Samuel Rogers, Esq.
This Eastern Romance Is Inscribed By His Very Grateful And Affectionate Friend,
In the eleventh year of the reign of Aurungzebe, Abdalla, King of the Lesser Bucharia, a lineal descendant from the Great Zingis, having abdicated the throne in favor of his son, set out on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Prophet; and, passing into India through the delightful valley of Cashmere, rested for a short time at Delhi on his way. He was entertained by Aurungzebe in a style of magnificent hospitality, worthy alike of the visitor and the host, and was afterwards escorted with the same splendor to Surat, where he embarked for Arabia. During the stay of the Royal Pilgrim at Delhi, a marriage was agreed upon between the Prince, his son, and the youngest daughter of the Emperor, LALLA ROOKH; --a Princess described by the poets of her time as more beautiful than Leila, Shirine, Dewildé, or any of those heroines whose names and loves embellish the songs of Persia and Hindostan. It was intended that the nuptials should be celebrated at Cashmere; where the young King, as soon as the cares of the empire would permit, was to meet, for the first time, his lovely bride, and, after a few months' repose in that enchanting valley, conduct her over the snowy hills into Bucharia.
The day of LALLA ROOKH'S departure from Delhi was as splendid as sunshine and pageantry could make it. The bazaars and baths were all covered with the richest tapestry; hundreds of gilded barges upon the Jumna floated with their banners shining in the water; while through the streets groups of beautiful children went strewing the most delicious flowers around, as in that Persian festival called the Scattering of the Roses; till every part of the city was as fragrant as if a caravan of musk from Khoten had passed through it. The Princess, having taken leave of her kind father, who at parting hung a cornelian of Yemen round her neck, on which was inscribed a verse from the Koran, and having sent a considerable present to the Fakirs, who kept up the Perpetual Lamp in her sister's tomb, meekly ascended the palankeen prepared for her; and while Aurungzebe stood to take a last look from his balcony, the procession moved slowly on the road to Lahore.
Seldom had the Eastern world seen a cavalcade so superb. From the gardens in the suburbs to the Imperial palace, it was one unbroken line of splendor. The gallant appearance of the Rajahs and Mogul lords, distinguished by those insignia of the Emperor's favor, the feathers of the egret of Cashmere in their turbans, and the small silver-rimm'd kettle-drums at the bows of their saddles;--the costly armor of their cavaliers, who vied, on this occasion, with the guards of the great Keder Khan, in the brightness of their silver battle-axes and the massiness of their maces of gold;--the glittering of the gilt pine-apple on the tops of the palankeens;--the embroidered trappings of the elephants, bearing on their backs small turrets, in the shape of little antique temples, within which the Ladies of LALLA ROOKH lay as it were enshrined; --the rose-colored veils of the Princess's own sumptuous litter, at the front of which a fair young female slave sat fanning her through the curtains, with feathers of the Argus pheasant's wing;--and the lovely troop of Tartarian and Cashmerian maids of honor, whom the young King had sent to accompany his bride, and who rode on each side of the litter, upon small Arabian horses;--all was brilliant, tasteful, and magnificent, and pleased even the critical and fastidious FADLADEEN, Great Nazir or Chamberlain of the Haram, who was borne in his palankeen immediately after the Princess, and considered himself not the least important personage of the pageant.
FADLADEEN was a judge of everything,--from the pencilling of a Circassian's eyelids to the deepest questions of science and literature; from the mixture of a conserve of rose-leaves to the composition of an epic poem: and such influence had his opinion upon the various tastes of the day, that all the cooks and poets of Delhi stood in awe of him. His political conduct and opinions were founded upon that line of Sadi,-- "Should the Prince at noon-day say, It is night, declare that you behold the moon and stars."--And his zeal for religion, of which Aurungzebe was a munificent protector, was about as disinterested as that of the goldsmith who fell in love with the diamond eyes of the idol of Jaghernaut.
During the first days of their journey, LALLA ROOKH, who had passed all her life within the shadow of the Royal Gardens of Delhi, found enough in the beauty of the scenery through which they passed to interest her mind, and delight her imagination; and when at evening or in the heat of the day they turned off from the high road to those retired and romantic places which had been selected for her encampments,--sometimes, on the banks of a small rivulet, as clear as the waters of the Lake of Pearl; sometimes under the sacred shade of a Banyan tree, from which the view opened upon a glade covered with antelopes; and often in those hidden, embowered spots, described by one from the Isles of the West, as "places of melancholy, delight, and safety, where all the company around was wild peacocks and turtle-doves;"--she felt a charm in these scenes, so lovely and so new to her, which, for a time, made her indifferent to every other amusement. But LALLA ROOKH was young, and the young love variety; nor could the conversation of her Ladies and the Great Chamberlain, FADLADEEN,(the only persons, of course, admitted to her pavilion.) sufficiently enliven those many vacant hours, which were devoted neither to the pillow nor the palankeen. There was a little Persian slave who sung sweetly to the Vina, and who, now and then, lulled the Princess to sleep with the ancient ditties of her country, about the loves of Wavnak and Ezra, the fair-haired Zal and his mistress Rodahver, not forgetting the combat of Rustam with the terrible White Demon. At other times she was amused by those graceful dancing-girls of Delhi, who had been permitted by the Bramins of the Great Pagoda to attend her, much to the horror of the good Mussulman FADLADEEN, who could see nothing graceful or agreeable in idolaters, and to whom the very tinkling of their golden anklets was an abomination.
