From: William Godwin (1784). Imogen: A Pastorial Romance
From the Ancient British.
BOOK THE SECOND
THUNDER STORM.--THE RAPE OF IMOGEN.--EDWIN ARRIVES AT THE GROTTO OF ELWY.--CHARACTER OF THE MAGICIAN.--THE END OF THE FIRST DAY.
THE song of Llewelyn was heard by the shepherds with reverence and mute attention. Their blameless hearts were lifted to the skies with the sentiment of gratitude; their honest bosoms overflowed with the fervour of devotion. They proved their sympathy with the feelings of the bard, not by licentious shouts and wild huzzas, but by the composure of their spirits, the serenity of their countenances' and the deep and unutterable silence which universally prevailed. And now the hoary minstrel rose from the little eminence, beneath the aged oak, from whose branches depended the ivy and the honeysuckle, on which the veneration of the multitude had placed him. He came into the midst of the plain, and the sons and the daughters of the fertile Clwyd pressed around him. Fervently they kissed the hem of his garment; eagerly with their eyes they sought to encounter the benign rays of his countenance. With the dignity of a magistrate, and the tenderness of a father, he lifted his aged arms, and poured upon them his mild benediction. "Children, I have met your fathers, and your fathers fathers, beneath the hills of Ruthyn. Such as they were, such are ye, and such ever may ye remain. The lily is not more spotless, the rose and the violet do not boast a more fragrant odour, than the incense of your prayers when it ascends to the footstool of the Gods. Guileless and undesigning are you as the yearling lamb; gentle and affectionate as the cooing dove. Qualities like these the Gods behold with approbation; to qualities like these the Gods assign their choicest blessings. My sons, there is a splendor that dazzles, rather than enlightens; there is a heat that burns rather than fructifies. Let not characters like these excite your ambition. Be yours the unfrequented sylvan scene. Be yours the shadowy and unnoticed vale of obscurity. Here are the mild and unruffled affections. Here are virtue, peace and happiness. Here also are GODS."
Having thus said, he dismissed the assembly, and the shepherds prepared to return to their respective homes. Edwin and Imogen, as they had come, so they returned together. The parents of the maiden had confided her to the care of the gallant shepherds. "She is our only child," said they, "our only treasure, and our life is wrapped up in her safety. Watch over her like her guardian genius. Bring her again to our arms adorned with the cheerfulness of tranquility and innocence." The breast of Edwin was dilated with the charge; he felt a gentle undulation of pride and conscious importance about his heart, at the honor conferred upon him.
The setting sun now gilded the western hills. His beams played upon their Summits' and were reflected in an irregular semi-circle of splendor, spotless and radiant as the robes of the fairies. The heat of the day was over, the atmosphere was mild, and all the objects round them quiet and serene. A gentle zephyr fanned the leaves; and the shadows of the trees, projecting to their utmost length, gave an additional coolness and a soberer tint to the fields through which they passed.
The conversation of these innocent and guileless lovers was, as it were, in unison with the placidness of the evening. The sports, in which they had been engaged, had inspired them with gaiety, and the songs they had heard, had raised their thoughts to a sublimer pitch than was usual to them. They praised the miracles of the tale of Modred; they sympathized with the affliction of Evelina; and they spoke with the most unfeigned reverence of the pious and venerable Llewelyn.
But the harmless cheerfulness of their conversation did not last long. The serenity that was around them was soon interrupted, and their attention was diverted to external objects. Suddenly you might have perceived a cloud, small and dark, that rose from the bosom of the sea. By swift advances it became thicker and broader, till the whole heavens were enveloped in its dismal shade. The gentle zephyr, that anon played among the trees, was changed into a wind hollow and tumultuous. Its course was irregular. Now all was still and silent as the caverns of death; and again it burst forth in momentary blasts, or whirled the straws and fallen leaves in circling eddies. The light of day was shrouded and invisible. The slow and sober progress of evening was forestalled. The woods and the hills were embosomed in darkness. Their summits were no longer gilded. One by one the beams of the sun were withdrawn from each; and at length Snowdon itself could not be perceived.
Our shepherd and his charge had at this moment reached the most extensive and unprotected part of the plain. No friendly cot was near to shield them from the coming storm. And now a solemn peal of thunder seemed to roll along over their heads. They had begun to fly, but the tender Imogen was terrified at the unexpected crash, and sunk, almost breathless, into the arms of Edwin. In the mean time, the lightnings seemed to fill the heavens with their shining flame. The claps of thunder grew louder and more frequent. They reverberated from rock to rock, and from hill to hill. If at any time, for a transitory interval, the tremendous echoes died away upon the ear, it was filled with the hollow roaring of the winds, and the boisterous dashing of the distant waves. At length the pealing rain descended. It seemed as if all the waters of heaven were exhausted upon their naked heads. The anxious and afflicted Edwin took his beauteous and insensible companion in his arms, and flew across the plain.
But at this instant, a more extraordinary and terrifying object engrossed his attention. An oak, the monarch of the plain, towards which he bent his rapid course, was suddenly struck with the bolt of heaven, and blasted in his sight. Its large and spreading branches were withered; its leaves shrunk up and faded. In the very trunk a gaping and tremendous rift appeared. At the same moment two huge and craggy cliffs burst from the surrounding rocks, to which they had grown for ages, and tumbling with a hideous noise, trundled along the plain.
