I hated my brief fame. We had TV vans camped outside my house, reporters hounded me... people i'd know for years started treating me differently.
I don't know that we do. I had thought ours worked well, but I had never examined it too closely. A lot of media people will be looking for a case that might make Texas Governor George Bush think twice about what he's doing.
I Waited Outside The World Of Wonder
I waited inside the world of wonder
The poems were coming to me night and day-
I knew I had a vocation at last
So I gave myself into it-
Year after year
For years I wrote poems
They came in and out of me
And I found them wherever I looked and walked
And took them home and wrote them down
And they became my song and my me and my life and my joy
And oh what a wonder it was to be simply to be
Writing them down-
And now writing this one down after so many years
I too still sing and wonder why God has been so good to me
And given me so much I simply love.
Trickery From Tattered Sleeves
People have been insisting for years,
They've assisted with his efforts.
Or he consulted to gain their expertise.
As if he need them.
And he was on a leash.
When word of this leaked,
He was not pleased a bit.
Deceptions of his abilities,
Made him seethed with contemptment.
Needless to say,
Some arrangements have been made.
And quickly those who had taken his talents for granted,
Could not believe...
Those they thought skilled,
Could only produce repeated trickery from tattered sleeves.
'We were told he had been motivated by them? '
I suppose they told you they painted the Bay Bridge as well?
But they did say they were consulted on the color! '
Lowered down on a mat
Four of them carried me up the steps at the side
and then they began to open the rooftop wide.
They lowered me on my mat right down to the ground
at the feet of Jesus with people standing round.
Jesus saw the faith of my friends and said to me
'You are forgiven take up your mat and go free.'
But as He healed me and when I took up my bed
'Blasphemy, only God can forgive, ' someone said.
Then Jesus replied 'Why are you thinking these things? '
'For the Son of Man has power to forgive sins.'
'Is Your sins are forgiven' easier to say'
'Than the words, ‘Take up your mat and walk on your way? '
So I took up my mat and walked out of their view
for I had not just been healed but forgiven too.
All the people present praised God for what they saw.
No one had experienced anything like this before.
Written after reading Mark 2: 3-12
A Winter Walk
WE never had believed, I wis,
At primrose time when west winds stole
Like thoughts of youth across the soul,
In such an altered time as this,
When if one little flower did peep
Up through the brown and sullen grass,
We should just look on it, and pass
As if we saw it in our sleep.
Feeling as sure as that this ray
Which cottage children call the sun,
Colors the pale clouds one by one,--
Our touch would make it drop to clay.
We never could have looked, in prime
Of April, or when July trees
Shook full-leaved in the evening bree
Upon the face of this pale time,
Still, soft, familiar; shining bleak
On naked branches, sodden ground,
Yet shining--as if one had found
A smile upon a dead friend's cheek,
Or old friend, lost for years, had strange
In altered mien come sudden back,
Confronting us with our great lack--
Till loss seemed far less sad than change.
Yet though, alas! Hope did not see
This winter skeleton through full leaves,
Out of all bareness Faith perceives
Possible life in field and tree.
In bough and trunk the sap will move,
And the mould break o'er springing flowers;
Nature revives with all her powers,
But only nature;--never love.
So, listlessly with linkèd hands
Both Faith and Hope glide soft away;
While in long shadows, cool and gray,
The sun sets o'er the barren lands.
I have been in a violent rage since the day that I was born
First it began when from my mother that I was violently torn
And then from that day that loss of innocence I still do mourn
I am truly the innocent, and at the world I do scorn.
Violence it is with me wherever that I might be
Where friendship is another man's drink, rage is my cup of tea
People enjoy to anger as though that is there strategy
And rage is that result, and the victim is always me.
I think about my past and the major events in my life
My first kiss, my first hug, my siblings and even my wife
But then those events brought me anger and hate and also strife
I was used and abused, cheated on and then stabbed by their knife.
When I wake up in the morning anger is on my mind
And when I go to bed at night my temper is all that I can find
I think of my rage which was caused by friends not being kind
How I wish that my peace and solitude was never left behind.
My life is filled with its outrages, anger and its wrath
I wish now that when I was walking I had taken a more peaceful path
Seems as though I have walked that road for years if correctly I did my math
How I wish that my rage could be removed, as simply by taking a bath.
I am now so tired my body is so old and worn
I wish again and again, I never came out that September morn
My mother was the rose and I indeed was her thorn
How I wish and pray many times over, that I could of been reborn.
Randy L. McClave
A Year of Anniversaries
This year is a year of anniversaries,
and I remember where I was,
and what I was doing on each of them,
when the news came through.
The death of two famous people
who had an effect on our lives
and a diabolical act of terrorism
one could never forget.
That stunned nations around the world.
Thirty years ago,
the world was stunned by the passing of a king.
The king of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley.
Although his voice was silenced
on a bathroom floor,
he left with us all a legacy
of his music that will live eternally.
Ten years ago the world lost a Princess
in a car crash in Paris.
A Royal Princess of the likes no one had ever seen before,
whose gentleness and kindness
with everyone she met
will always be remembered.
She was Diana, Princess of Wales,
but she was more than that,
she was a Princess to the world.
She reached out to the poor and rich alike.
She was mourned by millions across every land.
The legacy she left is to befriend everyone.
Then six years ago, something happened.
It drew together nations,
who sometimes were at odds with one another,
to defeat an enemy
whose fingers stretched across many lands.
Loved ones of many nations mourned
when the twin towers crumbled to the ground
in a diabolical act of terror.
Planes were ordered out of the sky,
and for days after as I remember
I never saw a single bird fly.
Silence drew a cloud around the world,
on that day of infamy,
11 September 2001.
Images flew around the world to television screens.
Everyone looked in disbelief
at the pictures that they saw.
The unimaginable had happened.
Terror had struck
the corner stone of freedom
with one almighty blow.
The world was a sad place that day
as many millions cried.
Now the anniversaries have rolled around.
Memories of what I was doing on those days,
come to the forefront of my mind,
of how I felt,
where I was,
when for a few minutes around the world
time stood still in my life.
So I ask as you finish this poem to take a minute of your time to remember all those who lost their lives and those who risked their lives to save people most didn’t know six years ago today.
Lulled by the sound of pastoral bells,
Rude Nature's Pilgrims did we go,
From the dread summit of the Queen
Of mountains, through a deep ravine,
Where, in her holy chapel, dwells
"Our Lady of the Snow."
The sky was blue, the air was mild;
Free were the streams and green the bowers;
As if, to rough assaults unknown,
The genial spot had 'ever' shown
A countenance that as sweetly smiled--
The face of summer-hours.
And we were gay, our hearts at ease;
With pleasure dancing through the frame
We journeyed; all we knew of care--
Our path that straggled here and there;
Of trouble--but the fluttering breeze;
Of Winter--but a name.
If foresight could have rent the veil
Of three short days--but hush--no more!
Calm is the grave, and calmer none
Than that to which thy cares are gone,
Thou Victim of the stormy gale;
Asleep on ZURICH'S shore!
O GODDARD! what art thou?--a name--
A sunbeam followed by a shade!
Nor more, for aught that time supplies,
The great, the experienced, and the wise:
Too much from this frail earth we claim,
And therefore are betrayed.
We met, while festive mirth ran wild,
Where, from a deep lake's mighty urn,
Forth slips, like an enfranchised slave,
A sea-green river, proud to lave,
With current swift and undefiled,
The towers of old LUCERNE.
We parted upon solemn ground
Far-lifted towards the unfading sky;
But all our thoughts were 'then' of Earth,
That gives to common pleasures birth;
And nothing in our hearts we found
That prompted even a sigh.
Fetch, sympathising Powers of air,
Fetch, ye that post o'er seas and lands,
Herbs, moistened by Virginian dew,
A most untimely grave to strew,
Whose turf may never know the care
Of 'kindred' human hands!
Beloved by every gentle Muse
He left his Transatlantic home:
Europe, a realised romance,
Had opened on his eager glance;
What present bliss!--what golden views!
What stores for years to come!
Though lodged within no vigorous frame,
His soul her daily tasks renewed,
Blithe as the lark on sun-gilt wings
High poised--or as the wren that sings
In shady places, to proclaim
Her modest gratitude.
Not vain is sadly-uttered praise;
The words of truth's memorial vow
Are sweet as morning fragrance shed
From flowers 'mid GOLDAU'S ruins bred;
As evening's fondly-lingering rays,
On RIGHI'S silent brow.
Lamented Youth! to thy cold clay
Fit obsequies the Stranger paid;
And piety shall guard the Stone
Which hath not left the spot unknown
Where the wild waves resigned their prey--
And 'that' which marks thy bed.
And, when thy Mother weeps for Thee,
Lost Youth! a solitary Mother;
This tribute from a casual Friend
A not unwelcome aid may lend,
To feed the tender luxury,
The rising pang to smother.
The Cudgelled And Contented Cuckold
SOME time ago from Rome, in smart array,
A younger brother homeward bent his way,
Not much improved, as frequently the case
With those who travel to that famous place.
Upon the road oft finding, where he stayed,
Delightful wines, and handsome belle or maid,
With careless ease he loitered up and down.--
One day there passed him in a country town,
Attended by a page, a lady fair,
Whose charming form and all-engaging air,
At once his bosom fired with fond desire;
And nearer still, her beauties to admire.
He most gallantly saw her safely home;
Attentions charm the sex where'er we roam.
OUR thoughtless rambler pleasures always sought:
From Rome this spark had num'rous pardons brought;
But,--as to virtues (this too oft we find),
He'd left them,--with his HOLINESS behind!
THE lady was, by ev'ry one, confessed,
Of beauty, youth, and elegance possessed;
She wanted naught to form her bliss below,
But one whose love would ever fondly flow.
INDEED so fickle proved this giddy youth,
That nothing long would please his heart or tooth;
Howe'er he earnestly inquired her name,
And ev'ry other circumstance the same.
She's lady, they replied, to great 'squire Good,
Who's almost bald from age 'tis understood;
But as he's rich, and high in rank appears,
Why that's a recompense you know for years.
THESE facts our young gallant no sooner gained,
But ardent hopes at once he entertained;
To wily plots his mind he quickly bent,
And to a neighb'ring town his servants sent;
Then, at the house where dwelled our noble 'squire,
His humble services proposed for hire.
PRETENDING ev'ry sort of work he knew,
He soon a fav'rite with old Square-toes grew,
Who (first advising with his charming mate),
Chief falc'ner made him o'er his fine estate.
THE new domestick much the lady pleased;
He watched and eagerly the moment seized,
His ardent passion boldly to declare,
In which he showed a novice had no share.
'TWAS managed well, for nothing but the chase,
Could Square-toes tempt to quit her fond embrace,
And then our falc'ner must his steps attend:--
The very time he wished at home to spend.
The lady similar emotions showed;
For opportunity their bosoms glowed;
And who will feel in argument so bold,
When this I say, the contrary to hold?
At length with pity Cupid saw the case,
And kindly lent his aid to their embrace.
ONE night the lady said, with eager eyes,
My dear, among our servants, which d'ye prize,
For moral conduct most and upright heart?
To this her spouse replied, the faithful part
Is with the falc'ner found, I must decide:
To him my life I'd readily confide.
THEN you are wrong, said she,--most truly so,
For he's a good-for-nothing wretch I know;
You'll scarcely credit it, but t'other day,
He had the barefaced impudence to say,
He loved me much, and then his passion pressed:
I'd nearly fallen, I was so distressed.
To tear his eyes out, I designed at first,
And e'en to choke this wretch, of knaves the worst;
By prudence solely was I then restrained,
For fear the world should think his point was gained.
THE better then to prove his dark intent,
I feigned an inclination to consent,
And in the garden, promised as to-night,
I'd near the pear-tree meet this roguish wight.
Said I, my husband never moves from hence;
No jealous fancy, but to show the sense
He entertains of my pure, virtuous life,
And fond affection for a loving wife.
Thus circumstanced, your wishes see are vain,
Unless when he's asleep a march I gain,
And softly stealing from his torpid side,
With trembling steps I, to my lover, glide.
So things remain, my dear; an odd affair:--
On this Square-toes 'gan to curse and swear;
But his fond rib most earnestly besought,
His rage to stifle, as she clearly thought,
He might in person, if he'd take the pain,
Secure the rascal and redress obtain
You know, said she, the tree is near the door,
Upon the left and bears of fruit great store;
But if I may my sentiments express,
In cap and petticoats you'd best to dress;
His insolence is great, and you'll be right,
To give your strokes with double force to night;
Well work his back; flat lay him on the ground:--
A rascal! honourable ladies round,
No doubt he many times has served the same;
'Tis such impostors characters defame.
To rouse his wrath the story quite sufficed;
The spouse resolved to do as she advised.
Howe'er to dupe him was an easy lot;
The hour arrived, his dress he soon had got,
Away he ran with anxious fond delight.
In hopes the wily spark to trap that night.
But no one there our easy fool could see,
And while he waited near the fav'rite tree,
Half dead with cold, the falc'ner slyly stole,
To her who had so well contrived the whole;
Time, place, and disposition, all combined
The loving pair to mutual joys resigned.
When our expert gallant had with the dame,
An hour or more indulged his ardent flame,
Though forced at length to quit the loving lass,
'Twas not without the favourite parting glass;
He then the garden sought, where long the 'squire,
Upon the knave had wished to vent his ire.
NO sooner he the silly husband spied,
But feigning 'twas the wily wife he eyed,
At once he cried,--ah, vilest of the sex!
Are these thy tricks, so good a man to vex?
Oh shame upon thee! thus to treat his love,
As pure as snow, descending from above.
I could not think thou hadst so base a heart,
But clear it is, thou need'st a friendly part,
And that I'll act: I asked this rendezvous
With full intent to see if thou wert true;
And, God be praised, without a loose design,
To plunge in luxuries pronounced divine.
Protect me Heav'n! poor sinner that I'm here!
To guard thy honour I will persevere.
My worthy master could I thus disgrace?
Thou wanton baggage with unblushing face,
Thee on the spot I'll instantly chastise,
And then thy husband of the fact advise.
THE fierce harangue o'er Square-toes pleasure spread,
Who, mutt'ring 'tween his teeth, with fervour said:
O gracious Lord! to thee my thanks are due--
To have a wife so chaste--a man so true!
But presently he felt upon his back
The falc'ner's cudgel vigorously thwack,
Who soundly basted him as on he ran,
To gain the house, with terror, pale and wan.
THE squire had wished his trusty man, no doubt,
Had not, at cudgelling, been quite so stout;
But since he showed himself so true a friend,
And with his actions could such prudence blend,
The master fully pardoned what he knew,
And quickly to his wife in bed he flew,
When he related every thing that passed
Were we, cried he, a hundred years to last,
My lovely dear, we ne'er on earth could find
A man so faithful, and so well inclined.
I'd have him take within our town a wife,
And you and I'll regard him during life.
In that, replied the lady, we agree,
And heartily thereto I pledged will be.
The LoRuhamah Poems - Her Death Discordant
for Judy Asher, killed at age 21
These meditations/laments are set in
Appalachian mountains and towns of
North American Southern states, circa mid1960's
[The name, LoRuhamah, means 'not loved']
Hosea 1: 6 - 'And she conceived again, and bare a daughter.
And God said unto him, Call her name LoRuhamah' for I will
no more have mercy on the house of Israel, but will utterly take
O rue rue LaRue among the ginkgoes
cloven leaves all fallen whose burnished berries
yellow late melon sweetness of Autumn days
O rue rue LaRue among the boxwoods
evergreen for no good phlox.
Blooded leaves settle upon golden flax of weeds
seeding the chilling ground receiving soundless
lips of grain enduring ice and ice again
O rue rue LaRue amidst the sortilege
Coo of pigeons in the distant spired village
low of legion cattle turning toward evening millet
mow of fringing grain chafing toward winter silos
O rue rue LaRue
Blue waters at a distance
blue the tails of otters
blue the eyelids of sleeping beasts
nested beneath the earth
Distant crows sound the morning field beyond pasture
Dew murmurs names upon passing grasses
Echoing wood gold where below the stream's gash
furthers along slowly murdering dimensions of
width and depth
Remembered gait of young ponies toward
the spring's sweet water
Remembered laughter of the frail daughter there
beside the fields sweet grasses
The daughter, as the water, passes into silence
Laughter remembered beside the old well of the woods
Unearthing the old dwelling
found glass bottles
rusted ancient tins of talcum
utensils grimed which once fed mouths
a comb sadly saving some long
uncaressed and beloved white hair
a rusty chain for what purpose used
reveals a child's gum
machine trinket ring
O the lovely hand of the long grown daughter
remembered in the plastic ring hole full of dirt
caked jewel of childhood, innocent, cool
in this finder's keeping
Rest o daughter
slumber in the dark palm of the grave
We are slave to suffering
but the little ring you lost
or bitterly tossed away
when its small circle's promise
in the sunlight again
in a stranger's hand
standing where the gate allowed
entrance to the once beautiful yard
Brief the rediscovered
for all of us are soon
gone under the hill
The ring dear lost dead thing
once human and frail will endure
beyond our bones.
It's promise is safe
I wish I knew your name, dear one
O rue rue LaRue...
Spittle on the chin
stubble upon the cheek
she met her love beside the creek
Turned in her sleep
the calling heat gathered
the steep bank in the wood
as water will
forgetting the blood's
first stain on the long discarded sheet
A woman now she fled toward love
and fed there but
...there that little greensward swath of green grass
and leaf and limb and tree in that little crook nook
of vale dark there and sky gimleted on each blade
and leaf hover myriad in air...
'Her death discordant...'
'Birds must sing to keep from asphyxiating.' - Mircea Eliade
Then died there the rose beside the house of tin.
The track bore no train for years.
Weeds traveled tendriled and
yellow rooted between trestles.
Broken vessels whistled through
shattered teeth of glass.
Only wind and no rusted train passed.
Though the scene bears dislocation,
though the brain remembers station and motion
of steam engine and iron wheel rotation
the places of old gone passing
bear no malice toward stillness.
All around mute remains remind the
occasional passer of former days;
an old snuff tin crumbled in a reverent hand
longs for the woman grasping then,
holds sweet dust beneath her tongue
as the land must hold her now where is
no whisper but sleep beyond sleep.
Weeds to the eye are sad between rails
but listening to their green and yellow belles
the rightness of their swaying displaces all sorrow.
Their distance is a distance one cannot know
but only borrow in imagination by extension
of miles, their reach is ours then, translated
green and longing, their leaves throng the
evening air, in silent clamor fling down seed
to summer's blundering prayer.
Discovering a small print of Degas' painting,
'The Singer In Green', on the day of her death,
sending it to her best friend, saying:
This reminds me of her,
her features, the beauty of implied song,
a tenderness, and sadness,
head tilted back in order to lift her voice,
crooked hand above breasts gesturing
in physical song, green light bathing
the mortal scene.
Was this not her
green with life,
taken into the vast green
of the earth during Spring?
She sings still.
In memory we hear the literal voice,
see her gesture, catch her fading laughter.
Go out into some silent space
of green world then. Sit. Listen.
Muted voices and motion are greater there
than any little pocket of earth that our
body or grave can hold.
She dies into the world which
is always alive
So the singer has become the green light
which bathes her, her life signaling toward it,
her death become it which is greater music still.
Be sad, as we will, but know
she is now where the Green is -
in the world,
in memory in
hearts and minds
we but borrow it while alive and return
to the Green source with our passing.
O rue rue LaRue it's here
this space between the gate and the lovely garden
is here everywhere in the ring in the hand in the dirt
within the hole of the ring in the breath flung in
and out the grave house underneath
the dirt's coolth and dank breath
thank the air and pass the leaves
the hand of the digger becomes the tree
becomes the sign upon which all breathing things
shall hang language surpasses itself breaks
upon its own weight like the empty shell of the beetle
little is the frame we live within this tiny world
the walk upon Vast the space it partakes of making
the wave of the wind ripple in the mind and Mind
turns to the dropp of rain the flaked paint of the
barn side the vague window pane opening upon
the eternal scene of stones breathing becoming bread
the living the dead artifacts
That green has grown.
Leaves have darkened
deepening shadow and hue of green
and so, imagining, walking through,
has her death.
I walk through that, too,
wonder how she fares,
silent lady of dirt
having lost at last
the hurting care of the world,
and we, green and growing,
curl above her dark place,
sure sometime of our grave
as sure as we are now of hers.
Scattering wind over bending blades,
I grieve still her leaving,
feel its weight as I see scattered ones
on benches in the park, asleep,
one wretched man huddling where
a band of young musicians tune
their instruments for song.
Disparate images entwine -
and her death discordant -
the living die
the dead somehow live
singing in the sometime green.
As green returns
so she will in silent memory,
in waves of wind
which is only wind.
We will change but not as she
so changed to every possibility of song.
It appears to be ended
but as grass shows there is
a forming wisdom and the same,
The fire in our house of living rages
and we cannot come out of our own accord.
The event of her going is a beckoning
to see the flame leaping so let's creep
toward the Green and be silent
but if we cannot be then let us be as she,
frail and tender, lifting voices up
in the greening shadow
They've mown the hill.
The grass remains.
Modern scythe and sickle
felled the frailer blades but
stained their metals
green with your name.
The sun shines,
burns that hewn spot where I first
learned to love your passing,
where I watched your leaving
grow wild and lovely,
untamed beside the street,
learned to hear the quiet there
where now a cycle is begun.
A new season of your death
is running rampant again to know
the blades of time and men.
Among oaks the fallen do not speak.
The dirt upon which they lay is hard.
Need us here
spoken for nothing.
We scratch our mouths
across the scar of land,
wait in the black sun,
pray to break apart.
A bird with injured wing
sits among the yellow leaves.
It's wild hurt flays the sky.
A Dramatic Poem
The deck of an ancient ship. At the right of the stage is the mast, with a large square sail hiding a great deal of the sky and sea on that side. The tiller is at the left of the stage; it is a long oar coming through an opening in the bulwark. The deck rises in a series of steps hehind the tiller, and the stern of the ship curves overhead. When the play opens there are four persons upon the deck. Aibric stands by the tiller. Forgael sleeps upon the raised portion of the deck towards the front of the stage. Two Sailors are standing near to the mast, on which a harp is hanging.
First Sailor. Has he not led us into these waste seas
For long enough?
Second Sailor. Aye, long and long enough.
First Sailor. We have not come upon a shore or ship
These dozen weeks.
Sccond Sailor. And I had thought to make
A good round Sum upon this cruise, and turn --
For I am getting on in life -- to something
That has less ups and downs than robbery.
First Sailor. I am so tired of being bachelor
I could give all my heart to that Red Moll
That had but the one eye.
Second Sailor. Can no bewitchment
Transform these rascal billows into women
That I may drown myself?
First Sailor. Better steer home,
Whether he will or no; and better still
To take him while he sleeps and carry him
And drop him from the gunnel.
Second Sailor. I dare not do it.
Were't not that there is magic in his harp,
I would be of your mind; but when he plays it
Strange creatures flutter up before one's eyes,
Or cry about one's ears.
First Sailor. Nothing to fear.
Second Sailor. Do you remember when we sank that
At the full moon?
First Sailor. He played all through the night.
Second Sailor. Until the moon had set; and when I looked
Where the dead drifted, I could see a bird
Like a grey gull upon the breast of each.
While I was looking they rose hurriedly,
And after circling with strange cries awhile
Flew westward; and many a time since then
I've heard a rustling overhead in the wind.
First Sailor. I saw them on that night as well as you.
But when I had eaten and drunk myself asleep
My courage came again.
Second Sailor. But that's not all.
The other night, while he was playing it,
A beautiful young man and girl came up
In a white breaking wave; they had the look
Of those that are alive for ever and ever.
First Sailor. I saw them, too, one night. Forgael was
And they were listening ther& beyond the sail.
He could not see them, but I held out my hands
To grasp the woman.
Second Sailor. You have dared to touch her?
First Sailor. O she was but a shadow, and slipped from
Second Sailor. But were you not afraid?
First Sailor. Why should I fear?
Second Sailor. 'Twas Aengus and Edain, the wandering
To whom all lovers pray.
First Sailor. But what of that?
A shadow does not carry sword or spear.
Second Sailor. My mother told me that there is not one
Of the Ever-living half so dangerous
As that wild Aengus. Long before her day
He carried Edain off from a king's house,
And hid her among fruits of jewel-stone
And in a tower of glass, and from that day
Has hated every man that's not in love,
And has been dangerous to him.
First Sailor. I have heard
He does not hate seafarers as he hates
Peaceable men that shut the wind away,
And keep to the one weary marriage-bed.
Second Sailor. I think that he has Forgael in his net,
And drags him through the sea,
First Sailor Well, net or none,
I'd drown him while we have the chance to do it.
Second Sailor. It's certain I'd sleep easier o' nights
If he were dead; but who will be our captain,
Judge of the stars, and find a course for us?
First Sailor. I've thought of that. We must have Aibric
For he can judge the stars as well as Forgael.
[Going towards Aibric.]
Become our captain, Aibric. I am resolved
To make an end of Forgael while he sleeps.
There's not a man but will be glad of it
When it is over, nor one to grumble at us.
Aibric. You have taken pay and made your bargain for it.
First Sailor. What good is there in this hard way of
Unless we drain more flagons in a year
And kiss more lips than lasting peaceable men
In their long lives? Will you be of our troop
And take the captain's share of everything
And bring us into populous seas again?
Aibric. Be of your troop! Aibric be one of you
And Forgael in the other scale! kill Forgael,
And he my master from my childhood up!
If you will draw that sword out of its scabbard
I'll give my answer.
First Sailor. You have awakened him.
[To Second Sailor.]
We'd better go, for we have lost this chance.
[They go out.]
Forgael. Have the birds passed us? I could hear your
But there were others.
Aibric. I have seen nothing pass.
Forgael. You're certain of it? I never wake from sleep
But that I am afraid they may have passed,
For they're my only pilots. If I lost them
Straying too far into the north or south,
I'd never come upon the happiness
That has been promised me. I have not seen them
These many days; and yet there must be many
Dying at every moment in the world,
And flying towards their peace.
Aibric. Put by these thoughts,
And listen to me for a while. The sailors
Are plotting for your death.
Forgael. Have I not given
More riches than they ever hoped to find?
And now they will not follow, while I seek
The only riches that have hit my fancy.
Aibric. What riches can you find in this waste sea
Where no ship sails, where nothing that's alive
Has ever come but those man-headed birds,
Knowing it for the world's end?
Forgael. Where the world ends
The mind is made unchanging, for it finds
Miracle, ecstasy, the impossible hope,
The flagstone under all, the fire of fires,
The roots of the world.
Aibric. Shadows before now
Have driven travellers mad for their own sport.
Forgael. Do you, too, doubt me? Have you joined their
Aibric. No, no, do not say that. You know right well
That I will never lift a hand against you.
Forgael. Why should you be more faithful than the rest,
Being as doubtful?
Aibric. I have called you master
Too many years to lift a hand against you.
Forgael. Maybe it is but natural to doubt me.
You've never known, I'd lay a wager on it,
A melancholy that a cup of wine,
A lucky battle, or a woman's kiss
Could not amend.
Aibric. I have good spirits enough.
Forgael. If you will give me all your mind awhile --
All, all, the very bottom of the bowl --
I'll show you that I am made differently,
That nothing can amend it but these waters,
Where I am rid of life -- the events of the world --
What do you call it? -- that old promise-breaker,
The cozening fortune-teller that comes whispering,
'You will have all you have wished for when you have
Land for your children or money in a pot.-
And when we have it we are no happier,
Because of that old draught under the door,
Or creaky shoes. And at the end of all
How are we better off than Seaghan the fool,
That never did a hand's turn? Aibric! Aibric!
We have fallen in the dreams the Ever-living
Breathe on the burnished mirror of the world
And then smooth out with ivory hands and sigh,
And find their laughter sweeter to the taste
For that brief sighing.
Aibric. If you had loved some woman --
Forgael. You say that also? You have heard the voices,
For that is what they say -- all, all the shadows --
Aengus and Edain, those passionate wanderers,
And all the others; but it must be love
As they have known it. Now the secret's out;
For it is love that I am seeking for,
But of a beautiful, unheard-of kind
That is not in the world.
Aibric. And yet the world
Has beautiful women to please every man.
Forgael. But he that gets their love after the fashion
'Loves in brief longing and deceiving hope
And bodily tenderness, and finds that even
The bed of love, that in the imagination
Had seemed to be the giver of all peace,
Is no more than a wine-cup in the tasting,
And as soon finished.
Aibric. All that ever loved
Have loved that way -- there is no other way.
Forgael. Yet never have two lovers kissed but they
believed there was some other near at hand,
And almost wept because they could not find it.
Aibric. When they have twenty years; in middle life
They take a kiss for what a kiss is worth,
And let the dream go by.
Forgael. It's not a dream,
But the reality that makes our passion
As a lamp shadow -- no -- no lamp, the sun.
What the world's million lips are thirsting for
Must be substantial somewhere.
Aibric. I have heard the Druids
Mutter such things as they awake from trance.
It may be that the Ever-living know it --
No mortal can.
Forgael. Yes; if they give us help.
Aibric. They are besotting you as they besot
The crazy herdsman that will tell his fellows
That he has been all night upon the hills,
Riding to hurley, or in the battle-host
With the Ever-living.
Forgael. What if he speak the truth,
And for a dozen hours have been a part
Of that more powerful life?
Aibric, His wife knows better.
Has she not seen him lying like a log,
Or fumbling in a dream about the house?
And if she hear him mutter of wild riders,
She knows that it was but the cart-horse coughing
That set him to the fancy.
Forgael. All would be well
Could we but give us wholly to the dreams,
And get into their world that to the sense
Is shadow, and not linger wretchedly
Among substantial things; for it is dreams
That lift us to the flowing, changing world
That the heart longs for. What is love itself,
Even though it be the lightest of light love,
But dreams that hurry from beyond the world
To make low laughter more than meat and drink,
Though it but set us sighing? Fellow-wanderer,
Could we but mix ourselves into a dream,
Not in its image on the mirror!
We're in the body that's impossible.
Forgael. And yet I cannot think they're leading me
To death; for they that promised to me love
As those that can outlive the moon have known it, '
Had the world's total life gathered up, it seemed,
Into their shining limbs -- I've had great teachers.
Aengus and Edain ran up out of the wave --
You'd never doubt that it was life they promised
Had you looked on them face to face as I did,
With so red lips, and running on such feet,
And having such wide-open, shining eyes.
Aibric. It's certain they are leading you to death.
None but the dead, or those that never lived,
Can know that ecstasy. Forgael! Forgael!
They have made you follow the man-headed birds,
And you have told me that their journey lies
Towards the country of the dead.
Forgael. What matter
If I am going to my death? -- for there,
Or somewhere, I shall find the love they have
That much is certain. I shall find a woman.
One of the Ever-living, as I think --
One of the Laughing People -- and she and I
Shall light upon a place in the world's core,
Where passion grows to be a changeless thing,
Like charmed apples made of chrysoprase,
Or chrysoberyl, or beryl, or chrysclite;
And there, in juggleries of sight and sense,
Become one movement, energy, delight,
Until the overburthened moon is dead.
[A number of Sailors entcr hurriedly.]
First Sailor. Look there! there in the mist! a ship of spice!
And we are almost on her!
Second Sailor. We had not known
But for the ambergris and sandalwood.
First Sailor. NO; but opoponax and cinnamon.
Forgael [taking the tiller from Aibric]. The Ever-living have
kept my bargain for me,
And paid you on the nail.
Aibric. Take up that rope
To make her fast while we are plundering her.
First Sailor. There is a king and queen upon her deck,
And where there is one woman there'll be others.
Aibric. Speak lower, or they'll hear.
First Sailor. They cannot hear;
They are too busy with each other. Look!
He has stooped down and kissed her on the lips.
Second Sailor. When she finds out we have better men
She may not be too sorry in the end.
First Sailor. She will be like a wild cat; for these queens
Care more about the kegs of silver and gold
And the high fame that come to them in marriage,
Than a strong body and a ready hand.
Second Sailor. There's nobody is natural but a robber,
And that is why the world totters about
Upon its bandy legs.
Aibric. Run at them now,
And overpower the crew while yet asleep!
[The Sailors go out.]
Pharsalia - Book 1
The Crossing of the Rubicon
Wars worse than civil on Emathian plains,
And crime let loose we sing; how Rome's high race
Plunged in her vitals her victorious sword;
Armies akin embattled, with the force
Of all the shaken earth bent on the fray;
And burst asunder, to the common guilt,
A kingdom's compact; eagle with eagle met,
Standard to standard, spear opposed to spear.
Whence, citizens, this rage, this boundless lust
To sate barbarians with the blood of Rome?
Did not the shade of Crassus, wandering still,
Cry for his vengeance? Could ye not have spoiled,
To deck your trophies, haughty Babylon?
Why wage campaigns that send no laurels home?
What lands, what oceans might have been the prize
Of all the blood thus shed in civil strife!
Where Titan rises, where night hides the stars,
'Neath southern noons all quivering with heat,
Or where keen frost that never yields to spring
In icy fetters binds the Scythian main:
Long since barbarians by the Eastern sea
And far Araxes' stream, and those who know
(If any such there be) the birth of Nile
Had felt our yoke. Then, Rome, upon thyself
With all the world beneath thee, if thou must,
Wage this nefarious war, but not till then.
Now view the houses with half-ruined walls
Throughout Italian cities; stone from stone
Has slipped and lies at length; within the home
No guard is found, and in the ancient streets so
Scarce seen the passer by. The fields in vain,
Rugged with brambles and unploughed for years,
Ask for the hand of man; for man is not.
Nor savage Pyrrhus nor the Punic horde
E'er caused such havoc: to no foe was given
To strike thus deep; but civil strife alone
Dealt the fell wound and left the death behind.
Yet if the fates could find no other way
For Nero coming, nor the gods with ease
Gain thrones in heaven; and if the Thunderer
Prevailed not till the giant's war was done,
Complaint is silent. For this boon supreme
Welcome, ye gods, be wickedness and crime;
Thronged with our dead be dire Pharsalia's fields,
Be Punic ghosts avenged by Roman blood;
Add to these ills the toils of Mutina;
Perusia's dearth; on Munda's final field
The shock of battle joined; let Leucas' Cape
Shatter the routed navies; servile hands
Unsheath the sword on fiery Etna's slopes:
Still Rome is gainer by the civil war.
Thou, Caesar, art her prize. When thou shalt choose,
Thy watch relieved, to seek divine abodes,
All heaven rejoicing; and shalt hold a throne,
Or else elect to govern Phoebus' car
And light a subject world that shall not dread
To owe her brightness to a different Sun;
All shall concede thy right: do what thou wilt,
Select thy Godhead, and the central clime
Whence thou shalt rule the world with power divine.
And yet the Northern or the Southern Pole
We pray thee, choose not; but in rays direct
Vouchsafe thy radiance to thy city Rome.
Press thou on either side, the universe
Should lose its equipoise: take thou the midst,
And weight the scales, and let that part of heaven
Where Caesar sits, be evermore serene
And smile upon us with unclouded blue.
Then may all men lay down their arms, and peace
Through all the nations reign, and shut the gates
That close the temple of the God of War.
Be thou my help, to me e'en now divine!
Let Delphi's steep her own Apollo guard,
And Nysa keep her Bacchus, uninvoked.
Rome is my subject and my muse art thou!
First of such deeds I purpose to unfold
The causes -- task immense -- what drove to arms
A maddened nation, and from all the world
Struck peace away.
By envious fate's decrees
Abide not long the mightiest lords of earth;
Beneath too heavy a burden great the fall.
Thus Rome o'ergrew her strength. So when that hour,
The last in all the centuries, shall sound
The world's disruption, all things shall revert
To that primaeval chaos, stars on stars
Shall crash; and fiery meteors from the sky
Plunge in the ocean. Earth shall then no more
Front with her bulwark the encroaching sea:
The moon, indignant at her path oblique,
Shall drive her chariot 'gainst her brother Sun
And claim the day for hers; and discord huge
Shall rend the spheres asunder.
Great powers are dashed: such bounds the gods have placed
Upon the prosperous; nor doth Fortune lend
To any nations, so that they may strike
The sovereign power that rules the earth and sea,
The weapons of her envy. Triple reign
And baleful compact for divided power --
Ne'er without peril separate before --
Made Rome their victim. Oh! Ambition blind,
That stirred the leaders so to join their strength
In peace that ended ill, their prize the world!
For while the Sea on Earth and Earth on Air
Lean for support: while Titan runs his course,
And night with day divides an equal sphere,
No king shall brook his fellow, nor shall power
Endure a rival. Search no foreign lands:
These walls are proof that in their infant days
A hamlet, not the world, was prize enough
To cause the shedding of a brother's blood.
Concord, on discord based, brief time endured,
Unwelcome to the rivals; and alone
Crassus delayed the advent of the war.
Like to the slender neck that separates
The seas of Graecia: should it be engulfed
Then would th' Ionian and Aegean mains
Break each on other: thus when Crassus fell,
Who held apart the chiefs, in piteous death,
And stained Assyria's plains with Latian blood,
Defeat in Parthia loosed the war in Rome.
More in that victory than ye thought was won,
Ye sons of Arsaces; your conquered foes
Took at your hands the rage of civil strife.
The mighty realm that earth and sea contained,
To which all peoples bowed, split by the sword,
Could not find space for two . For Julia bore,
Cut off by fate unpitying, the bond
Of that ill-omened marriage, and the pledge
Of blood united, to the shades below.
Had'st thou but longer stayed, it had been thine
To keep the husband and the sire apart,
And, as the Sabine women did of old,
Dash down the threatening swords and join the hands.
With thee all trust was buried, and the chiefs
Could give their courage vent, and rushed to war.
Lest newer glories triumphs past obscure,
Late conquered Gaul the bays from pirates won,
This, Magnus, was thy fear; thy roll of fame,
Of glorious deeds accomplished for the state
Allows no equal; nor will Caesar's pride
A prior rival in his triumphs brook;
Which had the right 'twere impious to enquire;
Each for his cause can vouch a judge supreme;
The victor, heaven: the vanquished, Cato, thee.
Nor were they like to like: the one in years
Now verging towards decay, in times of peace
Had unlearned war; but thirsting for applause
Had given the people much, and proud of fame
His former glory cared not to renew,
But joyed in plaudits of the theatre,
His gift to Rome: his triumphs in the past,
Himself the shadow of a mighty name.
As when some oak, in fruitful field sublime,
Adorned with venerable spoils, and gifts
Of bygone leaders, by its weight to earth
With feeble roots still clings; its naked arms
And hollow trunk, though leafless, give a shade;
And though condemned beneath the tempest's shock
To speedy fall, amid the sturdier trees
In sacred grandeur rules the forest still.
No such repute had Ceesar won, nor fame;
But energy was his that could not rest --
The only shame he knew was not to win.
Keen and unvanquished, where revenge or hope
Might call, resistless would he strike the blow
With sword unpitying: every victory won
Reaped to the full; the favour of the gods
Pressed to the utmost; all that stayed his course
Aimed at the summit of power, was thrust aside:
Triumph his joy, though ruin marked his track.
As parts the clouds a bolt by winds compelled,
With crack of riven air and crash of worlds,
And veils the light of day, and on mankind,
Blasting their vision with its flames oblique,
Sheds deadly fright; then turning to its home, '
Nought but the air opposing, through its path
Spreads havoc, and collects its scattered fires.
Such were the hidden motives of the chiefs;
But in the public life the seeds of war
Their hold had taken, such as are the doom
Of potent nations: and when fortune poured
Through Roman gates the booty of a world,
The curse of luxury, chief bane of states,
Fell on her sons. Farewell the ancient ways!
Behold the pomp profuse, the houses decked
With ornament; their hunger loathed the food
Of former days; men wore attire for dames
Scarce fitly fashioned; poverty was scorned,
Fruitful of warriors; and from all the world
Came that which ruins nations; while the fields
Furrowed of yore by great Camillus' plough,
Or by the mattock which a Curius held,
Lost their once narrow bounds, and widening tracts
By hinds unknown were tilled. No nation this
To sheathe the sword, with tranquil peace content
And with her liberties; but prone to ire;
Crime holding light as though by want compelled:
And great the glory in the minds of men,
Ambition lawful even at point of sword,
To rise above their country: might their law:
Decrees are forced from Senate and from Plebs:
Consul and Tribune break the laws alike:
Bought are the fasces, and the people sell
For gain their favour: bribery's fatal curse
Corrupts the annual contests of the Field.
Then covetous usury rose, and interest
Was greedier ever as the seasons came;
Faith tottered; thousands saw their gain in war.
Caesar has crossed the Alps, his mighty soul
Great tumults pondering and the coming shock.
Now on the marge of Rubicon, he saw,
In face most sorrowful and ghostly guise,
His trembling country's image; huge it seemed
Through mists of night obscure; and hoary hair
Streamed from the lofty front with turrets crowned:
Torn were her locks and naked were her arms.
Then thus, with broken sighs the Vision spake:
"What seek ye, men of Rome? and whither hence
Bear ye my standards? If by right ye come,
My citizens, stay here; these are the bounds;
No further dare." But Caesar's hair was stiff
With horror as he gazed, and ghastly dread
Restrained his footsteps on the further bank.
Then spake he, "Thunderer, who from the rock
Tarpeian seest the wall of mighty Rome;
Gods of my race who watched o'er Troy of old;
Thou Jove of Alba's height, and Vestal fires,
And rites of Romulus erst rapt to heaven,
And God-like Rome; be friendly to my quest.
Not with offence or hostfie arms I come,
Thy Caesar, conqueror by land and sea,
Thy soldier here and wheresoe'er thou wilt:
No other's; his, his only be the guilt
Whose acts make me thy foe.' He gives the word
And bids his standards cross the swollen stream.
So in the wastes of Afric's burning clime
The lion crouches as his foes draw near,
Feeding his wrath the while, his lashing tail
Provokes his fury; stiff upon his neck
Bristles his mane: deep from his gaping jaws
Resounds a muttered growl, and should a lance
Or javelin reach him from the hunter's ring,
Scorning the puny scratch he bounds afield.
From modest fountain blood-red Rubicon
In summer's heat flows on; his pigmy tide
Creeps through the valleys and with slender marge
Divides the Italian peasant from the Gaul.
Then winter gave him strength, and fraught with rain
The third day's crescent moon; while Eastern winds
Thawed from the Alpine slopes the yielding snow.
The cavalry first form across the stream '
To break the torrent's force; the rest with ease
Beneath their shelter gain the further bank.
When Csesar crossed and trod beneath his feet
The soil of Italy's forbidden fields,
"Here," spake he, "peace, here broken laws be left;
Farewell to treaties. Fortune, lead me on;
War is our judge, and in the fates our trust."
Then in the shades of night he leads the troops
Swifter than Balearic sling or shaft
Winged by retreating Parthian, to the walls
Of threatened Rimini, while fled the stars,
Save Lucifer, before the coming sun,
Whose fires were veiled in clouds, by south wind driven,
Or else at heaven's command: and thus drew on
The first dark morning of the civil war.
Now stand the troops within the captured town,
Their standards planted; and the trumpet clang
Rings forth in harsh alarums, giving note
Of impious strife: roused from their sleep the men
Rush to the hall and snatch the ancient arms
Long hanging through the years of peace; the shield
With crumbling frame; dark with the tooth of rust
Their swords ; and javelins with blunted point.
But when the well-known signs and eagles shone,
And Caesar towering o'er the throng was seen,
They shook for terror, fear possessed their limbs,
And thoughts unuttered stirred within their souls.
"O miserable those to whom their home
Denies the peace that all men else enjoy!
Placed as we are beside the Northern bounds
And scarce a footstep from the restless Gaul,
We fall the first; would that our lot had been
Beneath the Eastern sky, or frozen North,
To lead a wandering life, rather than keep
The gates of Latium. Brennus sacked the town
And Hannibal, and all the Teuton hosts.
For when the fate of Rome is in the scale
By this path war advances." Thus they moan
Their fears but speak them not; no sound is heard
Giving their anguish utterance: as when
In depth of winter all the fields are still,
The birds are voiceless and no sound is heard
To break the silence of the central sea.
But when the day had broken through the shades
Of chilly darkness, lo! the torch of war!
For by the hand of Fate is swift dispersed
All Caesar's shame of battle, and his mind
Scarce doubted more; and Fortune toiled to make
His action just and give him cause for arms.
For while Rome doubted and the tongues of men
Spoke of the chiefs who won them rights of yore,
The hostile Senate, in contempt of right,
Drove out the Tribunes. They to Caesar's camp
With Curio hasten, who of venal tongue,
Bold, prompt, persuasive, had been wont to preach
Of Freedom to the people, and to call
Upon the chiefs to lay their weapons down .
