Saturday, July 7, 2012

Christ & Satan VIII

The subject of the poem now moves to the Harrowing of Hell, stepping a bit outside the chronological progression of events, but showing another victory of God as Christ over the powers of Satan. The first two episodes show the cosmic inevitability of Satan's defeat to the force of the divinity of Christ. If I have figured this correctly, the poem will find its culmination in the victory of Christ the Man over the temptations of Satan in the poem's final episode in the wilderness, which directly links the need to resist evil to our condition as humans, bringing the poem to a rousing call for action.


That angel-kin once was named,
called Lucifer the light-bearer,
in years gone by in God’s kingdom.
Then he incited a crime in that home of glory,
and desired to possess it all in over-pride.
Then Satan darkly thought
that he would create a high-throne in heaven
upwards among the eternal. He was their prince,
the first-chief of evil. It soon grieved him
when he had to bow towards hell
and his fellows with him, gliding into abjection,
the hatred of the Savior and never afterwards
were they allowed to witness the face of the Eternal One
forever and ever. (365-78a)

Then terror came to them,
and a crash before the Deemer, when he bowed
and broke the doors of hell. Bliss came to men
when they saw the head of the Savior.
Then was that awful folk, who we named before,
they were all frightened with terror,
widely throughout their windy hall, and they complained wordfully:
“This is harsh now that this storm comes—
the thanes in their host, the Prince of Angels.
He carries before him a more beautiful light
than we have ever before seen with our eyes,
except when we dwelt upwards among the angels. (378b-89)

“Now he will destroy all our torments
through his glorious skill. Now this terror comes,
a crash before the Lord, and now this sorrowful crowd
must soon endure suffering.
It is that one himself, the Son of the Sovereign,
the Lord of Angels. He will lead these souls
upwards from here, and we afterwards always
will suffer the humiliation of his wrathful works.” (390-97)

Then he turned to hell, the Hero of Men,
the Measurer by his might. He wished to lead
forth a number of men, many thousands
up to his homeland. Then came the voices of angels,
a thundering at the crash of dawn. The Lord himself had
conquered the enemy. Their feud was still evident
at the start of day, when the terror came.
Then he allowed the blessed souls to voyage up,
the kindred of Adam, but Eve might not yet
look upon the glory before she spoke wordfully: (398-407)

“I once angered you, Eternal Lord,
when we two, Adam and I, ate the apple
through the adder’s hatred, as we never should have.
The terrible one taught us, he that ever now
burns in his bonds, that we would own riches,
a holy home, and heaven to rule.
And we trusted the words of the cursed one,
we seized it with our hands on the holy tree,
the bright fruits. Bitterly we paid for it
when we must venture into this hot cavern,
and for untold thousands of winters
dwell there afterwards, severely ignited. (408-19)

“Now I implore you, Guardian of Heaven’s Realm,
for my household, that you lead us from here,
and your legions of angels, that I can and may
be taken upwards away, with my kinsfolk.
And about three nights ago, a servant of the Savior
came homewards to hell. He is now stoutly bound in captivity,
wearied with torments, because the Glory-King
became angered with him due to his pride.
You said to us truly that God himself
would illuminate this house for all hell-dwellers.
Then everyone arose and rested against his arm,
leaning against his hands. Though the terror of hell
seemed terrifying, they were all
joyful in their suffering that the Free-Lord
wished to come to hell to help them.” (420-34)

Then she stretched up her hands to the Heaven-King,
and begged the Measurer for mercy through the office of Mary:
“Listen! you are, my Lord, born from my daughter
in middle-earth, to be a help to all mankind.
Now it is obvious that you are God himself
and the Eternal First-Chief of all creation.” (435-40)

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