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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

From ‘The Messiah’

By Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724–1803)

SEVEN times the thunder’s stroke had rent the veil,

When now the voice of God in gentle tone

Was heard descending: “God is Love,” it spoke;

“Love, ere the worlds or their inhabitants

To life were called. In the accomplishment

Of this, my most mysterious, highest act,

Love am I still. Angels, ye shall behold

The death of earth’s great Judge, the eternal Son;

And ye shall learn to know the Deity,

With adoration new to invoke his name.

Should not his arm uphold ye, at the sight

Of that dread day in terror ye would fade;

For finite are your forms!” The voice now ceased.

Their holy hands the admiring angels clasped

In silent awe. A sign the Almighty made,

And in the face divine, Eloa read

The mandate given. To the celestial host

He cried, “Lift up your eyes to the Most High,

Ye chosen, favored children! Ye have longed

(God is your witness) to behold this day

Of his Messiah, this atoning day!

Shout, then, ye cherubim! behold your God;

The First and Last, the great Jehovah, deigns

To meet your wish. Yon seraph, messenger

From the eternal Son on your behalf,

Is to the altar sent. Had ye not been

Permitted thus to view the wondrous work

Of man’s redemption, secret it had passed

In solitary, silent mystery.

But now, while sons of earth shall joyful sing

This day throughout eternity, our voice

In shouts shall join their chorus. With glad eye

Of piercing vision shall we contemplate

This mystery of atonement; clearer far

Shall we perceive it than the weeping band,

Who, though in error clouded, faithful still

Surround their Savior. Ah, what shall befall

His hardened persecutors! From life’s book

Their names have long been blotted. Light divine

Jehovah grants alone to his redeemed;

No more with tears shall they behold the blood

For their atonement shed, but see its stream

Merge in the ocean of immortal life.

Oh, then in the soft lap of peace consoled,

The festival of light, and endless rest,

Triumphant shall they celebrate! Ye hosts

Of seraphim, and ye blest ransomed souls

Of righteous patriarchs, the jubilee,

The Sabbath of eternity, draws near!

Race after race of man shall thronging join

Your happy numbers, till, the reckoning filled,

The final doom pronounced, with glorious forms

All shall anew be clothed, and jointly taste

One universal bliss! Now, angels, haste!

Bid the seraphic guardians, who by God

To rule the spheres are stationed, straight prepare

To solemnize the great mysterious Day!

Ye patriarchs, from whom the Savior draws

His mortal lineage, to that sun repair

Which lights redemption’s theatre! From thence

Ye may your great Redeemer view! A day

Jehovah sanctifies; a holy day

Greater than that which by your festal songs,

Ye mighty seraphim, was solemnized,

When, from creation pausing, God proclaimed

His primal Sabbath. Then, full well ye know,

Angelic powers, how bright young Nature smiled,

How fresh and lovely; how the morning stars,

With you, to their Creator homage paid.

Behold, a greater work the eternal Son

Will soon accomplish! Haste then, angels, haste!

Proclaim it through creation! Lo, the day

Of the Messiah’s free obedience comes,

The Sabbath of the eternal covenant!”

Eloa ceased. All Heaven in silence heard,—

Their eyes uplifted toward the sanctuary.

To Gabriel then a sign the Almighty made,

And swift the seraph to the throne advanced,

And secret charge received to bear behest

To Uriel, the sun’s regent, and to those

Who o’er the earth bear rule, of high import,

Touching the Savior’s death. Their golden seats

Meantime the high seraphic powers now left,

By Gabriel followed. Ere he yet approached

The mystic altar of the earth, his ear

Caught the deep murmured sighs, which low were breathed,

In fervent wishes for the expected hour

Of man’s salvation. There distinct arose

The voice of Adam, who through ages wept

His hapless fall. This was the altar seen

By him in Patmos, the high-favored seer

Of the new covenant: thence he heard the voice

Of martyred saints descend, whose plaintive cries

Mourned the delay of vengeance. Toward this spot

Gabriel advanced; when swift the first of men,

Eager to meet the coming seraph, flew.

