Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from Religious Musings

[Click on image to enlarge] Samuel Taylor Coleridge was twenty-two when he drafted Religious Musings: A Desultory Poem, Written on Christmas' Eve, in the Year of Our Lord, 1794. It was first published in his Poems of 1796 and was his most ambitious work at the time. The passage given here, in the text of 1796, covers the first three of the last four items in the Argument: "The French Revolution. Millennium. Universal Redemption." Coleridge's notes accompanying the text emphasize his conviction that the events in France fulfill the prophecies in the Book of Revelation that a period of violence will be the necessary prelude to an earthly millennium.

ARGUMENT

Introduction. Person of Christ. His Prayer on the Cross. The process of his Doctrines on the mind of the Individual. Character of the Elect. Superstition. Digression to the present War. Origin and Uses of Government and Property. The present State of Society. The French Revolution. Millennium. Universal Redemption. Conclusion.








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* * *

            O ye numberless,
Whom foul Oppression's ruffian gluttony
Drives from life's plenteous feast!
      O thou poor Wretch,
Who nurs'd in darkness and made wild by want
Dost roam for prey, yea thy unnatural hand
Liftest to deeds of blood! O pale-eyed Form,
The victim of seduction, doom'd to know
Polluted nights and days of blasphemy;
Who in loath'd orgies with lewd wassailers
Must gaily laugh, while thy remember'd Home
Gnaws like a viper at thy secret heart!
O aged Women! ye who weekly catch
The morsel tost by law-forc'd Charity,
And die so slowly, that none call it murder!
O loathly-visag'd Suppliants! ye that oft
Rack'd with disease, from the unopen'd gate
Of the full Lazar-house, heart-broken crawl!
O ye to scepter'd Glory's gore-drench'd field
Forc'd or ensnar'd, who swept by Slaughter's scythe,
(Stern nurse of Vultures!) steam in putrid heaps!
O thou poor Widow, who in dreams dost view
Thy Husband's mangled corse, and from short doze
Start'st with a shriek: or in thy half-thatch'd cot
Wak'd by the wintry night-storm, wet and cold,
Cow'rest o'er thy screaming baby! Rest awhile,
Children of Wretchedness! More groans must rise,
More blood must steam, or ere your wrongs be full.
Yet is the day of Retribution nigh:
The Lamb of God hath open'd the fifth seal: >> note 1
And upward rush on swiftest wing of fire
Th' innumerable multitude of Wrongs
By man on man inflicted! Rest awhile,
Children of Wretchedness! The hour is nigh:
And lo! the Great, the Rich, the Mighty Men,
The Kings and the Chief Captains of the World,
With all that fix'd on high like stars of Heaven
Shot baleful influence, shall be cast to earth,
Vile and down-trodden, as the untimely fruit
Shook from the fig-tree by a sudden storm.
Ev'n now the storm begins: >> note 2 each gentle name,
Faith and meek Piety, with fearful joy
Tremble far-off — for lo! the Giant FRENZY
Uprooting empires with his whirlwind arm
Mocketh high Heaven; burst hideous from the cell
Where the old Hag, unconquerable, huge,
Creation's eyeless drudge, black RUIN, sits
Nursing th' impatient earthquake.
            O return!
Pure FAITH! meek PIETY! The abhorred Form >> note 3
Whose scarlet robe was stiff with earthly pomp,
Who drank iniquity in cups of gold,
Whose names were many and all blasphemous,
Hath met the horrible judgement! Whence that cry?
The mighty army of foul Spirits shriek'd
Disherited of earth! For She hath fallen
On whose black front was written MYSTERY;
She that reel'd heavily, whose wine was blood;
She that work'd whoredom with the
      DAEMON POWER
And from the dark embrace all evils things
Brought forth and nurtur'd: mitred ATHEISM!
And patient FOLLY who on bended knee
Gives back the steel that stabb'd him; and pale FEAR
Hunted by ghastlier terrors than surround
Moon-blasted Madness when he yells at midnight!
Return pure FAITH! return meek PIETY!
The kingdoms of the world are yours: each heart
Self-govern'd, the vast family of Love
Rais'd from the common earth by common toil
Enjoy the equal produce. Such delights
As float to earth, permitted visitants!
When on some solemn jubilee of Saints
The sapphire-blazing gates of Paradise
Are thrown wide open, and thence voyage forth
Detachments wild of seraph-warbled airs,
And odors snatch'd from beds of amaranth,
And they, that from the crystal river of life
Spring up on freshen'd wing, ambrosial gales!
The favor'd good man in his lonely walk
Perceives them, and his silent spirit drinks
Strange bliss which he shall recognize in heaven.
And such delights, such strange beatitude
Seize on my young anticipating heart
When that blest future rushes on my view!
For in his own and in his Father's might
The SAVIOUR comes! While as to solemn strains
The THOUSAND YEARS >> note 4 lead up their
      mystic dance,
Old OCEAN claps his hands! The DESERT shouts!
And soft gales wafted from the haunts of Spring
Melt the primaeval North! The mighty Dead
Rise to new life, whoe'er from earliest time
With conscious zeal had urg'd Love's wond'rous plan,
Coadjutors of God. To MILTON'S trump
The odorous groves of earth reparadis'd
Unbosom their glad echoes: inly hush'd
Adoring NEWTON his serener eye
Raises to heaven: and he of mortal kind
Wisest, he >> note 5 first who mark'd the ideal tribes
Down the fine fibres from the sentient brain
Roll subtly-surging. Pressing on his steps
Lo! Priestley there, Patriot, and Saint, and Sage,
Whom that my fleshly eye hath never seen
A childish pang of impotent regret
Hath thrill'd my heart. Him from his native land
Statesmen blood-stain'd and Priests idolatrous
By dark lies mad'ning the blind multitude
Drove with vain hate: calm, pitying he retir'd,
And mus'd expectant on these promis'd years.

O Years! the blest preeminence of Saints!
Sweeping before the rapt prophetic Gaze
Bright as what glories of the jasper throne
Stream from the gorgeous and face-veiling plumes
Of Spirits adoring! Ye, blest Years! must end,
And all beyond is darkness! * * *

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