Joel Barlow Poems >>
Vision Of Columbus - Book 8

And now the Angel, from the trembling sight,
Veil'd the wide world-when sudden shades of night
Move o'er the ethereal vault; the starry train
Paint their dim forms beneath the placid main;
While earth and heaven, around the hero's eye,
Seem arch'd immense, like one surrounding sky.
Still, from the Power superior splendors shone,
The height emblazing like a radiant throne;
To converse sweet the soothing shades invite,
And on the guide the hero fix'd his sight.
Kind messenger of Heaven, he thus began,
Why this progressive labouring search of man?
If man by wisdom form'd hath power to reach
These opening truths that following ages teach,
Step after step, thro' devious mazes, wind,
And fill at last the measure of the mind,
Why did not Heaven, with one unclouded ray,
All human arts and reason's powers display?
That mad opinions, sects and party strife
Might find no place t'imbitter human life.
To whom the Angelic Power; to thee 'tis given,
To hold high converse, and enquire of heaven,
To mark uncircled ages and to trace
The unfolding truths that wait thy kindred race.
Know then, the counsels of th'unchanging Mind,
Thro' nature's range, progressive paths design'd,
Unfinish'd works th'harmonious system grace,
Thro' all duration and around all space;
Thus beauty, wisdom, power, their parts unroll,
Till full perfection joins the accordant whole.
So the first week, beheld the progress rise,
Which form'd the earth and arch'd th'incumbant skies.
Dark and imperfect first, the unbeauteous frame,
From vacant night, to crude existence came;
Light starr'd the heavens and suns were taught their bound,
Winds woke their force, and floods their centre found;
Earth's kindred elements, in joyous strife,
Warm'd the glad glebe to vegetable life,
Till sense and power and action claim'd their place,
And godlike reason crown'd the imperial race.
Progressive thus, from that great source above,
Flows the fair fountain of redeeming love.
Dark harbingers of hope, at first bestow'd,
Taught early faith to feel her path to God:
Down the prophetic, brightening train of years,
Consenting voices rose of different seers,
In shadowy types display'd the accomplish'd plan,
When filial Godhead should assume the man,
When the pure Church should stretch her arms abroad,
Fair as a bride and liberal as her God;
Till warm benevolence and truth refined,
Pervade the world and harmonize mankind.
And thus fair Science, of celestial birth,
With times long circuit, treads the gladsome earth;
By gradual steps to mark the extended road,
That leads mankind to reason and to God.
In elder times, when savage tribes began,
A few strong passions sway'd the wayward man;
Envy, revenge and sateless lust of power
Fired the dark soul and stain'd the fields with gore.
By jarring strife, all milder joys supprest,
Lost their soft influence on the furious breast
No friendly ties the barbarous feuds assuage,
And ceaseless carnage, feeds the brutal rage.
When different tribes, in social bands combined,
Their local views the joyless soul confined,
Eternal bickerings brutal strength supply'd,
Cities are wall'd and warring hosts divide.
When infant arts, in growing nations, rose,
They lured the envy of surrounding foes;
The savage bands united sieze the prey,
Destroy the learning and obstruct the sway.
Thus, at the Muse's call, when Thebes arose,
And science sway'd where nurt'ring Nilus flows,
Rich with the spoils of art, fair structures blazed,
And barb'rous nations envy'd as they gazed;
The tempting pyramid, the growing store,
The charm of conquest and the grasp of power
Lured the dark world, with envious pride esate,
To whelm fair Science in the wrecks of state.
Till Thebes and Memphis nameless ruins lie,
And crush'd the power that raised them to the sky.
O'er bright Chaldea's plains her vot'ries stray,
Described the stars and fix'd their wandering way,
The unclouded skies the shepherd learn'd to read,
His loves to cherish and his flocks to feed;
Till haughty Babel stretch'd an envy'd sway,
And furious millions warr'd the arts away,
Ilissus' banks display'd a happier seat,
Where every Muse and all the graces meet;
Parnassian heights she soars; then, steering far,
Driven by the close pursuit of vengeful war,
She wings her flight, a western region gams,
And moves in majesty o'er Latian plains.
