by Albert Pike

Albert Pike


I had a dream: Methought Ariel came,
And bade me follow him; and I arose:
Lighter my body seemed than subtle flame,
Or than the invisible wind that always blows
Above the clouds. So upward I did aim,
With quick flight, as the sky-lark sunward goes,—
Led by the splendour of Ariel's wing,
Whose snowy light before fled, glittering.


So, floating upward through the roseate air,
And through the wide interstices of cloud,
We climbed the mist-hills, till we halted, where
The frowning peaks beneath the azure glowed;
Then gazed I all around;—no sun blazed there,
But crimson light through the pure ether flowed,
And dimmed the moon's eye and the stars' white cones,
Till they were scarce seen on their golden thrones.


Awhile we trod along the quivering peaks
Of foaming cloud; over entangled rifts
Of purple light; through crimson-misted breaks;
And saw blue lightning crouching in white drifts,
Restless and quivering, while the broad, deep lakes
Of vapor tremble as he stirs and shifts,
Waked by the diapason of the thunder,
That swells upon the wild wind rushing under.


And moored within a labyrinthine bay
Girded by massive foam-cliffs, rough, storm-worn,
On a flat shore of leaden vapour, lay
A boat carved out of orange mist, which morn
Had hardened into crystal, many a day,
Deep in a rift in a vast glacier torn:—
We stepped on board,—we loosed her from the bank,
Our thirsty sail, spread wide, the breezes drank.


And swiftly then our winged bark flew on,
While I sat looking downward from the prow;
Down broad, shade-margined rivers, dark and dun,
Over smooth lakes, sea-green, with golden glow,
Flecked with broad black spots, here and there, upon
Their mirrored surface:—now we float below
Like a fleet shadow, over the vext breast
Of boundless, billowy oceans of white mist.


Then rushed we into chasms, deep, wide and black,—
By huge, bleak, stormy mountains, of the foam
And rolling masses of the thunder-rack;
Dark, quivering precipices of deep gloom,
Aeries of brooding lightning;—and did tack
In narrow inlets, through which roared the boom
Of the mad wind; wherein did Thunder dream,\
And on the far blue waves his lightnings gleam.


And then we issued to the open vast
Of cloudless air above; and while the sail
Its silver shade upon my forehead cast,—
Like lightning or swift thought, before the gale
Fled our bright barque. Strange wonders there we passed,
Currents of astral light, cold, thin and pale,
Strange, voiceless birds that never sink to earth,
And troops of fairies, dancing in mad mirth.


Then we descended, till our barque did float
Above the peak of one lone mountain; and
Ariel furled the sail, and moored our boat
Upon the margin of a narrow strand
Of undulating mist, that from remote
And dangerous seas had come, o'er many a land,—
An amaranthine effluence of ocean,
Changing forever with eternal motion.


Then, bending from the helm, Ariel gazed
With keen eyes downward through the mighty vast,
And waved his hand. The piles of mist upraised,
That on the mountain's lofty crown were massed;
And, gazing earthward, eager and amazed,
While either way the rent clouds slowly passed,
I saw a mighty palace, reared upon
The grey, scarred summit of that towering cone.


Columns of gold, with emerald inwrought,
Ruby and jasper, and infoliate
With leaves of silver, intricate as thought;
Statues of gold, intercolumniate;
Great altars, fed with costly odours, bought
With toil and blood; and round the rude doors wait
Large hosts of slaves, bending the patient knee,
As though they lingered there some King to see.


'Here," said Ariel, "liveth Tyranny,
Remorseless reveller in war and blood;
And these that humbly bend the supple knee,—
Within whose inmost heart-cells ever brood
Hatred, despair, chill fear and misery,
Peopling with terrors the sad solitude,—
These are his slaves. They bow there, night and day,
And costly homage to his altars pay.'


" And now, behold! forth from his broad gates ride
His kindred fiends, the tools of his fierce ire,
Your glorious Republic to divide,
Friend against friend, the son against the sire,
And near their graves who for your freedom died,
Slay with the sword and devastate with fire:
And I have brought thee here, that thou mayest tell
Thy countrymen to shun that purple Hell."


