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The Improvisatrice (1)
I am a daughter of that land,
Where the poet's lip and the painter's hand
Are most divine,--where the earth and sky,
Are picture both and poetry--
I am of Florence. 'Mid the chill
Of hope and feeling, oh! I still
Am proud to think to where I owe
My birth, though but the dawn of woe!
My childhood passed 'mid radiant things,
Glorious as Hope's imaginings;
Statues but known from shapes of the earth,
By being too lovely for mortal birth;
Paintings whose colours of life were caught
From the fairy tints in the rainbow wrought;
Music whose sighs had a spell like those
That float on the sea at the evening's close
Language so silvery, that every word
Was like the lute's awakening chord;
Skies half sunshine, and half starlight;
Flowers whose lives were a breath of delight;
Leaves whose green pomp know no withering;
Fountains bright as the skies of our spring;
And songs whose wild and passionate line
Suited a soul of romance like mine.
My power was but a woman's power;
Yet, in that great and glorious dower
Which Genius gives, I had my part:
I poured my full and burning heart
In song, and on the canvass made
My dreams of beauty visible;
I knew not which I loved the most--
Pencil or lute,--both loved so well.
Oh, yet my pulse throbs to recall,
When first upon the gallery's wall
Picture of mine was placed, to share
Wonder and praise from each one there!
Sad were my shades; methinks they had
Almost a tone of prophecy--
I ever had, from earliest youth,
A feeling what my fate would be.
My first was of a gorgeous hall,
Lighted up for festival;
Braided tresses, and cheeks of bloom,
Diamond agraff, and foam-white plume;
Censers of roses, vases of light,
Like what the moon sheds on a summer night.
Youths and maidens with linked hands,
Joined in the graceful sarabands,
Smiled on the canvass; but apart
Was one who leant in silent mood,
As revelry to his sick heart
Were worse than veriest solitude.
Pale, dark-eyed, beautiful, and young,
Such as he had shone o'er my slumbers,
When I had only slept to dream
Over again his magic numbers.
Divinest Petrarch! he whose lyre,
Like morning light, half dew, half fire,
To Laura and to love was vowed--
He looked on one, who with the crowd
Mingled, but mixed not; on whose cheek
There was a blush, as if she knew
Whose look was fixed on her's. Her eye,
Of a spring-sky's delicious blue,
Had not the language of that bloom,
But mingling tears, and light, and gloom,
Was raised abstractedly to Heaven:--
No sign was to her lover given.
I painted her with golden tresses,
Such as float on the wind's caresses
When the laburnums wildly fling
Their sunny blossoms to the spring,
A cheek which had the crimson hue
Upon the sun-touched nectarine;
A lip of perfume and of dew;
A brow like twilight's darkened line.
I strove to catch each charm that long
Has lived,--thanks to her lover's song!
Each grace he numbered one by one,
That shone in her of Avignon.
I ever thought that poet's fate
Utterly lone and desolate.
It is the spirit's bitterest pain
To love, to be beloved again;
And yet between a gulf which ever
The hearts that burn to meet must sever
And he was vowed to one sweet star,
Bright yet to him, but bright afar.
O'er some, Love's shadow may but pass
As passes the breath-stain o'er glass;
And pleasures, cares, and pride combined,
Fill up the blank Love leaves behind.
But there are some whose love is high,
Entire, and sole idolatry;
Who, turning from a heartless world,
Ask some dear thing, which may renew
Affection's severed links, and be
As true as they themselves are true.
But Love's bright fount is never pure;
And all his pilgrims must endure
All passion's mighty suffering
Ere they may reach the blessed spring.
And some who waste their lives to find
A prize which they may never win:
Like those who search for Irem's groves,
Which found, they may not enter in.
Where is the sorrow but appears
In Love's long catalogue of tears?
And some there are who leave the path
In agony and fierce disdain;
But bear upon each cankered breast
The scar that never heals again.
My next was of a minstrel too,
Who proved what woman's hand might do,
When, true to the heart pulse, it woke
The harp. Her head was bending down,
As if in weariness, and near,
But unworn, was a laurel crown.
She was not beautiful, if bloom
And smiles form beauty; for, like death,
Her brow was ghastly; and her lip
Was parched, as fever were its breath.
There was a shade upon her dark,
Large, floating eyes, as if each spark
Of minstrel ecstasy was fled,
Yet leaving them no tears to shed;
Fixed in their hopelessness of care,
And reckless in their great despair.
She sat beneath a cypress tree,
A little fountain ran beside,
And, in the distance, one dark rock
Threw its long shadow o'er the tide;
And to the west, where the nightfall
Was darkening day's gemm'd coronal,
Its white shafts crimsoning in the sky,
Arose the sun-god's sanctuary.
I deemed, that of lyre, life, and love
She was a long, last farewell taking;--
That, from her pale and parched lips,
Her latest, wildest song was breaking.
Farewell, my lute!--and would that I
Had never waked thy burning chords!
Poison has been upon thy sigh,
And fever has breathed in thy words.
Yet wherefore, wherefore should I blame
Thy power, thy spell, my gentlest lute?
I should have been the wretch I am,
Had every chord of thine been mute.
It was my evil star above,
Not my sweet lute, that wrought me wrong;
It was not song that taught me love,
But it was love that taught me song.
If song be past, and hope undone,
And pulse, and head, and heart, are flame;
It is thy work, thou faithless one!
But, no!--I will not name thy name;
Sun-god! lute, wreath are vowed to thee!
Long be their light upon my grave--
My glorious grave--yon deep blue sea:
I shall sleep calm beneath its wave!
Florence! with what idolatry
I've lingered in thy radiant halls,
Worshipping, till my dizzy eye
Grew dim with gazing on those walls,
Where Time had spared each glorious gift
By Genius unto memory left!
And when seen by the pale moonlight,
More pure, more perfect, though less bright,
What dreams of song flashed on my brain
Till each shade seemed to live again;
And then the beautiful, the grand,
The glorious of my native land,
In every flower that threw its veil
Aside, when wooed by the spring gale;
In every vineyard, where the sun,
His task of summer ripening done,
Shone on their clusters, and a song
Came lightly from the peasant throng;--
In the dim loveliness of night,
In fountains with their diamond light,
In aged temple, ruined shrine,
And its green wreath of ivy twine;--
In every change of earth and sky,
Breathed the deep soul of poesy.
As yet I loved not;--but each wild,
Hight thought I nourished raised a pyre
For love to light; and lighted once
By love, it would be like the fire
The burning lava floods that dwell
In Etna's cave unquenchable.
One evening in the lovely June,
Over the Arno's waters gliding,
I had been watching the fair moon
Amid her court of white clouds riding:
I had been listening to the gale,
Which wafted music from around,
(For scarce a lover, at that hour,
But waked his mandolin's light sound.)--
And odour was upon the breeze,
Sweet thefts from rose and lemon trees.
