TO THE REV. J. GILPIN, ON HIS
IMPROVED EDITION OF THE “PILGRIM’S PROGRESS.”
When, Reverend Sir, your good design,
To clothe our Pilgrim gravely fine,
And give him gentler mien and gait,
First reached my ear, his doubtful fate
With dread suspense my mind oppressed,
Awoke my fears, and broke my rest.
Yet, still, had England said, “You’re free,
Choose whom you will,” dear sir, to thee,
For dress beseeming modest worth,
I would have led our pilgrim forth.
But when I viewed him o’er and o’er,
And scrutinized the weeds he wore,
And marked his mien and marked his gait,
And saw him trample sin, elate,
And heard him speak, though coarse and plain,
His mighty truths in nervous strain,
I could not gain my own consent
To your acknowledged good intent.
I had my fears, lest honest John,
When he beheld his polished son
(If saints ought earthly care to know),
Would take him for some Bond Street beau,
Or for that thing—it wants a name—
Devoid of truth, of sense and shame,
Which smooths its chin and licks its lip,
And mounts the pulpit with a skip,
Then turning round its pretty face,
To smite each fair one in the place,
Relaxes half to vacant smile,
And aims with trope and polished style,
And lisp affected, to pourtray
Its silly self in colours gay—
Its fusty moral stuff t’ unload,
And preach itself, and not its God.
Thus, wishing, doubting, trembling led,
I oped your book, your Pilgrim read.
As rising Phœbus lights the skies,
And fading night before him flies,
Till darkness to his cave is hurled
And golden day has gilt the world,
Nor vapour, cloud, nor mist is seen
To sully all the pure serene:
So, as I read each modest line,
Increasing light began to shine,
My cloudy fears and doubts gave way,
Till all around shone Heaven’s own day.
And when I closed the book, thought I,
Should Bunyan leave his throne on high;
He’d own the kindness you have done
To Christian, his orphan son:
And smiling as once Eden smiled,
Would thus address his holy child:—
“My son, ere I removed from hence,
I spared nor labour nor expense
To gain for you the heavenly prize,
And teach you to make others wise.
But still, though inward worth was thine,
You lay a diamond in the mine:
You wanted outward polish bright
To show your pure intrinsic light.
Some knew your worth, and seized the prize,
And now are thronèd in the skies:
Whilst others swilled with folly’s wine,
But trod the pearl like the swine,
In ignorance sunk in their grave,
And thence, where burning oceans lave.
Now polished bright, your native flame
And inward worth are still the same;
A flaming diamond still you glow,
In brighter hues: then cheery go—
More suited by a skilful hand
To do your father’s high command:
Fit ornament for sage or clown,
Or beggar’s rags, or kingly crown.