THE MAID OF ARRAGON.
1 OH, ye! whose sympathetic hearts are form'd
2 To woe responsive, and whose trem'lous nerves
3 Vibrate to Sorrow's mournful airs — attend!
4 Not you, ye gay! not you, ye vacant crouds!
5 Who labour through the pleasures of the world,
6 Nor feel existence when they cease t'impel;
7 I call not you! — for, oh, your callous bosoms
8 Fell Dissipation steels, and robs your minds
9 Of the sweet energies bestow'd by Heaven:
10 But, come, ye few! who love the lonely hour;
11 Who know the sense refin'd, the charming agony,
12 Which Pity gives the hallow'd hearts she fills;
13 To you I call! oh, come, and trace with me
14 (Whilst glitt'ring Hesperus holds high his torch)
15 The mazy windings of yon solemn wood.
16 Behold the lawn, which opens on the left,
17 With crocus border'd, aromatic thyme,[Page 2]
18 And ev'ry fragrant shrub that tempts the bee
19 Down from the liquid air, to bathe in sweets.
20 The op'ning wicket of that humble cot,
21 By slow degrees, moves gently on its hinge:
22 And now, with cautious tread, the soft OSMIDA,
23 Looking a blessing on her slumb'ring Sire,
24 The threshold quits; when, from his short repose,
25 Aged ALMANZOR starts: — Where art thou, Child?
26 Where is my darling? Oh! return, OSMIDA!
27 Why wilt thou wander in Night's chilly air,
28 And trust thy bosom to its piercing dews?
29 Return, my Child! th' unpitying winds will shake
30 Thy tender frame. —
30 The night is calm, my Father!
31 Scarcely a zephyr moves the restless aspin;
32 And the clear moon, with soft inviting beam,
33 Looks through the foliage of the lofty pines.
34 A moment let me breathe the balmy air!
35 Confin'd beneath the cottage roof by fear,
36 And more confin'd by duteous cares for thee,
37 All day I live immur'd. Then let me now
38 Taste Nature's blessings — exercise and air.
39 Heaven guard my Child! But soon return, OSMIDA;
40 And downy sleep shake slumbers on thy pillow!
41 OSMIDA quits the cot, and bends her steps
42 Towards the margin of a neighb'ring lake:
43 But not its lucid bosom tempts her steps,
44 Nor moon inviting through the lofty pines,
45 Nor balmy air, nor healthful exercise;
46 Ah, no! — it is to breathe her bosom'd anguish,
47 Where Grief, though audible, wastes her sad voice
48 In ambient air — not torturing the ear
49 Of the rever'd ALMANZOR, Sire belov'd!
50 Bending to earth, with eyes that penetrate
51 The glowing canopy of heaven; in sounds
52 More mournful than the widow'd stock-dove's plaints
53 — Tender as youthful mother's lulling song,
54 She thus address'd Omnipotence divine:
55 Oh, Thou! in whose eternal, boundless sight,
56 The woes, or happiness, that overpower
57 The mind of finite man, seem but as drops,
58 That in the vast abyss unite their littleness,
59 To form one mighty whole — to Thee I pray!
60 Not for myself I pray, but for my Father;
61 For him whose care-worn heart, drooping, oppress'd,
62 And torn with barbed griefs, seems torn from thee.
63 His soul her wonted confidence forsakes;
64 He falls from thee; he leans not on the rock,
65 The sacred rock, by which alone he stands
66 — And quitting, sinks to measureless despair.
67 Oh, Thou, accept my humble heart for his!
68 Hear, hear ALMANZOR, in OSMIDA's voice!
69 'Tis he implores. Bless, comfort, heal his griefs;
70 And to thyself attach his sorrow-tempted heart!
71 Next for my Country, Heav'n, oh, hear my pray'r!
72 Behold her struggles with a pitying eye!
73 Drive from thy temple-gates the mocking infidel!
74 Restore thy altars! Send —
75 The pious Virgin's voice, with terror choak'd,
76 Unfinish'd left her pray'r. Forth, from the shade
77 Of the surrounding thicket, rush'd a Knight,
78 In shining armour clad, borne on a steed
79 Who seem'd to scorn the earth, his light heel pass'd,
80 As though his element had been the air:
81 Swift, as the breath of fierce Euroclydon
82 He bore his master to the spangled lake,[Page 4]
83 Whose borders, by OSMIDA's knee still press'd,
84 In thousand glowing colours bloom'd around her,
85 In thousand scents perfum'd the tranquil air.
86 Light vaulting on the ground, the Knight approach'd,
87 And in such courteous phrase address'd the Maid,
88 That half her terrors ended with his words.
89 Leave me, Sir Knight! with firmness she reply'd;
90 And as she spoke, her voice, though sweet, express'd
91 A custom to command. Leave me, Sir Knight!
92 This solitude is to Misfortune sacred;
93 None ever tread these unfrequented wilds,
94 But those to whom the door of sweet Society,
95 And Friendship's holy gate, are shut forever.
96 And can the social door, and Friendship's gate,
97 To thee oppose their brazen locks? O Heaven!
98 The peopled world thy angels have sorsook,
99 And here in deserts dwell — in human form,
100 But in celestial beauty! Tell me, Virgin!
101 — For sure the awe, with which thy eye inspires,
102 Bespeaks thy vestal state — tell me, fair Maid!
103 What ills, what sore affliction, thee have driven
104 To seek, in these sequester'd shades, felicity
105 By man refus'd?
105 My sorrows, gentle Knight!
106 I dare not whisper to the speechless air
107 — Still less intrust them to a stranger's ear:
108 Yet, from your courtesy, I must demand
109 My solitude again; and, as you hope
110 For blessing from the Pow'r who hears my voice,
111 Swear never to divulge, that in these glades
112 A Maid you found — by outward beauty grac'd,
113 But whose sad heart, Sorrow hath call'd her own,
114 And stern Affliction long enroll'd a sister!
115 The Stranger paus'd: and then, as if to win
116 Her confidence, and woo her from reserve
117 By frank example, thus the Nymph address'd:
118 To whom should I reveal this bless'd abode?
119 Whose feet conduct to violate your haunts?
120 I, who, like you, by keen misfortunes press'd,
121 Seek shelter from the world; and even now
122 Forsake my native skies; quit Gallia's shores,
123 Her purple vineyards leave, her fertile meads,
124 Her ever blooming fields — all these I quit —
125 For these, to wretched hearts, bloom, swell, and fertilise, in vain.
126 Unhappy Youth! breath'd forth the sad OSMIDA;
127 And is Affliction's appetite so vast,
128 That daily victims can't allay her rage?
129 But, gentle Knight! where will your journey end?
130 What Porter waits to hear your bugle sound,
131 And ope the gates, with welcome in his face
132 To greet his honour'd Lord's expected guest?
133 Alas! sweet Maid! no hospitable gate
134 DE COURCI seeks; no welcome waits his steps:
135 To Eastern climes I bend my weary course;
136 — Jerusalem the home which ends my progress.
137 There let me bear your woes. Instruct me, Lady!
138 That at the Holy Sepulchre your name
139 May animate my pray'rs; that there your griefs
140 May, sanctify'd, ascend the porch of heav'n,
141 And, in their stead, soft peace, and blooming joy,
142 Return into your breast. That duty pass'd,
143 My sword shall lend its vigour to the cause
144 — The sacred cause, which arms our Christian legions,
145 And drains our cities of their val'rous Knights.
146 OSMIDA's eye, beaming with new-born hope,
147 And gratitude awak'd, shot forth her thoughts,[Page 6]
148 Ere from her vermeil lips these accents stole
149 — In breath more fragrant than an Eastern morn:
150 Wilt thou remember me at Zion's gate?
151 And shall my sorrows from the holy cave,
152 In which the Saviour drew his second breath,
153 Ascend to the Almighty's throne? — Again
154 She stopp'd, and check'd her growing frankness.
155 The Stranger saw instinctive prudence rise,
156 And fear'd to give the virtue time to act.
157 Yes, he rejoin'd, with zeal more pure and ardent
158 Than converts feel, who, at the holy altar,
159 Bewail a life of curst idolatry,
160 Will I your sorrows pour, in that bless'd spot
161 Where Sorrow surely cannot plead in vain.
162 Struck with the piety which deck'd his words,
163 Yet doubting still, the timid, trusting Virgin,
164 In silence, with herself thus cogitates:
165 A Christian Knight he is, and with his life
166 Now hast'ning to support the Christian cause.
167 Oceans and continents will soon divide us:
168 Why then the knowledge of my woes with-hold,
169 When bless'd Benevolence demands the tale?
170 Then, turning to the Stranger, meekly said
171 — Such kind persuasion confidence demands;
172 Yet patience will you need, whilst I relate
173 Events so strong, they fitter would become
174 A manly tongue. Of battles I must speak,
175 Of falling kingdoms, and victorious arms.
176 These strains accord not with a female voice;
177 Yet will I strive to nerve my thoughts and language,
178 And raise my fancy to the lofty theme.
179 But not alone of war shall I discourse,
180 Of meeting armies, or contending states. [Page 7]
181 — Here on this sloping bank, Sir Knight, repose;
