EDWARD LYTTON BULWER, ESQ,
Helped me when I was helpless and unknown,
I beg leave to
DESCEND from heaven, proud prosperer! and, oh,
Still as thou journeyest, good to all that live!
Thou canst not—for on earth is known to none
The smile that is not sister to a tear:—
Man dreams of hope, but always wakes to fear.
World-lighting flambeau of that awful one
Whose greatness thought hath not conceived! thou
And ruby-hair'd similitude of might
Omniscient, yet invisible and lone,
The stillness of all power upon his throne,
The life of life, whose fountain none can tell!
Thou flarest o'er ocean's nation-girding streams
Fearless of change, as though, indeed, thy beams
Were of the eternal, uncreated light.
High, not secure; bright, not unchangeable;
Oh, couldst thou boast immutability,
Man's envious awe to worship thee would bow.
Thou eye of splendour! say, what dost thou see,
With that bright glance, above, around, below?
Unweeping pride and pleasure only? No!
Vicissitude and ruin are to thee
Too, too familiar; and thou look'st on woe
And feel'st no pity. But thyself shalt fade,
Extinguish'd, as a taper. He who made
Can unmake all things. He who reigns alone,
The sole unrivall'd! He whose burning throne
Is wheel'd on suns, shall quench thee with a frown,
And cast thy dust beneath his axle down;
Crush'd, thou shalt roll no more. No wrinkle yet
Of age insults thy beauty. Thou art bright
As man's vain youth, with harlot joys beset,
Who says, while love, in ecstasy divine,
Seals his warm cheek with lips that glow like thine,
"My fortune shall be splendid as thy light."
Thou laughing parent of the woful years!
Hence, with thy beams that mock the sorrowing heart!
In all thy pageantry of flame, depart!
And let me commune with sad night in tears.
But day yet lingers in the gorgeous west,
O'er capes that smile like islands of the bless'd;
His red orb biggens as his beams retire,
And wide Patowmac undulates in fire:
While giant clouds, that o'er his hills aspire,
Curtain the setting sun, whose broad brow glows
As if he wish'd, gazing in transport deep,
To look sweet evening into blushing sleep,
And, ere he slumber'd, kiss her in repose—
Then sink to golden rest. Above thy tide,
Wild river, on the headlands at thy side,
With straining eye, the Exile Alfred stands,
And thinks, with fever'd soul, of distant lands;
Thinks of lov'd England, whence, by terror led,
Escaped from Worcester's fatal fight, he fled,
And sought in desert woods, o'er ocean cross'd,
To cherish life, when all its joys were lost.
Dear to that Exile now are memory's tales,
For now they speak of Avon's dewy dales,
Sweet scenes, whose pleasures he no more may share,
And her, his love, who mourns deserted there.
He saw eve's beamy purple fade away;
He watch'd the changeful clouds, till all was grey;
He started, "'Twas the waving grass!" he said,
"I am not watch'd:—or, fluttering overhead,
Did the owl start the oriole from rest?—
The humming-bird reposes on the flower;
Fragrance drinks freshness in her richest bower;
High roosts the turkey; on Patowmac's breast
The mallard sleeps; and here the rattlesnake,
Couch'd on his coils, the desert's deadly pest!
The bull-frog booms not yet; all accentless,
The listening wave doth not a pebble shake;
Nor doth a sound disturb the loneliness
Of Nature in her slumbers; nor a breeze
Skim o'er the boundless forest, to awake
The tempest-braving pine of centuries;
And, while the stars, that guard the tranquil skies,
Look down in silence on the silent trees,
High on the mountain's crest the lonely cloud
Lies, like a giant in his shroud,
How silently! Haply, at this sweet hour,
In England, to the purple-blossom'd heath
The sun-tann'd peat-man plods; while every bower
Weeps in the eye of morn, the drover wakes
With dewy locks, and, while his plaid he shakes,
O'er crumpled grass, unbath'd by midnight shower,
Calls his tried dog, that lurks the thorn beneath,
Rous'd by whose voice, the bird that loves the sky
Sheds bright pearls from his clover canopy,
And, soaring, sings! And, o'er her fragrant pail,
More sweetly sings the milk-maid in the vale;
And the mist lessens on the distant sea;
And o'er the rooky grove the smoke curls slow;
And fair the halcyon is on writhen tree,
Whose giant arms stretch where the rock is riven;
But fairer far, on quivering waves below,
Are rock, tree, halcyon, and serenest heaven.
Oh, bless'd is he, who, arm'd with dusky gun,
Sees on Britannian wastes the moor fowl run,
Or, flying, fall:— Oh, bless'd who hears the bells
Sound o'er the dewy smile of Albion's dells,
While age, and youth, and blissful love repair
To sabbath service, country wake, or fair!
But is my injured Emma happy there?"
He spake in tears of sweetly mingled pain:
What though the heart that nurses love is fain
To build in darkness his unsocial seat?
What though he loves the desert-spirit's sigh?
The tear that visits seldom his sad eye,
Though life hath sweeter tears, may yet be sweet.
Pensive and pale, return'd he to his farm,
Where wealth was his, but not contentment's charm;
And as, with pausing footsteps, he came near,
Sad tones, that spake of wither'd joys once dear,
Tones that his heart acknowledg'd,met his ear,
And retrospection drank of aconite.
A moment blank he stood, then onward flew;
But, as with lightning blasted, back he drew;
And, trembling, gaz'd—on what appalling sight?
No dusky daughter of the burning day,
Shrank from the slave-herd's whip, uplifted high;
On no dark maid of fervid Africa
Gloated that scourger's Algerenian eye;
But, born, where men are free and maids are fair,
From happy Albion wafted o'er the wave,
And late arriv'd, a convict, and a slave,
Was she, for whose wild shriek he hunger'd there;
And on her cheek of woe the rose had been.
To Alfred's tongue words came not; but there came
Strength to his arm, and to his spirit flame;
He rush'd the mourner and the pang between;
And, stunn'd beneath his blow, the slave-herd sank,
And rose, and fell, and rose again, and drank
Not, with his eyes, his victim's starting blood,
But, coughing, drank his own, and ghastly stood,
Then faint, the convict totter'd to her shed;
Her sable sisters, weeping, stay'd her tread,
And laid on leaves of maize her languid head,
Where soon, by sad dreams visited, she slept,
And wildly, in her broken slumbers, wept.
