The Columbiad: Book Iii - Poem by Joel Barlow
Actions of the Inca Capac. A general invasion of his dominions threatened by the mountain savages. Rocha, the Inca's son, sent with a few companions to offer terms of peace. His embassy. His adventure with the worshippers of the volcano. With those of the storm, on the Andes. Falls in with the savage armies. Character and speech of Zamor, their chief. Capture of Rocha and his companions. Sacrifice of the latter. Death song of Azonto. War dance. March of the savage armies down the mountains to Peru. Incan army meets them. Battle joins. Peruvians terrified by an eclipse of the sun, and routed. They fly to Cusco. Grief of Oella, supposing the darkness to be occasioned by the death of Rocha. Sun appears. Peruvians from the city wall discover Roch an altar in the savage camp. They march in haste out of the city and engage the savages. Exploits of Capac. Death of Zamor. Recovery of Rocha, and submission of the enemy.
Now twenty years these children of the skies
Beheld their gradual growing empire rise.
They ruled with rigid but with generous care,
Diffused their arts and sooth'd the rage of war,
Bade yon tall temple grace their favorite isle,
The mines unfold, the cultured valleys smile,
Those broad foundations bend their arches high,
And rear imperial Cusco to the sky;
Wealth, wisdom, force consolidate the reign
From the rude Andes to the western main.
But frequent inroads from the savage bands
Lead fire and slaughter o'er the labor'd lands;
They sack the temples, the gay fields deface,
And vow destruction to the Incan race.
The king, undaunted in defensive war,
Repels their hordes, and speeds their flight afar;
Stung with defeat, they range a wider wood,
And rouse fresh tribes for future fields of blood.
Where yon blue ridges hang their cliffs on high,
And suns infulminate the stormful sky,
The nations, temper'd to the turbid air,
Breathe deadly strife, and sigh for battle's blare;
Tis here they meditate, with one vast blow,
To crush the race that rules the plains below.
Capac with caution views the dark design,
Learns from all points what hostile myriads join.
And seeks in time by proffer'd leagues to gain
A bloodless victory, and enlarge his reign.
His eldest hope, young Rocha, at his call,
Resigns his charge within the temple wall;
In whom began, with reverend forms of awe,
The functions grave of priesthood and of law,
In early youth, ere yet the ripening sun
Had three short lustres o'er his childhood run,
The prince had learnt, beneath his father's hand,
The well-framed code 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,
Employed his docile years; till now from far
The rumor'd leagues proclaim approaching war;
Matured for active scenes he quits the shrine,
To aid in council or in arms to shine.
Amid the chieftains that the court compose,
In modest mien the stripling pontiff rose,
With reverence bow'd, conspicuous o'er the rest,
Approach'd the throne, and thus the sire addrest:
Great king of nations, heaven-descended sage,
Thy second heir has reach'd the destined age
To take these priestly robes; to his pure hand
I yield them pure, and wait thy kind command.
Should foes invade, permit this arm to share
The toils, the triumphs, every chance of war;
For this dread conflict all our force demands,
In one wide field to whelm the brutal bands,
Pour to the mountain gods their wonted food,
And save thy realms from future leagues of blood.
Yet oh, may sovereign mercy first ordain
Propounded compact to the savage train!
I'll go with terms of peace to spread thy sway,
And teach the blessings of the God of day.
The sire return'd: My great desire you know,
To shield from slaughter and preserve the foe,
In bands of concord all their tribes to bind,
And live the friend and guardian of mankind.
Should strife begin, thy youthful arm shall share
The toils of glory thro the walks of war;
But o'er their hills to seek alone the foes,
To gain their confidence or brave their blows,
Bend their proud souls to reason's voice divine,
Claims hardier limbs and riper years than thine.
Yet one of heavenly race the task requires,
Whose mystic rites control the solar fires;
So the sooth'd Godhead proves to faithless eyes
His love to man, his empire of the skies.
