The Corsair (Byron, 1814)/CANTO III
"Come vedi—ancor non m'abbandona"
Slow sinks, more lovely ere his race be run,
Along Morea's hills the setting sun;
Not as in Northern climes obscurely bright, 1170
But one unclouded blaze of living light!
O'er the hush'd deep the yellow beam he throws,
Gilds the green wave, that trembles as it glows.
On old Ægina'a rock, and Idra's isle,
The god of gladness sheds his parting smile;
O'er his own regions lingering loves to shine,
Though there his altars are no more divine.
Descending fast the mountain shadows kiss
Thy glorious gulph, unconquer'd Salamis!
Their azure arches through the long expanse 1180
More deeply purpled meet his mellowing glance,
And tenderest tints, along their summits driven,
Mark his gay course and own the hues of heaven;
Till, darkly shaded from the land and deep,
Behind his Delphian cliff he sinks to sleep.
On such an eve, his palest beam he cast,
When—Athens! here thy wisest look'd his last.
How watched thy better sons his farewell ray,
That closed their murder'd sage's11 latest day!
Not yet—not yet—Sol pauses on the hill— 1190
The precious hour of parting lingers still;
But sad his light to agonizing eyes,
And dark the mountain's once delightful dyes:
Gloom o'er the lovely land he seem'd to pour,
The land, where Phœbus never frown'd before,
But ere he sunk below Cithæron's head,
The cup of woe was quaff'd—the spirit fled;
The soul of him who scorn'd to fear or fly—
Who liv'd and died, as none can live or die!
But lo! from high Hymettus to the plain, 1200
The queen of night asserts her silent reign.12
No murky vapour, herald of the storm,
Hides her fair face, nor girds her glowing form;
With cornice glimmering as the moon-beams play,
There the white column greets her grateful ray.
And bright around with quivering beams beset
Her emblem sparkles o'er the minaret:
The groves of olive scattered dark and wide
Where meek Cephisus pours his scanty tide.
The cypress saddening by the sacred mosque, 1210
The gleaming turret of the gay Kiosk,13
And, dun and sombre 'mid the holy calm,
Near Theseus' fane yon solitary palm,
All tinged with varied hues arrest the eye—
And dull were his that pass'd them heedless by.
Again the Ægean, heard no more afar,
Lulls his chaf'd breast from elemental war;
Again his waves in milder tints unfold
Their long array of sapphire and of gold,
Mixt with the shades of many a distant isle, 1220
That frown—where gentler ocean seems to smile.14
Not now my theme—why turn my thoughts to thee?
Oh! who can look along thy native sea,
Nor dwell upon thy name, whate'er the tale.
So much its magic must o'er all prevail?
Who that beheld that Sun upon thee set,
Fair Athens! could thine evening face forget?
Not he—whose heart nor time nor distance frees,
Spell-bound within the clustering Cyclades!
Nor seems this homage foreign to his strain, 1230
His Corsair's isle was once thine own domain—
Would that with freedom it were thine again!
The Sun hath sunk—and, darker than the night,
Sinks with its beam upon the beacon height—
Medora's heart—the third day's come and gone—
With it he comes not—sends not—faithless one!
The wind was fair though light—and storms were none,
Last eve Anselmo's bark return'd, and yet
His only tidings that they had not met!
Though wild, as now, far different were the tale 1240
Had Conrad waited for that single sail.
The night-breeze freshens—she that day had past
In watching all that Hope proclaimed a mast;
Sadly she sate—on high—Impatience bore
At last her footsteps to the midnight shore,
And there she wandered heedless of the spray
That dash'd her garments oft, and warn'd away:
She saw not—felt not this—nor dared depart,
Nor deemed it cold—her chill was at her heart;
Till grew such certainty from that suspense— 1250
His very Sight had shock'd from life or sense!
It came at last—a sad and shattered boat,
Whose inmates first beheld whom first they sought—
Some bleeding—all most wretched—these the few—
Scarce knew they how escaped— this all they knew.
