Israel In Egypt. Book Twenty-Second Poem by Edwin Atherstone

Israel In Egypt. Book Twenty-Second

With splendor that all former glory eclipsed,
Shone hell's vast council--hall; a wondrous blaze
Of sun--fired diamond. With astonishment struck,--
From outer darkness entering,--suddenly paused
The great Arch--Fiend, to gaze. From roof to floor,--
From floor to roof,--from side to side, he glanced:
Again from floor to roof,--from roof to floor,--
From side to side, he turned: in wonder lost,
To see heaven's brightness there. With no less joy,
Wonder, and triumph, the whole host looked round,
Speechless and motionless,--that, for a time,
Was silence deep throughout. But the fierce wrath
Not long could rest. That the unnumbered eyes,
Lightening together, most might wither him,--
Full in the front of the great semi--cirque,--
Accusers, judges, executioners too,--
On a low rock, the sinner against hell,
The contrite Spirit was placed. Not far removed,
Upon a loftier height, the towering form
Of Satan appeared; accuser chief, and judge
Inexorable. But, with other thought
Than vengeance, first seemed filled; though subtly so,
Vengeance to make the hotter. With raised head,
And arms outstretched, toward the sun--blazing roof,
Vast as a sky, he pointed; and, with voice
Exultant, as, to mortal sense, appears
Trumpet of victory, thus his proud thoughts spake.

``Angels, Archangels;--yea, even Demi--gods,
In brief time sure to be,--such evidence
Of our advance toward godhead greets us now.
For, alway, as, in might and wisdom, we,
So, from our Spiritual glory, doth this orb,
Our mansion, in material glory wax;
A mirror wherein,--as the things of earth,
From polished surface of bright brass, or steel,
Their clay--formed shapes behold,--so we our strength,--
The stature of our spiritual excellence,--
Our wisdom's increase,--rise in majesty,--
May see reflected: and, such wondrous growth,
In days so few, beholding,--Demi--gods
Boldly I name you. Nor less proof of power
Toward godlike coming on us like a flood,
Herein we have,--that sharpest ken of heaven
Easily blind we now; nay, even the eye,
Till late, All--seeing named: for, in our task
God's schemes to oppose,--both for deliverance
Of Israel,--and for that yet hidden thing,
Redemption of mankind,--not once hath spy
Of heaven detected us: nor even He,
The All--wise, our counsels ever would have known,
Had fealty ruled us all. 'Gainst Israel much
Our contest is,--because, in whatsoe'er
God we can foil, thereby new power we gain;
Him, in like measure, weaken: but, far more,
'Gainst that strange scheme, Redemption, is our war:
For, not one people only,--this small race
Of Israel,--it concerns; but all mankind,--
If right I read the intent,--the whole vile brood
Thereafter peopling earth,--from curse of sin
Is meant to save; and so far purify,
That, spite of the original fall from God,
For heaven they shall be fitted; and there dwell,
Our places filling. Looking through the dark
That shrouds His counsels,--such, at least, I guess
The end, through that Messiah to be wrought,
Who sometime is to come. If he come not,
Redemption will not come; and these base things
Of clay, half human only, and half beast,
Will not in heaven sit mocking over us,
Clad in our proper glory. Well ye know,
On what most strange condition,--in due time,--
From two frail things, now living, should proceed
That wonderful Messiah; son of God,
Yet born of woman! Incredible it were
That He, All--wise, so foolishly should scheme,--
Had not the tongue of His own messenger,
In presence of the second Power of hell,
To Moses so proclaimed it. `Servant of God,'--
Thus to the marvelling Hebrew Zophiel spake,--
`Chosen of heaven art thou; and mighty things
For Israel wilt thou do. But, after thee,
In due time, will arise one greater far;
Born of a woman, yet the Son of God;
Messiah to be named; through whom shall be
Redemption universal to man's race.
From tribe of Levi hath it been ordained
Shall come the Virgin Mother of that Son:
Yea, even from these shall spring,--the maid and youth
Before thee standing,--so, with upright heart,
Pure from all sin, in sight of God they live,
And pure they die. But, sinning, will they fall,
And Heaven's high favor forfeit. Look thou then
Heedfully on them: dangerous is their path,
And narrow: one false step, and they are lost!

