The Fate of Adelaide, a Swiss Romantic Tale; and Other Poems/Canto I

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THE

 

FATE OF ADELAIDE.

 

 

CANTO I.

 

 

Romantic Switzerland! thy scenes are traced
With characters of strange wild loveliness,
Beauty and desolation, side by side;
Here lotyy rocks uprise, where nature seems
To dwell alone in silent majesty;
Rob'd by the snow, her stately palace fram'd
Of the white hills; towering in all their pride,
The frost’s gigantic mounds are lost in clouds,

Like to vast castles rear'd in middle air.
The ice has sculptur'd too strange imagery—
Obelisks, columns, spires, fantastic piles;
Some like the polish'd marble, others clear
As the rock crystal, others sparkling with
The hues that melt along the sunborn bow.
And winter frowns upon the throne, which he
Has been whole ages raising, and beneath,
The gloomy vallies, like his footstool lie,
Where summer never comes—where never spring
Wreathes the young flowers round her golden hair.
The sun looks forth in beauty, but in vain,
Those dark vales never know the light of noon:
But there they hide them in their sullenness,
As the pale spirit of desolation chose
Them for his lonely haunt. No trace hath been
Of living thing upon those untrack'd snows;
Nought hath pass'd o'er them but the printless wind;

Ev'n that wild deer, which loves the mountain side,
Springs the abyss, and dares the venturous path
We shrink to look upon, yet comes not here.
For perilous were the rocks, and the false ice
Were slippery as the friendships of this life—
When most we lean on them, most treach'rous then,
Smooth but deceiving; and the precipice
Yawns in its fearful darkness close beneath;
So close, that but a single step aside,
And human help were vanity indeed!
And o'er them lowers destruction, high in air,
Upon those jutting crags, whose rugged sides,
Riven in fragments, and like ruins pil'd,
Seem as that giants of those ancient days
When earthborn creatures braved th' Olympic Gods,
Those of whom fable tells, had torn away
Rocks from their solid base, and with strong arm,
Parted the mountains: there the avalanche hangs,

Mighty, but tremulous; just a light breath
Will loosen it from off its airy throne;
Then down it hurls in wrath, like to the sound
Of thunder amid storms, or as the voice
Of rushing waters—death in its career.
The lurking tempests hold their gathering place
Within these caves, waiting the angry winds
Which are to bear their terrors thro' the skies.
But 'mid these scenes of wintry gloom, are some
Fair relics of the spring time blossoms, like
The sunny smiles of May, as if some breeze,
Just wander'd from delightful Italy,
Had brought the blessings of its birth-place here.
And lovely are the vallies which extend
Beneath the mountains; oh! how sweet it is
To gaze around when summer sunset sheds
Its splendor in the west; when the bright clouds,
Warm with the hues of eve, gleam o'er the sky,
As 'twere some heavenly spirit veil'd his form

In bursts of glory from a mortal eye.
When glowing in the ray, the glacier's shine,
With all the opal's varied colouring,
And every tint that tulip beds disclose,
Gilds the rich pageantry of parting day;
The golden arches, rich with purple gems,
Pillars of light, and crimson colonnades,
Like the gay palaces of fairy land
Which flit upon the thought, when the young eye
Dwells in rapt wonder on the enchanted tale.
Beneath are sun-bright vales and silver lakes,
The blue waves mantled with reflected red,
The sky's bright image on the stream imprest;
Green vineyards wreathing round the steep hill's side,
And groups of cheerful peasantry reclin'd
By their white dwellings, round whose lowly thatch
The light laburnum waves her yellow hair;
And rising on the gale, is heard the sound
Of rustic music, of that cherish'd song

The Switzer loves; whose every note is fraught
With thoughts of love, youth, home, and happiness.

II.


