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XXII. GRAND DIVERTISSEMENT1 As the months went on, the fervor of my longing toward the former hasheesh life in some measure passed away, and in general the fascination to return did not present itself so much in the form of pining for an affirmative as loathing of a negative state. It was not the ecstasy of the drug which so much attracted me, as its power of disenthrallment from an apathy which no human aid could utterly take away. Yet even now there were seasons of absolute struggle in which I fought as against a giant, or more truly to the nature of things should I say, in which I resisted as against a demon houri, for my tempter was more passing lovely than any thing on earth. As in the earlier period of my warfare, I now and then caught glimpses of ravishing delight, which, through some rift in the thick cloud elsewhere completely enveloping my daily life, broke in upon me for a moment, yet lasted long enough to prove that I could not yet write myself secure, that my integrity was not yet beyond corruption. Some of my readers will doubtless be amused, others pained, and a few disgusted at the childlike expedients to which I found it necessary to resort for the purpose of appeasing this renewed appetite for visions without a return to hasheesh. There were three different sets of circumstances which almost infallibly brought on the longing. It was never suggested by dark and stormy weather, since this was too much in consonance with my habitual mood to demand more than a passing notice. The man who has lost an intimate friend does not pay much attention to murk and mist; it is sunshine which seems to mock his melancholy. So in my own case did it happen. The season 040 c19-c25 (173-218) 4/26/06 10:29 AM Page 197 of most intense longing was a day of clear sky and brilliant light. That beauty which filled the heart of every other living thing with gladness, only spoke of other suns more wondrous rolling through other heavens of a more matchless dye. I looked into the sky, and missed its former unutterable rose and sapphire; no longer did the whole dome of the firmament sound with grand unwritten music. It was a pain to look into that desert wilderness of blue which of old my sorcery had peopled for me with innumerable celestial riders, with cities of pearl and symphony-haunted streams of silver. I shut my eyes, and in a moment saw all that I had lost. A night of brilliant moonlight brought me other repentings after my enchanted life, whose tone was not so high as those of the sunshine , but deeper and more’ enduring. Wrapped in a melancholy which could not be imparted, I wandered by the hour through the beaming streets, and looked sadly around me to see the meanest object by the wayside “Change Into something rich and strange.”2 The stones beneath my feet gleamed like unhewn crystals. The frosty fretwork on the panels of doors which I passed, at the touch of the divine Moon-Alchemist became exquisite filigrees of silver. The elm-trees and the locust, shedding sparkles of radiance from their ice-incased twigs, might well have been those trees of gleamy ore which Allah buried when man was cast out of Paradise.3 Yet mournfully I thought of the old days, when I would have walked down these shining ways as through an ever-lengthening vista of glories, when the moonlight would have fallen on me mysteriously empurpled, when over all the wondrous domain I had felt myself unquestioned sovereign, and out of the beauteous recesses of earth and sky sprite voices had musically hailed me to my kingdom. As I thought upon these things, now forever irretrievably abandoned to the past, I have wept—yes, though it be unmanly, I have wept to find myself a discrowned king, a sorcerer ravished of his wand, a god shorn of his glories. I am not ashamed to remember that 198 THE HASHEESH EATER 040 c19-c25 (173-218) 4/26/06 10:29 AM Page 198 I did this; for if there be any ecstasy possible which we do not now feel imparted to us, if any excellency in things which does not now make itself tangible, it is no more ignominious to lament over it perished than to sigh after it...


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