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Fathers Of The Church, Catholic Edition

After the living, aye—enduring death

Of Sodom and Gomorrah; after fires

Penal, attested by time-frosted plains

Of ashes; after fruitless apple-growths,

5 Born but to feed the eye; after the death

Of sea and brine, both in like fate involved;

While whatsoe’er is human still retains

In change corporeal its penal badge:

A city—Nineveh—by stepping o’er

10 The path of justice and of equity,

On her own head had well-nigh shaken down

More fires of rain supernal. For what dread

Dwells in a mind subverted? Commonly

Tokens of penal visitations prove

15 All vain where error holds possession. Still,

Kindly and patient of our waywardness,

And slow to punish, the Almighty Lord

Will launch no shaft of wrath, unless He first

Admonish and knock oft at hardened hearts,

20 Rousing with mind august presaging seers.

For to the merits of the Ninevites

The Lord had bidden Jonah to foretell

Destruction; but he, conscious that He spare;

The subject, and remits to suppliants

25 The dues of penalty, and is to good

Ever inclinable, was loth to face

That errand; lest he sing his seerly strain

In vain, and peaceful issue of his threats

Ensue. His counsel presently is flight:

30 (If, howsoe’er, there is at all the power

God to avoid, and shun the Lord’s right hand

‘Neath whom the whole orb trembles and is held

In check: but is there reason in the act

Which in his saintly heart the prophet dares?)

35 On the beach-lip, over against the shores

Of the Cilicians, is a city poised,

Far-famed for trusty port—Joppa her name.

Thence therefore Jonah speeding in a barque

Seeks Tarsus, through the signal providence

40 Of the same God; nor marvel is’t, I ween,

If, fleeing from the Lord upon the lands,

He found Him in the waves. For suddenly

A little cloud had stained the lower air

With fleecy wrack sulphureous, itself

45 By the wind’s seed excited: by degrees,

Bearing a brood globose, it with the sun

Cohered, and with a train caliginous

Shut in the cheated day. The main becomes

The mirror of the sky; the waves are dyed so

50 With black encirclement; the upper air

Down rushes into darkness, and the sea

Uprises; nought of middle space is left;

While the clouds touch the waves, and the waves all

Are mingled by the bluster of the winds

55 In whirling eddy. ‘Gainst the renegade,

‘Gainst Jonah, diverse frenzy joined to rave,

While one sole barque did all the struggle breed

‘Twixt sky and surge. From this side and from that

Pounded she reels; ‘neath each wave-breaking blow

60 The forest of her tackling trembles all;

As, underneath, her spinal length of keel,

Staggered by shock on shock, all palpitates;

And, from on high, her labouring mass of yard

Creaks shuddering; and the tree-like mast itself

65 Bends to the gale, misdoubting to be riven.

Meantime the rising clamour of the crew

Tries every chance for barque’s and dear life’s sake:

To pass from hand to hand the tardy coils

To tighten the girth’s noose: straitly to bind

70 The tiller’s struggles; or, with breast opposed,

T’ impel reluctant curves. Part, turn by turn,

With foremost haste outbale the reeking well

Of inward sea. The wares and cargo all

They then cast headlong, and with losses seek

75 Their perils to subdue. At every crash

Of the wild deep rise piteous cries; and out

They stretch their hands to majesties of gods,

Which gods are none; whom might of sea and sky

Fears not, nor yet the less from off their poops

80 With angry eddy sweeping sinks them down.

Unconscious of all this, the guilty one

‘Neath the poop’s hollow arch was making sleep

Re-echo stertorous with nostril wide

Inflated: whom, so soon as he who guides

85 The functions of the wave-dividing prow

Saw him sleep-bound in placid peace, and proud

In his repose, he, standing o’er him, shook,

And said, “Why sing’st, with vocal nostril, dreams,

In such a crisis? In so wild a whirl,

90 Why keep’st thou only harbour? Lo! the wave

Whelms us, and our one hope is in the gods.

Thou also, whosoever is thy god,

Make vows, and, pouring prayers on bended knee,

Win o’er thy country’s Sovran!”

Then they vote

95 To learn by lot who is the culprit, who

The cause of storm; nor does the lot belie

Jonah: whom then they ask, and ask again,

“Who? whence? who in the world? from what abode,

What people, hail’st thou?” He avows himself

100 A servant, and an over-timid one,

Of God, who raised aloft the sky, who based

The earth, who corporally fused the whole:

A renegade from Him he owns himself,

And tells the reason. Rigid turned they all

105 With dread. “What grudge, then, ow’st thou us? What now

Will follow? By what deed shall we appease

The main?” For more and far more swelling grew

The savage surges. Then the seer begins

Words prompted by the Spirit of the Lord:

110 “Lo! I your tempest am; I am the sum

Of the world’s madness: ’tis in me,” he says,

“That the sea rises, and the upper air

Down rushes; land in me is far, death near,

And hope in God is none! Come, headlong hurl

115 Your cause of bane: lighten your ship, and cast

This single mighty burden to the main,

A willing prey!” But they—all vainly!—strive

Homeward to turn their course; for helm refused

To suffer turning, and the yard’s stiff poise

120 Willed not to change. At last unto the Lord

They cry: “For one soul’s sake give us not o’er

Unto death’s maw, nor let us be besprent

With righteous blood, if thus Thine own right hand

Leadeth.” And from the eddy’s depth a whale

125 Outrising on the spot, scaly with shells,

Unravelling his body’s train, ‘gan urge

More near the waves, shocking the gleaming brine,

Seizing—at God’s command—the prey; which, rolled

From the poop’s summit prone, with slimy jaws

130 He sucked; and into his long belly sped

The living feast; and swallowed, with the man,

The rage of sky and main. The billowy waste

Grows level, and the ether’s gloom dissolves;

The waves on this side, and the blasts on that,

135 Are to their friendly mood restored; and, where

The placid keel marks out a path secure,

White traces in the emerald furrow bloom.

