The Corsair (Byron, 1814)/CANTO I

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The Corsair (Byron, 1814) by George Gordon Byron
CANTO I
 

THE CORSAIR,


A TALE.


CANTO I.




"————— nessun maggior dolore,
"Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
"Nella miseria,————————"

Dante.




I.

"O'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea,
"Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free,
"Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,
"Survey our empire and behold our home!
"These are our realms, no limits to their sway—
"Our flag the sceptre all who meet obey.
"Ours the wild life in tumult still to range
"From toil to rest, and joy in every change.
"Oh, who can tell? not thou, luxurious slave!
"Whose soul would sicken o'er the heaving wave; 10
"Not thou, vain lord of wantonness and ease!
"Whom slumber soothes not—pleasure cannot please—
"Oh, who can tell, save he whose heart hath tried,
"And danc’d in triumph o'er the waters wide,
"The exulting sense—the pulse's maddening play,
"That thrills the wanderer of that trackless way?
"That for itself can woo the approaching fight,
"And turn what some deem danger to delight;
"That seeks what cravens shun with more than zeal,
"And where the feebler faint—can only feel— 20
"Feel—to the rising bosom's inmost core,
"Its hope awaken and its spirit soar?
"No dread of death—if with us die our foes—
"Save that it seems even duller than repose:
"Come when it will—we snatch the life of life—
"When lost—what recks it—by disease or strife?
"Let him who crawls enamoured of decay,
"Cling to his couch, and sicken years away;
"Heave his thick breath; and shake his palsied head;
"Ours—the fresh turf, and not the feverish bed. 30
"While gasp by gasp he faulters forth his soul,
"Ours with one pang—one bound—escapes controul.
"His corse may boast it's urn and narrow cave,
"And they who loath'd his life may gild his grave:
"Ours are the tears, though few, sincerely shed,
"When Ocean shrouds and sepulchres our dead.
"For us, even banquets fond regret supply
"In the red cup that crowns our memory;
"And the brief epitaph in danger's day,
"When those who win at length divide the prey, 40
"And cry, Remembrance saddening o'er each brow,
"How had the brave who fell exulted now!"


II.

Such were the notes that from the Pirate's isle,
Around the kindling watch-fire rang the while;
Such were the sounds that thrill'd the rocks along,
And unto ears as rugged seem'd a song!
In scattered groups upon the golden sand,
They game—carouse—converse—or whet the brand;
Select the arms—to each his blade assign,
And careless eye the blood that dims its shine: 50
Repair the boat—replace the helm or oar,
While others straggling muse along the shore;
For the wild bird the busy springes set,
Or spread beneath the sun the dripping net:
Gaze where some distant sail a speck supplies,
With all the thirsting eye of Enterprize—
Tell o'er the tales of many a night of toil,
And marvel where they next shall seize a spoil:
No matter where—their chief's allotment this—
Theirs—to believe no prey nor plan amiss. 60
But who that Chief? his name on every shore
Is famed and fear'd—they ask and know no more.
With these he mingles not but to command—
Few are his words, but keen his eye and hand.
Ne'er seasons he with mirth their jovial mess,
But they forgive his silence for success.
Ne'er for his lip the purpling cup they fill,
That goblet passes him untasted still—
And for his fare—the rudest of his crew
Would that, in turn, have pass'd untasted too; 70
Earth's coarsest bread, the garden's homeliest roots,
And scarce the summer luxury of fruits,
His short repast in humbleness supply
With all a hermit's board would scarce deny.
But while he shuns the grosser joys of sense,
His mind seems nourish'd by that abstinence.
"Steer to that shore!"—they sail. "Do this!"—'tis done:
"Now form and follow me!"—the spoil is won.
Thus prompt his accents and his actions still,
And all obey and few enquire his will; 80
To such, brief answer and contemptuous eye
Convey reproof, nor further deign reply.


III.

