« ForrigeFortsæt »
High in his hall reclines the turban'd Seyd ;
Around — the bearded chiefs he came to lead.
Removed the banquet, and the last pilaff-
Forbidden draughts, 't is said, he dared to quaff,
Though to the rest the sober berry's juice )
The slaves bear round for rigid Moslems' use ;
The long chibouque's (*) dissolving cloud supply,
While dance the Almas () to wild minstrelsy.
The rising morn will view the chiefs embark ;
But waves are somewhat treacherous in the dark:
And revellers may more securely sleep
On silken couch than o'er the rugged deep ;
Feast there who can nor combat till they must,
And less to conquest than to Korans trust;
And yet the numbers crowded in his host
Might warrant more than even the Pacha’s boast. (4)
With cautious reverence from the outer gate
Slow stalks the slave, whose office there to wait,
Bows his bent head -- his hand salutes the floor,
Ere yet his tongue the trusted tidings bore :
66 A captive Dervise, from the pirate's nest
Escaped, is here — himself would tell the rest.”
(1) Coffee. (2) Pipe. (3) Dancing girls, (4) It has been objected that Conrad's entering disguised as a spy is out of nature. Perhaps so. I find something not unlike it in history.
“ Anxious to explore with his own eyes the state of the Vandals, Majorian ventured, after disguising the colour of his hair, to visit Carthage in the character of his own ambassador ; and Genseric was afterwards mortified by the discovery, that he had entertained and dismissed the Emperor of the Romans. Such an anecdote may be rejected as an improbable fiction ; but it is a fiction which would not have been imagined unless in the life of a hero." Gibbon, D. and F. vol. vi. p. 180.
That Conrad is a character not altogether out of nature, I shall attempt to prove by some historical coincidences which I have met with since writting "'The Corsair.”
"Eccelin prisonnier," dit Rolandini, "s enfermoit dans un silence menaçant, il fixoit sur la terre son visage féroce, et ne donnoit point d'essor à sa profonde indignation. De toutes partes cependant les soldats et les peuples accouroient; ils vouloient voir cet homme, jadis si puissant, et la joie universelle éclatoit de toutes partes.
“ Eccelin étoit d'une petite taille ; mais tout l'aspect de sa personne, tous ses mouvemens, indiquoient un soldat. Son langage étoit amer, son déportement superbe -- et par son seul égard, il faisoit trembler les plus hardis." Sismondi, tome iii. p. 219, 220.
Again, “ Gizericus (Genseric, king of the Vandals, the conqueror of both Carthage and Rome) staturâ mediocris, et equi casu claudicans, animo profundus, sermone rarus, luxuriæ contemptor, ira turbidus, habendi cupidus, ad solicitandas gentes providentissimus," &c. &c. Jornandes de Rebus Geticis, c. 33.
I beg leave to quote these gloomy realities to keep in countenance my Giaour and Corsair.
He took the sign from Seyd's assenting eye,
And led the holy man in silence nigh.
His arms were folded on his dark-green vest,
His step was feeble, and his look deprest;
Yet worn he seem'd of hardship more than years,
And pale his cheek with penance, not from fears.
Vow'd to his God - his sable locks he wore,
And these his lofty cap rose proudly o’er:
Around his form his loose long robe was thrown,
And wrapt a breast bestow'd on heaven alone;
Submissive, yet with self-possession mann'd,
He calmly met the curious eyes that scann'd;
And question of his coming fain would seek,
Before the Pacha’s will allow'd to speak.
“ Whence com’st thou, Dervise ?"
“ From the outlaw's den, A fugitive -"
Thy capture where and when ? "
6 From Scalanovo's port to Scio's isle,
The Saick was bound; but Alla did not smile
Upon our course the Moslem merchant's gains
The Rovers won : our limbs have worn their chains.
I had no death to fear, nor wealth to boast,
Beyond the wandering freedom which I lost;
At length a fisher's humble boat by night
Afforded hope, and offer'd chance of flight ;
I seized the hour, and find
my safety here-
With thee most mighty Pacha! who can fear ? "
“ How speed the outlaws ? stand they well prepared,
Their plunder'd wealth, and robber's rock, to guard ?
Dream they of this our preparation, doom’d
To view with fire their scorpion nest consumed ?”
“ Pacha! the fetter'd captive's mourning eye,
That weeps for flight, but ill can play the spy;
I only heard the reckless waters roar,
Those waves that would not bear me from the shore ;
I only mark'd the glorious sun and sky,
Too bright — too blue — for my captivity;
And felt that all which Freedom's bosom cheers,
Must break my chain before it dried my tears.
This may'st thou judge, at least, from my escape,
They little deem of aught in peril's shape;
Else vainly had I pray'd or sought the chance
That leads me here if eyed with vigilance :
The careless guard that did not see me fly,
May watch as idly when thy power is nigh :
Pacha!- my limbs are faint — and nature craves
Food for my hunger, rest from tossing waves :
absence -peace be with thee! Peace With all around ! now grant repose
release.” “ Stay, Dervise ! I have more to question — stay, I do command thee - dost hear? — obey ! More I must ask, and food the slaves shall bring ; Thou shalt not pine where all are banqueting : The supper done — prepare thee to reply, Clearly and full - I love not mystery.”
