The fatal morning dawn'd that brought again
The sad memorial of my ancient pain;
That day, the source of long-protracted woe,
When I began the plagues of Love to know,
Hyperion's throne, along the azure field,
Between the splendid horns of Taurus wheel'd;
And from her spouse the Queen of Morn withdrew
Her sandals, gemm'd with frost-bespangled dew.
Sad recollection, rising with the morn,
Of my disastrous love, repaid with scorn,
Oppressed my sense; till welcome soft repose
Gave a short respite from my swelling woes.
Then seem'd I in a vision borne away,
Where a deep winding vale sequester'd lay;
Nor long I rested on the flowery green
Ere a soft radiance dawn'd along the scene.--
Fallacious sign of hope! for, close behind,
Dark shades of coming woe were seen combined.
There, on his car, a conqu'ring chief I spied,
Like Rome's proud sons, that led the living tide
Of vanquished foes, in long triumphal state,
To Capitolian Jove's disclosing gate.
With little joy I saw the splendid show,
Spent and dejected by my lengthen'd woe;
Sick of the world, and all its worthless train,
That world, where all the hateful passions reign;
And yet intent the mystic cause to find,
(For knowledge is the banquet of the mind)
Languid and slow I turn'd my cheerless eyes
On the proud warrior, and his uncouth guise.
High on his seat an archer youth was seen,
With loaded quiver, and malicious mien
Nor plate, nor mail, his cruel shaft can ward,
Nor polish'd burganet the temples guard;
His burning chariot seem'd by coursers drawn;
While, like the snows that clothe the wintry lawn
His waving wings with rainbow colour gay
On either naked shoulder seem'd to play;
And, filing far behind, a countless train
In sad procession hid the groaning plain:
Some, captive, seem'd in long disastrous strife,
Some, in the deadly fray, bereft of life;
And freshly wounded some. A viewless hand
Led me to mingle with the mornful band,
And learn the fortunes of the sentenced crew,
Who, pierced by Love, had bid the world adieu.
With keen survey I mark'd the ghostly show,
To find a shade among the sons of woe
To memory known: but every trace was lost
In the dim features of the moving host:
Oblivion's hand had drawn a dark disguise
O'er their wan lineaments and beamless eyes.
At length, a pallid face I seem'd to know;
Which wore, methought, a lighter mask of woe;
He call'd me by my name.--"Behold!" he cried,
"What plagues the hapless thralls of Love abide!"--
"How am I known by thee?" with new surprise
I cried; "no mark recalls thee to my eyes."--
"Oh, heavy is my load!" he seem'd to say;
"Through this dark medium no detecting ray
Assists thy sight; but I, like thee, can boast
My birth on famed Etruria's ancient coast."--
The secret which his murky mask conceal'd,
His well-known voice and Tuscan tongue reveal'd;
Thence to a lighter station we repair'd,
And thus the phantom spoke, with mild regard:--
"We thought to see thy name with ours enroll'd
Long since; for oft thy looks this fate foretold."--
"True," I replied; "but I survived the strife:
His arrows reach'd me, but were short of life."--
Pausing, he spoke:--"A spark to flame will rise,
And bear thy name in glory to the skies."--
His meaning was obscure, but in my breast
I felt the substance of his words impress'd,
As sculptured stone, or monumental brass,
Keeps the firm record, or heroic face.
With youthful ardour new, and hope inspired,
Quick from my grave companion I required
The name and fortunes of the passing train.
And why in mournful pomp they trod the plain--
"Time," he return'd, "the secret then will show,
When thou shalt join the retinue of woe:
But years shall sprinkle o'er thy locks with gray,
And alter'd looks the signs of age betray,
Ere at his powerful touch the fetters fall,
Which many a moon thy captive limbs shall gall:
Yet will I grant thy suit, and give to view
The various fortunes of the captive crew:
But mark their leader first, that chief renown'd--
The Power of Love! by every nation own'd.
His sway thou soon, as well as we, shalt know,
Stung to the heart by goads of dulcet woe.
In him unthinking youth's misgovern'd rage,
Join'd with the cool malignity of age,
Is known to mingle with insidious guile,
Deep, deep conceal'd beneath an infant's smile.
The child of slothful ease, and sensual heat--
By sweet delirious thoughts, in dark retreat,
Mature in mischief grown--he springs away,
A wingèd god, and thousands own his sway.
Some, as thou seest, are number'd with the dead,
And some the bitter drops of sorrow shed
Through lingering life, by viewless tangles bound,
That link the soul, and chain it to the ground.
There Cæsar walks! of Celtic laurels proud.
Nor feels himself in sensual bondage bow'd:
He treads the flowery path, nor sees the snare
Laid for his honour by the Egyptian fair.
Here Love his triumph shows, and leads along
The world's great owner in the captive throng;
And o'er the master of unscepter'd kings
Exulting soars, and claps his purple wings.
