The Loves of the Angels
It happened, after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them elegant and beautiful; and when the Angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them.
The Book of Enoch, chap. vii. sect 8.
This Poem, somewhat different in form, and much more limited in extant, was originally designed as an episode for a work about which I have been, at intervals, employed during the past two years. Some months since, however, I found that my friend Lord Byron had, by an accidental coincidence, chosen the same subject for a drama; and as I could not but feel the disadvantage of coming after so formidable a rival, I thought it best to publish my humble sketch immediately, with such alterations and additions as I had time to make, and thus, by an earlier appearance in the literary horizon, give myself the chance of what astronomers call an Heliacal rising, before the luminary, in whose light I was to be lost, should appear.
As objections may be made, by persons whose opinions I respect, to the selection of a subject of this nature from the Scripture, I think it right to remark that, in point of fact, the subject is not scriptural—the notion upon which it is founded (that of the love of angels for women) having originated in an erroneous translation by the LXX. of that verse in the sixth chapter of Genesis, upon which the sole authority for the fable rests.* The foundation of my story, therefore, has little to do with Holy Writ as have the dreams of the latter Platonists, or the reveries of the Jewish divines; and, in appropriating the notion thus to the uses of poetry, I have done no more than establish it in that region of fiction, to which the opinions of the most rational Fathers, and of all other Christians theologians, have long ago consigned it.
In addition to the fitness of the subject for poetry, it struck me also as capable of affording an allegorical medium, through which might be shadowed out (as I have endeavoured to do in the following stories), the fall of the soul from its original purity—the loss of light and happiness which it suffers, in the pursuit of this world's perishable pleasures—and the punishments, both from conscience and divine justice, with which impurity, pride, and presumptuous inquiry into the awful secrets of God, are sure to be visited. The beautiful story of Cupid and Psyche owes its chief charm to this sort of 'veiled meaning', and it has been my wish (however I may have failed in the attempt) to communicate the same moral interest to the following pages.
* See note at the end.
The Loves of the Angels
'Twas when the world was in its prime,
When the fresh stars had just begun
Their race of glory and young Time
Told his first birth-days by the sun;
When in the light of Nature's dawn
Rejoicing, men and angels met
On the high hill and sunny lawn,—
Ere sorrow came or Sin had drawn
'Twixt man and heaven her curtain yet!
When earth lay nearer to the skies
Than in these days of crime and woe,
And mortals saw without surprise
In the mid-air angelic eyes
Gazing upon this world below.
Alas! that Passion should profane
Even then the morning of the earth!
That, sadder still, the fatal stain
Should fall on hearts of heavenly birth—
And that from Woman's love should fall
So dark a stain, most sad of all!
One evening, in that primal hour,
On a hill's side where hung the ray
Of sunset brightening rill and bower,
Three noble youths conversing lay;
And, as they look'd from time to time
To the far sky where Daylight furled
His radiant wing, their brows sublime
Bespoke them of that distant world—
Spirits who once in brotherhood
Of faith and bliss near ALLA stood,
And o'er whose cheeks full oft had blown
The wind that breathes from ALLA'S throne,
Creatures of light such as still play,
Like motes in sunshine, round the Lord,
And thro' their infinite array
Transmit each moment, night and day,
The echo of His luminous word!
Of Heaven they spoke and, still more oft,
Of the bright eyes that charmed them thence;
Till yielding gradual to the soft
And balmy evening's influence—
The silent breathing of the flowers—
The melting light that beamed above,
As on their first, fond, erring hours,—
Each told the story of his love,
The history of that hour unblest,
When like a bird from its high nest
Won down by fascinating eyes,
For Woman's smile he lost the skies.
The First who spoke was one, with look
The least celestial of the three—
A Spirit of light mould that took
The prints of earth most yieldingly;
Who even in heaven was not of those
Nearest the Throne but held a place
Far off among those shining rows
That circle out thro' endless space,
And o'er whose wings the light from Him
In Heaven's centre falls most dim.
Still fair and glorious, he but shone
Among those youths the unheavenliest one—
A creature to whom light remained
From Eden still, but altered, stained,
And o'er whose brow not Love alone
A blight had in his transit cast,
But other, earthlier joys had gone,
And left their foot-prints as they past.
Sighing, as back thro' ages flown,
Like a tomb-searcher, Memory ran,
Lifting each shroud that Time had thrown
O'er buried hopes, he thus began:—
First Angel's Story
'Twas in a land that far away
Into the golden orient lies,
Where Nature knows not night's delay,
But springs to meet her bridegroom, Day,
Upon the threshold of the skies,
One morn, on earthly mission sent,
And mid-way choosing where to light,
I saw from the blue element—
Oh beautiful, but fatal sight!—
One of earth's fairest womankind,
Half veiled from view, or rather shrined
In the clear crystal of a brook;
Which while it hid no single gleam
Of her young beauties made them look
More spirit-like, as they might seem
Thro' the dim shadowing of a dream.
Pausing in wonder I look'd on,
While playfully around her breaking
The waters that like diamonds shone
She moved in light of her own making.
At length as from that airy height
I gently lowered my breathless flight,
The tremble of my wings all o'er
(For thro' each plume I felt the thrill)
Startled her as she reached the shore
Of that small lake—her mirror still—
Above whose brink she stood, like snow
When rosy with a sunset glow,
Never shall I forget those eyes!—
The shame, the innocent surprise
Of that bright face when in the air
Uplooking she beheld me there.
It seemed as if each thought and look
And motion were that minute chained
Fast to the spot, such root she took,
And—like a sunflower by a brook,
With face upturned—so still remained!
In pity to the wondering maid,
Tho' loath from such a vision turning,
Downward I bent, beneath the shade
Of my spread wings to hide the burning
Of glances, which—I well could feel—
For me, for her, too warmly shone;
But ere I could again unseal
My restless eyes or even steal
One sidelong look the maid was gone—
Hid from me in the forest leaves,
Sudden as when in all her charms
Of full-blown light some cloud receives
The Moon into his dusky arms.
'Tis not in words to tell the power,
The despotism that from that hour
Passion held o'er me. Day and night
I sought around each neighbouring spot;
And in the chase of this sweet light,
My task and heaven and all forgot;—
All but the one, sole, haunting dream
Of her I saw in that bright stream.
Nor was it long ere by her side
I found myself whole happy days
Listening to words whose music vied
With our own Eden's seraph lays,
When seraph lays are warmed by love,
But wanting that far, far above!—
And looking into eyes where, blue
And beautiful, like skies seen thro'
The sleeping wave, for me there shone
A heaven, more worship'd than my own.
Oh what, while I could hear and see
Such words and looks, was heaven to me?
Tho' gross the air on earth I drew,
'Twas blessed, while she breathed it too;
Tho' dark the flowers, tho' dim the sky,
Love lent them light while she was nigh.
Throughout creation I but knew
Two separate worlds—the one, that small,
Beloved and consecrated spot
Where LEA was—the other, all
The dull, wide waste where she was not!
But vain my suit, my madness vain;
Tho' gladly, from her eyes to gain
One earthly look, one stray desire,
I would have torn the wings that hung
Furled at my back and o'er the Fire
In GEHIM'S pit their fragments flung;—
'Twas hopeless all—pure and unmoved
She stood as lilies in the light
Of the hot noon but look more white;—
And tho' she loved me, deeply loved,
'Twas not as man, as mortal—no,
Nothing of earth was in that glow—
She loved me but as one, of race
Angelic, from that radiant place
She saw so oft in dreams—that Heaven
To which her prayers at morn were sent
And on whose light she gazed at even,
Wishing for wings that she might go
Out of this shadowy world below
To that free, glorious element!
Well I remember by her side
Sitting at rosy even-tide,
When,—turning to the star whose head
Look'd out as from a bridal bed,
At that mute, blushing hour,—she said,
"Oh! that it were my doom to be
"The Spirit of yon beauteous star,
"Dwelling up there in purity,
"Alone as all such bright things are;—
"My sole employ to pray and shine,
"To light my censer at the sun,
"And cast its fire towards the shrine
"Of Him in heaven, the Eternal One!"
So innocent the maid, so free
From mortal taint in soul and frame,
Whom 'twas my crime—my destiny—
To love, ay, burn for, with a flame
To which earth's wildest fires are tame.
