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Why may I not, while yet — while yet I can,
Release her from a thraldom worse than death ?'
’T was done as soon as said. I kissed her brow,
And smote her with my dagger. A short cry
She uttered, but she stirred not; and to heaven
Her gentle spirit fled. 'Twas where the path
In its descent turned suddenly. No eye
Observed me, though their steps were following fast.
But soon a yell broke forth, and all at once
Levelled with deadly aim. Then I had ceased
To trouble or be troubled, and had now
(Would I were there !) been slumbering in my grave,
Had not RUSCONI with a terrible shout
Thrown himself in between us, and exclaimed,
Grasping my arm, “T is bravely, nobly done!
Is it for deeds like these thou wear'st a sword ?
Was this the business that thou cam’st upon ?
- But 't is his first offence, and let it pass.
Like the young tiger he has tasted blood,
And may do much hereafter. He can strike
Home to the hilt.' Then in an undertone,
Thus wouldst thou justify the pledge I gave,
When in the eyes of all I read distrust?
For once,' and on his cheek, methought, I saw
The blush of virtue, 'I will save thee, Albert;
Again I cannot."
Ere his tale was told,
As on the heath we lay, my ransom came;
And in six days, with no ungrateful mind,
Albert was sailing on a quiet sea.
But the night wears, and thou art much in need Of rest. The young Antonio, with his torch, Is waiting to conduct thee to thy chamber.
This region, surely, is not of the earth.285
Was it not dropt from heaven? Not a grove,
Citron or pine or cedar, not a grot
Sea-worn and mantled with the gadding vine,
But breathes enchantment. Not a cliff but flings
On the clear wave some image of delight,
Some cabin-roof glowing with crimson flowers,
Some ruined temple or fallen monument,
To muse on as the bark is gliding by.
And be it mine to muse there, mine to glide,
From daybreak, when the mountain pales his fire
Yet more and more, and from the mountain top,
Till then invisible, a smoke ascends,
Solemn and slow, as erst from ARARAT,
When he, the Patriarch, who escaped the Flood,
Was with his household sacrificing there -
From daybreak to that hour, the last and best,
When, one by one, the fishing-boats come forth,
Each with its glimmering lantern at the prow,
And, when the nets are thrown, the evening-hymn
Steals o'er the trembling waters.
Fable and truth have shed, in rivalry,
Each her peculiar influence. Fable came
And laughed and sung, arraying Truth in flowers,
Like a young child her grandam. Fable came;
Earth, sea and sky reflecting, as she flew,
A thousand, thousand colors not their own :
And at her bidding, lo! a dark descent
To TARTARUS, and those thrice happy fields,
Those fields with ether pure and purple light
Ever invested, scenes by him portrayed 287
Who here was wont to wander, here invoke
The sacred Muses, 238 here receive, record
What they revealed, and on the western shore
Sleeps in a silent grove, o'erlooking thee,
Yet here, methinks,
Truth wants no ornament, in her own shape
Filling the mind by turns with awe and love,
By turns inclining to wild ecstasy,
And soberest meditation. Here the vines
Wed each her elm, and o'er the golden grain
Hang their luxuriant clusters, checkering
The sunshine; where, when cooler shadows fall
And the mild moon her fairy net-work weaves,
The lute or mandoline, accompanied
By many a voice yet sweeter than their own,
Kindles, nor slowly; and the dance 239 displays
The gentle arts and witcheries of love,
Its hopes and fears and feignings, till the youth
Drops on his knee as vanquished, and the maid,
Her tambourine uplifting with a grace
Nature's, and Nature's only, bids him rise.
But here the mighty Monarch underneath, He in his palace of fire, diffuses round A dazzling splendor. Here, unseen, unheard, Opening another Eden in the wild, His gifts he scatters; save, when issuing forth In thunder, he blots out the sun, the sky,
And, mingling all things earthly as in scorn,
Exalts the valley, lays the mountain low,
Pours many a torrent from his burning lake,
And in an hour of universal mirth,
What time the trump proclaims the festival,
Buries some capital city, there to sleep
The sleep of ages — till a plough, a spade,
Disclose the secret, and the eye of day
Glares coldly on the streets, the skeletons;
Each in his place, each in his gay attire,
And eager to enjoy.
Let us go round;
And let the sail be slack, the course be slow,
That at our leisure, as we coast along,
We may contemplate, and from every scene
Receive its influence. The CUMÆAN towers,
There did they rise, sun-gilt; and here thy groves,
Delicious BAIÆ. Here (what would they not ?)
The masters of the earth, unsatisfied,
Built in the sea; and now the boatman steers
O'er many a crypt and vault yet glimmering,
O'er many a broad and indestructible arch,
The deep foundations of their palaces ;
Nothing now heard ashore, so great the change,
Save when the sea-mew clamors, or the owl
Hoots in the temple.
What the mountainous isle 200 Seen in the south ? 'Tis where a monster dwelt, Hurling his victims from the topmost cliff; Then and then only merciful, so slow, So subtle, were the tortures they endured. Fearing and feared he lived, cursing and cursed;
And still the dungeons in the rock breathe out
Darkness, distemper. Strange, that one so vile202
Should from his den strike terror through the world;
Should, where withdrawn in his decrepitude,
Say to the noblest, be they where they might,
6 Go from the earth !” and from the earth they went.
Yet such things were -- and will be, when mankind,
Losing all virtue, lose all energy;
And for the loss incur the penalty,
Trodden down and trampled.
Let us turn the prow,
And in the track of him who went to die 293
Traverse this valley of waters, landing where
A waking dream awaits us. At a step
Two thousand years roll backward, and we stand,
Like those so long within that awful place,
Immovable, nor asking, Can it be?
Once did I linger there alone till day Closed, and at length the calm of twilight came, So grateful, yet so solemn! At the fount, Just where the three ways meet, I stood and looked ('T was near a noble house, the house of Pansa), And all was still as in the long, long night That followed, when the shower of ashes fell, When they that sought POMPEII sought in vain; It was not to be found. But now a ray, Bright and yet brighter, on the pavement glanced, And on the wheel-track worn for centuries, And on the stepping-stones from side to side, O’er which the maidens, with their water-urns, Were wont to trip so lightly. Full and clear, The moon was rising, and at once revealed