182 And I a tale — for Pity — will unfold,
183 Were Pity's tears innum'rous as the sands.
184 The Knight, with token of respect, obey'd.
185 OSMIDA, with the grace of sweet reserve,
186 At gentle distance, near the moss-grown roots
187 Of an expanding beech, a Wood-nymph seem'd
188 — A woodland goddess! and her grassy seat
189 Chaste Dian's rural throne. Grave Recollection
190 On her sweet features spread an air compos'd;
191 Whilst in Night's zenith — 'midst her radiant court,
192 The crystal Moon seem'd fix'd in still attention:
193 The silent waters of the lake more silent flow'd:
194 The Zephyrs, drawing close their silken wings,
195 In soft subjection held the rustling branches:
196 The wheeling bat far off her circles draws;
197 Whilst the Night's sweet musician still'd her song,
198 To learn a sadder note — from fair OSMIDA.
199 All thus in silence wrapt, the thoughtful Maid,
200 With tone sedate, begins the promis'd tale.
201 This happy clime — this Arragonian realm,
202 Had late a Monarch, whom her Sons rever'd;
203 — As King rever'd him, as a Father lov'd:
204 He lov'd his People, knew no care but theirs;
205 And the fond blessings, which they gave his name,
206 Blunted the thorns a diadem conceals.
207 Peace, in this happy reign, her throne establish'd,
208 And brought her proper blessings in her train;
209 Fair Commerce wav'd her pennons in our ports;
210 The fertile plough subdu'd our sterile fields;
211 Our granaries, like those of Egypt, drew
212 From neighb'ring countries, riches and renown. [Page 8]
213 The cottage Peasant, round his well-fill'd board,
214 Saw thankful faces and contented hearts:
215 No iron taxes grip'd his pallid frame,
216 Nor tore the morsel from his children's mouths:
217 Blithe as the morn he rose to healthful labour,
218 And hail'd, with joy, th'approach of festive eve.
219 Such once the favour'd lot of envied Arragon.
220 Her fame, her riches, spreading to the East,
221 Entic'd the Moors from their polluted home:
222 Sudden their prows invade our peaceful seas;
223 — Sudden the bold Barbarians croud our shores;
224 Defenceless hamlets turn unnatural beacons,
225 And blaze the woe-fraught tidings through the land.
226 Like a night-torrent, fierce, uncheck'd, they come
227 With devastation at their coursers heels;
228 Death, rapine, ruin, mark their dreadful progress,
229 And reach the bulwarks of the royal city.
230 Deep consternation spreads through ev'ry street;
231 Th'affrighted virgins to the temples run;
232 The mother grasps her child, and shrieking flies;
233 Whilst husbands, fathers, brothers, all in arms,
234 Chide the dear mourners who retard their speed,
235 Snatch last adieus, and rush upon the walls.
236 But from the walls, what image strikes the view!
237 A turban'd phalanx on the hill appear'd,
238 Rapid descending to the plain below.
239 Upon the right advanc'd a mighty column,
240 Of armed chariots form'd — so thickly set
241 With scythes, and swords, and barbed spears, each seem'd
242 A steely porcupine; whose burnish'd quills,
243 Catching the rays of the meridian sun,
244 Gleam'd back upon the town refulgent horror. [Page 9]
245 Upon the left hand mov'd the tawny marksmen,
246 Whose ebon bows, and quivers richly stor'd,
247 They sung, were given by Death — unerring archer!
248 The dreadful pomp descended to the plain,
249 Fix'd their bold standards, and entrenchments form'd,
250 — Whilst our scar'd citizens observ'd their works,
251 Like trembling birds, who, looking from their nests
252 Upon the charming cockatrice, behold
253 Inevitable fate. But black despair,
254 That first enerv'd, next lent their courage fury:
255 Lead us! they cry'd — lead to the Moorish camp!
256 What are their numbers, single as they come?
257 With us, our parents, children, lovers, laws,
258 Religion, liberty — all join the battle,
259 — Brace our firm arms, and give ten thousand points,
260 Ten thousand deaths, to ev'ry Christian sword.
261 This holy rage, like sparks electric, flew
262 From man to man. Each urg'd his valiant friend,
263 To save their city, matrons, daughters, wives,
264 — As if on each their preservation hung.
265 Scarce could the pious King restrain their ardor,
266 So sure they seem'd of conquest and revenge.
267 But he, who knew that from th'almighty arm
268 Their foes' destruction only could proceed,
269 The gates of every temple open threw,
270 And, with humiliation deep, repair'd
271 Before the sacred altar of our God.
272 The soldiers, citizens, the nobles croud,
273 And ev'ry holy roof grew instant vocal.
274 Prostrate and weeping, they implor'd the High
275 For Gideon's sword, and mighty Joshua's arm.
276 "Shield us!" they cry'd — "Oh, save thy faithful people!
277 Nor give us to the mockers, for a scorn! [Page 10]
278 Omnipotence! preserve us from the yoke
279 The foe prepares for our devoted necks!
280 Humble the boasters, who repose their strength,
281 Not on thy arm, but in their own frail numbers!
282 To Thee! O God of Battles! we appeal.
283 Hear, hear our voice!" — When lo! from Heaven's bright concave,
284 In gracious intimation, that their prayers,
285 Wafted by guardian spirits, reach'd the throne,
286 A mighty peal of thunder rapt their ears,
287 And purple lightnings quiver in the sky.
288 The Arragons, with hopes thus sanctified,
289 Rush'd from the temples, like impetuous flames;
290 — Or like fierce tigers, who their destin'd prey
291 At distance see; and pant, and foam, and rage,
292 With pride of certain conquest. But their prince
293 Strove this incautious ardor to restrain.
294 — All-bounteous Heav'n, he cry'd, by means, not miracles,
295 Decides the fate of armies, and of kings.
296 Let prudent foresight, then, direct your aims,
297 Lest rashness blights the harvest of your courage!
298 The haughty Moors, contemptuous of our strength,
299 Doubtless expect to see our opening gates
300 Receive them, masters, at the trumpet's signal:
301 To aid their blindness, we will offers make,
302 Of terms too humble for a state in freedom,
303 And yet too high for Conqu'rors to accept.
304 Then, in the night's meridian, when no star,
305 With tell-tale beams upon our polish'd mail,
306 Shall shew us to the watchful centinel,
307 — Then will we rouse the lion from his den,
308 And prove our courage worthy of our cause.
309 The humming notes of growing apprchation,
310 Like distant thunder, gaining on the ear,[Page 11]
311 Broke forth at once into applausive shouts.
312 Live! live the King! re-echoed ev'ry mouth;
313 O guard my People! said the heart-touch'd King.
314 The heralds sent, and their misleading terms,
315 To blind, with fears unfelt, the Moorish camp,
316 All now prepare, for the wish'd hour of onset.
317 The sounding anvils beat their clanging music;
318 Peace-rusted swords regain their edge and polish;
319 The nervous archer tries his idle bow,
320 And gives new plumage to his missile darts.
321 The matrons, virgins, catch the martial fire:
322 These songs prepare, these rosy garlands twine,
323 To greet, on their return, the conqu'ring heroes.
324 Yet, 'mongst the virgins, one sad heart was found;
325 'Twas in the bosom of the royal Princess.
326 Her vows, her plighted troth, had long been given
327 To young MONTENOS, Duke Medina's Heir.
328 He, only he, could melt her icy breast;
329 — None could so well deserve an untouch'd heart.
330 His mind, more noble than his princely birth,
331 Lent glory to his name: matchless his form!
332 As poets feign celestial Virtue wears,
333 When visible to man. Oh! wonder not,
334 The Princess lov'd with strength no common flame
335 Could have inspir'd! Her soul was full of love:
336 She liv'd, she breath'd, she thought, but for MONTENOS.
337 Ten thousand terrors now besieg'd her soul;
338 Ten thousand nothings, which her fancy drest
339 In colour, substance, circumstance, and form.
340 Yet, from her lover, 'twas her care to hide
341 The tender weakness which her heart confest.
342 Shall I, she cry'd, a mighty kingdom's heir,
343 Shew terrors that the humbler maids despise? [Page 12]
344 My Country rocks upon a precipice.
345 — Go then, MONTENOS! prop her falling state!
346 Repel th'invader! tread on Slav'ry's neck!
347 And 'mongst her dear preservers be thou Chief!
348 The shades of eve advance, and from the camp
349 The subtle messengers return — return
350 With insult loaded, and contemptuous threats.
351 No less the Moors demand than general vassalage;
352 That conquer'd Arragon — so proud their style!
353 Should yield them homage, and perpetual tribute.
354 A day they grant us to resolve on slavery,
355 — To turn apostates, and revolt from Heaven,
356 Or see our towers extended in the dust.
357 No terms or messengers they will receive;
358 But open'd gates, and crescents on our spires,
359 The answer they expect. This lofty menace
360 Less with surprise than anger was receiv'd;
361 — It spoke the spirit of the fierce invaders.