And when he saw how deeply Caesar mused,
"While from the rostrum I had power," he said,
To call the populace to aid thy cause,
By this my voice against the Senate's will
Was thy command prolonged. But silenced now
Are laws in war: we driven from our homes;
Yet is our exile willing; for thine arms
Shall make us citizens of Rome again.
Strike; for no strength as yet the foe hath gained.
Occasion calls, delay shall mar it soon:
Like risk, like labour, thou hast known before,
But never such reward. Could Gallia hold
Thine armies ten long years ere victory came,
That little nook of earth? One paltry fight
Or twain, fought out by thy resistless hand,
And Rome for thee shall have subdued the world:
'Tis true no triumph now would bring thee home;
No captive tribes would grace thy chariot wheels
Winding in pomp around the ancient hill.
Spite gnaws the factions; for thy conquests won
Scarce shalt thou be unpunished. Yet 'tis fate
Thou should'st subdue thy kinsman: share the world
With him thou canst not; rule thou canst, alone."
As when at Elis' festival a horse
In stable pent gnaws at his prison bars
Impatient, and should clamour from without
Strike on his ear, bounds furious at restraint,
So then was Caesar, eager for the fight,
Stirred by the words of Curio. To the ranks
He bids his soldiers; with majestic mien
And hand commanding silence as they come.
"Comrades," he cried, "victorious returned,
Who by my side for ten long years have faced,
'Mid Alpine winters and on Arctic shores,
The thousand dangers of the battle-field --
Is this our country's welcome, this her prize
For death and wounds and Roman blood outpoured?
Rome arms her choicest sons; the sturdy oaks
Are felled to make a fleet; -- what could she more
If from the Alps fierce Hannibal were come
With all his Punic host? By land and sea
Caesar shall fly! Fly? Though in adverse war
Our best had fallen, and the savage Gaul
Were hard upon our track, we would not fly.
And now, when fortune smiles and kindly gods
Beckon us on to glory! -- Let him come
Fresh from his years of peace, with all his crowd
Of conscript burgesses, Marcellus' tongue
And Cato's empty name! We will not fly.
Shall Eastern hordes and greedy hirelings keep
Their loved Pompeius ever at the helm?
Shall chariots of triumph be for him
Though youth and law forbad them? Shall he seize
On Rome's chief honours ne'er to be resigned?
And what of harvests blighted through the world
And ghastly famine made to serve his ends?
Who hath forgotten how Pompeius' bands
Seized on the forum, and with glittering arms
Made outraged justice tremble, while their swords
Hemmed in the judgment-seat where Milo stood?
And now when worn and old and ripe for rest ,
Greedy of power, the impious sword again
He draws. As tigers in Hyrcanian woods
Wandering, or in the caves that saw their birth,
Once having lapped the blood of slaughtered kine,
Shall never cease from rage; e'en so this whelp
Of cruel Sulla, nursed in civil war,
Outstrips his master; and the tongue which licked
That reeking weapon ever thirsts for more.
Stain once the lips with blood, no other meal
They shall enjoy. And shall there be no end
Of these long years of power and of crime?
Nay, this one lesson, e'er it be too late,
Learn of thy gentle Sulla -- to retire!
Of old his victory o'er Cilician thieves
And Pontus' weary monarch gave him fame,
By poison scarce attained. His latest prize
Shall I be, Caesar, I, who would not quit
My conquering eagles at his proud command?
Nay, if no triumph is reserved for me,
Let these at least of long and toilsome war
'Neath other leaders the rewards enjoy.
Where shall the weary soldier find his rest?
What cottage homes their joys, what fields their fruit
Shall to our veterans yield? Will Magnus say
That pirates only till the fields alight?
Unfurl your standards; victory gilds them yet,
As through those glorious years. Deny our rights!
He that denies them makes our quarrel just.
Nay! use the strength that we have made our own.
No booty seek we, nor imperial power.
This would-be ruler of subservient Rome
We force to quit his grasp; and Heaven shall smile
On those who seek to drag the tyrant down."
Thus Caesar spake; but doubtful murmurs ran
Throughout the listening crowd, this way and that
Their wishes urging them; the thoughts of home
And household gods and kindred gave them pause:
But fear of Caesar and the pride of war
Their doubts resolved. Then Laelius, who wore
The well-earned crown for Roman life preserved,
The foremost Captain of the army, spake:
"O greatest leader of the Roman name,
If 'tis thy wish the very truth to hear
'Tis mine to speak it; we complain of this,
That gifted with such strength thou did'st refrain
From using it. Had'st thou no trust in us?
While the hot life-blood fills these glowing veins,
While these strong arms avail to hurl the lance,
Wilt thou make peace and bear the Senate's rule?
Is civil conquest then so base and vile?
Lead us through Scythian deserts, lead us where
The inhospitable Syrtes line the shore
Of Afric's burning sands, or where thou wilt:
This hand, to leave a conquered world behind,
Held firm the oar that tamed the Northern Sea
And Rhine's swift torrent foaming to the main.
To follow thee fate gives me now the power:
The will was mine before. No citizen
I count the man 'gainst whom thy trumpets sound.
By ten campaigns of victory, I swear,
By all thy world-wide triumphs, though with hand
Unwilling, should'st thou now demand the life
Of sire or brother or of faithful spouse,
Caesar, the life were thine. To spoil the gods
And sack great Juno's temple on the hill,
To plant our arms o'er Tiber's yellow stream,
To measure out the camp, against the wall
To drive the fatal ram, and raze the town,
This arm shall not refuse, though Rome the prize."
His comrades swore consent with lifted hands
And vowed to follow wheresoe'er he led.
And such a clamour rent the sky as when
Some Thracian blast on Ossa's pine-clad rocks
Falls headlong, and the loud re-echoing woods,
Or bending, or rebounding from the stroke,
In sounding chorus lift the roar on high.
When Csesar saw them welcome thus the war
And Fortune leading on, and favouring fates,
He seized the moment, called his troops from Gaul,
And breaking up his camp set on for Rome.
The tents are vacant by Lake Leman's side;
The camps upon the beetling crags of Vosges
No longer hold the warlike Lingon down,
Fierce in his painted arms; Isere is left,
Who past his shallows gliding, flows at last
Into the current of more famous Rhone,
To reach the ocean in another name.
The fair-haired people of Cevennes are free:
Soft Aude rejoicing bears no Roman keel,
Nor pleasant Var, since then Italia's bound;
The harbour sacred to Alcides' name
Where hollow crags encroach upon the sea,
Is left in freedom: there nor Zephyr gains
Nor Caurus access, but the Circian blast
Forbids the roadstead by Monaecus' hold.
And others left the doubtful shore, which sea
And land alternate claim, whene'er the tide
Pours in amain or when the wave rolls back --
Be it the wind which thus compels the deep
From furthest pole, and leaves it at the flood;
Or else the moon that makes the tide to swell,
Or else, in search of fuel for his fires,
The sun draws heavenward the ocean wave; --
Whate'er the cause that may control the main
I leave to others; let the gods for me
Lock in their breasts the secrets of the world.
Those who kept watch beside the western shore
Have moved their standards home; the happy Gaul
Rejoices in their absence; fair Garonne
Through peaceful meads glides onward to the sea.
And where the river broadens, neath the cape
Her quiet harbour sleeps. No outstretched arm
Except in mimic war now hurls the lance.
No skilful warrior of Seine directs
The scythed chariot 'gainst his country's foe.
Now rest the Belgians, and the Arvernian race
That boasts our kinship by descent from Troy;
And those brave rebels whose undaunted hands
Were dipped in Cotta's blood, and those who wear
Sarmatian garb. Batavia's warriors fierce
No longer listen for the bugle call,
Nor those who dwell where Rhone's swift eddies sweep
Saone to the ocean; nor the mountain tribes
Who dwell about its source. Thou, too, oh Treves,
Rejoicest that the war has left thy bounds.
Ligurian tribes, now shorn, in ancient days
First of the long-haired nations, on whose necks
Once flowed the auburn locks in pride supreme;
And those who pacify with blood accursed
Savage Teutates, Hesus' horrid shrines,
And Taranis' altars cruel as were those
Loved by Diana, goddess of the north;
All these now rest in peace. And you, ye Bards,
Whose martial lays send down to distant times
The fame of valorous deeds in battle done,
Pour forth in safety more abundant song.
While you, ye Druids , when the war was done,
To mysteries strange and hateful rites returned:
To you alone 'tis given the gods and stars
To know or not to know; secluded groves
Your dwelling-place, and forests far remote.
If what ye sing be true, the shades of men
Seek not the dismal homes of Erebus
Or death's pale kingdoms; but the breath of life
Still rules these bodies in another age --
Life on this hand and that, and death between.
Happy the peoples 'neath the Northern Star
In this their false belief; for them no fear
Of that which frights all others: they with hands
And hearts undaunted rush upon the foe
And scorn to spare the life that shall return.
Ye too depart who kept the banks of Rhine
Safe from the foe, and leave the Teuton tribes
Free at their will to march upon the world.
Caesar, with strength increased and gathered troops
New efforts daring, spreads his bands afar
Through Italy, and fills the neighbouring towns.
Then empty rumour to well-grounded fear
Gave strength, and heralding the coming war
In hundred voices 'midst the people spread.
One cries in terror, "Swift the squadrons come
Where Nar with Tiber joins: and where, in meads
By oxen loved, Mevania spreads her walls,
Fierce Caesar hurries his barbarian horse.
Eagles and standards wave above his head,
And broad the march that sweeps across the land."
Nor is he pictured truly; greater far
More fierce and pitiless -- from conquered foes
Advancing; in his rear the peoples march.
Snatched from their homes between the Rhine and Alps,
To pillage Rome while Roman chiefs look on.
Thus each man's panic thought swells rumour's lie:
They fear the phantoms they themselves create.
Nor does the terror seize the crowd alone:
But fled the Fathers, to the Consuls first
Issuing their hated order, as for war;
And doubting of their safety, doubting too
Where lay the peril, through the choking gates,
Each where he would, rushed all the people forth.
Thou would'st believe that blazing to the torch
Were men's abodes, or nodding to their fall.
So streamed they onwards, frenzied with affright,
As though in exile only could they find
Hope for their country. So, when southern blasts
From Libyan whirlpools drive the boundless main,
And mast and sail crash down upon a ship
With ponderous weight, but still the frame is sound,
Her crew and captain leap into the sea,
Each making shipwreck for himself. 'Twas thus
They passed the city gates and fled to war.
No aged parent now could stay his son;
Nor wife her spouse, nor did they pray the gods
To grant the safety of their fatherland.
None linger on the threshold for a look
Of their loved city, though perchance the last.
Ye gods, who lavish priceless gifts on men,
Nor care to guard them, see victorious Rome
Teeming with life, chief city of the world,
With ample walls that all mankind might hold,
To coming Caesar left an easy prey.
The Roman soldier, when in foreign lands
Pressed by the enemy, in narrow trench
And hurried mound finds guard enough to make
His slumber safe; but thou, imperial Rome,
Alone on rumour of advancing foes
Art left a desert, and thy battlements
They trust not for one night. Yet for their fear
This one excuse was left; Pompeius fled.
Nor found they room for hope; for nature gave
Unerring portents of worse ills to come.
The angry gods filled earth and air and sea
With frequent prodigies; in darkest nights
Strange constellations sparkled through the gloom:
The pole was all afire, and torches flew
Across the depths of heaven; with horrid hair
A blazing comet stretched from east to west
And threatened change to kingdoms. From the blue
Pale lightning flashed, and in the murky air
The fire took divers shapes; a lance afar
Would seem to quiver or a misty torch;
A noiseless thunderbolt from cloudless sky
Rushed down, and drawing fire in northern parts
Plunged on the summit of the Alban mount.
The stars that run their courses in the night
Shone in full daylight; and the orbed moon,
Hid by the shade of earth, grew pale and wan.
The sun himself, when poised in mid career,
Shrouded his burning car in blackest gloom
And plunged the world in darkness, so that men
Despaired of day -- like as he veiled his light
From that fell banquet which Mycenae saw
The jaws of Etna were agape with flame
That rose not heavenwards, but headlong fell
In smoking stream upon the Italian flank.
Then black Charybdis, from her boundless depth,
Threw up a gory sea. In piteous tones
Howled the wild dogs; the Vestal fire was snatched
From off the altar; and the flame that crowned
The Latin festival was split in twain,
As on the Theban pyre in ancient days;
Earth tottered on its base: the mighty Alps
From off their summits shook th' eternal snow .
In huge upheaval Ocean raised his waves
O'er Calpe's rock and Atlas' hoary head.
The native gods shed tears, and holy sweat
Dropped from the idols; gifts in temples fell:
Foul birds defiled the day; beasts left the woods
And made their lair among the streets of Rome.
All this we hear; nay more: dumb oxen spake;
Monsters were brought to birth and mothers shrieked
At their own offspring; words of dire import
From Cumae's prophetess were noised abroad.
Bellona's priests with bleeding arms, and slaves
Of Cybele's worship, with ensanguined hair,
Howled chants of havoc and of woe to men.
Arms clashed; and sounding in the pathless woods
Were heard strange voices; spirits walked the earth:
And dead men's ashes muttered from the urn.
Those who live near the walls desert their homes,
For lo! with hissing serpents in her hair,
Waving in downward whirl a blazing pine,
A fiend patrols the town, like that which erst
At Thebes urged on Agave , or which hurled
Lycurgus' bolts, or that which as he came
From Hades seen, at haughty Juno's word,
Brought terror to the soul of Hercules.
Trumpets like those that summon armies forth
Were heard re-echoing in the silent night:
And from the earth arising Sulla's ghost
Sang gloomy oracles, and by Anio's wave
All fled the homesteads, frighted by the shade
Of Marius waking from his broken tomb.
In such dismay they summon, as of yore,
The Tuscan sages to the nation's aid.
Aruns, the eldest, leaving his abode
In desolate Luca, came, well versed in all
The lore of omens; knowing what may mean
The flight of hovering bird, the pulse that beats
In offered victims, and the levin bolt.
All monsters first, by most unnatural birth
Brought into being, in accursd flames
He bids consume.Then round the walls of Rome
Each trembling citizen in turn proceeds.
The priests, chief guardians of the public faith,
With holy sprinkling purge the open space
That borders on the wall; in sacred garb
Follows the lesser crowd: the Vestals come
By priestess led with laurel crown bedecked,
To whom alone is given the right to see
Minerva's effigy that came from Troy
Next come the keepers of the sacred books
And fate's predictions; who from Almo's brook
Bring back Cybebe laved; the augur too
Taught to observe sinister flight of birds;
And those who serve the banquets to the gods;
And Titian brethren; and the priest of Mars,
Proud of the buckler that adorns his neck;
By him the Flamen, on his noble head
The cap of office. While they tread the path
That winds around the walls, the aged seer
Collects the thunderbolts that fell from heaven,
And lays them deep in earth, with muttered words
Naming the spot accursed. Next a steer,
Picked for his swelling neck and beauteous form,
He leads to the altar, and with slanting knife
Spreads on his brow the meal, and pours the wine.
The victim's struggles prove the gods averse;
But when the servers press upon his horns
He bends the knee and yields him to the blow.
No crimson torrent issued at the stroke,
But from the wound a dark empoisoned stream
Ebbed slowly downward. Aruns at the sight
Aghast, upon the entrails of the beast
Essayed to read the anger of the gods.
Their very colour terrified the seer;
Spotted they were and pale, with sable streaks
Of lukewarm gore bespread; the liver damp
With foul disease, and on the hostile part
The angry veins defiant; of the lungs
The fibre hid, and through the vital parts
The membrane small; the heart had ceased to throb;
Blood oozes through the ducts; the caul is split:
And, fatal omen of impending ill,
One lobe o'ergrows the other; of the twain
The one lies flat and sick, the other beats
And keeps the pulse in rapid strokes astir.
Disaster's near approach thus learned, he cries --
"Whate'er may be the purpose of the gods,
'Tis not for me to tell; this offered beast
Not Jove possesses, but the gods below.
We dare not speak our fears, yet fear doth make
The future worse than fact. May all the gods
Prosper the tokens, and the sacrifice
Be void of truth, and Tages
Have vainly taught these mysteries." Such his words
Involved, mysterious. Figulus, to whom
For knowledge of the secret depths of space
And laws harmonious that guide the stars,
Memphis could find no peer, then spake at large:
"Either," he said, "the world and countless orbs
Throughout the ages wander at their will;
Or, if the fates control them, ruin huge
Hangs o'er this city and o'er all mankind.
Shall Earth yawn open and engulph the towns?
Shall scorching heat usurp the temperate air
And fields refuse their timely fruit? The streams
Flow mixed with poison? In what plague, ye gods,
In what destruction shall ye wreak your ire?
Whate'er the truth, the days in which we live
Shall find a doom for many. Had the star
Of baleful Saturn, frigid in the height,
Kindled his lurid fires, the sky had poured
Its torrents forth as in Deucalion's time,
And whelmed the world in waters. Or if thou,
Phoebus, beside the Nemean lion fierce
Wert driving now thy chariot, flames should seize
The universe and set the air ablaze.
These are at peace; but, Mars, why art thou bent
On kindling thus the Scorpion, his tail
Portending evil and his claws aflame?
Deep sunk is kindly Jupiter, and dull
Sweet Venus' star, and rapid Mercury
Stays on his course: Mars only holds the sky.
Why does Orion's sword too brightly shine?
Why planets leave their paths and through the void
Thus journey on obscure? 'Tis war that comes,
Fierce rabid war: the sword shall bear the rule
Confounding justice; hateful crime usurp
The name of virtue; and the havoc spread
Through many a year. But why entreat the gods?
The end Rome longs for and the final peace
Comes with a despot. Draw thou out thy chain
Of lengthening slaughter, and (for such thy fate)
Make good thy liberty through civil war."
The frightened people heard, and as they heard
His words prophetic made them fear the more.
But worse remained; for as on Pindus' slopes
Possessed with fury from the Theban god
Speeds some Bacchante, thus in Roman streets
Behold a matron run, who, in her trance,
Relieves her bosom of the god within.
"Where dost thou snatch me, Paean, to what shore
Through airy regions borne? I see the snows
Of Thracian mountains; and Philippi's plains
Lie broad beneath. But why these battle lines,
No foe to vanquish -- Rome on either hand?
Again I wander 'neath the rosy hues
That paint thine eastern skies, where regal Nile
Meets with his flowing wave the rising tide.
Known to mine eyes that mutilated trunk
That lies upon the sand! Across the seas
By changing whirlpools to the burning climes
Of Libya borne, again I see the hosts
From Thracia brought by fate's command. And now
Thou bear'st me o'er the cloud-compelling Alps
And Pyrenean summits; next to Rome.
There in mid-Senate see the closing scene
Of this foul war in foulest murder done.
Again the factions rise; through all the world
Once more I pass; but give me some new land,
Some other region, Phoebus, to behold!
Washed by the Pontic billows! for these eyes
Already once have seen Philippi's plains!"
The frenzy left her and she speechless fell.
Pearl of delight that a prince doth please
To grace in gold enclosed so clear,
I vow that from over orient seas
Never proved I any in price her peer.
So round, so radiant ranged by these,
So fine, so smooth did her sides appear
That ever in judging gems that please
Her only alone I deemed as dear.
Alas! I lost her in garden near:
Through grass to the ground from me it shot;
I pine now oppressed by love-wound drear
For that pearl, mine own, without a spot.
Since in that spot it sped from me,
I have looked and longed for that precious thing
That me once was wont from woe to free,
To uplift my lot and healing bring,
But my heart doth hurt now cruelly,
My breast with burning torment sting.
Yet in secret hour came soft to me
The sweetest song I e'er heard sing;
Yea, many a thought in mind did spring
To think that her radiance in clay should rot.
O mould! Thou marrest a lovely thing,
My pearl, mine own, without a spot.
In that spot must needs be spices spread
Where away such wealth to waste hath run;
Blossoms pale and blue and red
There shimmer shining in the sun;
No flower nor fruit their hue may shed
Where it down into darkling earth was done,
For all grass must grow from grains that are dead,
No wheat would else to barn be won.
From good all good is ever begun,
And fail so fair a seed could not,
So that sprang and sprouted spices none
From that precious pearl without a spot.
That spot whereof I speak I found
When I entered in that garden green,
As August's season high came round
When corn is cut with sickles keen.
There, where that pearl rolled down, a mound
With herbs was shadowed fair and sheen,
With gillyflower, ginger, and gromwell crowned,
And peonies powdered all between.
If sweet was all that there was seen,
Fair too, a fragrance flowed I wot,
Where dwells that dearest, as I ween,
My precious pearl without a spot.
By that spot my hands I wrung dismayed;
For care full cold that had me caught
A hopeless grief on my heart was laid.
Though reason to reconcile me sought,
For my pearl there prisoned a plaint I made,
In fierce debate unmoved I fought;
Be comforted Christ Himself me bade,
But in woe my will ever strove distraught.
On the flowery plot I fell, methought;
Such odour through my senses shot,
I slipped and to sudden sleep was brought,
O'er that precious pearl without a spot.
From that spot my spirit sprang apace,
On the turf my body abode in trance;
My would was gone by God's own grace
Adventuring where marvels chance.
I knew not where in the world was that place
Save by cloven cliffs was set my stance;
And towards a forest I turned my face,
Where rocks in splendour met my glance;
From them did a glittering glory lance,
None could believe the light they lent;
Never webs were woven in mortal haunts
Of half such wealth and wonderment.
Wondrous was made each mountain-side
With crystal cliffs so clear of hue;
About them woodlands bright lay wide,
As Indian dye their boles were blue;
The leaves did as burnished silver slide
That thick upon twigs were trembling grew.
When glades let light upon them glide
They shone with a shimmer of dazzling hue.
The gravel on ground that I trod with shoe
Was of precious pearls of Orient:
Sunbeams are blear and dark to view
Compared with that fair wonderment.
In wonder at those fells so fair
My soul all grief forgot let fall;
Odours so fresh of fruits there were,
I was fed as by food celestial.
In the woods the birds did wing and pair,
Of flaming hues, both great and small;
But cithern-string and gittern-player
Their merry mirth could ne'er recall,
For when the beat their pinions all
In harmony their voices bent:
No delight more lovely could men enthrall
Than behold and hear that wonderment.
Thus arrayed was all in wonderment
That forest where forth my fortune led;
No man its splendour to present
With tongue could worthy words have said.
I walked ever onward well-content;
No hill was so tall that it stayed my tread;
More fair the further afield I went
Were plants, and fruits, and spices spread;
Through hedge and mead lush waters led
As in strands of gold there steeply pent.
A river I reached in cloven bed:
O Lord! the wealth of its wonderment!
The adornments of that wondrous deep
Were beauteous banks of beryl bright:
Swirling sweetly its waters sweep,
Ever rippling on in murmurous flight.
In the depths stood dazzling stones aheap
As a glitter through glass that glowed with light,
As streaming stars when on earth men sleep
Stare in the welkin in winter night;
For emerald, sapphire, or jewel bright
Was every pebble in pool there pent,
And the water was lit with rays of light,
Such wealth was in its wonderment.
The wonderous wealth of down and dales,
of wood and water and lordly plain,
My mirth makes mount: my mourning fails,
My care is quelled and cured my pain.
Then down a stream that strongly sails
I blissful turn with teeming brain;
The further I follow those flowing vales
The more strength of joy my heart doth strain.
As fortune fares where she doth deign,
Whether gladness she gives or grieving sore,
So he who may her graces gain,
His hap is to have ever more and more.
There more was of such marvels thrice
Than I could tell, though I long delayed;
For earthly heart could not suffice
For a tithe of the joyful joys displayed.
Therefore I thought that Paradise
Across those banks was yonder laid;
I weened that the water by device
As bounds between pleasances was made;
Beyond that stream by steep or slade
That city's walls I weened must soar;
But the water was deep, I dared not wade,
And ever I longed to, more and more.
More and more, and yet still more,
I fain beyond the stream had scanned,
For fair as was this hither shore,
Far lovelier was the further land.
To find a ford I did then explore,
And round about did stare and stand;
But perils pressed in sooth more sore
The further I strode along the strand.
I should not, I thought, by fear be banned
From delights so lovely that lay in store;
But a happening new then came to hand
That moved my mind ever more and more.
A marvel more did my mind amaze:
I saw beyond that border bright
From a crystal cliff the lucent rays
And beams in splendour lift their light.
A child abode there at its base:
She wore a gown of glistening white,
A gentle maid of courtly grace;
Erewhile I had known her well by sight.
As shredded gold that glistered bright
She shone in beauty upon the shore;
Long did my glance on her alight,
And the longer I looked I knew her more.
The more I that face so fair surveyed,
When upon her gracious form I gazed,
Such gladdening glory upon me played
As my wont was seldom to see upraised.
Desire to call her then me swayed,
But dumb surprise my mind amazed;
In place so strange I saw that maid,
The blow might well my wits have crazed.
Her forehead fair then up she raised
That hue of polished ivory wore.
It smote my heart distraught and dazed,
And ever the longer, the more and more.
More than I would my dread did rise.
I stood there still and dared not call
With closed mouth and open eyes,
I stood as tame as hawk in hall.
A ghost was present, I did surmise,
And feared for what might then befall,
Lest she should flee before mine eyes
Ere I to tryst could her recall.
So smooth, so seemly, slight and small,
That flawless fair and mirthful maid
Arose in robes majestical,
A precious gem in pearls arrayed.
There pearls arrayed and royally dight
Might one have seen by fortune graced
When fresh as flower-de-luces bright
She down to the water swiftly paced
In linen robe of glistening white,
With open sides that seams enlaced
With the merriest margery-pearls my sight
Ever before, I vow, had traced.
Her sleeves hung long below her waist
Adorned with pearls in double braid;
Her kirtle matched her mantle chaste
All about with precious pearls arrayed.
A crown arrayed too wore that girl
Of margery-stones and others none,
With pinnacles of pure white pearl
That perfect flowers were figured on,
On head nought else her hair did furl,
And it framed, as it did round her run,
Her countenance grave for duke or earl,
And her hue as rewel ivory wan.
As shredded sheen of gold then shone
Her locks on shoulder loosly laid.
Her colour pure was surpassed by none
Of the pearls in purfling rare arrayed.
Arrayed was wristlet, and the hems were dight
At hands, at sides, at throat so fair
With no gem but the pearl all white
And burnished white her garments were;
But a wondrous pearl unstained and bright
She amidst her breast secure did bear;
Ere mind could fathom its worth and might
Man's reason thwarted would despair.
No tongue could in worthy words declare
The beauty that was there displayed,
It was so polished, pure, and fair,
That precious pearl on her arrayed.
In pearls arrayed that maiden free
Beyond the stream came down the strand.
From here to Greece none as glad could be
As I on shore to see her stand,
Than aunt or niece more near to me:
The more did joy my heart expand.
She deigned to speak, so sweet was she,
Bowed low as ladies' ways demand.
With her crown of countless worth in hand
A gracious welcome she me bade.
My birth I blessed, who on the strand
To my love replied in pearls arrayed.
'O Pearl!' said I, 'in pearls arrayed,
Are you my pearl whose loss I mourn?
Lament alone by night I made,
Much longing I have hid for thee forlorn,
Since to the grass you from me strayed.
While I pensive waste by weeping worn,
Your life of joy in the land is laid
Of Paradise by strife untorn.
What fate hath hither my jewel borne
And made me mourning's prisoner?
Since asunder we in twain were torn,
I have been a joyless jeweller.'
That jewel in gems so excellent
Lifted her glance with eyes of grey,
Put on her crown of pearl-orient,
And gravely then began to say:
'Good sir, you have your speech mis-spent
to say your pearl is all away
that is in chest so choicely pent,
Even in this gracious garden gay,
Here always to linger and to play
Where regret nor grief e'er trouble her.
'Here is a casket safe' you would say.
If you were a gentle jeweller.
But jeweller gentle, if from you goes
Your joy through a gem that you held lief,
Methinks your mind toward madness flows
And frets for a fleeting cause of grief.
For what you lost was but a rose
That by nature failed after flowering brief;
Now the casket's virtues that it enclose
Prove it a pearl of price in chief;
And yet you have called your fate a thief
That of naught to aught hath fashioned her,
You grudge the healing of your grief,
You are no grateful jeweller.'
Then a jewel methought had now come near,
And jewels the courteous speech she made.
'My blissful one,' quoth I, 'most dear,
My sorrows deep you have all allayed.
To pardon me I pray you here!
In the darkness I deemed my pearl was laid;
I have found it now, and shall make good cheer,
With it dwell in shining grove and glade,
And praise all the laws that my Lord hath made,
Who hath brought me near such bliss with her.
Now could I to reach you these waters wade,
I should be a joyful jeweller.'
'Jeweller,' rejoined that jewel clean,
'Why jest ye men? How mad ye be!
Three things at once you have said, I ween:
Thoughtless, forsooth, were all the three,
You know now on earth what one doth mean;
Your words from your wits escaping flee:
You believe I live here on this green,
Because you can with eyes me see;
Again, you will in this land with me
Here dwell yourself, you now aver;
And thirdly, pass this water free:
That may no joyful jeweller.
I hold that jeweller worth little praise
Who well esteems what he sees with eye,
And much to blame his graceless wayus
Who believes our Lord would speak a lie.
He promised faithfully your lives to raise
Though fate decreed your flesh should die;
His words as nonsense ye appraise
Who approve of naught not seen with eye;
And that presumption doth imply,
Which all good men doth ill beseem,
On tale as true ne'er to rely
Save private reason right it deem.
Do you deem that you yourself maintain
Such words as man to God should dare?
You will dwell, you say, in this domain:
'Twere best for leave first offer prayer,
And yet that grace yo umight not gain.
Now over this water you wish to fare:
By another course you must that attain;
Your flesh shall in clay find colder lair,
For our heedless father did of old prepare
Its doom by Eden's grove and stream;
Through dismal death must each man fare,
Ere o're this deep him God redeem.'
'If my doom you deem it, maiden sweet,
To mourn once more, then I must pine.
Now my lost one found again I greet,
Must bereavement new till death be mine?
Why must I at once both part and meet?
My precious pearl doth my pain design!
What use hath treasure but tears to repeat,
When one at its loss must again repine?
Now I care not though my days decline
Outlawed afar o'er land and stream;
When in my pearl no part is mine,
Only endless dolour one that may deem.'
'But of woe, I deem, and deep distress
You speak,' she said. 'Why do you so?
Through loud lament when they lose the less
Oft many men the more forego.
'Twere better with cross yourself to bless,
Ever praising God in weal and woe;
For resentment gains you not a cress:
Who must needs endure, he may not say no!
For though you dance as any doe,
Rampant bray or raging scream,
When escape you cannot, to nor fro,
His doom you must abide, I deem.
Deem God unjust, the Lord indict,
From His way a foot He will not wend;
The relief amounts not to a mite,
Though gladness your grief may never end.
Cease then to wrangle, to speak in spite,
And swiftly seek Him as your friend,
You prayer His pity may excite,
So that Mercy shall her powers expend.
To you languor He may comfort lend,
And swiftly your griefs removed may seem;
For lament or rave, to submit pretend,
'Tis His to ordain what He right may deem.'
Then I said, I deem, to that damosel:
'May I give no grievance to my Lord,
Rash fool, though blundering tale I tell.
My heart the pain of loss outpoured,
Gushing as water springs from well.
I commit me ever to His mercy's ward.
Rebuke me not with words so fell,
Though I erring stray, my dear adored!
But your comfort kindly to me accord,
In pity bethinking you of this:
For partner you did me pain award
On whom was founded all my bliss.
Both bliss and gried you have been to me,
But of woe far greater hath been my share.
You were caught away from all perils free,
But my pearl was gone, I knew not where;
My sorrow is softened now I it see.
When we parted, too, at one we were;
Now God forbid that we angry be!
We meet on our roads by chance so rare.
Though your converse courtly is and fair,
I am but mould and good manners miss.
Christ's mercy, Mary and John: I dare
Only on these to found my bliss.
In bliss you abide and happiness,
And I with woe an worn and grey;
Oft searing sorrows I possess,
Yet little heed to that you pay.
But now I here yourself address,
Without reproach I would you pray
To deign in sober words express
What life you lead the livelong day.
For delighted I am that your lot, you say,
So glorious and so glad now is;
There finds my joy its foremost way,
On that is founded all my bliss.'
'Now bliss you ever bless!' she cried,
Lovely in limb, in hue so clear,
'And welcome here to walk and bide;
For now your words are to me dear.
Masterful mood and haughty pride,
I warn you, are bitterly hated here.
It doth not delight my Lord to chide,
For meek are all that dwell Him near.
So, when in His place you must appear,
Be devout in humble lowliness:
To my Lord, the Lamb, such a mien is dear,
On whom is founded all my bliss.
A blissful life you say is mine;
You wish to know in what degree.
Your pearl you know you did resign
When in young and tender years was she;
Yet my Lord, the Lamb, through power divine
Myself He chose His bride to be,
And crowned me queen in bliss to shine,
While days shall endure eternally.
Dowered with His heritage all is she
That is His love. I am wholly His:
On His glory, honour, and high degree
Are built and founded all my bliss.'
'O blissful!' said I, 'can this be true?
Be not displased if in speech I err!
Are you the queen of heavens blue,
Whom all must honour on earth that fare?
We believe that our Grace of Mary grew,
Who in virgin-bloom a babe did bear;
And claim her crown: who could this do
But once that surpassed her in favour fair?
And yet for unrivalled sweetness rare
We call her the Phoenix of Araby,
That her Maker let faultless wing the air,
Like to the Queen of Courtesy.'
'O courteous Queen,' that damsel said,
Kneeling on earth with uplifted face,
'Mother immaculate, and fairest maid,
Blessed beginner of every grace!'
Uprising then her prayer she stayed,
And there she spoke to me a space:
'Here many the prize they have gained are praid,
But usurpers, sir, here have no place.
That empress' realm doth heaven embrace,
From their heritage yet will none displace,
For she is the Queen of Courtesy.
'The court where the living God doth reign
Hath a virtue of its own being,
That each who may thereto attain
Of all the realm is queen or king,
Yet never shall other's right obtain,
But in other's good each glorying
And wishing each crown worth five again,
If amended might be so fair a thing.
But my Lady of whom did Jesu spring,
O'er us high she holds her empery,
And none that grieves of our following,
For she is the Queen of Courtesy.'
In courtesy we are members all
Of Jesus Christ, Saint Paul doth write:
As head, arm, leg, and navel small
To their body doth loyalty true unite,
So as limbs to their Master mystical
All Christian souls belong by right.
Now among your limbs can you find at all
Any tie or bond of hate or spite?
Your head doth not feel affront or slight
On your arm or finger though ring it see;
So we all proceed in love's delight
To king and queen by courtesy.'
'Courtesy,' I said, 'I do believe
And charity great dwells you among,
But may my words no wise you grieve,
You in heaven too high yourself conceive
To make you a queen who were so young.
What honour more might he achieve
Who in strife on earth was ever strong,
And lived his life in penance long
With his body's pain to get bliss for fee?
What greater glory could to him belong
Than king to be crowned by courtesy?
That courtesy gives its gifts too free,
If it be sooth that you now say.
Two years you lived not on earth with me,
And God you could not please, nor pray
With Pater and Creed upon your knee -
And made a queen that very day!
I cannot believe, God helping me,
That God so far from right would stray.
Of a countess, damsel, I must say,
'Twere fair in heaven to find the grace,
Or of lady even of less array,
But a queen! It is too high a place.'
'Neither time nor place His grace confine',
Then said to me that maiden bright,
'For just is all that He doth assign,
And nothing can He work but right.
In God's true gospel, in words divine
That Matthew in your mass doth cite,
A tale he aptly doth design,
In parable saith of heaven's light:
'My realm on high I liken might
To a vineyard owner in this case.
The year had run to season right;
To dress the vines 'twas time and place.
All labourers know when that time is due.
The master up full early rose
To hire him vineyard workers new;
And some to suit his needs he chose.
Together they pledge agreement true
For a penny a day, and forth each goes,
Travails and toils to tie and hew,
Binds and prunes and in order stows.
In forenoon the master to market goes,
And there finds men that idle laze.
'Why stand ye idle? he said to those.
'Do ye know not time of day nor place?'
'This place we reached betimes ere day',
This answer from all alike he drew,
'Since sunrise standing here we stay,
And no man offers us work to do.'
'Go to my vineyard! Do what ye may!'
Said the lord, and made a bargain true:
'In deed and intent I to you will pay
What hire may justly by night accrue.'
They went to his vines and laboured too,
But the lord all day that way did pace,
And brought to his vineyard workers new,
Till daytime almost passed that place.
In that place at time of evensong,
One hour before the set of sun,
He saw there idle labourers strong
And thus his earnest words did run:
'Why stand ye idle all day long?'
They said they chance of hire had none.
'Go to my vineyard, yeoman young,
And work and do what may be done!'
The hour grew late and sank the sun,
Dusk came o'er the world apace;
He called them to claim the wage they had won,
For time of day had passed that place.
The time in that place he well did know;
He called: 'Sir steward, the people pay!
Give them hire that I them owe.
Moreover, that none reproach me may,
Set them all in a single row,
And to each alike give a penny a day;
Begin at the last that stands below,
Till to the first you make your way.'
Then the first began to complain and say
That they had laboured long and sore:
'These but one hour in stress did stay;
It seems to us we should get more.
More have we earned, we think it true,
Who have borne the daylong heat indeed,
Than these who hours have worked not two,
And yet you our equals have decreed.'
One such the lord then turned him to:
'My friend, I will not curtail your meed.
Go now and take what is your due!
For a penny I hired you as agreed,
Why now to wrangle do you proceed?
Was it not a penny you bargained for?
To surpass his bargain may no man plead.
Why then will you ask for more?
Nay, more - am I not allowed in gift
To dispose of mine as I please to do?
Or your eye to evil, maybe, you lift,
For I none betray and I am true?'
'Thus I', said Christ, 'shall the order shift:
The last shall come first to take his due,
And the first come last, be he never so swift;
For many are called, but the favourites few.'
Thus the poor get ever their portion too,
Though late they came and little bore;
And though to their labour little accrue,
The mercy of God is much the more.
More is my joy and bliss herein,
The flower of my life, my lady's height,
Than all the folk in the world might win,
Did they seek award on ground of right.
Though 'twas but now that I entered in,
And came to the vineyard by eveing's light,
First with my hire did my Lord begin;
I was paid at once to the furthest mite.
Yet others in toil without respite
That had laboured and sweated long of yore,
He did not yet with hire requite,
Nor will, perchance, for years yet more.'
Then more I said and spoke out plain:
'Unreasonable is what you say.
Ever ready God's justice on high doth reign,
Or a fable doth Holy Writ purvey.
The Psalms a cogent verse contain,
Which puts a point that one must weigh:
'High King, who all dost foreordain,
His deserts Thou dost to each repay.'
Now if daylong one did steadfast stay,
And you to payment came him before,
Then lesser work can earn more pay;
And the longer you reckon, the less hath more.'
'Of more and less in God's domains
No question arises,' said that maid,
'For equal hire there each one gains,
Be geurdon great or small him paid.
No churl is our Chieftain that in bounty reigns,
Be soft or hard by Him purveyed;
As water of dike His gifts He drains,
Or streams from a deep by drought unstayed.
Free is the pardon to him conveyed
Who in fear to the Saviour in sin did bow;
No bars from bliss will for such be made,
For the grace of God is great enow.
But now to defeat me you debate
That wrongly my penny I have taken here;
Deserve not hire at price so dear.
Where heard you ever of man relate
Who, pious in prayer from year to year,
Did not somehow forfeit the guerdon great
Sometime of Heaven's glory clear?
Nay, wrong men work, from right they veer,
And ever the ofter the older, I trow.
Mercy and grace must then them steer,
For the grace of God is great enow.
But enow have the innocent of grace.
As soon as born, in lawful line
Baptismal waters them embrace;
Then they are brought unto the vine.
Anon the day with darkened face
Doth toward the night of death decline.
They wrought no wrong while in that place,
And his workmen then pays the Lord divine.
They were there; they worked at his design;
Why should He not their toil allow,
Yea, first to them their hire assign?
For the grace of God is great enow.
Enow 'tis known that Man's high kind
At first for perfect bliss was bred.
Our eldest father that grace resigned
Through an apple upon which he fed.
We were all damned, for that food assigned
To die in grief, all joy to shed,
And after in flames of hell confined
To dwell for ever unrespited.
But soon a healing hither sped:
Rich blood ran on rough rood-bough,
And water fair. In that hour of dread
The grace of God grew great enow.
Enow there went forth from that well
Water and blood from wounds so wide:
The blood redeemed us from pains of hell
Of the second death the bond untied;
The water is baptism, truth to tell,
That the spear so grimly ground let glide.
It washes away the trespass fell
By which Adam drowned us in deathly tide.
No bars in the world us from Bliss divide
In blessed hour restored, I trow,
Save those that He hath drawn aside;
And the grace of God is great enow.
Grace enow may the man receive
Who sins anew, if he repent;
But craving it he must sigh and grieve
And abide what pains are consequent.
But reason that right can never leave
Evermore preserves the innocent;
'Tis a judgement God did never give
That the guiltless should ever have punishment.
The guilty, contrite and penitent,
Through mercy may to grace take flight;
But he that to treachery never bent
In innocence is saved by right.
It is right thus by reason, as in this case
I learn, to save these two from ill;
The righteous man shall see His face,
Come unto him the harmless will.
This point the Psalms in a passage raise:
'Who, Lord, shall climb Thy lofty hill,
Or rest within Thy holy place?'
He doth the answer swift fulfil:
'Who wrought with hands no harm nor ill,
Who is of heart both clean and bright,
His steps shall there be steadfast still':
The innocent ever is saved by right.
The righteous too, one many maintain,
He shall to that noble tower repair,
Who leads not his life in folly vain,
Nor guilefully doth to neighbour swear.
That Wisdom did honour once obtain
For such doth Solomon declare:
She pressed him on by ways made plain
And showed him afar God's kingdom fair,
As if saying: 'That lovely island there
That mayst thou win, be thou brave in fight.'
But to say this doubtless one may dare:
The innocent ever is saved by right.
To righteous men - have you seen it there? -
In the Psalter David a verse applied:
'Do not, Lord, Thy servant to judgement bear;
For to Thee none living is justified.'
So when to that Court you must repair
Where all our cases shall be tried,
If on right you stand, lest you trip beware,
Warned by these words that I espied.
But He on rood that bleeding died,
Whose hands the nail did harshly smite,
Grant you may pass, when you are tried,
By innocence and not by right.
Let him that can rightly read in lore,
Look in the Book and learn thereby
How Jesus walked the world of yore,
And people pressed their babes Him nigh,
For joy and health from Him did pour.
'Our children touch!' they humbly cry,
'Let be!' his disciples rebuked them sore,
And to many would approach deny.
Then Jesus sweetly did reply:
'Nay! let children by me alight;
For such is heaven prepared on high!'
The innocent ever is saved by right.
Then Jesus summoned his servants mild,
And said His realm no man might win,
Unless he came there as a child;
Else never should he come therein.
Harmless, true, and undefiled,
Without mark or mar of soiling sin,
When such knock at those portals piled,
Quick for them men will the gate unpin.
That bliss unending dwells therein
That the jeweller sought, above gems did rate,
And sold all he had to clothe him in,
To purchase a pearl immaculate.
This pearl immaculate purchased dear
The jeweller gave all his goods to gain
Is like the realm of heaven's sphere:
So said the Lord of land and main;
For it is flawless, clean and clear,
Endlessly round, doth joy contain,
And is shared by all the righteous here.
Lo! amid my breast it doth remain;
There my Lord, the Lamb that was bleeding slain,
In token of peace it placed in state.
I bid you the wayward world disdain
And procure your pearl immaculate!'
'Immaculate Pearl in pearls unstained,
Who bear of precious pearls the prize,
Your figure fair for you who feigned?
Who wrought your robe, he was full wise!
Your beauty was never from nature gained;
Pygmalion did ne'er your face devise;
In Aristotle's learning is contained
Of these properties' nature no surmise;
Your hue the flower-de-luce defies,
Your angel-bearing is of grace so great.
What office, purest, me apprise
Doth bear this pearl immaculate?'
'My immaculate Lamb, my final end
Beloved, Who all can heal,' said she,
'Chose me as spouse, did to bridal bend
That once would have seemed unmeet to be.
From your weeping world when I did wend
He called me to his felicity:
'Come hither to me, sweetest friend,
For no blot nor spot is found in thee!'
Power and beauty he gave to me;
In his blood he washed my weeds in state,
Crowned me clean in virginity,
And arrayed me in pearls immaculate.'
'Why, immaculate bride of brightest flame,
Who royalty have so rich and bare,
Of what kind can He be, the Lamb you name,
Who would you His wedded wife declare?
Over others all hath climbed your fame,
In lady's life with Him to fare.
For Christ have lived in care and blame
Many comely maids with comb in hair;
Yet the prize from all those brave you bear,
And all debar from bridal state,
All save yourself so proud and fair,
A matchless maid immaculate.'
