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His beads and sins are all recounted,
His hours to their last minute mounted,
His mantling cloak before was stripp'd,
His bright brown locks must now be clipp'd:
'Tis done all closely are they shorn.
The vest which till this moment worn,
The scarf which Parisina gave,
Must not adorn him to the grave;
Even that must now be thrown aside,
And o'er his eyes the kerchief tied;
But no that last indignity
Shall ne'er approach his haughty eye.
All feelings seemingly subdued,
In deep disdain were half renew'd,
When headsman's hands prepared to bind
Those eyes which would not brook such
As if they dared not look on death.
No-yours my forfeit blood and breath; These hands are chain'd — but let me die At least with an unshackled eye Strike' and as the word he said, Upon the block he bow'd his head. These the last accents Hugo spoke: 'Strike'. and flashing fell the stroke Roll'd the head—and, gushing, sunk Back the stain'd and heaving trunk, In the dust, which each deep vein Slaked with its ensanguined rain. His eyes and lips a moment quiver, Convulsed and quick, then fix for ever. He died, as erring man should die,
Without display, without parade; Meekly had he bow'd and pray'd, As not disdaining priestly aid, Nor desperate of all hope on high. And while before the Prior kneeling, His heart was wean'd from earthly feel
Still as the lips that closed in death,
Each gazer's bosom held his breath:
But yet, afar, from man to man,
A cold electric shiver ran,
His wrathful sire, his paramour
What were they in such an hour?
No more reproach- no more despair;
No thought but heaven, no word but prayer,
Save the few which from him broke,
When, bared to meet the headsman's stroke,
He claim'd to die with eyes unbound,
His sole adieu to those around.
As down the deadly blow descended
On him whose life and love thus ended.
And, with a hushing sound compress'd,
A sigh shrunk back on every breast;
But no more thrilling noise rose there,
Beyond the blow that to the block
Pierced through with forced and sullen
Save one: -
what cleaves the silent air
So madly shrill, so passing wild,
That, as a mother's o'er her child
Done to death by sudden blow,
To the sky these accents go,
Like a soul's in endless woe ?
Through Azo's palace-lattice driven,
That horrid voice ascends to heaven,
And every eye is turn'd thereon;
But sound and sight alike are gone
It was a woman's shriek - and ne'er
In madlier accents rose despair;
And those who heard it, as it past,
In mercy wish'd it were the last.
In quicken'd brokenness that came
In pity o'er her shatter'd frame, —
None knew and none can ever know.
But whatsoe'er its end below,
Her life began and closed in woe!
And Azo found another bride,
And goodly sons grew by his side;
Hugo is fallen; and, from that hour,
No more in palace, hall, or bower,
Was Parisina heard or seen.
- as if she ne'er had been
Was banish'd from each lip and ear,
Like words of wantonness or fear;
And from Prince Azo's voice, by none
Was mention heard of wife or son;
No tomb, no memory had they;
Theirs was unconsecrated clay;
At least the knight's who died that day.
But Parisina's fate lies hid
Like dust beneath the coffin lid:
Whether in convent she abode,
And won to heaven her dreary road
By blighted and remorseful years
Of scourge, and fast, and sleepless tears;
Or if she fell by bowl or steel,
For that dark love she dared to feel;
Or if, upon the moment smote,
She died by tortures less remote, -
Like him she saw upon the block,
With heart that shared the headsman's
But none so lovely and so brave
As him who wither'd in the grave;
Or if they were - on his cold eye
Their growth but glanced unheeded by,
Or noticed with a smother'd sigh.
But never tear his cheek descended,
And never smile his brow unbended;
And o'er that fair broad brow were wrought
The intersected lines of thought;
Those furrows which the burning share
Of Sorrow ploughs untimely there;
Scars of the lacerating mind
Which the Soul's war doth leave behind.
He was past all mirth or woe:
Nothing more remain❜d below
But sleepless nights and heavy days,
A mind all dead to scorn or praise,
A heart which shunn'd itself - and yet
That would not yield nor could forget, 550
Which, when it least appear'd to melt,
Intensely thought, intensely felt:
The deepest ice which ever froze
Can only o'er the surface close;
The living stream lies quick below,
And flows- and cannot cease to flow.
Still was his seal'd-up bosom haunted
By thoughts which Nature hath implanted;
Too deeply rooted thence to vanish,
Howe'er our stifled tears we banish.
