Hell’s Black Colours Rise

Against her friends I arm’d new bands of foes;
First, highest, all-subduing Fashion rose.
From courts to cottages, her sovereign sway,
With force resistless, bade the world obey.
She moulded faith, and science, with a nod;
Now there was not, and now there was, a God.
” Let black be white, ” she said, and white it seem’d,
” Hume a philosopher; ” and straight he dream’d
Most philosophically. At her call,
Opinions, doctrines, learn’d to rise, and fall;
Before her, bent the universal knee,
And own’d her sovereign, to the praise of me.
With her, brave Ridicule, ‘twixt ill and good,
Falshood and truth, satanic umpire stood.
He, Hogarth like, with hues and features new,
The form of providence, persuasive drew:
Round its fair face bade hells black colours rise.
Its limbs distorted, blear’d its heaven-bright eyes.
At the maim’d image gaz’d, and grinn’d aloud —
” Yon frightful hag’s no semblance of a god. ”
Mean time my friends, the veterans of my cause,
Rack’d every nerve, and gain’d all hell’s applause,
Thro’ realms of cheat and doubt, and darkness, ran,
New-made creation, uncreated man,
Taught, and retaught, asserted and denied,
As pamper’d pleasure, or as bolster’d pride.
Now, groping man in death’s dim darkness trod,
Now, all things kenn’d, with eyelids of a god.
Now, miracles, not God himself could spell;
Now, every monk could grunt them from his cell.
Priests now were dullest, last, of mortal things;
Now outflew Satan’s self, on cunning’s wings.
No system here, of truth, to man is given;
There my own doctrines speak the voice of heaven;
While God, with smiling eyes, alike surveys
The pagan mysteries, and the christian praise.


Timothy Dwight: The Triumph of Infidelity (1788)

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