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Letitia Elizabeth Landon

(1802-1838 / England)

The Troubadour. Canto 3


LAND of the olive and the vine,
The saint and soldier, sword and shrine!
How glorious to young RAYMOND'S eye
Swell'd thy bold heights, spread thy clear sky,
When first he paused upon the height
Where, gather'd, lay the Christian might.
Amid a chesnut wood were raised
Their white tents, and the red cross blazed
Meteor-like, with its crimson shine,
O'er many a standard's scutcheon'd line.

On the hill opposite there stood
The warriors of the Moorish blood,--
With their silver crescents gleaming,
And their horse-tail pennons streaming;
With cymbals and the clanging gong,
The muezzin's unchanging song,
The turbans that like rainbows shone,
The coursers' gay caparison,
As if another world had been
Where that small rivulet ran between.

And there was desperate strife next day:
The little vale below that lay
Was like a slaughter-pit, of green
Could not one single trace be seen;
The Moslem warrior stretch'd beside
The Christian chief by whom he died;
And by the broken falchion blade
The crooked scymeter was laid.

And gallantly had RAYMOND borne
The red cross through the field that morn,
When suddenly he saw a knight
Oppress'd by numbers in the fight:
Instant his ready spear was flung,
Instant amid the band he sprung;--
They fight, fly, fall,--and from the fray
He leads the wounded knight away!
Gently he gain'd his tent, and there
He left him to the leech's care;
Then sought the field of death anew,--
Little was there for knight to do.

That field was strewn with dead and dying;
And mark'd he there DE VALENCE lying
Upon the turbann'd heap, which told
How dearly had his life been sold.
And yet on his curl'd lip was worn
The impress of a soldier's scorn;
And yet his dark and glazed eye
Glared its defiance stern and high:
His head was on his shield, his hand
Held to the last his own red brand.
Felt RAYMOND all too proud for grief
In gazing on the gallant chief:
So, thought he, should a warrior fall,
A victor dying last of all.

But sadness moved him when he gave
DE VALENCE to his lowly grave,--
The grave where the wild flowers were sleeping,
And one pale olive-tree was weeping,--
And placed the rude stone cross to show
A Christian hero lay below.

With the next morning's dawning light
Was RAYMOND by the wounded knight.
He heard strange tales,--none knew his name,
And none might say from whence he came;
He wore no cognizance, his steed
Was raven black, and black his weed.
All owned his fame, but yet they deem'd
More desperate than brave he seem'd;
Or as he only dared the field
For the swift death that it might yield.

Leaning beside the curtain, where
Came o'er his brow the morning air,
He found the stranger chief; his tone,
Surely 'twas one RAYMOND had known!
He knew him not, what chord could be
Thus waken'd on his memory?

At first the knight was cold and stern,
As that his spirit shunn'd to learn
Aught of affection; as it brought
To him some shaft of venom'd thought:
When one eve RAYMOND chanced to name
Durance's castle, whence he came;
And speak of EVA , and her fate,
So young and yet so desolate,
So beautiful! Then heard he all
Her father's wrongs, her mother's fall:
For AMIRALD was the knight whose life
RAYMOND had saved amid the strife;
And now he seem'd to find relief
In pouring forth his hidden grief,
Which had for years been as the stream
Cave-lock'd from either air or beam.

LORD AMIRALD'S HISTORY.

I LOVED her! ay, I would have given
A death-bed certainty of heaven
If I had thought it could confer
The least of happiness on her!
How proudly did I wait the hour
When hid no more in lowly bower,
She should shine, loveliest of all,
The lady of my heart and hall;--
And soon I deem'd the time would be,
For many a chief stood leagued with me.

It was one evening we had sate
In my tower's secret council late,
Our bands were number'd, and we said
That the pale moon's declining head
Should shed her next full light o'er bands
With banners raised, and sheathless brands.
We parted; I to seek the shade
Where my heart's choicest gem was laid;
I flung me on my fleetest steed,
I urged it to its utmost speed,--
On I went, like the hurrying wind,
Hill, dale, and plain were left behind,
And yet I thought my courser slow--
Even when the forest lay below.

As my wont, in a secret nook
I left my horse,--I may not tell
With what delight my way I took
Till I had reach'd the oak-hid dell.
The trees which hitherto had made
A more than night, with lighten'd shade
Now let the stars and sky shine through,
Rejoicing, calm, and bright, and blue.

