Ladies' Monthly Museum: "Now the work of destruction begins — this is touched with a masterly hand — some of the groupes are admirable. Irad and Adah are the last that perish. A guilty mother and her innocent babe are powerfully described; a wedded pair too are beautifully pourtrayed" S3 15 (March 1822) 159.
Oh for a voice of thunder! for a blast
Of that appalling trumpet, which shall break
Hell's shivering bolts, when Death has smote his last,
And Time becomes Eternity, — to shake
Earth to its very centre, and awake
The nations from their torpor — Man can sleep
Fond fool! with immortality at stake!
Sport on the wave that whirls him to the deep,
And smile when Conscience warns to tremble and to weep!
For some there were who smiled — or feigned to smile
E'en in that pause of horror, when each sound
Came like the call to judgment — if such wile
Lulled not their own dark bodings, yet the wound
That inly bled was veiled from all around;—
The pangs they could not stifle, Pride suppressed;
With roseate wreaths their brows they gaily crowned;
And strove to calm the wildly-throbbing breast
With revelry profane, or win a transient rest.
Rest! aye, such rest the fettered Felon feels
On the drear night, whose morn must rise his last;
Such rest in sleep the weary wanderer seals,
When, prostrate panting on the trackless waste,
He hears the howling Tyger on the blast!
Fear chills his heart, though Slumber close his eye;
Or if in dreams he views his peril past,
It only points with keener agony
The pang with which he starts, and, starting, wakes to die.
So these awoke, when o'er the guilty world
Arose the seventh dread morn, if morn it were;
When vapours dense round every mount were curled,
And black clouds hovered in the stagnant air,
Till all was dimness, save a swarthy glare
That pointed mid the darkness, where the Sun,
Deaf to the wild entreaties of despair,
Sate veiled and viewless on his shrouded throne,
As if his beams were quenched — his latest race was run.
And o'er the bosom of the mighty deep
Though yet the slumbering waves were strangely still,
Like the pale Sufferer, when Exhaustion's sleep
Nerves his racked frame to meet the parting thrill,
The frighted seabirds flit with screamings shrill
Above the smooth slow waters; as the sky
Grows darker, voices of deep wailings fill
The burdened ether; each discordant cry
Strikes heavy on the heart: each tone is prophecy.
From yon proud city, crowned with dome and tower,
Lo! swarming myriads seek the spacious plain—
The Warrior quits his hall, the Maid her bower,
The hoary Priest forsakes his glittering fane,
Looks on the skies, and mutters prayers in vain.
While Seth's lost sons with tears of blood deplore
The charms of beauty and the wiles of Cain,
And smite their breasts in agony, and pour
The flood of late remorse to Him who hears no more.
Yes — now indeed the prostrate Sons of Earth
Crouch to the God whom late they dared defy;
In vain. He gives them heaviness for mirth,
And weeping for the voice of melody.
When Vengeance warned they would not fear or fly,
They would not turn when Mercy wooed to save;
The doom they chose awaits them: they must die;—
Yet 'tis not Death that daunts the truly brave;—
But where shall Guilt find peace or pardon; — in the grave?
Oh no — or whence that vain yet desperate strife,
The lingering horrors of that drear delay,
When the scared soul, recoiling, clings to life,
Yet sees grim Death fast aiming at his prey
The shaft no shield can ward, no prayers can stay—
Why doth the dying wretch so crouch and cower?
Ah! Hell begins 'ere Earth has passed away,
Demands her slave, and arms Remorse with power,
To crowd the crimes — the pangs of years within an hour.
Lo! where the Mother locks her hapless child
In the close clasp of agonized despair;
Lo where with frantic mien and wailings wild
Clings to her plighted Lord the Virgin fair;
Alas! he cannot save her. If in prayer
The Suppliant lifts her tearful eyes to Heaven,
No orient ray of mercy meets her there;
The gathering storms, by rising whirlwinds driven,
Proclaim to every heart, "Thou canst not be forgiven!"
And some were there, in whom each tender tie
Of earthly love seemed severed or forgot;
For many a father glared with vacant eye
On his own child, as One remembered not;
And many a Youth, from her whose smile could blot
Heaven's image from his heart, while Vengeance stayed,
Abhorrent turns: Ah could he shun her lot!—
But no! the hour is past — his choice was made;
One doom awaits them all — betraying or betrayed.
It comes! It comes! The clouds concentring swell,
And, like a rushing cataract, downward pour
Their mass of prisoned waters; as it fell
A whirlwind swept the sea, and shook the shore;
While Ocean rose, and with reverbering roar
Dashed its high billows o'er the rocky strand,
Responsive to the thunder peal, that tore
The boundless firmament, while Death's dark band,
Storm, Fire, Wind, Hail went forth to work their Lord's command.
O then what prayers and shrieks and blasphemies
Rung mid the din of waters! while the glare
Of broad blue lightnings cleft the clouded skies,
And answering thunders seemed to crush the prayer,
And bid the conscious criminal despair;—
Bowed in the dust, they dared not gaze on high:
They said, the Angel of Destruction there
Urged his red car; around his presence fly
The arrows of his wrath; to mark him were to die.
