Poems on several occasions: By Stephen Duck.
Duck, Stephen, 1705-1756.
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DEIGN, heav'nly Muses, to assist my Song:
To heav'nly Muses heav'nly Themes belong.
But chiefly Thou, O GOD, my Soul inspire,
And touch my Lips with thy celestial Fire:
If Thou delight'st in flow'ry Carmel's Shade,
Or Jordan's Stream; from thence I crave thy Aid:
Instruct my Tongue, and my low Accents raise,
To sing thy Wonders, and display thy Praise:
Thy Praise let all the Sons of Judah hear,
And to my Song the distant Tribes repair.
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So pray'd the Shunammite; Heav'n heard the Dame;
The distant Tribes around her list'ning came,
To hear th'amazing Tale; while thus her Tongue,
Mov'd by some heav'nly Pow'r, began the Song.
ATTEND, ye Seed of ABRAM, and give Ear,
While I JEHOVAH's glorious Acts declare:
How Life from Death, and Joy from Sadness spring,
If He assist the Muse, the Muse shall sing.
My Lord and I, to whom all-bounteous Heav'n
His Blessings with no sparing Hand had giv'n,
Like faithful Stewards of our wealthy Store,
Still lodg'd the Stranger, and reliev'd the Poor.
And as ELISHA, by divine Command,
Came preaching Virtue to a sinful Land;
He often deign'd to lodge within our Gate,
And oft receiv'd an hospitable Treat:
Page  30 A decent Chamber for him we prepar'd;
And he, the gen'rous Labour to reward,
Honours in Camp, or Court, to us propos'd;
Which I refus'd, and thus my Mind disclos'd:
HEAV'N's King has plac'd us in a fertile Land,
Where he show'rs down his Gifts with copious Hand:
Already we enjoy an affluent Store;
Why should we be solicitous for more?
Give Martial Camps, and Kingly Courts to them,
Who place their only Bliss in fleeting Fame:
There let them live in golden Chains of State;
And be unhappy, only to be great.
But let us in our native Soil remain,
Nor barter Happiness for sordid Gain.
Here may we feed the Indigent in Peace,
Or cloath the Bare with the superfluous Fleece,
And give the weary fainting Pilgrim Ease.
Page  31 This we prefer to Pomp, and formal Show,
Which only serve to varnish o'er our Woe;
Refulgent Ornaments, which dress the Proud,
Objects of Wonder to the gazing Crowd;
Yet seldom give Content, or solid Rest,
To the vain Man, by whom they are possess'd.
ALL Blessings, but a Child, had Heav'n supply'd;
And only that th'Almighty had deny'd:
Which when the holy prescient Sage had heard,
He said, and I before him strait appear'd:
And, as my Feet approach'd his awful Room,
I saw his Face diviner Looks assume;
Not such a Wildness, and fanatic Mien,
With which, some say, the Delphic Priests are seen;
When they, for Mysteries of Fate, explain
The odd Chimera's of a frantic Brain;
Page  32 But with a grave majestic Air he stood,
While more than human in his Aspect glow'd;
Celestial Grace sat on his radiant Look,
And Pow'r diffusive shone, before he spoke.
Then thus: "Hail, gen'rous Soul! Thy pious Cares
" Are not forgot, nor fruitless are thy Pray'rs:
" Propitious Heav'n, thy virtuous Deeds to crown,
" Shall make thy barren Womb conceive a Son."
So spake the Seer; and, to complete my Joy,
As he had spoke, I bore the promis'd Boy.
SOON to my Friends the welcome News was known,
Who crowded in apace to see my Son,
Hailing, with kind Salutes, the recent Child;
And, with their pious Hymns, my Pain beguil'd.
When all had said, I mov'd my joyful Tongue;
And thus to Heav'n address'd my grateful Song:
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" O GOD, what Eloquence can sing thy Praise?
" Or who can fathom thy stupendous Ways?
" All Things obey at thy divine Command;
" Thou mak'st a fruitful Field of barren Land:
" Obdurate Rocks a fertile Glebe shall be,
" And bring forth copious Crops, if bid by Thee;
" Arabian Deserts shall with Plenty smile,
" And curling Vines adorn the sterile Soil.
As thus she spake, her Audience raise their Voice;
And interrupt her Song, as they rejoice:
" O GOD, we gladly hear thy mighty Pow'r,
" With joyful Heart thy gracious Name adore:
" All Nature is subservient to thy Word;
" And shifts her wonted Course, to please her Lord.
