The time has been--this holiest records say--
In punishment for crimes of mortal birth,
When spirits banished from the realms of day
Wandered malignant o'er the nighted earth.(1)
And from the cold and marble lips declared,
Of some blind-worshipped--earth-created god,
Their deep deceits; which trusting monarchs snared
Filling the air with moans, with gore the sod. [FN#7]
Yet angels doffed their robes in radiance dyed,
And for a while the joys of heaven delayed,
To watch benign by some just mortal's side--
Or meet th' aspiring love of some high gifted maid. [FN#8]
Blest were those days!--can these dull ages boast
Aught to compare? tho' now no more beguile--
Chain'd in their darkling depths th' infernal host--
Who would not brave a fiend to share an angel's smile?
[FN#7] The god who conducted the Hebrews sent a malignant spirit to speak from the mouth of the prophets, in order to deceive king Achab.
[FN#8] It is useless to note this stanza, as two well-known poems have lately been founded on the same passage of the Pentateuch to which it alludes.
'Twas then there lived a captive Hebrew pair;
In woe th' embraces of their youth had past,
And blest their paler years one daughter--fair
She flourished, like a lonely rose, the last
And loveliest of her line. The tear of joy--
The early love of song--the sigh that broke
From her young lip--the best-beloved employ--
What womanhood disclosed in infancy bespoke.
A child of passion--tenderest and best
Of all that heart has inly loved and felt;
Adorned the fair enclosure of her breast--
Where passion is not found, no virtue ever dwelt.
Yet not, perverted, would my words imply
The impulse given by Heaven's great Artizan
Alike to man and worm--mere spring, whereby
The distant wheels of life, while time endures, roll on--
But the collective ministry that fill
About the soul, their all-important place--
That feed her fires--empower her fainting will--
And write the god on feeble mortals face.
Yet anger, or revenge, envy or hate
The damsel knew not: when her bosom burned
And injury darkened the decrees of fate,
She had more pitious wept to see that pain returned.
Or if, perchance, tho' formed most just and pure,
Amid their virtue's wild luxuriance hid,
Such germ all mortal bosoms must immure
Which sometimes show their poisonous heads unbid--
If haply such the lovely Hebrew finds,
Self knowledge wept th' abasing truth to know,
And innate pride, that queen of noble minds,
Crushed them indignant ere a bud could grow.
And such--ev'n now, in earliest youth are seen--
But would they live, with armour more deform,
Their love--o'erflowing breasts must learn to screen:
"The bird that sweetest sings can least endure the storm."
And yet, despite of all the gushing tear--
The melting tone--the darting heart-stream--proved,
The soul that in them spoke, could spurn at fear
Of death or danger; and had those she loved
Required it at their need, she could have stood,
Unmoved, as some fair-sculptured statue, while
The dome that guards it, earth's convulsions, rude
Are shivering--meeting ruin with a smile.
And this, at intervals in language bright
Told her blue eyes; tho' oft the tender lid
Like lilly drooping languidly; and white
And trembling--all save love and lustre hid.
Then, as young christian bard had sung, they seemed
Like some Madonna in his soul--so sainted;
But opening in their energy--they beamed
As tasteful pagans their Minerva painted;
While o'er her graceful shoulders' milky swell,
Like those full oft on little children seen
Almost to earth her silken ringlets fell
Nor owned Pactolus' sands more golden sheen.
And now, full near, the hour unwished for drew
When fond, Sephora hoped to see her wed;
And, for 'twould else expire, impatient grew
To renovate her race from beauteous Egla's bed.
None of their kindred lived to claim her hand
But stranger-youths had asked her of her sire
With gifts and promise fair; he could withstand
All save her tears; and harkening her desire
Still left her free; but soon her mother drew
From her a vow, that when the twentieth year
Its full, fair finish o'er her beauty threw,
If what her fancy fed on, came not near,
She would entreat no more but to the voice
Of her light-giver hearken; and her life
And love--all yielding to that kindly choice
Would hush each idle wish and learn to be a wife.
