Climax and Final Passages of “The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan” by Sir Thomas Moore

MOKANNA sees the world is his no more;–
One sting at parting and his grasp is o’er,
“What! drooping now?” — thus, with unblushing cheek,
He hails the few who yet can hear him speak,
Of all those famished slaves around him lying,
And by the light of blazing temples dying;
“What! — drooping now! — now, when at length we press
“Home o’er the very threshold of success;
“When ALLA from our ranks hath thinned away
“Those grosser branches that kept out his ray
“Of favor from us and we stand at length
“Heirs of his light and children of his strength,
“The chosen few who shall survive the fall
“Of Kings and Thrones, triumphant over all!
“Have you then lost, weak murmurers as you are,
“All faith in him who was your Light, your Star?
“Have you forgot the eye of glory hid
“Beneath this Veil, the flashing of whose lid
“Could like a sun-stroke of the desert wither
“Millions of such as yonder Chief brings hither?
“Long have its lightnings slept– too long– but now
“All earth shall feel the unveiling of this brow!
“To-night– yes, sainted men! this very night,
“I bid you all to a fair festal rite,
“Where– having deep refreshed each weary limb
“With viands such as feast Heaven’s cherubim
“And kindled up your souls now sunk and dim
“With that pure wine the Dark-eyed Maids above
“Keep, sealed with precious musk, for those they love,–
“I will myself uncurtain in your sight
“The wonders of this brow’s ineffable light;
“Then lead you forth and with a wink disperse
“Yon myriads howling thro’ the universe!”

Eager they listen– while each accent darts 
New life into their chilled and hope-sick hearts; 
Such treacherous life as the cool draught supplies 
To him upon the stake who drinks and dies! 
Wildly they point their lances to the light 
Of the fast sinking sun, and shout “To-night!”– 
“To-night,” their Chief re-echoes in a voice 
Of fiend-like mockery that bids hell rejoice. 
Deluded victims! –never hath this earth 
Seen mourning half so mournful as their mirth. 
Here, to the few whose iron frames had stood 
This racking waste of famine and of blood, 
Faint, dying wretches clung, from whom the shout 
Of triumph like a maniac’s laugh broke out:– 
There, others, lighted by the smouldering fire, 
Danced like wan ghosts about a funeral pyre 
Among the dead and dying strewed around;– 
While some pale wretch lookt on and from his wound 
Plucking the fiery dart by which he bled, 
In ghastly transport waved it o’er his head!

‘Twas more than midnight now– a fearful pause 
Had followed the long shouts, the wild applause, 
That lately from those Royal Gardens burst, 
Where the veiled demon held his feast accurst, 
When ZELICA, alas, poor ruined heart, 
In every horror doomed to bear its part!– 
Was bidden to the banquet by a slave, 
Who, while his quivering lip the summons gave, 
Grew black, as tho’ the shadows of the grave 
Compast him round and ere he could repeat 
His message thro’, fell lifeless at her feet! 
Shuddering she went– a soul-felt pang of fear 
A presage that her own dark doom was near, 
Roused every feeling and brought Reason back 
Once more to writhe her last upon the rack. 
All round seemed tranquil even the foe had ceased 
As if aware of that demoniac feast 
His fiery bolts; and tho’ the heavens looked red, 
‘Twas but some distant conflagration’s spread. 
But hark– she stops– she listens– dreadful tone! 
‘Tis her Tormentor’s laugh– and now, a groan, 
A long death-groan comes with it– can this be 
The place of mirth, the bower of revelry?

She enters– Holy ALLA, what a sight 
Was there before her! By the glimmering light 
Of the pale dawn, mixt with the flare of brands 
That round lay burning dropt from lifeless hands, 
She saw the board in splendid mockery spread, 
Rich censers breathing– garlands overhead– 
The urns, the cups, from which they late had quaft 
All gold and gems, but– what had been the draught? 
Oh! who need ask that saw those livid guests, 
With their swollen heads sunk blackening on their breasts, 
Or looking pale to Heaven with glassy glare, 
As if they sought but saw no mercy there; 
As if they felt, tho’ poison racked them thro’, 
Remorse the deadlier torment of the two! 
While some, the bravest, hardiest in the train 
Of their false Chief, who on the battle-plain 
Would have met death with transport by his side, 
Here mute and helpless gasped; –but as they died 
Lookt horrible vengeance with their eyes’ last strain, 
And clenched the slackening hand at him in vain.

