“And the sons of God beheld the daughters of men that they
were fair.”— Genesis.
A Fallen Angel is flying over the earth. He is weary of
evil. Mankind has become corrupt and offers no opposition
when he tempts, (i, 2.)
He views the noblest scenery of the Caucasus, but hatred is
predominant in his heart, and he scorns whatever he sees.
Gudil, a Caucasian chief, has built a castle on a lofty hill.
His daughter, Tamira, is about to be married to the Lord of
Sinodkl. She is spending the evening with her girl friends
dancing and singing. She is so pure and lovely that she would
arouse nobler thoughts, even in a Demon, were one to see her,
and would make him long for his lost Paradise. (5,6,7,8.)
The Demon sees her and loves her. (9.)
Meanwhile the Lord of Sinodal is riding to the marriage at the
head of a gay cavalcade. The Demon tempts him to ride more
swiftly through a dangerous mountain pass, where he is attacked
by robbers and slain. His horse arrives at Gudil’s castle with
the dead rider on its back. ( 11, 12, 13, 14.)
The Demon appears to Tamira in her dreams. He urges her
to grieve no more, and promises her a love that is not of
‘A FALLEN ANGEL once was winging
Over a sinful earth his way,
And memory was ever bringing
The vision of a happier day,
Telling an unforgotten story
How once in realms of light and glory
A seraph pure and bright he shone —
How the brief comet downward fleeting
Loved to exchange a smile of greeting
With him, before its spark was gone.
How ‘mid the infant world’s formations
In caravans of cloud he roved
Through worlds of scattered constellations —
How Nature spread her lore and smiled
Once upon him, God’s happy child,
In days when he believed and loved.
No trouble vexed his spirit then —
Now endless vistas lie between
The blessedness beyond his ken
And Him, who knew what might have been.
Outcast so long — no Heaven, no home —
He wandered through earth’s wildernesses-
Monotonous and wearisome,
As one age on another presses,
Or one slow minute follows minute.
The paltry world was his — but in it
His wickedness he wrought resistless,
For men on earth nowhere withstood
His wiles when he essayed — and, listless,
He loathed the evil seeds he strewed.
O’er many a lofty Caucas peak
The exile’s soaring pinion rose,
Below him, as with gems, Kazbek
Sparkled with everlasting snows.
And Darial’s opposing sides
Showed black, as when a serpent hides
Its winding coils in some dark lair.
And Terek/ bounding from its fountain/
Like lion with wild shaggy hair,
Roared, and each mountain beast and mountain
Bird in the azure deep of air
Circled in endless panorama,
And gold-rimmed clouds from Eastern lands
Whirled with him on to northern strands,
And lofty rock and promontory,
Full of the secret of a dream.
Bent their proud heads beneath him flying.
Tracing the course of glittering stream.
And rival tower with tower vying
Scowled on the clouds that lay between ;
Till last, like sentinel stupendous,
The Caucasus shed dazzling sheen
Veiling a majesty tremendous.
All wild and wondrous was the scene
Of God’s fair world ; but his proud vision
Scanned his Creator s works in vain.
Reflecting nought but calm derision,
Although that scorn was deathless pain.
In front a glorious variation
Of palpitating landscape lies.
Carpets of living vegetation
Where Grusian valleys sink or rise,
Glimpses of earthly Paradise,
Columns of ruined minarets,
And gently tinkling rivulets
Making the happy pebbles glisten ;
And rosy groves where nightingales
Sing their sweet loves, nor pause to listen
Till amorous mates sing answering tales.
There clothed with ivy, cool and wide.
The sycamores spread shady arches,
And in the caves when noonday parches
The timid stag comes in to hide.
Brightness and life where all rejoices,
The myriad hum of Nature’s voices
All drowsy in noon’s burning tide.
But in the blaze of midday heat.
Or in the night when zephyrs sweet
With fragrance of the rose were laden,
And bright as eyes of Grusian maiden
The pale-faced stars kept watch above,
Nought of magnificence could move
In that grim angel fallen from splendour
One thought of sympathy or love,
Of strength renewed or longings tender ;
And when he viewed the scene before him.
Hatred and scorn came surging o’er him.
High on a cliff, with spacious halls,
A castle stood, (the price of tears
And toil to serfs through weary years),
Where in the morning shadow falls
From pine-clad hill to castle walls.
And Prince Gudal, so stern and gray,
Had bade his thralls to hew a way
Down that steep cliffs resisting side,
Till step by step led to the water
Where deep Aragva’s currents glide.
And oft Tamara, his young daughter,
Would come in veil and snow-white hood
To fill her pitcher at its flood.
From lofty cliff that castle lowered
Grim, silent, motionless alway ;
But all is mirth and joy to-day,
And zithers sound, and wine is poured.
Gudil his daughter’s hand hath plighted,
And all his clan to feast invited.
And on the housetop, thickly strewn,
The bride Tamira, fair and young,
Is seated in a virgin throng,
‘Mid song and dance and zither’s tune.
