Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘Lucifer’
By Joost van den Vondel (1587–1679)
Translation from the Cornhill Magazine
  [The scene of the drama is laid throughout in heaven. The actors are the angels. Lucifer has sent Apollyon to Eden to view the new-made man and woman, and to inquire into their state. Apollyon thus describes Eve.]

SEARCH all our angel bands, in beauty well arrayed,
They will but monsters seem, by the dawn-light of a maid.
  Beelzebub—It seems you burn in love for this new womankind!
  Apollyon—My great wing-feather in that amorous flame, I find
I’ve singed! ’Twas hard indeed to soar up from below,        5
To sweep, and reach the verge of Angel-borough so;
I parted, but with pain, and three times looked around:
There shines no seraph form in all the ethereal bound
Like hers, whose hanging hair, in golden glory, seems
To rush down from her head in a torrent of sunbeams,        10
And flow along her back. So clad in light and grace,
Stately she treads, and charms the daylight with her face:
Let pearls and mother o’ pearl their claims before her furl,
Her brightness passes far the beauty of a pearl!
  Beelzebub—But what can profit man this beauty that must fade,        15
And wither like a flower, and shortly be decayed?
  [Lucifer’s jealousy of the new race being aroused, he thus addresses his attendant angels.]

Swift spirits, let us stay the chariot of the dawn;
For high enough, in sooth, God’s morning star is drawn,—
Yea, driven up high enough! ’tis time for my great car
To yield before the advent of this double star,        20
That rises from below, and seeks, in sudden birth,
To tarnish heaven’s gold with splendor from the earth!
Embroider no more crowns on Lucifer’s attire,
And gild his forehead not with eminent dawn-fire
Of the morning star enrayed, that rapt archangels prize;        25
For see another blaze in the light of God arise!
The stars grow faint before the eyes of men below;
’Tis night with angels, and the heavens forget to glow.
  [The loyal angels, perceiving that a change has come over a number of their order, inquire into its cause.]

    Why seem the courteous angel-faces
      So red? Why streams the holy light        30
        So red upon our sight,
Through clouds and mists from mournful places?
        What vapor dares to blear
        The pure, unspotted, clear
        And luminous sapphire?        35
        The flame, the blaze, the fire
        Of the bright Omnipotence?
    Why does the splendid light of God
    Glow, deepened to the hue of blood,
      That late, in flowing hence,        40
        Gladdened all hearts?
  [The chorus answers.]

  When we, enkindled and uplifted
    By Gabriel’s trumpet, in new ways
      Began to chant God’s praise,
  The perfume of rose-gardens drifted        45
      Through paths of Paradise,
    And such a dew and such a spice
  Distilled, that all the flowery grass
  Rejoiced. But Envy soon, alas!
From the underworld came sneaking.        50
  A mighty crowd of spirits, pale
  And dumb and wan, came, tale on tale,
Displeased, some new thing seeking;
  With brows that crushed each scowling eye,
And happy foreheads bent and wrinkled:        55
  The doves of heaven, here on high,
Whose innocent pinions sweetly twinkled,
Are struck with mourning, one and all,
As though the heavens were far too small
For them, now Adam’s been elected,        60
And such a crown for man selected.
This blemish blinds the light of grace,
And dulls the flaming of God’s face.
  [Beelzebub, feigning submission to Deity, thus addresses the rebel angels.]

Oh, cease from wailing; rend your badges and your robes
No longer without cause, but make your faces bright,        65
And let your foreheads flash, O children of the light!
The shrill sweet throats, that thank the Deity with song,
Behold, and be ashamed that ye have mixed so long
Discords and bastard tones with music so divine.
  [They appeal from him to Lucifer.]

Forbid it, Lucifer, nor suffer that our ranks
Be mortified so low and sink without a crime,
While man, above us raised, may flash and beam sublime
In the very core of light, from which we seraphim
Pass quivering, full of pain, and fade like shadows dim….
We swear, by force, beneath thy glorious flag combined,        75
To set thee on the throne for Adam late designed!
We swear, with one accord, to stay thine arm forever:
Lift high thy battle-axe! our wounded rights deliver!
  [Gabriel relates to Michael the effect which the knowledge of the rebellion produced at the throne of God himself.]

I saw God’s very gladness with a cloud of woe
O’ershadowed; and there burst a flame out of the gloom        80
That pierced the eye of light, and hung, a brand of doom,
Ready to fall in rage. I heard the mighty cause
Where Mercy pleaded long with God’s all-righteous laws;
Grace, soothly wise and meek, with Justice arguing well.
I saw the cherubim, who on their faces fell,        85
And cried out, “Mercy, mercy! God, let Justice rest!”
But even as that shrill sound to his great footstool pressed,
And God seemed almost moved to pardon and to smile,
Up curled the odious smoke of incense harsh and vile,
Burned down below in praise of Lucifer, who rode        90
With censers and bassoons and many a choral ode:
The heaven withdrew its face from such impieties,
Cursèd of God and spirits and all the hierarchies.
  [The rebel angels form themselves into an army. They fight against Michael and his host, and are conquered. The victorious angels sing.]

      Blest be the hero’s hour,
      Who smote the godless power,        95
And his might, and his light, and his standard,
      Down toppling like a tower:
      His crown was near God’s own,
      But from his lofty throne,
With his might, into night he hath vanished;        100
      God’s name must shine alone.
      Outblazed the uproar fell,
      When valorous Michaël
With the brand in his hand quenched the passion
      Of spirits that dared rebel.        105
      He holds God’s banner now;
      With laurels crown his brow!
Peace shall reign here again, and her forehead
      Shall vanquished Discord bow.
      Amid the conquering throng        110
      Praises to God belong;
Honor bring to the King of all kingdoms!
      He gives us stuff for song.
  [After this, Gabriel enters bearing the tidings of man’s fall.]

  Gabriel—Alas! alas! alas! to adverse fortune bow!
What do ye here? In vain are songs of triumph now;        115
In vain of spoil of arms and gonfalons ye boast!
  Michael—What hear I, Gabriel?
  Gabriel—                Oh, Adam is fallen and lost!
The father and the stock of all the human race
Most grievously hath erred, and lies in piteous case.
  [Michael sends Uriel to drive the guilty pair out of Eden, and then thus pronounces the doom of the rebel angels.]

Ozias, to whose fist the very Godhead gave
The heavy hammer framed of diamond beaten out,
And chains of ruby, clamps, and teeth of metal stout,—
Go hence, and take and bind the hellish host that rage,
Lion and dragon fell, whose banners dared to wage
War with us thus. Speed swift on their accursèd flight,        125
And bind them neck and claw, and fetter them with might.
The key which to the gates of their foul pit was fitted
Is, Azarias, now into thy care committed;
Go hence, and thrust therein all that our power defied.
Maceda, take this torch I to your zeal confide,        130
And flame the sulphur-pool in the centre of the world:
There torture Lucifer, and leave his body curled
In everlasting fire, with many a prince accursed;
Where Sorrow, wretched Pain, numb Horror, Hunger, Thirst,
Despair without a hope, and Conscience with her sting,        135
May measure out their meed of endless suffering.

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