Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A SHADOW OF TRUTH, by DAVID MACBETH MOIR

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

A SHADOW OF TRUTH, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: I had a wondrous vision - a dream, but not of night
Last Line: "when the base fiend expediency o'ercomes the seraph right!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Delta
Subject(s): Catholics - England; Religious Discrimination; Religious Conflict


I HAD a wondrous vision—a dream, but not of night—
Manifold figures wild and strange came rushing on my sight;
Far 'mid the twilight of old time I saw them flitting by;
Melted the mould-damp of the grave, and brighten'd every eye,
As down to our unsettling days their awful looks they cast,
To see Experiment's rash feet down trampling all the past.


The gloomy smoke-clouds spired aloft; beneath were fagots piled;
And, 'mid the lambent tongues of flame, a holy Martyr smiled;
Coop'd in Inquisitorial cells, pale, squalid figures lay,
Whose eyes had never bless'd God's sun for many a countless day;
While implements of torture dire were scatter'd on the ground,
And, garb'd in white Religion's robes, demoniac judges frown'd.


Sadly, from latticed convent grey, the hooded Nun look'd out
On luxury, life, and liberty, by young Spring strewn about;
In thought she saw her father's hall, at quiet evening close;
And a bonnet, with its snow-white plume, amid the greening boughs;
Where, with his greyhound in its leash, beside the trysting well,
Her secret lover wont to wait, his burning vows to tell.


There sages stood with earthward eyes; upon each reverend face,
Sorrow and shame were sadly blent with apostolic grace;
They saw what they had seen of yore, yea perish'd to gainsay,
The swinish herd by ignorance to error led astray;
Men, by false doctrines dazzled, quite forsaking God and Truth,
And grey Experience hooted down by theorising youth.


There scowl'd the proud old barons brave, a thousand fields that won,
Indignant that their high-drawn blood should to the dregs have run;
Scornfully they pointed to the past—to think that all in vain
The life-tide of our patriot hosts had crimson'd hill and plain;
That clad in steel, from head to heel, they made their desperate stand,
Triumphant broke the Papal yoke, and freed a groaning land.


Then saw I banners on the breeze—and, as their lengths unroll'd
Upon the breath of Blasphemy, mysterious threats they told:
In Liberality's right hand Sedition's scrolls were borne;
Fierce drunken crowds surrounding her, who laugh'd Suspense to scorn;
Over Religion's shrines I saw Destruction's plough-share driven;
The hosts of Hell reconquering Earth, and man denying Heaven!


To that poor country, woe—woe—woe! where Commoner and Peer
Lay down what valour wrung from Fraud, from ignominious fear;
Give in to Error's harlotry, to smooth her rebel frown;
Pen up the wolf-cub with the lamb, and bid them both lie down;
Betray Religion's tower and trench to sacerdotal Sin,
And turn the key in Freedom's gate, that slaves may enter in!


Through all, I heard a warning voice, and mournfully it said—
"In vain have Sages ponder'd, and in vain have Martyrs bled;
In vain have seas of patriot blood to Freedom's cause been given,
Since still man thinks that hellward paths can e'er lead up to Heaven;
And clouds of ignorance in vain been scatter'd from his sight,
When the base fiend Expediency o'ercomes the seraph Right!"

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