The Course Of Time. Book Ix.

Fairest of those that left the calm of heaven
And ventured down to man, with words of peace,
Daughter of Grace! known by whatever name,
Religion! Virtue! Piety! or Love
Of Holiness! the day of thy reward
Was come. Ah! thou wast long despised; despised
By those thou wooedst from death to endless life.
Modest and meek, in garments white as those
That seraphs wear, and countenance as mild
As Mercy looking on Repentance' tear;
With eye of purity, now darted up
To God's eternal throne, now humbly bent
Upon thyself, and weeping down thy cheek
That glowed with universal love immense,
A tear, pure as the dews that fall in heaven;
In thy left hand, the olive branch, and in
Thy right, the crown of immortality—
With noiseless foot, thou walkedst the vales of earth,
Beseeching men from age to age, to turn
From utter death—to turn from wo to bliss;
Beseeching evermore, and evermore
Despised—not evermore despised, not now,
Not at the day of doom: most lovely then,
Most honourable thou appeared, and most
To be desired. The guilty heard the song
Of thy redeemed, how loud! and saw thy face
How fair! Alas! it was too late! the hour
Of making friends was past; thy favour then
Might not be sought: but recollection, sad
And accurate, as miser counting o'er
And o'er again the sum he must lay out,
Distinctly in the wicked's ear, rehearsed
Each opportunity despised and lost;
While on them gleamed thy holy look, that like
A fiery torrent went into their souls.
The day of thy reward was come—the day
Of great remuneration to thy friends;
To those, known by whatever name, who sought,
In every place, in every time, to do
Unfeignedly their Maker's will, revealed,
Or gathered else from nature's school; well pleased
With God's applause alone, that, like a stream
Of sweetest melody, at still of night
By wanderer heard, in their most secret ear,
For ever whispered, Peace; and as a string
Of kindred tone awoke, their inmost soul,
Responsive, answered, Peace; inquiring still,
And searching, night and day, to know their duty,
When known, with undisputing trust, with love
Unquenchable, with zeal, by reason's lamp
Inflamed—performing; and to Him, by whose
Profound, all-calculating skill alone,
Results—results even of the slightest act,
Are fully grasped, with unsuspicious faith,
All consequences leaving: to abound
Or want alike prepared; who knew to be
Exalted how, and how to be abased;
How best to live, and how to die when asked.
Their prayers sincere, their alms in secret done,
Their fightings with themselves, their abstinence
From pleasure, tho' by mortal eye unseen,
Their hearts of resignation to the will
Of Heaven, their patient bearing of reproach
And shame, their charity, and faith, and hope,—
Thou didst remember, and in full repaid.
No bankrupt thou, who at the bargained hour
Of payment due, sent to his creditors
A tale of losses and mischances long.
Ensured by God himself, and from the stores
And treasures of his wealth at will supplied,—
Religion! thou alone, of all that men,
On earth, gave credit, to be reimbursed
On the other side the grave, didst keep thy word,
Thy day, and all thy promises fulfilled.
As in the mind, rich with unborrowed wealth,
Where multitudes of thoughts for utterance strive,
And all so fair, that each seems worthy first
To enter on the tongue, and from the lips
Have passage forth,—selection hesitates,
Perplexed, and loses time; anxious since all
Cannot be taken, to take the best; and yet
Afraid, lest what be left be worthier still;
And grieving much, where all so goodly look,
To leave rejected one, or in the rear
Let any be obscured: so did the bard,
Tho' not unskilled, as on that multitude
Of men, who once awoke to judgment, he
Threw back reflection, hesitating, pause.
For as his harp, in tone severe, had sung
What figure the most famous sinners made,
When from the grave they rose unmasked; so did
He wish to character the good: but yet
Among so many, glorious all, all worth
Immortal fame, with whom begin, with whom
To end, was difficult to choose; and long
His auditors, upon the tiptoe raised
Of expectation, might have kept, had not
His eye—for so it is in heaven, that what
Is needed always is at hand—beheld,
That moment, on a mountain near the throne
Of God, the most renowned of the redeemed
Rejoicing; nor who first, who most to praise,
Debated more; but thus, with sweeter note,
Well pleased to sing, with highest eulogy,
And first, whom God applauded most,—began.
With patient ear, thou now hast heard,—tho' whiles
Aside digressing, ancient feeling turned
My lyre,—what shame the wicked had that day,
What wailing, what remorse: so hear in brief,
How bold the righteous stood—the men redeemed!
How fair in virtue! and in hope how glad!
And first among the holy shone, as best
Became, the faithful minister of God.
See where he walks on yonder mount, that lifts
Its summit high, on the right hand of bliss!
Sublime in glory! talking with his peers
Of the Incarnate Saviour's love, and past
Affliction, lost in present joy! See how
His face with heavenly ardour glows! and how
His hand enraptured, strikes the golden lyre!
As now conversing of the Lamb once slain,
He speaks; and now, from vines that never hear
Of winter, but in monthly harvest yield
Their fruit abundantly, he plucks the grapes
Of life! but what he was on earth it most
Behoves to say:—Elect by God himself;
Anointed by the Holy Ghost, and set
Apart to the great work of saving men;
Instructed fully in the will divine;
Supplied with grace in store, as need might ask;
And with the stamp and signature of heaven,
Truth, mercy, patience, holiness and love,
Accredited;—he was a man by God,
The Lord commissioned to make known to men,
The eternal counsels; in his Master's name,
To treat with them of everlasting things;
Of life, death, bliss, and wo: to offer terms
Of pardon, grace, and peace, to the rebelled;
To teach the ignorant soul; to cheer the sad;
To bind, to loose with all authority;
To give the feeble strength, the hopeless hope;
To help the halting, and to lead the blind;
To warn the careless; heal the sick of heart;
Arouse the indolent; and on the proud
And obstinate offender, to denounce
The wrath of God. All other men, what name
Soe'er they bore, whatever office held,
If lawful held—the magistrate supreme,
Or else subordinate, were chosen by men,
Their fellows, and from men derived their power,
And were accountable for all they did
To men; but he alone his office held
Immediately from God, from God received
Authority, and was to none but God
Amenable. The elders of the church,
Indeed, upon him laid their hands, and set
Him visibly apart to preach the word
Of life; but this was merely outward rite,
And decent ceremonial, performed
On all alike; and oft, as thou hast heard,
Performed on those, God never sent: his call,
His consecration, his anointing, all
Were inward; in the conscience heard and felt.
