Purgatory of Suicides: Book II.
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-1-

    LYRE of my fatherland! anew, to wake
    Thy solemn shell, I come, with trembling hand,
    Feeling my rudeness doth harsh discord make
    With strings great minstrels all-divinely spanned.
    How shall a thrall essay to join your band,
    Ye free-born spirits whose bold music fired
    My free-born sires to draw the glittering brand
    For home and England, or, in arms attired,
To awe their lion kings who to sole power aspired?

 

-2-

    How shall a thrall, from humble labour sprung,
    Successful, strike the lyre in scornful age,
    When full-voiced bards have each neglected sung,
    When loftiest rhyme is deemed a worthless page,
    And Taste doth browse on bestial pasturage?
    Gray Prudence saith the world will disregard
    My harping rude, or term it sacrilege
    That captive leveller bath rashly dared
To touch the sacred function of the tuneful bard.

 

-3-

    Ah! when hath joined the servile world to say
    Truth's song was fitly-chosen, fitly-timed?
    The bard fit songster for a lofty lay,
    Or, that he worthily for bays had climbed?
    Great spirits! who, from mortal clay sublimed,
    Securely wear your immortality,—
    By impulse incontrollable ye hymned
    Soul-worship of the Beautiful,—the Free,
By freeborn strains, aroused to spurn at Tyranny!

 

-4-

    Thou wert no beggar for permissive grace,
    Illustrious sire, so blythely debonair,
    Who didst from Monkery's mis-shapen face
    The mask of purity, indignant, tear,
    And its deep-grained licentiousness lay bare,
    What time our simple fathers thou didst sing
    On merry journey bent to patter prayer
    At Martyr-shrine, where bowed the priest-scourged
            king
That saint with tameless English heart low-homaging!

 

-5-

    And if thou soughtst thou didst no favour gain
    Worthy to be esteemed a guerdon meet
    For one who did in such instructive strain
    As thine, great chief of Allegory! greet
    A queenly ear, with rhyme of knightly feat
    And dark enchantment,—weaving moral pure
    So deftly with harmonious numbers sweet
    That, while thou didst the outward sense allure,
Thou feddst the mind and heart with Virtue's nouriture.

 

-6-

    O matchless Archimage of nature, whom
    I name with awe,—when thou aloft didst hold
    Thy living 'mirror' to strike mortals dumb
    With vision of its wonders manifold,—
    To render uglier still the ugly mould
    Of baneful vice, and gibbet to mankind
    Their general villainy,—didst thou, for gold,
    Or great ones' smiles, forbear to tell thy mind,
Or shape thy glass like one to their foul vices blind?

 

-7-

    Or thou, immortal Childe, with him that saw
    Islam's Revolt, in rapt prohpetic trance,—
    Did fear of harsh reception overawe
    Your fervid souls from fervid utterance
    Of Freedom's fearless shout?—your scathing glance
    On priestly rottenness, did ye tame down
    Till priests could brook that lightning's mitigance?
    Knowing your cold award would be the frown
Of Power and Priestcraft,—ye your sternest thoughts
            made known.

 

-8-

    And what if all were helot-thoughted things
    Old Hellene bards to meet by sacred fount
    Would scorn, save thee, to whom my spirit clings
    With worship true,—it were enough to count
    Thy life of toil example paramount
    To coward precept.   'Evil days' were thine,
    And 'evil tongues' and 'dangers,' [1]—yet confront
    The storm thou didst with courage all-divine,
And reared thy stately fabric 'spite of cloud malign!

 

-9-

    Bard of the mighty harp, whose golden chords,
    Strung by the Eternal, no befitting theme
    Found among mortals and their low records,
    But pealed high anthems to the throne supreme,
    Or, thundering, echoed where the lurid gleam
    Of Erebus, revealed the primal fall!—
    Since thou 'mid 'darkness' lone couldst joy, I'll deem
    This grated cell no dungeon of a thrall,
But banquet-chamber where the Mind holds festival!

 

-10-

    Great minstrel, let the night entomb the day,
    Let bolts and bars, in mockery, last till doom,
    So that heaven-robed, thou walkst with me, thy lay
    Shall dissipate all thought of prison-gloom.
    Transcendant spirit,—in this narrow room
    Oft tenanted by woe-worn, bruted child
    Of man, crushed from his cradle to the tomb
    By tyrants,—how hast thou my nights beguiled!
‘Smoothing the raven down of Darkness till it
            smiled'! [2]

 

-11-

    I joy that my young heart a covenant made—
    To take thee for its guide in patriot deed,
    If Life's eventful roll should shew arrayed
    The brethren of my fatherland agreed
    To claim their ancient birthright, and be freed
    Oh how the lesson of thy deathless toil,
    While my soul homaged thee, in me did feed
    The flame of freedom!   Shall the sacred oil
Not keep it quenchless till the grave its foemen foil?

 

-12-

    Be thou enthroned, bright patriot, tuneful seer,
    Not on a regal seat that thou wouldst scorn
    As loftily as e'er thou scornedst here
    The thrones of kings, or baubles by them worn;
    But, be thy name on England's bosom borne
    In pride, while all her sons thy lineage boast!—
    Thy awful brow is shaded!   Dost thou mourn
    And bode thy darling Commonweal is lost?—
Nay!—but we'll win her back, by Labour's gathered
            host!

