Visual Impairment IconHigh Contrast

Sleeping Beauty: A Masque for the Times

by J. H. S.

The Truth-Seeker, vol. 1, issue 3 (1849)

Pages 330-343

NOTE: This entry is in draft form; it is currently undergoing the VSFP editorial process.

Introductory Note: "Sleeping Beauty" represents an attempt to unify several of The Truth-Seeker's progressive themes a traditional form. The Truth-Seeker's "Table of Contents" refers to the story as "A Masque for the Times," suggesting its kinship with the tradition of courtly closet drama, meant to be read aloud rather than performed on stage. Such stories often contained symbolic elements, and in English, depicted mythical subjects through moral allegory. "Sleeping Beauty" serves as an allegorical argument against the mercantile nature of art in the modern age, the degraded spirituality imposed by organized religion, the dangers of alcohol, and the plight of the poor in an industrialized class system.

———

  1. THE ISLAND.—ARIEL.

Yes, it is even as thou sayest, Ariel: we lie all awry, twisted, contorted, crushing one another; and our eldest brother, Adler, with those, our brethren, next to him, who have become his baser factors, flatterers and followers, tread on us—but with a double hurt—to us first, but also to themselves. 1The name Ariel means "Altar of God" or "Lion of God" as it appears in Isaiah 29:1-2, 7 of the Hebrew Bible. The name is also associated with an angel or demon. In Milton's Paradise Lost, Ariel is a fallen angel, and in Shakespeare's The Tempest Prospero's air sprite. The word “adler” means “eagle” in German. It could also be inspired by the English word “addle” which means to confuse or muddle. They bruise our head: we bruise their heel. O Mother, Mother! why rear us up so numerous, and then die?”

“Hush, Haiarno! our mother is not dead, but sleepeth.”

“Yea, Ariel, such sleep as may not awake again. Ah no! She will awake no more! Oh never more! For ever shall we writhe, as now, under and over one another, stinging and being stung, crushing and being crushed, weltering miserable in a chaos of sick life!”

“Never, Haiarno, never will I believe it! Never will I believe such pain, and misery, and sin eternal. There comes a resurrection of the Beautiful. Our mother will awake. She must—she will. I know it, and I see it.”

“O Ariel! would it were so! O that my mother might awake and see this wretchedness! Could she but see me as I stand—worn, wasted, haggard,—my thin, blue cheek engrained with the small black veins that break thereon, channeled by the sweat of toil, nor less, perchance, by the charmed liquor that our brother Comus brews for us—my skin in cracks and crusts—my bones bent, bowed, distorted—my exhausted sinews drawn into visible cords!2In Greek mythology, Comus is the son of Dionysus and the god of revels and festivity. Nor yet so thoroly exhausted, nor yet so wholly drained, O sinews! Drawn—drained! Aye indeed, well drawn, well drained! Yes,—with a bitter smile I see it and I say it—these cars and chariots of pride that thunder mid our cots and cottages, when Adler, with his parasites, hath deigned to take the air—those huge clouds—those mighty pageants of pleasure—that float upon our lakes with fire and flame to drive them—have they not been dragged and drawn even from the very pith of these lean sinews? The garment that enwrappeth him, is it not woven of our brother's flesh? These cushions of his luxury, purple and exhuberant, are they not moulded of our brother's blood? These halls and palaces—these piles of masonry that touch the clouds—their supporting columns—are they not these very bones? Ay,—and the more bitter is my smile—are they not cemented with our sin—my sin—thy sin, Adler—the sin that thou hast caused in me by thine? And is there not a curse upon them? Are they not permeated by a spell that makes them agony—despair—crime? Thou hast trampled on me—trod me under foot—chained me in the mountain-bowels—shut me up with toads, and ravening rats, and dropping waters, and exploding fire—forced me to ransack all fountains, lakes, and rivers, to heap the wherewithal to glut thy phantasy. Thou hast drained my vitals to the dregs, till I stand even thus—naked, and thin, and dwarft, and ignorant, and criminal. But with what to thee, with what to thee, has all this work been done—with what to thee? The draught, has it not been poison? These cars and chariots—these pageants on the lakes—these blood-moulded cushions—these piles of masonry that touch the clouds—weigh they not upon thy head, thy heart, with a weight stooping thee to hell? Ay, flee, flee! Flee to the drugged cup of thy brother Comus! Flee to broil and battle with the beasts of the field or the fowls of heaven! Or better—fiercer far—flee to broil and battle with thy own kind and kindred! Cut—stab—hack—hew thy brother! Bathe in his glowing blood! Clothe in his steaming entrails!—Ah! ah!—still is there no rest—no peace—no cool!”

“Unhappy! Oh unhappy! Haiarno, thy words are as agonizing fire! Me, Me! woe is me! that truth is in them! I past the workshop—the chill, damp cell—in which our brother Euplocus sits weaving. I saw him there—diseased, dwarft, famisht; and, even as I looked and listened, the very voice and actual utterance of his loom did seem, Revenge! But, O Haiarno! lift not thou thy hand against thy brother Adler! Are there not pain and sin enough? Wilt thou add to them? Wilt thou become the thing thou hatest? Wouldst thou be Adler, and make him Haiarno?—Think! Patience! Hast thou not revenge even now? Saidst thou not, the very work thou dost is as a weight stooping him to hell? That very work, is it not swiftly surely, bringing thee deliverance?”

