Part 7 out of 7
[Improvised at the Cafe de Paris.]
Blind, as was Homer; as Belisarius, blind,
But one weak child to guide his vision dim.
The hand which dealt him bread, in pity kind--
He'll never see; God sees it, though, for him.
H.L.C., "_London Society._"
THE QUIET RURAL CHURCH.
It was a humble church, with arches low,
The church we entered there,
Where many a weary soul since long ago
Had past with plaint or prayer.
Mournful and still it was at day's decline,
The day we entered there;
As in a loveless heart, at the lone shrine,
The fires extinguished were.
Scarcely was heard to float some gentlest sound,
Scarcely some low breathed word,
As in a forest fallen asleep, is found
Just one belated bird.
A STORM SIMILE.
_("Oh, regardez le ciel!")_
See, where on high the moving masses, piled
By the wind, break in groups grotesque and wild,
Present strange shapes to view;
Oft flares a pallid flash from out their shrouds,
As though some air-born giant 'mid the clouds
Sudden his falchion drew.
THE FATHER'S CURSE.
_("Vous, sire, ecoutez-moi.")_
[LE ROI S'AMUSE, Act I.]
M. ST. VALLIER (_an aged nobleman, from whom King Francis I.
decoyed his daughter, the famous beauty, Diana of
A king should listen when his subjects speak:
'Tis true your mandate led me to the block,
Where pardon came upon me, like a dream;
I blessed you then, unconscious as I was
That a king's mercy, sharper far than death,
To save a father doomed his child to shame;
Yes, without pity for the noble race
Of Poitiers, spotless for a thousand years,
You, Francis of Valois, without one spark
Of love or pity, honor or remorse,
Did on that night (thy couch her virtue's tomb),
With cold embraces, foully bring to scorn
My helpless daughter, Dian of Poitiers.
To save her father's life a knight she sought,
Like Bayard, fearless and without reproach.
She found a heartless king, who sold the boon,
Making cold bargain for his child's dishonor.
Oh! monstrous traffic! foully hast thou done!
My blood was thine, and justly, tho' it springs
Amongst the best and noblest names of France;
But to pretend to spare these poor gray locks,
And yet to trample on a weeping woman,
Was basely done; the father was thine own,
But not the daughter!--thou hast overpassed
The right of monarchs!--yet 'tis mercy deemed.
And I perchance am called ungrateful still.
Oh, hadst thou come within my dungeon walls,
I would have sued upon my knees for death,
But mercy for my child, my name, my race,
Which, once polluted, is my race no more.
Rather than insult, death to them and me.
I come not now to ask her back from thee;
Nay, let her love thee with insensate love;
I take back naught that bears the brand of shame.
Keep her! Yet, still, amidst thy festivals,
Until some father's, brother's, husband's hand
('Twill come to pass!) shall rid us of thy yoke,
My pallid face shall ever haunt thee there,
To tell thee, Francis, it was foully done!...
TRIBOULET _(the Court Jester), sneering._ The poor man
ST. VILLIER. Accursed be ye both!
Oh Sire! 'tis wrong upon the dying lion
To loose thy dog! _(Turns to Triboulet)_
And thou, whoe'er thou art,
That with a fiendish sneer and viper's tongue
Makest my tears a pastime and a sport,
My curse upon thee!--Sire, thy brow doth bear
The gems of France!--on mine, old age doth sit;
Thine decked with jewels, mine with these gray hairs;
We both are Kings, yet bear a different crown;
And should some impious hand upon thy head
Heap wrongs and insult, with thine own strong arm
Thou canst avenge them! _God avenges mine!_
FREDK. L. SLOUS.
_("Ma fille! o seul bonheur.")_
[LE ROI S'AMUSE, Act II]
My child! oh, only blessing Heaven allows me!
Others have parents, brothers, kinsmen, friends,
A wife, a husband, vassals, followers,
Ancestors, and allies, or many children.
I have but thee, thee only. Some are rich;
Thou art my treasure, thou art all my riches.
And some believe in angels; I believe
In nothing but thy soul. Others have youth,
And woman's love, and pride, and grace, and health;
Others are beautiful; thou art my beauty,
Thou art my home, my country and my kin,
My wife, my mother, sister, friend--my child!