 

-13-

    She shall return, with face more heavenly fair,
    And graced with limbs of fitlier symmetry!
    Ay, shall return!—for we thy kindred are:
    We'll win thy 'mountain nymph, sweet Liberty!' [3]
    Thou, and the glorious phalanx of the free;—
    Hampden, and Pym, and Eliot, Selden, Vane,
    Marten, and martyred Sydney, what were ye?
    Our elder brethren!—and the kingly chain
Ye loosed—we'll break: our kingless birthright we'll
            regain!

 

-14-

    Honour—all honour to thee, patriot bard!—
    With whom I took sweet counsel in my youth:
    I joy, that though my lowly lot was hard,
    My spirit, raised by thine, forgot its ruth,
    And, smiling, dared the dint of Want's fell tooth:
    I joy, that all enamoured of thy song,
    While simpletons esteemed my ways uncouth,
    I wandered, by days dawn, the woods among,
Or did, with midnight lamp, my grateful task prolong.

 

-15-

    Poet of Paradise, whose glory illumed
    My path of youthful penury, till grew
    The desart to a garden, and Life bloomed
    With hope and joy, 'midst suffering,—honour due
    I cannot render thee; but reverence true
    This heart shall give thee, till it reach the verge
    Where human splendours lose their lustrous hue;
    And when, in death, my mortal joys all merge—
Thy grand and gorgeous music, Milton, be my
            dirge!—

 

-16-

    Long had the night o'erveiled the summer sky,
    And, through the grated casement of my lair,—
    Was it some guardian spirit's wakeful eye
    The captive keeping?—one mild, silver star,
    Benignant, beamed.   Meanwhile, of angel war,
    Fierce waged in heaven against the Eternal king,—
    Of great Messiah, in his cherub car,
    Routing the foe,—I heard the minstrel sing,—" [4]
And heaven's magnific vault with clash of conflict ring!

 

-17-

    Then, in ecstatic whispers, of the love
    And joy, and peace, and harmony, that reign
    Unceasing ,'mid the radiant choir above,
    Now war is o'er,—he sang: anon, in strain
    Sonorous chaunted how, on burning plain
    Rallied the fallen warriors' myriad host,
    And hurled defiance, 'spite of fiery pain
    And torment, at the Conqueror,—their vain boast
Of strength original maintaining—although lost!

 

-18-

    The mighty stature, and still mightier pride
    And energy of him who 'seemed alone
    'Th' antagonist of heaven' [5]—in gloom descried
    Breasting the flaming waves, or, on the throne
    Of stately Pandemonium regal grown,
    And confident in ruin,—the high seer,
    Filled with his theme, in deep unearthly tone
    Rehearsed,—while I, entranced with pleasing fear,
Imagined I beheld the proud archangel near!—

 

-19-

    Thus night sped on until the golden lyre
    And song magnificent brought sense of rest,
    As late they woke the spirit's sleepless fire:
    So breathe, conjunctive, at Her high behest,
    Nature's great servitors, to make Man blest—
    Maugre his foes!—the Muse and Phantasy,
    Hope, Music, Sleep: until into his nest—
    Straw on an iron slab—he sinks with glee—
Even where the lordlings trow he pines in misery!

 

-20-

    Nor did my minstrel guest upon me look
    Farewell—until the soul her mystic flight,—
    Leaving the flesh to slumber,—once more took:
    When, o'er Death's sea, by supernatural might
    Upborne, we seemed to speed, and then to alight
    Together on that 'boundless continent
    'Dark, waste, and wild, under the frown of Night,
    'Starless exposed' [6]—where wandered souls that rent
Themselves, unbidden, from their earthly tenement.

 

-21-

    Familiar seemed that drear and gloomy land
    Unto the stately Shade with whom I trod
    The swamp and rock o'er which the ghastly band
    Essayed their march.   But, now, as if some god
    Potential had transfixed them by his nod,
    The chasms forgot to yawn, the rocks to roll
    And threaten; warlike meteors to forebode,
    And spectres ceased their gibings fierce and foul:
Horror was hushed, and, patient, owned the bard's
            control.

 

-22-

    Swiftly we threaded through the caverned aisle
    Of wondrous masonry; and, forthwith, passed
    Thorough the vault that seemed sepulchral pile
    Scooped from primeval rock.   Then with light haste
    Upborne again, as if on gentle blast
    Pillowed, or winged away by flying steed
    Invisible, we neared a mountain vast,
    Where toiled a troop thinking its height would lead
Up to some happier clime from pains of penance freed.

 

-23-

    Aloft we floated, passing crowd on crowd,
    Their guises varied as the flowers a-field,
    While with all nameless hues their features glowed,
    Betokening them self-exiles, unannealed,
    From every mortal clime.   Still up we wheeled
    Our flight, reaching no summit,—countless souls
    Hard toiling upwards being still revealed,
    As if the discontented in huge shoals
Had hither 'scaped from Earth's old hated prison-walls!

 

-24-

    Our flying travel ended where a grove
    Grew on the mount.   'Midst, sat a form which seemed
    With raised right hand to mock the pomp of Jove
    Hurling his lightnings.   Asking, as I dreamed,
    Who this might be—'twas 'he who to be deemed
    'A god leapt fondly into Etna flames—
    'Empedocles' [7]—the bard replied; while gleamed
    From the throned figure looks of one who aims
Unto some high pretension to assert his claims.