"A sail!—a sail!"—a promised prize to Hope!
Her nation—flag—how speaks the telescope?
No prize, alas!—but yet a welcome sail:
The blood-red signal glitters in the gale.
Yes—she is our's—a home returning bark—
Blow fair, thou breeze!—she anchors ere the dark.
Already doubled is the cape—our bay
Receives that prow which proudly spurns the spray; 90
How gloriously her gallant course she goes!
Her white wings flying—never from her foes.
She walks the waters like a thing of life,
And seems to dare the elements to strife—
Who would not brave the battle-fire—the wreck—
To move the monarch of her peopled deck?


IV.

Hoarse o'er her side the rustling cable rings;
The sails are furl'd; and anchoring round she swings:
And gathering loiterers on the land discern
Her boat descending from the latticed stern. 100
'Tis mann'd—the oars keep concert to the strand,
Till grates her keel upon the shallow sand.
Hail to the welcome shout!—the friendly speech!
When hand grasps hand uniting on the beach;
The smile, the question, and the quick reply,
And the heart's promise of festivity!


V.

The tidings spread—and gathering grows the crowd:
The hum of voices—and the laughter loud,
And woman's gentler anxious tone is heard— 109
Friends'—husbands'—lovers' names in each dear word.
"Oh! are they safe? we ask not of success—
"But shall we see them? will their accents bless?
"From where the battle roars—the billows chafe—
"They doubtless boldly did—but who are safe?
"Here let them haste to gladden and surprize,
"And kiss the doubt from these delighted eyes!"


VI.

"Where is our chief? for him we bear report—
"And doubt that joy—which hails our coming—short,
"Yet thus sincere—'tis cheering, though so brief;
"But, Juan! instant guide us to our chief: 120
"Our greeting paid, we'll feast on our return,
"And all shall hear what each may wish to learn."
Ascending slowly by the rock-hewn way,
To where his watch-tower beetles o'er the bay,
By bushy brake, and wild flowers blossoming,
And freshness breathing from each silver spring,
Whose scattered streams from granite basins burst,
Leap into life, and sparkling woo your thirst;
From crag to cliff they mount—Near yonder cave,
What lonely straggler looks along the wave? 130
In pensive posture leaning on the brand,
Not oft a resting-staff to that red hand?
"'Tis he—'tis Conrad—here—as wont—alone,
"On—Juan! on—and make our purpose known.
"The bark he views—and tell him we would greet
"His ear with tidings he must quickly meet:
"We dare not yet approach—thou know'st his mood,
"When strange or uninvited steps intrude."


VII.

Him Juan sought, and told of their intent—
He spake not—but a sign express'd assent. 140
These Juan calls—they come—to their salute
He bends him slightly, but his lips are mute.
"These letters, chief, are from the Greek—the spy—
"Who still proclaims our spoil or peril nigh;
"Whate'er his tidings, we can well report,
"Much that"—"Peace, peace!"—he cuts their prating short.
Wondering they turn—abashed—while each to each
Conjecture whispers in his muttering speech:
They watch his glance with many a stealing look,
To gather how that eye the tidings took; 150
But—this as if he guess'd—with head aside—
Perchance from some emotion—doubt, or pride—
He read the scroll—"My tablets, Juan, hark—
"Where is Gonsalvo?"
 "In the anchored bark."
"There let him stay—to him this order bear.
"Back to your duty—for my course prepare:
"Myself this enterprise to-night will share."


"To-night, Lord Conrad?"
 "Aye! at set of sun: 160
"The breeze will freshen when the day is done.
"My corslet—cloak—one hour—and we are gone.
"Sling on thy bugle—see that free from rust,
"My carbine-lock springs worthy of my trust;
"Be the edge sharpen'd of my boarding-brand,
"And give it's guard more room to fit my hand.
"This let the Armourer with speed dispose;
"Last time—it more fatigued my arm than foes:
"Mark that the signal-gun be duly fired,
"To tell us when the hour of stay's expired." 170


VIII.

