Obrazy na stronie
PDF

Some few vapours thou mayst raise, The weak brain may serve to amaze, But to the reins and nobler heart, Canst nor life nor heat impart.

Brother of Bacchus, later born, The old world was sure forlorn Wanting thee, that aidest more The god's victories than before All his panthers, and the brawls Of his piping Bacchanals. These, as stale, we disallow, Or judge of thee meant: only thou His true Indian conquest art; And, for ivy round his dart, The reformèd god now weaves A finer thyrsus of thy leaves.

Scent to match thy rich perfume Chemic art did ne'er presume; Through her quaint alembic strain, None so sov’reign to the brain : Nature, that did in thee excel, Framed again no second smell. Roses, violets, but toys For the smaller sort of boys, Or for greener damsels meant; Thou art the only manly scent.

Stinking'st of the stinking kind, Filth of the mouth and fog of the mind, Africa, that brags her foison, Breeds no such prodigious poison; Henbane, nightshade, both together, Hemlock, aconite—

Nay, rather,

Plant divine, of rarest virtue;
Blisters on the tongue would hurt you.
'Twas but in a sort I blamed thee;
None e'er prospered who defamed thee;
Irony all, and feigned abuse,
Such as perplexed lovers use
At a need, when, in despair
To paint forth their fairest fair,
Or in part but to express
That exceeding comeliness
Which their fancies doth so strike,
They borrow language of dislike;
And, instead of Dearest Miss,
Jewel, Honey, Sweetheart, Bliss,
And those forms of old admiring,
Call her Cockatrice and Siren,
Basilisk, and all that's evil,
Witch, Hyena, Mermaid, Devil,
Ethiop, Wench, and Blackamoor,
Monkey, Ape, and twenty more;
Friendly Trait’ress, loving Foe—
Not that she is truly so,
But no other way they know
A contentment to express,
Borders so upon excess,
That they do not rightly wot
Whether it be pain or not.

Or, as men, constrained to part

With what’s nearest to their heart,
While their sorrow’s at the height,
Lose discrimination quite,
And their hasty wrath let fall,
To appease their frantic gall,
On the darling thing whatever,
Whence they feel it death to sever,
Though it be, as they, perforce,

316 Guiltless of the sad divorce.

For I must-nor let it grieve thee,
Friendliest of plants, that I must-leave thee;
For thy sake, Tobacco, I
Would do anything but die,
And but seek to extend my days
Long enough to sing thy praise.
But as she, who once hath been
A king's consort, is a queen
Ever after, nor will bate
Any tittle of her state,
Though a widow, or divorced,
So I, from thy converse forced,
The old name and style retain,
A right Katherine of Spain;
And a seat, too, 'mongst the joys
Of the blest Tobacco Boys;
Where, though I, by sour physician,
Am debarred the full fruition
Of thy favours, I may catch
Some collateral sweets, and snatch
Sidelong odours, that give life
Like glances from a neighbour's wife;
And still live in the by-places
And the suburbs of thy graces;
And in thy borders take delight,
An unconquered Canaanite.

The following are selections from Lamb's Essays, which contain more of the exquisite materials of poetry than his short occasional verses.

Dream-children—A Reverie.