While the sun’s orb is sinking soon
Behind the peaks, and for their pleasure
They dance in a cleared space between
Maids clapping hands to music s measure.
And lightly her gay tambourine
Twirling with one hand round her head.
The young bride springs with fairy tread.
And lighter than a bird she flashes,
Now darting here, now breathless staying.
And all the merry girls surveying
With sparkling eyes ‘neath long eye-lashes.
She guides the chorus through its mazes
‘Mid rustling silk and gauzy shimmer,
And oft a dainty foot upraises.
Seeming to float, an airy swimmer.
And ah ! that smile of childlike grace
Lighting her laughter-loving face.
Not Cynthia’s quivering beams, the while
On castle wall and turret glancing,
Could match the radiance of that smile
Than youth and gladness more entrancing.
I swear by yon clear midnight star,
By rays that flash from east to west,
Ne’er emperor of lands afar,
Nor king, nor conqueror, nor Czar
Such lovely damsel e’er caressed.
Nor e*er did fountain’s gentle storm
Lave with pellucid drops of pearl
In summer’s heat so fair a girl,
Or sprinkle so divine a form.
Never did mortal hand till now
Smooth with soft fingers such a brow,
Or twine them in such waving hair.
For not since man was thrust from Eden
Had ever bloomed so sweet a maiden,
So innocent, so heavenly fair.
But now, her last gay dance is over.
And dark forebodings o’er her hover,
For at the morn a stranger lover
Waits for the daughter of Gudal.
A marriage yoke, a plighted hand.
New kinsmen, unfamiliar land.
Poor child, to be a husband’s thrall !
And ofttime doubt, all unaware, ,
Laid on her heart a dumb distress,
But all her motions were so fair,
So full of seeming want of care,
Brimful of simple artlessness,
That had the Demon, wending by,
Beheld her then, he might have spurned
All his fell purposes, and turned
To Heaven with a repentant sigh.
Lo ! he beheld …. For one brief space,
Emotion strange, expressionless.
Swept in resistless torrent o’er him,
As if some voice of grace divine,
Across the gulf that lay before him.
Had called the outcast to the shrine
Of loveliness and heavenly strength.
And awestruck at the wondrous sight,
His thoughts in wayless labyrinth
Perplexed him, as in twinkling night.
Star points to star a chain extending
To continuity unending.
And riveted by power unseen.
New pangs increased his punishment,
Speaking in words which might have been
Erstwhile his own, ” Repent, repent ! ‘*
He strove to tempt — the words came not —
Had he his ancient wiles forgot ?
Nay. For were God to grant him yet
His former malice to forget,
He would but scorn the gift He sent.
Spurring meanwhile his mettled steed,
The impatient bridegroom rides with speed
Where bright Aragve’s currents glide
Twixt verdant banks on either side.
And following, far down the way,
With bells that tinkled as they strode,
Came camels faint beneath the load
Of costly gifts for marriage day.
And Sinodal’s impetuous lord
Himself led this gay cavalcade.
With flashing jewels thick inlaid
Glittered his poniard and his sword,
His richly carven musket gleaming
In the sun’s rays, his tunic streaming.
Fanned by the breeze that ceaseless played
Through the loose sleeves and vest confined
By fringe of lace, his saddle gay
With coloured silks of far Cathay ;
His bridle decked with every kind
Of tasselled store from farthest Ind.
And his proud steed of Caucas strain,
In fierce revolt gainst guiding rein,
Tossing his tawny mane, and champing
The foamy bit, impatient stamping,
Pricks up his ears to glance aside
From threatening cliff to seething tide.
Narrow and dangerous the way
Along the gaping chasm lay ;
To right the angry waters hiss.
To left a frowning precipice.
The dusk has fallen, the day is gone,
The cavalcade moves faster on.
There stood a chapel on the road
Wherein a saint reposed in God,
(This saint had been a prince in life,
Slain long ago in vengeful strife,)
And whosoever fared that way,
On warfare or on pleasure bent.
Passed never heedless by, but went
To the old lonely shrine to pray,
And that same prayer would guard him well
From dagger of the infidel.
But the young bridegroom, pausing not.
Rode on secure, his prayers forgot,
For, weaving dreams of fond conceit,
The crafty Fiend was at his side,
” Haste, bridegroom, haste —
more fleet, more fleet.
Else other lips will kiss thy bride.”
Sudden in front two forms appeared —
A shot rang out — the charger reared —
And on his clanging stirrups rose
The impulsive prince to face his foes,
For words of parley lingering not,
But straight with poniard gleaming, flashing,
Like eagle from its eyrie dashing,
‘Mid crack of whip and pistol shot.
Loud rang the pass with musket rattle.
With cries and groans of wounded men,
As craven Grusians through the glen
Fled from the short contested battle.
Huddled together in amaze
Stand the aff’righted camels, eyeing
The corpses of their riders lying,
And helpless on each other gaze,
As bell to bell makes vain replying;
Plundered the gorgeous caravan,
And over every slaughtered man,
Flapping their wings, foul birds of prey.
No peaceful tomb awaits their clay
In graveyard ‘neath monastic stones
Where rest their fathers’ dust and bones.