But these and many other diversions were repeated till they lost all their charm, and the nights and noon-days were beginning to move heavily, when, at length, it was recollected that, among the attendants sent by the bridegroom, was a young poet of Cashmere, much celebrated throughout the Valley for his manner of reciting the Stories of the East, on whom his Royal Master had conferred the privilege of being admitted to the pavilion of the Princess, that he might help to beguile the tediousness of the journey by some of his most agreeable recitals. At the mention of a poet, FADLADEEN elevated his critical eyebrows, and, having refreshed his faculties with a dose of that delicious opium which is distilled from the black poppy of the Thebais, gave orders for the minstrel to be forthwith introduced into the presence.
The Princess, who had once in her life seen a poet from behind the screens of gauze in her father's hall, and had conceived from that specimen no very favorable ideas of the Caste, expected but little in this new exhibition to interest her;--she felt inclined, however, to alter her opinion on the very first appearance of FERAMORZ. He was a youth about LALLA ROOKH'S own age, and graceful as that idol of women, Crishna,--such as he appears to their young imaginations, heroic, beautiful, breathing music from his very eyes, and exalting the religion of his worshippers into love. His dress was simple, yet not without some marks of costliness; and the Ladies of the Princess were not long in discovering that the cloth, which encircled his high Tartarian cap, was of the most delicate kind that the shawl-goats of Tibet supply. Here and there, too, over his vest, which was confined by a flowered girdle of Kashan, hung strings of fine pearl, disposed with an air of studied negligence;--nor did the exquisite embroidery of his sandals escape the observation of these fair critics; who, however they might give way to FADLADEEN upon the unimportant topics of religion and government, had the spirit of martyrs in everything relating to such momentous matters as jewels and embroidery.
For the purpose of relieving the pauses of recitation by music, the young Cashmerian held in his hand a kitar;--such as, in old times, the Arab maids of the West used to listen to by moonlight in the gardens of the Alhambra--and, having premised, with much humility, that the story he was about to relate was founded on the adventures of that Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, who, in the year of the Hegira 163, created such alarm throughout the Eastern Empire, made an obeisance to the Princess, and thus began:--
The Veiled Prophet Of Khorassan.
In that delightful Province of the Sun,
The first of Persian lands he shines upon.
Where all the loveliest children of his beam,
Flowerets and fruits, blush over every stream,
And, fairest of all streams, the MURGA roves
Among MEROU'S bright palaces and groves;--
There on that throne, to which the blind belief
Of millions raised him, sat the Prophet-Chief,
The Great MOKANNA. O'er his features hung
The Veil, the Silver Veil, which he had flung
In mercy there, to hide from mortal sight
His dazzling brow, till man could bear its light.
For, far less luminous, his votaries said,
Were even the gleams, miraculously shed
O'er MOUSSA'S cheek, when down the Mount he trod
All glowing from the presence of his God!
On either side, with ready hearts and hands,
His chosen guard of bold Believers stands;
Young fire-eyed disputants, who deem their swords,
On points of faith, more eloquent than words;
And such their zeal, there's not a youth with brand
Uplifted there, but at the Chief's command,
Would make his own devoted heart its sheath,
And bless the lips that doomed so dear a death!
In hatred to the Caliph's hue of night,
Their vesture, helms and all, is snowy white;
Their weapons various--some equipt for speed,
With javelins of the light Kathaian reed;
Or bows of buffalo horn and shining quivers
Filled with the stems
that bloom on IRAN'S rivers;
While some, for war's more terrible attacks,
Wield the huge mace and ponderous battle-axe;
And as they wave aloft in morning's beam
The milk-white plumage of their helms, they seem
Like a chenar-tree grove when winter throws
O'er all its tufted heads his feathery snows.
Between the porphyry pillars that uphold
The rich moresque-work of the roof of gold,
Aloft the Haram's curtained galleries rise,
Where thro' the silken net-work, glancing eyes,
From time to time, like sudden gleams that glow
Thro' autumn clouds, shine o'er the pomp below.--
What impious tongue, ye blushing saints, would dare
To hint that aught but Heaven hath placed you there?
Or that the loves of this light world could bind,
In their gross chain, your Prophet's soaring mind?
No--wrongful thought!--commissioned from above
To people Eden's bowers with shapes of love,
(Creatures so bright, that the same lips and eyes
They wear on earth will serve in Paradise,)
There to recline among Heaven's native maids,
And crown the Elect with bliss that never fades--
Well hath the Prophet-Chief his bidding done;
And every beauteous race beneath the sun,
From those who kneel at BRAHMA'S burning fount,
To the fresh nymphs bounding o'er YEMEN'S mounts;
From PERSIA'S eyes of full and fawnlike ray,
To the small, half-shut glances of KATHAY;
And GEORGIA'S bloom, and AZAB'S darker smiles,
And the gold ringlets of the Western Isles;
All, all are there;--each Land its flower hath given,
To form that fair young Nursery for Heaven!
But why this pageant now? this armed array?
What triumph crowds the rich Divan to-day
With turbaned heads of every hue and race,
Bowing before that veiled and awful face,
Like tulip-beds, of different shape and dyes,
Bending beneath the invisible West-wind's sighs!
What new-made mystery now for Faith to sign
And blood to seal, as genuine and divine,
What dazzling mimicry of God's own power
Hath the bold Prophet planned to grace this hour?
Not such the pageant now, tho' not less proud;
Yon warrior youth advancing from the crowd
With silver bow, with belt of broidered crape
And fur-bound bonnet of Bucharian shape.
So fiercely beautiful in form and eye,
Like war's wild planet in a summer sky;
That youth to-day,--a proselyte, worth hordes
Of cooler spirits and less practised swords,--
Is come to join, all bravery and belief,
The creed and standard of the heaven-sent Chief.