362 Some hours — tremendous pause! were yet to pass
363 Between this period, and that meant for action:
364 Gloomy suspence sat brooding o'er the army,
365 And hid, not damp'd, the ardor of their courage.
366 All, self-collected, seem'd retir'd within,
367 And the full mind had render'd language mute.
368 At this grand moment, when no thought of aid,
369 — Of human aid, had glanc'd across the soul,
370 In from the Western gate — like bees returning
371 From their diurnal circuit — rush'd amain
372 Ten thousand sons of war. At this bless'd sight,
373 Such transport seiz'd the citizens, and troops,
374 It seem'd triumphant holiday, and joy
375 Would even in frolic sport — so sudden the effect.
376 To Leon's King we ow'd this grateful succour:[Page 13]
377 He heard the Moors were hov'ring on our coasts,
378 And, as a Christian king, the cause adopted.
379 But now the streets, choak'd up with armed men,
380 Pour back their warriors through the Western portal:
381 There, in the marshy vale, that to the North
382 Extends its rich campaign, the army grew
383 In form. Pardon if I, a simple Maid,
384 Cannot relate, Sir Knight! in artful terms,
385 How, in what order grew. I have not skill
386 To use the phrases chance hath giv'n mine ear.
387 Were I to speak of flank, and rear, and van,
388 You'd find my tongue to wild confusion lead.
389 — Learn then but this: the King the centre kept;
390 MONTENOS, stately pine! led on the front.
391 The Stranger bow'd reply, in mute respect.
392 OSMIDA, gently pausing, thus resum'd:
393 The tender Twilight, which till now had look'd
394 With timid eye upon the martial plain,
395 Withdrew her beam, to follow distant day:
396 Night, oft invok'd, advanc'd her ebon standard,
397 To which all Nature yields well-pleas'd obeisance:
398 But iron War, scornful of Nature's laws,
399 Makes Rest his captive, and the ear of Silence
400 Frequent invades, whilst from the throne of Night,
401 Coëval pow'r! she rules the drowsy world.
402 So now through Arragonia's streets, his march
403 — Unmeasur'd by the drum's imperious notes,
404 In aweful pomp he takes. Balconies crouded
405 Show'r down their blessings as the soldiers pass,
406 Whilst thousand voices spend themselves in pray'r,
407 And thousand ardent eyes appeal to Heaven.
408 At length arriv'd towards the Eastern towers,
409 The army made a momentary halt. [Page 14]
410 When, lo! the holy Prelate, with a train
411 Of cloister'd saints, barefooted, rob'd in white,
412 And holding each a crucifix, advanc'd.
413 Ye more than warriors, said the Man of God,
414 Ye Christian soldiers, think whose sword you bear!
415 The barb'rous nations of the earth, whose ears
416 Were never blest with sounds of Gospel Truths,
417 Have yet atchiev'd such wondrous deeds in arms,
418 As will convey their names, with glory deck'd,
419 To the remotest age in Time's dark womb.
420 A thousand nations have for freedom fought,
421 A thousand others for revenge have arm'd,
422 And giv'n destruction to th'offending foe:
423 To save their matrons from the brutal rape,
424 Their daughters from Pollution's arms, have sent
425 Victorious myriads to th'imbattled field.
426 All these you fight for; but you fight for MORE —
427 — You fight for CHRIST. See here! behold your Saviour!
428 Torn on the racking cross! These wounds for you
429 Were given. This blood — this sacred blood! for you
430 Gush'd forth, and mingled with corruption. Go then!
431 Bleed, agonize, and die for Him! Rapt Seraphims
432 Are now preparing your celestial crowns:
433 — Go and atchieve them! Choirs of holy angels
434 Now tune their golden harps, and hymns prepare
435 To greet ye conqu'rors in the gates of Heaven:
436 — Go! blessed soldiers — Go!
436 The Father ceas'd.
437 From ev'ry mouth burst forth — as if one soul,
438 One voice, through all the army reign'd — "We go!"
439 Inspir'd thus by the Priest's heroic charge,
440 Each seem'd to press to be the earliest victim;
441 Their souls on fire, were eager to depart[Page 15]
442 The earthly sphere, and seise on their immortal crowns.
443 Thus rapt, the soldiers pass; and through the gates,
444 Like mists exhaling from the earth's moist bosom,
445 Spread on the surface of the hostile plain.
446 The gates shut close their wide-extended jaws,
447 — Shut close for ever, on the valiant youths,
448 Whose feet now leave them — to return no more:
449 But they, by other hopes than life inspir'd,
450 March on; whilst Night her curtain closer draws
451 To hide their progress from the watchful foe.
452 In vain the night her sable curtain draws,
453 And bids the stars keep hoodwink'd in their course;
454 For faithless Echo to the Moorish guard
455 Betray'd the distant sound of pacing steps.
456 From guard to guard the hasty signals fly,
457 And shoot like meteors through the dark expanse.
458 The Infidels, alarm'd, seem all in motion,
459 Whilst the faint quiv'ring lights, that lately serv'd
460 To guide the hunters in their dang'rous chace,
461 Now blaze and multiply, till all the camp
462 A vast illumination seems, that gilds
463 With dreadful splendor the surrounding gloom.
464 Our troops, undaunted, quicken as they tread,
465 And hasty marching grows to eager speed.
466 To arms! to arms! the scar'd besiegers cry.
467 Your arms are here! th'advancing foe replies,
468 — Thirsting to drench their swords in Moorish blood!
469 Silence, no longer useful, now gives way
470 To all the dreadful din that battle loves.
471 The haughty trumpet, and the vig'rous drum,
472 With the shrill fife's acuter voice, accord
473 To summon valour in the fearfull'st heart.
474 The Moors rush forth, impetuous and confus'd. [Page 16]
475 No orders thought on, and no orders heard:
476 Some to the trench, some to the chariots fly
477 To buckle to the shafts the frighted horses:
478 — The restive steeds reject th'accustom'd yoke,
479 Dash their fierce leaders wildly to the earth,
480 Then, plunging, bound along the beamy plain.
481 Our troops had gain'd the ditch, and to the beards
482 Of the besiegers — now besieg'd, advanc'd,
483 Ere the first panic left their courage calm
484 — The battlo's fury in an instant spreads,
485 And all its horrors rage mature at once.
486 The bows are useless; throat to throat they fight;
487 — Foes mix with foes, ranks press on hostile ranks,
488 Till each are lost, and form one dreadful whole.
489 Death never triumph'd as he triumph'd now;
490 — With hasty victims never was so gorg'd:
491 He who is killing, by another's slain;
492 And he, in finishing his blow, partakes
493 The fate he gives. Scarce had the armies join'd
494 Ere thousand souls had pass'd th'eternal bourn:
495 On ev'ry side bulwarks of dead appear
496 — Torrents of reeking gore. The blood of Moors
497 And Christians forms one common flood, and rolls
498 Its heavy tide in stagnant streams along.
499 Say, Stranger, hast thou seen the warlike sports.
500 Yearly presented in our vast Steccado?
501 Superior to the rest, the Bull-fight claims
502 Glorious pre-eminence. Forth from their dens
503 The bellowing monsters rush, and the earth rings
504 Beneath their haughty hooss. The ireful foam
505 Runs from their churning jaws; their burnish'd horns
506 Now rase the earth, now proudly tost in air,
507 Challenge the waiting warriors to the combat:[Page 17]
508 The waiting warriors, ardent for the sign,
509 Dart on their foes: the lordly beasts evade
510 The well-aim'd spear, and, clad in native might,
511 Scorn the bright corslet and the nodding helm:
512 Onward they rush — whilst deathful fury bursts
513 In livid sparkles from their blood-red eyes;
514 They gore the gen'rous steeds, their riders crush,
515 Or send them clashing through the dusty air.
516 Throughout the concave, sound the eager plaudits,
517 And boist'rous admiration speaks the joy:
518 At length the fav'rite bull — he whom the keepers,
519 For fire and strength, superior to the rest,
520 Had long mark'd out, is loos'd upon the plain:
521 All marvels cease the instant he appears;
522 And what seem'd wondrous but a moment since,
523 Has now no tongue to speak the mighty act
524 — So much beyond all thought his deeds excell
525 The glorious devastation of his peers.
526 Just so MONTENOS shone among the heroes
527 Whose bitter chastisement the Moors endured.
528 Where'er he mov'd, destruction mark'd his progress,
529 And death seem'd couchant on his pond'rous axe.
530 The Night, so dreadful! lengthen'd out her hours,
531 As though she staid to view the battle's conflict,
532 Or hide its horrors from the springing day.
533 At length the glowing portals of the East
534 Disclos'd the Morn — in splendor she arose;
535 But, as if grief-struck at the murd'rous scene,
536 Her face in humid clouds she instant wrapt,
537 And seem'd to weep in drops of sacred pity.
538 Yet Conquest ceas'd not, with her vig'rous arm,
539 To plant her banners o'er the reeking field:[Page 18]
540 — For us her banners wav'd — for us she triumph'd,
541 And Vict'ry sung loud Iö's for the Christians.
542 The Moor, now seeing that his scatter'd host
543 Had their chief leaders lost — their numbers wasted,
544 Like sifted corn before the driving tempest,
545 For quarter calls. His troops, upon their knees,
546 Yield up their arms, and Mahomet invoke,
547 To screen his worshipers from dreaded vengeance;
548 But Christian soldiers war not for revenge,
549 Nor know to trample on a vanquish'd foe.
550 Their homage is accepted, and their chiefs,
551 With low'ring fronts, and hearts by malice gnaw'd,
552 Follow the victors in their march triumphant.
553 Strait to the city-gates they bend their course,
554 Where from the walls the holy priests had watch'd
555 The issue of the fight. There too, the Princess
556 — In horrors exquisite! had pass'd the night.