My bliss, my wealth, my worship, and my law,
My Universe! Oh, by all other things
My soul is tortured. If I should ever lose thee--
Horrible thought! I cannot utter it.
Smile, for thy smile is like thy mother's smiling.
She, too, was fair; you have a trick like her,
Of passing oft your hand athwart your brow
As though to clear it. Innocence still loves
A brow unclouded and an azure eye.
To me thou seem'st clothed in a holy halo,
My soul beholds thy soul through thy fair body;
E'en when my eyes are shut, I see thee still;
Thou art my daylight, and sometimes I wish
That Heaven had made me blind that thou might'st be
The sun that lighted up the world for me.
THE DEGENERATE GALLANTS.
_("Mes jeunes cavaliers.")_
[HERNANI, Act I., March, 1830.]
What business brings you here, young cavaliers?
Men like the Cid, the knights of bygone years,
Rode out the battle of the weak to wage,
Protecting beauty and revering age.
Their armor sat on them, strong men as true,
Much lighter than your velvet rests on you.
Not in a lady's room by stealth they knelt;
In church, by day, they spoke the love they felt.
They kept their houses' honor bright from rust,
They told no secret, and betrayed no trust;
And if a wife they wanted, bold and gay,
With lance, or axe, or falchion, and by day,
Bravely they won and wore her. As for those
Who slip through streets when honest men repose,
With eyes turned to the ground, and in night's shade
The rights of trusting husbands to invade;
I say the Cid would force such knaves as these
To beg the city's pardon on their knees;
And with the flat of his all-conquering blade
Their rank usurped and 'scutcheon would degrade.
Thus would the men of former times, I say,
Treat the degenerate minions of to-day.
LORD F. LEVESON GOWER (1ST EARL OF ELLESMERE.)
THE OLD AND THE YOUNG BRIDEGROOM.
_("L'homme auquel on vous destina.")_
[HERNANI, Act I.]
Listen. The man for whom your youth is destined,
Your uncle, Ruy de Silva, is the Duke
Of Pastrana, Count of Castile and Aragon.
For lack of youth, he brings you, dearest girl,
Treasures of gold, jewels, and precious gems,
With which your brow might outshine royalty;
And for rank, pride, splendor, and opulence,
Might many a queen be envious of his duchess!
Here is one picture. I am poor; my youth
I passed i' the woods, a barefoot fugitive.
My shield, perchance, may bear some noble blazons
Spotted with blood, defaced though not dishonored.
Perchance I, too, have rights, now veiled in darkness,--
Rights, which the heavy drapery of the scaffold
Now hides beneath its black and ample folds;
Rights which, if my intent deceive me not,
My sword shall one day rescue. To be brief:--
I have received from churlish Fortune nothing
But air, light, water,--Nature's general boon.
Choose, then, between us two, for you must choose;--
Say, will you wed the duke, or follow me?
DONNA SOL. I'll follow you.
HERN. What, 'mongst my rude companions,
Whose names are registered in the hangman's book?
Whose hearts are ever eager as their swords,
Edged by a personal impulse of revenge?
Will you become the queen, dear, of my band?
Will you become a hunted outlaw's bride?
When all Spain else pursued and banished me,--
In her proud forests and air-piercing mountains,
And rocks the lordly eagle only knew,
Old Catalonia took me to her bosom.
Among her mountaineers, free, poor, and brave,
I ripened into manhood, and, to-morrow,
One blast upon my horn, among her hills,
Would draw three thousand of her sons around me.
You shudder,--think upon it. Will you tread
The shores, woods, mountains, with me, among men
Like the dark spirits of your haunted dreams,--
Suspect all eyes, all voices, every footstep,--
Sleep on the grass, drink of the torrent, hear
By night the sharp hiss of the musket-ball
Whistling too near your ear,--a fugitive
Proscribed, and doomed mayhap to follow me
In the path leading to my father's scaffold?
DONNA SOL. I'll follow you.
HERN. This duke is rich, great, prosperous,
No blot attaches to his ancient name.
He is all-powerful. He offers you
His treasures, titles, honors, with his hand.
