Although not to be found in Livy, or Hesiod, or Ovid, or any of the fathers of history or fable, there is a legend of the latter seven, which may be considered in the light of an abstract of title of certain seven sisters, to be included in the list of immortal sevens who have honoured the earth by making it their abode.
It is many thousands of years since Sleep received from her parent, as a dowry of love, an empire, unequalled in extent by any other which the earth ever acknowledged. Her domain embraced “the round world, and they that dwell therein.” From pole to pole, and from ocean to ocean, she swayed her sceptre. And it was assigned her that man should devote one-third of his existence in paying homage at the foot of her throne. All monarchs from Ninus to Napoleon have done her honour. All ladies from Rhodope to Cleopatra, and from Helen to Clothilde, have admitted her claim to ascendency. And all serfs, and all captives, from Epictetus to Abd-el-Kader, have forgotten their bonds and their captivity, and bowed, on an equality with kings, beneath her nod.
Sleep had seven sisters. Envious of her throne, and jealous of her power, they complained bitterly that no heritage, and no government, and no homage was theirs. Then they strove to deceive men, and counterfeit the blessings which Sleep conferred, and thus to steal the affections of her subjects from the universal monarch, and transfer them to themselves. Herein they toiled and invented many strange devices; and though they beguiled many, these all fell back again to the allegiance they had sworn of old.
“O my sisters!” said Sleep, “wherefore do you strive to instil discontent into the hearts of my subjects and breed discord in my dominions? Know ye not, that all mortals must fain obey me, or die? Your enchantments cannot diminish my votaries, and only serve to increase my power. And men, who for a while are cheated of the blessings I confer, woo me at last with increased ardour, and with songs of gratitude fall at my feet.”
Morphina first replied—
“We know full well, proud sister, how wide is your empire, and how great your power, but we too must reign, and our kingdoms will soon compare with yours. Let us but share with you in ruling the world, or we will rule it for ourselves.”
“Sisters! let us be at peace with each other. Is there not two-thirds of the life of man free from my control? Why should you not steal from iron-handed care enough of power to make you queens as potent, or little less than me? My minister of dreams shall aid you by his skill, and visions more gorgeous, and illusions more splendid, than ever visited a mortal beneath my sway, shall attend the ecstacies of your subjects.”
The sisters were reconciled henceforth. And anon thousands and millions of Tartar tribes and Mongolian hordes welcomed Morphina, and blessed her for her soothing charms and benignant rule—blessed her for her theft from the hours of sorrow and care—blessed her for the marvels of dreams the most extravagant, and visions the most gorgeous that ever arose in the brain of dweller in the glowing East.
More extended became the sway of the golden-haired Virginia, until four-fifths of the race of mortals burned incense upon her altars, or silently proffered thank-offerings from their hearts. Curling ever upwards from the hearth of the Briton and the forest of the Brazilian—from the palaces of Ispahan and the wigwams of the Missouri—from the slopes of the eternal hills and the bosom of the mighty deep, arose the fragrant odours of her votaries, mingled with the hum of pæans in her praise.
Beneath the shadow of palms, in the sultry regions of the sun, the dark impetuous Gunja held her court. There did the sons of the Ganges and the Nile, the Indus and the Niger, own her sovereignty; and there did the swarthy Hindoo and the ebon African hold festivals in her honour. And, though the hardy Norseman scorned her proffered offices, she established her throne in millions of ardent and affectionate hearts.