Had you but seen her look when first
From my mad lips the avowal burst;
Not angered—no!—the feeling came
From depths beyond mere anger's flame—
It was a sorrow calm as deep,
A mournfulness that could not weep,
So filled her heart was to the brink,
So fixt and frozen with grief to think
That angel natures—that even I
Whose love she clung to, as the tie
Between her spirit and the sky—
Should fall thus headlong from the height
Of all that heaven hath pure and bright!
That very night—my heart had grown
Impatient of its inward burning;
The term, too, of my stay was flown,
And the bright Watchers near the throne.
Already, if a meteor shone
Between them and this nether zone,
Thought 'twas their herald's wing returning.
Oft did the potent spell-word, given
To Envoys hither from the skies,
To be pronounced when back to heaven
It is their time or wish to rise,
Come to my lips that fatal day;
And once too was so nearly spoken,
That my spread plumage in the ray
And breeze of heaven began to play;—
When my heart failed—the spell was broken—
The word unfinish'd died away,
And my check'd plumes ready to soar,
Fell slack and lifeless as before.
How could I leave a world which she,
Or lost or won, made all to me?
No matter where my wanderings were,
So there she look'd, breathed, moved about—
Woe, ruin, death, more sweet with her,
Than Paradise itself, without!
But to return—that very day
A feast was held, where, full of mirth,
Came—crowding thick as flowers that play
In summer winds—the young and gay
And beautiful of this bright earth.
And she was there and mid the young
And beautiful stood first, alone;
Tho' on her gentle brow still hung
The shadow I that morn had thrown—
The first that ever shame or woe
Had cast upon its vernal snow.
My heart was maddened;—in the flush
Of the wild revel I gave way
To all that frantic mirth—that rush
Of desperate gayety which they,
Who never felt how pain's excess
Can break out thus, think happiness!
Sad mimicry of mirth and life
Whose flashes come but from the strife
Of inward passions—like the light
Struck out by clashing swords in fight.
Then too that juice of earth, the bane
And blessing of man's heart and brain—
That draught of sorcery which brings
Phantoms of fair, forbidden things—
Whose drops like those of rainbows smile
Upon the mists that circle man,
Brightening not only Earth the while,
But grasping Heaven too in their span!—
Then first the fatal wine-cup rained
Its dews of darkness thro' my lips,
Casting whate'er of light remained
To my lost soul into eclipse;
And filling it with such wild dreams,
Such fantasies and wrong desires,
As in the absence of heaven's beams
Haunt us for ever—like wildfires
That walk this earth when day retires.
Now hear the rest;—our banquet done,
I sought her in the accustomed bower,
Where late we oft, when day was gone
And the world hush'd, had met alone,
At the same silent, moonlight hour.
Her eyes as usual were upturned
To her loved star whose lustre burned
Purer than ever on that night;
While she in looking grew more bright
As tho' she borrowed of its light.
There was a virtue in that scene,
A spell of holiness around,
Which had my burning brain not been
Thus maddened would have held me bound,
As tho' I trod celestial ground.
Even as it was, with soul all flame
And lips that burned in their own sighs,
I stood to gaze with awe and shame—
The memory of Eden came
Full o'er me when I saw those eyes;
And tho' too well each glance of mine
To the pale, shrinking maiden proved
How far, alas! from aught divine,
Aught worthy of so pure a shrine,
Was the wild love with which I loved,
Yet must she, too, have seen—oh yes,
'Tis soothing but to think she saw
The deep, true, soul-felt tenderness,
The homage of an Angel's awe
To her, a mortal, whom pure love
Then placed above him—far above—
And all that struggle to repress
A sinful spirit's mad excess,
Which work'd within me at that hour,
When with a voice where Passion shed
All the deep sadness of her power,
Her melancholy power—I said,
"Then be it so; if back to heaven
"I must unloved, unpitied fly.
"Without one blest memorial given
"To soothe me in that lonely sky;
"One look like those the young and fond
"Give when they're parting—which would be,
"Even in remembrance far beyond
"All heaven hath left of bliss for me!
"Oh, but to see that head recline
"A minute on this trembling arm,
"And those mild eyes look up to mine,
"Without a dread, a thought of harm!
"To meet but once the thrilling touch
"Of lips too purely fond to fear me—
"Or if that boon be all too much,
"Even thus to bring their fragrance near me!
"Nay, shrink not so—a look—a word—
"Give them but kindly and I fly;
"Already, see, my plumes have stirred
"And tremble for their home on high.
"Thus be our parting—cheek to cheek—
"One minute's lapse will be forgiven,
"And thou, the next, shalt hear me speak
"The spell that plumes my wing for heaven!"
While thus I spoke, the fearful maid,
Of me and of herself afraid,
Had shrinking stood like flowers beneath
The scorching of the south-wind's breath:
But when I named—alas, too well,
I now recall, tho' wildered then,—
Instantly, when I named the spell
Her brow, her eyes uprose again;
And with an eagerness that spoke
The sudden light that o'er her broke,
"The spell, the spell!—oh, speak it now.
"And I will bless thee!" she exclaimed—
Unknowing what I did, inflamed,
And lost already, on her brow
I stamp'd one burning kiss, and named
The mystic word till then ne'er told
To living creature of earth's mould!
Scarce was it said when quick a thought,
Her lips from mine like echo caught
The holy sound—her hands and eyes
Were instant lifted to the skies,
And thrice to heaven she spoke it out
With that triumphant look Faith wears,
When not a cloud of fear or doubt,
A vapour from this vale of tears.
Between her and her God appears!
That very moment her whole frame
All bright and glorified became,
And at her back I saw unclose
Two wings magnificent as those
That sparkle around ALLA'S Throne,
Whose plumes, as buoyantly she rose
Above me, in the moon-beam shone
With a pure light; which—from its hue,
Unknown upon this earth—I knew
Was light from Eden, glistening thro'!
Most holy vision! ne'er before
Did aught so radiant—since the day
When EBLIS in his downfall, bore
The third of the bright stars away—
Rise in earth's beauty to repair
That loss of light and glory there!
But did I tamely view her flight?
Did not I too proclaim out thrice
The powerful words that were that night,—
Oh even for heaven too much delight!—
Again to bring us, eyes to eyes
And soul to soul, in Paradise?
I did—I spoke it o'er and o'er—
I prayed, I wept, but all in vain;
For me the spell had power no more.
There seemed around me some dark chain
Which still as I essayed to soar
Baffled, alas, each wild endeavour;
Dead lay my wings as they have lain
Since that sad hour and will remain—
So wills the offended God—for ever!
It was to yonder star I traced
Her journey up the illumined waste—
That isle in the blue firmament
To which so oft her fancy went
In wishes and in dreams before,
And which was now—such, Purity,
Thy blest reward—ordained to be
Her home of light for evermore!
Once—or did I but fancy so?—
Even in her flight to that fair sphere,
Mid all her spirit's new-felt glow,
A pitying look she turned below
On him who stood in darkness here;
Him whom perhaps if vain regret
Can dwell in heaven she pities yet;
And oft when looking to this dim
And distant world remembers him.
But soon that passing dream was gone;
Farther and farther off she shone,
Till lessened to a point as small
As are those specks that yonder burn,—
Those vivid drops of light that fall
The last from Day's exhausted urn.
And when at length she merged, afar,
Into her own immortal star,
And when at length my straining sight
Had caught her wing's last fading ray,
That minute from my soul the light
Of heaven and love both past away;
And I forgot my home, my birth,
Profaned my spirit, sunk my brow,
And revelled in gross joys of earth
Till I became—what I am now!
The Spirit bowed his head in shame;
A shame that of itself would tell—
Were there not even those breaks of flame,
Celestial, thro' his clouded frame—
How grand the height from which he fell!
That holy Shame which ne'er forgets
The unblenched renown it used to wear;
Whose blush remains when Virtue sets
To show her sunshine has been there.
Once only while the tale he told
Were his eyes lifted to behold
That happy stainless, star where she
Dwelt in her bower of purity!
One minute did he look and then—
As tho' he felt some deadly pain
From its sweet light thro' heart and brain—
Shrunk back and never look'd again.
Who was the Second Spirit? he
With the proud front and piercing glance—
Who seemed when viewing heaven's expanse
As tho' his far-sent eye could see
On, on into the Immensity
Behind the veils of that blue sky
Where ALLA'S grandest secrets lie?—
His wings, the while, tho' day was gone,
Flashing with many a various hue
Of light they from themselves alone,
Instinct with Eden's brightness drew.
