Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  670. Uriel

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Ralph Waldo Emerson. 1803–1882

670. Uriel

IT fell in the ancient periods 
  Which the brooding soul surveys, 
Or ever the wild Time coin’d itself 
  Into calendar months and days. 
This was the lapse of Uriel,         5
Which in Paradise befell. 
Once, among the Pleiads walking, 
Sayd overheard the young gods talking; 
And the treason, too long pent, 
To his ears was evident.  10
The young deities discuss’d 
Laws of form, and metre just, 
Orb, quintessence, and sunbeams, 
What subsisteth, and what seems. 
One, with low tones that decide,  15
And doubt and reverend use defied, 
With a look that solved the sphere, 
And stirr’d the devils everywhere, 
Gave his sentiment divine 
Against the being of a line.  20
‘Line in nature is not found; 
Unit and universe are round; 
In vain produced, all rays return; 
Evil will bless, and ice will burn.’ 
As Uriel spoke with piercing eye,  25
A shudder ran around the sky; 
The stern old war-gods shook their heads; 
The seraphs frown’d from myrtle-beds; 
Seem’d to the holy festival 
The rash word boded ill to all;  30
The balance-beam of Fate was bent; 
The bounds of good and ill were rent; 
Strong Hades could not keep his own, 
But all slid to confusion. 
A sad self-knowledge withering fell  35
On the beauty of Uriel; 
In heaven once eminent, the god 
Withdrew that hour into his cloud; 
Whether doom’d to long gyration 
In the sea of generation,  40
Or by knowledge grown too bright 
To hit the nerve of feebler sight. 
Straightway a forgetting wind 
Stole over the celestial kind, 
And their lips the secret kept,  45
If in ashes the fire-seed slept. 
But, now and then, truth-speaking things 
Shamed the angels’ veiling wings; 
And, shrilling from the solar course, 
Or from fruit of chemic force,  50
Procession of a soul in matter, 
Or the speeding change of water, 
Or out of the good of evil born, 
Came Uriel’s voice of cherub scorn, 
And a blush tinged the upper sky,  55
And the gods shook, they knew not why.