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The Impossibility Conquered by Hannah More

Charles Doe Hannah More

By Hannah More


1. Each man who lives, the Scriptures prove,
Must as himself his neighbor love;
But though the precept’s full of beauty,
’Tis an impracticable duty:
I’ll prove how hard it is to find
A lover of this wondrous kind.

2. Who loves himself to great excess,
You’ll grant, must love his neighbor less;
When self engrosses all the heart,
How can another have a part?
Then, if self-love most men inthrall,
A neighbor’s share is none at all.

3. Say, can the man who hoards up pelf
E’er love his neighbor as himself?
For if he did, would he not labor
To hoard a little for his neighbor?
Then tell me, friend, can hoarding elves
E’er love their neighbor as themselves?

4. The man whose heart is bent on pleasure
Small love will to his neighbor measure;
Who solely studies his own good,
Can’t love another if he would,
Then how can pleasure-hunting elves
E’er love their neighbor as themselves?

5. Can he whom sloth and loitering please
E’er love his neighbor like his ease?
Or he who feeds ambition’s flame,
Loves he his neighbor like his fame?
Such lazy or such soaring elves
Can’t love their neighbor as themselves.

6. He whose gross appetites enslave him,
Who spends or feasts the wealth God gate him,
Full, pampered, gorged at every meal,
He cannot for the empty feel.
How can such gormandizing elves
E’er love their neighbor as themselves?

7. Then, since the man who lusts for gold,
Since he who is to pleasure sold;
Who soars in pride, or sinks in ease,
His neighbor will not serve or please;
Where shall we hope the man to find
To fill this great command inclined?

8. I dare not blame God’s holy word,
Nor censure Scripture as absurd;
But sure the rule’s of no avail
If placed so high that all must fail;
And ’tis impossible to prove
That any can his neighbor love.


9. Yes, such there are, of heavenly mould,
Unwarped by pleasure, ease, or gold;
He who fulfils the nobler part,
By loving God with all his heart;
He, only he, the Scriptures prove,
Can as himself his neighbor love.

10. Then join, to make a perfect plan,
The love of God to love of man;
Your heart in union both must bring;
This is the stream, and that the spring;
This done, no more in vain you’ll labor;
A Christian can’t but love his neighbor.
11. If then the rule’s too hard to please ye,
Turn Christian, and you’ll find it easy.
“Still ’tis impossible,” you cry;
“In vain shall feeble nature try.”
’Tis true; but know a Christian is a creature
Who does things quite impossible to nature.

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