They make obeisance, and retire in haste,
Too soon to seek again the watery waste:
Yet they repine not—so that Conrad guides,
And who dare question aught that he decides?
That man of loneliness and mystery,
Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh—
Whose name appals the fiercest of his crew,
And tints each swarthy cheek with sallower hue;
Still sways their souls with that commanding art
That dazzles—leads—yet chills the vulgar heart. 180
What is that spell, that thus his lawless train
Confess and envy—yet oppose in vain?
What should it be, that thus their faith can bind?
The power of Thought—the magic of the Mind!
Linked with success—assumed and kept with skill,
That moulds another's weakness to its will—
Wields with their hands—but still to these unknown,
Makes even their mightiest deeds appear his own.
Such hath it been—shall be—beneath the sun
The many still must labour for the one; 190
'Tis Nature's doom—but let the wretch who toils,
Accuse not—hate not—him who wears the spoils.
Oh! if he knew the weight of splendid chains,
How light the balance of his humbler pains!


IX.

Unlike the heroes of each ancient race,
Demons in act, but Gods at least in face,
In Conrad's form seems little to admire,
Though his dark eye-brow shades a glance of fire:
Robust but not Herculean—to the sight
No giant frame sets forth his common height; 200
Yet in the whole—who paused to look again,
Saw more than marks the crowd of vulgar men—
They gaze and marvel how—and still confess
That thus it is, but why they cannot guess.
Sun-burnt his cheek—his forehead high and pale,—
The sable curls in wild profusion veil;
And oft perforce his rising lip reveals
The haughtier thought it curbs, but scarce conceals.
Though smooth his voice, and calm his general mien,
Still seems there something he would not have seen: 210
His features' deepening lines and varying hue
At times attracted, yet perplexed the view,
As if within that murkiness of mind
Work'd feelings fearful, and yet undefined;
Such might it be—that none could truly tell—
Too close enquiry his stern glance would quell.
There breathe but few whose aspect might defy
The full encounter of his searching eye;—
He had the skill, when Cunning's gaze would seek
To probe his heart and watch his changing cheek, 220
At once the observer's purpose to espy,
And on himself roll back his scrutiny,
Lest he to Conrad rather should betray
Some secret thought—than drag that chief's to day.
There was a laughing Devil in his sneer,
That raised emotions both of rage and fear;
And where his frown of hatred darkly fell,
Hope withering fled—and Mercy sighed farewell!


X.

Slight are the outward signs of evil thought,
Within—within—'twas there the spirit wrought! 230
Love shows all changes—Hate, Ambition, Guile,
Betray no further than the bitter smile;
The lip's least curl, the lightest paleness thrown
Along the govern'd aspect, speak alone
Of deeper passions; and to judge their mien,
He, who would see, must be himself unseen.
Then—with the hurried tread, the upward eye,
The clenched hand, the pause of agony,
That listens, starting, lest the step too near
Approach intrusive on that mood of fear: 240
Then—with each feature working from the heart,
With feelings loosed to strengthen—not depart—
That rise—convulse—contend—that freeze, or glow,
Flush in the cheek, or damp upon the brow,
Then—Stranger! if thou canst, and tremblest not,
Behold his soul—the rest that soothes his lot!
Mark—how that lone and blighted bosom sears
The scathing thought of execrated years!
Behold—but who hath seen, or e'er shall see,
Man as himself—the secret spirit free? 250


XI.

