Edward Bulwer Lytton
Part 9 out of 9
effort, at last wrenched himself from the grasp. The crowd made
way, and closed round to protect him, as he dived and darted
through their ranks; but suddenly the trampling of horses was
heard at hand,--the savage Henriot and his troop were bearing
down upon the mob. The crowd gave way in alarm, and the prisoner
was again seized by one of the partisans of the Dictator. At
that moment a voice whispered the prisoner, "Thou hast a letter
which, if found on thee, ruins thy last hope. Give it to me! I
will bear it to Tallien." The prisoner turned in amaze, read
something that encouraged him in the eyes of the stranger who
thus accosted him. The troop were now on the spot; the Jacobin
who had seized the prisoner released hold of him for a moment to
escape the hoofs of the horses: in that moment the opportunity
was found,--the stranger had disappeared.
At the house of Tallien the principal foes of the tyrant were
assembled. Common danger made common fellowship. All factions
laid aside their feuds for the hour to unite against the
formidable man who was marching over all factions to his gory
throne. There was bold Lecointre, the declared enemy; there,
creeping Barrere, who would reconcile all extremes, the hero of
the cowards; Barras, calm and collected; Collet d'Herbois,
breathing wrath and vengeance, and seeing not that the crimes of
Robespierre alone sheltered his own.
The council was agitated and irresolute. The awe which the
uniform success and the prodigious energy of Robespierre excited
still held the greater part under its control. Tallien, whom the
tyrant most feared, and who alone could give head and substance
and direction to so many contradictory passions, was too sullied
by the memory of his own cruelties not to feel embarrassed by his
position as the champion of mercy. "It is true," he said, after
an animating harangue from Lecointre, "that the Usurper menaces
us all. But he is still so beloved by his mobs,--still so
supported by his Jacobins: better delay open hostilities till
the hour is more ripe. To attempt and not succeed is to give us,
bound hand and foot, to the guillotine. Every day his power must
decline. Procrastination is our best ally--" While yet
speaking, and while yet producing the effect of water on the
fire, it was announced that a stranger demanded to see him
instantly on business that brooked no delay.
"I am not at leisure," said the orator, impatiently. The servant
placed a note on the table. Tallien opened it, and found these
words in pencil, "From the prison of Teresa de Fontenai." He
turned pale, started up, and hastened to the anteroom, where he
beheld a face entirely strange to him.
"Hope of France!" said the visitor to him, and the very sound of
his voice went straight to the heart,--"your servant is arrested
in the streets. I have saved your life, and that of your wife
who will be. I bring to you this letter from Teresa de
Tallien, with a trembling hand, opened the letter, and read,--
"Am I forever to implore you in vain? Again and again I say,
'Lose not an hour if you value my life and your own.' My trial
and death are fixed the third day from this,--the 10th Thermidor.
Strike while it is yet time,--strike the monster!--you have two
days yet. If you fail,--if you procrastinate,--see me for the
last time as I pass your windows to the guillotine!"
"Her trial will give proof against you," said the stranger. "Her
death is the herald of your own. Fear not the populace,--the
populace would have rescued your servant. Fear not Robespierre,
--he gives himself to your hands. To-morrow he comes to the
Convention,--to-morrow you must cast the last throw for his head
or your own."
"To-morrow he comes to the Convention! And who are you that know
so well what is concealed from me?"
"A man like you, who would save the woman he loves."
Before Tallien could recover his surprise, the visitor was gone.
Back went the Avenger to his conclave an altered man. "I have
heard tidings,--no matter what," he cried,--"that have changed my
purpose. On the 10th we are destined to the guillotine. I
revoke my counsel for delay. Robespierre comes to the Convention
to-morrow; THERE we must confront and crush him. From the
Mountain shall frown against him the grim shade of Danton,--from
the Plain shall rise, in their bloody cerements, the spectres of
Vergniaud and Condorcet. Frappons!"
"Frappons!" cried even Barrere, startled into energy by the new
daring of his colleague,--"frappons! il n'y a que les morts qui
ne reviennent pas."
It was observable (and the fact may be found in one of the
memoirs of the time) that, during that day and night (the 7th
Thermidor), a stranger to all the previous events of that stormy
time was seen in various parts of the city,--in the cafes, the
clubs, the haunts of the various factions; that, to the
astonishment and dismay of his hearers, he talked aloud of the
crimes of Robespierre, and predicted his coming fall; and, as he
spoke, he stirred up the hearts of men, he loosed the bonds of
their fear,--he inflamed them with unwonted rage and daring. But
what surprised them most was, that no voice replied, no hand was
lifted against him, no minion, even of the tyrant, cried, "Arrest
the traitor." In that impunity men read, as in a book, that the
populace had deserted the man of blood.
Once only a fierce, brawny Jacobin sprang up from the table at
which he sat, drinking deep, and, approaching the stranger, said,
"I seize thee, in the name of the Republic."
"Citizen Aristides," answered the stranger, in a whisper, "go to
the lodgings of Robespierre,--he is from home; and in the left
pocket of the vest which he cast off not an hour since thou wilt
find a paper; when thou hast read that, return. I will await
thee; and if thou wouldst then seize me, I will go without a
struggle. Look round on those lowering brows; touch me NOW, and
thou wilt be torn to pieces."
The Jacobin felt as if compelled to obey against his will. He
went forth muttering; he returned,--the stranger was still there.
"Mille tonnerres," he said to him, "I thank thee; the poltroon
had my name in his list for the guillotine."
With that the Jacobin Aristides sprang upon the table and
shouted, "Death to the Tyrant!"
Le lendemain, 8 Thermidor, Robespierre se decida a prononcer son
Thiers, "Hist. de la Revolution."
(The next day, 8th Thermidor, Robespierre resolved to deliver his
The morning rose,--the 8th of Thermidor (July 26). Robespierre
has gone to the Convention. He has gone with his laboured
speech; he has gone with his phrases of philanthropy and virtue;
he has gone to single out his prey. All his agents are prepared
for his reception; the fierce St. Just has arrived from the
armies to second his courage and inflame his wrath. His ominous
apparition prepares the audience for the crisis. "Citizens!"
screeched the shrill voice of Robespierre "others have placed
before you flattering pictures; I come to announce to you useful
And they attribute to me,--to me alone!--whatever of harsh or
evil is committed: it is Robespierre who wishes it; it is
Robespierre who ordains it. Is there a new tax?--it is
Robespierre who ruins you. They call me tyrant!--and why?
Because I have acquired some influence; but how?--in speaking
truth; and who pretends that truth is to be without force in the
mouths of the Representatives of the French people? Doubtless,
truth has its power, its rage, its despotism, its accents,
touching, terrible, which resound in the pure heart as in the
guilty conscience; and which Falsehood can no more imitate than
Salmoneus could forge the thunderbolts of Heaven. What am I whom
they accuse? A slave of liberty,--a living martyr of the
Republic; the victim as the enemy of crime! All ruffianism
affronts me, and actions legitimate in others are crimes in me.
It is enough to know me to be calumniated. It is in my very zeal
that they discover my guilt. Take from me my conscience, and I
should be the most miserable of men!"
He paused; and Couthon wiped his eyes, and St. Just murmured
applause as with stern looks he gazed on the rebellious Mountain;
and there was a dead, mournful, and chilling silence through the
audience. The touching sentiment woke no echo.
The orator cast his eyes around. Ho! he will soon arouse that
apathy. He proceeds, he praises, he pities himself no more. He
denounces,--he accuses. Overflooded with his venom, he vomits it
forth on all. At home, abroad, finances, war,--on all! Shriller
and sharper rose his voice,--
"A conspiracy exists against the public liberty. It owes its
strength to a criminal coalition in the very bosom of the
Convention; it has accomplices in the bosom of the Committee of
Public Safety...What is the remedy to this evil? To punish the
traitors; to purify this committee; to crush all factions by the
weight of the National Authority; to raise upon their ruins the
power of Liberty and Justice. Such are the principles of that
Reform. Must I be ambitious to profess them?--then the
principles are proscribed, and Tyranny reigns amongst us! For
what can you object to a man who is in the right, and has at
least this knowledge,--he knows how to die for his native land!
I am made to combat crime, and not to govern it. The time, alas!
is not yet arrived when men of worth can serve with impunity
their country. So long as the knaves rule, the defenders of
liberty will be only the proscribed."
For two hours, through that cold and gloomy audience, shrilled
the Death-speech. In silence it began, in silence closed. The
enemies of the orator were afraid to express resentment; they
knew not yet the exact balance of power. His partisans were
afraid to approve; they knew not whom of their own friends and
relations the accusations were designed to single forth. "Take
care!" whispered each to each; "it is thou whom he threatens."
But silent though the audience, it was, at the first, wellnigh
subdued. There was still about this terrible man the spell of an
overmastering will. Always--though not what is called a great
orator--resolute, and sovereign in the use of words; words seemed
as things when uttered by one who with a nod moved the troops of
Henriot, and influenced the judgment of Rene Dumas, grim
President of the Tribunal. Lecointre of Versailles rose, and
there was an anxious movement of attention; for Lecointre was one
of the fiercest foes of the tyrant. What was the dismay of the
Tallien faction; what the complacent smile of Couthon,--when
Lecointre demanded only that the oration should be printed! All
seemed paralyzed. At length Bourdon de l'Oise, whose name was
doubly marked in the black list of the Dictator, stalked to the
tribune, and moved the bold counter-resolution, that the speech
should be referred to the two committees whom that very speech
accused. Still no applause from the conspirators; they sat
torpid as frozen men. The shrinking Barrere, ever on the prudent
side, looked round before he rose. He rises, and sides with
Lecointre! Then Couthon seized the occasion, and from his seat
(a privilege permitted only to the paralytic philanthropist) (M.
Thiers in his History, volume iv. page 79, makes a curious
blunder: he says, "Couthon s'elance a la tribune.' (Couthon
darted towards the tribune.) Poor Couthon! whose half body was
dead, and who was always wheeled in his chair into the
Convention, and spoke sitting.), and with his melodious voice
sought to convert the crisis into a triumph.
