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DAME, said the Panther, times are mended well,
Since late among the Philistines you fell.*
The toils were pitch'd, a spacious tract of ground
With expert huntsmen was encompass'd round;
The inclosure narrow'd; the sagacious power
Of hounds and death drew nearer every hour.
"Tis true, the younger lion 'scaped the snare,
But all your priestly calves lay struggling there,
As sacrifices on their altars laid ;‡
you, their careful mother, wisely fled, Not trusting destiny to save your head.
*Alluding to the Popish Plot. See Note I.
James II. then Duke of York, whom Shaftesbury and his party involved in the odium of the plot.
Plunket, the titular primate of Ireland, Whitebread, provincial of the Jesuits, and several other Catholic priests, suffered for the alleged plot. Derrick most absurdly supposes the passage to refer to the period of the Civil War.
For, whate'er promises you have applied
To your unfailing church, the surer side
Is four fair legs in danger to provide;
And whate'er tales of Peter's chair you tell,
Yet, saving rev'rence of the miracle,
The better luck was yours to 'scape so well.
As I remember, said the sober Hind, Those toils were for your own dear self design'd, As well as me; and with the self-same throw, To catch the quarry* and the vermin too,Forgive the sland'rous tongues that call'd you so. Howe'er you take it now, the common cry Then ran you down for your rank loyalty.† Besides, in Popery they thought you nurst, As evil tongues will ever speak the worst, Because some forms, and ceremonies some You kept, and stood in the main question dumb. Dumb you were born indeed; but, thinking long, The test, it seems, at last has loosed your tongue : And to explain what your forefathers meant, By real presence in the sacrament,
After long fencing push'd against a wall,
Your salvo comes, that he's not there at all:
There changed your faith, and what may change
Who can believe what varies every day,
Nor ever was, nor will be at a stay?—
* Quarry signifies, properly, " dead game ready to be cut up by the huntsman," which the French still call faire la curée. But it is often taken, as in this passage, for the game in general. Vermin comprehends such wild animals as are not game-foxes, polecats, and the like.
The test oath against Popery, in which transubstantiation is formally disavowed. See Note III.
Tortures may force the tongue untruths to tell, And I ne'er own'd myself infallible,
Replied the Panther: grant such presence were,
Yet in your sense I never own'd it there.
A real virtue we by faith receive,
And that we in the sacrament believe.-
Then, said the Hind, as you the matter state,
Not only Jesuits can equivocate;
For real, as you now the word expound,
From solid substance dwindles to a sound.
Methinks, an Æsop's fable you repeat;
You know who took the shadow for the meat.
Your church's substance thus you change at will,
And yet retain your former figure still.
I freely grant you spoke to save your life;
For then you lay beneath the butcher's knife.
Long time you fought, redoubled battery bore,
But, after all, against yourself you swore,
Your former self; for every hour your form
Is chopp'd and changed, like winds before a storm.
Thus fear and interest will prevail with some;
For all have not the gift of martyrdom.-
The Panther grinn'd at this, and thus replied:
That men may err was never yet denied;
But if that common principle be true,
The canon, dame, is levell'd full at you.
But, shunning long disputes, I fain would see
That wond'rous wight, Infallibility.
Is he from heaven, this mighty champion, come?
Or lodged below in subterranean Rome?
First, seat him somewhere, and derive his race,
Or else conclude that nothing has no place.—
Suppose, though I disown it, said the Hind,
The certain mansion were not yet assign'd;
The doubtful residence no proof can bring
Against the plain existence of the thing.
Because philosophers may disagree,
If sight by emission, or reception be,
Shall it be thence inferr'd, I do not see ?*
But you require an answer positive,
Which yet, when I demand, you dare not give ;
For fallacies in universals live.t
I then affirm, that this unfailing guide
In pope and general councils must reside;
Both lawful, both combined; what one decrees
By numerous votes, the other ratifies.
On this undoubted sense the church relies.
"Tis true, some doctors in a scantier space,
I mean, in each apart, contract the place.
Some, who to greater length extend the line,
The church's after-acceptation join.
This last circumference appears too wide;
The church diffused is by the council tied,
As members by their representatives
Obliged to laws, which prince and senate gives.
Thus, some contract, and some enlarge the space;
In pope and council, who denies the place,
Assisted from above with God's unfailing grace?
Those canons all the needful points contain;
Their sense so obvious, and their words so plain,
That no disputes about the doubtful text
Have hitherto the labouring world perplex'd.
If any should in after-times appear,
New councils must be called, to make the meaning clear;
There was a dispute among naturalists, whether sight was accomplished per emissionem vel per receptionem specierum. + Dolus versatur in generalibus, was an axiom of the schools. Note IV
Because in them the power supreme resides,
And all the promises are to the guides.*
This may be taught with sound and safe defence;
But mark how sandy is your own pretence,
Who, setting councils, pope, and church aside,
Are every man his own presuming guide.†
The sacred books, you say, are full and plain,
And every needful point of truth contain ;
All who can read interpreters may be.
Thus, though your churches disagree,
Yet every saint has to himself alone
The secret of this philosophic stone.
These principles your jarring sects unite,
When differing doctors and disciples fight.
Though Luther, Zuinglius, Calvin, holy chiefs,
Have made a battle-royal of beliefs;
Or, like wild horses, several ways have whirl'd
The tortured text about the Christian world;
Each Jehu lashing on with furious force,
That Turk or Jew could not have used it worse;
No matter what dissension leaders make,
Where every private man may save a stake.
Ruled by the Scripture and his own advice,
Each has a blind bye-path to Paradise ;
Where, driving in a circle slow or fast,
Opposing sects are sure to meet at last.
A wond'rous charity you have in store
For all reform'd to pass the narrow door;
So much, that Mahomet had scarcely more.
For he, kind prophet, was for damning none;
But Christ and Moses were to save their own;
*The Catholics interpret our Saviour's promise, " that he would be with the disciples to the end of the world," as appli cable to their own church exclusively.