James Monroe Whitfield

The Arch Apostate

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"Since he miscalled the morning star,
Nor man, nor fiend hath fallen so far."

-- Byron

When gathered in the courts above,
Before Jehovah's burning throne,
Archangels own his boundless love,
And cast their crowns of glory down;
While cherubim and seraphim,
Thronging in serried ranks around,
Now raise on high the pealing hymn,
And loud their Maker's praise resound;
Causing the arch of heaven to ring
With loud hosannas to their king.
And in a thousand varied lays
Pouring their raptured songs of praise,
A tribute to Almighty love,
Through which alone they live and move
Praising the fixed, unchanging laws,
By which the first Eternal Cause
Propels the radiant spheres on high,
That through the illimitable sky
Pursue their never-varying course
Throughout the boundless Universe.
And all the host to whom was given
The rays of bright intelligence,
To fit them for the joys of heaven,
Far higher than the carnal sense;
All owned the wisdom of those laws,
By which the first Almighty Cause,
Throughout Creation's vast expanse,
Imposed on every creature's mind,
Through endless ages to advance,
In good and evil unconfined:
That "higher law," which, fixed as fate,
Binds all of high or low estate.
But one, the foremost of that train,
The first in wisdom, power and might,
Who poured in heaven the highest strain,
And clearest saw both wrong and right,
Of loftiest, most capacious mind,
Of largest views, of strongest will,
Of power to dazzle, foil and blind,
Make evil good, and good seem ill,
With haughty and ambitious boast,
To deeds of evil e'er inclined,
A third part of the heavenly host
Drew with him in rebellion blind;
And strove to make the lower law
Of his own lust, and hate, and pride,
The only source from whence to draw
For rules and precepts to decide;
And thus beneath his feet he trod
The statutes of Almighty God;
And by avenging justice fell
Down to the lowest depths of hell.
So in our Nation's Senate Hall,
Where statesmen grave, in council meet,
By far the mightiest of them all,
One called the Godlike, most complete
In all the attributes of mind,
That win the applause of human kind --
Whose learned thoughts, and glowing words,
In early days had oft been poured
In trumpet tones at Freedom's shrine,
And fanned the latent spark divine
Implanted in the human breast,
Of sympathy with the oppressed,
Into a bright and living blaze,
Beneath whose fierce and scorching rays,
Tyrants had cowered in the dust,
And slaves looked up with hopeful trust.
When Greece had broke the tyrant's chain,
And bathed her sword in Moslem gore,
While Freedom's thrilling battle-strain,
Was pealing o'er her classic shore,
His was the voice which, o'er the wave,
Sent forth a loud and cheering note,
Aroused to strife the slumbering slave,
And cheered the struggling Suliote.
On Plymouth rock his voice was heard,
In tones which like a clarion stirred
The blood in every freeman's veins,
And caused the slaves on Southern plains,
To hail it as the harbinger
Of bright and halcyon days to come,
When many a Northern Senator.
Shall dare to speak for those now dumb.
But oh, how changed! the giant mind
That once had soared a Godlike flight,
And, 'mid the sceptered kings of mind
Had mounted to the loftiest height,
Now prostrate, groveling in the dust,
Recreant to his most sacred trust,
The women-whippers' pliant tool,
Perjured in sight of God and man,
And falsest of the hollow school
Of demagogues, who lead the van,
The forlorn hope of slavery;
With intrigue, cunning, knavery,
Striving to quell the rising tide
Of freedom setting o'er the land,
And threatening with tyrannic pride
To all who dare for freedom stand,
The terrors of the dungeon's gloom,
The felon's cell, the traitor's doom;
Setting their own unholy laws
Above the higher law of God;
Branding each one who scorns their cause,
Nor fears the petty tyrant's nod,
A traitor, and an infidel,
And hireling priests are paid to tell
That those whom Jesus died to save,
And ransomed with his blood from hell,
Were born to be their abject slaves;
And the rude rabble catch the yell,
And help the furious sound to swell,
Which sends a shout of joy through hell,
Where all the damned, in endless flame,
Exult amid tormenting fire,
That men should take such pains to claim
The notice of Almighty ire.
When all the deep-dyed villains come
To listen to their final doom,
And the great Judge himself portrays
The different degrees of crime
Which marked their darkly devious ways,
While passing through the rounds of time.
Arnold, whose treacherous nature sought
His country's freedom to betray,
For which himself had bravely fought,
On many a doubtful battle-day;
And Gorgey, too, whose jealous spite,
Betrayed his country to her foes,
And quenched in blood the dawning light
That brightly o'er her prospects rose;
And Judas, who for paltry pelf,
His Lord and Saviour basely sold,
And then, despairing, hung himself;
And all, who, for the lust of gold,
Or pride, or hate, or love of power,
The tyrant or the traitor played,
Or faltering, in an evil hour,
Their sacred trusts have all betrayed;
They yet shall scorn the proffered hand
Of him, the vilest of the band,
Who, having greater power of mind
Than any other living man,
Had used it to debase his kind,
And spread abroad the direst ban
Which man or devil ever saw,
Slavery's corrupt, inhuman law:
And, sinking from his high estate,
Without excuse of any kind,
The lust of power, or pride, or hate,
Or imbecility of mind,
Has stooped in Freedom's council halls,
Where live the memories of the brave,
To be the meanest thing that crawls
The earth -- a voluntary slave
In future years, when men desire
To speak in strong hyperbole,
And give, in one small word, the fire
And essence of iniquity --
That name shall suit their purpose well,
For not 'mid all the fiends of hell,
Could one be found that would express
So well, the depths of littleness;
And Webster's name shall ever be
The deepest badge of infamy.

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