They Told Us There Were Mighty Men Abroad

This is the full, original text from an 1852 edition of Fr. Faber’s hymnal Jesus and Mary. It is listed under the title “The New Infidelity. To the Brothers of the Little Oratory.” in that hymnal:

They told us there were mighty men abroad,
Gone forth to flush the earth with truth once more,
Who spoke in grand heroic ways of God,
True men above all sect and sham to soar.

Bards had they of their own, and masculine seers,
At war with falsehood and unmanly grief,
In strains of beauty preaching to their peers
A new and most magnificent unbelief.

Sorrow, self-sacrifice, all loyal things
In this celestial wisdom found their place;
And new-fledged souls might take them for their wings,
Earth without change be Heaven, and Nature Grace.

They told us, if we read their books, that we
Nought more unselfish upon earth should find,
No spell more trancing, no philosophy
More eloquently winning to the mind.

Virtue, man-loving God, and Brother Man,
Worshipful progress, falsehood’s solemn knells-——
These were the thrilling names that leaped and ran
Along their lines like watchwords and like spells.

No fetish rites, no fast or festal day,
No fear of misadventure after death;
These, and such like, were all to pass away,
The scarescrows of a pusillanimous faith.

We heard and wondered, tardy to believe;
Jesus was sweet and Mary very dear;
Could we in one short moment all unweave
The careful web of many a thoughtful year.

Swift our conversion could not be, but slow;
Reason must sit and judge of reason’s lore;
The trustful seers themselves would have it so;
A depth like theirs may well need brooding o’er.

We got their books, and read, and read again,
Wincing at blasphemy, old weakness that!
And then we thought and thought, and racked our brain
With anxious guess divining what meant what.

Now may we tell what we discovered there;
Of words a copious mine, of sense much dearth;
O such a craven-hearted wisdom ne’er
Sought to make room for its poor self on earth!

Then such Pindaric odes of grand despair
Broke forth from these Protectionists of truth!
Such humble pride in what they had to bear,
While winning back for earth her second youth!

Why is not the dense world dissolved in tears
The martyrdom of these poor men to see?
Heroes with none to fight them, household seers,
The saints of some admiring coterie!

Up, up, compassionate Rome! and beat them down!
They sue for rack and torture at thy hand!
What! silent still, old Church? contemptuous grown,
Sitt’st thou and smilest on old Tyber’s strand?

Ah me! how they bespatter one another
With copious quillfuls of grandiloquent praise;
Each one retained to canonize his brother,—
Alas! the sole employment of his days.

Will no one notice them? O piteous lot!
Their wares are stale, but then they think them new;
And stupid reproductions of old thought
May sound from very repetition true.

Alas! O littleness! O littleness!
Thou never wert so little as to-day;
For never was thy cowardly distress
Spoken or sung in such a querulous way!

For us what disappointment! we had thought,
If not converted, we might frightened be,
And with a valorous panic might have sought
To break a lance with infidelity!

Thou hast played false with us, New Unbelief!
Great Sham of Anti-shams! portentous name!
Wisdom of one idea! what a grief
To find thy folly so below thy fame!

What art thou but a worship of sheer Power,
Rough Hero hands and sinewy craft? O shame!
Hottentot creed! as though in earth’s sweet bower
Goodness to men were but a hopeless aim!

How shall we meet? what weapon weak enough
To make our fight not laughably unfair!
A Crucifix? No! the strong Rood is stuff
For great apostles with false gods at war!

Look at our medal-jingling beads! They shine
With frequent fingering, Aves glibly said:
Weakest of our strong things, they outdo thine,
As David’s pebble matched Goliath’s head.

Words: Fr. Frederick William Faber, C.O., 1849.
Tune: “Erfyniad” Welsh Hymn Melody.
Meter: 10.10.10.10

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About Noah

musings of a young Catholic aspiring to be faithful to his Lord and God Jesus Christ through His Holy Catholic Church
This entry was posted in Frederick W. Faber, Hymns By The Greats, The Heresies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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