Edgar Allan Poe's Complete Poetical Works
Edgar Allan Poe
Part 4 out of 5
In the morning they arise,
And their moony covering
Is soaring in the skies,
With the tempests as they toss,
Like--almost any thing--
Or a yellow Albatross.
They use that moon no more
For the same end as before--
Videlicet a tent--
Which I think extravagant:
Its atomies, however,
Into a shower dissever,
Of which those butterflies,
Of Earth, who seek the skies,
And so come down again
Have brought a specimen
Upon their quivering wings.
* * * * *
In spring of youth it was my lot
To haunt of the wide world a spot
The which I could not love the less--
So lovely was the loneliness
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
And the tall pines that towered around.
But when the Night had thrown her pall
Upon the spot, as upon all,
And the mystic wind went by
Murmuring in melody--
Then--ah, then, I would awake
To the terror of the lone lake.
Yet that terror was not fright,
But a tremulous delight--
A feeling not the jewelled mine
Could teach or bribe me to define--
Nor Love--although the Love were thine.
Death was in that poisonous wave,
And in its gulf a fitting grave
For him who thence could solace bring
To his lone imagining--
Whose solitary soul could make
An Eden of that dim lake.
* * * * *
'Twas noontide of summer,
And midtime of night,
And stars, in their orbits,
Shone pale, through the light
Of the brighter, cold moon.
'Mid planets her slaves,
Herself in the Heavens,
Her beam on the waves.
I gazed awhile
On her cold smile;
Too cold--too cold for me--
There passed, as a shroud,
A fleecy cloud,
And I turned away to thee,
Proud Evening Star,
In thy glory afar
And dearer thy beam shall be;
For joy to my heart
Is the proud part
Thou bearest in Heaven at night,
And more I admire
Thy distant fire,
Than that colder, lowly light.
* * * * *
A dark unfathomed tide
Of interminable pride--
A mystery, and a dream,
Should my early life seem;
I say that dream was fraught
With a wild and waking thought
Of beings that have been,
Which my spirit hath not seen,
Had I let them pass me by,
With a dreaming eye!
Let none of earth inherit
That vision on my spirit;
Those thoughts I would control,
As a spell upon his soul:
For that bright hope at last
And that light time have past,
And my wordly rest hath gone
With a sigh as it passed on:
I care not though it perish
With a thought I then did cherish.
* * * * *
"THE HAPPIEST DAY."
I. The happiest day--the happiest hour
My seared and blighted heart hath known,
The highest hope of pride and power,
I feel hath flown.
II. Of power! said I? Yes! such I ween
But they have vanished long, alas!
The visions of my youth have been--
But let them pass.
III. And pride, what have I now with thee?
Another brow may ev'n inherit
The venom thou hast poured on me--
Be still my spirit!
IV. The happiest day--the happiest hour
Mine eyes shall see--have ever seen
The brightest glance of pride and power
I feel have been:
V. But were that hope of pride and power
Now offered with the pain
Ev'n _then_ I felt--that brightest hour
I would not live again:
VI. For on its wing was dark alloy
And as it fluttered--fell
An essence--powerful to destroy
A soul that knew it well.
* * * * *
Translation from the Greek.
HYMN TO ARISTOGEITON AND HARMODIUS.
I. Wreathed in myrtle, my sword I'll conceal,
Like those champions devoted and brave,
When they plunged in the tyrant their steel,
And to Athens deliverance gave.
II. Beloved heroes! your deathless souls roam
In the joy breathing isles of the blest;
Where the mighty of old have their home--
Where Achilles and Diomed rest.
III. In fresh myrtle my blade I'll entwine,
Like Harmodius, the gallant and good,
When he made at the tutelar shrine
A libation of Tyranny's blood.
IV. Ye deliverers of Athens from shame!
Ye avengers of Liberty's wrongs!
Endless ages shall cherish your fame,
Embalmed in their echoing songs!
* * * * *
Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awakening, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.
Yes! though that long dream were of hopeless sorrow,
'Twere better than the cold reality
Of waking life, to him whose heart must be,
And hath been still, upon the lovely earth,
A chaos of deep passion, from his birth.
But should it be--that dream eternally
Continuing--as dreams have been to me
In my young boyhood--should it thus be given,
'Twere folly still to hope for higher Heaven.
For I have revelled when the sun was bright
I' the summer sky, in dreams of living light
And loveliness,--have left my very heart
Inclines of my imaginary apart 
From mine own home, with beings that have been
Of mine own thought--what more could I have seen?
'Twas once--and only once--and the wild hour
From my remembrance shall not pass--some power
Or spell had bound me--'twas the chilly wind
Came o'er me in the night, and left behind
Its image on my spirit--or the moon
Shone on my slumbers in her lofty noon
Too coldly--or the stars--howe'er it was
That dream was that that night-wind--let it pass.
_I have been_ happy, though in a dream.
I have been happy--and I love the theme:
Dreams! in their vivid coloring of life
As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife
Of semblance with reality which brings
To the delirious eye, more lovely things
Of Paradise and Love--and all my own!--
Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.
[Footnote 1: In climes of mine imagining apart?--Ed.]
* * * * *
"IN YOUTH I HAVE KNOWN ONE."
_How often we forget all time, when lone
Admiring Nature's universal throne;
Her woods--her wilds--her mountains--the intense
Reply of Hers to Our intelligence!_
I. In youth I have known one with whom the Earth
In secret communing held--as he with it,
In daylight, and in beauty, from his birth:
Whose fervid, flickering torch of life was lit
From the sun and stars, whence he had drawn forth
A passionate light such for his spirit was fit--
And yet that spirit knew--not in the hour
Of its own fervor--what had o'er it power.
II. Perhaps it may be that my mind is wrought
To a ferver  by the moonbeam that hangs o'er,
But I will half believe that wild light fraught
With more of sovereignty than ancient lore
Hath ever told--or is it of a thought
The unembodied essence, and no more
That with a quickening spell doth o'er us pass
As dew of the night-time, o'er the summer grass?
III. Doth o'er us pass, when, as th' expanding eye
To the loved object--so the tear to the lid
Will start, which lately slept in apathy?
And yet it need not be--(that object) hid
From us in life--but common--which doth lie
Each hour before us--but then only bid
With a strange sound, as of a harp-string broken
T' awake us--'Tis a symbol and a token--
IV. Of what in other worlds shall be--and given
In beauty by our God, to those alone
Who otherwise would fall from life and Heaven
Drawn by their heart's passion, and that tone,
That high tone of the spirit which hath striven
Though not with Faith--with godliness--whose throne
With desperate energy 't hath beaten down;
Wearing its own deep feeling as a crown.
[Footnote 1: Query "fervor"?--Ed.]
* * * * *
I. How shall the burial rite be read?
The solemn song be sung?
The requiem for the loveliest dead,
That ever died so young?
II. Her friends are gazing on her,
And on her gaudy bier,
And weep!--oh! to dishonor
Dead beauty with a tear!
III. They loved her for her wealth--
And they hated her for her pride--
But she grew in feeble health,
And they _love_ her--that she died.
IV. They tell me (while they speak
Of her "costly broider'd pall")
That my voice is growing weak--
That I should not sing at all--
V. Or that my tone should be
Tun'd to such solemn song
So mournfully--so mournfully,
That the dead may feel no wrong.