Raised on a rock, which overlooks the vale,
Like to its guardian power, a ruin stands;
It is o'ergrown with ivy, and the walls,
Mouldering around, are grey with aged moss.
There is yet left one melancholy hall—
The roof is riven, and the big rain drops beat
Upon the weed-grown floor; and sun-beams fall,
Almost in mockery, for they are fraught
With too much happiness for scenes like this.
It has no tapestry but the spider's web;
No music save the skreech owl's fearful cry,
And the bat's noisy flight, or when the wind
Howls thro' it drearily, as 'twere a dirge

Mourning it's fallen fortunes. Ask it's fate
Of those who dwell around, and they will tell
The wild romantic tales of other days—
Remembrances that linger like the tints
Of evening blushes 'neath the veil of night.
Such is the tale of which my lyre would tell,
(Unskill'd and plaintive are the notes it breathes,)
I scarce may hope to catch one echo'd sound,
One murmur of the strain I love so well.
My wreath, if wreath at all my harp may claim,
Will be of simplest field-flowers. Oh! belov'd
Inspirer of thy youthful minstrel's dream,
How dear the meed of fame would be to me!
For thou must see it, and thy hand would give
The brightest blossom that could sparkle there.
Thine was the earliest smile that ever shed
Its cheering light on my young laurel's growth.
Tho' other praise be dear (where is the bard,
To whom the voice of flattery is not sweet?)

Yet never, never can approval's smile
Be half so treasur'd, half so priz'd as thine.

III.


It was a night of gloom; strange shadowy forms
Rode on the dreary wind, which hoarsely blew
A prelude to the tempest's gathering.
Darkness was on the sky, and murky shades
Obscur'd the brightness of the rising moon,
Which, struggling, threw at times a silvery smile,
Soon disappearing, and rebellious clouds
Crowded around and mock'd their gentle queen;
The stars were hidden; one, and one alone,
Shed o'er the west her solitary ray;
And well that one might linger;—it had been,
In days which have a hallow'd memory,
The star peculiar to the smiling pow'r
Of love and beauty: never more than now

Could it seem Woman's emblem; so her light
Should shine 'mid darkness, and her loveliness
Cheer the dull hour of gloom:—e'en that is past,
A cloud like death came over it, and quench'd
Its tender beam; at once the storm pour'd forth
Its cup of fury, and the blasts arose,
Sweeping among the mountains with a sound
Of anger and of anguish, laughter, groans,
And shrieks as if of torture, and deep sobs
Mingled together; and at times the voice
Of thunder spake in wrath; and crashing woods,
Fierce gusts, and echoing caves, dread answers gave.
The Spirit of the lightning fiercely roll'd
His eyes of fire athwart the sky, and rent
The veil of blackness with his burning glance.
Dark lower'd the fearful night, but onwards still
The traveller urg'd his course; there was no light
To point the gloomy path, save when a flash

Glar'd its blue flame around. The wood is past,
And he has gain'd the steep ascent which leads
To Ethlin's Castle.—He has entered now;—
'Tis a young warrior, and his bosom wears
The red-cross. Instant cries of joy arise,
And words of greeting; one to meet him sprang,
And clasp'd him in her arms, while his warm cheek
Was wet with her sweet tears of tenderness—
My brother! oh, my brother! welcome home.
She started back, half sorrow half surprise,
From his averted clasp, and on him gaz'd
Almost reproachfully; and then her glance
Fell on a stranger's form: she turn'd and hid
Her gathering blushes in her father's arms.
The stranger spoke no word, but gave an urn
Unto that venerable chieftain's hand.
It told its tale too well; the dear, the lost,
For whom their lips yet trembled with the words
Of fond affection hailing his return,

He was gone from them, and the gates of death
Had clos'd for ever on their earthly love.

IV.


Most heavily this blight fell on the heart
Of Ethlin's Lord. Ernest had been his pride;
On whom each bosom hope had built its throne;
With what proud joy the warrior sire had mark'd
The promise of his boyhood, when a child,
A very infant in his nurse's arms,
His eye would sparkle at the trumpet's voice,
And his young cheek grow red, when tales were told
Of glorious battle and heroic deeds!
It came, the wish'd-for time, and Ernest took
His father's sword, and sought the fields of war.
When Europe pour'd her thousands on the East,
That sword was claim'd by no unworthy hand:

Again it flash'd the reddest in the fight—
It was a hero's still! But all too soon;
Cropt in his spring of glory, Ernest fell.——
In that lone moment, when all earthly ties
More fond, more holy, twine around the heart,
He thought upon his home; and in that thought
There was a chill more terrible than death.
He gaz'd upon the chief, who knelt beside,
And cool'd his burning lips with the fresh spring,
And held his dying brow—"Orlando, we
Together sought these fatal plains, and still
Our course has been together, and our swords
Have been as one: oh! by thy love for me,
And by thy faith, let not my ashes mix
With this accursed earth; but let them rest
Their last sad sleep in my own Switzerland!
My spirit would not slumber in a grave,
On which a father's blessing was not breath'd—
That was not moisten'd by my sister's tears.

