Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838 / England)
The Troubadour. Canto 1
CALL to mind your loveliest dream,--
When your sleep is lull'd by a mountain stream,
When your pillow is made of the violet,
And over your head the branches are met
Of a lime-tree cover'd with bloom and bees,
When the roses' breath is on the breeze,
When odours and light on your eyelids press
With summer's delicious idleness;
And upon you some shadowy likeness may glance
Of the faery banks of the bright Durance;
Just where at first its current flows
'Mid willows and its own white rose,--
Its clear and early tide, or ere
A shade, save trees, its waters bear.
The sun, like an Indian king, has left
To that fair river a royal gift
Of gold and purple; no longer shines
His broad red disk o'er that forest of pines
Sweeping beneath the burning sky
Like a death-black ocean, whose billows lie
Dreaming dark dreams of storm in their sleep
When the wings of the tempest shall over them sweep.
--And with its towers cleaving the red
Of the sunset clouds, and its shadow spread
Like a cloak before it, darkening the ranks
Of the light young trees on the river's banks,
And ending there, as the waters shone
Too bright for shadows to rest upon,
A castle stands; whose windows gleam
Like the golden flash of a noon-lit stream
Seen through the lily and water-flags' screen:
Just so shine those panes through the ivy green,
A curtain to shut out sun and air,
Which the work of years has woven there.
--But not in the lighted pomp of the west
Looks the evening its loveliest;
Enter yon turret, and round you gaze
On what the twilight east displays:
One star, pure, clear, as if it shed
The dew on each young flower's head;
And, like a beauty of southern clime,
Her veil thrown back for the first time,
Pale, timid as she feared to own
Her claim upon the midnight throne,
Shows the fair moon her crescent sign.
--Beneath, in many a serpentine,
The river wanders; chesnut trees
Spread their old boughs o'er cottages
Where the low roofs and porticoes
Are cover'd with the Provence rose.
And there are vineyards: none might view
The fruit o'er which the foliage weaves;
And olive groves, pale as the dew
Crusted its silver o'er the leaves.
And there the castle garden lay
With tints in beautiful array:
Its dark green walks, its fountains falling,
Its tame birds to each other calling;
The peacock with its orient rings,
The silver pheasant's gleaming wings;
And on the breeze rich odours sent
Sweet messages, as if they meant
To rouse each sleeping sense to all
The loveliness of evening's fall.--
That lonely turret, is it not
A minstrel's own peculiar spot?
Thus with the light of shadowy grey
To dream the pleasant hours away.
Slight columns were around the hall
With wreathed and fluted pedestal
Of green Italian marble made,
In likeness of the palm-trees' shade;
And o'er the ceiling starry showers
Mingled with many-colour'd flowers,
With crimson roses o'er her weeping,
There lay that royal maiden sleeping--
DANAE , she whom gold could move--
How could it move her heart to love?
Between the pillars the rich fold
Of tapestry fell, inwrought with gold,
And many-colour'd silks which gave,
Strange legends of the fair and brave.
And there the terrace covered o'er
With summer's fair and scented store;
As grateful for the gentle care
That had such pride to keep it fair.
And, gazing, as if heart and eye
Were mingled with that lovley sky,
There stood a youth, slight as not yet
With manhood's strength and firmness set;
But on his cold, pale cheek were caught
The traces of some deeper thought,
A something seen of pride and gloom,
Not like youth's hour of light and bloom:
A brow of pride, a lip of scorn,--
Yet beautiful in scorn and pride--
A conscious pride, as if he own'd
Gems hidden from the world beside;
And scorn, as he cared not to learn
Should others prize those gems or spurn.
He was the last of a proud race
Who left him but his sword and name,
And boyhood past in restless dreams
Of future deeds and future fame.
But there were other dearer dreams
Than the light'ning flash of these war gleams
That fill'd the depths of RAYMOND'S heart;
For his was now the loveliest part
Of the young poet's life, when first,
In solitude and silence nurst,
His genius rises like a spring
Unnoticed in its wandering;
Ere winter cloud or summer ray
Have chill'd, or wasted it away,
When thoughts with their own beauty fill'd
Shed their own richness over all,
As waters from sweet woods distill'd
Breathe perfume out where'er they fall.
I know not whether Love can fling
A deeper witchery from his wing
Than falls sweet Power of Song from thine.
