chapter  8
5 Pages

The Day of Judgement

Title Day of Judgement the end of the world as described by Jesus in the first three gospels (Matthew 24 & 25, Mark 13, Luke 21), by the writer of Revelation and by some of the prophets of the Old Testament. Watts assumes for himself some freedom in assembling details from different parts of the Bible in order to create an impressionistic picture of the confusion and terror that accompany the end; Attempted The word perhaps indicates the difficulty of the task of writing in sapphics. [1] north wind. . . airy forces The north wind is personified as a military god in charge of an army. The classical god of the north wind is Boreas. However, Watts is drawing more upon Christian and Judaic ideas of natural tumults at the end of the world and of the north as the place from which destruction comes. Jeremiah, the prophet of the fall of Jerusalem, exclaims: 'evil looms out of the north, and great destruction' (Jeremiah 6: 1). More specifically, the devil is traditionally associated with the north. In the passage of Isaiah from which he gets his name of Lucifer, the devil says in his heart: 'I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north' (Isaiah 14: 12-13). And in Paradise Lost, Satan retires to his possessions in the north in order to organise his rebellion (v, 755); airy 'Prince of air' is a title given to Satan in Paradise Lost (xii, 454). Milton derived the title from St Paul's phrase, the 'prince of the power of the air' (Ephesians 2: 2). [2] Baltic Although there is, of course, no mention of the Baltic Sea in biblical

accounts of the last days, the notion of a stormy northern sea fits with references to natural disasters. Jesus mentions 'the roaring of the sea and the waves' (Luke 21: 25) and predicts more generally: 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven' (Matthew 24: 29). In the Old Testament, Zephaniah (among others) warns: 'the great day of the Lord is near. . . a day of wrath is that day. . . a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness' (Zephaniah 1: 14-15). [3] red lightning. . . hail In Revelation, one series of convulsions in nature begins with one of seven angels blowing a trumpet: 'and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, which fell on the earth' (Revelation 8: 7). [4] amain violently, at full speed. [5] poor sailors 'Shipmasters and seafaring men' are described in Revelation as standing far off and crying as they witness the destruction of Babylon (Revelation 18: 17). Watts, however, is also referring more generally to biblical accounts of the terror aroused by the last days, of 'men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming to the world' (Luke 21: 26), of the way that 'everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains' (Revelation 6: 15). [6] hoarse thunder. . . bloody trumpet The sounds of both thunder and trumpets are described in Revelation as accompanying the various con­ vulsions of the end. The adjective 'bloody' is applied to trumpets because seven trumpets are blown by seven angels, and the first six of these

bring plagues and death (Revelation 8: 7-19). [7] onset attack, assault; here, used to mean the trumpets' signal to attack; gaping broken apart by the winds. [8] Quick. . . them It is the thunder which is ready to devour the waters. At the blowing of the trumpet of the second angel, 'something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood' (Revelation 8: 8-9). [10] If things. . . earthly The problem of describing the spiritual in physical terms is raised by Milton's Raphael when he embarks upon his relation to Adam of the war in heaven: 'how shall I relate/ To human sense th'invisible exploits/ Of warring spirits. . . yet for thy good/ This is dispensed, and what surmounts the reach/ Of human sense, I shall delineate so/ By likening spiritual to corporal forms/ As may express them best' (Paradise Lost, v, 564-74). [11] great archangel Michael. The prophet Daniel speaks of Michael's role during the last days: 'at that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. . . and many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake' (Daniel 12:1-2). The archangel is also named in Revelation: 'Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon' (Revelation 12: 7). [12] Shakes. . . creation The opening of the sixth seal in Revela­ tion shows 'a great earthquake' (Revelation 6: 12) and Jesus foretells that the 'powers of heaven will be shaken' (Matthew 24: 29, Mark 13: 25 & Luke 21: 26). [13] Tears. . . pillars The metaphor refers to Samson, who, blinded and shackled by his enemies the Philistines, is brought into their feast to be mocked. Placed between the supporting pillars of the building, Samson grasps them, and wreaks

