Thursday, January 31, 2013


Remember the Sabbath Day, to Keep It Holy

Robert Southey, "Written on Sunday Morning," in his Poems, 3rd ed., Vol. I (Bristol: Biggs and Cottle, 1799), pp. 58-60 (dated 1795):
  Go thou and seek the House of Prayer!
  I to the Woodlands wend, and there
In lovely Nature see the GOD OF LOVE.
  The swelling organ's peal
  Wakes not my soul to zeal,
Like the wild music of the wind-swept grove.
The gorgeous altar and the mystic vest
Rouse not such ardor in my breast
  As where the noon-tide beam
  Flash'd from the broken stream,
Quick vibrates on the dazzled sight;
  Or where the cloud-suspended rain
  Sweeps in shadows o'er the plain;
Or when reclining on the clift's huge height
I mark the billows burst in silver light.

Go thou and seek the House of Prayer!
I to the Woodlands shall repair,
Feed with all Nature's charms mine eyes,
And hear all Nature's melodies.
The primrose bank shall there dispense
Faint fragrance to the awaken'd sense;
The morning beams that life and joy impart,
Shall with their influence warm my heart,
And the full tear that down my cheek will steal,
Shall speak the prayer of praise I feel!

  Go thou and seek the House of Prayer!
I to the woodlands bend my way
  And meet RELIGION there!
She needs not haunt the high-arch'd dome to pray
Where storied windows dim the doubtful day:
With LIBERTY she loves to rove,
  Wide o'er the heathy hill or cowslip'd dale;
Or seek the shelter of the embowering grove,
  Or with the streamlet wind along the vale.
Sweet are these scenes to her, and when the night
Pours in the north her silver streams of light,
She woos Reflection in the silent gloom,
And ponders on the world to come.
By a Lady [i.e. Anna Letitia Barbauld], in The Gentleman's Magazine (March 1799) 237:
"Go thou and seek the House of Prayer,
I to the woodlands wend, &c.

Yes, Southey, yes, I to the House of Prayer,
Each Sabbath Day, wilt duly bend my step,
For God himself requires my presence there:
The sacred fane at his command arose,
And one blest day in seven he calls his own.
On Sinai's holy mount th' ALMIGHTY said,
"MAKE ME A SANCTUARY;" in mystic state
There, with his people, high communion held;
There, from the mercy-seat, his voice was heard
Revealing hallow'd truths to favour'd man.

And when, among the wise and good, the time
That man refus'd to join in holy worship?
The Heathen temple, and the Turkish mosque,
The Jewish synagogue, and Christian church
Have all resounded with a social praise.
Shall I then go, like thee, in churlish, wild,
Or solitary mood, to the lone vale,
The silent glen, or unfrequented grove,
When from the neighb'ring spire the cheerful bells
Call us in sweet society to join,
And offer holy pray'r?—With grateful love,
FATHER of Spirits, hail! behold I come!
Fill'd be my soul with reverential awe,
When' in thy House I hear thy SACRED WORD,
Disclosing truths majestic, strong, severe,
Such as may make Vice tremble; while, in strains
Of heavenly sweetness to the troubled heart,
It whispers comfort and eternal rest.

Yet too, like thee, Southey, I deem it sweet
Widely to rove, where by no human eye
My footsteps may be trac'd; down the deep dell,
Where rocks on rocks are pil'd above my head,
To penetrate, and mark where, thro' their clefts,
The fibrous roots of some old elm, or yew,
Shoot bare, and rugged; whilst their trunks ascend
In shape grotesque and rude, excluding day.
How does my pensive soul, in these lone scenes,
Remote from mortal tread, delight to dwell,
Where I on Nature, and on Nature's God,
In calm repose, can meditate profound!

Sweet also to my ear, sweet as to thine,
Are Nature's melodies; the lowing herd,
The distant bell, that speaks the fold at rest;
The gushing rill, which, thro' the crevic'd rock
Distills its freshness; the low-murmuring bee,
And cooing stock-dove; all awake my heart,
Southey, like thine, to tenderness and love.

Yet on this day, hallow'd by ages past,
To which exhausted Labour looks for rest,
And Tumult for the hour of sacred peace,
My feet shall hasten from their sylvan haunt,
Tho' sweet as fabling poets ever sung,
Mine ear thy warbling Philomel forego,
And all the woodland harmony of Spring,
To raise with man a nobler strain of praise;
Man, who alone, of all Creation, knows
His MAKER to adore with vocal praise.

Whether the village church attracts my steps,
Whose simple bell calls from the hamlets round
Their meek inhabitants, to praise their GOD,
Where all is decent, quiet, plain, and fit,
And untaught voices hymn their MAKER'S praise;
Or whether, in some old cathedral pile
I find myself inclos'd, with cloister'd pillars,
Long Gothic ailes, and windows richly dim,
Where, slowly rising to the pealing sound
Of swelling organ, the loud-echoing chant,
And lofty anthem, raise th' enraptur'd soul;
Alike I own thy presence, hear thy word!
Nor would I, Southey, for the world forego
This dearest privilege to man allow'd,
Due, as the Sun each Sabbath Day shall shine,
To meet, with kindred man, the PARENT GOD.
Hafiz [i.e. Thomas Stott], "To Mr. Southey. On reading his beautiful, but seductive Ode, written on Sunday Morning," The Gentleman's Magazine (November 1801) 1029:
  Go, Southey, to the House of Pray'r,
  And humbly and devoutly there
Adore the God of Goodness and of Love;
  Let the loud organ's peal,
  With corresponding zeal
Thy tuneful bosom ev'ry Sunday move.
  Sweet Bard of Bristol! who canst wake the lyre
  With so much energy and fire,
  To captivate Attention's heart,
  Ah! let not thy enchanting art
  Be exercis'd to lead astray
  The young, the giddy, and the gay,
Too prone by nature to neglect and spurn
Religion's holy call, and from her temple turn.

  Go, Southey, to the House of Pray'r,
  And set a good example there
To those who wander in the world's wild ways;
  Devote a portion of thy precious time
  To Piety as well as Rhyme,
And socially assist in thy Creator's praise.
  Six days, each week, are surely long
  Enough for all the other aims of song—
  For visiting the lonely woodland bow'rs,
  And gath'ring sweet poetic flow'rs
Along each sunny bank and silver stream:
  Then to the House of Pray'r
  Each seventh day repair,
And let Jehovah's praise that day be thy sole theme.

Go, Southey, to the House of Pray'r;
  'Tis likelier on a Sabbath-day
  Thou'lt meet Religion there:
She loves not always in the wilds to stray;
The friend of man, she loves among mankind to stay.
  Tho' sometimes she her vot'ries lead
    To heathy hill or cowslip'd dale,
  Or shady grove, or sunny mead,
    Or by the streamlet in the vale;
Yet she's no savage wand'rer, Southey, no!
  No Anchoret, of gloom and silence fond;
No hippish matron, clouded still in woe,
  And subject to despond;
But social, cheerful, and serene,
Of simplest manners, sweetest mien,
Her mild instructions she imparts,
To mend our morals, and to cheer our hearts
With brightest prospects of perennial bliss
In future worlds, if we act right in this.
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