1828
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On Charity — January 1, 1828.

Connecticut Mirror (7 January 1828).

John G. C. Brainard


Seven Spenserians — the last poem John G. C. Brainard contributed to the Connecticut Mirror. Brainard died of consumption shortly after the poem was published. It is presented as "Thoughts of Mr. Eli Shepard, carrier to the Connecticut Mirror."

Advertisement to Poems: "The poem addressed to Charity, was the last contribution of Brainard to the columns of that paper; and as it was intended for, and appeared as the 'New-Year's Verses' for 1828, the author gave it the quaint title of 'Thoughts of Mr. Eli Shepard, Carrier of the Connecticut Mirror, on Charity'" (1847) iv.

For at least half a century, New England poets had been in the habit of contributing verses for the newsboys to sell with the new year's edition of their papers.



Sweet charity! thou of the kindest voice,
Of lightest hand, of softest — meekest eye,
And gentlest footstep, making but the noise
Of a good angel's pinions floating by,
Go forth! but not to dwellings where the sigh
Of poverty and wretchedness is heard,
Not to the hovel, nor the human sty,
Where conscience, oh! how burningly is sear'd,
Where Heav'n is scarcely known, and Hell but little fear'd.

Sweet spirit, Go not there. There thou hast been,
And seen, nor pity, nor relief bestow'd
By woman's eye, nor by the hand of men,
On them who bear such miserable load;
What votary hast Thou, at their abode?
What kind heart brings its tearful off'ring there,
And griev'd that 'tis no more, lifts up to God
Its humble, earnest, holy, secret prayer,
Breath'd mid the low and vile, in winter's midnight air?

Go to the rich, the gay and the secure,
Bold be thy step, and heavy be thy hand,
Knock loud, and long, at Fashion's partial door
And swell thy voice to terror's bold command;
And he, who builds upon extortion's sand,
He, of the purple and the linen fine,
Owner of widow's stock and orphan's land,
Shall shuddering turn from his untasted wine,
And feel, that to do well, his all he should resign.

Go to the lovely, not in sighing smiles,
At which the thoughtless fool might smiling sigh,
—Scatter her freaks, her follies and her wiles,
With the stern beauty of religion's eye;
Teach her the tear of grief — of shame to dry,
To drop on frailty, meek compassion's balm,
To do aright — to feel aright — to try
Her envious, hateful passions first to calm;
Then shed upon her soul, not on her face, thy charm.

Go to yon Pharisee — the heartless wretch,
That prates of holiness, and hunts for sin,
For faults of others ever on the stretch,
All gaze without, and not one glance within;
And worse, much worse, not one kind wish to win
A sinner back — but to detect, betray,
And punish. Go and tell him to begin
Anew — and point him to salvation's way,
The sermon on the mount to us poor sons of clay.

Touch not their gold, but touch — Thou cans't — their heart,
For there be many who, with open purse
Will greet thee in that market place, their mart
Of cold hypocrisy, or something worse:
Unkind and selfish — theirs may be the curse
"The money perish with thee." Learn thou them
Sweet Charity! their kindness to disburse—
And Self's deep deadly current strong to stem;
A sigh shall win a pearl — a tear a diadem.

How blessed are thy feet. Thy footsteps stray
From open paths, and seek a grassgrown track
Through shades impervious to the gaze of day;
Onward flies light, a form that turns not back
At sight of chasm, or torrent never slack;
Quiet and bold, and sure the errand speeds,
Nor doth the kindly deed a blessing lack
To sorrow, joy — to anguish, peace succeeds,
The eye no longer weeps, the heart no longer bleeds.

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