He demanded, not only that the harangue should be printed, but
sent to all the communes and all the armies. It was necessary to
soothe a wronged and ulcerated heart. Deputies, the most
faithful, had been accused of shedding blood. "Ah! if HE had
contributed to the death of one innocent man, he should immolate
himself with grief." Beautiful tenderness!--and while he spoke,
he fondled the spaniel in his bosom. Bravo, Couthon!
Robespierre triumphs! The reign of Terror shall endure! The old
submission settles dovelike back in the assembly! They vote the
printing of the Death-speech, and its transmission to all the
municipalities. From the benches of the Mountain, Tallien,
alarmed, dismayed, impatient, and indignant, cast his gaze where
sat the strangers admitted to hear the debates; and suddenly he
met the eyes of the Unknown who had brought to him the letter
from Teresa de Fontenai the preceding day. The eyes fascinated
him as he gazed. In aftertimes he often said that their regard,
fixed, earnest, half-reproachful, and yet cheering and
triumphant, filled him with new life and courage. They spoke to
his heart as the trumpet speaks to the war-horse. He moved from
his seat; he whispered with his allies: the spirit he had drawn
in was contagious; the men whom Robespierre especially had
denounced, and who saw the sword over their heads, woke from
their torpid trance. Vadier, Cambon, Billaud-Varennes, Panis,
Amar, rose at once,--all at once demanded speech. Vadier is
first heard, the rest succeed. It burst forth, the Mountain,
with its fires and consuming lava; flood upon flood they rush, a
legion of Ciceros upon the startled Catiline! Robespierre
falters, hesitates,--would qualify, retract. They gather new
courage from his new fears; they interrupt him; they drown his
voice; they demand the reversal of the motion. Amar moves again
that the speech be referred to the Committees, to the
Committees,--to his enemies! Confusion and noise and clamour!
Robespierre wraps himself in silent and superb disdain. Pale,
defeated, but not yet destroyed, he stands,--a storm in the midst
The motion is carried. All men foresee in that defeat the
Dictator's downfall. A solitary cry rose from the galleries; it
was caught up; it circled through the hall, the audience: "A bas
le tyrant! Vive la republique!" (Down with the tyrant! Hurrah
for the republic!)
Aupres d'un corps aussi avili que la Convention, il restait des
chances pour que Robespierre sortit vainqueur de cette lutte.
Lacretelle, volume xii.
(Amongst a body so debased as the Convention, there still
remained some chances that Robespierre would come off victor in
As Robespierre left the hall, there was a dead and ominous
silence in the crowd without. The herd, in every country, side
with success; and the rats run from the falling tower. But
Robespierre, who wanted courage, never wanted pride, and the last
often supplied the place of the first; thoughtfully, and with an
impenetrable brow, he passed through the throng, leaning on St.
Just, Payan and his brother following him.
As they got into the open space, Robespierre abruptly broke the
"How many heads were to fall upon the tenth?"
"Eighty," replied Payan.
"Ah, we must not tarry so long; a day may lose an empire:
terrorism must serve us yet!"
He was silent a few moments, and his eyes roved suspiciously
through the street.
"St. Just," he said abruptly, "they have not found this
Englishman whose revelations, or whose trial, would have crushed
the Amars and the Talliens. No, no! my Jacobins themselves are
growing dull and blind. But they have seized a woman,--only a
"A woman's hand stabbed Marat," said St. Just. Robespierre
stopped short, and breathed hard.
"St. Just," said he, "when this peril is past, we will found the
Reign of Peace. There shall be homes and gardens set apart for
the old. David is already designing the porticos. Virtuous men
shall be appointed to instruct the young. All vice and disorder
shall be NOT exterminated--no, no! only banished! We must not
die yet. Posterity cannot judge us till our work is done. We
have recalled L'Etre Supreme; we must now remodel this corrupted
world. All shall be love and brotherhood; and--ho! Simon!
Simon!--hold! Your pencil, St. Just!" And Robespierre wrote
hastily. "This to Citizen President Dumas. Go with it quick,
Simon. These eighty heads must fall TO-MORROW,--TO-MORROW,
Simon. Dumas will advance their trial a day. I will write to
Fouquier-Tinville, the public accuser. We meet at the Jacobins
to-night, Simon; there we will denounce the Convention itself;
there we will rally round us the last friends of liberty and
A shout was heard in the distance behind, "Vive la republique!"
The tyrant's eye shot a vindictive gleam. "The republic!--faugh!
We did not destroy the throne of a thousand years for that
THE TRIAL, THE EXECUTION, OF THE VICTIMS IS ADVANCED A DAY! By
the aid of the mysterious intelligence that had guided and
animated him hitherto, Zanoni learned that his arts had been in
vain. He knew that Viola was safe, if she could but survive an
hour the life of the tyrant. He knew that Robespierre's hours
were numbered; that the 10th of Thermidor, on which he had
originally designed the execution of his last victims, would see
himself at the scaffold. Zanoni had toiled, had schemed for the
fall of the Butcher and his reign. To what end? A single word
from the tyrant had baffled the result of all. The execution of
Viola is advanced a day. Vain seer, who wouldst make thyself the
instrument of the Eternal, the very dangers that now beset the
tyrant but expedite the doom of his victims! To-morrow, eighty
heads, and hers whose pillow has been thy heart! To-morrow! and
Maximilien is safe to-night!
Erde mag zuruck in Erde stauben;
Fliegt der Geist doch aus dem morschen Haus.
Seine Asche mag der Sturmwind treiben,
Sein Leben dauert ewig aus!
(Earth may crumble back into earth; the Spirit will still escape
from its frail tenement. The wind of the storm may scatter his
ashes; his being endures forever.)
To-morrow!--and it is already twilight. One after one, the
gentle stars come smiling through the heaven. The Seine, in its
slow waters, yet trembles with the last kiss of the rosy day; and
still in the blue sky gleams the spire of Notre Dame; and still
in the blue sky looms the guillotine by the Barriere du Trone.
Turn to that time-worn building, once the church and the convent
of the Freres-Precheurs, known by the then holy name of Jacobins;
there the new Jacobins hold their club. There, in that oblong
hall, once the library of the peaceful monks, assemble the
idolaters of St. Robespierre. Two immense tribunes, raised at
either end, contain the lees and dregs of the atrocious
populace,--the majority of that audience consisting of the furies
of the guillotine (furies de guillotine). In the midst of the
hall are the bureau and chair of the president,--the chair long
preserved by the piety of the monks as the relic of St. Thomas
Aquinas! Above this seat scowls the harsh bust of Brutus. An
iron lamp and two branches scatter over the vast room a murky,
fuliginous ray, beneath the light of which the fierce faces of
that Pandemonium seem more grim and haggard. There, from the
orator's tribune, shrieks the shrill wrath of Robespierre!
Meanwhile all is chaos, disorder, half daring and half cowardice,
in the Committee of his foes. Rumours fly from street to street,
from haunt to haunt, from house to house. The swallows flit low,
and the cattle group together before the storm. And above this
roar of the lives and things of the little hour, alone in his
chamber stood he on whose starry youth--symbol of the
imperishable bloom of the calm Ideal amidst the mouldering
Actual--the clouds of ages had rolled in vain.
All those exertions which ordinary wit and courage could suggest
had been tried in vain. All such exertions WERE in vain, where,
in that Saturnalia of death, a life was the object. Nothing but
the fall of Robespierre could have saved his victims; now, too
late, that fall would only serve to avenge.
Once more, in that last agony of excitement and despair, the seer
had plunged into solitude, to invoke again the aid or counsel of
those mysterious intermediates between earth and heaven who had
renounced the intercourse of the spirit when subjected to the
common bondage of the mortal. In the intense desire and anguish
of his heart, perhaps, lay a power not yet called forth; for who
has not felt that the sharpness of extreme grief cuts and grinds
away many of those strongest bonds of infirmity and doubt which
bind down the souls of men to the cabined darkness of the hour;
and that from the cloud and thunderstorm often swoops the
Olympian eagle that can ravish us aloft!
And the invocation was heard,--the bondage of sense was rent away
from the visual mind. He looked, and saw,--no, not the being he
had called, with its limbs of light and unutterably tranquil
smile--not his familiar, Adon-Ai, the Son of Glory and the Star,
but the Evil Omen, the dark Chimera, the implacable Foe, with
exultation and malice burning in its hell-lit eyes. The Spectre,
no longer cowering and retreating into shadow, rose before him,
gigantic and erect; the face, whose veil no mortal hand had ever
raised, was still concealed, but the form was more distinct,
corporeal, and cast from it, as an atmosphere, horror and rage
and awe. As an iceberg, the breath of that presence froze the
air; as a cloud, it filled the chamber and blackened the stars
"Lo!" said its voice, "I am here once more. Thou hast robbed me
of a meaner prey. Now exorcise THYSELF from my power! Thy life
has left thee, to live in the heart of a daughter of the charnel
and the worm. In that life I come to thee with my inexorable
tread. Thou art returned to the Threshold,--thou, whose steps
have trodden the verges of the Infinite! And as the goblin of
its fantasy seizes on a child in the dark,--mighty one, who
wouldst conquer Death,--I seize on thee!"
"Back to thy thraldom, slave! If thou art come to the voice that
called thee not, it is again not to command, but to obey! Thou,
from whose whisper I gained the boons of the lives lovelier and
dearer than my own; thou--I command thee, not by spell and charm,
but by the force of a soul mightier than the malice of thy
being,--thou serve me yet, and speak again the secret that can
rescue the lives thou hast, by permission of the Universal
Master, permitted me to retain awhile in the temple of the clay!"
Brighter and more devouringly burned the glare from those lurid
eyes; more visible and colossal yet rose the dilating shape; a
yet fiercer and more disdainful hate spoke in the voice that
answered, "Didst thou think that my boon would be other than thy
curse? Happy for thee hadst thou mourned over the deaths which
come by the gentle hand of Nature,--hadst thou never known how
the name of mother consecrates the face of Beauty, and never,
bending over thy first-born, felt the imperishable sweetness of a
father's love! They are saved, for what?--the mother, for the
death of violence and shame and blood, for the doomsman's hand to
put aside that shining hair which has entangled thy bridegroom
kisses; the child, first and last of thine offspring, in whom
thou didst hope to found a race that should hear with thee the
music of celestial harps, and float, by the side of thy familiar,
Adon-Ai, through the azure rivers of joy,--the child, to live on
a few days as a fungus in a burial-vault, a thing of the
loathsome dungeon, dying of cruelty and neglect and famine. Ha!
ha! thou who wouldst baffle Death, learn how the deathless die if
they dare to love the mortal. Now, Chaldean, behold my boons!
