« PreviousContinue »
The khan and the pachas are all at their post;
And your hands on your sabres, and how should ye fail?
He who first downs with the red cross may crave'
As the wolves, that headlong go
On the stately buffalo,
Though with fiery eyes, and angry roar,
And hoofs that stamp, and horns that gore,
He tramples on earth, or tosses on high
The foremost, who rush on his strength but to die:
Thus against the wall they went,
Thus the first were backward bent;5
Many a bosom, sheathed in brass,
Strew'd the earth like broken glass,
Shlver'd by the shot, that tore
The ground whereon they moved no more:
Even as they fell, in files they lay,
Like the mower's grass at the close of day,
When his work is done on the levell'd plain;
Such was the fall of the foremost slain. >
As the spring-tides, with heavy plash,
From the cliffs invading dash
Huge fragments, sapp'd by the ceaseless flow.
Till white and thundering down they go,
Like the avalanche's snow
On the Alpine vales below;
Thus at length, outbreathed and worn,
Corinth's sons were downward borne
By the long and oft renew'd
Charge of the Moslem multitude.
In firmness they stood, and in masses they fell,
Hcap'd, by the host of the infidel.
Hand to hand, and foot to foot:
Nothing there, save death, was mute;
Stroke, and thrust, and flash, and cry
For quarter, or for victory,
Mingle there with the volleying thunder.
Which makes the distant cities wonder
How the sounding battle goes.
If with them, or for their foes;
If they must mourn, or may rejoice
In that annihilating voice,
1 [" He who fint downs with the red-cross may crave," Ac. What vulgarism is this ! —
"He who towers,—or plucks down" Sec — Gippohd.] 5 [Thus against the wall they bent.
Thus the first were backward sent.— G.]
s [Such was the fall of the foremost train, — G.]
* [There stood a man, &c.— G.]
* [" Lurlc'd," a bad word —say" Was hid."— G.]
which pierces the deep hills through and through
With an echo dread and new:
You might have heard it, on that day,
O'er Salamis and Megara;
(We have heard the hearers say:)
Even unto Pirteus' bay.
From the point of encountering blades to the hilt.
Sabres and swords with blood were gilt;
But the rampart is won, and the spoil begun.
And all but the after carnage done.
Shriller shrieks now mingling come
From within the plunder'd dome:
Hark to the haste of flying feet,
That splash in the blood of the slippery street;
But here and there, where 'vantage ground
Against the foe may still be found,
Desperate groups, of twelve or ten,
Make a pause, and turn again —
With banded backs against the wall,
Fiercely stand, or fighting fall.
There stood an old man 4 — his hairs were white,
But his veteran arm was full of might:
So gallantly bore he the brunt of the fray,
The dead before him, on that day,
In a semicircle lay;
Still he combated unwounded,
Though retreating, unsurrounded.
Many a scar of former fight
Lurk'd » beneath his corslet bright;
But of every wound his body bore,
Each and all had been ta'en before:
Though aged, he was so iron of limb,
Few of our youth could cope with him;
And the foes, whom he singly kept at bay,
Outnumber'd his thin hairs6 of silver grey.
Many an Othman mother wept
Sons that were unborn, when dipp'd7 His weapon first in Moslem gore, Ere his years could count a score. Of all he might have been the sire ■ Who fell that day beneath his ire: For, sonless left long years ago, His wrath made many a childless foe; And since the day, when in the strait9 His only boy had met his fate, His parent's iron hand did doom More than a human hecatomb. >° If shades by carnage be appeased, Patroclus' spirit less was pleased Than his, Minotti's son, who died Where Asia's bounds and ours divide. Buried he lay, where thousands before For thousands of years were inhumed on the shore; What of them is left, to tell Where they lie, and how they fell? Not a stone on their turf, nor a bone in their graves; But they live in the verse that immortally saves.
fi [Outnumber'd his hairs, &c. — GirroRD.]
'[Sons that were unborn, when he dipp'd. — G 3
^Bravo! — this is better than King Priam's fifty sons.
9 In the naval battle at the mouth of the Dardanelles, between the Venetians and Turks.
Iu [There can be no such thing; but the whole of this is poor, and spun out— G.J
Hark to the Allah shout!1 a band
Of the Mussulman bravest and best is at hand:
Their leader's nervous arm is bare,
Swifter to smite, and never to spare—
Unclothed to the shoulder it waves them on;
Thus in the fight is he ever known:
Others a gaudier garb may show,
To tempt the spoil of the greedy foe;
Many a hand "s on a richer hilt,
But none on a steel more ruddily gilt;
Many a loftier turban may wear, —
Alp is but known by the white arm bare;
Look through the thick of the fight, 'tis there!
