Lucifer

A PRELUDE

HERMES (alighting)

What star art thou, and by what god beguiled
To wander in this heaven,
Far from the serene and mild
Circle of the sisters seven?
O blasted rock, untenanted and wild,
By lightnings riven,
Receive thou me, —
O goddess, if the Pleiad lost thou be,
Lost, too, and driven
By viewless currents of the ethereal sea.
(Kisses the ground.)
For Earth, my mother, while her child
Wings these frozen spaces drear,
O, how otherwise enisled
In her blue and liquid sphere
Swims, forgetting grief, and sleeps
Wrapped in the fleeces of her atmosphere!
Above Olympus, Phoebe dim,
Patiently shines the while, and keeps
Still watch in heaven; while below the rim
Of ocean now her brother's steeds uprear
Their fiery manes apace, and dawn is near.
But here no dawn is, and no morning star;
The suns that nearest are
Show like a twinkling host, and peer
Through the cold night immeasurably far.

Here who can dwell? If there be deities
Whose body stone, whose spirit silence is,
Here they might slumber frozen. Wrinkled brow
And cloven sides of mountains, heaped up rocks,
Toys of young giants long since dead, and thou,
Horrid abyss, that meteors hot might plough
From heaven falling, and ye vales, by shocks
Of earthquake split in snowy chasms, — O, speak,
If ye have tongues or any shadowy life!
The stranger do not wrong, —
A god, though seeming weak,
Who prays you, with the winds too long at strife,
For shelter from this night and stinging thong
Of sleet. O, answer me, if any banished soul
Haunts you, and guards from harm the frozen pole.

LUCIFER (advancing)

Nay, not a banished soul! — What seems forlorn,
Hermes, to thee, another loveth best;
In this crag, the throne of scorn,
Hath a bolder spirit rest.

HERMES

Thou who callest me by name,
Large spectre plumed for the eagle's flight,
Let me be thy guest this night,
If kindness move thy breast, or any flame
Leap on thy hearth, that henceforth, ever bright,
On this hoarse and angry coast
May gleam the beacon of its sacred light,
Where a god, by fortune hurled,
Found an altar and a host
High on the utmost headland of the world.

LUCIFER

Stranger, look upon this face;
Look long, nor let thy fond heart rashly speak.
Seest thou mortal blood within this cheek?
Do not think thy brothers' grace
Befits all spirits: some there be too high
To wear outward glory still;
For it passes nature's skill
To paint reason to the eye,
Or cast in mould indomitable will.
My hand drew yon starry girth
About the middle of the hollow sky;
I have stood a witness by
At the founding of the earth;
I have seen the twelve gods' birth,
Alas! and I await to see them die.

HERMES

Imperious spirit, I would not offend.
Thy heart knows if this be truth,
And mine eyes, on thee gazing, comprehend
That thou art a god in sooth.
Be then gracious, and befriend
The stranger, and beside thee grant me rest,
That I gain strength unto my journey's end,
And see again Olympus' gleaming crest
And the brothers that I love.

LUCIFER

But what error brought the dove
To the eagle's wintry nest?

HERMES

I wandered long upon an idle quest,
And found no other isle in all the deep.

LUCIFER

Luckless for the child of Jove
To set his winged foot upon this steep.
No vines upon so wild a ruin creep;
No Nereid bathes in such an icy cove.
But, come; there is a cavern in the hill.

HERMES

'T will be a covert from this piercing air.

LUCIFER

My servant's fire shall medicine thy chill.
This way; 't is dark along the icy stair.
(Gives Hermes his hand.)

HERMES

Art thou a serpent, that thy flesh is cold?

LUCIFER

They call me so. My blood was hot of old.

HERMES

But froze from breathing long this cruel storm?

LUCIFER

Nay, my good Hermes, it was not the wind,
Which only bites because the heart is warm;
Mine cannot suffer. In my youth I sinned,
And loved the soft caresses of the world.
Now I am free. I have forsworn delight,
Which makes us slaves.

HERMES

The chill of wintry night
Keeps germs from budding; with no leaf unfurled,
Dies the imprisoned deity within.
How, then, shouldst thou be free beneath the blight
Of this sharp flaw?

LUCIFER

I can be free from sin. —
(They reach the cave.)
Lyal! Ho, Lyal! — Sleeping by the fire?
Waken the embers, boy; pile drift-wood up,
That we have light and comfort while we sup.
And bring my cloak, — if that such coarse attire
Can please thee, being warm, on such a night. —
(To Hermes. They sit down and eat.)
Guests come not often hither, for the sky
Grudges me chance of hospitality,
Lest that small virtue in me wound its sight.

