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It came at last--a sad and shattered boat, Whose inmates first beheld whom first they sought; Some bleeding--all most wretched--these the few-- Scarce knew they how escaped--_this_ all they knew.
In silence, darkling, each appeared to wait His fellow's mournful guess at Conrad's fate: Something they would have said; but seemed to fear To trust their accents to Medora's ear. 1260 She saw at once, yet sunk not--trembled not-- Beneath that grief, that loneliness of lot, Within that meek fair form, were feelings high, That deemed not till they found their energy.
While yet was Hope they softened, fluttered, wept-- All lost--that Softness died not--but it slept; And o'er its slumber rose that Strength which said, "With nothing left to love, there's nought to dread."
'Tis more than Nature's--like the burning might Delirium gathers from the fever's height. 1270
"Silent you stand--nor would I hear you tell What--speak not--breathe not--for I know it well-- Yet would I ask--almost my lip denies The--quick your answer--tell me where he lies."
"Lady! we know not--scarce with life we fled; But here is one denies that he is dead: He saw him bound; and bleeding--but alive."
She heard no further--'twas in vain to strive-- So throbbed each vein--each thought--till then withstood; Her own dark soul--these words at once subdued: 1280 She totters--falls--and senseless had the wave Perchance but s.n.a.t.c.hed her from another grave; But that with hands though rude, yet weeping eyes, They yield such aid as Pity's haste supplies:[hw]
Dash o'er her deathlike cheek the ocean dew, Raise, fan, sustain--till life returns anew; Awake her handmaids, with the matrons leave That fainting form o'er which they gaze and grieve; Then seek Anselmo's cavern, to report The tale too tedious--when the triumph short. 1290
In that wild council words waxed warm and strange,[hx]
With thoughts of ransom, rescue, and revenge; All, save repose or flight: still lingering there Breathed Conrad's spirit, and forbade despair; Whate'er his fate--the b.r.e.a.s.t.s he formed and led Will save him living, or appease him dead.
Woe to his foes! there yet survive a few, Whose deeds are daring, as their hearts are true.
Within the Haram's secret chamber sate
Stern Seyd, still pondering o'er his Captive's fate; 1300 His thoughts on love and hate alternate dwell, Now with Gulnare, and now in Conrad's cell; Here at his feet the lovely slave reclined Surveys his brow--would soothe his gloom of mind; While many an anxious glance her large dark eye Sends in its idle search for sympathy, _His_ only bends in seeming o'er his beads,
But inly views his victim as he bleeds.
"Pacha! the day is thine; and on thy crest Sits Triumph--Conrad taken--fall'n the rest! 1310 His doom is fixed--he dies; and well his fate Was earned--yet much too worthless for thy hate: Methinks, a short release, for ransom told[hy]
With all his treasure, not unwisely sold; Report speaks largely of his pirate-h.o.a.rd-- Would that of this my Pacha were the lord!
While baffled, weakened by this fatal fray-- Watched--followed--he were then an easier prey; But once cut off--the remnant of his band Embark their wealth, and seek a safer strand." 1320
"Gulnare!--if for each drop of blood a gem Where offered rich as Stamboul's diadem; If for each hair of his a ma.s.sy mine Of virgin ore should supplicating shine; If all our Arab tales divulge or dream Of wealth were here--that gold should not redeem!
It had not now redeemed a single hour, But that I know him fettered, in my power; And, thirsting for revenge, I ponder still On pangs that longest rack--and latest kill." 1330
"Nay, Seyd! I seek not to restrain thy rage, Too justly moved for Mercy to a.s.suage; My thoughts were only to secure for thee His riches--thus released, he were not free: Disabled--shorn of half his might and band, His capture could but wait thy first command."
"His capture _could!_--and shall I then resign One day to him--the wretch already mine?
Release my foe!--at whose remonstrance?--thine!
Fair suitor!--to thy virtuous grat.i.tude, 1340 That thus repays this Giaour's relenting mood, Which thee and thine alone of all could spare-- No doubt, regardless--if the prize were fair-- My thanks and praise alike are due--now hear!
