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The chiefs of Venice wrung away From Patra to Euboea's bay,) Minotti held in Corinth's towers[oo]
The Doge's delegated powers, While yet the pitying eye of Peace 220 Smiled o'er her long forgotten Greece: And ere that faithless truce was broke Which freed her from the unchristian yoke, With him his gentle daughter came; Nor there, since Menelaus' dame Forsook her lord and land, to prove What woes await on lawless love, Had fairer form adorned the sh.o.r.e Than she, the matchless stranger, bore.[op]
The wall is rent, the ruins yawn; 230 And, with to-morrow's earliest dawn, O'er the disjointed ma.s.s shall vault The foremost of the fierce a.s.sault.
The bands are ranked--the chosen van Of Tartar and of Mussulman, The full of hope, misnamed "forlorn,"
Who hold the thought of death in scorn, And win their way with falchion's force, Or pave the path with many a corse, O'er which the following brave may rise, 240 Their stepping-stone--the last who dies![oq]
'Tis midnight: on the mountains brown
The cold, round moon shines deeply down; Blue roll the waters, blue the sky Spreads like an ocean hung on high, Bespangled with those isles of light,[or]
So wildly, spiritually bright; Who ever gazed upon them shining And turned to earth without repining, Nor wished for wings to flee away, 250 And mix with their eternal ray?
The waves on either sh.o.r.e lay there Calm, clear, and azure as the air; And scarce their foam the pebbles shook, But murmured meekly as the brook.
The winds were pillowed on the waves; The banners drooped along their staves, And, as they fell around them furling, Above them shone the crescent curling; And that deep silence was unbroke, 260 Save where the watch his signal spoke, Save where the steed neighed oft and shrill, And echo answered from the hill, And the wide hum of that wild host Rustled like leaves from coast to coast, As rose the Muezzin's voice in air In midnight call to wonted prayer; It rose, that chanted mournful strain, Like some lone Spirit's o'er the plain: 'Twas musical, but sadly sweet, 270 Such as when winds and harp-strings meet, And take a long unmeasured tone, To mortal minstrelsy unknown.[os]
It seemed to those within the wall A cry prophetic of their fall: It struck even the besieger's ear With something ominous and drear,
An undefined and sudden thrill, Which makes the heart a moment still, Then beat with quicker pulse, ashamed 280 Of that strange sense its silence framed; Such as a sudden pa.s.sing-bell Wakes, though but for a stranger's knell.[ot]
The tent of Alp was on the sh.o.r.e; The sound was hushed, the prayer was o'er; The watch was set, the night-round made, All mandates issued and obeyed: 'Tis but another anxious night, His pains the morrow may requite With all Revenge and Love can pay, 290 In guerdon for their long delay.
Few hours remain, and he hath need Of rest, to nerve for many a deed Of slaughter; but within his soul The thoughts like troubled waters roll.[ou]
He stood alone among the host; Not his the loud fanatic boast To plant the Crescent o'er the Cross, Or risk a life with little loss, Secure in paradise to be 300 By Houris loved immortally: Nor his, what burning patriots feel, The stern exaltedness of zeal, Profuse of blood, untired in toil, When battling on the parent soil.
He stood alone--a renegade Against the country he betrayed; He stood alone amidst his band, Without a trusted heart or hand: They followed him, for he was brave, 310 And great the spoil he got and gave; They crouched to him, for he had skill To warp and wield the vulgar will:[ov]
But still his Christian origin With them was little less than sin.
They envied even the faithless fame He earned beneath a Moslem name; Since he, their mightiest chief, had been In youth a bitter Nazarene.
They did not know how Pride can stoop, 320 When baffled feelings withering droop; They did not know how Hate can burn In hearts once changed from soft to stern; Nor all the false and fatal zeal The convert of Revenge can feel.
He ruled them--man may rule the worst, By ever daring to be first: So lions o'er the jackals sway; The jackal points, he fells the prey,[ow]
Then on the vulgar, yelling, press, 330 To gorge the relics of success.
His head grows fevered, and his pulse The quick successive throbs convulse; In vain from side to side he throws His form, in courtship of repose;[ox]
Or if he dozed, a sound, a start Awoke him with a sunken heart.
The turban on his hot brow pressed, The mail weighed lead-like on his breast, Though oft and long beneath its weight 340 Upon his eyes had slumber sate, Without or couch or canopy, Except a rougher field and sky[oy]
Than now might yield a warrior's bed, Than now along the heaven was spread.
He could not rest, he could not stay Within his tent to wait for day,[oz]
But walked him forth along the sand, Where thousand sleepers strewed the strand.
What pillowed them? and why should he 350 More wakeful than the humblest be, Since more their peril, worse their toil?
And yet they fearless dream of spoil; While he alone, where thousands pa.s.sed A night of sleep, perchance their last, In sickly vigil wandered on, And envied all he gazed upon.
He felt his soul become more light Beneath the freshness of the night.
Cool was the silent sky, though calm, 360 And bathed his brow with airy balm: Behind, the camp--before him lay, In many a winding creek and bay, Lepanto's gulf; and, on the brow Of Delphi's hill, unshaken snow,[pa]
High and eternal, such as shone Through thousand summers brightly gone, Along the gulf, the mount, the clime; It will not melt, like man, to time: Tyrant and slave are swept away, 370 Less formed to wear before the ray; But that white veil, the lightest, frailest,
Which on the mighty mount thou hailest, While tower and tree are torn and rent, Shines o'er its craggy battlement; In form a peak, in height a cloud, In texture like a hovering shroud, Thus high by parting Freedom spread, As from her fond abode she fled, And lingered on the spot, where long 380 Her prophet spirit spake in song.[pb]
Oh! still her step at moments falters O'er withered fields, and ruined altars, And fain would wake, in souls too broken, By pointing to each glorious token: But vain her voice, till better days Dawn in those yet remembered rays, Which shone upon the Persian flying, And saw the Spartan smile in dying.