 

-25-

    Methought, on this aspiring form I gazed
    Until a youth, who downcast looked, and coy,
    Came near; when wondering that he never raised
    His eyes, I asked what thoughts him might employ:
    The minstrel said, 'twas 'he who to enjoy
    'Plato's Elysium leapt into the sea—
    'Cleombrotus' [8]—and, the fanatic boy
    Thus briefly named, my minstrel guide from me
Departed.   I, to follow felt I was not free.

 

-26-

    Perplexed, I seemed awhile to look around;
    And wistfully to think of mother Earth;
    But soon all thought and consciousness were bound
    Unto that mountain region: I felt dearth
    Of earthly sense, as heretofore, but birth
    Of intellection; for the spirits twain,
    Of Hellas sprung, seemed now, in words of worth,
    Though without mortal sound, of their soul's stain
And essences of things, to speak in fervid strain.—

 

-27-

    "Sage Agrigentine, shall we never leave
    Our earth-born weaknesses?"—the youth began:
    "Ages of thought, since Hades did receive
    Our spirits, have elapsed, by mortal span,—
    Still, from the great disciplinarian
    Stern Truth, we slowly learn!   A juggler's dupe
    Thou art, ev'n now—thyself the charlatan!
    Nay!—like an intellectual eagle, stoop
Upon thy quarry, Self-Deceit, with conquering swoop!

 

-28-

    "Vainly, thou knowst, thou wilt seek worshippers
    Of thy proud foolery, here.   Before thee fall
    No votaries; and thy erring spirit stirs,
    In vain, her sovereignty to re-enthral
    By harbouring old thoughts terrestrial:
    None will thy godship own!   Thy rock descend,
    Laying stale follies by, and let us call
    Forth from the mind the vigorous powers that rend
Fate's curtain; and our ken beyond these shades
            extend!"—

 

-29-

    The younger Hellene ceased; and, while he spake,
    The elder changed, like one who having quaffed
    The maddening cup, up, from his couch doth wake,
    And—told by crowds that old Lyæan craft
    Beguiled him, till he skipt, and mouthed, and laught,
    As one moon-struck,—now, ebriate with rage,
    Dashes to earth the foul venenose draught:
    So changed, from pride to ire, the thought-smit sage:
As if the soul now spurned her self-wrought vassalage.

 

-30-

    Descending his imaginary throne
    With haste, upon the rugged granite peak
    He seemed to have laid his fancied godhead down;
    For, like to glow that crimsons mortal cheek,
    A glow of shame came o'er the lofty Greek,
    When, 'midst the grove, upon the mountain's sward
    He stood, and, couched in phrase antique,
    Poured forth his inmost thoughts.   A rapt regard
Rendered the youth while thus discoursed the
            ancient bard: [9]

 

-31-

    "Cleombrotus, thou humblest me; yet I
    Thy debtor am; fraternal chastisement
    Our spirits need, even here—O mystery
    Inexplicable!   Vainly, on earth outwent
    The mind on high discovery, prescient
    Herself esteeming of her after-state;
    For Ease, Pain's issue, here, is incident,
    As to Earth's clime; and all unlike our fate
To what we did in mortal life prognosticate.

 

-32-

    "Thou findst not here deep ecstasy absorb
    With ravishment perpetual the soul;
    Although Elysian dreams yon dreaming orb
    Enticed thee to forsake, and flee to goal
    Eternal.   Neither do fierce fires control
    Our thought with mystic torture, as they feign
    On earth, who now affright, and then cajole
    Poor trampled earthworms—picturing joy or pair
Ghostly, until the mind subserves the body's chain.

 

-33-

    "Here, as on earth, we feel our woe or joy
    Is of and from ourselves: the yearning mind
    Her own beatitude, and its alloy,
    Creates, and suffering ever intertwined,
    She proves, with error.   Fool—I am, and blind—
    Amidst my fancied wisdom!   What impels
    The soul to err?   If in the right she find
    Her happiness concentred, why rebels
The will against the judgment till it foams and swells,

 

-34-

    "A tempest,—aided by the raging blast
    Of passion,—and the yielding soul is whirled
    Helplessly into guilt's black gulf, or cast
    On death's sharp breakers?   What hath hither hurled
    Thy bark and mine?   Our senses' sails upfurled
    We did esteem, by sage Philosophy,
    Yet was our vessel caught where fiercest curled
    The furious billows, and poor shipwrecks we
Were left—even while we boasted our dexterity!

 

-35-

    "Thou, whilst aspiring after fuller bliss
    Than earth affords, wert maddened with desire
    To realise some pure hypostasis
    Platonic dreamers fable from their sire,
    The Academian: I consuming fire
    Felt daily in my veins to see my race
    Emerge from out the foul defiling mire
    Of animal enjoyments that debase
Their nature, and well-nigh its lineaments efface.

