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Peruvian Tales: Zilia, Tale III

PIZARRO takes possession of Cuzco--The fanaticism of VALVERDA , a
Spanish priest--Its dreadful effects--A Peruvian priest put to the tor-
ture--His Daughter's distress--He is rescued by LAS CASAS , a Spa-
nish ecclesiastic--And led to a place of safety, where he dies--His
Daughter's narration of her sufferings--Her death.

Now stern PIZARRO seeks the distant plains,
Where beauteous Cuzco lifts her golden fanes.
The meek Peruvians gaz'd in wild dismay,
Nor barr'd the dark Oppressor's sanguine way;
And soon on Cuzco, where the dawning light
Of glory shone, foretelling day more bright,
Where the young arts had shed unfolding flowers,
A scene of spreading desolation lowers!

While buried deep in everlasting shade,
That lustre sickens, and those blossoms fade.
And yet, devoted land, not gold alone,
Or dire ambition wak'd thy rising groan;
For lo! a fiercer fiend, with joy elate,
Feasts on thy suff'rings, and impels thy fate:
Fanatic Fury rears her sullen shrine,
Where vultures prey, where venom'd adders twine;
Her savage arm with purple torrents stains
Thy rocking temples, and thy falling fanes;
Her blazing torches flash the mounting fire,
She grasps the sabre, and she lights the pyre;
Her voice is thunder rending the still air,
Her glance the baleful lightning's lurid glare;
Her lips unhallow'd breathe their impious strain,
And pure Religion's sacred voice profane;
Whose precepts pity's mildest deeds approve,
Whose law is mercy, and whose soul is love.
And see, fanatic Fury wakes the storm--
She wears the stern VALVERDA'S hideous form;
His bosom never felt another's woes,
No shriek of anguish breaks its dark repose.
The temple nods--an aged form appears--
He beats his breast, he rends his silver hairs--
VALVERDA drags him from the blest abode,
Where his meek spirit humbly sought its God;
See, to his aid his child, soft ZILIA , springs,
And steeps in tears the robe to which she clings!
Now bursting from PERUVIA'S frighted throng,
Two warlike youths impetuous rush'd along;
One grasp'd his twanging bow with furious air,
While in his troubled eye sat fierce despair;
But all in vain his erring weapon flies,
Pierc'd by a thousand wounds, on earth he lies.
His drooping head the trembling ZILIA rais'd,
And on the youth in speechless anguish gaz'd;
While he who fondly shared his danger flew,
And from his bleeding breast a poignard drew.
"Deep in my faithful bosom let me hide
The fatal steel that would our souls divide,"--
He quick exclaims--the dying warrior cries
"Ah yet forbear!--by all the sacred ties
That bind our hearts, forbear!"--in vain he spoke,
Friendship with frantic zeal impels the stroke!
"Thyself for ever lost, thou hop'st in vain,"
The youth replied, "my spirit to detain;
From thee my soul, in childhood's earliest year,
Caught the light pleasure and the passing tear;
Thy friendship then my young affections blest
The first pure passion of my infant breast;
And still in death I feel its strong controul,
Its sacred impulse wings my fleeting soul,
That only lingers here till thou depart,
Whose image lives upon my fainting heart!"--
In vain the gen'rous youth, with panting breath,
Pour'd these last murmurs in the ear of death;
He reads the fatal truth in ZILIA'S eye,
And gives to friendship his expiring sigh.--
But now with rage VALVERDA'S glances roll,
And mark the vengeance rankling in his soul;
He bends his gloomy brow --his lips impart
The brooding purpose of his venom'd heart;
He bids the hoary priest in mutter'd strains
Abjure his faith, forsake his native fanes,
While yet the ling'ring pangs of torture wait,
While yet VALVERDA'S power suspends his fate.
"Vain man," the victim cried, "to hoary years
Know death is mild, and virtue feels no fears;
Cruel of spirit, come! let tortures prove
The power I serv'd in life in death I love."
He ceas'd--with rugged cords his limbs they bound,
And drag the aged suff'rer on the ground;
They grasp his feeble frame, his tresses tear;
His robe they rend, his shrivell'd bosom bare.
Ah, see his uncomplaining soul sustain
The sting of insult and the dart of pain!
His stedfast spirit feels one pang alone,
A child's despair awakes one bitter groan--
The mourner kneels to catch his parting breath,
To soothe the agony of ling'ring death:
No moan she breath'd, no tear had power to flow,
Still on her lip expir'd th' unutter'd woe;
Yet ah, her livid cheek, her stedfast look,
The desolated soul's deep anguish spoke--
Mild victim!
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Helen Maria Williams

Helen Maria Williams was a British novelist poet and translator of French-language works A religious dissenter she was a supporter of abolitionism and of the ideals of the French Revolution she was imprisoned in Paris during the Reign of Terror but nonetheless spent much of the rest of her life in France A controversial figure in her own time the young Williams was favorably portrayed in a 1787 poem by William Wordsworth but she was portrayed by other writers as irresponsibly politically radical and even as sexually wanton more…

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