Part 5 out of 5
Truly an unfailing blessing
To his pious, widowed mother,
To the beautiful, lone matron
Who forswore the world to rear him.
For her beauty hath but ripened
In such wise as the pomegranate
Putteth by her crown of blossoms,
For her richer crown of fruitage.
Still her hand is claimed and courted,
Still she spurns her proudest suitors,
Doting on a phantom passion,
And upon her boy Pedrillo.
Like a saint lives Donna Clara,
First at matins, last at vespers,
Half her fortune she expendeth
Buying masses for the needy.
Visiting the poor afflicted,
Infinite is her compassion,
Scorning not the Moorish beggar,
Nor the wretched Jew despising.
And--a scandal to the faithful,
E'en she hath been known to welcome
To her castle the young Rabbi,
Offering to his tribe her bounty.
Rarely hath he crossed the threshold,
Yet the thought that he hath crossed it,
Burns like poison in the marrow
Of the zealous youth Pedrillo.
By the blessed Saint Iago,
He hath vowed immortal hatred
To these circumcised intruders
Who pollute the soil of Spaniards.
Seated in his mother's garden,
At high noon the boy Pedrillo
Playeth with his favorite parrot,
Golden-green with streaks of scarlet.
"Pretty Dodo, speak thy lesson,"
Coaxed Pedrillo--"thief and traitor"--
"Thief and traitor"--croaked the parrot,
"Is the yellow-skirted Rabbi."
And the boy with peals of laughter,
Stroked his favorite's head of emerald,
Raised his eyes, and lo! before him
Stood the yellow-skirted Rabbi.
In his dark eyes gleamed no anger,
No hot flush o'erspread his features.
'Neath his beard his pale lips quivered,
And a shadow crossed his forehead.
Very gentle was his aspect,
And his voice was mild and friendly,
"Evil words, my son, thou speakest,
Teaching to the fowls of heaven.
"In our Talmud it stands written,
Thrice curst is the tongue of slander,
Poisoning also with its victim,
Him who speaks and him who listens."
But no whit abashed, Pedrillo,
"What care I for curse of Talmud?
'T is no slander to speak evil
Of the murderers of our Saviour.
"To your beard I will repeat it,
That I only bide my manhood,
To wreak all my lawful hatred,
On thyself and on thy people."
Very gently spoke the Rabbi,
"Have a care, my son Pedrillo,
Thou art orphaned, and who knoweth
But thy father loved this people?"
"Think you words like these will touch me?
Such I laugh to scorn, sir Rabbi,
From high heaven, my sainted father
On my deeds will smile in blessing.
"Loyal knight was he and noble,
And my mother oft assures me,
Ne'er she saw so pure a Christian,
'T is from him my zeal deriveth."
"What if he were such another
As myself who stand before thee?"
"I should curse the hour that bore me,
I should die of shame and horror."
"Harsher is thy creed than ours;
For had I a son as comely
As Pedrillo, I would love him,
Love him were he thrice a Christian.
"In his youth my youth renewing
Pamper, fondle, die to serve him,
Only breathing through his spirit--
Couldst thou not love such a father?"
Faltering spoke the deep-voiced Rabbi,
With white lips and twitching fingers,
Then in clear, young, steady treble,
Answered him the boy Pedrillo:
"At the thought my heart revolteth,
All your tribe offend my senses,
They're an eyesore to my vision,
And a stench unto my nostrils.
"When I meet these unbelievers,
With thick lips and eagle noses,
Thus I scorn them, thus revile them,
Thus I spit upon their garment."
And the haughty youth passed onward,
Bearing on his wrist his parrot,
And the yellow-skirted Rabbi
With bowed head sought Donna Clara.
Golden lights and lengthening shadows,
Flings the splendid sun declining,
O'er the monastery garden
Rich in flower, fruit and foliage.
Through the avenue of nut trees,
Pace two grave and ghostly friars,
Snowy white their gowns and girdles,
Black as night their cowls and mantles.
Lithe and ferret-eyed the younger,
Black his scapular denoting
A lay brother; his companion
Large, imperious, towers above him.
'T is the abbot, great Fra Pedro,
Famous through all Saragossa
For his quenchless zeal in crushing
Heresy amidst his townfolk.
Handsome still with hood and tonsure,
E'en as when the boy Pedrillo,
Insolent with youth and beauty,
Who reviled the gentle Rabbi.
Lo, the level sun strikes sparkles
From his dark eyes brightly flashing.
Stern his voice: "These too shall perish.
I have vowed extermination.
"Tell not me of skill or virtue,
Filial love or woman's beauty--
Jews are Jews, as serpents serpents,
In themselves abomination."
Earnestly the other pleaded,
"If my zeal, thrice reverend master,
E'er afforded thee assistance,
Serving thee as flesh serves spirit,
"Hounding, scourging, flaying, burning,
Casting into chains or exile,
At thy bidding these vile wretches,
Hear and heed me now, my master.
"These be nowise like their brethren,
Ben Jehudah is accounted
Saragossa's first physician,
Loved by colleague as by patient.
"And his daughter Donna Zara
Is our city's pearl of beauty,
Like the clusters of the vineyard
Droop the ringlets o'er her temples.
