From Storied Urns to Animated Busts

Can storied urn or animated bust

Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?

Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,

Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

 

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid

Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;

Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,

Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre.

 

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page

Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll;

Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage,

And froze the genial current of the soul.

 

Full many a gem of purest ray serene,

The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

 

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast

The little tyrant of his fields withstood;

Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,

Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.

 

Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command,

The threats of pain and ruin to despise,

To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,

And read their hist’ry in a nation’s eyes,

 

Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib’d alone

Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin’d;

Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,

And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

 

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,

To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,

Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride

With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.

 

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,

Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;

Along the cool sequester’d vale of life

They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

 

Stanzas from:  Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard  by Thomas Gray (1751)

 

 

Two from Henry

Peace
My Soul, there is a country
Afar beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentry
All skillful in the wars;
There, above noise and danger
Sweet Peace sits, crown’d with smiles,
And One born in a manger
Commands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious friend
And (O my Soul awake!)
Did in pure love descend,
To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the flow’r of peace,
The rose that cannot wither,
Thy fortress, and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges,
For none can thee secure,
But One, who never changes,
Thy God, thy life, thy cure.

 

The Relapse

My God, how gracious art thou! I had slipt
Almost to hell,
And on the verge of that dark, dreadful pit
Did hear them yell,
But O thy love! thy rich, almighty love
That sav’d my soul,
And checkt their fury, when I saw them move,
And heard them howl;
O my sole comfort, take no more these ways,
This hideous path,
And I will mend my own without delays,
Cease thou thy wrath!
I have deserv’d a thick, Egyptian damp,
Dark as my deeds,
Should mist within me, and put out that lamp
Thy spirit feeds;
A darting conscience full of stabs and fears;
No shade but Yew,
Sullen, and sad eclipses, cloudy spheres,
These are my due.
But he that with his blood, (a price too dear,)
My scores did pay,
Bid me, by virtue from him, challenge here
The brightest day;
Sweet, downy thoughts; soft lily-shades; calm streams;
Joys full and true;
Fresh, spicy mornings; and eternal beams
These are his due.

 

Henry Vaughn (1622-95) ROCKS !
Don’t you agree ?

 

The Anonymous Vicar

https://i2.wp.com/www.photographers-resource.co.uk/images/A_heritage/hillside/545px-UK_Arms_1714_svg.png

An all time favorite poem.

       How and why do I love The Vicar of Bray?   Let me count the ways.
First, we have that intriguing author. No mythic background, no poetic baggage associated with the name: Anonymous.  The interest and the significance must come purely through the reading and the understanding of it. This brings us to the actual content of the poem, its message. The Vicar only pays out his jackpot to Anglophiles who know something about England’s political and ecclesiastical history. It is not for everyone; I can’t imagine a non-Anglophile getting much out of this poem. But the catalyst for me (ha ha) is the absurd image of the poor feline being basted in an oven. I don’t know if it was a popular idiom of the day, but I found it arresting and absurdly hilarious all at once. And of course there is the rollicking and regular rhythm, complemented by the recurring refrain. Was it a song originally rather than mere verse ? Probably.

There is much to be gleaned in the poetic fields of context, but I loved this poem even before the internet. George Orwell knew the Vicar too !

 

The Vicar of Bray

Anonymous  (1730s ?)

In good King Charles’s golden days,
When Loyalty no harm meant;
A Furious High-Church man I was,
And so I gain’d Preferment.
Unto my Flock I daily Preached,
Kings are by God appointed,
And Damn’d are those who dare resist,
Or touch the Lord’s Anointed.

And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I shall be Vicar of Bray, Sir!

When Royal James possessed the crown,
And popery grew in fashion;
The Penal Law I hooted down,
And read the Declaration:
The Church of Rome I found would fit
Full well my Constitution,
And I had been a Jesuit,
But for the Revolution.

  And this is Law, &c.

When William our Deliverer came,Cat in Pan
To heal the Nation’s Grievance,
I turned the Cat in Pan again,
And swore to him Allegiance:
Old Principles I did revoke,
Set conscience at a distance,
Passive Obedience is a Joke,
A Jest is non-resistance.

  And this is Law, &c.

When Royal Ann became our Queen,
Then Church of England’s Glory,
Another face of things was seen,
And I became a Tory:
Occasional Conformists base
I Damn’d, and Moderation,
And thought the Church in danger was,
From such Prevarication.

  And this is Law, &c.

 When George in Pudding time came o’er,
And Moderate Men looked big, Sir,
My Principles I changed once more,
And so became a Whig, Sir.
And thus Preferment I procured,
From our Faith’s great Defender,
And almost every day abjur’d
The Pope, and the Pretender.

  And this is Law, &c.

 The Illustrious House of Hanover,
And Protestant succession,
To these I lustily will swear,
Whilst they can keep possession:
For in my Faith, and Loyalty,
I never once will falter,
But George, my lawful king shall be,
Except the Times should alter.

  And this is Law, &c.