Now oft it happ'd when morning task was done
And for the virgins of her household made
And lotted each her toil; while yet the sun
Was young, fair Egla to a woody shade,
Loved to retreat; there, in the fainting hour
Of sultry noon the burning sunbeam fell
Like a warm twilight; so bereft of power,
It gained an entrance thro' the leafy bower;
That scarcely shrank the tender lilly bell
Tranquil and lone in such a light to be,
How sweet to sense and soul!--the form recline
Forgets it ere felt pain; and reverie,
Sweet mother of the muses, heart and soul are thine. [FN#9]
[FN#9] Every one talks and reads of groves, but it is impossible for those who never felt it, to conceive the effect of such a situation in a warm climate. In this island the woods which are naturally so interwoven with vines as to be impervious to a human being, are in some places, cleared and converted into nurseries for the young coffee-trees which remain sheltered from the sun and wind till sufficiently grown to transplant. To enter one of these "semilleros," as they are here called, at noon day, produces an effect like that anciently ascribed to the waters of Lethe. After sitting down upon the trunk of a fallen cedar or palm-tree, and breathing for a moment, the freshness of the air and the odour of the passion flower, which is one of the most abundant, and certainly the most beautiful of the climate; the noise of the trees, which are continually kept in motion by the trade winds; the fluttering and various notes, though not musical, of the birds; the loftiness of the green canopy, for the trunks of the trees are bare to a great height, and seem like pillars supporting the thick mass of leaves above; and the rich mellow light which the intense rays of the sun, thus impeded, produce; have altogether such an effect that one involuntarily forgets every thing but the present, and it requires a strong effort to rise and leave the place.
This calm recess on summer day she sought
And sat to tune her lute; but all night long
Quiet had from her pillow flown, and thought
Feverish and tired, sent for th' unseemly throng
Of boding images. She scarce could woo
One song reluctant, ere advancing quick
Thro' the fresh leaves Sephora's form she knew
And duteous rose to meet; but fainting sick
Her heart sank tremulously in her; why
Sought out at such an hour, it half divined
And seated now beside, with downcast eye
And fevered pulse, she met the pressure, kind
And warmly given; while thus the matron fair
Nor yet much marr'd by time, with soothing words
Solicitous; and gently serious air
The purpose why she hither came preferr'd:
"Egla, my hopes thou knowest--tho' exprest
But rare lest they should pain thee--I have dealt
Not rudely towards thee tender; and supprest
The wish, of all, my heart has most vehement felt.
"Know I have marked, that when the reason why
Thou still wouldst live in virgin state, thy sire
Has prest thee to impart, quick in thine eye
Semblance of hope has played--fain to transpire
"Words seem'd to seek thy lip; but the bright rush
Of heart-blood eloquent, alone would tell
In the warm language of a rebel blush
What thy less treacherous tongue has guarded well.
"Dost waste so oft alone--the cheerful day?
Or haply, rather bath some pagan youth"--
She with quick burst--'whate'er has happ'd I'll say!
Doubt thou my wisdom, but regard my truth!
"Long time ago, while yet a twelve years' child
These shrubs and vines, new planted, near this spot,
I sat me tired with pleasant toil, and whiled
Away the time with many a wishful thought
"Of desolate Judea. Every scene
Which thou so oft, while sitting on thy knee,
Wouldst sing of, weeping, thro' my mind has been
Successive; when from yon old mossy tree
"I heard a pitious moan. Wondering I went
And found a wretched man; worn and opprest
He seemed with toil and years; and whispering faint
He said "Oh little maiden, sore distrest
"I sink for very want. Give me I pray,
A drop of water and a cake: I die
Of thirst and hunger, yet my sorrowing way
May tread once more, if thou my needs supply."
"A long time missing from thy fondling arms--
It chanced that day thou'dst sent me in the shade
New bread, a cake of figs, and wine of palms [FN#10]
Mingled with water, sweet with honey made.
"These did I bring--raised as I could, his head;
Held to his lip the cup; and while he quaffed,
Upon my garment wiped the tears that sped
Adown his silvery beard and mingled with the draft.
[FN#10] "The palm is a very common plant in this country, (Assyria,) and generally fruitful; this they cultivate like fig-trees and it produces them bread, wine and honey." See Beloe's notes to his translation of Herodotus. Mr. Gibbon adds, that the diligent natives celebrated, either in verse or prose, three hundred and sixty uses to which the trunk, the branches, the leaves, the juice and the fruit of this plant were applied. Nothing can be more curious and interesting than the natural history of the palm tree.
