[11] Portals of the Saloon — The Gallery looks very solitary now poor Louisa is away — You cannot imagine the solemn appearance of the Hall with its expiring Lamps towards midnight — I often fancy myself in the Catacombs of Egypt and expect to stumble over a Mummy. — What rare Mummies certain people of our acquaintance would make! I long to stop their mouths with spice and swaddle them up, beyond the power of doing mischief. I beg you will give my best Compliments to Lord Ar: and assure him I shall ever retain the most grateful sense of the kind interest he is pleased to take in me. I hope we shall soon meet in town and that you will ever believe me
sinc:y and affec:y Yrs. W. Beckford

[12] Fonthill December 4th 1778
being the full of the Moon.

The Dusk approaches. I am musing on the Plain before the House which my Father reared. No chearful illuminations appear in the Windows, no sounds of Musick issue from the Porticos, no gay Revellers rove carelessly along the Colonades; but all is dark, silent and abandoned. — Such circumstances sooth the present tone of my mind. Did I behold a number of brilliant Equipages rattling across the Lawn, or hear the confused buzz of animated Conversation; Were a peal of Laughter to meet my Ears or were they assaulted by shouts of hilarity and Joy should I not fly to the woods for consolation and bury myself in their gloom to enjoy Solitude in security. You are the human Being to whom I have discovered the strangeness of my fancies; for you can feel, as well as myself, the melancholy pleasures of wandering alone in the Dusk over Plains of greenswerd, bordered on one side by Hills of Oaks and on the other by a broad River whose opposite Shore presents distant Glens and pastures, wild Copses and Groves of pines to which the Twilight gives an additional Solemnity. I surveyed my [13] native prospects with fraternal affection and looked fondly on every tree as if we had been born in the same hour. The Air I breathed seemed nearer of Kin to me than that I had elsewhere respired in short the Hills, the Woods, the Shrubs, the very Moss beneath my Feet entered into this general Alliance and I fancied myself surrounded by an assembly of my best Friends and nearest Relations. Of what other Company then could I be ambitious? This was the spot, methought, as I looked on a round of Turf peculiarly green [and so sheltered by Banks and Shrubberies as to produce Violets even in this bleak Month] this was the spot perhaps where my Guardian Genius first spread over my infant Years the wings of protection. That round of Turf those flowers sprang from the benign influence of his approach and I shall ever regard them as memorials of his presence. The airy People who watch over Flowers beheld him ascend and willing to commemorate the Event have sprinkled the Turf he selected with the purest Dew, therefore it is green, therefore perfumed with Violets. An hour glided swiftly away whilst I was lost in these agreeable Dreams, the Moon began to brighten at the approach of Night and the Evening Star beamed brilliantly above a lonely Chapel where many repose in Death. I listened to every [14] wild Note that trembled in the Winds and whilst I was leaning against an Oak, a faint murmur from afar off stole upon my ear. Soon I distinguished a flight of Rocks rising like Motes on the Horizon. In In an instant they spread over the Sky and poising themselves above the River were joined by another host shooting rapidly from the West. Now enlarging their Circles and taking a bolder Sweep, the whole Heaven was in motion with innumerable wings. – The rush of their flight and the continual cawing with which they filled the Air interested me beyond conception. How earnestly did I wish for the Talisman of Lockhart that I might address myself to these winged Legions and ask them from whence they came. Over what Woods have ye flown? I should say. Tell one what Scenes ye have surveyed? Communicate to me your joy at returning every night to those Cities in the Groves formed amongst innumerable Boughs where ye employ so well your ingenuity. Did I behold them with your eyes, each branch would seem the Pillar of a Palace and every crooked Twig a stately Ornament. Tell me if the tufts of Moss on Yonder grotesque Oak stumps are not boasted of by your Nobles as hangings of goodlie Arras and those hollow Cavities beneath in the Tree, are they not regarded by your Poets as aweful Caverns where many adventures have happened to Rooks of yore. Perhaps ye have also your superstitious Fears and [15] when warmly established in your nests relate what Spectres have haunted the Beech–roots so far below and croak forth the prophecies your ancestors heard issuing from bowers of Ivy; for are not these green festoons that flourish in spite of Winter your consecrated Bowers? Confess to me if strange Rites are not often performed in them which heretical squirrels disturb and despise. Ah would I were acquainted with that mysterious Word, by pronouncing of which ancient Brachmans transported their Souls into the bodies of other Animals. Then would I rise with ye into the air and share the charms and the perils of your Enterprizes. Then should I experience the pleasure of floating amongst Clouds and the triumph of looking down on the World beneath I should glory in directing the flight of thousands, above precipices and rivers, to Wilds where the ripest berries glow on the Sprays and how great would be my exultations, when I found myself returning in a still Evening like this with innumerable friends all chearfully conversing together all smoothly waving our Wings and vying with each other in the ease and rapidity of our motions. And when all my Companions are sunk into repose may I be that Rook, destined to watch over the general security, who sails, alone thro the skies by Moon light and dares view those Owls the Sorcerers of the feathered [16] kind, whose shriek is alone sufficient to scare the bravest that lift the Wing. I had scarce ended my soliloquy before the sky was almost intirely deserted. Here and there indeed some solitary Rooks, who for reasons unknown to me had deserted the throng hastened once more with faint cawings to rejoin them and before I can write this are all hushed amongst the Oaks in profound tranquility. Soon after I left my tree and directed my steps homewards. The Bats flit frequently before me and many an Owl, according to the mythology of Birds, quitted his haunt and hastened to perform incantations. —
