Christopher Pearse Cranch

(1815-1892 / the USA)

Ormuzd And Ahriman. Part I - Poem by Christopher Pearse Cranch

Daybreak.

CHORUS OF PLANETARY SPIRITS.

YE interstellar spaces, serene and still and clear.
Above, below, around!
Ye gray unmeasured breadths of ether, — sphere on sphere!
We listen, but no sound
Rings from your depths profound.

But ever along and all across the morning bars
Fast-flashing meteors run —
The trailing wrecks of fierce and fiery-bearded stars,
Scattered and lost and won
Back to their parent sun.

Through rifts of bronzing clouds the tides of morning glow
And swell and mount apace.
We watch and wait if haply we at last may know
Some record we may trace
Upon the orbs of space.

Above, below, around we track our planets' flight;
Their paths and destinies
Are intertwined with ours. Remote or near, their light
Or darkness to our eyes
A mystic picture lies.

FIRST SPIRIT.

Close to the morn a small and sparkling star-world dances,
Bathed in the flaming mist;
Flashing and quivering like a million moving lances
Of gold and amethyst
By slanting sunrise kissed.

A fairy realm of rapid and unimpeded sprites,
That fly and leap and dart;
All fierce and tropic fervors, all swift and warm delights
Bound and flash and start
In every fiery heart.

SECOND SPIRIT.

Deep in the dawn floats up a star of dewy fire —
So pure it seems new-born;
As though the soul of morn
Were pulsing through its heart in dim, divine desire
Of poesy and love; — the star of morn and eve —
Whose crystal sphere is shining
With joys beyond divining —
Passion that never tortures, and hopes that ne'er deceive.

THIRD SPIRIT.

There swims the pale, green Earth, half drowned and thunder-rifted,
Steeped in a sea of rain. Above the watery waste
Of God's primeval flood, all other land effaced —
One peak alone uplifted.
The baffled lightnings play around its crags and chasms;
So far away they flash, I hear no thunder-spasms.
But now the scowling clouds are drifting from its spaces,
And leave it to the wind and coming day's embraces.

FOURTH SPIRIT.

Beyond, a planet rolls with darkly lurid sides,
Flooded and seamed and stained by drenching Stygian tides;
Deep gorges, up whose black and slimy slopes there peep
All monstrous Saurian growths that run or fly or creep;
And, in and out the holes and caverns clogged with mud,
Crawl through their giant ferns to suck each other's blood.
I see them battling there in fog and oozy water,
Symbols of savage lust, deformity, and slaughter.

FIFTH SPIRIT.

I see an orb above that spins with rapid motion,
Vaster and raster growing —
Belted with sulphurous clouds; and through the rents an ocean
Boiling and plunging up on a crust of fiery shore.
And now I hear far off the elemental roar,
And the red fire-winds blowing:
A low, dull, steady moan a million miles away,
Of whirling hurricanes that rage all night, all day.
No life of man or beast, were life engendered there,
Could bide those flaming winds, that white metallic glare.

SIXTH SPIRIT.

But yonder, studded round with lamps of moonlight tender,
And arched from pole to pole with rings of rainbow splendor,
A world rolls far apart; as though in haughty scorning
Of all the alien light of his diminished morning.

SEVENTH AND EIGHTH SPIRITS.

Cold, cold and dark — and farther still
We dimly see the icy spheres
Like spectre worlds, who yet fulfil,
Through slow dull centuries of years,
Their circuit round the distant sun who winds them at his will.

CHORUS.

Round and round one central orb
The wheeling planets move,
And some reflect and some absorb
The floods of light and love.

The rolling globe of molten stones,
The spinning watery waste,
The forests whirled through tropic zones
By circling moons embraced —

We watch their element strife;
We wait, that we may see
Some record of their inner life,
Where all is mystery.

A pause. The Spirits approach the Earth. The Sun rises over the Continent of Asia.

SECOND SPIRIT.

