We continue our weekly series of poetry that resonates with the lectionary readings for the week (Revised Common Lectionary and Narrative Lectionary).
*** Narrative Lectionary ***
Habakkuk 1:1-7; 2:1-4; 3:[3b-6], 17-19
Now leave the Porch, to vision now retreat,
Where the next rapture glows with varying heat;
Now change the time, and change the Temple scene,
The following Seer forewarns a future reign.
To some retirement, where the Prophets sons
Indulge their holy flight, my fancy runs,
Some sacred College built for praise and pray’r
And heav’nly dream, she seeks Habakkuk there.
Perhaps ’tis there he moans the nation’s sin,
Hears the word come, or feels the fit within,
Or sees the vision fram’d with Angels hands,
And dreads the judgments of revolted lands,
Or holds a converse if the Lord appear,
And, like Elijah, wraps his face for fear.
This deep recess portends an act of weight,
A message lab’ring with the work of fate.
Methinks the Skies have lost their lovely blue,
A storm rides fiery, thick the clouds ensue.
Fall’n to the ground with prostrate face I lye,
Oh! ’twere the same in this to gaze and dye!
But hark the Prophet’s voice: my pray’rs complain
Of labour spent, of Preaching urg’d in vain;
And must, my God, thy sorrowing servant still
Quit my lone joys to walk this world of ill?
Where spoiling rages, strife and wrong command,
And the slack’d laws no longer curb the land?
At this a strange and more than human sound
Thus breaks the cloud and daunts the trembling ground.
Behold the Gentiles, wond’ring all behold,
What scarce ye credit tho’ the work be told,
For lo the proud Chaldean troops I raise,
To march the breadth and all the region seize,
Fierce as the proling wolves at close of day,
And swift as eagles in pursuit of prey.
As eastern winds to blast the season blow,
For blood and rapine flies the dreadful foe;
Leads the sad captives countless as the sand,
Derides the princes and destroys the land.
Yet these triumphant grown offend me more,
And only thank the Gods they chose before.
Art thou not holiest, here the prophet cries,
Supream, Eternal, of the purest eyes?
And shall those eyes the wicked realms regard,
Their crimes be great yet vict’ry their reward?
Shall these still ravage more and more to reign,
Draw the full net, and cast to fill again?
As watch-men silent sit, I wait to see
How solves my doubt, what speaks the Lord to me.
Then go, the Lord replys, suspend thy fears,
And write the vision for a term of years.
Thy foes will feel their turn when those are past,
Wait tho’ it tarry, sure it comes at last.
‘Tis for their rapine, lusts and thirst of blood
And all their unprotecting Gods of wood.
The Lord is present on his sacred hill,
Cease thy weak doubts, and let the world be still.
Here terrour leaves me with exalted head,
I breath fine air, and find the vision fled,
The Seer withdrawn, inspir’d, and urg’d to write,
By the warm influence of the sacred sight.
His writing finish’d, Prophet-like array’d,
He brings the burthen on the region laid;
His hands a tablet and a volume bear,
The tablet threatnings, and the volume pray’r,
Both for the temple, where to shun decay,
Enroll’d the works of inspiration lay.
And awful oft he stops, or marches slow,
While the dull’d nation hears him preach their woe.
Arriv’d at length, with grave concern for all,
He fix’d his table on the sacred wall.
‘Twas large inscrib’d that those who run might read,
‘Habakkuk’s burthen by the Lord decreed,
‘For Judah’s sins, her empire is no more,
‘The fierce Chaldeans bath her ralm in gore’.
Next to the priest his volume he resign’d,
‘Twas pray’r with praises mix’d to raise the mind,
‘Twas facts recounted which their fathers knew,
‘Twas pow’r in wonders manifest to view.
‘Twas comfort rais’d on love already past,
And hope that former love returns at last.
The priests within the prophecy convey’d,
The singers tunes to join his anthem made.
Here and attend the words. And holy thou
That help’d the prophet, help the Poet now.
O Lord who rules the world, with mortal ear
I’ve heard thy judgments, and I shake for fear.
O Lord by whom their number’d years we find,
E’en in the midst receive the drooping mind;
E’en in the midst thou canst—then make it known
Thy love, thy will, thy power, to save thine own.
Remember mercy tho’ thine anger burn,
And soon to Salem bid thy flock return.
O Lord who gav’st it with an outstretch’d hand,
We well remember how thou gav’st the land.
God came from Teman, southward sprung the flame,
From Paron-mount the one that’s Holy came,
A glitt’ring glory made the desart blaze,
High Heav’n was cover’d, earth was fill’d with praise.
Dazzling the brightness, not the sun so bright,
‘Twas here the pure substantial Fount of Light
Shot from his hand and side in golden streams,
Came forward effluent horny-pointed beams:
Thus shone his coming, as sublimely fair
As bounded nature has been fram’d to bear,
But all his further marks of grandeur hid,
Nor what he cou’d was known, but what he did.
Dire plagues before him ran at his command,
To waste the nations in the promis’d land.
