The Vision of Judgment
by Lord Byron
Saint Peter sat by the celestial gate:
His keys were rusty, and the lock was dull,
So little trouble had been given of late;
Not that the place by any means was full,
But since the Gallic era `eight-eight`
The devils had ta`en a longer, stronger pull,
And `a pull altogether,` as they say
At sea — which drew most souls another way.
The angels all were singing out of tune,
And hoarse with having little else to do,
Excepting to wind up the sun and moon,
Or curb a runaway young star or two,
Or wild colt of a comet, which too soon
Broke out of bounds o`er th` ethereal blue,
Splitting some planet with its playful tail,
As boats are sometimes by a wanton whale.
The guardian seraphs had retired on high,
Finding their charges past all care below;
Terrestrial business fill`d nought in the sky
Save the recording angel`s black bureau;
Who found, indeed, the facts to multiply
With such rapidity of vice and woe,
That he had stripp`d off both his wings in quills,
And yet was in arrear of human ills.
His business so augmented of late years,
That he was forced, against his will no doubt,
(Just like those cherubs, earthly ministers,)
For some resource to turn himself about,
And claim the help of his celestial peers,
To aid him ere he should be quite worn out
By the increased demand for his remarks:
Six angels and twelve saints were named his clerks.
This was a handsome board — at least for heaven;
And yet they had even then enough to do,
So many conqueror`s cars were daily driven,
So many kingdoms fitted up anew;
Each day too slew its thousands six or seven,
Till at the crowning carnage, Waterloo,
They threw their pens down in divine disgust —
The page was so besmear`d with blood and dust.
This by the way: `tis not mine to record
What angels shrink from: even the very devil
On this occasion his own work abhorr`d,
So surfeited with the infernal revel:
Though he himself had sharpen`d every sword,
It almost quench`d his innate thirst of evil.
(Here Satan`s sole good work deserves insertion —
`Tis, that he has both generals in reveration.)
Let`s skip a few short years of hollow peace,
Which peopled earth no better, hell as wont,
And heaven none — they form the tyrant`s lease,
With nothing but new names subscribed upon`t;
`Twill one day finish: meantime they increase,
`With seven heads and ten horns,` and all in front,
Like Saint John`s foretold beast; but ours are born
Less formidable in the head than horn.
In the first year of freedom`s second dawn
Died George the Third; although no tyrant, one
Who shielded tyrants, till each sense withdrawn
Left him nor mental nor external sun:
A better farmer ne`er brush`d dew from lawn,
A worse king never left a realm undone!
He died — but left his subjects still behind,
One half as mad — and t`other no less blind.
He died! his death made no great stir on earth:
His burial made some pomp; there was profusion
Of velvet, gilding, brass, and no great dearth
Of aught but tears — save those shed by collusion.
For these things may be bought at their true worth;
Of elegy there was the due infusion —
Bought also; and the torches, cloaks, and banners,
Heralds, and relics of old Gothic manners,
Form`d a sepulchral melo-drame. Of all
The fools who flack`s to swell or see the show,
Who cared about the corpse? The funeral
Made the attraction, and the black the woe.
There throbbed not there a thought which pierced the pall;
And when the gorgeous coffin was laid low,
It seamed the mockery of hell to fold
The rottenness of eighty years in gold.