"Alexander. 'When will you finish Campaspe?'
Apelles. 'Never finish: for always in absolute
beauty there is somewhat above art.'"
And now, what song should I sing to unveil my Isis, if indeed she
was present unseen? I hurried away to the white hall of
Phantasy, heedless of the innumerable forms of beauty that
crowded my way: these might cross my eyes, but the unseen filled
my brain. I wandered long, up and down the silent space: no
songs came. My soul was not still enough for songs. Only in the
silence and darkness of the soul's night, do those stars of the
inward firmament sink to its lower surface from the singing
realms beyond, and shine upon the conscious spirit. Here all
effort was unavailing. If they came not, they could not be
Next night, it was just the same. I walked through the red
glimmer of the silent hall; but lonely as there I walked, as
lonely trod my soul up and down the halls of the brain. At last
I entered one of the statue-halls. The dance had just commenced,
and I was delighted to find that I was free of their assembly. I
walked on till I came to the sacred corner. There I found the
pedestal just as I had left it, with the faint glimmer as of
white feet still resting on the dead black. As soon as I saw it,
I seemed to feel a presence which longed to become visible; and,
as it were, called to me to gift it with self- manifestation,
that it might shine on me. The power of song came to me. But
the moment my voice, though I sang low and soft, stirred the air
of the hall, the dancers started; the quick interweaving crowd
shook, lost its form, divided; each figure sprang to its
pedestal, and stood, a self-evolving life no more, but a rigid,
life-like, marble shape, with the whole form composed into the
expression of a single state or act. Silence rolled like a
spiritual thunder through the grand space. My song had ceased,
scared at its own influences. But I saw in the hand of one of
the statues close by me, a harp whose chords yet quivered. I
remembered that as she bounded past me, her harp had brushed
against my arm; so the spell of the marble had not infolded it.
I sprang to her, and with a gesture of entreaty, laid my hand on
the harp. The marble hand, probably from its contact with the
uncharmed harp, had strength enough to relax its hold, and yield
the harp to me. No other motion indicated life. Instinctively I
struck the chords and sang. And not to break upon the record of
my song, I mention here, that as I sang the first four lines, the
loveliest feet became clear upon the black pedestal; and ever as
I sang, it was as if a veil were being lifted up from before the
form, but an invisible veil, so that the statue appeared to grow
before me, not so much by evolution, as by infinitesimal degrees
of added height. And, while I sang, I did not feel that I stood
by a statue, as indeed it appeared to be, but that a real
woman-soul was revealing itself by successive stages of
imbodiment, and consequent manifestatlon and expression.
- of beauty, firmly planting
Arches white on rosy heel!
Whence the life-spring, throbbing, panting,
Pulses upward to reveal!
Fairest things know least despising;
Foot and earth meet tenderly:
'Tis the woman, resting, rising
Upward to sublimity,
Rise the limbs, sedately sloping,
Strong and gentle, full and free;
Soft and slow, like certain hoping,
Drawing nigh the broad firm knee.
Up to speech! As up to roses
Pants the life from leaf to flower,
So each blending change discloses,
Nearer still, expression's power.
- fair sweeps, white surges, twining
Up and outward fearlessly!
Temple columns, close combining,
Lift a holy mystery.
Heart of mine! what strange surprises
Mount aloft on such a stair!
Some great vision upward rises,
Curving, bending, floating fair.
Bands and sweeps, and hill and hollow
Lead my fascinated eye;
Some apocalypse will follow,
Some new world of deity.
Zoned unseen, and outward swelling,
With new thoughts and wonders rife,
Queenly majesty foretelling,
See the expanding house of life!
Sudden heaving, unforbidden
Sighs eternal, still the same--
Mounts of snow have summits hidden
In the mists of uttered flame.
- the spirit, dawning nearly
Finds no speech for earnest pain;
Finds a soundless sighing merely--
Builds its stairs, and mounts again.
Heart, the queen, with secret hoping,
Sendeth out her waiting pair;
Hands, blind hands, half blindly groping,
Half inclasping visions rare;
- the great arms, heartways bending;
Might of Beauty, drawing home
There returning, and re-blending,
Where from roots of love they roam.
Build thy slopes of radiance beamy
Spirit, fair with womanhood!
Tower thy precipice, white-gleamy,
Climb unto the hour of good.
Dumb space will be rent asunder,
Now the shining column stands
Ready to be crowned with wonder
By the builder's joyous hands.
- the lines abroad are spreading,
Like a fountain's falling race.
- the chin, first feature, treading,
Airy foot to rest the face!
Speech is nigh; oh, see the blushing,
Sweet approach of lip and breath!
Round the mouth dim silence, hushing,
Waits to die ecstatic death.
Span across in treble curving,
Bow of promise, upper lip!
- them free, with gracious swerving;
Let the wing-words float and dip.