'T were vain to guess what shook the pious man,
Who look'd not lovingly on that Divan ;
Nor show'd high relish for the banquet prest,
And less respect for every fellow guest.
'T was but a moment's peevish hectic past
Along his cheek, and tranquillised as fast:
He sate him down in silence, and his look
Resumed the calmness which before forsook :
The feast was usher'd in – but sumptuous fare
He shunnid as if some poison mingled there.
For one so long condemn'd to toil and fast,
Methinks he strangely spares the rich repast.
“ What ails thee, Dervise ? eat
dost thou suppose
This feast a Christian's ? or my friends thy foes?
Why dost thou shun the salt? that sacred pledge,
Which, once partaken, blunts the sabre's edge,
Makes even contending tribes in peace unite,
And hated hosts seem brethren to the sight!'
“ Salt seasons dainties and my food is still
The humblest root, my drink the simplest rill;
And my stern vow and order's (1) laws oppose
To break or mingle bread with friends or foes ;
It may seem strange - if there be aught to dread,
That peril rests upon my single head;
But for thy sway
- nay more
- thy Sultan's throne, I taste nor bread nor banquet - save alone; Infringed our order's rule, the Prophet's rage To Mecca's dome might bar my pilgrimage."
(1) The dervises are in colleges, and of different orders, as the monks.
- as thou wilt - ascetic as thou art One question answer; then in peace depart, How many? - Ha! it cannot sure be day? What star what sun is bursting on the bay? It shines a lake of fire ! - away — away! Ho! treachery! my guards! my scimitar! The galleys feed the flames and I afar ! Accursed Dervise ! — these thy tidings — thou Some villain spy - seize — cleave him slay him now!"
Up rose the Dervise with that burst of light,
Nor less his change of form appallid the sight:
Up rose that Dervise - not in saintly garb,
But like a warrior bounding on his barb,
Dash'd his high cap, and tore his robe away
Shone his mail'd breast, and flash'd his sabre's ray!
His close but glittering casque, and sable plume,
More glittering eye, and black brow's sabler gloom,
Glared on the Moslems' eyes some Afrit sprite,
Whose demon death-blow left no hope for fight.
The wild confusion, and the swarthy glow
Of flames on high, and torches from below;
The shriek of terror, and the mingling yell
For swords began to clash, and shouts to swell –
Flung o'er that spot of earth the air of hell !
Distracted, to and fro, the flying slaves
Behold but bloody shore and fiery waves ;
Nought heeded they the Pacha's angry cry,
They seize that Dervise ! seize on Zatanai !(()
He saw their terror - check'd the first despair
That urged him but to stand and perish there,
Since far too early and too well obey'd,
The flame was kindled ere the signal made ;
He saw their terror from his baldric drew
His bugle — brief the blast — but shrilly blew;
'T is answer'd -“Well ye speed, my gallant crew!
Why did I doubt their quickness of career?
And deem design had left me single here ? "
Sweeps his long arm — that sabre's whirling sway
Sheds fast atonement for its first delay ;
Completes his fury, what their fear begun,
And makes the many basely quail to one.
The cloven turbans o'er the chamber spread,
And scarce an arm dare rise to guard its head:
Even Seyd, convulsed, o'erwhelm’d, with rage, surprise,
Retreats before him, though he still defies.
No craven he - and yet he dreads the blow,
So much Confusion magnifies his foe!
His blazing galleys still distract his sight,
He tore his beard, and foaming fled the fight; (")
For now the pirates pass’d the Haram gate,
And burst within and it were death to wait;
Where wild Amazement shrieking - kneeling — throws
The sword aside in vain the blood o'erflows !
The Corsairs pouring, haste to where within,
Invited Conrad's bugle, and the din
Of groaning victims, and wild cries for life,
Proclain’d how well he did the work of strife.
They shout to find him grim and lonely there,
A glutted tiger mangling in his lair !
But short their greeting -- shorter his reply
66 'Tis well — but Seyd escapes
- and he must die -
Much hath been done - but more remains to do -
Their galleys blaze why not their city too ? "
Quick at the word — they seized him each a torch,
And fire the dome from minaret to porch.
A stern delight was fix'd in Conrad's eye,
But sudden sunk for on his ear the
Of women struck, and like a deadly knell
Knock’d at that heart unmoved by battle's yell.
66 Oh! burst the Haram
wrong not on your lives
One female form - remember we have wives.
On them such outrage Vengeance will repay ;
Man is our foe, and such 'tis ours to slay :
But still we spared - mut spare the weaker prey.
Oh! I forgot — but Heaven will not forgive
If at my word the helpless cease to live :
Follow who will — I go. we yet have time
Our souls to lighten of at least a crime.”
He climbs the crackling stair — he bursts the door,
Nor feels his feet glow scorching with the floor;
His breath choked gasping with the volumed smoke,
But still from room to room his way he broke.
U A common and not very novel effect of Mussulman anger. See Prince Eugene's Memoirs. page 24. “ The Seraskier received a wound in the thigh ; he pincked up his beard by the roots, because he was obliged to quit the field.”