There did not move a leaf that night
That I cannot remember now,
Nor yet a single star whose light
Was on the royal midnight's brow:
Wander'd no cloud, sigh'd not a flower,
That is not present at this hour.
No marvel memory thus should press
Round its last light of happiness!

I paused one moment where I stood,
In all a very miser's mood,
As if that thinking of its store
Could make my bosom's treasure more.
I saw the guiding lamp which shone
From the wreath'd lattice, pale and lone;
Another moment I was there,
To pause, and look--upon despair.

I saw her!--on the ground she lay,
The life blood ebbing fast away;
But almost as she could not die
Without my hand to close her eye!
When to my bosom press'd, she raised
Her heavy lids, and feebly gazed,
And her lip moved: I caught its breath,
Its last, it was the gasp of death!

I leant her head upon my breast,
As I but soothed her into rest;--
I do not know what time might be
Past in this stony misery,
When I was waken'd from my dream
By my forgotten infant's scream.
Then first I thought upon my child.
I took it from its bed, it smiled,
And its red cheek was flush'd with sleep:
Why had it not the sense to weep?
I laid its mother on the bed,
O'er her pale brow a mantle spread,
And left the wood. Calm, stern, and cold,
The tale of blood and death I told;
Gave my child to my brother's care
As his, not mine were this despair.

I flung me on my steed again,
I urged him with the spur and rein,--
I left him at the usual tree,
But left him there at liberty.

With madd'ning step I sought the place,
I raised the mantle from her face,
And knelt me down beside, to gaze
On all the mockery death displays,
Until it seem'd but sleep to me.
Death,--oh, no! death it could not be.

The cold grey light the dawn had shed,
Changed gradual into melting red;
I watch'd the morning colour streak
With crimson dye her marble cheek;
The freshness of the stirring air
Lifted her curls of raven hair;
Her head lay pillow'd on her arm,
Sweetly, as if with life yet warm;--
I kiss'd her lips: oh, God, the chill!
My heart is frozen with it still:--
It was as suddenly on me
Open'd my depths of misery.
I flung me on the ground, and raved,
And of the wind that past me craved
One breath of poison, till my blood
From lip and brow gush'd in one flood.
I watch'd the warm stream of my veins
Mix with the death wounds clotted stains;
Oh! how I pray'd that I might pour
My heart's tide, and her life restore!

And night came on:--with what dim fear
I mark'd the darkling hours appear,--
I could not gaze on the dear brow,
And seeing was all left me now.
I grasp'd the cold hand in mine own,
Till both alike seem'd turn'd to stone.
Night, morn, and noontide pass'd away,
Then came the tokens of decay.

'Twas the third night that I had kept
My watch, and, like a child, had wept
Sorrow to sleep, and in my dream
I saw her as she once could seem,
Fair as an angel: there she bent
As if sprung from the element,
The bright clear fountain, whose pure wave
Her soft and shadowy image gave.

Methought that conscious beauty threw
Upon her cheek its own sweet hue,
Its loveliness of morning red;
I woke, and gazed upon the dead.
I mark'd the fearful stains which now
Were dark'ning o'er the once white brow,
The livid colours that declare
The soul no longer dwelleth there.
The gaze of even my fond eye,
Seem'd almost like impiety,
As it were sin for looks to be
On what the earth alone should see.
I thought upon the loathsome doom
Of the grave's cold, corrupted gloom;--
Oh, never shall the vile worm rest
A lover on thy lip and breast!

Oh, never shall a careless tread
Soil with its step thy sacred bed!
Never shall leaf or blossom bloom
With vainest mockery o'er thy tomb!

And forth I went, and raised a shrine
Of the dried branches of the pine,--
I laid her there, and o'er her flung
The wild flowers that around her sprung;
I tore them up, and root and all,
I bade them wait her funeral,
With a strange joy that each fair thing
Should, like herself, be withering.
I lit the pyre,--the evening skies
Rain'd tears upon the sacrifice;
How did its wild and awful light
Struggle with the fierce winds of night;
Red was the battle, but in vain
Hiss'd the hot embers with the rain.
It wasted to a single spark;
That faded, and all round was dark:
Then, like a madman who has burst
The chain which made him doubly curst,
I fled away. I may not tell
The agony that on me fell:--
I fled away, for fiends were near,
My brain was fire, my heart was fear!

