Phantastes, A Faerie Romance for Men and Women
Part 3 out of 4
twilight, and the glow of a magic fire.
"Why," said the lady, with a trembling voice, "didst thou bring a
poor maiden through the rainy streets alone?"
"Because I am dying for love of thee; but I only brought thee
from the mirror there."
"Ah, the mirror!" and she looked up at it, and shuddered. "Alas!
I am but a slave, while that mirror exists. But do not think it
was the power of thy spells that drew me; it was thy longing
desire to see me, that beat at the door of my heart, till I was
forced to yield."
"Canst thou love me then?" said Cosmo, in a voice calm as death,
but almost inarticulate with emotion.
"I do not know," she replied sadly; "that I cannot tell, so long
as I am bewildered with enchantments. It were indeed a joy too
great, to lay my head on thy bosom and weep to death; for I think
thou lovest me, though I do not know;--but----"
Cosmo rose from his knees.
"I love thee as--nay, I know not what--for since I have loved
thee, there is nothing else."
He seized her hand: she withdrew it.
"No, better not; I am in thy power, and therefore I may not."
She burst into tears, and kneeling before him in her turn, said--
"Cosmo, if thou lovest me, set me free, even from thyself; break
"And shall I see thyself instead?"
"That I cannot tell, I will not deceive thee; we may never meet
A fierce struggle arose in Cosmo's bosom. Now she was in his
power. She did not dislike him at least; and he could see her
when he would. To break the mirror would be to destroy his very
life to banish out of his universe the only glory it possessed.
The whole world would be but a prison, if he annihilated the one
window that looked into the paradise of love. Not yet pure in
love, he hesitated.
With a wail of sorrow the lady rose to her feet. "Ah! he loves
me not; he loves me not even as I love him; and alas! I care
more for his love than even for the freedom I ask."
"I will not wait to be willing," cried Cosmo; and sprang to the
corner where the great sword stood.
Meantime it had grown very dark; only the embers cast a red glow
through the room. He seized the sword by the steel scabbard, and
stood before the mirror; but as he heaved a great blow at it with
the heavy pommel, the blade slipped half-way out of the scabbard,
and the pommel struck the wall above the mirror. At that moment,
a terrible clap of thunder seemed to burst in the very room
beside them; and ere Cosmo could repeat the blow, he fell
senseless on the hearth. When he came to himself, he found that
the lady and the mirror had both disappeared. He was seized with
a brain fever, which kept him to his couch for weeks.
When he recovered his reason, he began to think what could have
become of the mirror. For the lady, he hoped she had found her
way back as she came; but as the mirror involved her fate with
its own, he was more immediately anxious about that. He could
not think she had carried it away. It was much too heavy, even
if it had not been too firmly fixed in the wall, for her to
remove it. Then again, he remembered the thunder; which made him
believe that it was not the lightning, but some other blow that
had struck him down. He concluded that, either by supernatural
agency, he having exposed himself to the vengeance of the demons
in leaving the circle of safety, or in some other mode, the
mirror had probably found its way back to its former owner; and,
horrible to think of, might have been by this time once more
disposed of, delivering up the lady into the power of another
man; who, if he used his power no worse than he himself had done,
might yet give Cosmo abundant cause to curse the selfish
indecision which prevented him from shattering the mirror at
once. Indeed, to think that she whom he loved, and who had
prayed to him for freedom, should be still at the mercy, in some
degree, of the possessor of the mirror, and was at least exposed
to his constant observation, was in itself enough to madden a
Anxiety to be well retarded his recovery; but at length he was
able to creep abroad. He first made his way to the old broker's,
pretending to be in search of something else. A laughing sneer
on the creature's face convinced him that he knew all about it;
but he could not see it amongst his furniture, or get any
information out of him as to what had become of it. He expressed
the utmost surprise at hearing it had been stolen, a surprise
which Cosmo saw at once to be counterfeited; while, at the same
time, he fancied that the old wretch was not at all anxious to
have it mistaken for genuine. Full of distress, which he
concealed as well as he could, he made many searches, but with no
avail. Of course he could ask no questions; but he kept his ears
awake for any remotest hint that might set him in a direction of
search. He never went out without a short heavy hammer of steel
about him, that he might shatter the mirror the moment he was
made happy by the sight of his lost treasure, if ever that
blessed moment should arrive. Whether he should see the lady
again, was now a thought altogether secondary, and postponed to
the achievement of her freedom. He wandered here and there, like
an anxious ghost, pale and haggard; gnawed ever at the heart, by
the thought of what she might be suffering--all from his fault.
One night, he mingled with a crowd that filled the rooms of one
of the most distinguished mansions in the city; for he accepted
every invitation, that he might lose no chance, however poor, of
obtaining some information that might expedite his discovery.
Here he wandered about, listening to every stray word that he
could catch, in the hope of a revelation. As he approached some
ladies who were talking quietly in a corner, one said to another:
"Have you heard of the strange illness of the Princess von
"Yes; she has been ill for more than a year now. It is very sad
for so fine a creature to have such a terrible malady. She was
better for some weeks lately, but within the last few days the
same attacks have returned, apparently accompanied with more
suffering than ever. It is altogether an inexplicable story."
"Is there a story connected with her illness?"
"I have only heard imperfect reports of it; but it is said that
she gave offence some eighteen months ago to an old woman who had
held an office of trust in the family, and who, after some
incoherent threats, disappeared. This peculiar affection
followed soon after. But the strangest part of the story is its
association with the loss of an antique mirror, which stood in
her dressing-room, and of which she constantly made use."
Here the speaker's voice sank to a whisper; and Cosmo, although
his very soul sat listening in his ears, could hear no more. He
trembled too much to dare to address the ladies, even if it had
been advisable to expose himself to their curiosity. The name of
the Princess was well known to him, but he had never seen her;
except indeed it was she, which now he hardly doubted, who had
knelt before him on that dreadful night. Fearful of attracting
attention, for, from the weak state of his health, he could not
recover an appearance of calmness, he made his way to the open
air, and reached his lodgings; glad in this, that he at least
knew where she lived, although he never dreamed of approaching
her openly, even if he should be happy enough to free her from
her hateful bondage. He hoped, too, that as he had unexpectedly
learned so much, the other and far more important part might be
revealed to him ere long.
. . . . .
"Have you seen Steinwald lately?"
"No, I have not seen him for some time. He is almost a match for
me at the rapier, and I suppose he thinks he needs no more
"I wonder what has become of him. I want to see him very much.
Let me see; the last time I saw him he was coming out of that old
broker's den, to which, if you remember, you accompanied me once,
to look at some armour. That is fully three weeks ago."
This hint was enough for Cosmo. Von Steinwald was a man of
influence in the court, well known for his reckless habits and
fierce passions. The very possibility that the mirror should be
in his possession was hell itself to Cosmo. But violent or hasty
measures of any sort were most unlikely to succeed. All that he
wanted was an opportunity of breaking the fatal glass; and to
obtain this he must bide his time. He revolved many plans in his
mind, but without being able to fix upon any.
At length, one evening, as he was passing the house of Von
Steinwald, he saw the windows more than usually brilliant. He
watched for a while, and seeing that company began to arrive,
hastened home, and dressed as richly as he could, in the hope of
mingling with the guests unquestioned: in effecting which, there
could be no difficulty for a man of his carriage.
. . . . .
In a lofty, silent chamber, in another part of the city, lay a
form more like marble than a living woman. The loveliness of
death seemed frozen upon her face, for her lips were rigid, and
her eyelids closed. Her long white hands were crossed over her
breast, and no breathing disturbed their repose. Beside the
dead, men speak in whispers, as if the deepest rest of all could
be broken by the sound of a living voice. Just so, though the
soul was evidently beyond the reach of all intimations from the
senses, the two ladies, who sat beside her, spoke in the gentlest
tones of subdued sorrow.
"She has lain so for an hour."
"This cannot last long, I fear."
"How much thinner she has grown within the last few weeks! If
she would only speak, and explain what she suffers, it would be
better for her. I think she has visions in her trances, but
nothing can induce her to refer to them when she is awake."
"Does she ever speak in these trances?"
"I have never heard her; but they say she walks sometimes, and
once put the whole household in a terrible fright by disappearing
for a whole hour, and returning drenched with rain, and almost
dead with exhaustion and fright. But even then she would give no
account of what had happened."
A scarce audible murmur from the yet motionless lips of the lady
here startled her attendants. After several ineffectual attempts
at articulation, the word "COSMO!" burst from her. Then she lay
still as before; but only for a moment. With a wild cry, she
sprang from the couch erect on the floor, flung her arms above
her head, with clasped and straining hands, and, her wide eyes
flashing with light, called aloud, with a voice exultant as that
of a spirit bursting from a sepulchre, "I am free! I am free! I
thank thee!" Then she flung herself on the couch, and sobbed;
then rose, and paced wildly up and down the room, with gestures
of mingled delight and anxiety. Then turning to her motionless
attendants--"Quick, Lisa, my cloak and hood!" Then lower--"I
must go to him. Make haste, Lisa! You may come with me, if you
In another moment they were in the street, hurrying along towards
one of the bridges over the Moldau. The moon was near the
zenith, and the streets were almost empty. The Princess soon
outstripped her attendant, and was half-way over the bridge,
before the other reached it.
"Are you free, lady? The mirror is broken: are you free?"
The words were spoken close beside her, as she hurried on. She
turned; and there, leaning on the parapet in a recess of the
bridge, stood Cosmo, in a splendid dress, but with a white and
"Cosmo!--I am free--and thy servant for ever. I was coming to
"And I to you, for Death made me bold; but I could get no
further. Have I atoned at all? Do I love you a little--truly?"