Yet was not Conrad thus by Nature sent
To lead the guilty—guilt's worst instrument—
His soul was changed—before his deeds had driven
Him forth to war with man and forfeit heaven.
Warp'd by the world in Disappointment's school,
In words too wise—in conduct there a fool—
Too firm to yield—and far too proud to stoop—
Doom'd by his very virtues for a dupe,
He curs'd those virtues as the cause of ill,
And not the traitors who betrayed him still; 260
Nor deem'd that gifts bestowed on better men
Had left him joy, and means to give again.
Fear'd—shunn'd—belied—ere youth had lost her force,
He hated man too much to feel remorse—
And thought the voice of wrath a sacred call,
To pay the injuries of some on all.
He knew himself a villain—but he deem'd
The rest no better than the thing he seem'd;
And scorn'd the best as hypocrites who hid
Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did. 270
He knew himself detested, but he knew
The hearts that loath'd him, crouch'd and dreaded too.
Lone, wild, and strange, he stood alike exempt
From all affection and from all contempt:
His name could sadden, and his acts surprize;
But they that fear'd him dared not to despise:
Man spurns the worm, but pauses ere he wake
The slumbering venom of the folded snake:
The first may turn—but not avenge the blow;
The last expires—but leaves no living foe—
Fast to the doomed offender's form it clings—
And he may crush—not conquer—still it stings!


XII.

None are all evil—clinging round his heart,
One softer feeling would not yet depart; 280
Oft could he sneer at others as beguil'd
By passions worthy of a fool or child—
Yet 'gainst that passion vainly still he strove,
And even in him it asks the name of Love!
Yes, it was love—unchangeable—unchanged—
Felt but for one from whom he never ranged;
Though fairest captives daily met his eye,
He shunn'd, nor sought, but coldly pass'd them by;
Though many a beauty droop'd in prison'd bower,
None ever sooth'd his most unguarded hour. 290
Yes—it was Love—if thoughts of tenderness,
Tried in temptation, strengthen'd by distress,
Unmoved by absence, firm in every clime,
And yet—Oh more than all!—untired by time—
Which nor defeated hope, nor baffled wile,
Could render sullen were she near to smile,
Nor rage could fire, nor sickness fret to vent
On her one murmur of his discontent—
Which still would meet with joy, with calmness part,
Lest that his look of grief should reach her heart; 300
Which nought remov'd—nor menaced to remove—
If there be love in mortals—this was love!
He was a villain—aye—reproaches shower
On him—but not the passion, nor its power,
Which only proved, all other virtues gone,
Not guilt itself could quench this loveliest one!


XIII.

He paused a moment—till his hastening men
Pass'd the first winding downward to the glen.
"Strange tidings!—many a peril have I passed,
"Nor know I why this next appears the last! 310
"Yet so my heart forebodes, but must not fear,
"Nor shall my followers find me falter here.
"'Tis rash to meet—but surer death to wait—
"Till here they hunt us to undoubted fate,
"And, if my plan but hold, and Fortune smile,
"We'll furnish mourners for our funeral-pile.
"Ay—let them slumber—peaceful be their dreams!
"Morn ne'er awoke them with such brilliant beams
"As kindle high to-night (but blow, thou breeze!)
"To warm these slow avengers of the seas. 320
"Now to Medora—Oh! my sinking heart,
"Long may her own be lighter than thou art!
"Yet was I brave—mean boast! where all are brave—
"Ev'n insects sting for aught they seek to save—
"This common courage which with brutes we share,
"That owes its deadliest efforts to despair,
"Small merit claims—but 'twas my nobler hope
"To teach my few with numbers still to cope;
"Long have I led them—not to vainly bleed:
"No medium now—we perish or succeed! 330
"So let it be—it irks not me to die;
"But thus to urge them whence they cannot fly—
"My lot hath long had little of my care,
"But chafes my pride thus baffled in the snare:
"Is this my skill? my craft? to set at last
"Hope, power and life upon a single cast?
"Oh, Fate!—accuse thy folly—not thy fate—
"She may redeem thee still—nor yet too late."


XIV.

Thus with himself communion held he—till
He reach'd the summit of his tower-crown'd hill: 340
There at the portal paus'd—for wild and soft
He heard those accents never heard too oft;
Through the high lattice far yet sweet they rung,
And these the notes his bird of beauty sung:


1.

"Deep in my soul that tender secret dwells,
 Lonely and lost to light for evermore,
Save when to thine my heart responsive swells,
 Then trembles into silence as before.


