Landon in The Literary Gazette 1826/Redeemed Captive

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Landon in The Literary Gazette 1826  (1826)  by Letitia Elizabeth Landon
Metrical Fragments.—No.IV. The Redeemed Captive

Literary Gazette, 9th September, 1826, Page 573



The Redeemed Captive.

Glanced the white moonlight o'er the silver wave,
Clear, colourless, with not one stain or shade,
    Save when the little vessel past, and gave
Its image to the waters, and so made
    A moment darkness, as her beakers lave
Themselves in that bright bath: how glad she springs,
Like sea-bird forth upon its glittering wings!

Within that little bark are joy, and love,
    And hope almost too anxious for content;
And grateful eyes seek the blue heaven above,
    And eager gaze o'er the far sea is bent:
With cross and prayer two priests amid them move;
    Upon a blessed mission they were sent;
The pious ransom was not urged in vain—
The Christian captive quits his Moorish chain.

Near to their harbour, the fair winding shore
    Shews olive groves crusted with the pearl dew,
And chestnuts tall, which seem as if they bore
    A century's growth; close and more close they drew;
Cadiz, thy white walls shone the moonbeams o'er;
    Like prison'd birds, each heart throbb'd at the view;
One moment more, the galley feels the strand,
The rescued prisoners touch their native land.

And there were meetings such as make the past
    Forgotten, though that past had been life's worst;
Mother and child, maiden and youth, are cast
    Each on the other's heart; breathless at first,
The lips but look their meaning, till at last
    Tears make a way for words—a passionate burst

Comes of thanksgiving: O Life, this is bliss!
But years of pain must purchase hours like this.

But follow we our captive—one whose vest,
    And more his stately step and bearing proud,
Spoke nobler birth and being than the rest;
    A fair train waited him amid the crowd,
And eagerly an aged servant prest—
    As by long service privilege allow'd—
And caught his young lord's hand, then turn'd away
To weep the welcome that he could not say.

"My father, tell me, Garcia, is he well?"
    "Oh! God hath kept him in his trial hour."
"And she, mine own, my gentle Isabelle?"
    Slowly the answer came; "Within her bower
Such constant tears for thy long absence fell,
    That somewhat they have dimm'd thy lovely flower:
But thou art come, and come again to see
Roses which seem'd as if they fled with thee."

He leapt upon his steed, and like the wind
    They speed them on; at first his giddy brain
Swam like a chaos—mystery of the mind
    Which would guide its own workings, but in vain:
Happy he was, but somewhat undefined
    Prest on his spirit with a sense of pain.
Hath the heart, then, foreknowledge of its fate,
Warning at once too early and too late?

Eager he flung him from his horse; he sees
    His father's towers mid the dark pines arise,
Beautiful in the moonlight's last, those trees
    Hide a small pathway green, direct it lies
To where the castle gardens load the breeze
    With lemon odours and the rose's sighs:
He turn'd him to that path, he knew it well—
It was his favourite walk with Isabelle.

He took that path; and many a sign was there
    In sweet shrub planted, and in lithe flower train’d,
Of gentle nursing and of gentle care;
    And dear thoughts entrance in his bosom gain'd:—
Was it for his sake it had won such share
   Of her fond culture? had she then retain'd
Such deep, true memory of Love's early scene,
As to make all a shrine where it had been?

He enter'd now the garden, and a fall
    Of singing, voice and lute, sank on his ear:
At first it seem'd thrice sweet and musical,
    But it grew sadder as he came more near.
He heard soft tones, he could distinguish all,
    But not the one voice that he sought to hear.
Dark was the castle, save one red-drear glare
From the chief hall:—what might such light mean there?

He rush'd in, and his step seem'd harshly loud,
    And jarr'd his ear—so still was all around:
Maidens were there with faces downwards bow'd,
    And tears had stopp'd their dirge; as if spellbound
He stood, he saw the coffin and the shroud,
    The pale flowers scatter'd o'er the sacred ground;
He rush'd, and raised the pall—his young, his fair
He knew the dead, and knew his own despair.

His heart was wreck'd for ever; for a while
    He staid to watch his father's dying bed;
But never more knew he a tear or smile—
    Their sources, fears and hopes, were with the dead.
Then—not that fame had aught that could beguile,
But for its fate—sought he the warfare red,
And died in battle.