Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Zophiel
By Mary A. Brooks
 
SEPHORA held her to her heart, the while
Grief had its way—then saw her gently laid,
And bade her, kissing her blue eyes, beguile,
Slumbering, the fervid noon. Her leafy bed
 
Sigh’d forth o’erpowering breath, increased the heat;        5
Sleepless had been the night; her weary sense
Could now no more. Lone in the still retreat,
Wounding the flowers to sweetness more intense,
 
She sank. ’T is thus, kind Nature lets our wo
Swell till it bursts forth from the o’erfraught breast;        10
Then draws an opiate from the bitter flow,
And lays her sorrowing child soft in the lap of rest.
 
Now all the mortal maid lies indolent,
Save one sweet cheek which the cool velvet turf
Had touch’d too rude, though all with blooms besprent,        15
One soft arm pillow’d. Whiter than the surf
 
That foams against the sea-rock, look’d her neck,
By the dark, glossy, odorous shrubs relieved,
That close inclining o’er her seem’d to reck
What ’t was they canopied; and quickly heaved        20
 
Beneath her robe’s white folds and azure zone,
Her heart yet incomposed; a fillet through
Peep’d brightly azure, while with tender moan
As if of bliss, Zephyr her ringlets blew
 
Sportive;—about her neck their gold he twined,        25
Kiss’d the soft violet on her temples warm,
And eyebrow—just so dark might well define
Its flexile arch;—throne of expression’s charm.
 
As the vex’d Caspian, though its rage be past
And the blue smiling heavens swell o’er in peace,        30
Shook to the centre, by the recent blast,
Heaves on tumultuous still, and hath not power to cease—
 
So still each little pulse was seen to throb
Though passion and its pains were lull’d to rest,
And “ever and anon” a piteous sob        35
Shook the pure arch expansive o’er her breast.
 
Save that ’t was all tranquillity; that reign’d
O’er fragrance, sound and beauty; all was mute—
Save where a dove her dear one’s absence plain’d
And the faint breeze mourn’d o’er the slumberer’s lute.        40
 
It chanced, that day, lured by the verdure, came
Zophiel, now minister of ill; but ere
He sinn’d, a heavenly angel. The faint flame
Of dying embers, on an altar, where
 
Raguel, fair Egla’s sire, in secret vow’d        45
And sacrificed to the sole living God,
Where friendless shades the sacred rites enshroud;—
The fiend beheld and knew; his soul was awed,
 
And he bethought him of the forfeit joys
Once his in heaven;—deep in a darkling grot        50
He sat him down;—the melancholy noise
Of leaf and creeping vine accordant with his thought.
 
When fiercer spirits howl’d, he but complain’d
Ere yet ’t was his to roam the pleasant earth,
His heaven-invented harp he still retain’d        55
Though tuned to bliss no more; and had its birth
 
Of him, beneath some black infernal clift
The first drear song of wo; and torment wrung
The spirit less severe where he might lift
His plaining voice—and frame the like as now he sung:        60
 
“Wo to thee, wild ambition, I employ
Despair’s dull notes thy dread effects to tell,
Born in high heaven, her peace thou couldst destroy,
And, but for thee, there had not been a hell.
 
“Through the celestial domes thy clarion peal’d,—        65
Angels, entranced, beneath thy banners ranged,
And straight were fiends;—hurl’d from the shrinking field,
They waked in agony to wail the change.
 
“Darting through all her veins the subtile fire
The world’s fair mistress first inhaled thy breath,        70
To lot of higher beings learn’d to aspire,—
Dared to attempt—and doom’d the world to death.
 
“Thy thousand wild desires, that still torment
The fiercely struggling soul, where peace once dwelt,
But perish’d;—feverish hope—drear discontent,        75
Impoisoning all possest—Oh! I have felt
 
“As spirits feel—yet not for man we mourn
Scarce o’er the silly bird in state were he,
That builds his nest, loves, sings the morn’s return,
And sleeps at evening; save by aid of thee,        80
 
“Fame ne’er had roused, nor song her records kept
The gem, the ore, the marble breathing life,
The pencil’s colors,—all in earth had slept,
Now see them mark with death his victim’s strife.
 
“Man found thee death—but death and dull decay        85
Baffling, by aid of thee, his mastery proves;—
By mighty works he swells his narrow day,
And reigns, for ages, on the world he loves.
 
