Ormazd and Ahriman

O RMAZD , the Spirit of Light, the Spirit of Good,
Their father, glorying in his fatherhood—
Maker of Joy, and of all blissful things—
Once, in mid pomp of his world-journeyings
Across the invisible viaducts of Space
That lead from star to star, come face to face
With him from whom all Guilt, all Error known,
All that is misbegotten or misgrown,
Pain without ease, toil without wage or end,
And sin without delight, darkly descend:
Him in whom falsehood and curst greed began:
Evil's great founder, loveless Ahriman.

 For he too had roamed forth that day, the sire
Of the world's tears; and bringing spectres dire
To attend him, Hates and Lusts of every hue,
He, as it chanced, with all his retinue,
Far roving from his cavernous abode,
Travelled that selfsame interstellar road,
That crosses the calm vasts, and runs unseen
Through the hushed voids, and spans the deeps serene.
A secret highway, it was made of old,
Long ere the passions of the moon were cold,
Though in no chart of heaven 'tis figured yet:
And on that road the mighty rivals met.

 Then did they pause: then did all Good and Ill
Seem for a moment to stand mute and still.
And as a thundercloud, a wandering gloom,
Full of the whirlwind, full of sudden doom,
Might hover, holding back its bolts unflung,
So hovered Ahriman. But apt of tongue,
Quickly he scabbarded fierce hate in guile,
And hailed bright Ormazd: “Thou benignant Smile,
Mellowing the countenance of Eternity!
Oft on thy works I gazed: on very thee
I gaze at last. O falsely famed to dwell
Withdrawn into thy towering citadel
In most remote austerity of brow!
Ev'n thus did I, too, image thee ere now—
A clifflike, steep Perfection. At this hour,
Seeing thee as thou art, in blandest power
Accessible as Spring and Morning are,
I will unlatch my breast, I will unbar
This heart of mine, I will let leap unpent
The Thought that hungered for enfranchisement,
Prisoned while many an age hath ebbed and gone!
Have I thine ear?” And Ormazd said: “Say on.”

 So Ahriman, as one that halts no more,
But with large gesture opes a captive's door,
Thus from his bosom set the bound thought free:
“Ormazd the Radiant! betwixt thee and me
Shared is the world: in its august design
Everything everywhere is thine or mine:
And throned o'er all that can rejoice or mourn,
We are the lords of Life from bourn to bourn.
But so enclasped—nay, through their farthest range
Knotted together in a knot so strange
Are our dominions, each with each entoiled
Even from the prime; so twined, so intercoiled—
Locked in a tanglement so hard to undo—
So wholly intermingled through and through—
Are these our realms; that nowhere within all
Their vastness is one point, however small,
One meanest spot, where thou or I can say:
Here have I absolute and plenary sway,
Complete, unparcelled lordship, kinghood whole;
Here do I reign, sovereign, supreme, and sole.
Rather have mutual thwartings long made sour
Each cup we drank of! And is this, then, Power—
Can this be rule and governance—to bear
Frustration with a meek brow everywhere,
And unto bafflings without end resign
A patient breast? For such thy wont, and mine.
Ever, O Ormazd, thou art foiled by me;
Ever, O Ormazd, I am baulked by thee;
And everywhere in our domains immense
Is balanced Might but grandiose impotence.

