Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ENTHUSIASM, by JOHN BYROM

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ENTHUSIASM, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Fly from enthusiasm - it is the pest
Last Line: Tis a true christian wish, to live and die.
Subject(s): Creative Ability; Desire; Wishes; Inspiration; Creativity

"FLY from Enthusiasm—It is the pest,
"Bane, poison, frensy, fury, and the rest."
This is the cry that oft, when truth appears,
Forbids attention to our list'ning ears;
Checks our first entrance on the main concern,
When, stunn'd with clamour, we forbear to learn;
Mechanically catch the common cant,
And fly from—what we almost know we want—
A deeper sense of something, that should set
The heart at rest, that never has done yet;
Some simpler secret, that, yet unreveal'd,
Amidst contending systems lies conceal'd.

A book, perhaps, beyond the vulgar page,
Removes at once the lumber of an age;
Truth is presented; strikes upon our eyes;
We feel conviction, and we fear surprise;
We gaze, admire, dispute, and then the bawl—
"Fly from enthusiasm"—That answers all.
Now, if my friend has patience to enquire,
Let us a while from noisy scenes retire;
Let us examine sense, as well as sound,
And search the truth, the nature, and the ground.

'Tis will, imagination, and desire
Of thinking life, that constitute the fire,
The force, by which the strong volitions drive,
And form the scenes to which we are alive.
What? tho', unsprouted into outward shape,
The points of thought our grosser sight escape?
Nor bulky forms in prominent array
Their secret cogitative cause betray?
Once fix the will, and nature must begin
T' unfold its active rudiments within;
Mind governs matter, and it must obey;
To all its op'ning forms desire is key;
Nor mind nor matter's properties are lost,—
As that shall mold this must appear emboss'd.
Imagination, trifling as it seems,
Big with effects, its own creation, teems.
We think our wishes and desires a play,
And sport important faculties away.
Edg'd are the tools with which we trifle thus;
They carve out deep realities for us.
Intention, roving into nature's field,
Dwells in that system which it means to build,
Itself the centre of its wish'd-for plan;
For where the heart of man is, there is man.

Ev'ry created, understanding mind
Moves as its own self-bias is inclin'd:
From God's free Spirit breathed forth to be,
It must of all necessity be free;
Must have the pow'r to kindle and inflame
The subject-matter of its mental aim;
Whether it bend the voluntary view
Realities or fictions to pursue.
Whether it raise its nature, or degrade,
To truth substantial, or to phantom shade,
Falshood or truth accordingly obtains;
That only, which it wills to gain, it gains—
Good, if the good be vigorously sought,
And ill, if that be first resolv'd in thought.
All is one good, that nothing can remove,
While held in union, harmony, and love.
But when a selfish, separating pride
Will break all bounds, and good from good divide,
'Tis then extinguish'd, like a distant spark,
And pride self-doom'd into its joyless dark.
The miscreant desire turns good to ill,
In its own origin, the evil will;—
A fact, that fills all Histories of old,
That glares in proof, while conscious we behold
The bliss, bespoken by our Maker's voice,
Fix'd or perverted, by a man's own choice.

Now when the mind determines thus its force,
The man becomes enthusiast, of course.
"What is Enthusiasm?"—What can it be,
But thought enkindled to a high degree?
That may, whatever be its ruling turn,
Right, or not right, with equal ardour burn?
It must be therefore various in its kind,
As objects vary, that engage the mind.
When to Religion we confine the word,
What use of language can be more absurd?
'Tis just as true that many words beside,
As love, or zeal, are only thus apply'd.
To ev'ry kind of life they all belong;
Men may be eager tho' their views be wrong:
And hence the reason, why the greatest foes
To true religious earnestness are those
Who fire their wits upon a different theme,
Deep in some false enthusiastic scheme.