But Alfred slept not. On his spirit broke
A troubled light; and in his heart awoke
The power that smiles to see the gloom increase,
And, sleeping on the thunder, dreams of peace,
And holiest stillness,—the storm's angel, hope.
Oh, 'reft of her, could man, the insect, cope
With darkness, dread, and danger? He arose,
Leaving the mattress of his pale unrest,
And walked into the cool and midnight air,
That whisper'd to the wildness of his breast,
Like spirit from the islands of repose,
And almost lull'd to sleep the demon Care.
Darkness was spread o'er half the sky. The moon
Slept on her sea of blue. The stars appear'd
To dream around her, in night's awful noon!
Wild lightnings, fluttering distant, fring'd with fire
The growing darkness of the wrathful west;
And, on sublime Patowmac's troubled breast,
Convolv'd in seeming agony and ire,
The red reflection, like a dragon, burn'd.
And, though the coming thunder was not heard,
Yet, on the breezeless sky perturb'd, in dread
The silent bear his gleaming eye-balls turn'd;
Hoarse croak'd the eagle on the mountain's head;
The buffalo, in ominous horror low'd;
The storm-fiend whisper'd from his desert cave;
The forest shudder'd; the tumultuous cloud
Wander'd in heav'n; black roll'd the moaning wave.
Lone stood the cabin of the pallid slave;
And, through the door unclos'd, a pine-torch cast
Its wrinkling beam. With trembling knees, he pass'd
Before the wan light thrice, then stood to gaze.
She slumber'd still, and still she wept in sleep,
While o'er her sad face gleam'd the feeble blaze.
He enter'd, and he could not chuse but weep;
For, as he bent above her faded frame,
In murmuring accents faint, she sigh'd his name.
"Emma!" he said, but faulteringly he spoke,
And kiss'd her brow; again—and she awoke,
And shriek'd, and rose half up, convuls'd with fear,
Then, trembling, turn'd, and hid her face in shame.
But he, with soothing words, and many a tear,
Spake to her woe, bidding her yet be glad,
And question'd of her destiny severe,
And how, and why, she met a doom so sad?
She did not lift her eye—she fear'd to look
On him who talk'd of comfort—but it came;
For, like a sweet remember'd vision, stole
His tones of pity on her drooping soul;
Or, like the liquid music of the brook
To thirst's charm'd ear, when the unseen waters creep
Beneath the blossoming umbrage of the vale,
Among flowers dear to woe, that love to weep,
And thus, she told her melancholy tale,
While, o'er the hut, loud moan'd the increasing gale,
And nearer thunder chas,d the lightning pale.
"Oh, thou art good!— I did not hope to hear
The voice of kindness in this land of fear,—
My love went to the war, and came not back;
Prince Charles, they said, was worsted in the strife:
Anxious, I watch'd on expectation's rack;
But Alfred fled beyond the sea for life.
Soon I became—a mother!—not a wife!
My wrathful parents spurn'd me from their door.
Oh! cherish'd like the choicest garden flower,
And nurtured on the breast of tenderness,
And all unused to the evil hour,
How should their silk-clad daughter face distress?
Where should the out-cast Emma lay her head?
I sought, and found, a little lowly shed,
Where long we liv'd, resigned and calm, though poor:
My active needle earn'd our daily bread.
But, Sickness, then, by famine follow'd came:
My hungry boy look'd up for food, and pin'd!
My wearying task was profitless; my frame
Enfeebled by disease, unnerv'd my mind.
I would not beg the alms of charity,
Nor ask the legal dole of paupery;
No, I did worse, far worse—Heaven pardon me!
Thou wouldst not think that Emma once was fair;
Yet fair she was, or Envy's self hath lied;
And she had still some sweet and drooping charms;
But she had still some virtue, and some pride.
I turn'd abhorrent from lust's venomous arms;
How could I clasp pollution to my heart?
I wept, and pray'd, but want would not depart;
And my boy's asking look, so pale and sad,
Drove me, in one unhappy moment, mad.
No pitying daughter of the rich and free,
With angel looks, and bounty, came to me.
Oh, how I envied then the spotless maid,
Who pass'd me, blushing, and almost afraid!
Spurn'd by the base, scarce pitied by the good,
Affliction rush'd upon me, like a flood.
No aid without, and Want and Woe within;
Deserted—ah, no! left—by him I lov'd;
My life's life was that boy, the child of sin!
What mother's heart could see his tears, unmov'd?
I pawn'd the stolen silk!—detected—tried—
In the throng'd court I stood, half petrified,
And there was doom'd beyond the billowy tide,
On wild Columbia's shore of tears to groan.
"As on the strand I stood—and not alone,
But chain'd to others, like in crime and fate,
And female, too, though lost to female fears—
A man approach'd, more old in grief than years,
And kiss'd the fetter'd hand he bathed with tears,
And, faultering, strove, but strove in vain, to speak.
Oh, he was chang'd! but Emma knew him well;
And with him came forgiveness, though too late.
But when he ask'd forgiveness of his child,
His guilty child, I thought my heart would break!
And when I bade him to my mother bear
A lock of hapless Emma's golden hair—
A kiss from one so lost—and pray'd him tell
If she, too, had the sinful one forgiv'n,—
Oh, God! in more than agony, he smil'd,
Then rav'd, amid his tears, in laughter wild!
' Emma,' he said, ' thy mother is in Heav'n,
Brought to the grave with sorrow—not by thee—
It was God's will! and none from sin are free.'
Again he kiss'd me, and he turn'd to go;
But no—poor Emma would not have it so;
He saw the boy on whom my sad eye fell,
And kiss'd my little Alfred—then—farewell!
I saw him not, but sobb'd, in sorrow blind,
And heard his faint ' God bless thee!' in the wind.
"Ah, surely in that hour I should have died,
But that my boy clung fondly to my side,
And, not in vain, to soothe his mother tried!
Then came a thought which nature could not bear:
' What take him from me?' shriek'd my heart's
But little Alfred left the land with me;
And, while the tall ship rush'd into the sea,
He sate, and smiled upon his mother's knee,
Pleas'd with the sails, the motion, and the deep.
The billows seem'd to rock my cares to sleep.
Oh, there was comfort in the dreadful thought
That far from happiest England I should go,
Where none who knew me could behold my woe,
To taunt the shame that want and sin had brought;
And that the poor companions of my way
Were wretches too, but I less vile than they!