In silence darkling each appeared to wait
His fellow's mournful guess at Conrad's fate.
Something they would have said; but seemed to fear
To trust their accents to Medora's ear.
She saw at once, yet sunk not—trembled not— 1260
Beneath that grief—that loneliness of lot—
Within that meek fair form were feelings high
That deem'd not till they found their energy.
While yet was Hope—they soften'd—flutter'd—wept—
All lost—that softness died not—but it slept—
And o'er its slumber rose that Strength which said,
"With nothing left to love—there's nought to dread."
'Tis more than nature's; like the burning might
Delirium gathers from the fever's height.
"Silent you stand—nor would I hear you tell 1270
"What—speak not—breathe not—for I know it well—
"Yet would I ask—almost my lip denies
"The—quick your answer—tell me where he lies?"
"Lady! we know not—scarce with life we fled;
"But here is one denies that he is dead:
"He saw him bound; and bleeding—but alive."
She heard no further—'twas in vain to strive—
So throbb'd each vein—each thought—till then withstood;
Her own dark soul—these words at once subdued—
She totters—falls—and senseless had the wave 1280
Perchance but snatch'd her from another grave;
But that with hands though rude, yet weeping eyes,
They yield such aid as Pity's haste supplies:
Dash o'er her deathlike cheek the ocean dew,
Raise—fan—sustain—till life returns anew;
Awake her handmaids—with the matrons leave
That fainting form o'er which they gaze and grieve;
Then seek Anselmo's cavern to report
The tale too tedious—when the triumph short.
In that wild council words wax'd warm and strange, 1290
With thoughts of ransom, rescue, and revenge;
All, save repose or flight—still lingering there
Breathed Conrad's spirit, and forbade despair;
Whate'er his fate—the breasts he form'd and led,
Will save him living, or appease him dead.
Woe to his foes! there yet survive a few,
Whose deeds are daring, as their hearts are true.
Within the Haram's secret chamber sate
Stern Seyd, still pondering o'er his Captive's fate;
His thoughts on love and hate alternate dwell, 1300
Now with Gulnare, and now in Conrad's cell;
Here at his feet the lovely slave reclined
Surveys his brow—would soothe his gloom of mind,
While many an anxious glance her large dark eye
Sends in its idle search for sympathy,
His only bends in seeming o'er his beads,15
But inly views his victim as he bleeds.
"Pacha! the day is thine; and on thy crest
"Sits Triumph—Conrad taken—fall'n the rest!
"His doom is fix'd—he dies—and well his fate 1310
"Was earn'd—yet much too worthless for thy hate:
"Methinks—a short release, for ransom told
"With all his treasure, not unwisely sold;
"Report speaks largely of his pirate-hoard—
"Would that of this my Pacha were the Lord!
"While baffled—weakened by this fatal fray—
"Watch'd—followed—he were then an easier prey;
"But once cut off—the remnant of his band
"Embark their wealth, and seek a safer strand."
"Gulnare!—if for each drop of blood a gem 1320
"Were offered rich as Stamboul's diadem;
"If for each hair of his a massy mine
"Of virgin ore should supplicating shine;
"If all our Arab tales divulge or dream
"Of wealth were here—that gold should not redeem!
"It had not now redeem'd a single hour—
"But that I know him fetter'd, in my power;
"And, thirsting for revenge, I ponder still
"On pangs that longest rack—and latest kill.
"Nay, Seyd!—I seek not to restrain thy rage, 1330
"Too justly moved for mercy to assuage;
"My thoughts were only to secure for thee
"His riches—thus released, he were not free:
"Disabled, shorn of half his might and band,
"His capture could but wait thy first command."
"His capture could!—and shall I then resign
"One day to him—the wretch already mine?
"Release my foe!—at whose remonstrance?—thine!
