Part 18 out of 33
"When he might build him a proud temple there,
"A name that long shall hallow all its space,
"And be each purer soul's high resting-place.
"But no--it cannot be, that one whom God
"Has sent to break the wizard Falsehood's rod,--
"A Prophet of the Truth, whose mission draws
"Its rights from Heaven, should thus profane its cause
"With the world's vulgar pomps;--no, no,--I see--
"He thinks me weak--this glare of luxury
"Is but to tempt, to try the eaglet gaze
"Of my young soul--shine on, 'twill stand the blaze!"
So thought the youth;--but even while he defied
This witching scene he felt its witchery glide
Thro' every sense. The perfume breathing round,
Like a pervading spirit;--the still sound
Of falling waters, lulling as the song
Of Indian bees at sunset when they throng
Around the fragrant NILICA, and deep
In its blue blossoms hum themselves to sleep;
And music, too--dear music! that can touch
Beyond all else the soul that loves it much--
Now heard far off, so far as but to seem
Like the faint, exquisite music of a dream;
All was too much for him, too full of bliss,
The heart could nothing feel, that felt not this;
Softened he sunk upon a couch and gave
His soul up to sweet thoughts like wave on wave
Succeeding in smooth seas when storms are laid;
He thought of ZELICA, his own dear maid,
And of the time when full of blissful sighs
They sat and lookt into each other's eyes,
Silent and happy--as if God had given
Naught else worth looking at on this side heaven.
"Oh, my loved mistress, thou whose spirit still
"Is with me, round me, wander where I will--
"It is for thee, for thee alone I seek
"The paths of glory; to light up thy cheek
"With warm approval--in that gentle look
"To read my praise as in an angel's book,
"And think all toils rewarded when from thee
"I gain a smile worth immortality!
"How shall I bear the moment, when restored
"To that young heart where I alone am Lord.
"Tho' of such bliss unworthy,--since the best
"Alone deserve to be the happiest:--
"When from those lips unbreathed upon for years
"I shall again kiss off the soul-felt tears,
"And find those tears warm as when last they started,
"Those sacred kisses pure as when we parted.
"O my own life!--why should a single day,
"A moment keep me from those arms away?"
While thus he thinks, still nearer on the breeze
Come those delicious, dream-like harmonies,
Each note of which but adds new, downy links
To the soft chain in which his spirit sinks.
He turns him toward the sound, and far away
Thro' a long vista sparkling with the play
Of countless lamps,--like the rich track which Day
Leaves on the waters, when he sinks from us,
So long the path, its light so tremulous;--
He sees a group of female forms advance,
Some chained together in the mazy dance
By fetters forged in the green sunny bowers,
As they were captives to the King of Flowers;
And some disporting round, unlinkt and free,
Who seemed to mock their sisters' slavery;
And round and round them still in wheeling flight
Went like gay moths about a lamp at night;
While others waked, as gracefully along
Their feet kept time, the very soul of song
From psaltery, pipe, and lutes of heavenly thrill,
Or their own youthful voices heavenlier still.
And now they come, now pass before his eye,
Forms such as Nature moulds when she would vie
With Fancy's pencil and give birth to things
Lovely beyond its fairest picturings.
Awhile they dance before him, then divide,
Breaking like rosy clouds at eventide
Around the rich pavilion of the sun,--
Till silently dispersing, one by one,
Thro' many a path that from the chamber leads
To gardens, terraces and moonlight meads,
Their distant laughter comes upon the wind,
And but one trembling nymph remains behind,--
Beckoning them back in vain--for they are gone
And she is left in all that light alone;
No veil to curtain o'er her beauteous brow,
In its young bashfulness more beauteous now;
But a light golden chain-work round her hair,
Such as the maids of YEZD and SHIRAS wear,
From which on either side gracefully hung
A golden amulet in the Arab tongue,
Engraven o'er with some immortal line
From Holy Writ or bard scarce less divine;
While her left hand, as shrinkingly she stood,
Held a small lute of gold and sandal-wood,
Which once or twice she touched with hurried strain,
Then took her trembling fingers off again.
But when at length a timid glance she stole
At AZIM, the sweet gravity of soul
She saw thro' all his features calmed her fear,
And like a half-tamed antelope more near,
Tho' shrinking still, she came;--then sat her down
Upon a musnud's edge, and, bolder grown.
In the pathetic mode of ISFAHAN
Touched a preluding strain and thus began:--
There's a bower of roses by BENDEMEER's stream,
And the nightingale sings round it all the day long;
In the time of my childhood 'twas like a sweet dream,
To sit in the roses and hear the bird's song.
That bower and its music, I never forget,
But oft when alone in the bloom of the year
I think--is the nightingale singing there yet?
Are the roses still bright by the calm BENDEMEER?
No, the roses soon withered that hung o'er the wave,
But some blossoms were gathered while freshly they shone.
And a dew was distilled from their flowers that gave
All the fragrance of summer when summer was gone.
Thus memory draws from delight ere it dies
An essence that breathes of it many a year;
Thus bright to my soul, as 'twas then to my eyes,
Is that bower on the banks of the calm BENDEMEER!
"Poor maiden!" thought the youth, "if thou wert sent
"With thy soft lute and beauty's blandishment
"To wake unholy wishes in this heart,
"Or tempt its truth, thou little know'st the art.
"For tho' thy lips should sweetly counsel wrong,
"Those vestal eyes would disavow its song.
"But thou hast breathed such purity, thy lay
"Returns so fondly to youth's virtuous day,
"And leads thy soul--if e'er it wandered thence--
"So gently back to its first innocence,
"That I would sooner stop the unchained dove,
"When swift returning to its home of love,
"And round its snowy wing new fetters twine.
"Than turn from virtue one pure wish of thine!"
Scarce had this feeling past, when sparkling thro'
The gently open'd curtains of light blue
That veiled the breezy casement, countless eyes
Peeping like stars thro' the blue evening skies,
Looked laughing in as if to mock the pair
That sat so still and melancholy there:--
And now the curtains fly apart and in
From the cool air mid showers of jessamine
Which those without fling after them in play,
Two lightsome maidens spring,--lightsome as they
Who live in the air on odors,--and around
The bright saloon, scarce conscious of the ground,
Chase one another in a varying dance
Of mirth and languor, coyness and advance,
Too eloquently like love's warm pursuit:--
While she who sung so gently to the lute
Her dream of home steals timidly away,
Shrinking as violets do in summer's ray,--
But takes with her from AZIM'S heart that sigh
We sometimes give to forms that pass us by
In the world's crowd, too lovely to remain,
Creatures of light we never see again!
Around the white necks of the nymphs who danced
Hung carcanets of orient gems that glanced
More brilliant than the sea-glass glittering o'er
The hills of crystal on the Caspian shore;
While from their long, dark tresses, in a fall
Of curls descending, bells as musical
As those that on the golden-shafted trees
Of EDEN shake in the eternal breeze,
Rung round their steps, at every bound more sweet.
As 'twere the ecstatic language of their feet.
At length the chase was o'er, and they stood wreathed
Within each other's arms; while soft there breathed
Thro' the cool casement, mingled with the sighs
Of moonlight flowers, music that seemed to rise
From some still lake, so liquidly it rose;
And as it swelled again at each faint close
The ear could track thro' all that maze of chords
And young sweet voices these impassioned words:--
A SPIRIT there is whose fragrant sigh
Is burning now thro' earth and air;
Where cheeks are blushing the Spirit is nigh,
Where lips are meeting the Spirit is there!
His breath is the soul of flowers like these,
And his floating eyes--oh! they resemble
Blue water-lilies, when the breeze
Is making the stream around them tremble.
Hail to thee, hail to thee, kindling power!
Spirit of Love, Spirit of Bliss!
Thy holiest time is the moonlight hour,
And there never was moonlight so sweet as this.
By the fair and brave
Who blushing unite,
Like the sun and wave,
When they meet at night;
By the tear that shows
When passion is nigh,
As the rain-drop flows
From the heat of the sky;
By the first love-beat
Of the youthful heart,
By the bliss to meet,
And the pain to part;
By all that thou hast
To mortals given,
Which--oh, could it last,
This earth were heaven!
We call thee thither, entrancing Power!
Spirit of Love! Spirit of Bliss!
Thy holiest time is the moonlight hour,
And there never was moonlight so sweet as this.
Impatient of a scene whose luxuries stole,
Spite of himself, too deep into his soul,
And where, midst all that the young heart loves most,
Flowers, music, smiles, to yield was to be lost,
The youth had started up and turned away
From the light nymphs and their luxurious lay
To muse upon the pictures that hung round,--
Bright images, that spoke without a sound,
And views like vistas into fairy ground.
But here again new spells came o'er his sense:--
All that the pencil's mute omnipotence
Could call up into life, of soft and fair,
Of fond and passionate, was glowing there;
Nor yet too warm, but touched with that fine art
Which paints of pleasure but the purer part;
Which knows even Beauty when half-veiled is best,--
Like her own radiant planet of the west,
Whose orb when half retired looks loveliest.
_There_ hung the history of the Genii-King,
Traced thro' each gay, voluptuous wandering
With her from SABA'S bowers, in whose bright eyes
He read that to be blest is to be wise;--
_Here_ fond ZULEIKA woos with open arms
The Hebrew boy who flies from her young charms,
Yet flying turns to gaze and half undone
Wishes that Heaven and she could _both_ be won;
And here MOHAMMED born for love and guile
Forgets the Koran in his MARY'S smile;--
Then beckons some kind angel from above
With a new text to consecrate their love.
With rapid step, yet pleased and lingering eye,
Did the youth pass these pictured stories by,
And hastened to a casement where the light
Of the calm moon came in and freshly bright
The fields without were seen sleeping as still
As if no life remained in breeze or rill.
Here paused he while the music now less near
Breathed with a holier language on his ear,
As tho' the distance and that heavenly ray
Thro' which the sounds came floating took away
All that had been too earthly in the lay.
Oh! could he listen to such sounds unmoved,
And by that light--nor dream of her he loved?