I lov'd to sit upon the airy deck,
While swell'd the moonlight heav'ns, without a
O'er ocean without wrinkle; and I lov'd,
While star-light only glimmer'd through the clouds,
And, arrow-like, and billow-borne, we mov'd,
To hear the fresh gale whistle in the shrouds,
And see the maned waves each other chase,
Like flaming coursers in the endless race;
Then, with delighted terror, from the prow,
High on the mountain billow's summit curl'd,
Down look'd I on the wat'ry vales below,
That, like a tenantless and hopeless world,
Barren and black, and deepening chilly, frown'd.
And on that far land, whither I was bound,
Enthusiast Hope beheld, nor whip, nor chains;
But hill and shadowy vale seem'd fairy ground,
And groves elysian deck'd the teeming plains;
And airy fingers form'd, with many a flower
Of dulcet breath, a visionary bower;
And there my fancy wander'd with my child,
And saw him strive, with lifted hand, to reach
The grape's dark luxury, or the glowing peach;
And Peace walk'd with us through the balmy wild,
Look'd on my tears, nor only look'd, but smiled.
"Oh, Heaven! thou shouldst, according to the load,
Apportion strength to bear it on the road!
My boy refus'd his food, forgot to play,
And sicken'd on the waters, day by day.
He smil'd more seldom on his mother's smile;
He prattled less, in accents void of guile,
Of that wild land, beyond the golden wave,
Where I, not he, was doom'd to be a slave!
Cold o'er his limbs, a listless languor grew;
Paleness came o'er his eye of placid blue;
Pale mourn'd the lily, where the rose had died,
And timid, trembling, clung he to my side.
He was my all on earth. Oh, who can speak
The anxious mother's too prophetic woe,
Who sees death feeding on her dear child's cheek,
And strives in vain to think it is not so?
Ah, many a sad and sleepless night I pass'd,
O'er his couch listening, in the pausing blast,
While on his brow, more sad from hour to hour,
Droop'd wan Dejection, like a fading flower!
At length, my boy seem'd better, and I slept—
Oh, soundly! but, methought, my mother wept
O'er her poor Emma, and, in accents low,
Said, 'Ah! why do I weep? and weep in vain
For one so lov'd, so lost? Emma, thy pain
Draws to a close! ev'n now is rent in twain
The loveliest link that binds thy breast to woe.
Soon, broken heart, we soon shall meet again!'
Then o'er my face her freezing hand she cross'd,
And, bending, kiss'd me, with her lip of frost.
I waked; and, at my side—oh! still and cold!—
Oh, what a tale that dreadful chillness told!
Shrieking, I started up, in terror wild;
Alas! and had I liv'd to dread my child?
Eager, I snatch'd him from his swinging bed;
His limbs were stiff—he mov'd not—he was dead!
"Oh, let me weep!—what mother would not weep
To see her child committed to the deep?—
All lifeless, o'er his marble forehead roll'd,
The third night saw his locks repose in gold.
Methinks, 'twas moonlight, and a torch cast wide
Its lanthorn'd radiance o'er the umber'd tide,
As wan on deck he lay, serenely fair,
And, oh, so like his sire! that man of care,
(From home, and hope, and all he loved, impell'd,)
Who ne'er his child, in life, or death, beheld,
And could not come, my breaking heart to share!
No mournful flowers, by weeping fondness laid,
Nor pink, nor rose, droop'd on his breast display'd,
Nor half-blown daisy, in his little hand.
Wide was the field around, but 'twas not land.
His features wore a sweet and pensive grace,
And death was beauty on his silent face.
No more his sad eye look'd me into tears!
Clos'd was that eye beneath his pale cold brow;
And on his calm lips, which had lost their glow,
But which, though pale, seem'd half unclos'd to
Loiter'd a smile, like moonlight on the snow.
I gazed upon him still—not wild with fears—
Gone were my fears, and present was despair!
But, as I gazed, a little lock of hair,
Stirr'd by the breeze, play'd, trembling, on his cheek;
Oh, God! my heart!—I thought life still was there:
But, to commit him to his watery grave,
O'er which the winds, unwearied mourners rave—
One, who strove darkly sorrow's sob to sway,
Uprais'd the body; thrice I bade him stay;
For still my wordless woe, had much to say,
And still I bent, and gazed, and, gazing, wept.
At last, my sisters, with humane constraint,
Held me, and I was calm, as dying saint;
While the stern weeper lower'd into the sea
My ill-starr'd boy! deep—buried deep, he slept.
And then I look'd to heav'n in agony,
And pray'd to end my pilgrimage of pain,
That I might meet my beauteous boy again!
Oh, had he liv'd to reach this wretched land,
And then expired—I would have bless'd the strand.
But, where my poor boy lies, I may not lie;
I cannot come, with broken heart, to sigh
O'er his lov'd dust, and strew with flowers his turf:
His pillow hath no cover but the surf!
I may not pour the soul drop from mine eye
Near his cold bed; he slumbers in the wave!
Oh, I will love the sea, because it is his grave!"
Weeping, she saw not him whose swimming eye
O'er-flow'd with bitterness and agony:
But when he smote his breast, with frenzied force,
And, stamping, curs'd himself in dread remorse;
Then started she—as one who sleeps with pain
O'erwearied, starts awake, but sleeps again;
And soon, more calm, with alter'd voice, she said,
"Perhaps, my boy had liv'd, had Alfred stay'd!
Ah, wherefore fled he, hopeless and afraid?
And, ah, why fled not Emma at his side?
I on the scaffold would with him have died.
Without a look, a kiss, a tear, he went;
Unheard by Emma, every prayer he sent
To heav'n, (while grim Mischance stood by, and
To bless the mother of his unborn child!
Nor after weeks, and months, and mournful years,
Did his dear letter, long, and stain'd with tears,
Bring to her bosom, o'er the waters wide,
Comfort and hope, which nought could bring
Alas! he fled not, but at Worcester died!"
"Oh, blame him not!" exclaim'd the self-blam'd
"If he has err'd, forgive his fault, forgive!
And canst thou doubt thy Alfred's love and truth?
And deem him false, who lives to bid thee live?
We both live, Emma, happier days to see;
Behold, 'tis Alfred's self, preserv'd for thee!