'Immaculate, without a stain,
Flawless I am', said that fair queen;
'And that I may with grace maintain,
But 'matchless' I said not nor do mean.
As brides of the Lamb in bliss we reign,
Twelve times twelve thousand strong, I ween,
As Apocalypse reveals it plain:
In a throng they there by John were seen;
On Zion's hill, that mount serene,
The apostle had dream divine of them
On that summit for marriage robed all clean
In the city of New Jerusalem.
Of Jerusalem my tale doth tell,
If you will know what His nature be,
My Lamb, my Lord, my dear Jewel,
My Joy, my Bliss, my Truelove free.
Isaiah the prophet once said well
In pity for His humility:
'That glorious Guiltless they did fell
Without cause or charge of felony,
As sheep to the slaughter led was He,
And as lamb the shearer in hand doth hem
His mouth he closed without plaint or plea,
When the Jews Him judged in Jerusalem.'
In Jerusalem was my Truelove slain,
On the rood by ruffians fierce was rent;
Willing to suffer all our pain
To Himself our sorrows sad He lent.
With cruel blows His face was flain
That was to behold so excellent:
He for sin to be set at naught did deign,
Who of sin Himself was innocent.
Beneath the scourge and thorns He bent,
And stretched on a cross's brutal stem
As meek as lamb made no lament,
And died for us in Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem, Jordan, and Galilee,
As there baptized the good Saint John,
With Isaiah well did his words agree.
When to meet him once had Jesus gone
He spake of Him this prophecy:
'Lo, the Lamb of God whom our trust is on!
From the grievous sins He sets us free
That all this world hath daily done.'
He wrought himself yet never one,
Though He smirched himself with all of them.
Who can tell the Fathering of that Son
That died for us in Jerusalem?
In Jerusalem as lamb they knew
And twice thus took my Truelove dear,
As in prophets both in record true,
For His meekness and His gentle cheer.
The third time well is matched thereto,
In Apocalypse 'tis written clear:
Where sat the saints, Him clear to view
Amidst the throne the Apostle dear
Saw loose the leaves of the book and shear
The seven signets sewn on them.
At that sight all folk there bowed in fear
In hell, in earth, and Jerusalem.
Jerusalem's Lamb had never stain
Of other hue than whiteness fair;
There blot nor blemish could remain,
So white the wool, so rich and rare.
Thus every soul that no soil did gain
His comely wife doth the Lamb declare;
Though each day He a host obtain,
No grudge nor grievance do we bear,
But for each one five we wish there were.
The more the merrier, so God me bless!
Our love doth thrive where many fare
In honour more and never less.
To less of bliss may none us bring
Who bear this pearl upon each breast,
For ne'er could they think of quarrelling
Of spotless pearls who bear the crest.
Though the clods may to our corses cling,
And for woe ye wail bereaved of rest,
From one death all our trust doth spring
In knowledge complete by us possessed.
The Lamb us gladdens, and, our grief redressed,
Doth at every Mass with joy us bless.
Here each hath bliss supreme and best,
Yet no one's honour is ever the less.
Lest less to trust my tale you hold,
In Apocalypse 'tis writ somewhere:
'The Lamb', saith John, 'I could behold
On Zion standing proud and fair;
With him maidens a hundred-thousand fold,
And four and forty thousand were,
Who all upon their brows inscrolled
The Lamb's name and His Father's bare.
A shout then I heard from heaven there,
Like many floods met in pouring press;
And as thunder in darkling tors doth blare,
That noise, I believe, was nowise less.
But nonetheless, though it harshly roared,
And echo loud though it was to hear,
I heard them note then new accord,
A delight as lovely to listening ear
As harpers harping on harps afford.
This new song now they sang full clear,
With resounding notes in noble accord
Making in choir their musics dear.
Before God's very throne drawn near
And the Beasts to Him bowed in lowliness
And the ancient Elders grave of cheer
They sang their song there, nonetheless.
Yet nonetheless were none so wise
For all the arts that they ever knew
Of that song who could a phrase devise,
Save those of the Lamb's fair retinue;
For redeemed and removed from earthly eyes,
As firstling fruits that to God are due,
To the noble Lamb they are allies,
Being like to Him in mien and hue;
For no lying word nor tale untrue
Ever touched their tongues despite duress.
Ever close that company pure shall sue
That Master immaculate, and never less.''
'My thanks may none the less you find,
My Pearl', quoth I, 'though I question pose.
I should not try your lofty mind,
Whom Christ to bridal chamber chose.
I am but dirt and dust in kind,
And you a rich and radiant rose
Here by this blissful bank reclined
Where life's delight unfading grows.
Now, Lady, your heart sincere enclose,
And I would ask one thing express,
And though it clown uncouth me shows,
My prayer disdain not, nevertheless.
I nonetheless my appeal declare,
If you to do this may well deign,
Deny you not my piteous prayer,
As you are glorious without a stain.
No home in castle-wall do ye share,
No mansion to meet in, no domain?
Of Jerusalem you speak the royal and fair,
Where David on regal throne did reign;
It abides not here on hill nor plain,
But in Judah is that noble plot.
As under moon ye have no stain
Your home should be without a spot.
This spotless troop of which you tell,
This thronging press many-thousandfold,
Ye doubtless a mighty citadel
Must have your number great to hold:
For jewels so lovely 'twould not be well
That flock so fair should have no fold!
Yet by these banks where a while I dwell
I nowhere about any house behold.
To gaze on this glorious stream you strolled
And linger alone now, do you not?
If elsewhere you have stout stronghold,
Now guide me to that goodly spot!'
'That spot', that peerless maid replied,
'In Judah's land of which you spake,
Is the city to which the Lamb did ride,
To suffer sore there for Man's sake.
The Old Jerusalem is implied,
For old sin's bond He there let break.
But the New, that God sent down to glide,
The Apocalypse in account doth take.
The Lamb that no blot ever black shall make
Doth there His lovely throng allot,
And as His flock all stains forsake
So His mansion is unmarred by spot.
There are two spots. To speak of these:
They both the name 'Jerusalem' share;
'The City of God' or 'Sight of Peace',
These meanings only doth that bear.
In the first it once the Lamb did please
Our peace by His suffering to repair;
In the other naught is found but peace
That shall last for ever without impair.
To that high city we swiftly fare
As soon as our flesh is laid to rot;
Ever grow shall the bliss and glory there
For the host within that hath no spot.'
'O spotless maiden kind!' I cried
To that lovely flower, 'O lead me there,
To see where blissful you abide,
To that goodly place let me repair!'
'God will forbid that,' she replied,
'His tower to enter you may not dare.
But the Lamb hath leave to me supplied
For a sigh thereof by favour rare:
From without on that precinct pure to stare
But foot within to venture not;
In the street you have no strength to fare,
Unless clean you be without a spot.
If I this spot shall to you unhide,
Turn up towards this water's head,
While I escort you on this side,
Until your ways to a hill have led.'
No longer would I then abide,
But shrouded by leafy boughs did tread,
Until from a hill I there espied
A glimpse of that city, as forth I sped.
Beyond the river below me spread
Brighter than the sun with beams it shone;
In the Apocalypse may its form be read,
As it describes the apostle John.
As John the apostle it did view,
I saw that city of great renown,
Jerusalem royally arrayed and new,
As it was drawn from heaven down.
Of gold refined in fire to hue
Of glittering glass was that shining town;
Fair gems beneath were joined as due
In courses twelve, on the base laid down
That with tenoned tables twelve they crown:
A single stone was each tier thereon,
As well describes this wondrous town
In apocalypse the apostle John.
These stones doth John in Writ disclose;
I knew their names as he doth tell:
As jewel first the jasper rose,
And first at the base I saw it well,
On the lowest course it greenly glows;
On the second stage doth sapphire dwell;
Chalcedony on the third tier shows,
A flawless, pure, and pale jewel;
The emerald fourth so green of shell;
The sardonyx, the fifth it shone,
The ruby sixth: he saw it well
In the Apocalypse, the apostle John.
To them John then joined the chrysolite,
The seventh gem in the ascent;
The eighth the beryl clear and white;
The twin-hued topaz as ninth was pent;
Tenth the chrysoprase formed the flight;
Eleventh was jacinth excellent;
The twelfth, most trusty in every plight,
The amethyst blue with purple blent.
Sheer from those tiers the wall then went
Of jasper like glass that glistening shone;
I knew it, for thus did it present
In the Apocalypse the apostle John.
As John described, I broad and sheer
These twelve degrees saw rising there;
Above the city square did rear
(Its length with breadth and height compare);
The streets of gold as glass all clear,
The wall of jasper that gleamed like glair;
With all precious stones that might there appear
Adorned within the dwellings were.
Of that domain each side all square
Twelve thousand furlongs held then on,
As in height and breadth, in length did fare,
For it measured saw the aspostle John.
As John hath writ, I saw yet more:
Each quadrate wall there had three gates,
So in compass there were three times four,
The portals o'erlaid with richest plates;
A single pearl was every door,
A pearl whose perfection ne'er abates;
And each inscribed a name there bore
Of Israel's children by their dates:
Their times of birth each allocates,
Ever first the eldest thereon is hewn.
Such light every street illuminates
They have need of neither sun nor moon.
Of sun nor moon they had no need,
For God Himself was their sunlight;
The Lamb their lantern was indeed
And through Him blazed that city bright
That unearthly clear did no light impede;
Through wall and hall thus passed my sight.
The Throne on high there might one heed,
With all its rich adornment dight,
As John in chosen words did write.
High God Himself sat on that throne,
Whence forth a river ran with light
Outshining both the sun and moon.
Neither sun nor moon ever shone so sweet
As the pouring flood from that court that flowed;
Swiftly it swept through every street,
And no filth nor soil nor slime it showed.
No church was there the sight to greet,
Nor chapel nor temple there ever abode:
The Almighty was their minister meet;
Refreshment the Victim Lamb bestowed.
The gates ever open to every road
Were never yet shut from noon to noon;
There enters none to find abode
Who bears any spot beneath the moon.
The moon therefrom may gain no might,
Too spotty is she, of form too hoar;
Moreover there comes never night:
Why should the moon in circle soar
And compare her with that peerless light
That shines upon that water's shore?
The planets are in too poor a plight,
Yea, the sun himself too pale and frore.
On shining trees where those waters pour
Twelve fruits of life there ripen soon;
Twelve times a year they bear a store,
And renew them anew in every moon.
Such marvels as neath the moon upraised
A fleshly heart could not endure
I saw, who on that castle gazed;
Such wonders did its castle gazed;
I stood there still as quail all dazed;
Its wondrous form did me allure,
That rest nor toil I felt, amazed,
And ravished by that radiance pure.
For with conscience clear I you assure,
If man embodied had gained that boon,
Though sages all essayed his cure,
His life had been lost beneath the moon.
As doth the moon in might arise,
Ere down must daylight leave the air,
So, suddenly, in a wondrous wise,
Of procession long I was aware.
Unheralded to my surprise
That city of royal renown so fair
Was with virgins filled in the very guise
Of my blissful one with crown on hair.
All crowned in manner like they were,
In pearls appointed, and weeds of white,
and bound on breast did each one bear
The blissful pearl with great delight.
With great delight in line they strolled
On golden ways that gleamed like glass;
A hundred thousands were there, I hold,
And all to match their livery was;
The gladdest face could none have told.
the Lamb before did proudly pass
With seven horns of clear red gold;
As pearls of price His raimant was.
To the Throne now drawn they pacing pass:
No crowding, though great their host in white,
But gentle as modest maids at Mass,
So lead they on with great delight.
The delight too great were to recall
That at His coming forth did swell.
When He approached those elders all
On their faces at His feet they fell;
There summoned hosts angelical
An incense cast of sweetest smell:
New glory and joy then forth did fall,
All sang to praise that fair Jewel.
The strain could strike through earth to hell
That the Virtues of heaven in joy endite.
With His host to laud the Lamb as well
In deed I found a great delight.
Delight the Lamb to behold with eyes
Then moved my mind with wonder more:
The best was He, blithest, most dear to prize
Of whom I e'er heard tales of yore;
So wondrous white was all His guise,
So noble Himself He so meekly bore.
But by his heart a wound my eyes
Saw wide and wet; the fleece it tore,
From His white side His blood did pour.
Alas! thought I, who did that spite?
His breast should have burned with anguish sore,
Ere in that deed one took delight.
The Lamb's delight to doubt, I ween,
None wished; though wound He sore displayed,
In His face no sign thereof was seen,
In His glance such glorious gladness played.
I marked among His host serene,
How life in full on each was laid--
Then saw I there my little queen
That I thought stood by me in the glade!
Lord! great was the merriment she made,
Among her peers who was so white.
That vision made me think to wade
For love-longing in great delight.
Delight there pierced my eye and ear,
In my mortal mind a madness reigned;
When I saw her beauty I would be near,
Though beyond the stream she was retained.
I thought that naught could interfere,
Could strike me back to halt constrained,
From plunge in stream would none me steer,
Though I died ere I swam o'er what remained.
But as wild in the water to start I strained,
On my intent did quaking seize;
From that aim recalled I was detained:
It was not as my Prince did please.
It pleased Him not that I leapt o'er
Those marvellous bounds my madness swayed.
Though headlong haste me heedless bore,
Yet swift arrest was on me made,
For right as I rushed then to the shore
That fury made my dream to fade.
I woke in that garden as before,
My head upon that mound was laid
Where once to earth my pearl had strayed.
I stretched, and fell in great unease,
And sighing to myself I prayed:
'Now all be as that Prince may please.'
It pleased me ill outcast to be
So suddenly from that region fair
Where living beauty I could see.
A swoon of longing smote me there,
And I cried aloud then piteously:
'O Pearl, renowned beyond compare!
How dear was all that you said to me,
That vision true while I did share.
If it be true and sooth to swear
That in garland gay you are set at ease,
Then happy I, though chained in care,
That you that Prince indeed do please.'
To please that Prince had I always bent,
Desired no more than was my share,
And loyally been obedient,
As the Pearl me prayed so debonair,
I before God's face might have been sent,
In his mysteries further maybe to fare.
But with fortune no man is content
That rightly he may claim and bear;
So robbed of realms immortally fair
Too soon my joy did sorrow seize.
Lord! mad are they who against Thee dare
Or purpose what Thee may displease!
To please that Prince, or be pardon shown,
May Christian good with ease design;
For day and night I have Him known
A God, a Lord, a Friend divine.
This chance I met on mound where prone
In grief for my pearl I would repine;
With Christ's sweet blessing and mine own
I then to God it did resign.
May He that in form of bread and wine
By priest upheld each day one sees,
Us inmates of His house divine
Make precious pearls Himself to please.
The Witch of Hebron
A Rabbinical Legend
From morn until the setting of the sun
The rabbi Joseph on his knees had prayed,
And, as he rose with spirit meek and strong,
An Indian page his presence sought, and bowed
Before him, saying that a lady lay
Sick unto death, tormented grievously,
Who begged the comfort of his holy prayers.
The rabbi, ever to the call of grief
Open as day, arose; and girding straight
His robe about him, with the page went forth;
Who swiftly led him deep into the woods
That hung, heap over heap, like broken clouds
On Hebron’s southern terraces; when lo!
Across a glade a stately pile he saw,
With gleaming front, and many-pillared porch
Fretted with sculptured vinage, flowers and fruit,
And carven figures wrought with wondrous art
As by some Phidian hand.
For a wide space in front, and belting all
The splendid structure with a finer grace,
A glowing garden smiled; its breezes bore
Airs as from paradise, so rich the scent
That breathed from shrubs and flowers; and fair the growths
Of higher verdure, gemm’d with silver blooms,
Which glassed themselves in fountains gleaming light
Each like a shield of pearl.
Within the halls
Strange splendour met the rabbi’s careless eyes,
Halls wonderful in their magnificance,
With pictured walls, and columns gleaming white
Like Carmel’s snow, or blue-veined as with life;
Through corridors he passed with tissues hung
Inwrought with threaded gold by Sidon’s art,
Or rich as sunset clouds with Tyrian dye;
Past lofty chambers, where the gorgeous gleam
Of jewels, and the stainèd radiance
Of golden lamps, showed many a treasure rare
Of Indian and Armenian workmanship
Which might have seemed a wonder of the world:
And trains of servitors of every clime,
Greeks, Persians, Indians, Ethiopians,
In richest raiment thronged the spacious halls.
The page led on, the rabbi following close,
And reached a still and distant chamber, where
In more than orient pomp, and dazzling all
The else-unrivalled splendour of the rest,
A queenly woman lay; so beautiful,
That though upon her moon-bright visage, pain
And langour like eclipsing shadows gloomed,
The rabbi’s aged heart with tremor thrilled;
Then o’er her face a hectic colour passed,
Only to leave that pallor which portends
The nearness of the tomb.
From youth to age
The rabbi Joseph still had sought in herbs
And minerals the virtues they possess,
And now of his medicaments he chose
What seemed most needful in her sore estate;
“Alas, not these,” the dying woman said,
“A malady like mine thou canst not cure,
’Tis fatal as the funeral march of Time!
But that I might at length discharge my mind
Of a dread secret, that hath been to me
An ever-haunting and most ghostly fear,
Darkening my whole life like an ominous cloud
And which must end it ere the morning come,
Therefore did I entreat thy presence here.”
The rabbi answered, “If indeed it stand
Within my power to serve thee, speak at once
All that thy heart would say. But if ’tis vain,
If this thy sin hath any mortal taint,
Forbear, O woman, to acquaint my soul
With aught that could thenceforth with horror chase
The memory of a man of Israel.”
“I am,” she said “the daughter of thy friend
Rabbi Ben Bachai—be his memory blest!
Once at thy side a laughing child I played;
I married with an Arab Prince, a man
Of lofty lineage, one of Ishmael’s race;
Not great in gear. Behold’st thou this abode?
Did ever yet the tent-born Arab build
Thus for his pride or pleasure? See’st thou
These riches? An no! Such were ne’er amassed
By the grey desert’s wild and wandering son;
Deadly the game by which I won them all!
And with a burning bitterness at best
Have I enjoyed them! And how gladly now
Would I, too late, forego them all, to mend
My broken peace with a repentant heed
In abject poverty!”
She ceased, and lay
Calm in her loveliness, with dreamy looks
Roaming, perhaps, in thought the fateful past;
Then suddenly her beauteous countenance grew
Bedimm’d and drear, then dark with mortal pangs,
While fierce convulsions shook her tortured frame,
And from her foaming lips such words o’erran,
That rabbi Joseph sank upon his knees,
And bowed his head a space in horror down
While ardent, pitying prayers for her great woe
Rose from his soul; when, lo! The woman’s face
Was cloudless as a summer heaven! The late
Dark brow was bright, the late pale cheek suffused
With roseate bloom; and, wondrous more than all,
Here weary eyes were changed to splendours now
That shot electric influence, and her lips
Were full and crimson, curled with stormy pride.
The doubting rabbi stood in wild amaze
To see the dying woman bold and fierce
In bright audacity of passion’s power.
“These are the common changes,” then she said,
“Of the fell ailment, that with torments strange,
Which search my deepest life, is tearing up
The dark foundations of my mortal state,
And sinking all its structures, hour by hour,
Into the dust of death. For nothing now
Is left me but to meet my nearing doom
As best I may in silent suffering.”
Then as he heard her words and saw her face,
The rabbi in his wisdom knew some strong
Indwelling evil spirit troubled her,
And straighway for an unction sent, wherewith
The famous ancestor whose name he bore,
Herod the Great’s chief hakim, had expelled
The daemon haunter of the dying king.
With this he touched her forehead and her eyes
And all her finger-tips. Forthwith he made
Within a consecrated crucible
A fire of citron-wood and cinnamon;
Then splashed the flames with incense, mingling all
With the strong influence of fervent prayer;
And, as the smoke arose, he bowed her head
Into its coils, that so she might inhale
Its salutary odour—till the fiend
That dwelt within her should be exorcised.
Her face once more grew pale with pain; she writhed
In burning torment, uttering many words
Of most unhallowed meaning! Yet her eyes
Were fixed the while, and motionless her lips!
Whereby the rabbi certainly perceived
’Twas not the woman of herself that spake,
But the dread spirit that possessed her soul,
And thus it cried aloud.
“WHY am I here, in this my last resort,
Perturbed with incense and anointings? Why
Compelled to listen to the sound of prayers
That smite me through as with the fire of God?
O pain, pain, pain! Is not this chamber full
Of the implacable stern punishers?
Full of avenging angels, holding each
A scourge of thunder in his potent hand,
Ready to lighten forth! And then, thus armed,
For ever chase and wound us as we fly!
Nor end with this—but, in each wound they make,
Pour venom sweltered from that tree As-gard,
Whose deadly shadow in its blackness falls
Over the lake of everlasting doom!
“Five hundred years ago, I, who thus speak,
Was an Egyptian of the splendid court
Of Ptolemy Philadelphus. To the top
Of mountainous power, though roughened with unrest,
And girt with dangers as with thunder-clouds,
Had I resolved by all resorts to climb;
By truth and falsehood, right and wrong alike;
And I did climb! Then firmly built in power
Second alone to my imperial lord’s,
I crowned with its impunity my lust
Of beauty, sowing broadcast everywhere
Such sensual baits wide round me, as should lure
Through pleasure, or through interest entrap,
The fairest daughters of the land, and lo!
Their lustrous eyes surcharged with passionate light
The chambers of my harem! But at length
Wearied of these, though sweet, I set my heart
On riches, heaped to such a fabulous sum
As never one man’s hoard in all the world
Might match; and to acquire them, steeped my life
In every public, every private wrong,
In lies, frauds, secret murders; till at last
A favoured minion I had trusted most,
And highest raised, unveiled before the king
The dark abysmal badness of my life;
But dearly did he rue it; nor till then
Guessed I how deadly grateful was revenge!
I stole into his chamber as he slept,
And with a sword, whose double edge for hours
I had whetted for the purpose of the deed,
There staked him through the midriff to his bed.
I fled; but first I sent, as oft before,
A present to the household of the man
Who had in secret my betrayer bribed.
Twas scented wine, and rich Damascus cakes;
On these he feasted, and fell sudden down,
Rolling and panting in his dying pangs,
A poisoned desert dog!
“But I had fled.
A swift ship bore me, which my forecast long
Had kept prepared against such need as this.
Over the waves three days she proudly rode;
Then came a mighty storm, and trampled all
Her masted bravery flat, and still drove on
The wave-swept ruin towards a reefy shore!
Meanwhile amongst the terror-stricken crew
An ominous murmur went from mouth to mouth;
They grouped themselves in councils, and, ere long,
Grew loud and furious with surmises wild,
And maniac menaces, all aimed at me!
My fugitive head it was at which so loud
The thunder bellowed! The wild-shrieking winds
And roaring waters held in vengeful chase
Me only! Me! Whose signal crimes alone
Had brought on us this anger of the gods!
And thus reproaching me with glaring eyes,
They would have seized and slain me, but I sprang
Back from amongst them, and, outstriking, stabbed
With sudden blow their leader to the heart;
Then, with my poniard scaring off the rest,
Leaped from the deck, and swimming reached the shore,
From which, in savage triumph, I beheld
The battered ship, with all her howling crew,
Heel, and go down, amid the whelming waves.
“Inland my course now lay for many days,
O’er barren hills and glens, whose herbless scopes
Never grew luminous with a water gleam,
Or heard the pleasant bubble of a brook,
For vast around the Afric desert stretched.
Starving and sun-scorched and afire with thirst,
I wandered ever on, until I came
To where, amid the dun and level waste,
In frightful loneliness, a mouldered group
Of ancient tombs stood ghostly. Here at last,
Utterly spent, in my despair I lay
Down on the burning sand, to gasp and die!
When from among the stones a withered man,
Old-seeming as the desert where he lived,
Came and stood by me, saying ‘get thee up!
Not much have I to give, but these at least
I offer to thy need, water and bread.’
“Then I arose and followed to his cell,—
A dismal cell, that seemed itself a tomb,
So lightless was it, and so foul with damp,
And at its entrance there were skulls and bones.
Long and deep drank I of the hermit’s draught,
And munched full greedily the hermit’s bread;
But with the strength which thence my frame derived,
Fierce rage devoured me, and I cursed my fate!
Whereat the withered creature laughed in scorn,
And mocked me with the malice of his eyes,
That sometimes, like a snake’s, shrank small, and then
Enlarging blazed as with infernal fire!
Then, on a sudden, with an oath that seemed
To wake a stir in the grey musty tombs,
As if their silence shuddered, he averred
That he could life me once more to the height
Of all my wishes—nay, even higher, but
On one condition only. Dared I swear,
By the dread angel of the second death,
I would be wholly his, both body and soul,
After a hundred years?
“Why should I not?
I answered, quivering with a stormy haste,
A rampart unreluctance! For so great
Was still my fury against all mankind,
And my desire of pomp and riches yet
So monstrous, that I felt I could have drunk
Blood, fire, or worse, to wear again the power
That fortune, working through my enemies’ hands,
Had stript away from me. So, word by word,
I swore the oath as he repeated it;
Nor much it moved me, in my eagerness,
To feel a damp and earthy odour break
Out of each tomb, from which there darkling rose
At every word a hissing as of snakes;
And yet the fell of hair upon my scalp
Rose bristling under a cold creeping thrill:
But I failed not, I swore the dread oath through,
And then the tombs grew silent as their dead.
But through my veins a feeling of strong youth
Coursed bold along, and summered in my heart,
Till there before him in my pride I stood
In stately strength, and swift as is the wind,
Magnificant as a desert-nurtured steed
Of princeliest pedigree, with nostrils wide
Dilated, and with eyes effusing flame.
‘Begone,’ he said, ’and live thy hundred years
Of splendour, power, pleasure, ease.’ His voice
Sighed off into the distance. He was gone:
Only a single raven, far aloft,
Was beating outwards with its sable wings;
The tombs had vanished, and the desert grey
Merged its whole circle with the bending sky.
“OUT of these wilds to Egypt I returned:
Men thought that I had perished with the ship,
And no one knew me now, because my face
And form were greatly changed,—from passing fair
To fairer yet; from manly, to a pile
So nobly built, that in all eyes I seemed
Beauteous as Thammuz! And my heart was changed;
Ambition wilder than a leopard’s thirst
For blood of roe, or flying hart, possessed
My spirit, like the madness of a god!
But this I yet even in its fiercest strain
Could curb and guide with sovereign strength of will.
From small beginnings onward still I worked,
Stepping as up a stair from rival head
To rival head,—from high to higher still,
Unto the loftiest post that might be held
Under the Ptolemies; and meantime paid
Each old unsettled score, defeating those
Who erst had worked against me, sweeping them
Out of all posts, all places; for though time
And change had wide dispersed them through the land,
The sleuth-hounds of my vengeance found them out!
Which things not being in a corner done,
What wonder was it that all Egypt now,
From end to end, even like a shaken hive,
Buzzed as disturbed with my portentous fame?
“And what to me were secret enemies?
Had I not also spies, who could pin down
A whisper in the dark and keep it there?
Could dash a covert frown by the same means
An open charge had challenged? Hence my name
Became a sound that struck through every heart
Ineffable dismay! And yet behold
There more I trampled on mankind, the more
Did fawning flatterers praise me as I swept
Like a magnificant meteor through the land!
The more I hurled the mighty from their seats,
And triumphed o’er them prostrate in the dust,
The human hounds that licked my master hand
But multiplied the more! And still I strode
From bad to worse, corrupting as I went,
Making the lowly ones more abject yet;
Awing as with a thunder-bearing hand
The high and affluent; while I bound the strong
To basest service, even with chains of gold.
All hated, cursed and feared me, for in vain
Daggers were levelled at my brazen heart—
They glanced, and slew some minion at my side
Poison was harmless as a heifer’s milk
When I had sipped it with my lips of scorn;
All that paraded pomp and smiling power
Could draw against me from the envious hearts
Of men in will as wicked as myself
I challenged, I encountered, and o’erthrew!
“But, after many years, exhaustion sere
Spread through the branches of my tree of life;
My forces flagged, my senses more and more
Were blunted, and incapable of joy;
The splendours of my rank availed me not;
A poverty as naked as a slave’s
Peered from them mockingly. The pride of power
That glowed so strong within me in my youth
Was now like something dying at my heart.
To cheat or stimulate my jaded taste,
Feasts, choice or sumptuous, were devised in vain;
there was disfavour, there was fraud within,
Like that which filled the fair-appearing rind
Of those delusive apples that of old
Grew on the Dead Sea shore.
“And yet, though thus
All that gave pleasure to my younger life
Was withering from my path like summer grass,
I still had one intense sensation, which
Grew ever keener as my years increased—
A hatred of mankind; to pamper which
I gloated, with a burning in my soul,
Over their degradation; and like one
Merry with wine, I revelled day by day
In scattering baits that should corrupt them more:
The covetous I sharpened into thieves,
Urged the vindictive, hardened the malign,
Whetted the ruffian with self-interest,
And flung him then, a burning brand, abroad.
And the decadence of the state in which
My fortunes had recast me, served me well.
Excess reeled shameless in the court itself,
Or, staggering thence, was rivalled by the wild
Mad looseness of the crowd. Down to its death
The old Greek dynasty was sinking fast;
Waste and pale want, extortion, meanness, fraud—
These, welling outwards from the throne itself,
Spread through the land.
“But now there seized my soul
A new ambition—from his feeble throne
To hurl the king, and mount thereon myself!
To this end still I lured him into ill,
And daily wove around him cunning snares,
That reached and trammelled too his fawning court;
And all went well, the end at last was near,
But in my triumph one thing I forgot—
My name was measured. At a banquet held
In the king’s chamber, lo! A guest appeared,
Chief of a Bactrian tribe, who tendered gold
To pay for some great wrong his desert horde
Had done our caravans; his age, men said,
Was wonderful; his craft more wondrous still;
For this his fame had spread through many lands,
And the dark seekers of forbidden lore
Knew his decrepit wretch to be their lord.
“The first glance that I met of his weird eye
Had sent into my soul a fearful doubt
That I had seen that cramp-shrunk withered form
And strange bright eye in some forgotten past.
But at the dry croak of his raven voice
Remembrance wok; I knew that I beheld
The old man of the tombs: I saw, and fell
Into the outer darkness of despair.
The day that was to close my dread account
Was come at last. The long triumphant feast
Of life had ended in a funeral treat.
I was to die—to suffer with the damned
The hideous torments of the second death!
The days, weeks, months of a whole hundred years
Seemed crushed into a thought, and burning out
In that brief period which was left me now.
“Stung with fierce horror, shame, and hate I fled;
I seized my sword, to plunge its ready point
Into my maddened heart, but on my arm
I felt a strong forbidding grasp! I turned;
The withered visage of the Bactrian met
My loathing eyes; I struggled to be free
From the shrunk wretch in vain; his spidery hands
Were strong as fetters of Ephesian brass,
And all my strength, though now with madness strung,
Was as a child’s to his. He calmly smiled:
‘Forbear, thou fool! Am I not Sammael?
Whom to resist is vain, and from whom yet
Has never mercy flowed; for what to me
Are feelings which thou knowest even in men
Are found the most in fools. But wide around
A prince of lies I reign. ’Tis I that fill
the Persian palaces with lust and wrong,
Till like the darkling heads of sewers they flow
With a corruption that in fretting thence
Taints all the region round with rankest ill;
’Tis I that clot the Bactrian sand with blood;
And now I come to fling the brands of war
Through all this people, this most ill-mixed mob,
Where Afric’s savage hordes meet treacherous Greeks,
And swarming Asia’s luxury-wasted sons.
This land throughout shall be a deluge soon
Of blood and fire, till ruin stalk alone,
A grisly spectre, in its grass-grown marts.’
The fiery eyes within his withered face
Glowed like live coals, as he triumphant spake,
And his strange voice, erewhile so thin and dry,
Came as if bellowed from the vaults of doom.
Prone fell I, powerless to move or speak;
And now he was about to plunge me down
Ten thousand times ten thousand fathoms deep
Through the earth’s crust, and through the slimy beds
Of nether ocean—down! Still down, below
The darkling roots of all this upper world
Into the regions of the courts of hell!
“To stamp me downward to the convict dead
His heel was raised, when suddenly I heard
Him heave a groan of superhuman pain,
So deep twas drawn! And as he groaned, I saw
A mighty downburst of celestial light
Enwrap his shrivelled form from head to foot,
As with a robe within whose venomous folds
He writhed in torment. Then above him stood
A shining shape, unspeakably sublime,
And gazed upon him! One of the high sons
Of Paradise, who still keep watch and ward
O’er Israel’s progeny, where’er dispersed;
And now they fought for me with arms that filled
The air wide round with flashes and swift gleams
Of dazzling light; full soon the Evil One
Fell conquered. Then forth sprang he from the ground
And with dark curses wrapped him in a cloud
That moved aloft, low thundering as it went.
“And then the shining son of paradise
Came where I lay and spoke, his glorious face
Severe with wrath, and yet divinely fair—
‘O Child of Guilt! Should vengeance not be wrought
On thee as well? On Sammael’s willing slave?’
I clasped his radiant knees—I wept—I groaned—
I beat my bosom in my wild distress.
At last the sacred Presence, who had held
The blow suspended still, spoke thus: ‘Thou’rt spared;
From no weak pity, but because thou art
Descended from the line of Israel:
For that cause spared;—yet must thou at my hand
Find some meet punishment.’ And as he spake,
He laid his hand with a life-crushing weight
Upon my forehead—and I fell, as dead!
“AWAKING as from sleep, I bounded up,
Stung with a feeling of enormous strength,
Though yet half wild with horror. Onward then
Ramping I went, out through the palace gates,
Down the long streets, and into the highways,
Forth to the wilds, amazed at my own speed!
And now afar, in long-drawn line appeared
A caravan upon its outward way
Over the desert of Pentapolis.
And strange the instinct seemed that urged me then
to rush amongst them—and devour: for I
Was fierce with hunger, and inflamed with thirst.
“Amidst a laggard company I leaped
That rested yet beside a cooling spring;
One of those clear springs that, like giant pearls,
Inlay the burning borders of the grey
Enormous desert. All at once they rose!
Some fled, some threw themselves amongst the brakes,
Some seized their swords and lances; this to see
Filled me at once with a mysterious rage
And savage joy! The sternness of their looks,
Their fearful cries, the gleaming of their spears
Seemed to insult me, and I rushed on them.
Then sudden spasms of pain searched deep my side,
Wherein a fell lance quivered. On I rushed;
I roared a roar that startled e’en myself,
So loud and hoarse and terrible its tone,
Then bounding, irresistible it seemed
As some huge fragment from a crag dislodged,
Against the puny wretch that sent the lance,
Instantly tore him, as he were a kid,
All into gory shreds! The others fled
At sight of this, nor would I chase them then,
All wearied by my flight. Besides, the well
Was gleaming in its coolness by me there.
“And as I stooped to quench my parching thirst,
Behold, reversed within the water clear,
The semblance of a monstrous lion stood!
I saw his shaggy mane, I saw his red
And glaring eyeballs rolling in amaze,
His rough and grinning lips, his long sharp fangs
All foul with gore and hung with strings of flesh!
I shrank away in horrible dismay.
But as the sun each moment fiercer grew,
I soon returned to stoop and slake my thirst.
Again was that tremendous presence there
Standing reversed, as erewhile, in the clear
And gleaming mirror of the smiling well!
The horrid truth smote like a rush of fire
Upon my brain! The dreadful thing I saw
Was my own shadow! I was a wild beast.”
“They did not fable, then, who held that oft
The guilty dead are punished in the shapes
Of beasts, if brutal were their lives as men.”
“Long lapped I the cool lymph, while still my tongue
Made drip for drip against the monstrous one,
Which, as in ugly mockery, from below
Seemed to lap up against it. But though thirst
Was quenched at length, what was there might appease
The baffled misery of my fated soul?
The thought that I no more was human, ran
Like scorpion venom through my mighty frame;
Fiercely I bounded, tearing up the sands,
That, like a drab mist, coursed me as I went
Out on my homeless track. I made my fangs
Meet in my flesh, trusting to find in pain
Some respite from the anguish of regret.
From morn to night, from night to morn, I fled,
Chased by the memory of my lost estate;
Then, worn and bleeding, in the burning sands
I lay down, as to die. In vain!—in vain!
The savage vigour of my lion-life
Might yield alone to the long tract of time.
“From hill to valley rushing after prey,
With whirlwind speed, was now my daily wont,
For all things fled before me—all things shrank
In mortal terror at my shaggy front.
Sometimes I sought those close-fenced villages,
Wherein the desert-dwellers hide their swart
And naked bodies from the scorching heats,
Hoping that I might perish by their shafts.
And often was I wounded—often bore
Their poisoned arrows in my burning flesh—
But still I lived.
“The tenor of my life
Was always this—the solitary state
Of a wild beast of prey, that hunted down
The antelope, the boar, the goat, the gorged
Their quivering flesh, and lapped their steaming blood;
Then slept till hunger, or the hunter’s cry,
Roused him again to battle or to slay,
To flight, pursuit, blood, stratagem, and wounds.
And to make this rude life more hideous yet,
I still retained a consciousness of all
The nobler habits of my eariler time,
And had a keen sense of what most had moved
My nature as a man, and knew besides
That this my punishment was fixed by One
Too mighty to be questioned, and too just
One tittle of its measure to remit.
“How long this haggard course of life went on
I might not even guess, for I had lost
The human faculty that measures time.
But still from night to night I found myself
Roaming the desert, howling at the moon,
Whose cold light always, as she poured it down,
Awoke a drear distemper in my brain:
But much I shunned the sunblaze, which at once
Inflamed me, and revealed my dread approach.
“Homelessly roaming thus for evermore,
The tempests beat on my unsheltered bulk,
In those bleak seasons when the drenching rains
Drove into covert all those gentler beasts
That were my natural prey. I swinkt beneath
The furnace heats of the midsummer sun,
When even the palm of the oasis stood
All withered, like a weed: and for how long,
Yet knew not.
“Thus the sun and moon arose
Through an interminable tract of time,
And yet though sense was dim, the view of all
My human life was ever at my beck,
Nay, opened out before me of itself
Plain as the pictures in a wizard’s glass!
I saw again the trains that round my car
Streamed countless, saw its pageants and its pomps,
Its faces fair and passionate, and felt
Lie’s eager pleasures, even its noble pangs!
Then in the anguish of my goaded heart
Would I roll howling in the burning sand.
“At length this life of horror seemed to near
Its fated bourn. The slow but sure approach
Of old decay was felt in every limb
And every function of my lion frame.
My massive strength seemed spent, my speed was gone,
The antelope escaped me! Wearily
I sought a mountain cavern, shut from day
By savage draperies of tangled briers,
And only dragged my tardy bulk abroad
When hunger urged. It chanced on such a day
I sprange amid a herd of buffaloes
And tore their leader down, who bellowing fell.
When, lo! The chief of those that drove them came
Against me, and I turned my rage on him:
But though the long lapse of so many years
Of ever-grinding wretchedness had dulled
My memory, I felt that I had seen
His withered visage twice before; and straight
A shuddering awe subdued me, and I crouched
Beneath him in the dust. My lust of blood,
My ruthless joy at sight of mortal pain,
Within me died, and if in human speech
I might have told the wild desire that filled
My being, I had prayed him once for all
To crush me out of life, and to consign
My misery to the pit of final death!
But when, all hopeless, I again looked up,
The tawney presence of the desert chief
Was gone, and I beheld the shining son
Of paradise, from whose majestic brow
There flashed the lightings of a wrath divine.
Yea, twas the angel that with Sammael
Had fought for me in Egypt; and once more
He laid his crushing had upon my front;
And earth and sky, and all that in them is,
Became to me a darkness, swimming blank
In the Eternal, round that point where now
My body lay, stretched dead upon the sand.
“AGAIN I lived—again I felt. But now
The winds of heaven seemed under me, and I
Was sweeping, like the spirit of a storm
That bellowed round me, in its murky glooms,
All heaving with a motion wide and swift
That seemed yet mightier than the darkling swells
Of ocean, wrestling with a midnight gale!
The wild winds tossed me; I was drenched throughout
With heavy moisture, and at intervals
Amid the ragged gaps of moving cloud,
Methought I caught dim glimpses of the sun
Hanging aloft, as if in drear eclipse;
But as my senses cleared, I saw my limbs
Were clothed with plumage; and long-taloned claws
Were closing eagerly with fierce desire
And sudden hunger after blood and prey!
An impulse to pursue and to destroy
Both on the earth and in the air, ran quick
Out from my heart and shivered in my wings;
And as a thing more central yet, I felt
Pregnant within me, throned o’er all, a lone
And sullen, yet majestic, glow of pride.
“’Twas plain that I, who had aforetime been
Crushed out of human being into that
Of a wild beast, had thence again passed on
Into the nature of some mighty thing
That now swept sailing on wide van-like wings,
Amid the whirls of an aërial gloom,
That out extending in one mighty cope
Hung heaving, like a black tent-roof, o’er all
The floor of Africa.
“Still on I swept,
And still as far as my keen vision went,
That now was gifted with a power that seemed
To pierce all space, I saw the vapours roll
In dreadful continuous of black
And shapeless masses, by the winds convulsed;
But soon in the remotest distance came
A change: the clouds were touched with sunny light,
And, as I nearer drew, I saw them dash,
Like the wild surges of an uproused sea
Of molten gold, against the marble sides
Of lofty mountains, which, though far below
My flight, yet pierced up through them all, and stood
With splintered cones and monster-snouted crags,
Immovable as fate. Beneath me, lo!
The grandeur of the kingdom of the air
Was circling in its magnitude! It was
A dread magnificence of which before
I might not even dream. I saw its quick
And subtle interchange of forms and hues,
Saw its black reservoirs of densest rain,
Its awful forges of the thunderstorm.
“At last, as onward still I swept, above
A milky mass of vapour far outspread,
Behold, reflected in its quiet gleam,
I saw an image that swept on with me,
Reversed as was the lion’s in the well,
With van-like wings, with eyeballs seething fire,
With taloned claws, and cruel down-bent beak,—
The mightiest eagle that had ever sailed
The seas of space since Adam named the first!
“My fated soul had passed into the form
Of that huge eagle which swept shadowed there.
Cold horror thrilled me! I was once again
Imprisoned in the being of a brute,
In the base being of a nature yet
Inferior by what infinite descent
To that poor remnant of intelligence
Which still kept with me,—like a put-back soul
Burningly conscious of its powers foregone,
Its inborn sovreignty of kind, and yet
So latent, self-less; once again to live
A life of carnage, and to sail abroad
A terror to all birds and gentle beasts
That heard the stormy rushings of my wings!
A royal bird indeed, who lived alone
In the great stillness of the mighty hills,
Or in the highest heavens.
“But in truth
Not much for many seasons had I need
To search for prey, for countless hosts of men,
Forth mustering over all the face of earth,
Cast the quick gleam of arms o’er trampled leagues
Of golden corn, and as they onward marched
They left behind them seas of raging fire,
In whose red surges cities thronged with men
And happy hamlets, homes of health and peace,
That rang erewhile with rural thankfulness,
Were whelmed in one wide doom; or in their strength
Confronted upon some set field of fight,
Their sullen masses charged with dreadful roar
That far out-yelled the fiercest yells of beasts,
And with brute madness rushed on wounds and death;
Or else about fenced cities they would pitch
Their crowded camps, and leaguer them for years,
Sowing the fields about them with a slime
Of carnage, till their growths were plagues alone.
What is the ravage made by brutes on brutes
To that man makes on man?
“With mingled pain
And joy I saw the wondrous ways of men,
(For ever when I hungered, close at hand,
Some fresh slain man lay smoking in his gore)
And though the instincts of the eagle’s life
Were fierce within me, yet I felt myself
Cast in a lot more capable of joy;
Safe from pursuit, from famine, and from wounds.
Some solaces, though few and far between,
Were added to me; and I argued thence,
In the dark musings of my eagle heart,
That not for ever was my soul condemned
To suffer in the body of a brute;
For though remembrance of the towering crimes
And matchless lusts, that filled my whole career
Of human life, worked in me evermore,
No longer did they shed about my life
So venomous a blight. Nay, I could think
How often I had looked with longing eyes
Up at the clear Egyptian heavens, and watched
The wings that cleft them, envying every bird
That, soaring in the sunshine, seemed to be
Exempt from all the grovelling cares of men.
I thought how once, when with my hunting train
I pierced that region round the cataracts,
I watched an eagle as it rose aloft
Into the lovely blue, and wished to change
My being with it as it floated on,
So inaccessible to hate or hurt,
So peaceful, at a height in heaven so safe;
And then it passed away through gorgeous clouds
Against the sunset, through the feathered flags
Of royal purple edged with burning gold.