Thus by Jehovah chosen and ordained,
To take into his charge the souls of men;
And for his trust to answer at the day
Of judgment—great plenipotent of heaven,
And representative of God on earth—
Fearless of men and devils; unabashed
By sin enthroned, or mockery of a prince;
Unawed by armed legions; unseduced
By offered bribes; burning with love to souls
Unquenchable, and mindful still of his
Great charge and vast responsibility,—
High in the temple of the living God,
He stood, amidst the people, and declared
Aloud the truth—the whole revealed truth—
Ready to seal it with his blood. Divine
Resemblance most complete! with mercy now,
And love, his face illumed, shone gloriously;
And frowning now indignantly, it seemed
As if offended Justice, from his eye,
Streamed forth vindictive wrath! Men heard alarmed:
The uncircumcised infidel believed;
Light thoughted Mirth grew serious and wept;
The laugh profane sunk in a sigh of deep
Repentance; the blasphemer, kneeling, prayed,
And prostrate in the dust for mercy called;
And cursed old forsaken sinners gnashed
Their teeth, as if their hour had been arrived.
Such was his calling, his commission such:
Yet he was humble, kind, forgiving, meek,
Easy to be entreated, gracious, mild;
And with all patience and affection, taught,
Rebuked, persuaded, solaced, counselled, warned,
In fervent stile and manner. Needy, poor,
And dying men, like music, heard his feet
Approach their beds; and guilty wretches took
New hope, and in his prayers, wept and smiled,
And blessed him, as they died forgiven; and all
Saw in his face contentment, in his life,
The path to glory and perpetual joy.
Deep learned in the philosophy of heaven,
He searched the causes out of good and ill,
Profoundly calculating their effects
Far past the bounds of time; and balancing,
In the arithmetic of future things,
The loss and profit of the soul to all
Eternity. A skilful workman he,
In God's great moral vineyard; what to prune,
With cautious hand, he knew; what to uproot;
What was mere weeds, and what celestial plants,
Which had unfading vigour in them, knew:
Nor knew alone; but watched them night and day,
And reared and nourished them, till fit to be
Transplanted to the Paradise above.
O! who can speak his praise! great, humble man!
He in the current of destruction stood,
And warned the sinner of his wo; led on
Immanuel's armies in the evil day;
And with the everlasting arms, embraced
Himself around, stood in the dreadful front
Of battle, high, and warred victoriously
With death and hell. And now was come his rest,
His triumph day: illustrious like a sun,
In that assembly, he, shining from far,
Most excellent in glory, stood assured,—
Waiting the promised crown, the promised throne,
The welcome and approval of his Lord.
Nor one alone, but many—prophets, priests,
Apostles, great reformers, all that served
Messiah faithfully, like stars, appeared,
Of fairest beam; and round them gathered, clad
In white, the vouchers of their ministry—
The flocks, their care had nourished, fed, and saved.
Nor yet in common glory, blazing stood,
The true philosopher, decided friend
Of truth and man; determined foe of all
Deception,—calm, collected, patient, wise,
And humble; undeceived by outward shape
Of things; by fashion's revelry uncharmed;
By honour unbewitched;—he left the chase
Of vanity, and all the quackeries
Of life to fools and heroes, or whoe'er
Desired them; and with reason, much despised,
Traduced, yet heavenly reason, to the shade
Retired—retired, but not to dream, or build
Of ghostly fancies, seen in the deep noon
Of sleep, ill balanced theories; retired,
But did not leave mankind; in pity, not
In wrath retired; and still, though distant, kept
His eye on men; at proper angle, took
His stand to see them better, and beyond
The clamour which the bells of folly made,
That most had hung about them, to consult
With nature, how their madness might be cured,
And how their true substantial comforts might
Be multiplied. Religious man! what God
By prophets, priests, evangelists, revealed
Of sacred truth, he thankfully received,
And, by its light directed, went in search
Of more: before him, darkness fled: and all
The goblin tribe, that hung upon the breasts
Of Night, and haunted still the moral gloom,—
With shapeless forms, and blue infernal lights,
And indistinct and devilish whisperings,
That the miseducated fancies vexed
Of superstitious men,—at his approach,
Dispersed, invisible. Where'er he went,
This lesson still he taught, to fear no ill
But sin, no being but Almighty God.
All-comprehending sage! too hard alone
For him, was man's salvation; all besides,
Of use or comfort, that distinction made
Between the desperate savage, scarcely raised
Above the beast whose flesh he ate undressed,
And the most polished of the human race,
Was product of his persevering search.
Religion owed him much, as from the false
She suffer'd much; for still his main design,
In all his contemplations, was to trace
The wisdom, providence, and love of God,
And to his fellows, less observant, show
Them forth. From prejudice redeemed, with all
His passions still, above the common world,
Sublime in reason, and in aim sublime,
He sat, and on the marvellous works of God,
Sedately thought: now glancing up his eye
Intelligent, through all the starry dance;
And penetrating now the deep remote
Of central causes, in the womb opaque
Of matter hid; now with inspection nice,
Entering the mystic labyrinths of the mind,
Where thought, of notice ever-shy, behind
Thought, disappearing, still retired; and still,
Thought meeting thought, and thought awakening thought,
And mingling still with thought, in endless maze,—
Bewildered observation: now with eye,
Yet more severely purged, looking far down
Into the heart, where Passion wove a web
Of thousand thousand threads, in grain and hue
All different; then, upward venturing whiles,
But reverently, and in his hand, the light
Revealed, near the eternal throne, he gazed,
Philosophizing less than worshipping.