Orlando, thou wilt tell them, that my death
Was such as well became a hero's child!"
 

V.


How precious is the memory of those
Who slumber in the tomb! their lightest word
And look is then recall'd, and hallowed
As tender relics love had left behind—
Sweet but sad treasures! ah, how dear the thought
Which dwells on those departed; when the heart
Beats quick with fond reflections, and the worth,
The praise of those gone to their silent sleep,
Comes like a healing balm to sorrow's wound.
Most soothing was it to the father's grief
To hear how gloriously his Ernest fell;
Still would he ask Orlando of the fields
Which they had fought together; and the tale,
Tho' often told, was sweet unto his ear,
As the blithe peal, that tells the traveller,

Wayworn and faint, a refuge is at hand.——
And there was one who listened to the tale,
And treasur'd ev'ry word Orlando breathed.
Young Adelaide, those accents are to thee
As sounds of heav'nly music, which no time
Or change can ever banish from the heart!

VI.


Oh, love! how exquisite thy visions are!
Spring of the soul, what flowers can equal thine?
When every other virtue fled from earth,
Thou linger'dst still, last solace of our path.
What were the world, bereft of thee?—a void,
Without one sunny place on which the eye
Might rest for sweet refreshment. Thou art not
A summer blossom only; it is thine
To bloom in beauty on the wint'ry hour:
When storms and sorrows press the spirit down,

Then dost thou come, a gentle comforter,
Tenderly binding up the broken heart.—
Celestial thy first dawning! it is like
The Morn awakening the smiling Hours,
Calling the flowers from their fragrant dreams,
And breathing melody and perfume around.
So does thy influence brighten on the soul,
Waking it to a new enchanted world,
Where every thought is gladness.
                                               Never yet
Hath love dwelt in a lovelier temple than
That youthful maiden's form: she had now reach'd
Youth's fairest season, when the opening flower
Is just between the green bud and full rose.
There was a melancholy beauty in
The deep blue of her eyes;—'twas sad, yet soft,
Melting in tenderness 'neath the dark lash
That curtain'd its mild splendor; ev'ry glance
Bespoke a spirit wild and fanciful,—

A heart that answer'd sorrow's slightest thrill;
And thoughts that dwelt not on reality,
But lov'd to wander in imagin'd scenes,
'Mid fancy's fair creation revelling.
A tender bloom just dawn'd upon her cheek,
Too pale, to say the rose was glowing there,
But the soft hue which the white violet
Wears on its perfum'd leaf; save when a blush
Deepen'd to crimson radiance o'er her face.
Her voice was sweet as the last dying close
Waked from the wild guitar in Spanish groves,
When the fond lover pours his soul in song,
And echo answers like a maiden's sigh.
It had those silvery tones which, lingering, hang
Upon the ear, and melt into the heart.
Young, lovely with the sunny brow of youth,
More touching from the pensive shade which threw
A magic charm around it. Such she was,
Fair as the spring time of her native vales.

I need not say how sweet the accents fell,
When first Orlando told his tale of love—
How tender was the blush that welcom'd it;
Nor need I tell how happy were the hours
That pass'd away in love's enchanted dreams;
'Twas all the bard e'er feign'd, or young hearts felt,
Of joys, like spring days, bright and fugitive.——
But not long in the myrtle bowers of bliss
The warrior may remain; he may not see
His laurels pine in shade, or the deep stain
Of rust upon his sword. Again the sound
Of arms recall'd Orlando to the field;
And he will go: not Adelaide's, the love
That would enchain him to its witchery—
No; she would bid her lover from her arms,
E'en tho' her heart were breaking; point to fame,
Albeit 'twere more than death unto her soul!


