« PreviousContinue »
was in a dream, but his convictions were positive of waking existence, and he stood oppressed with the greatness of all without, and the vanity of all within him. “What are the griefs, the passions, the interests of a creature like me; a pigmy—an atom of the dust? The beings glorious, and to my imagination, almost omnipotent, who built and inhabited these mysterious dwellings, have probably passed away; and if they have gone down to impenetrable oblivion, what will be my departure from the earth ?- The ceasing of a momentary breeze in the illimitable air! the extinction of a spark in the conflagration of a city!” As he thus moralised, his eye involuntarily fixed itself on the colossal portal of a most august palace, which stood open before him. A peristyle of those enormous pillars composed its front; and on each hand a row of gigantic sphinges guarded its entrance. It was not till a long contemplation of the greatness of all these objects had, in some degree, familiarised him to their strangeness, that his curiosity overcame his awe, and he determined to enter.
When, however, he began to move, the diminutiveness of his steps, the feebleness of his motions, contrasted with the vastness and the solidity of every thing around him, redoubled his amazement, and forced upon his senses the infinite distance between these works and himself; and when he reached a pillar, and, looking up, found that his stature was not a tenth part of that of its base, he again stood fixed to the ground in wonder. When he endeavoured to arouse himself, it was only to encounter fresh objects, that fell upon his labouring senses with a mountainous weight. The hall that he entered was as vast in its dimensions as every thing without. Its floor, its walls, its lofty dome, presented but one plain surface of black marble, which, polished to the highest lustre, reflected, wherever he went, his own minute shape: and in the centre arose what he at first conceived to be a mount of stone, but which, as he continued to gaze upon it, gradually grew upon his perception a finished animal shape - a mighty sphinx ! Every moment that he contemplated it, its character more vividly developed itself to his mind, till it at length filled it with ideas of terror that served to render him stony as itself. He beheld in its stupendous form indications of fleetness, and of energies immense as its bulk; and in its eye the immeasurable depths of a sagacity, dark, deadly, and malignant. With ineffable terror —with the labour and debility of a dream — he turned from this horrible image, and effected his retreat into the next apartment.
Here, if his terrors were less excited, his admiration and awe were equally called forth. It was a saloon of the same amplitude, constructed of the richest porphyry ;- the same eternal silence pervaded it; and on the floor stood vases, chalices, and various banqueting vessels, of a splendour that seemed only befitting gods; and of a size which startled Daloom with the conviction,
that whoever used them must have been proportionably gigantic with their abode. Who-what might they have been? And when had their fearful presence filled this mysterious pile? He felt it must have been in some far-off time; yet were these superb utensils bright and pure as when they first issued from the hands of their unknown workmen. Not a stain, not an atom of dust rested upon them, or upon the mighty room in which they stood. He gazed upon them with an augmenting wonder and admiration. Their materials were such as sunk in value all the riches of the earth. Some were of gold, some brilliant crystal; and others one pure mass of cool, rich, translucent beryl, emerald, or chrysolite. Their shapes were such as he had never seen; but so moulded by the very spirit of grace and beauty, that for the moment, banishing all fear, all other sense, they filled his soul with the most delicious and heavenly sensations. Drawn by this absorbing influence, he advanced, and laying his hand on the stem of one, he attempted to move it;-it stood firm as an eternal rock; and at once all the consciousness of his situation rushed back upon him. He lifted up his eyes, and saw, on the opposite wall, wrought in bold relief, a series of the most marvellous scenes and figures. They were all of dimensions accordant with the place.
First, a child playing with a radiant girdle; a kingly figure, with eager eyes, and hands outstretched to take it: then the same god-like shape, girt with that splendid
cestus, in a chariot drawn by sphinges, driving forth on a career of victory. Here, embattled hosts of the same Titan forms, vainly opposing him and his; their countenances hideous with the expression of unutterable hate; writhing fiercely and furiously beneath the consciousness of overwhelming power : then, multitudes prostrate before his chariot ;, processions offering submission at the gates of cities : and here, the same conqueror feasting with seven beings of equal stature and dignity in a banqueting-house, and in vessels which Daloom immediately recognised as the room in which he stood, and as the vessels before him. The last was the representation of a king and queen, young and beautiful above expression, in a triumphal chariot, riding amid the acclamations of the people.
These scenes filled Daloom with a restless curiosity. He looked round, but there were no others; and perceiving a lofty, open door at the distant end of the saloon, he approached it. What words can do justice to his increased amaze! A dome, seeming to emulate the amplitude and lostiness of that of heaven, formed its roof,-a dome expanded in the form of a huge concave flower of azure, in whose centre a glorious carbuncle flung down the richness of its perpetual glow upon an amethystine pavement. At the farther end stood a throne of lustrous jet; over which a bird, large as the fabled Simourg, spread its awful wings as a canopy. But what were these? It was upon two figures which stood upon the steps of the throne, that Daloom's attention was riveted. The one was a female, whose character, as it grew upon his gaze, was that of a beauty pure and sublime as the depths of heaven itself. It was that lofty beauty resulting from a body and soul in unison, at once full of majesty and power, of grace and gentleness; but the expression of her magnificent face was that of woe,-a woe deep, deep and irremediable, a remorse that wrung and devoured her spirit with all that terrible energy of which such a being could alone be capable. She stood — her hands clenched — her eyes upon the ground, and the feeling of that unutterable woe so imbuing her whole air and form, that Daloom became speedily wrapped up in a sympathy, even for a creature of so stupendous a nature, that grew and grew into an intensity unspeakable. He seemed to behold that image of overwhelming woe filling the silence of eternity with its influence; and he felt as if he could thus stand before it for ever, to accompany it with an eternal sympathy.
But what was the other figure? And what was its connexion with this absorbing form? He turned, and recognised instantly the bearing and countenance of the youthful monarch, who, in the last representation on the wall of the banqueting-room, rode in his chariot, accompanied by his queen. He had the lofty stature of a god ;-— light, vigorous, and graceful: a countenance sublime, eagle-glanced, but betraying a fiery pride-an