« AnteriorContinuar »
«Virtue, and Hope, and Love, like light and Heaven, Surround the world.-We are their chosen slaves. Has not the whirlwind of our spirit driven Truth's deathless germs to thought's remotest caves? Lo, Winter comes!-the grief of many graves, The frost of death, the tempest of the sword, The flood of tyranny, whose sanguine waves Stagnate like ice at Faith, the enchanter's word, And bind all human hearts in its repose abhorr'd.
The seeds are sleeping in the soil: meanwhile The tyrant peoples dungeons with his prey, Pale victims on the guarded scaffold smile Because they cannot speak ; and, day by day, The moon of wasting Science wanes away Among her stars, and in that darkness vast The sons of earth to their foul idols pray, And grey Priests triumph, and like blight or blast A shade of selfish care o'er human looks is cast.
This is the winter of the world;—and here We die, even as the winds of Autumn fade, Expiring in the frore and foggy air.—
Behold! Spring comes, though we must pass, who made
The promise of its birth,- -even as the shade
· O dearest love! we shall be dead and cold
Sweet streams of sunny thought, and flowers fresh blown,
Are there, and weave their sounds and odours into one.
. In their own hearts the earnest of the hope
In bands of union, which no power may sever:
«The good and mighty of departed ages
To adorn and clothe this naked world;-and we
Alas, our thoughts flow on with stream, whose waters Return not to their fountain-Earth and Heaven, The Ocean and the Sun, the clouds their daughters, Winter, and Spring, and Morn, and Noon, and Even, All that we are or know, is darkly driven Towards one gulf-Lo! what a change is come Since I first spake—but time shall be forgiven, Though it change all but thee!»-She ceased, night's gloom
For, from the utmost realms of earth, came pouring
Meanwhile had fallen on earth from the sky's sunless Beneath their feet, the sea shook with their Navies' sound.
Was there a human spirit in the steed,
That thus with his proud voice, ere night was gone,
And Earth, their mutual mother, does she groan
For traitorously did that foul Tyrant robe
His countenance in lies,-even at the hour
Of kings and priests, those dark conspirators
He call'd-they knew his cause their own, and swore Like wolves, and serpents to their mutual wars
Her breast, that all in peace its drainless stores may Strange truce, with many a rite which Earth and Heaven
I have heard friendly sounds from many a tongue,
Like man's own speech; and such was now the token Of waning night, whose calm by that proud neigh was broken.
Each night, that mighty steed bore me abroad, And I returned with food to our retreat, And dark intelligence; the blood which flow'd Over the fields, had stain'd the courser's feet;Soon the dust drinks that bitter dew,—then meet The vulture, and the wild-dog, and the snake, The wolf, and the hyana grey, and eat The dead in horrid truce; their throngs did make Behind the steed, a chasm like waves in a ship's wake.
Myriads had come-millions were on their way;
On the fresh blood- he smiles, Aye, now I feel
I am a King in truth! he said, and took
His royal seat, and bade the torturing wheel Be brought, and fire, and pincers, and the hook, And scorpions; that his soul on its revenge might look.
But first, go slay the rebels-why return The victor bands?» he said, millions yet live, Of whom the weakest with one word might turn The scales of victory yet;-let none survive But those within the walls-each fifth shall give The expiation for his brethren here.-
Go forth, and waste and kill!-- O king, forgive My speech,» a soldier answer'd- but we fear The spirits of the night, and morn is drawing near;
« For we were slaying still without remorse, And now that dreadful chief beneath my hand Defenceless lay, when, on a hell-black horse, An Angel bright as day, waving a brand Which flash'd among the stars, past.» Dost thou stand
Parleying with me, thou wretch? the king replied;
« And gold and glory shall be his.-Go forth!
Their clouds on the utmost hills. Five days they slew
Peace in the desert fields and villages,
Peace in the Tyrant's palace, where the throng
Day after day the burning Sun rolled on Over the death-polluted land-it came Out of the east like fire, and fiercely shone A lamp of Autumn, ripening with its flame The few lone cars of corn;-the sky became Stagnate with heat, so that each cloud and blast Languish'd and died,-the thirsting air did claim All moisture, and a rotting vapour past From the unburied dead, invisible and fast.
First Want, then Plague came on the beasts; their food Failed, and they drew the breath of its decay. Millions on millions, whom the scent of blood Had lured, or who, from regions far away, Had track'd the hosts in festival array, From their dark deserts; gaunt and wasting now, Stalk'd like fell shades among their perish'd prey; In their green eyes a strange disease did glow, They sank in hideous spasm, or pains severe and slow.
The fish were poison'd in the streams; the birds
Like starving infants wailed; a woeful ditty!
Amid the aerial minarets on high, The Ethiopian vultures fluttering fell From their long line of brethren in the sky, Startling the concourse of mankind.-Too well These signs the coming mischief did foretell:Strauge panic first, a deep and sickening dread Within each heart, like ice, did sink and dwell, A voiceless thought of evil, which did spread With the quick glance of eyes, like withering lightnings shed. XVII.
