The Works of Lord Byron Volume III Part 20

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Woe to that hour he came or went!

The curse for Ha.s.san's sin was sent 280 To turn a palace to a tomb; He came, he went, like the Simoom,[73]

That harbinger of Fate and gloom, Beneath whose widely-wasting breath The very cypress droops to death-- Dark tree, still sad when others' grief is fled, The only constant mourner o'er the dead!

The steed is vanished from the stall; No serf is seen in Ha.s.san's hall; The lonely Spider's thin gray pall[dd] 290 Waves slowly widening o'er the wall; The Bat builds in his Haram bower,[74]

And in the fortress of his power The Owl usurps the beacon-tower; The wild-dog howls o'er the fountain's brim, With baffled thirst, and famine, grim; For the stream has shrunk from its marble bed, Where the weeds and the desolate dust are spread.

'Twas sweet of yore to see it play And chase the sultriness of day, 300 As springing high the silver dew[de]

In whirls fantastically flew, And flung luxurious coolness round The air, and verdure o'er the ground.

'Twas sweet, when cloudless stars were bright, To view the wave of watery light, And hear its melody by night.

And oft had Ha.s.san's Childhood played Around the verge of that cascade; And oft upon his mother's breast 310 That sound had harmonized his rest; And oft had Ha.s.san's Youth along Its bank been soothed by Beauty's song; And softer seemed each melting tone Of Music mingled with its own.

But ne'er shall Ha.s.san's Age repose Along the brink at Twilight's close: The stream that filled that font is fled-- The blood that warmed his heart is shed![df]

And here no more shall human voice 320 Be heard to rage, regret, rejoice.

The last sad note that swelled the gale Was woman's wildest funeral wail: That quenched in silence, all is still, But the lattice that flaps when the wind is shrill: Though raves the gust, and floods the rain, No hand shall close its clasp again.

On desert sands 'twere joy to scan The rudest steps of fellow man, So here the very voice of Grief 330 Might wake an Echo like relief--[dg]

At least 'twould say, "All are not gone; There lingers Life, though but in one"--[dh]

For many a gilded chamber's there, Which Solitude might well forbear;[75]

Within that dome as yet Decay Hath slowly worked her cankering way-- But gloom is gathered o'er the gate, Nor there the Fakir's self will wait; Nor there will wandering Dervise stay, 340 For Bounty cheers not his delay; Nor there will weary stranger halt To bless the sacred "bread and salt."[di][76]

Alike must Wealth and Poverty Pa.s.s heedless and unheeded by, For Courtesy and Pity died With Ha.s.san on the mountain side.

His roof, that refuge unto men, Is Desolation's hungry den.

The guest flies the hall, and the va.s.sal from labour, 350 Since his turban was cleft by the infidel's sabre![dj][77]

I hear the sound of coming feet, But not a voice mine ear to greet; More near--each turban I can scan, And silver-sheathed ataghan;[78]

The foremost of the band is seen An Emir by his garb of green:[79]

"Ho! who art thou?"--"This low salam[80]

Replies of Moslem faith I am.[dk]

The burthen ye so gently bear, 360 Seems one that claims your utmost care, And, doubtless, holds some precious freight-- My humble bark would gladly wait."[dl]

"Thou speakest sooth: thy skiff unmoor, And waft us from the silent sh.o.r.e; Nay, leave the sail still furled, and ply The nearest oar that's scattered by, And midway to those rocks where sleep The channelled waters dark and deep.

Rest from your task--so--bravely done, 370 Our course has been right swiftly run; Yet 'tis the longest voyage, I trow, That one of--[81] * * * "

Sullen it plunged, and slowly sank, The calm wave rippled to the bank; I watched it as it sank, methought Some motion from the current caught Bestirred it more,--'twas but the beam That checkered o'er the living stream: I gazed, till vanishing from view, 380 Like lessening pebble it withdrew; Still less and less, a speck of white That gemmed the tide, then mocked the sight; And all its hidden secrets sleep, Known but to Genii of the deep, Which, trembling in their coral caves, They dare not whisper to the waves.

As rising on its purple wing The insect-queen[82] of Eastern spring, O'er emerald meadows of Kashmeer 390 Invites the young pursuer near, And leads him on from flower to flower A weary chase and wasted hour, Then leaves him, as it soars on high, With panting heart and tearful eye: So Beauty lures the full-grown child, With hue as bright, and wing as wild: A chase of idle hopes and fears, Begun in folly, closed in tears.

