherubim, 
To view the depth of heaven ! 

Edmund ! thou hast first 
Begun the travel of Eternity : 

1 look upon the stars, 
And think that thou art there, 

Unfetter'd as the thought that follows thee. 

1 Southey's Poet. Works, 137. 



Old English Verse 437 



And we have often said how sweet it were, 
With unseen ministry of angel power, 
To watch the friends we loved. 

Edmund ! we did not err ! 
Sure I have felt thy presence ! Thou hast given 

A birth to holy thought, 

Hast kept me from the world unstain'd and pure 
Edmund ! we did not err ! 
Our best affections here, 
They are not like the toys of infancy ; 
The soul outgrows them not ; 
We do not cast them off; 

Oh, if it could be so, 
It were indeed a dreadful thing to die ! 



Not to the grave, not to the grave, my Soul, 
Follow thy friend beloved ! 
But in the lonely hour, 
But in the evening walk, 
Think that he companies thy solitude ; 
Think that he holds with thee 

Mysterious intercourse ; 
And though remembrance wake a tear, 
There will be joy in grief. 1 

Living as William Wordsworth did into the middle 
of this century (1770-1850), and writing poetry almost 
to the last, it needs a certain effort to think of him as 
a poet of the last century also. Yet his mind attained 
its full development in and through the stirring events 
of the revolutionary decade. Although the mellowing 
influence of maturer years is very visible, both in his 
poetry and in his entire mode of thinking, the Words- 
worth of 1800 is, in every line of his writings, unmistak- 
ably identical with the Wordsworth of a much later 
date ; and some of his most characteristic poems had 
been already written. Much that has been said within 
the last few pages in reference to Coleridge and Southey 
may be repeated of him. The birth of a great republic, 

1 Southey's Poet. Works t 131. 



43 8 Religious Thought in 

full of promise, beyond the Atlantic, had first seized 
his imagination : 

Before me shone a glorious world 
Fresh as a banner bright, unfurPd 

To music suddenly : 
I looked upon those hills and plains, 
And seem'd as if let loose from chains 

To live at liberty. 1 

Then came the outbreak of the Revolution, when his 
hopes were all aglow, and his whole spirit fired with 
enthusiastic expectation : 

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, 
But to be young was very heaven. 2 

He watched with eager hope the growth of a new era, 
emerging triumphantly, as he believed, out of the midst 
of opposition ; yet scarcely dared to trust in all he 
hoped for : 

All cannot be : the promise is too fair 
For creatures doom'd to breathe terrestrial air : 
Yet not for this will sober reason frown 
Upon that promise nor the hope disown ; 
She knows that only from high aims ensue 
Rich guerdons, and to them alone are due. 3 

To Heaven, therefore, with religious earnestness, he 
commended the issues of what he confided in as a great 
and holy cause. He could not be satisfied to watch 
from a distance the progress of the movement. He 
wandered alone through France ; he stayed in Paris ; he 
returned to it again; he listened to Jacobin harangues; he 

Became a patriot, and his heart was all 
Given to the people, and his love was theirs. 4 



1 W. Wordsworth's Poetical Works : ' Ruth' (1799), ii. 121. 

2 W. Wordsworth's Poet. Works, and ' The French Revolution, as it 
appeared to Enthusiasts at its Commencement,' reprinted from the Friend, 
ii. 155. 

3 Id. Descriptive Sketches, 1791-2, i. 36. 

4 Prehide, 345 ; Christopher Wordsworth's Memoirs of W. Words- 
worth, i. 73. 



Old English, Verse 439 

The atrocities that followed filled him with horror and 
dismay. Robespierre's fall revived for a brief interval 
his hopes. The news of it reached him as he was 
crossing the sands at Ulverstone : 

' Come now, ye golden times,' 
Said I, forth pouring on those open sands 
A hymn of triumph : ' as the Morning comes 
From out the bosom of the Night, come ye.' 1 

' But this ecstasy was of short duration : the cloud 
which hung over France became as dense and as dark 
as ever ; and his sadness was not relieved, but pressed 
with a wearier weight upon his soul.' 2 He was distressed 
with a very turmoil of perplexity and doubt. It was at 
this time he owed so much to his sister's influence : 

Then it was 

Thanks to the bounteous Giver of all Good 
That the beloved sister, in whose sight 
Those days were pass'd. . . . 
Maintain'd for me a saving intercourse 
With my true self. 3 

His democratical opinions gradually passed away, but 
left behind tempered feelings of deep and tender sym- 
pathy with the poor, and a quick appreciation of the 
grace and simple dignity of which humble life is sus- 
ceptible. From 'the fretful stir' of human passion, 
from ' the burden of the mystery,' from 

The heavy and the weary weight 
Of all this unintelligible world, 4 

Wordsworth fled for refuge to a peaceful spiritual con- 
templation of nature. He has written few finer or more 
characteristic verses than some which he composed in 
1798, upon revisiting the sweet scenery of the Wye : 

I have learn'd 

To look on nature, not as in the hour 
Of thoughtless youth ; but hearing oftentimes 
The still sad music of humanity, 