``Thus, in the hearing of Beelzebub,
Spake Zophiel: and,--this foolish scheme to cross,--
Forthwith sent we two Spirits; fittest deemed,
That youthful pair, so favored, to seduce,
By dreams of carnal love, and waking thoughts,
And images, voluptuous. One of these,
The stronger, so was shaken, that all sense
Wellnigh he lost: and, though he still had stood,
And stubbornly,--temptation would have urged
So fiercely, both within him, and without,--
His fall at length was sure. But, for the maid,
The weaker creature,--victory ere now
Certain had been, but that, among ourselves,
One Spirit a traitor proved; a groveller
Before the Power who insult and great wrong
Heaped on us; from that heaven, our heritage,
Expelled us; and to this quenched sun drove forth;
Herein designing, through eternity,
Our durance. How of this He failed, ye know:
And how, by our still growing strength, we rose;
And, for our region, took the immense of space:
How even in this dead orb, from solid dark,--
With our still soaring Spirits in sympathy,--
Matter a glory likest heaven's assumed.
And ever, in such fashion, our advance
Toward godlike state will be, if to ourselves
Faithful we prove, and to our holy cause.
On that hangs all our hope. Together bound;
Striving together toward the one great end,
Resistance to our foe,--Almighty now,--
In progress of eternity, be sure,
We must o'erthrow his sway: ourselves become
Almighty; rulers through the Infinite.
But, with the false among us, even though least
In power they be,--danger is imminent,
Lest bad example spread; lest, one by one,
Falling from truth,--atom by atom, our strength
Impaired may be; and, cycles numerous,
Our progress may be stayed.....As in man's frame,
So also with our Spiritual body it is.
Ye all have seen how, on the human flesh,
A small black spot hath come; to ignorant eye,
Of moment insignificant as bite
Of pettiest insect: yet, to the whole mass,
Heralding death at hand. This knoweth well
The human leech; and, all the body to save,
With sharp steel, from the flesh that spot cuts out.
On our vast Spirit body so, alas!
The black spot hath appeared: and, if ourselves
The remedy knew not, yet from yon poor clay
Might we be taught, how, with excision sharp,
To rid us of the blotch. Since we lost heaven,
Example first of treason in our host
Against our righteous cause, now summons us
To judge, and to pass sentence. In long course
Of ages, from among us have there gone
Some few weak Spirits. Whither they have fled,
Is mystery to us: if in solitudes
Of living orbs far distant, they have sought
To soothe strange sadness,--marked, not understood;--
Or if, as some conjecture, they have bowed
Before our tyrant; crawled their abject way
Once more into some outer court of heaven,--
Or howsoever else they may have sped,--
Nought do we know; for singly, and by stealth,
Have they gone from us; and have left no sign.
But, now, a portent direst hath appeared;
A sign indeed, and terrible!--Ye behold--
Ay, look upon him; scorch him with your gaze;--
To that base Spirit, even in this place,--
In hearing of you all; approved by all;
Command was given,--to him, and Zuriel too,--
Who faithful hath been, and zealous in his task,
Though unsuccessful; and our praise deserves,--
To those two Spirits, ye remember well,
In words like these I spake: `To you we give,
Task not unpleasant, those young hearts to snare
With love's soft witchery: the beauteous maid
Thou, Aziel, take; thou, Zuriel, the youth.
By day and night your utmost cunning try
Their souls to enter; all their thoughts to sway;
Their blood to fire, their reason to confuse.
Beauty of form, and face, beyond compare
Of mortal loveliness, may ye put on:
With voices may ye speak, so musical,
That sweetest tones of woman, following them,
Would grate man's ear: with so sweet eloquence
May ye assail them, that the choicest strains
Of earthly orator, or loftiest bard,
Were, after it, dull babble. Soul, and sense,
Assault ye, then: with amorous thoughts the soul;
With all can please the eye, and charm the ear,
And stir up passion, war upon the sense.'