Most truly great! his intellectual strength,
And knowledge vast, to men of lesser mind,
Seemed infinite; yet from his high pursuits,
And reasonings most profound, he still returned
Home, with an humbler and a warmer heart.
And none so lowly bowed before his God,
As none so well His awful majesty
And goodness comprehended; or so well
His own dependency and weakness knew.
How glorious now! with vision purified
At the Essential Truth, entirely free
From error, he, investigating still—
For knowledge is not found, unsought in heaven,—
From world to world at pleasure roves, on wing
Of golden ray upborne; or, at the feet
Of heaven's most ancient sages, sitting, hears
New wonders of the wondrous works of God.
Illustrious too, that morning, stood the man
Exalted by the people, to the throne
Of government, established on the base
Of justice, liberty, and equal right:
Who, in his countenance sublime, expressed
A nation's majesty, and yet was meek
And humble; and in royal palace gave
Example to the meanest, of the fear
Of God, and all integrity of life
And manners; who, august, yet lowly; who,
Severe, yet gracious; in his very heart
Detesting all oppression, all intent
Of private aggrandizement; and the first
In every public duty,—held the scales
Of justice, and as the law, which reigned in him,
Commanded, gave rewards; or with the edge
Vindictive, smote,—now light, now heavily,
According to the stature of the crime.
Conspicuous like an oak of healthiest bough,
Deep rooted in his country's love, he stood
And gave his hand to Virtue, helping up
The honest man to honour and renown;
And with the look which goodness wears in wrath,
Withering the very blood of Knavery,
And, from his presence, driving far ashamed.
Nor less remarkable, among the blest
Appeared the man, who in the senate-house,
Watchful, unhired, unbribed, and uncorrupt,
And party only to the common weal,
In virtue's awful rage, pleaded for right,
With truth so clear, with argument so strong,
With action so sincere, and tone so loud
And deep, as made the despot quake behind
His adamantine gates, and every joint
In terror smite his fellow-joint relaxed;
Or, marching to the field, in burnished steel,
While, frowning on his brow, tremendous hung
The wrath of a whole people, long provoked,—
Mustered the stormy wings of war, in day
Of dreadful deeds; and led the battle on,
When liberty, swift as the fires of heaven,
In fury rode, with all her hosts, and threw
The tyrant down; or drove invasion back.
Illustrious he—illustrious all appeared,
Who ruled supreme in righteousness; or held
Inferior place in stedfast rectitude
Of soul. Peculiarly severe had been
The nurture of their youth; their knowledge great;
Great was their wisdom; great their cares, and great
Their self denial, and their service done
To God and man; and great was their reward,
At hand, proportioned to their worthy deeds.
Breathe all thy minstrelsy, immortal harp!
Breathe numbers warm with love! while I rehearse,
Delightful theme! resembling most the songs
Which, day and night, are sung before the Lamb!
Thy praise, O Charity! thy labours most
Divine; thy sympathy with sighs, and tears,
And groans; thy great, thy god-like wish, to heal
All misery, all fortune's wounds; and make
The soul of every living thing rejoice.
O thou wast needed much in days of time!
No virtue, half so much; none half so fair:
To all the rest, however fine, thou gavest
A finishing and polish, without which
No man ere entered heaven. Let me record
His praise,—the man of great benevolence,
Who pressed thee closely to his glowing heart,
And to thy gentle bidding, made his feet
Swift ministers.—Of all mankind, his soul
Was most in harmony with heaven: as one
Sole family of brothers, sisters, friends;
One in their origin, one in their rights
To all the common gifts of providence,
And in their hopes, their joys, and sorrows one,
He viewed the universal human race.
He needed not a law of state, to force
Grudging submission to the law of God;
The law of love was in his heart alive:
What he possessed, he counted not his own,
But like a faithful steward, in a house
Of public alms, what freely he received,
He freely gave; distributing to all
The helpless, the last mite beyond his own
Temperate support, and reckoning still the gift
But justice, due to want; and so it was;
Altho' the world, with compliment not ill
Applied, adorned it with a fairer name.
Nor did he wait till to his door the voice
Of supplication came, but went abroad,
With foot as silent as the starry dews,
In search of misery that pined unseen,
And would not ask. And who can tell what sights
He saw! what groans he heard in that cold world
Below! where Sin in league with gloomy Death
Marched daily thro' the length and breadth of all
The land, wasting at will, and making earth,
Fair earth! a lazer-house, a dungeon dark;
Where Disappointment fed on ruined Hope;
Where Guilt, worn out, leaned on the triple edge
Of want, remorse, despair; where Cruelty
Reached forth a cup of wormwood to the lips
Of Sorrow, that to deeper Sorrow wailed;
Where Mockery, and Disease, and Poverty,
Met miserable Age, erewhile sore bent
With his own burden; where the arrowy winds
Of winter, pierced the naked orphan babe,
And chilled the mother's heart who had no home;
And where, alas! in mid-time of his day,
The honest man, robbed by some villain's hand,
Or with long sickness pale, and paler yet
With want and hunger, oft drank bitter draughts
Of his own tears, and had no bread to eat.
Oh! who can tell what sights he saw, what shapes
Of wretchedness! or who describe what smiles
Of gratitude illumed the face of wo,
While from his hand he gave the bounty forth!
As when the sun, from cancer wheeling back,
Returned to capricorn, and shewed the north,
That long had lain in cold and cheerless night,
His beamy countenance; all nature then
Rejoiced together glad; the flower looked up
And smiled; the forest from his locks shook off
The hoary frosts, and clapped his hands; the birds
Awoke, and singing, rose to meet the day;
And from his hollow den, where many months
He slumbered sad in darkness, blythe and light
Of heart the savage sprung; and saw again
His mountains shine; and with new songs of love,
Allured the virgin's ear: so did the house,
The prison-house of guilt, and all the abodes
Of unprovided helplessness, revive,
As on them looked the sunny messenger
Of charity; by angels tended still,
That marked his deeds, and wrote them in the book
Of God's remembrance:—careless he to be
Observed of men; or have each mite bestowed,
Recorded punctually with name and place
In every bill of news: pleased to do good,
He gave and sought no more—nor questioned much,
Nor reasoned who deserved; for well he knew
The face of need. Ah me! who could mistake?
