Felicia Dorothea Hemans
The Abencerrage : Canto I.
Lonely and still are now thy marble halls,
Thou fair Alhambra! there the feast is o'er;
And with the murmur of thy fountain-falls,
Blend the wild tones of minstrelsy no more.
Hushed are the voices that in years gone by
Have mourned, exulted, menaced, through thy towers,
Within thy pillared courts the grass waves high,
And all uncultured bloom thy fairy bowers.
Unheeded there the flowering myrtle blows,
Through tall arcades unmarked the sunbeam smiles,
And many a tint of softened brilliance throws
O'er fretted walls and shining peristyles.
And well might Fancy deem thy fabrics lone,
So vast, so silent, and so wildly fair,
Some charmed abode of beings all unknown,
Powerful and viewless, children of the air.
For there no footstep treads the enchanted ground,
There not a sound the deep repose pervades,
Save winds and founts, diffusing freshness round,
Through the light domes and graceful colonnades.
For other tones have swelled those courts along,
In days romance yet fondly loves to trace;
The clash of arms, the voice of choral song,
The revels, combats, of a vanished race.
And yet awhile, at Fancy's potent call,
Shall rise that race, the chivalrous, the bold;
Peopling once more each fair, forsaken hall,
With stately forms, the knights and chiefs of old.
- The sun declines - upon Nevada's height
There dwells a mellow flush of rosy light;
Each soaring pinnacle of mountain snow
Smiles in the richness of that parting glow,
And Darro's wave reflects each passing dye
That melts and mingles in the empurpled sky.
Fragrance, exhaled from rose and citron bower,
Blends with the dewy freshness of the hour:
Hushed are the winds, and Nature seems to sleep
In light and stillness; wood, and tower, and steep,
Are dyed with tints of glory, only given
To the rich evening of a southern heaven;
Tints of the sun, whose bright farewell is fraught
With all that art hath dreamt, but never caught.
-Yes, Nature sleeps; but not with her at rest
The fiery passions of the human breast.
Hark! from the Alhambra's towers what stormy sound,
Each moment deepening, wildly swells around?
Those are no tumults of a festal throng,
Not the light zambra, nor the choral song:
The combat rages - 'tis the shout of war,
'Tis the loud clash of shield and scimitar.
Within the Hall of Lions, where the rays
Of eve, yet lingering, on the fountain blaze;
There, girt and guarded by his Zegri bands,
And stern in wrath, the Moorish monarch stands;
There the strife centres - swords around him wave;
There bleed the fallen, there contend the brave,
While echoing domes return the battle-cry,
'Revenge and freedom! let the tyrant die!'
And onward rushing, prevailing still,
Court, hall, and tower, the fierce avengers fill.
But first the bravest of that gallant train,
Where foes are mightiest, charging ne'er in vain;
In his red hand the sabre glancing bright,
His dark eye flashing with a fiercer light,
Ardent, untired, scarce conscious that he bleeds,
His Aben-Zurrahs there young Hamet leads;
While swells his voice that wild acclaim on high,
'Revenge and freedom! let the tyrant die!'
Yes! trace the footsteps of the warrior's wrath
By helm and corslet shattered in his path,
And by the thickest harvest of the slain,
And by the marble's deepest crimson stain:
Search through the serried fight, where loudest cries
From triumph, anguish, or despair, arise;
And brightest where the shivering falchions glare,
And where the ground is reddest - he is there.
Yes, that young arm, amidst the Zegri host,
Hath well avenged a sire, a brother, lost.
They perished - not as heroes should have died,
On the red field, in victory's hour of pride,
In all the glow and sunshine of their fame,
And proudly smiling as the death-pang came:
Oh! had they
expired, a warrior's tear
Had flowed, almost in triumph, o'er their bier.
For thus alone the brave should weep for those
Who brightly pass in glory to repose.
- Not such their fate - a tyrant's stern command
Doomed them to fall by some ignoble hand,
As, with the flower of all their high-born race,
Summoned Abdallah's royal feast to grace,
Fearless in heart, no dream of danger nigh,
They sought the banquet's gilded hall - to die.
