1822
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Irad and Adah. Part II. Prophecy.

Irad and Adah, a Tale of the Flood. Poems. Specimens of a new Translation of the Psalms. By Thomas Dale, of Bene't College, Cambridge.

Rev. Thomas Dale


The Ladies' Monthly Museum: "The guilty pair share in the rites of the worship of the Sun; in the midst of these rites, Noah enters in the character of a prophetic 'preacher of righteousness'; his preaching is in vain, though the presence of one innocent and upright man among them produces a momentary silence and awe throughout the assembly. Having uttered his prophetic denunciation, as the seer turns to depart, the worshippers of the Sun deride him, some even attempt to slay, but protected by the Highest, after a second warning, Noah leaves the wicked to the Sun; but their musical instruments fail, their voices die away, and the triumph ends in despair" S3 15 (March 1822) 159.

Monthly Review: "we welcome some of his general and less sacred passages with a more than ordinary degree of approbation; and we see not why more learning, more experience, and more fruits of every kind, derived from protracted study and sustained ambition, should not render Mr. D. a formidable competitor for the common, if not the uncommon, bays with the loftiest of his contemporary minstrels. The fault which keeps him back at present, in our judgment, is an unfortunate propensity to imitate those personages; and especially the most inimitable among them, the poet of the Giaour, the Corsair, &c. &c., the unique Childe Harold. Mr. Dale must never hope for the attainment of any height, until he emancipates himself from every particular trick of copyism; until his imitation be that of nature selected, or of art combined; and until the selection and combination are both made by himself" NS 99 (November 1822) 241.



How lovely is the still clear brow of Eve
When Heaven is bathed in brightness, and the fold
Of many a floating cloud doth interweave
Its silvery vesture with celestial gold
To wreathe its sinking Monarch! Bards have told
Of regions radiant with eternal day;
But ne'er, oh ne'er did mortal eye behold
Such hues of beauty, or so pure a ray,
As now yon parting Sun, yon varied skies display.

But who can paint thee, thou Majestic Orb!
Robed in thy setting lustre, whose broad light
Millions of meaner Splendours doth absorb,
Lost in thy beams, though in shine absence bright;
Thou movest like a Giant in his might
From conquest and to glory. Thou dost shine
Meet image of thy Lord, the Infinite!
The Pure! the Gracious! Of His works divine
To shadow best His praise, transcendent Sun! is thine.

Yet art thou but a Symbol, and to bow
Before thine altar with adoring knee
Were foul and rank idolatry — for
Thou Art sprung from nothing, and shalt cease to be
As once thou wert not — at thy King's decree.
But Man endures, and must endure for aye—
And what shall aid him in Eternity
When thou, his God, hast perished — yet they play
As if no warning voice had told th' impending day:

For, as yon skies are beauteous, so on Earth
All wears the mask of happiness and love,
Still the bland voice of melody and mirth
O'er each flower-sprinkled mead, through every grove
Rings resonant: still in their green alcove
The plighted lovers sweet communion hold;
While many a breast congenial flame doth prove;
And many a gentle tale of Love, half told,
Is met by answering sighs that will not be controlled.

But who, when yon blue arch is calm and clear,
Dreads the low thunder muttering from afar?
Who, in the home to fond affection dear,
Heeds the harsh clangour of returning war?
Yet oft, alas! the late imprinted scar
Is but the prelude to a deadlier dart;
And sudden storms with blighting influence mar
The dawning raptures of the thoughtless heart;
Hope flatters to deceive; Joys dazzle to depart.

These hopes have flattered and must now deceive;—
These joys have dazzled, and shall soon expire;—
For both on Guilt were founded; and shall leave
Their memory graved in characters of fire
On the deluded heart. Hark! the sweet lyre
E'en now is dying on the breeze; e'en now
The light dance ceases, and the youths retire;
And while yon Priests to their false Baal bow,
The prayer is half unsaid: unsealed th' unhallowed vow.