"Like the moon in starry heavens
Shines her face among her people,
And her form hath all the languor,
Grace and glamour of the palm-tree.
"Well thou knowest, thrice reverend master,
This is not their first affliction,
Was it not our Holy Office
Whose bribed menials fired their dwelling?
"Ere dawn broke, the smoke ascended,
Choked the stairways, filled the chambers,
Waked the household to the terror
Of the flaming death that threatened.
"Then the poor bed-ridden mother
Knew her hour had come; two daughters,
Twinned in form, and mind, and spirit,
And their father--who would save them?
"Towards her door sprang Ben Jehudah,
Donna Zara flew behind him
Round his neck her white arms wreathing,
Drew him from the burning chamber.
"There within, her sister Zillah
Stirred no limb to shun her torture,
Held her mother's hand and kissed her,
Saying, 'We will go together.'
"This the outer throng could witness,
As the flames enwound the dwelling,
Like a glory they illumined
Awfully the martyred daughter.
"Closer, fiercer, round they gathered,
Not a natural cry escaped her,
Helpless clung to her her mother,
Hand in hand they went together.
"Since that 'Act of Faith' three winters
Have rolled by, yet on the forehead
Of Jehudah is imprinted
Still the horror of that morning.
"Saragossa hath respected
His false creed; a man of sorrows,
He hath walked secure among us,
And his art repays our sufferance."
Thus he spoke and ceased. The Abbot
Lent him an impatient hearing,
Then outbroke with angry accent,
"We have borne three years, thou sayest?
"'T is enough; my vow is sacred.
These shall perish with their brethren.
Hark ye! In my veins' pure current
Were a single drop found Jewish,
"I would shrink not from outpouring
All my life blood, but to purge it.
Shall I gentler prove to others?
Mercy would be sacrilegious.
"Ne'er again at thy soul's peril,
Speak to me of Jewish beauty,
Jewish skill, or Jewish virtue.
I have said. Do thou remember."
Down behind the purple hillside
Dropped the sun; above the garden
Rang the Angelus' clear cadence
Summoning the monks to vespers.
TRANSLATIONS FROM PETRARCH.
IN VITA. LXVII.
Since thou and I have proven many a time
That all our hope betrays us and deceives,
To that consummate good which never grieves
Uplift thy heart, towards a happier clime.
This life is like a field of flowering thyme,
Amidst the herbs and grass the serpent lives;
If aught unto the sight brief pleasure gives,
'T is but to snare the soul with treacherous lime.
So, wouldst thou keep thy spirit free from cloud,
A tranquil habit to thy latest day,
Follow the few, and not the vulgar crowd.
Yet mayest thou urge, "Brother, the very way
Thou showest us, wherefrom thy footsteps proud
(And never more than now) so oft did stray."
IN VITA. LXXVI.
Sennuccio, I would have thee know the shame
That's dealt to me, and what a life is mine.
Even as of yore, I struggle, burn and pine.
Laura transports me, I am still the same.
All meekness here, all pride she there became,
Now harsh, now kind, now cruel, now benign;
Here honor clothed her, there a grace divine;
Now gentle, now disdainful of my flame.
Here sweetly did she sing; there sat awhile;
There she turned back, she lingered in this spot.
Here with her splendid eyes my heart she clove.
She uttered there a word, and here did smile.
Here she changed color. Ah, in such fond thought,
Holds me by day and night, our master Love.
IN VITA. CV.
I saw on earth angelic graces beam,
Celestial beauty in our world below,
Whose mere remembrance thrills with grief and woe;
All I see now seems shadow, smoke and dream.
I saw in those twin-lights the tear-drops gleam,
Those lights that made the sun with envy glow,
And from those lips such sighs and words did flow,
As made revolve the hills, stand still the stream.
Love, courage, wit, pity and pain in one,
Wept in more dulcet and harmonious strain,
Than any other that the world has known.
So rapt was heaven in the dear refrain,
That not a leaf upon the branch was blown,
Such utter sweetness filled the aerial plain.
IN VITA. CIX.
The God of Love and I in wonder stared,
(Ne'er having gazed on miracles ere now,)
Upon my lady's smiling lips and brow,
Who only with herself may be compared.
Neath the calm beauty of her forehead bared,
Those twin stars of my love did burn and flow,
No lesser lamps again the path might show
To the proud lover who by these had fared.
Oh miracle, when on the grass at rest,
Herself a flower, she would clasp and hold
A leafy branch against her snow-white breast.
What joy to see her, in the autumn cold,
Wander alone, with maiden thoughts possess'd,
Weaving a garland of dry, crispy gold!
IN MORTE. II. ON THE DEATH OF CARDINAL
COLONNA AND LAURA.
The noble Column, the green Laurel-tree
Are fall'n, that shaded once my weary mind.
Now I have lost what I shall never find,
From North to South, from Red to Indian Sea.
My double treasure Death has filched from me,
Which made me proud and happy midst my kind.
Nor may all empires of the world combined,
Nor Orient gems, nor gold restore the key.
But if this be according to Fate's will,
What may I do, but wander heavy-souled,
With ever downcast head, eyes weeping still?
