Read THE MISANTHROPE RECLAIMED of Mazelli‚ and Other Poems, free online book, by George W. Sands, on ReadCentral.com.

A Dramatic Poem

ACT I.

A fountain near the summit of a mountain, from which, through a
deep glen, a stream descends to the valley below. A city seen in
the distance. Time, midnight. Werner standing near the fountain.

Werner (solus).

Eternal rocks and hills!
Mighty and vast; and you, ye giant oaks,
Whose massy branches have for centuries
Played with the breeze and battled with the storm,
He, who so oft has trod your rugged paths,
And laid him down beneath your shades to rest,
Returns to be your dweller once again.
I sooner far would make your wilds my home,
With nought but your rude eaves to shield me from
The winter’s cold or summer’s heat, than be
One of the hundred thousand human flies
That swarm within yon filthy city’s walls.
Here, I at least may live in solitude,
Free from a forced communion with a race,
Whose presence makes me feel that I am bound,
By nature, to the thing I loathe the most,
Earth’s stateliest, proudest, meanest reptile, man!
The beauty of a god adorns his form,
The foulness of a fiend is in his heart;
The viper’s, or the scorpion’s filthy nest
Nurses a far less deadly, poisonous brood
Than are the hellish lusts, the avarice,
The pride the hate the double-faced deceits
That make his breast their dwelling.
If he be not beneath hell’s wish to damn,
Too lost for even fiends to meddle with,
How must they laugh to hear him, in his pride,
Baptize his vices, virtues; making use
Of holy names to designate his crimes;
Giving his lust the sacred name of love;
Calling his avarice a goodly sin,
Care for his household; naming his deceit
Praiseworthy caution; boasting of his hate,
When he no more can cloak it, as a proof
Of strength of mind and honesty of heart.
For all of goodness that remains on earth,
The name of virtue might be banished from it.
Fathers, who waste in shameful riotings
The bread for which their children cry at home;
Mothers, who put aside th’ unconscious babe
That they may wrong its father; children, who
Grow old in crime ere they have spent their youth;
These are its habitants.
I cannot brook the thought, that I belong
To their vile race. My sufferings have been great,
And keen enough to prove my immortality;
For dust could not have borne what I have suffered.
My mind has pierced far, far beyond the length
Of mortal vision, and discovered things
Of which men scarcely dream, and paid in pain,
The price of what it learned and bought with pangs
By which a thousand ages were compressed
Into one hour of agony: a power
Which is a terror to possess, and yet
This one thought only irks me.
Methinks the peaceful earth will scarcely give
My dust a resting-place within its bosom,
But cast it forth as if too vile, to mingle
With clay that ne’er has been the slave of sin.
What! other watchers here at this lone hour?

[An evil spirit enters, singing.
The world is half hidden,
By midnight’s dark shadow;
The filly, witch-ridden,
Skims over the meadow;
The house-dog is barking,
The night-owl is hooting,
The glow-worm is sparkling,
The meteor is shooting;
And forms, which lie
So stiff and still,
In their shrouds so chill,
Through the live-long day,
Now burst their clay,
And flit through the sky,
On their dusky pinions:
Hell’s dominions
Keep holiday.
Sisters, sisters, wherever your watches
Are kept, fleet hither to me,
Fleet hither, fleet hither, and leave earth’s wretches
Alone to their misery.

[A chorus of evil spirits answer as they enter from different
parts of the mountain.
We come!
Vice needs no assistance,
She meets no resistance,
Virtue’s existence
Is only in name;
Drinking and eating,
Intriguing and cheating,
Carousing, completing
Their ruin and shame;
Old age unrepenting,
Manhood unrelenting,
Youth sighing and winning,
Deceiving and sinning,
Deserting, repining,
All men are the same.
Ho! ho!
Earth quakes with the weight of the anguish she bears,
Her plains and her valleys are deluged with tears,
And her sighs, if united, were deeper by far,
Than the thunderbolt’s peal, when the clouds are at war.
There is, not a bosom, that bears not within
Its chambers, the blot and the burden of sin;
Not a mind, but in many an hour bath felt
The curse of its nature, the pangs of its guilt.

These earth-worms! whose sire would have had us to bow
To his dust-moulded Godship! what what are they now?
In the scale of true goodness, they sink far below
The poor, patient ox, that they yoke to the plough.
Let them revel awhile, in the false glaring light
Of deception, that blindness but seems to make bright;
Let them gather awhile of time’s perishing flowers;
The revenge of eternity! This shall be ours!
Ho! ho!

[They settle near the fountain. The first Spirit addresses them.

The night is advancing,
Come, let us, dancing
In dewy circles deftly tread;
And while we dance round,
New schemes shall be found,
To ruin the living, and trouble the dead.

[They form a circle on the margin of the stream, and dance round
singing.

I.

Life is but a fleeting day,
Half of which man dreams away;
Night! we follow in thy train
Sleep! supreme o’er thee we reign;
Ours the dreams that come when thou
Sit’st upon the unconscious brow;
Reason then deserts her throne,
We then reign, and we alone.

II.

Then seek we, for the maiden’s pillow,
Far beyond the Atlantic’s billow,
Love’s apple, and when we have found it,
Draw the magic circle round it;(1)
Fearless pluck it, then no charm
That it bears may do us harm;
Place it near the sleeper’s head,
It will bring love’s visions nigh,
And when the pleasing, dreams are fled,
The waking, pensive maid will sigh,
Till her bosom has possessed,
The form that made her dreams so blest.
And when a maiden finds a lover,
Her happy days are nearly over:
Nature hath unchaste desires,
Love awakes her slumbering fires,
And the bosom that is true in
Love is ever near its ruin;
Passion’s pleading melts the frost
Of chilliest hearts, and all is lost:
For, once vice blots a maiden’s name,
She soon forgets her maiden shame.

III.