Yet, ah! the wreath that binds thy shrine,
Though seemingly all bloom and light,
Hides thorn and canker, worm and blight.
Planet of wayward destinies
Thy victims are thy votaries!
Alas! for him whose youthful fire
Is vowed and wasted on the lyre,--
Alas! for him who shall essay,
The laurel's long and dreary way!
Mocking will greet, neglect will chill
His spirit's gush, his bosom's thrill;
And, worst of all, that heartless praise
Echoed from what another says.
He dreams a dream of life and light,
And grasps the rainbow that appears
Afar all beautiful and bright,
And finds it only formed of tears.
Ay, let him reach the goal, let fame
Pour glory's sunlight on his name,
Let his songs be on every tongue,
And wealth and honours round him flung:
Then let him show his secret thought,
Will it not own them dearly bought?
See him in weariness fling down
The golden harp, the violet crown;
And sigh for all the toil, the care,
The wrong that he has had to bear;
Then wish the treasures of his lute
Had been, like his own feelings, mute,
And curse the hour when that he gave
To sight that wealth, his lord and slave.
But RAYMOND was in the first stage
Of life's enchanted pilgrimage:
'Tis not for Spring to think on all
The sear and waste of Autumn's fall:--
Enough for him to watch beside
The bursting of the mountain tide,
To wander through the twilight shade
By the dark, arching pine-boughs made,
And at the evening's starlit hour
To seek for some less shadowy bower,
Where dewy leaf, and flower pale,
Made the home of the nightingale.
Or he would seek the turret hall,
And there, unheard, unseen of all,
When even the night winds were mute,
His rich tones answer'd to the lute;
And in his pleasant solitude
He would forget his wayward mood,
And pour his spirit forth when none
Broke on his solitude, save one.
There is a light step passing by
Like the distant sound of music's sigh;
It is that fair and gentle child,
Whose sweetness has so oft beguiled,
Like sunlight on a stormy day,
His almost sullenness away.
They said she was not of mortal birth,
And her face was fairer than face of earth:
What is the thing to liken it to?
A lily just dipp'd in the summer dew--
Parian marble--snow's first fall?--
Her brow was fairer than each and all.
And so delicate was each vein's soft blue,
'Twas not like blood that wander'd through.
Rarely upon that cheek was shed,
By health or by youth, one tinge of red;
And never closest look could descry,
In shine, or in shade, the hue of her eye:
But as it were made of light, it changed,
With every sunbeam that over it ranged;
And that eye could look through the long dark lash,
With the moon's dewy smile, or the lightning's flash.
Her silken tresses, so bright and so fair,
Stream'd like a banner of light on the air,
And seldom its sunny wealth around
Was chaplet of flowers or ribbon bound;
But amid the gold of its thousand curls
Was twisted a braid of snow-white pearls,--
They said 'twas a charmed spell; that before,
This braid her nameless mother wore;
And many were the stories wild
Whisper'd of the neglected child.
LORD AMIRALD , (thus the tale was told),
The former lord of the castle-hold,--
LORD AMIRALD had followed the chase
Till he was first and last in the race;
The blood-dy'd sweat hung on his steed,
Each breath was a gasp, yet he stay'd not his speed.
Twice the dust and foam had been wash'd
By the mountain torrent that over them dash'd;
But still the stag held on his way,
Till a forest of pine trees before them lay,
And bounding and crashing boughs declare
The stag and the hunter have enter'd there.
On, on they went, till a greenwood screen
Lay AMIRALD and his prey between:
He has heard the creature sink on the ground,
And the branches give way at his courser's bound.
The spent stag on the grass is laid;
But over him is leant a maid,
Her arms and fair hair glistening
With the bright waters of the spring;
And AMIRALD paused, and gazed, as seeing
Were grown the sole sense of his being.
At first she heard him not, but bent
Upon her pitying task intent;
The summer clouds of hair that hung
Over her brow were backwards flung,
She saw him! Her first words were prayer
Her gasping favourite's life to spare;
But her next tones were soft and low,
And on her cheek a mantling glow
Play'd like a rainbow; and the eye
That raised in pleading energy,
Shed, starlike, its deep beauty round,
Seem'd now as if to earth spell-bound.--
They parted: but each one that night
Thought on the meeting at twilight.
It matters not, how, day by day,
Love made his sure but secret way.
Oh, where is there the heart but knows
Love's first steps are upon the rose!