VI. But she is gone above,
With young Hope at her side,
And I am drunk with love
Of the dead, who is my bride.--
VII. Of the dead--dead who lies
All perfum'd there,
With the death upon her eyes.
And the life upon her hair.
VIII. Thus on the coffin loud and long
I strike--the murmur sent
Through the gray chambers to my song,
Shall be the accompaniment.
IX. Thou diedst in thy life's June--
But thou didst not die too fair:
Thou didst not die too soon,
Nor with too calm an air.
X. From more than friends on earth,
Thy life and love are riven,
To join the untainted mirth
Of more than thrones in heaven.--
XI. Therefore, to thee this night
I will no requiem raise,
But waft thee on thy flight,
With a Paean of old days.
* * * * *
30. On the "Poems written in Youth" little comment is needed. This
section includes the pieces printed for the first volume of 1827 (which
was subsequently suppressed), such poems from the first and second
published volumes of 1829 and 1831 as have not already been given in
their revised versions, and a few others collected from various sources.
"Al Aaraaf" first appeared, with the sonnet "To Silence" prefixed to it,
in 1829, and is, substantially, as originally issued. In the edition for
1831, however, this poem, its author's longest, was introduced by the
following twenty-nine lines, which have been omitted in all subsequent
Thou wert my dream
All a long summer night--
Be now my theme!
By this clear stream,
Of thee will I write;
Meantime from afar
Bathe me in light!
Thy world has not the dross of ours,
Yet all the beauty--all the flowers
That list our love or deck our bowers
In dreamy gardens, where do lie
Dreamy maidens all the day;
While the silver winds of Circassy
On violet couches faint away.
Little--oh! little dwells in thee
Like unto what on earth we see:
Beauty's eye is here the bluest
In the falsest and untruest--
On the sweetest air doth float
The most sad and solemn note--
If with thee be broken hearts,
Joy so peacefully departs,
That its echo still doth dwell,
Like the murmur in the shell.
Thou! thy truest type of grief
Is the gently falling leaf--
Thou! thy framing is so holy
Sorrow is not melancholy.
* * * * *
31. The earliest version of "Tamerlane" was included in the suppressed
volume of 1827, but differs very considerably from the poem as now
published. The present draft, besides innumerable verbal alterations and
improvements upon the original, is more carefully punctuated, and, the
lines being indented, presents a more pleasing appearance, to the eye at
* * * * *
32. "To Helen" first appeared in the 1831 volume, as did also "The
Valley of Unrest" (as "The Valley Nis"), "Israfel," and one or two
others of the youthful pieces.
The poem styled "Romance" constituted the Preface of the 1829 volume,
but with the addition of the following lines:
Succeeding years, too wild for song,
Then rolled like tropic storms along,
Where, though the garish lights that fly
Dying along the troubled sky,
Lay bare, through vistas thunder-riven,
The blackness of the general Heaven,
That very blackness yet doth fling
Light on the lightning's silver wing.
For being an idle boy lang syne,
Who read Anacreon and drank wine,
I early found Anacreon rhymes
Were almost passionate sometimes--
And by strange alchemy of brain
His pleasures always turned to pain--
His naivete to wild desire--
His wit to love--his wine to fire--
And so, being young and dipt in folly,
I fell in love with melancholy.
And used to throw my earthly rest
And quiet all away in jest--
I could not love except where Death
Was mingling his with Beauty's breath--
Or Hymen, Time, and Destiny,
Were stalking between her and me.
* * * * *
But _now_ my soul hath too much room--
Gone are the glory and the gloom--
The black hath mellow'd into gray,
And all the fires are fading away.
My draught of passion hath been deep--
I revell'd, and I now would sleep--
And after drunkenness of soul
Succeeds the glories of the bowl--
An idle longing night and day
To dream my very life away.
But dreams--of those who dream as I,
Aspiringly, are damned, and die:
Yet should I swear I mean alone,
By notes so very shrilly blown,
To break upon Time's monotone,
While yet my vapid joy and grief
Are tintless of the yellow leaf--
Why not an imp the greybeard hath,
Will shake his shadow in my path--
And e'en the greybeard will o'erlook
Connivingly my dreaming-book.
* * * * *
* * * * *
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were--I have not seen
As others saw--I could not bring
My passions from a common spring--
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow--I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone--
And all I loved--_I_ loved alone--
_Thou_--in my childhood--in the dawn
Of a most stormy life--was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still--
From the torrent, or the fountain--
From the red cliff of the mountain--
From the sun that round me roll'd
In its autumn tint of gold--
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by--
From the thunder and the storm--
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
March 17, 1829.
* * * * *
I. Beneath the vine-clad eaves,
Whose shadows fall before
Thy lowly cottage door--
Under the lilac's tremulous leaves--
Within thy snowy clasped hand
The purple flowers it bore.
Last eve in dreams, I saw thee stand,
Like queenly nymph from Fairy-land--
Enchantress of the flowery wand,
Most beauteous Isadore!
II. And when I bade the dream
Upon thy spirit flee,
Thy violet eyes to me
Upturned, did overflowing seem
With the deep, untold delight
Of Love's serenity;
Thy classic brow, like lilies white
And pale as the Imperial Night
Upon her throne, with stars bedight,
Enthralled my soul to thee!
III. Ah! ever I behold
Thy dreamy, passionate eyes,
Blue as the languid skies
Hung with the sunset's fringe of gold;
Now strangely clear thine image grows,
And olden memories
Are startled from their long repose
Like shadows on the silent snows
When suddenly the night-wind blows
Where quiet moonlight lies.
IV. Like music heard in dreams,
Like strains of harps unknown,
Of birds for ever flown,--
Audible as the voice of streams
That murmur in some leafy dell,
I hear thy gentlest tone,
And Silence cometh with her spell
Like that which on my tongue doth dwell,
When tremulous in dreams I tell
My love to thee alone!
V. In every valley heard,
Floating from tree to tree,
Less beautiful to me,
The music of the radiant bird,
Than artless accents such as thine
Whose echoes never flee!
Ah! how for thy sweet voice I pine:--
For uttered in thy tones benign
(Enchantress!) this rude name of mine
Doth seem a melody!
* * * * *
THE VILLAGE STREET.
In these rapid, restless shadows,
Once I walked at eventide,
When a gentle, silent maiden,
Walked in beauty at my side.
She alone there walked beside me
All in beauty, like a bride.
Pallidly the moon was shining
On the dewy meadows nigh;
On the silvery, silent rivers,
On the mountains far and high,--
On the ocean's star-lit waters,
Where the winds a-weary die.
Slowly, silently we wandered
From the open cottage door,
Underneath the elm's long branches
To the pavement bending o'er;
Underneath the mossy willow
And the dying sycamore.
With the myriad stars in beauty
All bedight, the heavens were seen,
Radiant hopes were bright around me,
Like the light of stars serene;
Like the mellow midnight splendor
Of the Night's irradiate queen.
Audibly the elm-leaves whispered
Peaceful, pleasant melodies,
Like the distant murmured music
Of unquiet, lovely seas;
While the winds were hushed in slumber
In the fragrant flowers and trees.
Wondrous and unwonted beauty
Still adorning all did seem,
While I told my love in fables
'Neath the willows by the stream;
Would the heart have kept unspoken
Love that was its rarest dream!
Instantly away we wandered
In the shadowy twilight tide,
She, the silent, scornful maiden,
Walking calmly at my side,
With a step serene and stately,
All in beauty, all in pride.