'Twas RUBI—once among the prime
And flower of those bright creatures, named
Spirits of Knowledge, who o'er Time
And Space and Thought an empire claimed,
Second alone to Him whose light
Was even to theirs as day to night;
'Twixt whom and them was distance far
And wide as would the journey be
To reach from any island star
To vague shores of Infinity
'Twas RUBI in whose mournful eye
Slept the dim light of days gone by;
Whose voice tho' sweet fell on the ear
Like echoes in some silent place
When first awaked for many a year;
And when he smiled, if o'er his face
Smile ever shone, 'twas like the grace
Of moonlight rainbows, fair, but wan,
The sunny life, the glory gone.
Even o'er his pride tho' still the same,
A softening shade from sorrow came;
And tho' at times his spirit knew
The kindlings of disdain and ire,
Short was the fitful glare they threw—
Like the last flashes, fierce but few,
Seen thro' some noble pile on fire!
Such was the Angel who now broke
The silence that had come o'er all,
When he the Spirit that last spoke
Closed the sad history of his fall;
And while a sacred lustre flown
For many a day relumed his cheek—
Beautiful as in days of old;
And not those eloquent lips alone
But every feature seemed to speak—
Thus his eventful story told:—
Second Angel's Story
You both remember well the day
When unto Eden's new-made bowers
ALLA convoked the bright array
Of his supreme angelic powers
To witness the one wonder yet,
Beyond man, angel, star, or sun,
He must achieve, ere he could set
His seal upon the world as done—
To see the last perfection rise,
That crowning of creation's birth,
When mid the worship and surprise
Of circling angels Woman's eyes
First open upon heaven and earth;
And from their lids a thrill was sent,
That thro' each living spirit went
Like first light thro' the firmament!
Can you forget how gradual stole
The fresh-awakened breath of soul
Throughout her perfect form—which seemed
To grow transparent as there beamed
That dawn of Mind within and caught
New loveliness from each new thought?
Slow as o'er summer seas we trace
The progress of the noontide air,
Dimpling its bright and silent face
Each minute into some new grace,
And varying heaven's reflections there—
Or like the light of evening stealing
O'er some fair temple which all day
Hath slept in shadow, slow revealing
Its several beauties ray by ray,
Till it shines out, a thing to bless,
All full of light and loveliness.
Can you forget her blush when round
Thro' Eden's lone, enchanted ground
She look'd, and saw the sea—the skies—
And heard the rush of many a wing,
On high behests then vanishing;
And saw the last few angel eyes,
Still lingering—mine among the rest,—
Reluctant leaving scenes so blest?
From that miraculous hour the fate
Of this new, glorious Being dwelt
For ever with a spell-like weight
Upon my spirit—early, late,
Whate'er I did or dreamed or felt,
The thought of what might yet befall
That matchless creature mix'd with all.—
Nor she alone but her whole race
Thro' ages yet to come—whate'er
Of feminine and fond and fair
Should spring from that pure mind and face,
All waked my soul's intensest care;
Their forms, souls, feelings, still to me
Creation's strangest mystery!
It was my doom—even from the first,
When witnessing the primal burst
Of Nature's wonders, I saw rise
Those bright creations in the skies,—
Those worlds instinct with life and light,
Which Man, remote, but sees by night,—
It was my doom still to be haunted
By some new wonder, some sublime
And matchless work, that for the time
Held all my soul enchained, enchanted,
And left me not a thought, a dream,
A word but on that only theme!
The wish to know—that endless thirst,
Which even by quenching is awaked,
And which becomes or blest or curst
As is the fount whereat 'tis slaked—
Still urged me onward with desire
Insatiate, to explore, inquire—
Whate'er the wondrous things might be
That waked each new idolatry—
Their cause, aim, source, whenever sprung—
Their inmost powers, as tho' for me
Existence on that knowledge hung.
Oh what a vision were the stars
When first I saw them born on high,
Rolling along like living cars
Of light for gods to journey by!
They were like my heart's first passion—days
And nights unwearied, in their rays
Have I hung floating till each sense
Seemed full of their bright influence.
Innocent joy! alas, how much
Of misery had I shunned below,
Could I have still lived blest with such;
Nor, proud and restless, burned to know
The knowledge that brings guilt and woe.
Often—so much I loved to trace
The secrets of this starry race—
Have I at morn and evening run
Along the lines of radiance spun
Like webs between them and the sun,
Untwisting all the tangled ties
Of light into their different dyes—
The fleetly winged I off in quest
Of those, the farthest, loneliest,
That watch like winking sentinels,
The void, beyond which Chaos dwells;
And there with noiseless plume pursued
Their track thro' that grand solitude,
Asking intently all and each
What soul within their radiance dwelt,
And wishing their sweet light were speech,
That they might tell me all they felt.
Nay, oft, so passionate my chase,
Of these resplendent heirs of space,
Oft did I follow—lest a ray
Should 'scape me in the farthest night—
Some pilgrim Comet on his way
To visit distant shrines of light,
And well remember how I sung
Exultingly when on my sight
New worlds of stars all fresh and young
As if just born of darkness sprung!
Such was my pure ambition then,
My sinless transport night and morn
Ere yet this newer world of men,
And that most fair of stars was born
Which I in fatal hour saw rise
Among the flowers of Paradise!
Thenceforth my nature all was changed,
My heart, soul, senses turned below;
And he who but so lately ranged
Yon wonderful expanse where glow
Worlds upon worlds,—yet found his mind
Even in that luminous range confined,—
Now blest the humblest, meanest sod
Of the dark earth where Woman trod!
In vain my former idols glistened
From their far thrones; in vain these ears
To the once-thrilling music listened,
That hymned around my favourite spheres—
To earth, to earth each thought was given,
That in this half-lost soul had birth;
Like some high mount, whose head's in heaven
While its whole shadow rests on earth!
Nor was it Love, even yet, that thralled
My spirit in his burning ties;
And less, still less could it be called
That grosser flame, round which Love flies
Nearer and near till he dies—
No, it was wonder, such as thrilled
At all God's works my dazzled sense;
The same rapt wonder, only filled
With passion, more profound, intense,—
A vehement, but wandering fire,
Which, tho' nor love, nor yet desire,—
Tho' thro' all womankind it took
Its range, its lawless lightnings run,
Yet wanted but a touch, a look,
To fix it burning upon One.
Then too the ever-restless zeal,
The insatiate curiosity,
To know how shapes so fair must feel—
To look but once beneath the seal
Of so much loveliness and see
What souls belonged to such bright eyes—
Whether as sunbeams find their way
Into the gem that hidden lies,
Those looks could inward turn their ray,
And make the soul as bright as they:
All this impelled my anxious chase.
And still the more I saw and knew
Of Woman's fond, weak, conquering race,
The intenser still my wonder grew.
I had beheld their First, their EVE,
Born in that splendid Paradise,
Which sprung there solely to receive
The first light of her waking eyes.
I had seen purest angels lean
In worship o'er her from above;
And man—oh yes, had envying seen
Proud man posses'd of all her love.
I saw their happiness, so brief,
So exquisite,—her error, too,
That easy trust, that prompt belief
In what the warm heart wishes true;
That faith in words, when kindly said.
By which the whole fond sex is led
Mingled with—what I durst not blame,
For 'tis my own—that zeal to know,
Sad, fatal zeal, so sure of woe;
Which, tho' from heaven all pure it came,
Yet stained, misused, brought sin and shame
On her, on me, on all below!
I had seen this; had seen Man, armed
As his soul is with strength and sense,
By her first words to ruin charmed;
His vaunted reason's cold defence,
Like an ice-barrier in the ray
Of melting summer, smiled away.
Nay, stranger yet, spite of all this—
Tho' by her counsels taught to err,
Tho' driven from Paradise for her,
(And with her—that at least was bliss,)
Had I not heard him ere he cros'd
The threshold of that earthly heaven,
Which by her bewildering smile he lost—
So quickly was the wrong forgiven—
Had I not heard him, as he pres'd
The frail, fond trembler to a breast
Which she had doomed to sin and strife,
Call her—even then—his Life! his Life!
Yes, such a love-taught name, the first,
That ruined Man to Woman gave,
Even in his outcast hour, when curst
By her fond witchery, with that worst
And earliest boon of love, the grave!
She who brought death into the world
There stood before him, with the light
Of their lost Paradise still bright
Upon those sunny locks that curled
Down her white shoulders to her feet—
So beautiful in form, so sweet
In heart and voice, as to redeem
The loss, the death of all things dear,
Except herself—and make it seem
Life, endless Life, while she was near!