Haunt the debauchee with dreams,
Of the victim of his schemes;
Paint her with dishevelled hair,
Streaming eyes, and bosom bare,
And with aspect pale and sad,
As a spectre’s from the dead,
Weeping o’er her new-born, child,
Her name reproached, her fame despoiled:
Let her groanings reach his ear,
Pierce his heart, and rouse his fear
Of the retribution given,
To such deeds as his, by Heaven.

IV.

Around the drunkard’s tattered couch,
Let pale-faced want and misery crouch,
His children shivering o’er the hearth,
Cheered by no sound of social mirth,
Upbraiding, with their timid glances,
The author of their sad mischances;
And she to whom the holy vow
Of the altar bound him, now
With sunken eye, and beauty faded,
Tresses silvered, brow o’ershaded,
Clinging to him fondly still,
With a love that mocks each ill,
Which would vainly strive to tear
Her soul from one who once was dear.
Now haste we, each our task to do,
Ere the starry hours wane through!

[They fly off, singing as they disappear.

Ere the Morning’s rosy wing,
Has brushed the damp night-shades away,
Ere the birds their matins sing,
Choiring to the new-born day,
Though its bright birth-hour be near,
Many a sigh, and many a tear,
Shall attest the mystic might,
Of those who walk the world by night.

Werner (solus).

The ruin of the living! if that be
Your only task, you have a poor employ.
Give man his three score years, and he will make
A wreck, the skill of hell might show forth as
A sample of its handiwork, and then,
Exult at the completeness of its ruin.
The troubling of the dead! if memory lives
In that far world, to which the spirit hastens,
When she casts off the clay that clogs her wings,
E’en there ye are forestalled, for man will need
No curse, to make his second life a hell,
If be retains the memory of his first.
Had the clear waters of this gurgling brook,
The pow’r to wash time’s blots from th’ mind’s page,
And all earth’s mountains were compact of gold,
Her rivers nectar, and her oceans wine,
Her hills all fruitful, and her valleys fresh,
And full of loveliness as Eden was,
Ere sin’s sad blight fell on its living bow’rs,
And all were mine, I’d give them but to lay
My weary limbs along this streamlet’s bed,
And sleep in full forgetfulness awhile.
But, I forget my task now let me to it!

[He takes a vial from his bosom, and flings its contents into the
air, chanting,

Spirit
Wherever be thy home,
In earth or air,
My message hear,
And fear it.
By the power which I have earned,
To which thy knee has knelt,
By the spell which I have learned,
A spell which thou, hast felt,
I bid thee hither come!

[A white cloud appears in the distance, floating up the glen, and
a voice is heard, singing as it approaches,

I.

I saw from port a vessel steer,
The skies were clear, the winds were fair,
More swiftly than the hunted deer,
Upon her snowy wings of air,
She flew along the silv’ry water,
As fearlessly as if some sprite,
Familiar with the deep, had taught her,
A spell by which to rule the might
Of winds and waves, when met to try
Their strength, up midway in the sky.

II.

Along her trackless watery way,
With unabated speed she flew,
Still gay and careless, till the day
Waned past: night came: the heavens grew
Black, dread and threat’ning. Then the storm
Came forth in its devouring wrath;
Before it fled Fear’s pallid form;
Destruction followed in its path;
It passed: the morning came: in vain,
I look for that lost bark again.

III.

Far down beneath the deep blue waves,
Within some merman’s coral hall,
Her fated crew have found their graves;
Above them, for their burial pall,
The mermaids spread their flowing tresses;
The waters chant their requiem;
From many an eyelid, Pity presses
Her tender, dewy tears for them:
The natives of the ocean weep,
To view them sleeping death’s pale sleep.

IV.

Thou, mortal, wast the bark I saw;
The waters, were the sea of life;
And thou, alas! too well dost know,
What storms were imaged in the strife
Of winds and waves. The hopes of youth,
Thou, in that bark’s lost crew, may’st see,
All buried now within that smooth,
Vast, boundless deep, eternity:
And I, a spirit though I be,
Can pity still, and weep for thee.

[The cloud settles near the fountain, and, unclosing, discovers
a beautiful form looking steadily at Werner.

Werner (addressing it).

How beautiful!
If intercourse between all living worlds,
Had not been barr’d by Him who gave them life,
I should believe thou wert the guardian spirit,
Of that which men have named the Queen of Night.
Like her, thou art majestic, pale and sad,
And of a tender beauty: those bright curls
That press thy brow, and cling about thy neck,
Seem made of sunbeams, caught upon their way
To earth, by some creative hand, and woven
Into a fairy web, of light and life,
Conscious of its high source, and proud to be
A part of aught so beautiful as thou.
I have seen many full, bright mortal eyes,
That were a labyrinth of witching charms,
In which the heart of him who looked was lost;
But none like thine; their light is not of earth;
Their loveliness not like what man calls lovely.
Beside the smoothness of thy brow and cheek,
The lily’s lip were rough; each of thy limbs,
Is, in itself, a being and a beauty.
If that the orb thou didst inhabit, ere
Thou wert a portion of eternity,
Was worthy of such dwellers, oh! how fair
And glorious, must have been its fields and bow’rs!
How clear its streams! how pure and fresh its airs!
How mellow were its fruits! how bright its flow’rs!
How strong and brave the beings, fit to share
It with thee! ’Tis most strange that He, whose hand
Fashions such wondrous things, should take delight
In striking them to nothingness again!
Perchance the author of all evil had
Invaded it, and made it quite unfit
To be a part of God’s great universe.
And yet thou lookest as if thou wert beyond
The power of temptation to assail.
Hast thou too sinned?

Spirit.

I have lived as thou livest, died as thou
Wilt have to die, and am what thou shalt be.

