Joel Barlow (24 March 1754 – 26 December 1812 / Redding, Connecticut)
Vision of Columbus – Book 3
Now, twice twelve years, the children of the skies
Beheld in peace their growing empire rise;
O'er happy realms, display'd their generous care,
Diffused their arts and soothd the rage of war;
Bade yon tall temple grace the favourite isle.
The gardens bloom, the cultured valleys smile,
The aspiring hills their spacious mines unfold.
Fair structures blaze, and altars burn, in gold,
Those broad foundations bend their arches high,
And heave imperial Cusco to the sky;
From that fair stream that mark'd their northern sway,
Where Apurimac leads his lucid way,
To yon far glimmering lake, the southern bound,
The growing tribes their peaceful dwellings found;
While wealth and grandeur bless'd the extended reign,
From the bold Andes to the western main.
When, fierce from eastern wilds, the savage bands
Lead war and slaughter o'er the happy lands;
Thro' fertile fields the paths of culture trace,
And vow destruction to the Incan race.
While various fortune strow'd the embattled plain,
And baffled thousands still the strife maintain,
The unconquer'd Inca wakes the lingering war,
Drives back their host and speeds their flight afar;
Till, fired with rage, they range the wonted wood,
And feast their souls on future scenes of blood.
Where yon blue summits hang their cliffs on high;
Frown o'er the plains and lengthen round the sky;
Where vales exalted thro' the breaches run;
And drink the nearer splendors of the sun,
From south to north, the tribes innumerous wind,
By hills of ice and mountain streams confined;
Rouse neighbouring hosts, and meditate the blow,
To blend their force and whelm the world below.
Capac, with caution, views the dark design,
From countless wilds what hostile myriads join;
And greatly strives to bid the discord cease,
By profferd compacts of perpetual peace.
His eldest hope, young Rocha, at his call,
Leaves the deep confines of the temple wall;
In whose fair form, in lucid garments drest,
Began the sacred function of the priest.
In early youth, ere yet the genial sun
Had twice six changes o'er his childhood run,
The blooming prince, beneath his parents' hand,
Learn'd all the laws that sway'd the sacred land;
With rites mysterious served the Power divine,
Prepared the altar and adorn'd the shrine,
Responsive hail'd, with still returning praise,
Each circling season that the God displays,
Sooth'd with funereal hymns the parting dead,
At nuptial feasts the joyful chorus led;
While evening incense and the morning song
Rose from his hand or trembled on his tongue.
Thus, form'd for empire, ere he gain'd the sway;
To rule with reverence and with power obey,
Reflect the glories of the parent Sun,
And shine the Capac of his future throne,
Employ'd his ripening years; till now, from far,
The distant fields proclaim approaching war;
Inspired for active scenes he quits the shrine,
To aid the council or in arms to shine.
Where the mild monarch courtly throngs enclose,
Sublime in modest majesty he rose,
With reverence bow'd, conspicuous o'er the rest,
Approach'd the throne and thus the sire address'd:
Great king of nations, heaven-descended sage,
Guard of my youth and glory of my age,
These pontiff robes, to my blest brother's hand
Glad I resign, and wait thy kind command.
Should war invade, permit thy son to wield
The shaft of vengeance through the untempted field:
Led by thy powerful arm, my soul shall brave
The haughtiest foe, or find a glorious grave;
While our bold ranks a nobler toil demand,
In one dread field o'erwhelm the brutal band,
Pour to the mountain gods their wonted food,
And shield thy realms from future scenes of blood.
Yet oh, may sovereign mercy first ordain
Propounded compact to the savage train.
Fearless of foes, their own dark wilds I'll trace,
To quell the rage and give the terms of peace,
Teach the grim race to bow beneath thy sway,
And taste the blessings of the Power of day.
The sire return'd; My earliest wish you know,
To shield from slaughter and preserve the foe,
In bands of mutual peace all tribes to bind,
And live the friend and guardian of mankind.
Should strife begin, thy youthful arm shall share,
The toils of glory through the walks of war;
But o'er those hideous hills, thro' climes of snow,
With reason's voice to lure the savage foe,
To 'scape their snares, their jarring souls combine,
Claims hardier limbs and riper years than thine.
Yet one of heavenly race the task requires,
Whose mystic rites controul the ethereal fires;
So the sooth'd Godhead proves to faithless eyes,
His sway on earth and empire of the skies.
Some veteran chief, in those rough labours try'd,
Shall aid the toil, and go thy faithful guide;
O'er dreary heights thy sinking limbs sustain,
Teach the dark wiles of each insidious train,
Through all extremes of life thy voice attend,
In counsel lead thee or in arms defend.
