Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

Such as we know is false, yet dread in

sooth, Because the worst is ever nearest truth. And they are gone — but Ezzelin is there, With thoughtful visage and imperious air; But long remaind not; ere an hour expired He waved his hand to Otho, and retired.

II

Immortal man ! behold her glories shine, And cry, exulting inly, · They are thine !' Gaze on, while yet thy gladden'd eye may

see; A morrow comes when they are not for

thee: And grieve what may above thy senseless

bier, Nor earth nor sky will yield a single tear; Nor cloud shall gather more, nor leaf shall

fall, Nor gale breathe forth one sigh for thee,

for all; But creeping things shall revel in their spoil, And fit thy clay to fertilise the soil.

II

20

XXIX The crowd are gone, the revellers at rest; The courteous host, and all-approving guest, Again to that accustom'd couch must creep Where joy subsides, and sorrow sighs to sleep,

631 And man, o'erlaboured with his being's

strife, Shrinks to that sweet forgetfulness of life. There lie love's feverish hope, and cunning's

guile, Hate's working brain, and lull'd ambition's

wile; O'er each vain eye oblivion's pinions wave, And quench'd existence crouches in a grave. What better name may slumber's bed be

come ? Night's sepulchre, the universal home, Where weakness, strength, vice, virtue, sunk supine,

640 Alike in naked helplessness recline; Glad for awhile to heave unconscious

breath, Yet wake to wrestle with the dread of

death, And shun, though day but dawn on ills in

creased, That sleep, the loveliest, since it dreams the

least.

'T is morn

't is noon; assembled in the hall The gather'd chieftains come to Otho's

call.. 'T is now the promised hour, that must pro

claim The life or death of Lara's future fame; When Ezzelin his charge may here unfold, And whatsoe'er the tale, it must be told. His faith was pledged, and Lara's promise

given, To meet it in the eye of man and heaven. Why comes he not? Such truths to be di

vulged, Methinks the accuser's rest is long indulged.

III

30

CANTO THE SECOND

I

Night wanes, the vapours round the

mountains curl'd Melt into morn, and Light awakes the

world. Man has another day to swell the past, And lead him near to little, but his last; But mighty Nature bounds as from her

birth, The sun is in the heavens, and life on earth; Flowers in the valley, splendour in the

beam, Health on the gale, and freshness in the

stream.

The hour is past, and Lara too is there,
With self-confiding, coldly patient air;
Why comes not Ezzelin? The hour is past,
And murmurs rise, and Otho's brow's

o'ercast. I know my friend ! his faith I cannot

fear, If yet he be on earth, expect him here; The roof that held him in the valley stands Between my own and noble Lara's lands; My halls from such a guest had honour

gain'd, Nor had Sir Ezzelin his host disdain'd, But that some previous proof forbade his

stay, And urged him to prepare against to-day: The word I pledged for his I pledge again, Or will myself redeem his knighthood's

stain.' He ceased; and Lara answer'd, 'I am here To lend at thy demand a listening ear

39

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

V

90

61

VI

[ocr errors]

Proud Otho, on the instant reddening, threw His glove on earth, and forth his sabre flew: They raised the bleeding Otho, and the • The last alternative befits me best,

Leech And thus I answer for mine absent guest.' Forbade all present question, sign, and

speech; With cheek unchanging from its sallow The others met within a neighbouring hall, gloom,

And he, incensed and heedless of them all, However near his own or other's tomb; The cause and conqueror in this sudden With hand, whose almost careless coolness

fray, spoke

In haughty silence slowly strode away: Its grasp well-used to deal the sabre-stroke; He back'd his steed, his homeward path he With eye, though calm, determined not to

took, spare,

Nor cast on Otho's towers a single look. Did Lara too his willing weapon bare. In vain the circling chieftains round them closed,

But where was he, that meteor of a night, For Otho's frenzy would not be opposed; Who menaced but to disappear with light ? And from his lip those words of insult Where was this Ezzelin, who came and fell

went His sword is good who can maintain them To leave no other trace of his intent? well.

