Landon in The Literary Gazette 1822/Nuptuals
Literary Gazette, 28th September, 1822, Pages 616-617
Third Series — Sketch the Fourth.
THE CASTILIAN NUPTIALS.
And days fled by,
A cloud came o'er my destiny.
The dream of passion soon was past,
A summer's day may never last—
Yes, every feeling then knew change,
One only hope was left—revenge.
He wedded with another—tears
Are very vain, and as for fears
I know them not—I deeply swore
No lip should sigh where mine before
Had sealed its vow, no heart should rest
Upon the bosom mine had prest.
Life had no ill I would not brave
To claim him, even in the grave!
Fair is the form that in yon orange bower,
Like a lone spirit, bends beside the lamp,
Whose silver light is flung o'er clustering rose,
And myrtle with pearl buds and emerald leaves;
Green moss and azure violets have formed
The floor, and fragrant bloom the canopy,
And perfumed shrubs the pillars, round whose stems
The vine has crept, and mixed its purple fruit
Amid the rich-hued blossoms; citron trees,
And beds of hyacinths, have sent their sweets
Upon the odorous dew of the night gale,
Which, playing with the trembling lamp, flings round
A changeful light—now glancing on the flowers,
And brightening every hue—now lost in shade.
Look out upon the night! There is no star
In beauty visible—the Moon is still
Sojourning in her shadowy hall—the clouds
Are thickening round; but though the tempest's wing
Will herald in the morning, all is still,
And calm, and soothing now,—no rougher sounds
Than the low murmur of the mountain rill,
And the sweet music of the nightingale,
Are on the air. But a far darker storm,
The tempest of the heart, the evil war
Of fiery passions, is fast gathering
O'er that bright creature's head, whose fairy bower
And fairy shape breathe but of happiness.
She is most beautiful! The richest tint
That e'er with roselight dyed a summer cloud,
Were pale beside her cheek; her raven hair
Falls even to her feet, though fastened up
In many a curl and braid with bands of pearl;
And that white bosom and those rounded arms
Are perfect as a statue's, when the skill
Of some fine touch has moulded it to beauty.
Yet there are tears within those radiant eyes,
And that fair brow is troubled! She is young;
But her heart's youth is gone, and innocence
And peace, and soft and gentle thoughts, have fled
A breast, the sanctuary of unhallowed fires,
That love has led to guilt. At each light stir
Of but a waving branch, a falling leaf,
A deeper crimson burnt upon her cheek,
Each pulse beat eagerly, for every sound
To her was Fernand's step, and then she sank
Pallid and tearful, with that sickening throb
Of sadness only love and fear can know.
The night pass'd on—she touched the silver chords,
And answered with her voice her lone guitar.
It pleased her for a while:—it soothes the soul
To pour its thoughts in melancholy words;
And if aught can charm sorrow, music can.
The song she chose was one her youth had loved,
Ere yet she knew the bitterness of grief,
But thought tears luxury:—
Oh take that starry wreath away,
Fling not those roses o'er my lute!
The brow that thou wouldst crown is pale,
The chords thou wouldst awaken mute.
Look on those broken gems that lie
Beside those flowers, withering there;
Those leaves were blooming round my lute,
Those gems were bright amid my hair.
And they may be a sign to tell
Of all the ruin love will make:
He comes in beauty, and then leaves
The hope to fade, the heart to break!
The song died in low sobs. "I ever felt
That it would come to this,—that I should be
Forsaken and forgotten! I would give
Life, more than life, those precious memories
Of happiness and Fernand! I'd forget
That I have been beloved, all I have known
Of rapture, all the dreams that long have been
My sole existence, but to feel again
As I felt ere I loved—ere I had given
My every hope as passion's sacrifice."
Her face was hidden in her hands; but tears
Trickled through her slight fingers—tears, those late
Vain tributes to remorse! At length she rose,
And paced with eager steps her scented bower,
Then trimmed her lamp, and gathered flowers and leaves,
Twined them in wreaths, and placed them gracefully;
Then felt the vanity of all her care,
And scattered them around. The morning broke,
And hastily she left the shade, to hide
From all her anxious heart—her misery!
That day she knew her fate—heard that Fernand
Was now betrothed to the high-born Blanche.
