By Andrew R. Duckworth
Caverns of shades clinging to hope, Legends of old fresh on their minds, A promise made in mortal days, The pure will not be left behind. Horrors stain a valley of death, Destruction's howl echoes around, A glowing fire, eternal pyre, Where hopelessness is always found. A rumble fills the halls of Hell, The demons flee a sacred tree. The caves grow bright with Heaven's light For the saints who long to be free. Captured in rays of brightest days, A warmth returns to ancient hearts. A Savior saves inside the caves And, with the saints, quickly departs. A promise made and promise kept To those with souls not lost in sleep. With Heaven's rays upon saints' graves A seeking shepherd found His sheep.
I don’t expect this poem to appeal to those who do not share my beliefs and that is okay. For those who do not share my beliefs, I hope that you might at least find some value in it, whether you appreciate the imagery or maybe understand the thought behind it, etc. I’ve always heard that inspiration can often strike in the least likely of places, but today I experienced it. Those who have read previous poetry of mine and read some of the explanations, etc, might remember that I have a great love of Medieval writings. Today, I was thinking about how, when everything goes back to normal, we might all emerge from our shelters, healthy and happy to go out and visit with friends or relatives again. For some reason I likened it to a cave we all emerge from. That brought me to thoughts about very old writings from the early church. Among some of the most influential writings that would have a profound impact on the church, particularly throughout the medieval period, was the Acts of Pilate or The Gospel of Nicodemus. This writing was never included in official canon, but it was often read by those of the early church, often referenced, etc. Among the reasons for why it wasn’t included was its age. Legend has it that the narrative in the work surrounding Pilate may have been largely derived from early manuscripts by Pilate himself. However, one piece of the writing was definitely not, that being the portion referred to as the Harrowing of Hell, where two saints recount testimonies of being imprisoned in Hell after death but ultimately being saved when Christ, shortly after the crucifixion, descended to Hell to save the saints awaiting Christ’s rising to Heaven. It is thought that this portion of the manuscript that remains of this writing was added no earlier than the fourth century. But the church would adopt several ideas from the writing and the harrowing of hell would be a theme in a great number of writings throughout the middle ages and into the Elizabethan and Jacobean period of the English stage. Dante Alighieri references the harrowing several times throughout his Inferno, one such instance being when Virgil is leading Dante through Limbo and makes mention of the event, although not fully realizing the importance. The Dream of the Rood, one of the oldest Anglo Saxon poems, makes mention of the harrowing as well. One thought led to another which led to another and, eventually, I found myself writing this down in the notes on my phone. If anything, I want to express hope. Things around the world look quite hellish at the moment. But keep hope. Perhaps we can still be delivered from this yet. Thanks for reading!
This writing is the work of its author, Andrew Ryan Duckworth, and can in no way be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any form without request from the author.