But pride and conquest follow where she leads,
Her eagle flies, the untutor'd savage bleeds,
Rome's haughty Genius, taught by her to soar,
With pride of learning swells the pride of power;
From Brits, from Scythians plucks the laurel crown,
And deems, by right, the unletter'd world his own.
Till, fired by insult, vengeful myriads rose,
And all the north pours forth the swarming foes,
Like sweeping tempests in embattled heaven,
When fire and blackness streak the sails of even,
The dark-red hosts of painted warriors roll,
Rome's thoughtless capitol the tempting goal;
Nor arts they need nor order points thier way,
For arts and order swell the Roman sway;
Spain, Latium, Afric feed the furious flame,
And hapless Science mourns her buried name.
As when the sun moves o'er the flaming zone,
Careering clouds attend his servid throne,
Superior splendors, in his course display'd,
Proclaim the progress of a heavier shade;
Thus where the Power her ancient circuit held,
Her shining course succeeding darkness veil'd.
Fear, interest, envy bound her laurel'd reign,
A coast her walk, the Hellespont her main,
Ere Goya's trembling steel could point the pole,
Or heavens inverted taught thy bark to roll.
At length the scene a nobler pomp assumes,
A milder beam dispels the Gothic glooms;
In sober majesty, and charms of peace,
The goddess moves, and cheers her filial race,
Lifts bolder wings, with happier flight to soar,
No more to rest till heavens illume no more.
At once, consenting nations rise to fame;
Here Charles's genius wakes the Gallic name,
There Alfred aids the universal cause,
And opes the source of liberty and laws;
Here Greece invites her to her ancient home,
There in rough greatness heaves her Gothic dome,
Wide spreads her sway o'er blest Arabian plains,
Where her own Caliph, liberal Rachid reigns,
O'er all the climes extends the rising Power,
From farthest Ganges to the Atlantic shore.
Even horrid war, that erst her course withstood,
And whelm'd, so oft, her peaceful shrines in blood,
Now leads thro' paths unseen her glorious way,
Extends her limits and confirms her sway.
See, from all Europe's bounds, the warriors pour,
In crouding millions to the Asian shore;
Mankind their prey, the unmeaning Cross their pride,
And sacred vengeance their delusive guide.
Zeal points their way, thro' famine, toil and blood,
To aid with arms the imagin'd cause of God;
Till fields of slaughter whelm the broken host,
Their pride appall'd, their countless myriads lost,
The sad remains to peaceful toils return,
Skill'd in the arts, that eastern climes adorn;
O'er Europe's changing shores, the charms display
And wasted realms with happier fruits repay,
The rival barons, whom ambition draws,
Their wealth to lavish in the holy cause,
In peace retiring, yield the regal crown,
And blend their counsels to exalt the throne.
While slaves, no longer purchased with the soil,
Waked into freemen, ply the cheerful toil,
Assert their rights, extend the royal reign,
And mutual terrors break the feudal chair.
Now growing commerce in firm compact joins
Surrounding nations and their force combines;
From rich Ausonia, bold advent'rers rise,
Trace midland currents tow'rd the northern skies,
Enlarge their navies, and with wealthier train,
Roll with the Rhine and widen with the main;
Then tempt a broader flight, extend the sail,
Point the sure compass, call a foreign gale,
For spicy fruits the orient surges brave,
And load with sparkling gems the liberal wave.
See Rome once more the unfolding arts attend,
Her groves rewarble and her walls ascend;
Bologna's learned towers arise to fame,
And thine, fair Paris, nobler honours claim;
In rival splendor, bright Oxonia, smiles,
And spreads her blessings o'er the British isles;
There, like the star that leads the orient day,
Chaucer directs his tuneful sons their way.
See hapless Gallileo's daring soul
Explore the stars and point their orbs to roll;
And, happier Faustus, thy inventive mind
Awakes the unbounded genius of mankind:
O'er wondering climes thy letter'd types display
The works of science and extend her sway.
