The Troubadour. Canto 3
LAND of the olive and the vine,
The saint and soldier, sword and shrine!
How glorious to young RAYMOND'S eye
Swell'd thy bold heights, spread thy clear sky,
When first he paused upon the height
Where, gather'd, lay the Christian might.
Amid a chesnut wood were raised
Their white tents, and the red cross blazed
Meteor-like, with its crimson shine,
O'er many a standard's scutcheon'd line.
On the hill opposite there stood
The warriors of the Moorish blood,--
With their silver crescents gleaming,
And their horse-tail pennons streaming;
With cymbals and the clanging gong,
The muezzin's unchanging song,
The turbans that like rainbows shone,
The coursers' gay caparison,
As if another world had been
Where that small rivulet ran between.
And there was desperate strife next day:
The little vale below that lay
Was like a slaughter-pit, of green
Could not one single trace be seen;
The Moslem warrior stretch'd beside
The Christian chief by whom he died;
And by the broken falchion blade
The crooked scymeter was laid.
And gallantly had RAYMOND borne
The red cross through the field that morn,
When suddenly he saw a knight
Oppress'd by numbers in the fight:
Instant his ready spear was flung,
Instant amid the band he sprung;--
They fight, fly, fall,--and from the fray
He leads the wounded knight away!
Gently he gain'd his tent, and there
He left him to the leech's care;
Then sought the field of death anew,--
Little was there for knight to do.
That field was strewn with dead and dying;
And mark'd he there DE VALENCE lying
Upon the turbann'd heap, which told
How dearly had his life been sold.
And yet on his curl'd lip was worn
The impress of a soldier's scorn;
And yet his dark and glazed eye
Glared its defiance stern and high:
His head was on his shield, his hand
Held to the last his own red brand.
Felt RAYMOND all too proud for grief
In gazing on the gallant chief:
So, thought he, should a warrior fall,
A victor dying last of all.
But sadness moved him when he gave
DE VALENCE to his lowly grave,--
The grave where the wild flowers were sleeping,
And one pale olive-tree was weeping,--
And placed the rude stone cross to show
A Christian hero lay below.
With the next morning's dawning light
Was RAYMOND by the wounded knight.
He heard strange tales,--none knew his name,
And none might say from whence he came;
He wore no cognizance, his steed
Was raven black, and black his weed.
All owned his fame, but yet they deem'd
More desperate than brave he seem'd;
Or as he only dared the field
For the swift death that it might yield.
Leaning beside the curtain, where
Came o'er his brow the morning air,
He found the stranger chief; his tone,
Surely 'twas one RAYMOND had known!
He knew him not, what chord could be
Thus waken'd on his memory?
At first the knight was cold and stern,
As that his spirit shunn'd to learn
Aught of affection; as it brought
To him some shaft of venom'd thought:
When one eve RAYMOND chanced to name
Durance's castle, whence he came;
And speak of EVA , and her fate,
So young and yet so desolate,
So beautiful! Then heard he all
Her father's wrongs, her mother's fall:
For AMIRALD was the knight whose life
RAYMOND had saved amid the strife;
And now he seem'd to find relief
In pouring forth his hidden grief,
Which had for years been as the stream
Cave-lock'd from either air or beam.
LORD AMIRALD'S HISTORY.
I LOVED her! ay, I would have given
A death-bed certainty of heaven
If I had thought it could confer
The least of happiness on her!
How proudly did I wait the hour
When hid no more in lowly bower,
She should shine, loveliest of all,
The lady of my heart and hall;--
And soon I deem'd the time would be,
For many a chief stood leagued with me.
It was one evening we had sate
In my tower's secret council late,
Our bands were number'd, and we said
That the pale moon's declining head
Should shed her next full light o'er bands
With banners raised, and sheathless brands.
We parted; I to seek the shade
Where my heart's choicest gem was laid;
I flung me on my fleetest steed,
I urged it to its utmost speed,--
On I went, like the hurrying wind,
Hill, dale, and plain were left behind,
And yet I thought my courser slow--
Even when the forest lay below.
As my wont, in a secret nook
I left my horse,--I may not tell
With what delight my way I took
Till I had reach'd the oak-hid dell.
The trees which hitherto had made
A more than night, with lighten'd shade
Now let the stars and sky shine through,
Rejoicing, calm, and bright, and blue.
There did not move a leaf that night
That I cannot remember now,
Nor yet a single star whose light
Was on the royal midnight's brow:
Wander'd no cloud, sigh'd not a flower,
That is not present at this hour.
No marvel memory thus should press
Round its last light of happiness!
I paused one moment where I stood,
In all a very miser's mood,
As if that thinking of its store
Could make my bosom's treasure more.
I saw the guiding lamp which shone
From the wreath'd lattice, pale and lone;
Another moment I was there,
To pause, and look--upon despair.
I saw her!--on the ground she lay,
The life blood ebbing fast away;
But almost as she could not die
Without my hand to close her eye!
When to my bosom press'd, she raised
Her heavy lids, and feebly gazed,
And her lip moved: I caught its breath,
Its last, it was the gasp of death!
I leant her head upon my breast,
As I but soothed her into rest;--
I do not know what time might be
Past in this stony misery,
When I was waken'd from my dream
By my forgotten infant's scream.
Then first I thought upon my child.
I took it from its bed, it smiled,
And its red cheek was flush'd with sleep:
Why had it not the sense to weep?
I laid its mother on the bed,
O'er her pale brow a mantle spread,
And left the wood. Calm, stern, and cold,
The tale of blood and death I told;
Gave my child to my brother's care
As his, not mine were this despair.
I flung me on my steed again,
I urged him with the spur and rein,--
I left him at the usual tree,
But left him there at liberty.
With madd'ning step I sought the place,
I raised the mantle from her face,
And knelt me down beside, to gaze
On all the mockery death displays,
Until it seem'd but sleep to me.
Death,--oh, no! death it could not be.
The cold grey light the dawn had shed,
Changed gradual into melting red;
I watch'd the morning colour streak
With crimson dye her marble cheek;
The freshness of the stirring air
Lifted her curls of raven hair;
Her head lay pillow'd on her arm,
Sweetly, as if with life yet warm;--
I kiss'd her lips: oh, God, the chill!
My heart is frozen with it still:--
It was as suddenly on me
Open'd my depths of misery.
I flung me on the ground, and raved,
And of the wind that past me craved
One breath of poison, till my blood
From lip and brow gush'd in one flood.
I watch'd the warm stream of my veins
Mix with the death wounds clotted stains;
Oh! how I pray'd that I might pour
My heart's tide, and her life restore!
And night came on:--with what dim fear
I mark'd the darkling hours appear,--
I could not gaze on the dear brow,
And seeing was all left me now.
I grasp'd the cold hand in mine own,
Till both alike seem'd turn'd to stone.
Night, morn, and noontide pass'd away,
Then came the tokens of decay.
'Twas the third night that I had kept
My watch, and, like a child, had wept
Sorrow to sleep, and in my dream
I saw her as she once could seem,
Fair as an angel: there she bent
As if sprung from the element,
The bright clear fountain, whose pure wave
Her soft and shadowy image gave.
Methought that conscious beauty threw
Upon her cheek its own sweet hue,
Its loveliness of morning red;
I woke, and gazed upon the dead.
I mark'd the fearful stains which now
Were dark'ning o'er the once white brow,
The livid colours that declare
The soul no longer dwelleth there.
The gaze of even my fond eye,
Seem'd almost like impiety,
As it were sin for looks to be
On what the earth alone should see.
I thought upon the loathsome doom
Of the grave's cold, corrupted gloom;--
Oh, never shall the vile worm rest
A lover on thy lip and breast!
Oh, never shall a careless tread
Soil with its step thy sacred bed!
Never shall leaf or blossom bloom
With vainest mockery o'er thy tomb!
And forth I went, and raised a shrine
Of the dried branches of the pine,--
I laid her there, and o'er her flung
The wild flowers that around her sprung;
I tore them up, and root and all,
I bade them wait her funeral,
With a strange joy that each fair thing
Should, like herself, be withering.
I lit the pyre,--the evening skies
Rain'd tears upon the sacrifice;
How did its wild and awful light
Struggle with the fierce winds of night;
Red was the battle, but in vain
Hiss'd the hot embers with the rain.
It wasted to a single spark;
That faded, and all round was dark:
Then, like a madman who has burst
The chain which made him doubly curst,
I fled away. I may not tell
The agony that on me fell:--
I fled away, for fiends were near,
My brain was fire, my heart was fear!
I was borne on an eagle's wing,
Till with the noon-sun perishing;
Then I stood in a world alone,
From which all other life was gone,
Whence warmth, and breath, and light were fled,
A world o'er which a curse was said:
The trees stood leafless all, and bare,
The sky spread, but no sun was there:
Night came, no stars were on her way,
Morn came without a look of day,--
As night and day shared one pale shroud,
Without a colour or a cloud.
And there were rivers, but they stood
Without a murmur on the flood,
Waveless and dark, their task was o'er,--
The sea lay silent on the shore,
Without a sign upon its breast
Save of interminable rest:
And there were palaces and halls,
But silence reign'd amid their walls,
Though crowds yet fill'd them; for no sound
Rose from the thousands gather'd round;
All wore the same white, bloodless hue,
All the same eyes of glassy blue,
Meaningless, cold, corpse-like as those
No gentle hand was near to close.