Could I help wondering at a creature,
Thus circled round with spells so strong—
One to whose every thought, word, feature.
In joy and woe, thro' right and wrong,
Such sweet omnipotence heaven gave,
To bless or ruin, curse or save?
Nor did the marvel cease with her—
New Eves in all her daughters came,
As strong to charm, as weak to err,
As sure of man thro' praise and blame,
Whate'er they brought him, pride or shame,
He still the unreasoning worshipper,
And they, throughout all time, the same
Enchantresses of soul and frame,
Into whose hands, from first to last,
This world with all its destinies,
Devotedly by heaven seems cast,
To save or ruin as they please!
Oh! 'tis not to be told how long,
How restlessly I sighed to find
Some one from out that witching throng,
Some abstract of the form and mind
Of the whole matchless sex, from which,
In my own arms beheld, posses'd,
I might learn all the powers to witch,
To warm, and (if my fate unblest
Would have it) ruin, of the rest!
Into whose inward soul and sense,
I might descend, as doth the bee
Into the flower's deep heart, and thence
Rifle in all its purity
The prime, the quintessence, the whole
Of wondrous Woman's frame and soul!
At length my burning wish, my prayer—
(For such—oh! what will tongues not dare,
When hearts go wrong?—this lip preferred)—
At length my ominous prayer was heard—
But whether heard in heaven or hell,
Listen—and thou wilt know too well.
There was a maid, of all who move
Like visions o'er this orb most fit.
To be a bright young angel's love—
Herself so bright, so exquisite!
The pride too of her step, as light
Along the unconscious earth she went,
Seemed that of one born with a right
To walk some heavenlier element,
And tread in places where her feet
A star at every step should meet.
'Twas not alone that loveliness
By which the wildered sense is caught—
Of lips whose very breath could bless;
Of playful blushes that seemed naught
But luminous escapes of thought;
Of eyes that, when by anger stirred,
Were fire itself, but at a word
Of tenderness, all soft became
As tho' they could, like the sun's bird,
Dissolve away in their own flame—
Of form, as pliant as the shoots
Of a young tree, in vernal flower;
Yet round and glowing as the fruits,
That drop from it in summer's hour;—
'Twas not alone this loveliness
That falls to loveliest women's share,
Tho' even here her form could spare
From its own beauty's rich excess
Enough to make even them more fair—
But 'twas the Mind outshining clear
Thro' her whole frame—the soul, still near,
To light each charm, yet independent
Of what it lighted, as the sun
That shines on flowers would be resplendent
Were there no flowers to shine upon—
'Twas this, all this, in one combined—
The unnumbered looks and arts that form
The glory of young womankind,
Taken, in their perfection, warm,
Ere time had chilled a single charm,
And stamp'd with such a seal of Mind,
As gave to beauties that might be
Too sensual else, too unrefined,
The impress of Divinity!
'Twas this—a union, which the hand
Of Nature kept for her alone,
Of every thing most playful, bland,
Voluptuous, spiritual, grand,
In angel-natures and her own—
Oh! this it was that drew me nigh
One, who seemed kin to heaven as I,
A bright twin-sister from on high—
One in whose love, I felt, were given
The mix'd delights of either sphere,
All that the spirit seeks in heaven,
And all the senses burn for here.
Had we—but hold!—hear every part
Of our sad tale—spite of the pain
Remembrance gives, when the fixt dart
Is stirred thus in the wound again—
Hear every step, so full of bliss,
And yet so ruinous, that led
Down to the last, dark precipice,
Where perish'd both—the fallen, the dead!
From the first hour she caught my sight,
I never left her—day and night
Hovering unseen around her way,
And mid her loneliest musings near,
I soon could track each thought that lay,
Gleaming within her heart, as clear
As pebbles within brooks appear;
And there among the countless things
That keep young hearts for ever glowing—
Vague wishes, fond imaginings,
Love-dreams, as yet no object knowing—
Light, winged hopes that come when bid,
And rainbow joys that end in weeping;
And passions among pure thoughts hid,
Like serpents under flowerets sleeping:—
'Mong all these feelings—felt where'er
Young hearts are beating—I saw there
Proud thoughts, aspirings high—beyond
Whate'er yet dwelt in soul so fond—
Glimpses of glory, far away
Into the bright, vague future given;
And fancies, free and grand, whose play,
Like that of eaglets, is near heaven!
With this, too—what a soul and heart
To fall beneath the tempter's art!—
A zeal for knowledge, such as ne'er
Enshrined itself in form so fair,
Since that first, fatal hour, when Eve,
With every fruit of Eden blest
Save one alone—rather than leave
That one unreached, lost all the rest.
It was in dreams that first I stole
With gentle mastery o'er her mind—
In that rich twilight of the soul,
When reason's beam, half hid behind
The clouds of sleep, obscurely gilds
Each shadowy shape that Fancy builds—
'Twas then by that soft light I brought
Vague, glimmering visions to her view,—
Catches of radiance lost when caught,
Bright labyrinths that led to naught,
And vistas with no pathway thro';—
Dwellings of bliss that opening shone,
Then closed, dissolved, and left no trace—
All that, in short, could tempt Hope on,
But give her wing no resting-place;
Myself the while with brow as yet
Pure as the young moon's coronet,
Thro' every dream still in her sight.
The enchanter of each mocking scene,
Who gave the hope, then brought the blight,
Who said, "Behold yon world of light,"
Then sudden dropt a veil between!
At length when I perceived each thought,
Waking or sleeping, fixt on naught
But these illusive scenes and me—
The phantom who thus came and went,
In half revealments, only meant
To madden curiosity—
When by such various arts I found
Her fancy to its utmost wound.
One night—'twas in a holy spot
Which she for prayer had chosen—a grot
Of purest marble built below
Her garden beds, thro' which a glow
From lamps invisible then stole,
Brightly pervading all the place—
Like that mysterious light the soul,
Itself unseen, sheds thro' the face.
There at her altar while she knelt,
And all that woman ever felt,
When God and man both claimed her sighs—
Every warm thought, that ever dwelt,
Like summer clouds, 'twixt earth and skies,
Too pure to fall, too gross to rise,
Spoke in her gestures, tones, and eyes—
Then, as the mystic light's soft ray
Grew softer still, as tho' its ray
Was breathed from her, I heard her say:—
"O idol of my dreams! whate'er
"Thy nature be—human, divine,
"Or but half heavenly—still too fair,
"Too heavenly to be ever mine!
"Wonderful Spirit who dost make
"Slumber so lovely that it seems
"No longer life to live awake,
"Since heaven itself descends in dreams,
"Why do I ever lose thee? why
"When on thy realms and thee I gaze
"Still drops that veil, which I could die,
"Oh! gladly, but one hour to raise?
"Long ere such miracles as thou
"And thine came o'er my thoughts, a thirst
"For light was in this soul which now
"Thy looks have into passion burst.
"There's nothing bright above, below,
"In sky—earth—ocean, that this breast
"Doth not intensely burn to know,
"And thee, thee, thee, o'er all the rest!
"Then come, oh Spirit, from behind
"The curtains of thy radiant home,
"If thou wouldst be as angel shrined,
"Or loved and clasp'd as mortal, come!
"Bring all thy dazzling wonders here,
"That I may, waking, know and see;
"Or waft me hence to thy own sphere,
"Thy heaven or—ay, even that with thee!
"Demon or God, who hold'st the book
"Of knowledge spread beneath thine eye,
"Give me, with thee, but one bright look
"Into its leaves and let me die!
"By those ethereal wings whose way
"Lies thro' an element so fraught
"With living Mind that as they play
"Their every movement is a thought!
"By that bright, wreathed hair, between
"Whose sunny clusters the sweet wind
"Of Paradise so late hath been
"And left its fragrant soul behind!
"By those impassioned eyes that melt
"Their light into the inmost heart,
"Like sunset in the waters, felt
"As molten fire thro' every part—
"I do implore thee, oh most bright
"And worship'd Spirit, shine but o'er
"My waking, wondering eyes this night
"This one blest night—I ask no more!"