The shame to ask, the want that urged within,
Composed a look so perfectly distinct
From all else human, and withal so full
Of misery, that none could pass untouched
And be a Christian; or thereafter claim,
In any form, the name or rights of man;
Or, at the day of judgment, lift his eye:
While he, in name of Christ, who gave the poor
A cup of water, or a bit of bread,
Impatient for his advent, waiting stood,
Glowing in robes of love and holiness,
Heaven's fairest dress! and round him ranged in white,
A thousand witnesses appeared, prepared
To tell his gracious deeds before the throne.
Nor unrenowned among the most renowned,
Nor 'mong the fairest unadmired, that morn,
When highest fame was proof of highest worth,
Distinguished stood the bard;—not he, who sold
The incommunicable heavenly gift,
To Folly; and with lyre of perfect tone,
Prepared by God himself, for holiest praise,
Vilest of traitors! most dishonest man!—
Sat by the door of Ruin, and made there
A melody so sweet, and in the mouth
Of drunkenness and debauch, that else had croaked
In natural discordance jarring harsh,—
Put so divine a song, that many turned
Aside, and entered in undone; and thought
Meanwhile it was the gate of heaven; so like
An angel's voice the music seemed: nor he,
Who whining grievously of damsel coy,
Or blaming fortune, that would nothing give
For doing nought, in indolent lament
Unprofitable, passed his piteous days,—
Making himself the hero of his tale,
Deserving ill the poet's name. But he,
The bard, by God's own hand anointed, who,
To Virtue's all-delighting harmony,
His numbers tuned; who from the fount of truth,
Poured melody, and beauty poured, and love,
In holy stream, into the human heart;
And from the height of lofty argument,
Who justified the ways of God to man,
And sung, what still he sings—approved in heaven,
Tho' now with bolder note, above the damp
Terrestrial, which the pure celestial fire
Cooled, and restrained in part his flaming wing.
Philosophy was deemed of deeper thought,
And judgment more severe than Poetry;
To fable she, and fancy more inclined.
And yet if Fancy, as was understood,
Was of creative nature, or of power,
With self-wrought stuff to build a fabric up,
To mortal vision wonderful and strange,
Philosophy, the theoretic, claimed
Undoubtedly the first and highest place
In Fancy's favour: her material souls;
Her chance; her atoms shaped alike; her white
Proved black; her universal nothing, all;
And all her wondrous systems, how the mind
With matter met; how man was free, and yet
All preordained; how evil first began;
And chief, her speculations, soaring high
Of the eternal uncreated Mind,
Which left all reason infinitely far
Behind—surprising feat of theory!
Were pure creation of her own; webs wove
Of gossamer in Fancy's lightest loom;
And no where, on the list of being made
By God, recorded: but her look meanwhile
Was grave and studious; and many thought
She reasoned deeply, when she wildly raved.
The true, legitimate, anointed bard,
Whose song thro' ages poured its melody,
Was most severely thoughtful, most minute
And accurate of observation, most
Familiarly acquainted with all modes
And phases of existence. True, no doubt,
He had originally drunk, from out
The fount of life and love, a double draught,
That gave, whate'er he touched, a double life.
But this was mere desire at first, and power
Devoid of means to work by; need was still
Of persevering, quick, inspective mood
Of mind, of faithful memory, vastly stored
From universal being's ample field,
With knowledge; and a judgment sound and clear,
Well disciplined in nature's rules of taste;
Discerning to select, arrange, combine,
From infinite variety, and still
To nature true; and guide withal, hard task,
The sacred living impetus divine,
Discreetly thro' the harmony of song.
Completed thus, the poet sung; and age
To age enraptured, heard his measures flow;
Enraptured, for he poured the very fat
And marrow of existence thro' his verse;
And gave the soul—that else in selfish cold,
Unwarmed by kindred interest, had lain—
A roomy life, a glowing relish high,
A sweet expansive brotherhood of being,—
Joy answering joy, and sigh responding sigh,
Thro' all the fibres of the social heart.
Observant, sympathetic, sound of head,
Upon the ocean vast of human thought,
With passion rough and stormy, venturing out
Even as the living billows rolled, he threw
His numbers over them, seized as they were,
And to perpetual ages left them fixed,
To each, a mirror of itself displayed;
Despair for ever lowering dark on Sin;
And Happiness on Virtue smiling fair.
He was the minister of fame; and gave
To whom he would renown; nor missed himself,—
Altho' despising much the idiot roar
Of popular applause, that sudden oft
Unnaturally turning, whom it nursed
Itself, devoured,—the lasting fame, the praise
Of God and holy men, to excellence given:
Yet less he sought his own renown, than wished
To have the eternal images of truth
And beauty, pictured in his verse, admired.
'Twas these, taking immortal shape and form
Beneath his eye, that charmed his midnight watch,
And oft his soul, with awful transports, shook,
Of happiness, unfelt by other men.
This was that spell, that sorcery, which bound
The poet to the lyre, and would not let
Him go; that hidden mystery of joy,
Which made him sing in spite of fortune's worst;
And was, at once, both motive and reward.
Nor now among the choral harps, in this
The native clime of song, are those unknown,
With higher note ascending, who, below,
In holy ardour, aimed at lofty strains.
True fame is never lost: many, whose names
Were honoured much on Earth, are famous here
For poetry, and with arch-angel harps,
Hold no unequal rivalry in song;
Leading the choirs of heaven, in numbers high,
In numbers ever sweet and ever new.
