Passage from “The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan” by Sir Thomas Moore

Tho’ few his years, the West already knows
Young AZIM’S fame;–beyond the Olympian snows
Ere manhood darkened o’er his downy cheek,
O’erwhelmed in fight and captive to the Greek,
He lingered there, till peace dissolved his chains;–
Oh! who could even in bondage tread the plains
Of glorious GREECE nor feel his spirit rise
Kindling within him? who with heart and eyes
Could walk where Liberty had been nor see
The shining foot-prints of her Deity,
Nor feel those god-like breathings in the air
Which mutely told her spirit had been there?
Not he, that youthful warrior,–no, too well
For his soul’s quiet worked the awakening spell;
And now, returning to his own dear land,
Full of those dreams of good that, vainly grand,
Haunt the young heart,–proud views of human-kind,
Of men to Gods exalted and refined,–
False views like that horizon’s fair deceit
Where earth and heaven but seem, alas, to meet!–
Soon as he heard an Arm Divine was raised
To right the nations, and beheld, emblazed
On the white flag MOKANNA’S host unfurled,
Those words of sunshine, “Freedom to the World,”
At once his faith, his sword, his soul obeyed
The inspiring summons; every chosen blade
That fought beneath that banner’s sacred text
Seemed doubly edged for this world and the next;
And ne’er did Faith with her smooth bandage bind
Eyes more devoutly willing to be blind,
In virtue’s cause;–never was soul inspired
With livelier trust in what it most desired,
Than his, the enthusiast there, who kneeling, pale
With pious awe before that Silver Veil,
Believes the form to which he bends his knee
Some pure, redeeming angel sent to free
This fettered world from every bond and stain,
And bring its primal glories back again!

Low as young AZIM knelt, that motley crowd
Of all earth’s nations sunk the knee and bowed,
With shouts of “ALLA!” echoing long and loud;
Which high in air, above the Prophet’s head,
Hundreds of banners to the sunbeam spread
Waved, like the wings of the white birds that fan
The flying throne of star-taught SOLIMAN. Then thus he spoke:-“Stranger, tho’ new the frame
“Thy soul inhabits now. I’ve trackt its flame
“For many an age, in every chance and change
“Of that existence, thro’ whose varied range,–
“As thro’ a torch-race where from hand to hand
“The flying youths transmit their shining brand,
“From frame to frame the unextinguisht soul
“Rapidly passes till it reach the goal!

“Nor think ’tis only the gross Spirits warmed
“With duskier fire and for earth’s medium formed
“That run this course;–Beings the most divine
“Thus deign thro’ dark mortality to shine.
“Such was the Essence that in ADAM dwelt,
“To which all Heaven except the Proud One knelt:
“Such the refined Intelligence that glowed
“In MOUSSA’S frame,–and thence descending flowed
“Thro’ many a Prophet’s breast;–in ISSA shone
“And in MOHAMMED burned; till hastening on.
“(As a bright river that from fall to fall
“In many a maze descending bright thro’ all,
“Finds some fair region where, each labyrinth past,
“In one full lake of light it rests at last)
“That Holy Spirit settling calm and free
“From lapse or shadow centres all in me!

Again throughout the assembly at these words
Thousands of voices rung: the warrior’s swords
Were pointed up at heaven; a sudden wind
In the open banners played, and from behind
Those Persian hangings that but ill could screen
The Harem’s loveliness, white hands were seen
Waving embroidered scarves whose motion gave
A perfume forth–like those the Houris wave
When beckoning to their bowers the immortal Brave.

“But these,” pursued the Chief “are truths sublime,
“That claim a holier mood and calmer time
“Than earth allows us now;–this sword must first
“The darkling prison-house of mankind burst.
“Ere Peace can visit them or Truth let in
“Her wakening daylight on a world of sin.
“But then,–celestial warriors, then when all
“Earth’s shrines and thrones before our banner fall,
“When the glad Slave shall at these feet lay down
“His broken chain, the tyrant Lord his crown,
“The Priest his book, the Conqueror his wreath,
“And from the lips of Truth one mighty breath
“Shall like a whirlwind scatter in its breeze
“That whole dark pile of human mockeries:–
“Then shall the reign of mind commence on earth,
“And starting fresh as from a second birth,
“Man in the sunshine of the world’s new spring
“Shall walk transparent like some holy thing!
“Then too your Prophet from his angel brow
“Shall cast the Veil that hides its splendors now,
“And gladdened Earth shall thro’ her wide expanse
“Bask in the glories of this countenance!

“For thee, young warrior, welcome!–thou hast yet
“Some tasks to learn, some frailties to forget,
“Ere the white war-plume o’er thy brow can wave;–
“But, once my own, mine all till in the grave!”

The pomp is at an end–the crowds are gone–
Each ear and heart still haunted by the tone
Of that deep voice, which thrilled like ALLA’S own!
The Young all dazzled by the plumes and lances,
The glittering throne and Haram’s half-caught glances,
The Old deep pondering on the promised reign
Of peace and truth, and all the female train
Ready to risk their eyes could they but gaze
A moment on that brow’s miraculous blaze!

But there was one among the chosen maids
Who blushed behind the gallery’s silken shades,
One, to whose soul the pageant of to-day
Has been like death:–you saw her pale dismay,
Ye wondering sisterhood, and heard the burst
Of exclamation from her lips when first
She saw that youth, too well, too dearly known,
Silently kneeling at the Prophet’s throne.

Ah ZELICA! there was a time when bliss
Shone o’er thy heart from every look of his,
When but to see him, hear him, breathe the air
In which he dwelt was thy soul’s fondest prayer;
When round him hung such a perpetual spell,
Whate’er he did, none ever did so well.
Too happy days! when, if he touched a flower
Or gem of thine, ’twas sacred from that hour;
When thou didst study him till every tone
And gesture and dear look became thy own.–
Thy voice like his, the changes of his face
In thine reflected with still lovelier grace,
Like echo, sending back sweet music, fraught
With twice the aerial sweetness it had brought!
Yet now he comes,–brighter than even he
E’er beamed before,–but, ah! not bright for thee;
No–dread, unlookt for, like a visitant
From the other world he comes as if to haunt
Thy guilty soul with dreams of lost delight,
Long lost to all but memory’s aching sight:–
Sad dreams! as when the Spirit of our Youth
Returns in sleep, sparkling with all the truth
And innocence once ours and leads us back,
In mournful mockery o’er the shining track
Of our young life and points out every ray
Of hope and peace we’ve lost upon the way!

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