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LWi. Might share in peace and innocence, for gore Or poison none this festal did pollute, But piled on high, an overflowing store Of pomegranates, and citrons, fairest fruit, Melons, and dates, and figs, and many a root Sweet and sustaining, and bright grapes ere yet Accursed fire their mild juice could transmute Into a mortal bane, and brown corn set In baskets; with pure streams their thirsting lips they wet.
LVII. Laone had descended from the shrine, And every deepest look and holiest mind Fed on her form, though now those tones divine Were silent as she past; she did unwind Her veil, as with the crowds of her own kind She mix'd ; some impulse made my heart refrain From seeking her that night, so I reclined Amidst a group, where on the utinost plain A festal watch-fire burn'd beside the dusky main.
LVIII. And joyous was our feast; pathetic talk, And wit, and harmony of choral strains, While far Orion o'er the waves did walk That flow among the isles, held us in chains Of sweet captivity, which none disdains who feels: but when his zone grew dim in mist Which clothes the Ocean's bosom, o'er the plains The multitudes went homeward, to their rest, which that delightful day with its own shadow blest.
CAN TO WI.
I. Beside the dimness of the glimmering sea, Weaving swift language from impassion'd themes, With that dear friend I linger'd, who to me So late had been restored, beneath the gleans Of the silver stars; and ever in soft dreams Of future love and peace sweet converse lapt Our willing fancies, till the pallid beams, Of the last watch-fire fell, and darkness wrapt The waves, and each bright chain of floating fire was snapt. II. And till we came even to the City's wall And the great gate, then, none knew whence or why, Disquiet on the multitudes did fall: And first, one pale and breathless past us by, And stared and spoke not;—then with piercing cry A troop of wild-eyed women, by the shrieks Of their own terror driven, tumultuously Hither and thither hurrying with pale cheeks,
iii. Then, rallying cries of treason and of danger Resounded: and—. They come! to arms! to arms! The Tyrant is amongst us, and the stranger Comes to enslave us in his name! to arms!» In vain: for Panic, the pale fiend who charms Strength to forswear her right, those millions swept Like waves before the tempest—these alarms Came to me, as to know their cause I leapt
On the gate's turret, and in rage and grief and scorn I wept!
And now the horsemen come—and all was done Swifter than I have spoken—I beheld Their red swords flash in the uprisen sun. I rush'd among the rout to have repell'd That miserable flight—one moment quell'd By voice, and looks and eloquent despair, As if reproach from their own hearts withheld Their steps, they stood; but soon came pouring there New multitudes, and did those rallied bands o'erbear.
VI. I strove, as drifted on some cataract By irresistible streams, some wretch might striveWho hears its fatal roar:—the files compact * Whelm'd me, and from the gate avail'd to drive With quickening impulse, as each bolt did rive Their ranks with bloodier chasm:-into the plain Disgorged at length the dead and the alive, In one dread mass, were parted, and the stain Of blood from mortal steel fell o'er the fields like rain.
Wii. For now the despot's blood-hounds with their prey, Unarm'd and unaware, were gorging deep Their gluttony of death; the loose array Of horsemen o'er the wide fields murdering sweep, And with loud laughter for their tyrant reap A harvest sown with other hopes; the while, Far overhead, ships from Propontis keep A killing rain of fire:—when the waves smile As sudden earthquakes light many a volcano isle.
VIII. Thus sudden, unexpected feast was spread For the carrion fowls of Heaven.—I saw the sight— I moved—I lived—as o'er the heaps of dead, Whose stony eyes glared in the morning light, I trod;—to me there came no thought of flight, But with loud cries of scorn which whoso heard That dreaded death, felt in his veins the might Of virtuous shame return, the crowd I stirr'd,
Each one from fear unknown a sudden refuge seeks—
| And desperation's hope in many hearts recurr'd.
ix. A band of brothers gathering round me, made, Although unarm'd, a stedfast front, and still Retreating, with stern looks beneath the shade Of gather'd eyebrows, did the victors fill With doubt even in success; deliberate will Inspired our growing troop, not overthrown It gain'd the shelter of a grassy hill, And ever still our comrades were liewn down, And their defenceless limbs beneath our footsteps strown.
x. Immoveably we stood—in joy I found, Beside me then, firm as a giant pine Among the mountain vapours driven around, The old man whom I loved—his eyes divine With a mild look of courage answered mine, And my young friend was near, and ardently His hand grasp'd mine a moment—now the line of war extended, to our rallying cry As myriads flocked in love and brotherhood to die.