Behold them yonder, where the river pure
Flows warbling down before the throne of God,
And shading on each side, the tree of life
Spreads its unfading boughs! see how they shine,
In garments white, quaffing deep draughts of love;
And harping on their harps, new harmonies
Preparing for the ear of God, Most High!
But why should I, of individual worth,
Of individual glory, longer sing?
No true believer was that day obscure;
No holy soul but had enough of joy;
No pious wish without its full reward.
Who in the Father and the Son believed,
With faith that wrought by love to holy deeds,
And purified the heart, none trembled there,
Nor had by earthly guise his rank concealed:
Whether unknown, he tilled the ground remote,
Observant of the seasons, and adored
God in the promise yearly verified,
Of seedtime, harvest, summer, winter, day
And night, returning duly at the time
Appointed; or on the shadowy mountain side,
Worshipped at dewy eve, watching his flocks;
Or treading, saw the wonders of the deep,
And as the needle to the starry pole,
Turned constantly, so he his heart to God;
Or else, in servitude severe, was taught
To break the bonds of sin; or begging, learned
To trust the Providence, that fed the raven,
And clothed the lily with her annual gown.
Most numerous indeed, among the saved,
And many too, not least illustrious, shone,
The men who had no name on earth: eclipsed
By lowly circumstance, they lived unknown;
Like stream that in the desert warbles clear,
Still nursing, as it goes, the herb and flower,
Tho' never seen; or like the star retired
In solitudes of ether, far beyond
All sight, not of essential splendour less,
Tho' shining unobserved: none saw their pure
Devotion, none their tears, their faith, and love
Which burned within them, both to God and man;
None saw but God. He, in his bottle, all
Their tears preserved, and every holy wish
Wrote in his book; and not as they had done,
But as they wished with all their heart to do,
Arrayed them now in glory, and displayed,
No longer hid by coarse uncourtly garb—
In lustre equal to their inward worth.
Man's time was past, and his eternity
Begun! no fear remained of change. The youth,
Who, in the glowing morn of vigorous life,
High reaching after great religious deeds,
Was suddenly cut off, with all his hopes
In sunny bloom, and unaccomplished left
His withered aims,—saw everlasting days
Before him dawning rise, in which to achieve
All glorious things, and get himself the name
That jealous death too soon forbade on earth.
Old things had passed away, and all was new:
And yet of all the new-begun, nought so
Prodigious difference made, in the affairs
And thoughts of every man, as certainty.
For doubt, all doubt was gone, of every kind;
Doubt that erewhile, beneath the lowest base
Of mortal reasonings, deepest laid, crept in,
And made the strongest, best cemented towers
Of human workmanship, so weakly shake,
And to their lofty tops, so waver still,
That those who built them, feared their sudden fall.
But doubt, all doubt was past; and in its place,
To every thought that in the heart of man
Was present, now had come an absolute,
Unquestionable certainty, which gave
To each decision of the mind, immense
Importance, raising to its proper height
The sequent tide of passion, whether joy,
Or grief. The good man knew in very truth,
That he was saved to all eternity,
And feared no more; the bad had proof complete,
That he was damned for ever; and believed
Entirely, that on every wicked soul
Anguish should come, and wrath and utter wo.
Knowledge was much increased, but wisdom more.
The film of Time, that still before the sight
Of mortal vision danced, and led the best
Astray, pursuing unsubstantial dreams,
Had dropped from every eye: men saw that they
Had vexed themselves in vain, to understand
What now no hope to understand, remained;
That they had often counted evil good,
And good for ill; laughed when they should have wept;
And wept forlorn when God intended mirth.
But what of all their follies past, surprised
Them most, and seemed most totally insane
And unaccountable, was value set
On objects of a day; was serious grief,
Or joy, for loss, or gain of mortal things:
So utterly impossible it seemed,
When men their proper interests saw, that aught
Of terminable kind, that aught, which e'er
Could die, or cease to be, however named,
Should make a human soul—a legal heir
Of everlasting years—rejoice, or weep
In earnest mood; for nothing now seemed worth
A thought, but had eternal bearing in't.
Much truth had been assented to in Time,
Which never, till this day, had made a due
Impression on the heart. Take one example:
Early from heaven it was revealed, and oft
Repeated in the world, from pulpits preached
And penned and read in holy books, that God
Respected not the persons of mankind.
Had this been truly credited and felt,
The king in purple robe, had owned indeed,
The beggar for his brother; pride of rank
And office, thawed into paternal love;
Oppression feared the day of equal rights,
Predicted; covetous extortion kept
In mind the hour of reckoning, soon to come;
And bribed injustice thought of being judged,
When he should stand on equal foot beside
The man he wronged. And surely—nay, 'tis true,
Most true, beyond all whispering of doubt,
That he, who lifted up the reeking scourge,
Dripping with gore from the slave's back, before
He struck again, had paused, and seriously
Of that tribunal thought, where God himself
Should look him in the face, and ask in wrath,
Why didst thou this? Man! was he not thy brother?
Bone of thy bone, and flesh and blood of thine?
But ah! this truth, by heaven and reason taught,
Was never fully credited on earth.
The titled, flattered, lofty men of power,
Whose wealth bought verdicts of applause for deeds
Of wickedness, could ne'er believe the time
Should truly come, when judgment should proceed
Impartially against them, and they too,
Have no good speaker at the judge's ear;
No witnesses to bring them off for gold;
No power to turn the sentence from its course:
And they of low estate, who saw themselves,
Day after day, despised, and wronged, and mocked,
Without redress, could scarcely think, the day
Should ever arrive, when they in truth should stand
On perfect level with the potentates
And princes of the earth, and have their cause
Examined fairly, and their rights allowed.
But now this truth was felt, believed and felt,
That men were really of a common stock;
That no man ever had been more than man.
Much prophecy—revealed by holy bards,
Who sung the will of heaven by Judah's streams—
Much prophecy that waited long, the scoff
Of lips uncircumcised, was then fulfilled;
To the last tittle scrupulously fulfilled.
