Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FOUR EPISTLES: MIRACLE AT THE FEAST OF PENTECOST: 1, by JOHN BYROM



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FOUR EPISTLES: MIRACLE AT THE FEAST OF PENTECOST: 1, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Our folks gone a visiting, reverend sir
Last Line: Was all by one language,—as clear as the sun.
Subject(s): Holy Ghost; Language; Miracles; Religion; Spiritual Life; Holy Spirit; Words; Vocabulary; Theology


OUR folks gone a visiting, Reverend Sir,
Having left me at home here, less able to stir,
I am thinking on matters that lovingly pass'd
Where the squire of the house and I visited last,
At the Vicar's of Bowden, old friend of us two,
And a lover of learning, fair, honest, and true,
Especially such as shall make to appear
Any passage of Scripture more easy and clear.

The Scripture was writ and is oft understood
By persons unlearned, yet pious and good,
Who have much better helps than mere learning can yield;
Which may yet be of use in its own proper field,
If it be but to mend its own faults in a brother,
And correct in one man the mistakes of another,
Or to combat our scruples and fix a true thought
When the head shall confirm what the heart has been taught.

One thing, I remember, that fell in our way
Was "the speaking in tongues on the Pentecost day;"
Which our friend the Divine had conceiv'd in a light,
That, however so thought, does not seem to be right.
All the comments, 'tis true, with which one has met
Concur with his notions about it;—but yet
The mistake is so plain that I wish by some means
To obtain his review of those wonderful scenes.

It is not my thought; for I first was appriz'd
Of the thing by a JACOB, too greatly despis'd;
Dipping into whose writings, which little I knew,
Some expression like this was presented to view,—
All languages spoken by PETER in one—
A truth, which the moment I enter'd upon,
All the force of simplicity, fitness, and fact
Extorted assent that I could not retract.

If the honest old Vicar, our visited friend,
To St. Luke's own account will be pleas'd to attend,
I cannot but think that the current conceit
Will yield to solution so clear and complete
Of a number of difficult points, that arise
Upon viewing the text with unprejudic'd eyes;
If SPEAKERS were more than Apostles, and SPOKEN
But to one in fifteen was a sensible token.

For the names to that number, if rightly I count
By a Baguly Bible, of nations amount,
Who all understood what a Peter or John,
Or whoever he will, was discoursing upon,
And to all at one time; for, how plain to be seen
That persons nor place could admit of fifteen,
When Parthians, and Medes, Elamites, and the rest,
Must be too intermix'd to be singly address'd!

"Are not these,"—said the men, the devout of each land,—
"Galileans that speak, whom we all understand?"
As much as to say,—"by what wonderful pow'rs
"Does the tongue Galilean to us become ours?"
While the good were so justly astonish'd, the bad
Whose hearts were unopen'd cry'd out, "they are mad!"
Unaccountable charge! if we do not recall
That in one single tongue the Apostles spake all.

For, separate speakers and tongues, it is clear,
Good and bad without madness might equally hear;
And surprise in the bad would be equally keen,
How illiterate men could speak all the fifteen.
But the miracle wrought in the simplest of ways
In both good and bad well accounts for amaze;
One was sensibly touch'd with a gift so Divine,
One stupidly rais'd the reproach of "new wine."

When St. Peter stood up, and to all that great throng
Shew'd the truth in a sermon so good and so long,
But to one fifteenth part was it only then shewn?
To the worst, the Jerusalem scoffers alone,
Whilst all the good strangers, not knowing one word,
Stood unedify'd by?—This is greatly absurd.
God pour'd out his Spirit,—that answers all mock,—
And spake by St. Peter to the whole of his flock.

The vulgar objection, which commenting strain
Has made to a thing so exceedingly plain,
Is "the miracle then would not be in the speaker,
"It would be in the hearers;"—now, what can be weaker?
For the gift in this case had a twofold respect,
And must needs be in both to produce its effect,
To account for the fact which the comments forgot,
Why the pious could hear what the mockers could not.

It is no where affirm'd that th' Apostles acquir'd
Any tongue but their own, tho' Divinely inspir'd.
St. Peter, St. John are soon mention'd again,
And describ'd as unlearned and ignorant men.
But enough!—or too much!—for, the shortness of time
Gives a hint to set bounds to th' extension of rhyme:
Our friend will acknowledge, tho' hasty the letter,
This question's solution, or give us a better.

So I shall not here touch upon Hebrew and Greek,
Where a Rabbi so able, if minded to seek,
May observe other points in which learning, that makes
Many things clear enough, has occasion'd mistakes.
Whether this be one instance I only desire
That a suitable leisure may prompt to inquire;
For to me it appears,—that the miracle done
Was all by one language,—as clear as the sun.





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