See his adopted son! he knew her guile,
And nobly scorn'd the siren of the Nile;
Yet fell by Roman charms and from her spouse
The pregnant consort bore, regardless of her vows
There, cruel Nero feels his iron heart
Lanced by imperious Love's resistless dart;
Replete with rage, and scorning human ties,
He falls the victim of two conquering eyes;
Deep ambush'd there in philosophic spoils,
The little tyrant tries his artful wiles:
E'en in that hallow'd breast, where, deep enshrined,
Lay all the varied treasures of the mind,
He lodged his venom'd shaft. The hoary sage,
Like meaner mortals, felt the passion rage
In boundless fury for a strumpet's charms,
And clasp'd the shining mischief in his arms.--
See Dionysius link'd with Pheræ's lord,
Pale doubt and dread on either front abhorr'd.
Scowl terrible! yet Love assign'd their doom;
A wife and mistress mark'd them for the tomb!--
The next is he that on Antandros' coast
His fair Crëusa mourn'd, for ever lost;
Yet cut the bonds of Love on Tyber's shore,
And bought a bride with young Evander's gore.
Here droop'd the victim of a lawless flame:
The amorous frenzy of the Cretan dame
He fled abhorrent, and contemn'd her tears,
And to the dire suggestion closed his ears.
But nought, alas! his purity avail'd--
Fate in his flight the hapless youth assail'd,
By interdicted Love to Vengeance fired;
And by his father's curse the son expired.
The stepdame shared his fate, and dearly paid
A spouse, a sister, and a son betray'd:
Her conscience, by the false impeachment stung,
Upon herself return'd the deadly wrong;
And he, that broke before his plighted vows,
Met his deserts in an adulterous spouse.
See! where he droops between the sister dames,
And fondly melts--the other scorns his flames,--
The mighty slave of Omphale behind
Is seen, and he whom Love and fraud combined
Sent to the shades of everlasting night;
And still he seems to weep his wretched plight.--
There, Phyllis mourns Demophoon's broken vows,
And fell Medea there pursues her spouse;
With impious boast, and shrill upbraiding cries,
She tells him how she broke the holy ties
Of kindred for his sake; the guilty shore
That from her poignard drank a brother's gore;
The deep affliction of her royal sire.
Who heard her flight with imprecations dire.--
See! beauteous Helen, with her Trojan swain--
The royal youth that fed his amorous pain,
With ardent gaze, on those destructive charms
That waken'd half the warring world to arms--
Yonder, behold Oenone's wild despair,
Who mourns the triumphs of the Spartan fair!
The injured husband answers groan for groan,
And young Hermione with piteous moan
Orestes calls; while Laodamia near
Bewails her valiant consort's fate severe.--
Adrastus' daughter there laments her spouse
Sincere and constant to her nuptial vows;
Yet, lured by her, with gold's seductive aid,
Her lord, Eriphile, to death betray'd."
And now, the baleful anthem, loud and long,
Rose in full chorus from the passing throng;
And Love's sad name, the cause of all their woes,
In execrations seem'd the dirge to close.--
But who the number and the names can tell
Of those that seem'd the deadly strain to swell!--
Not men alone, but gods my dream display'd--
Celestial wailings fill'd the myrtle shade:
Soft Venus, with her lover, mourn'd the snare,
The King of Shades, and Proserpine the fair;
Juno, whose frown disclosed her jealous spite;
Nor, less enthrall'd by Love, the god of light,
Who held in scorn the wingèd warrior's dart
Till in his breast he felt the fatal smart.--
Each god, whose name the learned Roman told,
In Cupid's numerous levy seem'd enroll'd;
And, bound before his car in fetters strong,
In sullen state the Thunderer march'd along.
Thus, as I view'd th' interminable host,
The prospect seem'd at last in dimness lost:
But still the wish remain'd their doom to know,
As, watchful, I survey'd the passing show.
As each majestic form emerged to light,
Thither, intent, I turn'd my sharpen'd sight;
And soon a noble pair my notice drew,
That, hand in hand approaching, met my view.
In gentle parley, and communion sweet--
With looks of love, they seem'd mine eyes to meet;
Yet strange was their attire--their tongue unknown
Spoke them the natives of a distant zone;
But every doubt my kind assistant clear'd,
Instant I knew them, when their names were heard.
To one, encouraged by his aspect mild,
I spoke--the other with a frown recoil'd.--
"O Masinissa!"--thus my speech began,
"By Scipio's friendship, and the gentle ban
Of constant love, attend my warm request."
Turning around, the solemn shade address'd
His answer thus:--"With like desire I glow
Your lineage, name, and character, to know,
Since you have learnt my name." With soft reply
I said, "A name like mine can nought supply
The notice of renown like yours to claim.
No smother'd spark like mine emits a flame
To catch the public eye, as you can boast--
A leading name in Cupid's numerous host!