Come to my heart! thou still art all to me."
Ah, clasp'd he death? or did she lifeless seem?
Slackening his grasp, he stoop'd but heard no
Then paleness blush'd; and life's returning beam
Relum'd the faded azure of her eye.
Faintly she strove to clasp him to her side.
"Was it, indeed, my angel's voice?" she cried;
"And wilt thou take the convict to thy breast?
And shall the vile, the outcast, the oppress'd,
The poor and trodden worm, again be bless'd?
Ah, no, no—heav'n ordaineth otherwise!—
My love!—we meet too late!—thy Emma dies."
Then, with clasp'd hands, and fervent hearts dismay'd,
That she might live for him, both mutely pray'd.
But, o'er their silence burst the heavy blast;
And, wrapp'd in darkness, the sky-torrent pass'd;
And down the giants of the forest dash'd;
And, pale as day, the night with lightning flash'd;
And, through aw'd heav'n, a peal, that might have
The funeral dirge of suns and systems, crash'd:
More dread, more near, the bright blue blaze was
Peal following peal, with direr pause between.
On the wild light she turn'd her wilder eye,
And grasp'd his hands, in dying agony,
Fast, and still faster, as the flash rush'd by.
"Spare me!" she cried. "Oh, thou destroying rod!
Hark!—'tis the voice of unforgiving God!—
A mother murder'd, and a sire in woe!
Alfred, the deed was mine, for thee, for thee,
I broke her heart, and turn'd his locks to snow!
Hark!—'tis the roaring of the mighty sea!
Lo, how the mountain-billows fall and rise!
And while their rage, beneath the howling night,
Lifts my boy's tresses to the wild moonlight,
Yet doth the wretch, th' unwedded mother, live,
Who, for those poor unvalued locks would give
All, save her hope to kiss them in the skies!
But see!—he rises from his wat'ry bed,
And at his guilty mother shakes his head!
There, dost thou see him, blue and shivering stand,
And lift at thee his little threatening hand!
Oh, dreadful!—Hold me!—catch me!—die with me!
Alas, that must not, and it should not be!
No—pray that both our sins may be forgiv'n;
Then come! and heav'n will-will indeed be
He felt her slackening grasp his hand forego,
And grasp'd more firmly her's, in speechless woe.
Quiver'd her cheek, with death's convulsions
Still gazed he—all was fix'd! he started up, and
No sound is heard, save of the brook encreas'd;
The weary cloud is still. The blast hath ceas'd
To rend the wildly fluctuating sky,
And tear the tall pine from his place on high.
Meek Quiet on the freshen'd verdure sleeps;
Less frequent, from the beauteous cedar weeps
The heavy rain-drop on the flower beneath;
And, fainter round the hills, the dying gale
Murmurs the requiem of departed night;
While, like bless'd isles, the woods emerge in light,
In placid light, fair as the brow of death
O'er which that mourner bends, so lost and pale.
"Emma, how sweet the calm that follows storms!
How sweet to sleep in tears, and wake in heav'n!"
Morn soon will smile on nature's drooping charms,
And smooth the tresses which the night hath riven;
But no sun shall arise that wretch to cheer;
Alas, his grief despairs, and hath no tear!
From heav'n's deep blue, the stars steal, one by one;
Pale fades the moon—still paler—she is gone.
As yet, no marshall'd clouds in splendour roll'd,
See, on Patowmac's breast their mirror'd gold;
Yet, eastward, lo! th' horizon, forest-fring'd,
Blushes—and dusky heights are ruby-ting'd!
Lo! like a warrior in impatient ire,
On mailed steed, fire-scarf'd, and helm'd with fire,
Forth rides the sun, in burning beauty strong,
Hurling his bright shafts, as he darts along!
Oh, not more splendidly emerged the morn
When light, and life, and blissful love were born,
And day and beauty, ere his woes began,
Smil'd first Elysium on the soul of man,
And—while no cloud in stillest heav'n was seen—
O'er ocean's waveless magnitude serene,
Rose, all on flame his vital race to run,
In dreadless youth, how proudly rose that sun!
And, see! o'er Emma's still and snowy cheek
There comes a glow, ethereal, heav'nly, meek,
As if a lily blush'd to meet the light!
But what, wan Exile, may be said to thee?
Look'st thou on death? then death is fair to see.
The sun-beams mingle with her lifeless hair;
From her clos'd eye a tear is stealing slow;
Life seems to linger on the silence there,
Like fragrance in a gather'd rose of snow;
But, oh! that kiss of ice!—despair!—despair!—
Ah, woods and waves, and heav'n and earth are
But on the hopeless Exile's heart—'tis night!
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WHAT ART THOU, MIND?
TO THAT TRUE CHRISTIAN AND PATRIOT, THE
REVEREND HENRY WRIGHTSON, THIS POEM IS
DEDICATED BY THE AUTHOR.
GRIEF, sages tell us, hath a drooping wing,
And loves to perch upon the shaken mind,
To which she sings notes like the muttering
Of wintry rivers in the wintry wind,
Till health flies wing'd away, and leaves behind
Shadows, illusions, dreams, and worse than dreams.
But Alfred dreams not—he is wide awake!
Light is around him, and the chime of streams;
Bees hum o'er sallows yet; and in the brake,
Coil'd like a chain of amethyst, the snake
Basks on the bank, above the streamlet's flow.
Oh, there are beauteous plumes, and many a bill,
And life, and love, beneath the ivy's bough!
The swallow dips his purple in the rill,
The lark sings in the cloud, and from the hill
The blackbird's song replies. But Alfred's ear,
Nor splashing swallow hears, nor humming bee,
Nor warbling lark, nor ivy shaken near
By brooding thrush, nor breeze-born melody
Of chiming streams. He listens mournfully
To accents which the earth shall hear no more
What art thou, Mind, that mirror'st things unseen,
Giv'st to the dead the smiles which erst they wore,
And lift'st the veil which fate hath cast between
Thee and the forms which are not, but have been?
What art thou, conscious power, that hear'st the
And feel'st th' impalpable? Thy magic brings
Back to our hearts the warblings of the lute,
Which long had slept with unexisting things!
