Obrazy na stronie

operation. His rope, which was more than twice as long as the distance of the descent, was passed round the smooth trunk of a firm tree on the apex of the rock, to one end of which was attached the basket, while the other end was held firmly in his hands. Placing himself in the basket which he had brought to the verge of the rock, he let himself down with great care till the mouth of the cavern was open full before him. Fortunately for his hazardous undertaking, he was able to step from his basket to the floor of the cavern, having cautiously secured the rope in order to retain within his control the means of a safe return. With his gun in one hand, and a small basket of provisions in the other, he began to explore this new province of his new empire. The entrance to the grotto was twenty feet in breadth, and ten in height, with a level floor of rock carpeted with velvet moss, as fresh and as beautiful as the fairest fields of the Emerald Isle. But his feet were scarcely planted on the verdant carpet, when he discovered that he was in danger of being precipitated into the sea by the huge birds in countless numbers rushing from their ancient dwelling-place, and screaming in evident discontent at the presumption of the bold intruder. He threw himself instantly upon the bed of moss, and discharged his fowling-piece into the depths of the cavern. Echo responded to the sound in loud and distant reverberations. After a few moments silence was restored, and with it its companion solitude, for every sea-mew and wild water-fowl had fied and left the hermit to his desolate dominion. He rose and re-loaded his gun, kindled a little match formed of the balsam of the fir-tree which he had provided for the occasion, and commenced a survey of those charming regions in which he was destined to find a solace for the sorrows and inquietudes of mortal life. Happy man! fortunate indeed is he who, guided by the lamp of truth, commences in earnest his search for those substantial and enduring joys that can be found only in the habitations of the immortals !

The cavern, which was at first large, became, at some hundreds of yards from the entrance, contracted to a small orifice, through which the hermit was compelled to pass on his hands and knees. But he had been frequently told in his childhood that they who never humbled themselves, deserved not to be exalted. When he had emerged from this narrow passage, which was long and tedious, but rendered supportable by the encouragements of hope, he found himself in a vast circular dome, the vault of which seemed at first almost as high above his head as the arch of the heavens, and its walls of solid gra

nite enclosed an area of many acres. His little taper became useless in this new chamber of his palace, for the whole dome was lighted from above in a manner well calculated to excite the astonishment of mortals. After accustoming his eyes to the magnitude of this vaulted hall, he perceived that the light was admitted through the centre of the dome above, by means of a translucent lake of the purest waters resting on a bed of solid crystal, through which thousands of fishes of golden splendour and silver radiance were seen in beautiful relief, as if sporting in the azure of the sky above them.

The hermit gazed upward with mute incredibility. He conceived it to be but a dream, and in order to convince his scepticism or remove the illusion from his senses, he resolved to discharge his musket. How greatly was he surprised to find himself awake and in such a place! The weight of his emotions was too much for human strength, and he sunk exhausted beneath them. Sleep had not fully refreshed his spirits until day had departed from the world above him, and left his subterraneous amphitheatre to the gloom of night. Nor even then did he awake till the sound of approaching music stole sweetly upon his ear, like the whisperings of celestial hope upon the broken heart. He sprang upon his feet. A lovely female was modestly ap'proaching him in a robe of snowy whiteness, bound with a golden girdle, bearing a faint taper in her left hand, and chanting one of those sacred hymns which the ancient bards, in moments of inspiration, had composed in honour of the Scandinavian deities. A glow of virgin loveliness played over her features like the gentle undulations of the noonday sunbeams on a summer sea. She seemed one of those angel natures that are composed of light and motion, and love and beauty. Having completed her hymn of praise, the last notes of which lingered in the high vault, as if anxious to kiss once more the lips that uttered them, she thus addressed the delighted stranger :

“Happy !-thrice happy man! It is now more than seventeen centuries since a solitary mortal has visited this spacious vestibule of the palace of Odin. Whatever form of earthly misfortune may have urged you to the noble enterprize of forsaking awhile the regions of the upper air for the purpose of contemplating beauty in her perfection, and imbibing wisdom at its

source, certain it is, that if you are wise enough to improve your present opportunities, you may gain instruction that shall render you a messenger of mercy to the degraded race from which you sprang. With your permission I have come

to conduct you into a spacious apartment of the immense palace, of which this is only the outer court. It would require many years to examine and understand all the mysteries of this hallowed abode; but for the present I shall show you the hall of beauty, inhabited by sixty thousand of the most beautiful maids of the human race, collected from every age and country before the era of the Roman Cæsar, and known on earth as the VIRGINS OF THE VALHALLAH.

The hermit bowed in silent acquiescence with the generous proposal of his celestial visiter, when the beautiful spirit replied as follows :-"I do not wonder that surprise should have sealed your lips, and that astonishment should have disconcerted your fortitude. The solitude of this spacious hall, deserted as it has been for so many ages, is sufficient of itself to awake the apprehensions of the stoutest heart; but I know thy frailty, mortal as thou art, and come to offer thee my protection, and to conduct thee safely through the numerous apartments of the palace of Odin. But, as thou art yet a mortal, bearing about thee that gross covering of flesh which belongs only to the earth, I must solicit thy consent to divest thee for a time of those corruptible habiliments that serve only as a temporary garb for the immaterial spirit, in order that all thy senses may be fully awake to the exquisite delights of these celestial abodes."

