Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd

On The Education Of The Poor

Addressed to Mr. Lancaster.

No fields of Death, no hero's deeds I sing,
No splendid conquest, no victorious King;
My humble muse a peaceful strain essays,
And sings a far more useful victor's praise--
Here shall the world no tyrant's sword deplore,
No warrior dip his plumes in human gore;
Nor purple banners mock the dusky air,
Fann'd by the doleful offspring of despair--
'Tis mine to hail the dawnings of the ray,
Which glads the world with hope of brighter day,
Shines beaming thro' the thickest gloom of night,
And puts the deepest shades of woe to flight;
Bids Superstition hide her odious head,
And raises thousands number'd with the dead.
'Tis mine to sing Religion, Virtue, Truth,
Implanted on the minds of British youth,
By thee, whose lib'ral deed and fruitful mind
Proclaim thee--Benefactor of Mankind.
The wants of pining mis'ry to relieve,
To wipe the tear away from those that grieve;
The trembling wretch from deepest woe to raise,
And bid his falt'ring tongue resound with praise;
With soothing hand to ease the aching head,
And on the cheerless bosom comfort shed;
The aching heart with sweet support to fill,
Or bid the angry passions--Peace, be still;
To soothe the anxious brow of wrinkled care,
And watch beside the bed of dark despair,
With sympathetic tears each couch to steep,
Relieve the poor, and weep with those that weep,--
Bespeak the Christian's liveliest grace confest,
With God's own image stamp'd upon his breast.

Thus Godlike Howard travers'd ev'ry land,
Thro' icy regions and thro' tracts of sand,
O'er mountains hid in clouds, and capp'd with snow,
To benefit mankind, and lighten woe:
In dungeons darksome, where the solar ray
Had never shone, or brought a glimpse of day,
The captives shouted when his voice was heard,
And balm flow'd freely from each cheering word;
The prisoners' mind began with joy to glow,
And tears of pleasure from their eyelids flow--
He eas'd their chains, dispell'd their sore dismay,
Submission taught, and wip'd their tears away;
The darksome caves the godlike Briton trod,
And made the old in vice submit to God;
Thus, when on mercy's errands from the skies,
On balmy wings, a heav'nly seraph flies,
Preserves, assists, relieves, and cheers mankind,
Supports the body, or directs the mind,
Stands o'er afflicting sickness' weary bed,
Counts ev'ry groan, and wipes the aching head,
Stops ev'ry pain, and hushes all the sighs,
Then bear the blissful spirit to the skies.
So, in each region where the good man came,
His praise was echo'd by the trump of Fame,
Exalted monarchs saw their with'ring bays,
Their honors dropp'd, and stoop'd to sound his praise;
They rode indeed triumphant o'er the plain,
Bestrew'd with mangled corps of heroes slain,
Tears mark'd the progress of their dreadful sway,
And captives sigh'd to see the banners play;
But he made wretchedness and grief to cease,
His spirit breath'd good-will to man and peace;
Zeal ardent thro' his veins and bosom ran,
Which glow'd with Love to God, and Love to Man.
As solar rays dispel the gloom of night,
He put their transient glories all to flight;
And when, 'mid works of Love his spirit fled,
The hearts of thousands wrung with sorrow bled;
Man saw him fall a Martyr to his cause,
And nature rang with sorrow and applause:
Long as mankind shall be, will stand his fame,
And rolling time add lustre to his name.

Nor less in thee, O ardent friend of youth,
We hail the spread of Knowledge, Virtue, Truth;
To teach the poor in virtue's paths is thine,
And raise their aims from human to divine.
From ignorance impiety begins,
And the long train of woes, misfortunes, sins;
The youth forlorn, without a teacher's care,
Expos'd to wint'ry blasts and chilling air,
Without a beacon or a friend to guide,
Toss'd to and fro, beset on ev'ry side,
To pleasure or to av'rice falls a prey,
And press'd by vice's reign and passion's sway,
Falls grov'lling on the earth, nor tries to rise,
Unhappy, useless lives, and wretched dies.--
But 'tis thy noble--thy ingenuous plan
To raise the pow'rs of uninstructed man,
To form his mind, direct to God on high,
And teach him how to live and how to die;
Bid ev'ry breast with Love and Joy to glow,
And teach the sympathetic tear to flow,
Exalt the mind, and give it force to rise
The glorious path, that leads it to the skies.
Oft are the pow'rs of many a noble mind,
To shades eternal, and to night consign'd,
By adverse fortune or by woe deprest;
In vain with pow'rs immortal heaves the breast;
Chill'd by the hand of penury and care,
Or only blooms to please a desert air;
But, may we hope in future years to see,
Arise from those who once were taught by thee,
Some Chatham, heaving big with empires' fate
To raise his arm, and save a sinking state;
Some Milton start aloud in deathless strains,
And raise the glory of Britannia's plains;
Some ardent warrior form'd her state to save,
And by his own, prevent a nation's grave;
Resolv'd the fate of bloody war to try,
Like Nelson conquer, or like Nelson die;
Some Newton thro' the realms of space to soar,
Discover suns and worlds unknown before,
Show what more hangs on Heav'n's Almighty nod,
And raise mankind still nearer to their God;
Some Howard give the captive wretch release,
Or whisper in the ear of torment--Peace,
Turn man from earth, his being's end display,
And teach him upwards to direct his way;
Bid war and outrage, lust and rapine cease,
And bless the world with universal peace.