Betrayed, unarmed, they fell - the fountain wave
Flowed crimson with the life-blood of the brave,
Till far the fearful tidings of their fate
Through the wide city rang from gate to gate,
And of that lineage each surviving son
Rushed to the scene where vengeance might be won.
For this young Hamet mingles in the strife,
Leader of battle, prodigal of life,
Urging his followers till their foes, beset,
Stand faint and breathless, but undaunted yet.
Brave Aben-Zurrahs, on! one effort more,
Yours is the triumph, and the conflict o'er.
But lo! descending o'er the darkened hall,
The twilight shadows fast and deeply fall,
Nor yet the strife hath ceased - though scarce they know
Through that thick gloom, the brother from the foe;
Till the moon rises with her cloudless ray,
The peaceful moon, and gives them light to slay.
Where lurks Abdallah? - 'midst his yielding train,
They seek the guilty monarch, but in vain.
He lies not numbered with the valiant dead,
His champions round him have not vainly bled;
But when twilight spread her shadowy veil,
And his last warriors found each effort fail,
In wild despair he fled - a trusted few,
Kindred in crime, are still in danger true;
And o'er the scene of many a martial deed
The Vega's green expanse, his flying footsteps lead.
He passed the Alhambra's calm and lovely bowers,
Where slept the glistening leaves and folded flowers
In dew and starlight - there, from grot and cave,
Gushed, in wild music, many a sparkling wave;
There, on each breeze, the breath of fragrance rose,
And all was freshness, beauty, and repose.
But thou, dark monarch! in thy bosom reign
Storms that, once roused, shall never sleep again.
Oh! vainly bright is Nature in the course
Of him who flies from terror or remorse!
A spell is round him which obscures her bloom,
And dims her skies with shadows of the tomb;
There smiles no Paradise on earth so fair,
But guilt will raise avenging phantoms there.
Abdallah heeds not, though the light gale roves
Fraught with rich odour, stolen from orange-groves;
Hears not the sounds from wood and brook that rise,
Wild notes of Nature's vesper-melodies;
Marks not how lovely, on the mountain's head,
Moonlight and snow their mingling lustre spread
But urges onward, till his weary band,
Worn with their toil, a moment's pause demand.
He stops, and turning, on Granada's fanes
In silence gazing, fixed awhile remains
In stern, deep silence - o'er his feverish brow,
And burning cheek, pure breezes freshly blow,
But waft, in fitful murmurs, from afar,
Sounds, indistinctly fearful, - as of war.
What meteor bursts, with sudden blaze, on high,
O'er the blue clearness of the starry sky?
Awful it rises, like some Genie-form,
Seen 'midst the redness of the desert storm,
Magnificently dread - above, below,
Spreads the wild splendour of its deepening glow.
Lo! from the Alhambra's towers the vivid glare
Streams through the still transparence of the air!
Avenging crowds have lit the mighty pyre,
Which feeds that waving pyramid of fire;
And dome and minaret, river, wood, and height,
From dim perspective start to ruddy light.
Oh Heaven! the anguish of Abdallah's soul,
The rage, though fruitless, yet beyond control!
Yet must he cease to gaze, and raving fly
For life - such life as makes it bliss to die!
On yon green height, the mosque, but half revealed
Through cypress-groves, a safe retreat may yield.
Thither his steps are bent - yet oft he turns,
Watching that fearful beacon as it burns.
But paler grow the sinking flames at last,
Flickering they fade, their crimson light is past;
And spiry vapours, rising o'er the scene,
Mark where the terrors of their wrath have been.
And now his feet have reached that lonely pile,
Where grief and terror may repose awhile;
Embowered it stands, 'midst wood and cliff on high,
Through the grey rocks, a torrent sparkling nigh;
He hails the scene where every care should cease,
And all - except the heart he brings - is peace.
There is a deep stillness in those halls of state
Where the loud cries of conflict rang so late;
Stillness like that, when fierce the Ramsin's blast
Hath o'er the dwellings of the desert passed.