" We, for thy Servant's Joy, our Thanks express;
" As grows the Child, so may her Bliss increase:
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Page  34 " And may the Guardian Angels, who preside
" Over the Bless'd, his future Actions guide;
" Make spotless Virtue crown his vital Date,
" And hoary Honour end his Life but late;
" Then safely bear"—The Dame here wav'd her Hand;
The People straight obey her mute Command:
All silent stand, and all attentive look,
Waiting her Words, while thus she, mournful, spoke:
ALL Pleasures are imperfect here below;
Our sweetest Joys are mix'd with bitter Woe:
The Draught of Bliss, when in our Goblet cast,
Is dash'd with Grief; or spilt, before we taste.
Ere twice four Years were measur'd by my Son,
(So soon, alas! the greatest Blessing's gone)
In Harvest-time he to the Reapers goes,
To view the bearded Sheaves, erect in Rows,
Page  35 Like an embattled Army in the Field;
A new delightful Prospect to the Child!
But either there the scorching Sun display'd
His Heat intense, and on his Vitals prey'd;
Or else some sudden apoplectic Pain,
With racking Torture, seiz'd his tender Brain;
His Spirits fail'd, he straight began to faint,
And to his Father vainly made Complaint:
The glowing Rose was quickly seen to fade;
At once his Beauty, and his Life, decay'd.
SOON, at my House, the dismal News I heard;
Soon, at my House, the dying Child appear'd:
T'embrace him I, with fond Affection, run;
And, O! said I, what Pain afflicts my Son?
He try'd to speak; but, fault'ring, gave a Groan;
No perfect Word proceeded from his Tongue;
But on his Lips the broken Accents hung.
Page  36 All Means I us'd, that might allay his Pain;
All Means I us'd, but us'd them all in vain.
Yet, while he liv'd, my Soul would not despair;
Nor, till he ceas'd to breathe, I ceas'd my Pray'r:
Deluding Hope now stopt the falling Tears;
Now his increasing Pains increas'd my Fears:
By Hope and Fear alternate was I toss'd,
Till Hope, in a sad Certainty, was lost:
Short, and more short, he drew his panting Breath,
(Too sure Presage of his approaching Death!)
Till soon the Blood, congealing, ceas'd to flow;
He dropt his Head with a declining Bow:
Thrice, from my Breast, to raise himself he try'd,
And thrice sunk down again; then, groaning, dy'd.
THUS, when with Care we've nurs'd a tender Vine,
And taught the docile Branches where to twine;
Page  37 An Eastern Gale, or some pernicious Frost,
Nips the young Tree, and all our Labour's lost.
WITH Horror chill'd, a-while I speechless stood,
Viewing the Child, and trembling as I view'd:
My Eyes discharg'd their humid Store apace,
And Tears succeeded Tears adown my Face:
Scarcely my Heart the Load of Grief sustain'd;
At length, recov'ring Speech, I thus complain'd:
O fleeting Joys! inconstant as the Wind!
Which only for a Moment please the Mind;
Then fly, and leave a Weight of Woes behind!
But yet in vain I thus lament and mourn;
The Soul, once fled, shall never more return;
And the fair Body now must be convey'd
To Earth's dark Bosom, and eternal Shade—
Page  38 Yet let me not prescribe a Bound to Heav'n;
'Twas by a Miracle the Child was giv'n;
Nor can I think the Wonder is more great,
Should the departed Soul resume her Seat.
What if I to Mount Carmel haste away,
To him who did his mystic Birth display?
His pow'rful Word the barren fruitful made;
His pow'rful Word, perhaps, may raise the Dead.
The famous Tishbite rais'd a Widow's Son;
ELISHA has as wond'rous Actions done.
When he to Jordan's rapid Torrent came;
And, with the Mantle, smote th'impetuous Stream;
Obsequious to the Stroke, the Waves divide;
And raise a liquid Wall on either Side!
At Jericho long had the barren Soil
Deceiv'd the Husbandman, and mock'd his Toil;
Yet, at his Word, it grew a fertile Field,
And pois'nous Springs did wholsome Waters yield.
Page  39 Nor can he only such great Blessings send;
But Curses, if invok'd, his Call attend:
Else how at Bethel brought he Vengeance down,
As a just Scourge, on that opprobrious Town?
Again, when Moab Peace with Israel broke,
And vainly strove to quit the servile Yoke;
Our pow'rful Kings led forth th'embattled Host
Thro' Edom's sultry Wilds, and Air adust;
Where the confed'rate Troops no Water found,
Dry were the Springs, and sterile was the Ground;
The Captains wonted Strength and Courage fail'd,
When Thirst and Foes at once their Host assail'd:
The Kings to him their joint Petitions made,
And fainting Soldiers crav'd his timely Aid;
Nor crav'd in vain: The pow'rful Word he spake,
And flowing Waters form'd a spacious Lake;
The shining Streams advanc'd their humid Train,
Till Edom's Wilds became a liquid Plain:
Page  40 Not in more Plenty did the Waters run
Out of the Rock, when struck by AMRAM's Son.
