A Strange Story, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Chapter 68.

That night as I was employed in collecting the books and manuscripts which I proposed to take with me, including my long-suspended physiological work, and such standard authorities as I might want to consult or refer to in the portions yet incompleted, my servant entered to inform me, in answer to the inquiries I had sent him to make, that Miss Brabazon had peacefully breathed her last an hour before. Well! my pardon had perhaps soothed her last moments; but how unavailing her death-bed repentance to undo the wrong she had done!

I turned from that thought, and, glancing at the work into which I had thrown all my learning, methodized into system with all my art, I recalled the pity which Mrs. Poyntz had expressed for my meditated waste of mind. The tone of superiority which this incarnation of common-sense accompanied by uncommon will assumed over all that was too deep or too high for her comprehension had sometimes amused me; thinking over it now, it piqued. I said to myself, “After all, I shall bear with me such solace as intellectual occupation can afford. I shall have leisure to complete this labour; and a record that I have lived and thought may outlast all the honours which worldly ambition may bestow upon Ashleigh Summer!” And, as I so murmured, my hand, mechanically selecting the books I needed, fell on the Bible that Julius Faber had given to me.

It opened at the Second Book of Esdras, which our Church places amongst the Apocrypha, and is generally considered by scholars to have been written in the first or second century of the Christian era,28— but in which the questions raised by man in the remotest ages, to which we can trace back his desire “to comprehend the ways of the Most High,” are invested with a grandeur of thought and sublimity of word to which I know of no parallel in writers we call profane.

My eye fell on this passage in the lofty argument between the Angel whose name was Uriel, and the Prophet, perplexed by his own cravings for knowledge:—

“He (the Angel) answered me, and said, I went into a forest, into a plain, and the trees took counsel,

“And said, Come, let us go and make war against the sea, that it may depart away before us, and that we may make us more woods.

“The floods of the sea also in like manner took counsel, and said, Come, let us go up and subdue the woods of the plain, that there also we may make us another country.

“The thought of the wood was in vain, for the fire came and consumed it.

“The thought of the floods of the sea came likewise to nought, for the sand stood up and stopped them.

“If thou went judge now betwixt these two, whom wouldst thou begin to justify; or whom wouldst thou condemn?

“I answered and said, Verily it is a foolish thought that they both have devised; for the ground is given unto the wood, and the sea also hath his place to bear his floods.

“Then answered he me, and said, Thou halt given a right judgment; but why judgest thou not thyself also?

“For like as the ground is given unto the wood, and the sea to his floods, even so they that dwell upon the earth may understand nothing but that which is upon the earth; and He that dwelleth above the heavens may only understand the things that are above the height of the heavens.”

I paused at those words, and, closing the Sacred Volume, fell into deep, unquiet thought.

28 Such is the supposition of Jahn. Dr. Lee, however, is of opinion that the author was contemporary, and, indeed, identical, with the author of the Book of Enoch.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31