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Chapter 64

Concentric, Inward, With Mardi's Reef, They Leave Their Wake Around
The World


West, West! West, West! Whitherward point Hope and prophet-fingers;
whitherward, at sun-set, kneel all worshipers of fire; whitherward in
mid-ocean, the great whales turn to die; whitherward face all the
Moslem dead in Persia; whitherward lie Heaven and Hell!--West, West!
Whitherward mankind and empires--flocks, caravans, armies, navies;
worlds, suns, and stars all wend!--West, West!--Oh boundless boundary!
Eternal goal! Whitherward rush, in thousand worlds, ten thousand
thousand keels! Beacon, by which the universe is steered!--Like the
north-star, attracting all needles! Unattainable forever; but forever
leading to great things this side thyself!--Hive of all sunsets!--
Gabriel's pinions may not overtake thee!

Over balmy waves, still westward sailing! From dawn till eve, the
bright, bright days sped on, chased by the gloomy nights; and, in
glory dying, lent their luster to the starry skies. So, long the
radiant dolphins fly before the sable sharks but seized, and torn in
flames--die, burning:--their last splendor left, in sparkling scales
that float along the sea.

Cymbals, drums and psalteries! the air beats like a pulse with music!
--High land! high land! and moving lights, and painted lanterns!--What
grand shore is this?

"Reverence we render thee, Old Orienda!" cried Media, with bared brow,
"Original of all empires and emperors!--a crowned king salutes thee!"

"Mardi's father-land!" cried Mohi, "grandsire of the nations,--hail!"

"All hail!" cried Yoomy. "Kings and sages hither coming, should come
like palmers,--scrip and staff! Oh Orienda! thou wert our East, where
first dawned song and science, with Mardi's primal mornings! But now,
how changed! the dawn of light become a darkness, which we kindle with
the gleam of spears! On the world's ancestral hearth, we spill our
brothers' blood!"

"Herein," said Babbalanja, "have many distant tribes proved
parricidal. In times gone by, Luzianna hither sent her prom; Franko,
her scores of captains; and the Dykemen, their peddler hosts, with
yard-stick spears! But thou, oh Bello! lord of the empire lineage!
Noah of the moderns. Sire of the long line of nations yet in germ!--
thou, Bello, and thy locust armies, are the present curse of Orienda.
Down ancient streams, from holy plains, in rafts thy murdered float!
The pestilence that thins thy armies here, is bred of corpses, made by
thee. Maramma's priests, thy pious heralds, loud proclaim that of all
pagans, Orienda's most resist the truth!--ay! vain all pious voices,
that speak from clouds of war! The march of conquest through wild
provinces, may be the march of Mind; but not the march of Love."

"Thou, Bello!" cried Yoomy, "would'st wrest the crook from Alma's
hand, and place in it a spear. But vain to make a conqueror of him,
who put off the purple when he came to Mardi; and declining gilded
miters, entered the nations meekly on an ass."

"Oh curse of commerce!" cried Babbalanja, "that it barters souls for
gold. Bello! with opium, thou wouldst drug this land, and murder it in
sleep!--And what boot thy conquests here? Seed sown by spears but
seldom springs; and harvests reaped thereby, are poisoned by the
sickle's edge."

Yet on, and on we coasted; counting not the days.

"Oh, folds and flocks of nations! dusky tribes innumerable!" cried
Yoomy, "camped on plains and steppes; on thousand mountains,
worshiping the stars; in thousand valleys, offering up first-fruits,
till all the forests seem in flames;--where, in fire, the widow's
spirit mounts to meet her lord!--Oh, Orienda, in thee 'tis vain to
seek our Yillah!"

"How dark as death the night!" said Mohi, shaking the dew from his
braids, "the Heavens blaze not here with stars, as over Dominora's
land, and broad Vivenza."

One only constellation was beheld; but every star was brilliant as the
one, that promises the morning. That constellation was the Crux-
Australis,--the badge, and type of Alma.

And now, southwest we steered, till another island vast, was reached;
--Hamora! far trending toward the Antarctic Pole.

Coasting on by barbarous beaches, where painted men, with spears,
charged on all attempts to land, at length we rounded a mighty bluff,
lit by a beacon; and heard a bugle call:--Bello's! hurrying to their
quarters, the World-End's garrison.

Here, the sea rolled high, in mountain surges: mid which, we toiled
and strained, as if ascending cliffs of Caucasus.

But not long thus. As when from howling Rhoetian heights, the traveler
spies green Lombardy below, and downward rushes toward that pleasant
plain; so, sloping from long rolling swells, at last we launched upon
the calm lagoon.