While three firm youths, thy chosen friends, shall go
To learn the climes and meditate the foe;
That wars of future years their aid may find,
To serve the realm and save the savage kind.
Rise then, my son, bright partner of my fame,
With early toils to build thy sacred name;
In high behest, these heavenly tidings bear,
To bless mankind and ward the waste of war.
To those dark hosts, where shivering mountains run,
Proclaim the bounties of our sire the Sun.
On these fair plains, beneath his happier skies,
Tell how his fruits in boundless plenty rise;
How the bright Power, whose all delighting soul
Taught round the courts of heaven his stars to roll,
To all his earth-born sons hath kindly given
His noblest laws the favourite grace of heaven;
Bids every tribe the same glad laws attend,
His realms to widen and his fanes defend,
Confess and emulate his bounteous sway,
And give his blessings where he gives the day.
Yet, should the gathering legions still prepare
The shaft of slaughter for the barbarous war,
Tell them we know to tread the crimson plain,
And heaven's bright children never yield to man.
But oh, my child, with steps of caution go,
The ways are hideous and enraged the foe;
Blood stains their altars, all their feasts are blood,
Death their delight and Darkness reigns their God;
Tygers and vultures, storms and earthquakes share
Their rites of worship and their spoils of war.
Should'st thou, my Rocha, tempt their vengeful ire,
Should those dear relics feed a savage fire,
Deep sighs would heave thy wretched mother's breast,
The pale sun sink in clouds of darkness drest,
Thy sire and hapless nations rue the day,
That drew thy steps from these sad walls away.
Yet go; 'tis virtue calls; and realms unknown,
By these long toils, may bless thy future throne;
Millions of unborn souls in time may see
Their doom reversed, and owe their joys to thee;
While savage sires, with murdering hands, no more
Dread the grim Gods that claim their children's gore,
But, sway'd by happier sceptres, here behold
The rites of freedom and the shrines of gold.
Be wise, be mindful of thy realm and throne;
Heaven speed the labours, and preserve my son.
Soon the glad prince, in robes of white array'd,
Call'd his attendants, and the sire obey'd.
A diamond broad, in burning gold imprest,
Fix'd the Sun's image on his royal breast;
Fair in his hand appear'd the olive bough,
And the white lautu graced his beauteous brow.
Swift o'er the hills that lift the walks of day,
Thro' parting clouds he took his eastern way;
Height over height he gain'd, beyond the bound,
Where the wide empire claims its utmost round;
To numerous tribes proclaim'd the solar sway,
And held, through various toils, his wilder'd way.
At length, far distant, thro' the darkening skies,
Where hills o'er hills in rude disorder rise,
A dreadful groan, beneath the shuddering ground,
Rolls down the steeps and shakes the world around.
Columns of reddening smoke, above the height,
O'ercast the heavens and cloud their wonted light;
From tottering tops descend the cliffs of snow,
The mountains reel, the valleys rend below,
The headlong streams forget their usual round,
And shrink and vanish in the gaping ground;
The sun descends–Wide flames with livid glare
Break the red cloud and purple all the air;
Above the gaping top, wild cinders, driven,
Stream high and brighten to the midst of heaven;
Deep from beneath, full floods of boiling ore
Burst the dread mount, and thro' the opening roar;
Torrents of molten rocks, on every side,
Lead o'er the shelves of ice the fiery tide;
Hills slide before them, skies around them burn,
Towns sink beneath, and heaving plains o'erturn;
O'er distant realms, the flaming deluge, hurl'd,
Sweeps trembling nations from the astonish'd world.
Meanwhile, at distance, through the livid light,
A busy concourse met his wondering sight;
The prince drew near; an altar raised he view'd,
In form a furnace, fill'd with burning wood;
There a fair youth in pangs expiring lay,
And the fond father thus was heard to pray.
Receive, O dreadful Power, from feeble age,
This last pure offering to thy sateless rage,
Thrice has thy vengeance, on this hated land,
Claim'd a dear infant from my yielding hand;
Thrice have those lovely lips the victim press'd,
And all the mother torn that tender breast;
When the dread duty stifled every sigh,
And not a tear escaped her beauteous eye.
The fourth, and last now meets the fatal doom,
(Groan not, my child, thy God commands thee home)
Attend, once more, thou dark, infernal Name,
From yon far-streaming pyramid of flame;
Snatch, from the heaving flesh, the expiring breath,
Sacred to thee and all the Powers of death;
Then, in thy hall, with spoils of nations crown'd,
Confine thy walks beneath the rending ground;
No more on earth the imbowel'd flames to pour,
And scourge my people and my race no more.
Thus Rocha heard; and, tow'rd th'trembling croud,
Turn'd the bright ensign of his beaming God.
The afflicted chief, with fear and grief opprest,
Beheld the sign and thus the prince address'd.