Xi. For ever while the sun was climbing Heaven The horsemen hewed our unarmed myriads down Safely, though when by thirst of carnage driven Too near, those slaves were swiftly overthrown By hundreds leaping on them :-flesh and bone Soon made our ghastly ramparts; then the shaft Of the artillery from the sea was thrown More fast and fiery, and the conquerors laugh'd In pride to hear the wind our screams of torment waft.
xii. For on one side alone the hill gave shelter, So vast that phalanx of unconquer'd inen, And there the living in the blood did welter Of the dead and dying, which, in that green glen Like stilled torrents, made a plashy fen Under the feet—thus was the butchery waged While the sun clomb Heaven's eastern steep—but when It'gan to sink—a fiercer combat raged, For in more doubtful strife the armies were engaged.
xiii. Within a cave upon the hill were found A bundle of rude pikes, the instrument Of those who war but on their native ground For natural rights: a shout of joyance sent Even from our hearts the wide air pierced and rent, As those few arms the bravest and the best Seized; and each sixth, thus armed, did now present A line which cover'd and sustain'd the rest, A confident phalanx, which the foes on every side invest.
XIV. That onset turned the foes to flight almost; But soon they saw their present strength, and knew That coming night would to our resolute host Bring victory, so dismounting close they drew Their glittering files, and then the combat grew Unequal but most horrible;—and ever Our myriads, whom the swift bolt overthrew, Or the red sword, fail'd like a mountain river which rushes forth in foam to sink in sands forever.
XV. Sorrow and shame, to see with their own kind Our human brethren mix, like beasts of blood To mutual ruin armed by one behind Who sits and scoffs —That friend so mild and good, Who like its shadow near my youth had stood, Was stabbed —my old preserver's hoary hair, With the flesh clinging to its roots, was strew'd Under my feet!—I lost all sense or care, And like the rest I grew desperate and unaware.
XVI. The battle became ghastlier—in the midst I paused, and saw, how ugly and how fell, O Hate! thou art, even when thy life thou shedd'st For love. The ground in many a little dell Was broken, up and down whose steeps befell Alternate victory and defeat, and there The combatants with rage most horrible Strove, and their eyes started with cracking stare, And impotent their tongues they lolled into the air.
XVII. Flaccid and foamy, like a mad dog's hanging; Want, and Moon-madness, and the Pest's swift bane; When its shafts smite—while yet its bow is twanging— Have each their mark and sign—some ghastly stain; And this was thine, O War! of hate and pain Thou loathed slave. I saw all shapes of death And minister'd to many, o'er the plain While carnage in the sun-beam's warmth did seethe, Till twilight o'er the east wove her serenest wreath.
XWiii. The few who yet survived, resolute and firm Around me fought. At the decline of day Winding above the mountain's snowy term New banners shone: they quiver'd in the ray Of the sun's unseen orb—ere night the array Of fresh troops hemm'd us in—of those brave bands I soon survived alone—and now I lay Wanquish'd and faint, the grasp of bloody hands I felt, and saw on high the glare of falling brands:
xix. When on my foes a sudden terror came, And they fled, scattering—lo! with reinless speed A black Tartarian horse of giant frame Comes trampling o'er the dead, the living bleed Beneath the hoofs of that tremendous steed, On which, like to an Angel, robed in white, Sate one waving a sword;—the hosts recede And fly, as through their ranks with awful might, Sweeps in the shadow of eve that Phantom swift and bright; XX. And its path made a solitude.—l rose And mark'd its coming: it relaxed its course As it approach'd me, and the wind that flows Through night, bore accents to mine ear whose force Might create smiles in death—the Tartar horse Paused, and I saw the shape its might which sway'd, And heard her musical pants, like the sweet source Of waters in the desert, as she said, « Mount with me Laon, nowa–I rapidly obey'd.
