Helen Maria Williams

(1761 - 15 December 1827 / England)

Peruvian Tales: Cora, Tale Iv - Poem by Helen Maria Williams

ALMAGRO'S expedition to Chili--His troops suffer great hardships from cold, in crossing the Andes--They reach Chili--The Chilians make a brave resistance--The revolt of the Peruvians in Cuzco---They are led on by MANCO CAPAC , the successor of ATALIBA --Parting with CORA , his wife--The Peruvians regain half their city--ALMAGRO leaves Chili--To avoid the Andes, he crosses a vast desert--His troops can find no water--They divide into two bands--ALPHONSO leads the second band, which soon reaches a fertile valley--The Spaniards observe that the natives are employed in searching the streams for gold--They resolve to attack them.


Now the stern partner of PIZARRO'S toils,
ALMAGRO , lur'd by hope of golden spoils,
To distant Chili's ever-verdant meads,
Through paths untrod, a band of warriors leads;
O'er the high Andes' frozen steeps they go,
And wander 'mid eternal hills of snow:
In vain the vivifying orb of day
Darts on th' impervious ice his fervent ray;
Cold, keen as chains the oceans of the pole,
Numbs the shrunk frame, and chills the vig'rous soul;
At length they reach luxuriant Chili's plain,
Where ends the dreary bound of winter's reign.
When first the brave Chilese, with eager glance,
Beheld the hostile sons of Spain advance,
Their threat'ning sabres red with purple streams,
Their lances quiv'ring in the solar beams,
With pale surprise they saw th' impending storm,
Where low'ring danger wore an unknown form;
But soon their spirits, stung with gen'rous shame,
Renounce each terror, and for vengeance flame;
Pant high with sacred freedom's ardent glow,
And meet intrepid the superior foe.
Long unsubdued by stern ALMAGRO'S train,
Their valiant tribes unequal fight maintain;
Long vict'ry hover'd doubtful o'er the field,
And oft she forc'd IBERIA'S band to yield;
Oft love from Spain's proud head her laurel bough,
And bade it blossom on PERUVIA'S brow;
When sudden tidings reach'd ALMAGRO'S ear,
That shook the warrior's soul with doubt and fear.
Of murder'd ATALIBA'S royal race
There yet remain'd a youth of blooming grace,
Who pin'd, the captive of relentless Spain,
And long in Cuzco dragg'd her galling chain;
CAPAC , whose lofty soul indignant bears
The rankling fetters, and revenge prepares.
But since his daring spirit must forego
The hope to rush upon the tyrant foe,
Led by his parent orb, that gives the day,
And fierce as darts the keen meridian ray,
He vows to bend unseen his hostile course,
Then on the victors rise with latent force,
As sudden from its cloud, the brooding storm,
Bursts in the thunder's voice, the light'ning's form.
For this, from stern PIZARRO he obtains
The boon, enlarg'd, to seek the neighb'ring plains,
For one bless'd day, and with his friend's unite,
To crown with solemn pomp an antient rite;
Share the dear pleasures of the social hour,
And 'mid their fetters twine one festal flower.
So spoke the Prince--far other thoughts possest,
Far other purpose animates his breast:
For now PERUVIA'S Nobles he commands
To lead, with silent step, her martial bands
Forth to the destin'd spot, prepared to dare
The fiercest shock of dire, unequal war;
While every sacred human interest pleads,
And urges the firm soul to lofty deeds.
Now CAPAC hail'd th' eventful morning's light,
Rose with its dawn, and panted for the fight;
But first with fondness to his heart he prest
The tender CORA , partner of his breast,
Who with her lord had sought the dungeon's gloom,
And wasted there in grief her early bloom.
"No more," he cried, "no more my love shall feel
The mingled agonies I fly to heal;--
I go, but soon exulting shall return,
And bid my faithful CORA cease to mourn;
For O, amid each pang my bosom knows,
What wastes, what wounds it most are CORA'S woes!
Sweet was the love that crown'd our happier hours,
And shed new fragrance o'er a path of flowers:
But sure divided sorrow more endears
The tie that passion seals with mutual tears!
He paus'd. Fast-flowing drops bedew'd her eyes,
While thus in mournful accents she replies:--
"Still let me feel the pressure of thy chain,
Still share the fetters which my love detain;
The piercing iron to my soul is dear,
Nor will its sharpness wound while thou art near.
Look on our helpless babe, in mis'ry nurst--
My child! my child, thy mother's heart will burst!
O, wherefore bid the raging battle rise,
Nor hear this harmless suff'rer's feeble cries?
Look on those blades that pour a crimson flood,
And plunge their cruel edge in infant blood!"