Dream on, unconscious boy! while yet thou may'st;
'Tis the last bliss thy soul shall ever taste.
Clasp yet awhile her image to thy heart,
Ere all the light that made it dear depart.
Think of her smiles as when thou saw'st them last,
Clear, beautiful, by naught of earth o'ercast;
Recall her tears to thee at parting given,
Pure as they weep, _if_ angels weep in Heaven.
Think in her own still bower she waits thee now
With the same glow of heart and bloom of brow,
Yet shrined in solitude--thine all, thine only,
Like the one star above thee, bright and lonely.
Oh! that a dream so sweet, so long enjoyed,
Should be so sadly, cruelly destroyed!
The song is husht, the laughing nymphs are flown,
And he is left musing of bliss alone;--
Alone?--no, not alone--that heavy sigh,
That sob of grief which broke from some one nigh--
Whose could it be?--alas! is misery found
Here, even here, on this enchanted ground?
He turns and sees a female form close veiled,
Leaning, as if both heart and strength had failed,
Against a pillar near;--not glittering o'er
With gems and wreaths such as the others wore,
But in that deep-blue, melancholy dress.
BOKHARA'S maidens wear in mindfulness
Of friends or kindred, dead or far away;--
And such as ZELICA had on that day
He left her--when with heart too full to speak
He took away her last warm tears upon his cheek.
A strange emotion stirs within him,--more
Than mere compassion ever waked before;
Unconsciously he opes his arms while she
Springs forward as with life's last energy,
But, swooning in that one convulsive bound,
Sinks ere she reach his arms upon the ground;--
Her veil falls off--her faint hands clasp his knees--
'Tis she herself!--it is ZELICA he sees!
But, ah, so pale, so changed--none but a lover
Could in that wreck of beauty's shrine discover
The once adorned divinity--even he
Stood for some moments mute, and doubtingly
Put back the ringlets from her brow, and gazed
Upon those lids where once such lustre blazed,
Ere he could think she was _indeed_ his own,
Own darling maid whom he so long had known
In joy and sorrow, beautiful in both;
Who, even when grief was heaviest--when loath
He left her for the wars--in that worst hour
Sat in her sorrow like the sweet night-flower,
When darkness brings its weeping glories out,
And spreads its sighs like frankincense about.
"Look up, my ZELICA--one moment show
"Those gentle eyes to me that I may know
"Thy life, thy loveliness is not all gone,
"But _there_ at least shines as it ever shone.
"Come, look upon thy AZIM--one dear glance,
"Like those of old, were heaven! whatever chance
"Hath brought thee here, oh, 'twas a blessed one!
"There--my loved lips--they move--that kiss hath run
"Like the first shoot of life thro' every vein,
"And now I clasp her, mine, all mine again.
"Oh the delight--now, in this very hour,
"When had the whole rich world been in my power,
"I should have singled out thee only thee,
"From the whole world's collected treasury--
"To have thee here--to hang thus fondly o'er
"My own, best, purest ZELICA once more!"
It was indeed the touch of those fond lips
Upon her eyes that chased their short eclipse.
And gradual as the snow at Heaven's breath
Melts off and shows the azure flowers beneath,
Her lids unclosed and the bright eyes were seen
Gazing on his--not, as they late had been,
Quick, restless, wild, but mournfully serene;
As if to lie even for that tranced minute
So near his heart had consolation in it;
And thus to wake in his beloved caress
Took from her soul one half its wretchedness.
But, when she heard him call her good and pure,
Oh! 'twas too much--too dreadful to endure!
Shuddering she broke away from his embrace.
And hiding with both hands her guilty face
Said in a tone whose anguish would have riven
A heart of very marble, "Pure!--oh Heaven!"--
That tone--those looks so changed--the withering blight,
That sin and sorrow leave where'er they light:
The dead despondency of those sunk eyes,
Where once, had he thus met her by surprise,
He would have seen himself, too happy boy,
Reflected in a thousand lights of joy:
And then the place,--that bright, unholy place,
Where vice lay hid beneath each winning grace
And charm of luxury as the viper weaves
Its wily covering of sweet balsam leaves,--
All struck upon his heart, sudden and cold
As death itself;--it needs not to be told--
No, no--he sees it all plain as the brand
Of burning shame can mark--whate'er the hand,
That could from Heaven and him such brightness sever,
'Tis done--to Heaven and him she's lost for ever!
It was a dreadful moment; not the tears,
The lingering, lasting misery of years
Could match that minute's anguish--all the worst
Of sorrow's elements in that dark burst
Broke o'er his soul and with one crash of fate
Laid the whole hopes of his life desolate.
"Oh! curse me not," she cried, as wild he tost
His desperate hand towards Heav'n--"tho' I am lost,
"Think not that guilt, that falsehood made me fall,
"No, no--'twas grief, 'twas madness did it all!
"Nay, doubt me not--tho' all thy love hath ceased--
"I know it hath--yet, yet believe, at least,
"That every spark of reason's light must be
"Quenched in this brain ere I could stray from thee.
"They told me thou wert dead--why, AZIM, why
"Did we not, both of us, that instant die
"When we were parted? oh! couldst thou but know
"With what a deep devotedness of woe
"I wept thy absence--o'er and o'er again
"Thinking of thee, still thee, till thought grew pain,
"And memory like a drop that night and day
"Falls cold and ceaseless wore my heart away.
"Didst thou but know how pale I sat at home,
"My eyes still turned the way thou wert to come,
"And, all the long, long night of hope and fear,
"Thy voice and step still sounding in my ear--
"Oh God! thou wouldst not wonder that at last,
"When every hope was all at once o'ercast,
"When I heard frightful voices round me say
"_Azim is dead_!--this wretched brain gave way,
"And I became a wreck, at random driven,
"Without one glimpse of reason or of Heaven--
"All wild--and even this quenchless love within
"Turned to foul fires to light me into sin!--
"Thou pitiest me--I knew thou wouldst--that sky
"Hath naught beneath it half so lorn as I.
"The fiend, who lured me hither--hist! come near.
"Or thou too, _thou_ art lost, if he should hear--
"Told me such things--oh! with such devilish art.
"As would have ruined even a holier heart--
"Of thee, and of that ever-radiant sphere,
"Where blest at length, if I but served him here,
"I should for ever live in thy dear sight.
"And drink from those pure eyes eternal light.
"Think, think how lost, how maddened I must be,
"To hope that guilt could lead to God or thee!
"Thou weep'st for me--do weep--oh, that I durst
"Kiss off that tear! but, no--these lips are curst,
"They must not touch thee;--one divine caress,
"One blessed moment of forgetfulness
"I've had within those arms and _that_ shall lie
"Shrined in my soul's deep memory till I die;
"The last of joy's last relics here below,
"The one sweet drop, in all this waste of woe,
"My heart has treasured from affection's spring,
"To soothe and cool its deadly withering!
"But thou--yes, thou must go--for ever go;
"This place is not for thee--for thee! oh no,
"Did I but tell thee half, thy tortured brain
"Would burn like mine, and mine go wild again!
"Enough that Guilt reigns here--that hearts once good
"Now tainted, chilled and broken are his food.--
"Enough that we are parted--that there rolls
"A flood of headlong fate between our souls,
"Whose darkness severs me as wide from thee
"As hell from heaven to all eternity!"
"ZELICA, ZELICA!" the youth exclaimed.
In all the tortures of a mind inflamed
Almost to madness--"by that sacred Heaven,
"Where yet, if prayers can move, thou'lt be forgiven,
"As thou art here--here, in this writhing heart,
"All sinful, wild, and ruined as thou art!
"By the remembrance of our once pure love,
"Which like a church-yard light still burns above
"The grave of our lost souls--which guilt in thee
"Cannot extinguish nor despair in me!
"I do conjure, implore thee to fly hence--
"If thou hast yet one spark of innocence,
"Fly with me from this place"--
"With thee! oh bliss!
"'Tis worth whole years of torment to hear this.
"What! take the lost one with thee?--let her rove
"By thy dear side, as in those days of love,
"When we were both so happy, both so pure--
"Too heavenly dream! if there's on earth a cure
"For the sunk heart, 'tis this--day after day
"To be the blest companion of thy way;
"To hear thy angel eloquence--to see
"Those virtuous eyes for ever turned on me;
"And in their light re-chastened silently,
"Like the stained web that whitens in the sun,
"Grow pure by being purely shone upon!
"And thou wilt pray for me--I know thou wilt--
"At the dim vesper hour when thoughts of guilt
"Come heaviest o'er the heart thou'lt lift thine eyes
"Full of sweet tears unto the darkening skies
"And plead for me with Heaven till I can dare
"To fix my own weak, sinful glances there;
"Till the good angels when they see me cling
"For ever near thee, pale and sorrowing,
"Shall for thy sake pronounce my soul forgiven,
"And bid thee take thy weeping slave to Heaven!
"Oh yes, I'll fly with thee"--
Scarce had she said
These breathless words when a voice deep and dread
As that of MONKER waking up the dead
From their first sleep--so startling 'twas to both--
Rang thro' the casement near, "Thy oath! thy oath!"
Oh Heaven, the ghastliness of that Maid's look!--
"'Tis he," faintly she cried, while terror shook
Her inmost core, nor durst she lift her eyes,
Tho' thro' the casement, now naught but the skies
And moonlight fields were seen, calm as before--
"'Tis he, and I am his--all, all is o'er--
"Go--fly this instant, or thou'rt ruin'd too--
"My oath, my oath, oh God! 'tis all too true,
"True as the worm in this cold heart it is--
"I am MOKANNA'S bride--his, AZIM, his--
"The Dead stood round us while I spoke that vow,
"Their blue lips echoed it--I hear them now!
"Their eyes glared on me, while I pledged that bowl,
"'Twas burning blood--I feel it in my soul!
"And the Veiled Bridegroom--hist! I've seen to-night
"What angels know not of--so foul a sight.
"So horrible--oh! never may'st thou see
"What _there_ lies hid from all but hell and me!
