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First published by The Falls Printing Company, Minneapolis, 1882

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-02-24
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Title Page of "A Pre-Historic Romanza"


Baldwin describes to us a wonderful "Extinct Race," whose cities were in ruins before Egypt was inhabited; whose wealth and splendor surpassed all modern conception; whose commerce reached the farthest parts of the earth.

These people built walled lakes in chains with locks, and one could by this means literally float uphill.

They worshiped serpents, with awful rites; and their temples were hewn from mountain sides. The mysterious cave of Elephanta is regarded by many as one of these temples.


As I read, on Fancy's pinions
Fled my soul into the Past,
Where in misty blue dominions
Of the Mind, unchained at last
From all strong, prosaic fetters,
Bound by nothing surely known,
I could weave Romance. My actors
Dead ten thousand years agone.


Mountain Isle the sea doth sever
   By the foamy blue waves, ever
Whitening o'er its rocks, and never
   Calmly sleeping on the shore.
Fair, a city on the mountain.
   Columns, spires and domes abounding
O'er white walls, where dash the fountains,
   Hastening to the sea once more.

Terraced lakes in walls of hewn stone
   From the shore to where the black dome
Gloomed, mid clouds whose soft illusion
   Veiled the sunny ripples o'er.
By the stair of lakes the greening
   Of the forest, scarcely screening
With its giant boughs, the gleaming
   Of the palace's high tower.

From the rock-built shelves drooped bowers
   Flushed with crimson veil of flowers
Riches, stolen by orient hours.
   From the ambient yellow air.
All the marts of commerce settled
   On the edge of water fettered
By the dykes all bright and checkered
   With the crafts at anchor there.
In the harbor, ships of glory
   Whose adornments, like the story
Of a dream would seem before ye,
   Should I write them for you here.

Bright from all the masts fly ribbons.
   The great hulls are wedged and driven
Through with gilded bolts and riven
   O'er with cumbrous brassy gear.

All adorned with hues and gilding,
   On the deck a mammoth building
With a curtain-hid pavilion
   Caught with ropes of beads and gold.
Sails of many quaint designings
   Are upheld; with gay refinings,
Stripes—and red and purple linings
   Blown about by breezes cold.


Night is nearing, o'er the water
      Vaprous sheen
Leads to orange clouds, the altar
      Of Night's queen.

In commotion, merry darkling
      Billows dance
To Night's portal, faintly marks of
      Glowings glance.
'Neath the golden banded pillars
      Is a door.
Fret with gems, strong hinged with silver
      Jewelled o'er.

Leads this to ambrosial hallways
      Burnished bright.
Ceilings flash with precious riches
      In dim light.

On each side the waving graces
      Of the palms
And soft fragrance of the spices
      All embalms.
O'er the marble, blocked and shaded,
      Shawls are spread
Wrought with many hues and braided
      Thick with red.

Silent, through the isles so dreamy,
      Stately, dark,
Robed in trailing tissues sheeny,
      Beauty walks.

On her oval cheek glows deeply
      Angry red.
Haughty is the queenly poising
      Of her head.

Down among the amber glinting
      Of her hair
Is entwined the sapphire tinting,
      Fastened there.

O'er her rounded arms. Arms olive
      Of the East.
Netted diamonds cut and polished
      Are atwist.

On her feet are bound the sandals
Captive is the Queen— by vandals

At each open door there waited
      Watching slaves.
Passing these. There was no haven
      But the waves.


Into the hall where the dusk was crept,
Silent, as hushed were the buds that slept.
Hid in, the vining's emerald net.
Entered the priest of the serpent god.
Watched he his captive, with no word.
Flashed his dark eye with triumph rude.
Wrapped was the priest in cloth of gold.
Veiled was his head, and there behold
A cone of gems, of worth untold.
Cruel his face. And on his beard
Was woven a veil of jeweled thread,
Which almost the raven curlings hid.

"Speak maid, so fair Is thy heart yet stone?
Come to the Temple. The Gods atone
Now, lest thy crimes bring judgment on!"

Like the vain dread of some haunted fawn
Answered the eyes, but the priest's stern frown
Gave her no hope should her prayer be known.

"Yes I will go, to those gods accursed.
If they have power, O, hear they must
What I shall ask. In their help I trust."