O life of ours, so lovely to behold,
In one brief morn how easily dost thou spill
That which we toiled for years to gain and hold!
IN MORTE. XLIII.
Yon nightingale who mourns so plaintively
Perchance his fledglings or his darling mate,
Fills sky and earth with sweetness, warbling late,
Prophetic notes of melting melody.
All night, he, as it were, companions me,
Reminding me of my so cruel fate,
Mourning no other grief save mine own state,
Who knew not Death reigned o'er divinity.
How easy 't is to dupe the soul secure!
Those two fair lamps, even than the sun more bright,
Who ever dreamed to see turn clay obscure?
But Fortune has ordained, I now am sure,
That I, midst lifelong tears, should learn aright,
Naught here can make us happy, or endure.
IN VITA. CANZONE XI.
O waters fresh and sweet and clear,
Where bathed her lovely frame,
Who seems the only lady unto me;
O gentle branch and dear,
(Sighing I speak thy name,)
Thou column for her shapely thighs, her supple knee;
O grass, O flowers, which she
Swept with her gown that veiled
The angelic breast unseen;
O sacred air serene,
Whence the divine-eyed Love my heart assailed,
By all of ye be heard
This my supreme lament, my dying word.
Oh, if it be my fate
(As Heaven shall so decree)
That Love shall close for me my weeping eyes,
Some courteous friend I supplicate
Midst these to bury me,
Whilst my enfranchised spirit homeward flies;
Less dreadful death shall rise,
If I may bear this hope
To that mysterious goal.
For ne'er did weary soul
Find a more restful spot in all Earth's scope,
Nor in a grave more tranquil could win free
From outworn flesh and weary limbs to flee.
Perchance the time shall be
When to my place of rest,
With milder grace my wild fawn shall return
Here where she looked on me
Upon that day thrice blest:
Then she shall bend her radiant eyes that yearn
In search of me, and (piteous sight!) shall learn
That I, amidst the stones, am clay.
May love inspire her in such wise,
With gentlest breath of sighs,
That I, a stony corpse, shall hear her pray,
And force the very skies,
That I may wipe the tears from her dear eyes.
From the fair boughs descended
(Thrice precious memory!)
Upon her lap a shower of fragrant bloom
Amidst that glory splendid,
Humbly reposed she,
Attired as with an aureole's golden gloom.
Some blossoms edged her skirt, and some
Fell on her yellow curls,
Like burnished gold and pearls,
Even so they looked to me upon that day.
Some on the ground, some on the river lay,
Some lightly fluttering above,
Encircling her, seemed whispering: "Here reigns Love."
How many times I cried,
As holy fear o'ercame,
"Surely this creature sprang from Paradise,"
Forgetting all beside
Her goddess mien, her frame,
Her face, her words, her lovely smile, her eyes.
All these did so devise
To win me from the truth, alas!
That I did say and sigh,
"How came I hither, when and why?"
Deeming myself in heaven, not where I was.
Henceforth this grassy spot
I love so much, peace elsewhere find I not.
My Song, wert thou adorned to thy desire,
Thou couldst go boldly forth
And wander from my lips o'er all the earth.
FRAGMENT. CANZONE XII. 5.
I never see, after nocturnal rain,
The wandering stars move through the air serene,
And flame forth 'twixt the dew-fall and the rime,
But I behold her radiant eyes wherein
My weary spirit findeth rest from pain;
As dimmed by her rich veil, I saw her the first time;
The very heaven beamed with the light sublime
Of their celestial beauty; dewy-wet
Still do they shine, and I am burning yet.
Now if the rising sun I see,
I feel the light that hath enamored me.
Or if he sets, I follow him, when he
Bears elsewhere his eternal light,
Leaving behind the shadowy waves of night.
FRAGMENT. TRIONFO D' AMORE.
I know how well Love shoots, how swift his flight,
How now by force and now by stealth he steals,
How he will threaten now, anon will smite,
And how unstable are his chariot wheels.
How doubtful are his hopes, how sure his pain,
And how his faithful promise he repeals.
How in one's marrow, in one's vital vein,
His smouldering fire quickens a hidden wound,
Where death is manifest, destruction plain.
In sum, how erring, fickle and unsound,
How timid and how bold are lovers' days,
Where with scant sweetness bitter draughts abound.
I know their songs, their sighs, their usual ways,
Their broken speech, their sudden silences.
Their passing laughter and their grief that stays,
I know how mixed with gall their honey is.
FRAGMENT. TRIONFO DELLA MORTE.
Now since nor grief nor fear was longer there,
Each thought on her fair face was clear to see,
Composed into the calmness of despair--
Not like a flame extinguished violently,
But one consuming of its proper light.
Even so, in peace, serene of soul, passed she.
Even as a lamp, so lucid, softly-bright,
Whose sustenance doth fail by slow degrees,
Wearing unto the end, its wonted plight.
Not pale, but whiter than the snow one sees
Flaking a hillside through the windless air.
Like one o'erwearied, she reposed in peace
As 't were a sweet sleep filled each lovely eye,
The soul already having fled from there.
And this is what dull fools have named to die.
Upon her fair face death itself seemed fair.
TRANSLATIONS FROM ALFRED DE MUSSET.