Alike his future victims and the past
Shall own the common tie, while time itself shall last.
But tell me (if your guide allow a space
The semblance of those tendant shades to trace)
The names and fortunes of the following pair
Who seem the noblest gifts of mind to share."--
"My name," he said, "you seem to know so well
That faithful Memory all the rest can tell;
But as the sad detail may soothe my woes,
Listen, while I my mournful doom disclose:--
To Rome and Scipio's cause my faith was bound,
E'en Lælius scarce a warmer friendship own'd:
Where'er their ensigns fann'd the summer sky,
I led my Libyans on, a firm ally;
Propitious Fortune still advanced his name,
Yet more than she bestow'd, his worth might claim.
Still we advanced, and still our glory grew
While westward far the Roman eagle flew
With conquest wing'd; but my unlucky star
Led me, unconscious, to the fatal snare
Which Love had laid. I saw the regal dame--
Our hearts at once confess'd a mutual flame.
Caught by the lure of interdicted joys,
Proudly I scorn'd the stern forbidding voice
Of Roman policy; and hoped the vows
At Hymen's altar sworn, might save my spouse.
But, oh! that wondrous man, who ne'er would yield
To passion's call, the cruel sentence seal'd,
That tore my consort from my fond embrace,
And left me sunk in anguish and disgrace.
Unmoved he saw my briny sorrows flow,
Unmoved he listen'd to my tale of woe!
But friendship, waked at last, with reverent awe,
Obsequious, own'd his mind's superior law;
And to that holy and unclouded light,
That led him on through passion's dubious night,
Submiss I bow'd; for, oh! the beam of day
Is dark to him that wants her guiding ray!--
Love, hardly conquer'd, long repined in vain,
When Justice link'd the adamantine chain;
And cruel Friendship o'er the conquer'd ground
Raised with strong hand th' insuperable mound.
To him I owed my laurels nobly won--
I loved him as a brother, sire, and son,
For in an equal race our lives had run;
Yet the sad price I paid with burning tears;--
Dire was the cause that woke my gloomy fears!
Too well the sad result my soul divined,
Too well I knew the unsubmitting mind
Of Sophonisba would prefer the tomb
To stern captivity's ignoble doom.
I, too, sad victim of celestial wrath,
Was forced to aid the tardy stroke of death:
With pangs I yielded to her piercing cries,
To speed her passage to the nether skies;
And worse than death endured, her mind to save
From shame, more hateful than the yawning grave.--
What was my anguish, when she seized the bowl,
She knows! and you, whose sympathising soul
Has felt the fiery shaft, may guess my pains--
Now tears and anguish are her sole remains.
That treasure, to preserve my faith to Rome,
Those hands committed to th' untimely tomb;
And every hope and joy of life resign'd
To keep the stain of falsehood from my mind.
But hasten, and the moving pomp survey,
(The light-wing'd moments brook no long delay),
To try if any form your notice claims
Among those love-lorn youths and amorous dames."--
With poignant grief I heard his tale of woe,
That seem'd to melt my heart like vernal snow,
When a low voice these sullen accents sung:--
"Not for himself, but those from whom he sprung,
He merits fate; for I detest them all
To whose fell rage I owe my country's fall."
"Oh, calm your rage, unhappy Queen!" I cried;
"Twice was the land and sea in slaughter dyed
By cruel Carthage, till the sentence pass'd
That laid her glories in the dust at last."--
"Yet mournful wreaths no less the victors crown'd;
In deep despair our valour oft they own'd.
Your own impartial annals yet proclaim
The Punic glory and the Roman shame."
She spoke--and with a smile of hostile spite
Join'd the deep train, and darken'd to my sight.
Then, as a traveller through lands unknown
With care and keen observance journeys on;
Whose dubious thoughts his eager steps retard,
Thus through the files I pass'd with fix'd regard;
Still singling some amid the moving show,
Intent the story of their loves to know.
A spectre now within my notice came,
Though dubious marks of joy, commix'd with shame,
His features wore, like one who gains a boon
With secret glee, which shame forbids to own,
O dire example of the Demon's power!
The father leaves the hymeneal bower
For his incestuous son; the guilty spouse
With transport mix'd with honour, meets his vows!
In mournful converse now, amidst the host,
Their compact they bewail'd, and Syria lost!
Instant, with eager step, I turn'd aside,
And met the double husband, and the bride,
And with an earnest voice the first address'd:--
A look of dread the spectre's face express'd,
When first the accents of victorious Rome
Brought to his mind his kingdom's ancient doom.
At length, with many a doleful sigh, he said,
"You here behold Seleucus' royal shade.
Antiochus is next; his life to save,
My ready hand my beauteous consort gave,
(From me, whose will was law, a legal prize,)
That bound our souls in everlasting ties
Indissolubly strong. The royal fair
Forsook a throne to cure the deep despair
Of him, who would have dared the stroke of Death,
To keep, without a stain, his filial faith.
