Imatges de pàgina
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And see! beneath a sun-bright canopy,
Upon a platform level with the pile,

The anxious Tyrant sit, enthroned on high,
Girt by the chieftains of the host; all smile
In expectation, but one child: the while
I, Laon, led by mutes, ascend my bier

Of fire, and look around; each distant isle

Is dark in the bright dawn; towers far and near,
Pierce like reposing flames the tremulous atmosphere.


There was such silence through the host, as when
An earthquake trampling on some populous town,
Has crushed ten thousand with one tread, and mer.
Expect the second; all were mute but one,
That fairest child, who, bold with love, alone
Stood up before the King, without avail,
Pleading for Laon's life-her stifled groan
Was heard-she trembled like one aspen pale
Among the gloomy pines of a Norwegian vale.


What were his thoughts linked in the morning sun,
Among those reptiles, stingless with delay,
Even like a tyrant's wrath !-the signal gun
Roared-hark, again! in that dread pause he lay
As in a quiet dream-the slaves obey-

A thousand torches drop-and hark, the last
Bursts on that awful silence; far away

Millions, with hearts that beat both loud and fast,
Watch for the springing flame expectant and aghast.


They fly-the torches fall-a cry of fear
Has startled the triumphant !- they recede!
For ere the cannon's roar has died, they hear
The tramp of hoofs like earthquake, and a steed
Dark and gigantic, with the tempest's speed,
Bursts through their ranks: a woman sits thereon,
Fairer it seems than aught that earth can breed,
Calm, radiant, like the phantom of the dawn,
A spirit from the caves of daylight wandering gone.


All thought it was God's Angel come to sweep
The lingering guilty to their fiery grave;
The tyrant from his throne in dread did leap-
Her innocence his child from fear did save;

Scared by the faith they feigned, each priestly slave
Knelt for his mercy whom they served with blood,
And, like the refluence of a mighty wave
Sucked into the loud sea, the multitude

With crushing panic, fled in terror's altered mood.


They pause, they blush, they gaze-a gathering shout
Bursts like one sound from the ten thousand streams
Of a tempestuous sea that sudden rout

One checked, who, never in his mildest dreams
Felt awe from grace or loveliness, the seams

Of his rent heart so hard and cold a creed

Had seared with blistering ice-but he misdeems
That he is wise, whose wounds do only bleed
Inly for self, thus thought the Iberian Priest indeed,


And others too, thought he was wise to see,
In pain, and fear, and hate, something divine
In love and beauty-no divinity.

Now with a bitter smile whose light did shine
Like a fiend's hope upon his lips and eyne,
He said, and the persuasion of that sneer
Rallied his trembling comrades-"Is it mine
To stand alone, when kings and soldiers fear
A woman? Heaven has sent its other victim here."


"Were it not impious," said the King, "to break
Our holy oath?"-"Impious to keep it, say!"
Shrieked the exulting Priest-"Slaves, to the stake
Bind her, and on my head the burden lay
Of her just torments :-at the Judgment Day
Will I stand up before the golden throne
Of Heaven, and cry, to thee did I betray
An Infidel; but for me she would have known
Another moment's joy! the glory be thine own."


They trembled, but replied not, nor obeyed,
Pausing in breathless silence. Cythua sprung
From her gigantic steed, who, like a shade
Chased by the winds, those vacant streets among
Fled tameless, as the brazen rein she flung
Upon his neck, and kissed his mooned brow.
A piteous sight, that one so fair and young,

The clasp of such a fearful death should woo
With smiles of tender joy as beamed from Cythna now.


The warm tears burst in spite of faith and fear,
From many a tremulous eye, but like soft dews
Which feed spring's earliest buds, hung gathered there,
Frozen by doubt,-alas, they could not choose,
But weep; for when her faint limbs did refuse
To climb the pyre, upon the mutes she smiled;
And with her eloquent gestures, and the hues
Of her quick lips, even as a weary child

Wins sleep from some fond nurse with its caresses mild,


She won them, though unwilling, her to bind
Near me, among the stakes. When then had fled
One soft reproach that was most thrilling kind,
She smiled on me, and nothing then we said,
But each upon the other's countenance fed
Looks of insatiate love; the mighty veil
Which doth divide the living and the dead
Was almost rent, the world grew dim and pale,—
All light in Heaven or Earth beside our love did fail.


Yet,-yet-one brief relapse, like the last beam
Of dying flames, the stainless air around
Hung silent and serene-a blood-red gleam
Burst upwards, hurling fiercely from the ground
The globed smoke,-I heard the mighty sound
Of its uprise, like a tempestuous ocean;

And, through its chasms I saw, as in a swound,
The tyrant's child fall without life or motion

Before his throne, subdued by some unseen emotion.