Tho' few his years, the West already knows
Young AZIM'S fame;--beyond the Olympian snows
Ere manhood darkened o'er his downy cheek,
O'erwhelmed in fight and captive to the Greek,
He lingered there, till peace dissolved his chains;--
Oh! who could even in bondage tread the plains
Of glorious GREECE nor feel his spirit rise
Kindling within him? who with heart and eyes
Could walk where Liberty had been nor see
The shining foot-prints of her Deity,
Nor feel those god-like breathings in the air
Which mutely told her spirit had been there?
Not he, that youthful warrior,--no, too well
For his soul's quiet worked the awakening spell;
And now, returning to his own dear land,
Full of those dreams of good that, vainly grand,
Haunt the young heart,--proud views of human-kind,
Of men to Gods exalted and refined,--
False views like that horizon's fair deceit
Where earth and heaven but seem, alas, to meet!--
Soon as he heard an Arm Divine was raised
To right the nations, and beheld, emblazed
On the white flag MOKANNA'S host unfurled,
Those words of sunshine, "Freedom to the World,"
At once his faith, his sword, his soul obeyed
The inspiring summons; every chosen blade
That fought beneath that banner's sacred text
Seemed doubly edged for this world and the next;
And ne'er did Faith with her smooth bandage bind
Eyes more devoutly willing to be blind,
In virtue's cause;--never was soul inspired
With livelier trust in what it most desired,
Than his, the enthusiast there, who kneeling, pale
With pious awe before that Silver Veil,
Believes the form to which he bends his knee
Some pure, redeeming angel sent to free
This fettered world from every bond and stain,
And bring its primal glories back again!
Low as young AZIM knelt, that motley crowd
Of all earth's nations sunk the knee and bowed,
With shouts of "ALLA!" echoing long and loud;
Which high in air, above the Prophet's head,
Hundreds of banners to the sunbeam spread
Waved, like the wings of the white birds that fan
The flying throne of star-taught SOLIMAN.
Then thus he spoke:-"Stranger, tho' new the frame
"Thy soul inhabits now. I've trackt its flame
"For many an age, in every chance and change
"Of that existence, thro' whose varied range,--
"As thro' a torch-race where from hand to hand
"The flying youths transmit their shining brand,
"From frame to frame the unextinguisht soul
"Rapidly passes till it reach the goal!
"Nor think 'tis only the gross Spirits warmed
"With duskier fire and for earth's medium formed
"That run this course;--Beings the most divine
"Thus deign thro' dark mortality to shine.
"Such was the Essence that in ADAM dwelt,
"To which all Heaven except the Proud One knelt:
"Such the refined Intelligence that glowed
"In MOUSSA'S frame,--and thence descending flowed
"Thro' many a Prophet's breast;--in ISSA shone
"And in MOHAMMED burned; till hastening on.
"(As a bright river that from fall to fall
"In many a maze descending bright thro' all,
"Finds some fair region where, each labyrinth past,
"In one full lake of light it rests at last)
"That Holy Spirit settling calm and free
"From lapse or shadow centres all in me!
Again throughout the assembly at these words
Thousands of voices rung: the warrior's swords
Were pointed up at heaven; a sudden wind
In the open banners played, and from behind
Those Persian hangings that but ill could screen
The Harem's loveliness, white hands were seen
Waving embroidered scarves whose motion gave
A perfume forth--like those the Houris wave
When beckoning to their bowers the immortal Brave.
"But these," pursued the Chief "are truths sublime,
"That claim a holier mood and calmer time
"Than earth allows us now;--this sword must first
"The darkling prison-house of mankind burst.
"Ere Peace can visit them or Truth let in
"Her wakening daylight on a world of sin.
"But then,--celestial warriors, then when all
"Earth's shrines and thrones before our banner fall,
"When the glad Slave shall at these feet lay down
"His broken chain, the tyrant Lord his crown,
"The Priest his book, the Conqueror his wreath,
"And from the lips of Truth one mighty breath
"Shall like a whirlwind scatter in its breeze
"That whole dark pile of human mockeries:--
"Then shall the reign of mind commence on earth,
"And starting fresh as from a second birth,
"Man in the sunshine of the world's new spring
"Shall walk transparent like some holy thing!
"Then too your Prophet from his angel brow
"Shall cast the Veil that hides its splendors now,
"And gladdened Earth shall thro' her wide expanse
"Bask in the glories of this countenance!
"For thee, young warrior, welcome!--thou hast yet
"Some tasks to learn, some frailties to forget,
"Ere the white war-plume o'er thy brow can wave;--
"But, once my own, mine all till in the grave!"
The pomp is at an end--the crowds are gone--
Each ear and heart still haunted by the tone
Of that deep voice, which thrilled like ALLA'S own!
The Young all dazzled by the plumes and lances,
The glittering throne and Haram's half-caught glances,
The Old deep pondering on the promised reign
Of peace and truth, and all the female train
Ready to risk their eyes could they but gaze
A moment on that brow's miraculous blaze!
But there was one among the chosen maids
Who blushed behind the gallery's silken shades,
One, to whose soul the pageant of to-day
Has been like death:--you saw her pale dismay,
Ye wondering sisterhood, and heard the burst
Of exclamation from her lips when first
She saw that youth, too well, too dearly known,
Silently kneeling at the Prophet's throne.
Ah ZELICA! there was a time when bliss
Shone o'er thy heart from every look of his,
When but to see him, hear him, breathe the air
In which he dwelt was thy soul's fondest prayer;
When round him hung such a perpetual spell,
Whate'er he did, none ever did so well.
Too happy days! when, if he touched a flower
Or gem of thine, 'twas sacred from that hour;
When thou didst study him till every tone
And gesture and dear look became thy own.--
Thy voice like his, the changes of his face
In thine reflected with still lovelier grace,
Like echo, sending back sweet music, fraught
With twice the aerial sweetness it had brought!
