THE World before the Flood has furnished four English poets with noble subjects for poetry.
'The Paradise Lost' is totally unlike all the poetry that has followed it. Even in the controversial meta physics of his poetry Milton has found no rival; and although Byron, in his 'Cain,' has combined tenderness the most touching with a lofty sublimity, still it may be said, with truth, of the Bard of our Republic, that he has never been imitated.
Byron's 'Heaven and Earth,' which has furnished me with a title, is full of passages which none but he could have written; and it also affords some instances of the facility with which the noble bard could extract honey from any flower, or weed, however humble. He has transcribed, almost literally, the dying words of Eugene Aram: 'What am I better than my
fathers? —death is natural and necessary.' He was no dramatist, but he knew how to borrow from a page which he could not have written; and in this instance he borrowed wisely. The human heart in despair furnished him with a truth which Bacon wrote long before; but Bacon wrote it unendangered and not so well.
'The Loves of the Angels' is an invaluable gem, which will rank, not with the 'Elegy in a Country Churchyard,' but with the 'Rape of the Lock.' Sometimes, indeed, we cannot help thinking that the author might have perriwigged his angels with advantage. But I beg
pardon—it is no longer fashionable for young coxcombs to wear wigs.
Montgomery's 'World before the Flood' is deficient in action, and does not contain one well-drawn character. But the incidents are unequalled in permanent interest. Perhaps there is nothing in all poetry superior to the passage which describes the return of Cain, 'when young and old went forth to meet their sire.' I think the poem is too spiritual; mine, on the contrary, 'is of earth, earthy.' But while the eagle soars to the sun, the dog may breathe pure air on the mountains
below; and whether he be the humble friend of the beggar or the prince, still it is with man that he is familiar.
If it is asked, why I presume to choose ground, which has already occupied all that is transcendent in
genius; I answer, that I choose it for that very reason. I may reasonably think that Raphael can have no equal as a
painter; but if Correggio had thought so, he could not with truth have said, 'And I, too, am a painter!' Perhaps there is nothing in art which the human mind will not yet surpass,
except the master-pieces of Shakspeare. What! not the sublimity of
Milton? No, Milton has not surpassed Dante. But who can hope
to surpass the heart-crushing pathos of Byron? Ford equalled that pathos;
and who reads him? But Correggio did not surpass Raphael. True;
and what then? My book, however contemptible it may be, will perhaps be better than it could have been, had I not determined to write with glorious examples before me, and in the presence, as it were, of the conquerors of Time.
A domestic critic has objected to one of the human actors in my drama of annihilation, that his actions will be opposed to his nature. But habit is a second nature, which sometimes supersedes the first, as the retouchings of a dauber can amend into discord the silent eloquence of a fine painting. In representing Baalath as naturally one of the best and noblest of human beings, my intention is to show how the exercise of despotic power perverts such natures, and compels us to reap from them calamity, instead of blessing.
I have, also, been seriously warned, that some of my characters are unscriptural, and therefore improper I hope they are not liable to this objection. The characters alluded to are four. The one most blamed is Timna, the spirit of Abel; in whom I have wished to personify that power which is called genius. No fact being better established than that every great improvement in the condition of the human race may be traced to some mechanical invention, much of the interest of the story is founded on this fact, and on the meetings of Timna with his brother Cain, who, under the name of Shemeber, wanders homeless on the earth, deploring and suffering the consequences of his crime, yet doomed to die only with the world in which he became the first homicide. I am also blamed for giving virtues to Jambres, one of the fallen angels. Formed for incessant action, it was once his office and his delight to accompany and control the comets in their courses; but doomed, for his revolt, to watch the gates of Eden, he steals thence, at times, to gaze unseen on the widowed Zillah, whom he loves with a pure and passionate affection, and to whose lifeless form he clings in despair, when it floats on the waters which have entombed man and his works.
But the great fault of my subject is, I confess, the supposed necessity
of destroying the world, in consequence of the wickedness of its
inhabitants. Did the Creator do his work imperfectly? He could, or he could not, have prevented the catastrophe. After all, this is the great metaphysical difficulty, founded on the existence of evil, into which all other difficulties resolve themselves, when we attempt, with our limited faculties, to unveil the inscrutable. It is, however, a difficulty which must be
met—it cannot be evaded: I have, therefore, endeavoured to represent, in the character of Joel, Christ the Creator, and future Redeemer, first trying to avert, and then, with almost human sympathy, deploring the inevitable ruin of the work of his hands. For part of this conception, I have the poetical authority of
Milton; and it is not, I hope, though I am told it is, theologically objectionable.
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SPIRITS AND MEN.
AN EPIC POEM.
I SING of men and angels, and the days
When God repented him that he had made
Man on the earth; when crimes alone won praise
When the few righteous were with curses paid,
And none seem'd vile as they whom truth betray'd
Till hope despair'd her myriad sons to save,
And giant sin fill'd up their universal grave.
But these—are these the flowers of Paradise,
That bloom'd when man before his Maker stood
Off'ring his sinless thoughts in sacrifice?—
Flowers, ye remind me of rock, vale, and wood,
Haunts of my early days, and still lov'd well:
Bloom not your sisters fair in Locksley's dell?
And where the sun, o'er purple moorlands wide,
Gilds Wharncliffe's oaks, while Don is dark below?
And where the blackbird sings on Rother's side?
And where Time spares the age of Conisbro'?—
Sweet flowers, remember'd well! your hues, your
Call up the dead to combat still with death:
The spirits of my buried years arise!
Again a child, where childhood rov'd I run;
While groups of speedwell, with their bright blue
Like happy children, cluster in the sun.
Still the wan primrose hath a golden core;
The millefoil, thousand-leaf'd, as heretofore,
Displays a little world of flow'rets grey;
And tiny maids might hither come to cull
The woe-mark'd cowslip of the dewy May;
And still the fragrant thorn is beautiful.