At length a third spectacle, more horrible than the rest, presented itself to the affrighted eyes of Edwin. He saw a figure, larger than the human, that walked among the clouds, and piloted the storm. Its appearance was dreadful, and its shape, loose and undistinguishable, seemed to be blended with the encircling darkness. From its countenance gleamed a barbarous smile, ten times more terrific than the frown of any other being. Triumph, inhuman triumph, glistened in its eye, and, with relentless delight, it brewed the tempest, and hurled the destructive lightning Edwin gazed upon this astonishing apparition, and knew it for a goblin of darkness the heart of Edwin, which no human terror could appall, sunk within him; his nerves trembled, and the objects that surrounded him, swam in confusion before his eyes. But it is not for virtue to tremble; it is not for conscious innocence to fear the power of elves and goblins. Edwin presently recollected himself, and a gloomy kind of tranquility assumed the empire of his heart. He was more watchful than ever for his beloved Imogen; he gazed with threefold earnestness upon the fearful specter.
A sound now invaded his ear, from the shapeless rocks behind him. They repeated it with all their echoes. It was hollow as the raging wind; and yet it was not the raging wind. It was loud as the roaring thunder; and yet it was not the voice of thunder. But he did not remain long in suspense, from whence the voice proceeded. A wolf, whom hunger had made superior to fear, leaped from the rock, upon the plain below. Edwin turned his eyes upon the horrid monster; he grasped his boarspear in his hand. The unconscious Imogen glided from his arms, and he advanced before her. He met the savage in his fury, and plunged his weapon in his side. He overturned the monster; he drew forth his lance reeking with his blood; his enemy lay convulsed in the agonies of death. But ere he could return, he heard the sound of a car rattling along the plain. The reins were of silk, and the chariot shone with burnished gold. Upon the top of it sat a man, tall, lusty, and youthful. His hair flowed about his shoulders, his eyes sparkled with untamed fierceness, and his brow was marked with the haughty insolence of pride. It was Roderic, lord of a hundred hills; but Edwin knew him not. The goblin descended from its eminence, and directed the course of Roderic. In a moment, he seized the breathless and insensible Imogen, and lifted her to his car. Edwin beheld the scene with grief and astonishment; his senses were in a manner overwhelmed with so many successive prodigies. But he did not long remain inactive; grief and astonishment soon gave way to revenge. He took his javelin, still red with the blood of the mountain wolf, and whirled it from his hand. Edwin was skilled to toss the dart; from his hand it flew unerring to its aim. Forceful it sung along the air; but the goblin advanced with hasty steps among the clouds. It touched it with its hand, and it fell] harmless and pointless to the ground. During this action the car of Roderic disappeared. The goblin immediately vanished; and Edwin was left in solitude.
The storm however had not yet ceased. The rain descended with all its former fury The thunder roared with a strong and deafening sound. The lightnings flamed from pole to pole. But the lightnings flamed, and the thunder roared unregarded. The storm beat in vain upon the unsheltered head of Edwin. "Where," cried he, with the voice of anguish and despair, "is my Imogen, my mistress, my wife, the charmer of my soul, the solace of my heart?" Saying this, he sprung away like the roe upon the mountains. His pace was swifter than that of the zephyr when it Sweeps along over the unbending corn. He soon reached the avenue by which the chariot had disappeared from his sight. He leaped from rock to rock; he ascended to the summit of the cliff. His eye glanced the swift-flying car of Roderic; he knew him by his gilded carriage, and his spangled vest. But he saw him only for a moment. His aching eye pursued the triumphant flight in vain. "Stay, stay, base ravisher, inglorious coward!" he exclaimed. "If thou art a man, return and meet me. I will encounter thee hand to hand. I will not fear the strength of thy shoulders, and the haughtiness of thy crest. If in such a cause, with the pride of virtue on my side, with all the Gods to combat for me, I am yet vanquished, then be Imogen shine: then let her be submitted to thy despotic power, to thy brutal outrage, and I will not murmur."
But his words were given to the winds of heaven. Roderic fled far, far away. The heart of Edwin was wrung with anguish. "Ye kind and merciful Gods!"" exclaimed he, "grant but this one prayer, and the voice of Edwin shall no more importune you with presumptuous vows. Blot from the book of fate the tedious interval. Give me to find the potent villain. Though he be hemmed in with guards behind guards; though his impious mansion strike its foundations deep to the center, and rear its head above the clouds; though all the powers of hell combine on his side, I will search him out, I will penetrate into his most hidden recess. I can but die. Oh, if I am to be deprived of Imogen, how sweet, how solacing is the thought of death! Let me die in her cause. That were some comfort yet. Let me die in her presence, let her eyes witness the fervor of my attachment, and I will die without a groan."
Having thus poured forth the anguish of his bosom, he resumed the pursuit. But how could Edwin, alone, on foot, and wearied with the journey of the day, hope to overtake the winged steeds of Roderic? And indeed had his speed been tenfold greater than it was, it had been exerted to no purpose. As the ravisher arrived at the edge of the mountain, he struck into a narrow and devious path that led directly to his mansion. But Edwin, who had for some time lost sight of the chariot, took no notice of a way, covered with moss and overgrown with bushes; and pursued the more beaten road. Swift was his course; but the swifter he flew, the farther still he wandered from the object of his search. A rapid brook flowed across his path, which the descending rains had swelled into a river. Without a moment's hesitation, accoutered as he was, he plunged in. Instantly he gained the opposite bank, and divided the air before him, like an arrow in its flight.