"Fair suitor!—to thy virtuous gratitude,
"That thus repays this Giaour's relenting mood, 1340
"Which thee and thine alone of all could spare,
"No doubt—regardless if the prize were fair,
"My thanks and praise alike are due—now hear!
"I have a counsel for thy gentler ear:
"I do mistrust thee, woman! and each word
"Of thine stamps truth on all Suspicion heard.
"Borne in his arms through fire from yon Serai—
"Say, wert thou lingering there with him to fly?
"Thou need'st not answer—thy confession speaks,
"Already reddening on thy guilty cheeks; 1350
"Then, lovely dame, bethink thee! and beware:
"'Tis not his life alone may claim such care!
"Another word and—nay—I need no more.
"Accursed was the moment when he bore
"Thee from the flames, which better far—but—no—
"I then had mourn'd thee with a lover's woe—
"Now 'tis thy lord that warns—deceitful thing!
"Know'st thou that I can clip thy wanton wing?
"In words alone I am not wont to chafe:
"Look to thyself—nor deem thy falsehood safe!" 1360
He rose—and slowly, sternly thence withdrew.
Rage in his eye and threats in his adieu:
Ah! little reck'd that chief of womanhood—
Which frowns ne'er quell'd, nor menaces subdued;
And little deem'd he what thy heart—Gulnare!
When soft could feel, and when incens'd could dare.
His doubts appeared to wrong—nor yet she knew
How deep the root from whence compassion grew—
She was a slave—from such may captives claim
A fellow-feeling—differing but in name; 1370
Still half unconscious—heedless of his wrath.
Again she ventured on the dangerous path,
Again his rage repell'd—until arose
That strife of thought—the source of woman's woes!
Meanwhile—long anxious—weary—still—the same
Roll'd day and night—his soul could terror tame—
This fearful interval of doubt and dread,
When every hour might doom him worse than dead,
When every step that echoed by the gate,
Might entering lead where axe and stake await; 1380
When every voice that grated on his ear
Might be the last that he could ever hear;
Could terror tame—that spirit stern and high
Had proved unwilling as unfit to die;
'Twas worn—perhaps decayed—yet silent bore
That conflict deadlier far than all before:
The heat of fight, the hurry of the gale.
Leave scarce one thought inert enough to quail;
But bound and fix'd in fettered solitude,
To pine, the prey of every changing mood; 1390
To gaze on thine own heart—and meditate
Irrevocable faults—and coming fate—
Too late the last to shun—the first to mend—
To count the hours that struggle to thine end,
With not a friend to animate and tell
To other ears that death became thee well;
Around thee foes to forge the ready lie,
And blot life's latest scene with calumny:
Before thee tortures, which the soul can dare,
Yet doubts how well the shrinking flesh may bear; 1400
But deeply feels a single cry would shame,
To valour's praise thy last and dearest claim;
The life thou leav'st below—denied above
By kind monopolists of heavenly love,
And more than doubtful paradise—thy heaven
Of earthly hope—thy loved one from thee riven.
Such were the thoughts that outlaw must sustain,
And govern pangs surpassing mortal pain:
And those sustain'd he—boots it well or ill?
Since not to sink beneath, is something still! 1410
The first day pass'd—he saw not her—Gulnare—
The second—third—and still she came not there;
But what her words avouch'd, her charms had done,
Or else he had not seen another sun.
The fourth day roll'd along—and with the night
Came storm and darkness in their mingling might:
Oh! how he listen'd to the rushing deep,
That ne'er till now so broke upon his sleep;
And his wild spirit wilder wishes sent,
Roused by the roar of his own element! 1420
Oft had he ridden on that winged wave,
And loved its roughness for the speed it gave;
And now its dashing echoed on his ear,
A long known voice—alas! too vainly near!
