The Empyreal

If I could dwell
Where Israfel
Hath dwelt, and he where I,
He might not sing so wildly well
A mortal melody,
While a bolder note than this might swell
From my lyre within the sky.

— Edgar Allen Poe, Israfel

In weary shadows of my mind,
Allah’s courier, Gabriel,
I imagine: O Rafael!

(He speaks!) Peace to you and your kind!
“And Peace to you, O righteous prince.”

What have you done, slave of Allah?
You were a student of the law,
Versed in letters and lore, but since
You have stumbled we have not seen
You rise again. Do you aspire
Still to be drawn nigh or does Fire
Entice you more? Choose! Or between
Heaven and Hell you may be tossed
In Araf, neither found nor lost.

“O Prince, God bless you for your words,
O Strength of God. I know too well
That I between the fires of Hell
And endless Joy beyond all words
Strike a crooked path. Pray for me
That from my sins I be set free!”

But as fluttering wings
Stole away my great friend
Another came, who kings
And dragons could not bend:
Godly Michael stood with sword,
A stern foe to that fallen pride
That had damned the once-bright Iblis
— Allah protect us from his horde!

Peace upon you, O Rafael.
“And on you, Master Michael.
What brings you here to so abide
From the endless Abode of Peace?”

Woe to you if you do not fear
The Fire that flames man’s worst regrets.
They shall know pain who mocked our threats
And scream for peace who showed none here.
While they yet lived upon the Earth
They filled themselves with endless mirth
For those things that bought them woe
— Dervish! Is this the path you go?

And falling weeping to the floor
As wept I had just then before,
He shook me and thus hammered on:

You! You! You! Those prayers foregone
That we were made to say for you!
What have you done? Can it be true
That you refuse to bow in grief
When you know it is your relief,
Your one hope to save your belief?
And is there naught alike your Lord?
And is there naught alike your Lord?
Dervish, dervish, your life is brief.

And crippled on the floor I sat in thought
Of Malik and Ridwan and which would I
Pass along the way to my timeless home.
And whether my buried tongue would be caught
Mute when Munkar and Nakir had asked
Those three questions that only true hearts know.
Would I? Had I been then in ages past
When Marut and Harut dazzled with spells
To tempt and try the tribes of Israel
— Would I have looked away? Before I try
To answer I feel then a deathly chill
And I turn horrified from where I lay.
But nothing was there, no golden apple,
And yet to say it seemed to say farewell
To life, to all — I say it: Azrael?

And answer there none came.

He stole the clay that formed my race,
Surly he would know my dire case
Yet he is not here, it is not his time,
And if not his time — neither is it mine.
And I noticed that I had been alone
As warlike Michael away had flown.
I washed and turning myself East
I raised my hands, renewed my faith.
Then I was blinded by a light.

When with kisses my eyes opened
I saw the brilliant trumpeter,
A blazing figure of delight.
“Master! For what have you been sent?
Is the fatéd, long awaited Hour here?
Is now the coming of the Beast?
Is now the wake of ghoul and wraith?”

With fiery breath replied he,
The laureate of Heaven High,
Peace upon you, O Rafi’i,
May your heart be as mine.

“And on you Peace, O Israfil,
May our hearts be divine!”

Allah the One, He is He, says
That He guides to His Grace
To look upon His Endless Face
And rest in Heaven’s blaze
Whomever of your mortal race
He wills — Rise, Exalted One! Seek your place
Among those who forever gaze
On that Holy Presence that does efface
All else and all the worlds erase.
And all else is naught but your Lord
As has been praised as truthful words.
There is no god but He
Muhammad is His Messenger
Peace and blessings on him — and you.
My Master calls and I bid you Adieu.

Having seen the angel I most adored
My thoughts turned to my repentance:
For no fear of Fire or want of reward
Would I amend my sentence,
But to reach for the heights I saw tonight
Resplendent, radiant, and rare;
I would strive to seek that Empyreal Light
That holds the saints in endless prayer.
But I felt creeping upon me
Another, darker woe:
A shade of fate or some fury?
I know not where I’ll go:
Lost between the Fire and the Throne
Broken and alone.


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