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IV

AN HYMN OF HEAVENLY LOVE

E. Spenser

Love, lift me up upon thy golden wings,

From this base world unto thy heaven's height,

Where I may see those admirable things

Which there thou workest by thy sovereign might,

Far above feeble reach of earthly sight,

That I thereof an heavenly Hymn may sing

Unto the GOD of Love, high heaven's King.

4

Many lewd lays (ah! woe is me the more!)

In praise of that mad fit which fools call love,

I have in th' heat of youth made heretofore,

That in light wits did loose affection move;

But all those follies now I do reprove,

And turnéd have the tenor of my string

The heavenly praises of true love to sin.

And ye that wont with greedy vain desire

To read my fault, and, wondering at my flame,

To warm yourselves at my wide sparkling fire,

Sith now that heat is quenchéd, quench my blame,

And in her ashes shroud my dying shame;

For who my passéd follies now pursues,

Begins his own, and my old fault renews.

BEFORE THIS WORLD'S GREAT FRAME, in which all things

Are now contain'd, found any being-place,

Ere flitting Time could wag his eyas1717eyas, new-fledged wings

About that mighty bound which doth embrace

The rolling Spheres, and parts their hours by space,

That High Eternal Power, which now doth move

In all these things, moved in Itself by love.

It loved Itself, because Itself was fair;

(For fair is loved;) and of Itself begot,

Like to Itself, His eldest Son and heir,

Eternal, pure, and void of sinful blot,

The firstling of His joy, in Whom no jot

Of love's dislike or pride was to be found,

Whom He therefore with equal honour crown'd.

With Him he reign'd, before all time prescribed,

In endless glory and immortal might,

Together with that Third from Them derived,

Most wise, most holy, most almighty Spright!

Whose kingdom's throne no thought of earthly wight

Can comprehend, much less my trembling verse

With equal words can hope it to rehearse.

Yet, O most blesséd Spirit! pure lamp of light,

Eternal spring of grace and wisdom true,

Vouchsafe to shed into my barren spright

Some little drop of Thy celestial dew,

That may my rhymes with sweet infuse imbrue1818infuse imbrue, colour with infusion,

And give me words equal unto my thought,

To tell the marvels by Thy mercy wrought.

5

Yet being pregnant still with powerful grace,

And full of fruitful love, that loves to get

Things like Himself, and to enlarge His race,

His second brood, though not in power so great,

Yet full of beauty, next He did beget

An infinite increase of Angels bright,

All glistering glorious in their Maker's light.

To them the heaven's illimitable height

(Not this round heaven, which we from hence behold,

Adorn'd with thousand lamps of burning light,

And with ten thousand gems of shining gold,)

He gave as their inheritance to hold,

That they might serve Him in eternal bliss,

And be partakers of those joys of His.

There they in their trinal triplicities1919See Note

About Him wait, and on His will depend,

Either with nimble wings to cut the skies,

When He them on his messages doth send,

Or on His own dread presence to attend,

Where they behold the glory of His light,

And carol Hymns of love both day and night.

Both day, and night, is unto them all one;

For He His beams doth still to them extend,

That darkness there appeareth never none;

Ne hath their day, ne hath their bliss, an end,

But there their termless time in pleasure spend;

Ne ever should their happiness decay,

Had not they dared their Lord to disobey.

But pride, impatient of long resting peace,

Did puff them up with greedy bold ambition,

That they 'gan cast their state how to increase

Above the fortune of their first condition,

And sit in GOD's own seat without commission:

The brightest Angel, ev'n the Child of Light,

Drew millions more against their GOD to fight.

Th' Almighty, seeing their so bold assay,

Kindled the flame of His consuming ire,

And with His only breath them blew away

From heaven's height, to which they did aspire,

To deepest hell, and lake of damnéd fire,

Where they in darkness and dread horror dwell,

Hating the happy light from which they fell.

6

So that next offspring of the Maker's love,

Next to Himself in glorious degree,

Degendering2020degendering, degenerating to hate, fell from above

Through pride, (for pride and love may ill agree),

And now of sin to all ensample be:

How then can sinful flesh itself assure,

Since purest Angels fell to be impure?

