Page images
PDF

The Moslem warriors sternly teach

His skill to pierce the promised breach:

Within these walls a maid was pent

HU hope would win, without consent

Of that inexorable sire,

Whose heart refused him in its ire,

Then Alp, beneath his Christian name,

Her virgin hand aspired to claim.

In happier mood, and earlier time,

While unimpeach'd for traitorous crime,

Git est in gondola or hall,

He clitter'd through the Carnival; *

And tuned the softest serenade

Thit e'er on Adria's waters play'd

At midnight to Italian maid. 1

VHX

And many deem'd her heart was won;
For sought by numbers, given to none,
Had young Francesca's hand remain'd
Soil by the church's bonds unchain'd:
And when the Adriatic bore
Linciotto to the Paynim shore,
Her wonted smiles were seen to fail,
And pensive wax'd the maid and pale;
Marc constant at confessional,
More rare at masque and festival;
Or seen at such, with downcast eyes,
Which conquer'd hearts they ceased to prize:
With listless look she seems to gaze;
With humbler care her form arrays;
Her voice less lively in the song;
Her step, though light, less fleet among
The pairs, on whom the Morning's glanc
Breaks, yet unsateoV with the dance.

IX.

Sent by the state to guard the land,

(Which, wrested from the Moslem's hand,

While Sobieski tamed his pride

By Buda't wall and Danube's side,

The chiefs of Venice wrung away

From Patra to Eubora's bay,)

MiDotti held in Corinth's towers

The Doge's delegated powers,

While yet the pitying eye of Peace

Smiled o'er her long forgotten Greece:

And ere that faithless truce was broke

Which freed her from the unchristian yolce,

With him his gentle daughter came;

Sor there, since Menelaus' dame

Forsook her lord and land, to prove

What woes await on lawless love,

Had fairer form adorn'd the shore

Than she, the matchless stranger, bore.

The wall is rent, the ruins yawn;
And, with to-morrow's earliest dawn,
O'er the disjointed mass shall vault
The foremost of the fierce assault.
The hands are rank'd; the chosen van
Of Tartar and of Mussulman,

'[" k midnight eoartihlp to Italian maid." —MS.] 1 p* And make a melancholy moan.

To murtal voice and ear unknown." — MS.]

The full of hope, misnamed " forlorn,"
Who hold the thought of death in scorn,
And win their way with falchion's force.
Or pave the path with many a corse,
O'er which the following brave may rise,
Their stepping-stone—the last who dies!

XL

'T is midnight: on the mountains brown

The cold, round moon shines deeply down;

Blue roll the waters, blue the sky

Spreads like an ocean hung on high,

Bespangled with those isles of light,

So wildly, spiritually bright;

Who ever gazed upon them shining

And turn'd to earth without repining,

Nor wish'd for wings to flee away,

And mix with their eternal ray?

The waves on either shore lay there

Calm, clear, and azure as the air;

And scarce their foam the pebbles shook,

But murmur'd meekly as the brook.

The winds were pillow'd on the waves;

The banners droop'd along their staves,

And, as they fell around them furling,

Above them shone the crescent curling;

And that deep silence was unbroke.

Save where the watch his signal spoke,

Save where the steed neigh'd oft and shrill,

And echo answer'd from the hill,

And the wide hum of that wild host

Rustled like leaves from coast to coast,

As rose the Muezzin's voice in air

In midnight call to wonted prayer;

It rose, that chanted mournful strain,

Like some lone spirit's o'er the plain:

'T was musical, but sadly sweet,

Such as when winds and harp-strings meet,

And take a long unmeasured tone.

To mortal minstrelsy unknown. 2

It scem'd to those within the wall

A cry prophetic of their fall:

It struck even the besieger's ear

With something ominous and drear,

An undefined and sudden thrill,

Which makes the heart a moment still,

Then beat with quicker pulse, ashamed

Of that strange sense its silence framed;

Such as a sudden passing-bell

Wakes, though but for a stranger's knell. 3

xn.

The tent of Alp was on the shore;

The sound was hush'd, the prayer was o'er;

The watch was set, the night-round made,

All mandates Issued and obey'd:

'T is but another anxious night,

His pains the morrow may requite

With all revenge and love can pay,

In guerdon for their long delay.

