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  On The Eternity Of The Supreme Being  

 

Hail, wond'rous Being, who in pow'r supreme
Exists from everlasting, whose great name
Deep in the human heart, and every atom,
The Air, the Earth or azure Main contains,
In undecipher'd characters is wrote--
Incomprehensible!--O what can words,
The weak interpreters of mortal thoughts,
Or what can thoughts (tho' wild of wing they rove
Thro' the vast concave of th'aetherial round)
If to the heav'n of heav'ns they'd win their way
Advent'rous, like the birds of night they're lost,
And delug'd in the flood of dazzling day.--

May then the youthful, uninspired Bard
Presume to hymn th'Eternal; may he soar
Where Seraph, and where Cherubin on high
Resound th'unceasing plaudits, and with them
In the grand Chorus mix his feeble voice?

He may--if Thou, Who from the witless babe
Ordainest honor, glory, strength and praise,
Uplift th'unpinion'd Muse, and deign t'assist,
Great Poet of the Universe, his song.

Before this earthly planet wound her course
Round Light's perennial fountain, before Light
Herself 'gan shine, and at th'inspiring word
Shot to existence in a blaze of day,
Before "the Morning-Stars together sang"
And hail'd Thee Architect of countless worlds.--
Thou art--all-glorious, all-beneficent,
All Wisdom and Omnipotence thou art.

But is the era of Creation fix'd
At when these worlds began?    Could ought retard
Goodness, that knows no bounds, from blessing ever,
Or keep th'immense Artificer in sloth?
Avaunt the dust-directed crawling thought,
That Puissance immeasurably vast,
And Bounty inconceivable could rest
Content, exhausted with one week of action--
No--in th'exertion of Thy righteous pow'r,
Ten thousand times more active than the Sun,
Thou reign'd, and with a mighty hand compos'd
Systems innumerable, matchless all,
All stampt with Thine uncounterfeited seal.
But yet (if still to more stupendous heights
The Muse unblam'd her aching sense may strain),
Perhaps wrapt up in contemplation deep,
The best of Beings on the noblest theme
Might ruminate at leisure, Scope immense
Th'eternal Pow'r and Godhead to explore,
And with Itself th'omniscient mind replete.
This were enough to fill the boundless All,
This were a Sabbath worthy the Supreme!
Perhaps enthron'd amidst a choicer few,
Of Sp'rits inferior, He might greatly plan
The two prime Pillars of the Universe,
Creation and Redemption--and a while
Pause--with the grand presentiments of glory.

Perhaps--but all's conjecture here below,
All ignorance, and self-plum'd vanity--
O Thou, Whose ways to wonder at's distrust,
Whom to describe's presumption (all we can,--
And all we may--) be glorifi'd, be prais'd.

A Day shall come when all this Earth shall perish,
Nor leave behind ev'n Chaos; it shall come
When all the armies of the elements
Shall war against themselves, and mutual rage
To make Perdition triumph; it shall come,
When the capacious atmosphere above
Shall in sulphureous thunders groan, and die,
And vanish into void; the earth beneath
Shall sever to the center, and devour
Th'enormous blaze of the destructive flames.--
Ye rocks, that mock the raving of the floods,
And proudly frown upon th'impatient deep,
Where is your grandeur now?    Ye foaming waves,
That all along th'immense Atlantic roar,
In vain ye swell; will a few drops suffice
To quench the inextinguishable fire?
Ye mountains, on whose cloud-crown'd tops the cedars
Are lessen'd into shrubs, magnific piles,
That prop the painted chambers of the heav'ns
And fix the earth continual;    Athos, where:
Where, Tenerif's thy stateliness to-day?
What, Aetna, are thy flames to these?--No more
Than the poor glow-worm to the golden Sun.

Nor shall the verdant valleys then remain
Safe in their meek submission; they the debt
Of nature and of justice too must pay.
Yet I must weep for you, ye rival fair,
Arno and Andalusia; but for thee
More largely and with filial tears must weep,
O Albion, O my country;    thou must join,
In vain dissever'd from the rest, must join
The terrors of th'inevitable ruin.

Nor thou, illustrious monarch of the day;
Nor thou, fair queen of night; nor you, ye stars,
Tho' million leagues and million still remote,
Shall yet survive that day;    ye must submit
Sharers, not bright spectators of the scene.

But tho' the Earth shall to the center perish,
Nor leave behind ev'n Chaos; tho' the air
With all the elements must pass away,
Vain as an idiot's dream; tho' the huge rocks,
That brandish the tall cedars on their tops,
With humbler vales must to perdition yield;
Tho' the gilt Sun, and silver-tressed Moon
With all her bright retinue, must be lost;
Yet Thou, Great Father of the world, surviv'st
Eternal, as Thou wert:    yet still survives
The soul of man immortal, perfect now,
And candidate for unexpiring joys.

He comes! He comes! the awful trump I hear;
The flaming sword's intolerable blaze
I see, He comes! th'Archangel from above.
"Arise, ye tenants of the silent grave,
Awake incorruptible and arise;
From east to west, from the antarctic pole
To regions hyperborean, all ye sons,
Ye sons of Adam, and ye heirs of Heav'n--
Arise, you tenants of the silent grave,
Awake incorruptible and arise."

'Tis then, nor sooner, that the restless mind
Shall find itself at home; and like the Ark
Fix'd on the mountain-top, shall look-aloft
O'er the vague passage of precarious life;
And, winds and waves and rocks and tempests past,
Enjoy the everlasting calm of Heav'n:
'Tis then, nor sooner, that the deathless soul
Shall justly know its nature and its rise:
'Tis then the human tongue new-tun'd shall give
Praises more worthy the eternal ear,
Yet what we can, we ought;--and therefore, Thou,
Purge Thou my heart, Omnipotent and Good!
Purge thou my heart with hyssop, lest like Cain
I offer fruitless sacrifice, with gifts
Offend, and not propitiate the Ador'd.
Tho' gratitude were bless'd with all the pow'rs
Her bursting heart could long for, tho' the swift,
The fiery-wing'd imagination soar'd
Beyond ambition's wish--yet all were vain
To speak Him as He is, Who is Ineffable.
Yet still let reason thro' the eye of faith
View Him with fearful love; let truth pronounce,
And adoration on her bended knee
With Heav'n-directed hands confess His reign.
And let th'Angelic, Archangelic band
With all the Hosts of Heav'n, Cherubic forms,
And forms Seraphic, witha their silver trumps
And golden lyres attend:--"For Thou art holy,
For Thou art One, th'Eternal, Who alone
Exerts all goodness, and transcends all praise."

       - Christopher Smart


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