The sailor then does to the reverend Lord

Of death make grateful offering of his fear;

140 Then enters friendly ports.

Jonah the seer

The while is voyaging, in other craft

Embarked, and cleaving ‘neath the lowest waves

A wave: his sails the intestines of the fish,

Inspired with breath ferine; himself, shut in;

145 By waters, yet untouched; in the sea’s heart

And yet beyond its reach; ‘mid wrecks of fleets

Half-eaten, and men’s carcasses dissolved

In putrid disintegrity: in life

Learning the process of his death; but still—

150 To be a sign hereafter of the Lord—

A witness was he (in his very self),

Not of destruction, but of death’s repulse.

(Author Uncertain.)

Already had Almighty God wiped off

By vengeful flood (with waters all conjoined

Which heaven discharged on earth and the sea’s plain

Outspued) the times of the primeval age:

5 Had pledged Himself, while nether air should bring

The winters in their course, ne’er to decree,

By liquid ruin, retribution’s due;

And had assigned, to curb the rains, the bow

Of many hues, sealing the clouds with band

10 Of purple and of green, Iris its name,

The rain-clouds’ proper baldric.

But alike

With mankind’s second race impiety

Revives, and a new age of ill once more

Shoots forth; allotted now no more to showers

15 For ruin, but to fires: thus did the land

Of Sodom earn to be by glowing dews

Upburnt, and typically thus portend

The future end. There wild voluptuousness

(Modesty’s foe) stood in the room of law;

20 Which prescient guest would shun, and sooner choose

At Scythian or Busirian altar’s foot

‘Mid sacred rites to die, and, slaughtered, pour

His blood to Bebryx, or to satiate

Libyan palaestras, or assume new forms;

25 By virtue of Circaean cups, than lose

His outraged sex in Sodom. At heaven’s gate

There knocked for vengeance marriages commit

With equal incest common ‘mong a race

By nature rebels ‘gainst themselves; and hurts

30 Done to man’s name and person equally.

But God, forewatching all things, at fix’d time

Doth judge the unjust; with patience tarrying

The hour when crime’s ripe age—not any force

Of wrath impetuous—shall have circumscribed

35 The space for waiting.

Now at length the day

Of vengeance was at hand. Sent from the host

Angelical, two, youths in form, who both

Were ministering spirits, carrying

The Lord’s divine commissions, come beneath

40 The walls of Sodom. There was dwelling Lot

A transplantation from a pious stock;

Wise, and a practicer of righteousness,

He was the only one to think on God:

As oft a fruitful tree is wont to lurk,

45 Guest-like, in forests wild. He, sitting then

Before the gate (for the celestials scarce

Had reached the ramparts), though he knew not them

Divine, accosts them unsolicited,

Invites, and with ancestral honour greets;

50 And offers them, preparing to abide

Abroad, a hospice. By repeated prayers

He wins them; and then ranges studiously

The sacred pledges on his board, and quits

His friends with courteous offices. The night

55 Had brought repose: alternate dawn had chased

The night, and Sodom with her shameful law

Makes uproar at the doors. Lot, suppliant wise,

Withstands: “Young men, let not your new fed lust

Enkindle you to violate this youth!

60 Whither is passion’s seed inviting you?

To what vain end your lust? For such an end

No creatures wed: not such as haunt the fens;

Not stall-fed cattle; not the gaping brood

Subaqueous; nor they which, modulant

65 On pinions, hang suspended near the clouds;

Nor they which with forth-stretched body creep

Over earth’s face. To conjugal delight

Each kind its kind doth owe: but female still

To all is wife; nor is there one that has

70 A mother save a female one. Yet now,

If youthful vigour holds it right to waste

The flower of modesty, I have within

Two daughters of a nuptial age, in whom

Virginity is swelling in its bloom,

75 Already ripe for harvest—a desire

Worthy of men—which let your pleasure reap!

Myself their sire, I yield them; and will pay

For my guests’ sake, the forfeit of my grief!”

Answered the mob insane: “And who art thou?

80 And what? and whence? to lord it over us,

And to expound us laws? Shall foreigner

Rule Sodom, and hurl threats? Now, then, thyself

For daughters and for guests shalt sate our greed!

One shall suffice for all!” So said, so done:

85 The frantic mob delays not. As, whene’er

A turbid torrent rolls with wintry tide,

And rushes at one speed through countless streams

Of rivers, if, just where it forks, some tree

Meets the swift waves (not long to stand, save while

90 By her root’s force she shall avail to oppose

Her tufty obstacles), when gradually

Her hold upon the undermined soil

Is failing, with her bared stem she hangs,

And, with uncertain heavings to and fro,

95 Defers her certain fall; not otherwise

Lot in the mid-whirl of the dizzy mob

Kept nodding, now almost o’ercome. But power

Divine brings succour: the angelic youths,

Snatching him from the threshold, to his roof

100 Restore him; but upon the spot they mulct

Of sight the mob insane in open day,—

Fit augury of coming penalties!

Then they unlock the just decrees of God:

That penalty condign from heaven will fall

105 On Sodom; that himself had merited

Safety upon the count of righteousness.

“Gird thee, then, up to hasten hence thy flight,

And with thee to lead out what family

Thou hast: already we are bringing on

110 Destruction o’er the city.” Lot with speed

Speaks to his sons-in-law; but their hard heart

Scorned to believe the warning, and at fear

Laughed. At what time the light attempts to climb

The darkness, and heaven’s face wears double hue

115 From night and day, the youthful visitants

Were instant to outlead from Sodoma

The race Chaldaean, and the righteous house

Consign to safety: “Ho! come, Lot! arise,

And take thy yokefellow and daughters twain,

120 And hence, beyond the boundaries be gone,

Preventing Sodom’s penalties!” And eke

With friendly hands they lead them trembling forth,

And then their final mandates give: “Save, Lot,

Thy life, lest thou perchance should will to turn

125 Thy retroverted gaze behind, or stay

The step once taken: to the mountain speed!”

