One morn a Peri at the gate Of Eden stood disconsolate; And as she listened to the Springs Of Life within like music flowing And caught the light upon her wings Thro' the half-open portal glowing, She wept to think her recreant race Should e'er have lost that glorious place! "How happy," exclaimed this child of air, "Are the holy Spirits who wander there "Mid flowers that never shall fade or fall; "Tho' mine are the gardens of earth and sea "And the stars themselves have flowers for me, "One blossom of Heaven out-blooms them all! "Tho' sunny the Lake of cool CASHMERE "With its plane-tree Isle reflected clear, "And sweetly the founts of that Valley fall; "Tho' bright are the waters of SING-SU-HAY And the golden floods that thitherward stray, Yet -- oh, 'tis only the Blest can say How the waters of Heaven outshine them all! "Go, wing thy flight from star to star, From world to luminous world as far As the universe spreads its flaming wall: Take all the pleasures of all the spheres And multiply each thro' endless years One minute of Heaven is worth them all!" The glorious Angel who was keeping The gates of Light beheld her weeping, And as he nearer drew and listened To her sad song, a tear-drop glistened Within his eyelids, like the spray From Eden's fountain when it lies On the blue flower which -- Bramins say -- Blooms nowhere but in Paradise. "Nymph of a fair but erring line!" Gently he said -- "One hope is thine. 'Tis written in the Book of Fate, The Peri yet may be forgiven Who brings to this Eternal gate The Gift that is most dear to Heaven! Go seek it and redeem thy sin -- 'Tis sweet to let the Pardoned in." Rapidly as comets run To the embraces of the Sun; -- Fleeter than the starry brands Flung at night from angel hands At those dark and daring sprites Who would climb the empyreal heights, Down the blue vault the PERI flies, And lighted earthward by a glance That just then broke from morning's eyes, Hung hovering o'er our world's expanse. But whither shall the Spirit go To find this gift for Heaven; -- "I know The wealth," she cries, "of every urn In which unnumbered rubies burn Beneath the pillars of CHILMINAR: I know where the Isles of Perfume are Many a fathom down in the sea, To the south of sun-bright ARABY; I know too where the Genii hid The jewelled cup of their King JAMSHID, "With Life's elixir sparkling high -- "But gifts like these are not for the sky. "Where was there ever a gem that shone "Like the steps of ALLA'S wonderful Throne? "And the Drops of Life -- oh! what would they be "In the boundless Deep of Eternity?" While thus she mused her pinions fanned The air of that sweet Indian land Whose air is balm, whose ocean spreads O'er coral rocks and amber beds, Whose mountains pregnant by the beam Of the warm sun with diamonds teem, Whose rivulets are like rich brides, Lovely, with gold beneath their tides, Whose sandal groves and bowers of spice Might be a Peri's Paradise! But crimson now her rivers ran With human blood -- the smell of death Came reeking from those spicy bowers, And man the sacrifice of man Mingled his taint with every breath Upwafted from the innocent flowers. Land of the Sun! what foot invades Thy Pagods and thy pillared shades -- Thy cavern shrines and Idol stones, Thy Monarch and their thousand Thrones? 'Tis He of GAZNA, fierce in wrath He comes and INDIA'S diadems Lie scattered in his ruinous path.- His bloodhounds he adorns with gems, Torn from the violated necks Of many a young and loved Sultana; Maidens within their pure Zenana, Priests in the very fane he slaughters, And chokes up with the glittering wrecks Of golden shrines the sacred waters! Downward the PERI turns her gaze, And thro' the war-field's bloody haze Beholds a youthful warrior stand Alone beside his native river, -- The red blade broken in his hand And the last arrow in his quiver. "Live," said the Conqueror, "live to share "The trophies and the crowns I bear!" Silent that youthful warrior stood -- Silent he pointed to the flood All crimson with his country's blood, Then sent his last remaining dart, For answer, to the Invader's heart. False flew the shaft tho' pointed well; The Tyrant lived, the Hero fell! -- Yet marked the PERI where he lay, And when the rush of war was past Swiftly descending on a ray Of morning light she caught the last -- Last glorious drop his heart had shed Before its free-born spirit fled! "Be this," she cried, as she winged her flight, "My welcome gift at the Gates of Light. "Tho' foul are the drops that oft distil "On the field of warfare, blood like this "For Liberty shed so holy is, "It would not stain the purest rill "That sparkles among the Bowers of Bliss! "Oh, if there be on this earthly sphere "A boon, an offering Heaven holds dear, "'Tis the last libation Liberty draws "From the heart that