She could no more--he sees with tender pain
Her grief, and leads her to a shelt'ring fane.
Now high in air his feather'd standard waves,
And soon from shrouding woods and hollow caves
To Cuzco's gate advance increasing throngs,
And, such their ardour, rous'd by sense of wrongs,
That vainly would PIZARRO'S vet'ran force
Arrest the torrent in its raging course;
Danger and death PERUVIA'S sons disdain,
And half their captive city soon regain.
When stern ALMAGRO heard the voice of fame
The triumphs of PERUVIA loud proclaim,
Unconquer'd Chili's vale he swift forsakes,
And his bold course to distant Cuzco takes.
But now he shuns the Andes' frozen snows,
The arrowy gale that on their summit blows;
A burning desert undismay'd he past,
And meets the ardors of the fiery blast.
As o'er the sultry waste they slowly move,
The keenest pang of raging thirst they prove;
No cooling fruit its grateful juice distils,
Nor flows one balmy drop from crystal rills;
For nature sickens in the parching beam
That shrinks the vernal bud and dries the stream;
While horror, as his giant stature grows,
O'er the drear void his spreading shadow throws.
ALMAGRO'S band now pale and fainting stray,
While death oft barr'd the sinking warrior's way;
At length the chief divides his martial force,
And bids ALPHONSO by a sep'rate course
Lead o'er the hideous desert half his train--
"And search," he cried, "this vast, untrodden plain,
Perchance some fruitage, with'ring in the breeze,
The pains of lessen'd numbers may appease;
Or heaven in pity from some genial shower
On the parch'd lip one precious drop may pour."
Not far the troops of young ALPHONSO went,
When sudden from a rising hill's ascent
They view a valley fed by fertile springs,
Which Andes from his snowy summit flings;
Where summer's flowers humected odours shed,
And wildly bloom, a waste by beauty spread.
And now ALPHONSO and his martial band
On the rich border of the valley stand;
They quaff the limpid stream with eager haste,
And the pure juice that swells the fruitage taste;
Then give to balmy rest the night's still hours,
Fann'd by the cooling gale that shuts the flowers.
Soon as the purple beam of morning glows,
Refresh'd from all their toils, the warriors rose;
And saw the gentle natives of the mead
Search the clear currents for the golden seed,
Which from the mountain's height with headlong sweep
The torrents bear in many a shining heap;
IBERIA'S sons beheld with anxious brow
The tempting lure, then breathe th' unpitying vow
O'er those fair lawns to pour a sanguine flood,
And dye those lucid streams with guiltless blood.
Thus while the humming-bird, in beauty drest,
Enchanting offspring of the ardent west,
Attunes his tender song to notes of love,
Mild as the murmurs of the morning dove,
While his rich plumage glows with brighter hues,
And with soft bill he sips the scented dews,
The savage condor on terrific wings,
From Andes' frozen steeps relentless springs;
And, quiv'ring in his fangs, his helpless prey
Drops his weak wing, and sighs his soul away.


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Read poems about / on: purple, grief, city, rose, murder, child, beauty, hope, freedom, death, flower, passion, winter, snow, sorrow, war, summer, nature, mother, friend



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



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