1 Prelude, 291 ; Memoirs, etc., 84. Memoirs, etc., 84. 

3 Prelude, 309 ; Memoirs, etc. , i. 90. 

4 Poet. Works: 'Tintern Abbey' (1798), i. 151. 



440 Religious Thought in 

Nor harsh, nor grating, though of ample power 

To chasten and subdue. And I have felt 

A presence that disturbs me with the joy 

Of elevated thoughts ; a sense sublime 

Of something far more deeply interfused, 

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, 

And the round ocean and the living air, 

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man : 

A motion and a spirit, that impels 

All thinking things, all objects of all thought, 

And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still 

A lover of the meadows, and the woods 

And mountains ; and of all that we behold 

From this green earth ; of all the mighty world 

Of eye and ear both what they half create 

And what perceive ; well pleased to recognise 

In nature, and the language of the sense, 

The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul 

Of all my moral being. 1 

No doubt there are in this poem and in others of the 
same period 2 traces of something like a pantheistic 
philosophy in which enthusiastic love of nature de- 
generates into nature-worship, and the thought of God 
is merged in the contemplation of the works of God. 
At the least, there is an evident tendency to exaggerate 
the power of nature as a means of purifying humanity, 
and supporting it amid infirmity and sorrows. 2 In his 
later years, while his delight in natural beauty remained 
strong as ever, he was more invariably quick to discern 
that the soul of man, fallen as it is from innocence, 
cannot find the wisdom and the happiness it craves in 
any mere outward things. It needs aids and remedies 
more truly divine than these. The following passage, 
lovely as it is, needs the correction supplied in the 
later verses, quoted next after them : 

Knowing that Nature never did betray 
The heart that loved her ; 'tis her privilege 
Through all the years of this our life, to lead 
From joy to joy ; for she can so inform 

1 Poet. Works: 'Tintern Abbey ' (1798), i. 151. 

2 Cf. his verses on the Simplon Pass (1799), ii. 100, and those upon the 
' Influences of Nature in his Childhood,' i. 93, also in 1799. 

3 Cf. Memoirs, i. 48. 



Old English Verse 441 

The mind that is within us, so impress 
With quietness and beauty, and so feed 
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues, 
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men, 
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all 
The dreary intercourse of daily life 
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb 
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold 
Is full of blessings. 1 

Compare it with the following part of his 4th ' Evening 
Voluntary/ written thirty-six years afterwards : 

But who is innocent ? By grace divine, 
Nor otherwise, O Nature ! we are thine, 
Through good and evil thine, in just degree 
Of rational and manly sympathy. 
To all that Earth from pensive hearts is stealing, 
And Heaven is now to gladden'd eyes revealing, 
Add every charm the Universe can show 
Through every change its aspects undergo 
Care may be respited, but not repeal'd ; 
No perfect cure grows on that bounded field. 
Vain is the pleasure, a false calm the peace, 
If He, through whom alone our conflicts cease, 
Our virtuous hopes without relapse advance, 
Come not to speed the soul's deliverance ? 2 

But from the firsttherewas little fear that Wordsworth's 
influence could be otherwise than conducive to true re- 
ligious feeling. The pure and genuine enthusiasm of a 
mind sensitively awake to a spiritual presence in all 
that surrounded him, and to ' the types and symbols of 
eternity,' 3 manifested to man in outward forms of earth 
and sea and sky, is almost sure to be beneficial to those 
who feel its influence. Even if it be in excess, it is not 
likely to lead men astray. Those finer chords of feeling 
to which it appeals are very rarely in danger, among 
the majority of even cultivated men, of being excited 
into undue or too frequent action. The reader, however 
much he may admire, is far more likely to lag behind 

1 Poet. Works : ' Tintern Abbey ' (1798), i. 154 ; ' One Impulse from a 
Vernal Wood' (1798), iv. 181. 

2 Poet. Works : ' Fourth Evening Voluntary,' iv. 127. 

3 Id. : 'The Simplon Pass' (1799), ii. 100. 



44 2 Religious Thought in 

the poet's thought, than to be led into advance of it. 
Moreover, such enthusiasm is so closely allied to the 
religious sentiment, that it may be generally trusted in 
the end to favour and promote it. Whatever stirs the 
mind to reflect upon truth and beauty, upon the ideal 
and supra-sensual, upon the traces of a Divine image 
both in nature and humanity, is adapted to enlarge the 
soul and prepare it for a glad reception of the noblest 
doctrines of Christianity. Wordsworth, throughout his 
life, in his earlier as well as in his later works, was a true 
religious teacher, and a teacher whose direct or indirect 
influence has been very widely felt. The Christian Year, 
for instance, even if it had been written, would certainly 
never have gained the popularity it has had, were it not 
for the growth of that finer, semi-religious love of nature 
which Wordsworth and his brother writers did so much 
to disseminate and increase. 

