Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NIMROD: 4, by ANNA HEMPSTEAD BRANCH

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

NIMROD: 4, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Then did the powers of the air breed forth
Last Line: "and said, ""upon the stone I wrote god's name."
Subject(s): Nimrod (bible)

Then did the powers of the air breed forth
Sight in no mortal shape involved that flew
Furious as eagles blazing in mid noon --
And snatching Heavenward that naked deed
Swept up its prey, screaming, into the sun.
Then was there heard upon steep slopes of air,
Like fearful rushings of invisible steeds,
The trampling of innumerable eyes,
That mounted up to God, angry, amazed,
Terrific smoking, furious and appalled,
By earth affrighted. But when around the Throne
Vast multitudes of angels robed in wrath,
Displeased and splendid, gazed into God's face,
The Lord looked down upon great Nimrod's deed
And seated in large silence, pitied him.
Then from His breast a blazing angel came
And looking down upon the earth he cried,
"Oh blind, oh fatuous, knowing not thyself!
For I that am in God am thine own soul,
Thine own deep Self -- unutterably real.
But thou wouldst build thy towers and threaten us
And snatch from out the Book His secret Word.
Yet -- at thy voice -- I will come down to earth,
And I will sphere before thy mortal sight
His midmost Truth, God's utterance crystal clear,
Shape of angelic substance that contains
The stars of destinies, astrologies,
Prophecies, histories, retributions, spells,
Births, crucifixions, resurrections, dooms,
And God's own heart that ever burns therein,
Made visible. Lo then, thine eyes shall see!
And thou shalt know how through thy walls are stretched
High Heaven's bastions; how angels' mighty feet
Tread deep thy strong foundations and their great arms
Uplift thy arches; how their heavenly breath
Bears up thy highest turrets, and how thy domes
Are symbols of their passing. Gazing on me,
Made wise with Truth, thou shalt grow glorious.
And I will shine through thee as does the flame
In sacred vessels -- burning before the Lord.
A Prophet and a Saviour thou shalt be.
And thy great citadel shall open lie
To bright celestial guests and thou shalt walk
Among our sacred and dark groves; but if
I do not please thee, smite me with thy sword,
And I will leave thee and to Heaven return."
Then, from His inmost bosom, God sent down
That angel unto Nimrod. And the King,
In Babel, made to Bathsheba a feast.
For he had marshalled hosts of armored men
In that great hall; and when Bathsheba moved
In silent radiance down the snow-white stair
There swept among them a vast murmuring
And a low roaring as of ardent flame.
Behold, she walked among them, and her feet
Were bound in golden sandals. The robe she wore
Was scarlet; and her face was pale. She came.
Then those that gazed upon her, being abashed,
Could lift their eyes no longer. But she moved
As does the sunset on an empty plain.
Beautiful and alone she walked unseen.
Only great Nimrod's eyes were not made blind,
But he observed the pageant of her face.
His shaggy warriors, bright as burning trees,
Blazed like deep forests all on fire, and lit
With smouldering helmet and with flaming shield
The air with conflagration; but their eyes
Fell down like flaming leaves, while over them
In the broad sky two eagles soared and met
And, mated in mid air, fledged on the gale
Great golden birds of love. So swiftly paired
The eyes of mighty Nimrod and the Queen.
Unwatched, unseen, amid vast multitudes,
She melted in his arms and on his breast
Laid down the awful splendor of her face.
And Nimrod saw the Angel, and his brow
Was pale, translucent; and a garb of light
Concealed the burning softness of his shape;
And he was mild and glorious and his eyes
In deep obedience smiled and as he shone,
Immortal doves were bred out of his sight --
And flew among the thousand columns of gold.
Like some strong diver he plunged down through light,
Through gulfs of quiet and eternal seas
Of such delight his bosom swelled with bliss,
And his large pantings shook the silvered deep.
With heaving sides he swam beneath the flood
And drenched with beauty floated into sight.
So Nimrod gazed upon him and he saw
Such rich benevolence as warmed the air
Like a celestial orchard deep with fruit
Of milky substance, bounteous and mild.
And the translucent brightness of his limbs
Was all inscribed with prophecies and dooms,
With retributions, ecstasies and dreams.
How starry was his substance, and his shape
How chastened unto beauty! How austere!
For he was lovelier than the Milky Way;
More ancient than the moon; more white than stars;.
