Remind me not, remind me not,
Of those beloved, those vanish’d hours,
When all my soul was given to thee;
Hours that may never be forgot,
Till Time unnerves our vital powers,
And thou and I shall cease to be.
Can I forget——canst thou forget,
When playing with thy golden hair,
How quick thy fluttering heart did move?
Oh! by my soul, I see thee yet,
With eyes so languid, breast so fair,
And lips, though silent, breathing love.
When thus reclining on my breast,
Those eyes threw back a glance so sweet,
As half reproach’d yet rais’d desire,
And still we near and nearer prest,
And still our glowing lips would meet,
As if in kisses to expire.
And then those pensive eyes would close,
And bid their lids each other seek,
Veiling the azure orbs below;
While their long lashes’ darken’d gloss
Seem’d stealing o’er thy brilliant cheek,
Like raven’s plumage smooth’d on snow.
I dreamt last night our love return’d,
And, sooth to say, that very dream
Was sweeter in its phantasy,
Than if for other hearts I burn’d,
For eyes that ne’er like thine could beam
In Rapture’s wild reality.
Then tell me not, remind me not,
Of hours which, though for ever gone,
Can still a pleasing dream restore,
Till Thou and I shall be forgot,
And senseless, as the mouldering stone
Which tells that we shall be no more.
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair’d the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling—place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
The ‘Origin of Love!’—Ah why
That cruel question ask of me,
When thou may’st read in many an eye
He starts to life on seeing thee?
And should’st thou seek his end to know:
My heart forebodes, my fears foresee
He’ll linger long in silent woe;
But live—until I cease to be.
‘Away, away, your fleeting arts
May now betray some simpler hearts;
And you will smile at their believing,
And they shall weep at your deceiving.’
ANSWER TO THE FOREGOING, ADDRESSED TO MISS—-.
Dear, simple girl, those flattering arts,
From which thou’dst guard frail female hearts,
Exist but in imagination,—
Mere phantoms of thine own creation;
For he who views that witching grace,
That perfect form, that lovely face,
With eyes admiring, oh! believe me,
He never wishes to deceive thee:
Once in thy polish’d mirror glance,
Thou’lt there descry that elegance
Which from our sex demands such praises,
But envy in the other raises:
Then he who tells thee of thy beauty,
Believe me, only does his duty:
Ah! fly not from the candid youth;
It is not flattery,—'tis truth.
But first, on earth as vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent,
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race.
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life,
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse.
Thy victims ere they yet expire
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the stem.
Wet with thine own best blood shall drip
Thy gnashing tooth and haggard lip;
Then stalking to thy sullen grave,
Go—and with Gouls and Afrits rave;
Till these in horror shrink away
From Spectre more accursed than they!
No breath of air to break the wave
That rolls below the Athenian’s grave,
That tomb which, gleaming o’er the cliff
First greets the homeward-veering skiff
High o’er the land he saved in vain;
When shall such Hero live again?
Fair clime! where every season smiles
Benignant o’er those blesséd isles,
Which, seen from far Colonna’s height,
Make glad the heart that hails the sight,
And lend to lonliness delight.
There mildly dimpling, Ocean’s cheek
Reflects the tints of many a peak
Caught by the laughing tides that lave
These Edens of the Eastern wave:
And if at times a transient breeze
Break the blue crystal of the seas,
Or sweep one blossom from the trees,
How welcome is each gentle air
That waves and wafts the odours there!
For there the Rose, o’er crag or vale,
Sultana of the Nightingale,
The maid for whom his melody,
His thousand songs are heard on high,
Blooms blushing to her lover’s tale:
His queen, the garden queen, his Rose,
Unbent by winds, unchilled by snows,
Far from winters of the west,
By every breeze and season blest,
Returns the sweets by Nature given
In soft incense back to Heaven;
And gratefu yields that smiling sky
Her fairest hue and fragrant sigh.
And many a summer flower is there,
And many a shade that Love might share,
And many a grotto, meant by rest,
That holds the pirate for a guest;
Whose bark in sheltering cove below
Lurks for the pasiing peaceful prow,
Till the gay mariner’s guitar
Is heard, and seen the Evening Star;
Then stealing with the muffled oar,
Far shaded by the rocky shore,
Rush the night-prowlers on the prey,
And turns to groan his roudelay.
Strande—that where Nature loved to trace,
As if for Gods, a dwelling place,
And every charm and grace hath mixed
Within the Paradise she fixed,
There man, enarmoured of distress,
Shoul mar it into wilderness,
And trample, brute-like, o’er each flower
That tasks not one labourious hour;
Nor claims the culture of his hand
To blood along the fairy land,
But springs as to preclude his care,
And sweetly woos him—but to spare!
Strange—that where all is Peace beside,
There Passion riots in her pride,
And Lust and Rapine wildly reign
To darken o’er the fair domain.
It is as though the Fiends prevailed
Against the Seraphs they assailed,
And, fixed on heavenly thrones, should dwell
The freed inheritors of Hell;
So soft the scene, so formed for joy,
So curst the tyrants that destroy!
He who hath bent him o’er the dead
Ere the first day of Death is fled,
The first dark day of Nothingness,
The last of Danger and Distress,
(Before Decay’s effacing fingers
Have swept the lines where Beauty lingers,)
And marked the mild angelic air,
The rapture of Repose that’s there,
The fixed yet tender thraits that streak
The languor of the placid cheek,
And—but for that sad shrouded eye,
That fires not, wins not, weeps not, now,
And but for that chill, changeless brow,
Where cold Obstruction’s apathy
Appals the gazing mourner’s heart,
As if to him it could impart
The doom he dreads, yet dwells upon;
Yes, but for these and these alone,
Some moments, aye, one treacherous hour,
He still might doubt the Tyrant’s power;
So fair, so calm, so softly sealed,
The first, last look by Death revealed!
Such is the aspect of his shore;
'T is Greece, but living Greece no more!
So coldly sweet, so deadly fair,
We start, for Soul is wanting there.
Hers is the loveliness in death,
That parts not quite with parting breath;
But beauty with that fearful bloom,
That hue which haunts it to the tomb,
Expression’s last receding ray,
A gilded Halo hovering round decay,
The farewell beam of Feeling past away!
Spark of that flame, perchance of heavenly birth,
Which gleams, but warms no more its cherished earth!
Clime of the unforgotten brave!
Whose land from plain to mountain-cave
Was Freedom;s home or Glory’s grave!
Shrine of the mighty! can it be,
That this is all remains of thee?
Approach, thou craven crouching slave:
Say, is this not Thermopylæ?
These waters blue that round you lave,—
Of servile offspring of the free—
Pronounce what sea, what shore is this?
The gulf, the rock of Salamis!
These scenes, their story yet unknown;
Arise, and make again your own;
Snatch from the ashes of your Sires
The embers of their former fires;
And he who in the strife expires
Will add to theirs a name of fear
That Tyranny shall quake to hear,
And leave his sons a hope, a fame,
They too will rather die than shame:
For Freedom’s battle once begun,
Bequeathed by bleeding Sire to Son,
Though baffled oft is ever won.
Bear witness, Greece, thy living page!
Attest it many a deathless age!
While Kings, in dusty darkness hid,
Have left a namesless pyramid,
Thy Heroes, though the general doom
Hath swept the column from their tomb,
A mightier monument command,
The mountains of thy native land!
There points thy Muse to stranger’s eye
The graves of those that cannot die!
'T were long to tell, and sad to trace,
Each step from Spledour to Disgrace;
Enough—no foreign foe could quell
Thy soul, till from itself it fell;
Yet! Self-abasement paved the way
To villain-bonds and despot sway.
What can he tell who tread thy shore?
No legend of thine olden time,
No theme on which the Muse might soar
High as thine own days of yore,
When man was worthy of thy clime.
The hearts within thy valleys bred,
The fiery souls that might have led
Thy sons to deeds sublime,
Now crawl from cradle to the Grave,
Slaves—nay, the bondsmen of a Slave,
And callous, save to crime.
Stained with each evil that pollutes
Mankind, where least above the brutes;
Without even savage virtue blest,
Without one free or valiant breast,
Still to the neighbouring ports tey waft
Proverbial wiles, and ancient craft;
In this subtle Greek is found,
For this, and this alown, renowned.
In vain might Liberty invoke
The spirit to its bondage broke
Or raise the neck that courts the yoke:
No more her sorrows I bewail,
Yet this will be a mournful tale,
And they who listen may believe,
Who heard it first had cause to grieve.
Far, dark, along the blue sea glancing,
The shadows of the rocks advancing
Start on the fisher’s eye like boat
Of island-pirate or Mainote;
And fearful for his light caïque,
He shuns the near but doubtful creek:
Though worn and weary with his toil,
And cumbered with his scaly spoil,
Slowly, yet strongly, plies the oar,
Till Port Leone’s safer shore
Receives him by the lovely light
That best becomes an Eastern night.
... Who thundering comes on blackest steed,
With slackened bit and hoof of speed?
Beneath the clattering iron’s sound
The caverned echoes wake around
In lash for lash, and bound for bound;
The foam that streaks the courser’s side
Seems gathered from the ocean-tide:
Though weary waves are sunk to rest,
There’s none within his rider’s breast;
And though tomorrow’s tempest lower,
'Tis calmer than thy heart, young Giaour!
I know thee not, I loathe thy race,
But in thy lineaments I trace
What time shall strengthen, not efface:
Though young and pale, that sallow front
Is scathed by fiery passion’s brunt;
Though bent on earth thine evil eye,
As meteor-like thou glidest by,
Right well I view thee and deem thee one
Whom Othman’s sons should slay or shun.
On - on he hastened, and he drew
My gaze of wonder as he flew:
Though like a demon of the night
He passed, and vanished from my sight,
His aspect and his air impressed
A troubled memory on my breast,
And long upon my startled ear
Rung his dark courser’s hoofs of fear.
He spurs his steed; he nears the steep,
That, jutting, shadows o’er the deep;
He winds around; he hurries by;
The rock relieves him from mine eye;
For, well I ween, unwelcome he
Whose glance is fixed on those that flee;
And not a start that shines too bright
On him who takes such timeless flight.
He wound along; but ere he passed
One glance he snatched, as if his last,
A moment checked his wheeling steed,
A moment breathed him from his speed,
A moment on his stirrup stood -
Why looks he o’er the olive wood?
The crescent glimmers on the hill,
The mosque’s high lamps are quivering still
Though too remote for sound to wake
In echoes of far tophaike,
The flashes of each joyous peal
Are seen to prove the Moslem’s zeal,
Tonight, set Rhamazani’s sun;
Tonight the Bairam feast’s begun;
Tonight - but who and what art thou
Of foreign garb and fearful brow?
That thou should’st either pause or flee?
He stood - some dread was on his face,
Soon hatred settled in its place:
It rose not with the reddening flush
Of transient anger’s hasty blush,
But pale as marble o’er the tomb,
Whose ghastly whiteness aids its gloom.
His brow was bent, his eye was glazed;
He raised his arm, and fiercely raised,
And sternly shook his hand on high,
As doubting to return or fly;
Impatient of his flight delayed,
Here loud his raven charger neighed -
Down glanced that hand and, and grasped his blade;
That sound had burst his waking dream,
As slumber starts at owlet’s scream.
The spur hath lanced his courser’s sides;
Away, away, for life he rides:
Swift as the hurled on high jerreed
Springs to the touch his startled steed;
The rock is doubled, and the shore
Shakes with the clattering tramp no more;
The crag is won, no more is seen
His Christian crest and haughty mien.
‘Twas but an instant he restrained
That fiery barb so sternly reined;
’Twas but a moment that he stood,
Then sped as if by death pursued;
But in that instant 0'er his soul
Winters of memory seemed to roll,
And gather in that drop of time
A life of pain, an age of crime.
O’er him who loves, or hates, or fears,
Such moment pours the grief of years:
What felt he then, at once opprest
By all that most distracts the breast?
That pause, which pondered o’er his fate,
Oh, who its dreary length shall date!
Though in time’s record nearly nought,
It was eternity to thought!