Mxi. Then : « away! away's she cried, and stretched her sword As "t were a scourge over the courser's head, And lightly shook the reins:—we spake no word But like the vapour of the tempest fled Over the plain; her dark hair was dispread Like the pine's locks upon the lingering blast; Over mine eyes its shadowy strings it spread, Fitfully, and the hills and streams fled fast, As o'er their glimmering forms the steed's broad shadow
And his hoofs ground the rocks to fire and dust, His strong sides made the torrents rise in spray, And turbulence, as of a whirlwind's gust Surrounded us;–and still away! away! Through the desert night we sped, while she alway Gazed on a mountain which we near'd, whose crest Crown'd with a marble ruin, in the ray Of the obscure stars gleam'd;—its rugged breast The steed strain'd up, and then his impulse did arrest.
xxiii. A rocky hill which overhung the Ocean – From that lone ruin, when the steed that panted Paused, might be heard the murmur of the motion Of waters, as in spots forever haunted By the choicest winds of Heaven, which are enchanted To music, by the wand of Solitude, That wizard wild, and the far tents implanted Upon the plain, be seen by those who stood Thence marking the dark shore of Ocean's curved flood.
XXIV. One moment these were heard and seen—another Past; and the two who stood beneath that night, Each only heard, or saw, or felt the other; As from the lofty steed she did alight, Cythna (for, from the eyes whose deepest light of love and sadness made my lips feel pale With influence strange of mournfullest delight, My own sweet Cythna looked), with joy did quail, And felt her strength in tears of human weakness fail.
XXV. And, for a space in my embrace she rested, Her head on my unquiet heart reposing, While my faint arms her languid frame invested: At length she looked on me, and half unclosing Her tremulous lips, said: • Friend, thy bands were losing The battle, as I stood before the King In bonds.-I burst them then, and swiftly chusing The time, did seize a Tartar's sword, and spring Upon his horse, and swift as on the whirlwind's wing, XXVI. • Have thou and I been borne beyond pursuer, And we are here."—Then turning to the steed, She press'd the white moon on his front with pure And rose-like lips, and many a fragrant weed From the green ruin pluck'd, that he might feed;— But I to a stone seat that Maiden led, And kissing her fair eyes, said, . Thou hast need Of rest," and I heap'd up the courser's bed In a green mossy nook, with mountain flowers dispread.
XXVII. Within that ruin, where a shatter'd portal Looks to the eastern stars, abandoned now By man, to be the home of things immortal, Memories, like awful ghosts which come and go, And must inherit all he builds below, When he is gone, a hall stood; o'er whose roof Fair clinging weeds with ivy pale did grow, Clasping its grey rents with a verdurous woof, A hanging dome of leaves, a canopy moon-proof.
XXVI.ii. The autumnal winds, as if spell-bound, had made A natural couch of leaves in that recess, Which seasons none disturb’d, but in the shade Of flowering parasites, did spring love to dress With their sweet blooms the wintry loneliness Of those dead leaves, shedding their stars, whene'er The wandering wind her nurslings might caress; Whose intertwining fingers ever there, Made music wild and soft that filled the listening air.
xxiv. We know not where we go, or what sweet dream May pilot us through caverns strange and fair Of far and pathless passion, while the stream Of life our bark doth on its whirlpools bear, Spreading swift wings as sails to the dim air; Nor should we seek to know, so the devotion Of love and gentle thoughts be heard still there Louder and louder from the utmost Ocean Of universal life, attuning its commotion.
XXX. To the pure all things are pure! Oblivion wrapt Our spirits, and the fearful overthrow Of public hope was from our being snapt, Though linked years had bound it there; for now A power, a thirst, a knowledge, which below All thoughts, like light beyond the atmosphere, Clothing its clouds with grace, doth ever slow, Came on us, as we sate in silence there, Beneath the golden stars of the clear azure air.
xxxi. In silence which doth follow talk that causes The baffled heart to speak with sighs and tears, When wildering passion swalloweth up the pauses Of inexpressive speech:—the youthful years Which we together past, their hopes and fears, The blood itself which ran within our frames, That likeness of the features which endears The thoughts expressed by them, our very names, And all the winged hours which speechless memory claims, XXXii. Had found a voice:—and cre that voice did pass, The night grew damp and dim, and through a rent Of the ruin where we sate, from the morass, A wandering Meteor by some wild wind sent, Hung high in the green dome, to which it lent A faint and pallid lustre; while the song Of blasts, in which its blue hair quivering bent, Strew'd strangest sounds the moving leaves among; A wondrous light, the sound as of a spirit's tongue.