"Ah, I know now that you love me, my Cosmo; but what do you say
He did not reply. His hand was pressed against his side. She
looked more closely: the blood was welling from between the
fingers. She flung her arms around him with a faint bitter wail.
When Lisa came up, she found her mistress kneeling above a wan
dead face, which smiled on in the spectral moonbeams.
And now I will say no more about these wondrous volumes; though
I could tell many a tale out of them, and could, perhaps, vaguely
represent some entrancing thoughts of a deeper kind which I found
within them. From many a sultry noon till twilight, did I sit in
that grand hall, buried and risen again in these old books. And
I trust I have carried away in my soul some of the exhalations of
their undying leaves. In after hours of deserved or needful
sorrow, portions of what I read there have often come to me
again, with an unexpected comforting; which was not fruitless,
even though the comfort might seem in itself groundless and vain.
Ha we pass'd through, not without much content
In many singularities; but we saw not
That which my daughter came to look upon,
The state of her mother."
It seemed to me strange, that all this time I had heard no music
in the fairy palace. I was convinced there must be music in it,
but that my sense was as yet too gross to receive the influence
of those mysterious motions that beget sound. Sometimes I felt
sure, from the way the few figures of which I got such transitory
glimpses passed me, or glided into vacancy before me, that they
were moving to the law of music; and, in fact, several times I
fancied for a moment that I heard a few wondrous tones coming I
knew not whence. But they did not last long enough to convince
me that I had heard them with the bodily sense. Such as they
were, however, they took strange liberties with me, causing me to
burst suddenly into tears, of which there was no presence to make
me ashamed, or casting me into a kind of trance of speechless
delight, which, passing as suddenly, left me faint and longing
Now, on an evening, before I had been a week in the palace, I was
wandering through one lighted arcade and corridor after another.
At length I arrived, through a door that closed behind me, in
another vast hall of the palace. It was filled with a subdued
crimson light; by which I saw that slender pillars of black,
built close to walls of white marble, rose to a great height, and
then, dividing into innumerable divergent arches, supported a
roof, like the walls, of white marble, upon which the arches
intersected intricately, forming a fretting of black upon the
white, like the network of a skeleton-leaf. The floor was black.
Between several pairs of the pillars upon every side, the place
of the wall behind was occupied by a crimson curtain of thick
silk, hanging in heavy and rich folds. Behind each of these
curtains burned a powerful light, and these were the sources of
the glow that filled the hall. A peculiar delicious odour
pervaded the place. As soon as I entered, the old inspiration
seemed to return to me, for I felt a strong impulse to sing; or
rather, it seemed as if some one else was singing a song in my
soul, which wanted to come forth at my lips, imbodied in my
breath. But I kept silence; and feeling somewhat overcome by the
red light and the perfume, as well as by the emotion within me,
and seeing at one end of the hall a great crimson chair, more
like a throne than a chair, beside a table of white marble, I
went to it, and, throwing myself in it, gave myself up to a
succession of images of bewildering beauty, which passed before
my inward eye, in a long and occasionally crowded train. Here I
sat for hours, I suppose; till, returning somewhat to myself, I
saw that the red light had paled away, and felt a cool gentle
breath gliding over my forehead. I rose and left the hall with
unsteady steps, finding my way with some difficulty to my own
chamber, and faintly remembering, as I went, that only in the
marble cave, before I found the sleeping statue, had I ever had a
After this, I repaired every morning to the same hall; where I
sometimes sat in the chair and dreamed deliciously, and sometimes
walked up and down over the black floor. Sometimes I acted
within myself a whole drama, during one of these perambulations;
sometimes walked deliberately through the whole epic of a tale;
sometimes ventured to sing a song, though with a shrinking fear
of I knew not what. I was astonished at the beauty of my own
voice as it rang through the place, or rather crept undulating,
like a serpent of sound, along the walls and roof of this superb
music-hall. Entrancing verses arose within me as of their own
accord, chanting themselves to their own melodies, and requiring
no addition of music to satisfy the inward sense. But, ever in
the pauses of these, when the singing mood was upon me, I seemed
to hear something like the distant sound of multitudes of
dancers, and felt as if it was the unheard music, moving their
rhythmic motion, that within me blossomed in verse and song. I
felt, too, that could I but see the dance, I should, from the
harmony of complicated movements, not of the dancers in relation
to each other merely, but of each dancer individually in the
manifested plastic power that moved the consenting harmonious
form, understand the whole of the music on the billows of which
they floated and swung.
At length, one night, suddenly, when this feeling of dancing came
upon me, I bethought me of lifting one of the crimson curtains,
and looking if, perchance, behind it there might not be hid some
other mystery, which might at least remove a step further the
bewilderment of the present one. Nor was I altogether
disappointed. I walked to one of the magnificent draperies,
lifted a corner, and peeped in. There, burned a great, crimson,
globe-shaped light, high in the cubical centre of another hall,
which might be larger or less than that in which I stood, for its
dimensions were not easily perceived, seeing that floor and roof
and walls were entirely of black marble.
The roof was supported by the same arrangement of pillars
radiating in arches, as that of the first hall; only, here, the
pillars and arches were of dark red. But what absorbed my
delighted gaze, was an innumerable assembly of white marble
statues, of every form, and in multitudinous posture, filling the
hall throughout. These stood, in the ruddy glow of the great
lamp, upon pedestals of jet black. Around the lamp shone in
golden letters, plainly legible from where I stood, the two
There was in all this, however, no solution to the sound of
dancing; and now I was aware that the influence on my mind had
ceased. I did not go in that evening, for I was weary and faint,
but I hoarded up the expectation of entering, as of a great
Next night I walked, as on the preceding, through the hall. My
mind was filled with pictures and songs, and therewith so much
absorbed, that I did not for some time think of looking within
the curtain I had last night lifted. When the thought of doing
so occurred to me first, I happened to be within a few yards of
it. I became conscious, at the same moment, that the sound of
dancing had been for some time in my ears. I approached the
curtain quickly, and, lifting it, entered the black hall.
Everything was still as death. I should have concluded that the
sound must have proceeded from some other more distant quarter,
which conclusion its faintness would, in ordinary circumstances,
have necessitated from the first; but there was a something about
the statues that caused me still to remain in doubt. As I said,
each stood perfectly still upon its black pedestal: but there was
about every one a certain air, not of motion, but as if it had
just ceased from movement; as if the rest were not altogether of
the marbly stillness of thousands of years. It was as if the
peculiar atmosphere of each had yet a kind of invisible
tremulousness; as if its agitated wavelets had not yet subsided
into a perfect calm. I had the suspicion that they had
anticipated my appearance, and had sprung, each, from the living
joy of the dance, to the death-silence and blackness of its
isolated pedestal, just before I entered. I walked across the
central hall to the curtain opposite the one I had lifted, and,
entering there, found all the appearances similar; only that the
statues were different, and differently grouped. Neither did
they produce on my mind that impression--of motion just expired,
which I had experienced from the others. I found that behind
every one of the crimson curtains was a similar hall, similarly
lighted, and similarly occupied.
The next night, I did not allow my thoughts to be absorbed as
before with inward images, but crept stealthily along to the
furthest curtain in the hall, from behind which, likewise, I had
formerly seemed to hear the sound of dancing. I drew aside its
edge as suddenly as I could, and, looking in, saw that the utmost
stillness pervaded the vast place. I walked in, and passed
through it to the other end.
There I found that it communicated with a circular corridor,
divided from it only by two rows of red columns. This corridor,
which was black, with red niches holding statues, ran entirely
about the statue- halls, forming a communication between the
further ends of them all; further, that is, as regards the
central hall of white whence they all diverged like radii,
finding their circumference in the corridor.
Round this corridor I now went, entering all the halls, of which
there were twelve, and finding them all similarly constructed,
but filled with quite various statues, of what seemed both
ancient and modern sculpture. After I had simply walked through
them, I found myself sufficiently tired to long for rest, and
went to my own room.
In the night I dreamed that, walking close by one of the
curtains, I was suddenly seized with the desire to enter, and
darted in. This time I was too quick for them. All the statues
were in motion, statues no longer, but men and women--all shapes
of beauty that ever sprang from the brain of the sculptor,
mingled in the convolutions of a complicated dance. Passing
through them to the further end, I almost started from my sleep
on beholding, not taking part in the dance with the others, nor
seemingly endued with life like them, but standing in marble
coldness and rigidity upon a black pedestal in the extreme left
corner--my lady of the cave; the marble beauty who sprang from
her tomb or her cradle at the call of my songs. While I gazed in
speechless astonishment and admiration, a dark shadow, descending
from above like the curtain of a stage, gradually hid her
entirely from my view. I felt with a shudder that this shadow
was perchance my missing demon, whom I had not seen for days. I
awoke with a stifled cry.
Of course, the next evening I began my journey through the halls
(for I knew not to which my dream had carried me), in the hope of
proving the dream to be a true one, by discovering my marble
beauty upon her black pedestal. At length, on reaching the tenth
hall, I thought I recognised some of the forms I had seen dancing
in my dream; and to my bewilderment, when I arrived at the
extreme corner on the left, there stood, the only one I had yet
seen, a vacant pedestal. It was exactly in the position
occupied, in my dream, by the pedestal on which the white lady
stood. Hope beat violently in my heart.
"Now," said I to myself, "if yet another part of the dream would
but come true, and I should succeed in surprising these forms in
their nightly dance; it might be the rest would follow, and I
should see on the pedestal my marble queen. Then surely if my
songs sufficed to give her life before, when she lay in the bonds
of alabaster, much more would they be sufficient then to give her
volition and motion, when she alone of assembled crowds of marble
forms, would be standing rigid and cold."
