Dominion of Dreams, by Fiona Macleod

A MEMORY OF BEAUTY

"Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle; she died young."
                                                WEBSTER

Many years ago a beautiful dark woman came to Ardnathonn, and lived there a while, and died, as she had lived, in silence.
None in that remote place knew who she was; nor of any there was ever known the name of the man who loved her, and died, or the name of another man who loved her, and died.
They called her "the foreign woman"; and where the nettle sheds her snow above the lichened stones in the little seaweed-sloping graveyard, there appear on one stone these words only:
The Stranger.

In the ruined garden of Tighnardnathonn stands a broken sundial. Here may still be deciphered the legend: Time Past: Time to Come.
Time past, time to come. It is the refrain of our mortality.
AndAileen? . . . That great beauty of hers is no more. It is unthinkable. If loveliness can pass away as a breath . . . nay, did not one in Asia of old, one of the seers of the world, interpret thus:
"I am Beauty itself among beautiful things." The dream that is the body eternally perishes; only the dream that is the soul endures.
It is a commonplace that death is held most mournful when it is the seal of silence upon youth, upon what is beautiful. Peradventure, life incomplete may some day be revealed to us as the sole life that is complete. Howbeit we need not lament when love has been gloriously present. I think often of that old sundial inscription:

"Light and Shade by turns,
  But Love always

To have loved supremely! After all, the green, sweet world had been good to her, its daughter. She had loved and been loved, with the passion of passion. Nothing in the world could take away that joy; not any loss or sorrow, nor that last grief, the death of him whom she so loved; not the mysterious powers themselves that men call God, and that move and live and have their blind will behind the blowing wind and the rising sap, behind the drifting leaf and the granite hills, behind the womb of woman and the mind of man, behind the miracle of day and night, behind life, behind death. This was hers. She had this supreme heritage. In truth she was crowned. And he . . .from the first he wore the glory of her love, as morning wears the sunrise. It is enough.

Can love itself be as an idle bow upon our poor perishing heavens? Is love a dream, a dream within a dream? If so, the soul herself were a vain image, as fleeting as the travelling shadow of a wave.
Alas, how brief that lovely hour which was her life! It is only in what is loveliest, most fugitive, that eternity reveals, as in a sudden flame, as in the vanishing facet of a second, the beauty of all beauty; that it whispers, in the purple hollow of the dancing flame, the incommunicable word.
Strange mystery, that so many ages had to come and go, so many lives to be lived, so many ecstasies and raptures and sorrows and vicissitudes to flame and be and pass, just to produce one frail flower of perfection. sometimes think of this unknown loveliness, this woman whose sole pulse now is in the sap of the grass over her head, not as a mortal joy, but as the breath or symbol of a most ancient and ever new mystery, the mystery of eternal beauty:

                             " . . For I have seen
In lonely places, and in lonelier hours,
My vision of the rainbow-aureoled face
Of her whom men name Beauty: proud, austere:
Dim vision of the flawless, perfect face
Divinely fugitive, that haunts the world,
And lifts man's spiral thought to lovelier dreams."

She is gone now who was so fair. Can great beauty perish? The unlovely is as the weed that is everywhere under the sun. But that wind which blows the seed, alike of the unlovely and of the children of beauty---can it have failed to wed that exhaled essence to the glory of light, so that somewhere, somehow, that which was so beautiful is?

CONTENTS