And all seem'd, as they look'd on me,
In wonder that I yet could be
A moving shape of warmth and breath
Alone amid a world of death.
'Tis strange how much I still retain
Of these wild tortures of my brain,
Though now they but to memory seem
A curse, a madness, and a dream;
But well I can recall the hour
When first the fever lost its power;
As one whom heavy opiates steep,
Rather in feverish trance than sleep,
I waken'd scarce to consciousness,--
Memory had fainted with excess:
I only saw that I was laid
Beneath an olive tree's green shade;
I knew I was where flowers grew fair,
I felt their balm upon the air,
I drank it as it had been wine;
I saw a gift of red sunshine
Glittering upon a fountain's brim;
I heard the small birds' vesper hymn,
As they a vigil o'er me kept,--
I heard their music, and I wept.
I felt a friendly arm upraise
My head, a kind look on me gaze!
RAYMOND , it has been mine to see
The godlike heads which Italy
Has given to prophet and to saint,
All of least earthly art could paint!
But never saw I such a brow
As that which gazed upon me now;--
It was an aged man, his hair
Was white with time, perhaps with care;
For over his pale face were wrought
The characters of painful thought;
But on that lip and in that eye
Were patience, peace, and piety,
The hope which was not of this earth,
The peace which has in pangs its birth,
As if in its last stage the mind,
Like silver seven times refined
In life's red furnace, all its clay,
All its dross purified away,
Paused yet a little while below,
Its beauty and its power to show.
As if the tumult of this life,
Its sorrow, vanity, and strife,
Had been but as the lightning's shock
Shedding rich ore upon the rock,
Though in the trial scorch'd and riven,
The gold it wins is gold from heaven.
He watch'd, he soothed me day to day,
How kindly words may never say:
All angel ministering could be
That old man's succour was to me;
I dwelt with him; for all in vain
He urged me to return again
And mix with life:--and months past on
Without a trace to mark them gone;
I had one only wish, to be
Left to my grief's monotony.
There is a calm which is not peace,
Like that when ocean's tempests cease,
When worn out with the storm, the sea
Sleeps in her dark tranquillity,
As dreading that the lightest stir
Would bring again the winds on her.
I felt as if I could not brook
A sound, a breath, a voice, a look,
As I fear'd they would bring again
Madness upon my heart and brain.
It was a haunting curse to me,
The simoom of insanity.
The links of life's enchanted chain,
Its hope, its pleasure, fear or pain,
Connected but with what had been,
Clung not to any future scene.
There is an indolence in grief
Which will not even seek relief:
I sat me down, like one who knows
The poison tree above him grows,
Yet moves not; my life-task was done
With that hour which left me alone.
It was one glad and glorious noon,
Fill'd with the golden airs of June,
When leaf and flower look to the sun
As if his light and life were one,--
A day of those diviner days
When breath seems only given for praise,
Beneath a stately tree which shed
A cool green shadow over-head;
I listen'd to that old man's words
Till my heart's pulses were as chords
Of a lute waked at the command
Of some thrice powerful master's hand.
He paused: I saw his face was bright
With even more than morning's light,
As his cheek felt the spirit's glow;
A glory sate upon his brow,
His eye flash'd as to it were given
A vision of his coming heaven.
I turn'd away in awe and fear,
My spirit was not of his sphere;
Ill might an earthly care intrude
Upon such high and holy mood:
I felt the same as I had done
Had angel face upon me shone,
When sudden, as sent from on high,
Music came slowly sweeping by.
It was not harp, it was not song,
Nor aught that might to earth belong!
The birds sang not, the leaves were still,
Silence was sleeping on the rill;
But with a deep and solemn sound
The viewless music swept around.
Oh never yet was such a tone
To hand or lip of mortal known!
It was as if a hymn were sent
From heaven's starry instrument,
In joy, such joy as seraphs feel
For some pure soul's immortal weal,
When that its human task is done,
Earth's trials past, and heaven won.
I felt, before I fear'd, my dread,
I turn'd and saw the old man dead!
Without a struggle or a sigh,
And is it thus the righteous die?
There he lay in the sun, calm, pale,
As if life had been like a tale
Which, whatsoe'er its sorrows past,
Breaks off in hope and peace at last.
I stretch'd him by the olive tree,
Where his death, there his grave should be;
The place was a thrice hallowed spot,
There had he drawn his golden lot
Of immortality; 'twas blest,
A green and holy place of rest.
But ill my burthen'd heart could bear
Its after loneliness of care;
The calmness round seem'd but to be
A mockery of grief and me,--
The azure flowers, the sunlit sky,
The rill, with its still melody,
The leaves, the birds,--with my despair,
The light and freshness had no share:
The one unbidden of them all
To join in summer's festival.
I wander'd first to many a shrine
By zeal or ages made divine;
And then I visited each place
Where valour's deeds had left a trace;
Or sought the spots renown'd no less
For nature's lasting loveliness.
In vain that all things changed around,
No change in my own heart was found.
In sad or gay, in dark or fair,
My spirit found a likeness there.
At last my bosom yearn'd to see
My EVA'S blooming infancy;
I saw, myself unseen the while,
Oh, God! it was her mother's smile!
Wherefore, oh, wherefore had they flung
The veil just as her mother's hung!--
Another look I dared not take,
Another look my heart would break!
I rush'd away to the lime grove
Where first I told my tale of love;
And leaves and flowers breathed of spring
As in our first sweet wandering.
I look'd towards the clear blue sky,
I saw the gem-like stream run by;
How did I wish that, like these, fate
Had made the heart inanimate.
Oh! why should spring for others be,
When there can come no spring to thee.
Again, again, I rush'd away;
Madness was on an instant's stay!
And since that moment, near and far,
In rest, in toil, in peace, in war,
I've wander'd on without an aim
In all, save lapse of years the same.
Where was the star to rise and shine
Upon a night so dark as mine?--
My life was as a frozen stream,
Which shares but feels not the sun-beam,
All careless where its course may tend,
So that it leads but to an end.
I fear my fate too much to crave
More than it must bestow--the grave.
AND AMIRALD from that hour sought
A refuge from each mournful thought
In RAYMOND'S sad but soothing smile;
And listening what might well beguile
The spirit from its last recess
Of dark and silent wretchedness.
He spoke of EVA , and he tried
To rouse her father into pride
Of her fair beauty; rather strove
To waken hope yet more than love.
He saw how deeply AMIRALD fear'd
To touch a wound not heal'd but sear'd:
His gentle care was not in vain,
And AMIRALD learn'd to think again
Of hope, if not of happiness;
And soon his bosom pined to press
The child whom he so long had left
An orphan doubly thus bereft.
He mark'd with what enamour'd tongue
RAYMOND on EVA'S mention hung,--
The softened tone, the downward gaze,
All that so well the heart betrays;
And a reviving future stole
Like dew and sunlight on his soul.
Soon the Crusaders would be met
Where winter's rest from war was set;
And then farewell to arms and Spain;--
Then for their own fair France again.
One morn there swell'd the trumpet's blast,
Calling to battle, but the last;
And AMIRALD watch'd the youthful knight
Spur his proud courser to the fight:
Tall as the young pine yet unbent
By strife with its mountain element,--
His vizor was up, and his full dark eye
Flash'd as its flashing were victory;
And hope and pride sate on his brow
As his earlier war-dreams were on him now.
Well might he be proud, for where was there one
Who had won the honour that he had won?
And first of the line it was his to lead
His band to many a daring deed.
But rose on the breath of the evening gale,
Not the trumpet's salute, but a mournful tale
Of treachery, that had betray'd the flower
Of the Christian force to the Infidel's power.
One came who told he saw RAYMOND fall,
Left in the battle the last of all;
His helm was gone, and his wearied hand
Held a red but a broken brand.--
What could a warrior do alone?
And AMIRALD felt all hope was gone.
Alas for the young! alas for the brave!
For the morning's hope, and the evening's grave!
And gush'd for him hot briny tears,
Such as AMIRALD had not shed for years;--
With heavy step and alter'd heart,
Again he turn'd him to depart.
He sought his child, but half her bloom
Was withering in RAYMOND'S tomb.
Albeit not with those who fled,
Yet was not RAYMOND with the dead.
There is a lofty castle stands
On the verge of Grenada's lands;
It has a dungeon, and a chain,
And there the young knight must remain.
Day after day,--or rather night,--
Can morning come without its light?
Pass'd on without a sound or sight.
The only thing that he could feel,
Was the same weight of fettering steel,--
The only sound that he could hear
Was when his own voice mock'd his ear,--
His only sight was the drear lamp
That faintly show'd the dungeon's damp,
When by his side the jailor stood,
And brought his loathed and scanty food.
What is the toil, or care, or pain,
The human heart cannot sustain?
Enough if struggling can create
A change or colour in our fate;
But where's the spirit that can cope
With listless suffering, when hope,
The last of misery's allies,
Sickens of its sweet self, and dies.
He thought on EVA :--tell not me
Of happiness in memory!