Bold chivalry romantic aids her cause;
In honour's name the knight his falchion draws;
Lured by the charms that grace the guardless fair,
To suffering virtue bends his generous care,
Thro' toil and pain in quest of glory roves,
Braves death and danger for the maid he loves;
While fired by gallantry, the generous art,
Improves the manners and amends the heart.
When pride and rapine held their vengeful sway,
And praise pursued where conquest led the way,
Fair nature's mildest grace, the female mind,
By rough-brow'd power neglected and confined,
Unheeded sigh'd, mid empire's rude alarms,
Unknown its virtues and enslaved its charms.
So the lone wild-rose opes the sweetest bloom,
To scent the unconscious thorn, and wither round the tomb.
Blest Science then, to rugged toils confined,
Rose but to conquer and enslave mankind,
O'er gentle passions spread a harsh controul,
And waked the glare of grandeur in the soul,
She taught the lance to thirst for human gore,
She taught pale avarice to swell the store,
Taught milder arts the peaceful prize to yield,
Her Muse to thunder thro' the embattled field;
In ruin'd realms to build the shrine of fame,
And call celestial aid to raise a tyrant's name.
In chains and darkness mourn'd the hapless fair,
The price of gold, the insulted prize of war,
While sires, unfeeling, claim'd the sordid dower,
And nymphs were sold the slaves of lust and power.
A happier morn now brightens in the skies,
Superior arts, in peaceful glory, rise;
While softer virtues claim their guardian care,
And crowns of laurel grace the rising fair.
With all the raptures of celestial fire,
Each rival sex the rival arts inspire;
This bids bold commerce load the labouring main,
Or swells the peaceful harvest of the plain,
That leads the hours of calm, domestic toil,
And cheers the houshold with an evening smile,
While states and empires, policies and laws
Lure the firm patriot in the bolder cause,
To stem the tide of power or guide the war,
Like thee to suffer and like thee to dare-
With equal honour, as with softer grace,
The matron virtues guide the rising race.
On this broad base while Science rears her fane,
New toils and triumphs fill her glorious train,
Thro' fairer fields she leads the expanding mind,
Glads every clime and dignifies mankind.
Contending kings their views harmonious blend,
With temper'd force their arts and arms extend;
The opposing hosts beneath their liberal reign,
Croud the vast wave and glitter o'er the plain,
With thundering engines rend the harmless air,
And lose the horrors in the pomp of war.
See the glad sage to useful labours soar,
Tempt other seas and unknown worlds explore,
Bid feeble tribes display their powers abroad,
And regions smile without the waste of blood.
Then, while the daring Muse, from heavenly quires,
With life divine the raptured bard inspires,
With bolder hand he strikes the trembling string,
Virtues and loves and deeds like thine to sing.
No more with vengeful chiefs and furious gods,
Old Ocean crimsons and Olympus nods,
Nor heavens, convulsive, rend the dark profound,
Nor Titans groan beneath the heaving ground;
But milder themes shall wake the peaceful song,
Life in the soul and rapture on the tongue;
To moral beauties bid the world attend,
And distant lands their social ties extend,
Thro' union'd realms the rage of conquest cease,
War sink in night, and nature smile in peace.
Then shall he soar sublimer heights, and rove
O'er brighter walks, and happier climes of love;
Rapt into vision of the blest abode,
From Angel-harps to catch the inspiring God;
Thro' heavens o'ercanopy'd by heavens behold
New suns ascend and other skies unfold,
Seraphs and system'd worlds around him shine,
And lift his mortal strains to harmony divine.
To these superior flights, the chief rejoin'd,
If happier years shall raise the roving mind;
Progressive arts exalt the soul on high,
Peace rule the earth and faith unfold the sky;
Say, how shall truths like these to man be given?
Or science find the limits mark'd by Heaven?
In every age since reasoning pride began,
And heaven's dread Sire reveal'd himself to man,
What different faiths the changing race inspire!
What blind devotions and unhallow'd fire!
What gods of human form and savage power
Cold fear could fashion or mad zeal adore!
These croud their temples, those their names despise,
In each dire cause the exulting martyr dies;
Till, sense renounced, and virtue driven afar,
Rage fires the realms, religion sounds to war;
And the first blessing, Heaven for earth design'd,
Seems the severest curse that waits mankind.