``Thus, in the hearing of you all, I spake.
How think you, then, that traitor hath performed
The task he undertook,--easy to do,
And pleasant, with that superhuman maid:
A trifle seeming; but, 'twixt God and us,
Matter momentous. Her with sin to soil,
His duty was,--that so, with one light stroke,
God's whole great foolish scheme we might destroy;
Blighting the root whence, in due time, should come,
That wondrous flower, Messiah. Yet, not so
Wrought that foul recreant. Us to serve, he went;
But, God to serve, remained! Beholding still
How pure she stood, though after temptings strong,--
As nought I doubted,--by the forceful arm
Of the lust--maddened Sethos, I resolved
She should be fouled; and that way should the scheme
For a Messiah fail. Daring the gaze
Of all heaven's spies,--the form then I assumed
Of Moses; and, by subtle story, lured
The silly maiden at my side to go,
Even unto Pharaoh's palace. Thither come,--
To the great chamber of state, wherein no foot
Would dare to intrude, I led her: hastened then,
In form a serving man,--to Sethos told
Who had arrived,--into her presence straight
Conducted him, and left,--mad for his prey
As hungriest tiger. At that moment fell
First shade of darkness. As the augury
Of full success I hailed it; and, at once,
Down to earth's centre shot. All fear soon past
Of eye suspicious peering,--I returned,--
Triumph expecting; but reverse soon found.
Gone was the maiden; all untouched, all pure,
As when I thither led her. Of herself,
Through that unearthly blackness, well I knew,
Never could she have passed; and Spirit of heaven
None felt I near: but, following on her track,--
Easily known by the celestial air
That floats around her,--soon, through the thick gloom,
Like to a star amid black fog, a beam
Of gliding light I spied; and, drawing near,
Beheld the maiden, riding on her mule;
And, close before her, a small globe of fire,
Self--moving, as it seemed: but, nigher come,
Soon I descried the mover,--that vile thing,--
That traitor,--that apostate,--that mean wretch,
Who now before you trembles. Fired with wrath,
That instant had I, with a mighty blast,
Driven him from face of earth; and to her fate
Led back the maiden; but that, suddenly,
The presence of some greater Powers of heaven
I felt, not far; and feared lest their keen eyes
Such open act should see; and therein read
Our secret business. Him, the traitor wretch,
They must have seen: yet, if his purpose all
They had perceived,--some token, even though faint,
Of their approval, surely had they shown.
Me they saw not; nor those who to my side
Had come,--Beelzebub, and Moloch; we,
Invisible, looked on; and others, too,
Of our companions, who soon gathered round;
All burning, with one terrible storm to hurl
The miscreant to perdition; but withheld
By a wise caution. Nor through eye alone
His treason knew we; but his craven voice
Heard wailing out repentance for his sin,--
His sin, ye mark, against the despot Power,
The Almighty tyrant, who that heaven, once ours,
By right, and not by sufferance, snatched away;
And drove us to the ghastly Infinite
Of a long dead Creation. Nay, even prayer
For pardon,--or what likest such appeared,--
Came from him, like a howl of agony
From man in the death--torment: his vile deed,
His treachery 'gainst us, the one sole thought
That comfort gave him. Burning with just wrath,
We followed; and from darkness to full sun
Beheld the virgin led; and from our snare
Set free. Then, we the pleased apostate marked;
His dolorous musings heard; how from our wrath,
Best might he 'scape; yet how, if but one look,
Approving, Heaven would grant him,--even our worst,
Gladly would he defy. But such proud thought
Soon ended we: for, when those powers of heaven
Withdrawn we felt,--upon him poured we then;
And, shuddering, dumb, as there ye see him still,
Hither enforced him. Angels, Demi--gods,
Lift up your voices: tell him with your curse,
How faith loves treachery.'' At the word, went up,
Loud as a thousand thunders loosed at once,
Howlings of execration and fierce hate,
That the vast hollow shook. Like rays converged
From suns unnumbered to one burning point,
On that poor Spirit glared the fiery eyes
Of all Hell's millions. The enormous din,
Like great waves seemed to bury him: yet, calm
And patient stood he; saying to himself;
``I did the right: I did as gracious God
Would have approved, had I not lost for aye
All claim on his regard. For sin toward Him,
Punishment I deserve; and even from them
Who led me to that sin, let punishment come!
All is my due; and all will I endure.''

So he, his spirit strengthening. But, when now
The roar enormous, like spent storm, had ceased;
And the great echoes, battering at the vault,
And all sides round, had died,--then once again,
Satan his voice uplift. ``Among you all,
Not one there is who hath not sent the curse,
'Gainst this first traitor,--this foul deadly spot
On our pure Spirit--body. To the depth
Must go the knife that from us cuts it out.
Never again, through all the eternity,
Among the faithful can that false one stand.
To him, the future one long pang must be:
Imprisonment, everlasting solitude;
Without least hope a thing of life to see,--
Light to behold,--motion to feel,--sound hear,--
Or substance touch;--worse dungeoned than, in corpse,
The living soul of man: living, yet dead
To the whole universe; the eternal Night
His grave; no dream of help from even that God
To whom he vilely hath bowed: whom abjectly
To serve he hath striven, in place of us, to whom
Was all his service owed: for, even here,
In this dead orb, on the mere confines placed
Of the interminable Void of ruin and night,--
Far are we from the ken of Him whom, once,
The Omnipresent, the All--seeing we deemed.
But realms there are, in the abyss of space,
With perished suns, wide distant, interspersed,--
So inconceivably farther from all life,
That, hence to heaven, is but a sick man's stride,
Against that infinite measured. Mid those wastes
Of mouldering horrors; in the lowest depths
Of half--chaotic orb; in solitude,
Silence, and blackness,--fixed, and motionless,
As stone, locked up in heart of mountain rock,--
Through the slow--dragging cycles, evermore,
Shall the foul traitor lie; longing for death,
Yet forced to live, and under torment writhe
Of our undying wrath. There let him cry
Unto his God; and see if He can help.''

