Louisa Stuart Costello

(1799-1870 / France)

The Destroying Spirit


I sit upon the rocks that frown

Above the rapid Nile;

And on the toil of man look down

With bitter and scornful smile.

My rocks are inaccessible,

And few return their terrors to tell.


My subjects are the birds, whose wings

Never soar'd into other air;

To whose shrill cries each echo rings—

For their nests are hidden there:

They dip their plumes in that mighty river,

Whose course is onward—onward, for ever.


I see the deluge come sweeping on

Where waving corn-fields gleam;

And forests, and cities, and herds are gone,

Like the shadows of a dream:


The rushing tide is an ocean now;

And islands of ruin darken its brow.


But the waters sink, and earth again

Smiles under Nature's gentlest reign:

Where, from scenes of bliss, shall I go?

I—whose existence is terror and woe.

Now I hide in the burning breast

Of some mountain, whose fires are never at rest,

And urge the torrents that downward flow,

Crashing and swallowing all below.


Then, through the air—away!—away!

Till I check my course on the dread Himmaleh:

Down to its deepest valleys I dive,

Which no mortal can ever see and live,

To visit the evil spirits who dwell

In the ceaseless gloom of that murky dell.


With them, from their rocky temples I roam,

To lure the traveller from his home:

When he rests beneath some charmed tree

With dreams we vex his mind;

And he wakes our hideous forms to see,

As we hover upon the wind;


And our voices howl in the hurrying blast,

Till in frantic fear he breathes his last:

Then we bear him to our dismal cave,

And his tortured spirit we claim as our slave!


I dwell where tempests are loud and dread—

I ride on the billow's foam;

And wherever terror is widest spread

There is the Spirit's home.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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