Then is not a standard on that shore
So veil advanced the ranks before;
There is not a banner In Moslem war
Till lure the Delhi* half so far;
It glances like a falling star 1
Where'er that mighty arm is seen.
The bravest be, or late have been ;*
There the craven cries for quarter
Vainly to the vengeful Tartar;
Or the hero, silent lying,
Scorns to yield a groan in dying;
Mustering his last feeble blow
'Gainst the nearest levell'd foe,
Though faint beneath the mutual wound,
Grappling on the gory ground.
Still the old man stood erect.
And Alp's career a moment check'd.
- Yield thee, Minotti; quarter take. For thine own, thy daughter's sake."
"Sever, renegado, never!
Though the life of thy gift would last for ever. "3
"Franceses! — Oh, my promised bride !4 Must she too perish by thy pride?"
"She is safe."—" Where? where ?"—"In heaven;
From whence thy traitor soul is driven —
Far from thee, and undefiled."
Grimly then Minotti smiled,
As he saw Alp staggering bow
Before his words, as with a blow.
- Oh God! when died she ?" —" Yesternight — See weep I for her spirit's flight:
Xone of my pure race shall be
Staves to Mahomet and thee —
Come on I"—That challenge is in vain —
Alp's already with the slain I
WaDe Minotti's words were wreaking
More revenge in bitter speaking
Than his falchion's point had found,
Had the time allow'd to wound,
> [Hark la the Alia Hu! Ac — GirroaD.]
1 [Ovate the remainder of tho section G.]
1 [la the original MS.—
"Though the life of thy giving would last for ever."3 'r* Where's Francesca ? — my promised bride !" — MS.] 'lUmt fallows tn MS.—
"Twice and once he roll'd a space. Then lead-like lay upon his face."] 1 (om caxnvK help suspecting, on longer and more mature c"«**VrsJtl oa, thtl ooe has been led to join in ascribing much aorc farce to the objections made against such characters .is
From within the neighbouring porch
Of a long defended church,
Where the last and desperate few
Would the failing fight renew,
The sharp shot dash'd Alp to the ground;
Ere an eye could view the wound
That crash'd through the brain of the infidel,
Round he spun, and down he fell;
A flash like fire within his eyes
Blazed, as he bent no more to rise,
And then eternal darkness sunk
Through all the palpitating trunk; *
Nought of life left, save a quivering
Where his limbs were slightly shivering:
They turn'd him on his back ; bis breast
And brow were stain'd with gore and dust,
And through his lips the life-blood oozed,
From its deep veins lately loosed;
But In his pulse there was no throb,
Nor on his lips one dying sob;
Sigh, nor word, nor struggling breath
Heralded his way to death:
Ere his very thought could pray,
Unancl'd he pass'd away,
Without a hope from mercy's aid, —
To the last a Renegade. •
Whence issued late the fated ball
That half avenged the city's fall,
Brief breathing-tlmc Uthc turban'd host,
the Corsair, Lara,' the Giaour, Alp, &c. than belongs to them.
Press onwards with such strength and heat,
Their numbers balk their own retreat;
For narrow the way that led to the spot
Where still the Christians yielded not;
And the foremost, if fearful, may vainly try
Through the massy column to turn and fly;
They perforce must do or die.
They die; but ere their eyes could close,
Avengers o'er their bodies rose;
The ranks unthinn'd, though slaughter'd still;
Still resists its iron weight,
And still, all deadly aim'd and hot,
Darkly, sternly, and all alone,
Minotti stood o'er the altar stone:
Madonna's face upon him shone.
Painted in heavenly hues above.
With eyes of light and looks of love;
And placed upon that holy shrine
To fix our thoughts on things divine.
When pictured there, we kneeling tee
Her, and the boy-God on her knee,
Smiling sweetly on each prayer
To heaven, as if to waft it there.
Still she smiled ; even now she smiles,
Though slaughter streams along her aisles:
Minotti lifted his aged eye,
And made the sign of a cross with a sigh.