But the difficulty was, to surprise the dancers. I had found
that a premeditated attempt at surprise, though executed with the
utmost care and rapidity, was of no avail. And, in my dream, it
was effected by a sudden thought suddenly executed. I saw,
therefore, that there was no plan of operation offering any
probability of success, but this: to allow my mind to be occupied
with other thoughts, as I wandered around the great centre-hall;
and so wait till the impulse to enter one of the others should
happen to arise in me just at the moment when I was close to one
of the crimson curtains. For I hoped that if I entered any one
of the twelve halls at the right moment, that would as it were
give me the right of entrance to all the others, seeing they all
had communication behind. I would not diminish the hope of the
right chance, by supposing it necessary that a desire to enter
should awake within me, precisely when I was close to the
curtains of the tenth hall.
At first the impulses to see recurred so continually, in spite of
the crowded imagery that kept passing through my mind, that they
formed too nearly a continuous chain, for the hope that any one
of them would succeed as a surprise. But as I persisted in
banishing them, they recurred less and less often; and after two
or three, at considerable intervals, had come when the spot where
I happened to be was unsuitable, the hope strengthened, that soon
one might arise just at the right moment; namely, when, in
walking round the hall, I should be close to one of the curtains.
At length the right moment and the impulse coincided. I darted
into the ninth hall. It was full of the most exquisite moving
forms. The whole space wavered and swam with the involutions of
an intricate dance. It seemed to break suddenly as I entered,
and all made one or two bounds towards their pedestals; but,
apparently on finding that they were thoroughly overtaken, they
returned to their employment (for it seemed with them earnest
enough to be called such) without further heeding me. Somewhat
impeded by the floating crowd, I made what haste I could towards
the bottom of the hall; whence, entering the corridor, I turned
towards the tenth. I soon arrived at the corner I wanted to
reach, for the corridor was comparatively empty; but, although
the dancers here, after a little confusion, altogether
disregarded my presence, I was dismayed at beholding, even yet, a
vacant pedestal. But I had a conviction that she was near me.
And as I looked at the pedestal, I thought I saw upon it, vaguely
revealed as if through overlapping folds of drapery, the
indistinct outlines of white feet. Yet there was no sign of
drapery or concealing shadow whatever. But I remembered the
descending shadow in my dream. And I hoped still in the power of
my songs; thinking that what could dispel alabaster, might
likewise be capable of dispelling what concealed my beauty now,
even if it were the demon whose darkness had overshadowed all my
"Alexander. 'When will you finish Campaspe?'
Apelles. 'Never finish: for always in absolute
beauty there is somewhat above art.'"
And now, what song should I sing to unveil my Isis, if indeed she
was present unseen? I hurried away to the white hall of
Phantasy, heedless of the innumerable forms of beauty that
crowded my way: these might cross my eyes, but the unseen filled
my brain. I wandered long, up and down the silent space: no
songs came. My soul was not still enough for songs. Only in the
silence and darkness of the soul's night, do those stars of the
inward firmament sink to its lower surface from the singing
realms beyond, and shine upon the conscious spirit. Here all
effort was unavailing. If they came not, they could not be
Next night, it was just the same. I walked through the red
glimmer of the silent hall; but lonely as there I walked, as
lonely trod my soul up and down the halls of the brain. At last
I entered one of the statue-halls. The dance had just commenced,
and I was delighted to find that I was free of their assembly. I
walked on till I came to the sacred corner. There I found the
pedestal just as I had left it, with the faint glimmer as of
white feet still resting on the dead black. As soon as I saw it,
I seemed to feel a presence which longed to become visible; and,
as it were, called to me to gift it with self- manifestation,
that it might shine on me. The power of song came to me. But
the moment my voice, though I sang low and soft, stirred the air
of the hall, the dancers started; the quick interweaving crowd
shook, lost its form, divided; each figure sprang to its
pedestal, and stood, a self-evolving life no more, but a rigid,
life-like, marble shape, with the whole form composed into the
expression of a single state or act. Silence rolled like a
spiritual thunder through the grand space. My song had ceased,
scared at its own influences. But I saw in the hand of one of
the statues close by me, a harp whose chords yet quivered. I
remembered that as she bounded past me, her harp had brushed
against my arm; so the spell of the marble had not infolded it.
I sprang to her, and with a gesture of entreaty, laid my hand on
the harp. The marble hand, probably from its contact with the
uncharmed harp, had strength enough to relax its hold, and yield
the harp to me. No other motion indicated life. Instinctively I
struck the chords and sang. And not to break upon the record of
my song, I mention here, that as I sang the first four lines, the
loveliest feet became clear upon the black pedestal; and ever as
I sang, it was as if a veil were being lifted up from before the
form, but an invisible veil, so that the statue appeared to grow
before me, not so much by evolution, as by infinitesimal degrees
of added height. And, while I sang, I did not feel that I stood
by a statue, as indeed it appeared to be, but that a real
woman-soul was revealing itself by successive stages of
imbodiment, and consequent manifestatlon and expression.
Feet of beauty, firmly planting
Arches white on rosy heel!
Whence the life-spring, throbbing, panting,
Pulses upward to reveal!
Fairest things know least despising;
Foot and earth meet tenderly:
'Tis the woman, resting, rising
Upward to sublimity,
Rise the limbs, sedately sloping,
Strong and gentle, full and free;
Soft and slow, like certain hoping,
Drawing nigh the broad firm knee.
Up to speech! As up to roses
Pants the life from leaf to flower,
So each blending change discloses,
Nearer still, expression's power.
Lo! fair sweeps, white surges, twining
Up and outward fearlessly!
Temple columns, close combining,
Lift a holy mystery.
Heart of mine! what strange surprises
Mount aloft on such a stair!
Some great vision upward rises,
Curving, bending, floating fair.
Bands and sweeps, and hill and hollow
Lead my fascinated eye;
Some apocalypse will follow,
Some new world of deity.
Zoned unseen, and outward swelling,
With new thoughts and wonders rife,
Queenly majesty foretelling,
See the expanding house of life!
Sudden heaving, unforbidden
Sighs eternal, still the same--
Mounts of snow have summits hidden
In the mists of uttered flame.
But the spirit, dawning nearly
Finds no speech for earnest pain;
Finds a soundless sighing merely--
Builds its stairs, and mounts again.
Heart, the queen, with secret hoping,
Sendeth out her waiting pair;
Hands, blind hands, half blindly groping,
Half inclasping visions rare;
And the great arms, heartways bending;
Might of Beauty, drawing home
There returning, and re-blending,
Where from roots of love they roam.
Build thy slopes of radiance beamy
Spirit, fair with womanhood!
Tower thy precipice, white-gleamy,
Climb unto the hour of good.
Dumb space will be rent asunder,
Now the shining column stands
Ready to be crowned with wonder
By the builder's joyous hands.
All the lines abroad are spreading,
Like a fountain's falling race.
Lo, the chin, first feature, treading,
Airy foot to rest the face!
Speech is nigh; oh, see the blushing,
Sweet approach of lip and breath!
Round the mouth dim silence, hushing,
Waits to die ecstatic death.
Span across in treble curving,
Bow of promise, upper lip!
Set them free, with gracious swerving;
Let the wing-words float and dip.
DUMB ART THOU? O Love immortal,
More than words thy speech must be;
Childless yet the tender portal
Of the home of melody.
Now the nostrils open fearless,
Proud in calm unconsciousness,
Sure it must be something peerless
That the great Pan would express!
Deepens, crowds some meaning tender,
In the pure, dear lady-face.
Lo, a blinding burst of splendour!--
'Tis the free soul's issuing grace.
Two calm lakes of molten glory
Circling round unfathomed deeps!
Cross the gulfs where darkness sleeps.
This the gate, at last, of gladness,
To the outward striving me:
In a rain of light and sadness,
Out its loves and longings flee!
With a presence I am smitten
Dumb, with a foreknown surprise;
Presence greater yet than written
Even in the glorious eyes.
Through the gulfs, with inward gazes,
I may look till I am lost;
Wandering deep in spirit-mazes,
In a sea without a coast.
Windows open to the glorious!
Time and space, oh, far beyond!
Woman, ah! thou art victorious,
And I perish, overfond.
Springs aloft the yet Unspoken
In the forehead's endless grace,
Full of silences unbroken;
Infinite, unfeatured face.
Domes above, the mount of wonder;
Height and hollow wrapt in night;
Hiding in its caverns under
Woman-nations in their might.
Passing forms, the highest Human
Faints away to the Divine
Features none, of man or woman,
Can unveil the holiest shine.
Sideways, grooved porches only
Visible to passing eye,
Stand the silent, doorless, lonely
Entrance-gates of melody.
But all sounds fly in as boldly,
Groan and song, and kiss and cry
At their galleries, lifted coldly,
Darkly, 'twixt the earth and sky.
Beauty, thou art spent, thou knowest
So, in faint, half-glad despair,
From the summit thou o'erflowest
In a fall of torrent hair;
Hiding what thou hast created
In a half-transparent shroud:
Thus, with glory soft-abated,
Shines the moon through vapoury cloud.
"Ev'n the Styx, which ninefold her infoldeth
Hems not Ceres' daughter in its flow;
But she grasps the apple--ever holdeth
Her, sad Orcus, down below."
SCHILLER, Das Ideal und das Leben.
