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glory of life.” He turned from the gorgeous sunlight to the corpse ; in his heart, as Carlyle has it, “there lay a whole lake of tears, pent up in silent desolation ;” he stood there, awed but not afraid, looking upon the sweet childish figure — “the marble lips, the stiffening hands laid palm to palm, as if repeating the supplications of closing anguish,”— and while he stood, "a solemn wind began to blow the most solemn that ear ever heard. ... It a wind that had swept the fields of mortality for a hundred centuries.” And, as the “hollow, solemn, Memnonian, but saintly swell” vibrated through all his being, he fell into a trance. “A vault,” he says, “ seemed to open in the zenith of the far blue sky, a shaft which ran up forever. I, in spirit, rose as if on billows that also ran up forever; and the billows seemed to pursue the throne of God; but that also ran before us and fled away continually. The flight and the pursuit seemed to go on forever and ever. Frost, gathering frost, some Sarsar wind of death, seemed to repel me; I slept - for how long I can not say : slowly I recovered my self-possession, and found myself standing, as before, close to my sister's bed.” Nursing a mighty grief, the child secluded himself more and more,-marrying, with every opportunity, the dumb sorrow of his heart to the silence of sequestered nooks. Of course, the dreamy faculty was stimulated by these means into abnormal activity.
On Sunday mornings he was regularly taken to one of those grand old English churches, “having aisles, galleries, organs, all things ancient and venerable, and the proportions majestic.” Here he was always greatly affected by those beautiful passages in the litany where God is supplicated on behalf of young children, of all who are sick or in bonds. On sunny days he would lift his streaming eyes to the windows of the galleries, where the glad sunbeams played through “the deep purples and crimsons" of the storied glass — “emblazonries of heavenly illumination mingling with the earthly emblazonries of what is grandest in man"and, while his imagination was steeped in these sublime representations of earth-trampling apostles and martyrs, there would come to him, “through the wide central field of the windows, where the glass was uncolored,” visions of immortal grandeur and beauty ; “white fleecy clouds sailing over the azure depths of the sky; clouds which grew and shaped themselves into " visions of beds with white lawny curtains; and in the beds lay sick children,
dying children, that were tossing in anguish, and weeping clamorously for death.” It seemed to him that “ God, for some mysterious reason, could not suddenly release them from their pain ; but he suffered the beds .... to rise slowly through the clouds; slowly the beds ascended into the chambers of the air; slowly, also, his arms descended from the heavens, that He and His young children, whom in Judea, once and forever, He had blessed, though they must pass slowly through the dreadful chasm of separation, might yet meet the sooner.”
A vision more touchingly beautiful than this it is scarcely possible to imagine. Yet it was entirely independent and self-sustained, as were all such, suggested only by the plaintive reading of the litany, the painted windows, and the little clouds. The music had its own peculiar effect : his soul, borne through the riven walls of sense, would mount upon the grand crescendos of the organ
until it soared triumphantly among
“the sailless worlds, which navigate
Th’unutterable deep that hath no shore." Such was the nature of the organization which made De Quincey an opium-eater; and these and similar experiences peopled the dreams of more than half a century. It was in 1804 that, having suffered excruciating rheumatic pains in the head and face for three weeks, he took a dose of opium, at the recommendation of a college acquaintance, and in an hour not only had the pains vanished, but the tremendous secret of that “happiness which can be bought for a penny and carried in the waistcoat-pocket,” was discovered. From that time forward he ate or drank opium constantly, but for the first eight years with some degree of moderation ; like a certain Duke of whom he speaks, who used to say, “ Next Friday, by the blessing of Heaven, I purpose to be drunk," De Quincey also would fix beforehand how often and when he would debauch himself. But the habit grew upon him, and for more than three years he consumed eight thousand drops of laudanum per diem. During this latter period, having arrived at an “Iliad of woes," he lived mainly in the nether deeps of an imagination frightfully diseased. His volition was paralyzed — he had outraged the majesty of his soul, and the curse of the Everlasting Jew was upon him ; he was driven forth from the sweet city of Peace to an endless pilgrimage of sorrow ; insatiable desire was
-“aye entempesting anew The unfathomable hell within."
That, distorting the intellect and imagination, it also distorts the moral perceptions and drys up the fountains of moral energy, is the greatest curse of opium indulgence; the soul lives on under the mighty bereavement, but, weeping amidst her orphaned faculties, she cries aloud in the extremity of her anguish that it were better far to have died. Like a ruined city, among whose prostrate domes wander the silent ghosts of the past, the majestic ruins of De Quincey's mind were haunted by “vast processions” which ‘passed along in mournful pomp; friezes of never-ending stories, that [to his feelings] were sad and solemn as if they were stories drawn from times before Edipus or Priam, before Tyre, before Memphis.” Every night he seemed to descend, not metaphori cally, he says, but literally, into chasms and sunless abysses, depth below depth, from which it seemed impossible ever to reäscend ; nor when awake did he feel that he had reäscended.
