Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
The Law Given at Sinai
By Thomas Dawes (1757–1825)
  THROUGH heaven’s high courts the trump eternal roars—
Lift up your heads ye everlasting doors;
And wait the God of gods!—Lo, at the sound,
Wide fly the portals, blazing all around.
And see he comes! adown the rending skies,        5
Borne on the whirlwind’s rapid wing he flies,
Cherub and seraphim prepare his way,
Black thunder rolls and livid lightnings play.
Heaven’s radiant bow his awful head arrays,
His face the sun’s refulgent beam displays;        10
Beneath his feet the avenging bolts are hurl’d,
The avenging bolts that shake a guilty world.—
Sounds but his dread command, when down they fly,
The deep-mouth’d thunder rends the vaulted sky;
All nature trembles as they issue down,        15
Deep groans the earth, her utmost regions groan.
  And lo, on Sinai’s top descends the God,
That wrapt in tempest, trembled as he trod.
Flame, smoke, and whirlwind clothe its awful brow,
While earthquake heaves the groaning base below.        20
Tremendous scene, oh how shall men withstand,
When God in thunder gives the world command!
And hark! the trumpet’s intermitted sound
Roars from the mount and shakes all nature round.
“I am the King of Kings, the Lord of all,        25
At whose dread shrine even Gods in honor fall:
By whom creation rose, divinely fair,
Who form’d the stars, and launch’d them in the air:
Whose mighty nod the rough tumultuous sea,
The whirlwind’s sweep, and rending bolt obey.        30
I speak—and lo ten thousand thunders roll—
I breathe—and lightning gleams from pole to pole.
The Almighty is my name—at my command
Thick darkness rose that veil’d the Memphian land.
Empower’d by me, your leader smote the main,        35
And call’d up plagues that poison’d all their plain;
That e’en the earth and air, which gave them birth,
Conspired and smote them with enormous death.—
I spake the word, asunder Jordan rode,
That Israel o’er its dry foundations trod.—        40
Egypt pursued, I bade the same dread wave
Roll back, and whelm their millions in a grave.
’Twas said—the raging elements combined,
The rushing tempest and the warring wind;
Till own’d too late a God’s superior power,        45
They sunk in depths, and sunk to rise no more!
  Still would ye have the assistance of that God
Continued through a life’s perplexing road;
That when at last the heavens and earth expire,
And nature rolls in one devouring fire,        50
Ye might in transport view the advancing hour,
In transport hear the last dread thunders roar;
Then like the day emerging from the gloom,
Arise to flourish in eternal bloom—
With due respect, with holy awe receive        55
Those institutions which your God will give!—
For this he trod the unhallow’d realms below,
In all the pomp the powers of heaven could show.
*      *      *      *      *      *
Thus spake the Legislator of the sky—
And earth’s long shores return the loud reply.        60
Peal push’d on peal, the doubling thunders roar,
Bellow the winds—the flamy lightnings glare.—
*      *      *      *      *      *
  Such shall the scene be at that dreadful time,
When the last trump shall sound his wrath sublime:
That potent trump which every head shall call        65
From each dark chamber of the bursting ball.
Then at the flames which in his nostrils glow,
The everlasting hills in streams shall flow—
The affrighted sun shall from yon arch retire,
Shook from his sphere, and help the general fire.—        70
Yon moon in blood! then every star shall fall,
In rude combustion o’er a flaming ball:
Creation sunk, and all God’s thunder hurl’d
Down on the wrecks of each expiring world.
  But where ’s the muse?—behold the Almighty rise:        75
The whirlwind bears him up the flaming skies.
Follow harmonious all the tuneful choir,
Sweet concert sweeping from the swelling lyre.
Such notes as at creation’s birth they sung,
When heaven’s broad arch with hallelujahs rung.        80
Hark—at the strain the enraptured spheres rebound;
And laboring echo lengthens out the sound.
“Lift up your heads, celestial gates!” they sing:
And see—they open to receive the king.
The expecting host their loudest accents raise—        85
“Eternal God, how glorious are thy ways!
O for some great, some more than angel song,
To speak the praises which to thee belong!
Imagination faints on this great scene;
Thought is too low, and majesty too mean:        90
So great thy condescension thus to own
Vile man, the meanest prostrate at thy throne
May from his grateful altar ever rise
A glad perfume of incense to the skies.”

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