Exhausted, breathless, as she said
These burning words, her languid head
Upon the altar's steps she cast,
As if that brain-throb were its last—
Till, startled by the breathing, nigh,
Of lips that echoed back her sigh,
Sudden her brow again she raised;
And there, just lighted on the shrine,
Beheld me—not as I had blazed
Around her, full of light divine,
In her late dreams, but softened down
Into more mortal grace;—my crown
Of flowers, too radiant for this world,
Left hanging on yon starry steep;
My wings shut up, like banners furled,
When Peace hath put their pomp to sleep;
Or like autumnal clouds that keep
Their lightnings sheathed rather than mar
The dawning hour of some young star;
And nothing left but what beseemed
The accessible, tho' glorious mate
Of mortal woman—whose eyes beamed
Back upon hers, as passionate;
Whose ready heart brought flame for flame,
Whose sin, whose madness was the same;
And whose soul lost in that one hour
For her and for her love—oh more
Of heaven's light than even the power
Of heaven itself could now restore!
And yet, that hour!—
The Spirit here
Stop'd in his utterance as if words
Gave way beneath the wild career
Of his then rushing thoughts—like chords,
Midway in some enthusiast's song,
Breaking beneath a touch too strong;
While the clenched hand upon the brow
Told how remembrance throbbed there now!
But soon 'twas o'er—that casual blaze
From the sunk fire of other days—
That relic of a flame whose burning
Had been too fierce to be relumed,
Soon pass'd away, and the youth turning
To his bright listeners thus resumed:—
Days, months elapsed, and, tho' what most
On earth I sighed for was mine, all—
Yet—was I happy? God, thou know'st,
Howe'er they smile and feign and boast,
What happiness is theirs, who fall!
'Twas bitterest anguish—made more keen
Even by the love, the bliss, between
Whose throbs it came, like gleams of hell
In agonizing cross-light given
Athwart the glimpses, they who dwell
In purgatory catch of heaven!
The only feeling that to me
Seemed joy—or rather my sole rest
From aching misery—was to see
My young, proud, blooming LILIS blest.
She, the fair fountain of all ill
To my lost soul—whom yet its thirst
Fervidly panted after still,
And found the charm fresh as at first—
To see her happy—to reflect
Whatever beams still round me played
Of former pride, of glory wreck'd,
On her, my Moon, whose light I made,
And whose soul worship'd even my shade—
This was, I own, enjoyment—this
My sole, last lingering glimpse of bliss.
And proud she was, fair creature!—proud,
Beyond what even most queenly stirs
In woman's heart, nor would have bowed
That beautiful young brow of hers
To aught beneath the First above,
So high she deemed her Cherub's love!
Then too that passion hourly growing
Stronger and stronger—to which even
Her love at times gave way—of knowing
Everything strange in earth and heaven;
Not only all that, full revealed,
The eternal ALLA loves to show,
But all that He hath wisely sealed
In darkness for man not to know—
Even this desire, alas! ill-starred
And fatal as it was, I sought
To feed each minute, and unbarred
Such realms of wonder on her thought
As ne'er till then had let their light
Escape on any mortal's sight!
In the deep earth—beneath the sea—
Thro' caves of fire—thro' wilds of air—
Wherever sleeping Mystery
Had spread her curtain, we were there—
Love still beside us as we went,
At home in each new element
And sure of worship everywhere!
Then first was Nature taught to lay
The wealth of all her kingdoms down
At woman's worship'd feet and say
"Bright creature, this is all thine own!"
Then first were diamonds from the night,
Of earth's deep centre brought to light
And made to grace the conquering way
Of proud young beauty with their ray.
Then too the pearl from out its shell
Unsightly, in the sunless sea,
(As 'twere a spirit, forced to dwell
In form unlovely) was set free,
And round the neck of woman threw
A light it lent and borrowed too.
For never did this maid—whate'er
The ambition of the hour—forget
Her sex's pride in being fair;
Nor that adornment, tasteful, rare,
Which makes the mighty magnet, set
In Woman's form, more mighty yet.
Nor was there aught within the range
Of my swift wing in sea or air,
Of beautiful or grand or strange,
That, quickly as her wish could change,
I did not seek, with such fond care,
That when I've seen her look above
At some bright star admiringly,
I've said, "Nay, look not there, my love,
"Alas, I cannot give it thee!"
But not alone the wonders found
Thro' Nature's realm—the unveiled, material,
Visible glories, that abound
Thro' all her vast, enchanted ground—
But whatsoe'er unseen, ethereal,
Dwells far away from human sense,
Wrapt in its own intelligence—
The mystery of that Fountainhead,
From which all vital spirit runs,
All breath of Life, where'er 'tis spread
Thro' men or angels, flowers or suns—
The workings of the Almighty Mind,
When first o'er Chaos he designed
The outlines of this world, and thro'
That depth of darkness—like the bow,
Called out of rain-clouds hue by hue
Saw the grand, gradual picture grow;—
The covenant with human kind
By ALLA made—the chains of Fate
He round himself and them hath twined,
Till his high task he consummate;—
Till good from evil, love from hate,
Shall be work'd out thro' sin and pain,
And Fate shall loose her iron chain
And all be free, be bright again!
Such were the deep-drawn mysteries,
And some, even more obscure, profound,
And wildering to the mind than these,
Which—far as woman's thought could sound,
Or a fallen, outlawed spirit reach—
She dared to learn and I to teach.
Till—filled with such unearthly lore,
And mingling the pure light it brings
With much that fancy had before
Shed in false, tinted glimmerings—
The enthusiast girl spoke out, as one
Inspired, among her own dark race,
Who from their ancient shrines would run,
Leaving their holy rites undone,
To gaze upon her holier face.
And tho' but wild the things she spoke,
Yet mid that play of error's smoke
Into fair shapes by fancy curled,
Some gleams of pure religion broke—
Glimpses that have not yet awoke,
But startled the still dreaming world!
Oh! many a truth, remote, sublime,
Which Heaven would from the minds of men
Have kept concealed till its own time,
Stole out in these revealments then—
Revealments dim that have forerun,
By ages, the great, Sealing One!
Like that imperfect dawn or light
Escaping from the Zodiac's signs,
Which makes the doubtful east half bright,
Before the real morning shines!
Thus did some moons of bliss go by—
Of bliss to her who saw but love
And knowledge throughout earth and sky;
To whose enamoured soul and eye
I seemed—as is the sun on high—
The light of all below, above,
The spirit of sea and land and air,
Whose influence, felt everywhere,
Spread from its centre, her own heart,
Even to the world's extremest part;
While thro' that world her rainless mind
Had now careered so fast and far,
That earth itself seemed left behind
And her proud fancy unconfined
Already saw Heaven's gates ajar!
Happy enthusiast! still, oh! still
Spite of my own heart's mortal chill,
Spite of that double-fronted sorrow
Which looks at once before and back,
Beholds the yesterday, the morrow,
And sees both comfortless, both black—
Spite of all this, I could have still
In her delight forgot all ill;
Or if pain would not be forgot,
At least have borne and murmured not.
When thoughts of an offended heaven,
Of sinfulness, which I—even I,
While down its steep most headlong driven—
Well knew could never be forgiven,
Came o'er me with an agony
Beyond all reach of mortal woe—
A torture kept for those who know.
Know every thing, and—worst of all—
Know and love Virtue while they fall!
Even then her presence had the power
To soothe, to warm—nay, even to bless—
If ever bliss could graft its flower
On stem so full of bitterness—
Even then her glorious smile to me
Brought warmth and radiance if not balm;
Like moonlight o'er a troubled sea.
Brightening the storm it cannot calm.
Oft too when that disheartening fear,
Which all who love, beneath yon sky,
Feel when they gaze on what is dear—
The dreadful thought that it must die!
That desolating thought which comes
Into men's happiest hours and homes;
Whose melancholy boding flings
Death's shadow o'er the brightest things,
Sicklies the infant's bloom and spreads
The grave beneath young lovers' heads!
This fear, so sad to all—to me
Most full of sadness from the thought
That I most still live on, when she
Would, like the snow that on the sea
Fell yesterday, in vain be sought;
That heaven to me this final seal
Of all earth's sorrow would deny,
And I eternally must feel
The death-pang without power to die!
Even this, her fond endearments—fond
As ever cherish'd the sweet bond
'Twixt heart and heart—could charm away;
Before her looks no clouds would stay,
Or if they did their gloom was gone,
Their darkness put a glory on!
But 'tis not, 'tis not for the wrong,
The guilty, to be happy long;
And she too now had sunk within
The shadow of her tempter's sin,
Too deep for even Omnipotence
To snatch the fated victim thence!
Listen and if a tear there be
Left in your hearts weep it for me.