"But I must hence--off, off--I am not thine,
"Nor Heaven's, nor Love's, nor aught that is divine--
"Hold me not--ha! think'st thou the fiends that sever
"Hearts cannot sunder hands?--thus, then--for ever!"
With all that strength which madness lends the weak
She flung away his arm; and with a shriek
Whose sound tho' be should linger out more years
Than wretch e'er told can never leave his ears--
Flew up thro' that long avenue of light,
Fleetly as some dark, ominous bird of night,
Across the sun; and soon was out of sight!
LALLA ROOKH could think of nothing all day but the misery of those two
young lovers. Her gayety was gone, and she looked pensively even upon
FADLAPEEN. She felt, too, without knowing why, a sort of uneasy pleasure
in imagining that AZIM must have been just such a youth as FERAMORZ; just
as worthy to enjoy all the blessings, without any of the pangs, of that
illusive passion, which too often like the sunny apples of Istkahar
is all sweetness on one side and all bitterness on the other.
As they passed along a sequestered river after sunset they saw a young
Hindoo girl upon the bank, whose employment seemed to them so strange that
they stopped their palankeens to observe her. She had lighted a small lamp
filled with oil of cocoa, and placing it in an earthen dish adorned with a
wreath of flowers, had committed it with a trembling hand to the stream;
and was now anxiously watching its progress down the current, heedless of
the gay cavalcade which had drawn up beside her. LALLA ROOKH was all
curiosity;--when one of her attendants, who had lived upon the banks of
the Ganges, (where this ceremony is so frequent that often in the dusk of
the evening the river is seen glittering all over with lights, like the
Oton-tala or Sea of Stars,) informed the princess that it was the
usual way in which the friends of those who had gone on dangerous voyages
offered up vows for their safe return. If the lamp sunk immediately the
omen was disastrous; but if it went shining down the stream and continued
to burn till entirely out of sight, the return of the beloved object was
considered as certain.
LALLA ROOKH as they moved on more than once looked back to observe how the
young Hindoo's lamp proceeded; and while she saw with pleasure that it was
still unextinguished she could not help fearing that all the hopes of this
life were no better than that feeble light upon the river. The remainder
of the journey was passed in silence. She now for the first time felt that
shade of melancholy which comes over the youthful maiden's heart as sweet
and transient as her own breath upon a mirror; nor was it till she heard
the lute of FERAMOKZ, touched lightly at the door of her pavilion that she
waked from the revery in which she had been wandering. Instantly her eyes
were lighted up with pleasure; and after a few unheard remarks from
FADLADEEN upon the indecorum of a poet seating himself in presence of a
Princess everything was arranged as on the preceding evening and all
listened with eagerness while the story was thus continued:--
Whose are the gilded tents that crowd the way,
Where all was waste and silent yesterday?
This City of War which, in a few short hours,
Hath sprung up here, as if the magic powers
Of Him who, in the twinkling of a star,
Built the high pillared halls of CHILMINAR,
Had conjur'd up, far as the eye can see,
This world of tents and domes and sunbright armory:--
Princely pavilions screened by many a fold
Of crimson cloth and topt with balls of gold:--
Steeds with their housings of rich silver spun,
Their chains and poitrels glittering in the sun;
And camels tufted o'er with Yemen's shells
Shaking in every breeze their light-toned bells!
But yester-eve, so motionless around,
So mute was this wide plain that not a sound
But the far torrent or the locust bird
Hunting among thickets could be heard;--
Yet hark! what discords now of every kind,
Shouts, laughs, and screams are revelling in the wind;
The neigh of cavalry;--the tinkling throngs
Of laden camels and their drivers' songs;--
Ringing of arms, and flapping in the breeze
Of streamers from ten thousand canopies;--
War-music bursting out from time to time
With gong and tymbalon's tremendous chime;--
Or in the pause when harsher sounds are mute,
The mellow breathings of some horn or flute,
That far off, broken by the eagle note
Of the Abyssinian trumpet, swell and float.
Who leads this mighty army?--ask ye "who?"
And mark ye not those banners of dark hue,
The Night and Shadow, over yonder tent?--
It is the CALIPH'S glorious armament.
Roused in his Palace by the dread alarms,
That hourly came, of the false Prophet's arms,
And of his host of infidels who hurled
Defiance fierce at Islam and the world,
Tho' worn with Grecian warfare, and behind
The veils of his bright Palace calm reclined,
Yet brooked he not such blasphemy should stain,
Thus unrevenged, the evening of his reign;
But having sworn upon the Holy Grave
To conquer or to perish, once more gave
His shadowy banners proudly to the breeze,
And with an army nurst in victories,
Here stands to crush the rebels that o'errun
His blest and beauteous Province of the Sun.
Ne'er did the march of MAHADI display
Such pomp before;--not even when on his way
To MECCA'S Temple, when both land and sea
Were spoiled to feed the Pilgrim's luxury;
When round him mid the burning sands he saw
Fruits of the North in icy freshness thaw,
And cooled his thirsty lip beneath the glow
Of MECCA'S sun with urns of Persian snow:--
Nor e'er did armament more grand than that
Pour from the kingdoms of the Caliphat.
First, in the van, the People of the Rock
On their light mountain steeds of royal stock:
Then chieftains of DAMASCUS proud to see
The flashing of their swords' rich marquetry;--
Men from the regions near the VOLGA'S mouth
Mixt with the rude, black archers of the South;
And Indian lancers in white-turbaned ranks
From the far SINDE or ATTOCK'S sacred banks,
With dusky legions from the Land of Myrrh,
And many a mace-armed Moor and Midsea islander.
Nor less in number tho' more new and rude
In warfare's school was the vast multitude
That, fired by zeal or by oppression wronged,
Round the white standard of the impostor thronged.
Beside his thousands of Believers--blind,
Burning and headlong as the Samiel wind--
Many who felt and more who feared to feel
The bloody Islamite's converting steel,
Flockt to his banner;--Chiefs of the UZBEK race,
Waving their heron crests with martial grace;
TURKOMANS, countless as their flocks, led forth
From the aromatic pastures of the North;
Wild warriors of the turquoise hills,--and those
Who dwell beyond the everlasting snows
Of HINDOO KOSH, in stormy freedom bred,
Their fort the rock, their camp the torrent's bed.
But none of all who owned the Chief's command
Rushed to that battle-field with bolder hand
Or sterner hate than IRAN'S outlawed men,
Her Worshippers of Fire--all panting then
For vengeance on the accursed Saracen;
Vengeance at last for their dear country spurned,
Her throne usurpt, and her bright shrines o'erturned.
From YEZD'S eternal Mansion of the Fire
Where aged saints in dreams of Heaven expire:
From BADKU and those fountains of blue flame
That burn into the CASPIAN, fierce they came,
Careless for what or whom the blow was sped,
So vengeance triumpht and their tyrants bled.
Such was the wild and miscellaneous host
That high in air their motley banners tost
Around the Prophet-Chief--all eyes still bent
Upon that glittering Veil, where'er it went,
That beacon thro' the battle's stormy flood,
That rainbow of the field whose showers were blood!
Twice hath the sun upon their conflict set
And risen again and found them grappling yet;
While streams of carnage in his noontide blaze,
Smoke up to Heaven--hot as that crimson haze
By which the prostrate Caravan is awed
In the red Desert when the wind's abroad.
"Oh, Swords of God!" the panting CALIPH calls,--
"Thrones for the living--Heaven for him who falls!"--
"On, brave avengers, on," MOKANNA cries,
"And EBLIS blast the recreant slave that flies!"
Now comes the brunt, the crisis of the day--
They clash--they strive--the CALIPH'S troops give way!
MOKANNA'S self plucks the black Banner down,
And now the Orient World's Imperial crown
Is just within his grasp--when, hark, that shout!
Some hand hath checkt the flying Moslem's rout;
And now they turn, they rally--at their head
A warrior, (like those angel youths who led,
In glorious panoply of Heaven's own mail,
The Champions of the Faith thro BEDER'S vale,)
Bold as if gifted with ten thousand lives,
Turns on the fierce pursuers' blades, and drives
At once the multitudinous torrent back--
While hope and courage kindle in his track;
And at each step his bloody falchion makes
Terrible vistas thro' which victory breaks!
In vain MOKANNA, midst the general flight,
Stands like the red moon on some stormy night
Among the fugitive clouds that hurrying by
Leave only her unshaken in the sky--
In vain he yells his desperate curses out,
Deals death promiscuously to all about,
To foes that charge and coward friends that fly,
And seems of _all_ the Great Archenemy.
The panic spreads--"A miracle!" throughout
The Moslem ranks, "a miracle!" they shout,
All gazing on that youth whose coming seems
A light, a glory, such as breaks in dreams;
And every sword, true as o'er billows dim
The needle tracks the lode-star, following him!
Right towards MOKANNA now he cleaves his path,
Impatient cleaves as tho' the bolt of wrath
He bears from Heaven withheld its awful burst
From weaker heads and souls but half way curst,
To break o'er Him, the mightiest and the worst!
But vain his speed--tho', in that hour of blood,
Had all God's seraphs round MOKANNA stood
With swords o'fire ready like fate to fall,
MOKANNA'S soul would have defied them all;
Yet now, the rush of fugitives, too strong
For human force, hurries even _him_ along;
In vain he struggles mid the wedged array
Of flying thousands--he is borne away;
And the sole joy his baffled spirit knows,
In this forced flight, is--murdering as he goes!
As a grim tiger whom the torrent's might
Surprises in some parched ravine at night,
Turns even in drowning on the wretched flocks
Swept with him in that snow-flood from the rocks,
And, to the last, devouring on his way,
Bloodies the stream lie hath not power to stay.
"Alla illa Alla!"--the glad shout renew--
"Alla Akbar"--the Caliph's in MEROU.
Hang out your gilded tapestry in the streets,
And light your shrines and chant your ziraleets.
The swords of God have triumpht--on his throne
Your Caliph sits and the veiled Chief hath flown.