When, struggling as they rise to start,
We check those waters of the heart,
They are not dried those tears unshed
But flow back to the fountain head,
And resting in their spring more pure,
For ever in its depth endure,
Unseen, unwept, but uncongeal'd,
And cherish'd most where least reveal'd.
With inward starts of feeling left,
To throb o'er those of life bereft;
Without the power to fill again
The desert gap which made his pain;
Without the hope to meet them where
United souls shall gladness share;
With all the consciousness that he
Had only pass'd a just decree,
That they had wrought their doom of ill;
Yet Azo's age was wretched still.
The tainted branches of the tree,
If lopp'd with care, a strength may give,
By which the rest shall bloom and live
All greenly fresh and wildly free:
But if the lightning, in its wrath,
The waving boughs with fury scathe,
The massy trunk the ruin feels,
And never more a leaf reveals.
Until his very steps have left a trace
Worn, as if thy cold pavement were a
By Bonnivard! - May none those marks
For they appeal from tyranny to God.
My hair is grey, but not with years,
Nor grew it white
In a single night,
As men's have grown from sudden fears.
My limbs are bow'd, though not with toil,
But rusted with a vile repose,
For they have been a dungeon's spoil,
And mine has been the fate of those
To whom the goodly earth and air
Are bann'd, and barr'd-forbidden fare.
But this was for my father's faith,
I suffer'd chains and courted death;
That father perish'd at the stake
For tenets he would not forsake;
And for the same his lineal race
In darkness found a dwelling-place.
We were seven
who now are one,
Six in youth, and one in age,
Finish'd as they had begun,
Proud of Persecution's rage;
One in fire, and two in field,
Their belief with blood have seal'd,
Dying as their father died,
For the God their foes denied;
Three were in a dungeon cast,
Of whom this wreck is left the last.
There are seven pillars of Gothic mould
In Chillon's dungeons deep and old,
There are seven columns, massy and
Dim with a dull imprison'd ray,
A sunbeam which hath lost its way,
And through the crevice and the cleft
Of the thick wall is fallen and left;
Creeping o'er the floor so damp,
Like a marsh's meteor lamp.
And in each pillar there is a ring,
And in each ring there is a chain;
That iron is a cankering thing,
For in these limbs its teeth remain, With marks that will not wear away, Till I have done with this new day, Which now is painful to these eyes, Which have not seen the sun so rise For years I cannot count them o'er, I lost their long and heavy score When my last brother droop'd and died, And I lay living by his side.
They chain'd us each to a column stone,
And we were three yet, each alone;
We could not move a single pace,
We could not see each other's face,
But with that pale and livid light
That made us strangers in our sight.
And thus together, yet apart,
Fetter'd in hand, but join'd in heart,
"T was still some solace, in the dearth
Of the pure elements of earth,
To hearken to each other's speech,
And each turn comforter to each
With some new hope or legend old,
Or song heroically bold;
But even these at length grew cold.
Our voices took a dreary tone,
An echo of the dungeon stone,
A grating sound not full and free As they of yore were wont to be: It might be fancy, but to me They never sounded like our own.
Because I could have smiled to see
The death that would have set me free.
I said my nearer brother pined,
I said his mighty heart declined,
He loathed and put away his food;
It was not that 't was coarse and rude,
For we were used to hunters' fare,
And for the like had little care.
The milk drawn from the mountain goat
Was changed for water from the moat,
Our bread was such as captives' tears
Have moisten'd many a thousand years,
Since man first pent his fellow men
Like brutes within an iron den;
But what were these to us or him?
These wasted not his heart or limb;
My brother's soul was of that mould
Which in a palace had grown cold,
Had his free breathing been denied
The range of the steep mountain's side.
But why delay the truth? - he died.
I saw, and could not hold his head,
Nor reach his dying hand nor dead, -
Though hard I strove, but strove in
To rend and gnash my bonds in twain.
He died—and they unlock'd his chain,
And scoop'd for him a shallow grave
Even from the cold earth of our cave.
I begg'd them, as a boon, to lay
His corse in dust whereon the day
Might shine it was a foolish thought,
But then within my brain it wrought,
That even in death his freeborn breast
In such a dungeon could not rest.
I might have spared my idle prayer;
They coldly laugh'd and laid him there:
The flat and turfless earth above
The being we so much did love; His empty chain above it leant, Such murder's fitting monument !