Say then, my guide, if heavenly wisdom gave
To erring man a life beyond the grave-
If one creative Power, one living soul
Produced all beings and preserves the whole;
Who, throned in light, with full perfection blest,
Mid changing worlds, enjoys eternal rest;
While man, still grovling, passionate and blind,
Wars with his neighbour and destroys his kind-
Say, what connecting chain, in endless line,
Links earth to heaven, and mortal with divine?
Applies alike to every age and clime,
And lifts the soul beyond the bounds of time;
And when shall science trace the immortal way,
And hail religion in her native day?
The Power return'd. Thy race shall soon behold
Reason refined, and moral lights unroll'd,
While science rises, freed from pedant pride,
Of truth the standard and of faith the guide.
The passions wild, that sway the changing mind,
The reasoning powers, her watchful guides design'd
Each, unrestrain'd, alike subvert the plan,
Mislead the judgment and betray the man.
Hence raging zeal, or sceptic scorn prevails,
And arms decide the faith, where wisdom sails.
Of human passions, one above the rest,
Fear, love, or envy, rules in every breast;
And, while it varies with the changing clime,
Now stoops to earth, now lifts the soul sublime,
Forms local creeds of superstitious lore,
Creates the God, and bids the world adore.
Lo! at the Lama's feet, as lord of all,
Age, following age, in dumb devotion fall!
The youthful God, mid suppliant kings inshrined,
Dispensing fate and ruling half mankind,
Sits, with contorted limbs, a silent slave,
An early victim of a secret grave.
And, where the mosk's dim arches bend on high,
See the dead prophet mount the mimic sky;
While pilgrim hosts, o'er trackless deserts come,
Croud the deep shrine, and worship round his tomb.
See Memphian altars reek with human gore,
Gods hiss from caverns, or in cages roar,
Nile pours from heaven a tutulary flood,
And vales produce the vegetable Gods.
Two rival Powers the Magian faith inspire,
The sire of darkness and the source of fire:
Evil and good, in these contending rise,
And each, by turns, the sovereign of the skies.
Sun, stars and planets round the earth behold
Their fanes of marble and their shrines of gold;
The sea, the grove, the harvest and the vine
Spring from their Gods, and claim a source divine;
While heroes, kings and sages of their times,
Those Gods on earth, are Gods in happier climes;
Minos in judgment sits, and Jove in power,
And Odin's friends are feasted still with gore.
Yet wisdom's eye with just contempt descries
These rites absurd, and bids the world despise:
Then reasoning powers o'er passion gain the sway,
And shroud in deeper glooms the mental ray.
See the proud sage, with philosophic eye,
Rove thro' all climes, and trace the starry sky,
The systems mark, their various laws pursue,
The God still rising to his raptured view;
But what this God? and what the great design,
Why creatures live or worlds around him shine?
If all perfection dwelt in him alone,
If power, he cries, and wisdom were his own,
No pain, no guilt, no variance could annoy
The realm of peace, the universe of joy.
Yet reason here with homeward ken, descries
From jarring parts what dark disorders rise;
From frost and fire what storms untemper'd rave!
What plagues, what earthquakes croud the gaping grave!
Pain, toil and torture give the infant breath,
His life is misery and his portion death.
From moral ills a like destruction reigns,
War sounds the trump, and slaughter dyes the plains;
While wrath divine proclaims a heavier doom,
And guilt, astonish'd, looks beyond the tomb.
Whence these unnumber'd causeless ills, he cries,
Could wisdom form them? or could love devise?
No love, no wisdom, no consistent plan,
No God in heaven, nor future life to man!
While thus, thro' nature's walks he soars on high,
Acquits all guilt, dispeoples all the sky,
Denies unseen existence, and believes
No form beyond what human sense perceives,
An anxious search impels the curious mind,
Its own bright essence and its powers to find.