Fearful the calm - nor voice, nor step, nor breath,
Disturbs that scene of beauty and of death:
Those vaulted roofs re-echo not a sound,
In ceaseless melodies of plaintive tone,
Through chambers peopled by the dead alone
O'er the mosaic floors, with carnage red,
Breastplate, and shield, and cloven helm are spread
In mingled fragments - glittering to the light
Of yon still moon, whose rays, yet softly bright,
Their streaming lustre tremulously shed,
And smile, in placid beauty, o'er the dead:
O'er features where the fiery spirit's trace
E'en death itself is powerless to efface;
O'er those who, flushed with ardent youth, awoke,
When glowing morn in bloom and radiance broke,
Nor dreamt how near the dark and frozen sleep
Which hears not Glory call, nor Anguish weep;
In the low silent house, the narrow spot,
Home of forgetfulness - and soon forgot.
But slowly fade the stars - the night is o'er -
Morn beams on those who hail her light no more;
Slumberers who ne'er shall wake on earth again,
Mourners, who call the loved, the lost, in vain.
Yet smiles the day - oh! not for mortal tear
Doth nature deviate from her calm career;
Nor is the earth less laughing or less fair,
Though breaking hearts her gladness may not share.
O'er the cold urn the beam of summer glows,
O'er fields of blood the zephyr freshly blows;
Bright shines the sun, though all be dark below,
And skies are cloudless o'er a world of woe,
And flowers renewed in spring's green pathway bloom,
Alike to grace the banquet and the tomb.
Within Granada's walls the funeral-rite
Attends that day of loveliness and light;
And many a chief, with dirges and with tears,
Is gathered to the brave of other years;
And Hamet, as beneath the cypress-shade
His martyred brother and his sire are laid,
Feels every deep resolve, and burning thought
Of ampler vengeance, e'en to passion wrought;
Yet is the hour afar - and he must brood
O'er those dark dreams awhile in solitude.
Tumult and rage are hushed - another day
In still solemnity hath passed away,
In that deep slumber of exhausted wrath,
The calm that follows in the tempest's path.
And now Abdallah leaves yon peaceful fane,
His ravaged city traversing again.
No sound of gladness his approach precedes,
No splended pageant the procession leads;
Where'er he moves the silent streets along,
Broods a stern quiet o'er the sullen throng.
No voice is heard; but in each altered eye,
Once brightly beaming when his steps were nigh,
And in each look of those whose love hath fled
From all on earth to slumber with the dead,
Those by his guilt made desolate, and thrown
On the bleak wilderness of life alone -
In youth's quick glance of scarce-dissembled rage,
And the pale mien of calmly-mournful age,
May well be read a dark and fearful tale
Of thought that ill the indignant heart can veil,
And passion, like the hushed volcano's power,
That waits in stillness its appointed hour.
No more the clarion from Granada's walls,
Heard o'er the Vega, to the tourney calls;
No more her graceful daughters, throned on high,
Bend o'er the lists the darkly-radiant eye;
Silence and gloom her palaces o'erspread,
And song is hushed, and pageantry is fled.
- Weep fated city! o'er thy heroes weep -
Low in the dust the sons of glory sleep!
Furled are their banners in the lonely hall,
Their trophied shields hang mouldering on the wall,
Wildly their charges range the pastures o'er,
Their voice in battle shall be heard no more;
And they, who still thy tyrant's wrath survive,
Whom he hath wronged too deeply to forgive,
That race, of lineage high, of worth approved,
The chivalrous, the princely, the beloved -
Thine Aben-Zurrahs - they no more shall wield
In thy proud cause the conquering lance and shied;
Condemned to bid the cherished scenes farewell
Where the loved ashes of their fathers dwell,
And far o'er foreign plains, as exiles, roam,
Their land the desert, and the grave their home.
Yet there is one shall see that race depart,
In deep, though silent, agony of heart;
One whose dark fate must be to mourn alone,
Unseen her sorrows, and their cause unknown,
And veil her heart, and teach her cheek to wear
That smile, in which the spirit hath no share;
Like the bright beams that shed their fruitless glow
O'er the cold solitude of Alpine snow.
Soft, fresh, and silent, is the midnight hour,
And the young Zayda seeks her lonely bower;
That Zegri maid, within whose gentle mind
One name is deeply, secretly enshrined.
That name in vain stern Reason would efface:
Hamet! 'tis thine, thou foe to all her race!
