« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
'Tis still a watch-word to the earth:
When man would do a deed of worth
He points to Greece, and turns to tread,
So sanction'd, on the tyrant's head:
He looks to her, and rushes on
Where life is lost, or freedom won. 1
Still by the shore Alp mutely mused,
And woo'd the freshness Night diffused.
There shrinks no ebb in that tideless sea,
Which changeless rolls eternally;
So that wildest of waves, in their angriest mood,
Scarce break on the bounds of the land for a rood;
And the powerless moon beholds them flow,
Heedless if she come or go:
Calm or high, in main or bay,
On their course she hath no sway.
The rock unworn its base doth bare,
And looks o'er the surf, but it comes not there; And the fringe of the foam may be seen below, On the line that it left long ages ago:
A smooth short space of yellow sand Between it and the greener land.
He wander'd on, along the beach,
Till within the range of a carbine's reach
Of the leaguer'd wall; but they saw him not,
Or how could he 'scape from the hostile shot? 3
Did traitors lurk in the Christians' hold?
Were their hands grown stiff, or their hearts wax'd cold?
I know not, in sooth; but from yonder wall
There flash'd no fire, and there hiss'd no ball,
Though he stood beneath the bastion's frown,
That flank'd the sea-ward gate of the town;
Though he heard the sound, and could almost tell
The sullen words of the sentinel,
As his measured step on the stone below
Clank'd, as he paced it to and fro;
And he saw the lean dogs beneath the wall
Hold o'er the dead their carnival, 4
Gorging and growling o'er carcass and limb;
They were too busy to bark at him!
From a Tartar's skull they had stripp'd the flesh,
As ye peel the fig when its fruit is fresh ;
And their white tusks crunch'd o'er the whiter skull, "
As it slipp'd through their jaws, when their edge grew
As they lazily mumbled the bones of the dead, [dull,
When they scarce could rise from the spot where they
["Where Freedom loveliest may be won."-MS.]
2 The reader need hardly be reminded that there are no perceptible tides in the Mediterranean.
3 [ Or would not waste on a single head
The ball on numbers better sped."- MS.] [Omit the rest of this section. GIFFORD.]
5 This spectacle I have seen, such as described, beneath the wall of the Seraglio at Constantinople, in the little cavities worn by the Bosphorus in the rock, a narrow terrace of which projects between the wall and the water. I think the fact is also mentioned in Hobhouse's Travels. The bodies were probably those of some refractory Janizaries. ["The sensations produced by the state of the weather, and leaving a comfortable cabin, were in unison with the impressions which we felt when, passing under the palace of the sultans, and gazing at the gloomy cypresses which rise above the walls, we saw two dogs gnawing a dead body.' HOBHOUSE.]
[This passage shows the force of Lord Byron's pencil. JEFFREY.]
7 This tuft, or long lock, is left, from a superstition that Mahomet will draw them into Paradise by it.
[Than the mangled corpse in its own blood lying. — G.]
So well had they broken a lingering fast
With those who had fallen for that night's repast. 6
And Alp knew, by the turbans that roll'd on the sand,
The foremost of these were the best of his band:
Crimson and green were the shawls of their wear,
And each scalp had a single long tuft of hair, 7
All the rest was shaven and bare.
The scalps were in the wild dog's maw, The hair was tangled round his jaw.
But close by the shore, on the edge of the gulf, There sat a vulture flapping a wolf,
Who had stolen from the hills, but kept away, Scared by the dogs, from the human prey; But he seized on his share of a steed that lay, Pick'd by the birds, on the sands of the bay.
Alp turn'd him from the sickening sight: Never had shaken his nerves in fight;
But he better could brook to behold the dying,
Deep in the tide of their warm blood lying, 8
Scorch'd with the death-thirst, and writhing in vain,
Than the perishing dead who are past all pain. 9
There is something of pride in the perilous hour,
Whate'er be the shape in which death may lower;
For Fame is there to say who bleeds,
And Honour's eye on daring deeds!
But when all is past, it is humbling to tread
O'er the weltering field of the tombless dead, 10
And see worms of the earth, and fowls of the air,
Beasts of the forest, all gathering there;
All regarding man as their prey,
All rejoicing in his decay.11
There is a temple in ruin stands,
Fashion'd by long forgotten hands;
Two or three columns, and many a stone,
Marble and granite, with grass o'ergrown!
