ACT THE FIRST.
Scene I.—A Room in the house of Polemius at Rome.
Chrysanthus is seen seated near a writing table on which are several books: he is reading a small volume with deep attention.
Chrysanthus.Ah! how shallow is my mind!How confined! and how restricted!Ah! how driftless are my words!And my thoughts themselves how driftless!Since I cannot comprehend,Cannot pierce the secrets hiddenIn this little book that IFound by chance with others mingled.I its meaning cannot reach,Howsoe'er my mind I rivet,Though to this, and this alone,Many a day has now been given.But I cannot therefore yield,Must not own myself outwitted:—No; a studious toil so greatShould not end in aught so little.O'er this book my whole life longShall I brood until the riddleIs made plain, or till some sageSimplifies what here is written.For which end I 'll read once moreIts beginning. How my instinctUses the same word with whichEven the book itself beginneth!—"In the beginning was the Word" . .If in language plain and simpleWord means speech, how then was itIn the beginning? Since a whisperPresupposes power to breathe it,Proves an earlier existence,And to that anterior PowerHere the book doth not bear witness.Then this follows: "And the WordWas with God"—nay more, 't is written,"And the Word was God: was with HimIn the beginning, and by Him thenAll created things were madeAnd without Him naught was finshed":—Oh! what mysteries, what wonders,In this tangled labyrinthineMaze lie hid! which I so manyYears have studied, with such mingledAid from lore divine and humanHave in vain tried to unriddle!—"In the beginning was the Word".—Yes, but when was this beginning?Was it when Jove, Neptune, PlutoShared the triple zones betwixt them,When the one took to himselfHeaven supreme, one hell's abysses,And the sea the third, to CeresLeaving earth, the ever-wingédTime to Saturn, fire to Phœbus,And the air to Jove's great sister?—No, it could not have been then,For the fact of their partitionShows that heaven and earth then were,Shows that sea and land existed:—The beginning then must beSomething more remote and distant:He who has expressly saidThe beginning, must have hintedAt the primal cause of all things,At the first and great beginning,All things growing out of Him,He himself the pre-existent:—Yes, but then a new beginningMust we seek for this beginner,And so on ad infinitum;Since if I, on soaring pinionSeek from facts to rise to causes,Rising still from where I had risen,I will find at length there isNo beginning to the beginning,And the inference that timeSomehow was, ere time existed,And that that which ne'er begunNe'er can end, is plain and simple.But, my thought, remain not here,Rest not in those narrow limits,But rise up with me and dareHeights that make the brain grow dizzy:—And at once to enter there,Other things being pretermitted,Let us venture where the mind,As the darkness round it thickens,Almost faints as we resumeWhat this mystic scribe has written....