From what far land, O royal stranger, say,
Ascend thy wandering steps this nightly way?
Com'st thou from plains like ours, with cinders fired?
And have thy people in the flames expired?
Or hast thou now, to stay the whelming flood,
No son to offer to the furious God?
From happier lands I came, the prince return'd,
Where no red vengeance e'er the concave burn'd;
No furious God disturbs the peaceful skies,
Nor yield our hands the bloody sacrifice.
But life and joy the Power delights to give,
And bids his children but rejoice and live.
Thou seest o'er heaven the all-delighting Sun.
In living radiance, rear his golden throne;
O'er plains and valleys shed his genial beams,
Call from yon cliffs of ice the winding streams;
While fruits and flowers adorn the indulgent field,
And seas and lakes their copious treasures yield;
He reigns our only God; in him we trace
The friend, the father of our happy race.
Late the lone tribes, on those delightful shores,
With gloomy reverence served imagin'd Powers;
Till he, in pity to the roving race,
Dispensed their laws, and form'd their minds for peace.
My heaven-born parents first the reign began,
Sent from his courts to rule the race of man,
Unfold his arts, extend his bounteous sway,
And give his blessings where he gives the day.
The wondering chief reply'd; thy form and dress
Proclaim thy lineage of superior race;
And our far-distant sires, no less than thine,
Sprang from a God, and own a birth divine.
From that ethereal mount, the source of flame,
In elder times, the great avengers came;
Where the dread Power conceals his dark abode,
And claims, as now, the tribute of a God.
This victim due when willing mortals pay,
His terrors lessen and his fires decay;
While purer sleet regales the untainted air,
And our glad hosts are fired for fiercer war.
Yet know, dread chief, the pious youth rejoin'd,
One sovereign Power produced all human kind;
Some Sire supreme, whose ever-ruling soul
Creates, preserves, and regulates the whole.
That Sire supreme must lift his radiant eye
Round the wide concave of the boundless sky;
That heaven's high courts, and all the walks of men
May rise unveil'd beneath his careful ken.
Could thy dark Power, that holds his drear abode
Deep in the bosom of that fiery flood,
Yield the glad fruits that distant nations find?
Or praise, or punish, or behold mankind?
When the blest God, from glooms of changing night
Shall gild his chambers with the morning light,
By mystic rites he'll vindicate his throne,
And own thy servant for his duteous son.
Meantime, the chief reply'd, thy cares released,
Share the poor relics of our scanty feast;
Which, driven in hasty rout our train supply'd,
When trembling earth proclaim'd the boiling tide.
They fared, they rested; till approaching morn
Beheld the day-star o'er the mountain burn;
The rising prince an altar rear'd on high.
And watch'd the splendors of the orient sky.
When o'er the mountain flamed the sun's broad ray,
He call'd the host his sacred rites t'essay;
Then took the loaves of maize, the bounties brake,
Gave to the chief and bade them all partake;
The hallowed relics on the pile he placed,
With tufts of flowers the simple offering graced,
Held to the sun the image from his breast,
Whose glowing concave all the God exprest;
O'er the dry'd leaves, the trembling lustre flies,
And thus his voice ascends the listening skies.
O thou, whose splendors kindle heaven with fire,
Great soul of nature, and the world's dread sire,
If e'er my father found thy sovereign grace,
Or thy blest will ordain'd the Incan race,
Give these lone tribes to learn thine awful name,
Receive this offering and the pile inflame:
So shall thy laws o'er these wide bounds be known,
And earth's unnumber'd sons be happy as thine own.
Thus pray'd the prince, the kindling flames aspire,
The tribes surrounding tremble and retire,
Gaze on the wonder, full conviction own,
And vow obedience to the genial Sun.
The Inca now his farther course descry'd,
A young cazique attending as a guide,
O'er eastern cliffs pursued the wilder'd way,
Where loftier champaigns meet the shivering day;
Saw timorous tribes in these sublime abodes,
Adore the blasts and turn the storms to Gods.
Each blackening cloud, that thunders thro' the skies,
Claims from their hands a human sacrifice.
A while the youth, their better faith to gain,
Strives, with his usual art, but strives in vain;
In vain he pleads the mildness of the sun,
In those cold bounds where chilling whirlwinds run;
Where the dark tempests sweep the world below,
And load the mountains with eternal snow.
The sun's bright beam, the fearful tribes declare,
Drives all their evils on the tortured air;
He draws the vapors up the eastern sky,
That sail and centre tow'rd his dazzling eye;
Leads the loud storms along his midday course,
And bids the Andes meet their sweeping force;
Builds their bleak summits, with an icy throne,
To shine through heaven a semblance of his own;
Hence the dire chills, the lifted lawns that wait,
And all the scourges that attend their state,
Seven toilsome days, the virtuous legate strove,
To social joys their savage minds to move;
Then, while the morning glow'd serenely bright,
He led their footsteps to an eastern height;
The world unbounded, stretch'd beneath them, lay,
And not a cloud obscured the rising day.