Vacantly I walked beside her.
On the earth mine eyes were cast;
Swift and keen there came unto me
Bitter memories of the past--
On me, like the rain in Autumn
On the dead leaves, cold and fast.
Underneath the elms we parted,
By the lowly cottage door;
One brief word alone was uttered--
Never on our lips before;
And away I walked forlornly,
Slowly, silently I loitered,
Homeward, in the night, alone;
Sudden anguish bound my spirit,
That my youth had never known;
Wild unrest, like that which cometh
When the Night's first dream hath flown.
Now, to me the elm-leaves whisper
Mad, discordant melodies,
And keen melodies like shadows
Haunt the moaning willow trees,
And the sycamores with laughter
Mock me in the nightly breeze.
Sad and pale the Autumn moonlight
Through the sighing foliage streams;
And each morning, midnight shadow,
Shadow of my sorrow seems;
Strive, O heart, forget thine idol!
And, O soul, forget thy dreams!
* * * * *
THE FOREST REVERIE.
'Tis said that when
The hands of men
Tamed this primeval wood,
And hoary trees with groans of wo,
Like warriors by an unknown foe,
Were in their strength subdued,
The virgin Earth
Gave instant birth
To springs that ne'er did flow--
That in the sun
Did rivulets run,
And all around rare flowers did blow--
The wild rose pale
Perfumed the gale,
And the queenly lily adown the dale
(Whom the sun and the dew
And the winds did woo),
With the gourd and the grape luxuriant grew.
So when in tears
The love of years
Is wasted like the snow,
And the fine fibrils of its life
By the rude wrong of instant strife
Are broken at a blow--
Within the heart
Do springs upstart
Of which it doth now know,
And strange, sweet dreams,
Like silent streams
That from new fountains overflow,
With the earlier tide
Of rivers glide
Deep in the heart whose hope has died--
Quenching the fires its ashes hide,--
Its ashes, whence will spring and grow
Sweet flowers, ere long,--
The rare and radiant flowers of song!
* * * * *
Of the many verses from time to time ascribed to the pen of Edgar Poe,
and not included among his known writings, the lines entitled "Alone"
have the chief claim to our notice. 'Fac-simile' copies of this piece
had been in possession of the present editor some time previous to its
publication in 'Scribner's Magazine' for September 1875; but as proofs
of the authorship claimed for it were not forthcoming, he refrained from
publishing it as requested. The desired proofs have not yet been
adduced, and there is, at present, nothing but internal evidence to
guide us. "Alone" is stated to have been written by Poe in the album of
a Baltimore lady (Mrs. Balderstone?), on March 17th, 1829, and the
'fac-simile' given in 'Scribner's' is alleged to be of his handwriting.
If the caligraphy be Poe's, it is different in all essential respects
from all the many specimens known to us, and strongly resembles that of
the writer of the heading and dating of the manuscript, both of which
the contributor of the poem acknowledges to have been recently added.
The lines, however, if not by Poe, are the most successful imitation of
his early mannerisms yet made public, and, in the opinion of one well
qualified to speak, "are not unworthy on the whole of the parentage
claimed for them."
Whilst Edgar Poe was editor of the 'Broadway Journal', some lines "To
Isadore" appeared therein, and, like several of his known pieces, bore
no signature. They were at once ascribed to Poe, and in order to satisfy
questioners, an editorial paragraph subsequently appeared, saying they
were by "A. Ide, junior." Two previous poems had appeared in the
'Broadway Journal' over the signature of "A. M. Ide," and whoever wrote
them was also the author of the lines "To Isadore." In order, doubtless,
to give a show of variety, Poe was then publishing some of his known
works in his journal over 'noms de plume', and as no other writings
whatever can be traced to any person bearing the name of "A. M. Ide," it
is not impossible that the poems now republished in this collection may
be by the author of "The Raven." Having been published without his usual
elaborate revision, Poe may have wished to hide his hasty work under an
assumed name. The three pieces are included in the present collection,
so the reader can judge for himself what pretensions they possess to be
by the author of "The Raven."
* * * * *
* * * * *
THE ISLAND OF THE FAY.
"Nullus enim locus sine genio est."
"_La musique_," says Marmontel, in those "Contes Moraux" which in all
our translations we have insisted upon calling "Moral Tales," as if in
mockery of their spirit--"_la musique est le seul des talens qui jouisse
de lui-meme: tous les autres veulent des temoins_." He here confounds
the pleasure derivable from sweet sounds with the capacity for creating
them. No more than any other _talent_, is that for music susceptible of
complete enjoyment where there is no second party to appreciate its
exercise; and it is only in common with other talents that it produces
_effects_ which may be fully enjoyed in solitude. The idea which the
_raconteur_ has either failed to entertain clearly, or has sacrificed in
its expression to his national love of _point_, is doubtless the very
tenable one that the higher order of music is the most thoroughly
estimated when we are exclusively alone. The proposition in this form
will be admitted at once by those who love the lyre for its own sake and
for its spiritual uses. But there is one pleasure still within the reach
of fallen mortality, and perhaps only one, which owes even more than
does music to the accessory sentiment of seclusion. I mean the happiness
experienced in the contemplation of natural scenery. In truth, the man
who would behold aright the glory of God upon earth must in solitude
behold that glory. To me at least the presence, not of human life only,
but of life, in any other form than that of the green things which grow
upon the soil and are voiceless, is a stain upon the landscape, is at
war with the genius of the scene. I love, indeed, to regard the dark
valleys, and the gray rocks, and the waters that silently smile, and the
forests that sigh in uneasy slumbers, and the proud watchful mountains
that look down upon all,--I love to regard these as themselves but the
colossal members of one vast animate and sentient whole--a whole whose
form (that of the sphere) is the most perfect and most inclusive of all;
whose path is among associate planets; whose meek handmaiden is the
moon; whose mediate sovereign is the sun; whose life is eternity; whose
thought is that of a god; whose enjoyment is knowledge; whose destinies
are lost in immensity; whose cognizance of ourselves is akin with our
own cognizance of the _animalculae_ which infest the brain, a being which
we in consequence regard as purely inanimate and material, much in the
same manner as these _animalculae_ must thus regard us.
Our telescopes and our mathematical investigations assure us on every
hand, notwithstanding the cant of the more ignorant of the priesthood,
that space, and therefore that bulk, is an important consideration in
the eyes of the Almighty. The cycles in which the stars move are those
best adapted for the evolution, without collision, of the greatest
possible number of bodies. The forms of those bodies are accurately such
as within a given surface to include the greatest possible amount of
matter; while the surfaces themselves are so disposed as to accommodate
a denser population than could be accommodated on the same surfaces
otherwise arranged. Nor is it any argument against bulk being an object
with God that space itself is infinite; for there may be an infinity of
matter to fill it; and since we see clearly that the endowment of matter
with vitality is a principle--indeed, as far as our judgments extend,
the _leading_ principle in the operations of Deity, it is scarcely
logical to imagine it confined to the regions of the minute, where we
daily trace it, and not extending to those of the august. As we find
cycle within cycle without end, yet all revolving around one far-distant
centre which is the Godhead, may we not analogically suppose, in the
same manner, life within life, the less within the greater, and all
within the Spirit Divine? In short, we are madly erring through
self-esteem in believing man, in either his temporal or future
destinies, to be of more moment in the universe than that vast "clod of
the valley" which he tills and contemns, and to which he denies a soul,
for no more profound reason than that he does not behold it in operation
These fancies, and such as these, have always given to my meditations
among the mountains and the forests, by the rivers and the ocean, a
tinge of what the every-day world would not fail to term the fantastic.