But he, the favourite and the flower,
Most cherish'd since his natal hour,
His mother's image in fair face,
The infant love of all his race,
His martyr'd father's dearest thought,
My latest care, for whom I sought
To hoard my life, that his might be
Less wretched now, and one day free;
He, too, who yet had held untired
A spirit natural or inspired---
He, too, was struck, and day by day
Was wither'd on the stalk away.
Oh, God! it is a fearful thing
To see the human soul take wing
In any shape, in any mood:-
I've seen it rushing forth in blood,
I've seen it on the breaking ocean
Strive with a swoln convulsive motion,
I've seen the sick and ghastly bed
Of Sin delirious with its dread:
But these were horrors - this was woe
Unmix'd with such - but sure and slow.
He faded, and so calm and meek,
So softly worn, so sweetly weak,
So tearless, yet so tender-kind,
And grieved for those he left behind;
With all the while a cheek whose bloom
Was as a mockery of the tomb,
Whose tints as gently sunk away
As a departing rainbow's ray;
An eye of most transparent light,
That almost made the dungeon bright;
And not a word of murmur, not
A groan o'er his untimely lot,
A little talk of better days,
A little hope my own to raise,
For I was sunk in silence - lost
In this last loss, of all the most;
And then the sighs he would suppress
Of fainting nature's feebleness,
More slowly drawn, grew less and less.
I listen'd, but I could not hear -
I call'd, for I was wild with fear;
I knew 't was hopeless, but dread
Would not be thus admonished.
I call'd, and thought I heard a sound
I burst my chain with one strong bound, 210
And rush'd to him:- I found him not,
I only stirr'd in this black spot,
I only lived - I only drew
The accursed breath of dungeon-dew;
The last the sole the dearest link
Between me and the eternal brink,
Which bound me to my failing race,
Was broken in this fatal place.
One on the earth, and one beneath
My brothers both had ceased to breathe:
I took that hand which lay so still,
Alas! my own was full as chill,
I had not strength to stir, or strive,
But felt that I was still alive -
A frantic feeling, when we know
That what we love shall ne'er be so.
I know not why
I could not die,
I had no earthly hope - but faith, And that forbade a selfish death.
What next befell me then and there
I know not well- I never knew;
First came the loss of light, and air,
And then of darkness too.
I had no thought, no feeling
Among the stones I stood a stone,
And was, scarce conscious what I wist,
As shrubless crags within the mist;
For all was blank, and bleak, and grey,
It was not night - it was not day,
It was not even the dungeon-light
So hateful to my heavy sight,
But vacancy absorbing space,
And fixedness- - without a place;
There were no stars, no earth, no
No check, no change, no good, no
But silence, and a stirless breath
Which neither was of life nor death;
A sea of stagnant idleness,
Blind, boundless, mute, and motionless!
A light broke in upon my brain, –
It was the carol of a bird;
It ceased, and then it came again,
The sweetest song ear ever heard, And mine was thankful till my eyes Ran over with the glad surprise, And they that moment could not see I was the mate of misery.
It seem'd like me to want a mate,
But was not half so desolate,
And it was come to love me when
None lived to love me so again,
And cheering from my dungeon's brink,
Had brought me back to feel and think.
But then by dull degrees came back
My senses to their wonted track;
I saw the dungeon walls and floor
Close slowly round me as before,
I saw the glimmer of the sun
Creeping as it before had done,
But through the crevice where it came
That bird was perch'd, as fond and tame,
And tamer than upon the tree;
A lovely bird, with azure wings,
And song that said a thousand things,
And seem'd to say them all for me! 270 I never saw its like before,
I ne'er shall see its likeness more:
A wider prison unto me.
No child, no sire, no kin had I,
A kind of change came in my fate,
My keepers grew compassionate;
I know not what had made them so,
They were inured to sights of woe,
But so it was:
- my broken chain
With links unfasten'd did remain,
And it was liberty to stride
Along my cell from side to side,
And up and down, and then athwart,
And tread it over every part;
And round the pillars one by one,
Returning where my walk begun,
Avoiding only, as I trod,
My brothers' graves without a sod;
For if I thought with heedless tread
My step profaned their lowly bed,
My breath came gaspingly and thick,
And my crush'd heart fell blind and sick.
I made a footing in the wall,
It was not therefrom to escape, For I had buried one and all
Who loved me in a human shape; And the whole earth would henceforth be
No partner in my misery;
I thought of this, and I was glad,
For thought of them had made me mad;