"When gaining sudden strength, he raised his hand,
And in this guise did bless me, "Mayst thou be
A crown to him who weds thee.--In a land
Far distant bides a captive. Hearken me
"And choose thee now a bridegroom meet: to day
O'er broad Euphrates' steepest banks a child
Fled from his youthful nurse's arms; in play
Elate, he bent him o'er the brink, and smiled
"To see their fears who followed him--but who
The keen wild anguish of that scene can tell--
He bend o'er the brink, and in their view,
But ah! too far beyond their aid--he fell.
"They wailed--the long torn ringlets of their hair [FN#11]
Freighted the pitying gale; deep rolled the stream
And swallowed the fair child; no succour there--
They women--whither look--who to redeem
"What the fierce waves were preying on?--when lo!
Approached a stranger boy. Aside he flung,
As darted thought, his quiver and his bow
And parted by his limbs the sparkling billows sung.
[FN#11] The women, I believe, among all nations of antiquity were accustomed to express violent grief by tearing their hair. This must have been a great and affecting sacrifice to the object bemoaned, as they considered it a part of themselves and absolutely essential to their beauty. Fine hair has been a subject of commendation among all people, and particularly the ancients. Cyrus, when he went to visit his uncle Astyages found him with his eyelashes coloured, and decorated with false locks; the first Caesar obtained permission to wear the laurel-wreath in order to conceal the bareness of his temples. The quantity and beauty of the hair of Absalom is commemorated in holy writ. The modern oriental ladies also set the greatest value on their hair which they braid and perfume. Thus says the poet Hafiz, whome Sir William Jones styles the Anacreon of Persia,
"Those locks, each curl of which is worth a hundred musk-bags of China, would be sweet indeed, if their scent proceeded from sweetness of temper."
"When the breeze shall waft the fragrance of thy locks over the tomb of Hafiz, a thousand flowers shall spring from the earth that hides his corse."
Achilles clipped his yellow locks and threw them as a sacrifice upon the funeral pyre of Patroclus.
"They clung to an old palm and watched; nor breath
Nor word dared utter; while the refluent flood
Left on each countenance the hue of death,
Ope'd lip and far strained eye spoke worse than death endured.
"But, down the flood, the dauntless boy appeared,--
Now rising--plunging--in the eddy whirled--
Mastering his course--but now a rock he neared--
And closing o'er his head, the deep, dark waters curled.
"Then Hope groaned forth her last; and drear despair
Spoke in a shriek; but ere its echo wild
Had ceased to thrill; restored to light and air--
He climbs, he gains the rock, and holds alive the child.
"Now mark what chanced--that infant was the son
E'vn of the king of Nineveh: and placed
Before him was the youth who so had won
From death the royal heir. A captive graced
"All o'er with Nature's gifts he sparkled--brave
And panting for renown--blushing and praised
The stripling stood; and closely prest, would crave
Alone a place mid warlike men; and raised
"To his full wish, the kingly presence left,
Buoyant and bright with hope; dreaming of nought
While revelled his full soul in visions deft,
But blessings from his sire and pleasures of a court.
"But when his mother heard, she wept; and said
If he our only child be far away
Or slain in war; how shall our years be stayed?
Friendless and old, where is the hand to lay
"Our white hairs in the earth?--So when her fears
He saw would not be calmed, he did not part,
But lived in low estate, to dry her tears,
And crushed the full-grown-hopes, exulting at his heart."
"The old man ceased; ere I could speak, his face
Grew more than mortail fair: a mellow light
Mantling around him fill'd the shady place
And while I wondering stood; he vanished from my sight.
"This I had told,--but shame withheld--and fear
Thou'dst deem some spirit guilded me--disapprove--
Perchance forbid my customed wanderings here;
But whencesoe'er the vision, I have strove
"Still vainly to forget--I've heard the mourn
Kindred afar, and captive--oh! my mother--
Should he--my heaven announced--exist, return--
And meet me drear--lost--wedded to another"--
Then thus Sephora, "In the city where
Our kindred distant dwelt--blood has been shed--
Dreamer, had such heroic boy been there,
Belike he's numbered with the silent dead.
"Or doth he live he knows not--would not know
(Thralled--dead, to thee--in fair Assyrian arms.)
Who pines for him afar in fruitless woe
A phantom's bride--wasting love, life and charms.
"'Tis as a vine of Galilee should say,
Culturer, I reck not thy support, I sigh
For a young palm tree, of Euphrates; nay--
Or let me him entwine or in my blossom die.