Children love to listen to stories about their elders, when they were children; to stretch their imagination to the conception of a traditionary great-uncle, or grandam, whom they never saw. It was in this spirit that my little ones crept about me the other evening to hear about their great-grandmother Field, who lived in a great house in Norfolk—a hundred times bigger than that in which they and papa lived—which had been the scene—so at least it was generally believed in that part of the country—of the tragic incidents which they had lately become familiar with from the ballad of the Children in the Wood. Certain it is that the whole story of the children and their cruel uncle was to be seen fairly carved out in wood upon the chimney-piece of the great hall, the whole story down to the Robin Redbreasts, till a foolish rich person pulled it down to set up a marble one of modern invention in its stead, with no story upon it. Here Alice put out one of her dear mother's looks, too tender to be called upbraiding. Then I went on to say how religious and how good their great-grandmother Field was, how beloved and respected by everybody, though she was not indeed the mistress of this great house, but had only the charge of it—and yet in some respects she might be said to be the mistress of it too—committed to her by the owner, who preferred living in a newer and more fashionable mansion which he had purchased somewhere in the adjoining county; but still she lived in it in a manner as if it had been her own, and kept up the dignity of the great house in a sort while she lived, which afterwards came to decay, and was nearly pulled down, and all its old ornaments stripped and carried away to the owner's other house, where they were set up, and looked as awkward as if some one were to carry away the old tombs they had seen lately at the abbey, and stick them up in Lady C.'s tawdry gilt drawing-room. Here John smiled, as much as to say, ‘that would be foolish indeed.’ And then I told how, when she came to die, her funeral was attended by a concourse of all the poor, and some of the gentry too, of the neighbourhood for many miles round, to shew their respect for her memory, because she had been such a good and religious woman; so good, indeed, that she knew all the Psalter by heart, ay, and a great part of the Testament besides. Here little Alice spread her hands. Then I told what a tall, upright, graceful person their great-grandmother Field once was; and how in her youth she was esteemed the best dancer. Here Alice's little right foot played an involuntary movement, till, upon my looking grave, it desisted—the best dancer, I was saying, in the county, till a cruel disease, called a cancer, came, and bowed her down with pain; but it could never bend her good spirits, or make them stoop, but they were still upright, because she was so good and religious. Then I told how she was used to sleep by herself in a lone chamber of the great lone house; and how she believed that an apparition of two infants was to be seen at midnight gliding up and down the great staircase near where she slept; but she said ‘those innocents would do her no harm;’ and how frightened I used to be, though in those days I had my maid to sleep with me, because I was never half so good or religious as she—and yet I never saw the infants. Here John expanded all his eyebrows, and tried to look courageous. Then I told how good she was to all her grandchildren, having us to the great house in the holidays, where I, in particular, used to spend many hours by myself in gazing upon the old busts of the twelve Caesars that had been emperors of Rome, till the old marble heads would seem to live again, or I to be turned into marble with them; how I never could be tired with roaming about that huge mansion, with its vast empty rooms, with their worn-out hangings, fluttering tapestry, and carved oaken panels, with the gilding almost rubbed outsometimes in the spacious old-fashioned gardens, which I had almost to myself, unless when now and then a solitary gardening man would cross me—and how the nectarines and peaches hung upon the walls, without my ever offering to pluck them, because they were forbidden fruit, unless now and then, and because I had more pleasure in strolling about among the old melancholylooking yew-trees, or the firs, and picking up the red berries and the fir apples, which were good for nothing but to look at; or in lying about upon the fresh grass, with all the fine garden smells around me; or basking in the orangery, till I could almost fancy myself ripening, too, along with the oranges and the limes in that grateful warmth; or in watching the dace that darted to and fro in the fishpond at the bottom of the garden, with here and there a great sulky pike hanging midway down the water in silent state, as if it mocked at their impertinent friskings. I had more pleasure in these busy-idle diversions than in all the sweet flavours of peaches, nectarines, oranges, and such like common baits of children. Here John slyly deposited back upon the plate a bunch of grapes, which, not unobserved by Alice, he had meditated dividing with her, and both seemed willing to relinquish them for the present as irrelevant. Then, in somewhat a more heightened tone, I told how, though their great-grandmother Field loved all her grandchildren, yet in an especial manner she might be said to love their uncle, John L—, because he was so handsome and spirited a youth, and a king to the rest of us; and, instead of moping about in solitary corners, like some of us, he would mount the most mettlesome horse he could get, when but an imp no bigger than themselves, and make it carry him half over the county in a morning, and join the hunters when there were any out; and yet he loved the old great house and gardens too, but had too much spirit to be always pent up within their boundaries; and how their uncle grew up to man's estate as brave as he was handsome, to the admiration of everybody, but of their great-grandmother Field most especially; and how he used to carry me upon his back when I was a lame-footed boy—for he was a good bit older than me—many a mile when I could not walk for pain; and how, in after-life, he became lame-footed too, and I did not always, I fear, make allowances