Charles Lamb (1775-1834) was also one in that 
society of poets, of whom Wordsworth, Coleridge, 
Southey, and Rogers were the other principal members. 
His earlier poems were published in 1797, conjointly 
with other verses by Coleridge and Charles Lloyd. 
Southey hailed the volume with delight, and thought 
that none other that had lately appeared could be com- 
pared with it. 1 Certainly, there is often a grave and 
gentle reflectiveness about Lamb's poetry which is very 
fascinating. He had no love for the country. ' Beyond 
all other men whom I have ever met,' writes his 
biographer, ' he was essentially metropolitan.' 2 When 
Wordsworth dwelt upon the beauties of the Lake 
Country, and pressed him to come and see him there, 
he answered that he was ' not at all romance-bit about 
Nature. . . . When all is said, it is but a house to live 
in.' 3 Nevertheless, he was a lover of Wordsworth's 
poetry ; and Coleridge, his old school-fellow at Christ's 
Hospital, he loved and admired throughout life with a 



Life of R. Southey, by his Son, i. 329. 

Barry Cornwall's Memoir of Charles Lamb, 222. 3 Id. 84. 



Old English Verse 443 

fervency of attachment far surpassing that of any 
common friendship. 

Lamb had many sympathies in common with his 
friends, and, like theirs, his poetry was always pure and 
high-toned. He not unfrequently touches in his verse 
upon religious subjects, as in his ' Vision of Repentance,' 
or in his lines upon the ' Sabbath Bells,' which 

. . . wherever heard, 

Strike pleasant on the sense, most like the voice 
Of one, who from the far-off hills proclaims 
Tidings of good to Zion. 1 

In the following, from his ' Lines on Leonardo da Vinci's 
Picture of the Virgin of the Rocks,' there is a some- 
thing which may slightly remind the reader of a passage 
in Wordsworth's noble ' Ode to Immortality :' 

But at her side 
An angel doth abide, 
With such a perfect joy 
As no dim doubts alloy, 
An intuition, 
A glory, an amenity, 
Passing the dark condition 
Of blind humanity, 
As if he surely knew 
All the blest wonders would ensue, 
Or he had lately left the upper sphere, . 
And had read all the sovran schemes and divine riddles 
there. 2 

He was certainly not one of those who have thought 
that poetry is exercised to a disadvantage upon divine 
subjects. Witness the following : 

The truant Fancy was a wanderer ever 
A lone enthusiast maid. She loves to walk 
In the bright visions of empyreal light, 
By the green pastures and the fragrant meads, 
Where the perpetual flowers of Eden blow ; 
By crystal streams, and by the living waters, 
Along whose margin grows the wondrous tree 

1 Poetical Works of Charles Lamb, 70. 2 Id. 48. 



444 Religious Thought in 

Whose leaves shall heal the nations ; underneath 
Whose holy shade a refuge shall be found 
From pain and want, and all the ills that wait 
On mortal life, from sin and death for ever. 1 

Thomas Campbell (1777-1844) published his Plea- 
sures of Hope in the last year of the eighteenth century, 
when he was scarcely twenty-two years old. He too, 
although a mere boy at the time, had been infected 
with the same revolutionary enthusiasm which filled 
the minds of most young men of talent. The execu- 
tions and massacres that took place in Paris had indeed 
sickened and disgusted him ; but he also deplored them 
as signal calamities to the cause of peace and liberty 
in England. 1 In all the principal poetry of the last 
years of the century, religious and political hopes were 
more or less blended. It was so with Campbell. The 
Pleasures of Hope, though not in any direct way either 
a political or a religious poem, is to some extent both 
one and the other. Hopes of a nobler liberty and hopes 
of immortality alike enter into it. 

There were other Scotchmen in the eighteenth cen- 
tury who contributed to the store of sacred poetry, of 
whom mention must be made. The greatest poetical 
genius produced by Scotland during that period was 
of course Robert Burns (1759-1796). Notwithstanding 
the sensuous element which too much predominates in 
his poems, many of his verses show that he could both 
reverence a deeper religious life in others, and that he 
was not without knowledge of it in his own experience. 
The beautiful picture of household piety in ' The Cottar's 
Saturday Night ' is a familiar example. His ' Prayer for 
a Family ' may be added, concluding with the verse 

When soon or late they reach that coast, 

O'er life's rough ocean driven, 
May they rejoice, no wanderer lost, 

A family in heaven ! 

1 Poetical Works of Charles Lamb, 71. 

2 W. Beattie's Life and Letters of T. Campbell, i. 86. 



Old English Verse 445 

Also his prayer for God's forgiveness, beginning, ' O 
Thou, unknown, Almighty Cause of all my hope and 
fear ! ' We are told that in his later days ' he had the 
Bible with him, and read it almost continually. . . . 
His sceptical doubts no longer troubled him, and he 
had at last the faith of a confiding Christian.' x 

There are a few graceful stanzas upon life and 
eternity, and our hope beyond the grave, in James 
Beattie's Minstrel (1771), and in his Hermit (i767). 2 

James Grahame (1765-1811), a barrister who after- 
wards took orders, is best known though not so well 
known as he deserves to be by his poem entitled T/u 
SabbatJi. A thoroughly good man, of refined poetical 
temperament, and (as is shown by his Birds of Scotland) 
an observant naturalist, his poems breathe a charac- 
teristic spirit of tranquil piety, and a hearty relish for 
the sights and sounds of quiet country life. They 
abound in delightful passages. The very opening lines 
of his principal poem may be instanced : 

How still the morning of the hallow'd day ! 