Hermione wept not, although her heart
Swelled nigh to bursting; but she hid her thoughts.
Next morning she was gone! - - - - -
The palace was all lustre, like a dome,
A fairy dome; the roofs were all one blaze
With lamp and chandelier; the mirrors shone
Like streams of light, and, waving gracefully,
The purple draperies hung festooned with wreaths,
That shed their incense round. Hall after hall
Opened in some new splendour. Proud the feast
The Duke to-night gives for his peerless child,
And Castile's noblest are all met to greet
Blanche and her gallant lover: princely forms,
And ladies beautiful, whose footsteps fell
Soft as the music which they echoed; light,
And melody, and perfume, and sweet shapes,
Mingled together like a glorious dream.—
Hermione is there! She has forsaken
Her woman's garb, her long dark tresses float
Like weeds upon the Tagus, and no one
Can in that pale and melancholy boy
Recall the lovely woman. All in vain
She looked for him she sought; but when one past
With raven hair and tall, her heart beat high—
Then sank again, when her impatient glance
Fell on a stranger's face. At length she reached
A stately room, richer than all the rest,
For there were loveliest things, though not of life:
Canvass, to which the painter's soul had given
A heaven of beauty; and statues, which were touched
With art so exquisite, the marble seemed
Animate with emotion. It is strange,
Amid its deepest feelings, how the soul
Will cling to outward images, as thus
It could forget its sickness! There she gazed,
And envied the sad smile, the patient look,
Of a pale Magdalen: it told of grief,
But grief long since subdued. Half curtained round
By vases filled with fragrant shrubs, were shapes
Of Grecian deities and nymphs: she drew
Sad parallels with her of Crete, who wept
O'er her Athenian lover's perjury.
She left the hall of paintings, and pursued
A corridor which opened to the air,
And entered in the garden: there awhile,
Beneath the shadow of a cypress tree,
She breathed the cooling gale. Amid the shade
Of those bright groves were ladies lingering,
Who listened to most gentle things, and then
Blushed like the roses near them; and light groups
Of gladsome dancers, gliding o'er the turf,
Like elfin revelling by the moonlight.
She looked up to the lovely face of heaven:—
It was unclouded, and the rolling moon
Pass'd o'er the deep blue sky like happiness,
Leaving a trace of light. She gazed around,
And all was fair and gaily beautiful—
There was no gloom but that within her heart.
Ah, this is very loneliness to feel
So wholly destitute, without one thing
That has a portion in our wretchedness!
Then two came by—that voice to her was death—
It was her false Fernand's! A lovely girl
Hung on his arm, so soft, so delicate,
It seemed a breath might sweep her from the earth;
And Fernand bent with so much tenderness
To catch the music of the timid voice,
Which dared not breathe its love-vow audibly.
Hermione rushed thence, as if her step
Had been upon the serpent's lair. That night
She brooded o'er her wrongs, and bitterly
Prayed for revenge! - - - And this is Woman's fate:
All her affections are called into life
By winning flatteries, and then thrown back
Upon themselves to perish, and her heart,
Her trusting heart, filled with weak tenderness,
Is left to bleed or break! - - - -
The marriage feast was spread, the guests were round,
The halls were filled with mirth, and light, and song.
High o'er the rest the youthful pair were placed,
Beneath a canopy of fretted gold
And royal purple. With a shout they drank
Health and long blessedness to the fair bride!
And Fernand called for wine, to pledge them back
His thanks. A slender Page approached, and held
The golden cup; - - - There is a marble look
In the dark countenance of that pale boy
Ill suiting one so youthful. Fernand drained
The liquor to the dregs; yet, while he drank
He felt the eagle glance of that strange Page
Fix on him like a spell. With a wild laugh
Of fearless taunting, he took back the cup—
That laugh rang like a demon's curse! The sounds
Of revelry one moment paused—they heard
Muttered the words—'Vengeance!' 'Hermione!'
Blanche broke the silence by her shriek—Fernand
Had fallen from his seat, his face was black
With inward agony—that draught bore fate!
That Page had poisoned him!—In dread they turned
To where the murderer was: she had not moved,
But stood with fixed eyes; the clouds of death
Were on her face—she too had pledged the cup!
L. E. L.
- This poem appeared later in The Vow of the Peacock and Other Poems (1835)