Broad Amazonia, with her star-like streams,
In azure drest, a heaven inverted seems:
Dim Paraguay extends the aching sight;
Xaraya glimmers, like the moon of night:
The earth and skies, in blending borders, stray,
And smile and brighten to the lamp of day.
When thus the prince; What majesty divine!
What robes of gold! what flames around him shine!
There walks the God! his starry sons on high
Draw their dim veil, and shrink behind the sky;
Earth with surrounding nature's born anew,
And tribes and empires greet the gladdening view
Who can behold his all-delighting soul
Give life and joy; and heaven and earth controul?
Bid death and darkness from his presence move–
Who can behold, and not adore and love?
Those plains, immensely circling feel his beams,
He greens the groves, he silvers o'er the streams,
Swells the wild fruitage, gives the beast his food,
And mute creation hails the genial God.
But nobler joys his righteous laws impart,
To aid the life and mould the social heart,
His peaceful arts o'er happy realms to spread,
And altars grace with pure celestial bread;
Such our distinguish'd lot, who own his sway,
Mild as his morning stars, and liberal as the day.
His unknown laws, the mountain chief reply'd,
In your far world, your boasted race may guide;
And yon low plains, that drink his genial ray,
At his glad shrine their just devotions pay,
But we, nor fear his frown, nor trust his smile;
He blasts our forests and o'erturns our toil;
Our bowers are bury'd in his whirls of snow,
Or swept and driven to shade his tribes below.
Even now his mounting steps thy hopes beguile;
He lures thy raptures with a morning smile
But soon (for so those saffron robes proclaim)
Black storms shall sail beneath his leading flame,
Thunders and blasts, against the mountain driven,
Shall shake the tottering tops and rend the vault of heaven.
He spoke; they waited, till the ascending ray,
High from the noon-tide, shot the faithless day;
When, lo! far-gathering, round the eastern skies
Solemn, and low, the dark-red vapors rise;
Full clouds convolving on the turbid air,
Move, like an ocean to the watery war.
The host, securely raised, no dangers harm,
They sit unclouded, and over-look the storm;
While, far beneath, the sky-borne waters ride,
O'er the dark deep and up the mountain's side;
The lightning's glancing wings, in fury curl'd,
Bend their long forky terrors o'er the world;
Torrents and broken craggs, and floods of rain,
From steep to steep, roll down their force amain,
In dreadful cataracts: the crashing sound
Fills the wide heavens and rocks the smouldering ground.
The blasts, unburden'd, take their upward course.
And, o'er the mountain-top, resume their force:
Swift, thro' the long, white ridges, from the north.
The rapid whirlwinds lead their terrors forth;
High rolls the storm, the circling surges rise,
And wild gyrations wheel the hovering skies;
Vast hills of snow, in sweeping columns driven,
Deluge the air and cloud the face of heaven;
Floods burst their chains, the rocks forget their place,
And the firm mountain trembles to its base.
Long gazed the host; when thus the stubborn chief,
With eyes on fire, and fill'd with sullen grief,
Behold thy careless God, securely high,
Laughs at our woes, and sails the heavens in joy;
Drives all his evils on these seats sublime,
And wafts his favours to a happier clime:
Sire of that peaceful race, thy words disclose,
There glads his children, here afflicts his foes.
Hence! speed thy course! pursue him where he leads;
Lest vengeance seize thee for thy father's deeds,
Thy immolated limbs asswage the fire
Of those curst Powers, which now a gift require.
The youth, in haste, collects his scanty train,
And, with the sun, flies o'er the western plain,
The fading orb with plaintive voice he plies,
To guide his steps and light him down the skies.
So, when the moon and all the host of even,
Hang, pale and trembling, on the verge of heaven,
While storms, ascending, threat their nightly reign,
They seek their absent sire, and settle down the main.
Now, to the south, he turns his tedious way,
Where tribes unnumber'd on the mountains stray;
And finds, collecting, in a central plain,
From all the hills, a wide-extended train.
Of various dress and various form they show'd;
Each wore the ensign of his local God.
From eastern steeps, a grisly host descends,
O'er whose grim chief a tyger's hide depends:
The tusky jaws grin o'er his shaggy brow,
The eye-balls glare, the paws depend below;
From his bored ears contorted serpents hung,
And drops of gore seem'd rolling on his tongue.
