« PreviousContinue »
He stood a stranger in this breathing world,
None knew, nor how, nor why, but he entwined An erring spirit : from another hurld:
Himself perforce around the hearer's mind; A thing of dark imaginings, that shaped
There he was stamp'd, in liking, or in hate, By choice the perils he by chance escaped ;
If greeted oncc; however brief the dale But’scaped in vain, for in their memory yet
That friendship, pily, or aversion knew, His mind would half esult and half regret : Still there within the inmost thought he grew. With more capacity for love than earth
You could not penetrate his soul, bu found, Bestows on most of mortal mould and birth,
Despite your wonder, to your own he wound; His early dreams of good outstripp'd the truth,
His presence haunted still; and from the breast And Iroubled manhood follow'd baffled youth,
He forced an all-unwilling interest :
There is a festival, where knights and dames, In wild reflection o'er his stormy life;
And aught that wealth or lofty lineage claims, But haughty still, and loth himself to blame,
Appear-a high-born and a welcome Guest He callid on Nature's self to share the shame,
To Otho's hall came Lara with the rest. And charged all faults upon the fleshly form
The long carousal shakes the illumined hall, She gave to clog the soul, and feast the worm;
Well speeds alike the banquet and the ball; Till he at last confounded good and ill,
And the gay dance of bounding Beauly's train And half mistook for fale the acts of will :
Links grace and harmony in happiest chain : Too high for common sellishness, he could
Blest are the early hearts and gentle hands At times resign his own for others' gooid,
That mingle there in well-according bands; But not in pily, not because he ought,
It is a sight the careful brow might smooth, But in some strange perversity of thought,
And make Age smile, and dream itself to youth, That sway'd him onward with a secret pride
And Youth forget such hour was past on earth, To do what few or none would do beside;
So springs the exulting bosom to that mirth!
And his glance follow'd fast each flullering fair,
But seems as searching his, and his alone;
Along the stranger's aspect, fix'd and stern,
Flash'd more than thence the vulgar eye could learn. With all that chilling mystery of mien,
XXII. And seeming gladness to remain unseen, He had (if 't were not nalure's boon) an art “ 'T is he!” the stranger cried, and those that heard Of fixing memory on another's heart :
Re-echoed fast and far the whisper'd word. It was not love perchance—nor hale-nor aught “ 'T is he!”—“'T is who ?”—they question far and That words can image lo express the thought; Till louder accents rung on Lara's ear; (near But they who saw him did not see in vain, So widely spread, few bosoms well could brook And once bebelii, would ask of him again : The general marvel, or that single look : | And those to whom he spake remember'd well, But Lara stirrd not, changed not, the surprise And on the words, however light, would dwell: That sprung at first to his arrested eyes
Seem'd now subsided, neither sunk nor raised And if from Lara's blood and gentle birth
He will not that untainted line belie, And drawing nigh, exclaim’d, with haughty sneer, Nor aught that knighthood may accord, deny." “'T is he!-how came he thence ?--what doth he “To-morrow be it,” Ezzelin replied, here ?"
“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;
That there were gather'd, seem'd on him to fall;
Alas! that heedlessness of all around The unlook’d-for courtesy of such a knight. Bespoke remembrance only 100 profound. 'Tis Lara!-further wouldst thou mark or ask ?
XXIV. I shun no question, and I wear no mask.” “ Thou shunn'st no question! Ponder-is there
“ To-morrow!-ay, to-morrow!” further word
Than those repcaled none from Lara heard; Thy heart must answer, though thine ear would Upon his brow no outward passion spoke, shun?
From his large eye no flashing anger broke; And deem'st thou me unknown too ? Gaze again!
Yet there was something fix'd in that low lone, At least thy memory was not given in vain.
Which show'd resolve, determined, though un
known. Oh! never canst thou cancel half her debt, Eternity forbids thee to forget."
