Helen Maria Williams

(1761 - 15 December 1827 / England)

Peruvian Tales: Alzira, Tale I - Poem by Helen Maria Williams

Description of Peru, and of its Productions--Virtues of the People;
and of their Monarch, ATALIBA --His love for ALZIRA --Their Nup-
tials celebrated--Character of ZORAI , her Father--Descent of the
Genius of Peru--Prediction of the Fall of that Empire.


Where the Pacific deep in silence laves
The western shore, with slow, and languid waves,
There, lost PERUVlA ! bloom'd thy cultur'd bowers,
Thy vallies fragrant with perennial flowers;
There, far above, the Pine unbending rose,
Along the pathway of thy mountain snows;
The Palms fling high in air their feather'd heads,
While each broad leaf an ample shadow spreads;
The Orange, and the rich Ananas bloom,
And humid Balsams ever shed perfume;
The Bark, reviving shrub! Ah, not in vain
Thy rosy blossoms tinge PERUVIA'S plain;
Ye fost'ring gales around those blossoms blow,
Ye balmy dew-drops o'er the tendrils flow!
Lo, as the health-diffusing plant aspires,
Disease relents, and hov'ring death retires;
Affection sees new lustre light the eye,
And feels her vanish'd peace again is nigh.
The Pacas,* and Vicunnas+ sport around,
And the meek Lamas+ , burden'd, press the ground.
The Mocking-bird his varying note essays,
And charms the grove with imitative lays;
The plaintive Humming-bird unfolds his wing
Of vivid plumage to the ray of spring;
Then sinks, soft burthen, on the humid flower,
His food, the dewdrops of the morning hour.

Nor less, PERUVIA , for thy favour'd clime,
The Virtues rose unsullied and sublime;
There melting Charity, with ardour warm,
Spreads her wide mantle o'er the shiv'ring form;
Cheer'd with the festal song her rural toils,
While in the lap of age she pour'd the spoils;*
There the mild Inca, ATALIBA sway'd,
His high behest the willing heart obey'd;
Descendant of a scepter'd, sacred race,
Whose origin from glowing suns they trace.
Love's soft emotions now his soul possest,
And fix'd ALZIRA'S image in his breast.
In that blest clime affection never knew
A selfish purpose, or a thought untrue;
Not as on Europe's shore, where wealth and pride,
From mourning love the venal breast divide;
Yet Love, if there from sordid shackles free,
One faithful bosom yet belongs to thee;
On that fond heart the purest bliss bestow,
Or give, for thou canst give, a charm to woe;
Ah, never may that heart in vain deplore
The pang that tortures when belov'd no more.
And from that agony the spirit save,
When unrelenting yawns th' untimely grave;
When death dissolves the ties for ever dear,
When frantic passion pours her parting tear;
With all the wasting pains she only feels,
Hangs on the quiv'ring lip that silence seals;
Views fondness struggling in the closing eye,
And marks it mingling in the falt'ring sigh;
As the lov'd form, while folded to her breast,
Breathes the last moan that gives its struggles rest;
Leaves her to pine in grief that none can share,
And find the world a desert to despair.
Bright was the lustre of the orient ray
That joyful wak'd ALZIRA'S nuptial day;
Her auburn hair spread loosely on the wind,
The virgin train with rosy chaplets bind;
While the fresh flowers that form her bridal wreathe
Seem deeper hues and richer scents to breathe.
The gentle tribe now sought the hallow'd fane,
Where warbling vestals pour'd the choral strain;
There aged ZORAI his ALZIRA prest,
With love parental, to his anxious breast;
Priest of the Sun! within the sacred shrine
His fervent spirit breath'd the strain divine;
With careful hand the guiltless off'ring spread,
With pious zeal the clear libation shed.
Nor vain the incense of erroneous praise
When meek devotion's soul the tribute pays;
On wings of purity behold it rise,
While bending mercy wafts it to the skies!
PERUVIA ! O delightful land in vain
The virtues flourish'd on thy beauteous plain;
For soon shall burst the unrelenting storm
O'er thy mild head, and crush thy prostrate form!
Recording Fame shall mark thy desp'rate fate,
And distant ages weep for ills so great!

Now o'er the deep dull Night her mantle flung,
Dim on the wave the moon's faint crescent hung;
PERUVIA'S Genius sought the liquid plain,
Sooth'd by the languid murmurs of the main;
When sudden clamour the illusion broke,
Wild on the surface of the deep it spoke;
A rising breeze expands her flowing veil,
Aghast with fear, she spies a flying sail--
The lofty mast impends, the banner waves,
The ruffled surge th' incumbent vessel laves;
With eager eye she views her destin'd foe
Lead to her peaceful shores th' advent'rous prow;
Trembling she knelt, with wild, disorder'd air,
And pour'd with frantic energy her prayer:
"O, ye avenging spirits of the deep!
Mount the blue lightning's wing, o'er ocean sweep;
Loud from your central caves the shell resound,
That summons death to your abyss profound;
Call the pale spectre from his dark abode,
To print the billow, swell the black'ning flood,
Rush o'er the waves, the rough'ning deep deform,
Howl in the blast, and animate the storm--
Relentless powers! for not one quiv'ring breeze
Has ruffled yet the surface of the seas--
Swift from your rocky steeps ye Condors* stray,
Wave your black plumes, and cleave th' aerial way;
Proud in terrific force your wings expand,
Press the firm earth, and darken all the strand;
Bid the stern foe retire with wild affright,
And shun the region veil'd in partial night.
Vain hope, devoted land! I read thy doom,
My sad prophetic soul can pierce the gloom;
I see, I see my lov'd, my favour'd clime
Consum'd, and wasted in its early prime.
But not in vain this beauteous land shall bleed,
Too late shall Europe's race deplore the deed.
Region abhorr'd! be gold the tempting bane,
The curse that desolates thy hostile plain;
May pleasure tinge with venom'd drops the bowl,
And luxury unnerve the sick'ning soul."
Ah, not in vain she pour'd th' impassion'd tear;
Ah, not in vain she call'd the powers to hear!
When borne from lost PERUVIA'S bleeding land,
The guilty treasures beam'd on Europe's strand;
Each sweet affection fled the tainted shore,
And virtue wander'd, to return no more.


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Read poems about / on: howl, silence, rose, death, lost, despair, food, grief, passion, flower, ocean, pride, fate, father, sad, spring, hair, moon, song, fear



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



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