Hesperus: A Legend Of The Stars.

A poem by Charles Sangster

PRELUDE.

The Stars are heaven's ministers;
Right royally they teach
God's glory and omnipotence,
In wondrous lowly speech.
All eloquent with music as
The tremblings of a lyre,
To him that hath an ear to hear
They speak in words of fire.

Not to learned sagas only
Their whisperings come down;
The monarch is not glorified
Because he wears a crown.
The humblest soldier in the camp
Can win the smile of Mars,
And 'tis the lowliest spirits hold
Communion with the stars.

Thoughts too refined for utterance,
Ethereal as the air,
Crowd through the brain's dim labyrinths,
And leave their impress there;

As far along the gleaming void
Man's tender glances roll,
Wonder usurps the throne of speech,
But vivifies the soul.

Oh, heaven-cradled mysteries,
What sacred paths ye've trod -
Bright, jewelled scintillations from
The chariot-wheels of God!
When in the spirit He rode forth,
With vast creative aim,
These were His footprints left behind,
To magnify His name!

- - -

We gazed on the Evening Star,
Mary and I,
As it shone
On its throne
Afar,
In the blue sky;
Shone like a ransomed soul
In the depths of that quiet heaven;
Like a pearly tear,
Trembling with fear
On the pallid cheek of Even.

And I thought of the myriad souls
Gazing with human eyes
On the light of that star,
Shining afar,
In the quiet evening skies;

Some with winged hope,
Clearing the cope
Of heaven as swift as light,
Others, with souls
Blind as the moles,
Sinking in rayless night.

Dreams such as dreamers dream
Flitted before our eyes;
Beautiful visions! -
Angelo's, Titian's,
Had never more gorgeous dyes:
We soared with the angels
Through vistas of glory,
We heard the evangels
Relate the glad story
Of the beautiful star,
Shining afar
In the quiet evening skies.

And we gazed and dreamed,
Till our spirits seemed
Absorbed in the stellar world;
Sorrow was swallowed up,
Drained was the bitter cup
Of earth to the very lees;
And we sailed over seas
Of white vapour that whirled
Through the skies afar,
Angels our charioteers,
Threading the endless spheres,
And to the chorus of angels
Rehearsed the evangels
The Birth of the Evening Star.

- - -

I.

Far back in the infant ages,
Before the eras stamped their autographs
Upon the stony records of the earth;
Before the burning incense of the sun
Rolled up the interlucent space,
Brightening the blank abyss;
Ere the Recording Angel's tears
Were shed for man's transgressions:
A Seraph, with a face of light,
And hair like heaven's golden atmosphere,
Blue eyes serene in their beatitude,
Godlike in their tranquillity,
Features as perfect as God's dearest work,
And stature worthy of her race,
Lived high exalted in the sacred sphere
That floated in a sea of harmony
Translucent as pure crystal, or the light
That flowed, unceasing, from this higher world
Unto the spheres beneath it. Far below
The extremest regions underneath the Earth
The first spheres rose, of vari-coloured light,
In calm rotation through aërial deep,
Like seas of jasper, blue, and coralline,
Crystal and violet; layers of worlds -
The robes of ages that had passed away,
Left as memorials of their sojournings.
For nothing passes wholly. All is changed.
The Years but slumber in their sepulchres,
And speak prophetic meanings in their sleep.


FIRST ANGEL.

Oh, how our souls are gladdened,
When we think of that brave old age,
When God's light came down
From heaven, to crown
Each act of the virgin page!

Oh, how our souls are saddened,
At the deeds which were done since then,
By the angel race
In the holy place,
And on earth by the sons of men!

Lo, as the years are fleeting,
With their burden of toil and pain,
We know that the page
Of that primal age
Will be opened up once again.


II.