Who does not envy that young warrior now
To whom the Lord of Islam bends his brow,
In all the graceful gratitude of power,
For his throne's safety in that perilous hour?
Who doth not wonder, when, amidst the acclaim
Of thousands heralding to heaven his name--
Mid all those holier harmonies of fame
Which sound along the path of virtuous souls,
Like music round a planet as it rolls,--
He turns away--coldly, as if some gloom
Hung o'er his heart no triumphs can illume;--
Some sightless grief upon whose blasted gaze
Tho' glory's light may play, in vain it plays.
Yes, wretched AZIM! thine is such a grief,
Beyond all hope, all terror, all relief!
A dark, cold calm, which nothing now can break.
Or warm or brighten,--Like that Syrian Lake
Upon whose surface morn and summer shed
Their smiles in vain, for all beneath is dead!--
Hearts there have been o'er which this weight of woe
Came by long use of suffering, tame and slow;
But thine, lost youth! was sudden--over thee
It broke at once, when all seemed ecstasy;
When Hope lookt up and saw the gloomy Past
Melt into splendor and Bliss dawn at last--
'Twas then, even then, o'er joys so freshly blown
This mortal blight of misery came down;
Even then, the full, warm gushings of thy heart
Were checkt--like fount-drops, frozen as they start--
And there like them cold, sunless relics hang,
Each fixt and chilled into a lasting pang.
One sole desire, one passion now remains
To keep life's fever still within his veins,
Vengeance!--dire vengeance on the wretch who cast
O'er him and all he loved that ruinous blast.
For this, when rumors reached him in his flight
Far, far away, after that fatal night,--
Rumors of armies thronging to the attack
Of the Veiled Chief,--for this he winged him back,
Fleet as the Vulture speeds to flags unfurled,
And when all hope seemed desperate, wildly hurled
Himself into the scale and saved a world.
For this he still lives on, careless of all
The wreaths that Glory on his path lets fall;
For this alone exists--like lightning-fire,
To speed one bolt of vengeance and expire!
But safe as yet that Spirit of Evil lives;
With a small band of desperate fugitives,
The last sole stubborn fragment left unriven
Of the proud host that late stood fronting Heaven,
He gained MEROU--breathed a short curse of blood
O'er his lost throne--then past the JIHON'S flood,
And gathering all whose madness of belief
Still saw a Saviour in their down-fallen Chief,
Raised the white banner within NEKSHEB'S gates,
And there, untamed, the approaching conqueror waits.
Of all his Haram, all that busy hive,
With music and with sweets sparkling alive,
He took but one, the partner of his flight,
One--not for love--not for her beauty's light--
No, ZELICA stood withering midst the gay.
Wan as the blossom that fell yesterday
From the Alma tree and dies, while overhead
To-day's young flower is springing in its stead.
Oh, not for love--the deepest Damned must be
Touched with Heaven's glory ere such fiends as he
Can feel one glimpse of Love's divinity.
But no, she is his victim; _there_ lie all
Her charms for him-charms that can never pall,
As long as hell within his heart can stir,
Or one faint trace of Heaven is left in her.
To work an angel's ruin,--to behold
As white a page as Virtue e'er unrolled
Blacken beneath his touch into a scroll
Of damning sins, sealed with a burning soul--
This is his triumph; this the joy accurst,
That ranks him among demons all but first:
This gives the victim that before him lies
Blighted and lost, a glory in his eyes,
A light like that with which hellfire illumes
The ghastly, writhing wretch whom it consumes!
But other tasks now wait him--tasks that need
All the deep daringness of thought and deed
With which the Divs have gifted him--for mark,
Over yon plains which night had else made dark,
Those lanterns countless as the winged lights
That spangle INDIA'S field on showery nights,--
Far as their formidable gleams they shed,
The mighty tents of the beleaguerer spread,
Glimmering along the horizon's dusky line
And thence in nearer circles till they shine
Among the founts and groves o'er which the town
In all its armed magnificence looks down.
Yet, fearless, from his lofty battlements
MOKANNA views that multitude of tents;
Nay, smiles to think that, tho' entoiled, beset,
Not less than myriads dare to front him yet;--
That friendless, throneless, he thus stands at bay,
Even thus a match for myriads such as they.
"Oh, for a sweep of that dark Angel's wing,
"Who brushed the thousands of the Assyrian King
"To darkness in a moment that I might
"People Hell's chambers with yon host to-night!
"But come what may, let who will grasp the throne,
"Caliph or Prophet, Man alike shall groan;
"Let who will torture him, Priest--Caliph--King--
"Alike this loathsome world of his shall ring
"With victims' shrieks and howlings of the slave,--
"Sounds that shall glad me even within my grave!"
Thus, to himself--but to the scanty train
Still left around him, a far different strain:--
"Glorious Defenders of the sacred Crown
"I bear from Heaven whose light nor blood shall drown
"Nor shadow of earth eclipse;--before whose gems
"The paly pomp of this world's diadems,
"The crown of GERASHID. the pillared throne
"Of PARVIZ and the heron crest that shone
"Magnificent o'er ALI'S beauteous eyes.
"Fade like the stars when morn is in the skies:
"Warriors, rejoice--the port to which we've past
"O'er Destiny's dark wave beams out at last!
"Victory's our own--'tis written in that Book
"Upon whose leaves none but the angels look,
"That ISLAM'S sceptre shall beneath the power
"Of her great foe fall broken in that hour
"When the moon's mighty orb before all eyes
"From NEKSHEB'S Holy Well portentously shall rise!
"Now turn and see!"--They turned, and, as he spoke,
A sudden splendor all around them broke,
And they beheld an orb, ample and bright,
Rise from the Holy Well and cast its light
Round the rich city and the plain for miles,--
Flinging such radiance o'er the gilded tiles
Of many a dome and fair-roofed imaret
As autumn suns shed round them when they set.
Instant from all who saw the illusive sign
A murmur broke--"Miraculous! divine!"
The Gheber bowed, thinking his idol star
Had waked, and burst impatient thro' the bar
Of midnight to inflame him to the war;
While he of MOUSSA'S creed saw in that ray
The glorious Light which in his freedom's day
Had rested on the Ark, and now again
Shone out to bless the breaking of his chain.
"To victory!" is at once the cry of all--
Nor stands MOKANNA loitering at that call;
But instant the huge gates are flung aside,
And forth like a diminutive mountain-tide
Into the boundless sea they speed their course
Right on into the MOSLEM'S mighty force.
The watchmen of the camp,--who in their rounds
Had paused and even forgot the punctual sounds
Of the small drum with which they count the night,
To gaze upon that supernatural light,--
Now sink beneath an unexpected arm,
And in a death-groan give their last alarm.
"On for the lamps that light yon lofty screen
"Nor blunt your blades with massacre so mean;
"_There_ rests the CALIPH--speed--one lucky lance
"May now achieve mankind's deliverance."
Desperate the die--such as they only cast
Who venture for a world and stake their last.
But Fate's no longer with him--blade for blade
Springs up to meet them thro' the glimmering shade,
And as the clash is heard new legions soon
Pour to the spot, like bees of KAUZEROON
To the shrill timbrel's summons,--till at length
The mighty camp swarms out in all its strength.
And back to NEKSHEB'S gates covering the plain
With random slaughter drives the adventurous train;
Among the last of whom the Silver Veil
Is seen glittering at times, like the white sail
Of some tost vessel on a stormy night
Catching the tempest's momentary light!
And hath not this brought the proud spirit low!
Nor dashed his brow nor checkt his daring? No.
Tho' half the wretches whom at night he led
To thrones and victory lie disgraced and dead,
Yet morning hears him with unshrinking crest.
Still vaunt of thrones and victory to the rest;--
And they believe him!--oh, the lover may
Distrust that look which steals his soul away;--
The babe may cease to think that it can play
With Heaven's rainbow;--alchymists may doubt
The shining gold their crucible gives out;
But Faith, fanatic Faith, once wedded fast
To some dear falsehood hugs it to the last.
And well the Impostor knew all lures and arts,
That LUCIFER e'er taught to tangle hearts;
Nor, mid these last bold workings of his plot
Against men's souls, is ZELICA forgot.
Ill-fated ZELICA! had reason been
Awake, thro' half the horrors thou hast seen,
Thou never couldst have borne it--Death had come
At once and taken thy wrung spirit home.
But 'twas not so--a torpor, a suspense
Of thought, almost of life, came o'er the intense
And passionate struggles of that fearful night,
When her last hope of peace and heaven took flight:
And tho' at times a gleam of frenzy broke,--
As thro' some dull volcano's veil of smoke
Ominous flashings now and then will start,
Which show the fire's still busy at its heart;
Yet was she mostly wrapt in solemn gloom,--
Not such as AZIM'S, brooding o'er its doom
And calm without as is the brow of death
While busy worms are gnawing underneath--
But in a blank and pulseless torpor free
From thought or pain, a sealed-up apathy
Which left her oft with scarce one living thrill
The cold, pale victim of her torturer's will.
Again, as in MEROU, he had her deckt
Gorgeously out, the Priestess of the sect;
And led her glittering forth before the eyes
Of his rude train as to a sacrifice,--
Pallid as she, the young, devoted Bride
Of the fierce NILE, when, deckt in all the pride
Of nuptial pomp, she sinks into his tide.
And while the wretched maid hung down her head,
And stood as one just risen from the dead
Amid that gazing crowd, the fiend would tell
His credulous slaves it was some charm or spell
Possest her now,--and from that darkened trance
Should dawn ere long their Faith's deliverance.
Or if at times goaded by guilty shame,
Her soul was roused and words of wildness came,
Instant the bold blasphemer would translate
Her ravings into oracles of fate,
Would hail Heaven's signals in her flashing eyes
And call her shrieks the language of the skies!