And yet not hers in bitterness to prove
The sleepless pangs of unrequited love;
Pangs, which the rose of wasted youth consume,
And make the heart of all delight the tomb,
Check the free spirit in its eagle-flight,
And the spring-morn of early genius blight;
Nor such her grief - though now she wakes to weep,
While tearless eyes enjoy the honey-dews of sleep.
A step treads lightly through the citron shade,
Lightly, but by the rustling leaves betrayed -
Doth her young hero seek that well-known spot,
Scene of past hours that ne'er may be forgot?
'Tis he - but changed that eye, whose glance of fire
Could, like a sunbeam, hope and joy inspire,
As, luminous with youth, with ardour fraught,
It spoke of glory to the inmost thought;
Thence the bright spirit's eloquence hath fled,
And in its wild expression may be read
Stern thoughts and fierce resolves - now veiled in shade,
And now in characters of fire portrayed.
Changed e'en his voice - as thus its mournful tone
Wakes in her heart each feeling of his own.
'Zayda, my doom is fixed - another day
And the wronged exile shall be far away;
Far from the scenes where still his heart must be,
His home of youth, and more than all - from thee.
Oh! what a cloud hath gathered o'er my lot,
Since last we met on this fair tranquil spot!
Lovely as then, the soft and silent hour,
And not a rose hath faded from thy bower;
But I - my hopes the tempest hath o'erthrown,
And changed my heart, to all but thee alone.
Farewell, high thoughts! inspiring hopes of praise!
Heroic visions of my early days!
In my the glories of my race must end -
The exile hath no country to defend!
E'en in life's morn my dreams of pride are o'er
Youth's buoyant spirit wakes for me no more,
And one wild feeling in my altered breast
Broods darkly o'er the ruins of the rest.
Yet fear not thou - to thee in good or ill,
The heart, so sternly tried, if faithful still!
But when my steps are distant, and my name
Thou hearest no longer in the song of fame;
When Time steals on in silence to efface
Of early love each pure and sacred trace,
Causing our sorrows and our hopes to seem
But as the moonlight pictures of a dream, -
Still shall thy soul be with me, in the truth
And all the fervour of affection's youth?
If such thy love, one beam of heaven shall play
In lonely beauty o'er thy wanderer's way.'
'Ask not, if such my love! Oh! trust the mind
To grief so long, so silently resigned!
Let the light spirit, ne'er by sorrow taught
The pure and lofty constancy of thought,
Its fleeting trials eager to forget,
Rise with elastic power o'er each regret!
Fostered in tears,
young affection grew,
And I have learned to suffer and be true.
Deem not my love a frail, ephemeral flower,
Nursed by soft sunshine and the balmy shower;
No! 'tis the child of tempests, and defies,
And meets unchanged, the anger of the skies!
Too well I feel, with grief's prophetic heart,
That ne'er to meet in happier days, we part.
We part! and e'en this agonising hour,
When love first feels his own o'erwhelming power,
Shall soon to Memory's fixed and tearful eye
Seem almost happiness - for thou wert nigh!
Yes! when this heart in solitude shall bleed,
As days to days all wearily succeed,
When doomed to weep in loneliness, 'twill be
Almost like rapture to have wept with thee.
'But thou, my Hamet, thou canst yet bestow
All that of joy my blighted lot can know.
Oh! be thou still the high-souled and the brave,
To whom my first and fondest vows I gave,
In thy proud fame's untarnished beauty still
The lofty visions of my youth fulfil.
So shall it soothe me, 'midst my heart's despair,
To hold undimmed one glorious image there!'
'Zayda, my best-loved! my words too well,
Too soon, thy bright illusions must dispel;
Yet must my soul to thee unveiled be shown,
And all its dreams and all its passions known,
Thou shalt not be deceived - for pure as heaven
Is thy young love, in faith and fervour given.
I said my heart was changed - and would thy thought
Explore the ruin by thy kindred wrought,
In fancy trace the land whose towers and fanes,
Crushed by the earthquake, strew its ravaged plains;
And such that heart - where desolation's hand
Hath blighted all that once was fair or grand!
But Vengeance, fixed upon her burning throne,
Sits, 'midst the wreck, in silence and alone;
And I, in stern devotion at her shrine,
Each softer feeling, but my love, resign.
