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Treasury of Sacred Song
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CCLIX

DEVOTIONAL INCITEMENTS

Where will they stop, those breathing Powers,

The Spirits of the new-born flowers?

They wander with the breeze, they wind

Where'er the streams a passage find;

Up from their native ground they rise

In mute aërial harmonies;

From humble violet, modest thyme,

Exhaled, the essential odours climb,

As if no space below the sky

Their subtle flight could satisfy:

Heaven will not tax our thoughts with pride,

If like ambition be their guide.

Roused by this kindliest of May-showers,

The spirit-quickener of the flowers,

That with moist virtue softly cleaves

The buds, and freshens the young leaves,

The birds pour forth their souls in notes

Of rapture from a thousand throats--

Here check'd by too impetuous haste,

While there the music runs to waste

With bounty more and more enlarged,

Till the whole air is overcharged;

--Give ear, O Man! to their appeal,

And thirst for no inferior zeal,

Thou, who canst think, as well as feel!

Mount from the earth; aspire! aspire!

So pleads the town's cathedral quire,

In strains that from their solemn height

Sink, to attain a loftier flight;

While incense from the altar breathes

Rich fragrance in embodied wreaths;

Or, flung from swinging censer, shrouds

The taper-lights, and curls in clouds

Around angelic Forms, the still

Creation of the Painter's skill,

That on the service wait conceal'd

One moment, and the next reveal'd.

--Cast off your bonds, awake, arise,

And for no transient ecstasies!

What else can mean the visual plea

Of still or moving imagery--

The iterated summons loud,

Not wasted on the attendant crowd,

Nor wholly lost upon the throng

Hurrying the busy streets along?

Alas! the sanctities combined

By art to unsensualise the mind,

Decay and languish; or, as creeds

And humours change, are spurn'd like weeds:

The priests are from their altars thrust;

Temples are levell'd with the dust;

And solemn rites and awful forms

Founder amid fanatic storms.

Yet evermore, through years renew'd

In undisturb'd vicissitude

Of seasons balancing their flight

On the swift wings of day and night,

Kind Nature keeps a heavenly door

Wide open for the scatter'd Poor.

Where flower-breathed incense to the skies

Is wafted in mute harmonies;

And ground fresh-cloven by the plough

Is fragrant with a humbler vow;

Where birds and brooks from leafy dells

Chime forth unwearied canticles,

And vapours magnify and spread

The glory of the sun's bright head:--

Still constant in her worship, still

Conforming to the eternal Will,

Whether men sow or reap the fields,

Divine monition Nature yields,

That not by bread alone we live,

Or what a hand of flesh can give;

That every day should leave some part

Free for a sabbath of the heart:

So shall the seventh be truly blest,

From morn to eve, with hallow'd rest.

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