Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE MESSIAH.

BY ALEXANDER POPE.

(ALEXANDER POPE, the son of a linendraper, was born in Lombard Street, on May 22, 1688. His father, who was a Roman Catholic, amassed a considerable fortune, and purchased an estate in Binfield, in Windsor Forest. Alexander received the first rudiments of his education from the family priest ; afterwards he was sent to a Catholic seminary at Twyford, near Winchester, where he lampooned his teacher: for this he was severely punished, and taken home by his parents. He attended no school after his twelfth year, and may therefore be said to have educated himself. Pope was a born poet ; he "lisped in numbers” so early, that he could not recollect when he did not write poetry. His style was formed upon that of Dryden ; and, like his prototype, too much of his life was spent in literary squabbles. When sixteen years of age he wrote his “ Pastorals,” which at once brought him into a close acquaintance with the most eminent men of his time. Other works followed in quick succession, the principal of which were his “Odes,” “Windsor Forest,” “Essay on Man," “Dunciad,” “Rape of the Lock,” “The Messiah,” &c. His magnum opus was his translation of Homer ; by his “Iliad” he realized above 5,000l., part of which he laid out in the purchase of a house at Twickenham, to which he removed in 1715, and where he died on the 30th of May, 1744.]

Ye Nymphs of Solyma! begin the song :
To heav'nly themes sublimer strains belong.
The mossy fountains, and the sylvan shades,
The dreams of Pindus, and th' Aonian maids,
Delight no more-O thou my voice inspire,
Who touch'd Isaiah's hallow'd lips with fire!

Rapt into future times, the bard begun :
A Virgin shall conceive, a Virgin bear a Son :
From Jesse's root, behold a Branch arise,
Whose sacred flower with fragrance fills the skies:
Th’Ethereal Spirit o'er its leaves shall move,
And on its top descends the mystic Dove.
Ye Heav'ns! from high the dewy nectar pour,
And in soft silence shed the kindly show'r !

The sick and weak the healing plant shall aid,

From storms a shelter, and from heat a shade.
All crimes shall cease, and ancient fraud shall fail ;

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

And white-robed Innocence from heav'n descend. Swift fly the years, and rise the expected morn!

Oh spring to light, auspicious Babe! be born.
See, Nature hastes her earliest wreaths to bring,
With all the incense of the breathing spring :
See lofty Lebanon his head advance,
See nodding forests on the mountains dance :
See spicy clouds from lowly Sharon rise,
And Carmel's flow'ry top perfumes the skies !
Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers ;
Prepare the way! a God, a God appears!
A God, a God! the vocal hills reply;
The rocks proclaim th' approaching Deity.
Lo, earth receives Him from the bending skies !
Sink down, ye Mountains; and, ye Valleys, rise;
With heads declined, ye Cedars, homage pay;
Be smooth, ye Rocks; ye rapid Floods, give way!
The Saviour comes ! by ancient bards foretold !
Hear Him, ye Deaf; and all ye Blind, behold !
He from thick films shall purge the visual ray,
And on the sightless eye-ball pour the day :
'Tis He th’ obstructed paths of sound shall clear,
And bid new music charm th' unfolding ear :
The dumb shall sing, the lame his crutch forego,
And leap exulting like the bounding roe.
No sight, no murmur the wide world shall hear;
From ev'ry face He wipes off ev'ry tear.
In adamantine chains shall Death be bound,
And Hell's grim tyrant feel th' eternal wound.
As the good shepherd tends his fleecy care,
Seeks freshest pasture and the purest air,
Explores the lost, the wandering sheep directs,

RR

By day o'ersees them, and by night protects :
The tender lambs he raises in his arms,
Feeds from his hands, and in his bosom warms:
Thus shall mankind His guardian care engage,
The promised Father of the future age.
No more shall nation against nation rise,
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes,
Nor fields with gleaming steel be cover'd o'er,
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more ;
But useless lances into scythes shall bend,
And the broad falchion in a ploughshare end.
Then palaces shall rise ; the joyful son
Shall finish what his short-lived sire begun ;
Their vines a shadow to their race shall yield,
And the same hand that sow'd shall reap the field.
The swain in barren deserts with surprise
Sees lilies spring, and sudden verdure rise ;
And starts, amid the thirsty wilds to hear
New falls of water murm’ring in his ear.
On rifted rocks, the dragon's late abodes,
The green reed trembles, and the bulrush nods.
Waste sandy valleys, once perplex'd with thorn,
The spiry fir and shapely box adorn ;
To leafless shrubs the flow'ring palms succeed,
And od'rous myrtle to the noisome weed.
The lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant mead,
And boys in flow'ry bands the tiger lead ;
The steer and lion at one crib shall meet,
And harmless serpents lick the pilgrim's feet;
The smiling infant in his hand shall take

The crested basilisk and speckled snake,
Pleased, the green lustre of the scales survey,
And with their forky tongue shall innocently play.

[graphic]

Rise, crown'd with light, imperial Salem, rise !
Exalt thy tow'ry head, and lift thine eyes !
See, a long race thy spacious courts adorn ;
See future sons, and daughters yet unborn,

« PreviousContinue »