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("SOSPETTO D'HERODE," FROM STS. v.-xIx.)
BELOW the bottom of the great Abyss,
There where one centre reconciles all things:
The World's profound heart pants; there placed is
Mischief's old master. Close about him clings
A curl'd knot of embracing snakes, that kiss
His correspondent cheeks: these loathsome strings
Hold the perverse prince in eternal ties
Fast bound, since first he forfeited the skies.
The judge of torments and the king of tears,
He fills a burnish'd throne of quenchless fire: And for his old fair robes of light, he wears
A gloomy mantle of dark flames; the tire
That crowns his hated head on high appears :
Where seven tall horns (his empire's pride) aspire.
And to make up Hell's majesty, each horn
Seven crested Hydras horribly adorn.
His eyes, the sullen dens of Death and Night,
Startle the dull air with a dismal red :
Such his fell glances, as the fatal light
Of staring comets, that look kingdoms dead.
From his black nostrils, and blue lips, in spite
Of Hell's own stink, a worser stench is spread.
His breath Hell's lightning is: and each deep groan
Disdains to think that Heaven thunders alone.
Disdainful wretch! how hath one bold sin cost
Thee all the beauties of thy once bright eyes!
How hath one black eclipse cancell'd, and crost
The glories that did gild thee in thy rise!
Proud morning of a perverse day! how lost.
Art thou unto thyself, thou too self-wise
Narcissus! foolish Phaeton! who for all
Thy high-aim'd hopes, gain'dst but a flaming fall.
From Death's sad shades to the life-breathing air,
This mortal enemy to mankind's good,
Lifts his malignant eyes, wasted with care,
To become beautiful in human blood.
Where Jordan melts his crystal, to make fair
The fields of Palestine, with so pure a flood,
There does he fix his eyes: and there detect
New matter, to make good his great suspect.
He calls to mind th' old quarrel, and what spark
Set the contending sons of Heaven on fire:
Oft in his deep thought he revolves the dark
Sybil's divining leaves: he does inquire
Into th' old prophecies, trembling to mark
How many present prodigies conspire,
To crown their past predictions, both he lays
Together, in his pond'rous mind both weighs.
Heaven's golden-wingèd herald, late he saw
To a poor Galilean virgin sent:
How low the bright youth bowed, and with what awe
Immortal flowers to her fair hand present.
He saw th' old Hebrew's womb neglect the law
Of age and barrenness, and her babe prevent
His birth by his devotion, who began
Betimes to be a saint, before a man.
He saw rich nectar-thaws release the rigour
Of th' icy North; from frost-bound Atlas' hands
His adamantine fetters fall: green vigour
Glad'ning the Scythian rocks and Libyan sands.
He saw a vernal smile sweetly disfigure
Winter's sad face, and through the flow'ry lands
Of fair Engaddi, honey-sweating fountains
With manna, milk, and balm, new-broach the moun-
He saw how, in that blest Day-bearing Night,
The Heaven-rebukèd shades made haste away;
How bright a dawn of angels with new light
Amazed the midnight world, and made a Day
Of which the Morning knew not. Mad with spite
He mark'd how the poor shepherds ran to pay
Their simple tribute to the Babe, Whose birth
Was the great business both of Heaven and Earth.
He saw a threefold Sun, with rich increase,
Make proud the ruby portals of the East. He saw the Temple sacred to sweet Peace,
Adore her Prince's birth, flat on her breast. He saw the falling idols, all confess
A coming Deity: He saw the nest
Of pois'nous and unnatural loves, Earth-nursed,
Touch'd with the World's true antidote, to burst. 80
He saw Heaven blossom with a new-born light,
On which, as on a glorious stranger, gazed
The golden eyes of Night: whose beam made bright
The way to Bethle'm and as boldly blazed,
(Nor ask'd leave of the sun) by day as night.
By whom (as Heaven's illustrious handmaid) raised, Three kings (or what is more) three wise men went Westward to find the World's true orient.