Mabel, A Sketch.

A poem by Walter R. Cassels

Mabel, A Sketch.


DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

ORAN, a Speculative Philosopher.
MABEL, his Wife.
HER FATHER.
MAURICE, & ROGER, her brothers.



MABEL.

SCENE I. A Study. Books, pictures, and sculpture about the room, interspersed with chemical and other instruments, globes, &c.; a singular blending of science with art, indicating a delicate and speculative organization in the arranger.


[ORAN, MAURICE, and ROGER.]

ORAN.

Well, well! and so ye deem I love her not,
Ye and the world that love so passing well?--
That still I trifle with her bright young life,
As the wind plays with some frail water-bell,
Wafting it wantonly about the sky,
Till at some harsher breath it breaks and dies?

MAURICE.

Nay, not thus far would our reflections go.
Friendship paints not with the foul brush of Conscience!
But thou, a man of dark and mystic aims,
Tracking out Science through forbidden ways,
Leaving the light and trodden paths to grope
'Mid fearful speculations and wild dreams,
May'st hunt thy Will-o'-the-wisp until thou lead'st
Our sister, all unwitting, to her death.

ROGER.

That shalt thou answer unto us. Thy life
Shall be to her life like the sun and shade,
Lost in one setting.

ORAN.

Ay! thou sayest well--
Thou sayest well. How oft a random shaft
Striketh King Truth betwixt the armour-joints!--
One life, one sun, one setting for us both.

Which way, then, tend your fears? What certain aim
Have all these strokes you level at my ways?

ROGER.

We say that you, against all light received,
Against all laws of prudence and of love,
Practise dark magic on our sister's soul--
That by strange motions, incantations, spells,
So work you on her spirit that strange sleep,
Sombre as Death's dark shadow, presently
Steals o'er her fragile body, dulls her sense,
And wraps her wholly in its chill embrace;
That thus, spell-bound, lost to the living world,
She lies till thou again unwind her chain,
And wak'st her feebly to this life of earth.
Thus dost thou peril her, thou blinded man!
Sett'st her dear life against thy moonstruck thought,
And slay'st thy dove on Folly's altar-steps.

MAURICE.

Ay! if you loved her, would your eyes have miss'd
The moonish faintness that o'erlaps her now,
Melting the fresh, full, ruddy glow of health
To loveliness most heavenly, yet most sad?
Her cheeks, where youth once summer'd into roses,
Glow now with faint exotic loveliness,
Not native to this harsh and gusty earth;
And from her large dark eyes there seems to gaze
Some angel with mute, melancholy looks,
As from a casement at this jarring world.

ORAN.

Ha! then you too have seen it; it is not,
O Heaven!--is not delusion, this fond dream,
But even now it works, works bliss for her.
Proceed, Sir ... you were saying ... Sir, I list ...
That in her eyes you saw angelic fire,
Pure from the dross, the dimming clouds of earth,
Deem'd now her frame ethereal, unakin
To earth's clay-moulded fabrics--such, perchance,
As entering heaven, might have left its dust
At the bright folding portals, sandal-like,
And thence, repassing in seraphic trance,
Still left unclaim'd the vesture at the gate!

ROGER.

You glory in her weakness! 'Tis too much--
Rash man, beware, a bitter end will come.

MAURICE.

I fain would think that study hath o'erwrought
Your heated brain to this short fever fit,
That soon may pass and leave your vision clear.
In truth, I note strange changes in your mien--
A wandering glance, quick, restless eagerness,
Rapt snatches of deep thought, wherein the mind
Seems cleaving heaven with wild extatic wings:
Your cheeks are pale, and all your nervous frame
Thrills 'neath some strange enthusiastic touch.
Lay by your books awhile, and breathe again,
As in those days gone by, the country air,
The sweet, calm country air, where perfume floats
Like love that finds no heart so godlike large
Can clasp it wholly in its one embrace,
But overflows creation with its bliss.
Thus shall you quickly exorcise this madness,
And cleanse your brain of these pernicious dreams.

ORAN.

This madness! I bethink me of the past,
Of all the great and noble who have toil'd
Amid the deep dark mines of burning thought,
Wearing out life to quarry forth the Truth;
Of all the seers and watchers, early and late
Waiting with eager blood-hot eyes the light
Rising afar in some untrodden East,
Full of divine and precious influence,
Calling, like Mezzuin from his minaret,
The thankless world to worship and be glad;
Of all the patient thinkers of the earth
Who talk'd with Wisdom like familiar friends,
Until their voices unaccustom'd grew,
And men stared blankly at them as they pass'd:
I do bethink me of them all, and know
How each walk'd through his labyrinth of scorn,
And was accounted mad before all men.
But patience!--Winter bears within its breast
The nascent seeds of golden harvest-time.

