The Eloping Angels

F AUST and his Mephistopheles, until
Night had long passed its prime, sat grave of brow.
" All fruitage have we plucked, " said Faust, " at will —
The unhallowed sorts most often; and erenow,
In the ennobling study of all things ill,
Little less diligent have I been than thou. "
He paused, and then, to him of demon-kind,
In forthright speech, unmuffled thus his mind:

" Ne'er shall I grudge thee thy just praise! Thou art
A devil of exceeding rich resource;
A veteran player of many a darksome part!
A nimble dodger of all hostile Force!
Thou carriest folded in thy brain a chart
Of Worlds and Systems and each planet's course.
Canst not procure us, by thy wit's rare power,
Admission into Heaven for half an hour? "

Reply came leisurely. " You underrate
The impediments — and the hardships! They're no jest.
Saint Peter wallows in routine. A weight
Of merciless etiquette whelms the unpractised guest.
You can't sneeze but as precedents dictate,
And red tape seems the ruin of all the Blest.
Still, as your thoughts now take a heavenward way,
We'll follow — ere the first young leer of Day. "

So, by demonic Power upborne, these twain
Mounted through desert Space and the steep night.
They saw the world that half resents man's reign
Shrink to a spark. They soared from height to height,
Till, in far reaches of the unmapped Inane,
Such domed and towered magnificence met their sight
As leaves all fancies pale, all fables cold,
Beggaring Dreamland and its courts of gold.

To a breach and orifice in the Heavenly Wall —
An outlook on infinity — they came,
Mephisto saying: " Between ourselves, I call
This escapade a frolic rather tame.
My own concern with Paradise is small,
And yours — forgive my plainness — much the same.
In fact, exploratory zeal so free
From all self-interest I scarce ever see.

" But, " he went on, " we will without debate
Pass through this entrance narrow and shadowy-hued,
Reaching, as soon as by the accustomed gate,
The bowers and palaces of beatitude.
Our Merits, here, none questions: here we wait
No janitor's whim: and best of all, we elude
That white light of publicity, whose glow
I never yet have courted, as you know. "

" Soft! " answered Faust. " I hear a voice within,
And if it be not some enamoured youth,
Breathing rich heartwords to his heart's sweet kin
While prisoning her white bosom — then, forsooth,
Thou'rt not the adroit Ambassador of Sin,
Nor I a hunter of the fleet deer, Truth.
Nay, sure enough. ... What an entrancing pair! ...
Such grace! ... And the dark wonders of her hair! "

He erred not far. These angels were indeed
Two human lovers, who, by an uncalm fate,
Full early from the yoke of life being freed,
Renewed their vows in that celestial state.
Now Faust was of a gentlemanly breed,
Whate'er his sins; and murmuring, " I should hate
To be a spy at tender scenes like this, "
He broke, with a kind suddenness, on their bliss.

" Fair, spotless Beings! Perfections nigh divine!
Behold, " he said, " two wanderers from a star
I think ye know — a world whose glories shine
Lost beyond vision, so remote they are!
If ye will affably an ear incline,
Nor scorn discourse with travellers from afar,
Fain would we learn such news as may be given
Of aught that now is agitating Heaven. "

" Friend, for such tidings you in vain apply
To me, " the radiant Youth Angelic said.
" We live a life withdrawn, this Maid and I,
Nor love the life by other angels led —
All idle hymns of praise to the Most High.
Our one supreme desire is to be wed,
And we were even now concerting schemes
How to escape, and turn to truth our dreams.

" For here, in Heaven, no marrying is, nor yet
Giving in marriage, and we dwell debarred
From that full tie whereon our hearts are set:
An interdict assuredly most hard.
Earthward we long to hasten, but we fret
At one thing that may all our plans retard,
To wit, this garb angelic, which on earth
May cause rude comment, if not ruder mirth. "

" Tut! " said Faust's pilot, to these lovers fond;
" Exchange apparel with my friend and me!
When your pure forms our raiment shall have donned —
'Tis of a simple grace, as you may see —
Then, through the blank untenanted deeps, beyond
This slightly crude Elysium, earthward flee!
My benison shall accompany you. And now
We will effect the exchange, if you'll allow. "

When Power Infernal would with Innocence deal,
Can Innocence bargain? By satanic aid,
Faust, ere he knows, appears from head to heel
Clad in the habit of the Angel Maid,
She in his own. Mephisto seems to feel
Deep peace, being suddenly like the Saints arrayed.
And as to the Angel Lover, he stands dressed
In garments from a wardrobe most unblest.