In deepest shades of Heathen darkness hurl'd,
Long lay the nations which adorn'd the world;
Wise in the arts, in various knowledge wise,
They nothing knew beyond these lower skies.
'Mid darkest shades condemn'd in grief to roam,
Jehovah's name and attributes unknown;
They knew not whence their being, what their end,
Whom they should pray to, or on whom depend;
In vain they strove to dissipate the gloom--
The bound'ry of their knowledge was--the tomb.

At length, increasing from a glimm'ring ray,
The light burst on us in a flood of day;
The word of God brought mortals heav'nly aid,
Our being's nature, cause, and end display'd,
Show'd us the future worlds beyond the grave,
The glorious plan devis'd mankind to save.
'Tis this has brought upon the nations light,--
Take this away,--and all is dark as night.--
Still rapt in ignorance ten-thousands lie,
Think but to err--and only live--to die,
Nor view the brightness of Jehovah's love,
Nor know their charter to the realms above;
Unhappy men! we sicken'd at the view--
Our tears once fell--we now rejoice for you;
Soon light shall shine with one unclouded ray,
And darksome night give place to perfect day;
Soon shall the dawn dispel the fatal gloom,
And free mankind, and burst their iron tomb.
O! if the soul of man, from flame divine,
And heav'nly essence sprung, transcendent shine!
Above ten thousand orbs that gild the sky,--
If when compar'd with this they empty fly--
Creation's wond'rous pow'rs as trifling seem,
A grain--an atom or an empty dream;
O what a work! ten thousand souls to save,
And catch them sinking from th' eternal grave;
Teach all the way from earthly things to rise,
And hope for endless bliss beyond the skies.
What! tho' on earth the fairest joys must fade,
And fairest prospects vanish like a shade;
If sweet Religion taught in youth remain,
A solace here we find from ev'ry pain;
Soon may we see these noble blessings spread,
And heav'nly knowledge, heav'nly comfort shed--
Then when disease shall grieve the pallid frame,
And quiv'ring lips scarce speak Jehovah's name,
Sweet comfort banish fear and dark dismay,
And heav'nly angels wipe each tear away,
The happy man for thee shall bless his God,
Smile at thy name, and humble kiss the rod.
For thee shall pray, and fix'd in Faith and Love,
Exalt thy name amidst the hosts above.--
Britannia, mistress of the azure main,
Beholds her fleets and armies fight in vain;
Oft when a trophy o'er the dead she rears,
Her laurels bought with blood are wet with tears;
In Education all her hope relies,
Not courage now, but virtue, gains the prize;
O hear her join thy honor'd name to praise,
And add new lustre to thy peaceful bays;
Hark, the glad shouts thro' all the nation ring,
And speak their wishes by their patriot king,
(Yes, may his name for ever mildly shine,
And gain new bays from those he plants on thine)
May ev'ry child the word of Promise read,
And Britain's happy shores are bless'd indeed;
Then Peace shall reign and heav'nly blessings fall,
From him who sees, directs, and orders all;
Our's be the praise to set the captives free,
And fill the world with joy and Liberty,
Each virtue florish, ev'ry art succeed--
And Britain's Isle by Heav'n be bless'd indeed.
Yes: may kind Heav'n assist with aid divine,
And great success, in all thy plans, be thine!
May ev'ry blessing on thy head descend,
Thy country's glory, and thy nature's friend!
May, thro' thy means, war, sin, and woe decrease,
And earth be hush'd in universal peace.
See Superstition with her bloody hand;
Nerveless she falls and grimly bites the sand!
Whilst Heav'n's glad tidings 'mongst the heathen shed,
The wounded heal, and animate the dead!
Bid India sing aloud in noblest lays,
And Afric join Jehovah's name to praise;
Loose ev'ry clime, and plant sweet Sharon's rose
On barren deserts and 'mid endless snows;
Haste the glad period when the Saviour's fame
Shall make all Earth re-echo with his name;
When Peace thro' ev'ry Empire shall prevail
And universal Justice lift her scale;
No more the darts, conveying death be hurl'd,
But Wisdom, Truth and Peace shall bless the world;
Yes; may these prospects soothe thy life's decline,
And heav'n's best comforts, Lancaster, be thine;
These soothe the struggles of thy dying breath,
And cheer thy spirit on the bed of Death;
And when on Seraphs' wings thy spirit flies,
To seek its native seat beyond the skies,
Then may thy soul with ten-fold pleasure glow,
To see the good thy plans have done below;
And when the destin'd years revolving 'round,
Shall burst the graves and bid the trumpet sound,
And nations rising from the dreary tomb
Shall start to life and hear their final doom,
Then, favor'd man! ten thousand mayst thou meet
At God's right hand beside the judgment seat,
Thy form rever'd with rapt'rous joy to see,
And date their bliss, transporting thought! from thee,
Thro' all Eternity in deathless lays,
To join the shouts of their Redeemer's praise.

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Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd