Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
On Elijah’s Translation
By Benjamin Colman (1673–1747)
 
Occasioned by the death of the reverend and learned Mr Samuel Willard.

I SING the man, by heaven’s peculiar grace,
The prince of prophets, of the chosen race,
Rais’d and accomplish’d for degenerate times,
To stem the ebb with faith and zeal sublime;
T’ assert forsaken truth, to check the rage        5
Of rampant vice, and cure a wicked age.
Such times need such a prophet,—in his death
Is quench’d the light of Israel, and their breath.
Plain was the saint, his soul by grace refin’d,
His girdle mean, but much adorn’d his mind:        10
In face, as well as mind, above the toys
Of this vain world, and all its sensual joys:
Simple in diet, negligent of dress,
Hairy and rough his robe, meet to express
One mortify’d to things of time and sense,        15
To truth and things divine a love intense.
Jealous for Israel and the Lord of hosts,
Disdain’d to see Him rival’d by a post,
Mourn’d his forsaken covenant, and worship lost.
Courageous, dar’d alone to stand the shock,        20
Of numerous priests of Baal and to deride their stock.
Fac’d fierce tyrannous powers, told their crimes
And shames deserv’d the judgments of their times.
His and truth’s triumphs glorious: strange to say!
A debauch’d nation convert in a day,        25
And sham’d, enrag’d imposters fled away!
A wondrous saint; inspir’d, employ’d and led
By heavenly love; by many wonders fed.
The care of heaven, the darling of his God,
Signally sav’d, cheer’d by His staff and rod.        30
Voracious ravens yield him up their prey:
Glad angels to his succor wing away:
And heaven, to show its empire more, commands
Hopeless relief from famishing widow’s hands.
He pray’d, the sealed heavens withheld their rain;        35
He pray’d, the open’d clouds discharge again.
Provok’d he ask’d; strange blazing showers of flame
Stream down, and Sodom’s day renewed came.
He struck the floods,—the refluent waves divide;
His mantle’s breath drove back the flowing tide.        40
What ail’d thee, O astonish’d sea, to fly?
Jordan! from Joshua’s days thy banks not dry!
Yet greater wonders view: he spake,—the dead
In sin, or grave, lift up their fallen head:
Witness the happy mother, fully won        45
To heaven as she receiv’d her raised son:
Blest work of grace! the mercy of the mean
Illustrious, as the saving change is seen.
Not less miraculous the prophet’s fast,
Labors and travels gloriously surpass’d:        50
His strength and application, as his trust,
Noble and vast, angelic and august:
In public toils consum’d, of life profuse,
Exhausted in retired holy muse,
On the deep things of God, and mysteries abstruse.        55
Such labors bounteous heaven is wont to crown
With heavenly visions, light and joys unknown.
So heavenly glories dazzled Moses’ eyes,
And laboring Paul was caught to paradise.
No less Elijah to his Saviour dear,        60
No less his cares and toils, his prayers and tears;
Nor less would heaven his suff’ring soul to cheer.
The God of Israel pass’d before the cave,
In majesty, as erst the law he gave,
And frighten’d nature seem’d to seek a grave.        65
Tempests, and flames, and earthquakes march’d before,
Speaking the terrors of almighty power;
These usher’d in the small still voice of grace;
His soul grew calm, serene the troubled place;
Hush’d as the winds were all his boisterous fears,        70
The humble saint, call’d forth by God, appears;
With mantle wrapt about his face he stood,
Afraid to hear, nor wish’d to see his God.
Yet lest the hero as his God we show,
Or he elate with visions, vain should grow,        75
At times his passions did the man betray,
That saints have sin, and prophets are but clay.
Too timorous, ’midst his triumphs; left to fly
A woman’s rage and threats, and wish to die.
Desponding moan’d Christ of his church bereft,        80
And not a single saint in Israel left.
All to hide pride from man, to show how vain
We are at best, and undue thoughts restrain.
God is the light, in whom’s no shade at all,
To him in prostrate adorations fall.        85
Created brightness ever has its blots,
And even Persia’s idol has its spots.
Yet admiration, reverence and love
Are due to saints on earth, or those above.