In the mean time, the storm had ceased, the darkness was dispersed, and only a few thin and fleecy clouds were scattered over the blue expanse. The sun had for some time sunk beneath the western hills. The heavens, clear and serene, had assumed a deeper tint, and were spangled over with stars. The moon, in calm and silver luster, lent her friendly light to the weary traveler. Edwin was fatigued and faint. He tried to give vent to his complaints, but his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth: his spirits sunk within him. No sound now reached his ears but the baying of the shepherds dogs, and the drowsy tinklings of the distant folds. The owl, the solemn bird of night, sat buried among the branches of the aged oak, and with her melancholy hootings gave an additional serenity to the scene. At a small distance, on his right hand, he perceived a contiguous object that reflected the rays of the moon, through the willows and the hazels, and chequered the view with a clear and settled luster. He approached it. It was the lake of Elwy; and near it he discovered that huge pile of stones, so well known to him, which had been reared ages since, by the holy Druids. It was upon this spot that they worshipped the Gods. But they had no habitation near it. They repaired thither at stated intervals from the woods of Mona, and the shores of Arvon. One only Druid lived by the banks of the silver flood, and watched the temple day and night, that no rude hand might do violence to the sanctity of the place, and no profaner mortal, with sacrilegious foot might enter the mysterious edifice. It was surrounded with a wall of oaks. The humbler shrubs filled up their interstices, and there was no avenue to the sacred shade, except by two narrow paths on either side the lake.
The solemn stillness of the scene for a moment hushed the sorrows of Edwin into oblivion. Ah, short oblivion! scarcely had he gazed around him, and drank of the quietness and peace of the scene, ere those recent sorrows impressed his bosom with more anguish than before. Recollecting himself however, he trod the mead with nimble feet, and approached, trembling and with hesitation, to the eastern avenue. Hear me, sage and generous Madoc," cried the shepherd, with a voice that glided along the peaceful lake, "hear the sorrows of the most forlorn of all the sons of Clwyd!" The hermit, who sat at the door of his grotto, perceived the sound, and approached to the place from which it proceeded. The accent was gentle; and he feared no boisterous intrusion. The accent was tender and pathetic; and never was the breast of Madoc steeled against the voice of anguish. "Approach, my son," he cried. "What disastrous event has brought thee hither, so far from thy peaceful home, and at this still and silent hour of night? Has any lamb wandered from thy fold, and art thou come hither in pursuit of it?" Edwin was silent. His heart seemed full almost to bursting, and he could not utter a word. "Hast thou wandered from thy companions and missed the path that led to the well-known hamlet?" "Alas," said Edwin, "I had a companion once!" and he lifted up his eyes to heaven in speechless despair. "Has thy mistress deserted thee, or have her parents bestowed her on some happier swain?" "Yes," said Edwin, "I have lost her, who was dear to me as the ruddy drops that visit my sad heart. But she was constant Her parents approved of my passion, and consigned her to my arms." "Has sickness then overtaken her, or has untimely death put a period to thy prospects, just as they began to bloom?" "Oh, no," said the disconsolate shepherd, "I have encountered a disaster more comfortless and wasteful than sickness. I had a thousand times rather have received her last sigh, and closed her eyes in darkness!"
During this conversation, they advanced along the banks of Elwy, and drew towards the grotto of the hermit. The hospitable Madoc brought some dried fruits and a few roots from his cell, and spread them before his guest. He took a bowl of seasoned wood, and hastening to the fountain, that fell with a murmuring noise down the neighing [sic] rock, he presented the limpid beverage. "Such," said he, "is my humble fare; partake it with a contented heart, and it shall be more grateful to thy taste, than the high flavored viands of a monarch." In the mean time, Madoc, pleased with the benevolent pursuit, gathered some bits of dry wood, and Setting them on fire, besought the swain to refresh himself from the weariness of his travel, and the inclemency of the storm. But the heart of Edwin was too full to partake of the provisions that his attentive host had prepared. The cheerfulness however of the blazing hearth and the generous officiousness of the hermit, seemed by degrees to recover him from the insensibility and lethargy, that for a time had swallowed up all his faculties.
Madoc had hitherto contemplated his guest in silence. He permitted him to refresh his wearied frame and to resume his dissipated spirits uninterrupted; he suppressed the curiosity by which he was actuated, to learn the story of the woes of Edwin. In the midst of his dejection, he perceived the symptoms of a nobility of spirit that interested him; and the anguish of the shepherd's mind had not totally destroyed the traces of that mild affability, and that manly frankness for which he was esteemed.
Edwin had no sooner appeared to shake off a small part of his melancholy, his eye no sooner sparkled with returning fire, than Madoc embraced the favorable omen. "My son," said he, "you seem to be full of dejection and grief. Grief is not an inmate of the plain; the hours of the shepherd are sped in gaiety and mirth. Suspicion and design are stranger to his bosom. With him the voice of discord is not heard. The scourge of war never blasted his smiling fields; the terror of invasion never banished him from the peaceful cot. You too are young and un-injured even to the misfortunes of the shepherd. No contagion has destroyed your flock; no wolf has broken its slender barriers: you have felt the anguish of no wound, and been witness to the death of no friend. Say then, my son, why art thou thus dejected and forlorn?"
"Alas," replied Edwin, "our equal lot undoubtedly removes us from the stroke of many misfortunes; but even to us adversity extends its rod. I have been exposed to the ravages of an invader, more fearful than the wolf, more detested than the conqueror. From an affliction like mine, no occupation, no rank, no age can exempt. Sawest thou not the descending storm? Did not the rain beat upon thy cavern, and the thunder roar among the hills?" "It did," cried Madoc, "and I was struck with reverence, and worshipped the God who grasps the thunder in his mighty hand. Wast thou, my son, exposed to its fury?" "I was upon the bleak and wide extended heath. With Imogen, the fairest and most constant of the daughters of Clwyd, I returned from the feast of Ruthyn. But alas," added the shepherd, "the storm had no terrors, when compared with the scenes that accompanied it. I beheld, Madoc, nor are the words I utter the words of shameless imposition, or coward credulity; I beheld a phantom, that glided along the air, and rode among the clouds. At his command, a wolf from the forest, with horrid tusks, and eyes of fire, burst upon me. I advanced towards it, that I might defend the fairest of her sex from its fury, and plunged my javelin in its heart. But, oh! while I was thus engaged, a chariot advanced on the opposite side! Its course was directed by the specter. The rider descended on the plain, and seized the spotless, helpless Imogen; and never, never shall these eyes behold her more! Such, O thou servant of the Gods, has been my adversity. The powers of darkness have arrayed themselves against me. For me the storm has been brewed; all the arrows of heaven have been directed against my weak, defenseless head. For me the elements have mixed in tremendous confusion; portents and prodigies have been accumulated for my destruction Oh, then, generous and hospitable Druid, what path is there, that is left for my deliverance? What chance remains for me, now that a host of invisible beings combats against me? Teach me, my friend, my father, what it is that I must do. Tell me, is there any happiness in store for Edwin, or must I sink, unresisting, into the arms of comfortless despair?"