 “Behold, then, this my Scheme, in silence nursed,
In secrecy long pondered, and now first,
Under the calm, grave inquest of thine eye,
Bid to stand naked: the one Scheme whereby
Huge discords shall be goldenly resolved,
And fair and foul cease to be intervolved,
While from a heaven uncobwebbed thou shalt see
These ravelled worlds blaze with simplicity,
The accurst embroilments and rank disarray
Wholly thenceforward swept from life away.
For now my Scheme, my slow-nurtured Design,
Shall forthwith to that cloudless gaze of thine
Be bared. But though it proffers wondrous things,
They are no more than rich imaginings
Till thy command shall make them truth, and give
The charter that empowers a dream to live.
Behold my Project, then! Let thee and me
On a world-boundary now at last agree:
A barrier, so devised as to extend,
With neither a beginning nor an end,
Along a line throughout Creation drawn,
Straight as if Nature's self must then be sawn
In bleeding halves; and let this barrier reach—
Being of impalpable fabric—without breach,
Mid worlds long weary of our clamorous feud,
Upward and downward through infinitude,
Mystically, and therefore, as were meet,
Invisibly; and when 'tis built complete,
All that is on the one side thou shalt make
Thine own for evermore, and I will take
All that is on the other: and thus shall we
Divide with a Divine equality
Betwixt us twain from that time forth the whole
Of Being, and equitably allot its soul
And substance, past contention. Then must these
Rangers of heaven, that with proud scorn of ease
In many a wheeling orbit wander wide,
Quit their old paths for ways as yet untried,
If in their courses they would else transgress
That Confine's subtle ethereal fixedness,
And with disorder beyond remedy mar
Our Scheme. For so must even planet and star
Yield them to change, and to a new-framed sky
Conform, or perish. Meanwhile thou and I
Have but to ordain it, and with lesser sound
Than of the grass breaking from out the ground
There shall be fashioned as by secret hands
That bodiless mystic barrier, till it stands
Ungross as air and unbeheld as thought,
Cleaving a universe thenceforth distraught
No more with our hoarse conflicts, no more shamed
By our crude strifes; and it shall be proclaimed
The everlasting bound, that must alone
Part thy dominions, Ormazd, from mine own.
On that side of the guarded frontier, thine
Shall be the only law; on this side, mine.
And there let all Good dwell, thy consort, here
All Evil live, my spouse. Then without peer
On that side rule thou changeless, I on this:
And if to wield pure sovereignty be bliss,
Bliss shalt thou have and hold, there reigning! Yea,
There for the first time shalt thou truly sway
Thy princedoms, and with hate be hemmed not round,
And with no harassed and mock crown be crowned.
There for the first time since the birth of things,
Or since the blind and thunderous labourings
Of the unborn world to be brought forth at all,
Shalt thou whose lips have tasted but the gall
Of doubtful empire, slake thee with delight
Of perfect puissance, never-threatened Might—
None to dispute thy throne, nothing to gnaw
At its deep bulwarks—greatness without flaw—
None to make vain thine acts and pluck away
With midnight hand what thou didst plant by day—
None to oppose thee, nothing to impede,
And thou at last for ever lord indeed.”

 He ceased, and looked to Ormazd for some sign,
Legible haply in that brow benign,
Or those calm eyes. But nothing there he read;
And the pure lips of Ormazd simply said,
With suchlike thrift in words as let no trace
Of aught that was more inward haunt his face:
“What thou proposest I will duly weigh,
And duly shalt thou have my Yea or Nay.”

 “And who shall bear thy word unto mine ear?”
Said Ahriman; “and by what token clear
Am I to know him sent indeed from thee,
Right across desolate immensity?
Where in the world-sweep of thy boundless ken
Shall I await his coming? And O when
Shall I behold him verily at hand,
With thy great message?” Then did Ormazd stand
Silent, the monstrous silence of the sky
Dwarfed by his own. Fathomless was his eye,
His face the cloister of his thoughts, his head
A still, lone summit. But at length he said:
“No messenger shall bear to thee my word;
Only from mine own mouth shall it be heard.
Where, dost thou ask? Here, where we parley now,
My tongue shall speak it. When, demandest thou?
A hundred thousand years hence, from this hour.”

