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To watch the moonlight on the wings
Of the white pelicans that break
The azure calm of MÆRIS' Lake. 176
'Twas a fair scene a Land more bright
Never did mortal eye behold!
Who could have thought, that saw this night,
Those valleys and their fruits of gold,
Basking in Heaven's serenest light; -
Those groups of lovely date-trees bending
Languidly their leaf-crown'd heads,
Like youthful maids, when sleep descending
Warns them to their silken beds;
Those virgin lilies, all the night
Bathing their beauties in the lake,
That they may rise more fresh and bright,
When their beloved Sun's awake;
Those ruin’d shrines and towers that seem
The relics of a splendid dream;
Amid whose fairy loneliness
Nought but the lapwing's cry is heard,
Nought seen but (when the shadows, flitting
Fast from the moon, unsheath its gleam)
Some purple-wing'd Sultana 178 sitting
Upon a column, motionless
And glittering like an Idol bird !-
Who could have thought, that there, even there,
Amid those scenes so still and fair,
The Demon of the Plague hath cast
From his hot wing a deadlier blast,
More mortal far than ever came
From the red Deserts sands of flame!
So quick, that every living thing
Of human shape, touch'd by his wing,
Like plants where the Simoom hath past,
At once falls black and withering!
The sun went down on many a brow,
Which, full of bloom and freshness then,
Is rankling in the pest-house now,
And ne'er will feel that sun again.
And, oh! to see the unburied heaps
On which the lonely moonlight sleeps —
The very vultures turn away,
And sicken at so foul a prey !
Only the fierce hyæna stalks 179
Throughout the city's desolate walks 180
At midnight, and his carnage plies :-
Woe to the half-dead wretch, who meets
The glaring of those large blue eyes
Amid the darkness of the streets !
“Poor race of men !” said the pitying Spirit,
“Dearly ye pay for your primal Fall — Some flow'rets of Eden ye still inherit,
But the trail of the Serpent is over them all !” She wept — the air grew pure and clear
Around her, as the bright drops ran;
For there's a magic in each tear
Such kindly Spirits weep for man!
Just then beneath some orange trees,
Whose fruit and blossoms in the breeze
Were wantoning together, free,
Like age at play with infancy
Beneath that fresh and springing bower,
Close by the Lake, she heard the moan
Of one who, at this silent hour,
Had thither stolen to die alone. One who in life, where'er he mov'd,
Drew after him the hearts of many; Yet now, as though he ne'er were lov’d,
Dies here unseen, unwept by any !
None to watch near him none to slake
The fire that in his bosom lies,
With even a sprinkle from that lake,
Which shines so cool before his eyes.
No voice, well known through many a day,
To speak the last, the parting word,
Which, when all other sounds decay,
Is still like distant music heard ;
That tender farewell on the shore
Of this rude world, when all is o’er,
Which cheers the spirit, ere its bark
Puts off into the unknown Dark.
Deserted youth! one thought alone
Shed joy around his soul in death — That she, whom he for years had known, And lov’d, and might have call’d his own,
Was safe from this foul midnight's breath, – Safe in her father's princely halls, Where the cool airs from fountain falls, Freshly perfum’d by many a brand Of the sweet wood from India's land, Were pure as she whose brow they fann’d. But see — who yonder comes by stealth, 182
This melancholy bower to seek, Like a young envoy, sent by Health,
With rosy gifts upon her cheek ? 'Tis she — far off, through moonlight dim,
He knew his own betrothed bride, She, who would rather die with him,
Than live to gain the world beside! Her arms are round her lover now,
His livid cheek to hers she presses, And dips, to bind his burning brow,
In the cool lake her loosen'd tresses.
Ah! once, how little did he think
An hour would come, when he should shrink
With horror from that dear embrace,
Those gentle arms, that were to him
Holy as is the cradling place
Of Eden's infant cherubim !
And now he yields now turns away,
Shuddering as if the venom lay
All in those proffer'd lips alone - .
Those lips that, then so fearless grown, pick!
Never until that instant came
Near his unask'd or without shame.
“Oh! let me only breathe the air,
That blessed air, that's breath’d by thee,
/ And, whether on its wings it bear
Healing or death, 'tis sweet to me!
There drink my tears, while yet they fall
Would that my bosom’s blood were balm,
And, well thou know'st, I'd shed it all,
To give thy brow one minute's calm. Nay, turn not from me that dear face
Am I not thine — thy own lov'd bride The one, the chosen one, whose place
In life or death is by thy side ? Think'st thou that she, whose only light,
In this dim world, from thee hath shone,
Could bear the long, the cheerless night,
That must be hers when thou art gone ?
That I can live, and let thee go,
Who art my life itself ? — No, no —
When the stem dies, the leaf that grew
Out of its heart must perish too !
Then turn to me, my own love, turn,
Before, like thee, I fade and burn;
Cling to these yet cool lips, and share
The last pure life that lingers there!”
She fails she sinks as dies the lamp
In charnel airs, or cavern-damp,
So quickly do his baleful sighs
Quench all the sweet light of her eyes.
One struggle - and his pain is past -
Her lover is no longer living!
One kiss the maiden gives, one last,
Long kiss, which she expires in giving !
Sleep,” said the PERI, as softly she stole
The farewell sigh of that vanishing soul,
As true as e'er warm’d a woman's breast
Sleep on, in visions of odor rest,
In balmier airs than ever yet stirr'd
The enchanted pile of that lonely bird,
Who sings at the last his own death-lay,188
And in music and perfume dies away!”
Thus saying, from her lips she spread
Unearthly breathings through the place,
And shook her sparkling wreath, and shed
Such lustre o'er each paly face,
That like two lovely saints they seem'd,
Upon the eve of doomsday taken
From their dim graves, in odor sleeping;
While that benevolent PERI beam'd
Like their good angel, calmly keeping
Watch o'er them till their souls would waken.
But morn is blushing in the sky;
Again the PERI soars above,
Bearing to Heaven that precious sigh
Of pure self-sacrificing love.
High throbb'd her heart, with hope elate,
The Elysian palm she soon shall win,