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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDevereux - Book 6 - Chapter 2. The Victory
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Devereux - Book 6 - Chapter 2. The Victory Post by :darrelrichards Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3243

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Devereux - Book 6 - Chapter 2. The Victory

BOOK VI CHAPTER II. THE VICTORY

O EARTH! Reservoir of life, over whose deep bosom brood the wings of the Universal Spirit, shaking upon thee a blessing and a power,--a blessing and a power to produce and reproduce the living from the dead, so that our flesh is woven from the same atoms which were once the atoms of our sires, and the inexhaustible nutriment of Existence is Decay! O eldest and most solemn Earth, blending even thy loveliness and joy with a terror and an awe! thy sunshine is girt with clouds and circled with storm and tempest; thy day cometh from the womb of darkness, and returneth unto darkness, as man returns unto thy bosom. The green herb that laughs in the valley, the water that sings merrily along the wood; the many-winged and all-searching air, which garners life as a harvest and scatters it as a seed,--all are pregnant with corruption and carry the cradled death within them, as an oak banqueteth the destroying worm. But who that looks upon thee, and loves thee, and inhales thy blessings will ever mingle too deep a moral with his joy? Let us not ask whence come the garlands that we wreathe around our altars or shower upon our feasts: will they not bloom as brightly, and breathe with as rich a fragrance, whether they be plucked from the garden or the grave? O Earth, my Mother Earth! dark Sepulchre that closes upon all which the Flesh bears, but Vestibule of the vast regions which the Soul shall pass, how leaped my heart within me when I first fathomed thy real spell!

Yes! never shall I forget the rapture with which I hailed the light that dawned upon me at last! Never shall I forget the suffocating, the full, the ecstatic joy with which I saw the mightiest of all human hopes accomplished; and felt, as if an angel spoke, that there is a life beyond the grave! Tell me not of the pride of ambition; tell me not of the triumphs of science: never had ambition so lofty an end as the search after immortality! never had science so sublime a triumph as the conviction that immortality will be gained! I had been at my task the whole night,--pale alchymist, seeking from meaner truths to extract the greatest of all! At the first hour of day, lo! the gold was there: the labour for which I would have relinquished life was accomplished; the dove descended upon the waters of my soul. I fled from the house. I was possessed as with a spirit. I ascended a hill, which looked for leagues over the sleeping valley. A gray mist hung around me like a veil; I paused, and the great sun broke slowly forth; I gazed upon its majesty, and my heart swelled. "So rises the soul," I said, "from the vapours of this dull being; but the soul waneth not, neither setteth it, nor knoweth it any night, save that from which it dawneth!" The mists rolled gradually away, the sunshine deepened, and the face of Nature lay in smiles, yet silently, before me. It lay before me, a scene that I had often witnessed and hailed and worshipped: _but it was not the same_; a glory had passed over it; it was steeped in a beauty and a holiness, in which neither youth nor poetry nor even love had ever robed it before! The change which the earth had undergone was like that of some being we have loved, when death is passed, and from a mortal it becomes an angel!

I uttered a cry of joy, and was then as silent as all around me. I felt as if henceforth there was a new compact between Nature and myself. I felt as if every tree and blade of grass were henceforth to be eloquent with a voice and instinct with a spell. I felt as if a religion had entered into the earth, and made oracles of all that the earth bears; the old fables of Dodona were to become realized, and _the very leaves to be hallowed by a sanctity and to murmur with a truth. I was no longer only a part of that which withers and decays; I was no longer a machine of clay, moved by a spring, and to be trodden into the mire which I had trod; I was no longer tied to humanity by links which could never be broken, and which, if broken, would avail me not. I was become, as if by a miracle, a part of a vast though unseen spirit. It was not to the matter, but to the essences, of things that I bore kindred and alliance; the stars and the heavens resumed over me their ancient influence; and, as I looked along the far hills and the silent landscape, a voice seemed to swell from the stillness, and to say, "I am the life of these things, a spirit distinct from the things themselves. It is to me that you belong forever and forever: separate, but equally indissoluble; apart, but equally eternal!"

I spent the day upon the hills. It was evening when I returned. I lingered by the old fountain, and saw the stars rise, and tremble, one by one, upon the wave. The hour was that which Isora had loved the best, and that which the love of her had consecrated the most to me. And never, oh, never, did it sink into my heart with a deeper sweetness, or a more soothing balm. I had once more knit my soul to Isora's: I could once more look from the toiling and the dim earth, and forget that Isora had left me, in dreaming of our reunion. Blame me not, you who indulge in a religious hope more severe and more sublime; you who miss no footsteps from the earth, nor pine for a voice that your human wanderings can hear no more,--blame me not, you whose pulses beat not for the wild love of the created, but whose spirit languishes only for a nearer commune with the Creator,--blame me not too harshly for my mortal wishes, nor think that my faith was the less sincere because it was tinted in the most unchanging dyes of the human heart, and indissolubly woven with the memory of the dead! Often from our weaknesses our strongest principles of conduct are born; and from the acorn which a breeze has wafted springs the oak which defies the storm.

The first intoxication and rapture consequent upon the reward of my labour passed away; but, unlike other excitement, it was followed not by languor or a sated and torpid calm: a soothing and delicious sensation possessed me; my turbulent senses slept; and Memory, recalling the world, rejoiced at the retreat which Hope had acquired.

I now surrendered myself to a nobler philosophy than in crowds and cities I had hitherto known. I no longer satirized; I inquired: I no longer derided; I examined. I looked from the natural proofs of immortality to the written promise of our Father; I sought not to baffle men, but to worship Truth; I applied myself more to the knowledge of good and evil; I bowed my soul before the loveliness of Virtue; and though scenes of wrath and passion yet lowered in the future, and I was again speedily called forth to act, to madden, to contend, perchance to sin, the Image is still unbroken, and the Votary has still an offering for its Altar!

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