The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 3/Lara/Canto II

CANTO THE SECOND.

I.
Night wanes—the vapours round the mountains curled[decimal 1]
Melt into mom, and Light awakes the world,
Man has another day to swell the past,
And lead him near to little, but his last;
But mighty Nature bounds as from her birth, 650
The Sun is in the heavens, and Life on earth;[decimal 2]
Flowers in the valley, splendour in the beam.
Health on the gale, and freshness in the stream.
Immortal Man! behold her glories shine.
And cry, exulting inly, "They are thine!"
Gaze on, while yet thy gladdened eye may see:
A morrow comes when they are not for thee:
And grieve what may above thy senseless bier,
Nor earth nor sky will yield a single tear;
Nor cloud shall gather more, nor leaf shall fall, 660
Nor gale breathe forth one sigh for thee, for all;[decimal 3]
But creeping things shall revel in their spoil,
And fit thy clay to fertilise the soil.

II.
'Tis morn—'tis noon—assembled in the hall,
The gathered Chieftains come to Otho's call;
'Tis now the promised hour, that must proclaim
The life or death of Lara's future fame;
And Ezzelin his charge may here unfold,[lower-roman 1]
And whatsoe'er the tale, it must be told.
His faith was pledged, and Lara's promise given, 670
To meet it in the eye of Man and Heaven.
Why comes he not? Such truths to be divulged,
Methinks the accuser's rest is long indulged.

III.
The hour is past, and Lara too is there,
With self-confiding, coldly patient air;
Why comes not Ezzelin? The hour is past.
And murmurs rise, and Otho's brow's o'ercast.
"I know my friend! his faith I cannot fear.
If yet he be on earth, expect him here;
The roof that held him in the valley stands 630
Between my own and noble Lara's lands;
My halls from such a guest had honour gained.
Nor had Sir Ezzelin his host disdained.
But that some previous proof forbade his stay,
And urged him to prepare against to-day;
The word I pledged for his I pledge again.
Or will myself redeem his knighthood's stain."
He ceased—and Lara answered, "I am here
To lend at thy demand a listening ear
To tales of evil from a stranger's tongue, 690
Whose words already might my heart have wrung,
But that I deemed him scarcely less than mad,
Or, at the worst, a foe ignobly bad.
I know him not—but me it seems he knew
In lands where—but I must not trifle too:
Produce this babbler—or redeem the pledge;
Here in thy hold, and with thy falchion's edge."[lower-roman 2]

Proud Otho on the instant, reddening, threw
His glove on earth, and forth his sabre flew.
"The last alternative befits me best, 700
And thus I answer for mine absent guest."

With cheek unchanging from its sallow gloom,
However near his own or other's tomb;
With hand, whose almost careless coolness spoke
Its grasp well-used to deal the sabre-stroke;
With eye, though calm, determined not to spare,
Did Lara too his willing weapon bare.
In vain the circling Chieftains round them closed,
For Otho's frenzy would not be opposed;
And from his lip those words of insult fell— 710
His sword is good who can maintain them well.

IV.
Short was the conflict; furious, blindly rash,
Vain Otho gave his bosom to the gash:
He bled, and fell; but not with deadly wound,
Stretched by a dextrous sleight along the ground.
"Demand thy life!" He answered not: and then
From that red floor he ne'er had risen again,
For Lara's brow upon the moment grew
Almost to blackness in its demon hue;[decimal 4]
And fiercer shook his angry falchion now 720
Than when his foe's was levelled at his brow;
Then all was stern collectedness and art,
Now rose the unleavened hatred of his heart;
So little sparing to the foe he felled,[lower-roman 3]
That when the approaching crowd his arm withheld,
He almost turned the thirsty point on those
Who thus for mercy dared to interpose;
But to a moment's thought that purpose bent;
Yet looked he on him still with eye intent,
As if he loathed the ineffectual strife 730
That left a foe, howe'er o'erthrown, with life;
As if to search how far the wound he gave
Had sent its victim onward to his grave.

V.
They raised the bleeding Otho, and the Leech
Forbade all present question, sign, and speech;
The others met within a neighbouring hall,
And he, incensed, and heedless of them all,[lower-roman 4]
The cause and conqueror in this sudden fray,
In haughty silence slowly strode away;
He backed his steed, his homeward path he took, 740
Nor cast on Otho's towers a single look.