Ever as I sang, the veil was uplifted; ever as I sang, the signs
of life grew; till, when the eyes dawned upon me, it was with
that sunrise of splendour which my feeble song attempted to
The wonder is, that I was not altogether overcome, but was able
to complete my song as the unseen veil continued to rise. This
ability came solely from the state of mental elevation in which I
found myself. Only because uplifted in song, was I able to
endure the blaze of the dawn. But I cannot tell whether she
looked more of statue or more of woman; she seemed removed into
that region of phantasy where all is intensely vivid, but nothing
clearly defined. At last, as I sang of her descending hair, the
glow of soul faded away, like a dying sunset. A lamp within had
been extinguished, and the house of life shone blank in a winter
morn. She was a statue once more--but visible, and that was much
gained. Yet the revulsion from hope and fruition was such, that,
unable to restrain myself, I sprang to her, and, in defiance of
the law of the place, flung my arms around her, as if I would
tear her from the grasp of a visible Death, and lifted her from
the pedestal down to my heart. But no sooner had her feet ceased
to be in contact with the black pedestal, than she shuddered and
trembled all over; then, writhing from my arms, before I could
tighten their hold, she sprang into the corridor, with the
reproachful cry, "You should not have touched me!" darted behind
one of the exterior pillars of the circle, and disappeared. I
followed almost as fast; but ere I could reach the pillar, the
sound of a closing door, the saddest of all sounds sometimes,
fell on my ear; and, arriving at the spot where she had vanished,
I saw, lighted by a pale yellow lamp which hung above it, a
heavy, rough door, altogether unlike any others I had seen in the
palace; for they were all of ebony, or ivory, or covered with
silver-plates, or of some odorous wood, and very ornate; whereas
this seemed of old oak, with heavy nails and iron studs.
Notwithstanding the precipitation of my pursuit, I could not help
reading, in silver letters beneath the lamp: "NO ONE ENTERS HERE
WITHOUT THE LEAVE OF THE QUEEN." But what was the Queen to me,
when I followed my white lady? I dashed the door to the wall and
sprang through. Lo! I stood on a waste windy hill. Great stones
like tombstones stood all about me. No door, no palace was to be
seen. A white figure gleamed past me, wringing her hands, and
crying, "Ah! you should have sung to me; you should have sung to
me!" and disappeared behind one of the stones. I followed. A
cold gust of wind met me from behind the stone; and when I
looked, I saw nothing but a great hole in the earth, into which I
could find no way of entering. Had she fallen in? I could not
tell. I must wait for the daylight. I sat down and wept, for
there was no help.
"First, I thought, almost despairing,
This must crush my spirit now;
Yet I bore it, and am bearing--
Only do not ask me how."
When the daylight came, it brought the possibility of action, but
with it little of consolation. With the first visible increase
of light, I gazed into the chasm, but could not, for more than an
hour, see sufficiently well to discover its nature. At last I
saw it was almost a perpendicular opening, like a roughly
excavated well, only very large. I could perceive no bottom; and
it was not till the sun actually rose, that I discovered a sort
of natural staircase, in many parts little more than suggested,
which led round and round the gulf, descending spirally into its
abyss. I saw at once that this was my path; and without a
moment's hesitation, glad to quit the sunlight, which stared at
me most heartlessly, I commenced my tortuous descent. It was
very difficult. In some parts I had to cling to the rocks like a
bat. In one place, I dropped from the track down upon the next
returning spire of the stair; which being broad in this
particular portion, and standing out from the wall at right
angles, received me upon my feet safe, though somewhat stupefied
by the shock. After descending a great way, I found the stair
ended at a narrow opening which entered the rock horizontally.
Into this I crept, and, having entered, had just room to turn
round. I put my head out into the shaft by which I had come
down, and surveyed the course of my descent. Looking up, I saw
the stars; although the sun must by this time have been high in
the heavens. Looking below, I saw that the sides of the shaft
went sheer down, smooth as glass; and far beneath me, I saw the
reflection of the same stars I had seen in the heavens when I
looked up. I turned again, and crept inwards some distance, when
the passage widened, and I was at length able to stand and walk
upright. Wider and loftier grew the way; new paths branched off
on every side; great open halls appeared; till at last I found
myself wandering on through an underground country, in which the
sky was of rock, and instead of trees and flowers, there were
only fantastic rocks and stones. And ever as I went, darker grew
my thoughts, till at last I had no hope whatever of finding the
white lady: I no longer called her to myself MY white lady.
Whenever a choice was necessary, I always chose the path which
seemed to lead downwards.
At length I began to find that these regions were inhabited.
From behind a rock a peal of harsh grating laughter, full of evil
humour, rang through my ears, and, looking round, I saw a queer,
goblin creature, with a great head and ridiculous features, just
such as those described, in German histories and travels, as
Kobolds. "What do you want with me?" I said. He pointed at me
with a long forefinger, very thick at the root, and sharpened to
a point, and answered, "He! he! he! what do YOU want here?"
Then, changing his tone, he continued, with mock
humility--"Honoured sir, vouchsafe to withdraw from thy slaves
the lustre of thy august presence, for thy slaves cannot support
its brightness." A second appeared, and struck in: "You are so
big, you keep the sun from us. We can't see for you, and we're
so cold." Thereupon arose, on all sides, the most terrific
uproar of laughter, from voices like those of children in volume,
but scrannel and harsh as those of decrepit age, though,
unfortunately, without its weakness. The whole pandemonium of
fairy devils, of all varieties of fantastic ugliness, both in
form and feature, and of all sizes from one to four feet, seemed
to have suddenly assembled about me. At length, after a great
babble of talk among themselves, in a language unknown to me, and
after seemingly endless gesticulation, consultation,
elbow-nudging, and unmitigated peals of laughter, they formed
into a circle about one of their number, who scrambled upon a
stone, and, much to my surprise, and somewhat to my dismay, began
to sing, in a voice corresponding in its nature to his talking
one, from beginning to end, the song with which I had brought the
light into the eyes of the white lady. He sang the same air too;
and, all the time, maintained a face of mock entreaty and
worship; accompanying the song with the travestied gestures of
one playing on the lute. The whole assembly kept silence, except
at the close of every verse, when they roared, and danced, and
shouted with laughter, and flung themselves on the ground, in
real or pretended convulsions of delight. When he had finished,
the singer threw himself from the top of the stone, turning heels
over head several times in his descent; and when he did alight,
it was on the top of his head, on which he hopped about, making
the most grotesque gesticulations with his legs in the air.
Inexpressible laughter followed, which broke up in a shower of
tiny stones from innumerable hands. They could not materially
injure me, although they cut me on the head and face. I
attempted to run away, but they all rushed upon me, and, laying
hold of every part that afforded a grasp, held me tight.
Crowding about me like bees, they shouted an insect-swarm of
exasperating speeches up into my face, among which the most
frequently recurring were--"You shan't have her; you shan't have
her; he! he! he! She's for a better man; how he'll kiss her! how
he'll kiss her!"
The galvanic torrent of this battery of malevolence stung to life
within me a spark of nobleness, and I said aloud, "Well, if he is
a better man, let him have her."
They instantly let go their hold of me, and fell back a step or
two, with a whole broadside of grunts and humphs, as of
unexpected and disappointed approbation. I made a step or two
forward, and a lane was instantly opened for me through the midst
of the grinning little antics, who bowed most politely to me on
every side as I passed. After I had gone a few yards, I looked
back, and saw them all standing quite still, looking after me,
like a great school of boys; till suddenly one turned round, and
with a loud whoop, rushed into the midst of the others. In an
instant, the whole was one writhing and tumbling heap of
contortion, reminding me of the live pyramids of intertwined
snakes of which travellers make report. As soon as one was
worked out of the mass, he bounded off a few paces, and then,
with a somersault and a run, threw himself gyrating into the air,
and descended with all his weight on the summit of the heaving
and struggling chaos of fantastic figures. I left them still
busy at this fierce and apparently aimless amusement. And as I
went, I sang--
If a nobler waits for thee,
I will weep aside;
It is well that thou should'st be,
Of the nobler, bride.
For if love builds up the home,
Where the heart is free,
Homeless yet the heart must roam,
That has not found thee.
One must suffer: I, for her
Yield in her my part
Take her, thou art worthier--
Still I be still, my heart!
Gift ungotten! largess high
Of a frustrate will!
But to yield it lovingly
Is a something still.
Then a little song arose of itself in my soul; and I felt for the
moment, while it sank sadly within me, as if I was once more
walking up and down the white hall of Phantasy in the Fairy
Palace. But this lasted no longer than the song; as will be
Do not vex thy violet
Perfume to afford:
Else no odour thou wilt get
From its little hoard.
In thy lady's gracious eyes
Look not thou too long;
Else from them the glory flies,
And thou dost her wrong.
Come not thou too near the maid,
Clasp her not too wild;
Else the splendour is allayed,
And thy heart beguiled.
A crash of laughter, more discordant and deriding than any I had
yet heard, invaded my ears. Looking on in the direction of the
sound, I saw a little elderly woman, much taller, however, than
the goblins I had just left, seated upon a stone by the side of
the path. She rose, as I drew near, and came forward to meet me.
She was very plain and commonplace in appearance, without being
hideously ugly. Looking up in my face with a stupid sneer, she
said: "Isn't it a pity you haven't a pretty girl to walk all
alone with you through this sweet country? How different
everything would look? wouldn't it?
Strange that one can never have what one would like best! How
the roses would bloom and all that, even in this infernal hole!
wouldn't they, Anodos? Her eyes would light up the old cave,
"That depends on who the pretty girl should be," replied I.
"Not so very much matter that," she answered; "look here."
I had turned to go away as I gave my reply, but now I stopped and
looked at her. As a rough unsightly bud might suddenly blossom
into the most lovely flower; or rather, as a sunbeam bursts
through a shapeless cloud, and transfigures the earth; so burst a
face of resplendent beauty, as it were THROUGH the unsightly
visage of the woman, destroying it with light as it dawned
through it. A summer sky rose above me, gray with heat; across a
shining slumberous landscape, looked from afar the peaks of
snow-capped mountains; and down from a great rock beside me fell
a sheet of water mad with its own delight.