They stole me from my lulling dream,
And said they knew that such an hour
Had ever influenced on my soul,
And raised my sweetest minstrel power.
I took my lute,--my eye had been
Wandering round the lovely scene,
Filled with those melancholy tears,
Which come when all most bright appears,
And hold their strange and secret power,
Even on pleasure's golden hour.
I had been looking on the river,
Half-marvelling to think that ever
Wind, wave, or sky, could darken where
All seemed so gentle and so fair:
And mingled with these thoughts there came
A tale, just one that Memory keeps--
Forgotten music, still some chance
Vibrate the chord whereon it sleeps!
A Moorish Romance.
Softly through the pomegranate groves
Came the gentle song of the doves;
Shone the fruit in the evening light,
Like Indian rubies, blood-red and bright;
Shook the date-trees each tufted head,
As the passing wind their green nuts shed;
And, like dark columns, amid the sky
The giant palms ascended on high:
And the mosque's gilded minaret
Glistened and glanced as the daylight set.
Over the town a crimson haze
Gathered and hung of the evening's rays;
And far beyond, like the molten gold,
The burning sands of the desert rolled.
Far to the left, the sky and sea
Minged their gray immensity;
And with flapping sail and idle prow
the vessels threw their shades below
Far down the beach were a cypress grove
Casts its shade round a little cover,
Darkling and green with just a space
For the stars to shine on the water's face,
A small bark lay, waiting for night
And its breeze to waft and hide its flight.
Sweet is the burthen, and lovely the freight,
For which those furled-up sails await,
To a garden, fair as those
Where the glory of the rose
Blushes, charmed from the decay
That wastes other blooms away;
Gardens of the fairy tale
Told, till the wood-fire grows pale,
By the Arab tribes, when night,
With its dim and lovely light,
And its silence, suiteth well
With the magic tales they tell.
Through that cypress avenue,
Such a garden meets the view,
Filled with flowers--flowers that seem
Lighted up by the sunbeam;
Fruits of gold and gems, and leaves
Green as hope before it grieves
O'er the false and broken-hearted,
All with which its youth has parted,
Never to return again,
Save in memories of pain!
There is a white rose in yon bower,
But holds it a yet fairer flower:
And music from that cage is breathing,
Round which a jasmine braid is wreathing,
A low song from a lonely dove,
A song such exiles sing and love,
Breathing of fresh fields, summer skies,--
Not to be breathed of but in sighs!
But fairer smile and sweeter sigh
Are near when Leila's step is nigh!
With eyes dark as the midnight time,
Yet lighted like a summer clime
With sun-rays from within; yet now
Lingers a cloud upon that brow,--
Though never lovelier brow was given
To Houri of an Eastern heaven!
Her eye is dwelling on that bower,
As every leaf and every flower
Were being numbered in her heart;--
There are no looks like those which dwell
On long-remembered things, which soon
Must take our first and last farewell!
Day fades apace; another day,
That maiden will be far away,
A wanderer o'er the dark-blue sea,
And bound for lovely Italy,
Her mother's land! Hence, on her breast
The cross beneath a Moorish vest;
And hence those sweetest sounds, that seem
Like music murmuring in a dream,
When in our sleeping ear is ringing
The song the nightingale is singing;
When by that white and funeral stone,
Half-hidden by the cypress gloom,
The hymn the mother taught her child
Is sung each evening at her tomb.
But quick the twilight time has past,
Like one of those sweet calms that last
A moment and no more, to cheer
The turmoil of our pathway here.
The bark is waiting in the bay,
Night darkens round:--Leila, away!
Far, ere to-morrow, o'er the tide,
Or wait and be--Abdalla's bride!
She touched her lute--never again
Her ear will listen to its strain!
She took her cage, first kissed the breast--
Then freed the white dove prisoned there:
It paused one moment on her hand,
Then spread its glad wings to the air.
She drank the breath, as it were health,
That sighed from very scented blossom;
And taking from each one a leaf,
Hid them, like spells, upon her bosom.
Then sought the sacred path again
She once before had traced, when lay
A Christian in her father's chain;
And gave him gold, and taught the way
To fly. She thought upon the night,
When, like an angel of the light,
She stood before the prisoner's sight,
And led him to the cypress grove,
And showed the bark and hidden cove;
And bade the wandering captive flee,
In words he knew from infancy!
And then he thought how for her love
He had braved slavery and death,
That he might only breathe the air
Made sweet and sacred by her breath.
She reached the grove of cypresses--
Another step is by her side:
Another moment, and the bark
Bears the fair Moor across the tide!
'Twas beautiful, by the pale moonlight,
To mark her eyes,--now dark, now bright,
As now thy met, now shrank away,
From the gaze that watched and worshipped their day.
They stood on the deck, and the midnight gale
Just waved the maiden's silver veil--
Just lifted a curl, as if to show
The cheek of rose that was burning below
And never spread a sky of blue
More clear for the stars to wander through!
And never could their mirror be
A calmer or a lovelier sea!
For every wave was a diamond gleam:
And that light vessel well may seem
A fairy ship, and that graceful pair
Young Genii, whose home was of light and air!
Another evening came, but dark:
The storm clouds hovered round the bark
Of misery:--they just could see
The distant shore of Italy,
As the dim moon through vapours shone--
A few short rays, her light was gone.
O'er head a sullen scream was heart,
As sought the land a white sea-bird,
Her pale wings like a meteor streaming.
Upon the waves a light is gleaming--
Ill-omened brightness, sent by Death
To light the night-black depths beneath.
The vessel rolled amid the surge;
The winds howled round it, like a dirge
Sung by some savage race. Then came
The rush of thunder and of flame:
It showed two forms upon the deck,--
One clasped around the other's neck,
As there she could not dream of fear--
In her lover's arms could danger be near?
Her stood and watched her with the eye
Of fixed and silent agony.
The waves swept on: he felt her heart
Beat closer and closer yet to his!
They burst upon the ship!--the sea
Has closed upon their dream of bliss!
Surely theirs is a pleasant sleep
Beneath that ancient cedar tree,
Whose solitary stem has stood
For years alone beside the sea!
The lost of a most noble race,
That once had there their dwelling-place,
Long past away! Beneath its shade,
A soft green couch the turf has made:--
And glad the morning sun is shining
On those beneath the boughs reclining.
Nearer the fisher drew. He saw
The dark hair of the Moorish maid,
Like a veil, floating o'er the breast
Where tenderly her head was laid:--
And yet her lover's arm was placed
Clasping around the graceful waist;
But then he marked the youth's black curls
Were dripping wet with foam and blood;
And that the maiden's tresses dark
Were heavy with the briny flood!
Woe for the wind!--woe for the wave!
They sleep the slumber of the grave!
They buried them beneath that tree;
It long had been a sacred spot.