Then seized a torch which blazed thereby;
And still he stood, while, with steel and flame
Inward and onward the Mussulman came.
The vaults beneath the mosaic stone
Contain'd the dead of ages gone;
Their names were on the graven floor,
But now Illegible with gore;
The carved crests, and curious hues
The varied marble's veins diffuse.
Were smear'd, and slippery—stain'd, and strown
With broken swords, and helms o'erthrown:
There were dead above, and the dead below
Lay cold in many a coflin'd row;
You might see them piled in sable state,
By a pale light through a gloomy grate;
But War had cnter'd their dark caves,
And stored along the vaulted graves
Her sulphurous treasures, thickly spread
In masses by the flesbless dead:
Here, throughout the siege, had been
The Christians' chiefest magazine; To these a late form'd train now led,
1 [" Oh, but it made a glorious show 111M Out — Cifroaoj
Minotti's last and stern resource
The foe came on, and few remain
To strive, and those must strive in vain:
For lack of further lives, to slake
The thirst of vengeance now awake.
With barbarous blows they gash the dead.
And lop the already lifeless head,
And fell the statues from their niche,
And spoil the shrines of offerings rich,
And from each other's rude hands wrest
The silver vessels saints had bless'd.
To the high altar on they go;
Oh, but it made a glorious show!'
On its table still behold
The cup of consecrated gold;
Massy and deep, a glittering prize,
Brightly it sparkles to plunderers' eyes:
That morn it held the holy wine,
Converted by Christ to his blood so divine,
Which his worshippers drank at the break of day,
To shrive their souls ere they join'd in the fray.
Still a few drops within it lay:
And round the sacred table glow
Twelve lofty lamps, In splendid row,
From the purest metal cast;
A spoil—the richest, and the last.
So near they came, the nearest strctch'd
When old Minotti's hand
Spire, vaults, the shrine, the spoil, the slain,
In one wild roar expired!
As If an earthquake pass'd —
By that tremendous blast —
* [Strike out from " Up to the sky," &c. to •■ AU blacken'd there and reeking lay." Despicable stuff. — GirroaD.]
Little deem'd she such a day
Would rend those tender limta away.
Set the matrons that them bore
Coold discern their offspring more;
That one moment left no trace
More of human form or face
Sire a scatter'd scalp or bone:
And down came blazing rafters, strown
Around, and many a falling stone,
Deeply dinted in the clay,
An blacken'd there and reeking lay.
All the living things that heard
That deadly earth-shock disappear'd:
The wild birds flew; the wild dogs fled,
And howling left the unburied dead; >
The camels from their keepers broke;
The distant steer forsook the yoke —
The nearer steed plunged o'er the plain.
SCROPE BERDMORE DAVIES, ESQ.
THE FOLLOWING POEM IS INSCRIBED, BY ONE WHO HAS LONG ADMIRED HIS TALENTS AND VALUED HIS FRIENDSHIP.
The following poem Is grounded on a circumstance oestioned in Gibbon's ** Antiquities of the House of Brunswick." I am aware, that in modern times the
■ [Omit the next six lines Gipfordj
'I believe I hare taken a poetical licence to transplant the jackal from Asia. In Greece I never saw nor heard these ratals; but among the ruins of Ephesus I have heard them by hundred*. They haunt ruins and follow armies.
3 [Leave out this couplet. — Gipford.]
4 [The ** Siege of Corinth," though written, perhaps, with too risible an effect, and not very well harmonised in all its parts, cannot but be regarded as a magnificent composition. There is less misanthropy in it than in any of the rest; and sBa interest is made up of alternate representations of soft sal tolrrcm scenes and emotions, and of the tumult, and terpen, sad Intoxication of war. These opposite pictures are, perhaps, too violently contrasted, and, in some parts, too tarshiy coloured : but they arc in general exquisitely designed, cxi executed with the utmost spirit and energy. — Jeffrey.]
