The Bird Of Ellerslee - Canto Ii Poem by Timothy Thomas Fortune

The Bird Of Ellerslee - Canto Ii

There is no clime beneath the sun
Where man predominance has won,
Can match the women of our clime
In beauty and in virtue prime,
In charms of person and of mind
In one harmonious whole combined!
They are the glory and the pride
Of all the beauteous Southland wide,
The chiefest treasure of the land
O'er which some wizard threw his wand!
Thus thought the lord of Ellerslee
While dreaming of the galaxy
That passed before his mental gaze
And made it bright with Beauty's blaze.
He had so long enjoyed a state
Of single blessedness that Fate,
He deemed, had shut his heart to all
The charms that dazzle men withal;
And, yet, of late, his thoughts had dwelt
More kindly on the themes that melt
The stubborn heart than e'er before;
And this he pondered o'er and o'er,
As now love's dream did not affright
Him as a phantom of the night,
But lured him as a beacon light.
All love—all hate—all laugh—all weep—
As through our lives the passions sweep!

The noblest passion of the breast,
Love makes a man the noblest, best,
Or meanest of the human race,
In whom the brute we well can trace.
Oft when the object sought is won
Man's ardor cools; and she, undone,
Who dreamed of love and happiness,
Is left the lips of sorrow to caress!
And love, like everything possessed,
Grows valueless, too oft, with years,
And garners naught but sighs and tears.
Thought Bondly so? He was not now
What he had been. His noble brow
Unwrinkled was; his eagle eye
No more was blurred with mystery.
Reason had come into its own,
And this in all his acts was shown.

Within the law Ralph Bondly came
That operates on all the same—
On things that breathe, on things that grow,
On things unknown, on things we know—
He fell in love! For months he felt
His sterner nature slowly melt
Into a softer mood—the mood
That shuns the haunts of solitude,
And runs from darkness of the night
Into the glamour of day's light!
He worshipped her, but from afar,
As dreamers of th' Orient a star,
New gleaming on th' enraptured sight
In the soft splendors of the night;
For she was fairest of her kind
That ever flashed upon his mind.

Just as the waters madly flow,
From mountain heights of ice and snow,
O'er rocks and sands into the sea,
As if rejoicing to be free,
Gathering from resistance force
And momentum in their wild course,
So love leaps forward—restless free—
A thing of life and mystery!
'Twill brook no curb, no counsel take,
From those who seek its faith to shake!
In ancient times its hate has lit
The flames that hoary empires split,
Or crumbled in the dust, to rise
No more to noble enterprise!
Yes, love will dare the world to arms
And glory in war's dread alarms!
The greatest dangers it will face
And thrive on shadows with good grace;
Nor cold nor heat nor hunger, pain,
Its burning ardor can restrain.
And, yet, from vulgar eyes to hide
'Twill seek, in modest, blushing pride,
If all goes well, if flowers are spread
Along the path that it must tread!
O, love is life, and life is love—
The union of the hawk and dove!

She was, indeed, a royal maid—
As all maids are, when all is said—
Whom Bondly loved, with dreamful eyes
That beamed upon you in surprise,
And face as beautiful and fair
As ever blushed in Southern air,
Or smiled from canvas, or from bust,
That survives even human dust!
A Southern beauty, whom the brave
A ready, willing, homage gave,
As well the statesman and the bard—
Who sang her praises by the yard.
From far and near had gallants sought
Her smiles, by her sweet beauty caught;
But, no; the same reply she gave
To giddy youth and aged grave.
She was heart-free; no passion's word
The damped fires of her soul had stirred.
She revelled in the gracious power
That makes the weak and strong to cower—
To humbly kneel at Beauty's shrine
And crave to own its charms divine.
Throughout the South her magic name
Had traveled on the wings of fame;
In Beauty's Court she was supreme—
In Beauty's Court she was a dream!
She traced her blood to royalty,
From noblest blood of Spain came she;
For of her house had men defied
The tyranny of princely pride
And trod the earth where prowess won,
As knights of old have always done.
So great in other days, long past,
When men were all as warriors classed,
Were men of Garcia's haughty tribe,
Whom flattery nor pelf could bribe!
Ah, glorious days of chivalry,
Too bad Cervantes' wit killed ye!
This should decide the question then:
'Which mightier is—the sword or pen?'
Still college youths will argue o'er
This settled point forevermore!
But now in Flora's sunny clime,
And had since his young manhood's prime,
Don Garcia lived in quiet ease,
Nor sighed for scenes beyond the seas;
And while he loved his native land,
Where he was born to rule, command,
He better loved th' adopted State
Where he was greatest of the great.
Good Fortune and the Kings of Spain
Had filled his coffers well; and vain
And Naughty was the little Don—
To whom the gods denied a son.
A miser with his wealth was he,
And little gave to charity.
E'en spare of words the old man was,
Economized on breath, alas!