Oh! what is memory but a gift
Within a ruin'd temple left,
Recalling what its beauties were,
And then presenting what they are.
And many hours pass'd by,--each one
Sad counterpart of others gone;
Till even to his dreams was brought
The sameness of his waking thought;
And in his sleep he felt again
The dungeon, darkness, damp, and chain.
One weary time, when he had thrown
Himself on his cold bed of stone,
Sudden he heard a stranger hand
Undo the grating's iron band:
He knew 'twas stranger, for no jar
Came from the hastily drawn bar.
Too faintly gleam'd the lamp to show
The face of either friend or foe;
But there was softness in the tread,
And RAYMOND raised his weary head,
And saw a muffled figure kneel,
And loose the heavy links of steel.
He heard a whisper, to which heaven
Had surely all its music given:--
'Vow to thy saints for liberty,
Sir knight, and softly follow me!'
He heard her light step on the stair,
And felt 'twas woman led him there.
And dim and dark the way they past
Till on the dazed sight flash'd at last
A burst of light, and RAYMOND stood
Where censers burn'd with sandal wood,
And silver lamps like moonshine fell
O'er mirrors and the tapestried swell
Of gold and purple: on they went
Through rooms each more magnificent.
And RAYMOND look'd upon the brow
Of the fair guide who led him now:
It was a pale but lovely face,
Yet in its first fresh spring of grace,
That spring before or leaf or flower
Has known a single withering hour:
With lips red as the earliest rose
That opens for the bee's repose.
But it was not on lip, or cheek
Too marble fair, too soft, too meek,
That aught was traced that might express
More than unconscious loveliness;
But her dark eyes! as the wild light
Streams from the stars at deep midnight,
Speaks of the future,--so those eyes
Seem'd with their fate to sympathise,
As mocking with their conscious shade
The smile that on the red lip play'd,
As that they knew their destiny
Was love, and that such love would be
The uttermost of misery.
There came a new burst of perfume,
But different, from one stately room,
Not of sweet woods, waters distill'd,
But with fresh flowers' breathings fill'd;
And there the maiden paused, as thought
Some painful memory to her brought.
Around all spoke of woman's hand:
There a guitar lay on a stand
Of polish'd ebony, and raised
In rainbow ranks the hyacinth blazed
Like banner'd lancers of the spring,
Save that they were too languishing.
And gush'd the tears from her dark eyes,
And swell'd her lip and breast with sighs;
But RAYMOND spoke, and at the sound
The maiden's eye glanced hurried round.
Motioning with her hand she led,
With watching gaze and noiseless tread,
Along a flower-fill'd terrace, where
Flow'd the first tide of open air.
They reach'd the garden; there was all
That gold could win, or luxury call
From northern or from southern skies
To make an earthly paradise.
Their path was through a little grove,
Where cypress branches met above,
Green, shadowy, as nature meant
To make the rose a summer tent,
In fear and care, lest the hot noon
Should kiss her fragrant brow too soon.
Oh! passion's history, ever thus
Love's light and breath were perilous!
On the one side a fountain play'd
As if it were a Fairy's shade,
Who shower'd diamonds to streak
The red pomegranate's ruby cheek.
The grove led to a lake, one side
Sweet scented shrubs and willows hide:
There winds a path, the clear moonshine
Pierces not its dim serpentine.
The garden lay behind in light,
With flower and with fountain bright;
The lake like sheeted silver gave
The stars a mirror in each wave;
And distant far the torchlight fell,
Where paced the walls the centinel:
And as each scene met RAYMOND'S view,
He deem'd the tales of magic true,--
With such a path, and such a night,
And such a guide, and such a flight.
The way led to a grotto's shade,
Just for a noon in summer made;
For scarcely might its arch be seen
Through the thick ivy's curtain green,
And not a sunbeam might intrude
Upon its twilight solitude.
It was the very place to strew
The latest violets that grew
Upon the feathery moss, then dream,--
Lull'd by the music of the stream,--
Fann'd by those scented gales which bring
The garden's wealth upon their wing,
Till languid with its own delight,
Sleep steals like love upon the sight,
Bearing those visionings of bliss
That only visit sleep like this.
And paused the maid,--the moonlight shed
Its light where leaves and flowers were spread,
As there she had their sweetness borne,
A pillow for a summer morn;
But when those leaves and flowers were raised,
A lamp beneath their covering blazed.
She led through a small path whose birth
Seem'd in the hidden depths of earth,--
'Twas dark and damp, and on the ear
There came a rush of waters near.
At length the drear path finds an end,--
Beneath a dark low arch they bend;
'Safe, safe!' the maiden cried, and prest
The red cross to her panting breast!
'Yes, we are safe!--on, stranger, on,
The worst is past, and freedom won!
Somewhat of peril yet remains,
But peril not from Moorish chains;--
With hope and heaven be our lot!'
She spoke, but RAYMOND answer'd not:
It was as he at once had come
Into some star's eternal home,--
He look'd upon a spacious cave,
Rich with the gifts wherewith the wave
Had heap'd the temple of that source
Which gave it to its daylight course.
Here pillars crowded round the hall,
Each with a glistening capital:--
The roof was set with thousand spars,
A very midnight heaven of stars;
The walls were bright with every gem
That ever graced a diadem;
Snow turn'd to treasure,--crystal flowers
With every hue of summer hours.
While light and colour round him blazed,
It seem'd to RAYMOND that he gazed
Upon a fairy's palace, raised
By spells from ore and jewels, that shine
In Afric's stream and Indian mine;
And she, his dark-eyed guide, were queen
Alone in the enchanted scene.
They past the columns, and they stood
By the depths of a pitchy flood,
Where silent, leaning on his oar,
An Ethiop slave stood by the shore.
'My faithful ALI !' cried the maid,
And then to gain the boat essay'd,
Then paused, as in her heart afraid
To trust that slight and fragile bark
Upon a stream so fierce, so dark;
Such sullen waves, the torch's glare
Fell wholly unreflected there.
'Twas but a moment; on they went
Over the grave-like element;
At first in silence, for so drear
Was all that met the eye and ear,--
Before, behind, all was like night,
And the red torch's cheerless light,
Fitful and dim, but served to show
How the black waters roll'd below;
And how the cavern roof o'erhead
Seem'd like the tomb above them spread.
And ever as each heavy stroke
Of the oar upon these waters broke,
Ten thousand echoes sent the sound
Like omens through the hollows round,
Till RAYMOND , who awhile subdued
His spirit's earnest gratitude,
Now pour'd his hurried thanks to her,
Heaven's own loveliest minister.
E'en by that torch he could espy
The burning cheek, the downcast eye,--
The faltering lip, which owns too well
All that its words might never tell;--
Once her dark eye met his, and then
Sank 'neath its silken shade again;
She spoke a few short hurried words,
But indistinct, like those low chords
Waked from the lute or ere the hand
Knows yet what song it shall command.
Was it in maiden fearfulness
He might her bosom's secret guess,
Or but in maiden modesty
At what a stranger's thought might be
Of this a Moorish maiden's flight
In secret with a Christian knight.
And the bright colour on her cheek
Was various as the morning break,--
Now spring-rose red, now lily pale,
As thus the maiden told her tale.
MOORISH MAIDEN'S TALE.
ALBEIT on my brow and breast
Is Moorish turban, Moorish vest;
Albeit too of Moorish line,
Yet Christian blood and faith are mine.
Even from earliest infancy
I have been taught to bend the knee
Before the sweet Madonna's face,
To pray from her a Saviour's grace!
My mother's youthful heart was given
To one an infidel to heaven;
Alas! that ever earthly love
Could turn her hope from that above;
Yet surely 'tis for tears, not blame,
To be upon that mother's name.
Well can I deem my father all
That holds a woman's heart in thrall,--
In truth his was as proud a form
As ever stemm'd a battle storm,
As ever moved first in the hall
Of crowds and courtly festival.
Upon each temple the black hair
Was mix'd with grey, as early care
Had been to him like age,--his eye,
And lip, and brow, were dark and high;
And yet there was a look that seem'd
As if at other times he dream'd
Of gentle thoughts he strove to press
Back to their unsunn'd loneliness.
Your first gaze cower'd beneath his glance,
Keen like the flashing of a lance,
As forced a homage to allow
To that tall form, that stately brow;
But the next dwelt upon the trace
That time may bring, but not efface,
Of cares that wasted life's best years,
Of griefs seared more than sooth'd by tears,
And homage changed to a sad feeling
For a proud heart its grief concealing.
If such his brow, when griefs that wear,
And hopes that waste, were written there,
What must it have been, at the hour
When in my mother's moonlit bower,
If any step moved, 'twas to take
The life he ventured for her sake?
He urged his love; to such a suit
Could woman's eye or heart be mute?
She fled with him,--it matters not,
To dwell at length upon their lot.
But that my mother's frequent sighs
Swell'd at the thoughts of former ties,
First loved, then fear'd she loved too well,
Then fear'd to love an Infidel;
A struggle all, she had the will
But scarce the strength to love him still:--
But for this weakness of the heart
Which could not from its love depart,
Rebell'd, but quickly clung again,
Which broke and then renew'd its chain,
Without the power to love, and be
Repaid by love's fidelity:--
Without this contest of the mind,
Though yet its early fetters bind,
Which still pants to be unconfined,
They had been happy.
