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PREFACE. The Poem of “Hellas,” written at the suggestion of the events of the moment, is a mere improvise, and derives its interest (should it be found to possess any) solely from the intense sympathy which the Author feels with the cause he would celebrate. The subject, in its present state, is insusceptible of being treated otherwise than lyrically, and if I have called this poem a drama, from the circumstance of its being composed in dialogue, the licence is not greater than that which has been assumed by other poets, who have called their productions epics, only because they have been divided into twelve or twenty-four books. The Persae of Æschylus afforded me the first model of my conception, although the decision of the glorious contest now waging in Greece being yet suspended, forbids a catastrophe parallel to the return of Xerxes and the desolation of the Persians. I have, therefore, contented myself with exhibiting a scries of lyric pictures, and with having wrought upon the curtain of futurity, which falls upon the unfinished scene, such figures of indistinct and visionary delineation as suggest the final triumph of the Greek cause as a portion of the cause of civilisation and social improvement. The drama (if drama it must be called) is, however, so inartificial that I doubt whether, if recited on the Thespian waggon to an Athenian village at the Dionysiaca, it would have obtained the prize of the goat. I shall bear with equanimity any punishment greater than the loss of such a reward which the Aristarchi of the hour may think fit to inflict. The only goat-song which I have yet attempted has, I confess, in spite of the unfavourable nature of the subject, received a greater and a more valuable portion of applause than I expected, or than it deserved. Common fame is the only authority which I can allege for the details which form the basis of the poem,
and I must trespass upon the forgiveness of my readers for the display of newspaper erudition to which I have been reduced. Undoubtedly, until the conclusion of the war, it will be impossible to obtain an account ofit sufficiently authentic for historical materials; but poets have their privilege, and it is unquestionable that actions of the most exalted courage have been performed by the Greeks—that they have gained more than one naval victory, and that their defeat in Wallachia was signalised by circumstances of heroism more glorious even than victory. The apathy of the rulers of the civilised world, to the astonishing circumstance of the descendants of that nation to which they owe their civilisation—rising as it were from the ashes of their ruin, is something perfectly inexplicable to a mere spectator of the shows of this mortal scene. We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts, have their root in Greece. But for Greece—Rome the instructor, the conqueror, or the metropolis of our ancestors, would have spread no illumination with her arms, and we might still have been savages and idolaters; or, what is worse, might have arrived at such a stagnant and miserable state of social institutions as China and Japan possess. The human form and the human mind attained to a perfection in Greece which has impressed its image on those faultless productions, whose very fragments are the despair of modern art, and has propagated impulses which cannot cease, through a thousand channels of manifest or imperceptible operation, to ennoble and delight mankind until the extinction of the race. The modern Greck is the descendant of those glorious beings whom the imagination almost refuses to figure to itself as belonging to our kind ; and he inherits much of their sensibility, their rapidity of conception, their enthusiasm, and their courage. If in many instances he is degraded by moral and political slavery to the practice of the basest vices it engenders and that below the level of ordinary degradation; let us reflect that the corruption of the best produces the worst, and that habits which subsist only in relation to a peculiar state of social institution may be expected to cease, as soon as that relation is dissolved. In fact, the Greeks, since the admirable novel of “Anastatius” could have been a faithful picture of their manners, have undergone most important changes; the flower of their youth, returning to their country from the universities of Italy, Germany, and France, have communicated to their fellow-citizens the latest results of that social perfection of which their ancestors were the original source. The university of Chios contained before the breaking out of the revolution, eight hundred students, and among them several Germans and Americans. The munificence and energy of many of the Greek princes and merchants, directed to the renovation of their country, with a spirit and a wisdom which has few examples, is above all praise. The English permit their own oppressors to act according to their natural sympathy with the Turkish tyrant, and to brand upon their name the indelible blot of an alliance with the enemies of domestic happiness, of Christianity, and civilisation.
SceNE, a Terrace, on the Seraglio.
MAHMUD (sleeping), an Indian slave sitting beside his
INDIAN. Away, unlovely dreams! Away, false shapes of sleep! Be his, as Heaven seems, Clear, and bright, and deep ! Soft as love, and calm as death, Sweet as a summer night without a breath.
so sleep! our song is laden ith the soul of slumber ;
It was sung by a Samian maiden,
Whose lover was of the number
Who now keep
That calm sleep
Whence none may wake where none shall weep.