And who can that amazing Deed forget,
Which he perform'd to pay the Widow's Debt?
Whose Quantity of Oil one Pot contain'd;
Yet num'rous Vessels fill'd, before 'twas drain'd.
Sure he, who such stupendous Acts has done,
If GOD propitious prove, can raise my Son.
So saying, up I caught the Child with Speed;
And laid him on the sacred Prophet's Bed;
Then call'd my Servant to prepare the Steed.
Pensive and sad, my mourning Husband said,
'Tis now in vain to crave ELISHA's Aid:
No God To-day the Prophet does inspire;
Nor can he answer, what thou wouldst inquire.
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RATHER than sink, said I, attempt to raise
My Hopes, nor talk of Ceremonial Days;
His God is present still, and hears him when he prays.
Thus said, urging my Steed with eager Haste,
Swift as a Mountain Roe, the Plains I pass'd;
O'er Hills and Dales my Journey I pursu'd;
Nor slack'd my Pace, till Carmel's Mount I view'd;
On whose delightful Brow, in cool Retreat,
Among the curling Vines, the Prophet sat;
Whose twining Arms a verdant Arbour made;
The verdant Arbour form'd a grateful Shade;
The fanning Zephyrs gently play'd around,
And shook the trembling Leaves, and swept the Ground;
Down humbly at his Feet I prostrate fell,
Submiss; and, weeping, told the mournful Tale.
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STRIVE to compose thy anxious Soul, said he;
Tears can't revoke JEHOVAH's fix'd Decree:
We live and die, and both, as He thinks fit,
Who may command; but Mortals must submit.
This Fate the King, as well as Peasant, finds;
Nor is it evil, but to evil Minds—
Yet if from Heav'n I can my Suit obtain,
Thy lifeless Son shall yet revive again.
THUS said, with Looks divine, his Staff he views,
As if some pow'rful Charm he would infuse:
Then calls his Servant hastily, and said,
On the Child's Face let this be quickly laid.
O Thou, said I, on whom my Hopes depend,
Do not this Work to Servants Care commend:
Page  43 If Thou thyself with me refuse to go,
Here, to the list'ning Vines, I'll vent my Woe;
Still prostrate lie, lamenting for my Son,
Till ev'ry Hill prove vocal to my Moan.
More had I said, but Grief the Words supprest;
Yet Sighs, and silent Tears, explain'd the rest.
At length he from his verdant Seat arose,
And hastily adown the Mountain goes:
To Shunem we, with Speed, our Way pursue;
The City soon appears within our View;
And the obedient Servant, at the Gate,
Returning sad, without Success, we met:
The beauteous Child by Death still vanquish'd lay;
Still Death insulted o'er the beauteous Prey;
Till to the House the sacred Seer was come,
And, with supernal Pow'r, approach'd the Room.
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BY the dead Child, a-while, he pensive stood;
Then from the Chamber put the mourning Crowd:
That done, to GOD he made his ardent Pray'r,
And breath'd upon the Child with vital Air:
And now the Soul resumes her pristine Seat;
And now the Heart again begins to beat;
Life's purple Current o'er the Body spreads,
While Death, repuls'd, ingloriously recedes.
THUS, when a prowling Wolf has stol'n a Lamb,
He sternly guards it from the bleating Dam;
But if the Keeper comes, he quits his Prey,
And low'ring, with Reluctance, makes away.
AND now the Prophet, to my longing Arms,
Resign'd the Child, with more than wonted Charms:
Page  45 The blushing Rose shone fresher in his Face,
And Beauty smil'd with a superior Grace.
SO, when Heav'n's Lamp, that rules the genial Day,
Behind the sable Moon pursues his Way;
Affrighted Mortals, when th'Eclipse is o'er,
Believe him more illustrious than before.
HERE ends the Dame; and the promiscuous Throng,
With Hallelujahs, thus conclude the Song:
" Holy and good art Thou, Lord God of Host,
" And all thy Works are wonderful and just:
" Both Life and Death are in thy pow'rful Hand;
" Both Life and Death obey thy great Command:
" By thy great Pow'r the Heav'ns and Earth are aw'd;
" Then let the Heav'ns and Earth adore their GOD.
" Thou glorious Sun, that measur'st all our Days,
" Rising and setting, still advance his Praise:
Page  46 " Thou Moon, and ye less glitt'ring Orbs, that dance
" Round this terrestrial Globe, his Praise advance:
" Ye Seas, for ever waving to and fro,
" Praise, when ye ebb, and praise him, when ye flow:
" Ye wand'ring Rivers, and each purling Stream,
" As ye pursue your Course, his Praise proclaim:
" Ye Dews, and Mists, and humid Vapours, all,
" Praise, when ye rise; and praise him, when ye fall:
" But chiefly Israel, who dost daily view
" His pow'rful Works, his daily Praise renew."