And shall we stand, doubting immortal wings,
In presence of the angels? Ask the worm,
And she will bid thee doubt; yet she is meek,
And wise—for when earth shakes, she shuns thy
But never saw the morning on thy cheek,
The blue heav'n in thine eye, the lightning break
In laughter from thy lips. So she denies
That colours are, even while the fragrant thorn
Blossoms above her! Weight, and shape, and size,
She says, are real; but she laughs to scorn
The gorgeous rainbow, and the blushing morn,
And can disprove the glory of the rose!—
Yet doth she err; our limbless sister errs;
For on thy cheek, oh Man! the morning glows,
And fair is heaven's bright bow. The wayside furze
Discredits her; the humblest weed that stirs
Its small green leaves, can undemonstrate all
Her proofs triumphant, that celestial light
Shines not at noon. But though the sunflower tall,
And tiniest moss, are clad in liveries bright,
Never, to her, can'st thou disprove the night,
The starless night, in which she hath her home!
Then, marvel not, if death-bless'd spirits free
Wander, at times, beneath this heavenly dome,
On wings too bright for mortal eyes to see;
While, unperceived by them, as both by thee,
Forms, more seraphic still, around us fly,
And stoop to them and thee, with looks of love;
Or vainly strain the archangelic eye,
To gaze on holier forms above, above,
That round the throne of heaven's Almighty move.
Oh, look on Alfred!—look! the man is blind!
She whom he loved sleeps in her winding sheet,
Yet he beholds her, with the eyes of mind!
He sees the form which he no more shall meet,
But cannot see the primrose at his feet!
They mingle tears with tears, and sighs with sighs,
And sobs with sobs; but words, long time, have none;
She looks her soul into his sightless eyes,
And, like a passionate thought, is come and gone,
While at his feet, unheard, the bright rill
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My great Master,
Condescended to teach me the Art of Poetry.
I most respectfully
A DRAMATIC POEM.
SCENE—Inside of a dungeon, in a fortress on
the coast of Norway. BOTHWELL sleeping.
RHINVALT gazing through a barred window
on the rocks, and stormy sea below.
Rhin. Splendour in heaven, and horror on the
Sunshine and storm at once;—a troubled day.
Clouds roll in brightness, and descend in rain.
How the waves rush into the rocky bay,
Shaking th' eternal barriers of the land!
And ocean's face is like a battle plain,
Where giant demons combat hand to hand;
While, as their voices sink and swell again,
Peace, listening on the rainbow, bends in pain.
Where is the voice, whose stillness man's heart
Like dream'd-of music, wordless, soft, and low?
The voice, which dries on Sorrow's cheek her tears,
Or, lest she perish, bids the current flow?
That voice the whirlwind in his rage reveres;
It bids the blast a tranquil sabbath keep;
Lonely as death, harmonious as the spheres,
It whispers to the wildness of the deep,
'Till, calm as cradled babe, the billows sleep.
Oh, careless of the tempest in his ire,
Blush, ruby glow of western heav'n! Oh, cast
The hue of roses, steep'd in liquid fire,
On ocean in his conflict with the blast,
And quiver into darkness, and retire,
And let wild day to calmest night subside;
Let the tired sailor from his toil respire,
The drench'd flag hang, unmoving, o'er the tide,
And, pillow'd on still clouds, the whirlwind ride!
Then, queen of silence, robe thee, and arise,
And, through the barr'd loop of this dungeon old,
Visit, once more, its inmate's blasted eyes!
Let him again, though late, thy light behold!
Soulless, not sightless, have his eye-balls roll'd,
Alike, in light and darkness, desolate.
The storm beat on his heart—he felt no cold;
Summer look'd on him, from heaven's fiery gate—
Shivering, he scowl'd, and knew not that he scowl'd.
Unweeping, yet perturb'd; his bed a stone;
Bonds on his body; on his mind a spell;
Ten years in solitude, (yet not alone,)
And conscious only to the inward hell,
There hath it been his hideous lot to dwell.
But heav'n can bid the spirit's gloom depart,
Can chase from his torn soul the demon fell,
And, whispering, find a listener in his heart.
O let him weep again! then, tearless dwell,
In his dark, narrow home, unrung by passing bell!
[A long pause. Loud thunder,—and,
an interval, thunder heard remote.]
The storm hath ceas'd. The sun is set: the trees
Are fain to slumber; and, on ocean's breast,
How softly, yet how solemnly, the breeze,
With unperceiv'd gradation, sinks to rest!
No voice, no sound is on the ear impress'd;
Twilight is weeping o'er the pensive rose;
The stoat slumbers, coil'd up in his nest;
The grosbeak on the owl's perch seeks repose;
And o'er the heights, behold! a pale light glows.
Wak'd by the bat, up springs the startled snake;
The cloud's edge brightens—lo, the moon! and grove,
And tree, and shrub, bath'd in her beams, awake,
With tresses cluster'd like the locks of love.
Behold! the ocean's tremor slowly move
The cloud-like sails; and, as their way they urge,
Fancy might almost deem she saw, above,
The streamer's chasten'd hues: bright sleeps the
And dark the rocks, on ocean's glittering verge.
Now lovers meet, and labour's task is done.
Now stillness hears the breathing heifer. Now
Heav'n's azure deepens; and, where rock rills run,
Rest on the shadowy mountain's airy brow
Clouds that have ta'en their farewell of the sun;
While calmness, reigning o'er that wintry clime,
Pauses and listens;—hark!—the evening gun!
Oh, hark!—the sound expires! and silence is sublime.
Moonlight o'er ocean's stillness! on the crest
Of the poor maniac, moonlight!—He is calm;
Calmer he soon will be in endless rest:—
Oh, be thy coolness to his brow as balm,
And breathe, thou fresh breeze, on his burning
For memory is returning to his brain;
The dreadful past, with worse than woe impress'd;
And torturing time's eternity of pain;
The curse of mind returns! oh, take it back again!
[A long pause, during which he bends anxiously
Alas, how flutteringly he draws his breath!
Both. My blessed Mary!
Rhin. Calmer he appears
Sad, fatal symptom! swift approaches death.
Both. Mary! a hand of fire my bosom sears.—
Oh, do not leave me!—Heavenly Mary!—years,
Ages of torture pass'd,—and thou cam'st not;
I waited still, and watch'd, but not in tears;
I could not weep; mine eyes are dry and hot,
And long, long since, to shed a tear forgot.—
A word! though it condemn me!—stay!—she's gone!
Gone! and to come no more!
Rhin. Ah, is it so?