My wanderings amid such scenes have been many and far-searching, and
often solitary; and the interest with which I have strayed through many
a dim deep valley, or gazed into the reflected heaven of many a bright
lake, has been an interest greatly deepened by the thought that I have
strayed and gazed _alone._ What flippant Frenchman  was it who said,
in allusion to the well known work of Zimmermann, that _"la solitude est
une belle chose; mais il faut quelqu'un pour vous dire que la solitude
est une belle chose"_? The epigram cannot be gainsaid; but the necessity
is a thing that does not exist.
It was during one of my lonely journeyings, amid a far distant region of
mountain locked within mountain, and sad rivers and melancholy tarns
writhing or sleeping within all, that I chanced upon a certain rivulet
and island. I came upon them suddenly in the leafy June, and threw
myself upon the turf beneath the branches of an unknown odorous shrub,
that I might doze as I contemplated the scene. I felt that thus only
should I look upon it, such was the character of phantasm which it wore.
On all sides, save to the west where the sun was about sinking, arose
the verdant walls of the forest. The little river which turned sharply
in its course, and was thus immediately lost to sight, seemed to have no
exit from its prison, but to be absorbed by the deep green foliage of
the trees to the east; while in the opposite quarter (so it appeared to
me as I lay at length and glanced upward) there poured down noiselessly
and continuously into the valley a rich golden and crimson waterfall
from the sunset fountains of the sky.
About midway in the short vista which my dreamy vision took in, one
small circular island, profusely verdured, reposed upon the bosom of the
So blended bank and shadow there,
That each seemed pendulous in air--
so mirror-like was the glassy water, that it was scarcely possible to
say at what point upon the slope of the emerald turf its crystal
dominion began. My position enabled me to include in a single view both
the eastern and western extremities of the islet, and I observed a
singularly-marked difference in their aspects. The latter was all one
radiant harem of garden beauties. It glowed and blushed beneath the eye
of the slant sunlight, and fairly laughed with flowers. The grass was
short, springy, sweet-scented, and Asphodel-interspersed. The trees were
lithe, mirthful, erect, bright, slender, and graceful, of eastern figure
and foliage, with bark smooth, glossy, and parti-colored. There seemed a
deep sense of life and joy about all, and although no airs blew from out
the heavens, yet everything had motion through the gentle sweepings to
and fro of innumerable butterflies, that might have been mistaken for
tulips with wings .
The other or eastern end of the isle was whelmed in the blackest shade.
A sombre, yet beautiful and peaceful gloom, here pervaded all things.
The trees were dark in color and mournful in form and attitude--
wreathing themselves into sad, solemn, and spectral shapes, that
conveyed ideas of mortal sorrow and untimely death. The grass wore the
deep tint of the cypress, and the heads of its blades hung droopingly,
and hither and thither among it were many small unsightly hillocks, low
and narrow, and not very long, that had the aspect of graves, but were
not, although over and all about them the rue and the rosemary
clambered. The shades of the trees fell heavily upon the water, and
seemed to bury itself therein, impregnating the depths of the element
with darkness. I fancied that each shadow, as the sun descended lower
and lower, separated itself sullenly from the trunk that gave it birth,
and thus became absorbed by the stream, while other shadows issued
momently from the trees, taking the place of their predecessors thus
This idea having once seized upon my fancy greatly excited it, and I
lost myself forthwith in reverie. "If ever island were enchanted," said
I to myself, "this is it. This is the haunt of the few gentle Fays who
remain from the wreck of the race. Are these green tombs theirs?--or do
they yield up their sweet lives as mankind yield up their own? In dying,
do they not rather waste away mournfully, rendering unto God little by
little their existence, as these trees render up shadow after shadow,
exhausting their substance unto dissolution? What the wasting tree is to
the water that imbibes its shade, growing thus blacker by what it preys
upon, may not the life of the Fay be to the death which engulfs it?"
As I thus mused, with half-shut eyes, while the sun sank rapidly to
rest, and eddying currents careered round and round the island, bearing
upon their bosom large dazzling white flakes of the bark of the
sycamore, flakes which, in their multiform positions upon the water, a
quick imagination might have converted into anything it pleased; while I
thus mused, it appeared to me that the form of one of those very Fays
about whom I had been pondering, made its way slowly into the darkness
from out the light at the western end of the island. She stood erect in
a singularly fragile canoe, and urged it with the mere phantom of an
oar. While within the influence of the lingering sunbeams, her attitude
seemed indicative of joy, but sorrow deformed it as she passed within
the shade. Slowly she glided along, and at length rounded the islet and
re-entered the region of light. "The revolution which has just been made
by the Fay," continued I musingly, "is the cycle of the brief year of
her life. She has floated through her winter and through her summer. She
is a year nearer unto death: for I did not fail to see that as she came
into the shade, her shadow fell from her, and was swallowed up in the
dark water, making its blackness more black."
And again the boat appeared and the Fay, but about the attitude of the
latter there was more of care and uncertainty and less of elastic joy.
She floated again from out the light and into the gloom (which deepened
momently), and again her shadow fell from her into the ebony water, and
became absorbed into its blackness. And again and again she made the
circuit of the island (while the sun rushed down to his slumbers), and
at each issuing into the light there was more sorrow about her person,
while it grew feebler and far fainter and more indistinct, and at each
passage into the gloom there fell from her a darker shade, which became
whelmed in a shadow more black. But at length, when the sun had utterly
departed, the Fay, now the mere ghost of her former self, went
disconsolately with her boat into the region of the ebony flood, and
that she issued thence at all I cannot say, for darkness fell over all
things, and I beheld her magical figure no more.
[Footnote 1: Moraux is here derived from _moeurs_, and its meaning is
"_fashionable_," or, more strictly, "of manners."]
[Footnote 2: Speaking of the tides, Pomponius Mela, in his treatise,
'De Situ Orbis', says,
"Either the world is a great animal, or," etc.]
[Footnote 3: Balzac, in substance; I do not remember the words.]
"Florem putares nare per liquidum aethera."
* * * * *
THE POWER OF WORDS.
Pardon, Agathos, the weakness of a spirit new-fledged with
You have spoken nothing, my Oinos, for which pardon is to be demanded.
Not even here is knowledge a thing of intuition. For wisdom, ask of
the angels freely, that it may be given!
But in this existence I dreamed that I should be at once cognizant of
all things, and thus at once happy in being cognizant of all.
Ah, not in knowledge is happiness, but in the acquisition of
knowledge! In forever knowing, we are forever blessed; but to know
all, were the curse of a fiend.
But does not The Most High know all?
_That_ (since he is The Most Happy) must be still the _one_ thing
unknown even to HIM.
But, since we grow hourly in knowledge, must not _at last_ all things
Look down into the abysmal distances!--attempt to force the gaze down
the multitudinous vistas of the stars, as we sweep slowly through them
thus--and thus--and thus! Even the spiritual vision, is it not at all
points arrested by the continuous golden walls of the universe?--the
walls of the myriads of the shining bodies that mere number has
appeared to blend into unity?
I clearly perceive that the infinity of matter is no dream.