His neighbors did not love the Don,
And ridiculed him pro and con,
But did it well his back behind,
After the nature of their kind—
Who curse in private those they hate,
Or envy, but would emulate,
While publicly they cringe and bow
And fawn—so glad the Don to know!
It has been so in every age,
And will be up to Time's last page.
A title and a bag of gold
Will make the mob grow hot and cold,
However base the owner be—
However proud and miserly!
But what cared Garcia for the blame
Or praise that from the rabble came!
What need had he to bother, pray,
About what men should think and say
Of him! He knew, but did not care;
He was supreme in his own sphere.
Was he not strong in all men crave
Beyond themselves this side the grave—
Abundant wealth and titles clear
And acres vast his soul to cheer!
He loved but one in all the earth,
And she had loved him from her birth—
The queenly daughter of his pride,
Who came when his young wife had died!
He had grown old in selfishness,
And found in it his happiness;
E'en selfish with young Nada was,
While fondly loving her, alas!
He grudged the smiles she scattered wide
O'er all the flowery country side—
For she was lavish with her smiles—
The human sunshine that beguiles—
And with her charity; so high
And low could naught to her deny
Of love and gracious courtesy.

Much time had Senor Garcia spent
In lands where lavish splendors lent
The glamour and the pageantry
Of pomp and power to majesty;
And in his castles in old Spain—
Which he might never see again!—
He much of hospitality
Had shown his noble peers—for he
Was not always the slave of gold,
Nor selfish was and harsh and cold!
These came when she who made his youth
Sublime passed as the breath of truth,
And as old age upon him crept
While all his generous nature slept—
Vindictive that his chiefest joy
Death could so cruelly destroy!
For this he left his native Spain
And went not back to it again
The social reins to Nada he
Long since resigned, and cheerfully.
The years that still were his, he knew,
And did not grieve to know, were few,
For he had drained the cup of pleasure,
And, in his hours of ample leisure,
Had learned its worth o'errated is—
As fatal as the Judas kiss!
Nothing was left to him but name
And wealth, and these had e'en grown tame—
Had lost the worth that made them dear
Before his eyes had shed a tear—
For Garcia had the gout; or, say,
The gout had him—a difference, pray,
As any victim will agree
Who has endured its misery!
In her he lived whose fairy life
Was image of his vanished wife!
The cold sod and the eglantine—
The rich grass and the creeping vine—
While Nada lived, hid not from view
This youthful love that Garcia knew.
Linked to the present was the past,
And o'er his life dark shadows cast—
The living joy—the vanished joy—
Which brooding years could not destroy!
The thoughtless world for loyal grief,
That wavers not, has no relief—
Not even sympathy—but sneers,
Too oft, it gives and ribald jeers!
True love, indeed, can never die;
It lives in spiritual form for ay!

Young Nada was an alien flower,
Transplanted to our matchless power—
A power whose Eagle yet shall be
Greater than Rome's when Rome was free!
And, though she knew the toil and care
Of those who gave so rich a share
To her of wealth and titled name,
Snatched from the field of war's red flame,
She sighed not for the castles and
The pomp, the royal splendors grand,
Of Merry Spain, which she had seen,
For she had knelt to King and Queen;
She left the pride of them and boast
To Garcia; but, e'en he, at most,
No longer prized them as when he
A young Knight was of chivalry;
For time had taught him this great truth—
Age laughs at vanities of youth!

Garcia despised the Saxon race,
And treated none with generous grace;
No word escaped his lips or pen
In praise of England, or its men.
He held this virtue sacred as
His love of Pope and Holy Mass.
He well could love, he well could hate—
This spoilt old Spanish child of Fate!
Ralph Bondly could not hope to find
Favor—if so he had a mind—
In Garcia's eyes, the pompous Don
Who thought the country was his own,
Or seemed to do so in his acts
And words, despite the living facts.

Proud of his land and of his race,
Bondly had looked in Garcia's face
With hatred and contempt and scorn—
Which suggest rapiers in the morn
When other men are sleeping fast,
Dreaming, perchance, of combats past;
And Garcia th' insult had returned,
While all his soul with anger burned,
Lighting his face with scarlet flame,
While from his eyes fierce flashes came.
'Twas mutual hate—the hate of race
Which through all history we trace—
The darkest and the bloodiest page
Writ in the annals of each age.