DONNA SOL. We will depart to-morrow. Do not blame
What may appear a most unwomanly boldness.
THE SPANISH LADY'S LOVE.
DONNA SOL _to_ HERNANI.
_("Nous partirons demain.")_
[HERNANI, ACT I.]
To mount the hills or scaffold, we go to-morrow:
Hernani, blame me not for this my boldness.
Art thou mine evil genius or mine angel?
I know not, but I am thy slave. Now hear me:
Go where thou wilt, I follow thee. Remain,
And I remain. Why do I thus? I know not.
I feel that I must see thee--see thee still--
See thee for ever. When thy footstep dies,
It is as if my heart no more would beat;
When thou art gone, I am absent from myself;
But when the footstep which I love and long for
Strikes on mine ear again--then I remember
I live, and feel my soul return to me.
THE LOVER'S SACRIFICE.
[HERNANI, Act II.]
DONNA SOL. Together let us fly!
HERNANI. Together? No! the hour is past for flight.
Dearest, when first thy beauty smote my sight,
I offered, for the love that bade me live,
Wretch that I was, what misery had to give:
My wood, my stream, my mountain. Bolder grown,
By thy compassion to an outlaw shown,
The outlaw's meal beneath the forest shade,
The outlaw's couch far in the greenwood glade,
I offered. Though to both that couch be free,
I keep the scaffold block reserved for me.
DONNA SOL. And yet you promised?
HERNANI _(falls on his knee.)_ Angel! in this hour,
Pursued by vengeance and oppressed by power--
Even in this hour when death prepares to close
In shame and pain a destiny of woes--
Yes, I, who from the world proscribed and cast,
Have nursed one dark remembrance of the past,
E'en from my birth in sorrow's garment clad,
Have cause to smile and reason to be glad;
For you have loved the outlaw and have shed
Your whispered blessings on his forfeit head.
DONNA SOL. Let me go with you.
HERNANI. No! I will not rend
From its fair stem the flower as I descend.
Go--I have smelt its perfume. Go--resume
All that this grasp has brushed away of bloom.
Wed the old man,--believe that ne'er we met;
I seek my shade--be happy, and forget!
LORD F. LEVESON GOWER (1ST EARL OF ELLESMERE).
THE OLD MAN'S LOVE.
_("Derision! que cet amour boiteux.")_
[HERNANI, Act III.]
O mockery! that this halting love
That fills the heart so full of flame and transport,
Forgets the body while it fires the soul!
If but a youthful shepherd cross my path,
He singing on the way--I sadly musing,
He in his fields, I in my darksome alleys--
Then my heart murmurs: "O, ye mouldering towers!
Thou olden ducal dungeon! O how gladly
Would I exchange ye, and my fields and forests,
Mine ancient name, mine ancient rank, my ruins--
My ancestors, with whom I soon shall lie,
For _his_ thatched cottage and his youthful brow!"
His hair is black--his eyes shine forth like _thine_.
Him thou might'st look upon, and say, fair youth,
Then turn to me, and think that I am old.
And yet the light and giddy souls of cavaliers
Harbor no love so fervent as their words bespeak.
Let some poor maiden love them and believe them,
Then die for them--they smile. Aye! these young birds,
With gay and glittering wing and amorous song,
Can shed their love as lightly as their plumage.
The old, whose voice and colors age has dimmed,
Flatter no more, and, though less fair, are faithful.
When _we_ love, we love true. Are our steps frail?
Our eyes dried up and withered? Are our brows
Wrinkled? There are no wrinkles in the heart.
Ah! when the graybeard loves, he should be spared;
The heart is young--_that_ bleeds unto the last.
I love thee as a spouse,--and in a thousand
Other fashions,--as sire,--as we love
The morn, the flowers, the overhanging heavens.
Ah me! when day by day I gaze upon thee,
Thy graceful step, thy purely-polished brow,
Thine eyes' calm fire,--I feel my heart leap up,
And an eternal sunshine bathe my soul.