2.

"There in its centre—a sepulchral lamp
 Burns the slow flame eternal—but unseen; 350
Which not the darkness of despair can damp,
 Though vain its ray as it had never been.


3.

"Remember me—Oh! pass not thou my grave
 Without one thought whose relics there recline:
The only pang my bosom dare not brave,
 Must be to find forgetfulness in thine.


4.

"My fondest—faintest—latest—accents hear:
 Grief for the dead not Virtue can reprove;
Then give me all I ever asked—a tear,
 The first—last—sole reward of so much love!" 360


He passed the portal, cross'd the corridore,
And reach'd the chamber as the strain gave o'er:
"My own Medora—sure thy song is sad—"


"In Conrad's absence wouldst thou have it glad?
"Without thine ear to listen to my lay,
"Still must my song my thoughts, my soul betray:
"Still must each accent to my bosom suit,
"My heart unhush'd—although my lips were mute!
"Oh! many a night on this lone couch reclin'd, 369
"My dreaming fear with storms hath wing'd the wind,
"And deem'd the breath that faintly fann'd thy sail—
"The murmuring prelude of the ruder gale;
"Though soft—it seem'd the low prophetic dirge,
"That mourn'd thee floating on the savage surge:
"Still would I rise—to rouse the beacon fire,
"Lest spies less true should let the blaze expire;
"And many a restless hour outwatch'd each star,
"And morning came—and still thou wert afar.
"Oh! how the chill blast on my bosom blew,
"And day broke dreary on my troubled view, 380
"And still I gazed and gazed—and not a prow
"Was granted to my tears—my truth—my vow!
"At length—'twas noon—I hail'd and blest the mast
"That met my sight—it near'd—Alas! it past!
"Another came—Oh God! 'twas thine at last!
"Would that those days were over! wilt thou ne'er,
"My Conrad! learn the joys of peace to share?
"Sure thou hast more than wealth—and many a home
"As bright as this invites us not to roam:
"Thou know'st it is not peril that I fear, 390
"I only tremble when thou art not here;
"Then not for mine—but that far dearer life,
"Which flies from love and languishes for strife—
"How strange that heart, to me so tender still,
"Should war with nature and its better will!"


"Yea, strange indeed—that heart hath long been changed,
"Worm-like 'twas trampled—adder-like avenged,
"Without one hope on earth beyond thy love,
"And scarce a glimpse of mercy from above.
"Yet the same feeling which thou dost condemn, 400
"My very love to thee is hate to them,
"So closely mingling here, that disentwin'd,
"I cease to love thee when I love mankind:
"Yet dread not this—the proof of all the past
"Assures the future that my love will last;
"But—Oh, Medora! nerve thy gentler heart,
"This hour again—but not for long—we part."


"This hour we part!—my heart foreboded this.
"Thus ever fade my fairy dreams of bliss—
"This hour—it cannot be—this hour away! 410
"Yon bark hath hardly anchored in the bay.
"Her consort still is absent—and her crew
"Have need of rest before they toil anew;
"My Love! thou mock'st my weakness; and would'st steel
"My breast before the time when it must feel.
"But trifle now no more with my distress,
"Such mirth hath less of play than bitterness:
"Be silent,—Conrad!—dearest—come and share
"The feast these hands delighted to prepare—
"Light toil! to cull and dress thy frugal fare! 420
"See, I have pluck'd the fruit that promised best,
"And where not sure, perplex'd, but pleased, I guess'd
"At such as seem'd the fairest: thrice the hill
"My steps have wound to try the coolest rill;
"Yes! thy Sherbet to-night will sweetly flow,
"See how it sparkles in its vase of snow!
"The grape's gay juice thy bosom never cheers—
"Thou—more than Moslem—when the cup appears—
"Think not I mean to chide—for I rejoice
"What others deem a penance is thy choice. 430
"But come—the board is spread—our silver lamp
"Is trimm'd, and heeds not the Sirocco's damp:
"Then shall my handmaids while the time along,
"And join with me the dance, or wake the song;
"Or my guitar, which still thou lov'st to hear,
"Shall soothe or lull—or, should it vex thine ear,
"We'll turn the tale, by Ariosto told,
"Of fair Olympia lov'd and left of old.1
"Why—thou wert worse than he who broke his vow
"To that lost damsel, shouldst thou leave me now; 440
"Or even that traitor chief—I've seen thee smile,
"When the clear sky showed Ariadne's Isle,
"Which I have pointed from these cliffs the while:
"And thus—half sportive—half in fear—I said,
"Lest Time should raise that doubt to more than dread,
"Thus Conrad, too, will quit me for the main:
"And he deceiv'd me—for—he came again!"


