« PreviousContinue »
Press onwards with such strength and heat,
They die; but ere their eyes could close,
Fresh and furious, fast they fill
The ranks unthinn'd, though slaughter'd still;
And faint the weary Christians wax
Before the still renew'd attacks:
Still resists its iron weight,
And still, all deadly aim'd and hot,
XXX. Darkly, sternly, and all alone, Minotti stood o'er the altar stone: Madonna's face upon him shone, Painted in heavenly hues above, With eyes of light and looks of love; And placed upon that holy shrine To fix our thoughts on things divine, When pictured there, we kneeling see Her, and the boy-God on her knee, Smiling sweetly on each prayer To heaven, as if to waft it there.
· Still she smiled; even now she smiles, Though slaughter streams along her aisles: Minotti lifted his aged eye,
And made the sign of a cross with a sigh, Then seized a torch which blazed thereby ; And still he stood, while, with steel and flame, Inward and onward the Mussulman came.
The vaults beneath the mosaic stone
The carved crests, and curious hues
Were smear'd, and slippery—stain'd, and strown
With broken swords, and helms o'erthrown:
You might see them piled in sable state,
Here, throughout the siege, had been
["Oh, but it made a glorious show!!!" Out. — GIF
Minotti's last and stern resource Against the foe's o'erwhelming force.
XXXII. The foe came on, and few remain To strive, and those must strive in vain : For lack of further lives, to slake The thirst of vengeance now awake, With barbarous blows they gash the dead, And lop the already lifeless head, And fell the statues from their niche, And spoil the shrines of offerings rich, And from each other's rude hands wrest The silver vessels saints had bless'd. To the high altar on they go; Oh, but it made a glorious show!! On its table still behold
The cup of consecrated gold;
Converted by Christ to his blood so divine,
And round the sacred table glow
A spoil-the richest, and the last.
So near they came, the nearest stretch'd To grasp the spoil he almost reach'd, When old Minotti's hand
Touch'd with the torch the train — 'Tis fired!
Spire, vaults, the shrine, the spoil, the slain,
The shatter'd town- the walls thrown down
Down the ashes shower like rain;
Some fell in the gulf, which received the sprinkles
With a thousand circling wrinkles;
Some fell on the shore, but, far away,
Scatter'd o'er the isthmus lay;
[Strike out from "Up to the sky," &c. to " All blacken'd there and reeking lay." Despicable stuff. — GIFFORD.]
Little deem'd she such a day
All blacken'd there and reeking lay.
That deadly earth-shock disappear'd:
January 22. 1816.
THE following poem is grounded on a circumstance mentioned in Gibbon's "Antiquities of the House of Brunswick." I am aware, that in modern times the
[Omit the next six lines. — GIFFORD.]
? I believe I have taken a poetical licence to transplant the jackal from Asia. In Greece I never saw nor heard these animals; but among the ruins of Ephesus I have heard them by hundreds. They haunt ruins and follow armies.
SCROPE BERDMORE DAVIES, ESQ.
THE FOLLOWING POEM IS INSCRIBED,
BY ONE WHO HAS LONG ADMIRED HIS TALENTS AND VALUED HIS FRIENDSHIP.
[Leave out this couplet.
The Siege of Corinth," though written, perhaps, with too visible an effect, and not very well harmonised in all its parts, cannot but be regarded as a magnificent composition. There is less misanthropy in it than in any of the rest; and the interest is made up of alternate representations of soft and solemn scenes and emotions, and of the tumult, and terrors, and intoxication of war. These opposite pictures are, perhaps, too violently contrasted, and, in some parts, too harshly coloured; but they are in general exquisitely designed, and executed with the utmost spirit and energy. - JEFFREY.]