"My son," cried the venerable hermit, "hope is at all times our duty, and despair our crime. It is not in the power of events to undermine the felicity of the virtuous. Goblins, and spirits of darkness, are permitted a certain scope in this terrestrials scene; but their power is bounded; beyond a certain line they cannot wander. In vain do they threaten innocence and truth. Innocence is a wall of brass upon which they can make no impression Virtue is an adamant that is sacred and secured from all their efforts. He whose thoughts are full of rectitude and heaven, who knows no guile, may wander in safety through uncultivated forests, or sandy plains, that have never known the trace of human feet. Before him the robber is just, and the satyr tame; for him the monsters of the desert are disarmed of their terrors, and he shall lead the wild boar and the wolf in his hand. Such is the sanctity that heaven has bestowed on unblemished truth."
"Alas, my father," cried Edwin, "this is the lesson that was first communicated to my childhood; and my infant heart bounded with the sacred confidence it inspired. But excuse the presumption of a distracted heart. This lesson, to which at another time I could have listened with rapture and enthusiasm, seems now too loose and general for a medicine to my woes. Innocence the Gods have made superior and invulnerable. And, oh, in what have I transgressed? Yet, my father, I am wounded in the tenderest part. Shall I ever recover my Imogen? Is she not torn from me irreversibly? How shall I engage with powers invisible, and supernatural? How shall I discover my unknown, human enemy? No, Madoc, I am lost in impenetrable darkness. For me there is no hope, no shadow of approaching ease."
"Be calm, my son," rejoined the anchorite. "Arrogance and impatience become not the weak and uninformed children of the earth. Be calm, and I will administer a remedy more appropriate to your wrongs. But remember this is your hour of trial If now you forget the principles of your youth, and the instructions of the sacred Druids, you shall fall from happiness, never to regain it more. But if you come forth pure and unblemished from the fierce assay, your Imogen shall be yours, the Gods shall take you into their resistless protection, and in all future ages, when men would cite an example of distinguished felicity, they shall say, as fortunate as Edwin of the vale." Edwin bended his knee in mute submission.
'Listen, my son," continued the Druid. "I know your enemy, and can point out to you his obscure retreat." "The name of him who has ravished from thee the dearest treasure of thy heart, is Roderic. His mother attend, oh Edwin, for whatever the incredulous may pretend, the tales related by the bards in their immortal songs, of ghosts, and fairies, and dire enchantment, are not vain and fabulous. You have heard of the inauspicious fame and the bad eminence of Rodogune. She withdrew from the fields of Clwyd within the memory of the elder of shepherds. Various were the conjectures occasioned by her disappearance. Some imagined, that for the haughtiness of her humour, and the malignity of her disposition, characters that were wholly unexampled in the pastoral life, she had been carried away before the period limited by nature to the place of torment by the goblins of the abyss. Others believed that she concealed herself in the top of the highest mountain that was near them, and by a commerce with invisible, malignant beings, still exercised the same gloomy temper in more potent, and therefore more inauspicious harm. The blight that overspread the meadows, the destructive contagion that diffused itself among the flocks, the raging tempest that rooted up the oak, when the thunder roared among the hills, and the lightning flashed from pole to pole, they ascribed to the machinations and the sorcery of Rodogune. Their conjectures indeed were blind, but their notions were not wholly mistaken.
"Rodogune was the mother of Roderic. She was deeply skilled in those dark and flagitious arts, which have cast a gloom upon this mortal scene. The intellectual powers bestowed upon her by the Gods were great and eminent, and were given for a far different purpose than to be employed in these sinister pursuits. But all conspicuous talents are liable, my son, to base perversion; and such was the fate of those of Rodogune. She delighted in the actions which her dark and criminal alliance with invisible powers enabled her to perform. It was hers to mislead the benighted shepherd. It was hers to part the happy lovers. For this purpose she would swell the waves, and toss the feeble bark. She dispensed, according to the dictates of her caprice, the mildew among the tender herb, and the pestilence among the folds of the shepherds. By the stupendous powers of enchantment, she raised from the bosom of a hill a wondrous edifice. The apartments were magnificent and stately; unlike the shepherd's cot, and not to be conceived by the imagination of the rustic. Here she accumulated a thousand various gratifications; here she wantoned in all the secret and licentious desires of her heart. But her castle was not merely a scene of thoughtless pleasure. Within its circle she held crowds of degenerate shepherds, groveling through the omnipotence of her incantations in every brutal form. Even the specters and the elves that disobeyed her authority, she held in the severest durance. She compressed their tender forms in the narrowest prison, or gave them to the stormy winds, to be whirled, with restless violence, round about the ample globe. In a word, her mansion was one uninterrupted scene of ingenious cruelty and miserable despair. To be surrounded with the face of disappointment and agony was the happiness of Rodogune.