VI.
But where was he? that meteor of a night,
Who menaced but to disappear with Hght.
Where was this Ezzelin? who came and went,
To leave no other trace of his intent.
He left the dome of Otho long ere mom,
In darkness, yet so well the path was worn
He could not miss it: near his dwelling lay;
But there he was not, and with coming day
Came fast inquiry, which unfolded nought, 750
Except the absence of the Chief it sought.
A chamber tenantless, a steed at rest,
His host alarmed, his murmuring squires distressed:
Their search extends along, around the path,
In dread to meet the marks of prowlers' wrath:
But none are there, and not a brake hath borne
Nor gout of blood, nor shred of mantle torn;
Nor fall nor struggle hath defaced the grass,
Which still retains a mark where Murder was;
Nor dabbling fingers left to tell the tale, 760
The bitter print of each convulsive nail.
When agonised hands that cease to guard,
Wound in that pang the smoothness of the sward.
Some such had been, if here a life was reft.
But these were not; and doubting Hope is left;
And strange Suspicion, whispering Lara's name,
Now daily mutters o'er his blackened fame;
Then sudden silent when his form appeared,
Awaits the absence of the thing it feared
Again its wonted wondering to renew, 770
And dye conjecture with a darker hue.
VII.
Days roll along, and Otho's wounds are healed,
But not his pride; and hate no more concealed:
He was a man of power, and Lara's foe,
The friend of all who sought to work him woe,
And from his country's justice now demands
Account of Ezzelin at Lara's hands.
Who else than Lara could have cause to fear
His presence? who had made him disappear,
If not the man on whom his menaced charge 780
Had sate too deeply were he left at large?
The general rumour ignorantly loud,
The mystery dearest to the curious crowd;
The seeming friendliness of him who strove
To win no confidence, and wake no love;
The sweeping fierceness which his soul betrayed.
The skill with which he wielded his keen blade;
Where had his arm unwarlike caught that art?
Where had that fierceness grown upon his heart?
For it was not the blind capricious rage[lower-roman 5] 790
A word can kindle and a word assuage;
But the deep working of a soul unmixed
With aught of pity where its wrath had fixed;
Such as long power and overgorged success
Concentrates into all that's merciless:
These, linked with that desire which ever sways
Mankind, the rather to condemn than praise,
'Gainst Lara gathering raised at length a storm,
Such as himself might fear, and foes would form,
And he must answer for the absent head 800
Of one that haunts him still, alive or dead.

VIII.
Within that land was many a malcontent,
Who cursed the tyranny to which he bent;
That soil full many a wringing despot saw,
Who worked his wantonness in form of law;
Long war without and frequent broil within
Had made a path for blood and giant sin,
That waited but a signal to begin
New havoc, such as civil discord blends.
Which knows no neuter, owns but foes or friends; 810
Fixed in his feudal fortress each was lord,
In word and deed obeyed, in soul abhorred.
Thus Lara had inherited his lands.
And with them pining hearts and sluggish hands;
But that long absence from his native clime
Had left him stainless of Oppression's crime,
And now, diverted by his milder sway,[lower-roman 6]
All dread by slow degrees had worn away.
The menials felt their usual awe alone,
But more for him than them that fear was grown; 820
They deemed him now unhappy, though at first
Their evil judgment augured of the worst.
And each long restless night, and silent mood,
Was traced to sickness, fed by solitude:
And though his lonely habits threw of late
Gloom o'er his chamber, cheerful was his gate;[lower-roman 7]
For thence the wretched ne'er unsoothed withdrew,
For them, at least, his soul compassion knew.
Cold to the great, contemptuous to the high.
The humble passed not his unheeding eye; 830
Much he would speak not, but beneath his roof
They found asylum oft, and ne'er reproof.
And they who watched might mark that, day by day,
Some new retainers gathered to his sway;
But most of late, since Ezzelin was lost,
He played the courteous lord and bounteous host:
Perchance his strife with Otho made him dread
Some snare prepared for his obnoxious head;
Whate'er his view, his favour more obtains
With these, the people, than his fellow thanes. 840
If this were policy, so far 'twas sound.
The million judged but of him as they found;
From him by sterner chiefs to exile driven
They but required a shelter, and 'twas given.
By him no peasant mourned his rifled cot,
And scarce the Serf could murmur o'er his lot;
With him old Avarice found its hoard secure,
With him contempt forbore to mock the poor;
Youth present cheer and promised recompense
Detained, till all too late to part from thence: 850
To Hate he offered, with the coming change,
The deep reversion of delayed revenge;
To Love, long baffled by the unequal match,
The well-won charms success was sure to snatch.[lower-roman 8]
All now was ripe, he waits but to proclaim
That slavery nothing which was still a name.
The moment came, the hour when Otho thought
Secure at last the vengeance which he sought:
His summons found the destined criminal
Begirt by thousands in his swarming hall; 860
Fresh from their feudal fetters newly riven,
Defying earth, and confident of heaven.
That morning he had freed the soil-bound slaves,
Who dig no land for tyrants but their graves!
Such is their cry—some watchword for the fight
Must vindicate the wrong, and warp the right;
Religion—Freedom—Vengeance—what you will,
A word's enough to raise Mankind to kill;[lower-roman 9]
Some factious phrase by cunning caught and spread,
That Guilt may reign—and wolves and worms be fed! 870