Sure the curst spirit that hates is born of hell,        90
Nor is less monster then foul Jezebel:
She murd’rous sought his blood: Ahab his name
(Dearer than life) with slanderous lies defames:
And both invet’rate hate, and deadly war proclaim.
Yet spite of envy, spite of malice curst,        95
Virtue shall live: see, bloated fiend, and burst!
See the fair name immortal in my verse!
See the strew’d glories on the hero’s hearse!
A name embalm’d shall be the just man’s lot,
While vicious teeth shall gnash, and names shall rot.        100
Return, my muse, and sing his faithful care,
And noblest trust, in happy Bethel’s chair.
Hail, venerable seat! from Jacob’s days
Sacred to Israel’s God, and to his praise!
Blest evermore with visions! the resort        105
Of holy angels! heaven’s inferior court!
Hail dreadful place! the Eternal’s blest abode!
The gate of heaven, and the house of God!
Here stood the spacious college, Israel’s pride:
And here the illustrious seer did preside.        110
Stately the dome, worthy the beauteous train,
Religion pure devoted to maintain,
And to the age to come the laws divine explain.
Richly endow’d by every pious zeal,
Studious of Zion’s glory and her weal:        115
Blest tribute! dear to heaven: a pious aid
Given to Christ, and liberally repaid
In richer blessings to the church and state;
So he returns us what we consecrate.
Hence Israel’s chiefs, and hence our teachers came;        120
Hence truth and grace, hence issued light and flame;
Hence men renown’d, and of celebrious fame.
Micaiah one: from foul illusion free,
Faithful to God, and Ahab true to thee!
Kings trembled as he spake, and homage paid,        125
Of truth and the superior man afraid.
Elisha too, to greater glories born,
Was hence: and high exalted is his horn!
These beauteous sons were the blest prophet’s pride,
Under his wing they bloom’d, and flourish’d by his side;        130
Paid him a reverence profound and true,
To heaven’s election, Israel’s suffrage due.
Them, as by office bound, he did inspect,
Taught heavenly truth, and errors did correct:
Cherish’d the good, and form’d their manners well,        135
But search’d out vice, th’ infection to expel.
Meek and majestic, affable and grave,
Lowly and good; and all that’s great and brave,
He overaw’d and charm’d: base hearts he won,
And perfected where goodness was begun.        140
To them, his lectures on the holy law,
Sublime they were, new mysteries they saw:
Like him with heavenly light and joys inspir’d,
Their ravish’d minds the sacred deeps admir’d.
They saw the promised Messiah’s days,        145
And the glad schools resounded with his praise.
They sang the Baptist in their prophet’s spirit,
And bless’d the saint elect that should inherit.
They sang of the transfigur’d Saviour’s rays,
What favorite saints from heaven itself to gaze        150
On glories yet unknown; and talk of high
Mysterious truths; into which angels pry,
And pass in transports immortality.
They sang his high ascent, and gifts ineffable,
The cloven tongues of fire on Pentecost that fell,        155
And what great type should all these wonders figure and foretel.
Thus taught, they waited long the great event,
Foresaw the day, amaz’d at the portent:
Stupendous grace and power they view’d, ador’d
The sov’reign God, and pry’d into his word.        160
And now the saint had his last visit made,
His solemn charge, and final blessing said.
His weeping sons receiv’d his last adieu,
With eager eyes their breath departing view,
And following far behind to Jordan’s brink they drew.        165
Each emulous to succeed, but well prepar’d
To welcome him whom heaven had heir declar’d.
Elisha he! The wisdom of the choice
Applauded with united hearts and voice.
Unenvy’d in the schools, had long outshone        170
In gifts divine, and rival there was none.
Glorious the seer’s fidelity was here,
And heaven’s good conduct splendid did appear.
Nor blood, nor name, his upright zeal retard,
God’s choice and will he simply did regard;        175
Whom heaven accomplishes it will reward.
The happy youth cleav’d to his father’s feet,
Minist’ring to him with a duty meet;
From his oraculous lips ask’d counsel sage,
And had the prayers and blessings of his age.        180
Yet there remain’d the last and dying bequest,
And the wise son had ready his request.