THE MAY NIGHT.
Give me a kiss, my poet, take thy lyre;
The buds are bursting on the wild sweet-briar.
To-night the Spring is born--the breeze takes fire.
Expectant of the dawn behold the thrush,
Perched on the fresh branch of the first green bush;
Give me a kiss, my poet, take thy lyre.
How black it looks within the vale!
I thought a muffled form did sail
Above the tree-tops, through the air.
It seemed from yonder field to pass,
Its foot just grazed the tender grass;
A vision strange and fair it was.
It melts and is no longer there.
My poet, take thy lyre; upon the lawn
Night rocks the zephyr on her veiled, soft breast.
The rose, still virgin, holds herself withdrawn
From the winged, irised wasp with love possessed.
Hark, all is hushed. Now of thy sweetheart dream;
To-day the sunset, with a lingering beam,
Caressed the dusky-foliaged linden-grove.
All things shall bloom to-night; great Nature thrills,
Her couch with perfume, passion, sighs, she fills,
Like to the nuptial bed of youthful love.
Why throbs my heart so fast, so low?
What sets my seething blood aglow,
And fills my sense with vague affright?
Who raps upon my chamber-door?
My lamp's spent ray upon the floor,
Why does it dazzle me with light?
Great God! my limbs sink under me!
Who enters? who is calling? none!
The clock strikes--I am all alone--
تتتتتO solitude! O poverty!
My poet, take thy lyre. Youth's living wine
Ferments to-night within the veins divine.
My breast is troubled, stifling with desire,
The panting breeze has set my lips afire;
O listless child, behold me, I am fair!
Our first embrace dost thou so soon forget?
How pale thou wast, when my wing grazed thy hair.
Into mine arms thou fell'st, with eyelids wet!
Oh, in thy bitter grief, I solaced thee,
Dying of love, thy youthful strength outworn.
Now I shall die of hope--oh comfort me!
I need thy prayers to live until the morn.
Is it thy voice my spirit knows,
O darling Muse! And canst thou be
My own immortal one? my rose,
Sole pure and faithful heart where glows
A lingering spark of love for me?
Yes, it is thou, with tresses bright,
'T is thou, my sister and my bride.
I feel amidst the shadowy night,
From thy gold gown the rays of light
Within my heart's recesses glide.
My poet, take thy lyre. 'T is I, undying,
Who seeing thee to-night so sad and dumb,
Like to the mother-bird whose brood is crying,
From utmost heaven to weep with thee have come.
My friend, thou sufferest; a secret woe
Gnaws at thy life, thou sighest in the night.
Love visits thee, such love as mortals know,
Shadow of gladness, semblance of delight.
Rise, sing to God the thoughts that fill thy brain,
Thy buried pleasures and thy long-past pain.
Come, with a kiss, where unknown regions gleam,
Awake the mingling echoes of thy days,
Sing of thy folly, glory, joy and praise,
Be all an unpremeditated dream!
Let us invent a realm where one forgets,
Come, we are all alone, the world is ours.
Green Scotland tawny Italy offsets;
Lo, Greece my mother, with her honeyed flowers,
Argos and Pteleon with its shrines and groves,
Celestial Messa populous with doves;
And Pelion with his shaggy, changing brow,
Blue Titaresus, and the gulf of steel,
Whose waves that glass the floating swan, reveal
Snowy Camyre to Oloossone's snow.
Tell me what golden dreams shall charm our sleep,
Whence shall be drawn the tears that we shall weep?
This morning when thy lids were touched with light,
What pensive seraph, bending kindly near,
Dropped lilacs from his airy robe of white,
And whispered beams of love within thine ear?
Say, shall we sing of sadness, joy or hope?
Or bathe in blood the settled, steel-clad ranks?
See lovers mount the ladder's silken rope?
Or fleck the wind with coursers' foaming flanks?
Or shall we tell whose hand the lamps above,
In the celestial mansions, year by year,
Kindles with sacred oil of life and love?
With Tarquin shall we cry, "Come, night is here!"
Or shall we dive for pearls beneath the seas,
Or find the wild goats by the alpine trees?
Bid melancholy gaze upon the skies?
Follow the huntsman on the upland lawns?
The roe uplifts her tearful, suppliant eyes,
Her heath awaits her, and her suckling fawns;
He stoops, he slaughters her, he flings her heart
Still warm amidst his panting hounds apart.
Or shall we paint a maid with vermeil cheek,
Who, with her page behind, to vespers fares,
Beside her mother, dreamy-eyed and meek,
And on her half-oped lips forgets her prayers,
Trembles midst echoing columns, hearkening
To hear her bold knight's clanging spurs outring.
Or shall we bid the heroes of old France
Scale full equipped the battlemented wall,
And so revive the simple-strained romance
Their fame inspired our troubadours withal?
Or shall we clothe soft elegies in white?
Or bid the man of Waterloo recite
His story, and the crop mown by his art,
Or ere the herald of eternal night
On his green mound with fatal wing did smite
And cross his hands above his iron heart?
Or shall we gibbet on some satire here
The name thrice-bought of some pale pamphleteer,
Who, hunger-goaded, from his haunts obscure,
Dared, quivering with impotence and spite,
Insult the hope on Genius' brow of light,
And gnaw the wreath his breath had made impure?
