A CHORUS OF ANGELS IN THE DARKNESS.
Far in the shuddering spaces of the North
We live. We saw a Shape
Of terror rise and spread and issue forth;
And we would fain escape
The anger of his frown. We know him not,
Nor whether it be he
Who claims our homage, for the shadows blot
The sun we may not see.
We lift our prayers on heavy wings to One
Who dwells beyond the sun,
Whose lightnings are decrees of life or doom,
Whose laws are veiled in gloom.
Thick clouds and darkness are about thy throne
Where thou dost reign alone;
And we amid the mists and shadows grope
With faint bewildered hope.
We fear thy awful judgments and thy curse
Upon thy universe.
For we are told it is a fearful thing,
O thou Almighty King,
To fall into thy hands. Oh, spare the rod,—
Thou art a jealous God!
O save us by the blood of Him who died
That sin might not divide
Our guilty souls from heaven and Christ and thee.
And yet we dread to see
Thy face. How can the trembling fugitive
Behold that face, and live!
A VOICE BEHIND THE DARKNESS.
Fear not; for ye shall live. There is no frown
Upon his face. He shall lift up your heads.
Fear not, but trust him; for his name is Love.
CHOIR OF ANGELS IN THE DISTANCE.
God who madest the tempest’s winged terror,
And the smile of morn,
Who art bringing truth from sin and error,
Love from hate and scorn;
Lo, thy presence glows through all thy creatures,
Passion-stained or fair;
Saint and sinner bear the self-same features
Thy bright angels wear.
Human frailty all alike inherit;
Yet our souls are free.
Giver of all good, it is no merit
That we turn to thee.
Thou alone art pure in thy perfection:
We thy children shine,
But as our soiled garments take reflection
From thy light divine.
Thou art reaching forth thine arms for ever
Struggling souls to free,
Leading man by every good endeavor
Back to heaven and thee!
CHORUS OF WORLD-SPIRITS.
The presence that awed us and chilled us
Dissolves in the dews of the morning;
The darkness has vanished around us,
And shrunk to the shadows that color
The cloud-flakes of gold and of purple.
So vanish the thoughts that obscured us,
The doubt and the dread of the evil
That stained the starred robe of creation;
And we hear but one music pervading
The planets and suns that are shining;
The spirits that pine in the darkness,
Or float in the joy of the morning.
Have we wronged thee, O monarch of shadows?
Have we named thee the Demon of spirits?
We know that the good and the evil
Each mortal and angel inherits—
The evil arid good that are twisted
As fibres of brass arid of gold—
To the All-seeing Eye have a meaning
We know not,— too deep to be told.
But the wise and the merciful Father,
Though they stray in the desert and wold,
Will lift up his lambs to his bosom,
And gather them into his fold.
CHORUS OF HOPEFUL SPIRITS.
Praise, praise ye the poets, whose pages
Were wisdom and love for the ages;
Who saw, in their marvellous trances
Of thoughts and of rhythmical fancies,
The manhood of man in all errors;
The hopes that have triumphed o’er terrors;
The great human heart ever pleading
Its kindred divine, though misleading
·Fate held it aloof from the heaven
That to spirits untempted was given.
Praise, praise ye the prophets,— the sages
Who lived and who died for the ages;
The grand and magnificent dreamers;
The heroes, the mighty redeemers;
The martyrs, reformers, and leaders;
The voices of mystical Vedas;
The bibles of races long shrouded,
Who left us their wisdom unclouded,
The truth that is old as their mountains,
But fresh as the rills from their fountains.
The creeds of the past that have bound us
With visions of terror around us,
Like dungeons of stone that have crumbled,
Beneath us lie shattered and humbled
The tyranny mitred and crested,
Flattered and crowned and detested;
The blindness that trod upon Science;
The bigotry Ignorance cherished;
The armed and the sainted alliance
Of conscience and hate,— they have perished,
Have melted like mists in the splendor
Of light and of beauty supernal;
Of love ever watchful and tender,
Of law ever one and eternal.
THE SONG OF A WISE SPIRIT.
The light of central suns o’er/lows
The farthest bounds of time and space;
The shadows are but passing shows
And clouds upon creation’s face.
From out the chaos and the slime,
From out the whirling winds of fire,
From years of ignorance and crime,
From centuries of wild desire,
The shaping laws of truth and love
Shall lift the savage from the clod;
Shall till the field, and gild the grove
With homes of man and domes of God.
And Love and Science, side by side
With starry lamps of heavenly flame,
Shall light the darkness far and wide,
That fixed the nations’ curse and shame;
Shall bury in forgotten graves
Old Superstition’s tyrant brood;
Shall break the fetters of the slaves;
Shall bind the world in brotherhood;
Shall hurl all despots from the throne,
And lift the saviors of the race:
And law and liberty alone
From sea to sea the lands embrace.
THE HYMN OF A DEVOUT SPIRIT.
The time shall come when men no more
Shall deem the sin that blights the earth
A taint inherited at birth,
A curse for ever to endure.
Shall see that from one common root
Must spring the better and the worse,
And seek to cure before they curse
The tree that drops its wormy fruit.
For God must love, though men should hate
The vine whose mildew blights its grape:
And he shall give a fairer shape
To lives deformed by earthly fate.
O, praise him not that on a throne
Of glory unapproached he sits,
Nor deem a slavish fear befits
The child a Father calls his own.
But praise him that in every thrill
Of life his breath is in our lungs,
And moves our hearts and tunes our tongues,
Howe’er rebellious to his will.
Praise him that all alike drink in
A portion of the life divine,
A light whose struggling soul-beams shine
Through all the blinding mists of sin.
For sooner shall the embracing day,
The air that folds us in its arms,
The morning sun that cheers and warms,
Hold back their service, and decay,
Ere God who wraps the universe
With love, shall let the souls he made
Fall from his omnipresent aid
O’ershadowed by a human curse.
THE SPIRIT OF A POET
sings from a bright cloud on a mountain-top.
I sang of Eden and Creation’s morn;
Of fiend and angel, triumph and despair.
I caught the world’s old music in the air,
The strains that from a people’s creed were born.
I soared with seraphs, walked with lords of doom;
Basked in the sun, and groped in utter dark.
I lit the olden legends with a spark
Whose radiance but revealed eternal gloom.
I stood enveloped in a cloud o’ercharged
With thunder; and the blind, mad bolts that flew
Were heaven’s decrees. They spared alone the few
Whose hearts by grace supernal were enlarged.
Upon imagination’s star-lit wings
I flew beyond the steadfast earth’s supports;
And stood within Jehovah’s shining courts,
And heard what seemed the murmur of the springs,
The streams of living and eternal youth.
Was it a dream? Hath God another word
Than that between the cherubim we heard,
When Israel served the Lord with zeal and truth?
Are those but earth-born shadows that we saw
Thronging the spaces of the heavens and hells?
Is there a newer prophet-voice that tells
The trumpet-tidings of a grander law?
The lurid words above the fatal door,—
The door itself,— the circles of despair,
Are fast dissolving in serener air.
They were but dreams. They can return no more.
No more the vengeance of a demon-god;
No more the lost souls whirling in black drifts
Of endless pain. The illumined spirit lifts
The fog where once its trembling footsteps trod.
I looked, and, lo! the abyss was all ablaze
With light of heaven, and not abysmal fire;
And fain would tune to other chords my lyre,
And fain would sing the alternate nights and days,—
The days and nights that are the wings of Time;
The love that melts away the eternal chains;
The judgments only of remedial pains;
The hidden innocence in guilt and crime.
Behold, the light that dawneth on the earth
Is but the primal light now first discerned;
And the great creeds the world hath slowly learned
Are truth evolved from forms of ruder birth.
The tides of life, divine and human, swell
And flood the desert shore, the stagnant pool.
And sage and poet know where God hath rule
There is no cloud in heaven,— no doom in hell.
FULL CHORUS OF THE WORLD-SPIRITS.
Hear ye, O brothers, the voices around that are swelling in chorus,
Nearer and sweeter they rise and fall through the nebulous light;.
Voices of sages and prophets, while, under our footsteps and o’er us,
Roll in their orbits the worlds whose circles we tracked through the night.
Melting away in the morning, we follow their pathways no longer,
Knowing the hand that has guided will bear them for ever along,
Bear them for ever, and shape them to destinies fairer and stronger
Than when the joyous archangels hailed their creation with song.
Not with a light that is waning, not with the curse of a dooming,
They shall accomplish their cycles through ages of fire and of cloud:
Ever from chaos to order unfolding, progressing, and blooming,
Till with the wisdom and beauty of ages on ages endowed.
Out of the regions of discord, out of the kingdoms of evil,
God in the races to come shall abolish the reign of despair.
Who shall affront his decrees with the phantoms of demon and devil?
Who shall unhallow the joy of his light, and the health of his air?
Lo! on the day-star itself there are spots that, coming and going,
Send through the spaces mysterious thrillings, like omens of blight.
And the great planets afar are convulsed, as when winter comes blowing
Over the shuddering oceans and islands of tropical light.
Shadows are shadows; and all that is made is illumined and shaded;
Bound by the laws of its being, heaven and earth in its breath.
He who hath made us will lift us, though stained and deformed and degraded,
Lift us and love us, though drowned in the surges of darkness and death!
All Sub-Works of Satan: a Libretto (1874):
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