KNOWEST thou that old queen of the world who is on the march always and wearies never? Every uncurbed passion, every selfish pleasure, every licentious energy of humanity, and all its tyrannous weakness, go before the sordid mistress of our tearful valley, and, scythe in hand, these indefatigable labourers reap their eternal harvest. That queen is old as time, but her skeleton is concealed in the wreckage of women's beauty, which she abstracts from their youth and love. Her skull is adorned with lifeless tresses that are not her own. Spoliator of crowned heads, she is embellished with the plunder of queens, from the star-begemmed hair of Berenice to that-white, but not with age-which the executioner sheared from the brow of Marie Antoinette. Her livid and frozen body is clothed in faded garments and tattered winding-sheets. Her bony hands, covered with rings, hold diadems and chains, scepters and crossbones, jewels and ashes. When she goes by, doors open of themselves; she passes through walls; she penetrates to the cabinets of kings; she surprises the extortioners of the poor in their most secret orgies; she sits down at their board, pours out their wine, grins at their songs with her gumless teeth, takes the place of the lecherous courtesan hidden behind their curtains.
KNOWEST thou that old queen of the world who is on the march always and wearies never? Every uncurbed passion, every selfish pleasure, every licentious energy of humanity, and all its tyrannous weakness, go before the sordid mistress of our tearful valley, and, scythe in hand, these indefatigable labourers reap their eternal harvest. That queen is old as time, but her skeleton is concealed in the wreckage of women's beauty, which she abstracts from their youth and love. Her skull is adorned with lifeless tresses that are not her own. Spoliator of crowned heads, she is embellished with the plunder of queens, from the star-begemmed hair of Berenice to that-white, but not with age-which the executioner sheared from the brow of Marie Antoinette. Her livid and frozen body is clothed in faded garments and tattered winding-sheets. Her bony hands, covered with rings, hold diadems and chains, scepters and crossbones, jewels and ashes. When she goes by, doors open of themselves; she passes through walls; she penetrates to the cabinets of kings; she surprises the extortioners of the poor in their most secret orgies; she sits down at their board, pours out their wine, grins at their songs with her gumless teeth, takes the place of the lecherous courtesan hidden behind their curtains. She delights to hover about sleeping voluptuaries; she seeks their caresses, as if she hoped to grow warm in their embrace; but she freezes all those whom she touches and herself never kindles. At times, notwithstanding, one would think her seized with frenzy; she stalks slowly no longer; she runs; if her feet are too slow, she spurs a pale horse and charges all breathless through multitudes. Murder rides with her on a russet charger; shaking his mane of smoke, fire flies before her with wings of scarlet and black; famine and plague follow on diseased and emaciated steeds, gleaning the few sheaves which remain to complete her harvest.
After this funereal procession come two little children, radiating with smiles and life, the intelligence and love of the coming century, the dual genius of a newborn humanity. The shadows of death fold up before them, as does night before the morning star; with nimble feet they skim the earth and sow with full hands the hope of another year. But death will come no more, impiteous and terrible, to mow like dry grass the ripe blades of the new age; it will give place to the angel of progress, who will gently liberate souls from mortal chains, so that they may ascend to God. When men know how to live they will die no longer; they will transform like the chrysalis, which becomes a splendid butterfly. The terrors of death are daughters of ignorance, and death herself is only hideous by reason of the rubbish which covers her, and the sombre hues with which her images are surrounded. Death, truly, is the birth-pang of life. There is a force in Nature which dieth not, and this force perpetually transforms beings to preserve them. It is the reason or word of Nature. In man also there is a force analogous to that of Nature, and it is the reason or word of man. The word of man is the expression of his will directed by reason, and it is omnipotent under this leading, for it is analogous to the word of God Himself. By the word of his reason man becomes conqueror of life, and can tri um ph over death. The entire life of man is either the parturition or miscarriage of his word. Human beings who die without having understood or formulated the word of reason, die devoid of eternal hope. To withstand successfully the phantom of death, we must be identified with the realities of life. Does it signify to God if an abortion wither, seeing that life is eternal? Does it signify to Nature if unreason perish, since reason which never perishes still holds the keys of life? The just and terrible force which destroys abortions eternally was called by the Hebrews Samael; by other easterns, Satan; and by the Latins, Lucifer. The Lucifer of the Kabalah is not an accursed and ruined angel; he is the angel who enlightens, who regenerates by fire; he is to the angels of peace what the comet is to the mild stars of the spring-time constellations. The fixed star is beautiful, radiant and calm; she dr inks the celestial perf um es and gazes with love upon her sisters; clothed in her glittering robe, her forehead crowned with diamonds, she smiles as she chants her morning and evening canticle; she enjoys an eternal repose which nothing can disturb, and moves solemnly forward without departing from the rank assigned her among the sentinels of light. But the wandering comet, dishevelled and of sanguinary aspect, plunges hurriedly from the depths of heaven and flings herself athwart the peaceful spheres, like a chariot of war between the ranks of a procession of vestals; she dares to face the burning spears of the solar guardians, and, like a bereft spouse who seeks the husband of her dreams during widowed nights, she penetrates even unto the inmost sanctuary of the god of day; again she escapes, exhaling the fires which consume her and trailing a long conflagration behind; the stars pale at her approach; constellate flocks, pasturing on flowers of light in the vast meadows of the sky, seem to flee before her terrible breath. The grand council of spheres assembles, and there is universal consternation; at length the loveliest of the fixed stars is commissioned to speak in the name of all the firmament and offer peace to the headlong vagabond.