His pilgrimage is o'er, his task is done,
How grimly still he lies! yet his eyes glow,
As with strange meaning. Troubled spirit, go!
How threat'ningly his teeth are clench'd! how fast
He clutches his grasp'd hair!—hush!—breathless?
Life still is here, though withering hope be past:
Come, bridegroom of despair! and be this sigh his
Both. Where am I? What art thou?
Rhin. Call me a friend,
And this a prison.
Both. Voice of torture, cease!—
Oh, it returns!—terrific vision, end!—
When was it? Yesterday? no matter—peace!
I do remember, and too well, too well!
Rhin. How is it with thee?
Both. Why wilt thou offend?—
Ha, all ye fiends of earth, and ye of hell,
I surely am awake! Thine angel send,
Thou, King of Terrors call'd, and break this hideous
Rhin. A tear? and shed by thee?
Both. I breathed in flame;
The sleepless worm of wrath was busy here;
When—ah, it was a dream!—my lady came,
Lovely and wan in woe, with the big tear
To cool my fever'd soul. In love and fear,
O'er me she bent, as at the Hermitage,
When (maim'd in conflict with the mountaineer)
She kiss'd my wounds, while Darnley swell'd with
Tears only! not a word! she fled!—and I am here.
She fled; and then, within a sable room,
Methought, I saw the headsman and the axe;
And men stood round the block, with brows of gloom,
Gazing, yet mute, as images of wax;
And, while the victim moved to meet her doom,
All wept for Mary Stuart. Pale, she bent,
As when we parted last; yet towards the tomb—
Calmly she look'd, and smiling prayers up sent
To pitying heav'n. A deep and fearful boom
Of mutter'd accents rose, when to the ground
The sever'd head fell bleeding! and, aghast,
Horror on horror star'd. And then a sound
Swell'd, hoarsely yelling, on the sudden blast,
As of a female voice that mimick'd woe;
But, as above that hall of death it pass'd,
'Twas changed into a laugh, wild, sullen, low,
Like a fiend's growl, who, from heav'n's splendour
Quaffs fire and wrath, where pain's red embers glow.
Do I not know thee? I'm forgetful grown:
Where did I see thee first?
Rhin. Here, even here;
Thy ten years' comrade—still to thee unknown.
In all that time thou didst not shed a tear
Until this hour. Raving, with groan on groan,
Thou spak'st of more than horror, and thy moan
Was torture's music. O'er thy forehead hot
Thine hands were clasp'd; and still wert thou alone,
Brooding o'er things that have been, and are not,
Though I was with thee, almost turn'd to stone,
Here, where I pin'd for twenty years before
Both. Thirty years a prisoner!
Here, didst thou say?
Rhin. Ay, thirty years and more.
My wife!—oh, never may I look on her!
Both. Didst thou spill man's blood; or why?
Rhin. I spilt man's blood in battle. Oh, no
Liberty, shall I breath thy air, on high
Where the cloud travels, or along the shore
Where the waves frown, like patriots sworn to die!—
I met th' oppressors of my native land,
(Wide waved their plumes o'er Norway's wilds afar,)
I met them, breast to breast, and hand to hand,
O'ercome, not vanquish'd, in the unequal war:
And this is Freedom's grave.
Freedom? Thou fool,
Deserving chains! Freedom?—a word to scare
The sceptred babe. Of thy own dream thou tool
And champion, white in folly! from me far
Be rant like thine, of sound a senseless jar.
Rhin. Say, who art thou that rav'st of
And dar'st, before her champion vow'd, profane
The name of freedom? Long forgotten things
To my soul beckon, and my hand would fain
(Stung by thy venom) grasp a sword again,
In battle with these tyrants! Gone?—alas!
'Tis the death-rattle in the throat—his pain
Draws to a close—again?—dark spirit, pass!
Both. Lift, lift me up! that on my burning
The pallid light may shine! and let me see
Once more the ocean. —Thanks!—Hail, placid
Oh, the cold light is comfort! and to me
The freshness of the breeze comes, like sweet sleep
To him whose tears his painful pillow steep!—
When last I saw those billows, they were red.
Mate of my dungeon! Know'st thou why I weep?
My chariot, and my war-horse, and my bed,
Ocean before me swells, in all its glory spread.
Lovely! still lovely nature!—and a line
Of quivering beams, athwart the wavy space,
Runs, like a beauteous road to realms divine,
Ending, where sea and stooping heav'n embrace.
Crisp'd with glad smiles in ocean's aged face;
Gemm'd are the fingers of his wrinkled hand;
Like glittering fishes, in the wanton race,
The little waves leap laughing to the land,
Light following light, an everlasting chase.
Lovely, still lovely!—Chaste moon, is thy beam
Now laid on Jedburgh's mossy walls asleep,
Where Mary pin'd for me; or dost thou gleam
O'er Stirling, where I first, in transport deep,
Kiss'd her bless'd hand, when Darnley bade her
Or o'er Linlithgow, and the billows blue,
Where (captured on the forest-waving steep)
She almost fear'd my love, so dear and true?
Or on that sad field, where she could but look
Rhin. Weep on! if thou, indeed, art he whose
Hath pierced th' oblivion even of this tomb,
Where life is buried, and whose fearful name
Amazement loves to speak, while o'er thy doom,
Trembling, he weeps. Did she, whose charms
All other beauty, Scotland's matchless queen,
Creation's wonder, on that wither'd frame,
Enamour'd smile? Sweet tears there are, I ween
Speak then of her, where tears are shed more oft
Both. Perhaps, the artist might, with cunning
Mimic the morn on Mary's lip of love;
And fancy might before the canvas stand,
And deem he saw th' unreal bosom move.
But who could paint her heav'nly soul, which glows
With more than kindness? the soft thoughts that
Over the moonlight of her heart's repose?
The wish to hood the falcon, spare the dove,
Destroy the thorn, and multiply the rose?
Oh, hadst thou words of fire, thou couldst not
My Mary in her majesty of mind,
Expressing half the queen and half the saint!
Her fancy, wild as pinions of the wind,
Or sky-ascending eagle, that looks down,
Calm, on the homeless cloud he leaves behind;
Yet beautiful as freshest flower full blown,
That bends beneath the midnight dews reclin'd;
Or yon resplendent path, o'er ocean's slumber
'Twas such a night—oh ne'er, bless'd thought,
When Mary utter'd first, in words of flame,
The love, the guilt, the madness of her heart,
While on my bosom burn'd her cheek of shame.