IX.
Throughout that clime the feudal Chiefs had gained
Such sway, their infant monarch hardly reigned;
Now was the hour for Faction's rebel growth.
The Serfs contemned the one, and hated both:
They waited but a leader, and they found
One to their cause inseparably bound;
By circumstance compelled to plunge again,
In self-defence, amidst the strife of men.
Cut off by some mysterious fate from those
Whom Birth and Nature meant not for his foes, 880
Had Lara from that night, to him accurst.
Prepared to meet, but not alone, the worst;
Some reason urged, whate'er it was, to shun
Inquiry into deeds at distance done;
By mingling with his own the cause of all.
E'en if he failed, he still delayed his fall.
The sullen calm that long his bosom kept,
The storm that once had spent itself and slept,
Roused by events that seemed foredoomed to urge
His gloomy fortunes to their utmost verge, 890
Burst forth, and made him all he once had been.
And is again; he only changed the scene.
Light care had he for life, and less for fame,
But not less fitted for the desperate game:
He deemed himself marked out for others' hate,
And mocked at Ruin so they shared his fate.
And cared he for the freedom of the crowd?
He raised the humble but to bend the proud.
He had hoped quiet in his sullen lair,
But Man and Destiny beset him there: 900
Inured to hunters, he was found at bay;
And they must kill, they cannot snare the prey.
Stern, unambitious, silent, he had been
Henceforth a calm spectator of Life's scene;
But dragged again upon the arena, stood
A leader not unequal to the feud;
In voice—mien—gesture—savage nature spoke,
And from his eye the gladiator broke.

X.
What boots the oft-repeated tale of strife,
The feast of vultures, and the waste of life? 910
The varying fortune of each separate field,
The fierce that vanquish, and the faint that yield?
The smoking ruin, and the crumbled wall?
In this the struggle was the same with all;
Save that distempered passions lent their force
In bitterness that banished all remorse.
None sued, for Mercy knew her cry was vain.
The captive died upon the battle-plain:[lower-roman 10]
In either cause, one rage alone possessed
The empire of the alternate victor's breast; 920
And they that smote for freedom or for sway,
Deemed few were slain, while more remained to slay.
It was too late to check the wasting brand,
And Desolation reaped the famished land;
The torch was lighted, and the flame was spread,
And Carnage smiled upon her daily dead.

XI.
Fresh with the nerve the new-born impulse strung,
The first success to Lara's numbers clung:
But that vain victory hath ruined all;
They form no longer to their leader's call: 930
In blind confusion on the foe they press,
And think to snatch is to secure success.
The lust of booty, and the thirst of hate,
Lure on the broken brigands to their fate:
In vain he doth whate'er a chief may do.
To check the headlong fury of that crew;
In vain their stubborn ardour he would tame,
The hand that kindles cannot quench the flame;
The wary foe alone hath turned their mood,
And shown their rashness to that erring brood: 940
The feigned retreat, the nightly ambuscade,
The daily harass, and the fight delayed.
The long privation of the hoped supply.
The tentless rest beneath the humid sky,
The stubborn wall that mocks the leaguer's art,
And palls the patience of his baffled art,
Of these they had not deemed: the battle-day
They could encounter as a veteran may;
But more preferred the fury of the strife,[lower-roman 11]
And present death, to hourly suffering life: 950
And Famine wrings, and Fever sweeps away
His numbers melting fast from their array;
Intemperate triumph fades to discontent,
And Lara's soul alone seems still unbent;
But few remain to aid his voice and hand,
And thousands dwindled to a scanty band:
Desperate, though few, the last and best remained
To mourn the discipline they late disdained.
One hope survives, the frontier is not far,
And thence they may escape from native war: 960
And bear within them to the neighbouring state
An exile's sorrows, or an outlaw's hate:
Hard is the task their father-land to quit,
But harder still to perish or submit.