vengeance on his captors by bringing the building down on top of them (Judges 16: 23-31). Like the roof of the Philistines' hall, the stars of the sky are destined to fall at the end of the world (Matthew 24: 29 & Revela­ tion 6: 13); vault arched roof. [14] Breaks. . . marble Both the destruction of the Philistines' hall and the general destruction of buildings during the last days; repose Sleep is a common biblical metaphor for death. Before raising the dead Lazarus, Jesus says: 'our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep' (John 11:11); princes men of authority. In Revela­ tion, the 'kings of the earth and the great men and the generals' go into hiding (Revelation 6: 15). [15] graves open 'For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable' (1 Corinthians 15: 52); bones This detail goes back to the Old Testament, to Ezekiel's vision of a valley of dry bones which are first brought together, then clothed with flesh, then given life (Ezekiel 37: 1-10). [16] flames Watts gets a little ahead of himself here. According to biblical accounts, it is only the guilty dead who will be consigned to 'eternal fire' (Matthew 25: 41), to 'the lake of fire' (Revelation 20:14-15). Watts seems to imagine all the dead as surrounded by flames. [17] outcries. . . wretches The day of judgement is the day of condemnation for the guilty - see previous note. [18] amazing frenzied, stupefied. [19] Stare. . . eyelids rather a grotesque image; living worm The gnawing of the living worm is one of the pains of hell. The last words of Isaiah describe the fate of rebels: 'their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh' (Isaiah 66: 24). This is extended in Mark into a description of hell 'where their worm

does not die and the fire is not quenched' (Mark 9: 48). [21] old vultures. . . heartstrings a (for this poem) rare classical refer­ ence. The giant Tityus, having tried to attack Leto, was punished in the underworld by having his liver gnawed by vultures or eagles. Virgil refers to this when Aeneas visits the underworld: 'There Tityus was to see, who took his birth/ From heaven, his nursing from the foodful earth./ Here his gigantic limbs, with large embrace,/ Enfold nine acres of infernal space./ A rav'nous vulture, in his opened side,/ Her crooked beak and cruel talons tried,/ Still for the growing liver digged his breast;/ The growing liver still supplied the feast' (Aeneid, bk vi - Dryden's translation). The age of the vultures and their preference for heartstrings over liver are Watts' inventions; their i.e. the guilty's. [23] Lofty judge i.e. Jesus, who will preside over the judging of humanity at the Last Judge­ ment. He is lofty (in part) because of His elevation on a 'great white throne' (Revelation 20: 11 & Matthew 25: 31); flood of vengeance The image goes back to Old Testament prophecy. Jeremiah warns: 'Behold! Waters rise up out of the north and shall be an overflowing flood' (Jeremiah 47: 2). Similarly, Nahum describes Jehovah's vengeance as 'an overflowing flood' (Nahum 1: 8), and Amos calls on judgement to 'run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream' (Amos 5: 24). The prophets, of course, are drawing upon the idea of Noah's flood. [25] immortals i.e. all human beings, because all are eternal. [26] devils push The image of devils herding the damned into hell with pitchforks is more traditional than biblical. It is, in particular, part of the painting (known as the 'doom') which filled the top of the arch leading into the eastern end

of a medieval church. By Watts's time most such paintings had disappeared, destroyed in the vandalism of the sixteenth-century Reformation. Never­ theless, their images remained in people's minds; pit wide yawning The 'bottomless pit' is hell (Revelation 9: 2). [27] headlong with head down. The word recalls the fall of Satan as described by Milton: 'Him the Almighty Power/ Hurled headlong flaming from th'etherial sky/ With hideous ruin and combustion downI To bottomless perdition' (Paradise Lost, i, 44-7). [28] centre i.e. the centre of the world, hell. The word was sometimes used simply as a noun for hell, as in Fulke Greville's poem: 'Down in the depth of mine iniquity,/ That ugly centre of infernal spirits' (lines 1-2). [29] fancy imagination. [30] Doleful sad, gloomy. [31] sits god-like 'When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne' (Matthew 25: 31). This position is 'god-like' because God the Father is also envisaged as seated upon a throne (Revelation 4: 2). [32] Throned Jesus promises his followers that they will be enthroned in the new world (Matthew 19: 28). The idea is repeated in the vision of a reign of throned martyrs in Revelation (Revelation 20: 4); yet adoring The saints continue to worship God, despite their elevation. [34] dooming judging. See note to line 26; the nations 'Before him [Jesus] will be gathered all the nations' (Matthew 25: 2). [35] hosannas shouts of praise to God. On Christ's entry into Jerusalem, the crowd shouted 'Hosanna to the son of