It was foretold by those of ancient days,
A time should come, when wickedness should weep
Abased; when every lofty look of man
Should be bowed down, and all his haughtiness
Made low; when righteousness alone should lift
The head in glory, and rejoice at heart;
When many, first in splendour and renown,
Should be most vile; and many, lowest once
And last in poverty's obscurest nook,
Highest and first in honour, should be seen
Exalted; and when some, when all the good,
Should rise to glory, and eternal life;
And all the bad, lamenting, wake, condemned
To shame, contempt, and everlasting grief.
These prophecies had tarried long; so long
That many wagged the head, and taunting asked,
When shall they come? But asked no more, nor mocked.
For the reproach of prophecy was wiped
Away, and every word of God found true.
And O! what change of state! what change of rank!
In that assembly every where was seen!
The humble hearted laughed; the lofty mourned;
And every man according to his works
Wrought in the body, there took character.
Thus stood they mixed! all generations stood
Of all mankind! innumerable throng!
Great harvest of the grave! waiting the will
Of Heaven, attentively and silent all,
As forest spreading out beneath the calm
Of evening skies, when even the single leaf
Is heard distinctly rustle down and fall;
So silent they, when from above, the sound
Of rapid wheels approached, and suddenly
In heaven appeared a host of angels strong,
With chariots and with steeds of burning fire:
Cherub, and Seraph, Thrones, Dominions, Powers,
Bright in celestial armour, dazzling, rode:
And leading in the front, illustrious shone
Michael and Gabriel, servants long approved
In high commission,—girt that day with power,
Which nought created, man, or devil, might
Resist; nor waited gazing long; but quick
Descending, silently and without song,
As servants bent to do their master's work,
To middle air they raised the human race,
Above the path long travelled by the sun;
And as a shepherd from the sheep divides
The goats; or husbandman, with reaping bands,
In harvest, separates the precious wheat,
Selected from the tares: so did they part
Mankind,—the good and bad, to right and left,—
To meet no more; these ne'er again to smile;
Nor those to weep; these never more to share
Society of mercy with the saints;
Nor henceforth, those to suffer with the vile.
Strange parting! not for hours, nor days, nor months,
Nor for ten thousand times ten thousand years;
But for a whole eternity! though fit,
And pleasant to the righteous, yet to all
Strange! and most strangely felt! The sire to right
Retiring, saw the son, sprung from his loins,
Beloved how dearly once,—but who forgot
Too soon, in sin's intoxicating cup,
The father's warnings and the mother's tears,—
Fall to the left among the reprobate.
And sons redeemed, beheld the fathers, whom
They loved and honoured once, gathered among
The wicked: brothers, sisters, kinsmen, friends;
Husband and wife, who ate at the same board,
And under the same roof, united dwelt,
From youth to hoary age, bearing the chance
And change of time together,—parted then
For evermore. But none whose friendship grew
From virtue's pure and everlasting root,
Took different roads;—these, knit in stricter bonds
Of amity, embracing, saw no more
Death with his scythe stand by, nor heard the word,
The bitter word, which closed all earthly friendships,
And finished every feast of love,—Farewell.
To all strange parting; to the wicked, sad
And terrible: new horror seized them while
They saw the saints withdrawing, and with them
All hope of safety, all delay of wrath.
Beneath a crown of rosy light,—like that
Which once in Goshen, on the flocks, and herds,
And dwellings, smiled of Jacob, while the land
Of Nile was dark; or like the pillar bright
Of sacred fire, that stood above the sons
Of Israel, when they camped at midnight by
The foot of Horeb, or the desert side
Of Sinai,—now the righteous took their place,
All took their place who ever wished to go
To heaven, for heaven's own sake; not one remained
Among the accursed, that e'er desired with all
The heart to be redeemed; that ever sought
Submissively to do the will of God,
Howe'er it crossed his own: or to escape
Hell, for aught other than its penal fires.
All took their place rejoicing, and beheld,
In centre of the crown of golden beams
That canopied them o'er, these gracious words,
Blushing with tints of love: Fear not, my saints.
To other sight of horrible dismay,
Jehovah's ministers, the wicked drove,
And left them bound immoveable in chains
Of Justice: o'er their heads a bowless cloud
Of indignation hung; a cloud it was
Of thick and utter darkness; rolling, like
An ocean, tides of livid, pitchy flame;
With thunders charged and lightnings ruinous,
And red with forked vengeance, such as wounds
The soul; and full of angry shapes of wrath;
And eddies, whirling with tumultuous fire;
And forms of terror raving to and fro;
And monsters, unimagined heretofore
By guilty men in dreams before their death,
From horrid to more horrid changing still,
In hideous movement through that stormy gulph:
And evermore the thunders murmuring spoke
From out the darkness, uttering loud these words,
Which every guilty conscience echoed back:
“Ye knew your duty, but ye did it not.”
Dread words! that barred excuse, and threw the weight
Of every man's perdition on himself
Directly home. Dread words! heard then, and heard
For ever through the wastes of Erebus.
“Ye knew your duty, but ye did it not!”
These were the words which glowed upon the sword,
Whose wrath burned fearfully behind the cursed,
As they were driven away from God to Tophet.
“Ye knew your duty, but ye did it not!”
These are the words to which the harps of grief
Are strung; and to the chorus of the damned,
The rocks of hell repeat them evermore;
Loud echoed through the caverns of despair,
And poured in thunder on the ear of Wo.
Nor ruined men alone, beneath that cloud,
Trembled: there Satan and his legions stood;
Satan, the first and eldest sinner, bound
For judgment: he, by other name, held once
Conspicuous rank in heaven among the sons
Of happiness, rejoicing day and night:
But pride, that was ashamed to bow to God
Most high, his bosom filled with hate, his face
Made black with envy, and in his soul begot
Thoughts guilty of rebellion 'gainst the throne
Of the Eternal Father and the Son,—
From everlasting built on righteousness.