If won, to equal ills betrayed,[dm] 400 Woe waits the insect and the maid; A life of pain, the loss of peace; From infant's play, and man's caprice: The lovely toy so fiercely sought Hath lost its charm by being caught, For every touch that wooed its stay Hath brushed its brightest hues away, Till charm, and hue, and beauty gone, 'Tis left to fly or fall alone.

With wounded wing, or bleeding breast, 410 Ah! where shall either victim rest?

Can this with faded pinion soar From rose to tulip as before?

Or Beauty, blighted in an hour, Find joy within her broken bower?

No: gayer insects fluttering by Ne'er droop the wing o'er those that die, And lovelier things have mercy shown To every failing but their own, And every woe a tear can claim 420 Except an erring Sister's shame.

The Mind, that broods o'er guilty woes, Is like the Scorpion girt by fire; In circle narrowing as it glows,[dn]

The flames around their captive close, Till inly searched by thousand throes, And maddening in her ire, One sad and sole relief she knows-- The sting she nourished for her foes, Whose venom never yet was vain, 430 Gives but one pang, and cures all pain, And darts into her desperate brain: So do the dark in soul expire, Or live like Scorpion girt by fire;[83]

So writhes the mind Remorse hath riven,[do]

Unfit for earth, undoomed for heaven, Darkness above, despair beneath, Around it flame, within it death!

Black Ha.s.san from the Haram flies, Nor bends on woman's form his eyes; 440 The unwonted chase each hour employs, Yet shares he not the hunter's joys.

Not thus was Ha.s.san wont to fly When Leila dwelt in his Serai.

Doth Leila there no longer dwell?

That tale can only Ha.s.san tell: Strange rumours in our city say Upon that eve she fled away When Rhamazan's[84] last sun was set, And flashing from each Minaret 450 Millions of lamps proclaimed the feast Of Bairam through the boundless East.

'Twas then she went as to the bath, Which Ha.s.san vainly searched in wrath; For she was flown her master's rage In likeness of a Georgian page, And far beyond the Moslem's power Had wronged him with the faithless Giaour.

Somewhat of this had Ha.s.san deemed; But still so fond, so fair she seemed, 460 Too well he trusted to the slave Whose treachery deserved a grave: And on that eve had gone to Mosque, And thence to feast in his Kiosk.

Such is the tale his Nubians tell, Who did not watch their charge too well; But others say, that on that night, By pale Phingari's[85] trembling light, The Giaour upon his jet-black steed Was seen, but seen alone to speed 470 With b.l.o.o.d.y spur along the sh.o.r.e, Nor maid nor page behind him bore.

Her eye's dark charm 'twere vain to tell, But gaze on that of the Gazelle, It will a.s.sist thy fancy well; As large, as languishingly dark, But Soul beamed forth in every spark That darted from beneath the lid, Bright as the jewel of Giamschid.[86]

Yea, _Soul_, and should our prophet say 480 That form was nought but breathing clay, By Alla! I would answer nay; Though on Al-Sirat's[87] arch I stood, Which totters o'er the fiery flood, With Paradise within my view, And all his Houris beckoning through.

Oh! who young Leila's glance could read And keep that portion of his creed Which saith that woman is but dust, A soulless toy for tyrant's l.u.s.t?[88] 490 On her might Muftis gaze, and own That through her eye the Immortal shone; On her fair cheek's unfading hue The young pomegranate's[89] blossoms strew Their bloom in blushes ever new; Her hair in hyacinthine flow,[90]

When left to roll its folds below, As midst her handmaids in the hall She stood superior to them all, Hath swept the marble where her feet 500 Gleamed whiter than the mountain sleet Ere from the cloud that gave it birth It fell, and caught one stain of earth.

The cygnet n.o.bly walks the water; So moved on earth Circa.s.sia's daughter, The loveliest bird of Franguestan![91]

As rears her crest the ruffled Swan, And spurns the wave with wings of pride, When pa.s.s the steps of stranger man Along the banks that bound her tide; 510 Thus rose fair Leila's whiter neck:-- Thus armed with beauty would she check Intrusion's glance, till Folly's gaze Shrunk from the charms it meant to praise.

