1824
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Jerusalem.

Occasional Pieces of Poetry, by John G. C. Brainard.

John G. C. Brainard


Eight Spenserians; one of the many Spenserian poems written in the 1820s that pursue the religious sublime. Most of Brainard's poems originally were originally published in the Connecticut Mirror, including this, which evidently appeared anonymously in 1824.

Headnote: "The following paragraph, from the Mercantile Advertiser, suggested the lines below it. 'The following intelligence from Constantinople is of the 11th ult. 'A severe earthquake is said to have taken place at Jerusalem, which has destroyed great parts of that city, shaken down the Mosque of Omar, and reduced the Holy Sepulchre to ruins from top to bottom'" p. 99.

Note: "Godfrey and Baldwin were the first Christian Kings at Jersusalem. The Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, built the church of the sepulchre on Mount Calvary. The walls are of stone and the roof of cedar. The four lamps which light it are very costly. It is kept in repair by the offerings of Pilgrims who resort to it. The Mosque was originally a Jewish Temple. The Emperor Julian undertook to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem at very great expense, to disprove the prophecy of our Saviour, as it was understood by the Jews; but the work and the workmen were destroyed by an earthquake. The pools of Bethesda and Gihon — the tomb of the Virgin Mary, and of King Jehoshaphat — the pillar of Absalom, the tomb of Zachariah — and the campo santo, or holy field, which is supposed to have been purchased with the price of Judas' treason, are, or were lately, the most interesting parts of Jerusalem" 102-03n.

William Ellery Leonard: "John G. C. Brainard (1796-1828) is remembered chiefly by Whittier's appreciative essay. His small volume (1825) contains much that is Byronic. Spenserians had been written in America before Childe Harold, but manifestly in imitation of the technique and thought of 18th century Spenserians, especially of Beattie's. In such as the following from 'Jerusalem' it is no longer Beattie's, it is the stanza in the service of eloquence and history; at least that was the author's intent" Byron and Byronism in America (1907) 46.



Four lamps were burning o'er two mighty graves—
Godfrey's and Baldwin's — Salem's Christian kings;
And holy light glanced from Helena's naves,
Fed with the incense which the Pilgrim brings,—
While through the pannelled roof the cedar flings
Its sainted arms o'er choir, and roof, and dome,
And every porphyry-pillared cloister rings
To every kneeler there its "welcome home,
As every lip breathes out, "O Lord, thy kingdom come."

A mosque was garnish'd with its crescent moons,
And a clear voice called Mussulmans to prayer,
There were the splendors of Judea's thrones—
There were the trophies which its conquerors wear—
All but the truth, the holy truth, was there:—
For there, with lip profane, the crier stood,
And him from the tall minaret you might hear,
Singing to all whose steps had thither trod,
That verse misunderstood, "There is no God but God."

Hark! did the Pilgrim tremble as he kneeled?
And did the turbaned Turk his sins confess?
Those mighty hands the elements that wield
That mighty Power that knows to curse or bless,
Is over all; and in whatever dress
His suppliants crowd around him, He can see
Their heart, in city or in wilderness,
And probe its core, and make its blindness flee,
That he is very God, the only Deity.

There was an earthquake once that rent thy fane,
Proud Julian; when (against the prophecy
Of Him who liv'd, and died, and rose again,
"That one stone on another should not lie,")
Thou would'st rebuild that Jewish masonry,
To mock the eternal word. — The earth below
Gush'd out in fire; and from the brazen sky,
And from the boiling seas such wrath did flow,
As saw not Shinar's plain, nor Babel's overthrow.

Another earthquake comes. Dome, roof, and wall
Tremble; and headlong to the grassy bank,
And in the muddied stream the fragments fall,
While the rent chasm spread its jaws, and drank
At one huge draft, the sediment, which sank
In Salem's drained goblet. Mighty Power!
Thou whom we all should worship, praise and thank,
Where was thy mercy in that awful hour,
When hell moved from beneath, and thine own heaven did lower?

Say, Pilate's palaces — proud Herod's towers—
Say, gate of Bethlehem, did your arches quake?
Thy pool, Bethesda, was it filled with showers?
Calm Gihon, did the jar thy waters wake?
Tomb of thee, Mary — Virgin — did it shake?
Glow'd thy bought field, Aceldema, with blood?
Where were the shudderings Calvary might make?
Did sainted Mount Moriah send a flood,
To wash away the spot where once a God had stood?

Lost Salem of the Jews — great sepulchre
Of all profane and of all holy things—
Where Jew, and Turk, and Gentile yet concur
To make thee what thou art! thy history brings
Thoughts mixed of joy and wo. The whole earth rings
With the sad truth which He has prophesied,
Who would have shelter'd with his holy wings
Thee and thy children. You his power defied:
You scourged him while he liv'd, and mocked him as he died!

There is a star in the untroubled sky,
That caught the first light which its Maker made—
It led the hymn of other orbs on high;—
'Twill shine when all the fires of heaven shall fade.
Pilgrims at Salem's porch, be that your aid!
For it has kept its watch on Palestine!
Look to its holy light, nor be dismay'd,
Though broken is each consecrated shrine,
Though crush'd and ruin'd all — which men have call'd divine.

[pp. 99-102]