Loud sung the wind above—and, doubly loud,
Shook o'er his turret cell the thunder-cloud;
And flash'd the lightning by the latticed bar,
To him more genial than the midnight star:
Close to the glimmering grate he dragg'd his chain,
And hoped that peril might not prove in vain. 1430
He raised his iron hand to Heaven, and prayed
One pitying flash to mar the form it made:
His steel and impious prayer attract alike—
The storm roll'd onward and disdain'd to strike;
Its peal waxed fainter—ceased—he felt alone,
As if some faithless friend had spurn'd his groan!
The midnight pass'd—and to the massy door,
A light step came—it paused—it moved once more;
Slow turns the grating bolt and sullen key—
'Tis as his heart foreboded—that fair she! 1440
Whate'er her sins—to him a guardian saint,
And beauteous still as hermit's hope can paint;
Yet changed since last within that cell she came,
More pale her cheek—more tremulous her frame:
On him she cast her dark and hurried eye,
Which spoke before her accents—"thou must die!—
"Yes, thou must die—there is but one resource,
"The last—the worst—if torture were not worse."
"Lady! I look to none—my lips proclaim 1449
"What last proclaim'd they—Conrad still the same:
"Why should'st thou seek an outlaw's life to spare,
"And change the sentence I deserve to bear?
"Well have I earn'd—nor here alone—the meed
"Of Seyd's revenge, by many a lawless deed."
"Why should I seek? because—Oh! didst thou not
"Redeem my life from worse than slavery's lot?
"Why should I seek?—hath misery made thee blind
"To the fond workings of a woman's mind!
"And must I say? albeit my heart rebel
"With all that woman feels but should not tell— 1460
"Because—despite thy crimes—that heart is moved—
"It fear'd thee—thank'd thee—pitied—madden'd—loved.
"Reply not—tell not now thy tale again,
"Thou lov'st another—and I love in vain;
"Though fond as mine her bosom, form more fair,
"I rush through peril which she would not dare.
"If that thy heart to hers were truly dear,
"Were I thine own—thou wert not lonely here—
"An outlaw's spouse—and leave her lord to roam!
"What hath such gentle dame to do with home? 1470
"But speak not now—o'er thine and o'er my head
"Hangs the keen sabre by a single thread;
"If thou hast courage still, and would'st be free,
"Receive this poignard—rise—and follow me!"
"Ay—in my chains! my steps will gently tread,
"With these adornments, o'er each slumbering head!
"Thou hast forgot—is this a garb for flight?
"Or is that instrument more fit for fight?"
"Misdoubting Corsair! I have gain'd the guard,
"Ripe for revolt, and greedy for reward. 1480
"A single word of mine removes that chain:
"Without some aid how here could I remain?
"Well, since we met, hath sped my busy time,
"If in aught evil, for thy sake the crime:
"The crime—'tis none to punish those of Seyd—
"That hated tyrant, Conrad—he must bleed!
"I see thee shudder—but my soul is changed—
"Wrong'd—spurn'd—reviled—and it shall be avenged—
"Accus'd of what till now my heart disdain'd—
"Too faithful, though to bitter bondage chain'd. 1490
"Yes, smile!—but he had little cause to sneer,
"I was not treacherous then—nor thou too dear—
"But he has said it—and the jealous well,
"Those tyrants, teasing, tempting to rebel,
"Deserve the fate their fretting lips foretell.
"I never loved—he bought me—somewhat high—
"Since with me came a heart he could not buy.
"I was a slave unmurmuring; he hath said,
"But for his rescue I with thee had fled.
"'Twas false thou know'st—but let such augurs rue, 1500
"Their words are omens, Insult renders true.
"Nor was thy respite granted to my prayer;
"This fleeting grace was only to prepare
"New torments for thy life, and my despair.
"Mine too he threatens; but his dotage still
"Would fain reserve me for his lordly will:
"When wearier of these fleeting charms and me,
"There yawns the sack—and yonder rolls the sea!
"What, am I then a toy for dotard's play,
"To wear but till the gilding frets away? 1510
"I saw thee—loved thee—owe thee all—would save,
"If but to shew how grateful is a slave.
