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next one, maybe, will be like his pretty
Alice. The next one cannot possibly do
better than be like her, and so God bless her!

A CHRISTMAS PHANTASY.

IN wilds of lone Armenia, where, they say,
Man was created in the primal day,
A castle stands upon a mountain crag,
Staring far down precipitous vales, which drag
Their stony terraces between the trees.
The wandering shepherds, looking from the leas
Along the mountain slopes, regard with awe
Those battlements from which the ravens caw
With depth of ghostly meaning, when the clouds,
Which sail upon the wind with vaporous shrouds,
Throw quickly-vanishing shadows on the wall,
Like shapes in a magic mirror. Thither crawl
Toad, eft, and lizard; while those doubtful things
That breed in secret, with their murmuring wings
And skeleton bodies, haunt the stagnant gloom
From dusky birth-time to their day of doom.

This castle stands upon phantasmal ground,
And ever in the central hall is found
A hawk that slumbers on a golden perch.
The man who, entering the dim place in search
Of hidden knowledge, shall awake that hawk
Three days and nights continuously, shall talk
With an enchantress who in lonely state
Dwells there, and utters oracles of Fate:
And if he ask her of her grace to grant
His dearest wish, his most heart-cherish'd want,
Behold! against the morrow it is done.

A youthful king came with the rising sun
And woke the hawk, who, in his tranc├Ęd fit
And dreams stupendous, would for ever sit
Moveless above his shadow, unless stirr'd
By those who seek him. Thus aroused, the bird,
With heavy motion of his weight of plumes,
And sudden rustle, creeping through the rooms
Like trail of phantom garments, open'd wide
His eyes, and saw the monarch by his side,
Making a glimmer with his gems and gold,
And sense of warmth within the shuddering cold.
Three days the stranger watch'd, persistently
Driving back sleep from weary brain and eye,
Coercing hunger, mastering the frail sense
With edicts from the soul's omnipotence,
And forcing, by an aspect fix'd and grim,
The hawk himself to wake and watch with him.

The third night pass'd; when, at the break of day,
Along the twilight chamber, dim and gray,
Came from afar the solitary queen
With hush'd and stately footsteps, scarcely seen
Beneath her garments' cloudy amplitude.
The darkling east that moment was subdued
In tender blush of morning; and the gloom
That long had glutted all that desert room
Soften'd-and paled, dissolving in the light
Of her who issued from the gulf of night.
The sullen wainscoat kindled with the splendour,
And turn'd to jasper; columns tall and slender
Upheld the roof, now flush'd with heavenly shows
And dreams of beauty, tongue may not disclose
For greatness of the wonder; and, as she
Who was the sun to all this galaxy
Drew near and nearer, so the richness burn'd
To haughtier ardencies, and ever yearn'd
Towards her as its centre; till at last
She stood before the king, with eyes downcast,
A pearl within a many-colour'd shell.

"Sir King," she said, "you now have earn'd right well
The thing you wish; and I will give it birth,
Whether it be in subtle air or earth,
In the fierce ocean or the fiercer fire,
Mocking with bodiless substance your desire."
He answered: "Fair and regal mystery,
Dweller in lonely glories, such as dye
Our dreams of heaven; thou beauty and thou wonder,
Whose coming, like the moonrise, clove asunder
The sadness, and the shades obscure and dead!
My lofty wish not easily is said,
Yet I will venture to declare it now.
I am a king, before whose presence bow
The tribes of vast Armenia; thou a queen,
Ruling some empery of eternal green,
Girt round with terror and bewilderment
From those who come not with a high intent.
Half empty is my throne; and, as the land,
Ere Adam came, waited his sovereign hand,
My heart has waited many years for thee,
Sleeping and dreaming. But at length I see
The happy sign and augury of the end."

She darken'd slowly, and, with haughty bend
Of head and neck, replied: "Your words are wild
And wilful as the babbling of a child.
You seek a dreadful knowledge; for, Sir King,
I am no earthly, but a ghostly thing.
Be warn'd in timebe warn'd!" But he, possess'd
With high-wrought purpose and resolve, still press'd
His wish upon the fair magician's mind.
"Fool!" she exclaimed; "fool, miserably blind
I am not able to refuse your prayer,
Though all around me I perceive the air
Throb with the coming horror, whereunto
We go with fatal swiftness. Not on you
Only, but also on my darkening head,
Fall the hot, smouldering thunders and the dread.
A nameless misery, shapeless shape of ill,
A creeping dimness, venomous and chill,
Rise through my inmost being, and confound
All my bright essence with the sordid ground."

She paused and wept; when suddenly there came
Into that home of warmth and colour'd flame,
A sound of chanting, sweetly multiplied
From the far convents on the mountain side.
It was the hymn with which the priestly men
Usher'd the dawn of Christmas Day; and when
The clear, cold utterance reach'd the haunted hall,
The golden glories trembled, one and all,
Droop'd and diminish'd, sicken'd, and resign'd
Their souls into the darkness blank and blind.
The ghostly lady, fluttering for a space
In the decaying lustre, lit the place
With faint and ashy gleams, in which at length
She wasted, emptied of her phantom strength:
And forth into the dawn-light went the king.

He heard the monks their Christmas matin sing:
He saw before him, mightily outroll'd,
The long Armenian mountains, swart and cold;
The blackly-frozen brooks; the meagre grass;
The pine-trees darkening down the perilous pass;
The convents sleeping on the rocks; the bloom
And soft suffusion through the skyey gloom
Of morning's gradual azure; and one star,
Large, lucid, trembling, infinitely far