Posted by ricardo marcenaro | Posted in Poetry: Lord Byron - The Vision Of Judgment - Part 4 - Poem LI to LXIX - Links to more Byron | Posted on 10:58
Here Michael interposed: "Good saint! and devil!
Pray, not so fast; you both outrun discretion.
Saint Peter! you were wont to be more civil:
Satan! excuse this warmth of his expression,
And condescension to the vulgar's level:
Even saints sometimes forget themselves in session.
Have you got more to say?" -- "No." -- "If you please,
I'll trouble you to call your witnesses."
Then Satan turn'd and waved his swarthy hand,
Which stirr'd with its electric qualities
Clouds farther off than we can understand,
Although we find him sometimes in our skies;
Infernal thunder shook both sea and land
In all the planets, and hell's batteries
Let off the artillery, which Milton mentions
As one of Satan's most sublime inventions.
This was a signal unto such damn'd souls
As have the privilege of their damnation
Extended far beyond the mere controls
Of worlds past, present, or to come; no station
Is theirs particularly in the rolls
Of hell assign'd; but where their inclination
Or business carries them in search of game,
They may range freely -- being damn'd the same.
They are proud of this -- as very well they may,
It being a sort of knighthood, or gilt key
Stuck in their loins; or like to an /"entré"/
Up the back stairs, or such freemasonry.
I borrow my comparisons from clay,
Being clay myself. Let not those spirits be
Offended with such base low likenesses;
We know their posts are nobler far than these.
When the great signal ran from heaven to hell --
About ten million times the distance reckon'd
From our sun to its earth, as we can tell
How much time it takes up, even to a second
For every ray that travels to dispel
The fogs of London, through which, dimly beacon'd,
The weathercocks are gilt some thrice a year,
If that the /summer/ is not too severe.
I say that I can tell -- 'twas half a minute:
I know the solar beams take up more time
Ere, pack'd up for their journey, they begin it;
But then their telegraph is less sublime,
And if they ran a race, they would not win it
'Gainst Satan's couriers bound for their own clime.
The sun takes up some years for every ray
To reach its goal -- the devil not half a day.
Upon the verge of space, about the size
Of half-a-crown, a little speck appear'd
(I've seen a something like it in the skies
In the Ægean, ere a squall); it near'd,
And growing bigger, took another guise;
Like an aërial ship, it tack'd and steer'd,
Or /was/ steer'd (I am doubtful of the grammar
Of the last phrase, which makes the stanzas stammer; --
But take your choice); and then it grew a cloud;
And so it was -- a cloud of witnesses.
But such a cloud! No land e'er saw a crowd
Of locusts numerous as the heavens saw these;
They shadow'd with their myriads space; their loud
And varied cries were like those of wild geese
(If nations may be liken'd to a goose),
And realised the phrase of "hell broke loose."
Here crash'd a sturdy oath of stout John Bull,
Who damn'd away his eyes as heretofore:
There Paddy brogued "By Jasus!" -- "What's your wull?"
The temperate Scot exclaim'd: the French ghost swore
In certain terms I shan't translate in full,
As the first coachman will; and 'midst the war,
The voice of Jonathan was heard to express,
/"Our/ president is going to war, I guess."
Besides, there were the Spaniard, Dutch, and Dane;
In short, an universal shoal of shades,
From Otaheite's isle to Salisbury Plain,
Of all climes and professions, years and trades,
Ready to swear against the good king's reign,
Bitter as clubs in cards are against spades:
All summon'd by this grand "subpoena," to
Try if kings mayn't be damn'd like me or you.
When Michael saw this host, he first grew pale,
As angels can; next, like Italian twilight,
He turn'd all colours -- as a peacock's tail,
Or sunset streaming through a Gothic skylight
In some old abbey, or a trout not stale,
Or distant lightning on the horizon /by/ night,
Or a fresh rainbow, or a grand review
Of thirty regiments in red, green, and blue.
Then he address'd himself to Satan: "Why,
My good old friend -- for such I deem you, though
Our different parties make us fight so shy,
I ne'er mistake you for a /personal/ foe;
Our difference is /political,/ and I
Trust that, whatever may occur below,
You know my great respect for you: and this
Makes me regret whate'er you do amiss --
"Why, my dear Lucifer, would you abuse
My call for witnesses? I did not mean
That you should half of earth and hell produce;
'Tis even superfluous, since two honest, clean,
True testimonies are enough: we lose
Our time, nay, our eternity, between
The accusation and defence: if we
Hear both, 'twill stretch our immortality."
Satan replied, "To me the matter is
Indifferent, in a personal point of view:
I can have fifty better souls than this
With far less trouble than we have gone through
Already; and I merely argued his
Late majesty of Britain's case with you
Upon a point of form: you may dispose
Of him; I've kings enough below, God knows!"
Thus spoke the Demon (late call'd "multifaced"
By multo-scribbling Southey). "Then we'll call
One or two persons of the myriads placed
Around our congress, and dispense with all
The rest," quoth Michael. "Who may be so graced
As to speak first? there's choice enough -- who shall
It be?" Then Satan answer'd, "There are many;
But you may choose Jack Wilkes as well as any."
A merry, cock-eyed, curious-looking sprite
Upon the instant started from the throng,
Dress'd in a fashion now forgotten quite;
For all the fashions of the flesh stick long
By people in the next world; where unite,
All the costumes since Adam's, right or wrong,
From Eve's fig-leaf down to the petticoat,
Almost as scanty, of days less remote.
The spirit look'd around upon the crowds
Assembled, and exclaim'd, "My friends of all
The sphere, we shall catch cold amongst these clouds:
So let's to business: why this general call?
If those are freeholders I see in shrouds,
And 'tis for an election that they bawl,
Behold a candidate with unturn'd coat!
Saint Peter, may I count upon your vote?"
"Sir," replied Michael, "you mistake; these things
Are of a former life, and what we do
Above is more august; to judge of kings
Is the tribunal met: so now you know."
"Then I presume those gentlemen with wings,"
Said Wilkes, "are cherubs; and that soul below
Looks much like George the Third, but to my mind
A good deal older -- Bless me! is he blind?"
"He is what you behold him, and his doom
Depends upon his deeds," the Angel said.
"If you have aught to arraign in him, the tomb
Gives license to the humblest beggar's head
To lift itself against the loftiest." -- "Some,"
Said Wilkes, "don't wait to see them laid in lead
For such a liberty -- and I, for one,
Have told them what I thought beneath the sun."
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