Dreadful it was to see the ghastly stare,
The stony look of horror and despair,
Which some of these expiring victims cast
Upon their souls’ tormentor to the last;
Upon that mocking Fiend whose Veil now raised,
Showed them as in death’s agony they gazed,
Not the long promised light, the brow whose beaming
Was to come forth, all conquering, all redeeming,
But features horribler than Hell e’er traced
On its own brood; –no Demon of the Waste,
No church-yard Ghoul caught lingering in the light
Of the blest sun, e’er blasted human sight
With lineaments so foul, so fierce as those
The Impostor now in grinning mockery shows:–
“There, ye wise Saints, behold your Light, your Star–
“Ye would be dupes and victims and ye are.
“Is it enough? or must I, while a thrill
“Lives in your sapient bosoms, cheat you still?
“Swear that the burning death ye feel within
“Is but the trance with which Heaven’s joys begin:
“That this foul visage, foul as e’er disgraced
“Even monstrous men, is– after God’s own taste;
“And that– but see! –ere I have half-way said
“My greetings thro’, the uncourteous souls are fled.
“Farewell, sweet spirits! not in vain ye die,
“If EBLIS loves you half so well as I.–
“Ha, my young bride! –’tis well– take thou thy seat;
“Nay come– no shuddering– didst thou never meet
“The Dead before? –they graced our wedding, sweet;
“And these, my guests to-night, have brimmed so true
“Their parting cups, that thou shalt pledge one too.
“But– how is this? –all empty? all drunk up?
“Hot lips have been before thee in the cup,
“Young bride, –yet stay– one precious drop remains,
“Enough to warm a gentle Priestess’ veins;–
“Here, drink– and should thy lover’s conquering arms
“Speed hither ere thy lip lose all its charms,
“Give him but half this venom in thy kiss,
“And I’ll forgive my haughty rival’s bliss!

“For, me— I too must die– but not like these 
“Vile rankling things to fester in the breeze; 
“To have this brow in ruffian triumph shown, 
“With all death’s grimness added to its own, 
“And rot to dust beneath the taunting eyes 
“Of slaves, exclaiming, ‘There his Godship lies!’ 
“No– cursed race– since first my soul drew breath, 
“They’ve been my dupes and shall be even in death. 
“Thou seest yon cistern in the shade– ’tis filled 
“With burning drugs for this last hour distilled; 
“There will I plunge me, in that liquid flame– 
“Fit bath to lave a dying Prophet’s frame!– 
“There perish, all– ere pulse of thine shall fail– 
“Nor leave one limb to tell mankind the tale. 
“So shall my votaries, wheresoe’er they rave, 
“Proclaim that Heaven took back the Saint it gave;– 
“That I’ve but vanished from this earth awhile, 
“To come again with bright, unshrouded smile! 
“So shall they build me altars in their zeal, 
“Where knaves shall minister and fools shall kneel; 
“Where Faith may mutter o’er her mystic spell, 
“Written in blood– and Bigotry may swell 
“The sail he spreads for Heaven with blasts from hell! 
“So shall my banner thro’ long ages be 
“The rallying sign of fraud and anarchy;– 
“Kings yet unborn shall rue MOKANNA’S name, 
“And tho’ I die my spirit still the same 
“Shall walk abroad in all the stormy strife, 
“And guilt and blood that were its bliss in life. 
“But hark! their battering engine shakes the wall– 
“Why, let it shake– thus I can brave them all. 
“No trace of me shall greet them when they come, 
“And I can trust thy faith, for– thou’lt be dumb. 
“Now mark how readily a wretch like me 
“In one bold plunge commences Deity!”

He sprung and sunk as the last words were said–
Quick closed the burning waters o’er his head,
And ZELICA was left– within the ring
Of those wide walls the only living thing;
The only wretched one still curst with breath
In all that frightful wilderness of death!
More like some bloodless ghost– such as they tell,
In the Lone Cities of the Silent dwell,
And there unseen of all but ALLA sit
Each by its own pale carcass watching it.
But morn is up and a fresh warfare stirs
Throughout the camp of the beleaguerers.
Their globes of fire (the dread artillery lent
By GREECE to conquering MAHADI) are spent;
And now the scorpion’s shaft, the quarry sent
From high balistas and the shielded throng
Of soldiers swinging the huge ram along,
All speak the impatient Islamite’s intent
To try, at length, if tower and battlement
And bastioned wall be not less hard to win,
Less tough to break down than the hearts within.
First he, in impatience and in toil is
The burning AZIM– oh! could he but see
The impostor once alive within his grasp,
Not the gaunt lion’s hug nor boa’s clasp
Could match thy gripe of vengeance or keep pace
With the fell heartiness of Hate’s embrace!