For infinite as boundless space
The thought that conscience must embrace,
Which in itself can comprehend
Woe without name, or hope, or end.
The hour is past, the Giaour is gone;
And did he fly or fall alone?
Woe to that hour he came or went!
The curse for Hassan’s sin was sent
To turn a palace to a tomb:
He came, he went, like the Simoom,
That harbinger of fate and gloom,
Beneath whose widely - wasting breath
The very cypress droops to death -
Dark tree, still sad when others’ grief is fled,
The only constant mourner o’er the dead!
The steed is vanished from the stall;
No serf is seen in Hassan’s hall;
The lonely spider’s thin grey pall
Waves slowly widening o’er the wall;
The bat builds in his harem bower,
And in the fortress of his power
The owl usurps the beacon-tower;
The wild-dog howls o’er the fountain’s brim,
With baffled thirst and famine, grim;
For the stream has shrunk from its marble bed,
Where the weeds and the desolate dust are spread.
'Twas sweet of yore to see it play
And chase the sultriness of day,
As springing high the silver dew
In whirls fantastically flew,
And flung luxurious coolness round
The air, and verdure o’er the ground.
'Twas sweet, when cloudless stars were bright,
To view the wave of watery light,
And hear its melody by night.
And oft had Hassan’s childhood played
Around the verge of that cascade;
And oft upon his mother’s breast
That sound had harmonized his rest;
And oft had Hassan’s youth along
Its bank been soothed by beauty’s song;
And softer seem’d each melting tone
Of music mingled with its own.
But ne’er shall Hassan’s age repose
Along the brink at twilight’s close:
The stream that filled that font is fled -
The blood that warmed his heart is shed!
And here no more shall human voice
Be heard to rage, regret, rejoice.
The last sad note that swelled the gale
Was woman’s wildest funeral wall:
That quenched in silence all is still,
But the lattice that flaps when the wind is shrill:
Though raves the gust, and floods the rain,
No hand shall clasp its clasp again.
On desert sands ‘twere joy to scan
The rudest steps of fellow man,
So here the very voice of grief
Might wake an echo like relief -
At least ’twould say, 'All are not gone;
There lingers life, though but in one’ -
For many a gilded chamber’s there,
Which solitude might well forbear;
Within that dome as yet decay
Hath slowly worked her cankering way -
But gloom is gathered o’er the gate,
Nor there the fakir’s self will wait;
Nor there will wandering dervise stay,
For bounty cheers not his delay;
Nor there will weary stranger halt
To bless the sacred 'bread and salt’.
Alike must wealth and poverty
Pass heedless and unheeded by,
For courtesy and pity died
With Hassan on the mountain side.
His roof, that refuge unto men,
Is desolation’s hungry den.
The guest flies the hall, and the vassal from labour,
Since his turban was cleft by the infidel’s sabre!
I hear the sound of coming feet,
But not a voice mine ear to greet;
More near - each turban I can scan,
And silver-sheathed ataghan;
The foremost of the band is seen
An emir by his garb of green:
‘Ho! Who art thou?’ - ‘This low salam
Replies of Moslem faith I am.’
‘The burden ye so gently bear,
Seems one that claims your utmost care,
And, doubtless, holds some precious freight,
My humble bark would gladly wait.’
'Thou speakest sooth; they skiff unmoor,
And waft us from the silent shore;
Nay, leave the sail still furled, and ply
The nearest oar that’s scattered by,
And midway to those rocks where sleep
The channeled waters dark and deep.
Rest from your task– so– bravely done,
Of course had been right swiftly run;
Yet ‘tis the longest voyage, I trow,
That one of -
Sullen it plunged, and slowly sank,
The calm wave rippled to the bank;
I watched it as it sank, methought
Some motion from the current caught
Bestirred it more, - ’twas but the beam
That checkered o’er the living stream:
I gazed, till vanishing from view,
Like lessening pebble it withdrew;
Still less and less, a speck of white
That gemmed the tide, then mocked the sight;
And all its hidden secrets sleep,
Known but to Genii of the deep,
Which, trembling in their coral caves,
They dare not whisper to the waves.
As rising on its purple wing
The insect-queen of eastern spring,
O’er emerald meadows of Kashmeer
Invites the young pursuer near,
And leads him on from flower to flower
A weary chase and wasted hour,
Then leaves him, as it soars on high,
With panting heart and tearful eye:
So beauty lures the full-grown child,
With hue as bright, and wing as wild:
A chase of idle hopes and fears,
Begun in folly, closed in tears.
If won, to equal ills betrayed,
Woe waits the insect and the maid;
A life of pain, the loss of peace,
From infant’s play and man’s caprice:
The lovely toy so fiercely sought
Hath lost its charm by being caught,
For every touch that wooed its stay
Hath brushed its brightest hues away,
Till charm, and hue, and beauty gone,
'Tis left to fly or fall alone.
With wounded wing, or bleeding breast,
Ah! Where shall either victim rest?
Can this with faded pinion soar
From rose to tulip as before?
Or beauty, blighted in an hour,
Find joy within her broken bower?
No: gayer insects fluttering by
Ne’er droop the wing o’er those that die,
And lovelier things have mercy shown
To every failing but their own,
And every woe a tear can claim
Except an erring sister’s shame.
The mind that broods o’er guilty woes,
Is like the scorpion girt by fire;
In circle narrowing as it glows,
The flames around their captive close,
Till inly searched by thousand throes,
And maddening in her ire,
One sad and sole relief she knows,
The sting she nourished for her foes,
Whose venom never yet was vain,
Gives but one pang, and cures all pain,
So do the dark in soul expire,
Or live like scorpion girt by fire;
So writhes the mind remorse hath riven,
Unfit for earth, undoomed for heaven,
Darkness above, despair beneath,
Around it flame, within it death!
Black Hassan from the harem flies,
Nor bends on woman’s form his eyes;
The unwonted chase each hour employs,
Yet shares he not the hunter’s joys.
Not thus was Hassan wont to fly
When Leila dwelt in his Serai.
Doth Leila there no longer dwell?
That tale can only Hassan tell:
Strange rumours in our city say
Upon that eve she fled away
When Rhamazan’s last sun was set,
And flashing from each minaret
Millions of lamps proclaimed the feast
Of Bairam through the boundless East.
'Twas then she went as to the bath,
Which Hassan vainly searched in wrath;
For she was flown her master’s rage
In likeness of a Georgian page,
And far beyond the Moslem’s power
Had wronged him with the faithless Giaour.
Somewhat of this had Hassan deemed;
But still so fond, so fair she seemed,
Too well he trusted to the slave
Whose treachery deserved a grave:
And on that eve had gone to mosque,
And thence to feast in his kiosk.
Such is the tale his Nubians tell,
Who did not watch their charge too well;
But others say, that on that night,
By pale Phingari’s trembling light,
The Giaour upon his jet-black steed
Was seen, but seen alone to speed
With bloody spur along the shore,
Nor maid nor page behind him bore.
Her eye’s dark charm 'twere vain to tell,
But gaze on that of the gazelle,
It will assist thy fancy well;
As large, as languishingly dark,
But soul beamed forth in every spark
That darted from beneath the lid,
Bright as the jewel of Giamschild.
Yea, Soul, and should our prophet say
That form was nought but breathing clay,
By Allah! I would answer nay;
Though on Al-Sirat’s arch I stood,
Which totters o’er the fiery flood,
With Paradise within my view,
And all his Houris beckoning through.
Oh! Who young Leila’s glance could read
And keep that portion of his creed,
Which saith that woman is but dust,
A soulless toy for tyrant’s lust?
On her might Muftis might gaze, and own
That through her eye the Immortal shone;
On her fair cheek’s unfading hue
The young pomegranate’s blossoms strew
Their bloom in blushes ever new;
Her hair in hyacinthine flow,
When left to roll its folds below,
As midst her handmaids in the hall
She stood superior to them all,
Hath swept the marble where her feet
Gleamed whiter than the mountain sleet
Ere from the cloud that gave it birth
It fell, and caught one stain of earth.
The cygnet nobly walks the water;
So moved on earth Circassia’s daughter,
The loveliest bird of Franguestan!
As rears her crest the ruffled swan,
And spurns the wave with wings of pride,
When pass the steps of stranger man
Along the banks that bound her tide;
Thus rose fair Leila’s whiter neck:-
Thus armed with beauty would she check
Intrusion’s glance, till folly’s gaze
Shrunk from the charms it meant to praise:
Thus high and graceful as her gait;
Her heart as tender to her mate;
Her mate - stern Hassan, who was he?
Alas! That name was not for thee!
Stern Hassan hath a journey ta’en
With twenty vassals in his train,
Each armed, as best becomes a man,
With arquebuss and ataghan;
The chief before, as decked for war,
Bears in his belt the scimitar
Stain’d with the best of Amaut blood
When in the pass the rebels stood,
And few returned to tell the tale
Of what befell in Parne’s vale.
The pistols which his girdle bore
Were those that once a pasha wore,
Which still, though gemmed and bossed with gold,
Even robbers tremble to behold.
'Tis said he goes to woo a bride
More true than her who left his side;
The faithless slave that broke her bower,
And– worse than faithless– for a Giaour!
The sun’s last rays are on the hill,
And sparkle in the fountain rill,
Whose welcome waters, cool and clear,
Draw blessings from the mountaineer:
Here may the loitering merchant Greek
Find that repose 'twere vain to seek
In cities lodged too near his lord,
And trembling for his secret hoard -
Here may he rest where none can see,
In crowds a slave, in deserts free;
And with forbidden wine may stain
The bowl a Moslem must not drain.
The foremost Tartar’s in the gap,
Conspicuous by his yellow cap;
The rest in lengthening line the while
Wind slowly through the long defile:
Above, the mountain rears a peak,
Where vultures whet the thirsty beak,
And theirs may be a feast tonight,
Shall tempt them down ere morrow’s light;
Beneath, a river’s wintry stream
Has shrunk before the summer beam,
And left a channel bleak and bare,
Save shrubs that spring to perish there:
Each side the midway path there lay
Small broken crags of granite grey
By time, or mountain lightning, riven
From summits clad in mists of heaven;
For where is he that hath beheld
The peak of Liakura unveiled?
They reach the grove of pine at last:
'Bismillah! now the peril’s past;
For yonder view the opening plain,
And there we’ll prick our steeds amain.'
The Chiaus spake, and as he said,
A bullet whistled o’er his head;
The foremost Tartar bites the ground!
Scarce had they time to check the rein,
Swift from their steeds the riders bound;
But three shall never mount again:
Unseen the foes that gave the wound,
The dying ask revenge in vain.
With steel unsheathed, and carbine bent,
Some o’er their courser’s harness leant,
Half sheltered by the steed;
Some fly behind the nearest rock,
And there await the coming shock,
Nor tamely stand to bleed
Beneath the shaft of foes unseen,
Who dare not quit their craggy screen.
Stern Hassan only from his horse
Disdains to light, and keeps his course,
Till fiery flashes in the van
Proclaim too sure the robber-clan
Have well secured the only way
Could now avail the promised prey;
Then curled his very beard with ire,
And glared his eye with fiercer fire:
'Though far and near the bullets hiss,
I’ve ‘scaped a bloodier hour than this.’
And now the foe their covert quit,
And call his vassals to submit;
But Hassan’s frown and furious word
Are dreaded more than hostile sword,
Nor of his little band a man
Resigned carbine or ataghan,
Nor raised the craven cry, Amaun!
In fuller sight, more near and near,
The lately ambushed foes appear,
And, issuing from the grove, advance
Some who on battle-charger prance.
Who leads them on with foreign brand,
Far flashing in his red right hand?
"Tis he! ‘tis he! I know him now;
I know him by his pallid brow;
I know him by the evil eye
That aids his envious treachery;
I know him by his jet-black barb:
Though now arrayed in Arnaut garb
Apostate from his own vile faith,
It shall not save him from the death:
’Tis he! well met in any hour,
Lost Leila’s love, accursed Giaour!
