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Vision of Judgment, The Analysis

Author: Poetry of George Gordon, Lord Byron Type: Poetry Views: 1392

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Saint Peter sat by the celestial gate:

His keys were rusty, and the lock was dull,

So little trouble had been given of late;

Not that the place by any means was full,

But since the Gallic era 'eight-eight'

The devils had ta'en a longer, stronger pull,

And 'a pull altogether,' as they say

At sea — which drew most souls another way.


The angels all were singing out of tune,

And hoarse with having little else to do,

Excepting to wind up the sun and moon,

Or curb a runaway young star or two,

Or wild colt of a comet, which too soon

Broke out of bounds o'er th' ethereal blue,

Splitting some planet with its playful tail,

As boats are sometimes by a wanton whale.


The guardian seraphs had retired on high,

Finding their charges past all care below;

Terrestrial business fill'd nought in the sky

Save the recording angel's black bureau;

Who found, indeed, the facts to multiply

With such rapidity of vice and woe,

That he had stripp'd off both his wings in quills,

And yet was in arrear of human ills.


His business so augmented of late years,

That he was forced, against his will no doubt,

(Just like those cherubs, earthly ministers,)

For some resource to turn himself about,

And claim the help of his celestial peers,

To aid him ere he should be quite worn out

By the increased demand for his remarks:

Six angels and twelve saints were named his clerks.


This was a handsome board — at least for heaven;

And yet they had even then enough to do,

So many conqueror's cars were daily driven,

So many kingdoms fitted up anew;

Each day too slew its thousands six or seven,

Till at the crowning carnage, Waterloo,

They threw their pens down in divine disgust —

The page was so besmear'd with blood and dust.


This by the way: 'tis not mine to record

What angels shrink from: even the very devil

On this occasion his own work abhorr'd,

So surfeited with the infernal revel:

Though he himself had sharpen'd every sword,

It almost quench'd his innate thirst of evil.

(Here Satan's sole good work deserves insertion —

'Tis, that he has both generals in reveration.)


Let's skip a few short years of hollow peace,

Which peopled earth no better, hell as wont,

And heaven none — they form the tyrant's lease,

With nothing but new names subscribed upon't;

'Twill one day finish: meantime they increase,

'With seven heads and ten horns,' and all in front,

Like Saint John's foretold beast; but ours are born

Less formidable in the head than horn.


In the first year of freedom's second dawn

Died George the Third; although no tyrant, one

Who shielded tyrants, till each sense withdrawn

Left him nor mental nor external sun:

A better farmer ne'er brush'd dew from lawn,

A worse king never left a realm undone!

He died — but left his subjects still behind,

One half as mad — and t'other no less blind.


He died! his death made no great stir on earth:

His burial made some pomp; there was profusion

Of velvet, gilding, brass, and no great dearth

Of aught but tears — save those shed by collusion.

For these things may be bought at their true worth;

Of elegy there was the due infusion —

Bought also; and the torches, cloaks, and banners,

Heralds, and relics of old Gothic manners,


Form'd a sepulchral melo-drame. Of all

The fools who flack's to swell or see the show,

Who cared about the corpse? The funeral

Made the attraction, and the black the woe.

There throbbed not there a thought which pierced the pall;

And when the gorgeous coffin was laid low,

It seamed the mockery of hell to fold

The rottenness of eighty years in gold.


So mix his body with the dust! It might

Return to what it must far sooner, were

The natural compound left alone to fight

Its way back into earth, and fire, and air;

But the unnatural balsams merely blight

What nature made him at his birth, as bare

As the mere million's base unmarried clay —

Yet all his spices but prolong decay.


He's dead — and upper earth with him has done;

He's buried; save the undertaker's bill,

Or lapidary scrawl, the world is gone

For him, unless he left a German will:

But where's the proctor who will ask his son?

In whom his qualities are reigning still,

Except that household virtue, most uncommon,

Of constancy to a bad, ugly woman.


'God save the king!' It is a large economy

In God to save the like; but if he will

Be saving, all the better; for not one am I

Of those who think damnation better still:

I hardly know too if not quite alone am I

In this small hope of bettering future ill

By circumscribing, with some slight restriction,

The eternity of hell's hot jurisdiction.


