The Temptation of Gabriel

GABRIEL, high ranked amid th’ angelic host,
By all his peers beloved and trusted most,
Waked from his rest within the odorous shade
Perennial bloom and fadeless foliage made,
Spread wide his glancing pinions silv’ry white,
And through the heavenly air winged his majestic flight.
Granted his wish, full leave had he to gaze
Upon the universe both near and far,
Pause where the Pleiads and Orion blaze,
Or seek the glory of some farther star;
Or cleave the space of ether, black as night,
That parts the peopled worlds and lands of bliss:
Swift comets only, with electric light,
Startle the darkness of the vast abyss.
And outward from the central heaven he sped,
Through space and darkness, till he heard no more
The legions sentinel whose measured tread
Goes up and down upon the gleaming shore;
Till far-off melodies and flute-like tones
Of heaven’s myriads fade upon his ears;
Till with a solemn, deep delight he owns
The thund’rous music of the moving spheres.
Through the wide ether that before him spread,
Pregnant with latent worlds, a fitful gleam
Fell faintly shining from some distance dread,
Of suns and systems a far-wandering beam.
Onward and onward still: his weary mind
Surveys no limit, comprehends no goal;
The light of God’s omnipotence doth blind
His aching eyes and overpower his soul.
In adoration deep, “ Great God,” he cried,
“ Thine every work is with perfection crowned;
And yet new glories spread on every side,
And yet fresh harmonies afar resound!”
While thus he bowed his head and humbly spoke,
He saw, in gloomy majesty upreared,
That angel who the peace of heaven broke
And his high name with mad rebellion seared.
Deep was his voice as sweep of mighty wind:
“ Ha, Gabriel! Art thou banished? Come with me.
Leave all these awe-inspiring works behind,
And some less perfect I will show to thee.
“ There are strange sights for seraph eyes to see;
I marvel thou hast liberty to roam
From that bright realm where all things lovely be.
Oh, lost! Oh, lost! Thy heaven was once my home.”


“ Tempt me not, Lucifer! No power is thine
To bend my fixed allegiance. I have seen
That perfect all God’s universe doth shine
And naught create in vain, or e’er hath been.”


“ Most loyal seraph, I have not the power
To show thee Hades, or perchance thou ’dst deem
It was well planned, —for us a goodly bower;
But I can dim with doubt thy pleasing dream.”
Down through that black abysm of dreary space
That parts the worlds next heaven from such as this
They sank, exultant either angel’s face,
But yet unlike as torture is to bliss.
Lo, at their feet an orb in darkness lay,
Ice-cold and barren, shattered, soundless, drear;
Ne’er visited by life-awakening day
Nor changeful seasons of the moving year;
Chaotic, void, sightless, and hearing not,
As light and sound were from its precincts fled;
Something that its creator had forgot,
The corpse of some fair world forever dead.
“ Now rest thee, Gabriel. Poise thy stainless wings.
Survey this sphere, — ’t is one of many like.
Contemplate now how beauteous all that springs
From Him whose selfish power I sought to strike.”
The seraph gazed, with chilling doubt o’erwrought,
At that world damned to death’s eternal doom;
And Lucifer, conceiving Gabriel’s thought,
Fled like a lurid brightness through the gloom.
Mid infinite space the central heaven around
Moves all the universe, majestic, slow;
And while it circled that tremendous bound,
Did outcast Gabriel wander to and fro,
Lingering near heaven, shunning that hideous sphere;
Yet when he fain would enter heaven’s light
A voice proclaimed, “ Doubt cannot enter here,”
And once again he faced the desolate night.
At last how thrilled his spirit to behold
A Form from out the vacant darkness rise:
Peace like an atmosphere of lucid gold
Shone round his kingly brow and tender eyes,
And radiance like a garment wrapped him round,
The auroral radiance of a heavenly day,
Whose broad white beams reached through the dark profound
And at the seraph’s feet in lustre lay.
No voice heard Gabriel, but with pinions spread,
In the effulgence of that supreme light,
He gladly followed where its splendor led,
Piercing like swords the ambient space and night.
Orion paled, Arcturus’ light grew dim,
Swift-shooting comets fled like shadows cast;
Suns near that glory moved unrayed and grim,
And stars were orbs of blackness as it passed.
Outward on every side the radiance spread
In lessening waves, till on the bounds remote
Of distant systems and that world erst dead
Like luminous silvery mists it seemed to float.
That world erst dead, — for still as they drew near
Gabriel beheld that it was dead no more,
But, blest with life and day, a beauteous sphere,
Whose oceans surged from peopled shore to shore.
Then spoke the Guide: " How fair did God create
This world that sin and doubt alone can mar!
Here dwells man, heir to thy immortal state,
And little lower than the angels are.
“ Couldst not believe ’t was an unquickened seed?
Know’st not that life proceedeth from the grave?
Speed back to heaven with faith that thou dost need, —
The faith that makes the high archangels brave.
Seraph, this is my world I died to save.”
Catherine J. Schiller.