Charles Lamb

10 February 1775 – 27 December 1834 / London

Living Without God In The World

Mystery of God! thou brave & beauteous world!
Made fair with light, & shade, & stars, & flowers;
Made fearful and august with woods & rocks,
Jagg'd precipice, black mountain, sea in storms;
Sun, over all-that no co-rival owns,
But thro' heaven's pavement rides in despite
Or mockery of the Littleness of Man!
I see a mighty Arm, by Man unseen,
Resistless-not to be controuled; that guides,
In solitude of unshared energies,
All these thy ceaseless miracles, O World!
Arm of the world, I view thee, & I muse
On Man; who, trusting in his mortal strength,
Leans on a shadowy staff-a staff of dreams.
We consecrate our total hopes and fears
To idols, flesh & blood, our love (heaven's due),
Our praise & admiration; praise bestowed
By man on man, and acts of worship done
To a kindred nature, certes do reflect
Some portion of the glory, & rays oblique,
Upon the politic worshipper-so man
Extracts a pride from his humility.
Some braver spirits, of the modern stamp,
Affect a Godhead nearer: these talk loud
Of mind, & independent intellect;
Of energies omnipotent in man;
And man of his own fate artificer-
Yea, of his own life lord, & of the days
Of his abode on earth, when time shall be
That life immortal shall become an Art;
Or Death, by chemic practices deceived,
Forego the scent which for six thousand years,
Like a good hound, he has followed, or at length,
More manners learning, & a decent sense,
And rev'rence of a philosophic world,
Relent, & leave to prey on carcasses.
But these are fancies of a few: the rest,
Atheists, or Deists only in the name,
By word or deed deny a God. They eat
Their daily bread, & draw the breath of heaven,
Without a thought or thanks; heav'n's roof to them
Is but a painted ceiling hung with lamps,
No more, that light them to their purposes.
They 'wander loose about.' They nothing see,
Themselves except, and creatures like themselves,
That liv'd short-sighted, impotent to save.
So on their dissolute spirits, soon or late,
Destruction cometh 'like an armed man,'
Or like a dream of murder in the night,
Withering their mortal faculties, & breaking
The bones of all their pride.-
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