557 Judge then her rapture, her exalted joy,
558 When she beheld, on their victorious march,
559 Betroth'd MONTENOS, and her royal Sire!
560 Forth to the plain — heedless of form, she rush'd:
561 Her Virgins follow'd, and the rev'rend Priests,
562 Led by the holy Bishop, form'd her train.
563 The day — as if she bore an active part
564 In all th'events her teeming hours brought forth —
565 Chac'd the dark clouds, unveil'd her radiant face,
566 And gave new glories to the scene she view'd.
567 The King approach'd — the Princess, at his feet,
568 Ador'd the mighty arm which thus restor'd him,
569 Loaded with laurels, from the deathful field:
570 Her valiant Lover, leading in his hand
571 The Moorish Prince, with eager pace advanc'd,[Page 19]
572 To claim his share of her enraptur'd welcome.
573 Receive, he cry'd, a conquest which your eyes,
574 And not my sword, atchiev'd. Inspir'd by you,
575 Who could resist my arm? This princely foe,
576 Who wonders acted, and whose arm deserv'd
577 A righteous cause; by you, bright maid, subdu'd,
578 Your victim I present. The sullen Prince
579 Scarce deign'd to lift his eye; when, with a grace
580 No fancy can pourtray, the gallant youth
581 Made to his mistress this heroic gift.
582 Oh fatal present! gift replete with woes!
583 Why did not heaven in its mercy send
584 Its winged shafts, and at that instant strike
585 The royal Maid, where, fix'd with joy, she stood!
586 Then had her breast, untorn with throbbing anguish,
587 Sunk peacefully — alas! where roves my tongue!
588 Let me, in order, lead you to the sequel.
589 It needless were my story to prolong
590 In painting scenes your fancy will supply:
591 The joyful entry, and triumphant feasts,
592 Devout processions, and heroic sports,
593 All these are fruitful themes, and would demand
594 A time the waning night denies. In brief,
595 The captive Prince a mighty ransom offer'd,
596 With league of amity and lasting peace.
597 The terms accepted, gallies were dispatch'd
598 To bring the barter'd price of his redemption.
599 Mean while he join'd the games, and seem'd to lose
600 His barb'rous roughness in the toils of pleasure.
601 Alas! in other toils his mind was caught;
602 The Princess seem'd too lovely to ZORADOR,
603 Whose sensual soul she touch'd with fiercest passion. [Page 20]
604 He dared to speak of love, and to herself
605 Vaunt his bold hopes; whilst he beheld approach
606 The day, which was to join in nuptial bands
607 The Royal Maiden and her lov'd MONTENOS:
608 The marriage sports already were prepar'd,
609 And yet the Moor, audacious! talk'd of love.
610 — Repuls'd with just disdain, he to the King
611 His love-sick tale, with sullen port, address'd:
612 I am not used, he cried, to offer crowns,
613 And have them spurn'd, like vulgar lovers' toys.
614 Give me your Daughter! I'll give her a throne:
615 Dominions she shall have, to which your Arragon,
616 With all its boasted fields, and blushing vineyards,
617 Seems but a fertile spot; so vast the country
618 Whose sceptre I command! The King's firm answer
619 Shew'd the proud Infidel, his suit was vain;
620 And, that a Christian Princess, to a subject
621 More fitly would be match'd, than with the Monarch
622 Of wide-stretch'd continents — whose wretched Sons
623 Were taught to scorn the doctrines of a CHRIST.
624 ZORADOR's fury to such transports grew
625 At this destruction of his hopes, he seem'd
626 No longer man — His eye-balls glar'd with madness;
627 His foamy rage — like a tempestuous sea
628 Lashing her shores in vain — spar'd not himself:
629 His beard in frightful fragments strew'd the floor;
630 Whilst his inflated bosom rack'd within,
631 Without resounded from his barb'rous blows.
632 He curs'd, blasphem'd, and wept: his strength exhausted
633 Left him at length, as though a wakeful sleep
634 Had seis'd his faculties, and numb'd the fire
635 Which fill'd his torrid veins. His slaves, who oft[Page 21]
636 Beheld their lord a victim to himself,
637 Bore to his couch the prostrate harmless tyrant;
638 And there, with trem'lous lutes and vocal harmony,
639 In sweet enchantment woke him from his trance.
640 His haughty soul, that scorns all other laws,
641 Will yield to music all her boist'rous passions
642 — Hang on each strain, melt at each magic note,
643 And transient virtues catch from trilling airs.
644 Compos'd, at length, or masking what he felt,
645 Again ZORADOR sought the pensive King;
646 Pardon, he cry'd, Oh Prince! a wretch undone!
647 Forgive the frenzy of a heart unsteel'd
648 By disappointment's shocks. Nurs'd by prosperity,
649 By fortune follow'd, I had learnt — fond man!
650 That fate, that earth, that heaven, for me combin'd,
651 And from misfortune hallow'd my encircled head.
652 Your powerful arms, O King of Arragon!
653 First taught ZORADOR that he was a man;
654 And now your Daughter's still more powerful eyes
655 Have taught ZORADOR, that he is a slave.
656 Master and tyrant of a thousand beauties,
657 Who court my passions, live for my delight,
658 I breath'd, unknowing that I had a heart,
659 Till cruel love, wrapt in Despair's wild torments,
660 Gave all its nerves a sense of curst existence!
661 I love — with agony — with madness, love!
662 Oh, spare me then the horror of a sight
663 My fiery brain splits but to think on! Save,
664 — Father of her whose charms thus abject make me,
665 Save from the tortures of her marriage rites,
666 The heart which burns and wastes with hopeless ardors!
667 The ling'ring moon has number'd all the hours[Page 22]
668 That I allotted for my fleet's return:
669 Soon as the eastern wind invades their canvass,
670 The bellying sails will whiten all your channel,
671 And their red streamers blush along your shores.
672 My ransom paid, I quit these hostile walls,
673 — Where my lost peace will stay enchain'd for ever.
674 Then, whilst I bear my woes to distant seas,
675 Then may the spousals be triumphant sung,
676 And not one wretch remain to curse the sound.
677 Here ceas'd ZORADOR; whilst the melting King,
678 Unable to withstand a claim so urg'd,
679 Granted his royal suitor all he ask'd.
680 The Moor, impress'd with thankfulness, retir'd,
681 And the good Monarch gave Medina's Heir
682 Command to curb his warm, impetuous wishes,
683 Until his rival sought his native skies.
684 The shifting winds soon wafted to our ports
685 The Moorish squadron. To the capital
686 The fleeter camels bore the various treasures
687 Meant for redemption of their captive Prince.
688 Stuffs, ingots, ivory, form'd their precious burden;
689 Carpets of Persia, hangings wrought with gold,
690 Muscovian sables, scarves enrich'd with pearl;
691 Silk robes, by Grecian damsels taught to glow
692 In flowers of vivid tints, and buds so prompt,
693 They seem'd to blow beneath the gazer's eye;
694 Sabres with glitt'ring hilts of curious art,
695 And scymeters whose sheaths di'monds illum'd,
696 And sanguine rubies dy'd; all these were borne
697 In pompous march, through Saragossa's streets;
698 Whilst haughty coursers, from Arabia's hills,
699 Champing gold bits, adorn'd with sumptuous housings,[Page 23]
700 — Or bearing Turkish tents of gaudy drapery,
701 Shut, from the wonder-loving croud, the long procession.
702 And now approach'd the joyful, wish'd-for morn,
703 Whose breath upon our happy plains the Moors
704 Were doom'd to leave. ZORADOR, with such port
705 As disappointment gives to tumid spirits,
706 Made to the King and Princess his adieus.
707 He left the city with a train of slaves,
708 Shedding profusely, as they pass'd along,
709 Rich showers of gold upon the gaping rabble,
710 — Whose venal voice pierc'd Heaven with "Live ZORADOR!
