A Poem On The Last Day - Book III
The book unfolding, the resplendent seat
Of saints and angels, the tremendous fate
Of guilty souls, the gloomy realms of woe,
And all the horrors of the world below,
I next presume to sing. What yet remains
Demands my last, but most exalted, strains.
And let the Muse or now affect the sky,
Or in inglorious shades for ever lie.
She kindles, she's inflamed so near the goal;
She mounts, she gains upon the starry pole;
The world grows less as she pursues her flight,
And the sun darkens to her distant sight.
Heaven, opening, all its sacred pomp displays,
And overwhelms her with the rushing blaze!
The triumph rings! archangels shout around!
And echoing Nature lengthens out the sound!
Ten thousand trumpets now at once advance;
Now deepest silence lulls the vast expanse;
So deep the silence, and so strong the blast,
As Nature died when she had groan'd her last.
Nor man nor angel moves: the Judge on high
Looks round, and with His glory fills the sky:
Then on the fatal book His hand He lays,
Which high to view supporting seraphs raise;
In solemn form the rituals are prepared,
The seal is broken, and a groan is heard.
And thou, my soul, (O fall to sudden prayer,
And let the thought sink deep!) shalt thou be there?
See on the left, (for by the great command
The throng divided falls on either hand,)
How weak, how pale, how haggard, how obscene!
What more than death in every face and mien!
With what distress, and glarings of affright,
They shock the heart, and turn away the sight!
In gloomy orbs their trembling eye-balls roll,
And tell the horrid secrets of the soul.
Each gesture mourns, each look is black with care,
And every groan is loaden with despair.
Reader, if guilty, spare the Muse, and find
A truer image pictured in thy mind.
Shouldst thou behold thy brother, father, wife,
And all the soft companions of thy life,
Whose blended interests levell'd at one aim,
Whose mix'd desires sent up one common flame,
Divided far; thy wretched self alone
Cast on the left, of all whom thou hast known;
How would it wound! What millions wouldst thou give
For one more trial, one day more to live!
Flung back in time an hour, a moment's space,
To grasp with eagerness the means of grace;
Contend for mercy with a pious rage,
And in that moment to redeem an age!
Drive back the tide, suspend a storm in air,
Arrest the sun; but still of this despair.
Mark, on the right, how amiable a grace!
Their Maker's image fresh in every face!
What purple bloom my ravish'd soul admires,
And their eyes sparkling with immortal fires!
Triumphant beauty! charms that rise above
This world, and in bless'd angels kindle love!
To the great Judge with holy pride they turn,
And dare behold the' Almighty's anger burn;
Its flash sustain, against its terror rise,
And on the dread tribunal fix their eyes.
Are these the forms that moulder'd in the dust?
O the transcendent glory of the just!
Yet still some thin remains of fear and doubt
The' infected brightness of their joy pollute.
Thus the chaste bridegroom, when the priest draws nigh,
Beholds his blessing with a trembling eye,
Feels doubtful passions throb in every vein,
And in his cheeks are mingled joy and pain,
Lest still some intervening chance should rise,
Leap forth at once, and snatch the golden prize;
Inflame his woe by bringing it so late,
And stab him in the crisis of his fate.
Since Adam's family, from first to last,
Now into one distinct survey is cast;
Look round, vain-glorious Muse, and you whoe'er
Devote yourselves to Fame, and think her fair;
Look round, and seek the lights of human race,
Whose shining acts Time's brightest annals grace;
Who founded sects; crowns conquer'd, or resign'd;
Gave names to nations, or famed empires join'd;
Who raised the vale, and laid the mountain low,
And taught obedient rivers where to flow;
Who with vast fleets, as with a mighty chain,
Could bind the madness of the roaring main:
All lost! all undistinguish'd! nowhere found!
How will this truth in Bourbon's palace sound?
That hour, on which the' Almighty King on high
From all eternity has fix'd His eye,
Whether His right hand favour'd, or annoy'd,
Continued, alter'd, threaten'd, or destroy'd;
Southern or eastern sceptre downward hurl'd,
Gave north or west dominion o'er the world;
The point of time, for which the world was built,
For which the blood of God Himself was spilt,
That dreadful moment is arrived.
Aloft, the seats of bliss their pomp display,
Brighter than brightness this distinguish'd day;
Less glorious, when of old the' eternal Son
From realms of night return'd with trophies won;
Through heaven's high gates when He triumphant rode,
And shouting angels hail'd the victor God.
Horrors, beneath, darkness in darkness, hell
Of hell, where torments behind torments dwell;
A furnace formidable, deep, and wide,
O'er-boiling with a mad sulphureous tide,
Expands its jaws, most dreadful to survey,
And roars outrageous for the destined prey.
