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Good Words 1860
The Spirit of Beauty


The Spirit of Beauty had wandered through the world from the first dawn of creation's morning. Man was subject to her, but he knew her not. Glimpses of her ethereal form gladdened him, but, as yet, she dwelt in his earth as a veiled virgin, and none had seen her countenance; only the reflection of her smile.

Then the Spirit of Beauty sighed, and said, "Man is my vassal; he acknowledges me as a power mysterious and superior, but he hath not beheld me; and how, then, shall he fully know and love me? Who shall reveal me to him? Where shall I find one who may undertake the mighty task?"

For the Spirit loved the soul of man, and longed to rejoice him with a revelation of her ineffable loveliness. So she went forth and walked through the world, to find one worthy to be the vehicle of her manifestation; and, lo, a fair young girl sat by a fountain, her head bent in quiet musing; and the Spirit loved her, and said, "Even she shall become the revealer of my power to the hearts of men." And from the sparkling waters the Spirit of Beauty, ascending, entered into her spirit, and looked forth from her brow, till men wondered, and said, "Surely the Spirit of the Beautiful is among us;" and they worshipped before her. Then the heart of the maiden was lifted up with pride, and an unholy light was mingled with the rays which the fair Spirit had poured from her starry eyes, and the purity was gone. So the Spirit was grieved, and said, "I cannot dwell with one who harbours the fell child of him who disturbed the harmony of my home, even heaven." And she sped away to seek a more perfect resting-place, leaving but a trace of her bright presence, like the quivering light of the summer sky at midnight.

Then the Spirit saw one who thought to perpetuate his name by a monument which should stand when the oak sapling at his door had become the riven and hollow trunk of a thousand winters. She overshadowed him with her influence as with an invisible mantle; and, under his master-hand and eye, there arose a fair temple, whose arching roof and carven pillars should be the interpretation of the mighty Spirit. ''Shall he not reveal me to man?" said she; and awhile she paused, resting in the thought. But Superstition crept, with serpent stealthiness, through the fane, leaving her defiling trail upon pavement and dome, and before that child of Darkness, the Light's eldest daughter fled in dismay.

Again she wandered on, roaming over lake and mountain, river and valley, gilding all with a touch of her sun-tipped wand; and the few who met her bowed before her, and acknowledged her veiled presence.

At length she found one leaning upon a broken and tuneless harp, whose remaining strings trembled and wailed in the fitful breeze. She breathed upon it, and it was once more new, and every chord rang forth an echo of her own sweet voice. "Thou shalt reveal me to mankind," said the Spirit; "thy song shall be my incarnation." And the harpist went forth among men in the fulness of his inspiration, pouring forth melody like rivers of stars and diamonds. His song entered into the hearts of men, and drew out the hidden music of their spirits in response; and they wept, and said, "Thou art mighty, O Spirit, that dwellest in the deep ocean of melody, and ridest on its gushing waves!" But the Spirit was sad, for she was not truly revealed; it was only a single beam of her loveliness glistening through her unraised veil, and, as yet, men knew her not.

