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Now,—what is she? and what are they?
Can she com mmand, or these obey?
All silent and unheeding now,
With downcast eyes and knitting brow,
And folded arms, and freezing air,
And lips that scarce their scorn forbear,
Her knights and dames, her court—is there;
And he, the chosen one, whose lance
Had yet been couch'd before her glance,
Who—were his arm a moment free-
Had died or gain'd her liberty ;
The minion of his father's bride, -
He, too, is fetter'd by her side ;
Nor sees her swoln and full
Less for her own despair than him ;
Those lids--o'er which the violet vein,
Wandering, leaves a tender stain,
Shining through the smoothest white
That e'er did softest kiss invite
Now seem'd with hot and livid glow
To press, not shade, the orbs below,
Which glance so heavily, and fill,
As tear on tear grows gathering still.
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.
Whate'er the grief his soul avow'd,
He would not shrink before the crowd ;
But yet he dared not look on her :
Remembrance of the hours that were-
His guilt—his love—his present state-
His father's wrath—all good men's hate
His earthly, his eternal fatem
And hers,—oh, hers! he dared not throw
that deathlike brow! Else had his rising heart betray'd Remorse for all the wreck it made.
And Azo spake :-“But yesterday
I gloried in a wife and son ;
That dream this morning pass'd away ;
Ere day declines, I shall have none
My life must linger on alone.
Well,—let that pass,—there breathes not one
Who would not do as I have done :
Those ties are broken-not by me;
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
For thou hast seen me by thy side
All redly through the battle ride,
And that not once a useless brand
Thy slaves have wrested from
hand, Hath shed more blood in cause of thine, Than e'er can stain the axe of mine.
Thou gavest, and mayst resume my breath, A gift for which I thank thee not ;
Her slighted love and ruin’d name,
Her offspring's heritage of shame;
But she is in the grave, where he,
Her son, thy rival, soon shall be.
Her broken heart—my sever'd head-
Shall witness for thee from the dead
How trusty and how tender were
Thy youthful love-paternal care.
'T is true, that I have done thee wrong-
for wrong—this deem'd thy bride,
The other victim of thy pride,
Thou know'st for me was destined long.
Thou saw'st, and coveted'st her charms
And with thy very crime--my birth,
Thou taunted'st me-as little worth ;
A match ignoble for her arms,
Because, forsooth, I could not claim
The lawful heirship of thy name,
Nor sit on Este's lineal throne:
Yet, were a few short summers mine,
My name should more than Este's shine
With honours all my own.
I had a sword—and have a breast
That should have won as haught ’ a crest
As ever waved along the line
Of all these sovereign sires of thine.
Not always knightly spurs are worn
The brightest by the better born ;
And mine have lanced my courser's flank
Before proud chiefs of princely rank,
When charging to the cheering cry
Of • Este and of Victory!'
I will not plead the cause of crime,
Nor sue thee to redeem from time
A few brief hours or days that must
At length roll o'er my reckless dust;
Such maddening moments as my past,
They could not, and they did not, last-
birth and name be base, And thy nobility of race Disdain’d to deck a thing like me
Yet in my lineaments they trace
Some features of my father's face, And in my spirit--all of thee. From thee—this tamelessness of heartFrom thee-nay, wherefore dost thou start ?From thee in all their vigour came My arm of strength, my soul of flameThou didst not give me life alone, But all that made me more thine own. See what thy guilty love hath done! Repaid thee' with too like a son! I am no bastar
in my soul, For that, like thine, abhorr'd control:
And for my breath, that hasty boon
Thou gavest and wilt resume so soon,
I valued it no more than thou,
When rose thy casque above thy brow,
And we, all side by side, have striven,
And o'er the dead our coursers driven.
The past is nothing_and at last
The future can but be the past;
Yet would I that I then had died :
For though thou work’dst my mother's ill, And made thy own my destined bride,
I feel thou art my father still ;
And, harsh as sounds thy hard decree,
'T is not unjust, although from thee.
Begot in sin, to die in shame,
My life began and ends the same :
As err'd the sire, so err'd the son,
And thou must punish both in one.
My crime seems, worst to human view,
But God must judge between us two!"
He ceased and stood with folded arms,
On which the circling fetters sounded;
And not an ear but felt as wounded,
Of all the chiefs 'that there were ranked,
When those dull chains in meeting clank'd :
Till Parisina's fatal charms
Again attracted every eye-
Would she thus hear him doom'd to die?
She stood, I said, all pale and still,
The living cause of Hugo's ill:
Her eyes unmoved, but full and wide,
Not once had turn'd to either side
Nor once did those sweet eyelids close,
Or shade the glance o'er which they rose.
But round their orbs of deepest blue
The circling white dilated grew
And there with glassy gaze she stood
As ice were in her curdled blood;
But every now and then a tear
So large and slowly gather'd, slid
From the long dark fringe of that fair lid,
It was a thing to see, not hear !
And those who saw, it did surprise,
Such drops could fall from human eyes.
To speak she thought—the imperfect note
Was choked within her swelling throat,
Yet seemed in that low hollow groan
Her whole heart gushing in the tone.
It ceased—again she thought to speak,
Then burst her voice in one long shriek,
And to the earth she fell like stone,
Or statue from its base o'erthrown,
More like a thing that ne'er had life,
A monument of Azo's wife
Than her, that living guilty thing,
Whose every passion was a sting,
Which urged to guilt, but could not bear
That guilt's detection and despair ;
But yet she lived—and all too soon
Recovered from that death-like swoon-
But scarce to reason-every sense
Had been o'erstrung by pangs intense ;
And each frail fibre of her brain
(As bow-strings, when relax'd by rain,
The erring arrow launch aside)
Sent forth her thoughts all wild and wide-
The past a blank, the future black,
With glimpses of a dreary track,
Like lightning on the desert path,
When midnight storms are mustering wrath.
She fear'd—she felt that something ill
Lay on her soul, so deep and chill -
That there was sin and shame she knew,
That some one was to die—but who?
She had forgotten;—did she breathe ?
Could this be still the earth beneath?
The sky above, and men around ?
Or were they fiends who now so frown'd
Till then had smiled in sympathy?
All was confused and undefined,
To her all-jarr'd and wandering mind;
A chaos of wild hopes and fears :
And now in laughter, now in tears,
But madly still in each extreme,
She strove with that convulsive dream-
For so it seem'd on her to break :
Oh! vainly must she strive to wake.
The convent bells are ringing,
But mournfully and slow;
In the grey square turret swinging,
With a deep sound, to and fro.