Then, with a roar like thunder, open flew
The brazen gates, and all the mountain quivered,
And trembled like a child; and far off, through
The distant hills, against the grey rocks shivered,
That awful sound; and a wild voice that grew
A terror to me, surging up, delivered,
In tones that like a brazen trumpet roared,
The order for the march:—Forth came the horde!


First came Ambition, with his discous eye,
And tiger-spring, and hot and eager speed,
Flushed cheek, imperious glance, demeanour high;—
He in the portal striding his black steed,
Stained fetlock-deep with red blood not yet dry,
And flecked with foam, did the wild cohort lead
Down the rough mountain, heedless of the crowd
Of slaves that round the altar-steps yet bowed.


Next came red Rashness, with his restless step,
In whose large eyes glowed the fierce fire that boiled
In his broad chest. Large gouts of blood did drip
From his drawn sword; the trembling slaves recoiled:
Scorn and fierce passion curled his writhing lip;
His dress was torn with furious haste, and soiled;—
So, springing on his reeking steed, he shook
The reins, and downward his swift journey took.


Then came dark Disappointment, with the foam
Of rage upon his lips, sad step and slow,
Stern, wrinkled brow, clenched teeth, and heavy gloom,
Like a shadow on his eyes,— in these a glow
Like that of baleful stars within a tomb;
His tangled locks left in the wind to blow;
And so did he forth from the palace stride,
And stalk away down the steep mountain-side.


Next followed Envy, with deep-sunken eye,
Glaring upon his mates. He beat his breast
And gnashed his teeth, with many a bitter sigh;
For in his heart, deep in its core, a nest
Of fiery scorpions gnawed, that never die,
Writhing and stinging ever;—on he pressed,
Mounted upon a pale and hound-eyed" steed,
And down the mountain, snarling, did proceed.


And then old Avarice, tottering out, appeared,
With wrinkled front and gray and matted hair,
And elfish eyes, blue-circled, small and bleared:
He slowly walked, with cautious, prying air,
Working his lips under his filthy beard,
Peering upon the ground with searching eye,
Clutching a purse with yellow, wasted hand,—
And so he followed the descending band.


Then came Corruption, with his serpent-tongue,
Quick, hurried gait, and eye astute, yet bold;
And while, amid the crouching, base, bowed throng
Of suppliant slaves, he did his quick way hold,
He loudly hurried Avarice along,
Who crawled before him with his bag of gold;
Bestriding then his rich-apparelled steed,
He followed swiftly where his mates did lead.


Next, dark Fanaticism, his haggard face
Flushing with holy anger, down the track
Went, loud bewailing that the good old days
Of fire and faggot had not yet come back,
When Error was a crime, and to the ways
Of Truth men were persuaded by the rack;—
On either side, a little in advance,
Bigotry rode, and harsh Intolerance.


Hypocrisy came next, prim, starched and staid,
With folded hands and upturned pious eyes,
As though God's law he punctually obeyed;
His sordid greed seeks its base end by lies;
He lusts for every ripe, voluptuous maid,
Then wrings his hands, and prays, and loudly cries,
"Owner of men! stand off, afar, while I,
Holier than thou art, piously pass by!"


And next came Treason, with his blood-stained hand,
Deep, black, fierce eye, and bold, unquailing air;
While even as he passed his hot breath fanned
The grovelling slaves into rebellion there:
His armour clashed, and his broad battle-brand
Did in the purple sheen like lightning glare;
And so his fiery courser he bestrode,
The echo of whose hoofs roared down the road.


Last came King Anarchy. His cold eyes flashed
With red fire blazing up from Hell's abyss;
His large white wolf-teeth angrily he gnashed,
His blne lips parted like a tigress's:
His dusky destrier was with foam besplashed,
And fiery serpents did around him hiss,
Writhing amid his war-steed's misty mane,
Whose hoofs the young grass scorched like fiery rain.


As he rode down, there mustered in the rear
A hideous flock, some few in human form,
Some shapeless. Here came, crouching by, pale Fear,
Revenge and Wrath, and Rapine, a base swarm;
And Cruelty and Murder, and their peer,
Red Persecution, pouring a hot storm
Of fire and blood from his relentless hand; —
All these are under Anarchy's command.


