The Angel Of The Church

Aye, strike with sacrilegious aim
The temple of the living God;
Hurl iron bolt and seething flame
Through aisles which holiest feet have trod;
Tear up the altar, spoil the tomb,
And, raging with demoniac ire,
Send down, in sudden crash of doom,
That grand, old, sky-sustaining spire.


That spire, for full a hundred years,[1]
Hath been a people's point of sight;
That shrine hath warmed their souls to tears,
With strains well worthy Salem's height;
The sweet, clear music of its bells,
Made liquid soft in Southern air,
Still through the heart of memory swells,
And wakes the hopeful soul to prayer.


Along the shores for many a mile,
Long ere they owned a beacon-mark,
It caught arid kept the Day-God's smile,
The guide for every wandering bark;[2]
Averting from our homes the scaith
Of fiery bolt, in storm-cloud driven,
The Pharos to the wandering faith,
It pointed every prayer to Heaven!


Well may ye, felons of the time,
Still loathing all that's pure and free,
Add this to many a thousand crime
'Gainst peace and sweet humanity:
Ye, who have wrapped our towns in flame,
Defiled our shrines, befouled our homes,
But fitly turn your murderous aim
Against Jehovah's ancient domes.


Yet, though the grand old temple falls,
And downward sinks the lofty spire,
Our faith is stronger than our walls,
And soars above the storm and fire.
Ye shake no faith in souls made free
To tread the paths their fathers trod;
To fight and die for liberty,
Believing in the avenging God!


Think not, though long his anger stays,
His justice sleeps--His wrath is spent;
The arm of vengeance but delays,
To make more dread the punishment!
Each impious hand that lights the torch
Shall wither ere the bolt shall fall;
And the bright Angel of the Church,
With seraph shield avert the ball!


For still we deem, as taught of old,
That where the faith the altar builds,
God sends an angel from his fold,
Whose sleepless watch the temple shields,
And to his flock, with sweet accord,
Yields their fond choice, from THRONES and POWERS;
Thus, Michael, with his fiery sword
And golden shield, still champions ours!


And he who smote the dragon down,
And chained him thousand years of time,
Need never fear the boa's frown,
Though loathsome in his spite and slime.
He, from the topmost height, surveys
And guards the shrines our fathers gave;
And we, who sleep beneath his gaze,
May well believe his power to save!


Yet, if it be that for our sin
Our angel's term of watch is o'er,
With proper prayer, true faith must win
The guardian watcher back once more I
Faith, brethren of the Church, and prayer--
In blood and sackcloth, if it need;
And still our spire shall rise in air,
Our temple, though our people bleed!

Where dwells the spirit of the Bard--what sky
Persuades his daring wing,--
Folded in soft carnation, or in snow
Still sleeping, far o'er summits of the cloud,
And, with a seeming, sweet unconsciousness,
Wooing his plume, through baffling storms to fly,
Assured of all that ever yet might bless
The spirit, by love and loftiest hope made proud,
Would he but struggle for the dear caress!--
Or would his giant spring,
Impelled by holiest ire,
Assail the sullen summits of the storm,
Bent with broad breast and still impatient form,
Where clouds unfold themselves in leaping fire!
What vision wins his soul,--
What passion wings his flight,--
What dream of conquest woos his eager eye!--
How glows he with the strife,--
How spurns he at control,--
With what unmeasured rage would he defy
The foes that rise around and threaten life!--
His upward flight is fair,
He goes through parting air,
He breaks the barrier cloud, he sees the eye that's there,
The centre of the realm of storm that mocked him but to dare!
And now he grasps the prize,
That on the summit lies,
And binds the burning jewel to his brow;
Transfigured by its bright,
He wears a mightier face,
Nor grovels more in likeness of the earth;--
His wing a bolder flight,
His step a wilder grace,
He glows, the creature of a holier birth;--
Suns sing, and stars glow glad around his light;
And thus he speeds afar,
'Mid gathering sun and star,
The sov'reign, he, of worlds, where these but subjects are;
And men that marked his wing with mocking sight,
Do watch and wonder now;--
Will watch and worship with delight, anon,
When far from hiss and hate, his upward form hath gone!

0h! ere that van was won,
Whose flight hath braved the sun--
Whose daring strength and aim
Have scaled the heights of cloud and bared their breasts of flame;
What lowly toil was done,--
How slow the moments sped,--
How bitter were the pangs that vexed the heart and head!
The burden which he bore,
The thorns his feet that tore,
The cruel wounds he suffered with no moan,--
Alone,--and still alone!--
Denial, which could smile,
Beholding, all the while,
How salter than the sea were the salt tears he shed;
And over all, the curse,
Than all of these more worse.
Prostrate, before the common way, to bear
The feet of hissing things,
Whose toil it is to tear,
And cramp the glorious creature born to wings!
Ah! should he once despair!--

Not lonely, with the sad nymph Solitude,
Deep in the cover of the ancient wood,
Where the sun leaves him, and the happy dawn,
Stealing with blushes over the gray lawn,
Stills finds him, all forgetful of the flight
Of hours, that passing still from dark to bright,
Know not to loiter,--all their progress naught:--
His eye, unconscious of the day, is bright
With inward vision; till, as sudden freed,
By the superior quest of a proud thought,
He darts away with an unmeasured speed;
His pinion purpling as he gains the height,
Where still, though all obscured from mortal sight,
He bathes him in the late smiles of the sun;--
And oh! the glory, as he guides his steed,
Flakes from his pinions falling, as they soar
To mounts where Eos binds her buskins on
And proud Artemis, watching by her well,
For one,---sole fortunate of all his race,--
With hand upon his mouth her beagle stays,
Lest he should baffle sounds too sweet to lose,
That even now are gliding with the dews.
How nobly he arrays
His robes for flight--his robes, the woven of songs,
Borrowed from starry spheres,--with each a muse
That, with her harmonies, maintains its dance
Celestial, and its circles bright prolongs.
Fair ever, but with warrior form and face,
He stands before the eye of each young grace
Beguiling the sweet passion from her cell,
And still subjecting beauty by the glance,
Which speaks his own subjection to a spell.
The eldest born of rapture, that makes Love,
At once submissive and the Conqueror.
He conquers but to bring deliverance,
And with deliverance light;--
To conquer, he has only to explore,--
And makes a permanent empire, but to spread,
Though speeding on with unobserving haste,--
A wing above the waste.
A single feather from his pinion shed,
A single beam of beauty from his eye,
Takes captive of the dim sleeping realm below,
Through eyes of truest worshippers, that straight
Bring shouts to welcome and bright flowers to wreathe
His altars; and, as those, to life from death,
Plucked sudden, in their gratitude and faith
Deem him a god who wrought the miracle,--
So do they take him to their shrines, and vow
Their annual incense of sweet song and smell,
For him to whom their happiness they owe.
Thus goes he still from desert shore to shore,
Where life in darkness droops, where beauty errs,
Having no worshippers,
And lacking sympathy for the light!--The eye
That is the spirit of his wing, no more,
This progress once begun, can cease to soar,
Suffers eclipse, or sleeps!--
No more be furled
The wing,--that, from the first decreed to fly,
Must speed to daily conquests, deep and high,
Till no domain of dark unlighted keeps,
And all the realm of strife beneath the sky
Grows one, in beauty and peace for evermore,--
Soothed to eternal office of delight,
By these that wing the soul on its first flight,
For these are the great spirits that shape the world!