The lyre! the lyre! I can be still no more.
Upon the breath of spring my pinions fly.
The air supports me--from the earth I soar,
Thou weepest--God has heard--the hour is nigh!
Dear sister, if thou ask but this,
From friendly lips a gentle kiss,
Or one soft tear from kindly eyes,
These will I gladly give to thee.
Our love remember tenderly,
If thou remountest to the skies.
No longer I of hope shall sing,
Of fame or joy, of love or art,
Alas, not even of suffering,
My lips are locked--I lean and cling,
To hear the whisper of my heart.
What! am I like the autumn breeze for you,
Which feeds on tears even to the very grave,
For whom all grief is but a drop of dew?
O poet, but one kiss--'t was I who gave.
The weed I fain would root from out this sod
Is thine own sloth--thy grief belongs to God.
Whatever sorrow thy young heart have found,
Open it well, this ever-sacred wound
Dealt by dark angels--give thy soul relief.
Naught makes us nobler than a noble grief.
Yet deem not, poet, though this pain have come,
That therefore, here below, thou mayst be dumb.
Best are the songs most desperate in their woe--
Immortal ones, which are pure sobs I know.
When the wave-weary pelican once more,
Midst evening-vapors, gains his nest of reeds,
His famished brood run forward on the shore
To see where high above the surge he speeds.
As though even now their prey they could destroy,
They hasten to their sire with screams of joy,
On swollen necks wagging their beaks, they cry;
He slowly wins at last a lofty rock,
Shelters beneath his drooping wing his flock,
And, a sad fisher, gazes on the sky.
Adown his open breast the blood flows there;
Vainly he searched the ocean's deepest part,
The sea was empty and the shore was bare,
And for all nourishment he brings his heart.
Sad, silent, on the stone, he gives his brood
His father-entrails and his father-blood,
Lulls with his love sublime his cruel pain,
And, watching on his breast the ruddy stain,
Swoons at the fatal banquet from excess
Of horror and voluptuous tenderness.
Sudden amidst the sacrifice divine,
Outworn with such protracted suffering,
He fears his flock may let him live and pine;
Then up he starts, expands his mighty wing,
Beating his heart, and with a savage cry
Bids a farewell of such funereal tone
That the scared seabirds from their rock-nests fly,
And the late traveller on the beach alone
Commends his soul to God--for death floats by.
Even such, O poet, is the poet's fate.
His life sustains the creatures of a day.
The banquets served upon his feasts of state
Are like the pelican's--sublime as they.
And when he tells the world of hopes betrayed,
Forgetfulness and grief, of love and hate,
His music does not make the heart dilate,
His eloquence is as an unsheathed blade,
Tracing a glittering circle in mid-air,
While blood drips from the edges keen and bare.
O Muse, insatiate soul, demand
No more than lies in human power.
Man writes no word upon the sand
Even at the furious whirlwind's hour.
There was a time when joyous youth
Forever fluttered at my mouth,
A merry, singing bird, just freed.
Strange martyrdom has since been mine,
Should I revive its slightest sign,
At the first note, my lyre and thine
Would snap asunder like a reed.
THE OCTOBER NIGHT.
My haunting grief has vanished like a dream,
Its floating fading memory seems one
With those frail mists born of the dawn's first beam,
Dissolving as the dew melts in the sun.
What ailed thee then, O poet mine;
What secret misery was thine,
Which set a bar 'twixt thee and me?
Alas, I suffer from it still;
What was this grief, this unknown ill,
Which I have wept so bitterly?
'T was but a common grief, well known of men.
But, look you, when our heavy heart is sore,
Fond wretches that we are! we fancy then
That sorrow never has been felt before.
There cannot be a common grief,
Save that of common souls; my friend,
Speak out, and give thy heart relief,
Of this grim secret make an end.
Confide in me, and have no fear.
The God of silence, pale, austere,
Is younger brother unto death.
Even as we mourn we're comforted,
And oft a single word is said
Which from remorse delivereth.
If I were bound this day to tell my woe,
I know not by what name to call my pain,
Love, folly, pride, experience--neither know
If one in all the world might thereby gain.
Yet ne'ertheless I'll voice the tale to thee,
Alone here by the hearth. But do thou take
This lyre--come nearer--so; my memory
Shall gently with the harmonies awake.
But first, or ere thy grief thou say,
My poet, art thou healed thereof?
Bethink thee, thou must speak to-day,
As free from hatred as from love.
For man has given the holy name
Of consolation unto me.
Make me no partner of thy shame,
In passions that have ruined thee.
Of my old wounds I am so sound and whole,
Almost I doubt they were, nor find their trace;
And in the passes where I risked my soul,
In mine own stead I see a stranger's face.
Muse, have no fear, we both may yield awhile
To this first inspiration of regret.
Oh, it is good to weep, 't is good to smile,
Remembering sorrows we might else forget.
As the watchful mother stoops
O'er her infant's cradled rest,
So my trembling spirit droops
O'er this long-closed, silent breast.
Speak! I touch the lyre's sweet strings,
Feebly, plaintively it sings,
With thy voice set free at last.
