The Philosophy of Love. [A Plea in Defence of Virtue and Truth!] A Poem in Six Cantos, with Other Poems
Saturnalia Astray. — or, Christmass in the South
or, Christmass in the South.
Who’s this?—Good sooth! Old Saturnalia coming,
Divested of his northern furs and flannels,
In which he aye indulged. He now is humming
Some merry lay; while in his check’s deep channels
The icy tear-drops no more trickle down,
Nor blows he fingers cold:—His floral crown
’S indicative of festive seasons coming!
He surely from his latitude has wander’d
As he’d his ancient habitat ignore;
(For, this is not his realm;) where oft ’twas wondered
How long he there has reign’d. Now he’d explore
Earth’s utmost bounds, in search of the unknown;
Or as evacuated had his throne
Of old dominion, he abroad has wandered.
It seems a foolish passion he would cherish,
As love of change; no matter the result!
As lunatic become, strange pride he’d nourish,
With fancies of self-import; and exult
O’er whims in mortals’ minds, when made believe
His false dogmatic rule. Thus, he’d achieve
O’er common sense a sway his joys to cherish!
So comes he with a hypocrite’s envelope,
With smiling airs, and with a pseudo name;
page 191 Fond to deceive, as mysteries he’d develope,
And hide with blandishments his evil fame;
As shewing ’neath his rule the Christ had birth:
Whose work, and glory were to gladdden earth
That falsehoods should no more man’s state envelope!
Vain dottard! How he’s given to deception!—
It is his nature, making all appear
With good grace, as to gain a good reception;
Though hollow hearted, seeming quite sincere:
So would he make believe his heartless joy
Is Heav’n’s good service. Thus would he decoy
The world, on whom to practice his deception
A merry christmass:— What an imposition!
As divels would an angels garb assume:
The very salutation’s exposition,
Itself declares anomalous:—whilome,
The festival propounded, would declare
Old Druid-rites its source! with priestly care
Brought forth as holy,—quite an imposition!
Old Saturnalia, in his northern regions,
When days begin to stretch, might well rejoice;
And call the people out in festive legions,
In honour of their Sun-god, since he’d rise
T’ enlarge his shining favours:—well they might:—
As darkness flies before increasing light,
They knew the length’ning day would cheer their regions!
As when the master of a household travels,
From home afar, his absence there breeds gloom:
But when he is returning, then what revels
Of joy begin,—all gladden’d airs assume!
So, would they welcome the returning sun
From his withdrawance; thus they’d have begun
Their festive joys, to hail him from his travels!—
Religion; Custom; ImaginationSuch was the custom of the heathen fathers
According to traditions in old yore,
Of northen superstitions, as when gathers
The gloomy storm-cloud’s bulk; so they’d adore
Their fancied Gods and firmly thus believe
They did true homage; hoping to recieve
Much good from his return, as did their fathers.
Why introduce such rites, and their observance,
To southern climes where things are all reversed?
Here, days begin to shorten; whose deservance
Are not of joy, if truth may be rehearsed;
But much of sad vexation, in a time
Of haying harvest! Such rites ne’er can chime
With needful industry, in their ob ervance!
If Saturnalian rites must here be follow’d;
Why not say June, instead of south December?
’Tis thus they’d correspond, as being hallow’d
By ancient usage! Then would folk remember
Day’s leugth’ning [sic: length’ning] season, as a time for joy:—
page 193 While less of out-door bussiness ’twould annoy,
Which ought in summer weather to be follow’d?
Religion; Poetry; CustomBut the historic Muse unfolds the hind’rings*
Of such a change, which southern climes require;
And shows how corrupt Church amid her wand’rings,
A whoring went from Truth, as she’d desire
After some heathen cerimonies vain,
With gaudy pomp attached, and lucre’s gain
Obstructing thus Truth’s progress with such hind’rings!
So Saturnalia’s day, and rites appended,
Were seized on, to do honour to the birth
Of the Redeemer, who ne’er condescended
To seek such honour like proud ones of earth;
No boubt the Tempter much rejoiced to see
The scheme take; and such anniversary
Enforced, with falsehoods to the scheme appended!
Such gave old Saturnalia no annoyance;
The theft became an object of much joy;
As such bespoke some worth, on which reliance
Might be indulged! And there he could descry
Increase of days, as fortune thus would shine,—
Rites, long withstood, adopted as divine;
A glorious change, though Truth should have annoyance
And though his name to Chrstmnss be transmuted;
That, too, was pleasing, adding to his bays;
As evil doers fain would have imputed
To them good deeds, who most deserve dispraise;
So, that the Truth of Heaven might meet with harm
In souls deceived; no matter what’s the charm,
Provided falsehood’s like to Truth transmuted!
Religion; CustomTo prove a nursery to superstition,
Would heathen rites enjoy a christian name:
And, as to better some a base condition,
Would charities commingle for good fame;
Yet all for seeming shew in adding cheer,
page 195 Encouraging bland falsehood’s fond carreer,
As gilding o’er an arrant superstiton!
Religion; PerceptionA “Merry Christmass!—What a salutation,
To be pronouced by any christian lips!
As if the Author of thy soul’s salvation,
Would honour take from such, or festive cups;—
Are thy perceptions blind, and cannot see
The vileness of such senuality,
And blasphemy in such a salutation?
A Merry Christmass!—Why should such deception
O’er any good professor so prevail!
Would’st thou with sensual mirth give Christ reception,
As multiplying sins to give Him hail?—
Thou now may’st thank the Lord for His geat favour,
And in Him trust with spiritual endeavour;
But otherwise, such mirth’s a grave deception!
’Tis not th’ observances of times and seasons,
Which, christian truths or principles, resolves;
’Tisonly faith inChrist, for best of reasons,
Thy weal secures! God’s glory thecne evolves!—
Thus, having Jesus born within thy soul,
T’ assimilate thy heart, thy life control;
So wilt thou have a Christmass through all Seasons!
* Saturnalia is the name of an old heathen festival connected with the worship of the Sun, held on the 25th of December, to celebrate the first lengthening of the day in the northern hemisphere. Previous to the fixing of the Saviour’s birth day on December 25th, in order not to be behind their pagan neighbours respecting outward show, in different places festivals were observed, on different months, and on different days of the months, according to the fancies of the different communities—We read in the gospel of Luke, “that the shepherds were abiding in the field &c.” but the nature of the winter season in Palestine quite contradicts the idea of shepherds abiding in the fields on Dcecember [sic: December] 25th; as the nights, from about the beginning of this month till near the end of January, are said to be “deadly cold!”— at which time flocks were put in folds for their preservation. Thus, there is every reason to believe that the annunciation was made in another season of the year, which the Lord; for good reasons, has not allowed to be recorded in history, or by precept and example in or near the apostolic age; seeing it is quite enough for us to know that the Saviour has come, and that all the promises concerning Him have been fulfilled. For the origen of christmass, see farther in Mosheim’s Church History. Cent. IV. p. B55, as revised by J. S. Reid, D. D. Glasgow