He left the dome of Otho, long ere morn,

In darkness, yet so well the path was worn Іү

He could not miss it: near his dwelling lay; Short was the conflict; furious, blindly rash, But there he was not, and with coming day Vain Otho gave his bosom to the gash: Came fast enquiry, which unfolded nought He bled, and fell; but not with deadly Except the absence of the chief it sought. wound,

A chamber tenantless, a steed at rest, Stretch'd by a dextrous sleight along the His host alarm’d, his murmuring squires ground.

distress'd: • Demand thy life!' He answer'd not: and Their search extends along, around, the then

path, From that red floor he ne'er had risen In dread to meet the marks of prowlers' again,

wrath: For Lara's brow upon the moment grew But none are there, and not a brake hath Almost to blackness in its demon hue;

borne And fiercer shook his angry falchion now Nor gout of blood, nor shred of mantle Than when his foe's was leveli'd at his

torn; brow;

Nor fall nor struggle hath defaced the Then all was stern collectedness and art,

grass, Now rose the unleaven'd hatred of his Which still retains a mark where murder heart;

was;

70

IIO

VIII

I 20

160

VII

130

Nor dabbling fingers left to tell the tale, 'Gainst Lara gathering raised at length a The bitter print of each convulsive nail,

storm, When agonized hands that cease to guard, Such as himself might fear, and foes would Wound in that pang the smoothness of the form, sward.

And he must answer for the absent head Some such had been, if here a life was reft, Of one that haunts him still, alive or dead. But these were not; and doubting hope is

left. And strange suspicion, whispering Lara's Within that land was many a malcontent, name,

Who cursed the tyranny to which he bent; Now daily matters o'er his blacken'd fame; That soil full many a wringing despot saw, Then, sudden silent when his form appear'd, Who work'd his wantonness in form of Awaits the absence of the thing it fear'd,

law. Again its wonted wondering to renew, Long war without and frequent broil within And dye conjecture with a darker hue. Had made a path for blood and giant sin,

That waited but a signal to begin

New havoc, such as civil discord blends, Days roll along, and Otho's wounds are Which knows no neuter, owns but foes or heal'd,

friends; But not his pride, and hate no more con

Fix'd in his feudal fortress each was lord, ceal'd.

In word and deed obey'd, in soul abhorr'd. He was a man of power, and Lara's foe, Thus Lara had inherited his lands, The friend of all who sought to work him And with them pining hearts and sluggish woe,

hands;

169 And from his country's justice now demands But that long absence from his native clime Account of Ezzelin at Lara's hands.

Had left him stainless of oppression's crime, Who else than Lara could have cause to And now, diverted by his milder sway, fear

All dread by slow degrees had worn away. His presence ? who had made him disap- The menials felt their usual awe alone, pear,

But more for him than them that fear was If not the man on whom his menaced charge

grown; Had sate too deeply were he left at large? They deem'd him now unhappy, though at The general rumour ignorantly loud,

first The mystery dearest to the curious crowd; | Their evil judgment augurd of the worst, The seeming friendlessness of him who And each long restless night and silent strove

mood To win no confidence, and wake no love; Was traced to sickness, fed by solitude. The sweeping fierceness which his soul be- And though his lonely habits threw of late tray'd,

Gloom o'er his chamber, cheerful was his The skill with which he wielded his keen

gate; blade;

For thence the wretched ne'er unsoothed Where had his arm unwarlike caught that

withdrew, art?

For them, at least, his soul compassion Where had that fierceness grown upon his

knew. heart ?

Cold to the great, contemptuous to the high, For it was not the blind capricious rage

The humble pass'd not his unheeding eye; A word can kindle and a word assuage; Much he would speak not, but beneath his But the deep working of a soul unmix'd

roof With aught of pity where its wrath had They found asylum oft and ne'er reproof. fix'd;

And they who watch'd might mark that, Such as long power and overgorged success day by day, Concentrates into all that's merciless. Some new retainers gather'd to his sway. These, link'd with that desire which ever But most of late, since Ezzelin was lost, sways

He play'd the courteous lord and bounteous Mankind, the rather to condemn than praise,

host:

141

181

150

191

IX

229

Perchance his strife with Otho made him

dread Some snare prepared for his obnoxious head; Whate'er his view, his favour more obtains With these, the people, than his fellow

thanes. If this were policy, so far 't was sound, The million judged but of him as they

found; From him by sterner chiefs to exile driven They but required a shelter, and 't was

given. By him no peasant mourn'd his rifled cot, 200 And scarce the Serf could murmur o'er his

lot; With him old avarice found its hoard se

cure, With him contempt forbore to mock the

poor; Youth present cheer and promised recom

pense Detain'd, till all too late to part from

thence. To hate he offer'd, with the coming change, The deep reversion of delay'd revenge; To love, long baffled by the unequal match, The well-worn charms success was sure to

snatch. All now was ripe, he waits but to pro

claim That slavery nothing which was still a

Throughout that clime the feudal chiefs

had gain'd Such sway, their infant monarch hardly

reign’d. Now was the hour for faction's rebel

growth, The Serfs contemn'd the one, and hated

both: They waited but a leader, and they found One to their cause inseparably bound, By circumstance compell’d to plunge again, In self-defence, amidst the strife of men. Cut off by some mysterious fate from those Whom birth and nature meant not for his

foes, Had Lara from that night, to him accurst, Prepared to meet, but not alone, the worst. Some reason urged, whate'er it was, to

shun Enquiry into deeds at distance done; By mingling with his own the cause of all, E’en if he fail'd, he still delay'd his fall. The sullen calm that long his bosom kept, The storm that once had spent itself and

slept, Roused by events that seem'd foredoom'd

239

to urge

210

name.

