Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

Void of all hate or terror, made them start;
For, as with gentle accents he addressed
His speech to them, on each unwilling heart
Unusual awe did fall-a spirit-quelling dart.

“'e Princes of the Earth, ye sit aghast
Amid the ruin which yourselves have made;
Yes, Desolation heard your trumpet's blast,
And sprang from sleep!-Dark Terror has obeyed
Yourbidding-Oh that I, whom ye have made
Your foe, could set my dearest enemy free
From pain and fear! but evil casts a shade
Which cannot pass so soon, and Hate must be
The nurse and parent still of an ill progeny.
Ye turn to Heaven for aid in your distress.
Alas, that ye, the mighty and the wise,
Who, if he dared, might not aspire to less
Than ye conceive of power, should fear the lies
Which thou, and thou, didst frame for mysteries
To blind your slaves :-consider your own thought,
An empty and a cruel sacrifice
Ye now prepare, for a vain idol wrought
Out of the fears and hate which vain desires have brought.
Ye seek for happiness-alas the day!
Ye find it not in luxury nor in gold,
Nor in the fame nor in the envied sway
For which, O willing slaves to Custom old,
Severe task mistress! ye your hearts have sold,
Ye seek for peace, and when ye die to dream
No evil dreams: all mortal things are cold
And senseless then. If aught survive, I deem
It must be love and joy, for they immortal seem.
“ Fear not the future, weep not for the past.
Oh, could I win your ears to dare be now
Glorious, and great, and calm that ye would cast
Into the dust those symbols of your woe,
Purple, and gold, and steel! that ye would go
Proclaiming to the nations whence ye came,

That Want, and Plague, and Fear, from slavery flow,
And that mankind is free, and that the shame
Of royalty and faith is lost in freedom's fame.
“If thus 'tis well-if not, I come to say
That Laon" While the Stranger spoke, among
The Council sudden tumult and affray
Arose, for many of those warriors young
Had on his eloquent accents fed and hung
Like bees on mountain flowers; they knew the truth,
And from their thrones in vindication sprung;
The men of faith and law then without ruth
Drew forth their secret steel, and stabbed each ardent

youth.

They stabbed them in the back and sneered.--A slave,
Who stood behind the throne, those corpses drew
Each to its bloody, dark, and secret grave;
And one more daring raised his steel anew
To pierce the stranger: " What hast thou to do
With me, poor wretch ?”Calm, solemn, and severe,
That voice unstrung his sinews, and he threw
His dagger on the ground, and, pale with fear,
Sate silently-his voice then did the Stranger rear.

" It doth avail not that I weep for ye
Ye cannot change, since ye are old and grey,
And ye have chosen your lot.-Your fame must be
A book of blood, whence in a milder day
Men shall learn truth, when ye are wrapt in clay:
Now ye shall triumph. I am Laon's friend,
And him to you: revenge will I betray,
So ye concede one easy boon. Attend !
For now I speak of things which ye can apprehend.
" There is a People mighty in its youth,
A land beyond the Oceans of the West,
Where, tho' with rudest rites, Freedom and Truth
Are worshipped ; from a glorious Mother's breast,
Who, since high Athens fell, amongst the rest
Sate like the Queen of Nations, but in woe,

By inbred monsters outraged and oppressed,
Turns to her chainless child for succour now,
And draws the milk of Power in Wisdom's fullest flow.

" This land is like an Eagle, whose young gaze
Feeds on the noontide beam, whose golden plume
Floats moveless on the storm, and in the blaze
of sun-rise gleams when Earth is wrapt in gloom,
An epitaph of glory for the tomb
Of murdered Europe may thy fame be made,
Great People! As the sands shalt thou become,
Thy growth is swift as morn, when night must fade ;
The multitudinous Earth shall sleep beneath thy shade.
"Yes, in the desert then is built a home
For Freedom. Genius is made strong to rear
The monuments of man beneath the dome
Of a new Heaven: myriads assemble there,
Whom the proud lords of man, in rage or fear,
Drive from their wasted homes. The boon I pray
Is this—that Cythna shall be convoyed there-
Nay, start not at the name-America!
And then to you this night Laon will I betray.
“With me do what ye will. I am your foe!"
The light of such a joy as makes the stare
of hungry snakes like living emeralds glow
Shone in a hundred human eyes.-" Where, where
Is Laon ? haste! fiy ! drag him swiftly here!
We grant thy boon."-" I put no trust in ye.
Swear by the Power ye dread.”-"We swear, we swear!'
The Stranger threw his vest back suddenly,
And smiled in gentle pride, and said, "Lo! I am he!"