VIII.[1]


They wander'd thro' a scene, where every spot
Was trac'd with some soft record of the heart;
Where the eye could not glance, but it must gaze
On some memorial of their happiness.
Here wing'd with pleasure moments fled, as in
A magic circle, where hours past, but left
No sorrow for their loss—perish'd like flowers
Dying in odours, while fresh blooms succeed:
But these were dreams of blessedness departed;
And the long lingering looks they now were giving,
Perchance would be their last. Another day,
And, Adelaide, thy love will be afar.
The arm now round thee thrown so tenderly,
Will be the reddest in the ranks of death;
That voice, that sinks so sweetly on thy ear,

Low murmuring the gentle tones of love,
Will swell the war cry, and breathe loud defiance!

IX.


It was a night of summer's mildest reign—
Calm, lonely sweetness! scarce the breeze had pow'r
To waft the fragrant sighs born with the dew;
It did not stir a leaf, nor wake a sound;
But all was quiet as an infant's sleep,
Save when the distant waterfall was heard,
Like airy notes of fairy minstrelsy.
'Twas a fair scene! beside them flowers bloom'd
Such as the earth puts forth to grace the step
Of a celestial visitant: the turf
Gleam'd with the diamond dew; and over head,
The half-form'd crescent of the young moon smil'd
On the blue ocean of the starry heaven;
A few light clouds were wandering around,

Still varying like love's dear uncertainty!
Now flowing gracefully, like beauty's veil,
Now as the frothing waves upon the sea,
And ever, as like snow they scatter'd round,
Gleam'd forth the glorious stars. At distance seen,
The ice-clad mountains rose magnificent,
Like marble palaces that Rome once rear'd
In her now long-past days of mightiness.
Girdling them in dark woods the black pines waved;
O'er them the night had thrown her deepest shrowd;
Gloom, where the moon had wasted her sweet smiles;
Shades that she might not pierce, where brightness fell
Vainly, as soothing words upon despair.

X.


They linger'd there, Orlando and his love,
His fair betrothed bride; each step was link'd

With some associate sweetness, and recall'd
Some thought that love had hallow'd. Love will shed
His magic hues, where'er his pinions find
A resting place; the wilderness will smile,
And blossom like a rose, if he be there.
They reach'd a shadowy alcove, where oft
Th' unconscious hours had past unmark'd away.
It was in young affection's earliest day
They rais'd the fragrant temple, and then said—
No flower should ever deck their fav'rite haunt,
That was not hallow'd by the minstrel's song,
Or fancy could not paint some tender thought.
They rear'd it 'neath a pine which long had braved
The perilous bursting of the winter's storm;
The stem was yet unbent, but it was scath'd
By the red lightning; and the tempest's wing
Had past it, withering like adversity:
A white rose gracefully around it twin'd,

Cheering its ruin, and united still
Even amid decay, like faithful love,
Clinging more closely to the wounded spirit.
Around were brightest flowers; the myrtle flung
Its snowy buds—a wreath for constancy;
The young moss-rose threw from its vermil cheek,
The green veil, fresh and beautiful as those
That caught their warm carnation from the lips
Of Venus, when she kiss'd their fragrant leaves;
Fraught with cerulean hues, the violet
Half-open'd, timidly, its fair blue eyes;
Close by it's side, the lily pensively
Bow'd down its languid head, pale as the cheek
Faded by sorrow. There the hyacinth bloom'd
With liveliest colours; some like rubies glow'd,
Some bright with tyrian purple; others wore
The melting azure of a summer sky;
Some white and stainless, others ting'd with red,
Like the last warmth of a departing blush.——

Here had they come to watch the earliest smile
Of morning dimple into roseate light;
Here breezes, which had bath'd their burning wings
In streams, whose birth-place is amid the clouds,
Breath'd mountain freshness o'er the sultry noon;
Eve found them here listing her vesper song,
And stars had been the lamps to light their bowers.
And oft at that sweet solitary time
Would young Orlando listen to the voice
Of her he lov'd, soft as the moonlight song
The fabled Syren breath'd; and at his praise
A blush like day-break, and a smile, would play
Upon her cheek—the heart's own eloquence.

XI.


It was the hour of parting, and they breath'd
Those vows of tender constancy,—the hopes,
The fears, the fond regrets that crowd the time

Of love's farewell. Hope, for what joy can thrill
The maiden's bosom with such throb of bliss,
As when, returning from the fields of death,
The warrior comes in all the pride of fame,
And seeks his dearest trophy in her smile!
Fear, for what heart but sickens at the thought
Of danger darkening round some cherish'd being!
A few short hurried vows of changeless faith,
And their farewell was taken silently.
That sorrow is not much, which seeks for words
To image forth its grief. Methinks adieu
Is cold, when uttered with aught else but tears.