HERMES

But is the sky thine enemy?

LUCIFER

Thou seest
It doth not flatter: yet 't is the ally
Of one that wrongs us both.

HERMES

Why, if thou fleest
Into the whirlwind, on thee it must blow.

LUCIFER

Ah, if thou knewest!

HERMES

Art thou here confined?

LUCIFER

By a great sorrow and a tameless mind.

HERMES

A sorrow?

LUCIFER

Listen, if thou needs must know.
There is among the stars one greatest star
Which showeth dark, and none may see it shine.
Men know it by their hope; a hand divine
Must darkly lead them thither from afar.
But once within its bounds, eternal light
Streams on their ampler souls, and there they are
What upon earth they would be. Of this realm
An ancient God is king, majestic, wise,
Of triple form, and all-beholding eyes.
The terror of his glance can overwhelm
The sense, as lightning when it rends the skies.
The dread words of his mouth are gladly heard,
But marvellous their meaning, not to prove
Except by faith and argument of love.
He saith he fashioned nature with a word,
And in him all things are and live and move.
To that fair kingdom from primeval night
I passed; and, clad in splendour and in might,
I led the armies of my father, God.
My right hand urged them with a sword of light;
My left hand ruled them with a flowering rod.
Brave was my youth, and pleasing in his sight, —
Next him in honour; till one day, discourse
Upon his greatness and our being's source
Led me to question: " Tell, O Lord, the cause
Why sluggish nature doth with thee contend,
And thy designs, observant of her laws,
By tortuous paths must struggle to their end. "
To this, with many words of little pith,
He answered.
And as when sailors, crossing some broad frith,
Spy in the lurid west a sudden gloom
And grasp the rudder, taking double reef,
I nerved my heart for battle; for my doom
I saw upon me, and that I was born
To suffer, and to fill the world with grief.
But strong in reason, terrible in scorn,
I rose. " Seek not, O Lord, my King, " I cried,
" With solemn phrases to deceive my doubt.
Tell me thy thought, or I will pluck it out
With bitter question. Make thy prudent choice!
Either confess that how thou cam'st to be,
Or why the winds are docile to thy voice,
And why the will to make us was in thee,
And why the partners of thy life are three,
Thou canst not know, but even as the rest
That wake to life behold the sun and moon,
And feel their natural passions stir their breast,
They know not why, so thou from some long swoon
Awaking once, didst with supreme surprise
Scan thy deep bosom and the vault of heaven, —
For I did so, when fate unsealed mine eyes
(Thy small zeal for the truth shall be forgiven
If thou confess it now, and I will still
Call thee my master, for thou rulest well,
And in thy kingdom I have loved to dwell); —
Or else, if truth offend thy pampered will,
And with caressing words and priestly spell
Thou wouldst seduce me, henceforth I rebel. "
I knew his answer, and I drew my sword,
And many spirits gathered to my side.
But in high heaven he is still the Lord;
I am an exile in these spaces wide
Where none is master. The north wind and the west
Are my companions, and the void my rest.

HERMES

'T is much. When evil fortune bows a friend,
We blush that we are happy.

LUCIFER

Nay, rejoice!
The pleasant music of a tempered voice
Is cure for sadness. If my grief could end,
It would, with dreaming of an age of gold
When all were blessed.

HERMES

They who serve thy King,
Are they not blessed still?

LUCIFER

A doubtful thing
Is blessedness like that. They grow not old,
They live in friendship, and their wondering eyes,
Blinded to nature, feed on fantasies.
Their raptured souls, like lilies in a stream,
That from their fluid pillow never rise,
Float on the lazy current of a dream.
My grief is not that I am not like them,
Or that the splendour of my life is less.
My soul hath kinship with the wilderness.
But rage that fate should ever overwhelm
The right with cunning and the truth with lies,
And that the lust of living never dies,
Gnaws at my heart; my noble trust deceived
In reason's might and in the power of truth,
The unthought-of shame that I should stand alone
When universal nature was aggrieved
And should have mutinied! Faith of my youth,
That my stout heart did never yet disown,
Prove thyself true, and still to be believed!
Hasten, just day, and hurl him from his throne,
As children in a chasm cast a stone!

HERMES

That day may come, but wishing now is vain.
Rest from this passion. Much I fear my speech
Hath stirred unwittingly a slumbering pain.
Let it not tarry after, I beseech,
But now fly with me from thy thoughts again.

LUCIFER

Thou goest? — Thy way lies straight athwart the main.
From that bright planet thou wilt see two suns.
The farther one is thine; thence easy runs
Thy course. Thou camest far for little gain.

HERMES

Not so. Acquaintance with so high a mind
Rewards me for my journey. Let not space,
To whose dimensions mortals are confined,
Sever two gods; but let us face to face
Meet in some desert, hallowing the place.
It is not well for thee to dwell apart
On this bleak mountain; if thy wound is deep,
To natural slumber yield thy tortured heart.
Watch not these feeble stars, sad lamps of grief,
But close thine eyes on the vain past, and sleep.

LUCIFER

Sleep? — yet why not? When every shivering leaf
From the proud oak is stripped by autumn's flaw,
He suffers winter's deep, oblivious snows
To choke his anguish and enshroud his woes,
Nor wakes till the new buds begin to thaw
And the whole forest is alive with song.
Yes, sleep! The child, rebellious at some wrong,
Frets in his helpless pain till nature dries,
Closing his smarting eyelids, his dim eyes;
They open merry in the morning light;
Then his keen pang is nothing, and his cries
The all-forgotten dream of yesternight.
But is my grief a child's? Am I so slight?
Or could my bosom, like the wanton trees,
Put forth its blooms to any wind that blew?
Say that it could; say that some vernal breeze
Melted my winter; could my vain forgetting
Make Heaven just, or make the past not true?
The evil lives, and if I ceased regretting,
I should be more unhappy than I knew.

HERMES

No one is truly happy. Evil things
Fate lays upon us; yet she makes amends,
Bringing us daily comfort on the wings
Of sleep, and by the willing hands of friends.

LUCIFER

Of friends?
HERMES

Thou hadst none? Deem that time is far.
Friendship is knitted in a single night
'Twixt noble minds. Quench not the memory quite,
If I to-day was welcome in this star;
But let that breed new kindness. I in turn
Would greet you in my kingdom; it is fair.
The wisest mind hath something still to learn,
And I might teach oblivion to thee there.
Soon let me meet thee, as I scud the air
At evening, where the outer planets burn.
But now, farewell. (He flies away.)

LUCIFER

Farewell. Is this a dream?
What vital breath is blowing on my soul?
Into my deepest bosom falls a gleam
That makes me wish to live. O, strange! I seem
As if escaping from mine own control,
As if a fever waned, and opiate balm
Were running through my veins. The gates of hell
Are open to the morning and the spell
Of the chill dewy glades. They waft such calm
As heaven's garden knew when evening fell
In gold and purple, and each conscious flower
Blessed God, and inly felt his brother sing
Inaudibly the praises of the spring.
Lyal!

LYAL

My Lord.

LUCIFER

Nothing exceeds the power
Of time and nature. 'T were a wondrous thing
If once again the womb of ancient night
Were big with being, and a giant came,
A rival to the other! O, the fight,
The victory, the fallen tyrant's shame!
Lyal!

LYAL

My Lord.

LUCIFER

He hath a wondrous charm,
A gentle hand, warm, made to touch a friend's;
A well-born, open spirit, that attends
To others' words; a young god's strength of arm;
The inward smile of them that know no harm.
Lyal!

LYAL

My Lord.

LUCIFER

There should be no more pain,
And I in that republic of the just
Might live from day to day in peace, and trust
That life, although mysterious, was not vain.
Ho, Lyal, hear'st thou not?

LYAL

My Lord, I hear,
But do not understand your sacred words.

LUCIFER

What should now be the season of the year?

LYAL

Methinks it should be spring.

LUCIFER

Canst hear the birds!

LYAL

Birds in this island, without sedge or tree?

LUCIFER

They now are singing in my memory.
How weary must these watches be for thee,
Serving me here! Thou art too young a boy
To languish in this desert.

LYAL

'T is my joy,
My Lord, to serve you, wheresoe'er it be.

LUCIFER

We must away; this night shall have its dreams.
Thou shalt behold a green land, watered well,
Where large white swans swim in the lucent streams;
And bosky thickets where the harpy screams;
And centaurs scouring fields of asphodel,
While young fauns pluck their beards, and start away
At great Pan's feast to pipe an interlude.
There mermaids with the painted dolphins play,
Splashing blue waves for rainbows in the spray;
And friendly poets, straying through the wood,
Lay finger to the mouth, to watch askance
How in wild ring the nymphs and satyrs dance.
Wouldst thou not go?

LYAL

'T is as my Master wills.

LUCIFER

Ay, ay, make ready! —
Sad, familiar hills,
For how long do I leave you? Not for ever;
A voice of inward warning tells me so.
Forget ye not my voice; your silence fills
My bosom always; no, I cannot sever
The bond that binds me to your sunless snow.
But farewell for a season. Far I go,
Far, though I know not whither; for the breath
Of life is on me — or the hand of death.
(They fly away.)
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