In sooth, that lightning was no earthly flame,
No earthly peal those fearful thunders poured,
With dazzling blaze the dread effulgence came,
Bright as the sheeted fire by Israel's Lord
Hurled on the troop, who strove with spear and sword
To seize or slay his Prophet — and the swell
Of thunder echoed like that Angel-word,
Which shook Creation to the lowest hell,
When Thamud's rebel race heard — tottered — gasped — and fell.
Midst the wild scene of darkness and dismay
A moment seek we for that maiden fair,
Who left her God for love's delusive ray,
And found too late it led but to despair—
Where too is he, whose proffered heart to share
She madly gave her hope — her heaven — her all—
In yon proud fane, while myriads mingle there
Seeking brief refuge, do they vainly call
On its unheeding Lord to aid them ere they fall?
High o'er the vale a rugged mountain rose,
Round whose huge breast impervious vapours threw
A mantle of dark clouds. Coeval snows
Crested its brow. O'erhanging forests grew
On its green sides, and many a fountain blue,
Meandering murmured through the deep-wove shade,
Where never sunbeam o'er the silvery dew
Shone tremulous, or tinged the clear cascade,
Or kissed the pure pale flowers that blossomed in the glade.
Here, on the morn of that appalling day,
Ere yet the torrent o'er the heaving shore
Dashed its o'erwhelming flood — far, far away
His beauteous bride the faithful Irad bore:
For often had he scaled the summit hoar,
Wound the steep sides, and gained the snow-wreathed brow;
And oh! if Hope were quenched and Joy no more,
A mightier impulse lived that could not bow
To doubt or chill despair, and urged him onward now.
Love was not changed to hatred, though in gloom
Its fairy dreams had vanished, for he knew
Himself the author of his hastening doom;
Not that unhappy Maid! to him most true,
Though to her God most faithless. And she too
In that wild hour of anguish, deeply proved
On her own head the cup of wrath she drew;
Nor keen remorse her shuddering bosom moved
Him to arraign, whom yet, if love remained, she loved.
Bearing his bride, he trod the upward path
Till o'er each limb resistless languor fell;
Then screened his Adah from the whirlwind's wrath
Beneath a far-protruding pinnacle;
While ever and anon the startling swell
Of piercing shrieks rose heavier on the blast—
From this he could not screen her. Flames dispel
The mirk and misty gloom around them cast;
But oh! what hideous scenes in swift succession past;
Till Memory tottering scarce retained her throne,
And Reason verged on Madness, while the eye
Instinctive closed, as if it sought to shun
That spectacle of horror, and would fly
From sight and sense to wild insanity
Or night eternal — but it will not be—
Though life is suffering, yet they dare not die,
For death is not oblivion — earth — sky — sea
Alike reveal the fate they fear — and cannot flee.
Look they to earth? Though, like a lonely rock
Rearing aloft its barrier stern and steep;
The Sun's proud temple still withstands the shock
Of foaming breakers round its base that sweep;
Yet, far as eye can trace yon stormy deep,
With ceaseless swell redoubling billows rise,
As if th' indignant Ocean sought to heap
Wave upon wave, to scale the lofty skies—
While Heaven in thunders dread the raging flood defies.
At length o'er all Night drew her ebon veil
Black as the curse of Egypt — while a cry
Rose from the plains, wild as the funeral wail
Of millions maddening in their agony,
When each scared Mother watched her first-born die
Throughout the guilty land. All perish here—
The Parent with his offspring. None can fly
Their doom — no Mother hallow with a tear
Her first and fondest hope — the dutiful — the dear.
On the bare rock the lonely lovers lay—
Oh what a couch for gentle Beauty's rest!
If rest it be, when sense and soul give way,
And close, by very weariness comprest,
The heavy lids; and o'er the powerless breast
Cold stupor steals, which yet can darkly dream
Of things by human lips untold, unguessed
By human heart; and only wakes to deem
Those visions of despair more hideous than they seem.
When the bold hunter from a pendent bough
Swings shuddering o'er the fathomless abyss,
When the lost Indian feels his frail canoe
Whirled by the tide to that dread precipice,
Where Niagara's downward waters hiss
With noise that drowns his death-shriek — their dark doom
Were rest — joy — rapture to a lot like this;
They dread the eddying wave, the gulf's deep gloom—
But these would pant for Death were nought beyond the tomb.
Morn in its wonted round came lingering on,
Though morn from night the Sufferers scarce could tell;
Save by a fitful glare, that dimly shone
Like the lone lamp that lights a dungeon-cell,
Or the dim ray that gleams perchance in hell
To mock the prisoned Spirits, and display
The gloom nor might nor mercy can dispel;
Fit prelude to that night, whose silent sway
No dawn of hope shall cheer for ever: such was day.
Yet Irad rose, and roused his bride to fly—
If flight were vain and hopeless, still he knew
'Twas a brief respite from eternity:
He feared no human agonies, but who
Can wrestle with perdition — And she too;—
"Is there no mercy for a form so fair?"
