The Church’s One Foundation


Something for the weekend, The Church’s One Foundation.  Written by Church of England minister Samuel J. Stone, it is sung to the tune Aurelia by Samuel S.Wesley.  I have always enjoyed this hymn and I have cherished the memory of Stone for it, and for this poem The Soliloquy of a Rationalistic Chicken:

       On the Picture of a Newly Hatched Chicken Contemplating the Fragments of Its Native Shell

                   Most strange!   Most queer,—although most excellent a change!  

Shades of the prison-house, ye disappear!  

My fettered thoughts have won a wider range,          

And, like my legs, are free;  

No longer huddled up so pitiably:  

Free now to pry and probe, and peep and peer,          

And make these mysteries out.  

Shall a free-thinking chicken live in doubt?  

For now in doubt undoubtedly I am:    

This problem’s very heavy on my mind,  

And I’m not one to either shirk or sham:    

I won’t be blinded, and I won’t be blind!                   

Now, let me see;  

First, I would know how did I get in there?          

Then, where was I of yore?  

Besides, why didn’t I get out before?                   

Bless me!  

Here are three puzzles (out of plenty more)  

Enough to give me pip upon the brain!          

But let me think again.  

How do I know I ever was inside?  

Now I reflect, it is, I do maintain,  

Less than my reason, and beneath my pride          

To think that I could dwell  

In such a paltry miserable cell          

As that old shell.  

Of course I couldn’t! How could I have lain,  

Body and beak and feathers, legs and wings,  

And my deep heart’s sublime imaginings,          

In there?       

I meet the notion with profound disdain;  

It’s quite incredible; since I declare  

(And I’m a chicken that you can’t deceive)  

What I can’t understand I won’t believe.  

Where did I come from, then? Ah! where, indeed?  

This is a riddle monstrous hard to read.          

I have it! Why, of course,  

All things are moulded by some plastic force  

Out of some atoms somewhere up in space,  

Fortuitously concurrent anyhow:—          

There, now!  

That’s plain as is the beak upon my face.                   

What’s that I hear?  

My mother cackling at me! Just her way,  

So prejudiced and ignorant I say;  

So far behind the wisdom of the day!                   

What’s old I can’t revere.  

Hark at her. “You’re a little fool, my dear,          

That’s quite as plain, alack!  

As is the piece of shell upon your back!”  

How bigoted! upon my back, indeed!          

I don’t believe it’s there;  

For I can’t see it; and I do declare,          

For all her fond deceivin’,  

What I can’t see I never will believe in!

Published in: on February 28, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Church’s One Foundation  
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