She paused for an instant, and the trembling hermit, still speechless with astonishment, bowed his unreserved assent. But the deep and powerful agitation of his mind was too much for his frame, and he sunk unconscious at the feet of the shining spirit. Happy man! that art destined to fall asleep to the scenes of mortality, only to awake with invigorated senses to the joys of immortal existence !

The first returning consciousness of the fortunate mortal, who was thus submissively resigning himself to his celestial metamorphosis, disclosed to his awakening vision, now unrobed of its film of earth, the lovely apparition of three female forms arrayed in garments of ethereal blue, ornamented with spangles of gold, as if they had robed themselves in the autumnal sky glittering with a thousand stars. They were kneeling around him in anxious sulicitude for his happy resurrection. One of them supported his head upon her fragrant bosom, while she bathed his temples with the juices of the flowers that bloom in the gardens of paradise. Another held his right hand in both her own, pressing it to her lips, and gazing upon his features as the smile of renewed existence came sporting around them.


The third had folded his left hand to her heart, as if to impart to the resuscitating stranger the life and the vigour of its warm pulsation. He made an effort to speak in the overwhelming joyousness of his spirit, but utterance failed him, for he was not wholly divested of the clogging incumbrances of terrestrial clay, nor had he fully arisen to the perfect liberty of disembodied spirits. While his sight was thus gradually opening to his new condition, other beautiful angelic natures became successively visible around him, and his auditory organs began to perceive the strains of distant music. The voices of those around him assumed, by degrees, a distinctness of articulation that rendered them intelligible, and a tenderness of tone that filled him with ineffable delights; but language was still denied him to give utterance to any of his emotions. The gentle breathings of an atmosphere of bland and soothing fragrance began to fan his blood, while returning respiration brought to bis heaving lungs the breath of paradise. He began to move. Joy glowed in the countenances of those around him. His lips parted as if to speak, but his first faltering accent in the lan. guage of the immortals was hushed in their anthem of joy :

Come from earth, our brother ! eome !
Joyful to the spirits' home ;
Tears and sighs were there thy lot,
Here are tears and sighs forgot;
There the heart was wrung with grief,
Here awaits thee full relief;
Lingering spirit! haste away,
Haste to everlasting day !
Once did sorrow's billow roll
Fearful o'er thy trembling soul,
Now shall smilthg joy impart
Transport to thy bounding heart? -
Come to love's unfading flowers,
Clustering round immortal bowers-
Lingering spirit! haste away,

Haste to everlasting day! When the last strain of the exulting choirs of paradise fell enchantingly upon his ear, he found himself standing on his feet, and for a moment was unable to believe that he had really emerged from the chrysalis of his insect'existence on the earth. He surveyed himself from head to foot in a magnificent mirror that was placed before him, by two of the attending spirits. Strange and charming transformation! He found himself restored to all the youthfulness and symmetry of his early manhood, with a beauty of countenance that utterly surpassed the comeliness of mortals, and arrayed in a flowing vesture that

exhibited, in its undulating folds, the beautifully refracted colourings of the opal. But sublunary pride and terrestrial vanity found no place in his bosom, and he admired only the superhuman skill by which he had been thus suddenly metamorphosed from the persecuted exile of the Baikal to a happy inhabitant of the regions of the blest.

In a moment, as if impelled by a common soul, the radiant beings that surrounded him withdrew from the outer court to the interior apartments of the palace, and left him alone with the gentle creature who had the burning taper, and remained as his protector.

“ Thou art now ready,” said she, “ to be conducted to the hall of beauty, inhabited by the virgins of the Valhallah. The lovely forms which so lately surrounded thee are from another chamber of Odin's mighty palace, whose duty it is to receive and welcome the wandering children of the human race, as they return to the house of their father. Follow my steps, and I will be thy conductor."

The young spirit obeyed, in a gait as graceful and as light as that of the virgin Aurora, when she comes from her chambers in the east, over the blushing hill-tops, bathing her golden sandals in the dew-drops of the morning.

"Let me inform thee,” continued the spirit-guide, as they advanced joyfully towards the gateway of the hall of beauty, “ that the sixty thousand maids to whose smiles I shall soon commend thee, are such as died on earth of a broken heart at being compelled by the cruelty of their parents to renounce the object of their love. They were those gentle beings who deny themselves every personal enjoyment on earth, and pine in in. extinguishable grief rather than seem for a moment to violate the laws of filial piety.

“ Indeed!” replied the stranger-spirit," and has the cruelty of Odin been superadded to that of their earthly murderers, by detaining them for two thousand years and more from the objects of their conjugal affection for you have already assured me that the sixty-thousand virgings of whom you speak were inhabitants of earth before the era of the Cæsars.''

“I perceive,” said his conductress, “that thou art not yet fully divested of the gross and corporeal ideas that compose the philosophy of mortals. Time and space are everything on earth, but they are nothing in these abodes of true wisdom and genuine enjoyment. The happy beings whom we shall soon visit, are now fully 'prepared, by their discipline in the hall of

« PoprzedniaDalej »