The sons of light scarce unappall'd look down,
And nearer press Heaven's everlasting throne.
Such is the scene; and one short moment's space
Concludes the hopes and fears of human race.
Proceed who dares!-I tremble as I write;
The whole creation swims before my sight:
I see, I see, the Judge's frowning brow:
Say not, 'tis distant; I behold it now.
I faint, my tardy blood forgets to flow,
My soul recoils at the stupendous woe;
That woe, those pangs, which from the guilty breast,
In these, or words like these, shall be express'd:-
``Who burst the barriers of my peaceful grave?
Ah, cruel Death! that would no longer save,
But grudged me e'en that narrow dark abode,
And cast me out into the wrath of God;
Where shrieks, the roaring flame, the rattling chain,
And all the dreadful eloquence of pain,
Our only song; black fire's malignant light,
The sole refreshment of the blasted sight.
``Must all those powers Heaven gave me to supply
My soul with pleasure, and bring-in my joy,
Rise up in arms against me, join the foe,
Sense, Reason, Memory, increase my woe?
And shall my voice, ordain'd on hymns to dwell,
Corrupt to groans, and blow the fires of hell?
O! must I look with terror on my gain,
And with existence only measure pain?
What! no reprieve, no least indulgence given,
No beam of hope from any point of heaven?
Ah, Mercy! Mercy! art thou dead above?
Is love extinguish'd in the Source of Love?
``Bold that I am! did Heaven stoop down to hell?
The' expiring Lord of Life my ransom seal?
Have not I been industrious to provoke?
From His embraces obstinately broke?
Pursued, and panted for His mortal hate,
Earn'd my destruction, labour'd out my fate?
And dare I on extinguish'd love exclaim?
Take, take full vengeance, rouse the slackening flame;
Just is my lot-but O! must it transcend
The reach of time, despair a distant end?
With dreadful growth shoot forward, and arise,
Where Thought can't follow, and bold Fancy dies?
``NEVER! Where falls the soul at that dread sound?
Down an abyss how dark, and how profound!
Down, down, (I still am falling,-horrid pain!)
Ten thousand thousand fathoms still remain;
My plunge but still begun.-And this for sin?
Could I offend, if I had never been,
But still increased the senseless happy mass,
Flow'd in the stream, or shiver'd in the grass?
``Father of Mercies! why from silent earth
Didst Thou awake, and curse me into birth?
Tear me from quiet, ravish me from night,
And make a thankless present of Thy light?
Push into being a reverse of Thee,
And animate a clod with misery?
``The beasts are happy; they come forth, and keep
Short watch on earth, and then lie down to sleep.
Pain is for man; and O! how vast a pain,
For crimes which made the Godhead bleed in vain,
Annull'd His groans, as far as in them lay,
And flung His agonies and death away!
As our dire punishment for ever strong,
Our constitution too for ever young;
Cursed with returns of vigour, still the same,
Powerful to bear and satisfy the flame;
Still to be caught, and still to be pursued;
To perish still, and still to be renew'd!
``And this, my Help! my God! at Thy decree?
Nature is changed, and hell should succour me.
And canst Thou, then, look down from perfect bliss,
And see me plunging in the dark abyss?
Calling Thee Father in a sea of fire?
Or pouring blasphemies at Thy desire?
With mortals' anguish wilt Thou raise Thy name,
And by my pangs Omnipotence proclaim?
``Thou, who canst toss the planets to and fro,
Contract not Thy great vengeance to my woe;
Crush worlds; in hotter flames fallen angels lay:
On me Almighty wrath is cast away.
Call back Thy thunders, Lord, hold-in Thy rage,
Nor with a speck of wretchedness engage:
Forget me quite, nor stoop a worm to blame;
But lose me in the greatness of Thy name.
Thou art all love, all mercy, all Divine;
And shall I make those glories cease to shine?
Shall sinful man grow great by his offence,
And from its course turn back Omnipotence?
``Forbid it! and O! grant, great God, at least
This one, this slender, almost no request:
When I have wept a thousand lives away,
When torment is grown weary of its prey,
When I have raved ten thousand years in fire,
Ten thousand thousand, let me then expire.''
Deep anguish, but too late! The hopeless soul,
Bound to the bottom of the burning pool,
Though loath, and ever loud blaspheming, owns,
He's justly doom'd to pour eternal groans;
Enclosed with horrors, and transfix'd with pain,
Rolling in vengeance, struggling with his chain;
To talk to fiery tempests; to implore
The raging flame to give its burnings o'er;
To toss, to writhe, to pant beneath his load,
And bear the weight of an offended God.
