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RODERICK AND COUNT JULIAN.
(FROM BOOK XXIV.)
GENTLY his men with slow and steady step
Their suffering burthen bore, and in the Church
Before the altar laid him down, his head
Upon Florinda's knees.-Now, friends, said he,
Farewell. I ever hoped to meet my death
Among ye, like a soldier,-but not thus !
Go join the Asturians; and in after years,
When of your old commander ye shall talk,
How well he loved his followers, what he was
In battle, and how basely he was slain,
Let not the tale its fit completion lack,
But say how bravely was his death revenged.
Vengeance ! in that good word doth Julian make
His testament; your faithful swords must give
The will its full performand
Leave me now,
I have done with worldly things. Comrades, farewell,
And love my memory!
They with copious tears
Of burning anger, grief exasperating
Their rage, and fury giving force to grief,
Hasten'd to form their ranks against the Moors.
Julian meantime toward the altar turn'd
His languid eyes: That Image, is it not
St. Peter, he enquired, he who denied
His Lord and was forgiven ?--Roderick rejoined,
It is the Apostle; and may that same Lord,
O Julian, to thy soul's salvation bless
The seasonable thought !
The dying Count
Then fix'd upon the Goth his earnest eyes.
No time, said he, is this for bravery,
As little for dissemblance. I would fain
Die in the faith wherein my fathers died,
Whereto they pledged me in mine infancy.-
A soldier's habits, he pursued, have steel'd
My spirit, and perhaps I do not fear
This passage as I ought. But if to feel
That I have sinn'd, and from my soul renounce
The Impostor's faith, which never in that soul
Obtain'd a place, if at the Saviour's feet,
Laden with guilt, to cast myself and cry,
Lord, I believe ! help thou my unbelief!
If this in the sincerity of death
Sufficeth,-Father, let me from thy lips
Receive the assurances with which the Church
Doth bless the dying Christian.
His eyes to Heaven, and crossing on his breast
His open palms, Mysterious are thy ways
And merciful, O gracious Lord ! he cried,
Who to this end hast thus been pleased to lead
My wandering steps ! O Father, this thy son
Hath sinn'd and gone astray : but hast not Thou
Said, When the sinner from his evil ways
Turneth, that he shall save his soul alive,
And Angels at the sight rejoice in Heaven ?
Therefore do I, in thy most holy name,
Into thy family receive again
Him who was lost, and in that name absolve
The Penitent.-So saying, on the head
Of Julian solemnly he laid his hands.
Then to the altar tremblingly he turn'd,
And took the bread, and breaking it, pursued,
Julian ! receive from me the Bread of Life!
In silence reverently the Count partook
The reconciling rite, and to his lips
Roderick then held the consecrated cup.
Me too ! exclaim'd Florinda, who till then
Had listened speechlessly: Thou Man of God,
I also must partake! The Lord hath heard
My prayers ! one sacrament,-one hour,-one grave,
One resurrection !
That dread office done,
Count Julian with amazement saw the Priest
Kneel down before him. By the sacrament
Which we have here partaken, Roderick cried,
In this most awful moment; by that hope, -
That holy faith which comforts thee in death,
Grant thy forgiveness, Julian, ere thou diest !
Behold the man who most hath injured thee!
Roderick, the wretched Goth, the guilty cause
Of all thy guilt,—the unworthy instrument
Of thy redemption,-kneels before thee here,
And prays to be forgiven !
Roderick ! exclaim'd
The dying Count,-Roderick !-and from the floor
With violent effort half he raised himself; .
The spear hung heavy in his side, and pain
And weakness overcame him, that he fell
Back on his daughter's lap. Death, cried he, -
Passing his hand across his cold damp brow,-
Thou tamëst the strong limb, and conquerëst
The stubborn heart ! But yesterday I said
One Heaven could not contain mine enemy
And me; and now I lift my dying voice
To say, Forgive me, Lord, as I forgive
Him who hath done the wrong !-He closed his eyes
A moment; then with sudden impulse cried, -
Roderick, thy wife is dead,—the Church hath power
To free thee from thy vows,—the broken heart
Might yet be heal’d, the wrong redress'd, the throne
Rebuilt by that same hand which pull'd it down,
And these curst Africans.-Oh for a month
Of that waste life which millions misbestow !-
His voice was passionate, and in his eye
With glowing animation while he spake
The vehement spirit shone : its effort soon
Was past, and painfully with feeble breath
In slow and difficult utterance he pursued, —
Vain hope, if all the evil was ordain'd,
And this wide wreck the will and work of Heaven,
We but the poor occasion ! Death will make
All clear, and joining us in better worlds,
Complete our union there! Do for me now
One friendly office more :-draw forth the spear,
And free me from this pain !-Receive his soul,
Saviour ! exclaim'd the Goth, as he perform'd
The fatal service. Julian cried, O friend !-
True friend !-and gave to him his dying hand.
Then said he to Florinda, I go first,
Thou followest!-kiss me,child!—and now good-night!
When from her father's body she arose,
Her cheek was flush'd, and in her eyes there beam'd
A wilder brightness. On the Goth she gazed
While underneath the emotions of that hour
Exhausted life gave way. O God ! she said,
Lifting her hands, thou hast restored me all, —
All-in one hour !-and round his neck she threw
Her arms and cried, My Roderick ! mine in Heaven!
Groaning, he claspt her close, and in that act
And agony her happy spirit fled.
VENGEANCE was the word;
From man to man, and rank to rank it pass'd,
By every heart enforced, by every voice
Sent forth in loud defiance of the foe.
The enemy in shriller sounds return'd
Their Akbar and the Prophet's trusted name.
The horsemen lower'd their spears, the infantry
Deliberately with slow and steady step
Advanced; the bow-strings twang'd, and arrows hiss'd,
And javelins hurtled by. Anon the hosts
Met in the shock of battle, horse and man
Conflicting: shield struck shield, and sword and mace
And curtle-axe on helm and buckler rung;
Armour was riven, and wounds were interchanged,
And many a spirit from its mortal hold
Hurried to bliss or bale. Well did the Chiefs
Of Julian's army in that hour support
Their old esteem; and well Count Pedro there
Enhanced his former praise; and by his side,
Rejoicing like a bridegroom in the strife,
Alphonso through the host of infidels
Bore on his bloody lance dismay and death.
But there was worst confusion and uproar,
There widest slaughter and dismay, where, proud
Of his recover'd Lord, Orelio plunged
Through thickest ranks, trampling beneath his feet
The living and the dead. Where'er he turns
The Moors divide and fly. What man is this,
Appallid they say, who to the front of war