Nought had the lovers heard of lyre or lute,
Or the sweet music of the vocal lay;
The stillness smote them now; for all was mute;—
The votive hymn had drooped and died away
In discord, and to silence; pale dismay
Succeeds to festive mirth. But who may dare
Invade the joyaunce of the hallowed day,
And bid th' Adorers from their rites forbear?
What rash intruder courts his doom? Behold him there!

An Aged Man he seems, whose pensive brow
Is wan, yet more with sorrow, than with Time;
For there no troubled lineaments avow
The pangs of conscience, or the curse of crime;
No! there are sorrows sacred and sublime,
And such are his: for still his piercing eye
Beams with the brightness of its youthful prime,
And in his glance a fervour bold and high
Reveals th' undaunted soul that will not faint or fly.

What charm is in his presence? All around
Are hushed to breathless silence, and he stands,
Alone 'mid all: a Monarch though uncrowned,
And, though unarmed, a Warrior. The dark bands
Of Cain recede as if a God commands,
And yet he speaks not — Sure some Power hath bowed
Each heart with bonds it knows not, nor withstands;—
Or how should One control a murderous crowd;
The Weak repel the Strong; the Lowly awe the Proud?

Yet, if no symbol of superior sway,
Around his brow no gemmed tiara shone,
Yet shall his honoured name survive for aye
Adorned and hallowed with a holier crown;
When guilty greatness to the grave goes down
Unwept and unremembered, that pure wreath
For ever blooms, decay or change unknown;—
So laurels spurn the lightning's fiery breath,
When the huge oak lies low, and woods are rent beneath.

It is the Righteous Noah. Uncontrolled
By lawless might; unmoved by vengeful ire,
Oft hath the Seer on that false train foretold
Impending woes, and desolation dire;
But never, never hath his eye of fire
With fearful presage fraught, so sternly glowed
As now it glows: the conscious crowd retire;
So through th' Assyrian camp the Angel trod,
And mailed myriads crouched before the present God.

Yet, ere he spoke, a sudden sadness past
O'er his grave aspect, glistening in his eye;
His lips convulsive quivered, and the last,
The last meek prayer that e'er must soar on high
For that doomed world rose heavenward on his sigh;—
Then, like the Prescient Bard, who weeping poured
O'er Zion's towers the fatal prophecy;
His voice denounced the woes his heart deplored,
And faultered as it breathed the mandate of his Lord.

Nor then his tears condemn. Th' Avenging Rod
Is wielded only by the hand of Heaven;
Nor Man arraigns the justice of his God,
While yet his tears — nay more — his prayers are given
To all by Guilt from hope and mercy driven:
While yet o'er Salem's towers the thunder slept,
Ah! know'st thou not what purer heart was riven,
To what diviner eyes compassion crept,
When o'er the destined towers he gazed, and "JESUS WEPT."

"Once more, and yet once more, I breathe
The monitory strain,
The mournful prophecy of Death,
So oft proclaimed in vain.
O pause amid your mad career
The summons of your God to hear;
His voice could curb and calm to rest
The wave that boils on Ocean's breast;
Could stay the lightning in its flight,
The Sun on his meridian height;
Or bid th' Apostate Angel rise
From lowest hell to loftiest skies:
And shall presumptuous Man accord
Less reverence to th' Almighty Lord;
Shall Earth's ephemeral sons defy
The Monarch of Eternity?
O pause — for Vengeance sleeps no more;
The measure of your guilt runs o'er;
Your destined date is fleeting fast,
List then mine errand; 'tis the last.

"Ye who by lawless love impelled,
Against your Fathers' God rebelled;
Forsook the living Lord, and prayed
To Powers that could not hear or aid;
Think ye, though vaunting fools blaspheme,
JEHOVAH is not still Supreme?
Can ye, who spurn his grace, withstand
The might of his avenging hand?
O yet your frantic crime forbear,
While Mercy loves and longs to spare;
Nor deem the warning voice I breathe
By some deluded dreamer given;
'Tis certain — as the shaft of death;
Unerring — as the bolt of Heaven!

