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Title: The Punishment of Pride

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: December 18, 1841

Publication information: The New World 3 (18 December 1841): 394.

Source: Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy of an original issue.

Whitman Archive ID: per.00061

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, April Lambert, and Susan Belasco




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[For the New World.

THE PUNISHMENT OF PRIDE.

Once on his star-gemmed, dazzling throne,
Sat an all bright and lofty One,
Unto whom God had given
To be the mightiest Angel-Lord
Within the range of Heaven;
With power of knowing things to come,
To judge o'er man, and speak his doom.
O, he was pure! the fleecy snow,
Falling through air to earth below,
Was not more undefiled:
Sinless he was as the wreathed smile
On lip of sleeping child.
Haply, more like the snow was he,
Freezing—with all its purity.
Upon his forehead beamed a star,
Bright as the lamps of even are;
And his pale robe was worn
About him with a look of pride,
A high, majestic scorn,
Which showed he felt his glorious might,
His favor with the Lord of Light.
Years, thus he swayed the things of earth—
O'er human crime and human worth—
Haughty, and high, and stern;
Nor ever, at sweet Mercy's call,
His white neck would he turn;
But listening not to frailty's plea,
Launched forth each just but stern decree.
At last, our Father who above
Sits throned with Might, and Truth, and Love,
And knows our weakness blind,
Beheld him—proud, and pitying not
The errors of mankind;
And doomed him, for a punishment,
To be forth from his birth-place sent.
So down this angel from on high
Came from his sphere, to live and die
As mortal men have done;
That he might know the tempting snares
Which lure each human son;
And dwell as all on earth have dwelt.
And feel the grief we all have felt.
Then he knew Guilt, while round him weaved
Their spells, pale Sickness, Love deceived,
And Fear, and Hate, and Wrath;
And all the blighting ills of Fate
Were cast athwart his path:
He stood upon the grave's dead brink
And felt his soul with terror sink.
He learned why men to sin give way,
And how we live our passing day
In indolence and crime;
But yet his eye with awe looked on,
To see in all its prime
That godlike thing, the human mind,
A gem in black decay enshrined.
Long years in penance thus he spent,
Until the Mighty Parent sent
His loveliest messenger—
Who came with step so noiselessly,
And features passing fair;
Death was his name; the angel heard
The call, and swift to heaven soared.
There in his former glory placed,
The star again his forehead graced;
But never more that brow
Was lifted up in scorn of sin;
His wings were folded now—
But not in pride: his port, though high,
No more speaks conscious majesty.
And O, what double light now shone
About that pure and heavenly one;
For in the clouds which made
The veil around his seat of power,
In silvery robes arrayed,
Hovered the seraph Charity,
And Pity with her melting eye.
W. WHITMAN.

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