Poems inThe Literary Garland (1849)

By Adam Hood Burwell



By the Rev. Adam Hood Burwell


The sun descending, rolls his flaming orb,
Beyond the bounds of Huron’s ample wave,
That glitters in his parting beams. He goes
To shed his light on western isles remote —
His daily light upon the Isles that spot


The vast Pacific, in itself a world.
We see it reaching forth from pole to pole
With giant arms; eternal frost abides
On either hand; the burning line between.
Its sunny isles receive their daily need


Of light and blessing from the solar beams,
While Ocean pours his own profusion round.


But onwards rolls the sun. His lingering rays
Brighten the evening clouds, whose ridges, rolled
In rising volumes, fill the glowing east


With floating hills of fire, that seem to rest
Upon some neighbouring land. But deeper sinks
The sun behind the spheric earth, when lo!
The western sky and zenith all are spread
With broken clouds, whose scattered fragments blush


To red of heaven, skirted with other dyes
Of every varying shade. Th’ empyrean vault,
Behind the scene, presents its dark back ground;
The intermediate tints, bright or obscure,
Immingling soft, into each other run,


And change, and sink, and vanish out of sight.
Or longitudinal, in wavy stripes
That mimic ocean’s face, the canopy
Of clouds from north to south, and gives
Alternate crimson facings on a ground


Of purple slate. But soon the vision fades,
And leaves the splendid scene a dusky veil,
That only hides the coming stars, until
The breath of Heaven dissolves it into air. [Page 85]


Oft have I watched these visionary things

The close of day presents —the various shades
(Inimitable tints) surrounding Heaven
Presents to the beholder; marked their change;
And gazed —but not with the philosophic eye;
And mused —but not with the philosophic mind;


And thought —but only as the untaught think
For science ne’er unlocked her stores, nor poured
Her treasures forth to me. But why repine?
Or why the seeming pleasures grudge which might
Have been (but have not) had fair fortune smiled,


And science oped her treasures? Why despond,
For an irremediable loss?
It need not be! Short though the present life,
Poor and contracted in its largest bound,
And mean and meager its attainments all,


And these the seeming favours of a few,
It is not so; and I will not repine
That life is short, and meager is the stream
Inflowing, the ambitious heart to fill,
And sate capacities that but enlarge


By drinking e’en this stream. Eternity
Stretches beyond the little bound of time, —
Eternity, that never knows an end!
And time is but the introduction brief
To this eternity. The child of Time


Is the beginning of the future man,
And his acquirements but the preface are, —
The introduction to an endless theme.
Eternity shall take this future man,
This child of Time, —and carry forward what


Now is just begun in him, and train
Him for itself. No more an heir of death,
Clogged with the countless cumbrances of Time, —
But freed from these, him shall Eternity
Receive, and fashion to his new estate,


And build him up in everlasting life
With every needful increment, and fill,
With healthful pabulum, capacities
That, growing, shall enlarge as they are fed,
And feeding, shall grow up as trees of God;


To fullness in their measure grow, and be
Forever beautiful in leaves and fruit,
And in their fruitfulness and beauty good. [Page 86]
That man himself shall be a spreading tree,
And every faculty a fruitful bough,


Largely outbranching from the parent stem,
As branches grace the vine; and Man shall fill
The destiny pronounced at his creation,
And fill it to the glory of his god.


Bright sets the sun. Thus when the good man quits


The world of travail, life’s poor journey o’er,
His sun descends serene. The sting of death
Is plucked for those who die the good man’s death
And they can part with friends as those who part
In sure and certain hope to meet again,


And meet in life. Life is not life unless
’Tis passed forever o’er the bound of death
’Tis resurrection-power that gives this life,
And then confirms it. Up through death this power
Ascended, conquering Satan, death and hell;


Conquering for man. The dying Christian knows
That death is but a transient sleep, the while
His weary members rest, and rest in hope.
The glorious morn of immortality
Is near; and he the Sun of Righteousness,


“The Resurrection and the Life”, shall call
The dead, and they shall answer with their presence
Where, in the light, the living meet their Head.
And then they come with him in open sight,
To take dominion o’er that world which erst


Cast out their names as evil from its presence.
And what is their revenge? ’Tis that of God,
Who sends them forth the angels of His peace,
To rule the world in righteousness forever.