"Stay with me," she said, lifting up her exquisite face, and
looking full in mine.
I drew back. Again the infernal laugh grated upon my ears; again
the rocks closed in around me, and the ugly woman looked at me
with wicked, mocking hazel eyes.
"You shall have your reward," said she. "You shall see your
white lady again."
"That lies not with you," I replied, and turned and left her.
She followed me with shriek upon shriek of laughter, as I went on
I may mention here, that although there was always light enough
to see my path and a few yards on every side of me, I never could
find out the source of this sad sepulchral illumination.
"In the wind's uproar, the sea's raging grim,
And the sighs that are born in him."
"From dreams of bliss shall men awake
One day, but not to weep:
The dreams remain; they only break
The mirror of the sleep."
JEAN PAUL, Hesperus.
How I got through this dreary part of my travels, I do not know.
I do not think I was upheld by the hope that any moment the light
might break in upon me; for I scarcely thought about that. I
went on with a dull endurance, varied by moments of
uncontrollable sadness; for more and more the conviction grew
upon me that I should never see the white lady again. It may
seem strange that one with whom I had held so little communion
should have so engrossed my thoughts; but benefits conferred
awaken love in some minds, as surely as benefits received in
others. Besides being delighted and proud that my songs had
called the beautiful creature to life, the same fact caused me to
feel a tenderness unspeakable for her, accompanied with a kind of
feeling of property in her; for so the goblin Selfishness would
reward the angel Love. When to all this is added, an
overpowering sense of her beauty, and an unquestioning conviction
that this was a true index to inward loveliness, it may be
understood how it came to pass that my imagination filled my
whole soul with the play of its own multitudinous colours and
harmonies around the form which yet stood, a gracious marble
radiance, in the midst of ITS white hall of phantasy. The time
passed by unheeded; for my thoughts were busy. Perhaps this was
also in part the cause of my needing no food, and never thinking
how I should find any, during this subterraneous part of my
travels. How long they endured I could not tell, for I had no
means of measuring time; and when I looked back, there was such a
discrepancy between the decisions of my imagination and my
judgment, as to the length of time that had passed, that I was
bewildered, and gave up all attempts to arrive at any conclusion
on the point.
A gray mist continually gathered behind me. When I looked back
towards the past, this mist was the medium through which my eyes
had to strain for a vision of what had gone by; and the form of
the white lady had receded into an unknown region. At length the
country of rock began to close again around me, gradually and
slowly narrowing, till I found myself walking in a gallery of
rock once more, both sides of which I could touch with my
outstretched hands. It narrowed yet, until I was forced to move
carefully, in order to avoid striking against the projecting
pieces of rock. The roof sank lower and lower, until I was
compelled, first to stoop, and then to creep on my hands and
knees. It recalled terrible dreams of childhood; but I was not
much afraid, because I felt sure that this was my path, and my
only hope of leaving Fairy Land, of which I was now almost weary.
At length, on getting past an abrupt turn in the passage, through
which I had to force myself, I saw, a few yards ahead of me, the
long- forgotten daylight shining through a small opening, to
which the path, if path it could now be called, led me. With
great difficulty I accomplished these last few yards, and came
forth to the day. I stood on the shore of a wintry sea, with a
wintry sun just a few feet above its horizon-edge. It was bare,
and waste, and gray. Hundreds of hopeless waves rushed
constantly shorewards, falling exhausted upon a beach of great
loose stones, that seemed to stretch miles and miles in both
directions. There was nothing for the eye but mingling shades of
gray; nothing for the ear but the rush of the coming, the roar of
the breaking, and the moan of the retreating wave. No rock
lifted up a sheltering severity above the dreariness around; even
that from which I had myself emerged rose scarcely a foot above
the opening by which I had reached the dismal day, more dismal
even than the tomb I had left. A cold, death-like wind swept
across the shore, seeming to issue from a pale mouth of cloud
upon the horizon. Sign of life was nowhere visible. I wandered
over the stones, up and down the beach, a human imbodiment of the
nature around me. The wind increased; its keen waves flowed
through my soul; the foam rushed higher up the stones; a few dead
stars began to gleam in the east; the sound of the waves grew
louder and yet more despairing. A dark curtain of cloud was
lifted up, and a pale blue rent shone between its foot and the
edge of the sea, out from which rushed an icy storm of frozen
wind, that tore the waters into spray as it passed, and flung the
billows in raving heaps upon the desolate shore. I could bear it
"I will not be tortured to death," I cried; "I will meet it
half-way. The life within me is yet enough to bear me up to the
face of Death, and then I die unconquered."
Before it had grown so dark, I had observed, though without any
particular interest, that on one part of the shore a low platform
of rock seemed to run out far into the midst of the breaking
Towards this I now went, scrambling over smooth stones, to which
scarce even a particle of sea-weed clung; and having found it, I
got on it, and followed its direction, as near as I could guess,
out into the tumbling chaos. I could hardly keep my feet against
the wind and sea. The waves repeatedly all but swept me off my
path; but I kept on my way, till I reached the end of the low
promontory, which, in the fall of the waves, rose a good many
feet above the surface, and, in their rise, was covered with
their waters. I stood one moment and gazed into the heaving
abyss beneath me; then plunged headlong into the mounting wave
below. A blessing, like the kiss of a mother, seemed to alight
on my soul; a calm, deeper than that which accompanies a hope
deferred, bathed my spirit. I sank far into the waters, and
sought not to return. I felt as if once more the great arms of
the beech-tree were around me, soothing me after the miseries I
had passed through, and telling me, like a little sick child,
that I should be better to-morrow. The waters of themselves
lifted me, as with loving arms, to the surface. I breathed
again, but did not unclose my eyes. I would not look on the
wintry sea, and the pitiless gray sky. Thus I floated, till
something gently touched me. It was a little boat floating
beside me. How it came there I could not tell; but it rose and
sank on the waters, and kept touching me in its fall, as if with
a human will to let me know that help was by me. It was a little
gay-coloured boat, seemingly covered with glistering scales like
those of a fish, all of brilliant rainbow hues. I scrambled into
it, and lay down in the bottom, with a sense of exquisite repose.
Then I drew over me a rich, heavy, purple cloth that was beside
me; and, lying still, knew, by the sound of the waters, that my
little bark was fleeting rapidly onwards. Finding, however, none
of that stormy motion which the sea had manifested when I beheld
it from the shore, I opened my eyes; and, looking first up, saw
above me the deep violet sky of a warm southern night; and then,
lifting my head, saw that I was sailing fast upon a summer sea,
in the last border of a southern twilight. The aureole of the
sun yet shot the extreme faint tips of its longest rays above the
horizon- waves, and withdrew them not. It was a perpetual
twilight. The stars, great and earnest, like children's eyes,
bent down lovingly towards the waters; and the reflected stars
within seemed to float up, as if longing to meet their embraces.
But when I looked down, a new wonder met my view. For, vaguely
revealed beneath the wave, I floated above my whole Past. The
fields of my childhood flitted by; the halls of my youthful
labours; the streets of great cities where I had dwelt; and the
assemblies of men and women wherein I had wearied myself seeking
for rest. But so indistinct were the visions, that sometimes I
thought I was sailing on a shallow sea, and that strange rocks
and forests of sea-plants beguiled my eye, sufficiently to be
transformed, by the magic of the phantasy, into well-known
objects and regions. Yet, at times, a beloved form seemed to lie
close beneath me in sleep; and the eyelids would tremble as if
about to forsake the conscious eye; and the arms would heave
upwards, as if in dreams they sought for a satisfying presence.
But these motions might come only from the heaving of the waters
between those forms and me. Soon I fell asleep, overcome with
fatigue and delight. In dreams of unspeakable joy--of restored
friendships; of revived embraces; of love which said it had never
died; of faces that had vanished long ago, yet said with smiling
lips that they knew nothing of the grave; of pardons implored,
and granted with such bursting floods of love, that I was almost
glad I had sinned--thus I passed through this wondrous twilight.
I awoke with the feeling that I had been kissed and loved to my
heart's content; and found that my boat was floating motionless
by the grassy shore of a little island.
"In still rest, in changeless simplicity, I bear, uninterrupted,
the consciousness of the whole of Humanity within me."
". . . such a sweetness, such a grace,
In all thy speech appear,
That what to th'eye a beauteous face,
That thy tongue is to the ear."
The water was deep to the very edge; and I sprang from the little
boat upon a soft grassy turf. The island seemed rich with a
profusion of all grasses and low flowers. All delicate lowly
things were most plentiful; but no trees rose skywards, not even
a bush overtopped the tall grasses, except in one place near the
cottage I am about to describe, where a few plants of the
gum-cistus, which drops every night all the blossoms that the day
brings forth, formed a kind of natural arbour. The whole island
lay open to the sky and sea. It rose nowhere more than a few
feet above the level of the waters, which flowed deep all around
its border. Here there seemed to be neither tide nor storm. A
sense of persistent calm and fulness arose in the mind at the
sight of the slow, pulse-like rise and fall of the deep, clear,
unrippled waters against the bank of the island, for shore it
could hardly be called, being so much more like the edge of a
full, solemn river. As I walked over the grass towards the
cottage, which stood at a little distance from the bank, all the
flowers of childhood looked at me with perfect child-eyes out of
the grass. My heart, softened by the dreams through which it had
passed, overflowed in a sad, tender love towards them. They
looked to me like children impregnably fortified in a helpless
confidence. The sun stood half- way down the western sky,
shining very soft and golden; and there grew a second world of
shadows amidst the world of grasses and wild flowers.
The cottage was square, with low walls, and a high pyramidal roof
thatched with long reeds, of which the withered blossoms hung
over all the eaves. It is noticeable that most of the buildings
I saw in Fairy Land were cottages. There was no path to a door,
nor, indeed, was there any track worn by footsteps in the island.
