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(*"Astronomy instructs us that, in the original condition of the solar system, the sun was the nucleus of a nebulosity or luminous mass which revolved on its axis, and extended far beyond the orbits of all the planets,--the planets as yet having no existence. Its temperature gradually diminished, and, becoming contracted by cooling, the rotation increased in rapidity, and zones of nebulosity were successively thrown off, in consequence of the centrifugal force overpowering the central attraction. The condensation of these separate masses constituted the planets and satellites. But this view of the conversion of gaseous matter into planetary bodies is not limited to our own system; it extends to the formation of the innumerable suns and worlds which are distributed throughout the universe. The sublime discoveries of modern astronomers have shown that every part of the realms of space abounds in large expansions of attenuated matter termed nebulae, which are irregularly reflective of light, of various figures, and in different states of condensation, from that of a diffused, luminous mass to suns and planets like our own."--From Mantell's eloquent and delightful work, entitled "The Wonders of Geology," volume i. page 22.)
There, in that enormous solitude of an infant world, which thousands and thousands of years can alone ripen into form, the spirit of Viola beheld the shape of Zanoni, or rather the likeness, the simulacrun, the LEMUR of his shape, not its human and corporeal substance,--as if, like hers, the Intelligence was parted from the Clay,--and as the sun, while it revolves and glows, had cast off into remotest space that nebular image of itself, so the thing of earth, in the action of its more luminous and enduring being, had thrown its likeness into that new-born stranger of the heavens. There stood the phantom,--a phantom Mejnour, by its side. In the gigantic chaos around raved and struggled the kindling elements; water and fire, darkness and light, at war,--vapour and cloud hardening into mountains, and the Breath of Life moving like a steadfast splendour over all.
As the dreamer looked, and shivered, she beheld that even there the two phantoms of humanity were not alone. Dim monster-forms that that disordered chaos alone could engender, the first reptile Colossal race that wreathe and crawl through the earliest stratum of a world labouring into life, coiled in the oozing matter or hovered through the meteorous vapours. But these the two seekers seemed not to heed; their gaze was fixed intent upon an object in the farthest space. With the eyes of the spirit, Viola followed theirs; with a terror far greater than the chaos and its hideous inhabitants produced, she beheld a shadowy likeness of the very room in which her form yet dwelt, its white walls, the moonshine sleeping on its floor, its open casement, with the quiet roofs and domes of Venice looming over the sea that sighed below,--and in that room the ghost-like image of herself! This double phantom--here herself a phantom, gazing there upon a phantom-self--had in it a horror which no words can tell, no length of life forego.
But presently she saw this image of herself rise slowly, leave the room with its noiseless feet: it passes the corridor, it kneels by a cradle! Heaven of Heaven! She beholds her child!-- still with its wondrous, child-like beauty and its silent, wakeful eyes. But beside that cradle there sits cowering a mantled, shadowy form,--the more fearful and ghastly from its indistinct and unsubstantial gloom. The walls of that chamber seem to open as the scene of a theatre. A grim dungeon; streets through which pour shadowy crowds; wrath and hatred, and the aspect of demons in their ghastly visages; a place of death; a murderous instrument; a shamble-house of human flesh; herself; her child;--all, all, rapid phantasmagoria, chased each other. Suddenly the phantom-Zanoni turned, it seemed to perceive herself,--her second self. It sprang towards her; her spirit could bear no more. She shrieked, she woke. She found that in truth she had left that dismal chamber; the cradle was before her, the child! all--all as that trance had seen it; and, vanishing into air, even that dark, formless Thing!
"My child! my child! thy mother shall save thee yet!"
Qui? Toi m'abandonner! Ou vas-tu? Non! demeure, Demeure! La Harpe, "Le Comte de Warwick," Act 3, sc. 5.
(Who? THOU abandon me!--where goest thou? No! stay, stay!)
Letter from Viola to Zanoni.
"It has come to this!--I am the first to part! I, the unfaithful one, bid thee farewell forever. When thine eyes fall upon this writing thou wilt know me as one of the dead. For thou that wert, and still art my life,--I am lost to thee! O lover! O husband! O still worshipped and adored! if thou hast ever loved me, if thou canst still pity, seek not to discover the steps that fly thee. If thy charms can detect and tract me, spare me, spare our child! Zanoni, I will rear it to love thee, to call thee father! Zanoni, its young lips shall pray for thee! Ah, spare thy child, for infants are the saints of earth, and their mediation may be heard on high! Shall I tell thee why I part? No; thou, the wisely-terrible, canst divine what the hand trembles to record; and while I shudder at thy power,--while it is thy power I fly (our child upon my bosom),--it comforts me still to think that thy power can read the heart! Thou knowest that it is the faithful mother that writes to thee, it is not the faithless wife! Is there sin in thy knowledge, Zanoni? Sin must have sorrow: and it were sweet--oh, how sweet--to be thy comforter. But the child, the infant, the soul that looks to mine for its shield!--magician, I wrest from thee that soul! Pardon, pardon, if my words wrong thee. See, I fall on my knees to write the rest!