He seized his cloak-his head he slightly blow'd, With slow and searching glance upon his face
And, passing Ezzelin, he left the crowd; Grew Lara's eyes, but nothing there could trace And, as he pass’d bim, smiling met the frown They knew, or chose to know—with dubious look with which that chieftain's brow would bear him He deign’d no answer, but his head he shook,
down: And half contemptuous turn’d to pass away;
It was nor smile of mirth, nor struccling pride But the stern stranger motion’d him to stay.
That curbs to scorn the wrath it cannot hide; " A word!-I charge thee slay, and answer here
But that of one in his own heart secure To one who, wert thou noble, were thy peer,
Of all that he would do, or could endure. But as thou wast and art-nay, frown not, lord,
Could this mean peace ? the calmness of the good ? If false, 't is easy to disprove the word
Or guilt grown old in desperate hardihood ? But as thou wast and art, on thee looks down,
Alas! too like in confidence are each, Distrusts thy smiles, but shakes not at thy frown.
For man to trust to mortal look or speech; Art thou not he? whose deeds
From deeds, and deeds alone, may he discern " Whate'er I be,
Truths which it wrings the unpractised heart to Words wild as these, accusers like to thee,
learn. I list no further: those with whom they weigh
And Lara call’d his page and went his way-
Where the soul glows beneath a brighter star;
Above his station, and beyond his years. The mirthful meeting with a wordy war.
Though not unknown the tongue of Lara's land, If thou, Sir Ezzelin, hast aught to show
In such from him he rarely heard command; Which it befits Count Lara's ear to know,
But fleet his step, and clear his tones would come, To-morrow, here, or elsewhere, as may best When Lara's lip breathed forth the words of home: Beseem your mutual judgment, speak the rest; Those accents, as his native mountains dear, I pledge myself for thee, as not unknown,
Awake their absent echoes in his ear, Though, like Count Lara, now return'd alone Friends', kindred's, parents' wonted voice recall, From other lands, almost a stranger grown; Now lost, abjured, for one-his friend, his all :
For dini earth now disclosed no other guide; 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. Light was his form, and darkly delicate
Kaled his name, though rumour said he bore That brow whereon his native sun had sate,
Another ere he left his mountain-shore; But had not marrd, though in his beams he grew, The cheek where oft the unbidden blush shone For sometimes he would hear, however nigh,
That name repeated loud without reply, through; Yet not such blush as mounts when health would start to the sound, as but remember'd then;
As unfamiliar, or, if roused again, All the heart's hue in that delighted glow;
Unless 't was Lara's wonted voice that spake, But 't was a hectic tint of secret care
For then, ear, eyes, and heart would all awake. That for a burning moment fever'd there; And the wild sparkle of his eye seem'd caught
XXVIII. From high, and lightend with electric thought,
He had look'd down upon the festive hall, Though its black orb those long low lashes' fringe
And mark'd that sudden strife so mark'd of all; Had temper'd wiha melancholy tinge;
And when the crowd around and near him told Yet less of sorrow than of pride was there,
Their wonder at the calmness of the bold,
The colour of young Kaled went and came, for hours on Lara he would fix his glance,
The lip of ashes, and the check of flame;
And o'er his brow the dampening heart-drops threw Brief were his answers, and his questions none;
That rises as the busy bosom sinks His walk the wood, his sport some foreign book;
With heavy thoughts from which reflection shrinks. His resting-place the bank that curbs the brook:
Yes—there be things which we must dream and dare, He seem'd, like him he served, to live apart
And execute ere thought be half aware: From all that lures the eye, and fills the heart;
Whate'er might Kaled's be, it was enow To know no brotherhood, and take from earth
To seal his lip, but agonise his brow.