While athwart a radiant beam,
Like a light, enchanted dream,
Float the shadows of the past.
My days of work! sole days whereon I lived!
O thrice-beloved solitude!
Now God be praised, once more I have arrived
In this old study bare and rude.
These oft-deserted walls, this shabby den,
My faithful lamp, my dusty chair,
My palace, my small world I greet again,
My Muse, immortal, young and fair.
Thank God! we twain may sing here side by side,
I will reveal to thee my thought.
Thou shalt know all, to thee I will confide
The evil by a woman wrought.
A woman, yes! (mayhap, poor friends, ye guess,
Or ever I have said the word!)
To such a one my soul was bound, no less
Than is the vassal to his lord.
Detested yoke! within me to destroy
The vigor and the bloom of youth!
Yet only through my love I caught, in sooth,
A fleeting glimpse of joy.
When by the brook, beneath the evening-star,
On silver sands we twain would stray,
The white wraith of the aspen tree afar
Pointed for us the dusky way.
Once more within the moonlight do I see
That fair form sink upon my breast;
No more of that! Alas, I never guessed
Whither my fate was leading me.
The angry gods some victim craved, I fear,
At that ill-omened time,
Since they have punished me as for a crime,
For trying to be happy here!
A vision of remembered joy
Reveals itself to thee once more;
Why fearest thou to live it o'er,
Retracing it without annoy?
Wouldst thou confide the truth to me,
And yet those golden days disprove?
If fate has been unkind to thee,
Do thou no less, my friend, than she,
And smile upon thine early love.
Rather I dare to smile upon my woe.
Muse, I have said it, I would fain review
My crosses, visions, frenzy,--calmly show
The hour, place, circumstance, in order due.
'T was an autumnal evening, I recall,
Chill, gloomy; this one brings it back again.
The murmuring wind's monotonous rise and fall
Lulled sombre care within my weary brain.
I waited at the casement for my love,
And listening in the darkness black as death,
Such melancholy did my spirit move
That all at once I doubted of her faith.
The street wherein I dwelt was lonely, poor,
Lantern in hand, at times, a shade passed by,
When the gale whistled through the half-oped door.
One seemed to hear afar a human sigh.
I know not to what omen, sooth to say,
My superstitious spirit fell a prey.
Vainly I summoned courage--coward-like
I shuddered when the clock began to strike.
She did not come! Alone, with downcast head,
I stared at street and walls like one possessed.
How may I tell the insensate passion bred
By that inconstant woman in my breast!
I loved but her in all the world. One day
Apart from her seemed worse than death to me.
Yet I remember how I did essay
That cruel night to snap my chain, go free.
I named her traitress, serpent, o'er and o'er,
Recalled the anguish suffered for her sake,
Alas! her fatal beauty rose once more,
What grief, what torture in my heart to wake!
At last morn broke; with waiting vain outworn,
I fell asleep against the casement there.
I oped my lids upon the day new born,
My dazzled glance swam in the radiant air.
Then on the outer staircase, suddenly,
I heard soft steps ascend the narrow flight.
Save me, Great God! I see her--it is she!
Whence com'st thou? speak, where hast thou been this night?
What dost thou seek? who brings thee here thus late?
Where has this lovely form reclined till day,
While I alone must watch and weep and wait?
Where, and on whom hast thou been smiling, say!
Out, insolent traitress! canst thou come accurst,
And offer to my kiss thy lips' ripe charms?
What cravest thou? By what unhallowed thirst
Darest thou allure me to thy jaded arms?
Avaunt, begone! ghost of my mistress dead,
Back to thy grave! avoid the morning's beam!
Be my lost youth no more remembered!
And when I think of thee, I'll know it was a dream!
Be calm! I beg thee, I implore!
I shudder, hearing of thy pain.
O dearest friend, thy wound once more
Is opening to bleed again.
Is it so very deep, alas!
How slowly do the traces pass
Of this world's troubles! Thou, my son,
Forget her! let thy memory shun
Even to this woman's very name,
My pitying lips refuse to frame.
Shame upon her, who first
Treason and falsehood taught!
With grief and wrath accurst,
Who set my brain distraught.
Shame, woman baleful-eyed,
Whose fatal love entombed
In shadows of thy pride
My April ere it bloomed.
It was thy voice, thy smile,
Thy poisoned glances bright,
Which taught me to revile
The semblance of delight.
Thy grace of girlish years
Murdered my peace, my sleep.
If I lose faith in tears,
'T is that I saw thee weep.
I yielded to thy power
A child's simplicity.
As to the dawn the flower,
So oped my heart to thee.
Doubtless this helpless heart
Was thine without defence.
Were 't not the better part
To spare its innocence?
Shame! thou who didst beget
My earliest, youngest woe.
The tears are streaming yet
Which first thou madest flow.
Quenchless this source is found
Which thou hast first unsealed.
It issues from a wound
That never may be healed.
But in the bitter wave
I shall be clean restored,
And from my soul shall lave
Thy memory abhorred!
Poet, enough! Though but one single day
Lasted thy dream of her who faithless proved,
That day insult not; whatsoe'er thou say,
Respect thy love, if thou would be beloved.