“Ariel, mistake me not! Hand of mine shall never fall on Adler. His own sin consume him! My own virtue right me! Nor am I yet so shorn of pleasure. There is still some soothment for me—still some solace in my lot, hard tho it be. There is joy in the cup of Comus—joy in the robust laugh, the unmistakable jest, the uproarious hilarity of my fellow drudges in that short evening hour that gives us privilege to meet, not for vain repinings and condolings—not for insane and sinful conclave of rebellion—but to support, and cheer, and gladden one another! Ay, Ariel, drudge—slave—helot as I am—laughter can come to me. Of my very misery I can make a butt; I can mock my grief; I can wring mirth from agony; I can shake my fetters into joyful noises. What gushing fountains of amusement are not these lean muscles to me! Lean, thin, shrunk they are: but fruitful are their wombs, teeming their bellies. Ariel! Canst thou not see—almost with thine actual eye—rising, like a birth, out of their fibres, those crowns, and coronets, and stars, and cups, and chalices of price, that fling lightly from hand to hand the jocund sparkle of the peeping sun what time he lightens up the pride of Adler? Lean muscles! Canst thou not see them teeming—swelling—overflowing like a Nilus—depositing their multitudinous freight, their all-prolific stores? See, rising from them, innumerable as herbs that spring and spread upon the unsightly bosom of the earth, the points, tags, tassels, and adornments that deck the trappings and caparisons of the steed of Adler! See his hunting-spear,—the gewgaws and the spectacles of Dohl, Pol's reed-trump, and the bells of Fol,—the sword and shield of Gomps, Moohyn's toothpick, and the looking-glass of Peod,—Corbo's penknife, and the manacles of Milan,—nor less, the shoebuckles and plain finger-ring of that respectable, clean-handed, clean-shirted, well-regulated personage, our brother, Volp! In profuse luxury, spawning from them, like broods of countless crocodiles rising and living from the desert sands, see Taenia's spindles and the vats of Comus, Aragno's shuttles and the pans of Meliss, the implements of Getes, Scalops' strong-box, Simulante's symbol, Erro's hook, the casket, gems, and precious tones of Chysourg! Now, showering from them, see the rain that fell on Danaë—those enchanting counters—whereby as by the signet of a God, Adler and the rest have power to take unto themselves all flowers, plants, trees that suck the bosom of the earth on plain or mountain,—all animals that crop the blade, or lurk in jungles,—all handiworks of man,—and man himself—their brother! Lean sinews? Ha! rather, are they not exhaustless laughing-stocks, 'fellows of infinite jest,' repertories of endless merriment?3“A fellow of infinite jest” is from Hamlet’s speech about Yorik. Hamlet Act 5 scene 1. Poor am I then? Who shall say so? I, with thews which are Aladdin-lamps to stock a Universe—I, who thus rain upon the ground 'Barbaric pearls and gold'—I without whom the pomp of Adler vanishes in air, leaving him lone, naked, defenceless—who again will strike—trample—tread me under foot? The slave of Adler! His drudge—his helot! No, by the gods! I am his Lord, his Master. The Island is not his. 'Tis mine—mine and Euplocus's! Look to thy shuttle, Euplocus! See it carrying round and round thy brethren those marvelous threads, wrapping them in warmth or luxury! See this: and reverence thyself! Come! let us sit and joke together. Let us muffle up our griefs—choke them in flowers of frolic—bury them in fun! Come! we will prattle of ourselves! Come! we will babble and believe the island ours, and we the kings of it!”

“Haiarno! bitter are thy jests; thy smiles Sardonic. O, wax not into wrath! Let not indignation and revenge kindle thee to hate and wickedness. Let not malice salt, nor blood defile, the sweet, clear waters of thy long-suffering wisdom. Fuel for the flame is scattered all around. Beware the spark! Beware! even as thou valuest that which thou seekest! As the oak springeth from the acorn, the hazel from the hazel-nut; so does good rise out of good, evil out of evil. Each seed feeds his own kind. Maize grows not on the Upas-tree. Leaves of the Sumach fall not from the ear of corn. The Plantain florishes on the tree of Good; Apples of Discord on the tree of Evil. Hold on! Hold from! Ours shall the day be: theirs is but the night. I will believe it. Beauty is not dead, but sleepeth. Our mother will awake, arise, and give, as heretofore, her lustre into keeping of the spongy air, till man shall be transfigured, and shall bloom in beauty of the angels; our bare mountains shall resume their antique robes of filmy glory; and above our lakes, white clouds, upcurdled in the invisible air, shall brood in brighter loveliness. As of old, when angels were our guests and the hosts of heaven mingled with us, 'pipes in the liberal air' shall soothe our flocks. Again shall the 'isle be full of noises, sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.' Again, a united brotherhood, we shall sit down in peace together—all at work, yet all at leisure—peopling the waste with voices—making the wilderness rejoice in flowers—extracting the nobler from the baser—transmuting the surplus and excess of food we lay up for the body into the more precious food divine that feeds our spirits—transmuting food of earth to food of heaven, corn and wine to nectar and ambrosia—piercing the mysteries of this enchanted island—doing the hests of our great mother—weaving songs of praise and rearing altars crowned with flowers or odorous flames, in incense to our far-Father—living on earth only to live in heaven. Shall not this be, Haiarno? Speak! Shall it not be? It shall.”

“No, no, no! dream no more, Ariel! Thou art a thing compact of dreams. And yet how balmy are these dreams which Adler may not bar a chance, stray visit, like glimpses of the sun, even to this poor, clouded brain of mine! Ah no! it cannot be. There come no messengers from God to man. Angels have deserted us. Our father has gone far, far. Our mother, she is dead. We are abandoned orphans, wicked and miserable.”

“Thou art blind, Haiarno! Thy very wickedness has blinded thee. Else, not rarely mightest thou see smiles of our mother, Beauty, gleaming from her secret sleeping-place, like moonlight, on our bewildered doings. She is not dead! She is not dead! Yet are her footsteps glowing on the earth! By fountain and by river, in dell and wilderness, the splendor is yet alive that from her garment dropt. Adler and his parasites have not yet wholly blurred the glory of her informing trail. I will arise. I will shake the dust of idleness from my feet. I will gird my loins up to the enterprize. I will go forth, and seek our mother where haply she hath lain down apart from us to sleep. I will awake her. Haiarno! I will awake her. I have a tongue of fire, a brain of images, and a heart of dew. I will awake her. She will return. All shall be well. This instant will I forth.”