He gazed on Ezzelin till Lara cast
That sidelong smile upon the knight he pass'd;
As if on something recognised right well;
Forward he sprung-a moment—both were gone, A spirit deep that brook'd not to be chid:
And all within that hall seem'd left alone; His zeal, though more than that of servile hands, Each haci so fix'd his eye on Lara's mien, lo act alone obeys, his air commands;
All had so mix'd their feelings with that scene, As if 't was Lara's less than his desire
That when his long dark shadow through the porch That thus he served, but surely not for hire. No more relieves the glare of yon high torch, Slight were the tasks enjoin'd him by his lord, Each pulse beats quicker, and all bosoms seem To hold the stirrup, or to bear the sword;
To bound as doubting from too black a dream, To tune his lute, or, if he will'd it more,
know is false, yet dread in sooth, On tomes of other times and tongues to pore;
Because the worst is ever nearest truth.
And they are gone—but Ezzelin is there,
He waved his hand to Otho, and retired.
The crowd are gone, the revellers at rest;
The courteous host, and all-approving guest, So femininely while it might bespeak
Again to that accustom'd couch must creep Another sex, when match'd with that smooth cheek, Where joy subsides, and sorrow sighs to sleep, But for his garb, and something in his gaze, And man, o`erlabour'd with his being's strife, More wild and high than woman's eye betrays; Shrinks to that sweet forgetfulness of life :
There lie love's feverish hope, and cunning's guile, “ I know my friend! his faith I cannot fear,
Nor had Sir Ezzelin his host disdain'd,
And urged him to prepare against to-day; Glad, for a while, to heave unconscious breath, The word I pledged for his I pledge again, Yet wake to wrestle with the dread of death! Or will myself redeem his knighthood's stain." And shun, though day but dawn on ills increased, He ceased-and Lara answerd, “I am here That sleep, the loveliest, since it dreams the least. 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, CANTO II. (1)
But that I deem'd him scarcely less than mad,
Or, at the worst, a foe ignobly bad.
I know him nol-but me it seems he knew
In lands where—but I must not trifle too : Night wanes—the vapours round the mountains Produce this babbler-or redeem the pledge, curl'd
Here in thy hold, and with thy falchion's edge.” Melt into morn, and Light awakes the world. Proud Otho, on the instant reddening, threw Man has another day to swell the past,
His glove on earth, and forth his sabre flew : And lead him near to little but his last;
“ The last alternative befits me best, But mighty Nature bounds as from her birth,
And thas I answer for mine absent guest.” The sun is in the heavens, and life on earth; With cheek unchanging from its sallow gloom, Flowers in the valley, splendour in the beam, However near his own or other's tomb; Health on the gale, and freshness in the stream. With hand, whose almost careless coolness spoke Immortal man! behold her glories shine,
Its grasp well-used to deal the sabre-stroke; And cry, exulting inly, “They are thine!”
With eye, though calm, determined not to spare, Gaze on, while yet thy gladden'd eye may see; Did Lara too his willing weapon bare. A morrow comes when they are not for thee :
In vain the circling chieftains round them closed, And, grieve what may above thy senseless bier, For Olho's frenzy would not be opposed; Nor earth nor sky will yield a single tear;
And from his lip those words of insult fell-
Short was the conflict; furious, blindly rash,
Vain Otho gave his bosom to the gash :
He bled, and fell; but not with deadly wound, 'T is morn—'t is noon-assembled in the hall,
Strelch'd by a dextrous sleight along the ground. The gather'd chieftains come to Otho's call;
“Demand thy life!” He answer'd not: and then 'T is now the promised hour, that must proclaim
From that red floor he ne'er had risen again, The life or death of Lara's future fame;
For Lara's brow upon the moment grew When Ezzelin his charge may here unfold,
Almost to blackness in its demon hue; And whatsoe'er the tale, it must be told.
And fiercer shook his angry falchion now His faith was pledged, and Lara's promise given,
Than when his foe's was levelld at his brow : To meet it in the eye of man and heaven.