 

-36-

    "I burned to see my species proudly count
    Themselves for more than brutes; and toiled to draw
    Them on to drink at Virtue's living fount,
    Whence purest pleasures flow.   Alas!   I saw
    Old vice had them besotted till some awe,
    Some tinge of mystery, must be allied
    With moral lessons; or, a futile law
    My scholars would esteem them.   Not in pride
To Etna's yawning gulph the Agrigentine hied:

 

-37-

    "I loved my kind; and, eager to exalt
    Them into gods, to be esteemed a god
    I coveted: thinking none would revolt
    From godlike virtue when the awful nod
    Divine affirmed its precepts.   Thus, to fraud
    Strong zeal for virtue led me!   Canst thou blame
    My course?   I tell thee, thirst for human laud
    Impelled me not: 'twas my sole-thoughted aim
To render Man, my brother, worthy his high name!—

 

-38-

    "So spake Empedocles; and him the youth
    Thus answered:—"Mystery, that for ever grows
    More complex as we, ardent, seek for truth,
    Doth still encompass us!   Thy words disclose
    A tide of thoughts; and o'er my spirit flows
    Wave after wave, bearing me, nerveless, from
    My fancied height: as when, by acheful throes,
    Self-castaway, the shelving rock I clomb,
The sea asserted o'er my limbs its masterdom.

 

-39-

    "My chiefest marvel is that Wisdom's son,
    Thyself, should, after ages have gone o'er
    Him, and his race unto the tomb is run,
    Still feel anxieties which earth's old shore
    Convert to hell.   Empedocles, no more
    Mix palliation with confession, guise
    Of fraud with truth!   If, in thy heart's deep core,
    Thou hadst not erred, why, by the grand assize
Of the soul's judge, dost thou in Hades agonise?

 

-40-

    "No longer from thy judgment seek to hide
    The truth indisputable—that thy heart
    Was moved, like every human heart, by pride—
    That subtle poison which with fatal smart,
    Man's spirit penetrates, and doth impart
    Its hateful tinct even to his pearliest deeds.
    Whence rise the spectrous forms that flit athwart
    Thy mental vision here?   Thy thought—why breeds
It still Pride's haughty plant, unless from earth-sown
seeds?

 

-41-

    "I question not the truth of thy deep love
    For virtue, for man's happiness thy zeal. [10]
    Empedocles, thou knowst my soul hath clove
    To thine for ages, in these shades: we feel
    Our heart congenial while we thus reveal
    Its throbbings to the core.   Oh! not in hate
    Or mockery do I once again appeal
    Unto thy nobler thought.   Though sad our state.
Let us from self-deceit the soul emancipate!"—

 

-42-

    He ceased; and thus the Agrigentine sage
    Replied:—"Cleombrotus, in me, again,
    Thou call'st forth gratitude: self-cozenage,
    How low, how mean, how imbecile and vain!
    Yet, humbled, I discern its hateful stain
    Within my essence, still: would thou hadst torn
    My last disguise away, and bruised the reign
    Of my deceits, eternally!—Upborne
From hence; then would the soul find some more
            blest sojourn.

 

-43-

    "And why cannot the soul her strength exert
    Even now?   Age after age this irksome feud
    With frailty we sustain, or, all inert,
    Droop o'er our woe, and, passive mourn!   Endued
    With power our being is: this torpitude
    Let us shake off!   We loathe the stain we see
    Still cleaving to us: let the will denude
    The soul of frailty!   Now for victory
Let essence dare, and scale this Mount of Vanity!"—

 

-44-

    With wild fanatic light his visage glowed
    And kindred fire began forthwith to gleam
    In the youth's eyes:—"With mystic might endowed
    I feel we are!"—he cried: "with might supreme!
    The soul shall sun herself amid the beam
    Ecstatic, where Elysian flowers bloom
    In fields of ceaseless verdure, and where stream
    The waters of rejuvenescence!   Gloom
Shall cease! these shades are not the soul's perpetual
            doom!—

 

-45-

    "Now, let us mount!   Haste, haste, Empedocles!
    My brother, haste!   Our spirits' law delay
    Brooks not: let us the favouring current seize
    That now the soul bears onward!"—
                                                                 Swift away,
    I saw them, as I dreamed, sanguine and gay
    Of heart as children, join the toiling crew
    Of motley shapes and guises, that for aye,
    Clomb up to gain some peak, winning no view,
They sought, but seeming, still, their struggle to renew.

 

-46-

    My spirit, with a vague, wild ardour rapt,
    Seemed speedily to mingle with this host.
    And, as I gazed, sleek, supple forms that aped
    Deep sanctity, sighing, trudged on, and crossed
    Themselves.   Of sable hue, full many a ghost
    Was there that called on Brahm, and Juggernaut,
    Veeshnu, and Seeva, and Kalee: these tossed
    Their frantic forms, and writhed, and wildly smote
Upon their breasts—seeming with ecstasy distraught.

 

-47-

    And turbaned shapes were there that proudly frowned
    On all around them, and 'Allah akbar!'
    Proclaimed: whereat 'Christ shield us from Mahound!'
    A band exclaimed that signs of antique war
    Displayed, their zeal and guise alike bizarre,
    Shirted in steel and visored; while loud rung
    The air of Hades with unholy jar
    Of chivalrous chartel they fiercely flung
At their grim Paynim foemen, with obstreperous tongue.