I do not dream! Is it, indeed, a rose
That, yonder in the deep'ning sunset glows?
Methinks the orchis of the fountain'd world
Hath, in its well-known beauty, something new.
Do I not know thy lofty disk of gold,
Thou, that still woo'st the sun, with passion true?
No, splendid stranger! haply, I have seen
One not unlike thee, but with humbler mien,
Watching her lord. Oh, lily, fair as aught
Beneath the sky, thy pallid petals glow
In evening's blush; but evening borrows nought
Of thee, thou rival of the stainless snow—
For thou art scentless. Lo! this finger'd flower,
That round the cottage window weaves a bower,
Is not the woodbine; but that lowlier one,
With thick green leaves, and spike of dusky fire,
Enamour'd of the thatch it grows upon,
Might be the houseleek of rude Hallamshire,
And would awake, beyond divorcing seas,
Thoughts of green England's peaceful cottages.
Yes, and this blue-ey'd child of earth, that bends
Its head, on leaves with liquid diamonds set,
A heavenly fragrance in its sighing sends;
And though 'tis not our downcast violet,
Yet might it, haply, to the zephyr tell,
That 'tis belov'd by village maids as well.
Thou little, dusky crimson-bosom'd bird,
Starting, but not in fear, from tree to tree,
I never erst thy plaintive love-notes heard,
Nor hast thou been a suppliant erst to me
For table crumbs, when winds bow'd branch and stem,
And leafless twigs form'd winter's diadem:—
No, thou art not the bird that haunts the grange,
Storm-pinch'd, with bright black eyes and breast
I look on things familiar, and yet strange,
Known, and yet new, most like, yet not the same.
I hear a voice, ne'er heard before, repeat
Songs of the past. But Nature's voice is sweet,
Wherever heard; her works, wherever seen,
Are might and beauty to the mind and eye;
To the lone heart, though oceans roll between,
She speaks of things that but with life can die;
And while, above the thundering Gihon's foam,
That cottage smokes, my heart seems still at home,
In England still—though there no mighty flood
Sweeps, like a foaming earthquake, from the clouds;
But still in England, where rock-shading wood
Shelters the peasant's home, remote from crowds,
And shelter'd once as noble hearts as e'er
Dwelt in th' Almighty's form, and knew nor guilt,
How like an eagle, from his mile-high rock,
Down sweeps the Gihon, smitten into mist
On groaning crags, that, thunder-stunn'd, resist
The headlong thunder, and eternal shock,
Where, far below, like ages with their deeds,
The wat'ry anarchy doth foam and sweep!
Now wing'd with light, which wingèd gloom
Now beautiful as hope, or wild and deep
As fate's last mystery; now swift and bright
As human joy, then black as horror's night!
And high above the torrent, yet how near,
The cottage of the woodman, Thamar, stands,
Gazing afar, where Enoch's towers appear,
And distant hills, that look on farther lands.
Beautiful cottage! breathe thy air of balm,
Safe as a sleeping cloud, when heaven is calm!
Smile, like an exiled patriot, on the bed
Of death, with not a friend to close his eyes!—
Smile in the brightness of the sunset red,
On all that pride strives vainly to despise!
Beautiful cottage! with an earnest tear,
My soul hath sworn, grief never enter'd here.
Have I then found on earth the long-sought
Where man's associate, Sorrow, never came,
Where humbled sin ne'er wept to be forgiven,
And falsehood's cheek ne'er blush'd with truth and
Alas! lone cottage of the mountain's brow!
All that wan grief can teach thine inmates know.
I look upon the world before the flood
That vainly swept a sinful race away:—
Vainly, if tyrants still disport in blood;
If they who toil are still the spoiler's prey;
If war, waste, want, rebellion, now, as then,
Rave over nations, grown in folly grey;
And earth, beneath the feet of hopeless men,
Still groaning, cries, "Redemption cometh!"—
O World before the Flood, thou answer'st not,
Though, still importunate, I question thee!
Shall I, then, paint thee, as thou seem'st afar,
Seen through the mist of years, a moral blot,
Too like the world that is, and long may be?
Spirits and men! Spirits that were and are!
Though worlds grow old in darkness, I will write
The drama of your deeds, with none to aid,
And none to praise my song; not ill repaid
Ev'n by the pleasing labour of my choice;
And, haply, not in vain I lift my voice,
Intent to teach the future by the past,
If truth, like death, long shunn'd, is met at last.
Yes, lonely cottage of the mountain's brow!
All that wan grief can teach thine inmates know,
For on thy humble pallet Thamar sleeps,
And Zillah dares not hope he yet will wake:
Pale, with her children, by his side she weeps.
Yet, yet he shall revive, and speak, and take
A last farewell of her, so true and dear,
Who watches him in hope—ah, no! in fear!
The victim of a dungeon's heavy breath,
And the rack's torture; doom'd in youth to death,
Because he dar'd, with millions tame too long,
To murmur at misrule too long endur'd;
Six years chain'd down in Enoch's dungeons strong;
Releas'd by seeming mercy, yet secur'd
By cunning vengeance, while it but set free
The thrall which death had mark'd for liberty.
Unconscious of all strife, he struggles now;
But Zillah feels the pang that knits his brow.
Oh, how intensely still she bends above
The sire of children not yet fatherless!
Did not his lip, his bosom, feebly move?
Did he not faintly sigh? Oh, happiness!
He breathes—for her he looks, (but long in vain)
Who would not quit, for worlds, that scene of pain;
And she bends o'er him speechless. How he tries
To utter her dear name! Strong spasms control
His tongue; but while the half-form'd accent dies,
His eyes meet hers, and soul is mix'd with soul;
A thousand thoughts, the feelings of long years,
Are mingled in wild joy that hath no words, no
Words came, at length, and tears were wildly shed.
"I die at home, and thou art here," he said;
"But though released, I die at home, and feel
Thy warm tears, Zillah, on my bosom cold,
Think not that aught but fire can soften steel,
Or that, in pity, wolves relax their hold.