Thus high and graceful was her gait; Her heart as tender to her mate; Her mate--stern Ha.s.san, who was he?

Alas! that name was not for thee![92]

Stern Ha.s.san hath a journey ta'en With twenty va.s.sals in his train, 520 Each armed, as best becomes a man, With arquebuss and ataghan; The chief before, as decked for war, Bears in his belt the scimitar Stained with the best of Arnaut blood, When in the pa.s.s the rebels stood, And few returned to tell the tale Of what befell in Parne's vale.

The pistols which his girdle bore Were those that once a Pasha wore, 530 Which still, though gemmed and bossed with gold, Even robbers tremble to behold.

'Tis said he goes to woo a bride More true than her who left his side; The faithless slave that broke her bower, And--worse than faithless--for a Giaour!

The sun's last rays are on the hill, And sparkle in the fountain rill, Whose welcome waters, cool and clear, Draw blessings from the mountaineer: 540 Here may the loitering merchant Greek Find that repose 'twere vain to seek In cities lodged too near his lord, And trembling for his secret h.o.a.rd-- Here may he rest where none can see, In crowds a slave, in deserts free; And with forbidden wine may stain The bowl a Moslem must not drain

The foremost Tartar's in the gap Conspicuous by his yellow cap; 550 The rest in lengthening line the while Wind slowly through the long defile: Above, the mountain rears a peak, Where vultures whet the thirsty beak, And theirs may be a feast to-night, Shall tempt them down ere morrow's light; Beneath, a river's wintry stream Has shrunk before the summer beam, And left a channel bleak and bare, Save shrubs that spring to perish there: 560 Each side the midway path there lay Small broken crags of granite gray, By time, or mountain lightning, riven From summits clad in mists of heaven; For where is he that hath beheld The peak of Liakura[93] unveiled?

They reach the grove of pine at last; "Bismillah![94] now the peril's past; For yonder view the opening plain, And there we'll p.r.i.c.k our steeds amain:" 570 The Chiaus[95] spake, and as he said, A bullet whistled o'er his head; The foremost Tartar bites the ground!

Scarce had they time to check the rein, Swift from their steeds the riders bound; But three shall never mount again: Unseen the foes that gave the wound, The dying ask revenge in vain.

With steel unsheathed, and carbine bent, Some o'er their courser's harness leant, 580 Half sheltered by the steed; Some fly beneath the nearest rock, And there await the coming shock, Nor tamely stand to bleed Beneath the shaft of foes unseen, Who dare not quit their craggy screen.

Stern Ha.s.san only from his horse Disdains to light, and keeps his course, Till fiery flashes in the van Proclaim too sure the robber-clan 590 Have well secured the only way Could now avail the promised prey; Then curled his very beard[96] with ire, And glared his eye with fiercer fire; "Though far and near the bullets hiss, I've scaped a bloodier hour than this."

And now the foe their covert quit, And call his va.s.sals to submit; But Ha.s.san's frown and furious word Are dreaded more than hostile sword, 600 Nor of his little band a man Resigned carbine or ataghan, Nor raised the craven cry, Amaun![97]

In fuller sight, more near and near, The lately ambushed foes appear, And, issuing from the grove, advance Some who on battle-charger prance.

Who leads them on with foreign brand Far flashing in his red right hand?

"'Tis he!'tis he! I know him now; 610 I know him by his pallid brow; I know him by the evil eye[98]

That aids his envious treachery; I know him by his jet-black barb; Though now arrayed in Arnaut garb, Apostate from his own vile faith, It shall not save him from the death: 'Tis he! well met in any hour, Lost Leila's love--accursed Giaour!"

As rolls the river into Ocean,[99] 620 In sable torrent wildly streaming; As the sea-tide's opposing motion, In azure column proudly gleaming, Beats back the current many a rood, In curling foam and mingling flood, While eddying whirl, and breaking wave, Roused by the blast of winter, rave; Through sparkling spray, in thundering clash, The lightnings of the waters flash In awful whiteness o'er the sh.o.r.e, 630 That shines and shakes beneath the roar; Thus--as the stream and Ocean greet, With waves that madden as they meet-- Thus join the bands, whom mutual wrong, And fate, and fury, drive along.

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The Works of Lord Byron Volume III Part 20 summary

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