Yet now he comes,--brighter than even he
E'er beamed before,--but, ah! not bright for thee;
No--dread, unlookt for, like a visitant
From the other world he comes as if to haunt
Thy guilty soul with dreams of lost delight,
Long lost to all but memory's aching sight:--
Sad dreams! as when the Spirit of our Youth
Returns in sleep, sparkling with all the truth
And innocence once ours and leads us back,
In mournful mockery o'er the shining track
Of our young life and points out every ray
Of hope and peace we've lost upon the way!
Once happy pair!--In proud BOKHARA'S groves,
Who had not heard of their first youthful loves?
Born by that ancient flood,which from its spring
In the dark Mountains swiftly wandering,
Enriched by every pilgrim brook that shines
With relics from BUCHARIA'S ruby mines.
And, lending to the CASPIAN half its strength,
In the cold Lake of Eagles sinks at length;--
There, on the banks of that bright river born,
The flowers that hung above its wave at morn
Blest not the waters as they murmured by
With holier scent and lustre than the sigh
And virgin-glance of first affection cast
Upon their youth's smooth current as it past!
But war disturbed this vision,--far away
From her fond eyes summoned to join the array
Of PERSIA'S warriors on the hills of THRACE,
The youth exchanged his sylvan dwelling-place
For the rude tent and war-field's deathful clash;
His ZELICA'S sweet glances for the flash
Of Grecian wild-fire, and Love's gentle chains
For bleeding bondage on BYZANTIUM'S plains.
Month after month in widowhood of soul
Drooping the maiden saw two summers roll
Their suns away--but, ah, how cold and dim
Even summer suns when not beheld with him!
From time to time ill-omened rumors came
Like spirit-tongues muttering the sick man's name
Just ere he dies:--at length those sounds of dread
Fell withering on her soul, "AZIM is dead!"
Oh Grief beyond all other griefs when fate
First leaves the young heart lone and desolate
In the wide world without that only tie
For which it loved to live or feared to die;--
Lorn as the hung-up lute, that near hath spoken
Since the sad day its master-chord was broken!
Fond maid, the sorrow of her soul was such,
Even reason sunk,--blighted beneath its touch;
And tho' ere long her sanguine spirit rose
Above the first dead pressure of its woes,
Tho' health and bloom returned, the delicate chain
Of thought once tangled never cleared again.
Warm, lively, soft as in youth's happiest day,
The mind was still all there, but turned astray,--
A wandering bark upon whose pathway shone
All stars of heaven except the guiding one!
Again she smiled, nay, much and brightly smiled,
But 'twas a lustre, strange, unreal, wild;
And when she sung to her lute's touching strain,
'Twas like the notes, half ecstasy, half pain,
The bulbul utters ere her soul depart,
When, vanquisht by some minstrel's powerful art,
She dies upon the lute whose sweetness broke her heart!
Such was the mood in which that mission found,
Young ZELICA,--that mission which around
The Eastern world in every region blest
With woman's smile sought out its loveliest
To grace that galaxy of lips and eyes
Which the Veiled Prophet destined for the skies:--
And such quick welcome as a spark receives
Dropt on a bed of Autumn's withered leaves,
Did every tale of these enthusiasts find
In the wild maiden's sorrow-blighted mind.
All fire at once the maddening zeal she caught:--
Elect of Paradise! blest, rapturous thought!
Predestined bride, in heaven's eternal dome,
Of some brave youth--ha! durst they say "of some?"
No--of the one, one only object traced
In her heart's core too deep to be effaced;
The one whose memory, fresh as life, is twined
With every broken link of her lost mind;
Whose image lives tho' Reason's self be wreckt
Safe mid the ruins of her intellect!
Alas, poor ZELICA! it needed all
The fantasy which held thy mind in thrall
To see in that gay Haram's glowing maids
A sainted colony for Eden's shades;
Or dream that he,--of whose unholy flame
Thou wert too soon the victim,--shining came
From Paradise to people its pure sphere
With souls like thine which he hath ruined here!
No--had not reason's light totally set,
And left thee dark thou hadst an amulet
In the loved image graven on thy heart
Which would have saved thee from the tempter's art,
And kept alive in all its bloom of breath
That purity whose fading is love's death!--
But lost, inflamed,--a restless zeal took place
Of the mild virgin's still and feminine grace;
First of the Prophets favorites, proudly first
In zeal and charms, too well the Impostor nurst
Her soul's delirium in whose active flame,
Thus lighting up a young, luxuriant frame,
He saw more potent sorceries to bind
To his dark yoke the spirits of mankind,
More subtle chains than hell itself e'er twined.
No art was spared, no witchery;--all the skill
His demons taught him was employed to fill
Her mind with gloom and ecstasy by turns--
That gloom, thro' which Frenzy but fiercer burns,
That ecstasy which from the depth of sadness
Glares like the maniac's moon whose light is madness!
'Twas from a brilliant banquet where the sound
Of poesy and music breathed around,
Together picturing to her mind and ear
The glories of that heaven, her destined sphere,
Where all was pure, where every stain that lay
Upon the spirit's light should pass away,
And realizing more than youthful love
E'er wisht or dreamed, she should for ever rove
Thro' fields of fragrance by her AZIM'S side,
His own blest, purified, eternal bride!--
T was from a scene, a witching trance like this,
He hurried her away, yet breathing bliss,
To the dim charnel-house;--thro' all its steams
Of damp and death led only by those gleams
Which foul Corruption lights, as with design
To show the gay and proud she too can shine--
And passing on thro' upright ranks of Dead
Which to the maiden, doubly crazed by dread,
Seemed, thro' the bluish death-light round them cast,
To move their lips in mutterings as she past--
There in that awful place, when each had quaft
And pledged in silence such a fearful draught,
Such--oh! the look and taste of that red bowl
Will haunt her till she dies--he bound her soul
By a dark oath, in hell's own language framed,
Never, while earth his mystic presence claimed,
While the blue arch of day hung o'er them both,
Never, by that all-imprecating oath,
In joy or sorrow from his side to sever.--
She swore and the wide charnel echoed "Never, never!"
From that dread hour, entirely, wildly given
To him and--she believed, lost maid!--to heaven;
Her brain, her heart, her passions all inflamed,
How proud she stood, when in full Haram named
The Priestess of the Faith!--how flasht her eyes
With light, alas, that was not of the skies,
When round in trances only less than hers
She saw the Haram kneel, her prostrate worshippers.
Well might MOKANNA think that form alone
Had spells enough to make the world his own:--
Light, lovely limbs to which the spirit's play
Gave motion, airy as the dancing spray,
When from its stem the small bird wings away;
Lips in whose rosy labyrinth when she smiled
The soul was lost, and blushes, swift and wild
As are the momentary meteors sent
Across the uncalm but beauteous firmament.
And then her look--oh! where's the heart so wise
Could unbewildered meet those matchless eyes?
Quick, restless, strange, but exquisite withal,
Like those of angels just before their fall;
Now shadowed with the shames of earth--now crost
By glimpses of the Heaven her heart had lost;
In every glance there broke without control,
The flashes of a bright but troubled soul,
Where sensibility still wildly played
Like lightning round the ruins it had made!
And such was now young ZELICA--so changed
From her who some years since delighted ranged
The almond groves that shade BOKHARA'S tide
All life and bliss with AZIM by her side!
So altered was she now, this festal day,
When, mid the proud Divan's dazzling array,
The vision of that Youth whom she had loved,
Had wept as dead, before her breathed and moved;--
When--bright, she thought, as if from Eden's track
But half-way trodden, he had wandered back
Again to earth, glistening with Eden's light--
Her beauteous AZIM shone before her sight.
O Reason! who shall say what spells renew,
When least we look for it, thy broken clew!
Thro' what small vistas o'er the darkened brain
Thy intellectual day-beam bursts again;
And how like forts to which beleaguerers win
Unhoped-for entrance thro' some friend within,
One clear idea, wakened in the breast
By memory's magic, lets in all the rest.
Would it were thus, unhappy girl, with thee!
But tho' light came, it came but partially;
Enough to show the maze, in which thy sense
Wandered about,--but not to guide it thence;
Enough to glimmer o'er the yawning wave,
But not to point the harbor which might save.
Hours of delight and peace, long left behind,
With that dear form came rushing o'er her mind;
But, oh! to think how deep her soul had gone
In shame and falsehood since those moments shone;
And then her oath--there madness lay again,
And shuddering, back she sunk into her chain
Of mental darkness, as if blest to flee
From light whose every glimpse was agony!
Yet one relief this glance of former years
Brought mingled with its pain,--tears, floods of tears,
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,
Thro' 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 retired 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 tho', since that night
When the death-cavorns 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 uttered such unheavenly, monstrous things,
As even across the desperate 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 concealed,
Would soon, proud triumph! be to her revealed,
To her alone;--and then the hope, most dear,
Most wild of all, that her transgression here
Was but a passage thro' earth's grosser fire,
From which the spirit would at last aspire,
Even purer than before,--as perfumes rise
Thro' flame and smoke, most welcome to the skies--
And that when AZIM's fond, divine embrace
Should circle her in heaven, no darkening trace
Would on that bosom he once loved remain.
But all be bright, be pure, be his again!--
These were the wildering dreams, whose curst deceit
Had chained her soul beneath the tempter's feet,
And made her think even damning falsehood sweet.
But now that Shape, which had appalled 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
By one cold impulse hurls them to the deep;--
So came that shock not frenzy's self could bear,
And waking up each long-lulled image there,
But checkt her headlong soul to sink it in despair!
Wan and dejected, thro' the evening dusk,
She now went slowly to that small kiosk,
Where, pondering alone his impious schemes,
MOKANNA waited her--too wrapt in dreams
Of the fair-ripening 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 altered 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 Veiled MOKANNA lay,
While lamps around--not such as lend their ray,
Glimmering and cold, to those who nightly pray
In holy KOOM, 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 mused on there,
Stood Vases, filled with KISIIMEE'S golden wine,
And the red weepings of the SHIRAZ vine;
Of which his curtained lips full many a draught
Took zealously, as if each drop they quaft
Like ZEMZEM'S Spring of Holiness had power
To freshen the soul's virtues into flower!
And still he drank and pondered--nor could see
The approaching maid, so deep his revery;
At length with fiendish laugh like that which broke
From EBLIS 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 gran-dams say,
"Refused tho' at the forfeit of heaven's light
"To bend in worship, LUCIFER was right!
"Soon shall I plant this foot upon the neck
"Of your foul race 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, thro' the universe
"I'll sweep my darkening, desolating way,
"Weak man my instrument, curst man my prey!
"Ye wise, ye learned, who grope your dull way on
"By the dim twinkling gleams of ages gone,
"Like superstitious thieves who think the light
"From dead men's marrow guides them best at night--
"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 learned slaves, the meanest of the throng;
"Their wits brought 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 heapt on nonsense to the skies;
"Ye shall have miracles, ay, sound ones too,
"Seen, heard, attested, everything--but true.
