1760 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hymn to Humanity.

The New Spectator, with the sage Opinions of John Bull (17 February 1784) 3-4.

Rev. John Langhorne


An imitation of Milton's L'Allegro by one of the early votaries of Sensibility. The paradoxical sway of self-directed regard is very apparant: "Howe'er exalted, or deprest, | Be ever mine the feeling breast. | From me remove the stagnant mind | Of languid indolence, reclin'd; | The soul that one long sabbath keeps, | And through the sun's whole circle sleeps." John Langhorne excluded this undated poem from his collected works and it seems to have been first printed posthumously in 1784, apparently from a manuscript belonging to Anna Seward.

Headnote: "Sir, I trust the cause of Humanity will always find an advocate in the NEW SPECTATOR. As a friend to Humanity, I wish to see the following Poem in your collection. It was written by the late Rev. Dr. LANGHORNE, whose poetical merit is well known amongst poetical readers, and whose letters of Theodosius and Constantia have deservedly rendered him a favourite writer with the world in general, and our sex in particular. I am truly astonished that so excellent a composition as that which I now send you, is not more generally known. I am, Sir, Yours, &c. ANN S*****. Lichfield" p. 3.

Robert Anderson: "Of the pieces now first collected into his works, the Hymn to the Rising Sun, Farewell Hymn to the Valley of Irwan, To Almena, Hymeneal, Song, Hymn to the Eternal Mind, Epithalamium Damonis, Epistles to Colman and Mr. Lamb, and the verses Written in a Cottage Garden at a Village in Lorrain, are distinguished by tenderness of sentiment, luxury of description, force of pathos, and harmony of numbers. The last, in pathetic simplicity and unaffected tenderness, is not to be surpassed by any thing of the kind in the English language. In the pieces taken from Solyman and Almena, the river Eden may be substituted for Irwan, without any local impropriety" British Poets (1795) 11:216.

George Dyer: "It is most evident that when these sublimest of our English poets describe the Air, the Earth, and Sea; the passions of Fear, and Hope, and Love; the virtues of Honour, Faithfulness, Temperance, and the opposite vices; — when they delineate human manners, unfold the powers of music over the soul, range through the regions of Faeryland, and wanton in the garden of Paradise; when on these, and on similar topics, they follow the order of their own observations, or the energies of their own imaginations, — it is evident, I say, they do not want the surreptitious embellishments of ancient mythologies: their own fragrant descriptions, assisted by their powerful personifications, are more original and more impressive, than could have been the whole machinery of ancient Gods and Goddesses, and threadbare expedients of classic imitations" Poetics (1812) 2:150.



Parent of virtue, if thine ear
Attend not now to sorrow's cry;
If now the pity-streaming tear
Should haply on thy cheek be dry;
Indulge my votive strain, O sweet HUMANITY!

Come, ever welcome to my breast!
A tender, but a chearful guest.
Nor always in the gloomy cell
Of life-consuming sorrow dwell;
For sorrow, long indulg'd and slow,
Is to Humanity a foe;
And grief, that makes the heart a prey,
Wears sensibility away.
Then comes, sweet nymph! instead of thee,
The gloomy fiend, stupidity.

O may that fiend be banished far,
Though passions hold eternal war!
Nor ever let me cease to know
The pulse that throbs at joy or woe;
Nor let my vacant cheek be dry,
When sorrow fills a brother's eye;
Nor may the tear that frequent flows
From private or from social woes,
E'er make this pleasing sense depart.—
Ye cares, O harden not my heart!

If the fair star of fortune smile,
Let not its flattering power beguile.
Nor borne along the fav'ring tide,
My full sails swell with bloating pride.
Let me from wealth but hope content,
Remembering still it was but lent;
To modest merit spread my store;
Unbar my hospitable door;
Nor feed, for pomp, an idle train,
While want unpitied pines in vain.

If heaven, in every purpose wise,
The envied lot of wealth denies;
If doom'd to drag life's painful load
Thro' Poverty's uneven road,
And, for the due bread of the day,
Destin'd to toil as well as pray;
To thee, HUMANITY, still true,
I'll wish the good I cannot do;
And give the wretch that passes by,
A soothing word — a tear — a sigh.

Howe'er exalted, or deprest,
Be ever mine the feeling breast,
From me remove the stagnant mind
Of languid indolence, reclin'd;
The soul that one long sabbath keeps,
And through the sun's whole circle sleeps;
Dull Peace, that dwells in Folly's eye,
And self-attending Vanity.
Alike, the foolish, and the vain
Are strangers to the sense humane.

O for that sympathetic glow
Which taught the holy tear to flow,
When the prophetic eye survey'd
Sion in future ashes laid!
Or, rais'd to heav'n, implor'd the bread
That thousands in the desart fed!
Or, when the heart o'er friendship's grave
Sigh'd, and forgot its power to save—
O for that sympathetic glow,
Which taught the holy tear to flow!

It comes: It fills my labouring breast;—
I feel my beating heart opprest.
Oh! hear that lonely widow's wail!
See her dim eye! her aspect pale!
To heaven she turns in deep despair:
Her infants wonder at her prayer,
And, mingling tears they know not why,
Lift up their little hands and cry.
O God! their moving sorrows see!
Support them, sweet HUMANITY!

Life, fill'd with Grief's distressful train,
For ever asks the tear humane.
Behold in yon unconscious grove
The victims of ill-fated love!
Heard you that agonizing throe?
Sure this is not romantic woe!
The golden day of joy is o'er;
And now they part — to meet no more.
Assist them, hearts from anguish free!
Assist them, sweet Humanity!

Parent of Virtue, if thine ear
Attend not now to Sorrow's cry;
If now the pity-streaming tear
Should haply on thy cheek be dry,
Indulge my votive strain, O sweet HUMANITY!

[pp. 3-4]