enough for him when he was impatient and in pain, nor remember sufficiently how considerate he had been to me when I was lame-footed; and how, when he died, though he had not been dead an hour, it seemed as if he had died a great while ago, such a distance there is betwixt life and death; and how I bore his death, as I thought, pretty well at first, but afterwards it haunted and haunted me; and though I did not cry or take it to heart as some do, and as I think he would have done if I had died, yet I missed him all day long, and knew not till then how much I had loved him. I missed his kindness, and I missed his crossness, and wished him to be alive again, to be quarrelling with him—for we quarrelled sometimes—rather than not have him again; and was as uneasy without him, as he, their poor uncle, must have been when the doctor took off his limb. Here the children fell a-crying, and asked if their little mourning which they had on was not for Uncle John; and they looked up and prayed me not to go on about their uncle, but to tell them some stories about their pretty dead mother. Then I told how, for seven long years, in hope sometimes, sometimes in despair, yet persisting ever, I courted the fair Alice W-n; and, as much as children could understand, I explained to them what coyness, and difficulty, and denial meant in maidens; when suddenly turning to Alice, the soul of the first Alice looked out at her eyes with such a reality of re-presentment, that I became in doubt which of them stood there before me, or whose that bright hair was; and while I stood gazing, both the children gradually grew fainter to my view, receding, and still receding, till nothing at last but two mournful features were seen in the uttermost distance, which, without speech, strangely impressed upon me the effects of speech: “We are not of Alice, nor of thee; nor are we children at all. The children of Alice call Bartrum father. We are nothing, less than nothing, and dreams. We are only what might have been, and must wait upon the tedious shores of Lethe millions of ages before we have existence and a name;’ and immediately awaking, I found myself quietly seated in my bachelor arm-chair, where I had fallen asleep, with the faithful Bridget unchanged by my side—but John L. (or James Elia) was gone for ever.

Poor Relations.

A poor relation is the most irrelevant thing in nature, a piece of impertinent correspondency, an odious approximation, a haunting conscience, a preposterous shadow, lengthening in the noontide of your prosperity, an unwelcome remembrancer, a perpetually recurring mortification, a drain on your purse, a more intolerable dun upon your pride, a drawback upon success, a rebuke to your rising, a stain in your blood, a blot on your scutcheon, a rent in your garment, a death's-head at your banquet, Agathocles's pot, a Mordecai in your gate, a Lazarus at your door, a lion in your path, a frog in your chamber, a fly in your ointment, a mote in your eye, a triumph to your enemy, an apology to your friends, the one thing not needful, the hail in harvest, the ounce of sour in a pound of sweet.

He is known by his knock. Your heart telleth you, ‘That is Mr — A rap between familiarity and respect, that demands, and at the same time seems to despair of entertainment. He entereth smiling and embarrassed. He holdeth out his hand to you to shake, and draweth it back again. He casually looketh in about dinner-time, when the table is full. He offereth to go away, seeing you have company, but is induced to stay. He filleth a chair, and your visitor's two children are accommodated at a side-table. He never cometh upon open days, when your wife says with some complacency: ‘My dear, perhaps Mr — will drop in to-day. He remembereth birthdays, and prote: he