I was borne on an eagle's wing,
Till with the noon-sun perishing;
Then I stood in a world alone,
From which all other life was gone,
Whence warmth, and breath, and light were fled,
A world o'er which a curse was said:
The trees stood leafless all, and bare,
The sky spread, but no sun was there:
Night came, no stars were on her way,
Morn came without a look of day,--
As night and day shared one pale shroud,
Without a colour or a cloud.
And there were rivers, but they stood
Without a murmur on the flood,
Waveless and dark, their task was o'er,--
The sea lay silent on the shore,
Without a sign upon its breast
Save of interminable rest:
And there were palaces and halls,
But silence reign'd amid their walls,
Though crowds yet fill'd them; for no sound
Rose from the thousands gather'd round;
All wore the same white, bloodless hue,
All the same eyes of glassy blue,
Meaningless, cold, corpse-like as those
No gentle hand was near to close.
And all seem'd, as they look'd on me,
In wonder that I yet could be
A moving shape of warmth and breath
Alone amid a world of death.

'Tis strange how much I still retain
Of these wild tortures of my brain,
Though now they but to memory seem
A curse, a madness, and a dream;
But well I can recall the hour
When first the fever lost its power;
As one whom heavy opiates steep,
Rather in feverish trance than sleep,
I waken'd scarce to consciousness,--
Memory had fainted with excess:
I only saw that I was laid
Beneath an olive tree's green shade;
I knew I was where flowers grew fair,
I felt their balm upon the air,
I drank it as it had been wine;
I saw a gift of red sunshine
Glittering upon a fountain's brim;
I heard the small birds' vesper hymn,
As they a vigil o'er me kept,--
I heard their music, and I wept.
I felt a friendly arm upraise
My head, a kind look on me gaze!

RAYMOND , it has been mine to see
The godlike heads which Italy
Has given to prophet and to saint,
All of least earthly art could paint!
But never saw I such a brow
As that which gazed upon me now;--
It was an aged man, his hair
Was white with time, perhaps with care;
For over his pale face were wrought
The characters of painful thought;
But on that lip and in that eye
Were patience, peace, and piety,
The hope which was not of this earth,
The peace which has in pangs its birth,
As if in its last stage the mind,
Like silver seven times refined
In life's red furnace, all its clay,
All its dross purified away,
Paused yet a little while below,
Its beauty and its power to show.
As if the tumult of this life,
Its sorrow, vanity, and strife,
Had been but as the lightning's shock
Shedding rich ore upon the rock,
Though in the trial scorch'd and riven,
The gold it wins is gold from heaven.
He watch'd, he soothed me day to day,
How kindly words may never say:
All angel ministering could be
That old man's succour was to me;
I dwelt with him; for all in vain
He urged me to return again
And mix with life:--and months past on
Without a trace to mark them gone;
I had one only wish, to be
Left to my grief's monotony.
There is a calm which is not peace,
Like that when ocean's tempests cease,
When worn out with the storm, the sea
Sleeps in her dark tranquillity,
As dreading that the lightest stir
Would bring again the winds on her.
I felt as if I could not brook
A sound, a breath, a voice, a look,
As I fear'd they would bring again
Madness upon my heart and brain.
It was a haunting curse to me,
The simoom of insanity.
The links of life's enchanted chain,
Its hope, its pleasure, fear or pain,
Connected but with what had been,
Clung not to any future scene.
There is an indolence in grief
Which will not even seek relief:
I sat me down, like one who knows
The poison tree above him grows,
Yet moves not; my life-task was done
With that hour which left me alone.

It was one glad and glorious noon,
Fill'd with the golden airs of June,
When leaf and flower look to the sun
As if his light and life were one,--
A day of those diviner days
When breath seems only given for praise,
Beneath a stately tree which shed
A cool green shadow over-head;
I listen'd to that old man's words
Till my heart's pulses were as chords
Of a lute waked at the command
Of some thrice powerful master's hand.
He paused: I saw his face was bright
With even more than morning's light,
As his cheek felt the spirit's glow;
A glory sate upon his brow,
His eye flash'd as to it were given
A vision of his coming heaven.
I turn'd away in awe and fear,
My spirit was not of his sphere;
Ill might an earthly care intrude
Upon such high and holy mood:
I felt the same as I had done
Had angel face upon me shone,
When sudden, as sent from on high,
Music came slowly sweeping by.
It was not harp, it was not song,
Nor aught that might to earth belong!
The birds sang not, the leaves were still,
Silence was sleeping on the rill;
But with a deep and solemn sound
The viewless music swept around.
Oh never yet was such a tone
To hand or lip of mortal known!
It was as if a hymn were sent
From heaven's starry instrument,
In joy, such joy as seraphs feel
For some pure soul's immortal weal,
When that its human task is done,
Earth's trials past, and heaven won.