'Twas when first
My spirit from its childhood burst,
That to our roof a maiden came,
My mother's sister, and the same
In form, in face, in smiles, in tears,
In step, in voice, in all but years,
Save that there was upon her brow
A calm my mother's wanted now;
And that ELVIRA'S loveliness
Seem'd scarce of earth, so passionless,
So pale, all that the heart could paint
Of the pure beauty of a saint.
Yes, I have seen ELVIRA kneel,
And seen the rays of evening steal,
Lighting the blue depths of her eye
With so much of divinity
As if her every thought was raised
To the bright heaven on which she gazed!
Then often I have deem'd her form
Rather with light than with life warm.
My father's darken'd brow was glad,
My mother's burthen'd heart less sad
With her, for she was not of those
Who all the heart's affections close
In a drear hour of grief or wrath,--
Her path was as an angel's path,
Known only by the flowers which spring
Beneath the influence of its wing;
And that her high and holy mood
Was such as suited solitude.
Still she had gentle words and smiles,
And all that sweetness which beguiles,
Like sunshine on an April day,
The heaviness of gloom away.
It was as the souls weal were sure
When prayer rose from lips so pure.
She left us;--the same evening came
Tidings of woe, and death, and shame.
Her guard had been attack'd by one
Whose love it had been her's to shun.
Fierce was the struggle, and her flight
Meanwhile had gain'd a neighbouring height,
Which dark above the river stood,
And look'd upon the rushing flood;
'Twas compass'd round, she was bereft
Of the vague hope that flight had left.
One moment, and they saw her kneel,
And then, as Heaven heard her appeal,
She flung her downwards from the rock:
Her heart was nerved by death to mock
What that heart never might endure,
The slavery of a godless Moor.
And madness in its burning pain
Seized on my mother's heart and brain:
She died that night, and the next day
Beheld my father far away.
But wherefore should I dwell on all
Of sorrow memory can recall,
Enough to know that I must roam
An orphan to a stranger home.--
My father's death in battle field
Forced me a father's rights to yield
To his stern brother; how my heart
Was forced with one by one to part
Of its best hopes, till life became
Existence only in its name;
Left but a single wish,--to share
The cold home where my parents were.
At last I heard, I may not say
How my soul brighten'd into day,
ELVIRA lived; a miracle
Had surely saved her as she fell!
A fisherman who saw her float,
Bore her in silence to his boat.
She lived! how often had I said
To mine own heart she is not dead;
And she remember'd me, and when
They bade us never meet again,
She sent to me an Ethiop slave,
The same who guides us o'er the wave,
Whom she had led to that pure faith
Which sains and saves in life and death,
And plann'd escape.
It was one morn
I saw our conquering standards borne,
And gazed upon a Christian knight
Wounded and prisoner from the fight;
I made a vow that he should be
Redeem'd from his captivity.
Sir knight, the Virgin heard my vow,--
Yon light,--we are in safety now!
THE arch was past, the crimson gleam
Of morning fell upon the stream,
And flash'd upon the dazzled eye
The day-break of a summer sky;
And they are sailing amid ranks
Of cypress on the river banks:
They land where water-lilies spread
Seem almost too fair for the tread;
And knelt they down upon the shore,
The heart's deep gratitude to pour.
Led by their dark guide on they press
Through many a green and lone recess:
The morning air, the bright sunshine,
To RAYMOND were like the red wine,--
Each leaf, each flower seem'd to be
With his own joy in sympathy,
So fresh, so glad; but the fair Moor,
From peril and pursuit secure,
Though hidden by her close-drawn veil,
Yet seem'd more tremulous, more pale;
The hour of dread and danger past,
Fear's timid thoughts came thronging fast;
Her cold hand trembled in his own,
Her strength seem'd with its trial gone,
And downcast eye, and faltering word,
But dimly seen, but faintly heard,
Seem'd scarcely her's that just had been
His dauntless guide through the wild scene.
At length a stately avenue
Of ancient chesnuts met their view,
And they could see the time-worn walls
Of her they sought, ELVIRA'S halls.
A small path led a nearer way
Through flower-beds in their spring array.
They reach'd the steps, and stood below
A high and marble portico;
They enter'd, and saw kneeling there
A creature even more than fair.
On each white temple the dusk braid
Of parted hair made twilight shade,
That brow whose blue veins shone to show
It was more beautiful than snow.
Her large dark eyes were almost hid
By the nightfall of the fringed lid;
And tears which fill'd their orbs with light,
Like summer showers blent soft with bright.
Her cheek was saintly pale, as nought
Were there to flush with earthly thought;
As the heart which in youth had given
Its feelings and its hopes to Heaven,
Knew no emotions that could spread
A maiden's cheek with sudden red,--
Made for an atmosphere above,
Too much to bend to mortal love.
And RAYMOND watch'd as if his eye
Were on a young divinity,--
As her bright presence made him feel
Awe that could only gaze and kneel:
And LEILA paused, as if afraid
To break upon the recluse maid,
As if her heart took its rebuke
From that cold, calm, and placid look.
'ELVIRA !'--though the name was said
Low as she fear'd to wake the dead,
Yet it was heard, and, all revealing,
Of her most treasured mortal feeling,
Fondly the Moorish maid was prest
To her she sought, ELVIRA'S breast.
'I pray'd for thee, my hope, my fear,
My LEILA ! and now thou art near.
Nay, weep not, welcome as thou art
To my faith, friends, and home and heart!'
And RAYMOND almost deem'd that earth
To such had never given birth
As the fair creatures, who, like light,
Floated upon his dazzled sight:--
One with her bright and burning cheek,
All passion, tremulous and weak,
A woman in her woman's sphere
Of joy and grief, of hope and fear.
The other, whose mild tenderness
Seem'd as less made to share than bless;
One to whom human joy was such
That her heart fear'd to trust too much,
While her wan brow seem'd as it meant
To soften rapture to content;--
To whom all earth's delight was food
For high and holy gratitude.
Gazed RAYMOND till his burning brain
Grew dizzy with excess of pain;
For unheal'd wounds his strength had worn,
And all the toil his flight had borne;
His lip, and cheek, and brow were flame;
And when ELVIRA'S welcome came,
It fell on a regardless ear,
As bow'd beside a column near,
He leant insensible to all
Of good or ill that could befall.
WHAT is there that the world hath not
Gathered in yon enchanted spot?
Where, pale, and with a languid eye,
The fair Sultana listlessly
Leans on her silken couch, and dreams
Of mountain airs, and mountain streams.
Sweet though the music float around,
It wants the old familiar sound;
And fragrant though the flowers are breathing,
From far and near together wreathing,
They are not those she used to wear,
Upon the midnight of her hair.—
She's very young, and childhood's days
With all their old remembered ways,
The empire of her heart contest
With love, that is so new a guest;
When blushing with her Murad near,
Half timid bliss, half sweetest fear,
E'en the beloved past is dim,
Past, present, future, merge in him.
But he, the warrior and the chief,
His hours of happiness are brief;
And he must leave Nadira's side
To woo and win a ruder bride;
Sought, sword in hand and spur on heel,
The fame, that weds with blood and steel.
And while from Delhi far away,
His youthful bride pines through the day,
Weary and sad: thus when again
He seeks to bind love's loosen'd chain;
He finds the tears are scarcely dry
Upon a cheek whose bloom is faded,
The very flush of victory
Is, like the brow he watches, shaded.
A thousand thoughts are at her heart,
His image paramount o'er all,
Yet not all his, the tears that start,
As mournful memories recall
Scenes of another home, which yet
That fond young heart can not forget.
She thinks upon that place of pride,
Which frowned upon the mountain's side;
While round it spread the ancient plain,
Her steps will never cross again.
And near those mighty temples stand,
The miracles of mortal hand,
Where, hidden from the common eye,
The past's long buried secrets lie,
Those mysteries of the first great creed,
Whose mystic fancies were the seed
Of every wild and vain belief,
That held o'er man their empire brief,
And turned beneath a southern sky,
All that was faith to poetry.
Hence had the Grecian fables birth,
And wandered beautiful o'er earth;
Till every wood, and stream, and cave,
Shelter to some bright vision gave:
For all of terrible and strange,
That from those gloomy caverns sprung,
From Greece received a graceful change,
That spoke another sky and tongue,
A finer eye, a gentler hand,
Than in their native Hindoo land.
'Twas thence Nadira came, and still
Her memory kept that lofty hill;
The vale below, her place of birth,
That one charmed spot, her native earth.
Still haunted by that early love,
Which youth can feel, and youth alone;
An eager, ready, tenderness,
To all its after-life unknown.
When the full heart its magic flings,
Alike o'er rare and common things,
The dew of morning's earliest hour,
Which swells but once from leaf and flower,
From the pure life within supplied,
A sweet but soon exhausted tide.
There falls a shadow on the gloom,
There steals a light step through the room,
Gentle as love, that, though so near,
No sound hath caught the list'ning ear.
A moment's fond watch o'er her keeping.
Murad beholds Nadira weeping;
He who to win her lightest smile,
Had given his heart's best blood the while.