Soon it was planted round with flowers
By many who had not forgot;
Or yet lived in those dreams of truth
The Eden birds of early youth,
That make the loveliness of love:
And called the place "The Maiden's Cove,"--
That she who perished in the sea
Might thus be kept in memory.
From many a lip came sounds of praise,
Like music from sweet voices ringing;
For many a boat had gathered round,
To list the song I had been singing.
There are some moments in our fate
That stamp the colour of our days;
As, till then, life had not been felt,--
And mine was sealed in the slight gaze
Which fixed my eye, and fired my brain,
And bowed my heart beneath the chain.
'Twas a dark and flashing eye,
Shadows, too, that tenderly,
With almost female softness, came
O'er its mingled gloom and flame.
His cheek was pale; or toil, or care,
Or midnight study, had been there,
Making its young colours dull,
Yet leaving it most beautiful.
Raven curls their shadow threw,
Like the twilight's darkening hue,
O'er the pure and mountain snow
Of his high and haughty brow:
Lighted by a smile, whose spell
Words are powerless to tell.
Such a lip!--oh, poured from thence
Lava floods of eloquence
Would come with fiery energy,
Like those words that cannot die.
Words the Grecian warrior spoke
When the Persian's chain he broke;
Or that low and honey tone,
Making woman's heart his own;
Such as should be heard at night,
In the dim and sweet starlight;
Sounds that haunt a beauty's sleep,
Treasures for her heart to keep.
Like the pine of summer tall;
Apollo, on his pedestal
In our own gallery, never bent
More graceful, more magnificent;
Ne'er look'd the hero, or the king,
More nobly than the youth who now,
As if soul-centred in my song,
Was leaning on a gallery's prow.
He spoke not when the other spoke,
His heart was all too full for praise;
But his dark eyes kept fixed on mine,
Which sank beneath their burning gaze.
Mine sank--but yet I felt the thrill
Of that look burning on me still.
I heard no words that others said--
Heard nothing, save one low-breathed sigh.
My hand kept wandering on my lute,
In music, but unconsciously
My pulses throbbed, my heart beat high,
A flush of dizzy ecstasy
Crimsoned my cheek; I felt warm tears
Dimming my sight, yet was it sweet,
My wild heart's most bewildering beat,
Consciousness, without hopes or fears,
Of a new power within me waking,
Like light before the morn's full breaking
I left the boat--the crowd: my mood
Made my soul pant for solitude.
Amid my palace halls was once,
The most peculiarly my own:
The roof was blue and fretted gold,
The floor was of the Parian stone,
Shining like snow, as only meet
For the light tread of fairy feet;
And in the midst, beneath a shade
Of clustered rose, a fountain played,
Sprinkling its scented waters round,
With a sweet and lulling sound,--
O'er oranges, like Eastern gold,
Half hidden by the dark green fold
Of their large leaves;--o'er hyacinth bells,
Where every summer odour dwells,
And, nestled in the midst, a pair
Of white wood-doves, whose home was there:
And like an echo to their song,
At times a murmur past along;
A dying tone, a plaining fall,
So sad, so wild, so musical--
As the wind swept across the wire,
And waked my lone AEolian lyre,
Which lay upon the casement, where
The lattice wooed the cold night air,
Half hidden by a bridal twine
Of jasmine with the emerald vine.
And ever as the curtains made
A varying light, a changeful shade,
As the breeze waved them to and fro,
Came on the eye the glorious show
Of pictured walls where landscape wild
Of wood, and stream, or mountain piled,
Or sunny vale, or twilight grove,
Or shapes whose every look was love;
Saints, whose diviner glance seemed caught
From Heaven,--some whose earthlier thought
Was yet more lovely,--shone like gleams
Of Beauty's spirit seen in dreams.
I threw me on a couch to rest,
Loosely I flung my long black hair;
It seemed to soothe my troubled breast
To drink the quiet evening air.
I looked upon the deep-blue sky,
And it was all hope and harmony.
Afar I could see the Arno's stream
Glorying in the clear moonbeam;
And the shadowy city met my gaze,
Like the dim memory of other days;
And the distant wood's black coronal
Was like oblivion, that covereth all.
I know not why my soul felt sad;
I touch'd my lute,--it would not waken,
Save to old songs of sorrowing--
Of hope betrayed--of hearts forsaken--
Each lay of lighter feeling slept,
I sang, but, as I sang, I wept.
The Charmed Cup.
And fondly round his neck she clung;
Her long black tresses round him flung--
Love chains, which would not let him part;
And he could feel her beating heart,
The pulses of her small white hand,
The tears she could no more command,
The lip which trembled, though near his;
The sigh that mingled with her kiss;--
Yet parted he from that embrace.
He cast one glance upon her face:
His very soul felt sick to see
Its look of utter misery;
Yet turned he not; one moment's grief,
One pang, like lightning, fierce and brief,
One thought, half pity, half remorse,
Passed o'er him. On he urged his horse;
Hill, ford, and valley spurred he by,
And when his castle-gate was nigh,
White foam was on his 'broider'd rein,
And each spur had a blood-red stain.
But soon he entered that fair hall:
His laugh was loudest there of all; And the cup that wont one name to bless,
Was drained for its forgetfulness.
The ring, once next his heart, was broken;
The gold chain kept another token.
Where is the curl he used to wear--
The raven tress of silken hair?
The winds have scattered it. A braid
Of the first spring day's golden shade,
Waves with the dark plumes on his crest.
Fresh colours are upon his breast:
The slight blue scarf, of simplest fold,
Is changed for one of woven gold.
And he is by a maiden's side,
Whose gems of price, and robes of pride,
Would suit the daughter of a king;
And diamonds are glistening
Upon her arm. There's not one curl
Unfastened by a loop of pearl.
And he is whispering in her ear
Soft words that ladies love to hear.
Alas!--the tale is quickly told--
His love hath felt the curse of gold!
And he is bartering his heart
For that in which it hath no part.
There's many an ill that clings to love;
But this is one all else above;--
For love to bow before the name
Of this world's treasure: shame! oh, shame!
Love, be thy wings as light as those
That waft the zephyr from the rose,--
This may be pardoned--something rare
In loveliness has been thy snare!
But how, fair Love, canst thou become
A thing of mines--a sordid gnome?
And she whom Julian left--she stood
A cold white statue; as the blood
Had, when in vain her last wild prayer,
Flown to her heart, and frozen there.
Upon her temple, each dark vein
Swelled in its agony of pain.
Chill, heavy damps were on her brow;
Her arms were stretched at length, though now
Their clasp was on the empty air:
A funeral pall--her long black hair
Fell over her; herself the tomb
Of her own youth, and breath, and bloom.
Alas! that man should ever win
So sweet a shrine to shame and sin
As woman's heart!--and deeper woe
For her fond weakness, not to know
That yielding all but breaks the chain
That never reunites again!
It was a dark and tempest night--
No pleasant moon, no blest starlight;
But meteors glancing o'er the way,
Only to dazzle and betray.
