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Songs and Hymns of the Earliest Greek Christian Poets
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VIII.
ADMONITORY ADDRESS TO A VIRGIN.2525This poem, though lacking the spirit and vigour of the Address to his Soul, may yet find acceptance with some; and though the times are utterly changed, and what in an age of pagan persecution "was good for the present distress" (1 Cor. vii. 26) may be so no longer, yet there is much in it of good instruction: the style is pretty and occasionally elevated.

Παρθενε, νυμφε Χριστου,

(The Greek is of varied metre, arranged in lines of generally seven syllables each.)

O bride of Christ on high,

Thy Bridegroom glorify!

Always thyself keep pure,

In word and wisdom sure,

That bright with Him all-bright

Thou e'er mayst dwell in light.

Far better spouse is He

Than earthly spouse could be:

Thy union happier far

10Than mortal unions are.

In bodily estate

Thou yet didst imitate

The intellectual powers,

Giving to Him thy hours:

And didst acquire on earth

The angels' right of birth.

'Tis "bind and loose" below,

Bodies from bodies grow:

Above each stands alone,

20Nor loosing there is known.

Of pure existence, they

First bear the ethereal ray,

Spirit and fire: none rests,

Doing great God's behests.

But now wild matter found--

All nature flowing round

With unresisted force--

A mingled intercourse;

But God the flood restrained,

30And marriage laws ordained.

But thou hast hence escaped,

And upward thy course shaped;

From matter's base alloy

To spirit's holy joy.

Mind harmonized with mind,

Doth truest pleasure find:

Such harmony is thine,

A harmony divine.

With flesh thou war dost wage,

40And helpest God's image:

For thou art God's own breath,

With body yoked till death:

That out of wrestling sore,

At length the battle o'er,

And earth well beaten down,

Thou mayst receive the crown.

To marriage also raise,

But only second praise.

That is for passion given,

50This is bright light of heaven:

That founds a pure offspring,

This is self-offering.

This honoured was, we hold,

At seasons marked of old.

To this in Paradise

Lo! Adam testifies:

For this on Sinai's peak

Doth Moses also speak;

And Zachary the priest,

60Of God's true saints not least,

And whom we hail the rather

As the Forerunner's father.

But marriage hath its need:

Hence springs a holy seed:

And hence the virgin2626Virgin bride--that is, the Church. So Methodius in his Virgins' Song, and all the early Christians. See Rev. xxi. 2, 9, etc. bride,

Honoured at God's own side.

Yet of the flesh it is, and earth,

All earthly from its birth.

When law and shadows ruled,

70And we were sometime schooled,

Marriage held sceptre mild,

Yet like a little child.

But when the letter died,

The Spirit was supplied:

For Christ had come and borne

In flesh our woes and scorn:

Had brought Redemption nigh,

And then ascended high:

Christ, sprung from Virgin's womb,

80Christ, Conqueror o'er the tomb.

Then continence did rise,

And this base world despise,

Which should its course have mended,

And high with Christ ascended.

Thou journey'st well! but haste!

Behind is fiery waste:

Take to thy steps good heed,

And to the mountain speed.

Cast not one backward glance

90On Sodom, lest perchance

Thou, fixed upon the ground,

A pile of salt be found.

In battling with the flesh

Take ever courage fresh,

Neither by terror bent,

Nor over-confident.

Faint not, for He is nigh

Who will all strength supply.

A spark may kindle hell:

100Water the flame cloth quell.

Full means to thee are lent

For good self-government.

Let thou the fear of God

Freeze the rebellious blood:

Fasting the flesh control:

Keep watches o'er thy soul,

And pour it forth in prayer:

Such thy true weapons are.

Add tears: and lowly bed,

110With reeds or rushes spread:

One constant flame of love

Rising to God above,

And lulling all desire

Which doth not up aspire.

The fallen rise by thee!

The shipwrecked pitied be!