"Thy heart is set on joys it may not prove,
And, panting ingrate, scorns the blessings given?--
Hoping from dust formed man, a seraph's love
And days on earth like to the days of heaven.
"But to my theme, maiden, a lord for thee,
And not of thee unworthy--I have chose--
Dispel the dread, that in thy looks I see--
Nor make it task of anguish to disclose,
"What should be--thine heart's dew. Remember'st thou
When to the Altar, by thy father reared,
We suppliant went with sacrifice and vow,
A victim-dove escaped? and there appeared
"And would have brought thee others to supply
Its loss, a Median?--thou, dissolved, to praise,
Didst note the beauty of his shape and eye,
And, as he parted, in the sunny rays
"The ringlets of his black locks clustering bright
Around his pillar-neck," ''tis pity he'
Thou saidst, 'in all the comeliness and might
Of perfect man--pity like him, should be
"But an idolater: how nobly sweet
He tempereth pride with courtesy; a flower
Drops honey when he speaks. Yet 'twere most meet
To praise his majesty: he stands--a tower.'
"The same, a false idolater no more,
Now bows him to the God, for whose dread ire
Fall'n on us loved but sinning, we deplore
This long but just captivity. Thy sire
"Receives him well and harkens his request
For know, he comes to ask thee-for a bride
And to be one among a people, blest
Tho' deep in suffering. Nor to him denied
"Art thou, sad daughter--weep--if't be thy will--
E'vn on the breast that nourished thee and ne'er
Distrest thee or compelled; this bosom still
Ev'n should'st though blight its dearest hopes, will share
"Nay, bear thy pains; but sooner in the grave
'Twill quench my waning years, if reckless thou
Of what I not command, but only crave,
Let my heart pine regardless of thy vow."
She thus, 'O think not, kindest, I forget,
Receiving so much love, how much is due
From me to thee: the Mede I'll wed--but yet
I cannot stay these tears that gush to pain thy view.'
Sephora held her to heart, the while
Grief had its way--then saw her gently laid
And bade her, kissing her blue eyes, beguile
Slumbering the fervid noon. Her leafy bed
Sighed forth o'erpowering breath; increased the heat;
Sleepless had been the night; her weary sense
Could now no more. Lone in the still retreat,
Wounding the flowers to sweetness more intense,
She sank. 'Tis thus, kind Nature lets our woe
Swell 'til it bursts forth from the o'erfraught breast;
Then draws an opiate from the bitter flow,
And lays her sorrowing child soft in the lap to rest.
Now all the mortal maid lies indolent
Save one sweet cheek which the cool velvet turf
Had touched too rude, tho' all the blooms besprent,
One soft arm pillowed. Whiter than the surf
That foams against the sea-rock, looked her neck,
By the dark, glossy, odorous shrubs relieved,
That close inclining o'er her seemed to reck
What 'twas they canopied; and quickly heaved
Beneath her robe's white folds and azure zone,
Her heart yet incomposed; a fillet thro'
Peeped brightly azure, while with tender moan
As if of bliss, Zephyr her ringlets blew
Sportive;--about her neck their gold he twined,
Kissed the soft violet on her temples warm,
And eye brow--just so dark might well define
Its flexile arch;--throne of expression's charm.
As the vexed Caspian, tho' its rage be past
And the blue smiling heavens swell o'er in peace,
Shook to the centre, by the recent blast,
Heaves on tumultuous still, and hath not power to cease.
So still each little pulse was seen to throb
Tho' passion and its pains were lulled to rest,
And "even and anon" a pitious sob
Shook the pure arch expansive o'er her breast. [FN#12]
[FN#12] This effect is very observable in little children, who for several hours after they have cried themselves to sleep, and sometimes even when a smile is on their lips, are heard, from time to time, to utter sobs.
Save that 'twas all tranquillity; that reigned
O'er fragrance sound and beauty; all was mute--
Save when a dove her dear one's absence plained
And the faint breeze mourned o'er the slumberer's lute.
It chanced, that day, lured by the verdure, came
Zophiel, now minister of ill; but ere
He sinned, a heavenly angel. The faint flame
Of dying embers, on an altar, where
Raguel, fair Egla's sire, in secret vowed
And sacrificed to the sole living God,
Where friendly shades the sacred rites enshround;--(2)
The fiend beheld and knew; his soul was awed,
And he bethought him of the forfeit joys
Once his in Heaven;--deep in a darkling grot
He sat him down;--the melancholy noise
Of leaf and creeping vine accordant with his thought.