And who is she that, 'mid the storm,
Wraps her slight mantle round her form?
Her hair is wet with rain and sleet,
And blood is on her small snow feet.
She has been forced a way to make
Through prickly weed and thorned brake,
Up rousing from its coil the snake;
And stirring from their damp abode
The slimy worm and loathsome toad:
And shuddered as she heard the gale
Shriek like an evil spirit's wail;
When followed, like a curse, the crash
Of the pines in the lightning flasht:--
A place of evil and of fear--
Oh! what can Julian's love do here?
On, on the pale girl went. At last
The gloomy forest depths are past,
And she has reached the wizard's den,
Accursed by God and shunned by men.
And never had a ban been laid
Upon a more unwholesome shade.
There grew dank elders, and the yew
Its thick sepulchral shadow threw;
And brooded there each bird most foul,
The gloomy bat and sullen owl.
But Ida entered in the cell,
Where dwelt the wizard of the dell.
Her heart lay dead, her life-blood froze
To look upon the shape which rose
To bar her entrance. On that face
Was scarcely left a single trace
Of human likeness: the parched skin
Showed each discoloured bone within;
And, but for the most evil stare
Of the wild eyes' unearthly glare,
It was a corpse, you would have said,
From which life's freshness long had fled.
Yet Ida knelt her down and prayed
To that dark sorcerer for his aid.
He heard her prayer with withering look;
Then from unholy herbs he took
A drug, and said it would recover
The lost heart of her faithless lover.
She trembled as she turned to see
His demon sneer's malignity;
And every step was winged with dread,
To hear the curse howled as she fled.
It is the purple twilight's hour,
And Julian is in Ida's bower.
He has brought gold, as gold could bless
His work of utter desolateness!
He has brought gems, as if Despair
Had any pride in being fair!
But Ida only wept, and wreathed
Her white arms round his neck; then breathed
Those passionate complaints that wring
A woman's heart, yet never bring
Redress. She called upon each tree
To witness her lone constancy!
She called upon the silent boughs,
The temple of her Julian's vows
Of happiness too dearly bought!
Then wept again. At length she thought
Upon the forest sorcerer's gift--
The last, lone hope that love had left!
She took the cup and kissed the brim,
Mixed the dark spell, and gave it him
To pledge his once dear Ida's name!
He drank it. Instantly the flame
Ran through his veins: one fiery throb
Of bitter pain--one gasping sob
Of agony--the cold death sweat
Is on his face--his teeth are set--
His bursting eyes are glazed and still:
The drug has done its work of ill.
Alas! for her who watched each breath,
The cup her love had mixed bore--death.
Lorenzo!--when next morning came
For the first time I heard thy name!
Lorenzo!--how each ear-pulse drank
The more than music of that tone!
Lorenzo!--how I sighed that name,
As breathing it, made it mine own!
I sought the gallery: I was wont
To pass the noontide there, and trace
Some statue's shape of loveliness--
Some saint, or nymph, or muse's face.
There, in my rapture, I could throw
My pencil and its hues aside,
And, as the vision past me, pour
My song of passion, joy, and pride.
And he was there,--Lorenzo there!
How soon the morning past away,
With finding beauties in each thing
Neither had seen before that day!
Spirit of Love! soon thy rose-plumes wear
The weight and the sully of canker and care:
Falsehood is round thee; Hope leads thee on,
Till every hue from thy pinion is gone.
But one bright moment is all thine own,
The one ere thy visible presence is known;
When, like the wind of the wouth, thy power,
Sunning the heavens, sweetening the flower,
Is felt, but not seen. Thou art sweet and calm
As the sleep of a child, as the dew-fall of balm.
Fear has not darkened thee; Hopes has not made
The blossoms expand, it but opens to fade.
Nothing is known of those wearing fears
Which will shadow the light of thy after years.
Then art thou bliss:--but once throw by
The veil which shrouds thy divinity;
Stand confessed,--and thy quiet is fled!
Wild flashes of rapture may come instead,
But pain will be with them. What may restore
The gentle happiness known before?
I owned not to myself I loved,--
No word of love Lorenzo breathed;
But I lived in a magic ring,
Of every pleasant flower wreathed.
A bright blue was on the sky,
A sweeter breath in music's sigh;
The orange shrubs all seemed to bear
Fruit more rich, and buds more fair.
There was a glory on the noon,
A beauty in the crescent moon,
A lulling stillness in the night,
A feeling in the pale starlight.
There was a charmed note on the wind,
A spell in poetry's deep store--
Heart-uttered words, passionate thoughts,
Which I had never marked before.
'Twas as my heart's full happiness
Poured over all its own excess.
One night there was a gorgeous feast
For maskers in Count Leon's hall;
And all of gallant, fair, and young,
Were bidden to the festival.
I went, garbed as a Hindoo girl;
Upon each arm and amulet,
And by my side a little lute
Of sandal-wood with gold beset.
And shall I own that I was proud
To hear, amid the gazing crowd,
A murmur of delight, when first
My mask and veil I threw aside?
For well my conscious cheek betrayed
Whose eye was gazing on me too!
And never yet had praise been dear,
As on that evening, to mine ear,
Lorenzo! I was proud to be
Worshipped and flattered but for thee!
The Hindoo Girl's Song
Playful and wild as the fire-flies light,
This moment hidden, the next moment bright,
Like the foam on the dark green sea,
Is the spell that is laid on my lover by me.
Were your sigh as sweet as the sumbal's sigh,
When the wind of the evening is nigh;
Were your smile like that glorious light,
Seen when the stars gem the deep midnight;
Were that sigh and that smile for ever the same--
They were shadows, not fuel, to love's dulled flame.
Love once formed an amulet,
With pearls, and a rainbow, and rose-leaves set.
The pearls were pure as pearls could be,
And white as maiden purity;
The rose had the beauty and breath of soul,
And the rainbow-changes crowed the whole.
Frown on your lover one little while,
Dearer will be the light of your smile;
Let your blush, laugh, and sigh ever mingle together,
Like the bloom, sun, and clouds of the sweet spring
Love never must sleep in security,
Or most calm and cold will his waking be.
And as that light strain died away,
Again I swept the breathing strings:
But now the notes I waked were sad
As those the pining wood-dove sings.
The Indian Bride.
She has lighted her lamp, and crowned it with flowers,
The sweetest that breathed of the summer hours;
Red and white roses linked in a band,
Like a maiden's blush, or a maiden's hand;
Jasmines,--some like silver spray,
Some like gold in the morning ray;
Fragrant stars,--and favourites they,
When Indian girls on a festival-day,
Braid their dark tresses: and over all weaves
The rosy-bower of lotus leaves--
Canopy suiting the lamp-lighted bark,
Love's own flowers, and Love's own ark.
She watched the sky, the sunset grew dim:
She raised to Camdeo her evening hymn.
