The Pall of Endless Night

Thus stands the fact; and if the proof should fail,
Let Heaven, next time, some better proof reveal.
I’ve done my part; I’ve given you here the pith;
The rest, the bark and sap, I leave to * * * * *
Thus spoke the sage: a shout, from all the throng,
Roll’d up to heaven, and roar’d the plains along;
Conscience, a moment, ceas’d her stings to rear,
And joy excessive whelm’d each rising fear.
But soon reflection’s glass again she rear’d,
Spread out fell sin; and all her horrors bar’d;
There anguish, guilt, remorse, her dreadful train,
Tremendous harbingers of endless pain,
Froze the sad breast, amaz’d the withering eye,
And forc’d the soul to doubt the luscious lie.
Yet soon sophistic wishes, fond and vain,
The scheme review’d, and lov’d, and hop’d again;
Soon, one by one, the flames of hell withdrew;
Less painful conscience, sin less dangerous grew;
Less priz’d the day, to man for trial given,
Less fear’d Jehovah, and less valued heaven.
No longer now by conscience’ calls unmann’d,
To sin, the wretch put forth a bolder hand;
More freely cheated, lied, defam’d, and swore;
Nor wish’d the night to riot, drink, or whore;
Lock’d up, and hiss’d his God; his parent stung,
And sold his friend, and country, for a song.
The new-fledg’d infidel of modern brood
Climb’d the next fence, clapp’d both his wings, and crow’d;
Confess’d the doctrines were as just, as new,
And doubted if the bible were not true.
The decent christian threw his mask aside,
And smil’d, to see the path of heaven so wide,
To church, the half of each fair sunday, went,
The rest, in visits, sleep, or dining, spent;
To vice and error nobly liberal grew;
Spoke kindly of all doctrines, but the true;
All men, but saints, he hop’d to heaven might rise,
And thought all roads, but virtue, reach’d the skies,
There truth and virtue stood, and sigh’d to find
New gates of falshood open’d on mankind;
New paths to ruin strew’d with flowers divine,
And other aids, and motives, gain’d to sin.
From a dim cloud, the spirit eyed the scene,
Now proud with triumph, and now vex’d with spleen,
Mark’d all the throng, beheld them all his own
And to his cause no friend of virtue won:
Surpriz’d, enrag’d, he wing’d his sooty flight;
And hid beneath the pall of endless night.
Timothy Dwight: The Triumph of Infidelity (1788)

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