Thus struggled hope with conscience as they flew,
"O may not deepest penitence and prayer
Wing to th' eternal's throne, and win him yet to spare?"
No! dream it not. In yon polluted grove
Did ye not mingle in the rites profane?
And when JEHOVAH warned, by earthly love
Your hearts were hardened, and he warned in vain.
Ye spurned his pleading Prophet with disdain
Or reckless unconcern — and hope ye still
By prayers and tears that moment to regain?
Such hope is now presumption. His high will
Is fixed — and cannot change — He spoke, and shall fulfil.
Where then, devoted victims, would ye fly?
Ah! could ye seize the strong Archangel's plume,
And scale the ramparts of the boundless sky—
Or sink to that unfathomable gloom
Where, plunged in fiery ocean, with his doom
The fierce Arch-Fiend is writhing, — it were vain—
JEHOVAH'S slightest word could pierce the tomb,
Bow the broad skies, and search the pathless main,
And in resistless grasp the fugitive detain.
And oh! how Irad felt his daring droop—
As on a cleft, where crumbling rocks were piled,
His wandering eye surveyed a simple groupe—
A lonely mother bending o'er her child.
Sweetly th' unconscious infant slept and smiled,
Rocked but to deeper slumbers by the blast—
But oh! what hopeless horror, wan and wild,
That weeping woman's marble brow o'ercast,
As thus she poured her plaint, and chilled them as they past.
"Sleep on," she said, "sweet infant! o'er thy head
Though the Death-Angel speed his dread career;
Though Earth and Skies with vengeful flames are red,
Sleep on, mine infant — thou hast nought to fear.
Still to thy God shine innocence is dear—
Thou hast not spurned his pity — not for thee
I breathe the sigh, and shed the burning tear—
The Paradise of God thy home shall be,
When Mercy's gate is closed — for ever closed on me.
"Said I for ever? Oh that harrowing word!
Is then Repentance bootless in the tomb?
Must Misery's prayer for ever pass unheard?
Shall Hope be shrouded in eternal gloom?
There, babe beloved! not e'en thy happier doom
Shall give thy Mother's anguished heart to share
One joy mid pangs that evermore consume—
But yet I live — and yet the contrite prayer—
Oh God! I dare not hope — I cannot all despair."
She ceased in agony — and shuddering raised
A glance of horror to that frowning sky,
Then by the lightning on her infant gazed—
Waked by her tears, the babe unclosed its eye
And smiled upon its mother — with deep sigh
She strained the guiltless victim to her breast,
Kissed its fair cheek, and laid her down to die—
Her last fond act a Mother's love confest,
That love, which reigns supreme till suffering sinks to rest.
But upward sped the Lovers, upward still,
Though congregated clouds, from brow to base
In spiry volumes wrapped the towering hill—
Yet foot may tread where Eye in vain would trace;
And now they gain a loftier resting place.
Ah what avails the pause that cannot save
'Tis but a breathing in the onward race
Whose goal is death — a moment — ere the wave
Rears high its foamy crest to plunge them in the grave.
Away! Away! the fatal word is given!
Flames flash — rocks quiver — earth and skies are blent
In strange confusion. If yon spacious Heaven
Were one vast thunder-cloud, it had not rent
With shock like this the boundless firmament;
Yea, if the struggling mass of smouldering fire
From Nature's dawn in Aetna's caverns pent,
Had rent the rock to atoms in its ire,
It had not wrought a wreck so desperate and so dire.
With that stupendous crash his footstep reeled,
And to a crag with maniac-gripe he clung
Like drowning seamen to their mast — congealed
The lifeblood in his heart — deep echoes rung
In his stunned ear, as if some Spirit sung
His dirge of death — then strangely stupified
He sunk the shattered shivering rocks among
Himself a thing as lifeless, and his bride
Torn from his straining arms, lay senseless by his side.
Long, long he slept, till, starting with a gasp
To consciousness of life and agony,
From that rude rock he scarce could loose his grasp
Bound as by grappling gyve — his vacant eye
Fell first on Adah, dull and dizzily
As on a form unknown — but Love's true ray
Though dimmed was not extinct — it could not die
While the fond heart yet beat — clouds passed away—
He saw where pale and cold his best beloved lay;
And hung distracted o'er her, till her breast
Heaved with faint flutter, and her wan cheek glowed
With passing hectic, while the hand he prest
Feebly returned his pressure. Strange tears flowed—
And Horror ceased an instant to forebode
Death's darker consummation, till the roar
Of waters smote his ear — he looked abroad—
The City of the Plain was seen no more—
Beneath him rolled alone a sea without a shore.
True were thy words, oh Prophet. Fierce and free
From chains that curbed its struggling floods before
With all its waters rose the mighty Sea;
Earth's central caves disgorged their secret store
To swell the rushing torrent, till it tore
Huge forests from their place — and on its tide
The ponderous wreck of shattered cities bore
Frail as the floating seaweed — e'en the pride
Of that vast mount could scarce the shock of waters bide.