I then ascended the steps which lead to a vast hall paved with Marble and seating myself, like the Orientals on Cushions of Brocade placed by a blazing fire was served with Tea and a species of white bread which has crossed the Atlantic. — Meanwhile my thoughts were wandering into the interior of Africa and dwelt for hours on those Countries I love. Strange tales of Mount Atlas and relations of Travellers amused my fancy. – One instant I imagined myself viewing the marble palaces of Ethiopean princes seated on the green woody margin of Lakes, studded in sands and wildernesses, the next transported me to the Rocks of Carena where Monks strove vainly to preserve Rugiero from the Perils of War. – Some few minutes after I found [17] myself standing before a thick wood listening to impetuous Water falls and screened from the ardour of the Sun by its foliage. I was wondering at the scene when a tall lonely Negro wound along the slopes of the Hills and without moving his lips made me comprehend I was in Africa, on the brink of the Nile beneath the Mountain of Amara. I followed his steps thro an infinity of irregular Vales, all skirted with Rocks and blooming with an aromatic vegetation, till we arrived at the hallowed Peak and after exploring a Labyrinth of paths, which led to its summit, a wide Cavern appeared before us. Here I surveyed Landscapes of the most romantic Cast, tasted such Fruits and scented such perfumes as ravished my senses. I was all Delight and amazement. We entered the Cavern and fell prostrate before the sacred source of the Nile which issues silently from a Deep Gulph in the Rock. Suddenly the spirit of Father Ureta rose like a mist from the Chasm and seizing me with its influence, discovered the interior of the Cave ascended thro the Mountain and brought me swiftly to a Castle with many towers of grotesque Architecture. There I saw huge treasures and crowds of unknown Mortals walking in vaulted Halls whose stately arches impressed Veneration. Here were deposited ancient records and [18] and Histories of which the rest of Men are ignorant, poems sung by the Choirs of Paradise and Volumes which contain the sage Councils of Abraham delivered by that Patriarch in the plains of Mamre. Busy multitudes are continually shifting from Place to Place; but before I could notice their Occupations, the spirit snatched me away with such inconceivable rapidity that I knew not how I was conveyed to a smooth Lawn circled by Rocks and falling streams mingled with Woods and hanging Meadows where Leopards and Antelopes browzed fearless together and Birds justly denominated of Paradise fluttered round the flowers, whilst the Phœnix such as Poets describe soared into the blue Ether and glistened in every beam. A bright Sun shining full on the glowing Colours of the Scene o’erpowerd my sight and obliged me to seek the Woods whose shade and Fragrance delighted me beyond conception; but I was not long suffered to enjoy them. Some irresistable Impulse drove me to the extremity of the Lawn, where I recoiled with Horror and Amazement at the sight of a precipice whose Basis seemed to rest on the surface of our Globe. A faint blueish Mist veiled the Seas and Continents and it was in vain that I strove to distinguish the Mountains from the plains or the Lakes from the Valleys. The Spirit skimmed by me once more like a transitory [19] breeze and after hovering for some moments round the nearest pinnacle of Rocks stood calmly at my side. Thou art gazing, whispered this airy voice, at the fortunate Mountains of Paradise. Those Groves, those woody Vales afforded a retreat to the first of Men. — That very herbage was the bed on which he reposed. The stately birds that move around us once held familiar converse with him and still mourn the moment when fiery Seraphims drove him trembling down yonder declivities no more to taste these clear fountains or sleep in his native Bowers, the Regions of perpetual spring where all the dreams of inspired Bards are realized. I would tell thee more, but mark how the World below fades gradually on the sight, the Seas and Rivers begin to glimmer thro the Dusk and catch a faint beam of the rising Moon. The moment is drawing near when thy stay is unlawful and prophane. This bright light will soon yield to a silver Dawn and during these consecrated hours the spirits of holy prophets descend and converse of Men. — I was once a Mortal: my affections still hover round the Globe and it is with impatience I wait the period when we are permitted to discourse on earthly subjects. That period will soon arrive; for hark the Angels who direct our planet are beginning their nightly hymn. — Behold how the
[20] Clouds fleet that waft them above the Poles. Listen! their Carol is echoed by the Mountains, it sounds amongst the spheres. — Hark it is answered by the Guardians of the Moon, faint very faint is their melody. — how it dies away amongst distant Worlds! — The Spirit ceased. — My soul was thrilled with the cælestial Choirs. A fresh wind waved all the Trees and riffled the Herbage and in an instant Myriads of lovely forms glanced amongst the woods. Methought I heard the Voices of departed Friends and tried to spring towards the Meads whence the sounds proceeded; but the Breezes that swept along the Lawn were far too pure for my mortal frame. I trembled, my heart beat, my Arteries throbbed, in vain I attempted to join the beckoning shades, some dreadful pressure chained me to the ground, in vain I called to those I loved, my lamentations and loud Cries were lost in the gales. How many times did I stretch forth my Arms and attempt advancing — all my endeavours were fruitless and unable to struggle more I sunk beneath my sorrow and beating my breast exclaimed – Ah would that I might die! – At length I found myself released and with a violent effort ran or rather flew upon the Lawn; but as I advanced the Forms retreated a confused murmur of Rills, of Voices, and of Instruments fled before me, the Rocks, the Woods,


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