Progressing still, the bright-faced Seraph rose
From Goodness to Perfection, till she stood
The fairest and the best of all that waked
The tuneful echoes of that lofty world,
Where Lucifer, then the stateliest of the throng
Of Angels, walked majestical, arrayed
In robes of brightness worthy of his place.
And all the intermediate spheres were homes
Of the existences
Of spiritual life.
Love, the divine arcanum, was the bond
That linked them to each other - heart to heart,
And angel world to world, and soul to soul.
Thus the first ages passed,
Cycles of perfect bliss,
God the acknowledged sovereign of all.
Sphere spake with sphere, and love conversed with love,
From the far centre to sublimest height,
And down the deep, unfathomable space,
To the remotest homes of angel-life,
A viewless chain of being circling all,
And linking every spirit to its God.


ANGEL CHORUS.

Spirits that never falter,
Before God's altar
Rehearse their paeans of unceasing praise;
Their theme the boundless love
By which God rules above,
Mysteriously engrafted
On grace divine, and wafted
Into every soul of man that disobeys.

Not till the wondrous being
Of the All-Seeing
Is manifested to finite man,
Can ye understand the love

By which God rules above,
Evermore extending,
In circles never-ending,
To every atom in the universal plan.


SECOND ANGEL.

Oh, the love beyond computing
Of the high and holy place!
The unseen bond
Circling beyond
The limits of time and space.

Through earth and her world of beauty
The heavenly links extend,
Man feels its presence,
Imbibes its essence,
But cannot yet comprehend.


THIRD ANGEL.

But the days are fast approaching,
When the Father of Love will send
His interpreter
From the highest sphere,
That man fully may comprehend.


III.

Oh, truest Love, because the truest life!
Oh, blest existence, to exist with Love!
Oh, Love, without which all things else must die
The death that knows no waking unto life!
Oh, Jealousy that saps the heart of Love,
And robs it of its tenderness divine;
And Pride, that tramples with its iron hoof
Upon the flower of love, whose fragrant soul
Exhales itself in sweetness as it dies!
A lofty spirit surfeited with Bliss!
A Prince of Angels cancelling all love,
All due allegiance to his rightful Lord;
Doing dishonour to his high estate;
Turning the truth and wisdom which were his
For ages of supreme felicity,
To thirst for power, and hatred of his God,
Who raised him to such vast preëminence!


SECOND ANGEL CHORUS.

Woe, woe to the ransomed spirit,
Once freed from the stain of sin,
Whose pride increases
Till all love ceases
To nourish it from within!
Its doom is the darkened regions
Where the rebel angel legions
Live their long night of sorrow;
Where no expectant morrow,
No mercy-tempered ray
From the altar of to-day,
Comes down through the gloom to borrow
One drop from their cup of sorrow,
Or lighten their cheerless way.

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FIRST ANGEL.

But blest be the gentle spirit
Whose love is ever increased
From its own pure soul,
The illumined goal
Where Love holds perpetual feast!


IV.

Ingrate Angel, he,
To purchase Hell, and at so vast a price!
'Tis the old story of celestial strife -
Rebellion in the palace-halls of God -
False angels joining the insurgent ranks,
Who suffered dire defeats, and fell at last
From bliss supreme to darkness and despair.
But they, the faithful dwellers in the spheres,
Who kept their souls inviolate, to whom
Heaven's love and truth were truly great rewards:
For these the stars were sown throughout all space,
As fit memorials of their faithfulness.
The wretched lost were banished to the depths
Beneath the lowest spheres. Earth barred the space
Between them and the Faithful. Then the hills
Rose bald and rugged o'er the wild abyss;
The waters found their places; and the sun,
The bright-haired warder of the golden morn,
Parting the curtains of reposing night,
Rung his first challenge to the dismal shades,
That shrunk back, awed, into Cimmerean gloom;
And the young moon glode through the startled void
With quiet beauty and majestic mien.

{20}

SECOND ANGEL.

Slowly rose the daedal Earth,
Through the purple-hued abysm
Glowing like a gorgeous prism,
Heaven exulting o'er its birth,

Still the mighty wonder came,
Through the jasper-coloured sphere,
Ether-winged, and crystal-clear,
Trembling to the loud acclaim,

In a haze of golden rain,
Up the heavens rolled the sun,
Danae-like the earth was won,
Else his love and light were vain.

