The Apollyonists - Canto 1

I
Of men, nay beasts; worse, monsters; worst of all,
Incarnate fiends, English Italianate;
Of priests, O no! mass-priests, priests-cannibal,
Who make their Maker, chew, grind, feed, grow fat
With flesh divine; of that great city's fall,
Which born, nursed, grown with blood, the earth's empress sat,
Cleansed, spoused to Christ, yet back to whoredom fell,
None can enough, something I fain would tell.
How black are quenched lights! Fallen heaven's a double hell.

II.
Great Lord, who graspest all creatures in Thy hand,
Who in Thy lap layest down proud Thetis' head,
And bindest her white curled locks in cauls of sand,
Who gatherest in Thy fist and layest in bed
The sturdy winds, who groundest the floating land
On fleeting seas, and over all hast spread
Heaven's brooding wings to foster all below,
Who makest the sun without all fire to glow,
The spring of heat and light, the moon to ebb and flow,

III.
Thou world's sole Pilot, who in this poor isle
(So small a bottom) hast embarked Thy light,
And glorious Self and steerest it safe, the while
Hoarse drumming seas and winds' loud trumpets fight,
Who causest stormy heavens here only smile,
Steer me, poor ship-boy, steer my course aright;
Breathe, gracious Spirit, breathe gently on these lays;
Be Thou my compass, needle to my ways;
Thy glorious work's my freight; my haven is Thy praise.

IV.
Thou purple whore, mounted on scarlet beast,
Gorged with the flesh, drunk with the blood of saints,
Whose amorous golden cup and charmed feast
All earthly kings, all earthly men attaints,
See thy live pictures, see thine own, thy best,
Thy dearest sons, and cheer thy heart that faints.
Hark! thou saved island, hark! and never cease
To praise that hand which held thy head in peace;
Else hadst thou swum as deep in blood as now in seas.

V.
The cloudy night came whirling up the sky
And scatt'ring round the dews, which first she drew
From milky poppies, loads and drowsy eye.
The wat'ry moon, cold Vesper, and his crew
Light up their tapers; to the sun they fly
And at his blazing flame their sparks renew.
Oh, why should earthly lights then scorn to tine
Their lamps alone at the first Sun divine?
Hence as false as falling stars, as rotton wood, they shine.

VI.
Her sable mantle was embroidered gay
With silver beams, with spangles round beset;
Four steeds her chariot drew: the first was gray,
The second blue, third brown, fourth black as jet.
The hollowing owl, her post, prepares the way;
And winged dreams, as gnat swarms flutt'ring, let
Sad sleep, who fain his eyes in rest would steep.
Why then at death do weary mortals weep?
Sleep's but a shorter death; death's but a longer sleep.

VII.
And now the world, and dreams themselves were drowned
In deadly sleep; the laborer snorteth fast,
His brawny arms unbent, his limbs unbound,
As dead, forget all toil to come, or past;
Only sad guilt and troubled greatness, crowned
With heavy gold and care, no rest can taste.
Go then, vain man, go pill the live and dead,
Buy, sell, fawn, flatter, rise, then couch thy head
In proud, but dangerous gold, in silk, but restless bed.

VIII.
When lo! a sudden noise breaks the empty air:
A dreadful noise, which every creature daunts,
Frights home the blood, shoots up the limber hair;
For through the silent heaven hell's pursuivants,
Cutting their way, command foul spirits repair
With haste to Pluto, who their counsel wants.
Their hoarse bass-horns like fenny bitterns sound;
The earth shakes, dogs howl, and heaven itself, astound,
Shuts all his eyes; the stars in clouds their candles drowned.

IX.
Meantime, hell's iron gates by fiends beneath
Are open flung, which framed with wondrous art
To every guilty soul yields entrance eath;
But never wight but He could thence depart,
Who dying once, was death to endless death.
So where the liver's channel to the heart
Pays purple tribute, with their three-forked mace
Three Tritons stand and speed his flowing race,
But stop the ebbing stream if once it back would pace.

X.
The porter to the infernal gate is Sin,
A shapeless shape, a foul deformed thing,
Nor nothing, nor a substance, as those thin
And empty forms which through the air fling
Their wandering shapes, at length they're fastened in
The crystal sight. It serves, yet reigns as king;
It lives, yet's death; it pleases, full of pain;
Monster! ah, who, who can thy being feign?
Thou shapeless shape, live death, pain pleasing, servile reign!

XI.
Of that first woman an
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"The Apollyonists - Canto 1" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 20 Aug. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/29400/the-apollyonists---canto-1>.

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