xxxiii. The Meteor showed the leaves on which we sate, And Cythna's glowing arms, and the thick ties Of her soft hair, which bent with gathered weight My neck near hers, her dark and deepening eyes, Which, as twin phantoms of one star that lies O'er a dim well, move, though the star reposes, Swan in our mute and liquid ecstacies, Her marble brow, and eager lips, like roses, With their own fragrance pale, which spring but half uncloses. xxxiv. The meteor to its far morass return'd : The beating of our veins one interval Made still ; and then I felt the blood that burn'd Within her frame, mingle with mine, and fall Around my heart like fire; and over all A mist was spread, the sickness of a deep And speechless swoon of joy, as might befall Two disunited spirits when they leap In union from this earth's obscure and fading sleep.
XXXV, Was it one moment that confounded thus All thought, all sense, all feeling, into one Unutterable power, which shielded us Even from our own cold looks, when we had gone Into a wide and wild oblivion Of tumult and of tenderness? or now Had ages, such as make the moon and sun, The seasons, and mankind their changes know, Left fear and time unfelt by us alone below?
XXXVI. I know not. What are kisses whose fire clasps The failing heart in languishment, or limb Twined within limb or the quick dying gasps of the life meeting, when the faint eyes swim Through tears of a wide mist boundless and dim, In one caress? What is the strong control Which leads the heart that dizzy steep to climb, Where far over the world those vapours roll, Which blend two restless frames in one reposing soul?
XXXVII. It is the shadow which doth float unseen, But not unfelt, o'er blind mortality, Whose divine darkness fled not, from that green And lone recess, where lapt in peace did lie Our linked frames; till, from the changing sky, That night and still another day had fled; And then I saw and felt. The moon was high, And clouds, as of a coming storm, were spread Under its orb, loud winds were gathering overhead.
XXXVIII. Cythna's sweet lips seemed lurid in the moon, Her fairest limbs with the night wind were chill, And her dark tresses were all loosely strewn O'er her pale bosom :—all within was still, And the sweet peace of joy did almost fill The depth of her unfathomable look;— And we sate calmly, though that rocky hill, The waves contending in its caverns strook, For they foreknew the storm, and the grey ruin shook.
XXXIX. There we unheeding sate, in the communion Of interchanged vows, which, with a rite Of faith most sweet and sacred, stamp'd our union.— Few were the living hearts which could unite Like ours, or celebrate a bridal night With such close sympathies, for they had sprung From linked youth, and from the gentle might Of earliest love, delayed and cherish'd long, Which common hopes and fears made, like a tempest, strong. XL. And such is Nature's law divine, that those Who grow together cannot chuse but love, If faith or custom do not interpose, Or common slavery mar what else might move All gentlest thoughts; as in the sacred grove Which shades the springs of Ethiopian Nile, That living tree, which, if the arrowy dove Strike with her shadow, shrinks in fear awhile, But its own kindred leaves clasps while the sun-beams smile; XLI. And clings to them, when darkness may dissever The close caresses of all duller plants Which bloom on the wide earth—thus we forever Were link'd, for love had nurst us in the haunts Where knowledge, from its secret source inchants Young hearts with the fresh music of its springing, Ere yet its gather'd flood feeds human wants, As the great Nile feeds Egypt; ever flinging Light on the woven boughs which o'er its waves are swinging. XLII. The tones of Cythna's voice like echoes were Of those far murmuring streams; they rose and fell, Mix'd with mine own in the tempestuous air, And so we sate, until our talk befel Of the late ruin, swift and horrible, And how those seeds of hope might yet be sown, Whose fruit is evil's mortal poison: well, For us, this ruin made a watch-tower lone, But Cythna's eyes looked faint, and now two days were gone * XLIII. Since she had food :—therefore I did awaken The Tartar steed, who, from his ebon mane, Soon as the clinging slumbers he had shaken, Bent his thin head to seek the brazen rein, Following me obediently; with pain Of heart, so deep and dread, that one caress, When lips and heart refuse to part again, Till they have told their fill, could scarce express The anguish of her mute and fearful tenderness.
XLIV. Cythma beheld me part, as I bestrode That willing steed—the tempest and the night, Which gave my path its safety as I rode Down the ravine of rocks, did soon unite, The darkness and the tumult of their might Borne on all winds.-Far through the streaming rain Floating at intervals the garments white of Cythma gleam'd, and her voice once again Came to me on the gust, and soon I reach'd the plain.