Thus Satan, to the height of fury inflamed,
With visage terrible, and voice more harsh
Than grinding of great granite rocks down hurled,
Discharged black vengeance. All the assembly stood
Silent, appalled. But, willing some bare form
Of justice should be shown,--with gentle mien,
And look of one who for the right would plead,
Belial arose; and, voiced like him who weighs
Coolly all reasons, searching for the truth,
Thus spake. ``That all of which he stands accused,
This Spirit hath done,--doubt is impossible.
A bad deed he hath wrought, which, to our foe,
Advantage is; to us, a heavy wrong,
And disobedience: yet, but half we know
The sin, when knowing only the bad deed,
And not its cause: for evil may be done,
In act most virtuous; and therein no sin,
Even venial, be committed. Punishment
For evil, sinless, would itself be sin;
And more deserve the rod. The guilt of deed
Lies in the thought that prompts it,--not the hand
Which executes,--for that is but the tool
Wherewith the greater works: and 'twere as wise
To scourge the sword, because it had shed blood,
As punish him, who but the impotent tool
Of mightier Power had been. Let us, then, first,
Assurance have that, of his own free will,
The maid he rescued: for, by greater power
If over--ruled, and so to do, compelled,--
Compassion, more than punishment, were his due.
Thyself, O Satan, saidst, that, hovering nigh,
Were potent Spirits of heaven: how know we, then,
If, of his own bad will, that evil he did,
Or under their constraint: for, strength like his,
To theirs, would be as grass beneath the tread
Of Behemoth. If he declare, the deed
Was forced on him; that, all the while, his wish
Was us to serve, and our command obey;
That he repenteth him of the vile act;
That still he holdeth God his enemy;
And evermore, in all things, earnestly
Desireth heaven to oppose, and us to obey,--
Then shall my voice, at least,--though with me join
Not one among you,--speak him innocent
Of evil intended; and of pity, and love,
Deserving, more than punishment. Let him, then,
Speak for himself; and say, how this strange thing
Was brought about.'' With a complacent smile,
There Belial ended,--satisfied that worse
He had made the state of him whom, outwardly,
He seemed intent to aid. With lowering brow,
Ill pleased, the terrible Lord of hell arose.
``Useless to question him,''--sharply he said;
``No word of truth, from thing so false as he,
Ever can come. Doubtless, will he deny
Free action in this treachery: but his deeds
Will cry to him, `thou liest.' We, who beheld,
Sun--blazing proof saw, that in agony
Of earnest will, he wrought: repentant sighs,
Groans, prayers we heard: saw from his eyes great tears
Dropping like rain: and, when his treason was done,--
The maiden free,--then saw we his wild joy
At our defeasance. Proofs like these, too strong
For word, or oath, even of a god, to oppose.
But that, occasion given him, he'll deny,
With word, and oath monstrous, that his free will
Went with the treason,--and the whole blame will lay
On absolute compulsion from heaven's Powers,--
Who here can doubt? Yet, not the less, since thou,
Belial, has claimed for him the right to plead
In his own cause, so be it.'' Turning then
Toward the lone victim, ``Aziel,'' he pursued,--
``By every voice among us art thou judged
A traitor accurst. Clear as the light of day,
To all thy sin appeareth: and, ere now,
Doom had been hurled against thee,--but that one
Who justice loveth; and, as possible, holds,
That, by compulsion from some hostile Powers,--
Not of thine own free will,--thou may have sinned,--
Demand hath made that in thine own defence
Thou be allowed to speak. Lift then thy voice,
That all may hear: and, if thou canst, the truth,
Truth only, speak; declaring how it was
Thou didst this guilt; if under absolute force
Of hostile Power; or under a mean fear;
Or of thine own bad spirit, willingly,--
That our eternal enemy thou might please,
Rather than us, to whom thy faith was due;
On whose especial service thou wert sent;
And whom to disobey, worst treason was.
If willingly thou didst it, then thy doom
Already hast thou heard: if overborne
By adverse Power, thou'dst win us to believe
Thy crime was done,--or impulse of weak fear,--
Subtle, I warn thee, must thine eloquence be;
Deep thy repentance; fervent and complete
Thine abjuration of the God we hate;
And who us hates, and wrongs. Thus warned, speak out,
That all may hear.'' With tones of wrath and scorn,
Thus Lucifer; his face like thunder--cloud,
Fire--charged, on the meek Spirit looking down,
As he would blast him. All the assembly gazed
In silence,--if reply at all would come,
Uncertain,--such a mite, before the strength
Of gathered hell, that weak one: at the most,
Some poor excuse expecting; or base wail
For pardon, or for mitigated doom.
Wonder then seized them, when, his downcast head
Boldly uplifting, Aziel looked around;--
Beneath the millions of wrath--shooting eyes,
In stature, and in power, seeming to grow;
And, with calm mien; voice low, yet clear, and firm,
Thus answered. ``Weakest of you all am I.
Might against might opposed, few are there here,
Who could not, even as a blade of grass,
Beneath the tempest, bow me. Not the less,
Before the strength of all combined, I stand
Fearless; not ignorant of what ills your rage
May heap upon me: but--with calm resolve
All to endure; and as the punishment
Of sin accept it: though of other sin
Than that for which ye punish.....Unto thee,
Satan, in chief, I speak; fearing no more;
No more respecting, thy dread eminence.
One only Great I know: all greatest, else,--
Atoms,--the difference of whose littleness,
Note merits not......When first thou didst conceive
Rebellion 'gainst thy Maker; and with thee
Joined millions of angels, greater far than I;
And when the wondrous eloquence I heard,
Which made revolt seem virtue,--then I, too,--
Weak and submissive, among Powers that showed
All but Omnipotent, and Omniscient,--
Foolishly joined you; saying, as ye had said,
`Gods shall we all become: by nature, and right,
All equal are we: therefore unjust it is
That One alone,--solely because, of all
Eldest, and therefore wisest,--over all,
Absolute rule should arrogate; and claim
From countless myriads,--in due course to be
His equals fully,--abject homage, and praise,
And never--ending thanks.'.....So, after you,
Senseless I spake: not of my own free thoughts
Rebelling; but seduced: and, even when most
