Contrasted Songs: Song For The Night Of Christ's Resurrection

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(A Humble Imitation)
“And birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.”

It is the noon of night,
And the world’s Great Light
Gone out, she widow-like doth carry her:
The moon hath veiled her face,
Nor looks on that dread place
Where He lieth dead in sealed sepulchre;
And heaven and hades, emptied, lend
Their flocking multitudes to watch and wait the end.
Tier above tier they rise,
Their wings new line the skies,
And shed out comforting light among the stars;
But they of the other place
The heavenly signs deface,
The gloomy brand of hell their brightness mars;
Yet high they sit in throned state,—­
It is the hour of darkness to them dedicate.
And first and highest set,
Where the black shades are met,
The lord of night and hades leans him down;
His gleaming eyeballs show
More awful than the glow,
Which hangeth by the points of his dread crown;
And at his feet, where lightnings play,
The fatal sisters sit and weep, and curse their day.
Lo! one, with eyes all wide,
As she were sight denied,
Sits blindly feeling at her distaff old;
One, as distraught with woe,
Letting the spindle go,
Her stary sprinkled gown doth shivering fold;
And one right mournful hangs her head,
Complaining, “Woe is me! I may not cut the thread.
“All men of every birth,
Yea, great ones of the earth,
Kings and their councillors, have I drawn down;
But I am held of Thee,
Why dost Thou trouble me,
To bring me up, dead King, that keep’ st Thy crown?
Yet for all courtiers hast but ten
Lowly, unlettered, Galilean fishermen.
“Olympian heights are bare
Of whom men worshipped there,
Immortal feet their snows may print no more;
Their stately powers below
Lie desolate, nor know
This thirty years Thessalian grove or shore;
But I am elder far than they;
Where is the sentence writ that I must pass away?
“Art thou come up for this,
Dark regent, awful Dis?
And hast thou moved the deep to mark our ending?
And stirred the dens beneath,
To see us eat of death,
With all the scoffing heavens toward us bending?
Help! powers of ill, see not us die!”
But neither demon dares, nor angel deigns, reply.
Her sisters, fallen on sleep,
Fade in the upper deep,
And their grim lord sits on, in doleful trance;
Till her black veil she rends,
And with her death-shriek bends
Downward the terrors of her countenance;
Then, whelmed in night and no more seen,
They leave the world a doubt if ever such have been.
And the winged armies twain
Their awful watch maintain;
They mark the earth at rest with her Great Dead.
Behold, from antres wide,
Green Atlas heave his side;
His moving woods their scarlet clusters shed,
The swathing coif his front that cools,
And tawny lions lapping at his palm-edged pools.
Then like a heap of snow,
Lying where grasses grow,
See glimmering, while the moony lustres creep,
Mild mannered Athens, dight
In dewy marbles white,
Among her goddesses and gods asleep;
And swaying on a purple sea,
The many moored galleys clustering at her quay.
Also, ‘neath palm-trees’ shade,
Amid their camels laid,
The pastoral tribes with all their flocks at rest;
Like to those old-world folk,
With whom two angels broke
The bread of men at Abram’s courteous ’quest,
When, listening as they prophesied,
His desert princess, being reproved, her laugh denied.
Or from the Morians’ land
See worshipped Nilus bland,
Taking the silver road he gave the world,
To wet his ancient shrine
With waters held divine,
And touch his temple steps with wavelets curled,
And list, ere darkness change to gray,
Old minstrel-throated Memnon chanting in the day.
Moreover, Indian glades,
Where kneel the sun-swart maids,
On Gunga’s flood their votive flowers to throw,
And launch in the sultry night
Their burning cressets bright,
Most like a fleet of stars that southing go,
Till on her bosom prosperously
She floats them shining forth to sail the lulled sea.
Nor bend they not their eyne
Where the watch-fires shine,
By shepherds fed, on hills of Bethlehem:
They mark, in goodly wise,
The city of David rise,
The gates and towers of rare Jerusalem;
And hear the ’scaped Kedron fret,
And night dews dropping from the leaves of Olivet.
But now the setting moon
To curtained lands must soon,
In her obedient fashion, minister;
She first, as loath to go,
Lets her last silver flow
Upon her Master’s sealed sepulchre;
And trees that in the gardens spread,
She kisseth all for sake of His low-lying head,
Then ’neath the rim goes down;
And night with darker frown
Sinks on the fateful garden watched long;
When some despairing eyes,
Far in the murky skies,
The unwished waking by their gloom foretell;
And blackness up the welkin swings,
And drinks the mild effulgence from celestial wings.
Last, with amazed cry,
The hosts asunder fly,
Leaving an empty gulf of blackest hue;
Whence straightway shooteth down,
By the Great Father thrown,
A mighty angel, strong and dread to view;
And at his fall the rocks are rent,
The waiting world doth quake with mortal tremblement;
The regions far and near
Quail with a pause of fear,
More terrible than aught since time began;
The winds, that dare not fleet,
Drop at his awful feet,
And in its bed wails the wide ocean;
The flower of dawn forbears to blow,
And the oldest running river cannot skill to flow.
At stand, by that dread place,
He lifts his radiant face,
And looks to heaven with reverent love and fear;
Then, while the welkin quakes,
The muttering thunder breaks,
And lightnings shoot and ominous meteors drear,
And all the daunted earth doth moan,
He from the doors of death rolls back the sealed stone.
In regal quiet deep,
Lo, One new waked from sleep!
Behold, He standeth in the rock-hewn door!
Thy children shall not die,
Peace, peace, thy Lord is by!
He liveth!­they shall live for evermore.
Peace! lo, He lifts a priestly hand,
And blesseth all the sons of men in every land.
Then, with great dread and wail,
Fall down, like storms of hail,
The legions of the lost in fearful wise;
And they whose blissful race
Peoples the better place,
Lift up their wings to cover their fair eyes,
And through the waxing saffron brede,
Till they are lost in light, recede, and yet recede.
So while the fields are dim,
And the red sun his rim
First heaves, in token of his reign benign,
All stars the most admired,
Into their blue retired,
Lie hid, the faded moon forgets to shine,
And, hurrying down the sphery way,
Night flies, and sweeps her shadows from the paths of day.
But look! the Saviour blest,
Calm after solemn rest,
Stands in the garden ’neath His olive boughs;
The earliest smile of day
Doth on His vesture play,
And light the majesty of His still brows;
While angels hang with wings outspread,
Holding the new-won crown above His saintly head.

© Jean Ingelow