When the horde passed below the mountain's brow,
With clashing hoof, mad turmoil and loud din,
Within the hall there rose a wild halloo,
As though a thousand fiends rejoiced therein;—
The upper air vibrated it unto,
The currents trembled of its crimson sheen;
The lightning-lofts were shaken; and our boat
Rocked on the strand where the harsh echo smote.


Then did Ariel lift the snowy sail,
Of our ethereal barque. The helm he took,
And up behind us sprang a gentle gale,
Murmuring astern, like a sweet summer-brook,
That broad-leaved water-plants from daylight veil;—
And, while the sail a snowy brightness shook
Upon the prow, I lay and watched the boat,
Steered by Ariel, on its voyage float.


Then, passing swiftly, with a favoring gale,
Round the grey forehead of the storm-scarred hill,
We did descend. Near us the moonlight pale
Slept in thick masses, soberly and still,
In the deep nooks of many a purple vale,
Of frosted mist; and down a ringing rill
Of sunlight, flowing past a lofty bank
Of amber cloud, toward the green earth we sank.


And then we passed by mountain-nourished rivers,
Vexed to white foam by rocks their sides that galled;
Near hoary crags, by lightning split to shivers,
Peopled by nervous eagles, grey and bald;
Forests wherein the wind-wave always quivers,
Shaking their deep hearts green as emerald;
Lakes that, like woman's bosom, panting swell,
Robed with the living foam of asphodel.


Within the shadow of old crumbling columns,
Along these lakes we sailed, and saw beneath
Great water-snakes rolling their scaly volumes
Among the water-vines that there did wreathe;—
Through chasms of purple gloom, with rivers solemn
Moaning between their jagged, rocky teeth;—
And then again above the earth we lifted,
And lowered the sail, and helmlessly there drifted.


Below us, stretching from the broad green sea
Into wide prairies, did a fair land lie,
Studded with lakes as still as porphyry
And blue hills sleeping in the bluer sky,
From whose white cones' serene sublimity
The snowy lightning dazzled the sun's eye;
The amethystine rivers thence rolled down
To fling their foam on Ocean's hoary crown.


Great cities, queen-like, stood upon his shore,
And on the banks of those majestic rivers,
And near broad lakes, where at the awful roar
Of one great cataract the stunned earth shivers:
Ships went and came in squadrons, flocking o'er
That Ocean which the Old and New World severs,
Shading the bays and rivers with their sails,
Their starred flags laughing at propitious gales.


Broad fields spread inland, robed in green and gold,
And waving with a mighty wealth of grain,
From where the bear snarled at the Arctic cold,
To the Mexique Gulf, and the Pacific Main;—
Far South, in snowy undulations, rolled,
With their white harvests many a treeless plain;
And where the Sierra westwardly inclines,
Gleamed a new Ophir, with its glittering mines.


The Throne of Liberty stood in that land,
Its guards the Law and Constitution; these,
These and no other held supreme command,
And everywhere, through all the land, was peace.
Grim Despotism fast in his iron hand
Held all men's rights in the ancient Monarchies;
But Freedom reigned here undisturbed and calm,
Holding an eagle on her snowy palm.


Then, as I gazed, it seemed men's hearts became
Transparent to me as the crimsoned air,
Or as the thin sheet of a subtle flame;
And I could see the passions working there
Like restless serpents; how they went and came,
And writhed or slept within their fiery lair;
So that I saw the cause of each vibration
That shook the heart-strings of that youthful nation.


I watched the souls of all that people, when
That train of fiends did thitherward repair;
I saw old creeping Avarice crouch therein,
Like a caged panther; and his grizzled hair
Choked up the springs of Virtue, so that men
Were proud the Devil's livery to wear,
And did begin to count and calculate
That Union's value which had made them great. .