Lot feared to creep the heights with tardy step,

Lest the celestial wrath-fires should o’ertake

And whelm him: therefore he essays to crave

130 Some other ports; a city small, to wit,

Which opposite he had espied. “Hereto,”

He said, “I speed my flight: scarce with its walls

’Tis visible; nor is it far, nor great.”

They, favouring his prayer, safety assured

135 To him and to the city; whence the spot

Is known in speech barbaric by the name

Segor. Lot enters Segor while the sun

Is rising, the last sun, which glowing bears

To Sodom conflagration; for his rays

140 He had armed all with fire: beneath him spreads

An emulous gloom, which seeks to intercept

The light; and clouds combine to interweave

Their smoky globes with the confused sky:

Down pours a novel shower: the ether seethes

145 With sulphur mixt with blazing flames: the air

Crackles with liquid heats exust. From hence

The fable has an echo of the truth

Amid its false, that the sun’s progeny

Would drive his father’s team; but nought availed

150 The giddy boy to curb the haughty steeds

Of fire: so blazed our orb: then lightning reft

The lawless charioteer, and bitter plaint

Transformed his sisters. Let Eridanus

See to it, if one poplar on his banks

155 Whitens, or any bird dons plumage there

Whose note old age makes mellow!

Here they mourn

O’er miracles of metamorphosis

Of other sort. For, partner of Lot’s flight,

His wife (ah me, for woman! even then

160 Intolerant of law!) alone turned back

At the unearthly murmurs of the sky)

Her daring eyes, but bootlessly: not doomed

To utter what she saw! and then and there

Changed into brittle salt, herself her tomb

165 She stood, herself an image of herself,

Keeping an incorporeal form: and still

In her unsheltered station ‘neath the heaven

Dures she, by rains unmelted, by decay

And winds unwasted; nay, if some strange hand

170 Deface her form, forthwith from her own store

Her wounds she doth repair. Still is she said

To live, and, ‘mid her corporal change, discharge

With wonted blood her sex’s monthly dues.

Gone are the men of Sodom; gone the glare

175 Of their unhallowed ramparts; all the house

Inhospitable, with its lords, is gone:

The champaign is one pyre; here embers rough

And black, here ash-heaps with hoar mould, mark out

The conflagration’s course: evanished

180 Is all that old fertility which Lot,

Seeing outspread before him, . . .

. . . . .. . . . . . . .

No ploughman spends his fruitless toil on glebes

Pitchy with soot: or if some acres there,

But half consumed, still strive to emulate

185 Autumn’s glad wealth, pears, peaches, and all fruits

Promise themselves full easely to the eye

In fairest bloom, until the plucker’s hand

Is on them: then forthwith the seeming fruit

Crumbles to dust ‘neath the bewraying touch,

190 And turns to embers vain.

Thus, therefore (sky

And earth entombed alike), not e’en the sea

Lives there: the quiet of that quiet sea

Is death!—a sea which no wave animates

Through its anhealant volumes; which beneath

195 Its native Auster sighs not anywhere;

Which cannot from its depths one scaly race,

Or with smooth skin or cork-like fence encased,

Produce, or curled shell in single valve

Or double fold enclosed. Bitumen there

200 (The sooty reek of sea exust) alone,

With its own crop, a spurious harvest yields;

Which ‘neath the stagnant surface vivid heat

From seething mass of sulphur and of brine

Maturing tempers, making earth cohere

205 Into a pitch marine. At season due

The heated water’s fatty ooze is borne

Up to the surface; and with foamy flakes

Over the level top a tawny skin

Is woven. They whose function is to catch

210 That ware put to, tilting their smooth skin down

With balance of their sides, to teach the film,

Once o’er the gunnel, to float in: for, lo!

Raising itself spontaneous, it will swim

Up to the edge of the unmoving craft;

215 And will, when pressed, for guerdon large, ensure

Immunity from the defiling touch

Of weft which female monthly efflux clothes.

Behold another portent notable,

Fruit of that sea’s disaster: all things cast

220 Therein do swim: gone is its native power

For sinking bodies: if, in fine, you launch

A torch’s lightsome hull (where spirit serves

For fire) therein, the apex of the flame

Will act as sail; put out the flame, and ‘neath

225 The waters will the light’s wrecks ruin go!

Such Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s penalties,

For ages sealed as signs before the eyes

Of unjust nations, whose obdurate hearts

God’s fear have quite forsaken, will them teach

230 To reverence heaven-sanctioned rights, and lift

Their gaze unto one only Lord of all.

(Author Uncertain.)

In the beginning did the Lord create

The heaven and earth: for formless was the land,

And hidden by the wave, and God immense

O’er the vast watery plains was hovering,

5 While chaos and black darkness shrouded all:

Which darkness, when God bade be from the pole

Disjoined, He speaks, “Let there be light;” and all

In the clear world was bright. Then, when the Lord

The first day’s work had finished, He formed

10 Heaven’s axis white with nascent clouds: the deep

Immense receives its wandering shores, and draws

The rivers manifold with mighty trains.

The third dun light unveiled earth’s face, and soon

(Its name assigned ) the dry land’s story ‘gins:

15 Together on the windy champaigns rise

The flowery seeds, and simultaneously

Fruit-bearing boughs put forth procurvant arms.

The fourth day, with the sun’s lamp generates

The moon, and moulds the stars with tremulous light

20 Radiant: these elements it gave as signs

To th’ underlying world, to teach the times

Which, through their rise and setting, were to change.