The cottage rose right out of the smooth turf. It had no windows
that I could see; but there was a door in the centre of the side
facing me, up to which I went. I knocked, and the sweetest voice
I had ever heard said, "Come in." I entered. A bright fire was
burning on a hearth in the centre of the earthern floor, and the
smoke found its way out at an opening in the centre of the
pyramidal roof. Over the fire hung a little pot, and over the
pot bent a woman-face, the most wonderful, I thought, that I had
ever beheld. For it was older than any countenance I had ever
looked upon. There was not a spot in which a wrinkle could lie,
where a wrinkle lay not. And the skin was ancient and brown,
like old parchment. The woman's form was tall and spare: and
when she stood up to welcome me, I saw that she was straight as
an arrow. Could that voice of sweetness have issued from those
lips of age? Mild as they were, could they be the portals whence
flowed such melody? But the moment I saw her eyes, I no longer
wondered at her voice: they were absolutely young--those of a
woman of five-and- twenty, large, and of a clear gray. Wrinkles
had beset them all about; the eyelids themselves were old, and
heavy, and worn; but the eyes were very incarnations of soft
light. She held out her hand to me, and the voice of sweetness
again greeted me, with the single word, "Welcome." She set an
old wooden chair for me, near the fire, and went on with her
cooking. A wondrous sense of refuge and repose came upon me. I
felt like a boy who has got home from school, miles across the
hills, through a heavy storm of wind and snow. Almost, as I
gazed on her, I sprang from my seat to kiss those old lips. And
when, having finished her cooking, she brought some of the dish
she had prepared, and set it on a little table by me, covered
with a snow- white cloth, I could not help laying my head on her
bosom, and bursting into happy tears. She put her arms round me,
saying, "Poor child; poor child!"
As I continued to weep, she gently disengaged herself, and,
taking a spoon, put some of the food (I did not know what it was)
to my lips, entreating me most endearingly to swallow it. To
please her, I made an effort, and succeeded. She went on feeding
me like a baby, with one arm round me, till I looked up in her
face and smiled: then she gave me the spoon and told me to eat,
for it would do me good. I obeyed her, and found myself
wonderfully refreshed. Then she drew near the fire an
old-fashioned couch that was in the cottage, and making me lie
down upon it, sat at my feet, and began to sing. Amazing store
of old ballads rippled from her lips, over the pebbles of ancient
tunes; and the voice that sang was sweet as the voice of a
tuneful maiden that singeth ever from very fulness of song. The
songs were almost all sad, but with a sound of comfort. One I
can faintly recall. It was something like this:
Sir Aglovaile through the churchyard rode;
SING, ALL ALONE I LIE:
Little recked he where'er he yode,
ALL ALONE, UP IN THE SKY.
Swerved his courser, and plunged with fear
ALL ALONE I LIE:
His cry might have wakened the dead men near,
ALL ALONE, UP IN THE SKY.
The very dead that lay at his feet,
Lapt in the mouldy winding-sheet.
But he curbed him and spurred him, until he stood
Still in his place, like a horse of wood,
With nostrils uplift, and eyes wide and wan;
But the sweat in streams from his fetlocks ran.
A ghost grew out of the shadowy air,
And sat in the midst of her moony hair.
In her gleamy hair she sat and wept;
In the dreamful moon they lay and slept;
The shadows above, and the bodies below,
Lay and slept in the moonbeams slow.
And she sang, like the moan of an autumn wind
Over the stubble left behind:
Alas, how easily things go wrong
! A sigh too much, or a kiss too long,
And there follows a mist and a weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.
Alas, how hardly things go right!
'Tis hard to watch on a summer night,
For the sigh will come and the kiss will stay,
And the summer night is a winter day.
"Oh, lovely ghosts my heart is woes
To see thee weeping and wailing so.
Oh, lovely ghost," said the fearless knight,
"Can the sword of a warrior set it right?
Or prayer of bedesman, praying mild,
As a cup of water a feverish child,
Sooth thee at last, in dreamless mood
To sleep the sleep a dead lady should?
Thine eyes they fill me with longing sore,
As if I had known thee for evermore.
Oh, lovely ghost, I could leave the day
To sit with thee in the moon away
If thou wouldst trust me, and lay thy head
To rest on a bosom that is not dead."
The lady sprang up with a strange ghost-cry,
And she flung her white ghost-arms on high:
And she laughed a laugh that was not gay,
And it lengthened out till it died away;
And the dead beneath turned and moaned,
And the yew-trees above they shuddered and groaned.
"Will he love me twice with a love that is vain?
Will he kill the poor ghost yet again?
I thought thou wert good; but I said, and wept:
`Can I have dreamed who have not slept?'
And I knew, alas! or ever I would,
Whether I dreamed, or thou wert good.
When my baby died, my brain grew wild.
I awoke, and found I was with my child."
"If thou art the ghost of my Adelaide,
How is it? Thou wert but a village maid,
And thou seemest an angel lady white,
Though thin, and wan, and past delight."
The lady smiled a flickering smile,
And she pressed her temples hard the while.
"Thou seest that Death for a woman can
Do more than knighthood for a man."
"But show me the child thou callest mine,
Is she out to-night in the ghost's sunshine?"
"In St. Peter's Church she is playing on,
At hide-and-seek, with Apostle John.
When the moonbeams right through the window go,
Where the twelve are standing in glorious show,
She says the rest of them do not stir,
But one comes down to play with her.
Then I can go where I list, and weep,
For good St. John my child will keep."
"Thy beauty filleth the very air,
Never saw I a woman so fair."
"Come, if thou darest, and sit by my side;
But do not touch me, or woe will betide.
Alas, I am weak: I might well know
This gladness betokens some further woe.
Yet come. It will come. I will bear it. I can.
For thou lovest me yet--though but as a man."
The knight dismounted in earnest speed;
Away through the tombstones thundered the steed,
And fell by the outer wall, and died.
But the knight he kneeled by the lady's side;
Kneeled beside her in wondrous bliss,
Rapt in an everlasting kiss:
Though never his lips come the lady nigh,
And his eyes alone on her beauty lie.
All the night long, till the cock crew loud,
He kneeled by the lady, lapt in her shroud.
And what they said, I may not say:
Dead night was sweeter than living day.
How she made him so blissful glad
Who made her and found her so ghostly sad,
I may not tell; but it needs no touch
To make them blessed who love so much.
"Come every night, my ghost, to me;
And one night I will come to thee.
'Tis good to have a ghostly wife:
She will not tremble at clang of strife;
She will only hearken, amid the din,
Behind the door, if he cometh in."
And this is how Sir Aglovaile
Often walked in the moonlight pale.
And oft when the crescent but thinned the gloom,
Full orbed moonlight filled his room;
And through beneath his chamber door,
Fell a ghostly gleam on the outer floor;
And they that passed, in fear averred
That murmured words they often heard.
'Twas then that the eastern crescent shone
Through the chancel window, and good St. John
Played with the ghost-child all the night,
And the mother was free till the morning light,
And sped through the dawning night, to stay
With Aglovaile till the break of day.
And their love was a rapture, lone and high,
And dumb as the moon in the topmost sky.
One night Sir Aglovaile, weary, slept
And dreamed a dream wherein he wept.
A warrior he was, not often wept he,
But this night he wept full bitterly.
He woke--beside him the ghost-girl shone
Out of the dark: 'twas the eve of St. John.
He had dreamed a dream of a still, dark wood,
Where the maiden of old beside him stood;
But a mist came down, and caught her away,
And he sought her in vain through the pathless day,
Till he wept with the grief that can do no more,
And thought he had dreamt the dream before.
From bursting heart the weeping flowed on;
And lo! beside him the ghost-girl shone;
Shone like the light on a harbour's breast,
Over the sea of his dream's unrest;
Shone like the wondrous, nameless boon,
That the heart seeks ever, night or noon:
Warnings forgotten, when needed most,
He clasped to his bosom the radiant ghost.
She wailed aloud, and faded, and sank.
With upturn'd white face, cold and blank,
In his arms lay the corpse of the maiden pale,
And she came no more to Sir Aglovaile.
Only a voice, when winds were wild,
Sobbed and wailed like a chidden child.
Alas, how easily things go wrong!
A sigh too much, or a kiss too long,
And there follows a mist and a weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.
This was one of the simplest of her songs, which, perhaps, is
the cause of my being able to remember it better than most of the
others. While she sung, I was in Elysium, with the sense of a
rich soul upholding, embracing, and overhanging mine, full of all
plenty and bounty. I felt as if she could give me everything I
wanted; as if I should never wish to leave her, but would be
content to be sung to and fed by her, day after day, as years
rolled by. At last I fell asleep while she sang.
When I awoke, I knew not whether it was night or day. The fire
had sunk to a few red embers, which just gave light enough to
show me the woman standing a few feet from me, with her back
towards me, facing the door by which I had entered. She was
weeping, but very gently and plentifully. The tears seemed to
come freely from her heart. Thus she stood for a few minutes;
then, slowly turning at right angles to her former position, she
faced another of the four sides of the cottage. I now observed,
for the first time, that here was a door likewise; and that,
indeed, there was one in the centre of every side of the cottage.
