BETA

Lawn-Sleeves.

Wha aiblins gang a parliamentin’,
For Britain’s gude their souls indentin’.”
—“Hath, lady ! ye little ken about it.
For Britain’s gude ? I greatly doubt it ;
Say, rather, gaun as Premiers lead them,
And saying aye or no’s they bid them.”
Burns.
No more, alas ! I rhyme of fancied pains,1
Hope’s false delights and Love’s ideal chains2
For life’s cold paths I quit poetic bow’rs,3
And leave to younger bards—my stock of flow’rs.4
Rude times like these no mild-toned Muse require5
To bend enamour’d o’er the sounding lyre,6
But plain strong Sense, whose rough but honest part7
Is not to soothe the ear, but wake the heart.8
Gods ! is it thus that England’s Muse is fled9
In voiceless grief to hide her peaceful head,10
To rest with Southey in his Cumbrian glades,11
Or mourn with Bowles in Bremhill’s cloister’d shades ?12
Too true the tale ; —and now a motley throng,13
With flames and doctrine fill their piebald song,14
Earth jars with heaven, a cherub’s holiest smiles15
Flaunt in the borrow’d dimples of St Giles ;16
Vauxhall’s dread splendours gild the courts above,17
And Drury’s language speaks the seraph’s love ;18
Scott, Wilson, Croly,—all we loved of yore,19
Strike the proud music of their harps no more ;20
And Campell’s self, who once sung well, sings dumb,21
Or sinks from Tom of Lincoln to Tom Thumb ;22
Thus, to dull ranters ample space is given,23
To play fantastic tricks before high heaven,24
And make the angels weep ! ”25
Oh, happier time,26
Ere God was sounded in each schoolboy rhyme,27
Ere Worship simper’d with self-pleasing air,28
And bungling Metaphor broke forth in pray’er,29
Ere Hell’s red fires supplanted Venus’ smile,30
And Calvary usurp’d the Paphian isle ;31
Ere for Parnassus Sinai’s heights were trod,32
And Jove’s cast ornaments bestow’d on God !33
Long, long ago, Religion, heavenly maid !34
With vestal meekness sought the silent glade ;35
Serenely calm she bore each earthly care,36
While Faith, Hope, Charity, adorn’d her prayer !37
But now, where’er we turn, a nymph we see,38
In streets and markets bend the ready knee,39
With tinsel robe, half tawdry, half unclean,40
And breast fast heaving with quick sighs between ;41
Anxious alike, while round her eye she rolls,42
To pick our pockets and to save our souls.43
With thundering voice she strives to heaven to raise44
Prayer without love, and dares to call it praise.45
Where is the heart ? you ask. Alas ! ’ tis set46
Not on its God, but on an epithet.47
And see ! she stops, in ecstasy sublime,48
Dumb from excess of awe, and want of rhyme !49
But who shall wonder that the infection spreads,50
And snivelling Cant uprears her thousand heads,51
Since those who ought to crush, embrace her knees,52
And even the Mitre owns its Pharisees ?53
Hark ! how with tragic pomp, and gesture proud,54
Thy prelate,———, awes the listening crowd,55
And talks in ill-cloak’d pride’s most humble tone,56
Of lights and graces to him only known,—57
How warm he prayed for heaven’s directing nod ;58
How at his Maker’s word he left his God ;59
How to a life of mean subservience just,60
The ———’s protegé betray’d his trust !61
Oh ! while his watering eyes are turn’d above,62
How thrills his breast with more than mortal love !63
All round the circle holy fervour goes,64
And every heart with like devotion glows ;65
While literate —— shews his dandy limb,66
And prays some other —— may favour him.67
What ! are his youth’s employments cast aside,68
The crack’d guitar across his shoulder tied,69
The Spaniard’s cloak, the whisker’s curl of jet,70
To win the glance of each impure grisette,71
Or has he wisely hush’d his borrow’d lay,72
Left the loose ballad and begun to pray,73
Or does he merely show his Protean art,74
And for the minstrel’s, fill the preacher’s part,75
Actor alike in both, with equal grace76
To shew the exile’s charms, the saint’s grimace ?77
Changes more sad, our wondering eyes engage,78
And life’s true scenes exceed the mimic stage.79
Nine years are past, since, gentle-voiced and meek,80
The well-bred Tutor scarcely dared to speak,81
A bland convenient priest politely blind82
To fleshly sins (peer or peeress) kind,83
Quick at my lady’s nod to cringe and bow,84
In heart as abject and as false as now,85
With fulsome speeches working day by day,86
As snails with slime, his still ascending way,87
Till, quite a Friend, he holds his head more high,88
Whines over sin with more lugubrious sigh,89
To unrepenting Magdalen pours his moan,90
More fit for Fletcher’s tub than ——’s throne !91
What deeds were his that call’d for such reward,92
Fit meed of learning deep and Jabours hard ?93
His learning ? —let him nurse and guard it well,94
For though no Porson, he at least can spell ;95
His labours ? —he no doubt reclaim’d the stray,96
Allured to brighter worlds and led the way,”97
Bade Faith and Charity around him spread,98
And led such life as sainted Heber led !99