 To Spirits of heavenly or infernal power,
Such as in ancientness are Time's own peers,
Not longer seem a hundred thousand years,
With their dim-moving pomps of life and death,
Than is to us a moment or a breath.
And the dark ancestor of all things vile
Being well content to wait so brief a while,
The rivals parted, pledged to meet once more,
Soon as those few swift ages should be o'er.
To Night's blind heart returned the Spirit of Ill,
Where gloomed his fastness, whence he roams at will
To mar that Good he may not quite destroy.
And he who fashioned Morn and founded Joy
Betook him to a region of the skies
That from the gaze of men is hidden, and lies
Outside the lore that can bewitch our ears
With the proud epic of the stars' careers.
There did the heavenly traveller halt; and there,
Seeming to rest upbuilt on golden air,
Were vast walls, whiter than in storm the foam
Round fear-struck ships; and many a lustrous dome
Rose as the curving bosom of the swan
Above a still lake rises. There, too, shone
Turrets that, mounting firelike, seemed to be
Ravished and lost in a pure ecstasy,
So high they flamed; while near them, luminous mist,
Its hues the marriage of the amethyst
And opal, floated as amid the play
Of plashing fountains floats the rain-bowed spray.
And splendour beyond splendour towered, yet all
The glories bounded by that circling wall
Were one miraculous palace that appeared
As if a wizard of the heavens had reared
Its ageiess pomps. Never therein had been
Death, or his shadow; and with dazzling sheen,
Gateways through which no evil thing might fare
Blazed around Ormazd as he entered there.
For this was his far dwelling, which decay
Touched not, and tarnish visited not; and they
Who had kept solemn watch and sleepless ward,
Flung wide its portals to receive their lord.

 Gorgeous the web of wonder that is spun
Out of the spilth and offcast of the sun;
Glorious the tropic noon's unbridled light;
Glorious the pageant of the arctic night,
That for an hour perchance may half console
The ice-barred voyager hopeless of the Pole.
But nought are all the splendours Earth hath known,
To that which shook, from round the blinding throne
Where Ormazd seated him again on high,
Tempests of radiance to the acclaiming sky.

 And now unto his presence did he call
Three lordly minds, illustrious among all
That compassed him as with strong ramparts: three
Not far below himself in majesty,
Rashnu and Vayu and great Mithra, sons
Of light and might, his seeing and judging ones,
Also his warlike captains from of old:
To whom he failed not straightway to unfold
Ahriman's Scheme, by which that Prince of Pain
Would carve the labyrinthine world in twain,
Parting, as with a barrier none might climb,
All Evil from all Good throughout all time;
And Ahriman's whole plea did he rehearse
For such a halving of the universe.
They harkened, on each word and tone intent,
Standing before him proudly reverent,
In silence, till their counsel was besought,
When Vayu was the first to unseal his thought.

 “Let me not with a niggard tongue refuse”
('Twas thus he spake) “its just, its rightful dues
To this world-spacious world-remoulding Plan,
Born of the cloud-girt mind of Ahriman.
Under this Scheme, no more might fairest Good,
From the infecting touch and neighbourhood
Of Evil, suffer transformation strange,
Take Evil's hues and into Evil change;
For strict impassable confines being set
'Twixt these that oft in a fell freedom met,
Such woes would cease for ever. And perchance
Evil itself, lacking the sustenance
It sucks from Good—denied its banquetings
Mid the lorn ruins of once blissful things—
Would sicken and fail, pining with countenance wan
For that rich fare it had long feasted on.
But whether Good, shorn of the strength it draws
From hourly battle with Evil's fangs and claws,
And from uncounted clashings, hard to endure
With the huge monster's dragon armature,
Would flourish or fade, richer or poorer grow,
Rise with new fire, or smoulder fulled and low
And in a barren peace at last abide—
Of that , O Ormazd, thou that stood'st beside
Time at his cradling must forejudge, not we:
Thou who didst know from their nativity
Both Good and Evil, seeing their wars begun,
And even won and lost, and lost and won.”

 Reverberant, vibrant, nor less broad and deep
Than the sea's utterance round the cloven steep,
Was his rich-billowing voice, each cadence grave
Being like the lapse of a sonorous wave
When it withdraws down a resounding shore.
And after his last word, there hovered o'er
That council a brief silence, tremulous
As with expectancy, till Rashnu thus
Put it to flight: “One only thing is plain.
Not our advantage, not our weal or gain,
O Ormazd, doth thy foe of foes intend!
What, then, can be his goal, his secret end?
What lurked behind his specious words, when he,
As if by veriest chance encountering thee
Amid the heavens, poured forth the Scheme which thou
Bid'st us consider? Is it that he now
Foresees his empire slowly dwindling, thine
Greatening, and seeks to avert by this design
That gradual droop of power, that piecemeal fall,
And long, inglorious fading, which of all
Dreary vicissitude is the dreariest known,
To one that sits upon a haughty throne?”

