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The Works of Lord Byron Volume III Part 32

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They reached at length a grotto, hewn By nature, but enlarged by art, Where oft her lute she wont to tune, And oft her Koran conned apart; And oft in youthful reverie She dreamed what Paradise might be: Where Woman's parted soul shall go Her Prophet had disdained to show;[gf][161]

But Selim's mansion was secure, 590 Nor deemed she, could he long endure His bower in other worlds of bliss Without _her_, most beloved in this!

Oh! who so dear with him could dwell?

What Houri soothe him half so well?

VIII.

Since last she visited the spot Some change seemed wrought within the grot: It might be only that the night Disguised things seen by better light: That brazen lamp but dimly threw 600 A ray of no celestial hue; But in a nook within the cell Her eye on stranger objects fell.

There arms were piled, not such as wield The turbaned Delis in the field; But brands of foreign blade and hilt, And one was red--perchance with guilt![gg]

Ah! how without can blood be spilt?

A cup too on the board was set That did not seem to hold sherbet. 610 What may this mean? she turned to see Her Selim--"Oh! can this be he?"[gh]

IX.

His robe of pride was thrown aside, His brow no high-crowned turban bore, But in its stead a shawl of red, Wreathed lightly round, his temples wore: That dagger, on whose hilt the gem Were worthy of a diadem, No longer glittered at his waist, Where pistols unadorned were braced; 620 And from his belt a sabre swung, And from his shoulder loosely hung The cloak of white, the thin capote That decks the wandering Candiote; Beneath--his golden plated vest Clung like a cuira.s.s to his breast; The greaves below his knee that wound With silvery scales were sheathed and bound.

But were it not that high command Spake in his eye, and tone, and hand, 630 All that a careless eye could see In him was some young Galiongee.[162]

X.

"I said I was not what I seemed; And now thou see'st my words were true: I have a tale thou hast not dreamed, If sooth--its truth must others rue.

My story now 'twere vain to hide, I must not see thee Osman's bride: But had not thine own lips declared How much of that young heart I shared, 640 I could not, must not, yet have shown The darker secret of my own.

In this I speak not now of love; That--let Time--Truth--and Peril prove: But first--Oh! never wed another-- Zuleika! I am not thy brother!"

XI.

"Oh! not my brother!--yet unsay-- G.o.d! am I left alone on earth To mourn--I dare not curse--the day[gi]

That saw my solitary birth? 650 Oh! thou wilt love me now no more!

My sinking heart foreboded ill; But know _me_ all I was before, Thy sister--friend--Zuleika still.

Thou led'st me here perchance to kill; If thou hast cause for vengeance, see!

My breast is offered--take thy fill!

Far better with the dead to be Than live thus nothing now to thee: Perhaps far worse, for now I know 660 Why Giaffir always seemed thy foe; And I, alas! am Giaffir's child, For whom thou wert contemned, reviled.

If not thy sister--would'st thou save My life--Oh! bid me be thy slave!"

XII.

"My slave, Zuleika!--nay, I'm thine: But, gentle love, this transport calm, Thy lot shall yet be linked with mine; I swear it by our Prophet's shrine,[gj]

And be that thought thy sorrow's balm. 670 So may the Koran[163] verse displayed Upon its steel direct my blade, In danger's hour to guard us both, As I preserve that awful oath!

The name in which thy heart hath prided Must change; but, my Zuleika, know, That tie is widened, not divided, Although thy Sire's my deadliest foe.

My father was to Giaffir all That Selim late was deemed to thee; 680 That brother wrought a brother's fall, But spared, at least, my infancy!

And lulled me with a vain deceit That yet a like return may meet.

He reared me, not with tender help, But like the nephew of a Cain;[164]

He watched me like a lion's whelp, That gnaws and yet may break his chain.

My father's blood in every vein Is boiling! but for thy dear sake 690 No present vengeance will I take; Though here I must no more remain.

But first, beloved Zuleika! hear How Giaffir wrought this deed of fear.

XIII.

"How first their strife to rancour grew, If Love or Envy made them foes, It matters little if I knew; In fiery spirits, slights, though few And thoughtless, will disturb repose.

In war Abdallah's arm was strong, 700 Remembered yet in Bosniac song,[165]

And Paswan's[166] rebel hordes attest How little love they bore such guest: His death is all I need relate, The stern effect of Giaffir's hate; And how my birth disclosed to me,[gk]

Whate'er beside it makes, hath made me free.

XIV.

"When Paswan, after years of strife, At last for power, but first for life, In Widdin's walls too proudly sate, 710 Our Pachas rallied round the state; Not last nor least in high command, Each brother led a separate band; They gave their Horse-tails[167] to the wind, And mustering in Sophia's plain Their tents were pitched, their post a.s.signed; To one, alas! a.s.signed in vain!

What need of words? the deadly bowl, By Giaffir's order drugged and given, With venom subtle as his soul,[gl]

Dismissed Abdallah's hence to heaven. 720 Reclined and feverish in the bath, He, when the hunter's sport was up, But little deemed a brother's wrath To quench his thirst had such a cup: The bowl a bribed attendant bore; He drank one draught,[168] nor needed more!