711 Soon as the tidings of the Moors' departure
712 Our speedy couriers brought, the word was given
713 To make all ready for the royal marriage.
714 Raptur'd MONTENOS, madd'ning with his bliss,
715 Could scarce support the intermediate hours
716 That led, with lagging steps, the nuptial morn.
717 The nuptial Morn arriv'd — rous'd from her slumbers
718 By the shrill voice of silver clarions, join'd
719 By the soft hautboy, the seducive lute,
720 And sweeter pipe of choral maids, symphonious.
721 Forth from the palace to the church, through streets
722 With carpets laid, and myrtle garlands hung,
723 The glad procession led its length'ning train.
724 The King, beneath his canopy of state,
725 Preceded by his guards, first object mov'd:
726 Next to his suite the Princess, blushing, follow'd;
727 Her train upheld by twenty noble maids,
728 Whose beauty, in their snowy robes, seem'd chastity
729 Incarnate. Next, at distance — as of rank
730 That yet allow'd not of a royal state,
731 MONTENOS walk'd, succeeded by the court.
732 The King had almost reach'd the holy portals,
733 When from the croud a youth advanc'd, who caught
734 Each wond'ring eye. His face, a mask — design'd
735 For youthful beauty, hid. His airy form
736 Seem'd worthy such a face. His habit tissue,
737 Emboss'd with purple studs. His flowing hair
738 With knots of pearl was ty'd, and on his head
739 A garland bloom'd. An iv'ry flute he held,
740 Through which he breath'd such melting, touching, strains,
741 That Harmony herself had staid to listen.
742 As he approach'd, the soldiers clear'd his way,
743 Till in the front before the guards he stood.
744 The Princess came, whilst he, with rev'rence low,
745 And softer breathings, seem'd to great her presence.
746 She pass'd; the Bridegroom came — in quicker notes
747 He bad his music flow; and, forward stepping,
748 Offer'd, with courteous air, the tuneful pipe.
749 MONTENOS, smiling, stretch'd his hand, when — horror!
750 His breast receiv'd the flute, which hid a poniard —
751 — A second blow, ere thought could be recall'd;
752 The third, the murd'rer on himself bestow'd,
753 And welt'ring dropt into the arms of Death.
754 Astonishment usurp'd each vital faculty,
755 And rooted all who saw the bloody deed.
756 The Bridegroom, sinking on th'assassin's corps,
757 Rous'd from their trance his horror-struck attendants;
758 Whilst the chill sounds of Death! Montenos! Murder!
759 Fled to the wretched Maid — almost a wife.
760 Not daring to demand the cause; her pulse,
761 Stopt by congealing fear, forbore its office,
762 And a kind stupor hid her from her woes.
763 Back to the palace, now, the dying Bridegroom,
764 By Knights in hymeneal robes was borne,
765 Whilst others dragg'd his murd'rer's mangled corps,
766 To search for motives to the cruel deed.
767 His mask unclasp'd, disclos'd a well-known face
768 — A mute he was, and in ZORADOR's train.
769 A fiend-like scroll, conceal'd within his vest,
770 Develop'd all the murd'rous hell-born project.
771 These were its words: "'Tis not the slave, but I,
772 Who give the blow. Vengeance, if not my love,
773 Shall be appeas'd. Learn, King of Arragon!
774 Learn both to know and dread the scorn'd ZORADOR!"
775 Such were the lines which bore the stamp of fate.
776 The lovely victim of the Moor's revenge,
777 Breath'd not a word, but strain'd his beamless eye
778 To find the object that his heart's last pulse
779 Ador'd — not seeing her, they seem'd to shut
780 All others out — and Death, with hasty seal,
781 Clos'd their dim lids in everlasting sleep.
782 Here paus'd the Virgin, as immers'd in thought;
783 The story, fraught with woe, had cast a shade
784 Of deeper sorrow o'er her pensive brow:
785 Her lab'ring bosom sent forth heavy sighs,
786 And her sad mind seem'd lost in one idea.
787 The Knight, who eager grew to know the tale
788 She promis'd of herself, presum'd at length
789 To bring her recollection to the point;
790 At which her rosy lips their portal clos'd,
791 And ceas'd to charm him with their touching accents.
792 I will not, Stranger! said the fair narrator,
793 Tax your attention with events unneedful,[Page 26]
794 The Court's distress, the sorrow of the King,
795 The Bride's, th'unwedded Bride's, forlorn distraction.
796 Long tedious months led round their joyless suns,
797 Ere comfort beam'd upon her widow'd heart;
798 Nor then, till, at the tomb of her lost Lord,
799 Her solemn vows she made, never to hear
800 A lover's soothing tale; but, in virginity
801 Perpetual, wait the hour that should unite
802 Her faithful spirit with her murder'd Lord's.
803 This duty paid, a dawn, like that of peace,
804 By soft degrees illum'd the mourner's mind.
805 The Court, prompt in expedients to divest
806 Misfortune of her stings, ransack'd all pleasures,
807 Invented fresh delights, new joys invok'd,
808 For their sweet antidotes to pois'nous grief.
809 Thus had two years their slow-revolving hours
810 Brought to the great account; when from the east
811 A dark portentous cloud, lab'ring with ills,
812 Pregnant with thousand woes, obscur'd th'horizon.
813 ZORADOR — he whose soul from inmost hell
814 Was sent to scourge the earth — not glutted yet
815 With all the horrid joys that wait on vengeance,
816 Not yet forgiving our triumphant arms,
817 Which shear'd the laurels his whole life had reap'd,
818 — Again came pouring, like a mighty deluge,
819 To overwhelm the land in lasting ruin.
820 He came. — Why should I lengthen out my tale?
821 Our nation's force, oppos'd to the Moor's army,
822 Was kindling torches to obscure the sun.
823 Again we saw them hover on the hill:
824 Again we saw — like famine-bringing locusts,[Page 27]
825 Their hosts descend, and spread upon the plain.
826 No parly, as at first, they would allow:
827 Their batt'ring-rams the messengers they us'd;
828 — Arrows and catapults, their killing words.
829 A dreadful day our troops sustain'd the siege,
830 And fill'd the breaches with their slaughter'd foes.
831 At length, a billet on a javelin's point
832 The ramparts pass'd, denouncing rape and sackage,
833 If stubbornly our citizens delay'd
834 To own ZORADOR conqueror and king.
835 The threat effected all the Moor had hop'd,
836 And Arragon's grey Monarch was abandon'd
837 By those whose rights he'd guarded with his blood,
838 — By those his smiles had cherish'd, and his honours grac'd.