I felt, before I fear'd, my dread,
I turn'd and saw the old man dead!
Without a struggle or a sigh,
And is it thus the righteous die?
There he lay in the sun, calm, pale,
As if life had been like a tale
Which, whatsoe'er its sorrows past,
Breaks off in hope and peace at last.

I stretch'd him by the olive tree,
Where his death, there his grave should be;
The place was a thrice hallowed spot,
There had he drawn his golden lot
Of immortality; 'twas blest,
A green and holy place of rest.

But ill my burthen'd heart could bear
Its after loneliness of care;
The calmness round seem'd but to be
A mockery of grief and me,--
The azure flowers, the sunlit sky,
The rill, with its still melody,
The leaves, the birds,--with my despair,
The light and freshness had no share:
The one unbidden of them all
To join in summer's festival.

I wander'd first to many a shrine
By zeal or ages made divine;
And then I visited each place
Where valour's deeds had left a trace;
Or sought the spots renown'd no less
For nature's lasting loveliness.

In vain that all things changed around,
No change in my own heart was found.
In sad or gay, in dark or fair,
My spirit found a likeness there.

At last my bosom yearn'd to see
My EVA'S blooming infancy;
I saw, myself unseen the while,
Oh, God! it was her mother's smile!
Wherefore, oh, wherefore had they flung
The veil just as her mother's hung!--
Another look I dared not take,
Another look my heart would break!
I rush'd away to the lime grove
Where first I told my tale of love;
And leaves and flowers breathed of spring
As in our first sweet wandering.

I look'd towards the clear blue sky,
I saw the gem-like stream run by;
How did I wish that, like these, fate
Had made the heart inanimate.
Oh! why should spring for others be,
When there can come no spring to thee.

Again, again, I rush'd away;
Madness was on an instant's stay!
And since that moment, near and far,
In rest, in toil, in peace, in war,
I've wander'd on without an aim
In all, save lapse of years the same.
Where was the star to rise and shine
Upon a night so dark as mine?--
My life was as a frozen stream,
Which shares but feels not the sun-beam,
All careless where its course may tend,
So that it leads but to an end.
I fear my fate too much to crave
More than it must bestow--the grave.

AND AMIRALD from that hour sought
A refuge from each mournful thought
In RAYMOND'S sad but soothing smile;
And listening what might well beguile
The spirit from its last recess
Of dark and silent wretchedness.
He spoke of EVA , and he tried
To rouse her father into pride
Of her fair beauty; rather strove
To waken hope yet more than love.

He saw how deeply AMIRALD fear'd
To touch a wound not heal'd but sear'd:
His gentle care was not in vain,
And AMIRALD learn'd to think again
Of hope, if not of happiness;
And soon his bosom pined to press
The child whom he so long had left
An orphan doubly thus bereft.
He mark'd with what enamour'd tongue
RAYMOND on EVA'S mention hung,--
The softened tone, the downward gaze,
All that so well the heart betrays;
And a reviving future stole
Like dew and sunlight on his soul.

Soon the Crusaders would be met
Where winter's rest from war was set;
And then farewell to arms and Spain;--
Then for their own fair France again.

One morn there swell'd the trumpet's blast,
Calling to battle, but the last;
And AMIRALD watch'd the youthful knight
Spur his proud courser to the fight:
Tall as the young pine yet unbent
By strife with its mountain element,--
His vizor was up, and his full dark eye
Flash'd as its flashing were victory;
And hope and pride sate on his brow
As his earlier war-dreams were on him now.
Well might he be proud, for where was there one
Who had won the honour that he had won?
And first of the line it was his to lead
His band to many a daring deed.

