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Lines on a Cross

1 On the British Church. See Bishop Stillingfleet's "Origines Britannicæ."

If, as of yore, when Time was young,
A stone could breathe, and find a tongue;
I ween, old relic, thou right well
The tale of other days couldst tell.

Say, wer't thou hewn, when Truth's fair star
Beamed on our Island from afar?
And Faith, despite our circling main,
Rear'd her pure shrine and simple fane?

Beneath thee did the good and brave
Bear princely Arthur to his grave?
Then patriot join'd with saint, and then
Our priests were all our countrymen.1

Our faith and worship then were one,
Just as his father, pray'd the son,
And, walking in the Gospel light,
Scorn'd murky Rome's delusive night.

Didst thou behold her sway arise?
That mighty mystery of lies!
Where the sear'd conscience, bound to sin,
A godless pardon sought to win!

Baal and Moloch's votaries vile
The sacred temple then defile;
Mingle for gain their poison'd bowls,
And for base lucre cheapen souls!

Then Paganism hail'd again
Her incens'd shrine, her victim slain,
Her cleansing pains beyond the grave,
Her fabled fires and lustral wave.

Oft hast thou seen the tonsur'd throng
In due procession stream along,
Hast view'd each trick, each poor pretence,
To lure the soul by things of sense.

But they are gone!—with fawning brow,
The Tempter stoops to conquer now;
And Error, tired of cells and caves,
Seeks in the busy world her slaves!

Whilst Britain's church, long overgrown
With noxious weeds, like this old stone,
Burst forth, when genial Truth drew nigh,
And hail'd the day-spring from on high.

She, faithful Witness, understood
To shun the ill and choose the good;
Stripp'd from her shrine the stranger's dross,
But cherish'd truth, and kept the cross.