'Twas on the evening of a day,
Which we in love had dreamt away;
In that same garden, where—the pride
Of seraph splendour laid aside,
And those wings furled, whose open light
For mortal gaze were else too bright—
I first had stood before her sight,
And found myself—oh, ecstasy,
Which even in pain I ne'er forget—
Worship'd as only God should be,
And loved as never man was yet!
In that same garden where we now,
Thoughtfully side by side reclining,
Her eyes turned upward and her brow
With its own silent fancies shining.
It was an evening bright and still
As ever blush'd on wave or bower,
Smiling from heaven as if naught ill
Could happen in so sweet an hour.
Yet I remember both grew sad
In looking at that light—even she,
Of heart so fresh and brow so glad,
Felt the still hour's solemnity,
And thought she saw in that repose
The death-hour not alone of light,
But of this whole fair world—the close
Of all things beautiful and bright—
The last, grand sunset, in whose ray
Nature herself died calm away!
At length, as tho' some livelier thought
Had suddenly her fancy caught,
She turned upon me her dark eyes,
Dilated into that full shape
They took in joy, reproach, surprise,
As 'twere to let more soul escape,
And, playfully as on my head
Her white hand rested, smiled and said:—
"I had last night a dream of thee,
"Resembling those divine ones, given,
"Like preludes to sweet minstrelsy,
"Before thou camest thyself from heaven.
"The same rich wreath was on thy brow,
"Dazzling as if of starlight made;
"And these wings, lying darkly now,
"Like meteors round thee flash'd and played.
"Thou stoodest, all bright, as in those dreams,
"As if just wafted from above,
"Mingling earth's warmth with heaven's beams,
"And creature to adore and love.
"Sudden I felt thee draw me near
"To thy pure heart, where, fondly placed,
"I seemed within the atmosphere
"Of that exhaling light embraced;
"And felt methought the ethereal flame
"Pass from thy purer soul to mine;
"Till—oh, too blissful—I became,
"Like thee, all spirit, all divine!
"Say, why did dream so blest come o'er me,
"If, now I wake, 'tis faded, gone?
"When will my Cherub shine before me
"Thus radiant, as in heaven he shone?
"When shall I, waking, be allowed
"To gaze upon those perfect charms,
"And clasp thee once without a cloud,
"A chill of earth, within these arms?
"Oh what a pride to say, this, this
"Is my own Angel—all divine,
"And pure and dazzling as he is
"And fresh from heaven—he's mine, he's mine!
"Thinkest thou, were LILIS in thy place,
"A creature of yon lofty skies,
"She would have hid one single grace,
"One glory from her lover's eyes?
"No, no—then, if thou lovest like me,
"Shine out, young Spirit in the blaze
"Of thy most proud divinity,
"Nor think thou'lt wound this mortal gaze.
"Too long and oft I've looked upon
"Those ardent eyes, intense even thus—
"Too near the stars themselves have gone,
"To fear aught grand or luminous.
"Then doubt me not—oh! who can say
"But that this dream may yet come true
"And my blest spirit drink thy ray,
"Till it becomes all heavenly too?
"Let me this once but feel the flame
"Of those spread wings, the very pride
"Will change my nature, and this frame
"By the mere touch be deified!"
Thus spoke the maid, as one not used
To be by earth or heaven refused—
As one who knew her influence o'er
All creatures, whatsoe'er they were,
And tho' to heaven she could not soar,
At least would bring down heaven to her.
Little did she, alas! or I—
Even I, whose soul, but halfway yet
Immerged in sin's obscurity
Was as the earth whereon we lie,
O'er half whose disk the sun is set—
Little did we foresee the fate,
The dreadful—how can it be told?
Such pain, such anguish to relate
Is o'er again to feel, behold!
But, charged as 'tis, my heart must speak
Its sorrow out or it will break!
Some dark misgivings had, I own,
Past for a moment thro' my breast—
Fears of some danger, vague, unknown,
To one, or both—something unblest
To happen from this proud request.
But soon these boding fancies fled;
Nor saw I aught that could forbid
My full revealment save the dread
Of that first dazzle, when, unhid,
Such light should burst upon a lid
Ne'er tried in heaven;—and even this glare
She might, by love's own nursing care,
Be, like young eagles, taught to bear.
For well I knew, the lustre shed
From cherub wings, when proudliest spread,
Was in its nature lambent, pure,
And innocent as is the light
The glow-worm hangs out to allure
Her mate to her green bower at night.
Oft had I in the mid-air swept
Thro' clouds in which the lightning slept,
As in its lair, ready to spring,
Yet waked it not—tho' from my wing
A thousand sparks fell glittering!
Oft too when round me from above
The feathered snow in all its whiteness,
Fell like the moultings of heaven's Dove,—
So harmless, tho' so full of brightness,
Was my brow's wreath that it would shake
From off its flowers each downy flake
As delicate, unmelted, fair,
And cool as they had lighted there.
Nay even with LILIS—had I not
Around her sleep all radiant beamed,
Hung o'er her slumbers nor forgot
To kiss her eyelids as she dreamed?
And yet at morn from that repose,
Had she not waked, unscathed and bright,
As doth the pure, unconscious rose
Tho' by the fire-fly kis'd all night?
Thus having—as, alas! deceived
By my sin's blindness, I believed—
No cause for dread and those dark eyes
Now fixt upon me eagerly
As tho' the unlocking of the skies
Then waited but a sign from me—
How could I pause? how even let fall
A word; a whisper that could stir
In her proud heart a doubt that all
I brought from heaven belonged to her?
Slow from her side I rose, while she
Arose too, mutely, tremblingly,
But not with fear—all hope, and pride,
She waited for the awful boon,
Like priestesses at eventide
Watching the rise of the full moon
Whose light, when once its orb hath shone,
'Twill madden them to look upon!
Of all my glories, the bright crown
Which when I last from heaven came down
Was left behind me in yon star
That shines from out those clouds afar—
Where, relic sad, 'tis treasured yet,
The downfallen angel's coronet!—
Of all my glories, this alone
Was wanting:—but the illumined brow,
The sun-bright locks, the eyes that now
Had love's spell added to their own,
And poured a light till then unknown;—
The unfolded wings that in their play
Shed sparkles bright as ALLA'S throne;
All I could bring of heaven's array,
Of that rich panoply of charms
A Cherub moves in, on the day
Of his best pomp, I now put on;
And, proud that in her eyes I shone
Thus glorious, glided to her arms;
Which still (tho', at a sight so splendid,
Her dazzled brow had instantly
Sunk on her breast), were wide extended
To clasp the form she durst not see!
Great Heaven! how could thy vengeance light
So bitterly on one so bright?
How could the hand that gave such charms,
Blast them again in love's own arms?
Scarce had I touched her shrinking frame,
When—oh most horrible!—I felt
That every spark of that pure flame—
Pure, while among the stars I dwelt—
Was now by my transgression turned
Into gross, earthly fire, which burned,
Burned all it touched as fast as eye
Could follow the fierce, ravening flashes;
Till there—oh God, I still ask why
Such doom was hers?—I saw her lie
Blackening within my arms to ashes!
That brow, a glory but to see—
Those lips whose touch was what the first
Fresh cup of immortality
Is to a new-made angel's thirst!
Those clasping arms, within whose round—
My heart's horizon—the whole bound
Of its hope, prospect, heaven was found!
Which, even in this dread moment, fond
As when they first were round me cast,
Loosed not in death the fatal bond,
But, burning, held me to the last!
All, all, that, but that morn, had seemed
As if Love's self there breathed and beamed,
Now parched and black before me lay,
Withering in agony away;
And mine, oh misery! mine the flame
From which this desolation came;—
I, the curst spirit whose caress
Had blasted all that loveliness!
'Twas maddening!—but now hear even worse—
Had death, death only, been the curse
I brought upon her—had the doom
But ended here, when her young bloom
Lay in the dust—and did the spirit
No part of that fell curse inherit,
'Twere not so dreadful—but, come near—
Too shocking 'tis for earth to hear—
Just when her eyes in fading took
Their last, keen, agonized farewell,
And looked in mine with—oh, that look!
Great vengeful Power, whate'er the hell
Thou mayst to human souls assign,
The memory of that look is mine!—
In her last struggle, on my brow
Her ashy lips a kiss imprest,
So withering!—I feel it now—
'Twas fire—but fire, even more unblest
Than was my own, and like that flame,
The angels shudder but to name,
Hell's everlasting element!