Now I seize and wrap thee with the pestilence of my presence;
now, evermore, till thy long race is run, mine eyes shall glow
into thy brain, and mine arms shall clasp thee, when thou wouldst
take the wings of the Morning and flee from the embrace of
"I tell thee, no! And again I compel thee, speak and answer to
the lord who can command his slave. I know, though my lore fails
me, and the reeds on which I leaned pierce my side,--I know yet
that it is written that the life of which I question can be saved
from the headsman. Thou wrappest her future in the darkness of
thy shadow, but thou canst not shape it. Thou mayest foreshow
the antidote; thou canst not effect the bane. From thee I wring
the secret, though it torture thee to name it. I approach thee,
--I look dauntless into thine eyes. The soul that loves can dare
all things. Shadow, I defy thee, and compel!"
The spectre waned and recoiled. Like a vapour that lessens as
the sun pierces and pervades it, the form shrank cowering and
dwarfed in the dimmer distance, and through the casement again
rushed the stars.
"Yes," said the Voice, with a faint and hollow accent, "thou
CANST save her from the headsman; for it is written, that
sacrifice can save. Ha! ha!" And the shape again suddenly
dilated into the gloom of its giant stature, and its ghastly
laugh exulted, as if the Foe, a moment baffled, had regained its
might. "Ha! ha!--thou canst save her life, if thou wilt
sacrifice thine own! Is it for this thou hast lived on through
crumbling empires and countless generations of thy race? At last
shall Death reclaim thee? Wouldst thou save her?--DIE FOR HER!
Fall, O stately column, over which stars yet unformed may gleam,
--fall, that the herb at thy base may drink a few hours longer
the sunlight and the dews! Silent! Art thou ready for the
sacrifice? See, the moon moves up through heaven. Beautiful and
wise one, wilt thou bid her smile to-morrow on thy headless
"Back! for my soul, in answering thee from depths where thou
canst not hear it, has regained its glory; and I hear the wings
of Adon-Ai gliding musical through the air."
He spoke; and, with a low shriek of baffled rage and hate, the
Thing was gone, and through the room rushed, luminous and sudden,
the Presence of silvery light.
As the heavenly visitor stood in the atmosphere of his own
lustre, and looked upon the face of the Theurgist with an aspect
of ineffable tenderness and love, all space seemed lighted from
his smile. Along the blue air without, from that chamber in
which his wings had halted, to the farthest star in the azure
distance, it seemed as if the track of his flight were visible,
by a lengthened splendour in the air, like the column of
moonlight on the sea. Like the flower that diffuses perfume as
the very breath of its life, so the emanation of that presence
was joy. Over the world, as a million times swifter than light,
than electricity, the Son of Glory had sped his way to the side
of love, his wings had scattered delight as the morning scatters
dew. For that brief moment, Poverty had ceased to mourn, Disease
fled from its prey, and Hope breathed a dream of Heaven into the
darkness of Despair.
"Thou art right," said the melodious Voice. "Thy courage has
restored thy power. Once more, in the haunts of earth, thy soul
charms me to thy side. Wiser now, in the moment when thou
comprehendest Death, than when thy unfettered spirit learned the
solemn mystery of Life; the human affections that thralled and
humbled thee awhile bring to thee, in these last hours of thy
mortality, the sublimest heritage of thy race,--the eternity that
commences from the grave."
"O Adon-Ai," said the Chaldean, as, circumfused in the splendour
of the visitant, a glory more radiant than human beauty settled
round his form, and seemed already to belong to the eternity of
which the Bright One spoke, "as men, before they die, see and
comprehend the enigmas hidden from them before (The greatest
poet, and one of the noblest thinkers, of the last age, said, on
his deathbed, "Many things obscure to me before, now clear up,
and become visible."--See the "Life of Schiller."), so in this
hour, when the sacrifice of self to another brings the course of
ages to its goal, I see the littleness of Life, compared to the
majesty of Death; but oh, Divine Consoler, even here, even in thy
presence, the affections that inspire me, sadden. To leave
behind me in this bad world, unaided, unprotected, those for whom
I die! the wife! the child!--oh, speak comfort to me in this!"
"And what," said the visitor, with a slight accent of reproof in
the tone of celestial pity,--"what, with all thy wisdom and thy
starry secrets, with all thy empire of the past, and thy visions
of the future; what art thou to the All-Directing and Omniscient?
Canst thou yet imagine that thy presence on earth can give to the
hearts thou lovest the shelter which the humblest take from the
wings of the Presence that lives in heaven? Fear not thou for
their future. Whether thou live or die, their future is the care
of the Most High! In the dungeon and on the scaffold looks
everlasting the Eye of HIM, tenderer than thou to love, wiser
than thou to guide, mightier than thou to save!"
Zanoni bowed his head; and when he looked up again, the last
shadow had left his brow. The visitor was gone; but still the
glory of his presence seemed to shine upon the spot, still the
solitary air seemed to murmur with tremulous delight. And thus
ever shall it be with those who have once, detaching themselves
utterly from life, received the visit of the Angel FAITH.
Solitude and space retain the splendour, and it settles like a
halo round their graves.
Dann zur Blumenflor der Sterne
Fass' ihn freundlich Arm in Arm
Trag' ihn in die blaue Ferne.
Uhland, "An den Tod."
Then towards the Garden of the Star
Lift up thine aspect warm with love,
And, friendlike link'd through space afar,
Mount with him, arm in arm, above.
Uhland, "Poem to Death."
He stood upon the lofty balcony that overlooked the quiet city.
Though afar, the fiercest passions of men were at work on the web
of strife and doom, all that gave itself to his view was calm and
still in the rays of the summer moon, for his soul was wrapped
from man and man's narrow sphere, and only the serener glories of
creation were present to the vision of the seer. There he stood,
alone and thoughtful, to take the last farewell of the wondrous
life that he had known.
Coursing through the fields of space, he beheld the gossamer
shapes, whose choral joys his spirit had so often shared. There,
group upon group, they circled in the starry silence multiform in
the unimaginable beauty of a being fed by ambrosial dews and
serenest light. In his trance, all the universe stretched
visible beyond; in the green valleys afar, he saw the dances of
the fairies; in the bowels of the mountains, he beheld the race
that breathe the lurid air of the volcanoes, and hide from the
light of heaven; on every leaf in the numberless forests, in
every drop of the unmeasured seas, he surveyed its separate and
swarming world; far up, in the farthest blue, he saw orb upon orb
ripening into shape, and planets starting from the central fire,
to run their day of ten thousand years. For everywhere in
creation is the breath of the Creator, and in every spot where
the breath breathes is life! And alone, in the distance, the
lonely man beheld his Magian brother. There, at work with his
numbers and his Cabala, amidst the wrecks of Rome, passionless
and calm, sat in his cell the mystic Mejnour,--living on, living
ever while the world lasts, indifferent whether his knowledge
produces weal or woe; a mechanical agent of a more tender and a
wiser will, that guides every spring to its inscrutable designs.
Living on,--living ever,--as science that cares alone for
knowledge, and halts not to consider how knowledge advances
happiness; how Human Improvement, rushing through civilisation,
crushes in its march all who cannot grapple to its wheels ("You
colonise the lands of the savage with the Anglo-Saxon,--you
civilise that portion of THE EARTH; but is the SAVAGE civilised?
He is exterminated! You accumulate machinery,--you increase the
total of wealth; but what becomes of the labour you displace?
One generation is sacrificed to the next. You diffuse
knowledge,--and the world seems to grow brighter; but Discontent
at Poverty replaces Ignorance, happy with its crust. Every
improvement, every advancement in civilisation, injures some, to
benefit others, and either cherishes the want of to-day, or
prepares the revolution of to-morrow."--Stephen Montague.); ever,
with its Cabala and its number, lives on to change, in its
bloodless movements, the face of the habitable world!
And, "Oh, farewell to life!" murmured the glorious dreamer.
"Sweet, O life! hast thou been to me. How fathomless thy joys,--
how rapturously has my soul bounded forth upon the upward paths!
To him who forever renews his youth in the clear fount of Nature,
how exquisite is the mere happiness TO BE! Farewell, ye lamps of
heaven, and ye million tribes, the Populace of Air. Not a mote
in the beam, not an herb on the mountain, not a pebble on the
shore, not a seed far-blown into the wilderness, but contributed
to the lore that sought in all the true principle of life, the
Beautiful, the Joyous, the Immortal. To others, a land, a city,
a hearth, has been a home; MY home has been wherever the
intellect could pierce, or the spirit could breathe the air."
He paused, and through the immeasurable space his eyes and his
heart, penetrating the dismal dungeon, rested on his child. He
saw it slumbering in the arms of the pale mother, and HIS soul
spoke to the sleeping soul. "Forgive me, if my desire was sin; I
dreamed to have reared and nurtured thee to the divinest
destinies my visions could foresee. Betimes, as the mortal part
was strengthened against disease, to have purified the spiritual
from every sin; to have led thee, heaven upon heaven, through the
holy ecstasies which make up the existence of the orders that
dwell on high; to have formed, from thy sublime affections, the
pure and ever-living communication between thy mother and myself.
The dream was but a dream--it is no more! In sight myself of the
grave, I feel, at last, that through the portals of the grave
lies the true initiation into the holy and the wise. Beyond
those portals I await ye both, beloved pilgrims!"
From his numbers and his Cabala, in his cell, amidst the wrecks
of Rome, Mejnour, startled, looked up, and through the spirit,
felt that the spirit of his distant friend addressed him.
"Fare thee well forever upon this earth! Thy last companion
forsakes thy side. Thine age survives the youth of all; and the
Final Day shall find thee still the contemplator of our tombs. I
go with my free will into the land of darkness; but new suns and
systems blaze around us from the grave. I go where the souls of
those for whom I resign the clay shall be my co-mates through
eternal youth. At last I recognise the true ordeal and the real
victory. Mejnour, cast down thy elixir; lay by thy load of
years! Wherever the soul can wander, the Eternal Soul of all
things protects it still!"