Then all was stern collectedness and art,
Now rose the unleaven'd hatred of his heart;
So little sparing to the foe he fellid,
That when the approaching crowd his arm withheld, The hour is past, and Lara too is there,
He alonost turn’d the thirsty point on those With self-confiding coldly patient air;
Who thus for mercy dared to interpose : Why comes not Ezzelin ? The hour is past, But to a moment's thought that purpose bent; And murmurs rise, and Otho's brow 's o'ercast. Yct look'd he on him still with eye intent,
(1) “Lord Byron seems to have taken a whimsical pleasure in Ezzelin, Lara's mysterious vision in his antique ball becomes a disappointing, by bis second Canlo, most of the expectations which mere useless piece of lumber, inapplicable to any intelligible he bad excited by the first. For, without the resuscitation of Sir purpose ;—the character of Medora, whom we bad been satisfied
As if he loathed the ineffectual strife
Who else than Lara could have cause to fear That left a foe, howe'er o’erthrown, with life; His presence? who had made him disappear, As if to search how far the wound he gave
If not the man on whom his menaced charge Had sent its victim onward to his grave.
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 forbade all present question, sign, and speech; To win no confidence, and wake no love; The others met within a neighbouring hall, The sweeping fierceness which his soul betray'd, And he, incensed and heedless of them all, The skill with which he wielded his keen blade; The cause and conqueror in this sudden fray,
Where had his arm unwaclike caught that art ? In haughty silence slowly strode away:
Where had that fierceness grower upon his heart?
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 tix’d; But where was he? that meteor of a night,
Such as long power and overgorged success Who menaced but to disappear with light.
Concentrates into all that's merciless : Where was this Ezzelin ? who came and went These, link'd with that desire which ever sways To leave no other trace of his intent.
Mankind, the rather to condemn than praise, He left the dome of Otho, long ere morn,
'Gainst Lara gathering rai sedat length a storm, In darkness, yet so well the path was worn
Such as himself might fear, and foes would form; He could not miss it : near his dwelling lay;
And he must answer for the absent head
Of one that haunts him still, alive or dead.
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, Which still retains a mark where murder was;
That waited but a signal to begin Nor dabbling tingers left to tell the tale,
New havoc, such as civil discord blends, The bitter print of each convulsive nail,
Which knows no neuter, owns but foes or friends; Wben agonised hands that cease to guard,
Fix'd in his feudal fortress each was lord, Wound in that pang the smoothness of the sward.
In word and deed obey'd, in soul abhorr’d. Some such had been, if here a life was reft,
Thus Lara had inherited his lands, But these were not; and doubting hope is left;
And with them pining hearts and sluggish hands; And strange suspicion, whispering Lara's name,
But that long absence from his native clime Now daily mutters o'er his blacken’d fame;
Had left him stainless of oppression's crime, Then, sudden silent when his form appeard,
And now, diverted by his milder sway, Awaits the absence of the thing it fear’d,
All dread by slow degrees had worn away. Again its wonted wondering to renew,
The menials felt their usual awe alone, And dye conjecture with a darker hue.
But more for him than them that fear was grown;
They deen'd him now unhappy, though at first VII.
Their evil judgment augur'd of the worst, Days roll along, and Otho's wounds are heald, And each long restless night, and silent mood, But not his pride; and hate no more conceald : Was traced to sickness, fed by solitude: He was a man of power, and Lara's foe,
And though his lonely habits threw of late The friend of all who sought to work him woe, Gloom o'er his chamber, cheerful was his gate ; And from his country's justice now demands For thence the wretched ne'er unsoothed withdrew, Account of Ezzelin at Lara's hands.
For them, at least, his soul compassion knew.
lo bebold very contentedly domesticated in the Pirate's Island, minded and generous Conrad, who had preferred death and torwithout inquiring whence or why she had emigrated thither, is, by ture to life and liberty, if purchased by a nightly murder, is demeans of some mysterious relation between her and Sir Ezzelin, graded into a vile and cowardly assassin.” George Elis. Atelved in very disagreeable ambiguity; and, further, the high