Few hours remain, and he hath need

Of rest, to nerve for many a deed

Of slaughter: but within his soul

The thoughts like troubled waters roll.

> [" Which rlngu a deep, internal knell, A visionary pasting bell." — Ms. J

He stood alone among the host;

Not Uis the loud fanatic boast

To plant the crescent o'er the cross.

Or risk a life with little loss,

Secure in paradise to be

By Houris loved immortally:

Nor his, what burning patriots feel,

The stern exaltedness of zeal,

Profuse of blood, untired in toil.

When battling on the parent 60IL

He stood alone — a renegade

Against the country he betray'd;

He stood alone amidst his band,

Without a trusted heart or hand:

They follow'd him, for he was brave,

And great the spoil he got and gave ;*

They crouch'd to him, for he had skill

To warp and wield the vulgar will:

But still his Christian origin

With them was little less than sin.

They envied even the faithless fame

He earn'd beneath a Moslem name ,

Since he, their mightiest chief, had been

In youth a bitter Nazarene.

They did not know how pride can stoop,

When baffled feelings withering droop;

They did not know how hate can burn

In hearts once changed from soft to stern;

Nor all the false and fatal ieal

The convert of revenge can feeL

He ruled them — man may rule the worst,

By ever daring to be first:

So lions o'er the jackal sway;

The jackal points, he fells the prey,1

Then on the vulgar yelling press,

To gorge the relics of success.

xm

His head grows fever'd, and his pulse
The quick successive throbs convulse:
In vain from side to side he throws
His form, in courtship of repose; *
Or if he dozed, a sound, a start
Awoke him with a sunken heart.
The turban on his hot brow press'd,
The mail wcigh'd lead-like on his breast,
Though oft and long beneath its weight
Upon his eyes had slumber sate,
Without or couch or canopy.
Except a rougher field and sky
Than now might yield a warrior's bed.
Than now along the heaven was spread.
He could not rest, he could not stay
Within his tent to wait for day,
But walk'd him forth along the sand,
Where thousand sleepers strew'd the strand.
What pillow'd them? and why should he
More wakeful than the humblest be.
Since more their peril, worse their toil?
And yet they fearless dream of spoil;
While he alone, where thousands pass'd
A night of sleep, perchance their last,
In sickly vigil wander'd on,
And envied all he gazed upon.

1 As lions o'er the jackal

iwar

on the 1

liow on, and yelling press To gorge the fragments of success."— MS.J

XIV.

He felt his soul become more light
Beneath the freshness of the night.
Cool was the silent sky, though calm,
And bathed his brow with airy balm:
Behind, the camp — before him lay,
In many a winding creek and bay,
Lepanto's gulf; and, on the brow
Of Delphi's hill, unshaken snow,
High and eternal, such as shone
Through thousand summers brightly gone,
Along the gulf, the mount, the clime;
It will not melt, like man, to time;
Tyrant and slave are swept away,
Less form'd to wear before the ray;
But that white veil, the lightest, frailest.
Which on the mighty mount thou hailest,
While tower and tree are torn and rent,
Shines o'er its craggy battlement;
In form a peak, in height a cloud.
In texture like a hovering shroud,
Thus high by parting Freedom spread,
As from her fond abode she fled,
And linger'd on the spot, where long
Her prophet spirit spake In song.
Oh t still her step at moments falters
O'er withcr'd fields, and ruin'd altars.
And fain would wake, in souls too broken.
By pointing to each glorious token:
But vain her voice, till better days
Dawn in those yet remember'd rays,
Which shone upon the Persian flying,
And saw the Spartan smile in dying.

XV. •

Not mindless of these mighty times

Was Alp, despite his flight and crimes;

And through this night, as on he wander'd.

And o'er the past and present ponder'd.

And thought upon the glorious dead

Who there in better cause had bled,

He felt how faint and feebly dim

The fame that could accrue to him,

Who cheer'd the band, and waved the sword,

A traitor in a turban'd horde;

And led them to the lawless siege,

Whose best success were sacrilege.

Not so had those his fancy number'd.

The chiefs whose dust around him slumber'd;

Their phalanx marshall'd on the plain,

Whose bulwarks were not then in vain.