l

is fortunate to have stumbled upon one. He declareth against fish, the turbot being small, yet suffereth himself to be importuned into a slice against his first resolution. He sticketh by the port, yet will be prevailed upon to empty the remainder glass of claret, if a stranger press it upon him. He is a puzzle to the servants, who are fearful of being too obsequious, or not civil enough to him. The guests think ‘they have seen him before. Every one speculateth upon his condition; and the most part take him to be a tidewaiter. He calleth you by your Christian name, to imply that his other is the same with your own. He is too familiar by half, yet you wish he had less diffidence. With half the familiarity, he might pass for a casual dependent; with more boldness, he would be in no danger of being taken for what he is. He is too humble for a friend, yet taketh on him more state than befits a client. He is a worse guest than a country tenant, inasmuch as he bringeth up no rent; yet ’tis odds, from his garb and demeanour, that your guests take him for one. He is asked to make one at the whist-table; refuseth on the score of poverty, and resents being left out. When the company break up, he proffereth to go for a coach, and lets the servant go. He recollects your grandfather; and will thrust in some mean and quite unimportant anecdote of the family. He knew it when it was not quite so flourishing as “he is blest in seeing it now. He reviveth past situations, to institute what he calleth favourable comparisons. With a reflecting sort of congratulation he will inquire the price of your furniture; and insults you with a special commendation of your windowcurtains. He is of opinion that the urn is the more elegant shape; but, after all, there was something more comfortable about the old tea-kettle, which you must remember. He dare say you must find a great convenience in having a carriage of your own, and appealeth to your lady if it is not so. Inquireth if you have had your arms done on vellum yet; and did not know till lately that such and such had been the crest of the family. His memory is unseasonable, his compliments perverse, his talk a trouble, his stay pertinacious; and when he goeth away, you dismiss his chair into a corner as precipitately as possible, and feel fairly rid of two nuisances. There is a worse evil under the sun, and that is a female poor relation. You may do something with the other; you may pass him off tolerably well; but your indigent she-relative is hopeless. ‘He is an old humorist, you may say, ‘and affects to go threadbare. His circumstances are better than folks would take them to be. You are fond of having a character at your table, and truly he is one. But in the indications of female poverty there can be no disguise. No woman dresses below herself from caprice. The truth must out without shuffling. ‘She is plainly related to the L—s, or what does she at their house !’ She is, in all probability, your wife's cousin. Nine times out of ten, at least, this is the case. Her garb is something between a gentlewoman and a beggar, yet the former evidently predominates. She is most provokingly humble, and ostentatiously sensible to her inferiority. He may require to be repressed sometimes —aliquando sufflaminandus crat—but there is no raising her. You send her soup at dinner, and she begs to be helped after the gentlemen. Mr requests the honour of taking wine with her; she hesitates between port and Madeira, and chooses the former because he does. She calls the servant sir; and insists on not troubling him to hold her plate. The housekeeper patronises her. The children's governess takes upon her to correct her when she has mistaken the piano for a harpsichord. Richard Amlet, Esq., in the play, is a notable instance of the disadvantages to which this chimerical ": affinity constituting a claim to acquaintance

