Felicia Dorothea Hemans

(25 September 1793 – 16 May 1835 / Liverpool, England)

The Abencerrage : Canto II.


Fair land! of chivalry the old domain,
Land of the vine and olive, lovely Spain!
Though not for thee with classic shores to vie
In charms that fix the enthusiast's pensive eye;
Yet hast thou scenes of beauty, richly fraught
With all that wakes the glow of lofty thought;
Fountains, and vales, and rocks, whose ancient name
High deeds have raised to mingle with their fame.
Those scenes are peaceful now: the citron blows,
Wild spreads the myrtle, where the brave repose.
No sound of battle swells on Douro's shore,
And banners wave on Ebro's banks no more.
But who, unmoved, unawed, shall coldly tread
Thy fields that sepulchre the mighty dead?
Blest be that soil! where England's heroes share
The grave of chiefs, for ages slumbering there;
Whose names are glorious in romantic lays,
The wild, sweet chronicles of elder days -
By goathered lone, and rude serrano sung,
Thy cypress dells, and vine-clad rocks among:
How oft those rocks have echoed to the tale
Of knights who fell in Roncesvalles' vale;
Of him, renowned in old heroic lore,
First of the brave, the gallant Campeador;
Of those, the famed in song, who proudly died
When 'Rio Verde' rolled a crimson tide;
Or that high name, by Garcilaso's might,
On the green Vega won in single fight.

Round fair Granada, deepening from afar,
O'er that green Vega rose the din of war.
At morn or eve no more the sunbeams shone
O'er a calm scene, in pastoral beauty lone;
On helm and corslet tremulous they glanced,
On shield and spear in quivering lustre danced,
Far as the sight by clear Xenil could rove,
Tents rose around, and banners glanced above.
And steeds in gorgeous trappings, armour bright
With gold, reflecting every tint of light,
And many a floating plume, and blazoned shield
Diffused romantic splendour o'er the field.

There swell those sounds that bid the life-blood start
Swift to the mantling cheek and beating heart.
The clang of echoing steel, the charger's neigh,
The measured tread of hosts in war's array;
And, oh! that music, whose exulting breath
Speaks but of glory on the road of death;
In whose wild voice there dwells inspiring power
To wake the stormy joy of danger's hour;
To nerve the arm, the spirit to sustain,
Rouse from despondence, and support in pain;
And, 'midst the deepening tumults of the strife,
Teach every pulse to thrill with more than life.

High o'er the camp, in many a broidered fold,
Floats to the wind a standard rich with gold:
There, imaged on the cross,
His
form appears
Who drank for man the bitter cup of tears -

His
form, whose word recalled the spirit fled,
Now borne by hosts to guide them o'er the dead!
O'er yon fair walls to plant the cross on high,
Spain hath sent forth her flower of chivalry.
Fired with that ardour which, in days of yore,
To Syrian plains the bold crusaders bore;
Elate with lofty hope, with martial zeal,
They come, the gallant children of Castile;
The proud, the calmly dignified: - and there
Ebro's dark sons with haughty mien repair,
And those who guide the fiery steed of war
From yon rich province of the western star.

But thou, conspicuous 'midst the glitt'ring scene,
Stern grandeur stamped upon thy princely mien;
Known by the foreign garb, the silvery vest,
The snow-white charger, and the azure crest,
Young Aben-Zurrah! 'midst that host of foes,
Why shines
thy
helm, thy Moorish lance? Disclose
Why rise the tents where dwell thy kindred train,
O son of Afric, 'midst the sons of Spain?
Hast thou with these thy nation's fall conspired,
Apostate chief! by hope of vengeance fired?
How art thou changed! Still first in every fight,
Hamet, the Moor! Castile's devoted knight!
There dwells a fiery lustre in thine eye,
But not the light that shone in days gone by
There is wild ardour in thy look and tone,
But not the soul's expression once thine own,
Nor aught like peace within. Yet who shall say
What secret thoughts thine inmost heart may sway?
No eye but Heaven's may pierce that curtained breast,
Whose joys and griefs alike are unexpressed.