Il ne veulent plus perdre un moment d'une nuit si precieuse.
Lacretelle, tom. xii.
(They would not lose another moment of so precious a night.)
It was late that night, and Rene-Francois Dumas, President of the
Revolutionary Tribunal, had re-entered his cabinet, on his return
from the Jacobin Club. With him were two men who might be said
to represent, the one the moral, the other the physical force of
the Reign of Terror: Fouquier-Tinville, the Public Accuser, and
Francois Henriot, the General of the Parisian National Guard.
This formidable triumvirate were assembled to debate on the
proceedings of the next day; and the three sister-witches over
their hellish caldron were scarcely animated by a more fiend-like
spirit, or engaged in more execrable designs, than these three
heroes of the Revolution in their premeditated massacre of the
Dumas was but little altered in appearance since, in the earlier
part of this narrative, he was presented to the reader, except
that his manner was somewhat more short and severe, and his eye
yet more restless. But he seemed almost a superior being by the
side of his associates. Rene Dumas, born of respectable parents,
and well educated, despite his ferocity, was not without a
certain refinement, which perhaps rendered him the more
acceptable to the precise and formal Robespierre. (Dumas was a
beau in his way. His gala-dress was a BLOOD-RED COAT, with the
finest ruffles.) But Henriot had been a lackey, a thief, a spy
of the police; he had drunk the blood of Madame de Lamballe, and
had risen to his present rank for no quality but his ruffianism;
and Fouquier-Tinville, the son of a provincial agriculturist, and
afterwards a clerk at the Bureau of the Police, was little less
base in his manners, and yet more, from a certain loathsome
buffoonery, revolting in his speech,--bull-headed, with black,
sleek hair, with a narrow and livid forehead, with small eyes,
that twinkled with a sinister malice; strongly and coarsely
built, he looked what he was, the audacious bully of a lawless
and relentless Bar.
Dumas trimmed the candles, and bent over the list of the victims
for the morrow.
"It is a long catalogue," said the president; "eighty trials for
one day! And Robespierre's orders to despatch the whole fournee
"Pooh!" said Fouquier, with a coarse, loud laugh; "we must try
them en masse. I know how to deal with our jury. 'Je pense,
citoyens, que vous etes convaincus du crime des accuses?' (I
think, citizens, that you are convinced of the crime of the
accused.) Ha! ha!--the longer the list, the shorter the work."
"Oh, yes," growled out Henriot, with an oath,--as usual, half-
drunk, and lolling on his chair, with his spurred heels on the
table,--"little Tinville is the man for despatch."
"Citizen Henriot," said Dumas, gravely, "permit me to request
thee to select another footstool; and for the rest, let me warn
thee that to-morrow is a critical and important day; one that
will decide the fate of France."
"A fig for little France! Vive le Vertueux Robespierre, la
Colonne de la Republique! (Long life to the virtuous Robespierre,
the pillar of the Republic!) Plague on this talking; it is dry
work. Hast thou no eau de vie in that little cupboard?"
Dumas and Fouquier exchanged looks of disgust. Dumas shrugged
his shoulders, and replied,--
"It is to guard thee against eau de vie, Citizen General Henriot,
that I have requested thee to meet me here. Listen if thou
"Oh, talk away! thy metier is to talk, mine to fight and to
"To-morrow, I tell thee then, the populace will be abroad; all
factions will be astir. It is probable enough that they will
even seek to arrest our tumbrils on their way to the guillotine.
Have thy men armed and ready; keep the streets clear; cut down
without mercy whomsoever may obstruct the ways."
"I understand," said Henriot, striking his sword so loudly that
Dumas half-started at the clank,--"Black Henriot is no
"Look to it, then, citizen,--look to it! And hark thee," he
added, with a grave and sombre brow, "if thou wouldst keep thine
own head on thy shoulders, beware of the eau de vie."
"My own head!--sacre mille tonnerres! Dost thou threaten the
general of the Parisian army?"
Dumas, like Robespierre, a precise atrabilious, and arrogant man,
was about to retort, when the craftier Tinville laid his hand on
his arm, and, turning to the general, said, "My dear Henriot, thy
dauntless republicanism, which is too ready to give offence, must
learn to take a reprimand from the representative of Republican
Law. Seriously, mon cher, thou must be sober for the next three
or four days; after the crisis is over, thou and I will drink a
bottle together. Come, Dumas relax thine austerity, and shake
hands with our friend. No quarrels amongst ourselves!"
Dumas hesitated, and extended his hand, which the ruffian
clasped; and, maudlin tears succeeding his ferocity, he half-
sobbed, half-hiccoughed forth his protestations of civism and his
promises of sobriety.
"Well, we depend on thee, mon general," said Dumas; "and now,
since we shall all have need of vigour for to-morrow, go home and
"Yes, I forgive thee, Dumas,--I forgive thee. I am not
vindictive,--I! but still, if a man threatens me; if a man
insults me--" and, with the quick changes of intoxication, again
his eyes gleamed fire through their foul tears. With some
difficulty Fouquier succeeded at last in soothing the brute, and
leading him from the chamber. But still, as some wild beast
disappointed of a prey, he growled and snarled as his heavy tread
descended the stairs. A tall trooper, mounted, was leading
Henriot's horse to and fro the streets; and as the general waited
at the porch till his attendant turned, a stranger stationed by
the wall accosted him:
"General Henriot, I have desired to speak with thee. Next to
Robespierre, thou art, or shouldst be, the most powerful man in
"Hem!--yes, I ought to be. What then?--every man has not his
"Hist!" said the stranger; "thy pay is scarcely suitable to thy
rank and thy wants."
"That is true."
"Even in a revolution, a man takes care of his fortunes!"
"Diable! speak out, citizen."
"I have a thousand pieces of gold with me,--they are thine, if
thou wilt grant me one small favour."
"Citizen, I grant it!" said Henriot, waving his hand
majestically. "Is it to denounce some rascal who has offended
"No; it is simply this: write these words to President Dumas,
'Admit the bearer to thy presence; and, if thou canst, grant him
the request he will make to thee, it will be an inestimable
obligation to Francois Henriot.'" The stranger, as he spoke,
placed pencil and tablets in the shaking hands of the soldier.
"And where is the gold?"
With some difficulty, Henriot scrawled the words dictated to him,
clutched the gold, mounted his horse, and was gone.
Meanwhile Fouquier, when he had closed the door upon Henriot,
said sharply, "How canst thou be so mad as to incense that
brigand? Knowest thou not that our laws are nothing without the
physical force of the National Guard, and that he is their
"I know this, that Robespierre must have been mad to place that
drunkard at their head; and mark my words, Fouquier, if the
struggle come, it is that man's incapacity and cowardice that
will destroy us. Yes, thou mayst live thyself to accuse thy
beloved Robespierre, and to perish in his fall."
"For all that, we must keep well with Henriot till we can find
the occasion to seize and behead him. To be safe, we must fawn
on those who are still in power; and fawn the more, the more we
would depose them. Do not think this Henriot, when he wakes to-
morrow, will forget thy threats. He is the most revengeful of
human beings. Thou must send and soothe him in the morning!"
"Right," said Dumas, convinced. "I was too hasty; and now I
think we have nothing further to do, since we have arranged to
make short work with our fournee of to-morrow. I see in the list
a knave I have long marked out, though his crime once procured me
a legacy,--Nicot, the Hebertist."
"And young Andre Chenier, the poet? Ah, I forgot; we be headed
HIM to-day! Revolutionary virtue is at its acme. His own
brother abandoned him." (His brother is said, indeed, to have
contributed to the condemnation of this virtuous and illustrious
person. He was heard to cry aloud, "Si mon frere est coupable,
qu'il perisse" (If my brother be culpable, let him die). This
brother, Marie-Joseph, also a poet, and the author of "Charles
IX.," so celebrated in the earlier days of the Revolution,
enjoyed, of course, according to the wonted justice of the world,
a triumphant career, and was proclaimed in the Champ de Mars "le
premier de poetes Francais," a title due to his murdered
"There is a foreigner,--an Italian woman in the list; but I can
find no charge made out against her."
"All the same we must execute her for the sake of the round
number; eighty sounds better than seventy-nine!"
Here a huissier brought a paper on which was written the request
"Ah! this is fortunate," said Tinville, to whom Dumas chucked the
scroll,--"grant the prayer by all means; so at least that it does
not lessen our bead-roll. But I will do Henriot the justice to
say that he never asks to let off, but to put on. Good-night! I
am worn out--my escort waits below. Only on such an occasion
would I venture forth in the streets at night." (During the
latter part of the Reign of Terror, Fouquier rarely stirred out
at night, and never without an escort. In the Reign of Terror
those most terrified were its kings.) And Fouquier, with a long
yawn, quitted the room.
"Admit the bearer!" said Dumas, who, withered and dried, as
lawyers in practice mostly are, seemed to require as little sleep
as his parchments.
The stranger entered.
"Rene-Francois Dumas," said he, seating himself opposite to the
president, and markedly adopting the plural, as if in contempt of
the revolutionary jargon, "amidst the excitement and occupations
of your later life, I know not if you can remember that we have
The judge scanned the features of his visitor, and a pale blush
settled on his sallow cheeks, "Yes, citizen, I remember!"
"And you recall the words I then uttered! You spoke tenderly and
philanthropically of your horror of capital executions; you
exulted in the approaching Revolution as the termination of all
sanguinary punishments; you quoted reverently the saying of
Maximilien Robespierre, the rising statesman, 'The executioner is
the invention of the tyrant:' and I replied, that while you
spoke, a foreboding seized me that we should meet again when your
ideas of death and the philosophy of revolutions might be
changed! Was I right, Citizen Rene-Francois Dumas, President of
the Revolutionary Tribunal?"
"Pooh!" said Dumas, with some confusion on his brazen brow, "I
spoke then as men speak who have not acted. Revolutions are not
made with rose-water! But truce to the gossip of the long-ago.
I remember, also, that thou didst then save the life of my
relation, and it will please thee to learn that his intended
murderer will be guillotined to-morrow."