Now lingers twilight on the verge of Heaven,


Vested in sober grey. The feathered tribes
Have sung their latest song, and hid themselves
In their night coverts deep. The peeping stars
Shine out and gem the azure firmament
With lamps minute, profusely scattered round


The ambient Heavens, each with its ruddy flame, [Page 87]
Its tiny twinkling light. Clear is the sky,
Nor cloud, nor vapour rests upon its face,
To intercept the ray that passes down,
Unhindered through the deep blue crystal vault —


The seeming vault of space o’erarching all:
Emblem of heavenly-mindedness, where naught
Of error lingers to withstand the truth,
Where naught of passion unsubdued remains
Antagonistic to the light divine,


Descending from the source profound of light,
For the instruction of the sons of Truth.
O! for that light, which shines to lighten all,
To rise increasing, to the perfect day,
The day of glory, when the Sun Himself,


Of Righteousness, with healing in His wings
Comes forth to scatter all the gloom of night,
And drive the prowling beasts to seek their dens;
And there abide, troublers of earth no more!
O! for that light to lighten every man!


O! for that truth upon the inward parts
To write its living law, and fill the world
With righteousness, and happiness, and peace.


But evening sighs its latest breeze, and wafts
On silenced wing, the roaring of the surge —


That, restless, beats on Erie’s rugged rocks,
Roused by the gale of noon; or tumbles rough
Round the projecting point where Huron’s shores,
Winding away, stretch with indentures deep,
And long protrusions, far into the land;


Or where Ontario spreads his blue expanse
Begirt with rugged stones, or forests dark [Page 88]
That overhang the flood. The listening ear
Pays willing homage to the soothing sound
That breaks at intervals the solemn pause


Of sober evening; first abrupt, then low,
Retreating, dying, till succeeding waves
Waken afresh the melancholy dirge,
Half slumbering on the bosom of the night.
And the hoarse bull-frog from his stagnant pool


Chimes to its murmur, solemn, deep and grave.
And with his note acute the whip-poor-will
Begins his night song ’neath the spreading bush,
And rouses echo from the neighbouring wood
To whistle back his music sharp and shrill,


That ceases not till morn. The firefly starts
Out from the sedgy covert where he lay
Secure and hidden while the glowing sun
His bright effulgence poured upon the earth,
And flies abroad, and lights his tiny lamp,


Ambitious to be seen. Along the stream
Smoothly meandering ’twixt its banks, he shows
His little ray; or where the marshy soil,
Luxuriant shoots its reedy burthen up.


Brilliant with clustering stars deep night comes on,


And calm and placed all; and undisturbed,
I fain would wend my solitary way
Beside the river’s brink, or by the shore
O’erlooking far the broad expanse of some
Of our huge inland seas. The surface smooth


And mirror-faced, reflects th’ empyrean vault,
And seems a heaven beneath, a counterpart
Of that above, with all its starry hosts;
For now the waters are at rest and peace.
Perhaps Niagara in the distance breaks,


With voice suppressed, the deep repose of night —
Voices of thunder rolling far away.
Subdued and sad, in long continuous peal,
Unbroken as the stream that rushes down
The rocky steep. That everlasting voice!


That noise of many waters, ceaseless roar,
That broke forth with creation! Still pours forth
Its thunder in its undiminished strength!
And still the mighty river rushes down
The rocky steep, and boils, and foams, and lifts


Aloft its cloudy banner to the sky. [Page 89]
What is the symbol that huge banner bears?
It is the Bow of Promise and of Peace,
In light proceeding from the source of light,
And backward from the cloudy pillar thrown,


To say that God his covenant remembers,
His covenant with man and with the earth.