Then, on the fifth, the liquid streams receive

Their fish, and birds poise in the lower air

25 Their pinions many-hued. The sixth, again,

Supples the ice-cold snakes into their coils,

And over the whole fields diffuses herds

Of quadrupeds; and mandate gave that all

Should grow with multiplying seed, and roam

30 And feed in earth’s immensity.

All these

When power divine by mere command arranged,

Observing that things mundane still would lack

A ruler, thus It speaks: “With utmost care,

Assimilated to our own aspect,

35 Make We a man to reign in the whole orb.”

And him, although He with a single word

Could have compounded, yet Himself did deign

To shape him with His sacred own right hand,

Inspiring his dull breast from breast divine.

40 Whom when He saw formed in a likeness such

As is His own, He measures how he broods

Alone on gnawing cares. Straight way his eyes

With sleep irriguous He doth perfuse;

That from his left rib woman softlier

45 May formed be, and that by mixture twin

His substance may add firmness to her limbs.

To her the name of “Life”—which is called “Eve”—

Is given: wherefore sons, as custom is,

Their parents leave, and, with a settled home,

50 Cleave to their wives.

The seventh came, when God

At His works’ end did rest, decreeing it

Sacred unto the coming ages’ joys.

Straightway—the crowds of living things deployed

Before him—Adam’s cunning skill (the gift

55 Of the good Lord) gives severally to all

The name which still is permanent. Himself,

And, joined with him, his Eve, God deigns address

“Grow, for the times to come, with manifold

Increase, that with your seed the pole and earth

60 Be filled; and, as Mine heirs, the varied fruits

Pluck ye, which groves and champaigns render you,

From their rich turf.” Thus after He discoursed,

In gladsome court a paradise is strewn,

And looks towards the rays of th’ early sun.

65 These joys among, a tree with deadly fruits,

Breeding, conjoined, the taste of life and death,

Arises. In the midst of the demesne

Flows with pure tide a stream, which irrigates

Fair offsprings from its liquid waves, and cuts

70 Quadrified paths from out its bubbling fount

Here wealthy Phison, with auriferous waves,

Swells, and with hoarse tide wears conspicuous gems,

This prasinus, that glowing carbuncle,

By name; and raves, transparent in its shoals,

75 The margin of the land of Havilath.

Next Gihon, gliding by the AEthiops,

Enriches them. The Tigris is the third,

Adjoined to fair Euphrates, furrowing

Disjunctively with rapid flood the land

80 Of Asshur. Adam, with his faithful wife,

Placed here as guard and workman, is informed

By such the Thunderer’s speech: “Tremble ye not

To pluck together the permitted fruits

Which, with its leafy bough, the unshorn grove

85 Hath furnished; anxious only lest perchance

Ye cull the hurtful apple, which is green

With a twin juice for functions several.”

And, no less blind meantime than Night herself,

Deep night ‘gan hold them, nor had e’en a robe

90 Covered their new-formed limbs.

Amid these haunts,

And on mild berries reared, a foamy snake,

Surpassing living things in sense astute,

Was creeping silently with chilly coils.

He, brooding over envious lies instinct

95 With gnawing sense, tempts the soft heart beneath

The woman’s breast: “Tell me, why shouldst thou dread

The apple’s happy seeds? Why, hath not

All known fruits hallowed? Whence if thou be prompt

To cull the honeyed fruits, the golden world

100 Will on its starry pole return.” But she

Refuses, and the boughs forbidden fears

To touch. But yet her breast ‘gins be o’er come

With sense infirm. Straightway, as she at length

With snowy tooth the dainty morsels bit,

105 Stained with no cloud the sky serene up-lit!

Then taste, instilling lure in honeyed jaws,

To her yet uninitiated lord

Constrained her to present the gift; which he

No sooner took, then—night effaced!:—their eyes

110 Shone out serene in the resplendent world.

When, then, they each their body bare espied,

And when their shameful parts they see, with leaves

Of fig they shadow them.

By chance, beneath

The sun’s now setting light, they recognise

115 The sound of the Lord’s voice, and, trembling, haste

To bypaths. Then the Lord of heaven accosts

The mournful Adam: “Say, where now thou art.”

Who suppliant thus answers: “Thine address,

O Lord, O Mighty One, I tremble at,

120 Beneath my fearful heart; and, being bare,

I faint with chilly dread.” Then said the Lord:

“Who hath the hurtful fruits, then, given you?”

“This woman, while she tells me how her eyes

With brilliant day promptly perfused were,

125 And on her dawned the liquid sky serene,

And heaven’s sun and stars, o’ergave them me!”

Forthwith God’s anger frights perturbed Eve,

While the Most High inquires the authorship

Of the forbidden act. Hereon she opes

130 Her tale: “The speaking serpent’s suasive words

I harboured, while the guile and bland request

Misled me: for, with venoms viperous

His words inweaving, stories told he me

Of those delights which should all fruits excel.”

135 Straightway the Omnipotent the dragon’s deeds

Condemns, and bids him be to all a sight

Unsightly, monstrous; bids him presently

With grovelling beast to crawl; and then to bite

And chew the soil; while war should to all time

140 ‘Twixt human senses and his tottering self

Be waged, that he might creep, crestfallen, prone,

Behind the legs of men,—that while he glides

Close on their heels they may down-trample him.

The woman, sadly caught by guileful words,

145 Is bidden yield her fruit with struggle hard,

And bear her husband’s yoke with patient zeal.

“But thou, to whom the sentence of the wife

(Who, vanquished, to the dragon pitiless

Yielded) seemed true, shalt through long times deplore

150 Thy labour sad; for thou shalt see, instead

Of wheaten harvest’s seed, the thistle rise,

And the thorn plenteously with pointed spines:

So that, with weary heart and mournful breast,

Full many sighs shall furnish anxious food;

155 Till, in the setting hour of coming death,

To level earth, whence thou thy body draw’st,

Thou be restored.” This done, the Lord bestows

Upon the trembling pair a tedious life;

And from the sacred gardens far removes

160 Them downcast, and locates them opposite,

And from the threshold bars them by mid fire,

Wherein from out the swift heat is evolved

A cherubim, while fierce the hot point glows,

And rolls enfolding flames. And lest their limbs

165 With sluggish cold should be benumbed, the Lord

Hides flayed from cattle’s flesh together sews,

With vestures warm their bare limbs covering.