XII.
It is resolved—they march—consenting Night
Guides with her star their dim and torchless flight;
Already they perceive its tranquil beam
Sleep on the surface of the barrier stream;
Already they descry—Is yon the bank?
Away! 'tis lined with many a hostile rank. 970
Return or fly!—What glitters in the rear?
'Tis Otho's banner—the pursuer's spear!
Are those the shepherds' fires upon the height?
Alas! they blaze too widely for the flight:
Cut off from hope, and compassed in the toil,
Less blood perchance hath bought a richer spoil!

XIII.
A moment's pause—'tis but to breathe their band,
Or shall they onward press, or here withstand?
It matters little—if they charge the foes
Who by their border-stream their march oppose, 980
Some few, perchance, may break and pass the line,
However linked to baffle such design.
"The charge be ours! to wait for their assault
Were fate well worthy of a coward's halt."
Forth flies each sabre, reined is every steed,
And the next word shall scarce outstrip the deed:
In the next tone of Lara's gathering breath
How many shall but hear the voice of Death!

XIV.
His blade is bared,—in him there is an air
As deep, but far too tranquil for despair; 990
A something of indifference more than then
Becomes the bravest, if they feel for men—
He turned his eye on Kaled, ever near,
And still too faithful to betray one fear;
Perchance 'twas but the moon's dim twilight threw
Along his aspect an unwonted hue
Of mournful paleness, whose deep tint expressed
The truth, and not the terror of his breast.
This Lara marked, and laid his hand on his:
It trembled not in such an hour as this; 1000
His lip was silent, scarcely beat his heart,
His eye alone proclaimed, "We will not part!
"Thy band may perish, or thy friends may flee,
"Farewell to Life—but not Adieu to thee!"

The word hath passed his lips, and onward driven,
Pours the linked band through ranks asunder riven:
Well has each steed obeyed the armed heel,
And flash the scimitars, and rings the steel;
Outnumbered, not outbraved, they still oppose
Despair to daring, and a front to foes; 1010
And blood is mingled with the dashing stream,
Which runs all redly till the morning beam.[lower-roman 12]

XV.[decimal 5]
Commanding—aiding—animating all,[decimal 6]
Where foe appeared to press, or friend to fall,
Cheers Lara's voice, and waves or strikes his steel,
Inspiring hope, himself had ceased to feel.
None fled, for well they knew that flight were vain;
But those that waver turn to smite again,
While yet they find the firmest of the foe
Recoil before their leader's look and blow: 1020
Now girt with numbers, now almost alone.
He foils their ranks, or re-unites his own;
Himself he spared not—once they seemed to fly—
Now was the time, he waved his hand on high.
And shook—Why sudden droops that pluméd crest?
The shaft is sped—the arrow's in his breast!
That fatal gesture left the unguarded side,
And Death has stricken down yon arm of pride.
The word of triumph fainted from his tongue;
That hand, so raised, how droopingly it hung! 1030
But yet the sword instinctively retains,
Though from its fellow shrink the falling reins;
These Kaled snatches: dizzy with the blow,
And senseless bending o'er his saddle-bow,
Perceives not Lara that his anxious page
Beguiles his charger from the combat's rage:
Meantime his followers charge, and charge again;
Too mixed the slayers now to heed the slain!