may subject the spirit of a gentleman. A little foolish blood is all that is betwixt him and a lady with a great estate. His stars are perpetually crossed by the malignant maternity of an old woman, who persists in calling him “her son Dick. But she has wherewithal in the end to recompense his indignities, and float him again upon the brilliant surface, under which it had been her seeming business and pleasure all along to sink him. All men, besides, are not of Dick's temperament. I knew an Amlet in real life, who, wanting Dick's buoyancy, sank indeed. Poor W— was of my own standing at Christ's, a fine classic, and a youth of promise. If he had a blemish, it was too much pride; but its quality was inoffensive; it was not of that sort which hardens the heart and serves to keep inferiors at a distance; it only sought to ward off derogation from itself. It was the principle of self-respect carried as far as it could go, without infringing upon that respect which he would have every one else equally maintain for himself. He would have you to think alike with him on this topic. Many a quarrel have I had with him when we were rather older boys, and our tallness made us more obnoxious to observation in the blue clothes, because I would not thread the alleys and blind ways of the town with him to elude notice, when we have been out together on a holiday in the streets of this sneering and prying metropolis. W– went, sore with these notions, to Oxford, where the dignity and sweetness of a scholar's life, meeting with the alloy of a humble introduction, wrought in him a passionate devotion to the place, with a profound aversion from the society. The servitor's gown—worse than his school array-clung to him with Nessian venom. He thought himself ridiculous in a garb under which Latimer must have walked erect; and in which Hooker in his young days possibly flaunted in a vein of no discommendable vanity. In the depth of college shades, or in his lonely chamber, the poor student shrunk from observation. He found shelter among books which insult not, and studies that ask no questions of a youth's finances. He was lord of his library, and seldom cared for looking out beyond his domains. The healing influence of studious pursuits was upon him, to soothe and to abstract. He was almost a healthy man, when the waywardness of his fate broke out against him with a second and worse malignity. The father of Whad hitherto exercised the humble profession of housepainter at N-, near Oxford. A supposed interest with some of the heads of colleges had now induced him to take up his abode in that city, with the hope of being employed upon some public works which were talked of. From that moment I read in the countenance of the young man the determination which at length tore him from academical pursuits for ever. To a person unacquainted with our universities, the distance between the gownsmen and the townsmen, as they are called—the trading part of the latter especially—is carried to an excess that would appear harsh and incredible. The temperament of W 's father was diametrically the reverse of his own. Old W was a little, busy, cringing tradesman, who, with his son upon his arm, would stand bowing and scraping, cap in hand, to anything that wore the semblance of a gown—insensible to the winks and opener remonstrances of the young man, to whose chamber-fellow, or equal in standing, perhaps, he was thus obsequiously and gratuitously ducking. Such a state of things could not last. W must change the air of Oxford, or be suffocated. He chose the former; and let the sturdy moralist, who strains the point of the filial duties as high as they can bear, censure the dereliction; he cannot estimate the struggle. I stood with W , the last afternoon I ever saw him, under the eaves of his paternal dwelling. It was in the fine lane leading from the High Street to the back of college, where W– kept his rooms. He seemed thoughtful and more reconciled. I ventured to rally him—finding him in a better mood —upon a representation of the Artist Evangelist, which the old man, whose affairs were beginning to flourish, had caused to be set up in a splendid sort of frame over his really handsome shop, either as a token of prosperity, or badge of gratitude to his saint. W-looked up at the Luke, and, like Satan, ‘knew his mounted sign, and fled. A letter on his father's table the next morning announced that he had accepted a commission in a regiment about to embark for Portugal. He was among the first who perished before the walls of St Sebastian. I do not know how, upon a subject which I began with treating half seriously, I should have fallen upon a recital so eminently painful; but this theme of poor relationship is replete with so much matter for tragic as well as comic associations, that it is difficult to keep the account distinct without blending. The earliest impressions which I received on this matter are certainly not attended with anything painful, or very humiliating, in the recalling. At my father's table—no very splendid one—was to be found every Saturday the mysterious figure of an aged gentleman, clothed in neat black, of a sad yet comely appearance. His deportment was of the essence of gravity; his words few or none; and I was not to make a noise in his presence. I had little inclination to have done so—for my cue was to admire in silence. A particular elbow-chair was appropriated to him, which was in no case to be violated. A peculiar sort of sweet pudding, which appeared on no other occasion, distinguished the days of his coming. I used to think him a prodigiously rich man. All I could make out of him was, that he and my father had been school-fellows a world ago at Lincoln, and that he came from the Mint. The Mint I knew to be a place where all the money was coined, and I thought he was the owner of all that money. Awful ideas of the Tower twined themselves about his presence. He seemed above human infirmities and passions. A sort of melancholy grandeur invested him. From some inexplicable doom I fancied him obliged to go about in an eternal suit of mourning; a captive—a stately being let out of the Tower on Saturdays. Often have I wondered at the temerity of my father, who, in spite of a habitual general respect which we all in common manifested towards him, would venture now and then to stand up against him in some argument touching their youthful days. The houses of the ancient city of Lincoln are divided, as most of my readers know, between the dwellers on the hill and in the valley. This marked distinction formed an obvious division between the boys who lived above (however brought together in a common school) and the boys whose paternal residence was on the plain—a sufficient cause of hostility in the code of these young Grotiuses. My father had been a leading mountaineer; and would still maintain the general superiority, in skill and hardihood, of the above boys— his own faction—over the below boys—so were they called—of which party his contemporary had been a chieftain. Many and hot were the skirmishes on this topic—the only one upon which the old gentleman was ever brought out—and bad blood bred; even sometimes almost to the recommencement—so I expected—of actual hostilities. But my father, who scorned to insist upon advantages, generally contrived to turn the conversation upon some adroit by-commendation of the old minster; in the general preference of which, before all other cathedrals in the island, the dweller on the hill and the plain-born could meet on a conciliating level, and lay down their less important differences. Once only I saw the old gentleman really ruffled, and I remember with anguish the thought that came over me—“perhaps he will never come here again. He had been pressed to take another plate of the viand which I have already mentioned as the indispensable concomitant of his visits. He had

refused, with a resistance amounting to rigour, when my aunt, an old Lincolnian, but who had something of this, in common with my cousin Bridget, that she would sometimes press civility out of season—uttered the following memorable application: “Do take another slice, Mr Billet, for you do not get pudding every day.' The old gentleman said nothing at the time—but he took occasion in the course of the evening, when some argument had intervened between them, to utter, with an emphasis which chilled the company, and which chills me now as I write it—‘Woman, you are superannuated. John Billet did not survive long after the digesting of this affront; but he survived long enough to assure me that peace was actually restored ! and, if I remember aright, another pudding was discreetly substituted in the place of that which had occasioned the offence. He died at the Mint—anno 1781—where he had long held, what he accounted, a comfortable independence; and with five pounds fourteen shillings and a penny, which were found in his escritoire after his decease, left the world, blessing God that he had enough to bury him, and that he had never been obliged to any man for a sixpence. This was—a Poor Relation.

