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The Triumph of Love

By Grace Aguilar

“Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth,
Unseen, both when we sleep, and when we wake!”

Milton.

It is now ten years when a friend placed in our hand Friendship’s Offering for 1842, containing a beautiful sketch of Miss Aguilar, then for the first time become popular as the author of the Spirit of Judaism. But few of those who now admire our gifted sister are, perhaps, aware of the existence of this little piece, in which she so feelingly depicts the blissful effect of a trusting faith in the human mind.

She charmingly paints the daughter of wealth, surrounded by her offspring and friends, content, because everything admonishes her to be thankful; and, on the other side, she lifts the veil from a heart equally high in its aspiration, from a soul equally noble, wasting away in the chill routine of a school-room, cast off by those she loved, and her genius neglected, still glorifying the Father who never tries his children more than they can bear. No doubt Miss A. gives us, in the last character, some of the feelings which animated her, after the change of fortune in her family induced her to devote herself to the duties of educating a limited number of scholars, although, unlike her ideal heroine, she was blessed with a worthy father and a virtuous mother, like whom, we trust, there may be many more in Israel. Yet Miss A. evidently yearned for a happiness which was denied her on earth; but let us hope that now she has found that light which was too strong for the eyes of flesh, for the spirit immersed in the perishing tabernacle of clay.

Let our readers weigh well the lesson Miss A. meant to convey, and not become faint in spirit nor weak in faith when friends desert them, and the light of their prosperity is dimmed. There is a reward for endurance, and a happiness in suffering for the glory of God, which the proud, in their prosperity, cannot appreciate. “Whatever the Lord does, He does for our good,” is the true philosophy of life but it is attainable only in the path of religion. Cold scepticism may teach suicide; but never perseverance unto the end.—Ed. Oc.

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I.

It was a scene of unrivalled beauty; yet might some marvel, wherefore was thus created, so far removed from mortal ken, so severed from the habitations of sin and death, that foot of man had never sullied the pure fresh green of the velvet grass; mortal hand had never culled the brilliant flowers, gemming each silvery stream; corporeal sense had never been regaled by their fragrant breath, or lulled by the sweet music of the waters. The leafy branches of the ancient trees stretched forth their deep green shadows, and hill, and stream, and valley, each clothed in its own peculiar beauty, derived fresh charms, as the seasons softly and silently sped by, leaving bright tokens as they sped. The stars still smiled at their own sparkling rays gleaming in from the gushing water; the pensive moon still touched the glossy leaves with her diamond pencil, still lingered on the verdant mount, leaving rich shadows on the luxuriant vales; the sun still sent forth his bright beams, to revive and cherish the glistening flowers, to whisper of his unfailing love: still did he bid them drink up the dew-drops, which, trembling beneath his earnest gaze, yet sprung up from their homes at his first call, eager to lose themselves in him. Day, in his mirth and light, gave place to silent and shadowy night; and night again to day. Yet man was not there and wherefore had such loveliness birth?—wherefore was it so continually renewed?

Man would joy in the contemplation of beauty, such as this scene presented; yet his imperfect vision would see no further than mount and vale, and trees and shrubs, and streams and flowers; he would hear nought but the rustle of the leaf, the murmur of the breeze, the music of the brook. The luscious scents floating on the breeze, would be but indistinctly distinguished, and his fancy perchance yearn towards them, and long for perfume more defined, even as we sometimes seek to unite into sweet melody, the thrilling notes, which one by one, at dreamy intervals, linger on the distant air; and things he would hear, and feel, and see, and dream not there were sights and sounds hovering around him, too pure, too spiritual for earthly sense.