-Yes! they whose spirits all my thoughts control,
Who hold dread converse with my thrilling soul;
They, the betrayed, the sacrificed, the brave,
Who fill a blood-stained and untimely grave,
Must be avenged! and pity and remorse
In that stern cause are banished from my course.
Zayda, thou tremblest - and thy gentle breast
Shrinks from the passions that destroy my rest;
Yet shall thy form, in many a stormy hour,
Pass brightly o'er my soul with softening power,
And, oft recalled, thy voice beguile my lot,
Like some sweet lay, once heard, and ne'er forgot.
'But the night wanes - the hours too swiftly fly,
The bitter moment of farewell draws nigh;
Yet, loved one! weep not thus - in joy or pain,
Oh! trust thy Hamet, we shall meet again!
Yes, we shall meet! and haply smile at last
On all the clouds and conflicts of the past.
On that fair vision teach thy thoughts to dwell,
Nor deem these mingling tears our last farewell!'
Is the voice hushed, whose loved, expressive tone
Thrilled to her heart - and doth she weep alone?
Alone she weeps; that hour of parting o'er,
When shall the pang it leaves be felt no more?
The gale breathes light, and fans her bosom fair,
Showering the dewy rose-leaves o'er her hair;
But ne'er for her shall dwell reviving power
In balmy dew, soft breeze, or fragrant flower,
To wake once more that calm, serene delight,
The soul's young bloom, which passion's breath could blight -
The smiling stillness of life's morning hour,
Ere yet the day-star burns in all his power.
Meanwhile, through groves of deep luxurious shade,
In the rich foliage of the South arrayed,
Hamet, ere dawns the earliest blush of day,
Bends to the vale of tombs his pensive way.
Fair is that scene where palm and cypress wave
On high o'er many an Aben-Zurrah's grave.
Lonely and fair, its fresh and glittering leaves
With the young myrtle there the laurel weaves,
To canopy the dead; nor wanting there
Flowers to the turf, nor fragrance to the air,
Nor wood-bird's note, nor fall of plaintive stream -
Wild music, soothing to the mourner's dream.
There sleep the chiefs of old - their combats o'er,
The voice of glory thrills their hearts no more.
Unheard by them the awakening clarion blows;
The sons of war at length in peace repose.
No martial note is in the gale that sighs,
Where proud their trophied sepulchres arise,
'Mid founts, and shades, and flowers of brightest bloom,
As, in his native vale, some shepherd's tomb.
There, where the trees their thickest foliage spread
Dark o'er that silent valley of the dead;
Where two fair pillars rise, embowered and lone,
Not yet with ivy clad, with moss o'ergrown,
Young Hamet kneels - while thus his vows are poured
The fearful vows that consecrate his sword:
- 'Spirit of him who first within my mind
Each loftier aim, each nobler thought enshrined,
And taught my steps the line of light to trace,
Left by the glorious fathers of my race,
Hear thou my voice - for mine is with me still,
In every dream its tones my bosom thrill,
In the deep calm of midnight they are near,
'Midst busy throngs they vibrate on my ear,
Still murmuring 'vengeance!' - nor in vain the call,
Few, few shall triumph in a hero's fall!
Cold as thine own to glory and to fame,
Within my heart there lives one only aim;
There, till the oppressor for thy fate atone,
Concentring every thought, it reigns alone.
I will not weep - revenge, not grief, must be,
And blood, not tears, an offering meet for thee;
But the dark hour of stern delight will come,
And thou shall triumph, warrior! in thy tomb.
'Thou, too, my brother! thou art passed away
Without thy fame, in life's fair-dawning day.
Son of the brave! of thee no trace will shine
In the proud annals of thy lofty line;
Nor shall thy deeds be deathless in the lays
That hold communion with the after-days.
Yet, by the wreaths thou mightst have nobly won
Hadst thou but lived till rose thy noontide sun;
By glory lost, I swear! by hope betrayed,
Thy fate shall amply dearly, be repaid;
War with thy foes I deem a holy strife,
And, to avenge thy death, devote my life.
'Hear ye my vows, O spirits of the slain!
Hear, and be with me on the battle-plain!
At noon, at midnight, still around me bide,
Rise on my dreams, and tell me how ye died!'
Felicia Dorothea Hemans's Other Poems
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