The Dream Of Roderick

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

Below, the tawny Tagus swept
Past royal gardens, breathing balm;
Upon his couch the monarch slept;
The world was still; the night was calm.

Gray, Gothic-gated, in the ray
Of moonrise, tower-and castle-crowned,
The city of Toledo lay
Beneath the terraced palace-ground.

Again, he dreamed, in kingly sport
He sought the tree-sequestered path,
And watched the ladies of his Court
Within the marble-basined bath.

Its porphyry stairs and fountained base
Shone, houried with voluptuous forms,
Where Andalusia vied in grace
With old Castile, in female charms.

And laughter, song, and water-splash
Rang round the place, with stone arcaded,
As here a breast or limb would flash
Where beauty swam or beauty waded.

And then, like Venus, from the wave
A maiden came, and stood below;
And by her side a woman slave
Bent down to dry her limbs of snow.

Then on the tesselated bank,
Robed on with fragrance and with fire,--
Like some exotic flower--she sank,
The type of all divine desire.

Then her dark curls, that sparkled wet,
She parted from her perfect brows,
And, lo, her eyes, like lamps of jet
Within an alabaster house.

And in his sleep the monarch sighed,
"Florinda!"--Dreaming still he moaned,
"Ah, would that I had died, had died!
I have atoned! I have atoned!" ...

And then the vision changed: O'erhead
Tempest and darkness were unrolled,
Full of wild voices of the dead,
And lamentations manifold.

And wandering shapes of gaunt despair
Swept by, with faces pale as pain,
Whose eyes wept blood and seemed to glare
Fierce curses on him through the rain.

And then, it seemed, 'gainst blazing skies
A necromantic tower sate,
Crag-like on crags, of giant size;
Of adamant its walls and gate.

And from the storm a hand of might
Red-rolled in thunder, reached among
The gate's huge bolts--that burst; and night
Clanged ruin as its hinges swung.

Then far away a murmur trailed,--
As of sad seas on cavern'd shores,--
That grew into a voice that wailed,
"They come! they come! the Moors! the Moors!"

And with deep boom of atabals
And crash of cymbals and wild peal
Of battle-bugles, from its walls
An army rushed in glimmering steel.

And where it trod he saw the torch
Of conflagration stalk the skies,
And in the vanward of its march
The monster form of Havoc rise.

And Paynim war-cries rent the storm,
Athwart whose firmament of flame,
Destruction reared an earthquake form
On wreck and death without a name ...

And then again the vision changed:
Where flows the Guadalete, see,
The warriors of the Cross are ranged
Against the Crescent's chivalry.

With roar of trumpets and of drums
They meet; and in the battle's van
He fights; and, towering towards him, comes
Florinda's father, Julian;

And one-eyed Taric, great in war:
And where these couch their burning spears,
The Christian phalanx, near and far,
Goes down like corn before the shears.

The Moslem wins: the Christian flies:
"Allah il Allah," hill and plain
Reverberate: the rocking skies,
"Allah il Allah," shout again.

And then he dreamed the swing of swords
And hurl of arrows were no more;
But, louder than the howling hordes,
Strange silence fell on field and shore.

And through the night, it seemed, he fled,
Upon a white steed like a star,
Across a field of endless dead,
Beneath a blood-red scimitar.

Of sunset: And he heard a moan,
Beneath, around, on every hand--
"Accurséd! Yea, what hast thou done
To bring this curse upon thy land?"

And then an awful sense of wings:
And, lo! the answer--"'Twas his lust
That was his crime. Behold! E'en kings
Must reckon with Me. All are dust."

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