« PreviousContinue »
consecrated the remainder of their days to religion. It was many years after this separation, that a letter of Abelard's to a friend, which contained the history of his misfortune, fell into the har Eloisa. This awakening all her tenderness, occasioned those celebrated letters (out of which the following is partly extracted) which give so lively a picture of the struggles of grace and nature, virtue and passion.
In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
What means this tumult in a vestal's veins ?
And Eloïsa yet must kiss the name.
Dear, fatal name! rest ever unreveal'd,
Her heart still dictates, and her hand obeys.
Relentless walls! whose darksome round contains Repentant sighs, and voluntary pains: Ye rugged rocks! which holy knees have worn; Ye grots and caverns shagg'd with horrid thorn! Shrines! where their vigils pale-ey'd virgins keep; And pitying saints, whose statues learn to weep! Though cold like you, unmov'd and silent grown, I have not yet forgot myself to stone.
All is not Heaven's while Abelard has part,
Soon as thy letters trembling I unclose,
Led through a sad variety of woe:
Now warm in love, now withering in my bloom,
There stern Religion quench'd th' unwilling flame, There dy'd the best of passions, love and fame.
Yet write, oh write me all, that I may join Griefs to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine. Nor foes nor Fortune take this power away; And is my Abelard less kind than they? Tears still are mine, and those I need not spare, Love but demands what else were shed in prayer; No happier task these faded eyes pursue; To read and weep is all they now can do.
Then share thy pain, allow that sad relief; Ah, more than share it, give me all thy grief. Heaven first taught letters for some wretch's aid, Some banish'd lover, or some captive maid; [spires, They live, they speak, they breathe what love inWarm from the soul, and faithful to its fires, The virgin's wish without her fears impart, Excuse the blush, and pour out all the heart,
Speed the soft intercourse from soul to soul,
Thou know'st how guiltless first I met thy flame,
How oft, when press'd to marriage, have I said, Curse on all laws but those which Love has made! Love, free as air, at sight of human ties Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies. Let wealth, let honour, wait the wedded dame, August her deed, and sacred be her fame; Before true passion all those views remove; Fame, wealth, and honour! what are you to love? The jealous god, when we prophane his fires, Those restless passions in revenge inspires, And bids them make mistaken mortals groan, Who seek in love for aught but love alone. Should at my feet the world's great master fall, Himself, his throne, his world, I'd scorn them all: Not Cæsar's empress would I deign to prove ; No, make me mistress to the man I love.
If there be yet another name more free, More fond than mistress, make me that to thee! Oh, happy state! when souls each other draw, When love is liberty, and Nature law : All then is full, possessing and possess'd, No craving void left aching in the breast: [part, Ev'n thought meets thought, ere from the lips it And each warm wish springs mutual from the heart. This sure is bliss (if bliss on Earth there be} And once the lot of Abelard and me.
Alas, how chang'd! what sudden horrours rise! A naked lover bound and bleeding lies! Where, where was Eloïsa? her voice, her hand, Her poniard had oppos'd the dire command. Barbarian, stay! that bloody stroke restrain; The crime was common, common be the pain. I can no more; by shame, by rage suppress'd, Let tears and burning blushes speak the rest.
Canst thou forget that sad, that solemn day, When victims at yon altar's foot we lay? Canst thou forget what tears that moment fell, When, warm in youth, I bade the world farewell? As with cold lips I kiss'd the sacred veil, The shrines all trembled and the lamps grew pale: Heaven scarce believ'd the conquest it survey'd, And saints with wonder heard the vows I made. Yet then, to those dread altars as I drew, Not on the cross my eyes were fix'd, but you: Not grace, or zeal, love only was my call;
And if I lose thy love, I lose my all.
Come! with thy looks, thy words, relieve my woe; Those still at least are left thee to bestow.
Still on that breast enamour'd let me lie,
Ah! think at least thy flock deserves thy care,