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

The Bird Of Ellerslee - Canto V

Don Garcia, with advancing age,
For he was living life's last page,
Became more headstrong and more vain,
If to that state he could attain;
More pronounced in his hates and spites,
Less careful, too, of others' rights.
The name of Bondly stirred his ire
As pitch-pine does a smouldering fire,
And, when with Nada's linked—O, shame!—
He like a crazy man became.
'Tis comical, at times, to see
How big a fool a man can be
When he allows his prejudice
To fall into a common vice.
He would not reason out the case
'Bout Bondly and the English race;
He hated them, and ever should,
And would not like them if he could;
Young Nada trembled when the spell
Of passion on her father fell.
We pity him, the brave old knight,
On whom old age had fixed its blight!

Nada to him made her last plea.
He said: 'My child, it cannot be!
'Thy plea cannot prevail! I hate
'The man! I hate him! Not e'en Fate
'Can alter my unbending scorn
'Of every thing of England born.
'Vex not my patience more. No thing
'In earth I love as I do thee,
'But, on thy natal day shall be
'My curse, if thou shouldst rashly wed
'The man I hate! Mark well! 'Tis said.
'Thou art of age, and, in thy right,
'Mistress of ample wealth. 'Tis thine;
'Take it, and, soon, all that is mine
'As well. Thou wilt thy father lose,
'A husband gain—is 't hard to choose?—
'And, with him, honest prayer of mine,
'Thou be the last of Garcia's line!
'Go, then! A father's curse is all
'I place between thee and thy fall!'

'I go!' she said, with erect form
And flashing eyes, facing the storm.
'I go! A blessing asked! Instead,
'A curse thou hurlest at my head!
'So be it! I love thee well! Yet,
'I will the past—thy love!—forget,
'As thou hast willed, though it should break
'The heart thy curses cannot shake!
'I am thy daughter, it is true—
'Forget not, I'm a Garcia, too!
'Be mine the blame, if death be mine!
'And peace and joy and life be thine!
'I go! Be mine the curse—the pain!
'Betwixt ye two my path is plain!'
Don Garcia shook with angry rage,
Regardless of his gout and age,
Surprised and shocked in her to find
The fury of the desperate hind,
Rebellious 'gainst his will and word,
Who was her parent and her lord—
A thing she never dared before
And never should again, he swore.

'Then, go!' he hissed, 'Why longer stay
'To vex me with thy presence, pray?
'Go—meet thy doom, thy tragic fate!
'Go—wed the Englishman I hate!
'For thou shalt reap as thou shalt sow!
'Take thou my parent curse, and go!'

And thus they parted—they whose pride
The love of years could override!
The new love bade the old love go;
And so it was, and will be so,
Till all of Adam's scattered seed
Shall cease to hope, shall cease to bleed.
Forever from the past we fly—
We know not whence, we know not why—
Out of the day, into the night,
All heedless in the headlong flight!
Don Garcia bowed his aged head
And wished, alas! that he were dead!
His eagle eyes grew dim with tears;
Remorse filled his proud breast with fears;
And desolation—awful, dread—
Settled on his devoted head!
From her all joy he long had gleaned,
Upon her as a staff he leaned—
The hope and prop of his old age,
Which he had blasted in his rage!
He well could drown his woe in tears
And sigh away his haunting fears!
The bitter words had burned his tongue
E'en from his mouth as they had sprung,
Charged as the lightning's forkèd flame,
To blast the thing that bore his name—
The only thing! E'en as he spake
Nada's resolve he hoped to break
By working on her maiden fear—
Nor was he first in that to err!
He could have won his child anew,
To his old self had he been true,
Now she had gone, and he was crushed—
While voice of love and hate was hushed!
He had the sorrow and the woe
As first fruits of his vengeful blow;
But, e'en thus weighted, left alone,
Garcia would not his error own—
Would not his heartless words recall—
Temper the wormwood and the gall.
His word was law! Who disobeyed,
Who braved his wish, was promptly flayed—
Had he the power. So, sad to tell,
The only thing that he loved well,
Committed th' unpardonable crime
For the first and the only time!
But what had been, had been! The past
Was past! The present held him fast,
And it was full of gloom—the gloom
That settles o'er a new-made tomb!
The future—'twas one ball of night,
Through which there pierced no ray of light!

He felt as one whose craft the gale
Had robbed of compass, mast and sail,
While all about him spread the sea
That soon his luckless grave might be!
And sudden fell the mighty stroke
That rent the craft of steel and oak!
Awhile upon the waves 'twill ride
Then sink—its glory and its pride!

Old age makes man a child again—
Peevish, irritable and vain,
Who thinks and plans for self alone,
Nor cares how others weep and groan—
The selfishness that fills all life
With bickerings and petty strife.
And sometimes giant wrongs and crimes
That blot the annals of the times!
We make the bed on which we rest,
Or tortured are, by grief distressed;
We hew the paths we daily tread
Towards the City of the Dead,
Or smooth or rough, just as we will,
Or through the vale or o'er the hill;
We make the storm, the sunshine make,
Our hopes to bolster or to shake,
The smiles that dissipate our fears,
Or heartbreaks that o'erflow in tears.
These are our works; and, as we sow,
We reap, a crop of joy or woe.
The havoc of a word could we,
In all its ghastliness, foresee,
Or, yet, the terror a frown may cause,
The consequence might make us pause.

We ne'er on man or beast a wound
Inflict but, in the end, 'tis found,
It hurts us too, as much somehow,
And as we least expect the blow!
A wrong to one, a wrong to all,
Comes down to us from Adam's fall,
And governs in our actions still
For woe or weal, and ever will!
Let pleasing notes escape the lyre,
Notes that uplift, enthuse, inspire,
As o'er its strings the fingers stray,
To cheer our fellows on life's way;
Nor seek in Nature, or its laws,
Or in its lord, in man, for flaws,
To serve a selfish whim of thine;
Be generous all thou may'st design.
The best of marksmen may o'ershoot
His mark—his victim man or brute!

Th' imperious judge, who, in his pride,
Refused with Bondly to divide
Affection in a lovely bride—
The daughter exiled from his breast,
Which long had been her place of rest—
Joy of his home, pride of his eye,
And hope of his posterity—
Th' imperious judge, Don Garcia, fell
So low and was so miserable,
That e'en the slave within his gate
Envied him not his poor estate!
Old age and gout, but half his woe,
And wounded pride, laid Garcia low!

A raging fever burned his brain
And rioted in every vein,
So that he raved and swore like one
That demons foul had seized upon!
The once stout heart, the once strong will,
Were mastered by a stronger still,
In the death grapple—hopeless fight!—
Or waged in darkness or in light,
Which all must wage, or soon or late,
Who live and hope and love and hate!
And all the hist'ry of the past,
All that to earth had held him fast,
The social triumphs and the wars,
The laurels won, the ugly scars,
Passed through his fevered brain again—
A grotesque and a tragic train!

AND THEN HE DIED! None of his blood,
That came down to him from the Flood,
Was near him in the final hour
When vanished all of mortal power;
But old Aunt Sara stood beside
The noble column's broken pride,
As she had done when he was born,
With none but slaves with her to mourn!

The age of Seers and Prophecy
Has passed, like that of chivalry!
It came out of the lap of Faith,
So record and tradition saith,
And has returned to whence it came—
The Rod divine and Bush of Flame!

Men hoped and prayed and cursed and blest,
When Faith was all that they possessed!
So Nada and Ralph Bondly found
All prophecy but empty sound—
All curses harmless as the wind
That whistles through the broken blind.
And still they live and love, while seers
And curses fill them not with fears!

Error Success