But lo! what sudden glare o'er Heaven is thrown?
What beams are breaking through encircling Night?
"O welcome! welcome! thou emerging Sun!
An Angel thou of mercy to the sight,
And hope and life dawn with reviving light—
He comes! He comes! our God returns to save"—
Ah wherefore shrink they back in wild affright?—
The circling gloom by Heaven's behest he clave
To mock his shrieking dupes — and guide them to the grave.
Round him a dusky tabernacle hung
Of ambient mists — in pyramid and spire
The broken clouds their folds fantastic flung,
And in the midst flashed forth, with omen dire,
His huge and swollen orb — a sea of fire.
Is this their King, their God, their Saviour-Sun?
He comes the Herald of JEHOVAH'S ire;
And storm and tempest round his car are strown,
Like armed bands of wrath around a Tyrant's throne.
O never! never! since the Lord of Light
Rushed into day from chaos' womb profound,
Did such a scene of woe and wild affright
O'erspread Creation to its utmost bound;
Nor ever shall, till that last trumpet sound
When skies shall shrink — seas vanish — earth consume
In its own flames, till not a trace be found—
And Man, alone immortal, from the tomb
Shall rise renewed to hear th' irrevocable doom.
Where is the stately city of their pride,
Whose coronet of towers rose proudly o'er
The blue expanse of waters, and outvied
High Babylon's broad bulwarks, famed of yore,
Whose bulk had stood, till Time had been no more,
But Heaven forbade — or those fair comes which graced
Palmyra, when her Victor-Monarch wore
The Caesars' diadem — and undebased
By servile shame she rose an Eden mid the waste?
Where is the city, which hath swayed a world?
Go! seek it in the desert of the sea!
Like a tall vessel, in the vortex hurled,
It sunk beneath the waters, and shall be
Henceforth a thing forgotten. Bold and free
Like infant Rome, or sunk in foulest shame
Like Rome's degenerate grandeur, Destiny
Hath wrapped in outer darkness. E'en the name
Its unknown Founder gave hath perished. Such is Fame!
And that sweet grove of beauty and of bliss,
Secured and shaded from the sultry beam;
Where blue rills gushed, and wild flowers stooped to kiss
The cool clear crystal of the sparkling stream,
What is it now? A desert and a dream—
And those soft Syrian virgins, whose young bloom
Might well the Dryads' heavenly choir beseem;
Where now are they? One yet awaits her doom—
The rest in yon wild waves have found their common tomb.
But oh! to gaze o'er yon unmeasured Ocean,
Whose restless billows, swelling to the sky
Roll on, and on, in never-ceasing motion—
Forth shadowing well that dread Eternity,
Whose drear expanse, when ages have gone by
With untold myriads, ever must remain
Unbounded as when first we seemed to die,
And first began to live — to think that pain
No respite hath nor end, while sense and soul retain
Their consciousness of suffering — and the past
Is present still to memory — and the day
When Mercy pleaded and when Madness cast
The boon of immortality away,
Now, like a serpent, on the heart must prey;—
To mark — more fearful than th' avenging rod—
His withering frown whose smile is lost for aye—
Oh rend, ye rocks! ye quivering mountains, nod!
And crush the guilty wretch, and hide him from his God.
Still, like a Warrior-Chief who stands alone
Bearing the brunt of battle, and doth brave
The shock unmoved, till legions quail to One;
That stately mountain to the rushing wave
Bids stern defiance; — while in cleft and cave,
Like shipwrecked mariners, by tempest hurled
On some far rock where none can see or save;
The trembling Lords of what was once a world
Await, till Love relent, and Wrath's red flag be furled.
Aye! they may wait for evermore. The Sun
Hath wrought his Master's bidding — his brief glare
Is fading into gloominess — 'Tis done!
And darkness comes — and with it comes despair.
Some to their Idol howl the frantic prayer—
Alas! their very prayers are blasphemy
But souls of sterner mould, impelled to dare
By utter madness — with upbraiding eye
Gaze on the waning Orb — and curse their God — and die.
In reckless desperation to the flood
Some headlong plunged — the tumult of their brain
Had closed in frenzy, and the boiling blood
Circled with fiery venom through each vein,
Till in the wild intensity of pain
E'en conscience sunk o'ermastered. — Like the slave
Who calls the lightning-flash to rive his chain
Though Death be linked with Freedom — to the grave
They rushed — the nameless fate they could not shun, to brave.
And, might we dare to measure Earth by Heaven,
It was, as when victorious Vengeance flung
From their lost skies the Spirits unforgiven;
And downward to the yawning gulf they sprung
To shield them from th' Eternal, though among
Those dungeons deep, where fire unquenchable
Must be their couch for aye. — So sternly rung
The thunders of Omnipotence — so Hell
Oped her insatiate mouth while Man's lost millions fell.
Where now was Irad? On a loftier cliff
Clasping his hapless consort, still he lay;—
Small marvel if his limbs were strained and stiff;
His eye bewildered by the dazzling ray,
Or weakened by the gloom. Through years by day
A wandering Maniac, and a thing by night
For fiends to sport with — all had passed away
Like storms upon a rock — his manly might
Endured through all — but now a more devouring blight
Doth wither all his fortitude, and quell
The fervour of his spirit. Ask ye why?