"Again—again—and oft again—my love!
"If there be life below, and hope above,
"He will return—but now—the moments bring 450
"The time of parting with redoubled wing:
"The why—the where—what boots it now to tell?
"Since all must end in that wild word—farewell!
"Yet would I fain—did time allow—disclose—
"Fear not—these are no formidable foes;
"And here shall watch a more than wonted guard,
"For sudden siege and long defence prepar'd:
"Nor be thou lonely—though thy lord's away,
"Our matrons and thy handmaids with thee stay;
"And this thy comfort—that, when next we meet, 460
"Security shall make repose more sweet:
"List!—'tis the bugle—Juan shrilly blew—
"One kiss—one more—another—Oh! Adieu!"


She rose—she sprung—she clung to his embrace,
Till his heart heaved beneath her hidden face.
He dared not raise to his that deep-blue eye,
That downcast droop'd in tearless agony.
Her long fair hair lay floating o'er his arms,
In all the wildness of dishevelled charms;
Scarce beat that bosom—where his image dwelt— 470
So full—that feeling seem'd almost unfelt!
Hark—peals the thunder of the signal-gun!
It told 'twas sunset—and he curs'd that sun.
Again—again—that form he madly press'd,
Which mutely clasp'd—imploringly caress'd!
And tottering to the couch his bride he bore,
One moment gazed—as if to gaze no more—
Felt—that for him earth held but her alone,
Kiss'd her cold forehead—turn'd—is Conrad gone?


XV.

"And is he gone?"—on sudden solitude 480
How oft that fearful question will intrude?
"'Twas but an instant past—and here he stood!
"And now"—without the portal's porch she rush'd—
And then at length her tears in freedom gush'd,
Big—bright—and fast, unknown to her they fell;
But still her lips refus'd to send—"Farewell!"
For in that word—that fatal word—howe'er
We promise—hope—believe—there breathes despair.
O'er every feature of that still, pale face,
Had sorrow fix'd what time can ne'er erase: 490
The tender blue of that large loving eye
Grew frozen with its gaze on vacancy—
Till—Oh, how far! it caught a glimpse of him—
And then it flow'd—and phrenzied seem'd to swim
Through those long, dark, and glistening lashes dew'd
With drops of sadness oft to be renew'd.
"He's gone!"—against her heart that hand is driven,
Convuls'd and quick—then gently raised to heaven;
She look'd and saw the heaving of the main;
The white sail set—she dared not look again; 500
But turn'd with sickening soul within the gate—
"It is no dream—and I am desolate!"


XVI.

