Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Alfred H. Miles, ed.  The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
The Course of Time (1827).
IV. The Resurrection of the Body (From Books vii & viii)
By Robert Pollok (1798–1827)
 
(From Book vii)

I.
NOW starting up among the living changed,
Appeared innumerous the risen dead.
Each particle of dust was claimed: the turf,
For ages trod beneath the careless foot
Of men, rose, organised in human form;        5
The monumental stones were rolled away;
The doors of death were opened; and in the dark
And loathsome vault, and silent charnel-house,
Moving, we heard the mouldered bones that sought
Their proper place. Instinctive, every soul        10
Flew to its clayey part: from grass-grown mould
The nameless spirit took its ashes up,
Reanimate; and, merging from beneath
The flattering marble, undistinguished rose
The great, nor heeded once the lavish rhyme,        15
And costly pomp of sculptured garnish vain.
The Memphian mummy, that from age to age
Descending, bought and sold a thousand times,
In hall of curious antiquary stowed,
Wrapped in mysterious weeds, the wondrous theme        20
Of many an erring tale, shook off its rags;
And the brown son of Egypt stood beside
The European, his last purchaser.
In vale remote, the hermit rose, surprised
At crowds that rose around him, where he thought        25
His slumbers had been single; and the bard,
Who fondly covenanted with his friend,
To lay his bones beneath the sighing bough
Of some old lonely tree, rising, was pressed
By multitudes that claimed their proper dust        30
From the same spot, and he that, richly hearsed,
With gloomy garniture of purchased woe,
Embalmed, in princely sepulchre was laid,
Apart from vulgar men, built nicely round
And round by the proud heir, who blushed to think        35
His father’s lordly clay should ever mix
With peasant dust,—saw by his side awake
The clown that long had slumbered in his arms.
 
II.
Self-purifying, unpolluted Sea!
Lover unchangeable, thy faithful breast        40
For ever heaving to the lovely moon,
That like a shy and holy virgin, robed
In saintly white, walked nightly in the heavens,
And to thy everlasting serenade
Gave gracious audience; nor was wooed in vain.        45
That morning, thou, that slumbered not before,
Nor slept, great Ocean! laid thy waves to rest,
And hushed thy mighty minstrelsy; no breath
Thy deep composure stirred, no fin, no oar;
Like beauty newly dead, so calm, so still,        50
So lovely, thou, beneath the light that fell
From angel-chariots sentinelled on high,
Reposed, and listened, and saw thy living change,
Thy dead arise. Charybdis listened, and Scylla;
And savage Euxine on the Thracian beach        55
Lay motionless; and every battle-ship
Stood still, and every ship of merchandise,
And all that sailed, of every name, stood still.
Even as the ship of war, full-fledged, and swift,
Like some fierce bird of prey, bore on her foe,        60
Opposing with as fell intent, the wind
Fell withered from her wings that idly hung;
The stormy bullet, by the cannon thrown
Uncivilly against the heavenly face
Of men, half sped, sank harmlessly, and all        65
Her loud, uncircumcised, tempestuous crew—
How ill prepared to meet their God!—were changed,
Unchangeable; the pilot at the helm
Was changed, and the rough captain, while he mouthed
The huge enormous oath. The fisherman,        70
That in his boat expectant watched his lines,
Or mended on the shore his net, and sang,
Happy in thoughtlessness, some careless air,
Heard Time depart, and felt the sudden change.
In solitary deep, far out from land,        75
Or steering from the port with many a cheer;
Or, while returning from long voyage, fraught
With lusty wealth, rejoicing to have escaped
The dangerous main, and plagues of foreign climes,
The merchant quaffed his native air, refreshed;        80
And saw his native hills in the sun’s light
Serenely rise; and thought of meetings glad,
And many days of ease and honour spent
Among his friends—unwarnèd man! even then
The knell of Time broke on his reverie,        85
And in the twinkling of an eye his hopes,
All earthly, perished all. As sudden rose,
From out their watery beds, the Ocean’s dead,
Renewed, and on the unstirring billows stood,
From pole to pole, thick covering all the sea—        90
Of every nation blent, and every age.
 
(From Book viii)

III.
RESTORED to reason, on that morn, appeared
The lunatic, who raved in chains, and asked
No mercy when he died. Of lunacy,
Innumerous were the causes: humbled pride        95
Ambition disappointed, riches lost,
And bodily disease, and sorrow, oft
By man inflicted on his brother man;…
Take one example, one of female woe.
Loved by a father’s and a mother’s love,        100
In rural peace she lived, so fair, so light
Of heart, so good, and young, that reason scarce
The eye could credit, but would doubt, as she
Did stoop to pull the lily or the rose
From morning’s dew, if it reality        105
Of flesh and blood, or holy vision, saw,
In imagery of perfect womanhood.
But short her bloom, her happiness was short.
One saw her loveliness, and, with desire
Unhallowed burning, to her ear addressed        110
Dishonest words: “Her favour was his life,
His heaven; her frown, his woe, his night, his death.”
With turgid phrase, thus wove in flattery’s loom,
He on her womanish nature won, and age
Suspicionless; and ruined, and forsook:        115
For he a chosen villain was at heart,
And capable of deeds that durst not seek
Repentance. Soon her father saw her shame;
His heart grew stone, he drove her forth to want
And wintry winds, and with a horrid curse        120
Pursued her ear, forbidding all return.
Upon a hoary cliff that watched the sea,
Her babe was found—dead. On its little cheek,
The tear that nature bade it weep, had turned
An ice-drop, sparkling in the morning beam;        125
And to the turf its helpless hands were frozen.
For she, the woeful mother, had gone mad,
And laid it down, regardless of its fate,
And of her own. Yet had she many days
Of sorrow in the world, but never wept.        130
She lived on alms, and carried in her hand
Some withered stalks she gathered in the spring.
When any asked the cause, she smiled, and said
They were her sisters, and would come and watch
Her grave when she was dead. She never spoke        135
Of her deceiver, father, mother, home,
Or child, or heaven, or hell, or God; but still
In lonely places walked, and ever gazed
Upon the withered stalks, and talked to them;
Till wasted to the shadow of her youth,        140
With woe too wide to see beyond, she died—
Not unatoned for by imputed blood,
Nor by the Spirit, that mysterious works,
Unsanctified.
 
 
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