Russia desires to possess, not to liberate Greece; and is contented to see the Turks, its natural enemies, and the Greeks, its intended slaves, enfeeble each other, until one or both fall into its net. The wise and generous policy of England would have consisted in establishing the independence of Greece, and in maintaining it both against Russia and the Turks;—but when was the oppressor generous or just 2
The Spanish Peninsula is already free. France is tranquil in the enjoyment of a partial exemption from the abuses which its unnatural and feeble government are vainly attempting to revive. The seed of blood and misery has been sown in Italy, and a more vigorous race is arising to go forth to the harvest. The world waits only the news of a revolution of Germany, to see the tyrants who have pinnacled themselves on its supineness, precipitated into the ruin from which they shall never arise. Well do these destroyers of mankind know their enemy, when they impute the insurrection in Greece to the same spirit before which they tremble throughout the rest of Europe; and that enemy well knows the power and cunning of its opponents, and watches the moment of their approaching weakness and inevitable division, to wrest the bloody sceptres from their grasp.
iN DIAN. I touch thy temples pale ! I breathe my soul on thee! And could my prayers avail, All my joy should be Dead, and I would live to weep, So thou might'st win one hour of quiet sleep.
CHORUS. Breathe low, low, The spell of the mighty mistress now ! When Conscience lulls her sated snake, And Tyrants sleep, let Freedom wake. Breathe low, low, The words, which, like secret fire, shall flow Through the veins of the frozen earth—low, low !
SEMichorus i. Life may change, but it may fly not; Hope may vanish, but can die not; Truth be veiled, but still it burneth ; Love repulsed, but it returneth !
SEMichorus II. Yet were life a charnel, where Hope lay coffined with Despair; Yet were truth a sacred lie, Love were lust—
SEM 1CHORUS i. If Liberty Lent not life its soul of light, Hope its iris of delight, Truth its prophet's robe to wear, Love its power to give and bear.
Chorus. In the great morning of the world, The spirit of God with might unfurled The flag of Freedom over Chaos, And all its banded anarchs fled, Like vultures frighted from Imaus, Before an earthquake's tread.— So from Time's tempestuous dawn Freedom's splendour burst and shone:– Thermopylae and Marathon Caught, like mountains beacon-lighted, The springing Fire.—The winged glory On Philippi half-alighted, Like an eagle on a promontory. Its unwearied wings could fan The quenchless ashes of Milan. From age to age, from man to man It lived ; and lit from land to land Florence, Albion, Switzerland. Then night fell; and, as from night, Re-assuming fiery flight, From the West swift Freedom came, Against the course of heaven and doom, A second sun arrayed in flame, To burn, to kindle, to illume. From far Atlantis its young beams Chased the shadows and the dreams. France, with all her sanguine steams, Hid, but quenched it not ; again Through clouds its shafts of glory rain From utmost Germany to Spain. As an eagle fed with morning Scorns the embattled tempest's warning, When she seeks her aerie hanging In the mountain-cedar's hair, And her brood expect the clanging Of her,wings through the wild air, Sick with famine ;-Freedom, so To what of Greece remaineth now Returns; her hoary ruins glow Like orient mountains lost in day; Beneath the safety of her wings Her renovated nurselings play, And in the naked lightnings Of truth they purge their dazzled eyes. Let Freedom leave, where'er she flies, A Desert, or a Paradise; Let the beautiful and the brave Share her glory, or a grave.
semi Chonus I. With the gifts of gladness Greece did thy cradle strew;
SEMichorus II. With the tears of sadness Greece did thy shroud bedew ;
SEMichorus i. With an orphan's affection She followed thy bier through time !
SEMichorus II. And at thy resurrection Re-appeareth, like thou, sublime !
SEMichorus I. If Heaven should resume thee, To Heaven shall her spirit ascend ;
sEMicho RUS li. If Hell should entomb thee, To Hell shall her high hearts bend.
sEMicho RUS i. If Annihilation—
SEMichorus II. Dust let her glories be ; And a name and a nation Beforgotten, Freedom, with thee!
iN DIAN. His brow grows darker—breathenot—move not! He starts—he shudders;–ye that love not, With your panting loud and fast Have awakened him at last.
MAHMud (starting from his sleep). Man the Seraglio-guard make fast the gate. What from a cannonade of three short hours ? 'Tis false ! that breach towards the Bosphorus Cannot be practicable yet—Who stirs : Stand to the match ; that when the foe prevails, One spark may mix in reconciling ruin The conqueror and the conquered Heave the tower Into the gap—wrench off the roof.
Enter HASSAN. Ha! what I The truth of day lightens upon my dream, And I am Mahmud still.
HASSAN. Your Sublime Highness Is strangely moved.
The times do cast strange shadows On those who watch and who must rule their course, Lest they, being first in peril as in glory, Be whelmed in the fierce ebb :—and these are of Thrice has a gloomy vision hunted me [them. As thus from sleep into the troubled day; It shakes me as the tempest shakes the sea, Leaving no figure upon memory's glass. Would that—no matter. Thou didst say thou A Jew, whose spirit is a chronicle [knewest Of strange and secret and forgotten things. I bade thee summon him :-'tis said his tribe Dream, and are wise interpreters of dreams.