Look, brothers, look! The quivering sunrise tinges
Our nearest orb of Earth. The forest fringes
Redden with joy; and all about the sun,
That gilds the boundless east, the cloud-banks dun
Flame into gold; and with a crimson kiss
Wake the green world to beauty and to bliss.
See how she glows with sweet responsive smile!
Hark, how the waves of air lap round her!
As though she were some green, embowered isle,
And the fond ocean had just found her,
In Time's primeval morn of unrecorded calms
Hidden away with all her lilies and her palms;
And flattering at her feet, had smoothed his angry mane,
And moving round her kissed her o'er and o'er again.

THIRD SPIRIT.

And now, behold, our wings are rapid as our thought;
And nearer yet have brought
Our feet, until we hover above the Asian lands
Beyond the desert sands.
There, girt about by mountain peaks that cleave the skies,
A blooming valley lies:
A pathway, sloping down from visionary heights
Through shades and dappled lights,
Lost in a garden widerness of tropic trees
And flowers and birds and bees.
Far off I smell the rose, the amaranth, the spice,
The breath of Paradise.
Far off I hear the singing through hidden groves and vales
Of Eden's nightingales;
And, sliding down through pines and moss and rocky walls,
The murmuring waterfalls.
And lo, two radiant forms that seem akin to us,
Walk, calm and beauteous,
Crowed with the light of thought and mutual love, whose blisses
Are sealed with rapturous kisses.
Ah, beautiful green Earth! ah, happy, happy pair!
Can there be aught so fair,
O brothers, in yon vast unpeopled worlds afar,
As these bright beings are!

CHORUS OF SPIRITS.

The stars in the heavens are singing
Response to the wonderful story;
Joy, joy to the race that is springing
To cover the earth with its glory!

The race that enfolds in its bosom
A birthright divine and immortal;
As the fruit is enwrapped in the blossom,
As the garden is hid by the portal!

DISTAINT VOICES.

(A change to a minor key.)

Sin and weakness, misery and pain,
Cloud their sunlit birth;
And the sons of Heaven alone remain
Gods unmixed with earth.

Light and darkness are the twins of fate;
Undivided they,
Through all realms that bear a mortal date,
Hold alternate sway.

Through the universe the lords of life
Never at peace can be.
Good and evil in a ceaseless strife
Fight for victory.

THIRD SPIRIT.

I hear in the spaces below
A discord of voices that flow
In muttering tones through the air.
But where are they hidden — where?
There are trailings of gloom through the spaces,
And far-darting cones that eclipse
The splendor of planets whose faces
Are dimmed by their darkening traces,
And frozen by alien lips;
And the dream of a swift-coming change
Foretokens a destiny strange.

And what is yon Shadow that creeps
On the marge of her crystalline deeps?
On the field and the river and grove,
On the borders of hope and of rest;
On the Eden of wedlock and love;
On the labor contentment hath blessed?
That crawls like a serpent of mist
Through the vales and the gardens of peace,
With a blight upon all it hath kissed,
And a shade that shall never decrease?
That maddens the wings of desire,
And saddens the ardors of joy —
Winged like a phantom of fire —
Armed like a fiend to destroy!

SECOND SPIRIT.

Before me there flitted a vision —
A vision of dawn and Creation,
Of faith and of doubt and division,
Of mystical fruit and temptation:
A garden of lilies and roses,
Ah, sweeter than dreams ever fashioned;
Hopes in whose splendor reposes
A love that was pure and impassioned.
But alas for the sons and the daughters
Of man, in the morning of nations!
Alas for their rivers of waters!
Alas for their fruitless oblations!
The curse and the blight and the sentence
Have fallen too swift for repentance.
I see it, I feel it — O brother!
It shadows one half of their garden.
O Earth! O improvident Mother!
Where left'st thou thy angel, thy warden?
Is it theirs, or the guilt of another?
Must they die without hope of a pardon?
What is it they suffer, O brother,
In the red, rosy light of their garden?