And here were all which still should be
Nurses to Love's sweet infancy,--
Hope, mystery, absence:--then each thought
A something holy with it brought.
Their sighs were breathed, their vows were given
Before the face of the high Heaven,
Link'd not with courtly vanities,
But birds and blossoms, leaves and trees:--
Love was not made for palace pride,
For halls and domes--they met beside
A marble fountain, overgrown
With moss, that made it nature's own,
Though through the green shone veins of snow,
Like the small Fairy's paved ways,
As if a relic left to show
The luxury of departed days,
And show its nothingness. The wave
That princely brows was wont to lave
Was left now for the wild bird's bill,
And the red deer to drink their fill.
Yet still it was as fair a spot
As in its once more splendid lot:
Around, the dark sweep of the pine
Guarded it like a wood-nymph's shrine,
And the gold-spotted moss was set
With crowds of the white violet.
One only oak grew by the spring,
The forest's patriarch and king;
A nightingale had built her nest
In the green shadow of its rest;
And in its hollow trunk the bees
Dwelt in their honey palaces;
And underneath its shelter stood,
Leant like a beauty o'er the flood
Watching each tender bud unclose,
A beautiful white Provence rose;--
Yet wan and pale as that it knew
What changing skies and sun could do;
As that it knew, and, knowing, sigh'd,
The vanity of summer pride;
As watching could put off the hour
When falls the leaf and fades the flower.
Alas! that every lovely thing
Lives only but for withering,--
That spring rainbows and summer shine
End but in autumn's pale decline.
And here the lovers met, what hour
The bee departed from the flower,
And droop'd the bud at being left,
Or as ashamed of each sweet theft,
What hour the soft wind bore along
The nightingale's moonlighted song.
And AMIRALD heard her father's name,
He whose it was, was link'd with fame:
Though driven from his heritage,
A hunted exile in his age,
For that he would not bend the knee,
And draw the sword at Rome's decree.
She led him to the lonely cot,
And almost AMIRALD wish'd his lot
Had been cast in that humbler life,
Over whose peace the hour of strife
Passes but like the storm at sea
That wakes not earth's tranquillity.
In secret were they wed, not then
Had AMIRALD power to fling again
The banner of defiance wide
To priestly pomp and priestly pride;
But day by day more strong his hand,
And more his friends, and soon the brand
That in its wrongs and silence slept
Had from its blood-stain'd scabbard leapt.
But here are told such varying tales
That none may know where truth prevails;
For there were hints of murder done,
And deeds of blood that well might shun
All knowledge; but the wildest one
Was most believed: 'twas whisper'd round
Lord AMIRALD in hunting found
An evil spirit, but array'd
In semblance of a human maid;
That 'twas some holy word whose force
Broke off their sinful intercourse.
But this is sure, one evening late
Lord AMIRALD reach'd his castle gate,
And blood was on his spurs of gold,
And blood was on his mantle's fold,--
He flung it back, and on his arm
A fair young child lay pillow'd warm;
It stretch'd its little hands and smiled,
And AMIRALD said it was his child,
And bade the train their aid afford
Suiting the daughter of their Lord.
Then sought his brother, but alone;
Yet there were some who heard a tone
Of stifled agony, a prayer
His child should meet a father's care;
And as he past the hall again
He call'd around his vassal train,
And bade them own his brother's sway.
Then past himself like a dream away,--
And from that hour none heard his name,
No tale, no tidings of him came,
Save a vague murmur, that he fell
In fighting with the Infidel.
But his fair child grew like a flower
Springing in March's earlier hour,
'Mid storm and chill, yet loveliest--
Though somewhat paler than the rest.
Perhaps it was her orphan'd state,
So young, so fair, so desolate,--
Somewhat of likeness in their fate
Made RAYMOND'S heart for her confess
Its hidden depths of tenderness.
Neglected both; and those that pine
In love's despair and hope's decline,
Can love the most when some sweet spell
Breaks the seal on affection's well,
And bids its waters flow like light
Returning to the darken'd sight.
And while his fallen fortunes taught
RAYMOND'S proud solitude of thought,
His spirit's cold, stern haughtiness
In her was gentle mournfulness.
The cold north wind which bows to earth
The lightness of the willow's birth
Bends not the mountain cedar trees;
Folding their branches from the breeze,
They stand as if they could defy
The utmost rage of storm and sky.
