Thomas Campbell

Thomas Campbell

July 27, 1777 - June 15, 1844


The Cherubs

by Thomas Campbell

Suggested by an apologue in the works of Franklin.

Two spirits reach'd this world of ours:
The lightning's locomotive powers
Were slow to their agility:
In broad day-light they moved incog.,
Enjoying without mist or fog,
Entire invisibility.

The one, a simple cherub lad,
Much interest in our planet had,
Its face was so romantic;
He couldn't persuade himself that man
Was such as heavenly rumours ran,
A being base and frantic.

The elder spirit, wise and cool,
Brought down the youth as to a school;
But strictly on condition,
Whatever they should see or hear,
With mortals not to interfere;
'Twas not in their commission.

They reach'd a sovereign city proud,
Whose emperor pray'd to God aloud,
With all his people kneeling,
And priests perform'd religious rites:
Come, said the younger of the sprites,
This shows a pious feeling.

Young Spirit

Ar'n't these a decent godly race?

Old Spirit

The dirtiest thieves on Nature's face.

Young Spirit

But hark, what cheers they're giving
Their emperor! -- And is he a thief?

Old Spirit

Ay, and a cut-throat too; -- in brief,

Young Spirit

But say, what were they praying for,
This people and their emperor?

Old Spirit

Why, for God's assistance
To help their army, late sent out:
And what that army is about,
You'll see at no great distance.

On wings outspeeding mail or post,
Our sprites o'ertook the imperial host,
In massacres it wallow'd:
A noble nation met its hordes,
But broken fell their cause and swords,
Unfortunate, though hallow'd.

They saw a late bombarded town,
Its streets still warm with blood ran down;
Still smoked each burning rafter;
And hideously, 'midst rape and sack,
The murderer's laughter answer'd back
His prey's convulsive laughter.

They saw the captive eye the dead,
With envy of his gory bed, --
Death's quick reward of bravery:
They heard the clank of chains, and then
Saw thirty thousand bleeding men
Dragg'd manacled to slavery.

Fie! fie! the younger heavenly spark
Exclaim'd: -- we must have miss'd our mark,
And enter'd hell's own portals:
Earth can't be stain'd with crimes so black;
Nay, sure, we've got among a pack
Of fiends, and not of mortals?

No, said the elder; no such thing:
Fiends are not fools enough to wring
The necks of one another: --
They know their interests too well:
Men fight; but every devil in hell
Lives friendly with his brother.

And I could point you out some fellows,
On this ill-fated planet Tellus,
In royal power that revel;
Who, at the opening of the book
Of judgment, may have cause to look
With envy at the devil.

Name but the devil, and he'll appear.
Old Satan in a trice was near,
With smutty face and figure:
But spotless spirits of the skies
Unseen to e'en his saucer eyes,
Could watch the fiendish nigger.

Halloo! he cried, I smell a trick:
A mortal supersedes Old Nick,
The scourge of earth appointed:
He robs me of my trade, outrants
The blasphemy of hell, and vaunts
Himself the Lord's anointed!

Folks make a fuss about my mischief:
D-----d fools; they tamely suffer this chief
To play his pranks unbounded.

The cherubs flew; but saw from high,
At human inhumanity,
The devil himself astounded.



The Poetical Works Of Thomas Campbell
Copyright 1866
Little, Brown, And Company, Boston