And think, too! Even the world admires,
When age, expiring, for a moment totters
Upon the marble margin of a tomb,
To see a wife--a pure and dove-like angel--
Watch over him, soothe him, and endure awhile
The useless old man, only fit to die;
A sacred task, and worthy of all honor,
This latest effort of a faithful heart;
Which, in his parting hour, consoles the dying,
And, without loving, wears the look of love.
Ah! thou wilt be to me this sheltering angel,
To cheer the old man's heart--to share with him
The burden of his evil years;--a daughter
In thy respect, a sister in thy pity.
DONNA SOL. My fate may be more to precede than follow.
My lord, it is no reason for long life
That we are young! Alas! I have seen too oft
The old clamped firm to life, the young torn thence;
And the lids close as sudden o'er their eyes
As gravestones sealing up the sepulchre.
THE ROLL OF THE DE SILVA RACE.
_("Celui-ci, des Silvas, c'est l'aine.")_
[HERNANI, Act III.]
In that reverend face
Behold the father of De Silva's race,
Silvius; in Rome he filled the consul's place
Three times (your patience for such honored names).
This second was Grand Master of St. James
And Calatrava; his strong limbs sustained
Armor which ours would sink beneath. He gained
Thirty pitched battles, and took, as legends tell,
Three hundred standards from the Infidel;
And from the Moorish King Motril, in war,
Won Antiquera, Suez, and Nijar;
And then died poor. Next to him Juan stands,
His son; his plighted hand was worth the hands
Of kings. Next Gaspar, of Mendoza's line--
Few noble stems but chose to join with mine:
Sandoval sometimes fears, and sometimes woos
Our smiles; Manriquez envies; Lara sues;
And Alancastre hates. Our rank we know:
Kings are but just above us, dukes below.
Vasquez, who kept for sixty years his vow--
Greater than he I pass. This reverend brow,
This was my sire's--the greatest, though the last:
The Moors his friend had taken and made fast--
Alvar Giron. What did my father then?
He cut in stone an image of Alvar,
Cunningly carved, and dragged it to the war;
He vowed a vow to yield no inch of ground
Until that image of itself turned round;
He reached Alvar--he saved him--and his line
Was old De Silva's, and his name was mine--
King CARLOS. Drag me from his lurking-place
[DON RUY _leads the_ KING _to the portrait behind
which_ HERNANI _is hiding_.]
Sire, your highness does me grace.
This, the last portrait, bears my form and name,
And you would write this motto on the frame!
"This last, sprung from the noblest and the best,
Betrayed his plighted troth, and sold his guest!"
LORD F. LEVESON GOWER (1ST EARL OF ELLESMERE)
THE LOVERS' COLLOQUY.
_("Mon duc, rien qu'un moment.")_
[HERNANI, Act V.]
One little moment to indulge the sight
With the rich beauty of the summer's night.
The harp is hushed, and, see, the torch is dim,--
Night and ourselves together. To the brim
The cup of our felicity is filled.
Each sound is mute, each harsh sensation stilled.
Dost thou not think that, e'en while nature sleeps,
Some power its amorous vigils o'er us keeps?
No cloud in heaven; while all around repose,
Come taste with me the fragrance of the rose,
Which loads the night-air with its musky breath,
While everything is still as nature's death.
E'en as you spoke--and gentle words were those
Spoken by you,--the silver moon uprose;
How that mysterious union of her ray,
With your impassioned accents, made its way
Straight to my heart! I could have wished to die
In that pale moonlight, and while thou wert by.
HERNANI. Thy words are music, and thy strain of love
Is borrowed from the choir of heaven above.
DONNA SOL. Night is too silent, darkness too profound
Oh, for a star to shine, a voice to sound--
To raise some sudden note of music now
Suited to night.
HERN. Capricious girl! your vow
Was poured for silence, and to be released
From the thronged tumult of the marriage feast.
DONNA SOL. Yes; but one bird to carol in the field,--
A nightingale, in mossy shade concealed,--
A distant flute,--for music's stream can roll
To soothe the heart, and harmonize the soul,--
O! 'twould be bliss to listen.
[_Distant sound of a horn, the signal that_ HERNANI
_must go to_ DON RUY, _who, having saved his
life, had him bound in a vow to yield it up._]
LORD F. LEVESON GOWER (1ST EARL OF ELLESMERE).