As rolls the river into ocean,
In sable torrent wildly streaming;
As the sea-tide’s opposing motion,
In azure column Proudly gleaming
Beats back the current many a rood,
In curling foam and mingling flood,
While eddying whirl, and breaking wave,
Roused by the blast of winter, rave;
Through sparkling spray, in thundering clash,
The lightnings of the waters flash
In awful whiteness o’er the shore,
That shines and shakes beneath the roar;
Thus - as the stream, and Ocean greet,
With waves that madden as they meet -
Thus join the bands, whom mutual wrong,
And fate, and fury, drive along.
The bickering sabres’ shivering jar;
And pealing wide or ringing near
Its echoes on the throbbing ear,
The deathshot hissing from afar;
The shock, the shout, the groan of war,
Reverberate along that vale
More suited to the shepherds tale:
Though few the numbers - theirs the strife
That neither spares nor speaks for life!
Ah! fondly youthful hearts can press,
To seize and share the dear caress;
But love itself could never pant
For all that beauty sighs to grant
With half the fervour hate bestows
Upon the last embrace of foes,
When grappling in the fight they fold
Those arms that ne’er shall lose their hold:
Friends meet to part; love laughs at faith;
True foes, once met, are joined till death!
With sabre shivered to the hilt,
Yet dripping with the blood he spilt;
Yet strained within the severed hand
Which quivers round that faithless brand;
His turban far behind him rolled,
And cleft in twain its firmest fold;
His flowing robe by falchion torn,
And crimson as those clouds of morn
That, streaked with dusky red, portend
The day shall have a stormy end;
A stain on every bush that bore
A fragment of his palampore
His breast with wounds unnumbered riven,
His back to earth, his face to heaven,
Fallen Hassan lies - his unclosed eye
Yet lowering on his enemy,
As if the hour that sealed his fate
Surviving left his quenchless hate;
And o’er him bends that foe with brow
As dark as his that bled below.
'Yes, Leila sleeps beneath the wave,
But his shall be a redder grave;
Her spirit pointed well the steel
Which taught that felon heart to feel.
He called the Prophet, but his power
Was vain against the vengeful Giaour:
He called on Allah - but the word.
Arose unheeded or unheard.
Thou Paynim fool! could Leila’s prayer
Be passed, and thine accorded there?
I watched my time, I leagued with these,
The traitor in his turn to seize;
My wrath is wreaked, the deed is done,
And now I go - but go alone.'
The browsing camels’ bells are tinkling:
His mother looked from her lattice high -
She saw the dews of eve besprinkling
The pasture green beneath her eye,
She saw the planets faintly twinkling:
‘Tis twilight - sure his train is nigh.’
She could not rest in the garden-bower,
But gazed through the grate of his steepest tower:
'Why comes he not? his steeds are fleet,
Nor shrink they from the summer heat;
Why sends not the bridegroom his promised gift?
Is his heart more cold, or his barb less swift?
Oh, false reproach! yon Tartar now
Has gained our nearest mountain’s brow,
And warily the steep descends,
And now within the valley bends;
And he bears the gift at his saddle bow
How could I deem his courser slow?
Right well my largess shall repay
His welcome speed, and weary way.'
The Tartar lighted at the gate,
But scarce upheld his fainting weight!
His swarthy visage spake distress,
But this might be from weariness;
His garb with sanguine spots was dyed,
But these might be from his courser’s side;
He drew the token from his vest -
Angel of Death! 'tis Hassan’s cloven crest!
His calpac rent– his caftan red –
‘Lady, a fearful bride thy son hath wed:
Me, not from mercy, did they spare,
But this empurpled pledge to bear.
Peace to the brave! whose blood is spilt:
Woe to the Giaour! for his the guilt.’
A turban carved in coarsest stone,
A pillar with rank weeds o’ergrown,
Whereon can now be scarcely read
The Koran verse that mourns the dead,
Point out the spot where Hassan fell
A victim in that lonely dell.
There sleeps as true an Osmanlie
As e’er at Mecca bent the knee;
As ever scorned forbidden wine,
Or prayed with face towards the shrine,
In orisons resumed anew
At solemn sound of ‘Allah Hu!’
Yet died he by a stranger’s hand,
And stranger in his native land;
Yet died he as in arms he stood,
And unavenged, at least in blood.
But him the maids of Paradise
Impatient to their halls invite,
And the dark Heaven of Houris’ eyes
On him shall glance for ever bright;
They come - their kerchiefs green they wave,
And welcome with a kiss the brave!
Who falls in battle 'gainst a Giaour
Is worthiest an immortal bower.
But thou, false Infidel! shalt writhe
Beneath avenging Monkir’s scythe;
And from its torment 'scape alone
To wander round lost Eblis’ throne;
And fire unquenched, unquenchable,
Around, within, thy heart shall dwell;
Nor ear can hear nor tongue can tell
The tortures of that inward hell!
But first, on earth as vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the stem.
But one that for thy crime must fall,
The youngest, most beloved of all,
Shall bless thee with a father’s name -
That word shall wrap thy heart in flame!
Yet must thou end thy task, and mark
Her cheek’s last tinge, her eye’s last spark,
And the last glassy glance must view
Which freezes o’er its lifeless blue;
Then with unhallowed hand shalt tear
The tresses of her yellow hair,
Of which in life a lock when shorn
Affection’s fondest pledge was worn,
But now is borne away by thee,
Memorial of thine agony!
Wet with thine own best blood shall drip
Thy gnashing tooth and haggard lip;
Then stalking to thy sullen grave,
Go - and with Gouls and Afrits rave;
Till these in horror shrink away
From spectre more accursed than they!
‘How name ye yon lone Caloyer?
His features I have scanned before
In mine own land: ’tis many a year,
Since, dashing by the lonely shore,
I saw him urge as fleet a steed
As ever served a horseman’s need.
But once I saw that face, yet then
It was so marked with inward pain,
I could not pass it by again;
It breathes the same dark spirit now,
As death were stamped upon his brow.
'Tis twice three years at summer tide
Since first among our freres he came;
And here it soothes him to abide
For some dark deed he will not name.
But never at our vesper prayer,
Nor e’er before confession chair
Kneels he, nor recks he when arise
Incense or anthem to the skies,
But broods within his cell alone,
His faith and race alike unknown.
The sea from Paynim land he crost,
And here ascended from the coast;
Yet seems he not of Othman race,
But only Christian in his face:
I’d judge him some stray renegade,
Repentant of the change he made,
Save that he shuns our holy shrine,
Nor tastes the sacred bread and wine.
Great largess to these walls he brought,
And thus our abbot’s favour bought;
But were I prior, not a day
Should brook such stranger’s further stay,
Or pent within our penance cell
Should doom him there for aye to dwell.
Much in his visions mutters he
Of maiden whelmed beneath the sea;
Of sabres clashing, foemen flying,
Wrongs avenged, and Moslem dying.
On cliff he hath been known to stand,
And rave as to some bloody hand
Fresh severed from its parent limb,
Invisible to all but him,
Which beckons onward to his grave,
And lures to leap into the wave.'
Dark and unearthly is the scowl
That glares beneath his dusky cowl:
The flash of that dilating eye
Reveals too much of times gone by;
Though varying, indistinct its hue,
Oft will his glance the gazer rue,
For in it lurks that nameless spell,
Which speaks, itself unspeakable,
A spirit yet unquelled and high,
That claims and keeps ascendency;
And like the bird whose pinions quake,
But cannot fly the gazing snake,
Will others quail beneath his look,
Nor ‘scape the glance they scarce can brook.
From him the half-affrighted friar
When met alone would fain retire,
As if that eye and bitter smile
Transferred to others fear and guile:
Not oft to smile descendeth he,
And when he doth ’tis sad to see
That he but mocks at misery.
How that pale lip will curl and quiver!
Then fix once more as if for ever;
As if his sorrow or disdain
Forbade him e’er to smile again.
Well were it so - such ghastly mirth
From joyaunce ne’er derived its birth.
But sadder still it were to trace
What once were feelings in that face:
Time hath not yet the features fixed,
But brighter traits with evil mixed;
And there are hues not always faded,
Which speak a mind not all degraded
Even by the crimes through which it waded:
The common crowd but see the gloom
Of wayward deeds, and fitting doom;
The close observer can espy
A noble soul, and lineage high:
Alas! though both bestowed in vain,
Which grief could change, and guilt could stain,
It was no vulgar tenement
To which such lofty gifts were lent,
And still with little less than dread
On such the sight is riveted.
The roofless cot, decayed and rent,
Will scarce delay the passer-by;
The tower by war or tempest bent,
While yet may frown one battlement,
Demands and daunts the stranger’s eye;
Each ivied arch, and pillar lone,
Pleads haughtily for glories gone!
'His floating robe around him folding,
Slow sweeps he through the columned aisle;
With dread beheld, with gloom beholding
The rites that sanctify the pile.
But when the anthem shakes the choir,
And kneel the monks, his steps retire;
By yonder lone and wavering torch
His aspect glares within the porch;
There will he pause till all is done -
And hear the prayer, but utter none.
See - by the half-illumined wall
His hood fly back, his dark hair fall,
That pale brow wildly wreathing round,
As if the Gorgon there had bound
The sablest of the serpent-braid
That o’er her fearful forehead strayed:
For he declines the convent oath
And leaves those locks unhallowed growth,
But wears our garb in all beside;
And, not from piety but pride,
Gives wealth to walls that never heard
Of his one holy vow nor word.
Lo! - mark ye, as the harmony
Peals louder praises to the sky,
That livid cheek, that stony air
Of mixed defiance and despair!
Saint Francis, keep him from the shrine!
Else may we dread the wrath divine
Made manifest by awful sign.
If ever evil angel bore
The form of mortal, such he wore:
By all my hope of sins forgiven,
Such looks are not of earth nor heaven!'
To love the softest hearts are prone,
But such can ne’er be all his own;
Too timid in his woes to share,
Too meek to meet, or brave despair;
And sterner hearts alone may feel
The wound that time can never heal.
The rugged metal of the mine,
Must burn before its surface shine,
But plunged within the furnace-flame,
It bends and melts - though still the same;
Then tempered to thy want, or will,
'Twill serve thee to defend or kill;
A breast-plate for thine hour of need,
Or blade to bid thy foeman bleed;
But if a dagger’s form it bear,
Let those who shape its edge, beware!
Thus passion’s fire, and woman’s art,
Can turn and tame the sterner heart;
From these its form and tone are ta’en,
And what they make it, must remain,
But break - before it bend again.
If solitude succeed to grief,
Release from pain is slight relief;
The vacant bosom’s wilderness
Might thank the pang that made it less.
We loathe what none are left to share:
Even bliss - 'twere woe alone to bear;
The heart once left thus desolate
Must fly at last for ease - to hate.
It is as if the dead could feel
The icy worm around them steal,
And shudder, as the reptiles creep
To revel o’er their rotting sleep,
Without the power to scare away
The cold consumers of their clay I
It is as if the desert-bird,
Whose beak unlocks her bosom’s stream
To still her famished nestlings’ scream,
Nor mourns a life to them transferred,
Should rend her rash devoted breast,
And find them flown her empty nest.
The keenest pangs the wretched find
Are rapture to the dreary void,
The leafless desert of the mind,
The waste of feelings unemployed.
Who would be doomed to gaze upon
A sky without a cloud or sun?
Less hideous far the tempest’s roar
Than ne’er to brave the billows more -
Thrown, when the war of winds is o’er,
A lonely wreck on fortune’s shore,
‘Mid sullen calm, and silent bay,
Unseen to drop by dull decay; -
Better to sink beneath the shock
Than moulder piecemeal on the rock!
’Father! thy days have passed in peace,
'Mid counted beads, and countless prayer;
To bid the sins of others cease
Thyself without a crime or care,
Save transient ills that all must bear,
Has been thy lot from youth to age;
And thou wilt bless thee from the rage
Of passions fierce and uncontrolled,
Such as thy penitents unfold,
Whose secret sins and sorrows rest
Within thy pure and pitying breast.
