Zanoni, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Chapter 2

Tristis Erinnys

Praetulit infaustas sanguinolenta faces.

Ovid.

(Erinnys, doleful and bloody, extends the unblessed torches.)

And they placed the child in the father’s arms! As silently he bent over it, tears — tears, how human! — fell from his eyes like rain! And the little one smiled through the tears that bathed its cheeks! Ah, with what happy tears we welcome the stranger into our sorrowing world! With what agonising tears we dismiss the stranger back to the angels! Unselfish joy; but how selfish is the sorrow!

And now through the silent chamber a faint sweet voice is heard — the young mother’s voice.

“I am here: I am by thy side!” murmured Zanoni.

The mother smiled, and clasped his hand, and asked no more; she was contented.

. . . .

Viola recovered with a rapidity that startled the physician; and the young stranger thrived as if it already loved the world to which it had descended. From that hour Zanoni seemed to live in the infant’s life, and in that life the souls of mother and father met as in a new bond. Nothing more beautiful than this infant had eye ever dwelt upon. It was strange to the nurses that it came not wailing to the light, but smiled to the light as a thing familiar to it before. It never uttered one cry of childish pain. In its very repose it seemed to be listening to some happy voice within its heart: it seemed itself so happy. In its eyes you would have thought intellect already kindled, though it had not yet found a language. Already it seemed to recognise its parents; already it stretched forth its arms when Zanoni bent over the bed, in which it breathed and bloomed — the budding flower! And from that bed he was rarely absent: gazing upon it with his serene, delighted eyes, his soul seemed to feed its own. At night and in utter darkness he was still there; and Viola often heard him murmuring over it as she lay in a half-sleep. But the murmur was in a language strange to her; and sometimes when she heard she feared, and vague, undefined superstitions came back to her — the superstitions of earlier youth. A mother fears everything, even the gods, for her new-born. The mortals shrieked aloud when of old they saw the great Demeter seeking to make their child immortal.

But Zanoni, wrapped in the sublime designs that animated the human love to which he was now awakened, forgot all, even all he had forfeited or incurred, in the love that blinded him.

But the dark, formless thing, though he nor invoked nor saw it, crept, often, round and round him, and often sat by the infant’s couch, with its hateful eyes.

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