"When first by her art she raised that edifice which is now inhabited by her son, she had been desirous to conceal it from the prying eyes of the wanderer. In order to this, though it stood upon an eminence, she chose an eminence that was surrounded by higher hills, and hills which, according to the neighboring shepherds, were impassable No adventurous step had ever since the day they were created pierced beyond them. It was imagined that the space they surrounded was the haunt of elves, and the resort of those who held commerce with evil spirits. The curling smoke, which of late has frequently been seen to ascend from their bosom, has confirmed this tradition. And in order to render her habitation still more impervious, Rodogune surrounded it with a deep grove of oaks, whose thick branches entwined together, permitted no passage so much as to the light of day.
"Roderic was her only child, the darling of her age, and the central object of all her cares. At his birth the elves and the fairies were summoned together. They bestowed upon him every beauty of person and every subtlety of wit. To every weapon they made him invulnerable. And, without demanding from him that care and persevering study, that had planted wrinkles on his mother's brow, they gave him to enjoy his wishes instantly and uncontrolled. One only goblin was daring enough to pronounce a curse upon him. "WHEN RODERIC," cried he, "SHALL BE OVERREACHED IN ALE HIS Spells BY A Simple swain UNVERSED IN THE VARIOUS ARTS OF Sorcery AND MAGIC: WHEN RODERIC SHAKE SUE TO A SIMPEE MAID, WHO BY HIS Charms SHALE BE Made TO HATE THE SWAIN THAT ONCE SHE LOVED, AND WHO YET SHAKE RESIST AEE HIS PERSONAE ATTRACTIONS AND AEE HIS POWER; THEN SHAKE HIS POWER BE AT AN END. HIS Palaces SHAKE BE DISSOLVED, HIS RICHES SCATTERED, AND HE Himself SHAKE BECOME AN UNPITIED, NECESSITOUS, MISERABEE VAGABOND." Such was the mysterious threat; and dearly did the threatner abide it. In the mean time, an elf more generous, more attached to Rodogune, and more potent than the rest, bestowed upon the infant a mysterious ring. By means of this he is empowered to assume what form he pleases. By means of this it was hoped he would be able to subdue the most prepossessed, and melt the most obdurate female heart. By means of this it was hoped, he might evade not only the simple swain, but all the wiles of the most experienced and subtle adversary.
"Roderic now increased in age, and began to exhibit the promises of that manly and graceful beauty that was destined for him. He inherited his mother's haughtiness, and his wishes and his passions were never subjected to contradiction. A few years since that mother died, and the youth has been too much engaged in voluptuousness and luxury to embark in the malicious pursuits of Rodogune. Sensuality has been his aim, and pleasure has been his God. To gratify his passions has been the sole object of his attentions; and he has remitted no exertion that could enhance to him the joys of the feast and the fruition of beauty. One low-minded gratification has succeeded to another; pleasures of an elevated and intellectual kind have been strangers to his heart; and were it not that the subtlety of wit was a gift bestowed upon him by supernatural existences,, he must long ere this have sunk his mind to the lowest savageness and the most contemptible imbecility."
Edwin heard the tale of the Druid with the deepest attention. He was interested in the information it contained; he was astonished at the unfathomable witcheries Rodogune; and he could not avoid the being apprehensive of the unexpanded powers of Roderic. But the daring and adventurous spirit of youth, and the anxiety That he felt for the critical situation of Imogen, soon overpowered and obliterated these impressions. The Druid finished; and he started from his seat. Point me, kind and generous Madoc, to the harbor of the usurper. I will invade his palace I will enter fearlessly the lime-twigs of his spells. I will trust in the omnipotency of innocence. Though the magician should be encircled with all the horrid forms that ingenious fear ever created, though all the grizly legions of the infernal realm should hem in, I will find him out, and force him to relinquish his prize, or drag him by his shining hair to a death, ignominious and accursed, as has been the conduct of his life." The Druid assumed a sterner and a severer aspect. "How long, son of the valley,' cried he, "wilt thou be deaf to the voice of instruction? When wilt thou temper thy heedless and inconsiderate courage with the coolness of wisdom and the moderation of docility? But go," added he, "I am to blame to endeavor to govern thy headlong spirit, or stem the torrent of youthful folly. Go, and endure the punishment of thy rashness. Encounter the magician in the midst of his spells. Expose thy naked and unprotected head to glut his vengeance. Over thy life indeed, he has no power. Deliberate guilt, not unreflecting folly, can deprive thee of thy right to that. But, oh, shepherd, what avails it to live in hopeless misery? With ease he shall shut thee up for revolving years in darkness tangible; he shall plunge thee deep beneath the surface of the mantled pool, the viscous spume shall draw over thy miserable head its dank and dismal shroud; or perhaps, more ingenious in mischief, he shall chain thee up in inactivity, a conscious statue, the silent and passive witness of the usurped joys that once thou fondly fanciest thy own.
"Oh, pardon me, sage and venerable Madoc," replied the shepherd. "Edwin did not come from the hands of nature obstinate and untractable. But grief agitates my spirits; anxiety and apprehension conjure up a thousand horrid phantoms before my distracted imagination, and I am no longer myself. I will however subdue my impatient resentments. I will listen with coolness to the voice of native sagacity and hoary experience. Tell me then, my father, and I will hearken with mute attention, nor think the lesson long, instruct me how I shall escape those tremendous dangers thou hast described. Say, is there any remedy, canst thou communicate any potent and unconquerable amulet, that shall shield me from the arts of sorcery? Teach me, and my honest heart shall thank thee. Communicate it, and the benefit shall be consecrated in my memory to everlasting gratitude."