CROMWELL AND THE CROWN.
_("Ah! je le tiens enfin.")_
[CROMWELL, Act II., October, 1827.]
THURLOW _communicates the intention of Parliament to
offer_ CROMWELL _the crown_.
CROMWELL. And is it mine? And have my feet at length
Attained the summit of the rock i' the sand?
THURLOW. And yet, my lord, you have long reigned.
CROM. Nay, nay!
Power I have 'joyed, in sooth, but not the name.
Thou smilest, Thurlow. Ah, thou little know'st
What hole it is Ambition digs i' th' heart
What end, most seeming empty, is the mark
For which we fret and toil and dare! How hard
With an unrounded fortune to sit down!
Then, what a lustre from most ancient times
Heaven has flung o'er the sacred head of kings!
King--Majesty--what names of power! No king,
And yet the world's high arbiter! The thing
Without the word! no handle to the blade!
Away--the empire and the name are one!
Alack! thou little dream'st how grievous 'tis,
Emerging from the crowd, and at the top
Arrived, to feel that there is _something_ still
Above our heads; something, nothing! no matter--
That word is everything.
MILTON'S APPEAL TO CROMWELL.
_("Non! je n'y puis tenir.")_
[CROMWELL, Act III. sc. iv.]
Stay! I no longer can contain myself,
But cry you: Look on John, who bares his mind
To Oliver--to Cromwell, Milton speaks!
Despite a kindling eye and marvel deep
A voice is lifted up without your leave;
For I was never placed at council board
To speak _my_ promptings. When awed strangers come
Who've seen Fox-Mazarin wince at the stings
In my epistles--and bring admiring votes
Of learned colleges, they strain to see
My figure in the glare--the usher utters,
"Behold and hearken! that's my Lord Protector's
Cousin--that, his son-in-law--that next"--who cares!
Some perfumed puppet! "Milton?" "He in black--
Yon silent scribe who trims their eloquence!"
Still 'chronicling small-beer,'--such is my duty!
Yea, one whose thunder roared through martyr bones
Till Pope and Louis Grand quaked on their thrones,
And echoed "Vengeance for the Vaudois," where
The Sultan slumbers sick with scent of roses.
He is but the mute in this seraglio--
"Pure" Cromwell's Council!
But to be dumb and blind is overmuch!
Impatient Issachar kicks at the load!
Yet diadems are burdens painfuller,
And I would spare thee that sore imposition.
Dear brother Noll, I plead against thyself!
Thou aim'st to be a king; and, in thine heart,
What fool has said: "There is no king but thou?"
For thee the multitude waged war and won--
The end thou art of wrestlings and of prayer,
Of sleepless watch, long marches, hunger, tears
And blood prolifically spilled, homes lordless,
And homeless lords! The mass must always suffer
That one should reign! the collar's but newly clamp'd,
And nothing but the name thereon is changed--
Master? still masters! mark you not the red
Of shame unutterable in my sightless white?
Still hear me, Cromwell, speaking for your sake!
These fifteen years, we, to you whole-devoted,
Have sought for Liberty--to give it thee?
To make our interests your huckster gains?
The king a lion slain that you may flay,
And wear the robe--well, worthily--I say't,
For I will not abase my brother!
No! I would keep him in the realm serene,
My own ideal of heroes! loved o'er Israel,
And higher placed by me than all the others!
And such, for tinkling titles, hollow haloes
Like that around yon painted brow--thou! thou!
Apostle, hero, saint-dishonor thyself!
And snip and trim the flag of Naseby-field
As scarf on which the maid-of-honor's dog
Will yelp, some summer afternoon! That sword
Shrink into a sceptre! brilliant bauble! Thou,
Thrown on a lonely rock in storm of state,
Brain-turned by safety's miracle, thou risest
Upon the tott'ring stone whilst ocean ebbs,
And, reeking of no storms to come to-morrow,
Or to-morrow--deem that a certain pedestal
Whereon thou'lt be adored for e'er--e'en while
It shakes--o'ersets the rider! Tremble, thou!