Sinning 'gainst God,--in my great ignorance
Misdeeming, that 'gainst tyranny I fought,
For good, for justice......Soon upon us came
That blast which from the grain swept off the chaff;
And drove us from the glory and bliss of heaven,
Down to the void of Death; and so long time
In the darkness fixed us, and drear solitude
Of this half--perished orb. Yet, all that while,
Faithful to you, and to your cause I stood.
For still, your burning words,--all wisdom and truth,
As seemed,--remembering,--did I feel myself,--
Though but a dust--mote, mid so many and great,--
Yet, equally with them, a sufferer
In cause most holy and just. Through all that time
Of darkness and imprisonment, no sigh,
No word of discontent, from me ye heard......
At length, the wondrous glory of this vault
Burst on us; and that power, more glorious far,
Suddenly felt by all, our dungeon to quit,
And path the universe,--all, except the realm
Of God's more special abode. In your great joy
At liberty and strength regained; your vaunts
That from our ever growing might, alone,
All this had come,--joined I; your wisdom still
Undoubting as at first; and confident
That your proud prophecy would accomplished be,
And soon should we be gods. As you had taught,
Still I believed, that He who made us all,
Was but our angry tyrant; that, to thwart
His purposes; to render vain His might,--
Whate'er the cost,--was warfare noble and just.
When, therefore, ye commanded me, His scheme
For man's redemption, through Messiah,--son
Of progeny from that maiden,--to subvert,
By stirring in her pure soul thoughts impure,--
So vitiating the one condition named,
On which from her the Promised One should spring,--
Willingly I consented: and, conjoined
With Zuriel--who, in like way, should the soul
Of that pure youth make foul,--gladly went forth
On your bad errand. Clothing me in guise
Of Syrian prince; but with a face, and shape,
Beautiful past compare with aught of flesh;
And with voice speaking that an echo seemed
To the unforgotten melodies of heaven,--
Thus most to enthral her,--all things potent known
O'er passion and weakness of woman I poured forth:
So, toward myself to inflame her with desire,
All carnal, in the end; and from the youth,
Her destined husband, the pure virgin love
Which she had given him, turn aside; or quench
Utterly,--as a candle's light is quenched
By blaze of sunshine......Thus in full I tell
My whole procedure; that it may be seen
How, thitherto, with strong sincerity
In your bad cause I served. But all my wiles
Proved vain. As torches, into water dropped,
Die on the instant,--so, all hottest fire
Of carnal love, on her pure spirit cast,
Fell dead. All flatteries most by women loved,
Harmlessly passed her, as thin vapours pass
Idly the granite mountain. Firm she stood;
Invulnerable to sin. As easily,
His puny hand outstretching, man might dip
Down to earth's centre, as might I,--though armed
With strength and cunning of all hell combined,--
Have striven that nature to pollute, which God,
Pure from all soil had made, as the inner heaven
From earthly cloud is pure. Ignorant of this,
Satan, wert thou: else, knowing well how weak
My nature; and how easily by thee,
Even to rebel 'gainst heaven, I had been led,--
Wise fear had whispered, that, as easily,--
In presence standing of what seemed a work
Direct from the hand of God; heaven's purity,
In woman's form impersonate,--again
Toward heaven, its birthplace, my weak spirit might yearn:
Might all the countless ages bring to mind
Of happiness ecstatic, ere we fell;
Might loathing feel for that which such dire loss,
Such endless misery, had upon us brought;
And long once more of that pure bliss to taste,--
The approving eye of God. Who, that hath lived
In glory of light, would not in horror shrink
From home in utter darkness? In foul night
Who cycles long had mouldered, would not joy
To bathe again in sunbeams? I beheld
That pure one: day and night watched over her;
Striving, at first, her exquisite nature to stain;
But lower still and lower bending down
Before the wondrous might and majesty
Of her most heavenly innocence: feeling again,
A somewhat of the old celestial joy:
Hearing again, as seemed, far off, and faint,
Music of happy angels: breathing again,
In her blest presence, what might seem the air,
Long lost, of regions nigh about the throne;--
Till, at the last, with utmost fervency
Of my whole nature, I loved her. Not as ye,
Or some among you, in the ages past,
Have loved the daughters of earth,--but with a love
Like angel's unto angel; yea, with worship,
Such as to aught celestial would I pay.
Scorn, rage, threat, mock at me, even as ye will,--
Boldly I tell you, rather would I breathe
Fragrance of humblest flower from field of heaven,
Than be elected monarch of this hell!
Well know I that against me, 'gainst us all,
Heaven's gates for ever are shut; that, for our guilt,
Can no forgiveness be; that God's approof,
Even for a deed that 'gainst me maddens hell,
Can never more be mine; that good to me,
Ne'er as reward will come for doing good;
That evil will fall on me heavily,
For evil to do refusing. Ay,--I know
That punishment the worst ye can conceive,
Ye will inflict on me: but, one sweet drop
Again I have tasted from the cup of heaven;
And to the draughts detestable of hell
Never will turn again. Take me then hence
Unto your realms of death: even as ye will,--
And as I know ye can,--in some old orb,
Chaotic half, as if in iron rock,
Fix me; and, as ye threaten, leave me there,
Mid blackness, silence, everlasting death.
Yet, through the eternity, one glorious thought
Present will ever be; one heavenly guest
Alway supporting me,--that my last work
In life, and liberty,--feeble though it was,
Was yet for good; the gracious purpose to aid
Of Him who me created happy, and pure,--
The bad designs to cross of those, whose sin,
Of happy, made me wretched; of pure, foul!
I have done. I wait your vengeance. Visit me,
If so ye will, millions of ages hence;
And ye shall find, that he who weakest was
To do,--strength everlasting hath to endure.
Yet, ere ye rush upon me, one word more
Hear, and record. As my last deed, on earth,
Was toward the service of God,--so now, in hell,
My last words shall proclaim Him Lord alone;
For ever in glory unapproachable;
Omnipotent, Omniscient, and All Good!
And, though I nothing hope, I will confess
Humbly my sin, and for his pardon implore.''

