Hannah More Poems >>
Reflections Of King Hezekiah, In His Sickness

"Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die." - Isaiah xxxviii.

What! and no more? — Is this, my soul, said I,
My whole of being? — Must I surely die?
Be robbed at once of health, of strength, of time,
Of youth's fair promise, and of pleasure's prime?
Shall I no more behold the face of morn,
The cheerful day-light, and the spring's return?
Must I the festive bower, the banquet leave,
For the dull chambers of the darksome grave?

Have I consider'd what it is to die?
In native dust with kindred worms to lie;
To sleep in cheerless cold neglect! to rot!
My body loath'd, my very name forgot!
Not one of all those parasites, who bend
The supple knee, their monarch to attend!
What, not one friend! No, not a hireling slave
Shall hail great Hezekiah in the grave.
Where's he, who falsely claim'd the name of great?
Whose eye was terror, and whose frown was fate?
Who aw'd a hundred nations from the throne?
See, where he lies, dumb, friendless, and alone!
Which grain of dust proclaims the noble birth?
Which is the royal particle of earth?
Where are the marks, the princely ensigns where?
Which is the slave, and which great David's heir?
Alas! the beggar's ashes are not known
From his who lately sat on Israel's throne!

How stands my great account? My soul, survey
The debt eternal justice bids thee pray!
Should I frail Memory's records strive to blot,
Will Heaven's tremendous reckoning be forgot?
Can I, alas, the awful volume tear?
Or rase one page of the dread register?
"Prepare thy house, thy heart in order set;
Prepare the Judge of Heaven and Earth to meet."
So spake the warning Prophet. — Awful words:
Which fearfully my troubled soul records.
Am I Prepar'd? And can I meet my doom?
Nor shudder at the dreaded wrath to come?
Is all in order set, my house, my heart?
Does no besetting sin still claim a part?
No cherish'd error, loth to quit its place,
Obstruct within my soul the work of grace?
Did I each day for this great day prepare,
By righteous deeds, by sin-subduing pray'r?
Did I each night, each day's offence repent,
And each unholy thought and word lament?
Still have these ready hands th' afflicted fed,
And minister'd to Want her daily bread?
The cause I knew not did I well explore?
Friend, advocate, and parent of the poor?
Did I, to gratify some sudden gust
Of thoughtless appetite, some impious lust
Of pleasure or of pow'r, such sums employ
As would have flush'd pale penury with joy?
Did I in groves forbidden altars raise,
Or molten gods adore, or idols praise?
Did my firm faith to Heaven still point the way?
Did Charity to man my actions sway?
Did meek-ey'd Patience all my steps attend?
Did generous Candour mark me for her friend?
Did I unjustly seek to build my name
On the pil'd ruins of another's fame?
Did I abhor, as hell, th' insidious lie,
The low deceit, th' unmanly calumny?
Did my fix'd soul the impious wit detest?
Did my firm virtue scorn the unhallow'd jest,
The sneer profane, and the poor ridicule
Of shallow Infidelity's dull school?
Did I still live as born one day to die,
And view th' eternal world with constant eye?

If so I liv'd, if so I kept thy word,
In mercy view, in mercy hear me, Lord!
For oh! how strict soe'er I kept thy law,
From mercy only all my hopes I draw:
My holiest deeds indulgence will require;
The best but to forgiveness will aspire;
If thou my purest services regard,
'Twill be with pardon only, not reward.
How imperfection's stamp'd on all below!
How sin intrudes in all we say or do!
How late in all the insolence of health,
I charm'd th' Assyrian by my boast of wealth
How fondly, with elab'rate pomp, display'd
My glittering treasures! with what triumph laid
My gold and gems before his dazzled eyes,
And found a rich reward in his surprise!
Oh! mean of soul, can wealth elate the heart,
Which of the man himself is not a part!
Oh, poverty of pride! Oh, foul disgrace!
Disgusted Reason, blushing, hides her face.
Mortal, and proud! strange contradicting terms!
Pride for death's victim, for the prey of worms:
Of all the wonders which the eventful life
Of man presents; of all the mental strife
Of warring passions; all the raging fires
Of furious appetites and mad desires;
Not one so strange appears as this alone,
That man is proud of what is not his own.

How short is human life! the very breath
Which frames my words, accelerates my death.
Of this short life how large a portion's fled!
To what is gone I am already dead;
As dead to all my years and minutes past,
As I, to what remains, shall be at last;
Can I past miseries so far forget,
To view my vanish'd years with fond regret?
Can I again my worn-out fancy cheat?
Indulge fresh hope? solicit new deceit?
Of all the vanities weak man admires,
Which greatness gives, youth hopes, or pride desires,
Of these, my soul, which hast thou not enjoy'd?
With each, with all, thy stated pow'rs are cloy'd.
What can I then expect from length of days?
More wealth, more wisdom, pleasure, health, or praise?
More pleasure! hope not that, deluded king;
For when did age increase of pleasure bring?
Is health, of years prolong'd the common breast?
And dear-earn'd Fame, is not cheaply lost?
More Wisdom! that indeed were happiness;
That were a wish a king might well confess;
But when did Wisdom covet length of days?
Or seek its bliss in pleasure, wealth, or praise?
No: — Wisdom views with an indifferent eye
All finite joys, all blessings born to die.
The soul on earth is an immortal guest,
Compell'd to starve at an unreal feast:
A spark, which upward tends by Nature's force;
A stream diverted from its parent source;
A drop dissever'd from the boundless sea;
A moment, parted from eternity;
A pilgrim panting for the rest to come;
An exile, anxious for his native home.

Why should I ask my forfeit life to save?
Is Heav'n unjust which dooms me to the grave?
Was I with hope of endless days deceived?
Or of lov'd life am I alone bereav'd?
Let all the great, the rich, the learn'd, the wise,
Let all the shades of Judah's monarchs rise,
And say, if genius, learning, empire, wealth,
Youth, beauty, virtue, strength, renown, or health,
Has once revers'd the immutable decree
On Adam pass'd, of man's mortality?
What! have these eyes ne'er seen the felon worm
The damask cheek devour, the finish'd form?
On the pale rose of blasted beauty feed,
And riot on the lip so lately red?
Where are our fathers? Where th' illustrious line
Of holy prophets, and of seers divine?
Live they for ever? Do they shun the grave?
Or when did wisdom its professor save?
When did the brave escape? When did the breasts
Of eloquence charm the dull ear of death?
When did the cunning argument avail,
The polish'd period, or the varnish'd tale;
The eye of lightning, or the soul of fire,
Which thronging thousands crowded to admire?
Even while we praise the verse the poet dies;
And silent as his lyre great David lies.
Thou, blest Isaiah! who, at God's command
Now speak'st repentance to a guilty land,
Must die! as wise and good thou had'st not been,
As Nebat's son, who taught the land to sin.

And shall I then be spar'd? Oh monstrous pride!
Shall I escape, when Solomon has died?
If all the worth of all the saints were vain —
Peace, peace, my troubled soul, nor dare complain!
Lord, I submit. Complete thy gracious will;
For if thou slay me, I will trust Thee still.
Oh! be my will so swallow'd up in thine!
That I may do thy will in doing mine.