Edwin Muir

(15 May 1887 – 3 January 1959 / Orkney / Scotland)

The Good Man in Hell


If a good man were ever housed in Hell
By needful error of the qualities,
Perhaps to prove the rule or shame the devil,
Or speak the truth only a stranger sees,

Would he, surrendering quick to obvious hate,
Fill half eternity with cries and tears,
Or watch beside Hell's little wicket gate
In patience for the first ten thousand years,

Feeling the curse climb slowly to his throat
That, uttered, dooms him to rescindless ill,
Forcing his praying tongue to run by rote,
Eternity entire before him still?

Would he at last, grown faithful in his station,
Kindle a little hope in hopeless Hell,
And sow among the damned doubts of damnation,
Since here someone could live, and live well?

One doubt of evil would bring down such a grace,
Open such a gate, and Eden could enter in,
Hell be a place like any other place,
And love and hate and life and death begin.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Comments about this poem (The Good Man in Hell by Edwin Muir )

  • Rookie Deci Hernandez (5/16/2012 9:59:00 AM)

    to think of half of eternity is no doubt to think of eternity still. and there is a temp to bring hope to the hopeless but this is nothing and in it still there is hope. i disagree with the message (if i understand the message) but the idea of bringing peace to those who may have none as an everlasting effort is well worth fighting for living and dying for (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Jessica Layman (5/16/2012 2:08:00 AM)

    This piece is beautifully worded and inspiring. (Report) Reply

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