When fiercer spirits, howled, he but complained (3)
Ere yet 'twas his to roam the pleasant earth,
His heaven-invented harp he still retained
Tho' tuned to bliss no more; and had its birth
Of him, beneath some black infernal clift
The first drear song of woe; and torment wrung
The spirit less severe where he might lift
His plaining voice--and frame the like as now he sung:
"Woe to thee, wild ambition, I employ
Despair's dull notes thy dread effects to tell,
Born in high-heaven, her peace thou could'st destroy,
And, but for thee, there had not been a hell.
"Thro' the celestial domes thy clarion pealed,--
Angels, entranced, beneath thy banners ranged,
And stright were fiends;--hurled from the shrinking field,
They waked in agony to wait the change.
"Darting thro' all her veins the subtle fire
The world's fair mistress first inhaled thy breath,
To lot of higher beings learned to aspire,--
Dared to attempt--and doomed the world to death.
"Thy thousand wild desires, that still torment
The fiercely struggling soul, where peace once dwelt,
But perished;--feverish hope--drear discontent,
Impoisoning all possest--Oh! I have felt
"As spirits feel--yet not for man we mourn
Scarce o'er the silly bird in state were he,
That builds his nest, loves, sings the morn's return,
And sleeps at evening; save by aid of thee,
"Fame ne'er had roused, nor song her records kept
The gem, the ore, the marble breathing life,
The pencil's colours,--all in earth had slept,
Now see them mark with death his victim's strife.
"Man found thee death--but death and dull decay
Baffling, by aid of thee, his mastery proves;--
By mighty works he swells his narrow day
And reigns, for ages, on the world he loves.
"Yet what the price? with stings that never cease
Thou goad'st him on; and when, too keen the smart,
He fain would pause awhile--and signs for peace,
Food thou wilt have, or tear his victim heart."
Thus Zophiel still,--"tho' now the infernal crew
Had gained by sin a privilege in the world,
Allayed their torments in the cool night dew,
And by the dim star-light again their wings unfurled."
And now, regretful of the joys his birth
Had promised; deserts, mounts and streams he crost,
To find, amid the loveliest spots of earth,
Faint likeness of the heaven he had lost.
And oft, by unsuccessful searching pained,
Weary he fainted thro' the toilsome hours;
And then his mystic nature he sustained
On steam of sacrifices--breath of flowers. (4)
Sometimes he gave out oracles, amused
With mortal folly; resting on the shrines;
Or, all in some fair Sibyl's form infused,
Spoke from her quivering lips, or penned her mystic lines. [FN#13]
[FN#13] This passage merely accords with the belief that the responses of the ancient oracles were spoken by fiends, or evil spirits. We need only look into the "New Testament for a confirmation of the power which such beings were supposed to possess of speaking from the lips of mortals."
And now he wanders on from glade to glade
To where more precious shrubs diffuse their balms,
And gliding thro' the thick inwoven shade
Where the young Hebrew lay in all her charms,
He caught a glimpse. The colours in her face--
Her bare white arms--her lips--her shining hair--
Burst on his view. He would have flown the place;
Fearing some faithful angel rested there,
Who'd see him--reft of glory--lost to bliss--
Wandering and miserably panting--fain
To glean a scanty joy--with thoughts like this--
Came all he'd known and lost--he writh'd with pain
Ineffable--But what assailed his ear,
A sigh?--surprised, another glance he took;
Then doubting--fearing--gradual coming near--
He ventured to her side and dared to look;
Whispering, "yes, 'tis of earth! So, new-found life
Refreshing, looked sweet Eve, with purpose fell
When first sin's sovereign gazed on her, and strife
Had with his heart, that grieved with arts of hell,
"Stern as it was, to win her o'er to death!--
Most beautiful of all in earth, in heaven,
Oh! could I quaff for aye that fragrant breath
Couldst thou, or being likening thee, be given
"To bloom forever for me thus--still true
To one dear theme, my full soul flowing o'er,
Would find no room for thought of what it knew--
Nor picturing forfeit transport, curse me more. (5)
"But oh! severest pain!--I cannot be
In what I love, blest ev'n the little span--
(With all a spirit's keen capacity
For bliss) permitted the poor insect man.