The nearer steed plunged o'er the plain,
The clouds beneath him seem'd so dun;
This poem, perhaps the most exquisitely versified one that ever the author produced, was written in London in the autumn of 1815, and published in February, 1816. Although the beauties of it were universally acknowledged, and fragments of its music ere long on every lip, the nature of the subject prevented it from being dwelt upon at much length in the critical journals of the time; most of which were co tent to record, generally, their regret that so great a poet should have permitted himself, by awakening sympathy for a pair of incestuous lovers, to become, in some sort, the apologist of their sin. An anonymous writer, in "Blackwood's Magazine," seems, however, to have suggested some particulars, in the execution of the story, which ought to be taken into consideration, before we rashly class Lord Byron with those poetical offenders, who have bent their powers" to divest incest of its hereditary horrors." "In Parisina," says this critic, "we are scarcely permitted to have a single glance at the guilt, before our attention is rivetted upon the punishment: we have scarcely had time to
'Whatsoe'er its end below,
Her life began and closed in woe.'
"Not nly has Lord Byron avoided all the details of this unhallowed love, he has also contrived to mingle in the very incest which he condemns the idea of retribution; and our horror for the sin of Hugo is diminished by our belief that it was brought about by some strange and super-human fatalism, to revenge the ruin of Bianca. That gloom of righteous visitation, which invests, in the old Greek tragedies, the fated house of Atreus, seems here to impend with some portion of its ancient horror over the line of Esté. We hear, in the language of Hugo, the voice of the same prophetic solemnity which announced to Agamemnon, in the very moment of his triumph, the approaching and inevitable darkness of his fate :
upon the Continent. The following extract will explain the facts on which the story is founded. The name of Azo is substituted for Nicholas, as more metrical.
"Under the reign of Nicholas III. Ferrara was polluted with a domestic tragedy. By the testimony of an attendant, and his own observation, the Marquis of Este discovered the incestuous loves of his wife Parisina, and Hugo his bastard son, a beautiful and valiant youth. They were beheaded in the castle by the sentence of a father and husband, who published his shame, and survived their execution. He was unfortunate, if they were guilty: if they were innocent, he was still more unfortunate; nor is there any possible situation in which I can sincerely approve the last act of the justice of a parent." GIBBON'S Miscellaneous Works, vol. iii.
The gather'd guilt of elder times Shall reproduce itself in crimes ; There is a day of vengeance still, Linger it may-but come it will.'
"That awful chorus does not, unless we be greatly mistaken, leave an impression of destiny upon the mind more powerful than that which rushed on the troubled spirit of Azo, when he heard the speech of Hugo in his hall of judg
Thou gavest, and may'st resume my breath,
We shall have occasion to recur to this subject when we reach our author's "Manfred." The facts on which the present poem was grounded are thus given in Frizzi's History of Ferrara :
"This turned out a calamitous year for the people of Ferrara; for there occurred a very tragical event in the court of their sovereign. Our annals, both printed and in manuscript, with the exception of the unpolished and negligent work of Sardi, and one other, have given the following relation of it, from which, however, are rejected many details, and especially the narrative of Bandelli, who wrote a century afterwards, and who does not accord with the contemporary historians.