XLV. I dreaded not the tempest, nor did he Who bore me, but his eyeballs wide and red Turn'd on the lightning's cleft exultingly; And when the earth beneath his tameless tread, Shook with the sullen thunder, he would spread His nostrils to the blast, and joyously Mock the fierce peal with neighings;–thus we sped O'er the lit plain, and soon I could descry Where Death and Fire had gorged the spoil of victory.
XLVI. There was a desolate village in a wood, Whose bloom-inwoven leaves now scattering fed The hungry storm; it was a place of blood, A heap of hearthless walls;–the flames were dead Within those dwellings now,-the life had fled From all those corpses now, but the wide sky Flooded with lightning was ribb'd overhead By the black rafters, and around did lie Women, and babes, and men, slaughter'd confusedly.
XLWii. Beside the fountain in the market-place Dismounting, I beheld those corpses stare With horny eyes upon each other's face, And on the earth and on the vacant air, And upon me, close to the waters where I stoop'd to slake my thirst;-I shrank to taste, For the salt bitterness of blood was there; But tied the steed beside, and sought in haste If any yet survived amid that ghastly waste. XLVIII. No living thing was there beside one woman, Whom I found wandering in the streets, and she Was wither'd from a likeness of aught human Into a fiend, by some strange misery: Soon as she heard my steps she leap'd on me, And glued her burning lips to mine, and laugh'd With a loud, long, and frantic laugh of glee, And cried, . Now Mortal, thou hast deeply quaff'd The Plague's blue kisses—soon millions shall pledge the draught! * XLIX. • My name is Pestilence—this bosom dry, Once fed two babes—a sister and a brother— When I came home, one in the blood did lie Of three death—wounds—the flames had ate the other! Since then I have no longer been a mother, But I am Pestilence;—hither and thither I slit about, that I may slay and smother;All lips which I have kiss'd must surely wither, But Death's—if thou art he, we'll go to work together! L. • What seek'st thou here? the moonlight comes in flashes,The dew is rising dankly from the dell— 'T will moisten her! and thou shalt see the gashes In my sweet boy, now full of worms—but tell First what thou seek'st.”—- I seek for food.” – T is well, Thou shalt have food; Famine, my paramour, Waits for us at the feast—cruel and fell Is Famine, but he drives not from his door Those whom these lips have kiss'd, alone. No more, no more lo
LI. As thus she spake, she grasp'd me with the strength Of madness, and by many a ruin'd hearth She led, and over many a corpse:–at length We came to a lone hut, where on the earth Which made its floor, she in her ghastly mirth Gathering from all those homes now desolate, Had piled three heaps of loaves, making a dearth Among the dead—round which she set in state A ring of cold, stiff babes; silent and stark they sate.
Lii. She leap'd upon a pile, and lifted high Her mad looks to the lightning and cried: • Eat! Share the great feast—to-morrow we must die!" And then she spurn'd the loaves with her pale feet, Towards her bloodless guests;—that sight to meet, Mine eyes and my heart ached, and but that she Who loved me, did with absent looks defeat Despair, I might have raved in sympathy; But now I took the food that woman offered me;
LIII. And vainly having with her madness striven If I might win her to return with me, Departed. In the eastern beams of Heaven The lightning now grew pallid–rapidly, As by the shore of the tempestuous sea The dark steed bore me, and the mountain grey Soon echoed to his hoofs, and I could see Cythma among the rocks, where she alway Had sate, with anxious eyes fix'd on the lingering day.
LIV. And joy was ours to meet: she was most pale, Famished, and wet and weary, so I cast My arms around her, lest her steps should fail As to our home we went, and thus embraced, Her full heart seemed a deeper joy to taste Than e'er the prosperous know; the stced behind Trod peacefully along the mountain waste, We reached our home ere morning could unbind Night's latest veil, and on our bridal couch reclined.
LV. Her chill'd heart having cherish'd in my bosom, And sweetest kisses past, we two did share Our peaceful meal:—as an autumnal blossom Which spreads its shrunk leaves in the sunny air, After cold showers, like rainbows woven there, Thus in her lips and cheeks the vital spirit Mantled, and in her eyes, an atmosphere Of health, and hope; and sorrow languish'd near it, And fear, and all that dark despondence doth inherit.