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The Abencerrage : Canto I. - continuation 1

Felicia Dorothea Hemans 1793 (Liverpool, Lancashire) – 1835 (Dublin, County Dublin)

For this young Hamet mingles in the strife,
Leader of battle, prodigal of life,
Urging his followers, till their foes beset,
Stand faint and breathless, but undaunted yet.
Brave Aben-Zurrahs, on! one effort more,
Yours is the triumph, and the conflict o'er.

But lo! descending o'er the darken'd hall,
The twilight-shadows fast and deeply fall,
Nor yet the strife hath ceased—though scarce they know,
Through that thick gloom, the brother from the foe;
Till the moon rises with her cloudless ray,
The peaceful moon, and gives them light to slay.

Where lurks Abdallah?—'midst his yielding train,
They seek the guilty monarch, but in vain.
He lies not number'd with the valiant dead,
His champions round him have not vainly bled;
But when the twilight spread her shadowy veil,
And his last warriors found each effort fail,
In wild despair he fled—a trusted few,
Kindred in crime, are still in danger true;
And o'er the scene of many a martial deed,
The Vega's4green expanse, his flying footsteps lead.
He pass'd th' Alhambra's calm and lovely bowers,
Where slept the glistening leaves and folded flowers
In dew and starlight—there, from grot and cave,
Gush'd, in wild music, many a sparkling wave;
There, on each breeze, the breath of fragrance rose,
And all was freshness, beauty, and repose.

But thou, dark monarch! in thy bosom reign
Storms that, once roused, shall never sleep again.
Oh! vainly bright is Nature in the course
Of him who flies from terror or remorse!
A spell is round him which obscures her bloom,
And dims her skies with shadows of the tomb;
There smiles no Paradise on earth so fair,
But guilt will raise avenging phantoms there.
Abdallah heeds not, though the light gale roves
Fraught with rich odour, stolen from orange-groves,
Hears not the sounds from wood and brook that rise,
Wild notes of Nature's vesper-melodies;
Marks not, how lovely, on the mountain's head,
Moonlight and snow their mingling lustre spread;
But urges onward, till his weary band,
Worn with their toil, a moment's pause demand.
He stops, and turning, on Granada's fanes
In silence gazing, fix'd awhile remains;
In stern, deep silence—o'er his feverish brow,
And burning cheek, pure breezes freshly blow,
But waft, in fitful murmurs, from afar,
Sounds, indistinctly fearful,—as of war.
What meteor bursts, with sudden blaze, on high,
O'er the blue clearness of the starry sky?
Awful it rises, like some Genie-form,
Seen 'midst the redness of the desert storm5,
Magnificently dread—above, below,
Spreads the wild splendour of its deepening glow.
Lo! from th' Alhambra's towers the vivid glare
Streams through the still transparence of the air,
Avenging crowds have lit the mighty pyre,
Which feeds that waving pyramid of fire;
And dome and minaret, river, wood, and height,
From dim perspective start to ruddy light.

Oh heaven! the anguish of Abdallah's soul,
The rage, though fruitless, yet beyond control!
Yet must he cease to gaze, and raving fly,
For life—such life as makes it bliss to die!
On yon green height, the mosque, but half reveal'd
Through cypress-groves, a safe retreat may yield.
Thither his steps are bent—yet oft he turns,
Watching that fearful beacon as it burns.
But paler grow the sinking flames at last,
Flickering they fade, their crimson light is past,
And spiry vapours, rising o'er the scene,
Mark where the terrors of their wrath have been.
And now his feet have reach'd that lonely pile,
Where grief and terror may repose awhile;
Embower'd it stands, 'midst wood and cliff on high,
Through the gray rocks a torrent sparkling nigh;
He hails the scene where every care should cease,
And all—except the heart he brings—is peace.

There is deep stillness in those halls of state,
Where the loud cries of conflict rung so late;
Stillness like that, when fierce the Kamsin's blast
Hath o'er the dwellings of the desert pass'd6.
Fearful the calm—nor voice, nor step, nor breath,
Disturbs that scene of beauty and of death:
Those vaulted roofs re-echo not a sound,
Save the wild gush of waters—murmuring round,
In ceaseless melodies of plaintive tone,
Through chambers peopled by the dead alone.
O'er the mosaic floors, with carnage red,
Breastplate, and shield, and cloven helm are spread
In mingled fragments—glittering to the light
Of yon still moon, whose rays, yet softly bright,
Their streaming lustre tremulously shed,
And smile, in placid beauty, o'er the dead:
O'er features, where the fiery spirit's trace,
E'en death itself is powerless to efface,
O'er those, who flush'd with ardent youth, awoke,
When glowing morn in bloom and radiance broke,
Nor dreamt how near the dark and frozen sleep,
Which hears not Glory call, nor Anguish weep.
In the low silent house, the narrow spot,
Home of forgetfulness—and soon forgot.

