« PreviousContinue »
And sometimes with the wisest and the best,
Till even the scaffold echoes with their jest!
Yet not the joy to which it seems akin-
It may deceive all hearts, save that within.
Whate'er it was that flash'd on Conrad, now
A laughing wildness half unbent his brow:
And these his accents had a sound of mirth,
As if the last he could enjoy on earth;
Yet 'gainst his nature-for through that short life,
Few thoughts had he to spare from gloom and strife.
"Corsair thy doom is named - but I have power To soothe the Pacha in his weaker hour.
Thee would I spare-nay more-would save thee now,
But this time-hope-nor even thy strength allow;
But all I can, I will: at least, delay
The sentence that remits thee scarce a day.
More now were ruin—even thyself were loth
The vain attempt should bring but doom to both."
"Yes!-loth indeed :—my soul is nerved to all,
Or fall'n too low to fear a further fall:
Tempt not thyself with peril; me with hope,
Of flight from foes with whom I could not cope:
Unfit to vanquish — shall I meanly fly,
The one of all my band that would not die?
Yet there is one- to whom my memory clings,
Till to these eyes her own wild softness springs.
My sole resources in the path I trod
Were these -my bark -my sword my love-my
The last I left in youth—he leaves me now —
And Man but works his will to lay me low.
I have no thought to mock his throne with prayer
Wrung from the coward crouching of despair;
It is enough-I breathe-and I can bear.
My sword is shaken from the worthless hand
That might have better kept so true a brand;
My bark is sunk or captive- but my love-
For her in sooth my voice would mount above:
Oh! she is all that still to earth can bind—
And this will break a heart so more than kind,
And blight a form-till thine appear'd, Gulnare!
Mine eye ne'er ask'd if others were as fair."
Oh! hard it is that fondness to sustain,
And struggle not to feel averse in vain;
But harder still the heart's recoil to bear,
And hide from one-perhaps another there.
He takes the hand I give not-nor withhold
Its pulse nor check'd — nor quicken'd—calmly cold:
And when resign'd, it drops a lifeless weight
From one I never loved enough to hate.
No warmth these lips return by his imprest,
And chill'd remembrance shudders o'er the rest.
Yes-had I ever proved that passion's zeal,
The change to hatred were at least to feel:
But still he goes unmourn'd—returns unsought —
And oft when present-
-absent from my thought.
Or when reflection comes-and come it must
I fear that henceforth 't will but bring disgust;
I am his slave-but, in despite of pride,
'T were worse than bondage to become his bride.
Oh! that this dotage of his breast would cease!
Or seek another and give mine release,
But yesterday—I could have said, to peace!
Yes if unwonted fondness now I feign,
Remember-captive! 'tis to break thy chain;
Repay the life that to thy hand I owe;
To give thee back to all endear'd below,
Who share such love as I can never know.
Farewell 1—morn breaks — and I must now away:
'T will cost me dear—but dread no death to-day!"
She press'd his fetter'd fingers to her heart,
And bow'd her head, and turn'd her to depart,
And noiseless as a lovely dream is gone.
And was she here? and is he now alone?
What gem hath dropp'd and sparkles o'er his chain?
The tear most sacred, shed for others' pain,
That starts at once- bright — pure - from Pity's mine,
Already polish'd by the hand divine!
Oh! too convincing — dangerously dear
In woman's eye the unanswerable tear!
That weapon of her weakness she can wield,
To save, subdue at once her spear and shield:
Avoid it Virtue ebbs and Wisdom errs,
Too fondly gazing on that grief of hers!
What lost a world, and bade a hero fly?
The timid tear in Cleopatra's eye.
Yet be the soft triumvir's fault forgiven;
"Thou lov'st another then? — but what to me Is this 't is nothing — nothing e'er can be: But yetthou lov'st-and-Oh! I envy those Whose hearts on hearts as faithful can repose, Who never feel the void- the wandering thought That sighs o'er visions By this such as mine hath wrought."
"Lady-methought thy love was his, for whom This arm redeem'd thee from a fiery tomb."
"My love stern Seyd's! Oh-No-No-not my loveYet much this heart, that strives no more, once strove To meet his passion-but it would not be.
I felt I feel-love dwells with- with the free.
I am a slave, a favour'd slave at best,
To share his splendour, and seem very blest!
Oft must my soul the question undergo,
Of-Dost thou love?' and burn to answer, 'No!'
1 In Sir Thomas More, for instance, on the scaffold, and Anne Boleyn, in the Tower, when, grasping her neck, she remarked, that it" was too slender to trouble the headsman much." During one part of the French Revolution, it became
how many lose not earth-but heaven! Consign their souls to man's eternal foe, And seal their own to spare some wanton's woe.