" My sister," she thus co mm ences, "why dost thou disturb the harmony of the spheres? What evil have we wrought thee? And why, instead of wandering wildly, dost thou not fix thy place like us in the court of the sun? Why dost thou not chant with us the evening hymn, clothed like ourselves in a white garment, fastened at the breast with a diamond clasp? Why float thy tresses, adrip with fiery sweat, through the mists of the night? Ah, wouldst thou but take thy place among the daughters of heaven, how much more beautiful wouldst thou be! Thy face would burn no longer with the toil of thine incredible flights; thine eyes would be clear, thy smiling countenance white and red like that of thy happy sisters; all the stars would know thee, and, far from fearing thy flight, would rejoice at thine approach; for then thou wouldst be made one with us by the indestructible bonds of universal harmony, and thy peaceful existence would be one voice more in the canticle of inf ini te love."
And the comet replies to the fixed star: "Believe not, O my sister, that I am permitted to wander at will and vex the harmony of the spheres! God hath appointed my path, even as thine, and if it appear to thee uncertain and vagrant, it is because thy beams cannot penetrate far enough to take in the circumference of the ellipse which has been allotted for my course. My fiery hair is God's beacon; I am the messenger of the suns, and I renew my strength continually in their burning heat, that I may dispense it on my journey to young worlds which have as yet insufficient warmth, and to ancient stars which have grown cold in their solitude. If I weary in my long travellings, if my beauty be less mild than thine own, and if my garments are not unspotted, yet am I a noble daughter of heaven, even as thou art. Leave me the secret of my terrible destiny, leave me the dread which surrounds me, curse me even if thou canst not comprehend; I shall none the less accomplish my work, and continue my career under the impulse of the breath of God! Happy are the stars which rest, which shine like youthful queens in the peaceful society of the universe! I am the proscribed, the eternal wanderer, who has infinity for domain. They accuse me of setting fire to the planets, the heat of which I renew; they accuse me of terrifying the stars which I enlighten; they chide me with breaking in upon universal harmony, because I do not revolve about their particular centres, though I join them one with another, directing my gaze towards the sole centre of all the suns. Be reassured, therefore, O beauteous fixed star! I shall not impoverish thy peaceful light; rather I shall expend in thy service my own life and heat. I shall disappear from heaven when I shall have consumed myself, and my doom will have been glorious enough! Know that various fires burn in the temple of God, and do all give Him glory: ye are the light of golden candelabra; I am the flame of sacrifice. Let us each fulfil our destinies."
Having uttered these words, the comet tosses back her burning hair, uplifts her fiery shield and plunges into infinite space, seeming to be lost for ever.
Thus Satan appeared and disappeared in the allegorical narratives of the Bible. "Now there was a day," says the book of Job, "when the sons of God came to present them selves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan: 'Whence comest thou?' Then Satan answered the Lord, and said: 'From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.'" A Gnostic gospel, discovered in the East by a learned traveller of our acquaintance, explains the genesis of light to the profit of Lucifer, as follows:
" Self-conscious truth is living thought. Truth is thought as it is in itself, and formulated thought is speech. When Eternal Thought desired a form, it said: 'Let there be light.' Now, this Thought which speaks is the Word, and the Word said: 'Let there be light,' because the Word itself is the light of minds. The untreated light, which is the Divine Word, shines because it desires to be seen. When it says: 'Let there be light!' it ordains that eyes shall open; it...
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