The Wraith

By reputation, you are wise,
And you have counseled those oppressed
By sorrow and the bitterest
Of losses by which heaven tries
The hearts of the beloved of God,  
But now misfortune’s touched your house,
You slander providence, and grouse
Unfairness shows it is a fraud.  
To spurn the gift of life is wrong,
Plaintive ingratitude to Him
Created mortals and the seraphim
Who honor Him in ceaseless song.  
To strengthen lapsing faith that cavils
Thought steadfast, but so easily shaken
When God, who gives, for once has taken
I’ll tell of vengeance on its travels.  

Pulled from a deep and dreamless sleep
I awakened in the darkest hours,
Those granted to uncanny powers
To roam the realms of men and reap
The tithes our turpitude bestows.  
It wasn’t golden dawn that fell
Across my lids and broke the spell
Of slumber, light that glows
And warms inertness into moving,
It was a shadow that awoke
Me, cold and dank and thick as smoke.  
Wrathful, pitiless, and reproving.  
Loosed from hell, this spirit stalks
The night to punish wickedness,
To slay the sinful who transgress,
And on its rounds this shadow walks
Into my chamber.  Terrified
I burrowed deeper in the sheets,
And tried to still the thumping beats
Of my own heart.  Through a crack I spied
The shadow drifting to the door.  
Soon, gliding through that barrier,
It will depart; unless I stir,
I’m free of my fell visitor.  
But then I thought, that wraith, unguided,
Might find and harm some innocent,
But under my admonishment
It could find men who should be chided.  
A local knows where sinners live
Swindlers and cheats, burglars and whores
Knowing the beds where evil snores,
I could scourge sinners, or forgive.  

Informing, it was I who’d smite.   
Perhaps this shadow has been cursed
To wander, seeking out the worst.  
Maybe, someone like me, on a night
Like this, thought he was fit to judge
And in his pride, tried to direct
This wraith to souls it should correct.  
That righteous fool, not from a grudge,  
Usurped the office of the Lord,
And for that arrogance, became
A horrid wraith, condemned to maim,
Ruin, and murder, till restored
By the next meddler who would point
Out neighbors needing punishment.  
Cruel, even if sincerely meant,
Vindictiveness might then anoint
Me the successor to this shade.  
This spirit didn’t need a guide.  
No mortal, heedless in his pride,
Who passed a sentence, or who prayed
For knaves to suffer, ever told
The Lord of sins He hasn’t seen.  
Nor ever should men intervene
To stone the wolves inside the fold.  
The rocks they hurl might hit the sheep.
Lightning is so much more precise.  
So stifle targeting advice.  
Chastened, I went back to sleep,
And let that ghastly wraith proceed.  
The vicious and the spiteful perish,
And misers lose the gold they cherish.  
Heretics choke on their false creed.
The bulwarks of the wicked fall,
While the meek prosper in the right.  
God aids his warriors in the fight,
And saves the humble when they call.   

About this poem

Eliphaz the Temanite admonishes Job.

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Submitted by DavidPlantinga on April 03, 2022

Modified on March 05, 2023

2:58 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 3,039
Words 594
Stanzas 3
Stanza Lengths 16, 32, 36

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