There hath been combat on the tented plain;
The Vega's turf is red with many a stain;
And, rent and trampled, banner, crest, and shield,
Tell of a fierce and well-contested field:
But all is peaceful now - the west is bright
With the rich splendour of departing light;
Mulhacen's peak, half lost amidst the sky,
Glows like a purple evening-cloud on high,
And tints, that mock the pencil's art, o'erspread
The eternal snow that crowns Veleta's head;
While the warm sunset o'er the landscape throws
A solemn beauty, and a deep repose.
Closed are the toils and tumults of the day,
And Hamet wanders from the camp away,
In silent musings wrapt: - the slaughtered brave
Lie thickly strewn by Darro's rippling wave.
Soft fall the dews - but other drops have dyed
The scented shrubs that fringe the river side,
Beneath whose shade, as ebbing life retired,
The wounded sought a shelter - and expired,
Lonely, and lost in thoughts of other days,
By the bright windings of the stream he strays,
Till, more remote from battle's ravaged scene,
All is repose, and solitude serene.
There, 'neath an olive's ancient shade reclined,
Whose rustling foliage waves in evening's wind,
The harassed warrior, yielding to the power,
The mild sweet influence of the tranquil hour,
Feels, by degrees, a long-forgotten calm
Shed o'er his troubled soul unwonted balm;
His wrongs, his woes, his dark and dubious lot,
The past, the future, are awhile forgot;
And Hope, scarce owned, yet stealing o'er his breast,
Half dares to whisper, 'Thou shalt yet be blest!'

Such his vague musings - but a plaintive sound
Breaks on the deep and solemn stillness round;
A low, half-stifled moan, that seems to rise
From life and death's contending agonies.
He turns: Who shares with him that lonely shade?
- A youthful warrior on his deathbed laid.
All rent and stained his broidered Moorish vest,
The corslet shattered on his bleeding breast;
In his cold hand the broken falchion strained,
With life's last force convulsively retained;
His plumage soiled with dust, with crimson dyed,
And the red lance, in fragments, by his side;
He lies forsaken - pillowed on his shield,
His helmet raised, his lineaments revealed.
Pale is that quivering lip, and vanished now
The light once throned on that commanding brow;
And o'er that fading eye, still upward cast,
The shades of death are gathering dark and fast.
Yet, as yon rising moon her light serene
Sheds the pale olive's waving boughs between,
Too well can Hamet's conscious heart retrace,
Though changed thus fearfully, that pallid face,
Whose every feature to his soul conveys
Some bitter thought of long-departed days.

'Oh! is it thus,' he cries, 'we meet at last?
Friend of my soul in years for ever past!
Hath fate but led me hither to behold
The last dread struggle, ere that heart is cold, -
Receive thy latest agonising breath,
And, with vain pity, soothe the pangs of death?
Yet let me bear thee hence; while life remains,
E'en though thus feebly circling through thy veins,
Some healing balm thy sense may still revive,
Hope is not lost - and Osmyn yet may live!
And blest were he, whose timely care should save
A heart so noble, e'en from glory's grave.'

Roused by those accents, from his lowly bed
The dying warrior faintly lifts his head;
O'er Hamet's mien, with vague, uncertain gaze,
His doubtful glance awhile bewildered strays;
Till, by degrees, a smile of proud disdain
Lights up those features late convulsed with pain;
A quivering radiance flashes from his eye,
That seems too pure, too full of soul to die;
And the mind's grandeur, in its parting hour,
Looks from that brow with more than wonted power.

'Away!' he cries, in accents of command,
And proudly waves his cold and trembling hand.
'Apostate, hence! my soul shall soon be free,
E'en now it soars, disdaining aid from thee:
'Tis not for thee to close the fading eyes
Of him who faithful to his country dies;
Not for
thy
hand to raise the drooping head
Of him who sinks to rest on glory's bed.
Soon shall these pangs be closed, this conflict o'er,
And worlds be mine where thou canst never soar;
Be thine existence with a blighted name,
Mine the bright death which seals a warrior's fame!'