XVI.
Day glimmers on the dying and the dead,
The cloven cuirass, and the helmless head; 1040
The war-horse masterless is on the earth,[lower-roman 13] [decimal 7]
And that last gasp hath burst his bloody girth;
And near, yet quivering with what life remained.
The heel that urged him and the hand that reined;
And some loo near that rolling torrent lie,[lower-roman 14]
Whose waters mock the lip of those that die;
That panting thirst which scorches in the breath
Of those that die the soldier's fiery death.
In vain impels the burning mouth to crave
One drop—the last—to cool it for the grave; 1050
With feeble and convulsive effort swept,
Their limbs along the crimsoned turf have crept;
The faint remains of life such struggles waste,
But yet they reach the stream, and bend to taste:
They feel its freshness, and almost partake—
Why pause? No further thirst have they to slake—
It is unquenched, and yet they feel it not;
It was an agony—but now forgot!

XVII.
Beneath a lime, remoter from the scene,
Where but for him that strife had never been, 1060
A breathing but devoted warrior lay:
'Twas Lara bleeding fast from life away.
His follower once, and now his only guide,
Kneels Kaled watchful o'er his welling side,
And with his scarf would staunch the tides that rush,
With each convulsion, in a blacker gush;
And then, as his faint breathing waxes low,
In feebler, not less fatal tricklings flow:
He scarce can speak, but motions him 'tis vain.
And merely adds another throb to pain. 1070
He clasps the hand that pang which would assuage,
And sadly smiles his thanks to that dark page.
Who nothing fears—nor feels—nor heeds—nor sees—
Save that damp brow which rests upon his knees;
Save that pale aspect, where the eye, though dim,
Held all the light that shone on earth for him.

XVIII.
The foe arrives, who long had searched the field,
Their triumph nought till Lara too should yield:
They would remove him, but they see 'twere vain,
And he regards them with a calm disdain, 1080
That rose to reconcile him with his fate,
And that escape to death from living hate:
And Otho comes, and leaping from his steed,
Looks on the bleeding foe that made him bleed,
And questions of his state; he answers not,
Scarce glances on him as on one forgot,
And turns to Kaled:—each remaining word
They understood not, if distinctly heard;
His dying tones are in that other tongue,
To which some strange remembrance wildly clung. 1090
They spake of other scenes, but what—is known
To Kaled, whom their meaning reached alone;
And he replied, though faintly, to their sound,
While gazed the rest in dumb amazement round:
They seemed even then—that twain—unto the last
To half forget the present in the past;
To share between themselves some separate fate,
Whose darkness none beside should penetrate.

XIX.[decimal 8]
Their words though faint were many—from the tone
Their import those who heard could judge alone; 1100
From this, you might have deemed young Kaled's death
' More near than Lara's by his voice and breath,
So sad—so deep—and hesitating broke
The accents his scarce-moving pale lips spoke;[lower-roman 15]
But Lara's voice, though low, at first was clear
And calm, till murmuring Death gasped hoarsely near;
But from his visage little could we guess.
So unrepentant—dark—and passionless,[lower-roman 16]
Save that when struggling nearer to his last,
Upon that page his eye was kindly cast; 1110
And once, as Kaled's answering accents ceased,
Rose Lara's hand, and pointed to the East:
Whether (as then the breaking Sun from high
Rolled back the clouds) the morrow caught his eye.
Or that 'twas chance—or some remembered scene.
That raised his arm to point where such had been,
Scarce Kaled seemed to know, but turned away,
As if his heart abhorred that coming day,
And shrunk his glance before that morning light.
To look on Lara's brow—where all grew night. 1120
Yet sense seemed left, though better were its loss;
For when one near displayed the absolving Cross,
And proffered to his touch the holy bead,
Of which his parting soul might own the need,
He looked upon it with an eye profane,
And smiled—Heaven pardon! if 'twere with disdain:
And Kaled, though he spoke not, nor withdrew
From Lara's face his fixed despairing view,
With brow repulsive, and with gesture swift.
Flung back the hand which held the sacred gift, 1130
As if such but disturbed the expiring man,
Nor seemed to know his life but then began—
That Life of Immortality, secure[lower-roman 17]
To none, save them whose faith in Christ is sure.

XX.
But gasping heaved the breath that Lara drew,[lower-roman 18]
And dull the film along his dim eye grew;
His limbs stretched fluttering, and his head drooped o'er
The weak yet still untiring knee that bore;
He pressed the hand he held upon his heart —
It beats no more, but Kaled will not part 1140
With the cold grasp, but feels, and feels in vain,
For that faint throb which answers not again.
"It beats!"—Away, thou dreamer! he is gone—
It once was Lara which thou look'st upon.

