1812
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hymn to the Deity.

Metrical Effusions; or Verses on Various Occasions.

Bernard Barton


Eight Spenserians of devotional thoughts by the famous Quaker poet: "Who bade the feather'd songsters of the grove | Their tributary notes harmonious pour? | A God! a bounteous God!" Bernard Barton's first volume of poems attracted little notice from the critics; such would not the case with his later volumes.

London Magazine: "The Quakers are not a literary people, and they do not encourage letters. They have, however, now, Quaker poets, and we hope soon to find them readers of poetry. They are an useful and respectable class, and the single fact of their shielding all their poorer brethren from the stigma and calamity of begging, is enough to entitle them to the best consideration of every thinking man" 3 (January 1821) 68-69.



Sweet harp of Judah! touch'd with heavenly fire,
Bid from thy strings celestial music flow;
And Thou who didst the Royal Bard inspire,
Command this breast with kindred warmth to glow.
By Thee assisted, from this vale of wo
The song of joy and gratitude shall rise;
Though faint at first, in murmuring accents low,
Yet, if Thou smile upon the sacrifice,
The swelling notes of praise shall rend the vaulted skies.

"Let there be light!" — thus spoke thy Sovereign power,
Forth burst the beams of new created day,
Applauding angels hail'd th' eventful hour,
Enraptur'd seraphs bless'd the cheering ray.
The gloomy shades of darkness fled away,
The courts of heaven with hallelujahs rung:
Silence obtain'd a momentary sway,
As all attentive on Thy accents hung;—
The Chorus "there is light!" then burst from every tongue!

By Thy command the azure vault of heaven,
The billowy ocean, aud the fruitful earth,
Assum'd the stations in thy wisdom given.
Meanwhile, rejoicing in his heavenly birth,
The sun in cloudless majesty came forth;
The lovely moon, mild ruler of the night,
With every star and planet, south, and north,
And east, and west, a new and wondrous sight,
Rode in vice-regal state amid the realms of light.

Who bade these various orbs in order move?
Who bade the ocean's waves tumultuous roar?
Who bade the feather'd songsters of the grove
Their tributary notes harmonious pour?
A God! a bounteous God! his matchless power,
His wisdom, and his goodness all proclaim,
But chief should man that providence adore,
Which form'd with hand divine the human frame,
And gave to earthly dust a spirit's vital flame.

But not creative power alone we praise,
The time must come, when, seiz'd with fervent heat,
The elements shall melt; in dreadful blaze
All nature's funeral pile the eye shall meet.
The world shall leave no traces of its seat,
The things that once have been shall cease to be;
But mercy, pleading at thy judgement seat,
Shall still prevail. From doubt, from terror free,
Redemption's perfect plan shall fix our rest in Thee.

For this, on Bethlehem's plains at dead of night,
Angelic hosts announc'd Messiah's reign;
At first the shepherds trembled with affright,
But, as they listen'd to the sacred strain,
They soon confest their fears, their terrors vain.
They heard the song with holy humble joy,
Which flow'd symphonious from the seraph train,
Proclaiming glory unto Thee on high,
Good will to Man, and peace to all beneath the sky.

Oh gift unspeakable of love divine!
The christian's comfort, and the prophet's theme,
Eternal word! thy light shall ceaseless shine,
Though man perceives not its awakening beam.
Deceiv'd by sensual pleasure's fatal dream,
Or dazzl'd by ambition's splendid toys,
He sails unthinking down life's rapid stream:
"The still small voice," too often drown'd in noise,
Whispers, alas! in vain, the fate of human joys.

Yet, Gracious Father! plead thy sacred cause:
To thee the secrets of all hearts are known.
There are who violate thy righteous laws,
Who know thy will, and yet perform their own.
Oh! be to such thy boundless mercy shown,
Attract to virtue by thy cords of love,
Hear Thou the prisoner's sigh, the sinner's groan,
Th' unequal conflict shall thy pity move,
And draw compassion down from every saint above!

[pp. 87-91]