Day after day, when the year wanes, the frosts Strip its green crown of leaves, till all is bare; So on those strange and congregated hosts Came Famine, a swift shadow, and the air Groaned with the burthen of a new despair; Famine, than whom Misrule no deadlier daughter Feeds from her thousand breasts, though sleeping there With lidless eyes, lie Faith, and Plague, and Slaughter, A ghastly brood; conceived of Lethe's sullen water.
And many a mother wept, pierced with unnatural pity. Childhood, and youth, and age, writhing in savage pains.
It was not thirst but madness! many saw Their own lean image every where, it went A ghastlier self beside them, till the awe Of that dread sight to self-destruction sent Those shrieking victims; some, ere life was spent, Sought, with a horrid sympathy, to shed Contagion on the sound; and others rent Their matted hair, and cried aloud, « We tread On fire! the avenging Power his hell on earth has spread.»
Sometimes the living by the dead were hid.
And strange 't was, amid that hideous heap to see
Like forms which sculptors carve, then love to agony.
Famine had spared the palace of the king:-
He and his guards and priests; but Plague did fling
So, near the throne, amid the gorgeous feast, Sheathed in resplendent arms, or loosely dight To luxury, ere the mockery yet had ceased That linger'd on his lips, the warrior's might Was loosen'd, and a new and ghastlier night In dreams of frenzy lapp'd his eyes; he fell Headlong, or with stiff eyeballs sate upright Among the guests, or raving mad, did tell Strange truths; a dying seer of dark oppression's hell.
The Princes and the Priests were pale with terror; That monstrous faith wherewith they ruled mankind, Fell, like a shaft loosed by the bowman's error,
On their own hearts; they sought and they could find No refuge-'t was the blind who led the blind! So, through the desolate streets to the high fane, The many-tongued and endless armies wind In sad procession: each among the train To his own Idol lifts his supplications vain.
«O God! they cried, « we know our secret pride
Made dim, but be at length our sins forgiven,
O King of Glory! thou alone hast power!
Have we not stabb'd thine enemies, and made
Well didst thou loosen on this impious City Thine angels of revenge : recall them now; Thy worshippers, abased, here kneel for pity, And bind their souls by an immortal vow : We swear by thee! and to our oath do thou Give sanction, from thine hell of fiends and flame, That we will kill with fire and torments slow, The last of those who mock'd thy holy name, And scorn'd the sacred laws thy prophets did proclaim."
Thus they with trembling limbs and pallid lips Worshipp'd their own hearts' image, dim and vast, Scared by the shade wherewith they would eclipse The light of other minds;-troubled they past From the great Temple;-fiercely still and fast The arrows of the plague among them fell, And they on one another gazed aghast, And through the hosts contention wild befell, As each of his own god the wondrous works did tell.
And Oromaze, Joshua, and Mahomet,
Moses, and Buddh, Zerdusht, and Brahm, and Foh,
<< Our God alone is God! and slaughter now Would have gone forth, when from beneath a cowl
A voice came forth, which pierced like ice through every soul.
'T was an Iberian Priest from whom it came,
A zealous man, who led the legion'd west With words which faith and pride had steep'd in flame,
To quell the unbelievers; a dire Guest Even to his friends was he, for in his breast Did hate and guile lie watchful, intertwined, Twin serpents in one deep and winding nest; He loathed all faith beside his own, and pined To wreak his fear of Heaven in vengeance on mankind. XXXIII.
But more he loathed and hated the clear light Of wisdom and free thought, and more did fear, Lest, kindled once, its beams might pierce the night, Even where his Idol stood; for, far and near Did many a heart in Europe leap to hear That faith and tyranny were trampled down; Many a pale victim, doom'd for truth to share The murderer's cell, or see, with helpless groan, The priests his children drag for slaves to serve their own.
His voice was like a blast that burst the portal
They raged like homeless beasts whom burning woods invest.
'T was morn--at noon the public crier went forth, Proclaiming through the living and the dead,
The Monarch saith, that this great Empire's worth Is set on Laon and Laone's head:
He who but one yet living here can lead,
Or who the life from both their hearts can wring, Shall be the kingdom's heir, a glorious meed! But he who both alive can hither bring, The Princess shall espouse, and reign an equal King." XLII.
Ere night the pyre was piled, the net of iron Was spread above, the fearful couch below, It overtopp'd the towers that did environ That spacious square; for Fear is never slow To build the thrones of Hate, her mate and foe, So, she scourged forth the maniac multitude To rear this pyramid-tottering and slow, Plague-stricken, foodless, like lean herds pursued By gad-flies, they have piled the heath, and gums, wood.
Night came, a starless and a moonless gloom.
Was heard on high the reptiles' hiss and crawl
Whilst shame, and fear, and awe, the armies did divide. God's wrath, and while they burn'd, knelt round on