Oh, I have dream'd of volleyed seas, and fire,
Sad retribution, haply, yet to be!
The tyrant's power and will obey a higher;
And vain is human strife with destiny.
Know, from thy womb the destin'd twain have
On whom the fate of this doom'd world is hung.
Oh, may their deeds, magnanimous and just,
Cancel the crimes of ages, and retrieve
The fainting hopes of man, when I am dust!—
For I must leave thee, Eva! I must leave
Thee, my brave boy! Your sire is summon'd hence
To join Mahali, whom his innocence
Could not defend or rescue; if, indeed,
My ill-starr'd father lives not yet, fast bound
In torturing dungeons, whose slow pangs exceed
All other pangs. But, ah! what mists surround
My swimming brain?—what means this sudden
Take not my children from me ere I die!
I cannot see your faces. Nearer come,
Irad, yet nearer. Eva, art thou nigh?
Zillah, thy hand—my poor, ill-fated one!
I see a shade, resembling thee—'tis gone!"
He ended, and with closing eyes, that seemed
Unwillingly to veil their orbs, bereav'd
Of that fair form, on which their last glance beam'd,
Sank into gentlest slumber, unperceived.
But still she listen'd, still gazed on the clay
That, mocking life, yet mute as marble lay;
And watch'd his darkening paleness in despair.
He died in manhood's prime, nor had slow pain
Marr'd all his manly beauty; no grey hair
Reproach'd his auburn locks. Could she refrain
From cruel hope? Ah, yes: she stooping stood,
And felt in all its woe her widowhood.
She ask'd no wings, to bear her soul above,
Although her dream of earthly bliss was o'er;
But on the lips, that smil'd in lifeless love,
She press'd a lip, which thenceforth smil'd no more.
She stood like Sorrow watching on a tomb.
The beauteous woe, that charm'd like shaded light,
The cheek, yet young, that knew no youthful bloom,
Well suited her dark brow and forehead white;
And in the sad endurance of her eye
Was all that love believes of woman's majesty.
Could such a pair as this be born to bring
Creatures of toil into a world of woe?—
From such a stock undying patriots spring,
As Enoch's rebel-lord too soon may know;
For long misrule prepares the dreadful way
Of him who brings to Baalath dismay.
While at her mother's side pale Eva bends,
And mourns her sire, with soul-appalling cries,
Even now, the son of lifeless Thamar sends
Half-utter'd threats of vengeance with his sighs.
He longs to snatch the jav'lin from the wall;
In age a boy, in soul a man; and tall
Beyond his years; his weeping eyes flash fire:
He feels within what power assails in vain;
His sobs repeat the last words of his sire;
He sees but Thamar's wrongs, Mahali's chain!
Man of the future! thou wilt do or die,
And deathless is thy wish, "Revenge and liberty!"
Midnight was past. The children of the dead
Slept:—but the widow kiss'd his stiff'ning form,
Laid out his limbs, and wept; then o'er him threw
Her snowy bridal robe, and, like a worm,
Sank on his breast, convolved, but not in pain.
Lo, when she waked to thought and grief again,
A beauteous blue-eyed youth before her stood,
With golden ringlets, and an angel's grace,
And all the sweetness of the fair and good,
And more than mortal sorrow in his face;
On his young cheek th' unfaded rose was white,
And from his sodden hair the rain of night
Dripp'd. "Give me shelter till the morn," he cried;
"I'm tir'd and cold."
Zillah. Whence com'st thou, pallid one?
Timna. From Eden's forest, where the spectres
is thy home?
Tim. In heaven! or I
are thy parents?
Tim. Here no
Is motherless like me. But thou hast heard
My Father whisper! and it shakes th' abode
Of the archangels.
Zil. Tell me, hast
Tim. Yes, many
friends; the great, good God,
The sinless spirits, and all righteous men.
Zil. Where dwell'st
By summer floods
I sleep. I am the guest of all the woods,
And dine in caves that give the viper birth;
The clouds look on me from the hurried sky;
(They know their homeless brother of the earth)
And all the winds accost me as they fly,
Still wandering with me through the desert, glad.
Zil. Who art thou?
Tim. I am Timna,
call'd the sad,
Because fond mothers still are doom'd to see
Their most unhappy sons resemble me;—
Timna, at whose approach dull spirits flee;
Who sits beneath the roof of amethyst,
And treads the spacious, mountain-broider'd floor:
From courts and palaces, with scorn dismiss'd,
Nor always welcomed by the friendless poor;
But all the children of the forest know
The leveret's playmate, the lark's bed-fellow.
Instinctively the wond'ring widow took
The fragment of a loaf, her precious hoard,
Down from its shelf, and pausing, with a look
Of thoughtful sadness, laid it on the board.
"Nay," said the youth, "I want not food, but rest!"
Then bounded into bed, and slept on Irad's breast.
But Zillah slept not. Till the morning broke,
She watch'd, in desolation and despair,
Senseless to all but woe. The guardian oak
Moan'd o'er the roof it shelter'd; the thick air
Labour'd with doleful sounds; the night-bird shriek'd
Thrice; the expiring embers harshly creak'd;
And with strange boom mourn'd Gihon's bordering
Unheard by her; while on the hearth-stone grey,
The cricket of the world before the flood
Bounded unseen. But when the infant day
(While the low casement's leaves and flowers all shook
In the fresh breeze,) darted a bright'ning look
On the poor cottage, and with rosy beam,
Lit up into a smile the features pale
Of the stiff corpse, she started, with a scream,
Like one who feels the earth beneath him fail;
For, like a sweet but gather'd flower, life seem'd
To linger yet with silence and decay.
But on dark orbs the golden morning beam'd;
And on the dead the lifeless blush still lay
So fair, so life-like, that despair was fain—
No, not to hope, but yet to weep again.
