Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FOUR EPISTLES: MIRACLE AT THE FEAST OF PENTECOST: 3, by JOHN BYROM

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

FOUR EPISTLES: MIRACLE AT THE FEAST OF PENTECOST: 3, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I hope that the vicar will pardon the haste
Last Line: How to clear up the matter.—what can a man say?
Subject(s): Apostles; Bible; Hebrew Literature; Religion; Disciples, Twelve; Theology

I HOPE that the Vicar will pardon the haste
With which an occasion once more is embrac'd
Of getting some knowledge, in points that I seek,
From one so well vers'd both in Hebrew and Greek,
In a question of fact, where a friendly pursuit
Has the truth for its object, and not the dispute:
Which, tho' haste should encroach upon metrical leisure,
Will be sure, if it rise, to be kept within measure.

It would save much voluminous labour sometimes,
If disputes were tied down to dispassionate rhymes,
As well as to reason.—But, not to digress,
Having weigh'd his responses both larger and less,
I resume the same subject, same freedom of pen,
To intreat for some small satisfaction again
In relation to points, which, appearing absurd,
Have extorted poetical favour the third.

Three things are laid down in prose favour the last,
And regard to his thoughts would have none of them past;
To his first it was paid, to his future shall be;
But let "Veritas magis amica" be free.
First manage the comma, says he, how you will,
SPEAK, or HEAR, the same sense will result from it still:
Yes, the sense of the context,
"While they speak in their tongue, we all hear in our own."

The Hebrew word for TONGUE, says he next,
Whene'er it is us'd by itself in a text,
Never signifies fire, never signifies flame,
And, believing it true, I say also the same.
But in joint, tongue of fire, or a blaze,
Foreign languages claim no symbolical phrase;
Tho' tongue may occasion mistake to befal,
It has here no relation to language at all.

Short issue, he thinks, the dispute will admit,
And desires me to answer this query, to wit,—
Were the tongues, the new tongues, which a promise was made
That Disciples should speak, as St. Mark hath display'd,
New languages, such as have never been got
By learning beforehand to speak them, or not?
To which for the present, till somebody shew
That it must have this meaning, my answer is, "no."

Now this, if he can, I could wish he would do,
And prove the construction—NEW LANGUAGES—true,
In the sense that he means:—for, when all understood
One person who spake, it was really as good
As if numbers had spoken, or promised grace
Were interpreted languages here in this place.
The effect was the same, and may answer the pith
Of all that his second has favour'd me with.

Still difficult, then, if we carefully sift,
Is the vulgar account of the Pentecost gift,
Which the learned advance, and establish thereon
What the Vicar has built his ideas upon,
With additions thereto, which, as far as I see,
Not one of the learned has added, but he;
For example,—if some,—very few, I presume,
Have describ'd the Disciples as quitting the room.

But let them be many, what reason, what trace
Do we find of their leaving the sanctify'd place?
Of a wind from above did they fear at the shake?
And the house, thro' a doubt of its falling, forsake?
Or did they go forth to the gathering quire,
Lest the many bright flames should have set it on fire?
If a thought could have enter'd of going away,
What circumstance was not strong motive to stay?

Then again—that the foreigners, all of them, knew
The language then us'd at Jerusalem too—
For the miracle's sake one would here have demurr'd;
Which is render'd so needless, improper, absurd,
That Jerusalem mockers would really have had
A pretence to alledge that the pious were mad;
For of speaking strange tongues what accountable aim,
Or of hearing fifteen, when they all knew the same?

Add to this—the Disciples, the Hundred and Twenty,
Spake amongst one another strange tongues in like plenty,
One by one, says the Vicar, who very well saw
What confusion would rise without some such a law
As the text has no hint of, which says "they began
"To speak by the Spirit," not man after man:
Could time have suffic'd for so doing, yet why
Speak the tongues of such men, as were none of them by?

The Vicar saw too that this could not attract
Any multitude thither, supposing it fact;
And so he conceiv'd that a rumour was spread
By the men of the house, of whom nothing is said.
Now, when men of his learning are forc'd to find out
Such unchronicled salvos to dissipate doubt,
One is apt to infer a well grounded suspense,
And the more to look out for more natural sense.

I wish my old friend would consider the case,
And how ill it consists with effusion of grace
To speak Parthian and Median, and so of the rest,
To none but themselves being present address'd:
Unless he can grant, on revolving the point,
That indeed there is something not rightly in joint,
Or solve one's objections, or shew one the way
How to clear up the matter.—What can a man say?

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