Abelard to Eloisa: a poem. By Mr. Jerningham.



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IN addreſſing this Poem to Your Lordſhip, I am endeavouring to obtain for it the ſanction of a very ſkillful Judge; of a Perſon who has himſelf adorned the poetical walk, and who has exalted the muſe of Tragedy, [Page iv] in that excellent compoſition, The Father's Revenge.

I have the honour to be, with the impreſſion of the greateſt regard,

Your LORDSHIP's Obedient humble Servant, EDW. JERNINGHAM.



THE monaſtery of CLUNI, from whence ABELARD is ſuppoſed to write the following Epiſtle, was founded in the year 611, near the village of Maſcon, on the river Graone. The Head of this convent (in the time of ABELARD) was diſtinguiſhed for his learning and humanity. Hiſtory elevates him above the vulgar herd of monks by the appellation of the Venerable PETER! He extended his generous protection to the unfortunate ABELARD, when he was under the cenſure of the court of Rome.

SAINT BERNARD alſo is connected with the ſtory of Paraclete. This great man ſtands eminently forward in the picture of the twelfth century: Born with a mind too reſtleſs and enterpriſing to be confined within the circle of monaſtic occupations, he ruſhed into the tumult [Page vi] of active life, and took the lead in ſome of the moſt important tranſactions of that period. With an undiſciplined ardour peculiar to his character, he precipitated his country into that ruinous meaſure, the ſecond cruſade. Behold him at another time haſtening to the conteſt that held all EUROPE in ſuſpence, which exhibited two contending candidates for the popedom. The authority and vehemence of BERNARD overpowered the pretenſions of ANACLETUS, and INNOCENT was ſeated on the papal throne. The enemies of this celebrated Abbot never impeached his moral character; but it muſt be allowed that in his zeal againſt the innovation of new opinions, he has ſometimes left unregarded the ſuperior duty of charity. A letter of his to the Cardinal GUIDO, the pope's legate in France, contains the moſt intolerant and ſanguinary counſel: His perſecution however of ABELARD was prompted (according to the opinion of ſome authors) by an impulſe of jealouſy, alarmed at the ſplendid literary reputation of ſo young a perſon.

[Page vii] ABELARD in the following epiſtle lays a conſiderable ſtreſs upon his ſentence of excommunication: In the dark ages, that ſpiritual humiliation was felt as the greateſt calamity; the relation, the parent, the lover, the friend, ſuſpended their endearing offices, and withdrew from the degraded offender.