XXI.
He gazed, as if not yet had passed away[lower-roman 19]
The haughty spirit of that humbled clay;
And those around have roused him from his trance,
But cannot tear from thence his fixéd glance;
And when, in raising him from where he bore
Within his arms the form that felt no more, 1150
He saw the head his breast would still sustain,
Roll down like earth to earth upon the plain;
He did not dash himself thereby, nor tear
The glossy tendrils of his raven hair.
But strove to stand and gaze, but reeled and fell,
Scarce breathing more than that he loved so well.
Than that he loved! Oh! never yet beneath
The breast of man such trusty love may breathe!
That trying moment hath at once revealed
The secret long and yet but half concealed; 1160
In baring to revive that lifeless breast.
Its grief seemed ended, but the sex confessed;
And life returned, and Kaled felt no shame—
What now to her was Womanhood or Fame?

XXII.
And Lara sleeps not where his fathers sleep,
But where he died his grave was dug as deep;
Nor is his mortal slumber less profound,
Though priest nor blessed nor marble decked the mound,
And he was mourned by one whose quiet grief,
Less loud, outlasts a people's for their Chief. 1170
Vain was all question asked her of the past,
And vain e'en menace—silent to the last;
She told nor whence, nor why she left behind
Her all for one who seemed but little kind.
Why did she love him? Curious fool!—be still—
Is human love the growth of human will?
To her he might be gentleness; the stern
Have deeper thoughts than your dull eyes discern,
And when they love, your smilers guess not how
Beats the strong heart, though less the lips avow. 1180
They were not common links, that formed the chain
That bound to Lara Kaled's heart and brain;
But that wild tale she brooked not to unfold,
And sealed is now each lip that could have told.

XXIII.
They laid him in the earth, and on his breast,
Besides the wound that sent his soul to rest,
They found the scattered dints of many a scar,
Which were not planted there in recent war;
Where'er had passed his summer years of life,
It seems they vanished in a land of strife; 1190
But all unknown his Glory or his Guilt,[lower-roman 20]
These only told that somewhere blood was spilt,
And Ezzelin, who might have spoke the past,
Returned no more—that night appeared his last.

XXIV.
Upon that night (a peasant's is the tale)
A Serf that crossed the intervening vale,[decimal 9]
When Cynthia's light almost gave way to morn,
And nearly veiled in mist her waning horn;
A Serf, that rose betimes to thread the wood,
And hew the bough that bought his children's food, 1200
Passed by the river that divides the plain
Of Otho's lands and Lara's broad domain:
He heard a tramp—a horse and horseman broke
From out the wood—before him was a cloak
Wrapt round some burthen at his saddle-bow,
Bent was his head, and hidden was his brow.
Roused by the sudden sight at such a time,
And some foreboding that it might be crime,
Himself unheeded watched the stranger's course,
Who reached the river, bounded from his horse, 1210
And lifting thence the burthen which he bore,
Heaved up the bank, and dashed it from the shore,
Then paused—and looked—and turned—and seemed to watch,
And still another hurried glance would snatch,
And follow with his step the stream that flowed,
As if even yet too much its surface showed;
At once he started—stooped—around him strown
The winter floods had scattered heaps of stone;
Of these the heaviest thence he gathered there,
And slung them with a more than common care. 1220
Meantime the Serf had crept to where unseen
Himself might safely mark what this might mean;
He caught a glimpse, as of a floating breast,
And something glittered starlike on the vest;
But ere he well could mark the buoyant trunk,
A massy fragment smote it, and it sunk:[lower-roman 21]
It rose again, but indistinct to view,
And left the waters of a purple hue,
Then deeply disappeared: the horseman gazed
Till ebbed the latest eddy it had raised; 1230
Then turning, vaulted on his pawing steed,
And instant spurred him into panting speed.
His face was masked—the features of the dead,
If dead it were, escaped the observer's dread;
But if in sooth a Star its bosom bore,
Such is the badge that Knighthood ever wore,
And such 'tis known Sir Ezzelin had worn
Upon the night that led to such a morn.
If thus he perished, Heaven receive his soul!
His undiscovered limbs to ocean roll; 1240
And charity upon the hope would dwell
It was not Lara's hand by which he fell.[lower-roman 22]