And are we brothers—we who hate
And rob each other—we who wait.
With murder in our hearts, to slay
Our kind in stealth or open fray?
Are we who make each other bleed
And starve all sprung from Adam's seed?
Will all the children of the Lord
E'er sheathe eternally the sword—
The black, the yellow and the white—
And banish Might and enthrone Right?
Go, get the answer from the wind
That speaks the language of the Mind
From which the universe, and all
That in it is, came forth withal!

But changes come! Sometimes they creep
Upon us in our hours of sleep—
Come as a thief with muffled tread
When slumber holds the living dead!
And what, in truth, is sleep, but death,
In all except the gasping breath!
But changes come! 'Twas even so
With Bondly of the sombre brow.
He learned before it was too late
That love can blunt the edge of hate!
Old Garcia seemed not now the same
When seen through love's entrancing flame!
It all hangs on the single point,
If all is right or out of joint.
Whether we are concerned or not
In casting here or there our lot!
Let love or greed come on the scene,
And hate of race will find a screen—
Will take itself clear out of sight—
Will vanish in the starless night!
'Twas even so when man was young—
Before the stars their psalm had sung!

We often crave for sunshine fair
When angry storms pervade the air;
Yes, sigh for objects of desire,
That may the heart or fancy fire,
Beyond our reach, and knowing, too,
This law of Nature to be true.
'Tis better with a cur to be
On friendly terms than enmity;
However high the eagle flies,
E'en circling in the cloud-fringed skies,
It must return for food and drink
To earth; we may not always think
A common beggar has a claim
Upon our pity in his shame,
But if we spurn his hungry plea,
We may provoke the hate that he
Will find a way to gratify,
To our great hurt and misery.
Ralph Bondly had not felt the need
Old Garcia's words and acts to heed;
They lived in separate worlds nor cared,
Withal, how each the other fared.
The county held them both, 'tis true,
But it was all that it could do;
Neighbors they, dwelling side by side,
Yet separate as the earth is wide!
And, no strange thing in any clime,
But everywhere a social crime!

Bondly could not the time foresee
When Nada Garcia's love would be
To him the dearest thing the sun
Beneath—whether 'twas lost or won.
So many tricks have love—sweet love!—
And caprice played, at every move,
That on few courtships have fair winds
E'er blown. The howling storm that blinds—
The rains that beat—the thunders dread,
And lightning darting overhead—
Have rocked in tempests, sweeping wide,
Love's trusting hopes! Many have died,
Dashing against the storm-hid rocks,
Too frail to stand the furious shocks—
As sea fowls in their desperate plight
Oft dash against a lighthouse light;
While others, yet, have ridden high
Upon the waves of Mystery,
And found at last the paradise
Of wedded bliss—life's dearest prize!
They had not known each other long,
And first had met in a vast throng,
Where stately dames and maidens fair
Had met to banish earthly care.
There wit and beauty claimed their own,
And joy and mirth and love alone
Held captive statesmen—warriors bold—
And country squires, both young and old;
But in the festive throng, I vow,
There was no face, there was no brow,
As beautiful, as fair, as free,
As Nada Garcia's was to see!
So mused Ralph Bondly, as apart
He mutely stood with anxious heart,
Watching the movements of the maid
In the ballroom's soft light and shade;
He had no eyes for others there,
However beautiful and fair.
To him no woman ever seemed
More to possess all that he dreamed
Of ideal womanhood—the force
That shapes the busy world's rough course;
True, one of Wisdom's sons once said,
Before his Star of Fortune fled,
'The hand that rocks the cradle rules
'The world'—savants alike and fools.
'Tis sweet to rule the social hour,
Perhaps the sweetest of all power,
To know the strong of earth, the great,
Upon a smile with pleasure wait.

Ralph Bondly lived another age
While standing on that narrow stage,
And gazing on one woman fair—
The fairest of all women there;
And all the past, by him forgot,
Was in his mind as if 'twas not.
The giddy waltz they glided through
With perfect grace and measure, too;
And through his soul there seemed to pass
A thrill of joy divine, alas!
They seemed to float upon the air,
All full of joy, all free of care,
Bewitched by some mysterious power
That ruled them in the festive hour.
The close-pressed hands, the dreamful eyes,
The rhythmic dance, the low-breathed sighs—
Assisted all the flame to light
That glows forever in the night
And in the day—the quenchless flame
That burns eternally the same!

