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POEMS ON SEVERAL 000ASIONS BY
ON EXOD. III. 14.—I AM THAT I AM.
writteN IN 1688, As AN ExERCISE AT ST John's COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.
MAN! foolish man! Scarce know'st thou how thyself began; Scarce hast thou thought enough to prove thou art; Yet steeled with studied boldness, thou darest try To send thy doubting reason's dazzled eye Through the mysterious gulf of vast immensity. Much thou canst there discern, much thence impart. Wain wretch! suppress thy knowing pride; Mortify thy learned lust! Vain are thy thoughts, while thou thyself art dust.
Let Wit her sails, her oars let Wisdom lend;
The helm let politic Experience guide:
Yet cease to hope thy short-lived bark shall ride
Down spreading Fate's unnavigable tide.
What, though still it farther tend?
Still 'tis farther from its end;
And, in the bosom of that boundless sea,
Still finds its error lengthen with its way.
With daring pride and insolent delight
Your doubts resolved you boast, your labours crowned;
And "ETPHKA your god, forsooth is found
Incomprehensible and infinite.
But is he therefore found? vain searcher! no:
Let your imperfect definition show,
That nothing you, the weak definer, know.
3 Say, why should the collected main
Itself within itself contain?
Why to its caverns should it sometimes creep,
And with delighted silence sleep
On the loved bosom of its parent deep?
Why should its numerous waters stay
In comely discipline, and fair array,
Till winds and tides exert their high command?
Then prompt and ready to obey,
Why do the rising surges spread
Their opening ranks o'er earth's submissive head,
Marching through different paths to different lands?
4 Why does the constant sun
With measured steps his radiant journeys run?
Why does he order the diurnal hours
To leave earth's other part, and rise on ours?
Why does he wake the correspondent moon,
And fill her willing lamp with liquid light,
Commanding her with delegated powers
To beautify the world, and bless the night?
Why does each animated star
Love the just limits of its proper sphere?
Why does each consenting sign
With prudent harmony combine
In turns to move, and subsequent appear,
To gird the globe, and regulate the year?
1. 5. Man does with dangerous curiosity
These unfathomed wonders try:
With fancied rules and arbitrary laws
Matter and motion he restrains;
And studied lines and fictious circles draws:
\ Then with imagined sovereignty
Lord of his new hypothesis he reigns.
He reigns: how long ! till some usurper rise,
And he too, mighty thoughtful, mighty wise,
Studies new lines, and other circles feigns.
| From this last toil again what knowledge flows :
Just as much, perhaps, as shows,
That all his predecessor's rules
Were empty cant, all jargon of the Schools;
That he on the other's ruin rears his throne;
And shows his friend's mistake, and thence con-
firms his own.
6 On earth, in air, amidst the seas and skies,
Mountainous heaps of wonders rise;
Whose towering strength will ne'er submit
To Reason's batteries, or the mines of Wit:
Yet still inquiring, still mistaking man,
o Each hour repulsed, each hour dare onward press; w And levelling at God his wandering guess, f (That feeble engine of his reasoning war,
Which guides his doubts, and combats his despair)
Laws to his Maker the learn'd wretch can give:
Can bound that nature, and prescribe that will,
Whose pregnant word did either ocean fill:
Can tell us whence all beings are, and how they
move and live.
Through either ocean, foolish man
That pregnant word sent forth again,
Might to a world extend each atom there;
For every drop call forth a sea, a heaven for every star.
7 Let cunning Earth her fruitful wonders hide;
And only lift thy staggering reason up
To trembling Calvary's astonished top;
Then mock thy knowledge, and confound thy pride,
Explaining how Perfection suffered pain,
Almighty languished, and eternal died:
How by her patient victor Death was slain;
And earth profaned, yet blessed with deicide.
Then down with all thy boasted volumes, down;
Only reserve the sacred one:
Low, reverently low,
Make thy stubborn knowledge bow;
Weep out thy reason's, and thy body's eyes;
Deject thyself, that thou may’st rise;
To look to Heaven, be blind to all below.
8 Then Faith, for Reason's glimmering light, shall give
o, Her immortal perspective;
• * * And Grace's presence Nature's loss retrieve:
* Then thy enlivened soul shall see,
That all the volumes of philosophy,
With all their comments, never could invent
So politic an instrument,
To reach the Heaven of Heavens, the high abode,
Where Moses places his mysterious God,
As was that ladder which old Jacob reared,
When light divine had human darkness cleared;
And his enlarged ideas found the road,
Which Faith had dictated, and Angels trod.
TO THE COUNTESS OF EXETER,”
PLAYING ON THE LUTE.
WHAT charms you have, from what high race you
Have been the pleasing subjects of my song:
Unskilled and young, yet something still I writ,
Of Candish beauty joined to Cecil's wit.
But when you please to show the labouring Muse
What greater theme your music can produce,
My babbling praises I repeat no more,
But hear, rejoice, stand silent, and adore.
The Persians thus, first gazing on the sun,
Admired how high 'twas placed, how bright it shone; 10
But, as his power was known, their thoughts were
And soon they worshipped, what at first they praised.
Eliza's glory lives in Spenser's song;
And Cowley's verse keeps fair Orinda young.
That as in birth, in beauty you excel,
The Muse might dictate, and the Poet tell:
Your art no other art can speak; and you,
To show how well you play, must play anew:
Your music's power your music must disclose;
For what light is, 'tis only light that shows. 20
Strange force of harmony, that thus controls
Our thoughts, and turns and sanctifies our souls;
While with its utmost art your sex could move
Our wonder only, or at best our love:
You far above both these your God did place,
That your high power might worldly thoughts destroy;
1 Anne, daughter of William Earl of Devonshire, and sister to the first
Duke of Devonshire, widow also to Charles Lord Rich, was married to John Cecil Lord Burleigh, afterwards Earl of Exeter.