[ocr errors]

WILLIAM SoTHEBY, an accomplished scholar and translator, was born in London on the 9th of November 1757. He was of good family, and educated at Harrow School. At the age of seventeen he entered the army as an officer in the 10th Dragoons. He quitted the army in the year 1780, and purchased Bevis Mount, near Southampton, where he continued to reside for the next ten years. Here Mr Sotheby cultivated his taste for literature, and translated some of the minor Greek and Latin poets. In 1788, he made a pedestrian tour through Wales, of which he wrote a poetical description, published, together with some odes and sonnets, in 1789. In 1798, he published a translation from the Oberon of Wieland, which greatly extended his reputation, and procured him the thanks and friendship of the German poet. He now became a frequent competitor for poetical fame. In 1799, he wrote a poem commemorative of the battle of the Nile; in 1800, ap his translation of the Georgics of Virgil; in 1801, he produced a Poetical Epistle on the Encouragement of the British School of Painting; and in 1802, a tragedy on the model of the ancient Greek drama, entitled Orestes. He next devoted himself to the composition of an original sacred poem, in blank verse, under the title of Saul, which appeared in 1807. The fame of Scott induced him to attempt the romantic metrical style of narrative and description; and in 1810, he published Constance de Castille, a poem in ten cantos. In 1814, he republished his Orestes, together with four other tragedies; and in 1815, a second corrected edition of the Georgics. A tour on the continent gave occasion to another poetical work, Italy. He next began a labour which he had long contemplated, the translation of the Iliad and Odyssey, though he was upwards of seventy years of age before he entered upon the Herculean task. The summer and autumn of 1829 were spent in a tour to Scotland, and the following verses, written in a steam-boat during an excursion to Staffa and Iona, shew the undiminished powers of the veteran poet:

Staffa, I scaled thy summit hoar,
I passed beneath thy arch gigantic,

Whose pillared cavern swells the roar,

When thunders on thy rocky shore

The roll of the Atlantic.

That hour the wind forgot to rave, The surge forgot its motion,

And every pillar in thy cave

Slept in its shadow on the wave,
Unrippled by the ocean.

Then the past age before me came,
When 'mid the lightning's sweep,

Thy isle with its basaltic frame,

And every column wreathed with flame, Burst from the boiling deep.

When 'mid Iona's wrecks meanwhile
O'er sculptured graves I trod,
Where Time had strewn each mouldering aisle
O'er saints and kings that reared the pile,
I hailed the eternal God:
Yet, Staffa, more I felt his presence in thy cave
Than where Iona's cross rose o'er the western wave.

Mr Sotheby's translation of the Iliad was published in 1831, and was generally esteemed spirited and faithful. The Odyssey he completed in the following year. He died on the 30th of December 1833, in the seventy-seventh year of his age. The original poetical productions of Mr Sotheby have not been reprinted; his translations are the chief source of his reputation. Wieland, it is said, was charmed with the genius of his translator; and the rich beauty of diction in the Oberon, and its facility of versification, notwithstanding the restraints imposed by a difficult measure, were eulogised by the critics. In his tragedies, Mr Sotheby displays considerable warmth of passion and figurative language, but his plots are ill constructed. Byron said of Mr Sotheby, that he imitated everybody, and occasionally surpassed his models.

[Approach of Saul and his Guards against the Philistines.]

