Stacks Image 905


PART SIXTH.
ON UNION WITH GOD IN HIS PROVIDENCES.






THE HERMIT TAUGHT BY AN ANGEL.


In dwelling on the subject of an overruling Providence, I have been repeatedly reminded of a poem, which I read with profit and great interest in early life. It is the Hermit of Dr. Parnell; — a poem beautifully written, and full of moral and religious instruction. It illustrates in a novel and interesting manner some of the views which have been presented on the subject of Providence; and although it is undoubtedly familiar to some who will read these pages, I hope it will not be thought inappropriate to give it a place here. It will well repay a careful and devout perusal.

FAR in a wild, unknown to public view,
From youth to age a reverend hermit grew;
The moss his bed, the cave his humble cell,
His food the fruits, his drink the crystal well:
Remote from men, with God he passed the days,
Prayer all his business, all his pleasure praise.

A life so sacred, such serene repose,
Seemed Heaven itself, till one suggestion rose;
That vice should triumph, virtue vice obey,
This sprung some doubt of Providence's sway:
His hopes no more a certain prospect boast,
And all the tenor of his soul is lost.
So when a smooth expanse receives imprest
Calm Nature's image on its watery breast,
Down bend the banks, the trees depending grow,
And skies beneath with answering colors glow:
But if a stone the gentle sea divide,
Swift ruffling circles curl on every side,
And glimmering fragments of a broken sun,
Banks, trees, and skies, in thick disorder run.

To clear this doubt, to know the world by sight,
To find if books, or swains, report it right,
(For yet by swains alone the world he knew,
Whose feet came wandering o' er the nightly dew,)
He quits his cell; the pilgrim-staff he bore,
And fixed the scallop in his hat before;
Then with the sun a rising journey went,
Sedate to think, and watching each event.

The morn was wasted in the pathless grass,
And long and lonesome was the wild to pass;
But, when the southern sun had warmed the day,
A youth came posting o'er a crossing way;
His raiment decent, his complexion fair,
And soft in graceful ringlets waved his hair.
Then near approaching, "Father, hail! " he cried,
And "Hail, my son!" the reverend sire replied;
Words followed words, from question answer flowed,
And talk of various kind deceived the road;
Till each with other pleased, and loth to part,
While in their age they differ, join in heart.
Thus stands an aged elm in ivy bound,
Thus youthful ivy clasps an elm around.

Now sunk the sun; the closing hour of day
Came onward, mantled o' er with sober gray;
Nature in silence bid the world repose;
When near the road a stately palace rose;
There by the moon through ranks of trees they pass,
Whose verdure crowned their sloping sides of grass.
It chanced the noble master of the dome
Still made his house the wandering stranger's home:
Yet still the kindness, from a thirst of praise,
Proved the vain flourish of expensive ease.
The pair arrive: the liv’ried servants wait;
Their lord receives them at the pompous gate.
The table groans with costly piles of food,
And all is more than hospitably good.
Then led to rest, the day's long toil they drown,
Deep sunk in sleep, and silk, and heaps of down.

At length 'tis morn, and at the dawn of day,
Along the wide canals the zephyrs play;
Fresh o'er the gay parterres the breezes creep,
And shake the neighboring wood to banish sleep.
Up rise the guests, obedient to the call:
An early banquet decked the splendid hall;
Rich, luscious wine a golden goblet graced,
Which the kind master forced the guests to taste.
Then, pleased and thankful, from the porch they go;
And, but the landlord, none had cause of woe:
His cup was vanished; for in secret guise
The younger guest purloined the glittering prize.

As one who spies a serpent in his way,
Glistening and basking in the summer ray,
Disordered stops to shun the danger near,
Then walks with faintness on, and looks with fear;
So seemed the sire, when, far upon the road,
The shining spoil his wily partner showed.
He stopped with silence, walked with trembling heart,
And much he wished, but durst not ask to part:
Murmuring he lifts his eyes, and thinks it hard
That generous actions meet a base reward.

While thus they pass, the sun his glory shrouds,
The changing skies hang out their sable clouds;
A sound in air presaged approaching rain,
And beasts to covert scud across the plain.
Warned by the signs, the wandering pair retreat,
To seek for shelter at a neighboring seat.
'Twas built with turrets on a rising ground,
And strong and large, and unimproved around;
Its owner's temper, timorous and severe,
Unkind and griping, caused a desert there.

As near the miser's heavy doors they drew,
Fierce rising gusts with sudden fury blew;
The nimble lightning mixed with showers began,
And o' er their heads loud rolling thunders ran.
Here long they knock, but knock or call in vain,
Driven by the wind, and battered by the rain.
At length some pity warmed the master's breast,
('Twas then his threshold first received a guest; )
Slow creaking turns the door with jealous care,
And half he welcomes in the shivering pair;
One frugal fagot lights the naked walls,
And Nature's fervor through their limbs recalls:
Bread of the coarsest sort, with meagre wine,
(Each hardly granted,) served them both to dine;
And when the tempest erst appeared to cease,
A ready warning bid them part in peace.

With still remark the pondering hermit viewed,
In one so rich, a life so poor and rude;
"And why should such," within himself he cried,
"Lock the lost wealth a thousand want beside!”
But what new marks of wonder soon take place,
In every settling feature of his face,
When from his vest the young companion bore
That cup, the generous landlord owned before,
And paid profusely, with the precious bowl,
The stinted kindness of this churlish soul.

But now the clouds in airy tumult fly;
The sun emerging opes an azure sky;
A fresher green the smelling leaves display,
And, glittering as they tremble, cheer the day:
The weather courts them from the poor retreat,
And the glad master bolts the wary gate.

While hence they walk, the pilgrim's bosom wrought
With all the travail of uncertain thought;
His partner's acts without their cause appear,
’Twas there a vice, and seemed a madness here:
Detesting that, and pitying this, he goes,
Lost and confounded with the various shows.

Now night's dim shades again involve the sky,
Again the wanderers want a place to lie;
Again they search, and find a lodging nigh.
The soil improved around, the mansion neat,
And neither poorly low, nor idly great:
It seemed to speak its master's turn of mind,
Content, and not to praise, but virtue kind.

Hither the walkers turn with weary feet,
Then bless the mansion, and the master greet:
Their greeting fair, bestowed with modest guise,
The courteous master hears, and thus replies:
"Without a vain, without a grudging heart,
To him who gives us all, I yield a part;
From him you come, for him accept it here,
A frank and sober, more than costly cheer."
He spoke, and bid the welcome table spread,
Then talk of virtue till the time of bed,
When the grave household round his hall repair,
Warned by a bell, and close the hours with prayer.

At length the world, renewed by calm repose,
Was strong for toil, the dappled morn arose;
Before the pilgrims part, the younger crept
Near the closed cradle where an infant slept,
And writhed his neck! the landlord's little pride,
O strange return! grew black, and gasped, and died!
Horror of honors! what! his only son!
How looked our hermit when the fact was done!
Not hell, though hell's black jaws in sunder part,
And breathe blue fire, could more assault his heart.

Confused, and struck with silence at the deed,
He flies, but trembling, fails to fly with speed.
His steps the youth pursues; the country lay
Perplexed with roads, a servant showed the way:
A river crossed the path; the passage o' er
Was nice to find; the servant trod before;
Long arms of oaks an open bridge supplied,
And deep the waves beneath the bending glide.
The youth, who seemed to watch a time to sin,
Approached the careless guide, and thrust him in;
Plunging he falls, and rising lifts his head,
Then flashing turns, and sinks among the dead.

Wild, sparkling rage inflames the father's eyes,
He bursts the bands of fear, and madly cries,
"Detested wretch! "— but scarce his speech began,
When the strange partner seemed no longer man:
His youthful face grew more serenely sweet;
His robe turned white, and flowed upon his feet;
Fair rounds of radiant points invest his hair;
Celestial odors breathed through purpled air,
And wings, whose colors glittered on the day,
Wide at his back their gradual plumes display.
The form ethereal burst upon his sight,
And moves in all the majesty of light.

Though loud at first the pilgrim's passion grew,
Sudden he gazed, and wist not what to do;
Surprise in secret chains his words suspends,
And in a calm his settling temper ends.
But silence here the beauteous angel broke,
(The voice of music ravished as he spoke.)

“Thy prayer, thy praise, thy life to vice unknown,
In sweet memorial rise before the throne:
These charms, success in our bright region find,
And force an angel down, to calm thy mind;
For this commissioned, I forsook the sky,
Nay, cease to kneel, — thy fellow-servant I. "

Then know the truth of government divine,
And let these scruples be no longer thine.

"The Maker justly claims that world he made,
In this the right of providence is laid;
Its sacred majesty through all depends
On using second means to work his ends:
'Tis thus, withdrawn in state from human eye,
The power exerts his attributes on high;
Your actions uses, nor controls your will,
And bids the doubting sons of men be still.

"What strange events can strike with more surprise,
Than those which lately struck thy wondering eyes?
Yet, taught by these, confess the Almighty just,
And where you can't unriddle, learn to trust!

"The great, vain man, who fared on costly food,
Whose life was too luxurious to be good;
Who made his ivory stands with goblets shine,
And forced his guests to morning draughts of wine,
Has, with the cup, the graceless custom lost,
And still he welcomes, but with less of cost.

"The mean, suspicious wretch, whose bolted door
Ne'er moved in duty to the wandering poor;
With him I left thy cup, to teach his mind
That Heaven can bless, if mortals will be kind.
Conscious of wanting worth, he views the bowl,
And feels compassion touch his grateful soul.
Thus artists melt the sullen ore of lead,
With heaping coals of fire upon his head;
In the kind warmth the metal learns to glow,
And loose from dross, the silver runs below.

"Long had our pious friend in virtue trod,
But now the child half-weaned his heart from God;
(Child of his age) for him he lived in pain,
And measured back his steps to earth again.
To what excesses had his dotage run?
But God, to save the father, took the son.
To all but thee, in fits he seemed to go,
(And 'twas my ministry to deal the blow,)
The poor, fond parent, humbled in the dust,
Now owns in tears the punishment was just.

But now had all his fortune felt a rack,
Had that false servant sped in safety back;
This night his treasured heaps he meant to steal,
And what a fund of charity would fail!
Thus Heaven instructs thy mind: this trial o'er,
Depart in peace, resign, and sin no more."

On sounding pinions here the youth withdrew,
The sage stood wondering as the seraph flew.
Thus looked Elisha when, to mount on high,
His master took the chariot of the sky;
The fiery pomp ascending left to view;
The prophet gazed, and wished to follow too.

The bending hermit here a prayer begun,
"Lord! as in heaven, on earth thy will be done.”
Then gladly turning sought his ancient place,
And passed a life of piety and peace.