Echoed the stone halls with a laugh
So fierce and chill with cruel wrath
It seemed to come from the demon's path.

Slaves wrapped the captive in raiment black
Veiled her face, and a priestly casque
Put on her head. Thus hid, she passed
Into the streets.

Into strange streets! The stone walls cut,
Gleamed in the chapel, all richly wrought
Over with marbles. Slow they walked.

Arches upheld by columns grand,
On either side in beauty stand,
While over their heads a crimson sheet
Shut out the dews, and the sun's dread heat.

Blazes of flames in colors green,
Lighted the way. Entranced the ear
Melodies sweet, of music's note
Perfumed the air. Across the moat,
Over a bridge of bronze, afloat,
Slow these walked.

Crowds filled the road. The scene was gay.
Chariots of brass rolled on the way,
Draped with soft curtains decked in hues,
Cars set with silver, crimson and blue,
Horses whose trappings all were glass,
Glistened in rainbow tints as they passed.
Now at their side there stood to wait
The carriage to bear this honored freight.
The priest in his robes (and the captive too)
To the serpent's altar, the gods to woo.
Clad were the steeds, in gold all dressed;
Emeralds gleamed on their helmet crest.
Over each hoof was a jewelled band
Their manes were braided in gem-set strands.
Over each head hung a bright red bell,
And loops of gold from their white ears fell.
The sides of the chariot white with pearls,
The cloth over hanging as foam unfurls.
Was opal sheen with gilded fringe
Where green and red in the web were tinged.
Golden the floor and linings were
Under a perfumed snowy fur.
Brought from the North, mysterious far.
Sleeping in snow 'neath the Polar Star.

Vases of lapis lazuli
Rose from the pearly sides.
Gorgeous blossoms beauteously
Drooped there in rosy pride.

A fount of crystalline design
      Rose in the center tall
And richest perfume, mellifluous showers
      Sprinkled about on all.

Over the raised and broad highway
      Out to the temple cave
The Queen disguised and silent rode
      Hopeless of help to save.

Into that vast and dark retreat
      Cut in the solid rock
By hewn out, devious, hidden ways
      They reached the altar's block.

Over the carved and awful forms
      Holding the temple roof.
Just then, the moon in whitest glow
      Wrought mystic and misty woof
Veiling in shadows deep and dread.
      People, and forest and wall.

Lighting but faint, in freakish glow,
      Changing to phantoms all.
Seated on steps of rock, so still,
      Silent in gown and hood
Waited the witches. Forty there
      Guarding the altar's food.
Horrid their faces; beauty lost
      In forming hideous masks (*)
Varied as taste or freak, or hate
      Had seasoned the cruel task.
Long white strands of untied hair
      Fell o'er their blood-red gowns.
Wrinkled and bare their veinous arms
      Gleamed like some skinless bones.

*(Note — These were unfortunate and friendless beings who were purposely deformed and distorted in feature for use as altar slaves.)

Then from the stone pedestals rose
      Just at the statues' foot
Flames of the bluest fire, and Night
      Fled from the beam's pursuit.
About the altar, raised above
      The many stone cut stairs,
Stood with their emblems all the priests,
      Mumbling incanting prayers.

Over their heads, in gorgeous throne
      Held from the roof above,
Coiled was a giant golden snake.
      God of the heathen's love.

'Neath him thick clouds of incense rose
      Dimming his dazzling might
That fatal not to human eyes,
      Might be the blazing sight
Of Deity. Nor fall awrithe
      And shrink and faint and die.
For such the foretold fate of those
      Who looked with unveiled eye.

Yellow and blue and gray and white
      All on the altar burn
And every decked official priest
      To shimmering god did turn.

All of the priests wore golden robes.
      Noble and high their mein.
Dreadful the contrast as they towered
      Above the witches clan.

Then while the slumbrous incense rose
      Reached forth the statues' hands,
Stretched o'er the heads of the multitudes
      Holding huge fiery brands.

Wild rose the cry of terror then.
      But changed to a whispered prayer
For there at the altar stood that one
      Whose look could calm their fear.

Over his shining robe was donned
      A mantle of dazzling gems.
A veil of jewels fell about
      From blazing diadem.

Like fabled god be stood, unreal,
      As thing from heaven borne
And round him, from some bidden lamp,
      A weird light was thrown.
In silent hush the cries had gone,
      And to a maze of words
The people listened. When amazed,
      They looked on "Gift of Gods."


Down from the roof in 'wildering cloud
      Sank an ethereal throne
(Woven of glass and silver hung)
      Hidden 'neath blossoms blown,
Quivering, shaken by every breath,
      (Formed of fine crystal threads)
Crusted again with jewels fair.
      Dotted with serpent's heads,

Rising in iridescent sheen
      Out of the depths of flowers.
Slowly the blossoms fell aside.
      See! Pillowed on rose-hued gauze
With eyes aflame and face like wax,
      A statute rare! like stone,
Reclining moveless, strange and dead
      The captive queen was shown.

Bursting from every side sprang fires
      Off from the heads of gods
Fluttered white doves. Wild trills of joy
      Freighted the air, as birds
Singing unseen. While on the floor
      Gathering about the throne
Numberless hideous serpents writhed
      Over the lighted stone.

"Welcome to thee, whom gods have sent
      Down from the rolling moon
Answered to offered gifts," said priests—
      "From gods!" the people moan.

"Haste thee, my treasure, out of sight,
      Sacred as serpents are
Shut from the blight of Earth's cold night,
      Lest harm should come to her."

With flash and jar the walls seemed rent,
      A brightness, like the sun
Dazzled their eyes: Revealed one glimpse
      Of floating, starry throne.

In this red glare the car was lost.
      Darkness! Then blind, in fear,
The gazers groped, till Night, with shade
      Made them again see clear,

In light of moon. Nor dreamed that
      Drugs and chains had stilled
The beauteous statute, nor that springs
      And slaves (made dumb) had filled

The air with flames. That song of birds
      Had but been cunning reeds!
That of all lost in woe, or crushed
      With soul-distracting needs

For human help or friends, or cheer
      Of words from one kind heart
Was she, in shuddering horror hid
      Within dark caves apart.


"O, for one free and wandering breath
      Of wind from ocean's breast,
To kiss the aching maze away
      From pained brain. To rest,
One moment! All alone to flee
      To garden's cool and still.
Freed from that mystic man,
      Away from his chilling smile."


Stern as the Fates
His cruel will,
Bound her his prey.

Breathless with rage,
One brought to bay.
Lost to despair,

Was she that day?
O, that the sun,
Deadly and fast.
Would send to the earth
His fire to blast.(*)
That those firm rocks
Shatter and break
Opening a door
For her soul's sake.

But no. The chariot
Burnished and bright,
Back to the palace
Carried its freight.

(* Note—Superstition taught them that the lightning was a shattered beam of the sun.)


Under the blossoms, poisoned to her,
Into a prison, blazoned for her
With walls of bright metals, deep set in jet,
Sandal-wood pavement, amber inset
Shining mosaic and statues of glass.
'Neath pearls, shells and roses
Chains and locks clashed.
Viols and gold harps, jewelled and decked
With wealth of a kingdom on them inflecked.
Curtains of yellow, orange and red,
Cushions of broidery for her crazed head.
Caskets and tripods, urns filled with spices,
Baskets with rare fruit, fountains and ices.

Abject and mute crouched at those doors,
(Doors so accursed,) knelt the scourged slave
Watching like dogs and like dogs in dread
Lest she escape. Lest she be saved,


For their eyes,
Eager gazing,
Cared she not,

In her brain,
Madly crazing,
Pride was not.

Nor for foe,
Nor for captor
Recked she now.

To the ground,
In her horror
Doth she bow.

Only mirth
Met her sorrow
And she heard

Midst the leaves,
The low whistle
Of a bird,

Bringing back—
As a vision,
Other time,

When in Joy
She had dwelt
In other clime.

Conquered now—
Made a subject,
Made a slave!

All the wealth
Of her empire
Could not save.

Still if Death
Would but answer
To her call

Gladly would she
To his keeping
Yield her soul,

"Wretched bird!
Cease thy whisper—
O, my heart—

Ne'er recall,
It is lost us,
Breaking heart."

"Cruel bird"
O, where are yon.
That you sing?

Do you tell me
1 am stolen,
Captive thing!"

At the foot
Of a column
Was a slave.

And she stopped
At the thrilling
Look he gave.

For his eye,
Black and piercing,
Watched her so.

That she paused—
Thinking, vaguely,
Why 'twas so.

