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Thoughts on Jesus Christ’s descent into Hell
by [?]


[THE remarkable Poem of which this is a literal but faint representation, was written when Goethe was only sixteen years old. It derives additional interest from the fact of its being the very earliest piece of his that is preserved. The few other pieces included by Goethe under the title of Religion and Church are polemical, and devoid of interest to the English reader.]

WHAT wondrous noise is heard around!
Through heaven exulting voices sound,

A mighty army marches on
By thousand millions follow’d, lo,
To yon dark place makes haste to go

God’s Son, descending from His throne!
He goes–the tempests round Him break,

As Judge and Hero cometh He;
He goes–the constellations quake,

The sun, the world quake fearfully.

I see Him in His victor-car,
On fiery axles borne afar,

Who on the cross for us expired.
The triumph to yon realms He shows,–
Remote from earth, where star ne’er glows,

The triumph He for us acquired.
He cometh, Hell to extirpate,

Whom He, by dying, wellnigh kill’d;
He shall pronounce her fearful fate

Hark! now the curse is straight fulfill’d.

Hell sees the victor come at last,
She feels that now her reign is past,

She quakes and fears to meet His sight;
She knows His thunders’ terrors dread,
In vain she seeks to hide her head,

Attempts to fly, but vain is flight;
Vainly she hastes to ‘scape pursuit

And to avoid her Judge’s eye;
The Lord’s fierce wrath restrains her foot

Like brazen chains,–she cannot fly.

Here lies the Dragon, trampled down,
He lies, and feels God’s angry frown,

He feels, and grinneth hideously;
He feels Hell’s speechless agonies,
A thousand times he howls and sighs:

“Oh, burning flames! quick, swallow me!”
There lies he in the fiery waves,

By torments rack’d and pangs infernal,
Instant annihilation craves,

And hears, those pangs will be eternal.

Those mighty squadrons, too, are here,
The partners of his cursed career,

Yet far less bad than he were they.
Here lies the countless throng combined,
In black and fearful crowds entwined,

While round him fiery tempests play;
He sees how they the Judge avoid,

He sees the storm upon them feed,
Yet is not at the sight o’erjoy’d,

Because his pangs e’en theirs exceed.

The Son of Man in triumph passes
Down to Hell’s wild and black morasses,

And there unfolds His majesty.
Hell cannot bear the bright array,
For, since her first created day.

Darkness alone e’er govern’d she.
She lay remote from ev’ry light

With torments fill’d in Chaos here;
God turn’d for ever from her sight

His radiant features’ glory clear.

Within the realms she calls her own,
She sees the splendour of the Son,

His dreaded glories shining forth;
She sees Him clad in rolling thunder,
She sees the rocks all quake with wonder,

When God before her stands in wrath.
She sees He comes her Judge to be,

She feels the awful pangs inside her,
Herself to slay endeavours she,

But e’en this comfort is denied her.

Now looks she back, with pains untold,
Upon those happy times of old,

When those glories gave her joy;
When yet her heart revered the truth,
When her glad soul, in endless youth

And rapture dwelt, without alloy.
She calls to mind with madden’d thought

How over man her wiles prevail’d;
To take revenge on God she sought,

And feels the vengeance it entail’d.

God was made man, and came to earth.
Then Satan cried with fearful mirth:

“E’en He my victim now shall be!”
He sought to slay the Lord Most High,
The world’s Creator now must die;

But, Satan, endless woe to thee!
Thou thought’st to overcome Him then,

Rejoicing in His suffering;
But he in triumph comes again

To bind thee: Death! where is thy sting?

Speak, Hell! where is thy victory?
Thy power destroy’d and scatter’d see!