Landon site links: Home Page , Bibliography , Biography , Corvey Holdings , Corvey Project , Criticism and Context , E-Mail , Introduction , Related Sites , Sample Texts , SHU English
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!