bleeds and breaks in her cause!" "Sweet," said the Angel, as she gave The gift into his radiant hand, "Sweet is our welcome of the Brave "Who die thus for their native Land. -- "But see -- alas! the crystal bar "Of Eden moves not -- holier far "Than even this drop the boon must be "That opes the Gates of Heaven for thee!" Her first fond hope of Eden blighted, Now among AFRIC'S lunar Mountains Far to the South the PERI lighted And sleeked her plumage at the fountains Of that Egyptian tide whose birth Is hidden from the sons of earth Deep in those solitary woods Where oft the Genii of the Floods Dance round the cradle of their Nile And hail the new-born Giant's smile. Thence over EGYPT'S palmy groves Her grots, and sepulchres of Kings, The exiled Spirit sighing roves And now hangs listening to the doves In warm ROSETTA'S vale; now loves To watch the moonlight on the wings Of the white pelicans that break The azure calm of MOERIS' Lake. 'Twas a fair scene: a Land more bright Never did mortal eye behold! Who could have thought that saw this night Those valleys and their fruits of gold Basking in Heaven's serenest light, Those groups of lovely date-trees bending Languidly their leaf-crowned heads, Like youthful maids, when sleep descending Warns them to their silken beds, Those virgin lilies all the night Bathing their beauties in the lake That they may rise more fresh and bright, When their beloved Sun's awake, Those ruined shrines and towers that seem The relics of a splendid dream, Amid whose fairy loneliness Naught but the lapwing's cry is heard, -- Naught seen but (when the shadows flitting, Fast from the moon unsheath its gleam,) Some purple-winged Sultana sitting Upon a column motionless And glittering like an Idol bird! -- Who could have thought that there, even there, Amid those scenes so still and fair, The Demon of the Plague hath cast From his hot wing a deadlier blast, More mortal far than ever came From the red Desert's sands of flame! So quick that every living thing Of human shape touched by his wing, Like plants, where the Simoom hath past At once falls black and withering! The sun went down on many a brow Which, full of bloom and freshness then, Is rankling in the pest-house now And ne'er will feel that sun again, And, oh! to see the unburied heaps On which the lonely moonlight sleeps -- The very vultures turn away, And sicken at so foul a prey! Only the fierce hyaena stalks Throughout the city's desolate walks At midnight and his carnage plies: -- Woe to the half-dead wretch who meets The glaring of those large blue eyes Amid the darkness of the streets! "Poor race of men!" said the pitying Spirit, "Dearly ye pay for your primal Fall -- "Some flowerets of Eden ye still inherit, "But the trail of the Serpent is over them all!" She wept -- the air grew pure and clear Around her as the bright drops ran, For there's a magic in each tear Such kindly Spirits weep for man! Just then beneath some orange trees Whose fruit and blossoms in the breeze Were wantoning together, free, Like age at play with infancy -- Beneath that fresh and springing bower Close by the Lake she heard the moan Of one who at this silent hour, Had thither stolen to die alone. One who in life where'er he moved, Drew after him the hearts of many; Yet now, as tho' he ne'er were loved, Dies here unseen, unwept by any! None to watch near him -- none to slake The fire that in his bosom lies, With even a sprinkle from that lake Which shines so cool before his eyes. No voice well known thro' many a day To speak the last, the parting word Which when all other sounds decay Is still like distant music heard; -- That tender farewell on the shore Of this rude world when all is o'er, Which cheers the spirit ere its bark Puts off into the unknown Dark. Deserted youth! one thought alone Shed joy around his soul in death That she whom he for years had known, And loved and might have called his own Was safe from this foul midnight's breath, -- Safe in her father's princely halls Where the cool airs from fountain falls, Freshly perfumed by many a brand Of the sweet wood from India's land, Were pure as she whose brow they fanned. But see -- who yonder comes by stealth, This melancholy bower to seek, Like a young envoy sent by Health With rosy gifts upon her cheek? 