A skilful leech the deadly symptoms guess'd;
His throbbing veins the secret soon confess'd
Of Love with honour match'd, in dire debate,
Whenever he beheld my lovely mate;
Else gentle Love, subdued by filial dread,
Had sent him down among th' untimely dead."--
Then, like a man that feels a sudden thought
His purpose change, the mingling crowd he sought,
And left the question, which a moment hung
Scarce half suppress'd upon my faltering tongue.
Suspended for a moment, still I stood,
With various thoughts oppress'd in musing mood.
At length a voice was heard, "The passing day
Is yours, but it permits not long delay."--
I turn'd in haste, and saw a fleeting train
Outnumbering those who pass'd the surging main
By Xerxes led--a naked wailing crew,
Whose wretched plight the drops of sorrow drew
From my full eyes.--Of many a clime and tongue
Commix'd the mournful pageant moved along
While scarce the fortunes or the name of one
Among a thousand passing forms was known.
I spied that Ethiopian's dusky charms,
Which woke in Perseus' bosom Love's alarms;
And next was he who for a shadow burn'd,
Which the deceitful watery glass return'd;
Enamour'd of himself, in sad decay--
Amid abundance, poor--he look'd his life away;
And now transform'd through passion's baneful power,
He o'er the margin hangs, a drooping flower;
While, by her hopeless love congeal'd to stone,
His mistress seems to look in silence on;
Then he that loved, by too severe a fate,
The cruel maid who met his love with hate,
Pass'd by; with many more who met their doom
By female pride, and fill'd an early tomb.--
There too, the victim of her plighted vows,
Halcyone for ever mourns her spouse;
Who now, in feathers clad, as poets feign,
Makes a short summer on the wintry main.--
Then he that to the cliffs the maid pursued,
And seem'd by turns to soar, and swim the flood;--
And she, who, snared by Love, her father sold,
With her, who fondly snared the rolling gold;
And her young paramour, who made his boast
That he had gain'd the prize his rival lost.--
Acis and Galatea next were seen,
And Polyphemus with infuriate mien;--
And Glaucus there, by rival arts assail'd,
Fell Circe's hate and Scylla's doom bewail'd.--
Then sad Carmenta, with her royal lord,
Whom the fell sorceress clad, by arts abhorr'd,
With plumes; but still the regal stamp impress'd
On his imperial wings and lofty crest.--
Then she, whose tears the springing fount supplied;--
And she whose form above the rolling tide
Hangs a portentous cliff--the royal fair,
Who wrote the dictates of her last despair
To him whose ships had left the friendly strand.
With the keen steel in her determined hand.--
There, too, Pygmalion, with his new-made spouse,
With many more, I spied, whose amorous vows
And fates in never-dying song resound
Where Aganippe laves the sacred ground:--
And, last of all, I saw the lovely maid
Of Love unconscious, by an oath betray'd.
Like one by wonder reft of speech, I stood
Pond'ring the mournful scene in pensive mood,
As one that waits advice. My guide in haste
Began:--"You let the moments run to waste
What objects hold you here?--my doom you know;
Compell'd to wander with the sons of woe!"--
"Oh, yet awhile afford your friendly aid!
You see my inmost soul;" submiss I said.
"The strong unsated wish you there can read;
The restless cravings of my mind to feed
With tidings of the dead."--In gentler tone
He said, "Your longings in your looks are known;
You wish to learn the names of those behind
Who through the vale in long procession wind:
I grant your prayer, if fate allows a space,"
He said, "their fortunes, as they come, to trace.--
See that majestic shade that moves along,
And claims obeisance from the ghostly throng:
'Tis Pompey; with the partner of his vows,
Who mourns the fortunes of her slaughter'd spouse,
By Egypt's servile band.--The next is he
Whom Love's tyrannic spell forbade to see
The danger by his cruel consort plann'd;
Till Fate surprised him by her treacherous hand.--
Let constancy and truth exalt the name
Of her, the lovely candidate for fame,
Who saved her spouse!--Then Pyramus is seen,
And Thisbe, through the shade, with pensive mien;--
Then Hero with Leander moves along,--
And great Ulysses, towering in the throng:
His visage wears the signs of anxious thought
There sad Penelope laments her lot:
With trickling tears she seems to chide his stay,
While fond Calypso charms her love-delay.--
Next he who braved in many a bloody fight.
For years on years, the whole collected might
Of Rome, but sunk at length in Cupid's snare
The shameful victim of th' Apulian fair!--
Then she, that, in a servile dress pursued,
(Reft of her golden locks) o'er field and flood,
With peerless faith, her exiled spouse unknown,
With whom of old she fill'd a lofty throne.--
Then Portia comes, who fire and steel defied,
And Julia, grieved to see a second bride
Engage her consort's love.--The Hebrew swain
Appears, who sold himself his love to gain
For seven long summers--a vivacious flame,
Which neither years nor constant toil could tame!--
Then Isaac, with his father, joins the band,
Who, with his consort, left at God's command,
Led by the lamp of faith, his native land.--
David is next, by lawless passion sway'd;
And, adding crime to crime, at last betray'd
To deeds of blood, till solitude and tears
Wash'd his dire guilt away, and calm'd his fears.
The sensual vapour, with Circean fume,
Involved his royal son in deeper gloom,
And dimm'd his glory, till, immersed in vice,
His heart renounced the Ruler of the Skies,
Adopting Stygian gods.--The changeful hue
Of his incestuous brother meets your view,
Who lurks behind: observe the sudden turn
Of love and hatred blanch his cheek, and burn!
His ruin'd sister there, with frantic speed,
To Absalom recounts the direful deed.--
Samson behold, a prey to female fraud!
Strong, but unwise, he laid the pledge of God
In her fallacious lap, who basely sold
Her husband's honour for Philistian gold.--
Judith is nigh, who, mid a host in arms,
With gentle accents and alluring charms
Their chief o'ercame, and, at the noon of night,
From his pavilion sped her venturous flight
With one attendant slave, who bore along
The tyrant's head amid the hostile throng;
Adoring Him who arms the feeble hand.
And bids the weak a mighty foe withstand.--
Unhappy Sichem next is seen, who paid
A bloody ransom for an injured maid:
His guiltless sire and all his slaughter'd race,
With many a life, attend the foul disgrace.
Such was the ruin by a sudden gust
Of passion caused, when murder follow'd lust!--
That other, like a wise physician, cured
An abject passion, long with pain endured:
To Vashti for an easy boon he sued;
She scorn'd his suit, and rage his love subdued:
Soon to its aid a softer passion came,
And from his breast expell'd the former flame:
Like wedge by wedge displaced, the nuptial ties
He breaks, and soon another bride supplies.--
But if you wish to see the bosom (war
Of Jealousy and Love) in deadly jar,
Behold that royal Jew! the dire control
Of Love and Hate by turns besiege his soul.
Now Vengeance wins the day--the deed is done!
And now, in fell remorse, he hates the sun,
And calls his consort from the realms of night,
To which his fatal hand had sped her flight--
Behold yon hapless three, by passion lost,
Procris, and Artemisia's royal ghost;
And her, whose son (his mother's grief and joy)
Razed with paternal rage the walls of Troy,--
Another triple sisterhood is seen;
This characters of Hades. Mark their mien
With sin distain'd: their downcast looks disclose
A conscience of their crimes, and dread of coming woes.--
Semiramis, and Byblis (famed of old)
Her mother's rival there you next behold;
With many a warrior, many a lovely dame
Of old, ennobled by romantic fame.--
There Lancelot and Tristram (famed in fight)
Are seen, with many a dame and errant knight;--
Genevra, Belle Isonde, and hundreds more;
With those who mingled their incestuous gore
Shed by paternal rage; and chant beneath,
In baneful symphony, the Song of Death."
He scarce had spoken, when a chill presage
(What warriors feel before the battle's rage,
When in the angry trump's sonorous breath
They hear, before it comes, the sound of Death)
My heart possess'd; and, tinged with deadly pale,
I seem'd escaped from Death's eternal jail;
When, fleeting to my side with looks of Love,
A phantom brighter than the Cyprian dove
My fingers clasp'd; which, though of power to wield
The temper'd sabre in the bloody field
Against an armed foe, a touch subdued;
And gentle words, and looks that fired the blood,
My friend addressed me (I remember well),
And from his lips these dubious accents fell:--
"Converse with whom you please, for all the train
Are mark'd alike the slaves of Cupid's reign."--
Thus, in security and peace trepann'd,
I was enlisted in that wayward band,
Who short-lived joys by anguish long obtain,
And whom the pleasures of a rival pain
More than their proper joys. Remembrance shows
Too clear at last the source of all my woes,
When Jealousy, and Love, and Envy drew
That nurture from my heart by which they grew.
As feverish eyes on air-drawn features dwell,
My fascinated eyes, by magic spell,
Dwell'd on the heavenly form with ardent look,
And at a glance the dire contagion took
That tinged my days to come; and each delight,
But those that bore her stamp, consign'd to night.
I blush with shame when to my inward view
The devious paths return where Cupid drew
His willing slave, with all my hopes and fears--
When Phoebus seem'd to rise and set in tears
For many a spring--and when I used to dwell
A lonely hermit in a silent cell.
How upwards oft I traced the purling rills
To their pure fountains in the misty hills!
The rocks I used to climb, the solemn woods,
Where oft I wander'd by the winding floods!
And often spent, whene'er I chanced to stray,
In amorous ditties all the livelong day!
What mournful rhymes I wrote and 'rased again,
Spending the precious hours of youth in vain!
'Twas in this school I learn'd the mystic things
Of the blind god, and all the secret springs
From which his hopes and fears alternate rise:
'Graved on his frontlet, the detection lies,
Which all may read, for I have oped their eyes.
And she, the cause of all my lengthen'd toils,
Disdains my passion, though she boasts my spoils.
Of rigid honour proud, she smiles to see
The fatal triumph of her charms in me.
Not Love himself can aid, for Love retires,
And in her sacred presence veils his fires:
He feels his genius by her looks subdued,
And all his spells by stronger spells withstood.
Hence my despair; for neither force nor art
Can wound her bosom, nor extract the dart
That rankles here, while proudly she defies
The power that makes a captive world his prize.
She is not one that dallies with the foe,
But with unconquer'd soul defies the blow;
And, like the Lord of Light, displays afar
A splendour which obscures each lesser star.
Her port is all divine; her radiant smile,
And e'en her scorn, the captive heart beguile;
Her accents breathe of heaven; her auburn hair
(Whether it wanton with the sportive air,
Or bound in shining wreaths adorns her face,)
Secures her conquests with resistless grace;
Her eyes, that sparkle with celestial fire,
Have render'd me the slave of fond desire.
But who can raise his style to match her charms?
What mortal bard can sing the soft alarms
That flutter in the breast, and fire the veins?
Alas! the theme surmounts the loftiest strains.
Far as the ocean in its ample bed
Exceeds the purling stream that warbles through the mead,
Such charms are hers--as never were reveal'd
On earth, since Phoebus first the world beheld!
And voices, tuned her peerless form to praise,
Suffer a solemn pause with mute amaze.
Thus was I manacled for life; while she,
Proud of my bonds, enjoy'd her liberty.
With ceaseless suit I pray'd, but all in vain;
One prayer among a thousand scarce could gain
A slight regard--so hopeless was my state,
And such the laws of Love imposed by fate!
For stedfast is the rule by Nature given,
Which all the ranks of life, from earth to heaven.
With reverent awe and homage due obey,
And every age and climate owns its sway.
I know the cruel pangs by lovers borne,
When from the breast the bleeding heart is torn
By Love's relentless gripe; the deadly harms
Of Cupid, when he wields resistless arms;
Or when, in dubious truce, he drops his dart,
And gives short respite to the tortured heart.
The vital current's ebb and flood I know,
When shame or anger bids the features glow,
Or terror pales the cheek; the deadly snake
I know that nestles in the flowery brake,
And, watchful, seems to sleep, and languor feigns,
When health-inspiring vigour fills the veins.
I know what hope and fear assail the mind
When I pursue my love, yet dread to find.
I know the strange and sympathetic tie,
When, soul in soul transfused, a fond ally
For ever seems another and the same,
Or change with mutual love their mortal frame.
From transient smiles to long protracted woe
The various turns and dark degrees I know;
And hot and cold, and that unequall'd smart
When souls survive, though sever'd from the heart.
I know, I cherish, and detect the cheat
Of every hour; but still, with eager feet
And fervent hope, pursue the flying fair,
And still for promised rapture meet despair.
When absent, I consume in raging fire;
But, in her presence check'd, the flames expire,
Repress'd by sacred awe. The boundless sway
Of cruel Love I feel, that makes a prey
Of all those energies that lift the soul
To her congenial climes above the pole
I know the various pangs that rend the heart;
I know that noblest souls receive the dart
Without defence, when Reason drops the shield
And, recreant, to her foe resigns the field.--
I saw the archer in his airy flight,
I saw him when he check'd his arrow's flight:
And when it reach'd the mark, I watched the god,
And saw him win his way by force or fraud,
As best befits his ends. His whirling throne
Turns short at will, or runs directly on.
The rapid follies which his axle bear,
Are short fallacious hope and certain fear;
And many a promise given of Halcyon days,
Whose faint and dubious gleam the heart betrays.
I know what secret flame the marrow fries,
How in the veins a dormant fever lies;
Till, fann'd to fury by contagious breath,
It gains tremendous head, and ends in death.
I know too well what long and doubtful strife
Forms the dire tissue of a lover's life;
The transient taste of sweet commix'd with gall,
What changes dire the hapless crew befall.
Their strange fantastic habitudes I know,
Their measured groans in lamentable flow;
When rhyming-fits the faltering tongue employ,
And love sick spasms the mournful Muse annoy;
The smile that like the lightning fleets away,
The sorrows that for half a life delay;
Like drops of honey in a wormwood bowl,
Drain'd to the dregs in bitterness of soul.
So fickle fortune, in a luckless hour,
Had close consigned me to a tyrant's power,
Who cut the nerves that, with elastic force,
Had borne me on in Freedom's generous course--
So I, in noble independence bred,
Free as the roebuck in the sylvan glade,
By passion lured, a voluntary slave--
My ready name to Cupid's muster gave.
And yet I saw their grief and wild despair;
I saw them blindly seek the fatal snare
Through winding paths, and many an artful maze,
Where Cupid's viewless spell the band obeys.
Here, as I turn'd my anxious eyes around,
If any shade I then could see renown'd
In old or modern times; the bard I spied
Whose unabated love pursued his bride
Down to the coast of Hades; and above
His life resign'd, the pledge of constant love,
Calling her name in death.--Alcæus near,
Who sung the joys of Love and toils severe,
Was seen with Pindar and the Teian swain,
A veteran gay among the youthful train
Of Cupid's host.--The Mantuan next I found,
Begirt with bards from age to age renown'd;
Whether they chose in lofty themes to soar,
Or sportive try the Muse's lighter lore.--
There soft Tibullus walk'd with Sulmo's bard;
And there Propertius with Catullus shared
The meed of lovesome lays: the Grecian dame
With sweeter numbers woke the amorous flame
While thus I turn'd around my wondering eyes,
I saw a noble train with new surprise,
Who seem'd of Love in choral notes to sing,
While all around them breathed Elysian spring.--
Here Alighieri, with his love I spied,
Selvaggia, Guido, Cino, side by side--
Guido, who mourn'd the lot that fix'd his name
The second of his age in lyric fame.--
Two other minstrels there I spied that bore
His name, renown'd on Arno's tuneful shore.
With them Sicilia's bards, in elder days
Match'd with the foremost in poetic praise,
Though now they rank behind.--Sennuccio nigh
With gentle Franceschino met my eye.--
But soon another tribe, of manners strange
And uncouth dialect, was seen to range
Along the flowery paths, by Arnald led;
In Cupid's lore by all the Muses bred,
And master of the theme.--Marsilia's coast
And Narbonne still his polish'd numbers boast.--
The next I saw with lighter step advance;
'Twas he that caught a flame at every glance
That met his eye, with him who shared his name.
Join'd with an Arnald of inferior fame.--
Next either Rambold in procession trod,
No easy conquest to the winged god.
The pride of Montferrat (a peerless dame)
In many a ditty sung, announced his flame;
And Genoa's bard, who left his native coast,
And on Marsilia's towers the memory lost
Of his first time, when Salem's sacred flame
Taught him a nobler heritage to claim,--
Gerard and Peter, both of Gallic blood,
And tuneful Rudel, who, in moonstruck mood,
O'er ocean by a flying image led,
In the fantastic chase his canvas spread;
And, where he thought his amorous vows to breathe,
From Cupid's bow received the shaft of Death.--
There was Cabestaing, whose unequall'd lays
From all his rivals won superior praise.--
Hugo was there, with Almeric renown'd;--
Bernard and Anselm by the Muses crown'd.--
Those and a thousand others o'er the field
Advanced; nor javelin did they want, or shield;
The Muses form'd their guard, and march'd before.
Spreading their long renown from shore to shore.--
The Latian band, with sympathising woe,
At last I spied amid the moving show:
Bologna's poet first, whose honour'd grave
His relics hold beside Messina's wave.
O fickle joys, that fleet upon the wind,
And leave the lassitude of life behind!
The youth, that every thought and movement sway'd
Of this sad heart, is now an empty shade!
What world contains thee now, my tuneful guide,
Whom nought of old could sever from my side?
What is this life?--what none but fools esteem;
A fleeting shadow, a romantic dream!--
Not far I wander'd o'er the peopled field,
Till Socrates and Lælius I beheld.
Oh, may their holy influence never cease
That soothed my heart-corroding pangs to peace!
Unequall'd friends! no bard's ecstatic lays
Nor polish'd prose your deathless name can raise
To match your genuine worth! O'er hill and dale
We pass'd, and oft I told my doleful tale,
Disclosing all my wounds, end not in vain:
Their sacred presence seem'd to soothe my pain.
Oh, may that glorious privilege be mine,
Till dust to dust the final stroke resign!
My courage they inspired to claim the wreath--
Immortal emblem of my constant faith
To her whose name the poet's garland bears!
Yet nought from her, for long devoted years,
I reap'd but cold disdain, and fruitless tears.--
But soon a sight ensued, that, like a spell,
Restrain'd at once my passion's stormy swell:
But this a loftier muse demands to sing,
The hallow'd power that pruned the daring wing
Of that blind force, by folly canonized
And in the garb of deity disguised.
Yet first the conscious muse designs to tell
How I endured and 'scaped his witching spell;
A subject that demands a muse of fire,
A glorious theme, that Phoebus might inspire--
Worthy of Homer and the Orphean lyre!
Still, as along the whirling chariot flew,
I kept the wafture of his wings in view:
Onward his snow-white steeds were seen to bound
O'er many a steepy hill and dale profound:
And, victims of his rage, the captive throng.
Chain'd to the flying wheels, were dragg'd along,
All torn and bleeding, through the thorny waste;
Nor knew I how the land and sea he pass'd,
Till to his mother's realm he came at last.
Far eastward, where the vext Ægean roars,
A little isle projects its verdant shores:
Soft is the clime, and fruitful is the ground,
No fairer spot old ocean clips around;
Nor Sol himself surveys from east to west
A sweeter scene in summer livery drest.
Full in the midst ascends a shady hill,
Where down its bowery slopes a streaming rill
In dulcet murmurs flows, and soft perfume
The senses court from many a vernal bloom,
Mingled with magic; which the senses steep
In sloth, and drug the mind in Lethe's deep,
Quenching the spark divine--the genuine boast
Of man, in Circe's wave immersed and lost.
This favour'd region of the Cyprian queen
Received its freight--a heaven-abandon'd scene.
Where Falsehood fills the throne, while Truth retires,
And vainly mourns her half-extinguish'd fires.
Vile in its origin, and viler still
By all incentives that seduce the will,
It seems Elysium to the sons of Lust,
But a foul dungeon to the good and just.
Exulting o'er his slaves, the winged God
Here in a theatre his triumphs show'd,
Ample to hold within its mighty round
His captive train, from Thule's northern bound
To far Taprobane, a countless crowd,
Who, to the archer boy, adoring, bow'd.
Sad fantoms shook above their Gorgon wings--
Fantastic longings for unreal things,
And fugitive delights, and lasting woes;
The summer's biting frost, and winter's rose;
And penitence and grief, that dragg'd along
The royal lawless pair, that poets sung.
One, by his Spartan plunder, seal'd the doom
Of hapless Troy--the other rescued Rome.
Beneath, as if in mockery of their woe,
The tumbling flood, with murmurs deep and low,
Return'd their wailings; while the birds above
With sweet aerial descant fill'd the grove.
And all beside the river's winding bed
Fresh flowers in gay confusion deck'd the mead,
Painting the sod with every scent and hue
That Flora's breath affords, or drinks the morning dew,
And many a solemn bower, with welcome shade,
Over the dusky stream a shelter made.
And when the sun withdrew his slanting ray,
And winter cool'd the fervours of the day,
Then came the genial hours, the frequent feast
And circling times of joy and balmy rest.
New day and night were poised in even scale,
And spring awoke her equinoctial gale,
And Progne now and Philomel begun
With genial toils to greet the vernal sun.
Just then--O hapless mortals! that rely
On fickle fortune's ever-changing sky--
E'en in that season, when, with sacred fire,
Dan Cupid seem'd his subjects to inspire,
That warms the heart, and kindles in the look,
And all beneath the moon obey his yoke--
I saw the sad reverse that lovers own,
I heard the slaves beneath their bondage groan;
I saw them sink beneath the deadly weight
And the long tortures that forerun their fate.
Sad disappointments there in meagre forms
Were seen, and feverish dreams, and fancied harms;
And fantoms rising from the yawning tomb
Were seen to muster in the gathering gloom
Around the car; and some were seen to climb,
While cruel fate reversed their steps sublime.
And empty notions in the port were seen,
And baffled hopes were there with cloudy mien.
There was expensive gain, and gain that lost,
And amorous schemes by fortune's favour cross'd;
And wearisome repose, and cares that slept.
There was the semblance of disgrace, that kept
The youth from dire mischance on whom it fell,
And glory darken'd on the gloom of hell;
Perfidious loyalty, and honest fraud,
And wisdom slow, and headlong thirst of blood;
The dungeon, where the flowery paths decoy;
The painful, hard escape, with long annoy.
I saw the smooth descent the foot betray,
And the steep rocky path that leads again to day.
There in the gloomy gulf confusion storm'd,
And moody rage its wildest freaks perform'd;
And settled grief was there; and solid night,
But rarely broke with fitful gleams of light
From joy's fantastic hand. Not Vulcan's forge,
When his Cyclopean caves the fumes disgorge;
Nor the deep mine of Mongibel, that throws
The fiery tempest o'er eternal snows;
Nor Lipari, whose strong sulphureous blast
O'ercanopies with flames the watery waste;
Nor Stromboli, that sweeps the glowing sky
With red combustion, with its rage could vie.--
Little he loves himself that ventures there,
For there is ceaseless woe and fell despair:
Yet, in this dolorous dungeon long confined,
Till time had grizzled o'er my locks, I pined.
There, dreaming still of liberty to come,
I spent my summers in this noisome gloom;
Yet still a dubious joy my grief controll'd,
To spy such numbers in that darksome hold.
But soon to gall my seeming transport turn'd,
And my illustrious partner's fate I mourn'd;
And often seem'd, with sympathising woe,
To melt in solvent tears like vernal snow.
I turn'd away, but, with inverted glance,
Perused the fleeting shapes that fill'd my trance;
Like him that feels a moment's short delight
When a fine picture fleets before his sight.