Deep, deep it pierced into my brain,
Maddening and torturing as it went;
And here, mark here, the brand, the stain
It left upon my front—burnt in
By that last kiss of love and sin—
A brand which all the pomp and pride
Of a fallen Spirit cannot hide!
But is it thus, dread Providence—
Can it indeed be thus, that she
Who, (but for one proud, fond offence,)
Had honoured heaven itself, should be
Now doomed—I cannot speak it—no,
Merciful ALLA! 'tis not so—
Never could lips divine have said
The fiat of a fate so dread.
And yet, that look—so deeply fraught
With more than anguish, with despair—
That new, fierce fire, resembling naught
In heaven or earth—this scorch I bear!—
Oh—for the first time that these knees
Have bent before thee since my fall,
Great Power, if ever thy decrees
Thou couldst for prayer like mine recall,
Pardon that spirit, and on me,
On me, who taught her pride to err,
Shed out each drop of agony
Thy burning phial keeps for her!
See too where low beside me kneel
Two other outcasts who, tho' gone
And lost themselves, yet dare to feel
And pray for that poor mortal one.
Alas, too well, too well they know
The pain, the penitence, the woe
That Passion brings upon the best,
The wisest, and the loveliest.—
Oh! who is to be saved, if such
Bright, erring souls are not forgiven;
So loath they wander, and so much
Their very wanderings lean towards heaven!
Again I cry. Just Power, transfer
That creature's sufferings all to me—
Mine, mine the guilt, the torment be,
To save one minute's pain to her,
Let mine last all eternity!
He paused and to the earth bent down
His throbbing head; while they who felt
That agony as 'twere their own,
Those angel youths, beside him knelt,
And in the night's still silence there,
While mournfully each wandering air
Played in those plumes that never more
To their lost home in heaven must soar,
Breathed inwardly the voiceless prayer,
Unheard by all but Mercy's ear—
And which if Mercy did not hear,
Oh, God would not be what this bright
And glorious universe of His,
This world of beauty, goodness, light
And endless love proclaims He is!
Not long they knelt, when from a wood
That crowned that airy solitude,
They heard a low, uncertain sound,
As from a lute, that just had found
Some happy theme and murmured round
The new-born fancy, with fond tone,
Scarce thinking aught so sweet its own!
Till soon a voice, that matched as well
That gentle instrument, as suits
The sea-air to an ocean-shell,
(So kin its spirit to the lute's),
Tremblingly followed the soft strain,
Interpreting its joy, its pain,
And lending the light wings of words
To many a thought that else had lain
Unfledged and mute among the chords.
All started at the sound—but chief
The third young Angel in whose face,
Tho' faded like the others, grief
Had left a gentler, holier trace;
As if, even yet, thro' pain and ill,
Hope had not fled him—as if still
Her precious pearl in sorrow's cup
Unmelted at the bottom lay,
To shine again, when, all drunk up,
The bitterness should pass away.
Chiefly did he, tho' in his eyes
There shone more pleasure than surprise,
Turn to the wood from whence that sound
Of solitary sweetness broke;
Then, listening, look delighted round
To his bright peers, while thus it spoke:—
"Come, pray with me, my seraph love,
"My angel-lord, come pray with me:
"In vain to-night my lips hath strove
"To send one holy prayer above—
"The knee may bend, the lip may move,
"But pray I cannot, without thee!
"I've fed the altar in my bower
"With droppings from the incense tree;
"I've sheltered it from wind and shower,
"But dim it burns the livelong hour,
"As if, like me, it had no power
"Of life or lustre without thee!
"A boat at midnight sent alone
"To drift upon the moonless sea,
"A lute, whose leading chord is gone,
"A wounded bird that hath but one
"Imperfect wing to soar upon,
"Are like what I am without thee!
"Then ne'er, my spirit-love, divide,
"In life or death, thyself from me;
"But when again in sunny pride
"Thou walk'st thro' Eden, let me glide,
"A prostrate shadow, by thy side—
"Oh happier thus than without thee!"
The song had ceased when from the wood
Which sweeping down that airy height,
Reached the lone spot whereon they stood—
There suddenly shone out a light
From a clear lamp, which, as it blazed
Across the brow of one, who raised
Its flame aloft (as if to throw
The light upon that group below),
Displayed two eyes sparkling between
The dusky leaves, such as are seen
By fancy only, in those faces,
That haunt a poet's walk at even,
Looking from out their leafy places
Upon his dreams of love and heaven.
'Twas but a moment—the blush brought
O'er all her features at the thought
Of being seen thus, late, alone,
By any but the eyes she sought,
Had scarcely for an instant shore
Thro' the dark leaves when she was gone—
Gone, like a meteor that o'erhead
Suddenly shines, and, ere we've said,
"Behold, how beautiful!"—'tis fled,
Yet ere she went the words, "I come,
"I come, my NAMA," reached her ear,
In that kind voice, familiar, dear,
Which tells of confidence, of home,—
Of habit, that hath drawn hearts near,
Till they grow one,—of faith sincere,
And all that Love most loves to hear;
A music breathing of the past,
The present and the time to be,
Where Hope and Memory to the last
Lengthen out life's true harmony!
Nor long did he whom call so kind
Summoned away remain behind:
Nor did there need much time to tell
What they—alas! more fallen than he
From happiness and heaven—knew well,
His gentler love's short history!
Thus did it run—not as he told
The tale himself, but as 'tis graved
Upon the tablets that, of old,
By SETH were from the deluge saved,
All written over with sublime
And saddening legends of the unblest
But glorious Spirits of that time,
And this young Angel's 'mong the rest.
Third Angel's Story
Among the Spirits, of pure flame,
That in the eternal heavens abide—
Circles of light that from the same
Unclouded centre sweeping wide,
Carry its beams on every side—
Like spheres of air that waft around
The undulations of rich sound—
Till the far-circling radiance be
Diffused into infinity!
First and immediate near the Throne
Of ALLA, as if most his own,
The Seraphs stand this burning sign
Traced on their banner, "Love Divine!"
Their rank, their honours, far above
Even those to high-browed Cherubs given,
Tho' knowing all;—so much doth Love
Transcend all Knowledge, even in heaven!
'Mong these was ZARAPH once—and none
E'er felt affection's holy fire,
Or yearned towards the Eternal One,
With half such longing, deep desire.
Love was to his impassioned soul
Not as with others a mere part
Of its existence, but the whole—
The very life-breath of his heart!
Oft, when from ALLA'S lifted brow
A lustre came, too bright to bear,
And all the seraph ranks would bow,
To shade their dazzled sight nor dare
To look upon the effulgence there—
This Spirit's eyes would court the blaze
(Such pride he in adoring took),
And rather lose in that one gaze
The power of looking than not look!
Then too when angel voices sung
The mercy of their God and strung
Their harps to hail with welcome sweet
That moment, watched for by all eyes,
When some repentant sinner's feet
First touched the threshold of the skies,
Oh! then how clearly did the voice
Of ZARAPH above all rejoice!
Love was in every buoyant tone—
Such love as only could belong
To the blest angels and alone
Could, even from angels, bring such song!
Alas! that it should e'er have been
In heaven as 'tis too often here,
Where nothing fond or bright is seen,
But it hath pain and peril near;—
Where right and wrong so close resemble,
That what we take for virtue's thrill
Is often the first downward tremble
Of the heart's balance unto ill;
Where Love hath not a shrine so pure,
So holy, but the serpent, Sin,
In moments, even the most secure,
Beneath his altar may glide in!
So was it with that Angel—such
The charm, that sloped his fall along,
From good to ill, from loving much,
Too easy lapse, to loving wrong.—
Even so that amorous Spirit, bound
By beauty's spell where'er 'twas found,
From the bright things above the moon
Down to earth's beaming eyes descended,
Till love for the Creator soon
In passion for the creature ended.
'Twas first at twilight, on the shore
Of the smooth sea, he heard the lute
And voice of her he loved steal o'er
The silver waters that lay mute,
As loath, by even a breath, to stay
The pilgrimage of that sweet lay;
Whose echoes still went on and on,
Till lost among the light that shone
Far off beyond the ocean's brim—
There where the rich cascade of day
Had o'er the horizon's golden rim,
Into Elysium rolled away!
Of God she sung and of the mild
Attendant Mercy that beside
His awful throne for ever smiled,
Ready with her white hand to guide
His bolts of vengeance to their prey—
That she might quench them on the way!