I have a counsel for thy gentler ear: I do mistrust thee, Woman! and each word Of thine stamps truth on all Suspicion heard.[hz]
Borne in his arms through fire from yon Serai-- Say, wert thou lingering there with him to fly?
Thou need'st not answer--thy confession speaks, 1350 Already reddening on thy guilty cheeks: Then--lovely Dame--bethink thee! and beware: 'Tis not _his_ life alone may claim such care!
Another word and--nay--I need no more.
Accursed was the moment when he bore Thee from the flames, which better far--but no-- I then had mourned thee with a lover's woe-- Now 'tis thy lord that warns--deceitful thing!
Know'st thou that I can clip thy wanton wing?
In words alone I am not wont to chafe: 1360 Look to thyself--nor deem thy falsehood safe!"
He rose--and slowly, sternly thence withdrew, Rage in his eye, and threats in his adieu: Ah! little recked that Chief of womanhood-- Which frowns ne'er quelled, nor menaces subdued; And little deemed he what thy heart, Gulnare!
When soft could feel--and when incensed could dare!
His doubts appeared to wrong--nor yet she knew How deep the root from whence Compa.s.sion grew-- She was a slave--from such may captives claim 1370 A fellow-feeling, differing but in name; Still half unconscious--heedless of his wrath, Again she ventured on the dangerous path, Again his rage repelled--until arose That strife of thought, the source of Woman's woes!
Meanwhile--long--anxious--weary--still the same Rolled day and night: his soul could Terror tame-- This fearful interval of doubt and dread, When every hour might doom him worse than dead;[ia]
When every step that echoed by the gate, 1380 Might entering lead where axe and stake await; When every voice that grated on his ear Might be the last that he could ever hear; Could Terror tame--that Spirit stern and high Had proved unwilling as unfit to die; 'Twas worn--perhaps decayed--yet silent bore That conflict, deadlier far than all before: The heat of fight, the hurry of the gale, Leave scarce one thought inert enough to quail: But bound and fixed in fettered solitude, 1390 To pine, the prey of every changing mood; To gaze on thine own heart--and meditate Irrevocable faults, and coming fate-- Too late the last to shun--the first to mend-- To count the hours that struggle to thine end, With not a friend to animate and tell To other ears that Death became thee well; Around thee foes to forge the ready lie, And blot Life's latest scene with calumny; Before thee tortures, which the Soul can dare, 1400 Yet doubts how well the shrinking flesh may bear; But deeply feels a single cry would shame, To Valour's praise thy last and dearest claim; The life thou leav'st below, denied above By kind monopolists of heavenly love; And more than doubtful Paradise--thy Heaven Of earthly hope--thy loved one from thee riven.
Such were the thoughts that outlaw must sustain, And govern pangs surpa.s.sing mortal pain: And those sustained he--boots it well or ill? 1410 Since not to sink beneath, is something still!
The first day pa.s.sed--he saw not her--Gulnare-- The second, third--and still she came not there; But what her words avouched, her charms had done, Or else he had not seen another Sun.
The fourth day rolled along, and with the night Came storm and darkness in their mingling might.
Oh! how he listened to the rushing deep, That ne'er till now so broke upon his sleep; And his wild Spirit wilder wishes sent, 1420 Roused by the roar of his own element!
Oft had he ridden on that winged wave, And loved its roughness for the speed it gave; And now its dashing echoed on his ear, A long known voice--alas! too vainly near!
Loud sung the wind above; and, doubly loud, Shook o'er his turret cell the thunder-cloud;
And flashed the lightning by the latticed bar, To him more genial than the Midnight Star: Close to the glimmering grate he dragged his chain, 1430 And hoped _that_ peril might not prove in vain.
He rais'd his iron hand to Heaven, and prayed One pitying flash to mar the form it made: His steel and impious prayer attract alike-- The storm rolled onward, and disdained to strike; Its peal waxed fainter--ceased--he felt alone, As if some faithless friend had spurned his groan!