She turned—a beautiful delight
Has flushed the pale one into rose,
Murad, her love, returned to-night,
Her tears, what recks she now of those?
Dried in the full heart's crimson ray,
Ere he can kiss those tears away—
And she is seated at his feet,
Too timid his dear eyes to meet;
But happy; for she knows whose brow
Is bending fondly o'er her now.
And eager, for his sake, to hear
The records red of sword and spear,
For his sake feels the colour rise,
His spirit kindle in her eyes,
Till her heart beating joins the cry
Of Murad, and of Victory.
City of glories now no more,
His camp extends by Bejapore,
Where the Mahratta's haughty race
Has won the Moslem conqueror's place;
A bolder prince now fills the throne,
And he will struggle for his own.
'And yet,' he said, 'when evening falls
Solemn above those mouldering walls,
Where the mosques cleave the starry air,
Deserted at their hour of prayer,
And rises Ibrahim's lonely tomb,
'Mid weed-grown shrines, and ruined towers,
All marked with that eternal gloom
Left by the past to present hours.
When human pride and human sway
Have run their circle of decay;
And, mocking—the funereal stone,
Alone attests its builder gone.
Oh! vain such temple, o'er the sleep
Which none remain to watch or weep.
I could not choose but think how vain
The struggle fierce for worthless gain.
And calm and bright the moon looked down
O'er the white shrines of that fair town;
While heavily the cocoa-tree
Drooped o'er the walls its panoply,
A warrior proud, whose crested head
Bends mournful o'er the recent dead,
And shadows deep athwart the plain
Usurp the silver moonbeam's reign;
For every ruined building cast
Shadows, like memories of the past.
And not a sound the wind brought nigh,
Save the far jackal's wailing cry,
And that came from the field now red
With the fierce banquet I had spread:
Accursed and unnatural feast,
For worm, and fly, and bird, and beast;
While round me earth and heaven recorded
The folly of life's desperate game,
And the cold justice still awarded
By time, which makes all lots the same.
Slayer or slain, it matters not,
We struggle, perish, are forgot!
The earth grows green above the gone,
And the calm heaven looks sternly on.
'Twas folly this—the gloomy night
Fled before morning's orient light;
City and river owned its power,
And I, too, gladdened with the hour;
I saw my own far tents extend
My own proud crescent o'er them bend;
I heard the trumpet's glorious voice
Summon the warriors of my choice.
Again impatient on to lead,
I sprang upon my raven steed,
Again I felt my father's blood
Pour through my veins its burning flood.
My scimetar around I swung,
Forth to the air its lightning sprung,
A beautiful and fiery light,
The meteor of the coming fight.
'I turned from each forgotten grave
To others, which the name they bear
Will long from old oblivion save
The heroes of the race I share.
I thought upon the lonely isle
Where sleeps the lion-king the while,
Who looked on death, yet paused to die
Till comraded by Victory.
And he, fire noblest of my line,
Whose tomb is now the warrior's shrine,
(Where I were well content to be,
So that such fame might live with me.)
The light of peace, the storm of war,
Lord of the earth, our proud Akbar.
'What though our passing day but be
A bubble on eternity;
Small though the circle is, yet still
'Tis ours to colour at our will.
Mine be that consciousness of life
Which has its energies from strife,
Which lives its utmost, knows its power,
Claims from the mind its utmost dower—
With fiery pulse, and ready hand,
That wills, and willing wins command—
That boldly takes from earth its best—
To whom the grave can be but rest.
Mine the fierce free existence spent
Mid meeting ranks and armed tent:—
Save the few moments which I steal
At thy beloved feet to kneel—
And own the warrior's wild career
Has no such joy as waits him here—
When all that hope can dream is hung
Upon the music of thy tongue.
Ah! never is that cherished face
Banished from its accustomed place—
It shines upon my weariest night
It leads me on in thickest fight:
All that seems most opposed to be
Is yet associate with thee—
Together life and thee depart,
Dream—idol—treasure of my heart.'
Again, again Murad must wield
His scimetar in battle-field:
And must he leave his lonely flower
To pine in solitary bower?
Has power no aid has wealth no charm,
The weight of absence to disarm?
Alas! she will not touch her lute—
What!—sing?—and not for Murad's ear?
The echo of the heart is mute,
And that alone makes music dear.
In vain, in vain that royal hall
Is decked as for a festival.
The sunny birds, whose shining wings
Seem as if bathed in golden springs,
Though worth the gems they cost—and fair
As those which knew her earlier care.
The flowers—though there the rose expand
The sweetest depths wind ever fanned.
Ah! earth and sky have loveliest hues—
But none to match that dearest red,
Born of the heart, which still renews
The life that on itself is fed.
The maiden whom we love bestows
Her magic on the haunted rose.
Such was the colour—when her cheek
Spoke what the lip might never speak.
The crimson flush which could confess
All that we hoped—but dared not guess.
That blush which through the world is known
To love, and to the rose alone—
A sweet companionship, which never
The poet's dreaming eye may sever.
And there were tulips, whose rich leaves
The rainbow's dying light receives;
For only summer sun and skies
Could lend to earth such radiant dyes;
But still the earth will have its share,
The stem is green—the foliage fair—
Those coronals of gems but glow
Over the withered heart below—
That one dark spot, like passion's fire,
Consuming with its own desire.
And pale, as one who dares not turn
Upon her inmost thoughts, and learn,
If it be love their depths conceal,
Love she alone is doomed to feel—
The jasmine droopeth mournfully
Over the bright anemone,
The summer's proud and sun-burnt child:
In vain the queen is not beguiled,
They waste their bloom. Nadira's eye
Neglects them—let them pine and die.
Ah! birds and flowers may not suffice
The heart that throbs with stronger ties.
Again, again Murad is gone,
Again his young bride weeps alone:
Seeks her old nurse, to win her ear
With magic stories once so dear,
And calls the Almas to her aid.
With graceful dance, and gentle singing,
And bells like those some desert home
Hears from the camel's neck far ringing.
Alas! she will not raise her brow;
Yet stay—some spell hath caught her now:
That melody has touched her heart.
Oh, triumph of Zilara's art;
She listens to the mournful strain,
And bids her sing that song again.
'My lonely lute, how can I ask
For music from thy silent strings?
It is too sorrowful a task,
When only swept by memory's wings:
Yet waken from thy charmed sleep,
Although I wake thee but to weep.
'Yet once I had a thousand songs,
As now I have but only one.
Ah, love, whate'er to thee belongs.
With all life's other links, has done;
And I can breathe no other words
Than thou hast left upon the chords.
'They say Camdeo's place of rest,
When floating down the Ganges' tide,
Is in the languid lotus breast,
Amid whose sweets he loves to hide.
Oh, false and cruel, though divine,
What dost thou in so fair a shrine?
'And such the hearts that thou dost choose,
As pure, as fair, to shelter thee;
Alas! they know not what they lose
Who chance thy dwelling-place to be.
For, never more in happy dream
Will they float down life's sunny stream.
'My gentle lute, repeat one name,
The very soul of love, and thine:
No; sleep in silence, let me frame
Some other love to image mine;
Steal sadness from another's tone,
I dare not trust me with my own.
'Thy chords will win their mournful way,
All treasured thoughts to them belong;
For things it were so hard to say
Are murmured easily in song—
It is for music to impart
The secrets of the burthened heart.
'Go, taught by misery and love,
And thou hast spells for every ear:
But the sweet skill each pulse to move,
Alas! hath bought its knowledge dear—
Bought by the wretchedness of years,
A whole life dedicate to tears.'
The voice has ceased, the chords are mute,
The singer droops upon her lute;
But, oh, the fulness of each tone
Straight to Nadira's heart hath gone—
As if that mournful song revealed
Depths in that heart till then concealed,
A world of melancholy thought,
Then only into being brought;
Those tender mysteries of the soul,
Like words on an enchanted scroll,
Whose mystic meaning but appears
When washed and understood by tears.
She gaged upon the singer's face;
Deeply that young brow wore the trace
Of years that leave their stamp behind:
The wearied hope—the fever'd mind—
The heart which on itself hath turned,
Worn out with feelings—slighted—spurned—
Till scarce one throb remained to show
What warm emotions slept below,
Never to be renewed again,
And known but by remembered pain.
Her cheek was pale—impassioned pale—
Like ashes white with former fire,
Passion which might no more prevail,
The rose had been its own sweet pyre.
You gazed upon the large black eyes,
And felt what unshed tears were there;
Deep, gloomy, wild, like midnight skies,
When storms are heavy on the air—
And on the small red lip sat scorn,
Writhing from what the past had borne.
But far too proud to sigh—the will,
Though crushed, subdued, was haughty still;
Last refuge of the spirit's pain,
Which finds endurance in disdain.
Others wore blossoms in their hair,
And golden bangles round the arm.
She took no pride in being fair,
The gay delight of youth to charm;
The softer wish of love to please,
What had she now to do with these?
She knew herself a bartered slave,
Whose only refuge was the grave.
Unsoftened now by those sweet notes,
Which half subdued the grief they told,
Her long black hair neglected floats
O'er that wan face, like marble cold;
And carelessly her listless hand
Wandered above her lute's command
But silently—or just a tone
Woke into music, and was gone.