Thy blood is ice, and, therefore, thou wilt blame
The queen, the woman, the adulterous wife,
The hapless, and the fair!—Oh, but her name
Needs not thy mangling! Her disastrous life
Needs not thy curse! Spare, slanderer, spare her
Then wore the heav'ns, as now, the clouded veil;
Yet mark'd I well her tears, and that wan smile
So tender, so confiding, whose sweet tale,
By memory told, can, even now, beguile
My spirit of its gloom! for then the pale
Sultana of the night her form display'd,
Pavilion'd in the pearly clouds afar,
Like brightness sleeping, or a naked maid,
In virgin charms unrivall'd; while each star,
Astonish'd at her beauty, seem'd to fade,
Each planet, envy-stung, to turn aside,
Veiling their blushes with their golden hair.
Oh, moment—rich in transport, love, and pride!
Big, too, with woe, with terror, with despair!
While, wrestling thus, I strive to cloak my groan,
And, what I cannot shun, may learn to bear,
That moment is immortal, and my own!
Fate from my grasp that moment cannot tear!
That moment for an age of torture might atone!
Poor Rizio of the flute, whom few bewail,
Worth Mary's tears, was well worth Darnley's hate.
Jealous again! Why, who could e'er prevail,
Monarch or slave, in conflict with his fate?
Behold the King of—Hear it not, chaste night!
King! keep no monkey that has got a tail!
In nought, but things emasculate, delight!
Let no fly touch her,—lest it be a male!
And, like the devil, infest a paradise in spite
Pride, without honour! body, without soul!
The heartless breast a brainless head implies.
If men are mad, when passion scorns control,
And self-respect, with shame and virtue, flies,
Darnley hath long been mad.—Thou coxcomb rude!
Thou reptile, shone on by an angel's eyes!
Intemperate brute, with meanest thoughts imbued!
Dunghill! would'st thou the sun monopolize?
Wouldst thou have Mary's love? for what?
The quivering flesh, though torture-torn, may live;
But souls, once deeply wounded, heal no more:
And deem'st thou that scorn'd woman can forgive?
Darnley, thou dream'st, but not as heretofore!
Mary's feign'd smile, assassin-like, would gore;
There is a snake beneath her sorrowing eye;
The crocodile can weep: with bosom pore,
O'er thy sick bed she heaves a traiterous sigh:
Ah, do not hope to live! she knows that thou shalt
Yet Mary wept for Darnley, while she kiss'd
His murderer's cheek at midnight. Sad was she;
And he, who then had seen her, would have miss'd
The rose, that was not where it wont to be,
Or marvell'd at its paleness. None might see
The heart, but on the features there was woe.
Then put she on a mask, and gloomily—
For dance and ball prepar'd—arose to go:
"Spare, spare my Darnley's life!" she said,—
but mean'd she so?
Now bends the murderer—Mark his forehead fell!
What says the dark deliberation there?—
Now bends the murderer—Hark!—it is a knell!—
Hark!—sound or motion? 'Twas his cringing hair.
Now bends the murderer—wherefore doth he start?
'Tis silence—silence that is terrible!
When he hath business, silence should depart,
And maniac darkness, borrowing sounds from hell,
Suffer him not to hear his throbbing heart?—
Now bends the murderer o'er the dozing king,
Who, like an o'er-gorged serpent, motionless,
Lies drunk with wine, a seeming-senseless thing.
Yet his eyes roll with dreadful consciousness,
Thickens his throat in impotent distress,
And his voice strives for utterance, while that wretch
Doth on his royal victim's bosom press
His foot, preparing round his neck to stretch
The horrible cord. Lo! dark as th' alpine vetch,
Stares his wide-open, blood-shot, bursting eye,
And on the murderer flashes vengeful fire;
While the black visage, in dire agony,
Swells, like a bloated toad that dies in ire,
And quivers into fixedness!—On high
Raising the corpse, forth into th' moonlight air
The staggering murderer bears it silently,
Lays it on earth, sees the fix'd eye-ball glare,
And turns, affrighted, from the lifeless stare.
Ho! fire the mine! and let the house be rent
To atoms!—that dark guile may say to fear,
' Ah, dire mischance! mysterious accident!
Ah, would it were explain'd! ah, would it were!'
Up, up, the rushing, red volcano went,
And wide o'er earth, and heav'n, and ocean flash'd
A torrent of earth-lightning sky-ward sent;
O'er heav'n, earth, sea, the dread explosion crash'd;
Then, clattering far, the downward fragments dash'd.
Roar'd the rude sailor o'er th' illumin'd sea,
"Hell is in Scotland!" Shudder'd Roslin's
Low'd the scar'd heifer on the distant lea;
Trembled the city; shriek'd the festival;
Paused the pale dance from his delighted task,
Quak'd every masker of the splendid ball;
Rais'd hands, unanswer'd questions seem'd to ask;
And there was one who lean'd against the wall,
Close pressing to her face, with hands convuls'd, her
And night was after that, but blessed night
Was never more! for thrilling voices cried
To th' dreaming sleep, on th' watcher's pale affright,
' Who murder'd Darnley? Who the match applied?
Did Hepburn murder Darnley?'—' Fool!'
Accents responsive, fang'd with scorpion sting,
In whispers faint, while all was mute beside,
' 'Twas the Queen's husband that did kill the king!'
And o'er the murderer's soul swept horror's freezing
Rhin. Terrific, but untrue!—Have such
Thy looks say ay! and dire are they to me.
Unhappy king! and more unhappy queen!
But who the murderer?
Both. What is that to thee?
Think'st thou I kill'd him? Come but near my chain,
Thou base suspector of scath'd misery!
And I will dash the links into thy brain,
And lay thee (champion of the can't-be-free!)
There, for thine insolence—never to rise again.
Rhin. Alas! how far'st thou now? Darkness
The dreadful paleness from thy face; thine eye,
Upturn'd, displays its white; thy cheek is lac'd
With quivering tortuous folds; thy lip, awry,
Snarls, as thou tear'st the straw; the speechless
Frowns on thy brow, where drops of agony
Stand thick and beadlike; and, while all thy form
Is crumpled with convulsion, threat'ningly
Thou breathest, smiting th' air, and writhing like
Both. Treason in arms!—Sirs, ye are envious
To Mary's marriage did ye not consent?