THE SPIRITS.

Ye Angels — ye heavenly Powers
Whose wisdom is higher than ours —
From the blight, from the terror defend them —
Help, help! In their Eden befriend them.

THE ANGEL RAPHAEL.
Beyond the imagined limits of such space
As ye can guess, I passed, yet heard your cry.
For ye are brother spirits. And I come,
Swifter than light, to shield you from the dread
Of earth-born shadows, and the ghostly folds
Of seeming evil curtaining round your worlds.
Yet can I bring no amulet to guard
One peaceful breast from sorrow; for yourselves
Are girt about, as I, by that divine,
Exhaustless Love, whose pledge your souls contain.

THE SPIRITS.

Ah, not for ourselves — but our brothers
We plead, in their dawn overglooming,
For the death is not theirs, but anothers.
Help, help! from the doom that is coming;

For they stand all alone and unguided;
No Past with its lesson upholds them;
Their life from their race is divided;
A childhood unconscious enfolds them.

Is it sin — is it death that has shrouded
Their souls, or a taint in their nature?
Is there hope for a future unclouded?
Tell — tell us — angelical teacher!

RAPHAEL.

Yon earth, which claimed your closer vigilance,
And seems so near to you in time and space,
Is far away. Your present is its past.
To spirits, worlds and æons are condensed
Into a moment's feeling or a thought.
While ye were singing as ye watched those orbs,
They grew and grew from incandescent globes
Girdled with thunder, wreathed with sulphurous steam —
Or from the slime where rude gigantic forms
Of crocodile or bat plunged through the dense
And flowerless wilds of cane, or flapped like dreams
Of darkness through the foul mephitic air.
These shapes gave way to forests, rocks, and seas,
And shapely forms of beast and bird and man —
The last result of wonder-working Time —
Man — the tall crowning flower and fruit of all —
And the vast complex tissues he hath wrought
Of life and laws and government and arts.
All this ye knew not; tranced in choral song,
Your music was the oblivion of all time.

THE SPIRITS.

Have we not seen the approaching doom of Earth?

RAPHAEL.

The vision ye have had of joy and doom
Flashing and glooming o'er two little lives,
Is truth half-typed in legend, such as fed
The people of the ancient days, distilled
From crude primordial growths of time, when sin
Saw the fierce flaming sword of conscience shake
Its terror through the groves of Paradise,
Grasped by Jehovah's red right hand in wrath.

THE SPIRITS.

Was it a dream? We saw that red right hand.

RAPHAEL.

The events and thoughts that passed in olden time
Dawn on your senses with the beams of light
That left long, long ago those distant worlds,
And flash from out the past like present truths.
It was a poet's dream ye saw. It held
A truth. 'Tis yours to unfold the mythic form,
And guess the meaning of the ancient tale.

THE SPIRITS.

We mark thy words; we know that thou art wise
And good; and yet we hover in a mist
Of doubt. Help us! Our sight is weak and dim.

RAPHAEL.

Know then that men and Angels can conceive
Through symbols only, the eternal truths.
Through all creation streams this dual ray —
The marriage of the spirit with the form —
The correspondence of the universe
With souls through sense; and that the deepest thought
And firmest faith are nurtured and sustained
By the great visible universe of time
And space — the alphabet whose mystic forms
Present all inner lessons to the soul —
And thus the unseen by the seen is known.
Yea, even the blank and sterile voids that span
The dead unpalpitating space 'twixt star
And star, shall speak, as light hath spoken once.

And hark! Even now the unfathomable deeps
Begin to stir. I hear a far off sound
Of shuddering wings, beyond the hurrying clouds,
Beyond the stars — now nearer, nearer still!

DISTANT VOICES.

(Confusedly, in a minor key.)

Behind us shines the Light of lights.
We are the Shadows, we the nights,
That blot the pure expanse of time.
And yet we weave the destined rhyme
Of creatures with the Increate —
Of God and man, free will and fate;
The warp and woof of heavens and hells;
The noiseless round of death and birth;
The eternal protoplasmic spells
Binding the sons of God to earth; —
The ceaseless web of mystery
That has been, and shall ever be.

