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Thus still Ambition strives her crimes to shade.
‘O, rather deem 't was stern necessity! Self-preservation bade, and I must kill or die.
"And if Florinda's shrieks alarmed the air,
If she invoked her absent sire in vain
Yet, reverend priest, thy sentence rash refrain!
Know by their bearing to disguise their mood:' But Conscience here, as if in high disdain,
Sent to the Monarch's cheek the burning blood He stayed his speech abrupt - and up the prelate stood.
'O hardened offspring of an iron race!
What of thy crimes, Don Roderick, shall I say? What alms or prayers or penance can efface
Murder's dark spot, wash treason's stain away! For the foul ravisher how shall I pray,
Who, scarce repentant, makes his crime his boast? How hope Almighty vengeance shall delay,
Unless, in mercy to yon Christian host, He spare the shepherd lest the guiltless sheep be
Then kindled the dark tyrant in his mood,
And to his brow returned its dauntless gloom; And welcome then,' he cried, 'be blood for blood,
For treason treachery, for dishonour doom! Yet will I know whence come they or by whom..
Show, for thou canst give forth the fated key, And guide me, priest, to that mysterious room
Where, if aught true in old tradition be, His nation's future fates a Spanish king shall see.' 1
"I11-fated Prince! recall the desperate word, h"Or pause ere yet the omen thou obey! Bethink, yon spell-bound portal would afford
Never to former monarch entrance-way; Nor shall it ever ope, old records say,
Save to a king, the last of all his line,
And treason digs beneath her fatal mine,
‘Prelate! a monarch's fate brooks no delay;
Lead on!' — The ponderous key the old man took, And held the winking lamp, and led the way,
1 See Note 111.
By winding stair, dark aisle, and secret nook, Then on an ancient gateway bent his look;
And, as the key the desperate king essayed, Low muttered thunders the cathedral shook,
And twice he stopped and twice new effort made, Till the huge bolts rolled back and the loud hinges brayed.
Long, large, and lofty was that vaulted hall;
Roof, walls, and floor were all of marble stone, Of polished marble, black as funeral pall,
Carved o'er with signs and characters unknown. A paly light, as of the dawning, shone
Through the sad bounds, but whence they could
not spy, For window to the upper air was none;
Yet by that light Don Roderick could descry Wonders that ne'er till then were seen by mortal eye.
Grim sentinels, against the upper wall,
Of molten bronze, two Statues held their place; Massive their naked limbs, their stature tall,
Their frowning foreheads golden circles grace. Moulded they seemed for kings of giant race,
That lived and sinned before the avenging flood;
This grasped a scythe, that rested on a mace;
stood, Each stubborn seemed and stern, immutable of mood.
Fixed was the right-hand giant's brazen look
Upon his brother's glass of shifting sand, As if its ebb he measured by a book,
Whose iron volume loaded his huge hand; In which was wrote of many a fallen land,
Of empires lost, and kings to exile driven: And o'er that pair their names in scroll expand
'Lo, DESTINY and TIME! to whom by Heaven The guidance of the earth is for a season given.'
Even while they read, the sand-glass wastes away;
And, as the last and lagging grains did creep, That right-hand giant 'gan his club upsway,
As one that startles from a heavy sleep. Full on the upper wall the mace's sweep
At once descended with the force of thunder, And, hurtling down at once in crumbled heap,
The marble boundary was rent asunder, And gave to Roderick's view new sights of fear and
For they might spy beyond that mighty breach
Realms as of Spain in visioned prospect laid, ' Castles and towers, in due proportion each,
As by some skilful artist's hand portrayed: Here, crossed by many a wild Sierra's shade
And boundless plains that tire the traveller's eye; There, rich with vineyard and with olive glade,
Or deep-embrowned by forests huge and high, Or washed by mighty streams that slowly murmured by.
And here, as erst upon the antique stage
Passed forth the band of masquers trimly led, I In various forms and various equipage,
While fitting strains the hearer's fancy fed; So, to sad Roderick's eye in order spread,
Successive pageants filled that mystic scene, Showing the fate of battles' ere they bled,
And issue of events that had not been; And ever and anon strange sounds were heard betwe
First shrilled an unrepeated female shriek!