The scent of the night-flowers came on the air;
And then, like a bird escaped from the snare,
She flew to the river--(no moon was bright,
But the stars and the fire-flies gave her their light;)
She stood beneath the mangoes' shade,
Half delighted and half afraid;
She trimmed the lamp, and breathed on each bloom,
(Oh, that breath was sweeter than all their perfume!)
Threw spices and oil on the spire of flame,
Called thrice on her absent lover's name;
And every pulse throbbed as she gave
Her little boat to the Ganges' wave.
There are a thousand fanciful things
Linked round the young heart's imaginings.
In its first love-dream, a leaf or a flower
Is gifted then with a spell and a power:
A shade is an omen, a dream is a sign,
From which the maiden can well divine
Passion's whole history. Those only can tell
Who have loved as young hearts can love so well,
How the pulses will beat, and the cheek will be dyed,
When they have some love-augury tried.
Oh, it is not for those whose feelings are cold,
Withered by care, or blunted by gold;
Whose brows have darkened with many years,
To feel again youth's hopes and fears--
What they now might blush to confess,
Yet what made their spring-day's happiness!
Zaide watched her flower-built vessel glide,
Mirrored beneath on the deep-blue tide;
Lovely and lonely, scented and bright,
Like Hope's own bark, all bloom and light.
There's not one breath of wind on the air,
The heavens are cloudless, the waters are fair,
No dew is falling: yet woe to that shade!
The maiden is weeping--her lamp has decayed.
Hark to the ring of the cymetar!
It tells that the soldier returns from afar.
Down from the mountains the warriors come:
Hark to the thunder-roll of the drum!--
To the startling voice of the trumpet's call!--
To the cymbal's crash!--to the atabal!--
The banners of crimson float in the sun,
The warfare is ended, the battle is won.
The mother hath taken the child from her breast,
And raised it too look on its father's crest.
The pathway is lined, as the bands pass along,
With maidens, who meet them with flowers and song.
And Zaide hath forgotten in Azim's arms
All her so false lamp's falser alarms.
This looks not a bridal,--the singers are mute,
Still is the mandore, and breathless the lute;
Yet there the bride sits. Her dark hair is bound,
And the robe of her marriage floats white on the ground.
Oh! where is the lover, the bridegroom?--oh! where?
Look under yon black pall--the bridegroom is there!
Yet the guests are all bidden, the feast is the same,
And the bride plights her troth amid smoke and 'mid flame!
They have raised the death-pyre of sweet-scented wood,
And sprinkled it o'er with the sacred flood
Of the Ganges. The priests are assembled:--their song
Sinks deep on the ear as they bear her along,
That bride of the dead. Ay, is not this love?--
That one pure, wild feeling all others above:
Vowed to the living, and kept to the tomb!--
The same in its blight as it was in its bloom.
With no tear in her eye, and no change in her smile,
Young Zaide had come nigh to the funeral pile.
The bells of the dancing-girls ceased from their sound;
Silent they stood by that holiest mound.
From a crowd like the sea-waves there came not a breath.
When the maiden stood by the place of death!
One moment was given--the last she might spare!
To the mother, who stood in her weeping there.
She took the jewels that shone on her hand;
She took from her dark hair its flowery band,
And scattered them round. At once they raise
The hymn of rejoicing and love in her praise.
A prayer is muttered, a blessing said,--
Her torch is raised!--she is by the dead.
She has fired the pile! At once there came
A mingled rush of smoke and of flame:
The wind swept it off. They saw the bride,--
Laid by her Azim, side by side.
The breeze had spread the long curls of her hair:
Like a banner of fire they played on the air.
The smoke and the flame gathered round as before,
Then cleared;--but the bride was seen no more.
I heard the words of praise, but not
The one voice that I paused to hear;
And other sounds to me were like
A tale poured in a sleeper's ear.
Where was Lorenzo?--He had stood
Spell-bound; but when I closed the lay,
As if the charm ceased with the song,
He darted hurriedly away.
I masqued again, and wandered on
Through many a gay and gorgeous room;
What with sweet waters, sweeter flowers,
The air was heavy with perfume,
The harp was echoing the lute,
Soft voices answered to the flute,
And, like rills in the noontide clear,
Beneath the flame-hung gondolier,
Shone mirrors peopled with the shades
Of stately youths and radiant maids;
And on the ear in whispers came
Those winged words of soul and flame,
Breathed in the dark-eyed beauty's ear
By some young love-touched cavalier;
Or mixed at times some sound more gay,
Of dance, or laugh, or roundelay.
Oh, it is sickness at the heart
To bear in revelry its part,
And yet feel bursting:--not one thing
Which has part in its suffering,--
The laugh as glad, the step as light,
The song as sweet, the glance as bright;
As the laugh, step, and glance, and song,
Did to young happiness belong.
I turned me from the crowd, and reached
A spot which seemed unsought by all--
An alcove filled with shrubs and flowers,
But lighted by the distant hall,
With one or two fair statues placed,
Like deities of the sweet shrine.
That human art should ever frame
Such shapes so utterly divine!
A deep sigh breathed,--I knew the tone;
My cheek blushed warm, my heart beat high;--
One moment before I too was known,--
I shrank before Lorenzo's eye.
He leant beside a pedestal.
The glorious brow, of Parian stone,
Of the Antinous, by his side,
Was not more noble than his own!
They were alike: he had the same
Thick-clustering curls the Romans wore--
The fixed and melancholy eye--
The smile which passed like lightning o'er
The curved lip. We did not speak,
But the heart breathed upon each cheek;
We looked round with those wandering looks,
Which seek some object for their gaze,
As if each other's glance was like
The too much light of morning's rays.
I saw a youth beside me kneel;
I heard my name in music steal;
I felt my hand trembling in his;--
Another moment, and his kiss
Had burnt upon it; when, like thought
So swift it past, my hand was thrown
Away, as if in sudden pain,
Lorenzo like a dream had flown!
We did not meet again:--he seemed
To shun each spot where I might be:
And, it was said, another claimed
The heart--more than the world to me!
I loved him as young Genius loves,
When its own wild and radiant heaven
Of starry thought burns with the light,
The love, the life, by passion given.
I loved him, too, as woman loves--
Reckless of sorrow, sin, or scorn:
Life had no evil destiny
That, with him, I could not have borne!
I had been nurst in palaces;
Yet earth had not a spot so drear,
That I should not have thought a home,
In paradise, had he been near!
How sweet it would have been to dwell,
Apart from all, in some green dell
Of sunny beauty, leaves and flowers;
And nestling birds to sing the hours!
Our home beneath some chesnut's shade,
But of the woven branches made:
Our vesper hymn, the low, lone wail
The rose hears from the nightingale;
And waked at morning by the call
Of music from a waterfall.
But not alone in dreams like this,
Breathed in the very hope of bliss,
I love: my love had been the same
In hushed despair, in open shame.