The favour'd of their Judge in triumph move
To take possession of their thrones above;
Satan's accursed desertion to supply,
And fill the vacant stations of the sky;
Again to kindle long-extinguish'd rays,
And with new lights dilate the heavenly blaze;
To crop the roses of immortal youth,
And drink the fountain-head of sacred truth;
To swim in seas of bliss, to strike the string,
And lift the voice to their Almighty King;
To lose eternity in grateful lays,
And fill heaven's wide circumference with praise.
But I attempt the wondrous height in vain,
And leave unfinish'd the too lofty strain;
What boldly I begin, let others end;
My strength exhausted, fainting I descend,
And choose a less, but no ignoble, theme,-
Dissolving elements, and worlds in flame.
The fatal period, the great hour, is come,
And Nature shrinks at her approaching doom;
Loud peals of thunder give the sign, and all
Heaven's terrors in array surround the ball;
Sharp lightnings with the meteors' blaze conspire,
And, darted downward, set the world on fire;
Black rising clouds the thicken'd ether choke,
And spiry flames dart through the rolling smoke,
With keen vibrations cut the sullen night,
And strike the darken'd sky with dreadful light;
From heaven's four regions, with immortal force,
Angels drive-on the wind's impetuous course
To' enrage the flame: it spreads, it soars on high,
Swells in the storm, and billows through the sky:
Here winding pyramids of fire ascend,
Cities and deserts in one ruin blend;
Here blazing volumes, wafted, overwhelm
The spacious face of a far-distant realm;
There, undermined, down rush eternal hills,
The neighbouring vales the vast destruction fills.
Hear'st thou that dreadful crack? that sound which broke
Like peals of thunder, and the centre shook?
What wonders must that groan of Nature tell!
Olympus there, and mightier Atlas, fell;
Which seem'd above the reach of fate to stand,
A towering monument of God's right hand;
Now dust and smoke, whose brow so lately spread
O'er shelter'd countries its diffusive shade.
Show me that celebrated spot, where all
The various rulers of the sever'd ball
Have humbly sought wealth, honour, and redress,
That land which Heaven seem'd diligent to bless,
Once call'd Britannia: can her glories end?
And can't surrounding seas her realms defend?
Alas! in flames behold surrounding seas!
Like oil, their waters but augment the blaze.
Some angel say, Where ran proud Asia's bound?
Or where with fruits was fair Europa crown'd?
Where stretch'd waste Libya? Where did India's store
Sparkle in diamonds, and her golden ore?
Each lost in each, their mingling kingdoms glow,
And all, dissolved, one fiery deluge flow:
Thus earth's contending monarchies are join'd,
And a full period of ambition find.
And now whate'er or swims, or walks, or flies,
Inhabitants of sea, or earth, or skies;
All on whom Adam's wisdom fix'd a name;
All plunge and perish in the conquering flame.
This globe alone would but defraud the fire,
Starve its devouring rage: the flakes aspire,
And catch the clouds, and make the heavens their prey;
The sun, the moon, the stars, all melt away;
All, all is lost; no monument, no sign,
Where once so proudly blazed the gay machine.
So bubbles on the foaming stream expire,
So sparks that scatter from the kindling fire.
The devastations of one dreadful hour
The great Creator's six days' work devour.
A mighty, mighty ruin! yet one soul
Has more to boast, and far outweighs the whole;
Exalted in superior excellence,
Casts down to nothing such a vast expense.
Have you not seen the' eternal mountains nod,
An earth dissolving, a descending God?
What strange surprises through all nature ran!
For whom these revolutions, but for man?
For him, Omnipotence new measures takes,
For him, through all eternity awakes;
Pours on him gifts sufficient to supply
Heaven's loss, and with fresh glories fill the sky.
Think deeply then, O man, how great thou art;
Pay thyself homage with a trembling heart.
What angels guard, no longer dare neglect;
Slighting thyself, affront not God's respect.
Enter the sacred temple of thy breast,
And gaze, and wander there, a ravish'd guest;
Gaze on those hidden treasures thou shalt find,
Wander through all the glories of thy mind.
Of perfect knowledge, see, the dawning light
Foretells a noon most exquisitely bright!
Here springs of endless joy are breaking forth!
There buds the promise of celestial worth!
Worth, which must ripen in a happier clime,
And brighter sun, beyond the bounds of time.
Thou, minor, canst not guess thy vast estate,
What stores, on foreign coasts, thy landing wait:
Lose not thy claim: let virtue's path be trod;
Thus glad all heaven, and please that bounteous God,
Who, to light thee to pleasures, hung on high
Yon radiant orb, proud regent of the sky;
That service done, its beams shall fade away,
And God shine forth in one eternal day.
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