And glories, dying from some fairer clime,
Did palely swim along his silent smile
Like great white singing swans. And Nimrod knew
His own deep self, unutterably real.
And in his hand he held an awful sphere,
A monstrous globule shaped like the full moon,
A dreadful brightness, stranger than a star.
Eternal, beautiful, orbed in golden light,
A vessel of pure fire it flamed serene,
More fearful than clear water wen ' is still.
Eternal beauty solved into one tear --
It laid a shape upon unshapen air,
And, as the radiant moon reveals the sun,
Held up to mortal vision the unseen.
And Nimrod saw it and he cried aloud.
And from his limbs, as out of gnarled trees,
Slow heavy drops exuded; and his sweat
Dropped from him like thick amber and he fixed
Upon that spirit astonished, staring eyes --
And cried unto the angel, "It is the Word."
For lo, made visible to mortal sight,
Strange mingled colors swam upon its shape.
Like skies at noon its pure angelic substance
Contained all stars and they engendered forth
Prophecies, histories, high astrologies,
Falls, crucifixions, resurrections, dooms,
Portents and charms; bright times, like ripened fruit,
Fell from its surface; seas and shifting lands
Were hurried from its face; vast nations rushed
And circling round it in mad hurricanes
Chastened its limpid stillness. Then, all gone,
Closed in its central sweetness, sphered in calm,
Blushed the perpetual smile of God.
Then spoke
That Angel unto Nimrod and he said,
"See in my hand God's awful Hieroglyph.
This is His secret Utterance, the Word
Which thou dost seek, in prayers that thou hast shaped
And raised to Heaven in thy domes august,
Thy soaring towers and thy spires that dream.
Take it from me. I am thy Spirit's Truth,
And we are one another, and from thee
Shall future times beget me. Thou shalt grow
Mild, ancient, and at ease, eternal, wise.
A prophet and a saviour -- thou shalt be.
And thy great citadels shall open lie
To bright celestial guests and thou shalt walk
At will among our sacred and dark groves --
And thou and all thy sons shall be as kings.
Stretch out thy hand. Lay hold upon God's Word."
And Nimrod gazed upon that Utterance.
And from it streamed such splendor as lit up
Bathsheba's face, inclined on Nimrod's breast.
And they perceived the galleries of the hall
Uplifted on the shoulders of archangels
And how amid the thick and blackened bronze
Was spread their hair and how their powerful shoulders
Supported Nimrod's bulwarks and their breath
Blew forth round domes like bubbles and their eyes
Bred out of earth his battlements, as the sun
Bids forests into growth; and they beheld
Strong Gravitations that with gigantic knees
Forced down his bastions while ethereal hands
Lifted his pinnacles; and they perceived
That through the ramparts of that mighty town
Were stretched sweet angels' wings and how mild eyes
Gazed at them from the stones and the great arches
Were lifted on the backs of angels, bent
To lift that joyous burden; and bright feet
Were spread amid the rock and rushing raiment
Of splendid spirits roared along the stone
For Nimrod when he built. And they perceived
How Cherubim had beckoned, and behold,
The city had grown upward; winged steeds
Were chained to drag the stones and forms unseen
Had built among the laborers on the plain.
And she remembered what God said to Nimrod,
And looking on the polished stone that stood
Between great brazen angels, she saw it hid
In purple cloth. Then Bathsheba drew down
Great Nimrod's face unto her own and said,
"Son of Almighty God -- what hast thou done?
Tell me, great Nimrod, hast thou kept His word?
For I remember how I bade thee go
And write upon the stone, even as He said.
And if thou didst not do it -- never more
Can I in solace lean upon thy breast.
No more can I learn from thine eyes, or say
Unto my soul,' This man shall lead thee forth
And marshal thee to God' -- But I in grief
Would cloud my presence even to thy face.
Tell me, what didst thou write upon the stone?
Oh -- ere I come to thee again -- I say
Was it God's name?"
And Nimrod turned and saw
That burning shape, bright as the breast of God,
Gaze at him from the air and unto him
That Utterance spoke. "What has thy soul conceived?
What thought has taken thee? Oh, in thy heart
What strange imagination has sprung forth?
What speech is this that thou reflectest on?
If thou dost speak it, thou shalt be accursed.
Tell her what thou hast done, else with thy hand
Cast down the Word of God.;
And Nimrod turned.
And gazing on Bathsheba he beheld
The pale and awful beauty of her face.
Then he cast down God's Word before her feet,
And said, "Upon the stone I wrote God's name."

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