I would have rather been a slave,
In tears, in bondage, by his side,
Than shared in all, if wanting him.
This world had power to give beside!
My heart was withered,--and my heat
Had ever been the world to me;
And love had been the first fond dream,
Whose life was in reality.
I had sprung from my solitude
Like a young bird upon the wing
To meet the arrow; so I met
My poisoned shaft of suffering.
And as that bird, with drooping crest
And broken wing, will seek his nest,
But seek in vain; so vain I sought
My pleasant home of song and thought.
There was one spell upon my brain,
Upon my pencil, on my strain;
But one face to my colours came;
My chords replied but to one name--
Lorenzo!--all seemed vowed to thee,
To passion, and to misery!
I had no interest in the things
That once had been like life, or light;
No tale was pleasant to mine ear,
No song was sweet, no picture bright.
I was wild with my great distress,
My lone, my utter hopelessness!
I would sit hours by the side
Of some clear rill, and mark it glide,
Bearing my tears along till night
Came with dark hours; and soft starlight
Watch o'er its shadowy beauty keeping,
Till I grew calm:--then I would take
The lute, which had all day been sleeping
Upon a cypress tree, and wake
The echoes of the midnight air
Qith words that love wrong from despair.
Farewell!--we shall not meet again
As we are parting now!
I must my beating heart restrain--
Must veil my burning brow!
Oh, I must coldly learn to hide
One thought, all else above--
Must call upon my woman's pride
To hide my woman's love!
Check dreams I never may avow;
Be free, be careless, cold as thou!
Oh! those are tears of bitterness,
Wrung from the breaking heart,
When two blest in their tenderness
Must learn to live--apart!
But what are they to that long sigh,
That cold and fixed despair,
That weight of wasting agony
It must be mine to bear?
Methinks I should not thus repine,
If I had but one vow of thine.
I could forgive inconstancy
To be one moment loved by thee!
With me the hope of life is gone
The sun of joy is set;
One wish my soul still dwells upon--
The wish it could not forget.
I would forget that look, that tone,
My heart hath all too dearly known.
But who could ever yet efface
From memory love's enduring trace?
All may revolt, all may complain--
But who is there may break the chain?
Farewell!--I shall not be to thee
More than a passing thought;
But every time and place will be
With thy remembrance fraught!
Farewell! we have not often met--
We may not meet again;
But on my heart the seal is set
Love never sets in vain!
Fruitless as constancy may be,
No chance, no change, may turn from thee
One who has loved thee wildly, well--
But whose first love-vow breathed--farewell?
And lays which only told of love
In all its varied sorrowing,
The echoes of the broken heart,
Were all the songs I now could sing.
Legends of olden times in Greece,
When not a flower but had its tale;
When spirits haunted each green oak;
When voices spoke in every gale;
When not a star shone in the sky
Without its own love history.
Amid its many songs was one
That suited well with my sick mind.
I sang it when the breath of flowers
Came sweet upon the midnight wind.
leades and cydippe.
She sat her in her twilight bower,
A temple formed of leaf and flower;
Rose and myrtle framed the roof,
To a shower of April proof;
And primroses, pale gems of spring,
Lay on the green turf glistening,
Close by the violet, whose breath
Is so sweet in a dewy wreath.
And oh, that myrtle! how green it grew!
With flowers as white as the pearls of dew
That shone beside: and the glorious rose
Lay like a beauty in warm repose,
Blushing in slumber. The air was bright
With the spirit and glow of its crimson light.
Cydippe had turned from her columned hall,
Where, the queen of the feast, she was worshipped by all:
Where the vases were burning with spices and flowers,
And the odorous waters were playing in showers;
And lamps were blazing--those lamps of perfume
Which shed such a charm of light over the bloom
Of woman, when Pleasure a spell has thrown
Over one night hour and made it her own.
And the ruby wine-cup shone with a ray,
As the gems of the East had there melted away;
And the bards were singing those songs of fire,
That bright eyes and the goblet so well inspire;--
While she, the glory and pride of the hour,
Sat silent and sad in her secret bower!
There is a grief that wastes the heart,
Like mildew on a tulip's dyes,--
When hope, deferred but to depart,
Loses its smiles, but keeps its sighs:
When love's bark, with its anchor gone,
Clings to a straw, and still thrusts on.
Oh, more than all!--methinks that love
Should pray that it might ever be
Beside the burning shrine which had
Its young heart's fond idolatry.
Oh, absence is the night of love!
Lovers are very children then!
Fancying ten thousand feverish shapes,
Until their light returns again.
A look, a word, is then recalled,
And thought upon until it wears,
What is, perhaps, a very shade,
The tone and aspect of our fears.
And this is what was withering now
The radiance of Cydippe's brow.
She watched until her cheek grew pale;
The green wave bore no bounding sail:
Her sight grew dim; 'mid the blue air
No snowy dove came floating there,
The dear scroll hid beneath his wing,
With plume and soft eye glistening,
To seek again, in leafy dome,
The nest of its accustomed home!
Still far away, o'er land and seas,
Lingered the faithless Leades.
She thought on the spring days, when she had been
Lonely and lovely, a maiden queen:
When passion to her was a storm at sea,
Heard 'mid the green land's tranquillity.
But a stately warrior came from afar;
He bore on his bosom the glorious scar
So worshipped by women--the death-seal of war.
And the maiden's heart was an easy prize,
When valour and faith were her sacrifice.
Methinks, might that sweet season last,
In which our first love-dream is past,
Ere doubts and cares, and jealous pain,
Are flaws in the heart's diamond-chain:--
Men might forget to think on Heaven,
And yet have the sweet sin forgiven.
But ere the marriage-feast was spread,
Leades said that he must brook
To part awhile from that best light,
Those eyes which fixed his every look:
Just press again his native shore,
And then he would that shore resign
For her dear sake, who was to him
His household-god!--his spirit's shrine!
He came not! Then the heart's decay
Wasted her silently away:--
A sweet fount, which the mid-day sun
Has all too hotly looked upon!
It is most sad to watch the fall
Of autumn leaves!--but worst of all
It is to watch the flower of spring
Faded in its fresh blossoming!
To see the once so clear blue orb
Its summer light and warmth forget;
Darkening beneath its tearful lid,
Like a rain-beaten violet!
To watch the banner-rose of health
Pass from the cheek!--to mark how plain
Upon the wan and sunken brow,
Become the wanderings of each vein!
The shadowy hand so thin so pale!
The languid step!--the drooping head!
The long wreaths of neglected hair!
The lip whence red and smile are fled!
And having watched thus, day by day,
Light, life and colour, pass away!
To see, at length, the glassy eye
Fix dull in dread mortality;
Mark the last ray, catch the last breath,
Till the grave sets its sign of death!
This was Cydippe's fate!--They laid
The maiden underneath the shade
Of a green cypress--and that hour
The tree was withered and stood bare!