And she, she would have thought it sin
To harbour one sweet thought within,
In whose delight he had no part,--
He was the world of her young heart.
A childish fondness, yet revealing
Somewhat of woman's deeper feeling,--
Else wherefore is that crimson blush,
As her cheek felt her bosom's rush
Upon her face, while pausing now
Her eyes are raised to RAYMOND'S brow,
Who, lute-waked to a ballad old,
A legend of the fair and bold.
HE raised the golden cup from the board,
It sparkled with purple wealth,
He kist the brim her lip had prest,
And drank to his ladye's health.
Ladye, to-night I pledge thy name,
To-morrow thou shalt pledge mine;
Ever the smile of beauty should light
The victor's blood-red wine.
There are some flowers of brightest bloom
Amid thy beautiful hair,
Give me those roses, they shall be
The favour I will wear.
For ere their colour is wholly gone,
Or the breath of their sweetness fled,
They shall be placed in thy curls again,
But dy'd of a deeper red.
The warrior rode forth in the morning light,
And beside his snow-white plume
Were the roses wet with the sparkling dew,
Like pearls on their crimson bloom.
The maiden stood on her highest tower,
And watch'd her knight depart;
She dash'd the tear aside, but her hand
Might not still her beating heart.
All day she watch'd the distant clouds
Float on the distant air,
A crucifix upon her neck,
And on her lips a prayer.
The sun went down, and twilight came
With her banner of pearlin grey,
And then afar she saw a band
Wind down the vale their way.
They came like victors, for high o'er their ranks
Were their crimson colours borne;
And a stranger penon droop'd beneath,
But that was bow'd and torn:
But she saw no white steed first in the ranks,
No rider that spurr'd before;
But the evening shadows were closing fast,
And she could see no more.
She turn'd from her watch on the lonely tower
In haste to reach the hall,
And as she sprang down the winding stair
She heard the drawbridge fall.
A hundred harps their welcome rung,
Then paused as if in fear;
The ladye enter'd the hall, and saw
Her true knight stretch'd on his bier!
THE song ceased, yet not with its tone
Is the minstrel's vision wholly flown;
But there he stood as if he had sent
His spirit to rove on the element.
But EVA broke on his trance, and the while
Play'd o'er her lip a sigh and a smile;--
'Now turn thee from that evening sky,
And the dreaming thoughts that are passing by,
And give me those buds, thou hast pluck'd away
The leaves of the rose round which they lay;
Yet still the boon thrice fair will be,
And give them for my tidings to me.
A herald waits in the court to claim
Aid in the Lady of Clarin's name;
And well you know the fair CLOTILDE
Will have her utmost prayer fulfill'd.
Go to the hall at once, and ask
That thine may be the glorious task
To spread the banner to the day
And lead the vassals to the fray.'--
He rush'd to the crowded hall, and there
He heard the herald's words declare
The inroad on her lands, the wrong
The lonely Countess suffer'd long,
And now SIR HERBERT'S arm'd array
Before her very castle lay;
But surely there was many a knight
Whose sword would strike for lady's right;
And surely many a lover's hand
In such a cause would draw the brand.
And rush'd the blood, and flash'd the light
To RAYMOND'S cheek, from RAYMOND'S eye,
When he stood forth and claim'd the fight,
And spoke of death and victory,
Those words that thrill the heart when first
Forth the young warrior's soul has burst.
And smiled the castle lord to see
His ward's impetuous energy.
'Well! get thy sword, the dawning day
Shall see thee lead my best array;
Suits it young warrior well to fight
For lady's cause and lady's right?
'Tis just a field for knight to win
His maiden spurs and honours in.'
And RAYMOND felt as if a gush
Of thousand waters in one rush
Were on his heart, as if the dreams
Of what, alas! life only seems,
Wild thoughts and noontide revelries,
Were turn'd into realities.
Impatient, restless, first his steed
Was hurried to its utmost speed:
And next his falchion's edge was tried,
Then waved the helmet's plume of pride,
Then wandering through the courts and hall,
He paused in none yet pass'd through all.
But there was one whose gentle heart
Could ill take its accustom'd part
In RAYMOND'S feelings, one who deem'd
That almost unkind RAYMOND seem'd:--
If thus the very name of war,
Could fill so utterly each thought,
How durst she hope, that when afar
EVA would be to memory brought.
Oh, she had yet the task to learn
How often woman's heart must turn
To feed upon its own excess
Of deep yet passionate tenderness!
