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Peru. Canto The Fifth.

Character of Zamor, a Bard - his passion for Aciloe, daughter of the Cazique who rules the valley - the Peruvian tribe prepare to defend themselves - a battle - the Peruvians are vanquished - Aciloe's father is made a prisoner, and Zamor is supposed to have fallen in the engagement - Alphonso becomes enamoured of Aciloe - offers to marry her; she rejects him - in revenge he puts her father to the torture - she appears to consent, in order to save him - meets Zamor in a wood - Las Casas joins them - leads the two lovers to Alphonso, and obtains their freedom - Zamor conducts Aciloe and her father to Chili - a reflection on the influence of Poetry over the human mind.

In this sweet scene, to all the virtues kind,
Mild Zamor own'd the richest gifts of mind;
For o'er his tuneful breast the heav'nly muse
Shed from her sacred spring, inspiring dews.
She loves to breathe her hallow'd flame, where art
Has never veil'd the soul, or warp'd the heart;
Where fancy glows with all her native fire,
And passion lives on the exulting lyre.
Nature, in terror rob'd, or beauty drest,
Could thrill with dear enchantment Zamor's breast:
He lov'd the languid sigh the zephyr pours,
He lov'd the murm'ring rill that fed the flow'rs;
But more the hollow sound the wild winds form,
When black upon the billow hangs the storm;
The torrent rolling from the mountain steep,
Its white foam trembling on the darken'd deep -
And oft on Andes' height with eager gaze,
He view'd the sinking sun's reflected rays,
Glow like unnumber'd stars, that seem to rest
Sublime, upon his ice-encircled breast.
Oft his wild warblings charm'd the festal hour,
Rose in the vale, and languish'd in the bower;
The heart's responsive tones he well could move,
Whose song was nature, and whose theme was love.
Aciloe's beauties his fond eye confest,
Yet more Aciloe's virtues warm'd his breast.
Ah stay, ye tender hours of young delight,
Suspend ye moments your impatient flight;
For sure if aught on earth can bliss impart,
Can shed the genuine joy that sooths the heart,
'Tis felt, when early passion's pure controul
Unfolds the first affections of the soul;
Bids her soft sympathies the bosom move,
And wakes the mild emotions dear to love.
The gentle tribe Aciloe's sire obey'd
Who still in wisdom, and in mercy sway'd.
From him the dear illusions long had fled,
That o'er the morn of life enchantment shed;
Yet virtue's calm reflections cheer'd his breast,
And life was joy serene, and death was rest.
Tho' sweet the early spring, her blossoms bright,
When first she swells the heart with pure delight,
Yet not unlovely is the sober ray
That meekly beams o'er autumn's temper'd day;
Dear are her fading beauties to the soul,
While scarce perceiv'd the deep'ning shadows roll.
Now the charm'd lovers dress their future years
In forms of joy, then weep delicious tears,
Expressive on the glowing cheek that hung,
And spoke the fine emotions whence they sprung -
'Twas truth's warm energy, love's sweet controul,
'Twas all that virtue whispers to the soul.
When lo, Iberia's ruthless sons advance,
Roll the stern eye, and shake the pointed lance:
Oh Nature! the destroying band oppose,
Nature, arrest their course - they come thy foes -
Benignant power, where thou with lib'ral care
Hast planted joy, they come to plant despair -
Peruvia's tribe beheld the hostile throng
With desolating fury pour along;
With horror their ensanguin'd path they trac'd,
And now to meet the murd'ring band they haste;
The hoary chief to the dire conflict leads
His death devoted train - the battle bleeds.
Aciloe's searching eye can now no more
The form of Zamor, or her sire explore;
She hears the moan of death in every gale,
She sees a purple torrent stain the vale;
While destin'd all the bitterness to prove
Of mourning duty, and of bleeding love,
Each name that's dearest wakes her bursting sigh,
Throbs at her soul, and trembles in her eye.