I know this is unpopular; I know

'Tis blasphemous; I know one may be damned

For hoping no one else may ever be so;

I know my catechism; I know we're caromed

With the best doctrines till we quite o'erflow;

I know that all save England's church have shamm'd,

And that the other twice two hundred churches

And synagogues have made a damn'd bad purchase.


God help us all! God help me too! I am,

God knows, as helpless as the devil can wish,

And not a whit more difficult to damn,

Than is to bring to land a late-hook'd fish,

Or to the butcher to purvey the lamb;

Not that I'm fit for such a noble dish,

As one day will be that immortal fry

Of almost everybody born to die.


Saint Peter sat by the celestial gate,

And nodded o'er his keys; when, lo! there came

A wondrous noise he had not heard of late —

A rushing sound of wind, and stream, and flame;

In short, a roar of things extremely great,

Which would have made aught save a saint exclaim;

But he, with first a start and then a wink,

Said, 'There's another star gone out, I think!'


But ere he could return to his repose,

A cherub flapp'd his right wing o'er his eyes —

At which St. Peter yawn'd, and rubb'd his hose:

'Saint porter,' said the angel, 'prithee rise!'

Waving a goodly wing, which glow'd, as glows

An earthly peacock's tail, with heavenly dyes;

To which the saint replied, 'Well, what's the matter?

'Is Lucifer come back with all this clatter?'


'No,' quoth the cherub; 'George the Third is dead.'

'And who is George the Third?' replied the apostle;

'What George? what Third?' 'The king of England,' said

The angel. 'Well, he won't find kings to jostle

Him on his way; but does he wear his head?

Because the last we saw here had a tussle,

And ne'er would have got into heaven's good graces,

Had he not flung his head in all our faces.


'He was, if I remember, king of France;

That head of his, which could not keep a crown

On earth, yet ventured in my face to advance

A claim to those of martyrs — like my own:

If I had had my sword, as I had once

When I cut ears off, I had cut him down;

But having but my keys, and not my brand,

I only knock'd his head from out his hand.


'And then he set up such a headless howl,

That all the saints came out and took him in;

And there he sits by St. Paul, cheek by jowl;

That fellow Paul— the parvenω! The skin

Of St. Bartholomew, which makes his cowl

In heaven, and upon earth redeem'd his sin,

So as to make a martyr, never sped

Better than did this weak and wooden head.


'But had it come up here upon its shoulders,

There would have been a different tale to tell;

The fellow-feeling in the saint's beholders

Seems to have acted on them like a spell,

And so this very foolish head heaven solders

Back on its trunk: it may be very well,

And seems the custom here to overthrow

Whatever has been wisely done below.'


The angel answer'd, 'Peter! do not pout:

The king who comes has head and all entire,

And never knew much what it was about —

He did as doth the puppet — by its wire,

And will be judged like all the rest, no doubt:

My business and your own is not to inquire

Into such matters, but to mind our cue —

Which is to act as we are bid to do.'


While thus they spake, the angelic caravan,

Arriving like a rush of mighty wind,

Cleaving the fields of space, as doth the swan

Some silver stream (say Ganges, Nile, or Inde,

Or Thames, or Tweed), and 'midst them an old man

With an old soul, and both extremely blind,

Halted before the gate, and in his shroud

Seated their fellow traveller on a cloud.


But bringing up the rear of this bright host

A Spirit of a different aspect waves

His wings, like thunder-clouds above some coast

Whose barren beach with frequent wrecks is paved;

His brow was like the deep when tempest-toss'd;

Fierce and unfathomable thoughts engraved

Eternal wrath on his immortal face,

And where he gazed a gloom pervaded space.


As he drew near, he gazed upon the gate

Ne'er to be enter'd more by him or Sin,

With such a glance of supernatural hate,

As made Saint Peter wish himself within;

He potter'd with his keys at a great rate,

And sweated through his apostolic skin:

Of course his perspiration was but ichor,

Or some such other spiritual liquor.


