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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Verses on Various Occasions. I. Nature and Art

John Henry Newman (1801–1890)

Ulcombe, September 1826
(For an Album)

“MAN goeth forth” with reckless trust

Upon his wealth of mind,

As if in self a thing of dust

Creative skill might find;

He schemes and toils; stone, wood, and ore

Subject or weapon of his power.

By arch and spire, by tower-girt heights,

He would his boast fulfil;

By marble births, and mimic lights,—

Yet lacks one secret still;

Where is the master-hand shall give

To breathe, to move, to speak, to live?

O take away this shade of might,

The puny toil of man,

And let great Nature in my sight

Unroll her gorgeous plan;

I cannot bear those sullen walls,

Those eyeless towers, those tongueless halls.

Art’s labour’d toys of highest name

Are nerveless, cold, and dumb;

And man is fitted but to frame

A coffin or a tomb;

Well suit when sense is pass’d away,

Such lifeless works the lifeless clay.

Here let me sit where wooded hills

Skirt yon far-reaching plain;

While cattle bank its winding rills,

And suns embrown its grain;

Such prospect is to me right dear,

For freedom, health, and joy are here.

There is a spirit ranging through

The earth, the stream, the air;

Ten thousand shapes, garbs ever new,

That restless One doth wear;

In colour, scent, and taste, and sound

The energy of life is found.

The leaves are rustling in the breeze,

The bird renews her song;

From field to brook, o’er heath, o’er trees,

The sunbeam glides along;

The insect, happy in its hour,

Floats softly by, or sips the flower.

Now dewy rain descends, and now

Brisk showers the welkin shroud;

I care not, though with angry brow

Frowns the red thunder cloud;

Let hail storm pelt, and lightning harm,

’Tis Nature’s work, and has its charm.

Ah! Lovely Nature! others dwell

Full favour’d in thy court;

I of thy smiles but hear them tell,

And feed on their report,

Catching what glimpse an Ulcombe yields

To strangers loitering in her fields.

I go where form has ne’er unbent

The sameness of its sway;

Where iron rule, stern precedent,

Mistreat the graceful day;

To pine as prisoner in his cell,

And yet be thought to love if well.

Yet so His high dispose has set,

Who binds on each his part;

Though absent, I may cherish yet

An Ulcombe of the heart;

Calm verdant hope divinely given,

And suns of peace, and scenes of heaven;—

A soul prepared His will to meet,

Full fix’d His work to do;

Not labour’d into sudden heat,

But inly born anew.—

So living Nature, not dull Art,

Shall plan my ways and rule my heart.