No mother in bereaved despair,
No black-veiled sister will come there,
With tears and sobs and anguished prayer,
To mourn a son’s, a brother’s loss.
But ‘neath the cliff, in uncouth ways,
Rude hands will dig a grave, and raise
Some hasty carved memorial cross.
And ivy in the summer days
Will twine around, in fond caress,
An emerald net of tenderness.
And weary traveller in the vale
Seek rest within its holy pale.
Swifter than stag, the noble steed.
As though rebuked for tardy speed,
Pausing a moment’s space to sniff
The breeze that flutters on the cliff.
Snorts, stamping the insensate ground
With angry hoofs metallic sound ;
Tosses his mane from side to side,
His nostrils red, distended wide ….
A rider motionless he bears.
With wound that gapes, with eye that stares,
Whose head is sunk on horse’s mane,
Whose nerveless hand still grasps the rein,
Whose feet the stirrups press in vain,
While the dark crimson splash upon
Harness and gay caparison
Spreads to a deeper, broader stain.
Bold courser ! thou didst bear thy master
Fleeter than arrow from the fight,
But the fell bullet followed faster
From dastard ambuscade that night.
In GudM’s court loud wail and din,
And eager peasants throng and press.
Whose steed is this that gallops in,
Wild-eyed and staggering in distress.
And falls within the courtyard dead ?
And who that knight in armour red.
With frowning brow and firm set lip
Telling a murderous tale of pain.
While his dead hand the horse’s mane
Clutches with last convulsive grip ?
Too soon the wedding day is over,
Poor bride, behold the expected lover,
As true to plighted, princely word
He galloped to the festal board !
Hapless Tam^ra, all is o’er.
And he will mount his steed no more.
On happy home like thunderstone
Fell that disaster, strange and dread,
And poor Tamkra with a groan
Fell swooning on her bridal bed.
And wild spasmodic sobbing tore her,
And burning tear fell after tear.
Twas then she listening seemed to hear
A voice unearthly whisper o’er her :
** Ah weep not, child, thy tears are vain ;
They fall in no reviving rain
To make the unheeding dead return :
They only cloud thy face with pain.
And make thy maiden cheeks to burn.
He is so far, he will not stay
To heed thy tears, to reck thy sighs.
Caressing angels kiss away
All disappointment from his eyes.
His dreams of earth are fading dim
In that far land so still, so calm,
What are a maiden’s tears to him
Who listens to the angels’ psalm ?
The happiness and woes of earth,
Whate’er their transient chances be.
Nay, all creation is not worth
One momentary tear from thee.
“In the broad ethereal ocean,
Free of rudder, free of sail,
Wandering planets in their motion
Chant a myriad-voicfed tale.
Fleecy flocks of cloud are wending
Their irrevocable flight,
Through the fields that have no ending
In the labyrinth of light.
Now they meet and now they sever,
There’s no joy and there’s no pain.
Yesterday is gone for ever,
And to-morrow’s cares are vain.
When there comes a day of anguish,
Only think of these and say,
* I will neither pine nor languish,
Recking earth no more than they ! ‘
Soon as the night her sable veil
Over the Caucasus has spread,
When charmed as by enchanter’s tale,
The busy world asleep is laid ;
Soon as the wind in mountain pass
Makes rustle in the faded grass,
Where hidden bird by sleep oppressed
Flutters contented to its nest ;
When the night flower ‘neath sheltering vine
Sips nectared draughts of dew divine,
Spreading its timid petals tender,
And the pale moon with stealthy splendour
Clear of the hills her beauty flings
To gaze on thee with envy wan —
Lo ! I will come on dew-dipped wings
To dwell with thee till flickering dawn,
And waft on thy silk-shaded eyes
The golden dreams of Paradise/’
Silence …. all faded far away ;
Echo for echo, sound for sound.
She started up, looked wildly round —
Terror, astonishment, dismay.
Held in her breast alternate sway,
And at her heart strings surging, swelling.
She did not know, she could not say,
What rapturous joy, all else excelling !
Her soul had cast its bondage down
And rioted through every vein.
While diapasons could not drown
The insistence of that new refrain
In that strange voice’s haunting strain.
But when at dawn her senses slept,
Prophetic fancies o’er her creeping
Told her that some dim Presence kept
Watch over her while she was sleeping.
A cloudy form was o’er her bending
Of beauty human thought transcending.
He did not speak — he did not move —
But in his eyes was speechless love.
So anguish-torn that glance fell o’er her
Whose only thought was to adore her.
Twas not the angel God had given,
Her guardian spirit sent from Heaven ;
Halo of iridescent rays
Shone not above the impassioned gaze ;
Twas not a Fiend from Hell’s abysses
Of tortured agony — oh, nay,
He glowed with evening’s lovelinesses —
Nor dark, nor light — nor night, nor day.’
[This small section of poetry is reproduced with grateful thanks to Wiki docs, who have included Lermontov’s profound epic ‘The Demon’ in their archives.
This extract and images that accompany it may be found here: