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And strange 'twas amid that hideous heap to see
Some shrouded in their long and golden hair,
As if not dead, but slumbering quietly
Like forms which sculptors carve, then love to agony
Famine had spared the palace of the king :-
He rioted in festival the while,
He and his guards and priests; but Plague did fling
One shadow upon all. Famine can smile
On him who brings it food, and pass, with guile
of thankful falsehood, like a courtier grey,
The house-dog of the throne ; but many a mile
Comes Plague, a winged wolf, who loathes alway
The garbage and the scum that strangers make her prey.
So, near the throne, amid the gorgeous feast,
Sheathed in resplendent arms, or loosely dight
To luxury, ere the mockery yet had ceased
That lingered on his lips, the warrior's might
Was loosened, and a new and ghastlier night
In dreams of frenzy lapped his eyes ; he fell
Headlong, or with stiff eyeballs sate upright
Among the guests, or, raving mad did tell
Strange truths-a dying seer of dark oppression's hell.
The Princes and the Priests were pale with terror ;
That monstrous faith wherewith they ruled mankind
Fell, like a shaft loosened by the bowman's error,
On their own hearts: they sought and they could find
No refuge-'twas the blind who led the blind !
So, thro' the desolate streets to the high fane
The many-tongued and endless armies wind
In sad procession: each among the train
To his own Idol lists his supplications vain.
"O God !” they cried, “we know our secret pride
Has scorned thee, and thy worship, and thy name.
Secure in human power we have defied
Thy fearful might ; we bend in fear and shame
Before thy presence; with the dust we claim
Kindred. Be merciful, o King of Heaven !
Most justly have we suffered for thy fame
Made dim, but be at length our sins sorgiven,
Ere to despair and death thy worshippers be driven.
“O King of Glory! thou alone hast power !
Who can resist thy will? who can restrain
Thy wrath, when on the guilty thou dost shower
The shafts of thy revenge,-a' blistering rain ?
Greatest and best, be merciful again !
Have we not stabbed thine enemies, and made
The Earth an altar, and the Heavens a fane,
Where thou wert worshipped with their blood, and laid
Those hearts in dust which would thy searchless works
have weighed ?
“ Well didst thou loosen on this impious City
Thine angels of revenge : recall them now.
Thy worshippers, abased, here kneel for pity,
And bind their souls by an immortal vow,
We swear by thee! and to our oath do thou
Give sanction, from thine hell of fiends and flame,
That we will kill with fire and torments slow
The last of those who mocked thy holy name,
And scorned the sacred laws thy prophets did proclaim.'
Thus they with trembling limbs and pallid lips
Worshipped tneir own hearts' image, dim and vast,
Scared by the shade wherewith they would eclipse
The light of other minds ;--troubled they pass'd
From the great Temple.-Fiercely, still, and fast
The arrows of the plague among them sell,
And they on one another gazed aghast,
And thro' the hosts contention wild befell,
As each of his own god the wondrous works did tell.
And Oromaze, Joshua, and Mahomet,
Moses, and Buddh, Zerdusht, and Brahm, and Foh
A tumult of strange names, which never met
Before as watch words of a single woe,
A rose. Each raging votary 'gan to throw
Aloft his armed hands, and each did howl
**Our God alone is God!" and slaughter now
Would have gone forth, when from beneath a cowl
A voice came forth, which pierced like ice thro' every
'Twas an Iberian Priest from whom it came,
A zealous man, who led the legioned west
With words which faith and pride had steeped in flame,
To quell the unbelievers; a dire guest
Even to his friends was he, for in his breast
Did hate and guile lay watchful, intertwined
Twin serpents in one deep and winding nest:
He loathed all faith beside his own, and pined
To wreak his fear of Heaven in vengeance on mankind
But more he loathed and hated the clear light
Of wisdom and free thought, and more did fear
Lest, kindled once, its beam might pierce the night
Even where his Idol stood ; for, far and near
Did many a heart in Europe leap to hear
That faith and tyranny were trampled down;
Many a pale victim, doomed for truth to share
The murderer’s cell, or see, with helpless groan, [own.