The spring brought leaves to other trees,
But never other leaf grew there!
It stood, 'mid others flourishing,
A blighted, solitary thing.
The summer sun shone on that tree
When shot a vessel o'er the sea--
When sprang a warrior from the prow--
Leades! by the stately brow.
Forgotten toil, forgotten care,
All his worn heart has had to bear.
That heart is full! He hears the sigh
That breathed 'Farewell!' so tenderly.
If even then it was most sweet,
What will it be that now they meet?
Alas! alas! Hope's fair deceit!
He spurred o'er land, has cut the waves,
To look but on Cydippe's grave.
It has blossomed in beauty, that lone tree.
Leades' kiss restored its bloom;
For wild he kissed the withered stem--
It grew upon Cydippe's tomb!
And there he dwelt. The hottest ray,
Still dew upon the branches lay
Like constant tears. The winter came:
But still the green tree stood the same.
And it was said, at evening's close,
A sound of whispered music rose;
That 'twas the trace of viewless feet
Made the flowers more than flowers sweet.
At length Leades died. That day,
Bark and green foliage past away
From the lone tree,--again a thing
Of wonder and of perishing!
One evening I had roamed beside
The winding of the Arno's tide;
The sky was flooded with moonlight:
Below were waters azure bright,
Palazzos with their marble halls,
Green gardens, silver waterfalls,
And orange groves and citron shades,
And cavaliers and dark-eyed maids;
Sweet voices singing, echoes sent
From many a rich-toned instrument.
I could not bear this loveliness!
It was on such a night as this
That love had lighted up my dream
Of long despair and short-lived bliss.
I sought the city; wandering on,
Unconscious where my steps might be:
My heart was deep in other thoughts;
All places were alike to me:--
At length I stopped beneath the walls
Of San Mark's old cathedral halls.
I entered:--and, beneath the roof,
Ten thousand wax-lights burnt on high;
And incense on the censers fumed
As for some great solemnity.
The white-robed choristers were singing;
Their cheerful peal the bells were ringing:
Then deep-voiced music floated round,
As the far arches sent forth sound--
The stately organ:--and fair bands
Of young girls strewed, with lavish hands,
Violets o'er the mosaic floor;
And sang while scattering the sweet store.
I turned me to a distant aisle
Where but a feeble glimmering came
(Itself in darkness) of the smile
Sent from the tapers' perfume flame;
And coloured as each pictured pane
Shed o'er the blaze its crimson stain:--
While, from the window o'er my head,
A dim and sickly gleam was shed
From the young moon,--enough to show
That tomb and table lay below.
I leant upon one monument,--
'Twas sacred to unhappy love:
On it were carved a blighted pine--
A broken ring--a wounded dove.
And two or three brief words told all
Her history who lay beneath:--
'The flowers--at morn her bridal flowers,--
'Formed, e'er the eve, her funeral wreath.'
I could but envy here. I thought,
How sweet it must be thus to die!
Your last looks watched,--your last sigh caught,
As life or heaven were in that sigh!
Passing in loveliness and light;
Your heart as pure,--your cheek as bright
As the spring-rose, whose petals shut
By sun unscorched, by shower unwet;
Leaving behind a memory
Shrined in love's fond eternity.
But I was wakened from this dream
By a burst of light--a gush of song--
A welcome, as the stately doors
Poured in a gay and gorgeous throng.
I could see all from where I stood.
And first I looked upon the bride;
She was a pale and lovely girl;--
But, oh God: who was by her side?--
Lorenzo!--No, I did not speak;
My heart beat high, but could not break.
I shrieked not, wept not: but stood there
Motionless in my still despair;
As I were forced by some strange thrall,
To bear with and to look on all,--
I heard the hymn, I heard the vow;
(Mine ear throbs with them even now!)
I saw the young bride's timid cheek
Blushing beneath her silver veil.
I saw Lorenzo kneel! Methought
('Twas but a thought!) he too was pale.
But when it ended, and his lip
Was prest to hers--I saw no more!
My heart grew cold,--my brain swam round,--
I sank upon the cloister floor!
I lived,--if that may be called life,
From which each charm of life has fled--
Happiness gone, with hope and love,--
In all but breath already dead.
Rust gathered on the silent chords
Of my neglected lyre,--the breeze
Was now its mistress: music brought
For me too bitter memories!
The ivy darkened o'er my bower;
Around, the weeds choked every flower.
I pleased me in this desolateness,
As each thing bore my fate's impress.
At length I made myself a task--
To paint that Cretan maiden's fate,
Whom Love taught such deep happiness,
And whom Love left so desolate.
I drew her on a rocky shore:--
Her black hair loose, and sprinkled o'er
With white sea-foam;--her arms were bare,
Flung upwards in their last despair.
Her naked feet the pebbles prest;
The tempest-wind sang in her vest:
A wild stare in her glassy eyes;
White lips, as parched by their hot sighs;
And cheek more pallid than the spray
Which, cold and colourless, on it lay:--
Just such a statue as should be
Placed ever, Love! beside thy shrine;
Warning thy victims of what ills--
What burning tears, false god! are thine.
Before her was the darkling sea:
Behind the barren mountains rose--
A fit home for the broken heart
To weep away life, wrongs, and woes!
I had now but one hope:--that when
The hand that traced these tings was cold--
Its pulse but in their passion seen--
Lorenzo might these tints behold,
And find my grief;--think--see--feel all
I felt, in this memorial!
It was one evening,--the rose light
Was o'er each green veranda shining;
Spring was just breaking, and white buds
Were 'mid the darker ivy twining.
My hall was filled with the perfume
Sent from the early orange bloom:
The fountain, in the midst, was fraught
With rich hues from the sunset caught;--
And the first song came from the dove,
Nestling in the shrub alcove.
But why pause on my happiness?--
Another step was with mine there,
Another sigh than mine made sweet
With its dear breath the scented air!
Lorenzo! could it be my hand
That now was trembling in his own?
Lorenzo! could it be mine ear
That drank the music of thy tone?
We sat us by a lattice, where
Came in the soothing evening breeze,
Rich with the gifts of early flowers,
And the soft wind-lute's symphonies.
And in the twilight's vesper-hour,
Beneath the hanging jasmine shower,
I heard a tale,--as fond, as dear
As e'er was poured in woman's ear!
I was betrothed from earliest youth
To a fair orphan, who was left
Beneath my father's roof and care.--
Of every other friend bereft:
An heiress, with her fertile vales,
Caskets of Indian gold and pearl;
Yet meek as poverty itself,
And timid as a peasant girl:
A delicate, frail thing,--but made
For spring sunshine, or summer shade;
A slender flower unmeet to bear
One April shower,--so slight, so fair.
I loved her as a brother loves
His favourite sister: and when war
First called me from our long-shared home
To bear my father's sword afar,
I parted from her,--not as one
Whose life and soul are wrung by parting:
With death-cold brow and throbbing pulse,
And burning tears like life-blood starting.