Ask not how pride in one created pure,
Could grow; or sin without example spring,
Where holiness alone was sown: esteem't
Enough, that he, as every being made
By God, was made entirely holy, had
The will of God before him set for law
And regulation of his life; and power
To do as bid; but was, meantime, left free,
To prove his worth, his gratitude, his love;
How proved besides? for how could service done,
That might not else have been withheld, evince
The will to serve, which, rather than the deed,
God doth require, and virtue counts alone?
To stand or fall, to do or leave undone,
Is reason's lofty privilege, denied
To all below, by instinct bound to fate,
Unmeriting alike reward or blame.
Thus free, the Devil chose to disobey
The will of God; and was thrown out from heaven,
And with him all his bad example stained:
Yet not to utter punishment decreed,
But left to fill the measure of his sin,
In tempting and seducing man:—too soon,
Too easily seduced! And from the day,
He first set foot on earth—of rancour full,
And pride, and hate, and malice, and revenge—
He set himself, with most felonious aim,
And hellish perseverance, to root out
All good, and in its place to plant all ill;
To rub and raze, from all created things,
The fair and holy portraiture divine,
And on them to enstamp his features grim;
To draw all creatures off from loyalty
To their Creator; and to make them bow
The knee to him. Nor failed of great success,
As populous hell this day can testify.
He held indeed large empire in the world,
Contending proudly with the King of heaven.
To him temples were built, and sacrifice
Of costly blood upon his altars flowed;
And, what best pleased him, for in show he seemed
Then likest God, whole nations bowing fell
Before him, worshipping, and from his lips
Entreated oracles, which he, by priests,
For many were his priests in every age,
Answered, though guessing but at future things,
And erring oft, yet still believed; so well
His ignorance, in ambiguous phrase, he veiled.
Nor needs it wonder, that with man once fallen,
His tempting should succeed. Large was his mind
And understanding; though impaired by sin,
Still large; and constant practice, day and night,
In cunning, guile, and all hypocrisy,
From age to age, gave him experience vast
In sin's dark tactics, such as boyish man,
Unarmed by strength divine, could ill withstand.
And well he knew his weaker side; and still
His lures with baits that pleased the senses busked;
To his impatient passions offering terms
Of present joy, and bribing reason's eye
With earthly wealth, and honours near at hand:
Nor failed to misadvise his future hope
And faith, by false unkerneled promises
Of heavens of sensual gluttony and love,
That suited best their grosser appetites.
Into the sinner's heart, who lived secure,
And feared him least, he entered at his will.
But chief he chose his residence in courts,
And conclaves, stirring princes up to acts
Of blood and tyranny; and moving priests
To barter truth, and swap the souls of men
For lusty benefices, and address
Of lofty sounding: nor the saints elect,
Who walked with God, in virtue's path sublime,
Did he not sometimes venture to molest;
In dreams and moments of unguarded thought,
Suggesting guilty doubts and fears, that God
Would disappoint their hope; and in their way
Bestrewing pleasures, tongued so sweet, and so
In holy garb arrayed, that many stooped,
Believing them of heavenly sort, and fell;
And to their high professions, brought disgrace
And scandal, to themselves, thereafter, long
And bitter nights of sore repentance, vexed
With shame, unwonted sorrow, and remorse.
And more they should have fallen, and more have wept,
Had not their guardian angels,—who, by God
Commissioned, stood beside them in the hour
Of danger, whether craft, or fierce attack,
To Satan's deepest skill opposing skill
More deep, and to his strongest arm, an arm
More strong,—upborne them in their hands, and filled
Their souls with all discernment, quick, to pierce
His stratagems and fairest shows of sin.
Now like a roaring lion, up and down
The world, destroying, though unseen, he raged;
And now, retiring back to Tartarus,
Far back, beneath the thick of guiltiest dark,
Where night ne'er heard of day, in council grim
He sat, with ministers whose thoughts were damned,
And there such plans devised, as, had not God
Checked and restrained, had added earth entire
To hell, and uninhabited left heaven,
Jehovah unadored. Nor unsevere
Even then, his punishment deserved: the Worm
That never dies, coiled in his bosom, gnawed
Perpetually; sin after sin, brought pang
Succeeding pang; and now and then the bolts
Of Zion's King, vindictive, smote his soul
With fiery wo to blast his proud designs;
And gave him earnest of the wrath to come.
And chief, when on the cross, Messiah said,
'Tis finished, did the edge of vengeance smite
Him through, and all his gloomy legions touch
With new despair. But yet, to be the first
In mischief, to have armies at his call,
To hold dispute with God, in days of Time
His pride and malice, fed, and bore him up
Above the worst of ruin: still to plan
And act great deeds, though wicked, brought at least
The recompence which nature hath attached
To all activity, and aim, pursued
With perseverance, good, or bad; for as,
By nature's laws, immutable and just,
Enjoyment stops where indolence begins;
And purposeless, to-morrow borrowing sloth,
Itself, heaps on its shoulders loads of wo,
Too heavy to be borne: so industry,—
To meditate, to plan, resolve, perform,
Which in itself is good, as surely brings
Reward of good, no matter what be done:
And such reward the Devil had, as long
As the decrees eternal gave him space
To work: but now, all action ceased; his hope
Of doing evil perished quite; his pride,
His courage, failed him; and beneath that cloud,
Which hung its central terrors o'er his head,
With all his angels, he, for sentence, stood,
And rolled his eyes around, that uttered guilt
And wo, in horrible perfection joined.
As he had been the chief and leader, long,
Of the apostate crew that warred with God
And holiness; so now, among the bad,
Lowest, and most forlorn, and trembling most,
With all iniquity deformed and foul,
With all perdition ruinous and dark,
He stood,—example awful of the wrath
Of God! sad mark, to which all sin must fall!—
And made, on every side, so black a hell,
That spirits, used to night and misery,
To distance drew, and looked another way;
And from their golden cloud, far off, the saints
Saw round him darkness grow more dark, and heard
The impatient thunderbolts, with deadliest crash,
And frequentest, break o'er his head,—the sign,
That Satan there, the vilest sinner, stood.