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There were glorious spirits—angelic beings floating on the ambient air, and lingering beside the waters, and sporting with the jewelled buds. There were rich tones lingering on the breeze—sweet thrilling voices mingling with golden harps, and silvery flutes; there were luscious scents ascending to the arching heaven; even, as if guided by ministering spirits, each floweret sent up her grateful incense to the throne of her Creator. As the dazzling flash of the diamond, the softer gleam of the emerald, the radiant gleam of the sapphire, the intense rays of the ruby: so shone these beautiful beings, as they fleeted to and fro on their respective tasks. Some replenishing the brooks with living waters from vases which seemed moulded from precious gems; some tending the flowers, inhaling and bestowing fragrance, or whispering those sweet memories, with which man ever finds the flowers of the desert filled. Some lingering in groups upon the mount, crowning its flowery brow as with a circlet of living rays. Some flying downwards, agitating the valley with soft delicious winds, and others freshening the rich tints of the far-spreading foliage; and far and near, their voices sounded in one rich hymn of praise, whose theme was love; and the golden harps prolonged the hallelujahs, sounding up through the blue realms of space, till they mingled with the deeper, mightier harmonies around the Eternal’s throne; bearing along its thrilling echo, joined by innumerable voices, till the whole air seemed filled with song, and still that song was Love.

Beautiful as were these celestial spirits—beautiful and blessed above all conception of finite man; yet they were not of the highest class of angels.

Incapable of sin, unconscious of pain or sorrow, but not yet admitted to hover over the dwelling of man, to minister unto the afflicted, to tend the couch of the dying; to whisper of rest to the weary, hope to the desponding, joy to the mourner.

Sensible of the Eternal’s presence, their bliss made perfect in His glory, their task was to watch and tend inanimate creation;—to sing his praises amidst the glorious shrines of nature, till His works proclaimed him unto man.

Activity and obedience were the sole virtues demanded of <<409>> these celestial beings in the tasks above enumerated, and when these had been sufficiently exercised, they graduated to a higher order of angels, nearer the Eternal’s throne, who were permitted to receive His will and make it known to man. The desire to obtain this privilege was lively in all, but far removed from that grosser passion, known to man, as ambition. In them it did but add zest to enjoyment, give energy to love, inspiration to obedience. Faith, they needed not; for to them the Eternal was revealed. Anticipation was lost in fulfillment—hope in completion. Their nature was not susceptible of a deeper sense of bliss; but as they ascended higher and higher in the scale of angels, the deeper, fuller, more glorious blessedness, was met by a nature yet more purified, spiritualized, exalted, fitted for its reception, and strengthened to retain it.

II.

Reposing on a sunbeam, lingering on the brow of a hill, a spirit lay, apart from his fellows. His brow was wreathed with the opal, emerald, and ruby; so blending their several rays, that they seemed but as a circlet of ever-changing light. His long flowing hair shone as if each clustering ringlet had been bathed in the liquid diamond. His downy wings, woven of every shade, gently waved in air, wafting the richest perfume, and dyeing the sunbeam on which he lay, in every brilliant tint. A light mist enveloped his angelic form,—softening, not lessening, his resplendent loveliness. His eye shone as the midnight star; a bloom, softer, lovelier, purer than the earliest rose, played on his cheek; sparkling smiles wreathed his lips. He spoke, and his voice was music,—though his golden harp lay silent by his side.

“Love! love!” he murmured; " Hallelujah to the Lord of love! Let the full choirs of heaven chaunt forth the immortal theme; proclaim, proclaim Him Love! Earth! air! ocean! shout with your hundred tongues, send up your echo to the voice of heaven! Man, art thou insensible?—Hearest thou not these living tones?—Can doubt be thine, as I have heard whispered in the celestial courts? Created by Love,—placed in a world <<410>> of love,—distant as thou art, yet cherished, and beloved by Love, destined for immortal union with the Love that gave thee being:—canst thou be faithless, canst thou be senseless?—when above, below, around, within, soundeth the deep, eternal voice of Love! Oh insensates, if such things be! Immortal glory, bliss unfading, can it be for ye?”

Awhile he paused. A slight shadow passed athwart the brilliant rays with which he was encircled. He folded his wings around him, and laid his brow upon them.

“My thought has been rebuked,” he said; “I have done ill.— Enough for me, the consciousness of love. Wherefore should I condemn, as yet unworthy to look on man? Let the hallelujahs sound forth again. Glory to the Eternal!—His works are wis­dom, His thoughts are love!”