"Come vedi -ancor non m'abbandona."-DANTE
SLOW sinks, more lovely ere his race be run, 1
Along Morea's hills the setting sun;
Not, as in northern climes, obscurely bright,
But one unclouded blaze of living light!
O'er the hush'd deep the yellow beam he throws,
Gilds the green wave, that trembles as it glows.
On old Egina's rock, and Idra's isle,
The god of gladness sheds his parting smile;
O'er his own regions lingering, loves to shine,
Though there his altars are no more divine.
Descending fast the mountain shadows kiss
Thy glorious gulf, unconquer'd Salamis !
Their azure arches through the long expanse
More deeply purpled meet his mellowing glance,
And tenderest tints, along their summits driven,
Mark his gay course, and own the hues of heaven;
Till, darkly shaded from the land and deep,
Behind his Delphian cliff he sinks to sleep.
But lo from high Hymettus to the plain,
The queen of night asserts her silent reign. 3
No murky vapour, herald of the storm,
Hides her fair face, nor girds her glowing form;
With cornice glimmering as the moon-beams play,
There the white column greets her grateful ray,
And, bright around with quivering beams beset,
Her emblem sparkles o'er the minaret:
The groves of olive scatter'd dark and wide
Where meek Cephisus pours his scanty tide,
The cypress saddening by the sacred mosque,
The gleaming turret of the gay kiosk, +
The opening lines, as far as section ii., have, perhaps, little business here, and were annexed to an unpublished (though printed) poem; but they were written on the spot, in the Spring of 1811, and I scarce know why-the reader must excuse their appearance here - if he can. [See post," Curse of Minerva."]
* Socrates drank the hemlock a short time before sunset (the hour of execution), notwithstanding the entreaties of his disciples to wait till the sun went down."
• The twilight in Greece is much shorter than in our own country: the days in winter are longer, but in summer of shorter duration.
The kiosk is a Turkish summer-house: the palm is without the present walls of Athens, not far from the temple
Not now my theme-why turn my thoughts to thee?
Oh! who can look along thy native sea,
Nor dwell upon thy name, whate'er the tale,
So much its magic must o'er all prevail?
Who that beheld that Sun upon thee set,
Fair Athens! could thine evening face forget?
Not he whose heart nor time nor distance frees,
Spell-bound within the clustering Cyclades !
Nor seems this homage foreign to his strain,
His Corsair's isle was once thine own domain
Would that with freedom it were thine again!
The Sun hath sunk- and, darker than the night,
Sinks with its beam upon the beacon height
Medora's heart the third day's come and gone
With it he comes not sends not -faithless one!
The wind was fair though light; and storms were
Last eve Anselmo's bark return'd, and yet [none.
His only tidings that they had not met!
Though wild, as now, far different were the tale
Had Conrad waited for that single sail.
The night-breeze freshens - she that day had pass'd
In watching all that Hope proclaim'd a mast;
Sadly she sate on high - Impatience bore
At last her footsteps to the midnight shore,
And there she wander'd, heedless of the spray
That dash'd her garments oft, and warn'd away :
She saw not felt not this nor dared depart,
Nor deem'd it cold. - her chill was at her heart;
Till grew such certainty from that suspense
His very sight had shock'd from life or sense!
It came at last — a sad and shatter'd boat,
Whose inmates first beheld whom first they sought;
Some bleeding-all most wretched these the few-
Scarce knew they how escaped this all they knew.
In silence, darkling, each appear'd to wait
His fellow's mournful guess at Conrad's fate :
Something they would have said; but seem'd to fear
To trust their accents to Medora's ear.
She saw at once, yet sunk not - trembled not
Beneath that grief, that loneliness of lot,
of Theseus, between which and the tree the wall intervenes. - Cephisus' stream is indeed scanty, and Ilissus has no stream at all.
[Of the brilliant skies and variegated landscapes of Greece every one has formed to himself a general notion, from having contemplated them through the hazy atmosphere of some prose narration; but, in Lord Byron's poetry, every image is distinct and glowing, as if it were illuminated by its native sunshine; and, in the figures which people the landscape, we behold Lot only the general form and costume, but the countenance, and the attitude, and the play of features and of gesture accompanying, and indicating, the sudden impulses of momentary feelings. The magic of colouring by which this is effected is, perhaps, the most striking evidence of Lord Byron's talent. GEORGE ELLIS.]
"His capture could ! — and shall I then resign
One day to him—the wretch already mine?
Release my foe !—at whose remonstrance ?-thine!
Fair suitor! to thy virtuous gratitude,
That thus repays this Giaour's relenting mood,
Which thee and thine alone of all could spare,
No doubt regardless if the prize were fair,
My thanks and praise alike are due — now hear!
I have a counsel for thy gentler ear:
I do mistrust thee, woman! and each word
Of thine stamps truth on all Suspicion heard.