"But had he not thus menaced fame and life,
"(And well he keeps his oaths pronounced in strife)
"I still had saved thee—but the Pacha spared.
"Now I am all thine own—for all prepared—
"Thou lov'st me not—nor know'st—or but the worst.
"Alas! this love—that hatred are the first—
"Oh! could'st thou prove my truth, thou would'st not start,
"Nor fear the fire that lights an Eastern heart, 1520
" 'Tis now the beacon of thy safety—now
"It points within the port a Mainote prow:
"But in one chamber, where our path must lead,
"There sleeps—he must not wake—the oppressor Seyd!"
"Gulnare—Gulnare—I never felt till now
"My abject fortune—withered fame so low:
"Seyd is mine enemy: had swept my band
"From earth with ruthless but with open hand,
"And therefore came I, in my bark of war,
"To smite the smiter with the scimitar; 1530
"Such is my weapon—not the secret knife—
"Who spares a woman's seeks not slumber's life—
"Thine saved I gladly, Lady, not for this—
"Let me not deem that mercy shewn amiss.
"Now fare thee well—more peace be with thy breast!
"Night wears apace—my last of earthly rest!"
"Rest! Rest! by sunrise must thy sinews shake,
"And thy limbs writhe around the ready stake.
"I heard the order—saw—I will not see—
"If thou wilt perish, I will fall with thee. 1540
"My life—my love—my hatred—all below
"Are on this cast—Corsair! 'tis but a blow!
"Without it flight were idle—how evade
"His sure pursuit? my wrongs too unrepaid,
"My youth disgraced—the long—long wasted years,
"One blow shall cancel with our future fears;
"But since the dagger suits thee less than brand,
"I'll try the firmness of a female hand—
"The guards are gain'd—one moment all were o'er—
"Corsair! we meet in safety or no more; 1550
"If errs my feeble hand, the morning cloud
"Will hover o'er thy scaffold, and my shroud."
She turn'd, and vanish'd ere he could reply,
But his glance followed far with eager eye;
And gathering, as he could, the links that bound
His form, to curl their length, and curb their sound,
Since bar and bolt no more his steps preclude,
He, fast as fettered limbs allow, pursued.
'Twas dark and winding, and he knew not where
That passage led—nor lamp nor guard were there: 1560
He sees a dusky glimmering—shall he seek
Or shun that ray so indistinct and weak?
Chance guides his steps—a freshness seems to bear
Full on his brow, as if from morning air—
He reached an open gallery—on his eye
Gleam'd the last star of night—the clearing sky—
Yet scarcely heeded these—another light
From a lone chamber struck upon his sight.
Towards it he moved, a scarcely closing door
Reveal'd the ray within, but nothing more. 1570
With hasty step a figure outward past,
Then paused—and turn'd—and paused—'tis She at last!
No poignard in that hand—nor sign of ill—
"Thanks to that softening heart—she could not kill!"
Again he looked, the wildness of her eye
Starts from the day abrupt and fearfully.
She stopp'd—threw back her dark far-floating hair,
That nearly veil'd her face and bosom fair:
As if she late had bent her leaning head
Above some object of her doubt or dread. 1580
They meet—upon her brow—unknown—forgot—
Her hurrying hand had left—'twas but a spot—
Its hue was all he saw—and scarce withstood—
Oh! slight but certain pledge of crime—'tis blood!
He had seen battle—he had brooded lone
O'er promised pangs to sentenced guilt foreshown—
He had been tempted—chastened—and the chain
Yet on his arms might ever there remain—
But ne'er from strife—captivity—remorse—
From all his feelings in their inmost force— 1590
So thrill'd—so shuddered every creeping vein
As now they froze before that purple stain.
That spot of blood, that light but guilty streak,
Had banish'd all the beauty from her cheek!
Blood he had viewed—could view unmoved—but then
It flow'd in combat, or was shed by men!
" 'Tis done—he nearly waked—but it is done—
"Corsair! he perish'd—thou art dearly won.