Love's magic dream! How old—how young—
It is! How valiant and how strong!
The sweetness of the roses red,
Or violets in their wildwood bed,
Or honey in the comb, alas!
Cannot Love's magic sweet surpass!
From its excess have died in bliss
Many the world paused not to miss
When they had sunk in Time's abyss!
The wrecks that litter Time's highway
Are of all kinds—the grave and gay,
The wise and foolish, rich and poor—
Borne down and crushed to rise no more:
No record in the minds of men.
Or history's page, or why or when:
The storm just swept them down. leaving
No trace of them, and no grieving!
Or bootless love, or vengeful hate,
Or poverty, or drunkard's fate—
What matters it, for none can tell
Or when or why the weaklings fell!
The towering shaft and lettered page
Are held for those, in every age.
Who, stout of heart and strong of hand,
The forces of the world command!
'None but the brave deserve the fair;'
No coward should Love's archery dare.
'Twas even so in days of old
When all were knights and warriors bold;
If there were other sorts of men
They dodged the frenzied poet's pen;
And e'en the weavers of romance
Gave common mortals little chance
To show that they possessed the flame
Divine, just as the lord and dame;
But in the hut of old, as now,
Was breathed and kept love's honest vow!

To Bondly's touch so yielding seemed
The fair young maid. while bright lights gleamed:
She bent so willingly her ear
Each of his whispered words to hear,
Each whispered nothing, murmured low,
He felt his courage stronger grow;
For faintest heart to faint will cease
When seems not hard the adored to please!
And when the dreamful waltz was o'er,
And all deserted was the floor,
He led her from the glare and heat
Into the night; a rustic seat,
An arbor in, was their retreat.
The queenly moon in heaven rode high,
While lustrous stars attended nigh,
And roses filled with sweets the air—
Yes, flowery sweets were everywhere!
Have you e'er lingered in the night,
When moon and stars diffused the light,
In some fair summer land, and drunk,
Until to languorous slumber sunk,
The perfume of a thousand flowers
That bathed you in its soothing showers?
They paused and drank the cooling breeze
That music made high in the trees—
The giants of a distant age
That had outlived Time's stormy rage—
The breeze that swept their noble brows,
As gentle as a lover's vows!
How furiously his heart did beat
With fear and hope—ah, hope, so sweet!—
How nerveless was his tongue! Their eyes
Had met beneath the fairest skies
And told the tale that needs no word
To make its heavenly message heard!
The eyes can speak a joy or woe
The faithful tongue may never know—
Can flash a secret from the soul
While the fierce thunders rumbling roll
And piercing lightnings stifle voices,
O'erawed by elemental noises!
But, now, alone—a time that might
Not come again—silent as night
Were they, voiceless, dreading and hoping,
While through the present blindly groping!

Who can portray the thoughts that swell
Two hearts that love each other well
When first they learn that they adore,
And shall—or hope!—forevermore!
And who can tell one-half the fears
That then dissolve a maid in tears!
And how the strongest man so weak
Becomes he cannot even speak—
So overcome with nameless dread
A child may lead him by a thread!
Their love unspoken cowards made
Them in the slumberous vine-clad shade.
So silence brooded on the deep—
Heedless of those who laugh or weep—
Pervasive in its noiseless sweep!
All nature seemed in league—the sky
And earth—to fill with majesty
And awe divine the time and place
Where love had sought to hide its face!
Thus Nature works, through God supreme,
To chasten love's delirious dream!
His trembling tongue but uttered ill
The words conjured by his strong will.
'I love but thee!' he hoarsely said;
'And could I claim thee, with thee wed,
'I'd give a world, if mine to give,
'And joy alone with thee to live!
'I crave thy love! 'Tis life to me,
'Or death! Give it, and I shall be
'The happiest man that walks the earth
'Since mortals first had troublous birth!
'Refuse it, and, dear maid, I die,
'The saddest soul beneath the sky,
'For life would be a worthless toy
'That I should hasten to destroy!
'O, speak! Say I may live and be
'Thy willing slave and worship thee!'
But not a word spake she! Hushed—scared—
Th' emotions of her nature warred!
Her hand he still held in his own,
A trembling captive he had won;
It fed the flames whose violent heat
Quenched never is by rain or sleet!
The captive hand he dared to kiss!
O, bliss of life! O, life of bliss!
The seconds seemed to run to hours,
'Midst th' exhalations of the flowers,
To him who knelt in dread suspense,
While every nerve and sense was tense,
Silently pleading for a bride,
Pleading his suit be not denied!
And, when she said: 'I love but thee!'
His soul dissolved in ecstasy.
He gently drew her to his breast,
Never before by woman pressed,
And they did vow—but why repeat
What they did vow? But it was sweet!
The mortal who has never known
The rapture of a kiss, alone
The token of affection true,
Course all his nature through and through,
Has missed the chiefest joy of earth
Since love in Eden had its birth!