Out upon Time! it will leave no more
Of the things to come than the things before ! 12
Out upon Time! who for ever will leave
But enough of the past for the future to grieve
O'er that which hath been, and o'er that which must
What we have seen, our sons shall see;
Remnants of things that have pass'd away,
Fragments of stone, rear'd by creatures of clay ! 19
He sate him down at a pillar's base, 1
And pass'd his hand athwart his face;
Like one in dreary musing mood,
Declining was his attitude;
His head was drooping on his breast,
Fever'd, throbbing, and oppress'd:
And o'er his brow, so downward bent,
Oft his beating fingers went,
Hurriedly, as you may see
Your own run over the ivory key,
Ere the measured tone is taken
By the chords you would awaken.
There he sate all heavily,
As he heard the night-wind sigh.
Was it the wind through some hollow stone,
Sent that soft and tender moan? 2
He lifted his head, and he look'd on the sea,
But it was unrippled as glass may be;
He look'd on the long grass-it waved not a blade;
How was that gentle sound convey'd ?
He look'd to the banners-each flag lay still,
So did the leaves on Citharon's hill,
And he felt not a breath come over his cheek;
What did that sudden sound bespeak?
He turn'd to the leftis he sure of sight?
There sate a lady, youthful and bright!
He started up with more of fear
Than if an armed foe were near.
"God of my fathers! what is here?
Who art thou, and wherefore sent
So near a hostile armament ? "
His trembling hands refused to sign
The cross he deem'd no more divine:
He had resumed it in that hour,
But conscience wrung away the power.
He gazed, he saw he knew the face
Of beauty, and the form of grace;
It was Francesca by his side,
The maid who might have been his bride!
The rose was yet upon her cheek,
But mellow'd with a tenderer streak:
Where was the play of her soft lips fled?
Gone was the smile that enliven'd their red.
The ocean's calm within their view,
Beside her eye had less of blue;
But like that cold wave it stood still,
And its glance 3, though clear, was chill.
Around her form a thin robe twining,
Nought conceal'd her bosom shining;
Through the parting of her hair,
Floating darkly downward there,
Her rounded arm show'd white and bare:
[From this, all is beautiful to
He saw not, he knew not; but nothing is there."GIFFORD.]
2 I must here acknowledge a close, though unintentional, resemblance in these twelve lines to a passage in an unpublished poem of Mr. Coleridge, called "Christabel." It was not till after these lines were written that I heard that wild and singularly original and beautiful poem recited; and the MS. of that production I never saw till very recently, by the kindness of Mr. Coleridge himself, who, I hope, is convinced that I have not been a wilful plagiarist. The original idea undoubtedly pertains to Mr. Coleridge, whose poem has been composed above fourteen years. Let me conclude by a hope that he will not longer delay the publication of a production, of which I can only add my mite of approbation to the applause
And her motionless lips lay still as death,
And her words came forth without her breath,
And there rose not a heave o'er her bosom's swell,
And there seem'd not a pulse in her veins to dwell.
Though her eye shone out, yet the lids were fix'd,
And the glance that it gave was wild and unmix'd
With aught of change, as the eyes may seem
Of the restless who walk in a troubled dream;
Like the figures on arras, that gloomily glare,
Stirr'd by the breath of the wintry air, 1
So seen by the dying lamp's fitful light,
Lifeless, but life-like, and awful to sight;
As they seem, through the dimness, about to come
From the shadowy wall where their images frown; 2
Fearfully flitting to and fro,
As the gusts on the tapestry come and go.
3 I have been told that the idea expressed in this and the five following lines has been admired by those whose approbation is valuable. I am glad of it: but it is not originalat least not mine; it may be found much better expressed in pages 182-3-4. of the English version of " Vathek" (I forget the precise page of the French), a work to which I have before referred; and never recur to, or read, without a renewal of gratification. [The following is the passage:**Deluded prince!' said the Genius, addressing the Caliph, to whom Providence hath confided the care of innumerable subjects; is it thus that thou fulfillest thy mission? Thy crimes are already completed; and art thou hastening to thy punishment? Thou knowest that bo
No-though that cloud were thunder's worst,
And charged to crush him-let it burst!
He look'd upon it earnestly
Without an accent of reply;
He watch'd it passing; it is flown:
Full on his eye the clear moon shone,
And thus he spake-"Whate'er my fate,
I am no changeling-'t is too late :
The reed in storms may bow and quiver,
Then rise again; the tree must shiver.
What Venice made me, I must be,
Her foe in all, save love to thee:
But thou art safe: oh, fly with me!
He turn'd, but she is gone!
Nothing is there but the column stone.
Hath she sunk in the earth, or melted in air?
He saw not-he knew not—but nothing is there.