"All words would now be vain—away—away!
"Our bark is tossing—'tis already day— 1600
"The few gain'd over, now are wholly mine,
"And these thy yet surviving band shall join:
"Anon my voice shall vindicate my hand,
"When once our sail forsakes this hated strand."
She clapp'd her hands—and through the gallery pour,
Equipp'd for flight, her vassals—Greek and Moor;
Silent but quick they stoop, his chains unbind;
Once more his limbs are free as mountain wind!
But on his heavy heart such sadness sate,
As if they there transferr'd that iron weight— 1610
No words are uttered—at her sign, a door
Reveals the secret passage to the shore;
The city lies behind—they speed, they reach
The glad waves dancing on the yellow beach;
And Conrad following, at her beck, obey'd,
Nor cared he now if rescued or betray'd;
Resistance were as useless as if Seyd
Yet lived to view the doom his ire decreed.
Embark'd, the sail unfurl' d, the light breeze blew—
How much had Conrad's memory to review! 1620
Sunk he in contemplation—till the cape
Where last he anchor'd rear'd its giant shape.
Ah!—since that fatal night, though brief the time,
Had swept an age of terror, grief, and crime.
As its far shadow frown'd above the mast,
He veil'd his face, and sorrowed as he past;
He thought of all—Gonsalvo and his band.
His fleeting triumph and his failing hand;
He thought on her afar, his lonely bride—
He turned and saw—Gulnare, the homicide! 1630
She watch'd his features till she could not bear
Their freezing aspect and averted air,
And that strange fierceness foreign to her eye.
Fell quench'd in tears, too late to shed or dry.
She knelt beside him and his hand she prest,
"Thou may'st forgive though Alla's self detest;
"But for that deed of darkness what wert thou?
"Reproach me—but not yet—Oh! spare me now!
"I am not what I seem—this fearful night
"My brain bewilder'd—do not madden quite! 1640
"If I had never loved—though less my guilt,
"Thou hadst not lived to—hate me—if thou wilt."
She wrongs his thoughts, they more himself upbraid
Than her, though undesign'd, the wretch he made;
But speechless all, deep, dark, and unexprest,
They bleed within that silent cell—his breast.
Still onward, fair the breeze, nor rough the surge,
The blue waves sport around the stern they urge;
Far on the horizon's verge appears a speck—
A spot—a mast—a sail—an armed deck! 1650
Their little bark her men of watch descry,
And ampler canvas woos the wind from high;
She bears her down majestically near,
Speed on her prow, and terror in her tier;
A flash is seen—the ball beyond their bow
Booms harmless hissing to the deep below.
Uprose keen Conrad from his silent trance,
A long, long absent gladness in his glance;
" 'Tis mine—my blood-red flag—again—again—
"I am not all deserted on the main!" 1660
They own the signal, answer to the hail.
Hoist out the boat at once, and slacken sail.
" 'Tis Conrad!—Conrad!" shouting from the deck,
Command nor duty could their transport check!
With light alacrity and gaze of pride.
They view him mount once more his vessel's side;
A smile relaxing in each rugged face,
Their arms can scarce forbear a rough embrace.
He—half forgetting danger and defeat,
Returns their greeting as a chief may greet, 1670
Wrings with a cordial grasp Anselmo's hand,
And feels he yet can conquer and command!
These greetings o'er, the feelings that o'erflow,
Yet grieve to win him back without a blow;
They sail'd prepared for vengeance—had they known
A woman's hand secured that deed her own.
She were their queen—less scrupulous are they
Than haughty Conrad how they win their way.
With many an asking smile, and wondering stare,
They whisper round, and gaze upon Gulnare; 1680
And her, at once above—beneath her sex.
Whom blood appall'd not, their regards perplex.
To Conrad turns her faint imploring eye.
She drops her veil, and stands in silence by;
Her arms are meekly folded on that breast.