"My son," replied Madoc, "I am indeed interested for thee. Thy heart is ingenuous and sincere; thy misfortune is poignant and affecting. Listen then to my directions. Receive and treasure up this small and sordid root. In its external appearance, it is worthless and despicable; but, Edwin, we must not judge by appearances; that which is most valuable often delights to shroud itself under a coarse and unattractive outside. In a richer climate, and under a more genial sun, it bears a beauteous flower, whose broad leaves expand themselves to the day, and are clothed with a deep and splendid purple, glossy as velvet, and bedropped with gold. This root is a sovereign antidote against all blasts, enchantments, witchcrafts, and magic. With this about thee, thou mayest safely enter the haunts of Roderic; thou mayest hear his incantations unappalled; thou mayest boldly dash I from his hand his magic glass, and shed the envenomed beverage on the ground. Then' when he stands astonished at the unexpected phenomenon, wrest from him his potent wand. Invoke not the unhallowed spirits of the abyss; invoke the spotless synod of the Gods. Strike with his rod the walls of his palace, and they shall turn to viewless air; the monster shall be deprived of all his riches, and all his accumulated pleasures; and thou and thy Imogen, delivered from the powers of enchantment' shall be, for one long, uninterrupted day, happy in the enjoyment of each other.
"Attend, my son, yet attend, to one more advice, upon which all thy advantage and all thy success in this moment of crisis hang. Engage not in so arduous and important an enterprise immaturely. Thou hast yet no reason for despair. Thou art yet beheld with favor by propitious heaven. But thou mayest have reason for despair One false step may ruin thee. One moment of heedless in-consideration may plunge thee in years of calamity. One moment of complying guilt may shut upon thee the door of enjoyment and happiness for ever."
Such was the sorrow, and such were the consolations of Edwin. But far different was the situation, and far other scenes were prepared for his faithful shepherdess. For some time after she had been seized by Roderic, she had remained unconscious and supine. The terrors that had preceded the fatal capture, had overpowered her delicate frame, and sunk her into an alarming and obstinate fit of insensibility. They had now almost reached the palace of the magician, when she discovered the first symptoms of returning life. The color gradually remounted into her bloodless cheeks; her hands were raised with a feeble and involuntary motion, and at length she lifted up her head, and opened her languid, unobserving eyes. "Edwin," she cried, "my friend, my companion, where art thou? Where have we been? Oh, it is a long and tedious evening!" Saying this, she looked upon the objects around her. The sky was now become clear and smiling; the lowering clouds were dissipated, and the blue expanse was stretched without limits over their head. The sources of her former terror were indeed removed, but the objects that presented themselves were equally alarming. All was unexpected and all was unaccountable Imogen had remained without consciousness from the very beginning of the storm, and it was during her insensibility that the goblin had been visible, and the magician descended to the plains. She found herself mounted upon a car, and hurried along by rapid steeds. She saw beside her a man whose face, whose garb, and whose whole appearance were perfectly unknown to her.
"Ah," exclaimed the maiden, in a voice of amazement apprehension,
"where am I? What is become of my Edwin? And what art thou? What means
all this? These are not the well-known fields; this is not the brook of
Towey, nor these hills of Clwyd. Oh, whither, whither do we fly? This
track leads not to the cottage of my parents, and the groves of
Rhyddlan." "Be not uneasy, my fair one," answered Roderic. "We go,
though not by the usual path, to where your friends reside. I am not
your enemy, but a swain who esteems it his happiness to have come
between you and your distress, and to have rescued you from the pelting
of the storm. Suspend' my love, for a few moments your suspicions and
your anxiety, and we shall arrive where all your doubts will be removed,
and all I hope will be pleasure and felicitation." While he thus spoke
the chariot hastened to the conclusion of their journey, and entered the
area in the front of the mansion of Roderic.
The suspicions of Imogen were indeed removed, but in a manner too cruel for her tender frame. The terror and fatigue she had previously undergone had wasted her spirits, and the surprise she now experienced, was more than she could sustain. As the chariot entered the court, she cried out with a voice of horror and anguish, and sunk breathless into the arms of her ravisher. Though the passion he had already conceived for her, made this a circumstance of affliction, he yet in another view rejoiced, that he was able, by its intervention, to conduct his prize in a manner by stealth into his palace, and thus to prevent that struggle and those painful sensations, which she must otherwise have known. For could she have borne, without emotion, to see herself conveyed into a wretched imprisonment? Could she have submitted, without opposition, to be shut up, as it were, from the hope of revisiting those scenes, where once her careless childhood played, and those friends whom she valued more than life?
The leading pursuit of Roderic, as it had been stated by the Druid of Elwy, was the love of pleasure, an attachment to sensuality, luxury and lust. He often spent whole days in the bosom of voluptuousness, reposing upon couches of down, under ceilings of gold. His senses were at intervals awakened, by the most exquisite music, to a variety of delight. He often recreated his view with beholding, from a posture of supineness and indolence, the frolic games, and the mazy dance. Sometimes, in order to diversify the scene, he would mix in the sports, and, by the graceful activity of his limbs, and the subtle keenness of his wit, would communicate relish and novelty to that which before had palled upon the performers. When he moved, every eye was fixed in admiration. When he spoke all was tranquility of attention, and every mouth was open to applaud. Then were set forth the luxuries of the feast. Every artifice was employed to provoke the appetite. The viands were savory, and the fruits were blushing; the decorations were sumptuous, and the halls shone with a profusion of tapers, whose rays were reflected in a thousand directions by an innumerable multitude of mirrors and lustres. And now the intoxicating beverage went swiftly round the board. The conversation became more open and unrestrained. Quick were the repartees and loud the mirth. Loose, meaning glances were interchanged between the master of the feast and the mingled beauties that adorned his board. With artful inadvertence the gauze seemed to withdraw from their panting bosoms, and new and still newer charms discovered themselves to enchant the eyes and inflame the heart. The bed of enjoyment succeeded to the board of intemperance. Such was the history of the life of Roderic.