From conscious thought his reasoning force he plies,
And deep in search the active soul descries;
Yet sense and substance no relation claim,
That dupes the reason, this exists a name:
All matter, mind, sense, knowledge, pleasure, pain,
Seem the wild phantoms of the vulgar brain;
Reason, collected sits above the scheme,
Proves God and nature but an idle dream,
In one great learned doubt invelopes all,
And whelms it's own existence in the fall,
These wide extremes of passion and of pride
A while on earth thy changing race divide;
That man may find his limits and his laws,
Where zeal inflames, or coward caution awes;
And learn, by these, the happier course to steer,
Nor sink too low, nor mount beyond his sphere.
And soon, that happier course thy race shall gain,
And zealots rave, and sceptics doubt, in vain;
While reason, sense and passion aid the soul,
Science her guide and truth the eternal goal.
First, his own powers the man, with care, descries,
What nature gives, and various art supplies;
Rejects the ties of controversial rules,
The pride of names, the prejudice of schools;
The sure foundation lays, on which to rise,
To look thro' earth and meditate the skies:
And finds some general laws in every breast,
Where ethics, faith and politics may rest.
Of human powers, the Senses always chief,
Produce instruction or inforce belief;
Reason, as next in sway, the balance bears,
Receives their tidings, and with skill compares,
Restrains wild fancy, calms the impassion'd soul,
Illumes the judgment and refines the whole.
Sense, the great source of knowledge, ever just,
High in command, but faithful to its trust,
Aid of this life, and suited to its place,
Given to secure, but not exalt the race;
Descries no God, nor claims superior birth,
And knows no life beyond the bounds of earth.
Reason, tho' taught by sense to range on high,
To trace the stars and measure all the sky;
Tho' fancy, memory, foresight fill her train,
And o'er the beast she lifts the pride of man,
Yet, still to matter, form and space confined,
Or moral truths, or laws that rule mankind,
Could ne'er unaided pierce the mental gloom,
Explore new scenes beyond the closing tomb,
Reach with immortal hope the blest abode,
Or raise one thought of spirit, or of God.
Yet names of God, and powers of heavenly strain
All nations reverence and all tongues contain;
Thro' every age the conscious mind perceives,
Reason pronounces and the sense believes.
What cause mysterious could the thought impart,
Not taught by nature nor acquired hy art?
It speaks of nature's God-no matter when
The name was caught, 'tis never lost by men;
From clime to clime, from age to age it flies,
Sounds thro' the world and echos to the skies.
It proves him, self-reveal'd; and all the plan
On this connexion rests of God and man.
Observe, in man, desires immortal given,
To range o'er earth and climb a happier heaven;
Yet fear and conscious guilt his flight restrain,
His God offended, and his wishes vain:
The wrath divine impending on his breast
Precludes the hope of refuge and of rest;
He seeks the fane, obtests the avenging skies,
Pours the full tear, and yields the sacrifice;
Some foreign aid, some mediating grace,
He seeks to shield him from his Maker's face.
All forms of worship, that engage mankind,
In different climes to various Powers confined,
Require of suppliants some external aid,
Some victim offer'd, or some penance paid,
Some middle name, or reconciling plan,
To soothe the Godhead and redeem the man.
This thought, so wide diffused thro' all mankind,
Rose not from earth, or force of human mind;
From heaven reveal'd, it shows some sov'reign scheme,
To link this nature with the Power supreme.
From guilt and pain to lift the soul on high,
And ope a happier scene, a world beyond the sky.
From clime to clime while rove the sage's eyes,
Books croud on Books, and creeds on creeds arise.
Reason refined with liberal eye surveys
The opposing faiths and various modes of praise;
Yet finds in all, what nature might approve,
A God of justice reconciled by love;
With joy beholds the accordant scheme of heaven,
Dire vengeance sooth'd, a mediation given,
Man freed from pain, the stains of guilt removed,
To angels liken'd and by Heaven approved;
Death bound in chains from his old empire hurl'd,
And peace and pardon promised to the world.
Here ends the toilsome search; in this may rest
The doubts and fears that move the labouring breast;
These few fair truths, to common feeling plain,
The work unfold, and every part sustain.