But vain at length his arts--despair is seen
Gathering around; and famine comes to glean
All that the sword had left unreaped;--in vain
At morn and eve across the northern plain
He looks impatient for the promised spears
Of the wild Hordes and TARTAR mountaineers;
They come not--while his fierce beleaguerers pour
Engines of havoc in, unknown before,
And horrible as new;--javelins, that fly
Enwreathed with smoky flames thro' the dark sky,
And red-hot globes that opening as they mount
Discharge as from a kindled Naphtha fount
Showers of consuming fire o'er all below;
Looking as thro' the illumined night they go
Like those wild birds that by the Magians oft
At festivals of fire were sent aloft
Into the air with blazing fagots tied
To their huge wings, scattering combustion wide.
All night the groans of wretches who expire
In agony beneath these darts of fire
Ring thro' the city--while descending o'er
Its shrines and domes and streets of sycamore,--
Its lone bazars, with their bright cloths of gold,
Since the last peaceful pageant left unrolled,--
Its beauteous marble baths whose idle jets.
Now gush with blood,--and its tall minarets
That late have stood up in the evening glare
Of the red sun, unhallowed by a prayer;--
O'er each in turn the dreadful flame-bolts fall,
And death and conflagration throughout all
The desolate city hold high festival!
MOKANNA sees the world is his no more;--
One sting at parting and his grasp is o'er,
"What! drooping now?"--thus, with unblushing cheek,
He hails the few who yet can hear him speak,
Of all those famished slaves around him lying,
And by the light of blazing temples dying;
"What!--drooping now!--now, when at length we press
"Home o'er the very threshold of success;
"When ALLA from our ranks hath thinned away
"Those grosser branches that kept out his ray
"Of favor from us and we stand at length
"Heirs of his light and children of his strength,
"The chosen few who shall survive the fall
"Of Kings and Thrones, triumphant over all!
"Have you then lost, weak murmurers as you are,
"All faith in him who was your Light, your Star?
"Have you forgot the eye of glory hid
"Beneath this Veil, the flashing of whose lid
"Could like a sun-stroke of the desert wither
"Millions of such as yonder Chief brings hither?
"Long have its lightnings slept--too long--but now
"All earth shall feel the unveiling of this brow!
"To-night--yes, sainted men! this very night,
"I bid you all to a fair festal rite,
"Where--having deep refreshed each weary limb
"With viands such as feast Heaven's cherubim
"And kindled up your souls now sunk and dim
"With that pure wine the Dark-eyed Maids above
"Keep, sealed with precious musk, for those they love,--
"I will myself uncurtain in your sight
"The wonders of this brow's ineffable light;
"Then lead you forth and with a wink disperse
"Yon myriads howling thro' the universe!"
Eager they listen--while each accent darts
New life into their chilled and hope-sick hearts;
Such treacherous life as the cool draught supplies
To him upon the stake who drinks and dies!
Wildly they point their lances to the light
Of the fast sinking sun, and shout "To-night!"--
"To-night," their Chief re-echoes in a voice
Of fiend-like mockery that bids hell rejoice.
Deluded victims!--never hath this earth
Seen mourning half so mournful as their mirth.
_Here_, to the few whose iron frames had stood
This racking waste of famine and of blood,
Faint, dying wretches clung, from whom the shout
Of triumph like a maniac's laugh broke out:--
_There_, others, lighted by the smouldering fire,
Danced like wan ghosts about a funeral pyre
Among the dead and dying strewed around;--
While some pale wretch lookt on and from his wound
Plucking the fiery dart by which he bled,
In ghastly transport waved it o'er his head!
'Twas more than midnight now--a fearful pause
Had followed the long shouts, the wild applause,
That lately from those Royal Gardens burst,
Where the veiled demon held his feast accurst,
When ZELICA, alas, poor ruined heart,
In every horror doomed to bear its part!--
Was bidden to the banquet by a slave,
Who, while his quivering lip the summons gave,
Grew black, as tho' the shadows of the grave
Compast him round and ere he could repeat
His message thro', fell lifeless at her feet!
Shuddering she went--a soul-felt pang of fear
A presage that her own dark doom was near,
Roused every feeling and brought Reason back
Once more to writhe her last upon the rack.
All round seemed tranquil even the foe had ceased
As if aware of that demoniac feast
His fiery bolts; and tho' the heavens looked red,
'Twas but some distant conflagration's spread.
But hark--she stops--she listens--dreadful tone!
'Tis her Tormentor's laugh--and now, a groan,
A long death-groan comes with it--can this be
The place of mirth, the bower of revelry?
She enters--Holy ALLA, what a sight
Was there before her! By the glimmering light
Of the pale dawn, mixt with the flare of brands
That round lay burning dropt from lifeless hands,
She saw the board in splendid mockery spread,
Rich censers breathing--garlands overhead--
The urns, the cups, from which they late had quaft
All gold and gems, but--what had been the draught?
Oh! who need ask that saw those livid guests,
With their swollen heads sunk blackening on their breasts,
Or looking pale to Heaven with glassy glare,
As if they sought but saw no mercy there;
As if they felt, tho' poison racked them thro',
Remorse the deadlier torment of the two!
While some, the bravest, hardiest in the train
Of their false Chief, who on the battle-plain
Would have met death with transport by his side,
Here mute and helpless gasped;--but as they died
Lookt horrible vengeance with their eyes' last strain,
And clenched the slackening hand at him in vain.
Dreadful it was to see the ghastly stare,
The stony look of horror and despair,
Which some of these expiring victims cast
Upon their souls' tormentor to the last;
Upon that mocking Fiend whose Veil now raised,
Showed them as in death's agony they gazed,
Not the long promised light, the brow whose beaming
Was to come forth, all conquering, all redeeming,
But features horribler than Hell e'er traced
On its own brood;--no Demon of the Waste,
No church-yard Ghoul caught lingering in the light
Of the blest sun, e'er blasted human sight
With lineaments so foul, so fierce as those
The Impostor now in grinning mockery shows:--
"There, ye wise Saints, behold your Light, your Star--
"Ye _would_ be dupes and victims and ye _are_.
"Is it enough? or must I, while a thrill
"Lives in your sapient bosoms, cheat you still?
"Swear that the burning death ye feel within
"Is but the trance with which Heaven's joys begin:
"That this foul visage, foul as e'er disgraced
"Even monstrous men, is--after God's own taste;
"And that--but see!--ere I have half-way said
"My greetings thro', the uncourteous souls are fled.
"Farewell, sweet spirits! not in vain ye die,
"If EBLIS loves you half so well as I.--
"Ha, my young bride!--'tis well--take thou thy seat;
"Nay come--no shuddering--didst thou never meet
"The Dead before?--they graced our wedding, sweet;
"And these, my guests to-night, have brimmed so true
"Their parting cups, that _thou_ shalt pledge one too.
"But--how is this?--all empty? all drunk up?
"Hot lips have been before thee in the cup,
"Young bride,--yet stay--one precious drop remains,
"Enough to warm a gentle Priestess' veins;--
"Here, drink--and should thy lover's conquering arms
"Speed hither ere thy lip lose all its charms,
"Give him but half this venom in thy kiss,
"And I'll forgive my haughty rival's bliss!
"For, _me_--I too must die--but not like these
"Vile rankling things to fester in the breeze;
"To have this brow in ruffian triumph shown,
"With all death's grimness added to its own,
"And rot to dust beneath the taunting eyes
"Of slaves, exclaiming, 'There his Godship lies!'
"No--cursed race--since first my soul drew breath,
"They've been my dupes and _shall_ be even in death.
"Thou seest yon cistern in the shade--'tis filled
"With burning drugs for this last hour distilled;
"There will I plunge me, in that liquid flame--
"Fit bath to lave a dying Prophet's frame!--
"There perish, all--ere pulse of thine shall fail--
"Nor leave one limb to tell mankind the tale.
"So shall my votaries, wheresoe'er they rave,
"Proclaim that Heaven took back the Saint it gave;--
"That I've but vanished from this earth awhile,
"To come again with bright, unshrouded smile!
"So shall they build me altars in their zeal,
"Where knaves shall minister and fools shall kneel;
"Where Faith may mutter o'er her mystic spell,
"Written in blood--and Bigotry may swell
"The sail he spreads for Heaven with blasts from hell!
"So shall my banner thro' long ages be
"The rallying sign of fraud and anarchy;--
"Kings yet unborn shall rue MOKANNA'S name,
"And tho' I die my spirit still the same
"Shall walk abroad in all the stormy strife,
"And guilt and blood that were its bliss in life.
"But hark! their battering engine shakes the wall--
"Why, _let_ it shake--thus I can brave them all.
"No trace of me shall greet them when they come,
"And I can trust thy faith, for--thou'lt be dumb.
"Now mark how readily a wretch like me
"In one bold plunge commences Deity!"
He sprung and sunk as the last words were said--
Quick closed the burning waters o'er his head,
And ZELICA was left--within the ring
Of those wide walls the only living thing;
The only wretched one still curst with breath
In all that frightful wilderness of death!
More like some bloodless ghost--such as they tell,
In the Lone Cities of the Silent dwell,
And there unseen of all but ALLA sit
Each by its own pale carcass watching it.
But morn is up and a fresh warfare stirs
Throughout the camp of the beleaguerers.
Their globes of fire (the dread artillery lent
By GREECE to conquering MAHADI) are spent;
And now the scorpion's shaft, the quarry sent
From high balistas and the shielded throng
Of soldiers swinging the huge ram along,
All speak the impatient Islamite's intent
To try, at length, if tower and battlement
And bastioned wall be not less hard to win,
Less tough to break down than the hearts within.
First he, in impatience and in toil is
The burning AZIM--oh! could he but see
The impostor once alive within his grasp,
Not the gaunt lion's hug nor boa's clasp
Could match thy gripe of vengeance or keep pace
With the fell heartiness of Hate's embrace!
Loud rings the ponderous ram against the walls;
Now shake the ramparts, now a buttress falls,
But, still no breach--"Once more one mighty swing
"Of all your beams, together thundering!"
There--the wall shakes--the shouting troops exult,
"Quick, quick discharge your weightiest catapult
"Right on that spot and NEKSHEB is our own!"
