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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/249

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211
MAZEPPA.

Before our steeds may graze at ease,
Beyond the swift Borysthenes:[1]
And, Sire, your limbs have need of rest,
And I will be the sentinel
Of this your troop."—"But I request,"
Said Sweden's monarch, "thou wilt tell120
This tale of thine, and I may reap,
Perchance, from this the boon of sleep;
For at this moment from my eyes
The hope of present slumber flies."


"Well, Sire, with such a hope, I'll track
My seventy years of memory back:
I think 'twas in my twentieth spring,—
Aye 'twas,—when Casimir was king[2]
John Casimir,—I was his page
Six summers, in my earlier age:[3]130
A learnéd monarch, faith! was he,
And most unlike your Majesty;
He made no wars, and did not gain
New realms to lose them back again;
And (save debates in Warsaw's diet)

He reigned in most unseemly quiet;
  1. [The Dniéper.]
  2. [John Casimir (1609-1672), Jesuit, cardinal, and king, was a Little-Polander, not to say a pro-Cossack, and suffered in consequence. At the time of his proclamation as King of Poland, November, 1649, Poland was threatened by an incursion of Cossacks. The immediate cause was, or was supposed to be, the ill treatment which [Bogdán Khmelnítzky] a Lithuanian had received at the hands of the Polish governor, Czaplinski. The governor, it was alleged, had carried off, ravished, and put to death Khmelnítzky's wife, and, not content with this outrage, had set fire to the house of the Cossack, "in which perished his infant son in his cradle." Others affirmed that the Cossack had begun the strife by causing the governor "to be publicly and ignominiously whipped," and that it was the Cossack's mill and not his house which he burnt. Be that as it may, Casimir, on being exhorted to take the field, declined, on the ground that the Poles "ought not to have set fire to Khmelnítzky's house." It is probably to this unpatriotic determination to look at both sides of the question that he earned the character of being an unwarlike prince. As a matter of feet, he fought and was victorious against the Cossacks and Tartars at Bereteskow and elsewhere. (See Mod. Univ. Hist., xxxiv. 203, 217; Puffend, Hist. Gener., 1732, iv. 328; and Histoire des Kosaques, par M. (Charles Louis) Le Sur, 1814, i. 321.)]
  3. [A.D. 1660 or thereabouts.]