I saw red Rashness and Ambition urge
Men to ill deeds for office; with a wing
Like the free eagle's, lo! they swift emerge
From the dens and caves of earth, and upward spring,
With daring flight; but like the baffled surge,
That doth against a rock its masses fling,
They are repelled; some great, calm, kingly eye
Withers their plumes; a little while they fly,


And then, still striving with their shrivelled wings,
Drop on the earth, and in each cankered soul
Pale Disappointment crouches, Envy clings,
Rage, Hate, Despair at the sweet sunlight scowl,
Revenge and fiery Anger dart their stings
Into themselves, and with the sharp pain howl;
Then forth these patriots go, a motley brood,
And preach sedition to the multitude.


Then Faction and the Lust for office shook
Their filthy wings over the whole land, lighting
On hill and plain, by river, lake and brook
The fires of discord, and new hates exciting;
And lean Corruption sneaked in every nook,
With Avarice's hoards to crime inviting;
Till men no longer saw that glittering Star,
The Constitution, shining from afar.


Fanaticism preached a new crusade,
And Bigotry damned slavery as a crime;
Intolerance, brandishing his murderous blade,
Denounced the Southron in bad prose and rhyme;
The Pulpit preached rebellion; men, dismayed,
Saw the red portents of a bloody time
Burn ominous upon the Northern sky,
And sword-like comets, threatening, blaze on high.


Treason, without disguise, all clad in mail,
Stalked boldly over the distracted land:
Cries of Disunion swelled on every gale;
The Ship of State drew near the rocky strand,
With rent sails, through the lightning and the hail;
Her mariners a reckless, drunken band;
And Freedom, shuddering, closed her eyes, and left
Their vessel on the weltering seas to drift.


Then Anarchy turned loose his maddened steed,
Whose iron hoofs went clanging through the land,
Filling men's hearts with fear and shapeless dread;
Then leaped on board, and with audacious hand,
Grasped he the helm, and turned the vessel's head
Toward unknown seas, and, at his fierce command,
Through the red foam and howling waves, the dark,
Ill-visaged mariners to ruin sailed the barque.


I shuddered for a time, and looked again,
Watching the day of that eventful dawn;
Wild War had broken his adamantine chain,
Bestrid the steed of Anarchy, and drawn
His bloody scimiter; a fiery rain
Of blood poured on the land, and scorched the corn;
Wild shouts, mad cries, and frequent trumpets rang,
And iron hoofs thundered with constant clang.


I saw and heard no more, for I did faint,
And would have fallen to the earth, had not
Ariel stooped and caught me as I went.
He raised the sail, and left that fearful spot;
And while into the soft, cool air I leant,
Drinking the wind that followed the swift boat,
He said to me, with gentle voice and clear,
Ringing like tones æolian in my ear:


"Thou has not seen the woes that are to come,
The long, dark days, that lengthen into years,
The reign of rapine, when the laws are dumb,
The bloody fields, the hearth-stones wet with tears;
The starving children, wrangling for a crumb,
The cries of ravished maidens, that God hears,
And does not heed, the blackened walls that stand
Amid the graves, through all the wasted land.


"Go, tell your misled people the sad fate,
The bitter woes and sharp calamities,
That in the swiftly-coming Future wait;
The fruit of Faction's sordid villainies,
Of discord and dissension, greed and hate,
And all that in man base and brutal is;
Unless they guard, -with sleepless vigilance,
Their liberties against such dire mischance."


He said no more; meanwhile we kept along
The elemental greenness of the ocean,
Whose great breast throbbed and trembled with the strong
Stern pulses of its vibratory motion;
Across still bays, mid many a tangled throng
Of misty isles, sleeping like sweet devotion
In woman's heart, bordered with low white shores,
Running off inland with green level floors.


We saw grey water-plants that fanned the deep,
With golden hair, far down beneath the boat;
Caverns, shell-paven, where the Naiads sleep;
Clouds of thick light through the great Vast that float;
Great emerald-rifts, wherein the ripples keep
A constant murmur of æolic notes;
Broad beds of coral, rosy as the Dawn,
The radiant sea-flowers thick on many a lawn.


And then we left the boat, and quick descended,
Through the clear air, as we had first arisen,
Unto my home, wherein I found extended
That which again became my sad soul's prison;
Then with a brief adieu he upward wended,
While far behind long lines of light did glisten;
Leaving me meditating on my dream,
Which still like deep and dark reality doth seem.

Last updated May 13, 2023