'Tis done--the battlements come crashing down,
And the huge wall by that stroke riven in two
Yawning like some old crater rent anew,
Shows the dim, desolate city smoking thro'.
But strange! no sign of life--naught living seen
Above, below--what can this stillness mean?
A minute's pause suspends all hearts and eyes--
"In thro' the breach," impetuous AZIM cries;
But the cool CALIPH fearful of some wile
In this blank stillness checks the troops awhile.--
Just then a figure with slow step advanced
Forth from the ruined walls and as there glanced
A sunbeam over it all eyes could see
The well-known Silver Veil!--"'Tis He, 'tis He,
"MOKANNA and alone!" they shout around;
Young AZIM from his steed springs to the ground--
"Mine, Holy Caliph! mine," he cries, "the task
"To crush yon daring wretch--'tis all I ask."
Eager he darts to meet the demon foe
Who still across wide heaps of ruin slow
And falteringly comes, till they are near;
Then with a bound rushes on AZIM'S spear,
And casting off the Veil in falling shows--
Oh!--'tis his ZELICA'S life-blood that flows!
"I meant not, AZIM," soothingly she said,
As on his trembling arm she leaned her head,
And looking in his face saw anguish there
Beyond all wounds the quivering flesh can bear--
"I meant not _thou_ shouldst have the pain of this:--
"Tho' death with thee thus tasted is a bliss
"Thou wouldst not rob me of, didst thou but know
"How oft I've prayed to God I might die so!
"But the Fiend's venom was too scant and slow;--
"To linger on were maddening--and I thought
"If once that Veil--nay, look not on it--caught
"The eyes of your fierce soldiery, I should be
"Struck by a thousand death-darts instantly.
"But this is sweeter--oh! believe me, yes--
"I would not change this sad, but dear caress.
"This death within thy arms I would not give
"For the most smiling life the happiest live!
"All that stood dark and drear before the eye
"Of my strayed soul is passing swiftly by;
"A light comes o'er me from those looks of love,
"Like the first dawn of mercy from above;
"And if thy lips but tell me I'm forgiven,
"Angels will echo the blest words in Heaven!
"But live, my AZIM;--oh! to call thee mine
"Thus once again! _my_ AZIM--dream divine!
"Live, if thou ever lovedst me, if to meet
"Thy ZELICA hereafter would be sweet,
"Oh, live to pray for her--to bend the knee
"Morning and night before that Deity
"To whom pure lips and hearts without a stain,
"As thine are, AZIM, never breathed in vain,--
"And pray that He may pardon her,--may take
"Compassion on her soul for thy dear sake,
"And naught remembering but her love to thee,
"Make her all thine, all His, eternally!
"Go to those happy fields where first we twined
"Our youthful hearts together--every wind
"That meets thee there fresh from the well-known flowers
"Will bring the sweetness of those innocent hours
"Back to thy soul and thou mayst feel again
"For thy poor ZELICA as thou didst then.
"So shall thy orisons like dew that flies
"To Heaven upon the morning's sunshine rise
"With all love's earliest ardor to the skies!
"And should they--but, alas, my senses fail--
"Oh for one minute!--should thy prayers prevail--
"If pardoned souls may from that World of Bliss
"Reveal their joy to those they love in this--
"I'll come to thee--in some sweet dream--and tell--
"Oh Heaven--I die--dear love! farewell, farewell."
Time fleeted--years on years had past away,
And few of those who on that mournful day
Had stood with pity in their eyes to see
The maiden's death and the youth's agony,
Were living still--when, by a rustic grave,
Beside the swift Amoo's transparent wave,
An aged man who had grown aged there
By that lone grave, morning and night in prayer,
For the last time knelt down--and tho' the shade
Of death hung darkening over him there played
A gleam of rapture on his eye and cheek,
That brightened even Death--like the last streak
Of intense glory on the horizon's brim,
When night o'er all the rest hangs chill and dim.
His soul had seen a Vision while he slept;
She for whose spirit he had prayed and wept
So many years had come to him all drest
In angel smiles and told him she was blest!
For this the old man breathed his thanks and died.--
And there upon the banks of that loved tide,
He and his ZELICA sleep side by side.
The story of the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan being ended, they were now
doomed to hear FADLADEEN'S criticisms upon it. A series of disappointments
and accidents had occurred to this learned Chamberlain during the journey.
In the first place, those couriers stationed, as in the reign of Shah
Jehan, between Delhi and the Western coast of India, to secure a constant
supply of mangoes for the Royal Table, had by some cruel irregularity
failed in their duty; and to eat any mangoes but those of Mazagong was of
course impossible. In the next place, the elephant laden with his
fine antique porcelain, had, in an unusual fit of liveliness,
shattered the whole set to pieces:--an irreparable loss, as many of the
vessels were so exquisitely old, as to have been used under the Emperors
Yan and Chun, who reigned many ages before the dynasty of Tang. His Koran
too, supposed to be the identical copy between the leaves of which
Mahomet's favorite pigeon used to nestle, had been mislaid by his
Koran-bearer three whole days; not without much spiritual alarm to
FADLADEEN who though professing to hold with other loyal and orthodox
Mussulmans that salvation could only be found in the Koran was strongly
suspected of believing in his heart that it could only be found in his own
particular copy of it. When to all these grievances is added the obstinacy
of the cooks in putting the pepper of Canara into his dishes instead of
the cinnamon of Serendib, we may easily suppose that he came to the task
of criticism with at least a sufficient degree of irritability for the
"In order," said he, importantly swinging about his chaplet of pearls, "to
convey with clearness my opinion of the story this young man has related,
it is necessary to take a review of all the stories that have ever"---"My
good FADLADEEN!" exclaimed the Princess, interrupting him, "we really do
not deserve that you should give yourself so much trouble. Your opinion of
the poem we have just heard, will I have no doubt be abundantly edifying
without any further waste of your valuable erudition."--"If that be all,"
replied the critic,--evidently mortified at not being allowed to show how
much he knew about everything but the subject immediately before him--"if
that be all that is required the matter is easily despatched." He then
proceeded to analyze the poem, in that strain (so well known to the
unfortunate bards of Delhi), whose censures were an infliction from which
few recovered and whose very praises were like the honey extracted from
the bitter flowers of the aloe. The chief personages of the story were, if
he rightly understood them, an ill-favored gentleman with a veil over his
face;--a young lady whose reason went and came according as it suited the
poet's convenience to be sensible or otherwise;--and a youth in one of
those hideous Bokharian bonnets, who took the aforesaid gentleman in a
veil for a Divinity. "From such materials," said he, "what can be
expected?--after rivalling each other in long speeches and absurdities
through some thousands of lines as indigestible as the filberts of Berdaa,
our friend in the veil jumps into a tub of aquafortis; the young lady dies
in a set speech whose only recommendation is that it is her last; and the
lover lives on to a good old age for the laudable purpose of seeing her
ghost which he at last happily accomplishes, and expires. This you will
allow is a fair summary of the story; and if Nasser, the Arabian merchant,
told no better, our Holy Prophet (to whom be all honor and glory!) had no
need to be jealous of his abilities for story-telling."
With respect to the style, it was worthy of the matter;--it had not even
those politic contrivances of structure which make up for the commonness
of the thoughts by the peculiarity of the manner nor that stately poetical
phraseology by which sentiments mean in themselves, like the blacksmith's
 apron converted into a banner, are so easily gilt and embroidered
into consequence. Then as to the versification it was, to say no worse of
it, execrable: it had neither the copious flow of Ferdosi, the sweetness
of Hafez, nor the sententious march of Sadi; but appeared to him in the
uneasy heaviness of its movements to have been modelled upon the gait of a
very tired dromedary. The licenses too in which it indulged were
unpardonable;--for instance this line, and the poem abounded with such;--
Like the faint, exquisite music of a dream.
"What critic that can count," said FADLADEEN, "and has his full complement
of fingers to count withal, would tolerate for an instant such syllabic
superfluities?"--He here looked round, and discovered that most of his
audience were asleep; while the glimmering lamps seemed inclined to follow
their example. It became necessary therefore, however painful to himself,
to put an end to his valuable animadversions for the present and he
accordingly concluded with an air of dignified candor, thus:--
"Notwithstanding the observations which I have thought it my duty to make,
it is by no means my wish to discourage the young man:--so far from it
indeed that if he will but totally alter his style of writing and thinking
I have very little doubt that I shall be vastly pleased with him."
Some days elapsed after this harangue of the Great Chamberlain before
LALLA ROOKH could venture to ask for another story. The youth was still a
welcome guest in the pavilion--to _one_ heart perhaps too dangerously
welcome;--but all mention of poetry was as if by common consent avoided.
Though none of the party had much respect for FADLADEEN, yet his censures
thus magisterially delivered evidently made an impression on them all. The
Poet himself to whom criticism was quite a new operation, (being wholly
unknown in that Paradise of the Indies, Cashmere,) felt the shock as it is
generally felt at first, till use has made it more tolerable to the
patient;--the Ladies began to suspect that they ought not to be pleased
and seemed to conclude that there must have been much good sense in what
FADLADEEN said from its having set them all so soundly to sleep;--while
the self-complacent Chamberlain was left to triumph in the idea of having
for the hundred and fiftieth time in his life extinguished a Poet. LALLA
ROOKH alone--and Love knew why--persisted in being delighted with all she
had heard and in resolving to hear more as speedily as possible. Her
manner however of first returning to the subject was unlucky. It was while
they rested during the heat of noon near a fountain on which some hand had
rudely traced those well-known words from the Garden of Sadi.--"Many like
me have viewed this fountain, but they are gone and their eyes are closed
for ever!"--that she took occasion from the melancholy beauty of this
passage to dwell upon the charms of poetry in general. "It is true," she
said, "few poets can imitate that sublime bird which flies always in the
air and never touches the earth:--it is only once in many ages a
Genius appears whose words, like those on the Written Mountain last for
ever:--but still there are some as delightful perhaps, though not so
wonderful, who if not stars over our head are at least flowers along our
path and whose sweetness of the moment we ought gratefully to inhale
without calling upon them for a brightness and a durability beyond their
nature. In short," continued she, blushing as if conscious of being caught
in an oration, "it is quite cruel that a poet cannot wander through his
regions of enchantment without having a critic for ever, like the old Man
of the Sea, upon his back!"--FADLADEEN, it was plain took this last
luckless allusion to himself and would treasure it up in his mind as a
whetstone for his next criticism. A sudden silence ensued; and the
Princess, glancing a look at FERAMORZ, saw plainly she must wait for a
more courageous moment.