"By the above-mentioned Stella dell' Assassino, the Marquis, in the year 1405, had a son called Ugo, a beautiful and ingenuous youth. Parisina Malatesta, second wife of Niccolo, like the generality of step-mothers, treated him with little kindness, to the infinite regret of the Marquis, who regarded him with fond partiality. One day she asked leave of her husband to undertake a certain journey, to which he consented, but upon condition that Ugo should bear her company; for he hoped by these means to induce her, in the end, to lay aside the obstinate aversion which she had conceived against him. And indeed his intent was accomplished but too well, since, during the journey, she not only divested herself of all her hatred, but fell into the opposite extreme. After their return, the Marquis had no longer any occasion to renew his former reproots. It happened one day that a servant of the Marquis, named Zoese, or, as some call him, Giorgio, passing before the apartments of Parisina, saw going out from them one of her chamber-maids, all terrified and in tears. Asking the reason, she told him that her mistress, for some slight offence, had been beating her; and, giving vent to her rage, she added, that she could easily be revenged, if she chose to make known the criminal familiarity which subsisted between Parisina and her step-son. The servant took note of the words, and related them to his master. He was astounded thereat, but scarcely believing his ears, he assured himself of the fact, alas! too clearly, on the 18th of May, by looking through a hole made in the ceiling of his wife's chamber. Instantly he broke into a furious rage, and arrested both of them, together with Aldobrandino Rangoni, of Modena, her gentleman, and also, as some say, two of the women of her chamber, as abettors of this sinful act. He ordered them to be brought to a hasty trial, desiring the judges to pronounce sentence, in the accustomed forms, upon the culprits. This sentence was death. Some there were that bestirred themselves in favour of the delinquents, and, amongst others, Ugoccion Contrario, who was all powerful with Niccolo, and also his aged and much deserving minister Alberto dal Sale. Both of these, their tears flowing down their cheeks, and upon their knees, implored him for mercy; adducing whatever reasons they could suggest for sparing the of
Ir is the hour when from the boughs The nightingale's high note is heard ; It is the hour when lovers' vows
Seem sweet in every whisper'd word; And gentle winds, and waters near, Make music to the lonely ear.
Each flower the dews have lightly wet,
fenders, besides those motives of honour and decency which might persuade him to conceal from the public so scandalous a deed. But his rage made him inflexible, and, on the instant, he commanded that the sentence should be put in execution.
"It was, then, in the prisons of the castle, and exactly in those frightful dungeons which are seen at this day beneath the chamber called the Aurora, at the foot of the Lion's tower, at the top of the street Giovecca, that on the night of the 21st of May were beheaded, first, Ugo, and afterwards Parisina. Zoese, he that accused her, conducted the latter under his arm to the place of punishment. She, all along, fancied that she was to be thrown into a pit, and asked at every step, whether she was yet come to the spot ? She was told that her punishment was the axe. She inquired what was become of Ugo, and received for answer, that he was aiready dead; at the which, sighing grievously, she exclaimed. Now, then, I wish not myself to live; and, being come to the block, she stripped herself with her own hands of all her ornaments, and wrapping a cloth round her head, submitted to the fatal stroke, which terminated the cruel scene. The same was done with Rangoni, who, together with the others, according to two calendars in the library of St. Francesco, was buried in the cemetery of that convent. Nothing else is known respecting the women.
The Marquis kept watch the whole of that dreadful night, and, as he was walking backwards and forwards, inquired of the captain of the castle if Ugo was dead yet? who answered him, Yes. He then gave himself up to the most desperate lamentations, exclaiming, Oh! that I too were dead, since I have been hurried on to resolve thus against my own Ugo!' And then gnawing with his teeth a cane which he had in his hand, he passed the rest of the night in sighs and in tears, calling frequently upon his own dear Ugo. On the following day, calling to mind that it would be necessary to make public his justification, seeing that the transaction could not be kept secret, he ordered the narrative to be drawn out upon paper, and sent it to all the courts of Italy.
"On receiving this advice, the Doge of Venice, Francesco Foscari, gave orders, but without publishing his reasons, that stop should be put to the preparations for a tournament, which, under the auspices of the Marquis, and at the expense of the city of Padua, was about to take place, In the square of St. Mark, in order to celebrate his advancement to the ducal
"The Marquis, in addition to what he had already done, from some unaccountable burst of vengeance, commanded that as many of the married women as were well known to him to be faithless, like his Parisina, should, like her, be beheaded. Amongst others, Barberina, or, as some call her, Laodamia Romei, wife of the court judge, underwent this sentence, at the usual place of execution; that is to say, in the quarter of St. Giacomo, opposite the present fortress, beyond St. Paul's. It cannot be told how strange appeared this proceeding in a prince, who, considering his own disposition, should, as it seemed, have been in such cases most indulgent. Some, however, there were who did not fail to commend him."