But man was not born for the indolence of pleasure and the uniformity of fruition. No gratifications, but especially not those that address themselves only to the senses, and pamper this brittle, worthless mansion of the immortal mind, are calculated to entertain us for any long duration. We need something to awaken our attention, to whet our appetite, and to contrast our joys. Happiness in this sublunary state can scarcely be felt, but by a comparison with misery. It is he only that has escaped from sickness, that is conscious of health; it is he only that has shaken off the chains of misfortune, that truly rejoices. The wisdom of these maxims was felt by Roderic. Full of pleasures, surrounded with objects of delight, he was not happy. Their uniformity cloyed him. He had received, by supernatural endowment, an activity and a venturousness of spirit, that were little formed for such scenes as these. He was devoured with spleen. He sighed he knew not why; he was peevish and ill-humoured in the midst of the most assiduous attention and the most wakeful service. And the command he possessed over the elements of nature was no remedy for sensations like these.
Oppressed with these feelings, Roderic was accustomed to withdraw himself from the pomps and luxuries that surrounded him, to fly from the gilded palace and the fretted roofs, and to mix in the simple and undebauched scenes of artless innocence that descended on every side from the hills he inhabited. The name of Roderic was unknown to all the shepherds of the vallies, and he was received by them with that officiousness and hospitality which they were accustomed to exercise to the stranger. It was his delight to give scope to his imagination by inventing a thousand artful tales of misfortune, by which he awakened the compassion, and engaged the attachment of the simple hinds. In order the more effectually to evade that curiosity which would have been fatal to his ease, he assumed every different time that he came among them a different form. By this contrivance, he passed unobserved, he partook freely of their pastimes, he made his observations unmolested, and was perfectly at leisure for the reflections, not always of the most pleasant description, that these scenes, of simple virtue and honest poverty, were calculated to excite. "Oh, impotence of power," exclaimed he, wrapt up and secure in the disguise he assumed, "to what purpose art thou desired? Ambition is surely the most foolish and misjudging of all terrestrial passions. My condition appears attractive. I am surrounded with riches and splendor;; no man approaches me but with homage and flattery; every object of gratification solicits my acceptance. I am not only endowed with a capacity of obtaining all that I can wish, and that by supernatural means, but I am almost constantly forestalled in my wishes. Who would not say, that I am blessed? Who that heard but a description of my state, would not envy me? Of ye shepherds, happy, thrice happy, in the confinedness of your prospects, ye would then envy me! Instructed as I am, instructed by too fatal experience, with reason I envy you. Hark to that swain who is now leading his flock from the durance in which they were held till the morning peeped over the eastern hills! The little lambs frisk about him, thankful for the liberty they have regained, and he stretches out his hand for them to lick. Now he drives them along the extended green, and in a wild and thoughtless note carols a lively lay. He sings perhaps of the kind, but bashful shepherdess. His hat is bound about with ribbon; the memorial of her coy compliance and much-prized favor. How light is his heart, how cheerful his gait, and how gay his countenance! He leads in a string a little frolic goat with curving horns: I suppose the prize that he bore off in singing, which is not yet tamed to his hand, and familiarized to his flock. What though his coat be frieze? What though his labor constantly return with the returning day? I wear the attire of kings; far from laboring myself, thousands labor for my convenience. And yet he is happier than I. Envied simplicity; venerable ignorance; plenteous poverty! How gladly would I quit my sumptuous palace, and my magic arts, for the careless, airy, and unreflecting joys of rural simplicity!"
It was in a late excursion of this kind that he had beheld the beauteous Imogen His eye was struck with the charms of her person, and the amiableness of her manners. Never had he seen a complexion so transparent, or an eye so expressive Her vermeil-tinctured lips were new-blown roses that engrossed the sight, and seemed to solicit to be plucked. His heart was caught in the tangles of her hair Such an unaffected bashfulness, and so modest a blush; such an harmonious and meaning tone of voice, that expressed in the softest accents, the most delicate sense and the most winning simplicity, could not but engage the attention of a swain so versed in the science of the fair as Roderic. From that distinguished moment, though he still felt uneasiness, it was no longer vacuity, it was no longer an uneasiness irrational and unaccountable. He had now an object to pursue. He was not now subjected to the fatigue of forming wishes for the sake of having them instantly gratified. When he reflected upon the present object of his desires, new obstacles continually started in his mind. Unused to encounter difficulty, he for a time imagined them insurmountable. Had his desires been less pressing, had his passion been less ardent, he would have given up the pursuit in despair. But urged along by an unintermitted impulse, he could think of nothing else, he could not abstract his attention to a foreign subject. He determined at least once again to behold the peerless maiden. He descended to the feast of Ruthyn; and though the interval had been but short, from the time in which he had first observed her, in the eye of love she seemed improved. The charms that erst had budded, were now full blown. Her beauties were ripened, and her attractions spread themselves in the face of day. Nor was this all. He beheld with a watchful glance her slight and silent intercourse with the gallant Edwin; an intercourse which no eye but that of a lover could have penetrated. Hence his-mind became pregnant with all the hateful brood of dark suspicions; he was agitated with the fury of jealousy. Jealousy evermore blows the flame it seems formed to extinguish. The passion of Roderic was more violent than ever. His impatient spirit could not now brook the absence of a moment. Luxury charmed no longer; the couch of down was to him a bed of torture, and the solicitations of beauty, the taunts and sarcasms of infernal furies. He invoked the spirit of his mother; he brought together an assembly of elves and goblins. By their direction he formed his plan; by their instrumentality the tempest was immediately raised; and under the guidance of the chief of all the throng he descended upon his prey, like the eagle from his eminence in the sky.