From northern wilds, dark move the vulture-race;
Black tufts of quills their shaded foreheads grace;
The claws extend, the beak is oped for blood,
And all the armour imitates the God.
The condor, frowning, from a southern plain,
Borne on a standard, leads a numerous train:
Clench'd in his talons, hangs a warrior dead,
His long beak pointing where the squadrons tread;
His wings, far-stretching, cleave the whistling wind.
And his broad tail o'ershades the host behind.
From other plains, and other hills, afar,
The assembling tribes throng dreadful to the war;
Some wear the crested furies of the snake,
Some show the emblems of a stream or lake;
All, from the Power they serve, assume their mode,
And foam and yell to taste the Incan blood.
The prince, incautious, with his train drew near,
Known for an Inca by his dress and air.
Sudden the savage bands to vengeance move,
Demand their arms and chace them round the grove;
His scattering host in vain the combat tries,
While circling thousands from their ambush rise;
Nor power to strive, nor hope of flight remains,
They bow in silence to the victor's chains.
When, now the gathering squadrons throng the plain,
And echoing skies the rending shouts retain;
Zamor, the leader of the tyger-band,
By choice appointed to the first command,
Shrugg'd up his spotted spoils above the rest,
And, grimly frowning, thus the croud address'd:
Warriors, attend; tomorrow leads abroad
Our sacred vengeance for our brothers' blood.
On those scorch'd plains forever must they lie,
Their bones still naked to the burning sky?
Left in the field for foreign hawks to tear,
Nor our own vultures can the banquet share.
But soon, ye mountain Gods, yon dreary west
Shall sate your vengeance with a nobler feast;
When the proud Sun, that terror of the plain,
Shall grieve in heaven for all his children slain;
O'er boundless fields our slaughtering myriads roam,
And your dark Powers command a happier home.
Mean while, ye tribes, these men of solar race,
Food for the flames, your bloody rites shall grace:
Each to a different God, his panting breath
Resigns in fire; this night demands their death:
All but the Inca; him, reserved in state,
These conquering hands ere long shall immolate,
To that dread Power that thunders in the skies,
A grateful gift, before his mother's eyes,
The savage ceased; the chiefs of every race
Lead the bold captives to their destined place;
The sun descends, the parting day expires,
And earth and heaven display their sparkling fires.
Soon the raised altars kindle round the gloom,
And call the victims to the vengeful doom;
Led to the scene, in sovereign pomp they tread,
And sing, by turns, the triumphs of the dead.
Amid the croud, beside his altar, stood
The youth devoted to the tyger-God.
A beauteous form he rose, of princely grace,
The only hope of his illustrious race;
His aged sire, through numerous years, had shone,
The first supporter of the Incan throne;
Wise Capac loved the youth, and graced his hand
With a fair virgin, from a neighbouring band;
And him the joyous prince, in equal prime;
Had chose t'attend him round the savage clime.
He mounts the pyre; the flames approach his breath,
And thus he wakes the canticle of death.
O thou dark vault of heaven! his daily throne.
Where flee the absent glories of the Sun?
Ye starry hosts, that kindle from his eye,
Can you behold him in the western sky?
Or if, unseen, he rests his radiant head,
Beneath the confines of his watery bed;
When next his morning steps your courts inflame,
And seek on earth for young Azonto's name,
Then point these ashes, mark the smoky pile,
And say the hero suffer'd with a smile.
So shall the avenging Power, in fury drest,
Bind the red circler o'er his changing vest,
Bid dire destruction, on these dark abodes,
Whelm the grim tribes and all their savage Gods.
But oh! forbear to tell my stooping sire,
His darling hopes have fed a coward fire;
Why should he know the tortures of the brave?
Or fruitless sorrows bend him to the grave?
And may'st thou ne'er be told, my anxious fair,
What rending pangs these panting vitals tear;
But, blooming still, the impatient wish employ
On the blind hope of future scenes of joy.
Now haste, ye strides of death, the Power of day,
In absent slumbers, gives your vengeance way;
While fainter light these livid flames supply,
And short-lived thousands learn of me to die.
He ceased not speaking; when the yell of was
Drowns all their death-songs in a hideous jar;
Round the far echoing hills the yellings pour,
And wolves and tygers catch the distant roar.
Now more concordant all their voices join,
And round the plain they form the lengthening line;
When, to the music of the dismal din,
Indignant Zamor bids the dance begin.
Dim, thro' the shadowy fires, each changing form
Moves like a cloud before an evening storm;
When, o'er the moon's pale face and starry plain,
The shades of heaven lead on their broken train;
The mingling tribes their mazy circles tread,
Till the last groan proclaims the victims dead;
Then part the smoky flesh, enjoy the seast,
And lose their labours in oblivious rest.