The glow hath vanished from his cheek - his eye
Hath lost that beam of parting energy;
Frozen and fixed it seems - his brow is chill;
One struggle more - that noble heart is still.
Departed warrior! were thy mortal throes,
Were thy last pangs, ere Nature found repose,
More keen, more bitter, than the envenomed dart
Thy dying words have left in Hamet's heart?

Thy
pangs were transient;
his
shall sleep no more
Till life's delirious dream itself is o'er;
But thou shalt rest in glory, and thy grave
Be the pure altar of the patriot brave.
Oh, what a change that little hour hath wrought
In the high spirit and unbending thought!
Yet, from himself each keen regret to hide,
Still Hamet struggles with indignant pride;
While his soul rises, gathering all its force,
To meet the fearful conflict with remorse.

To thee, at length, whose artless love hath been
His own, unchanged, through many a stormy scene;
Zayda! to thee his heart for refuge flies;
Yes! let the world upbraid, let foes contemn,
Thy gentle breast the tide will firmly stem;
And soon thy smile, and soft consoling voice,
Shall bid his troubled soul again rejoice.

Within Granada's walls are hearts and hands
Whose aid in secret Hamet yet commands;
Nor hard the task, at some propitious hour,
To win his silent way to Zayda's bower,
When night and peace are brooding o'er the world,
When mute the clarions, and the banners furled.
That hour is come - and, o'er the arms he bears,
A wandering fakir's garb the chieftain wears:
Disguise that ill from piercing eye could hide
The lofty port, and glance of martial pride;
But night befriends - through paths obscure he passed,
And hailed the lone and lovely scene at last;
Young Zayda's chosen haunt, the fair alcove,
The sparkling fountain, and the orange grove:
Calm in the moonlight smiles the still retreat,
As formed alone for happy hearts to meet.
For happy hearts? - not such as hers, who there
Bends o'er her lute, with dark, unbraided hair;
That maid of Zegri race, whose eye, whose mien,
Tell that despair her bosom's guest hath been.
So lost in thought she seems, the warrior's feet
Till his known accents every sense restore -
'My own loved Zayda! do we meet once more?'
She starts, she turns - the lightning of surprise,
Of sudden rapture, flashes from her eyes;
But that is fleeting - it is past - and now
Far other meaning darkens o'er her brow:
'Hence, Aben-Zurrah! death surrounds thee here!'
What mean those words, and that unwonted tone?
I will not deem thee changed - but in thy face
It is not joy, it is not love, I trace!
It was not thus in other days we met:
Hath time, hath absense, taught thee to forget?
Oh! speak once more - these rising doubts dispel;
One smile of tenderness, and all is well!'

'Not thus we met in other days! - oh, no!
Thou wert not, warrior then thy country's foe!
Those days are past - we ne'er shall meet again
With hearts all warmth, all confidence, as then.
But
thy
dark soul no gentler feelings sway,
Leader of hostile bands! away, away!
On in thy path of triumph and of power,
Nor pause to raise from earth a blighted flower.'

'And
thou
too changed! thine early vow forgot!
This, this alone was wanting to my lot!
Exiled and scorned, of every tie bereft,
Thy love, the desert's lonely fount, was left;
And thou, my soul's last hope, its lingering beam,
Thou, the good angel of each brighter dream,
Wert all the barrenness of life possest,
To wake one soft affection in my breast!
That vision ended - fate hath nought in store
Of joy or sorrow e'er to touch me more.
Go, Zegri maid! to scenes of sunshine fly,
From the stern pupil of adversity!
And now to hope, to confidence, adieu!
If thou are faithless, who shall e'er be true?'

'Hamet! oh, wrong me not! - too could speak
Of sorrows - trace them on my faded cheek,
In the sunk eye, and in the wasted form,
That tell the heart hath nursed a canker-worm!
But words were idle - read my sufferings there,
Where grief is stamped on all that once was fair.