It needs no Seer or Sage to trace and tell:
I said indeed his soul was bold and high—
But he was mortal — and shall Man defy
The fearful hour of judgment? Shall he dare
Vaunt on the verge of frail mortality,
When Conscience reads his own dark portion there,
Irrevocable wrath — and infinite despair.
Thus Irad lay — by troubled thoughts oppressed—
The lapse of Time unnoted. Day or Night
It recked not — each was utter darkness. Rest—
How could He rest, whose spirit in its flight
Shot through the dark and dreary infinite
As if to find a refuge? Nought was there
Around, above, but anguish and affright—
Yet still th' unconquered heart was nerved to bear,
Though ear, eye, memory, all were inlets to despair.
Hark! mid the tumult of conflicting waters
A murmur of far wailing strikes his ear,
Like some lone wanderer, on the field of slaughters,
Weeping o'er all her widowed heart held dear;
Still louder, louder, rung those sounds of fear,
Such moans as echo from the sinking bark,
Vain cries for aid, which none but Heaven can hear;
And Irad starting looked — but nought could mark—
No mortal eye could pierce that mist so dense and dark.
A stream of sudden light the gloom dispelled,
A raft was on the deep — the breeze had sprung
And borne it swiftly onward — he beheld
A female form, who, wildly shrieking, clung
To one in manly garb — his arms were flung
Loose o'er the floating mass, and lifelessly
From side to side with every wave he swung;
As if the last long sleep had closed his eye;
The strong had sunk to rest — the weak survived to die.
And thus to die? Of all that Guilt hath wrought
To dreg our cup of bitterness, if one
Black drop is quaffed with deadlier venom fraught—
It is to live beloved, and die alone
When Death is not re-union. Though unknown
The doom of parted spirits, this we know;
Love dies or brightens when our race is run:
To endless joy it gives a livelier glow,
But never, never dawns to soothe eternal woe.
Now neared that raft the cliff's o'erhanging brow
While sea and skies were wrapt in broader shade—
A sudden whirlwind swept the wave — and now
He heard the hapless victim shriek for aid.
In the still slumber of Exhaustion laid
E'en Adah startled at that piercing cry—
Looked on her Lord once more — and faintly said—
"One pang at least be spared me, thus to die!"—
'Twas all she could! — again chill torpor closed her eye.
Now, as the flash shot swift along the tide,
He marked a giant wave rush foaming on,
Itself an ocean — on the mountain side
It smote — the broad rock quivered — it is gone.
Amid the strife of waters, a faint moan
More fearful than their howlings, smote his ear;
Oh there was mingled in its harrowing tone
The yell of madness and the shriek of fear,
And all that Mortals quake, and Hell exults to hear!
Irad had wandered lone and desolate
An Exile and an Outcast, till to him
Were horrors grown familiar — all that Hate
Could wreak, or Guilt endure — the dull eye, dim
With tearless languor — the faint faltering limb—
The gnawing of remorse — the choking swell
Of passions strong, when Sense and Reason swim
In dreary dizziness — the fancied spell
Which raised around his couch the furious fiends of Hell;
These he had borne undaunted — but that cry
Roused all the latent tortures of his breast,
With pangs that passed his former agony—
He felt not thus when first Remorse imprest
Cain's mark upon his brow. Love — Joy — Hope — Rest
Were lost for evermore — this he might bear
As he had borne — but oh! that she who blest
His dream of promised peace — that she must share
Such doom — this barbs the dart, envenoming despair.
But 'tis no time for thoughts like these. Away!
If thou wouldst shun destruction — for the grave
With rapid strides is hastening to its prey—
And to protract the life thou canst not save
Is all that now is left thee! Shall the wave
O'erwhelm thee lingering? No! one respite more—
Yet — while thou may'st — the boon of Mercy crave:—
Struggling he rose, and in his arms he bore
His Adah, soon to part for ever — or no more.
Where mingled with the clouds that mountain bleak,
Like a tall Angel, touching Earth and sky;
Its brow divided to a double peak;—
A deep gulf yawned between, where the strained eye
Was wont to lose its gaze in vacancy—
Now the swift lightning's fleeting lustre flew
O'er one vast sheet of waters, while on high
Their frothy spume the rising billows threw,
E'en to the topmost crag where lay the Lovers true.
Just gleamed enough of intermittent light
To shew the circling horrors. Round them swoop
The screaming Vultures, and, with strange affright,
Their flagging plumes the lordly Eagles droop,
Skimming the troubled wave. In many a group
With fell unnatural tameness herding there,
The birds obscene their fearful deathsong whoop—
As if they longed e'en now to rush and tear
The living as they lay — for their unhallowed fare.