How much of grief the heart must prove
That yields a sanctuary to love!
And ever since the crimson day
Had faded into twilight grey,
She had been in the gallery, where
Hung, pictured, knight and lady fair,
Where haughty brow, and lovely face,
Show'd youth and maiden of her race.
With both it was a favourite spot,
And names and histories which had not
A record save in the dim light
Tradition throws on memory's night
To them were treasures; they could tell
What from the first crusade befell.
There could not be a solitude
More fitted for a pensive mood
Than this old gallery,--the light
Of the full moon came coldly bright--
A silvery stream, save where a stain
Fell from the pictured window pane,--
A ruby flush, a purple dye,
Like the last sun-streak on the sky,
And lighted lip, and cheek of bloom
Almost in mockery of the tomb.
How sad, how strange to think the shade,
The copy faint of beauty made,
Should be the only wreck that death
Shall leave of so much bloom and breath.
The cheek, long since the earth-worm's prey,
Beside the lovely of to-day
Here smiles as bright, as fresh, as fair,
As if of the same hour it were.
There pass'd a step along the hall,
And EVA started as if all
Her treasures, secret until now,
Burnt in the blush upon her brow.
There was a something in their meeting,
A conscious trembling in her greeting,
As coldness from his eye might hide
The struggle of her love and pride;
Then fears of all too much revealing
Vanish'd with a reproachful feeling.
What, coldness! when another day
And RAYMOND would be far away,
When that to-morrow's rising sun
Might be the last he look'd upon!
'Come, EVA , dear! by the moonlight
We'll visit all our haunts to night.
I could not lay me down to rest,
For, like the feathers in my crest,
My thoughts are waving to and fro.
Come, EVA , dear! I could not go
Without a pilgrimage to all
Of garden, nook, and waterfall,--
Where, amid birds, and leaves, and flowers,
And gales that cool'd the sunny hours,
With legend old, and plaining song,
We found not summer's day too long.'
Through many a shadowy spot they past,
Looking its loveliest and its last,
Until they paused beneath the shade
Of cypress and of roses made,--
The one so sad, the one so fair,
Just blent as love and sorrow are.
And RAYMOND prayed the maiden gather,
And twine in a red wreath together
The roses. 'No,' she sigh'd 'not these
Sweet children of the sun and breeze,
Born for the beauty of a day,
Dying as all fair things decay
When loveliest,--these may not be,
RAYMOND , my parting gift to thee.'
From next her heart, where it had lain,
She took an amber scented chain,
To which a cross of gold was hung,
And round the warrior's neck she flung
The relique, while he kiss'd away
The warm tears that upon it lay.
And mark'd they not the pale, dim sky
Had lost its moonlit brilliancy,
When suddenly a bugle rang,--
Forth at its summons RAYMOND sprang,
But turn'd again to say farewell
To her whose gushing teardrops fell
Like summer rain,--but he is gone!
And EVA weeps, and weeps alone.
Dark was the shade of that old tower
In the grey light of morning's hour;
And cold and pale the maiden leant
Over the heavy battlement,
And look'd upon the armed show
That hurrying throng'd the court below:
With her white robe and long bright hair,
A golden veil flung on the air,
Like Peace prepared from earth to fly,
Yet pausing, ere she wing'd on high,
In pity for the rage and crime
That forced her to some fairer clime.
When suddenly her pale cheek burn'd,
For RAYMOND'S eye to her's was turn'd;
But like a meteor past its flame--
She was too sad for maiden shame.
She heard the heavy drawbridge fall,
And RAYMOND rode the first of all;
But when he came to the green height
Which hid the castle from his sight,
With useless spur and slacken'd rein,
He was the laggard of the train.
They paused upon the steep ascent,
And spear, and shield, and breast-plate sent
A light, as if the rising day
Upon a mirror flash'd its ray.
They pass on, EVA only sees
A chance plume waving in the breeze,
And then can see no more--but borne
Upon the echo, came the horn;
At last nor sight nor sound declare
Aught of what pass'd that morning there.
Sweet sang the birds, light swept the breeze,
And play'd the sunlight o'er the trees,
And roll'd the river's depths of blue
Quiet as they were wont to do.
And EVA felt as if of all
Her heart were sole memorial.
Comments about this poem (The Troubadour. Canto 1 by Letitia Elizabeth Landon )
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