"Why did I never recoil before from thy mysterious lore; why did the very strangeness of thine unearthly life only fascinate me with a delightful fear? Because, if thou wert sorcerer or angel- demon, there was no peril to other but myself: and none to me, for my love was my heavenliest part; and my ignorance in all things, except the art to love thee, repelled every thought that was not bright and glorious as thine image to my eyes. But NOW there is another! Look! why does it watch me thus,--why that never-sleeping, earnest, rebuking gaze? Have thy spells encompassed it already? Hast thou marked it, cruel one, for the terrors of thy unutterable art? Do not madden me,--do not madden me!--unbind the spell!
"Hark! the oars without! They come,--they come, to bear me from thee! I look round, and methinks that I see thee everywhere. Thou speakest to me from every shadow, from every star. There, by the casement, thy lips last pressed mine; there, there by that threshold didst thou turn again, and thy smile seemed so trustingly to confide in me! Zanoni--husband!--I will stay! I cannot part from thee! No, no! I will go to the room where thy dear voice, with its gentle music, assuaged the pangs of travail!--where, heard through the thrilling darkness, it first whispered to my ear, 'Viola, thou art a mother!' A mother!--yes, I rise from my knees,--I AM a mother! They come! I am firm; farewell!"
Yes; thus suddenly, thus cruelly, whether in the delirium of blind and unreasoning superstition, or in the resolve of that conviction which springs from duty, the being for whom he had resigned so much of empire and of glory forsook Zanoni. This desertion, never foreseen, never anticipated, was yet but the constant fate that attends those who would place Mind BEYOND the earth, and yet treasure the Heart WITHIN it. Ignorance everlastingly shall recoil from knowledge. But never yet, from nobler and purer motives of self-sacrifice, did human love link itself to another, than did the forsaking wife now abandon the absent. For rightly had she said that it was not the faithless wife, it WAS the faithful mother that fled from all in which her earthly happiness was centred.
As long as the passion and fervour that impelled the act animated her with false fever, she clasped her infant to her breast, and was consoled,--resigned. But what bitter doubt of her own conduct, what icy pang of remorse shot through her heart, when, as they rested for a few hours on the road to Leghorn, she heard the woman who accompanied herself and Glyndon pray for safety to reach her husband's side, and strength to share the perils that would meet her there! Terrible contrast to her own desertion! She shrunk into the darkness of her own heart,--and then no voice from within consoled her.
Zukunft hast du mir gegeben,
(Futurity hast thou given to me,--yet takest from me the Moment.)
"Mejnour, behold thy work! Out, out upon our little vanities of wisdom!--out upon our ages of lore and life! To save her from Peril I left her presence, and the Peril has seized her in its grasp!"
"Chide not thy wisdom but thy passions! Abandon thine idle hope of the love of woman. See, for those who would unite the lofty with the lowly, the inevitable curse; thy very nature uncomprehended,--thy sacrifices unguessed. The lowly one views but in the lofty a necromancer or a fiend. Titan, canst thou weep?"
"I know it now, I see it all! It WAS her spirit that stood beside our own, and escaped my airy clasp! O strong desire of motherhood and nature! unveiling all our secrets, piercing space and traversing worlds!--Mejnour, what awful learning lies hid in the ignorance of the heart that loves!"
"The heart," answered the mystic, coldly; "ay, for five thousand years I have ransacked the mysteries of creation, but I have not yet discovered all the wonders in the heart of the simplest boor!"
"Yet our solemn rites deceived us not; the prophet-shadows, dark with terror and red with blood, still foretold that, even in the dungeon, and before the deathsman, I,--I had the power to save them both!"
"But at some unconjectured and most fatal sacrifice to thyself."
"To myself! Icy sage, there is no self in love! I go. Nay, alone: I want thee not. I want now no other guide but the human instincts of affection. No cave so dark, no solitude so vast, as to conceal her. Though mine art fail me; though the stars heed me not; though space, with its shining myriads, is again to me but the azure void,--I return but to love and youth and hope! When have they ever failed to triumph and to save!"
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Zanoni -by- Edward Bulwer Lytton