Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

And threw his hands aloft in frantic

prayer, . .
Death is the only mercy that I crave,
Death soon and short, death and forgetfulness !
Aloud he cried ; but in his inmost heart
There answered him a secret voice, that spake
Of righteousness and judgment after death,
And God's redeeming love, which fain would save
The guilty soul alive. 'Twas agony,
And yet 'twas hope ; . . a momentary light,
That Aash'd through utter darkness on the Cross
To point salvation, then left all within
Dark as before. Fear, never felt till then,
Sudden and irresistible as stroke
Of lightning, smote him. From his horse he dropt,
Whether with human impulse, or by Heaven
Struck down, he knew not ; loosen'd from his wrist
The sword-chain, and let fall the sword, whose hilt
Clung to his palm a moment ere it fell,
Glued there with Moorish gore. His royal robe,
His horned helmet and enamell'd mail,
He cast aside, and taking from the dead
A peasant’s garment, in those weeds involved,

Stole, like a thief in darkness, from the field.' Favoured by the shades of night, and afterward by the general persuasion of his death, the remorse-stricken sinner reaches an antient monastery in the neighbourhood of Merida, whence all its inmates have fled, except one aged monk, who remains waiting in enthusiastic expectation for the crown of martyrdom. Here the wretched fugitive throws himself at the foot of the cross, and gives vent to the agony of his soul in a torrent of tears :

• He had not wept till now, and at the gush

Of these first tears, it seem'd as if his heart,
From a long winter's icy thrall let loose,
Had open'd to the genial influences
Of Heaven. In attitude, but not in act
Of prayer he lay: an agony of tears

Was all his soul could offer.' His discovery of himself to the monk is in a high degree grand and impressive :

. Then Roderick knelt
Before the holy man and strove to speak.
Thou seest, he cried, ., thou seest, .
And suffocating thoughts represt the word,
And shudderings, like an ague fit, from head
To foot convulsed him ; till at length, subduing
His nature to the effort, he exclaim'd,
Spreading his hands and lifting up his face,

As

but memory

As if resolved in penitence to bear
A human eye upon his shame, • . Thou seest
Roderick the Goth! That name would have sufficed
To tell the whole abhorred history :
He not the less pursued, . . the ravisher,
The cause of all this ruin! Having said,
In the same posture motionless he knelt,
Arms straightened down, and hands outspread, and eyes
Raised to the Monk, like one who from his voice

Expected life or death.' The monk having devoted himself to the pious task of rescuing from despair the soul of his royal penitent, they leave the monastery together, and, after a painful pilgrimage, reach the shores of the western ocean, where they fix their habitation in an old deserted hermitage. Here in acts of devotion, in deep humiliation and austere penance, the Gothic monarch wears away“ many a long lingering year,” and pays the last offices to his antient companion; after whose dissolution he seems to have taken an eternal farewell of human society. In this state of solitude, he exists till existence becomes absolutely insupportable, and he prays for a vision of the departed, or at least that he may be permitted in a dream to hear his voice.

• He had pray'd to hear a voice
Of consolation, and in dreams a voice
Of consolation came. Roderick, it said, ..
Roderick, my poor, unhappy, sinful child,
Jesus have mercy on thee!... Not if Heaven
Had open'd, and Romano, visible
In his beatitude, had breath'd that prayer ; . .
Not if the Grave had spoken, had it pierced
So deeply in his soul, nor wrung his heart
With such compunctious visitings, nor given
So quick, so keen a pang: It was that voice
Which sung his fretful infancy to sleep
So patiently; which sooth'd his childish griefs ;
Counsell's, with anguish and prophetic tears,
His headstrong youth. And lo! his Mother stood

Before him in the vision.'
Again,

• In his dream,
Groaning he knelt before her to beseech
Her blessing, and she rais'd her hands to lay
A benediction on him. But those hands
Were chain'd, and casting a wild look around,
With thrilling voice she cried, Will no one break
These shameful fetters? Pedro, Theudemir,
Athanagild, where are ye? Roderick's arm

Q.3

Is withered, . . Chiefs of Spain, but where are ye?
And thou, Pelayo, thou our surest hope,
Dost thou too sleep?.. Awake, Pelayo!.. up!..
Why tarriest thou? Deliverer?.. But with that
She broke her bonds, and lo! her form was changed !
Radiant in arms she stood ! a bloody Cross
Gleam'd on her breast-plate, in her shield display'd
Erect a Lion ramp'd; her helmed head
Rose like the Berecynthian Goddess crown'd
With towers, and in her dreadful hand the sword
Red as a fire-brand blazed. Anon the tramp
Of horsemen, and the din of multitudes
Moving to mortal conflict, rung around;
The battle-song, the clang of sword and shield,
War-cries and tumult, strife and hate and rage,
Blasphemous prayers, confusion, agony,
Rout and pursuit and death ;- and over all
The shout of Victory ... Spain and Victory!
Roderick, as the strong vision master'd him,
Rush'd to the fight rejoicing : starting then,
As his own effort burst the charm of sleep,
He found himself upon that lonely grave
In moonlight and in silence. But the dream
Wrought in him still ; for still he felt his heart
Pant, and his wither'd arm was trembling still ;
And still that voice was in his ear which call's
On Jesus for his sake,'

Roused by this prophetic vision; as by a certain call from heaven, Roderick once more “ girds his loins," and sets for. wards with a sort of undefined hope of beholling again his inother, and obtaining her blessing and forgiveness ; and with a yet more indistinct idea of becoming the avenger of those national miseries of which he still reflected on himself as the cause. Nothing can be more finely conceived than the various conflicting emotions by which he is represented as agitated on revisiting the habitations of men.