'Come hither, maiden, take thy seat,'
Nadira said, 'here at my feet.'
And, with the sweetness of a child
Who smiles, and deems all else must smile,
She gave the blossoms which she held,
And praised the singer's skill the while;
Then started with a sad surprise,
For tears were in the stranger's eyes.
Ah, only those who rarely know
Kind words, can tell how sweet they seem.
Great God, that there are those below
To whom such words are like a dream.
'Come,' said the young Sultana, 'come
To our lone garden by the river,
Where summer hath its loveliest home,
And where Camdeo fills his quiver.
If, as thou sayest, 'tis stored with flowers,
Where will he find them fair as ours?
And the sweet songs which thou canst sing
Methinks might charm away his sting.'
The evening banquet soon is spread—
There the pomegranate's rougher red
Was cloven, that it might disclose
A colour stolen from the rose—
The brown pistachio's glossy shell,
The citron where faint odours dwell;
And near the watermelon stands,
Fresh from the Jumna's shining sands;
And golden grapes, whose bloom and hue
Wear morning light and morning dew,
Or purple with the deepest dye
That flushes evening's farewell sky.
And in the slender vases glow—
Vases that seem like sculptured snow—
The rich sherbets are sparkling bright
With ruby and with amber light.
A fragrant mat the ground o'erspread,
With an old tamarind overhead,
With drooping bough of darkest green,
Forms for their feast a pleasant screen.
'Tis night, but such delicious time
Would seem like day in northern clime.
A pure and holy element,
Where light and shade, together blent,
Are like the mind's high atmosphere,
When hope is calm, and heaven is near.
The moon is young—her crescent brow
Wears its ethereal beauty now,
Unconscious of the crime and care,
Which even her brief reign must know,
Till she will pine to be so fair,
With such a weary world below.
A tremulous and silvery beam
Melts over palace, garden, stream;
Each flower beneath that tranquil ray,
Wears other beauty than by day,
All pale as if with love, and lose
Their rich variety of hues—
But ah, that languid loveliness
Hath magic, to the noon unknown,
A deep and pensive tenderness,
The heart at once feels is its own—
How fragrant to these dewy hours,
The white magnolia lifts its urn
The very Araby of flowers,
Wherein all precious odours burn.
And when the wind disperses these,
The faint scent of the lemon trees
Mingles with that rich sigh which dwells
Within the baubool's golden bells.
The dark green peepul's glossy leaves,
Like mirrors each a ray receives,
While luminous the moonlight falls,
O'er pearl kiosk and marble walls,
Those graceful palaces that stand
Most like the work of peri-land.
And rippling to the lovely shore,
The river tremulous with light,
On its small waves, is covered o'er
With the sweet offerings of the night—
Heaps of that scented grass whose bands
Have all been wove by pious hands,
Or wreaths, where fragrantly combined,
Red and white lotus flowers are twined.
And on the deep blue waters float
Many a cocoa-nut's small boat,
Holding within the lamp which bears
The maiden's dearest hopes and prayers,
Watch'd far as ever eye can see,
A vain but tender augury.
Alas! this world is not his home,
And still love trusts that signs will come
From his own native world of bliss,
To guide him through the shades of this.
Dreams, omens, he delights in these,
For love is linked with fantasies,
But hark! upon the plaining wind
Zilara's music floats again;
That midnight breeze could never find
A meeter echo than that strain,
Sad as the sobbing gale that sweeps
The last sere leaf which autumn keeps,
Yet sweet as when the waters fall
And make some lone glade musical.
'Lady, sweet Lady, song of mine
Was never meant for thee,
I sing but from my heart, and thine—
It cannot beat with me.
'You have not knelt in vain despair,
Beneath a love as vain,
That desperate—that devoted love,
Life never knows again.
'What know you of a weary hope,
The fatal and the fond,
That feels it has no home on earth,
Yet dares not look beyond?
'The bitterness of wasted youth,
Impatient of its tears;
The dreary days, the feverish nights,
The long account of years.
'The vain regret, the dream destroy'd,
The vacancy of heart,
When life's illusions, one by one,
First darken—then depart.
'The vacant heart! ah, worse,—a shrine
For one beloved name:
Kept, not a blessing, but a curse,
Amid remorse and shame.
'To know how deep, how pure, how true
Your early feelings were;
But mock'd, betray'd, disdain'd, and chang'd,
They have but left despair.
'And yet the happy and the young
Bear in their hearts a well
Of gentlest, kindliest sympathy,
Where tears unbidden dwell.
'Then, lady, listen to my lute;
As angels look below,
And e'en in heaven pause to weep
O'er grief they cannot know.'
The song was o'er, but yet the strings
Made melancholy murmurings;
She wandered on from air to air,
Changeful as fancies when they bear
The impress of the various thought,
From memory's twilight caverns brought.
At length, one wild, peculiar chime
Recalled this tale of ancient time.
'There's dust upon the distant wind, and shadow on the skies,
And anxiously the maiden strains her long-expecting eyes
And fancies she can catch the light far flashing from the sword,
And see the silver crescents raised, of him, the Mogul lord.
'She stands upon a lofty tower, and gazes o'er the plain:
Alas! that eyes so beautiful, should turn on heaven in vain.
'Tis but a sudden storm whose weight is darkening on the air,
The lightning sweeps the hill, but shows no coming warriors there.
'Yet crimson as the morning ray, she wears the robe of pride
That binds the gallant Humaioon, a brother, to her side;
His gift, what time around his arm, the glittering band was rolled,
With stars of ev'ry precious stone enwrought in shining gold.
'Bound by the Raki's sacred tie, his ready aid to yield,
Though beauty waited in the bower, and glory in the field:
Why comes he not, that chieftain vow'd, to this her hour of need?
Has honour no devotedness? Has chivalry no speed?
'The Rajpoot's daughter gazes round, she sees the plain afar,
Spread shining to the sun, which lights no trace of coming war.
The very storm has past away, as neither earth nor heaven
One token of their sympathy had to her anguish given.
'And still more hopeless than when last she on their camp looked down,
The foeman's gathered numbers close round the devoted town:
And daily in that fatal trench her chosen soldiers fall,
And spread themselves, a rampart vain, around that ruined wall.
'Her eyes upon her city turn—alas! what can they meet,
But famine, and despair, and death, in every lonely street?
Women and children wander pale, or with despairing eye
Look farewell to their native hearths, and lay them down to die.
'She seeks her palace, where her court collects in mournful bands,
Of maidens who but watch and weep, and wring their weary hands.
One word there came from her white lips, one word, she spoke no more;
But that word was for life and death, the young queen named—the Jojr.
[ the last,
'A wild shriek filled those palace halls—one shriek, it was
All womanish complaint and wail have in its utterance past:
They kneel at Kurnavati's feet, they bathe her hands in tears,
Then hurrying to their task of death, each calm and stern appears.
'There is a mighty cavern close beside the palace gate,
Dark, gloomy temple, meet to make such sacrifice to fate:
There heap they up all precious woods, the sandal and the rose,
While fragrant oils and essences like some sweet river flows.
'And shawls from rich Cashmere, and robes from Dacca's golden loom,
And caskets filled with Orient pearls, or yet more rare perfume:
And lutes and wreaths, all graceful toys, of woman's gentle care,
Are heaped upon that royal pile, the general doom to share.
'But weep for those the human things, so lovely and so young,
The panting hearts which still to life so passionately clung;
Some bound to this dear earth by hope, and some by love's strong thrall,
And yet dishonour's high disdain was paramount with all.
'Her silver robe flowed to her feet, with jewels circled round,
And in her long and raven hair the regal gems were bound;
And diamonds blaze, ruby and pearl were glittering in her zone,
And there, with starry emeralds set, the radiant Kandjar shone.
'The youthful Ranee led the way, while in her glorious eyes
Shone spiritual, the clear deep light, that is in moonlit skies:
Pale and resolved, her noble brow was worthy of a race
Whose proud blood flowed in those blue veins unconscious of disgrace.
'Solemn and slow with mournful chaunt, come that devoted band,
And Kurnavati follows last—the red torch in her hand:
She fires the pile, a death-black smoke mounts from that dreary cave—
Fling back the city gates—the foe, can now find but a grave.
'Hark the fierce music on the wind, the atabal, the gong,
The stem avenger is behind, he has not tarried long:
They brought his summons, though he stood before his plighted bride;
They brought his summons, though he stood in all but victory's pride.
'Yet down he flung the bridal wreath, he left the field unwon,
All that a warrior might achieve, young Humaioon had done,
Too late—he saw the reddening sky, he saw the smoke arise,
A few faint stragglers lived to tell the Ranee's sacrifice.
'But still the monarch held a sword, and had a debt to pay;
Small cause had Buhadour to boast—the triumph of that day:
Again the lone streets flowed with blood, and though too late to save,
Vengeance was the funereal rite at Kurnavati's grave.'
Deep silence chained the listeners round,
When, lo, another plaintive sound,
Came from the river's side, and there
They saw a girl with loosened hair
Seat her beneath a peepul tree,
Where swung her gurrah mournfully,
Filled with the cool and limpid wave,
An offering o'er some dear one's grave.
At once Zilara caught the tone,
And made it, as she sung, her own.