But that Eternal Fount of love and grace,

Still flowing forth His goodness unto all,

Now seeing left a waste and empty place

In His wide Palace, through those Angels' fall,

Cast to supply the same, and to enstall

A new unknowen Colony therein,

Whose root from earth's base groundwork should begin.

Therefore of clay, base, vile, and next to nought,

Yet form'd by wondrous skill, and by His might,

According to an heavenly pattern wrought,

Which He had fashion'd in His wise foresight,

He man did make, and breathed a living spright

Into his face most beautiful and fair,

Endued with wisdom's riches, heavenly, rare.

Such He him made, that he resemble might

Himself, as mortal thing immortal could;

Him to be Lord of every living wight

He made by love out of His own like mould,

In whom He might His mighty Self behold;

For Love doth love the thing beloved to see,

That like itself in lovely shape may be.

But man, forgetful of his Maker's grace

No less than Angels whom he did ensue,2121ensue, follow after

Fell from the hope of promised heavenly place,

Into the mouth of death, to sinners due,

And all his offspring into thraldom threw,

Where they for ever should in bonds remain

Of never-dead yet ever-dying pain;

Till that great LORD of Love, which him at first

Made of mere love, and after likéd well,

Seeing him lie like creature long accurst

In that deep horror of despairéd hell,

Him, wretch, in dool2222dool, sorrow would let no longer dwell,

But cast2323cast, considered how out of that bondage to redeem,

And pay the price, all were2424all were, although it were his debt extreme.

7

Out of the bosom of eternal bliss,

In which He reignéd with His glorious Sire,

He down descended, like a most demiss2525demiss, submissive

And abject thrall, in flesh's frail attire,

That He for him might pay sin's deadly hire,

And him restore unto that happy state

In which he stood before his hapless fate.

In flesh at first the guilt committed was,

Therefore in flesh it must be satisfied;

Nor Spirit, nor Angel, though they man surpass,

Could make amends to GOD for man's misguide2626misguide, sin,

But only man himself, who self did slide:

So, taking flesh of sacred Virgin's womb,

For man's dear sake He did a man become.

And that most blesséd Body, which was born

Without all blemish or reproachful blame,

He freely gave to be both rent and torn

Of cruel hands, who with despiteful shame

Reviling Him, that them most vile became2727became, suited,

At length Him nailéd on a gallow-tree,

And slew the Just by most unjust decree.

O huge and most unspeakable impression

Of love's deep wound, that pierced the piteous heart

Of that dear LORD with so entire affection,

And, sharply launching2828launching, lancing every inner part,

Dolours of death into His soul did dart,

Doing Him die that never it deserved,

To free His foes, that from His hest2929hest, command had swerved!

What heart can feel least touch of so sore launch,

Or thought can think the depth of so dear wound?

Whose bleeding source their streams yet never staunch,

But still do flow, and freshly still redound3030redound, flow freely,

To heal the sores of sinful souls unsound,

And cleanse the guilt of that infected crime

Which was enrooted in all fleshly slime.

O blesséd Well of Love! O Flower of Grace!

O glorious Morning-Star! O Lamp of Light!

Most lively image of Thy Father's face,

Eternal King of Glory, LORD of Might,

Meek Lamb of GOD, before all worlds behight3131behight, ordained,

How can we Thee requite for all this good?

Or what can prize3232prize, equal in value that Thy most precious blood?

8

Yet nought Thou ask'st in lieu of all this love,

But love of us, for guerdon of Thy pain:

Ay me! what can us less than that behove?3333behove, profit

Had He required life of us again,

Had it been wrong to ask His own with gain?

He gave us life, He it restoréd, lost;

Then life were least, that us so little cost.

But He our life hath left unto us free,

Free that was thrall, and blesséd that was bann'd;

Ne ought demands but that we loving be,

As He Himself hath loved us afore-hand,

And bound thereto with an eternal band,

Him first to love that us so dearly bought,

And next our brethren, to His image wrought.