* [This poem, perhaps the most exquisitely versified one 3*ct ever the author produced, was written in London in the of 1815, and published in February, 1816. Although the beauties of it were universally acknowledged, and fragtsol Its music ere long on every Up, the nature of the Rifcjett prevented it from being dwelt upon at much length is the critical journals of the time; most of which were conss4 to record, generally, their regret that so great a poet ifefuld have permitted nfmscif, by awakening sympathy for s pair of incestuous lovers, to become, in some sort, the apologist of their sin. An anonymous writer, in " Black*vo&* Magazine," seems, however, to have suggested some paucolars, in the execution of the story, which ought u> be taken into consideration, before we rashly class ]<ord Byroo with those poetical offenders, who have bent their powers m to divest incest of its hereditary horrors." ** In Parata*," says this critic, ** we are scarcely permitted to save a single glance at the guilt, before our attention fs riretted upoQ the punishment: we hare scarcely had time tu
delicacy or fastidiousness of the reader may deem such subjects unfit for the purposes of poetry. The Greek dramatists, and some of the best of our old English writers, were of a different opinion: as Alfieri and Schiller have also been, more recently,
condemn, within our own hearts, the sinning, though injured
son, when —
'For a departing being's soul
The fatal guilt of the Princess is in like manner swallowed up In the dreary contemplation of her uncertain fate. We forbear to think of her as an adulteress, alter we have heard that * horrid ttoic*' which is sent up to heaven at the death of her paramour —
* Whatsoe'er its end below. Her life began and closed in woe.* "Not only has Lord Byron avoided all the details of this unhallowed love, he has also contrived to mingle in the very incest which he condemns the idea of retribution ; and our horror for the sin of Hugo is diminished by our belief that it was brought about by some strange and super-human fatalism, to revenge the ruin of Bianca. That gloom of righteous visitation, which invests, in the old Greek tragedies, the fated house of Atreus, seems here to impend with some portion ol its ancient horror over the line of Esttf. We hear, in the language of Hugo, the voice of the same prophetic solemnity which announced to Agamemnon, in the very moment of his triumph, the approaching and inevitable darkness of his fate :—
upon the Continent. The following extract will explain the facts on which the story is founded. The name of Azo is substituted for Nicholas, as more metrical.
"Under the reign of Nicholas III. Ferrara was polluted with a domestic tragedy. By the testimony of an attendant, and his own observation, the Marquis of Este discovered the incestuous loves of his wife Parisina, and Hugo his bastard son, a beautiful and valiant *youth. They were beheaded in the castle by the sentence of a father and husband, who published his shame, and survived their execution.1 He was unfortunate, if they were guilty: if they were innocent, he was still more unfortunate; nor is there any possible-situation in which I can sincerely approve the last act of the justice of a parent." — Gibbon'* Miscellaneous Works, voL iii. p. 470.
* The gathcr'd guilt of elder times
M That awful chorus does not, unless we be greatly mistaken, leave an impression of destiny upon the mind more powerful than that which rushed on the troubled spirit of Axo, when he heard the speech of Hugo in hi* hall of judgment :—
4 Thou paves t, and may'st resume ray breath,
We shall have occasion to recur to this subject when we reach our author's " Manfred." The facts on which the present poem was grounded are thus given in Frizzi's History of Ferrara: —
"This turned out a calamitous year for the people of Fer. rara; for there occurred a very tragical event In the court of their sovereign. Our annals, both printed and In manuscript, with the exception of the unpolished and negligent work, of Sard!, and one other, h%ve given the following relation of It,— from which, however, are rejected many details, and especially the narrative of Bandelli, who wrote a century afterwards, and who docs not accord with the contemporary historians.
"By the above-mentioned Stella dell' Assassino, the Marquis, in the year 1405, had a son called Ugo, a beautiful and ingenuous youth. Parisina Malatesta, second wife of Niccolo, like the generality of step-mothers, treated him with little kindness, to the Infinite regret of the Marquis, who regarded him with fond partiality. One day she asked leave of her husband to undertake a certain journey, to which he consented, but upon condition that Ugo should bear her company; for he hoped by these means to induce her, in the end, to lay aside the obstinate aversion which she had conceived against him. And indeed his intent was accomplished but too well, since, during the journey, she not only divested herself of all her hatred, but fell into the opposite extreme. After their return, the Marquis had no longer any occasion to renew his former reproofs. It happened one day that a servant of the Marquis, named Zoese, or, as some call htm, Giorgio, passing before the apartments of Parisina, saw going out from them one of her chamber-maids, all terrified and in tears. Asking the reason, she told htm that her mistress, for some slight offence, had been l>eating her ; and, giving vent to her rage, she added, that she could easily be revenged, If she chose to make known the criminal familiarity which subsisted between Parisina and her step-son. The servant took note of the words, and related them to his master. He was astounded thereat, but scarcely believing his cars, he assured himself of the fact, alas! too clearly, on the 18th of May, by looking through a hole made In the ceiling of his wife's cnambcr. Instantly be broke Into a furious rage, and arrested both of them, together with Aldobrandino Rangont, of Modena, her gentleman, and also, as some say, two of the women of her chamber, as abettors of this sinful act. He ordered them to be brought to a hasty trial, desiring the judges to pronounce sentence, In the accustomed forms, upon the culprits. This sentence was death. Some there were that bestirred themselves in favour of the delinquents, and, amongst others, Ugoccion Contrario, who was all powerful with Nlc colo, and also his aged and much deserving minister Alberto dal Sale. Both of these, their tears flowing down their cheeks, and upon their knees, Implored him for mercyadducing whatever reasons they could suggest for sparing the of.