The night is past, and shines the sun
As if that morn were a jocund one. 4
Lightly and brightly breaks away
The Morning from her mantle grey,
And the Noon will look on a sultry day. 5
Hark to the trump, and the drum,
And the mournful sound of the barbarous horn, And the flap of the banners, that flit as they 're borne, And the neigh of the steed, and the multitude's hum, And the clash, and the shout, "They come ! they 99 come!
The horsetails 6 are pluck'd from the ground, and the sword [word. From its sheath; and they form, and but wait for the Tartar, and Spahi, and Turcoman,
Strike your tents, and throng to the van;
Mount ye, spur ye, skirr the plain,
That the fugitive may flee in vain,
When he breaks from the town; and none escape,
Aged or young, in the Christian shape;
While your fellows on foot, in a fiery mass,
Bloodstain the breach through which they pass.7
The steeds are all bridled, and snort to the rein;
Curved is each neck, and flowing each mane;
White is the foam of their champ on the bit:
The spears are uplifted; the matches are lit;
The cannon are pointed, and ready to roar,
And crush the wall they have crumbled before: 8
Forms in his phalanx each Janizar;
Alp at their head; his right arm is bare,
So is the blade of his scimitar;
yond those mountains Eblis and his accursed dives hold their infernal empire; and, seduced by a malignant phantom, thou art proceeding to surrender thyself to them! This moment is the last of grace allowed thee: give back Nouronahar to her father, who still retains a few sparks of life: destroy thy tower with all its abominations: drive Carathis from thy councils: be just to thy subjects: respect the ministers of the prophet: compensate for thy impieties by an exemplary life; and, instead of squandering thy days in voluptuous indulgence, lament thy crimes on the sepulchres of thy ancestors. Thou beholdest the clouds that obscure the sun at the instant he recovers his splendour, if thy heart be not changed, the time of mercy assigned thee will be past
The khan and the pachas are all at their post; The vizier himself at the head of the host. When the culverin's signal is fired, then on; Leave not in Corinth a living one
A priest at her altars, a chief in her halls,
A hearth in her mansions, a stone on her walls.
God and the prophet-Alla Hu!
Up to the skies with that wild halloo !
"There the breach lies for passage, the ladder to scale;
And your hands on your sabres, and how should ye fail?
He who first downs with the red cross may crave
His heart's dearest wish; let him ask it, and have!"
Thus utter'd Coumourgi, the dauntless vizier;
The reply was the brandish of sabre and spear,
And the shout of fierce thousands in joyous ire:-
Silence-bark to the signal-fire!
As the wolves, that headlong go
On the stately buffalo,
Though with fiery eyes, and angry roar,
And hoofs that stamp, and horns that gore,
He tramples on earth, or tosses on high
The foremost, who rush on his strength but to die :
Thus against the wall they went,
Thus the first were backward bent;2
Many a bosom, sheathed in brass,
Strew'd the earth like broken glass,
Shiver'd by the shot, that tore
The ground whereon they moved no more:
Even as they fell, in files they lay,
Like the mower's grass at the close of day,
When his work is done on the levell'd plain;
Such was the fall of the foremost slain. 3
As the spring-tides, with heavy plash,
From the cliffs invading dash
Huge fragments, sapp'd by the ceaseless flow,
Till white and thundering down they go,
Like the avalanche's snow
On the Alpine vales below;
Thus at length, outbreathed and worn, Corinth's sons were downward borne By the long and oft renew'd
Charge of the Moslem multitude.
In firmness they stood, and in masses they fell,
Heap'd, by the host of the infidel,
Hand to hand, and foot to foot:
Nothing there, save death, was mute;
Stroke, and thrust, and flash, and cry
For quarter, or for victory,
Mingle there with the volleying thunder,
Which makes the distant cities wonder
How the sounding battle goes,
If with them, or for their foes;
If they must mourn, or may rejoice In that annihilating voice,
1["He who first downs with the red-cross may crave," &c. What vulgarism is this! -
"He who lowers,—or plucks down," &c.— GIFFORD.]
2 [Thus against the wall they bent,
Thus the first were backward sent.-G.]
3 [Such was the fall of the foremost train.-G.] [There stood a man, &c.-G.]
5 ["Lurk'd," a bad word-say " Was hid." — G.]
There stood an old man 4 his hairs were white, But his veteran arm was full of might:
So gallantly bore he the brunt of the fray,
The dead before him, on that day,
In a semicircle lay;
Still he combated unwounded,
Though retreating, unsurrounded.
Many a scar of former fight
Lurk'd 5 beneath his corslet bright;
But of every wound his body bore,
Each and all had been ta'en before :
Though aged, he was so iron of limb,
Few of our youth could cope with him;
And the foes, whom he singly kept at bay,
Outnumber'd his thin hairs 6 of silver grey.