"That concerns yourself,--your justice or your revenge. Permit
me the egotism to remind you that you then promised that if ever
a day should come when you could serve me, your life--yes, the
phrase was, 'your heart's blood'--was at my bidding. Think not,
austere judge, that I come to ask a boon that can affect
yourself,--I come but to ask a day's respite for another!"
"Citizen, it is impossible! I have the order of Robespierre that
not one less than the total on my list must undergo their trial
for to-morrow. As for the verdict, that rests with the jury!"
"I do not ask you to diminish the catalogue. Listen still! In
your death-roll there is the name of an Italian woman whose
youth, whose beauty, and whose freedom not only from every crime,
but every tangible charge, will excite only compassion, and not
terror. Even YOU would tremble to pronounce her sentence. It
will be dangerous on a day when the populace will be excited,
when your tumbrils may be arrested, to expose youth and innocence
and beauty to the pity and courage of a revolted crowd."
Dumas looked up and shrunk from the eye of the stranger.
"I do not deny, citizen, that there is reason in what thou
urgest. But my orders are positive."
"Positive only as to the number of the victims. I offer you a
substitute for this one. I offer you the head of a man who knows
all of the very conspiracy which now threatens Robespierre and
yourself, and compared with one clew to which, you would think
even eighty ordinary lives a cheap purchase."
"That alters the case," said Dumas, eagerly; "if thou canst do
this, on my own responsibility I will postpone the trial of the
Italian. Now name the proxy!"
"You behold him!"
"Thou!" exclaimed Dumas, while a fear he could not conceal
betrayed itself through his surprise. "Thou!--and thou comest to
me alone at night, to offer thyself to justice. Ha!--this is a
snare. Tremble, fool!--thou art in my power, and I can have
"You can," said the stranger, with a calm smile of disdain; "but
my life is valueless without my revelations. Sit still, I
command you,--hear me!" and the light in those dauntless eyes
spell-bound and awed the judge. "You will remove me to the
Conciergerie,--you will fix my trial, under the name of Zanoni,
amidst your fournee of to-morrow. If I do not satisfy you by my
speech, you hold the woman I die to save as your hostage. It is
but the reprieve for her of a single day that I demand. The day
following the morrow I shall be dust, and you may wreak your
vengeance on the life that remains. Tush! judge and condemner of
thousands, do you hesitate,--do you imagine that the man who
voluntarily offers himself to death will be daunted into uttering
one syllable at your Bar against his will? Have you not had
experience enough of the inflexibility of pride and courage?
President, I place before you the ink and implements! Write to
the jailer a reprieve of one day for the woman whose life can
avail you nothing, and I will bear the order to my own prison:
I, who can now tell this much as an earnest of what I can
communicate,--while I speak, your own name, judge, is in a list
of death. I can tell you by whose hand it is written down; I can
tell you in what quarter to look for danger; I can tell you from
what cloud, in this lurid atmosphere, hangs the storm that shall
burst on Robespierre and his reign!"
Dumas grew pale; and his eyes vainly sought to escape the
magnetic gaze that overpowered and mastered him. Mechanically,
and as if under an agency not his own, he wrote while the
"Well," he said then, forcing a smile to his lips, "I promised I
would serve you; see, I am faithful to my word. I suppose that
you are one of those fools of feeling,--those professors of anti-
revolutionary virtue, of whom I have seen not a few before my
Bar. Faugh! it sickens me to see those who make a merit of
incivism, and perish to save some bad patriot, because it is a
son, or a father, or a wife, or a daughter, who is saved."
"I AM one of those fools of feeling," said the stranger, rising.
"You have divined aright."
"And wilt thou not, in return for my mercy, utter to-night the
revelations thou wouldst proclaim to-morrow? Come; and perhaps
thou too--nay, the woman also--may receive, not reprieve, but
"Before your tribunal, and there alone! Nor will I deceive you,
president. My information may avail you not; and even while I
show the cloud, the bolt may fall."
"Tush! prophet, look to thyself! Go, madman, go. I know too
well the contumacious obstinacy of the class to which I suspect
thou belongest, to waste further words. Diable! but ye grow so
accustomed to look on death, that ye forget the respect ye owe to
it. Since thou offerest me thy head, I accept it. To-morrow
thou mayst repent; it will be too late."
"Ay, too late, president!" echoed the calm visitor.
"But, remember, it is not pardon, it is but a day's reprieve, I
have promised to this woman. According as thou dost satisfy me
to-morrow, she lives or dies. I am frank, citizen; thy ghost
shall not haunt me for want of faith."
"It is but a day that I have asked; the rest I leave to justice
and to Heaven. Your huissiers wait below."
Und den Mordstahl seh' ich blinken;
Und das Morderauge gluhn!
(And I see the steel of Murder glitter,
And the eye of Murder glow.)
Viola was in the prison that opened not but for those already
condemned before adjudged. Since her exile from Zanoni, her very
intellect had seemed paralysed. All that beautiful exuberance of
fancy which, if not the fruit of genius, seemed its blossoms; all
that gush of exquisite thought which Zanoni had justly told her
flowed with mysteries and subtleties ever new to him, the wise
one,--all were gone, annihilated; the blossom withered, the fount
dried up. From something almost above womanhood, she seemed
listlessly to sink into something below childhood. With the
inspirer the inspirations had ceased; and, in deserting love,
genius also was left behind.
She scarcely comprehended why she had been thus torn from her
home and the mechanism of her dull tasks. She scarcely knew what
meant those kindly groups, that, struck with her exceeding
loveliness, had gathered round her in the prison, with mournful
looks, but with words of comfort. She, who had hitherto been
taught to abhor those whom Law condemns for crime, was amazed to
hear that beings thus compassionate and tender, with cloudless
and lofty brows, with gallant and gentle mien, were criminals for
whom Law had no punishment short of death. But they, the
savages, gaunt and menacing, who had dragged her from her home,
who had attempted to snatch from her the infant while she clasped
it in her arms, and laughed fierce scorn at her mute, quivering
lips,--THEY were the chosen citizens, the men of virtue, the
favourites of Power, the ministers of Law! Such thy black
caprices, O thou, the ever-shifting and calumnious,--Human
A squalid, and yet a gay world, did the prison-houses of that day
present. There, as in the sepulchre to which they led, all ranks
were cast with an even-handed scorn. And yet there, the
reverence that comes from great emotions restored Nature's first
and imperishable, and most lovely, and most noble Law,--THE
INEQUALITY BETWEEN MAN AND MAN! There, place was given by the
prisoners, whether royalists or sans-culottes, to Age, to
Learning, to Renown, to Beauty; and Strength, with its own inborn
chivalry, raised into rank the helpless and the weak. The iron
sinews and the Herculean shoulders made way for the woman and the
child; and the graces of Humanity, lost elsewhere, sought their
refuge in the abode of Terror.
"And wherefore, my child, do they bring thee hither?" asked an
old, grey-haired priest.
"I cannot guess."
"Ah, if you know not your offence, fear the worst!"
"And my child?"--for the infant was still suffered to rest upon
"Alas, young mother, they will suffer thy child to live.'
"And for this,--an orphan in the dungeon!" murmured the accusing
heart of Viola,--"have I reserved his offspring! Zanoni, even in
thought, ask not--ask not what I have done with the child I bore
Night came; the crowd rushed to the grate to hear the muster-
roll. (Called, in the mocking jargon of the day, "The Evening
Gazette.") Her name was with the doomed. And the old priest,
better prepared to die, but reserved from the death-list, laid
his hands on her head, and blessed her while he wept. She heard,
and wondered; but she did not weep. With downcast eyes, with
arms folded on her bosom, she bent submissively to the call. But
now another name was uttered; and a man, who had pushed rudely
past her to gaze or to listen, shrieked out a howl of despair and
rage. She turned, and their eyes met. Through the distance of
time she recognised that hideous aspect. Nicot's face settled
back into its devilish sneer. "At least, gentle Neapolitan, the
guillotine will unite us. Oh, we shall sleep well our wedding-
night!" And, with a laugh, he strode away through the crowd, and
vanished into his lair.
She was placed in her gloomy cell, to await the morrow. But the
child was still spared her; and she thought it seemed as if
conscious of the awful present. In their way to the prison it
had not moaned or wept. It had looked with its clear eyes,
unshrinking, on the gleaming pikes and savage brows of the
huissiers. And now, alone in the dungeon, it put its arms round
her neck, and murmured its indistinct sounds, low and sweet as
some unknown language of consolation and of heaven. And of
heaven it was!--for, at the murmur, the terror melted from her
soul; upward, from the dungeon and the death,--upward, where the
happy cherubim chant the mercy of the All-loving, whispered that
cherub's voice. She fell upon her knees and prayed. The
despoilers of all that beautifies and hallows life had desecrated
the altar, and denied the God!--they had removed from the last
hour of their victims the Priest, the Scripture, and the Cross!
But Faith builds in the dungeon and the lazar-house its sublimest
shrines; and up, through roofs of stone, that shut out the eye of
Heaven, ascends the ladder where the angels glide to and fro,--
And there, in the very cell beside her own, the atheist Nicot
sits stolid amidst the darkness, and hugs the thought of Danton,
that death is nothingness. ("Ma demeure sera bientot LE NEANT"
(My abode will soon be nothingness), said Danton before his
judges.)) His, no spectacle of an appalled and perturbed
conscience! Remorse is the echo of a lost virtue, and virtue he
never knew. Had he to live again, he would live the same. But
more terrible than the death-bed of a believing and despairing
sinner that blank gloom of apathy,--that contemplation of the
worm and the rat of the charnel-house; that grim and loathsome
NOTHINGNESS which, for his eye, falls like a pall over the
universe of life. Still, staring into space, gnawing his livid
lip, he looks upon the darkness, convinced that darkness is
forever and forever!
Place, there! place! Room yet in your crowded cells. Another
has come to the slaughter-house.
As the jailer, lamp in hand, ushered in the stranger, the latter
touched him and whispered. The stranger drew a jewel from his
finger. Diantre, how the diamond flashed in the ray of the lamp!