Do you deny your signature—this scrawl
Of your vile names? True, I do not repent
That I divorc'd my wife to wed the queen;
True, I hate Mar; true, I scorn Huntley's bawl;
True, I am higher now than I have been—
And will remain so, though your heads should fall.
Craig, of the nasal twang, who pray'st so well!
Glencairn, of th' icy eye, and tawny hide!
If I am prouder than the prince of hell,
Are ye all meanness that ye have no pride?
My merit is my crime. I love my sword,
And that high sin for which the angels fell;
But still agrees my action with my word;
That yours does not so, let rebellion tell.
Submit! or perish here! or elsewhere—by the cord.
My comrades, whose brave deeds my heart attests,
Be jocund!—But, ah, see their trembling knees!
Their eyes are vanquish'd—not by th' tossing crests,
But by yon rag, the pestilence of the breeze,
Painted with villanous horror! In their breasts
Ardour and manliness make now with fear
A shameful treaty, casting all behests
That honour loves, into th' inglorious rear.
By heav'n, their cowardice hath sold us here!
Ha! dastards, terror-quell'd as by a charm,
What! steal ye from the field?—My sword for thee,
Mary! and courage for his cause! this arm
Shall now decide the contest!—Can it be?
Did Lindsay claim the fight?—and still lives he?
He lives, and I to say it. Hell's black night
Lower'd o'er my soul, and Darnley scowl'd on me,
And Mary would not let her coward fight,
But bade him barter all for infamy!
Dishonour'd, yet unburied! Morton's face
Wrinkled with insult; while, with cover'd brow,
Bravest Kirkaldy mourn'd a foe's disgrace;
And Murray's mean content was mutter'd low.
Pale, speechless, Mary wept, almost ashamed
Of him she mourn'd. Flash'd o'er my cheek the
Of rage against myself; and undefam'd,
Worse than my reputation, and not slow,
I left my soul behind, and fled in wordless woe.
Then ocean was my home, and I became
Outcast of human kind, making my prey
The pallid merchant; and my wither'd name
Was leagued with spoil, and havock, and dismay;
Fear'd, as the lightning fiend, on steed of flame,
The Arab of the sky. And from that day
Mary I saw no more. Sleepless desire
Wept; but she came not, even in dreams, to say,
(Until this hour,) 'All hopeless wretch, expire!'
Rhin. A troubled dream thy changeful life hath
Of storm and splendour. Girt with awe and power,
A Thane illustrious; married to a queen;
Obey'd, lov'd, flatter'd; blasted in an hour;
A homicide; a homeless fugitive
O'er earth, to thee a waste without a flower;
A pirate on the ocean, doom'd to live
Like the dark osprey! Could Fate sink thee lower?
Defeated, captured, dungeon'd, in this tower
A raving maniac!
Both. Ah, what next? the gloom
Of rayless fire eternal, o'er the foam
Of torment-uttering curses, and the boom
That moans through horror's everlasting home!
Woe, without hope—immortal wakefulness—
The brow of tossing agony—the gloam
Of flitting fiends, who, with taunts pitiless,
Talk of lost honour, rancorous, as they roam
Through night, whose vales no dawn shall ever
Accursed who outlives his fame!—Thou scene
Of my last conflict, where the captive's chain
Made me acquainted with despair, serene
Ocean, thou mock'st my bitterness of pain,
For thou, too, saw'st me vanquish'd, yet not slain!
O, that my heart's blood had but stain'd the wave,
That I had plung'd never to rise again,
And sought in thy profoundest depths a grave,
Where calmness cannot hear, or storm or battle
White billow, know'st thou Scotland? did thy wet
Foot ever spurn the shell on her loved strand?
There hast thou stoop'd, the sea-weed grey to fret—
Or glaze the pebble with thy crystal hand?
I am of Scotland. Dear to me the sand
That sparkles where my infant days were nurs'd!
Dear is the vilest weed of that wild land
Where I have been so happy, so accurs'd!
Oh, tell me, hast thou seen my lady stand
Upon the moonlight shore, with troubled eye,
Looking t'wards Norway? did'st thou gaze on her?
And did she speak of one far thence, and sigh?
O, that I were, with thee, a passenger
To Scotland, the bless'd Thule, with a sky
Changeful, like woman! would, oh, would I were!
But vainly hence my frantic wishes fly.—
Who reigns at Holyrood? Is Mary there?
And does she sometimes shed, for him once lov'd,
Farewell, my heart's divinity! To kiss
Thy sad lip into smiles of tenderness;
To worship at that stainless shrine of bliss;
To meet th' elysium of thy warm caress;
To be the prisoner of thy tears; to bless
Thy dark eye's weeping passion; and to hear
The word, or sigh, soul-toned, or accentless,
Murmur for one so vile, and yet so dear—
Alas, 'tis mine no more!—Thou hast undone me,
Champion of Freedom, pray thee, pardon me
My laughter, if I now can laugh! (in hell
They laugh not)—he who doth now address thee
Is Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell.—Hark! my knell!
The death-owl shrieks it.—Ere I cease to fetch
These pantings for the shroud, tell me, oh, tell!
Believ'st thou God?—Blow on a dying wretch,
Blow, wind that com'st from Scotland!—Fare-thee-
The owl shrieks—I shall have no other passing-bell.
Rhin. As from the chill, bright ice the
So, (but reluctant) life's last light retires
From the cold mirror of his closing eyes:
He bids the surge adieu!—falls back—expires!
No passing-bell? Yea, I that bell will be;
Pale night shall hear the requiem of my sighs;
My woe-worn heart hath still some tears for thee;
Nor will thy shade the tribute sad despise.
Brother, farewell!—Ah, yes!—no voice replies:
But my tears flow, albeit in vain they flow,
For him who at my feet so darkly sleeps;
And Freedom's champion, with the locks of snow,
Now fears the form o'er which he sternly weeps.
An awful gloom upon my spirit creeps.
My ten years' comrade! whither art thou fled?
Thou art not here! Thy lifeless picture keeps
Its place before me, while, almost in dread,
I shrink, yet gaze, and long to share thy bed.
(He retires to a corner of the dungeon farthest
from the corpse, and there continues to gaze
upon it in silence.)