"I heard the Herald of th' Eternal God
In voice of thunder seal the dread decree!
I saw a dark cloud rest upon the sea,
And straight the Angel of his Presence rode
On fiery car sublime — dun night and storm
Wrapped their dense mantle round his viewless form,
Yet, as he passed, intolerable light
Smote, like the blasting flash, upon my sight,
And my heart failed within me, while my brow
Grew chill as with the damps of death — till now
A strange low voice came ringing on mine ear,
A voice of Might! it bade me rise and hear.
I gazed again: and lo! the Spirit stood
Self-borne on ocean, while the conscious flood
Lay shuddering — all was silent as the grave,
Till the swift rushing of his raven plume
Came like a rising whirlwind — earth — skies — wave
Were instant veiled in more then midnight gloom;
A blackness like the blackness of the tomb.
I saw no more — till through the burdened air
Pealed mighty thunders — but he was not there:
Next the deep sound of heaving earthquakes past—
He was not in the earthquake — at the last
A still small voice with fearful murmurs broke
Through that dread silence — then the Seraph spoke.

"'Thus saith thy Lord, the Lord of Hosts, to thee,
Vast universe of waters! pathless Sea!
Arise, and spurn the bursting bonds away,
That else had curbed thy warring waves for aye;
Arise! and work thy dread Creator's will,
He bids thee rage, who bade thee first be still.
Roll on! till Earth and Earth's rebellious brood,
Be whelmed for ever in thy trackless flood;
Till to yon skies thy swelling waves aspire,
Then shall he quell thy wrath, and bid thy foam retire.'

"He spake — and instant on the troubled gale
Arose the dying shriek, the funeral wail;
The clouded skies terrific lightnings crave,
Peal answered peal, and wave was heaped on wave.
Hell burst her chain, and hideous Death unfurled
His sable pinions o'er the shuddering world;
Proud man was vanished as a dream forgot;
I looked for earth, and Earth itself was not.

"And dare ye still, presumptuous worms! defy
That Power whose anger rends th' affrighted sky,
Or do ye think to brave his lifted rod,
Meet Heaven in arms, and wrest the sword from God?—
Reflect! if such your frantic purpose be,
The rebel Angels stood not — and shall ye?
And oh, when Justice bares the flaming brand,
And Mercy stays not Wrath's unsparing hand,
Whom will ye seek in that defenceless hour,
To snatch and shield you from Almighty Power?
When yon fair Sun shall veil his conscious light,
Fade on his throne, and tremble into night,
From him, your idol, refuge will ye crave?
Alas! ye trust in one who cannot save;
Ye only lean on Man's delusive foe,
Who wrought your ruin — who will mock your woe.
And think not then by prayers your God to bow;
His pity still would spare you. Hear him NOW—
NOW — while around the swift Destroyers stand,
And curb their whirlwinds till He gives command;
NOW — while the storm yet slumbers at his feet,
And his high throne is yet a mercy seat.
A moment — skies shall darken at his nod;
Earth quake — seas madden at the frown of God;
Then Love is hushed — Hope's parting ray is o'er,
And Penitence itself avails no more.
Enough! if any yet would shun the grave,
And cling to Him whose arm alone can save,
Swift let them now His menaced vengeance flee,
Renounce their Idol-Gods, and follow me!"

The Prophet ceased — yet none awhile replied—
The Warrior's arm hung palsied, while the thrill
Of withering horror quelled each heart of pride;
And the hoarse murmur of revenge was still;
For one foreboding presage seemed to fill
Each awe-struck bosom: e'en the Sons of Cain,
Obdurate — fierce — inflexible in ill,
Shrunk from the Seer abashed, and strove in vain
To rouse their native pride, their latent wrath again.

Aye! there are feelings in the conscious breast
Which antedate it's doom. The wretch may seek
O'er earth — on sea — the false illusion, Rest—
It flies before him. Nought so wild or weak
That cannot chill his blood, and blanch his cheek.
The clouds that darken and the storms that rave
Still to his soul one solemn warning speak;—
They lift the sable veil that shrouds the grave;
They point the quenchless flame: They ask him, "Who shall save?"