My days, though few, have passed below
In much of joy, but more of woe;
Yet still in hours of love or strife,
I’ve 'scaped the weariness of life:
Now leagued with friends, now girt by foes,
I loathed the languor of repose.
Now nothing left to love or hate,
No more with hope or pride elate,
I’d rather be the thing that crawls
Most noxious o’er a dungeon’s walls,
Than pass my dull, unvarying days,
Condemned to meditate and gaze.
Yet, lurks a wish within my breast
For rest - but not to feel 'tis rest
Soon shall my fate that wish fulfil;
And I shall sleep without the dream
Of what I was, and would be still,
Dark as to thee my deeds may seem:
My memory now is but the tomb
Of joys long dead; my hope, their doom:
Though better to have died with those
Than bear a life of lingering woes.
My spirit shrunk not to sustain
The searching throes of ceaseless pain;
Nor sought the self-accorded grave
Of ancient fool and modern knave:
Yet death I have not feared to meet;
And the field it had been sweet,
Had danger wooed me on to move
The slave of glory, not of love.
I’ve braved it - not for honour’s boast;
I smile at laurels won or lost;
To such let others carve their way,
For high renown, or hireling pay:
But place again before my eyes
Aught that I deem a worthy prize
The maid I love, the man I hate,
And I will hunt the steps of fate,
To save or slay, as these require,
Through rending steel, and rolling fire:
Nor needest thou doubt this speech from one
Who would but do ~ what he hath done.
Death is but what the haughty brave,
The weak must bear, the wretch must crave;
Then let life go to him who gave:
I have not quailed to danger’s brow
When high and happy - need I now?
'I loved her, Friar! nay, adored -
But these are words that all can use -
I proved it more in deed than word;
There’s blood upon that dinted sword,
A stain its steel can never lose:
'Twas shed for her, who died for me,
It warmed the heart of one abhorred:
Nay, start not– no– nor bend thy knee,
Nor midst my sins such act record;
Thou wilt absolve me from the deed,
For he was hostile to thy creed!
The very name of Nazarene
Was wormwood to his Paynim spleen.
Ungrateful fool! since but for brands
Well wielded in some hardy hands,
And wounds by Galileans given -
The surest pass to Turkish heaven
For him his Houris still might wait
Impatient at the Prophet’s gate.
I loved her - love will find its way
Through paths where wolves would fear to prey;
And if it dares enough, ‘twere hard
If passion met not some reward -
No matter how, or where, or why,
I did not vainly seek, nor sigh:
Yet sometimes, with remorse, in vain
I wish she had not loved again.
She died - I dare not tell thee how;
But look - ’tis written on my brow!
There read of Cain the curse and crime,
In characters unworn by time:
Still, ere thou dost condemn me, pause;
Not mine the act, though I the cause.
Yet did he but what I had done
Had she been false to more than one.
Faithless to him, he gave the blow;
But true to me, I laid him low:
Howe’er deserved her doom might be,
Her treachery was truth to me;
To me she gave her heart, that all
Which tyranny can ne’er enthral;
And I, alas! too late to save!
Yet all I then could give, I gave,
'Twas some relief, our foe a grave.
His death sits lightly; but her fate
Has made me - what thou well mayest hate.
His doom was sealed - he knew it well
Warned by the voice of stern Taheer,
Deep in whose darkly boding ear
The deathshot pealed of murder near,
As filed the troop to where they fell!
He died too in the battle broil,
A time that heeds nor pain nor toil;
One cry to Mahomet for aid,
One prayer to Allah all he made:
He knew and crossed me in the fray -
I gazed upon him where he lay,
And watched his spirit ebb away:
Though pierced like pard by hunters’ steel,
He felt not half that now I feel.
I searched, but vainly searched, to find
The workings of a wounded mind;
Each feature of that sullen corse
Betrayed his rage, but no remorse.
Oh, what had vengeance given to trace
Despair upon his dying face I
The late repentance of that hour,
When penitence hath lost her power
To tear one terror from the grave,
And will not soothe, and cannot save.
'The cold in clime are cold in blood,
Their love can scarce deserve the name;
But mine was like a lava flood
That boils in Etna’s breast of flame.
I cannot prate in puling strain
Of ladye-love, and beauty’s chain:
If changing cheek, and searching vein,
Lips taught to writhe, but not complain,
If bursting heart, and maddening brain,
And daring deed, and vengeful steel,
And all that I have felt, and feel,
Betoken love - that love was mine,
And shown by many a bitter sign.
'Tis true, I could not whine nor sigh,
I knew but to obtain or die.
I die - but first I have possessed,
And come what may, I have been blessed.
Shall I the doom I sought upbraid?
No - reft of all, yet undismayed
But for the thought of Leila slain,
Give me the pleasure with the pain,
So would I live and love again.
I grieve, but not, my holy guide!
For him who dies, but her who died:
She sleeps beneath the wandering wave
Ah! had she but an earthly grave,
This breaking heart and throbbing head
Should seek and share her narrow bed.
She was a form of life and light,
That, seen, became a part of sight;
And rose, where’er I turned mine eye,
The morning-star of memory!
'Yes, love indeed is light from heaven..
A spark of that immortal fire
With angels shared, by Allah given,
To lift from earth our low desire.
Devotion wafts the mind above,
But Heaven itself descends in love;
A feeling from the Godhead caught,
To wean from self each sordid thought;
A ray of him who formed the whole;
A glory circling round the soul!
I grant my love imperfect, all
That mortals by the name miscall;
Then deem it evil, what thou wilt;
But say, oh say, hers was not guilt!
She was my life’s unerring light:
That quenched, what beam shall break my night?
Oh! would it shone to lead me still,
Although to death or deadliest ill!
Why marvel ye, if they who lose
This present joy, this future hope,
No more with sorrow meekly cope;
In phrensy then their fate accuse;
In madness do those fearful deeds
That seem to add but guilt to woe?
Alas! the breast that inly bleeds
Hath nought to dread from outward blow;
Who falls from all he knows of bliss,
Cares little into what abyss.
Fierce as the gloomy vulture’s now
To thee, old man, my deeds appear:
I read abhorrence on thy brow,
And this too was I born to bear!
‘Tis true, that, like that bird of prey,
With havock have I marked my way:
But this was taught me by the dove,
To die - and know no second love.
This lesson yet hath man to learn,
Taught by the thing he dares to spurn:
The bird that sings within the brake,
The swan that swims upon the lake,
One mate, and one alone, will take.
And let the fool still prone to range,
And sneer on all who cannot change,
Partake his jest with boasting boys;
I envy not his varied joys,
But deem such feeble, heartless man,
Less than yon solitary swan;
Far, far beneath the shallow maid
He left believing and betrayed.
Such shame at least was never mine -
Leila! each thought was only thine!
My good, my guilt, my weal, my woe,
My hope on high - my all below.
Earth holds no other like to thee,
Or, if it doth, in vain for me:
For worlds I dare not view the dame
Resembling thee, yet not the same.
The very crimes that mar my youth,
This bed of death - attest my truth!
’Tis all too late - thou wert, thou art
The cherished madness of my heart!
'And she was lost - and yet I breathed,
But not the breath of human life:
A serpent round my heart was wreathed,
And stung my every thought to strife.
Alike all time, abhorred all place,
Shuddering I shrunk from Nature’s face,
Where every hue that charmed before
The blackness of my bosom wore.
The rest thou dost already know,
And all my sins, and half my woe.
But talk no more of penitence;
Thou see’st I soon shall part from hence:
And if thy holy tale were true,
The deed that’s done canst thou undo?
Think me not thankless - but this grief
Looks not to priesthood for relief.
My soul’s estate in secret guess:
But wouldst thou pity more, say less.
When thou canst bid my Leila live,
Then will I sue thee to forgive;
Then plead my cause in that high place
Where purchased masses proffer grace.
Go, when the hunter’s hand hath wrung
From forest-cave her shrieking young,
And calm the lonely lioness:
But soothe not - mock not my distress!
'In earlier days, and calmer hours,
When heart with heart delights to blend,
Where bloom my native valley’s bowers
I had– Ah! have I now?– a friend!
To him this pledge I charge thee send,
Memorial of a youthful vow;
I would remind him of my end:
Though souls absorbed like mine allow
Brief thought to distant friendship’s claim,
Yet dear to him my blighted name.
'Tis strange - he prophesied my doom,
And I have smiled– I then could smile –
When prudence would his voice assume,
And warn– I recked not what– the while:
But now remembrance whispers o’er
Those accents scarcely marked before.
Say - that his bodings came to pass,
And he will start to hear their truth,
And wish his words had not been sooth:
Tell him, unheeding as I was,
Through many a busy bitter scene
Of all our golden youth had been,
In pain, my faltering tongue had tried
To bless his memory ere I died;
But Heaven in wrath would turn away,
If guilt should for the guiltless pray.
I do not ask him not to blame,
Too gentle he to wound my name;
And what have I to do with fame?
I do not ask him not to mourn,
Such cold request might sound like scorn;
And what than friendship’s manly tear
May better grace a brother’s bier?
But bear this ring, his own of old,
And tell him - what thou dost behold!
The withered frame, the ruined mind,
The wrack by passion left behind,
A shrivelled scroll, a scattered leaf,
Seared by the autumn blast of grief!
'Tell me no more of fancy’s gleam,
No, father, no, ‘twas not a dream;
Alas! the dreamer first must sleep.
I only watched, and wished to weep;
But could not, for my burning brow
Throbbed to the very brain as now:
I wished but for a single tear,
As something welcome, new, and dear–;
I wished it then, I wish it still;
Despair is stronger than my will.
Waste not thine orison, despair
Is mightier than thy pious prayer:
I would not if I might, be blest;
I want no paradise, but rest.
’Twas then, I tell thee, father! then
I saw her; yes, she lived again;
And shining in her white symar,
As through yon pale grey cloud the star
Which now I gaze on, as on her,
Who looked and looks far lovelier;
Dimly I view its trembling spark;
Tomorrow’s night shall be more dark;
And I, before its rays appear,
That lifeless thing the living fear.
I wander, father! for my soul
Is fleeting towards the final goal.
I saw her, friar! and I rose
Forgetful of our former woes;
And rushing from my couch, I dart,
And clasp her to my desperate heart;
I clasp - what is it that I clasp?
No breathing form within my grasp,
No heart that beats reply to mine,
Yet, Leila! yet the form is thine!
And art thou, dearest, changed so much,
As meet my eye, yet mock my touch?
Ah! were thy beauties e’er so cold,
I care not; so my arms enfold
The all they ever wished to hold.
Alas! around a shadow prest,
They shrink upon my lonely breast;
Yet still ‘tis there! In silence stands,
And beckons with beseeching hands!
With braided hair, and bright black eye -
I knew ’twas false - she could not die!
But he is dead! within the dell
I saw him buried where he fell;
He comes not, for he cannot break
From earth; why then art thou awake?
They told me wild waves rolled above
The face I view, the form I love;
They told me - 'twas a hideous tale I
I’d tell it, but my tongue would fail:
If true, and from thine ocean-cave
Thou com’st to claim a calmer grave;
Oh! pass thy dewy fingers o’er
This brow that then will burn no more;
Or place them on my hopeless heart:
But, shape or shade! whate’er thou art,
In mercy ne’er again depart!
Or farther with thee bear my soul
Than winds can waft or waters roll!
‘Such is my name, and such my tale.
Confessor! to thy secret ear
I breathe the sorrows I bewail,
And thank thee for the generous tear
This glazing eye could never shed.
Then lay me with the humblest dead,
And, save the cross above my head,
Be neither name nor emblem spread,
By prying stranger to be read,
Or stay the passing pilgrims tread.’
He passed - nor of his name and race
Hath left a token or a trace,
Save what the father must not say
Who shrived him on his dying day:
This broken tale was all we knew
Of her he loved, or him he slew.
Nothing so difficult as a beginning
In poesy, unless perhaps the end;
For oftentimes when Pegasus seems winning
The race, he sprains a wing, and down we tend,
Like Lucifer when hurl’d from heaven for sinning;
Our sin the same, and hard as his to mend,
Being pride, which leads the mind to soar too far,
Till our own weakness shows us what we are.
