Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A LETTER TO A LADY; HER DESIRING AUTHOR TO POLISH POEMS OF BISHOP KEN, by JOHN BYROM



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A LETTER TO A LADY; HER DESIRING AUTHOR TO POLISH POEMS OF BISHOP KEN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Your book again with thanks, - of worthy men
Last Line: "jesus! Th' eternal song of all the blest!"
Subject(s): Clergy; Ken, Thomas (1637-1711); Poetry & Poets; Rhyme; Priests; Rabbis; Ministers; Bishops


YOUR book again with thanks.—Of worthy men
One of the worthiest was Bishop Ken.
Without offence to authors,—far above
Ten men of learning is one man of love:
How many Bishops and Divines renown'd,
Time after time, the Catechism expound!
And which, of all, so help it to impart
Th' essential doctrine, purity of heart?

His choice of poetry, when civil rage
O'erturn'd a throne, the last revolving age,
When Churches felt, as well as States, the shock
That drove the pious Pastor from his flock;
His choice of subjects, not of party kind,
But simply fit for ev'ry christian mind,—
Are proofs of gen'rous virtue and sublime,
And high encomiums on the force of rhyme;

His rhymes.—If those of Dryden or of Pope,
Excel on subjects of a diff'rent scope,
It is because they only chose the mold
Where or shone brightest, whether lead or gold:
He, less concern'd for superficial glare,
Made weight and worth his more especial care;
They took the tinsel of the fabled Nine,
He, the substantial metal from the mine.

His phrase (sometimes same sentence may be past
On theirs) might have more artificial cast;
But, in the main, his pieces, as they stand,
Could scarce be alter'd by a second hand.
Patchwork improvements, in the modern stile,
Bestow'd upon some venerable pile,
Do but deface it: Poems to revise
That Ken has writ, another Ken must rise.

The dedication,—where the case is shewn
Of a Greek saint of old, so like his own;—
The preface, introduction, and the view
To Jesus—point which all his works pursue—
Arise to mind, and tempt to try the case
Of representing the imperfect trace;
To make, (as memory can best recal
Its leading thoughts,) one preface out of all.

Imagine then the good old man reclin'd
On couch or chair, and musing in his mind
How to adjust the prefatory hint,
To all the lines that he gave leave to print;
Thinking on Gregory, whose former fate
Bore such resemblance to his own of late;
Thinking on Jesus, and oppress'd with pain,
Inditing thus th' apologizing strain:

"In all my pains I court the sacred muse,
"Verse is the only laudanum I use;
"Verse, and the name of Jesus in the line,
"The Christian's universal anodyne;
"To hymn his saving love to all mankind
"Softens my grief, and recreates my mind;
"Thy glory, Jesu, while my songs intend,
"May thy good Spirit bless them to that end!

"Like destin'd Jonah, cast into the deep,
"To save the vessel from the stormy sweep,
"And, wafted providentially to shore,
"I risk the boist'rous element no more;
"But whilst alone I tread the distant strand,
"Safe o'er the waves that all may come to land
"Whom once I call'd companions on the sea,
"I pray to Jesus whom the winds obey.

"Thus Nazianzen Gregory of old,
"Whom faction drove from his beloved fold,
"Could will a Jonah's lot, to be cast o'er,
"If his dismission might the calm restore.
"However short of this illustrious Saint,
"Yet I can find, from virtues that I want,
"A cause to pray that reigning feuds may cease,
"To hope in Jesus for a calming peace.

"The Saint, expell'd by a tumultuous rage,
"Cheer'd with diviner songs his drooping age;
"With will resign'd, in his retir'd abode,
"On christian themes compos'd the various ode:
"Thus, to my closet prompted to retire,
"Nothing on this side Heav'n do I require;
"Employ'd in hymns, tho' with unequal skill,
"To consecrate to Jesus all my will.

"With pain and sickness when the Saint was griev'd,
"His anxious mind a sacred song reliev'd;
"Oft, when oppress'd, the subject which he sang,
"Mix'd with devotion, sweeten'd ev'ry pang;
"So, being banish'd by unruly heat,
"With hymns I seek to solace my retreat;
"Be my confinement ever so extreme,
"The love of Jesus is a special theme.

"When the apostate Julian decreed
"That Pagan poets Christians should not read,
"The Saint, who knew the subtle edict's cause,
"Made verse to triumph o'er the tyrant's laws:
"May I, while poetry is unrestrain'd,
"Tho' more in these, than pagan times profan'd,
"Shew, that what real charms it has belong
"To Jesus, Founder of the Christian song.

"When Gregory was forc'd to leave his flock,
"He chose in verse the Gospel to unlock;
"That flowing numbers might th' attention gain,
"So long forbidden to his preaching strain:
"My care for them whom I was forc'd to leave,
"Taught and untaught what doctrine to receive,
"Would hint in rhymes, to all whom they shall reach,
"What Jesus only, in themselves, can teach.

"For sake of peace did Gregory withdraw,
"And wish'd more leaders to observe that law;
"By which resigners of dominion, here,
"Purchase much greater in the heav'nly sphere:
"In hopes of peace, more joyfully I shook
"Preferment off, than e'er I undertook;
"For all the flock, and banish'd head beside,
"My comfort is that Jesus can provide.

"When worldly politics and lust of rule
"Prevail'd against him in a christian school,
"The Saint retir'd, and labour'd to disperse
"Ungrateful discord by harmonious verse:
"Sharing his fate, I share in his desire
"Of discord drown'd, and of a hymning lyre,
"To tune the hopes of peace; and in the name
"Of Jesus, rightly hop'd for, to proclaim.

"This Prince of peace, this Origin Divine,
"Vouchsafe to aid the well intended line,
"To teach the reader's heart; and, by his grace,
"Make these poor labours useful in their place!
"O might they raise, in any single soul,
"One spark of love, one glimpse of the Great Whole,
"That will possess it, when by thee possess'd,
"Jesus! th' eternal song of all the blest!"





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