But rose on the breath of the evening gale,
Not the trumpet's salute, but a mournful tale
Of treachery, that had betray'd the flower
Of the Christian force to the Infidel's power.
One came who told he saw RAYMOND fall,
Left in the battle the last of all;
His helm was gone, and his wearied hand
Held a red but a broken brand.--
What could a warrior do alone?
And AMIRALD felt all hope was gone.
Alas for the young! alas for the brave!
For the morning's hope, and the evening's grave!
And gush'd for him hot briny tears,
Such as AMIRALD had not shed for years;--
With heavy step and alter'd heart,
Again he turn'd him to depart.

He sought his child, but half her bloom
Was withering in RAYMOND'S tomb.

Albeit not with those who fled,
Yet was not RAYMOND with the dead.
There is a lofty castle stands
On the verge of Grenada's lands;
It has a dungeon, and a chain,
And there the young knight must remain.
Day after day,--or rather night,--
Can morning come without its light?
Pass'd on without a sound or sight.
The only thing that he could feel,
Was the same weight of fettering steel,--
The only sound that he could hear
Was when his own voice mock'd his ear,--
His only sight was the drear lamp
That faintly show'd the dungeon's damp,
When by his side the jailor stood,
And brought his loathed and scanty food.

What is the toil, or care, or pain,
The human heart cannot sustain?
Enough if struggling can create
A change or colour in our fate;
But where's the spirit that can cope
With listless suffering, when hope,
The last of misery's allies,
Sickens of its sweet self, and dies.

He thought on EVA :--tell not me
Of happiness in memory!

Oh! what is memory but a gift
Within a ruin'd temple left,
Recalling what its beauties were,
And then presenting what they are.
And many hours pass'd by,--each one
Sad counterpart of others gone;
Till even to his dreams was brought
The sameness of his waking thought;
And in his sleep he felt again
The dungeon, darkness, damp, and chain.

One weary time, when he had thrown
Himself on his cold bed of stone,
Sudden he heard a stranger hand
Undo the grating's iron band:
He knew 'twas stranger, for no jar
Came from the hastily drawn bar.

Too faintly gleam'd the lamp to show
The face of either friend or foe;
But there was softness in the tread,
And RAYMOND raised his weary head,
And saw a muffled figure kneel,
And loose the heavy links of steel.
He heard a whisper, to which heaven
Had surely all its music given:--
'Vow to thy saints for liberty,
Sir knight, and softly follow me!'
He heard her light step on the stair,
And felt 'twas woman led him there.
And dim and dark the way they past
Till on the dazed sight flash'd at last
A burst of light, and RAYMOND stood
Where censers burn'd with sandal wood,
And silver lamps like moonshine fell
O'er mirrors and the tapestried swell
Of gold and purple: on they went
Through rooms each more magnificent.

And RAYMOND look'd upon the brow
Of the fair guide who led him now:
It was a pale but lovely face,
Yet in its first fresh spring of grace,
That spring before or leaf or flower
Has known a single withering hour:
With lips red as the earliest rose
That opens for the bee's repose.
But it was not on lip, or cheek
Too marble fair, too soft, too meek,
That aught was traced that might express
More than unconscious loveliness;
But her dark eyes! as the wild light
Streams from the stars at deep midnight,
Speaks of the future,--so those eyes
Seem'd with their fate to sympathise,
As mocking with their conscious shade
The smile that on the red lip play'd,
As that they knew their destiny
Was love, and that such love would be
The uttermost of misery.

There came a new burst of perfume,
But different, from one stately room,
Not of sweet woods, waters distill'd,
But with fresh flowers' breathings fill'd;
And there the maiden paused, as thought
Some painful memory to her brought.

Around all spoke of woman's hand:
There a guitar lay on a stand
Of polish'd ebony, and raised
In rainbow ranks the hyacinth blazed
Like banner'd lancers of the spring,
Save that they were too languishing.
And gush'd the tears from her dark eyes,
And swell'd her lip and breast with sighs;
But RAYMOND spoke, and at the sound
The maiden's eye glanced hurried round.