When, therefore, Adam—now believing—felt

(By wedlock taught) his manhood, he confers

170 On his loved wife the mother’s name; and, made

Successively by scions twain a sire,

Gives names to stocks diverse: Cain the first

Hath for his name, to whom is Abel joined.

The latter’s care tended the harmless sheep;

175 The other turned the earth with curved plough.

These, when in course of time they brought their gifts

To Him who thunders, offered—as their sense

Prompted them—fruits unlike. The elder one

Offered the first-fruits of the fertile glebes:

180 The other pays his vows with gentle lamb,

Bearing in hand the entrails pure, and fat

Snow-white; and to the Lord, who pious vows

Beholds, is instantly acceptable.

Wherefore with anger cold did Cain glow;

185 With whom God deigns to talk, and thus begins:

“Tell Me, if thou live rightly, and discern

Things hurtful, couldst thou not then pass thine age

Pure from contracted guilt? Cease to essay

With gnawing sense thy brother’s ruin, who,

190 Subject to thee as lord, his neck shall yield.”

Not e’en thus softened, he unto the fields

Conducts his brother; whom when overta’en

In lonely mead he saw, with his twin palms

Bruising his pious throat, he crushed life out.

195 Which deed the Lord espying from high heaven,

Straitly demands “where Abel is on earth? “

He says “he will not as his brother’s guard

Be set.” Then God outspeaks to him again:

“Doth not the sound of his blood’s voice, sent up

200 To Me, ascend unto heaven’s lofty pole?

Learn, therefore, for so great a crime what doom

Shall wait thee. Earth, which with thy kinsman’s blood

Hath reeked but now, shall to thy hateful hand

Refuse to render back the cursed seeds

205 Entrusted her; nor shall, if set with herbs,

Produce her fruit: that, torpid, thou shalt dash

Thy limbs against each other with much fear..” . . . . .

(Author Uncertain.)

Who will for me in fitting strain adapt

Field-haunting muses? and with flowers will grace

The spring-tide’s rosy gales? And who will give

The summer harvest’s heavy stalks mature?

5 And to the autumn’s vines their swollen grapes?

Or who in winter’s honour will commend

The olives, ever-peaceful? and will ope

Waters renewed, even at their fountainheads?

And cut from waving grass the leafy flowers?

10 Forthwith the breezes of celestial light

I will attune. Now be it granted me

To meet the lightsome muses! to disclose

The secret rivers on the fluvial top

Of Helicon, and gladsome woods that grow

15 ‘Neath other star. And simultaneously

I will attune in song the eternal flames;

Whence the sea fluctuates with wave immense:

What power moves the solid lands to quake;

And whence the golden light first shot its rays

20 On the new world; or who from gladsome clay

Could man have moulded; whence in empty world

Our race could have upgrown; and what the greed

Of living which each people so inspires;

What things for ill created are; or what

25 Death’s propagation; whence have rosy wreaths

Sweet smell and ruddy hue; what makes the vine

Ferment in gladsome grapes away; and makes

Full granaries by fruit of slender stalks

distended be; or makes the tree grow ripe

30 ‘Mid ice, with olives black; who gives to seeds

Their increments of vigour various;

And with her young’s soft shadowings protects

The mother. Good it is all things to know

Which wondrous are in nature, that it may

35 Be granted us to recognise through all

The true Lord, who light, seas, sky, earth prepared,

And decked with varied star the new-made world;

And first bade beasts and birds to issue forth;

And gave the ocean’s waters to be stocked

40 With fish; and gathered in a mass the sands,

With living creatures fertilized. Such strains

With stately muses will I spin, and waves

Healthful will from their fountainheads disclose:

And may this strain of mine the gladsome shower

45 Catch, which from placid clouds doth come, and flows

Deeply and all unsought into men’s souls,

And guide it into our new-fumed lands

In copious rills.

Now come: if any one

Still ignorant of God, and knowing naught

50 Of life to come, would fain attain to touch

The care-effacing living nymph, and through

The swift waves’ virtue his lost life repair,

And ‘scape the penalties of flame eterne,

And rather win the guerdons of the life

55 To come, let such remember God is One,

Alone the object of our prayers; who ‘neath

His threshold hath the whole world poised; Himself

Eternally abiding, and to be

Alway for aye; holding the ages all;

60 Alone, before all ages; unbegotten,

Limitless God; who holds alone His seat

Supernal; supereminent alone

Above high heavens; omnipotent alone;

Whom all things do obey; who for Himself

65 Formed, when it pleased Him, man for aye; and gave

Him to be pastor of beasts tame, and lord

Of wild; who by a word could stretch forth heaven;

And with a word could solid earth suspend;

And quicklier than word had the seas wave

70 Disjoined; and man’s dear form with His own hands

Did love to mould; and furthermore did will

His own fair likeness to exist in him;

And by His Spirit on his countenance

The breath of life did breathe.

Unmindful he

75 Of God, such guilt rashly t’ incur! Beyond

The warning’s range he was not ought to touch.

One fruit illicit, whence he was to know

Forthwith how to discriminate alike

Evil and equity, God him forbade

80 To touch. What functions of the world did God

Permit to man, and sealed the sweet sweet pledge

Of His own love! and jurisdiction gave

O’er birds, and granted him both deep and soil

To tame, and mandates useful did impart

85 Of dear salvation! ‘Neath his sway He gave

The lands, the souls of flying things, the race

Feathered, and every race, or tame or wild,

Of beasts, and the sea’s race, and monsterforms

Shapeless of swimming things. But since so soon

90 The primal man by primal crime transgressed

The law, and left the mandates of the Lord

(Led by a wife who counselled all the ills),

By death he ‘gan to perish. Woman ’twas

Who sin’s first ill committed, and (the law

95 Transgressed) deceived her husband. Eve, induced

By guile, the thresholds oped to death, and proved

To her own self, with her whole race as well,

A procreatrix of funereal woes.

