Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
Hymn to Darkness
By John Norris (1657–1711)
  HAIL, thou most sacred venerable thing!
    What Muse is worthy thee to sing?
  Thee, from whose pregnant universal womb
  All things, even Light, thy rival, first did come.
  What dares he not attempt that sings of thee,        5
    Thou first and greatest mystery?
  Who can the secrets of thy essence tell?
Thou, like the light of God, art inaccessible.
  Before great Love this monument did raise,
    This ample theatre of praise;        10
  Before the folding circles of the sky
  Were tuned by Him who is all harmony;
  Before the morning stars their hymn began
    Before the council held for man;
  Before the birth of either Time or Place        15
Thou reign’st unquestioned monarch in the empty space.
  Thy native lot thou didst to Light resign,
    But still half of the globe is thine.
  Here with a quiet, and yet awful hand,
  Like the best emperors, thou dost command.        20
  To thee the stars above the brightness owe,
    And mortals their repose below.
  To thy protection Fear and Sorrow flee
And those that weary are of light find rest in thee.
  Though light and glory be th’ Almighty’s throne,        25
    Darkness is his pavilion.
  From that his radiant beauty, but from thee
  He has his terrour and his majesty.
  Thus when he first proclaimed his sacred law,
    And would his rebel subjects awe,        30
  Like princes on some great solemnity,
H’ appeared in ’s robes of state and clad himself with thee.
  The blest above do thy sweet umbrage prize,
    When, cloyed with light, they veil their eyes;
  The vision of the Deity is made        35
  More sweet and beatific by thy shade.
  But we, poor tenants of this orb below
    Don’t here thy excellencies know,
  Till death our understandings does improve
And then our wiser ghosts thy silent night-walks love.        40
  But thee I now admire, thee would I choose
    For my religion, or my Muse.
  ’Tis hard to tell whether thy reverend shade
  Has more good votaries or poets made,
  From thy dark caves were inspirations given,        45
    And from thick groves went vows to Heaven.
  Hail then, thou Muse’s and devotion’s spring!
’Tis just we should adore, ’tis just we should thee sing.

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