 So asked the noon-bright Spirit, and when he ceased
To speak, although no tongue replied, at least
Faces made answer; and in speech to the eye
His fellow counsellors there standing nigh
Uttered what seemed not an uncertain Yea.
Then spake outright the lordliest child of day;
He in whom met, and nobly did agree,
Resplendent strength and mastering suavity;
He at whose footfall, when he roamed abroad,
The heavens themselves were stilled and hushed and awed,
Hearing the golden thunder of his tread;
Great Mithra. “First, let me declare,” he said,
“How full, how perfect is mine own assent
To all that hath from lips more eloquent
Most justly flowed. Like Vayu, loth am I
With a mean stint to grudge and half deny
Fit and due praise to a Project, to a Scheme,
Which, were it proved but a vain-builded dream,
Would none the less reveal, if nought beside,
A dauntless Dreamer: being a vision wide
As the mind's farthest outstretch: wanting not
Its lures, its beckon, its promises of what
Ev'n the all-coveting hand of Hope might well
Have lacked the greed to crave. But truth to tell,
I also must like Rashnu cry Beware!
For it is warrior's wisdom, whensoe'er
A foe seems friendliest, to set double guard,
And at an enemy's gift look long and hard.
Now 'tis exceeding sure, that till we know
Whether thyself, O Ormazd, or thy foe
Already wield o'er life the ampler power,
And in these clangorous worlds at each loud hour
Already govern the more vast domain,
We know not whether 'twere thy loss or gain
To embrace a Project, fix and ratify
Beyond revokement a Design, whereby
The Dark One would in breadth of empire be
Thy changeless Equal everlastingly,
And thine own puissance an arrested tide,
Standing magnificently petrified.
Send therefore to each haunt and dwelling-place
Of Mind—each tenanted orb that rides in Space—
Each populous busy star that sails upbuoyed,
Eager and ardent on the torpid Void—
Send to all seats of life, and through the whole
Compass and circuit of that world of soul
That in a fast enmeshment without end,
Deep amidst worlds of clay is woven—send
Unseen and noiseless watchers, searchers, spies,
A myriad listening ears, and probing eyes,
And bid them bring thee word from Everywhere
Of how thine enemy's strength and thine compare;
In what sphere thou prevailest; in what zone
And tract of Being his might o'ertops thine own;
What wavering region of vext ebb and flow
Now hails thee paramount and anon thy foe.
In brief, from wheresoever living thing
Abides, let thine intelligencers bring
Knowledge that, summed into one boundless ray,
Shall show forth clear how thou dost stand to-day,
Measured against thine adversary; and so,
In that enormous torchflare, we shall know
Whether 'twill profit thee or him alone,
Who at the heart of darkness hath his throne,
If thou, unto his Scheme consenting, cast
Off and make null and quite tread out the Past,
Bartering this variable and fluctuant sway—
Surge and subsidence, crescence and decay—
For an unchanging Realm, within whose pale
Nowhere shalt thou have reason to bewail
Evil triumphant, and its arms made proud
With trophy and spoil; or to rejoice aloud
At its abjection, and its flight in fear
Before the gleaming of a dawn-tipt spear.”

 Such were his words; and now, in speech that fell
From where no shadow of untruth might dwell,
Ormazd's elect and faithful had outpoured
Freely their thought, which in their breasts to hoard
Had been ignoblest service; and the three,
For their oft-proved and spotless fealty,
Received the thanks of that enthroned and crowned
Benignance. Then, from where the glory around
His presence like the soul of dayspring burned,
They to a thousand radiant tasks returned.

 And Ormazd did as Mithra counselled. First
Recalling hosts that had been long dispersed
On divers errands, diligent spirits and true,
He formed them into bands and squadrons new,
And with new mandate sent them everywhere
Among the speedful, spurring worlds; and there,
Where the dim lifeseed had been sown
In quickened soil, or on waste foam or stone;
Wherever aught had breath, and did beget
Offspring, and wither and die; and chiefliest yet,
Wherever creatures born, not quite in vain,
To a broad estate of pleasure and of pain,
Large hereditaments of bliss and woe—
Wherever such a race, emerging slow,
Had risen in honour and shame and love and lust
Out of the pregnant and parturient dust,
There did those secret emissaries engage
In a profound, a solemn espionage.
None saw them; yet among the quick and dead
Daily they moved, with a reposeless tread,
And they became a presence interwreathed
With all that was; by everything that breathed
Felt like a vague commotion, like a breeze
Furtive in underwoods where forest trees
Stand pensive. And with questing eyes and ears
They, traversing the divers peopled spheres,
Passed to and fro; the mortals dwelling there
Being oft obscurely on a sudden aware
Of something which had opened not their doors,
And had no step that sounded on their floors,
But fainter than a rustle or a sigh
Had glided in, and like a waft gone by.

