1782
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Twilight of the Gods.

Poems. By the Rev. Joseph Sterling.

Rev. Joseph Sterling


One of a pair of Icelandic odes in a double-Spenserian stanza (ababcC + dedefF). Joseph Sterling acknowledges Thomas Gray as the source for his imitations.

Critical Review: "The bold spirit which marks the original does not evaporate in the translation. The images are taken from the Edda, or system of Gothic theology, what relates to Flath Innis, or the Celtic Elysium, excepted. According to Mr. Macpherson, it was placed, like the Indians land of souls, in 'some island in the watery waste,' where those who gained admittance should enjoy the same pleasures during a future state of existence as they chiefly delighted in while alive. In a note on Inisthona, he points out its coincidence with the ideas entertained by the Greeks and Romans of a future state; a circumstance extremely remarkable and worthy observation, was it clearly ascertained. In that passage of Inisthona, however, to which the note is annexed, the heroes mount the wind, and 'pursue deer formed of clouds:' neither do we see how it is to reconciled with the Druidical doctrine of transmigration. The passage in Mr. Sterling's ode is pleasing and poetical: the 'chisel'd stone and runic rhyme' might however have been omitted in a passage descriptive of Celtic opinions" 67 (May 1789) 367.

Nathan Drake: "The following Ode, by Mr. Sterling, is rather a copy from the Edda of Goranson than the Volupsa, and consequently is much more full and particular than if it had taken the latter solely for its guide; it is rich and musical in its versification, and possesses the genuine tone of lyric composition" Literary Hours (1804) 3:477.



The dusky moon is streak'd with blood,
The demons of the tempest roar;
A deluge swells the mountain flood,
The clouds descend in streams of gore:
From the dark mansions of the north,
Now the great winter rushes headlong forth.
His sacred beam the golden sun shall hide,
Nor spring nor summer shall enrich the plain;
No vales shall flourish in autumnal pride,
But winter drear shall hold unceasing reign,
Till the great dragon, terrible and strong,
Unwinds his sweepy folds, and shoots the seas along.

Th' eternal hills shall melt away,
Earthquakes rock the trembling ground;
Fenris seize the orb of day,
The serpent shed his poison round:
Thick darkness and substantial night
Shall quench the stars of heav'n, and blot the chearful light.
Athwart the radiant bow, which girds the skies,
Glance the win'd genii of etherial speed;
Along the ranks of gloomy Surtur flies,
He snakes his sun-bright sword, he pricks his steed:
The swelling dragon rears his horrent crest,
Fell Garmus barks aloud, Loke puts his lance in rest.

His shrilling trumpet Heimdal blows,
Swift to the prophetic Spring
For counsel royal Odin goes,
The Eagle beats his iron wing;
Sleipner gives a dreadful bound,
The great ash waves its hundred boughs around.
The Lord of battles in bright armour cas'd,
Weilds the gigantic sabre in his hand;
The golden helmet on his brow is lac'd,
He darts from file to file, from band to band.
The gods are arm'd, the heroes hurl the spear,
They blaze before he van, they thunder in the rear.

Haughty deeds the chiefs essay,
The king of men, (his armies shield)
Scatters terror and dismay,
Encounters Fenris in the field:
The king must fall (relentless fate!)
Beneath his foe, tho' brave, tho' good, tho' great!
But Vidar's faulchion shall revenge his death;
See! the wolf bleeds in agonizing pangs,
Th' expiring serpent with his pois'nous breath,
Kills mighty Thor — the sounding bowstring twangs;
Loud clash the bick'ring swords, the jav'lins flie,
They cut the liquid air, they shade the golden skie.

Loke and valiant Heimdal fall
In cruel fight by mutual wounds;
Wild uproar lords it over all,
Grim Surtur, whom black fire surrounds;
(Grim Surtur of tremendous name)
Launces a deluge of devouring flame:
The sun himself, (immortal fount of light)
And this terrestrial globe he shall consume;
But lo! a second earth serenly bright,
Shines from the wave, and bursts the settled gloom.
In Gimle's halls reside the just and brave,
While the base Caitiff's chain'd in Nastrond's dreary cave.

[pp. 42-46]