He swept his hand across his harp.—the shadow hail departed from his wings:—his chaplet shot forth again its living light. Celestial music flowed forth from his voice and hand:—

The spirit smiled once more. Suddenly the hallelujahs ceased. To the eye of man twilight had descended: the stars began to light up the dark blue heavens. Mortal vision might trace the semblance of a falling meteor of unwonted brilliance, dropping into space. The purified orbs of the seraph crowd knew that one of the highest class of angels was departing from his resplendent seat, and winging his flight towards them. Instantly they rose up from their several resting-places, forming in files, of unutterable brilliance. Increased happiness shed a new lustre on their brows, and heightened the glowing iris of their wings. One alone felt penetrated with an awe which slightly lessened the feelings of joy, which the visit of an angel ever caused. He feared it was to him the celestial mission came: that his condemnation of beings, whose nature and whose trials he knew not, had exposed him to censure, perhaps, to a longer banishment from the higher spheres of glory; and while his brother spirits thronged round the favoured minister, to bask in the resplendent brightness of his smiles, to list to the words of melody flowing from his lips, to gaze on the mild yet thrilling softness of his  celestial features, Zephon stood aloof, for the first time shrinking <<411>> from the glance and voice he loved. He saw not that the glittering helm and dazzling sword were laid aside, that his brow was wreathed with the softly-gleaming pearl, his shining wings glistening through silvery radiance, bespeaking tenderness and mercy, and not now the wrath and chastisement of which, at his Maker’s will, he was at times the minister.

His voice, melodious and thrilling as the silver trumpets of the empyreal heavens, sounded through space as it called “Zephon!” The seraph paused not a moment, but darting through the incensed air, prostrated himself at the archangel’s feet.         

“Arise, and fear not, youthful brother!” spoke the messen­ger of the Eternal, departing not from the grave majesty of his demeanour, but smiling with such ineffable sweetness, the seraph felt its reviving influence, and spread forth his silken pinions rejoicingly again. “I come, the harbinger of peace and love. Thine impassioned zeal was checked ere it became a fault,—checked ere it led thee to desire forbidden knowledge. Charged with a message of love and mercy from the Most High, I have besought and obtained permission to take thee, as my companion. To thine imperfect vision, it seemeth strange that man, so especially the beloved, the cherished of the Eternal, framed to dis­play, to uphold His stupendous power, to proclaim His might,— His love—should ever fail either in obedience or adoration.

Thou hast heard that such has been; for where sin hath so fearfully prevailed, that an immortal spirit has been excluded from these glorious realms, a dim shadow hath spread over Heaven’s resplendent courts, and the celestial spirits of every rank have prostrated themselves before the invisible, yet terrible Presence, adoring justice, while they supplicated mercy. Zephon! not yet may be revealed to thee the glorious mystery of the Eternal’s secret ways. Thou mayst gaze with me on the earthly beings I have charge to tend; but it is forbidden thee to ask or seek the wherefore of what thou seest. Thou wilt behold, even in this limited glance, enough to prove, that even if the human heart refuseth to send up its thrilling echo to the theme of Love, which thy zeal demandeth, the unfathomable love of its benignant <<412>> Creator will receive and bless its faintest sigh; for to Him, and to Him alone, is known the extent of its trial,—the bitterness of its grief,—the difficulty of its belief in an ever-acting love. Zephon if still thou wilt, thou shalt look on the human heart yet pause awhile;—is thy love sufficiently strong to uphold thee in the contemplation of decrees, whose motives thou art not yet permitted to conceive In thy blissful dwelling, thou hast no nod of Faith; thou knowest not even its name; but if with me thou goest, Faith must be thy safeguard. Here thine eye seeth, thine ear heareth, nought but love; there it may be darkly hidden from thee. Yet if thy faith or thy love should fail, if thou demandest the wherefore of what thou seest, it is our Father’s will that thou shalt be banished unto earth—banished from this glorious abode—condemned to struggle with the ills and sorrows of mortality, till pure and perfect faith shine forth, and fit thee once again for heaven. Speak, then, my brother: wilt thou depart with me, or still linger here? The choice is now thine own.”

Awhile the seraph paused: the face of the archangel beamed on him with compassionating tenderness and redoubled love. The looks of his brother spirits, the soft fluttering of their wings seemed to woo him to remain, to intreat him not to tempt the fate threatened if his love should fail, and therefore did he pause.