"The few I've seen and deemed of worth to win
Like some sweet flowret mildewed, in my arms,
Withered to hidiousness--foul ev'n as sin--
Grew fearful hags; and then with potent charm [FN#14]
[FN#14] One of the most striking absurdities in the lately- dispelled superstition of witchcraft, is the extreme hidiousness and misery usually ascribed to such as made use of the agency of evil spirits. I have therefore made it the result of an unforeseen necessity: no female can be supposed to purchase, voluntarily, the power of doing mischief to others at the price of beauty and every thing like happiness on her own part.
"Of muttered word and harmful drug, did learn
To force me to their will. Down the damp grave
Loathing, I went at Endor, and uptorn
Brought back the dead; when tortured Saul did crave,
"To view his pending fate. Fair--nay, as this
Young slumberer, that dread witch; when, I arrayed
In lovely shape, to meet my guileful kiss
She yielded first her lip. And thou, sweet maid--
What is't I see?--a recent tear has strayed
And left its stain upon her cheek of bliss.--
"She's fall'n to sleep in grief--haply been chid,
Or by rude mortal wronged. So let it prove
Meet for my purpose: 'mid these blossoms hid,
I'll gaze; and when she wakes with all that love
"And art can lend, come forth. He who would gain
A fond full heart, in love's soft surgery skilled
Should seek it when 'tis sore; allay its pain--
With balm by pity prest 'tis all his own, so healed
"She may be mine a little year--ev'n fair
And sweet as now--Oh! respite! while possest
I lose the dismal sense of my despair--
But then--I will not think upon the rest.
"And wherefore grieve to cloud her little day [FN#15]
Of fleeting life?--What doom from power divine
I bear eternal! thoughts of ruth, away!
Wake pretty fly!--and--while thou mayst,--be mine.
"Tho' but an hour--so thou suppli'st thy looms
With shining silk, [FN#16] and in the cruel snare
See'st the fond bird entrapped, but for his plumes
To work thy robes, or twine amidst thy hair."
[FN#15] The ancient Hebrews had no idea of a future state.
[FN#16] I have not been able to discover whether the use of silk was known at so early a period. It is said to have been sold in Rome for its weight in gold, and was considered so luxurious an article that it was considered infamous for a man to appear drest in it. The Roman Pausanias says that it came from the country of the Seres, a people of Asiatic Scythia.
To wisper softly in her ear he bent,
But draws him back restrained: A higher power
That loved to watch o'er slumbering innocent,
Repelled his evil touch; and, from her bower
To lead the maid, Sephora comes; the sprite
Half baffled, followed--hovering on unseen--
Till Meles, fair to see and nobly dight,
Received his pensive bride. Gentle of mien
She meekly stood. He fastened round her arm
Rings of refulgent ore; low and apart
Murmuring, "so beauteous captive, shall thy charms
Forever thrall and clasp thy captive's heart."
The air breathed softer, as she slowly moved
In languid resignation: his quick eye
Spoke in black glances how she was approved,
Who shrunk reluctant from its ardency.
'Twas sweet to look upon the goodly pair
In their contrasted loveliness: her height
Might almost vie with his; but heavenly fair,
Of soft proportion she, and sunny hair
He cast in manliest mould with ringlets murk as night.
All art could give with Nature's charms was blent,
His gorgeous country shone in his attire,
And as he moved with tread magnificent
She could but look and looking must admire.
And oft her drooping and resigned blue eye
She'd wistful raise to read his radiant face,
But then--why shrank her heart? a secret sigh
Told her it most required what there it could not trace.
Now fair had fall'n the night. The damsel mused
At her own window, in the pearly ray
Of the full moon; her thoughtful soul infused
Thus in her words; left 'lone awhile, to pray.
"What bliss for her who lives her little day,
In blest obedience; like to those divine
Who to her loved, her earthly lord, can say
'God is thy law,' most just 'and thou art mine.'
"To every blast she bends in beauty meek--
How can she shrink--his arms her shelter kind?--
And feels no need to blanch her rosy cheek
With thoughts befitting his superior mind.
"Who only sorrows when she sees him pained,
Then knows to pluck away pain's fiercest dart;
Or, love arresting, ere its gaol is gained
Steal half its venom ere it reach his heart.
"'Tis the soul's food--the fervid must adore--
For this the heathen, insufficed with thought
Moulds him an idol of the glittering ore
Or shines his smiling goddess, marble-wrought.