“Alas! poor dreamy Ariel! My little fountain of the gentlest lymph of love! how little knowest thou the task thy brain is all a-flame about! Is it so easy then to leave the hearth where hitherto thou has been fed, and warmed, and fostered? Are roofs and fires, cupboards and garments, then so plentiful? Will manna, as of old, rain from heaven on thee?—the dry rock gape and gush to fill thy water-cruise? Will of himself the Sable bring to thee his coat of fur? Or will the Silkworm weave thee one? Are then the hills and plains all open to thee?—thine as much as Adlers? Where are his guards? How shall you pass them? Where is thy scrip? Hast thou store of counters in thy girdle wherewith thou mayest glut his insatiate, million myrmidons, that, vigilant as the hounds of hell, do watch each avenue—outlet or inlet—claiming, under a thousand different names, by a thousand different devices, tax and toll of thee? Without a counter, how canst thou even live?”

“Haiarno! food and raiment will be denied us nowhere. Few are the wants of health: disease can find no larder large enough. Small is the scrip that virtue needs: 'tis vice that cannot get sufficient store of the counters to be safe withal.”

“Thou art a strange being, Ariel! From thy youngest years, thou hast been all unlike thy fellows. Placed amid the factors—that superfluous and corrupted medium betwixt Adler, with his retinue, and us, the helots—fed on their gluttonous aliment—nursed in all their sleepy indolence—how unlike them art thou! To thee, the strong-box and the encreasing hoard—the swiftly swelling counter-heap—offered no charms. What to thee were all their petty spites and envies, their pitiful jealousies, pitiful rivalries—their striving, each to outshine the other in coat or hat, in sumptuousness of dinner, in fashion of a ring, or pattern of a shoebuckle? With their constrained and wily-purposed speech and motion, thy light laugh and lighter carriage sorted not. Life to thee was something more than a vain showing-off of airs and dresses. Their proud frowns and insolent questionings—their cruel spurnings—remorseless turnings of the back—their icy looks, darting like chill spears upon our woes—but ill accorded with thy fast dropping tears—thy wild, soft heart—thy words like balm—thy liberal hand—thy swift rush of sudden indignation. Yea, Ariel! thou art all unlike the rest of us. With us, the weeds, the abjects of the island, thou hast been almost a playmate. Thy kindly ways, spontaneous, unaffected courteousness, thy [good] frankness, and thy laughing words, fell like sunshine on us, cheering, delighting. Thou hast never had the least glimpse of thought that thou wert different from us. We were thy equal brothers. Thou has sat, at home and happy, on our greasy stools, amid the dust and ashes of our hearths. Thou has talkt and laught, and quaft the cup of Comus with us. With thy meaning looks, and strangely penetrating words, and sunny pleasantries, thou hast been to all a joy and a delight, an aid, a help, a love. Nay, even dumb beasts do follow thee with love. No dog but fawns on thee. The steed trembles with delight as thou approachest. Puss hath no dearer perch than knee of thee. The ox, as thou speakest to him, seems mitigated and intelligent. The linnet shivers his little plumes, peeps his little head oblique, and carols lustier in thy presence. Of none but Adler and his parasites, has the sneer of scorn descended; has a proud eye been turned, or a proud lip curled. None but the Drones—the factors—the unnecessary mean—hast thou strecht upon the rack of sarcasm. Yet familiar as thou art, and all accessible to the meanest, we feel, we know, thou art above us. Thou has indeed a tongue of fire, a brain of images, and a heart of dew. Thou hast the eye to see withal: for are not all of us, from Adler and the rest, down to the poor Haiarno and the poorer Euplocus, but as machines in crystal to thee? Thou hast the power to make thy dreams realities. The treasures of the world could bribe thee to no lie; the powers of darkness could not bend thee to injustice; earth and hell could not force thee from thy purpose. Thou hast the subtlety to plan. Thine is the soul to dare, the heart to lead thy fellows. Thou so different from all—so immeasureably superior to all—canst thou err in this thy strong belief, that Beauty liveth? Shall I, a mean and despicable worm, dare hold debate against thee? I see—I see! It must be so! Thou must be right. Thou hast said it: I will believe.”

“Haiarno! may thy faith avail thee! Trust in it. Beauty is not dead. I will awake her. She will return.”

“O Ariel! string thyself to this great daring! Think of the bowels of the earth—see me there, far from the voice of day, the breath of heaven, toiling, toiling, evermore toiling! Think of thy brother Euplocus! Think—O think! Fall not into temptation: sleep not by the way. Thou knowest the keenness of the senses: avoid! Beward of Adler and his mates. What fascination would not thy sweet presence be to them! What delight thy pleasant quips, and bubling merriment, and wild, wild waggeries! Have thou a-care, O Ariel! Their delicate food, their enchanted liquor, and the downy luxuries, have power to blot out heaven—have power to crush the lamp and bury the treasure that thou bear'st within. Think what a task thou hast! Think!—O think!”

“Fear not, Haiarno! I will be firm. Hope on! work on!”

“All flesh has corrupted its way upon the island. In Adler there is no hope in Goups none; in Volp none. Dohl, Pol, Fol, Peod, and Mochyn, are for laughter only. In Taenia there is no hope, in Simulante none. Hope there is now none—none for thy aggrieved brethren, but in thee, O Ariel! Be thou true to us! Be thou but true unto thyself: thou wilt not fail thy brothers!”

———

2. ARIEL SETS OUT.

The clouds that marched so grimly, slowly on us, flinging their heavy shadows on the ground, till all the air wan'd with despair, have paused, loosening into rain; and on the front of them, like love upon the curse, the quiet rainbow glides. Haiarno has set his hope on Ariel; and Ariel has found his mission.