If human weakness find the task too great
Of pardoning the wrongs by others done,
At least the torture spare thyself of hate,
In place of pardon seek oblivion.
The dead lie peaceful in the earth asleep,
So our extinguished passions too, should rest.
Dust are those relics also; let us keep
Our hands from violence to their ashes blest.
Why, in this story of keen pain, my friend,
Wilt thou refuse naught but a dream to see?
Does Nature causeless act, to no wise end?
Think'st thou a heedless God afflicted thee?
Mayhap the blow thou weepest was to save.
Child, it has oped thy heart to seek relief;
Sorrow is lord to man, and man a slave,
None knows himself till he has walked with grief,--
A cruel law, but none the less supreme,
Old as the world, yea, old as destiny.
Sorrow baptizes us, a fatal scheme;
All things at this sad price we still must buy.
The harvest needs the dew to make it ripe,
And man to live, to feel, has need of tears.
Joy chooses a bruised plant to be her type,
That, drenched with rain, still many a blossom bears.
Didst thou not say this folly long had slept?
Art thou not happy, young, a welcome guest?
And those light pleasures that give life its zest,
How wouldst thou value if thou hadst not wept?
When, lying in the sunlight on the grass,
Freely thou drink'st with some old friend--confess,
Wouldst thou so cordially uplift thy glass,
Hadst thou not weighed the worth of cheerfulness?
Would flowers be so dear unto thy heart,
The verse of Petrarch, warblings of the bird,
Shakespeare and Nature, Angelo and Art,
But that thine ancient sobs therein thou heard?
Couldst thou conceive the ineffable peace of heaven,
Night's silence, murmurs of the wave that flows,
If sleeplessness and fever had not driven
Thy thought to yearn for infinite repose?
By a fair woman's love art thou not blest?
When thou dost hold and clasp her hand in thine,
Does not the thought of woes that once possessed,
Make all the sweeter now her smile divine?
Wander ye not together, thou and she,
Midst blooming woods, on sands like silver bright?
Does not the white wraith of the aspen-tree
In that green palace, mark the path at night?
And seest thou not, within the moon's pale ray,
Her lovely form sink on thy breast again?
If thou shouldst meet with Fortune on thy way,
Wouldst thou not follow singing, in her train?
What hast thou to regret? Immortal Hope
Is shaped anew in thee by Sorrow's hand.
Why hate experience that enlarged thy scope?
Why curse the pain that made thy soul expand?
Oh pity her! so false, so fair to see,
Who from thine eyes such bitter tears did press,
She was a woman. God revealed to thee,
Through her, the secret of all happiness.
Her task was hard; she loved thee, it may be,
Yet must she break thy heart, so fate decreed.
She knew the world, she taught it unto thee,
Another reaps the fruit of her misdeed.
Pity her! dreamlike did her love disperse,
She saw thy wound--nor could thy pain remove.
All was not falsehood in those tears of hers--
Pity her, though it were,--for thou canst love!
True! Hate is blasphemy.
With horror's thrill, I start,
This sleeping snake to see,
Uncoil within my heart.
Oh Goddess, hear my cries,
My vow to thee is given,
By my beloved's blue eyes,
And by the azure heaven,
By yonder spark of flame,
Yon trembling pearl, the star
That beareth Venus' name,
And glistens from afar,
By Nature's glorious scheme,
The infinite grace of God,
The planet's tranquil beam
That cheers the traveler's road,
The grass, the water-course,
Woods, fields with dew impearled,
The quenchless vital force,
The sap of all the world,--
I banish from my heart
This reckless passion's ghost,
Mysterious shade, depart!
In the dark past be lost!
And thou whom once I met
As friend, while thou didst live,
The hour when I forget,
I likewise should forgive.
Let me forgive! I break
The long-uniting spell.
With a last tear, oh take,
Take thou, a last farewell.
Now, gold-haired, pensive Muse,
On to our pleasures! Sing--
Some joyous carol choose,
As in the dear old Spring.
Mark, how the dew-drenched lawn
Scents the auroral hour.
Waken my love with dawn,
And pluck her garden's flower.
Immortal nature, see!
Casts slumber's veil away.
New born with her are we
In morning's earliest ray.
NOTES TO "EPISTLE" OF JOSHUA IBN VIVES OF ALLORQUI.
The life and character of Paulus de Santa Maria are thus described
by Dr. Graetz:--
"Among the Jews baptized in 1391, no other wrought so much harm to
his race as the Rabbi Solomon Levi of Burgos, known to Christians
as Paulus Burgensis, or de Santa Maria (born about 1351-52, died
1435) who rose to very high ecclesiastical and political rank. . . .
