Hell's gates together swung with awful clang.
Through them had passed the monarch of the realm,
Who from the world above, the abodes of men,
With swiftest wings had flown; but quick as thought
His robes of light were changed to sealy folds,
That, serpent-like, cling sinuous about
His towering form,--that form still bearing marks
That might adorn a hierarch of high heaven,
But where the brow serene should beam frown black
Furrows of malice and hate. He stood
On the swaying floor, through which, from the lake
That burned beneath, broke flame and smoke, that filled
The high arched vault with shapes fantastic, like
To hideous monsters, writhing and wrangling
In endless woe. Standing one moment there,
A loathing look he cast around, and stamped
Upon the quaking floor until all Hell
Rung with the infernal knell. Then high his voice
He raised in stern command, "Spirits, assemble!
Your welfare is at stake. Haste! I command!
Your well-known stations take!" He turned towards
His ebon throne, where, on either side, two
Mighty monsters crouched. Earthquakes they were most
Powerful, of sullen mien, who drew whole
Cities into their embrace, thus peopling Hell,
Enlarging its domain; and seated there,
A canopy beneath of serpents linked,
With fiery eyes protruding, whose most
Venemous poison pollutes still more,
If that might be, the hot and horrid air,
Though tortured, yet in semblance calm he waits
The gath'ring throng.
As if by magic dire,
From every part of that dread place they came,
Pouring forth beings strange, of every shape
And hue, with tangled hair and frenzied eyes,
Led on by Death in cerements of fire.
His sword a flame snatched from below; his face
Dark, with cavernous sockets, where gleam eyes
Of unabated wrath and fell design,
Above which blazed a hideous crown
Of grinning skulls aflame. Onward they came,
And over all most horrid creatures flew,
With bat-like wings, and on the scragged walls
Above perched, where, cormorant-like, they scream
With hellish delight. When all at last stood
Flanked on either side, circling round the throne,
Tier beyond tier, Satan arose, and said:
"I come from the world above, the abodes of men,
From those beings so late by God create
To people Paradise, but whom we did
Persuade to people Hell. Although a curse
God then pronounced, still we triumphed, nor lack
Not courage yet to cope with him, to thwart
His plans, or turn them to our account,
As we do now this new design of his
To wrest from us the power we then did gain,
By sending his Son to become a man,
And like one to die, in order to break
The bars of death, that those poor hell-doomed souls
May, by simple faith in His divinity,
Pass through the open doors, back to that heaven
From whence they came; while we are to be thrust
Down into the depths, the bottomless pit,
"Shall we like coward miscreants
Submit? By all the combined powers of Hell, no!
Let us forge new bolts and bars, of such strength
That not God himself shall break; and His Son--
Hear ye?--His Son hold as hostage for our
Redemption from this horrid place." Then cheer
On cheer from tortured throats arose, and cries,
"Mighty monarch, forge the bolts, forge the bolts!"
All was tumult. Death raised his flaming sword
On high, and in sepulchral tones he spoke:
"Methinks I heard aright. Saidst thou not
That man, of woman born, should enter here,
And with his arm of flesh would break these bars
That I have wrought, and then escape? Fear not,
I'll guard these gates like that great angel who
Did guard the gates of Paradise; but, lest
There might be some weak point, we'll forge new bolts
And bars, as thou hast said, and heat them--yes,
Heat them--ten times hotter than e'er before
In the undying flame." Then Satan, Death,
And all those hideous beings, with screams
Of wild infernal laughter, mingled with
The roar of flame and earthquake's sudden shock,
Descend in horrid mass to realms below.
The first faint gleam of golden day broke through
The shadows of the last dread night that Christ,
The Son of God, did spend upon the earth.
From that great city that killed the prophets,
And stoned those sent unto it,--Jerusalem,--
The shadows slowly lift, until the place
Where the annointed one sits, scoffed and spit
Upon, grows light; and when the glorious orb,
The eye of God, shoots forth its first bright ray,
It falls upon the low-bowed head, a crown
Of golden light, which spreads, illumining
The place. Thus early the pitiless guard
Haste to the chief priests Him to falsify,
To accuse of sin, with the derisive throng
To bear him, like a criminal, before
Pilate's bar, to be sentenced to a death
Ignominious, between two thieves, scourged
And mocked, wearing a crown of piercing thorns.
To Golgotha He ascends, where, nailed
On the cruel cross, he is lifted up,
Drawing the world to him. Weighed down at length
By suffering mid the prolonged darkness, He
Lifts his voice, and cries once, nay, twice, upon
The living God, and yieldeth up the ghost.
Then the temple's veil is rent, and the saints
From their entombment do rise, and appear
In that city unto the dwellers there.
The earth doth quake, the rocks are rent in twain.
Then those who far and near stood watching feared,
And said, "Truly, this was the Son of God!"
Satan once more convenes the hosts of Hell;
Proclaims that Christ is crucified, and soon
Will enter there. The assembled throng stand
In solid phalanx, battle-armed. E'en those
Huge monsters that crouch beside the ebon throne
Assume a threat'ning attitude, and thrust
With fierce defiance forth their powerful arms.
Under the hissing canopy, venemous
Satan sits enthroned, with powers concentrate
On despairing hope, for too well he knows
The doubtful issue of his infernal plot.
As he in well-assumed defiance waits,
His scaly robes emit strange lights intense,
While scintillating rays shoot from his brows
Liked forked lightnings from a threat'ning cloud.
All eyes are turned towards the new barred gates,
Where Death, a being most terrific, stands.
His right arm, brandishing his sword of flame,
Is raised on high, while 'neath his crown of skulls
A flame, his eyes, with expectation wild
And deadly hate, protrude. His left hand grasps
A chain doubly linked and newly wrought, strong
With fetters, which he--oh, most horrid thought--
Doth destine Christ, the Son of God, to wear.
Thus arrayed they stand, when, like a meteor's
Sudden flash, the gates of Death and Hell spring
Open wide, and Christ the crucified
Appears, with cherubim and seraphim,
In clouds of light that circle far above,
As heaven, where God on his celestial throne
In majesty arrayed, sits smiling down
On His beloved Son.
Satan, Death, and Hell
Stand paralyzed, transfixed. All their boasted
Power combined, and forged chain, and bolts and bars,
Are nought, arrayed against his will supreme.
The glittering lights and flashing flames
That shone at first so fiercely bright before
The radiance sublime that beamed from God's
Transcendent countenance, were utter darkness.
Silence in that dread abode for one short
Moment reigned. The lake below ceased to burn.
Christ moved not, till suddenly, lifting his hands
On high, he spoke in tones that penetrate
E'en through that terror-stricken throng, and said:
"Down with thy chains into the gulf below!
Sink from our sight now and for evermore!"
Then Satan, Death, and all that armed throng
Of spirits fell with one most awful crash
Into the open jaws of deepest Hell.