THE SPIRITS.

Far off we seem to hear a chorus strange,
Rising and falling through the gathering gloom.
And now the congregated clouds appear
To take the semblance of a Shape, that bends
This way — as when a whirling ocean-spout
Drinks, as it moves along, the light of heaven.

RAPHAEL.

Spirit — if Spirit or Presence
Thou art, or the gloom of a symbol —
Approach, if thou canst, to interpret
Thy name and thy work and thy essence.

( A pause. )

Behold, the Shadow spreads and towers apace,
Like a dense cloud that rolls along the sea
Landward, then shrouds the winding shore, the fields,
The network of rite gray autumnal woods,
And the low cottage roofs of upland farms;
What seemed a vapor with a ragged fringe
Changes to wings, that sweep from north to south.
And round about the mass whose cloudy dome
Should be a head, I see the lambent flames
Of distant lightnings play. And now a voice
Of winds and waves and crumbling thunder tones
Commingled, muttering unintelligible things,
Approaches us. The air grows strangely chill
And nebulous. Daylight hath backward stepped.
The morning sun is blotted with eclipse.

CHORUS OF THE SPIRITS.

Like the pale stricken leaves of the Autumn
When Winter swoops downward to whirl them
Afar from the nooks of the woodlands,
And up through the clouds of the twilight,
We shudder! We hear a wind roaring
And booming below in the darkness;
A voice whose low thunder is mingled
With waves of the sibilant ocean.
The clouds that were pearly and golden
Are steeped in a blackening crimson.
The spell of a magical presence
Is nearing us out of the darkness.
What is it? No shape we distinguish —
No voice — but a sound that is muffled,
Muffled and stifled in thunder.
We are troubled. Oh, help us, strong Angel!
A Form gathers out of the darkness,
Awful and dim and abysmal!

RAPHAEL.

Fear not the gloomy Phantasm. Speak to him.
If he will answer, ye may learn of him
What human books of dead theology
Have seldom taught, or poets, though they sang
Of Eden and the primal curse of man.

THE SPIRITS.

Spirit, or phantom — darkening earth and sky,
And creeping through the soul in grim despair —
What art thou? Speak! whose shadow darkens thus
The eye of morn?

SATAN.

I am not what I seem.

THE SPIRITS.

Art thou that fallen Angel who seduced
From their allegiance the bright hosts of heaven
And men, and reignest now the lord of doom?

SATAN.

I am not what I seem to finite minds; —
No fallen Angel — for I never fell,
Though priest and poet feign me exiled and doomed;
But ever was and ever shall be thus —
Nor worse nor better than the Eternal planned.
I am the Retribution, not the Curse.
I am the shadow and reverse of God;
The type of mixed and interrupted good;
The clod of sense without whose earthly base
You spirit-flowers can never grow and bloom.

THE SPIRITS.

We dread to ask — what need have we of thee?

SATAN.

I am that stern necessity of fate —
Creation's temperament — the mass and mould
Of circumstance, through which eternal law
Works in its own mysterious way its will.

THE SPIRITS.

Art thou not Evil — Sin abstract and pure?

SATAN.

There were no shadows till the worlds were made;
No evil and no sin till finite souls,
Imperfect thence, conditioned in free-will,
Took form, projected by eternal law
Through co-existent realms of time and space.

THE SPIRITS.

Thy words are dark. We dimly catch their sense.

SATAN.

Naught evil, though it were the Prince of evil,
Hath being in itself. For God alone
Existeth in Himself, and Good, which lives
As sunshine lives, born of the Parent Sun.
I am the finite shadow of that Sun,
Opposite, not opposing, only seen
Upon the nether side.

THE SPIRITS.

Art happy then?

SATAN.

Nor happy I nor wretched. I but do
My work, as finite fate and law prescribe.