“These fields of space were my dominion now;
Motion alone within a world so rich
Was something noble: but to move at will,
Upward or forward, or in circles vast,
Through boundless spaces with a rushing speed
No living thing might rival, and to see
The glory of the everlasting hills
Beneath me, and the myriad-peopled plains,
Broad rivers, and the towery towns that sate
Beside their spacious mouths, with out beyond
The lonely strength of the resounding seas—
This liberty began to move my sense
As something godlike; and in moving made
A sure impression that kept graining still
Into the texture of my brute estate—
Yea, graining in through all its fleshy lusts
And savage wonts.
“Hence ever more and more
The temper of a better spirit grew
Within me, as from inkling roots, and moved
E’en like an embryon in its moist recess:
A sensibility to beauteous things
As now I saw them in the heavens displayed,
And in the bright luxuriance of the earth;
Some power of just comparison, some sense
Of how a man would rank them, could he see
Those earthly grandeurs from the sovreign height
Whence I beheld them. And with this a wish
To commune even with the human race,
And pour the loftier wonders of my life
Into their ears, through a rich-worded song
Whose golden periods in mellow flow
Should witch all ears that heard them—ev’n old men s,
Ev’n jaded monarchs; not to speak of theirs,
Those spirit-lovely ones—yea, moons of love,
That rise at first in the Circassian hills—
And they should tingle all like tiny shells
Of roseate whiteness to its perfect chords.
“One day amid the mountains of the moon,
Behold a sudden storm had gatherd up
Out of my view, hid by a neighbouring height,
But which, thence wheeling with terrific force,
Wide tossed me with its gusts—aloft, and then
Downward as far; then whirlingly about,
Ev’n like a withered leaf. My strength of wing
Availed me nought, so mightily it raged;
Then suddenly, in the dim distance, lo!
I saw, as from the storm’s Plutonian heart,
A mass of white-hot light come writing forth,
And then the figure of a withered man
Seemed dropping headlong through the lurid clouds;
While full within the radiant light, again
The conquering son of paradise appeared,
Upon whose brow divine I yet might trace
Some sing of wrath. Onward the vision rushed,
Orbed in white light. I felt a stifling heat,
One cruel blasting pang, and headlong then
Fell earthward—dead; a plumb descending mass.
“WITHIN a rustic chamber, dark and low,
Thronged with wild-looking men and women strange,
I seemed to waken. Inwardly I felt
No briskness of existence, but a sense
Of languor rather, or revival slow:
And evermore the men and women came
And gazed upon me, shouting in amaze,
Then would they whirl about the room in dance,
Abandoned to their barbarous delight.
“I turned mine eyes about the low-roofed room,
Half fearing and half hoping I might see
The mighty angel that now ruled my life;
They thought I needed air, and I was borne
to a low casement. Like a picture lay
The world without. On all sides wide around
Nothing but mountains, feathered to their tops
With a dense growth of pines, and valleys filled
With a cold darkness that was lit alone
By the broad flashes of the furious streams
That leaped in thunder our of marble gaps!
Dull vapours, like a canopy of smoke,
Did so obscure the sun, that I had thought
The scene that now I saw was not of earth,
But for a golden flush that now and then
Would touch the highest ranges. What I was
I knew not, but I felt my former wants,
And oft I made vain efforts to expand
The wings I had no longer, and sail off,
And through those sullen vapours—up, and up—
Into the mighty silence of the blue.
“The day was fading, and a blare of horns,
With many voices and much trampling noise,
Heard from without, aroused me; and, ere long,
Women rushed in, each bearing some rich robe
Or some gay bauble, wherewithal they next
Arrayed me to their taste; and then they held
A mirror up before me, and I saw
My soul had this time passed into the form
Of a fair damsel. She, whose form I now
Re-animated, was—so learned I soon—
The only child of a Circassian chief,
Who had been long regarded by her house
As its chief treasure, for her beauty rare;
Reserved for him, no matter whence he came,
Whose hand could dip into the longest purse.
But envy lurks in the Circassian hills
As elsewhere, and a dose of opium,
Administered by one who had been long
The rival beauty of a neighbouring tribe,
Had served to quash a bargain quite complete
Save in the final payment of the gold,
Which had been even offered and told down,
And only not accepted, through some old
Delaying ceremony of the tribe;
And in this luckless circumstances, twas plain
That both my admirable parents saw
The unkindest turn of all.
“On all hands forth
Had scouts been sent to summon the whole tribe
To attend my obsequies, and then forthwith
Exterminate our ancient enemies
Through all their tents—such was the fierce resolve.
But while these things were pending, lo! The light
Had broken like a new morn from the eyes
Of the dead beauty; on her cheeks had dawned
A roseate colour; from her moistening lips
Low murmurs, too, had broken; whereupon
My parents in exulting hope transformed
The funeral to a general tribal feast,
And loaded me with all the ancient gauds
And ornaments they held. The Persian, too,
Had been invited to renew his suit,
And carry me at once beyond the reach
Of future opium doses.
“Soon he came
Galloping back to bear me to the arms
Of his long-bearded lord. He paid the price;
My worthy parents took a fond farewell
Of me, with tears declaring me to be
The life-light of their eyes, their rose of joy,—
Then stretched their palms out for the stranger’s gold,
And hurried off to count it o’er again—
The dear recovered treasure they so late
Had mourned as lost for ever. On that night
I was packed neatly on a camel’s back
Beside a precious case of porcelain pipes,
And carried Persia-ward, by stages safe,
From the Circassian mountains.
“At the court
I soon became the favourite of the king;
Lived sumptuously, but in perpetual fear:
For all my luxury and gold and gems,
I envied the poor slaves who swept the floors.
I was the favourite of my Persian lord
For one whole month, perhaps a little more,
And then I learned my place was to be filled;
And though I loathed him, as we loathe some cold
And reptile creature, yet I could not bear
To see a newer rival take my place,
For I was beautiful, and therefore vain:
So, that I might regain his favour past,
I now arrayed myself in airy robes,
While scarfs of purple like an orient queen’s
Barred them with brilliant tints, and gold and pearls
Confined the wavelets of my sunny hair.
“The harem all applauded, and there seemed
Even in his own dull eyes almost a flash
As of extorted joy, but this became
At the next moment a malignant scowl,
Which had its dark cause in such thoughts as these:
‘What! Did so soft and ignorant a thing
Hope to enchant again a man so wise
As he was—he! The paragon of kings!
By floating in before him like a swan,
A little better feathered than before?’
And then he waved the harem ladies forth,
And with him kept only a Nubian girl,
Whom he thought dull, and altogether his:
A conclave of those strange demoniac dwarfs
Who from their secret dens and crypts would come
On given signals forth, was summoned in:
Wizard-like beings, with enormous heads,
Splay-feet, and monstrous spider-fingered hands.
Nor was the council long; I on that night
Was to be poisoned with a pomegranate.
Then stole the Nubian girl away, and brought
Me word of all; yet her news moved me not,
So sure I felt that this was not my doom;
Or moved me only to prepare for flight
With the poor Nubian girl. Unseen I came
To my own chamber, where I packed my goods;
And whence, unseen by all, we swiftly fled.
’Twas plain and patent to my inmost self
That in this last change I had always been
Regenerating more and more; for though
I had a love of mischief in my head,
At heart I was not bad, and they who knew
Me closely, or at least the woman sort,
Loved me,—nay, served me, as the Nubian did.
And now, as no one else might sell me,—lo!
I sold myself, and found myself installed
Queen of a rude baboon-like Afric king.
“Then I was captive to a Bedouin sheik,
Was sold in the slave-mart of Astrachan,
And carried thence to India, to be crowned
A rajahpoot’s sultana; from which state
Flying at length, I fell into a worse,
Being pounced on by a Turkoman horse-stealer.
At Alexandra I became the slave
Of a harsh Roman matron, who was wont
To flog and famish me to make me good,
And when I owned myself converted, then
She flogged and famished me the more, to make
My goodness lasting; and I finally
Fell stabbed in Cairo—slaughtered by a slave.
“AFTER some short and intermediate terms
Of transmigration, all in female forms,
In which, through kindly offices performed,
It seemed the temper of my spirit much
Had humanized, and in the last of which
Twas mine to die for once a natural death,
Again I had some deep-down hold on being,
Dim as an oyster’s in its ocean-bed;
Then came a sense of light and air, of space,
Of hunger, comfort, warmth, of sight and sound
I caught at length the drift of speech, and knew
That all who came to see me and admire
Called me Ben Bachai’s daughter.
But lovely as a starry night I grew,
A maid, the glory of her father’s house,
Her mother’s dovelet, filling all her wonts
With tenderness and joy. Still as I grew,
By strange degrees the memory of all
That I had been came back upon my mind
To fill it with wild sorrow and dismay;
To know I was a cheat, nor wholly what
I seemed to my fond parents—that I was
But half their daughter, and the rest a fiend,
With a fiend’s destiny,—ah! This, I say,
Would smite me even in dreams with icy pangs
Or wordless woe, yea, even while I slept
So innocently as it seemed, and so
Securely happy in the arms of love!”
As this was said, the Rabbi looked, and saw
That now again the woman seemed to speak
As of herself, and not as heretofore
With moveless lips, and prisoned voice, that came
As from some dark duality within.
Her looks had changed, too, with the voice, and now
Again she lay, a queen-like creature, racked
With mortal sufferings, who, when these grew less,
Or for a time remitted, even thus
Took up her tale again.
“At length upgrown
To womanhood, by some mysterious pact
Existing twixt my father’s house and that
Of an Arabian prince time out of mind,
I was now wedded ere I wished, and he,
My husband, finally had come to claim
And bear me from my home, that happiest home
Which I should know no more: a man most fair
To look upon, but void of force, in truth
The weakling of a worn-out line, who yet
(What merit in a prince!) Was not depraved,
Not wicked, not the mendicant of lust,
But mild, and even affectionate and just.
My dowry was immense, and flushed with this
The prince had summoned from his vassal tribe
Five hundred horse, all spearmen, to escort
And guard us desert-ward. And as we went
These ever and anon, at signal given,
Would whirl around us like a thunder-cloud
Wind-torn, and shooting instant shafts of fire!
And thus we roamed about the Arabian wastes,
Pitching our camp amid the fairest spots.
Beneath an awning oft I lay, and gazed
Out at the cloudless ether, where it wrapt
The silent hills, like to a conscious power
Big with the soul of an eternal past.
“But long this life might last not, for the prince
Sickened and died;—died poor, his wealth and mine
Having been squandered on the hungry horde
That wont to prance about us; who ere long,
Divining my extremity, grew loud
And urgent for rewards, till on a day,
By concert as it seemed, the tribe entire
Came fiercely round me, all demanding gifts,
Gifts that I had not; as they nearer pressed,
Wearing his way among them, lo! I saw
The old man of the tombs! The Bactrian sage!
With signs of awe they made him room to pass;
He fixed me with his shrunk and serpent eyes,
Waved off the abject Arabs, and then asked
‘Why art thou poor? With needs so great upon thee?
I offer thee long life and wealth and power.’
“I turned to him and said: ‘Should I not know,
By all the past, the nature of thy gifts?
Shows and delusions, evil, sin-stained all,
And terminating in eternal loss.’
‘Well, take it as thou wilt,’ he said; ‘my gifts
Are not so weighed by all.’ And saying this
He went his way, while I retired within
My lonely tent to weep.
“Next day the tribes
Again assembled, and with threats and cries,
And insults loud, they raised a passion in me.
My blood arose: I chid them angrily,
Called them all things but men, till they, alarmed,
Fell back in sullen silence for a while,
Crouching like tigers ready for a spring.
Humbled, perplexed, and frightened, I returned
Into my tent, and there within its folds
Stood the weird Bactrian with his snaky eyes,
And wiry voice that questioned as before:
‘Why art thou poor? Why dost thou suffer wrong,
With all this petty baseness brattling round?
Am I not here to help thee? I, thy one
Sole friend—not empty, but with ample means.
Behold the secrets of the inner earth!
There, down among the rock-roots of the hills,
What seest thou there? Look, as I point, even those
Strange miscreations, as they seem to thee,
Are demoniac moilers that obey
Such arts as I possess; the gnomish brood
Of Demogorgon. See them how they moil
Amid those diamonds shafts and reefs of gold
Embedded in the oldest drifts of time,
And in the mire that was the first crude floor
And blind extension of the infant earth:
Why art thou poor, then, when such slaves as they
Might work for thee, and glut thy need with all
The matchless values which are there enwombed,
Serving thee always as they now serve me?
Nor these alone: turn thou thy looks aloft,
And watch the stars as they go swimming past.
Behold their vastness, each a world,’ he said;
‘The secrets of all these, too, thou shalt know,
The spirits of all these shall be thy slaves,
If thou wilt swear as erst amid the tombs.’
“The woe of desolation wrapped me round,
The joy to know all mysteries tempted me,
And with a shudder that shook me to the soul
I swore, as erst I swore amid the tombs.
“As on my hand he placed a signet-ring,
Suddenly loud the desert winds arose,
And blew with mighty stress among the tents;
And instantly aloft the thunder ran,
A mighty issue of miraculous light
Burst shaft-like forward, smiting him in twain,
Or so it seemed, down through the solid earth.
In vain I shrunk into a dim recess;
Before me stood the son of paradise.
Then leapt the soul to life within my heart—
Leapt into life with fear, and pain, and woe—
Anger and sadness both were on his brow.
“‘Could’st thou no trial bear—all but redeemed;
Could’st thou not rest content? A rabbi’s child!
Enjoy as best thou may this ill-won power
Over the darker agencies of time,
And bide the end, which end is punishment
But the more terrible, the more delayed;
Yet know this also, thou shalt thus no more
Be punished in a body built of clay.’
He vanished, leaving me to sharp remorse,
And harrowed with the thought of his grieved look.
‘And yet no power in heaven or hell,’ I said,
‘May now annul my deed.’
“And not one day
Of joy has brought to me my ‘ill-won power.’
I built vast palaces in quiet view
Of ancient cities, or by famous streams;
I filled my halls with men and women fair,
And with these pages of a beauty rare
Like striplings kidnapped from some skirt of heaven;
Yet sorrowful of countenance withal,
As knowing that their mortal doom is joined
With mine irrevocably, that with me
’Tis theirs to own these shows of time, with me
To live—with me to die. And as, ’tis said,
A hunted roe will evermore beat round
Towards whence he started first, I felt at length
An ardent longing for my native place;
That spot in all the earth where only I,
In tasting of it, had divined the worth
And Sabbath quality of household peace.
Then coming hither, thus constrained, I pitched
My dwelling here, even this thou seest; built fair,
And filled with splendours such as never yet
Under one roof-tree on this earth were stored.
See yon surpassing lustres! Could this orb
Show such? From Mars came that; from Venus this;
And yonder mass of sun-bright glory, that
From Mercury came, whence came these viols, too,
Instinct with fervent music such as ne’er
From earthly instruments might thrill abroad.”
Then seizing one of them, even as she spake,
Over its chords she moved her ivory hand,
And instantly the palace domes throughout
Rang resonant, as every hall and crypt
Were pulsing music from a thousand shells
That still ran confluent with a mellow slide
And intercourse of cadence: sweet, and yet
Most mournful and most weird, and oft intoned
With a wild wilfulness of power that worked
For madness more than joy. “Even such, ” she said
“Are the delights with which I most converse
In the dark loneness of my fated soul,
For all is show, not substance. All I hold
But darkens more the certainty I have
Of wrath to come, from which no change of place,
No earthly power, no power of heaven nor hell,
May shield me now. I see it shadowing forth
Even like a coming night, in whose dark folds
My soul would ask to hide itself in vain.
And now I go to meet the angel’s face;
I will not claim my hundred years of pride,
I trample underneath my feet the gift
For which I sold my soul; I will not touch
The ring of Sammael, nor use his power
To stay the torments that devour my life;
Misery, shame, remorse, and dread are mine;
Yet shall the angel see repentent eyes,
And know at last I could one trial bear;
Too late, too late.”
As thus the woman spake,
Her brow grew dark, and suddenly she shrieked
In her great agony. “Oh pray for me!
Pray, rabbi! For the daughter of thy friend!
The hour is coming, nay, the hour is come!”
There was a rustle as of wings aloft,
A sudden flicker in the lights below,
And she, who until now seemed speaking, sank
Back on her pillow and in silence lay
Beautiful in the marble calm of death.
The rabbi gazed on her, and thought the while
Of those far times, when, as a child, her grace
Had filled with pleasantness her father’s house.
Then to her servants gave in charge the corpse,
And forth he paced, much musing as he went.
At length he turned to gaze once more upon
The silent house of death. Can such things be?
All had evanished like a morning mist!
Only the woods that hung like clouds about
The steeps of Hebron, in the whitening dawn
Lay dark against the sky! Only a pool
Gleamed flat before him, where it seemed erewhile
The splendid palace had adorned the view!
Perplexed in mind, the rabbi turned again
And hurried homeward, muttering as he went:
Was it a vision? Can such marvels be?
But what in truth are all things, even those
That seem most solid—dust and air at last
CANTO THE FIRST.
The Serfs are glad through Lara's wide domain, 
And slavery half forgets her feudal chain;
He, their unhoped, but unforgotten lord —
The long self-exiled chieftain is restored:
There be bright faces in the busy hall,
Bowls on the board, and banners on the wall;
Far chequering o'er the pictured window, plays
The unwonted fagots' hospitable blaze;
And gay retainers gather round the hearth,
With tongues all loudness, and with eyes all mirth.
The chief of Lara is return'd again:
And why had Lara cross'd the bounding main?
Left by his sire, too young such loss to know,
Lord of himself; — that heritage of woe,
That fearful empire which the human breast
But holds to rob the heart within of rest! —
With none to check, and few to point in time
The thousand paths that slope the way to crime;
Then, when he most required commandment, then
Had Lara's daring boyhood govern'd men.
It skills not, boots not, step by step to trace
His youth through all the mazes of its race;
Short was the course his restlessness had run,
But long enough to leave him half undone.
And Lara left in youth his fatherland;
But from the hour he waved his parting hand
Each trace wax'd fainter of his course, till all
Had nearly ceased his memory to recall.
His sire was dust, his vassals could declare,
'Twas all they knew, that Lara was not there;
Nor sent, nor came he, till conjecture grew
Cold in the many, anxious in the few.
His hall scarce echoes with his wonted name,
His portrait darkens in its fading frame,
Another chief consoled his destined bride,
The young forgot him, and the old had died;
"Yet doth he live!" exclaims the impatient heir,
And sighs for sables which he must not wear.
A hundred scutcheons deck with gloomy grace
The Laras' last and longest dwelling-place;
But one is absent from the mouldering file,
That now were welcome to that Gothic pile.
He comes at last in sudden loneliness,
And whence they know not, why they need not guess;
They more might marvel, when the greeting's o'er,
Not that he came, but came not long before:
No train is his beyond a single page,
Of foreign aspect, and of tender age.
Years had roll'd on, and fast they speed away
To those that wander as to those that stay;
But lack of tidings from another clime
Had lent a flagging wing to weary Time.
They see, they recognise, yet almost deem
The present dubious, or the past a dream.
He lives, nor yet is past his manhood's prime,
Though sear'd by toil, and something touch'd by time;
His faults, whate'er they were, if scarce forgot,
Might be untaught him by his varied lot;
Nor good nor ill of late were known, his name
Might yet uphold his patrimonial fame.
His soul in youth was haughty, but his sins
No more than pleasure from the stripling wins;
And such, if not yet harden'd in their course,
Might be redeem'd, nor ask a long remorse.
And they indeed were changed — 'tis quickly seen,
Whate'er he be, 'twas not what he had been:
That brow in furrow'd lines had fix'd at last,
And spake of passions, but of passion past;
The pride, but not the fire, of early days,
Coldness of mien, and carelessness of praise;
A high demeanour, and a glance that took
Their thoughts from others by a single look;
And that sarcastic levity of tongue,
The stinging of a heart the world hath stung,
That darts in seeming playfulness around,
And makes those feel that will not own the wound:
All these seem'd his, and something more beneath
Than glance could well reveal, or accent breathe.
Ambition, glory, love, the common aim
That some can conquer, and that all would claim,
Within his breast appear'd no more to strive,
Yet seem'd as lately they had been alive;
And some deep feeling it were vain to trace
At moments lighten'd o'er his livid face.
Not much he loved long question of the past,
Nor told of wondrous wilds, and deserts vast,
In those far lands where he had wander'd lone,
And — as himself would have it seem — unknown:
Yet these in vain his eye could scarcely scan,
Nor glean experience from his fellow-man;
But what he had beheld he shunn'd to show,
As hardly worth a stranger's care to know;
If still more prying such inquiry grew,
His brow fell darker, and his words more few.
Not unrejoiced to see him once again,
Warm was his welcome to the haunts of men;
Born of high lineage, link'd in high command,
He mingled with the magnates of his land;
Join'd the carousals of the great and gay,
And saw them smile or sigh their hours away;
But still he only saw, and did not share
The common pleasure or the general care;
He did not follow what they all pursued,
With hope still baffled, still to be renew'd;
Nor shadowy honour, nor substantial gain,
Nor beauty's preference, and the rival's pain:
Around him some mysterious circle thrown
Repell'd approach, and showed him still alone;
Upon his eye sate something of reproof,
That kept at least frivolity aloof;
And things more timid that beheld him near,
In silence gazed, or whisper'd mutual fear;
And they the wiser, friendlier few confess'd
They deem'd him better than his air express'd.
'Twas strange — in youth all action and all life,
Burning for pleasure, not averse from strife;
Woman — the field — the ocean — all that gave
Promise of gladness, peril of a grave,
In turn he tried — he ransack'd all below,
And found his recompence in joy or woe,
No tame, trite medium; for his feelings sought
In that intenseness an escape from thought:
The tempest of his heart in scorn had gazed
On that the feebler elements hath raised;
The rapture of his heart had look'd on high,
And ask'd if greater dwelt beyond the sky:
Chain'd to excess, the slave of each extreme,
How woke he from the wildness of that dream?
Alas! he told not — but he did awake
To curse the wither'd heart that would not break.
Books, for his volume heretofore was Man,
With eye more curious he appear'd to scan,
And oft, in sudden mood, for many a day
From all communion he would start away:
And then, his rarely call'd attendants said,
Through night's long hours would sound his hurried tread
O'er the dark gallery, where his fathers frown'd
In rude but antique portraiture around.
They heard, but whisper'd — "that must not be known —
The sound of words less earthly than his own.
Yes, they who chose might smile, but some had seen
They scarce knew what, but more than should have been.
Why gazed he so upon the ghastly head
Which hands profane had gather'd from the dead,
That still beside his open'd volume lay,
As if to startle all save him away?
Why slept he not when others were at rest?
Why heard no music, and received no guest?
All was not well, they deem'd — but where the wrong?
Some knew perchance — but 'twere a tale too long;
And such besides were too discreetly wise,
To more than hint their knowledge in surmise;
But if they would — they could" — around the board,
Thus Lara's vassals prattled of their lord.
It was the night — and Lara's glassy stream
The stars are studding, each with imaged beam:
So calm, the waters scarcely seem to stray,
And yet they glide like happiness away;
Reflecting far and fairy-like from high
The immortal lights that live along the sky:
Its banks are fringed with many a goodly tree,
And flowers the fairest that may feast the bee;
Such in her chaplet infant Dian wove,
And Innocence would offer to her love.
These deck the shore; the waves their channel make
In windings bright and mazy like the snake.
All was so still, so soft in earth and air,
You scarce would start to meet a spirit there;
Secure that nought of evil could delight
To walk in such a scene, on such a night!
It was a moment only for the good:
So Lara deem'd, nor longer there he stood,
But turn'd in silence to his castle-gate;
Such scene his soul no more could contemplate.
Such scene reminded him of other days,
Of skies more cloudless, moons of purer blaze,
Of nights more soft and frequent, hearts that now —
No — no — the storm may beat upon his brow,
Unfelt — unsparing — but a night like this,
A night of beauty mock'd such breast as his.
He turn'd within his solitary hall,
And his high shadow shot along the wall;
There were the painted forms of other times,
'Twas all they left of virtues or of crimes,
Save vague tradition; and the gloomy vaults
That hid their dust, their foibles, and their faults;
And half a column of the pompous page,
That speeds the specious tale from age to age:
When history's pen its praise or blame supplies,
And lies like truth, and still most truly lies.
He wandering mused, and as the moonbeam shone
Through the dim lattice o'er the floor of stone,
And the high fretted roof, and saints, that there
O'er Gothic windows knelt in pictured prayer,
Reflected in fantastic figures grew,
Like life, but not like mortal life, to view;
His bristling locks of sable, brow of gloom,
And the wide waving of his shaken plume,
Glanced like a spectre's attributes, and gave
His aspect all that terror gives the grave.
'Twas midnight — all was slumber; the lone light
Dimm'd in the lamp, as loth to break the night.
Hark! there be murmurs heard in Lara's hall —
A sound — voice — a shriek — a fearful call!
A long, loud shriek — and silence — did they hear
That frantic echo burst the sleeping ear?
They heard and rose, and tremulously brave
Rush where the sound invoked their aid to save;
They come with half-lit tapers in their hands,
And snatch'd in startled haste unbelted brands.
Cold as the marble where his length was laid,
Pale as the beam that o'er his features play'd,
Was Lara stretch'd; his half-drawn sabre near,
Dropp'd it should seem in more than nature's fear;
Yet he was firm, or had been firm till now,
And still defiance knit his gather'd brow;
Though mix'd with terror, senseless as he lay,
There lived upon his lip the wish to slay;
Some half-form'd threat in utterance there had died,
Some imprecation of despairing pride;
His eye was almost seal'd, but not forsook
Even in its trance the gladiator's look,
That oft awake his aspect could disclose,
And now was fix'd in horrible repose.
They raise him — bear him: hush! he breathes, he speaks!
The swarthy blush recolours in his cheeks,
His lip resumes its red, his eye, though dim,
Rolls wide and wild, each slowly quivering limb
Recalls its function, but his words are strung
In terms that seem not of his native tongue;
Distinct but strange, enough they understand
To deem them accents of another land,
And such they were, and meant to meet an ear
That hears him not — alas! that cannot hear!
His page approach'd, and he alone appear'd
To know the import of the words they heard;
And by the changes of his cheek and brow
They were not such as Lara should avow,
Nor he interpret, yet with less surprise
Than those around their chieftain's state he eyes,
But Lara's prostrate form he bent beside,
And in that tongue which seem'd his own replied,
And Lara heeds those tones that gently seem
To soothe away the horrors of his dream;
If dream it were, that thus could overthrow
A breast that needed not ideal woe.
Whate'er his frenzy dream'd or eye beheld,
If yet remember'd ne'er to be reveal'd,
Rests at his heart: the custom'd morning came,
And breathed new vigour in his shaking frame;
And solace sought he none from priest nor leech,
And soon the same in movement and in speech
As heretofore he fill'd the passing hours,
Nor less he smiles, nor more his forehead lours
Than these were wont; and if the coming night
Appear'd less welcome now to Lara's sight,
He to his marvelling vassals shew'd it not,
Whose shuddering proved their fear was less forgot.
In trembling pairs (alone they dared not) crawl
The astonish'd slaves, and shun the fated hall;
The waving banner, and the clapping door;
The rustling tapestry, and the echoing floor;
The long dim shadows of surrounding trees,
The flapping bat, the night song of the breeze;
Aught they behold or hear their thought appals
As evening saddens o'er the dark gray walls.
Vain thought! that hour of ne'er unravell'd gloom
Came not again, or Lara could assume
A seeming of forgetfulness that made
His vassals more amazed nor less afraid —
Had memory vanish'd then with sense restored?
Since word, nor look, nor gesture of their lord
Betray'd a feeling that recall'd to these
That fever'd moment of his mind's disease.
Was it a dream? was his the voice that spoke
Those strange wild accents; his the cry that broke
Their slumber? his the oppress'd o'er-labour'd heart
That ceased to beat, the look that made them start?
Could he who thus had suffer'd, so forget
When such as saw that suffering shudder yet?
Or did that silence prove his memory fix'd
Too deep for words, indelible, unmix'd
In that corroding secresy which gnaws
The heart to shew the effect, but not the cause?
Not so in him; his breast had buried both,
Nor common gazers could discern the growth
Of thoughts that mortal lips must leave half told;
They choke the feeble words that would unfold.
In him inexplicably mix'd appear'd
Much to be loved and hated, sought and fear'd;
Opinion varying o'er his hidden lot,
In praise or railing ne'er his name forgot;
His silence form'd a theme for others' prate —
They guess'd — they gazed — they fain would know his fate.
What had he been? what was he, thus unknown,
Who walk'd their world, his lineage only known?
A hater of his kind? yet some would say,
With them he could seem gay amidst the gay;
But own'd that smile, if oft observed and near,
Waned in its mirth and wither'd to a sneer;
That smile might reach his lip, but pass'd not by,
None e'er could trace its laughter to his eye:
Yet there was softness too in his regard,
At times, a heart as not by nature hard,
But once perceived, his spirit seem'd to chide
Such weakness, as unworthy of its pride,
And steel'd itself, as scorning to redeem
One doubt from others' half withheld esteem;
In self-inflicted penance of a breast
Which tenderness might once have wrung from rest;
In vigilance of grief that would compel
The soul to hate for having loved too well.
There was in him a vital scorn of all:
As if the worst had fall'n which could befall,
He stood a stranger in this breathing world,
An erring spirit from another hurled;
A thing of dark imaginings, that shaped
By choice the perils he by chance escaped;
But 'scaped in vain, for in their memory yet
His mind would half exult and half regret:
With more capacity for love than earth
Bestows on most of mortal mould and birth,
His early dreams of good outstripp'd the truth,
And troubled manhood follow'd baffled youth;
With thought of years in phantom chase misspent,
And wasted powers for better purpose lent;
And fiery passions that had pour'd their wrath
In hurried desolation o'er his path,
And left the better feelings all at strife
In wild reflection o'er his stormy life;
But haughty still, and loth himself to blame,
He call'd on Nature's self to share the shame,
And charged all faults upon the fleshly form
She gave to clog the soul, and feast the worm;
'Till he at last confounded good and ill,
And half mistook for fate the acts of will:
Too high for common selfishness, he could
At times resign his own for others' good,
But not in pity, not because he ought,
But in some strange perversity of thought,
That sway'd him onward with a secret pride
To do what few or none would do beside;
And this same impulse would, in tempting time,
Mislead his spirit equally to crime;
So much he soar'd beyond, or sunk beneath
The men with whom he felt condemn'd to breathe,
And long'd by good or ill to separate
Himself from all who shared his mortal state;
His mind abhorring this had fix'd her throne
Far from the world, in regions of her own;
Thus coldly passing all that pass'd below,
His blood in temperate seeming now would flow:
Ah! happier if it ne'er with guilt had glow'd,
But ever in that icy smoothness flow'd:
'Tis true, with other men their path he walk'd,
And like the rest in seeming did and talk'd,
Nor outraged Reason's rules by flaw nor start,
His madness was not of the head, but heart;
And rarely wander'd in his speech, or drew
His thoughts so forth as to offend the view.
With all that chilling mystery of mien,
And seeming gladness to remain unseen,
He had (if 'twere not nature's boon) an art
Of fixing memory on another's heart:
It was not love, perchance — nor hate — nor aught
That words can image to express the thought;
But they who saw him did not see in vain,
And once beheld, would ask of him again:
And those to whom he spake remember'd well,
And on the words, however light, would dwell.
None knew nor how, nor why, but he entwined
Himself perforce around the hearer's mind;
There he was stamp'd, in liking, or in hate,
If greeted once; however brief the date
That friendship, pity, or aversion knew,
Still there within the inmost thought he grew.
You could not penetrate his soul, but found
Despite your wonder, to your own he wound.
His presence haunted still; and from the breast
He forced an all-unwilling interest;
Vain was the struggle in that mental net,
His spirit seem'd to dare you to forget!
There is a festival, where knights and dames,
And aught that wealth or lofty lineage claims,
Appear — a high-born and a welcomed guest
To Otho's hall came Lara with the rest.
The long carousal shakes the illumined hall,
Well speeds alike the banquet and the ball;
And the gay dance of bounding Beauty's train
Links grace and harmony in happiest chain:
Blest are the early hearts and gentle hands
That mingle there in well according bands;
It is a sight the careful brow might smooth,
And make Age smile, and dream itself to youth,
And Youth forget such hour was pass'd on earth,
So springs the exulting bosom to that mirth!
And Lara gazed on these sedately glad,
His brow belied him if his soul was sad,
And his glance follow'd fast each fluttering fair,
Whose steps of lightness woke no echo there:
He lean'd against the lofty pillar nigh
With folded arms and long attentive eye,
Nor mark'd a glance so sternly fix'd on his,
Ill brook'd high Lara scrutiny like this:
At length he caught it, 'tis a face unknown,
But seems as searching his, and his alone;
Prying and dark, a stranger's by his mien,
Who still till now had gazed on him unseen;
At length encountering meets the mutual gaze
Of keen inquiry, and of mute amaze;
On Lara's glance emotion gathering grew,
As if distrusting that the stranger threw;
Along the stranger's aspect fix'd and stern
Flash'd more than thence the vulgar eye could learn.
"'Tis he!" the stranger cried, and those that heard
Re-echo'd fast and far the whisper'd word.
"'Tis he!" — "'Tis who?" they question far and near,
Till louder accents rang on Lara's ear;
So widely spread, few bosoms well could brook
The general marvel, or that single look;
But Lara stirr'd not, changed not, the surprise
That sprung at first to his arrested eyes
Seem'd now subsided, neither sunk nor raised
Glanced his eye round, though still the stranger gazed;
And drawing nigh, exclaim'd, with haughty sneer,
"'Tis he! — how came he thence? — what doth he here?"
It were too much for Lara to pass by
Such question, so repeated fierce and high;
With look collected, but with accent cold,
More mildly firm than petulantly bold,
He turn'd, and met the inquisitorial tone —
"My name is Lara! — when thine own is known,
Doubt not my fitting answer to requite
The unlook'd for courtesy of such a knight.
'Tis Lara! — further wouldst thou mark or ask?
I shun no question, and I wear no mask."
"Thou shunn'st no question! Ponder — is there none
Thy heart must answer, though thine ear would shun?
And deem'st thou me unknown too? Gaze again!
At least thy memory was not given in vain.
Oh! never canst thou cancel half her debt,
Eternity forbids thee to forget."
With slow and searching glance upon his face
Grew Lara's eyes, but nothing there could trace
They knew, or chose to know — with dubious look
He deign'd no answer, but his head he shook,
And half contemptuous turn'd to pass away;
But the stern stranger motion'd him to stay.
"A word! — I charge thee stay, and answer here
To one, who, wert thou noble, were thy peer,
But as thou wast and art — nay, frown not, lord,
If false, 'tis easy to disprove the word —
But as thou wast and art, on thee looks down,
Distrusts thy smiles, but shakes not at thy frown.
Art thou not he? whose deeds — "
"Whate'er I be,
Words wild as these, accusers like to thee,
I list no further; those with whom they weigh
May hear the rest, nor venture to gainsay
The wondrous tale no doubt thy tongue can tell,
Which thus begins courteously and well.
Let Otho cherish here his polish'd guest,
To him my thanks and thoughts shall be express'd."
And here their wondering host hath interposed —
"Whate'er there be between you undisclosed,
This is no time nor fitting place to mar
The mirthful meeting with a wordy war.
If thou, Sir Ezzelin, hast ought to show
Which it befits Count Lara's ear to know,
To-morrow, here, or elsewhere, as may best
Beseem your mutual judgment, speak the rest;
I pledge myself for thee, as not unknown,
Though, like Count Lara, now return'd alone
From other lands, almost a stranger grown;
And if from Lara's blood and gentle birth
I augur right of courage and of worth,
He will not that untainted line belie,
Nor aught that knighthood may accord deny."
"To-morrow be it," Ezzelin replied,
"And here our several worth and truth be tried:
I gage my life, my falchion to attest
My words, so may I mingle with the blest!"
What answers Lara? to its centre shrunk
His soul, in deep abstraction sudden sunk;
The words of many, and the eyes of all
That there were gather'd, seem'd on him to fall;
But his were silent, his appear'd to stray
In far forgetfulness away — away —
Alas! that heedlessness of all around
Bespoke remembrance only too profound.
"To-morrow! — ay, to-morrow!" — further word
Than those repeated none from Lara heard;
Upon his brow no outward passion spoke,
From his large eye no flashing anger broke;
Yet there was something fix'd in that low tone
Which shew'd resolve, determined, though unknown.
He seized his cloak — his head he slightly bow'd,
And passing Ezzelin he left the crowd;
And as he pass'd him, smiling met the frown
With which that chieftain's brow would bear him down:
It was nor smile of mirth, nor struggling pride
That curbs to scorn the wrath it cannot hide;
But that of one in his own heart secure
Of all that he would do, or could endure.
Could this mean peace? the calmness of the good?
Or guilt grown old in desperate hardihood?
Alas! too like in confidence are each
For man to trust to mortal look or speech;
From deeds, and deeds alone, may he discern
Truths which it wrings the unpractised heart to learn.
And Lara call'd his page, and went his way —
Well could that stripling word or sign obey:
His only follower from those climes afar
Where the soul glows beneath a brighter star;
For Lara left the shore from whence he sprung,
In duty patient, and sedate though young;
Silent as him he served, his fate appears
Above his station, and beyond his years.
Though not unknown the tongue of Lara's land,
In such from him he rarely heard command;
But fleet his step, and clear his tones would come,
When Lara's lip breathed forth the words of home:
Those accents, as his native mountains dear,
Awake their absent echoes in his ear,
Friends', kindreds', parents', wonted voice recall,
Now lost, abjured, for one — his friend, his all:
For him earth now disclosed no other guide;
What marvel then he rarely left his side?
Light was his form, and darkly delicate
That brow whereon his native sun had sate,
But had not marr'd, though in his beams he grew,
The cheek where oft the unbidden blush shone through;
Yet not such blush as mounts when health would show
All the heart's hue in that delighted glow;
But 'twas a hectic tint of secret care
That for a burning moment fever'd there;
And the wild sparkle of his eye seem'd caught
From high, and lighten'd with electric thought,
Though its black orb those long low lashes' fringe
Had temper'd with a melancholy tinge;
Yet less of sorrow than of pride was there,
Or, if 'twere grief, a grief that none should share:
And pleased not him the sports that please his age,
The tricks of youth, the frolics of the page;
For hours on Lara he would fix his glance,
As all-forgotten in that watchful trance;
And from his chief withdrawn, he wander'd lone,
Brief were his answers, and his questions none;
His walk the wood, his sport some foreign book;
His resting-place the bank that curbs the brook;
He seem'd, like him he served, to live apart
From all that lures the eye, and fills the heart;
To know no brotherhood; and take from earth
No gift beyond that bitter boon — our birth.
If aught he loved, 'twas Lara; but was shown
His faith in reverence and in deeds alone;
In mute attention; and his care, which guess'd
Each wish, fulfill'd it ere the tongue express'd.
Still there was haughtiness in all he did,
A spirit deep that brook'd not to be chid;
His zeal, though more than that of servile hands,
In act alone obeys, his air commands;
As if 'twas Lara's less than his desire
That thus he served, but surely not for hire.
Slight were the tasks enjoin'd him by his lord,
To hold the stirrup, or to bear the sword;
To tune his lute, or, if he will'd it more,
On tomes of other times and tongues to pore;
But ne'er to mingle with the menial train,
To whom he shew'd not deference nor disdain,
But that well-worn reserve which proved he knew
No sympathy with that familiar crew:
His soul, whate'er his station or his stem,
Could bow to Lara, not descend to them.
Of higher birth he seem'd, and better days,
Nor mark of vulgar toil that hand betrays,
So femininely white it might bespeak
Another sex, when match'd with that smooth cheek,
But for his garb, and something in his gaze,
More wild and high than woman's eye betrays;
A latent fierceness that far more became
His fiery climate than his tender frame:
True, in his words it broke not from his breast,
But from his aspect might be more than guess'd.
Kaled his name, though rumour said he bore
Another ere he left his mountain shore;
For sometimes he would hear, however nigh,
That name repeated loud without reply,
As unfamiliar, or, if roused again,
Start to the sound, as but remember'd then;
Unless 'twas Lara's wonted voice that spake,
For then, ear, eyes, and heart would all awake.
He had look'd down upon the festive hall,
And mark'd that sudden strife so mark'd of all;
And when the crowd around and near him told
Their wonder at the calmness of the bold,
Their marvel how the high-born Lara bore
Such insult from a stranger, doubly sore,
The colour of young Kaled went and came,
The lip of ashes, and the cheek of flame;
And o'er his brow the dampening heart-drops threw
The sickening iciness of that cold dew
That rises as the busy bosom sinks
With heavy thoughts from which reflection shrinks.
Yes — there be things which we must dream and dare
And execute ere thought be half aware:
Whate'er might Kaled's be, it was enow
To seal his lip, but agonise his brow.
He gazed on Ezzelin till Lara cast
That sidelong smile upon on the knight he pass'd;
When Kaled saw that smile his visage fell,
As if on something recognised right well;
His memory read in such a meaning more
Than Lara's aspect unto others wore.
Forward he sprung — a moment, both were gone,
And all within that hall seem'd left alone;
Each had so fix'd his eye on Lara's mien,
All had so mix'd their feelings with that scene,
That when his long dark shadow through the porch
No more relieves the glare of yon high torch,
Each pulse beats quicker, and all bosoms seem
To bound as doubting from too black a dream,
Such as we know is false, yet dread in sooth,
Because the worst is ever nearest truth.
And they are gone — but Ezzelin is there,
With thoughtful visage and imperious air;
But long remain'd not; ere an hour expired
He waved his hand to Otho, and retired.
The crowd are gone, the revellers at rest;
The courteous host, and all-approving guest,
Again to that accustom'd couch must creep
Where joy subsides, and sorrow sighs to sleep,
And man, o'erlabour'd with his being's strife,
Shrinks to that sweet forgetfulness of life:
There lie love's feverish hope. and cunning's guile,
Hate's working brain and lull'd ambition's wile;
O'er each vain eye oblivion's pinions wave,
And quench'd existence crouches in a grave.
What better name may slumber's bed become?
Night's sepulchre, the universal home,
Where weakness, strength, vice, virtue, sunk supine,
Alike in naked helplessness recline;
Glad for awhile to heave unconscious breath,
Yet wake to wrestle with the dread of death,
And shun, though day but dawn on ills increased,
That sleep, the loveliest, since it dreams the least.
CANTO THE SECOND.
Night wanes — the vapours round the mountains curl'd,
Melt into morn, and Light awakes the world.
Man has another day to swell the past,
And lead him near to little, but his last;
But mighty Nature bounds as from her birth,
The sun is in the heavens, and life on earth;
Flowers in the valley, splendour in the beam,
Health on the gale, and freshness in the stream.
Immortal man! behold her glories shine,
And cry, exulting inly, "They are thine!"
Gaze on, while yet thy gladden'd eye may see,
A morrow comes when they are not for thee;
And grieve what may above thy senseless bier,
Nor earth nor sky will yield a single tear;
Nor cloud shall gather more, nor leaf shall fall,
Nor gale breathe forth one sigh for thee, for all;
But creeping things shall revel in their spoil,
And fit thy clay to fertilise the soil.
'Tis morn — 'tis noon — assembled in the hall,
The gather'd chieftains come to Otho's call:
'Tis now the promised hour, that must proclaim
The life or death of Lara's future fame;
When Ezzelin his charge may here unfold,
And whatsoe'er the tale, it must be told.
His faith was pledged, and Lara's promise given,
To meet it in the eye of man and Heaven.
Why comes he not? Such truths to be divulged,
Methinks the accuser's rest is long indulged.
The hour is past, and Lara too is there,
With self-confiding, coldly patient air;
Why comes not Ezzelin? The hour is past,
And murmurs rise, and Otho's brow's o'ercast,
"I know my friend! his faith I cannot fear,
If yet he be on earth, expect him here;
The roof that held him in the valley stands
Between my own and noble Lara's lands;
My halls from such a guest had honour gain'd,
Nor had Sir Ezzelin his host disdain'd,
But that some previous proof forbade his stay,
And urged him to prepare against to-day;
The word I pledge for his I pledge again,
Or will myself redeem his knighthood's stain."
He ceased — and Lara answer'd, "I am here
To lend at thy demand a listening ear,
To tales of evil from a stranger's tongue,
Whose words already might my heart have wrung,
But that I deem'd him scarcely less than mad,
Or, at the worst, a foe ignobly bad.
I know him not — but me it seems he knew
In lands where — but I must not trifle too:
Produce this babbler — or redeem the pledge;
Here in thy hold, and with thy falchion's edge."
Proud Otho on the instant, reddening, threw
His glove on earth, and forth his sabre flew.
"The last alternative befits me best,
And thus I answer for mine absent guest."