But Time, which brings all beings to their level,
And sharp Adversity, will teach at last
Man,—and, as we would hope,—perhaps the devil,
That neither of their intellects are vast:
While youth’s hot wishes in our red veins revel,
We know not this– the blood flows on too fast;
But as the torrent widens towards the ocean,
We ponder deeply on each past emotion.
As boy, I thought myself a clever fellow,
And wish’d that others held the same opinion;
They took it up when my days grew more mellow,
And other minds acknowledged my dominion:
Now my sere fancy ‘falls into the yellow
Leaf,’ and Imagination droops her pinion,
And the sad truth which hovers o’er my desk
Turns what was once romantic to burlesque.
And if I laugh at any mortal thing,
‘T is that I may not weep; and if I weep,
’T is that our nature cannot always bring
Itself to apathy, for we must steep
Our hearts first in the depths of Lethe’s spring,
Ere what we least wish to behold will sleep:
Thetis baptized her mortal son in Styx;
A mortal mother would on Lethe fix.
Some have accused me of a strange design
Against the creed and morals of the land,
And trace it in this poem every line:
I don’t pretend that I quite understand
My own meaning when I would be very fine;
But the fact is that I have nothing plann’d,
Unless it were to be a moment merry,
A novel word in my vocabulary.
To the kind reader of our sober clime
This way of writing will appear exotic;
Pulci was sire of the half-serious rhyme,
Who sang when chivalry was more Quixotic,
And revell’d in the fancies of the time,
True knights, chaste dames, huge giants, kings despotic:
But all these, save the last, being obsolete,
I chose a modern subject as more meet.
How I have treated it, I do not know;
Perhaps no better than they have treated me
Who have imputed such designs as show
Not what they saw, but what they wish’d to see:
But if it gives them pleasure, be it so;
This is a liberal age, and thoughts are free:
Meantime Apollo plucks me by the ear,
And tells me to resume my story here.
Young Juan and his lady-love were left
To their own hearts’ most sweet society;
Even Time the pitiless in sorrow cleft
With his rude scythe such gentle bosoms; he
Sigh’d to behold them of their hours bereft,
Though foe to love; and yet they could not be
Meant to grow old, but die in happy spring,
Before one charm or hope had taken wing.
Their faces were not made for wrinkles, their
Pure blood to stagnate, their great hearts to fail;
The blank grey was not made to blast their hair,
But like the climes that know nor snow nor hail
They were all summer: lightning might assail
And shiver them to ashes, but to trail
A long and snake-like life of dull decay
Was not for them– they had too little day.
They were alone once more; for them to be
Thus was another Eden; they were never
Weary, unless when separate: the tree
Cut from its forest root of years– the river
Damm’d from its fountain– the child from the knee
And breast maternal wean’d at once for ever,-
Would wither less than these two torn apart;
Alas! there is no instinct like the heart–
The heart– which may be broken: happy they!
Thrice fortunate! who of that fragile mould,
The precious porcelain of human clay,
Break with the first fall: they can ne’er behold
The long year link’d with heavy day on day,
And all which must be borne, and never told;
While life’s strange principle will often lie
Deepest in those who long the most to die.
‘Whom the gods love die young,’ was said of yore,
And many deaths do they escape by this:
The death of friends, and that which slays even more–
The death of friendship, love, youth, all that is,
Except mere breath; and since the silent shore
Awaits at last even those who longest miss
The old archer’s shafts, perhaps the early grave
Which men weep over may be meant to save.
Haidee and Juan thought not of the dead–
The heavens, and earth, and air, seem’d made for them:
They found no fault with Time, save that he fled;
They saw not in themselves aught to condemn:
Each was the other’s mirror, and but read
Joy sparkling in their dark eyes like a gem,
And knew such brightness was but the reflection
Of their exchanging glances of affection.
The gentle pressure, and the thrilling touch,
The least glance better understood than words,
Which still said all, and ne’er could say too much;
A language, too, but like to that of birds,
Known but to them, at least appearing such
As but to lovers a true sense affords;
Sweet playful phrases, which would seem absurd
To those who have ceased to hear such, or ne’er heard,-
All these were theirs, for they were children still,
And children still they should have ever been;
They were not made in the real world to fill
A busy character in the dull scene,
But like two beings born from out a rill,
A nymph and her beloved, all unseen
To pass their lives in fountains and on flowers,
And never know the weight of human hours.
Moons changing had roll’d on, and changeless found
Those their bright rise had lighted to such joys
As rarely they beheld throughout their round;
And these were not of the vain kind which cloys,
For theirs were buoyant spirits, never bound
By the mere senses; and that which destroys
Most love, possession, unto them appear’d
A thing which each endearment more endear’d.
Oh beautiful! and rare as beautiful
But theirs was love in which the mind delights
To lose itself when the old world grows dull,
And we are sick of its hack sounds and sights,
Intrigues, adventures of the common school,
Its petty passions, marriages, and flights,
Where Hymen’s torch but brands one strumpet more,
Whose husband only knows her not a wh– re.
Hard words; harsh truth; a truth which many know.
Enough.- The faithful and the fairy pair,
Who never found a single hour too slow,
What was it made them thus exempt from care?
Young innate feelings all have felt below,
Which perish in the rest, but in them were
Inherent– what we mortals call romantic,
And always envy, though we deem it frantic.
This is in others a factitious state,
An opium dream of too much youth and reading,
But was in them their nature or their fate:
No novels e’er had set their young hearts bleeding,
For Haidee’s knowledge was by no means great,
And Juan was a boy of saintly breeding;
So that there was no reason for their loves
More than for those of nightingales or doves.
They gazed upon the sunset; 't is an hour
Dear unto all, but dearest to their eyes,
For it had made them what they were: the power
Of love had first o’erwhelm’d them from such skies,
When happiness had been their only dower,
And twilight saw them link’d in passion’s ties;
Charm’d with each other, all things charm’d that brought
The past still welcome as the present thought.
I know not why, but in that hour to-night,
Even as they gazed, a sudden tremor came,
And swept, as 't were, across their hearts’ delight,
Like the wind o’er a harp-string, or a flame,
When one is shook in sound, and one in sight;
And thus some boding flash’d through either frame,
And call’d from Juan’s breast a faint low sigh,
While one new tear arose in Haidee’s eye.
That large black prophet eye seem’d to dilate
And follow far the disappearing sun,
As if their last day! of a happy date
With his broad, bright, and dropping orb were gone;
Juan gazed on her as to ask his fate–
He felt a grief, but knowing cause for none,
His glance inquired of hers for some excuse
For feelings causeless, or at least abstruse.
She turn’d to him, and smiled, but in that sort
Which makes not others smile; then turn’d aside:
Whatever feeling shook her, it seem’d short,
And master’d by her wisdom or her pride;
When Juan spoke, too—it might be in sport—
Of this their mutual feeling, she replied–
‘If it should be so,- but—it cannot be—
Or I at least shall not survive to see.’
Juan would question further, but she press’d
His lip to hers, and silenced him with this,
And then dismiss’d the omen from her breast,
Defying augury with that fond kiss;
And no doubt of all methods ‘t is the best:
Some people prefer wine– ’t is not amiss;
I have tried both; so those who would a part take
May choose between the headache and the heartache.
One of the two, according to your choice,
Woman or wine, you 'll have to undergo;
Both maladies are taxes on our joys:
But which to choose, I really hardly know;
And if I had to give a casting voice,
For both sides I could many reasons show,
And then decide, without great wrong to either,
It were much better to have both than neither.
Juan and Haidee gazed upon each other
With swimming looks of speechless tenderness,
Which mix’d all feelings, friend, child, lover, brother,
All that the best can mingle and express
When two pure hearts are pour’d in one another,
And love too much, and yet can not love less;
But almost sanctify the sweet excess
By the immortal wish and power to bless.
Mix’d in each other’s arms, and heart in heart,
Why did they not then die?- they had lived too long
Should an hour come to bid them breathe apart;
Years could but bring them cruel things or wrong;
The world was not for them, nor the world’s art
For beings passionate as Sappho’s song;
Love was born with them, in them, so intense,
It was their very spirit– not a sense.
They should have lived together deep in woods,
Unseen as sings the nightingale; they were
Unfit to mix in these thick solitudes
Call’d social, haunts of Hate, and Vice, and Care:
How lonely every freeborn creature broods!
The sweetest song-birds nestle in a pair;
The eagle soars alone; the gull and crow
Flock o’er their carrion, just like men below.
Now pillow’d cheek to cheek, in loving sleep,
Haidee and Juan their siesta took,
A gentle slumber, but it was not deep,
For ever and anon a something shook
Juan, and shuddering o’er his frame would creep;
And Haidee’s sweet lips murmur’d like a brook
A wordless music, and her face so fair
Stirr’d with her dream, as rose-leaves with the air.
Or as the stirring of a deep dear stream
Within an Alpine hollow, when the wind
Walks o’er it, was she shaken by the dream,
The mystical usurper of the mind–
O’erpowering us to be whate’er may seem
Good to the soul which we no more can bind;
Strange state of being! (for 't is still to be)
Senseless to feel, and with seal’d eyes to see.
She dream’d of being alone on the sea-shore,
Chain’d to a rock; she knew not how, but stir
She could not from the spot, and the loud roar
Grew, and each wave rose roughly, threatening her;
And o’er her upper lip they seem’d to pour,
Until she sobb’d for breath, and soon they were
Foaming o’er her lone head, so fierce and high–
Each broke to drown her, yet she could not die.
Anon– she was released, and then she stray’d
O’er the sharp shingles with her bleeding feet,
And stumbled almost every step she made;
And something roll’d before her in a sheet,
Which she must still pursue howe’er afraid:
'T was white and indistinct, nor stopp’d to meet
Her glance nor grasp, for still she gazed, and grasp’d,
And ran, but it escaped her as she clasp’d.
The dream changed:- in a cave she stood, its walls
Were hung with marble icicles, the work
Of ages on its water-fretted halls,
Where waves might wash, and seals might breed and lurk;
Her hair was dripping, and the very balls
Of her black eyes seem’d turn’d to tears, and mirk
The sharp rocks look’d below each drop they caught,
Which froze to marble as it fell,- she thought.
And wet, and cold, and lifeless at her feet,
Pale as the foam that froth’d on his dead brow,
Which she essay’d in vain to clear (how sweet
Were once her cares, how idle seem’d they now!),
Lay Juan, nor could aught renew the beat
Of his quench’d heart; and the sea dirges low
Rang in her sad ears like a mermaid’s song,
And that brief dream appear’d a life too long.
And gazing on the dead, she thought his face
Faded, or alter’d into something new–
Like to her father’s features, till each trace–
More like and like to Lambro’s aspect grew–
With all his keen worn look and Grecian grace;
And starting, she awoke, and what to view?
Oh! Powers of Heaven! what dark eye meets she there?
‘T is– ’t is her father’s– fix’d upon the pair!
Then shrieking, she arose, and shrieking fell,
With joy and sorrow, hope and fear, to see
Him whom she deem’d a habitant where dwell
The ocean-buried, risen from death, to be
Perchance the death of one she loved too well:
Dear as her father had been to Haidee,
It was a moment of that awful kind–
I have seen such—but must not call to mind.
Up Juan sprung to Haidee’s bitter shriek,
And caught her falling, and from off the wall
Snatch’d down his sabre, in hot haste to wreak
Vengeance on him who was the cause of all:
Then Lambro, who till now forbore to speak,
Smiled scornfully, and said, ‘Within my call,
A thousand scimitars await the word;
Put up, young man, put up your silly sword.’
And Haidee clung around him; ‘Juan, ’t is–
‘T is Lambro– ’t is my father! Kneel with me–
He will forgive us– yes– it must be– yes.
Oh! dearest father, in this agony
Of pleasure and of pain– even while I kiss
Thy garment’s hem with transport, can it be
That doubt should mingle with my filial joy?
Deal with me as thou wilt, but spare this boy.'