THE SPIRITS.

Didst thou not tempt the woman and the man
Of Eden, and beguile them to their doom?

SATAN.

No personal will am I, no influence bad
Or good. I symbolize the wild and deep
And unregenerated wastes of life,
Dark with transmitted tendencies of race
And blind mischance; all crude mistakes of will —
Proclivity unbalanced by due weight
Of favoring circumstance; all passion blown
By wandering winds; all surplusage of force
Piled up for use, but slipping from its base
Of law and order; all undisciplined
And ignorant mutiny against the wise
Restraint of rules by centuries old indorsed,
And proved the best so long it needs no proof; —
All quality o'erstrained until it cracks —
Yet but a surface crack; the Eternal Eye
Sees underneath the soul's sphere, as above,
And knows the deep foundations of the world
Will not be jarred or loosened by the stress
Of sun and wind and rain upon the crust
Of upper soil. Nay, let the earthquake split
The mountains into steep and splintered chasms —
Down deeper than the shock the adamant
Of ages stands, symbol no less divine
Of the eternal Law than heaven above.

THE SPIRITS.

Shall we then doubt the sacred books — the faith
That Satan was of old the foe of God?

SATAN.

Nations have planned their demons as they planned
Their gods. Say, rather, God and Satan mixed, —
A hybrid of perplexed theology, —
Stood at the centre of the universe;
Ormuzd and Ahriman, in ceaseless war —
A double spirit through whose nerves and veins
Throbbed the vast pulses of his feverish moods
Of blight and benediction. Did the Jew
Or Pagan, save the few of finer mould,
Own an unchanging God, or one self-willed,
Who, like themselves, was moved to wrath, revenge
And jealousy, to petty strifes and bars
Of sect and clan — the reflex of their thought?

THE SPIRITS.

What if it were revealed to holy men,
By faith, that God had formed a spirit vast
Who fell, rebelled, tempted the race to death?
Whether a foe who rode upon the wind,
Or one within, leagued with some sweet, strong drift
Of natural desire, tainted yet sweet?

SATAN.

Alas, did ever human eyes transcend
And pierce beyond the hemisphere of tints
That overarched their thought and hope, yet seemed
A heaven of truth? As man is so his God.
So too his spirit of evil. Evil fixed
He saw, eternal and abstract, whose tree
Thrust down its grappling tap-roots in the heart,
And poisoned where it grew; its blighting shade
By no sweet wandering winds of heaven caressed,
No raindrops from the pitiless clouds. No birds
Of song and summer in its branches built
Their little nests of love. No hermit sought
The shivering rustle of its chilly shade.
Accursed of God it stood — accursed and drear
It stood apart — a thing by God and man
Hated or pitied as a pestilence
O'er-passing cure. So hate not me. For I
Am but the picture mortal eyes behold
Shadowing the dread results of broken laws
Designed by eternal wisdom for the good
Of man, though typed as Darkness, Pain, and Fire.

THE SPIRITS.

Must not the eternal Justice punish man
And spirits — now and in the great To-Be?
What sinner can escape his burning wrath?

SATAN.

The soul of man is man's own heaven or hell.
God's love and justice will no curse on men
Or spirits, who condemn themselves, and hide
Their faces in the murky fogs of sense
And lawless passion, and the hate and feud
Born of all dense inwoven ignorance.
Man loves or fears the shadow of himself.
God shines behind him. Let him turn and see.
[Vanishes slowly.]

THE SPIRITS.

Yet stay — speak, speak once more! Tell us what fate
Awaits the human race — now on this earth
Teeming with life — and in the great Hereafter!

RAPHAEL.

The phantom-lips are dumb: nor could they answer.
The book of fate is known to One alone.

THE SPIRITS.

And thou — thou, sovereign Angel, knowest not?

RAPHAEL.

He alone knows whose being contains the all.
Cease questioning. Have faith. Love reigns supreme.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 24, 2010



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