Now, pierc'd by wounds, and breathless from the fight,
Her friend, the valiant Omar, struck her sight:
"Omar (she cried) you bleed, unhappy youth,
"And sure that look unfolds some fatal truth:
"Speak, pitying speak, my frantic fears forgive,
"Say, does my father, does my Zamor live?"
"All, all is lost, (the dying Omar said)
"And endless griefs are thine, dear wretched maid;
"I saw thy aged sire a captive bound,
"I saw thy Zamor press the crimson ground" -
He could no more, he yields his fleeting breath,
While all in vain she seeks repose in death.
But, oh, how far each other pang above
Throbs the wild agony of hopeless love;
That grief, for which in vain shall comfort shed
Her healing balm, or time in pity spread
The veil, that throws a shade o'er other care;
For here, and here alone, profound despair
Casts o'er the suff'ring soul a lasting gloom,
And slowly leads her victim to the tomb.
Now rude tumultuous sounds assail her ear,
And soon Alphonso's victor train appear:
Then, as with ling'ring step he mov'd along,
She saw her father mid' the captive throng;
She saw with dire dismay, she wildly flew,
Her snowy arms around his form she threw:
"He bleeds (she cries) I hear his moan of pain,
"My father will not bear the galling chain;
"My tender father will his child forsake,
"His mourning child, but soon her heart will break.
"Cruel Alphonso, let not helpless age
"Feel thy hard yoke, and meet thy barb'rous rage;
"Or, oh, if ever mercy mov'd thy soul,
"If ever thou hast felt her blest controul,
"Grant my sad heart's desire, and let me share
"The load, that feeble frame but ill can bear."
While the young victor, as she falt'ring spoke,
With fix'd attention, and with ardent look,
Hung on her tender glance, that love inspires,
The rage of conquest yields to milder fires.
Yet, as he gaz'd enraptur'd on her form,
Her virtues awe the heart her beauties warm;
And, while impassion'd tones his love reveal,
He asks with holy rites his vows to seal -
"Hop'st thou, she cried, those sacred ties shall join
"This bleeding heart, this trembling hand to thine?
"To thine, whose ruthless heart has caus'd my pains,
"Whose barb'rous hands the blood of Zamor stains!
"Can'st thou - the murd'rer of my peace, controul
"The grief that swells, the pang that rends my soul?
"That pang shall death, shall death alone remove,
"And cure the anguish of despairing love."
In vain th' enamour'd youth essay'd each art
To calm her sorrows, and to sooth her heart;
While, in the range of thought, her tender breast
Could find no hope, on which her griefs might rest,
While her soft soul, which Zamor's image fills,
Shrinks from the cruel author of its ills.
At length to madness stung by fix'd disdain,
The victor gives to rage the fiery rein;
And bids her sorrows flow from that fond source
Where strong affection feels their keenest force,
Whose breast, when most it suffers, only heeds
The sharper pangs by which another bleeds:
For now his cruel mandate doom'd her sire
Stretch'd on the bed of torture, to expire;
Bound on the rack, unmov'd the victim lies,
Stifling in agony weak nature's sighs.
But oh, what form of language can impart
The frantic grief that wrung Aciloe's heart,
When to the height of hopeless sorrow wrought,
The fainting spirit feels a pang of thought,
Which never painted in the hues of speech,
Lives at the soul, and mocks expression's reach!
