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Letitia Elizabeth Landon 1802 (Chelsea) – 1838 (Cape Coast)
It is a glorious task to seek,
Where misery droops the patient head :
Where tears are on the widow’s cheek,
Where weeps the mourner o’er the dead.
These are the moments when the heart
Turns from a world no longer dear;
These are the moments to impart
The only hope still constant here.
That hope is present in our land,
For many a sacred shrine is there ;
Time-honoured old cathedrals stand ;*
Each village has its house of prayer.
O’er all the realm one creed is spread—
One name adored—one altar known :
If souls there be in doubt, or dread,
Alas ! the darkness is their own.
The priest whose heart is in his toil
Hath here a task of hope and love ;
He dwells upon his native soil,
He has his native sky above.
Not so beneath this foreign sky ;
Not so upon this burning strand ;
Where yonder giant temples lie, **
The miracles of mortal hand.
Mighty and beautiful, but given
To idols of a creed profane ;
That cast the shade of earth on heaven,
By fancies monstrous, vile, and vain.
The votary here must half unlearn
The accents of his mother-tongue ;
Must dwell ’mid strangers, and must earn
Fruits from a soil reluctant wrung.
His words on hardened hearts must fall,
Harden'd till God’s appointed hour ;
Yet he must wait, and watch o'er all,
Till hope grows faith, and prayer has power.
And many a grave neglected lies,
Where sleep the soldiers of the Lord ;
Who perish'd ’neath the sultry skies,
Where first they preached that sacred word.
But not in vain—their toil was blest;
Life's dearest hope by them was won ;
A blessing is upon their rest,
And on the work which they begun.
Yon city,*** where our purer creed
Was as a thing unnamed, unknown,
Has now a sense of deeper need,
Has now a place of prayer its own.
And many a darkened mind has light,
And many a stony heart has tears;
The morning breaking o’er that night,
So long upon those godless spheres.
Our prayers be with them—we who know
The value of a soul to save,
Must pray for those, who seek to show
The Heathen Hope beyond the grave.
* The Cathedral of Exeter.
** Triad Figure. Interior of Elephanta.—"The figure that faces the entrance is the most remarkable in this excavation, and has given rise to numberless conjectures and theories. It is a gigantic bust of some three-headed being, or the three heads of some being to whom the temple may be supposed to be dedicated. Some writers have imagined that it is, what they have called the Hindoo Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva ; and very strange historical conclusions have been deduced from this hypothesis. The Hindoo Trimurti, or Trinity, as it has been called, does not occupy a very remarkable place in the theology of the Brahmins ; the word Trimurti means three forms, and is applied to any three-headed figure."—Elliot.
*** Cawnpore.—“At this place, the excellent missionary, Henry Martyn, laboured for some months, in the years 1809 and 1810, both among the Europeans in the cantonments, and among the natives in the town. In the life of Martyn there is an account of his first effort to preach the gospel publicly to a mixture of the Hindoos and Mohammedans at Cawnpore. This attempt to make the word of God known to these people, seems to have had a peculiar blessing upon it ; and at times he drew together a congregation of eight hundred souls, who frequently burst into loud applause at what he said. Surely, the word of the Lord shall not return to him void.”—Elliot.
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