For he who dazzles, makes men Samson-blind,
Will see the pillars of his palace kiss
E'en at the whelming ruin! Then, what word
Of answer from your wreck when I demand
Account of Cromwell! glory of the people
Smothered in ashes! through the dust thou'lt hear;
"What didst thou with thy virtue?" Will it respond:
"When battered helm is doffed, how soft is purple
On which to lay the head, lulled by the praise
Of thousand fluttering fans of flatterers!
Wearied of war-horse, gratefully one glides
In gilded barge, or in crowned, velvet car,
From gay Whitehall to gloomy Temple Bar--"
(Where--had you slipt, that head were bleaching now!
And that same rabble, splitting for a hedge,
Had joined their rows to cheer the active headsman;
Perchance, in mockery, they'd gird the skull
With a hop-leaf crown! Bitter the brewing, Noll!)
Are crowns the end-all of ambition? Remember
Charles Stuart! and that they who make can break!
This same Whitehall may black its front with crape,
And this broad window be the portal twice
To lead upon a scaffold! Frown! or laugh!
Laugh on as they did at Cassandra's speech!
But mark--the prophetess was right! Still laugh,
Like the credulous Ethiop in his faith in stars!
But give one thought to Stuart, two for yourself!
In his appointed hour, all was forthcoming--
Judge, axe, and deathsman veiled! and my poor eyes
Descry--as would thou saw'st!--a figure veiled,
Uplooming there--afar, like sunrise, coming!
With blade that ne'er spared Judas 'midst free brethren!
Stretch not the hand of Cromwell for the prize
Meant not for him, nor his! Thou growest old,
The people are ever young! Like her i' the chase
Who drave a dart into her lover, embowered,
Piercing the incense-clouds, the popular shaft
May slay thee in a random shot at Tyranny!
Man, friend, remain a Cromwell! in thy name,
Rule! and if thy son be worthy, he and his,
So rule the rest for ages! be it grander thus
To be a Cromwell than a Carolus.
No lapdog combed by wantons, but the watch
Upon the freedom that we won! Dismiss
Your flatterers--let no harpings, no gay songs
Prevent your calm dictation of good laws
To guard, to fortify, and keep enlinked
England and Freedom! Be thine old self alone!
And make, above all else accorded me,
My most desired claim on all posterity,
That thou in Milton's verse wert foremost of the free!
_("Vous etes singulier.")_
[MARION DELORME, Act I., June, 1829, _played_ 1831.]
MARION _(smiling.)_ You're strange, and yet I love you thus.
DIDIER. You love me?
Beware, nor with light lips utter that word.
You love me!--know you what it is to love
With love that is the life-blood in one's veins,
The vital air we breathe, a love long-smothered,
Smouldering in silence, kindling, burning, blazing,
And purifying in its growth the soul.
A love that from the heart eats every passion
But its sole self; love without hope or limit,
Deep love that will outlast all happiness;
Speak, speak; is such the love you bear me?
DIDIER. Ha! but you do not know how I love you!
The day that first I saw you, the dark world
Grew shining, for your eyes lighted my gloom.
Since then, all things have changed; to me you are
Some brightest, unknown creature from the skies.
This irksome life, 'gainst which my heart rebelled,
Seems almost fair and pleasant; for, alas!
Till I knew you wandering, alone, oppressed,
I wept and struggled, I had never loved.
THE FIRST BLACK FLAG.
_("Avez-vous oui dire?")_
[LES BURGRAVES, Part I., March, 1843.]
JOB. Hast thou ne'er heard men say
That, in the Black Wood, 'twixt Cologne and Spire,
Upon a rock flanked by the towering mountains,
A castle stands, renowned among all castles?
And in this fort, on piles of lava built,
A burgrave dwells, among all burgraves famed?
Hast heard of this wild man who laughs at laws--
Charged with a thousand crimes--for warlike deeds
Renowned--and placed under the Empire's ban
By the Diet of Frankfort; by the Council
Of Pisa banished from the Holy Church;
Reprobate, isolated, cursed--yet still
Unconquered 'mid his mountains and in will;
The bitter foe of the Count Palatine
And Treves' proud archbishop; who has spurned
For sixty years the ladder which the Empire
Upreared to scale his walls? Hast heard that he
Shelters the brave--the flaunting rich man strips--
Of master makes a slave? That here, above
All dukes, aye, kings, eke emperors--in the eyes
Of Germany to their fierce strife a prey,
He rears upon his tower, in stern defiance,
A signal of appeal to the crushed people,
A banner vast, of Sorrow's sable hue,
Snapped by the tempest in its whirlwind wrath,
So that kings quiver as the jades at whips?
