Page images

“Now haste, Bernardo, haste! for there,

In very truth, is he,
The father whom thy faithful heart

Hath yearned so long to see.?
His dark eye flashed, his proud breast heaved,

His cheek's hue came and went; He reached that gray-haired chieftain's side,

And there, dismounting, bent; -
A lowly knee to earth he bent,

His father's hand he took ;-
What was there in its touch that all

His fiery spirit shook ?

That hand was cold,- a frozen thing,

It dropped from his like lead !
He looked up to the face above,

The face was of the dead!
A plume waved o'er the noble brow,-

The brow was fixed and white !
He met, at last, his father's eyes,

But in them was no sight!
Up from the ground he sprang, and gazed;

But who could paint that gaze ?
They hushed their very hearts that saw

Its horror and amaze :
They might have chained him, as before

That, stony form he stood ;
For the power was stricken from his arm,

And from his lip the blood.

Then, starting suddenly, he rushed

And seized the monarch's rein,
Amid the pale and wildered looks

Of all the courtier train ;
And with a fierce, o'ermastering grasp,

The rearing war-horse led,
And sternly set them face to face,-

The king before the dead !

• Came I not forth upon thy pledge,

My father's hand to kiss? -
Be still, and gaze thou on, false king! ).

And tell me what is this !
The voice, the glance, the heart I sought,

Give answer, where are they?
If thou wouldst clear thy perjured soul,

Send life through this cold clay! “Into these glassy eyes put light,

Be stilll keep down thine ire, -
Bid these white lips a blessing speak,

This earth is not my sire!
Give me back him for whom I strove,

For whom my blood was shed ;-
Thou canst not- and a king ?-

His dust be mountains on thy head !
Upon his horse Bernardo sprang,

Defiance in his look ;
Then at the pale and trembling king

A warning finger shook.
And ere, of all that arm'ed train,

Vassal or chief dared stir, —
“I shall return!Bernardo cried -

And gave his steed the spur.

With some good ten of his chosen men,

Bernardo hath appeared,
Before them all, in the palace hall,

The lying king to bēard ;
With cap in hand and eye on ground,

He came in reverend guise ;
But ever and anon he frowned,

And flame broke from his eyes. And dar’st thou, caitiff,” cries the king,

“ Thus come unbid to me? But what from traitor's blood should spring,

Save traitor like to thee?

His sire, lords, had a traitor's heart,

Perchance our champion brave May think it were a pious part

To share Don Sancho's grave."
" Whoever told this tale the king,

Will he the tale repeat ?”
Cries Ber'nard ; "here my gage I fling

Before the liar's feet.
No treason was in Sancho’s blood,-

No stain in mine doth lie :
Below the throne, what knight will own

The coward calumny?

“ Your horse was down,—your hope was flown,

I saw the falchion shine,
That soon had drunk your royal blood,

Had I not ventured mine ;
But memory soon of service done

Deserteth the in-grate';
You've thanked the son for life and crown

By the father's bloody fate.
You swore upon your kingly faith

To set Don Sancho free ;
But (out upon your paltering breath!)

The light he ne'er did see :
He died in dungeon cold and dim,

By Alfonzo's base decree;
And visage blind, and mangled limb,

Were all you gave to me.

The king that swerveth from his word

Hath stained his purple black, -
No Spanish lord will draw the sword

Behind a liar's back;
But noble vengeance shall be mine,

An open hate I'll show ;-
The king hath injured Carpio's line,

And Bernard is his foe !"

“ Seize-seize him!” loud the king doth scream;

" There are a thousand here;
Let his foul blood this instant stream ;-

What! caitiffs, do ye fear?
Seize — seize the traitor!” But not one

To move a finger dareth :
Bernardo standeth by the throne,

And calm his sword he bareth.

He drew the falchion from the sheath,

And held it up on high ;
And all the hall was still as death:-

Cries Bernard, “Here am I;
And here's the sword that owns no lord,

Excepting Heaven and me:
Fain would I know who dares its point,

King, condé, or grandee.”

Then to his mouth his horn he drew;

(It hung below his cloak;) His ten true men the signal knew,

And through the ring they broke.
With helm on head, and blade in hand,

The knights the circle brake,*
And back the lordlings 'gan to stand,

And the false king to quake.

“Ha! Bernard,” quoth Alfonzo,

“What means this warlike guise ? Ye know full well I jested ;

Ye know your worth I prize!” But Bernard turned upon his heel,

And, smiling, passed away :Long rued Alfonzo and Castile

The jesting of that day!

* Obsolete preterit of to break. We now say bronce.


[merged small][ocr errors]

1. The attacks which, during successive centuries, the walls of Constantinople had sustained, were but the rehearsal of the tragedy in store. That power, which, as early as the year 668, had appeared in arms before them, had continued century after century to watch for their downfall. The might of Islam burned to fling itself upon the ancient Christian capital, and was resolved to hang about its neck until one or the other had perished. In that wonderful career of success which had attended it within but a few years of the prophet's* death, the capture of Constantinople had been its highest aspiration. That aspiration was never lost sight of; for instinctively and inveterately the Crescent hated the Cross.

2. The fatal hour had at last arrived. On the sixth of April, 1453, Ma'homet II. planted his standard before the gate of St. Roma'nus, and commenced that siege which ended in the loss to Christendom of what had for so many centuries been revered as her eastern metrop'olis. One thing alone, it is probable, could have averted that calamity. Had it been possible to heal

* Mohammed, the so-called prophet, founder of the Mohammedan religion.

« PreviousContinue »