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Man spurns the worm, but pauses ere he wake
The slumbering venom of the folded snake;
The first may turn
- but not avenge the blow; The last expires but leaves no living foe; Fast to the doom'd offender's form it clings,
- not conquer
still it stings !
None are all evil --quickening round his heart,
One softer feeling would not yet depart;
Oft could he sneer at others as beguiled
By passions worthy of a fool or child :
Yet'gainst that passion vainly still he strove,
And even in him it asks the name of Love !
Yes, it was love - unchangeable - unchanged,
Felt but for one from whom he never ranged ;
Though fairest captives daily met his eye,
He shunnd, nor sought, but coldly pass’d them by ;
Though many a beauty droop'd in prison'd bower,
None ever soothed his most unguarded hour.
Yes -- it was Love if thoughts of tenderness,
Tried in temptation, strengthen'd by distress,
Unmoved by absence, firm in every clime,
And yet — Oh more than all ! — untired by time;
Which nor defeated hope, nor baffled wile,
Could render sullen were she near to smile,
could fire, nor sickness fret to vent
On her one murmur of his discontent;
Which still would meet with joy, with calmness part,
Lest that his look of grief should reach her heart;
Which nought removed, nor menaced to remove
If there be love in mortals - this was love!
He was a villain
- ау: reproaches shower
On him — but not the passion, nor its power,
Which only proved, all other virtues gone,
Not guilt itself could quench this loveliest one !
He paused a moment —- till his hastening men
Pass'd the first winding downward to the glen.
“ Strange tidings ! -- many a peril have I past,
Nor know I why this next appears the last !
Yet so my heart forebodes, but must not fear,
Nor shall my followers find me falter here.
'Tis rash to meet, but surer death to wait
Till here they hunt us to undoubted fate;
And, if my plan but hold, and Fortune smile
We 'll furnish mourners for our funeral pile.
Ay — let them slumber peaceful be their dreams!
Morn ne'er awoke them with such brilliant beams
As kindle high to-night (but blow, thou breeze!)
To warm these slow avengers of the seas.
Now to Medora - Oh! my sinking heart,
Long may her own be lighter than thou art !
Yet was I brave mean boast where all are brave!
Ev'n insects sting for aught they seek to save.
This common courage which with brutes we share,
That owes its deadliest efforts to despair,
Small merit claims but 't was my nobler hope
few with numbers still to cope; Long have I led them -- not to vainly bleed; No medium now
we perish or succeed! So let it be- it irks not me to die ; But thus to urge them whence they cannot fly My lot hath long had little of my care, But chafes my pride thus baffled in the snare : “ Is this my skill? my craft? to set at last Hope, power, and life upon a single cast? Oh, Fate! accuse thy folly, not thy fate She may redeem thee still
nor yet too late."
Thus with himself communion held he, till
He reach'd the summit of his tower-crown'd hill :
There at the portal paused — for wild and soft
He heard those accents never heard too oft;
Through the high lattice far yet sweet they rung,
And these the notes the bird of beauty sung:
Deep in my soul that tender secret dwells,
Lonely and lost to light for evermore,
Save when to thine my heart responsive swells,
Then tremble into silence as before.
2. “ There, in its centre, a sepulchral lamp Burns the slow flame, eternal
but unseen, Which not the darkness of despair can damp,
Though vain its ray as it had never been.
3. - Remember me Oh! pass
not thou my grave Without one thought whose relics there recline : The only pang my bosom dare not brave
Must be to find forgetfulness in thine.
4. My fondest faintest - latest accents hear
Grief for the dead not Virtue can reprove ; Then give me all I ever ask'd a tear,
The first - the last - sole reward of so much love !"
He pass'd the portal - cross'd the corridore,
And reach'd the chamber as the strain gave o’er:
My own Medora! sure thy song is sad —"
“ In Conrad's absence wouldst thou have it glad ?
Without thine ear to listen to my lay,
Still must my song my thoughts, my soul betray :
Still must each accent to my bosom suit,
My heart unhush'd — although my lips were mute !
Oh! many a night on this lone couch reclined,
My dreaming fear with storms hath wing’d the wind,
And deem'd the breath that faintly fann'd thy sail
The murmuring prelude of the ruder gale ;
Though soft, it seem'd the low prophetic dirge,
That mourn'd thee floating on the savage surge :
Still would I rise to rouse the beacon fire,
Lest spies less true should let the blaze expire ;
And many a restless hour outwatch'd each star,
And morning came
and still thou wert afar.