'Tis she -- far off, thro' moonlight dim He knew his own betrothed bride, She who would rather die with him Than live to gain the world beside! -- Her arms are round her lover now, His livid cheek to hers she presses And dips to bind his burning brow In the cool lake her loosened tresses. Ah! once, how little did he think An hour would come when he should shrink With horror from that dear embrace, Those gentle arms that were to him Holy as is the cradling place Of Eden's infant cherubim! And now he yields -- now turns away, Shuddering as if the venom lay All in those proffered lips alone -- Those lips that then so fearless grown Never until that instant came Near his unasked or without shame. "Oh! let me only breathe the air. "The blessed air, that's breathed by thee, "And whether on its wings it bear "Healing or death 'tis sweet to me! "There -- drink my tears while yet they fall -- "Would that my bosom's blood were balm, "And, well thou knowst, I'd shed it all "To give thy brow one minute's calm. "Nay, turn not from me that dear face -- "Am I not thine -- thy own loved bride -- "The one, the chosen one, whose place "In life or death is by thy side? "Thinkst thou that she whose only light, "In this dim world from thee hath shone "Could bear the long, the cheerless night "That must be hers when thou art gone? "That I can live and let thee go, "Who art my life itself? -- No, no -- "When the stem dies the leaf that grew "Out of its heart must perish too! "Then turn to me, my own love, turn, "Before, like thee, I fade and burn; "Cling to these yet cool lips and share "The last pure life that lingers there!" She fails -- she sinks -- as dies the lamp In charnel airs or cavern-damp, So quickly do his baleful sighs Quench all the sweet light of her eyes, One struggle -- and his pain is past -- Her lover is no longer living! One kiss the maiden gives, one last, Long kiss, which she expires in giving! "Sleep," said the PERI, as softly she stole The farewell sigh of that vanishing soul, As true as e'er warmed a woman's breast -- "Sleep on, in visions of odor rest "In balmier airs than ever yet stirred "The enchanted pile of that lonely bird "Who sings at the last his own death-lay "And in music and perfume dies away!" Thus saying, from her lips she spread Unearthly breathings thro' the place And shook her sparkling wreath and shed Such lustre o'er each paly face That like two lovely saints they seemed, Upon the eve of doomsday taken From their dim graves in ordor sleeping; While that benevolent PERI beamed Like their good angel calmly keeping Watch o'er them till their souls would waken. But morn is blushing in the sky; Again the PERI soars above, Bearing to Heaven that precious sigh Of pure, self-sacrificing love. High throbbed her heart with hope elate The Elysian palm she soon shall win. For the bright Spirit at the gate Smiled as she gave that offering in; And she already hears the trees Of Eden with their crystal bells Ringing in that ambrosial breeze That from the throne of ALLA swells; And she can see the starry bowls That lie around that lucid lake Upon whose banks admitted Souls Their first sweet draught of glory take! But, ah! even PERIS' hopes are vain -- Again the Fates forbade, again The immortal barrier closed -- "Not yet," The Angel said as with regret He shut from her that glimpse of glory -- "True was the maiden, and her story "Written in light o'er ALLA'S head "By seraph eyes shall long be read. "But, PERI, see -- the crystal bar "Of Eden moves not -- holier far "Than even this sigh the boon must be "That opes the Gates of Heaven for thee." Now upon SYRIA'S land of roses Softly the light of Eve reposes, And like a glory the broad sun Hangs over sainted LEBANON, Whose head in wintry grandeur towers And whitens with eternal sleet, While summer in a vale of flowers Is sleeping rosy at his feet. To one who looked from upper air O'er all the enchanted regions there, How beauteous must have been the glow, The life, the sparkling from below! Fair gardens, shining streams, with ranks Of golden melons on their banks, More golden where the sunlight falls; -- Gay lizards, glittering on the walls Of ruined shrines, busy and bright As they were all alive with light; And yet more splendid numerous flocks Of pigeons settling on the rocks With their rich restless wings that gleam Variously in the crimson beam Of the warm West, -- as if inlaid With brilliants from the mine or made Of tearless rainbows such as span The unclouded skies of PERISTAN. And then the mingling sounds that come, Of shepherd's ancient reed, with hum Of the wild bees of PALESTINE, Banqueting thro' the flowery vales; And, JORDAN, those sweet banks of thine And woods so full of nightingales. But naught can charm the luckless PERI; Her soul is sad -- her wings are weary -- Joyless she sees the Sun look down On that great Temple once his own, Whose lonely columns stand sublime, Flinging their shadows from on high Like dials which the Wizard Time Had raised to count his ages by! Yet haply there may lie concealed Beneath those Chambers of the Sun Some amulet of gems, annealed In upper fires, some tablet sealed With the great name of SOLOMON, Which spelled by her illumined eyes, May teach her where beneath the moon, In earth or ocean, lies the boon, The charm, that can restore so soon An