With cheek unchanging from its sallow gloom,
However near his own or other's tomb;
With hand, whose almost careless coolness spoke
Its grasp well-used to deal the sabre-stroke;
With eye, though calm, determined not to spare,
Did Lara too his willing weapon bare.
In vain the circling chieftains round them closed,
For Otho's frenzy would not be opposed;
And from his lip those words of insult fell —
His sword is good who can maintain them well.
Short was the conflict; furious, blindly rash,
Vain Otho gave his bosom to the gash:
He bled, and fell; but not with deadly wound,
Stretch'd by a dextrous sleight along the ground.
"Demand thy life!" He answer'd not: and then
From that red floor he ne'er had risen again,
For Lara's brow upon the moment grew
Almost to blackness in its demon hue;
And fiercer shook his angry falchion now
Than when his foe's was levell'd at his brow;
Then all was stern collectedness and art,
Now rose the unleaven'd hatred of his heart;
So little sparing to the foe he fell'd,
That when the approaching crowd his arm withheld
He almost turn'd the thirsty point on those
Who thus for mercy dared to interpose;
But to a moment's thought that purpose bent;
Yet look'd he on him still with eye intent,
As if he loathed the ineffectual strife
That left a foe, howe'er o'erthrown, with life;
As if to search how far the wound he gave
Had sent its victim onward to his grave.
They raised the bleeding Otho, and the Leech
Forbade all present question, sign, and speech;
The others met within a neighbouring hall,
And he, incensed and heedless of them all,
The cause and conqueror in this sudden fray,
In haughty silence slowly strode away;
He back'd his steed, his homeward path he took,
Nor cast on Otho's tower a single look.
But where was he? that meteor of a night,
Who menaced but to disappear with light.
Where was this Ezzelin? who came and went
To leave no other trace of his intent.
He left the dome of Otho long ere morn,
In darkness, yet so well the path was worn
He could not miss it: near his dwelling lay;
But there he was not, and with coming day
Came fast inquiry, which unfolded nought
Except the absence of the chief it sought.
A chamber tenantless, a steed at rest,
His host alarm'd, his murmuring squires distress'd:
Their search extends along, around the path,
In dread to met the marks of prowlers' wrath:
But none are there, and not a brake hath borne
Nor gout of blood, nor shred of mantle torn;
Nor fall nor struggle hath defaced the grass,
Which still retains a mark where murder was;
Nor dabbling fingers left to tell the tale,
The bitter print of each convulsive nail,
When agonised hands that cease to guard,
Wound in that pang the smoothness of the sward.
Some such had been, if here a life was reft,
But these were not; and doubting hope is left;
And strange suspicion, whispering Lara's name,
Now daily mutters o'er his blacken'd fame;
Then sudden silent when his form appear'd,
Awaits the absence of the thing it fear'd;
Again its wonted wondering to renew,
And dye conjecture with a darker hue.
Days roll along, and Otho's wounds are heal'd,
But not his pride; and hate no more conceal'd:
He was a man of power, and Lara's foe,
The friend of all who sought to work him woe,
And from his country's justice now demands
Account of Ezzelin at Lara's hands.
Who else than Lara could have cause to fear
His presence? who had made him disappear,
If not the man on whom his menaced charge
Had sate too deeply were he left at large?
The general rumour ignorantly loud,
The mystery dearest to the curious crowd;
The seeming friendlessness of him who strove
To win no confidence, and wake no love;
The sweeping fierceness which his soul betray'd,
The skill with which he wielded his keen blade;
Where had his arm unwarlike caught that art?
Where had that fierceness grown upon his heart?
For it was not the blind capricious rage
A word can kindle and a word assuage;
But the deep working of a soul unmix'd
With aught of pity where its wrath had fix'd;
Such as long power and overgorged success
Concentrates into all that's merciless:
These, link'd with that desire which ever sways
Mankind, the rather to condemn than praise,
'Gainst Lara gathering raised at length a storm,
Such as himself might fear, and foes would form,
And he must answer for the absent head
Of one that haunts him still, alive or dead.
Within that land was many a malcontent,
Who cursed the tyranny to which he bent;
That soil full many a wringing despot saw,
Who work'd his wantonness in form of law;
Long war without and frequent broil within
Had made a path for blood and giant sin,
That waited but a signal to begin
New havoc, such as civil discord blends,
Which knows no neuter, owns but foes or friends;
Fix'd in his feudal fortress each was lord,
In word and deed obey'd, in soul abhorr'd.
Thus Lara had inherited his lands,
And with them pining hearts and sluggish hands;
But that long absence from his native clime
Had left him stainless of oppression's crime,
And now, diverted by his milder sway,
All dread by slow degrees had worn away;
The menials felt their usual awe alone,
But more for him than them that fear was grown;
They deem'd him now unhappy, though at first
Their evil judgment augur'd of the worst,
And each long restless night, and silent mood,
Was traced to sickness, fed by solitude:
And though his lonely habits threw of late
Gloom o'er his chamber, cheerful was his gate;
For thence the wretched ne'er unsoothed withdrew,
For them, at least, his soul compassion knew.
Cold to the great, contemptuous to the high,
The humble pass'd not his unheeding eye;
Much he would speak not, but beneath his roof
They found asylum oft, and ne'er reproof.
And they who watch'd might mark that, day by day,
Some new retainers gather'd to his sway;
But most of late, since Ezzelin was lost,
He play'd the courteous lord and bounteous host:
Perchance his strife with Otho made him dread
Some snare prepared for his obnoxious head;
Whate'er his view, his favour more obtains
With these, the people, than his fellow thanes.
If this were policy, so far 'twas sound,
The million judged but of him as they found;
From him by sterner chiefs to exile driven
They but required a shelter, and 'twas given.
By him no peasant mourn'd his rifled cot,
And scarce the serf could murmur o'er his lot;
With him old avarice found its hoard secure,
With him contempt forbore to mock the poor;
Youth present cheer and promised recompense
Detain'd, till all too late to part from thence:
To hate he offer'd, with the coming change,
The deep reversion of delay'd revenge;
To love, long baffled by the unequal match,
The well-won charms success was sure to snatch.
All now was ripe, he waits but to proclaim
That slavery nothing which was still a name.
The moment came, the hour when Otho thought
Secure at last the vengeance which he sought
His summons found the destined criminal
Begirt by thousands in his swarming hall,
Fresh from their feudal fetters newly riven,
Defying earth, and confident of heaven.
That morning he had freed the soil-bound slaves
Who dig no land for tyrants but their graves!
Such is their cry — some watchword for the fight
Must vindicate the wrong, and warp the right;
Religion — freedom — vengeance — what you will,
A word's enough to raise mankind to kill;
Some factious phrase by cunning caught and spread,
That guilt may reign, and wolves and worms be fed!
Throughout that clime the feudal chiefs had gain'd
Such sway, their infant monarch hardly reign'd;
Now was the hour for faction's rebel growth,
The serfs contemn'd the one, and hated both:
They waited but a leader, and they found
One to their cause inseparably bound;
By circumstance compell'd to plunge again,
In self-defence, amidst the strife of men.
Cut off by some mysterious fate from those
Whom birth and nature meant not for his foes,
Had Lara from that night, to him accurst,
Prepared to meet, but not alone, the worst:
Some reason urged, whate'er it was, to shun
Inquiry into deeds at distance done;
By mingling with his own the cause of all,
E'en if he fail'd, he still delay'd his fall.
The sullen calm that long his bosom kept,
The storm that once had spent itself and slept,
Roused by events that seem'd foredoom'd to urge
His gloomy fortunes to their utmost verge,
Burst forth, and made him all he once had been,
And is again; he only changed the scene.
Light care had he for life, and less for fame,
But not less fitted for the desperate game:
He deem'd himself mark'd out for others' hate,
And mock'd at ruin, so they shared his fate.
What cared he for the freedom of the crowd?
He raised the humble but to bend the proud.
He had hoped quiet in his sullen lair,
But man and destiny beset him there:
Inured to hunters, he was found at bay;
And they must kill, they cannot snare the prey.
Stern, unambitious, silent he had been
Henceforth a calm spectator of life's scene;
But dragg'd again upon the arena, stood
A leader not unequal to the feud;
In voice — mien — gesture — savage nature spoke,
And from his eye the gladiator broke.
What boots the oft-repeated tale of strife,
The feast of vultures, and the waste of life?
The varying fortune of each separate field,
The fierce that vanquish, and the faint that yield?
The smoking ruin, and the crumbled wall?
In this the struggle was the same with all;
Save that distemper'd passions lent their force
In bitterness that banish'd all remorse.
None sued, for Mercy know her cry was vain,
The captive died upon the battle-slain:
In either cause, one rage alone possess'd
The empire of the alternate victor's breast;
And they that smote for freedom or for sway,
Deem'd few were slain, while more remain'd to slay.
It was too late to check the wasting brand,
And Desolation reap'd the famish'd land;
The torch was lighted, and the flame was spread,
And Carnage smiled upon her daily bread.
Fresh with the nerve the new-born impulse strung,
The first success to Lara's numbers clung:
But that vain victory hath ruin'd all;
They form no longer to their leader's call:
In blind confusion on the foe they press,
And think to snatch is to secure success.
The lust of booty, and the thirst of hate,
Lure on the broken brigands to their fate:
In vain he doth whate'er a chief may do,
To check the headlong fury of that crew,
In vain their stubborn ardour he would tame,
The hand that kindles cannot quench the flame.
The wary foe alone hath turn'd their mood,
And shewn their rashness to that erring brood:
The feign'd retreat, the nightly ambuscade,
The daily harass, and the fight delay'd,
The long privation of the hoped supply,
The tentless rest beneath the humid sky,
The stubborn wall that mocks the leaguer's art,
And palls the patience of his baffled heart,
Of these they had not deem'd: the battle-day
They could encounter as a veteran may;
But more preferr'd the fury of the strife,
And present death, to hourly suffering life:
And famine wrings, and fever sweeps away
His numbers melting fast from their array;
Intemperate triumph fades to discontent,
And Lara's soul alone seems still unbent:
But few remain to aid his voice and hand,
And thousands dwindled to a scanty band:
Desperate, though few, the last and best remain'd
To mourn the discipline they late disdain'd.
One hope survives, the frontier is not far,
And thence they may escape from native war;
And bear within them to the neighbouring state
An exile's sorrows, or an outlaw's hate:
Hard is the task their fatherland to quit,
But harder still to perish or submit.
It is resolved — they march — consenting Night
Guides with her star their dim and torchless flight;
Already they perceive its tranquil beam
Sleep on the surface of the barrier stream;
Already they descry — Is yon the bank?
Away! 'tis lined with many a hostile rank.
Return or fly! — What glitters in the rear?
'Tis Otho's banner — the pursuer's spear!
Are those the shepherds' fires upon the height?
Alas! they blaze too widely for the flight:
Cut off from hope, and compass'd in the toil,
Less blood, perchance, hath bought a richer spoil!
A moment's pause — 'tis but to breathe their band
Or shall they onward press, or here withstand?
It matters little — if they charge the foes
Who by their border-stream their march oppose,
Some few, perchance, may break and pass the line,
However link'd to baffle such design.
"The charge be ours! to wait for their assault
Were fate well worthy of a coward's halt."
Forth flies each sabre, rein'd is every steed,
And the next word shall scarce outstrip the deed:
In the next tone of Lara's gathering breath
How many shall but hear the voice of death!
His blade is bared — in him there is an air
As deep, but far too tranquil for despair;
A something of indifference more than then
Becomes the bravest, if they feel for men.
He turn'd his eye on Kaled, ever near,
And still too faithful to betray one fear;
Perchance 'twas but the moon's dim twilight threw
Along his aspect an unwonted hue
Of mournful paleness, whose deep tint express'd
The truth, and not the terror of his breast.
This Lara mark'd, and laid his hand on his:
It trembled not in such an hour as this;
His lip was silent, scarcely beat his heart,
His eye alone proclaim'd —
"We will not part!
Thy band may perish, or thy friends may flee,
Farewell to life, but not adieu to thee!"
The word hath pass'd his lips, and onward driven,
Pours the link'd band through ranks asunder riven;
Well has each steed obey'd the armed heel,
And flash the scimitars, and rings the steel;
Outnumber'd, not outbraved, they still oppose
Despair to daring, and a front to foes;
And blood is mingled with the dashing stream,
Which runs all redly till the morning beam.
Commanding, aiding, animating all,
Where foe appear'd to press, or friend to fall,
Cheers Lara's voice, and waves or strikes his steel,
Inspiring hope himself had ceased to feel.
None fled, for well they knew that flight were vain,
But those that waver turn to smite again,
While yet they find the firmest of the foe
Recoil before their leader's look and blow;
Now girt with numbers, now almost alone,
He foils their ranks, or reunites his own;
Himself he spared not — once they seem'd to fly —
Now was the time, he waved his hand on high,
And shook — Why sudden droops that plumed crest?
The shaft is sped — the arrow's in his breast!
That fatal gesture left the unguarded side,
And Death hath stricken down yon arm of pride.
The word of triumph fainted from his tongue;
That hand, so raised, how droopingly it hung!
But yet the sword instinctively retains,
Though from its fellow shrink the falling reins;
These Kaled snatches: dizzy with the blow,
And senseless bending o'er his saddle-bow
Perceives not Lara that his anxious page
Beguiles his charger from the combat's rage:
Meantime his followers charge and charge again;
Too mix'd the slayers now to heed the slain!
Day glimmers on the dying and the dead,
The cloven cuirass, and the helmless head;
The war-horse masterless is on the earth,
And that last gasp hath burst his bloody girth:
And near, yet quivering with what life remain'd,
The heel that urged him, and the hand that rein'd:
And some too near that rolling torrent lie,
Whose waters mock the lip of those that die;
That panting thirst which scorches in the breath
Of those that die the soldier's fiery death,
In vain impels the burning mouth to crave
One drop — the last — to cool it for the grave;
With feeble and convulsive effort swept
Their limbs along the crimson'd turf have crept:
The faint remains of life such struggles waste,
But yet they reach the stream, and bend to taste:
They feel its freshness, and almost partake —
Why pause? — No further thirst have they to slake —
It is unquench'd, and yet they feel it not —
It was an agony — but now forgot!
Beneath a lime, remoter from the scene,
Where but for him that strife had never been,
A breathing but devoted warrior lay:
'Twas Lara bleeding fast from life away.
His follower once, and now his only guide,
Kneels Kaled watchful o'er his welling side,
And with his scarf would stanch the tides that rush
With each convulsion in a blacker gush;
And then, as his faint breathing waxes low,
In feebler, not less fatal tricklings flow:
He scarce can speak, but motions him 'tis vain,
And merely adds another throb to pain.
He clasps the hand that pang which would assuage,
And sadly smiles his thanks to that dark page,
Who nothing fears, nor feels, nor heeds, nor sees,
Save that damp brow which rests upon his knees;
Save that pale aspect, where the eye, though dim,
Held all the light that shone on earth for him.
The foe arrives, who long had search'd the field,
Their triumph nought till Lara too should yield;
They would remove him, but they see 'twere vain,
And he regards them with a calm disdain,
That rose to reconcile him with his fate,
And that escape to death from living hate:
And Otho comes, and leaping from his steed,
Looks on the bleeding foe that made him bleed,
And questions of his state; he answers not,
Scarce glances on him as on one forgot,
And turns to Kaled: — each remaining word,
They understood not, if distinctly heard;
His dying tones are in that other tongue,
To which some strange remembrance wildly clung.
They spake of other scenes, but what — is known
To Kaled, whom their meaning reach'd alone;
And he replied, though faintly, to their sound,
While gazed the rest in dumb amazement round:
They seem'd even then — that twain — unto the last
To half forget the present in the past;
To share between themselves some separate fate,
Whose darkness none beside should penetrate.
Their words though faint were many — from the tone
Their import those who heard could judge alone;
From this, you might have deem'd young Kaled's death
More near than Lara's by his voice and breath,
So sad, so deep, and hesitating broke
The accents his scarce-moving pale lips spoke;
But Lara's voice, though low, at first was clear
And calm, till murmuring death gasp'd hoarsely near:
But from his visage little could we guess,
So unrepentant, dark, and passionless,
Save that when struggling nearer to his last,
Upon that page his eye was kindly cast;
And once, as Kaled's answering accents ceased,
Rose Lara's hand, and pointed to the East:
Whether (as then the breaking sun from high
Roll'd back the clouds) the morrow caught his eye,
Or that 'twas chance, or some remember'd scene
That raised his arm to point where such had been,
Scarce Kaled seem'd to know, but turn'd away,
As if his heart abhorr'd that coming day,
And shrunk his glance before that morning light
To look on Lara's brow — where all grew night.
Yet sense seem'd left, though better were its loss;
For when one near display'd the absolving cross,
And proffer'd to his touch the holy bead,
Of which his parting soul might own the need,
He look'd upon it with an eye profane,
And smiled — Heaven pardon! if 'twere with disdain;
And Kaled, though he spoke not, nor withdrew
From Lara's face his fix'd despairing view,
With brow repulsive, and with gesture swift,
Flung back the hand which held the sacred gift,
As if such but disturb'd the expiring man,
Nor seem'd to know his life but then began,
The life immortal infinite, secure,
To all for whom that cross hath made it sure!
But gasping heaved the breath that Lara drew,
And dull the film along his dim eye grew;
His limbs stretch'd fluttering, and his head droop'd o'er
The weak yet still untiring knee that bore:
He press'd the hand he held upon his heart —
It beats no more, but Kaled will not part
With the cold grasp, but feels, and feels in vain,
For that faint throb which answers not again.
"It beats!" — Away, thou dreamer! he is gone —
It once was Lara which thou look'st upon.
He gazed, as if not yet had pass'd away
The haughty spirit of that humble clay;
And those around have roused him from his trance,
But cannot tear from thence his fixed glance;
And when in raising him from where he bore
Within his arms the form that felt no more,
He saw the head his breast would still sustain,
Roll down like earth to earth upon the plain;
He did not dash himself thereby, nor tear
The glossy tendrils of his raven hair,
But strove to stand and gaze, but reel'd and fell,
Scarce breathing more than that he loved so well.
Than that he lov'd! Oh! never yet beneath
The breast of man such trusty love may breathe!
That trying moment hath at once reveal'd
The secret long and yet but half conceal'd;
In baring to revive that lifeless breast,
Its grief seem'd ended, but the sex confess'd;
And life return'd, and Kaled felt no shame —
What now to her was Womanhood or Fame?
And Lara sleeps not where his fathers sleep,
But where he died his grave was dug as deep;
Nor is his mortal slumber less profound,
Though priest nor bless'd, nor marble deck'd the mound;
And he was mourn'd by one whose quiet grief,
Less loud, outlasts a people's for their chief.
Vain was all question ask'd her of the past,
And vain e'en menace — silent to the last;
She told nor whence nor why she left behind
Her all for one who seem'd but little kind.
Why did she love him? Curious fool! — be still —
Is human love the growth of human will?
To her he might be gentleness; the stern
Have deeper thoughts than your dull eyes discern,
And when they love, your smilers guess not how
Beats the strong heart, though less the lips avow.
They were not common links that form'd the chain
That bound to Lara Kaled's heart and brain;
But that wild tale she brook'd not to unfold,
And seal'd is now each lip that could have told.
They laid him in the earth, and on his breast,
Besides the wound that sent his soul to rest,
They found the scattered dints of many a scar
Which were not planted there in recent war:
Where'er had pass'd his summer years of life,
It seems they vanish'd in a land of strife;
But all unknown his glory or his guilt,
These only told that somewhere blood was spilt.
And Ezzelin, who might have spoke the past,
Return'd no more — that night appear'd his last.
Upon that night (a peasant's is the tale)
A Serf that cross'd the intervening vale,
When Cynthia's light almost gave way to morn,
And nearly veil'd in mist her waning horn;
A Serf, that rose betimes to thread the wood,
And hew the bough that bought his children's food,
Pass'd by the river that divides the plain
Of Otho's lands and Lara's broad domain:
He heard a tramp — a horse and horseman broke
From out the wood — before him was a cloak
Wrapt round some burthen at his saddle-bow,
Bent was his head, and hidden was his brow.
Roused by the sudden sight at such a time,
And some foreboding that it might be crime,
Himself unheeded watch'd the stranger's course,
Who reach'd the river, bounded from his horse,
And lifting thence the burthen which he bore,
Heaved up the bank, and dash'd it from the shore, 
Then paused, and look'd, and turn'd, and seem'd to watch,
And still another hurried glance would snatch,
And follow with his step the stream that flow'd,
As if even yet too much its surface show'd:
At once he started, stoop'd, around him strewn
The winter floods had scatter'd heaps of stone;
Of these the heaviest thence he gather'd there,
And slung them with a more than common care.
Meantime the Serf had crept to where unseen
Himself might safely mark what this might mean.
He caught a glimpse, as of a floating breast,
And something glitter'd starlike on the vest,
But ere he well could mark the buoyant trunk,
A massy fragment smote it, and it sunk:
It rose again, but indistinct to view,
And left the waters of a purple hue,
Then deeply disappear'd: the horseman gazed
Till ebb'd the latest eddy it had raised;
Then turning, vaulted on his pawing steed,
And instant spurr'd him into panting speed.
His face was mask'd — the features of the dead,
If dead it were, escaped the observer's dread;
But if in sooth a star its bosom bore,
Such is the badge that knighthood ever wore,
And such 'tis known Sir Ezzelin had worn
Upon the night that led to such a morn.
If thus he perish'd, Heaven receive his soul!
His undiscover'd limbs to ocean roll;
And charity upon the hope would dwell
It was not Lara's hand by which he fell.
And Kaled — Lara — Ezzelin, are gone,
Alike without their monumental stone!
The first, all efforts vainly strove to wean
From lingering where her chieftain's blood had been.
Grief had so tamed a spirit once too proud,
Her tears were few, her wailing ne
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage: A Romaunt. Canto IV.
I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter's wand:
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying Glory smiles
O'er the far times, when many a subject land
Look'd to the winged Lion's marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state, thron'd on her hundred isles!
She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,
Rising with her tiara of proud towers
At airy distance, with majestic motion,
A ruler of the waters and their powers:
And such she was; her daughters had their dowers
From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East
Pour'd in her lap all gems in sparkling showers.
In purple was she rob'd, and of her feast
Monarchs partook, and deem'd their dignity increas'd.
In Venice Tasso's echoes are no more,
And silent rows the songless gondolier;
Her palaces are crumbling to the shore,
And music meets not always now the ear:
Those days are gone -- but Beauty still is here.
States fall, arts fade -- but Nature doth not die,
Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear,
The pleasant place of all festivity,
The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy!
But unto us she hath a spell beyond
Her name in story, and her long array
Of mighty shadows, whose dim forms despond
Above the dogeless city's vanish'd sway;
Ours is a trophy which will not decay
With the Rialto; Shylock and the Moor,
And Pierre, cannot be swept or worn away --
The keystones of the arch! though all were o'er,
For us repeopl'd were the solitary shore.
The beings of the mind are not of clay;
Essentially immortal, they create
And multiply in us a brighter ray
And more belov'd existence: that which Fate
Prohibits to dull life, in this our state
Of mortal bondage, by these spirits supplied,
First exiles, then replaces what we hate;
Watering the heart whose early flowers have died,
And with a fresher growth replenishing the void.
Such is the refuge of our youth and age,
The first from Hope, the last from Vacancy;
And this worn feeling peoples many a page,
And, maybe, that which grows beneath mine eye:
Yet there are things whose strong reality
Outshines our fairy-land; in shape and hues
More beautiful than our fantastic sky,
And the strange constellations which the Muse
O'er her wild universe is skilful to diffuse:
I saw or dream'd of such -- but let them go;
They came like truth -- and disappear'd like dreams;
And whatsoe'er they were -- are now but so:
I could replace them if I would; still teems
My mind with many a form which aptly seems
Such as I sought for, and at moments found;
Let these too go -- for waking Reason deems
Such overweening fantasies unsound,
And other voices speak, and other sights surround.
I've taught me other tongues, and in strange eyes
Have made me not a stranger; to the mind
Which is itself, no changes bring surprise;
Nor is it harsh to make, nor hard to find
A country with -- ay, or without mankind;
Yet was I born where men are proud to be --
Not without cause; and should I leave behind
The inviolate island of the sage and free,
And seek me out a home by a remoter sea,
Perhaps I lov'd it well: and should I lay
My ashes in a soil which is not mine,
My spirit shall resume it -- if we may
Unbodied choose a sanctuary. I twine
My hopes of being remember'd in my line
With my land's language: if too fond and far
These aspirations in their scope incline,
If my fame should be, as my fortunes are,
Of hasty growth and blight, and dull Oblivion bar
My name from out the temple where the dead
Are honour'd by the nations -- let it be --
And light the laurels on a loftier head!
And be the Spartan's epitaph on me --
'Sparta hath many a worthier son than he.'
Meantime I seek no sympathies, nor need;
The thorns which I have reap'd are of the tree
I planted: they have torn me, and I bleed:
I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.
The spouseless Adriatic mourns her lord;
And annual marriage now no more renew'd,
The Bucentaur lies rotting unrestored,
Neglected garment of her widowhood!
St. Mark yet sees his lion where he stood
Stand, but in mockery of his wither'd power,
Over he proud Place where an Emperor sued,
And monarchs gaz'd and envied in the hour
When Venice was a queen with an unequall'd dower.
The Suabian sued, and now the Austrian reigns --
An Emperor tramples where an Emperor knelt;
Kingdoms are shrunk to provinces, and chains
Clank over sceptred cities, nations melt
From power's high pinnacle, when they have felt
The sunshine for a while, and downward go
Like Lauwine loosen'd from the mountain's belt;
Oh for one hour of blind old Dandolo!
Th' octogenarian chief, Byzantium's conquering foe!
Before St. Mark still glow his steeds of brass,
Their gilded collars glittering in the sun;
But is not Doria's menace come to pass?
Are they not bridled? -- Venice, lost and won,
Her thirteen hundred years of freedom done,
Sinks, like a sea-weed, into whence she rose!
Better be whelm'd beneath the waves, and shun,
Even in destruction's depth, her foreign foes,
From whom submission wrings an infamous repose.
In youth she was all glory, a new Tyre,
Her very by-word sprung from victory,
The 'Planter of the Lion,' which through fire
And blood she bore o'er subject earth and sea;
Though making many slaves, herself still free,
And Europe's bulwark 'gainst the Ottomite;
Witness Troy's rival, Candia! Vouch it, ye
Immortal waves that saw Lepanto's fight!
For ye are names no time nor tyranny can blight.
Statues of glass -- all shiver'd -- the long file
Of her dead Doges are declin'd to dust;
But where they dwelt, the vast and sumptuous pile
Bespeaks the pageant of their splendid trust;
Their sceptre broken, and their sword in rust,
Have yielded to the stranger: empty halls,
Thin streets, and foreign aspects, such as must
Too oft remind her who and what enthralls,
Have flung a desolate cloud o'er Venice' lovely walls.
When Athens' armies fell at Syracuse,
And fetter'd thousands bore the yoke of war,
Redemption rose up in the Attic Muse,
Her voice their only ransom from afar:
See! as they chant the tragic hymn, the car
Of the o'ermaster'd victor stops, the reins
Fall from his hands -- his idle scimitar
Starts from its belt -- he rends his captive's chains,
And bids him thank the bard for freedom and his strains.
Thus, Venice! if no stronger claim were thine,
Were all thy proud historic deeds forgot,
Thy choral memory of the Bard divine,
Thy love of Tasso, should have cut the knot
Which ties thee to thy tyrants; and thy lot
Is shameful to the nations -- most of all,
Albion, to thee: the Ocean queen should not
Abandon Ocean's children; in the fall
Of Venice think of thine, despite thy watery wall.
I loved her from my boyhood; she to me
Was as a fairy city of the heart,
Rising like water-columns from the sea,
Of joy the sojourn, and of wealth the mart;
And Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakespeare's art,
Had stamp'd her image in me, and even so,
Although I found her thus, we did not part;
Perchance even dearer in her day of woe,
Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show.
I can repeople with the past -- and of
The present there is still for eye and thought,
And meditation chasten'd down, enough;
And more, it may be, than I hoped or sought;
And of the happiest moments which were wrought
Within the web of my existence, some
From thee, fair Venice! have their colours caught:
There are some feelings Time cannot benumb,
Nor Torture shake, or mine would now be cold and dumb.
But from their nature will the Tannen grow
Loftiest on loftiest and least shelter'd rocks,
Rooted in barrenness, where nought below
Of soil supports them 'gainst the Alpine shocks
Of eddying storms; yet springs the trunk, and mocks
The howling tempest, till its height and frame
Are worthy of the mountains from whose blocks
Of bleak, gray granite into life it came,
And grew a giant tree; -- the mind may grow the same.
Existence may be borne, and the deep root
Of life and sufferance make its firm abode
The bare and desolated bosoms: mute
The camel labours with the heaviest load,
And the wolf dies in silence, -- not bestow'd
In vain should such example be; if they,
Things of ignoble or of savage mood,
Endure and shrink not, we of nobler clay
May temper it to bear, -- it is but for a day.
All suffering doth destroy, or is destroy'd,
Even by the sufferer; and, in each event,
Ends: -- Some, with hope replenish'd and rebuoy'd,
Return to whence they came -- with like intent,
And weave their web again; some, bow'd and bent,
Wax gray and ghastly, withering ere their time,
And perish with the reed on which they leant;
Some seek devotion, toil, war, good or crime,
According as their souls were form'd to sink or climb.
But ever and anon of griefs subdued
There comes a token like a scorpion's sting,
Scarce seen, but with fresh bitterness imbued;
And slight withal may be the things which bring
Back on the heart the weight which it would fling
Aside for ever: it may be a sound --
A tone of music -- summer's eve -- or spring --
A flower -- the wind -- the ocean -- which shall wound,
Striking the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound;
And how and why we know not, nor can trace
Home to its cloud this lightning of the mind,
But feel the shock renew'd, nor can efface
The blight and blackening which it leaves behind,
Which out of things familiar, undesign'd,
When least we deem of such, calls up to view
The spectres whom no exorcism can bind, --
The cold, the changed, perchance the dead -- anew,
The mourn'd, the loved, the lost -- too many! yet how few!
But my soul wanders: I demand it back
To meditate amongst decay, and stand
A ruin amidst ruins; there to track
Fall'n states and buried greatness, o'er a land
Which was the mightiest in its old command,
And is the loveliest, and must ever be
The master mould of Nature's heavenly hand;
Wherein were cast the heroic and the free,
The beautiful, the brave, the lords of earth and sea,
The commonwealth of kings, the men of Rome!
And even since, and now, fair Italy!
Thou art the garden of the world, the home
Of all Art yields, and Nature can decree;
Even in thy desert, what is like to thee?
Thy very weeds are beautiful, thy waste
More rich than other climes' fertility;
Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin graced
With an immaculate charm which cannot be defaced.
The moon is up, and yet it is not night;
Sunset divides the sky with her; a sea
Of glory streams along the Alpine height
Of blue Friuli's mountains; Heaven is free
From clouds, but of all colours seems to be, --
Melted to one vast Iris of the West, --
Where the Day joins the past Eternity,
While, on the other hand, meek Dian's crest
Floats through the azure air -- an island of the blest!
A single star is at her side, and reigns
With her o'er half the lovely heaven; but still
Yon sunny sea heaves brightly, and remains
Roll'd o'er the peak of the far Rhætian hill,
As Day and Night contending were, until
Nature reclaim'd her order: -- gently flows
The deep-dyed Brenta, where their hues instil
The odorous purple of a new-born rose,
Which streams upon her stream, and glass'd within it glows,
Fill'd with the face of heaven, which, from afar,
Comes down upon the waters; all its hues,
From the rich sunset to the rising star,
Their magical variety diffuse:
And now they change; a paler shadow strews
Its mantle o'er the mountains; parting day
Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues
With a new colour as it gasps away --
The last still loveliest, -- till -- 'tis gone -- and all is gray.
There is a tomb at Arqua; -- rear'd in air,
Pillar'd in their sarcophagus, repose
The bones of Laura's lover: here repair
Many familiar with his well-sung woes,
The pilgrims of his genius. He arose
To raise a language, and his land reclaim
From the dull yoke of her barbaric foes:
Watering the tree which bears his lady's name
With his melodious tears, he gave himself to fame.
They keep his dust in Arqua, where he died;
The mountain-village where his latter days
Went down the vale of years; and 'tis their pride --
An honest pride -- and let it be their praise,
To offer to the passing stranger's gaze
His mansion and his sepulchre; both plain
And venerably simple, such as raise
A feeling more accordant with his train
Than if a pyramid form'd his monumental fane.
And the soft quiet hamlet where he dwelt
Is one of that complexion which seems made
For those who their mortality have felt,
And sought a refuge from their hopes decay'd
In the deep umbrage of a green hill's shade,
Which shows a distant prospect far away
Of busy cities, now in vain display'd,
For they can lure no further; and the ray
Of a bright sun can make sufficient holiday,
Developing the mountains, leaves, and flowers,
And shining in the brawling brook, whereby,
Clear as its current, glide the sauntering hours
With a calm languor, which, though to the eye
Idlesse it seem, hath its mortality.
If from society we learn to live,
'Tis solitude should teach us how to die;
It hath no flatters; vanity can give
No hollow aid; alone -- man with his God must strive:
Or, it may be, with demons, who impair
The strength of better thoughts, and seek their prey
In melancholy bosoms, such as were
Of moody texture, from their earliest day,
And loved to dwell in darkness and dismay,
Deeming themselves predestined to a doom
Which is not of the pangs that pass away;
Making the sun like blood, the earth a tomb,
The tomb a hell, and hell itself a murkier gloom.
Ferrara! in thy wide and grass-grown streets,
Whose symmetry was not for solitude,
There seems as 'twere a curse upon the seats
Of former sovereigns, and the antique brood
Of Este, which for many an age made good
Its strength within thy walls, ad was of yore
Patron or tyrant, as the changing mood
Of petty power impell'd, of those who wore
The wreath which Dante's brow alone had worn before.
And Tasso is their glory and their shame.
Hark to his strain! and then survey his cell!
And see how dearly earn'd Torquato's fame,
And where Alfonso bade his poet dwell:
The miserable despot could not quell
The insulted mind he sought to quench, and blend
With the surrounding maniacs, in the hell
Where he had plunged it. Glory without end
Scatter'd the clouds away; and on that name attend
The tears and praises of all time; while thine
Would rot in its oblivion -- in the sink
Of worthless dust, which from thy boasted line
Is shaken into nothing -- but the link
Thou formest in his fortunes bids us think
Of thy poor malice, naming thee with scorn:
Alfonso! how thy ducal pageants shrink
From thee! if in another station born,
Scarce fit to be the slave of him thou madest to mourn:
Thou! form'd to eat, and be despised, and die,
Even as the beasts that perish, save that thou
Hadst a more splendid trough and wider sty:
He! with a glory round his furrow'd brow,
Which emanated then, and dazzles now,
In face of all his foes, the Cruscan quire,
And Boileau, whose rash envy could allow
No strain which shamed his country's creaking lyre,
That whetstone of the teeth -- monotony in wire!
Peace to Torquato's injured shade! twas his
In life and death to be the mark where Wrong
Aim'd with her poison'd arrows, but to miss.
O, victor unsurpass'd in modern song!
Each year brings forth its millions; but how long
The tide of generations shall roll on,
And not the whole combined and countless throng
Compose a mind like thine? though all in one
Condensed their scatter'd rays, they would not form a sun.
Great as thou art, yet parallel'd by those,
Thy countrymen, before thee born to shine,
The Bards of Hell and Chivalry: first rose
The Tuscan father's Comedy Divine;
Then, not unequal to the Florentine,
The southern Scott, the minstrel who call'd forth
A new creation with his magic line,
And, like the Ariosto of the North,
Sang ladye-love and war, romance and knightly worth.
The lightning rent from Ariosto's bust
The iron crown of laurel's mimick'd leaves;
Nor was the ominous element unjust
For the true laurel-wreath which Glory weaves
Is of the tree no bolt of thunder cleaves,
And the false semblance but disgraced his brow;
Yet still, if fondly Superstition grieves,
Know, that the lightning sanctifies below
Whate'er it strikes; -- yon head is doubly sacred now.
Italia! oh Italia! thou who hast
The fatal gift of beauty, which became
A funeral dower of present woes and past,
On thy sweet brow is sorrow plough'd by shame,
And annals graved in characters of flame.
Oh, God! that thou wert in thy nakedness
Less lovely or more powerful, and couldst claim
Thy right, and awe the robbers back, who press
To shed thy blood, and drink the tears of thy distress;
Then might'st thou more appal; or, less desired,
Be homely and be peaceful, undeplored
For thy destructive charms; then, still untired,
Would not be seen the armed torrents pour'd
Down the deep Alps; nor would the hostile horde
Of many-nation'd spoilers from the Po
Quaff blood and water; nor the stranger's sword
Be thy sad weapon of defence, and so,
Victor or vanquish'd, thou the slave of friend or foe.
Wandering in youth, I traced the path of him,
The Roman friend of Rome's least-mortal mind,
The friend of Tully: as my bark did skim
The bright blue waters with a fanning wind,
Came Megara before me, and behind
Ægina lay, Piræus on the right,
And Corinth on the left; I lay reclined
Along the prow, and saw all these unite
In ruin, even as he had seen the desolate sight;
For Time hath not rebuilt them, but uprear'd
Barbaric dwellings on their shatter'd site,
Which only make more mourn'd and more endear'd
The few last rays of their far-scatter'd light,
And the crush'd relics of their vanish'd might.
The Roman saw these tombs in his own age,
These sepulchres of cities, which excite
Sad wonder, and his yet surviving page
The moral lesson bears, drawn from such pilgrimage.
That page is now before me, and on mine
His country's ruin added to the mass
Of perish'd states he mourn'd in their decline,
And I in desolation: all that was
Of then destruction is; and now, alas!
Rome -- Rome imperial, bows her to the storm,
In the same dust and blackness, and we pass
The skeleton of her Titanic form,
Wrecks of another world, whose ashes still are warm.
Yet, Italy! through every other land
Thy wrongs should ring, and shall, from side to side;
Mother of Arts! as once of arms; thy hand
Was then our guardian, and is still our guide;
Parent of our religion! whom the wide
Nations have knelt to for the keys of heaven!
Europe, repentent of her parricide,
Shall yet redeem thee, and, all backward driven,
Roll the barbarian tide, and sue to be forgiven.
But Arno wins us to the fair white walls,
Where the Etrurian Athens claims and keeps
A softer feeling for her fairy halls.
Girt by her theatre of hills, she reaps
Her corn, and wine, and oil, and Plenty leaps
To laughing life, with her redundant horn.
Along the banks where smiling Arno sweeps
Was modern Luxury of Commerce born,
And buried Learning rose, redeem'd to new morn.
There, too, the Goddess loves in stone, and fills
The air around with beauty; we inhale
The ambrosial aspect, which, beheld, instils
Part of its immortality; the veil
Of heaven is half undrawn; within the pale
We stand, and in that form and face behold
What Mind can make, when Nature's self would fail;
And to the fond idolators of old
Envy the innate flash which such a soul could mould:
We gaze and turn away, and know not where,
Dazzled and drunk with beauty, till the heart
Reels with its fulness; there -- for ever there --
Chain'd to the chariot of triumphal Art,
We stand as captives, and would not depart.
Away! -- there needs no words nor terms precise,
The paltry jargon of the marble mart,
Where Pedantry gulls Folly -- we have eyes:
Blood, pulse, and breast confirm the Dardan Shepherd's prize.
Appear'dst thou not to Paris in this guise?
Or to more deeply blest Anchises? or,
In all thy perfect Goddess-ship, when lies
Before thee thy own vanquish'd Lord of War?
And gazing in thy face as toward a star,
Laid on thy lap, his eyes to thee upturn,
Feeding on thy sweet cheek! while thy lips are
With lava kisses melting while they burn,
Shower'd on his eyelids, brow, and mouth, as from an urn?
Glowing, and circumfused in speechless love
Their full divinity inadequate
That feeling to express, or to improve,
The gods become as mortals, and man's fate
Has moments like their brightest; but the weight
Of earth recoils upon us; -- let it go!
We can recall such visions, and create,
From what has been, or might be, things which grow
Into thy statue's form, and look like gods below.
I leave to learned fingers and wise hands,
The artist and his ape, to teach and tell
How well his connoisseurship understands
The graceful bend, and the voluptuous swell:
Let these describe the undescribable:
I would not their vile breath should crisp the stream
Wherein that image shall for ever dwell;
The unruffled mirror of the loveliest dream
That ever left the sky on the deep soul to beam.
In Santa Croce's holy precincts lie
Ashes which make it holier, dust which is
Even in itself an immortality,
Though there were nothing save the past, and this,
The particle of those sublimities
Which have relapsed to chaos: here repose
Angelo's, Alfieri's bones, and his,
The starry Galileo, with his woes;
Here Machiavelli's earth return'd to whence it rose.
These are four minds, which, like the elements,
Might furnish forth creation: -- Italy!
Time, which hath wrong'd thee with ten thousand rents
Of thine imperal garment, shall deny,
And hath denied, to every other sky,
Spirits which soar from ruin: thy decay
Is still impregnate with divinity,
Which gilds it with revivifying ray;
Such as the great of yore, Canova is today.
But where repose the all Etruscan three --
Dante, and Petrarch, and, scarce less thatn they,
The Bard of Prose, creative spirit! he
Of the Hundred Tales of love -- where did they lay
Their bones, distinguish'd from our common clay
In death as life? Are they resolved to dust,
And have their country's marbles nought to say?
Could not her quarries furnish forth one bust?
Did they not to her breast their filial earth entrust?
Ungrateful Florence! Dante sleeps afar,
Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore:
Thy factions, in their worse than civil war,
Proscribed the bard whose name forevermore
Their children's children would in vain adore
With the remorse of ages; and the crown
Which Petrarch's laureate brow supremely wore,
Upon a far and foreign soil had grown,
His life, his fame, his grave, though rifled -- not thine own.
Boccaccio to his parent earth bequeath'd
His dust, -- and lies it not her great among,
With many a sweet and solemn requiem breathed
O'er him who form'd the Tuscan's siren tongue?
That music in itself, whose sounds are song,
The poetry of speech? No; -- even his tomb
Uptorn, must bear the hyæna bigot's wrong,
No more amidst the meaner dead find room,
Nor claim a passing sigh, because it told for whom!
And Santa Croce wants their mighty dust;
Yet for this want more noted, as of yore
The Cæsar's pageant, shorn of Brutus' bust,
Did but of Rome's best Son remind her more:
Happier Ravenna! on thy hoary shore,
Fortress of falling empire! honour'd sleeps
The immortal exile; -- Arqua, too her store
Of tuneful relics proudly claims and keeps,
While Florence vainly begs her banish'd dead and weeps.
What is her pyramid of precious stones?
Of porphyry, jasper, agate, and all hues
Of gem and marble, to encrust the bones
Of merchant-dukes? the momentary dews
Which, sparkling to the twilight stars, infuse
Freshness in the green turf that wraps the dead,
Whose names are mausoleums of the Muse,
Are gently prest with far more reverent tread
Than ever paced the slab which paves the princely head.
There be more things to greet the heart and eyes
In Arno's dome of Art's most princely shrine,
Where Sculpture with her rainbow sister vies;
There be more marvels yet -- but not for mine;
For I have been accustom'd to entwine
My thoughts with Nature rather in the fields,
Than Art in galleries; though a work divine
Calls for my spirit's homage, yet it yields
Less than it feels, because the weapon which it wields
Is of another temper, and I roam
By Thrasimene's lake, in the defiles
Fatal to Roman rashness, more at home;
For there the Carthaginian's warlike wiles
Come back before me, as his skill beguiles
The host between the mountains the the shore,
Where Courage falls in her despairing files,
And torrents swoll'n to rivers with their gore,
Reek through the sultry plain, with legions scatter'd o'er,
Like to a forest fell'd by mountain winds;
And such the storm of battle on this day,
And such the frenzy, whose convulsion blinds
To all save carnage, that, beneath the fray,
An earthquake reel'd unheededly away!
None felt stern Nature rocking at his feet,
And yawning forth a grave for those who lay
Upon their bucklers for a winding-sheet;
Such is the absorbing hate when warring nations meet!
The Earth to them was as a rolling bark
Which bore them to Eternity; they saw
The Ocean round, but had not time to mark
The motions of their vessel; Nature's law,
In them suspended, reck'd not of the awe
Which reigns when mountains tremble, and the birds
Plunge in the clouds for refuge, and withdraw
From their down-toppling nests; and bellowing herds
Stumble o'er heaving plains, and man's dread hath no words.