So Faust and his dark minister and ally
Entered — incognito — where seraphs dwell.
" Time gallops, " said Mephistopheles, " and I
Have anxious duties that must soon compel
My abrupt departure from a tranquil sky
Perhaps to the more strenuous air of Hell.
Meanwhile, I doubt if Heaven has changed one whit
Since its great crisis, the historic Split "

But leave we yonder, high o'er earthly care,
Faust and that ripe though sulphurous sage, his guide,
And follow Love's bright fugitives, in their
Ethereal passionate journey side by side.
They, through Immensity's Saharas bare,
Sped without halt, and soon this orb espied,
Hung like a goblin lamp, with impish gleam,
Mid the wild strangeness of the Cosmic Scheme.

She, on the earth, a village girl, and he
A prince had been. 'Twas pure romance of love,
Idyllic and ideal as could be,
Cold prudence and expedience far above.
And when he fell by a hireling dagger, she
Could not survive him, poor disconsolate dove!
And now on earth they stepped once more, and met
The ghosts of old dead kisses deathless yet.

Night had evanished, morn possessed the sky;
The ploughman was already at his plough.
" Unto my father's palace let us hie, "
Said the returning prince. " Another, now,
Reigns in his stead, but cheerfully will I
Serve him, and loyally to his sceptre bow;
And us, I doubt not, he will entertain —
Strayed earthlings, welcomed home to Earth again. "

So to that palace — a dark scowl of stone —
They with their thoughts repaired; and having failed
In no observance meet, they approached the throne.
But the poor haunted King in terror quailed,
Shrieking, " More spectres! Out, ye wraiths, begone!
Has none of all my exorcists availed
To rid me of these phantom plagues, that make
Life a dread dream, whether I sleep or wake? "

Then, with strange questions in their eyes, the twain
Went musing from that presence, little loth
The presence of the guiltless fields to gain.
And she, sweet queen of his rich love and troth,
Said, very softly: " Dearest, wilt thou deign
To seek my father's cottage, where for both
Shall room and welcome be? For he doth own
A heart more royal than aught on yonder throne. "

Unto her father's cot they took their way.
They found him leaning on his gate, white-haired,
Full of the memory of a former day.
Calmly he greeted them, like one prepared
For loftiest visitants, as who should say:
" My son and daughter, that so far have fared,
I have expected you this many a year.
Enter and rest, my son and daughter dear. "

And entering in, they veiled their heavenly sheen
In homely vesture, and themselves resigned
To homely tasks. A milkmaid or a queen,
Her had you deemed: an emperor him, or hind.
Noble of carriage and yet meek of mien —
Immortals, thrilled with touch of mortal kind —
To notes of Earth they gave such tones as came
From some Tenth Sphere that puts the nine to shame.

And on Earth's breast, as angels, they remained,
Yet more than angels, being lovers too;
All their celestial loveliness retained,
And hour by hour in earthly sweetness grew.
Thus lost they nothing of angelic, and gained
Everything human save what men must rue,
Uniting all below with all above,
Linking the flowers and stars in secret love.

Yet theirs were many griefs, for evermore
They made the pangs of other hearts their own,
Feeling all pain they saw; and thus they bore
The burden of the universal moan,
Wept with all tears, and with all wounds were sore.
But likewise all the joy by others known
Became their joy; and in the worldwide scale,
Pleasure, they found, o'er pain did still prevail.

But being deathless, ever 'twas their doom,
Loving their fellows, to lament them dead.
Age after age, they saw the opening tomb,
And saw it closed on a true comrade's head.
Yet what the grave took from them the world's womb
Gave back: " For death is but a form, " they said,
" Birth a convention. Nought is less or more.
And Nature does but borrow to restore. "

" I think, " said Faust — alighting here below
From his adventurous translunary jaunt —
" This earth is still the goodliest place I know.
Tedious were any world whose habitants flaunt
Always a vapid bliss where'er they go,
As do the average dwellers in that haunt
Where we have just been privileged to see
The abodes of unrelieved felicity. "

" True " , said his Friendship, " if a trifle stale.
Well, on those foibles of the Saints who spend
Their hours in amaranthine meadow and vale,
Let us look gently. Though they may offend
Taste like our own, soon they'll be memories pale!
Heaven has its charms — for some. But in the end
'Twill be to a realm far differently devised
That thou'lt have need to grow — acclimatized. "
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