YON midnight bell, that frights the peaceful air!
Commands the Fathers to their wonted pray'r:
Now in long order flows the ſable throng,
Like a dark, ſullen ſtream that creeps along:
Why joins not ABELARD the ſainted train?
Does torpid ſloth his ling'ring ſteps detain?
Theſe walls, that pillow ſteep'd in tears, atteſt
That ſleep is exil'd from this tortur'd breaſt:
This lamp proclaims the ſame, whoſe trembling beam
Guides while my hand purſues the glowing theme:
While the dread ſecret from my ſoul I tear,
And unreſerv'd my boſom'd feelings bear.
Ah me! the paſſion that my ſoul, miſled
Was check'd, not conquer'd; buried, but not dead:
[Page 2] Now burſting from the grave, in evil hour,
It haſtens to its prey with fiercer pow'r,
And, vulture-like, with appetite increas'd
It riots on the undiminiſh'd feaſt.
Daughter of Paraclete doſt thou complain
In iron ſilence that I lock'd my pain?
That not to thee (ſoft ſolacer in woe)
I bad the troubled waves of Anguiſh flow?
Methought the courſe of three long years' retreat
Would ſcarce thy length'ning ſacrifice complete:
Methought I ſhould profane the hallow'd rite,
Did my laments thy pitying ear affright:
Thus at the altar, wrapt in holy dread,
The youth of Macedon in ſilence bled,
Nor from his tortur'd and conſuming hand
Diſmiſs'd the living cloſe-adhering brand *
But now thy ſlow inauguration's o'er,
And thou haſt reach'd Religion's tranquil ſhore,
Now that ſtern habit throws without controul
Her chain of adamant around thy ſoul,
[Page 3] May not th'unhappy ABELARD diſcloſe
(To her who pities moſt) his train of woes?
Ye ſullen gates, within whoſe bound confin'd
The wretch who enters flings his joys behind!
Emerging from the dome, ye crowding ſpires,
Which ſun-robed glitter like aſcending fires!
That funeral ſpot with many a cypreſs ſpread,
Where ſhriek the ſpirits of the guilty dead!
Yon moping foreſt, whoſe extenſive ſway
Admits no lucid interval of day,
No cheering viſta with a trail of light
Flies thro' the heavy gloom of laſting night:
Ye hermitages, deep immers'd in wood,
Waſh'd by the paſſing tributary flood,
Whoſe eaſy waves, ſoft-murm'ring as they roll,
Lull the ſtrong goadings of the feeling ſoul:
Ye tow'ring rocks, to wonder's eye addreſs'd,
Miſhapen piles by Terror's hand impreſs'd!—
[Page 4] Ah, not theſe ſcenes magnificently rude
To Virtue's lore have ABELARD ſubdued.
When late my ſteps drew near the peopled choir,
What erring wiſhes did my heart inſpire?
To the deep myſteries as I advanced,
Still in thy preſence was my ſoul entranced:
While, bending to the earth, the choral throng
Pauſe, 'ere they uſher the emphatic ſong;
While kneeling ſeraphs, trembling as they glow,
Veil with their radiant wings their baſhful brow;
While the deep organ (as by fear controul'd)
Its ſolemn ſound like diſtant thunder roll'd;
While thick'ning odours dim'd the dread abode,
And th' altar ſhudder'd at th' approaching God!—
'Midſt theſe auguſt, terrific rites unmov'd,
My guilty thoughts to other altars rov'd:
In Love enchas'd, a dearer image bleſt
That living chapel, my impaſſion'd breaſt!
[Page 5] Where burns a hungry and inſatiate flame
To that ſoft deity I bluſh to name.
Thoſe hours to recollection ſpring renew'd,
When Paſſion urg'd us, and when Pleaſure woo'd;
When, captur'd by Deſire's voluptuous hold,
Involv'd—combin'd—embodied—and inſoul'd—
Forbear....Let dim Oblivion caſt behind,
Words that would ſoil thy purity of mind:
Recall, recall that intereſting hour,
When in the fluſh of Youth, and Beauty's flow'r,
(Ah! doom'd, ſeverely doom'd, to meet no more)
When from each dearer ſelf our forms we tore,
How, to Affection's finer touch conſign'd,
My face upon thy ſummer cheek inclin'd,
Felt as it dropt thy tear's celeſtial dew,
While ſighs, not words, breath'd forth our laſt adieu.
Intruding Fancy rais'd the veil between,
And ſhew'd Futurity's unwelcome ſcene,
Nights of long abſence that expect no dawn,
Divorcing gulphs that muſt for ever yawn.
[Page 6] In thy pure ſoul a purer ſelf I trac'd
Our glowing minds with energy embrac'd,