There are no dreams in Aidenn--but it is here whispered that, of this
infinity of matter, the _sole_ purpose is to afford infinite springs
at which the soul may allay the thirst _to know_ which is forever
unquenchable within it--since to quench it would be to extinguish the
soul's self. Question me then, my Oinos, freely and without fear.
Come! we will leave to the left the loud harmony of the Pleiades, and
swoop outward from the throne into the starry meadows beyond Orion,
where, for pansies and violets, and heart's-ease, are the beds of the
triplicate and triple-tinted suns.
And now, Agathos, as we proceed, instruct me!--speak to me in the
earth's familiar tones! I understand not what you hinted to me just
now of the modes or of the methods of what during mortality, we were
accustomed to call Creation. Do you mean to say that the Creator is
I mean to say that the Deity does not create.
In the beginning only, he created. The seeming creatures which are now
throughout the universe so perpetually springing into being can only
be considered as the mediate or indirect, not as the direct or
immediate results of the Divine creative power.
Among men, my Agathos, this idea would be considered heretical in the
Among the angels, my Oinos, it is seen to be simply true.
I can comprehend you thus far--that certain operations of what we term
Nature, or the natural laws, will, under certain conditions, give rise
to that which has all the _appearance_ of creation. Shortly before the
final overthrow of the earth, there were, I well remember, many very
successful experiments in what some philosophers were weak enough to
denominate the creation of animalculae.
The cases of which you speak were, in fact, instances of the secondary
creation, and of the _only_ species of creation which has ever been
since the first word spoke into existence the first law.
Are not the starry worlds that, from the abyss of nonentity, burst
hourly forth into the heavens--are not these stars, Agathos, the
immediate handiwork of the King?
Let me endeavor, my Oinos, to lead you, step by step, to the
conception I intend. You are well aware that, as no thought can
perish, so no act is without infinite result. We moved our hands, for
example, when we were dwellers on the earth, and in so doing we gave
vibration to the atmosphere which engirdled it. This vibration was
indefinitely extended till it gave impulse to every particle of the
earth's air, which thenceforward, _and forever_, was actuated by the
one movement of the hand. This fact the mathematicians of our globe
well knew. They made the special effects, indeed, wrought in the fluid
by special impulses, the subject of exact calculation--so that it
became easy to determine in what precise period an impulse of given
extent would engirdle the orb, and impress (forever) every atom of the
atmosphere circumambient. Retrograding, they found no difficulty; from
a given effect, under given conditions, in determining the value of
the original impulse. Now the mathematicians who saw that the results
of any given impulse were absolutely endless--and who saw that a
portion of these results were accurately traceable through the agency
of algebraic analysis--who saw, too, the facility of the
retrogradation--these men saw, at the same time, that this species of
analysis itself had within itself a capacity for indefinite
progress--that there were no bounds conceivable to its advancement and
applicability, except within the intellect of him who advanced or
applied it. But at this point our mathematicians paused.
And why, Agathos, should they have proceeded?
Because there were some considerations of deep interest beyond. It was
deducible from what they knew, that to a being of infinite
understanding--one to whom the _perfection_ of the algebraic analysis
lay unfolded--there could be no difficulty in tracing every impulse
given the air--and the ether through the air--to the remotest
consequences at any even infinitely remote epoch of time. It is indeed
demonstrable that every such impulse _given the air_, must _in the
end_ impress every individual thing that exists _within the
universe;_--and the being of infinite understanding--the being whom
we have imagined--might trace the remote undulations of the
impulse--trace them upward and onward in their influences upon all
particles of all matter--upward and onward forever in their
modifications of old forms--or, in other words, _in their creation of
new_--until he found them reflected--unimpressive _at last_--back from
the throne of the Godhead. And not only could such a being do this,
but at any epoch, should a given result be afforded him--should one of
these numberless comets, for example, be presented to his
inspection--he could have no difficulty in determining, by the
analytic retrogradation, to what original impulse it was due. This
power of retrogradation in its absolute fulness and perfection--this
faculty of referring at _all_ epochs, _all_ effects to _all_
causes--is of course the prerogative of the Deity alone--but in every
variety of degree, short of the absolute perfection, is the power
itself exercised by the whole host of the Angelic Intelligences.
But you speak merely of impulses upon the air.
In speaking of the air, I referred only to the earth: but the general
proposition has reference to impulses upon the ether--which, since it
pervades, and alone pervades all space, is thus the great medium of
Then all motion, of whatever nature, creates?
It must: but a true philosophy has long taught that the source of all
motion is thought--and the source of all thought is--
I have spoken to you, Oinos, as to a child, of the fair Earth which
lately perished--of impulses upon the atmosphere of the earth.
And while I thus spoke, did there not cross your mind some thought of
the _physical power of words_? Is not every word an impulse on the
But why, Agathos, do you weep--and why, oh, why do your wings droop as
we hover above this fair star--which is the greenest and yet most
terrible of all we have encountered in our flight? Its brilliant
flowers look like a fairy dream--but its fierce volcanoes like the
passions of a turbulent heart.
They _are_!--they _are_!--This wild star--it is now three centuries
since, with clasped hands, and with streaming eyes, at the feet of my
beloved--I spoke it--with a few passionate sentences--into birth. Its
brilliant flowers _are_ the dearest of all unfulfilled dreams, and its
raging volcanoes _are_ the passions of the most turbulent and
unhallowed of hearts!
* * * * *
THE COLLOQUY OF MONOS AND UNA.
[Greek: Mellonta sauta']
These things are in the future.
Yes, fairest and best beloved Una, "born again." These were the words
upon whose mystical meaning I had so long pondered, rejecting the
explanations of the priesthood, until Death itself resolved for me the
How strangely, sweet _Una_, you echo my words! I observe, too, a
vacillation in your step, a joyous inquietude in your eyes. You are
confused and oppressed by the majestic novelty of the Life Eternal.
Yes, it was of Death I spoke. And here how singularly sounds that word
which of old was wont to bring terror to all hearts, throwing a mildew
upon all pleasures!
Ah, Death, the spectre which sate at all feasts! How often, Monos, did
we lose ourselves in speculations upon its nature! How mysteriously
did it act as a check to human bliss, saying unto it, "thus far, and
no farther!" That earnest mutual love, my own Monos, which burned
within our bosoms, how vainly did we flatter ourselves, feeling happy
in its first upspringing that our happiness would strengthen with its
strength! Alas, as it grew, so grew in our hearts the dread of that
evil hour which was hurrying to separate us forever! Thus in time it
became painful to love. Hate would have been mercy then.
Speak not here of these griefs, dear Una--mine, mine forever now!
But the memory of past sorrow, is it not present joy? I have much to
say yet of the things which have been. Above all, I burn to know the
incidents of your own passage through the dark Valley and Shadow.
And when did the radiant Una ask anything of her Monos in vain? I will
be minute in relating all, but at what point shall the weird narrative
At what point?
You have said.
Monos, I comprehend you. In Death we have both learned the propensity
of man to define the indefinable. I will not say, then, commence with
the moment of life's cessation--but commence with that sad, sad
instant when, the fever having abandoned you, you sank into a
breathless and motionless torpor, and I pressed down your pallid
eyelids with the passionate fingers of love.