"Your preaching zealots too inspired 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 venders of the lore,
"That works salvation;--as, on AVA'S shore,
"Where none but priests are privileged 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!" exclaimed the shuddering maid,
Whose ears had drunk like poison all he said:
MOKANNA started--not abasht, afraid,--
He knew no more of fear than one who dwells
Beneath the tropics knows of icicles!
But in those dismal words that reached 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 naught could dim
Or sink till now, it startled even him.
"Ha, my fair Priestess!"--thus, with ready wile,
The impostor turned 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!
"Tho' borne by angels, if that smile of thine
"Blest not my banner 'twere but half divine.
"But--why so mournful, child? those eyes that shone
"All life last night--what!--is their glory gone?
"Come, come--this morn's fatigue hath made them pale,
"They want rekindling--suns themselves would fail
"Did not their comets bring, as I to thee,
"From light's own fount supplies of brilliancy.
"Thou seest this cup--no juice of earth is here,
"But the pure waters of that upper sphere,
"Whose rills o'er ruby beds and topaz flow,
"Catching the gem's bright color as they go.
"Nightly my Genii come and fill these urns--
"Nay, drink--in every drop life's essence burns;
"'Twill make that soul all fire, those eyes all light--
"Come, come, I want thy loveliest smiles to-night:
"There is a youth--why start?--thou saw'st him then;
"Lookt he not nobly? such the godlike men,
"Thou'lt have to woo thee in the bowers above;--
"Tho' he, I fear, hath thoughts too stern for love,
"Too ruled by that cold enemy of bliss
"The world calls virtue--we must conquer this;
"Nay, shrink not, pretty sage! 'tis not for thee
"To scan the mazes of Heaven's mystery:
"The steel must pass thro' fire, ere it can yield
"Fit instruments for mighty hands to wield.
"This very night I mean to try the art
"Of powerful beauty on that warrior's heart.
"All that my Haram boasts of bloom and wit,
"Of skill and charms, most rare and exquisite,
"Shall tempt the boy;--young MIRZALA'S blue eyes
"Whose sleepy lid like snow on violets lies;
"AROUYA'S cheeks warm as a spring-day sun
"And lips that like the seal of SOLOMON
"Have magic in their pressure; ZEBA'S lute,
"And LILLA'S dancing feet that gleam and shoot
"Rapid and white as sea-birds o'er the deep--
"All shall combine their witching powers to steep
"My convert's spirit in that softening trance,
"From which to heaven is but the next advance;--
"That glowing, yielding fusion of the breast.
"On which Religion stamps her image best.
"But hear me, Priestess!--tho' each nymph of these
"Hath some peculiar, practised power to please,
"Some glance or step which at the mirror tried
"First charms herself, then all the world beside:
"There still wants one to make the victory sure,
"One who in every look joins every lure,
"Thro' whom all beauty's beams concentred pass,
"Dazzling and warm as thro' love's burning glass;
"Whose gentle lips persuade without a word,
"Whose words, even when unmeaning, are adored.
"Like inarticulate breathings from a shrine,
"Which our faith takes for granted are divine!
"Such is the nymph we want, all warmth and light,
"To crown the rich temptations of to-night;
"Such the refined enchantress that must be
"This hero's vanquisher,--and thou art she!"
With her hands claspt, her lips apart and pale,
The maid had stood gazing upon the Veil
From which these words like south winds thro' a fence
Of Kerzrah flowers, came filled with pestilence;
So boldly uttered too! as if all dread
Of frowns from her, of virtuous frowns, were fled,
And the wretch felt assured that once plunged in,
Her woman's soul would know no pause in sin!
At first, tho' mute she listened, like a dream
Seemed all he said: nor could her mind whose beam
As yet was weak penetrate half his scheme.
But when at length he uttered, "Thou art she!"
All flasht at once and shrieking piteously,
"Oh not for worlds! "she cried--"Great God! to whom
"I once knelt innocent, is this my doom?
"Are all my dreams, my hopes of heavenly bliss,
"My purity, my pride, then come to this,--
"To live, the wanton of a fiend! to be
"The pander of his guilt--oh infamy!
"And sunk myself as low as hell can steep
"In its hot flood, drag others down as deep!
"Others--ha! yes--that youth who came to-day--
"Not him I loved--not him--oh! do but say,
"But swear to me this moment 'tis not he,
"And I will serve, dark fiend, will worship even thee!"
"Beware, young raving thing!--in time beware,
"Nor utter what I can not, must not bear,
"Even from thy lips. Go--try thy lute, thy voice,
"The boy must feel their magic;--I rejoice
"To see those fires, no matter whence they rise,
"Once more illuming my fait Priestess' eyes;
"And should the youth whom soon those eyes shall warm,
"Indeed resemble thy dead lover's form,
"So much the happier wilt thou find thy doom,
"As one warm lover full of life and bloom
"Excels ten thousand cold ones in the tomb.
"Nay, nay, no frowning, sweet!--those eyes were made
"For love, not anger--I must be obeyed."
"Obeyed!--'tis well--yes, I deserve it all--
"On me, on me Heaven's vengeance can not fall
"Too heavily--but AZIM, brave and true
"And beautiful--must he be ruined too?
"Must he too, glorious as he is, be driven
"A renegade like me from Love and Heaven?
"Like me?--weak wretch, I wrong him--not like me;
"No--he's all truth and strength and purity!
"Fill up your maddening hell-cup to the brim,
"Its witchery, fiends, will have no charm for him.
"Let loose your glowing wantons from their bowers,
"He loves, he loves, and can defy their powers!
"Wretch as I am, in his heart still I reign
"Pure as when first we met, without a stain!
"Tho' ruined--lost--my memory like a charm
"Left by the dead still keeps his soul from harm.