 And ages came and went, with pauseless pace
And trampling onsweep, till the very face
Of heaven was here and there by slow degrees
Being changed! Young planets, the shy novices
Of Night, appeared beside old palsied ones,
Their joyless kin; while certain fervid suns
Grew senile, and with no more force to spend
Doted decrepit, nearing their lone end:
And sometimes, as from fires that blanch and char,
There fell the ashes of a ruined star.
And still did the unslumbering searchers ply
Their task; and not till they had heard pass by,
Mid voices as of cloud-clad charioteers,
The thunderous wheels of ninety thousand years,
Did they return, and unto Ormazd bring
The heaped fruit of their mighty harvesting.

 Then came the lesser, lighter labour—though
This, too, was a prodigious toil—of so
Ordering and setting forth in due array
The piled and boundless-seeming knowledge they
Had reaped, that Ormazd at a glance might see
The range and scope of his own sovereignty,
Measured against the empire of his foe.
And many an age had yet to come and go,
That as it fleeted found that toil's last stage
Still distant: many a shadowy-trailing age,
When Man may in his long slow dawn have been,
And round him forms that mid this haunt terrene
Succeeded stranger shapes, once monstrously
Got of the dalliance of the Earth and Sea.
But the huge labours were at length complete;
The garnered knowledge was in order meet
Ranged and disposed; the task was perfected;
And Ormazd, seeing as in a chart outspread
His own and his fell rival's power, could view
These with exactness, and now verily knew
Which was the greater: whereupon he cast
Falterings behind him, and stood founded fast
In a resolve that might not change or fade,
Touching the answer that must soon be made,
At the appointed place and destined day,
To Ahriman—the doomful Yea or Nay.

 For now that day drew near, and peaklike rose
Out of the plains of time—the day when those
First mighty forefathers of Good and Ill
Must indeed meet once more, and so fulfil
Their mutual pledge, or both for ever stand
Alike forsworn. And ere it loomed at hand,
Ormazd together called, besides the Three
Nighest himself in splendour and majesty,
Thrice three of less renown; and on each one
Bestowing words of cheer and benison,
He to the twelve made known his whole intent.
And at a sign they left him, and he went
From out his lofty-towered abiding-place,
And he looked down o'er the abysm of Space,
He whom its deeps were powerless to appal.
O'er Nothingness, most awesome thing of all,
There looked he down; and halted on its verge,
Somewhat as on a rock above the surge
A fearless swimmer a moment halts, ere he
With headlong leap commits him to the sea.
Then from the towers and courts and domes that glowed
Around his innermost divine abode—
The outskirts of that Light which was his throne—
Ormazd upon the skies went forth alone,
There, for the second time, and for the last,
To meet the Saddener of the World. He passed
By many a massy star, matched with whose girth
Puny indeed were this our boastful Earth,
And onward without tarrying or delay,
Right across many a planet's ancient way,
His own being no such curving course, he fared.
The ever fevered comet as it flared
With violent inroad through the heavens, and raced
Athwart Creation, he that knew not haste
Serenely in its hot flight overtook
And far outsped. As one that fords a brook
In a mere journey o'er vale and wold, he crossed
The madding meteor torrent, that seemed lost
And aimless, where it chased in dizzy sky
Its own self round the sun. At times his eye
Saw War beside his pathway, cosmic strife
As of a new world crashing into life
Through welter and rage and the loud splintering
Of old worlds' bones. But oft, where breathing thing
Or living voice had never sought to intrude
On the cold, blank, tremendous quietude,
He swept through utter Calms that well might be
Likened to the immense serenity
And infinite composure of the dead:
Kingdoms that Silence hath inherited
From Silence; and mid these he came to where
His adversary awaited him, for there—
With eyes that seemed to ray forth only gloom—
Ahriman tower'd, true to that tryst of doom.