839 The throneless Sov'reign, when he saw his gates
840 Open their faithless jaws t'admit the foe,
841 Rush'd, in distraction, to his Daughter's chamber:
842 Fly! let us instant fly! he gasping said;
843 The Moors have vanquish'd, and my Child's a slave.
844 Their standards now insult our conquer'd streets,
845 And curst ZORADOR will not long delay,
846 Within my palace walls t'assert his rights.
847 Come then, my Daughter! lest dishonour find thee,
848 And kill they parent with a thousand deaths!
849 The Princess, whom affliction had subdu'd,
850 And taught a firmness stranger to her years,
851 Grasp'd her lov'd Father's hand — Lead me, she cry'd,
852 Where Providence ordains! my duteous steps
853 Shall ever follow yours, soften your path,
854 And chear, to life's last sigh, your rugged journey.
855 A golden casket, as she spoke, she seiz'd,
856 That held, till now, a hoarded useless treasure;[Page 28]
857 And through the galleries, with breathless haste,
858 And step precipitate, follow'd the King,
859 — Unknowing to what corner of the earth
860 To point their feet, or whom they should intrust
861 With their advent'rous flight. A faithful Lord,
862 In this sad exigence, with cordial words,
863 The royal fugitives thus met and cheer'd.
864 "O Sire! from Arlos take the only duty
865 That stormy fate now suffers him to pay:
866 My horses wait, close to the garden walls,
867 With trusty knights to guide you to my castle.
868 Dreading the worst, I had prepar'd this refuge,
869 When the fell Moor began his fierce assault.
870 For me, I'll stay and greet, with smiles deceitful,
871 ZORADOR, whom I hate, to ward, if possible,
872 What further ills his malice may devise."
873 The King embrac'd, with servent gratitude,
874 The noble youth — and follow'd where he led.
875 There a close chariot, harness'd and attended,
876 Waited to bear them from the dang'rous spot.
877 The flying steeds seem'd conscious of their office,
878 And instant cleft the air with eagle swiftness.
879 Mean while the Moorish troops rush'd through the gates,
880 And on our bulwarks fix'd their haughty standards.
881 No terms the citizens obtain'd, but those
882 Of vassalage and uncondition'd slavery;
883 Whilst their chief officers were instant sworn
884 To be allegiant to the swarthy Infidel.
885 Mean time, with speed, towards the royal palace,
886 As to his home, ZORADOR bent his course;
887 Vaunting, that now the Christian King should, kneeling,[Page 29]
888 Ask him to wed the Daughter whom he woo'd
889 With offer'd thrones, and was, with scorn, rejected.
890 But, when he found no Sov'reign to insult,
891 No Princess to affront with odious passion,
892 His furious transports made a thousand victims.
893 The Nobles' houses were with strictness search'd:
894 The churches, monast'ries, were all defil'd
895 By the unhallow'd infidels, in vain.
896 Three days the search continu'd, when the Moor,
897 Foaming with disappointed pride, made oath,
898 That, if the Princess in eight days appear'd not,
899 The convents-walls should to the ground be ras'd,
900 And their pure vestals sate his savage soldiers.
901 These dreadful tidings to the King and Princess
902 The faithful ARLOS sent. "My castle walls,"
903 He said, "no longer will protect my Sov'reign.
904 The church itself will aid the keen pursuit,
905 — Deeming it better that one royal Maid
906 Should feed the lust of a detested tyrant,
907 Than that their holy virgins should become
908 The prey of the licentious soldiery.
909 Fly then, my Prince! The loyal Knight, whose hand
910 Presents this testimony of my faith,
911 Will to a secret spot (where he himself
912 Asylum found) attend your wand'ring steps;
913 — Not wand'ring long! for surely Heav'n, that tries
914 The virtue which it loves, will reconduct you
915 To your lost people's arms, and rightful throne."
916 The darkest robe of night o'erspread the hemisphere,
917 When at the castle GONZALES arriv'd.
918 The royal pair, in humble weeds disguis'd,
919 Instant forsook the hospitable roof,
920 And sought untravell'd wilds, and gloomy deserts. [Page 30]
921 The spirits of the King, weigh'd down with sorrow,
922 Had sunk beneath accumulated ills,
923 Had not wise Heav'n endu'd his Daughter's mind
924 With strength to bear her griefs, and chear her Father's.
925 With tender talk the tedious way she shorten'd;
926 And, when exhausted Nature ask'd recruit,
927 Hymn'd him to sleep beneath umbrageous trees.
928 A whole day's sun beheld her duteous cares:
929 The moon arose, and still they journey'd on;
930 But the succeeding sun, with earliest beam,
931 Guided the travellers to a forest's verge.
932 Here GONZALES the steeds unrein'd, and drove,
933 In envied freedom, to a neighb'ring mountain,
934 Lest their betraying hoofs should guide pursuers
935 To the asylum of the hunted King.
936 In the wood's centre they a cottage found,
937 Form'd, by Misfortune's hand, of humble clay:
938 Two rooms it had, in each a rustic bed;
939 For stately chairs, a bench; a rough-hewn table,
940 That ne'er with other dainties had been fill'd,
941 Than labour cull'd from the surrounding herbs;
942 Or from the vines — that in the desert air,
943 With their delicious burdens long had swell'd,
944 Nor found one tempted hand to ease the load.
945 Such the retreat the fugitives had found.
946 Adieu to gilded roofs, and chorded minstrelsy!
947 Adieu to greatness, and unhealthful pomp!
948 The winds now rustle through their straw-crown'd cot,
949 And birds, with wild-note sweet, compose their concert!
950 Full seven slow moons have turn'd their monthly orbs,
951 Since GONZALES the cottage left, and since
952 No human sound, but their own pensive tones,
953 Have reach'd the Princess and her Father's ears. [Page 31]
954 What can I more? If my eventful tale
955 Hath touch'd the chords of pity in your heart,
956 And swell'd the sympathetic tear — soft tribute!
957 By gentle minds, to sorrow ever paid,
958 — Know, 'tis no stranger's woes I have related;
959 I am the object of my own sad story —
960 It is the Princess speaks —
960 Enough! exclaim'd
961 The Knight, springing with ardor from the bank,
962 Enough! our prize is found! and wealth and rank,
963 And bright ZULEDA's smiles, are now DE COURCI's!
964 Thus speaking, to his lips he fix'd a bugle,
965 Whose piercing sounds ten thousand echoes bore
966 On airy wings, through the surrounding woods.
967 The signal heard, six Moors obey'd its voice,
968 And spurr'd their horses headlong through the glades.
969 For these OSMIDA stay'd not. The false Knight
970 No sooner spoke his joy, than, like a fawn
971 Who from the neighb'ring thicket hears the voice.
972 Of the fierce wolf — she bounding left her seat,
973 And fled to safer shades. A starting star
974 Less rapid cleaves the air, when Ethiop Night
975 Shews on her wanton breast his lucid trail.
976 Meanwhile, the royal cottager, whom Sleep,
977 Spight of his cares, had woo'd to her embrace,
978 Broke from her tempting arms. He call'd OSMIDA.
979 List'ning in vain, to hear her cheering voice,
980 He started from his couch, and, rob'd in haste,
981 Rush'd forth to seek her in her fav'rite haunts:
982 Darting his fearful eye across the lawn
983 On which their cottage stood, close on its edge,
984 — Panting and breathless he beheld his darling.
985 With all the little strength that age had left,[Page 32]
986 He hasten'd to receive her. What his dread!
987 When at his feet he saw the Princess drop,
988 Exclaiming, as she fell, in fainting voice,
989 Father! ALMANZOR! King! — The fear-struck Monarch,
990 Unable from the mossy grass to raise
991 Its lovely burden, sinking by her side,
992 Strove by his tears, and fond paternal voice,
993 To rouse her torpid sense, and wake her soul.
994 Not guessing at th'extremity of woe,
995 Which soon must burst upon his hoary head,
996 He thought some frightful reptile had surpris'd,
997 And chill'd, with female fears, her tim'rous mind.
998 But, oh! how short a while his fate allow'd
999 This soft delusion! Through the night's still air
1000 The sound of human voices, and the clank
1001 Of iron hoofs, reveal'd a scene at once,
1002 That almost shook his soul from her frail tenement.
1003 The Gallic leader of the Moorish band,
1004 (And sure no soil but Gallia's could produce
1005 A Knight thus treach'rous, thus completely form'd
1006 To guide a project hatch'd in nether hell!)
1007 Mark'd with his eye OSMIDA's flying course.
1008 Courage! he cry'd — as the base slaves advanc'd:
1009 All our past trouble, and our long fatigues,
1010 This happy hour repays. OSMIDA's found!
1011 Found at the instant that my famish'd hopes
1012 Scarce lent a ray to guide me in the chace.
1013 When, through the tissu'd thicket, to my eye
1014 The friendly moon reveal'd her, hope prophetic
1015 Call'd her OSMIDA — yet my eager tongue
1016 I dar'd not with that hope intrust, lest Fear
1017 Should draw her veil upon the dangerous truth.
1018 In prayer she was employ'd; which instant taught me[Page 33]
1019 That piety must be the bait to snare her,
1020 — So won her confidence, and read her heart.
1021 Allah be prais'd! rejoin'd a bearded Infidel,
1022 Freedom is ours — ZORADOR's favour thine!
1023 But, Christian, art thou sure thou hast beheld
1024 ALMANZOR's Daughter? One fair maid, alas!
1025 We have already to our master borne
1026 For her he sought, and scarce with life escap'd,
1027 So fierce and rageful was ZORADOR's anger!
1028 The Princess, self-acknowledg'd, said the Knight,
1029 Fled from this spot, scar'd at my bugle's sound.
1030 A cottage, somewhere in the sombrous forest,
1031 Conceals the trembler, and her aged Sire.
1032 I mark'd the road she took, and now will guide you
1033 To those who will not hail us — welcome guests.
1034 Thus speaking, he push'd onwards through the wood,
1035 And soon espy'd the little peaceful dwelling,
1036 In which, for seven long months, the exil'd King
1037 Had sigh'd his anguish to the passing winds.
1038 Upon the earth they saw the hoary Monarch,
1039 Supporting on his knee the drooping head
1040 Of his unhappy child: his hands were clasp'd,
1041 And rais'd towards that Heav'n which now allow'd
1042 Sorrow to drain her vial on his brow.
1043 This moving picture, e'en DE COURCI's eye
1044 Could scarcely see, with pity unsuffus'd.
1045 Skill'd in deceit, and hiding a bad heart
1046 With all the polish learnt in faithless courts,
1047 He, with an air so meek, approach'd ALMANZOR,
1048 As though he sought him only to bewail
1049 The sad events that shut him from the world.
1050 The King, perhaps, had yielded for a moment[Page 34]
1051 To the delusive hope his look inspir'd,
1052 Had not the group of Moors — who yet approach'd not,
1053 Explain'd the dreadful purport of the visit.
1054 Unhappy Monarch! said the soft-tongued Knight,
1055 Much it afflicts me that my barb'rous fortune,
1056 From all ZORADOR's court, DE COURCI chose
1057 T'explore the sacred spot of your retirement.
1058 Had not the tyrant at his hateful nod
1059 Devoted Moors enough, and callous slaves,
1060 Us'd to the work of infamy and guilt,
1061 But I, a Christian knight, must be selected,
1062 To guide an enterprise so curst? — Oh Fate!
1063 Thou never loadedst me with ills till now!
1064 The King, experienc'd in mankind, saw through
1065 The thin disguise of this most florid speech:
1066 He saw the serpent in the spicy shrub;
1067 — He saw the villain in the gentle eye.
1068 Not deigning a reply, he bent his head
1069 O'er the reviving Princess. Oh, OSMIDA!
1070 Exclaim'd th'afflicted Prince, thy beating pulse,
1071 Thy dear returning breath is now unwelcome.
1072 Rather I'd see those eyes for ever clos'd,
1073 This flutt'ring heart fixt by Death's potent voice,
1074 Than thus receive thee back again to life.
1075 The royal Virgin's scarce-recover'd faculties
1076 Announc'd themselves in fears: "Oh! let us fly,
1077 My Father! — let us fly!" she murmur'd forth:
1078 "We are pursu'd — the Knight! the wiley Knight!"