Raising his quivering hands; his contrite face
Upturning,--while the whole Satanic host,--
Astounded; and, with very excess of rage,
Motionless held, and silent, on him gazed,--
With tremulous voice, yet clear, thus did he cry.

``O Thou great Omnipresent! for, even here,
I know Thou art,--yea, in the farthest depths
Of the Death--regions,--and wilt hear the cry
Of my great misery,--though my greater sin
Louder do cry against me, to keep down
The motion of pity;--heaven is lost to me!
Yet will I call upon Thee, O my God;
Pity, oh pity me! my sin forgive!
Let me some hope have, that Thine utter wrath
Will pass; that somewhere in the unending line
Of ages, will the hour come, when my guilt
Shall be expunged: and, though in farthest space
From Thee remote, Thine eye shall look on me,
Not disapproving: for a heavy doom
Soon will these lay upon me; misery
All insupportable, save for thought of Thee;
And memory of bliss; and one faint joy,
That my last feeble act so was performed,
As once Thou hadst approved. Oh! pardon then
Lift from me the great mountain of Thy wrath:
Or mercifully take the life Thou gave!
Let me die now,--and be for aye at rest!''

Ceasing, upon his face he cast himself,
His doom to wait. As though 'gainst one poor lamb,
In the same moment of time had burst the roar
Of all wild beasts of earth,--so upon him,
The poor repentant, thundered forth the din
Of all hell execrating. Such the rage,
So horrible the cries, that even the voice
Of Lucifer, though to the height uplift,
Was whisper in tornado. But, at length,
When somewhat had the roaring billows sunk,--
Then, with eyes bright as bale--fires on a hill,
Aloft the Arch--Fiend stood; and, hurling words,
Each like a thunderclap, thus his fury expressed.

``The traitor that I knew him,--dead to shame,
He owns himself! Nay, glories in his guilt;
Mocks at our power; and, in the face of all,
Hath worshipped our eternal enemy!
The wrath he hath defied,--now shall he feel.''

Thus having said, he paused, and looked around,
Motioning silence; then, when all were still,--
With visage changed, as 'twere from fire to cloud,
And voice no longer thundering, but low,
And harsh as grinding of the earthquake's jaws,--
Thus the dread sentence spake. ``The pestilent spot
Cut we now out for ever! To his doom
Be the apostate borne. On that one thought
Which so rejoiceth him,--his last act on earth,--
There let him feast: there let him evermore
Confess his sin, and call upon his God,
For pity, and pardon. Omnipresence, there,
Will ne'er be present: there, the all--seeing eye
Never will see him: there, Omniscience
Nought will know of him: there, Omnipotence
Powerless will be to help! Even this dead orb,
Haply, beyond the reach is of God's ken;
And, therefore, as our prison--house was chosen,
That we might vex him not: but, in that depth
Of uttermost space where to this false one goes,--
For half the past eternity hath been
Not even a shadow of God. Beelzebub,
To thee that doleful prison--house is known:
For thou with me, long ere from heaven we fell,
Didst pierce the abyss; if limit might be found,
Curious to know, and what: till, wearied out,
We paused, pondering return. Then, as thou know'st,
A voice came to us, though no form we saw,--
Telling of orb enormous, not far thence,
Eldest of Old Creation. When we spake,
Enquiring, answer came not; but all space
Heaved like a sea. Awe--struck, though fearing not,
On went we then; and soon the presence felt
Of the great sun--corpse. If eternity
Beginning could have had,--before that date,
Seemed it, must this have been; beyond all else,
So with the mountain load of ages crushed,
The ghastly ruin appeared. Take with thee, then,
Of Spirits the strongest, three: and bear away
That hateful to his home. In lowest depth,--
Core of the hideous ruin,--make his grave;
Living, through all eternity to live,
There bury him; as bones in hardest rock
Sealed up,--there, motionless, for ever fix!''