When she saw—
In the moving
Of his lips

Was the song
Of that birdling
That had lisped.

Then a thought
Flashed like Heaven
To her heart.

Was it slave?
Was it subject?
Was it—What!

Crouching there,
Black and horrid
In that guise.

Singing low,
That sweet love-note
Whose replies—

O, so oft,
She had echoed
Back to one

In the shadows
Of that garden
Of her home.

Not again
Sang the birdling.
He was done.

And the stars
Crept towards morning,
One by one.

Closed the eyes,
(Strangely heavy,) Watching. Hush!

Something moves
Like a shadow
In the dusk.

Slow and still,
On the amber
Colored floor

It moved on
Till it stood
Within the door.

Then she heard
One low whisper
Of her name.

And the arms,
Strong to save her
Clasped again

Their lost prize—
And they hastened
Out of sight—

While there hung
Friendly darkness
Of the night-

O, the sea,
Gaily tossing
Chanted glad.

And the night
Wrapped a storm cloud
O'er their head.

Foam and spray
In white wreathings
Marked her dress.

But the storm
Brought no terror;
She was blest.

When the shore
Once was landed,
What mad words

Of her love,
And her joy,
Zephyrs heard.

And with smiles,
And with tears
All together,

She retold
All her woes
And her capture.


Where the soft hues of summer skies
    Climb to the snow of peaks,
Rising 'gainst etherous crystalline
    Which of the cold just speaks;
Where golden streams, hemmed in with vines
    Matting from limb to limb,
Kiss oft rich flowers and bear them on
    To distance golden dim
Where but to breathe and see is such
    Of rapture, none would care
To toil or think. But only look
    On mystic beauty there,
While yet the earth, with dews still blest,
    Grew fragrant in earliest dawn.
Out from the numerous palaces
    Marshalled a gorgeous throng,
Where lay the chain of inlocked lakes
    From summit down to sea.
The cortège paused and entered boats,
    Which soon moved swift and free,
In the cool breeze, with silver sails
    And many floating flags
The crowded fleet climbed up the height
    And gleamed among the crags,
Where forms of dark and threatening rock
    Loomed over the glassy waves.
From higher cliffs the chill of snow
    Crawled down. A brightening ray
Over the heights, a pinken glow
    Flushed. And in purple deep
The shadows tied. The browns grew led,
    The mounts awoke from sleep,
'Neath the cold moon, and yellow fell
    Like airy cloth of gold.
The sky puts off its chilling blue,
    Morn's radiant gates t' unfold.
The shades swept into the vale.
    The blaze of orange suns
Flashed on the silver sail,
    And the marriage rite begun.
The robed priest in vestment gay
    Of yellow and blue and white
Lighted the golden altar's urn
    With incense, and colored light.
Carpets were spread of crimson flowers
    Braided with cunning care.
Silent were all. Then knelt the bride.
    In wondrous beauty there.
A robe was hers of woven pearls.
    And over her head, where coiled
Her hair, a shining coronet,
    In mesh of gold was foiled,
About the taper, tawny arms,
    Were twisted jewelled snakes.
Hung from the tinted, dainty ear
    Diamonds of wondrous weight.
Long, dark lashes veiled such eyes.
    As dark, and soft, and wild.
Captive make souls. And lips were hers,
    As if an angel smiled,
From lake to lake, as time passed on
    In certain measured space,
The riles continued. Gorgeous swept
    The fleet to the last place.
Just as the sun fell in the waves.
    Then the white moonlight fell
Pale and soft on the mystic fleet,
    Gilding the silver sail.
Out from a thousand silver bells
    Chimed many a merry peal.
And now a raft, (invisible,)
    The meteor's flare reveals
Phantoms afloat, each one as fate
    Or pleasure led their way,
Were sailing on the dark blue waves,
    Athwart with moonbeams gay.
Out from the lake rose a fairy frame,
    A tower, ethereal, white
Ablaze were all the domes and spires.
    Illuming purple night
Leaving the moonlight almost dull.
    After it burned away,
The towers fell down to ashes,
    Closing the bridal day.
Thus at home, in their kingdom
    Fair and free—
Leave the Queen—and the King
    Of early day.
When we find, in the markings
    On some stones,
Strange told tales, read and tell me
    Of these ones.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.