This only shall I tell you of my ways--
Straying, now here, now there, 'mid science' wealth,
I have discover'd a vast hidden power--
A power that perfected shall surely work
Great revolution in all human laws,--
Where stop its courses I as yet know not;
'Tis to me like the sun, that all the day
Shines godlike in my vision, and, at night,
Though darkness hide its brightness, still, I feel,
Shines on in glory over other spheres;
It is a power beneficent and good,
That grants to spirit infinite control
Over all matter, and that frees the soul
From its flesh shackles, and its sensuous means.
What else its influences, or for health,
For happiness, or blessing, I say not--
Save that such glimpses of vast powers unknown
Dawn on my wondering mind, that like a man
Standing upon some giddy pinnacle,
With a whole world seen faint and small below,
I close mine eyes for very fear and joy.
To her, my Mabel, do I bear in love
Some first-fruits of my finding--make her rich,
That, gazing through her eyes, I may behold
How sweet is heaven, how dear is happiness.
This is the sum of that I work on her;
Then, though I thank you for your good intent,
Leave me untroubled to my life of thought,
Leave her all trustful in the arms of love.

ROGER.

You love her not, false man! your heart and soul
Are steep'd in science till not e'en the heel,
Achilles-like, is vulnerable left.
Ay! wear thus feeling's semblance as you will,
Pale visionary! no more shall I pause,
But with strong hand arrest your mad career!
Soon we return arm'd with a father's power,
To snatch our sister from your fearful arts.

MAURICE.

Oh! if you love her, Sir, as once you did--
If yet upon the dial of your life
Her sun mark out the short sweet hours of joy,
And all too swiftly on the shadows glide--
If yet you prize the loving heart you hold,
From this most mad delusion waken up,
That blindly blights her whom it seeks to bless;
Cease your Utopian and unsafe essays,
And rather turn your studious care to call
The fading roses back into her cheeks,
And shed health's gladness on her feeble frame;
Reflect whilst yet you may, lest late Remorse
Stalk, ghost-like, through the chambers of your soul,
Haunting their gloomy void for evermore.

[Exeunt Maurice and Roger.]



SCENE II. The Same.


[ORAN.]


ORAN.

Not love her! O my God! thou knowest me--
Thou, looking through me as the sun at noon
That searches through the being of the world--
Thou setting life against thy glory light,
As men hold up a crystal 'gainst the sun,
Making its frame as nothing in the blaze!

Lo! my heart was like a chaotic world,
Still, silent, 'mid the dreary waste of time.
Man there was not in all its desert bounds,
But hoary ruins of past wondrous things,
Old unbeliefs, fierce doubts, unsightly dreams,
That wearing out their wild hot-breathing life,
Wearily stretch'd their writhing shapes to die;
Then came she moving o'er my awe-hush'd soul,
Like God's own Spirit over earth's void waters,
And there arose order and life through all.
She was my sun, set high to rule the day,
And make my world all bright and beautiful;
She was my moon, amid the stilly night
Subduing darkness with her quiet smiles,
And stealing softly through my anxious dreams,
A sweet-soul'd hostage for departed day;
She was my summer, clothing all my life
With fragrant blossoms of delight and joy.

[A pause.]

Not love her! 'Tis as yesterday the time
When first my love stole fainting to her ear,
In deep scarce-worded murmurs of desire.
'Twas evening, and above the weary land
Silence lay dreaming in a golden hush;
The summer's sunset yellow'd in the wheat,
And the ripe year, with harvest promise full,
Slept on the wavy slopes and verdant leas,
Like one who through long hours of toil at last
Sees the glad work accomplish'd, and in peace
Flings him along the meadows to repose;
Below, the bells of even faintly chimed,
And sent their hymnal music up the breeze
To where I stood, half-praying, by her side.
Then all my words and thoughts that came and went,
Waving about the secret of my love,
Like billows plashing on a silent shore,
All at one gush flow'd from me o'er her heart,
And broke the banks of silence; then my love
Sank through her liquid eyes to read her soul,
Like diver that through waving water-floods
Seeketh the priceless pearl that lies below,
And there found life--found joy for evermore:
It is as yesterday that time to me,--
Sweet time, when love entwines the locks of life
With fragrant blossoms, like a one-hour's bride,
And claspeth summer with soft pleading arms,
That she, though ne'er so eager to be gone,
Still tarries smiling for a last embrace,
And drops her hoarded flowers upon the way:
It is as yesterday--my love the same--
The love that led me through all heavy tasks,
All lonely watchings by the midnight lamp,
To win the fame that still might shine on her;
And e'en--how dear the thought!--this wondrous power,
This godlike influence which has dawn'd on me,
Thus from my love takes colouring and aim!
Not love her! Well, well, I'll forget the word--
The sun shines on, though blind eyes see it not.

