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I know thee. Thou hast sought us, for the sport
Slipping thy blood-hounds with a hunter's cry;
And thou hast found at last. Were I as thou,
I in thy grasp as thou art now in ours,
Soon should I make a midnight-spectacle,
Soon, limb by limb, be mangled on a wheel,
Then gibbeted to blacken for the vultures.
But I would teach thee better — how to spare.
Write as I dictate. If thy ransom comes,
Thou liv'st. If not, but answer not,
Lest thou provoke me. I may strike thee dead;
And know, young man, it is an easier thing
To do it than to say it. Write, and thus.'-
I wrote. ''Tis well,' he cried. “A peasant-boy,
Trusty and swift of foot, shall bear it hence;
Meanwhile lie down and rest. This cloak of mine
Will serve thee; it has weathered many a storm.'
The watch was set; and twice it had been changed,
When morning broke, and a wild bird, a hawk,
Flew in a circle, screaming. I looked up,
And all were gone, save him who now kept guard,
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
A Ruffian, one for ever linked and bound
To guilt and infamy. There was a time
When he had not perhaps been deemed unworthy,
When he had watched that planet to its setting,
And dwelt with pleasure on the meanest thing
Nature gives birth to. Now, alas, 'tis 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
Come and assert thy birth-right 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 CAPUA, 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 tip-toe 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 gaiety
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 IIebe! 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 ?”
'Twas 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, “ 'Twas bravely, nobly done!
Is it for deeds like these thou wear'st a sword ?
Was this the business that thou cam'st upon ?
- But 'tis his first offence, and let it pass.
Like a young tiger he has tasted blood,
And may do much hereafter. He can strike
Home to the hilt." Then in an under-tone
“ 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
The young Antonio, with his torch, Is waiting to conduct thee to thy chamber.
This region, surely, is not of the earth.*
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 day-break, 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 house-hold sacrificing there -
From day-break 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 colours 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 pourtrayed, *
Who here was wont to wander, here invoke
The Sacred Muses, † here receive, record
+ Quarum sacra fero, ingenti percussus amore.