Swiftly the word went abroad in the city that Ariel was going forth to seek their mother; and the thoughts and voices of his brethren awoke around him variously. Most—some walking in the death-in-life of having, and others in the death-in-life of not having—had, in a manner, fallen asleep; and they muttered dreamily, as the word came to them, “Mother! Mother! what Mother? We have no mother—have we?” Many, at the sound, felt as if some unknown talisman were struck within them, calling up perplexingly, as now heard in wakefulness and truth, something long heretofore but heard in dream and phantasy. Visions of the by-gone Eden gleamed unsteadily upon them; forgotten voices murmured in their ears; sounds of familiar melody floated from afar, tasking their memories, melting their hearts. Like a great sea, heavenward they heaved.

Amazed, indignant, Adler heard, but smiled in mockery. Dohl opened wider up his stolid stare. Pol squeaked and threw an antic. Fol reddened to the ears with anger at the fool. Peod, adjusting himself and looking backward to his heel, drawled out, “Ariel! what's Ariel? is it a bird?” Volp laughed, “Ha ha! Not bad! A bird! Yes, of the lark sort, I fancy; but we'll clip his wings, I doubt not,—shall we not, gentlemen?” Corbo and Milan chuckled.

Aragno, Taenia, and Co., gecked at the youthful foolishness, the raving madness, of the notion. Patronizingly, they explained to him the beauty of divided labor; mentioned the ecstasy of being the only holders in the market; disclosed how counter bred from counter, till the herd—just, by the bye, so many worms shut in cocoons to spin for them—fell down and worshipt, grudging not the sacrifice of body and of soul, so that they were wantless. Ariel, however, hearkened not, but issued to the street.

Chrysourg, Meliss, and the rest, stood in their door-ways or leaned across their stalls, affecting to pity him. Erro jostled and hooted him. But Ariel passed on, his eyes upon the ground. Once only he spake, then when the tribe of Simulante, with fierce murmurs, gathered around him. For Simulante, tho he had forgot all of their far father, all of their fair mother, still made pretence of knowing them; and still had power on many hearts to fill them to the brim with the most frantic malice. Now, as they crowded round him, remonstrating, threatening, denouncing, pressing ever a peculiar lamp upon him, urging him to take it and to walk by it to a large edifice not far distant, where they asserted Beauty was. Ariel passed and spake even thus: “Is then the lamp alive, my brothers? Is there light in it? I see it not. Do ye? Oil! say ye? Nay: 'tis blood! That house, which ye do call the house of Beauty—why, look! the walls have all fallen in! There is no roof upon it—winds are howling in it—rains are falling in it! The loveliness and music, that heretofore were as a presence there, are dead. Why look ye to the west, when 'tis in the east that hope arises? Why follow ye the setting sun, now when with the cymbal's clash and dulcimer, and joyous acclaim of voices, ye should walk over the dewy blades in beauty of the morning to meet him as he rises in the east with fresher health and more abounding vigor? Day goeth down into the west and from the east night cometh, yet in the east is morning. Up! Hail ye the Orient! Onwards! A sun stronger and more glorious will even now burst forth, like a bridegroom, glowing from the bath!”

So spake Ariel: but they derided him the more; and still the more brandished before his eyes the lightless lamp. So Ariel turned and went forth by the gate upon the desert.

Absorbed in the chafe of what had passed, Ariel walked on, unconscious, taking the path that led to the mountains. “In spite of them, I will do them good,” he muttered, “in spite of their own selves, I will do them good!”

The free air played upon his cheek, like health. His foot, elastic from the springy heath, grew lighter. His chest expanded; every sinew strung itself. Boundless overhead stretched the blue heaven. The mountains rose before him like an ecstasy. The joy of solitude bubbled up with him. Exaltation—inspiration—thrilled him like a presence. His cheek flushed; his eye lightened. He trode upon the winds—he gesticulated—he cried aloud in transport. Unutterable thought found vent in rhapsody. He rolled upon the grassy earth to make it his. The pebbles in his path, that looked so clear in the keen air, he threw with wild strength on and on before him, still following eagerly with speed to see what mystery they might chance to light on.

By degrees, emotion, quieting itself, fell placidly into liquid dream; and Ariel pressed forward, forward, heedless of all outer circumstance. Suddenly, a voice cried “Ariel!” He stopt, he looked, he listened. Only the bare heath lay round him. Was it fancy then? It must have been: so forward cheerily! Again, a voice cried “Ariel!” he palpitated, but pressed on. A third time rose the name of “Ariel”: but only the more eagerly pressed Ariel onwards. In an instant, however, a whole host of voices swooped around him, like an exulting, overtaking multitude. The youth stood still in panic; but on this side and on that, they hemmed him in and pressed and swayed him diverse.—“Ho, ho, ho! the man to bring our mother!”—“I vow 'tis little Ariel!”—“To be sure! who did you think it was?”—“Well: in that delicate proportion, graceful symmetry, he has the thew to seize and crush.”—“The thew! ho ho! the thew!”—“He has always had a great weight among us.”—“Yes; his iron will, his sleuth-hound purpose, have ever awed and guided us.”—“Poor boy! not the meanest of us but he slinks behind him, into his shadow.”—“Yes, and thence holds over our shoulders to our eyes the palliated reflection of ourselves alone.”—“A strong man! a mighty leader!”—“A daring soul, Sirs! look at him!”—“But he wants his Mother!” “He has a brain of images!” “Ay, ay; stucco ones!” “He can talk and laugh and quaff the cup of Comus, bless you!” “There's an eye for you!” “A clear eye!” “A penetrating eye!” “ A blue one!” “No; a green!”—“A fine lad but hardly big enough!”