The very cherubs huddled all together,

Like birds when soars the falcon; and they felt

A tingling to the top of every feather,

And form'd a circle like Orion's belt

Around their poor old charge; who scarce knew whither

His guards had led him, though they gently dealt

With royal manes (for by many stories,

And true, we learn the angels all are Tories.)


As things were in this posture, the gate flew

Asunder, and the flashing of its hinges

Flung over space an universal hue

Of many-colour'd flame, until its tinges

Reach'd even our speck of earth, and made a new

Aurora borealis spread its fringes

O'er the North Pole; the same seen, when ice-bound,

By Captain Parry's crew, in 'Melville's Sound.'


And from the gate thrown open issued beaming

A beautiful and mighty Thing of Light,

Radiant with glory, like a banner streaming

Victorious from some world-o'erthrowing fight:

My poor comparisons must needs be teeming

With earthly likenesses, for here the night

Of clay obscures our best conceptions, saving

Johanna Southcote, or Bob Southey raving.


'Twas the archangel Michael; all men know

The make of angels and archangels, since

There's scarce a scribbler has not one to show,

From the fiends' leader to the angels' prince;

There also are some altar-pieces, though

I really can't say that they much evince

One's inner notions of immortal spirits;

But let the connoisseurs explain their merits.


Michael flew forth in glory and in good;

A goodly work of him from whom all glory

And good arise; the portal past — he stood;

Before him the young cherubs and saints hoary —

(I say young, begging to be understood

By looks, not years; and should be very sorry

To state, they were not older than St. Peter,

But merely that they seem'd a little sweeter.


The cherubs and the saints bow'd down before

That arch-angelic Hierarch, the first

Of essences angelical, who wore

The aspect of a god; but this ne'er nursed

Pride in his heavenly bosom, in whose core

No thought, save for his Master's service, durst

Intrude, however glorified and high;

He knew him but the viceroy of the sky.


He and the sombre, silent Spirit met —

They knew each other both for good and ill;

Such was their power, that neither could forget

His former friend and future foe; but still

There was a high, immortal, proud regret

In either's eye, as if 'twere less their will

Than destiny to make the eternal years

Their date of war, and their 'champ clos' the spheres.


But here they were in neutral space: we know

From Job, that Satan hath the power to pay

A heavenly visit thrice a year or so;

And that the 'sons of God', like those of clay,

Must keep him company; and we might show

From the same book, in how polite a way

The dialogue is held between the Powers

Of Good and Evil — but 'twould take up hours.


And this is not a theologic tract,

To prove with Hebrew and with Arabic,

If Job be allegory or a fact,

But a true narrative; and thus I pick

From out the whole but such and such an act

As sets aside the slightest thought of trick.

'Tis every tittle true, beyond suspicion,

And accurate as any other vision.


The spirits were in neutral space, before

The gates of heaven; like eastern thresholds is

The place where Death's grand cause is argued o'er,

And souls despatch'd to that world or to this;

And therefore Michael and the other wore

A civil aspect: though they did not kiss,

Yet still between his Darkness and his Brightness

There pass'd a mutual glance of great politeness.


The Archangel bow'd, not like a modern beau,

But with a graceful Oriental bend,

Pressing one radiant arm just where below

The heart in good men is supposed to tend;

He turn'd as to an equal, not too low,

But kindly; Satan met his ancient friend

With more hauteur, as might an old Castilian

Poor noble meet a mushroom rich civilian.


He merely bent his diabolic brow

An instant; and then raising it, he stood

In act to assert his right or wrong, and show

Cause why King George by no means could or should

Make out a case to be exempt from woe

Eternal, more than other kings, endued

With better sense and hearts, whom history mentions,

Who long have 'paved hell with their good intentions.'


Michael began: 'What wouldst thou with this man,

Now dead, and brought before the Lord? What ill

Hath he wrought since his mortal race began,

That thou cans't claim him? Speak! and do thy will,

If it be just: if in this earthly span

He hath been greatly failing to fulfil

His duties as a king and mortal, say,

And he is thine; if not, let him have way.'