As, on an arch of stone, some temple stands,
Raised to the clouds, and shines to distant lands;
The firm foundations, open to the sight,
Croud, as it grows, and strengthen with the weight;
Thus, on the characters of God and man,
By Heaven reveal'd in this conformant plan,
The beauteous system rests; and tho' awhile,
Mad zeal o'erload it, and cold scorn revile,
Stands, self-exalted, fill'd with native light,
Firm to the faith, and growing on the sight.
It speaks one simple, universal cause,
Which time and space from one great centre draws;
Whence this unfolded, that began its flight,
Worlds fill'd the skies, and nature roll'd in light;
Whither all beings tend; and where, at last,
Their progress, changes, imperfections, past,
Matter shall turn to light, to pleasure pain,
Strife end in union, angel form in man;
From stage to stage, from life to life, refined,
All centre, whence they sprang, in one eternal Mind.
In this harmonious round, united rise,
Power to create, and wisdom to devise;
While Love supreme, before all action, stood,
The first, the last, the chain of general good;
Through nature's range t'extend the sway divine,
And heaven and earth in mild accordance join,
To one great moral Sense, all sense to draw,
Strong as necessity, and fixt as law.
This branch of Godhead, thro' the system known,
Image and brightness of the Eternal throne;
By whom all wisdom shines, all power extends,
God stands reveal'd and Heaven with nature blends,
Thro' earth and skies proclaim'd the indulgent plan,
And spoke the law to Angel and to man;
In man's clear view display'd the ethereal road,
To love the neighbour and adore the God.
Yet, firm in justice as in mercy great,
His sovereign power directs the scenes of sate,
Wide o'er the world with guardian care extends,
Curbs the proud nations and the weak defends;
That feeble faith and boasting scorn may prove
The frown of vengeance, or the smile of love,
Holds, in his own right hand, the dreadful doom
Of woes unnumber'd here, and death beyond the tomb
Fill'd with his fire, and guided by his hand,
See the long train of white-robed prophets stand!
Thro' opening heaven, their eyes sublimely roll,
Peace on their tongue, and rapture in their soul;
The past records, the deeds of unborn time
Flame in their page, and shine to every clime:
There, nations read their fate, and kings, to come,
Find, in the leaves, their glory or their doom.
There unborn Cyrus, preordain'd to fame,
On Babel's ruins, builds the Persian name;
The chief of Macedon, the realm of Greece,
The Latian grandeur, and the Prince of peace,
In order ranged their song prophetic grace,
And time stands pointing to the destined place.
When now, with rolling years these deeds of fame
Rise into light and faith of nations claim.
Behold, on earth the promised Prince bestow'd!
The Virgin's offspring and the filial God;
The appointed star its rapid course suspends,
The skies unfold, the mystic dove descends,
Glad songs attend him, heaven and earth combine,
To hail the new-born babe, and speak his birth divine.
See nature's laws suspended by his power!
Unclosing graves their slumbering dead restore,
Winds rise to waft him, storms, to lull him, sleep,
He walks the wave, and triumphs o'er the deep;
He dies, he conquers death, ascends on high,
And rising saints attend him thro' the sky.
Thus, all the mystic scheme, design'd by heaven,
With clearest light to stedfast faith is given;
Here the great moral Sense, the God conceal'd,
To human sense in earthly form reveal'd,
Suffers in open day, to teach mankind
His secret sufferings in the opposer's mind;
To teach how pain and death and endless woes,
From wayward strife, and breach of order, rose;
How each discordant wish, the soul that swells,
'Gainst human bliss and heavenly power rebels,
Weakens the chain of love, subverts the plan,
While nature drives the vengeance back on man.
Here all religion rests, and soon thy race
Her purest lights, by wisdom's eye shall trace.
Here the last flights of science shall ascend,
To look thro' heaven, and sense with reason blend;
View the great source of love, that flows abroad,
Spreads to all creatures, centres still in God,
Lives thro' the whole, from nature's compact springs,
Orders, reverses, fills the sum of things;
In law constrains, in gospel reconciles,
In judgment frowns, in gentle mercy smiles,
Commands all sense to feel, all life to prove
The attracting force of universal love.