Which—Conrad safe—to fate resign'd the rest.
Though worse than phrenzy could that bosom fill,
Extreme in love or hate—in good or ill.
The worst of crimes had left her woman still!
This Conrad mark'd, and felt—ah! could he less: 1690
Hate of that deed—but grief for her distress;
What she had done no tears can wash away,
And heaven must punish on its angry day:
But—it was done—he knew, whatever her guilt,
For him that poignard smote—that blood was spilt—
And he was free!—and she for him had given
Her all on earth, and more than all in heaven!
And now he turn'd him to that dark-eyed slave
Whose brow was bowed beneath the glance he gave, 1699
Who now seemed changed and humbled:—faint and meek,
But varying oft the colour of her cheek
To deeper shades of paleness—all it's red
That fearful spot which stain'd it from the dead!
He took that hand—it trembled—now too late—
So soft in love—so wildly nerved in hate;
He clasp'd that hand—it trembled—and his own
Had lost it's firmness, and his voice it's tone.
"Gulnare!"—but she replied not—"dear Gulnare!"
She raised her eye—her only answer there—
At once she sought and sunk in his embrace: 1710
If he had driven her from that resting place,
His had been more or less than mortal hearty
But—good or ill—it bade her not depart.
Perchance, but for the bodings of his breast,
His latest virtue then had joined the rest.
Yet even Medora might forgive the kiss
That asked from form so fair no more than this—
The first—the last that Frailty stole from Faith—
To lips where Love had lavish'd all his breath,
To lips—whose broken sighs such fragrance fling, 1720
As he had fann'd them freshly with his wing!
They gain by twilight's hour their lonely isle.
To them the very rocks appear to smile,
The haven hums with many a cheering sound.
The beacons blaze their wonted stations round,
The boats are darting o'er the curly bay.
And sportive dolphins bend them through the spray;
Even the hoarse sea-bird's shrill discordant shriek,
Greets like the welcome of his tuneless beak!
Beneath each lamp that through its lattice gleams, 1730
Their fancy paints the friends that trim the beams.
Oh! what can sanctify the joys of home,
Like Hope's gay glance from Ocean's troubled foam?
The lights are high on beacon and from bower,
And midst them Conrad seeks Medora's tower:
He looks in vain—'tis strange—and all remark,
Amid so many, her's alone is dark.
'Tis strange—of yore its welcome never fail'd,
Nor now, perchance, extinguished, only veil'd.
With the first boat descends he for the shore, 1740
And looks impatient on the lingering oar.
Oh! for a wing beyond the falcon's flight,
To bear him like an arrow to that height!
With the first pause the resting rowers gave.
He waits not—looks not—leaps into the wave,
Strives through the surge—bestrides the beach—and high
Ascends the path familiar to his eye.
He reach'd his turret door—he paused—no sound
Broke from within—and all was night around.
He knock'd, and loudly—footstep nor reply 1750
Announced that any heard or deem'd him nigh;
He knock'd—but faintly—for his trembling hand
Refus'd to aid his heavy heart's demand.
The portal opens—'tis a well known face—
But not the form he panted to embrace.
Its lips are silent—twice his own essay'd,
And fail'd to frame the question they delay'd;
He snatch'd the lamp—its light will answer all—
It quits his grasp—expiring in the fall.
He would not wait for that reviving ray— 1760
As soon could he have lingered there for day;
But, glimmering through the dusky corridore,
Another chequers o'er the shadowed floor;
His steps the chamber gain—his eyes behold
All that his heart believed not—yet foretold!
He turn'd not—spoke not—sunk not—fix'd his look,
And set the anxious frame that lately shook:
He gazed—how long we gaze despite of pain.
And know—but dare not own we gaze in vain!
In life itself she was so still and fair, 1770
That death with gentler aspect withered there;
And the cold flowers 16 her colder hand contain'd,
In that last grasp as tenderly were strain'd
As if she scarcely felt, but feign'd a sleep,
And made it almost mockery yet to weep:
The long dark lashes fringed her lids of snow—
And veil'd—thought shrinks from all that lurk'd below—
Oh! o'er the eye death most exerts his might,
And hurls the spirit from her throne of light!