I love to listen to the dashing oar
That breaks the glassy bosom of the wave,
Undimpled by a zephyr, while a barge


Is passing by with music, half obscured
Behind the whitish mist that hovers low
Upon the placid surface of the stream.
Harmonic numbers swell the trembling air,
That wafts the breathing melody of flute


And dulcet voice —rich, soft, deep, full, and sweet.
The balanced oar keeps time, and marks the bars
With downward stroke vibrating, and the blade
Dips true. Now brisk the bolder numbers rise;
Now sink in cadence sweet; pathetic now;


And now they die away in murmuring strains,
Mellowed by distance, till the attentive ear
Listens in vain. ’Tis audible no more
To me; but musing let me sit awhile,
And in imagination hear, and back


Recall the fleeting pleasure for a space,
And feast in silence on the dulcet strains.
The voice of music spoke: that voice returns,
Borne on imagination’s mystic wing,
And echoes through the chambers of the soul,


Which feasts, and rests, and rises satisfied.
For music for a feast was given to man; —
For sober feasting, not for riot given;
But first and chiefest for the praise of God,
That man might worship Him in highest feast,


And drink refreshment from the living fount,
And drink and live, and live and drink forever. [Page 90]


And now along the regions of the south,
Where the horizon meets the bending sky,
The distant thunder-clouds, in ridgy folds,


Hang on the burthened air with profile dark,
Uneven as the hills whose rocky sides,
Cliff above cliff, in rugged grandeur rise,
And to the skies heave their enormous heads.
There play the lightning and the liquid fire,


Flash after flash, enkindles all the south
With sudden bursts of light, and all the clouds
Alternate seem a mountain wrapt in flame,
Or dark and blank. But now the rising moon,
In light subdued, lifts up her waning orb,


Mounting her nightly car to ride aloft
The radiant queen of heaven, and the measure half
Th’ ethereal circle ere her silver wheels,
Descending low, dip in the western main.


Twilight is fully gone: all Nature rests,


Enjoying sweet repose, the special boon
Indulgent Heaven bestows on all its works.
Sleep kindly soothes the animated part,
Exhausted strength recruiting; while soft dews
Refresh the vegetable tribes that drink

The evening vapours, settled and condensed
In shining drops upon their thirsty leaves.


The worlds at rest. But let my wakeful eyes
Close not for slumber: let me stay abroad
For contemplation, while with wing outspread,


Imagination soars among the spheres.
And I would linger out the midnight hour
Beneath that wondrous canopy of stars,
And visit them in thought, remote or near,
That mock the ken of astronomic eye,


Or roll in orbs familiar to the reach
Of optic science. Their unvarying rounds [Page 91]
Fair Science measures, and their ample orbs
True to the eye of Heaven, incessant wheel
In silent grandeur through the mighty void,


Whose boundary is not. Guided by the hand
Of Him that made them, on they journey round,
Bending their course precise. The central sun
Holds all within his grasp, or planet, bright
In borrowed splendour, sweeping on its way;


Or misty comet whose elliptic arch
Far stretches into space. Harmonious these
Obey the will of Heaven: yet still ascend,
As if to mingle in the stellar groups
That outward lie; and there the glorious sun,


Diminished, sinks into a twinkling star,
And twinkling stars continue twinkling stars,
Here telescopic dust, and still refuse
To show e’en the minutest magnitude!
But why such thoughts? It is that we may think


Of him who made and gave to each his place,
Yet condescends to number all our hairs,
And suffers naught to perish through neglect: —
To think of him “whose presence fills all space:”
Who for His pleasure made whatever is;


Who lighted up the sun, and hung the moon,
Balanced the earth, and named and set the stars,
To serve for signs, and seasons, days, and years.
The rainbow is a sign; the clouds are signs;
The thunder has a voice that man should know;


The rapid lightning he should understand;
The rain, the dew, the grass, the trees, the beasts,
The birds, the fishes, all should teach him truth.
Gold, silver, precious stones, the earth itself,
With all its furniture of mountains, hills,


Valleys, and streams, deserts, and fruitful plains;
The northern cold; the moulding of the snow;
The generation of the hail and storms;
The changing winds, the restless roaring sea,
That casts up mire and dirt; —these man should read,