'Michael!' replied the Prince of Air, 'even here,

Before the Gate of him thou servest, must

I claim my subject: and will make appear

That as he was my worshipper in dust,

So shall he be in spirit, although dear

To thee and thine, because nor wine nor lust

Were of his weaknesses; yet on the throne

He reign'd o'er millions to serve me alone.


'Look to our earth, or rather mine; it was,

Once, more thy master's: but I triumph not

In this poor planet's conquest; nor, alas!

Need he thou servest envy me my lot:

With all the myriads of bright worlds which pass

In worship round him, he may have forgot

Yon weak creation of such paltry things;

I think few worth damnation save their kings, —


'And these but as a kind of quit-rent, to

Assert my right as lord: and even had

I such an inclination, 'twere (as you

Well know) superfluous; they are grown so bad,

That hell has nothing better left to do

Than leave them to themselves: so much more mad

And evil by their own internal curse,

Heaven cannot make them better, nor I worse.


'Look to the earth, I said, and say again:

When this old, blind, mad, helpless, weak, poor worm

Began in youth's first bloom and flush to reign,

The world and he both wore a different form,

And must of earth and all the watery plain

Of ocean call'd him king: through many a storm

His isles had floated on the abyss of time;

For the rough virtues chose them for their clime.


'He came to his sceptre young: he leaves it old:

Look to the state in which he found his realm,

And left it; and his annals too behold,

How to a minion first he gave the helm;

How grew upon his heart a thirst for gold,

The beggar's vice, which can but overwhelm

The meanest of hearts; and for the rest, but glance

Thine eye along America and France.


'Tis true, he was a tool from first to last

(I have the workmen safe); but as a tool

So let him be consumed. From out the past

Of ages, since mankind have known the rule

Of monarchs — from the bloody rolls amass'd

Of sin and slaughter — from the Cζsar's school,

Take the worst pupil; and produce a reign

More drench'd with gore, more cumber'd with the slain.


'He ever warr'd with freedom and the free:

Nations as men, home subjects, foreign foes,

So that they utter'd the word "Liberty!"

Found George the Third their first opponent. Whose

History was ever stain'd as his will be

With national and individual woes?

I grant his household abstinence; I grant

His neutral virtues, which most monarchs want;


'I know he was a constant consort; own

He was a decent sire, and middling lord.

All this is much, and most upon a throne;

As temperance, if at Apicius' board,

Is more than at an anchorite's supper shown.

I grant him all the kindest can accord;

And this was well for him, but not for those

Millions who found him what oppression chose.


'The New World shook him off; the Old yet groans

Beneath what he and his prepared, if not

Completed: he leaves heirs on many thrones

To all his vices, without what begot

Compassion for him — his tame virtues; drones

Who sleep, or despots who have not forgot

A lesson which shall be re-taught them, wake

Upon the thrones of earth; but let them quake!


'Five millions of the primitive, who hold

The faith which makes ye great on earth, implored

A part of that vast all they held of old, —

Freedom to worship — not alone your Lord,

Michael, but you, and you, Saint Peter! Cold

Must be your souls, if you have not abhorr'd

The foe to Catholic participation

In all the license of a Christian nation.


'True! he allow'd them to pray God; but as

A consequence of prayer, refused the law

Which would have placed them upon the same base

With those who did not hold the saints in awe.'

But here Saint Peter started from his place,

And cried, 'You may the prisoner withdraw:

Ere heaven shall ope her portals to this Guelph,

While I am guard, may I be damn'd myself!


'Sooner will I with Cerberus exchange

My office (and his no sinecure)

Than see this royal Bedlam bigot range

The azure fields of heaven, of that be sure!'

'Saint!' replied Satan, 'you do well to avenge

The wrongs he made your satellites endure;

And if to this exchange you should be given,

I'll try to coax our Cerberus up to heaven!'


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:

Event 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're 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 'entrι'

Up the back stairs, or such free-masonry.

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 Ζgean, ere a squall); it near'd,

And growing bigger, took another guise;

Like an aλrial ship it tack'd, and steer'd,

Or was steer'd (I am doubtful of the grammar

Of the last phrase, which makes the stanza 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 roar,

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 spheres, 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

Give licence 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 though beneath the sun.'


