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

Messiah: A Sacred Eclogue

By Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

In Imitation of Virgil’s ‘Pollio’

YE Nymphs of Solyma! begin the song:

To heavenly themes sublimer strains belong.

The mossy fountains and the sylvan shades,

The dreams of Pindus and the Aonian maids,

Delight no more;—O thou my voice inspire

Who touched Isaiah’s hallowed lips with fire!

Rapt into future times, the bard begun:

A Virgin shall conceive, a Virgin bear a Son!

From Jesse’s root behold a branch arise,

Whose sacred flower with fragrance fills the skies:

The Ethereal spirit o’er its leaves shall move,

And on its top descend the mystic Dove.

Ye heavens! from high the dewy nectar pour,

And in soft silence shed the kindly shower!

The sick and weak the healing plant shall aid,—

From storms a shelter, and from heat a shade.

All crimes shall cease, and ancient fraud shall fail;

Returning Justice lift aloft her scale;

Peace o’er the world her olive wand extend,

And white-robed Innocence from heaven descend.

Swift fly the years, and rise th’ expected morn!

Oh, spring to light, auspicious Babe, be born!

See, Nature hastes her earliest wreaths to bring,

With all the incense of the breathing spring;

See lofty Lebanon his head advance,

See nodding forests on the mountains dance;

See, spicy clouds from lowly Saron rise,

And Carmel’s flowery top perfumes the skies!

Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers:

Prepare the way! a God, a God appears!—

A God, a God! the vocal hills reply,

The rocks proclaim th’ approaching Deity.

Lo, earth receives him from the bending skies!

Sink down ye mountains, and ye valleys rise;

With heads declined, ye cedars homage pay;

Be smooth ye rocks, ye rapid floods give way!

The Savior comes! by ancient bards foretold:

Hear him ye deaf, and all ye blind behold!

He from thick films shall purge the visual ray,

And on the sightless eyeball pour the day;

’Tis he th’ obstructed paths of sound shall clear,

And bid new music charm th’ unfolding ear;

The dumb shall sing, the lame his crutch forego,

And leap exulting like the bounding roe.

No sigh, no murmur, the wide world shall hear;

From every face he wipes off every tear.

In adamantine chains shall Death be bound,

And hell’s grim Tyrant feel th’ eternal wound.

As the good shepherd tends his fleecy care,

Seeks freshest pasture and the purest air,

Explores the lost, the wandering sheep directs,

By day o’ersees them, and by night protects,

The tender lambs he raises in his arms,

Feeds from his hand, and in his bosom warms,—

Thus shall mankind his guardian care engage,

The promised father of the future age.

No more shall nation against nation rise,

Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes,

Nor fields with gleaming steel be covered o’er,

The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more;

But useless lances into scythes shall bend,

And the broad falchion in a plowshare end.

Then palaces shall rise; the joyful son

Shall finish what his short-lived sire begun;

Their vines a shadow to their race shall yield,

And the same hand that sowed, shall reap the field.

The swain in barren deserts with surprise

See lilies spring, and sudden verdure rise;

And starts, amidst the thirsty wilds to hear

New falls of water murmuring in his ear.

On rifted rocks, the dragon’s late abodes,

The green reed trembles, and the bulrush nods.

Waste sandy valleys, once perplexed with thorn,

The spiry fir and shapely box adorn;

To leafless shrubs the flowering palms succeed,

And odorous myrtle to the noisome weed.

The lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant mead,

And boys in flowery bands the tiger lead;

The steer and lion at one crib shall meet,

And harmless serpents lick the pilgrim’s feet.

The smiling infant in his hand shall take

The crested basilisk and speckled snake,

Pleased the green lustre of the scales survey,

And with their forky tongues shall innocently play.

Rise, crowned with light, imperial Salem, rise!

Exalt thy towery head, and lift thy eyes!

See, a long race thy spacious courts adorn;

See future sons, and daughters yet unborn,

In crowding ranks on every side arise,

Demanding life, impatient for the skies!

See barbarous nations at thy gates attend,

Walk in thy light, and in thy temple bend;

See thy bright altars thronged with prostrate kings,

And heaped with products of Sabæan springs!

For thee Idumè’s spicy forests blow,

And seeds of gold in Ophir’s mountains glow.

See heaven its sparkling portals wide display,

And break upon thee in a flood of day!

No more the rising sun shall gild the morn,

Nor evening Cynthia fill her silver horn;

But lost, dissolved in thy superior rays,

One tide of glory, one unclouded blaze

O’erflow thy courts: the light himself shall shine

Revealed, and God’s eternal day be thine!

The seas shall waste, the skies in smoke decay,

Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away;

But fixed his word, his saving power remains;—

Thy realm for ever lasts, thy own Messiah reigns!