XII.


'Tis the bright hour of noon; the sun looks forth
In all his splendour, o'er the stirring scene
Of thousands rushing onward to the strife.
They come in armed ranks, and spear and shield

Are glistening in the ray. How beautiful,
How glorious, and how glad they move to death!
The very banners sweep as they were proud
To spread their crimson foldings to the air.
Here the young warrior curbs his foaming steed,
Impatient for his first of fields; and here
The toil-worn veteran, with his locks of age,
White as the war-plume waving o'er his helm,
Pants for the bursting of the battle storm.——
How bright, how envied, is the warrior's fate!
For him will glory bind her choicest wreaths
Of fadeless laurels;—his the stormy joy,
Which the brave spirit feels at honour's call,
When the bard wakes his proudest minstrelsy:
(And what can thrill the harp like warlike theme?)
His deeds will be remembered, and his name
Will live for ever in the breath of song:
Love's fairest roses 'neath the laurel grow,
And woman's fondest sigh is for the brave.


XIII.


Upon a lofty tower stood Adelaide,
And watch'd the scene below: you might have gaz'd
On those fair tresses floating in the wind;
The white veil flowing o'er her graceful form,
Her arms cross'd pensively upon her breast,
And eyes, now upwards rais'd in tears to heav'n,
Now glancing mournfully on those beneath,
And deem'd that Peace had paus'd one moment, ere
She wing'd her flight from earth; so fair she was,
Like to some lovely creature of the skies.
Her eye dwelt on Orlando's form, who yet
Linger'd to catch one dear, one parting glance—
That last look, treasur'd so in after hours.
He wore the colours she had given, white
And green, the hue of promise, borne by spring.

He passed, and Adelaide is left with nought
But hope, to cheer away the slow wing'd days.
Hope, frail but lovely shadow! thou dost come,
Like a bright vision on our pathway here,
Making the gloomy future beautiful,
And gilding our horizon with a light,
The fairest human eye can ever know.
Fav'rite of heaven! 'twas thine to pledge the cup
Of pleasure's sparkling waters undefil'd;
But, oh! the draught was fleeting! scarce thy lip
Touch'd the clear nectar ere 'twas vanished.
The soul of youth confides in thee; thy voice
Is love's own halcyon music; it is thine
To colour every dream of happiness.
I've pictur'd thine a soft etherial form,
Like to some light creation of the clouds—
Some bright aerial wonder; o'er thy cheek
The rose has shed its beauty; on thy brow
The golden clusters play enwreath'd with flowers,

Gay with a thousand transitory hues;
The rainbow tints are gleaming in thy wings;
Thy laughing eyes are blue—not the deep shade
Worn by the melancholy violet,
But the clear sunny blue of summer skies;
And in thy hand a glass, wherein the eye
May gaze on many a wonder—all is there
That heart can pant for; many a glorious dream
Meets the rapt sight, no sooner seen than gone.
False as thou art, O most illusive Hope!
Reproach is not for thee: what, tho' the flowers
Which thou dost scatter o'er our pilgrimage,
Are evanescent, yet they are most sweet.
Who would not revel in thy witchery,
Tho' all too soon the spell will be dissolved!
The moments of thy reign are bless'd indeed;
They are the purest pleasures life can boast—
Reality is sadness.———

                                       But thy power
Sheds its most soothing influence when the heart,
Too full for utterance, beats a fond farewell!
Then beams thy sunshine, lighting up a sky,
Which else were thickest darkness;—for what gloom
Is like the gloom of absence! But for thee,
And thy sweet promises of meeting joys,
The warm embrace, the look of love, the smile,
The blissful words of welcome once again,—
Parting were as the shadow of the grave.

XIV.


Thus far my song hath reach'd again to thee,
With whom my strain began: say, will thy smile
Beam on my harp, like sunshine upon flowers,
Depriv'd of which they die? Oh! if one note

Can boast of sweetness, 'tis from thee 'twas caught.
Enough, enough! whate'er my fate may be,
That song is transport, that wins praise from thee.

  1. the omission of a section number VII. is presumably a publisher's error