Motioning with her hand she led,
With watching gaze and noiseless tread,
Along a flower-fill'd terrace, where
Flow'd the first tide of open air.
They reach'd the garden; there was all
That gold could win, or luxury call
From northern or from southern skies
To make an earthly paradise.
Their path was through a little grove,
Where cypress branches met above,
Green, shadowy, as nature meant
To make the rose a summer tent,
In fear and care, lest the hot noon
Should kiss her fragrant brow too soon.
Oh! passion's history, ever thus
Love's light and breath were perilous!
On the one side a fountain play'd
As if it were a Fairy's shade,
Who shower'd diamonds to streak
The red pomegranate's ruby cheek.
The grove led to a lake, one side
Sweet scented shrubs and willows hide:
There winds a path, the clear moonshine
Pierces not its dim serpentine.
The garden lay behind in light,
With flower and with fountain bright;
The lake like sheeted silver gave
The stars a mirror in each wave;
And distant far the torchlight fell,
Where paced the walls the centinel:
And as each scene met RAYMOND'S view,
He deem'd the tales of magic true,--
With such a path, and such a night,
And such a guide, and such a flight.

The way led to a grotto's shade,
Just for a noon in summer made;
For scarcely might its arch be seen
Through the thick ivy's curtain green,
And not a sunbeam might intrude
Upon its twilight solitude.
It was the very place to strew
The latest violets that grew
Upon the feathery moss, then dream,--
Lull'd by the music of the stream,--
Fann'd by those scented gales which bring
The garden's wealth upon their wing,
Till languid with its own delight,
Sleep steals like love upon the sight,
Bearing those visionings of bliss
That only visit sleep like this.

And paused the maid,--the moonlight shed
Its light where leaves and flowers were spread,
As there she had their sweetness borne,
A pillow for a summer morn;
But when those leaves and flowers were raised,
A lamp beneath their covering blazed.
She led through a small path whose birth
Seem'd in the hidden depths of earth,--
'Twas dark and damp, and on the ear
There came a rush of waters near.
At length the drear path finds an end,--
Beneath a dark low arch they bend;
'Safe, safe!' the maiden cried, and prest
The red cross to her panting breast!
'Yes, we are safe!--on, stranger, on,
The worst is past, and freedom won!
Somewhat of peril yet remains,
But peril not from Moorish chains;--
With hope and heaven be our lot!'
She spoke, but RAYMOND answer'd not:
It was as he at once had come
Into some star's eternal home,--
He look'd upon a spacious cave,
Rich with the gifts wherewith the wave
Had heap'd the temple of that source
Which gave it to its daylight course.
Here pillars crowded round the hall,
Each with a glistening capital:--
The roof was set with thousand spars,
A very midnight heaven of stars;
The walls were bright with every gem
That ever graced a diadem;
Snow turn'd to treasure,--crystal flowers
With every hue of summer hours.
While light and colour round him blazed,
It seem'd to RAYMOND that he gazed
Upon a fairy's palace, raised
By spells from ore and jewels, that shine
In Afric's stream and Indian mine;
And she, his dark-eyed guide, were queen
Alone in the enchanted scene.

They past the columns, and they stood
By the depths of a pitchy flood,
Where silent, leaning on his oar,
An Ethiop slave stood by the shore.
'My faithful ALI !' cried the maid,
And then to gain the boat essay'd,
Then paused, as in her heart afraid
To trust that slight and fragile bark
Upon a stream so fierce, so dark;
Such sullen waves, the torch's glare
Fell wholly unreflected there.

'Twas but a moment; on they went
Over the grave-like element;
At first in silence, for so drear
Was all that met the eye and ear,--
Before, behind, all was like night,
And the red torch's cheerless light,
Fitful and dim, but served to show
How the black waters roll'd below;
And how the cavern roof o'erhead
Seem'd like the tomb above them spread.
And ever as each heavy stroke
Of the oar upon these waters broke,
Ten thousand echoes sent the sound
Like omens through the hollows round,
Till RAYMOND , who awhile subdued
His spirit's earnest gratitude,
Now pour'd his hurried thanks to her,
Heaven's own loveliest minister.
E'en by that torch he could espy
The burning cheek, the downcast eye,--
The faltering lip, which owns too well
All that its words might never tell;--
Once her dark eye met his, and then
Sank 'neath its silken shade again;
She spoke a few short hurried words,
But indistinct, like those low chords
Waked from the lute or ere the hand
Knows yet what song it shall command.
Was it in maiden fearfulness
He might her bosom's secret guess,
Or but in maiden modesty
At what a stranger's thought might be
Of this a Moorish maiden's flight
In secret with a Christian knight.
And the bright colour on her cheek
Was various as the morning break,--
Now spring-rose red, now lily pale,
As thus the maiden told her tale.