'Oh, wert thou still what once I fondly deemed,
All that thy mien expressed, thy spirit seemed,
My love had been devotion - till in death
Thy name had trembled on my latest breath.
But not the chief who leads a lawless band,
To crush the altars of his native land;
The apostate son of heroes, whose disgrace
Hath stained the trophies of a glorious race;
Not
him
I loved - but one whose youthful name
Was pure and radiant in unsullied fame.
Hadst thou but died, ere yet dishonour's cloud
O'er that young name gathered as a shroud,
I then had mourned thee proudly, and my grief
In its own loftiness had found relief;
A noble sorrow, cherished to the last,
When every meaner woe had long been past.
Yes! let Affection weep - no common tear
She sheds, when bending o'er a hero's bier.
Let Nature mourn the dead - a grief like this,
To pangs that rend
my
bosom, had been bliss!'

'High-minded maid! the time admits not now
To plead my cause, to vindicate my vow.
That vow, too dread, too solemn to recall,
Hath urged me onward, haply to my fall.
Yet this believe - no meaner aim inspires
My soul, no dream of poor ambition fires.
No! every hope of power, of triumph, fled,
Behold me but the avenger of the dead!
One whose changed heart no tie, no kindred knows,
And in thy love alone hath sought repose.
Zayda! wilt
thou
his stern accuser be?
False to his country, he is true to thee!
Oh, hear me yet! - if Hamet e'er was dear,
By our first vows, our young affection, hear!
Soon must this fair and royal city fall,
Soon shall the cross be planted on her wall;
Then who can tell what tides of blood may flow,
While her fanes echo to the shrieks of woe?
Fly, fly with me, and let me bear thee far
From horrors thronging in the path of war:
Fly! and repose in safety - till the blast
Hath made a desert in its course - and passed!'

'Thou that wilt triumph when the hour is come,
Hastened by thee, to seal thy country's doom,
With
thee
from scenes of death shall Zayda fly
To peace and safety? - Woman, too, can die!
And die exulting, though unknown to fame,
In all the stainless beauty of her name!
Be mine, unmurmuring, undismayed, to share
The fate my kindred and my sire must bear.
When the clouds gather and the blasts assail,
Thou hast but known me ere the trying hour
Called into life my spirit's latent power;
While withering o'er my silent woes I wept;
And now, when hope and happiness are fled,
My soul is firm - for what remains to dread!
Who shall have power to suffer and to bear,
If strength and courage dwell not with Despair?

Hamet, farewell - retrace thy path again,
To join thy brethren on the tented plain.
There wave and wood, in mingling murmurs, tell
How, in far other cause, thy fathers fell!
Yes! on that soil hath Glory's footstep been,
Names unforgotten consecrate the scene!
Dwell not the souls of heroes round thee there,
Whose voices call thee in the whispering air?
Unheard, in vain, they call - their fallen son
Hath stained the name those mighty spirits won,
And to the hatred of the brave and free
Bequethed his own, through ages yet to be!

Still as she spoke, the enthusiast's kindling eye
Was lighted up with inborn majesty,
While her fair form and youthful features caught
All the proud grandeur of heroic thought,
Severely beauteous; awe-struck and amazed,
In silent trance a while the warrior gazed,
As on some lofty vision - for she seemed
One all inspired - each look with glory beamed,
While, brightly bursting through its cloud of woes,
Her soul at once in all its light arose.
Oh! ne'er had Hamet deemed there dwelt enshrined
In form so fragile that unconquered mind;
And fixed, as by some high enchantment, there
He stood - till wonder yielded to despair.

'The dream is vanished - daughter of my foes!
Reft of each hope, the lonely wanderer goes.
Thy words have pierced his soul - yet deem thou not
Thou couldst be once adored, and e'er forgot!
Oh, formed for happier love, heroic maid!
In grief sublime, in danger undismayed,
Farewell, and be thou blest! - all words were vain
From him who ne'er may view that form again;
Him, whose sole thought resembling bliss must be
He
hath
been loved, once fondly loved by, thee!',
And is the warrior gone? - doth Zayda hear
His parting footstep, and without a tear?
Thou weepest not, lofty maid! - yet who can tell
What secret pangs within thy heart may dwell?

They
feel not least, the firm, the high in soul,
Who best each feeling's agony control.
Yes, we may judge the measure of the grief
Which finds in Misery's eloquence relief;
But who shall pierce those depths of silent woe
Whence breathes no language, whence no tears may flow?
The pangs that many a noble breast hath proved,
Scorning itself that thus it
could
be moved?
He, He alone, the inmost heart who knows,
Views all its weakness, pities all its throes,
He who hath mercy when mankind contemn,
Beholding anguish - all unknown to them.