And many a pyramid of quivering flame
Danced o'er th' expanse of waters, till the Sea
In the broad lustre of that light became
A sheet of fire, as if the high decree
Had set the subterranean embers free,
From first Creation pent in earth's vast womb—
And there, in firm restraint, ordained to be
Till Time revolving brings the day of doom—
Then shall they burst their bonds, and earth, sea, skies consume.
One hour of struggling conflict — and 'tis done—
One pause of dreariness, and all is o'er—
The strife is ended and the field is won,
Or lost — distraction! lost for evermore!
The disembodied soul must sink or soar
To peace or to perdition, Hell or Heaven—
Then Hope is certainty — and Man no more
O'er the wild sea of wavering doubts is driven—
Free — or the slave of Hell — absolved — or unforgiven.
The close draws on — Are yon red skies on fire?
For Heaven is circled with a burning zone,
As if the Missioned Angel in his ire
Flashed through encircling tempest. Light is thrown
Full o'er the mountain's bare and rifted cone;
What Giant Form on yon tall peak doth stand?
Is it the Arch-Fiend, come to gaze upon
The fearful wreck his own deep treachery planned,
And bear to endless woe the souls for ever banned?
No! that Apostate Spirit might not dare
To burst the fetters of his loathed abyss;
Fling his black pinions on th' abhorrent air,
And howl exulting o'er a scene like this;
E'en in his triumphs foul defeat is his—
The present terrors of th' All-Seeing Eye
Aye quell his pride — The souls cut off from bliss.
Lured by his own infernal wiles to die,
Sate not his quenchless wrath — but swell his agony.
Yet if no restless Spirit from his lair,
'Twas yet a Demon — 'twas the Son of Cain
Who spurned the warning Prophet. Mark him there!
Behold the baffled Boaster, fled in vain
Prom vengeful waves pursuing! Still disdain
Clothes his dark brow, though fear is in his soul—
Still with a rage not Horror can restrain
While frequent thunders ring from pole to pole,
He rears his arm on high, and mocks them as they roll.
Dost thou then brave the Mightiest — cost thou dare
The vengeance of the Eternal? Fool accurst!
If myriads of thy murderous tribe were there
And million Fiends to back thee — do their worst—
A nod — and such destroying flames should burst
From His dread presence, on His crouching foe
Or Man, or Demon, as he hurled, when erst
The Angels fell. Thy vaunted Sire could bow
Submissive to his God! vain Scorner! what art Thou?
His blasphemy is heard — his race is run—
A flood of swift effulgence cleaves the air,
And Irad closed his eye, but scarce could shun
The splendour of its track, as if the glare
Of that Dread Majesty were burning there
Which none could see and live — then mid the peal
A shriek of mingled mockery and despair
Rung dissonant — but stupor seemed to seal
Each sense, and in each vein the creeping blood congeal;
Till sudden mid the elemental strife
Headlong to Ocean plunged a mighty mass,
And yet it seemed not like a thing of life;—
A moment — and the muttering echoes pass
To tomb-like silence — where the Giant was
When o'er the wave the next blue glimmering shone,
And sight returned, he strove in vain to trace;—
The Giant and the peak alike were gone;
Last of their race, his bride and he survived alone.
Then lives she still, that Maiden fair,
And still within her drooping form
Doth lingering love withstand despair?
How-should the fragile lily bear
The fury of the withering storm
When stateliest Oaks lie prostrate there.
While those devouring flames were driven
To blast the wretch who scoffed at Heaven;
While rolled hoarse thunders, deep and dread,
As those foredoomed to raise the dead,
Hushed as in sleep on Irad's breast,
A sleep too still for living rest,
Mute, motionless his Adah lay,
As soul and sense had passed away.—
Yet oh! the rayless eye may close—
The brow, with keenest pangs comprest
Unbend, as if in calm repose—
While yet within the conscious breast
There lives a struggling sickening thrill,
When all without seems soothed and still:
To meet — yet not return the grasp
Of friendship with responsive clasp;—
To pass unmarked the patient sigh
Of meek affection's sympathy;—
Without one fond consoling token
To leave the best-beloved heart-broken;—
Without a farewell sign to die—
Oh this indeed is agony!
And such perchance that Maiden felt,
If all of Life not yet were fled;
When on the bare rock Irad knelt,
And softly raised her drooping head,
And whispered each endearing name
That Love could prompt, or Passion frame;
Fond words that wooed and won before—
Now charm not — and shall charm no more.
Ah! flames may flash, and deeper thunders roll,
He heeds them not — the storm is in his soul;
These strike not now with horror and despair,
One deadlier sight absorbs him — both are there!—
He only sees that cheek of lifeless hue;
The livid lid that shrouds that eye of blue;
He only listens for the whispered tone
Of that soft voice, which cannot meet his own.
Ha! doth the fleeting flash illusive swim
Before his eye, with woe and watching dim?
Or did he mark her pale lips faintly quiver
As if to breathe his name — and close for ever!
Was it a moan, that murmured through the gloom,
Of some sad Spirit sinking to his doom,
Or did she heave that faint and fluttering sigh
Which tells the close of human misery?
If such it were, the last convulsive thrill
Hath passed — the sound returns not — all is still.