The above passage of Frizzi was translated by Lord Byron, and formed a closing note to the original edition of "l'ari. sina."]
Which follows the decline of day,
But it is not to list to the waterfall
And it is not to gaze on the heavenly light
"Tis not for the sake of its full-blown flower-
And what unto them is the world beside,
Of aught around, above, beneath;
They only for each other breathe; Their very sighs are full of joy
So deep, that did it not decay, That happy madness would destroy
The hearts which feel its fiery sway: Of guilt, of peril, do they deem In that tumultuous tender dream? Who that have felt that passion's power, Or paused, or fear'd in such an hour? Or thought how brief such moments last? But yet-they are already past! Alas! we must awake before
We know such vision comes no more.
With many a lingering look they leave
The frequent sigh-the long embrace
The lip that there would cling for ever, While gleams on Parisina's face
The Heaven she fears will not forgive her, As if each calmly conscious star Beheld her frailty from afarThe frequent sigh, the long embrace, Yet binds them to their trysting-place. But it must come, and they must part In fearful heaviness of heart, With all the deep and shuddering chill Which follows fast the deeds of ill.
And Hugo is gone to his lonely bed, To covet there another's bride; But she must lay her conscious head
A husband's trusting heart beside.
1 The lines contained in this section were printed as set to music some time since, but belonged to the poem where they
He clasp'd her sleeping to his heart,
And listened to each broken word:
As if the Archangel's voice he heard?
He pluck'd his poniard in its sheath,
He could not slay a thing so fair
At least, not smiling-sleeping- thereNay more :- he did not wake her then, But gazed upon her with a glance
Which, had she roused her from her trance, Had frozen her sense to sleep again— And o'er his brow the burning lamp Gleam'd on the dew-drops big and damp. She spake no more- but still she slumber'dWhile, in his thought, her days are number'd.
And with the morn he sought, and found,
To save themselves, and would transfer
The guilt-the shame-the doom-to her : Concealment is no more- -they speak
now appear; the greater part of which was composed prior to" Lara."
And lips that scarce their scorn forbear,
The minion of his father's bride, -
And he for her had also wept,
But for the eyes that on him gazed: His sorrow, if he felt it, slept;
Stern and erect his brow was raised.
1 [A sagacious writer gravely charges Lord Byron with paraphrasing, in this passage, without acknowledgment, Mr. Burke's well-known description of the unfortunate Marie Antoinette. "Verily," says Mr. Coleridge," there be amongst us a set of critics, who seem to hold, that every
Whate'er the grief his soul avow'd,
And hers,-oh, hers!- he dared not throw
And Azo spake: -" But yesterday
Ere day declines, I shall have none.
Let that too pass; - the doom's prepared! Hugo, the priest awaits on thee,
And then-thy crime's reward! Away! address thy prayers to Heaven,
Before its evening stars are metLearn if thou there canst be forgiven;
Its mercy may absolve thee yet. But here, upon the earth beneath,
There is no spot where thou and I Together, for an hour, could breathe: Farewell! I will not see thee die— But thou, frail thing! shalt view his head— Away! I cannot speak the rest:
Go! woman of the wanton breast; Not I, but thou his blood dost shed: Go! if that sight thou canst outlive, And joy thee in the life I give."
And here stern Azo hid his face
For on his brow the swelling vein Throbb'd as if back upon his brain The hot blood ebb'd and flow'd again; And therefore bow'd he for a space, And pass'd his shaking hand along His eye, to veil it from the throng; While Hugo raised his chained hands, And for a brief delay demands His father's ear: the silent sire Forbids not what his words require.
"It is not that I dread the death-
Thou gav'st, and may'st resume my breath,
possible thought and image is traditional; who have no notion that there are such things as fountains in the world, small as well as great; and who would therefore charitably derive every rill they behold flowing, from a perforation made in some other man's tank."]