Lost in war dreams, I scarcely heard
The prayer that bore my name above:
The 'Farewell!' that kissed off her tears
Had more of pity than of love!
I thought of her not with that deep,
Intensest memory love will keep
More tenderly than life. To me
She was but as a dream of home,--
One of those calm and pleasant thoughts
That o'er the soldier's spirit come;
Remembering him, when battle lo'rs,
Of twilight walks and fireside hours.
I came to thy bright Florence when
The task of blood was done:
I saw thee! Had I lived before?
Oh, no! my life but then begun.
Ay, by that blush! the summer rose
Has not more luxury of light!
Ay, by those eyes! whose language is
Like what the clear stars speak at night,
Thy first look was a fever spell!--
Thy first word was an oracle
Which sealed my fate! I worshipped thee,
My beautiful, bright deity!
Worshipped thee as a sacred thing
Of Genius' high imagining;--
But loved thee for thy sweet revealing
Of woman's own most gentle feeling.
I might have broken from the chain
Thy power, thy glory round me flung!
But never might forget thy blush--
The smile which on thy sweet lips hung!
I lived but in thy sight! One night
From thy hair fell a myrtle blossom;
It was a relic that breathed of thee:
Look! it has withered in my bosom!
Yet I was wretched, though I dwelt
In the sweet sight of paradise:
A curse lay on me. But not now,
Thus smiled upon by those dear eyes,
Will I think over thoughts of pain.
I'll only tell thee that the line
That ever told Love's misery,
Ne'er told of misery like mine!
I wedded.--I could not have borne
To see the young Ianthe blighted
By that worst blight the spring can know--
Trusting affection ill requited!
Oh, was it that she was too fair,
Too innocent for this damp earth;
And that her native star above
Reclaimed again its gentle birth?
She faded. Oh, my peerless queen,
I need not pray thee pardon me
For owning that my heart then felt
For any other than for thee!
I bore her to those azure isles
Where health dwells by the side of spring;
And deemed their green and sunny vales,
And calm and fragrant airs, might bring
Warmth to the cheek, light to the eye,
Of her who was too young to die.
It was in vain!--and, day by day
The gentle creature died away.
As parts the odour from the rose--
As fades the sky at twilight's close--
She past so tender and so fair;
So patient; though she knew each breath
Might be her last; her own mild smile
Parted her placid lips in death.
Her grave is under southern skies;
Green turf and flowers o'er it rise.
Oh! nothing but a pale spring wreath
Would fade o'er her who lies beneath!
I gave her prayers--I gave her tears--
I staid awhile beside her grave;
Then led by Hope, and led by Love,
Again I cut the azure wave.
What have I more to say, my life!
But just to pray one smile of thine,
Telling I have not loved in vain--
That thou dost join these hopes of mine?
Yes, smile, sweet love! our life will be
As radiant as a fairy tale!
Glad as the sky-lark's earliest song--
Sweet as the sigh of the spring gale!
All, all that life will ever be,
Shone o'er, divinest love! by thee.
Oh, mockery of happiness!
Love now was all too late to save.
False Love! oh what had you to do
With one you had led to the grave?
A little time I had been glad
To mark the paleness on my cheek;
To feel how, day by day, my step
Grew fainter, and my hand more weak;
To know the fever of my soul
Was also preying on my frame:
But now I would have given worlds
To change the crimson hectic's flame
For the pure rose of health; to live
For the dear life that Love could give.
--Oh, youth may sicken at its bloom,
And wealth and fame pray for the tomb;--
But can love bear from love to part,
And not cling to that one dear heart?
I shrank away from death,--my tears
Had been unwept in other years:
But thus, in love's first ecstasy,
Was it not worse than death to die?
Lorenzo! I would live for thee!
But thou wilt have to weep for me!
That sun has kissed the morning dews,--
I shall not see its twilight close!
That rose is fading in the noon,
And I shall not outlive the rose!
Come, let me lean upon thy breast,
My last, best place of happiest rest!
Once more let me breathe thy sighs--
Look once more in those watching eyes!
Oh! but for thee, and grief of thine,
And parting, I should not repine!
It is deep happiness to die,
Yet live in Love's dear memory.
Thou wilt remember me,--my name
Is linked with beauty and with fame.
The summer airs, the summer sky,
The soothing spell of Music's sigh,--
Stars in their poetry of night,
The silver silence of moonlight,--
The dim blush of the twilight hours,
The fragrance of the bee-kissed flowers;--
But, more than all, sweet songs will be
Thrice sacred unto Love and me.
Lorenzo! be this kiss a spell!
My first!--my last! Farewell!--Farewell!
There is a lone and stately hall,
Its master dwells apart from all.
A wanderer through Italia's land,
One night a refuge there I found.
The lightning flash rolled o'er the sky,
The torrent rain was sweeping round:
These won me entrance. He was young,
The castle's lord, but pale like age;
His brow, as sculpture beautiful,
Was wan as Grief's corroded page.
He had no words, he had no smiles,
No hopes:--his sole employ to brood
Silently over his sick heart
In sorrow and in solitude.
I saw the hall where, day by day,
He mused his weary life away;
It scarcely seemed a place for woe,
But rather like a genie's home.
Around were graceful statues ranged.
And picture shone around the dome.
But there was one--a loveliest one!--
One picture brightest of all there!
Oh! never did the painter's dream
Shape thing so gloriously fair!
It was a face!--the summer day
Is not more radiant in its light!
Dark flashing eyes, like the deep stars
Lighting the azure brow of night;
A blush like sunrise o'er the rose;
A cloud of raven hair, whose shade
Was sweet as evening's, and whose curls
Clustered beneath a laurel braid.
She leant upon a harp:--one hand
Wandered, like snow, amid the chords;
The lips were opening with such life,
You almost heard the silvery words.
She looked a form of light and life,
All soul, all passion, and all fire;
A priestess of Apollo's, when
The morning beams fall on her lyre;
A Sappho, or ere love had turned
The heart to stone where once it burned.
But by the picture's side was placed
A funeral urn on which was traced
The heart's recorded wretchedness;--
And on a tablet, hung above,
Was graved one tribute of sad words--
'Lorenzo to his Minstrel Love.'
(1) The "Improvisatrice" appears:
in The Improvisatrice: and Other Poems. London: Hurst et.al, 1824 (1).
in The Passion Flower. (The Mirror Library #5). New York: n.p. 1844. (1).
in The Complete Works of L.E. Landon. (Two volumes in one). Boston: Crosby, Nichols, Lee, and Company. 1860. (7).
in Poetical Works vol.1, 1864 edition. in Poetical Works 1873 edition (Sypher 1990) (1).
Section titles within the poem include:
"A Moorish Romance"
"The Charmed Cup"
"The Hindoo Girl's Song"
"The Indian Bride"
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