But as we northward sailed, once more the storm-trump blew, and
charger-like, the seas ran mustering to the call; and in battalions
crouched before a towering rock, far distant from the main. No moon,
eclipsed in Egypt's skies, looked half so lone. But from out that
darkness, on the loftiest peak, Bello's standard waved.

"Oh rifled tomb!" cried Babbalanja. "Wherein lay the Mars and
Moloch of our times, whose constellated crown, was gemmed with
diadems. Thou god of war! who didst seem the devouring Beast of the
Apocalypse; casting so vast a shadow over Mardi, that yet it lingers
in old Franko's vale; where still they start at thy tremendous ghost;
and, late, have hailed a phantom, King! Almighty hero-spell! that
after the lapse of half a century, can so bewitch all hearts! But one
drop of hero-blood will deify a fool.

"Franko! thou wouldst be free; yet thy free homage is to the buried
ashes of a King; thy first choice, the exaltation of his race. In
furious fires, thou burn'st Ludwig's throne; and over thy new-made
chieftain's portal, in golden letters print'st--'The Palace of our
Lord!' In thy New Dispensation, thou cleavest to the exploded Law. And
on Freedom's altar--ah, I fear--still, may slay thy hecatombs. But
Freedom turns away; she is sick with burnt blood of offerings. Other
rituals she loves; and like Oro, unseen herself, would be worshiped
only by invisibles. Of long drawn cavalcades, pompous processions,
frenzied banners, mystic music, marching nations, she will none. Oh,
may thy peaceful Future, Franko, sanctify thy bloody Past. Let not
history say; 'To her old gods, she turned again.'"

This rocky islet passed, the sea went down; once more we neared
Hamora's western shore. In the deep darkness, here and there, its
margin was lit up by foam-white, breaking billows rolled over from
Vivenza's strand, and down from northward Dominora; marking places
where light was breaking in, upon the interior's jungle-gloom.

In heavy sighs, the night-winds from shore came over us.

"Ah, vain to seek sweet Yillah here," cried Yoomy.--"Poor land! curst
of man, not Oro! how thou faintest for thy children, torn from thy
soil, to till a stranger's. Vivenza! did these winds not spend their
plaints, ere reaching thee, thy every vale would echo them. Oh, tribe
of Hamo! thy cup of woe so brims, that soon it must overflow upon the
land which holds ye thralls. No misery born of crime, but
spreads and poisons wide. Suffering hunteth sin, as the gaunt hound
the hare, and tears it in the greenest brakes."

Still on we sailed: and after many tranquil days and nights, a storm
came down, and burst its thousand bombs. The lightnings forked and
flashed; the waters boiled; our three prows lifted themselves in
supplication; but the billows smote them as they reared.

Said Babbalanja, bowing to the blast: "Thus, oh Vivenza! retribution
works! Though long delayed, it comes at last--Judgment, with all her
bolts."

Now, a current seized us, and like three darts, our keels sped
eastward, through a narrow strait, far in, upon a smooth expanse, an
inland ocean, without a throb.

On our left, Porpheero's southwest point, a mighty rock, long tiers of
galleries within, deck on deck; and flag-staffs, like an admiral's
masts: a line-of-battle-ship, all purple stone, and anchored in the
sea. Here Bello's lion crouched; and, through a thousand port-holes,
eyed the world.

On our right, Hamora's northern shore gleamed thick with crescents;
numerous as the crosses along the opposing strand.

"How vain to say, that progress is the test of truth, my lord," said
Babbalanja, "when, after many centuries, those crescents yet unwaning
shine, and count a devotee for every worshiper of yonder crosses.
Truth and Merit have other symbols than success; and in this mortal
race, all competitors may enter; and the field is clear for all. Side
by side, Lies run with Truths, and fools with wise; but, like
geometric lines, though they pierce infinity, never may they join."

Over that tideless sea we sailed; and landed right, and landed left;
but the maiden never found; till, at last, we gained the water's
limit; and inland saw great pointed masses, crowned with halos.

"Granite continents," cried Babbalanja, "that seem created like the
planets, not built with human hands. Lo, Landmarks! upon whose flanks
Time leaves its traces, like old tide-rips of diluvian seas."

As, after wandering round and round some purple dell, deep in a
boundless prairie's heart, the baffled hunter plunges in; then,
despairing, turns once more to gain the open plain; even so we seekers
now curved round our keels; and from that inland sea emerged. The
universe again before us; our quest, as wide.

Herman Melville