Some veteran chief, in those rough labors tried,
Shall aid thee on, and go thy faithful guide;
O'er dreary heights thy sinking limbs sustain.
Teach the dark wiles of each insidious train,
Thro all extremes of life thy voice attend,
In counsel lead thee, or in arms defend.
And three firm youths, thy chosen friends, shall go
To learn the climes and meditate the foe;
That wars of future years their skill may find,
To serve the realm and save the savage kind.
Rise then, my son, first partner of my fame,
With early toils to build thy sacred name;
In high behest, for his own legate known,
Proclaim the bounties of our sire the Sun.
Tell how his fruits beneath our culture rise,
His stars, how glorious, gem our cloudless skies;
And how to us his hand hath kindly given
His peaceful laws, the purest grace of heaven,
With power to widen his terrestrial sway,
And give our blessings where he gives the day.
Yet, should the stubborn nations still prepare
The shaft of slaughter for the barbarous war,
Tell them we know to tread the crimson plain,
And God's own children never yield to man.
But ah, 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;
Tigers and vultures, storms and earthquakes share
Their rites of worship and their spoils of war.
Shouldst thou, my Rocha, tempt too far their ire,
Should those dear relics feed a murderous fire,
Deep sighs would rend thy wretched mother's breast,
The pale Sun sink in clouds of darkness drest,
Thy sire and mournful nations rue the day
That drew thy steps from these sad walls away.
Yet go; tis virtue calls; and realms unknown,
Won by these works, may bless thy future throne;
Millions of unborn souls in time may see
Their doom reversed, and owe their peace to thee,
Deluded sires, with murdering hands, no more
Feed fancied demons with 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;
God speed thy labors 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,
Display'd the sun's bright image on his breast;
A pearl-dropt girdle bound his waist below,
And the white lautu graced his lofty brow.
They journey'd forth, o'ermarching far the mound
That flank'd the kingdom on its Andean bound;
Ridge after ridge thro vagrant hordes they past,
Where each new tribe seem'd wilder than the last;
To all they preach and prove the solar sway,
And climb fresh mountains on their tedious way.
At length, as thro disparting clouds they rise,
And hills above them still obstruct the skies,
While a dead calm o'er all the region stood?
And not a leaf could fan its parent wood,
Sudden a strange portentous noise began;
The birds fled wild, the beasts for shelter ran;
Slow, sullen, loud, with deep astounding blare,
Swell the strong tones of subterranean war;
Behind, before, beneath them groans the ground,
Earth heaves and labors with the shuddering sound;
Columns of smoke, that cap the rumbling height,
Roll reddening far thro heaven, and choke the light;
From tottering steeps descend their 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; but night recals in vain
Her silent shades, to recommence her reign;
The bursting mount gapes high, a sudden glare
Coruscates wide, till all the purpling air
Breaks into flame, and wheels and roars and raves
And wraps the welkin in its folding waves;
Light sailing cinders, thro its vortex driven,
Stream high and brighten to the midst of heaven;
And, following slow, full floods of boiling ore
Swell, swoop aloft and thro the concave roar.
Torrents of molten rocks, on every side,
Lead o'er the shelves of ice their fiery tide;
Hills slide before them, skies around them burn,
Towns sink beneath and heaving plains upturn;
O'er many a league the flaming deluge hurl'd,
Sweeps total nations from the staggering world.
Meanwhile, at distance thro the livid light,
A busy concourse met their wondering sight;
The prince drew near; where lo! an altar stood,
Rude in its form, and fill'd with burning wood;
Wrapt in the flames a youth 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 prest,
And all the mother torn that tender breast;
When the dread duty stifled every sigh,
And not a tear escaped her beauteous eye.
Our fourth and last now meets the fatal doom;
Groan not, my child, thy God remands thee home;
Attend once more, thou dark infernal Name,
From yon far streaming pyramid of flame;
Snatch from his heaving flesh the blasted breath.
Sacred to thee and all the fiends of death;
Then in thy hall, with spoils of nations crown'd,
Confine thy walks beneath the rending ground;
No more on earth the embowel'd flames to pour,
And scourge my people and my race no more.