His mind had now become the unwilling theatre of the most frightful imagery; he was “stared at, hooted at, grinned at, chattered at, by monkeys,” and “kissed, with cancerous kisses, by crocodiles; and laid, confounded with all unutterable slimy things, among reeds and Nilotic mud.” He was fixed for centuries on the summits of Chinese pagodas, and “buried for thousands of years, in stone coffins, with mummies and sphinxes, in narrow chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids.” But more horrible than all the rest was the tyranny of the human face ; he was surrounded by seas which appeared “paved with innumerable faces, upturned to the heavens - faces imploring, wrathful, despairing, surged upwards by thousands, by myriads, by generations, by centuries ; ” his agitation at such moments was indescribablehis mind “ tossed and surged with the ocean.”
Three times did De Quincey succeed in throwing off the horrid enthrallment of opium, and thrice was he again trampled ignominiously into servitude ; and though we were led nearly forty years ago to believe that he had entirely overcome this degrading habit, he was to the day of his death almost as much its slave as ever. Have we not in him, and also in Coleridge, ever memorable proofs of the awful fascinations and despotism of this wonderful drug ? If this be its influence upon gifted and highly cultivated men, how terrible must it be among those rude and barbaric millions who are re
strained neither by the blessed light of reason, nor the holy influences of the Christian religion. Indeed, we are not left to speculate upon its effects there. So necessary do opium excitements become to the Theriakis of Constantinople, that when the drug in its usual form has lost its original power over their systems, they mix it with corrosive sublimate, even to the extent of ten grains per diem, in order to give it greater potency.
“The Javanese,” says Lord Macartney, “under an extraordinary dose of opium, become frantic as well as desperate. They acquire an artificial courage ; and, when suffering from misfortune and disappointment, they not only stab the objects of their hate, but sally forth to attack in like manner every person they meet, till self-preservation renders it necessary to destroy them.” It is said that they shout, as they run, “ Amok, amok” (kill, kill);, hence the phrase, running a-muck. There is a story of a Javanese who ran a-muck along the streets of Batavia, and, having killed several persons, a soldier at last run him through with his pike. The man, however, had become so infuriated by the drug that he pressed himself forward on the pike, stabbed his adversary, and they expired together.
Are there any advantages to the man of letters resulting from the use of opium ?- do not the benefits overbalance the injuries ? These are pertinent questions, and demand candid consideration ; for if answered in the affirmative, a plausable reason for its use will at once be furnished. Opium, unquestionably, stimulates the imagination - lashes it, as it were, into preternatural activity ; but it never imparts power! Whipping a horse gives him no additional strength, but only causes him to make larger drafts on that which he already possesses, and sooner to exhaust the original capital. Thus it is with opium.
It never makes an unimaginative man imaginative. Let the lion provide never so splendid a banquet, the hogs he invites will always cry clamorously for grains. The phantasmagoric splendors which opium revealed in De Quincey were the result of his own inherent power, unduly and unnaturally excited, and are useful only as they furnish data for a wider induction on the morbid anatomy of the human mind.
Besides destroying the nervous system, and paralyzing the energies, opium destroys the power to think consecutively, and is fatal to all intellectual system and order. Where the imagination is powerful, it is made to bring forth in such abundance that amid the
sphinxine wanderings of its metaphors “all comprehension wanders lost.” The rhetoric of the late Rufus Choate, who, unfortunately, was addicted to opium-eating, was greatly vitiated in consequence ; and the writings of De Quincey are not wholly free from the same stain.
[To be continued.]
DESOR ON PARKER.
We are enabled through the kindness of Mr. Josiah D. Whitney, the geologist, to lay before the readers of the Dial the following extracts from a private letter to him from the distinguished naturalist of Neufchatel. It was when Desor was in this country, some ten years ago, that the intimate friendship between him and Theodore Parker was formed, which lasted until he followed the remains of the great American to their resting-place. The letter serves also to show the tendencies of the scientific mind of Europe in the matter of religion.
NEUFCHATEL, 10th June, 1860. MY DEAR FRIEND :- It requires some time for the head and heart to settle again after they have been shaken so deeply as mine have been of late. You understand that I mean to speak of the death of our dear friend, Theodore Parker. Moleschott writes, “with him a column of humanity has fallen down ;” and this is true. There will be a long time before another Theodore Parker arises. But his work, though unfinished, will not be lost : his writings will remain a living fountain for many who are thirsty for truth and righteousness. To me his death has been a hard blow. I went to Italy with the hope and prospect of meeting him at Rome and of going thence with him on an excursion to Naples and Vesuvius, which he refused to visit during the winter because he wanted to see it with me. From thence we were to return to Florence, stay a short time about the Italian Lakes, for the purpose of searching for subaquatic (Celtic) habitations, in which he had become quite interested, then come over to my chalet and stay until Autumn, when he expected to return to New England. Instead of that, I found him very weak,-- he had been failing rapidly for several weeks; and the idea of an excursion to Naples had to be given up at once. He had hardly strength to ride some two or three times with me to visit the chief monuments of the Eternal City. Of course, he could not fail to become aware of his declin