They fell devoted, but undying;

The very gale their name seem'd sighing:

The waters murmur'd of their name;

The woods were peopled with their fame;

The silent pillar, lone and grey,

Claim'd kindred with their sacred clay;

Their spirits wrapp'd the dusky mountain.

Their memory sparkled o'er the fountain;

The meanest rill, the mightiest river

Roll'd mingling with their fame for ever.

Despite of every yoke she bears.

That land Is glory's still and theirs ! 3

1 He v.Linl v tum'il from side to ilde,

And each reposing posture tried."— MS.J » [Here followi. In MS.—

"Immortal —lioundlesi — undecay'd—-
Their souls the very soil pervade."]

[ocr errors]

T U still a watch-word to the earth:
When min would do a deed of worth
He points to Greece, and turns to trend,
So sanction'd, on the tyrant's head:
He took} to her, and rushes on
Where life is lost, or freedom won. 1

XVL

Still by the shore Alp mutely mused,
And woo'd the freshness Night diffused.
There shrinks no ebb in that titleless sea, 2
Which changeless rolls eternally;

: wildest of waves, in their angriest mood,
break on the bounds of the land for a raid;
And the powerless moon beholds them flow,
Heedless if she come or go:
Calm or high, in main or bay,
On their course she hath no sway.
The rock unworn its base doth bare,
And looks o'er the surf, but it comes not there;
And the fringe of the foam may be seen below,
On the line that it left long ages ago:
A smooth short space of yellow sand
Between it and the greener land.

Be wander'd on along the beach,
Till within the range of a carbine's reach
Of the leaguer'd wall; but they saw him not,
Or how could he 'scape from the hostile shot ?3
Did traitors lurk in the Christians' hold?
Were their hands grown stiff, or their hearts wax'd cold?
I know not, in sooth; but from yonder wall
There flash'd no fire, and there hlss'd no ball,
Though he stood beneath the bastion's frown,
That flank'd the sea-ward gate of the town;
Though he heard the sound, and could almost tell
The sullen words of the sentinel,
As his measured step on the stone below
Clank d, as he paced it to and fro;
And be saw the lean dogs beneath the wall
Bold o'er the dead their carnival, *
Gorging and growling o'er carcass and limb;
Thry were too busy to bark at him!
From a Tartar's skull they had strlpp'd the flesh,
As ye peel the flg when its fruit is fresh;
And their white tusks crunch'd o'er the whiter skull,J
As it slipp'd through their jaws, when their edge grew
As they lazily mumbled the bones of the dead, [dull,
When they scarce could rise from the spot where they
fed;

- [• Where Freedom loveliest may be won." — MS.] 1 The reader need hardly be reminded that there are no percrptiole tides in the Mediterranean. I 1 [~ Or would not waste on a single head I The hail on numbers better sped." — MS.]

* [Omit the rest of this section. — Giftobd.] | 1 This spectacle I have seen, such as described, beneath the nD of the Seraglio at Constantinople, in the little cavities •vn by the Bosphorus in the rock, a narrow terrace of which presets between the wail and the water. 1 think the fact is alio DieMkmed in Hobhouse's Travels. The bodies were fntmbt? those of some refractory Janixarics. [" The sensaonoa produced by the state of the weather, and leaving a ODsBfortabse cabin, were in unison with the impressions which •e frit when, passing under the palace of the sultans, and rasing at the snoomy cypresses which rise above the walls, wo Mp two dogs gnawing a dead body." — Hobhousb.] 1 [This passage shows the force of Lord Byron's pencil. —

I This toft, or long lock. Is left, from a superstition that HabotDpt will draw them into Paradise by it. s [Than the mangled corpse in its own blood lying. — G.]

So well had they broken a lingering fast

With those who had fallen for that night's repast. s

And Alp knew, by the turbans that roll'd on the sand,

The foremost of these were the best of his band:

Crimson and green were the shawls of their wear,

And each scalp bad a single long tuft of hair, 7

All the rest was shaven and bare.

The scalps were In the wild dog's maw,

The hair was tangled round his jaw:

But close by the shore, on the edge of the gulf,

There sat a vulture flapping a wolf.

Who had stolen from the hills, but kept away,

Scared by the dogs, from the human prey;

But he seized on his share of a steed that lay,

Plck'd by the birds, on the sands of the bay.

XVII.