Now, when the western hills proclaim'd the morn,
And falling fires were scarcely seen to burn,
Grimm'd by the horrors of the dreadful night,
The hosts woke fiercer for the distant fight;
And, dark and silent, like a shadowy grove,
The different tribes beneath their standards move.
But round the blissful city of the sun,
Since the young prince his foreign toils begun,
The prudent king collected, from afar,
His numerous hosts to meet the expected war.
The various tribes, in one extended train,
Move to the confines of an eastern plain;
Where, from the exalted kingdom's utmost end,
Sublimer hills and savage walks ascend.
High in the front, imperial Capac strode,
In fair effulgence like the beaming God;
A golden girdle bound his snowy vest,
A mimic Sun hung trembling on his breast,
The lautu's circling band his temples twined,
The bow, the quiver shade his waist behind;
Raised high in air, his golden sceptre burn'd,
And hosts surrounding trembled as he turn'd.
O'er eastern hills he cast his kindling eye,
Where opening breaches lengthen down the sky;
In whose blue clefts, wide, sloping alleys bend,
Where annual floods from melting snows descend;
Now, dry and deep, far up the dreary height,
Show the dark squadrons moving into sight;
They throng and thicken on the smoky air,
And every breach pours down the dusky war.
So when an hundred streams explore their way,
Down the same slopes, convolving to the sea;
They boil, they bend, they urge their force amain,
Swell o'er th'obstructing craggs and sweep the distant plain.
Capac beholds, and waits the coming shock,
Unmoved, and gleaming like an icy rock;
And while for fight the arming hosts prepare,
Thus thro' the files he breathes the soul of war.
Ye hosts, of every tribe and every plain,
That live and flourish in my father's reign,
Long have your flocks and ripening harvests shown
The genial smiles of his indulgent throne;
As o'er surrounding realms his blessings flow'd,
And conquer'd all without the stain of blood.
But now, behold yon wide-collecting band,
With threatening war, demands the happy land:
Beneath the dark, immeasurable host,
Descending, swarming, how the craggs are lost!
Already now, their ravening eyes behold
Your star-bright temples and your gates of gold;
And to their Gods in fancied goblets pour,
The warm libation of your children's gore.
Move then to vengeance, meet the whelming flood,
Led by this arm and lighted by that God;
The strife is fierce, your fanes and fields the prize,
The warrior conquers or the infant dies.
Fill'd with his fire, the hosts, in squared array,
Eye the dark legions and demand the affray;
Their pointed arrows, rising on the bow,
Look up the sky and chide the lagging foe.
Fierce Zamor, frowning, leads the grisly train,
Moves from the clefts, and stretches o'er the plain;
He gives the shriek; the deep convulsing sound
The hosts re-echo; and the hills around
Retain the rending tumult; all the air
Clangs in the conflict of the clashing war.
But firm, undaunted, as a shelvy strand,
That meets the billowy surge, the squadrons stand;
Bend the broad bow, in lengthier circuit spread,
And showers of arrows thicken heaven with shade.
When each grim host, in closer conflict join'd,
Clench the dire ax, and cast the bow behind;
Thro' broken ranks sweep wide the rapid course,
Now struggle back, now sidelong sway the force;
Here, from grim chiefs is lopp'd the grisly head;
All gride the dying, all deface the dead;
There, scattering o'er the field, in thin array,
Man strives with man, and stones with axes play;
With broken shafts they follow and they fly,
And yells and groans and shouts invade the sky;
Round all the plains and groves, the ground is strow'd
With sever'd limbs and corses bathed in blood.
Long raged the strife; and where, on either side,
A friend, a father or a brother died,
No trace remain'd of what he show'd before.
Mangled with horrid wounds and smear'd with gore.
Now the Peruvians, in collected might,
With one wide sweep had wing'd the savage flight;
But heaven's bright Splendor in his midday race,
With glooms unusual, veil'd his radiant face.
By slow degrees a solemn twilight moves,
Browns the dim heavens and shades the conscious groves.
The observing Inca views, with wild surprise,
Deep glooms on earth, no cloud around the skies;
His host o'ershaded in the field of blood,
Gored by his foes, deserted by his God.
All mute with wonder, cease the strife to wage,
Gaze at each-other, and forget their rage;
When pious Capac, to the listening croud,
Raised high his wand and pour'd his voice aloud:
Ye chiefs and warriors of Peruvian race,
Some dire offence obscures my father's face;
What moves the Godhead to desert the plain,
Nor save his children, nor behold them slain?
Fly! speed your course, and seek the distant town,
Ere darkness shroud you in a deeper frown;
The lengthening walls your squadrons shall defend,
While my sad steps the sacred dome ascend;
There learn the cause, and ward the woes we fear–
Haste, haste, my sons, I guard the flying rear.