One man, politely seiz'd with classic rage,
Dotes on old Rome, and its Augustan age;
On those great souls who, then or then-abouts,
Made in their state such riots and such routs.
He fancies all magnificent and grand,
Under this mistress of the world's command,
Scarce can his breast the sad reverse abide,—
The dame despoil'd of all her glorious pride;
Time, an old Goth, advancing to consume
Immortal Gods and once-eternal Rome;
When the plain gospel spread its artless ray,
And rude unsculptur'd fishermen had sway;
Who spar'd no idol, tho' divinely carv'd,
Tho' art, and muse, and shrine-engraver starv'd;
Who sav'd poor wretches, and destroy'd—alas!—
The vital marble, and the breathing brass.
Where does to him all sense and reason shine?
Behold in Tully's rhetoric divine!
"Tully!" Enough—high o'er the Alps he's gone,
To tread the ground that Tully trod upon;
Haply, to find his statue or his bust,
Or medal green'd with Ciceronian rust;
Perchance, the rostrum—yea, the very wood
Whereon this elevated genius stood,
When forth on Catiline, as erst he spoke,
The thunder of Quousque tandem broke.

Well may this grand Enthusiast deride
The dulness of a pilgrim's humbler pride,
Who paces to behold that part of earth,
Which to the Saviour of the world gave birth;
To see the sepulchre from whence He rose;
Or view the rocks that rended at His woes;
Whom Pagan relics have no force to charm,
Yet ev'n a modern crucifix can warm;
The sacred signal, who, intent upon,
Thinks on the Sacrifice that hung thereon.

Another's heated brain is painted o'er
With ancient Hieroglyphic marks of yore:
He old Egyptian Mummies can explain,
And raise them up almost to life again;
Can into deep antique recesses pry,
And tell, of all, the wherefore and the why;
How this Philosopher and that has thought,
Believ'd one thing, and quite another taught;
Can rules of Grecian sages long forgot,
Clear up, as if they liv'd upon the spot.

What bounds to Nostrum?—Moses and the Jews,
Observ'd this learned legislator's views,
While Israel's leader purposely conceal'd
Truths, which his whole economy reveal'd;
No Heav'n disclos'd, but Canaan's fertile stage,
And no for-ever, but a good old age;
Whilst the well untaught people, kept in awe
By meanless types and unexplained law,
Pray'd to their local God to grant awhile
The future state, of corn, and wine, and oil;
Till, by a late captivity set free,
Their destin'd error they began to see;
Dropp'd the Mosaic scheme, to teach their youth
Dramatic Job, and Baby lonish truth.

To soar aloft on obeliskal clouds;
To dig down deep into the dark—for shrouds;
To vex old matters, chronicled in Greek,
While those of his own parish are to seek;—
What can come forth from such an antic taste,
But a Clarissimus Enthusiast?
Fraught with discoveries so quaint, so new,
So deep, so smart, so Ipse dixit true,
See arts and empires, ages, books, and men,
Rising, and falling, as he points the pen!
See frauds and forgeries,—if aught surpass,
Of nobler stretch, the limits of his class,
Not found within that summary of laws,—
Conjecture, tinsel'd with its own applause.

Where Erudition so unblest prevails,
Saints and their lives are legendary tales;
Christians, a brain-sick, visionary crew,
That read the Bible with a Bible-view,
And thro' the letter humbly hope to trace
The living Word, the Spirit, and the Grace.

It matters not, whatever be the state
That full-bent will and strong desires create;
Where'er they fall, where'er they love to dwell,
They kindle there their Heaven, or their Hell;
The chosen Scene surrounds them as their own,
All else is dead, insipid, or unknown.
However poor and empty be the sphere,
'Tis All, if inclination centre there:
Its own Enthusiasts each system knows,
Down to lac'd fops, and powder-sprinkled beaux.
Great wils, affecting, what they call, to think,
That, deep-immers'd in speculation, sink,
Are great Enthusiasts, howe'er refin'd,
Whose brain-bred notions so inflame the Mind,
That, during the continuance of its heat,
The summum bonum is—its own conceit.
Critics, with all their learning recondite,
Poets, that, sev'rally be-mused, write;
The Virtuosos, whether great or small;
The Connoisseurs, that know the worth of all;
Philosophers, that dictate Sentiments,
And politicians, wiser than events;—
Such, and such like, come under the same law,
Altho' their heat be from a flame of straw;
Altho' in one absurdity they chime,
To make religious entheasm a crime.