XXV.
And Kaled—Lara—Ezzelin, are gone,
Alike without their monumental stone!
The first, all efforts vainly strove to wean
From lingering where her Chieftain's blood had been:
Grief had so tamed a spirit once too proud,
Her tears were few, her wailing never loud;
But furious would you tear her from the spot
Where yet she scarce believed that he was not, 1250
Her eye shot forth with all the living fire
That haunts the tigress in her whelpless ire;
But left to waste her weary moments there,
She talked all idly unto shapes of air,
Such as the busy brain of Sorrow paints,
And woos to listen to her fond complaints:
And she would sit beneath the very tree
Where lay his drooping head upon her knee;
And in that posture where she saw him fall.
His words, his looks, his dying grasp recall; 1260
And she had shorn, but saved her raven hair,
And oft would snatch it from her bosom there,
And fold, and press it gently to the ground.
As if she staunched anew some phantom's wound.[lower-roman 23]
Herself would question, and for him reply;
Then rising, start, and beckon him to fly
From some imagined Spectre in pursuit;
Then seat her down upon some linden's root.
And hide her visage with her meagre hand,
Or trace strange characters along the sand— 1270
This could not last—she lies by him she loved;
Her tale untold—her truth too dearly proved.

  1. When Ezzelin ———.—[Ed. 1831.]
  2. Here in thy hall ———.—[MS.]
  3. And turned to smite a foe already felled.—[MS.]
  4. And he less calm— yet calmer than them all.—[MS.]
  5. ——the blind and headlong rage.—[MS.]
  6. The first impressions with his milder sway
    Of dread
    ———.—[MS.]
  7. Mysterious gloom around his hall and state.—[MS.]
  8. The Beauty which the first success would snatch.—[MS.]
  9. A word's enough to rouse mankind to kill
    Some factious phrase by cunning raised and spread
    .—[MS.]
  10. ——upon the battle slain.—[Ed. 1831.]
  11. But not endure the long protracted strife.—[MS. erased.]
  12. And raged the combat till ———.—[MS.]
  13. The stiffening steed is on the dinted earth.—[MS.]
  14. ——that glassy river lie.—[MS.]
  15. ——white lips spoke.—[MS.]
  16. ——pale—and passionless.—[MS.]
  17. That Life—immortal—infinite secure
    To All for whom that Cross hath made it sure
    .—
    [MS. First ed. 1814.]
    or, That life immortal, infinite and sure
    To all whose faith the eternal boon secure
    .—[MS.]
  18. But faint the dying Lara's accents grew.—[MS.]
  19. He gazed as doubtful that the thing he saw
    Had something more to ask from Love or awe
    .—[MS.]
  20. But all unknown the blood he lost or spilt
    These only told his Glory or his Guilt.—[
    MS.]
  21. A mighty pebble ———.—[MS.]
  22. That not unarmed in combat fair he fell.—[MS. erased.]
  23. ——some phantom wound.—[MS.]
  1. [Compare—
    "Now slowly melting into day,
    Vapour and mist dissolved away."
    Sotheby's Constance de Castile, Canto III. stanza v. lines 17, 18.]
  2. [Compare the last lines of Pippa's song in Browning's Pippa Passes
    "God's in His Heaven, all's right with the world!"]
  3. [Mr. Alexander Dyce points out the resemblance between these lines and a passage in one of Pope's letters to Steele (July 15, 1712, Works, 1754, viii. 226): "The morning after my exit the sun will rise as bright as ever, the flowers smell as sweet, the plants spring as green."]
  4. [Compare Mysteries of Udolpho, by Mrs. Ann Radcliffe, 1794, ii. 279: "The Count then fell back into the arms of his servants, while Montoni held his sword over him and bade him ask his life . . . his complexion changed almost to blackness as he looked upon his fallen adversary."]
  5. [Stanza xv. was added after the completion of the first draft of the poem.]
  6. [Compare—
    "II s'éxcite, il s'empresse, il inspire aux soldats
    Cet espoir généreux que lui-même il n'a pas."
    Voltaire, Henriade, Chant, viii, lines 127, 128,
    Œuvres Complétes, Paris, 1837, ii. 325.]
  7. [Compare—
    "There lay a horse, another through the field
    Ran masterless,"
    Tasso's Jerusalem (translated by Edward Fairfax),
    Bk. VII. stanza cvi. lines 3, 4]
  8. [Stanza xix. was added after the completion of the poem. The MS. is extant.]