High and inscrutable the old man stood,
Calm in his voice, and calm within his eye–
Not always signs with him of calmest mood:
He look’d upon her, but gave no reply;
Then turn’d to Juan, in whose cheek the blood
Oft came and went, as there resolved to die;
In arms, at least, he stood, in act to spring
On the first foe whom Lambro’s call might bring.
‘Young man, your sword;’ so Lambro once more said:
Juan replied, ‘Not while this arm is free.’
The old man’s cheek grew pale, but not with dread,
And drawing from his belt a pistol, he
Replied, ‘Your blood be then on your own head.’
Then look’d dose at the flint, as if to see
'T was fresh—for he had lately used the lock—
And next proceeded quietly to cock.
It has a strange quick jar upon the ear,
That cocking of a pistol, when you know
A moment more will bring the sight to bear
Upon your person, twelve yards off, or so;
A gentlemanly distance, not too near,
If you have got a former friend for foe;
But after being fired at once or twice,
The ear becomes more Irish, and less nice.
Lambro presented, and one instant more
Had stopp’d this Canto, and Don Juan’s breath,
When Haidee threw herself her boy before;
Stern as her sire: ‘On me,’ she cried, 'let death
Descend– the fault is mine; this fatal shore
He found– but sought not. I have pledged my faith;
I love him– I will die with him: I knew
Your nature’s firmness– know your daughter’s too.'
A minute past, and she had been all tears,
And tenderness, and infancy; but now
She stood as one who champion’d human fears–
Pale, statue-like, and stern, she woo’d the blow;
And tall beyond her sex, and their compeers,
She drew up to her height, as if to show
A fairer mark; and with a fix’d eye scann’d
Her father’s face– but never stopp’d his hand.
He gazed on her, and she on him; 't was strange
How like they look’d! the expression was the same;
Serenely savage, with a little change
In the large dark eye’s mutual-darted flame;
For she, too, was as one who could avenge,
If cause should be– a lioness, though tame.
Her father’s blood before her father’s face
Boil’d up, and proved her truly of his race.
I said they were alike, their features and
Their stature, differing but in sex and years;
Even to the delicacy of their hand
There was resemblance, such as true blood wears;
And now to see them, thus divided, stand
In fix’d ferocity, when joyous tears
And sweet sensations should have welcomed both,
Show what the passions are in their full growth.
The father paused a moment, then withdrew
His weapon, and replaced it; but stood still,
And looking on her, as to look her through,
‘Not I,’ he said, 'have sought this stranger’s ill;
Not I have made this desolation: few
Would bear such outrage, and forbear to kill;
But I must do my duty– how thou hast
Done thine, the present vouches for the past.
'Let him disarm; or, by my father’s head,
His own shall roll before you like a ball!'
He raised his whistle, as the word he said,
And blew; another answer’d to the call,
And rushing in disorderly, though led,
And arm’d from boot to turban, one and all,
Some twenty of his train came, rank on rank;
He gave the word,- ‘Arrest or slay the Frank.’
Then, with a sudden movement, he withdrew
His daughter; while compress’d within his clasp,
'Twixt her and Juan interposed the crew;
In vain she struggled in her father’s grasp–
His arms were like a serpent’s coil: then flew
Upon their prey, as darts an angry asp,
The file of pirates; save the foremost, who
Had fallen, with his right shoulder half cut through.
The second had his cheek laid open; but
The third, a wary, cool old sworder, took
The blows upon his cutlass, and then put
His own well in; so well, ere you could look,
His man was floor’d, and helpless at his foot,
With the blood running like a little brook
From two smart sabre gashes, deep and red–
One on the arm, the other on the head.
And then they bound him where he fell, and bore
Juan from the apartment: with a sign
Old Lambro bade them take him to the shore,
Where lay some ships which were to sail at nine.
They laid him in a boat, and plied the oar
Until they reach’d some galliots, placed in line;
On board of one of these, and under hatches,
They stow’d him, with strict orders to the watches.
The world is full of strange vicissitudes,
And here was one exceedingly unpleasant:
A gentleman so rich in the world’s goods,
Handsome and young, enjoying all the present,
Just at the very time when he least broods
On such a thing is suddenly to sea sent,
Wounded and chain’d, so that he cannot move,
And all because a lady fell in love.
Here I must leave him, for I grow pathetic,
Moved by the Chinese nymph of tears, green tea!
Than whom Cassandra was not more prophetic;
For if my pure libations exceed three,
I feel my heart become so sympathetic,
That I must have recourse to black Bohea:
'T is pity wine should be so deleterious,
For tea and coffee leave us much more serious,
Unless when qualified with thee, Cogniac!
Sweet Naiad of the Phlegethontic rill!
Ah! why the liver wilt thou thus attack,
And make, like other nymphs, thy lovers ill?
I would take refuge in weak punch, but rack
(In each sense of the word), whene’er I fill
My mild and midnight beakers to the brim,
Wakes me next morning with its synonym.
I leave Don Juan for the present, safe–
Not sound, poor fellow, but severely wounded;
Yet could his corporal pangs amount to half
Of those with which his Haidee’s bosom bounded?
She was not one to weep, and rave, and chafe,
And then give way, subdued because surrounded;
Her mother was a Moorish maid, from Fez,
Where all is Eden, or a wilderness.
There the large olive rains its amber store
In marble fonts; there grain, and flower, and fruit,
Gush from the earth until the land runs o’er;
But there, too, many a poison-tree has root,
And midnight listens to the lion’s roar,
And long, long deserts scorch the camel’s foot,
Or heaving whelm the helpless caravan;
And as the soil is, so the heart of man.
Afric is all the sun’s, and as her earth
Her human day is kindled; full of power
For good or evil, burning from its birth,
The Moorish blood partakes the planet’s hour,
And like the soil beneath it will bring forth:
Beauty and love were Haidee’s mother’s dower;
But her large dark eye show’d deep Passion’s force,
Though sleeping like a lion near a source.
Her daughter, temper’d with a milder ray,
Like summer clouds all silvery, smooth, and fair,
Till slowly charged with thunder they display
Terror to earth, and tempest to the air,
Had held till now her soft and milky way;
But overwrought with passion and despair,
The fire burst forth from her Numidian veins,
Even as the Simoom sweeps the blasted plains.
The last sight which she saw was Juan’s gore,
And he himself o’ermaster’d and cut down;
His blood was running on the very floor
Where late he trod, her beautiful, her own;
Thus much she view’d an instant and no more,-
Her struggles ceased with one convulsive groan;
On her sire’s arm, which until now scarce held
Her writhing, fell she like a cedar fell’d.
A vein had burst, and her sweet lips’ pure dyes
Were dabbled with the deep blood which ran o’er;
And her head droop’d as when the lily lies
O’ercharged with rain: her summon’d handmaids bore
Their lady to her couch with gushing eyes;
Of herbs and cordials they produced their store,
But she defied all means they could employ,
Like one life could not hold, nor death destroy.
Days lay she in that state unchanged, though chill–
With nothing livid, still her lips were red;
She had no pulse, but death seem’d absent still;
No hideous sign proclaim’d her surely dead;
Corruption came not in each mind to kill
All hope; to look upon her sweet face bred
New thoughts of life, for it seem’d full of soul–
She had so much, earth could not claim the whole.
The ruling passion, such as marble shows
When exquisitely chisell’d, still lay there,
But fix’d as marble’s unchanged aspect throws
O’er the fair Venus, but for ever fair;
O’er the Laocoon’s all eternal throes,
And ever-dying Gladiator’s air,
Their energy like life forms all their fame,
Yet looks not life, for they are still the same.
She woke at length, but not as sleepers wake,
Rather the dead, for life seem’d something new,
A strange sensation which she must partake
Perforce, since whatsoever met her view
Struck not on memory, though a heavy ache
Lay at her heart, whose earliest beat still true
Brought back the sense of pain without the cause,
For, for a while, the furies made a pause.
She look’d on many a face with vacant eye,
On many a token without knowing what;
She saw them watch her without asking why,
And reck’d not who around her pillow sat;
Not speechless, though she spoke not; not a sigh
Relieved her thoughts; dull silence and quick chat
Were tried in vain by those who served; she gave
No sign, save breath, of having left the grave.
Her handmaids tended, but she heeded not;
Her father watch’d, she turn’d her eyes away;
She recognized no being, and no spot,
However dear or cherish’d in their day;
They changed from room to room—but all forgot—
Gentle, but without memory she lay;
At length those eyes, which they would fain be weaning
Back to old thoughts, wax’d full of fearful meaning.
And then a slave bethought her of a harp;
The harper came, and tuned his instrument;
At the first notes, irregular and sharp,
On him her flashing eyes a moment bent,
Then to the wall she turn’d as if to warp
Her thoughts from sorrow through her heart re-sent;
And he begun a long low island song
Of ancient days, ere tyranny grew strong.
Anon her thin wan fingers beat the wall
In time to his old tune; he changed the theme,
And sung of love; the fierce name struck through all
Her recollection; on her flash’d the dream
Of what she was, and is, if ye could call
To be so being; in a gushing stream
The tears rush’d forth from her o’erclouded brain,
Like mountain mists at length dissolved in rain.
Short solace, vain relief!- thought came too quick,
And whirl’d her brain to madness; she arose
As one who ne’er had dwelt among the sick,
And flew at all she met, as on her foes;
But no one ever heard her speak or shriek,
Although her paroxysm drew towards its dose;-
Hers was a phrensy which disdain’d to rave,
Even when they smote her, in the hope to save.
Yet she betray’d at times a gleam of sense;
Nothing could make her meet her father’s face,
Though on all other things with looks intense
She gazed, but none she ever could retrace;
Food she refused, and raiment; no pretence
Avail’d for either; neither change of place,
Nor time, nor skill, nor remedy, could give her
Senses to sleep– the power seem’d gone for ever.
Twelve days and nights she wither’d thus; at last,
Without a groan, or sigh, or glance, to show
A parting pang, the spirit from her past:
And they who watch’d her nearest could not know
The very instant, till the change that cast
Her sweet face into shadow, dull and slow,
Glazed o’er her eyes—the beautiful, the black—
Oh! to possess such lustre– and then lack!
She died, but not alone; she held within
A second principle of life, which might
Have dawn’d a fair and sinless child of sin;
But closed its little being without light,
And went down to the grave unborn, wherein
Blossom and bough lie wither’d with one blight;
In vain the dews of Heaven descend above
The bleeding flower and blasted fruit of love.
Thus lived– thus died she; never more on her
Shall sorrow light, or shame. She was not made
Through years or moons the inner weight to bear,
Which colder hearts endure till they are laid
By age in earth: her days and pleasures were
Brief, but delightful– such as had not staid
Long with her destiny; but she sleeps well
By the sea-shore, whereon she loved to dwell.
That isle is now all desolate and bare,
Its dwellings down, its tenants pass’d away;
None but her own and father’s grave is there,
And nothing outward tells of human clay;
Ye could not know where lies a thing so fair,
No stone is there to show, no tongue to say
What was; no dirge, except the hollow sea’s,
Mourns o’er the beauty of the Cyclades.
But many a Greek maid in a loving song
Sighs o’er her name; and many an islander
With her sire’s story makes the night less long;
Valour was his, and beauty dwelt with her:
If she loved rashly, her life paid for wrong–
A heavy price must all pay who thus err,
In some shape; let none think to fly the danger,
For soon or late Love is his own avenger.
But let me change this theme which grows too sad,
And lay this sheet of sorrows on the shelf;
I don’t much like describing people mad,
For fear of seeming rather touch’d myself–
Besides, I ‘ve no more on this head to add;
And as my Muse is a capricious elf,
We ’ll put about, and try another tack
With Juan, left half-kill’d some stanzas back.
Wounded and fetter’d, 'cabin’d, cribb’d, confined,'
Some days and nights elapsed before that he
Could altogether call the past to mind;
And when he did, he found himself at sea,
Sailing six knots an hour before the wind;
The shores of Ilion lay beneath their lee–
Another time he might have liked to see 'em,
But now was not much pleased with Cape Sigaeum.