-00

CANTO XII.

THE transport of a fierce and monstrous gladness
Spread thro' the multitudinous streets, fast flying
Upon the winds of fear; from his dull madness

The starveling waked, and died in joy; the dying,
Among the corpsesin stark agony lying,
Just heard the happy tidings, and in hope
Closed their faint eyes ; from house to house replying
With loud acclaim, the living shook Heaven's cope,
And filled the startled Earth with echoes: morn did ope

Its pale eyes then; and lo! the long array
Of guards in golden arms, and priests beside,
Singing their bloody hymns, whose garbs betray
The blackness of the faith it seems to hide ;
And see, the Tyrant's gem-wrought chariot glide
Among the gloomy cowls and glittering spears
A Shape of light is sitting by his side,
A child most beautiful. In the midst appears
Laon,-exempt alone from mortal hopes and fears.
His head and feet are bare ; his hands are bound
Behind with heavy chains, yet none do wreak
Their scoffs on him, tho' myriads throng around.
There are no sneers upon his lip which speak
That scorn or hate has made him bold ; his cheek
Resolve has not turned pale ; his eyes are mild
And calm, and, like the morn about to break,
Smile on mankind; his heart seems reconciled
To all things and itself, like a reposing child.
Tumult was in the soul of all, beside
Ill joy, or doubt, or fear; but those, who saw
Their tranquil victim pass, felt wonder glide
Into their brain, and became calm with awe.-
See, the slow pageant near the pile doth draw,
A thousand torches in the spacious square,
Borne by the ready slaves of ruthless law,
Await the signal round: the morning fair
Is changed to a dim night by that unnatural glare.
And see! beneath a sun-bright canopy,
Upon a platform level with the pile,
The anxious Tyrant sit, enthroned on high,
Girt by the chieftains of the host. All smile
n expectation, but one child: the while

1, Laon, led by mutes, ascend my bier
of fire, and look around. Each distant isle
Is dark in the bright dawn; towers far and near
Pierce like reposing flames the tremulous atmosphere.
There was such silence through the host, as when
An earthquaké, trampling on some populous town,
Has crushed ten thousand with one tread, and men
Expect the second. All were mute but one,
That fairest child, who, bold with love, alone
Stood up before the King, without avail,
Pleading for Laon's life. Her stifled groan
Was heard-she trembled like an aspin pale
Among the gloomy pines of a Norwegian vale.
What were his thoughts linked in the morning sun
Among those reptiles, stingless with delay,
Even like a tyrant's wrath ?-The signal gun
Roared-hark, again! In that dread pause he lay
As in a quiet dream-the slaves obey-
A thousand torches drop,--and hark, the last
Bursts on that awful silence. Far away
Millions, with hearts that beat both loud and fast,
Watch for the springing flame expectant and agliast.'
They fly-the torches fall-a cry of fear
Has startled the triumphant !-they recede!
For, ere the cannon's roar has died, they hear
The tramp of hoofs like earthquake, and a steed,
Dark and gigantic, with the tempest's speed,
Bursts through their ranks: a woman sits thereon,
Fairer it seems than aught that earth can breed,
Calm, radiant, like the phantom of the dawn,
A spirit from the caves of day-light wandering gone.

All thought it was God's Angel come to sweep
The lingering guilty to their fiery grave;
The tyrant from his throne in dread did leap,-
Her innocence his child from fear did save.
Scared by the faith they feigned, each priestly slave
Knelt for his mercy whom they served with blood

« PoprzedniaDalej »