She wept, she look'd—and, lo! her children rose
Companionless! "Where is the pensive one,
Who, on my Irad's breast, in sweet repose,
Lay like a flower?" The stranger youth was gone!
Zillah, in fear and wonder, gazed around;
But Timna, the lost wanderer, was not found.
"Then hath a vision, beautiful as truth,
Deceived thee, Zillah, in the shadowy night?
Was it a dream? and did no angel youth,
Shake from his dripping hair the liquid light,
And utter unimaginable things?
Came he, indeed, like a strange bird, whose wings
Blaze with unearthly hues that on the mind
Cast a bewildering glare? Or doth mine eye
See forms, to which untroubled hearts are blind?"
Perplex'd, and wonder-stricken, silently
She ponder'd thus; while, through the open door
Swift Irad ran tow'rds Gihon's wooded shore,
Not without purpose; for, amid the trees,
As from the heights his rapid way he bent,
His bright curls trembling backward from the breeze,
He saw the wondrous youth, and, wond'ring, went
To meet him. Hand in hand, along the lawn,
Lovely alike, they came. A lifeless fawn
Upon the board the graceful stranger threw;
Laid on the floor his quiver and his bow;
Dash'd from his bare and snowy feet the dew;
Strok'd back the golden ringlets from his brow;
And look'd like morn, with eyes of azure light.
"Know ye," he said, "the wanderer of the
Lo, he who feeds the wren, hath sent ye food!
Behold the hunter, who in darkness finds
Paths only trod by spirits of the wood,
And knows the secrets of the waves and winds!
Me—as the seraphim and cherubim,
Who serve whom they adore, have need of him,
As I of him who sent me—ye will need.
Strength is vouchsafed thee, mother! strength, to
With earth and hell; and he, from whom proceed
All perfect gifts, bids thee endure in hope.
O my sweet Irad! I will show thee all
The wonders of the forest walks; and we
Will hear the sky-invading mountains call
On God, in thunder. Wilt thou hunt with me?
Oft will we chase the deer o'er dazzling snow
Above the clouds; and thou shalt bear my bow.
Last night, methought that I was borne, with thee,
Beyond the gorgeous rainbow, through the cold,
Blue air, star-high, above a cloudy sea;
When, lo, bright waves of glass, with foreheads
Like towers of light, in majesty arose,
Or like earth's mountains, but more vast than those:
Now, mute as mountains in their hoods of snow;
Now, like ten thousand Gihons, crush'd and riven
And shatter'd into darkness, by one blow
Of deafening fire, from end to end of heav'n.
Oh, do not thou despise the dreams of sleep!
Dreams come from God, and oft have meanings
But know'st thou, boy, that I interpret dreams?
I will interpret mine, when tir'd we lie
On some bare rock, amid the cloudless beams
Of the lone sun, while, midway in the sky,
Forms, such as live in heaven-sent visions bright,
Are dash'd, at once, from glory into night.
But righteous deeds can wash out crimes; and ye,
The last of Abel's race, are arm'd with power
To wing with gloom, or light, the destin'd hour;
To call down vengeance from the starless sky,
Or quench in joy the wide world's misery."
Inspired or mad the fervid wanderer wrought
Faith in his hearers. Zillah wept aloud,
In joy and grief, and marvell'd, when she thought
Of Thamar's dying words. Humbly she bow'd
Her head in silent prayer; while Timna's face
Was clasp'd to Irad's heart, in friendship's first
No friendly neighbour, in his sad attire,
Came to see Thamar in his last home laid:
Who soothed the children? Who bewail'd the sire?—
All shunn'd the house proscrib'd. But Eber made,
Beneath the loftiest tree that crown'd the steep,
His brother's narrow bed of lasting sleep,
And hallow'd it with curses: low and dread,
He mutter'd threats of vengeance o'er the dead.
No solemn priest the ritual grand intoned;
No mournful bell toll'd for the doom of all;
But o'er his lifeless form Affection moan'd,
And kings might envy Thamar's funeral.
Borne to the grave by all he lov'd in life,
Around him wept, son, daughter, brother, wife!
And Timna rais'd the sweetest voice that e'er
Was heard beneath the azure canopy:—
"Rest, woe-worn man, that knew'st nor crime,
Sweet after toil is rest. Thou now art free,
Enfranchised slave! Full well thy task is done?—
And yet the fateful work is but begun!"
Then all was silent, save the deep-drawn sigh
And bursting sob. But soon strange sounds were
That roused the echoes; and, approaching nigh,
The sun-bright car of Baalath appear'd,
Drawn by six out-stretch'd steeds, that scorn'd the
O'er which th' affrighted driver shriek'd in vain.
Groaning, with shaken forelock, each swift horse
Shot from his eyes the shiver'd light abroad,
Couch'd close his ears, and in his sightless course,
Beat up the thunder from the granite road:
Wild as the foam of Gihon, backward stream'd
The toss of frighted manes: the pale slaves
In terror for their lord. All stooping low—
With bloody whip and spur—all follow'd fast;
And power-adoring Jared, hopeless now,
Pursued the fluctuating car, aghast,
Yet resolute with Baalath to die.
The king alone, though not to danger blind,
Sate unappall'd in kingly dignity;
He only worthy seem'd to rule mankind.
Like brandish'd torches, steeds and chariot flash'd,
Like rushing flames, along the rugged path;
And, lo, th' unsleeping height, whence Gihon dash'd
From rock to rock, a giant in his wrath!
Still onward, onward, steeds and chariot blazed;
The mourners started from their woe, and gazed!
But at that moment, from the depth sublime,
A man arose, grey-hair'd, of thoughtful mien;
Grey-hair'd, and yet no pencil-mark of time
On his fresh cheek, or lofty brow, was seen:
He, rising, like the spirit of the flood,
Said to the frantic steeds, "Stand!" and they stood.