So the heart and soul of man
Own the light and love of heaven,
Nothing yet in vain was given,
Nature's is a perfect plan.


V.

The glowing Seraph with the brow of light
Was first among the Faithful. When the war
Between heaven's rival armies fiercely waged,
She bore the Will Divine from rank to rank,
The chosen courier of Deity.
Her presence cheered the combatants for Truth,
And Victory stood up where'er she moved.
And now, in gleaming robe of woven pearl,
Emblazoned with devices of the stars,
And legends of their glory yet to come,
The type of Beauty Intellectual,
The representative of Love and Truth,
She moves first in the innumerable throng
Of angels congregating to behold
The crowning wonder of creative power.


THIRD ANGEL CHORUS,

Oh, joy, that no mortal can fathom,
To rejoice in the smile of God!
To be first in the light
Of His Holy sight,
And freed from His chastening rod.
Faithful, indeed, that soul, to be
The messenger of Deity!


FIRST ANGEL.

This, this is the chosen spirit,
Whose love is ever increased
From its own pare soul,
The illumined goal
Where Love holds perpetual feast.


VI.

With noiseless speed the angel charioteers
In dazzling splendour all triumphant rode;
Through seas of ether painfully serene,
That flashed a golden, phosphorescent spray,
As luminous as the sun's intensest beams,
Athwart the wide, interminable space.
Legion on legion of the sons of God;
Vast phalanxes of graceful cherubim;
Innumerable multitudes and ranks
Of all the hosts and hierarchs of heaven,
Moved by one universal impulse, urged
Their steeds of swiftness up the arch of light,
From sphere to sphere increasing as they came,
Till world on world was emptied of its race.
Upward, with unimaginable speed,
The myriads, congregating zenith-ward,
Reached the far confines of the utmost sphere,
The home of Truth, the dwelling-place of Love,
Striking celestial symphonies divine
From the resounding sea of melody,
That heaved in swells of soft, mellifluous sound,
To the blest crowds at whose triumphal tread
Its soul of sweetness waked in thrills sublime,
The sun stood poised upon the western verge;
The moon paused, waiting for the march of earth,
That stayed to watch the advent of the stars;
And ocean hushed its very deepest deeps
In grateful expectation.


SECOND ANGEL.

Still through the viewless regions
Of the habitable air,
Through the ether ocean,
In unceasing motion,
Pass the multitudinous legions
Of angels everywhere.

Bearing each new-born spirit
Through the interlucent void
To its starry dwelling,
Angel anthems telling
Every earthly deed of merit
To each flashing asteroid.


THIRD ANGEL.

Through the realms sidereal,
Clothed with the immaterial,
Far as the fields elysian
In starry bloom extend,
The stretch of angel vision
Can see and comprehend.


VII.

Innumerable as the ocean sands
The angel concourse in due order stood,
In meek anticipation waiting for
The new-created orbs,
Still hidden in the deep
And unseen laboratory, where
Not even angel eyes could penetrate:
A star for each of that angelic host,
Memorials of their faithfulness and love.
The Evening Star, God's bright eternal gift
To the pure Seraph with the brow of light,
And named for her, mild Hesperus,
Came twinkling down the unencumbered blue,
On viewless wings of sweet melodious sound,
Beauty and grace presiding at its birth.
Celestial plaudits sweeping through the skies
Waked resonant paeans, till the concave thrilled
Through its illimitable bounds.
With a sudden burst
Of light, that lit the universal space
As with a flame of crystal,
Rousing the Soul of Joy
That slumbered in the patient sea,
From every point of heaven the hurrying cars
Conveyed the constellations to their thrones -
The throbbing planets, and the burning suns,
Erratic comets, and the various grades
And magnitudes of palpitating stars.
From the far arctic and antarctic zones,
Through all the vast, surrounding infinite,
A wilderness of intermingling orbs,
The gleaming wonders, pulsing earthward, came;
Each to its destined place,
Each in itself a world,
With all its coining myriad life,
Drawing us nearer the Omnipotent,
With hearts of wonder, and with souls of praise:
Astrea, Pallas, strange Aldebaran,
The Pleiads, Arcturus, the ruddy Mars,
Pale Saturn, Ceres and Orion -
All as they circle still
Through the enraptured void.
For each young angel born to us from earth,
A new-made star is launched among its peers.