Mute is the voice of rural labour, hush'd 

The ploughboy's whistle and the milkmaid's song. 

The scythe lies glittering in the dewy wreath 

Of tedded grass, mingled with fading flowers 

That yester-morn bloom'd waving in the breeze : 

Sounds the most faint attract the ear the hum 

Of early bee, the trickling of the dew, 

The distant bleating, midway up the hill. 

Calmness sits throned on yon unmoving cloud. 

To him who wanders o'er the upland leas, 

The blackbird's note comes mellower from the dale ; 

And sweeter from the sky the gladsome lark 

Warbles his heaven-tuned song ; the lulling brook 

Murmurs more gently down the deep- worn glen ; 

While from yon lowly roof, whose curling smoke 

O'ermounts the mist, is heard, at intervals, 

The voice of psalms, the simple song of praise. 3 



1 Saunders's Evenings with the Sacred Poets, 361. 

2 Beattie's Poems: The Minstrel, 27, and last stanzas of The Her- 
mit, 93. 

3 Poems by James Grahame, 1807, i. 3 The Sabbath. 



446 Religions Thought in 

Among other passages which it would be a pleasure 
to quote may be mentioned that which describes the 
shepherd boy reading some Sunday of David or of 
Joseph, as he lies stretched upon the sward in some far- 
off glen, 1 or the solitary on a lonely island, 2 or the 
hymns sounding over the sea from the missionary ship, 3 
or (from the Biblical Pictures) Jesus calming the tem- 
pest, 4 or the Resurrection of the Saviour. 5 Saunders 
tells a pretty story of his bringing home his work on 
The Sabbath, just after it had been anonymously pub- 
lished, to his wife, who did not know that he was the 
author of it, and of her exclaiming as she read it, ' Ah, 
James, if you could but write a poem like this ! ' 

Among Scotch hymn writers of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, Ralph Erskine (1685-1752), minister at Dunferm- 
line, was one of the earliest. His Gospel Sonnets and 
Spiritual Songs passed very soon through at least 
twenty-two editions. Many of them are too full of 
dogmatic antithesis, at all events for ordinary English 
taste. But in many there is much beauty. Seven out 
of the twenty stanzas of one of them may be found 
both in the Book of Praise and in Rogers's Lyra Bntan- 
nica. 

The following is entitled The Heavenly Song: 

Happy the company that 's gone 

From cross to crown, from thrall to throne ; 

How loud they sing upon that shore 

To which they sailed in heart before ! 

' Death from all death hath set us free, 
And will our gain for ever be ; 
Death loosed the massy chains of woe, 
To let the mournful captives go. 

' Death is to us a sweet repose, 
The bud was oped to show the rose ; 
The cage was broke to let us fly, 
And build our happy nest on high. 

' Earth was to us a seat of war, 
On thrones of triumph now we are ; 

1 Poems by James Grahame, 9 : The Sabbath. ' 2 Id. 27. 

3 Id. 29-31. * Id. 77. 5 Id. 82. 



Old English Verse 447 

We long'd to see our Jesus dear, 

And sought Him there, but found Him here. 

' This, then, does bliss enough afford ; 
We are for ever with the Lord ; 
We want no more, for all is given, 
His Presence is the heart of heaven ! ' 

While thus I laid my listening ear 
Close to the door of heaven to hear ; 
And then the sacred page did view 
Which told me all I heard was true ; 

Yet show'd me that the heavenly song 
Surpasses every mortal tongue, 
With such unutterable strains 
As none infettering flesh attains, 

Then said I : ' O to mount away, 
And leave this clog of heavy clay ! 
Let wings of time more swiftly fly, 
That I may join the songs on high ! ' 1 

Thomas Blacklock's hymns and sacred poems, pub- 
lished 1746, may be found in the eighteenth volume of 
Chalmers's English Poets. His imitation of the I4pth 
Psalm is perhaps the best. 2 

Southey speaks of Michael Bruce (1746-1677) as 'a 
youth of real genius.' 3 His ' Elegy on the Spring,' 
written in prospect of an early death, is very pretty, 
and ends with the pathetic verse 

There let me sleep, forgotten in the clay, 

When death shall shut these weary, aching eyes 

Rest in the hope of an eternal day, 

Till the long night is gone, and the last morn arise. 4 

The following are four verses from ' Simeon waiting/ 
out of Palgrave's Treasury of Sacred Song: 

With holy joy upon his face 
The good old father smiled, 

1 From Lyra Christiana, ed. by II. L. L., 556. 
2 'Chalmers's English Poets, xviii. 186. 

3 Southey's Later English Poets, ii. 368. 

4 Anderson's British Poets, xi. 294. 



448 Religious T hought in 

While fondly in his wither'd arms 
He clasp'd the promised Child. 

