1812
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Address to the Members of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

Metrical Effusions; or Verses on Various Occasions.

Bernard Barton


Eight Spenserians on the Christian mission in history: "If such the transport felt in earlier time | When the mosaic law once more went forth; | What inexpressive joy, what bliss sublime, | To spread the Gospel through the awakening earth!"

Bernard Barton to Mrs. Shaw: "The longer I live the more I love and prize Quaker principles. But I am well content to love them without compassing sea and land to make proselytes to them, and would rather be thought in error for holding them, even by those whom I most esteem, than risk any infringement of that perfect law of love which is the essence and substance of religion itself, by disputing about them" 1843; in Barton, Memoir, Letters, and Poems (1850) 69-70.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Bernard Barton, 1784-1849, often called The Quaker Poet, was born in the vicinity of London. In 1810 he obtained a clerkship in the Messrs. Alexander's bank at Woodbridge, which situation he held for the rest of his life. At one time he thought of resigning his post and devoting himself entirely to literature; but his friend Charles Lamb interposed a timely remonstrance" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:136.



While, o'er the ensanguin'd field, and ravag'd plain
The Daemon War extends his ruthless sway:
Can aught inspire the gratulating strain,
Or wake the lyre to notes of transport gay?
Yes, Minstrel! yes; thou yet mayst pour the lay,
The song of praise and joy may yet be thine,
Arise! to christian zeal thy tribute pay,
And hail the virtuous band who now combine
To spread through regions dark the light of truth divine.

Oh! for a "master's hand, and prophet's fire"
To strike with tenfold force the tuneful cord,
And sing that light, before whose beams retire
Enslaving ignorance, and vice abhorr'd.
Before that quickening ray, that powerful word,
The clouds of superstition pass away;
The pure and peaceful kingdom of the Lord
The piercing eye of faith can then survey;
Exulting feel its reign, and its decrees obey.

When Israel's sons, from Babylon return'd,
Had rais'd their city's walls so long o'erthrown;
Replac'd the gates their fathers' foes had burn'd,
And made once more their fathers' home their own;
With what intense delight till then unknown,
Did they repair again with awe to hear
The Sacred Book, wherein was clearly shown
The Almighty's will; with what attentive ear
They heard its awful truths expounded by the seer.

E'en from the morning, 'till the mid-day sun
Shed his fierce radiance on the listening throng;
With holy zeal to weeping sire and son
Ezra reveal'd the law neglected long:
And when he op'd the Book, both old and young
With pious reverence heard him bless the Lord;
With hands uplifted, and assenting tongue,
They, as one man, combin'd with one accord
To praise the gracious Power their inmost souls ador'd.

If such the transport felt in earlier time
When the mosaic law once more went forth;
What inexpressive joy, what bliss sublime,
To spread the Gospel through the awakening earth!
To make that pearl of most transcendent worth
Free as the light, and common as the air;
To give in harden'd hearts contrition birth,
To prompt the sigh, to raise the secret prayer,
And make the slave of sin salvation's joyful heir!

Are there, who can behold with jealous fear
This hallow'd task, this work of christian love?
Who, early taught their Bible to revere;
Coldy distrust what candour must approve?
Let such remember, that from God above
The revelation of his will was given,
And given for all! that all on earth who strove
To know the just, the righteous will of heaven,
Might steer their course aright on life's rough ocean driven.

There are, alas! in Britain's favour'd isle
On whom hath dawn'd in vain the Gospel day;
Who sunk in vice, immers'd in worldly toil,
In heathen darkness still benighted stray.
There are in climes and regions far away,
To whom the Gospel tidings ne'er were known,
On whom the star of Bethlehem's cheering ray,
To peace and joy conducting, never shone;
Yet these with grateful hearts its heavenly light shall own.

Oh! while it sheds its animating beams
In softest splendour, not intensely bright;
From death-like slumbers, and unhallow'd dreams
Millions shall wake, and hail the auspicious light!
Nature, exulting at the blissful sight,
Shall spread her charms to catch its lovely rays;
The baffled Tempter struck with wild affright,
Dreading the Gospel sun's meridian blaze,
Blasphemes the rising morn which meets his envious gaze.

[pp. 166-70]