erring Spirit to the skies. Cheered by this hope she bends her thither; -- Still laughs the radiant eye of Heaven, Nor have the golden bowers of Even In the rich West begun to wither; -- When o'er the vale of BALBEC winging Slowly she sees a child at play, Among the rosy wild flowers singing, As rosy and as wild as they; Chasing with eager hands and eyes The beautiful blue damsel-flies, That fluttered round the jasmine stems Like winged flowers or flying gems: -- And near the boy, who tired with play Now nestling mid the roses lay. She saw a wearied man dismount From his hot steed and on the brink Of a small imaret's rustic fount Impatient fling him down to drink. Then swift his haggard brow he turned To the fair child who fearless sat, Tho' never yet hath day-beam burned Upon a brow more fierce than that, -- Sullenly fierce -- a mixture dire Like thunder-clouds of gloom and fire; In which the PERI'S eye could read Dark tales of many a ruthless deed; The ruined maid -- the shrine profaned -- Oaths broken -- and the threshold stained With blood of guests! -- there written, all, Black as the damning drops that fall From the denouncing Angel's pen, Ere Mercy weeps them out again. Yet tranquil now that man of crime (As if the balmy evening time Softened his spirit) looked and lay, Watching the rosy infant's play: -- Tho' still whene'er his eye by chance Fell on the boy's, its lucid glance Met that unclouded, joyous gaze, As torches that have burnt all night Tho' some impure and godless rite, Encounter morning's glorious rays. But, hark! the vesper call to prayer, As slow the orb of daylight sets, Is rising sweetly on the air. From SYRIA'S thousand minarets! The boy has started from the bed Of flowers where he had laid his head. And down upon the fragrant sod Kneels with his forehead to the south Lisping the eternal name of God From Purity's own cherub mouth, And looking while his hands and eyes Are lifted to the glowing skies Like a stray babe of Paradise Just lighted on that flowery plain And seeking for its home again. Oh! 'twas a sight -- that Heaven -- that child -- A scene, which might have well beguiled Even haughty EBLIS of a sigh For glories lost and peace gone by! And how felt he, the wretched Man Reclining there -- while memory ran O'er many a year of guilt and strife, Flew o'er the dark flood of his life, Nor found one sunny resting-place. Nor brought him back one branch of grace. "There was a time," he said, in mild, Heart-humbled tones -- "thou blessed child! "When young and haply pure as thou "I looked and prayed like thee -- but now" -- He hung his head -- each nobler aim And hope and feeling which had slept From boyhood's hour that instant came Fresh o'er him and he wept -- he wept! Blest tears of soul-felt penitence! In whose benign, redeeming flow Is felt the first, the only sense Of guiltless joy that guilt can know. "There's a drop," said the PERI, "that down from the moon "Falls thro' the withering airs of June "Upon EGYPT'S land, of so healing a power, "So balmy a virtue, that even in the hour "That drop descends contagion dies "And health reanimates earth and skies! -- "Oh, is it not thus, thou man of sin, "The precious tears of repentance fall? "Tho' foul thy fiery plagues within "One heavenly drop hath dispelled them all!" And now -- behold him kneeling there By the child's side, in humble prayer, While the same sunbeam shines upon The guilty and the guiltless one. And hymns of joy proclaim thro' Heaven The triumph of a Soul Forgiven! 'Twas when the golden orb had set, While on their knees they lingered yet, There fell a light more lovely far Than ever came from sun or star, Upon the tear that, warm and meek, Dewed that repentant sinner's cheek. To mortal eye this light might seem A northern flash or meteor beam -- But well the enraptured PERI knew 'Twas a bright smile the Angel threw From Heaven's gate to hail that tear Her harbinger of glory near! "Joy, joy for ever! my task is done -- "The Gates are past and Heaven is won! "Oh! am I not happy? I am, I am -- "To thee, sweet Eden! how dark and sad "Are the diamond turrets of SHADUKIAM, "And the fragrant bowers of AMBERABAD! "Farewell ye odors of Earth that die "Passing away like a lover's sigh; -- "My feast is now of the Tooba Tree "Whose scent is the breath of Eternity! "Farewell, ye vanishing flowers that shone "In my fairy wreath so bright an' brief; -- "Oh! what are the brightest that e'er have blown "To the lote-tree springing by ALLA'S throne "Whose flowers have a soul in every leaf. "Joy, joy for ever. -- my task is done -- "The Gates are past and Heaven is won!"
- by Thomas Moore (1779 - 1852), "Paradise and the Peri", appears in Lalla Rookh, no. 4 [author's text checked 1 time against a primary source]
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