Jared again breathed freely; and all eyes
Look'd on the stranger. There was in his face
Terrible beauty. Something of the skies
Seem'd mix'd up with his clay; a heavenly grace
Awed in his action. Young, to every eye,
Yet old he seem'd; as if eternity
Had felt the weight of years; or gloom and light,
Deathless and co-incarnate, moved and spoke;
A human presence, with a spirit's might,
That was ere death was, yea, ere morning broke
On lands where life was not, save life that fear'd
Nor shroud, nor worm. As when heaven's fire hath
The early verdure of a giant wood,
Thron'd on the mountains; still the living shade
Renews its pride, though smitten: so he stood—
Like placid Jove, in marble undecay'd,
Gazing on time, with death-defying eye,
And throning on his brow divinity.
The king descended from th' arrested car;
The monarch was forgotten in the man;
And, as a friend with friend familiar,
Swift to embrace that form divine, he ran,
And shook his calm preserver by the hand;
Then, turning coldly, he resumed the king,
And, pausing, spoke:—"But if an angel's wing
Had swept us from the abyss, and on the land
Plac'd us in safety, still we could have said
But this—that, everywhere, the royal head
Hath heavenly guardians. Man! what is thy name?"
Joel. My name is Joel.
Baalath. Well, so let it be.
But not, perchance, the exile!—no?
Joel. The same.
Baalath. No more an exile, then—I pardon thee.
Now, ask a boon, and on my royal word,
It shall be thine.
Joel. Let Enoch's flatter'd lord,
For once, hear truth. This is the boon I crave.
Baalath. Who yet e'er lied to Baalath, and
His head a fortnight? The presumptuous slave!—
Well, let us hear, what kings ne'er heard before,
That slaves are grateful.—When?—e'en when thou
He smiled, and yet his right hand sought the hilt
Of his keen sword. Smiling, he turn'd away,
To hide the rage that shook his inmost soul;
And, while the mourners linger'd yet, to pay
The debt of love and grief, with troubled scowl
Approach'd them, follow'd by his guards. He
Beside the grave; he trembled, and the blood
Rush'd to his heart. "Widow! I come too late,
And yet I came to pardon and to save;
But all men, kings themselves, must bow to fate.
I cannot call thy husband from the grave;
But I would dry thy tears. Behold in me
Thy king and friend: nor destitute is she
On whom the royal condescension turns
An eye of favour. With a doubting frown,
Thy son beholds me. In his bosom burns
The spirit that I like. Though born a clown,
Yet if a clown he die, be his the blame.
I will advance him to the height of fame,
Honour, and wealth; and Eva shall repair
To Enoch's marble halls: she was not born
To waste her sweetness on the desert air."
Zillah look'd up; but sorrow conquer'd scorn;
She tried to speak, but her lip, quivering, fell.
Then in sweet tones, but deep and terrible,
Timna, like truth denouncing guilt, address'd
Th' astonish'd son of Hamath the severe.
"Thou bane and terror of a land oppress'd!
King by thy sire's successful treason, hear!
Too soon, dost thou forget what causes laid
Methuliel at a subject's feet, betray'd!
That evil comes of evil, multiplied
Still by its increase, till endurance fling
His burden at the feet of tyrant pride,
And vengeance, hallow'd by long suffering,
Arraying havock under all the sky,
Woe's dreadful cure is its enormity!
Pleas'd with thy people's bane, thy law of force,
Thou gazest smiling on a realm undone,
And know'st not that thou gazest on a corse,
Whose features swell and redden in the sun,
While the worms' motion, in their hungry strife,
Make an abhorr'd caricature of life.
See, where unseen their loathsome feast they share!
See,!—why wilt thou not see, that death is there?
But last of Cain's blind race, thou worse than blind,
Hark! there are whispers in the boding wind!
Thy victims bid me speak their murderer's doom.
Truth, told to thee, shall be to thee a lie,
And falsehood truth. Friendship and love shall
Like venomous flow'rs to thee: thy jaundic'd eye,
Hating their innocence, shall gloat on weeds;
For cherish'd foes shall rule thee, and thy deeds;
And thou on Danger's lap thy rest shall take,
Till, thunder-stunn'd thou dost wake and gaze
On lightnings that the earth's deep centre shake;
Then rush, for very dread, into the blaze,
Dead, with a single shriek! while all who hear
That one wild yell, die also, kill'd by fear."
He spoke; and Eva swoon'd on Timna's breast,
And Baalath turn'd black with jealous ire;
Avenging furies, tore his heart unbless'd,
And sear'd his frantic veins with poison'd fire.
Mute stood the guards; on them a new light
And slumb'ring mischief in their souls awoke;
While Jared from the scabbard flash'd his sword:
And Timna smil'd, like faith, to die prepar'd;
But Baalath's commanding nod restor'd
To Jared's thigh the weapon rashly bared.
"Woe's words," he said, "like swords, are blind
We ask not music from a broken harp:
Our visit is ill-tim'd." He spoke, and turn'd,
And climb'd his chariot, while his humbled pride
Felt that a despot in his vitals burn'd
Who fear'd not kings. Then down the mountain's
And through the glens, with flowers and verdure
T'wards Enoch's thousand towers he wound his
Beyond the valleys, and their hermit streams:
Far on the mountain-girded plain they shone,
Above the smoky ocean, which the beams
Of evening painted. Gihon flow'd alone,
Unseen, beneath the hated curtain deep,
Where deeds were done "that made the angels
While they beheld, in heav'nly sadness bow'd,
That wilderness of homes, that desert of the
END OF THE FIRST BOOK.
The Venerable and Benificent
The Steward of the Poor,
As a humble tribute of respect and gratitude,
THIS LEGEND OF WHARNCLIFFE
Is Dedicated, by
WE have all heard of the Dragon of Wantley: but as I neither believe in dragons, nor intend to become the historian of the prejudices of the human mind, it may be proper to explain, that this tale of
diablerie (reprinted from "Night," a poem,) originated, many years ago, in a dispute with a friend, who, in reference to a pestilential fever then desolating the country, asserted that the "plague," as a subject for poetry, could not be made poetical, or otherwise than disgusting. Professor Wilson, had not then proved the contrary, by writing his "City of the Plague." Unconvinced, I determined to attempt a practical refutation of my friend's assertion; and the result was "Wharncliffe," "the ne plus ultra of German horror and bombast."—MONTHLY REVIEW.