At length she trembling cried, "the conflict's o'er,
"My heart, my breaking heart can bear no more -
"Yet spare his feeble age - my vows receive,
"And oh, in mercy, bid my father live!" -
"Wilt them be mine?" the enamour'd chief replies,
"Yes, cruel! see, he dies, my father dies -
"Save, save, my father" - "Dear, angelic maid,
"The charm'd Alphonso cried, be swift obey'd:
"Unbind his chains - Ah, calm each anxious Pain,
"Aciloe's voice no more shall plead in vain;
"Plac'd near his child, thy aged sire shall share
"Our joys still cherish'd by thy tender care" -
"No more (she cried) will fate that bliss allow,
"Before my lips shall breathe the nuptial vow,
"Some faithful guide shall lead his aged feet,
"To distant scenes that yield a safe retreat;
"Where some soft heart, some gentle hand, will shed
"The drops of comfort on his hoary head:
"My Zamor, if thy spirit trembles near,
"Forgive!" - she ceas'd, and pour'd her hopeless tear.
Now night descends, and steeps each weary breast,
Save sad Aciloe's, in the balm of rest.
Her aged father's beauteous dwelling stood
Near the cool shelter of a waving wood:
But now the gales that bend its foliage die,
Soft on the silver turf its shadows lie;
While, slowly wand'ring o'er the scene below,
The gazing moon look'd pale as silent woe.
The sacred shade, amid whose fragrant bowers
Zamor oft sooth'd with song the evening hours,
Pour'd to the lunar orb, his magic lay,
More mild, more pensive than her musing ray,
That shade with trembling step, the mourner sought,
And thus she breath'd her tender, plaintive thought.
"Ah where, dear object of these piercing pains,
"Where rests thy murder'd form, thy lov'd remains?
"On what sad spot, my Zamor, flow'd the wound
"That purpled with thy streaming blood the ground?
"Oh had Aciloe in that hour been nigh,
"Had'st thou but fix'd on me thy closing eye;
"Told with faint voice, 'twas death's worst pang to part,
"And dropp'd thy last, cold tear upon my heart!
"A pang less bitter then would waste this breast,
"That in the grave alone shall seek its rest.
"Soon as some friendly hand, in mercy leads
"My aged father, safe to Chili's meads;
"Death shall for ever, seal the nuptial tie,
"The heart belov'd by thee is fix'd to die."
She ceas'd, when dimly thro' a flood of tears
She sees her Zamor's form, his voice she hears. -
"'Tis he, she cried, he moves upon the gale,
"My Zamor's sigh is deep - his look is pale -
"I faint" - his arms receive her sinking frame,
He calls his love by every tender name,
He stays her fleeting spirit - life anew
Warms her cold cheek - his tears her cheek bedew -
"Thy Zamor lives, he cried: as on the ground
"I senseless lay, some child of pity bound
"My bleeding wounds, and bore me from the plain -
"But thou art lost, and I have liv'd in vain."
"Forgive, she cried, in accents of despair,
"Zamor forgive thy wrongs, and oh forbear
"The mild reproach that fills thy mournful eye,
"The tear that wets thy cheek - I mean to die!
"Could I behold my aged sire endure
"The pains his wretched child had power to cure?
"Still, still my father, stretch'd in death, I see,
"His grey locks trembling, as he gaz'd on me:
"My Zamor, soft - breathe not so loud a sigh -
"Some list'ning foe may pityless deny
"This parting hour - hark, sure some step I hear,
"Zamor again is lost - for now 'tis near" -
She paus'd, when sudden from the shelt'ring wood
A venerable form before them stood:
"Fear not, soft maid, he cry'd, nor think I come
"To seal with deeper miseries thy doom;
"To bruise the breaking heart that sorrow rends,
"Ah not for this Las Casas hither bends -
"He comes to bid those rising sorrows cease,
"To pour upon thy wounds the balm of peace.
"I rov'd with dire Almagro's ruthless train
"Thro' scenes of death, to Chili's verdant plain;
"Their wish, to bathe that verdant plain in gore,
"Then from its bosom drag the golden ore;
"But mine, to check the stream of human blood,
"Or mingle drops of anguish with the flood.