A life of unconsumed thought, which pierces
MAHMUD. I would talk With this old Jew.
Thy will is even now Madeknown to him, where he dwells in a sea-cavern "Mid the Demonesi, less accessible Than thou or God . He who would question him Must sail alone at sun-set, where the stream Of ocean sleeps around those foamless isles When the young moon is westering as now, And evening airs wander upon the wave ; And when the pines of that bee-pasturing isle, Green Erebinthus, quench the fiery shadow Of his gilt prow within the sapphire water, Then must the lonely helmsman cry aloud, Ahasuerus ! and the caverns . Will answer, Ahasuerus ! If his prayer Be granted, a faint meteor will arise. Lighting him over Marmora, and a wind Will rush out of the sighing pine-forest, And with the wind a storm of harmony Unutterably sweet, and pilot him Through the soft twilight to the Bosphorus: Thence, at the hour and place and circumstance Fit for the matter of their conference, The Jew appears. Few dare, and few who dare, - *: the desired communion—but that shout
MAHMUD. Then take this signet, Unlock the seventh chamber, in which lie The treasures of victorious Solyman. An empire's spoils stored for a day of ruin. O spirit of my sires 1 is it not come The prey-birds and the wolves are gorged and sleep; But these, who spread their feast on the red earth, Hunger for gold, which fills not.—See them fed ; Then lead them to the rivers of fresh death. [Erit DAood. Oh! miserable dawn, after a night More glorious than the day which it usurped 0, faith in God 1 0, power on earth ! 0, word Of the great Prophet, whose overshadowing wings Darkened the thrones and idols of the west, Now bright !—For thy sake cursed be the hour, Even as a father by an evil child, When the orient moon of Islam rolled in triumph From Caucasus to white Ceraunia 1 Ruin above, and anarchy below ; Terror without, and treachery within ; The chalice of destruction full, and all Thirsting to drink; and who among us dares To dash it from his lips ? and where is Hope
HASSAN. The lamp of our dominion still rides high ; One God is God—Mahomet is his Prophet. Four hundred thousand Moslems, from the limits Of utmost Asia, irresistibly Throng, like full clouds at the Scirocco's cry, But not like them to weep their strength in tears; They have destroying lightning, and their step Wakes earthquake, to consume and overwhelm, And reign in ruin. Phrygian Olympus, Tmolus, and Latmos, and Mycale, roughen With horrent arms, and lofty ships, even now, Like vapours anchored to a mountain's edge, Freighted with fire and whirlwind, wait at Scala The convoy of the ever-veering wind. Samos is drunk with blood;—the Greek has paid Brief victory with swift loss and long despair. The false Moldavian serfs fled fast and far When the fierce shout of Allah-illa-Allah Rose like the war-cry of the northern wind, Which kills the sluggish clouds, and leaves a flock Of wild swans struggling with the naked storm. So were the lost Greeks on the Danube's day ! If night is mute, yet the returning sun, Kindles the voices of the morning birds; Nor at thy bidding less exultingly Than birds rejoicing in the golden day, The Anarchies of Africa unleash Their tempest-winged cities of the sea, To speak in thunder to the rebel world. Like sulphureous cloudshalf-shattered by thestorm, They sweep the pale AEgean, while the Queen Of Ocean, bound upon her island throne, Far in the West, sits mourning that her sons, Who frown on Freedom, spare a smile for thee: Russia still hovers, as an eagle might Within a cloud, near which a kite and crane Hang tangled in inextricable fight, To stoop upon the victor; for she fears The name of Freedom, even as she hates thine : But recreant Austria loves thee as the Grave Loves Pestilence, and her slow dogs of war, Fleshed with the chase, come up from Italy,
And howl upon their limits; for they see
Proud words, when deeds come short, are season
able; Look, Hassan, on yon crescent moon, emblazoned Upon that shattered flag of fiery cloud Which leads the rear of the departing day, Wan emblem of an empire fading now ! See how it trembles in the blood-red air, And like a mighty lamp whose oil is spent, Shrinks on the horizon's edge, while, from above, One star with insolent and victorious light Hovers above its fall, and with keen beams, Like arrows through a fainting antelope, Strikes its weak form to death.
HASSAN. Even as that moon Renews itself—
MAHMUD. Shall we be not renewed | Far other bark than ours were needed now To stem the torrent of descending time : The spirit that lifts the slave before its lord Stalks through the capitals of armed kings, And spreads his ensign in the wilderness; Exults in chains ; and when the rebel falls, Cries like the blood of Abel from the dust; And the inheritors of earth, like beasts When earthquake is unleashed, with idiot fear Cower in their kingly dens—as I do now. What were Defeat, when Victory must appal? Or Danger, when Security looks pale How said the messenger—who from the fort Islanded in the Danube, saw the battle Of Bucharest ?—that—