'Oh weep not o'er the quiet grave,
Although the spirit lost be near;
Weep not, for well those phantoms know
How vain the grief above their bier.
Weep not—ah no, 'tis best to die,
Ere all of bloom from life is fled;
Why live, when feelings, friends, and faith
Have long been numbered with the dead?
'They know no rainbow-hope that weeps
Itself away to deepest shade;
Nor love, whose very happiness
Should make the trusting heart afraid.
Ah, human tears are tears of fire,
That scorch and wither as they flow;
Then let them fall for those who live,
And not for those who sleep below.
'Yes, weep for those, whose silver chain
Has long been loosed, and yet live on;
The doomed to drink from life's dark spring,
Whose golden bowl has long been gone.
Aye, weep for those, the weary, worn,
The bound to earth by some vain tie;
Some lingering love, some fond regret,
Who loathe to live, yet fear to die.'
A moment's rest, and then once more
Zilara tried her memory's store,
And woke, while o'er the strings she bowed,
A tale of Rajahstan the proud.
'Bold as the falcon that faces the sun,
Wild as the streams when in torrents they run,
Fierce as the flame when the jungle's on fire,
Are the chieftains who call on the day-star as Sire.
Since the Moghuls were driven from stately Mandoo,
And left but their ruins their reign to renew,
Those hills have paid tribute to no foreign lord,
And their children have kept what they won by the sword.
Yet downcast each forehead, a sullen dismay
At Oudeypoor reigns in the Durbar to-day,
For bootless the struggle, and weary the fight,
Which Adjeit Sing pictures with frown black as night:—
'Oh fatal the hour, when Makundra's dark pass
Saw the blood of our bravest sink red in the grass;
And the gifts which were destined to honour the bride,
By the contest of rivals in crimson were dyed.
Where are the warriors who once wont to stand
The glory and rampart of Rajahstan's land?
Ask of the hills for their young and their brave,
They will point to the valleys beneath as their grave.
The mother sits pale by her desolate hearth,
And weeps o'er the infant an orphan from birth;
While the eldest boy watches the dust on the spear,
Which as yet his weak hand is unable to rear.
The fruit is ungathered, the harvest unsown,
And the vulture exults o'er our fields as his own:
There is famine on earth—there is plague in the air,
And all for a woman whose face is too fair.'
There was silence like that from the tomb, for no sound
Was heard from the chieftains who darkened around,
When the voice of a woman arose in reply,
'The daughters of Rajahstan know how to die.'
'Day breaks, and the earliest glory of morn
Afar o'er the tops of the mountains is borne;
Then the young Kishen Kower wandered through the green bowers,
That sheltered the bloom of the island of flowers;
Where a fair summer palace arose mid the shade,
Which a thousand broad trees for the noon-hour had made
Far around spread the hills with their varying hue,
From the deepest of purple to faintest of blue;
On one side the courts of the Rana are spread,
The white marble studded with granite's deep red;
While far sweeps the terrace, and rises the dome,
Till lost in the pure clouds above like a home.
Beside is a lake covered over with isles,
As the face of a beauty is varied with smiles:
Some small, just a nest for the heron that springs
From the long grass, and flashes the light from its wings;
Some bearing one palm-tree, the stately and fair,
Alone like a column aloft in the air;
While others have shrubs and sweet plants that extend
Their boughs to the stream o'er whose mirror they bend.
The lily that queen-like uprears to the sun,
The loveliest face that his light is upon;
While beside stands the cypress, which darkens the wave
With a foliage meant only to shadow the grave.
But the isle in the midst was the fairest of all
Where ran the carved trellis around the light hall;
Where the green creeper's starry wreaths, scented and bright.
Wooed the small purple doves 'mid their shelter to light;
There the proud oleander with white tufts was hung,
And the fragile clematis its silver showers flung,
And the nutmeg's soft pink was near lost in the pride
Of the pomegranate blossom that blushed at its side.
There the butterflies flitted around on the leaves,
From which every wing its own colour receives;
There the scarlet finch past like a light on the wind,
And the hues of the bayas like sunbeams combined;
Till the dazzled eye sought from such splendours to rove
And rested at last on the soft lilac dove;
Whose song seemed a dirge that at evening should be
Pour'd forth from the height of the sad cypress tree.
Her long dark hair plaited with gold on each braid;
Her feet bound with jewels which flash'd through the shade;
One hand filled with blossoms, pure hyacinth bells
Which treasure the summer's first breath in their cells;
The other caressing her white antelope,
In all the young beauty of life and of hope.
The princess roved onwards, her heart in her eyes,
That sought their delight in the fair earth and skies.
Oh, loveliest time! oh, happiest day!
When the heart is unconscious, and knows not its sway,
When the favourite bird, or the earliest flower,
Or the crouching fawn's eyes, make the joy of the hour,
And the spirits and steps are as light as the sleep
Which never has waken'd to watch or to weep.
She bounds o'er the soft grass, half woman half child,
As gay as her antelope, almost as wild.
The bloom of her cheek is like that on her years;
She has never known pain, she has never known tears,
And thought has no grief, and no fear to impart;
The shadow of Eden is yet on her heart.
'The midnight has fallen, the quiet, the deep,
Yet in yon Zenana none lie down for sleep.
Like frighted birds gathered in timorous bands,
The young slaves within it are wringing their hands.
The mother hath covered her head with her veil,
She weepeth no tears, and she maketh no wail;
But all that lone chamber pass silently by;
She has flung her on earth, to despair and to die.
But a lamp is yet burning in one dismal room,
Young princess; where now is thy morning of bloom?
Ah, ages, long ages, have passed in a breath,
And life's bitter knowledge has heralded death.
At the edge of the musnud she bends on her knee,
While her eyes watch the face of the stern Chand Baee.
Proud, beautiful, fierce; while she gazes, the tone
Of those high murky features grows almost her own;
And the blood of her race rushes dark to her brow,
The spirit of heroes has entered her now.
' 'Bring the death-cup, and never for my sake shall shame
Quell the pride of my house, or dishonour its name.
She drained the sherbet, while Chand Baee looked on,
Like a warrior that marks the career of his son.
But life is so strong in each pure azure vein,
That they take not the venom—she drains it again.
The haughty eye closes, the white teeth are set,
And the dew-damps of pain on the wrung brow are wet:
The slight frame is writhing—she sinks to the ground;
She yields to no struggle, she utters no sound—
The small hands are clenched—they relax—it is past,
And her aunt kneels beside her—kneels weeping at last.
Again morning breaks over palace and lake,
But where are the glad eyes it wont to awake.
Weep, weep, 'mid a bright world of beauty and bloom,
For the sweet human flower that lies low in the tomb.
And wild through the palace the death-song is breathing,
And white are the blossoms, the slaves weep while wreathing,
To strew at the feet and to bind round the head,
Of her who was numbered last night with the dead:
They braid her long tresses, they drop the shroud o'er,
And gaze on her cold and pale beauty no more:
But the heart has her image, and long after-years
Will keep her sad memory with music and tears.'
Days pass, yet still Zilara's song
Beguiled the regal beauty's hours
As the wind bears some bird along
Over the haunted orange bowers.
'Twas as till then she had not known
How much her heart had for its own;
And Murad's image seemed more dear,
These higher chords of feeling strung;
'And love shone brighter for the shade
'That others' sorrows round it flung.
It was one sultry noon, yet sweet
The air which through the matted grass
Came cool—its breezes had to meet
A hundred plumes, ere it could pass;
The peacock's shining feathers wave
From many a young and graceful slave;
Who silent kneel amid the gloom
Of that dim and perfumed room.
Beyond, the radiant sunbeams rest
On many a minaret's glittering crest,
And white the dazzling tombs below,
Like masses sculptured of pure snow;
While round stands many a giant tree,
Like pillars of a sanctuary,
Whose glossy foliage, dark and bright,
Reflects, and yet excludes the light.
Oh sun, how glad thy rays are shed;
How canst thou glory o'er the dead?
Ah, folly this of human pride,
What are the dead to one like thee,
Whose mirror is the mighty tide,
Where time flows to eternity?
A single race, a single age,
What are they in thy pilgrimage?
The tent, the palace, and the tomb
Repeat the universal doom.
Man passes, but upon the plain
Still the sweet seasons hold their reign,
As if earth were their sole domain,
And man a toy and mockery thrown
Upon the world he deems his own.
All is so calm—the sunny air
Has not a current nor a shade;
The vivid green the rice-fields wear
Seems of one moveless emerald made;
The Ganges' quiet waves are rolled
In one broad sheet of molten gold;
And in the tufted brakes beside,
The water-fowls and herons hide.
And the still earth might also seem
The strange creation of a dream.
Actual, breathless—dead, yet bright—
Unblest with life—yet mocked with light,
It mocks our nature's fate and power,
When we look forth in such an hour,
And that repose in nature see,
The fond desire of every heart;
But, oh! thou inner world, to thee,
What outward world can e'er impart?