"Oh! never let him know how deep the brow
"He kist at parting is dishonored now;--
"Ne'er tell him how debased, how sunk is she.
"Whom once he loved--once!--still loves dotingly.
"Thou laugh'st, tormentor,--what!--thou it brand my name?
"Do, do--in vain--he'll not believe my shame--
"He thinks me true, that naught beneath God's sky
"Could tempt or change me, and--so once thought I.
"But this is past--tho' worse than death my lot,
"Than hell--'tis nothing while he knows it not.
"Far off to some benighted land I'll fly,
"Where sunbeam ne'er shall enter till I die;
"Where none will ask the lost one whence she came,
"But I may fade and fall without a name.
"And thou--curst man or fiend, whate'er thou art,
"Who found'st this burning plague-spot in my heart,
"And spread'st it--oh, so quick!--thro' soul and frame,
"With more than demon's art, till I became
"A loathsome thing, all pestilence, all flame!--
"If, when I'm gone"--"Hold, fearless maniac, hold,
"Nor tempt my rage--by Heaven, not half so bold
"The puny bird that dares with teasing hum
"Within the crocodile's stretched jaws to come!
"And so thou'lt fly, forsooth?--what!--give up all
"Thy chaste dominion in the Haram Hall,
"Where now to Love and now to ALLA given,
"Half mistress and half saint, thou hang'st as even
"As doth MEDINA'S tomb, 'twixt hell and heaven!
"Thou'lt fly?--as easily may reptiles run,
"The gaunt snake once hath fixt his eyes upon;
"As easily, when caught, the prey may be
"Pluckt from his loving folds, as thou from me.
"No, no, 'tis fixt--let good or ill betide,
"Thou'rt mine till death, till death MOKANNA'S bride!
"Hast thou forgot thy oath?"--
At this dread word,
The Maid whose spirit his rude taunts had stirred
Thro' all its depths and roused an anger there,
That burst and lightened even thro' her despair--
Shrunk back as if a blight were in the breath
That spoke that word and staggered pale as death.
"Yes, my sworn bride, let others seek in bowers
"Their bridal place--the charnel vault was ours!
"Instead of scents and balms, for thee and me
"Rose the rich steams of sweet mortality,
"Gay, flickering death-lights shone while we were wed.
"And for our guests a row of goodly Dead,
"(Immortal spirits in their time, no doubt,)
"From reeking shrouds upon the rite looked out!
"That oath thou heard'st more lips than thine repeat--
"That cup--thou shudderest, Lady,--was it sweet?
"That cup we pledged, the charnel's choicest wine,
"Hath bound thee--ay--body and soul all mine;
"Bound thee by chains that, whether blest or curst
"No matter now, not hell itself shall burst!
"Hence, woman, to the Haram, and look gay,
"Look wild, look--anything but sad; yet stay--
"One moment more--from what this night hath past,
"I see thou know'st me, know'st me well at last.
"Ha! ha! and so, fond thing, thou thought'st all true,
"And that I love mankind?--I do, I do--
"As victims, love them; as the sea-dog dotes
"Upon the small, sweet fry that round him floats;
"Or, as the Nile-bird loves the slime that gives
"That rank and venomous food on which she lives!--
"And, now thou seest my soul's angelic hue,
"'Tis time these features were uncurtained too;--
"This brow, whose light--oh rare celestial light!
"Hath been reserved to bless thy favored sight;
"These dazzling eyes before whose shrouded might
"Thou'st seen immortal Man kneel down and quake--
"Would that they were heaven's lightnings for his sake!
"But turn and look--then wonder, if thou wilt,
"That I should hate, should take revenge, by guilt,
"Upon the hand whose mischief or whose mirth
"Sent me thus mained and monstrous upon earth;
"And on that race who, tho' more vile they be
"Than moving apes, are demigods to me!
"Here--judge if hell, with all its power to damn,
"Can add one curse to the foul thing I am!"--
He raised his veil--the Maid turned slowly round,
Looked at him--shrieked--and sunk upon the ground!
On their arrival next night at the place of encampment they were surprised and delighted to find the groves all around illuminated; some artists of Yamtcheou having been sent on previously for the purpose. On each side of the green alley, which led to the Royal Pavilion, artificial sceneries of bamboo-work were erected, representing arches, minarets, towers, from which hung thousands of silken lanterns painted by the most delicate pencils of Canton.--Nothing could be more beautiful than the leaves of the mango-trees and acacias shining in the light of the bamboo-scenery which shed a lustre round as soft as that of the nights of Peristan.
LALLA ROOKH, however, who was too much occupied by the sad story of ZELICA and her lover to give a thought to anything else, except perhaps him who related it, hurried on through this scene of splendor to her pavilion,--greatly to the mortification of the poor artists of Yamtcheou,--and was followed with equal rapidity by the Great Chamberlain, cursing, as he went, that ancient Mandarin, whose parental anxiety in lighting up the shores of the lake, where his beloved daughter had wandered and been lost, was the origin of these fantastic Chinese illuminations.
Without a moment's delay, young FERAMORZ was introduced, and FADLADEEN, who could never make up his mind as to the merits of a poet till he knew the religious sect to which he belonged, was about to ask him whether he was a Shia or a Sooni when LALLA KOOKH impatiently clapped her hands for silence, and the youth being seated upon the musnud near her proceeded:--
Prepare thy soul, young AZIM!--thou hast braved
The bands of GREECE, still mighty tho' enslaved;
Hast faced her phalanx armed with all its fame,--
Her Macedonian pikes and globes of fame,
All this hast fronted with firm heart and brow,
But a more perilous trial waits thee now,--
Woman's bright eyes, a dazzling host of eyes
From every land where woman smiles or sighs;
Of every hue, as Love may chance to raise
His black or azure banner in their blaze;
And each sweet mode of warfare, from the flash
That lightens boldly thro' the shadowy lash,
To the sly, stealing splendors almost hid
Like swords half-sheathed beneath the downcast lid;--
Such, AZIM, is the lovely, luminous host
Now led against thee; and let conquerors boast
Their fields of fame, he who in virtue arms
A young, warm spirit against beauty's charms,
Who feels her brightness, yet defies her thrall,
Is the best, bravest conqueror of them all.