Loud rings the ponderous ram against the walls; 
Now shake the ramparts, now a buttress falls, 
But, still no breach– “Once more one mighty swing 
“Of all your beams, together thundering!” 
There– the wall shakes– the shouting troops exult, 
“Quick, quick discharge your weightiest catapult 
“Right on that spot and NEKSHEB is our own!” 
‘Tis done– the battlements come crashing down, 
And the huge wall by that stroke riven in two 
Yawning like some old crater rent anew, 
Shows the dim, desolate city smoking thro’. 
But strange! no sign of life– naught living seen 
Above, below– what can this stillness mean? 
A minute’s pause suspends all hearts and eyes– 
“In thro’ the breach,” impetuous AZIM cries; 
But the cool CALIPH fearful of some wile 
In this blank stillness checks the troops awhile.– 
Just then a figure with slow step advanced 
Forth from the ruined walls and as there glanced 
A sunbeam over it all eyes could see 
The well-known Silver Veil!– “‘Tis He, ’tis He, 
“MOKANNA and alone!” they shout around; 
Young AZIM from his steed springs to the ground– 
“Mine, Holy Caliph! mine,” he cries, “the task 
“To crush yon daring wretch– ’tis all I ask.” 
Eager he darts to meet the demon foe 
Who still across wide heaps of ruin slow 
And falteringly comes, till they are near; 
Then with a bound rushes on AZIM’S spear, 
And casting off the Veil in falling shows– 
Oh!– ’tis his ZELICA’S life-blood that flows!

“I meant not, AZIM,” soothingly she said, 
As on his trembling arm she leaned her head, 
And looking in his face saw anguish there 
Beyond all wounds the quivering flesh can bear– 
“I meant not thou shouldst have the pain of this:– 
“Tho’ death with thee thus tasted is a bliss 
“Thou wouldst not rob me of, didst thou but know 
“How oft I’ve prayed to God I might die so! 
“But the Fiend’s venom was too scant and slow;– 
“To linger on were maddening– and I thought 
“If once that Veil– nay, look not on it– caught 
“The eyes of your fierce soldiery, I should be 
“Struck by a thousand death-darts instantly. 
“But this is sweeter– oh! believe me, yes– 
“I would not change this sad, but dear caress. 
“This death within thy arms I would not give 
“For the most smiling life the happiest live! 
“All that stood dark and drear before the eye 
“Of my strayed soul is passing swiftly by; 
“A light comes o’er me from those looks of love, 
“Like the first dawn of mercy from above; 
“And if thy lips but tell me I’m forgiven, 
“Angels will echo the blest words in Heaven! 
“But live, my AZIM;- -oh! to call thee mine 
“Thus once again! my AZIM– dream divine! 
“Live, if thou ever lovedst me, if to meet 
“Thy ZELICA hereafter would be sweet, 
“Oh, live to pray for her– to bend the knee 
“Morning and night before that Deity 
“To whom pure lips and hearts without a stain, 
“As thine are, AZIM, never breathed in vain,– 
“And pray that He may pardon her, –may take 
“Compassion on her soul for thy dear sake, 
“And naught remembering but her love to thee, 
“Make her all thine, all His, eternally! 
“Go to those happy fields where first we twined 
“Our youthful hearts together– every wind 
“That meets thee there fresh from the well-known flowers 
“Will bring the sweetness of those innocent hours 
“Back to thy soul and thou mayst feel again 
“For thy poor ZELICA as thou didst then. 
“So shall thy orisons like dew that flies 
“To Heaven upon the morning’s sunshine rise 
“With all love’s earliest ardor to the skies! 
“And should they– but, alas, my senses fail– 
“Oh for one minute! –should thy prayers prevail– 
“If pardoned souls may from that World of Bliss 
“Reveal their joy to those they love in this– 
“I’ll come to thee– in some sweet dream–a nd tell– 
“Oh Heaven– I die– dear love! farewell, farewell.”

Time fleeted– years on years had past away,
And few of those who on that mournful day
Had stood with pity in their eyes to see
The maiden’s death and the youth’s agony,
Were living still– when, by a rustic grave,
Beside the swift Amoo’s transparent wave,
An aged man who had grown aged there
By that lone grave, morning and night in prayer,
For the last time knelt down– and tho’ the shade
Of death hung darkening over him there played
A gleam of rapture on his eye and cheek,
That brightened even Death– like the last streak
Of intense glory on the horizon’s brim,
When night o’er all the rest hangs chill and dim.
His soul had seen a Vision while he slept;
She for whose spirit he had prayed and wept
So many years had come to him all drest
In angel smiles and told him she was blest!
For this the old man breathed his thanks and died.–
And there upon the banks of that loved tide,
He and his ZELICA sleep side by side.

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