But slowly fade the stars—the night is o'er—
Morn beams on those who hail her light no more;
Slumberers who ne'er shall wake on earth again,
Mourners, who call the loved, the lost, in vain.
Yet smiles the day—oh! not for mortal tear
Doth nature deviate from her calm career,
Nor is the earth less laughing or less fair,
Though breaking hearts her gladness may not share.
O'er the cold urn the beam of summer glows,
O'er fields of blood the zephyr freshly blows;
Bright shines the sun, though all be dark below,
And skies arch cloudless o'er a world of woe,
And flowers renew'd in spring's green pathway bloom,
Alike to grace the banquet and the tomb.

Within Granada's walls the funeral-rite
Attends that day of loveliness and light;
And many a chief, with dirges and with tears,
Is gathered to the brave of other years:
And Hamet, as beneath the cypress-shade
His martyr'd brother and his sire are laid,
Feels every deep resolve, and burning thought
Of ampler vengeance, e'en to passion wrought;
Yet is the hour afar—and he must brood
O'er those dark dreams awhile in solitude.
Tumult and rage are hush'd—another day
In still solemnity hath pass'd away,
In that deep slumber of exhausted wrath,
The calm that follows in the tempest's path.

And now Abdallah leaves yon peaceful fane,
His ravaged city traversing again.
No sound of gladness his approach precedes,
No splendid pageant the procession leads,
Where'er he moves the silent streets along,
Broods a stern quiet o'er the sullen throng;
No voice is heard—but in each alter'd eye,
Once brightly beaming when his steps were nigh,
And in each look of those, whose love hath fled
From all on earth to slumber with the dead,
Those, by his guilt made desolate, and thrown
On the bleak wilderness of life alone.
In youth's quick glance of scarce-dissembled rage,
And the pale mien of calmly-mournful age,
May well be read a dark and fearful tale
Of thought that ill th' indignant heart can veil,
And passion, like the hush'd volcano's power,
That waits in stillness its appointed hour,

No more the clarion, from Granada's walls,
Heard o'er the Vega, to the tourney calls;
No more her graceful daughters, throned on high,
Bend o'er the lists the darkly-radiant eye;
Silence and gloom her palaces o'erspread,
And song is hush'd, and pageantry is fled.
—Weep, fated city! o'er thy heroes weep—
Low in the dust the sons of glory sleep!
Furl'd are their banners in the lonely hall,
Their trophied shields hang mouldering on the wall,
Wildly their chargers range the pastures o'er,
Their voice in battle shall be heard no more;
And they, who still thy tyrant's wrath survive,
Whom he hath wrong'd too deeply to forgive,
That race, of lineage high, of worth approved,
The chivalrous, the princely, the beloved;
Thine Aben-Zurrahs—they no more shall wield
In thy proud cause the conquering lance and shield:
Condemned to bid the cherish'd scenes farewell
Where the loved ashes of their fathers dwell,
And far o'er foreign plains, as exiles, roam,
Their land the desert, and the grave their home.
Yet there is one shall see that race depart,
In deep, though silent, agony of heart;
One whose dark fate must be to mourn alone,
Unseen her sorrows, and their cause unknown,
And veil her heart, and teach her cheek to wear
That smile, in which the spirit hath no share;
Like the bright beams that shed their fruitless glow
O'er the cold solitude of Alpine snow.

Soft, fresh, and silent, is the midnight hour,
And the young Zayda seeks her lonely bower;
That Zegri maid, within whose gentle mind,
One name is deeply, secretly enshrined.
That name in vain stern Reason would efface,
Hamet! 'tis thine, thou foe to all her race?

And yet not hers in bitterness to prove
The sleepless pangs of unrequited love;
Pangs, which the rose of wasted youth consume,
And make the heart of all delight the tomb,
Check the free spirit in its eagle-flight,
And the spring-morn of early genius blight;
Not such her grief—though now she wakes to weep,
While tearless eyes enjoy the honey-dews of sleep.7

A step treads lightly through the citron-shade,
Lightly, but by the rustling leaves betray d—
Doth her young hero seek that well-known spot,
Scene of past hours that ne'er may be forgot?
'Tis he—but changed that eye, whose glance of fire
Could, like a sunbeam, hope and joy inspire,
As, luminous with youth, with ardor fraught,
It spoke of glory to the inmost thought;
Thence the bright spirit's eloquence hath fled,
And in its wild expression may be read
Stern thoughts and fierce resolves—now veil'd in shade,
And now in characters of fire pourtray'd.
Changed e'en his voice—as thus its mournful tone
Wakes in her heart each feeling of his own.
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on October 25, 2019

Modified by Madeleine Quinn

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Felicia Dorothea Hemans

Felicia Dorothea Hemans was an English poet. Two of her opening lines, "The boy stood on the burning deck" and "The stately homes of England", have acquired classic status. more…

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