One word first, my Una, in regard to man's general condition at this
epoch. You will remember that one or two of the wise among our
forefathers--wise in fact, although not in the world's esteem--had
ventured to doubt the propriety of the term "improvement," as applied
to the progress of our civilization. There were periods in each of the
five or six centuries immediately preceding our dissolution when arose
some vigorous intellect, boldly contending for those principles whose
truth appears now, to our disenfranchised reason, so utterly obvious
--principles which should have taught our race to submit to the
guidance of the natural laws rather than attempt their control. At
long intervals some master-minds appeared, looking upon each advance
in practical science as a retrogradation in the true utility.
Occasionally the poetic intellect--that intellect which we now feel to
have been the most exalted of all--since those truths which to us were
of the most enduring importance could only be reached by that
_analogy_ which speaks in proof-tones to the imagination alone, and to
the unaided reason bears no weight--occasionally did this poetic
intellect proceed a step farther in the evolving of the vague idea of
the philosophic, and find in the mystic parable that tells of the tree
of knowledge, and of its forbidden fruit, death-producing, a distinct
intimation that knowledge was not meet for man in the infant condition
of his soul. And these men--the poets--living and perishing amid the
scorn of the "utilitarians"--of rough pedants, who arrogated to
themselves a title which could have been properly applied only to the
scorned--these men, the poets, pondered piningly, yet not unwisely,
upon the ancient days when our wants were not more simple than our
enjoyments were keen--days when _mirth_ was a word unknown, so
solemnly deep-toned was happiness--holy, august, and blissful days,
blue rivers ran undammed, between hills unhewn, into far forest
solitudes, primeval, odorous, and unexplored. Yet these noble
exceptions from the general misrule served but to strengthen it by
opposition. Alas! we had fallen upon the most evil of all our evil
days. The great "movement"--that was the cant term--went on: a
diseased commotion, moral and physical. Art--the Arts--arose supreme,
and once enthroned, cast chains upon the intellect which had elevated
them to power. Man, because he could not but acknowledge the majesty
of Nature, fell into childish exultation at his acquired and
still-increasing dominion over her elements. Even while he stalked a
God in his own fancy, an infantine imbecility came over him. As might
be supposed from the origin of his disorder, he grew infected with
system, and with abstraction. He enwrapped himself in generalities.
Among other odd ideas, that of universal equality gained ground; and
in the face of analogy and of God--in despite of the loud warning
voice of the laws of _gradation_ so visibly pervading all things in
Earth and Heaven--wild attempts at an omniprevalent Democracy were
made. Yet this evil sprang necessarily from the leading evil,
Knowledge. Man could not both know and succumb. Meantime huge smoking
cities arose, innumerable. Green leaves shrank before the hot breath
of furnaces. The fair face of Nature was deformed as with the ravages
of some loathsome disease. And methinks, sweet Una, even our
slumbering sense of the forced and of the far-fetched might have
arrested us here. But now it appears that we had worked out our own
destruction in the perversion of our _taste_, or rather in the blind
neglect of its culture in the schools. For, in truth, it was at this
crisis that taste alone--that faculty which, holding a middle position
between the pure intellect and the moral sense, could never safely
have been disregarded--it was now that taste alone could have led us
gently back to Beauty, to Nature, and to Life. But alas for the pure
contemplative spirit and majestic intuition of Plato! Alas for the
[Greek: mousichae] which he justly regarded as an all-sufficient
education for the soul! Alas for him and for it!--since both were most
desperately needed, when both were most entirely forgotten or despised
. Pascal, a philosopher whom we both love, has said, how
truly!--"_Que tout notre raisonnement se reduit a ceder au
sentiment;_" and it is not impossible that the sentiment of the
natural, had time permitted it, would have regained its old ascendency
over the harsh mathematical reason of the schools. But this thing was
not to be. Prematurely induced by intemperance of knowledge, the old
age of the world drew near. This the mass of mankind saw not, or,
living lustily although unhappily, affected not to see. But, for
myself, the Earth's records had taught me to look for widest ruin as
the price of highest civilization. I had imbibed a prescience of our
Fate from comparison of China the simple and enduring, with Assyria
the architect, with Egypt the astrologer, with Nubia, more crafty than
either, the turbulent mother of all Arts. In the history of these
regions I met with a ray from the Future. The individual
artificialities of the three latter were local diseases of the Earth,
and in their individual overthrows we had seen local remedies applied;
but for the infected world at large I could anticipate no regeneration
save in death. That man, as a race, should not become extinct, I saw
that he must be "_born again._"
And now it was, fairest and dearest, that we wrapped our spirits,
daily, in dreams. Now it was that, in twilight, we discoursed of the
days to come, when the Art-scarred surface of the Earth, having
undergone that purification which alone could efface its rectangular
obscenities, should clothe itself anew in the verdure and the
mountain-slopes and the smiling waters of Paradise, and be rendered at
length a fit dwelling-place for man:--for man the Death-purged--for
man to whose now exalted intellect there should be poison in knowledge
no more--for the redeemed, regenerated, blissful, and now immortal,
but still for the _material_, man.
Well do I remember these conversations, dear Monos; but the epoch of
the fiery overthrow was not so near at hand as we believed, and as the
corruption you indicate did surely warrant us in believing. Men lived;
and died individually. You yourself sickened, and passed into the
grave; and thither your constant Una speedily followed you. And though
the century which has since elapsed, and whose conclusion brings up
together once more, tortured our slumbering senses with no impatience
of duration, yet my Monos, it was a century still.
Say, rather, a point in the vague infinity. Unquestionably, it was in
the Earth's dotage that I died. Wearied at heart with anxieties which
had their origin in the general turmoil and decay, I succumbed to the
fierce fever. After some few days of pain, and many of dreamy delirium
replete with ecstasy, the manifestations of which you mistook for
pain, while I longed but was impotent to undeceive you--after some
days there came upon me, as you have said, a breathless and motionless
torpor; and this was termed _Death_ by those who stood around me.
Words are vague things. My condition did not deprive me of sentience.
It appeared to me not greatly dissimilar to the extreme quiescence of
him, who, having slumbered long and profoundly, lying motionless and
fully prostrate in a mid-summer noon, begins to steal slowly back into
consciousness, through the mere sufficiency of his sleep, and without
being awakened by external disturbances.
