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And on his arms lay musing. Young he seemed,
And sad, as though he could indulge at will
Some secret grief. "Thou shrinkest back," he said.
"Well may'st thou, lying, as thou dost, so near
one forever linked and bound
To guilt and infamy. There was a time
When he had not perhaps been deemed unworthy,
When he had watched yon planet to its setting,
And dwelt with pleasure on the meanest thing
Nature gives birth to. Now, alas! 't is past.
Wouldst thou know more? My story is an old one.
I loved, was scorned; I trusted, was betrayed;
And in my anguish, my necessity,
Met with the fiend, the tempter-in RUSCONI.
Why thus?' he cried. Thou wouldst be free and dar'st
Come and assert thy birthright while thou canst.
A robber's cave is better than a dungeon;
And death itself, what is it at the worst,
What but a harlequin's leap?' Him I had known,
Had served with, suffered with; and on the walls
Of PADUA, while the moon went down, I swore
Allegiance on his dagger. Dost thou ask
How I have kept my oath? Thou shalt be told,
Cost what it may. But grant me, I implore,
Grant me a passport to some distant land,
That I may never, never more be named.
Thou wilt, I know thou wilt.
Two months ago,
When on a vineyard-hill we lay concealed
And scattered up and down as we were wont,
I heard a damsel singing to herself,
And soon espied her, coming all alone,
In her first beauty. Up a path she came,
Leafy and intricate, singing her song,
A song of love, by snatches; breaking off
If but a flower, an insect in the sun,
Pleased for an instant; then as carelessly
The strain resuming, and, where'er she stopt,
Rising on tiptoe underneath the boughs
To pluck a grape in very wantonness.
Her look, her mien and maiden ornaments,
Showed gentle birth; and, step by step, she came,
Nearer and nearer, to the dreadful snare.
None else were by; and, as I gazed unseen,
Her youth, her innocence and gayety,
Went to my heart! and, starting up, I breathed,
'Fly for your life!' Alas! she shrieked, she fell;
And, as I caught her falling, all rushed forth.
'A wood-nymph!' cried RUSCONI. By the light,
Lovely as Hebe! Lay her in the shade.'
I heard him not. I stood as in a trance.
'What,' he exclaimed, with a malicious smile,
'Wouldst thou rebel?' I did as he required.
Now bear her hence to the well-head below;
A few cold drops will animate this marble.
Go! 'Tis an office all will envy thee;
But thou hast earned it.' As I staggered down,
Unwilling to surrender her sweet body;
Her golden hair dishevelled on a neck
Of snow, and her fair eyes closed as in sleep,
Frantic with love, with hate, 'Great God!' I cried
(I had almost forgotten how to pray;
But there are moments when the courage comes),
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. 'T was 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"
Who here was wont to wander, here invoke
The sacred Muses, 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 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,