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Yet darkling in the Moslem's way;
Fit spot to make invaders rue
many fallen before the few.
The torrents from that morning's sky
Had fill'd the narrow chasm breast high,
And, on each side, aloft and wild,
Huge cliffs and toppling crags were piled,——
The guards with which young Freedom lines
The pathways to her mountain-shrines.
Here, at this pass, the scanty band
Of Iran's last avengers stand;
Here wait, in silence like the dead,
And listen for the Moslem's tread
So anxiously, the carrion-bird
Above them flaps his wing unheard!
They come - that plunge into the water Gives signal for the work of slaughter! Now, Ghebers, now- if e'er your blades Had point or prowess, prove them now! Woe to the file that foremost wades !
They come a falchion greets each brow, And, as they tumble, trunk on trunk, Beneath the gory waters sunk, Still o'er their drowning bodies press New victims quick and numberless; Till scarce an arm in Hafed's band,
So fierce their toil, hath power to stir, But listless from each crimson hand
The sword hangs, clogg'd with massacre.
Never was horde of tyrants met
With bloodier welcome- never yet
To patriot vengeance hath the sword
More terrible libations pour'd.
All up the dreary long ravine,
By the red murky glimmer seen
Of half-quench'd brands that o'er the flood
Lie scatter'd round and burn in blood,
What ruin glares! what carnage swims!
Heads, blazing turbans, quivering limbs,
Lost swords that, dropp'd from many a hand,
In that thick pool of slaughter stand,--
Wretches who wading, half on fire
From the toss'd brands that round them fly,
"Twixt flood and flame in shrieks expire;
And some who, grasp'd by those that die,
Sink woundless with them, smother'd o'er
In their dead brethren's gushing gore!
But vainly hundreds, thousands bleed,-
Still hundreds, thousands more succeed;
Countless as toward some flame at night
The North's dark insects wing their flight,
And quench or perish in its light,
To this terrific spot they pour-
Till, bridged with Moslem bodies o'er,
It bears aloft their slippery tread,
And o'er the dying and the dead,—
Then, hapless Ghebers, then, alas!
What hope was left for you? -for you,
Whose yet warm pile of sacrifice
Is smoking in their vengeful eyes!
Whose swords how keen, how fierce they knew,
And burn with shame to find how few!
Crush'd down by that vast multitude,
Some found their graves where first they stood;
While some with hardier struggle died,
And still fought on by Hafed's side,
Who, fronting to the foe, trod back
Toward the high towers his gory
And, as a lion swept away
By sudden swell of Jordan's pride
From the wild covert where he lay,
Long battles with the o'erwhelming tide,
So fought he back with fierce delay,
And kept both foes and fate at bay.
Their prey escaped-guide, torches gone;
By torrent-beds and labyrinths crost,
The scatter'd crowd rush blindly on:
'Curse on those tardy lights that wind,'
They panting cry, 'so far behind!
Oh, for a bloodhound's precious scent,
To track the way the Gheber went!'
Vain wish-confusedly along
They rush, more desperate as more wrong:
Till, wilder'd by the far-off lights
Yet glittering up those gloomy heights,
Their footing, mazed and lost, they miss,
And down the darkling precipice
Are dash'd into the deep abyss;
Or midway hang, impaled on rocks,
A banquet, yet alive, for flocks
Of ravening vultures, while the dell
Re-echoes with each horrible yell.
Those sounds - the last, to vengeance dear,
That e'er shall ring in Hafed's ear,-
Now reach'd him, as aloft, alone,
Upon the steep way breathless thrown,
He lay beside his reeking blade,
Resign'd, as if life's task were o'er,
Its last blood-offering amply paid,
And Iran's self could claim no more.
One only thought, one lingering beam,
Now broke across his dizzy dream
Of pain and weariness: 't was she,
His heart's pure planet, shining yet
Above the waste of memory,
When all life's other lights were set.
And never to his mind before
Her image such enchantment wore.
It seem'd as if each thought that stain'd,
Each fear that chill'd their loves, was past;
And not one cloud of earth remain'd
Between him and her radiance cast;
As if to charms, before so bright,
New grace from other worlds was given, And his soul saw her by the light
Now breaking o'er itself from heaven!
A voice spoke near him -'t was the tone
Of a loved friend, the only one,
Of all his warriors, left with life
From that short night's tremendous strife. 'And must we then, my Chief, die here? Foes round us, and the Shrine so near!' These words have roused the last remains "What! not yet
Beyond the reach of Moslem chains!'
The thought could make e'en Death forget His icy bondage; with a bound
He springs, all bleeding, from the ground, And grasps his comrade's arm, now grown
E'en feebler, heavier than his own,
And up the painful pathway leads,
Death gaining on each step he treads.
Speed them, thou God who heard'st their vow!
They mount - they bleed; oh, save them now!
The crags are red they've clamber'd o'er,
The rock-weed's dripping with their gore;
Thy blade too, Hafed, false at length,
Now breaks beneath thy tottering strength!
Haste, haste! the voices of the Foe
Come near and nearer from below;
thank Heaven! 't is past;