Oh! how the chill blast on my bosom blew,
And day broke dreary on my troubled view,
And still I gazed and gazed — and not a prow
Was granted to my tears
At length — 'twas noon
- I hail'd and blest the mast
That met my sight - it near'd — Alas! it past !
Another came Oh God! 't was thine at last !
Would that those days were over! wilt thou ne'er,
My Conrad ! learn the joys of peace to share ?
Sure thou hast more than wealth, and many a home
As bright as this invites us not to roam :
Thou know'st it is not peril that I fear,
I only tremble when thou art not here:
Then not for mine, but that far dearer life,
Which flies from love and languishes for strife
How strange that heart, to me so tender still,
Should war with nature and its better will !"
“ Yea, strange indeed - that heart hath long been changed ;
Worm-like 't was trampled — adder-like, avenged,
Without one hope on earth beyond thy love,
And scarce a glimpse of mercy from above.
Yet the same feeling which thou dost condemn,
My very love to thee is hate to them,
So closely mingling here, that disentwined,
I cease to love thee when I love mankind :
Yet dread not this — the proof of all the past
Assures the future that my love will last;
But Oh, Medora! nerve thy gentler heart,
This hour again — but not for long - we part.”
• This hour we part !
my heart foreboded this : Thus ever fade my fairy dreams of bliss. This hour - it cannot be
this hour away! Yon bark hath hardly anchor'd in the bay ; Her consort still is absent, and her crew Have need of rest before they toil anew : My love! thou mock’st my weakness; and wouldst steel My breast before the time when it must feel; But trifle now no more with my distress, Such mirth hath less of play than bitterness. Be silent, Conrad ! - dearest! come and share The feast these hands delighted to prepare ; Light toil! to cull and dress thy frugal fare ! See, I have pluck'd the fruit that promised best, And where not sure, perplex'd, but pleased, I guess'd At such as seem'd the fairest : thrice the hill My steps have wound to try the coolest rill; Yes! thy sherbet to-night will sweetly flow, See how it sparkles in its vase of snow! The grapes' gay juice thy bosom never cheers ; Thou more than Moslem when the cup appears : Think not I mean to chide -for I rejoice What others deem a penance is thy choice.' But come, the board is spread ; our silver lamp Is trimm'd, and heeds not the sirocco's damp: Then shall my handmaids while the time along, And join with me the dance, or wake the song ;
Or my guitar, which still thou lov'st to hear,
Shall soothe or lull - or, should it vex thine ear,
We'll turn the tale, by Ariosto told,
Of fair Olympia loved and left of old. (*)
Why thou wert worse than he who broke his vow
To that lost damsel, shouldst thou leave me now;
Or even that traitor chief — I've seen thee smile,
When the clear sky show'd Ariadne's Isle,
Which I have pointed from these cliffs the while :
And thus half sportive, half in fear, I said,
Lest Time should raise that doubt to more than dread
Thus Conrad, too, will quit me for the main :
And he deceived me for — he came again!”
“ Again – again — and oft again — my love!
If there be life below, and hope above,
He will return — but now, the moments bring
The time of parting with redoubled wing:
The why — the where · what boots it now to tell ?
Since all must end in that wild word - farewell !
Yet would I fain - did time allow - disclose
Fear not -- these are no formidable foes
And here shall watch a more than wonted guard,
For sudden siege and long defence prepared :
Nor be thou lonely — though tby lord 's away,
Our matrons and thy handmaids with thee stay ;
And this thy comfort — that, when next we meet,
Security shall make repose more sweet.
List! - 't is the bugle - Juan shrilly blew
- another Oh! Adieu !”
she clung to his embrace, Till his heart heaved beneath her bidden face. He dared not raise to his that deep-blue eye, Which downcast droop'd in tearless agony. Her long fair hair lay floating o'er his arms, In all the wildness of disheveli'd charms; Scarce beat that bosom where his image dwelt So full — that feeling seem'd almost unfelt ! Hark -peals the thunder of the signal-gun! It told 't was sunset and he cursed that sun. Again – again - that form he madly press'd, Which mutely clasp'd, imploringly caress'd!
(1) Orlando Furioso, Canto x.