And then he lifted up to Heaven 

An earnest asking eye ; 
' My joy is full, my hour is come ; 

Lord, let Thy servant die. 

'At last my arms embrace my Lord, 

Now let their vigour cease ; 
At last my eyes my Saviour see, . 

Now let them close in peace ! 

' The star and glory of the land 

Hath now begun to shine ; 
The morning that shall gild the globe 

Breaks on these eyes of mine ! ' 

It appears to have been clearly established, both by 
William Mackelvie and Alexander B. Grosart, that some 
fine and well-known hymns published in 1773 among 
the Scotch Paraphrases, under the name of John Logan, 
are really the compositions of Bruce. Logan was in 
possession of his deceased friend's manuscripts, and 
published the hymns as his own. Among the most 
familiar of them are, ' Where high the heavenly temple 
stands,' ' O God of Bethel, by whose hand,' and ' Behold 
the mountain of the Lord.' x 

John Logan (1748-1788) has paid the penalty of his 
dishonesty by its being no longer known what are justly 
to be attributed to him as his own production. His 
repute on questions of psalmody was at one time very 
great in Scotland. 2 

William Cameron, John Morrison, and Hugh Blair 
were all associated with Logan in editing the Scottish 
Paraphrases of 1773. Cameron's hymn, 'How bright 
these glorious spirits shine,' though mainly his own, is 
founded upon one of Watts's. 3 Morrison's 'The race 

1 Logan's Poems, Anderson's British Poets, xi. 1028 ; Life of Logan, 
in id. , and Life of M. Bruce, id. xi. 273 ; Rogers's Lyra Brit. 97 ; Book 
of Praise, 494. 

2 Anderson's British Poets, xi. 1028. 

3 Lyra Brit. 122 ; Book of Praise, cxiv. 



Old English Verse 449 

that long in darkness pined ' J is better known as slightly 
altered by the compilers of Hymns Ancient and Modern. 
Blair's hymns were none of them altogether original. 

It might perhaps seem, from the preceding sketch, 
that the eighteenth century was, after all, rich rather 
than not in sacred poetry. Certainly it was not so 
barren in this respect as some have been apt to think. 
Throughout its course there was no period in which 
verse of a more or less religious cast failed either to be 
produced or to find a very considerable number of readers. 
Yet it is equally certain that, until it began to draw 
near its close, the predominating influences of the age 
were essentially prosaic, and very unfavourable to any 
poetry which required for its due appreciation anything 
more than sound reason and ordinary practical sense. 
The state of feeling which existed among the cultivated 
classes in England encouraged poetry of a satirical, 
moral, or didactic character ; it applauded art, polish, 
and correctness ; it was willing to listen, not too intently, 
to the voice of its counsellors when they discoursed, 
either in verse or prose, upon the wisdom of virtue and 
the folly of vice, upon the reasonableness of religious 
life and the happiness which attends it, and upon the 
evil consequences which a contrary course must bring. 
But there was little intensity either of thought or feeling, 
little spiritual activity, little to stir the soul and excite 
the imagination. Man cannot live with the mysteries 
of life around him, and that of death in front, without 
such reflections on time and eternity and the meaning 
and object of existence, as cannot be altogether prosaic 
or commonplace. A Christian faith cannot, in all its 
leading features, be otherwise than sublime. Where 
Christianity, however depressed, is still a great power, 
there can be no age so wanting in depth of spiritual 
sentiment as to be altogether without materials for a 
religious poetry of a very high order. There were no 

1 Lyra Brit. 430; Book of Praise, xxxix. cccxliv. 
2F 



450 Religious Thought in 

influences in the eighteenth century so uncongenial to 
success that a truly great religious poet, if such a one 
had arisen, could not have triumphed over them. But, 
apart from the spiritual and moral grandeur inherent to 
it and inalienable from it, Christianity had certainly, 
through various causes, come to be generally regarded 
from a lower and, so to say, a more worldly level than 
has been at all usual. It will be readily understood 
that when theology was in this condition, theological 
poetry was very apt to be either vague and impersonal, 
or frigid and deficient in warmth, or to have an air of 
being somewhat unreal and conventional. In the latter 
case an attempt might probably be made to conceal the 
deficiency by a turgid, declamatory style. All these 
faults did, in fact, abound. Perhaps in this chapter the 
attention of the reader has been too much directed to 
passages of merit, and too little to others which might 
have exemplified characteristic blemishes. But the 
former is by far the most grateful task ; and to have 
done both might have exceeded necessary limits. 
All, however, who have any knowledge of the poetical 
literature of the period under review will be well aware 
that the deficiencies here noted were very common. The 
solemn litany of sacred song was at all times far indeed 
from being silent, and its notes were often worthy of 
the greatness of its theme ; but throughout a great part 
of the century it certainly fell short, in copiousness, 
richness, and fervour, both of a preceding and of a 
subsequent age. 