The hero spoke; the trembling tribes obey,
While deeper glooms obscure the source of day.
Sudden, the savage bands collect amain,
Hang on the rear and sweep them o'er the plain;
Their shouts, redoubling o'er the flying war,
Drown the loud groans and torture all the air;
The hawks of heaven, that o'er the field had stood
Scared by the tumult from the scent of blood,
Cleave the far gloom; the beasts forget their prey,
And scour the waste, and give the war its way.
Zamor, elate with horrid joy, beheld
The Sun depart, his children fly the field,
And raised his rending voice; Thou darkening sky,
Deepen thy glooms, the Power of death is nigh;
Behold him rising from his nightly throne,
To veil the heavens and drive the conquer'd Sun!
The glaring Godhead yields to sacred Night;
And all his armies imitate his flight.
O dark, infernal Power, confirm thy reign;
Give deadlier shades and heap the piles of slain:
Soon, the young captive prince shall roll in fire,
And all his race accumulate the pyre.
Ye mountain vultures, here your vengeance pour,
Tygers and condors, all ye Gods of gore,
In these dread fields, beneath your frowning sky,
A plenteous feast shall every God supply.
Rush forward, warriors, hide the plains with dead;
'Twas here our friends, in former combat, bled;
Strow'd thro' the waste, their bloody bones demand
This sweeping vengeance from our conquering hand.
He said; and, high before the tyger-train,
With longer strides, hangs forward o'er the slain,
Bends, like a falling tree, to reach the foe,
And o'er tall Capac aims a deadly blow.
The king beheld the ax, and with his wand,
Struck the raised weapon from his grasping hand
Then clench'd the falling helve, and whirling round,
Fell'd furious hosts of heroes to the ground:
Nor stay'd, but follow'd, where the squadrons run,
Fearing to fight, forsaken by the Sun:
Till Cusco's walls salute their longing sight,
And the wide gates receive their rapid flight.
The folds are barr'd, the foes, in shade conceal'd,
Like howling wolves, rave round the affrighted field.
The monarch now ascends the sacred dome,
Where the Sun's image wore a faded gloom.
Thro' all the courts a solemn shade prevail'd,
And dismal groans his listening ear assail'd;
Deep from an inner shrine, the stifled sighs
Breathe forth awhile, and these sad accents rise.
Was it for this, my son to distant lands
Must trace the wilds, amid those savage bands?
And does the God obscure his golden throne,
In mournful silence for my slaughter'd son?
Oh, had his beam, ere that disastrous day,
That snatch'd the youth from these fond arms away,
Received my mounting spirit to the sky,
That sad Oella might have seen him die.
Where slept thy shaft of vengeance, O my God,
When those fell tygers drank his sacred blood?
Did not the pious prince, with rites divine;
Feed the pure flame, within thy hallow'd shrine?
And early learn, beneath his father's hand,
To shed thy blessings round the favour'd land?
Form'd by thy laws the royal seat to grace,
Son of thy son, and glory of his race.
Where, dearest Rocha, rests thy beauteous head?
Where the rent robes thy hapless mother made?
I see thee, mid those hideous hills of snow,
Pursued and slaughter'd by the savage foe;
Or, doom'd a feast for some infernal God,
Whose horrid shrine demands thy harmless blood.
Snatch me, O Sun, to happier worlds of light–
No shroud me, shroud me, with thyself in night–
Thou hear'st me not; thou dread, departed Power,
Thy face is dark, and Rocha is no more.
Thus heard the silent king; his heaving heart
Caught all her grief, and bore a father's part.
The cause, suggested by her tender moan,
That veil'd the midday splendors of the sun,
And shouts insulting of the raging foe,
Fix'd him suspense, in all the strength of woe
A doubtful moment held his changing choice;
Now would he sooth her; half assumes his voice;
But greater cares the rising wish controul,
And call forth all his dignity of soul.
Why should he cease to ward the coming fate?
Or she be told the foes besiege the gate?
He turn'd in haste; and now the image-God,
High in the front, with kindling lustre glow'd:
Swift thro' the portal, flew the hero's eye,
And hail'd the growing Splendor in the sky.
The thronging host, now brightening at the sight,
Pour round the dome, impatient for the fight;
The chief, descending, in the portal stood,
And thus address'd the all-delighting God.
O sovereign Soul of heaven; thy changing face
Makes or destroys the glory of thy race.
If, from the bounds of earth, my son be fled,
First of thy line that ever graced the dead;
If thy bright Godhead ceased in heaven to burn,
For that loved youth, who never must return;
Forgive thine armies; when, in fields of blood,
They lose their strength, and fear the frowning God,
As now thy glory, with superior day,
Glows thro' the field and leads the warrior's way,
May our delighted souls, to vengeance driven,
Burn with new brightness in the cause of heaven;
For thy slain son see larger squadrons bleed,
We mourn the hero, but avenge the deed.
