Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BABEL FALLS, by ANNA HEMPSTEAD BRANCH



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BABEL FALLS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Oh, thou great babel - out of nothing reared
Last Line: "shouted abroad in heaven, ""great babel falls."
Subject(s): Babel, Tower Of; Bible


"OH, thou great Babel -- out of nothing reared --
Shake! Crumble utterly! Be thou dismayed!
For God is wroth upon you and to Him
Thy citadel is as a voice at night --
Thy brazen bastions built of empty wind.
Thou art abolished fearfully. His feet
Are darkly spread among you. Ye shall go
Afflicted and confounded. Ye shall rage
In scattered tribes. God's strong and awful wars
He will send down upon you. And no man
Shall to his brother lift a cry of peace.
Words shall be taken from you. On your lips
Your utterance shall be confused. Your breath
Shall sicken in your nostrils and send forth
A stench upon this land. With wailing voices
Ye shall breed forth new words and every one
Like old death-bearing Cain shall breathe out death.
Your tribe henceforth shall speak a various tongue
And there shall be a curse upon your speech."

Then from that stellar orb that is the earth,
Rose such a lamentation that it vexed
The listening brightness of the zodiac.
And many a star fell from the sky that night
With mortal grief afflicted. Meteor-eyed,
Eternity watched a new epoch dawn
Upon that furious planet set in time.
Then in high heaven all the angelic host,
Beating about God's ramparts like a tide,
Swelled terrible with glory, and the eyes
Of no Archangel could range forth so far
As to declare the end of that vast sea.
But bright with billowy radiance they heaved
Their rugged splendor underneath the sun
And surged against the battlements. For, lo!
There shot among them fires that were such thoughts
As never more should blaze upon the earth,
Whose terrible radiance was the garb of speech.
Breathed in by Heaven, swept back God's beauteous
words
To the eternal peace from which they came.
Burning, they plunged into the Angel's hands.
They sunk their glowing shapes into his brain.
They shouted in his thighs, and in his feet
Raised paeans of delight until he leaped
Before the Lord with prophecy enraged.
They foamed upon his brow. They swam serene
Through the translucent whiteness of his breast.
Amid his spiritual substance, fires shone
With moving splendor and interior name.
They made soft music in his throbbing plumes
And on his finger tips did sweetly sing.
But never more on earth those orbs of light
Choired truth along the orbits of man's brain.
And with them rushed swart algebras, disturbed
From their deep lairs of stone; and numbers swept
Their wings from earth until material things
Groaned, crumbled, were no more. Swift accuracies,
Smooth-limbed and beautiful with flying feet,
Fled from their bright abodes of tower and wall
And, poised in high air, looked down amazed
To see huge towers stricken by their flight;
Lines, whirled about the heavenly ramparts, swung
From ancient straightness into anguished shapes
They had not dreamed of, arcs, and angles strange,
And terrible spirals. Many a tortured curve,
Unwoven from arch and dome, was stretched in pangs
Of pained and frigid straightness. High in air
Moved mournful, calm and stern geometries --
Pale priests of space -- that from their ancient hands
Loosed the old order and, at God's altars bowed,
Laid down their sacrifice of beauty. Then
A murmur rose among the radiant ones,
And they grew turbulent in Heaven, for lo,
The angel had gone down. His terrible wings,
That with bright comets bristled as with eyes,
Did shake the atmosphere like living wars.
Blown through his hair were strong bright meteors
Consuming as with flame. His thundering feet
Ploughed up the earth till fearfully she rocked
And groaned as chaos did of old. His eyes
Blazed like volcanoes from pale peaks of air
And prophesied destruction. His screaming voice
Perched like an eagle on white cliffs of the sky
And snatched earth's vision Heavenward. His brow
Passed judgment on the universe. His robes
With conflagration burned the gale. Oh then
There was a cry in Heaven, for all the host
Of bright magnificence, with thundering voice,
Shouted abroad in Heaven, "Great Babel Falls."




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