« AnteriorContinuar »
And still she sat, and still she sang her solemn song; and still we helpless swimmers beat the boiling billows, and still the drowning men strove fiercely till they sunk.
At last I, too, felt myself suddenly touched by an icy ray from the eye of the Loreley.
Then toward her I stretched forth my arms, and cried,
"Oh Loreley! dear Loreley! and I, too, suffer. But I believe in thee, dear Loreley. I do not think that thou desirest my destruction, though in thee I feel my fate. Speak to me, speak to me, oh fair and far away, and tell me, tell me, that thou art she whom I have ever loved and must love evermore! Hear me, dear Loreley! speak to me, Loreley! say to me, say to me, 'Yes, I am she-I am Song; for I am the voice of
But out of
your hearts, ye forlorn ones. I am fled-long since, far away, and forever; for in them I could not abide. Forever, forever I have left ye, and ye seek me-forever, forever. And empty ye wander, and tuneless. Weary ye stray in the desert, and sad with your orphaned souls. And ever the poor soul is wringing her hands, and in vain. And ever she yearns, and ever she calls Come back! Come back! to the voice she remembers, and pines for, and mourns the voice of your hearts that is fled. And ever without rest ye are urged to recapture that winged voice which from far, far off, makes moan.
"But never that voice shall return to you; never, never shall you hear it save in the accents of an eternal longing eternally unfulfilled. Never shall the querulous chord that vibrates to the music of that voice find resolution; never shall the panging of
your spirits be at rest. But in your pride ye perish. For never patient of the impossible, ever ye strive, and ever strive in vain, to overpass the bound that separates from your desire at its height, the height of a satisfaction which you contemplate in pain. And in the supreme moment of your desperate endeavor, when with wild hands and clamorous hearts you clamber at the summit, then with broken limbs you are hurled backward, and subside into the abyss.'
Tell me this, dear Loreley. thou who dost destroy us.
Tell me that it is not And if I must never at
tain to thee, ever at least let me love thee, oh thou fair and far away!"
I cried I know not what, but words like these of passionate appeal. And tears, hot tears, were falling fast from those deep eyes, no longer cold or callous, of the Loreley.
They fell like soothing dews into the boiling, vaporous surge, and made sweet stillness on the violent waves. Then in that stillness, tenderest sounds of unimagined sweetness sunk softly down, and bathed with blissful music all my throbbing brow.
"Yes," the sweet sounds answered, "it is I. Thou hast known me. Thou hast divined my song. And the heavy curse which banished me, and bound me to the barren rock, is fallen away, and I come to thee, poor soul! I come."
Lower, lower from her lonely place, and nearer, nearer to me leaned the Loreley. Her white hand. hovered over me in the hollow dark.
My own right hand in ecstasy I stretched, and seized
AND WHAT THEY LEAVE BEHIND THEM.
THIS was all I could recollect when, many days afterward, I began slowly to recover from the effects of the violent shock I had received in falling from my horse.
A fiacre, returning empty from Auteuil to Paris on the evening referred to in the previous chapter, had found me lying senseless on the road. I must have fallen with violence against the trunk of a tree, for I had a severe contused wound on the forehead. And I suppose, from the torn state of my clothes, that in falling I may have caught my foot in the stirrup, and been dragged by my horse some yards along the road; for my hands were badly cut, and my coat completely in tatters. My visiting-cards, and the address on one or two letters which he found in my pocketbook, had enabled the cabman who picked me up to bring me to my own house, where I remained insensible for many days.
The fantastic details, therefore, which, by an effort of memory, I have carefully put together in the preceding chapter, must have been only the images rapidly painted on the receding skirt of a dream (the hallucination of a giddy brain in a moment of delirium) by a consciousness already confused between fact and fancy. And the whole of my imaginary adventure
with the Loreley, on which memory, in the mind's waking state, had impressed those proportions which are inherent to the habitual sense of time and space, must in reality have occupied only a few seconds.
I was convinced of this by a fact which enabled me to recall, with an accuracy that would otherwise, perhaps, have been impossible, the circumstances which preceded and those which accompanied my fall, and which proved that up to the moment when I first saw the apparition of the Loreley I was in full possession of my senses.
On the evening when I was brought home senseless by the driver of the fiacre, my valet, in trying to get my clothes off me, found my right hand so firmly clenched together that he had to force open the fingers. He then perceived that the hand was closed upon what it had doubtless been grasping when it was stiffened by the sort of tetanus produced by the violence of my fall-a piece of crumpled paper. As this paper was covered with writing which he could not understand, the valet surmised that it might possibly be of some importance, and, instead of destroying it, he put it aside, and placed it in my hands when I was sufficiently reccovered, with the explanation here giv
I unfolded the paper carelessly enough, and glanced at it with indifference, convinced that it could contain nothing of the least interest; probably a prescription, or some old medical memoranda of no use to any body; and I was just about to toss it aside with a sick man's usual impatience, when my eye was caught, and my interest instantly aroused, by these words written
in German: "Fatal Hand, forbear! forbear! Why so heavily bruise a heart already broken?"
"This," I exclaimed," can be no mere chance;" and with an ardor as great as my previous indifference, I began to read the manuscript. The characters were pale, and in many places quite effaced. The paper itself was so torn that the fragment was often quite unintelligible. I pieced the writing out, and put it together with extreme difficulty. So far as I could succeed in making any thing out of it, it ran thus:
* [ch?]ase me, with never any rest, from land to land? Fatal Hand, forbear! forbear! Why so heavily bruise a heart already broken? Finish thy hateful work. I offer thee my throat. Throttle me, once for all, with those stiff fingers. lay bare to thee my breast. Crush it! crush it in thy giant grasp! Stifle here for evermore the painful breath of life; in its own cradle let it find its grave. And thou! thou whom
more than a brother! Why must it needs have been
thou, thou of all others who
* into thy hand? Had I not staked on it all my heart's felicity? all my soul's salvation? Did I not see in that moment the ame