Can troubled springs a hallow’d stream afford ?100
Go ask my lady ; ask her Courtier Lord101
(Whose meek forgiveness fills us with surprise,102
While Rome’s first Cato stalks before our eyes.)103
Ask if acquaintance with such scenes polite,104
Gives to the sacred lawn a purer white,105
If lengthen’d prayers can hide Apostate shame,106
Or Pride can flourish ’ neath Religion’s name !107
Scorn’d by the good and pitied by the wise,108
He soothes his spleen with Pomp’s poor vanities,109
Flies for relief to wands and gilded state,110
While on each nod a dingy rabble wait,111
An oily, lank, and methodistic train,112
As Crookshanks’ self could paint or fancy feign,113
All Christian brothers, by his kindness gain’d,114
Self-righteous, self-sufficient, self-ordain’d.115
Hark ! to the long-drawn hymn !  The nasal drawl116
Sounds from the zealous crowd in yonder hall,117
Breathing not less of piety than gin,118
And not more wash’d from filthiness than sin.119
The enraptured prayer comes next—a long half hour120
Proves both the teacher’s wind, and spirit’s pow’r ;121
Oh grudge him not his stamp, his sigh, his roar,122
No English Bishop heard the like before123
The righteous Reverend friend concludes, and then,124
Their meek Right Reverend brother sighs—Amen !125
The mob grows calm ; —the few vile parsons there126
Gather in holy awe around his chair,127
While Independents bend their list’ning ear128
To catch those sounds to true seceders dear,129
And strut in their high calling’s sacred pride,130
(Thieves, weavers, paupers, all the week beside)131
Pleas’d on that vionn’s elevated board132
To shew how little now they fear “ My Lord.”133
Oh for a Mawworm’s tongue and Judas’ heart134
To deal full justice to his glorying part,135
To tell the force with which his Lordship prays,136
The trait’rous kiss which points where he betrays !137
Deserting thus the cause he vow’d to guard,138
Admitting foes by his own oath debarr’d,139
False to his God, he joins the ranks of those140
To England’s faith, to Christ’s own Cross the foes,141
Yet wears the robe he desecrates,—and then,142
Gives thanks to God “ he’s not as other men.”143
Well may the Church to watch and arm begin,144
Not less ’ gainst knaves without than fools within.145
When Brougham and Connel gather round her wall,146
Anxious to burn, and spoil, and plunder all,147
Their open malice from their arts defends ;148
But who shall guard her from pretended friends ?149
Lo ! at a wink from Minister or peer150
Bishops themselves desert their posts in fear,151
Break down her barriers to assist the foe,152
And, having once disgrac’d her, overthrow.153
Oh, wise and apron’d, wigg’d and sinless tribe !154
Good all your aim, and heav’n your only bribe :155
No hopes were yours, methinks ye all exclaim,156
That change of vote might lead to change of name.157
But on that instant that the Premier spoke,158
Light broke on you, as once on Paul it broke,159
Fill’d the dull soul of ——’s fatted calf,160
And gilt the brazen forehead of ——.161
Hard is the fate that girdles thousands in,162
Believing God, yet fetter’d slaves to sin,163
Whose clouded Faith, which nought can quite destroy,164
Robs life of bliss, and sin of all its joy165
Whose mastering sins obscure each brighter hour,166
Rob Heav’n of hope, and Faith of all her power.167
But not more hard than ——’s ruthless fate,168
Whose soaring pride would urge him to be great ;169
But (oh !  Ambition, what a woful fall)170
Whose empty dulness dooms him to be small !171
Fit brother he for ——’s brainless Lord,172
With equal honour, equal wisdom stored,173
Raised by the same chaste Dame to equal height,174
And all three— “ darken’d through excess of light.”175
Woe on the logic that can teach the quill176
To fence and foil with dialectic skill,177
That proves a Jesuit black, then, quick as light,178
Turns round again, and proves a Jesuit white ;179
But freed from sin like this, if sin it be,180
Guiltless of logic as of wit is he,181
A weak, dull man, exceeding Dogb’ery’s rule,182
Who shews his love and “ writes himself a fool.”183
Oft ’ mongst our friends, one sillier than the rest,184
Whose want of sense provokes the sneering jest,185
Strives from such jeers his character to save,186
And just to hide the fool assumes the knave :187
Oft too the practised rogue, inured to sin,188
To shield his crimes affects the idiot’s grin ;189
And though his murderous hand in blood be red,190
Trusts for full safety to his fatuous head.191
This latter plea might ——’s Judas plead,192
Such want of brains would sanction any deed ;193
But pride remains, and party’s abject tool194
Proses, to prove himself more knave than fool.195
Poised thus between, to bend to either loth,196
Impartial Justice deems the Traitor both.197
But let not fools alone usurp the scene ;198
Let ——’s Bishop yield to ——’s Dean.199
For virtue loved, for vigorous mind admired,200
Which solid learning graced, and genius fired,201