The sound, the sight
Of turban, girdle, robe, and scymitar,
And tawny skins, awoke contending thoughts
Of anger, shame, and anguish in the Goth;
The unaccustom'd face of human-kind
Confused him now, and through the streets he went
With hagged mien, and countenance like one
Crazed or bewilder'd. All who met him turn'd,
And wonder'd as he past. One stopt him short,
Put alms into his hand, and then desired,
In broken Gothic speech, the moon-struck man
To bless him. With a look of vacancy,
Roderick received the alms; his wandering eye

Fell

Fell on the money, and the fallen King,
Seeing his own royal impress on the piece,
Broke out into a quick convulsive voice,
That seem'd like laughter first, but ended soon
In hollow groans supprest : the Mussleman
Shrunk at the ghastly sound, and magnified
The name of Allah as he hasten'd on.
A Christian woman spinning at her door
Beheld him, and with sudden pity touch'd
She laid her spindle by, and running in
Took bread, and following after call'd him back,
And placing in his passive hands the loaf,
She said, Christ Jesus for his Mother's sake
Have mercy on thee! With a look that secm'd
Like idiotcy he heard her, and stood still,
Staring a while ; then bursting into tears
Wept like a child, and thus relieved his heart,

Full even to bursting else with swelling thoughts.'
After long wandering, he arrives

where Minho rolls its ampler stream By Auria's * ancient walls.' Those walls have been razed to the ground, and the late populous city is converted into a heap of ruins, among which are still lying the bodies of its recently slaughtered inhabitants. Roderick's exclamations of horror and detestation, mingled with patriotic ardour, draw to his side a female, the only survivor of the massacre ; who, reserved to satisfy the lust of the Moorish captain, had (like another Judith) avenged her country by his extermination, and now stood before Roderick to animate his enthusiasm by making it partake the inspiration of her own. In his presence she kneels, and dedicates her life to the work of Spain's deliverance. Motionless at first from admi. ration and awe, his spirit at last bursts forth with a similar impulse:

• Kneeling then,
And placing as he spake his hands in hers,
As thou hast sworn, the royal Goth pursued,
Even so I swear : my soul hath found at length
Her rest and refuge; in the invader's blood
She must efface her stains of mortal sin,
And in redeeming this lost land, work out
Redemption for herself. Herein I place
My penance for the past, my hope to come,
My faith and my good works ; here offer up
All thoughts and passions of mine inmost heart,
My days and nights, . . this flesh, this blood, this life,

* Now Orense in Gallicia,

Yea this whole being, I devote it here
For Spain. Receive the vow, all Saints in Heaven,
And prosper its good end !... Clap now your wings,
The Goth with louder utterance as he rose
Exclaim'd, .. clap now your wings exaltingly,
Ye ravenous fowl of Heaven ; and in your dens
Set up, ye wolves of Spain, a yell of joy ;
For lo ! a nation hath this day been sworn
To furnish forth your banquet ; for a strife
Hath been commenced, the which from this day forth
Permits no breathing-time, and knows no end,
Till in this land the last invader bow

His neck beneath the exterminating sword.' Directed by Adosinda’s counsels, he now pursues his pilgrimage to a monastery on the Asturian border; where he unfolds to the venerable abbot Odoar, and Urban, the antient archbishop of Toledo, the wonders which he had seen at Auria, and proceeds to animate them with a portion of his newly-infused spirit:

. What walls or towers
Or battlements are like these fastnesses,
These rocks and glens and everlasting hills ?
Give but that Aurian spirit, and the Moors
Will spend their force as idly on these holds,
As round the rocky girdle of the land

The wild Cantabrian billows waste their rage.' To their inquiries respecting himself, he returns only a short and mysterious answer; starting off to question them,

• Whom shall we rouse to take upon his head

The crown of Spain ?". Then, recounting the names of the Gothic chieftains of his own antient court, he excites yet more and more the astonishment of his hearers :

• Odoar and Urban eyed him while he spake,
As if they wonder'd whose the tongue might be
Familiar thus with Chiefs and thoughts of state.
They scann'd his countenance, but not a trace
Betrayed the royal Goth : sunk was that eye
Of sovereignty; and on the emaciate cheek
Had penitence and anguish deeply drawn
Their furrows premature, . . forestalling time,
And shedding upon thirty's brow more snows
Than threescore winters in their natural course

Might else have sprinkled there.' They give him at length the information which he seeks; that Pelayo, the only hope of Spain,' is detained a hostage at the Moorish court. There Roderick vows to seek him out,

and

« AnteriorContinuar »