The Universal Deluge
The Angel Finds the Princess
AT the time of the Universal Deluge, when all the waters of the earth, intermingled and united, rose higher than the mountains, and covered theft loftiest crests with foaming waves, confusion reigned over the face of the deep.
And when at last the Almighty, taking pity on this miserable world, commanded the glorious rays of the sun to shine once more through the grey and watery clouds, and the waters to separate and to resume theft accustomed course through the lowlands of the earth, not a streamlet, not a river could have again found its ancient bed, if troops of good angels had not gathered around to put them on theft way.
As the long chains of mountains by degrees reappeared from beneath the waves, the angels came and rested on their summits, and descending slowly from thence, drove the waters before them into the valleys.
They regulated the course of the rivers and streamlets as fast as they retreated from the hilltops; enclosed the lakes, either by a solid chain of rugged rocks or a green girdle of woods and meadows, and marked out its limits to the sea.
With huge besoms made of the wind, and enormous brushes composed of sunbeams, they sallied forth in every direction over the humid earth, brushing away the mud and slime that covered the grass, and drying the heavy foliage of the trees.
So great was the ardour with which they worked, that they raised a quantity of spray, which hung suspended among the gorges of the mountains, where it formed veils of transparent vapour.
Their labour had already lasted several days, and was almost concluded, when one of the angels, somewhat tired, sat down to rest on one of the highest of the alpine peaks.
From thence he had an immense extent of view, and east and west, north and south, he contemplated with a pensive air the verdant earth beneath his feet, springing forth so graceful, so young and fresh, from the great bath in which all its impurities had been washed away.
"How charming it looks I" exclaimed he; "how dazzling it is In all, its purity! But will it preserve this purity?
Will Sin, which has disappeared beneath this mass of water, never reappear?
Will it never again leave the mark of its dark fingers on the bright face of this renewed world?"
A melancholy sigh, full of sad presentiments, escaped from the angel's breast, and he turned away his eyes, dazzled by the brilliancy of the sun just rising on the horizon.
He gazed around for a long time on the side by which the German Waters had descended, and saw them gliding away in the distance, The largest and most important rivers went first, followed by the secondary streams, behind which an innumerable and brilliant mass of rivulets advanced, like an army of body-guards.
He rejoiced to see them all so well directed, free from all confusion or disorder, and he remarked with pleasure that there was not even one little streamlet, however insignificant, however faintly imperceptible it might almost: be, that was not escorted by a good angel, to show it the right way, whenever it was in doubt which road to follow, and to guard it tenderly when precipitating itself too heedlessly over the points of the rocks.
He saw the joyous Rhine, his head crowned with grapes and vine-leaves, gaily following out his rapid course, and he seemed to hear afar off the cries of joy with which he saluted his dear Moselle, as she came blushing towards him, her head also encircled with the green clusters of the vine, intermingling with the locks of her beautiful hair.
As the waters retreated further and further, the murmuring of their waves was lost in the distance, and suddenly other sounds struck on the ear of the solitary Angel, who was seated on the summit of the Alp.
By his side a feeble moan arose, somewhat like the groans of a person in deep affliction.
The Angel arose, and went behind the rock from whence this sound proceeded, and there, enveloped in her white veil, he found a tender little stream extended on the ground, and shedding bitter tears.
He pitied her distress, and, bending forward, raised her up, and, on removing her veil, he recognized the lovely little Ilsee, for whom a verdant bed had been prepared far away down below, in the valleys of the Hartz.
"My poor child," said the good Angel, "you ought not to be here alone on these lofty and rugged mountains; your companions are all gone! Did none of them think of taking you with them?"
Little Ilsee, proudly raising her head, replied in a most disdainful tone, " I was not forgotten by my friends.
Old Weser waited for me long enough; he made signs, and called to me to accompany him.
The Ecker and the Ocher also wanted much to take me with them, but I would not go, I refused absolutely, even at the risk of drying up here from sadness and solitude.
Must I descend into the valleys, and wander through their plains, just like any common stream,.
there to be used for such vulgar purposes as supplying oxen and sheep with water, and washing their great ugly dirty feet! I, the Princess Ilsee?
Only look at me; tell me if I do not spring from a noble race: the transparent ether is my father, the light is my mother, the diamond is my brother, and the pearly dewdrop that dwells in the calyx of the rose is my dear little sister.
The waves of the Deluge raised me very high, and I could kiss the snowy peaks of the grand oId mountains with my waters, and the first ray of the sun that pierced the morning clouds, scattered spangles on my garments.
I am a princess of the first water, and I really cannot descend to the valley; I preferred hiding here, and pretended to be asleep when the others departed, so that old Weser was obliged to go grumbling away at last, with those silly streamlets, who had nothing better to do than to rush into his arms."
At the conclusion of this long speech from little Ilsee, the Angel shook his head sadly, and gave a severe and searching look at her pale little face.
When he had for some time earnestly examined the large blue eyes of the child, eyes that, on this day, were sparkling with anger, he saw a something in their transparent depths which at once told him that an evil genius had taken possession of her.
Alas! the Demon of Pride had got into poor little Ilsee's head, and driven out all good thoughts, and he looked out at the good Angel, through her eyes, with a bold mocking air.
Now the Demon of Pride had already more than once turned the head of a foolish child, even without her being a princess of the first water; so the compassionate Angel, seeing the danger that threatened to overwhelm the poor little stream, determined to save her at all hazards.