Thus Rocha heard; and to the trembling crowd
Turn'd the bright image of his beaming God.
The afflicted chief, with fear and grief opprest,
Beheld the sign, and thus the prince addrest:
From what far land, O royal stranger, say,
Ascend thy wandering steps this nightly way?
From plains like ours, by holy demons fired?
Have thy brave people in the flames expired?
And hast thou now, to stay the whelming flood,
No son to offer to the furious God?
From happier lands I came, the prince returns,
Where no red flaming flood the concave burns,
No furious God bestorms our soil and 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 thro heaven the day-dispensing Sun
In living radiance wheel his golden throne,
O'er earth's gay surface send his genial beams,
Force from yon cliffs of ice the vernal streams;
While fruits and flowers adorn the cultured 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 unlabor'd shores,
Ran wild and served imaginary Powers;
Till he, in pity, taught their feuds to cease,
Devised their laws, and fashion'd all for peace.
My sacred parents first the reign began,
Sent from his courts to guide the paths of man,
To plant his fruits, to manifest his sway,
And give their blessings where he gives the day.
The sachem proud replied: Thy garb and face
Proclaim thy lineage of superior race;
And our progenitors, no less than thine,
Sprang from a God, and own a birth divine.
From that sky-scorching mount, on floods of flame,
In elder times my great forefathers came;
There dwells the Sire, and from his dark abode
Oft 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 mountain air,
And our glad hosts are fired for fiercer war.
Yet know, dread chief, the pious youth rejoin'd,
Some one prime Power produced all human kind:
Some Sire supreme, whose ever-ruling soul
Creates, preserves, and regulates the whole.
That Sire supreme must roll his radiant eye
Round the wide earth and thro the boundless sky;
That all their habitants, their gods and men,
May rise unveil'd beneath his careful ken.
Could thy dark fiend, that hides his blind abode,
And cauldrons in his cave that fiery flood,
Yield the rich fruits that distant nations find?
Or praise or punish or behold mankind?
But when my God, resurging from the 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 replied, thy cares releast,
Rest here the night and share our scanty feast;
Which, driven in hasty rout, our train supplied,
When trembling earth foretold the boiling tide.
They fared, they rested; till with lucid horn
All-cheering Phosphor led the lively morn;
The prince arose, an altar rear'd in haste,
And watch'd the splendors of the reddening east.
As o'er the mountain flamed the sun's broad eye,
He call'd the host, his holy rites to try;
Then took the loaves of maize, the bounties brake,
Gave to the chief, and bade them all partake;
The hallow'd 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 dried leaves the rays concentred fly,
And thus his voice ascends the listening sky:
O thou, whose splendors kindle heaven with fire.
Great Soul of nature, man's immortal Sire,
If e'er my father found thy sovereign grace,
Or thy blest will ordain'd the Incan race,
Give these lorn tribes to learn thy awful name,
Receive this offering, and the pile inflame;
So shall thy laws o'er wider bounds be known,
And earth's whole race be happy as thy own.
Thus pray'd the prince; the focal flames aspire,
The mute beholders tremble and retire,
Gaze on the miracle, full credence own,
And vow obedience to the sacred Sun.
The legates now their farther course descried,
A young cazique attending as a guide,
O'er craggy cliffs pursued their eastern way,
Trod loftier champaigns, meeting high the day,
Saw timorous tribes, in these sublime abodes,
Adore the blasts and turn the storms to gods;
While every cloud that thunders thro the skies
Claims from their hands a human sacrifice.
Awhile 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;
A gale refutes him ere his speech be done;
Continual tempests from their orient blow,
And load the mountains with eternal snow.
The sun's own beam, the timid clans declare,
Drives all their evils on the tortured air;
He draws the vapors up their eastern sky,
That sail and centre round 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 thro heaven, a semblance of his own;
Hence the sharp sleet, these lifted lawns that wait,
And all the scourges that attend their state.