When she looked towards the second door, her tears ceased to
flow, but sighs took their place. She often closed her eyes as
she stood; and every time she closed her eyes, a gentle sigh
seemed to be born in her heart, and to escape at her lips. But
when her eyes were open, her sighs were deep and very sad, and
shook her whole frame. Then she turned towards the third door,
and a cry as of fear or suppressed pain broke from her; but she
seemed to hearten herself against the dismay, and to front it
steadily; for, although I often heard a slight cry, and sometimes
a moan, yet she never moved or bent her head, and I felt sure
that her eyes never closed. Then she turned to the fourth door,
and I saw her shudder, and then stand still as a statue; till at
last she turned towards me and approached the fire. I saw that
her face was white as death. But she gave one look upwards, and
smiled the sweetest, most child-innocent smile; then heaped fresh
wood on the fire, and, sitting down by the blaze, drew her wheel
near her, and began to spin. While she spun, she murmured a low
strange song, to which the hum of the wheel made a kind of
infinite symphony. At length she paused in her spinning and
singing, and glanced towards me, like a mother who looks whether
or not her child gives signs of waking. She smiled when she saw
that my eyes were open. I asked her whether it was day yet. She
answered, "It is always day here, so long as I keep my fire
I felt wonderfully refreshed; and a great desire to see more of
the island awoke within me. I rose, and saying that I wished to
look about me, went towards the door by which I had entered.
"Stay a moment," said my hostess, with some trepidation in her
voice. "Listen to me. You will not see what you expect when you
go out of that door. Only remember this: whenever you wish to
come back to me, enter wherever you see this mark."
She held up her left hand between me and the fire. Upon the
palm, which appeared almost transparent, I saw, in dark red, a
mark like this --> which I took care to fix in my mind.
She then kissed me, and bade me good-bye with a solemnity that
awed me; and bewildered me too, seeing I was only going out for a
little ramble in an island, which I did not believe larger than
could easily be compassed in a few hours' walk at most. As I
went she resumed her spinning.
I opened the door, and stepped out. The moment my foot touched
the smooth sward, I seemed to issue from the door of an old barn
on my father's estate, where, in the hot afternoons, I used to go
and lie amongst the straw, and read. It seemed to me now that I
had been asleep there. At a little distance in the field, I saw
two of my brothers at play. The moment they caught sight of me,
they called out to me to come and join them, which I did; and we
played together as we had done years ago, till the red sun went
down in the west, and the gray fog began to rise from the river.
Then we went home together with a strange happiness. As we went,
we heard the continually renewed larum of a landrail in the long
grass. One of my brothers and I separated to a little distance,
and each commenced running towards the part whence the sound
appeared to come, in the hope of approaching the spot where the
bird was, and so getting at least a sight of it, if we should not
be able to capture the little creature. My father's voice
recalled us from trampling down the rich long grass, soon to be
cut down and laid aside for the winter. I had quite forgotten
all about Fairy Land, and the wonderful old woman, and the
curious red mark.
My favourite brother and I shared the same bed. Some childish
dispute arose between us; and our last words, ere we fell asleep,
were not of kindness, notwithstanding the pleasures of the day.
When I woke in the morning, I missed him. He had risen early,
and had gone to bathe in the river. In another hour, he was
brought home drowned. Alas! alas! if we had only gone to sleep
as usual, the one with his arm about the other! Amidst the
horror of the moment, a strange conviction flashed across my
mind, that I had gone through the very same once before.
I rushed out of the house, I knew not why, sobbing and crying
bitterly. I ran through the fields in aimless distress, till,
passing the old barn, I caught sight of a red mark on the door.
The merest trifles sometimes rivet the attention in the deepest
misery; the intellect has so little to do with grief. I went up
to look at this mark, which I did not remember ever to have seen
before. As I looked at it, I thought I would go in and lie down
amongst the straw, for I was very weary with running about and
weeping. I opened the door; and there in the cottage sat the old
woman as I had left her, at her spinning-wheel.
"I did not expect you quite so soon," she said, as I shut the
door behind me. I went up to the couch, and threw myself on it
with that fatigue wherewith one awakes from a feverish dream of
The old woman sang:
The great sun, benighted,
May faint from the sky;
But love, once uplighted,
Will never more die.
Form, with its brightness,
From eyes will depart:
It walketh, in whiteness,
The halls of the heart.
Ere she had ceased singing, my courage had returned. I started
from the couch, and, without taking leave of the old woman,
opened the door of Sighs, and sprang into what should appear.
I stood in a lordly hall, where, by a blazing fire on the hearth,
sat a lady, waiting, I knew, for some one long desired. A mirror
was near me, but I saw that my form had no place within its
depths, so I feared not that I should be seen. The lady
wonderfully resembled my marble lady, but was altogether of the
daughters of men, and I could not tell whether or not it was she.
It was not for me she waited. The tramp of a great horse rang
through the court without. It ceased, and the clang of armour
told that his rider alighted, and the sound of his ringing heels
approached the hall. The door opened; but the lady waited, for
she would meet her lord alone. He strode in: she flew like a
home-bound dove into his arms, and nestled on the hard steel. It
was the knight of the soiled armour. But now the armour shone
like polished glass; and strange to tell, though the mirror
reflected not my form, I saw a dim shadow of myself in the
"O my beloved, thou art come, and I am blessed."
Her soft fingers speedily overcame the hard clasp of his helmet;
one by one she undid the buckles of his armour; and she toiled
under the weight of the mail, as she WOULD carry it aside. Then
she unclasped his greaves, and unbuckled his spurs; and once more
she sprang into his arms, and laid her head where she could now
feel the beating of his heart. Then she disengaged herself from
his embrace, and, moving back a step or two, gazed at him. He
stood there a mighty form, crowned with a noble head, where all
sadness had disappeared, or had been absorbed in solemn purpose.
Yet I suppose that he looked more thoughtful than the lady had
expected to see him, for she did not renew her caresses, although
his face glowed with love, and the few words he spoke were as
mighty deeds for strength; but she led him towards the hearth,
and seated him in an ancient chair, and set wine before him, and
sat at his feet.
"I am sad," he said, "when I think of the youth whom I met twice
in the forests of Fairy Land; and who, you say, twice, with his
songs, roused you from the death-sleep of an evil enchantment.
There was something noble in him, but it was a nobleness of
thought, and not of deed. He may yet perish of vile fear."
"Ah!" returned the lady, "you saved him once, and for that I
thank you; for may I not say that I somewhat loved him? But tell
me how you fared, when you struck your battle-axe into the
ash-tree, and he came and found you; for so much of the story you
had told me, when the beggar-child came and took you away."
"As soon as I saw him," rejoined the knight, "I knew that earthly
arms availed not against such as he; and that my soul must meet
him in its naked strength. So I unclasped my helm, and flung it
on the ground; and, holding my good axe yet in my hand, gazed at
him with steady eyes. On he came, a horror indeed, but I did not
flinch. Endurance must conquer, where force could not reach. He
came nearer and nearer, till the ghastly face was close to mine.
A shudder as of death ran through me; but I think I did not move,
for he seemed to quail, and retreated. As soon as he gave back,
I struck one more sturdy blow on the stem of his tree, that the
forest rang; and then looked at him again. He writhed and
grinned with rage and apparent pain, and again approached me, but
retreated sooner than before. I heeded him no more, but hewed
with a will at the tree, till the trunk creaked, and the head
bowed, and with a crash it fell to the earth. Then I looked up
from my labour, and lo! the spectre had vanished, and I saw him
no more; nor ever in my wanderings have I heard of him again."
"Well struck! well withstood! my hero," said the lady.
"But," said the knight, somewhat troubled, "dost thou love the
"Ah!" she replied, "how can I help it? He woke me from worse
than death; he loved me. I had never been for thee, if he had
not sought me first. But I love him not as I love thee. He was
but the moon of my night; thou art the sun of my clay, O
"Thou art right," returned the noble man. "It were hard, indeed,
not to have some love in return for such a gift as he hath given
thee. I, too, owe him more than words can speak."
Humbled before them, with an aching and desolate heart, I yet
could not restrain my words:
"Let me, then, be the moon of thy night still, O woman! And when
thy day is beclouded, as the fairest days will be, let some song
of mine comfort thee, as an old, withered, half-forgotten thing,
that belongs to an ancient mournful hour of uncompleted birth,
which yet was beautiful in its time."
They sat silent, and I almost thought they were listening. The
colour of the lady's eyes grew deeper and deeper; the slow tears
grew, and filled them, and overflowed. They rose, and passed,
hand in hand, close to where I stood; and each looked towards me
in passing. Then they disappeared through a door which closed
behind them; but, ere it closed, I saw that the room into which
it opened was a rich chamber, hung with gorgeous arras. I stood
with an ocean of sighs frozen in my bosom. I could remain no
longer. She was near me, and I could not see her; near me in the
arms of one loved better than I, and I would not see her, and I
would not be by her. But how to escape from the nearness of the
best beloved? I had not this time forgotten the mark; for the
fact that I could not enter the sphere of these living beings
kept me aware that, for me, I moved in a vision, while they moved
in life. I looked all about for the mark, but could see it
nowhere; for I avoided looking just where it was. There the dull
red cipher glowed, on the very door of their secret chamber.
Struck with agony, I dashed it open, and fell at the feet of the
ancient woman, who still spun on, the whole dissolved ocean of my
sighs bursting from me in a storm of tearless sobs. Whether I
fainted or slept, I do not know; but, as I returned to
consciousness, before I seemed to have power to move, I heard the
woman singing, and could distinguish the words:
O light of dead and of dying days!
O Love! in thy glory go,
In a rosy mist and a moony maze,
O'er the pathless peaks of snow.
But what is left for the cold gray soul,
That moans like a wounded dove?
One wine is left in the broken bowl!--
'Tis-- TO LOVE, AND LOVE AND LOVE.
Now I could weep. When she saw me weeping, she sang:
Better to sit at the waters' birth,
Than a sea of waves to win;
To live in the love that floweth forth,
Than the love that cometh in.
Be thy heart a well of love, my child,
Flowing, and free, and sure;
For a cistern of love, though undefiled,
Keeps not the spirit pure.
