Groaning Caverns, Sulphureous Clouds

Burst, burst, thou charm! wake, trembler wake again,
Nor let thy parent’s dying prayers be vain!
The hour arriv’d, th’ infernal trumpet blew;
Black from its mouth a cloud sulphureous flew;
The caverns groan’d; the startled throng gave way,
And forth the chariot rush’d to gloomy day.
On every side, expressive emblems rose,
The man, the scene, the purpose to disclose.
Here wrinkled dotage, like a fondled boy,
Titter’d, and smirk’d its momentary joy:
His crumbs there avarice grip’d, with lengthen’d nails,
And weigh’d clipp’d half pence in unequal scales.
Trim vanity her praises laugh’d aloud,
And snuff’d for incense from the gaping crowd,
While Age an eye of anguish cast around,
His crown of glory prostrate on the ground.
There C******* sate; aloud his voice declar’d,
Hell is no more, or no more to be fear’d.
What tho’ the Heavens, in words of flaming fire,
Disclose the vengeance of eternal ire,
Bid anguish o’er the unrepenting soul,
In waves succeeding waves, forever roll;
The strongest terms, each language knows, employ
To teach us endless woe, and endless joy:
‘Tis all a specious irony, design’d
A harmless trifling with the human kind:
Or, not to charge the sacred books with lies,
A wile most needful of the ingenious skies,
On this bad earth their kingdom to maintain,
And curb the rebel, man: but all in vain.

Timothy Dwight: The Triumph of Infidelity (1788)


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