The success of his exploit has already been related. The scheme had indeed been too deeply laid, and too artfully digested, to admit almost the possibility of a miscarriage. Who but would have stood appalled, when the storm descended upon our lovers in the midst of the plain, and the thunders seemed to rock the whole circle of the neighboring hills? Who could have conducted himself at once with greater prudence and gallantry than the youthful shepherd? Did he not display the highest degree of heroism and address, when he laid the gaunt and haughty wolf prostrate at his feet? But it was not for human skill to cope with the Opposition of infernal spirits. Accordingly Roderic had been victorious. He had borne the tender maiden un-resisted from the field; he had outstripped the ardent pursuit of Edwin with a speed swifter than the winds. In fine, he had conducted his lovely prize in safety to his enchanted castle, and had introduced her within those walls, where every thing human and supernatural obeyed his nod, in a state of unresisting passivity.
Roderic' immediately upon his entrance into the castle, had committed the fair imogen to the care of the attendant damsels. He charged them by every means to endeavor to restore her to sense and tranquility, and not to utter any thing in her hearing, which should have the smallest tendency to discompose her spirits. In obedience to orders, which they had never known what it was to dispute, they were so unwearied in their assiduities to their amiable charge, that it was not long before she began once again to exhibit the tokens of renewed perception. She raised by degrees a leaden and inexpressive eye, to the objects that were about her, without having as yet spirit and recollectedness enough to distinguish them. "My mother," cried she, my venerable Edith, I am not well. My head is quite confused and giddy. Do press it with your friendly hand." A female attendant, as she uttered these words, drew near to obey them. "Go, go," exclaimed Imogen, with a feeble tone, and at the same time putting by the officious hand, "you naughty girl. You are not my mother. Do not think to make me believe you are."
While she spoke this she began gradually to gain a more entire sedateness and self-command. She seemed to examine, with an eager and inquisitive eye, first one object, and then another by turns. The novelty of the whole scene appeared for an instant to engross her attention. Every part of the furniture was unlike that of a shepherd's cot; and completely singular and unprecedented by any thing that her memory could suggest. But this self-deception, this abstraction from her feelings and her situation was of a continuance the shortest that can be conceived. All seemed changed with her in a moment. Her eye, which, from a state of languor and in-expressiveness, had assumed an air of intent and restless curiosity, was now full of comfortless sorrow and unprotected distress. "Powers that defend the innocent, support, guard me! Where am I? What have I been doing? What is become of me? Oh, Edwin, Edwin!" and she reclined her head upon the shoulder of the female who was nearest her.
Recovering however, in a moment, the dignity that was congenial to her, she raised herself from this remiss and inactive posture, and seemed to be immersed in reflection and thought. "Yes, yes," exclaimed she, "I know well enough how it is. You cannot imagine what a furious storm it was: and so I sunk upon the ground terrified to death: and so Edwin left me, and ran some where, I cannot tell where, for shelter. But sure it could not be so neither. He could not be so barbarous. Well but however somebody came and took me up, and so I am here. But what am I here for, and what place is this? Tell me, ye kind shepherdesses, ( if shepherdesses you are ) for indeed I am sick at heart."
The broken interrogatories of Imogen were heard with a profound silence. What," said the lovely and apprehensive maiden, "will you not answer me? No, not one word. Ah, then it must be bad indeed. But I have done nothing that should make me be afraid. I am as harmless and as cheerily as the little red-breast that pecks out of my hand? So you will not hurt me, will you? No, I dare swear. You do not frown upon me. Your looks are quite sweet and good-natured. But then it was not kind not to answer me, and tell me what I asked you. Fair stranger," replied one of the throng, "we would willingly do any thing to oblige you. But you are weak and ill; and it is necessary that you should not exert yourself, but try to sleep." "Sleep," replied the shepherdess, "what here in this strange place? No, that I shall not, I can tell you. I never slept from under the thatch of my father s cottage in my life, but once, and that was at the wedding of my dear, obliging Rovena. But perhaps," added she, "my father and mother will come to me here. So I will even try and be compliable, for I never was obstinate. But indeed my head is strangely confused; you must excuse me."
Such was the language, and such the affecting simplicity of the innocent and uncultivated Imogen She, who had been used to one narrow round of cheerful, rustic scenes, was too much perplexed to be able to judge of her situation. Her repeated faintings had weakened her spirits, and for a time disordered her understanding. She had always lived among the simple; she had scarcely ever been witness to any thing but sincerity and innocence. Suspicion therefore was the farthest in the world from being an inmate of her breast. Suspicion is the latest and most difficult lesson of the honest and un-crooked mind. Imogen therefore willingly retired to rest, in compliance with the solicitation of her attendants. She beheld no longer her ravisher, whose eye beamed with ungovernable desires, and whose crest swelled with pride. Every countenance was marked with apparent carefulness and sympathy. She was even pleased with their officious and friendly seeming demeanor.
Tell me, ye vain cavaliers, ye haughty adversaries of the omnipotence of virtue, where could artful vice, where could invisible and hell-born seduction, have found a fitter object for their triumph? Imogen was not armed with the lessons of experience: Imogen was not accoutered with the cautiousness of cultivation and refinement. She was all open to every one that approached her. She carried her heart in her hand. Ye, I doubt not, have already reckoned upon the triumph, and counted the advantages. But, if I do not much mistake the divine lessons I am commissioned to deliver, the muse shall tell a very different story. The shepherd lifted up his eyes, lately so languid, that now flashed with fire. He eagerly grasped the hand of Madoc. "Alas," continued the hermit, "to know him would little answer the purpose of thy bold and enterprising spirit. They adversary, as thou mayest have conjectured, is in league with the powers of darkness. Against them what can courage, what can adventure avail? They can unthread thy joints, and crumble all thy sinews. They can chain up thy limbs in marble. For how many perils, how many unforeseen disasters ought he to be prepared, who dares to encounter them?"