Two toilsome days the virtuous Inca strove
To social life their savage minds to move;
When the third morning glow'd serenely bright,
He led their elders to an eastern height;
The world unlimited beneath them lay,
And not a cloud obscured the rising day.
Vast Amazonia, starr'd with twinkling streams,
In azure drest, a heaven inverted seems;
Dim Paraguay extends the aching sight,
Xaraya glimmers like the moon of night,
Land, water, sky in blending borders play,
And smile and brighten to the lamp of day.
When thus the prince: What majesty divine!
What robes of gold! what flames about 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 men by millions greet the glorious view!
Who can behold his all-delighting soul
Give life and joy, and heaven and earth control,
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 gay the streams,
Swells the wild fruitage, gives the beast his food,
And mute creation hails the genial God.
But richer boons his righteous laws impart,
To aid the life and mould the social heart,
His arts of peace thro happy realms to spread,
And altars grace with sacrificial 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 replied,
May serve perchance your boasted race to guide;
And yon low plains, that drink his partial ray,
At his glad shrine their just devotions pay.
But we nor fear his frown nor trust his smile;
Vain as our prayers is every anxious toil;
Our beasts are buried in his whirls of snow,
Our cabins drifted to his slaves below.
Even now his placid looks thy hopes beguile,
He lures thy raptures with a morning smile;
But soon (for so those saffron robes proclaim)
His own black tempest shall obstruct his flame,
Storm, thunder, fire, against the mountains driven,
Rake deep their sulphur'd sides, disgorging here his
He spoke; they waited, till the fervid ray
High from the noontide shot the faithless day;
When lo, far gathering under eastern skies,
Solemn and slow, 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 o'erlook the storm;
While far beneath, the sky-borne waters ride,
Veil the dark deep and sheet the mountain's side;
The lightning's glancing fires, in fury curl'd,
Bend their long forky foldings o'er the world;
Torrents and broken crags and floods of rain
From steep to steep roll down their force amain,
In dreadful cataracts; the bolts confound
The tumbling clouds, and rock the solid 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 walks 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 choke the void of heaven;
Floods burst their bounds, the rocks forget their place,
And the firm Andes tremble to their base.
Long gazed the host; when thus the stubborn chief,
With eyes on fire, and fill'd with sullen grief:
Behold thy careless god, secure on high,
Laughs at our woes and peaceful walks the sky,
Drives all his evils on these seats sublime,
And wafts his favors to a happier clime;
Sire of the dastard race thy words disclose,
There glads his children, here afflicts his foes.
Hence! speed thy flight! pursue him where he leads;
Lest vengeance seize thee for thy father's deeds,
Thy immolated limbs assuage the fire
Of those curst Powers, who 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 sink below the main.
Now to the south he turns; where one vast plain
Calls from a hundred hordes the warrior train;
Of various dress and various form they show'd;
Each wore the ensign of his local god.
From eastern hills a grisly troop descends,
Whose war song wild the shuddering concave rends;
Cloak'd in a tiger's hide their grim chief towers,
And apes the brinded god his tribe adores.
The tusky jaws grin o'er the sachem's brow,
The bald eyes glare, the paws depend below,
From his bored ears contorted serpents hung,
And drops of gore seem'd rolling on his tongue.
The northern glens pour forth the Vulture-race;
Brown tufts of quills their shaded foreheads grace;
The claws branch wide, the beak expands for blood,
And all the armor imitates the god.
The Condor, frowning from a southern plain,
Borne on a standard, leads a numerous train:
Clench'd in his talons hangs an infant dead,
His long bill pointing where the sachems tread,
His wings, tho lifeless, frighten still the wind,
And his broad tail o'ershades the file behind.
From other plains and other hills afar,
The tribes throng dreadful to the promised war;
Some twine their forelock with a crested snake,
Some wear 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 men drew near,
Known for an Inca by his dress and air;
Till coop'd and caught amid the warrior trains,
They bow in silence to the victor's chains.
