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Felicia Dorothea Hemans

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

The Death Of Conradin


No cloud to dim the splendour of the day
Which breaks o'er Naples and her lovely bay,
And lights that brilliant sea and magic shore
With every tint that charmed the great of yore-
The imperial ones of earth, who proudly bade
Their marble domes e'en Ocean's realm invade.

That race is gone - but glorious Nature here
Maintains unchanged her own sublime career,
And bids these regions of the sun display
Bright hues, surviving empires pass away.

The beam of heaven expands - its kindling smile
Reveals each charm of many a fairy isle,
Whose image floats, in softer colouring drest,
With all its rocks and vines, on Ocean's breast.
Misenum's cape hath caught the vivid ray,
On Roman streamers there no more to play;
Still, as of old, unalterably bright,
Lovely it sleeps on Posilippo's height,
With all Italia's sunshine to illume
The ilex canopy of Virgil's tomb.
Campania's plains rejoice in light, and spread
Their gay luxuriance o'er the mighty dead;
Fair glittering to thine own transparent skies,
Thy palaces, exulting Naples! rise:
While, far on high, Vesuvius rears his peak,
Furrowed and dark with many a lava streak.

Oh, ye bright shores of Circe and the Muse!
Rich with all Nature's and all fiction's hues;
Who shall explore your regions, and declare
The poet erred to paint Elysium there?
Call up his spirit, wanderer! bid him guide
Thy steps, those siren-haunted seas beside;
And all the scene a lovelier light shall wear,
What though his dust be scattered, and his urn
Long from its sanctuary of slumber torn,
Still dwell the beings of his verse around,
Hovering in beauty o'er the enchanted ground:
His lays are murmured in each breeze that roves
Soft o'er the sunny waves and orange-groves;
His memory's charm is spread o'er shore and sea,
The soul, the genius of Parthenope;
Shedding o'er myrtle shade and vine-clad hill
The purple radiance of Elysium still.

Yet that fair soil and calm resplendent sky
Have witnessed many a dark reality.
Oft o'er those bright blue seas the gale hath borne
The sighs of exiles never to return.
There with the whisper of Campania's gale
Hath mingled oft affection's funeral-wail,
Mourning for buried heroes - while to her
That glowing land was but her sepulchre.
And there, of old, the dread mysterious moan
Swelled from strange voices of no mortal tone
And that wild trumpet, whose unearthly note
Was heard, at midnight, o'er the hills to float
Around the spot where Agrippina died,
Denouncing vengeance on the matricide.

Passed are those ages - yet another crime,
Another woe, must stain the Elysian clime.
There stands a scaffold on the sunny shore -
It must be crimsoned ere the day is o'er!
There is a throne in regal pomp arrayed, -
A scene of death from thence must be surveyed.
Marked ye the rushing throngs? - each mien is pale,
Each hurried glance reveals a fearful tale:
But the deep workings of the indignant breast,
Wrath, hatred, pity, must be all suppressed;
The burning tear awhile must check its course,
The avenging thought concentrate all its force;
For tyranny is near, and will not brook
Aught but submission in each guarded look.

Girt with his fierce Provencals, and with mien
Austere in triumph, gazing on the scene,
And in his eye a keen suspicious glance
Of jealous pride and restless vigilance,
Behold the conqueror! Vainly in his face,
Of gentler feeling hope would seek a trace;
Cold, proud, severe, the spirit which hath lent
Its haughty stamp to each dark lineament;
And pleading mercy, in the sternness there,
May read at once her sentence - to despair!

But thou, fair boy! the beautiful, the brave,
Thus passing from the dungeon to the grave,
While all is yet around thee which can give
A charm to earth, and make it bless to live;
Thou on whose form hath swelt a mother's eye,
Till the deep love that not with thee shall die
Hath grown too full for utterance - Can it be?
And is this pomp of death prepared for
thee?