Not mindless of these mighty times 390 Was Alp, despite his flight and crimes; And through this night, as on he wandered,[pc]
And o'er the past and present pondered, And thought upon the glorious dead Who there in better cause had bled, He felt how faint and feebly dim[pd]
The fame that could accrue to him, Who cheered the band, and waved the sword,[pe]
A traitor in a turbaned horde; And led them to the lawless siege, 400 Whose best success were sacrilege.
Not so had those his fancy numbered,
The chiefs whose dust around him slumbered; Their phalanx marshalled on the plain, Whose bulwarks were not then in vain.
They fell devoted, but undying; The very gale their names seemed sighing; The waters murmured of their name; The woods were peopled with their fame; The silent pillar, lone and grey, 410 Claimed kindred with their sacred clay; Their spirits wrapped the dusky mountain, Their memory sparkled o'er the fountain;[pf]
The meanest rill, the mightiest river Rolled mingling with their fame for ever.
Despite of every yoke she bears, That land is Glory's still and theirs![pg]
'Tis still a watch-word to the earth: When man would do a deed of worth He points to Greece, and turns to tread, 420 So sanctioned, on the tyrant's head: He looks to her, and rushes on Where life is lost, or Freedom won.[ph]
Still by the sh.o.r.e Alp mutely mused, And wooed the freshness Night diffused.
There shrinks no ebb in that tideless sea,
Which changeless rolls eternally; So that wildest of waves, in their angriest mood,[pi]
Scarce break on the bounds of the land for a rood; And the powerless moon beholds them flow, 430 Heedless if she come or go: Calm or high, in main or bay, On their course she hath no sway.
The rock unworn its base doth bare, And looks o'er the surf, but it comes not there; And the fringe of the foam may be seen below, On the line that it left long ages ago: A smooth short s.p.a.ce of yellow sand[pj]
Between it and the greener land.
He wandered on along the beach, 440 Till within the range of a carbine's reach Of the leaguered wall; but they saw him not, Or how could he 'scape from the hostile shot?[pk]
Did traitors lurk in the Christians' hold?
Were their hands grown stiff, or their hearts waxed cold?
I know not, in sooth; but from yonder wall[pl]
There flashed no fire, and there hissed no ball, Though he stood beneath the bastion's frown, That flanked the seaward gate of the town; Though he heard the sound, and could almost tell 450 The sullen words of the sentinel, As his measured step on the stone below Clanked, as he paced it to and fro; And he saw the lean dogs beneath the wall Hold o'er the dead their Carnival,
Gorging and growling o'er carca.s.s and limb; They were too busy to bark at him!
From a Tartar's skull they had stripped the flesh, As ye peel the fig when its fruit is fresh; And their white tusks crunched o'er the whiter skull, 460 As it slipped through their jaws, when their edge grew dull, As they lazily mumbled the bones of the dead, When they scarce could rise from the spot where they fed; So well had they broken a lingering fast With those who had fallen for that night's repast.
And Alp knew, by the turbans that rolled on the sand, The foremost of these were the best of his band: Crimson and green were the shawls of their wear, And each scalp had a single long tuft of hair,
All the rest was shaven and bare. 470 The scalps were in the wild dog's maw, The hair was tangled round his jaw: But close by the sh.o.r.e, on the edge of the gulf, There sat a vulture flapping a wolf, Who had stolen from the hills, but kept away, Scared by the dogs, from the human prey; But he seized on his share of a steed that lay, Picked by the birds, on the sands of the bay.
Alp turned him from the sickening sight: Never had shaken his nerves in fight; 480 But he better could brook to behold the dying, Deep in the tide of their warm blood lying,[pm]
Scorched with the death-thirst, and writhing in vain, Than the perishing dead who are past all pain.[pn]
There is something of pride in the perilous hour, Whate'er be the shape in which Death may lower; For Fame is there to say who bleeds, And Honour's eye on daring deeds!
But when all is past, it is humbling to tread[po]
O'er the weltering field of the tombless dead, 490 And see worms of the earth, and fowls of the air, Beasts of the forest, all gathering there; All regarding man as their prey, All rejoicing in his decay.[pp]
There is a temple in ruin stands, Fashioned by long forgotten hands; Two or three columns, and many a stone, Marble and granite, with gra.s.s o'ergrown!
Out upon Time! it will leave no more Of the things to come than the things before![pq] 500 Out upon Time! who for ever will leave But enough of the past for the future to grieve O'er that which hath been, and o'er that which must be: What we have seen, our sons shall see; Remnants of things that have pa.s.sed away, Fragments of stone, reared by creatures of clay![pr]
He sate him down at a pillar's base,
And pa.s.sed his hand athwart his face; Like one in dreary musing mood, Declining was his att.i.tude; 510 His head was drooping on his breast, Fevered, throbbing, and oppressed; And o'er his brow, so downward bent, Oft his beating fingers went, Hurriedly, as you may see Your own run over the ivory key, Ere the measured tone is taken By the chords you would awaken.
There he sate all heavily, As he heard the night-wind sigh. 520 Was it the wind through some hollow stone,[ps]