Tumultuously poor Ariel struggled and passionately he strove: but with foes intangible, invisible, all in vain. The teardrops burned upon his eyelids—he staggered, grasped at the air, and fell. For long upon the ground, he lay stunned, torpid, motionless. At length, as from a dream, he raised his head and lookt. He was alone upon the barren heath: only the vacant air stood round him, looking on in silence. Then Ariel's voice went up in agony. “And is it so, my mother? am I thus weak? Ah yes! ah yes! I feel it is so. When spoke I as a man, before the face of man? I am strengthless, purposeless, powerless. I shrink—not slink, I do not slink, sweet mother—I shrink behind my meanest brother. I yield my individuality to every stranger. I cannot lead—Oh no! I cannot lead. The task was never mine. I am the vine upon the elm—in my bosom there are grapes. I am but the adorning wreath that, loosened from the pillar, tangles the ring.”

So mourned poor Ariel over his own shattered self. “I will return,” he cried, “I will return. But to what O Mother? To what, O Father, shall I return? One like me I knew that lived a parasite of Adler. And what did Adler make of him? In gorgeous carpets sank his feet. They rode, they drove, they sailed: all was joy! He sang to them; he found for them the words they wanted. They clapt their hands in praise of him; they crowned his head with flowers. He came to know them all; he grew familiar with them; and he spoke his thoughts. He caricatured Dohl and Fol and Peod; he laughed at Pol; he saw thrö Volp. Wailing to Alder and to Goups, he yet whispered of them. He grew white with revelry and tremulous. He started often and alarmed them with the cry of 'Mother'! All hated him: and, at length, they turned him to the street—a drunkard and driveler! Avert the omen, Father! O, let me not be as he was, Father!

To what shall I return? Shall I become as Taenia—my face, a blotch; my frame, a dropsy? Late in the morning shall I get up withered? Duly, over the shoulders of pale young men who all day long are adding and subtracting, shall my important chin arise with supercilious eye then dully puckered to the knowing focus? The grateful lunch shall it be swallowed greedily? Shall I gossip stentoriously on 'change, or trifle with a paper pompously? Ah! ah!—shall dinner come and then, at long and last, in generous vintage melted, shall eyes, shall brain be loosened? Shall my wife grow gross and tipple brandy? Shall my daughters—mere ya-ya things of satin and apothecary's odors—be very graceful overhead with music, envy, and frivolity? Shall my sons ruin themselves with debauchery? Shall—Pah! why waste more words? As Taenia I can never be. As easy may the hind become a beaver as I Taenia. What then? O what, my Father, what is there for me? O ye accursed three that make this paradise a hell—food, fire, raiment—how shall I find ye? The huge machine goes spinning on the air; for every one is there place; for every one activity but me. Are they happy, Father? No one may leave his station for a moment but 'tis filled and occupied: round goes the huge machine before his eyes, leaving him behind, wailing and uncared-for. O dread machine, trampling the sweetness out of us, hast thou no place for me? I know a place that I might fill; but wolves have seized it. Still am I offered room by them, if I but say the lamp is lit, the house inhabited. And why should I not? why should I not? Food, fire, raiment, a station in excelsis, honor would be mine! Could I not minister to my sick brethren—tell them of their far father—make them kind to one another? Might not my foot be on the mountain or by the sea? Could I not wander, easy in myself, secure of place, building up glorious thoughts within me? Mine would it not be, upon the seventh, to blow the clarion over my unhappy brothers who, all the week, live or mislive without the memory of father or of mother? Mine to re-build the images of our parents and open heaven? But then—the lies—the lies? Ah me! like incubi, would they not brood on me? My foot might be on the mountain or by the sea; but there would be no lightness in it. No glorious thoughts could build themselves amid the black roof of falsehood. Nor in the still recurring, dead, appointed drudgery could my being always flame. I should become even as Simulante. The time was, when in the freshness of the morning, on the springy heath, wandering with me, the foot of Simulante was free, elastic as my own. His voice had a glad spontaneous ring in it; and his sparkling eyes were honest. His heart beat true and warm. His soul was open as the firmament: and being leaped with him in frank exuberance.

But now the heavy change! See him on the street with motion stiff, mechanical, and face of stereotyped propriety, as if the very air had eyes upon him. The lovely thoughts that erewhile came to him, no more will visit him, no more will visit him. Earth has become a blank, the ocean leaden-like and dull. The hills are smoky; and the heavens have lost their blue. His sick brethren—can he speak to them? Does he know to put the gentle finger on the wound? Can he appease the pains, the doubts, the racking agonies? He! he fears infection as a plague—their bedsteads are abomination to his clothes—he gabbles thrö the form, and exit. The trumpet 'tis his part to blow upon the seventh, he cannot lift. The seventh! it lies ever before him like a cloud that will not let the sun to shine. 'Tis an incessant bitter in his cup: he has no joy for thoughts of it. O the drudgery, the drudgery! his many windings to evade, elude, escape!

The solemn emptiness that takes the man from out his face; what a coarse mockery it looks, grown gross with decorous, self-denying gluttony! Seeming himself, what fierce zeal he has for seeming! what hatred and vindictive wrath for all that is or would be! How, ostrich-like, he thrusts his head into the brake, stamps his fierce feet, and cries, Tis so, 'tis so—I say it is, I say it is!'

Is it then him that I would follow? Is it beside this man I would sit? Would I make his lot mine? In narrow, fierce intolerance—in the bustling restlessness of self-conferred apostleship—is there a place for me? Or shall mine be the puffed hands folded? Is there aught in me that suits this grave hypocrisy—this clear-starched mockery—this whited wall thrö which the coarseness of the wine-press and the shambles looms like blasphemy? Would I be Simulante? Never! I will preserve my truth or die! O no! I will not let my blood away! The world shall crash, but I will on! If I cannot live—if I cannot live—why then—I can go home—home to my Father—home to God!”