Ah me! what eyes were there beneath that cloud!
Eyes of despair, final and certain! eyes
That looked, and looked, and saw, where'er they looked,
Interminable darkness! utter wo!
'Twas pitiful to see the early flower
Nipped by the unfeeling frost, just when it rose,
Lovely in youth, and put its beauties on.
'Twas pitiful to see the hopes of all
The year, the yellow harvest, made a heap,
By rains of judgment; or by torrents swept,
With flocks and cattle, down the raging flood;
Or scattered by the winnowing winds, that bore,
Upon their angry wings, the wrath of heaven.
Sad was the field, where yesterday was heard
The roar of war; and sad the sight of maid,
Of mother, widow, sister, daughter, wife,
Stooping and weeping over senseless, cold,
Defaced, and mangled lumps of breathless earth,
Which had been husbands, fathers, brothers, sons,
And lovers, when that morning's sun arose.
'Twas sad to see the wonted seat of friend
Removed by death: and sad to visit scenes,
When old, where, in the smiling morn of life,
Lived many, who both knew and loved us much,
And they all gone, dead, or dispersed abroad;
And stranger faces seen among their hills.
'Twas sad to see the little orphan babe
Weeping and sobbing on its mother's grave.
'Twas pitiful to see an old, forlorn,
Decrepit, withered wretch, unhoused, unclad,
Starving to death with poverty and cold.
'Twas pitiful to see a blooming bride,
That promise gave of many a happy year,
Touched by decay, turn pale, and waste, and die.
'Twas pitiful to hear the murderous thrust
Of ruffian's blade that sought the life entire.
'Twas sad to hear the blood come gurgling forth
From out the throat of the wild suicide.
Sad was the sight of widowed, childless age
Weeping. I saw it once. Wrinkled with time,
And hoary with the dust of years, an old
And worthy man came to his humble roof,
Tottering and slow, and on the threshold stood.
No foot, no voice, was heard within; none came
To meet him, where he oft had met a wife,
And sons, and daughters, glad at his return;
None came to meet him; for that day had seen
The old man lay, within the narrow house,
The last of all his family; and now
He stood in solitude, in solitude
Wide as the world; for all that made to him
Society, had fled beyond its bounds.
Wherever strayed his aimless eye, there lay
The wreck of some fond hope, that touched his soul
With bitter thoughts, and told him all was past.
His lonely cot was silent; and he looked
As if he could not enter; on his staff
Bending he leaned; and from his weary eye,
Distressing sight! a single tear-drop wept:
None followed, for the fount of tears was dry;
Alone and last it fell from wrinkle down
To wrinkle, till it lost itself, drunk by
The withered cheek, on which again, no smile
Should come, or drop of tenderness be seen.
This sight was very pitiful; but one
Was sadder still, the saddest seen in Time:
A man, to-day, the glory of his kind,
In reason clear, in understanding large,
In judgment sound, in fancy quick, in hope
Abundant, and in promise, like a field
Well cultured, and refreshed with dews from God;
To-morrow, chained, and raving mad, and whipped
By servile hands; sitting on dismal straw,
And gnashing with his teeth against the chain,
The iron chain that bound him hand and foot;
And trying whiles to send his glaring eye
Beyond the wide circumference of his wo:
Or, humbling more, more miserable still,
Giving an idiot laugh, that served to show
The blasted scenery of his horrid face;
Calling the straw his sceptre, and the stone,
On which he pinioned sat, his royal throne.
Poor, poor, poor man! fallen far below the brute!
His reason strove in vain, to find her way
Lost in the stormy desert of his brain;
And being active still, she wrought all strange,
Fantastic, execrable, monstrous things.
All these were sad, and thousands more, that sleep
Forgotten beneath the funeral pall of Time;
And bards, as well became, bewailed them much,
With doleful instruments of weeping song.
But what were these? what might be worse had in't,
However small, some grains of happiness:
And man ne'er drank a cup of earthly sort,
That might not held another drop of gall;
Or, in his deepest sorrow, laid his head
Upon a pillow, set so close with thorns,
That might not held another prickle still.
Accordingly, the saddest human look
Had hope in't; faint indeed, but still 'twas hope.
But why excuse the misery of earth?
Say it was dismal, cold, and dark, and deep,
Beyond the utterance of strongest words:
But say that none remembered it, who saw
The eye of beings damned for evermore!
Rolling, and rolling, rolling still in vain,
To find some ray; to see beyond the gulph
Of an unavenued, fierce, fiery, hot,
Interminable, dark Futurity!
And rolling still, and rolling still in vain!
Thus stood the reprobate beneath the shade
Of terror, and beneath the crown of love,
The good; and there was silence in the vault
Of heaven: and as they stood and listened, they heard,
Afar to left, among the utter dark,
Hell rolling o'er his waves of burning fire;
And thundering thro' his caverns, empty then,
As if he preparation made, to act
The final vengeance of the Fiery Lamb.
And there was heard, coming from out the Pit,
The hollow wailing of Eternal Death,
And horrid cry of the undying Worm.
The wicked paler turned; and scarce the good
Their colour kept; but were not long dismayed.
That moment, in the heavens, how wondrous fair!
The angel of Mercy stood, and, on the bad,
Turning his back, over the ransomed threw
His bow bedropped with imagery of love,
And promises on which their faith reclined.
Throughout, deep, breathless silence reigned again:
And on the circuit of the upper spheres,
A glorious seraph stood, and cried aloud,
That every ear of man and devil heard:
“Him that is filthy, let be filthy still;
“Him that is holy, let be holy still.”
And suddenly, another squadron bright,
Of high arch-angel glory, stooping, brought
A marvellous bow; one base upon the Cross,
The other, on the shoulder of the Bear,
They placed, from south to north, spanning the heavens,
And on each hand dividing good and bad,—
Who read on either side these burning words,
Which ran along the arch in living fire,
And wanted not to be believed in full:
“As ye have sown, so shall ye reap this day.”