  9. The event in this section was suggested by the description of the death or rather burial of the Duke of Gandia. "The most interesting and particular account of it is given by Burchard, and is in substance as follows:—'On the eighth day of June, the Cardinal of Valenza and the Duke of Gandia, sons of the pope, supped with their mother, Vanozza, near the church of S. Pietro ad vincula: several other persons being present at the entertainment. A late hour approaching, and the cardinal having reminded his brother that it was time to return to the apostolic palace, they mounted their horses or mules, with only a few attendants, and proceeded together as far as the palace of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, when the duke informed the cardinal that, before he returned home, he had to pay a visit of pleasure. Dismissing therefore all his attendants, excepting his staffiero, or footman, and a person in a mask, who had paid him a visit whilst at supper, and who, during the space of a month or thereabouts, previous to this time, had called upon him almost daily at the apostolic palace, he took this person behind him on his mule, and proceeded to the street of the Jews, where he quitted his servant, directing him to remain there until a certain hour; when, if he did not return, he might repair to the palace. The duke then seated the person in the mask behind him, and rode I know not whither; but in that night he was assassinated, and thrown into the river. The servant, after having been dismissed, was also assaulted and mortally wounded; and although he was attended with great care, yet such was his situation, that he could give no intelligible account of what had befallen his master. In the morning, the duke not having returned to the palace, his servants began to be alarmed; and one of them informed the pontiff of the evening excursion of his sons, and that the duke had not yet made his appearance. This gave the pope no small anxiety; but he conjectured that the duke had been attracted by some courtesan to pass the night with her, and, not choosing to quit the house in open day, had waited till the following evening to return home. When, however, the evening arrived, and he found himself disappointed in his expectations, he became deeply afflicted, and began to make inquiries from different persons, whom he ordered to attend him for that purpose. Amongst these was a man named Giorgio Schiavoni, who, having discharged some timber from a bark in the river, had remained on board the vessel to watch it; and being interrogated whether he had seen any one thrown into the river on the night preceding, he replied, that he saw two men on foot, who came down the street, and looked diligently about to observe whether any person was passing. That seeing no one, they returned, and a short time afterwards two others came, and looked around in the same manner as the former: no person still appearing, they gave a sign to their companions, when a man came, mounted on a white horse, having behind him a dead body, the head and arms of which hung on one side, and the feet on the other side of the horse; the two persons on foot supporting the body, to prevent its falling. They thus proceeded towards that part where the filth of the city is usually discharged into the river, and turning the horse, with his tail towards the water, the two persons took the dead body by the arms and feet, and with all their strength flung it into the river. The person on horseback then asked if they had thrown it in; to which they replied, Signor, si (yes. Sir). He then looked towards the river, and seeing a mantle floating on the stream, he enquired what it was that appeared black, to which they answered, it was a mantle; and one of them threw stones upon it, in consequence of which it sunk. The attendants of the pontiff then enquired from Giorgio, why he had not revealed this to the governor of the city; to which he replied, that he had seen in his time a hundred dead bodies thrown into the river at the same place, without any inquiry being made respecting them; and that he had not, therefore, considered it as a matter of any importance. The fishermen and seamen were then collected, and ordered to search the river, where, on the following evening, they found the body of the duke, with his habit entire, and thirty ducats in his purse. He was pierced with nine wounds, one of which was in his throat, the others in his head, body, and limbs. No sooner was the pontiff informed of the death of his son, and that he had been thrown, like filth, into the river, than, giving way to his grief, he shut himself up in a chamber, and wept bitterly. The Cardinal of Segovia, and other attendants on the pope, went to the door, and after many hours spent in persuasions and exhortations, prevailed upon him to admit them. From the evening of Wednesday till the following Saturday the pope took no food; nor did he sleep from Thursday morning till the same hour on the ensuing day. At length, however, giving way to the entreaties of his attendants, he began to restrain his sorrow, and to consider the injury which his own health might sustain by the further indulgence of his grief.'"—Roscoe's Life and Pontificate of Leo Tenth, 1805, i. 265. [See, too, for the original in Burchard Diar, in Gordon's Life of Alex. VI., Append., "De Cæde Ducis Gandiæ," Append. No, xlviii., ib., pp. 90, 91.]