Felicia Dorothea Hemans
The Wife Of Asdrubal
The sun sets brightly - but a ruddier glow
O'er Afric's heaven the flames of Carthage throw;
Her walls have sunk, and pyramids of fire
In lurid splendour from her domes aspire;
Swayed by the wind, they wave - while glares the sky
As when the desert's red simoom is nigh;
The sculptured altar and the pillared hall
Shine out in dreadful brightness ere they fall;
Far o'er the seas the light of ruin streams,
Rock, wave, and isle are crimsoned by its beams;
While captive thousands, bound in Roman chains,
Gaze in mute horror on their burning fanes;
And shouts in triumph, echoing far around,
Swell from the victors' tents with ivy crowned.
But mark! from yon fair temple's loftiest height
What towering form bursts wildly on the sight,
All regal in magnificent attire,
And sternly beauteous in terrific ire?
She might be deemed a Pythia in the hour
Of dread communion and delirious power;
A being more than earthly, in whose eye
There dwells a strange and fierce ascendancy.
The flames are gathering round - intensely bright,
Full on her features glares their meteor-light;
But a wild courage sits triumphant there,
The stormy grandeur of a proud despair;
A daring spirit, in its woes elate,
Mightier than death, untameable by fate.
The dark profusion of her locks unbound,
Waves like a warrior's floating plumage round;
Flushed in her cheek, inspired her haughty mien,
She seems the avenging goddess of the scene.
infants, that with suppliant cry
Cling round her, shrinking as the flame draws nigh,
Clasp with their feeble hands her gorgeous vest,
And fain would rush for shelter to her breast?
Is that a mother's glance, where stern disdain,
And passion, awfully vindictive, reign?
Fixed is her eye on Asdrubal, who stands
Ignobly safe amidst the conquering bands;
On him who left her to that burning tomb,
Alone to share her children's martyrdom;
Who, when his country perished, fled the strife,
And knelt to win the worthless boon of life.
'Live, traitor, live!' she cries, 'since dear to thee,
E'en in thy fetters, can existence be!
Scorned and dishonoured live! - with blasted name,
The Romans triumph not to grace, but shame.
O slave in spirit! bitter be thy chain
With tenfold anguish to avenge my pain!
Still may the manes of thy children rise
To chase calm slumber from thy wearied eyes;
Still may their voices on the haunted air
In fearful whispers tell thee to despair,
Till vain remorse thy withered heart consume,
Scourged by relentless shadows of the tomb!
E'en now my sons shall die - and thou, their sire,
In bondage safe, shalt yet in them expire.
Think'st thou I love them not? - 'Twas thine to fly -
'Tis mine with these to suffer and to die.
Behold their fate! - the arms that cannot save
Have been their cradle, and shall be their grave.'
Bright in her hand the lifted dagger gleams,
Swift from her children's hearts the life-blood streams;
With frantic laugh she clasps them to the breast
Whose woes and passions soon shall be at rest;
Lifts one appealing, frenzied glance on high,
Then deep 'midst rolling flames is lost to mortal eye.
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