The Grave "Visits, Like Those Of Angels, Short, And Far Between"
by Katherine Anne Porter

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"Visits, Like Those Of Angels, Short, And Far Between"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: The Grave is Blair's one important work; it is in the pattern of the so-called Graveyard School of poetry popular in the eighteenth century, akin to such poems as Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard, Young's Night Thoughts, and Henry's Meditations and Contemplations among the Tombs, and reprinted many times before 1800. Blair, a clergyman, has written a sermon in verse, dwelling upon man's passage from this life to death and, hopefully, to eternal life with God. Early in the poem Blair announces his theme: ". . . the task be mine/ To paint the gloomy horrors of the tomb,/ The appointed place of rendezvous, where all/ These travellers meet." In the verse paragraph in which the quotation about angels' visits occurs, Blair reminds the reader of the original happy state of man, as described in Genesis, telling in the poet's own terms of his bliss in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, and, then, because of his sin, his expulsion by "a mighty angel with a glaming sword":

. . . Man has sinned!Sick of his bliss, and bent on new adventures,Evil he would needs try, nor tried in vain.Dreadful experiment! destructive measure!Where the worst thing could happen, is success!Alas, too well he sped; the good he scornedRetired reluctant, like an ill-used ghost,Not to return; or if it did, its visits,Like those of angels, short, and far between;Whilst the black demon, with his hell-'scaped train,Admitted once into its better room,Grew loud and mutinous, nor would be gone;Lording it o'er the man, who now too lateSaw the rash error which he could not mend;An error fatal not to him alone,But to his future's sons, his fortune's heirs.