"When from those fair unconquer'd vales they fled,
"This frame was stretch'd upon the languid bed
"Of pale disease: when helpless, and alone,
"The Chilese spy'd their friend, the murd'rers gone,
"With eager fondness round my couch they drew,
"And my cold hand with gushing tears bedew;
"By day, they sooth my pains with sweet delight,
"And give to watchings the chill hours of night;
"For me their tender spirits joy to prove
"The cares of pity, and the toils of love.
"Soon as I heard, that o'er this gentle scene,
"Where peace and virtue mingled smile serene,
"The foe, like clouds that fold the tempest, hung,
"I hither flew, my breast with anguish wrung.
"A Chilese band the pathless desert trac'd,
"And softly bore me o'er its dreary waste;
"Then parting, at my feet they bend, and clasp
"These aged knees - my soul yet feels their grasp.
"Now o'er the vale with painful step I stray'd,
"And reach'd the shelt'ring grove: there, hapless maid,
"My list'ning ear has caught thy piercing wail,
"My heart has trembled to thy moving tale." -
"And art thou he! the mournful pair exclaim,
"How dear to mis'ry's soul, Las Casas' name!
"Spirit benign, who every grief can share,
"Whose pity stoops to make the wretch its care;
"Weep not for us - in vain thy tear shall flow
"For hopeless anguish, and distracting woe" -
"They ceas'd; in accents mild, the saint returns,
"Yet let me sooth the pains my bosom mourns:
"Come, gentle suff'rers, follow to yon fane,
"Where rests Alphonso, with his victor train;
"My voice shall urge his soul to gen'rous deeds,
"And bid him hear, when truth, and nature pleads."
While in soft tones, Las Casas thus exprest
His pious purpose, o'er Aciloe's breast
A dawning ray of cheering comfort streams,
But faint the hope that on her spirit beams;
Faint, as when ebbing life must soon depart,
The pulse that trembles, while it warms the heart.
Before Alphonso now the lovers stand;
The aged suff'rer join'd the mournful band;
While with the look that guardian seraphs wear,
When sent to calm the throbs of mortal care,
The story of their woes Las Casas told,
Then cry'd, "the wretched Zamor here behold -
"Hop'st thou, fond man, a passion to controul
"Fix'd in the breast, and woven in the soul?
"But know, mistaken youth, thy power in vain
"Would bind thy victim in the nuptial chain:
"That faithful heart will rend the galling tie,
"That heart will break, that tender form will die -
"Then by each sacred name to nature dear,
"By her strong shriek, her agonizing tear;
"By every horror bleeding passion knows,
"By the wild glance that speaks her frantic woes;
"By all the wasting pangs that rend her breast,
"By the deep groan that gives her spirit rest!
"Let mercy's pleading voice thy bosom move,
"And fear to burst the bonds of plighted love" -
He paus'd - now Zamor's moan Alphonso hears,
Now sees the cheek of age bedew'd with tears:
Palid, and motionless, Aciloe stands,
Fix'd was her mournful eye, and clasp'd her hands;
Her heart was chill'd - her trembling heart, for there
Hope slowly sinks in cold, and dark despair.
Alphonso's soul was mov'd - "No more, he cried,
"My hapless flame shall hearts like yours divide.
"Live, tender spirit, soft Aciloe, live,
"And all the wrongs of mad'ning rage forgive.
"Go from this desolated region far,
"These plains, where av'rice spreads the waste of war;
"Go, where pure pleasures gild the peaceful scene,
"Go where mild virtue sheds her ray serene."
In vain th' enraptur'd maid would now impart,
The rising joy that swells, that pains her heart;
Las Casas' feet in floods of tears she steeps,
Looks on her sire and smiles, then turns, and weeps;
Then smiles again, while her flush'd cheek, reveals
The mingled tumult of delight she feels.
So fall the crystal showers of fragrant spring,
And o'er the pure, clear sky, soft shadows fling;
Then paint the drooping clouds from which they flow
With the warm colours of the lucid bow.
Now, o'er the barren desert, Zamor leads
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

14:25 min read

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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