Endless to say how many of their trade
Ambition, pride, and self-conceit have made.
If one, the chief of such a num'rous name,
Let the great scholar justify his claim.
Self-love, in short, wherever it is found,
Tends to its own enthusiastic ground;
With the same force that goodness mounts above,
Sinks, by its own enormous weight, self love.
By this the wav'ring libertine is press'd,
And the rank Atheist totally possess'd.
Atheists are dark Enthusiasts indeed,
Whose fire enkindles like the smoking weed:
Lightless and dull the clouded fancy burns,
Wild hopes and fears still flashing out by turns.
Averse to Heav'n amid the horrid gleam,
They quest Annihilation's monst'rous theme,
On gloomy depths of Nothingness to pore,
Till All be none, and Being be no more.

The sprightlier Infidel, as yet more gay,
Fires off the next ideas in his way,
The dry fag ends of ev'ry obvious doubt;
And puffs and blows for fear they should go out.
Boldly resolv'd, against conviction steel'd,
Nor inward truth, nor outward fact to yield;
Urg'd with a thousand proofs, he stands unmov'd
Fast by himself, and scorns to be out-prov'd;
To his own reason loudly he appeals,—
No saint more zealous for what God reveals.

Think not that you are no enthusiast, then:
All Men are such, as sure as they are men.
The thing itself is not at all to blame:
'Tis, in each state of human life, the same;
The fiery bent, the driving of the will,
That gives the prevalence to good, or ill.
You need not go to cloisters, or to cells,
Monks, or field-preachers, to see where it dwells:
It dwells alike in balls and masquerades;
Courts, camps, and changes, it alike pervades.
There be Enthusiasts, who love to sit
In coffee-houses, and cant out their wit.
The first in most assemblies would you see,
Mark out the first haranguer, and that's he:
Nay 'tis what silent meetings cannot hide,
It may be notic'd by its mere outside.
Beaux and coquets would quit the magic dress,
Did not this mutual instinct both possess.
The mercer, taylor, bookseller grows rich,
Because fine clothes, fine writings can bewitch.
A Cicero, a Shaftesbury, a Bayle,—
How quick would they diminish in their sale!
Four fifths of all their beauties who would heed,
Had they not keen Enthusiasts to read?

That which concerns us therefore is to see
What species of enthusiasts we be;
On what materials the fiery source
Of thinking life shall execute its force:
Whether a man shall stir up love or hate,
From the mix'd medium of this present state;
Shall choose, with upright heart and mind, to rise,
And reconnoitre Heav'n's primeval skies;
Or down to lust and rapine to descend,
Brute for a time, and demon at its end.
"Neither, perhaps,"—the wary sceptics cry,
And wait till nature's river shall run dry;
With sage reserve not passing o'er to good,
Of time, lost time, are borne along the flood;
Content to think such thoughtless thinking right,
And common sense enthusiastic flight.

"Fly from Enthusiasm?" Yes, fly from air,
And breathe it more intensely for your care.
Learn, that, whatever phantoms you embrace,
Your own essential property takes place:
Bend all your wits against it,—'tis in vain;
It must exist, or sacred, or profane.
For flesh or spirit, Wisdom from above
Or from this world, an anger or a love,
Must have its fire within the human soul:
'Tis ours to spread the circle, or control;
—In clouds of sensual appetites to smoke,
While smoth'ring Lusts the rising conscience choke;
—Or, from ideal glimmerings to raise,
Showy and faint, a superficial blaze;
Where subtle reasons with their lambent flames,—
Untouch'd the things,—creep round and round the names;
—Or with a true celestial ardour fir'd,
Such as at first created man inspir'd,
To will, and to persist to will the light,
The love, the joy, that makes an angel bright,
That makes a man, in sight of God, to shine
With all the lustre of a life divine.

When true Religion kindles up the fire,
Who can condemn the vigorous desire?
That burns to reach the end for which 'twas giv'n,
To shine, and sparkle in its native Heav'n?
What else was our Creating Father's view?
His image lost why sought He to renew?
Why all the scenes of love that christians know,
But to attract us from this poor Below?
To save us from the fatal choice of ill,
And bless the free co-operating will?