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WHERE Don's dark waters bathe the rugged feet
Of billowy mountains—silent, motionless,
As if th' Almighty's hand had still'd and fix'd
The waves of chaos, in their wildest swell—
Night, can'st thou unalarm'd behold the place
Of Striga's dire enchantments? Near those rocks,
(Still call'd the dragon's den,) her husband died;
And yonder, at the broadoak's foot, (the couch
Of doubly sinful loves,) her whisper'd words
Drove from her sister's husband's guilty cheek
The freezing blood. "Murder my wife!" he said;
"Already are we deep, too deep in blood."
"But, Baltha, while she lives, we are not safe,"
Answer'd the murd'ress; "strongly doth thy wife
Suspect us: may her doubts speak audibly;
And murder will have vengeance!—if we please."
"Doure Striga," he replied, "my troubled sleep
Informs against us! Oh, Guilt hath a tongue
That blabs what he would hide."
Pensive, he said,
And weeping, turn'd to go: but with quick hand,
She seiz'd on his, and fondly chiding, spake:—
"What, not a kiss at parting? Oh, cold men,
Ye pluck the flower, and lo, it is a weed!
Hoard then thy kisses for Rosmilda's lip,
And print them there, unask'd. Would she, too,
The bitterness of unrequited love!"
She said, but he replied not: mournfully
He turn'd away, and went while sighing, she
Follow'd with eye and ear his 'wilder'd steps;
Then, sternly spake:—"Did the dead die in vain?
Shall baffled Striga fail? Shall Striga's guilt
Make Striga's rival bless'd?—Anathma! rise!
Star-ruling Striga calls thee. Rise! appear!"
A form of blasted majesty, with eyes
As of the lightning dimm'd, not quench'd; with brow
Dark, but not sad, and lip where scorn with pain
Seem'd to contend in angry pride, arose
Before her. "Mighty mistress, here am I:—
What would'st thou with thy slave?" the spirit said.
"Give me," she cried, "a charm that shall
The wife of Baltha;—one of subtlest power,
That no accusing hand may point at me.
Give it me quickly."
"This I cannot do,"
Answer'd the fiend: "shall I call him who can?
I read thy wish—'tis done! Retire awhile,
My potent mistress!—Even now, he spreads
Unmeasur'd wings, as horror black; he shades
The pole with gloom, and casts beneath his flight
Darkness, as when the sun and stars, extinct,
Shall shine no longer on their heav'nly way.
Night veils her eyes, the moon is black with fear,
Ocean looks up, and trembles, and heaves back
His tumult infinite. Like hurrying heav'n,
Deluged with fire, and gloom-o'er-canopied,
Idea-swift, he comes. Retire! Retire!"
She shrank behind the rock, and darken'd night
Confess'd the presence of the prince of fiends:
Wrath, like a serpent, wrinkled on his brow,
His black lip paled with ire. "And who art thou,
Presumptuous slave!" he cried, "that dar'st to call
Thy master from his sovereignty below?"
"Know'st thou not me?" with fearless scorn
Anathma: "I am he, who in the rout
Of rebel angels, fought when Satan fled."
"I may not waste my words on thee," return'd
The haughty fiend, "The purport of thy spell?"
"Thine, and my mistress, can inform thee best,"
Answer'd Anathma, sneering. "Lo, she comes."
And from the stung fiend turning, he was gone.
"Oh, victor!" cried the ruin'd angel, high
Raising his clasped hands, "this is indeed
Damnation! I do feel thy conqu'ring hand!
And must Abaddon post o'er land and sea
To do a woman's bidding?—What with me?"
He said, and frown'd on Striga, who stood wan
Beneath him, trembling at her own dread power.
"Reluctant I offend thee," pausing said,
Th' enchantress. "Aid me, for I need thy aid!
Hell we control, but passion masters us.
Can'st thou not bid my hated rival breathe
A pestilential air, that she may die,
And no appalling finger point at me?"
She ended, and th' impatient fiend replied:
"I cannot—Hades can. Lo, he is here!"
And with a frown, that, as with palsy, shook
Her every limb, he vanish'd, leaving her
In terror there, but not in loneliness.
She fear'd, and wonder'd; for a stately form,
Faded from grandest, with aurelian wings,
Sun-bright, though blasted, in stern loveliness
Was present, like a dying hero's dream.
"Who art thou?" exclaim'd Striga: "if thou
From heav'n, an angel, wherefore art thou here?"
Then answer'd Hades, "That ask I of thee.
From heav'n I come not—the grave calls me Death:—
Can I assist thee?"
"Wilt thou if thou can'st?"
Said Striga. "Bid my rival drink thy breath,
And perish." And all trembling, she retired.
Why gazes Hades on the troubled sky?
"The whirlwind of the motion of a wing
Not less than archangelic, this way comes!"
Fled every star, earth groan'd from all her caves,
And helm'd with gloom, Idona came, and clasp'd
His angel friend. "Do'st thou remember me?"
Ask'd the archangel, "Or hath hell's thick gloom
So dull'd thy sense, that thou see'st nothing here
That once was lov'd?"
"I knew thee, angel, well,"
Answer'd lorn Hades, "but I know not why
A spirit pure should clasp a demon damn'd."
Pensive, replied Idona, "I was once
Pure. From the host rebellious I return'd
Repentant, and found pardon. But thou heard'st,
Ere join'd th' etherial hosts in conflict strange,
My words approv'd; why did'st thou then remain
Disloyal? Heav'n beheld thy unassur'd
Contrition, but with more grief than hope;
And the stern fiat of thy destiny
Condem'd thee to abide in hell, yet not
The lowest there, the servant of his wrath,
When earth offends him;—and heav'n calls thee
Then to the angel helm'd with darkness, spake
His brother: "Satan and example sway'd
My judgment: I was faithful only there
Where faith was crime."