He kissed her cheek — that cheek was deadly cold—
He clasped her hand — it stiffened in his hold—
He shrieked her name in desperate agony—
The roaring billows only raved reply.
Call as thou wilt! but till thy cries can break
The trance of Death, and bid the Slumberer wake;
No voice shall breathe responsive to thy prayer,
Save the loathed echo of shine own despair.
Thou art alone in Nature — art the last
Of thy lost race — a Being of the past;
A wretch, escaped the common wreck, to die
A lingering death of tenfold misery;
Who sinks, with none to solace or to save,
Whom Hope forsakes, and Earth denies a grave.
Why dost thou clasp that mass of senseless clay?
She is not here — thy bride is far away!
The interchange of hearts — the plighted vow,
Love's holiest ties, are torn asunder now;
Her pure affection blest thee to the last—
It won — wept — solaced — gladdened — and is past.—
Break, thou obdurate heart! — his beauteous one—
Star of his hope — his all on earth — is gone,
And he may follow — for his task is done.
He soothed — supported — stayed her — would have striven
With legioned fiends to win her path to heaven;
All mortal could — he saved her to the last;
Till hope was quenched in horror — and she passed;—
Passed from a frail and fleeting world to share
The mansions of eternity — but where?
With that dread thought came madness. He had borne
Remorse, pain, exile, infamy and scorn—
Yea, borne them all without a tear or sigh,
Braved Death itself — though now he shrinks to die;
For now his eyes are open, and he knows
Death is no senseless sleep, no cold repose;
From the dark dungeon of its mortal clod,
Th' immortal spirit soars to meet its God—
That God, to whom in life he would not bow;
Who will not hear him — will not save him now;
Whose fearful wrath already seems to roll
In voice of thunder on his conscious soul.
And how, oh how should mortal spirit brook
To dream, though darkly, of that withering look,
Whose fearful frown the wandering Fiends can quell
Where'er they rove, an Omnipresent Hell?
He bore it not. Smote as by lightning-shock
He fell extended on the blasted rock;
Forgot his present woe, his future doom,
For Slumber came, and kind Oblivion's gloom,
To snatch a few brief moments from the tomb.
He fell — but oh! in Nature's parting hour
Th' ethereal spark retains a latent power;
Oft from their couch of pain, while round the heart
Life faintly struggles, will the dying start;
The tale of Guilt with late remorse to tell;
To fold some loved one in a fond farewell,
Or urged by stern unconquerable pride
To die erect, as erst the Roman died.
So, ere the tumult of the last sad strife
Were hushed in stillness, Irad waked to life;
What sound could reach and rouse him as he lay?—
He heard the death-birds rushing to their prey,
And Love still nerved his arm, to smite and scare
The foul destroyers from a thing so fair.
Then in his arms he screened th' unconscious form—
As though it still could suffer — from the storm—
On the pale lips a last long kiss he prest,
To his cold bosom strained that colder breast;
Then sank to die. Ere long the waves arose
Meeting the tempest like encountering foes;
Full o'er the rock the flood impetuous rolled—
Yet could not tear her from his desperate hold;
But swept at once the living and the dead
From that bleak couch to their eternal bed—
Said I the living? No — with one wild thrill
The bursting heart throbbed — struggled — and is still.
But oh! let none in curious pride presume
To raise the shadowy mantle of the tomb;
To seal their pangs — or hope their fault forgiven;
'Tis ours to pity — Judgment rests with Heaven.
This only lesson learn — presumptuous Man!
Revere that Power whose ways thou canst not scan!
And know, when Mercy calls thee to thy God,
To slight his warning is to brave his rod.
"Rest, thou destroying Angel, and recall
Thy winged heralds, storm and lightnings dread!"
How can he rest, till this dispeopled ball
Lie desolate, the dwelling of the dead?
Thus was the mandate of the Mightiest said;
What then were Mercy but Rebellion here?
No — let the arrows of his wrath be sped—
Let Ocean onward urge its fierce career,
Till none are left on Earth their force to feel or fear.
Now it is done. The swelling floods may rise—
None live to perish in the gulf profound;
Devouring flames may dazzle o'er the skies—
None hear to startle at the thunder-sound—
There are but clouds above and waves around!
The universe is ocean. One wide sea
Appears, without a barrier or a bound,
As though it ever was, and aye shall be
Ascending upward, upward through infinity.
But will thou rise, proud Ocean? Shall thy flood
Through the vast void for evermore expand?
Shall not the Power, whose mightier will withstood
Thy rage through rolling ages, yet withstand?
Hark! from his throne the Voice of dread command
Goes forth — and calms the tempest. He hath said,
Whose word returns not, "Angel, stay shine hand!"
Instant the lightnings heard — the winds obeyed;
The conscious thunders cease — the Angel's hand is stayed.
Once more grim Chaos o'er the boundless deep
Claims its primeval empire; each rude wave
Sinks like a wearied giant to its sleep;
The surge hath ceased to roar, the blast to rave,
Till o'er the surface of that pathless grave
No sound is heard the horrid stillness breaking;
Where virgin, warrior, sovereign, priest, and slave,
By myriads or by millions are partaking
That dull and dreamless sleep which knows no earthly waking.
