A Celebration of Women Writers

"Hymns" by Anna Lætitia Barbauld (1743 - 1825)

First Publication: Poems. by Anna Lætitia Aikin. London: Printed for Joseph Johnson, in St. Paul's Church-Yard,1773. pp. 110-124.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 110]


Quid prius dicam solitis parentis
Laudibus? qui res hominum, ac Deorum,
Qui mare, ac terras, variisque mundum
Temperat horis ?


  JEHOVAH reigns: let every nation hear,
  And at his footstool bow with holy fear;

[Page 111]

  Let heaven's high arches echo with his name,
  And the wide peopled earth his praise proclaim,
Then send it down to hell's deep glooms resounding,
Thro' all her caves in dreadful murmurs sounding.

  He rules with wide and absolute command
  O'er the broad ocean and the stedfast land:
  JEHOVAH reigns, unbounded, and alone,
  And all creation hangs beneath his throne:
He reigns alone; let no inferior nature
Usurp, or share the throne of the creator.

  He saw the struggling beams of infant light
  Shoot thro' the massy gloom of ancient night;
  His spirit hush'd the elemental strife,
  And brooded o'er the kindling seeds of life:
Seasons and months began their long procession
And measur'd o'er the year in bright succession.

[Page 112]

  The joyful sun sprung up th' etherial way,
  Strong as a giant, as a bridegroom gay;
  And the pale moon diffus'd her shadowy light
  Superior o'er the dusky brow of night;
Ten thousand glittering lamps the skies adorning,
Numerous as dew drops from the womb of morning.

  Earth's blooming face with rising flowers he drest,
  And spread a verdant mantle o'er her breast;
  Then from the hollow of his hand he pours
  The circling waters round her winding shores,
The new-born world in their cool arms embracing,
And with soft murmurs still her banks caressing.

  At length she rose compleat in finish'd pride,
  All fair and spotless, like a virgin bride;
  Fresh with untarnish'd lustre as she stood
  Her Maker bless'd his work, and call'd it good;

[Page 113]

The morning stars with joyful acclamation
Exulting sung, and hail'd the new creation.

  Yet this fair world, the creature of a day,
  Tho' built by GOD'S right hand, must pass away;
  And long oblivion creep o'er mortal things,
  The fate of empires, and the pride of kings:
Eternal night shall veil their proudest story,
And drop the curtain o'er all human glory.

  The sun himself, with weary clouds opprest,
  Shall in his silent, dark pavilion rest;
  His golden urn shall broke and useless lie,
  Amidst the common ruins of the sky;
The stars rush headlong in the wild commotion
And bathe their glittering foreheads in the ocean.

[Page 114]

  But fix'd, O GOD! for-ever stands thy throne;
  JEHOVAH reigns, a universe alone;
  Th' eternal fire that feeds each vital flame,
  Collected, or diffus'd is still the same.
He dwells within his own unfathom'd essence,
And fills all space with his unbounded presence.

  But oh! our highest notes the theme debase,
  And silence is our least injurious praise:
  Cease, cease your songs, the daring flight controul,
  Revere him in the stillness of the soul;
With silent duty meekly bend before him,
And deep within your inmost hearts adore him.

[Page 115]


PRAISE to GOD, immortal praise, *
For the love that crowns our days;
Bounteous source of every joy,
Let thy praise our tongues employ.

For the blessings of the field,
For the stores the gardens yield,
For the vine's exalted juice,
For the generous olive's use:

*ALTHOUGH the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the GOD of my salvation.
                                  HABAKKUK, iii. 17, 18.

[Page 116]

Flocks that whiten all the plain,
Yellow sheaves of ripen'd grain;
Clouds that drop their fatt'ning dews,
Suns that temperate warmth diffuse:

All that Spring with bounteous hand
Scatters o'er the smiling land:
All that liberal Autumn pours
From her rich o'erflowing stores:

These to thee, my GOD, we owe;
Source whence all our blessings flow;
And for these, my soul shall raise
Grateful vows and solemn praise.