Thyself live out the gale,

Expanding Hope's bright sail.

They fall not who ne'er rise,

120But they who try the skies.

Few mount on pinion wings:

Straight course to humbler things.

Fell Lucifer through pride

Angels in heaven reside.

One, traitor, sunk in night:

The eleven are stars of light.

Be pure, be wholly pure,

Of this make ever sure,

Lest thou, by heeding not,

130Christ's spotless robe shouldst spot.

Let modest be thine eye:

Thy tongue speak maidenly:

Thy mind not pandering,

Thy foot not wandering:

Nor loud laugh marking thee,

As one we blush to see.

Thy poor and tarnished wear,

Thy unadornèd hair,

I bonour more than pearls,

140Or silken dress, or curls.

Fair flower is modest face,

And paleness is true grace:

And virtues plentiful

Are braid most beautiful.

With paints let others dress

The living God's likeness;

Live tablet they of sin,

And all that's base within.

Whate'er thou hast of beauty,

150Die let it all to duty:

But beauty of the soul--

'Tis God's--it keep thou whole.

Of men, though good they be,

The sight 'twere best thou flee.

Some cheat might thee entrance,

Or be entranced perchance:

Eye now with eye bespangling,

And word with word entangling,

Then cheek with cheek o'erglowing,

160And mutual passion flowing.

'Tis well: but not for thee:

Not thine the accursed tree:

The tree of Life thy care;

The serpent's guile beware!

O maiden, hear my word,

Have thou no other lord;

Thy Bridegroom reigns above

And bids thee faithful prove.

Thou from the flesh hast fled,

170And it to thee is dead,

Why turn to it again,

And make thy work all vain?

That singleness of thine

Is a rare gift divine:

Few they whom it adorns,

As rose among the thorns.

Such grace'tis thine to know:

High o'er the snares below,

By which the wicked fall,

180Thou safely passest all.

Lo! one no sooner builds,

And bridal chamber gilds,

Than she with mournful gloom

Forth bears him to the tomb.

Felt one a father's pride?

At once the loved child died.

And oh! the mother's pain

Of travailing in vain!

And jealousy, ah me!

190How frightful 'tis to see,

When each the other taunts,

Where stolen friendship haunts!

What wormwood and what gall,

Worst recompence of all,

To rear up family,

And then dishonoured be!

One care is thine, one call,

To look to God in all!

But little thou dost need:

200That little God will speed.

Shelter and barley cake

Sufficient wealth will make:

Nor shall dire need impart

Keen edge to tempter's dart,

As when Christ, hard bestead,

He bade turn stones to bread.

By thee, however tried,

Be all base gain denied:

Fowls of the air God feeds,

210Sure then His saints He heeds.

Of oil, if faith prevail,

Thy cruse shall never fail.

By Cherith's desert brook

At the great Prophet look!

To feed him ravens sped:

So too shalt thou be fed!

How Thecla from the flame,2727Thecla, see The Virgins' Song of Methodius, p. 141.

And lions, unscathed came,

Thou know'st: and how great Paul,

220Preacher of truth to all,

Bore hunger, thirst, and cold,

Through death's worst forms still bold;

That thou might'st look, O maid,

To God alone for aid,

Who in the wilderness

With food can myriads bless.

Lo! beauty fadeth fast,

Nor will earth's glories last:

Wealth is a failing stream,

230And power an empty dream.

But thou, faith's sail unfurled,

Hast fled this erring world,

Steering thy course on high

To realms beyond the sky.

There in the holy shrine

Thou shalt for ever shine:

And there with angels raise

The song of endless praise!

A better portion far

240Than sons and daughters are!

But maidens, be ye wise,

And watch with longing eyes,

That when Christ shall return

Your lamps may brightly burn:

That with the Bridegroom ye

May enter in, and see

The beauty and the grace

Of His own dwelling place,

And share in truth and love

250The mysteries above.


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