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LARA.

CANTO II.

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, 650
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.
Immortal man! behold her glories shine,
And cry, exulting inly, “ they are thine !" 655
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, 660
Nor gale breathe forth one sigh for thee, for all;

But creeping things shall revel in their spoil,
And fit thy clay to fertilize the soil.

U. 'Tis morn—'tis noon-assembled in the hall, The gather'd chieftains come to Otho's call; 665 'Tis now the promis’d hour, that must proclaim 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, 670 To meet it in the eye of man and heaven. Why comes he not? Such truths to be divulged, Methinks the accuser's rest is long indulged.

III.

The hour is past, and Lara too is there,
With self-confiding, coldly patient air ;

675 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 680 “ 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; 685

“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; “To tales of evil from a stranger's tongue, 690 “Whose words already might my heart have wrung, “But that I deem'd him scarcely less than mad, “Or, at the worst, a foe ignobly bad. “I know him not-but me it seems he knew « In lands where--but I must not trifle too: 695 “ Produce this babbler-or redeem the pledge; “Here in thy hold, and with thy falchion's edge.”

Proud Otho on the instant, reddening, threw
His glove on earth, and forth his sabre flew.
" The last alternative befits me best,
"And thus I answer for mine absent guest."

700

With cheek unchanging from its sallow gloom,
However near his own or other's tomb;
With hand, whose almost careless coolness spoke,
Its
grasp

well-used to deal the sabre-stroke; 705
With eye, though calm, determined not to spare,
Did Lara too his willing weapon bare.
In vain the circling chieftains round them closed,
For Otho's phrensy would not be opposed;
And from his lip those words of insult fell- 710
His sword is good who can maintain them well.

IV.

Short was the conflict; furious, blindly rash,
Vain Otho gave his bosom to the gash:
He bled, and fell; but not with deadly wound,
Stretch'd by a dextrous sleight upon the ground. 715
“ Demand thy life !” He answer'd not: and then
From that red floor he ne'er had risen again,
For Lara's brow upon the moment grew
Almost to blackness in its demon hue;
And

fiercer shook his angry falchion now 720
Than when his foe's was levell’d at his brow;
Then all was stern collectedness and art,
Now rose the unleaven'd hatred of his heart;
So little sparing to the foe he felld,
That when the approaching crowd his arm withheld,
He almost turned the thirsty point on those, 726
Who thus for mercy dared to interpose ;
But to a moment's thought that purpose bent;
Yet look'd he on him still with eye intent,
As if he loathed the ineffectual strife

730 That left a foe, howe'er o'erthrown, with life i As if to search how far the wound he gave Had sent its victim onward to his grave.

V.

They raised the bleeding Otho, and the Leech Forbade all present question, sign, and speech; 735

The others met within a neighbouring hall,
And he, incensed and heedless of them all,
The cause and conqueror in this sudden fray,
In haughty silence slowly strode away;
He back'd his steed, his homeward path he took, 740
Nor cast on Otho's towers a single look.

VI.

But where was he? that meteor of a night,
Who menaced but to disappear with light?
Where was this Ezzelin ? who came and went
To leave no other trace of his intent.

745
He left the dome of Otho long ere mora,
In darkness, yet so well the path was worn
He could not miss it: near his dwelling lay;
But there he was not, and with coming day
Came fast inquiry, which unfolded nought

750 Except the absence of the chief it sought. A chamber tenantless, a steed at rest, His host alarm’d, his murmuring squires distrest: Their search extends along, around the path, In dread to meet the marks of prowlers' wrath: 755 But none are there, and not a brake hath borne, Nor gout of blood, nor shred of mantle torn; Nor fall nor struggle hath defaced the grass, Which still retains a mark where murder was; Nor dabbling fingers left to tell the tale,

760 The bitter print of each convulsive nail, When agonised hands that cease to guard, Wound in that pang the smoothness of the sward.

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