Tend then such fears to Penitence? Alas!
Like spectral forms, and shapes of mystery
That scare the slumberer from his couch — yet pass
All unembodied by the waking eye,
Those brief impressions daunt — dissolve — and die.
When Conscience feels but will not break its chain,
Then most the Tempter's specious sophistry
Steals to the heart, and lulls Remorse again,
Till Love persuasive pleads, and Vengeance warns in vain.

Here both are bootless. Lo! on many a brow
To shame succeeds defiance — scorn to fear—
And many an eye is sternly bending now
Its glance indignant on the Royal Seer,
Who meets their gaze unwavering. Circled here
By ruthless rebels, leagued in deep array,
He stems the torrent in its mid career;—
The vile may spurn him, or the vengeful slay;—
It recks him not — God spake — 'tis His but to obey.

While fierce around him swept the clamorous crowd
Muttering deep menaces of vengeance — One
High o'er the rest upreared his stature proud,
As on the heights of lordly Lebanon
Towers the coeval cedar. From a Son
Of Cain descended, and himself a Cain,
With glance of purpose fell he glared upon
Th' unshrinking Prophet — and with high disdain
Thus to the Man of God rejoined in vaunting strain.

"Dotard or vain deceiver as thou art;
False to the Living Orb that sways the sky!
In soothe I scorn me, that with craven heart
I tamely brooked thy self-styled prophecy,
Vision of lying wonders. Thou shouldst die
The instant death convicted Traitors prove;
Save that to mar this fair festivity,
And stain with blood the consecrated grove,
Were sacrilege and scorn to Him who beams above.

"Away! and hide thee in thy ponderous ark,
That miracle of folly, till yon skies
With death-denouncing storms grow dull and dark—
There brood o'er dreams and hideous phantasies;
Thee and thy fond predictions we despise;
Away! the bold and brave disdain to flee;
The Sun will shield his faithful votaries;
Let abjects like thyself — if such there be,
Thy empty visions heed — come forth — and follow thee."

The Patriarch lingered — shadows of deep thought
Rushed with swift workings o'er his troubled brow;
And his swoln heart throbbed high; as if it wrought
With feelings language failed him to avow:
His cheek was deadly pale — yet deem not thou
That Men or Fiends, to doubt or dastard fear
The settled temper of his soul could bow;
He recked not then the Scorner's sullen sneer;
The Giant's menace stern he did not heed or hear.

The fervour of his aspect did but change
To that sublime dejection, which can bear
Wrongs unsubdued, and seeks but to avenge
By pity or by pardon, and doth wear
A settled sadness, rooted as despair,
Yet calm and patient; ere the die were cast
He would have wooed the vilest menial there,
To snatch him from destruction — but 'tis past—
Justice unsheaths the sword, and love hath spoke her last.

And, if thou marvel that to all in vain
The latest boon of hope and life was given;
Oh think, what bonds the captive soul enchain!
How oft the dread of man's brief ire hath driven
A wavering wretch to brave the wrath of Heaven!
So here, though all remorse and fear forebode
In many a conscious breast hath deeply striven;
By terror chained, they madly wait the rod—
To shun a Tyrant's frown they meet an angry God.

Once more the pitying Patriarch turned, ere yet
He left the guilty to despair and die;
But turned in vain: E'en while his cheek was wet,
His frame convulsed with speechless agony,
Again the frantic rebels raised on high
Their shouts of keen derision — and when One
With throbbing bosom and reverted eye
Looked round again to mark him — he was gone—
His destined task was o'er — he went, and went alone.

"Strike the silver lyre resounding,
Raise the choral lay responding;
And, the graceful dance renewing,
Float in sportive maze pursuing;
While, from every altar breathing,
Clouds of fragrant fumes are wreathing.
Sires, and sons, and maidens bright!
Bend and bow in meek devotion
To the Living Lord of light,
Ere he sinks and sets in Ocean.
While around his chariot beaming
Clouds of thousand tints are streaming,
Let your vows ascend before him,
Let your mingled strains adore him."