I breathed no longer. The pulses were still. The heart had ceased to
beat. Volition had not departed, but was powerless. The senses were
unusually active, although eccentrically so--assuming often each
other's functions at random. The taste and the smell were inextricably
confounded, and became one sentiment, abnormal and intense. The
rose-water with which your tenderness had moistened my lips to the
last, affected me with sweet fancies of flowers--fantastic flowers,
far more lovely than any of the old Earth, but whose prototypes we
have here blooming around us. The eye-lids, transparent and bloodless,
offered no complete impediment to vision. As volition was in abeyance,
the balls could not roll in their sockets--but all objects within the
range of the visual hemisphere were seen with more or less
distinctness; the rays which fell upon the external retina, or into
the corner of the eye, producing a more vivid effect than those which
struck the front or interior surface. Yet, in the former instance,
this effect was so far anomalous that I appreciated it only as
_sound_--sound sweet or discordant as the matters presenting
themselves at my side were light or dark in shade--curved or angular
in outline. The hearing, at the same time, although excited in degree,
was not irregular in action--estimating real sounds with an
extravagance of precision, not less than of sensibility. Touch had
undergone a modification more peculiar. Its impressions were tardily
received, but pertinaciously retained, and resulted always in the
highest physical pleasure. Thus the pressure of your sweet fingers
upon my eyelids, at first only recognized through vision, at length,
long after their removal, filled my whole being with a sensual delight
immeasurable. I say with a sensual delight. _All_ my perceptions were
purely sensual. The materials furnished the passive brain by the
senses were not in the least degree wrought into shape by the deceased
understanding. Of pain there was some little; of pleasure there was
much; but of moral pain or pleasure none at all. Thus your wild sobs
floated into my ear with all their mournful cadences, and were
appreciated in their every variation of sad tone; but they were soft
musical sounds and no more; they conveyed to the extinct reason no
intimation of the sorrows which gave them birth; while large and
constant tears which fell upon my face, telling the bystanders of a
heart which broke, thrilled every fibre of my frame with ecstasy
alone. And this was in truth the _Death_ of which these bystanders
spoke reverently, in low whispers--you, sweet Una, gaspingly, with
They attired me for the coffin--three or four dark figures which
flitted busily to and fro. As these crossed the direct line of my
vision they affected me as _forms;_ but upon passing to my side their
images impressed me with the idea of shrieks, groans, and, other
dismal expressions of terror, of horror, or of woe. You alone, habited
in a white robe, passed in all directions musically about.
The day waned; and, as its light faded away, I became possessed by a
vague uneasiness--an anxiety such as the sleeper feels when sad real
sounds fall continuously within his ear--low distant bell-tones,
solemn, at long but equal intervals, and commingling with melancholy
dreams. Night arrived; and with its shadows a heavy discomfort. It
oppressed my limbs with the oppression of some dull weight, and was
palpable. There was also a moaning sound, not unlike the distant
reverberation of surf, but more continuous, which, beginning with the
first twilight, had grown in strength with the darkness. Suddenly
lights were brought into the rooms, and this reverberation became
forthwith interrupted into frequent unequal bursts of the same sound,
but less dreary and less distinct. The ponderous oppression was in a
great measure relieved; and, issuing from the flame of each lamp (for
there were many), there flowed unbrokenly into my ears a strain of
melodious monotone. And when now, dear Una, approaching the bed upon
which I lay outstretched, you sat gently by my side, breathing odor
from your sweet lips, and pressing them upon my brow, there arose
tremulously within my bosom, and mingling with the merely physical
sensations which circumstances had called forth, a something akin to
sentiment itself--a feeling that, half appreciating, half responded
to your earnest love and sorrow; but this feeling took no root in the
pulseless heart, and seemed indeed rather a shadow than a reality, and
faded quickly away, first into extreme quiescence, and then into a
purely sensual pleasure as before.
And now, from the wreck and the chaos of the usual senses, there
appeared to have arisen within me a sixth, all perfect. In its
exercise I found a wild delight--yet a delight still physical,
inasmuch as the understanding had in it no part. Motion in the animal
frame had fully ceased. No muscle quivered; no nerve thrilled; no
artery throbbed. But there seemed to have sprung up in the brain
_that_ of which no words could convey to the merely human intelligence
even an indistinct conception. Let me term it a mental pendulous
pulsation. It was the moral embodiment of man's abstract idea of
_Time_. By the absolute equalization of this movement--or of such as
this--had the cycles of the firmamental orbs themselves been adjusted.
By its aid I measured the irregularities of the clock upon the mantel,
and of the watches of the attendants. Their tickings came sonorously
to my ears. The slightest deviations from the true proportion--and
these deviations were omniprevalent--affected me just as violations of
abstract truth were wont on earth to affect the moral sense. Although
no two of the timepieces in the chamber struck the individual seconds
accurately together, yet I had no difficulty in holding steadily in
mind the tones, and the respective momentary errors of each. And
this--this keen, perfect self-existing sentiment of _duration_--this
sentiment existing (as man could not possibly have conceived it to
exist) independently of any succession of events--this idea--this
sixth sense, upspringing from the ashes of the rest, was the first
obvious and certain step of the intemporal soul upon the threshold of
the temporal eternity.
It was midnight; and you still sat by my side. All others had departed
from the chamber of Death. They had deposited me in the coffin. The
lamps burned flickeringly; for this I knew by the tremulousness of the
monotonous strains. But suddenly these strains diminished in
distinctness and in volume. Finally they ceased. The perfume in my
nostrils died away. Forms affected my vision no longer. The oppression
of the Darkness uplifted itself from my bosom. A dull shot like that
of electricity pervaded my frame, and was followed by total loss of
the idea of contact. All of what man has termed sense was merged in
the sole consciousness of entity, and in the one abiding sentiment of
duration. The mortal body had been at length stricken with the hand of
the deadly _Decay_.
Yet had not all of sentience departed; for the consciousness and the
sentiment remaining supplied some of its functions by a lethargic
intuition. I appreciated the direful change now in operation upon the
flesh, and, as the dreamer is sometimes aware of the bodily presence
of one who leans over him, so, sweet Una, I still dully felt that you
sat by my side. So, too, when the noon of the second day came, I was
not unconscious of those movements which displaced you from my side,
which confined me within the coffin, which deposited me within the
hearse, which bore me to the grave, which lowered me within it, which
heaped heavily the mould upon me, and which thus left me, in blackness
and corruption, to my sad and solemn slumbers with the worm.
And here in the prison-house which has few secrets to disclose, there
rolled away days and weeks and months; and the soul watched narrowly
each second as it flew, and, without effort, took record of its
flight--without effort and without object.
A year passed. The consciousness of _being_ had grown hourly more
indistinct, and that of mere _locality_ had in great measure usurped
its position. The idea of entity was becoming merged in that of
_place_. The narrow space immediately surrounding what had been the
body was now growing to be the body itself. At length, as often
happens to the sleeper (by sleep and its world alone is _Death_
imaged)--at length, as sometimes happened on Earth to the deep
slumberer, when some flitting light half startled him into awaking,
yet left him half enveloped in dreams--so to me, in the strict embrace
of the _Shadow_, came _that_ light which alone might have had power to
startle--the light of enduring _Love_. Men toiled at the grave in
which I lay darkling. They upthrew the damp earth. Upon my mouldering
bones there descended the coffin of Una. And now again all was void.
That nebulous light had been extinguished. That feeble thrill had
vibrated itself into quiescence. Many _lustra_ had supervened. Dust
had returned to dust. The worm had food no more. The sense of being
had at length utterly departed, and there reigned in its stead--
instead of all things, dominant and perpetual--the autocrats _Place_
and _Time._ For _that_ which _was not_--for that which had no
form--for that which had no thought--for that which had no
sentience--for that which was soundless, yet of which matter formed no
portion--for all this nothingness, yet for all this immortality, the
grave was still a home, and the corrosive hours, co-mates.
"It will be hard to discover a better [method of education] than that
which the experience of so many ages has already discovered; and this
may be summed up as consisting in gymnastics for the body, and
_music_ for the soul."
Repub. lib. 2.
"For this reason is a musical education most essential; since it
causes Rhythm and Harmony to penetrate most intimately into the soul,
taking the strongest hold upon it, filling it with _beauty_ and making
the man _beautiful-minded_. ... He will praise and admire _the
beautiful_, will receive it with joy into his soul, will feed upon it,
and _assimilate his own condition with it_."