A moment lingered they, as loath
To break the spell of their betroth;
And, then, a moment more, and they
Were borne along in circles gay,
To music's soft alluring strain,
That ne'er so sweet might sound again.
Changed were the currents of their fate,
For conquering love had vanished hate;
Th' English Earl o'er the Spanish Don
A bloodless victory had won.

Don Garcia saw them leave the hall—
Saw them return—he saw it all—
And 'twas as wormwood and the gall!
He marked the color come and go—
The tell-tale eyes—the glances low—
The looks they sought in vain to screen,
That slyly passed the two between—
He marked it all, and but too well,
And all his soul with hate did swell!
So here the two extremes had met,
Of love and hate, which oft upset
The best laid plans and hopes of men,
Earth filling with 'what might have been!'
O, love! O, hate! Ye tigers are
When roused to vengeance or to war!

Don Garcia and his daughter fair
Rode homeward in the morning air,
While shook himself th' imperial sun
For the long race he had to run;
It was so still, it was so calm,
No one could dream of coming storm.
And they were silent then awhile.
Unruffled seemed as Nature's smile.
They were unlike as earth and sky
In all of life's dark mystery;
For he was peevish, gouty, old,
In whom the fires of youth were cold;
While she was beautiful and young,
And dreamed of love and of love sung,
And now the vanished night had brought
To her a happier, sweeter thought,
That made the earth still fairer seem
In which to live, in which to dream.
This was her thought, when Garcia spoke
And from the revery her awoke:
'Nada, I charge thee, mark it well—
'''Tis thy salvation or thy knell!—
'In thy mad course no further go!
''Twill lead thee straight to endless woe.
'The man is mad! This thou must know.
'I'd rather see the willow wave
'Above thy too untimely grave
'Than have thee wed the man I scorn—
'This man with brain disordered born!
'It must not be! Let him be gone!
'I hate him, and, if you were one,
'I still should hate him! 'Twixt his race
'And mine no truce can be—no grace!
'Thou art the solace of my years,
'The object of my hopes and fears;
'There's nothing left of all my line,
'Save thee, 'round which my love can twine.
'All else has gone the way I soon
'Shall go; my life has passed high noon.
'I love thee with my life, and live
'Alone my life to thee to give.
'Make not my old heart for thee grieve.
'I feel thou wilt my warning heed.'
He calmly spoke, this man of steel,
Who crushed inferiors 'neath his heel,
And all his enemies defied
To scale the ramparts of his pride;
But he was furious through and through
And his great mantle closer drew
About him, not to ward the air,
But to conceal his load of care.
There is no hate like hate of race
In all the climes of earthly space.

She spake no word; she could not speak,
For love and reverence made her weak;
But with each perfumed breath she drew
She vowed to Bondly to be true.
Could she forget the moments past,
Moments too sweet to longer last!
She closed her eyes, as if in sleep,
And plunged into Love's pathless deep,
Beginning with the vanished night
That ope'd new worlds of sun and light
To her bewildered, startled sight.

Oh, trackless was the deep blue sea
On which her bark danced merrily!
But ere it left the home port far
It ran into a tempests' war.
The present o'er the future casts
A spell that oft forever lasts;
And maidens grow reserved, whose eyes
Had been as free as heaven's fair skies,
Before love's magic wand had shown
Them life and love indeed are one;
And childish innocence may take
The wisdom of the crawling snake,
To shield it from the prying mind
That seeks its hidden thought to find.

When love invades a woman's breast,
A long farewell to peace and rest—
To days of innocence and truth—
The charming innocence of youth.
Th' expectant groom becomes a god,
Too good to tread his mother sod;
Ethereal form is his; the air
His fit abode, with angels fair;
His power the fiercest oath can break
That irate parents ever make;
Indeed, such interdict but serves
To re-enforce the lovers' nerves.
Within themselves they are supreme,
Lapped in Illusion's blissful dream,
And headlong plunge into Life's roar,
And oft fair ports see nevermore.

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