"But on thy cheek," replied
Idona, "is the path of burning tears
Remorseful. For contrition there is hope."
"Hope! said'st thou, hope?" exclaim'd the fallen
"Never, Idona, never may I greet
That heav'nly stranger. Dwellest thou in heav'n?"
"No," answer'd then Idona; "but where heav'n
Borders on chaos, and dimensionless
Rocks in perennity of gloom repose,
I make perpetual night my dwelling place,
And with the majesty of ruin sit,
Awfully lone. The elements, all dark,
Combat before me; or, the hand of God
Writes fiery indignation on the deep,
Which seems in fragments wild, a universe;
Or continent of deflagrated worlds
Array'd in lightning; or infinitude
Of burning oceans, up in ridges roll'd,
Huger than myriad systems ruin'd. There
I dwell, in horrid solitude, yet not
Heaven's outcast. Sometimes I revisit, calm
Th' eternal throne, and breathe my native air,
Unblam'd, a duteous guest; for not a sun,
Extinguish'd, ceaseth to illumine space,
But to heaven's silence, sad Idona's voice
Singeth the funeral song of fallen worlds,
While seraphs weep; for well they know, how once
More bright than suns was he who sings their fall."
"Sublime inhabiter of dissonance!"
Said then pale Hades, "what would'st thou with me?
Why, King of ruin, hast thou left the storms?
Is not eternal desolation thine?
Doth chaos sleep, that hither thou art come,
To seek the gloomy joys of horror here?"
"To punish Striga, I am here" replied
The dark archangel. "With the fiends invok'd,
Comes her destruction. Do her bidding, thou—
E'en as it is appointed; but select
No victim. Loose the blast of pestilence,
But guide it not."
"Shall Chance, then be the guide
Of havock?" said stern Hades.
Idona answer'd him: "Chance is a word
Meaningless. Teems not this doom'd land with
It is not chance that makes a woman's guilt
A sinful people's awful punishment."
He spake—and when he ceas'd, the firm rock reel'd
In deeper darkness; thunder o'er their heads
Roar'd, and was still: then like the distant sound
Of worlds in ruin hurl'd, a voice was heard—
"Plague, wander wild among the homes of men,
And leave the fates to me." Hades fell prone.
"Did'st thou not hear?" he cried, "Clouds heard,
Winds and the thunder heard; and where are
Tremendous silence!—Oh, thou palsied earth!
Whose footsteps shook thee? To my soul dismay'd
Speak, cloudless storm! and, soundless lightnings,
What 'tis ye fear? Was it a dream?" At once,
Gone were the giant angels. Where they stood
Was loneliness; no living thing was there;
But the breeze lifted up the little leaf,
And on the cold rock lay the moon-beam cold.
Two days had pass 'd since Striga call'd the fiends,
And the third night was come. Toss'd on her couch,
Like the wave's foam th' enchantress. Did she
If that all-troubled slumber was repose,
There may be rest in hell. The lamp's faint beam
O'er her brow trembled darkly, as in fear.
Did conscience speak to her in dreams? She rose
Shrieking, and wildly rush'd into the gloom.
"Anathma!" she exclaim'd, "Anathma, rise!
Help! help! Anathma!—double-dealing fiends!"
The Demon was obedient, and he came:
"What would my potent mistress with her slave?"
He said and paus'd.
"Oh, listen!" she replied.
"Methought my murder'd husband to my bed
Came and said, 'Rise, most faithful of the chaste!'
He is departed!" and his scornful lip
Smil'd as he vanish'd. Soon he came again
Smiling, and bearing in his hands a bowl,
Which courteously he offer'd to my lips,
'Drink my love, drink!' he said, I for the last
We meet: to morrow! and infinitude
Is cast between us.—Lo, thy husband quaffs
To our eternal parting,—pledge me, love!—
'Tis blood—'tis my blood—doth it frighten thee?
Thou did'st not fear to shed it—why so pale?
Pledge me, love, pledge me!' Then with quivering
And soundless laugh, he faded slow away.
What may this mean—this warning from the grave?
Who is departed?—Oh, ye flattering fiends,
Much I mistrust ye!—traitor! why that sneer?"
"Be not offended, mistress!" with a smile
Answer'd the calm Anathma. "We obey
Thy bidding. Thou did'st pray for pestilence,
And pestilence was granted to thy prayer.
Is it not well? An hour since, died thy sire;
Thy hoary mother, while I speak, expires;
Thy brothers three, their children, and their wives,
Vanquish'd have wrestled with the mighty one;
Three of thy sisters, and their fourteen sons,
Are—what the mighty Striga soon will be—
Food which the worm may not devour and live.
Is it not well? from ye, as from a fount,
Destruction overflows a sinful land.
Mid thousand deaths, thy relatives are dead—
Dead. Earth is black with funeral, and night
Gleams with death torches—but Rosmilda lives."
He said, and vanish'd; but his long loud laugh
Still echo'd in her soul, when nought was heard
But the vex'd river o'er its bed of stone.
Tow'rds the sad house of Baltha, through the dusk
Then went the scath'd enchantress. Dark it stood,
And all around was mute as coffin'd dust.
Ah, surely death, or death-like sleep was there!
Would she disturb that stillness?—Suddenly,
A low sound, as of many moving feet,
From within murmur'd: her damp hair stood up!
It was a sound more felt than heard; it spake,
And in its indistinctness, without words,
Spake clearly. She stood still. The door unclos'd—
Light issu'd pale. Audibly beat her heart,
Albeit unheard; and in the beam she stood,
Dark as a liar before slander'd truth.