“No no! wherefore should I fear?” he cried; I will go with thee, minister of love. I will look upon my Father’s dearest work, and despite of mystery and gloom,—of sorrow—of pain, I will love and bless Him still!”

A fuller, richer burst of melody filled the realms of air; thousands and thousands of voices swelled forth in triumphant harmony. A starry cloud descended, and, folded in its spangled robe, the departing spirits vanished into space.

III.

“Thy wish is fulfilled; the peculiar treasure of our Father is revealed. Zephon, behold:” the angel spake, as the shrouding  cloud rolled away towards the fields of ether, and the celestial spirits hovered over the abode of man. A sudden, an inde<<413>>scribable consciousness of increased powers, of heightened intellect, shot from the starry eyes of the youthful seraph. Man in his majesty, his beauty,—bearing in his every movement, his exquisitely-formed frame, his complicated economy of being, yet more impressive, more startling evidence of the might, the wisdom, the benevolence of his glorious Maker, than even the source of the river, the structure of the flower, the growth of the tree, over which the seraph had presided, finding even in such things ample scope for the soaring intellect which characterized his race; man, proceeding from, destined for, immortality,—the beloved, the peculiar care and treasure of the Eternal,—man, beautiful man, stood revealed before him.

Yet amidst the thronging multitude on which he gazed, but one HEART, in all its varied impulses, its hidden throbs and incongruous thoughts and ever-changing fancies—but one beautiful intellect, in all its secret powers and extent, was open to his inspection: and lovely, even to the eyes of a spirit, was the being in whom such glorious things were shrined.

She was a young and noble maiden, perfect in form and face; her virtues, scarce sullied by a stain of earth, although from the Spirit of Poetry, the living fount of Genius, dwelling within, open to grief and trial, even from the faintest breath too rudely jarring on the heavenly-strung chords with which her heart was filled. A deep, lowly, clinging piety, was ever ready to check the first impulse of impatience, to turn to the sweet joys of sympathy and universal love, the too vivid sense of sorrow, either for herself or others. Humility was there, to lift up that young spirit in thankfulness to its Creator, and to devote that powerful intellect, ever seeming to bear all difficulties before it, to His service in the good of her fellow-creatures.

Zephon saw that the praise of man was a source of pure inspiring pleasure; but instead of filling her soul with pride, it ever bore it up in increased devotion to its God. He marked her graceful form, sporting to and fro amid the stately domains of her lordly ancestors. He marked the love of parents, brothers, friends, that ever thronged around her, and the fulness of joy that love bestowed. He saw, too, the impassioned longings for <<414>> yet stronger love, the yearnings for fame; the appreciation, not alone from the noble and the gay, but from the gifted and the good: the desire to awake, by the magic touch of Genius, the same thrilling chords in other hearts, as the spell of others had revealed in hers.

The seraph looked long and earnestly. Suddenly he saw her standing in the centre of a lordly room, and loving and admiring friends around her; her lip, her eye, her heart breathed joy, well-nigh as full and shadowless as the blessedness of heaven. After awhile the angel spake:

“There is nought here to call for Faith,” he said. “Yon  favoured child of genius but awakens deeper, yet more adoring love. Her lot is blessedness; her heart so pure, earth hath scarce power to stain that bliss. But now look, yonder, Zephon. Seest thou amidst the multitude, a being equally, though differently lovely,—equally powerful in intellect, equally the child of genius, as richly gifted, alike in wisdom as in virtue, as fully susceptible of joy and sorrow; the same feelings, the same desires, the same deep yearnings for love on which to rest for appreciation, fame;—the same strung heart, thrilling to melody as keenly as to neglect. Mark well, young brother, and thou wilt trace these things.

Anxiously the seraph gazed, and again he was conscious of sufficient power to read the human heart. Again, amidst the multitude, one gentle being stood unveiled before him; and save for the difference in form and face, he had thought perchance it was the same on whom he had gazed before, so similar were their virtues, powers, temperament, and genius;—similar in all things save that the sense of bliss in the one already appeared, more chastened, more timid, than in the other. He looked, then turned inquiringly towards his companion.

(To be continued.)