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She gazed in wonder, "Can he calmly sleep, While other eyes his fall or ravage weep?
And mine in restlessness are wandering here-- What sudden spell hath made this man so dear? 1030 True--'tis to him my life, and more, I owe, And me and mine he spared from worse than woe: 'Tis late to think--but soft--his slumber breaks-- How heavily he sighs!--he starts--awakes!"
He raised his head, and dazzled with the light, His eye seemed dubious if it saw aright: He moved his hand--the grating of his chain Too harshly told him that he lived again.
"What is that form? if not a shape of air, Methinks, my jailor's face shows wondrous fair!" 1040 "Pirate! thou know'st me not, but I am one, Grateful for deeds thou hast too rarely done; Look on me--and remember her, thy hand s.n.a.t.c.hed from the flames, and thy more fearful band.
I come through darkness--and I scarce know why-- Yet not to hurt--I would not see thee die."
"If so, kind lady! thine the only eye That would not here in that gay hope delight: Theirs is the chance--and let them use their right.
But still I thank their courtesy or thine, 1050 That would confess me at so fair a shrine!"
Strange though it seem--yet with extremest grief Is linked a mirth--it doth not bring relief-- That playfulness of Sorrow ne'er beguiles, And smiles in bitterness--but still it smiles; And sometimes with the wisest and the best, Till even the scaffold echoes with their jest!
Yet not the joy to which it seems akin-- It may deceive all hearts, save that within.
Whate'er it was that flashed on Conrad, now 1060 A laughing wildness half unbent his brow: And these his accents had a sound of mirth, As if the last he could enjoy on earth; Yet 'gainst his nature--for through that short life, Few thoughts had he to spare from gloom and strife.
"Corsair! thy doom is named--but I have power To soothe the Pacha in his weaker hour.
Thee would I spare--nay more--would save thee now, But this--Time--Hope--nor even thy strength allow; But all I can,--I will--at least delay 1070 The sentence that remits thee scarce a day.
More now were ruin--even thyself were loth The vain attempt should bring but doom to both."
"Yes!--loth indeed:--my soul is nerved to all, Or fall'n too low to fear a further fall: Tempt not thyself with peril--me with hope Of flight from foes with whom I could not cope: Unfit to vanquish--shall I meanly fly, The one of all my band that would not die?
Yet there is one--to whom my Memory clings, 1080 Till to these eyes her own wild softness springs.
My sole resources in the path I trod Were these--my bark--my sword--my love--my G.o.d!
The last I left in youth!--He leaves me now-- And Man but works his will to lay me low.
I have no thought to mock his throne with prayer Wrung from the coward crouching of Despair; It is enough--I breathe--and I can bear.
My sword is shaken from the worthless hand That might have better kept so true a brand; 1090 My bark is sunk or captive--but my Love-- For her in sooth my voice would mount above: Oh! she is all that still to earth can bind-- And this will break a heart so more than kind, And blight a form--till thine appeared, Gulnare!
Mine eye ne'er asked if others were as fair."
"Thou lov'st another then?--but what to me Is this--'tis nothing--nothing e'er can be: But yet--thou lov'st--and--Oh! I envy those Whose hearts on hearts as faithful can repose, 1100 Who never feel the void--the wandering thought That sighs o'er visions--such as mine hath wrought."
"Lady--methought thy love was his, for whom This arm redeemed thee from a fiery tomb."
"My love stern Seyd's! Oh--No--No--not my love-- Yet much this heart, that strives no more, once strove To meet his pa.s.sion--but it would not be.
I felt--I feel--Love dwells with--with the free.
I am a slave, a favoured slave at best, To share his splendour, and seem very blest! 1110 Oft must my soul the question undergo, Of--'Dost thou love?' and burn to answer, 'No!'
Oh! hard it is that fondness to sustain, And struggle not to feel averse in vain; But harder still the heart's recoil to bear, And hide from one--perhaps another there.
He takes the hand I give not--nor withhold-- Its pulse nor checked--nor quickened--calmly cold: And when resigned, it drops a lifeless weight From one I never loved enough to hate. 1120 No warmth these lips return by his imprest, And chilled Remembrance shudders o'er the rest.