Far other scene is Thrasimene now;
Her lake a sheet of silver, and her plain
Rent by no ravage save the gentle plough;
Her aged trees rise thick as once the slain
Lay where their roots are; but a brook hath ta'en --
A little rill of scanty stream and bed --
A name of blood from that day's sanguine rain;
And Sanguinetto tells ye where the dead
Made the earth wet, and turn'd the unwilling waters red.
But thou, Clitumnus! in thy sweetest wave
Of the most living crystal that was e'er
The haunt of river nymph, to gaze and lave
Her limbs where nothing hid them, thou dost rear
Thy grassy banks whereon the milk-white steer
Grazes; the purest god of gentle waters!
And most serene of aspect, and most clear;
Surely that stream was unprofaned by slaughters,
A mirror and a bath for Beauty's youngest daughters!
And on thy happy shore a Temple still,
Of small and delicate proportion, keeps,
Upon a mild declivity of hill,
Its memory of thee; beneath it sweeps
Thy current's calmness; oft from out it leaps
The finny darter with the glittering scales,
Who dwells and revels in thy glassy deeps;
While, chance, some scatter'd waterlily sails
Down were the shallower wave still tells its bubbling tales.
Pass not unblest the Genius of the place!
If through the air a zephyr more serene
Win to the brow, 'tis his; and if ye trace
Along his margin a more eloquent green,
If on the heart the freshness of the scene
Sprinkle its coolness, and from the dry dust
Of weary life a moment lave it clean
With Nature's baptism, -- 'tis to him ye must
Pay orisons for this suspension of disgust.
The roar of waters! -- from the headlong height
Velino cleaves the wave-worn precipice;
The fall of waters! rapid as the light
The flashing mass foams shaking the abyss;
The hell of waters! where they howl and hiss,
And boil in endless torture; while the sweat
Of their great agony, wrung out from this
Their Phlegethon, curls round the rocks of jet
That guard the gulf around, in pitiless horror set,
And mounts in spray the skies, and thence again
Returns in an unceasing shower, which round,
With its unemptied cloud of gentle rain,
Is an eternal April to the ground,
Making it all one emerald: -- how profound
The gulf! and how the giant element
From rock to rock leaps with delirious bound,
Crushing the cliffs, which, downward worn and rent
With his fierce footsteps, yields in chasms a fearful vent
To the broad column which rolls on, and shows
More like the fountain of an infant sea
Torn from the womb of mountains by the throes
Of a new world, than only thus to be
Parent of rivers, which glow gushingly,
With many windings, through the vale: -- Look back!
Lo! where it comes like an eternity,
As if to sweep down all things in its track,
Charming the eye with dread, -- a matchless cataract,
Horribly beautiful! but on the verge,
From side to side, beneath the glittering morn,
An Iris sits, amidst the infernal surge,
Like Hope upon a death-bed, and, unworn
Its steady dyes, while all around is torn
By the distracted waters, bears serene
Its brilliant hues with all their beams unshorn:
Resembling, 'mid the torture of the scene,
Love watching Madness with unalterable mien.
Once more upon the woody Apennine,
The infant Alps, which -- had I not before
Gazed on their mightier parents, where the pine
Sits on more shaggy summits, and where roar
The thundering Lauwine -- might be worshipp'd more;
But I have seen the soaring Jungfrau rear
Her never-trodden snow, and seen the hoar
Glaciers of bleak Mont Blanc both far and near,
And in Chimari heard the thunder-hills of fear,
Th' Acroceraunian mountains of old name;
And on Parnassus seen the eagles fly
Like spirits of the spot, as 'twere for fame,
For still they soared unutterably high:
I've look'd on Ida with a Trojan's eye;
Athos, Olympus, Ætna, Atlas, made
These hills seem things of lesser dignity,
All, save the lone Soracte's height, display'd
Not now in snow, which asks the lyric Roman's aid
For our remembrance, and from out the plain
Heaves like a long-swept wave about to break,
And on the curl hangs pausing: not in vain
May he, who will, his recollections rake,
And quote in classic raptures, and awake
The hills with Latian echoes; I abhorr'd
Too much, to conquer for the poet's sake,
The drill'd dull lesson, forced down word by word
In my repugnant youth, with pleasure to record
Aught that recalls the daily drug which turn'd
My sickening memory; and, though Time hath taught
My mind to meditate what then it learn'd,
Yet such the fix'd inveteracy, wrought
By the impatience of my early thought,
That with the freshness wearing out before
My mind could relish what it might have sought,
If free to choose, I cannot now restore
Its health; but what it then detested, still abhor.
Then farewell, Horace; whom I hated so,
Not for thy faults, but mine; it is a curse
To understand, not feel thy lyric flow,
To comprehend, but never love thy verse:
Although no deeper Moralist rehearse
Our little life, nor Bard prescribe his art,
Nor livelier Satirist the conscience pierce,
Awakening without wounding the touch'd heart,
Yet fare thee well -- upon Soracte's ridge we part.
Oh Rome! my country! city of the soul!
The orphans of the heart must turn to thee,
Lone mother of dead empires! and control
In their shut breasts their petty misery.
What are our woes and sufferance? Come and see
The cypress, hear the owl, and plod your way
O'er steps of broken thrones and temples, Ye!
Whose agonies are evils of day --
A world is at our feet as fragile as our clay.
The Niobe of nations! there she stands,
Childless and crownless, in her voiceless woe;
An empty urn within her wither'd hands,
Whose holy dust was scatter'd long ago;
The Scipios' tomb contains no ashes now;
The very sepulchres lie tenantless
Of their heroic dwellers: dost thou flow,
Old Tiber! through a marble wilderness?
Rise, with thy yellow waves, and mantle her distress.
The Goth, the Christian, Time, War, Flood, and Fire,
Have dealt upon the seven-hill'd city's pride;
She saw her glories star by star expire,
And up the steep barbarian monarchs ride,
Where the car climb'd the Capitol; far and wide
Temple and tower went down, nor left a site:
Chaos of ruins! who shall trace the void,
O'er the dim fragments cast a lunar light,
And say, 'here was, or is,' where all is doubly night?
The double night of ages, and of her,
Night's daughter, Ignorance, hath wrapt and wrap
All round us: we but feel our way to err:
The ocean hath his chart, and stars their map,
And Knowledge spreads them on her ample lap;
But Rome is as the desert, where we steer
Stumbling o'er recollections; now we clap
Our hands, and cry 'Eureka!' it is clear --
When but some false mirage or ruin rises near.
Alas! the lofty city! and alas!
The trebly hundred triumphs! and the day
When Brutus made the dagger's edge surpass
The conqueror's sword in bearing fame away!
Alas, for Tully's voice, and Virgil's lay,
And Livy's pictured page! -- but these shall be
Her resurrection; all beside -- decay.
Alas for Earth, for never shall we see
That brightness in her eye she bore when Rome was free!
O thou, whose chariot roll'd on Fortune's wheel,
Triumphant Sylla! Thou, who didst subdue
Thy country's foes ere thou wouldst pause to feel
The wrath of thy own wrongs, or reap the due
Of hoarded vengeance till thine eagles flew
O'er prostrate Asia; -- thou, who with thy frown
Annihilated senates -- Roman, too.
With all thy vices, for thou didst lay down
With an atoning smile a more than earthly crown --
The dictatorial wreath -- couldst thou divine
To what would one day dwindle that which made
Thee more than mortal? and that so supine
By aught than Romans Rome should thus be laid?
She who was named Eternal, and array'd
Her warriors but to conquer -- she who veil'd
Earth with her haughty shadow, and display'd,
Until the o'er-canopied horizon fail'd,
Her rushing wings -- Oh! she who was Almighty hail'd!
Sylla was first of victors; but our own,
The sagest of usurpers, Cromwell! -- he
Too swept off senates while he hew'd the throne
Down to a block -- immortal rebel! See
What crimes it costs to be a moment free,
And famous through all ages! but beneath
His fate the moral lurks of destiny;
His day of double victory and death
Beheld him win two realms, and, happier, yield his breath.
The third of the same moon whose former course
Had all but crown'd him, on the selfsame day
Deposed him gently from his throne of force,
And laid him with the earth's preceding clay.
And show'd not Fortune thus how fame and sway,
And all we deem delightful, and consume
Our souls to compass through each arduous way,
Are in her eyes less happy than the tomb?
Were they but so in man's how different were his doom!
And thou, dread statue! yet existent in
The austerest form of naked majesty,
Thou who beheldest, 'mid the assassins' din,
At thy bathed base the bloody Cæsar lie,
Folding his robe in dying dignity,
An offering to thine altar from the queen
Of gods and men, great Nemesis! did he die,
And thou, too, perish, Pompey? have ye been
Victors of countless kings, or puppets of a scene?
And thou, the thunder-stricken nurse of Rome!
She-wolf! whose brazen-imaged dugs impart
The milk of conquest yet within the dome
Where, as a monument of antique art,
Thou standest: -- Mother of the mighty heart,
Which the great founder suck'd from thy wild teat,
Scorch'd by the Roman Jove's ethereal dart,
And thy limbs black with lightning -- dost thou yet
Guard thine immoral cubs, nor thy fond charge forget?
Thou dost; but all thy foster-babes are dead --
The men of iron: and the world hath rear'd
Cities from out their sepulchres: men bled
In imitation of the things they fear'd,
And fought and conquer'd, and the same course steer'd,
At apish distance; but as yet none have,
Nor could the same supremacy have near'd,
Save one vain man, who is not in the grave,
But, vanquish'd by himself, to his own slaves a slave --
The fool of false dominion -- and a kind
Of bastard Cæsar, following him of old
With steps unequal; for the Roman's mind
Was modell'd in a less terrestrial mould,
With passions fiercer, yet a judgment cold,
And an immortal instinct which redeem'd
The frailties of a heart so soft, yet bold,
Alcides with the distaff now he seem'd
At Cleopatra's feet, -- and now himself he beam'd,
And came -- and saw -- and conquer'd ! But the man
Who would have tamed his eagles down to flee,
Like a train'd falcon, in the Gallic van,
Which he, in sooth, long led to victory
With a deaf heart, which never seem'd to be
A listener to itself, was strangely framed;
With but one weakest weakness -- vanity,
Coquettish in ambition, still he aim'd --
At what? can he avouch, or answer what he claim'd?
And would be all or nothing -- nor could wait
For the sure grave to level him; few years
Had fix'd him with the Cæsars in his fate,
On whom we tread; for this the conqueror rears
The arch of triumph and for this the tears
And blood of earth flow on as they have flow'd,
An universal deluge, which appears
Without an ark for wretched man's abode,
And ebbs but to reflow! Renew thy rainbow, God!
What from this barren being do we reap?
Our senses narrow, and our reason frail,
Life short, and truth a gem which loves the deep,
And all things weigh'd in custom's falsest scale;
Opinion an omnipotence, -- whose veil
Mantles the earth with darkness, until right
And wrong are accidents, and men grow pale
Lest their own judgments should become too bright,
And their free thoughts be crimes, and earth have too much light.
And thus they plod in sluggish misery,
Rotting from sire to son, and age to age,
Proud of their trampled nature, and so die,
Bequeathing their hereditary rage
To the new race of inborn slaves, who wage
War for their chains, and rather than be free,
Bleed gladiator-like, and still engage
Within the same arena where they see
Their fellows fall before, like leaves of the same tree.
I speak not of men's creeds -- they rest between
Man and his Maker -- but of things allow'd,
Averr'd, and known, and daily, hourly seen --
The yoke that is upon us doubly bow'd,
And the intent of tyranny avow'd,
The edict of Earth's rulers, who are grown
The apes of him who humbled once the proud,
And shook them from their slumbers on the throne:
Too glorious, were this all his mighty arm had done.
Can tyrants but by tyrants conquer'd be,
And Freedom find no champion and no child
Such as Columbia saw arise when she
Sprung forth a Pallas, arm'd and undefiled?
Or must such minds be nourish'd in the wild,
Deep in the unpruned forest, 'midst the roar
Of cataracts, where nursing Nature smiled
On infant Washington? Has Earth no more
Such seeds within her breast, or Europe no such shore?
But France got drunk with blood to vomit crime,
And fatal have her Saturnalia been
To Freedom's cause, in every age an clime;
Because the deadly days which we have seen,
And vile Ambition, that built up between
Man and his hopes an adamantine wall,
And the base pageant last upon the scene,
Are grown the pretext for the eternal thrall
Which nips life's tree, and dooms man's worst -- his second fall.
Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn, but flying,
Streams like the thunder-storm against the wind;
Thy trumpet voice, though broken now and dying,
The loudest still the tempest leaves behind;
Thy tree hath lost its blossoms, and the rind,
Chopp'd by the axe, looks rough and little worth,
But the sap lasts, -- and still the seed we find
Sown deep, even in the bosom of the North;
So shall a better spring less better fruit bring forth.
There is a stern round tower of other days,
Firm as a fortress, with its fence of stone,
Such as an army's baffled strength delays,
Standing with half its battlements alone,
And with two thousand years of ivy grown,
The garland of eternity, where wave
The green leaves over all by time o'er thrown; --
Where was this tower of strength? within its case
What treasure lay, so lock'd, so hid? -- A woman's grave.
But who was she, the lady of the dead,
Tomb'd in a palace? Was she chaste and fair?
Worthy a king's, or more -- a Roman's bed?
What race of chiefs and heroes did she bear?
What daughter of her beauties was she heir?
How lived, how loved, how died she? Was she not
So honoured -- and conspicuously there,
Where meaner relics must not dare to rot,
Placed to commemorate a more than mortal lot?
Was she as those who love their lords, or they
Who love the lords of others? such have been
Even in the olden time, Rome's annals say.
Was she a matron of Cornelia's mien,
Or the light air of Egypt's graceful queen,
Profuse of joy -- or 'gainst it did she war
Inveterate in virtue? Did she lean
To the soft side of the heart, or wisely bar
Love from amongst her griefs? -- for such the affections are.
Perchance she died in youth: it may be, bow'd
With woes far heavier than the ponderous tomb
That weigh'd upon her gentle dust, a cloud
Might gather o'er her beauty, and a gloom
In her dark eye, prophetic of the doom
Heaven gives its favourites -- early death; yet shed
A sunset charm around her, and illume
With hectic light, the Hesperus of the dead,
Of her consuming cheek the autumnal leaf-like red.
Perchance she died in age -- surviving all,
Charms, kindred, children -- with the silver gray
On her long tresses, which might yet recall,
It may be, still a something of the day
When they were braided, and her proud array
And lovely form were envied, praised, and eyed
By Rome -- But whither would Conjecture stray?
Thus much alone we know -- Metella died,
The wealthiest Roman's wife: Behold his love or pride!
I know not why -- but standing thus by thee
It seems as if I had thine inmate known,
Thou Tomb! and other days come back on me
With recollected music, though the tone
Is changed and solemn, like the cloudy groan
Of dying thunder on the distant wind;
Yet could I set me by this ivied stone
Till I had bodied forth the heated mind,
Forms from the floating wreck which Ruin leaves behind;
And from the planks, far shatter'd o'er the rocks,
Built me a little bark of hope, once more
To battle with the ocean and the shocks
Of the loud breakers, and the ceaseless roar
Which rushes on the solitary shore
Where all lies founder'd that was ever dear:
But could I gather from the wave-worn store
Enough for my rude boat, where should I steer?
There woos no home, nor hope, nor life, save what is here.
Then let the winds howl on! their harmony
Shall henceforth be my music, and the night
The sound shall temper with the owlets' cry,
As I now hear them, in the fading light
Dim o'er the bird of darkness' native site,
Answering each other on the Palatine,
With their large eyes, all glistening gray and bright,
And sailing pinions. -- Upon such a shrine
What are our petty griefs? -- let me not number mine.
Cypress and ivy, weed and wallflower grown,
Matted and mass'd together, hillocks heap'd
On what were chambers, arch crush'd, column strown
In fragments, choked up vaults, and frescos steep'd
In subterranean damps, where the owl peep'd,
Deeming it midnight: -- Temples, baths, or halls?
Pronounce who can; for all that Learning reap'd
From her research hath been, that these are walls --
Behold thee Imperial Mount! 'tis thus the mighty falls.
There is the moral of all human tales;
'Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory -- when that fails,
Wealth, vice , corruption, -- barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page, -- 'tis better written here
Where gorgeous Tyranny hath thus amass'd
All treasures, all delights, that eye or ear,
Heart, soul, could seek, tongue ask -- Away with words! draw near,
Admire, exult, despise, laugh, weep, -- for here
There is such matter for all feeling: -- Man!
Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear,
Ages and realms are crowded in this span,
This mountain, whose obliterated plan
The pyramid of empires pinnacled,
Of Glory's gewgaws shining in the van
Till the sun's rays with added flame were fill'd!
Where are its golden roofs? where those who dared to build?
Tully was not so eloquent as thou,
Thou nameless column with the buried base!
What are the laurels of the Cæsar's brow?
Crown me with ivy from his dwelling-place.
Whose arch or pillar meets me in the face,
Titus or Trajan's? No -- 'tis that of Time:
Triumph, arch, pillar, all he doth displace
Scoffing; and apostolic statues climb
To crush the imperial urn, whose ashes slept sublime,
Buried in air, the deep blue sky of Rome,
And looking to the stars; they had contain'd
A spirit which with thee would find a home,
The last of those who o'er the whole earth reign'd,
The Roman globe, for after none sustain'd,
But yielded back his conquests: -- he was more
Than a mere Alexander, and unstain'd
With household blood and wine, serenely wore
His sovereign virtues -- still we Trajan's name adore.
Where is the rock of Triumph, the high place
Where Rome embraced her heroes? where the steep
Tarpeian? fittest goal of Treason's race,
The promontory whence the Traitor's Leap
Cured all ambition. Did the conquerors heap
Their spoils here? Yes; and in yon field below,
A thousand years of silenced faction sleep --
The Forum, where the immortal accents glow,
And still the eloquent air breathes -- burns with Cicero!
The field of freedom, faction, fame, and blood:
Here a proud people's passions were exhaled,
From the first hour of empire in the bud
To that when further worlds to conquer fail'd;
But long before had Freedom's face been veil'd,
And Anarchy assumed her attributes;
Till every lawless soldier who assail'd
Trod on the trembling senate's slavish mutes,
Or raised the venal voice of baser prostitutes.
Then turn we to her latest tribune's name,
From her ten thousand tyrants turn to thee,
Redeemer of dark centuries of shame --
The friend of Petrarch -- hope of Italy --
Rienzi! last of Romans! While the tree
Of freedom's wither'd trunk puts forth a leaf
Even for thy tomb a garland let it be --
The forum's champion, and the people's chief --
Her new-born Numa thou -- with reign, alas! too brief.
Egeria! sweet creation of some heart
Which found no mortal resting-place so fair
As thine ideal breast; whate'er thou art
Or wert, -- a young Aurora of the air,
The nympholepsy of some fond despair;
Or, it might be, a beauty of the earth,
Who found a more than common votary there
Too much adoring; whatsoe'er thy birth,
Thou wert a beautiful thought, and softly bodied forth.
The mosses of thy fountain still are sprinkled
With thine Elysian water-drops; the face
Of thy cave-guarded spring with years unwrinkled,
Reflects the meek-eyed genius of the place,
Whose green, wild margin now no more erase
Art's works; nor must the delicate waters sleep,
Prison'd in marble -- bubbling from the base
Of the cleft statue, with a gentle leap
The rill runs o'er -- and round -- fern, flowers, and ivy creep,
Fantastically tangled: the green hills
Are clothed with early blossoms, through the grass
The quick-eyed lizard rustles, and the bills
Of summer-birds sing welcome as ye pass;
Flowers fresh in hue, and many in their class,
Implore the pausing step, and with their dyes,
Dance in the soft breeze in a fairy mass;
The sweetness of the violet's deep blue eyes,
Kiss'd by the breath of heaven, seems colour'd by its skies.
Here didst thou dwell, in this enchanted cover,
Egeria! thy all heavenly bosom beating
For the far footsteps of thy mortal lover;
The purple Midnight veil'd that mystic meeting
With her most starry canopy, and seating
Thyself by thine adorer, what befell?
This cave was surely shaped out for the greeting
Of an enamour'd Goddess, and the cell
Haunted by holy Love -- the earliest oracle!
And didst thou not, thy breast to his replying,
Blend a celestial with a human heart;
And Love, which dies as it was born, in sighing,
Share with immortal transports? could thine art
Make them indeed immortal, and impart
The purity of heaven to earthly joys,
Expel the venom and not blunt the dart --
The dull satiety which all destroys --
And root from out the soul the deadly weed which cloys?
Alas! our young affections run to waste,
Or water but the desert; whence arise
But weeds of dark luxuriance, tares of haste,
Rank at the core, though tempting to the eyes,
Flowers whose wild odours breathe but agonies,
And trees whose gums are poisons; such the plants
Which spring beneath her steps as Passion flies
O'er the world's wilderness, and vainly pants
For some celestial fruit forbidden to our wants.
Oh, Love! no habitant of earth thou art --
An unseen seraph, we believe in thee, --
A faith whose martyrs are the broken heart, --
But never yet hath seen, nor e'er shall see
The naked eye, thy form, as it should be;
The mind hath made thee, as it peopled heaven,
Even with its own desiring phantasy,
And to a thought such shape and image given,
As haunts the unquench'd soul -- parch'd, wearied, wrung, and riven.
Of its own beauty is the mind diseased,
And fevers into false creation: -- where,
Where are the forms the sculptor's soul hath seiz'd?
In him alone. Can Nature show so fair?
Where are the charms and virtues which we dare
Conceive in boyhood and pursue as men,
The unreach'd Paradise of our despair,
Which o'er-informs the pencil and the pen,
And overpowers the page where it would bloom again?
Who loves, raves -- 'tis youth's frenzy -- but the cure
Is bitterer still, as charm by charm unwinds
Which robed our idols, and we see too sure
Nor worth nor beauty dwells from out the mind's
Ideal shape of such; yet still it binds
The fatal spell, and still it draws us on,
Reaping the whirlwind from the oftsown winds;
The stubborn heart, its alchemy begun,
Seems ever near the prize -- wealthiest when most undone.
We wither from our youth, we gasp away --
Sick -- sick; unfound the boon, unslaked the thirst,
Though to the last, in verge of our decay,
Some phantom lures, such as we sought at first --
But all too late, -- so are we doubly curst.
Love, fame, ambition, avarice -- 'tis the same,
Each idle, and all ill, and none the worst --
For we all are meteors with a different name,
And Death the sable smoke where vanishes the flame.
Few -- none -- find what they love or could have loved,
Though accident, blind contact, and the strong
Necessity of loving, have removed
Antipathies -- but to recur, ere long,
Envenom'd with irrevocable wrong;
And Circumstance, that unspiritual god
And miscreator, makes and helps along
Our coming evils with a crutch-like rod,
Whose touch turns Hope to dust, -- the dust we all have trod.
Our life is a false nature: 'tis not in
The harmony of things, -- this hard decree,
This uneradicable taint of sin
This boundless upas, this all-blasting tree,
Whose root is earth, whose leaves and branches be
The skies which rain their plagues on men like dew --
Disease, death, bondage -- all the woes we see,
And worse, the woes we see not -- which throb through
The immedicable soul, with heart-aches ever new.
Yet let us ponder boldly -- 'tis a base
Abandonment of reason to resign
Our right of thought -- our last and only place
Of refuge; this, at least, shall still be mine:
Though from our birth the faculty divine
Is chain'd and tortured -- cabin'd, cribb'd, confined,
And bred in darkness, lest the truth should shine
Too brightly on the unpreparèd mind,
The beam pours in, for time and skill will couch the blind.
Arches on arches! as it were that Rome,
Collecting the chief trophies of her line,
Would build up all her triumphs in one dome,
Her coliseum stands; the moonbeams shine
As 'twere its natural torches, for divine
Should be the light which streams here to illume
This long-explored but still exhaustless mine
Of contemplation; and the azure gloom
Of an Italian night, where the deep skies assume
Hues which have words, and speak to ye of heaven,
Floats o'er this vast and wondrous monument,
And shadows forth its glory. There is given
Unto the things of earth, which Time hath bent
A spirit's feeling, and where he hath leant
His hand, but broke his scythe, there is a power
And magic in the ruin'd battlement,
For which the palace of the present hour
Must yield its pomp, and wait till ages are its dower.
Oh Time! the beautifier of the dead,
Adorner of the ruin, comforter
And only healer when the heart hath bled;
Time! the corrector where our judgments err,
The test of truth, love, -- sole philosopher,
For all beside are sophists -- from thy thrift,
Which never loses though it doth defer --
Time, the avenger! unto thee I lift
My hands, and eyes, and heart, and crave of thee a gift:
Amidst this wreck, where thou hast made a shrine
And temple more divinely desolate,
Among thy mightier offerings here are mine,
Ruins of years, though few, yet full of fate:
If thou hast ever seen me too elate,
Hear me not; but if calmly I have borne
Good, and reserved my pride against the hate
Which shall not whelm me, let me not have worn
This iron in my soul in vain -- shall they not mourn?
And thou, who never yet of human wrong
Left the unbalanced scale, great Nemesis!
Here, where the ancient paid thee homage long --
Thou who didst call the Furies from the abyss,
And round Orestes bade them howl and hiss
For that unnatural retribution -- just,
Had it but been from hands less near -- in this
Thy former realm, I call thee from the dust!
Dost thou not hear my heart? -- Awake! thou shalt, and must.
It is not that I may not have incurr'd
For my ancestral faults or mine the wound
I bleed withal, and, had it been conferr'd
With a just weapon, it had flow'd unbound;
But now my blood shall not sink in the ground;
To thee I do devote it. -- thou shalt take
The vengeance, which shall yet be sought and found,
Which if I have not taken for the sake --
But let that pass -- I sleep, but thou shalt yet awake.
And if my voice break forth, 'tis not that now
I shrink from what is suffer'd: let him speak
Who hath beheld decline upon my brow,
Or seen my mind's convulsion leave it weak;
But in this page a record will I seek.
Not in the air shall these my words disperse,
Though I be ashes; a far hour shall wreak
The deep prophetic fulness of this verse,
And pile on human heads the mountain of my curse!
That curse shall be Forgiveness. -- Have I not --
Hear me, my mother Earth! behold it, Heaven!
Have I not had to wrestle with my lot?
Have I not suffer'd things to be forgiven?
Have I not had my brain sear'd, my heart riven,
Hopes sapp'd, name blighted, Life's life lied away?
And only not to desperation driven,
Because not altogether of such clay
As rots into the souls of those whom I survey.
From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy
Have I not seen what human things could do?
From the loud roar of foaming calumny
To the small whisper of the as paltry few,
And subtler venom of the reptile crew,
The Janus glance of whose significant eye,
Learning to lie with silence, would seem true,
And without utterance, save the shrug or sign,
Deal round to happy fools its speechless obloquy.
But I have lived, and have not lived in vain:
My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire,
And my frame perish even in conquering pain;
But there is that within me which shall tire
Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire;
Something unearthly, which they deem not of,
Like the remember'd tone of a mute lyre,
Shall on their soften'd spirits sink, and move
In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of love.
The seal is set. -- Now welcome, thou dread power!
Nameless, yet thus omnipotent, which here
Walk'st in the shadow of the midnight hour
With a deep awe, yet all distinct from fear;
Thy haunts are ever where the dead walls rear
Their ivy mantles, and the solemn scene
Derives from thee a sense so deep and clear
That we become a part of what has been,
And grow unto the spot, all-seeing but unseen.
And here the buzz of eager nations ran,
In murmur'd pity, or loud-roar'd applause,
As man was slaughter'd by his fellow-man.
And wherefore slaughter'd? wherefore, but because
Such were the bloody Circus' genial laws,
And the imperial pleasure. -- Wherefore not?
What matters where we fall to fill the maws
Of worms -- on battle-plains or listed spot?
Both are but theatres -- where the chief actors rot.
I see before me the Gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand -- his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his droop'd head sinks gradually low --
And through hi
'O'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea,
Our thoughts as boundless, and our soul's as free
Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,
Survey our empire, and behold our home!
These are our realms, no limits to their sway-
Our flag the sceptre all who meet obey.
Ours the wild life in tumult still to range
From toil to rest, and joy in every change.
Oh, who can tell? not thou, luxurious slave!
Whose soul would sicken o'er the heaving wave;
Not thou, vain lord of wantonness and ease!
whom slumber soothes not - pleasure cannot please -
Oh, who can tell, save he whose heart hath tried,
And danced in triumph o'er the waters wide,
The exulting sense - the pulse's maddening play,
That thrills the wanderer of that trackless way?
That for itself can woo the approaching fight,
And turn what some deem danger to delight;
That seeks what cravens shun with more than zeal,
And where the feebler faint can only feel -
Feel - to the rising bosom's inmost core,
Its hope awaken and Its spirit soar?
No dread of death if with us die our foes -
Save that it seems even duller than repose:
Come when it will - we snatch the life of life -
When lost - what recks it but disease or strife?
Let him who crawls enamour'd of decay,
Cling to his couch, and sicken years away:
Heave his thick breath, and shake his palsied head;
Ours - the fresh turf; and not the feverish bed.
While gasp by gasp he falters forth his soul,
Ours with one pang - one bound - escapes control.
His corse may boast its urn and narrow cave,
And they who loath'd his life may gild his grave:
Ours are the tears, though few, sincerely shed,
When Ocean shrouds and sepulchres our dead.
For us, even banquets fond regret supply
In the red cup that crowns our memory;
And the brief epitaph in danger's day,
When those who win at length divide the prey,
And cry, Remembrance saddening o'er each brow,
How had the brave who fell exulted now!'
Such were the notes that from the Pirate's isle
Around the kindling watch-fire rang the while:
Such were the sounds that thrill'd the rocks along,
And unto ears as rugged seem'd a song!
In scatter'd groups upon the golden sand,
They game-carouse-converse-or whet the brand:
Select the arms-to each his blade assign,
And careless eye the blood that dims its shine.
Repair the boat, replace the helm or oar,
While others straggling muse along the shore:
For the wild bird the busy springes set,
Or spread beneath the sun the dripping net:
Gaze where some distant sail a speck supplies
With all the 'thirsting eve of Enterprise:
Tell o'er the tales of many a night of toil,
And marvel where they next shall seize a spoil:
No matter where-- their chief's allotment this;
Theirs, to believe no prey nor plan amiss.
But who that CHIEF? his name on every shore
Is famed and fear'd - they ask and know no more.
With these he mingles not but to command;
Few are his words, but keen his eye and hand.
Ne'er seasons he with mirth their jovial mess
But they forgive his silence for success.
Ne'er for his lip the purpling cup they fill,
That goblet passes him untasted still -
And for his fare - the rudest of his crew
Would that, in turn, have pass'd untasted too;
Earth's coarsest bread, the garden's homeliest roots,
And scarce the summer luxury of fruits,
His short repast in humbleness supply
With all a hermit's board would scarce deny.
But while he shuns the grosser joys of sense,
His mind seems nourish'd by that abstinence.
'Steer to that shore! ' - they sail. 'Do this!' - 'tis done:
'Now form and follow me!' - the spoil is won.
Thus prompt his accents and his actions still,
And all obey and few inquire his will;
So To such, brief answer and contemptuous eye
Convey reproof, nor further deign reply.
'A sail! - sail! ' -a promised prize to Hope!
Her nation - flag - how speaks the telescope?
No prize, alas! but yet a welcome sail:
The blood-red signal glitters in the gale.
Yes - she is ours - a home - returning bark -
Blow fair thou breeze! - she anchors ere the dark.
Already doubled is the cape - our bay
Receives that prow which proudly spurns the spray.
How gloriously her gallant course she goes!
Her white wings flying - never from her foes-
She walks the waters like a thing of life,
And seems to dare the elements to strife.
Who would not brave the battle-fire, the wreck,
To move the monarch of her peopled deck?
Hoarse o'er her side the rustling cable rings;
The sails are furl'd; and anchoring round she swings;
And gathering loiterers on the land discern
Her boat descending from the latticed stem.
'Tis mann'd-the oars keep concert to the strand,
Till grates her keel upon the shallow sand.
Hail to the welcome shout! - the friendly speech!
When hand grasps hand uniting on the beach;
The smile, the question, and the quick reply,
And the heart's promise of festivity!
The tidings spread, and gathering grows the crowd;
The hum of voices, and the laughter loud,
And woman's gentler anxious tone is heard -
Friends', husbands', lovers' names in each dear word:
'Oh! are they safe? we ask not of success -
But shall we see them? will their accents bless?
From where the battle roars, the billows chafe
They doubtless boldly did - but who are safe?
Here let them haste to gladden and surprise,
And kiss the doubt from these delighted eyes!'
'Where is our chief? for him we bear report -
And doubt that joy - which hails our coming short;
Yet thus sincere, 'tis cheering, though so brief;
But, Juan! instant guide us to our chief:
Our greeting paid, we'll feast on our return,
And all shall hear what each may wish to learn.'
Ascending slowly by the rock-hewn way,
To where his watch-tower beetles o'er the bay,
By bushy brake, and wild flowers blossoming,
And freshness breathing from each silver spring,
Whose scatter'd streams from granite basins burst,
Leap into life, and sparkling woo your thirst;
From crag to cliff they mount - Near yonder cave,
What lonely straggler looks along the wave?
In pensive posture leaning on the brand,
Not oft a resting-staff to that red hand?
'Tis he 'tis Conrad - here, as wont, alone;
On - Juan! - on - and make our purpose known.
The bark he views - and tell him we would greet
His ear with tidings he must quickly meet:
We dare not yet approach-thou know'st his mood
When strange or uninvited steps intrude.'
Him Juan sought, and told of their intent;-
He spake not, but a sign express'd assent.
These Juan calls - they come - to their salute
He bends him slightly, but his lips are mute.
'These letters, Chief, are from the Greek - the spy,
Who still proclaims our spoil or peril nigh:
Whate'er his tidings, we can well report,
Much that' - 'Peace, peace! ' - he cuts their prating short.
Wondering they turn, abash'd, while each to each
Conjecture whispers in his muttering speech:
They watch his glance with many a stealing look
To gather how that eye the tidings took;
But, this as if he guess'd, with head aside,
Perchance from some emotion, doubt, or pride,
He read the scroll - 'My tablets, Juan' hark -
Where is Gonsalvo?'
'In the anchor'd bark'
'There let him stay - to him this order bear -
Back to your duty - for my course prepare:
Myself this enterprise to-night will share.'
'To-night, Lord Conrad!'
'Ay! at set of sun:
The breeze will freshen when the day is done.
My corslet, cloak - one hour and we are gone.
Sling on thy bugle - see that free from rust
My carbine-lock springs worthy of my trust.
Be the edge sharpen'd of my boarding-brand,
And give its guard more room to fit my hand.
This let the armourer with speed dispose
Last time, it more fatigued my arm than foes:
Mark that the signal-gun be duly fired,
To tell us when the hour of stay's expired.'
They make obeisance, and retire in haste,
Too soon to seek again the watery waste:
Yet they repine not - so that Conrad guides;
And who dare question aught that he decides?
That man of loneliness and mystery
Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh;
Whose name appals the fiercest of his crew,
And tints each swarthy cheek with sallower hue;
Still sways their souls with that commanding art
That dazzles, leads, yet chills the vulgar heart.
What is that spell, that thus his lawless train
Confess and envy, yet oppose in vain?
What should it be, that thus their faith can bind?
The power of Thought - the magic of the Mind!
Link'd with success, assumed and kept with skill,
That moulds another's weakness to its will;
Wields with their hands, but, still to these unknown,
Makes even their mightiest deeds appear his own
Such hath it been shall be - beneath the sun
The many still must labour for the one!
'Tis Nature's doom - but let the wretch who toils
Accuse not, hate not him who wears the spoils.
Oh! if he knew the weight of splendid chains,
How light the balance of his humbler pains!
Unlike the heroes of each ancient race,
Demons in act, but Gods at least in face,
In Conrad's form seems little to admire,
Though his dark eyebrow shades a glance of fire:
Robust but not Herculean - to the sight
No giant frame sets forth his common height;
Yet, in the whole, who paused to look again,
Saw more than marks the crowd of vulgar men;
They gaze and marvel how - and still confess
That thus it is, but why they cannot guess.
Sun-bumt his cheek, his forehead high and pale
The sable curls in wild profusion veil;
And oft perforce his rising lip reveals
The haughtier thought it curbs, but scarce conceals
Though smooth his voice, and calm his general mien'
Still seems there something he would not have seen
His features' deepening lines and varying hue
At times attracted, yet perplex'd the view,
As if within that murkiness of mind
Work'd feelings fearful, and yet undefined
Such might it be - that none could truly tell -
Too close inquiry his stern glance would quell.
There breathe but few whose aspect might defy
The full encounter of his searching eye;
He had the skill, when Cunning's gaze would seek
To probe his heart and watch his changing cheek
At once the observer's purpose to espy,
And on himself roll back his scrutiny,
Lest he to Conrad rather should betray
Some secret thought, than drag that chief's to day.
There was a laughing Devil in his sneer,
That raised emotions both of rage and fear;
And where his frown of hatred darkly fell,
Hope withering fled, and Mercy sigh'd farewell!
Slight are the outward signs of evil thought,
Within-within-'twas there the spirit wrought!
Love shows all changes-Hate, Ambition, Guile,
Betray no further than the bitter smile;
The lip's least curl, the lightest paleness thrown
Along the govern'd aspect, speak alone
Of deeper passions; and to judge their mien,
He, who would see, must be himself unseen.
Then-with the hurried tread, the upward eye,
The clenched hand, the pause of agony,
That listens, starting, lest the step too near
Approach intrusive on that mood of fear;
Then-with each feature working from the heart,
With feelings, loosed to strengthen-not depart,
That rise, convulse, contend-that freeze, or glow
Flush in the' cheek, or damp upon the brow;
Then, Stranger! if thou canst, and tremblest not
Behold his soul-the rest that soothes his lot!
Mark how that lone and blighted bosom sears
The scathing thought of execrated years!
Behold-but who hath seen, or e'er shall see,
Man as himself-the secret spirit free?
Yet was not Conrad thus by Nature sent
To lead the guilty-guilt's worse instrument-
His soul was changed, before his deeds had driven
Him forth to war with man and forfeit heaven
Warp'd by the world in Disappointment's school,
In words too wise, in conduct there a fool;
Too firm to yield, and far too proud to stoop,
Doom'd by his very virtues for a dupe,
He cursed those virtues as the cause of ill,
And not the traitors who betray'd him still;
Nor deem'd that gifts bestow'd on better men
Had left him joy, and means to give again
Fear'd, shunn'd, belied, ere youth had lost her force,
He hated man too much to feel remorse,
And thought the voice of wrath a sacred call,
To pay the injuries of some on all.
He knew himself a villain-but he deem'd
The rest no better than the thing he seem'd
And scorn'd'the best as hypocrites who hid
Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did.
He knew himself detested, but he knew
The hearts that loath'd him, crouch'd and dreaded too.
Lone, wild, and strange, he stood alike exempt
From all affection and from all contempt;
His name could sadden, and his acts surprise;
But they that fear'd him dared not to despise;
Man spurns the worm, but pauses ere he wake
The slumbering venom of the folded snake:
The first may turn, but not avenge the blow;
The last expires, but leaves no living foe;
Fast to the doom'd offender's form it clings,
And he may crush-not conquer-still it stings!
None are all evil-quickening round his heart
One softer feeling would not yet depart
Oft could he sneer at others as beguiled
By passions worthy of a fool or child;
Yet 'gainst that passion vainly still he strove,
And even in him it asks the name of Love!
Yes, it was love-unchangeable-unchanged,
Felt but for one from whom he never ranged;
Though fairest captives daily met his eye,
He shunn'd, nor sought, but coldly pass'd them by;
Though many a beauty droop'd in prison'd bower,
None ever sooth'd his most unguarded hour.
Yes-it was Love-if thoughts of tenderness
Tried in temptation, strengthen'd by distress
Unmoved by absence, firm in every clime,
And yet-oh more than all! untired by time;
Which nor defeated hope, nor baffled wile,
Could render sullen were she near to smile,
Nor rage could fire, nor sickness fret to vent
On her one murmur of his discontent;
Which still would meet with joy, with calmness part,
Lest that his look of grief should reach her heart;
Which nought removed, nor menaced to remove-
If there be love in mortals-this was love!
He was a villain-ay, reproaches shower
On him-but not the passion, nor its power,
Which only proved, all other virtues gone,
Not guilt itself could quench this loveliest one!
He paused a moment-till his hastening men
Pass'd the first winding downward to the glen.
'Strange tidings!-many a peril have I pass'd
Nor know I why this next appears the last!
Yet so my heart forebodes, but must not fear
Nor shall my followers find me falter here.
'Tis rash to meet, but surer death to wait
Till here they hunt us to undoubted fate;
And, if my plan but hold, and Fortune smile,
We'll furnish mourners for our funeral pile.
Ay, let them slumber-peaceful be their dreams!
Morn ne'er awoke them with such brilliant beams
As kindle high to-flight (but blow, thou breeze!)
To warm these slow avengers of the sea
Now to Medora-Oh! my sinking heart,
Long may her own be lighter than thou art!
Yet was I brave-mean boast where all are brave!
Ev'n insects sting for aught they seek to save.
This common courage which with brutes we share
That owes its' deadliest efforts to despair,
Small merit claims-but 'twas my nobler hope
To teach my few with numbers still to cope;
Long have I led them-not to vainly bleed:
No medium now-we perish or succeed;
So let it be-it irks not me to die;
But thus to urge them whence they cannot fly.
My lot hath long had little of my care,
But chafes my pride thus baffled in the snare:
Is this my skill? my craft? to set at last
Hope, power, and life upon a single cast?
Oh' Fate!-accuse thy folly, not thy fate!
She may redeem thee still, not yet too late.'
Thus with himself communion held he, till
He reach'd the summit of his towercrown'd hill:
There at the portal paused-or wild and soft
He heard those accents never heard too oft
Through the high lattice far yet sweet they rung,
And these the notes his bird of beauty sung:
'Deep in my soul that tender secret dwells,
Lonely and lost to light for evermore,
Save when to thine my heart responsive swells,
Then trembles into silence as before
'There, in its centre' a sepulchral lamp
Burns the slow flame, eternal, but unseen;
Which not the darkness of despair can damp,
Though vain its ray as it had never been.
'Remember me-Oh! pass not thou my grave
Without one thought whose relics there recline
The only pang my bosom dare not brave
Must be to find forgetfulness in thine.
'My fondest, faintest, latest accents hear-
Grief for the dead not virtue can reprove;
Then give me all I ever ask'd-a tear,
The first-last-sole reward of so much love!'
He pass'd the portal, cross'd the corridor,
And reach'd the chamber as the strain gave o'er:
'My own Medora! sure thy song is sad-'
'In Conrad's absence wouldst thou have it glad?
Without thine ear to listen to my lay,
Still must my song my thoughts, my soul betray:
Still must each action to my bosom suit,
My heart unhush'd, although my lips were mute!
Oh! many a night on this lone couch reclined,
My dreaming fear with storms hath wing'd the wind,
And deem'd the breath that faintly fann'd thy sail
The murmuring prelude of the ruder gale;
Though soft, it seem'd the low prophetic dirge,
That mourn'd thee floating on the savage surge;
Still would I rise to rouse the beacon fire,
Lest spies less true should let the blaze expire;
And many a restless hour outwatch'd each star,
And morning came-and still thou wert afar.
Oh! how the chill blast on my bosom blew,
And day broke dreary on my troubled view,
And still I gazed and gazed-and not a prow
Was granted to my tears, my truth, my vow!
At length 'twas noon-I hail'd and blest the mast
That met my sight-it near'd-Alas! it pass'd!
Another came-Oh God! 'twas thine at last!
Would that those days were over! wilt thou ne'er,
My Conrad! learn the joys of peace to share?
Sure thou hast more than wealth, and many a home
As bright as this invites us not to roam:
Thou know'st it is not peril that I fear,
I only tremble when thou art not here;
Then not for mine, but that far dearer life,
Which flies from love and languishes for strife-
How strange that heart, to me so tender still,
Should war with nature and its better will!'
'Yea, strange indeed-that heart hath long been changed;
Worm-like 'twas trampled, adder-like avenged,
Without one hope on earth beyond thy love,
And scarce a glimpse of mercy from above.
Yet the same feeling which thou dost condemn,
My very love to thee is hate to them,
So closely mingling here, that disentwined,
I cease to love thee when I love mankind:
Yet dread not this - the proof of all the past
Assures the future that my love will last;
But - oh, Medora! nerve thy gentler heart;
This hour again-but not for long-we part.'
'This hour we part-my heart foreboded this:
Thus ever fade my fairy dreams of bliss.
This hour-it cannot be-this hour away!
Yon bark hath hardly anchor'd in the bay:
Her consort still is absent, and her crew
Have need of rest before they toil anew:
My love! thou mock'st my weakness; and wouldst steel
My breast before the time when it must feel;
But trifle now no more with my distress,
Such mirth hath less of play than bitterness.