 

-48-

    Anathemas and hells eternal waged
    They next against each other, losing sense
    Of their strange afterstate,—so madly raged
    Each bigot at his fellow's difference
    Of madness.   Memory of their woes intense
    Returning, each made halt and turned to scorn
    His neighbour's cowardice, with spite prepense,
    For blighted self-destroyer that must mourn
In endless pain, with torturous hope of end still
            torn.—

 

-49-

    And now gave o'er their lunatic pursuit
    The Graian sage and youth I first perceived
    Upon the mount.   Amid the mad dispute
    Of million zealots they seemed each bereaved
    Of self-possession, till, anon they cleaved
    A way from out the crowd, and sat them down,
    Wearied and strife-worn, while their spirits grieved
    With more than mortal agony: all flown
Their dreams, and their wild hopes brought back to
            zone!

 

-50-

    Long space, and gloomy, of existence past,
    In which, with silent grief, the spirits twain
    Seemed overwhelmed, and each enthusiast
    His face averted from his brother, fain
    To hide his shame, and struggling to sustain
    His own peculiar woe.   At length outburst
    Cleombrotus, unable to restrain
    His swelling sorrow:—"Evermore accurst "—
He cried,—"be memory of him who kindled thirst

 

-51-

    "Within me for some vaguely imagined good,
    Unproven by the soul, and whether ill
    Or good unknown; since oft false likelihood
    Befools the mind, oft she impels the will
    To grasp a hemlock where she thought to fill
    Her embrace with the rose.   My mortal state
    Why did I scorn?   Not seldom, sweetest thrill
    Of pleasure follows pain: joys mitigate
Worst woe: Men share no irremediable fate;

 

-52-

    "Sorrow, on earth, hath uses: nutritive
    Of joys griefs often prove; and power to find
    Pleasures unfound before pains, friendly, give.
    O state beyond compare! and for the mind
    And body framed benignly!   Weak and blind
    And thoughtless was my wish for unmixt joy
    Perpetual, since alternate pain designed
    Satiety of pleasure to destroy
I now discern.   Could ceaseless pleasure fail to cloy?

 

-53-

    "Alas! in vain I reason!—vainly charge
    My tortured spirit with her last foul leap—
    Her darkest, deepest stain!   While on the marge
    Of jeopardy this lessoning might keep
    The soul from error; but when once the steep
    She clears, sage counsels no deliverance bring.
    Yet, why do I permit despair to sweep
    Away all hope?   Unto the weakest thing,
For help, the seaman 'midst the strife of death will cling:

 

-54-

    "To weeds—to quicksands—to the cresting foam
    Of the wild waves themselves!   And shall she sink,
    The deathless spirit,—in self-exiled home,—
    Where yet remains her boundless power to think
    O luxury ineffable, since link
    To link the spiritual Cyclops swift
    And stronger may forge, —till to the very brink
    Of space her tether reach!   This matchless gift
Is still her portion: shall she not of it make thrift?

 

-55-

    "Empedocles, my brother, once more tell
    To me thy spirit's woes or joys: once more
    Let us together struggle to expel
    Our sense of pain, and the wide realm explore
    Of deepest cogitation: that vast shore
    We can, unfettered, visit, and still glean
    Its metaphysic splendours, as of yore:
    Let us our travel to the fair demesne
Of Mind essay,—the land of truest evergreen!"—

 

-56-

    "Cleombrotus, my spirit doth respond
    To thine, with joy!"—replied Empedocles:
    "The soul her winged steed, caparisoned
    For venturous travel, mounts, and on the breeze
    Discursive pants to ride: from far she sees
    Her promised conquests; for thou well hast told,
    And truly, intellectual pleasures please
    When other joys are joyless.   But, behold!
Where comes to share our converse the wise Indian old:

 

-57-

    "He whom Emathian Philip's son beheld
    Amazed,—while pealing trumpets cleaved the sky,
    And warrior hosts the wondering tumult swelled—
    Ride, on his goaded steed, undauntedly,
    Into the funeral flame,—scorning to die
    By nature's gradual law!   Hail Calanus!" [11]—
    The sage spake on—for, now, the Indian nigh
    Appeared; "full timely comest thou, friend, with us
To share, as oft before, the descant emulous.

 

-58-

    "The theme of mystery,—What Existence is,—
    Begin!   Whence Pain and Pleasure, Hope, Despair?
    Why Truth in endless metamorphosis
    Doth shroud herself.   How Wisdom may declare
    Her precept best; and how she best may snare
    The vulgar crowd her lessons to observe,
    Thereby to elevate and bless—"
                                                            "Forbear!—
    The Indian cried, with look of power and nerve:
"How blindly dost thou, still, from truth and wisdom
            swerve!

 

-59-

    "Empedocles, in sooth I say thou errst,
    As when on earth.   Yet, thy clay trammels thou,
    By long sojourn in Hades, shouldst have burst.
    Falsehood and ignorance will ever bow
    The human soul; and urge it, base and low,
    To grovel in the dust.   Falsehood and sooth
    Breed no amalgam.   Flame from flood shall flow,—
    The summer's sun shed drops congealed,—and Youth
Be sire unto Old Age,—ere Lies shall nurture Truth!

 

-60-

    "O Greek, called wise, think how old earth hath
                mourned
    And bled, through ages, by the mixture foul
    Of fraud with truth!   Would that thy heart suborned
    Had never been by pride, a false control
    To forge for Virtue o'er the human soul!
    How would the universal race of man
    Have joined thy lofty labour to extol,—
    Thy high emprise of goodness, if the ban
Of evil mystery had not obscured thy plan!