1079 Pursued, indeed! replied the weeping King;
1080 Pursued and caught. O! my heart's dear OSMIDA!
1081 They have us in their toils — we're lost! we're lost!
1082 Rous'd at this dreadful sound, the waken'd Princess,[Page 35]
1083 Starting, threw round her eyes — they met DE COURCI's!
1084 A grave-sent spectre, in the deep of night,
1085 Scarce gives such horror to the shrinking sinner,
1086 As did DE COURCI's form, to shock'd OSMIDA.
1087 Speechless, she hid her face, and clasp'd her father;
1088 Who strove t'inspire a calm his heart disown'd.
1089 The polish'd villain, who the blackest crimes
1090 With impoliteness could not stain, withdrew,
1091 That the bewailing mourners, unrestrain'd,
1092 Might pour their anguish in each other's breast.
1093 — Vain were the task, to paint th'impassion'd scene
1094 Which grief, and fear, and thousand racking thoughts,
1095 With glowing horrors, all conspir'd to fill.
1096 The courteous Knight, observing where he stood,
1097 That the first torrent of their grief was spent,
1098 Ventur'd again t'approach the wretched pair.
1099 Pardon, illustrious Prince! he cried, the slave,
1100 Whom harsh necessity, alas! compels
1101 To stop your converse with your beauteous Daughter.
1102 ZORADOR — he, who knows no law but will,
1103 The smallest breach of whose commands, the rack,
1104 Or more inevitable death awaits —
1105 — Ordain'd, that soon as your retreat was found,
1106 A moment to delay should not be giv'n;
1107 But instant! maugre circumstance, or tears,
1108 That we should bear to their forsaken home
1109 Th'unwilling Princess, and her royal Sire.
1110 Now, if it please you, we must leave this desert,
1111 For haunts more fitted to your royal rank.
1112 This mock'ry of respect, return'd the King,
1113 To those whom you command, adds points to insult.
1114 Our masters you; then treat us as your slaves! [Page 36]
1115 The only boon I can descend to ask,
1116 Is, that my Daughter, in this fatal journey,
1117 May not be torn from me. From thee! ah, no,
1118 Precipitant exclaim'd the royal Maid.
1119 Together let us go, whate'er our fate!
1120 Still let my filial voice my Father cheer,
1121 And pierce the night of his collected sorrows!
1122 DE COURCI seem'd to pause, when strait a Moor,
1123 Of port superior to the rest, thus answer'd —
1124 It is our Sovereign's will, that you, fair Lady!
1125 Should hold no converse with your princely Sire,
1126 'Till your arrival in your native city.
1127 Doubt not, but then, each boon you ask, and all
1128 Your fruitful fancy can devise, our master,
1129 Gracious to charms like yours, will grant with rapture.
1130 When Beauty sues, he knows not to deny.
1131 What then will be your Beauty's pow'r? You —
1132 The King, impatient and enrag'd, broke in
1133 Upon the Moor. Cease, Saracen! he cried,
1134 Nor dare thus violate my Daughter's ears!
1135 Or thou shalt find, that in a desert, old,
1136 — Unarm'd, ALMANZOR is a King. Lead on!
1137 And since high Heav'n ordains, thy impious Master
1138 Should hold the balance of our fate, obey
1139 His harsh command! tear us asunder! yes!
1140 Drag from the old man's heart, the last sole joy
1141 His woes had left to save him from despair.
1142 Plunge me at once in horror's deep abyss.
1143 Not long — not long, my friends, will you afflict me.
1144 A show'r of tears, that down his furrow'd cheeks
1145 Upon the bosom of OSMIDA fell,
1146 Ended a speech — which men steel'd by long use[Page 37]
1147 Against the touching voice of heav'n-born pity,
1148 Could not unsoften'd hear; but strove to palliate
1149 To their own hearts, in coarse-spun sophistry,
1150 The baseness of their voluntary task.
1151 Sprightly Aurora looking through the clouds,
1152 Which blush'd with pleasure at her near approach,
1153 Chas'd from the hemisphere the pale-ey'd moon,
1154 — Who had so sweetly shone, she seem'd 'till now
1155 The morning's counterfeit. But Oh! to mis'ry
1156 Whether the pale-ey'd Moon, or sprightly Morn,
1157 Or Sun refulgent leads the passing hours;
1158 All, all alike, they undistinguish'd roll,
1159 One cheerless chaos, one impervious gloom.
1160 If to DE COURCI, and the wond'ring Moors,
1161 OSMIDA lovely seem'd — how lovely now!
1162 When bright'ning day disclos'd her to their view,
1163 One blaze of charms — charms of that tender cast,
1164 Which sorrow did not sully, but become!
1165 Her polish'd form was graceful as the antelope's;
1166 Her air majestic, as the sailing eagle's —
1167 When 'mongst the fleecy clouds he gently waves,
1168 And views high Skiddaw, like a shrub below.
1169 Her face a Raphael would have caught, to form
1170 A young Madonna, bending o'er her Child
1171 With brow serene, and love-distilling eyes.
1172 Her locks — such locks as Nature only gives
1173 Once in an age, to perfect some rare beauty,
1174 Seem'd like a golden veil — part hung before,
1175 Shading a polish'd neck; which look'd, between
1176 The burnish'd threads, like purest ivory
1177 Through gilded net-work: part the Zephyrs snatch'd,
1178 Playing enamour'd in the beauteous toils:[Page 38]
1179 The rest in dropping ringlets fell behind,
1180 And kiss'd the foldings of her flowing robe.
1181 Such was the Princess; whom a Moor now seiz'd,
1182 And on DE COURCI's steed securely fix'd.
1183 A silken sash, held by the treach'rous Knight,
1184 Pass'd through OSMIDA's girdle, and enchain'd
1185 The mourning Virgin, and her deadliest foe.
1186 Upon another steed was plac'd ALMANZOR,
1187 Behind a guiding Moor. This was the state
1188 The kingdom's Monarch, and the kingdom's Heir,
1189 Were now constrain'd to use. No pompous guards,
1190 No blessing populace, no proud grandees,
1191 Their steps attend; — but oh! how small that grief,
1192 Weigh'd with the horrid fears, the tort'ring doubts,
1193 Which fill their bosoms, and absorb their thoughts!
1194 The leafy desert — which so long had seem'd
1195 A cheerless prison to th' illustrious pair
1196 — They quit, with aching hearts, and heavy sighs.
1197 Its solitary shades — how welcome, now!
1198 Its humble turf-form'd cot, its devious glades,
1199 Its choral groves, they would with rapture greet,
1200 And hail them, as the dear abodes of Peace.
1201 But these they have for ever — ever left;
1202 And soon the forest's verdant roof grows dun
1203 Upon the distant eye. The eager Moors,
1204 With spur and slacken'd reins, kept pouring on,
1205 Leaving whole leagues obscur'd with floating dust.
1206 The royal Prisoners, scarcely with a glance,
1207 Can speak a thought, much less converse, and share,
1208 With kind participance, each other's woe.
1209 Thus they continued through untrodden wilds,
1210 Whose savage echoes never yet had learnt
1211 To imitate the cordial voice of man:[Page 39]
1212 — The churning boar, and howling midnight wolves,
1213 Had taught them all the language that they knew.
1214 At length the Sun, behind the western mountains,
1215 Hid his pervading eye: the humid Eve
1216 Led on her deep'ning shades, to quench the thirst,
1217 The fev'rish orb had left, on plants and flow'rs.
1218 The Moors now strain their wistful eyes,
1219 To meet some woodland, or some shelt'ring cave,
1220 In which to court their strength-restoring sleep.
1221 The last they found — it seem'd t'have been the haunt
1222 Of fierce banditti — or more peaceful home
1223 Of some sequester'd hermit; for its floor
1224 The chissel's edge had smooth'd, and its low roof
1225 Was rudely fashion'd to a semi-dome.
1226 Here the sad trav'lers were allow'd the rest
1227 Which through the fervid day they'd ask'd in vain.
1228 The Princess, whose soft limbs were not inur'd
1229 To such extreme fatigue, sunk lifeless down,
1230 Soon as her feet had touch'd the solid earth.
1231 The aged King, with scarce more strength, approach'd
1232 To catch his falling Child — The flinty floor
1233 Receiv'd them both — OSMIDA and her Sire.
1234 With care officious, the attending slaves
1235 The duties of humanity perform'd.
1236 The Princess they recover'd; and a spot,
1237 With their own garments, spread, to form a seat
1238 Less rig'rous than the rock, for its high inmates.
1239 Parch'd corn, sun-candied grapes, and racy wine,
1240 They plac'd, respectfully, before the King:
1241 Exhausted Nature crav'd the cordial draught;
1242 Whilst to her Sire's request OSMIDA yielded,
1243 And of the patriarchal feast partook.
1244 DE COURCI and the Moors dar'd not resign
1245 Their heavy lids to sleep, but in rotation.
1246 Two, the cave's entrance guarded; and the third,
1247 Plac'd near ALMANZOR, interruption gave,
1248 Whene'er the royal Parent and his Child
1249 Strove to beguile the melancholy hours
1250 With such sad converse as their griefs allow'd.
1251 This had ZORADOR order'd, lest OSMIDA
1252 Should from her Father catch more fortitude
1253 T'oppose his furious passion, than he thought
1254 A female could possess. Celestial chastity
1255 He held a phantom bred from Custom's laws,
1256 And that the magic of licentious love
1257 Could melt its airy form — for now he meant
1258 T'assert a conqu'ror's rights, and place the Princess
1259 — Not on a Throne, but 'mongst his fav'rite slaves,
1260 And make her Sov'reign of his loose seraglio.
1261 Constrain'd to silence; Sorrow's blest physician
1262 Stole by degrees upon their aching eyes.
1263 O soft enchanter, Sleep! why did Idolaters
1264 Ne'er build thee temples? Thee, whose sweet dominion
1265 Boundless extends, wherever Nature breathes!
1266 Thee, in whose arms Anguish forgets her throbs;
1267 Chill Want, the nipping blast; and wild Despair
1268 Finds gleams of comfort — I sing Paeans to thee, Sleep!
1269 Scarce had the mettled coursers of the Morn
1270 Brought her gay chariot to th'horizon's edge,
1271 And coif'd the mountains with her ruddy gold,
1272 — Ere prompt DE COURCI, and the watching Moors,
1273 Flew to caparison their grazing steeds.
1274 Returning quick, they rous'd their torpid fellows,[Page 41]
1275 And last awak'd OSMIDA and the King.
1276 What an awakening! Touch not, O my pen!
1277 Upon the catching theme! Of woe enamour'd,
1278 Thou'lt hang too long upon the tears, the sighs,
1279 The grief-fraught words, with which they hail'd the day.
1280 — Events more active ask thy little skill.