Of Peace—of that Atoning Love,
Upon whose star, shining above
This twilight world of hope and fear,
The weeping eyes of Faith are fixt
So fond that with her every tear
The light of that love-star is mix'd!—
All this she sung, and such a soul
Of piety was in that song
That the charmed Angel as it stole
Tenderly to his ear, along
Those lulling waters where he lay,
Watching the daylight's dying ray,
Thought 'twas a voice from out the wave,
An echo, that some sea-nymph gave
To Eden's distant harmony,
Heard faint and sweet beneath the sea!
Quickly, however, to its source,
Tracking that music's melting course,
He saw upon the golden sands
Of the sea-shore a maiden stand,
Before whose feet the expiring waves
Flung their last offering with a sigh—
As, in the East, exhausted slaves
Lay down the far-brought gift and die—
And while her lute hung by her hushed
As if unequal to the tide
Of song that from her lips still gushed,
She raised, like one beatified,
Those eyes whose light seemed rather given
To be adored than to adore—
Such eyes as may have look'd from heaven
But ne'er were raised to it before!
Oh Love, Religion, Music—all
That's left of Eden upon earth—
The only blessings, since the fall
Of our weak souls, that still recall
A trace of their high, glorious birth—
How kindred are the dreams you bring!
How Love tho' unto earth so prone,
Delights to take Religion's wing,
When time or grief hath stained his own!
How near to Love's beguiling brink
Too oft entranced Religion lies!
While Music, Music is the link
They both still hold by to the skies,
The language of their native sphere
Which they had else forgotten here.
How then could ZARAPH fail to feel
That moment's witcheries?—one, so fair,
Breathing out music, that might steal
Heaven from itself, and rapt in prayer
That seraphs might be proud to share!
Oh, he did feel it, all too well—
With warmth, that far too dearly cost—
Nor knew he, when at last he fell,
To which attraction, to which spell,
Love, Music, or Devotion, most
His soul in that sweet hour was lost.
Sweet was the hour, tho' dearly won,
And pure, as aught of earth could be,
For then first did the glorious sun
Before religion's altar see
Two hearts in wedlock's golden tie
Self-pledged, in love to live and die.
Blest union! by that Angel wove,
And worthy from such hands to come;
Safe, sole, asylum, in which Love,
When fallen or exiled from above,
In this dark world can find a home.
And, tho' the Spirit had transgres'd,
Had, from his station 'mong the blest
Won down by woman's smile, allow'd
Terrestrial passion to breathe o'er
The mirror of his heart, and cloud
God's image there so bright before—
Yet never did that Power look down
On error with a brow so mild;
Never did Justice wear a frown,
Thro' which so gently Mercy smiled.
For humble was their love—with awe
And trembling like some treasure kept,
That was not theirs by holy law—
Whose beauty with remorse they saw
And o'er whose preciousness they wept.
Humility, that low, sweet root,
From which all heavenly virtues shoot,
Was in the hearts of both—but most
In NAMA'S heart, by whom alone
Those charms, for which a heaven was lost.
Seemed all unvalued and unknown;
And when her Seraph's eyes she caught,
And hid hers glowing on his breast,
Even bliss was humbled by the thought—
"What claim have I to be so blest"?
Still less could maid, so meek, have nurs'd
Desire of knowledge—that vain thirst,
With which the sex hath all been curst
From luckless EVE to her who near
The Tabernacle stole to hear
The secrets of the Angels: no—
To love as her own Seraph loved,
With Faith, the same thro' bliss and woe—
Faith that were even its light removed,
Could like the dial fixt remain
And wait till it shone out again;—
With Patience that tho' often bowed
By the rude storm can rise anew;
And Hope that even from Evil's cloud
See sunny Good half breaking thro'!
This deep, relying Love, worth more
In heaven than all a Cherub's lore—
This Faith more sure than aught beside
Was the sole joy, ambition, pride
Of her fond heart—the unreasoning scope
Of all its views, above, below—
So true she felt it that to hope,
To trust, is happier than to know.
And thus in humbleness they trod,
Abash'd but pure before their God;
Nor e'er did earth behold a sight
So meekly beautiful as they,
When with the altar's holy light
Full on their brows they knelt to pray,
Hand within hand and side by side,
Two links of love awhile untied
From the great chain above, but fast
Holding together to the last!—
Two fallen Splendours from that tree
Which buds with such eternally,
Shaken to earth yet keeping all
Their light and freshness in the fall.
Their only punishment, (as wrong,
However sweet, must bear its brand.)
Their only doom was this—that, long
As the green earth and ocean stand,
They both shall wander here—the same,
Throughout all time, in heart and frame—
Still looking to that goal sublime,
Whose light remote but sure they see;
Pilgrims of Love whose way is Time,
Whose home is in Eternity!
Subject the while to all the strife
True Love encounters in this life—
The wishes, hopes, he breathes in vain;
The chill that turns his warmest sighs
To earthly vapour ere they rise;
The doubt he feeds on and the pain
That in his very sweetness lies:—
Still worse, the illusions that betray
His footsteps to their shining brink;
That tempt him on his desert way
Thro' the bleak world, to bend and drink,
Where nothing meets his lips, alas!—
But he again must sighing pass
On to that far-off home of peace,
In which alone his thirst will cease.
All this they bear but not the less
Have moments rich in happiness—
Blest meetings, after many a day
Of widowhood past far away,
When the loved face again is seen
Close, close, with not a tear between—
Confidings frank, without control,
Poured mutually from soul to soul;
As free from any fear or doubt
As is that light from chill or strain
The sun into the stars sheds out
To be by them shed back again!—
That happy minglement of hearts,
Where, changed as chymic compounds are,
Each with its own existence parts
To find a new one, happier far!
Such are their joys—and crowning all
That blessed hope of the bright hour,
When, happy and no more to fall,
Their spirits shall with freshened power
Rise up rewarded for their trust
In Him from whom all goodness springs,
And shaking off earth's soiling dust
From their emancipated wings,
Wander for ever thro' those skies
Of radiance where Love never dies!
In what lone region of the earth,
These Pilgrims now may roam or dwell,
God and the Angels who look forth
To watch their steps, alone can tell.
But should we in our wanderings
Meet a young pair whose beauty wants
But the adornment of bright wings
To look like heaven's inhabitants—
Who shine where'er they tread and yet
Are humble in their earthly lot,
As is the way-side violet,
That shines unseen, and were it not
For its sweet breath would be forgot
Whose hearts in every thought are one,
Whose voices utter the same wills—
Answering, as Echo doth some tone
Of fairy music 'mong the hills,
So like itself we seek in vain
Which is the echo, which the strain—
Whose piety is love — whose love,
Though close as 'twere their souls' embrace,
Is not of earth, but from above—
Like two fair mirrors, face to face,
Whose light, from one to the other thrown,
Is heaven's reflection, not their own—
Should we e'er meet with aught so pure,
So perfect here, we may be sure
There is but one such pair below;
And, as we bless them on their way
Through the world's wilderness, may say,
'There Zeraph and his Nama go.'
The error of these interpreters (and, it is said, of the old Italic version also) was in making it [Greek] 'the Angels of God,' instead of 'the Sons'—a mistake which, assisted by the allegorizing comments of Philo, and the rhapsodical fictions of the Book of Enoch, was more than sufficient to affect the imaginations of such half-Pagan writers as Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, and Lactantius, who, chiefly among the Fathers, have indulged themselves in fanciful reveries upon the subject. The greater number, however, have rejected the fiction with indignation. Chrysostom, in his twenty-second Homily upon Genesis, earnestly exposes its absurdity; and Cyril accounts such a supposition as [Greek] "bordering on folly." According to these Fathers (and their opinion has been followed by all the theologians, down, from St. Thomas to Caryl and Lightfoot) the term "Sons of God," must be understood to mean the descendants of Seth, by Enos—a family peculiarly favoured by heaven, because with them, men first began "to call upon the name of the Lord"—while, by "the daughters of men," they suppose that the corrupt race of Cain is designated. The probability, however, is, that the words in question ought to have been translated "the sons of the nobles or great men," as we find them interpreted in the Targum of Onkelos, (the most ancient and accurate of all the Chaldaic paraphrases,) and, as it appears from Cyril, the version of Symmachus also rendered them. This translation of the passage removes all difficulty, and at once relieves the Sacred History of an extravagance, which, however it may suit the imagination of the poet, is inconsistent with all our notions, both philosophical and religious.