There, on the green and village-cotted hill, is
(Flank’d by the Hellespont and by the sea)
Entomb’d the bravest of the brave, Achilles;
They say so (Bryant says the contrary):
And further downward, tall and towering still, is
The tumulus– of whom? Heaven knows! 't may be
Patroclus, Ajax, or Protesilaus–
All heroes, who if living still would slay us.
High barrows, without marble or a name,
A vast, untill’d, and mountain-skirted plain,
And Ida in the distance, still the same,
And old Scamander (if 't is he) remain;
The situation seems still form’d for fame–
A hundred thousand men might fight again
With case; but where I sought for Ilion’s walls,
The quiet sheep feeds, and the tortoise crawls;
Troops of untended horses; here and there
Some little hamlets, with new names uncouth;
Some shepherds (unlike Paris) led to stare
A moment at the European youth
Whom to the spot their school-boy feelings bear;
A turk, with beads in hand and pipe in mouth,
Extremely taken with his own religion,
Are what I found there– but the devil a Phrygian.
Don Juan, here permitted to emerge
From his dull cabin, found himself a slave;
Forlorn, and gazing on the deep blue surge,
O’ershadow’d there by many a hero’s grave;
Weak still with loss of blood, he scarce could urge
A few brief questions; and the answers gave
No very satisfactory information
About his past or present situation.
He saw some fellow captives, who appear’d
To be Italians, as they were in fact;
From them, at least, their destiny he heard,
Which was an odd one; a troop going to act
In Sicily (all singers, duly rear’d
In their vocation) had not been attack’d
In sailing from Livorno by the pirate,
But sold by the impresario at no high rate.
By one of these, the buffo of the party,
Juan was told about their curious case;
For although destined to the Turkish mart, he
Still kept his spirits up– at least his face;
The little fellow really look’d quite hearty,
And bore him with some gaiety and grace,
Showing a much more reconciled demeanour,
Than did the prima donna and the tenor.
In a few words he told their hapless story,
Saying, 'Our Machiavellian impresario,
Making a signal off some promontory,
Hail’d a strange brig– Corpo di Caio Mario!
We were transferr’d on board her in a hurry,
Without a Single scudo of salario;
But if the Sultan has a taste for song,
We will revive our fortunes before long.
'The prima donna, though a little old,
And haggard with a dissipated life,
And subject, when the house is thin, to cold,
Has some good notes; and then the tenor’s wife,
With no great voice, is pleasing to behold;
Last carnival she made a deal of strife
By carrying off Count Cesare Cicogna
From an old Roman princess at Bologna.
‘And then there are the dancers; there ’s the Nini,
With more than one profession, gains by all;
Then there ‘s that laughing slut the Pelegrini,
She, too, was fortunate last carnival,
And made at least five hundred good zecchini,
But spends so fast, she has not now a paul;
And then there ’s the Grotesca– such a dancer!
Where men have souls or bodies she must answer.
‘As for the figuranti, they are like
The rest of all that tribe; with here and there
A pretty person, which perhaps may strike,
The rest are hardly fitted for a fair;
There ’s one, though tall and stiffer than a pike,
Yet has a sentimental kind of air
Which might go far, but she don’t dance with vigour;
The more ‘s the pity, with her face and figure.
’As for the men, they are a middling set;
The musico is but a crack’d old basin,
But being qualified in one way yet,
May the seraglio do to set his face in,
And as a servant some preferment get;
His singing I no further trust can place in:
From all the Pope makes yearly ‘t would perplex
To find three perfect pipes of the third sex.
’The tenor’s voice is spoilt by affectation,
And for the bass, the beast can only bellow;
In fact, he had no singing education,
An ignorant, noteless, timeless, tuneless fellow;
But being the prima donna’s near relation,
Who swore his voice was very rich and mellow,
They hired him, though to hear him you ‘d believe
An ass was practising recitative.
’T would not become myself to dwell upon
My own merits, and though young—I see, Sir—you
Have got a travell’d air, which speaks you one
To whom the opera is by no means new:
You ‘ve heard of Raucocanti?- I ’m the man;
The time may come when you may hear me too;
You was not last year at the fair of Lugo,
But next, when I ‘m engaged to sing there– do go.
’Our baritone I almost had forgot,
A pretty lad, but bursting with conceit;
With graceful action, science not a jot,
A voice of no great compass, and not sweet,
He always is complaining of his lot,
Forsooth, scarce fit for ballads in the street;
In lovers’ parts his passion more to breathe,
Having no heart to show, he shows his teeth.'
Here Raucocanti’s eloquent recital
Was interrupted by the pirate crew,
Who came at stated moments to invite all
The captives back to their sad berths; each threw
A rueful glance upon the waves (which bright all
From the blue skies derived a double blue,
Dancing all free and happy in the sun),
And then went down the hatchway one by one.
They heard next day– that in the Dardanelles,
Waiting for his Sublimity’s firman,
The most imperative of sovereign spells,
Which every body does without who can,
More to secure them in their naval cells,
Lady to lady, well as man to man,
Were to be chain’d and lotted out per couple,
For the slave market of Constantinople.
It seems when this allotment was made out,
There chanced to be an odd male, and odd female,
Who (after some discussion and some doubt,
If the soprano might be deem’d to be male,
They placed him o’er the women as a scout)
Were link’d together, and it happen’d the male
Was Juan,- who, an awkward thing at his age,
Pair’d off with a Bacchante blooming visage.
With Raucocanti lucklessly was chain’d
The tenor; these two hated with a hate
Found only on the stage, and each more pain’d
With this his tuneful neighbour than his fate;
Sad strife arose, for they were so cross-grain’d,
Instead of bearing up without debate,
That each pull’d different ways with many an oath,
‘Arcades ambo,’ id est– blackguards both.
Juan’s companion was a Romagnole,
But bred within the March of old Ancona,
With eyes that look’d into the very soul
(And other chief points of a 'bella donna’),
Bright– and as black and burning as a coal;
And through her dear brunette complexion shone
Great wish to please– a most attractive dower,
Especially when added to the power.
But all that power was wasted upon him,
For sorrow o’er each sense held stern command;
Her eye might flash on his, but found it dim;
And though thus chain’d, as natural her hand
Touch’d his, nor that– nor any handsome limb
(And she had some not easy to withstand)
Could stir his pulse, or make his faith feel brittle;
Perhaps his recent wounds might help a little.
No matter; we should ne’er too much enquire,
But facts are facts: no knight could be more true,
And firmer faith no ladye-love desire;
We will omit the proofs, save one or two:
‘T is said no one in hand ’can hold a fire
By thought of frosty Caucasus;' but few,
I really think; yet Juan’s then ordeal
Was more triumphant, and not much less real.
Here I might enter on a chaste description,
Having withstood temptation in my youth,
But hear that several people take exception
At the first two books having too much truth;
Therefore I 'll make Don Juan leave the ship soon,
Because the publisher declares, in sooth,
Through needles’ eyes it easier for the camel is
To pass, than those two cantos into families.
‘T is all the same to me; I ’m fond of yielding,
And therefore leave them to the purer page
Of Smollett, Prior, Ariosto, Fielding,
Who say strange things for so correct an age;
I once had great alacrity in wielding
My pen, and liked poetic war to wage,
And recollect the time when all this cant
Would have provoked remarks which now it shan’t.
As boys love rows, my boyhood liked a squabble;
But at this hour I wish to part in peace,
Leaving such to the literary rabble:
Whether my verse’s fame be doom’d to cease
While the right hand which wrote it still is able,
Or of some centuries to take a lease,
The grass upon my grave will grow as long,
And sigh to midnight winds, but not to song.
Of poets who come down to us through distance
Of time and tongues, the foster-babes of Fame,
Life seems the smallest portion of existence;
Where twenty ages gather o’er a name,
‘T is as a snowball which derives assistance
From every flake, and yet rolls on the same,
Even till an iceberg it may chance to grow;
But, after all, ’t is nothing but cold snow.
And so great names are nothing more than nominal,
And love of glory ‘s but an airy lust,
Too often in its fury overcoming all
Who would as ’t were identify their dust
From out the wide destruction, which, entombing all,
Leaves nothing till 'the coming of the just’-
Save change: I 've stood upon Achilles’ tomb,
And heard Troy doubted; time will doubt of Rome.
The very generations of the dead
Are swept away, and tomb inherits tomb,
Until the memory of an age is fled,
And, buried, sinks beneath its offspring’s doom:
Where are the epitaphs our fathers read?
Save a few glean’d from the sepulchral gloom
Which once-named myriads nameless lie beneath,
And lose their own in universal death.
I canter by the spot each afternoon
Where perish’d in his fame the hero-boy,
Who lived too long for men, but died too soon
For human vanity, the young De Foix!
A broken pillar, not uncouthly hewn,
But which neglect is hastening to destroy,
Records Ravenna’s carnage on its face,
While weeds and ordure rankle round the base.
I pass each day where Dante’s bones are laid:
A little cupola, more neat than solemn,
Protects his dust, but reverence here is paid
To the bard’s tomb, and not the warrior’s column.
The time must come, when both alike decay’d,
The chieftain’s trophy, and the poet’s volume,
Will sink where lie the songs and wars of earth,
Before Pelides’ death, or Homer’s birth.
With human blood that column was cemented,
With human filth that column is defiled,
As if the peasant’s coarse contempt were vented
To show his loathing of the spot he soil’d:
Thus is the trophy used, and thus lamented
Should ever be those blood-hounds, from whose wild
Instinct of gore and glory earth has known
Those sufferings Dante saw in hell alone.
Yet there will still be bards: though fame is smoke,
Its fumes are frankincense to human thought;
And the unquiet feelings, which first woke
Song in the world, will seek what then they sought;
As on the beach the waves at last are broke,
Thus to their extreme verge the passions brought
Dash into poetry, which is but passion,
Or at least was so ere it grew a fashion.
If in the course of such a life as was
At once adventurous and contemplative,
Men, who partake all passions as they pass,
Acquire the deep and bitter power to give
Their images again as in a glass,
And in such colours that they seem to live;
You may do right forbidding them to show 'em,
But spoil (I think) a very pretty poem.
Oh! ye, who make the fortunes of all books!
Benign Ceruleans of the second sex!
Who advertise new poems by your looks,
Your 'imprimatur’ will ye not annex?
What! must I go to the oblivious cooks,
Those Cornish plunderers of Parnassian wrecks?
Ah! must I then the only minstrel be,
Proscribed from tasting your Castalian tea!
What! can I prove 'a lion’ then no more?
A ball-room bard, a foolscap, hot-press darling?
To bear the compliments of many a bore,
And sigh, 'I can’t get out,' like Yorick’s starling;
Why then I 'll swear, as poet Wordy swore
(Because the world won’t read him, always snarling),
That taste is gone, that fame is but a lottery,
Drawn by the blue-coat misses of a coterie.
Oh! ‘darkly, deeply, beautifully blue,’
As some one somewhere sings about the sky,
And I, ye learned ladies, say of you;
They say your stockings are so (Heaven knows why,
I have examined few pair of that hue);
Blue as the garters which serenely lie
Round the Patrician left-legs, which adorn
The festal midnight, and the levee morn.
Yet some of you are most seraphic creatures–
But times are alter’d since, a rhyming lover,
You read my stanzas, and I read your features:
And– but no matter, all those things are over;
Still I have no dislike to learned natures,
For sometimes such a world of virtues cover;
I knew one woman of that purple school,
The loveliest, chastest, best, but– quite a fool.
Humboldt, ‘the first of travellers,’ but not
The last, if late accounts be accurate,
Invented, by some name I have forgot,
As well as the sublime discovery’s date,
An airy instrument, with which he sought
To ascertain the atmospheric state,
By measuring ‘the intensity of blue:’
Oh, Lady Daphne! let me measure you!
But to the narrative:- The vessel bound
With slaves to sell off in the capital,
After the usual process, might be found
At anchor under the seraglio wall;
Her cargo, from the plague being safe and sound,
Were landed in the market, one and all,
And there with Georgians, Russians, and Circassians,
Bought up for different purposes and passions.