Again she passed through the world on her yet unfulfilled errand, each print of her ruby foot marked with upspringing blossoms; her voice echoed in the carols of myriads of joyous birds, winged forest flowers. On she hastened, until the dingy walls of a busy city rose gloomily before her. Amid its turmoil dwelt one having little in common with the heaving pulses of its restless heart— one who loved and sought the mysterious Spirit of Beauty, and strove to enchain her ethereal essence with the glowing fetters which his skilful pencil forged. Already had he revealed, not the Spirit herself, but the dream of her image which had arisen in his soul. Others were satisfied, and deemed that he had found her; but there was a craving within him which spoke out loud and strong— "Onward! thou hast not found the reality of thine ideal!" And the Spirit of Beauty pitied him, and said, while she laid her rainbow hand upon him, "Through thy bright creations shall men behold and love me." And his beautiful imaginings became yet more beautiful; his canvas glowed with tints more fairy-like and tender; he rejoiced in the new powers with which he had been endowed, and adored the lovely children of his thought. ''Thou art revealed, O Spirit of Beauty!" was his triumphant cry. But the Spirit sighed, for she knew that it was not so. The shadow of Earth rested upon his work, dimming his brightest hues, beclouding his fairest forms, and men still gazed upon the un-lifted veil. Then came Night in her silent-wheeled and ebon chariot, tracking her starlit course. In her hand she bore slumberous poppy garlands to entwine many a brow where anxious thought had held tumultuous sway through the long weary daylight; and the Spirit of Beauty kissed her, till her countenance grew fair even in its swarthy gloom, and a coronet of stars shone forth among her raven tresses. Beneath them wandered alone, holding strange wild converse with himself, one who shunned men, and their hateful and hating ways. And the Spirit spoke—"To him, O Night, send not thy poppy wreath, till thy journey of blessing is wellnigh ended; let his be the last which thou shalt twine, for I would speak with him beneath the shadow of thy chariot." And she descended upon him on the wings of a soft moonbeam, and said, "Many have failed me, yet once more will I seek a revealer; to thee I come as worthy of the task." Then wonderful thoughts arose in giant beauty from the depths of his soul, and bright images flashed athwart the dark abysses of his spirit—his eye was lit by an inward flame, and his cheek flushed like the crimson cloud of sunset. And he knew that he ranked with the master-spirits of the world. From a lava fount of poetic fervour rose burning and sparkling thoughts, ever changing, ever new, blending in their ardent radiancy, till as a tide of lofty verse they burst from his unsealed lips. Fancy soared at his bidding throughout the realms of the Known, ever and anon with bolder flight invading the confines of the Unknown, returning laden with its wealth of beauty to lay at his feet. His words echoed among the nations; the world, his entranced auditory, stood still to listen and admire; the magic sway of his mighty genius universal submission recognised.

But alas ! a spring of earthly passion welled up in his heart, mingling with the fountain of thought which the Spirit of Beauty had created within him; the fire-glancing splendour of its leaping billows was darkened and sullied by its dusky flow; and even from its most shining waves her image faded in gloom, for they, too, were defiled.

Then the Spirit wept, and said, "I will return to the home where I dwelt ere the grim rule of Chaos passed away from Earth. In the eternal light of Heaven I may rest in unveiled loveliness, amid the holy and blessed ones who know and love me, as men, with all their forced ecstasies and fancied raptures, never may." And as she wept, her tears fell into the ocean depths, and became hidden yet shining pearls, while in a chariot of lightning she prepared to depart. But while her foot yet clung with lingering desire to the soil, she was stayed from her swift ascent. For One stood beside her whose presence chained her as with a, sovereign spell, and she bent and kissed the ground on which He trod. He knew what it was to wander through the world unknown, even as she had done; but He was not only unknown, but unloved, yea, more, despised and rejected. Sorrow had walked beside Him on His weary way, and grief had been His daily companion. To His own He came, and they received Him not, hiding their faces from Him, and deeming that He had no beauty that they should desire Him. Then the Spirit of Beauty gazed upon the grave yet winning majesty of His countenance, and said, "My wanderings shall cease, for Thou shalt reveal me! In Thee alone may the sons of men behold the perfect beauty for which they have groped in vain since: the hand of Adam wove the twilight veil which hides me from their sight." And while she gazed, behold, the veil was lifted, and she stood revealed in the fulness of her radiant loveliness.

With Him she went forth again through the dark wastes of Earth, shining in every glance of His eye, whispering in the music of His words; and men knew her and loved her, seen in the light of the altogether Lovely One. And though there were still many who saw her not, because they lifted not their eyes to gaze on Him who alone might manifest her, yet she forsook not their now brightened dwelling, waiting till amid the glories of a great and surely coming day, He, the only Revealer of Beauty, should be the desire of every eye and the joy of every heart. H.


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