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- Hyperion - 43/43 -


moonlight, the old Gothic cathedral, with its narrow, lancet windows and jutting buttresses, right in front of him. Ere long he had forgotten all his cares and sorrows in sleep, and with them his hopes, and wishes, and good resolves.

He was still sitting at breakfast in his chamber, the next morning, when the great bell of the cathedral opposite began to ring, and reminded him that it was Sunday. Ere long the organ answered from within, and from its golden lips breathed forth a psalm. The congregation began to assemble, and Flemming went up with them to the house of the Lord. In the body of the church he found the pews all filled or locked; they seemed to belong to families. He went up into the gallery, and looked over the psalm-book of a peasant, while the congregation sang the sublime old hymn of Martin Luther,

"Our God, he is a tower of strength,

A trusty shield and weapon."

During the singing, a fat clergyman, clad in black, with a white surplice thrown loosely about him, came pacing along one of the aisles, from beneath the organ-loft and ascended the pulpit. After the hymn, he read a portion of Scripture, and then said;

"Let us unite in silent prayer."

And turning round, he knelt in the pulpit, while the congregation remained standing. For a while there was a breathless silence in the church, which to Flemming was more solemnly impressive than any audible prayer. The clergyman then arose, and began his sermon. His theme was the Reformation; and he attempted to prove how much easier it was to enter the kingdom of Heaven through the gateways of the Reformed Evangelical Dutch church, than by the aisles and penitential stair-cases of Saint Peter's. He then gave a history of the Reformation; and, when Flemming thought he was near the end, he heard him say, that he should divide his discourse into four heads. This reminded him of the sturdy old Puritan, Cotton Mather, who after preaching an hour, would coolly turn the hour-glass on the pulpit, and say; "Now, my beloved hearers, let us take another glass." He stole out into the silent, deserted street, and went to visit the veteran sculptor Dannecker. He found him in his parlour, sitting alone, with his psalm-book, and the reminiscences of a life of eighty years. As Flemming entered, he arose from the sofa, and tottered towards him; a venerable old man, of low stature, and dressed in a loose white jacket, with a face like Franklin's, his white hair flowing over his shoulders, and a pale, blue eye.

"So you are from America," said he. "But you have a German name. Paul Flemming was one of our old poets. I have never been in America, and never shall go there. I am now too old. I have been in Paris and in Rome. But that was long ago. I am now eight and seventy years old."

Here he took Flemming by the hand, and made him sit down by his side, on the sofa. And Flemmingfelt a mysterious awe creep over him, on touching the hand of the good old man, who sat so serenely amid the gathering shade of years, and listened to life's curfew-bell, telling, with eight and seventy solemn strokes, that the hour had come, when the fires of all earthly passion must be quenched within, and man must prepare to lie down and rest till the morning.

"You see," he continued, in a melancholy tone, "my hands are cold; colder than yours. They were warmer once. I am now an old man."

"Yet these are the hands," answered Flemming, "that sculptured the beauteous Ariadne and the Panther. The soul never grows old."

"Nor does Nature," said the old man, pleased with this allusion to his great work, and pointing to the green trees before his window. "This pleasure I have left to me. My sight is still good. I can even distinguish objects on the side of yonder mountain. My hearing is also unimpaired. For all which, I thank God."

Then, directing Flemming's attention to a fine engraving, which hung on the opposite wall of the room, he continued;

"That is an engraving of Canova's Religion. I love to sit here and look at it, for hours together. It is beautiful. He made the statue for his native town, where they had no church, until he built them one. He placed the statue in it. This engraving he sent me as a present. Ah, he was a dear, good man. The name of his native town I have forgotten. My memory fails me. I cannot remember names."

Fearful that he had disturbed the old man in his morning devotions, Flemming did not remain long, but took his leave with regret. There was something impressive in the scene he had witnessed;--this beautiful old age of the artist; sitting by the open window, in the bright summer morning,--the labor of life accomplished, the horizon reached, where heaven and earth meet,--thinking it was angel's music, when he heard the church-bells ring; himself too old to go. As he walked back to his chamber, he thought within himself, whether he likewise might not accomplish something, which should live after him;--might not bring something permanent out of this fast-fleeting life of man, and then sit down, like the artist, in serene old age, and fold his hands in silence. He wondered how a man felt when he grew so old, that he could no longer go to church, but must sit at home and read the bible in large print. His heart was full of indefinite longings, mingled with regrets; longings to accomplish something worthy of life; regret, that as yet he had accomplished nothing, but had felt and dreamed only. Thus the warm days in spring bring forth passion-flowers and forget-menots. It is only after mid-summer, when the days grow shorter and hotter, that fruit begins to appear. Then, the heat of the day brings forward the harvest, and after the harvest, the leaves fall, and there is a gray frost. Much meditating upon these things, Paul Flemming reached his hotel. At that moment a person clad in green came down the church-steps, and crossed the street. It was the German student, of Interlachen. Flemming started as if a green snake had suddenly crossed his path. He took refuge in his chamber.

That night as he was sitting alone in his chamber, having made his preparation to depart the following morning, his attention was arrested by the sound of a female voice in the next room. A thin partition, with a door, separated it from his own. He had not before observed that the room was occupied. But, in the stillness of the night, the tones of that voice struck his ear. He listened. It was a lady, reading the prayers of the English Church. The tones were familiar; and awakened at once a thousand painfully sweet recollections. It was the voice of Mary Ashburton! His heart could not be deceived; and all its wounds began to bleed afresh, like those of a murdered man, when the murderer approaches. His first impulse was of affection only, boundless, irrepressible, delirious, as of old in the green valley of Interlachen. He waited for the voice to cease; that he might go to her, and behold her face once more. And then his pride rose up within him, and rebuked this weakness. He remembered his firm resolve; and blushed to find himself so feeble. And the voice ceased; and yet he did not go. Pride had so far gained the mastery over affection. He lay down upon his bed, like a child as he was. All about him was silence, and the silence was holy, for she was near; so near that he could almost hear the beating of her heart. He knew now for the first time how weak he was, and how strong his passion for that woman. His heart was like the altar of the Israelites of old; and, though drenched with tears, as with rain, it was kindled at once by the holy fire from heaven!

Towards morning he fell asleep, exhausted with the strong excitement; and, in that hour when, sleep being "nigh unto the soul," visions are deemed prophetic, he dreamed. O blessed visionof the morning, stay! thou wert so fair! He stood again on the green sunny meadow, beneath the ruined towers; and she was by his side, with her pale, speaking countenance and holy eyes; and he kissed her fair forehead; and she turned her face towards him beaming with affection and said, "I confess it now; you are the Magician!" and pressed him in a meek embrace, that he, "might rather feel than see the swelling of her heart." And then she faded away from his arms, and her face became transfigured, and her voice like the voice of an angel in heaven;--and he awoke, and was alone!

It was broad daylight; and he heard the postilion, and the stamping of horses' hoofs on the pavement at the door. At the same moment his servant came in, with coffee, and told him all was ready. He did not dare to stay. But, throwing himself into the carriage, he cast one look towards the window of the Dark Ladie, and a moment afterwards had left her forever! He had drunk thelast drop of the bitter cup, and now laid the golden goblet gently down, knowing that he should behold it no more!

No more! O how majestically mournful are those words! They sound like the roar of the wind through a forest of pines!


Hyperion - 43/43

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