John Littlewit, friends, was a credulous man.
In the good time long ago,
Ere men had gone wild o’er the latter-day dream
Of turning the world upside down with steam,
Or of chaining the lightning down to a wire,
And making it talk with its tongue of fire.
He was perfectly sure that the world stood still,
And the sun and moon went round;–
He believed in fairies, and goblins ill,
And witches that rode over vale and hill
On wicked broom-sticks, studying still
Mischief and craft profound.
“What a fool was John Littlewit!” somebody cries;–
Nay, friend, not so fast, if you please!
A humble man was John Littlewit–
A gentle, loving man;
He clothed the needy, the hungry fed,
Pitied the erring, the faltering led,
Joyed with the joyous, wept with the sad,
Made the heart of the widow and orphan glad,
And never left for the lowliest one
An act of kindness and love undone;–
And when he died, we may well believe
God’s blessed angels bore
John Littlewit’s peaceful soul away
To the beautiful Heaven for which we pray,
Where the tree of knowledge blooms for aye,
And ignorance plagues no more.
Squire Loftus, friends, was a cultured man,
You knew him-so did I:
He had studied the “Sciences” through and through,
Had forgotten far more than the ancients knew,
Yet still retained enough
To demonstrate clearly that all the old,
Good, practical Bible-truths we hold
Are delusion, nonsense, stuff!
He could show that the earth had begun to grow
Millions and millions of ages ago;
That man had developed up and out
From something Moses knew nothing about,–
Held with Pope that all are but parts of a whole
Whose body is Nature, and God its Soul;–
And, since he was a part of that same great whole,
Then the soul of all Nature was also his soul;–
Or, more plainly–to be not obscure or dim–
That God had developed Himself in him:–
That what is called Sin in mankind, is not so,
But is just misdirection, all owing, you know,
To defectiveness either of body or brain,
Or both, which the soul is not thought to retain,–
In the body it acts as it must, but that dead
All stain from the innocent soul will have fled!
“How wise was Squire Loftus!” there’s somebody cries;–
Nay, friend, not so fast, if you please;
His wisdom was that of the self-deceived fool
Who quits the clear fount for the foul, stagnant pool,
Who puts out his eyes lest the light he descry,
Then shouts ‘mid the gloom “how clear-sighted am I!”
Who turns from the glorious fountain of Day,
To follow the wild ignis fatuus‘ ray
Through quagmire and swamp, ever farther astray,
With every step that he takes.
But he died as he lived; and the desolate night
He had courted and loved better far than the light,
Grew more and more dark, till he passed from our sight,
And what shall I say of him more?–
Give me rather John Littlewit’s questionless faith,
To illume my lone path through the valley of death–
The arm that he leaned on, the mansion of light
That burst through the gloom on his kindling sight,
And I’ll leave the poor sceptic his lore!–
Let me know only this–I was lost and undone,
But am saved by the blood of the Crucified One,
And I’m wise although knowing no more!