Ariel bowed his head upon his hands and wept. Then to the cope of heaven, he raised his streaming eyes and cried: “Am I not thine, my Father? am I not thine?”

Coldly stretcht the firmament above his head in blank monotony, nor showed one sign of sympathy. He heard a lifeless rivulet purl on. He saw the wide bare heath and the unmeaning sun. Then Ariel stood upon his feet and shrieked into the air: “Father! Father! am I thy son?” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Silence, like an upstartled hound, skulked sulkily to her place again. There was the same cold sky—the rivulet—the wide bare heath—and the unmeaning sun. . . . . . . . . . “And is this all,’ he cried, and is this all? A dead cold, earth heavily to lift my weary feet across! No more! Is there no more? I have been raving all this while! I have no Father—I have no Mother! Father? Mother? What Father? what Mother? What words are these? What is Father? What is Mother? Mother! Father!—I do perplex myself. There is earth, and there are men, and it is hard, hard to live. Mother! Father!”—Ariel reeled upon the sward and fell.

Celestial music woke him as of old: ah! he had but dreamed. There was his mother knitting in the sun and all her children round her. Across the fields, and thrö the wood, and up the hill, and by the sea, rang their glad voices. And ever and anon they came with rich things in their hands to lay them at the feet of Beauty: and she smiled upon them, and took their offerings, and still knit them up into all lovely shapes, colors, and substances. And Ariel, at her feet, lay basking in the sun; and his brothers brought him shells, and eggs of birds, and fins of fish, and scales, and jewels from the mine, and bits of rocks, and flowers, and leaves of trees (for he was their youngest brother), and beautiful were the shapes they took as Ariel placed them. . . . . .

In no Mother's lap was Ariel—the swoon had passed—on the bare heath he lay. Nevertheless, on wings of that fair dream he rose enkindled. “In my own heart, in my own heart,” he cried, “there lies the earnest of the future. My Mother is not dead, but sleepeth. I will track her footsteps—I will awake her!”

So Ariel anew gathered himself together; and drew his thoughts tight round him; and fixed them in the middle with resolve as with a buckle. Across the moor firmly he bent himself, still muttering, as he went: “Yes, in my own heart—my brothers may deny, for they forget—the sky may know not, nor the earth, for they are passive, dead—but in my own heart—deep in my heart of hearts, it lives—the memory of my mother. At even, or in morning, or at noon, 'tis in vain they visit me, these dreams and images that inspire and guide. I feel, I know that I shall find her.”

Communing with himself, the youth stept forward rapidly: the moor was overpassed without his knowing it. But, as his steps grew shorter, and his breath laborious, involuntarily he raised his eyes, and, with a start of pleased surprize, saw that he was already on the mountain. Nevertheless, halting not, upward, with fresh vigor, on the steeps he threw himself; for eagerly he longed to look abraod if anywhere he might espy aught vestige of his mother—aught tell-tale twinkle from her secret sleeping place.

At length, he paused, wearied with exertion. Upon the peak of vantage he had gained, he turned and lookt afar upon the ample silentness. “The wilderness is fair,” he cried, “surpassing in her lovliness! Blue sky and mighty hills—the woods, the lakes—calm rivers and wide fields—the sea! How beautiful! Ah here she dwells! Not with my brothers in their sickly-heated rooms of luxury—not with those others in their dark, damp cells of misery—but here!—here with the calm, broad-fronted presences that sun them largely in the slumbrous air!”

Long stood he thus with greedy-gazing eyes; but turned at length and recommenced his journey. Higher, higher as he clomb, still stronger, mightier, grew he in the faith of his great inquest. Did not her very breath mysteriously seem round him? The well-known smile upon her cheek—surely it was the same that now shone fitfully before him!

Suddenly, a voice, musical, of serious, ecstatic tone, rising on a swell of simple, yet somewhat stately melody, struck upon his ear, trancing the air. In swift amazement, casting his eyes around, Ariel presently descried, upon a ledge of rock, an old man sitting, rapt. Wondering who he was, and what he did, the youth made towards him. As he came near, something there was about the man that drew the warm soul of the youth up to his lips; and, running hastily to his knees, he cried in passion, “Tell me, tell me, for thou know'st, where is my mother!” The old man, looking on him, smiled and pointed to a grotto in the rock. Ariel flew to it, and entered. One glance sufficed—it held no living being but himself. The cell was naked and severe of aspect. On a small stone-table lay a book, on which the hermit (who had followed and now passed him) reverently laid his hand. Even as he toucht the book, light burst from all its edges; and Ariel exclaimed, “My Mother! what is there, there, of hers?” The old man, lifting the book, went out upon the grassy slope, and Ariel followed. Presently, the Hermit seated himself and motioned Ariel to his side. Then looked he long into the stripling's fair young eyes, till, satisfied, he nodded his head and said, “Thou art worthy! to thee the Book is open!” With stately, self-complacent pride of aspect, he unclosed the wondrous volume. Strange joy awoke in Ariel as he gazed on these mysterious pages. Token after token of his mother glowed on his enraptured vision. Gems they were and jewels fallen from her hair; tear-drops from her own dear eyes; smiles from her lips; glances, naivetés, espiegleriesi—a thousand charms: all wonderfully preserved and fixed in a pure crystal that yet enhanced their loveliness! The air pressed on and burned around the book. The world without grew luminous. Ariel lookt up: and lo! across the hill, afar, and down into a hollow, he saw the fringes of her mantle vanishing. Ariel turned eagerly to the old man, who, shutting the book with much complacency, nodded his head, and cried: “ 'Tis she indeed—'tis she herself—she is asleep no more! With me, among these hills, she dwells! Follow!” Thus having said, he rose, self-satisfied, put the book beneath his arm, and, stately-stiff, walked to his grotto.