 

-61-

    "I speak not here to wound thee; but I joy
    That Vulcan's fabled forge cast out, in scorn,
    Thy sandals' brazen soles, for base alloy, [12]
    And thus the flimsy veil in twain was torn
    That hid thy apish godhead.   Hadst thou worn
    The false divinity thou soughtst, thy shrine
    Had only swelled the slavish burthen borne
    By sottish man of priestly craft malign:—
The enwoven fraud had frustrated thy scheme
            benign!"—

 

-62-

    Eager response unto the Indian gave
    The Agrigentine bard:—"If not by aid
    Of harmless fraud,"—he said,—"how couldst thou save
    The sons of degradation that have strayed
    In Folly's paths until the comely maid,
    Fair Virtue, seems, from her uncomely dress,
    Unfair?"
               "Call not fraud—harmless!"—said the Shade
    With sable visage:—"Shadow bodiless
Of Fraud would curse a world with its flagitiousness:

 

-63-

    "Tinct, grain of falsehood, would a cureless plague
    A leprosy o' the heart, in mankind breed!
    Empedocles,—thy wisdom still is vague,
    Miscalculating, blind; and still succeed
    To thee, on earth, they who mankind mislead,
    Without thy real philanthropy engraffed
    Within their hearts, but mixing with their greed
    For praise or gold, a larger share of craft:
How long and loud the fablers at the easy world have
            laughed!

 

-64-

    "And still sleek fablers thrive; whilst thou to flame
    Gavest thy frail life, and for thyself hast won—
    What?—Folly's laurels and a madman's fame!
    The time will come, O Hellene! when the sun
    Shall look upon a world no more o'errun
    With slaves to sensualism; when haggard Spite,
    And frowning Pride, and Envy pale shall shun
    Truth's glorious beams, and Love's celestial light—
They twain that shall be one, by hymeneals bright!

 

-65-

    "Glad Earth shall wed them: to the nuptial-feast,
    The banquet sempiternal, new-born Faith
    Shall call the nations: fairest Peace, sweet Rest,
    And holy Joy, shall minister with breath
    Ambrosial at the bridal: demon wrath
    Against their brethren, cruelty through lure
    Of gold, strife for the conqueror's wreath of death,
    The strong shall loathe: the weak shall wear, secure,
Their stronger brethren's love—that heaven-wrought
            armature!

 

-66-

    "How blest that nuptial reign!   The strong shall seek
    Their strength to nurture, hourly, with the dews
    Of Pity and Mercy; visiting, with meek
    Yet fervid zeal, Pain's couch, and Want's purlieus;
    Creating health for sickness, hopeful views
    Of life for dark despondence; breaking bread
    To weeping orphans; and the withered thews
    Of age cheering with raiment; till, outspread
In smiles, Earth is one mother's hearth where brethren
            tread!

 

-67-

    "The time will come!   But, ere that bridal-day
    Dawn on our ancient home, Knowledge must win,
    By toilsome steps and slow, her widening way:
    Knowledge—the new-born world's great heroine
    That shall be—when, of knight and paladin,
    Tartar and Mameluke, legion and cohort
    And phalanx, fame hath fled; when War's huge sin
    Hath ceased; and 'Glory,' ravening kings' fell sport,
Is chronicled with tales of murderous report.

 

-68-

    "O Greek, hadst thou a lowly pioneer
    Aspired to be of Knowledge, and disdained
    To be esteemed, by Greeks, a fit compeer
    Of myriad mongrel gods, mankind had gained
    By thee, perchance, a gift worth thanks unfeigned;
    And lasting honours to thy memory
    Exultant lands had rendered, disenchained:
    From ignorance, and craft, and tyranny.—
Yet it will come—that trump of world-spread jubilee!

 

-69-

    The time will ,come!   Young Knowledge on her
            march
    Already speeds!   Her march of suffering toil,
    And peaceful hardihood, of patient search
    And tireless zeal.   Forth from his snaky coil
    Old Superstition springs, and Power his foil
    Of sword and chain opposeth to her steps—
    But all in vain!   She counts them for a spoil!
    And conquering and to conquer, forth she sweeps
O’er alp, and vale, and strand; and bounds across the
            deeps!

 

-70-

    "Now beams on Thulé's shore her genial torch:
    Yea, there her central temple proudly stands:
    And lo! who greets her at the stately porch—
    An awful-fronted sage, from whom her hands
    Receive an ensign which on high expands
    Amid the breeze: that peerless gonfalon
    Monarchs and Priests behold, and think their sands
    Are numbered; for aghast, they read upon
Its scroll 'Knowledge is Power!'   They fear their craft
            undone!