Ibid. lib. 3. Music had, however, among the Athenians, a far more
comprehensive signification than with us. It included not only the
harmonies of time and of tune, but the poetic diction, sentiment and
creation, each in its widest sense. The study of _music_ was with them,
in fact, the general cultivation of the taste--of that which recognizes
the beautiful--in contradistinction from reason, which deals only with
* * * * *
THE CONVERSATION OF EIROS AND CHARMION.
I will bring fire to thee.
Why do you call me Eiros?
So henceforward will you always be called. You must forget, too, _my_
earthly name, and speak to me as Charmion.
This is indeed no dream!
Dreams are with us no more;--but of these mysteries anon. I rejoice to
see you looking life-like and rational. The film of the shadow has
already passed from off your eyes. Be of heart, and fear nothing. Your
allotted days of stupor have expired, and to-morrow I will myself
induct you into the full joys and wonders of your novel existence.
True--I feel no stupor--none at all. The wild sickness and the
terrible darkness have left me, and I hear no longer that mad,
rushing, horrible sound, like the "voice of many waters." Yet my
senses are bewildered, Charmion, with the keenness of their perception
of _the new_.
A few days will remove all this;--but I fully understand you, and
feel for you. It is now ten earthly years since I underwent what you
undergo--yet the remembrance of it hangs by me still. You have now
suffered all of pain, however, which you will suffer in Aidenn.
O God!--pity me, Charmion!--I am overburthened with the majesty of all
things--of the unknown now known--of the speculative Future merged in
the august and certain Present.
Grapple not now with such thoughts. To-morrow we will speak of this.
Your mind wavers, and its agitation will find relief in the exercise
of simple memories. Look not around, nor forward--but back. I am
burning with anxiety to hear the details of that stupendous event
which threw you among us. Tell me of it. Let us converse of familiar
things, in the old familiar language of the world which has so
Most fearfully, fearfully!--this is indeed no dream.
Dreams are no more. Was I much mourned, my Eiros?
Mourned, Charmion?--oh, deeply. To that last hour of all there hung a
cloud of intense gloom and devout sorrow over your household.
And that last hour--speak of it. Remember that, beyond the naked fact
of the catastrophe itself, I know nothing. When, coming out from among
mankind, I passed into Night through the Grave--at that period, if I
remember aright, the calamity which overwhelmed you was utterly
unanticipated. But, indeed, I knew little of the speculative
philosophy of the day.
The individual calamity was, as you say, entirely unanticipated; but
analogous misfortunes had been long a subject of discussion with
astronomers. I need scarce tell you, my friend, that, even when you
left us, men had agreed to understand those passages in the most holy
writings which speak of the final destruction of all things by fire as
having reference to the orb of the earth alone, But in regard to the
immediate agency of the ruin, speculation had been at fault from that
epoch in astronomical knowledge in which the comets were divested of
the terrors of flame. The very moderate density of these bodies had
been well established. They had been observed to pass among the
satellites of Jupiter without bringing about any sensible alteration
either in the masses or in the orbits of these secondary planets. We
had long regarded the wanderers as vapory creations of inconceivable
tenuity, and as altogether incapable of doing injury to our
substantial globe, even in the event of contact. But contact was not
in any degree dreaded; for the elements of all the comets were
accurately known. That among _them_ we should look for the agency of
the threatened fiery destruction had been for many years considered an
inadmissible idea. But wonders and wild fancies had been of late days
strangely rife among mankind; and, although it was only with a few of
the ignorant that actual apprehension prevailed, upon the announcement
by astronomers of a _new_ comet, yet this announcement was generally
received with I know not what of agitation and mistrust.
The elements of the strange orb were immediately calculated, and it
was at once conceded by all observers that its path, at perihelion
would bring it into very close proximity with the earth. There were
two or three astronomers of secondary note who resolutely maintained
that a contact was inevitable. I cannot very well express to you the
effect of this intelligence upon the people. For a few short days they
would not believe an assertion which their intellect, so long employed
among worldly considerations, could not in any manner grasp. But the
truth of a vitally important fact soon makes its way into the
understanding of even the most stolid. Finally, all men saw that
astronomical knowledge lies not, and they awaited the comet. Its
approach was not at first seemingly rapid, nor was its appearance of
very unusual character. It was of a dull red, and had little
perceptible train. For seven or eight days we saw no material increase
in its apparent diameter, and but a partial alteration in its color.
Meantime, the ordinary affairs of men were discarded, and all interest
absorbed in a growing discussion instituted by the philosophic in
respect to the cometary nature. Even the grossly ignorant aroused
their sluggish capacities to such considerations. The learned _now_
gave their intellect--their soul--to no such points as the allaying of
fear, or to the sustenance of loved theory. They sought--they panted
for right views. They groaned for perfected knowledge. _Truth_ arose
in the purity of her strength and exceeding majesty, and the wise
bowed down and adored.
That material injury to our globe or to its inhabitants would result
from the apprehended contact was an opinion which hourly lost ground
among the wise; and the wise were now freely permitted to rule the
reason and the fancy of the crowd. It was demonstrated that the
density of the comet's _nucleus_ was far less than that of our rarest
gas; and the harmless passage of a similar visitor among the
satellites of Jupiter was a point strongly insisted upon, and which
served greatly to allay terror. Theologists, with an earnestness
fear-enkindled, dwelt upon the biblical prophecies, and expounded them
to the people with a directness and simplicity of which no previous
instance had been known. That the final destruction of the earth must
be brought about by the agency of fire, was urged with a spirit that
enforced everywhere conviction; and that the comets were of no fiery
nature (as all men now knew) was a truth which relieved all, in a
great measure, from the apprehension of the great calamity foretold.
It is noticeable that the popular prejudices and vulgar errors in
regard to pestilences and wars--errors which were wont to prevail upon
every appearance of a comet--were now altogether unknown, as if by
some sudden convulsive exertion reason had at once hurled superstition
from her throne. The feeblest intellect had derived vigor from
What minor evils might arise from the contact were points of elaborate
question. The learned spoke of slight geological disturbances, of
probable alterations in climate, and consequently in vegetation; of
possible magnetic and electric influences. Many held that no visible
or perceptible effect would in any manner be produced. While such
discussions were going on, their subject gradually approached, growing
larger in apparent diameter, and of a more brilliant lustre. Mankind
grew paler as it came. All human operations were suspended.
There was an epoch in the course of the general sentiment when the
comet had attained, at length, a size surpassing that of any
previously recorded visitation. The people now, dismissing any
lingering hope that the astronomers were wrong, experienced all the
certainty of evil. The chimerical aspect of their terror was gone. The
hearts of the stoutest of our race beat violently within their bosoms.
A very few days suffered, however, to merge even such feelings in
sentiments more unendurable. We could no longer apply to the strange
orb any _accustomed_ thoughts. Its _historical_ attributes had
disappeared. It oppressed us with a hideous _novelty_ of emotion. We
saw it not as an astronomical phenomenon in the heavens, but as an
incubus upon our hearts and a shadow upon our brains. It had taken,
with unconceivable rapidity, the character of a gigantic mantle of
rare flame, extending from horizon to horizon.
Yet a day, and men breathed with greater freedom. It was clear that we
were already within the influence of the comet; yet we lived. We even
felt an unusual elasticity of frame and vivacity of mind. The
exceeding tenuity of the object of our dread was apparent; for all
heavenly objects were plainly visible through it. Meantime, our
vegetation had perceptibly altered; and we gained faith, from this
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