Again the virgin-choir on high
Swell the glad hymn's soft symphony;
Again the answering youths advance
To mingle in the mazy dance;
The Minstrel-Bard attunes again
His melting lute to bolder strain.
It will not be — the lute's full tone
Comes like the low blast's midnight moan;
The vesper hymn and votive lay
In broken echoes pass away;
Doubt seems on every brow to press,
And every step is heaviness.
The Lover checks — he knows not why—
His whispered vow, and pleading sigh;
The Maid forgets his tender tale,
And her flushed cheek grows cold and pale;
For Love's impassioned dream is o'er;
And Virgin-tremors throb no more.
Ah! — Guilt hath power to cloud the eye,
And chill the heart with agony,
And what but wakening Conscience gave
A deeper shade to wood and wave;
And when the sinking Sun withdrew
Enrobed in clouds of blood-red hue,
What bade his lowering Orb assume
A tint that presaged Death and doom?
'Twas GUILT that veiled the vault of blue,
And wrapped the world in gloom!
A cold mysterious horror ran
From rank to rank, from man to man;
Ceased dance and song, till, one by one,
Pensive and pale, the crowd are gone;
Each bears within him to his home
A dread of darker woes to come,
And oh! what transient pang intense
Can wound like sickening slow suspence?
It longs for tears, yet cannot weep;
It sighs for rest, yet shrinks from sleep;
Rends the racked breast with ceaseless strife,
And looks for death, yet clings to life:
'Tis hope's false flush, without its charm;
'Tis the quick throb of wild alarm;
It starts at every sound it hears,
And antedates the fate it fears.

Nor past that monitory word—
(The latest grace their God would deign)
By Irad or his bride unheard:—
Ah! wherefore did they hear in vain?
Perchance they feared the Tyrant proud,
The mockery of th' infuriate crowd;
Or shrunk from scorn's malignant eye,
Or shunned the murmured contumely;
Perchance in Love's absorbing fire
All other feelings might expire.
But woe to man, when earthly bliss
Deludes him from the Power Divine;
Such joy, like vapoury mists that shine
Most brilliant o'er the deep abyss;
Is but a sunbeam o'er the tomb,
A meteor ray in midnight gloom.
And soon, dismay and death appalling,
Too late the warning voice recalling,
Shall they with fruitless prayers implore
The mercy that returns no more.

Six days of hopeless presage past
To those who dared the Seer deride;
Six dreary nights the hollow blast
Howled o'er the agitated tide;
While Earth, by strange convulsions riven,
Seemed blasted by the curse of Heaven.
Dark prodigies and omens dire
Came fraught with horror and despair;
The red Sun on his throne of fire
Shone with a broad unnatural glare;
And swarthy clouds around him rolled
The slowly-gathering storm foretold;
While the clear vault of living blue
Changed to a dull and lurid hue;
And every gale, whose balmy breath,
Fanned the cool grove with fresh perfume,
Came fraught with pestilence and death,
As if it swept the fetid tomb.
Oft, when the sullen breeze was still,
Nor waved the cypress on the hill,
Across the ruffled breast of Ocean
The billows broke in strange commotion—
It was, as if the captive sea
Lay bound — yet struggling to be free.
And frequent through the gloom of night
Red meteors flashed unwonted light;
And voices of dread mystery
And fearful sounds were heard on high;
And ever, as the lightning glare
An instant o'er the waters streamed;
Or fear discerned, or Conscience dreamed
Dim forms of shadowy spectres there,
As if the bands of Hell might rise
To hail Man's coming agonies;—
And ever in the whirlwind's moan
There rung a deep portentous tone;
Faint — fearful as the smothered sigh
Of death, or deadliest agony.
Ah! now the festive dance is o'er;
The melting lay delights no more;—
In equal fears, and like despair,
The young, the martial, and the fair
Kept vigil in the Sun's high tower,
To soothe the visionary Power—
In vain they watched, and wept, and prayed,
Hell scorned the dupes her wiles had made;
Yea, should they to the Holiest bow,
Their prayer would pass unheeded now!

[2nd edition; pp. 33-57]

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