Alp turn'd him from the sickening sight:

Never had shaken his nerves in light;

But he better could brook to behold the dying,

Deep in the tide of their warm blood lying,8

Scorch'd with the death-thirst, and writhing in vain,

Than the perishing dead who arc past all pain. •

There Is something of pride in the perilous hour,

Whate'er be the shape In which death may lower;

For Fame is there to say who bleeds,

And Honour's eye on daring deeds!

But when all is past, it is humbling to tread

O'er the weltering field of the tombless dead, ">

And see worms of the earth, and fowls of the air,

Beasts of the forest, all gathering there;

All regarding man as their prey,

All rejoicing in his decay, i >

XVIII.

There is a temple in ruin stands,
Fashlon'd by long forgotten bands;
Two or three columns, and many a stone,
Marble and granite, with grass o'ergrown I
Out upon Time! it will leave no more
Of the things to come than the things before 115
Out upon Time! who for ever will leave
But enough of the past for the future to grieve
O'er that which hath been, and o'er that which must
be:

What we have seen, our sons shall sec;
Remnants of things that have pass'd away.
Fragments of stone, rear'd by creatures of clay!"

» [Strike out—

"Scorch'd with the death-thirst, and writhing in vain, Than the perishing dead who are past all pain." What is a "perishing dead?"— Giftobd]

10 [O'er the weltering limbs of the tombless dead — G-]

11 [" All that liveth on man will prey,

All rejoice in his decay,

All that can kimllc dismay and disgust

Follow his frame from the bier to the dust."— MS.] IS [Omit this couplet. _ G.] B [After this follows In MS.—

u Monuments tliat the coming ape

leaves to the spoil of the seasons' rage —

Till Ruin makes the relics scarce,

Then Learning acts her solemn farce,

And, roaming through the marble waste,

Prates of beauty, art, and taste.

XIX

"That Temple was more in the midst of the plain;
What of that shrine did yet remain
Lay to his left ."]

XIX.

He sate him down at a pillar's base, >

And pass'd bis band athwart bis face;

Like one in drear; musing mood,

Declining was his attitude;

His head was drooping on his breast,

Fever'd, throbbing, and oppress'd:

And o'er his brow, so downward bent,

Oft his beating fingers went,

Hurriedly, as you may see

Tour own run over the ivory key,

Ere the measured tone is taken

By the chords you would awaken.

There he sate all heavily,

As he heard the night-wind sigh.

Was it the wind through some hollow stone

Sent that soft and tender moan ? f

He lifted his head, and he look'd on the sea,

But it was unrippled as glass may be;

He look'd on the long grass — it waved not a blade;

How was that gentle sound convey'd?

He look'd to the banners—each flag lay still,

So did the leaves on Citha:ron's hill,

And he felt not a breath come over his check;

What did that sudden sound bespeak?

He turn'd to the left—is he sure of sight?

There sate a lady, youthful and bright!

XX.

He started up with more of fear

Than if an armed foe were near.

"God of ray fathers! what is here?

Who art thou, and wherefore sent

So near a hostile armament?"

His trembling hands refused to sign

The cross he deem'd no more divine:

He had resumed it in that hour,

But conscience wrung away the power.

He gazed, he saw: he knew the face

Of beauty, and the form of grace;

It was Francesca by his side,

The maid who might have been his bride!

The rose was yet upon her check,
But mellow'd with a tenderer streak:
Where was the play of her soft lips fled?
Gone was the smile that enliven'd their red.
The ocean's calm within their view,
Beside her eye had less of blue;
But like that cold wave it stood still.
And Its glance though clear, was chill.
Around her form a thin robe twining,
Nought conceal'd ber bosom shining;
Through the parting of her hair,
Floating darkly downward there,
Her rounded arm show'd white and bare:

< [From thli, all is beautiful to — ** He uw not, he knew not; but nothing ii there."— GirroRD.]

2 I must hero acknowledge a close, though unintentional, resemblance in these twelve lines to a passage in an unpublished poem of Mr. Coleridge, called " Christabel." It was not till after these lines were written that I heard that wild and singularly original and beautiful poem recited; and the MS. of that production 1 never saw till very recently, by the kindness of Mr. Coleridge himself, who, I hope, is convinced that I have not been a wilful plagiarist The original idea undoubtedly pertains to Mr. Coleridge, whose poem has been composed above fourteen years. Let me conclude by a hope that he will not longer delay the publication of a production, of which I can only add my mite of approbation to the applause

And ere yet she made reply,

Once she raised her hand on high;

It was so wan, and transparent of hue,

You might have seen the moon shine through.