He had no philosophical culture; on the contrary, as a Jew, he had
been extremely devout, observing scrupulously all the rites, and
regarded as a pillar of Judaism in his own circle. . . . Possessed
by ambition and vanity, the synagogue where he had passed a short
time in giving and receiving instruction, appeared to him too narrow
and restricted a sphere. He longed for a bustling activity, aimed
at a position at court, in whatever capacity, began to live on a
grand scale, maintained a sumptuous equipage, a spirited team, and
a numerous retinue of servants. As his affairs brought him into
daily contact with Christians and entangled him in religious
discussions, he studied ecclesiastical literature in order to
display his erudition. The bloody massacre of 1391 robbed him of
all hope of reaching eminence as a Jew, in his fortieth year, and
he abruptly resolved to be baptized. The lofty degree of dignity
which he afterwards attained in Church and State, may even then have
floated alluringly before his mind. In order to profit by his
apostasy, the convert Paulus de Santa Maria gave out that he had
voluntarily embraced Christianity, the theological writings of the
Scholiast Thomas of Aquinas having taken hold of his inmost
convictions. The Jews, however, mistrusted his credulity, and
knowing him well, they ascribed this step to his ambition and his
thirst for fame. His family, consisting of a wife and son, renounced
him when he changed his faith. . . . He studied theology in the
University of Paris, and then visited the papal court of Avignon,
where Cardinal Pedro de Juna had been elected papal antagonist to
Benedict XIII. of Rome. The church feud and the schism between the
two Popes offered the most favorable opportunity for intrigues and
claims. Paulus, by his cleverness, his zeal, and his eloquence, won
the favor of the Pope, who discerned in him a useful tool. Thus he
became successively Archdeacon of Trevinjo, Canon of Seville, Bishop
of Cartagena, Chancellor of Castile, and Privy Councillor to King
Henry III. of Spain. With tongue and pen he attacked Judaism, and
Jewish literature provided him with the necessary weapons. Intelligent
Jews rightly divined in this convert to Christianity their bitterest
enemy, and entered into a contest with him. . . .
The campaign against the malignity of Paul de Santa Maria was
opened by a young man who had formerly sat at his feet, Joshua ben
Joseph Ibn Vives, from the town of Lorca or Allorqui, a physician
and Arabic scholar. In an epistle written in a tone of humility as
from a docile pupil to a revered master, he deals his apostate
teacher heavy blows, and under the show of doubt he shatters the
foundations of Christianity. He begins by saying that the apostasy
of his beloved teacher to whom his loyal spirit had formerly clung,
has amazed him beyond measure and aroused in him many serious
reflections. He can only conceive four possible motives for such a
surprising step. Either Paulus has been actuated by ambition, love
of wealth, pomp, and the satisfaction of the senses, or else by doubt
of the truth of Judaism upon philosophic grounds, and has renounced
therefore the religion which afforded him so little freedom and
security; or else he has foreseen through the latest cruel
persecutions of the Jews in Spain, the total extinction of the race;
or, finally, he may have become convinced of the truth of Christianity.
The writer enters therefore into an examination based upon his
acquaintance with the character of his former master, as to which of
these four motives is most likely to have occasioned the act. He
cannot believe that ambition and covetousness prompted it, "For I
remember when you used to be surrounded by wealth and attendants, you
sighed regretfully for your previous humble station, for your retired
life and communion with wisdom, and regarded your actual brilliant
position as an unsatisfactory sham happiness. Neither can Allorqui
admit that Paulus had been disturbed by philosophic scepticism, for
to the day of his baptism he had observed all the Jewish customs and
had only accepted that little kernel of philosophy which accords
with faith, always rejecting the pernicious outward shell. He must
also discard the theory that the sanguinary persecution of the Jews
could have made Paulus despair of the possible continuation of the
Jewish race, for only a small portion of the Jews dwelt among
Christians, while the majority lived in Asia and enjoyed a certain
independence. There remains only the conclusion that Paulus has
tested the new dogmas and found them sufficient. . . . Allorqui
therefore begs him to communicate his convictions and vanquish his
pupil's doubts concerning Christianity. Instead of the general
spread of divine doctrine and everlasting peace which the prophets
had associated with the advent of the Messiah, only dissension and
war reigned on earth. Indeed, after Jesus' appearance, frightful
wars had but increased. . . . And even if Allorqui conceded the
Messiahship of Jesus, the Immaculate Conception, the Resurrection,
and all incomprehensible miracles, he could not reconcile himself to
the idea of God becoming a man. Every enlightened conception of the
Deity was at variance with it.
[Page 77 et seq. Volume 8, Second half, Graetz' History of
Marrano..--See Verse xix., Line 7th of "Epistle."
The enforced recipients of baptism who remained in Spain formed a
peculiar class, outwardly Christians, inwardly Jews. They might
have been called Jewish-Christians. They were looked upon with
suspicion by the Christian population, and shunned with a still
more intense hatred by the loyal Jews who gave them the name of
Marranos, the accursed.
"Master, if thou to thy prides' goal should come,
Where wouldst thou throne--at Avignon or Rome?"
Verse xxviii. 7, 8.
This sentence occurs in another Epistle to Paulus by Profiat Duran.
Verses 29 and 30 are paraphrases from an epistle to Paulus by
"These are burning questions, from which the fire of the stake may
be kindled. Christianity gives itself out as a new revelation in a
certain sense completing and improving Judaism. But the revelation
has so little efficacy, that in the prolonged schism in the Church,
a new divine message is already needed to scatter the dangerous errors.
Two Popes and their partisans fulminate against each other bulls of
excommunication and condemn each other to profoundest hell. Where is
the truth and certainty of revelation?" [Graetz' History of the Jews.]