 And Ormazd with a soaring voice cried: “Lo,
I am come to pay thee that which I do owe—
Gratitude, gratitude!” A joyful gleam
Lit the drear face of Evil. “Then my Scheme
Hath in thine eyes found favour?” But full soon
The gleam departed, Ormazd saying: “The boon
For which I thank thee and could almost bless
The giver of a gift so measureless,
Is the new knowledge, full and sure, of how
Thy power and mine compare, and whether thou
Or I be mightier. Unto thee my debt
Is boundless: without thee , not even yet
That knowledge had been mine, and thou hast well
Earned richest thanks.” Ahriman's countenance fell.
“I knew that thou hadst sent forth everywhere
Thy searchers, gatherers, scouts, and spies, and ne'er
Sought I to foil their quest, nor once have laid
Across their path a hindrance.” Ormazd paid
No heed, but unregardful thus spake on:
“O oft did I in yonder ages gone
Toil with misgiving and with doubt, nor knew
Whether 'twas mine own realm or thine that grew
In lasting spaciousness, or whether both
Stood without movement, without change or growth,
Or rise or fall. And even labouring still,
I was as one that climbs an endless hill,
And oft I bore a heavy, a secret load,
And lacked the joy that I myself bestowed.
But now I know that when thou met'st me first,
Thinking to snare me with thy guile accurst,
Already had thy feet begun to slide
Ev'n then from power. Already had the tide
Against thee turned: thenceforth the flow was mine,
Thine the loathed ebb. And though thy sure decline
Was hardly as yet a thing to itself confessed,
Already somewhat below peak and crest
Thou stood'st, and wert each morrow fall'n away
A little—a little—from height of yesterday.”

 “Thy words are false,” cried Ahriman, “and thou
Erelong shalt learn that never even now
Have I put forth the full might of mine arm
Against thee; and with tremors of alarm
Shalt thou look on, hereafter, while I sow
With dreadful largesse the long-hoarded woe.
For whatsoever thou dost most abhor—
Famine and pestilence and hate and war,
And new-minted diseases worse than death—
These in thrice ampler bounty with my breath
Will I strew wide, wherever mortals live
Their life fantastical and fugitive.”

 “And from all this,” said Ormazd, “shall pure fruit
Upgrow, and odorously will I transmute
To loveliest bloom thy gifts of deadliest bane.
For now henceforth I wax and thou dost wane,
I broaden and thou shrinkest; and at length,
With ever leaping heart and freshening strength,
Joyous I toil, knowing that day by day
Somewhat art thou for ever feebler; yea,
Knowing as happiest truth that ev'n were I
Not indestructible, but born to die
Like old Gods whom the youthful Gods succeed—
That ev'n if it should be my fate indeed
Thus to the will of conquering Death to bow,
And my chief tasks yet unperformed, and thou
Neither destroyed nor vanquished—none the less
'Stablisht secure in everlastingness
Where this my kingdom, my fair realm of Good;
But thine own realm of Evil, that withstood
So long my assault, and seemed in glory and state
Built above dread of fall, shall soon or late
With pangs of ebbing power, with shudderings vast,
Be o'ertaken and amazed; and haply at last
It shall be broken asunder in ruin extreme,
Scattered as shards and the ashes of a dream,
And thou, or some like heritor of thy throne,
Under its mountainous dust lie hurled and prone.”

 So Ormazd spake. But his terrific foe
In boundless rage was silent, and as though
Somewhat abashed by that pure strength and grace,
Did turn away the tempest of his face.
Out of him rose a twilight dim and dire,
The clouds and column'd vapours of his ire
Spreading their dusk afar. Half hid with these
He stood, while, swirled as in mad vortices
Above him, an innumerable swarm
Of horrors without lineament or form
Circled aloft and blindly eddying spun,
Black as a flight of crows against the sun.
And he, by that foul brood attended, passed
Downward through skies that his mere frown o'ercast,
Betaking him in fury and in shame
Back to those holds of midnight whence he came.
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