The priests his children drag for slaves to serve their
He dared not kill the infidels with fire
Or steel in Europe : the slow agonies
Of legal torture mocked his keen desire :
So he made truce with those who did despise
The expiation and the sacrifice,
That, though detested, Islam's kindred creed
Might crush for him those deadlier enemies;
For fear of God did in his bosom breed
A jealous hate of man, an unreposing need.
“Peace! Peace the cried, “When we are dead, the Day
of Judgment comes, and all shall surely know
Whose God is God, each searfully shall pay
The errors of his faith in endless woe!
But there is sent a mortal vengeance now
On earth, because an impious race had spurned
Him whom we all adore,-a subtle foe
By whom for ye this dread reward was earned
And kingly thrones, which rest on faith, nigh overturned
“ Think ye, because we weep, and kneel, and pray,
That God will lull the pestilence ? It rose
Even beneath his throne, where many a day
soothed it to a dark repose:
It walks upon the earth to judge his foes,
And what are thou and I, that he should deign
To curb his ghastly minister, or close
The gates of death, ere they receive the twain
Who shook with mortal spells his undefended reign ?
"Aye, there is famine in the gulph of hell;
Its giant worms of fire for ever yawn.
Their lurid eyes are on us! Those who fell
By the swift shafts of pestilence ere dawn
Are in their jaws! They hunger for the spawn
Of Satan, their own brethren, who were sent
To make our souls their spoil. See! see! they fawn
Like dogs, and they will sleep, with luxury spent,
When those detested hearts their iron fangs have rent!
“Our God may then lull Pestilence to sleep:
Pile high the pyre of expiation now !
A forest's spoil of boughs, and on the heap
Pour venomous gums, which sullenly and slow,
When touched by flame, shall burn, and melt, and flow,
A stream of clinging fire,-and fix on high
A net of iron, and spread forth below
A couch of snakes, and scorpions, and the fry
Of centipedes and worms,-earth's hellish progeny !
*" Let Laon and Laone on that pyre,
Linked tight with burning brass, perish !-then pray
That, with this sacrifice, the witheringire
of Heaven may be appeased.” He ceased, and they
A space stood sileni, as far, far away
The echoes of his voice among them died;
And he knelt down upon the dust, alway
Muttering the curses of his speechless pride,
Whilst shame, and fear, and awe, the armies did divide.
His voice was like a blast that hurst the porta!
or fabled hell; and, as he spake, each one
Saw gape beneath the chasms of fire iminortal,
And Heaven above seemed cloven, where, on a throne
Girt round with storms and shadows, sate alone
Their King and Judge. Fear killed in every breast
All natural pity then, a fear unknown
Before, and, with an inward fire possest
(invest They raged like bomeless beasts whom burning woods
'Twas morn. At noon the public crier went forth,
Proclaiming thro’the living and the dead,
"The Monarch saith, that his great Empire's worth
Is set on Laon and Laone's head :
He who but one yet living here can lead,
Or who the life from both their hearts can wring
Shall be the kingdom's heir,-a glorious meed!
But he, who both alive can hither bring,
The Princess shall espouse, and reign an equal Kingdom"
Ere night the pyre was piled, the pet of iron
Was spread above the fearfulcouch below;
It overtopped the towers that did en viron
'That spacious square ; for Fear is never slow
To build the thrones of Hate, her mate and foe,
So she scourged forth the maniac multitude
To rear this pyramid-tottering and slow,
Plague-stricken, foodless, like lean herds pursued
By gad-flies, they have piled the heath, and gums, and
Night came, a starless and a moonless gloom,,
Until the dawn, those hosts of many a nation
Stood round that pile, as near one lover's tomb