Some went off dearly; fifteen hundred dollars
For one Circassian, a sweet girl, were given,
Warranted virgin; beauty’s brightest colours
Had deck’d her out in all the hues of heaven:
Her sale sent home some disappointed bawlers,
Who bade on till the hundreds reach’d eleven;
But when the offer went beyond, they knew
‘T was for the Sultan, and at once withdrew.
Twelve negresses from Nubia brought a price
Which the West Indian market scarce would bring;
Though Wilberforce, at last, has made it twice
What ’t was ere Abolition; and the thing
Need not seem very wonderful, for vice
Is always much more splendid than a king:
The virtues, even the most exalted, Charity,
Are saving– vice spares nothing for a rarity.
But for the destiny of this young troop,
How some were bought by pachas, some by Jews,
How some to burdens were obliged to stoop,
And others rose to the command of crews
As renegadoes; while in hapless group,
Hoping no very old vizier might choose,
The females stood, as one by one they pick’d 'em,
To make a mistress, or fourth wife, or victim:
All this must be reserved for further song;
Also our hero’s lot, howe’er unpleasant
(Because this Canto has become too long),
Must be postponed discreetly for the present;
I ‘m sensible redundancy is wrong,
But could not for the muse of me put less in ’t:
And now delay the progress of Don Juan,
Till what is call’d in Ossian the fifth Juan.
Though the day of my destiny’s over,
And the star of my fate hath declined,
Thy soft heart refused to discover
The faults which so many could find;
Though thy soul with my grief was acquainted,
It shrunk not to share it with me,
And the love which my spirit hath painted
It never hath found but in thee.
Then when nature around me is smiling,
The last smile which answers to mine,
I do not believe it beguiling,
Because it reminds me of thine;
And when winds are at war with the ocean.
As the breasts I believed in with me,
If their billows excite an emotion,
It is that they bear me from thee.
Though the rock of my last hope is shiver’d,
And its fragments are sunk in the wave,
Though I feel that my soul is deliver’d
To pain - it shall not be its slave.
There is many a pang to pursue me:
They may crush, but they shall not contemn;
They may torture, but shall not subdue me
'Tis of thee that I think - not of them.
Though human, thou didst not deceive me,
Though woman, thou didst not forsake,
Though loved, thou forborest to grieve me,
Though slander’d, thou never couldst shake;
Though trusted, thou didst not disclaim me,
Though parted, it was not to fly,
Though watchful, ‘twas not to defame me,
Nor, mute, that the world might belie.
Yet I blame not the world, nor despise it,
Nor the war of the many with one;
If my soul was not fitted to prize it,
’Twas folly not sooner to shun:
And if dearly that error hath cost me,
And more than I once could foresee,
I have found that, whatever it lost me,
It could not deprive me of thee.
From the wreck of the past, which hath perish’d
Thus much I at least may recall
It hath taught me that what I most cherish’d
Deserved to be dearest of all:
In the desert a fountain is springing,
In the wide waste there still is a tree,
And a bird in the solitude singing,
Which speaks to my spirit of thee.
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean—roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin—his control
Stops with the shore;—upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.
His steps are not upon thy paths,—thy fields
Are not a spoil for him,—thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth:—there let him lay.
The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake,
And monarchs tremble in their capitals.
The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war;
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Alike the Armada’s pride, or spoils of Trafalgar.
Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee—
Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?
Thy waters washed them power while they were free
And many a tyrant since: their shores obey
The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay
Has dried up realms to deserts: not so thou,
Unchangeable save to thy wild waves’ play—
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow—
Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.
Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,
Calm or convulsed—in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving;—boundless, endless, and sublime—
The image of Eternity—the throne
Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
Obeys thee: thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.
And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy
I wantoned with thy breakers—they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror—'twas a pleasing fear,
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane—as I do here.
Ambition was my idol, which was broken
Before the shrines of Sorrow and of Pleasure;
And the two last have left me many a token
O’er which reflection may be made at leisure:
Now, like Friar Bacon’s brazen head, I’ve spoken,
'Time is, Time was, Time’s past’, a chymic treasure
Is glittering youth, which I have spent betimes—
My heart in passion, and my head on rhymes.
What is the end of Fame? 'tis but to fill
A certain portion of uncertain paper:
Some liken it to climbing up a hill,
Whose summit, like all hills’, is lost in vapour;
For this men write, speak, preach, and heroes kill,
And bards burn what they call their ‘midnight taper,’
To have, when the original is dust,
A name, a wretched picture, and worse bust.
What are the hopes of man? old Egypt’s King
Cheops erected the first pyramid
And largest, thinking it was just the thing
To keep his memory whole, and mummy hid;
But somebody or other rummaging,
Burglariously broke his coffin’s lid:
Let not a monument give you or me hopes,
Since not a pinch of dust remains of Cheops.
But I being fond of true philosophy,
Say very often to myself, 'Alas!
All things that have been born were born to die,
And flesh (which Death mows down to hay) is grass;
You’ve pass’d your youth not so unpleasantly,
And if you had it o’er again—'twould pass—
So thank your stars that matters are no worse,
And read your Bible, sir, and mind your purse.'
But for the present, gentle reader! and
Still gentler purchaser! the bard—that’s I—
Must, with permission, shake you by the hand,
And so your humble servant, and good bye!
We meet again, if we should understand
Each other; and if not, I shall not try
Your patience further than by this short sample—
'Twere well if others follow’d my example.
The town was taken—whether he might yield
Himself or bastion, little matter’d now:
His stubborn valour was no future shield.
Ismail’s no more! The Crescent’s silver bow
Sunk, and the crimson Cross glar’d o’er the field,
But red with no redeeming gore: the glow
Of burning streets, like moonlight on the water,
Was imag’d back in blood, the sea of slaughter.
All that the mind would shrink from of excesses;
All that the body perpetrates of bad;
All that we read, hear, dream, of man’s distresses;
All that the Devil would do if run stark mad;
All that defies the worst which pen expresses;
All by which Hell is peopl’d, or as sad
As Hell—mere mortals, who their power abuse—
Was here (as heretofore and since) let loose.
If here and there some transient trait of pity
Was shown, and some more noble heart broke through
Its bloody bond, and sav’d perhaps some pretty
Child, or an aged, helpless man or two—
What’s this in one annihilated city,
Where thousand loves, and ties, and duties grew?
Cockneys of London! Muscadins of Paris!
Just ponder what a pious pastime war is.
Think how the joys of reading a Gazette
Are purchas’d by all agonies and crimes:
Or if these do not move you, don’t forget
Such doom may be your own in aftertimes.
Meantime the taxes, Castlereagh, and debt,
Are hints as good as sermons, or as rhymes.
Read your own hearts and Ireland’s present story,
Then feed her famine fat with Wellesley’s glory.
But still there is unto a patriot nation,
Which loves so well its country and its King,
A subject of sublimest exultation—
Bear it, ye Muses, on your brightest wing!
Howe’er the mighty locust, Desolation,
Strip your green fields, and to your harvests cling,
Gaunt famine never shall approach the throne—
Though Ireland starve, great George weighs twenty stone.
But let me put an end unto my theme:
There was an end of Ismail—hapless town!
Far flash’d her burning towers o’er Danube’s stream,
And redly ran his blushing waters down.
The horrid war-whoop and the shriller scream
Rose still; but fainter were the thunders grown:
Of forty thousand who had mann’d the wall,
Some hundreds breath’d—the rest were silent all!
In one thing ne’ertheless 'tis fit to praise
The Russian army upon this occasion,
A virtue much in fashion now-a-days,
And therefore worthy of commemoration:
The topic’s tender, so shall be my phrase:
Perhaps the season’s chill, and their long station
In Winter’s depth, or want of rest and victual,
Had made them chaste—they ravish’d very little.
Much did they slay, more plunder, and no less
Might here and there occur some violation
In the other line; but not to such excess
As when the French, that dissipated nation,
Take towns by storm: no causes can I guess,
Except cold weather and commiseration;
But all the ladies, save some twenty score,
Were almost as much virgins as before.
Some odd mistakes, too, happen’d in the dark,
Which show’d a want of lanterns, or of taste—
Indeed the smoke was such they scarce could mark
Their friends from foes—besides such things from haste
Occur, though rarely, when there is a spark
Of light to save the venerably chaste:
But six old damsels, each of seventy years,
Were all deflower’d by different grenadiers.
But on the whole their continence was great;
So that some disappointment there ensu’d
To those who had felt the inconvenient state
Of “single blessedness,” and thought it good
(Since it was not their fault, but only fate,
To bear these crosses) for each waning prude
To make a Roman sort of Sabine wedding,
Without the expense and the suspense of bedding.
Some voices of the buxom middle-ag’d
Were also heard to wonder in the din
(Widows of forty were these birds long cag’d)
“Wherefore the ravishing did not begin!”
But while the thirst for gore and plunder rag’d,
There was small leisure for superfluous sin;
But whether they escap’d or no, lies hid
In darkness—I can only hope they did.
Suwarrow now was conqueror—a match
For Timour or for Zinghis in his trade.
While mosques and streets, beneath his eyes, like thatch
Blaz’d, and the cannon’s roar was scarce allay’d,
With bloody hands he wrote his first despatch;
And here exactly follows what he said:
“Glory to God and to the Empress!” ( Powers
Eternal!! such names mingled! ) “Ismail’s ours
Methinks these are the most tremendous words,
Since ”MENE, MENE, TEKEL," and “UPHARSIN,”
Which hands or pens have ever trac’d of swords.
Heaven help me! I’m but little of a parson:
What Daniel read was short-hand of the Lord’s,
Severe, sublime; the prophet wrote no farce on
The fate of nations; but this Russ so witty
Could rhyme, like Nero, o’er a burning city.
He wrote this Polar melody, and set it,
Duly accompanied by shrieks and groans,
Which few will sing, I trust, but none forget it—
For I will teach, if possible, the stones
To rise against Earth’s tyrants. Never let it
Be said that we still truckle unto thrones;
But ye—our children’s children! think how we
Show’d what things were before the World was free!
That hour is not for us, but ‘tis for you:
And as, in the great joy of your millennium,
You hardly will believe such things were true
As now occur, I thought that I would pen you ’em;
But may their very memory perish too!
Yet if perchance remember’d, still disdain you 'em
More than you scorn the savages of yore,
Who painted their bare limbs, but not with gore.
And when you hear historians talk of thrones
And those that sate upon them, let it be
As we now gaze upon the mammoth’s bones,
And wonder what old world such things could see,
Or hieroglyphics on Egyptian stones,
The pleasant riddles of futurity—
Guessing at what shall happily be hid,
As the real purpose of a pyramid.
Reader! I have kept my word—at least so far
As the first Canto promised. You have now
Had sketches of love, tempest, travel, war—
All very accurate, you must allow,
And Epic, if plain truth should prove no bar;
For I have drawn much less with a long bow
Than my forerunners. Carelessly I sing,
But Phoebus lends me now and then a string.
With which I still can harp, and carp, and fiddle.
What further hath befallen or may befall
The hero of this grand poetic riddle,
I by and by may tell you, if at all:
But now I choose to break off in the middle,
Worn out with battering Ismail’s stubborn wall,
While Juan is sent off with the despatch,
For which all Petersburgh is on the watch.
Strahan, Tonson Lintot of the times,
Patron and publisher of rhymes,
For thee the bard up Pindus climbs,
To thee, with hope and terror dumb,
The unedged MS. authors come;
Thou printest all - and sellest some—
Upon thy table’s baize so green
The last new Quarterly is seen,—
But where is thy new Magazine,
Along thy sprucest bookshelves shine
The works thou deemest most divine–
The ‘Art of Cookery,’ and mine,
Tours, Travels, Essays, too, I wist,
And Sermons, to thy mill bring grist;
And then thou hast the ‘Navy List,’
And Heaven forbid I should conclude
Without ‘the Board of Longitude,’
Although this narrow paper would,
Venice, March 25, 1818.