The midnight pa.s.sed, and to the ma.s.sy door A light step came--it paused--it moved once more; Slow turns the grating bolt and sullen key: 1440 'Tis as his heart foreboded--that fair She!
Whate'er her sins, to him a Guardian Saint, And beauteous still as hermit's hope can paint; Yet changed since last within that cell she came, More pale her cheek, more tremulous her frame: On him she cast her dark and hurried eye, Which spoke before her accents--"Thou must die!
Yes, thou must die--there is but one resource, The last--the worst--if torture were not worse."
"Lady! I look to none; my lips proclaim 1450 What last proclaimed they--Conrad still the same: Why should'st thou seek an outlaw's life to spare, And change the sentence I deserve to bear?
Well have I earned--nor here alone--the meed Of Seyd's revenge, by many a lawless deed."
"Why should I seek? because--Oh! did'st thou not Redeem my life from worse than Slavery's lot?
Why should I seek?--hath Misery made thee blind To the fond workings of a woman's mind?
And must I say?--albeit my heart rebel 1460 With all that Woman feels, but should not tell-- Because--despite thy crimes--that heart is moved: It feared thee--thanked thee--pitied--maddened--loved.
Reply not, tell not now thy tale again, Thou lov'st another--and I love in vain: Though fond as mine her bosom, form more fair, I rush through peril which she would not dare.
If that thy heart to hers were truly dear, Were I thine own--thou wert not lonely here: An outlaw's spouse--and leave her Lord to roam! 1470 What hath such gentle dame to do with home?
But speak not now--o'er thine and o'er my head Hangs the keen sabre by a single thread;[ib]
If thou hast courage still, and would'st be free, Receive this poniard--rise and follow me!"
"Aye--in my chains! my steps will gently tread, With these adornments, o'er such slumbering head!
Thou hast forgot--is this a garb for flight?
Or is that instrument more fit for fight?"
"Mis...o...b..ing Corsair! I have gained the guard, 1480 Ripe for revolt, and greedy for reward.
A single word of mine removes that chain: Without some aid how here could I remain?
Well, since we met, hath sped my busy time, If in aught evil, for thy sake the crime: The crime--'tis none to punish those of Seyd.
That hatred tyrant, Conrad--he must bleed!
I see thee shudder, but my soul is changed-- Wronged--spurned--reviled--and it shall be avenged-- Accused of what till now my heart disdained-- 1490 Too faithful, though to bitter bondage chained.
Yes, smile!--but he had little cause to sneer, I was not treacherous then, nor thou too dear: But he has said it--and the jealous well,-- Those tyrants--teasing--tempting to rebel,-- Deserve the fate their fretting lips foretell.
I never loved--he bought me--somewhat high-- Since with me came a heart he could not buy.
I was a slave unmurmuring; he hath said, But for his rescue I with thee had fled. 1500 'Twas false thou know'st--but let such Augurs rue, Their words are omens Insult renders true.
Nor was thy respite granted to my prayer; This fleeting grace was only to prepare New torments for thy life, and my despair.
Mine too he threatens; but his dotage still Would fain reserve me for his lordly will: When wearier of these fleeting charms and me, There yawns the sack--and yonder rolls the sea!
What, am I then a toy for dotard's play, 1510 To wear but till the gilding frets away?
I saw thee--loved thee--owe thee all--would save, If but to show how grateful is a slave.
But had he not thus menaced fame and life,-- And well he keeps his oaths p.r.o.nounced in strife-- I still had saved thee--but the Pacha spared: Now I am all thine own--for all prepared: Thou lov'st me not--nor know'st--or but the worst.
Alas! _this_ love--_that_ hatred--are the first-- Oh! could'st thou prove my truth, thou would'st not start, 1520 Nor fear the fire that lights an Eastern heart; 'Tis now the beacon of thy safety--now It points within the port a Mainote prow: But in one chamber, where our path must lead, There sleeps--he must not wake--the oppressor Seyd!"