Value each head of your eighty at a thousand francs, and the
jewel is more worth than all! The jailer paused, and the diamond
laughed in his dazzled eyes. O thou Cerberus, thou hast mastered
all else that seems human in that fell employ! Thou hast no
pity, no love, and no remorse. But Avarice survives the rest,
and the foul heart's master-serpent swallows up the tribe. Ha!
ha! crafty stranger, thou hast conquered! They tread the gloomy
corridor; they arrive at the door where the jailer has placed the
fatal mark, now to be erased, for the prisoner within is to be
reprieved a day. The key grates in the lock; the door yawns,--
the stranger takes the lamp and enters.
CHAPTER 7.XVII. The Seventeenth and Last.
Cosi vince Goffredo!
"Ger. Lib." cant. xx.-xliv.
(Thus conquered Godfrey.)
And Viola was in prayer. She heard not the opening of the door;
she saw not the dark shadow that fell along the floor. HIS
power, HIS arts were gone; but the mystery and the spell known to
HER simple heart did not desert her in the hours of trial and
despair. When Science falls as a firework from the sky it would
invade; when Genius withers as a flower in the breath of the icy
charnel,--the hope of a child-like soul wraps the air in light,
and the innocence of unquestioning Belief covers the grave with
In the farthest corner of the cell she knelt; and the infant, as
if to imitate what it could not comprehend, bent its little
limbs, and bowed its smiling face, and knelt with her also, by
He stood and gazed upon them as the light of the lamp fell calmly
on their forms. It fell over those clouds of golden hair,
dishevelled, parted, thrown back from the rapt, candid brow; the
dark eyes raised on high, where, through the human tears, a light
as from above was mirrored; the hands clasped, the lips apart,
the form all animate and holy with the sad serenity of innocence
and the touching humility of woman. And he heard her voice,
though it scarcely left her lips: the low voice that the heart
speaks,--loud enough for God to hear!
"And if never more to see him, O Father! Canst Thou not make the
love that will not die, minister, even beyond the grave, to his
earthly fate? Canst Thou not yet permit it, as a living spirit,
to hover over him,--a spirit fairer than all his science can
conjure? Oh, whatever lot be ordained to either, grant--even
though a thousand ages may roll between us--grant, when at last
purified and regenerate, and fitted for the transport of such
reunion--grant that we may meet once more! And for his child,--
it kneels to Thee from the dungeon floor! To-morrow, and whose
breast shall cradle it; whose hand shall feed; whose lips shall
pray for its weal below and its soul hereafter!" She paused,--
her voice choked with sobs.
"Thou Viola!--thou, thyself. He whom thou hast deserted is here
to preserve the mother to the child!"
She started!--those accents, tremulous as her own! She started
to her feet!--he was there,--in all the pride of his unwaning
youth and superhuman beauty; there, in the house of dread, and in
the hour of travail; there, image and personation of the love
that can pierce the Valley of the Shadow, and can glide, the
unscathed wanderer from the heaven, through the roaring abyss of
With a cry never, perhaps, heard before in that gloomy vault,--a
cry of delight and rapture, she sprang forward, and fell at his
He bent down to raise her; but she slid from his arms. He called
her by the familiar epithets of the old endearment, and she only
answered him by sobs. Wildly, passionately, she kissed his
hands, the hem of his garment, but voice was gone.
"Look up, look up!--I am here,--I am here to save thee! Wilt
thou deny to me thy sweet face? Truant, wouldst thou fly me
"Fly thee!" she said, at last, and in a broken voice; "oh, if my
thoughts wronged thee,--oh, if my dream, that awful dream,
deceived,--kneel down with me, and pray for our child!" Then
springing to her feet with a sudden impulse, she caught up the
infant, and, placing it in his arms, sobbed forth, with
deprecating and humble tones, "Not for my sake,--not for mine,
did I abandon thee, but--"
"Hush!" said Zanoni; "I know all the thoughts that thy confused
and struggling senses can scarcely analyse themselves. And see
how, with a look, thy child answers them!"
And in truth the face of that strange infant seemed radiant with
its silent and unfathomable joy. It seemed as if it recognised
the father; it clung--it forced itself to his breast, and there,
nestling, turned its bright, clear eyes upon Viola, and smiled.
"Pray for my child!" said Zanoni, mournfully. "The thoughts of
souls that would aspire as mine are All PRAYER!" And, seating
himself by her side, he began to reveal to her some of the holier
secrets of his lofty being. He spoke of the sublime and intense
faith from which alone the diviner knowledge can arise,--the
faith which, seeing the immortal everywhere, purifies and exalts
the mortal that beholds, the glorious ambition that dwells not in
the cabals and crimes of earth, but amidst those solemn wonders
that speak not of men, but of God; of that power to abstract the
soul from the clay which gives to the eye of the soul its subtle
vision, and to the soul's wing the unlimited realm; of that pure,
severe, and daring initiation from which the mind emerges, as
from death, into clear perceptions of its kindred with the
Father-Principles of life and light, so that in its own sense of
the Beautiful it finds its joy; in the serenity of its will, its
power; in its sympathy with the youthfulness of the Infinite
Creation, of which itself is an essence and a part, the secrets
that embalm the very clay which they consecrate, and renew the
strength of life with the ambrosia of mysterious and celestial
sleep. And while he spoke, Viola listened, breathless. If she
could not comprehend, she no longer dared to distrust. She felt
that in that enthusiasm, self-deceiving or not, no fiend could
lurk; and by an intuition, rather than an effort of the reason,
she saw before her, like a starry ocean, the depth and mysterious
beauty of the soul which her fears had wronged. Yet, when he
said (concluding his strange confessions) that to this life
WITHIN life and ABOVE life he had dreamed to raise her own, the
fear of humanity crept over her, and he read in her silence how
vain, with all his science, would the dream have been.
But now, as he closed, and, leaning on his breast, she felt the
clasp of his protecting arms,--when, in one holy kiss, the past
was forgiven and the present lost,--then there returned to her
the sweet and warm hopes of the natural life, of the loving
woman. He was come to save her! She asked not how,--she
believed it without a question. They should be at last again
united. They would fly far from those scenes of violence and
blood. Their happy Ionian isle, their fearless solitudes, would
once more receive them. She laughed, with a child's joy, as this
picture rose up amidst the gloom of the dungeon. Her mind,
faithful to its sweet, simple instincts, refused to receive the
lofty images that flitted confusedly by it, and settled back to
its human visions, yet more baseless, of the earthly happiness
and the tranquil home.
"Talk not now to me, beloved,--talk not more now to me of the
past! Thou art here,--thou wilt save me; we shall live yet the
common happy life, that life with thee is happiness and glory
enough to me. Traverse, if thou wilt, in thy pride of soul, the
universe; thy heart again is the universe to mine. I thought but
now that I was prepared to die; I see thee, touch thee, and again
I know how beautiful a thing is life! See through the grate the
stars are fading from the sky; the morrow will soon be here,--The
MORROW which will open the prison doors! Thou sayest thou canst
save me,--I will not doubt it now. Oh, let us dwell no more in
cities! I never doubted thee in our lovely isle; no dreams
haunted me there, except dreams of joy and beauty; and thine eyes
made yet more beautiful and joyous the world in waking. To-
morrow!--why do you not smile? To-morrow, love! is not TO-MORROW
a blessed word! Cruel! you would punish me still, that you will
not share my joy. Aha! see our little one, how it laughs to my
eyes! I will talk to THAT. Child, thy father is come back!"
And taking the infant in her arms, and seating herself at a
little distance, she rocked it to and fro on her bosom, and
prattled to it, and kissed it between every word, and laughed and
wept by fits, as ever and anon she cast over her shoulder her
playful, mirthful glance upon the father to whom those fading
stars smiled sadly their last farewell. How beautiful she seemed
as she thus sat, unconscious of the future! Still half a child
herself, her child laughing to her laughter,--two soft triflers
on the brink of the grave! Over her throat, as she bent, fell,
like a golden cloud, her redundant hair; it covered her treasure
like a veil of light, and the child's little hands put it aside
from time to time, to smile through the parted tresses, and then
to cover its face and peep and smile again. It were cruel to
damp that joy, more cruel still to share it.
"Viola," said Zanoni, at last, "dost thou remember that, seated
by the cave on the moonlit beach, in our bridal isle, thou once
didst ask me for this amulet?--the charm of a superstition long
vanished from the world, with the creed to which it belonged. It
is the last relic of my native land, and my mother, on her
deathbed, placed it round my neck. I told thee then I would give
it thee on that day WHEN THE LAWS OF OUR BEING SHOULD BECOME THE
"I remember it well."
"To-morrow it shall be thine!"
"Ah, that dear to-morrow!" And, gently laying down her child,--
for it slept now,--she threw herself on his breast, and pointed
to the dawn that began greyly to creep along the skies.
There, in those horror-breathing walls, the day-star looked
through the dismal bars upon those three beings, in whom were
concentrated whatever is most tender in human ties; whatever is
most mysterious in the combinations of the human mind; the
sleeping Innocence; the trustful Affection, that, contented with
a touch, a breath, can foresee no sorrow; the weary Science that,
traversing all the secrets of creation, comes at last to Death
for their solution, and still clings, as it nears the threshold,
to the breast of Love. Thus, within, THE WITHIN,--a dungeon;
without, the WITHOUT,--stately with marts and halls, with palaces
and temples; Revenge and Terror, at their dark schemes and
counter-schemes; to and fro, upon the tide of the shifting
passions, reeled the destinies of men and nations; and hard at
hand that day-star, waning into space, looked with impartial eye
on the church tower and the guillotine. Up springs the
blithesome morn. In yon gardens the birds renew their familiar
song. The fishes are sporting through the freshening waters of
the Seine. The gladness of divine nature, the roar and
dissonance of mortal life, awake again: the trader unbars his
windows; the flower-girls troop gayly to their haunts; busy feet
are tramping to the daily drudgeries that revolutions which
strike down kings and kaisars, leave the same Cain's heritage to
the boor; the wagons groan and reel to the mart; Tyranny, up
betimes, holds its pallid levee; Conspiracy, that hath not slept,
hears the clock, and whispers to its own heart, "The hour draws
near." A group gather, eager-eyed, round the purlieus of the
Convention Hall; to-day decides the sovereignty of France,--about
the courts of the Tribunal their customary hum and stir. No
matter what the hazard of the die, or who the ruler, this day
eighty heads shall fall!
