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Yet, one relief this glance of former years
Brought, mingled with its pain, — tears, floods of
Long frozen at her heart, but now like rills
Let loose in spring-time from the snowy hills,
And gushing warm, after a sleep of frost,
Through valleys where their flow had long been lost.
Sad and subdued, for the first time her frame
Trembled with horror, when the summons came
(A summons proud and rare, which all but she,
And she till now, had heard with ecstasy)
To meet MOKANNA at his place of prayer,
A garden oratory, cool and fair,
By the stream's side, where still at close of day
The Prophet of the Veil retir’d to pray;
Sometimes alone -- but, oftener far, with one,
One chosen nymph to share his orison.
Of late none found such favor in his sight
As the young Priestess; and though, since that night
When the death-caverns echoed every tone
Of the dire oath that made her all his own,
The Impostor, sure of his infatuate prize,
Had, more than once, thrown off his soul's disguise,
And utter'd such unheavenly, monstrous things,
As even across the desp'rate wanderings
Of a weak intellect, whose lamp was out,
Threw startling shadows of dismay and doubt;-
Yet zeal, ambition, her tremendous vow,
The thought, still haunting her, of that bright brow,
Whose blaze, as yet from mortal eye conceal’d,
Would soon, proud triunph! be to her reveald,
To her alone ; -- and then the hope, most dear,
Most wild of all, that her transgression hore
Was but a passage through earth's grosser fire,
From which the spirit would at last aspire,
Even purer than before, -as perfumes rise
Through flame and smoke, most welcome to the skies -
And that when Azim's fond, divine embrace
Should circle her in heaven, no dark'ning trace
Would on that bosom he once lov’d remain,
But all be bright, be pure, be his again !-
These were the wildering dreams, whose curst deceit
Had chain’d her soul beneath the tempter's feet,
And made her think even damning falsehood sweet.
But now that Shape, which had appall’d her view,
That Semblance oh, how terrible, if true! -
Which came across her frenzy's full career
With shock of consciousness, cold, deep, severe,
As when, in northern seas, at midnight dark,
An isle of ice encounters some swift bark,
And, startling all its wretches from their sleep, A
By one cold impulse hurls them to the deep;
So came that shock not frenzy's self could bear,
And waking up each long-lull'd image there,
But check’d her headlong soul, to sink it in despair !
Wan and dejected, through the evening dusk, She now went slowly to that small kiosk, Where, pondering alone his impious schemes, MOKANNA waited her — too rapt in dreams Of the fair-rip’ning future's rich success, To heed the sorrow, pale and spiritless, That sat upon his victim's downcast brow, Or mark how slow her step, how alter'd now From the quick, ardent Priestess, whose light bound Came like a spirit's o'er the unechoing ground, From that wild ZELICA, whose every glance Was thrilling fire, whose every thought a trance !
Upon his couch the Veild MOKANNA lay,
While lamps around — not such as lend their ray,
Glimmering and cold, to those who nightly pray
In holy Koom,48 or MECCA's dim arcades,
But brilliant, soft, such lights as lovely maids
Look loveliest in, shed their luxurious glow
Upon his mystic Veil's white glittering flow.
Beside him, 'stead of beads and books of prayer,
Which the world fondly thought he mus'd on there,
Stood vases, fill'd with KISHMEE's 49 golden wine,
And the red weepings of the SHIRAZ vine;
Of which his curtain'd lips full many a draught
Took zealously, as if each drop they quaff'd,
Like ZEMZEM's Spring of Holiness,50 had power
To freshen the soul's virtues into flower!
And still he drank and ponder'd nor could see
The approaching maid, so deep his reverie;
At length, with fiendish laugh, like that which broke
From Ellis at the Fall of Man, he spoke:
“Yes, ye vile race, for hell's amusement given,
Too mean for earth, yet claiming kin with heaven;
God's images, forsooth!- such Gods as he
Whom India serves, the monkey deity;
Ye creatures of a breath, proud things of clay,
To whom if LUCIFER, as grandams say,
Refus'd, though at the forfeit of heaven's light,
To bend in worship, LUCIFER was right ! 52 —
Soon shall I plant this foot upon the neck
and without fear or check,
Luxuriating in hate, avenge my shame,
My deep-felt, long-nurst loathing of man's name;
Soon at the head of myriads, blind and fierce
As hooded falcons, through the universe
I'll sweep my dark’ning, desolating way,
Weak man my instrument, curst man my prey !
“Ye wise, ye learn’d, who grope your dull way on By the dim twinkling gleams of ages gone,
Com Like superstitious thieves, who think the light From dead men's marrow guides them best at night 63 Ye shall have honors — wealth, — yes, Sages, yes — I know, grave fools, your wisdom's nothingness; Undazzled it can track yon starry sphere, But a gilt stick, a bauble blinds it here. How I shall laugh, when trumpeted along, In lying speech, and still more lying song, By these learn’d slaves, the meanest of the throng; Their wits bought up, their wisdom shrunk so small, A sceptre's puny point can wield it all !
“Ye too, believers of incredible creeds, Whose faith enshrines the monsters which it breeds; Who, bolder even than NEMROD, think to rise, By nonsense heap'd on nonsense, to the skies; Ye shall have miracles, ay, sound ones too, Seen, heard, attested, ev'ry thing — but true. Your preaching zealots, too inspir'd to seek One grace of meaning for the things they speak; Your martyrs, ready to shed out their blood For truths too heavenly to be understood; And your State Priests, sole vendors of the lore That works salvation ;-as, on AvA's shore, Where none but priests are privileg'd to trade In that best marble of which Gods are made; They shall have mysteries — ay, precious stuff For knaves to thrive by — mysteries enough; Dark, tangled doctrines, dark as fraud can weave, Which simple votaries shall on trust receive, While craftier feign belief, till they believe. A Heaven too ye must have, ye lords of dust, A splendid Paradise, - pure souls, ye must:
That Prophet ill sustains his holy call,
Who finds not heavens to suit the tastes of all;
Houris for boys, omniscience for sages,
And wings and glories for all ranks and ages.
Vain things ! -as lust or vanity inspires,
The Heaven of each is but what each desires,
And, soul or sense, whate'er the object be,
Man would be man to all eternity!
So let him— EBlis! grant this crowning curse,
But keep him what he is, no Hell were worse.”
“Oh my lost soul !” exclaim'd the shuddering maid, Whose ears had drunk like poison all he said :MOKANNA started — not abash’d, afraid, He knew no more of fear than one who dwells Beneath the tropics knows of icicles ! But, in those dismal words that reach'd his ear, “Oh my lost soul!” there was a sound so drear, So like that voice, among the sinful dead, In which the legend o’er Hell's Gate is read, That, new as 'twas from her, whom nought could dim Or sink till now, it startled even him.
“Ha, my fair Priestess!” — thus, with ready wile, The impostor turn’d to greet her “thou, whose smile Hath inspiration in its rosy beam Beyond the Enthusiast's hope or Prophet's dream! Light of the faith! who twin'st religion's zeal So close with love's, men know not which they feel, Nor which to sigh for, in their trance of heart, The heaven thou preachest or the heaven thou art ! What should I be without thee? without thee How dull were power, how joyless victory ! Though borne by angels, if that smile of thine Bless'd not my banner, 'twere but half divine.