And is this death? the pyre has disappeared,
The Pestilence, the Tyrant, and the throng;
The flames grow silent-slowly there is heard
The music of a breath-suspending song,
Which, like the kiss of love when life is young,
Steeps the faint eyes in darkness sweet and deep;
With ever changing notes it floats along,
Till on my passive soul there seemed to creep
A melody, like waves on wrinkled sands that leap.


The warm touch of a soft and tremulous hand
Wakened me then; lo, Cythna sate reclined
Beside me, on the waved and golden sand
Of a clear pool, upon a bank o'ertwined

With strange and star-bright flowers, which to the wind
Breathed divine odour; high above, was spread
The emerald heaven of trees of unknown kind,
Whose moonlike blooms and bright fruit overhead
A shadow, which was light, upon the waters shed.


And round about sloped many a lawny mountain
With incense-bearing forests, and vast caves
Of marble radiance to that mighty fountain;
And where the flood its own bright margin laves,
Their echoes talk with its eternal waves,

Which, from the depths whose jagged caverns breed
Their unreposing strife, it lifts and heaves,-
Till through a chasm of hills they roll, and feed

A river deep, which flies with smooth but arrowy speed.


As we sate gazing in a trance of wonder,
A boat approached, borne by the musical air
Along the waves which sung and sparkled under
Its rapid keel-a winged shape sate there,
A child with silver-shining wings, so fair,
That as her bark did through the waters glide,
The shadow of the lingering waves did wear
Light, as from starry beams; from side to side,
While veering to the wind her plumes the bark did guide


The boat was one curved shell of hollow pearl,
Almost translucent with the light divine

Of her within; the prow and stern did curl
Horned on high, like the young moon supine,

When o'er dim twilight mountains dark with pine,
It floats upon the sunset's sea of beams,

Whose golden waves in many a purple line

Fade fast, till borne on sunlight's ebbing streams,
Dilating, on earth's vcrge the sunken meteor gleams.


Its keel has struck the sands beside our feet ;-
Then Cythna turned to me, and from her eyes
Which swam with unshed tears, a look more sweet
Than happy love, a wild and glad surprise,
Glanced as she spake; "Ay, this is Paradise
And not a dream, and we are all united!

Lo, that is mine own child, who in the guise

Of madness came, like day to one benighted

In lonesome woods: my heart is now too well requited!"


And then she wept aloud, and in her arms
Clasped that bright Shape, less marvellously fair
Than her own human hues and living charms;
Which, as she leaned in passion's silence there,
Breathed warmth on the cold bosom of the air,
Which seemed to blush and tremble with delight;
The glossy darkness of her streaming hair
Fell o'er that snowy child, and wrapt from sight
The fond and long embrace which did their hearts unite.


Then the bright child, the plumed Seraph came,
And fixed its blue and beaming eyes on mine,
And said, "I was disturbed by tremulous shame
When once we met, yet knew that I was thine
From the same hour in which thy lips divine
Kindled a clinging dream within my brain,
Which ever waked when I might sleep, to twine
Thine image with her memory dear, again

We meet; exempted now írom mortal fear or pain.


"When the consuming flames had wrapt ye round,
The hope which I had cherished went away;
I fell in agony on the senseless ground,
And hid mine eyes in dust, and far astray

My mind was gone, when bright, like dawning day,
The Spectre of the Plague before me flew,

And breathed upon my lips, and seemed to say,

They wait for thee beloved ;'-then I knew

The death-mark on my breast, and became calm anew.


"It was the calm of love-for I was dying.
I saw the black and half-extinguished pyre
In its own grey and shrunken ashes lying;
The pitchy smoke of the departed fire

Still hung in many a hollow dome and spire

Above the towers like night; beneath whose shade
Awed by the ending of their own desire

The armies stood; a vacancy was made

In expectation's depth, and so they stood dismayed.


"The frightful silence of that altered mood,
The tortures of the dying clove alone,
Till one uprose among the multitude,
And said-The flood of time is rolling on,
We stand upon its brink, whilst they are gone
To glide in peace down death's mysterious stream.
Have ye done well? They moulder flesh and bone,
Who might have made this life's envenomed dream
A sweeter draught than ye will ever taste, I deem.


"These perish as the good and great of yore
Have perished, and their murderers will repent,
Yes, vain and barren tears shall flow before
Yon smoke has faded from the firmament
Even for this cause, that ye who must lament
The death of those that made this world so fair,
Cannot recall them now; but then is lent

To man the wisdom of a high despair,

When such can die and he live on and linger here.


"Ay, ye may fear not now the Pestilence,

From fabled hell as by a charm withdrawn,
All power and faith must pass, since calmly hence
In pain and fire have unbelievers gone;
And ye must sadly turn away, and moan
In secret, to his home each one returning,

And to long ages shall this hour be known;
And slowly shall its memory, ever burning,

Fill this dark night of things with an eternal morning.

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