From right to left his sabre swept:
Many an Othman mother wept
Sons that were unborn, when dipp'd7
His weapon first in Moslem gore,
Ere his years could count a score.
Of all he might have been the sire 8
Who fell that day beneath his ire:
For, sonless left long years ago,
His wrath made many a childless foe;
And since the day, when in the strait 9
His only boy had met his fate,
His parent's iron hand did doom
More than a human hecatomb. 10
If shades by carnage be appeased,
Patroclus' spirit less was pleased
Than his, Minotti's son, who died
Where Asia's bounds and ours divide.
Buried he lay, where thousands before
For thousands of years were inhumed on the shore;
What of them is left, to tell
Where they lie, and how they fell?
Not a stone on their turf, nor a bone in their graves; But they live in the verse that immortally saves.
6 [Outnumber'd his hairs, &c. — GIFFORD.]
7 [Sons that were unborn, when he dipp'd. — G.]
[Bravo! this is better than King Priam's fifty sons. - G.]
9 In the naval battle at the mouth of the Dardanelles, between the Venetians and Turks.
10 [There can be no such thing; but the whole of this is poor, and spun out. - -G.]
Hark to the Allah shout!1 a band
Of the Mussulman bravest and best is at hand:
Their leader's nervous arm is bare,
Swifter to smite, and never to spare-
Unclothed to the shoulder it waves them on;
Thus in the fight is he ever known:
Others a gaudier garb may show,
To tempt the spoil of the greedy foe;
Many a hand's on a richer hilt,
But none on a steel more ruddily gilt;
Many a loftier turban may wear,—
Alp is but known by the white arm bare;
Look through the thick of the fight, 'tis there!
There is not a standard on that shore
So well advanced the ranks before;
There is not a banner in Moslem war
Will lure the Delhis half so far;
It glances like a falling star!
Where'er that mighty arm is seen,
The bravest be, or late have been; %
There the craven cries for quarter
Vainly to the vengeful Tartar;
Or the hero, silent lying,
Scorns to yield a groan in dying;
Mustering his last feeble blow
'Gainst the nearest levell'd foe,
Though faint beneath the mutual wound,
Grappling on the gory ground.
From within the neighbouring porch
Of a long defended church,
Where the last and desperate few
Would the failing fight renew,
The sharp shot dash'd Alp to the ground;
Erc.an eye could view the wound
That crash'd through the brain of the infidel,
Round he spun, and down he fell;
A flash like fire within his eyes
Blazed, as he bent no more to rise,
And then eternal darkness sunk
Through all the palpitating trunk; 5
Nought of life left, save a quivering
Where his limbs were slightly shivering:
They turn'd him on his back; his breast
And brow were stain'd with gore and dust,
And through his lips the life-blood oozed,
From its deep veins lately loosed;
But in his pulse there was no throb,
Nor on his lips one dying sob;
Sigh, nor word, nor struggling breath
Heralded his way to death:
Ere his very thought could pray,
Unanel'd he pass'd away,
Without a hope from mercy's aid, -
To the last-a Renegade, 6
Fearfully the yell arose
Of his followers, and his foes;
These in joy, in fury those : 7
Then again in conflict mixing,
Clashing swords, and spears transfixing,
Interchanged the blow and thrust,
Hurling warriors in the dust.
Street by street, and foot by foot,
Still Minotti dares dispute
The latest portion of the land
Left beneath his high command;
With him, aiding heart and hand,
The remnant of his gallant band.
Still the church is tenable,
Whence issued late the fated ball
That half avenged the city's fall,
When Alp, her fierce assailant, fell:
Thither bending sternly back,
They leave before a bloody track;
And, with their faces to the foe,
Dealing wounds with every blow, 8
The chief, and his retreating train,
Join to those within the fane;
There they yet may breathe awhile,
Shelter'd by the massy pile.
Brief breathing-time! the turban'd host, With adding ranks and raging boast,
the Corsair, Lara, the Giaour, Alp, &c. than belongs to them. The incidents, habits, &c. are much too remote from modern and European life to act as mischievous examples to others; while, under the given circumstances, the splendour of imagery, beauty and tenderness of sentiment, and extraordinary strength and felicity of language, are applicable to human nature at all times, and in all countries, and convey to the best faculties of the reader's mind an impulse which elevates, refines, instructs, and enchants, with the noblest and purest of all pleasures. Sir E. BRYDGES.]
7 ["These in rage, in triumph those."- MS.] 8 [Dealing death with every blow.