It will have been noticed that some of the best sacred 
poetry which the century produced had its origin in 
quarters which lay apart from the main current of 
popular thought. Ken, deprived of his bishopric, and 
singing to his lute in the quiet seclusion of Longleat, 
belonged rather to the Churchmen of George Herbert's 
day. Norris was the last survivor of the noble school 
of Oxford and Cambridge Platonists. The sympathies 
of Hamilton and Walter Harte were all with the dis- 
possessed adherents of the Stuart rule. Elizabeth Rowe, 



Old English Verse 45 1 

Byrom, and Blake, however much they might differ 
from one another, were all in a greater or less degree 
mystics, little understood by their own contemporaries. 
Among the hymn-writers whose compositions form by 
far the most distinctive and prominent feature in the 
sacred poetry of the century, Watts, Doddridge, and 
others, were Dissenters. And though Methodism rose 
up in the very bosom of the English Church, it was too 
generally treated as an alien and an enemy ; and the 
rich accompaniment of sacred song by which, through 
the talents of Charles Wesley, its rise and progress was 
attended, was for a long time neglected and discarded 
by the rulers of the National Church. Toplady, Newton, 
Cowper, and the other Evangelical hymn-writers might 
have shared the same fate if Wesleyanism had not 
prepared the way for them, and created just that stir in 
the waters of which the spiritual life of the country 
stood so greatly in need. As it was, it cannot be said 
that Evangelicalism was in any way in discord with the 
prevalent development of popular religious thought 
towards the latter part of the century. And throughout 
the period, if a good deal of its graver poetry was not 
that which the age could best appreciate, there was also 
a very considerable residuum which fairly and genuinely 
represented the predominant style of thinking among 
educated people upon religious questions in which they 
were seriously interested. 

The last decade of the century stands in many 
respects on a very different footing from the rest. In 
none is this distinctiveness more marked than in the 
general character of its poetry. When so much that 
was old seemed rapidly passing away, and the new was 
so full of promise to some, so suggestive of fear and 
disquietude to others when faith and hope, however 
much alloyed by visions of earth, were at all events 
vivid with life, and when religious doubts, on the other 
hand, were no longer mere speculative difficulties, 
benumbing action rather than actively opposing it, but 
giants in the path with whom mortal combat was 



45 2 Religious Thought in Old English Verse 

inevitable when the foundations of society were in a 
state of upheaval and commotion, and all questions, 
divine and human, were being boldly canvassed when 
great virtues and great wickedness came into strong 
collision when brilliant promises were rudely checked, 
and when it seemed to others that glorious light might 
rise up suddenly out of utter darkness at such a time 
it was not possible that great ideas should lose their 
strength through mere inactivity and torpor. To the 
partisans of the new, conceptions of Christian freedom, 
Christian brotherhood, and the like, had become 
pregnant with meanings they had never dreamt of 
before. The partisans of the old learnt to treasure with 
a greater love blessings which, through familiar use, 
they had thought little of before to appreciate the 
advantages they possessed, to overlook their deficiencies 
to cling to all noble traditions of the past with a 
tenacity proportioned to their newly-awakened fears. 
It was a time for revived enthusiasm and increased 
intensity of thought. The period of acute suspense 
passed quickly away, and caused very little outward 
change in England. Ancient feeling and established 
ideas, both in religion and in politics, were confirmed 
rather than shaken by the dangers which had so closely 
threatened them. But in religion, as in politics, a real 
change had taken place more sensible in its after 
results than in its immediate issues. The eighteenth 
century had practically expired before its years had 
arrived at their natural term. Its latest portion belongs 
more to the present than to the past : in nothing more 
so than in its poetry. Poetry, by virtue of that 
imaginative faculty which is closely akin to prediction, 
may often lay claim to advance in the van of human 
movement. 



INDEX 



ADDISON, Joseph, 325. 
Akenside, Mark, 369. 
Alcuin, 1 8. 
Aldhelm, 7. 

Alexander, Sir W., 225. 
Alfred, King, 23. 
Allen, James, 401. 
Alphabet Verses, 83. 
Amner, John, 220. 
Andrew, St., Legend of, 9. 
Arthurian Romance, 51. 
Askewe, Anne, 129. 
Audelay, John, 93. 
Austin, John, 253. 
Awdley. See Audelay. 
' Ayenbit of Inwyt, ' 74. 
Ay let, Robert, 219. 

BACON, Lord, 195. 
Bakewell, John, 395. 
Bale, John, 123. 
Ballads, Sacred, 145, 182. 
'Ballates, Gucle and Godlie,' 180. 
Bannatyne MS., 188. 
Barbauld, A. L. , 421. 
Barbour, John, 86. 
Barnes, Barnaby, 164. 
Baxter, Richard, 295. 
Beattie, James, 445. 
Beaumont, Sir John, sen., 198. 
Beaumont, Sir John, jun., 200. 
Beaumont, Joseph, 237. 
Becon, Thomas, 145. 
Beddome, Benjamin, 401. 
Bede, 1 8. 
Beowulf, 7. 
Berridge, John, 396. 
Bestiaries, 34. 
Billingsly, Nicholas, 253. 
Billyng, William, 90. 
Blacklock, Thomas, 447. 
Blackmore, Sir Richard, 316. 