It is the hour when from the boughs
It is the hour when lovers* vows
Seem sweet in every whisper'd word ; *
And gentle winds, and waters near,
Make music to the lonely ear.
Each flower the dews have lightly wet,
And in the sky the stars are met,
And on the wave is deeper blue,
And on the leaf a browner hue,
And in the heaven that clear obscure.
So softly dark, and darkly pure,
fenders, besides those motives of honour and decency which might persuade him to conceal from the public so scandalouu a deed. But his rage made him inflexible, and, on the in., stant, he commanded that the sentence should be put in execution.
"It was, then, in the prisons of the castle, and exactly in those frightful dungeons which are seen at this day beneath the chamber called the Aurora, at the foot of the Lion's tower, at the top of the street Gtovecca, that on the night of the 21 *i; of May were beheaded, first, Ugo, and afterwards Parisina. Zoese, he that accused her, conducted the latter under hut arm (o the place of punishment. She, all along, fancied thai: she was to be thrown into a pit, and asked at every step,, whether she was yet come to the spot? She was told that her punishment was the axe. She Inquired what was become of Ugo, and received for answer, that he was already dead; at the which, sighing grievously, she exclaimed, * Now, then, I wish not myself to live ;' and, being come to the block, she stripped herself with her own hands of all her ornaments, and wrapping a cloth round her head, submitted to the fatal stroke, wnicn terminated the cruel scene. The same was done with Bangoni, who, together with the others, according to two calendars in the library of St Francesco, was buried in the cemetery of that convent. Nothing else is known respecting the women.
M The Marquis kept watch the whole of that dreadful night, and, as he was walking backwards and forwards, inquired of the captain of the castle if Ugo was dead yet? who answered him, Yes. He then gave himself up to the most desperate lamentations, exclaiming,' Oh ! that I too were dead, since I have been hurried on to resolve thus against my own Ugo !* Aud then gnawing with his teeth a cane which he had in his hand, he passed the rest of the night in sighs and in tears, calling frequently upon his own dear Ugo. On the following day, calling to mind that it would be necessary to make public his justification, seeing that the transaction could not be kept secret, he ordered the narrative to be drawn out upon paper, and sent it to all the courts of Italy.
"On receiving this advice, the Doge of Venice, Francesco Foscari, gave orders, but without publishing hli reasons, that stop should be put to the preparations for a tournament, which, under the auspices of the Marquis, and at the expense of the city of Padua, was about to take place, In the square of St. Mark, In order to celebrate his advancement to the ducal chair.
"The Marquis, in addition to what he had already done, from some unaccountable burst of vengeance, commands! that as many of the married women as were well known to him to be faithless, like his Parisina, should, like her, be beheaded. Amongst others, Barberina, or, as some call her, Laodamia Itomei, wife of the court judge, underwent this sentence, at the usual place of execution; that is to say, in the quarter of SU Giacomo, opposite the present fortress, beyond St. Paul's. It cannot be told how strange appeared! this proceeding In a prince, who, considering his own disposition, should, as it seemed, have been in such cases moat Indulgent. Some, however, there were who did not fall to commend him."
The above passage of Frixzl was translated by Lord Byron. and formed a closing note to the original edition of" Parisina."!
1 [" Ferrara Is much decayed and depopulated ^ but th-fcastle still exists entire; and I saw the court where Parisina and Hugo were beheaded, according to the annal of Gibbon * * — Byron Uttert, 1817.]
1 [The opening verses, though loft and voluptuous, are* tinged with the same shade of sorrow which gives character and harmony to the whole poem. — Jeffrey. J