250

The moment came, the hour when Otho

thought Secure at last the vengeance which he

sought. His summons found the destined criminal Begirt by thousands in his swarming hall, Fresh from their feudal fetters newly riven, Defying earth and confident of heaven. That morning he had freed the soil-bound

slaves Who dig no land for tyrants but their

graves ! Such is their cry

some watchword for the fight Must vindicate the wrong and warp the

right; Religion, freedom, vengeance, what you

will 1 word 's enough to raise mankind to kill; Some factious phrase by cunning caught

and spread, Chat guilt may reign, and wolves and

worms be fed !

His gloomy fortunes to their utmost verge, Burst forth, and made him all he once had

been, And is again; he only changed the scene. Light care had he for life, and less for

fame, But not less fitted for the desperate game: He deem'd himself mark'd out for others'

hate, And mock'd at ruin so they shared his

fate. What cared he for the freedom of the

crowd ? He raised the humble but to bend the

proud. He had hoped quiet in his sullen lair, But man and destiny beset him there: Inured to hunters, he was found at bay; And they must kill, they cannot snare the

prey. Stern, unambitious, silent, he had been Henceforth a calm spectator of life's scene; But dragg'd again upon the arena, stood A leader not unequal to the feud; In voice, mien, gesture, savage nature

spoke, And from his eye the gladiator broke.

220

261 X

Of these they had not deem’d: the battle-day They could encounter as a veteran may; But more preferr’d the fury of the strife, And present death, to hourly suffering life. And famine wrings, and fever sweeps away His numbers melting fast from their array; Intemperate triumph fades to discontent, And Lara's soul alone seems still unbent. But few remain to aid his voice and hand, And thousands dwindled to a scanty band: Desperate, though few, the last and best

remain'd To mourn the discipline they late disdain’d. One hope survives, the frontier is not far, And thence they may escape from native

war; And bear within them to the neighbouring

state An exile's sorrows or an outlaw's hate: Hare the task their father-land to quit, But harder still to perish or submit.

270

What boots the oft-repeated tale of strife, The feast of vultures, and the waste of

life ? The varying fortune of each separate field, The fierce that vanquish, and the faint that

yield ? The smoking ruin, and the crumbled wall ? In this the struggle was the same with

all; Save that distemper'd passions lent their

force In bitterness that banish'd all remorse. None sued, for Mercy knew her cry was

vain, The captive died upon the battle-plain. In either cause, one rage alone possess'd The empire of the alternate victor's breast; And they that smote for freedom or for

sway, Deem'd few were slain, while more re

main'd to slay. It was too late to check the wasting brand, And Desolation reap'd the famish'd land; The torch was lighted, and the flame was

spread, And Carnage smiled upon her daily dead.

312

XII

320

280

XI

330

Fresh with the nerve the new-born impulse

strung, The first success to Lara's numbers clung: But that vain victory hath ruined all; They form no longer to their leader's call: In blind confusion on the foe they press, And think to snatch is to secure success. The lust of booty and the thirst of hate Lure on the broken brigands to their fate: In vain he doth whate'er a chief may do, 290 To check the headlong fury of that crew; In vain their stubborn ardour he would

tame, The hand that kindles cannot quench the

flame; The wary foe alone hath turn'd their mood, And shown their rashness to that erring

brood. The feign'd retreat, the nightly ambuscade, The daily harass, and the fight delay'd, The long privation of the hoped supply, The tentless rest beneath the humid sky, The stubborn wall that mocks the leaguer's

art And palls the patience of his baffled

heart,

It is resolved, they march — consenting

Night Guides with her star their dim and torch

less flight. Already they perceive its tranquil beam Sleep on the surface of the barrier stream; Already they descry – is yon the bank ? Away! 't is lined with many a hostile rank. Return or fly! - What glitters in the rear ? 'Tis Otho's banner, the pursuer's spear ! Are those the shepherds' fires upon the

height? Alas ! they blaze too widely for the flight: Cut off from hope, and compass'd in the

toil, Less blood perchance hath bought a richer spoil !

XIII A moment's pause

't is but to breathe their band, Or shall they onward press, or here with

stand ? It matters little; if they charge the foes Who by their border-stream their march

oppose, Some few, perchance, may break and pass

the line, However link'd to baffle such design. • The charge be ours ! to wait for their

assault Were fate well worthy of a coward's halt.'

300

« AnteriorContinuar »