Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Version of the Apocalypse
By John Adams (1705–1740)
 
          Mr Knapp, in his Biographical Sketches, says that Adams’s Paraphrase of the Revelations was a failure. We are of a different opinion, and are inclined to think that his best poetry will be found in this version of the Apocalypse. There is certainly an agreeable harmony, and a faithful observance of the original in the following extracts.—S. K.


THE SARDIAN angel, Jesus bids attend,
Before whose throne the radiant spirits stand
And seven celestial lights adorn his hand.
“Through the thin veil of thine hypocrisy
I cast the flames of mine omniscient eye;        5
The form that lives, and dazzles all around,
Conceals a heart corrupt, a bleeding wound;
Through which your dying grace shall soon be spent,
Unless your care and penitence prevent.
Few are your deeds, nor will those pious acts        10
Atone the greater sum of your neglects.
Past admonitions present to your fear,
The lightnings seem to see, the thunders hear;
Nor let the less’ning sounds die on your ear.
Retain your former faith and former life,        15
Or else expect my judgments like a thief,
Shall steal in wrath on your unguarded hours,
The bolts descending while the tempest pours:
Too much like Sodom, Sardis has her lots,
Whose shining garments are distain’d with spots.        20
Their fairer vesture, whiten’d into snow,
Shall o’er the flowery walks of Eden flow.
The worthy victor shall be cloth’d in white;
At once the garb of innocence and light;
In heaven’s fair books, in golden figures wrote,        25
His name shall shine, nor endless ages blot.
When heaven shall pour its angels all around,
And all the dead shall live before the sound,
And tribes unnumber’d circle round the king,
His name shall glitter in the shining ring:        30
The godlike man my Father, too, shall own,
My lips acquit him, and my hand shall crown:
Th’ applauded saint, proclaim’d by every tongue,
The saints shall shout, while angels give their song.
Whose ears these counsels in attention bind,        35
The same or greater happiness shall find.
 
  The Saviour holy, and the witness true,
O Philadelphia’s Guardian, writes to you.
The scenes of joy and wo are in his hand
Who doth the keys of life and death command;        40
The gates of heaven, and hell’s tremendous flame,
These none can open, nor can shut but him.
Thy power, in fiery persecutions show’d,
Though small thy strength, the rage of hell withstood:
Since in the storm thy growing courage rose,        45
The opening hours shall smiling scenes disclose;
Nor more shall shut by clouds of rising foes.
The boasted Jews, who Satan’s army meet,
Shall own my love, and own it at your feet.
On nations round, discharg’d from throne to throne,        50
The storm shall fall, but fly from thee alone.
When all the driving tempest roars around,
The heavens serene and spotless will be found.
 
  Behold I come, with speedy vengeance come,
Big with the joys of nations, or their doom:        55
Then let thy faith and constancy prepare
The golden crown and regal robes to wear.
A victor then, the palm shall grace thy hand,
And thou a pillar in the temple stand;
Secure, sublime, and beauteous thou shalt rise        60
To prop and grace the church within the skies.
Thy vesture, too, the name of God shall wear,
And that fair city, pendent in the air;
The offspring of the skies, and modell’d there;
And thy new title glitt’ring on thy vest,        65
Shall join a dazzling lustre to the rest.
 
  Ye churches hear, and ponder what is said,
For depths are here, and boundless fields are spread
Laodicea, hear the great amen,
For ever true his witness will remain;        70
And rising at his word the world began:
I know your works; in vain you would conceal
Your dull indifference, and your languid zeal;
Or throw aside the form, and show the cheat,
Or let devotion raise a vital heat.        75
As water which is free from each excess
Breaks from the bosom which it did oppress;
My vengeance shall your lifeless forms explore,
And from my mouth the nauseous draught shall pour.
As, when distraction seizes on the brain,        80
The beggar with imagin’d wealth is vain;
His treasures flow, and plenty crowns his board,
He sees his servants, and he seems a lord;
Naked, the purple vestments seem to wear,
And every want is fled, and every fear;        85
So, in the garments of affected pride,
The poor and naked hypocrite is hid:
Blind to himself, his fancy gilds the stains
Which strike with horror, when his reason reigns.
 
  To me thy poverty and wants impart,        90
My golden furniture shall grace thy heart:
Nor snow can rival the celestial vest
In which thy naked spirit shall be dress’d;
Where every virtue shall attract the eye,
And all the sister graces of the sky.        95
Blind as thou art, my salve can give thee light,
And pour the heavenly object on thy sight.
Repent, and kindle up a vigorous zeal,
Believe my mercy when my rod you feel.
 
  See where I stand, and wait your open breast,        100
Not once invited, but a pleading guest!
Happy the man who hears the welcome sound,
The king shall enter; and, the table crown’d,
Celestial dainties shall regale his mind;
The food ambrosia, and the wine refin’d.        105
Though vile the man, with freedom I will sup,
The broken bread bestow, and purple cup.
Soft on his ear my milky speech shall flow,
As gentle showers, or drops of heavenly dew.
Who gives his lord a kind reception here        110
Shall, rapt to paradise, the bridal supper share.
The christian hero, seated on a throne,
Shall reign with me, and triumph in a crown.
My sufferings gave the empire of the skies,
And such as die like me, like me shall rise:        115
Happy, whose pensive mind shall make him wise.”
*      *      *      *      *      *      *
Now kindled, on the vacant fields of space,
New shining worlds, and heaven renew’d its face;
Earth, circling smooth, without an ocean rose,
With hills unwrinkled and unclouded brows.        120
The sacred city, modell’d in the sky,
Shot in a trail of glory from on high;
Till resting on the floating fields of air,
Dress’d like a bride, it shone divinely fair.
Then a loud voice a sacred seraph sent,        125
Which rang through all th’ extended firmament.
“A God, a God! to dwell with men descends,
See where his sparkling tent sublimely stands!
His nation shall th’ imperial city hold,
And God shall lead them through the streets of gold;        130
Wipe every tear from every flowing eye,
And death shall from his courts for ever fly:
And pensive moans, and silent grief and pain,
And toilsome labor, sin’s detested train;
For every former shady scene is fled,        135
And light, eternal, lifts its cheerful head.”
 
  Then spoke th’ almighty Sire of endless days,
Who sits enthron’d in light’s severest blaze;
“My forming word shall every thing renew,
And let thy pen proclaim my sayings true.        140
All things to a conclusion swiftly tend,
But ne’er begun, my years can never end;
The Alpha I, who spoke the birth of things,
And the Omega who their period brings.”
 
 
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