Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings
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Earth Despicable—Heaven Desirable

by Ralph Erskine

There's nothing round the spacious earth
       To suit my vast desires;
To more refined and solid mirth
       My boundless thought aspires.

Fain would I leave this mournful place,
       This music dull, where none
But heavy notes have any grace,
       And mirth accents the moan:

Where troubles tread upon reliefs,
       New woes with older blend;
Where rolling storms and circling griefs
       Run round without an end:

Where waters wrestling with the stones,
       Do fight themselves to foam,
And hollow clouds, with thund'ring groans,
       Discharge their pregnant womb:

Where eagles mounting meet with rubs
       That dash them from the sky;
And cedars, shrinking into shrubs,
       In ruin prostrate lie:

Where sin the author of turmoils,
       The cause of death and hell;
The one thing foul that all things foils,
       Does most befriended dwell.

The purchaser of night and woe,
       The forfeiter of day,
The debt that ev'ry man did owe,
       But only God could pay.

Bewitching ill, indors'd with hope,
       Subscribed with despair:
Ugly in death when eyes are ope,
       Though life may paint it fair.

Small wonder that I droop alone
       In such a doleful place;
When lo! my dearest friend is gone,
       My Father hides his face.

And though in words I seem to show
       The fawning poets style,
Yet is my plaint no feigned woe;
       I languish in exile.

I long to share the happiness
       Of that triumphant throne,
That swim in seas of boundless bliss
       Eternity along.

When but in drops here by the way
       Free love distils itself,
I pour contempt on hills of prey,
       And heaps of wordly pelf.

To be amidst my little joys,
       Thrones, sceptres, crowns, and kings,
Are nothing else but little toys,
       And despicable things.

Down with disdain earth's pomp I thrust,
       Put tempting wealth away;
Heav'n is not made of yellow dust,
       Nor bliss of glittering clay.

Sweet was the hour I freedom felt
       To call my Jesus mine;
To see his smiling face, and melt
       In pleasures all divine.

Let fools an heav'n of shades pursue,
       But I for substance am:
The heav'n I seek is likeness to,
       And vision of the Lamb.

The worthy Lamb with glory crown'd
       In his august abode;
Enthron'd sublime, and deck'd around
       With all the pomp of God.

I long to join the saints above,
       Who crown'd with glorious bays,
Through radiant files of angels move,
       And rival them in praise:

In praise to JAH, the God of love,
       The fair incarnate Son,
The holy co-eternal Dove,
       The good, the great Three-one.

In hope to sing without a sob
       The anthem ever new,
I gladly bid the dusty globe,
       And vain delights, Adieu.

Index to Ralph Erskine
Some Sidelights on Ralph Erskine
Poetry Index

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