Werner

I have not questioned thee of life or death,
Nor of the state which shall succeed them both;
I care not for the first, nor fear the second;
The last I leave to Him who gave to man
Eternity for his inheritance.
But I would know if the unceasing war,
Which good and evil wage upon the earth,
Has reached beyond, its confines.

Spirit.

Have I not answered thee?
The Begetter of worlds, stars, suns, and systems!
The Father of Creation! the Bridegroom
Of the Spirit! hath He not written that
Death has dominion only over sin?
And thou would’st know if other worlds have felt
The curse that fell upon, and blighted thine.
Poor simple child of clay! no doubt thou know’st
The story of the Eden of thy sire,
And think’st that there, in its fresh, stainless breast,
The baleful seeds of evil first were sown,
Which since have spread so fearfully abroad,
When the sad doom, that came on him and his,
Was but the spray, cast from the wave of fate,
Which just then reached thy newly finished orb.
Where it first started whither tends its course
Where it shall stop how many wrecks of worlds
Once fairer far than thine was at its birth
Shall strew its desolate way, is not for things
Brought forth from dust to know.
What wouldst thou of me?

Werner.

The sole remaining good, if good it be,
That yet is mine to share. I have tried all
That earthly hope holds out to satisfy
The longings of man’s nature. I have loved,
And made an idol of the thing I loved,
And worshipped it with all my soul’s intensity;
And, for awhile, the frenzy of my dream
Shut out all other thoughts. But it was short;
Death plucked my lovely flower from my grasp,
And then, the icy chill of desolation
Came, like a snowy avalanche, upon
My heart, and froze the fountains of its feeling.
I was ambitious. I have striven for,
And worn, the gaudiest wreath of fame, and when
I would have placed it on my brow, it grew
A mountain in its weight. I courted much
The notice of the world, and when men praised,
The very breath that bore their praise to me,
Seemed clogged with pestilence.

Wealth, too, I coveted,
And heaped its shining dust in hoards around me,
And yet it was but dust, as barren of
Enjoyment as the ground we tread upon.
I clad myself in purple heaped my board
With all the fairest, sweetest fruits of earth,
And filled my golden goblets with bright juice,
Pressed from the goodliest grapes, and made my couch
Of down, and yet, I was most wretched still.
My garments were but cumbersome; my couch
Could give no rest, and e’en my generous wines
Could not remove the crushing weight that sat,
Nightmare-like, on my heart, until it grew
A palpable and keenly aching pang.
There is, one path which yet remains untrod;
To be my guide in it, I called thee hither,
’Tis that of knowledge.

Spirit.

The same
In which the mother of thy race was lost,
With e’en a wiser, mightier guide than I.
She thirsted, too, for knowledge, and she gave
Her innocence her home in Paradise
The happiness of him who shared her lot
To know what? That her own rebellious hand
Had raised the flood-gates of a sea of crime,
Which would for ever pour its bitter waves
Upon the helpless unprotected race,
Which her rash deed had ruined.
Think of the sighs the groans the floods of tears
The woes too deep for these which have no end,
Save but in heart-breaks! Think upon the toil
The sweat the pain the strife the crime the blood
The myriads of souls with which this one
Sad lesson was obtained! whose price is yet
Not fully paid, nor shall be so, until
The last poor son of earth mingles with dust!
Dost thou not fear to tread a path like this?

Werner.

I have no fear;
It is so long since I have felt its thrill
That ’twere a pleasure now to feel it.

Spirit.

What wouldst thou know?
Thou art familiar with all earthly lore.
More: Thou hast gained, and wield’st a power, to which
The rulers of the elements do bow;
The hurricane, at thy command goes forth,
Walking where’er thou bid’st it, and the storm
Ceases to howl when thou hast said, “Be still!”
Thine anger stirs the ocean, and thy wrath
Finds out the deep foundations of the mountains,
And shakes them with its strength; the subtle fire,
That lights the tempest on its gloomy way,
Starts from its cloud-rocked slumber, at thy call,
To be thy messenger.
Canst thou not be content when thou art feared
By those who rule a world? What is there yet
Which thy insatiate mind desires to know?
Would’st learn immortal mysteries? Reflect
Thou art but mortal.

Werner.

Spirit, why dost thou
Taunt me with my mortality? “Weak things,
Brought forth from earth,” “Poor simple child of clay,”
These are thy words, when well thou knows’t that I,
Though bound to earth by bonds made of its mire,
Am mightier than thou. Were it not so,
Thou would’st not now be face to face with one
Of mortal birth. Thou, too, canst feel revenge,
And knowest how to wreak it; but, take heed,
The power which brought thee hither, can, and may
Deal harshly with thee. If thou knowest aught
Worthy of an immortal mind to know,
To which I have not pierced, reveal thy knowledge.

Spirit.

We may not tell the secrets of eternity;
But I can show thee things thou hast not seen,
And they may profit thee, although ’twill shake
Even thy proud heart to look upon them.
Would’st see them?

Werner.

It is my wish.

Spirit.

Come then.

Werner.

Lead on;
Although thy path be through hell’s gloomy gate,
I too will pass its portals at thy back.
Thou canst not enter where I dare not pass.

[The cloud closes around them, and moves away, and a voice sings
as it disappears.

To the region of shadow,
The region of death,
Where dust is a stranger,
And life has no breath;
Where darkness and silence
Their dim shrouds have cast
Round the phantoms of worlds
That belong to the past;
Spirits who sit on
The thrones of the air,
Guide ye our chariot,
Waft ye us there.

[Exeunt.

ACT II.

The verge of Creation. Enter Werner and Spirit.

Werner.

We have outtravelled light and sound:
The harmonies that pealed around us, as
Through yon array of dim and distant worlds
We winged our flight, have wholly died away,
Or come to us so faintly echoed, that
Our ears must watch and wait to catch them.
Those stars are now like watch-fires, which though seen
Blazing afar, send not their light to make
The path of the benighted wanderer
More plain and cheerful.
Before us stretches one vast field of gloom,
So dense as to appear impenetrable:
Darkness, that has a body and a form,
Both palpable to touch and sight, across
Our path a barrier rears that seems to bar
Our farther progress. If there be, beyond
This wall of blackness, aught of mystery,
What power shall guide us to it?

