Charity, Did sweeter sounds adorn my flowing tongue

by Prior

Letter D.

Did sweeter sounds adorn my flowing tongue,

Than ever man pronounced or angel sung;

Had I all knowledge, human and divine

That thought can reach, or science can define;

And had I power to give that knowledge birth,

In all the speeches of the babbling earth,

Did Shadrach's zeal my glowing breast inspire,

To weary tortures, and rejoice in fire;

Or had I faith like that which Israel saw,

When Moses gave them miracles and law:

Yet, gracious Charity, indulgent guest,

Were not thy power exerted in my breast,

Those speeches would send up unheeded pray'r;

That scorn of life would be but wild despair;

A cymbal's sound were better than my voice;

My faith were form, my eloquence were noise.


Charity, decent, modest, easy, kind,

Softens the high, and rears the abject mind;

Knows with just reins, and gentle hand, to guide

Betwixt vile shame and arbitrary pride.

Not soon provoked, she easily forgives;

And much she suffers, as she much believes.

Soft peace she brings wherever she arrives;

She builds our quiet, as she forms our lives;

Lays the rough paths of peevish nature even,

And opens in each heart a little heaven.

Each other gift, which God on man bestows,

Its proper bounds, and due restriction knows;

To one fix'd purpose dedicates its power;

And finishing its act, exists no more.

Thus, in obedience to what Heaven decrees,

Knowledge shall fail, and prophecy shall cease;

But lasting Charity's more ample sway,

Nor bound by time, nor subject to decay,

In happy triumph shall for ever live,

And endless good diffuse, and endless praise receive.

As through the artist's intervening glass,

Our eye observes the distant planets pass,

A little we discover, but allow

That more remains unseen than art can show;

So whilst our mind its knowledge would improve,

Its feeble eye intent on things above,

High as we may we lift our reason up,

By faith directed, and confirm'd by hope;

Yet are we able only to survey

Dawnings of beams and promises of day;

Heav'n's fuller effluence mocks our dazzled sight—

Too great its swiftness, and too strong its light.

But soon the mediate clouds shall be dispell'd;

The Son shall soon be face to face beheld,

In all his robes, with all his glory on,

Seated sublime on his meridian throne.

Then constant Faith, and holy Hope shall vie,

One lost in certainty, and one in joy:

Whilst thou, more happy pow'r, fair Charity,

Triumphant sister, greatest of the three,

Thy office, and thy nature still the same,

Lasting thy lamp, and unconsumed thy flame,

Shall still survive—

Shall stand before the host of heav'n confest,

For ever blessing, and for ever blest.