And she slept so sweetly. Wearied out with joy, secure in the
presence of the eyes regained, she had laughed and wept herself
to sleep; and still in that slumber there seemed a happy
consciousness that the loved was by,--the lost was found. For
she smiled and murmured to herself, and breathed his name often,
and stretched out her arms, and sighed if they touched him not.
He gazed upon her as he stood apart,--with what emotions it were
vain to say. She would wake no more to him; she could not know
how dearly the safety of that sleep was purchased. That morrow
she had so yearned for,--it had come at last. HOW WOULD SHE
GREET THE EVE? Amidst all the exquisite hopes with which love
and youth contemplate the future, her eyes had closed. Those
hopes still lent their iris-colours to her dreams. She would
wake to live! To-morrow, and the Reign of Terror was no more;
the prison gates would be opened,--she would go forth, with their
child, into that summer-world of light. And HE?--he turned, and
his eye fell upon the child; it was broad awake, and that clear,
serious, thoughtful look which it mostly wore, watched him with a
solemn steadiness. He bent over and kissed its lips.
"Never more," he murmured, "O heritor of love and grief,--never
more wilt thou see me in thy visions; never more will the light
of those eyes be fed by celestial commune; never more can my soul
guard from thy pillow the trouble and the disease. Not such as I
would have vainly shaped it, must be thy lot. In common with thy
race, it must be thine to suffer, to struggle, and to err. But
mild be thy human trials, and strong be thy spirit to love and to
believe! And thus, as I gaze upon thee,--thus may my nature
breathe into thine its last and most intense desire; may my love
for thy mother pass to thee, and in thy looks may she hear my
spirit comfort and console her. Hark! they come! Yes! I await
ye both beyond the grave!"
The door slowly opened; the jailer appeared, and through the
aperture rushed, at the same instant, a ray of sunlight: it
streamed over the fair, hushed face of the happy sleeper,--it
played like a smile upon the lips of the child that, still, mute,
and steadfast, watched the movements of its father. At that
moment Viola muttered in her sleep, "The day is come,--the gates
are open! Give me thy hand; we will go forth! To sea, to sea!
How the sunshine plays upon the waters!--to home, beloved one, to
"Citizen, thine hour is come!"
"Hist! she sleeps! A moment! There, it is done! thank Heaven!--
and STILL she sleeps!" He would not kiss, lest he should awaken
her, but gently placed round her neck the amulet that would speak
to her, hereafter, the farewell,--and promise, in that farewell,
reunion! He is at the threshold,--he turns again, and again.
The door closes! He is gone forever!
She woke at last,--she gazed round. "Zanoni, it is day!" No
answer but the low wail of her child. Merciful Heaven! was it
then all a dream? She tossed back the long tresses that must
veil her sight; she felt the amulet on her bosom,--it was NO
dream! "O God! and he is gone!" She sprang to the door,-- she
shrieked aloud. The jailer comes. "My husband, my child's
"He is gone before thee, woman!"
"To the guillotine!"--and the black door closed again.
It closed upon the senseless! As a lightning-flash, Zanoni's
words, his sadness, the true meaning of his mystic gift, the very
sacrifice he made for her, all became distinct for a moment to
her mind,--and then darkness swept on it like a storm, yet
darkness which had its light. And while she sat there, mute,
rigid, voiceless, as congealed to stone, A VISION, like a wind,
glided over the deeps within,--the grim court, the judge, the
jury, the accuser; and amidst the victims the one dauntless and
"Thou knowest the danger to the State,--confess!"
"I know; and I keep my promise. Judge, I reveal thy doom! I
know that the Anarchy thou callest a State expires with the
setting of this sun. Hark, to the tramp without; hark to the
roar of voices! Room there, ye dead!--room in hell for
Robespierre and his crew!"
They hurry into the court,--the hasty and pale messengers; there
is confusion and fear and dismay! "Off with the conspirator, and
to-morrow the woman thou wouldst have saved shall die!"
"To-morrow, president, the steel falls on THEE!"
On, through the crowded and roaring streets, on moves the
Procession of Death. Ha, brave people! thou art aroused at last.
They shall not die! Death is dethroned!--Robespierre has
fallen!--they rush to the rescue! Hideous in the tumbril, by the
side of Zanoni, raved and gesticulated that form which, in his
prophetic dreams, he had seen his companion at the place of
death. "Save us!--save us!" howled the atheist Nicot. "On,
brave populace! we SHALL be saved!" And through the crowd, her
dark hair streaming wild, her eyes flashing fire, pressed a
female form, "My Clarence!" she shrieked, in the soft Southern
language native to the ears of Viola; "butcher! what hast thou
done with Clarence?" Her eyes roved over the eager faces of the
prisoners; she saw not the one she sought. "Thank Heaven!--thank
Heaven! I am not thy murderess!"
Nearer and nearer press the populace,--another moment, and the
deathsman is defrauded. O Zanoni! why still upon THY brow the
resignation that speaks no hope? Tramp! tramp! through the
streets dash the armed troop; faithful to his orders, Black
Henriot leads them on. Tramp! tramp! over the craven and
scattered crowd! Here, flying in disorder,--there, trampled in
the mire, the shrieking rescuers! And amidst them, stricken by
the sabres of the guard, her long hair blood-bedabbled, lies the
Italian woman; and still upon her writhing lips sits joy, as they
murmur, "Clarence! I have not destroyed thee!"
On to the Barriere du Trone. It frowns dark in the air,--the
giant instrument of murder! One after one to the glaive,--
another and another and another! Mercy! O mercy! Is the bridge
between the sun and the shades so brief,--brief as a sigh?
There, there,--HIS turn has come. "Die not yet; leave me not
behind; hear me--hear me!" shrieked the inspired sleeper. "What!
and thou smilest still!" They smiled,--those pale lips,--and
WITH the smile, the place of doom, the headsman, the horror
vanished. With that smile, all space seemed suffused in eternal
sunshine. Up from the earth he rose; he hovered over her,--a
thing not of matter, an IDEA of joy and light! Behind, Heaven
opened, deep after deep; and the Hosts of Beauty were seen, rank
upon rank, afar; and "Welcome!" in a myriad melodies, broke from
your choral multitude, ye People of the Skies,--"welcome! O
purified by sacrifice, and immortal only through the grave,--this
it is to die." And radiant amidst the radiant, the IMAGE
stretched forth its arms, and murmured to the sleeper:
"Companion of Eternity!--THIS it is to die!"
"Ho! wherefore do they make us signs from the house-tops?
Wherefore gather the crowds through the street? Why sounds the
bell? Why shrieks the tocsin? Hark to the guns!--the armed
clash! Fellow-captives, is there hope for us at last?"
So gasp out the prisoners, each to each. Day wanes--evening
closes; still they press their white faces to the bars, and still
from window and from house-top they see the smiles of friends,--
the waving signals! "Hurrah!" at last,--"Hurrah! Robespierre is
fallen! The Reign of Terror is no more! God hath permitted us
Yes; cast thine eyes into the hall where the tyrant and his
conclave hearkened to the roar without! Fulfilling the prophecy
of Dumas, Henriot, drunk with blood and alcohol, reels within,
and chucks his gory sabre on the floor. "All is lost!"
"Wretch! thy cowardice hath destroyed us!" yelled the fierce
Coffinhal, as he hurled the coward from the window.
Calm as despair stands the stern St. Just; the palsied Couthon
crawls, grovelling, beneath table; a shot,--an explosion!
Robespierre would destroy himself! The trembling hand has
mangled, and failed to kill! The clock of the Hotel de Ville
strikes the third hour. Through the battered door, along the
gloomy passages, into the Death-hall, burst the crowd. Mangled,
livid, blood-stained, speechless but not unconscious, sits
haughty yet, in his seat erect, the Master-Murderer! Around him
they throng; they hoot,--they execrate, their faces gleaming in
the tossing torches! HE, and not the starry Magian, the REAL
Sorcerer! And round HIS last hours gather the Fiends he raised!
They drag him forth! Open thy gates, inexorable prison! The
Conciergerie receives its prey! Never a word again on earth
spoke Maximilien Robespierre! Pour forth thy thousands, and tens
of thousands, emancipated Paris! To the Place de la Revolution
rolls the tumbril of the King of Terror,--St. Just, Dumas,
Couthon, his companions to the grave! A woman--a childless
woman, with hoary hair--springs to his side, "Thy death makes me
drunk with joy!" He opened his bloodshot eyes,--"Descend to hell
with the curses of wives and mothers!"
The headsmen wrench the rag from the shattered jaw; a shriek, and
the crowd laugh, and the axe descends amidst the shout of the
countless thousands, and blackness rushes on thy soul, Maximilien
Robespierre! So ended the Reign of Terror.
Daylight in the prison. From cell to cell they hurry with the
news,--crowd upon crowd; the joyous captives mingled with the
very jailers, who, for fear, would fain seem joyous too; they
stream through the dens and alleys of the grim house they will
shortly leave. They burst into a cell, forgotten since the
previous morning. They found there a young female, sitting upon
her wretched bed; her arms crossed upon her bosom, her face
raised upward; the eyes unclosed, and a smile of more than
serenity--of bliss--upon her lips. Even in the riot of their
joy, they drew back in astonishment and awe. Never had they seen
life so beautiful; and as they crept nearer, and with noiseless
feet, they saw that the lips breathed not, that the repose was of
marble, that the beauty and the ecstasy were of death. They
gathered round in silence; and lo! at her feet there was a young
infant, who, wakened by their tread, looked at them steadfastly,
and with its rosy fingers played with its dead mother's robe. An
orphan there in a dungeon vault!
"Poor one!" said a female (herself a parent), "and they say the
father fell yesterday; and now the mother! Alone in the world,
what can be its fate?"