Whence th' intellectual progeny aroſe
Which kindred fears and kindred hopes compoſe,
Endearments tending to one mutual aim,
The ſame our ſorrow and our joy the ſame.
Now that thy ſpirit is divinely wrought,
To nobler objects flies thy ſoaring thought;
For free and unreſtrain'd of human ties,
Thy ſoul uncaptiv'd ſprings into the ſkies!
To Contemplation's height ſublime you ſail,
While wings ſeraphic aid the hallow'd gale;
From man to God! Perfection's dazzling ſource,
Unwearied you purſue your bright ning courſe,
And as thro' ſtation'd angels you advance,
Send on the throne of Heav'n a daring glance.
For me, unequal to this dizzy height,
Undiſciplin'd, unwing'd for myſtic flight,
[Page 7] To ſpeed the ling'ring ſtep of cloyſter hours,
To ſcience I conſign'd my mental pow'rs:
Fame met me in her path, and round my brow
Engarlanded the wreath of Splendor's glow.
Then ſwell'd, diſturb'd with Envy's with'ring pow'r,
The ſerpent Bernard hiſs'd within my bow'r,
Pour'd the black venom with inſidious aim,
Chill'd my ſoul's health, and dimm'd my radiant name:
Still, ſtill inventing ſome malignant plan;
Impetuous, turbulent, vindictive man!
Behind the ſimple, meek, monaſtic veſt,
Ambition blazes in his troubled breaſt.
Averſe amid the penſive ſhades to dwell,
He ſhuns the ſtillneſs of the lonely cell,
Embroils the conteſts that involve [...] the great,
Deepens the ſtorm that darkens o'er the ſtate,
And like the bird of Jove by vengeance driv'n,
Bears in his graſp th' artillery of Heav'n!
See Anaclétus, trembling at his frown,
To Innocent reſign the doubtful crown:
[Page 8] Mark, at the impulſe of his bold command,
The throng that haſtens to the palmy land:
See to his gaudy levee crouds reſort;
See the gay tinſel'd [...]oplings of the court:
There too the hoary ſages of the law,
And military chiefs approach with awe;
There abbots, princes, cardinals, advance,
And all the ſplendor, all the pride of France
As not unworthy of his ſainted rage,
Now meaner objects tread his buſy ſtage;
He bids thy ABELARD aſcend the ſcene,
And pours the torrent of his holy ſpleen:
Then Perſecution with reſiſtleſs ſway,
Thro' her long-ſounding flood-gates burſt away;
Her armory the Vatican diſplay'd,
In all its proud magnificence array'd;
From whence abrupt th' avenging Pontiff ſprung,
And at my peace the bolt of terror flung.
[Page 9] While o'er her victim (to diſhonour led)
Her cloud of iron extirpation ſpread.
Now the pale outcaſt both of Heav'n and earth,
I curs'd the day that glimmer'd on my birth:
Degraded—ſhunn'd—to infamy allied,
Amidſt the ruins of my ſoul I cried,
No more my image to her thought adjoin'd
Shall ſhare the heav'n of ELOISA'S mind:
No more (I cried) my reprobated name
Shall from her lips its daily honour claim,
No longer to the throne of GOD repair,
Borne on the wings of her triumphant pray'r.
Now frenzy urg'd my wild'ring ſteps to rove
Beneath the night of yon extenſive grove:
Now urg'd along the moutain's top to range
(Deſpair ſtill haunting me thro' ev'ry change)
To tread th' advent'rous path that coaſts the brow
Which ſcowls tremendous o'er the vale below:
[Page 10] Then to the ſummit of yon rock I toil'd,
That ſhoots its crags fantaſtically wild!
There ruſh'd upon my view the hallow'd croſs,
Cloath'd in the garb of venerable moſs!
This wonted pledge of mercy and delight
Struck on my fading hope a dark'ning blight;
No more the ſaving all-atoning rood,
The griſly ſymbol of revenge it ſtood!
Loſt in the extacy of ſtrong deſpair,
With madd'ning hand I tore my rooted hair.—
'Twas then the ſeer of warm compaſſion came
To lull my tortures and diſpel my ſhame:
"Deſiſt," the Prieſt of Charity began,
"And own once more the dignity of man!
"No longer Rome and ABELARD are foes,
"The thunders of the Vatican repoſe;
"The holy church, by my remonſtrance won,
"Takes to her boſom her ſtill darling ſon."
Hail to the tidings of that chearing voice
That bids the humbled ABELARD rejoice!
[Page 11] That bids his image to her thought rejoin'd,
Still ſhare the heav'n of ELOISA'S mind.