Yes--had I ever proved that Pa.s.sion's zeal, The change to hatred were at least to feel: But still--he goes unmourned--returns unsought-- And oft when present--absent from my thought.
Or when Reflection comes--and come it must-- I fear that henceforth 'twill but bring disgust; I am his slave--but, in despite of pride, 'Twere worse than bondage to become his bride. 1130 Oh! that this dotage of his breast would cease!
Or seek another and give mine release, But yesterday--I could have said, to peace!
Yes, if unwonted fondness now I feign,[hv]
Remember--Captive! 'tis to break thy chain; Repay the life that to thy hand I owe; To give thee back to all endeared below, Who share such love as I can never know.
Farewell--Morn breaks--and I must now away: 'Twill cost me dear--but dread no death to-day!" 1140
She pressed his fettered fingers to her heart, And bowed her head, and turned her to depart, And noiseless as a lovely dream is gone.
And was she here? and is he now alone?
What gem hath dropped and sparkles o'er his chain?
The tear most sacred, shed for others' pain, That starts at once--bright--pure--from Pity's mine, Already polished by the hand divine!
Oh! too convincing--dangerously dear-- In Woman's eye the unanswerable tear! 1150 That weapon of her weakness she can wield, To save, subdue--at once her spear and shield: Avoid it--Virtue ebbs and Wisdom errs, Too fondly gazing on that grief of hers!
What lost a world, and bade a hero fly?
The timid tear in Cleopatra's eye.
Yet be the soft Triumvir's fault forgiven; By this--how many lose not earth--but Heaven!
Consign their souls to Man's eternal foe, And seal their own to spare some Wanton's woe! 1160
'Tis Morn--and o'er his altered features play The beams--without the Hope of yesterday.
What shall he be ere night? perchance a thing O'er which the raven flaps her funeral wing, By his closed eye unheeded and unfelt; While sets that Sun, and dews of Evening melt, Chill, wet, and misty round each stiffened limb, Refreshing earth--reviving all but him!
CANTO THE THIRD.
"Come vedi--ancor non m'abbandona"
Dante, _Inferno_, v. 105.
Slow sinks, more lovely ere his race be run,
Along Morea's hills the setting Sun; 1170 Not, as in Northern climes, obscurely bright, But one unclouded blaze of living light!
O'er the hushed deep the yellow beam he throws, Gilds the green wave, that trembles as it glows.
On old aegina's rock, and Idra's isle,
The G.o.d 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 gulf, unconquered Salamis! 1180 Their azure arches through the long expanse More deeply purpled met 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 looked his last.
How watched thy better sons his farewell ray, That closed their murdered Sage's latest day! 1190 Not yet--not yet--Sol pauses on the hill-- The precious hour of parting lingers still; But sad his light to agonising eyes, And dark the mountain's once delightful dyes: Gloom o'er the lovely land he seemed to pour, The land, where Phoebus never frowned before: But ere he sunk below Cithaeron's head, The cup of woe was quaffed--the Spirit fled; The Soul of him who scorned to fear or fly-- Who lived and died, as none can live or die! 1200
But lo! from high Hymettus to the plain, The Queen of night a.s.serts her silent reign.
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; 1210 The cypress saddening by the sacred Mosque, The gleaming turret of the gay Kiosk;
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 pa.s.sed him heedless by.
Again the aegean, heard no more afar, Lulls his chafed breast from elemental war; Again his waves in milder tints unfold Their long array of sapphire and of gold, 1220 Mixed with the shades of many a distant isle, That frown--where gentler Ocean seems to smile.
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 cl.u.s.tering Cyclades! 1230 Nor seems this homage foreign to its strain, 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 returned, and yet His only tidings that they had not met! 1240 Though wild, as now, far different were the tale Had Conrad waited for that single sail.
The night-breeze freshens--she that day had pa.s.sed In watching all that Hope proclaimed a mast; Sadly she sate on high--Impatience bore At last her footsteps to the midnight sh.o.r.e, And there she wandered, heedless of the spray That dashed her garments oft, and warned away: She saw not, felt not this--nor dared depart, Nor deemed it cold--her chill was at her heart; 1250 Till grew such certainty from that suspense-- His very Sight had shocked from life or sense!