From crag to crag descending—swiftly sped
Stern Conrad down, nor once he turn'd his head;
But shrunk whene'er the windings of his way
Forced on his eye what he would not survey—
His lone, but lovely dwelling on the steep,
That hailed him first when homeward from the deep:
And she—the dim and melancholy star,
Whose ray of beauty reach'd him from afar, 510
On her he must not gaze, he must not think,
There he might rest—but on Destruction's brink—
Yet once almost he stopp'd—and nearly gave
His fate to chance, his projects to the wave;
But no—it must not be—a worthy chief
May melt, but not betray to woman's grief.
He sees his bark, he notes how fair the wind,
And sternly gathers all his might of mind:
Again he hurries on—and as he hears
The clang of tumult vibrate on his ears, 520
The busy sounds, the bustle of the shore,
The shout, the signal, and the dashing oar—
As marks his eye the seaboy on the mast,
The anchor's rise, the sails unfurling fast,
The waving kerchiefs of the crowd that urge
That mute adieu to those who stem the surge;
And more than all—his blood-red flag aloft—
He marvell'd how his heart could seem so soft.
Fire in his glance, and wildness in his breast,
He feels of all his former self possest; 530
He bounds—he flies—until his footsteps reach
The verge where ends the cliff, begins the beach,
There checks his speed; but pauses less to breathe
The breezy freshness of the deep beneath,
Than there his wonted statelier step renew;
Nor rush, disturb'd by haste, to vulgar view:
For well had Conrad learn'd to curb the crowd,
By arts that veil, and oft preserve the proud;
His was the lofty port, the distant mien,
That seems to shun the sight—and awes if seen: 540
The solemn aspect, and the high-born eye,
That checks low mirth, but lacks not courtesy;
All these he wielded to command assent—
But where he wished to win, so well unbent,
That kindness cancell'd fear in those who heard,
And others' gifts shewed mean beside his word—
When echoed to the heart as from his own,
His deep yet tender melody of tone:
But such was foreign to his wonted mood,
He cared not what he soften'd—but subdued;— 550
The evil passions of his youth had made
Him value less who loved—than what obeyed.


XVII.

Around him mustering ranged his ready guard.
Before him Juan stands—"Are all prepared?"


"They are—nay more—embarked: the latest boat
"Waits but my chief——"
 "My sword, and my capote."
Soon firmly girded on, and lightly slung,
His belt and cloak were o'er his shoulders flung;
"Call Pedro here!" He comes—and Conrad bends,
With all the courtesy he deign'd his friends; 560
"Receive these tablets, and peruse with care,
"Words of high trust, and truth are graven there;
"Double the guard, and when Anselmo's bark
"Arrives, let him alike these orders mark:
"In three days (serve the breeze) the sun shall shine
"On our return—till then all peace be thine!"
This said, his brother Pirate's hand he wrung,
Then to his boat with haughty gesture sprung.
Flash'd the dipt oars, and sparkling with the stroke,
Around the waves' phosphoric2 brightness broke; 570
They gain the vessel—on the deck he stands.
Shrieks the shrill whistle—ply the busy hands—
He marks how well the ship her helm obeys,
How gallant all her crew—and deigns to praise.
His eyes of pride to young Gonsalvo turn;
Why doth he start, and inly seem to mourn?
Alas! those eyes beheld his rocky tower,
And live a moment o'er the parting hour;
She—his Medora—did she mark the prow?
Ah! never loved he half so much as now! 580
But much must yet be done ere dawn of day.
Again he mans himself and turns away;
Down to the cabin with Gonsalvo bends,
And there unfolds his plan—his means—and ends;
Before them burns the lamp, and spreads the chart,
And all that speaks and aids the naval art;
They to the midnight watch protract debate—
To anxious eyes what hour is ever late?
Mean time, the steady breeze serenely blew,
And fast and Falcon-like the vessel flew; 590
Pass'd the high headlands of each clustering isle,
To gain their port—long—long ere morning smile:
And soon the night-glass through the narrow bay
Discovers where the Pacha's galleys lay.
Count they each sail—and mark how there supine
The lights in vain o'er heedless Moslem shine;
Secure—unnoted—Conrad's prow pass'd by,
And anchor'd where his ambush meant to lie;
Screen'd from espial by the jutting cape,
That rears on high its rude fantastic shape. 600
Then rose his band to duty—not from sleep—
Equipp'd for deeds alike on land or deep;
While leaned their leader o'er the fretting flood,
And calmly talk'd—and yet he talk'd of blood!

END OF CANTO I.