But the glories of Nature and her wild, fragrant airs playing freshly over
the current of youthful spirits will soon heal even deeper wounds than the
dull Fadladeens of this world can inflict. In an evening or two after,
they came to the small Valley of Gardens which had been planted by order
of the Emperor for his favorite sister Rochinara during their progress to
Cashmere some years before; and never was there a more sparkling
assemblage of sweets since the Gulzar-e-Irem or Rose-bower of Irem. Every
precious flower was there to be found that poetry or love or religion has
ever consecrated; from the dark hyacinth to which Hafez compares his
mistress's hair to be _Camalata_ by whose rosy blossoms the heaven of
Indra is scented. As they sat in the cool fragrance of this
delicious spot and LALLA ROOKH remarked that she could fancy it the abode
of that flower-loving Nymph whom they worship in the temples of Kathay,
 or of one of those Peris, those beautiful creatures of the air who
live upon perfumes and to whom a place like this might make some amends
for the Paradise they have lost,--the young Poet in whose eyes she
appeared while she spoke to be one of the bright spiritual creatures she
was describing said hesitatingly that he remembered a Story of a Peri,
which if the Princess had no objection he would venture to relate. "It
is," said he, with an appealing look to FADLADEEN, "in a lighter and
humbler strain than the other:" then, striking a few careless but
melancholy chords on his kitar, he thus began:--
PARADISE AND THE PERI.
One morn a Peri at the gate
Of Eden stood disconsolate;
And as she listened to the Springs
Of Life within like music flowing
And caught the light upon her wings
Thro' the half-open portal glowing,
She wept to think her recreant race
Should e'er have lost that glorious place!
"How happy," exclaimed this child of air,
"Are the holy Spirits who wander there
"Mid flowers that never shall fade or fall;
"Tho' mine are the gardens of earth and sea
"And the stars themselves have flowers for me,
"One blossom of Heaven out-blooms them all!
"Tho' sunny the Lake of cool CASHMERE
"With its plane-tree Isle reflected clear,
"And sweetly the founts of that Valley fall;
"Tho' bright are the waters of SING-SU-HAY
And the golden floods that thitherward stray,
Yet--oh, 'tis only the Blest can say
How the waters of Heaven outshine them all!
"Go, wing thy flight from star to star,
From world to luminous world as far
As the universe spreads its flaming wall:
Take all the pleasures of all the spheres
And multiply each thro' endless years
One minute of Heaven is worth them all!"
The glorious Angel who was keeping
The gates of Light beheld her weeping,
And as he nearer drew and listened
To her sad song, a tear-drop glistened
Within his eyelids, like the spray
From Eden's fountain when it lies
On the blue flower which--Bramins say--
Blooms nowhere but in Paradise.
"Nymph of a fair but erring line!"
Gently he said--"One hope is thine.
'Tis written in the Book of Fate,
_The Peri yet may be forgiven
Who brings to this Eternal gate
The Gift that is most dear to Heaven_!
Go seek it and redeem thy sin--
'Tis sweet to let the Pardoned in."
Rapidly as comets run
To the embraces of the Sun;--
Fleeter than the starry brands
Flung at night from angel hands
At those dark and daring sprites
Who would climb the empyreal heights,
Down the blue vault the PERI flies,
And lighted earthward by a glance
That just then broke from morning's eyes,
Hung hovering o'er our world's expanse.
But whither shall the Spirit go
To find this gift for Heaven;--"I know
The wealth," she cries, "of every urn
In which unnumbered rubies burn
Beneath the pillars of CHILMINAR:
I know where the Isles of Perfume are
Many a fathom down in the sea,
To the south of sun-bright ARABY;
I know too where the Genii hid
The jewelled cup of their King JAMSHID,
"With Life's elixir sparkling high--
"But gifts like these are not for the sky.
"Where was there ever a gem that shone
"Like the steps of ALLA'S wonderful Throne?
"And the Drops of Life--oh! what would they be
"In the boundless Deep of Eternity?"
While thus she mused her pinions fanned
The air of that sweet Indian land
Whose air is balm, whose ocean spreads
O'er coral rocks and amber beds,
Whose mountains pregnant by the beam
Of the warm sun with diamonds teem,
Whose rivulets are like rich brides,
Lovely, with gold beneath their tides,
Whose sandal groves and bowers of spice
Might be a Peri's Paradise!
But crimson now her rivers ran
With human blood--the smell of death
Came reeking from those spicy bowers,
And man the sacrifice of man
Mingled his taint with every breath
Upwafted from the innocent flowers.
Land of the Sun! what foot invades
Thy Pagods and thy pillared shades--
Thy cavern shrines and Idol stones,
Thy Monarch and their thousand Thrones?
'Tis He of GAZNA, fierce in wrath
He comes and INDIA'S diadems
Lie scattered in his ruinous path.-
His bloodhounds he adorns with gems,
Torn from the violated necks
Of many a young and loved Sultana;
Maidens within their pure Zenana,
Priests in the very fane he slaughters,
And chokes up with the glittering wrecks
Of golden shrines the sacred waters!
Downward the PERI turns her gaze,
And thro' the war-field's bloody haze
Beholds a youthful warrior stand
Alone beside his native river,--
The red blade broken in his hand
And the last arrow in his quiver.
"Live," said the Conqueror, "live to share
"The trophies and the crowns I bear!"
Silent that youthful warrior stood--
Silent he pointed to the flood
All crimson with his country's blood,
Then sent his last remaining dart,
For answer, to the Invader's heart.
False flew the shaft tho' pointed well;
The Tyrant lived, the Hero fell!--
Yet marked the PERI where he lay,
And when the rush of war was past
Swiftly descending on a ray
Of morning light she caught the last--
Last glorious drop his heart had shed
Before its free-born spirit fled!
"Be this," she cried, as she winged her flight,
"My welcome gift at the Gates of Light.
"Tho' foul are the drops that oft distil
"On the field of warfare, blood like this
"For Liberty shed so holy is,
"It would not stain the purest rill
"That sparkles among the Bowers of Bliss!
"Oh, if there be on this earthly sphere
"A boon, an offering Heaven holds dear,
"'Tis the last libation Liberty draws
"From the heart that bleeds and breaks in her cause!"
"Sweet," said the Angel, as she gave
The gift into his radiant hand,
"Sweet is our welcome of the Brave
"Who die thus for their native Land.--
"But see--alas! the crystal bar
"Of Eden moves not--holier far
"Than even this drop the boon must be
"That opes the Gates of Heaven for thee!"
Her first fond hope of Eden blighted,
Now among AFRIC'S lunar Mountains
Far to the South the PERI lighted
And sleeked her plumage at the fountains
Of that Egyptian tide whose birth
Is hidden from the sons of earth
Deep in those solitary woods
Where oft the Genii of the Floods
Dance round the cradle of their Nile
And hail the new-born Giant's smile.
Thence over EGYPT'S palmy groves
Her grots, and sepulchres of Kings,
The exiled Spirit sighing roves
And now hangs listening to the doves
In warm ROSETTA'S vale; now loves
To watch the moonlight on the wings
Of the white pelicans that break
The azure calm of MOERIS' Lake.
'Twas a fair scene: a Land more bright
Never did mortal eye behold!
Who could have thought that saw this night
Those valleys and their fruits of gold
Basking in Heaven's serenest light,
Those groups of lovely date-trees bending
Languidly their leaf-crowned heads,
Like youthful maids, when sleep descending
Warns them to their silken beds,
Those virgin lilies all the night
Bathing their beauties in the lake
That they may rise more fresh and bright,
When their beloved Sun's awake,
Those ruined shrines and towers that seem
The relics of a splendid dream,
Amid whose fairy loneliness
Naught but the lapwing's cry is heard,--
Naught seen but (when the shadows flitting,
Fast from the moon unsheath its gleam,)
Some purple-winged Sultana sitting
Upon a column motionless
And glittering like an Idol bird!--
Who could have thought that there, even there,
Amid those scenes so still and fair,
The Demon of the Plague hath cast
From his hot wing a deadlier blast,
More mortal far than ever came
From the red Desert's sands of flame!
So quick that every living thing
Of human shape touched by his wing,
Like plants, where the Simoom hath past
At once falls black and withering!
The sun went down on many a brow
Which, full of bloom and freshness then,
Is rankling in the pest-house now
And ne'er will feel that sun again,
And, oh! to see the unburied heaps
On which the lonely moonlight sleeps--
The very vultures turn away,
And sicken at so foul a prey!
Only the fierce hyaena stalks
Throughout the city's desolate walks
At midnight and his carnage plies:--
Woe to the half-dead wretch who meets
The glaring of those large blue eyes
Amid the darkness of the streets!
"Poor race of men!" said the pitying Spirit,
"Dearly ye pay for your primal Fall--
"Some flowerets of Eden ye still inherit,
"But the trail of the Serpent is over them all!"
She wept--the air grew pure and clear
Around her as the bright drops ran,
For there's a magic in each tear
Such kindly Spirits weep for man!
Just then beneath some orange trees
Whose fruit and blossoms in the breeze
Were wantoning together, free,
Like age at play with infancy--
Beneath that fresh and springing bower
Close by the Lake she heard the moan
Of one who at this silent hour,
Had thither stolen to die alone.
One who in life where'er he moved,
Drew after him the hearts of many;
Yet now, as tho' he ne'er were loved,
Dies here unseen, unwept by any!