FULL ANGEL CHORUS.

Dreamer in the realms aërial,
Searcher for the true and good,
Hoper for the high, ethereal
Limit of Beatitude,
Lift thy heart to heaven, for there
Is embalmed thy spirit prayer:
Not in words is shrined thy prayer,
But thy Thought awaits thee there.
God loves the silent worshipper.
The grandest hymn
That nature chants - the litany
Of the rejoicing stars - is silent praise.
Their nightly anthems stir
The souls of lofty seraphim
In the remotest heaven. The melody
Descends in throbbings of celestial light
Into the heart of man, whose upward gaze,
And meditative aspect, tell
Of the heart's incense passing up the night.
Above the crystalline height
The theme of thoughtful praise ascends.
Not from the wildest swell
Of the vexed ocean soars the fullest psalm;
But in the evening calm,
And in the solemn midnight, silence blends
With silence, and to the ear
Attuned to harmony divine
Begets a strain
Whose trance-like stillness wakes delicious pain.
The silent tear
Holds keener anguish in its orb of brine,
Deeper and truer grief
Than the loud wail that brings relief,
As thunder clears the atmosphere.
But the deep, tearless Sorrow, - how profound!
Unspoken to the ear
Of sense, 'tis yet as eloquent a sound
As that which wakes the lyre
Of the rejoicing Day, when
Morn on the mountains lights his urn of fire.
The flowers of the glen
Rejoice in silence; huge pines stand apart
Upon the lofty hills, and sigh
Their woes to every breeze that passeth by;
The willow tells its mournful tale
So tenderly, that e'en the passing gale
Bears not a murmur on its wings
Of what the spirit sings
That breathes its trembling thoughts through all the
drooping strings.
He loves God most who worships most
In the obedient heart.
The thunder's noisome boast,
What is it to the violet lightning thought?
So with the burning passion of the stars -
Creation's diamond sands,
Strewn along the pearly strands,
And far-extending corridors
Of heaven's blooming shores;
No scintil of their jewelled flame
But wafts the exquisite essence
Of prayer to the Eternal Presence,
Of praise to the Eternal Name.
The silent prayer unbars
The gates of Paradise, while the too-intimate,
Self-righteous' boast, strikes rudely at the gate
Of heaven, unknowing why it does not open to
Their summons, as they see pale Silence passing through.


VIII.

In grateful admiration, till the Dawn
Withdrew the gleaming curtains of the night,
We watched the whirling systems, until each
Could recognize their own peculiar star;
When, with the swift celerity
Of Fancy-footed Thought,
The light-caparisoned, aërial steeds,
Shod with rare fleetness,
Revisited the farthest of the spheres
Ere the earth's sun had kissed the mountain tops,
Or shook the sea-pearls from his locks of gold.

- - -

Still on the Evening Star
Gazed we with steadfast eyes,
As it shone
On its throne
Afar,
In the blue skies.
No longer the charioteers
Dashed through the gleaming spheres;
No more the evangels
Rehearsed the glad story;
But, in passing, the angels
Left footprints of glory:
For up the starry void
Bright-flashing asteroid,
Pale moon and starry choir,
Aided by Fancy's fire,
Rung from the glittering lyre
Changes of song and hymn,
Worthy of Seraphim.
Night's shepherdess sat, queenlike, on her throne,
Watching her starry flocks from zone to zone,
While we, like mortals turned to breathing stone,
Intently pondered on the Known Unknown.

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