Be silent, Conrad! -dearest! come and share
The feast these hands delighted to prepare;
Light toil! to cull and dress thy frugal fare!
See, I have pluck'd the fruit that promised best,
And where not sure, perplex'd, but pleased, I guess'd
At such as seem'd the fairest; thrice the hill
My steps have wound to try the coolest rill;
Yes! thy sherbet tonight will sweetly flow,
See how it sparkles in its vase of snow!
The grapes' gay juice thy bosom never cheers;
Thou more than Moslem when the cup appears:
Think not I mean to chide-for I rejoice
What others deem a penance is thy choice.
But come, the board is spread; our silver lamp
Is trimm'd, and heeds not the sirocco's damp:
Then shall my handmaids while the time along,
And join with me the dance, or wake the song;
Or my guitar, which still thou lov'st to hear'
Shall soothe or lull-or, should it vex thine ear
We'll turn the' tale, by Ariosto told,
Of fair Olympia loved and left of old.
Why, thou wert worse than he who broke his vow
To that lost damsel, shouldst thou leave me now;
Or even that traitor chief-I've seen thee smile,
When the dear sky show'd Ariadne's Isle,
Which I have pointed from these cliffs the while:
And thus half sportive, half in fear, I said,
Lest time should rake that doubt to more than dread,
Thus Conrad, too, win quit me for the main;
And he deceived me-for he came again!'
'Again, again-and oft again-my love!
If there be life below, and hope above,
He will return-but now, the moments bring
The time of parting with redoubled wing:
The why, the where - what boots it now to tell?
Since all must end in that wild word - farewell!
Yet would I fain-did time allow disclose-
Fear not-these are no formidable foes
And here shall watch a more than wonted guard,
For sudden siege and long defence prepared:
Nor be thou lonely, though thy lord 's away,
Our matrons and thy handmaids with thee stay;
And this thy comfort-that, when next we meet,
Security shall make repose more sweet.
List!-'tis the bugle! '-Juan shrilly blew-
'One kiss-one more-another-Oh! Adieu!'
She rose-she sprung-she clung to his embrace,
Till his heart heaved beneath her hidden face:
He dared not raise to his that deep-blue eye,
Which downcast droop'd in tearless agony.
Her long fair hair lay floating o'er his arms,
In all the wildness of dishevell'd charms;
Scarce beat that bosom where his image dwelt
So full-that feeling seem'd almost Unfelt!
Hark-peals the thunder of the signal-gun
It told 'twas sunset, and he cursed that sun.
Again-again-that form he madly press'd,
Which mutely clasp'd, imploringly caress'd!
And tottering to the couch his bride he bore,
One moment gazed, as if to gaze no more;
Felt that for him earth held but her alone,
Kiss'd her cold forehead-turn'd-is Conrad gone?
'And is he gone?' on sudden solitude
How oft that fearful question will intrude
'Twas but an instant past, and here he stood!
And now '-without the portal's porch she rush'd,
And then at length her tears in freedom gush'd;
Big, bright, and fast, unknown to her they fell;
But still her lips refused to send-'Farewell!'
For in that word-that fatal word-howe'er
We promise, hope, believe, there breathes despair.
O'er every feature of that still, pale face,
Had sorrow fix'd what time can ne'er erase:
The tender blue of that large loving eye
Grew frozen with its gaze on vacancy,
Till-Oh? how far!-it caught a glimpse of him,
And then it flow'd, and phrensied seem'd to swim
Through those' long, dark, and glistening lashes dew'd
With drops of sadness oft to be renew'd.
'He's gone! '-against her heart that hand is driven,
Convulsed and quick-then gently raised to heaven:
She look'd and saw the heaving of the main;
The white sail set she dared not look again;
But turn'd with sickening soul within the gate
'It is no dream - and I am desolate!'
From crag to crag descending, swiftly sped
Stern Conrad down, nor once he turn'd his head;
But shrunk whene'er the windings of his way
Forced on his eye what he would not survey,
His lone but lovely dwelling on the steep,
That hail'd him first when homeward from the deep
And she-the dim and melancholy star,
Whose ray of beauty reach'd him from afar
On her he must not gaze, he must not think,
There he might rest-but on Destruction's brink:
Yet once almost he stopp'd, and nearly gave
His fate to chance, his projects to the wave:
But no-it must not be-a worthy chief
May melt, but not betray to woman's grief.
He sees his bark, he notes how fair the wind,
And sternly gathers all his might of mind:
Again he hurries on-and as he hears
The dang of tumult vibrate on his ears,
The busy sounds, the bustle of the shore,
The shout, the signal, and the dashing oar;
As marks his eye the seaboy on the mast,
The anchors rise, the sails unfurling fast,
The waving kerchiefs of the crowd that urge
That mute adieu to those who stem the surge;
And more than all, his blood-red flag aloft,
He marvell'd how his heart could seem so soft.
Fire in his glance, and wildness in his breast
He feels of all his former self possest;
He bounds - he flies-until his footsteps reach
The verge where ends the cliff, begins the beach,
There checks his speed; but pauses less to breathe
The breezy freshness of the deep beneath,
Than there his wonted statelier step renew;
Nor rush, disturb'd by haste, to vulgar view:
For well had Conrad learn'd to curb the crowd,
By arts that veil and oft preserve the proud;
His was the lofty port, the distant mien,
That seems to shun the sight-and awes if seen:
The solemn aspect, and the high-born eye,
That checks low mirth, but lacks not courtesy;
All these he wielded to command assent:
But where he wish'd to win, so well unbent
That kindness cancell'd fear in those who heard,
And others' gifts show'd mean beside his word,
When echo'd to the heart as from his own
His deep yet tender melody of tone:
But such was foreign to his wonted mood,
He cared not what he soften'd, but subdued:
The evil passions of his youth had made
Him value less who loved-than what obey'd.
Around him mustering ranged his ready guard,
Before him Juan stands - 'Are all prepared?'
They are - nay more - embark'd: the boats
Waits but my Chief-'
My sword, and my capote.'
Soon firmly girded on, and lightly slung,
His belt and cloak were o'er his shoulders flung:
'Call Pedro here!' He comes - and Conrad bends,
With all the courtesy he deign'd his friends;
'Receive these tablets, and peruse with care,
Words of high trust and truth are graven there;
Double the guard, and when Anselmo's bark
Arrives, let him alike these orders mark:
In three days (serve the breeze) the sun shall shine
On our return - till then all peace be thine!'
This said, his brother Pirate's hand he wrung,
Then to his boat with haughty gesture sprung.
Flash'd the dipt oars, and sparkling with the stroke,
Around the waves' phosphoric brightness broke;
They gain the vessel - on the deck he stands, -
Shrieks the shrill whistle, ply the busy hands -
He marks how well the ship her helm obeys,
How gallant all her crew, and deigns to praise.
His eyes of pride to young Gonsalvo turn -
Why doth he start, and inly seem to mourn?
Alas! those eyes beheld his rocky tower
And live a moment o'er the parting hour;
She - his Medora - did she mark the prow?
Ah! never loved he half so much as now!
But much must yet be done ere dawn of day -
Again he mans himself and turns away;
Down to the cabin with Gonsalvo bends,
And there unfolds his plan, his means, and ends;
Before them burns the lamp, and spreads the chart,
And all that speaks and aids the naval art;
They to the midnight watch protract debate;
To anxious eyes what hour is ever late?
Meantime, the steady breeze serenely blew,
And fast and falcon-like the vessel flew;
Pass'd the high headlands of each clustering isle,
To gain their port - long - long ere morning smile:
And soon the night-glass through the narrow bay
Discovers where the Pacha's galleys lay.
Count they each sail, and mark how there supine
The lights in vain o'er heedless Moslem shine.
Secure, unnoted, Conrad's prow pass'd by,
And anchor'd where his ambush meant to lie;
Screen'd from espial by the jutting cape,
That rears on high its rude fantastic shape.
Then rose his band to duty - not from sleep -
Equipp'd for deeds alike on land or deep;
While lean'd their leader o'er the fretting flood,
And calmly talk'd-and yet he talk'd of blood!
CANTO THE SECOND
'Conoscestci dubiosi desiri?'~Dante
IN Coron's bay floats many a galley light,
Through Coron's lattices the lamps are bright
For Seyd, the Pacha, makes a feast to-night:
A feast for promised triumph yet to come,
When he shall drag the fetter'd Rovers home;
This hath he sworn by Allah and his sword,
And faithful to his firman and his word,
His summon'd prows collect along the coast,
And great the gathering crews, and loud the boast;
Already shared the captives and the prize,
Though far the distant foe they thus despise
'Tis but to sail - no doubt to-morrow's Sun
Will see the Pirates bound, their haven won!
Meantime the watch may slumber, if they will,
Nor only wake to war, but dreaming kill.
Though all, who can, disperse on shore and seek
To flesh their glowing valour on the Greek;
How well such deed becomes the turban'd brave -
To bare the sabre's edge before a slave!
Infest his dwelling - but forbear to slay,
Their arms are strong, yet merciful to-day,
And do not deign to smite because they may!
Unless some gay caprice suggests the blow,
To keep in practice for the coming foe.
Revel and rout the evening hours beguile,
And they who wish to wear a head must smile
For Moslem mouths produce their choicest cheer,
And hoard their curses, till the coast is clear.
High in his hall reclines the turban'd Seyd;
Around-the bearded chiefs he came to lead.
Removed the banquet, and the last pilaff -
Forbidden draughts, 'tis said, he dared to quaff,
Though to the rest the sober berry's juice
The slaves bear round for rigid Moslems' use;
The long chibouque's dissolving cloud supply,
While dance the Almas to wild minstrelsy.
The rising morn will view the chiefs embark;
But waves are somewhat treacherous in the dark:
And revellers may more securely sleep
On silken couch than o'er the rugged deep:
Feast there who can - nor combat till they must,
And less to conquest than to Korans trust:
And yet the numbers crowded in his host
Might warrant more than even the Pacha's boast.
With cautious reverence from the outer gate
Slow stalks the slave, whose office there to wait,
Bows his bent head, his hand salutes the floor,
Ere yet his tongue the trusted tidings bore:
'A captive Dervise, from the Pirate's nest
Escaped, is here - himself would tell the rest.'
He took the sign from Seyd's assenting eye,
And led the holy man in silence nigh.
His arms were folded on his dark-green vest,
His step was feeble, and his look deprest;
Yet worn he seem'd of hardship more than years,
And pale his cheek with penance, not from fears.
Vow'd to his God - his sable locks he wore,
And these his lofty cap rose proudly o'er:
Around his form his loose long robe was thrown
And wrapt 'a breast bestow'd on heaven alone;
Submissive, yet with self-possession mann'd,
He calmly, met the curious eyes that scann d;
And question of his coming fain would seek,
Before the Pacha's will allow'd to speak.
Whence com'st thou, Dervise?'
'From the outlaw's den,
A fugitive -'
'Thy capture where and when?'
From Scalanova's port to Scio's isle,
The Saick was bound; but Allah did not smile
Upon our course - the Moslem merchant's gains
The Rovers won; our limbs have worn their chains.
I had no death to fear, nor wealth to boast
Beyond the wandering freedom which I lost;
At length a fisher's humble boat by night
Afforded hope, and offer'd chance of flight;
I seized the hour, and find my safety here -
With thee - most mighty Pacha! who can fear?'
'How speed the outlaws? stand they well prepared,
Their plunder'd wealth, and robber's rock, to guard?
Dream they of this our preparation, doom'd
To view with fire their scorpion nest consumed?'
'Pacha! the fetter'd captive's mourning eye,
That weeps for flight, but ill can play the spy;
I only heard the reckless waters roar
Those waves that would not bear me from the shore;
I only mark'd the glorious sun and sky,
Too bright, too blue, or my captivity;
And felt that all which Freedom's bosom cheers
Must break my chain before it dried my tears.
This may'st thou judge, at least, from my escape,
They little deem of aught in peril's shape;
Else vainly had I pray'd or sought the chance
That leads me here - if eyed with vigilance
The careless guard that did not see me fly
May watch as idly when thy power is nigh.
Pacha! my limbs are faint - and nature craves
Food for my hunger, rest from tossing waves:
Permit my absence - peace be with thee! Peace
With all around! - now grant repose - release.'
'Stay, Dervise! I have more to question - stay,
I do command thee - sit - dost hear? - obey!
More I must ask, and food the slaves shall bring
Thou shalt not pine where all are banqueting:
The supper done - prepare thee to reply,
Clearly and full -I love not mystery.'
'Twere vain to guess what shook the pious man,
Who look'd not lovingly on that Divan;
Nor show'd high relish for the banquet prest,
And less respect for every fellow guest.
'Twas but a moment's peevish hectic pass'd
Along his cheek, and tranquillised as fast:
He sate him down in silence, and his look
Resumed the calmness which before forsook:
This feast was usher'd in, but sumptuous fare
He shunn'd as if some poison mingled there.
For one so long condemn'd to toil and fast,
Methinks he strangely spares the rich re-past.
'What ails thee, Dervise? eat - dost thou suppose
This feast a Christian's? or my friends thy foes?
Why dost thou shun the salt? that sacred pledge,
Which once partaken, blunts the sabre's edge,
Makes ev'n contending tribes in peace unite,
And hated hosts seem brethren to the sight!'
'Salt seasons dainties-and my food is still
The humblest root, my drink the simplest rill;
And my stern vow and order's laws oppose
To break or mingle bread with friends or foes;
It may seem strange - if there be aught to dread,
That peril rests upon my single head;
But for thy sway - nay more - thy Sultan's throne,
I taste nor bread nor banquet - save alone;
Infringed our order's rule, the Prophet's rage
To Mecca's dome might bar my pilgrimage.'
'Well - as thou wilt - ascetic as thou art -
One question answer; then in peace depart.
How many ? - Ha! it cannot sure be day?
What star - what sun is bursting on the bay?
It shines a lake of fire ! - away - away!
Ho! treachery! my guards! my scimitar!
The galleys feed the flames - and I afar!
Accursed Dervise! - these thy tidings - thou
Some villain spy-seize cleave him - slay him now!'
Up rose the Dervise with that burst of light,
Nor less his change of form appall'd the sight:
Up rose that Dervise - not in saintly garb,
But like a warrior bounding on his barb,
Dash'd his high cap, and tore his robe away -
Shone his mail'd breast, and flash'd his sabre's ray!
His dose but glittering casque, and sable plume,
More glittering eye, and black brow's sabler gloom,
Glared on the Moslems' eyes some Afrit sprite,
Whose demon death-blow left no hope for fight.
The wild confusion, and the swarthy glow
Of flames on high, and torches from below;
The shriek of terror, and the mingling yell -
For swords began to dash' and shouts to swell -
Flung o'er that spot of earth the air of hell!
Distracted, to and fro, the flying slaves
Behold but bloody shore and fiery waves;
Nought heeded they the Pacha's angry cry,
They seize that Dervise!-seize on Zatanai!
He saw their terror-check'd the first dispair
That urged him but to stand and perish there,
Since far too early and too well obey'd,
The flame was kindled ere the signal made;
He saw their terror - from his baldric drew
-His bugle-brief the blast-but shrilly blew;
'Tis answered-' Well ye speed, my gallant crew!
Why did I doubt their quickness of career?
And deem design had left me single here?'
Sweeps his long arm-that sabre's whirling sway
Sheds fast atonement for its first delay;
Completes his fury what their fear begun,
And makes the many basely quail to one.
The cloven turbans o'er the chamber spread,
And scarce an arm dare rise to guard its head:
Even Seyd, convulsed, o'erwhelm'd, with rage surprise,
Retreats before him, though he still defies.
No craven he - and yet he dreads the blow,
So much Confusion magnifies his foe!
His blazing galleys still distract his sight,
He tore his beard, and foaming fled the fight;
For now the pirates pass'd the Haram gate,
And burst within - and it were death to wait
Where wild Amazement shrieking - kneeling throws
The sword aside - in vain the blood o'erflows!
The Corsairs pouring, haste to where within
Invited Conrad's bugle, and the din
Of groaning victims, and wild cries for life,
Proclaim'd how well he did the work of strife.
They shout to find him grim and lonely there,
A glutted tiger mangling in his lair!
But short their greeting, shorter his reply
'Tis well but Seyd escapes, and he must die-
Much hath been done, but more remains to do -
Their galleys blaze - why not their city too?'
Quick at the word they seized him each a torch'
And fire the dome from minaret to porch.
A stern delight was fix'd in Conrad's eye,
But sudden sunk - for on his ear the cry
Of women struck, and like a deadly knell
Knock'd at that heart unmoved by battle's yell.
'Oh! burst the Haram - wrong not on your lives
One female form remember - we have wives.
On them such outrage Vengeance will repay;
Man is our foe, and such 'tis ours to slay:
But still we spared - must spare the weaker prey.
Oh! I forgot - but Heaven will not forgive
If at my word the helpless cease to live;
Follow who will - I go - we yet have time
Our souls to lighten of at least a crime.'
He climbs the crackling stair, he bursts the door,
Nor feels his feet glow scorching with the floor;
His breath choked gasping with the volumed smoke,
But still from room to room his way he broke.
They search - they find - they save: with lusty arms
Each bears a prize of unregarded charms;
Calm their loud fears; sustain their sinking frames
With all the care defenceless beauty claims
So well could Conrad tame their fiercest mood,
And check the very hands with gore imbrued.
But who is she? whom Conrad's arms convey
From reeking pile and combat's wreck away -
Who but the love of him he dooms to bleed?
The Haram queen - but still the slave of Seyd!
Brief time had Conrad now to greet Gulnare,
Few words to re-assure the trembling fair
For in that pause compassion snatch'd from war,
The foe before retiring, fast and far,
With wonder saw their footsteps unpursued,
First slowlier fled - then rallied - then withstood.
This Seyd perceives, then first perceives how few?
Compared with his, the Corsair's roving crew,
And blushes o'er his error, as he eyes
The ruin wrought by panic and surprise.
Alla il Alla! Vengeance swells the cry -
Shame mounts to rage that must atone or die!
And flame for flame and blood for blood must tell,
The tide of triumph ebbs that flow'd too well -
When wrath returns to renovated strife,
And those who fought for conquest strike for life
Conrad beheld the danger - he beheld
His followers faint by freshening foes repell'd:
'One effort - one - to break the circling host!'
They form - unite - charge - waver - all is lost!
Within a narrower ring compress'd, beset,
Hopeless, not heartless, strive and struggle yet -
Ah! now they fight in firmest file no more,
Hemm'd in, cut off, cleft down, and trampled o'er,
But each strikes singly, silently, and home,
And sinks outwearied rather than o'ercome,
His last faint quittance rendering with his breath,
Till the blade glimmers in the grasp of death!
But first, ere came the rallying host to blows,
And rank to rank, and hand to hand oppose,
Gulnare and all her Haram handmaids freed,
Safe in the dome of one who held their creed,
By Conrad's mandate safely were bestow'd
And dried those tears for life and fame that flow'd:
And when that dark-eyed lady, young Gulnare
Recall'd those thoughts late wandering in despair
Much did she marvel o'er the courtesy
That smooth'd his accents, soften'd in his eye:
'Twas strange-that robber thus with gore bedew'd
Seem'd gentler then than Seyd in fondest mood.
The Pacha woo'd as if he deem'd the slave
Must seem delighted with the heart he gave
The Corsair vow'd protection, soothed affright
As if his homage were a woman's right.
'The wish is wrong-nay, worse for female - vain:
Yet much I long to view that chief again;
If but to thank for, what my fear forget,
The life my loving lord remember'd not!'
And him she saw, where thickest carnage spread,
But gather'd breathing from the happier dead;
Far from his band, and battling with a host
That deem right dearly won the field he lost,
Fell'd - bleeding - baffled of the death he sought,
And snatch'd to expiate all the ills he wrought;
Preserved to linger and to live in vain,
While Vengeance ponder'd o'er new plans of pain,
And stanch'd the blood she saves to shed again -
But drop for drop, for Seyd's unglutted eye
Would doom him ever dying - ne'er to die!
Can this be he? triumphant late she saw
When his red hand's wild gesture waved a law!
'Tis he indeed - disarm'd but undeprest,
His sole regret the life he still possest;
His wounds too slight, though taken with that will,
Which would have kiss'd the hand that then could kill.
Oh were there none, of all the many given,
To send his soul - he scarcely ask'd to heaven?
Must he alone of all retain his breath,
Who more than all had striven and struck for death?
He deeply felt - what mortal hearts must feel,
When thus reversed on faithless fortune's wheel,
For crimes committed, and the victor's threat
Of lingering tortures to repay the debt -
He deeply, darkly felt; but evil pride
That led to perpetrate, now serves to hide.
Still in his stern and self-collected mien
A conqueror's more than captive's air is seen
Though faint with wasting toil and stiffening wound,
But few that saw - so calmly gazed around:
Though the far shouting of the distant crowd,
Their tremors o'er, rose insolently loud,
The better warriors who beheld him near,
Insulted not the foe who taught them fear;
And the grim guards that to his durance led,
In silence eyed him with a secret dread
The Leech was sent-but not in mercy - there,
To note how much the life yet left could bear;
He found enough to load with heaviest chain,
And promise feeling for the wrench of pain;
To-morrow - yea - tomorrow's evening gun
Will sinking see impalement's pangs begun'
And rising with the wonted blush of morn
Behold how well or ill those pangs are borne.
Of torments this the longest and the worst,
Which adds all other agony to thirst,
That day by day death still forbears to slake,
While famish'd vultures flit around the stake.
'Oh! Water - water! ' smiling Hate denies
The victim's prayer, for if he drinks he dies.
This was his doom; - the Leech, the guard were gone,
And left proud Conrad fetter'd and alone.
'Twere vain to paint to what his feelings grew -
It even were doubtful if their victim knew.
There is a war, a chaos of the mind,
When all its elements convulsed, combined,
Lie dark and jarring with perturbed force,
And gnashing with impenitent Remorse -
That juggling fiend, who never spake before
But cries 'I warn'd thee!' when the deed is o'er.
Vain voice! the spirit burning but unbent
May writhe, rebel - the weak alone repent!
Even in that lonely hour when most it feels,
And, to itself; all, all that self reveals,-
No single passion, and no ruling thought
That leaves the rest, as once, unseen, unsought,
But the wild prospect when the soul reviews,
All rushing through their thousand avenues -
Ambition's dreams expiring, love's regret,
Endanger'd glory, life itself beset;
The joy untasted, the contempt or hate
'Gainst those who fain would triumph in our fate
The hopeless' past, the hasting future driven
Too quickly on to guess of hell or heaven;
Deeds, thoughts, and words, perhaps remember'd not
So keenly till that hour, but ne'er forgot;
Things light or lovely in their acted time,
But now to stern reflection each a crime;
The withering sense of evil unreveal'd,
Not cankering less because the more con ceal'd -
All, in a word, from which all eyes must start,
That opening sepulchre - the naked heart
Bares with its buried woes, till Pride awake,
To snatch the mirror from the soul-and break.
Ay, Pride can veil, and Courage brave it all -
All - all - before - beyond - the deadliest fall.
Each hath some fear, and he who least betrays,
The only hypocrite deserving praise:
Not the loud recreant wretch who boasts and flies;
But he who looks on death-and silent dies.
So steel'd by pondering o'er his far career,
He half-way meets him should he menace near!
In the high chamber of his highest tower
Sate Conrad, fetter'd in the Pacha's power.
His palace perish'd in the flame - this fort
Contain'd at once his captive and his court.
Not much could Conrad of his sentence blame,
His foe, if vanquish'd, had but shared the same:-
Alone he sate-in solitude had scann'd
His guilty bosom, but that breast he mann'd:
One thought alone he could not - dared not meet -
'Oh, how these tidings will Medora greet?'
Then - only then - his clanking hands he raised,
And strain'd with rage the chain on which he gazed
But soon he found, or feign'd, or dream'd relief,
And smiled in self-derision of his grief,
'And now come torture when it will - or may,
More need of rest to nerve me for the day!'
This said, with languor to his mat he crept,
And, whatsoe'er his visions, quickly slept
'Twas hardly midnight when that fray begun,
For Conrad's plans matured, at once were done:
And Havoc loathes so much the waste of time,
She scarce had left an uncommitted crime.
One hour beheld him since the tide he stemm'd -
Disguised, discover'd, conquering, ta'en, condemn'd -
A chief on land, an outlaw on the deep
Destroying, saving, prison'd, and asleep!
He slept in calmest seeming, for his breath
Was hush'd so deep - Ah! happy if in death!
He slept - Who o'er his placid slumber bends?
His foes are gone, and here he hath no friends;
Is it some seraph sent to grant him grace?
No, 'tis an earthly form with heavenly face!
Its white arm raised a lamp - yet gently hid,
Lest the ray flash abruptly on the lid
Of that closed eye, which opens but to pain,
And once unclosed - but once may close again
That form, with eye so dark, and cheek so fair,
And auburn waves of gemm'd and braided hair;
With shape of fairy lightness - naked foot,
That shines like snow, and falls on earth as mute -
Through guards and dunnest night how came it there?
Ah! rather ask what will not woman dare?
Whom youth and pity lead like thee, Gulnare!
She could not sleep - and while the Pacha's rest
In muttering dreams yet saw his pirate-guest
She left his side - his signet-ring she bore
Which oft in sport adorn'd her hand before -
And with it, scarcely question'd, won her way
Through drowsy guards that must that sign obey.
Worn out with toil, and tired with changing blows
Their eyes had' envied Conrad his repose;
And chill and nodding at the turret door,
They stretch their listless limbs, and watch no more;
Just raised their heads to hail the signet-ring,
Nor ask or what or who the sign may bring.
She gazed in wonder, 'Can he calmly sleep,
While other eyes his fall or ravage weep?
And mine in restlessness are wandering here -
What sudden spell hath made this man so dear?
True-'tis to him my life, and more, I owe,
And me and mine he spared from worse than woe:
'Tis late to think - but soft, his slumber breaks -
How heavily he sighs! - he starts - awakes!'
He raised his head, and dazzled with the light,
His eye seem'd dubious if it saw aright:
He moved his hand - the grating of his chain
Too harshly told him that he lived again.
'What is that form? if not a shape of air,
Methinks, my jailor's face shows wondrous fair!'
'Pirate! thou know'st me not-but I am one,
Grateful for deeds thou hast too rarely done;
Look on me - and remember her, thy hand
Snatch'd from the flames, and thy more fearful band.
I come through darkness and I scarce know why -
Yet not to hurt - I would not see thee die'
'If so, kind lady! thine the only eye
That would not here in that gay hope delight:
Theirs is the chance - and let them use their right.
But still I thank their courtesy or thine,
That would confess me at so fair a shrine!'
Strange though it seem - yet with extremest grief
Is link'd a mirth - it doth not bring relief -
That playfulness of Sorrow ne'er beguiles,
And smiles in bitterness - but still it smiles;
And sometimes with the wisest and the best,
Till even the scaffold echoes with their jest!
Yet not the joy to which it seems akin -
It may deceive all hearts, save that within.
Whate'er it was that flash'd on Conrad, now
A laughing wildness half unbent his brow
And these his accents had a sound of mirth,
As if the last he could enjoy on earth;
Yet 'gainst his nature - for through that short life,
Few thoughts had he to spare from gloom and strife.
'Corsair! thy doom is named - but I have power
To soothe the Pacha in his weaker hour.
Thee would I spare - nay more - would save thee now,
But this - time - hope - nor even thy strength allow;
But all I can, I will: at least, delay
The sentence that remits thee scarce a day.
More now were ruin - even thyself were loth
The vain attempt should bring but doom to both.'
'Yes! loth indeed:- my soul is nerved to all,
Or fall'n too low to fear a further fall:
Tempt not thyself with peril - me with hope
Of flight from foes with whom I could not cope:
Unfit to vanquish, shall I meanly fly,
The one of all my band that would not die?
Yet there is one to whom my memory clings,
Till to these eyes her own wild softness springs.
My sole resources in the path I trod
Were these - my bark, my sword, my love, my God!
The last I left in youth! - he leaves me now -
And Man but works his will to lay me low.
I have no thought to mock his throne with prayer
Wrung from the coward crouching of despair;
It is enough - I breathe, and I can bear.
My sword is shaken from the worthless hand
That might have better kept so true a brand;
My bark is sunk or captive - but my love -
For her in sooth my voice would mount above:
Oh! she is all that still to earth can bind -
And this will break a heart so more than kind,
And blight a form - till thine appear'd, Gulnare!
Mine eye ne'er ask'd if others were as fair.'
'Thou lov'st another then? - but what to me
Is this - 'tis nothing - nothing e'er can be:
But yet - thou lov'st - and - Oh! I envy those
Whose hearts on hearts as faithful can repose,
Who never feel the void-the wandering thought
That sighs o'er vision~such as mine hath wrought.'
'Lady methought thy love was his, for whom
This arm redeem'd thee from a fiery tomb.
'My love stern Seyd's! Oh - No - No - not my love -
Yet much this heart, that strives no more, once strove
To meet his passion but it would not be.
I felt - I feel - love dwells with - with the free.
I am a slave, a favour'd slave at best,
To share his splendour, and seem very blest!
Oft must my soul the question undergo,
Of -' Dost thou love?' and burn to answer, 'No!'
Oh! hard it is that fondness to sustain,
And struggle not to feel averse in vain;
But harder still the heart's recoil to bear,
And hide from one - perhaps another there.
He takes the hand I give not, nor withhold -
Its pulse nor check'd, nor quicken'd-calmly cold:
And when resign'd, it drops a lifeless weight
From one I never loved enough to hate.
No warmth these lips return by his imprest,
And chill'd remembrance shudders o'er the rest.
Yes - had lever proved that passion's zeal,
The change to hatred were at least to feel:
But still he goes unmourn'd, returns unsought,
And oft when present - absent from my thought.
Or when reflection comes - and come it must -
I fear that henceforth 'twill but bring disgust;
I am his slave - but, in despite of pride,
'Twere worse than bondage to become his bride.
Oh! that this dotage of his breast would cease:
Or seek another and give mine release,
But yesterday - I could have said, to peace!
Yes, if unwonted fondness now I feign,
Remember captive! 'tis to break thy chain;
Repay the life that to thy hand I owe
To give thee back to all endear'd below,
Who share such love as I can never know.
Farewell, morn breaks, and I must now away:
'Twill cost me dear - but dread no death to-day!'
She press'd his fetter'd fingers to her heart,
And bow'd her head, and turn'd her to de part,
And noiseless as a lovely dream is gone.
And was she here? and is he now alone?
What gem hath dropp'd and sparkles o'er his chain?
The tear most sacred, shed for others' pain,
That starts at once - bright - pure - from Pity's mine
Already polish'd by the hand divine!
Oh! too convincing - deangerously dear -
In woman's eye the unanswerable tear
That weapon of her weakness she can wield,
To save, subdue at once her spear and shield:
Avoid it - Virtue ebbs and Wisdom errs,
Too fondly gazing on that grief of hers!
What lost a world, and bade a hero fly?
The timid tear in Cleopatra's eye.
Yet be the soft triumvir's fault forgiven;
By this - how many lose not earth - but heaven!
Consign their souls to man's eternal foe,
And seal their own to spare some wanton's woe!
'Tis morn, and o'er his alter'd features play
The beams - without the hope of yester-day.
What shall he be ere night? perchance a thing
O'er which the raven flaps her funeral wing
By his closed eye unheeded and unfelt;
While sets that sun, and dews of evening melt,
Chin wet, and misty round each stiffen'd limb,
Refreshing earth - reviving all but him!
CANTO THE THIRD
'Come vedi - ancor non m'abbandona'~Dante
Slow sinks, more lovely ere his race be run,
Along Morea's hills the setting sun;
Not, as in Northern climes, obscurely bright,
But one unclouded blaze of living light!
O'er the hush'd deep the yellow beam he throws,
Gilds the green wave, that trembles as it glows.
On old Ægina's rock and Idra's isle,
The god of gladness sheds his parting smile;
O'er his own regions lingering, loves to shine,
Though there his altars are no more divine.
Descending fast the mountain shadows kiss
Thy glorious gulf; unconquer'd Salamis!
Their azure arches through the long expanse
More deeply purpled meet his mellowing glance,
And tenderest tints, along their summits driven,
Mark his gay course, and own the hues of heaven;
Tm, darkly shaded from the land and deep,
Behind his Delphian cliff he sinks to sleep.
On such an eve, his palest beam he cast,
When - Athens! here thy Wisest look'd his last.
How watch'd thy better sons his farewell ray,
That closed their murder'd sage's latest day!
Not yet - not yet - Sol pauses on the hill -
The precious hour of parting lingers still;
But sad his light to agonising eyes,
And dark the mountain's once delightful dyes:
Gloom o'er the lovely land he seem'd to pour,
The land, where Phoebus never frown'd before;
But ere he sank below Cithæron's head,
The cup of woe was quaff'd - the spirit fled
The soul of him who scorn'd to fear or fly -
Who lived and died, as none can live or die!
But lo! from high Hymettus to the plain,
The queen of night asserts her silent reign.
No murky vapour, herald of the storm,
Hides her fair face, nor girds her glowing form:
With cornice glimmering as the moon-beams play,
There the white column greets her grateful ray,
And, bright around with quivering beams beset,
Her emblem sparkles o'er the minaret:
The groves of olive scatter'd dark and wide
Where meek Cephisus pours his scanty tide,
The cypress saddening by the sacred mosque,
The gleaming turret of the gay kiosk,
And, dun and sombre 'mid the holy calm,
Near Theseus' fane yon solitary palm,
All tinged with varied hues arrest the eye -
And dull were his that pass'd them heedless by.
Again the Ægean, heard no more afar,
Lulls his chafed breast from elemental war;
Again his waves in milder tints unfold
Their long array of sapphire and of gold,
Mix'd with the shades of many a distant isle,
That frown - where gentler ocean seems to smile.
Not now my theme-why turn my thoughts to thee?
Oh! who can look along thy native sea.
Nor dwell upon thy name, whate'er the tale
So much its magic must o'er all prevail?
Who that beheld that Sun upon thee set,
Fair Athens! could thine evening face for get?
Not he - whose heart nor time nor distance frees,
Spell-bound within the clustering Cyclades!
Nor seems this homage foreign to its strain,
His Corsair's isle was once thine own domain -
Would that with freedom it were thine again!
The Sun hath sunk - and, darker than the night,
Sinks with its beam upon the beacon height
Medora's heart - the third day's come and gone -
With it he comes not - sends not - faithless one!
The wind was fair though light; and storms were none. 70
Last eve Anselmo's bark return'd, and yet
His only tidings that they had not met!
Though wild, as now, far different were the tale
Had Conrad waited for that single sail.
The night-breeze freshens - she that day had pass'd
In watching all that Hope proclaim'd a mast;
Sadly she sate on high - Impatience bore
At last her footsteps to the midnight shore,
And there she wander'd, heedless of the spray
That dash'd her garments oft, and warn'd away:
She saw not, felt not this - nor dared depart,
Nor deem'd it cold - her chill was at her heart;
Till grew such certainty from that suspense
His very sight had shock'd from life or sense!
It came at last - a sad and shatter'd boat,
Whose inmates first beheld whom first they sought;
Some bleeding - all most wretched - these the few -
Scarce knew they how escaped - this all they knew.
In silence, darkling, each appear'd to wait
His fellow's mournful guess at Conrad's fate:
Something they would have said; but seem'd to fear
To trust their accents to Medora's ear.
She saw at once, yet sunk not - trembled not -
Beneath that grief, that loneliness of lot;
Within that meek fair form were feelings high,
That deem'd not, till they found, their energy
While yet was Hope they soften'd, flutter'd wept -
All lost - that softness died not - but it slept;
And o'er its slumber rose that Strength which said,
'With nothing left to love, there's nought to dread.'
'Tis more than nature's; like the burning 'night
'TWAS summer eve; the changeful beams still play'd
On the fir-bark and through the beechen shade;
Still with soft crimson glow'd each floating cloud;
Still the stream glitter'd where the willow bow'd;
Still the pale moon sate silent and alone,
Nor yet the stars had rallied round her throne;
Those diamond courtiers, who, while yet the West
Wears the red shield above his dying breast,
Dare not assume the loss they all desire,
Nor pay their homage to the fainter fire,
But wait in trembling till the Sun's fair light
Fading, shall leave them free to welcome Night!
So when some Chief, whose name through realms afar
Was still the watchword of succesful war,
Met by the fatal hour which waits for all,
Is, on the field he rallied, forced to fall,
The conquerors pause to watch his parting breath,
Awed by the terrors of that mighty death;
Nor dare the meed of victory to claim,
Nor lift the standard to a meaner name,
Till every spark of soul hath ebb'd away,
And leaves what was a hero, common clay.
Oh! Twilight! Spirit that dost render birth
To dim enchantments; melting Heaven with Earth,
Leaving on craggy hills and rumning streams
A softness like the atmosphere of dreams;
Thy hour to all is welcome! Faint and sweet
Thy light falls round the peasant's homeward feet,
Who, slow returning from his task of toil,
Sees the low sunset gild the cultured soil,
And, tho' such radliance round him brightly glows,
Marks the small spark his cottage window throws.
Still as his heart forestals his weary pace,
Fondly he dreams of each familiar face,
Recalls the treasures of his narrow life,
His rosy children, and his sunburnt wife,
To whom his coming is the chief event
Of simple days in cheerful labour spent.
The rich man's chariot hath gone whirling past,
And those poor cottagers have only cast
One careless glance on all that show of pride,
Then to their tasks turn'd quietly aside;
But him they wait for, him they welcome home,
Fond sentinels look forth to see him come;
The fagot sent for when the fire grew dim,
The frugal meal prepared, are all for him;
For him the watching of that sturdy boy,
For him those smiles of tenderness and joy,
For him,--who plods his sauntering way along,
Whistling the fragment of some village song!
Dear art thou to the lover, thou sweet light,
Fair fleeting sister of the mournful night!
As in impatient hope he stands apart,
Companion'd only by his beating heart,
And with an eager fancy oft beholds
The vision of a white robe's fluttering folds
Flit through the grove, and gain the open mead,
True to the hour by loving hearts agreed!
At length she comes. The evening's holy grace
Mellows the glory of her radiant face;
The curtain of that daylight faint and pale
Hangs round her like the shrouding of a veil;
As, turning with a bashful timid thought,
From the dear welcome she herself hath sought,
Her shadowy profile drawn against the sky
Cheats, while it charms, his fond adoring eye.
Oh! dear to him, to all, since first the flowers
Of happy Eden's consecrated bowers
Heard the low breeze along the branches play,
And God's voice bless the cool hour of the day.
For though that glorious Paradise be lost,
Though earth by blighting storms be roughly cross'd,
Though the long curse demands the tax of sin,
And the day's sorrows with the day begin,
That hour, once sacred to God's presence, still
Keeps itself calmer from the touch of ill,
The holiest hour of earth. Then toil doth cease--
Then from the yoke the oxen find release
Then man rests pausing from his many cares,
And the world teems with children's sunset prayers!
Then innocent things seek out their natural rest,
The babe sinks slumbering on its mother's breast;
The birds beneath their leafy covering creep,
Yea, even the flowers fold up their buds in sleep;
And angels, floating by, on radiant wings,
Hear the low sounds the breeze of evening brings,
Catch the sweet incense as it floats along,
The infant's prayer, the mother's cradle-song,
And bear the holy gifts to worlds afar,
As thigs too sacred for this fallen star.
At such an hour, on such a summer night,
Silent and calm in its transparent light,
A widow'd parent watch'd her slumbering child,
On whose young face the sixteenth summer smiled.
Fair was the face she watch'd! Nor less, because
Beauty's perfection seem'd to make a pause,
And wait, on that smooth brow, some further touch,
Some spell from Time,--the great magician,--such
As calls the closed bud out of hidden gloom,
And bids it wake to glory, light, and bloom.
Girlish as yet, but with the gentle grace
Of a young fawn in its low resting-place,
Her folded limbs were lying: from her hand
A group of wild-flowers,--Nature's brightest band,
Of all that laugh along the Summer fields,
Of all the sunny hedge-row freely yields,
Of all that in the wild-wood darkly hide,
Or on the thyme-bank wave in breezy pride,--
Show'd, that the weariness which closed in sleep
So tranquil, child-like, innocent, and deep,
Nor festal gaiety, nor toilsome hours,
Had brought; but, like a flower among the flowers,
She had been wandering 'neath the Summer sky,
Youth on her lip and gladness in her eye,
Twisting the wild rose from its native thorn,
And the blue scabious from the sunny corn;
Smiling and singing like a spirit fair
That walk'd the world, but had no dwelling there.
And still (as though their faintly-scented breath
Preserv'd a meek fidelity in death)
Each late imprison'd blossom fondly lingers
Within the touch of her unconscious fingers,
Though, languidly unclasp'd, that hand no more
Guards its possession of the rifled store.
So wearily she lay; so sweetly slept;
So by her side fond watch the mother kept;
And, as above her gentle child she bent,
So like they seem'd in form and lineament,
You might have deem'd her face its shadow gave
To the clear mirror of a fountain's wave;
Only in this they differ'd; that, while one
Was warm and radiant as the Summer sun,
The other's smile had more a moonlight play,
For many tears had wept its glow away;
Yet was she fair; of loveliness so true,
That time, which faded, never could subdue:
And though the sleeper, like a half-blown rose,
Show'd bright as angels in her soft repose,
Though bluer veins ran through each snowy lid,
Curtaining sweet eyes, by long dark lashes hid--
Eyes that as yet had never learnt to weep,
But woke up smiling, like a child's, from sleep;
Though fainter lines were pencill'd on the brow,
Which cast soft shadow on the orbs below;
Though deeper colour flush'd her youthful cheek,
In its smooth curve more joyous and less meek,
And fuller seem'd the small and crimson mouth,
With teeth like those that glitter in the South,--
She had but youth's superior brightness, such
As the skill'd painter gives with flattering touch
When he would picture every lingering grace
Which once shone brighter in some copied face;
And it was compliment, whene'er she smiled,
To say, 'Thou'rt like thy mother, my fair child!'
Sweet is the image of the brooding dove!--
Holy as Heaven a mother's tender love!
The love of many prayers and many tears,
Which changes not with dim declining years,--
The only love which on this teeming earth
Asks no return from Passion's wayward birth;
The only love that, with a touch divine,
Displaces from the heart's most secret shrine
The idol SELF. Oh! prized beneath thy due
When life's untried affections all are new,--
Love, from whose calmer hope and holier rest
(Like a fledged bird, impatient of the nest)
The human heart, rebellious, springs to seek
Delights more vehement, in ties more weak;
How strange to us appears, in after-life,
That term of mingled carelessness and strife,
When guardianship so gentle gall'd our pride,
When it was holiday to leave thy side,
When, with dull ignorance that would not learn,
We lost those hours that never can return--
Hours, whose most sweet communion Nature meant
Should be in confidence and kindness spent,
That we (hereafter mourning) might believe
In human faith, though all around deceive;
Might weigh against the sad and startling crowd
Of ills which wound the weak and chill the proud,
Of woes 'neath which (despite of stubborn will,
Philosophy's vain boast, and erring skill)
The strong heart downward like a willow bends,
Failure of love,--and treachery of friends,--
Our recollections of the undefiled,
The sainted tie, of parent and of child!
Oh! happy days! Oh years that glided by,
Scarce chronicled by one poor passing sigh!
When the dark storm sweeps past us, and the soul
Struggles with fainting strength to reach the goal;
When the false baits that lured us only cloy,
What would we give to grasp your vanish'd joy!
From the cold quicksands of Life's treacherous shore
The backward light our anxious eyes explore,
Measure the miles our wandering feet have come,
Sinking heart-weary, far away from home,
Recall the voice that whisper'd love and peace,
The smile that bid our early sorrows cease,
And long to bow our grieving heads, and weep
Low on the gentle breast that lull'd us first to sleep!
Ah! bless'd are they for whom 'mid all their pains
That faithful and unalter'd love remains;
Who, Life wreck'd round them,--hunted from their rest,--
And, by all else forsaken or distress'd,--
Claim, in one heart, their sanctuary and shrine--
As I, my Mother, claim'd my place in thine!
Oft, since that hour, in sadness I retrace
My childhood's vision of thy calm sweet face;
Oft see thy form, its mournful beauty shrouded
In thy black weeds, and coif of widow's woe;
Thy dark expressive eyes all dim and clouded
By that deep wretchedness the lonely know:
Stifling thy grief, to hear some weary task
Conn'd by unwilling lips, with listless air,
Hoarding thy means, lest future need might ask
More than the widow's pittance then could spare.
Hidden, forgotten by the great and gay,
Enduring sorrow, not by fits and starts,
But the long, self-denial, day by day,
Alone amidst thy brood of careless hearts!
Striving to guide, to teach, or to restrain
The young rebellious spirits crowding round,
Who saw not, kuew not, felt not for thy pain,
And could not comfort--yet had power to wound!
