Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant

DESCENT OF THE JUDGE AND HIS ANGELS.

METHOUGHT I journeyed o'er a boundless plain
Unbroke by hill or vale, on all sides stretched,
Like circling ocean to the low-browed sky;
Save in the midst a verdant mount, whose sides
Flowers of all hues and fragrant breath adorned
Lightly I trod, as on some joyous quest,
Page  40
Beneath the azure vault and early sun;
But while my pleased eyes ranged the circuit green,
New light shone round; a murmur came confused,
Like many voices and the rush of wings.
Upward I gazed, and mid the glittering skies,
Begirt by flying myriads, saw a throne,
Whose thousand splendours blazed upon the earth,
Refulgent as another sun. Through clouds
They came, and vapours coloured by Aurora,
Mingling in swell sublime, voices and harps,
And sounding wings and hallelujahs sweet.
Sudden a Seraph, that before them flew,
Pausing upon his wide-unfolded plumes,
Put to his mouth the likeness of a trump,
And towards the four winds four times fiercely breathed.
Doubling along the arch, the mighty peal
To Heaven resounded, Hell returned a groan,
And shuddering Earth a moment reeled, confounded
From her fixed pathway, as the staggering ship,
Stunned by some mountain billow, reels. The isles
With heaving ocean, rocked: the mountains shook
Their ancient coronets: the avalanche
Thundered: silence succeeded through the nations.
Earth never listened to a sound like this.
It struck the general pulse of nature still,
And broke for ever the dull sleep of death.
Now o'er the mount the radiant legions hung,
Like plumy travellers from climes remote
On some sequestered isle about to stoop.
Gently its flowery head received the throne;
Cherubs and Seraphs, by ten thousands, round
Skirted it far and wide, like a bright sea;
Fair forms and faces, crowns, and coronets,
And glistering wings furled white and numberless.
About their Lord were those Seven glorious Spirits
Who in the Almighty's presence stand. Four leaned
On golden wands, with folded wings, and eyes
Fixed on the throne: one bore the dreadful Books,
Page  41
The arbiters of life: another waved
The blazing ensign terrible, of yore,
To rebel angels in the wars of Heaven:
What seemed a trump the other Spirit grasped,
Of wondrous size, wreathed multiform and strange.
Illustrious stood the Seven, above the rest
Towering, and like a constellation glowing,
What time the sphere-instructed huntsman, taught
By Atlas, his star-studded belt displays
Aloft, bright-glittering, in the winter sky