But Ariel saw him not: he was already gone. With speed of light, the mountain-flank was overpassed—the margin of the hollow gained. And from the brink, he peered with eager-rolling eyes into the lurking places of the gulf below. Ah! no: she was not there! The very fringes of her robe had vanisht utterly. But there was a whispering in the trees—a nodding of the slumbrous foreheads of the opposing rocks, a bubbling of the waters—a wafting of the air—a murmuring of the very ground as after visit of the summer-rain—that spoke her presence. Down the tangled precipice sprang Ariel—down to the level of the slated floor. There stood he: trees and topling crags hung round, or lay in fragments by him; and up—up—thrö midst of them—up, up—far over jutting shelf on shelf, a monstrous waterfall, in the air, blew white and silent. There stood he in that depth of depths and called out “Mother!” The hollow caves and deep recessëd angles round about hoarsely woke up with “Mother!” The jutting crags above, opening their half-awakened eyes, hastily cried “Mother!” A hush: then from afar, like a withdrawing wail, afar from the white, silent cataract, come faintly, “Mother!” Silence, like an aroused, offended, overhanging deity, drew muttering back on Ariel, till he ran. Over the sharp, uneven flints, he ran—round every rock, and into every cave—and leapt the gushing glut, and sped along the slippery shelves, and thrö the spray into the torrent-tongued nook, and, up the steep, past wall of rock from ledge to ledge, hither, thither, in open or in close, still calling, “Mother, Mother,” in his panic, till all the horrid depths, from pool to pinnacle, were wild with hubbub and the cry of “Mother.”

In vain! No archly-hiding loveliness sprang forth misgivingly; nor voice arose, yearning in apprehension and remorse of “Ariel, Ariel, here am I!” And Ariel's tears fell fast; and great sobs tore him: “O where is she, my mother, O my mother!”

Blank, silent solitude! The place grew frightful as the place of death. Ghosts of evil deeds threw gloom; and there were flittings on the dark. In haste, he clomb upon the mountain; nor stopt, but to the summit mounted. Behind him, hills on hills, interminable, upheaved their great backs to the sleepy air, like whales in shoals. Before him lay the wide-spread champaign, and, afar, the sea. Over the illimitable spaces wistfully gazed Ariel. Longings unutterable arose. What did it all mean then, this, that lay so glorious around him—beautiful, melancholy, unfathomable—like loveliness in dreamy tears? Was he alone—alone—unthought of and uncared for—a waif of chance—a stray weed fallen on the rock?

Wildly he claspt his hands and cried, “My Mother! O my Mother! art thou but a dream then?” At that instant, her shadow lapsed athwart the plain, and by the sea her very sandal glittered. Adown the steep, precipitate ran Ariel, still whispering to himself “'Tis Beauty!” nor stopt, till, issued on the pebbly beach, he shouted “Beauty!” The rocks took up the name, and flung athwart the level, “Beauty.” Silence drew back anon with awful pause: but Beauty came not. “Mock me not, Mother! Thou art here, I know: for all around burns with thy presence. O come to me—come forth—I am vexed in heart—'tis Ariel that calls—thy Ariel—thy youngest born—thy son—thy darling!”

Nor form appeared; nor voice replied. “I do deceive myself,” said Ariel, at length, “she is not here. The old man on the mountain assuredly I have mistaken. I will back to him, and question further.” So he retraced his steps, and once more bent him to the upland.

As he traveled on, he crossed a rivulet—a silver rivulet it was and prettily it prattled—and there, upon the margin of its pebbled bed, he spied a footstep of his mother. The youth threw himself on his knees to look at it—then raised his eager eyes in quest of others. A second footstep met his sight—another and another—then up the brook, flushed with fresh hope he ran. Up, up, he followed on, winding as the brook did, nor did his mother's footsteps in the grass desert him. On, on he ran, the rivulet over by his side, even like a playmate. On, on he ran with it under the hollow rock, under the bowery tree, under the thymy bank, and round the island! On, on, o'er grass, o'er sand, o'er pebbles, and o'er lipping ledges—on, on, until the rivulet grew alive to him—a presence! How in rare, sweet places she would stop—and he would stop! And a beaming cheek with glancing eyes and loving mouth would glow upon him! And the twain would pantingly draw close into each other's breath, like lovers!

On, on, over the open fields—the voice of his companion lost in air! Onward to the wood, where was a gleaming in it. “Surely it is she—my mother!” On thrö the wood he ran; among the trees he ran, still following on; for there in very truth he saw her rushing robes before him! On, on, with eager speed, with glowing cheek and flashing eye—on, on, by fountain and by bank, by copse and wildering dingle—on, on, till, bursting from the brake, on the free hill, he reeled. In vain! No queenly form paced there that might beseem his mother.

With wild longing at his heart and wild despair wreathed like two snakes, he threw his eager eyes on all sides. At length, a lambent flame that liquidly o'er-flowed a chasm in the hill grew plain and plainer to him. The serpent knot unwreathed itself; with a cry of joy forward he sprang anew. With swift speed soon he drew near the radiance. He turned a rock: the chasm stood unveiled before him. A quarry of the purest marble—tenanted by the most wondrous forms. Enormous bulks of heroes lay around—vast blocks, the image of bird and beast, of man and mighty God. And, three parts loosened from the solid wall, great, giant forms, like legends of forgotten time, stood forth a-tiptoe. Yea, like a liquid wave, the rigid cliff seemed flowing, yielding up to sight a doubled fist of infancy, a rounded arm, an ankle delicate, shoulders of ample span, and nervy knees. And one old king with haggard eyes and lips convulsed to speech, came forward in the midst, stretching a sceptreless right hand—omnipotence in years. And other forms there were, colossal, bulking from the stone into the lustre that o'erflowed the whole.