Young, royal Conradin! who shouldst have known
Of life as yet the sunny smile alone!
Oh! who can view thee, in the pride and bloom
Of youth, arrayed so richly for the tomb,
Nor feel, deep swelling in his inmost soul,
Emotions tyranny may ne'er control?
Bright victim! to Ambition's altar led,
Crowned with all flowers that heaven on earth can shed
Who, from the oppressor towering in his pride,
May hope for mercy - if to thee denied?
There is dead silence on the breathless throng,
Dead silence all the peopled shore along,
As on the captive moves - the only sound,
To break that calm so fearfully profound,
The low, sweet murmur of the rippling wave.
Soft as it glides, the smiling shore to lave;
While on that shore, his own fair heritage,
The youthful martyr to a tyrant's rage
Is passing to his fate: the eyes are dim
Which gaze, through tears that dare not flow, on him
He mounts the scaffold - doth his footstep fail?

Doth his lip quiver? doth his cheek turn pale?
Oh! it may be forgiven him if a thought
Cling to that world, for him with beauty fraught,
To all the hopes that promised glory's meed,
And all the affections that with him shall bleed
If, in his life's young dayspring, while the rose
Of boyhood on his cheek yet freshly glows,
One human fear convulse his parting breath,
And shrink from all the bitterness of death!

But no! the spirit of his royal race
Sits brightly on his brow - that youthful face
Beams with heroic beauty, and his eye
Is eloquent with injured majesty.
He kneels - but not to man - his heart shall own
Such deep submission to his God alone!
And who can tell with what sustaining power
That God may visit him in fate's dread hour?
How the still voice, which answers every moan,
May speak of hope - when hope on earth is gone.

That solemn pause is o'er - the youth hath given
One glance of parting love to earth and heaven:
The sun rejoices in the unclouded sky,
Life all around him glows - and he must die!
Yet 'midst his people, undismayed, he throws
The gage of vengeance for a thousand woes;
Vengeance that, like their own volcano's fire,
May sleep suppressed a while - but not expire.
One softer image rises o'er his breast,
One fond regret, and all shall be at rest!
'Alas, for thee, my mother! who shall bear
To thy sad heart the tidings of despair,
When thy lost child is gone?' - that thought can thrill
His soul with pangs one moment more shall still.
The lifted axe is glittering in the sun -
It falls - the race of Conradin is run!
Yet, from the blood which flows that shore to stain,
A voice shall cry to heaven - and not in vain!
Gaze thou, triumphant from thy gorgeous throne,
In proud supremacy of guilt alone,
Charles of Anjou! - but that dread voice shall be
A fearful summoner e'en yet to thee!

The scene of death is closed - the throngs depart,
A deep stern lesson graved on every heart.
No pomp, no funeral rites, no streaming eyes,
High-minded boy! may grace thine obsequies.
Oh, vainly royal and beloved! thy grave,
Unsanctified, is bathed by Ocean's wave;
Marked by no stone, a rude, neglected spot,
Unhonoured, unadorned - but
unforgot;

For thy deep wrongs in tameless hearts shall live,
Now mutely suffering - never to forgive!

The sun fades from purple heavens away -
A bark hath anchored in the unruffled bay;
Thence on the beach descends a female form,
Her mien with hope and tearful transport warm;
But life hath left sad traces on her cheek,
And her soft eyes a chastened heart bespeak,
Inured to woes - yet what were all the past!

She
sank not feebly 'neath affliction's blast,
While one bright hope remained - who now shall tell
The uncrowned, the widowed, how her loved one fell?
To clasp her child, to ransom and to save,
The mother came - and she hath found his grave!
And by that grave, transfixed in speechless grief,
Whose deathlike trance denies a tear's relief,
Awhile she kneels - till roused at length to know,
To feel the might, the fulness of her woe,
On the still air a voice of anguish wild,
A mother's cry is heard - 'My Conradin! my child!'

Submitted: Thursday, April 08, 2010

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