Ah! how my selfish heart, which since hath grown
Familiar with deep trials of its own,
With riper judgment looking to the past,
Regrets the careless days that flew so fast,
Stamps with remorse each wasted hour of time,
And darkens every folly into crime!
Warriors and statesmen have their meed of praise,
And what they do or suffer men record;
But the long sacrifice of woman's days
Passes without a thought--without a word;
And many a holy struggle for the sake
Of duties sttenily, faithfully fulfill'd,--
For which the anxious mind must watch and wake,
And the strong feelings of the heart be still'd--
Goes by unheeded as the summer wind,
And leaves no memory and no trace behind!
Yet, it may be, more lofty courage dwells
In one meek heart which braves an adverse fate,
Than his, whose ardent soul indignant swells
Warm'd by the fight, or cheer'd through high debate:
The Soldier dies surrounded;--could he live
Alone to suffer, and alone to strive?
Answer, ye graves, whose suicidal gloom
Shows deeper horror than a common tomb!
Who sleep within? The men who would evade
An unseen lot of which they felt afraid.
Embarrassment of means, which work'd annoy,--
A past remorse,--a future blank of joy,--
The sinful rashness of a blind despair,--
These were the strokes which sent your victims there.
In many a village churchyard's simple grave,
Where all unmark'd the cypress-branches wave;
In many a vault where Death could only claim
The brief inscription of a woman's name;
Of different ranks, and different degrees,
From daily labour to a life of ease,
(From the rich wife who through the weary day
Wept in her jewels, grief's unceasing prey,
To the poor soul who trudged o'er marsh and moor,
And with her baby begg'd from door to door,--)
Lie hearts, which, ere they found that last release,
Had lost all memory of the blessing 'Peace;'
Hearts, whose long struggle through unpitied years
None saw but Him who marks the mourner's tears;
The obscurely noble! who evaded not
The woe which He had will'd should be their lot,
But nerved themselves to bear!
Of such art thou,
My Mother! With thy calm and holy brow,
And high devoted heart, which suffer'd still
Unmurmuring, through each degree of ill.
And, because Fate hath will'd that mine should be
A Poet's soul (at least in my degree),--
And that my verse would faintly shadow forth
What I have seen of pure unselfish worth,--
Therefore I speak of Thee; that those who read
That trust in woman, which is still my creed,
Thy early-widow'd image may recall
And greet thy nature as the type of all!
Enough! With eyes of fond unwearied love
The Mother of my story watch'd above
Her sleeping child; and, as she views the grace
And blushing beauty of that girlish face,
Her thoughts roam back through change of time and tide,
Since first Heaven sent the blessing by her side.
In that sweet vision she again receives
The snow-white cradle, where that tiny head
Lay, like a small bud folded in its leaves,
Foster'd with dew by tears of fondness shed;
Each infantine event, each dangerous hour
Which pass'd with threatening o'er its fragile form,
Her hope, her anguish, as the tender flower
Bloom'd to the sun, or sicken'd in the storm,
In memory's magic mirror glide along,
And scarce she notes the different scene around,
And scarce her lips refrain the cradle-song
Which sooth'd that infant with its lulling sound!
But the dream changes; quiet years roll on;
That dawn of frail existence fleets away,
And she beholds beneath the summer sun
A blessed sight; a little child at play.
The soft light falls upon its golden hair,
And shows a brow intelligently mild;
No more a cipher in this world of care,
Love cheers and chides that happy conscious child.
No more unheeding of her watchful love,
Pride to excel, its docile spirit stirs;
Regret and hope its tiny bosom move,
And looks of fondness brightly answer hers;
O'er the green meadow, and the broomy hill,
In restless joy it bounds and darts along;
Or through the breath of evening, low and still,
Carols with mirthful voice its welcome song.
Again the vision changes; from her view
The CHILD'S dear love and antic mirth are gone;
But, in their stead, with cheek of rose-leaf hue,
And fair slight form, and low and silvery tone,
Rises the sweetest spirit Thought can call
From memory's distant worlds--the fairy GIRL;
Whose heart her childish pleasures still enthrall,
Whose unbound hair still floats in careless curl,
But in whose blue and meekly lifted eyes,
And in whose shy, though sweet and cordial smile,
And in whose changeful blushes, dimly rise
Shadows and lights that were not seen erewhile:
Shadows and lights that speak of woman's love,
Of all that makes or mars her fate below;
Mysterious prophecies, which Time must prove
More bright in glory, or more dark with woe!
And that soft vision also wanders by
Melting in fond and innocent smiles away,
Till the loved REAL meets the watchful eye
Of her who thus recall'd a former day;
The gentle daughter, for whose precious sake
Her widow'd heart had struggled with its pain.
And still through lonely grief refused to break,
Because that tie to Earth did yet remain.
Now, as she fondly gazed, a few meek tears
Stole down her cheek; for she that sliunber'd there,
The beautiful, the loved of many years.
A bride betroth'd must leave her fostering care;
Woo'd in another's home apart to dwell.--
Oh! might that other love but half as well!
As if the mournful wish had touch'd her heart,
The slumbering maiden woke, with sudden start;
Turn'd, with a dazzled and intense surprise,
On that fond face her bright, bewilder'd eyes;
Gazed round on each familiar object near,
As though she doubted yet if sense was clear;
Cover'd her brow and sigh'd, as though to wake
Had power some spell of happy thought to break;
Then murmur'd, in a low and earnest tone,
'Oh! is that blessed dream for ever gone?'
Strange is the power of dreams! Who hath not felt,
When in the morning light such visions melt,
How the veil'd soul, though struggling to be free,
Ruled by that deep, unfathom'd mystery,
Wakes, haunted by the thoughts of good or ill,
Whose shadowy influence pursues us still?
Sometimes remorse doth weigh our spirits down;
Some crime committed earns Heaven's angriest frown;
Some awful sin, in which the tempted heart
Hath scarce, perhaps, forborne its waking part,
Brings dreams of judgment; loud the thunders roll,
The heavens shrink blacken'd like a flaming scroll;
We faint, we die, beneath the avenging rod,
And vainly hide from our offended God.
For oh! though Fancy change our mortal lot,
And rule our slumbers, CONSCIENCE sleepeth not;
What strange sad dial, by its own true light,
Points to our thoughts, how dark soe'er the night,
Still by our pillow watchful guard it keeps,
And bids the sinner tremble while he sleeps.
Sometimes, with fearful dangers doom'd to cope,
'Reft of each wild and visionary hope,
Stabb'd with a thousand wounds, we struggle still,
The hand that tortures, powerless to kill.
Sometimes 'mid ocean storms, in fearful strife,
We stem the wave, and shrieking, gasp for life,
While crowding round us, faces rise and gleam,
Some known and loved, some, pictures of our dream;
High on the buoyant waters wildly toss'd--
Low in its foaming caverns darkly lost--
Those flitting forms the dangerous hour partake,
Cling to our aid, or suffer for our sake.
Conscious of present life, the slumbering soul
Still floats us onward, as the billows roll,
Till, snatch'd from death, we seem to touch the strand,
Rise on the shoreward wave, and dash to land!
Alone we come: the forms whose wild array
Gleam'd round us while we struggled, fade away,--
We know not, reck not, who the danger shared,
But, vaguely dreaming, feel that we are spared.
Sometimes a grief, of fond affection born,
Gnaws at our heart, and bids us weep till morn;
Some anguish, copied from our waking fears,
Wakes the eternal fount of human tears,
Sends us to watch some vision'd bed of death,
Hold the faint hand, and catch the parting breath,
Where those we prized the most, and loved the best,
Seem darkly sinking to the grave's long rest;
Lo! in our arms they fade, they faint, they die,
Before our eyes the funeral train sweeps by;
We hear the orphan's sob--the widow's wail--
O'er our dim senses woeful thoughts prevail,
Till, with a burst of grief, the spell we break,
And, weeping for th' imagined loss, awake.
Ah me! from dreams like these aroused at length,
How leaps the spirit to its former strength!
What memories crowd the newly conscious brain,
What gleams of rapture, and what starts of pain!
Till from the soul the heavy mists stand clear,
All wanes and fades that seem'd so darkly drear,
The sun's fair rays those shades of death destroy,
And passionate thankfuess and tears of joy
Swell at our hearts, as, gazing on his beam,
We start, and cry aloud, 'Thank Heaven, 'twas but a dream!'
But there are visions of a fairer kind,
Thoughts fondly cherish'd by the slumbering mind,
Which, when they vanish from the waking brain,
We close our eyes, and long to dream again.
Their dim voice calls to our forsaken side
Those who betray'd us, seeming true and tried;
Those whom the fast receding waves of time
Have floated from us; those who in the prime
And glory of our young life's eagle flight
Shone round like rays, encircling us with light,
And gave the bright similitude of truth
To fair illusions--vanish'd with our youth.
They bring again the tryst of early love,
(That passionate hope, all other hopes above!)
Bid the pale hair, long shrouded in the grave,
Round the young head in floating ringlets wave,
And fill the air with echoes. Gentle words,
Low laughter, and the sing of sweet birds,
Come round us then; and drooping of light boughs,
Whose shadow could not cool our burning brows,
And lilac-blossoms, scenting the warm air,
And long laburnums, fragile, bright, and fair;
And murmuring breezes through the green leaves straying,
And rippling waters in the sunshine playing,
All that around our slumbering sense can fling
The glory of some half-forgotten spring!
They bring again the fond approving gaze
Of old true friends, who mingled love with praise;
When Fame (that cold bright guiding-star below)
Took from affection's light a borrow'd glow,--
And, strong in all the might of earnest thought,
Through the long studious night untired we wrought,
That others might the morning hour beguile,
With the fond triumph of their wondering smile.
What though those dear approving smiles be gone,
What though we strive neglected and alone,
What though no voice now mourns our hope's alloy,
Nor in the hour of triumph gives us joy?
In dreams the days return when this was not,
When strong affection sooth'd our toilsome lot:
Cheer'd, loved, admonish'd, lauded, we aspire,
And the sick soul regains its former fire.
Beneath the influence of this fond spell,
Happy, contented, bless'd, we seem to dwell;
Sweet faces shine with love's own tender ray,
Which frown, or coldly turn from us, by day;
The lonely orphan hears a parent's voice;
Sad childless mothers once again rejoice;
The poor deserted seems a happy bride;
And the long parted wander side by side.
Ah, vain deceit! Awaking with a start,
Sick grow the beatings of the troubled heart;
Silence, like some dark mantle, drops around,
Quenching th' imagined voice's welcome sound;
Again the soul repeats its old farewells,
Again recalls sad hours and funeral knells;
Again, as daylight opens on their view,
The orplan shrieks, the mother mourns anew;
Till clear we feel, as fades the morning star,
How left, how lonely, how oppres'd we are!
And other dreams exist, more vague and bright
Than MEMORY ever brought to cheer the night;--
Most to the young and happy do they come,
To those who know no shelter but of home;
To those of whom the inspired writer spoke,
When from his lips the words prophetic broke,
Which (conscious of the strong and credulous spell
Experience only in the heart can quell)
Promised the nearer glimpse of perfect truth
Not to cold wisdom, but to fervent youth;
Each, in their measure, caught its fitful gleams,--
The young saw visions, and the old dream'd dreams.
The young! Oh! what should wandering fancy bring
In life's first spring-time but the thoughts of spring?
Worlds without winter, blooming amaranth bowers,
Garlands of brightness wreath'd from changeless flowers;
Where shapes like angels wander to and fro,
Unwing,'d, but glorious, in the noontide glow,
Which steeps the hills, the dales, the earth, the sea,
In one soft flood of golden majesty.
In this world,--so create,--no sighs nor tears,--
No sadness brought with lapse of varying years,
No cold betrayal of the trusting heart,--
No knitting up of love fore-doom'd to part,--
No pain, deformity, nor pale disease,--
No wars,--no tyranny,--no fears that freeze
The rapid current of the restless blood,--
Nor effort scorn'd,--nor act misunderstood,--
No dark remorse for ever-haunting sin,--
But all at peace without--at rest within;
And hopes which gild Thought's wildest waking hours,
Scatter'd around us carelessly as flowers.
Oh! Paradise, in vain dilist thou depart;
Thine image still is stamp'd on every heart!
Though mourning man in vain may seek to trace
The site of that which was his dwelling-place,
Though the four glittering rivers now divide
No realms of beauty with their rolling tide,
Each several life yet opens with the view
Of that unblighted world where Adam drew
The breath of being: in each several mind,
However cramp'd, and fetter'd, and confined,
The innate power of beauty folded lies,
And, like a bud beneath the summer skies,
Blooms out in youth through many a radiant day,
Though in life's winter frost it dies away.
From such a vision, bright with all the fame
Her youth, her innocence, her hope, could frame,
The maiden woke: and, when her shadowy gaze
Had lost the dazzled look of wild amaze
Turn'd on her mother when she first awoke,
Thus to her questioning glanee she answering spoke:--
'Methought, oh! gentle Mother, by thy side
I dwelt no more as now, but through a wide
And sweet world wander'd; nor even then alone;
For ever in that dream's soft light stood one,--
I know not who,--yet most familiar seem'd
The fond companionship of which I dream'd!
A Brother's love, is but a name to me;
A Father's, brighten'd not my infancy;
To me, in childhood's years, no stranger's face
Took, from long habit, friendship's holy grace;
My life hath still been lone, and needed not,
Heaven knows, more perfect love than was my lot
In thy dear heart: how dream'd I then, sweet Mother,
Of any love but thine, who knew no other?
'We seem'd, this shadow and myself, to be
Together by the blue and boundless sea:
No settled home was present to my thought--
No other form my clouded fancy brought;
This one Familiar Presence still beguiled
My every thought, and look'd on me and smiled.
Fair stretch'd in beauty lay the glittering strand,
With low green copses sloping from the land;
And tangled underwood, and sunny fern,
And flowers whose humble names none cared to learn,
Smail starry wild flowers, white and gold and blue,
With leaves turn'd crimson by th' autumnal hue,
Bask'd in the fervour of the noontide glow,
Whose hot rays pierced the thirsty roots below.
The floating nautilus rose clear and pale,
As though a spirit trimm'd its fairy sail,
White and transparent; and beyond it gleam'd
Such light as never yet on Ocean beam'd:
And pink-lipp'd shells, and many-colour'd weeds,
And long brown bulbous things likc jasper beads,
And glistening pearls in beauty faint and fair,
And all things strange, and wonderful, and rare,
Whose true existence travellers make known,
Seem'd scatter'd there, and easily my own.
And then we wove our ciphers in the sands,
All fondly intertwined by loving hands;
And laugh'd to see the rustling snow-white spray
Creep o'er the names, and wash their trace away.
And the storm came not, though the white foam curl'd
In lines of brightness far along the coast;
Though many a ship, with swelling sails unfurl'd,
From the mid-sea to sheltering haven cross'd;
Though the wild billows heaved, and rose, and broke,
One o'er the other with a restless sound,
And the deep spirit of the wind awoke,
Ruffling in wrath each glassy verdant mound;
While onward roll'd that army of huge waves,
Until the foremost, with exulting roar,
Rose, proudly crested, o'er his brother slaves,
And dash'd triumphant on the groaning shore!
For then the Moon rose up, Night's mournful Queen,
'Walking with white feet o'er the troubled Sea,'
And all grew still again, as she had been
Heaven's messenger to bring Tranquillity;
Till, pale and tender, on the glistening main
She sank and smiled like one who loves in vain.
And still we linger'd by that shadowy strand,
Happy, yet full of thought, hand link'd in hand;
The hush'd waves rippling softly at our feet,
The night-breeze freshening o'er the Summer's heat;
With our hearts beating, and our gazing eyes
Fix'd on the star-light of those deep blue skies,
Blessing 'the year, the hour, the place, the time;'
While sounded, faint and far, some turret's midnight chime.
'It pass'd, that vision of the Ocean's might!
I know not how, for in my slumbering mind
There was no movement, all was shifting light,
Through which we floated with the wandering wind;
And, still together, in a different scene,
We look'd on England's woodland, fresh and green.
'No perfume of the cultured rose was there,
Wooing the senses with its garden smell,--
Nor snow-white lily,--call'd so proudly fir,
Though by the poor man's cot she loves to dwell,
Nor finds his little garden scant of room
To bid her stately buds in beauty bloom;--
Nor jasmin, with her pale stars shining through
The myrtle darkness of her leaf's green hue,--
Nor heliotrope, whose grey and heavy wreath
Mimics the orchard blossoms' fruity breath,--
Nor clustering dahlia, with its scentless flowers
Cheating the heart through autumn's faded hours,--
Nor bright chrysanthimum, whose train'd array
Still makes the rich man's winter path look gay,
And bows its hardy head when wild winds blow,
To free its petals from the fallen snow;--
Nor yet carnation;'--
(Thou, beloved of all
The plants that thrive at Art or Nature's call,
By one who greets thee with a weary sigh
As the dear friend of happy days gone by;
By one who names thee last, but loves thee first,
Of all the flowers a garden ever nursed;
The mute remembrancer and gentle token
Of links which heavy hands have roughly broken,
Welcomed through many a Summer with the same
Unalter'd gladness as when first ye came,
And welcomed still, though--as in later years
We often welcome pleasant things--with tears!)
I wander! In the Dream these had no place,--
Nor Sorrow:--all was Nature's freshest grace.
'There, wild geranium, with its woolly stem
And aromatic breath, perfumed the glade;
And fairy speedwell, like some sapphire gem,
Lighted with purple sparks the hedge-row's shade;
And woodbine, with her tinted calyxes,
And dog-rose, glistening with the dews of morn,
And tangled wreaths of tufted clematis,
Whose blossoms pale the careless eye may scorn,
(As green and light her fairy mantles fiLll
To hide the rough hedge or the crumbling wall,)
But in whose breast the laden wild-bees dive
For the best riches of their teeming hive:
'There, sprang the sunny cricket; there, was spread
The fragile silver of the spider's thread,
Stretching from blade to blade of emerald grass,
Unbroken, till some human footstep pass;
There, by the rippling stream that murmur'd on,
Now seen, now hidden--half in light, half Sun--
The darting dragon-fly, with sudden gleam,
Shot, as it went, a gold and purple beam;
And the fish leap'd within the deeper pool,
And the green trees stretch'd out their branches cool,
Where many a bird hush'd in her peopled nest
The unfledged darlings of her feather'd breast,
Listening her mate's clear song, in that sweet grove
Where all around breathed happiness and love!
'And while we talk'd the summer hours flew fast,
As hours may fly, with those whose love is young;
Who fear no future, and who know no past,
Dating existence from the hope that sprung
Up in their hearts with such a sudden light,
That all beyond shows dark and blank as night.
'Until methought we trod a wide flat heath,
Where yew and cypress darkly seem'd to wave
O'er countless tombs, so beautiful, that death
Seem'd here to make a garden of the grave!
All that is holy, tender, full of grace,
Was sculptured on the monuments around,
And many a line the musing eye could trace,
Which spoke unto the heart without a sound.
There lay the warrior and the son of song,
And there--in silence till the judgment-day--
The orator, whose all-persuading tongue
Had moved the nations with resistless sway:
There slept pale men whom science taught to climb
Restlessly upward all their labouring youth;
Who left, half conquer'd, secrets which in time
Burst on mankind in ripe and glorious truth.
He that had gazed upon the steadfast stars,
And could foretel the dark eclipse's birth,
And when red comets in their blazing cars
Should sweep above the awed and troubled earth:--
He that had sped brave vessels o'er the seas,
Which swiftly bring the wanderer to his home,
Uncanvass'd ships, which move without a breeze,
Their bright wheels dashing through the ocean foam:--
All, who in this life's bounded brief career
Had shone amongst, or served their fellow-men,
And left a name embalm'd in glory here,
Lay calmly buried on that magic plain.
And he who wander'd with me in my dream,
Told me their histories as we onward went,
Till the grave shone with such a hallow'd beam,
Such pleasure with their memory seem'd blent,
That, when we look'd to heaven, our upward eyes
With no funereal sadness mock'd the skies!
'Then, change of scene, and time, and place once more;
And by a Gothic window, richly bright,
Whose stain'd armorial hoarings on the floor
Flung the quaint tracery of their colour'd light,
We sate together: his most noble head
Bent o'er the storied tome of other days,
And still he commented on all we read,
And taught me what to love, and what to praise.
Then Spenser made the summer-day seem brief,
Or Milton sounded with a loftier song,
Then Cowper charm'd, with lays of gentle grief,
Or rough old Dryden roll'd the hour along.
Or, in his varied beauty dearer still,
Sweet Shakspeare changed the world around at will;
And we forgot the sunshine of that room
To sit with Jacquez in the forest gloom;
To look abroad with Juliet's anxious eye
For her boy-lover 'neath the moonlight sky;
Stand with Macbeth upon the haunted heath,
Or weep for gentle Desdemona's death;
Watch, on bright Cydnus' wave, the glittering sheen
And silken sails of Egypt's wanton Queen;
Or roam with Ariel through that island strange
Where spirits, and not men, were wont to range,
Still struggling on through brake, and bush, and hollow,
Hearing that sweet voice calling--'Follow! follow!'
'Nor were there wanting lays of other lands,
For these were all familiar in his hands:
And Dante's dream of horror work'd its spell,--
And Petrarch's sadness on our bosoms fell,--
And prison'd Tasso's--he, the coldly-loved,
The madly-loving! he, so deeply proved
By many a year of darkness, like the grave,
For her who dared not plead, or would not save,
For her who thought the poet's suit brought shame,
Whose passion hath immortalized her name!
And Egmont, with his noble heart betray'd,--
And Carlos, haunted by a murder'd shade,--
And Faust's strange legend, sweet and wondrous wild,
Stole many a tear:--Creation's loveliest child!
Guileless, ensnared, and tempted Margaret,
Who could peruse thy fate with eyes unwet?
'Then, through the lands we read of, far away,
The vision led me all a summer's day:
And we look'd round on southern Italy,
Where her dark head the graceful cypress rears
In arrowy straightness and soft majesty,
And the sun's face a mellower glory wears;
Bringing, where'er his warm light richly shines,
Sweet odours from the gum-distilling pines;
And casting o'er white palaces a glow,
Like morning's hue on mountain-peaks of snow.
'Those palaces! how fair their columns rose!
Their courts, cool fountains, and wide porticos!
And ballustraded roofs, whose very form
Told what an unknown stranger was the storm!
In one of these we dwelt: its painted walls
A master's hand had been employ'd to trace;
Its long cool range of shadowy marble halls
Was fill'd with statues of most living grace;
While on its ceilings roll'd the fiery car
Of the bright day-god, chasing night afar,--
Or Jove's young favourite, toward Olympus' height
Soar'd with the Eagle's dark majestic flight,--
Or fair Apollo's harp seem'd freshly strung,
All heaven group'd round him, listening while he sung.
'So, in the garden's plann'd and planted bound
All wore the aspect of enchanted ground;
Thick orange-groves, close arching over head,
Shelter'd the paths our footsteps loved to tread;
Or ilex-trees shut out, with shadow sweet,
Th' oppressive splendour of the noontide heat.
Through the bright vista, at each varying turn,
Gleam'd the white statue, or the graceful urn;
And, paved with many a curved and twisted line
Of fair Mosaic's strange and quaint design,
Terrace on terrace rose, with steep so slight,
That scarce the pausing eye inquired the height,
Till stretch'd beneath in far perspective lay
The glittering city and the deep blue bay!
Then as we turn'd again to groves and bowers,
(Rich with the perfume of a thousand flowers,)
The sultry day was cheated of its force
By the sweet winding of some streamlet's course:
From sculptured arch, and ornamented walls,
Rippled a thousand tiny waterfalls,
While here and there an open basin gave
Rest to the eye and freshness to the wave;
Here, high above the imprison'd waters, stood
Some imaged Naïad, guardian of the flood;
There, in a cool and grotto-like repose,
The sea-born goddess from her shell arose;
Or river-god his fertile urn display'd,
Gushing at distance through the lone arcade,--
Or Triton, lifting his wild conch on high,
Spouted the silver tribute to the sky,--
Or, lovelier still, (because to Nature true,
Even in the thought creative genius drew,)
Some statue-nymph, her bath of beauty o'er,
Stood gently bending by the rocky shore,
And, like Bologna's sweet and graceful dream,
From her moist hair wrung out the living stream.
'Bright was the spot! and still we linger'd on
Unwearied, till the summer-day was done;
Till He, who, when the morning dew was wet,
In glory rose--in equal glory set.
Fair sank his light, unclouded to the last,
And o'er that land its glow of beauty cast;
And the sweet breath of evening air went forth
To cool the bosom of the fainting earth;
To bid the pale-leaved olives lightly wave
Upon their seaward slope (whose waters lave
With listless gentleness the golden strand,
And scarcely leave, and scarce return to land);
Or with its wings of freshness, wandering round,
Visit the heights with many a villa crown'd,
Where the still pine and cypress, side by side,
Look from their distant hills on Ocean's tide.
'The cypress and the pine! Ah, still I see
These thy green children, lovely Italy!
Nature's dear favourites, allow'd to wear
Their summer hue throughout the circling year!
And oft, when wandering out at even-time
To watch the sunsets of a colder clime,
As the dim landscape fades and grows more faint,
Fancy's sweet power a different scene shall paint;
Enrich with deeper tints the colours given
To the pale beauty of our English heaven,--
Bid purple mountains rise among the clouds,
Or deem their mass some marble palace shrouds,--
Trace on the red horizon's level line,
In outlines dark, the high majestic pine,--
And hear, amid the groups of English trees,
His sister cypress murmuring to the breeze!
'Never again shall evening, sweet and still,
Gleam upon river, mountain, rock, or hill,--
Never again shall fresh and budding spring,
Or brighter summer, hue of beauty bring,
In this, the clime where 'tis my lot to dwell,
But shall recall, as by a magic spell,
Thy scenes, dear land of poetry and song!
Bid thy fair statues on my memory throng;
Thy glorious pictures gleam upon my sight
Like fleeting shadows o'er the summer light;
And send my haunted heart to dwell once more,
Glad and entranced by thy delightful shore--
Thy shore, where rolls that blue and tideless sea,
Bright as thyself, thou radiant Italy!
'And there (where Beauty's spirit sure had birth,
Though she hath wander'd since upon the earth,
And scatter'd, as she pass'd, some sparks of thought,
Such as of old her sons of genius wrought,
To show what strength the immortal soul can wield
E'en here, in this its dark and narrow field,
And fill us with a fond inquiring thirst
To see that land which claim'd her triumphs first)
Music was brought--with soft impressive power--
To fill with varying joy the varying hour.
We welcomed it; for welcome still to all
It comes, in cottage, court, or lordly hall;
And in the long bright summer evenings, oft
We sate and listened to some measure soft
From many instruments; or, faint and lone,
(Touch'd by his gentle hand, or by my own,)
The little lute its chorded notes would send
Tender and clear; and with our voices blend
Cadence so true, that, when the breeze swept by,
One mingled echo floated on its sigh!
'And still as day by day we saw depart,
I was the living idol of his heart:
How to make joy a portion of the air
That breathed around me, seem'd his only care.
For me the harp was strung, the page was turn'd;
For me the morning rose, the sunset burn'd;
For me the Spring put on her verdant suit;
For me the Summer flower, the Autumn fruit;
The very world seem'd mine, so mighty strove
For my contentment, that enduring love.
'I see him still, dear mother! Still I hear
That voice so deeply soft, so strangely clear;
Still in the air wild wandering echoes float,
And bring my dream's sweet music note for note!
Oh! shall those sounds no more my fancy bless,
Which fill my heart, and on my memory press?
Shall I no more those sunset clouds behold,
Floating like bright transparent thrones of gold?
The skies, the seas, the hills of glorious blue;
The glades and groves, with glories shining through;
The bands of red and purple, richly seen
Athwart the sky of pale, faint, gem-like green;
When the breeze slept, the earth lay hush'd and still,
When the low sun sank slanting from the hill,
And slow and amber-tinged the moon uprose,
To watch his farewell hour in glory close?
Is all that radiance past--gone by for ever--
And must there in its stead for ever be
The grey, sad sky, the cold and clouded river,
And dismal dwellings by the wintry sea?
E'er half a summer, altering day by day,
In fickle brightness, here, hath pass'd away!
And was that form (whose love might still sustain)
Nought but a vapour of the dreaming brain?--
Would I had slept for ever!'
Sad she sigh'd;
To whom the mournful mother thus replied:--
'Upbraid not Heaven, whose wisdom thus would rule
A world whose changes are the soul's best school:
All dream like thee, and 'tis for Mercy's sake
That those who dream the wildest, soonest wake;
All deem Perfection's system would be found
In giving earthly sense no stint or bound;
All look for happiness beneath the sun,
And each expects what God hath given to none.
'In what an idle luxury of joy
Would thy spoil'd heart its useless hours employ!
In what a selfish loneliness of light
Wouldst thou exist, read we thy dream aright!
How hath thy sleeping spirit broke the chain
Which knits thy human lot to other's pain,
And made this world of peopled millions seem
For thee and for the lover of thy dream!
'Think not my heart with cold indifference heard
The various feelings which in thine have stirr'd,
Or that its sad and weary currents know
Faint sympathy, except for human woe:
Well have the dormant echoes of my breast
Answer'd the joys thy gentle voice express'd;
Conjured a vision of the stately mate
With whom the flattering vision link'd thy fate;
And follow'd thee through grove and woodland wild,
Where so much natural beauty round thee smiled.
'What man so worldly-wise, or chill'd by age,
Who, bending o'er the faint descriptive page,
Recals not such a scene in some falr nook--
(Whereon his eyes, perchance, no more shall look
Some hawthorn copse, some gnarl'd majestic tree,
The favourite play-place of his infancy?
Who has not felt for Cowper's sweet lament,
When twelve years' course their cruel change had sent;
When his fell'd poplars gave no further shade,
And low on earth the blackbird's nest was laid;
When in a desert sunshine, bare and blank,
Lay the green field and river's mossy bank;
And melody of bird or branch no more
Rose with the breeze that swept along the shore?
'Few are the hearts, (nor theirs of kindliest frame,)
On whom fair Nature holds not such a claim;
And oft, in after-life, some simple thing--
A bank of primroses in early Spring--
The tender scent which hidden violets yield--
The sight of cowslips in a meadow-field--
Or young laburnum's pendant yellow chain--
May bring the favourite play-place back again!
Our youthful mates are gone; some dead, some changed,
With whom that pleasant spot was gladly ranged;
Ourselves, perhaps, more alter'd e'en than they--
But there still blooms the blossom-showering May;
There still along the hedge-row's verdant line
The linnet sings, the thorny brambles twine;
Still in the copse a troop of merry elves
Shout--the gay image of our former selves;
And still, with sparkling eyes and eager hands,
Some rosy urchin high on tiptoe stands,
And plucks the ripest berries from the bough--
Which tempts a different generation now!
'What though no real beauty haunt that spot,
By graver minds beheld and noticed not?
Can we forget that once to our young eyes
It wore the aspect of a Paradise?
No; still around its hallow'd precinct lives
The fond mysterious charm that memory gives;
The man recals the feelings of the boy,
And clothes the meanest flower with freshness and with joy.
'Nor think by older hearts forgotten quite
Love's whisper'd words; youth's sweet and strange delight!
They live--though after-memories fade away;
They live--to cheer life's slow declining day;
Haunting the widow by her lonely hearth,
As, meekly smiling at her childrcn's mirth,
She spreads her fair thin hands towards the fire,
To seek the warmth their slacken'd veins require:
Or gladdening her to whom Heaven's mercy spares
Her old companion with his silver hairs;
And while he dozes--changed, and dull, and weak--
And his hush'd grandchild signs, but dares not speak,--
Bidding her watch, with many a tender smile,
The wither'd form which slumbers all the while.
'Yes! sweet the voice of those we loved! the tone
Which cheers our memory as we sit alone,
And will not leave us; the o'er-mastering force,
Whose under-current's strange and hidden course
Bids some chance word, by colder hearts forgot,
Return--and still return--yet weary not
The ear which wooes its sameness! How, when Death
Hath stopp'd with ruthless hand some precious breath,
The memory of the voice he hath destroy'd
Lives in our souls, as in an aching void!
How, through the varying fate of after-years,
When stifled sorrow weeps but casual tears,
If some stray tone seem like the voice we knew,
The heart leaps up with answer faint and true!
Greeting again that sweet, long-vanish'd sound,
As, in earth's nooks of ever-haunted ground,
Strange accident, or man's capricious will,
Wakes the lone echoes, and they answer still!
'Oh! what a shallow fable cheats the age,
When the lost lover, on the motley stage,
Wrapp'd from his mistress in some quaint disguise,
Deceives her ear, because he cheats her eyes!
Rather, if all could fade which charm'd us first,--
If, by some magic stroke, some plague-spot cursed,
All outward semblance left the form beloved
A wreck unrecognised, and half disproved,
At the dear sound of that familiar voice
Her waken'd heart should tremble and rejoice,
Leap to its faith at once,--and spurn the doubt
Which, on such showing, barr'd his welcome out!
'And if even words are sweet, what, what is song,
When lips we love, the melody prolong?
How thrills the soul, and vibrates to that lay,
Swells with the glorious sound, or dies away!
How, to the cadence of the simplest words
That ever hung upon the wild harp's chords,
The breathless heart lies listening; as it felt
All life within it on that music dwelt,
And hush'd the beating pulse's rapid power
By its own will, for that enchanted hour!
'Ay! then to those who love the science well,
Music becomes a passion and a spell!
Music, the tender child of rudest times,
The gentle native of all lands and climes;
Who hymns alike man's cradle and his grave,
Lulls the low cot, or peals along the nave;
Cheers the poor peasant, who his native hills
With wild Tyrolean echoes sweetly fills;
Inspires the Indian's low monotonous chant,
Weaves skilful melodies for Luxury's haunt;
And still, through all these changes, lives the same,
Spirit without a home, without a name,
Coming, where all is discord, strife, and sin,
To prove some innate harmony within
Our listening souls; and lull the heaving breast
With the dim vision of an unknown rest!
'But, dearest child, though many a joy be given
By the pure bounty of all-pitying Heaven,--
Though sweet emotions in our hearts have birth,
As flowers are spangled on the lap of earth,--
Though, with the flag of Hope and Triumph hung
High o'er our heads, we start when life is young,
And onward cheer'd, by sense, and sight, and sound,
Like a launch'd bark, we enter with a bound;
Yet must the dark cloud lour, the tempest fall,
And the same chance of shipwreck waits for all.
Happy are they who leave the harbouring land
Not for a summer voyage, hand in hand,
Pleasure's light slaves; but with an earnest eye
Exploring all the future of their sky;
That so, when Life's career at length is past,
To the right haven they may steer at last,
And safe from hidden rock, or open gale,
Lay by the oar, and furl the slacken'd sail,--
To anchor deeply on that tranquil shore
Where vexing storms can never reach them more!
'Wouldst thou be singled out by partial Heaven
The ONE to whom a cloudless lot is given?
Look round the world, and see what fate is there,
Which justice can pronounce exempt from care:
Though bright they bloom to empty outward show,
There lurks in each some canker-worm of woe;
Still by some thorn the onward step is cross'd,
Nor least repining those who're envied most:
The poor have struggling, toil, and wounded pride,
Which seeks, and seeks in vain, its rags to hide;
The rich, cold jealousies, intrigues, and strife,
And heart-sick discontent which poisons life;
The loved are parted by the hand of Death,
The hated live to curse each other's breath:
The wealthy noble mourns the want of heirs;
While, each the object of incessant prayers,
Gay, hardy sons, around the widow's board,
With careless smiles devour her scanty hoard;
And hear no sorrow in her stifled sigh,
And see no terror in her anxious eye,--
While she in fancy antedates the time
When, scatter'd far and wide in many a clime,
These heirs to nothing but their Father's name
Must earn their bread, and struggle hard for fame;
To sultry India sends her fair-hair'd boy--
Sees the dead desk another's youth employ--
And parts with one to sail the uncertain main,
Never perhaps on earth to meet again!
'Nor ev'n does Love, whose fresh and radiant beam
Gave added brightness to thy wandering dream,
Preserve from bitter touch of ills unknown,
But rather brings strange sorrows of its own.
Various the ways in which our souls are tried;
Love often fails where most our faith relied;
Some wayward heart may win, without a thought,
That which thine own by sacrifice had bought;
May carelessly aside the treasure cast,
And yet be madly worshipp'd to the last;
Whilst thou, forsaken, grieving, left to pine,
Vainly may'st claim his plighted faith as thine;
Vainly his idol's charms with thine compare,
And know thyself as young, as bright, as fair;
Vainly in jealous pangs consume thy day,
And waste the sleepless night in tears away;
Vainly with forced indulgence strive to smile
In the cold world, heart-broken all the while,
Or from its glittering and unquiet crowd,
Thy brain on fire, thy spirit crush'd and bow'd,
Creep home unnoticed, there to weep alone,
Mock'd by a claim which gives thee not thine own,
Which leaves thee bound through all thy blighted youth
To him whose perjured soul hath broke its truth;
While the just world, beholding thee bereft,
Scorns--not his sin--but thee, for being left!
'Ah! never to the Sensualist appeal,
Nor deem his frozen bosom aught can feel.
Affection, root of all fond memories,
Which bids what once hath charm'd for ever please
He knows not: all thy beauty could inspire
Was but a sentiment of low desire:
If from thy check the roses hue be gone,
How should love stay which loved for that alone?
Or, if thy youthful face be still as bright
As when it first entranced his eager sight,
Thou art the same; there is thy fault, thy crime,
Which fades the charms yet spared by rapid Time.
Talk to him of the happy days gone by,
Conceal'd aversion chills his shrinking eye:
While in thine agony thou still dost rave,
Impatient wishes doom thee to the grave;
And if his cold and selfish thought had power
T' accelerate the fatal final hour,
The silent murder were already done,
And thy white tomb would glitter in the sun.
What wouldst thou hold by? What is it to him
That for his sake thy weeping eyes are dim?
His pall'd and wearied senses rove apart,
And for his heart--thou never hadst his heart.
'True, there is better love, whose balance just
Mingles Soul's instinct with our grosser dust,
And leaves affection, strengthening day by day,
Firm to assault, impervious to decay.
To such, a star of hope thy love shall be
Whose stedfast light he still desires to see;
And age shall vainly mar thy beauty's grace,
Or wantons plot to steal into thy place,
Or wild Temptation, from her hidden bowers,
Fling o'er his path her bright but poisonous flowers,--
Dearer to him than all who thus beguile,
Thy faded face, and thy familiar smile;
Thy glance, which still hath welcomed him for years
Now bright with gladness, and now dim with tears!
And if (for we are weak) division come
On wings of discord to that happy home,
Soon is the painful hour of anger past,
Too sharp, too strange an agony to last;
And, like some river's bright abundant tide
Which art or accident hath forced aside,
The well-springs of affection, gushing o'er,
Back to their natural channels flow once more.
'Ah! sad it is when one thus link'd departs!
When Death, that mighty severer of true hearts,
Sweeps through the halls so lately loud in mirth,
And leaves pale Sorrow weeping by the hearth!
Bitter it is to wander there alone,
To fill the vacant place, the empty chair,
With a dear vision of the loved one gone,
And start to see it vaguely melt in air!
Bitter to find all joy that once hath been
Double its value when 'tis pass'd away,--
To feel the blow which Time should make less keen
Increase its burden each successive day,--
To need good counsel, and to miss the voice,
The ever trusted, and the ever true,
Whose tones were wont to cheer our faltering choice,
And show what holy Virtue bade us do,--
To bear deep wrong, and bow the widow'd head
In helpless anguish, no one to defend;
Or worse,--in lieu of him, the kindly dead,
Claim faint assistance from some lukewarm friend,--
Yet scarce perceive the extent of all our loss
Till the fresh tomb be green with gathering moss--
Till many a morn have met our sadden'd eyes
With none to say 'Good morrow;'--many an eve
Sent its red glory through the tranquil skies,
Each bringing with it deeper cause to grieve!
'This is a destiny which may be thine--
The common grief: God will'd it should be mine:
Short was the course our happy love had run,
And hard it was to say 'Thy will be done!'
'Yet those whom man, not God, hath parted, know
A heavier pang, a more enduring woe;
No softening memory mingles with their tears,
Still the wound rankles on through dreary years,
Still the heart feels, in bitterest hours of blame,
It dares not curse the long-familiar name;
Still, vainly free, through many a cheerless day,
From weaker ties turns helplessly away,
Sick for the smiles that bless'd its home of yore,
The natural joys of life that come no more;
And, all bewildered by the abyss, whose gloom
Dark and impassable as is the tomb,
Lies stretch'd between the future and the past,--
Sinks into deep and cold despair at last.
'Heaven give thee poverty, disease, or death,
Each varied ill that waits on human breath,
Rather than bid thee linger out thy life
In the long toil of such unnatural strife.
To wander through the world unreconciled,
Heart weary as a spirit-broken child,
And think it were an hour of bliss like heaven
If thou could'st die--forgiving and forgiven,--
Or with a feverish hope, of anguish born,
(Nerving thy mind to feel indigant scorn
Of all the cruel foes who 'twixt ye stand,
Holding thy heartstrngs with a reckless hand,)
Steal to his presence, now unseen so long,
And claim his mercy who hath dealt the wrong!
Into the aching depths of thy poor heart
Dive, as it were, even to the roots of pain,
And wrench up thoughts that tear thy soul apart,
And burn like fire through thy bewilder'd brain.
Clothe them in passionate words of wild appeal
To teach thy fellow-creature how to feel,--
Pray, weep, exhaust thyself in maddening tears,--
Recal the hopes, the influences of years,--
Kneel, dash thyself upon the senseless ground,
Writhe as the worm writhes with dividing wound,--
Invoke the heaven that knows thy sorrow's truth,
By all the softening memories of youth--
By every hope that cheer'd thine earlier day--
By every tear that washes wrath away--
By every old remembrance long gone by--
By every pang that makes thee yearn to die;
And learn at length how deep and stern a blow
Near hands can strike, and yet no pity show!
'Oh! weak to suffer, savage to inflict,
Is man's commingling nature; hear him now
Some transient trial of his life depict,
Hear him in holy rites a suppliant bow;
See him shrink back from sickness and from pain,
And in his sorrow to his God complain;
'Remit my trespass, spare my sin,' he cries,
'All-merciful, Almighty, and All-wise;
Quench this affliction's bitter whelming tide,
Draw out thy barbed arrow from my side:'--
--And rises from that mockery of prayer
To hale some brother-debtor to despair!
'May this be spared thee! Yet be sure, my child,
(Howe'er that dream thy fancy hath beguiled,)
Some sorrow lurks to cloud thy future fate;
Thy share of tears,--come early or come late,--
Must still be shed; and 'twere as vain a thing
To ask of Nature one perpetual spring
As to evade those sad autumnal hours,
Or deem thy path of life should bloom, all flowers.'
She ceased: and that fair maiden heard the truth
With the fond passionate despair of youth,
Which, new to suffering, gives its sorrow vent
In outward signs and bursts of wild lament:--
'If this be so, then, mother, let me die
Ere yet the glow hath faded from my sky!
Let me die young; before the holy trust
In human kindness crumbles into dust;
Before I suffer what I have not earn'd,
Or see by treachery my truth return'd;
Before the love I live for, fades away;
Before the hopes I cherish'd most, decay;
For His Warped Dreams Of Fame
Someone should have told him he should not murder others and then kill himself for fame
Since all he left of himself is his legacy of shame
A gun in the wrong hands can cause sorrow and tears
And the kin of his victims left to grieve for years.
For decades of years they will grieve for their loss
The burden of sorrow is a heavy cross
That the families of his victims are obliged to bear
Of the consequences of his actions he was not aware.
The kin of the dead gunman deserve sympathy
'Twas hardly their fault he lacked in empathy
He was old enough for to know right from wrong
He will not be remembered in story and song.
Mass murder by gun is no longer rare
Many unstable people with firearms in the big World out there
For his warped dreams of fame the innocents had to pay
They were in the wrong place at the wrong time that does seem sad to say.
In Fame We Trust
A million lines that write my lifetime
I don't have a say
Ridiculous and yet just sublime
Make them go away.
I wished for all that money bought
Hell is now my home
It wasn't quite what I had thought
'Oh please leave me alone! '
The flashing lights a camera click
The shouts of 'look and smile! '
From people who just make me sick
And chase my every mile.
No God can save my mortal soul
I have nowhere to hide
For fame is just the blackest hole
That eats you from inside.
'Be careful what you wish for now'
Are words that echo so,
'I have what I want... oh and how'
...tho yearn to let it go.
A crying heart sheds tears unseen,
A smile can lie to all,
But face won't lie where you have been
Such fame won't suit you all.
Be brave and stop this gravy train
The likes from which you're fed
For scores who courted wealth and fame
Soon count amongst the dead.