“Yet what the price? with stings that never cease
Thou goad’st him on; and when, too keen the smart        90
He fain would pause awhile—and sighs for peace,
Food thou wilt have, or tear his victim heart.”
 
Thus Zophiel still,—“though now the infernal crew
Had gain’d by sin a privilege in the world,
Allay’d their torments in the cool night dew,        95
And by the dim star-light again their wings unfurl’d.”
 
And now, regretful of the joys his birth
Had promised; deserts, mounts and streams he crost,
To find, amid the loveliest spots of earth,
Faint likeness of the heaven he had lost.        100
 
And oft, by unsuccessful searching pain’d,
Weary he fainted through the toilsome hours;
And then his mystic nature he sustain’d
On steam of sacrifices—breath of flowers.
 
Sometimes he gave out oracles, amused        105
With mortal folly; resting on the shrines;
Or, all in some fair Sibyl’s form infused,
Spoke from her quivering lips, or penn’d her mystic lines.
 
And now he wanders on from glade to glade
To where more precious shrubs diffuse their balms,        110
And gliding through the thick inwoven shade
Where the young Hebrew lay in all her charms,
 
He caught a glimpse. The colors in her face—
Her bare white arms—her lips—her shining hair—
Burst on his view. He would have flown the place;        115
Fearing some faithful angel rested there,
 
Who ’d see him—rest of glory—lost to bliss—
Wandering and miserably panting—fain
To glean a scanty joy—with thoughts like this—
Came all he ’d known and lost—he writhed with pain        120
 
Ineffable—But what assail’d his ear,
A sigh?—surprised, another glance he took;
Then doubting—fearing—gradual coming near—
He ventured to her side and dared to look;
 
Whispering, “yes, ’t is of earth! So, new-found life        125
Refreshing, look’d sweet Eve, with purpose fell
When first sin’s sovereign gazed on her, and strife
Had with his heart, that grieved with arts of hell,
 
“Stern as it was, to win her o’er to death!—
Most beautiful of all in earth, in heaven,        130
Oh! could I quaff for aye that fragrant breath,
Couldst thou, or being likening thee, be given
 
“To bloom for ever for me thus—still true
To one dear theme, my full soul flowing o’er,
Would find no room for thought of what it knew—        135
Nor picturing forfeit transport, curse me more.
 
“But oh! severest pain!—I cannot be
In what I love, blest even the little span—
(With all a spirit’s keen capacity
For bliss) permitted the poor insect man.        140
 
“The few I ’ve seen and deem’d of worth to win
Like some sweet floweret mildew’d, in my arms,
Wither’d to hideousness—foul even as sin—
Grew fearful hags; and then with potent charm
 
“Of mutter’d word and harmful drug, did learn        145
To force me to their will. Down the damp grave
Loathing, I went at Endor, and uptorn
Brought back the dead; when tortured Saul did crave.
 
“To view his pending fate. Fair—nay, as this
Young slumberer, that dread witch; when, I array’d        150
In lovely shape, to meet my guileful kiss
She yielded first her lip. And thou, sweet maid—
What ’s it I see?—a recent tear has stray’d
And left its stain upon her cheek of bliss.—
 
“She ’s fallen to sleep in grief—haply been chid,        155
Or by rude mortal wrong’d. So let it prove
Meet for thy purpose: ’mid these blossoms hid,
I ’ll gaze; and when she wakes, with all that love
 
“And art can lend, come forth. He who would gain
A fond full heart, in love’s soft surgery skill’d,        160
Should seek it when ’t is sore; allay its pain—
With balm by pity prest ’t is all his own;—so heal’d,
 
“She may be mine a little year—even fair
And sweet as now—Oh! respite! while possest
I lose the dismal sense of my despair—        165
But then—I will not think upon the rest.
 
“And wherefore grieve to cloud her little day
Of fleeting life?—What doom from power divine
I bear eternal! thoughts of ruth, away!
Wake pretty fly!—and—while thou mayst,—be mine.        170
 
“Though but an hour—so thou suppliest thy looms
With shining silk, and in the cruel snare
Seest the fond bird entrapp’d, but for his plumes
To work thy robes, or twine amidst thy hair.”.
 
 
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