XXL

"I come from my rest to him I love best,

That I may be happy, and he may be bless'd.

I have pass'd the guards, the gate, the wall;

Sought thee in safety through foes and all.

'T is said the lion will turn and flee

From a maid in the pride of her purity;

And the Power on high, that can shield the good

Thus from the tyrant of the wood,

Hath extended its mercy to guard me as well

From the hands of the leaguering infidel.

I come—and if I come in vain,

Never, oh never, we meet again!

Thou hast done a fearful deed

In falling away from thy fathers' creed:

But dash that turban to earth, and sign

The sign of the cross, and for ever be mine;

Wring the black drop from thy heart,

And to-morrow unites us no more to part."

"And where should our bridal couch be spread?

In the midst of the dying and the dead?

For to-morrow we give to the slaughter and flame

The sons and the shrines of the Christian name.

None, save thou and thine, I've sworn,

Shall be left upon the morn:

But thee will I bear to a lovely spot, [forgot.
Where our hands shall be join'd, and our sorrow
There thou yet shalt be my bride,
When once again I've quell'd the pride
Of Venice j and her hated race
Have felt the arm they would debase
Scourge, with a whip of scorpions, those
Whom vice and envy made my foes."

Upon his hand she laid her own—

Light was the touch, but it thrill'd to the bone,

And shot a chillness to his heart,

Which flx'd him beyond the power to start.

Though slight was that grasp so mortal cold,

He could not loose him from its hold;

But never did clasp of one so dear

Strike on the pulse with such feeling of fear,

As those thin fingers, long and white,

Froze through his blood by their touch that night.

The feverish glow of his brow was gone,

And his heart sank so still that it felt like stone,

As he look'd on the face, and beheld its hue,

So deeply changed from what he knew:

Fair hut faint—without the ray

Of mind, that made each feature play

Like sparkling waves on a sunny day;

of far more competent Judges—[The following are the lines in "Christabel" which Lord Byron had unintentionally imitated:—

"The night is chill, the forest hare.
Is it the wind that moneth bleak?
There is not wind enough in the air
To move away the ringlet curl
From the lovely lady's cheek —
There Is not wind enough to twirl
The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can.
Hanging so light, and hanging so high.
On the topmost twig that looks at the sky.••J

1 [And its thrilling glance, &c. — Gifford.]

And her motionless lips lay still as death,

.lad hrr words came forth without her breath,

And there rose not a heave o'er her bosom's swell,

And then seem'd not a pulse in her veins to dwell.

Though hrr eye shone out, yet the lids were flx'd,

And the glance that it gave was wild and unmix'd

With aught of change, as the eyes may seem

Of tat restless who walk in a troubled dream;

Lib the figures on arras, that gloomily glare,

Sbrra by the breath of the wintry air,1

- Ken by the dying lamp's fitful light,

Lifeless hut life-like, and awful to sight; [down

At they seem, through the dimness, about to come

Fiwn the shadowy wall where their images frown;4

FnrfuUj flitting to and fro,

A) the gusts on the tapestry come and go.

* If not for love of me be given

Thus much, then, for the love of heaven, —

Again I say — that turban tear

From off thy faithless brow, and swear

Thine injured country's sons to spare,

Or thou art lost; and never shalt see—

Not earth—that's past—but heaven or me.

If this thou dost accord, albeit

A heavy doom 'tis thine to meet,

That doom shall half absolve thy sin,

And mercy's gate may receive thee within:

But pause one moment more, and take

The curse of Him thou didst forsake;

And look once more to heaven, and sec

to lore for ever shut from thee.

There is a light cloud by the moon—'

"T is passing, and will pass full soon —

If, by the time its vapoury sail

Hath ceased her shaded orb to veil,

Thy heart within thee is not changed,

Then God and man are both avenged;

Dark will thy doom be, darker still

Thine immortality of ill."

Alp look'd to heaven, and saw on high

The <ign she spake of in the sky;

But his heart was swollen, and turn'd aside,

By deep interminable pride.