None to watch near him--none to slake
The fire that in his bosom lies,
With even a sprinkle from that lake
Which shines so cool before his eyes.
No voice well known thro' many a day
To speak the last, the parting word
Which when all other sounds decay
Is still like distant music heard;--
That tender farewell on the shore
Of this rude world when all is o'er,
Which cheers the spirit ere its bark
Puts off into the unknown Dark.
Deserted youth! one thought alone
Shed joy around his soul in death
That she whom he for years had known,
And loved and might have called his own
Was safe from this foul midnight's breath,--
Safe in her father's princely halls
Where the cool airs from fountain falls,
Freshly perfumed by many a brand
Of the sweet wood from India's land,
Were pure as she whose brow they fanned.
But see--who yonder comes by stealth,
This melancholy bower to seek,
Like a young envoy sent by Health
With rosy gifts upon her cheek?
'Tis she--far off, thro' moonlight dim
He knew his own betrothed bride,
She who would rather die with him
Than live to gain the world beside!--
Her arms are round her lover now,
His livid cheek to hers she presses
And dips to bind his burning brow
In the cool lake her loosened tresses.
Ah! once, how little did he think
An hour would come when he should shrink
With horror from that dear embrace,
Those gentle arms that were to him
Holy as is the cradling place
Of Eden's infant cherubim!
And now he yields--now turns away,
Shuddering as if the venom lay
All in those proffered lips alone--
Those lips that then so fearless grown
Never until that instant came
Near his unasked or without shame.
"Oh! let me only breathe the air.
"The blessed air, that's breathed by thee,
"And whether on its wings it bear
"Healing or death 'tis sweet to me!
"There--drink my tears while yet they fall--
"Would that my bosom's blood were balm,
"And, well thou knowst, I'd shed it all
"To give thy brow one minute's calm.
"Nay, turn not from me that dear face--
"Am I not thine--thy own loved bride--
"The one, the chosen one, whose place
"In life or death is by thy side?
"Thinkst thou that she whose only light,
"In this dim world from thee hath shone
"Could bear the long, the cheerless night
"That must be hers when thou art gone?
"That I can live and let thee go,
"Who art my life itself?--No, no--
"When the stem dies the leaf that grew
"Out of its heart must perish too!
"Then turn to me, my own love, turn,
"Before, like thee, I fade and burn;
"Cling to these yet cool lips and share
"The last pure life that lingers there!"
She fails--she sinks--as dies the lamp
In charnel airs or cavern-damp,
So quickly do his baleful sighs
Quench all the sweet light of her eyes,
One struggle--and his pain is past--
Her lover is no longer living!
One kiss the maiden gives, one last,
Long kiss, which she expires in giving!
"Sleep," said the PERI, as softly she stole
The farewell sigh of that vanishing soul,
As true as e'er warmed a woman's breast--
"Sleep on, in visions of odor rest
"In balmier airs than ever yet stirred
"The enchanted pile of that lonely bird
"Who sings at the last his own death-lay
"And in music and perfume dies away!"
Thus saying, from her lips she spread
Unearthly breathings thro' the place
And shook her sparkling wreath and shed
Such lustre o'er each paly face
That like two lovely saints they seemed,
Upon the eve of doomsday taken
From their dim graves in ordor sleeping;
While that benevolent PERI beamed
Like their good angel calmly keeping
Watch o'er them till their souls would waken.
But morn is blushing in the sky;
Again the PERI soars above,
Bearing to Heaven that precious sigh
Of pure, self-sacrificing love.
High throbbed her heart with hope elate
The Elysian palm she soon shall win.
For the bright Spirit at the gate
Smiled as she gave that offering in;
And she already hears the trees
Of Eden with their crystal bells
Ringing in that ambrosial breeze
That from the throne of ALLA swells;
And she can see the starry bowls
That lie around that lucid lake
Upon whose banks admitted Souls
Their first sweet draught of glory take!
But, ah! even PERIS' hopes are vain--
Again the Fates forbade, again
The immortal barrier closed--"Not yet,"
The Angel said as with regret
He shut from her that glimpse of glory--
"True was the maiden, and her story
"Written in light o'er ALLA'S head
"By seraph eyes shall long be read.
"But, PERI, see--the crystal bar
"Of Eden moves not--holier far
"Than even this sigh the boon must be
"That opes the Gates of Heaven for thee."
Now upon SYRIA'S land of roses
Softly the light of Eve reposes,
And like a glory the broad sun
Hangs over sainted LEBANON,
Whose head in wintry grandeur towers
And whitens with eternal sleet,
While summer in a vale of flowers
Is sleeping rosy at his feet.
To one who looked from upper air
O'er all the enchanted regions there,
How beauteous must have been the glow,
The life, the sparkling from below!
Fair gardens, shining streams, with ranks
Of golden melons on their banks,
More golden where the sunlight falls;--
Gay lizards, glittering on the walls
Of ruined shrines, busy and bright
As they were all alive with light;
And yet more splendid numerous flocks
Of pigeons settling on the rocks
With their rich restless wings that gleam
Variously in the crimson beam
Of the warm West,--as if inlaid
With brilliants from the mine or made
Of tearless rainbows such as span
The unclouded skies of PERISTAN.
And then the mingling sounds that come,
Of shepherd's ancient reed, with hum
Of the wild bees of PALESTINE,
Banqueting thro' the flowery vales;
And, JORDAN, those sweet banks of thine
And woods so full of nightingales.
But naught can charm the luckless PERI;
Her soul is sad--her wings are weary--
Joyless she sees the Sun look down
On that great Temple once his own,
Whose lonely columns stand sublime,
Flinging their shadows from on high
Like dials which the Wizard Time
Had raised to count his ages by!
Yet haply there may lie concealed
Beneath those Chambers of the Sun
Some amulet of gems, annealed
In upper fires, some tablet sealed
With the great name of SOLOMON,
Which spelled by her illumined eyes,
May teach her where beneath the moon,
In earth or ocean, lies the boon,
The charm, that can restore so soon
An erring Spirit to the skies.
Cheered by this hope she bends her thither;--
Still laughs the radiant eye of Heaven,
Nor have the golden bowers of Even
In the rich West begun to wither;--
When o'er the vale of BALBEC winging
Slowly she sees a child at play,
Among the rosy wild flowers singing,
As rosy and as wild as they;
Chasing with eager hands and eyes
The beautiful blue damsel-flies,
That fluttered round the jasmine stems
Like winged flowers or flying gems:--
And near the boy, who tired with play
Now nestling mid the roses lay.
She saw a wearied man dismount
From his hot steed and on the brink
Of a small imaret's rustic fount
Impatient fling him down to drink.
Then swift his haggard brow he turned
To the fair child who fearless sat,
Tho' never yet hath day-beam burned
Upon a brow more fierce than that,--
Sullenly fierce--a mixture dire
Like thunder-clouds of gloom and fire;
In which the PERI'S eye could read
Dark tales of many a ruthless deed;
The ruined maid--the shrine profaned--
Oaths broken--and the threshold stained
With blood of guests!--_there_ written, all,
Black as the damning drops that fall
From the denouncing Angel's pen,
Ere Mercy weeps them out again.
Yet tranquil now that man of crime
(As if the balmy evening time
Softened his spirit) looked and lay,
Watching the rosy infant's play:--
Tho' still whene'er his eye by chance
Fell on the boy's, its lucid glance
Met that unclouded, joyous gaze,
As torches that have burnt all night
Tho' some impure and godless rite,
Encounter morning's glorious rays.
But, hark! the vesper call to prayer,
As slow the orb of daylight sets,
Is rising sweetly on the air.
From SYRIA'S thousand minarets!
The boy has started from the bed
Of flowers where he had laid his head.
And down upon the fragrant sod
Kneels with his forehead to the south
Lisping the eternal name of God
From Purity's own cherub mouth,
And looking while his hands and eyes
Are lifted to the glowing skies
Like a stray babe of Paradise
Just lighted on that flowery plain
And seeking for its home again.
Oh! 'twas a sight--that Heaven--that child--
A scene, which might have well beguiled
Even haughty EBLIS of a sigh
For glories lost and peace gone by!
And how felt _he_, the wretched Man
Reclining there--while memory ran
O'er many a year of guilt and strife,
Flew o'er the dark flood of his life,
Nor found one sunny resting-place.
Nor brought him back one branch of grace.
"There _was_ a time," he said, in mild,
Heart-humbled tones--"thou blessed child!
"When young and haply pure as thou
"I looked and prayed like thee--but now"--
He hung his head--each nobler aim
And hope and feeling which had slept
From boyhood's hour that instant came
Fresh o'er him and he wept--he wept!
Blest tears of soul-felt penitence!
In whose benign, redeeming flow
Is felt the first, the only sense
Of guiltless joy that guilt can know.
"There's a drop," said the PERI, "that down from the moon
"Falls thro' the withering airs of June
"Upon EGYPT'S land, of so healing a power,
"So balmy a virtue, that even in the hour
"That drop descends contagion dies
"And health reanimates earth and skies!--
"Oh, is it not thus, thou man of sin,
"The precious tears of repentance fall?
"Tho' foul thy fiery plagues within
"One heavenly drop hath dispelled them all!"
And now--behold him kneeling there
By the child's side, in humble prayer,
While the same sunbeam shines upon
The guilty and the guiltless one.
And hymns of joy proclaim thro' Heaven
The triumph of a Soul Forgiven!
'Twas when the golden orb had set,
While on their knees they lingered yet,
There fell a light more lovely far
Than ever came from sun or star,
Upon the tear that, warm and meek,
Dewed that repentant sinner's cheek.
To mortal eye this light might seem
A northern flash or meteor beam--
But well the enraptured PERI knew
'Twas a bright smile the Angel threw
From Heaven's gate to hail that tear
Her harbinger of glory near!
"Joy, joy for ever! my task is done--
"The Gates are past and Heaven is won!
"Oh! am I not happy? I am, I am--
"To thee, sweet Eden! how dark and sad