He said; and, from the battlements on high,
A watchful warrior raised an eager cry;
An Inca white on yonder altar tied–
Tis Rocha's self–the flame ascends his side.
In sweeping haste the bursting gates unbar,
And flood the champaign with a tide of war;
A cloud of arrows leads the rapid train,
They shout, they swarm, they hide the moving plain;
The bows and quivers strow the field behind,
And the raised axes cleave the parting wind;
The prince, confest to every warrior's sight,
Inspires each soul and centres all the fight;
Each hopes to snatch him from the kindling pyre,
Each fears his breath already flits in fire:
While Zamor spread his thronging squadrons wide,
Wedged like a wall–and thus the king defied:
Haste! son of Light, pour fast the winged war,
The prince, the dying prince demands your care:
Hear how his death-song chides your dull delay,
Lift larger strides, bend forward to the affray;
Ere folding flames prevent his stifled groan,
Child of your beaming God, a victim to our own.
He said; and raised his shaggy form on high,
And bade the shafts glide thicker thro' the sky.
Like the black billows of the lifted main,
Rolls into sight the long Peruvian train;
A white sail, bounding, on the billows tost,
Is Capac, striding o'er the furious host.
Now meet the dreadful chiefs, with eyes on fire;
Beneath their blows the parting ranks retire:
In whirlwind-sweep, their meeting axes bound,
Wheel, crash in air, and plough the trembling ground;
Their sinewy limbs, in fierce contortions, bend,
And mutual strokes, with equal force, descend;
The king sways backward from the struggling foe,
Collects new strength, and with a circling blow
Rush'd furious on; his flinty edge, on high,
Met Zamor's helve, and glancing, cleft his thigh,
The savage fell; when, thro' the tyger-train,
The driving Inca swept a widening lane;
Whole ranks fall staggering, where he lifts his arm,
Or roll before him, like a billowy storm;
Behind his steps collecting legions close,
While, centred in a circling ridge of foes,
He drives his furious way; the prince unties,
And thus his voice–Dread Sovereign of the skies,
Accept my living son, again bestow'd,
To grace with rites the temple of his God.
Move, warriors, move, complete the work begun,
Crush the grim race, avenge the injured Sun.
The savage host, that view'd the daring deed,
And saw deep squadrons with their leader bleed,
Raised high the shriek of horror; all the plain
Is trod with flight and cover'd with the slain.
The bold Peruvians circle round the field,
Confine their flight and bid the relics yield:
While Capac raised his placid voice again–
Ye conquering hosts, collect the scatter'd train;
The Sun commands to stay the rage of war,
He knows to conquer, but he loves to spare.
He ceased; and, where the savage leader lay
Weltering in gore, directs his eager way;
Unwraps the tyger's hide, and strives in vain
To close the wound, and mitigate the pain;
And, while soft pity moved his manly breast,
Raised the huge head and thus the chief addrest.
Too long, dread prince, thy raging arms withstood
The hosts of heaven, and braved the avenging God;
His sovereign will commands all strife to cease,
His realm is concord, and his pleasure, peace;
This copious carnage, spreading all the plain,
Insults his bounties, but confirms his reign.
Enough, 'tis past–thy parting breath demands
The last, sad office from my yielding hands.
To share thy pains, and feel thy hopeless woe,
Are rites ungrateful to a falling foe;
Yet rest in peace; and know, a chief so brave,
When life departs, shall find an honour'd grave;
These hands, in mournful pomp, thy tomb shall rear,
And tribes unborn thy hapless fate declare.
Insult me not with tombs, the savage cried,
Let closing clods thy coward carcase hide;
But these brave bones, unbury'd on the plain,
Touch not with dust, nor dare with rites profane;
Let no curst earth conceal this gorey head,
Nor songs proclaim the dreadful Zamor dead.
Me, whom the hungry Gods, from plain to plain,
Have follow'd, feasting on thy slaughter'd train,
Me wouldst thou cover? no! from yonder sky,
The wide-beak'd hawk, that now beholds me die,
Soon, with his cowering train, my flesh shall tear,
And wolves and tygers vindicate their share.
Receive, dread Powers, (since I can slay no more)
My last glad victim, this devoted gore.
Thus pour'd the vengeful chief his fainting breath,
And lost his utterance in the gasp of death.
The sad remaining tribes confess the Power,
That sheds his bounties round the favourite shore;
All bow obedient to the Incan throne,
And blest Oella hails her living son.
Comments about this poem (Vision of Columbus – Book 3 by Joel Barlow )
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