A scorching flame went forth where’er he trod,
And burning Fevers were the coals of God.
Fix’d on the mount he stood, his meas’ring reed
Marks the rich realms for Jacob’s seed decreed:
He looks with anger and the nations fly
From the fierce sparklings of his dreadful eye.
He turns, the mountain shakes its awful brow,
Awful he turns, and hills eternal bow.
How glory there, how terrour here, displays
His great unknown yet everlasting ways.
I see the Sable tents along the strand
Where Cushan wander’d, desolately stand,
And Midian’s high pavilions shake with dread,
While the tam’d seas thy rescu’d nation tread.
What burst the path? what made the Lord engage?
Cou’d waters anger? seas incite thy rage?
That thus thine horses force the foaming tide
And all the chariots of salvation ride.
Thy bow was bare for what thy mercy swore,
Those oaths, that promise Israel had before.
The rock that felt thee cleav’d, the rivers flow,
The wond’ring desart lends them beds below.
Thy Might the mountain’s heaving shocks confess’d,
High shatter’d Horeb trembled o’er the rest.
Great Jordan pass’d its nether waters by,
Its upper waters rais’d the voice on high,
Safe in the deep we went, the liquid wall
Curling arose, and had no leave to fall.
The sun effulgent and the moon serene,
Stop’d by thy will, their heav’nly course refrain;
The voice was Man’s, yet both the voice obey,
‘Till wars compleated close the lengthen’d day.
Thy glitt’ring spears, thy ratling darts prevail,
Thy spears of lightning and thy darts of hail.
‘Twas thou that march’d against their heathen band,
Rage in thy visage, and thy flail in hand;
‘Twas thou that went before to wound their head,
The captain follow’d where the Saviour led;
Torn from their earth they feel the desp’rate wound,
And pow’r unfounded fails for want of ground.
With village-war thy tribes where’er they go
Distress the remnant of the scatter’d foe;
Yet mad they rush’d, as whirling wind descends,
And deem’d for friendless those the Lord befriends.
Thy trampling horse from sea to sea subdue,
The bounding ocean left no more to do.
O when I heard what thou vouchsaf’st to win
With works of wonder, must be lost for sin,
I quak’d thro’ fear, the voice forsook my tongue,
Or at my lips with quiv’ring accent hung;
Dry leanness ent’ring to my marrow came,
And ev’ry loos’ning nerve unstrung my frame.
How shall I rest, in what protecting shade,
When the day comes, and hostile troops invade?
Tho’ neither blossoms on the Fig appear,
Nor vines with clusters deck the purpling year,
Tho’ all our labours olive-trees belie,
Tho’ fields the substance of the bread deny,
Tho’ flocks are sever’d from the silent Fold,
And the rais’d stalls no lowing cattle hold,
Yet shall my soul be glad, in God rejoice,
Yet to my Saviour will I lift my voice,
Yet to my Saviour still my temper sings,
What David set to instruments of strings:
The Lord’s my strength, like Hinds he makes my feet,
Yon mount’s my refuge, as I safely fleet,
Or (if the song’s apply’d) he makes me still
Expect returning to Moriah’s hill.
In all this hymn what daring grandeur shines,
What darting glory rays among the lines,
What mountains, earthquakes, clouds, and smokes are seen,
What ambient fires conceal the Lord within,
What working wonders give the promis’d place
And load the conduct of a stubborn race!
In all the work a lively fancy flows,
O’er all the work sincere affection glows,
While Truth’s firm Rein the course of fancy guides
And o’er affection Zeal divine presides.
Borne on the prophet’s wings, methinks I fly
Amongst eternal Attributes on high,
And here I touch at love supremely fair,
And now at pow’r, anon at mercy there;
So like a warbling bird my tunes I raise
On those green boughs the Tree of life displays,
Whose twelve fair fruits each month by turns receives
And for the nations healing ope their leaves.
Then be the nations heal’d, for this I sing
Descending softly from the prophet’s wing.
Thou world attend, the case of Israel see,
‘Twill thus at large refer to God and thee.
If love be shewn thee, turn thine eyes above
And pay the duties relative to love;
If pow’r be shewn, and wonderfully so,
Wonder and thank, adore and bow below.
If pow’r that led thee now no longer lead,
But brow-bent Justice draws the flaming blade,
When love is scorn’d, when sin the sword provokes,
Let tears and pray’rs avert or heal the strokes;
If justice leaves to wound, and thou to groan
Beneath new Lords in countries not thine own,
Know this for Mercy’s act, and let your lays
Grateful in all, recount the cause of praise:
Then love returns, and while no sins divide
The firm alliance, pow’r will shield thy side.
See the grand round of providence’s care,
See realms assisted here, and punish’d there,
O’er the just circle cast thy wond’ring eyes,
Thank while you gaze, and study to be wise.
*** This poem is in the public domain,
and may be read in a live-streamed worship service.
To the Choirmaster
The rock lives in the desert, solid, taking its time.
The wave lives for an instant,
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