Borne in his arms through fire from yon Serai —
Say, wert thou lingering there with him to fly?
Thou need'st not answer-thy confession speaks,
Already reddening on thy guilty cheeks;
Then, lovely dame, bethink thee! and beware :
'Tis not his life alone may claim such care!
Another word and- nay- I need no more.
Accursed was the moment when he bore
Thee from the flames, which better far- but.
I then had mourn'd thee with a lover's woe-
Now 't is thy lord that warns — deceitful thing!
Know'st thou that I can clip thy wanton wing?
In words alone I am not wont to chafe :
Look to thyself— nor deem thy falsehood safe!"
He rose and slowly, sternly thence withdrew,
Rage in his eye and threats in his adieu:
Ah! little reck'd that chief of womanhood-
Which frowns ne'er quell'd, nor menaces subdued;
And little deem'd he what thy heart, Gulnare!
When soft could feel, and when incensed could dare.
His doubts appear'd to wrong-nor yet she knew
How deep the root from whence compassion grew —
She was a slave-from such may captives claim
A fellow-feeling, differing but in name;
Still half unconscious - heedless of his wrath,
Again she ventured on the dangerous path,
Again his rage repell'd — until arose
That strife of thought, the source of woman's woes!
2 The comboloio, or Mahometan rosary; the beads are in number ninety-nine.
Too late the last to shun-
To count the hours that struggle to thine end,
With not a friend to animate, and tell
To other ears that death became thee well;
Around thee foes to forge the ready lie,
And blot life's latest scene with calumny;
Before thee tortures, which the soul can dare,
Yet doubts how well the shrinking flesh may bear;
But deeply feels a single cry would shame,
To valour's praise thy last and dearest claim;
The life thou leav'st below, denied above
By kind monopolists of heavenly love;
And more than doubtful paradise-thy heaven
Of earthly hope-thy loved one from thee riven.
Such were the thoughts that outlaw must sustain,
And govern pangs surpassing mortal pain:
And those sustain'd he-boots it well or ill?
Since not to sink beneath, is something still!
The first day pass'd- he saw not her— Gulnare
The second third — and still she came not there;
But what her words avouch'd, her charms had done,
Or else he had not seen another sun.
The fourth day roll'd along, and with the night
Came storm and darkness in their mingling might:
Oh! how he listen'd to the rushing deep,
That ne'er till now so broke upon his sleep;
And his wild spirit wilder wishes sent,
Roused by the roar of his own element !
Oft had he ridden on that winged wave,
And loved its roughness for the speed it gave;
And now its dashing echo'd on his ear,
A long known voice-alas! too vainly near!
Loud sung the wind above; and, doubly loud,
Shook o'er his turret cell the thunder-cloud;
And flash'd the lightning by the latticed bar,
To him more genial than the midnight star:
Close to the glimmering grate he dragg'd his chain,
And hoped that peril might not prove in vain.
By the way I have a charge against you. As the great Mr. Dennis roared out on a similar occasion, By G—d, that is my thunder!'-so do I exclaim, This is my light. ning!' I allude to a speech of Ivan's, in the scene with Pe. trowna and the Empress, where the thought, and almost expression, are similar to Conrad's in the third canto of the *Corsair. I, however, do not say this to accuse you, but to except myself from suspicion; as there is a priority of six moaths' publication, on my part, between the appearance of that composition and of your tragedies."- Lord Byron to
He raised his iron hand to Heaven, and pray'd
One pitying flash to mar the form it made: 1
His steel and impious prayer attract alike—
The storm roll'd onward, and disdain'd to strike;
Its peal wax'd fainter ceased he felt alone,
As if some faithless friend had spurn'd his groan!
The midnight pass'd - and to the massy door
A light step came-it paused—it moved once more;
Slow turns the grating bolt and sullen key:
'Tis as his heart foreboded—that fair she!
Whate'er her sins, to him a guardian saint,
And beauteous still as hermit's hope can paint;
Yet changed since last within that cell she came,
More pale her cheek, more tremulous her frame :
On him she cast her dark and hurried eye,
Which spoke before her accents-"Thou must die!
Yes, thou must die-there is but one resource,
The last-the worst- if torture were not worse."
Mr. Sotheby, Sept. 25. 1815. The following are the lines in
Mr. Sotheby's tragedy: -
"And I have leapt
In transport from my flinty couch, to welcome
The thunder as it burst upon my roof;
And beckon'd to the lightning, as it flash'd
And sparkled on these fetters."
Notwithstanding Lord Byron's precaution, the coincidence in question was cited against him, some years after, in a periodical journal.]
Well, since we met, hath sped my busy time,
If in aught evil, for thy sake the crime:
The crime-'tis none to punish those of Seyd.
That hated tyrant, Conrad-he must bleed !
