till listening to the wind that echoed within the hollow edifice, and to the rain without,

Which stole on his thoughts with its twofold sound, The clash hard by and the murmur all round,

he gradually sank away, alike from me and from his own purpose, and amid the gloom of the storm and in the duskiness of that place, he sate like an emblem on a rich man's sepulchre, or like a mourner on the sodded grave of an only one—an aged mourner, who is watching the waned moon and sorroweth not. Starting at length from his brief trance of abstraction, with courtesy and an atoning smile he renewed his discourse, and commenced his parable.

During one of those short furloughs from the service of the body, which the soul may sometimes obtain even in this its militant state, I found myself in a vast plain, which I immediately knew to be the Valley of Life. It possessed an astonishing diversity of soils : here was a sunny spot, and there a dark one, forining just such a mixture of sunshine and shade, as we may have observed on the mountains' side in an April day, when the thin broken clouds are scattered over heaven. Almost in the very entrance of the valley stood a large and gloomy pile, into which I seemed constrained to enter. Every part of the building was crowded with tawdry ornaments and fantastic deformity. · On every window was portrayed, in glaring and inelegant colors, some horrible tale, or preternatural incident, so that not a ray


of light could enter, untinged by the medium through which it passed. The body of the building was full of people, some of them dancing, in and out, in unintelligible figures, with strange ceremonies and antic merriment, while others seemed convulsed with horror, or pining in mad melancholy. Intermingled with these, I observed a number of men, clothed in ceremonial robes, who appeared now to marshal the various groups, and to direct their movements; and pow with menacing countenances, to drag some reluctant victim to a vast idol, framed of iron bars intercrossed, which formed at the same time an immense cage, and the shape of a human Colossus.

I stood for a while lost in wonder what these things might mean ; when lo! one of the directors came up to me, and with a stern and reproachful look bade me uncover my head, for that the place into which I had entered was the temple of the only true Religion, in the holier recesses of which the great goddess personally resided. Himself too he bade me reverence, as the consecrated minister of her rites. Awe. struck by the name of Religion, I bowed before the priest, and humbly and earnestly intreated him to conduct me iuto ber presence. He assented. Offerings he took from me, with mystic sprinklings of water and with salt he purified, and with strange sufflations he exorcised me ; and then led me through many a dark and winding alley, the dew. damps of which chilled my flesh, and the hollow echoes under my feet, mingled, methought, with

[ocr errors][ocr errors]


moanings, affrighted me. At length we entered a large hall, without window, or spiracle, or lamp. The asylum and dormitory it seemed of perennial night-only that the walls were brought to the eye by a number of self-luminous inscriptions in letters of a pale sepulchral light, which held strange neutrality with the darkness, on the verge of which it kept its rayless vigil. I could read them, methought; but though each of the words taken separately I seemed to understand, yet when I took them in sentences, they were riddles and incomprehensible. As I stood meditating on these hard sayings, my guide thus addressed me—“ Read and believe: these are mysteries!”- At the extremity of the vast hall the goddess was placed. Her features, blended with darkness, rose out to my view, terrible, yet vacant. 1 prostrated myself before her, and then retired with my guide, soul-withered, and wondering, and dissatisfied.

As I re-entered the body of the temple, I heard a deep buzz as of discontent. A few whose eyes were bright, and either piercing or steady, and whose ample foreheads, with the weighty bar, ridge-like, above the eyebrows, bespoke observation followed by meditative thought; and a much larger number, who were euraged by the severity and insolence of the priests in exacting their offerings, had collected in one tumultuous group, and with a confused outcry of “ This is the Temple of Superstition ! ” after much contumely, and turmoil, and cruel mal-treat




ment on all sides, rushed out of the pile : and I, methought, joined them.

We speeded from the temple with hasty steps, and had now nearly gone round half the valley, when we were addressed by a woman, tall beyond the stature of mortals, and with a something more than human in her countenance and mien, which yet could by mortals be only felt, not conveyed by words or intelligibly distinguished. Deep reflection, aniinated by ardent feelings, was displayed in them; and hope without its uncertainty, and a something more than all these, which I understood not, but which yet seemed to blend all these into a divine unity of expression. Her garinents were wbite and matronly, and of the simplest texture. We inquired her name. “My name," she replied, “is Religion."

The more numerous part of our company, affrighted by the very sound, and sore from recent impostures or sorceries, hurried onwards and examined no farther. A few of us, struck by the manifest opposition of her form and manners to those of the living Idol, whom we had so recently abjured, agreed to follow her, though with cautious circumspection. She led us to an eminence in the midst of the valley, from the top of which we could command the whole plain, and observe the relation of the different parts to each other, and of each to the whole, and of all to each. She then gave us an optic glass which assisted without contradictivg our natural vision, and enabled us to see far beyond the

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

limits of the Valley of Life ; though our eye even thus assisted permitted us only to behold a light and a glory, but what we could not descry, save only that it was, and that it was most glorious.

And now with the rapid transition of a dream, I had overtaken and rejoined the more party, who had abruptly left us, indignant at the very name of religion. They journeyed on, goading each other with remembrances of past oppressions, and never looking back, till in the eagerness to recede from the temple of Superstition they had rounded the whole circle of the valley. And lo! there faced us the mouth of a vast cavern, at the base of a lofty and almost perpendicular rock, the interior side of which, unknown to them, and unsuspected, formed the extreme and backward wall of the temple. An impatient crowd, we entered the vast and dusky cave, which was the only perforation of the precipice. At the mouth of the cave sate two figures; the first, by her dress and gestures, I knew to be Sensuality ; the second form, from the fierceness of his demeanour, and the brutal scornfulness of his looks, declared himself to be the monster Blasphemy. He uttered big words, and yet ever and anon I observed that he turned pale at his own courage. We entered. Some remained in the opening of the cave, with the one or the other of its guardians. The rest, and I among them, pressed on, till we reached an ample chamber, that seemed the centre of the rock. The climate of the place was unnaturally cold.

« 前へ次へ »