[A pause.]

It cannot be--this aim so deeply--weigh'd,
So long and calmly sifted, cannot fail.
O wondrous power! great mystery of life!
Reserved for me of all the sons of men;
Fruit ripening high upon the wall of heaven
For me to pluck with eager, trembling hands,
And press its vintage out for thirsting worlds
More blessed still that into her sweet cup
First may I pour the clearest of the wine--
For her--for her--ah, yes! for her supreme,
I struggle onward through this blinding light,
E'en at whose dazzling threshold I might stand,
Pale, trembling, like a terror-smitten soul,
Waiting bewilder'd at the gate of heaven.
Yet once again let me the plan review,
Searching within my soul of souls each part,
That doubt or danger, lurking there, may thus
By love's keen-scented instincts hunted be.--

[A long pause.]

Yes! it is so--this deep magnetic sleep,
That from my being passes upon her,
Bindeth the body close in deepest thrall,
But setteth free the soul. What real need
Hath spirit of these sensuous avenues,
Through which the soul looks feebly on the world?
This power then opes the prison door awhile,
And sends the spirit chainless o'er the earth.
This know I--without eyes the spirit sees,
Gains instant cognizance of hidden things,
And counts all space for nothing; knowledge comes
Upon it with the falling of the flesh,
So that there is no thing in earth or heaven
But to the unhoused spirit native is--
The mantle falls and leaves the Prophet angel!
Body, then, is the prison-house of soul,
And freedom is its highest happiness,
Its heaven, its primal being full of joy.
This power that holdeth thus the keys of life,
Can then at will give moments of release,
Which to the soul are as the water-brooks
That scantly rise amid a sun-scorch'd waste:
These, oft repeated, must at length destroy
The thraldom of the flesh, and give at will
A freer issue to the practised soul--
At lowest gladden it with gleams of bliss,
Glimpses of heaven amid this exile time.
Yes! thus, my Mabel, shall thy prison'd soul
Rise to its sister angels heavenward still;
And soon the mortal fetters shall hang loose,
Scarce clogging aught its motions glad and free.
Thus shall thy young fair frame no longer be
A prison, but a meetest dwelling-place,
Full of all infinite delights, and dear
As is its nest to the heaven-soaring lark,
That yearns down, singing, to it from the sky.
These men, did they not see it in thine eyes,
Amazed and fearful at the dazzling sight,
As some rude passer gazing up aloft
Sees from some casement, unawares, a face
That makes his great rough heart on sudden rock
With wonder and with worship--in her frame
Did they not see the mortal waxing faint,
The immortal fusing it with heavenly fire?
Ay! the charm works, and thou, my life, my love,
Reapest the first-fruits of my long, long toil.



SCENE III. A Boudoir. Flowers about it, in beautifully shaped Vases. A Greenhouse at one end. The window-panes delicately tinted, and hung with light fleecy draperies.
[MABEL working, and singing in a low voice.]


[MABEL (singing).]

At night when stars shine bright and clear,
The soft winds on the casements blow,
And round the chamber rustle low,
Like one unseen, whose voice we hear,
On tiptoe stealing to and fro--

At night when clouds are dark and drear,
They moan about the lattice sore,
And murmur sighs for evermore,
That fill us with a chilly fear,
Oft glancing at the well-barr'd door--

At night, in moonlight or in gloom,
They wander round the drooping thatch,
Like some poor exile thence to catch
Fond glimpses of each well-loved room,
And sigh beside the unraised latch--

O unseen Wind! art thou alone,
Thus breathing round the sleeping land?
Or roams with thee a spirit band,
Blending sad voices with thine own,--
Voices that once with cheerful tone
Made music round the sleeping land?

ORAN. (from the Greenhouse, unperceived).

Ah! her dear voice. How all my nature thrills,
My heart, my brain, beneath the mellow sound,
Like some great dome with holy music fill'd!
She is the lark, above my listening soul
Hovering still with carols from Heaven's gate.
She is the perfumed breeze, that evermore
Sweeps music from the Aeolian strings of life.
She is the sea, that fills with sweetest sound
The yearning earth that folds it in its arms.
Not love her--Ah! dear heart, how utterly!

[A pause.]

What if amid these spirit wanderings,
This so mysterious power can grant at will,--
What if the angels, smitten with her grace,
Woo'd her away for ever from my heart?
The dove came twice again unto the ark,
With messages of peace, and hope, and joy,
But the third time return'd not. She's my dove--
Oh! wing'd she ever from my longing heart,
The waters of my life would quick subside,
And leave me stranded on the shoals of Time.
What if God saw her hovering aloft,
And smiled her in amongst his cherubim?
What if the draught of bliss should, Lethe-like,
Blot me for ever from her memory,
So that she sought me never, never more?
Oblivion! take again this fearful power--
No more shall Fate be tempted with my wealth,
Lest covetous it rob me of my all.

[A pause.]

And yet, these are but dreams, poor selfish fears,
That scum-like float and dim Love's limpid tide.
Shall I thus cage my bird from liberty,
And let it beat its life out on the bars,
Lest some dear bliss detain it in the heavens?
Shall I spill rashly forth this wine of joy,
Because for me within the crystal cup
Some dregs may haply rest when she has drunk?
Ah, no! for her alone shall I take thought.
The first pure sacrifice of Love is self!
There is no peril. God that sends the power
Will send the guardian angel to direct.
I work for her--Heaven speed the work of love.

[Enters the room.]

MABEL.

I waited for thee, love--'tis past the hour,
And on my dial slumbers Time in shade
When thou comest not to sun me.

ORAN.

I but stood
There on the threshold, following thy voice
Away, away through mazy lengths of dreams.
Music--low music from the lips we love,
Is the true siren that still lures the soul
From cares of earth to the Enchanted Isles.

MABEL.

Methinks that thou art sad to-day, my husband.
Let me share with thee pain as well as joy;
It is the sweetest right that love can claim.
We give our joys to strangers, but our grief
Sighs itself only forth for those we love.
We hang our sorrows on the loved one's ear,
Like jewell'd pendents for a bridal feast.

ORAN.

Tell me, my Mabel, if within this sleep,
To which mine art oft leads thee, there should come
Some angel bright with Heaven's reflected light,
Wooing thee upward with the songs of bliss,--
Tell me, my Mabel, wouldst thou freely go,
Leaving this fair earth-vesture only here,
Leaving me lornly gazing on the sky,
Blotting its sun out with my blinding tears?

MABEL.

There is no angel but the angel Death
Could sever me from thee who art all my life!
What Heaven is there but that which Love creates?
What songs of Bliss, save those by Love intoned?
Ah! thou to me art as the sun to Day,
That dies out with its setting utterly--
Thou art the ever-flowing crystal spring,
That keeps the fountain of my being full--
Thou art the heart that beats with measured pulse
The joyous moments of my flowing life--
Leave thee? How canst thou wrong me with the thought?

ORAN.

Dear Mabel!--Yet to-day thy brothers came,
Taxing me harshly, and in cruel terms,
With practising against thy precious life.

MABEL.

Oh, Heaven!

ORAN.

They dread these trances, whose dim fame
Hath floated on the ignorant air to them.
They deem this priceless power, new-fall'n on me,
And treasured for thy sake, my best beloved,
A most pernicious art, that may, perchance,
Work evil upon thee; say, dost thou fear?
My Mabel, hast thou faith and trust in me?
Shall I proceed, or break this magic wand,
Wherewith they deem that I am dower'd withal?

MABEL.

I trust in thee, my love, with perfect faith--
Am I not as the floating gossamer,
Steering through ether on thy guiding breath?
Am I not as the clay within thy hand,
Taking the shape and image of thy thought?
Heed not these idle tongues, that launch their doubts
In erring love against thy watchful care.
That which thou doest I accept with joy;
I wait for thee as waits a full-sail'd bark
The coming breeze to waft it o'er the sea.

ORAN.

Fear not! I do well think no peril lies
Within this power, but virtue of rare worth,
Else nevermore its wand had waved o'er thee.--
Tell me, dost bring no memory back to Earth
Of all these glorious wanderings above?
No certain visions of the hidden things
Thou seest in that far mystic spirit-land?

MABEL.

Nay! it must be as thou dost tell me oft,
The soul doth lose its secrets at Earth's gate,
And all the blinding glories it hath known
Shed but their mystic influence over life.
Therefore, it may be, 'tis I nought retain
Of that which passeth in these hours of trance.

ORAN.

Yet strive once more to grasp the fleeting dreams,
Else shall I doubt that which I fondly hope.--
Sleep, love, and let thy spirit bask awhile
In Heaven's own sunshine;--yet forget not me!

[Makes passes over her, which shortly sink her into a state of trance.]

'Tis done! she's free! and now this lovely frame
Lies tenantless, a casket whose pure gems
Now sparkle 'mid the opal lights of Heaven.
This earth seems very lone and cold to me
Now she is absent, though a little space!
My heart goes restless wandering around,
Seeking her through old haunts and vacant nooks,
Like one who, waking from some troubled dream,
Findeth his love soft stolen from his side,
And straightway seeketh in a dim amaze
All through the moonlight for her straying feet.

[A pause.]

Where art thou, O my dove! about the sky?
Ruffling thy breast across what honey breeze?
Flashing white pinions 'gainst the golden sun,
That fain would nest thee on his ardent breast?
Art thou soft floating through the joys of Heaven,
With Earth far, far beneath thee, like a star
Struggling up through the tremulous sea of light,
That sucks its life down from the eye of day?
About the gate of Heaven there floats my dove,
Fann'd by the breath of melodies divine;
Opes there no casement soft to take her in,
And lay her in the bosom of delight?
O dove, white dove, now at the gate of Heaven!
Wilt thou wing homeward ere the eventide,
On shining pinions to thine own soft nest?

[A pause.]

O wonderful! Thou mansion tenantless,
Unswept by memory, untrod by thought,
Where all lies tranced in motionless repose;
No whisper stirring round the silent place,
No foot of guest across the startled halls,
No rustling robes about the corridors,
No voices floating on the waveless air,
No laughters, no sweet songs like angel dreams
On silver wings among the arch├Ęd domes,--
No swans upon the mere--no golden prow,
Parting the crystal tide to Pleasure's breeze,--
No flapping sail before the idle wind,--
No music pulsing out its great wild heart
In sweetest passion-beats the noontide through,--
No lovers gliding down sun-chequer'd glades,
In dreams that open wide the Eden gate,
And waft them past the guardian Seraphim.
Sleep over all the Present and the Past--
The Future standing idle at the gate,
Gazing amazed, like one who, in hot haste
Bearing great tidings to some palace porch,
Findeth the place deserted.

[A noise without; enter in haste Father, Maurice and Roger.]

How now?--Friends, you are welcome!

FATHER.

Where's my child,
That you maltreat, most rash and guilty man?

ORAN.

Sir, you are over hasty in your words--
Your child is here.--

[Points to Mabel, who still lies entranced.]

FATHER.

Mabel! wake, Mabel--O my God! she's dead!

MAURICE.

How!--Dead!

ROGER.

Ay, murder'd!

FATHER.

O! my child! my child!

ORAN.

Peace! she is well--Sleep folds her in his arms,
And each upheaving of his drowsy breast
Is like a billow upon pleasure's sea,
Wafting her on to far Hesperides.

FATHER.

This is no healthy sleep that wraps her now,
Else would she waken at my anxious cry;
'Tis death-sleep, wretched man.

MAURICE.

Let's bear her hence.

ROGER.

Nay! let him now unwind his magic spells,
Or fall our vengeance on his guilty head.

ORAN.

Dismiss your fears, and cease your threats. Old man,
Soon shall I prove how much you wrong my love;
Thus do I call the spirit home again,
And wave the slumber backward from her eyes.

[Makes passes to awaken her, but without effect after long persistence.]

FATHER.

Impostor! would you mock e'en Death itself,
Calling it sleep!--You see, Death mocks you back.

MAURICE.

In vain! no further seek to blind our fears.

ORAN.

'Tis strange!... stand back, Sirs ... 'tis your influence
Hath neutralized my power--stand off, I say!

[Continuing the passes in great agitation.]

ROGER.

By Heaven!--It is too much--Let fall the mask!
O villain! you have done your worst at last,
And ta'en the sweetest life in all the land;
But vengeance swift shall follow on your track.

ORAN.

Hold! hold! young man, talk not of vengeance here;
This sleep shall pass and shame your blood-hot words--
If it pass'd not the vengeance were forestall'd.

[A silence--continuing the passes.]

O Mabel! Mabel! hear me where thou art!
Come to the lonely heart that yearns for thee,--
Come to the eyes that seek thee through salt tears!
Patience, Sirs, now methinks the sense returns;
A smile steals o'er her lips, and roseate hues
Make morning on her downy cheek again:
Back ... back--my anguish shall unwind the charm!

[A silence.]

FATHER.

Sir, I acquit you--pity you--perceive
You loved her, and have err'd against yourself;
But cease these struggles that but mock us now,
They nought avail--my child is dead!...

ORAN.

Mabel! Mabel!

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Mabel, A Sketch.' by Walter R. Cassels

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy