Hermes Trismegistus


    As Seleucus narrates, Hermes describes the principles that rank as wholes in two myriads of books; or, as we are informed by Manetho, he perfectly unfolded these principles in three myriads six thousand five hundred and twenty-five volumes. . . .
        . . . Our ancestors dedicated the inventions of    their wisdom to this deity, inscribing all their own writings with the name of Hermes.--IAMBLICUS.

    Still through Egypt's desert places
        Flows the lordly Nile,
    From its banks the great stone faces
        Gaze with patient smile.
    Still the pyramids imperious
        Pierce the cloudless skies,
    And the Sphinx stares with mysterious,
        Solemn, stony eyes.

    But where are the old Egyptian
        Demi-gods and kings?
    Nothing left but an inscription
        Graven on stones and rings.
    Where are Helios and Hephaestus,
        Gods of eldest eld?
    Where is Hermes Trismegistus,
        Who their secrets held?

    Where are now the many hundred
        Thousand books he wrote?
    By the Thaumaturgists plundered,
        Lost in lands remote;
    In oblivion sunk forever,
        As when o'er the land
    Blows a storm-wind, in the river
         Sinks the scattered sand.

    Something unsubstantial, ghostly,
        Seems this Theurgist,
    In deep meditation mostly
        Wrapped, as in a mist.
    Vague, phantasmal, and unreal
        To our thought he seems,
    Walking in a world ideal,
        In a land of dreams.

    Was he one, or many, merging
        Name and fame in one,
    Like a stream, to which, converging
        Many streamlets run?
    Till, with gathered power proceeding,
        Ampler sweep it takes,
    Downward the sweet waters leading
        From unnumbered lakes.

    By the Nile I see him wandering,
        Pausing now and then,
    On the mystic union pondering
        Between gods and men;
    Half believing, wholly feeling,
        With supreme delight,
    How the gods, themselves concealing,
        Lift men to their height.

    Or in Thebes, the hundred-gated,
        In the thoroughfare
    Breathing, as if consecrated,
        A diviner air;
    And amid discordant noises,
        In the jostling throng,
    Hearing far, celestial voices
        Of Olympian song.

    Who shall call his dreams fallacious?
        Who has searched or sought
    All the unexplored and spacious
        Universe of thought?
    Who, in his own skill confiding,
         Shall with rule and line
    Mark the border-land dividing
        Human and divine?

    Trismegistus! three times greatest!
        How thy name sublime
    Has descended to this latest
        Progeny of time!
    Happy they whose written pages
        Perish with their lives,
    If amid the crumbling ages
        Still their name survives!

    Thine, O priest of Egypt, lately
        Found I in the vast,
    Weed-encumbered sombre, stately,
        Grave-yard of the Past;
    And a presence moved before me
        On that gloomy shore,
    As a waft of wind, that o'er me
        Breathed, and was no more.


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