What are they?—whence?—amazed stood Ariel, when a low moan near him startled him to look where, on a bunch of green herbs, sat a fair boy with drooping head and idle chisel in his listless hand. Ere Ariel had time to question him, he raised a sudden glance, and cried: “Deceased Majesty I sought to make alive, once more to sway us into peace—but see!”—He pointed to the prostrate mightinesses and sobbed—“But thou—thy mien is gentle and thine eyes are like mine own—what woulds't thou? whence com'st thou? what dost thou seek?”

“Fair Youth,” said Ariel, “thou doubtless art my brother, our mother hath gone forth and wandered from us, and I, for that contention and confusion rack us, do follow on all paths to find her; and dints of her footing often have I found, but her great presence never.”

“To that end, I too came forth—at least to bring lost rule among us—but yet of father or of mother heard I never—for me this fallen majesty alone had hope—but thou art sure 'tis not but a dream?”

Hereat there rose into the air a wail so sweet that one youth stopt and both stared breathless. “'Tis sweetness not of earth,” at length gasped Ariel, “such accents were my mother's—Adieu fair brother! longer I may not tarry!” Thus speaking, he had sprung forward in the direction of the voice, nor heard (or heeded not if heard) the stranger cry, “Come back! I know the voice! Come back! and I will tell——”

Erelong the sudden youth had gained the borders of a lake from which the wail proceeded. The liquid pity of the sound enriched the very air that fell like balm upon the wanderer. Halting, he gazed around. At length, upon the middle of the lake, he spied a frail form drooping from a little skiff. A slender youth it was, emaciated and grey, and O! with such a face of sorrow! The heart of Ariel was torn within him, as he lookt on him. Drawing to the water's edge, he stood and listened while this new vision sang such meaning, melting things of Adler and Haiarno and the rest, and of their misery and sin, that all around grew dewy-luminous, and Ariel, moved to the very core, exclaimed: “My Mother! Strange youth that has her voice, My Mother! give me my mother!”

Sudden, at the word, the stranger in the skiff arose as if convulsed, and tore his hair and shrieked: “We have no mother! Father or Mother had we never! Spawn of the earth are we, and playthings of the fiend!” Thus shrieking, the form collapsed into the boat, dead; but from its breast awoke a dove that rose in the air and hovered o'er the lake and flew away, at length, swiftly, yearningly, to the city. And Ariel watched it as it flew; and saw it stoop upon the city, but in an instant rise again. And as it rose its glossy wings seemed flecked with blood. Natheless it stoopt again, but rose again and bloodier than before. And Ariel's own heart bled within him as he saw this gentle loveliness still stoop and rise, and rise and stoop, and find no resting-place, and flag was if exhausted, till a gust took it and bore it away, winging, flickering, into the west.

Ariel was stupified and sank upon the ground. “What could it all mean?” he thought! “Was it all vain, then? Was his search delusion? Twilight was coming on and doubt clung round him. Over the low mist that crept along the lake, like breath upon a mirror, he lookt—over the plain he lookt afar to where the mountains dreamily withdrew themselves, till a form arose from them, advancing, gliding towards him. Up, from the mountains and the plains, the figure grew and gathered, shaping itself. A woman of unutterable loveliness, it seemed, majestic and serene. Unable to contain himself, throbbing with hope, the youth sprang forward. Stept then the loveliness, and back—and back—withdrew. Panting, he ran, he shrieked. In vain! the swifter he pursued, the swifter she drew back, till, like the juggle of a shifted glass, she vanisht—and the hills were there. Then Ariel re-traced his steps, vexed, galled desperate; lo! still back-ward as he went, again the hills shot suddenly away, melting into each other and the form. Again ran Ariel to meet—again the loveliness withdrew. Then fell a whisper on his ear and thus:

“In vain, sweet youth, in vain! The more thou followest, the more I shall withdraw. Beautiful I am of mould, but lifeless. With me is no warm heart to lay thine upon. I am thy shadow. Dwell not thou with me—Medusa-like, I will transform thee—look!” Like glare of optic lens, a round of mighty light fell sudden on the mountain, bringing out alone, the old man on his crag, sepulchral. No look of silver hair—no pebble in the rock—but, in the light, was definite. So changed he was—that aged solitary. Frigid as stone he seemed, narrow and indurated: a very portion of the rock, he seemed, barren and bald and vacant and poor and thin and selfish!

The light withdrew and darkness re-assumed its own. The figure of a man, haggard and dissipated, with power upon his brow and pride upon his lip, pacing hastily to the city, brusht past Ariel, muttering: “Pshaw! there is not even good pistol-practice in a desert!”

Bewildered, tranced in thought, stood Ariel. Hour after hour past by, but still he moved not. At length, at midnight, when only the stars were out, he turned and bent him to the City.

Topics

How To Cite

An MLA-format citation will be added after this entry has completed the VSFP editorial process.

Editors

Jesse Stricklan
Cosenza Hendrickson
Alexandra Malouf

Posted

30 April 2022

Last modified

4 May 2022

TEI Download

A version of this entry marked-up in TEI will be available for download after this entry has completed the VSFP editorial process.

NINES RDF Download

A version of this entry marked-up in TEI will be available for download after this entry has completed the VSFP editorial process.

Notes

Notes
1 The name Ariel means "Altar of God" or "Lion of God" as it appears in Isaiah 29:1-2, 7 of the Hebrew Bible. The name is also associated with an angel or demon. In Milton's Paradise Lost, Ariel is a fallen angel, and in Shakespeare's The Tempest Prospero's air sprite. The word “adler” means “eagle” in German. It could also be inspired by the English word “addle” which means to confuse or muddle.
2 In Greek mythology, Comus is the son of Dionysus and the god of revels and festivity.
3 “A fellow of infinite jest” is from Hamlet’s speech about Yorik. Hamlet Act 5 scene 1.