If thou my tale, Zuleika, doubt, Call Haroun--he can tell it out.

XV.

"The deed once done, and Paswan's feud 730 In part suppressed, though ne'er subdued, Abdallah's Pachalick was gained:-- Thou know'st not what in our Divan Can wealth procure for worse than man-- Abdallah's honours were obtained By him a brother's murder stained; 'Tis true, the purchase nearly drained His ill-got treasure, soon replaced.

Would'st question whence? Survey the waste, And ask the squalid peasant how 740 His gains repay his broiling brow!-- Why me the stern Usurper spared, Why thus with me his palace spared, I know not. Shame--regret--remorse-- And little fear from infant's force-- Besides, adoption as a son By him whom Heaven accorded none, Or some unknown cabal, caprice, Preserved me thus:--but not in peace: He cannot curb his haughty mood,[gm] 750 Nor I forgive a father's blood.

XVI.

"Within thy Father's house are foes; Not all who break his bread are true: To these should I my birth disclose, His days-his very hours were few: They only want a heart to lead, A hand to point them to the deed.

But Haroun only knows, or knew This tale, whose close is almost nigh: He in Abdallah's palace grew, 760 And held that post in his Serai Which holds he here--he saw him die; But what could single slavery do?

Avenge his lord? alas! too late; Or save his son from such a fate?

He chose the last, and when elate With foes subdued, or friends betrayed, Proud Giaffir in high triumph sate, He led me helpless to his gate, And not in vain it seems essayed 770 To save the life for which he prayed.

The knowledge of my birth secured From all and each, but most from me; Thus Giaffir's safety was ensured.

Removed he too from Roumelie To this our Asiatic side, Far from our seats by Danube's tide, With none but Haroun, who retains Such knowledge--and that Nubian feels A Tyrant's secrets are but chains, 780 From which the captive gladly steals, And this and more to me reveals: Such still to guilt just Allah sends-- Slaves, tools, accomplices--no friends!

XVII.

"All this, Zuleika, harshly sounds; But harsher still my tale must be: Howe'er my tongue thy softness wounds, Yet I must prove all truth to thee."[gn]

I saw thee start this garb to see, Yet is it one I oft have worn, 790 And long must wear: this Galiongee, To whom thy plighted vow is sworn, Is leader of those pirate hordes, Whose laws and lives are on their swords; To hear whose desolating tale Would make thy waning cheek more pale: Those arms thou see'st my band have brought, The hands that wield are not remote; This cup too for the rugged knaves Is filled--once quaffed, they ne'er repine: 800 Our Prophet might forgive the slaves; They're only infidels in wine.

XVIII.

"What could I be? Proscribed at home, And taunted to a wish to roam; And listless left--for Giaffir's fear Denied the courser and the spear-- Though oft--Oh, Mahomet! how oft!-- In full Divan the despot scoffed, As if _my_ weak unwilling hand Refused the bridle or the brand: 810 He ever went to war alone, And pent me here untried--unknown; To Haroun's care with women left,[go]

By hope unblest, of fame bereft, While thou--whose softness long endeared, Though it unmanned me, still had cheered-- To Brusa's walls for safety sent, Awaited'st there the field's event.

Haroun who saw my spirit pining[gp]

Beneath inaction's sluggish yoke, 820 His captive, though with dread resigning, My thraldom for a season broke, On promise to return before The day when Giaffir's charge was o'er.

'Tis vain--my tongue can not impart[gq]

My almost drunkenness of heart,[169]

When first this liberated eye Surveyed Earth--Ocean--Sun--and Sky-- As if my Spirit pierced them through, And all their inmost wonders knew! 830 One word alone can paint to thee That more than feeling--I was Free!

E'en for thy presence ceased to pine; The World--nay, Heaven itself was mine!

XIX.

"The shallop of a trusty Moor Conveyed me from this idle sh.o.r.e; I longed to see the isles that gem Old Ocean's purple diadem: I sought by turns, and saw them all;[170]

But when and where I joined the crew, 840 With whom I'm pledged to rise or fall, When all that we design to do Is done,'twill then be time more meet To tell thee, when the tale's complete.

XX.

"'Tis true, they are a lawless brood, But rough in form, nor mild in mood; And every creed, and every race, With them hath found--may find a place: But open speech, and ready hand, Obedience to their Chief's command; 850 A soul for every enterprise, That never sees with Terror's eyes; Friendship for each, and faith to all, And vengeance vowed for those who fall, Have made them fitting instruments For more than e'en my own intents.

And some--and I have studied all Distinguished from the vulgar rank, But chiefly to my council call The wisdom of the cautious Frank:-- 860 And some to higher thoughts aspire.

The last of Lambro's[171] patriots there Antic.i.p.ated freedom share; And oft around the cavern fire On visionary schemes debate, To s.n.a.t.c.h the Rayahs[172] from their fate.

So let them ease their hearts with prate Of equal rights, which man ne'er knew; I have a love for freedom too.

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The Works of Lord Byron Volume III Part 32 summary

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