And “look through nature —up to Nature’s God?”
Not so! —He hath ordained another way.
The mystic ladder Isaac’s son beheld
Of intercourse between the seen and unseen,
Prefigured naught of Nature. God in manhood,


Th’ Eternal Word made flesh! He is the Way
Up to the God of all. He lifts men up,
And seats them with Himself, and gives them power
Downward to look through all the works of God, [Page 92]
And read them in His light. For man was made


To have dominion over all creation:
So Adam names to all the creatures gave,
Because he saw them in the light of God,
For whom to them he went. God left him not
To grope his way, and win, by long induction


The precious knowledge that we have a God;
But shewed Himself at once. Lifted is man
Within the sphere of Godhead by the Son;
Nor looks, nor passes upward, but as He
Reveals the Father by Himself, and leads


Heavenward the honoured child of dust. The King
For wisdom far renowned, by light divine
Of beasts and fishes spake, of shrubs and trees,
And birds of every wing; and God to him,
That mystery divine imbedded deep


Close hidden in each one, revealed; and One
Greater than Solomon shall open all.
And where then shall we find the Christian Muse?
No pagan phantom ’tis, nor made of man,
No creature, but the living One who spake


By holy men of old in all the psalms,
The Law, the Prophets, —in all Holy Scriptures.


I love the lonely hour of the night, but not
For darkness’ sake, nor for its works; nor yet
Without the precious light of day to tell


Of persons, things, and places. Light was made
Before them all. Nor would I love the night
When storms and blackness rule. Night, with its stars
O’ercanopied, is not the darkness dread
Which wise and foolish fear alike. ’Twas night


When eastern sages came to Bethlehem.
Safe guided by the star, and found the Babe,
Born in a stable, and their honours paid,
Their adoration, and their offerings gave
As to a King divine. ’Twas in the night,


As shepherds watched their flocks the Angel came,
From Heaven descending, glory shining round,
And told them of the wonder God had wrought.
And then the hosts of Heaven appeared, and sung
That wondrous song, confirming all His words: —


“Glory to God on high; and on the earth,
Peace and good will to men.” That wondrous song
Well might the angels sing! well might the Heavens [Page 93]
Break forth in anthems of sublimest strains!
But ah! the world heard not that song! The world


Profound in darkness slumbered. All its ear
That open was that time, for other things
Was vigilant. The murderous jealousy
Of hell was wakeful in Judea’s court;
And Herod sought to know the place where He


Was born with the intent the Child to kill,
Not worship. And by night the Angel came,
And warned the sleeping Joseph, who, by night,
xArose and fled. Chiefly by night the Lord
Of life prevailed to foil man’s foe. By night


The garden witnessed that deep agony
Which forced the bloody sweat to flow! All night
The lifeless body of the Crucified,
Hopeful in death, reposed. And ’twas yet night,
When with a mighty earthquake Gabriel came,


In terror clad, and rolled the stone away
Of the entrance to the dead. And then He rose
Whom death could not detain; and, rising, He
Became the Resurrection and the Life,
Destroying death, and him that had its power.


Such are the uses God hath had for the night;
And so He hath outdone the Prince of Darkness.


And it is good to meditate upon
These mighty themes when night o’erhangs the earth,
All nature shrouding in her sable pall.


The night hath had its time; Egypt hath ruled,
And with its darkness covered all the earth.
The Prince of Darkness his dominion hath
Long exercised in cruelty and craft,
And boisterous ruffian force. But now the end


Comes swiftly on; and, as the Angel came,
A son of strength in glory clad, to open
The sepulchre, and strike the keepers dumb,
When they the glory saw, the earthquake heard;
So He shall come to raise the sleeping dead


From out their graves, and by His presence fill
The hearts of men with fear. And He shall shake
All nations and all things as then He shook
Earth by His power. And he shall sit the Judge.
Judgement and Justice shall before him go,


And from His face all darkness flee away. [Page 94]


* This poem appeared in The Literary Garland (Montreal), N.S. VII, (April, 1849) 178-181. [back]