I rose from the earth, loving the white lady as I had never loved
Then I walked up to the door of Dismay, and opened it, and went
out. And lo! I came forth upon a crowded street, where men and
women went to and fro in multitudes. I knew it well; and,
turning to one hand, walked sadly along the pavement. Suddenly I
saw approaching me, a little way off, a form well known to me
(WELL-KNOWN!--alas, how weak the word!) in the years when I
thought my boyhood was left behind, and shortly before I entered
the realm of Fairy Land. Wrong and Sorrow had gone together,
hand-in-hand as it is well they do.
Unchangeably dear was that face. It lay in my heart as a child
lies in its own white bed; but I could not meet her.
"Anything but that," I said, and, turning aside, sprang up the
steps to a door, on which I fancied I saw the mystic sign. I
entered--not the mysterious cottage, but her home. I rushed
wildly on, and stood by the door of her room.
"She is out," I said, "I will see the old room once more."
I opened the door gently, and stood in a great solemn church. A
deep- toned bell, whose sounds throbbed and echoed and swam
through the empty building, struck the hour of midnight. The
moon shone through the windows of the clerestory, and enough of
the ghostly radiance was diffused through the church to let me
see, walking with a stately, yet somewhat trailing and stumbling
step, down the opposite aisle, for I stood in one of the
transepts, a figure dressed in a white robe, whether for the
night, or for that longer night which lies too deep for the day,
I could not tell. Was it she? and was this her chamber? I
crossed the church, and followed. The figure stopped, seemed to
ascend as it were a high bed, and lay down. I reached the place
where it lay, glimmering white. The bed was a tomb. The light
was too ghostly to see clearly, but I passed my hand over the
face and the hands and the feet, which were all bare. They were
cold--they were marble, but I knew them. It grew dark. I turned
to retrace my steps, but found, ere long, that I had wandered
into what seemed a little chapel. I groped about, seeking the
door. Everything I touched belonged to the dead. My hands fell
on the cold effigy of a knight who lay with his legs crossed and
his sword broken beside him. He lay in his noble rest, and I
lived on in ignoble strife. I felt for the left hand and a
certain finger; I found there the ring I knew: he was one of my
own ancestors. I was in the chapel over the burial-vault of my
race. I called aloud: "If any of the dead are moving here, let
them take pity upon me, for I, alas! am still alive; and let some
dead woman comfort me, for I am a stranger in the land of the
dead, and see no light." A warm kiss alighted on my lips through
the dark. And I said, "The dead kiss well; I will not be
afraid." And a great hand was reached out of the dark, and
grasped mine for a moment, mightily and tenderly. I said to
myself: "The veil between, though very dark, is very thin."
Groping my way further, I stumbled over the heavy stone that
covered the entrance of the vault: and, in stumbling, descried
upon the stone the mark, glowing in red fire. I caught the great
ring. All my effort could not have moved the huge slab; but it
opened the door of the cottage, and I threw myself once more,
pale and speechless, on the couch beside the ancient dame. She
sang once more:
Thou dreamest: on a rock thou art,
High o'er the broken wave;
Thou fallest with a fearful start
But not into thy grave;
For, waking in the morning's light,
Thou smilest at the vanished night
So wilt thou sink, all pale and dumb,
Into the fainting gloom;
But ere the coming terrors come,
Thou wak'st--where is the tomb?
Thou wak'st--the dead ones smile above,
With hovering arms of sleepless love.
She paused; then sang again:
We weep for gladness, weep for grief;
The tears they are the same;
We sigh for longing, and relief;
The sighs have but one name,
And mingled in the dying strife,
Are moans that are not sad
The pangs of death are throbs of life,
Its sighs are sometimes glad.
The face is very strange and white:
It is Earth's only spot
That feebly flickers back the light
The living seeth not.
I fell asleep, and slept a dreamless sleep, for I know not how
long. When I awoke, I found that my hostess had moved from where
she had been sitting, and now sat between me and the fourth door.
I guessed that her design was to prevent my entering there. I
sprang from the couch, and darted past her to the door. I opened
it at once and went out. All I remember is a cry of distress
from the woman: "Don't go there, my child! Don't go there!"
But I was gone.
I knew nothing more; or, if I did, I had forgot it all when I
awoke to consciousness, lying on the floor of the cottage, with
my head in the lap of the woman, who was weeping over me, and
stroking my hair with both hands, talking to me as a mother might
talk to a sick and sleeping, or a dead child. As soon as I
looked up and saw her, she smiled through her tears; smiled with
withered face and young eyes, till her countenance was irradiated
with the light of the smile. Then she bathed my head and face
and hands in an icy cold, colourless liquid, which smelt a little
of damp earth. Immediately I was able to sit up. She rose and
put some food before me. When I had eaten, she said:
"Listen to me, my child. You must leave me directly!"
"Leave you!" I said. "I am so happy with you. I never was so
happy in my life."
"But you must go," she rejoined sadly. "Listen! What do you
"I hear the sound as of a great throbbing of water."
"Ah! you do hear it? Well, I had to go through that door--the
door of the Timeless" (and she shuddered as she pointed to the
fourth door)-- "to find you; for if I had not gone, you would
never have entered again; and because I went, the waters around
my cottage will rise and rise, and flow and come, till they build
a great firmament of waters over my dwelling. But as long as I
keep my fire burning, they cannot enter. I have fuel enough for
years; and after one year they will sink away again, and be just
as they were before you came. I have not been buried for a
hundred years now." And she smiled and wept.
"Alas! alas!" I cried. "I have brought this evil on the best and
kindest of friends, who has filled my heart with great gifts."
"Do not think of that," she rejoined. "I can bear it very well.
You will come back to me some day, I know. But I beg you, for my
sake, my dear child, to do one thing. In whatever sorrow you may
be, however inconsolable and irremediable it may appear, believe
me that the old woman in the cottage, with the young eyes" (and
she smiled), "knows something, though she must not always tell
it, that would quite satisfy you about it, even in the worst
moments of your distress.
Now you must go."
"But how can I go, if the waters are all about, and if the doors
all lead into other regions and other worlds?"
"This is not an island," she replied; "but is joined to the land
by a narrow neck; and for the door, I will lead you myself
through the right one."
She took my hand, and led me through the third door; whereupon I
found myself standing in the deep grassy turf on which I had
landed from the little boat, but upon the opposite side of the
cottage. She pointed out the direction I must take, to find the
isthmus and escape the rising waters.
Then putting her arms around me, she held me to her bosom; and as
I kissed her, I felt as if I were leaving my mother for the first
time, and could not help weeping bitterly. At length she gently
pushed me away, and with the words, "Go, my son, and do something
worth doing," turned back, and, entering the cottage, closed the
door behind her.
I felt very desolate as I went.
"Thou hadst no fame; that which thou didst like good
Was but thy appetite that swayed thy blood
For that time to the best; for as a blast
That through a house comes, usually doth cast
Things out of order, yet by chance may come
And blow some one thing to his proper room,
So did thy appetite, and not thy zeal,
Sway thee by chance to do some one thing well."
FLETCHER'S Faithful Shepherdess.
"The noble hart that harbours vertuous thought
And is with childe of glorious great intent,
Can never rest, until it forth have brought
Th' eternall brood of glorie excellent."
SPENSER, The Faerie Queene.
I had not gone very far before I felt that the turf beneath my
feet was soaked with the rising waters. But I reached the
isthmus in safety. It was rocky, and so much higher than the
level of the peninsula, that I had plenty of time to cross. I
saw on each side of me the water rising rapidly, altogether
without wind, or violent motion, or broken waves, but as if a
slow strong fire were glowing beneath it. Ascending a steep
acclivity, I found myself at last in an open, rocky country.
After travelling for some hours, as nearly in a straight line as
I could, I arrived at a lonely tower, built on the top of a
little hill, which overlooked the whole neighbouring country. As
I approached, I heard the clang of an anvil; and so rapid were
the blows, that I despaired of making myself heard till a pause
in the work should ensue. It was some minutes before a cessation
took place; but when it did, I knocked loudly, and had not long
to wait; for, a moment after, the door was partly opened by a
noble-looking youth, half-undressed, glowing with heat, and
begrimed with the blackness of the forge. In one hand he held a
sword, so lately from the furnace that it yet shone with a dull
fire. As soon as he saw me, he threw the door wide open, and
standing aside, invited me very cordially to enter. I did so;
when he shut and bolted the door most carefully, and then led the
way inwards. He brought me into a rude hall, which seemed to
occupy almost the whole of the ground floor of the little tower,
and which I saw was now being used as a workshop. A huge fire
roared on the hearth, beside which was an anvil. By the anvil
stood, in similar undress, and in a waiting attitude, hammer in
hand, a second youth, tall as the former, but far more slightly
built. Reversing the usual course of perception in such
meetings, I thought them, at first sight, very unlike; and at the
second glance, knew that they were brothers. The former, and
apparently the elder, was muscular and dark, with curling hair,
and large hazel eyes, which sometimes grew wondrously soft. The
second was slender and fair, yet with a countenance like an
eagle, and an eye which, though pale blue, shone with an almost
fierce expression. He stood erect, as if looking from a lofty
mountain crag, over a vast plain outstretched below. As soon as
we entered the hall, the elder turned to me, and I saw that a
glow of satisfaction shone on both their faces. To my surprise
and great pleasure, he addressed me thus:
"Brother, will you sit by the fire and rest, till we finish this
part of our work?"
I signified my assent; and, resolved to await any disclosure they
might be inclined to make, seated myself in silence near the
The elder brother then laid the sword in the fire, covered it
well over, and when it had attained a sufficient degree of heat,
drew it out and laid it on the anvil, moving it carefully about,
while the younger, with a succession of quick smart blows,
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