This first false passion of his breast

Boll'd like a torrent o'er the rest.

ft sue for mercy! He dismay'd

By wild words of a timid maid.'

He, wrong'd by Venice, vow to save

Her sons, devoted to the grave I

1 [" Like a picture, that magic had charm'd from its frame.

Lifeless but life-like, and ever the same."—MS.] •Tin the summer of 1803, when in his sixteenth year, L<*d Byron, though offered a bed at Annesley, used at first to mum every night to sleep at Newstead; alleging as a "awn, that he was afraid of the family pictures of the Cias-orths; that he fancied " they had taken a grudge to him sreount of the duel." Mr. Moon' thinks it may possibly Ssrc been the recollection of these pictures that suggested to a» that lines.] 1 I have been told that the idea expressed In this and the lines has been admired by those whose appro

n li valuable. I am glad of it: but It is not original — * least not mine; it may be found much better expressed in ssra ltt-J-4. of the English version of " Vathek" (I forget Csr precise page of the French), a work to which I have "saws referred; and never recur to, or read, without a re

aewal of gratification [The following Is the passage: —

"Deluded prince !' said the Genius, addressing the Caliph, 'to whom Providence hath confided the care of innumerable subjects; is it thus that thou fulfillest thy mission? TV crimes are already completed; and art thou now Uueamj to thy punishment? Thou knowest that bo

No—though that cloud were thunder's worst,
And charged to crush him —let it burst!

He look'd upon it earnestly,

Without an accent of reply;

He watch'd it passing; it is flown:

Full on his eye the clear moon shone,

And thus he spake — " Whate'er my fate,

I am no changeling—'tis too late:

The reed in storms may bow and quiver,

Then rise again; the tree must shiver.

What Venice made me, I must be,

Her foe in all, save love to thee:

But thou art safe: oh, fly with me!"
He turn'd, but she is gone I
Nothing is there but the column stone.
Hath she sunk in the earth, or melted in air?
He saw not—he knew not—but nothing is there.

XXII.

The night is past, and shines the sun

As if that morn were a jocund one.4

Lightly and brightly breaks away

The Morning from her mantle grey,

And the Noon will look on a sultry day.5

Hark to the trump, and the drum,
And the mournful sound of the barbarous horn,
And the flap of the banners, that flitas they 're home,
And the neigh of the steed, and the multitude's hum,
And the clash, and the shout, "They come 1 they
come I"

The horsetails 6 are pluck'd from the ground, and the
sword [word.
From its sheath; and they form, and but wait for the
Tartar, and Spahi, and Turcoman,
Strike your tents, and throng to the van;
Mount ye, spur ye, skirr the plain,
That the fugitive may flee in vain,
When he breaks from the town; and none escape,
Aged or young, in the Christian shape;
While your fellows on foot, in a fiery mass,
Bloodstain the breach through which they pass.'
The steeds are all bridled, and snort to the rein;
Curved Is each neck, and flowing each mane;
White is the foam of their champ on the bit:
The spears are uplifted; the matches are lit;
The cannon are pointed, and ready to roar,
And crush the wall they have crumbled before: ■
Forms in his phalanx each Janizar;
Alp at their head; his right arm is bare,
So Is the blade of his scimitar;

yond those mountains Eblis and his accursed dives hold their infernal empire; and, seduced by a malignant phantom, thou art proceeding to surrender thyself to them 1 This moment is the last of grace allowed thee : give back Nourouahar to her father, who still retains a few sparks of life: destroy tby tower with all its abominations: drive Carathis from thy councils : be just to thy subjects: respect the ministers of the prophet: compensate for thy impieties by an exemplary life; and, instead of squandering thy days in voluptuous indulgence, lament thy crimes on the sepulchres of thy ancestors. Thou beholdest the clouds that obscure the sun: at the instant he recovers his splendour, if thy heart be not changed, the time of mercy assigned thee will be past for ever.' "J

* [Leave out this couplet— GlFFoaD.]

*j;Strike out —" And the Noon will look on a sultry day."

8 The horsetails, fixed upon a lance, a pacha's standard. [Omit —

"While your fellows on foot, in a fiery mass,

Bloodstain the breach through which they pass." _ G.l 8 [And crush the wail they have shaken before.— G.l

« PreviousContinue »