James Madison Bell

Creation Light

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Deep in the unrecorded past,
There was an age of darkness vast,
And boundless as the realms of space.
An age that held, in its embrace
And in an embryotic state,
All worlds and systems, small and great.


An inorganic age, a night
In which no star or ray of light,
In all the myriad ages gone,
Had rose or smiled that night upon.
A dismal, shoreless waste and void,
Where nature, crude and unemployed,


A shapeless, heterogenous mass
Had lain for ages, that surpass
The numerate skill of all the line
Of men or angels to define.


But when in spirit the mighty God
Moved o'er the dark, abysmal flood,
And raised his omnific voice of might,
And said to the deep, "Let there be light!"


Lo! a bright orb of deathless flame
From out the womb of darkness came,
And ere the silence was restored,
In radiant beams of light were poured
Upon a drear and cheerless waste,
Where gloom and chaos had long embraced.


"Let there be light!" and God's first born,
Clothed in the princely garb of morn,
Assumed his long pre-ordered place,
And dropped the mantling from his face.


Grim darkness saw, and filled with dread,
Her ebon pinions widely spread,
And flew, with terror-stricken fright
Before the piercing beams of light.


"Let there be light!" and high in heaven,
Sun, moon and stars, and planets seven,
Stood in their lots, moved in their spheres,
And time began his march of years.


As nature lay immured in gloom,
And rayless as the lifeless tomb,
Until the orient dawn of light
Dispelled the darkness of the night.


E'en so, in ignorance groped mankind,
Till reason's torch illumed the mind.
They saw the burning sun at noon,
At night the ever-changing moon.


And saw the myriad stars, that blaze
And fill, with their resplendent rays,
The deep nocturnal vaults on high,
But never thought or questioned why.


Thought makes the man: 'tis thought that soars;
Reason, the realms of thought explores.
Oh, reason! wondrous attribute,
Thou land-mark drawn 'twixt man and brute,


Thou art creation's highest test,
Her universal alchymist;
For by thy torch mankind may trace
Nature e'en to her secret place,


And there, with meek, becoming pride,
May cast the mystic veil aside;
May check the lightning in its speed,
Make it subservient to his need;


Measure the sun as with a chain,
Prognosticate the snow, the rain;
Distance the earth from pole to pole,
And mark the seasons as they roll.


Oh, thou! eternal source of light,
Ineffable and infinite,
Whom angels praise and saints adore,
Whose glory is and was before.


Before the morning stars in songs sublime,
Chanted the wondrous birth of time,
Whose glory is, was and shall be,
When time has filled his destiny.


And when the orbit lamps above,
Those burning children of thy love,
Shall fade from out the vaulted sky,
And sun and moon and systems die;


Creation sink in rayless gloom,
And night and chaos their reign resume,
Still wilt Thou all changeless be,
God, Jehovah, Deity.

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James Madison Bell