MOORISH MAIDEN'S TALE.

ALBEIT on my brow and breast
Is Moorish turban, Moorish vest;
Albeit too of Moorish line,
Yet Christian blood and faith are mine.
Even from earliest infancy
I have been taught to bend the knee
Before the sweet Madonna's face,
To pray from her a Saviour's grace!

My mother's youthful heart was given
To one an infidel to heaven;
Alas! that ever earthly love
Could turn her hope from that above;
Yet surely 'tis for tears, not blame,
To be upon that mother's name.

Well can I deem my father all
That holds a woman's heart in thrall,--
In truth his was as proud a form
As ever stemm'd a battle storm,
As ever moved first in the hall
Of crowds and courtly festival.
Upon each temple the black hair
Was mix'd with grey, as early care
Had been to him like age,--his eye,
And lip, and brow, were dark and high;
And yet there was a look that seem'd
As if at other times he dream'd
Of gentle thoughts he strove to press
Back to their unsunn'd loneliness.
Your first gaze cower'd beneath his glance,
Keen like the flashing of a lance,
As forced a homage to allow
To that tall form, that stately brow;
But the next dwelt upon the trace
That time may bring, but not efface,
Of cares that wasted life's best years,
Of griefs seared more than sooth'd by tears,
And homage changed to a sad feeling
For a proud heart its grief concealing.
If such his brow, when griefs that wear,
And hopes that waste, were written there,
What must it have been, at the hour
When in my mother's moonlit bower,
If any step moved, 'twas to take
The life he ventured for her sake?
He urged his love; to such a suit
Could woman's eye or heart be mute?
She fled with him,--it matters not,
To dwell at length upon their lot.
But that my mother's frequent sighs
Swell'd at the thoughts of former ties,
First loved, then fear'd she loved too well,
Then fear'd to love an Infidel;
A struggle all, she had the will
But scarce the strength to love him still:--
But for this weakness of the heart
Which could not from its love depart,
Rebell'd, but quickly clung again,
Which broke and then renew'd its chain,
Without the power to love, and be
Repaid by love's fidelity:--
Without this contest of the mind,
Though yet its early fetters bind,
Which still pants to be unconfined,
They had been happy.

'Twas when first
My spirit from its childhood burst,
That to our roof a maiden came,
My mother's sister, and the same
In form, in face, in smiles, in tears,
In step, in voice, in all but years,
Save that there was upon her brow
A calm my mother's wanted now;
And that ELVIRA'S loveliness
Seem'd scarce of earth, so passionless,
So pale, all that the heart could paint
Of the pure beauty of a saint.
Yes, I have seen ELVIRA kneel,
And seen the rays of evening steal,
Lighting the blue depths of her eye
With so much of divinity
As if her every thought was raised
To the bright heaven on which she gazed!
Then often I have deem'd her form
Rather with light than with life warm.

My father's darken'd brow was glad,
My mother's burthen'd heart less sad
With her, for she was not of those
Who all the heart's affections close
In a drear hour of grief or wrath,--
Her path was as an angel's path,
Known only by the flowers which spring
Beneath the influence of its wing;
And that her high and holy mood
Was such as suited solitude.
Still she had gentle words and smiles,
And all that sweetness which beguiles,
Like sunshine on an April day,
The heaviness of gloom away.
It was as the souls weal were sure
When prayer rose from lips so pure.

She left us;--the same evening came
Tidings of woe, and death, and shame.
Her guard had been attack'd by one
Whose love it had been her's to shun.

Fierce was the struggle, and her flight
Meanwhile had gain'd a neighbouring height,
Which dark above the river stood,
And look'd upon the rushing flood;
'Twas compass'd round, she was bereft
Of the vague hope that flight had left.
One moment, and they saw her kneel,
And then, as Heaven heard her appeal,
She flung her downwards from the rock:
Her heart was nerved by death to mock
What that heart never might endure,
The slavery of a godless Moor.

And madness in its burning pain
Seized on my mother's heart and brain:
She died that night, and the next day
Beheld my father far away.

But wherefore should I dwell on all
Of sorrow memory can recall,
Enough to know that I must roam
An orphan to a stranger home.--
My father's death in battle field
Forced me a father's rights to yield
To his stern brother; how my heart
Was forced with one by one to part
Of its best hopes, till life became
Existence only in its name;
Left but a single wish,--to share
The cold home where my parents were.