Soon slowly forth was Baltha's coffin borne,
Shoulder'd aloft, with many a torch before;
And many a mourner glooming mute behind,
While sweetly sad the funeral anthem wail'd;
And on the long black coffin there was laid
A little one, a baby's bed of death.
She gaz'd, as looks a traitor on the axe;
She mov'd not, breath'd not, till the train had pass'd;
Then sank she, senseless as the headless dead.
What voice, as of a seraph singing, calls
The sorceress from her trance? She leans half up;
And lo! like one new-risen from the dead,
And ready to take wing for heav'n, with face
Wan as the moonlight, in the moonlight cold,
Her eyes uprais'd, her fading lips half-clos'd,
The beauteous maniac, Baltha's widow stands
Beside her, as if listening to the stars.
There is a lovely vision in her soul,
Delicious as the gale of Florida
Which over fragrance, bears the tiny bird,
The feather'd bee, dipp'd in the morning:—aye,
But she is human; and reality
Shall wake her from that dream to agonize.
Bare is her bosom; tears are in her eye,
Smiles on her cheek; her long hair floateth loose;
And in wild accents, pausing oft, she sings:
"Stern woman, get thee gone!
I dread thine eye of stone;
For she is calm and dire
Who kill'd my baby's sire.
While many a torch was bright,
They bore him hence in night,
With pomp and wail,
And left me pale.
But still his spirit stay'd with me,
And gently wept and pray'd with me:
Oh, still he hovers near!
Oh, more than ever dear,
My false love now is true!
Still, still his manly form I see,
His white wings gemm'd with
Again he fondly turns to me
His eyes of fondest blue.
Oh, bend, and let me kiss
That lip, which still is
Take this, my love, and this;
Take this—but leave me thine;
Nor turn thy looks of love away
For many a day.
The frown returns not to his brow;
Oh, still his voice is soft and low!
I've view'd that brow with
That voice in wrath, oft made me groan;
But now I weep to hear
Its gentle tone.
I've wish'd I'd ne'er been born,
But kindness conquers scorn.
Sweet after night, is morn;
The bright bow after rain;
Sweet, after winter, is the thorn
That sweetly blooms again;
I've wish'd that I had ne'er been born,
But sweet is kindness after scorn.
Snatch'd Striga's demon-shriek
My baby from my sight?
My beauteous boy, with red round cheek,
And locks of cluster'd light!
Far be my sister's love from me!
It withers mine and me!
A sister ruin'd me!
But what, stern lady, do'st thou here?
Oh, get thee gone!
Thine eyes that never shed a tear,
I dread thine eyes of stone;
For she, who kill'd my baby's sire,
Is calm and dire."
The sorceress groan'd, and slowly, slowly rose;
Then tried to kiss her sister's hand; but she
Snatch'd it away, as from a viper's lip.
"Alas!" said Striga, "there is now no cause.
Know'st thou, then, me? beautiful maniac, no.
Oh, envied wretch! would I were as thou art!
Come to me, madness! thou whose tears are balm!
Come to me, happy dreamer, with thy tales
That bless while they delude!—Thou will not come;
Thou wilt not, but death shall." Forth then she
A dagger keen, and smil'd. But, with a shriek,
Convuls'd, away she started: from her hand
The dagger dropp'd: "Mercy!" she cried; and
All trembling, on the weapon at her feet.
Whence that unwonted cowardice? Why shrank
From death desir'd, a heart unus'd to fear?
Even when the giant angels from the rock
Fled, she was smitten, though she knew it not;
And therefore did Rosmilda look on her,
As on a stranger's mien, so chang' d she was!
The breath of pestilence then seiz'd in might
Her shudd'ring vitals. Now, her dull eye flash'd
With sudden fire; her lips assum'd the hue
Of sulphur flames; and darkness on her cheek
Devour'd the pallid horror greedily.
In grim convulsions, terribly transform'd,
She strove, or thought she strove, with worse than
Three spectre cannibals seem'd to contend
Which should devour her; and from each, by turns,
She seem'd to snatch her mangled limbs, and bleed.
"What ails she?" cried the maniac. "Does she
Why does she dance? Lolls she her tongue at me?
She laughs, or hisses. Laughs she?—If she laughs,
Her laugh is ugly.—Do not bite thy tongue;
'Tis not becoming.—How her quivering lips
Foam! and the blood starts from her staring eyes!
Will her cheeks burst? Black!—Stranger! is it thou?
Where is she?—Oh, what foul and horrid thing
Lies where she lay! it moves not, it is black."
The maniac, in disgust, withdrew; and nought
Remain'd of Striga, but a shapeless mass,
Putrid, appaling, venomous, and grey.
Night! thou art silent, thou art beautiful,
Thou art majestic; and thy brightest moon,
Rides high in heav'n, while on the stream below,
Her image, glimmering as the waters glide,
Floats at the feet of Boulter. There no more
The green graves of the pestilence are seen;
O'er them the plough hath pass'd; and harvests wave
Where haste and horror flung th' infectious corse.
Grey Wharncliffe's rocks remain, still to outlive
Myriad successions of th' autumnal leaf.
But where are now their terrors? Striga's form
Of largest beauty, wanders here no more;
No more her deep and mellow voice awakes
The echoes of the forest: and a tale
Of fear and wonder serves but to constrain,
Around the fire of some far moorland farm,
The speechless circle—while th' importunate storm
O'er the bow'd roof growls with a demon's voice.
The poacher whistles in the dragon's den;
Nor fiend, nor witch fears he. With felon foot,
He haunts the wizard wave, and makes the rock
Where spirits walk'd, his solitary seat.
The unsleeping gale moves his dark curls; the moon
Looks on his wild face. At his feet, his dog
Watches his eye; and, while no sound is heard,
Save of the booming Don, or startled twig
Of plumy fern, he listens fixedly,
But not in fear. At once he bounds away;
And the snar'd hare, shrieks, quivers—all is still.
So, Wharncliffe of the demons, ends our tale.