To Aziel turning then, ``Traitor!'' he cried,
``Arise;'' and the repentant--one stood up.
``Ay,--look around thee; for the last hour this
In which shalt thou see light! Look round thee well:
Behold the glories of this once dark vault;
Brighter than sunshine now: of our own strength,
And growing majesty alone the growth:
And still, as we in power, in brightness to wax,
Till heaven it shall outshine. In thy deep gloom,
Remember the great glory thou hast lost:
In solitude, remember the bright host
Of god--becoming Spirits, among whom
Once wert thou happy; and with whom, for aye,--
Faithful, hadst been so: in thy silence of death,
Call back their ether--shaking hymns of joy
For some great victory; but recall thou, too,
The tempest of their execrating yell
Against the traitor. Demi--gods,--to the height,
Lift now your voices: tell him the strong love
Faith bears to treason: for the last sound that
Which e'er shall greet him. To eternity
Let its echoes beat upon him!'' Like the din
Of a great world exploding,--all its seas,
Mountains, and continents, and mighty heart
Of ever--during granite, in a cloud
Of flame and fire--dust roaring through the sky,--
Burst from the millions instantly a yell
That made the adamant quiver: every voice
Of all that living ocean hooted him:
All eyes shot fire against him: every hand
Pointed the finger of scorn. While thus at height
The tumult raged,--against the far--off sides,
And lofty roof re--thundering, like great waves
On cliffs precipitous,--Satan lift the arm,
And every voice was hushed. As if intent,
When the great war of echoes should be stilled,
Some thought new risen to speak,--awhile he stood,
Gloomy, and mute: yet, when, in dying gasps,
Faint, and more faint,--with lengthening pause between,--
The clamor sank,--and one drear muttering,
Its last death--rattle, ceased,--still mute stood he:
For, as the silence deepened,--more and more
Gathering in strength,--again the hated voice
Of supplication he heard. With sudden wrath
Inflamed to the height, furiously then he signed;
And instantly beside Beelzebub,
Three powerful Spirits appeared; and, following him,
Toward the condemned--one moved. Firmly stood he;
With countenance uplifted, sorrow--marked,
Repentant, praying aloud; acknowledging
His punishment deserved; yet timidly
Asking for strength to endure it. At those words,
Fiercer than ever, from the millions burst
The uproar. Had his Essence been as flesh,
To atoms had they rent him: but, behold!
Even at the instant when the four dread Powers
Stood nigh, about to bear him to his doom;
And while at highest raged the tempest of hate,
Till roof and floor all trembled,--suddenly,--
As, on the gloom of midnight, breaks heaven's bolt,
Earth and sky firing--so, through that bright vault,
Pitch--blackness, as from Night's artillery shot,
Broke forth, and blotted all! The thunder of rage
Ceased in a moment; terror infinite
Crushing them; for a Presence then was felt,
Since loss of heaven, unknown; by sin--defiled,
Never to be endured. A thought--swift death
Appeared to have smitten all things: light seemed dead;
Voice dead; even echo dead. Spirit itself,
Dead seemed, or dying: power gone,--thought congealed;--
Life but a dream in death! Down to the floor,
Like seared leaves dropped the shuddering host of hell;
All save the one doomed victim. Firmly he,
Serenely stood, nay, even hopingly:
For, through his whole Essential, like the ray
Of sunshine piercing mist,--a beam he felt,
As of heaven's radiance, shooting: breath of heaven
Appeared to fan him: voices seem to speak,
Exhorting him for pardon still to pray
Of his offended Maker,--for that He
Surely All Merciful as Almighty was,
And would in pity hear. His trembling voice,
Then he lift up, and cried;--``Oh God! oh God!
Merciful,--ever Merciful I know Thee now!
Thou hast seen my misery; hast heard my prayer;
Has sent me hope of pardon! Oh, once more,
Though but far--off, let me have glimpse of heaven!
From these Fallen Spirits let me be released;
And in some peaceful region of the sky,
Live ages of repentance: till,--my sin
Made lighter by Thy grace,--to heaven again,--
Though in remotest part, I may return;
Still to repent, and pray: but hoping still,
In lapse of ages, that repentance and prayer,--
Thy mercy aiding,--may my sin blot out;
And once more, purified, with angels pure,
I may stand nigh the throne; and, as of old,
Oh rapture! feel Thy presence!....And for these,
These miserable,--blind and ignorant,
They know not what they do,--All Merciful,
On them have mercy!'' Mid that awful hush,--
As flame of a lone taper, in dark night,
Spreads o'er a waste of sea,--so through the host
Spread round his low clear voice: and, though in all,
Life faint as shadow seemed, yet, on the ear,
Distinct fell every word, as falls the plash
Of water drop, from cavern's echoing roof,
Slow dropping upon stone. But fury none
Kindled they now,--all passion quenched in dread.
As the tranced body in the coffin hears,
Powerless to speak, or stir,--so they the words
Of the repentant heard; yet sign gave none.
Still, gathering fervor, kindling with high hope,
Went on the voice; but, as awe--paralyzed,
In a moment ceased; and gravelike silence fell.

