Joseph Mary Plunkett

(21 November 1887 – 4 May 1916 / Dublin / Ireland)

Heaven In Hell - Poem by Joseph Mary Plunkett

If the dread all-seeing stars,
Ringed Saturn and ruddy Mars
And their companions all the seven,
That play before the lord of Heaven,
Each blossoming nebula and all
The constellations, were to fall
Low at my feet and worship me,
Endow me with all sovranty
Of their wide kingdom of the blue—
Yet I would not believe that you
Could love me—If besides the nine
Encircling legions all-divine
Should, chanting, teach me that my worth
Outshone the souls of men on earth
And seraphs in Heaven, and as well
That glittering demons deep in Hell
Fled at my frown, obeyed my word—
If every flower and beast and bird
In God’s great earth and splendid sea
Should live and love and fight, for me
And my sweet singing and sad art—
Yet could I not conceive your heart
Stooping to mine, nor your wild eyes
Unveiling their deep ecstasies,
Your tenebrous hair sweep near my lips,
Your eyelids bring your soul eclipse
For fear that I should be made blind
By love’s bright image in your mind.
You are the Standard of high Heaven,
The Banner brave towards which I’ve striven
To force my way—To seize and hold
The citadel of the city of gold
I must attain the Flag of love
Blazoned with the eternal Dove.

Once Immortality, a babe,
Played with the Future’s astrolabe
And marked a destiny thereon
More splendid than the morning sun
Leaping to glory from the earth:
More wondrous than the wonder-birth
Of the white moon from darkest rock;
More strange than should the sun unlock
His leashes and let slip the stars;
More desperate than the clanging wars
Twixt Hell and Heaven; still more great
Than any favourable fate;
But beyond all things beautiful,
Beyond Mortality’s foot-rule
Of loveliness, and little words—
Sometimes, at twilit eve, when birds
Lapse from dream-silence into song,
Sometimes when Thunder’s rolling note
Reverberates from his iron throat,
They speak of such high mysteries
But no one can interpret these—
All of this dim and deep design
If I should choose, its crown were mine
To win or lose by my sole hand
And heart. I chose, and joined the band
Of Heaven’s adventurers that seek
To climb the never-conquered peak
In solitude by their sole might.
In the dark innocence of night
I fought unknown inhuman foes
And left them in their battle-throes,
Hacked a way through them and advanced
To where the stars of morning danced
In your high honour, there I stood
To see you, till the morning-flood
Burst from the sky—but your sunrise
Striking my unaccustomed eyes
Smote them to darkness, and I turned
And stumbled towards the night. There burned
In heart and eyes a drunken flame
That sang and clamoured out your name,
And woke a madness in my head.
The enemies I had left for dead
Surrounded me with gibbering cries
And mocked me for my blinded eyes.
I curst them till they rose in rage
And flung me down a battle-gage
To fight them on the floors of Hell
Where solely they’re assailable.
I took the challenge straightaway
And leaped—and that was yesterday
Or was last year, but every hour
For weary years to break their power
Still must I fight, but now a gleam
Of hope comes to me like a dream,
To-day, though dimly, I do see,
My vision has come back to me.
And I have learnt in deepest Hell
I with terror-twisted eyes
Have watched you play in Paradise,
Tortured and torn by demons seven
Have kept my heart’s gaze fixed on Heaven,
Save when the smoky mists of blood
Have blinded me with their fell flood.
My desert heart all desolate
Lit with the mirage of your hate
I searched, my vision held above,
For green oasis of your love.
My heart’s dry desert, hot and wide,
Bounded by flames on every side,
So dim and old no song can tell,
Covers the tombs where dead kings dwell:
Now demons dance upon their tombs,
Shut with the seals of lasting dooms,
For them until the world be riven
No hope of Hell, no fear of Heaven.
But I, alas! am torn between
The things unseen and the things seen,
I alone of the souls I know
In Hell and Heaven am high and low,
High in Heaven and low in Hell:
From pit and peak inaccessible
To all but Satan and seraphim
My song gains power and grows more grim.

Only the straining of my vision
Toward the playing-fields elysian
Where you with starry comrades fling
Your fervours over eye and wing,
With deep and happy subtlety
Flavouring the wine-bag of the bee;
Thrones, principalities and powers
Showering with Eden-flowers:
With Michael’s sword and Raphael’s lute
Slaying and singing, making bruit
Of lovely laughter with your lips
Sounding as where the honey drips
At reaping-time by rippling brooks
Twining between the barley-stocks:
Only your shape that holds my sight,
Your ways that fill it with delight,
Your steps that blossom where you’ve trod,
Your laughter like the breath of God,
And all the braveries that extol
The living sword that is your soul:
Only your passion-haunted eyes
Interpreting your mysteries:
These are to me and my desire
For pillar of cloud and pillar of fire,
A gleam and gloom of Heaven, in Hell
A high continuous miracle.


Comments about Heaven In Hell by Joseph Mary Plunkett

  • Susan Williams (1/29/2016 10:12:00 PM)


    He is capable of writing great lines, very capable- - - -
    - - - I chose, and joined the band
    Of Heaven’s adventurers that seek
    To climb the never-conquered peak
    In solitude by their sole might.
    In the dark innocence of night
    I fought unknown inhuman foes
    And left them in their battle-throes,
    Hacked a way through them and advanced
    To where the stars of morning danced
    In your high honour, there I stood
    To see you, till the morning-flood
    Burst from the sky
    (Report) Reply

    11 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
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Poem Submitted: Friday, May 25, 2012



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