When now the gather'd thousands throng the plain,
And echoing skies the rending shouts retain;
Zamor, the chieftain of the Tiger-band,
By choice appointed to the first command,
Shrugg'd up his brinded spoils above the rest,
And grimly frowning thus the crowd addrest:
Warriors, attend! tomorrow leads abroad
Our sacred vengeance for our brothers' blood.
On those scorch'd plains for ever 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 hunger with an ampler feast;
When the proud Sun, that terror of the plain,
Shall grieve in heaven for all his children slain,
As o'er his realm our slaughtering armies roam,
And give to your sad Powers a happier home.
Meanwhile, 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 all the Powers at once that storm the skies,
A grateful gift, before his mother's eyes.
The sachem 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 their vengeful doom;
Led to their pyres, in sullen pomp they tread,
And sing by turns the triumphs of the dead.
Amid the crowd beside his altar stood
The youth devoted to the Tiger-god;
A beauteous form he rose, of noble grace,
The only hope of his illustrious race.
His aged sire, for 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 neighboring band;
And him the legate prince, in equal prime,
Had chose to share his mission round the clime.
He mounts the pyre, the flames approach his breath.
And thus he wakes the dauntless song of death:
Dark vault of heaven, that greet his daily throne.
Where flee the glories of your absent Sun?
Ye starry hosts, who kindle from his eye,
Can you behold him in the western sky?
Or if unseen beneath his watery bed,
The wearied God reclines his radiant head,
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 Power in vengeance view the place,
In crimson clothe his terror-beaming face,
Pour swift destruction on these curst abodes,
Whelm the grim tribes and all their savage gods.
But ah, forbear to tell my stooping sire
His darling hopes have fed a coward fire;
Why should he know the tortures of the brave?
Why fruitless sorrows bend him to the grave?
Nor shalt thou e'er be told, my bridal fair,
What silent pangs these panting vitals tear;
But blooming still the patient hours employ
On the blind hope of future scenes of joy.
Now haste, ye fiends of death; the Sire of day
In absent slumber gives your malice 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 war
Drowns all their death songs in a hideous jar;
The cries rebounding from the hillsides pour,
And wolves and tigers catch the distant roar.
Now more concordant all their voices join,
And round the plain they form the festive 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 shifting shades lead on their broken train;
The mingling tribes their mazy gambols tread,
Till the last groan proclaims the victims dead,
Then part the smoky flesh, enjoy the feast,
And lose their labors in oblivious rest.
Soon as the western hills announced 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 promised fight;
And dark and silent thro the frowning grove
The different tribes beneath their standards move.
Meantime the solar king collects from far
His martial bands, to meet the expected war,
Camps on the confines of an eastern plain
That skirts the steep rough limit of his reign;
He trains their ranks, their pliant force combines,
To close in columns or extend in lines,
To wheel, change front, in broken files dispart,
And draw new strength from all the warrior's art.
But now the rising sun relumes the plain,
And calls to arms the well-accustom'd train.
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 sparkling on his breast;
The lautu's horned wreath 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 watchful eye,
Thro the broad breaks that lengthen down the sky;
In whose blue clefts the sloping pathways bend,
Where annual floods from melting snows descend.
Now dry and deep, they lead from every height
The savage files that headlong rush to fight;
They throng and thicken thro the smoky air,
And every breach pours down the dusky war.
So when a hundred streams explore their way,
Down the same slopes, convolving to the sea,
They boil, they bend, they force their floods amain,
Swell o'er obstructing crags, and sweep the plain.
Capac beholds and waits the coming shock,
As for the billows waits the storm-beat rock;
And while for fight his ardent troops prepare,
Thus thro the ranks he breathes the soul of war:
Ye tribes that flourish in the Sun's mild reign,
Long have your flocks adorn'd the peaceful plain,
As o'er the realm his smiles persuasive flow'd,
And conquer'd all without the stain of blood;
But lo, at last that wild infuriate band
With savage war demands your happy land.