Blair, Hugh, 448. 
Blair, Robert, 368. 
Blake, William, 423. 
Boden, James, 401. 
Bolton, Edmund, 166. 
Boyse, Samuel, 379. 
Bradford, William, 240. 
Brampton, Thomas, 91. 
Breton, Nicholas, 144. 
Brewer, Jehoiada, 401. 
Brooke, F. Greville, Lord, 171. 
Broome, William, 337. 
Brown, Moses, 411. 
Browne, Sir Thomas, 283. 
Browne, Simon, 358. 
Bruce, Michael, 447. 
Brunne, Robert of, 65. 
Bunyan, John, 291. 
Burder, George, 401. 
Burns, Robert, 444. 
Byrd, William, 153. 
Byrom, John, 381. 

C/EDMON, I. 
Cameron, William, 448. 
Campbell, Thomas, 444. 
Campion, Thomas, 220. 
Carey, Patrick, 253. 
Carlyle, John, 411. 
Carols, 104, 179. 
Carter, Eliz. , 386. 
Cartwright, William, 225. 
Castro, Richard de, 98. 
Cennick, John, 395. 
Chamberlayne, James. 304. 
Chatterton, Thomas, 385. 
Chaucer, Geoffrey, 79. 
Chudleigh, Lady, 310. 
Churchyard, Thomas, 153. 
Coleridge, S. T., 425. 
'Complaint of Christ,' 96. 
Constable, Henry, 165. 

453 



454 



Index 



Cosin, John, Bishop, 246. 
Cotton, Charles, 289. 
Cotton, Nathaniel, 412. 
Coverdale, Miles, 130, 179. 
Cowley, Abraham, 259. 
Cowper, William, 408, 413. 
Crabbe, George, 422. 
Crashaw, Richard, 257. 
Croke, John, 129. 
Cross, the, Poems on, 6, 82. 
Grossman, Samuel, 284. 
Crowley, Robert, 138. 
' Cursor Mundi,' 45. 
Cynewulf, 8. 

DAN Michel, 74. 
Danyel, John, 176. 
Davenant, Sir W., 290. 
Davies, Sir John, 174. 
Davy, Adam, 71. 
Denys, Richard, 165. 
Doddridge, Philip, 354. 
Donne, John, 211. 
Dorrington, Theophilus, 288. 
Douglas, Gavin, 113. 
Dray ton, Michael, 210. 
Drummond, William, 235. 
Dryden, John, 299. 
Dunbar, William, 112. 
Dyer, Sir Edward, 134. 

EDWARDS, Richard, 142. 
Elizabeth, Princess, 197. 
Erskine, Ralph, 446. 
Essex, Robert, Earl of, 136. 
Essex, Walter, Earl of, 136. 
Exeter Codex, 8, n. 

FAWCETT, John, 401. 
Fitzgeoffrey, Charles, 222. 
Flatman, Thomas, 295. 
Fletcher, Giles, 202. 
Fletcher, Phineas, 201. 
Fraunce, Abraham, 157- 
Fuller, Thomas, 246. 

GAMBOLD, John, 383. 
'Garland, Small,' etc., 285. 
Gascoigne, George, 146. 
Gay, John, 336. 
' Genesis and Exodus, ' 32. 
Gibbons, Dr., 400. 



Gifford, Humphrey, 151. 
Gloucester, Robert of, 47. 
Godric, 25. 

Goldsmith, Oliver, 379. 
'Gorgious Gallery,' etc., 144. 
Gower, John, 80. 
Grahame, James, 445. 
Gray, Thomas, 373. 
Green, Thomas, 411. 
Gregor, Charles, 401. 
Greville, Fulke, 171. 
Guildford, Nich. de, 29. 
Guthlac, Legend of, 13. 

HABINGTON, William, 242. 
Hales, Thomas, 37. 
Hall, Joseph, Bishop, 239. 
Hamilton, William, 370. 
Hammond, William, 393. 
' Handlyng Synne,' 65. 
Hannay, Patrick, 208. 
Harington, Sir John, 198. 
Hart, Joseph, 398. 
Harte, Walter, 371. 
Harvey, Charles, 244. 
Haryngton, John, 135. 
Hawes, Stephen, 127. 
Haweis, Thomas, 402. 
Hawker, Robert, 411. 
Higinbotham, O., 402. 
Henryson, Robert, 109. 
Herbert, George, 214. 
Herrick, Robert, 265. 
Heylyn, Peter, 241. 
Heywood, Jasper, 138. 
Hill, Aaron, 338. 
Hill, Rowland, 396. 
Hopkins, John, 180. 
Home, G., Bishop, 411. 
' How the Goode Wif,' etc., 85. 
Hughes, John, 323. 
Hume, Alex., 191. 
Hunnis, William, 165. 
Hurdis, James, 420. 
Hymns, 344. 

JAMES I. of England, 192. 
James iv. of Scotland, 108. 
'Jerusalem,' 178. 
Johnson, Dr. S., 378. 
Jonson, Ben, 206. 
Jonah, Story of, 63. 



Index. 