Hast heard, he touches now his hundredth year--
And that, defying fate, in face of heaven,
On his invincible peak, no force of war
Uprooting other holds--nor powerful Caesar--
Nor Rome--nor age, that bows the pride of man--
Nor aught on earth--hath vanquished, or subdued,
Or bent this ancient Titan of the Rhine,
The excommunicated Job?
THE SON IN OLD AGE.
_("Ma Regina, cette noble figure.")_
[LES BURGRAVES, Part II.]
Thy noble face, Regina, calls to mind
My poor lost little one, my latest born.
He was a gift from God--a sign of pardon--
That child vouchsafed me in my eightieth year!
I to his little cradle went, and went,
And even while 'twas sleeping, talked to it.
For when one's very old, one is a child!
Then took it up and placed it on my knees,
And with both hands stroked down its soft, light hair--
Thou wert not born then--and he would stammer
Those pretty little sounds that make one smile!
And though not twelve months old, he had a mind.
He recognized me--nay, knew me right well,
And in my face would laugh--and that child-laugh,
Oh, poor old man! 'twas sunlight to my heart.
I meant him for a soldier, ay, a conqueror,
And named him George. One day--oh, bitter thought!
The child played in the fields. When thou art mother,
Ne'er let thy children out of sight to play!
The gypsies took him from me--oh, for what?
Perhaps to kill him at a witch's rite.
I weep!--now, after twenty years--I weep
As if 'twere yesterday. I loved him so!
I used to call him "my own little king!"
I was intoxicated with my joy
When o'er my white beard ran his rosy hands,
Thrilling me all through.
_Foreign Quarterly Review._
THE EMPEROR'S RETURN.
_("Un bouffon manquait a cette fete.")_
[LES BURGRAVES, Part II.]
_The EMPEROR FREDERICK BARBAROSSA, believed to be dead, appearing
as a beggar among the Rhenish nobility at a castle, suddenly reveals
HATTO. This goodly masque but lacked a fool!
First gypsy; next a beggar;--good! Thy name?
BARBAROSSA. Frederick of Swabia, Emperor of Almain.
ALL. The Red Beard?
BARBAROSSA. Aye, Frederick, by my mountain birthright Prince
O' th' Romans, chosen king, crowned emperor,
Heaven's sword-bearer, monarch of Burgundy
And Arles--the tomb of Karl I dared profane,
But have repented me on bended knees
In penance 'midst the desert twenty years;
My drink the rain, the rocky herbs my food,
Myself a ghost the shepherds fled before,
And the world named me as among the dead.
But I have heard my country call--come forth,
Lifted the shroud--broken the sepulchre.
This hour is one when dead men needs must rise.
Ye own me? Ye mind me marching through these vales
When golden spur was ringing at my heel?
Now know me what I am, your master, earls!
Brave knights you deem! You say, "The sons we are
Of puissant barons and great noblemen,
Whose honors we prolong." You _do_ prolong them?
Your sires were soldiers brave, not prowlers base,
Rogues, miscreants, felons, village-ravagers!
They made great wars, they rode like heroes forth,
And, worthy, won broad lands and towers and towns,
So firmly won that thirty years of strife
Made of their followers dukes, their leaders kings!
While you! like jackal and the bird of prey,
Who lurk in copses or 'mid muddy beds--
Crouching and hushed, with dagger ready drawn,
Hide in the noisome marsh that skirts the way,
Trembling lest passing hounds snuff out your lair!
Listen at eventide on lonesome path
For traveller's footfall, or the mule-bell's chime,
Pouncing by hundreds on one helpless man,
To cut him down, then back to your retreats--
_You_ dare to vaunt your sires? I call your sires,
Bravest of brave and greatest 'mid the great,
A line of warriors! you, a pack of thieves!