Blame not Enthusiasm, if rightly bent;
Orblame of Saints the holiest intent,
The strong persuasion, the confirm'd belief,
Of all the comforts of a soul the chief,
That God's continual will and work—to save,
Teach, and inspire,—attend us to the grave;
That they, who in his faith and love abide,
Find in his Spirit an immediate guide.
This is no more a fancy, or a whim,
Than that "we live, and move, and are in Him."
Let Nature, or let Scripture be the Ground,
Here is the seat of true Religion found.
An earthly life, as life itself explains,
The Air and Spirit of this world maintains:
As plainly does a heav'nly life declare
A Heav'nly Spirit, and a holy air.

What truth more plainly does the Gospel teach,
What doctrine all its missionaries preach,
Than this, "that ev'ry good desire and thought
"Is in us by the Holy Spirit wrought?"
For this the working faith prepares the Mind;
Hope is expectant, Charity resign'd.
From this blest guide the moment we depart,
What is there left to sanctify the heart?
"Reason and Morals?"—and where live they most?
In Christian Comfort, or in Stoic boast?
Reason may paint unpractis'd truth exact,
And morals rigidly maintain no fact:
This is the pow'r that raises them to worth,
That calls their rip'ning excellences forth.
"Not ask for this?"—May Heav'n forbid the vain,
The sad repose!—What virtue can remain?
What virtue wanting, if, within the breast,
This faith, productive of all virtue, rest,—
That God is always present to impart
His light and Spirit to the willing heart?

He, who can say "my willing heart began
"To learn this lesson," may be christen'd man:
Before, a son of elements and earth;
But now, a creature of another birth;
Whose true regenerated soul revives,
And life from Him, that ever lives, derives;
Freed by compendious faith from all the pangs
Of long-fetch'd motives, and perplex'd harangues;
One word of promise stedfastly embrac'd,
His heart is fix'd, its whole dependence plac'd:
The hope is rais'd, that cannot but succeed;
Infallibility is found indeed.
Then flows the love that no distinction knows
Of system, sect, or party, friends, or foes;
Nor loves by halves; but, faithful to its call,
Stretches its whole benevolence to all;
Its universal wish, th' angelic scene,
That God within the heart of man may reign;
The true Beginning to the final whole,
Of Heav'n and heav'nly life within the soul.

This faith and this dependence once destroy'd,
Man is made helpless, and the Gospel void.
He that is taught to seek elsewhere for aid,—
Be who he will the teacher—is betray'd:
Be what it will the system, he's enslav'd;
Man by man's Maker only can be sav'd.
In this One Fountain of all help to trust,—
What is more easy, natural, and just?
Talk what we will of morals, and of bliss,
Our safety has no other source but this.
Led by this faith, when man forsakes his sin,
The gate stands open to his God within:
There, in the temple of his soul, is found,
Of inward central life the holy ground;
The sacred scene of piety and peace,
Where new-born Christians feel the life's increase;
Blessing and blest, revive to pristine youth
And worship God in Spirit and in truth.

Had not the soul this origin, this root,
What else were man but a two-handed brute?
What but a devil, had he not possess'd
The seed of Heav'n, replanted in his breast?
The spark of potency, the ray of light,
His call, his help, his fitness to excite
The strength and vigour of celestial air,
Faith, and,—the breath of living Christians,—pray'r?
Not the lip-service, nor the mouthing waste
Of heartless words without an inward taste;
But the true kindling of desirous love,
That draws the willing Graces from above;
The thirst of good that naturally pants
After that light and Spirit which it wants;
In whose blest union quickly coincide
To ask and have, to want and be supply'd.
Then does the faithful suppliant discern
More of true good, more of true nature learn,
In one meek intercourse with Truth Itself,
Than from a thousand volumes on the shelf.

All that the Gospel ever could ordain,
All that the church's daily rites maintain,
Is to keep up, to strengthen, and employ
This lively faith, this principle of joy;
This hope and this possession of the end,
Which all her pious institutes intend;
Fram'd to convey, when freed from wordy strife,
The truth and Spirit of an inward life;
Wherein th' Eternal Parent of all good
By his own influence is understood,
That man may learn infallibly aright,—
Blest in His presence, seeing in His light,—
To gain the habit of a godlike mind,
To seek his Holy Spirit, and to find.

In this Enthusiasm, advanc'd thus high,
'Tis a true Christian wish, to live and die.

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