On every Spirit, then, a feeling stole,
Mysterious, of a somewhat nigh at hand,
Unknown, and fearful. To the lofty roof
Uplooking,--as if far off in the sky,
A radiance they beheld; a sphere, as seemed,
Of heaven's own splendor. Terror--struck, they gazed.
Expanding, brightening, it came down; and lo!
Midst of the light, a mighty angel of God!
Down came he, scattering glory, that their eyes
Nigh blinded; and dismay within them shot,
That even the boldest withered. As dry grass
In a dead calm, they lay; that, like to dust,
His foot, in anger, might have trampled them.
Down came he; and beside that contrite one,--
As, by the humble flower, the lofty pine,--
Stood; looked upon him; smiled, and spake. ``Well done!
Long erring, at the last thou hast well done.
The All Seeing hath beheld thee: all thy thoughts
The Omniscient knoweth: the All Merciful
Thy sin hath pardoned. To receive thee back,
Heaven hath flung wide its gates: to welcome thee,
All the angels of God are gathered. Thine offence
Will no more be remembered. In the choir
Again thy voice will rise. Thou wilt bow down
Mid angels and archangels near the shrine;
Wilt feel the Presence of God.'' With holy joy
Intense, all quivering, the meek Spirit looked up:
And, lo! his countenance shone with glory of heaven,
Bright as before his fall! The mighty one
Stooped; took him by the hand; and, instantly,
Like upward flash of lightning, they arose.
One moment, as they pierced it, the gem--roof
Blazed to the splendor. Darkness then again,
Substantial; iron silence, covered all.

At once, mid the vast realms of Night they plunge:
And still, as on they go, words of great joy
Speaks out the gracious angel. Through the obscure,
Stars 'gin at length to twinkle;--suns become,
Rulers of systems.--Straight as beams of light,
And swift as thought, through constellations vast
On, on they speed.....Even through the very heart
Of a sun's burning atmosphere pierce they now.....
Anon, through thickly clustered wonders bright,--
Great shoals of sun--sands, wherein light intense
Solid as diamond seems....Through host on host,--
Glory on glory thickening,--still they fly:
Till, now, that highest firmament they reach,--
The holy solitude where no star is;
The immense which all Creation, else, divides
From the Heaven of Heavens itself. To cross that depth,
Sunbeams would toil in vain; ere midway won,
Dwindled to viewless point. No vacuum this,
But purest air celestial--flood of life.
Light from without unneeding, self--illumed,
A liquid sapphire evermore it glows:
Its silence music; its eternal calm
Sacred as prayer. They shoot within: at once
They drink that air divine,--more fragrant far
Than breath of sweetest flowers, at dewy eve,
In virgin Paradise.....On--on--still on--
A bliss unspeakable, greater, and more great,
Like a flood of deepening water, pouring still
On the blest pardoned--one. Across the vast,
Trembling he looks,--the first faint glory of heaven
Eager to spy:--and, lo! at length, a light!--
To the eye, a star,--but, by the unspeakable beam,--
Through thousand centuries forgotten not--
The Heaven of Heavens proclaimed! A rapture--thrill
Runs like a lightning through him. On, still on,--
Still fleeter,--though each instant piercing space,
The measure of earth's orbit. To a sun,
The star dilates....To bulk enormous spreads....
Vast as, to eye of man, the vaulted sky,
Waxes anon: and, lo! the mighty orb--
That solid had seemed, one, indivisible,--
In starlike points innumerable breaks,--
Pure beyond ray of sun, or star, that shines
In firmament of earth, as they eclipse
The smoky torch--flame....Soon, to suns expand
The star--points...Open...In the space between,--
Again as stars,--unnumbered as the sands
On ocean's shore--glorious past reach of thought,--
Heaven's inner sphere he sees; that wondrous round
Of orbs magnificent,--each one gem entire,
Ruby, or sapphire, emerald, chrysolite,
Topaz,--or other gems, yet lustrous more,
In earth, and sun, unknown,--which, to the sight
Of angels in mid heaven, temper the blaze
Of outer suns, too bright..... Rapidly still
The wondrous spheres enlarge: brighter become;
Till, even to Spirit--gaze, the glory intense
Nigh unendurable is...Nearer...More near...

Heaven seems the Universe now,--no space beside!

In the deep, sacred stillness, rose, at length,
Dim sound of angel voices. Slower then
Their flight,--for, with o'erwhelming rapture, and awe,
The pardoned--one was faint. With trembling hands,
His eyes he covered; and adown his cheeks
Pure tears celestial trickled. To heaven's bounds,
Nigh as the moon to earth had they attained,
When the great song of all the angelic host
Rejoicing, burst upon them. A low cry,
In the bliss--agony, from the Spirit broke:
Drooped then his head: his eyes closed: he sank down,
Senseless with joy. When life returned, behold,
By angels and archangels numberless
Accompanied, before the Shrine he stood,
And felt the Presence! On their faces then
The shining millions fell: throughout all heaven
Was holy stillness; and from midst the cloud,
`Dark with excessive light,' came forth a Voice,--
``Thy sin hath been forgiven thee.'' Air, hill, plain,--
The whole vast region,--as with rapture shook.
Yet still throughout the angelic host remained
Serenest silence; prostrate still they lay,
In spirit worshipping. But, brief time past,
One impulse ruling all, the millions rose;
And, grander far than glory of the sun
Rising above the mountains, there went up
A chorus of thanksgiving. As the bed
Of a deep ocean with its waves is filled,--
So the vast temple of heaven, with that great hymn,
Even to o'erflowing, was full: and, though yet weak,
And in his rapture tremulous, the voice
Of the forgiven--one,--happiest then of all,--
And for eternity--once more was heard.

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