But turn we to that darkened hall,
Where the cool fountain's pleasant fall
Wakens the odours yet unshed
From the blue hyacinth's drooping head;
And on the crimson couch beside
Reclines the young and royal bride;
Not sleeping, though the water's chime,
The lulling flowers, the languid time,
Might soothe her to the gentlest sleep,
O'er which the genii watchings keep,
And shed from their enchanted wings,
All loveliest imaginings:
No, there is murmuring in her ear,
A voice than sleep's more soft and dear;
While that pale slave with drooping eye
Speaks mournfully of days gone by;
And every plaintive word is fraught
With music which the heart has taught,
A pleading and confiding tone,
To those mute lips so long unknown.
Ah! all in vain that she had said
To feeling, 'slumber like the dead;'
Had bade each pang that might convulse
With fiery throb the beating pulse,
Each faded hope, each early dream,
Sleep as beneath a frozen stream;
Such as her native mountains bear,
The cold white hills around Jerdair;
Heights clad with that eternal snow,
Which happier valleys never know.
Some star in that ungenial sky,
Might well shape such a destiny;
But till within the dark calm grave,
There yet will run an under-wave,
Which human sympathy can still
Excite and melt to tears at will;
No magic any spell affords,
Whose power is like a few kind words.
'Twas strange the contrast in the pair,
That leant by that cool fountain's side
Both very young, both very fair,
By nature, not by fate allied:
The one a darling and delight,
A creature like the morning bright:
Whose weeping is the sunny shower
Half light upon an April hour;
One who a long glad childhood past,
But left that happy home to 'bide
Where love a deeper shadow cast,
A hero's proud and treasured bride:
Who her light footstep more adored,
Than all the triumphs of his sword;
Whose kingdom at her feet the while,
Had seemed too little for a smile.
But that pale slave was as the tomb
Of her own youth, of her own bloom;
Enough remained to show how fair,
In other days those features were,
Still lingered delicate and fine,
The shadow of their pure outline;
The small curved lip, the glossy brow,
That melancholy beauty wore,
Whose spell is in the silent past,
Which saith to love and hope, 'No more:'
No more, for hope hath long forsaken
Love, though at first its gentle guide
First lulled to sleep, then left to 'waken,
'Mid tears and scorn, despair and pride,
And only those who know can tell,
What love is after hope's farewell.
And first she spoke of childhood's time,
Little, what childhood ought to be,
When tenderly the gentle child
Is cherished at its mother's knee,
Who deems that ne'er before, from heaven
So sweet a thing to earth was given.
But she an orphan had no share
In fond affection's early care;
She knew not love until it came
Far other, though it bore that name.
'I felt,' she said, 'all things grow bright!
Before the spirit's inward light.
Earth was more lovely, night and day,
Conscious of some enchanted sway,
That flung around an atmosphere
I had not deemed could brighten here.
And I have gazed on Moohreeb's face,
As exiles watch their native place;
I knew his step before it stirred
From its green nest the cautious bird.
I woke, till eye and cheek grew dim,
Then slept—it was to dream of him;
I lived for days upon a word
Less watchful ear had never heard:
And won from careless look or sign
A happiness too dearly mine.
He was my world—I wished to make
My heart a temple for his sake.
It matters not—such passionate love
Has only life and hope above;
A wanderer from its home on high,
Here it is sent to droop and die.
He loved me not—or but a day,
I was a flower upon his way:
A moment near his heart enshrined,
Then flung to perish on the wind.'
She hid her face within her hands—
Methinks the maiden well might weep;
The heart it has a weary task
Which unrequited love must keep;
At once a treasure and a curse,
The shadow on its universe.
Alas, for young and wasted years,
For long nights only spent in tears;
For hopes, like lamps in some dim urn,
That but for the departed burn.
Alas for her whose drooping brow
Scarce struggles with its sorrow now.
At first Nadira wept to see
That hopelessness of misery.
But, oh, she was too glad, too young,
To dream of an eternal grief;
A thousand thoughts within her sprung,
Of solace, promise, and relief.
Slowly Zilara raised her head,
Then, moved by some strong feeling, said,
'A boon, kind Princess, there is one
Which won by me, were heaven won;
Not wealth, not freedom—wealth to me
Is worthless, as all wealth must be;
When there are none its gifts to share:
For whom have I on earth to care?
None from whose head its golden shrine
May ward the ills that fell on mine.
And freedom—'tis a worthless boon
To one who will be free so soon;
And yet I have one prayer, so dear,
I dare not hope—I only fear.'
'Speak, trembler, be your wish confest,
And trust Nadira with the rest.'
'Lady, look forth on yonder tower,
There spend I morn and midnight's hour,
Beneath that lonely peepul tree—
Well may its branches wave o'er me,
For their dark wreaths are ever shed,
The mournful tribute to the dead—
There sit I, in fond wish to cheer
A captive's sad and lonely ear,
And strive his drooping hopes to raise,
With songs that breathe of happier days.
Lady, methinks I scarce need tell
The name that I have loved so well;
'Tis Moohreeb, captured by the sword
Of him, thy own unconquered lord.
Lady, one word—one look from thee,
And Murad sets that captive free.'
'And you will follow at his side?'
'Ah, no, he hath another bride;
And if I pity, can'st thou bear
To think upon her lone despair?
No, break the mountain-chieftain's chain,
Give him to hope, home, love again.'
Her cheek with former beauty blushed,
The crimson to her forehead rushed,
Her eyes rekindled, till their light
Flashed from the lash's summer night.
So eager was her prayer, so strong
The love that bore her soul along.
Ah! many loves for many hearts;
But if mortality has known
One which its native heaven imparts
To that fine soil where it has grown;
'Tis in that first and early feeling,
Passion's most spiritual revealing;
Half dream, all poetry—whose hope
Colours life's charmed horoscope
With hues so beautiful, so pure—
Whose nature is not to endure.
As well expect the tints to last,
The rainbow on the storm hath cast.
Of all young feelings, love first dies,
Soon the world piles its obsequies;
Yet there have been who still would keep
That early vision dear and deep,
The wretched they, but love requires
Tears, tears to keep alive his fires:
The happy will forget, but those
To whom despair denies repose,
From whom all future light is gone,
The sad, the slighted, still love on.
The ghurrees are chiming the morning hour,
The voice of the priest is heard from the tower,
The turrets of Delhi are white in the sun,
Alas! that another bright day has begun.
Children of earth, ah! how can ye bear
This constant awakening to toil and to care?
Out upon morning, its hours recall,
Earth to its trouble, man to his thrall;
Out upon morning, it chases the night,
With all the sweet dreams that on slumber alight;
Out upon morning, which wakes us to life,
With its toil, its repining, its sorrow and strife.
And yet there were many in Delhi that day,
Who watched the first light, and rejoiced in the ray;
They wait their young monarch, who comes from the field
With a wreath on his spear, and a dent on his shield.
There's a throng in the east, 'tis the king and his train:
And first prance the horsemen, who scarce can restrain
Their steeds that are wild as the wind, and as bold
As the riders who curb them with bridles of gold:
The elephants follow, and o'er each proud head
The chattah that glitters with gems is outspread,
Whence the silver bells fall with their musical sound,
While the howdah's red trappings float bright on the ground:
Behind stalk the camels, which, weary and worn,
Seem to stretch their long necks, and repine at the morn:
And wild on the air the fierce war-echoes come,
The voice of the atabal, trumpet, and drum:
Half lost in the shout that ascends from the crowd,
Who delight in the young, and the brave, and the proud.
Tis folly to talk of the right and the wrong,
The triumph will carry the many along.
A dearer welcome far remains,
Than that of Delhi's crowded plains?
Soon Murad seeks the shadowy hall,
Cool with the fountain's languid fall;
His own, his best beloved to meet.
Why kneels Nadira at his feet?
With flushing cheek, and eager air,
One word hath won her easy prayer;
It is such happiness to grant,
The slightest fancy that can haunt
The loved one's wish, earth hath no gem,
And heaven no hope, too dear for them.
That night beheld a vessel glide,
Over the Jumna's onward tide;
One watched that vessel from the shore,
Too conscious of the freight it bore,
And wretched in her granted vow,
Sees Moohreeb leaning by the prow,
And knows that soon the winding river
Will hide him from her view for ever.
Next morn they found that youthful slave
Still kneeling by the sacred wave;
Her head was leaning on the stone
Of an old ruined tomb beside,
A fitting pillow cold and lone,
The dead had to the dead supplied:
The heart's last string hath snapt in twain,
Oh, earth, receive thine own again:
The weary one at length has rest
Within thy chill but quiet breast.
Long did the young Nadira keep
The memory of that maiden's lute;
And call to mind her songs, and weep,
Long after those charmed chords were mute.
A small white tomb was raised, to show
That human sorrow slept below;
And solemn verse and sacred line
Were graved on that funereal shrine.
And by its side the cypress tree
Stood, like unchanging memory.
And even to this hour are thrown
Green wreaths on that remembered stone;
And songs remain, whose tunes are fraught
With music which herself first taught.
And, it is said, one lonely star
Still brings a murmur sweet and far
Upon the silent midnight air,
As if Zilara wandered there.
Oh! if her poet soul be blent
With its aerial element,
May its lone course be where the rill
Goes singing at its own glad will;
Where early flowers unclose and die;
Where shells beside the ocean lie,
Fill'd with strange tones; or where the breeze
Sheds odours o'er the moonlit seas:
There let her gentle spirit rove,
Embalmed by poetry and love.