Him first to love great right and reason is,

Who first to us our life and being gave,

And after, when we faréd had amiss,

Us wretches from the second death did save;

And last, the food of life, which now we have,

Even He Himself, in His dear Sacrament,

To feed our hungry souls, unto us lent.

Then next, to love our brethren, that were made

Of that self mould, and that self Maker's hand,

That we,3434that we [were] and to the same again shall fade,

Where they shall have like heritage of land,3535land, the grave

However here on higher steps we stand,

Which also were with self-same price redeem'd

That we, however of us light esteem'd.

And were they not, yet since that loving LORD

Commanded us to love them for His sake,

Ev'n for His sake, and for His sacred word,

Which in His last bequest He to us spake,

We should them love, and with their needs partake;

Knowing that, whatsoe'er to them we give,

We give to Him by Whom we all do live.

Such mercy He by His most holy rede3636rede, counsel

Unto us taught, and to approve it true,

Ensampled it by His most righteous deed,

Shewing us mercy, (miserable crew!)

That we the like should to the wretches shew,

And love our brethren; thereby to approve

How much, Himself that lovéd us, we love.

9

Then rouse thyself, O Earth! out of thy soil,

In which thou wallowest like to filthy swine,

And dost thy mind in dirty pleasures moyle,3737moyle, defile

Unmindful of that dearest LORD of thine;

Lift up to Him thy heavy clouded eyne,

That thou His sovereign bounty may'st behold,

And read, through Love, His mercies manifold.

Begin from first, where He encradled was

In simple cratch, wrapt in a wad of hay,

Between the toilful Ox and humble Ass,

And in what rags, and in how base array,

The glory of our heavenly riches lay,

When Him the silly3838silly, simple Shepherds came to see,

Whom greatest Princes sought on lowest knee.

From thence read on the story of His life,

His humble carriage, His unfaulty ways,

His canker'd foes, His fights, His toil, His strife,

His pains, His poverty, His sharp assays,

Through which He past His miserable days,

Offending none, and doing good to all,

Yet being maliced3939maliced, evilly regarded both of great and small.

And look at last, how of most wretched wights

He taken was, betray'd and false accused;

How with most scornful taunts, and fell despites,

He was reviled, disgraced, and foul abused;

How scourged, how crown'd, how buffeted, how bruised;

And lastly, how 'twixt robbers crucified,

With bitter wounds through hands, through feet, and side!

Then let thy flinty heart, that feels no pain,

Empiercéd be with pitiful remorse,

And let thy bowels bleed in every vein,

At sight of His most sacred heavenly corse,

So torn and mangled with malicious force;

And let thy soul, whose sins His sorrows wrought,

Melt into tears, and groan in grievéd thought.

With sense whereof, whilst so thy soften'd spirit

Is inly touch'd, and humbled with meek zeal

Through meditation of His endless merit,

Lift up thy mind to th' Author of thy weal,

And to His sovereign mercy do appeal;

Learn Him to love, that lovéd thee so dear,

And in thy breast His blesséd image bear.

10

With all thy heart, with all thy soul and mind,

Thou must Him love and His behests embrace;

All other loves, with which the world doth blind

Weak fancies, and stir up affections base,

Thou must renounce and utterly displace,

And give thyself unto Him full and free,

That full and freely gave Himself to thee.

Then shalt thou feel thy spirit so possest,

And ravish'd with devouring great desire

Of His dear Self, that shall thy feeble breast

Inflame with love, and set thee all on fire

With burning zeal, through every part entire,

That in no earthly thing thou shalt delight,

But in His sweet and amiable sight.

Thenceforth all world's desire will in thee die,

And all earth's glory, on which men do gaze,

Seem dirt and dross in thy pure-sighted eye,

Compared to that Celestial Beauty's blaze,

Whose glorious beams all fleshly sense doth daze

With admiration of their passing light,

Blinding the eyes, and lumining the spright.

Then shall thy ravish'd soul inspired be,

With heavenly thoughts far above human skill,

And thy bright radiant eyes shall plainly see

Th' Idea of His pure glory present still

Before thy face, that all thy spirits shall fill

With sweet enragement4040enragement, rapture of celestial Love,

Kindled through sight of those fair things above.


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