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Vondel’s Lucifer

You may be interested in Vondel’s Lucifer, a newly released text over at the Project Gutenberg. This is an English translation of a work by Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel, which was originally published 13 years before Milton’s Paradise Lost.

 

“I see the golden leaves, all laden with
Ethereal pearls, the sparkling silvery dew.
What sweet perfume exhale those radiant leaves
Of tint unfading! How alluring glows
That pleasant fruit with crimson and with gold!
‘Twere pity to pollute it with the hands.
The eye doth tempt the mouth. Who would not lust
For earthly luxury! He loathes our day
And food celestial, who the fruit may pluck
Of Earth. One would for Adam’s garden curse
Our Paradise. The bliss of Angels fades
In that of man.”

 

 

Lucifer is not the story ‘of man’s first disobedience,’ though this is the outcome of the catastrophe. It is the drama of the fall of the angels. Yet man is the one subject of contention. Our first parents are, therefore, kept in the logical background of cause and effect. The creation of Adam, his bliss and his growing eminence, were the prime cause of the angelic conspiracy. The two-fold effect of the revolt was to the rebellious angels loss of Heaven, and to Adam loss of Eden.

Vondel, moreover, follows the doctrines of certain theologians that Christ would have become man even had Adam not sinned. Like Milton, he measures the scene of his heroic action with ‘the endless radius of infinitude,’ and by the artful use of terrestrial analogies conveys to the reader that idea of incomprehensible vastness that the transcendent nature of the subject demands. Vondel is, indeed, even more vague; the drama not giving opportunity for detailed description. Both are a wonderful contrast to the minute visual exactness of Dante.

The attempt to reconcile the spiritual qualities of the divine world with the physical properties of this, necessarily introduces some unavoidable incongruities. How can a material conception of the immaterial be given save through the symbols of the real! How else can the unknown be ascertained save through the equation of the known! How else, save by visual and sensuous images, express such impalpable thought!”

 

“Lucifer, the Archangel, chief and most illustrious of all the Angels, proud and ambitious, out of blind self-love envied God His boundless greatness; he also became jealous of man, made in God’s image, to whom, in his delightful Paradise, was entrusted the sovereignty of earth.

He envied God and man the more when Gabriel, God’s Herald, proclaiming all Angels to be but ministering Spirits, revealed the mysteries of God’s future incarnation, whereby, the Angels being passed by, the real nature of man, united with the Godhead, might expect a power and majesty equal to God’s own. Wherefore, the proud and envious Spirit, attempting to place himself on an equality with God, and to keep man out of Heaven, through his accomplices, incited to arms innumerable Angels, and led them, notwithstanding Rafael’s warning, against Michael. Heaven’s Field-marshal, and his legions; and ceasing the fight, after his defeat, he caused, out of revenge, the first man, and in him all his descendants, to fall, while he himself, with all his co-rebels, was plunged into hell and eternal damnation.”