At last I heard, I may not say
How my soul brighten'd into day,
ELVIRA lived; a miracle
Had surely saved her as she fell!

A fisherman who saw her float,
Bore her in silence to his boat.
She lived! how often had I said
To mine own heart she is not dead;
And she remember'd me, and when
They bade us never meet again,
She sent to me an Ethiop slave,
The same who guides us o'er the wave,
Whom she had led to that pure faith
Which sains and saves in life and death,
And plann'd escape.

It was one morn
I saw our conquering standards borne,
And gazed upon a Christian knight
Wounded and prisoner from the fight;
I made a vow that he should be
Redeem'd from his captivity.
Sir knight, the Virgin heard my vow,--
Yon light,--we are in safety now!

THE arch was past, the crimson gleam
Of morning fell upon the stream,
And flash'd upon the dazzled eye
The day-break of a summer sky;
And they are sailing amid ranks
Of cypress on the river banks:
They land where water-lilies spread
Seem almost too fair for the tread;
And knelt they down upon the shore,
The heart's deep gratitude to pour.

Led by their dark guide on they press
Through many a green and lone recess:
The morning air, the bright sunshine,
To RAYMOND were like the red wine,--
Each leaf, each flower seem'd to be
With his own joy in sympathy,
So fresh, so glad; but the fair Moor,
From peril and pursuit secure,
Though hidden by her close-drawn veil,
Yet seem'd more tremulous, more pale;
The hour of dread and danger past,
Fear's timid thoughts came thronging fast;
Her cold hand trembled in his own,
Her strength seem'd with its trial gone,
And downcast eye, and faltering word,
But dimly seen, but faintly heard,
Seem'd scarcely her's that just had been
His dauntless guide through the wild scene.

At length a stately avenue
Of ancient chesnuts met their view,
And they could see the time-worn walls
Of her they sought, ELVIRA'S halls.
A small path led a nearer way
Through flower-beds in their spring array.
They reach'd the steps, and stood below
A high and marble portico;
They enter'd, and saw kneeling there
A creature even more than fair.
On each white temple the dusk braid
Of parted hair made twilight shade,
That brow whose blue veins shone to show
It was more beautiful than snow.

Her large dark eyes were almost hid
By the nightfall of the fringed lid;
And tears which fill'd their orbs with light,
Like summer showers blent soft with bright.
Her cheek was saintly pale, as nought
Were there to flush with earthly thought;
As the heart which in youth had given
Its feelings and its hopes to Heaven,
Knew no emotions that could spread
A maiden's cheek with sudden red,--
Made for an atmosphere above,
Too much to bend to mortal love.

And RAYMOND watch'd as if his eye
Were on a young divinity,--
As her bright presence made him feel
Awe that could only gaze and kneel:
And LEILA paused, as if afraid
To break upon the recluse maid,
As if her heart took its rebuke
From that cold, calm, and placid look.

'ELVIRA !'--though the name was said
Low as she fear'd to wake the dead,
Yet it was heard, and, all revealing,
Of her most treasured mortal feeling,
Fondly the Moorish maid was prest
To her she sought, ELVIRA'S breast.
'I pray'd for thee, my hope, my fear,
My LEILA ! and now thou art near.
Nay, weep not, welcome as thou art
To my faith, friends, and home and heart!'

And RAYMOND almost deem'd that earth
To such had never given birth
As the fair creatures, who, like light,
Floated upon his dazzled sight:--
One with her bright and burning cheek,
All passion, tremulous and weak,
A woman in her woman's sphere
Of joy and grief, of hope and fear.
The other, whose mild tenderness
Seem'd as less made to share than bless;
One to whom human joy was such
That her heart fear'd to trust too much,
While her wan brow seem'd as it meant
To soften rapture to content;--
To whom all earth's delight was food
For high and holy gratitude.

Gazed RAYMOND till his burning brain
Grew dizzy with excess of pain;
For unheal'd wounds his strength had worn,
And all the toil his flight had borne;
His lip, and cheek, and brow were flame;
And when ELVIRA'S welcome came,
It fell on a regardless ear,
As bow'd beside a column near,
He leant insensible to all
Of good or ill that could befall.

Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010

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