1281 Some hours they had pursu'd their steady course,
1282 When, from a coppice bord'ring on the road,
1283 An armed troop rush'd forth. So quick their motion,
1284 DE COURCI's band, ere they beheld their danger,
1285 Were in a circle drawn — more dreadfully portentous,
1286 Than wand of witch or wizard ever form'd.
1287 The gallant Knight, who at his girdle wore
1288 Unwilling beauty, seem'd at once the object.
1289 Three vizor'd warriors at his stirrups stood;
1290 Two held their lances to his throat; the third
1291 Destroy'd the magic zone which held the Princess,
1292 And snatch'd her instant from DE COURCI's side.
1293 With such dispatch was this atchievement made,
1294 The Knight had scarcely drawn to save his prize,
1295 Ere he beheld her ravish'd from his arms
1296 — And at a distance from th'astonish'd troop.
1297 Turning, with fury, on his foes — who thus
1298 Had all his splendid hopes reft from his heart,
1299 He rais'd his arm, and aim'd a pond'rous sword,
1300 Where guiltless it could not have fall'n; when instant
1301 His unpois'd body, with Herculean force,
1302 Was to the earth propell'd: breathless he lay,
1303 And trampling steeds soon fix'd him to the spot,
1304 From whence th'unhappy youth ne'er rose again.
1305 The Moors, undaunted at their leader's fate,
1306 Sustain'd th'assailant's shock, as if resolv'd
1307 Their pris'ners and their lives should both be lost,[Page 42]
1308 Or undivided kept. Two forc'd their way
1309 Towards the spot where, guarded by her Knight,
1310 The Princess stood; three of the foe pursu'd,
1311 And made the path which led to her, the road
1312 To death inglorious. The remaining Saracens
1313 Fought as those fight, who, knowing they must die,
1314 Resolve the victors shall buy conquest dearly.
1315 But he who at his crupper held the King,
1316 More fiercely than the rest — more madly fought.
1317 His fellows too hemm'd in the struggling Monarch;
1318 And, turning to the Prince their horses haunches,
1319 Form'd with their spears a threat'ning glory round him.
1320 When he who held him — watching for the moment,
1321 Broke from the rest, and on the distant winds
1322 Seem'd borne away. The demon who presides
1323 O'er evil acts, and aids the deeds that most
1324 Partake of Hell — surely his steed impell'd,
1325 And brac'd his sinews with unnatural vigor.
1326 His fiery eye, darting o'er hills and plains,
1327 Scarcely outstripp'd his hoofs; the vales, the woods,
1328 His glance devour'd, were in an instant left
1329 Behind his feath'ry heels, that onward prest —
1330 Whilst the pursuing, stretching, mad'ning foe,
1331 Beheld new hills, new plains, new woods, arise
1332 Between their coursers and their ravish'd Prince.
1333 Meanwhile OSMIDA, in amazement lost,
1334 Beheld herself unchain'd, and yet not free.
1335 Those who had held her pris'ner, she saw slain;
1336 But who are these, who risk, thus gallantly,
1337 Their lives for her and the dethroned King?
1338 Perchance new masters; perhaps again they're slaves.
1339 Scarce had this question, in her whirl of thought,
1340 Had time to firm itself, ere at her side[Page 43]
1341 She saw the noble ARLOS. — Hence! vain fears.
1342 The magic touch of hope her bosom swell'd,
1343 And confidence chac'd ev'ry doubt away.
1344 Raising the snowy veil which hid her face,
1345 She beam'd a smile upon the loyal Knight,
1346 That in his mind o'erpaid ten thousand dangers.
1347 Fly, my best ARLOS! said the charming maid,
1348 (As at her feet he knelt) and save the King!
1349 See where he sits, unarm'd, amidst his foes!
1350 Were he in safety, all my thoughts were peace.
1351 The Knight up-springing, staid not to reply,
1352 But instant hors'd, spurr'd onward to his troop:
1353 His troop he join'd, but not till the rich prize
1354 He flew to save, was ravish'd from his hopes.
1355 Three of the band he instantly dispatch'd,
1356 To stop the progress of the flying Saracen.
1357 The few remaining Moors, urg'd by despair,
1358 Still madly fought, preferring present death
1359 To the slow tortures, which they knew their Tyrant
1360 Would fail not to inflict, on those who lost
1361 The beauteous object of his brutal love.
1362 Their wish they soon receiv'd, and their freed spirits
1363 Sought the eternal shores. The Princess now
1364 Remain'd sole object of the cares of ARLOS.
1365 With eager speed he sought the trembling maid,
1366 Who saw her Parent borne o'er distant wilds,
1367 And in that sight lost ev'ry new-born comfort.
1368 Her tears bedew'd the senseless earth; her cries
1369 Rent Heaven, and her unconscious feet mov'd quick
1370 Towards the course, in which she saw her Father.
1371 ARLOS, in soothing terms, implor'd the fair-one
1372 To moderate her grief. Doubtless, he cried,
1373 The gallant youths, who now pursue the Moor,[Page 44]
1374 Will not pursue the flying slave in vain.
1375 They know the mazy roads — each devious path,
1376 Each secret turning — and will meet the villain
1377 When least he can suspect his danger. Now,
1378 Sweet Princess! to my castle let me lead you.
1379 There, if not happier, yet at least securely
1380 Your tears you may indulge, and feed your sorrows.
1381 Scarce sensible to what was urg'd, OSMIDA
1382 Allow'd herself once more upon a steed
1383 To be replac'd: her horseman, noble ARLOS;
1384 Who through morasses, underwoods, and roads
1385 Almost impervious, brought his royal ward
1386 In safety to his mansion. Oh! how blest
1387 This moment had appear'd, had the same roof
1388 That shelter'd her, been shelter to her Father!
1389 That solace wanting, others lost their taste.
1390 Her sorrows to suspend, ARLOS related
1391 Events that yet could not have reach'd her ear.
1392 The faithful GONZALES, he told the Princess,
1393 Suspected by ZORADOR, bore the rack
1394 With undiminish'd courage, nor confest,
1395 — Though life was promis'd, and immense rewards,
1396 The place of her retreat: that he, Lord ARLOS,
1397 By wiles and arts, the jealous Tyrant blinded,
1398 Who held him truest servant of the Christians.
1399 Thus, unsuspected, he had watch'd the roads
1400 Which led towards her forest; with his life
1401 To rescue from the Moors the royal fugitives,
1402 If fate malevolent should e'er betray them.
1403 Another tale in pity he with-held:
1404 That the curst Moor, insatiate in revenge,
1405 Had caus'd MONTENOS' Father, Duke Medina,[Page 45]
1406 To die upon the block — on stale pretence,
1407 That he had form'd a plot to wrest the crown.
1408 His family he banish'd, their rich lands
1409 Confiscate made — and yet the Tyrant liv'd!
1410 As the sad Princess heard, with growing horror,
1411 Repeated acts of cruelty scarce human;
1412 The Knights return'd who had pursued her Father.
1413 It was enough: she saw them pass the gates,
1414 Without the King; no circumstance was needful;
1415 None could her anguish lessen — none her woe increase.
1416 Their tale scarce won attention. Much they talk'd
1417 Of hot pursuit, and of the villain's speed;
1418 — That once his flagging courser rais'd their hopes,
1419 When sudden on a neighb'ring plain appear'd
1420 A troop of Spahies in a mock engagement:
1421 The Saracen gain'd vigor at the sight;
1422 Whilst those who follow'd, measur'd back their road,
1423 Knowing the ruin of their Lord inevitable,
1424 Should they, his faithful vassals, be discover'd.
1425 Vain were th'attempts of ARLOS, to dispel
1426 The deep distress which seiz'd OSMIDA's heart.
1427 The sweetest words, e'er fram'd by consolation,
1428 Were spent upon the air. The young ELVERA,
1429 Sister to ARLOS, lent her infant aid
1430 To chear the royal guest; and with soft prattle,
1431 — Kissing the drowning roses on her cheek,
1432 Strove to divide her sorrow-fixt attention.
1433 But, oh! her Father was a wretched captive:
1434 What could abate the anguish of that thought?
1435 In vain surrounding slaves watch'd ev'ry motion;
1436 In vain the cielings rose on stately columns,[Page 46]
1437 Forcing their grandeur on the awe-struck eye;
1438 In vain the downy beds invited rest,
1439 Beneath rich canopies imboss'd with gold.
1440 Dearer the russet pillars of the forest,
1441 Whose meeting branches canopied the earth
1442 Where stood her lonely cot. Oh! dearer far
1443 The humble couch on which her Father's head
1444 Securely rested; where her ready hand
1445 His pillow smooth'd, and filial cares excited
1446 Sweeter slumbers! Who, now, will watch his sleep,
1447 Or sooth his griefs to rest? Who waits his waking,
1448 To cheer, with tender voice, the lengthen'd day?
1449 So spoke the heart of the unhappy Princess. —
1450 Now to the hospitable cares, her fate affords,
1451 We leave the Mourner, and pursue the King.
END OF PART I.