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The Opium Eater
by [?]

“They told you truly, my dear sir,–she was beautiful, nay, externally, faultless. Her figure was that of womanhood, just touching upon the meridian of perfection, from which nothing could be taken, and to which nothing could be added. There was a very witchery in her smile, trembling, as it did, over her fine Grecian features, like the play of moonlight upon a shifting and beautiful cloud.

“Her voice was music, low, sweet, bewildering. I have heard it a thousand times in my dreams. It floated around me, like the tones of some rare instrument, unseen by the hearer; for, beautiful as she was, you could not think of her, or of her loveliness, while she was speaking; it was that sweetly wonderful voice, seemingly abstracted from herself, pouring forth the soft current of its exquisite cadence, which alone absorbed the attention. Like that one of Coleridge’s heroines, you could half feel, half fancy, that it had a separate being of its own, a spiritual presence manifested to but one of the senses; a living something, whose mode of existence was for the ear alone.–[See Memoirs of Maria Eleonora Schoning.]

“But what shall I say of the mind? What of the spirit, the resident divinity of so fair a temple? Vanity, vanity, all was vanity; a miserable, personal vanity, too, unrelieved by one noble aspiration, one generous feeling; the whited sepulchre spoken of of old, beautiful without, but dark and unseemly within.

“I look back with wonder and astonishment to that period of my life, when such a being claimed and received the entire devotion of my heart. Her idea blended with or predominated over all others. It was the common centre in my mind from which all the radii of thought had their direction; the nucleus around which I had gathered all that my ardent imagination could conceive, or a memory stored with all the delicious dreams of poetry and romances could embody, of female excellence and purity and constancy.

“It is idle to talk of the superior attractions of intellectual beauty, when compared with mere external loveliness. The mind, invisible and complicated and indefinite, does not address itself directly to the senses. It is comprehended only by its similitude in others. It reveals itself, even then, but slowly and imperfectly. But the beauty of form and color, the grace of motion, the harmony of tone, are seen and felt and appreciated at once. The image of substantial and material loveliness once seen leaves an impression as distinct and perfect upon the retina of memory as upon that of the eyes. It does not rise before us in detached and disconnected proportions, like that of spiritual loveliness, but in crowds, and in solitude, and in all the throngful varieties of thought and feeling and action, the symmetrical whole, the beautiful perfection comes up in the vision of memory, and stands, like a bright angel, between us and all other impressions of outward or immaterial beauty.

“I saw her, and could not forget her; I sought her society, and was gratified with it. It is true, I sometimes (in the first stages of my attachment) had my misgivings in relation to her character. I sometimes feared that her ideas were too much limited to the perishing beauty of her person. But to look upon her graceful figure yielding to the dance, or reclining in its indolent symmetry; to watch the beautiful play of coloring upon her cheek, and the moonlight transit of her smile; to study her faultless features in their delicate and even thoughtful repose, or when lighted up into conversational vivacity, was to forget everything, save the exceeding and bewildering fascination before me. Like the silver veil of Khorassan it shut out from my view the mental deformity beneath it. I could not reason with myself about her; I had no power of ratiocination which could overcome the blinding dazzle of her beauty. The master-passion, which had wrestled down all others, gave to every sentiment of the mind something of its own peculiar character.