“Say, now at parting, what I shall bequeath!”
Trembling he fell the prophet’s feet beneath,
Grieved to part, afraid to speak his thought,        185
Conscious how vast the blessing was he sought:
With mouth in dust he said,—“May I inherit
A double portion of thy blessed spirit!
O might my last and highest wish have place,
An em’nent measure of thy gifts and grace!”        190
Divine ambition! to be wise and good!
So he his fame and interest understood.
Modest his wish, he only ask’d a part,
And heaven gave all, even an equal heart:
Obvious the truth from sacred record known,        195
None came so near Elijah as his wondrous son.
’T was at high noon, the day serene and fair,
Mountains of lum’nous clouds roll’d in the air,
When on a sudden, from the radiant skies,
Superior light flash’d in Elisha’s eyes:        200
The heavens were cleft, and from th’ imperial throne
A stream of glory, dazzling splendor shone:
Beams of ten thousand suns shot round about,
The sun and every blazon’d cloud went out:
Bright hosts of angels lin’d the heavenly way,        205
To guard the saint up to eternal day.
Then down the steep descent, a chariot bright,
And steeds of fire, swift as the beams of light.
Wing’d seraphs ready stood, bow’d low to greet
The fav’rite saint, and hand him to his seat.        210
Enthron’d he sat, transform’d with joys his mein,
Calm his gay soul, and like his face serene.
His eye and burning wishes to his God,
Forward he bow’d, and on the triumph rode.
Saluted, as he pass’d the heavenly cloud,        215
With shouts of joy, and hallelujahs loud.
Ten thousand thousand angel-trumpets sound,
And the vast realms of heaven all echo’d round.
They sang of greater triumphs yet to come,
Their next descent to wait the Saviour home:        220
And the glad errand of the final day,
The raised dust of saints to bring away
In equal triumph, and in like array.
Thus ’midst inspir’d, sublime, prophetic songs,
(Sweet melody,) the vision pass’d along.        225
The prince of air accurs’d fled swift the light,
And heavenly sounds, more grating than the sight;
Blasphem’d, and rag’d, and gnash’d in furious spite,
Elisha saw: “My father,” loud he cried,
“My father! Israel’s safety! and her pride!        230
More wert thou our defence and glory far,
Than all our chariots and strong troops of war.
Thy prayers and power with God did more secure
Our tott’ring state, and naked coasts immure,
Than all our arms.”—        235
He said: nor more could see: immense the space!
The flying glory now had gain’d the place
Of light, ne’er to be seen by mortal eye:
No longer gaz’d he on the closing sky.
With anguish seiz’d his goodly robes he rent,        240
Himself, the church, and schools did sore lament.
The prophet’s bliss could not his tears restrain,
He wept their loss, in his eternal gain.
Nor yet in useless tears stay’d he to vent
His mighty griefs, on greater things intent:        245
The mantle fall’n with joy surprising spy’d,
Laid the dear pledge close to his panting side;
Sovereign receipt! his fainting heart reviv’d,
By it install’d in the blest Prophet’s place!
With it receiv’d his spirit and his grace!        250
The sacred banner flying in his hand,
Display’d his empire, on the distant strand;
Nature obsequious, to his dread command.
Triumphant-wise, the pensive conqueror stood,
The precious relic wav’d, and smote the flood:        255
“Where is the Lord, Elijah’s God?” he cry’d.
Th’ obedient waves again in haste divide.
He pass’d: the ravish’d Prophets saw: confess’d
The miracle of grace, and thankful bless’d
Th’ Eternal Spirit, and his glorious rest.        260
O’erjoy’d they ran the saint elect to meet,
And bow beneath the bright successor’s feet.
They breathe their prayers and blessings in his arms,
Cheer his sad soul, and their own passions charm.
Their hearts within ’em glow, their graces burn;        265
Each speak mysterious oracles in their turn:
Inspired their mind, transform’d their very mien,
In both superior grace and beauty seen.
In holiness and truth sweet their accord,
And faith their consolation did afford,        270
Elijah’s more illustrious second coming with his Lord.
 
 
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