Oh there was terror in the storm's deep gloom,
And wrath and vengeance in the lightning-glare,
And in the thunder-peal the voice of doom,
And Death in ocean, and o'er Earth despair—
These human eye and human heart might bear—
But the cold silence of that drear abyss—
Methinks the very Angels shudder there—
And pause an instant mid their songs of bliss
To weep — if Seraphs can — and mourn a scene like this!
Where is the world? Alas! there is no Earth—
JEHOVAH cursed it, and it passed away;—
Where is the Sun? The Power that gave it birth
Hath quenched in darkness its retiring ray—
And bade it beam no more — perchance for aye—
What recks that Orb where closed is every eye—?
And Earth and Sun were formed but to decay—
Yet is there one who shall not — cannot die;
Oh where is Man, sole heir of immortality?
He lives — but would'st thou question whither now
Are fled the guilty train, who madly spurned
To Mercy's voice in Mercy's hour to bow?
Know, none from those dark regions have returned
To tell their tale of horror — none discerned
The worm that dies not, and the insatiate fire
That ever burns. This only have we learned—
Forbear by guilt to rouse Jehovah's ire,
Nor dare provoke the frown which bade a world expire.
But Light not yet was quenched, nor yet had Time
Fulfilled its fated round. The fortieth Sun
Again through ether rolled his car sublime—
But who survived to hail his rising? None—
Towers, Temples, Priests, Adorers, all are gone.
As, ere JEHOVAH summoned Earth to be,
Light, new-created, hung in Heaven alone,
So beams that Sun o'er one unbounded sea,
For all beside have passed — Rocks! Mountains! where are ye?
Mountain of mighty brow
Where are thy cedars now.
Lebanon, where art Thou?
Low lies thy cedar-wood,
Deep in the pathless flood,
And the wild waters flow
High o'er thy helm of snow.
Where, on broad Hermon's breast
Dark clouds were Wont to rest;
Where on his storm-wrapped throne
Sate stately Sirion;
There the sad surges rave,
There howls the restless wave;
There is thy stately cone,
There art thou, Lebanon!
Art thou too vanished, Rival of the sky!
Dread mount of might and mystery!
Olympus! doomed the high abode
Of many a vain and visionary God?
Could not thy future Jove
The rebel-storm reprove;
Could not thy Neptune awe his subject sea?
Or she, the Martial Maid,
In victor-arms arrayed,
Who launched the Thunderers bolts, avert their rage from Thee?
Rocks! bleak and horrible,
Seared by the blast of hell,
Where, as dark legends tell,
Erst the pale Titan sate,
Dauntless though desolate;
And with unyielding pride
Jove and his Gods defied;
Where is thy dreary brow,
Where are thy Vultures now?
Here nor the scream is heard
Of the Avenging Bird,
Nor the torn Victim's sigh
Wrestling with agony;
Here dwell but Night's twin brood—
Silence and solitude.
Thou too, Imaus, whose unmeasured brow
Towers from eternity untrod,
Unseen, save by the eye of God,
Monarch supreme of Mountains, where art Thou?
Do none a refuge seek
On that gigantic peak
Where Mahadeo rears his viewless throne?
No! for the loftier sea
Rolls o'er thy God and Thee,
And all beneath the sky seems watery waste alone.
Yet the Creator-Spirit from above
Is moving on the waters; through the gloom
Of desolation beams superior Love,
And Mercy tempers Justice. To their tomb
Mankind have sunk in one unvaried doom;
But yet may Heaven reverse the stern decree;
And yet again may cheering suns illume
The world, emerging from its dungeon-sea,
And beam the light of life on millions yet to be.
Survey yon world of waters: a faint speck
Seems on th' horizon's farthest verge to lie;
Lone as mid ocean some deserted wreck;
Dim as the first small star that beams on high,
Or the swift Eagle lessening into sky—
'Tis yet a thing to gaze on mid the scene,
A resting-point where all is vacancy—
It is the wreck of worlds that once have been—
The germ of latent life — the pledge of years serene.
Onward it floats. Admiring Angels, mark!
Safe from the storm — triumphant o'er despair,
A living miracle — yon lonely Ark
Borne o'er the billows by JEHOVAH'S care;
The Father of a future world is there;—
His stedfast soul the idol-rites abhorred,
And breathed to Enoch's God the pious prayer;
And when, oh when, didst Thou, All-gracious Lord!
Reject the lowly plaint by meek contrition poured?
Reader! be thine the moral! If no more
From its calmed deeps shall rise the fettered sea;
If Heaven's fair bow proclaim this peril o'er;
A wreck more fearful yet remains for thee:
Time only bears thee to Eternity.—
Tread then the path thy bright Exemplar trod;—
Think on the day when this vast Earth shall be
In bursting flames dissolved — yon skies so broad
Shrink like a shrivelled scroll — "Prepare to meet thy God!"
[2nd edition; pp. 59-110]