"What bliss for her--e'en on this world of woe
Oh! sire who mak'st yon orb-strown arch thy throne,--
That sees thee, in thy nobles work below,
Shine undefaced!--and calls that work her own!
"This I had hoped: but hope too dear, too great--
Go to thy grave! I feel thee blasted, now--
Give me, fate's sovereign, well to bear the fate
Thy pleasure sends--this, my sole prayer, allow."
Still, fixed on heaven, her earnest eye, all dew,
Seemed as it sought amid the lamps of night
For him her soul addressed; but other view
Far different--sudden from that pensive plight
Recalled her: quick as on primeval gloom
Burst the new day-star, when the Eternal bid,
Appeared, and glowing filled the dusky room,
As 'twere a brillant cloud; the form it hid
Modest emerged, as might a youth beseem;
Save a slight scarf, his beauty bare, and white
As cygnet's bosom on some silver stream;
Or young narcissus, when to woo the light
Of its first morn, that flowret open springs;--
And near the maid he comes with timid gaze
And gently fans her, with his full spread wings
Transparent as the cooling gush that plays
From ivory fount. Each bright prismatic tint
Still vanishing, returning, blending, changing,
Glowed, from their fibrous mystic texture glint,
Like colours o'er the full-blown bubble ranging
That pretty urchins launch upon the air
And laugh to see it vanish; yet, so bright,
More like--and even that were faint compare,
As shaped from some new rain-bow; rosy light
Like that which pagans say the dewy car
Precedes of their Aurora, clipp'd him round
Retiring as he mov'd; and evening's star
Shamed not the diamond coronal that bound
His curly locks. And still to teach his face
Expression dear to her he wooed he sought;
And, in his hand, he held a little vase
Of virgin gold in strange devices wrought.
Love toned he spoke, "Fair sister, [FN#17] art thou here
With pensive looks, so near thy bridal bed,
Fixed on the pale cold moon? Nay! do not fear--
To do thee weal o'er mount and stream I've sped.
[FN#17] Sister, was an affectionate appellation, used by the Jews towards all women.
"Say, doth thy soul in all its sweet excess
Rush to this bridegroom, smooth and falsehood-taught.
Ah, now! thou yield'st thee to a loathed caress--
While thy heart tells thee loud it owns him not.
"Hadst thou but seen, on Tigris' banks, this morn
Wasting her wild complaints, a wretched maid,
Stung with her wrongs--lone--beauty-reft--forlorn--
And learned 'twas ev'n thy Meles who betrayed,
"Well hadst thou then shrunk to return his love
But wherefore now, on theme of sorrow bide?--
What would thy beauty? here I wait--nay, prove
A spirit's power, nor be my boon denied!
"I'll tell thee secrets of the neither earth
And highest heaven--or dost some service crave?
Declare thy bidding, best of mortal birth,
I'll be thy winged messenger, thy slave." (7)
Then softly Egla, "Lovely being tell--
In pity to the grief thy lips betray
The knowledge of--say with some kindly spell
Dost come from heaven, to charm my pains away?
"Alas! what know'st thou of my plighted lord?
If guilt pollute him, as unless mine ear
Deceive me in the purport of thy word,
Thou mean'st t' imply--kind spirit rest not here
"But to my father hasten and make known
The fearful truth: my doom is his command;
Writ in heaven's book, I guard the oath I've sworn
Unless he will to blot it by thine hand."
"Thy plight to Meles little need avail."
Zophiel replies: "ere morn, if't be thy will
To Lybian deserts he shall howl his tale
I'll hurl him, at thy word, o'er forest, sea and hill.
"By all the frauds, which forged in his black breast,
Come forth so white and silvery from his tongue,
My potency he soon shall prove; nor rest
To banquet on the blood of hearts by him unstrung,
"And reft of all their music. Every pain
By him inflicted for his own vile joys
Rend his vile self! fruition not again
Shall crown such arts as now the slave employs!
"But sooth thee, maiden, be thy soul at peace;
Mine be the care to hasten to thy sire
And null thy vow: let every terror cease:
Perfect success attends thy least desire."
Then lowly bending with seraphic grace
The vase he proffered full; and not a gem
Drawn forth successive from its sparkling place
But put to shame the Persian diadem.