Has ——— left the cause that raised his name,202
And for Court favour barter’d honest fame ?203
Like mean deserters, is his influence borne,204
From friends who trusted once, to foes who scorn ?205
No powerful aids from may they seek,—206
The act that proved him faithless, made him weak.207
Unnerved to hurt or help, his alter’d state208
Awakes our pity. ’Twere unkind to hate.209
Thus may some chief, by bribes and promise gain’d,210
Desert the friends whose power he once sustain’d,211
Whose warlike stores with arms his wisdom fill’d,212
Whose bold example taught those arms to wield ; —213
He gains the traitor’s meed,—dissembled praise,—214
While the curl’d lip the deep contempt betrays ;215
From his own stores a thousand spears are found,216
Which goad his venal heart with ceaseless wound.217
When paltry ——bridge racks his brain of lead,218
Looks wondrous wise, and shakes his ponderous head,219
Both sides disdain his twaddling speech to note,220
And scorn alike the blockhead—and his vote,221
Thus may the meaner of the mitred crowd,222
Proclaim their folly or their guilt aloud ;223
The ——, or, more ignoble still,224
The ——s and ——s, give what vote they will.225
No shout from foes their worthless change attends,226
No soft regret invades deserted friends,227
One truth restrains the joy, the grief controls,—228
They sold their honour, and would sell their souls.229
Yet vain such bargain ; it is seen too well,230
Such recreant drones have scarce a soul to sell.231
But high alike in talents and in place,232
If learned —— shews a Janus face,—233
One, fair with smiles, and one with frowning black,—234
And then by faint resistance courts attack,235
Such dubious conduct fails his name to save236
By some a Traitor deem’d,—by all a Slave.237
Has deep research no better aim than this ?238
Oh blest are we,—for Ignorance is bliss.239
Can learning’s toils no worthier pow’r bestow,240
Than after arguing Aye, to answer, No ?241
Does Grecian lore no higher object seek,242
Than thus to teach us, what’s a Rat in Greek ?243
O that a wish that evening could revoke244
And leave that shame unknown, that speech unspoke ;245
When fear and duty weigh’d the opposing scale,246
And conscience trembled ’ twixt his God and Baal,247
Till soothing both, a middle path he trod,248
And gave his knee to Baal,—his tongue to God !249
In good old times, when England’s Church uprear’d250
Her matron form, to England’s heart endear’d ;251
When sober priests were at her altars found252
In action honest, and in doctrine sound,253
Whose blameless lives in one calm current ran254
Of love to God, and charity to man,—255
While yet the Bible was the preacher’s guide,256
And Faith and Works walk’d humbly side by side,257
Her chasten’d worship, simple yet severe,258
Awed while it sooth’d, and mingled love with fear.259
No frantic crew ran slavering through the land,260
Denouncing wrath with sacrilegious hand ;261
No self-dubb’d saints God’s mercy dared to hide,262
No tracts, the spawn of ignorance and pride,—263
No deep damnation lurk’d in simple mirth,264
To no red sins” the modest dance gave birth,—265
No darken’d creed deceived the unletter’d mind,—266
No blinded leaders led astray the blind267
Truth, undefiled, stretch’d forth the blest control,268
And Hope and Gladness cheer’d the poor man’s soul.269
How changed that joyous scene ! The “ unco good270
Preach to be wonder’d at, not understood.271
On points of faith with wondrous depth they dwell,272
Of which to doubt awakes the fires of hell,—273
Which to believe eternal safety brings,274
And rapes, thefts, robberies are trivial things ;275
Faith—faith alone—will bear them to the skies !276
And Zeal increases while Religion dies.277
Is no way left to bring those days again,278
Ere heaven’s pure light was hid by impious men ;279
When each was pleas’d, without the zealot’s aid,280
To pray devoutly, as his fathers pray’d281
To worship God, and love his neighbour too,282
And as he would be done by, that to do283
To think no ill—no untried paths to try ;284
But humbly trusting in his God—to die ?285
Some still remain our Church’s best defence,286
Blest with that truest wisdom, Common Sense ;287
Howley, in virtue firm, in worth approv’d288
For sinless life admired—for meekness lov’d ; —289
And learned Burgess, whose just, honest mind,290
True to his God—to erring man is kind.291
These are our hopes. To them and Lords like them292
We look, the current of our woes to stem293
To cleanses the Church, and raise her once again294
A guide to heaven, and not a curse to men295
To plant Religion in her courts once more,296
And bid men’s hearts not question, but adore.297
Then Peace shall cheer the souls which Cant beguil’d298
God’s word no more be twisted and defil’d299
Apostate Prelates be with scorn displaced,300
Nor rule the Church their truckling tongues disgraced ;301
Dismitred knaves to build a barn shall club,302
And either ——— snuffle in a tub.303