The infant smiled fearlessly on the crowd, as the woman spoke
thus. And the old priest, who stood amongst them, said gently,
"Woman, see! the orphan smiles! THE FATHERLESS ARE THE CARE OF
The curiosity which Zanoni has excited among those who think it
worth while to dive into the subtler meanings they believe it
intended to convey, may excuse me in adding a few words, not in
explanation of its mysteries, but upon the principles which
permit them. Zanoni is not, as some have supposed, an allegory;
but beneath the narrative it relates, TYPICAL meanings are
concealed. It is to be regarded in two characters, distinct yet
harmonious,--1st, that of the simple and objective fiction, in
which (once granting the license of the author to select a
subject which is, or appears to be, preternatural) the reader
judges the writer by the usual canons,--namely, by the
consistency of his characters under such admitted circumstances,
the interest of his story, and the coherence of his plot; of the
work regarded in this view, it is not my intention to say
anything, whether in exposition of the design, or in defence of
the execution. No typical meanings (which, in plain terms are
but moral suggestions, more or less numerous, more or less
subtle) can afford just excuse to a writer of fiction, for the
errors he should avoid in the most ordinary novel. We have no
right to expect the most ingenious reader to search for the inner
meaning, if the obvious course of the narrative be tedious and
displeasing. It is, on the contrary, in proportion as we are
satisfied with the objective sense of a work of imagination, that
we are inclined to search into its depths for the more secret
intentions of the author. Were we not so divinely charmed with
"Faust," and "Hamlet," and "Prometheus," so ardently carried on
by the interest of the story told to the common understanding, we
should trouble ourselves little with the types in each which all
of us can detect,--none of us can elucidate; none elucidate, for
the essence of type is mystery. We behold the figure, we cannot
lift the veil. The author himself is not called upon to explain
what he designed. An allegory is a personation of distinct and
definite things,--virtues or qualities,--and the key can be given
easily; but a writer who conveys typical meanings, may express
them in myriads. He cannot disentangle all the hues which
commingle into the light he seeks to cast upon truth; and
therefore the great masters of this enchanted soil,--Fairyland of
Fairyland, Poetry imbedded beneath Poetry,--wisely leave to each
mind to guess at such truths as best please or instruct it. To
have asked Goethe to explain the "Faust" would have entailed as
complex and puzzling an answer as to have asked Mephistopheles to
explain what is beneath the earth we tread on. The stores
beneath may differ for every passenger; each step may require a
new description; and what is treasure to the geologist may be
rubbish to the miner. Six worlds may lie under a sod, but to the
common eye they are but six layers of stone.
Art in itself, if not necessarily typical, is essentially a
suggester of something subtler than that which it embodies to the
sense. What Pliny tells us of a great painter of old, is true of
most great painters; "their works express something beyond the
works,"--"more felt than understood." This belongs to the
concentration of intellect which high art demands, and which, of
all the arts, sculpture best illustrates. Take Thorwaldsen's
Statue of Mercury,--it is but a single figure, yet it tells to
those conversant with mythology a whole legend. The god has
removed the pipe from his lips, because he has already lulled to
sleep the Argus, whom you do not see. He is pressing his heel
against his sword, because the moment is come when he may slay
his victim. Apply the principle of this noble concentration of
art to the moral writer: he, too, gives to your eye but a single
figure; yet each attitude, each expression, may refer to events
and truths you must have the learning to remember, the acuteness
to penetrate, or the imagination to conjecture. But to a
classical judge of sculpture, would not the exquisite pleasure of
discovering the all not told in Thorwaldsen's masterpiece be
destroyed if the artist had engraved in detail his meaning at the
base of the statue? Is it not the same with the typical sense
which the artist in words conveys? The pleasure of divining art
in each is the noble exercise of all by whom art is worthily
We of the humbler race not unreasonably shelter ourselves under
the authority of the masters, on whom the world's judgment is
pronounced; and great names are cited, not with the arrogance of
equals, but with the humility of inferiors.
The author of Zanoni gives, then, no key to mysteries, be they
trivial or important, which may be found in the secret chambers
by those who lift the tapestry from the wall; but out of the many
solutions of the main enigma--if enigma, indeed, there be--which
have been sent to him, he ventures to select the one which he
subjoins, from the ingenuity and thought which it displays, and
from respect for the distinguished writer (one of the most
eminent our time has produced) who deemed him worthy of an honour
he is proud to display. He leaves it to the reader to agree
with, or dissent from the explanation. "A hundred men," says the
old Platonist, "may read the book by the help of the same lamp,
yet all may differ on the text, for the lamp only lights the
characters,--the mind must divine the meaning." The object of a
parable is not that of a problem; it does not seek to convince,
but to suggest. It takes the thought below the surface of the
understanding to the deeper intelligence which the world rarely
tasks. It is not sunlight on the water; it is a hymn chanted to
the nymph who hearkens and awakes below.
MEJNOUR:--Contemplation of the Actual,--SCIENCE. Always old, and
must last as long as the Actual. Less fallible than Idealism,
but less practically potent, from its ignorance of the human
ZANONI:--Contemplation of the Ideal,--IDEALISM. Always
necessarily sympathetic: lives by enjoyment; and is therefore
typified by eternal youth. ("I do not understand the making
Idealism less undying (on this scene of existence) than
Science."--Commentator. Because, granting the above premises,
Idealism is more subjected than Science to the Affections, or to
Instinct, because the Affections, sooner or later, force Idealism
into the Actual, and in the Actual its immortality departs. The
only absolutely Actual portion of the work is found in the
concluding scenes that depict the Reign of Terror. The
introduction of this part was objected to by some as out of
keeping with the fanciful portions that preceded it. But if the
writer of the solution has rightly shown or suggested the
intention of the author, the most strongly and rudely actual
scene of the age in which the story is cast was the necessary and
harmonious completion of the whole. The excesses and crimes of
Humanity are the grave of the Ideal.-- Author.) Idealism is the
potent Interpreter and Prophet of the Real; but its powers are
impaired in proportion to their exposure to human passion.
VIOLA:--Human INSTINCT. (Hardly worthy to be called LOVE, as
Love would not forsake its object at the bidding of
Superstition.) Resorts, first in its aspiration after the Ideal,
to tinsel shows; then relinquishes these for a higher love; but
is still, from the conditions of its nature, inadequate to this,
and liable to suspicion and mistrust. Its greatest force
(Maternal Instinct) has power to penetrate some secrets, to trace
some movements of the Ideal, but, too feeble to command them,
yields to Superstition, sees sin where there is none, while
committing sin, under a false guidance; weakly seeking refuge
amidst the very tumults of the warring passions of the Actual,
while deserting the serene Ideal,--pining, nevertheless, in the
absence of the Ideal, and expiring (not perishing, but becoming
transmuted) in the aspiration after having the laws of the two
(It might best suit popular apprehension to call these three the
Understanding, the Imagination, and the Heart.)
CHILD:--NEW-BORN INSTINCT, while trained and informed by
Idealism, promises a preter-human result by its early,
incommunicable vigilance and intelligence, but is compelled, by
inevitable orphanhood, and the one-half of the laws of its
existence, to lapse into ordinary conditions.
AIDON-AI:--FAITH, which manifests its splendour, and delivers its
oracles, and imparts its marvels, only to the higher moods of the
soul, and whose directed antagonism is with Fear; so that those
who employ the resources of Fear must dispense with those of
Faith. Yet aspiration holds open a way of restoration, and may
summon Faith, even when the cry issues from beneath the yoke of
DWELLER OF THE THRESHOLD:--FEAR (or HORROR), from whose
ghastliness men are protected by the opacity of the region of
Prescription and Custom. The moment this protection is
relinquished, and the human spirit pierces the cloud, and enters
alone on the unexplored regions of Nature, this Natural Horror
haunts it, and is to be successfully encountered only by
defiance,--by aspiration towards, and reliance on, the Former and
Director of Nature, whose Messenger and Instrument of reassurance
NICOT:--Base, grovelling, malignant PASSION.
GLYNDON:--UNSUSTAINED ASPIRATION: Would follow Instinct, but is
deterred by Conventionalism, is overawed by Idealism, yet
attracted, and transiently inspired, but has not steadiness for
the initiatory contemplation of the Actual. He conjoins its
snatched privileges with a besetting sensualism, and suffers at
once from the horror of the one and the disgust of the other,
involving the innocent in the fatal conflict of his spirit. When
on the point of perishing, he is rescued by Idealism, and, unable
to rise to that species of existence, is grateful to be replunged
into the region of the Familiar, and takes up his rest henceforth
in Custom. (Mirror of Young Manhood.)
Human Existence subject to, and exempt from, ordinary conditions
(Sickness, Poverty, Ignorance, Death).
SCIENCE is ever striving to carry the most gifted beyond ordinary
conditions,--the result being as many victims as efforts, and the
striver being finally left a solitary,--for his object is
unsuitable to the natures he has to deal with.
The pursuit of the Ideal involves so much emotion as to render
the Idealist vulnerable by human passion, however long and well
guarded, still vulnerable,--liable, at last, to a union with
Instinct. Passion obscures both Insight and Forecast. All
effort to elevate Instinct to Idealism is abortive, the laws of
their being not coinciding (in the early stage of the existence
of the one). Instinct is either alarmed, and takes refuge in
Superstition or Custom, or is left helpless to human charity, or
given over to providential care.
Idealism, stripped of in sight and forecast, loses its serenity,
becomes subject once more to the horror from which it had
escaped, and by accepting its aids, forfeits the higher help of
Faith; aspiration, however, remaining still possible, and,
thereby, slow restoration; and also, SOMETHING BETTER.
Summoned by aspiration, Faith extorts from Fear itself the saving
truth to which Science continues blind, and which Idealism itself
hails as its crowning acquisition,--the inestimable PROOF wrought
out by all labours and all conflicts.
Pending the elaboration of this proof,
CONVENTIONALISM plods on, safe and complacent;
SELFISH PASSION perishes, grovelling and hopeless;
INSTINCT sleeps, in order to a loftier waking; and
IDEALISM learns, as its ultimate lesson, that self-sacrifice is
true redemption; that the region beyond the grave is the fitting
one for exemption from mortal conditions; and that Death is the
everlasting portal, indicated by the finger of God,--the broad
avenue through which man does not issue solitary and stealthy
into the region of Free Existence, but enters triumphant, hailed
by a hierarchy of immortal natures.
The result is (in other words), THAT THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN LOT IS,
AFTER ALL, THAT OF THE HIGHEST PRIVILEGE.
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