Spirit.

Thy mind
Which, from the influence of matter, free
As it is now and shall be till again
Though art returned unto thy native orb,
Is its own master, and its will is now
Its only needed guide.
Strange things are hidden by that ebon veil,
To which a single wish of thine may bear us.

Werner.

Then let us on:
Since we our search for knowledge have begun,
Wherever there is aught that Power has made,
Which Time has ruined, or which Fate has damned,
There let us go, that we may look on it,
And learn its history. What intense glooms
We now are passing through! I feel them part
Before, and close behind us, as we fly,
As plainly as the swimmer feels the waves
That lave his gliding limbs. This sure must be
The home of Death no voice, no sound, no sigh,
Not ev’n so much of breath as would suffice
To make a lily tremble!

Spirt.

Though say’st true,
This is indeed the realm of Death, at least
It has no more of life than what though hast
Brought here with thee, I speak of mortal life:
We now are near the Hades of past worlds,
Whose spirits have a life which cannot die.
You laugh! and show the haughty arrogance
Which in your mortal brethren you cotemn.
Think you that he who gave to man his mind,
The undying spark that quickens his clay frame,
Would fashion from the same material
Such mighty wonders as the spheres which go
Hymning around his everlasting throne!
Giving to them a beauty which alone
Could be conceived by him, which has great hand
Alone could mould into reality,
And yet deny them what he gave to thee,
Intelligence! a thing that knows not death?
Hast though not seen thine earth put forth her leaves,
Clothing her rugged mountain tops and sides,
Her forests in the vale, each tree and shrub,
With a fair foliage? hast though not beheld
Her weaving, in the sunny springtide hours,
A fairy web of emerald-bladed grass
To robe her valleys in? With every flow’r
Of graceful form, and soft and downy leaf,
And tender hue, and tint, that Beauty owns,
To deck her gentle breast? When Autumn came,
With its rich gifts of pleasant, mellow fruits,
Hast though not seen her wipe her sunburnt brow,
And shake her yellow locks from every hill?
Hast though not heard her holy songs of peace
And plenty warbled from each vocal grove,
And murmured by her myriads of streams?
Hast though not seen her, when the hollow winds,
Which moan the requiem of the dying year,
Raved through her leafless bowers, wrap about
Her breast a mantle, wherewith to protect
And nurse the seed, the trusting husbandman
Hath given to her keeping? Are thine acts
As full of wisdom, and as free from blame?
If not, then why deny to her the life
And spirit you possess?

Werner.

I did not laugh
In disbelief of what thy words declare,
But they stir such strange thoughts within my mind,
That, as I will not weep, I can but smile.
Methinks the darkness has grown less profound,
A heavy, dim, and shadowy light, like that
Which, when the storm has chosen midnight’s hour
Of stilly gloom, to hold its revel in,
First glimmers through the clouds which have been rent,
And torn by their own fierceness, hands about us.
The light increases still, and in the distance,
Enormous shadows, wearing distinct shapes,
Since seemingly immovable, and others
Like mighty, mastless, sailless, vessels, moved
By magic o’er a tideless, waveless ocean,
In calm, majestic silence float along!

Spirit.
Let us go nearer,
Now what seest though?

Werner.

Worlds like to that I live on, save that these
Seem made of living shades instead of dust;
Vast mountains, with tall trees and mighty rocks,
And fountains, gushing from their very summits;
Huge, towering cliffs, and deep and lonely glens,
And wide-mouthed caves that hold a deeper gloom,
With precipices from whose edges soft
And silvery cataracts are leaping down;
Swift streams, that rush adown their rugged sides,
And quiet lakelets, that appear to sleep
In the embrace of the surrounding hills;
The cottage of the hardy hunter, perched
High on the rocks, like to an eagle’s nest:
The shepherd’s humble shieling, and his fold,
And, half-way up, broad vineyards, with their vines
Bending with purple clusters of ripe fruit;
Wide valleys, with green meadows, and pure streams,
And gentle hills, where ripening harvests stand;
Majestic rivers, with their verdant banks
Studded with towns, and rural villages;
Motionless lakes, and seas without a wave,
And oceans pulseless as a dead man’s heart!
And mighty cities, standing on their coasts,
With vasty walls and gilded palaces,
And giant tow’rs, and tapering spires, that seem
The guardians of all they overlook.
Churchyards, with their pale gravestones, that appear
Like watchers of the dead whose names they bear!
All these are there, but not a sign of life,
No living thing that creeps along the ground,
Or flies the air, or swims the wave, is seen.
It seems as if on all things some strong spell
Had in the twinkling of a star came down
And rocked them to an everlasting sleep!
Spirit! tell me if what I see is more
Than a delusion; if it be, whence came
These shades?

Spirit.

And have I not already said
That these things are, that they are quick with life,
Such life as disembodied spirits have,
That they are deathless? Thou need’st not inquire
Of me whence they are come, for thou hast seen
One of their number on its journey hither.
The period may not be far remote
When thine own planet, starting from its sphere,
Shall fright the dwellers of the stars that skirt
Its destined pathway to these silent realms!
Thou’st seen the comet rushing through the sky,
And, gazing on the glowing track which it
Had branded on the azure breast of space,
Thinking thy words were wisdom, thou hast said,
“When its full term of years has been fulfilled,
It shall return again.” Not knowing that
The light thou sawest was reflected from
That sacred fire, which, in the end, shall purge
The spirit essence which pervades creation,
From the dull dust with which a wayward fate
Has clogged its being! Question me no more
Remember what I said I dare not tell
The secrets of Eternity. Look on
And learn whate’er thou canst.

Werner.

There is one thing which I at last have learned,
To feel that with the increase of our knowledge
Our sorrows must increase. I oft have heard,
But never before have felt the truth of this.
To know that were it not for this clay mask,
I even now might pierce the shadowy veil
That wraps in mystery the things I see,
And comprehend their secret principle,
Will make life doubly hard to bear, and tempt
Me much to shake it prematurely off,
And snatch wings for my spirit ere its time.
A total ignorance were better than
The flash which from its slumber wakes the mind,
And then, departing, leaves it to itself,
In the wide maze of error, darkly groping.
Wisdom is not the medicine to heal
A discontented mind. I now know more
Than when I left the earth, but feel that I
Have bought my knowledge with increase of sorrow.

Spirit.

Did I not tell thee that its path were steep,
And hard to climb, and thick beset with thorns,
And that its tempting, longed-for fruit, tho’ bought
With a great price, is full of bitterness?
If though art satisfied, let us retrace
Our way to earth again; wert thou to go
Yet farther on, thou might’st regret the more
Our coming hither.

Werner.

What! is there aught still more remote than these
From the great centre of the universe,
The fair domain of life and living things?

Spirit.

There is,
A kingdom tenanted with such dark shapes,
That angels shudder when they look on them!
Thou surely dost not wish to visit it.

Werner.

Why not? There is within my mind a void
Whose vacant weight is harder to be borne
Than the keen stingings of more active pangs;
When it has traced the mystic chain of being
To its last link, it may perchance shake off
The misery of restless discontent,
Its fulness then may sink it into rest.

Spirit.

I have no power to disobey thy word;
If thou wilt on, I must proceed with thee,
Even though in looking on I share the pangs
Of those who suffer.

Werner.

Come, then, I too must see them, tho’ it cost
Me years of pain to gaze but for a moment.

Spirit.

‘Twere harder now to find Eve’s’ buried dust,
Than to declare who has inherited
The largest portion of her prying spirit.

(Sings.)

Where Pain keepeth vigil
With Sorrow and Care,
And Horror sits watching
By dull-eyed Despair,
Where the Spirit accurst
Maketh moan in its wo,
Thy wishes direct us,
And thither we go.

[Exeunt.

ACT III.

Scene I. Near the place of the damned. Enter Werner and Spirit.

Werner.

What piercing, stunning sounds assail my ear!
Wild shrieks and wrathful curses, groans and prayers,
A chaos of all cries! making the space
Through which they penetrate to flutter like
The heart of a trapped hare, are revelling round us.
Unlike the gloomy realm we just have quitted,
Silent and solemn, all is restless here,
All wears the ashy hue of agony.
Above us bends a black and starless vault,
Which ever echoes back the fearful voices
That rise from the abodes of wo beneath.
Around us grim-browed desolation broods,
While, far below, a sea of pale gray clouds,
Like to an ocean tempest beaten, boils.
Whither shall we direct our journey now?

Spirit.

Right down through yon abyss of boiling clouds,
If though hast courage to attempt the plunge,
Our pathless way must be. A moment more
And we shall stand where angels seldom stand,
And devils almost pity when they stand,
Behold!

Werner.

Eternal God!
Whose being, is of love, whose band is pow’r,
Whose breath is life, whose noblest attribute,
The one most worthy of thyself~-is mercy!
Were these of thine immortal will conceived?
Has thy hand shaped them out the forms they wear?
Has thy breath made them quick with, breathing life?
And is thy mercy to their wailings deaf?
Poor creatures! I bad deemed that in my breast
Grief had congealed the hidden fount of tears,
But ye have drawn them from their frozen source
And I do weep for you!

Spirit.

What moves thee thus?
I thought thy heart so steeled in hardihood
Of universal hate, and pride, and scorn,
That even were the woes, which thou dost here
Behold endured by others, heaped on thee,
Thy haughty soul unmoved would feel them all;
Accounting its development of strength
To bear the worst decrees of ruthless fate,
Sufficient recompense!

Werner.

Misdeem me not,
If I have wept involuntary tears
O’er pangs beyond my pow’r to mitigate,
Believe me, ’twas in pity, not in fear.
But tell me, Spirit! is all hope extinct
In those who here sojourn, or do they look
Yet forward to some blest millennial day,
Which shall redeem them from this horrid place.

Spirit.

Best ask your theologians that question.
Some say that there are places purgatorial,
Where Error pays the price of her transgressions
In sufferings that efface the effects of sin.
And other some declare that when the soul
And clay are parted, heaven seals the doom
Of both, beyond repeal. Let thy own mind
Sit arbiter ’twixt these, and choose the truth.
Mark what approaches us, and mark it well.

Werner.

I cannot turn my gaze from it, and yet
It makes the warm blood curdle in my veins.
Than it, hell cannot hold a fouler form
A thing of more unholy loathsomeness!
Its heavy eyes are dim and bleared with blood,
Its jaws, by strong convulsions fiercely worked,
Are clogged and clotted with mixed gore and foam!
A nauseous stench its filthy shape exhales,
And through its heaving bosom you may mark
The constant preying of a quenchless flame
That gnaws its heartstrings! while a harsh quick moan
Of mingled wrath, and madness, and despair,
Perpetually issues from its lips;
And with unequal but unceasing steps,
It chases through the hot, sulphureous gloom,
A mocking phantom, fair as it is foul!
With naked arms, white breast, and ebon locks,
And big black eyes that dart the humid flame
Which sets the heart ablaze; and red moist lips,
And checks as spotless as the falling flake
Ere it has touched the earth, and supple form
Wherein is knit each grace of womanhood
In its perfection! and with wanton looks
That speak the burning language of desire,
It seems to woo its loathsome follower,
Yet ever from his foul embraces flies.
And on his brow his name is written, “Lust!”
Dismiss the spectre, for it blasts my sight,
And sears my brain with its dark hideousness!

Spirit.

’Tis gone; look up and see what next appears.

Werner.

A frame which may be that of Hercules,
It hath such giant members! and its port
Is martial as e’er marked a Caesar’s moving.
Its sandals are of brass, its massive brow
Is helmeted in steel, and in its hand
It bears a sword with which, in idle strokes,
It vainly beats the unresisting air,
As if in battle with some phantom foe;
And at each blow it deals, a strong fatality
Turns back its sword’s keen point on its own breast,
Which deep it gashes, then in mournful tone,
It mutters o’er and o’er again these words,
“I fought for fame and won unending wo.”
His agonies seem like himself, immortal.

Spirit.

Justice is blameless of his sufferings:
For many years his busy, plotting brain,
Made discord out of union, strife from peace,
And set the nations warring till the earth
Was crimson with the blood poured out for him!
He bears what he inflicted, let him pass
And mark what follows him.

Werner.

A goodly shape,
More fit to string and strike Apollo’s lyre,
Than bear the shield or wield the sword of Mars!
A broken harp, suspended at his side,
A faded garland, wreathed about his brow,
Tell what he was, and still employ his care.
With thin white hand, that trembles at its task,
In vain he strives to bind the broken chords,
And to their primal melody attune them;
In vain, for to his efforts still replies
A boding strain of harsh, discordant sound.
And then, with hot tears coursing down his cheeks,
He lifts his faded wreath from his pale brow,
And gazing on its withered leaves, exclaims,
“For earthly fame I sung the songs of earth,
Forgetful of all higher, holier themes,
’Tis meet the meed I won should perish thus.”
Is not the justice which confines him here
Akin to cruelty? for his sad heart
Seems, as his earthly strains were, full of softness.

Spirit.

Each thought, and word, and deed of mortal man,
Is but a moral seed, which, in due season,
Must bring forth fruit according to its kind.
The soil wherein those seeds are sown is Time,

Death is the reaper of the ripened harvest,
The fruits are garnered in Eternity,
To be, or good or bad, the spirit’s food!
If then our thoughts, and words, and deeds have been
Of corrupt tendency, or evil nature,
What marvel if we feed on bitterness?
What shadow next appears?

Werner.

An aged man,
Lean-framed and haggard-visaged, bowed beneath
The weight of years, or worldly cares that press
Still heavier than the iron hand of time.
His tottering form is fearful to behold!
If the fierce scourge which men on earth call famine,
Could incarnate itself, methinks ’twould choose
Just such a shape, so worn and grim and gaunt,
And wo-begone of aspect. Groping round
He gathers from the burning floor of hell
Some shining pebbles, which his fond conceit
Transmutes to gold, and these with constant care
He watches, counting and recounting them,
Till suddenly a whirlwind, sweeping by,
Bears with it all his fancied hoards away,
Leaving him to renew his bootless task,
Which ever he renews with this complaint,
“Alas! how speedily may wealth take wing.”
And on his front his name is written, “Avarice.”

Spirit.

There yet is, in this shadowy land of shades,
One form which I would have thee look upon.
Behold it cometh! mark and scan it well.

Werner.

Never before in all my wanderings
Through earth, or other regions, where abide
Things now no more of earth, have I beheld
Aught so profoundly mournful or so lone!
So dark a cloud o’erhangs his haggard brow,
That where he turns a dunner, murkier gloom
Prevails along hell’s blasting atmosphere!
Surrounded by some goodly forms he moves,
Forms bright as his is dark, who each in turn
Woo his acceptance of the gifts they proffer.
Love stretches out his dimpled band, wherein
He holds his emblematic rose, and Hope,
Bright Hope, that might renew again the pulse
Of life within the frozen veins of Death!
Beckons him to the future, and calm Faith
Kindles beneath his eye her beacon blaze;
Yet, with such anguish as hell only holds,
He turns him from all these, and will not take
Love’s proffered rose, lest ’neath its blushing leaves
Should lurk the stinging thorn of sly deceit.

Hope’s smile to him is disappointment’s signal,
And the bright beacon Faith so kindly lights
To guide us o’er the treacherous sea of life,
To him is but a cheat, a mockery,
An ignis fatuus, kindled to mislead.
And yet he seems as one who in his life
Had nursed bright dreams, and cherished lofty aims,
Had dreamed of love, or wooed Ambition’s smiles,
Or to the sway of empires had aspired,
Or, higher still, the sway of human hearts!
Why gazest thou on me and not on him?

Spirit.

To mark if in thine aspect I might not
Detect a consciousness that I thy own soul
Claimed brotherhood with his! Thou too hast scoffed
At human love, and hope, and faith, and truth,
Nursing within thy bosom pride, and scorn,
And rankling hate, I till these at length became
Fiends which thou could’st not master! Thou art warned,
Be wise and heed the warning. Let us now
Return unto thy far off, native orb,
O’er which the rosy smile of morn is breaking,
Waking its teeming millions to renew
Their daily rounds of toil and strife and crime.

[Exeunt.

ACT IV.

Scene I. A peak of the Alps. Werner alone. Time, morning.

Werner.

How gloriously beautiful is earth!
In these her quiet, unfrequented haunts,
To which, except the timid chamois’ foot,
Or venturous hunter’s, or the eagle’s wing,
Naught from beneath ascends. As yet the sun
But darts his earliest rays of golden light
Upon the summits of the tallest peaks,
Which robed in clouds and capped with glittering ice,
Soar proudly up, and beam and blaze aloft,
As if they would claim kindred with the stars!
And they may claim such kindred, for there is
Within, around, and over them, the same
Supreme, eternal, all-creating spirit
Which glows and burns in every beaming orb
That circles in immeasurable space!
Far as the eye can trace the mountain’s crest
On either hand, a gorgeous, varied mass
Of glowing, cloud-formed ranges are at rest,
Reflecting back in every hue and tint,

Purple and crimson, orange and bright gold,
The sunny smile with which Morn hails the world.
Beneath me all is quiet yet and calm,
For the dim shadow of the silent night
Still rests upon the valley, still the flock
Sleeps undisturbed within the guarded fold,
The lark yet slumbers in her lowly nest,
The dew hangs heavy upon leaf and blade,
The gray mist still o’erveils the unruffled lake,
And all is tranquil as an infant’s sleep;
Tranquil around me, but not so within,
For in my breast a thousand restless thoughts
Conflict in wild, chaotical confusion.
Thoughts of long bygone years, and things that were
But are no more, and thoughts that sternly strive
To grapple with the mysteries I late
Have looked upon; for I, since yesternight,
Have traversed the wide sea of space that rolls
Between the shores of this and other worlds;
Have gazed upon and scanned those worlds, or shades
That wear the linéaments of such; have seen
The damned in their own place, and marked the deep,
Terrific retribution Error brings
To such as are her votaries in life.
And now I feel how baseless was my hope
That Peace, the solitary boon I crave,
Might spring from knowledge. Tis a fatal tree,
Which ever hath borne bitter fruit, since first
’Twas set in Paradise. But I must seek
The cottage of some honest mountaineer,
Who may afford me nurture and repose,
For I am weary, both in mind and frame.
[Exit.

Scene II. A chamber in the cottage of Manuel. Albert asleep.
Rebecca standing by his couch.

Rebecca.

My boy! my beautiful, my dearest hope!
The garner where my trust of future joy
Is treasured. Heaven bless thee! May thy life,
If it seem good to Him who gave it, be
Blest to the fulness of a mother’s prayer!

[She stoops to kiss him, and continues.

How well his sleep portrays a quiet mind,
The embodied image of a sunny day,
A day without a cloud, whose only voices
Arise from sighing airs, and whispering leaves,
And tell-tale brooks that of their banks beseech
A gift, a wreath of their sweet flowers, wherewith
To soothe the angry Geni of the deep!
And free, glad birds that flit from bough to bough,
And ring their songs of love in the clear air,
Till heaven is filled with gushing melody,
And the all-glowing horizon becomes
A thing of life, whose breath is sweetest music!

[Kisses him again, and continues.

His brow to me is as a spotless page,
Whereon is traced the story of my first
And only love, the bright and holy dream
That stole into my bosom, when beside
The crystal stream that threads a neighbouring vale,
I and his father watched our fathers’ flocks,
And he would lay aside his shepherd’s pipe,
And in low words, far sweeter than its music,
Talk of the sun and stars and gentle moon,
The earth and all its loveliness, the trees
And shrubs and flowers; how these were all pervaded
And quickened by the spirit of deep love;
Till, by the frequent blush that tinged my cheek,
The light that would break from my downcast eyes,
And the quick beat of my too happy heart,
Emboldened, he poured out his own pure passion,
On my enchanted ear! Since then my life
Has had no eras, days, and months, and years,
Have all gone by uncounted, in the full,
Deep, fervent, soul-sufficing happiness,
Of all I prayed for, panted for, obtained!
But I must rouse him, it is time his flock
Should leave the fold, and

[The boy starts and murmurs in his sleep.

Down by yonder stream,
Where the green willows cluster thickest, there
They dwell. ’Tis scarce so far as I could cast
A pebble from my sling. Seek it, and they
Will minister to thee what thou mayest need.

[He awakes, and recognising his mother, exclaims

Ah, mother! I have dreamed so strange a dream,
So strange, and yet so palpable, that I
Believed it a reality. Methought
As closely followed by my bleating flock,
I climbed the rugged mountain side where spring
Our greenest pastures, singing as I went,
I met a lonely wanderer in my way,
Of brow so pale, and eye so darkly sad,
That my own heart, to sadness little used,
Grew heavy at the sight; and he seemed worn
And very weary, not so much with toil
As by some hidden, inward strife of soul,
Which even then seemed raging in his breast.
He stayed to question me where he might find
The cottage of some honest mountaineer,
Where he might crave the boons of rest and food,
And mindful of the lesson taught by thee,
To give the hungry bread, the weary rest,
I pointed him to where our cottage stands,
Assuring him that thou and my sweet sister,
Fair as aught earthly, and as pure as fair,
Would entertain him as a welcome guest:
And so we parted.

Rebecca.
Thou didst well to mind
The lesson I so often have repeated.
It is our first of duties to give aid
To those who beg for succour at our hands;
For we ourselves, whatever we possess,
Are but the stewards of the bounteous Lord
Who giveth to his creatures all good gifts.
But it is time that thou shouldst seek the hills,
So take thy crook and pipe and hie away.

[Exeunt.

Scene III. The side of a mountain. Werner descending.
Enter a shepherd boy, followed by his flock, singing.

I.

When the Morning starts up from her couch on the deep,
Where through the dim night hours, she pillows her sleep,
I start from my slumbers, and hie me away
Where the white torrent dashes its feathery spray,
I quaff the fresh stream as it bursts from the hill,
I pluck the fresh flowers that spring by the rill,
I watch the gray clouds as they curl round the peak
That rises high over them, barren and bleak;
And I think how the worldling who courts fortune’s smile,
In his heart, like that peak, may be lonely the while;
And then my own heart sings aloud in its joy,
That Heaven has made me a free shepherd boy!

II.

When the horn of the hunter resounds from on high,
Where the tall giant ice-cliffs ire piled to the sky,
Where, shunning the verdure of valleys and dells,
The brave eagle builds, and the shy chamois dwells,
I list to its gay tones, as by me they float,
And I echo them merrily back, note for note;
With the wild bird a song full as gladsome I sing,
I crown me with flowers, and sit a crowned king,
My flock are my subjects, my dog my vizier,
And my sceptre a mild one the crook that I bear;
No wants to perplex me, no cares to annoy,
I live an unenvying, free shepherdboy!

Werner (meets and addresses him).

Thou’rt merry, lad.

Albert.

Ay, I have cause to be so.
(Aside.)
It is the wanderer of my last night’s dream,
The same pale brow, and darkly mournful eye,
And weary gait, and melancholy voice,
If he seeks friendly guidance, food, or shelter,
He shall not want them long.

Werner.

So thou hast cause
For merriment, then thou perchance hast wealth,
Broad, fruitful lands, and tenements, and all
Which wealth confers.

Albert.

Nay, I have none of these,
And yet have more than all which thou hast named.
I have a father, whose unsullied name
No tongue has ever spoken with reproach,
A mother, whose idea is with me
A holy thing, and a dear sister, who
Is fair as pure, and pure as is the snow
Upon the summit of the tallest peak
Of these my native mountains. I have health,
And strength, and food, and raiment, and employ,
And should I not then have a joyous heart?

Werner.

Yea, verily thou shouldst.

Albert.

And there is yet,
Among the blessings Heaven has given to me,
One which I have not named to thee; it is
An humble home, whose hospitable door
Was never closed against the wayfarer,
If thou hast need of aught which it affords,
Seek it, my mother and my sister will
Delight to minister unto thy wants.
There where the wide-armed willows cluster thickest
Upon the green banks of yon crystal stream,
Our cottage stands. The path to it is short
And easily traversed, so, now, farewell.

Werner.

Stay yet a moment. That which thou hast proffered,
Is what I sought. Thou hast a noble heart,
One fit to fill the bosom of a king,
I fain would give thee guerdon, here is gold.

Albert.

Keep it for those who covet it. If ever
Thou meet’st with one, bowed down by suffering,
Who calls on thee for pity and relief,
Then if thou heed’st his prayer for my sake,
I shall be well repaid. Again, farewell.

{Exeunt.

Scene IV. After a lapse of time. A rustic arbour near the
cottage of Manuel. Enter Rose and Werner.

Rose.

Nay, let my silent blushes plead with thee
That thou wilt be as silent.

Werner.

Rather let
My ardent love, which will not be repressed,
Plead with thee for acceptance of my suit;
For I do love thee with such passionate love,
That life itself, if weighed against that love,
Were scarce a feather in the scale.

Rose.

Alas!
I’m but a simple shepherd’s simple child,
Unused to courtly speeches, and they say
That in the world thy name and rank are high,
And that when such as thou do proffer love
And faith to lowly maidens, ’tis a jest,
And that when they have won our honest love,
They cast it from them with unpitying hands,
As idly as they would a withered flower.

Werner.

Nay, maiden, let me tell thee of the past,
Let me lay bare my heart beneath thy gaze,
And thou wilt pity if thou canst not love.
I loved in youth with love as fond and deep
As ever made the heart of man its slave,
But, ere my hopes could ripen to fruition,
Death came and made my worshipped one his prize;
And though my peace departed when she died,
Yet I was proud, and would not bond to sorrow,
But with calm brow and eye, and smiling lip,
I mingled with the giddy thoughtless world,
Seeking from out its varied realms to wring
Some recompense for that which I had lost.
Wealth, fame, and power, I sought for and obtained,
Yet found them only gilded mockeries.
The paths of hidden knowledge I essayed,
And trod their mazy windings till they led
My footsteps whither I may not disclose,
But all availed me nothing, still my heart
Ached with the dreary void lost love had made,
Ached ever till that void was filled by thee!
Since first fate led me to your kindly door,
Three times the moon with full-orbed light hath shone,
Thrice thirty times, with song of merry birds
And breath of fragrance, Morn has blest the earth
And all its dwellers with her radiant presence;
Thrice thirty times, with star-bound brow, dim Night
Hath kept her tearful watch above the earth;
And every time the full-orb’d moon hath shone,
And every time the merry Morn hath smiled,
And every time dim Night with star-bound brow
Above the earth hath kept her tearful watch,
My heart has added to its store of love,
Its pure, deep, fervent, passionate love for thee!
By all my hopes of heaven, my words are true.
Dost thou not pity now?

Rose.

Ay, more! My heart,
And its full treasury of maiden love,
Never before surrendered to another,
I pledge to thee, as thine, for evermore!

[Exeunt.

An Aerial Chorus.

Seek the dell and seek the bower,
Pluck the bud and pluck the flower,
Search for buds of sweetest breath,
Search for flowers of brightest hue;
Fit to weave the bridal wreath,
Of a maid so fair and true.

She has bowed the haughty heart,
Won the stubborn will from guile,
With no aid of other art
Than the sweet spell of her smile!

Seek the dell and seek the bower,
Pluck the bud and pluck the flower,
Search for buds of sweetest breath,
Search for flowers of brightest hue;
Fit to weave the bridal wreath,
Of a maid so fair and true!

[Exeunt.

Note to the Misanthrope

“Then seek we, for the maiden’s pillow,
Far beyond the Atlantic’s billow,
Love’s apple, and when we have found it,
Draw the magic circles round it.”

Considering the Mandrake, many fabulous notions were entertained by the ancients; and they never attempted to extract it from the earth, without the previous performance of such ceremonies as they considered efficacious in preventing the numerous accidents, dangers, and diseases, to which they believed the person exposed who was daring enough to undertake its extraction. The usual manner of obtaining it was this: When found, three times a circle was drawn around it with the point of a naked sword, and a dog was then attached to it and beaten, until by his struggles it was disengaged from the earth.

It was supposed to be useful in producing dreams, philters, charms &c.; and also to possess the faculties of exciting love, and increasing population.

The Emperor Adrian, in a letter to Calexines, writes that he is drinking the juice of the Mandrake to render him amorous: hence it was called Love-apple.

It grows in Italy, Spain, and the Levant.