'Above the sun repeat, then, what thou hast

To urge against him,' said the Archangel. 'Why,'

Replied the spirit, 'since old scores are past,

Must I turn evidence? In faith, not I.

Besides, I beat him hollow at the last,

With all his Lords and Commons: in the sky

I don't like ripping up old stories, since

His conduct was but natural in a prince.


'Foolish, no doubt, and wicked, to oppress

A poor unlucky devil without a shilling;

But then I blame the man himself much less

Than Bute and Grafton, and shall be unwilling

To see him punish'd here for their excess,

Since they were both damn'd long ago, and still in

Their place below: for me, I have forgiven,

And vote his "habeas corpus" into heaven.'


'Wilkes,' said the Devil, 'I understand all this;

You turn'd to half a courtier ere you died,

And seem to think it would not be amiss

To grow a whole one on the other side

Of Charon's ferry; you forget that hiis


Reign is concluded; r betide,

He won't be sovereign more: you've lost your labor,

For at the best he will be but your neighbour.


'However, I knew what to think of it,

When I beheld you in your jesting way,

Flitting and whispering round about the spit

Where Belial, upon duty for the day,

With Fox's lard was basting William Pitt,

His pupil; I knew what to think, I say:

That fellow even in hell breeds farther ills;

I'll have him gagg'd — 'twas one of his own bills.


'Call Junius!' From the crowd a shadow stalk'd,

And at the same there was a general squeeze,

So that the very ghosts no longer walk'd

In comfort, at their own aλrial ease,

But were all ramm'd, and jamm'd (but to be balk'd,

As we shall see), and jostled hands and knees,

Like wind compress'd and pent within a bladder,

Or like a human colic, which is sadder.


The shadow came — a tall, thin, grey-hair'd figure,

That look'd as it had been a shade on earth;

Quick in it motions, with an air of vigour,

But nought to mar its breeding or its birth;

Now it wax'd little, then again grew bigger,

With now an air of gloom, or savage mirth;

But as you gazed upon its features, they

Changed every instant — to what, none could say.


The more intently the ghosts gazed, the less

Could they distinguish whose the features were;

The Devil himself seem'd puzzled even to guess;

They varied like a dream — now here, now there;

And several people swore from out the press

They knew him perfectly; and one could swear

He was his father: upon which another

Was sure he was his mother's cousin's brother:


Another, that he was a duke, or a knight,

An orator, a lawyer, or a priest,

A nabob, a man-midwife; but the wight

Mysterious changed his countenance at least

As oft as they their minds; though in full sight

He stood, the puzzle only was increased;

The man was a phantasmagoria in

Himself — he was so volatile and thin.


The moment that you had pronounce him one,

Presto! his face change'd and he was another;

And when that change was hardly well put on,

It varied, till I don't think his own mother

(If that he had a mother) would her son

Have known, he shifted so from one to t'other;

Till guessing from a pleasure grew a task,

At this epistolary 'Iron Mask.'


For sometimes he like Cerberus would seem —

'Three gentlemen at once' (as sagely says

Good Mrs. Malaprop); then you might deem

That he was not even one; now many rays

Were flashing round him; and now a thick steam

Hid him from sight — like fogs on London days:

Now Burke, now Tooke he grew to people's fancies,

And certes often like Sir Philip Francis.


I've an hypothesis — 'tis quite my own;

I never let it out till now, for fear

Of doing people harm about the throne,

And injuring some minister or peer,

On whom the stigma might perhaps be blown;

It is — my gentle public, lend thine ear!

'Tis, that what Junius we are wont to call

Was really, truly, nobody at all.


I don't see wherefore letters should not be

Written without hands, since we daily view

Them written without heads; and books, we see,

Are fill'd as well without the latter too:

And really till we fix on somebody

For certain sure to claim them as his due,

Their author, like the Niger's mouth, will bother

The world to say if there be mouth or author.


'And who and what art thou?' the Archangel said.

'For that you may consult my title-page,'

Replied this mighty shadow of a shade:

'If I have kept my secret half an age,

I scarce shall tell it now.' — 'Canst thou upbraid,'

Continued Michael, 'George Rex, or allege

Aught further?' Junius answer'd, 'You had better

First ask him for his answer to my letter:


'My charges upon record will outlast

The brass of both his epitaph and tomb.'

'Repent'st thou not,' said Michael, 'of some past

Exaggeration? something which may doom

Thyself if false, as him if true? Thou wast

Too bitter — is it not so? — in thy gloom

Of passion?' — 'Passion!' cried the phantom dim,

'I loved my country, and I hated him.


'What I have written, I have written: let

The rest be on his head or mine!' So spoke

Old 'Nominis Umbra'; and while speaking yet,

Away he melted in celestial smoke.

Then Satan said to Michael, 'Don't forget

To call George Washington, and John Horne Tooke,

And Franklin;' — but at this time was heard

A cry for room, though not a phantom stirr'd.


At length with jostling, elbowing, and the aid

Of cherubim appointed to that post,

The devil Asmodeus to the circle made

His way, and look'd as if his journey cost

Some trouble. When his burden down he laid,

'What's this?' cried Michael; 'why, 'tis not a ghost?'

'I know it,' quoth the incubus; 'but he

Shall be one, if you leave the affair to me.


'Confound the renegado! I have sprain'd

My left wing, he's so heavy; one would think

Some of his works about his neck were chain'd.

But to the point; while hovering o'er the brink

Of Skiddaw (where as usual it still rain'd),

I saw a taper, far below me, wink,

And stooping, caught this fellow at a libel —

No less on history than the Holy Bible.


'The former is the devil's scripture, and

The latter yours, good Michael: so the affair

Belongs to all of us, you understand.

I snatch'd him up just as you see him there,

And brought him off for sentence out of hand:

I've scarcely been ten minutes in the air —

At least a quarter it can hardly be:

I dare say that his wife is still at tea.'


Here Satan said, 'I know this man of old,

And have expected him for some time here;

A sillier fellow you will scarce behold,

Or more conceited in his petty sphere:

But surely it was not worth while to fold

Such trash below your wing, Asmodeus dear:

We had the poor wretch safe (without being bored

With carriage) coming of his own accord.


'But since he's here, let's see what he has done.'

'Done!' cried Asmodeus, 'he anticipates

The very business you are now upon,

And scribbles as if head clerk to the Fates,

Who knows to what his ribaldry may run,

When such an ass as this, like Balaam's, prates?'

'Let's hear,' quoth Michael, 'what he has to say;

You know we're bound to that in every way.'


Now the bard, glad to get an audience which

By no means oft was his case below,

Began to cough, and hawk, and hem, and pitch

His voice into that awful note of woe

To all unhappy hearers within reach

Of poets when the tide of rhyme's in flow;

But stuck fast with his first hexameter,

Not one of all whose gouty feet would stir.


But ere the spavin'd dactyls could be spurr'd

Into recitative, in great dismay

Both cherubim and seraphim were heard

To murmur loudly through their long array:

And Michael rose ere he could get a word

Of all his founder'd verses under way.

And cried, 'For God's sake stop, my friend! 'twere best —

Non Di, non homines —- you know the rest.'


A general bustle spread throughout the throng.

Which seem'd to hold all verse in detestation;

The angels had of course enough of song

When upon service; and the generation

Of ghosts had heard too much in life, not long

Before, to profit by a new occasion;

The monarch, mute till then, exclaim'd, 'What! What!

Pye come again? No more — no more of that!'


The tumult grew; an universal cough

Convulsed the skies, as during a debate

When Castlereagh has been up long enough

(Before he was first minister of state,

I mean — the slaves hear now); some cried 'off, off!'

As at a farce; till, grown quite desperate,

The bard Saint Peter pray'd to interpose

(Himself an author) only for his prose.


The varlet was not an ill-favour'd knave;

A good deal like a vulture in the face,

With a hook nose and a hawk'd eye, which gave

A smart and sharper-looking sort of grace

To his whole aspect, which, though rather grave,

Was by no means so ugly as his case;

But that, indeed, was hopeless as can be,

Quite a poetic felony, 'de se.'


Then Michael blew his trump, and still'd the noise

With one still greater, as is yet the mode

On earth besides; except some grumbling voice,

Which now and then will make a slight inroad

Upon decorous silence, few will twice

Lift up their lungs when fairly overcrow'd;

And now the bard could plead his own bad cause,

With all the attitudes of self-applause.


He said — (I only give the heads) — he said,

He meant no harm in scribbling; 'twas his way

Upon all topics; 'twas, besides, his bread,

Of which he butter'd both sides; 'twould delay

Too long the assembly (he was pleased to dread),

And take up rather more time than a day,

To name his works — he would but cite a few —

'Wat Tyler' — 'Rhymes on Blenheim' — 'Waterloo.'


He had written praises of a regicide:

He had written praises of all kings whatever;

He had written for republics far and wide;

And then against them bitterer than ever;

For pantisocracy he once had cried

Aloud, a scheme less moral than 'twas clever;

Then grew a hearty anti-Jacobin —

Had turn'd his coat — and would have turn'd his skin.


He had sung against all battles, and again

In their high praise and glory; he had call'd

Reviewing (1)'the ungentle craft,' and then

Become as base a critic as e'er crawl'd —

Fed, paid, and pamper'd by the very men

By whom his muse and morals had been maul'd:

He had written much blank verse, and blanker prose,

And more of both than anybody knows.


He had written Wesley's life: — here turning round

To Satan, 'Sir, I'm ready to write yours,

In two octavo volumes, nicely bound,

With notes and preface, all that most allures

The pious purchaser; and there's no ground

For fear, for I can choose my own reviews:

So let me have the proper documents,

That I may add you to my other saints.'


Satan bow'd, and was silent. 'Well, if you,

With amiable modesty, decline

My offer, what says Michael? There are few

Whose memoirs could be render'd more divine.

Mine is a pen of all work; not so new

As it once was, but I would make you shine

Like your own trumpet. By the way, my own

Has more of brass in it, and is as well blown.


'But talking about trumpets, here's my Vision!

Now you shall judge, all people; yes, you shall

Judge with my judgment, and by my decision

Be guided who shall enter heaven or fall.

I settle all these things by intuition,

Times present, past, to come, heaven, hell, and all,

Like King Alfonso(2). When I thus see double,

I save the Deity some worlds of trouble.'


He ceased, and drew forth an MS.; and no

Persuasion on the part of devils, saints,

Or angels, now could stop the torrent; so

He read the first three lines of the contents;

But at the fourth, the whole spiritual show

Had vanish'd, with variety of scents,

Ambrosial and sulphureous, as they sprang,

Like lightning, off from his 'melodious twang.' (3)


Those grand heroics acted as a spell:

The angels stopp'd their ears and plied their pinions;

The devils ran howling, deafen'd, down to hell;

The ghosts fled, gibbering, for their own dominions —

(For 'tis not yet decided where they dwell,

And I leave every man to his opinions);

Michael took refuge in his trump — but, lo!

His teeth were set on edge, he could not blow!


Saint Peter, who has hitherto been known

For an impetuous saint, upraised his keys,

And at the fifth line knock'd the poet down;

Who fell like Phaeton, but more at ease,

Into his lake, for there he did not drown;

A different web being by the Destinies

Woven for the Laureate's final wreath, whene'er

Reform shall happen either here or there.


He first sank to the bottom - like his works,

But soon rose to the surface — like himself;

For all corrupted things are bouy'd like corks,(4)

By their own rottenness, light as an elf,

Or wisp that flits o'er a morass: he lurks,

It may be, still, like dull books on a shelf,

In his own den, to scrawl some 'Life' or 'Vision,'

As Welborn says — 'the devil turn'd precisian.'


As for the rest, to come to the conclusion

Of this true dream, the telescope is gone

Which kept my optics free from all delusion,

And show'd me what I in my turn have shown;

All I saw farther, in the last confusion,

Was, that King George slipp'd into heaven for one;

And when the tumult dwindled to a calm,

I left him practising the hundredth psalm.


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