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The Minstrel of Portugal

Their path had been a troubled one, each step

Had trod 'mid throns and springs of bitterness;

But they had fled away from the cold world,

And found, in a fair valley, solitude

And happiness in themselves. They oft would rove

Through the dark forests when the golden light

Of evening was upon the oak, or catch

The first wild breath of morning on the hill,

And in the hot noon seek some greenwood shade,

Filled with the music of the birds, the leaves,

Or the descending waters' distant song.

And that young maiden hung delightedly

Upon her minstrel lover's words, when he

Breathed some old melancholy verse, or told

Love's ever-varying histories; and her smile

Thanked him so tenderly, that he forgot

Or thought of but to scorn the flatteries

He was so proud of once. I need not say

How happy his sweet mistress was.--Oh, all

Know love is woman's happiness.


Come, love, we'll rest us from our wanderings:

The violets are fresh among the moss,

The dew is not yet on their purple leaves,

Warm with the sun's last kiss--sit here, dear love!

This chesnut be our canopy. Look up

Towards the beautiful heaven! the fair moon

Is shining timidly, like a young queen

Who fears to claim her full authority:

The stars shine in her presence; o'er the sky

A few light clouds are wandering, like the fears

That even happy love must know; the air

Is full of perfume and most musical,

Although no other sounds are on the gale

Than the soft falling of the mountain rill,

Or waving of the leaves. 'Tis just the time

For legend of romance, and, dearest, now

I have one framed for thee: it is of love,

Most perfect love, and of a faithful heart

That was a sacrifice upon the shrine

Itself had reared! I will begin it now,

Like an old tale:--There was a Princess once,

More beautiful than Spring, when the warm look

Of Summer calls the blush upon her cheek,

The matchless Isabel of Portugal.

She moved in beauty, and where'er she went

Some heart did homage to her loveliness.

But there was one--a youth of lowly birth--

Who worshipped her!--I have heard many say

Love lives on hope; they knew not what they said:

Hope is Love's happiness, but not its life;--

How many hearts have nourished a vain flame

In silence and in secret, though they knew

They fed the scorching fire that would consume them!

Young Juan loved in veriest hopelessness!--

He saw the lady once at matin time,--

Saw her when bent in meek humility

Before the altar; she was then unveiled,

And Juan gazed upon the face which was

Thenceforth the world to him! Awhile he looked

Upon the white hands clasped gracefully;

The rose-bud lips, moving in silent prayer;

The raven hair, that hung as a dark cloud

On the white brow of morning! She arose,

And as she moved, her slender figure waved

Like the light cypress, when the breeze of Spring

Wakes music in its boughs. As Juan knelt

It chanced her eyes met his, and all his soul

Maddened in that slight glance! She left the place;

Yet still her shape seemed visible, and still

He felt the light through the long eyelash steal

And melt within his heart! . . . .

From that time life was one impassioned dream:

He lingered on the spot which she had made

So sacred by her presence, and he thought

It happiness to only breathe the air

Her sigh had perfumed--but to press the floor

Her faëry step had hallowed. He renounced

All projects of ambition, joyed no more

In pleasures of his age, but like aghost,

Confined to one peculiar spot, he strayed

Where first he saw the Princess; and the court

Through which she pass'd to matins, now became

To him a home; and either he recalled

Fondly her every look, or else embalmed

Her name in wild sweet song. . . . .

His love grew blazed abroad--a poet's love

Is immortality! The heart whose beat

Is echoed by the lyre, will have its griefs,

Its tenderness, remembered, when each pulse

Has long been cold and still. Some pitied him,

And others marvelled, half in mockery;

They little knew what pride love ever has

In self-devotedness. The Princess heard

Of her pale lover; but none ever knew

Her secret thoughts: she heard it silently.

It could not be but woman's heart must feel

Such fond and faithful homage!--But some deemed

Even such timid worship was not meet

For royalty. They bade the youth depart,

And the King sent him gold; he turned away,

And would not look upon the glittering treasure--

And then they banished him! He heard them say

He was an exile with a ghastly smile,

And murmured not--but rose and left the city.

He went on silently, until he came

To where a little hill rose, covered o'er

With lemon shrubs and golden oranges:

The windows of the palace where she dwelt--

His so loved Isabel--o'erlooked the place.

There was some gorgeous fête there, for the light

Streamed through the lattices, and a far sound

Of lute, and dance, and song, came echoing.

His hands fell powerless! Some gathered round

And raised him from the ground: his eyes were closed,

His lip and cheek were colourless;--they told

His heart was broken! . . . .


His Princess never knew an earthly love:

She vowed herself to Heaven, and she died young!

The evening of her death, a strange sweet sound

Of music came, delicious as a dream:

With that her spirit parted from this earth.

Many remembered that it was the hour

Her humble lover perished!