Now, thro' the Haram chambers, moving lights
And busy shapes proclaim the toilet's rites;--
From room to room the ready handmaids hie,
Some skilled to wreath the turban tastefully,
Or hang the veil in negligence of shade
O'er the warm blushes of the youthful maid,
Who, if between the folds but one eye shone,
Like SEBA'S Queen could vanquish with that one:--
While some bring leaves of Henna to imbue
The fingers' ends with a bright roseate hue,
So bright that in the mirror's depth they seem
Like tips of coral branches in the stream:
And others mix the Kohol's jetty dye,
To give that long, dark languish to the eye,
Which makes the maids whom kings are proud to call
From fair Circassia's vales, so beautiful.
All is in motion; rings and plumes and pearls
Are shining everywhere:--some younger girls
Are gone by moonlight to the garden-beds,
To gather fresh, cool chaplets for their heads;--
Gay creatures! sweet, tho' mournful, 'tis to see
How each prefers a garland from that tree
Which brings to mind her childhood's innocent day
And the dear fields and friendships far away.
The maid of INDIA, blest again to hold
In her full lap the Champac's leaves of gold,
Thinks of the time when, by the GANGES' flood,
Her little playmates scattered many a bud
Upon her long black hair with glossy gleam
Just dripping from the consecrated stream;
While the young Arab haunted by the smell
Of her own mountain flowers as by a spell,--
The sweet Alcaya and that courteous tree
Which bows to all who seek its canopy,
Sees called up round her by these magic scents
The well, the camels, and her father's tents;
Sighs for the home she left with little pain,
And wishes even its sorrow back again!
Meanwhile thro' vast illuminated halls,
Silent and bright, where nothing but the falls
Of fragrant waters gushing with cool sound
From many a jasper fount is heard around,
Young AZIM roams bewildered,--nor can guess
What means this maze of light and loneliness.
Here the way leads o'er tesselated floors
Or mats of CAIRO thro' long corridors,
Where ranged in cassolets and silver urns
Sweet wood of aloe or of sandal burns,
And spicy rods such as illume at night
The bowers of TIBET send forth odorous light,
Like Peris' wands, when pointing out the road
For some pure Spirit to its blest abode:--
And here at once the glittering saloon
Bursts on his sight, boundless and bright as noon;
Where in the midst reflecting back the rays
In broken rainbows a fresh fountain plays
High as the enamelled cupola which towers
All rich with Arabesques of gold and flowers:
And the mosaic floor beneath shines thro'
The sprinkling of that fountain's silvery dew,
Like the wet, glistening shells of every dye
That on the margin of the Red Sea lie.
Here too he traces the kind visitings
Of woman's love in those fair, living things
Of land and wave, whose fate--in bondage thrown
For their weak loveliness--is like her own!
On one side gleaming with a sudden grace
Thro' water brilliant as the crystal vase
In which it undulates, small fishes shine
Like golden ingots from a fairy mine;--
While, on the other, latticed lightly in
With odoriferous woods of COMORIN,
Each brilliant bird that wings the air is seen;--
Gay, sparkling loories such as gleam between
The crimson blossoms of the coral-tree
In the warm isles of India's sunny sea:
Mecca's blue sacred pigeon, and the thrush
Of Hindostan whose holy warblings gush
At evening from the tall pagoda's top;--
Those golden birds that in the spice time drop
About the gardens, drunk with that sweet food
Whose scent hath lured them o'er the summer flood;
And those that under Araby's soft sun
Build their high nests of budding cinnamon;
In short, all rare and beauteous things that fly
Thro' the pure element here calmly lie
Sleeping in light, like the green birds that dwell
In Eden's radiant fields of asphodel!
So on, thro' scenes past all imagining,
More like the luxuries of that impious King,
Whom Death's dark Angel with his lightning torch
Struck down and blasted even in Pleasure's porch,
Than the pure dwelling of a Prophet sent
Armed with Heaven's sword for man's enfranchisement--
Young AZIM wandered, looking sternly round,
His simple garb and war-boots clanking sound
But ill according with the pomp and grace
And silent lull of that voluptuous place.
"Is this, then," thought the youth, "is this the way
"To free man's spirit from the deadening sway
"Of worldly sloth,--to teach him while he lives
"To know no bliss but that which virtue gives,
"And when he dies to leave his lofty name
"A light, a landmark on the cliffs of fame?
"It was not so, Land of the generous thought
"And daring deed, thy god-like sages taught;
"It was not thus in bowers of wanton ease
"Thy Freedom nurst her sacred energies;
"Oh! not beneath the enfeebling, withering glow
"Of such dull luxury did those myrtles grow
"With which she wreathed her sword when she would dare
"Immortal deeds; but in the bracing air
"Of toil,--of temperance,--of that high, rare,
"Ethereal virtue, which alone can breathe
"Life, health, and lustre into Freedom's wreath.
"Who that surveys this span of earth we press.--
"This speck of life in time's great wilderness,
"This narrow isthmus 'twixt two boundless seas,
"The past, the future, two eternities!--
"Would sully the bright spot, or leave it bare,
"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 f