Sinks those blue orbs in that long last eclipse, 1780
But spares, as yet, the charm around her lips—
Yet—yet they seem as they forbore to smile.
And wish'd repose—but only for a while;
But the white shroud, and each extended tress,
Long—fair—but spread in utter lifelessness.
Which, late the sport of every summer wind.
Escaped the baffled wreath that strove to bind;
These—and the pale pure cheek, became the bier—
But she is nothing—wherefore is he here?
He ask'd no question—all were answer'd now 1790
By the first glance on that still—marble brow.
It was enough—she died—what reck'd it how?
The love of youth, the hope of better years,
The source of softest wishes, tenderest fears.
The only living thing he could not hate.
Was reft at once—and he deserv'd his fate.
But did not feel it less;—the good explore,
For peace, those realms where guilt can never soar:
The proud—the wayward—who have fixed below
Their joy—and find this earth enough for woe, 1800
Lose in that one their all—perchance a mite—
But who in patience parts with all delight?
Full many a stoic eye and aspect stern
Mask hearts where grief hath little left to learn;
And many a withering thought lies hid—not lost—
In smiles that least befit who wear them most.
By those, that deepest feel, are ill exprest
The indistinctness of the suffering breast;
Where thousand thoughts begin to end in one,
Which seeks from all the refuge found in none; 1810
No words suffice the secret soul to show.
And Truth denies all eloquence to Woe.
On Conrad's stricken soul exhaustion prest,
And stupor almost lull'd it into rest;
So feeble now—his mother's softness crept
To those wild eyes, which like an infant's wept:
It was the very weakness of his brain,
Which thus confess'd without relieving pain.
None saw his trickling tears—perchance, if seen,
That useless flood of grief had never been: 1820
Nor long they flowed—he dried them to depart,
In helpless—hopeless—brokenness of heart:
The sun goes forth—but Conrad's day is dim—
And the night cometh—ne'er to pass from him—
There is no darkness like the cloud of mind,
On Grief's vain eye—the blindest of the blind!
Which may not—dare not see—but turns aside
To blackest shade—nor will endure a guide!
His heart was form'd for softness—warp'd to wrong—
Betray'd too early, and beguil'd too long; 1830
Each feeling pure—as falls the dropping dew
Within the grot; like that had harden'd too;—
Less clear, perchance, its earthly trials pass'd,
But sunk, and chill'd, and petrified at last.
Yet tempests wear, and lightning cleaves the rock;
If such his heart, so shatter'd it the shock.
There grew one flower beneath its rugged brow,
Though dark the shade—it shelter'd,—saved till now.
The thunder came—that bolt hath blasted both,
The Granite's firmness, and the Lily's growth: 1840
The gentle plant hath left no leaf to tell
Its tale, but shrunk and wither'd where it fell,
And of its cold protector, blacken round
But shiver'd fragments on the barren ground!
'Tis morn—to venture on his lonely hour
Few dare—though now Anselmo sought his tower.
He was not there—nor seen along the shore;
Ere night, alarm'd, their isle is traversed o'er:
Another morn—another bids them seek,
And shout his name till echo waxeth weak; 1850
Mount—grotto—cavern—valley search'd in vain,
They find on shore a sea-boat's broken chain—
Their hope revives—they follow o'er the main.
'Tis idle all—moons roll on moons away,
And Conrad comes not—came not since that day—
Nor trace, nor tidings of his doom declare
Where lives his grief, or perish'd his despair!
Long mourn'd his band whom none could mourn beside;
And fair the monument they gave his bride:
For him they raise not the recording stone— 1860
His death yet dubious, deeds too widely known;
He left a Corsair's name to other times,
Link'd with one virtue, and a thousand crimes.