Beneath the dark immeasurable host,
Descending, swarming, how the crags 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 sons of blood,
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 troops in squared array
Wait the wild hordes loose huddling to the fray;
Their pointed arrows, rising on the bow,
Look up the sky and chide the lagging foe.
Dread Zamor leads the homicidious train,
Moves from the clefts and stretches o'er the plain.
He gives the shriek; the deep convulsing sound
The hosts reecho, 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 surge, the bold Peruvians stand,
With steady aim the sounding bowstring ply,
And showers of arrows thicken thro the sky;
When each grim host, in closer conflict join'd,
Clench the dire ax and cast the bow behind;
Thro broken ranks sweep wide their slaughtering course.
Now struggle back, now sidelong swray the force.
Here from grim chiefs is lopt the grisly head;
All gride the dying, all deface the dead;
There scattering o'er the field in thin array,
Man tugs with man, and clubs with axes play;
With broken shafts they follow and they fly,
And yells and groans and shouts invade the sky;
Round all the shatter'd 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 was before,
Mangled with horrid wounds and black with gore.
Now the Peruvians, in collected might,
With one wide stroke had wing'd the savage flighty
But their bright Godhead, in his midday race,
With glooms unusual veil'd his radiant face,
Quench'd all his beams, tho cloudless, in affright,
As loth to view from heaven the finish'd fight.
A trembling twilight o'er the welkin moves,
Browns the dim void, and darkens deep the groves;
The waking stars, embolden'd at the sight,
Peep out and gem the anticipated night;
Day-birds, and beasts of light to covert fly,
And owls and wolves begin their evening cry.
The astonish'd Inca marks, with wild surprise,
Dead chills on earth, no cloud in all the skies,
His host o'ershaded in the field of blood,
Gored by his foes, deserted by his God.
Mute with amaze, they cease the war to wage,
Gaze on their leaders and forget their rage;
When pious Capac to the listening crowd
Raised high his wand and pour'd his voice aloud:
Ye chiefs and warriors of Peruvian race,
Some sore offence obscures my father's face;
What moves the Numen to desert the plain,
Nor save his children, nor behold them slain?
Fly! speed your course, regain the guardian town,
Ere darkness shroud you in a deeper frown;
The faithful walls your squadrons shall defend,
While my sad steps the sacred dome ascend,
To 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 with 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 damps, the fiend of death is nigh;
Behold him rising from his shadowy throne,
To veil this heaven and drive the conquer'd Sun;
The glaring Godhead yields to sacred night,
And his foil'd armies imitate his flight.
Confirm, infernal Power, thy rightful 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 food explore,
Tigers and condors, all ye gods of gore,
In these rich 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 naked bones demand
This tardy vengeance from our conquering hand.
He said; and high before the Tiger-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 forceful blow.
The king beheld the ax, and with his wand
Struck the raised weapon from the sachem's hand;
Then clench'd the falling helve, and whirling round,
Fell'd a close file of heroes to the ground;
Nor stay'd, but follow'd where his people 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 frighted field.
The monarch now ascends the sacred dome;
The Sun's fixt image there partakes the gloom;
Thro all the shrines, where erst on new-moon day
Swell'd the full quires of consecrated praise,
A tomb-like silence reigns; till female cries
Burst forth at last, and these sad accents rise:
Was it for this, my son to distant lands
Must trace the wilds, and tempt those lawless bands?
And does the God obscure his golden throne
In mournful darkness for my slaughter'd son?
Oh, had his beam; ere that disastrous day
That call'd the youth from these fond arms away,
Received my spirit to its native sky,
That sad Oella might have seen him die!
Where slept thy shaft of vengeance, O my God,
When those fell tigers drank his sacred blood?
Did not the pious prince, with rites divine,
Feed the pure flame in this thy hallow'd shrine;
And early learn, beneath his father's hand,
To shed thy blessings round the favor'd land?
Form'd by thy laws the royal seat to grace,
Son of thy son, and glory of his race.
Where, my lost Rocha, rests thy lovely head?