I see thee shudder-but my soul is changed ·
Wrong'd, spurn'd, reviled—and it shall be avenged-
Accused of what till now my heart disdain'd—
Too faithful, though to bitter bondage chain'd.
Yes, smile!-but he had little cause to sneer,
I was not treacherous then-nor thou too dear:
But he has said it-and the jealous well,
Those tyrants, teasing, tempting to rebel,
Deserve the fate their fretting lips foretell.
I never loved-he bought me somewhat high-
Since with me came a heart he could not buy.
I was a slave unmurmuring: he hath said,
But for his rescue I with thee had fled.
'Twas false thou know'st-but let such augurs rue,
Their words are omens Insult renders true.
Nor was thy respite granted to my prayer;
This fleeting grace was only to prepare
New torments for thy life, and my despair.
Mine too he threatens; but his dotage still
Would fain reserve me for his lordly will:
When wearier of these fleeting charms and me,
There yawns the sack-and yonder rolls the sea!
What, am I then a toy for dotard's play,
To wear but till the gilding frets away?
I saw thee-loved thee-owe thee all-would save,
If but to show how grateful is a slave.
But had he not thus menaced fame and life,
(And well he keeps his oaths pronounced in strife,)
I still had saved thee-but the Pacha spared.
Now I am all thine own-for all prepared:
Thou lov'st me not-nor know'st-or but the worst.
Alas! this love—that hatred are the first-
Oh! couldst thou prove my truth, thou would'st not start,
Nor fear the fire that lights an Eastern heart;
'Tis now the beacon of thy safety-now
It points within the port a Mainote prow:
But in one chamber, where our path must lead,
There sleeps he must not wake-the oppressor Seyd!"
"Gulnare-Gulnare-I never felt till now My abject fortune, wither'd fame so low : Seyd is mine enemy: had swept my band From earth with ruthless but with open hand, And therefore came I, in my bark of war, To smite the smiter with the scimitar; Such is my weapon-not the secret knifeWho spares a woman's seeks not slumber's life. Thine saved I gladly, Lady, not for thisLet me not deem that mercy shown amiss. Now fare thee well-more peace be with thy breast! Night wears apace-my last of earthly rest!"
"Rest! rest! by sunrise must thy sinews shake,
And thy limbs writhe around the ready stake.
I heard the order-saw-I will not see-
If thou wilt perish, I will fall with thee.
My life my love-my hatred - all below
Are on this cast-Corsair ! 't is but a blow!
Without it flight were idle-how evade
His sure pursuit ? my wrongs too unrepaid,
My youth disgraced—the long, long wasted years,
One blow shall cancel with our future fears;
But since the dagger suits thee less than brand,
I'll try the firmness of a female hand.
The guards are gain'd—one moment all were o'er—
Corsair we meet in safety or no more;
If errs my feeble hand, the morning cloud
Will hover o'er thy scaffold, and my shroud."
She turn'd, and vanish'd ere he could reply,
But his glance followed far with eager eye;
And gathering, as he could, the links that bound
His form, to curl their length, and curb their sound,
Since bar and bolt no more his steps preclude,
He, fast as fetter'd limbs allow, pursued.
"T was dark and winding, and he knew not where
That passage led; nor lamp nor guard were there:
He sees a dusky glimmering- shall he seek
Or shun that ray so indistinct and weak?
Chance guides his steps- -a freshness seems to bear
Full on his brow, as if from morning air-
He reach'd an open gallery-on his eye
Gleam'd the last star of night, the clearing sky:
Yet scarcely heeded these-another light
From a lone chamber struck upon his sight.
Towards it he moved; a scarcely closing door
Reveal'd the ray within, but nothing more.
With hasty step a figure outward past,
Then paused-and turn'd-and paused-'tis She at
No poniard in that hand-nor sign of ill —
"Thanks to that softening heart-she could not kill!"
Again he look'd, the wildness of her eye
Starts from the day abrupt and fearfully.
She stopp'd-threw back her dark far-floating hair,
That nearly veil'd her face and bosom fair :
As if she late had bent her leaning head
Above some object of her doubt or dread.
They meet-upon her brow-unknown-forgot-
Her hurrying hand had left-'t was but a spot-
Its hue was all he saw, and scarce withstood -
Oh! slight but certain pledge of crime—'t is blood!
He had seen battle-he had brooded lone
O'er promised pangs to sentenced guilt foreshown;
He had been tempted-chastened—and the chain
Yet on his arms might ever there remain:
But ne'er from strife- captivity-remorse—
From all his feelings in their inmost force-
So thrill'd-so shudder'd every creeping vein,
As now they froze before that purple stain.
That spot of blood, that light but guilty streak,
Had banish'd all the beauty from her cheek!
Blood he had view'd could view unmoved. - but
It flow'd in combat, or was shed by men!