455 



KEMPENFELT, Comm., 396. 
Ken, T., Bishop, 308. 
King, H., Bishop, 255. 
Kynwelmersh, F. , 137. 

LAMB, Charles, 442. 
Langland, William, 74. 
Lauder, William, 188. 
Layamon, 23, 30. 
Loe, William, 221. 
Logan, John, 448. 
Lok (or Locke), Henry, 158. 
Lowth, W. , Bishop, 411. 
' Lutel Soth Sermoun," 40. 
Lydgate, John, 88. 
Lyndesay, Sir David, 185. 

MADAN, Martin, 411. 
Mannyng, Robert, 65. 
Margaret, St., Legend of, 41. 
Markham, Gervase, 169. 
Marvell, Andrew, 281. 
Mason, John, 295. 
Mason, William, 375. 
Medley, Samuel, 400. 
Merrick, James, 384. 
Milton, John, 269. 
Minot, Lawrence, 78. . 
Miracle-Plays, 115. 
Montgomery, Alex., 190. 
Moore, Henry, 402. 
Moralities, 125. 
More, Hannah, 417. 
More, Henry, 285. 
More, Sir Thomas, 128. 
Morrison, John, 448. 
Mysteries, 115. 

NEEDHAM, John, 401. 
Newton, John, 405. 
New Version of Psalms, 339. 
Nicholson, Samuel, 169. 
Norris, John, 300. 

' Old English Miscellany,' 35. 
Old Version of Psalms, 341. 
Olivers, Thomas, 394. 
Orm, or Ormin, 25. 

PARKER, Matthew, Archbishop, 

143- 

Parnell, Thomas, 320. 
'Pearl, The,' 60. 



Pembroke, Countess of, 149. 
Perronet, Edward, 400. 
Pestel, Thomas, 205. 
'Philibert, Vision of,' 101. 
' Piers Plowman,' 74. 
Pitt, Christopher, 338. 
' Poema Morale,' 35. 
Pomfret, John, 305. 
Pope, Alexander, 330. 
Postgate, Nicholas, 282. 
' Pricke of Conscience,' 73. 
Prior, Matthew, 321. 
Psalmody, 179, 342. 
Psalter, Early English, 59. 

QUARLES, Francis, 226. 

Quarles, John, 258. 

' Quia Amore Langueo,' 83. 

RALEIGH, Sir Walter, 176. 
' Ratis Raving,' in. 
' Revertere,' 100. 
Robert of Gloucester, 47. 
Robinson, Robert, 398. 
Rolle, Richard, 73. 
Romaine, William, 405. 
Romances, 49. 
Roscommon, Earl of, 287. 
Rosse, Alexander, 230. 
Rous, Francis, 240. 
Rowe, Elizabeth, 311. 
Rowlands, Samuel, 168. 
Ryland, John, 401. 

' SALOMON and Saturn,' 19. 
Sandys, George, 223. 
'Say-well and Do-well,' 141. 
'SeaFarer, The,' 16. 
Seagrave, Robert, 393. 
Shakespeare, William, 157. 
Shenstone, Joseph, 358. 
Shepherd, Thomas, 304. 
Sherburne, Sir E., 299. 
' Shippe of Safegarde,' 144. 
Shirley, James, 248. 
Shirley, Walter, 402. 
Shoreham, William de, 72. 
Shrubsole, William, 401. 
Skelton, Philip, 412. 
Smart, Christopher, 380. 
Southey, Robert, 433. 
Southwell, Robert, 160. 



456 



Index. 



Spenser, Edmund, 153. 
Standfast, Richard, 247. 
Steele, Anne, 399. 
Stennett, Joseph, 358. 
Stennett, Samuel, 399. 
Sternhold, Thomas, 180. 
Stirling, Earl of, 225. 
Surrey, Earl of, 132. 
Swain, Joseph, 401. 
Sydney, Sir Philip, 148.. 

TAYLOR, Jeremy, Bishop, 248. 
Thomas, Elizabeth, 324. 
Thompson, William, 380. 
Thomson, James, 359. 
Thynne, Francis, 143. 
Tickell, Thomas, 336. 
Toplady, Augustus, 403. 
Tusser, Thomas, 140. 

VAUGHAN, Henry, 296. 
Vaux, Thomas, Lord, 134. 



Vercelli Codex, 6. 

WALLER, Edmund, 262. 
Wallin, Benjamin, 401. 
' Wanderer, The,' 14. 
Watts, Isaac, 347. 
Wedderburn, J. and R., 181. 
Wesley) Charles, 387; 
Wesley, John, 392. 
Wesley, Samuel, sen., 314. 
Wesley, Samuel, jun., 316. 
Westmoreland,' Earl of, 241. 

Wigglesworth, , 243. 

Wincfyelsea, Countess of, 310. 
Wither, George, 250. 
Wordsworth, William, 437. 
Wotton, Sir Henry, 223. 
Wotton, John, 102. 
Wyat, Sir Thomas, 132. 

YALDEN, Thomas, 324. 
Young, Edward, 365. 



Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to Her Majesty, 
at the Edinburgh University Press. 



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