Where the rent robes thy hapless mother made?
I see thee, mid those hideous hills of snow,
Pursued and slaughter'd by the wildman foe;
Or, doom'd a feast for some pretended god,
Drench his black altar with celestial 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 lives no more.
Thus heard the silent king; his equal heart
Caught all her grief, and bore a father's part.
The cause, suggested by her tender moan,
The cause perchance that veil'd the midday sun,
And shouts that spoke the still approaching foe,
Fixt 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 control,
And call forth all his energy 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 their image-god
High on the spire with newborn lustre glow'd;
Swift thro the portal flew the hero's eye,
And hail'd the growing splendor in the sky.
The troops courageous at return of light
Throng round the dome, impatient for the fight;
The king descending in the portal stood,
And thus addrest the all-delighting God:
O sovereign Soul of heaven, thy changing face
Makes or destroys the glory of thy race.
If from this mortal life my child he fled,
First of thy line that ever graced the dead;
If thy bright splendor ceased on high 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 exalted souls, to vengeance driven,
Burn with new brightness in the cause of heaven!
For thy slain son the murderous horde shall bleed;
We mourn the hero, but avenge the deed.
He said; and from the battlement on high
A watchful warrior raised a sudden 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 dusty plain;
Bows, quivers, girdles strow the field behind,
And the raised axes cleave the passing 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.
Here Zamor ranged his ax-men deep and 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 longer strides, bend forward to the fray,
Ere flames infolding suffocate his groan,
Child of your beaming God, a victim to our own.
This said, he raised his shaggy shoulders high,
And bade the shafts glide thicker thro the sky.
Like the broad billows of the lifted main,
Rolls into sight the long Peruvian train;
A white sail bounding, on the billows tost,
Is Capac towering 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 plow the trembling ground;
Their sinewy limbs in fierce contortions bend,
And mutual strokes with equal force descend,
Parried with equal art, now gyring prest
High at the head, now plunging for the breast.
The king starts backward from the struggling foe,
Collects new strength, and with a circling blow
Rush'd furious on; his flinty edge, whirl'd wide,
Met Zamor's helve, and glancing grazed his side
And settled in his groin; so plunged it lay,
That scarce the king could tear his ax away.
The savage fell; when thro the Tiger-train
The driving Inca turns his force amain;
Where still compact they hem the murderous pyre,
And Rocha's voice seems faltering to expire.
The phrensied father rages, thunders wild,
Hews armies down, to save the sinking child;
The ranks fall staggering where he lifts his arm,
Or roll before him like a billowy storm;
Behind his steps collecting warriors close;
Deep centred in a circling ridge of foes
He cleaves his wasting 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, heroes, move; complete the work begun.
Crush the grim race, avenge your injured Sun.
The savage host, that view'd the daring deed,
And saw their nations 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 compass round the field,
Confine their flight, and force the rest to yield;
When Capac raised his placid voice again;
Ye conquering troops, collect the vanquish'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 tiger's hide, and strives in vain
To close the wound, and mitigate the pain;
And while compassion for a foe distrest
Mixt with reproach, he thus the chief addrest:
Too long, proud prince, thy fearless heart withstood
Our sacred arms, and braved the living God;
His sovereign will commands all feuds to cease,
His realm is concord and his pleasure peace;
This copious carnage, spreading far 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 fallen foe:
Yet rest in peace; and know, a chief so brave,
When life departs, shall find an honor'd grave;
Myself in princely pomp thy tomb shall rear,
And tribes unborn thy hapless fate declare.
Insult me not with tombs! the monster cried,
Let closing clods thy coward carcase hide;
But these brave bones, unburied on the plain,
Touch not with dust, nor dare with rites profane;
Let no curst earth conceal this gory 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 tigers vindicate their share.
Receive, dread Powers (since I can slay no more),
My last glad victim, this devoved 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 Peruvia's shore;
All bow obedient to the Incan throne,
And blest Oella hails her living son.
Comments about The Columbiad: Book Iii by Joel Barlow
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