 

-71-

    "They quake—they bow—and soon shall disappear
    Their twin theurgies—for the nations wake!
    Knowledge, the great Enfranchiser, is near!
    Yet, though their bonds the wide world's helots break,
    They seek not in their tyrants' blood to slake
    A thirst for vengeance.   Knowledge desolates
    No mother's hearth—no brother's home: they take
    Revenge in mercy, whom she emancipates:
His carrion maw, tracking her steps, no vulture sates:

 

-72-

    "The dogs of carnage prowl not where she treads:
    Beneath her steps the sterile desart smiles;
    And o'er the wintry waste its perfume sheds
    The vernal rose: along the forest aisles
    Earth's seraphim awake: her breath beguiles
    Old Nature's self!   I see their rays appear—
    The beauteous bridal pair!   Through islet piles
    I hear the shout that Truth and Love are near:
For Knowledge wins her way—their radiant harbinger!"—

 

-73-

    So spake the Indian sage, and stood enrapt
    In ecstasy prophetic, as, of old,
    The Pythoness afflate who, struggling shaped
    To mortal sounds what the Immortal told.
    Silence applausive, that with mystic mould
    Of spirits consorts, the Twain long held.   His trance
    Of admiration first the youth controlled:
    "I burn with wish,"—he said,—"that Fate or Chance
Had granted us of clay a later heritance:

 

-74-

    "What raptures then had been our portion!  Now
    We wrestle with our lot in hope: for yet
    Hope unto us remains; and on thy brow;
    O Calanus, methinks, are brightly met
    Rays of a hope for Hades.   Shall thy debt
    And ours to angered Providence be purged
    By ages of endurance, here, beset
    With strange alternate woes?   For either urged
By hope we strive; or, in despair all strife is merged

 

-75-

    "In wretchedness of dull, grave-cold despair.
    Say, sable spirit, what thou knowst of rest
    That shall be ours!"—
                                            With look of anxious care,
    He ceased, impatient for reply.  Unblest,
    Humbled, regretful, thought and speech confest
    Empedocles; and he, ere deeper gauge
    Of thought the Indian took, thus urged his quest:
    "Some glimpse of joy," he said, "my thoughts presage:—
This shall not be the soul's eternal heritage:

 

-76-

    "The spirit shall escape her prison-house:
    But thou, O Sage,—to whom mind more intense
    Hath brought deep knowledge, who with luminous
    Perceptions art endowed, and opulence
    Of reasoning power, like to the prescience
    Of gods,—tell forth what hope of blissful end
    To these our changeful woes, or what suspense
    Of agony, thou dost foreknow.   Could we amend
The past, my soul should truth no more with foul fraud
            blend:

 

-77-

    "Bright truth with grovelling fraud.   Too late I see
    Wide wanderings with my fancied rectitude
    Enmixt.   But why this Mount of Vanity,—
    So called by souls that have, for aye, renewed
    Their strife to win its peak,—still unsubdued
    Their sanguine zeal, though fruitless,—why assign
    The gods our portion here?   Torturous soul-feud
    Of myriad forms hath Hades,—but divine,—
If that thou canst,—why hold we this abhorr'd confine?

 

-78-

    "What Power appoints to us; with minds at large,
    This mountain-prison?   Why, in this duresse,
    Deemed we, but now, our spirits on the marge
    Of ecstasy's eternal boundlessness,
    And then, again, surged, wrecked, and shelterless,
    On agony's shore, ourselves imagined?   Though
    Mysterious agencies on us impress
    Their purposes,—thou, Calanus, mayst know
What these, the wondering soul's perplexities,
    foreshow.”—

 

-79-

    "Perplexed I am for answer,"—in my dream
    The Indian seemed to say:—"Here banishment
    From earth is self-inflicted; and I deem
    Some mystic law consociates spirits pent
    In this strange realm of penance.   They who rent
    Themselves from earth, impelled by painful force
    Of ill-requited passion, live unblent
    With spirits who through torturous remorse
Fled hither to embrace the self-destroyer's curse:

 

-80-

    "And they whom slights and treacheries have pierced
    With thousand arrows; or, whom children's hate
    Hath heart-galled; or, whose actions misrehearsed,
    The pitiless world hath phrensied; or, whom Fate
    Or circumstance hath failed to elevate
    Above their fellows, till with their own hand
    They broke life's bonds, hold here a various state.
    From these the Poet and the Patriot band,
Self-exiles, dwell apart, in this mysterious land.

 

-81-

    "Nor seems it purposeless that we who reft
    Ourselves of earth's mixt joys through thirst to drink
    Of ecstasy unmixt, should thus be left
    At large, as heretofore, to dream and think;
    And, while imagining we reach the brink
    Of purest joy, should feel ourselves still tossed
    On hope's conflicting wave, then feebly sink
    Desponding.   If, upon this mystic coast,
Each wandering soul with dreams and visions be
            engrossed

 

-82-

    "Analogous to dreams and visions which
    In mortal life engrossed her, 'midst the crowd
    Of stern realities,—if glozing speech
    Mislead her, as on earth,—and mists enshroud
    Her vision till all essence with a cloud
    Is wrapt,—and doubt asks whether she exists
    Or not,—why, let our struggling will be bowed!
    It is our spirits' law,—and, as Fate lists
We live: in vain this law our rebel will resists.

 

-83-

    "Shall we live thus for ever, or hath hope
    Foundation firm for joys—pure joys to come?
    Perplexed I answer: We but guess and grope
    For this the jewel of our search: unwomb
    Herself Truth may: but, in the heart of gloom
    She still hides this her gem of gems.   The mind
    Oft asks how gods their progeny can doom
    To endless, hopeless woe: but what, if blind
Necessity grasps all!   Who shall her grasp unbind?

 

-84-

    "Oft speak we of deep sympathies enwove
    In flesh-freed Essences with men on earth,
    Foretelling that when Truth shall wed with Love
    'Mong mortals, spirits in Hades shall, thenceforth,
    Experience wondrous change,—the soul new birth
    Shall have of wisdom,—false distinctions cease,—
    Or they have highest honour who in worth
    Of virtue most excel,—penance to peace
For ever shall be changed,—and ever know increase.