Hark! hark the clash and clang Of shaken cymbals cadencing the pace Of martial movement regular; the swell Sonorous of the brazen trump of war; Shrill twang of harps, soothed by melodious chime Of beat on silver bars; and sweet, in pause Of harsher instrument, continuous flow Of breath, through flutes, in symphony with song, Choirs, whose matched voices filled the air afar With jubilee and chant of triumph hymn; And ever and anon irregular burst Of loudest acclamation to each host Saul's stately advance proclaimed. Before him, youths In robes succinct for swiftness; oft they struck Their staves against the ground, and warned the throng Backward to distant homage. Next, his strength Of chariots rolled with each an armed band; Earth groaned afar beneath their iron wheels: Part armed with scythe for battle, part adorned For triumph. Northere wanting a led train Of steeds in rich caparison, for show Of solemn entry. Round about the king, Warriors, his watch and ward, from every tribe Drawn out. Of these a thousand each selects, Of size and comeliness above their peers, Pride of their race. Radiant their armour: some In silver cased, scale over scale, that played All pliant to the litheness of the limb; Some mailed in twisted gold, link within link Flexibly ringed and fitted, that the eye Beneath the yielding panoply pursued, When act of war the strength of man provoked, The motion of the muscles, as they worked In rise and fall. On each left thigh a sword Swung in the 'broidered baldric; each right hand 6:d along-shadowing spear. Like them, their chiefs

Arrayed; save on their shields of solid ore,
And on their helm, the graver's toil had wrought
Its subtlety in rich device of war;
And o'er their mail, a robe, Punicean dye,
Gracefully played; where the winged shuttle, shot
By cunning of Sidonian virgins, wove
Broidure of many-coloured figures rare.
Bright glowed the sun, and bright the burnished mail
Of thousands, ranged, whose pace to song kept time;
And bright the glare of spears, and gleam of crests,
And flaunt of banners flashing to and fro
The noonday beam. Beneath their coming, earth
Wide glittered. Seen afar, amidst the pomp,
Gorgeously mailed, but more by pride of port
Known, and superior stature, than rich trim
Of war and regal ornament, the king,
Throned in triumphal car, with trophies graced,
Stood eminent. The lifting of his lance
Shone like a sunbeam. O'er his armour flowed
A robe, imperial mantle, thickly starred
With blaze of orient gems; the clasp that bound
Its gathered folds his ample chest athwart,
Sapphire; and o'er his casque, where rubies burnt,
A cherub flamed and waved his wings in gold.

[Song of the Virgins Celebrating the Victory.]

Daughters of Israel! praise the Lord of Hosts!
Break into song! With harp and tabret lift
Your voices up, and weave with joy the dance;
And to your twinkling footsteps toss aloft
Your arms; and from the flash of cymbals shake
Sweet clangour, measuring the giddy maze.

Shout ye! and ye! make answer, Saul hath slain His thousands; David his ten thousands slain.

Sing a new song. I saw them in their rage; I saw the gleam of spears, the flash of swords, That rang against our gates. The warders' watch Ceased not. Tower answered tower: a warning voice Was heard without; the cry of woe within : The shriek of virgins, and the wail of her, The mother, in her anguish, who fore-wept, Wept at the breast her babe as now no more.

Shout ye! and ye! make answer, Saul hath slain His thousands, David his ten thousands slain.

* * *

Such the hymned harmony, from voices breathed Of virgin minstrels, of each tribe the prime For beauty, and fine form, and artful touch Of instrument, and skill in dance and song; Choir answering choir, that on to Gibeah led The victors back in triumph. On each neck Played chains of gold; and, shadowing their charms With colour like the blushes of the morn, Robes, gift of Saul, round their light limbs, in toss Of cymbals, and the many-mazed dance, Floated like roseate clouds. Thus, these came on In dance and song; then, multitudes that swelled The pomp of triumph, and in circles ranged Around the altar of Jehovah, brought Freely their offerings; and with one accord Sang, ‘Glory, and praise, and worship unto God.'

Loud rang the exultation. 'Twas the voice Of a free people from impending chains Redeemed; a people proud, whose bosom beat With fire of glory and renown in arms Triumphant. Loud the exultation rang.

There, many a wife, whose ardent gaze from far Singled the warrior whose glad eye gave back Her look of love. There, many a grandsire held A blooming boy aloft, and 'midst the array In triumph, pointing with his staff, exclaimed: ‘Lo, my brave son I now may die in peace.'

There, many a beauteous virgin, blushing deep, Flung back her veil, and, as the warrior came, Hailed her betrothed.

« PoprzedniaDalej »