While he "Nay, let me o'er thy white arms bind
These orient pearls less smooth; Egla, for thee,
My thrilling substance pained by storm and wind,
I sought them mid the caverns of the sea.
"And here's a ruby drinking solar rays
I saw it redden on a mountain tip,
Now on thy snowy bosom let it blaze:
'Twill blush still deeper to behold thy lip.
"Look, for thy hair a garland; every flower
That spreads its blossoms, watered by the tear
Of the sad slave in Babylonian bower,
Might see its fraid bright hues perpetuate here.
"For morn's light bell, this changeful amythist
A sapphire for the violet's tender blue;
Large opals for the queen-rose zephyr-kist;
And here are emeralds of ev'ry hue
For ev'ry folded bud and leaflet dropped with dew.
"And here's a diamond cull'd from Indian mine
To gift a haughty queen: it might not be--
I knew a worthier brow, sister divine,
And brought the gem; for well I deem for thee
"The 'arch-chymic sun' in earth's dark bosom wrought
To prison thus a ray; that when dull night
Lours o'er his realms and nature's all seems nought
She whom he grieves to leave may still behold his light." [FN#18]
Thus spake he on, for still the wondering maid
Gazed, as a youthful artist,--rapturously,
Each perfect, smooth, harmonious limb survey'd
Insatiate still her beauty-loving eye.
[FN#18] It was not unusual among the nations of the east, to imitate flowers with precious stones. The Persian kings about the time of Artaxerxes, sat, when they gave audience under a vine, the leaves of which were formed of gold and the grapes of emeralds.
For Zophiel wore a mortal form; and blent
In mortal form, when perfect, nature shows
Her all that's fair, enhanc'd; fire, firmament,
Ocean, earth flowers and gems, all there disclose
Their charms epitomized: the heavenly power
To lavish beauty, in this last work crown'd--
And Egla form'd of fibres such as dower
Those who most feel, forgot all else around.
He saw, and softening every wily word
Spoke in more melting music to her soul,
And o'er her sense as when the fond night bird
Woos the full rose o'erpowering fragrance stole. (6)
Or when the lillies, sleepier perfume, move,
Disturbed by too young sister-fawns, that play
Among their graceful stalks at morn, and love
From their white cells to lip the dews away.
She strove to speak, but 'twas in murmurs low,
While o'er her cheek, his potent spell confessing,
Deeper diffused the warm carnation glow
Still dewy wet with tears her inmost soul confessing.
As the little reptile, in some lonely grove,
With fixed bright eye of facinating flame
Lures on by slow degrees the plaining dove,
So nearer--nearer still--the bride and spirit came.
"Thou, strong, invisible, invidious sprite,
Now, from my love my peerless mortal shield--
What exultation for thy power to night!
Look on thy beauteous charge!--why does she yield?"
Thus secret he, the pearly bracelet holding,
Lending his lip to accents sweetlier bland
The light that clipt him, half the maid enfolding
Half given--tho' dubious half--her lilly hand.
Success seemed his;--but secret, in the height
And pride of transport; as he set at nought
And taunts her guardian power; infernal light
Shot from his eye, with guilt and treachery fraught.
Haply it was but Nature:--she bestows
Intuitive preception, and while art
O'ertasks himself with guile, loves to disclose
The dark soul in the eye, to warn th' o'ertrusting heart.
Zophiel, howe'er the warning came, was foiled
What torments burned in his unearthly breast!
The while her trembling hand--untouched, recoiled,
That, wild, exulting glance, the wily fiend confest.
Faintly he spoke--"'Tis Meles' step I here,
Guilty thou know'st him--wilt receive him still?"--
The rosy blood driven to her heart by fear
She said, in accents faint, but firm, "I will."
The spirit heard; and all again was dark;
Save, as before, the melancholy flame
Of the full moon; and faint, unfrequent spark
Which from the perfume's burning embers came.
That stood in vases round the room disposed;
Shuddering and trembling to her couch she crept,--
Soft oped the door and quick again was closed,
And thro' the pale grey moon-light Meles stept.
But ere he yet, in haste, could throw aside
His broidered belt and sandals--dread to [illegible]
Eager he sprang--he sought to clasp his bride--
He stopt--a groan was heard--he gasped and fell
Low by the couch of her who widowed lay
Her ivory hands convulsive clasped in prayer,
But lacking power to move; and when 'twas day,
A cold black corse was all of Meles, there.
END OF THE FIRST CANTO.