 

-85-

    "With ye not seldom, Hellenes sage, I share
    These sanguine thoughts; but souls of Kings ask whence
    Derive we our bright hope.   Summons I bear
    Unto our mountain realm—that high souls hence
    Betake them where, in pictured affluence
    Of power, Monarchs held thrones, when lapse of pain
    To them, with us, Nature's behests dispense.
    Since Kings yield parley, think ye that in vain
Truth's devotees 'fore thrones shall themes of Truth maintain?

 

-86-

    "Spirits, ye beam with thoughts that antedate
    Triumph of Truth and Right; and I partake
    Your deep prophetic joy.   What though dark hate
    Bosoms of kings usurps?—Love shall awake
    In gentleness omnipotent, and make
    Her meekest throne within their souls, for they
    Are human,—and all human souls shall break
    Their vassalage to Wrong.   Alas!—dismay
Of doubt begins, anew, to seek me for its prey!

 

-87-

    "Empedocles!—Cleombrotus!—our life
    In Hades, as on earth, is mystery:
    Our being is a contest and a strife
    Of self with self: thus struggling to be free
    We add unto our fetters: while we flee—
    Or think we flee—from folly, we are more
    Than ever fools!   The soul, a refugee
    In Hades from Earth's woes, her woes deplore
In deeper woe may, endlessly;—or with new power

 

-88-

    "Endowed, may yet launch out her fragile bark
    Adventurously, and find some sea of bliss,—
    Some unknown flood of light,—and, far from dark
    And dismal storms of doubt, emparadise
    Herself—"
                             Anon, from vague hypothesis
    The Indian fell again to doubtings void,
    Till like his speech, his form itself, I wis,
    Grew dim; and with its brother forms did glide
Into the womb of Nought:—the vision was destroyed!

 



NOTES TO BOOK THE SECOND.

1.—Page 53, Stanza 8.

                       'Evil days' were thine,
And ‘evil tongues' and 'dangers,'—

"Paradise Lost."


2.—Page 53, Stanza 10.

'Smoothing the raven down of darkness till it smiled!'

"Comus."


3.—Page 54, Stanza 13.

We'll win thy 'mountain nymph, sweet Liberty!

"L'Allegro."


4.—Page 55, Stanza 16

Routing the foe,—I heard the minstrel sing,—


    In plain prose, I mean that my rehearsal of Milton, during the long hours of darkness in my sleeping cell, frequently converted the gloom into a season of ecstasy.  I had committed three books of "Paradise Lost" to memory, while at the last, twenty years before my imprisonment; and I thus was enabled to realise the high value of such an inalienable possession.


5.—Page 55, Stanza 18.

'Th' antagonist of heaven'—in gloom descried

"Paradise Lost."


6.—Page 56, Stanza 20.

'Starless exposed'—where wandered souls that rent

"Paradise Lost."


7.—Page 57, Stanza 24.

              'he who to be deemed
'A god leapt fondly into Etna's flames—
'Empedocles'—

"Paradise Lost."


8.—Page 57, Stanza 25.

                  'he who to enjoy
'Plato's Elysium leapt into the Sea—
'Cleombrotus'—

"Parardise Lost."


9.—Page 58, Stanza 30.

thee ancient bard:


    The poetical performances of Empedocles (without mooting the question of his identity with Empedocles the tragedian) must have been considerable.—Diogenes Laertius (editio Amsteldami: Hen. Wetstenii: p. 529) records Aristotle's testimony that the character of the Agrigentine philosopher's poetry was "Homerical," and takes especial notice of a poem on Xerxes' transit of the Hellespont, and an address or hymn to the Sun (in Apollinem proœmium). Fabricius (Bibliotheca Græca: editio Hamburgi : vol. i., p. 811), in the list of the works of Empedocles, places three books of hexameter verse on Nature,—3,000 hexametres on Lustrations, and 600 on Medicine.  In the same volume the "learned" reader may peruse a specimen of this philosopher's poetry,—being 168 lines of Greek, on the Spheres, and may also acquaint himself with some stout reasons why Empedocles should be considered as the real author of the celebrated "Golden Verses of Pythagoras."


10.—Page 61, Stanza 41.

For virtue, for man's happiness thy zeal.


    The highest testimonies to the philanthropy, humane exercise of his medical skill, liberality in the disposition of his wealth, and democratic spirit of Empedocles, are given by Laertius and others.—See Stanley's or Enfield's "History of Philosophy."


11.—Page 6.—Stanza 57.

Calanus!


    The self-immolation of this Indian philosopher, in the presence of Alexander the Great, is described, with some variations of circumstance, by Arrian, Plutarch, and others.  King Sudraka, author of the Sanscrit drama "Mrichchacati, or the Toy Cart," (recently translated by Professor Horace Hayman Wilson), also burnt himself to death, as a religious consummation of mortal life, about, it is supposed, 192 years before Christ.


12.—Page 66, Stanza 66.

Thy sandals' brazen soles,


    Diogenes Laertius gives authorities for his relation that the mode of Empedocles' suicide was discovered by the casting up of his brazen sandals from the crater of Etna: other ancient authors discredit the entire narrative.

 



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