Yet should rising whirlwinds tear
From its stem the ripening ear;
Should the fig-tree's blasted shoot
Drop her green untimely fruit;

[Page 117]

Should the vine put forth no more,
Nor the olive yield her store;
Though the sick'ning flocks should fall,
And the herds desert the stall;

Should thine alter'd hand restrain
The early and the latter rain;
Blast each opening bud of joy,
And the rising year destroy;

Yet to thee my soul should raise
Grateful vows, and solemn praise;
And, when every blessing's flown,
Love theefor thy self alone.

[Page 118]



AGAIN the LORD of life and light
  Awakes the kindling ray;
Unseals the eyelids of the morn,
  And pours increasing day.

O what a night was that, which wrap'd
  The heathen world in gloom!
O what a sun which broke this day,
  Triumphant from the tomb!

This day be grateful homage paid,
  And loud hosannas sung;
Let gladness dwell in every heart,
  And praise on every tongue.

[Page 119]

Ten thousand differing lips shall join
  To hail this welcome morn,
Which scatters blessings from its wings,
  To nations yet unborn.

JESUS, the friend of human kind,
  With strong compassion mov'd,
Descended like a pitying GOD,
  To save the souls he lov'd.

The powers of darkness leagued in vain
  To bind his soul in death;
He shook their kingdom when he fell,
  With his expiring breath.

Not long the toils of hell could keep
  The hope of JUDAH's line;
Corruption never could take hold
  On aught so much divine.

[Page 120]

And now his conquering chariot wheels
  Ascend the lofty skies;
While broke, beneath his powerful cross,
  Death's iron sceptre lies.

Exalted high at GOD'S right hand,
  The LORD of all below,
Thro' him is pardoning love dispens'd,
  And boundless blessings flow.

And still for erring, guilty man,
  A brother's pity flows;
And still his bleeding heart is touch'd
  With memory of our woes.

To thee, my Saviour, and my king,
  Glad homage let me give;
And stand prepar'd like thee to die,
  With thee that I may live.

[Page 121]


BEHOLD, where breathing love divine,
  Our dying Master stands!
His weeping followers gathering round
  Receive his last commands.

From that mild teacher's parting lips
  What tender accents fell!
The gentle precept which he gave
  Became its author well.

"Bless'd is the man, whose soft'ning heart
  Feels all another's pain;
To whom the supplicating eye
  Was never rais'd in vain.

[Page 122]

"Whose breast expands with generous warmth
  A stranger's woes to feel;
And bleeds in pity o'er the wound
  He wants the power to heal.

"He spreads his kind supporting arms
  To every child of grief;
His secret bounty largely flows,
  And brings unask'd relief.

"To gentle offices of love
  His feet are never slow;
He views thro' mercy's melting eye
  A brother in a foe.

"Peace from the bosom of his GOD,
  My peace to him I give;
And when he kneels before the throne,
  His trembling soul shall live.

[Page 123]

"To him protection shall be shewn,
  And mercy from above
Descend on those who thus fulfil
  The perfect law of love."


AWAKE, my soul! lift up thine eyes,
See where thy foes against thee rise,
In long array, a numerous host;
Awake, my soul, or thou art lost.

Here giant danger threat'ning stands
Mustering his pale terrific bands;
There pleasure's silken banners spread,
And willing souls are captive led.

[Page 124]

See where rebellious passions rage,
And fierce desires and lust engage;
The meanest foe of all the train
Has thousands and ten thousands slain.

Thou tread'st upon enchanted ground,
Perils and snares beset thee round;
Beware of all, guard every part,
But most, the traitor in thy heart.

Come then, my soul, now learn to wield
The weight of thine immortal shield;
Put on the armour from above
Of heavenly truth and heavenly love.

The terror and the charm repel,
And powers of earth, and powers of hell;
The man of Calvary triumph'd here;
Why should his faithful followers fear?

[Page 125]

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom