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Zanoni, by Edward Bulwer Lytton, [1842], at


     There is a principle of the soul, superior to all nature, through
     which we are capable of surpassing the order and systems of the
     world. When the soul is elevated to natures better than itself,
     THEN it is entirely separated from subordinate natures, exchanges
     this for another life, and, deserting the order of things with
     which it was connected, links and mingles itself with another.

"Adon-Ai! Adon-Ai!—appear, appear!"

And in the lonely cave, whence once had gone forth the oracles of a heathen god, there emerged from the shadows of fantastic rocks a luminous and gigantic column, glittering and shifting. It resembled the shining but misty spray which, seen afar off, a fountain seems to send up on a starry night. The radiance lit the stalactites, the crags, the arches of the cave, and shed a pale and tremulous splendour on the features of Zanoni.

"Son of Eternal Light," said the invoker, "thou to whose knowledge, grade after grade, race after race, I attained at last, on the broad Chaldean plains; thou from whom I have drawn so largely of the unutterable knowledge that yet eternity alone can suffice to drain; thou who, congenial with myself, so far as our various beings will permit, hast been for centuries my familiar and my friend,—answer me and counsel!"

From the column there emerged a shape of unimaginable glory. Its face was that of a man in its first youth, but solemn, as with the consciousness of eternity and the tranquillity of wisdom; light, like starbeams, flowed through its transparent veins; light made its limbs themselves, and undulated, in restless sparkles, through the waves of its dazzling hair. With its arms folded on its breast, it stood distant a few feet from Zanoni, and its low voice murmured gently, "My counsels were sweet to thee once; and once, night after night, thy soul could follow my wings through the untroubled splendours of the Infinite. Now thou hast bound thyself back to the earth by its strongest chains, and the attraction to the clay is more potent than the sympathies that drew to thy charms the Dweller of the Starbeam and the Air. When last thy soul hearkened to me, the senses already troubled thine intellect and obscured thy vision. Once again I come to thee; but thy power even to summon me to thy side is fading from thy spirit, as sunshine fades from the wave when the winds drive the cloud between the ocean and the sky."

"Alas, Adon-Ai!" answered the seer, mournfully, "I know too well the conditions of the being which thy presence was wont to rejoice. I know that our wisdom comes but from the indifference to the things of the world which the wisdom masters. The mirror of the soul cannot reflect both earth and heaven; and the one vanishes from the surface as the other is glassed upon its deeps. But it is not to restore me to that sublime abstraction in which the intellect, free and disembodied, rises, region after region, to the spheres,—that once again, and with the agony and travail of enfeebled power I have called thee to mine aid. I love; and in love I begin to live in the sweet humanities of another. If wise, yet in all which makes danger powerless against myself, or those on whom I can gaze from the calm height of indifferent science, I am blind as the merest mortal to the destinies of the creature that makes my heart beat with the passions which obscure my gaze."

"What matter!" answered Adon-Ai. "Thy love must be but a mockery of the name; thou canst not love as they do for whom there are death and the grave. A short time,—like a day in thy incalculable life,—and the form thou dotest on is dust! Others of the nether world go hand in hand, each with each, unto the tomb; hand in hand they ascend from the worm to new cycles of existence. For thee, below are ages; for her, but hours. And for her and thee—O poor, but mighty one!—will there be even a joint hereafter! Through what grades and heavens of spiritualised being will her soul have passed when thou, the solitary loiterer, comest from the vapours of the earth to the gates of light!"

"Son of the Starbeam, thinkest thou that this thought is not with me forever; and seest thou not that I have invoked thee to hearken and minister to my design? Readest thou not my desire and dream to raise the conditions of her being to my own? Thou, Adon-Ai, bathing the celestial joy that makes thy life in the oceans of eternal splendour,—thou, save by the sympathies of knowledge, canst conjecture not what I, the offspring of mortals, feel—debarred yet from the objects of the tremendous and sublime ambition that first winged my desires above the clay—when I see myself compelled to stand in this low world alone. I have sought amongst my tribe for comrades, and in vain. At last I have found a mate. The wild bird and the wild beast have theirs; and my mastery over the malignant tribes of terror can banish their larvae from the path that shall lead her upward, till the air of eternity fits the frame for the elixir that baffles death."

"And thou hast begun the initiation, and thou art foiled! I know it. Thou hast conjured to her sleep the fairest visions; thou hast invoked the loveliest children of the air to murmur their music to her trance, and her soul heeds them not, and, returning to the earth, escapes from their control. Blind one, wherefore? canst thou not perceive? Because in her soul all is love. There is no intermediate passion with which the things thou wouldst charm to her have association and affinities. Their attraction is but to the desires and cravings of the INTELLECT. What have they with the PASSION that is of earth, and the HOPE that goes direct to heaven?"

"But can there be no medium—no link—in which our souls, as our hearts, can be united, and so mine may have influence over her own?"

"Ask me not,—thou wilt not comprehend me!"

"I adjure thee!—speak!"

"When two souls are divided, knowest thou not that a third in which both meet and live is the link between them!"

"I do comprehend thee, Adon-Ai," said Zanoni, with a light of more human joy upon his face than it had ever before been seen to wear; "and if my destiny, which here is dark to mine eyes, vouchsafes to me the happy lot of the humble,—if ever there be a child that I may clasp to my bosom and call my own—"

"And is it to be man at last, that thou hast aspired to be more than man?"

"But a child,—a second Viola!" murmured Zanoni, scarcely heeding the Son of Light; "a young soul fresh from heaven, that I may rear from the first moment it touches earth,—whose wings I may train to follow mine through the glories of creation; and through whom the mother herself may be led upward over the realm of death!"

"Beware,—reflect! Knowest thou not that thy darkest enemy dwells in the Real? Thy wishes bring thee near and nearer to humanity."

"Ah, humanity is sweet!" answered Zanoni.

And as the seer spoke, on the glorious face of Adon-Ai there broke a smile.

Next: Chapter X