Hence unanticipated wickedness,

100 Hence death, like seed, for aye, is scattered. Then

More frequent grew atrocious deed; and toil

More savage set the corrupt orb astir:

(This lure the crafty serpent spread, inspired

By envy’s self:) then peoples more invent

105 Practices of ill deeds; and by ill deeds

Gave birth to seeds of wickedness.

And so

The only Lord, whose is the power supreme.

Who o’er the heights the summits holds of heaven

Supreme, and in exalted regions dwells

110 In lofty light for ages, mindful too

Of present time, and of futurity

Prescient beforehand, keeps the progeny

Of ill-desert, and all the souls which move

By reason’s force much-erring man—nor less

115 Their tardy bodies governs He—against

The age decreed, so soon as, stretched in death,

Men lay aside their ponderous limbs, and light

As air, shall go, their earthly bonds undone,

And take in diverse parts their proper spheres

120 (But some He bids be forthwith by glad gales

Recalled to life, and be in secret kept

To wait the decreed law’s awards, until

Their bodies with resuscitated limbs

Revive. ) Then shall men ‘gin to weigh the awards

125 Of their first life, and on their crime and faults

To think, and keep them for their penalties

Which will be far from death; and mindful grow

Of pious duties, by God’s judgments taught;

To wait expectant for their penalty

130 And their descendants,’ fruit of their own crime;

Or else to live wholly the life of sheep,

Without a name; and in God’s ear, now deaf,

Pour unavailing weeping. Shall not God

Almighty, ‘neath whose law are all things ruled,

135 Be able after death life to restore?

Or is there ought which the creation’s Lord

Unable seems to do? If, darkness chased,

He could outstretch the light, and could compound

All the world’s mass by a word suddenly,

140 And raise by potent voice all things from nought,

Why out of somewhat could He not compound

The well-known shape which erst had been, which He

Had moulded formerly; and bid the form

Arise assimilated to Himself

145 Again? Since God’s are all things, earth the more

Gives Him all back; for she will, when He bids,

Unweave whate’er she woven had before.

If one, perhaps, laid on sepulchral pyre,

The flame consumed; or one in its blind waves

150 The ocean have dismembered; if of one

The entrails have, in hunger, satisfied

The fishes; or on any’s limbs wild beasts

Have fastened cruel death; or any’s blood,

His body reft by birds, unhid have lain:

155 Yet shall they not wrest from the mighty Lord

His latest dues. Need is that men appear

Quickened from death ‘fore God, and at His bar

Stand in their shapes resumed. Thus arid seeds

Are drops into the vacant lands, and deep

160 In the fixt furrows die and rot: and hence

Is not their surface animated soon

With stalks repaired? and do they not grow strong

And yellow with the living grains? and, rich

With various usury, new harvests rise

165 In mass? The stars all set, and, born again,

Renew their sheen; and day dies with its light

Lost in dense night; and now night wanes herself

As light unveils creation presently;

And now another and another day

170 Rises from its own stars; and the sun sets,

Bright as it is with splendour—bearing light;

Light perishes when by the coming eve

The world is shaded; and the phoenix lives

By her own soot renewed, and presently

175 Rises, again a bird, O wondrous sight!

After her burnings! The bare tree in time

Shoots with her leaves; and once more are her boughs

Curved by the germen of the fruits.

While then

The world throughout is trembling at God’s voice,

180 And deeply moved are the high air’s powers,

Then comes a crash unwonted, then ensue

Heaven’s mightiest murmurs, on the approach of God,

The whole world’s Judge! His countless ministers

Forthwith conjoin their rushing march, and God

185 With majesty supernal fence around.

Angelic bands will from the heaven descend

To earth; all, God’s host, whose is faculty

Divine; in form and visage spirits all

Of virtue: in them fiery vigour is;

190 Rutilant are their bodies; heaven’s might

Divine about them flashes; the whole orb

Hence murmurs; and earth, trembling to her depths

(Or whatsoe’er her bulk is ), echoes back

The roar, parturient of men, whom she,

195 Being bidden, will with grief upyield. All stand

In wonderment. At last disturbed are

The clouds, and the stars move and quake from height

Of sudden power. When thus God comes, with voice

Of potent sound, at once throughout all realms

200 The sepulchres are burst, and every ground

Outpours bones from wide chasms, and opening sand

Outbelches living peoples; to the hair

The members cleave; the bones inwoven are

With marrow; the entwined sinews rule

205 The breathing bodies; and the veins ‘gin throb

With simultaneously infused blood:

And, from their caves dismissed, to open day

Souls are restored, and seek to find again

Each its own organs, as at their own place

210 They rise. O wondrous faith! Hence every age

Shoots forth; forth shoots from ancient dust the host

Of dead. Regaining light, there rise again

Mothers, and sires, and high-souled youths, and boys,

And maids unwedded; and deceased old men

215 Stand by with living souls; and with the cries

Of babes the groaning orb resounds. Then tribes

Various from their lowest seats will come:

Bands of the Easterns; those which earth’s extreme

Sees; those which dwell in the downsloping clime

220 Of the mid-world, and hold the frosty star’s

Riphaean citadels. Every colonist

Of every land stands frighted here: the boor;

The son of Atreus with his diadem

Of royalty put off; the rich man mixt

225 Coequally in line with pauper peers.

Deep tremor everywhere: then groans the orb

With prayers; and peoples stretching forth their hands

Grow stupid with the din!

The Lord Himself

Seated, is bright with light sublime; and fire

230 Potent in all the Virtues flashing shines.

And on His high-raised throne the Heavenly One

Coruscates from His seat; with martyrs hemmed

(A dazzling troop of men), and by His seers

Elect accompanied (whose bodies bright

235 Effulgent are with snowy stoles), He towers

Above them. And now priests in lustrous robes

Attend, who wear upon their marked front

Wreaths golden-red; and all submissive kneel

And reverently adore. The cry of all

240 Is one: “O Holy, Holy Holy, God!”

To these the Lord will mandate give, to range

The people in twin lines; and orders them

To set apart by number the depraved;

While such as have His biddings followed

245 With placid words He calls, and bids them, clad

With vigour—death quite conquered—ever dwell

Amid light’s inextinguishable airs,

Stroll through the ancients’ ever blooming realm,

Through promised wealth, through ever sunny swards,

250 And in bright body spend perpetual life.

A place there is, beloved of the Lord,

In Eastern coasts, where light is bright and clear,

And healthier blows the breeze; day is eterne,

Time changeless: ’tis a region set apart

255 By God, most rich in plains, and passing blest,

In the meridian of His cloudless seat.

There gladsome the air, and is in light

Ever to be; soft is the wind, and breathes

Life-giving blasts; earth, fruitful with a soil

260 Luxuriant, bears all things; in the meads

Flowers shed their fragrance; and upon the plains

The purple—not in envy—mingles all

With golden-ruddy light. One gladsome flower,

With its own lustre clad, another clothes;

265 And here with many a seed the dewy fields

Are dappled, and the snowy tilths are crisped

With rosy flowers. No region happier

Is known in other spots; none which in look

Is fairer, or in honour more excels.

270 Never in flowery gardens are there born

Such lilies, nor do such upon our plains

Outbloom; nor does the rose so blush, what time,

New-born, ’tis opened by the breeze; nor is

The purple with such hue by Tyrian dye

275 Imbued. With coloured pebbles beauteous gleams

The gem: here shines the prasinus; there glows

The carbuncle; and giant-emerald

Is green with grassy light. Here too are born

The cinnamons, with odoriferous twigs;

280 And with dense leaf gladsome amomum joins

Its fragrance. Here, a native, lies the gold

Of radiant sheen; and lofty groves reach heaven

In blooming time, and germens fruitfullest

Burden the living boughs. No glades like these

285 Hath Ind herself forth-stretcht; no tops so dense

Rears on her mount the pine; nor with a shade

So lofty-leaved is her cypress crisped;

Nor better in its season blooms her bough

In spring-tide. Here black firs on lofty peak

290 Bloom; and the only woods that know no hail

Are green eternally: no foliage falls;

At no time fails the flower. There, too, there blooms

A flower as red as Tarsine purple is:

A rose, I ween, it is (red hue it has,

295 An odour keen); such aspect on its leaves

It wears, such odour breathes. A tree it stands,

With a new flower, fairest in fruits; a crop

Life-giving, dense, its happy strength does yield.

Rich honies with green cane their fragrance join,

300 And milk flows potable in runners full;

And with whate’er that sacred earth is green,

It all breathes life; and there Crete’s healing gift

Is sweetly redolent. There, with smooth tide,

Flows in the placid plains a fount: four floods

305 Thence water parted lands. The garden robed

With flowers, I wot, keeps ever spring; no cold

Of wintry star varies the breeze; and earth,

After her birth-throes, with a kindlier blast

Repairs. Night there is none; the stars maintain

310 Their darkness; angers, envies, and dire greed

Are absent; and out-shut is fear, and cares

Driven from the threshold. Here the Evil One

Is homeless; he is into worthy courts

Out-gone, nor is’t e’er granted him to touch

315 The glades forbidden. But here ancient faith

Rests in elect abode; and life here treads,

Joying in an eternal covenant;

And health without a care is gladsome here

In placid tilths, ever to live and be

320 Ever in light.

Here whosoe’er hath lived

Pious, and cultivant of equity

And goodness; who hath feared the thundering God

With mind sincere; with sacred duteousness

Tended his parents; and his other life

325 Spent ever crimeless; or who hath consoled

With faithful help a friend in indigence;

Succoured the over-toiling needy one,

As orphans’ patron, and the poor man’s aid;

Rescued the innocent, and succoured them

330 When press with accusation; hath to guests

His ample table’s pledges given; hath done

All things divinely; pious offices

Enjoined; done hurt to none; ne’er coveted

Another’s: such as these, exulting all

335 In divine praises, and themselves at once

Exhorting, raise their voices to the stars;

Thanksgivings to the Lord in joyous wise

They psalming celebrate; and they shall go

Their harmless way with comrade messengers.

340 When ended hath the Lord these happy gifts,

And likewise sent away to realms eterne

The just, then comes a pitiable crowd

Wailing its crimes; with parching tears it pours

All groans effusely, and attests in acts

345 With frequent ululations. At the sight

Of flames, their merit’s due, and stagnant pools

Of fire, wrath’s weapons, they ‘gin tremble all.

Them an angelic host, upsnatching them,

Forbids to pray, forbids to pour their cries

350 (Too late!) with clamour loud: pardon withheld,

Into the lowest bottom they are hurled!

O miserable men! how oft to you

Hath Majesty divine made itself known!

The sounds of heaven ye have heard; have seen

355 Its lightnings; have experienced its rains

Assiduous; its ires of winds and hail!

How often nights and days serene do make

Your seasons—God’s gifts—fruitful with fair yields!

Roses were vernal; the grain’s summer-tide

360 Failed not; the autumn variously poured

Its mellow fruits; the rugged winter brake

The olives, icy though they were: ’twas God

Who granted all, nor did His goodness fail.

At God earth trembled; on His voice the deep

365 Hung, and the rivers trembling fled and left

Sands dry; and every creature everywhere

Confesses God! Ye (miserable men!)

Have heaven’s Lord and earth’s denied; and oft

(Horrible!) have God’s heralds put to flight;

370 And rather slain the just with slaughter fell;

And, after crime, fraud ever hath in you

Inhered. Ye then shall reap the natural fruit

Of your iniquitous sowing. That God is

Ye know; yet are ye wont to laugh at Him.

375 Into deep darkness ye shall go of fire

And brimstone; doomed to suffer glowing ires

In torments just. God bids your bones descend

To penalty eternal; go beneath

The ardour of an endless raging hell;

380 Be urged, a seething mass, through rotant pools

Of flame; and into threatening flame He bids

The elements convert; and all heaven’s fire

Descend in clouds.

Then greedy Tartarus

With rapid fire enclosed is; and flame

385 Is fluctuant within with tempest waves;

And the whole earth her whirling embers blends!

There is a flamy furrow; teeth acute

Are turned to plough it, and for all the years

The fiery torrent will be armed: with force

390 Tartarean will the conflagrations gnash

Their teeth upon the world. There are they scorched

In seething tide with course precipitate;

Hence flee; thence back are borne in sharp career;

The savage flame’s ire meets them fugitive!

395 And now at length they own the penalty

Their own, the natural issue of their crime.

And now the reeling earth, by not a swain

Possest, is by the sea’s profundity

Prest, at her farthest limit, where the sun

400 (His ray out-measured) divides the orb,

And where, when traversed is the world, the stars

Are hidden. Ether thickens. O’er the light

Spreads sable darkness; and the latest flames

Stagnate in secret rills. A place there is

405 Whose nature is with sealed penalties

Fiery, and a dreadful marsh white-hot

With heats infernal, where, in furnaces

Horrific, penal deed roars loud, and seethes,

And, rushing into torments, is up-caught

410 By the flame’s vortex wide; by savage wave

And surge the turbid sand all mingled is

With miry bottom. Hither will be sent,

Groaning, the captive crowd of evil ones,

And wickedness (the sinful body’s train)

415 To burn! Great is the beating there of breasts,

By bellowing of grief accompanied;

Wild is the hissing of the flames, and thence

The ululation of the sufferers!

And flames, and limbs sonorous, will outrise

420 Afar: more fierce will the fire burn; and up

To th’ upper air the groaning will be borne.

Then human progeny its bygone deeds

Of ill will weigh; and will begin to stretch

Heavenward its palms; and then will wish to know

425 The Lord, whom erst it would not know, what time

To know Him had proved useful to them. There,

His life’s excesses, handiworks unjust,

And crimes of savage mind, each will confess,

And at the knowledge of the impious deeds

430 Of his own life will shudder. And now first,

Whoe’er erewhile cherished ill thoughts of God;

Had worshipped stones unsteady, lyingly

Pretending to divinity; hath e’er

Made sacred to gore-stained images

435 Altars; hath voiceless pictured figures feared;

Hath slender shades of false divinity

Revered; whome’er ill error onward hath

Seduced; whoe’er was an adulterer,

Or with the sword had slain his sons; whoe’er

440 Had stalked in robbery; whoe’er by fraud

His clients had deferred; whoe’er with mind

Unfriendly had behaved himself, or stained

His palms with blood of men, or poison mixt

Wherein death lurked, or robed with wicked guise

445 His breast, or at his neighbour’s ill, or gain

Iniquitous, was wont to joy; whoe’er

Committed whatsoever wickedness

Of evil deeds: him mighty heat shall rack,

And bitter fire; and these all shall endure,

450 In passing painful death, their punishment.

Thus shall the vast crowd lie of mourning men!

This oft as holy prophets sang of old,

And (by God’s inspiration warned) oft told

The future, none (’tis pity!) none (alas!)

455 Did lend his ears. But God Almighty willed

His guerdons to be known, and His law’s threats

‘Mid multitudes of such like signs promulged.

He ‘stablished them by sending prophets more,

These likewise uttering words divine; and some,

460 Roused from their sleep, He bids go from their tombs

Forth with Himself, when He, His own tomb burst,

Had risen. Many ‘wildered were, indeed,

To see the tombs agape, and in clear light

Corpses long dead appear; and, wondering

465 At their discourses pious, dulcet words!

Starward they stretch their palms at the mere sound,

And offer God and so—victorious Christ

Their gratulating homage. Certain ’tis

That these no more re-sought their silent graves,

470 Nor were retained within earth’s bowels shut;

But the remaining host reposes now

In lowliest beds, until—time’s circuit run—

That great day do arrive.

Now all of you

Own the true Lord, who alone makes this soul

475 Of ours to see His light and can the same

(To Tartarus sent) subject to penalties;

And to whom all the power of life and death

Is open. Learn that God can do whate’er

He list; for ’tis enough for Him to will,

480 And by mere speaking He achieves the deed;

And Him nought plainly, by withstanding, checks.

He is my God alone, to whom I trust

With deepest senses. But, since death concludes

Every career, let whoe’er is to-day

485 Bethink him over all things in his mind.

And thus, while life remains, while ’tis allowed

To see the light and change your life, before

The limit of allotted age o’ertake

You unawares, and that last day, which is

490 By death’s law fixt, your senseless eyes do glaze,

Seek what remains worth seeking: watchful be

For dear salvation; and run down with ease

And certainty the good course. Wipe away

By pious sacred rites your past misdeeds

495 Which expiation need; and shun the storms,

The too uncertain tempests, of the world.

Then turn to right paths, and keep sanctities.

Hence from your gladsome minds depraved crime

Quite banish; and let long-inveterate fault

500 Be washed forth from your breast; and do away

Wicked ill-stains contracted; and appease

Dread God by prayers eternal; and let all

Most evil mortal things to living good

Give way: and now at once a new life keep

505 Without a crime; and let your minds begin

To use themselves to good things and to true:

And render ready voices to God’s praise.

Thus shall your piety find better things

All growing to a flame; thus shall ye, too,

510 Receive the gifts of the celestial life;

And, to long age, shall ever live with God,

Seeing the starry kingdom’s golden joys.

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