Yet not thy perſon (that attractive ſight)
Diffuſing round ineffable delight,
Nor thy diſcourſe, illum'd with Wiſdom's ray,
Which with ſoft rapine ſteals the ſould away:
That eye, where meek Dominion holds her throne;
That voice, where Muſic ſmooths her ſofteſt tone;
By liberal Nature prodigally giv'n,
(What words can't paint) that ſmile of opening Heav'n:
Theſe various charms that paſs all human praiſe,
Theſe charms that once adorn'd my happier days,
No more ſhall I behold—tis folly to complain,
Thoſe days of ſplendor ne'er muſt riſe again.
Adieu thou miſtreſs of enchanting pow'r!
Thou bliſsful viſion of a tranſient hour!
For ſuch appears (to Fancy ſtill how dear)
The ſloping race of Rapture's ſwift career,
[Page 12] When Heav'n enforcing its benign decree,
With laviſh bounty gave thy form to me.
Hope now is dead, and Pleaſure's knell is rung;
With ſable thoughts my dreary mind is hung.
'Twas at the hour when from the ſorrowing view,
The glowing God of day his beams withdrew,
When Veſper all her pageantry diſplay'd,
Fretting the ſky with many an awful ſhade:
Here trees appear'd that ſtruggled with the ſtorm,
There a wan cloud aſſum'd a ſpectre's form:
A ſolitary hand here graſp'd a ſpear,
There angry meteors combated in air:
Now riding on the wind with threat'ning mien,
The dark, terrific phantom Death was ſeen:
From a thick vapour's dread unfolding womb
Now bodied forth the likeneſs of a tomb:
Thy form, oh ELOISE, I clearly traced,
Thine airy arms the ſepulchre embraced:
[Page 13] That mimic tomb my early fate foreſhews,
While my ſoul labours with prophetic throes:
Now cloſes faſt my ſhort diſaſtrous day,
To life's dark boundary I haſte away.
The virtuous CLUNI ſtill relieves my pains,
To thee will he convey my cold remains:
This kind aſſurance mitigates my doom,
Thou'lt ſtand the guardian angel at my tomb:
Clos'd be this form in ELOISA'S fane,
She'll ſight my requiem with a Lover's ſtrain:
Oft to my grave with ſorrowful delight
Will ſhe repair, as glooms the thick'ningnight:
Burſt from thy cloud, oh Cynthia, burſt away,
The holy ſhadow of her frame diſplay!
Let the ſoft texture of her length'ning ſhade.
Repoſe along the ſpot where mine is laid!
Were thus her preſence to my wiſhes giv'n,
Death would rejoice, my grave would then be Heav'n!
[Page 14]
Forgive this laſt effuſion of a heart
Which Love and Nature form'd unſtain'd by Art;
Which midſt the fears that wait on Death's decree,
With all its wonted ardor darts to thee.
Prepare, prepare for that relentleſs day
When the dark hearſe this form ſhall bear away!
When to the fane of Paraclete convey'd,
My humble bier ſhall at thy feet be laid:
Prepare, prepare—throw back the veſtal gate,
Receive the victim of untimely fate:
Receive the Youth misfortune held to view
[...]till mid his woes invariably true:
That Youth (from other ſtrong affections free)
Whoſe life was one continued hymn to thee:
That Youth whom paſſion ruſhing on his breaſt
With tort'ring and extatic hand impreſs'd.
[...]repare, prepare—yet check the burſting moan,
[...]hou to compaſſion exquiſitely prone!
[Page 15] Leſt glowing ſympathy, with Death at ſtrife,
Should kindle my cold aſhes into life,
And my rous'd voice invading Nature's laws
Breathe in loud accents terrible applauſe.
Yet will my ſoul pour forth another claim....
Ah me! what ſudden langour chills my frame?...
My tremulous and feeble hand denies
Its function...gath'ring vapours cloud my eyes...
Of all that paſſion dictated of mine,
If now I touch the ſad, the cloſing line,
If 'ere theſe words thy pity ſhall implore,
This warm and raving heart ſhall throb no more?
Farewell—Be thou with added years ſtill bleſt—
Ah, let me live in thy recording breaſt.



ALSO, A New Edition, 2 Vols. 8vo. elegantly printed, Price 5s. ſewed, POEMS, By Mr. JERNINGHAM.

Lately publiſhed, Price 2s. elegantly printed, ENTHUSIASM, A POEM, in Two PARTS.

Alluding to the boy at Athens, who, while he was aſſiſting at a religious ceremony, endured a burning coal that ſell on his hand, rather than diſturb the ſacrifice.