Fair city! thou that midst thy stately fanes
And gilded minarets, towering o'er the plains,
In Eastern grandeur proudly dost arise
Beneath thy canopy of deep-blue skies:
While streams that bear thee treasures in their wave,
Thy citron-groves and myrtle-gardens have:
Mourn, for thy doom is fixed - the days of fear,
Of chains, of wrath, of bitterness, are near!
Within, around thee, are the trophied graves
Of kings and chiefs - their children shall be slaves.
Fair are thy halls, thy domes majestic swell,
But there a race that reared them not shall dwell;
For midst thy councils Discord still presides,
Degenerate fear thy wavering monarch guides -
Last of a line whose regal spirit flown
Hath to their offspring but bequeathed a throne,
Without one generous thought, or feeling high,
To teach his soul how kings should live and die.

A voice resounds within Granada's wall,
The hearts of warriors echo to its call,
Whose are those tones, with power electric fraught,
To reach the source of pure exalted thought!

See, on a fortress tower, with beckoning hand,
A form, majestic as a prophet, stand!
His mien is all impassioned - and his eye
Filled with a light whose fountain is on high;
Wild on the gale his silvery tresses flow,
And inspiration beams upon his brow;
While, thronging round him, breathless thousands gaze,
As on some mighty seer of elder days.

'Saw ye the banners of Castile displayed,
The helmets glittering, and the line arrayed?
Heard ye the march of steel-clad hosts?' he cries;
'Children of conquerors! in your strength arise!
O high-born tribes! O names unstained by fear!
Azarques, Zegris, Almoradis, hear!
Be every feud forgotten, and your hands
Dyed with no blood but that of hostile bands.
Wake, princes of the land! the hour is come,
And the red sabre must decide your doom.
Where is that spirit which prevailed of yore,
When Tarik's bands o'erspread the western shore?
When the long combat raged on Xere's plain,
And Afric's tecbir swelled through yielding Spain?
Is the lance broken, is the shield decayed,
The warrior's arm unstrung, his heart dismayed?
Shall no high spirit of ascendant worth
Arise to lead the sons of Islam forth?
To guard the regions where our fathers' blood
Hath bathed each plain, and mingled with each flood;
Where long their dust hath blended with the soil
Won by their swords, made fertile by their toil!

'O ye sierras of eternal snow!
Ye streams that by the tombs of heroes flow,
Woods, fountains, rocks of Spain! ye saw their might
In many a fierce and unforgotten fight -
Shall ye behold their lost, degenerate race,
Dwell 'midst your scenes in fetters and disgrace?
With each memorial of the past around,
Each mighty monument of days renowned?
May this indignant heart ere then be cold,
This frame be gathered to its kindred mould!
And the last life-drop circling through my veins
Have tinged a soil untainted yet by chains!

'And yet one struggle ere our doom is sealed,
One mighty effort, one deciding field!
If vain each hope, we still have choice to be,
In life the fettered, or in death the free!'

Still while he speaks, each gallant heart beats high,
And ardour flashes from each kindling eye;
Youth, manhood, age, as if inspired, have caught
The glow of lofty hope and daring thought,
And all is hushed around - as every sense
Dwelt on the tones of that wild eloquence.

But when his voice hath ceased, the impetuous cry
Of eager thousands bursts at once on high;
Rampart, and rock, and fortress, ring around,
And fair Alhambra's inmost halls resound.
'Lead us, O chieftain! lead us to the strife,
To fame in death, or liberty in life!'
O zeal of noble hearts! in vain displayed!
Now, while the burning spirit of the brave
Is roused to energies that yet might save,
E'en now, enthusiasts! while ye rush to claim
Your glorious trial on the field of fame,
Your king hath yielded! Valour's dream is o'er;
Power, wealth, and freedom, are your own no more;
And for your children's portion,
but
remains
That bitter heritage - the stranger's chains.

Submitted: Thursday, April 08, 2010

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