A form impalpable of lustre clear

Enveloped Adam’s spirit, beautiful

As that fair thought which the creative mind

In model imaged for the form of Man,

When, from the sacred earth of Paradise,

Fresh from his Maker’s hand, youthful he sprung.

With radiant smile, which o’er his beaming brow

Celestial light diffused, Adam drew near,

And earnest spoke. “Hail, gracious messenger!

While I thy lofty mission heard, my soul

In joy was rapt. May I then view the form

Of manhood by the Savior worn, that form

Of mercy, in whose meek disguise he deigns

My fallen race to save! Show me the trace,

O seraph, of my Savior’s earthly path:

My eye with awe shall view the distant track.

But may the first of sinners tread the spot

Whence the Messiah raised his face to heaven

And swore to ransom man? Maternal earth,

How do I sigh once more to visit thee!

I, thy first habitant! Thy barren fields

By God’s dread curse defaced, where now in garb

Of frail mortality, such earthly frame

As in the dust I left, the Savior walks,

Would lovelier meet mine eyes than thy bright plains,

Thou long-lost Paradise!” Adam here paused.

To whom the seraph: “I will speak thy wish

To the Redeemer: should his will divine

Grant thy petition, he will summon thee

His lowliest humiliation to behold.”

Now had the angelic host all quitted heaven,

Spreading to distant spheres their separate flight.

Gabriel alone descended to the earth,

Which by the neighboring stars, as each rolled by

Its splendid orb, was hailed with joyful shouts.

The salutations glad reached Gabriel’s ear

In silver tones:—“Queen of the scattered worlds!

Object of universal gaze! Bright spot,

Again selected for the theatre

Of God’s high presence! Blest spectatress thou

Of his Messiah’s work of mystery!”

Thus sung the spheres; and through the concave vast

Angelic voices echoed back the sounds.

Gabriel exulting heard, and swift in flight

Reached earth’s dim surface. O’er her silent vales

Refreshing coolness and deep slumber hung

Yet undisturbed; dark clouds of mist still lay

Heaped heavily upon her mountain-tops.

Through the surrounding gloom Gabriel advanced

In search of the Redeemer. Deep within

A narrow cleft which rent the forked height

Of sacred Olivet, oppressed by thought

The Savior sleeping lay; a jutting rock

His resting-place. With reverence Gabriel viewed

His tranquil slumber, and in wonder gazed

On that hid majesty which man’s frail form,

By union with the Godhead, had acquired.

Still on the Savior’s face the traces beamed

Of grace and love; the smile of mercy there

Still lingered visible; still in his eye

A tear of pity hung. But faintly showed

Those outward tokens of his soul, now sunk

In sleep profound. So lies the blooming earth

In eve’s soft twilight veiled; her beauteous face,

Scarce recognized, so meets the inquiring eye

Of some close-hovering seraph, while aloft

In the yet lonely sky, the evening star

Shoots her pale radiance, calling from his bower

The contemplative sage. After long pause,

Gabriel thus softly cried:—“O Thou, whose eye

Omniscient searches heaven! who hear’st my words,

Though wrapped in sleep thy mortal body lies!

I have fulfilled thy mission. While my course

Returning I pursued, a fervent prayer

Adam implored me to convey. Thy face,

O gracious Savior, he on earth would see!

Now must I hasten, by Jehovah sent

On glorious ministration. Be ye hushed,

All living creatures! Every moment’s space

Of this swift-flying time, while here yet lies

The world’s Creator, dearer must ye deem

Than ages passed in duteous zeal for man.

Be still, ye whispering winds, as o’er this hill

Of lonely graves ye sweep, or sighing breathe

Your gentlest melodies! Descend, ye clouds,

And o’er these shades drop coolness and repose,

Deep and refreshing! Wave not your dark heads,

Ye tufted cedars! Cease, ye rustling groves,

While your Creator sleeps!” The seraph’s voice

In whispers low now sunk; and swift he flew

To join th’ assembled watchers, who, with him

(The faithful ministers of God’s high will)

Governed with delegated rule the earth.

Thither he hastened to proclaim the approach

Of man’s atonement by his Savior paid.