Abbildungen der Seite

Whether with human impulse, or by Heaven
Struck down, he knew not; loosened from his wrist
The sword-chain, and let fall the sword, whose hilt
Clung to his palm a moment ere it fell,
Glued there with Moorish gore. His royal robe,
His horned helmet and enamelled mail,
He cast aside, and taking from the dead
A peasant's garment, in those weeds involved,
Stole, like a thief in darkness, from the field.

Evening closed round to favour him.—All night
He fled, the sound of battle in his ear
Ringing, and sights of death before his eyes,
With dreams more horrible of eager fiends
That seemed to hover round, and gulphs of fire
Opening beneath his feet. At times the groan
Of some poor fugitive, who, bearing with him
His mortal hurt, had fallen beside the way,
Roused him from these dread visions, and he called
In answering groans on his Redeemer's name,
That word the only prayer that past his lips
Or rose within his heart. Then would he see
The Cross whereon a bleeding Saviour hung,
Who called on him to come and cleanse his soul
In those all-healing streams, which from his wounds,
As from perpetual springs, for ever flowed.
No hart eer panted for the water-brooks
As Roderick thirsted there to drink and live:
But Hell was interposed; and worse than Hell,
Yea to his eyes more dreadful than the fiends
Who flocked like hungry ravens round his head,
Florinda stood between, and warned him off
With her abhorrent hands,--that agony
Still in her face, which, when the deed was done,
Inflicted on her ravisher the curse
That it invoked from Heaven——Oh what a night
Of waking horrors! Nor when morning came
Did the realities of light and day
Bring aught of comfort; wheresoe'er he went
The tidings of defeat had gone before;
And leaving their defenceless homes to seek
What shelter walls and battlements might yield,
Old men with feeble feet, and tottering babes,
And widows with their infants in their arms,
Hurried along. Nor royal festival,
Nor sacred pageant, with like multitudes
Eer filled the public way. All whom the sword
Had spared were here; bed-rid infirmity
Alone was left behind: the cripple plica
His crutches, with her child of yesterday
The mother fled, and she whose hour was come
Fell by the road.

Less dreadful than this view
Of outward suffering which the day disclosed,
Had night and darkness seemed to Roderick's heart,
With all their dread creations. From the throng
He turned aside, unable to endure
This burthen of the general woe: nor walls,
Nor towers, nor mountain fastnesses he sought;
A firmer hold his spirit yearned to find,
A rock of surer strength. Unknowing where,
Straight through the wild he hastened on all day,
And with unslackened speed was travelling still
When evening gathered round. Seven days from morn
Till night he travelled thus; the forest oaks,
The fig-grove by the fearful husbandman

Forsaken to the spoiler, and the vines,
Where fox and household dog together now
Fed on the vintage, gave him food: the hand
Of heaven was on him, and the agony
Which wrought within, supplied a strength, beyond
All natural force of man.
When the eighth eve
Was come, he found himself on Ana's banks,
Fast by the Caulian Schools.” It was the hour
Of vespers, but no vesper bell was heard,
Nor other sound, than of the passing stream,
Or stork, who, flapping with wide wing the air,
Sought her broad nest upon the silent tower.
Brethren and pupils thence alike had fled
To save themselves within the embattled walls
of neighbouring Merida. One aged Monk
Alone was left behind; he would not leave
The sacred spot beloved, for having served
There from his childhood up to ripe old age
God's holy altar, it became him now,
He thought, before that altar to await
The merciless misbelievers, and lay down
His life, a willing martyr. So he staid
When all were gone, and duly fed the lamps,
And kept devotedly the altar drest,
And duly offered up the sacrifice.
Four days and nights he thus had past alone,
In such high mood of saintly fortitude,
That hope of Heaven became a heavenly joy;
And now at evening to the gate he went
If he might spy the Moors, for it seemed long
To tarry for his crown.
Before the Cross
Roderick had thrown himself: his body raised,
Half kneeling, half at length he lay; his arms
Embraced its foot, and from his lifted face
Tears streaming down bedeved the senseless stone.
He had not wept till now, and at the gush
Of these first tears, it seemed as if his heart,
From a long winter's icy thrall let loose,
Had opened to the genial influences
Of Heaven. In attitude, but not in act
Of prayer he lay; an agony of tears
Was all his soul could offer. When the Monk
Beheld him suffering thus, he raised him up,
And took him by the arm, and led him in;
And there before the altar, in the name
Of Him whose bleeding image there was hung,
Spake comfort, and adjured him in that name
There to lay down the burthen of his sins.
Lo! said Romano, I am waiting here
The coming of the Moors, that from their hands
My spirit may receive the purple robe
Of martyrdom, and rise to claim its crown.
That God who willeth not the sinner's death
Hath led thee hither. Threescore years and five,
Even from the hour when I, a five-years child,
Entered the schools, have I continued here
And served the altar: not in all those years
Hath such a contrite and a broken heart
Appeared before me, O my brother, Heaven
Hath sent thee for thy comfort, and for mine,
That my last earthly act may reconcile
A sinner to his God.
Then Roderick knelt
Before the holy man, and strove to speak.

Thou seest, he cried,—thou seest,--but memory
And suffocating thoughts represt the word,
And shudderings, like an ague fit, from head
To foot convulsed him; till at length, subduing
His nature to the effort, he exclaimed,
Spreading his hands and lifting up his face,”
As if resolved in penitence to bear
A human eye upon his shame, Thou seest
Roderick the Goth ! That name would have sufficed
To tell the whole abhorred history:
He not the less pursued,—the ravisher, .
The cause of all this ruin! Having said,
In the same posture motionless he knelt,
Arms straightened down, and hands outspread, and eyes
Raised to the Monk, like one who from his voice
Expected life or death.

All night the old man
Prayed with his penitent, and ministered
Unto the wounded soul, till he infused
A healing hope of mercy, that allayed
Its heat of anguish. But Romano saw
What strong temptations of despair beset,
And how he needed in this second birth,
Even like a yearling child, a fosterer's care.
Father in heaven, he cried, thy will be done!
Surely I hoped that I this day should sing
Hosannahs at thy throne; but thou hast yet
Work for thy servant here. He girt his loins,
And from her altar took with reverent hands
Our lady's image down: In this, quoth he,
We have our guide and guard and comforter,
The best provision for our perilous way.
Fear not but we shall find a resting place—
The Almighty's hand is on us.

They went forth,

They crost the stream, and when Romano turned
For his last look toward the Caulian towers,
Far off the Moorish standards in the light
of morn were glittering, where the miscreant host
Toward the Lusitanian capital
To lay their siege advanced: the eastern breeze
Bore to the fearful travellers far away
The sound of horn and tambour o'er the plain.
All day they hastened, and when evening fell
Sped toward the setting sun, as if its line
Of glory came from Heaven to point their course.
But feeble were the feet of that old man
For such a weary length of way; and now
Being past the danger (for in Merida
Sacaru long in resolute defence
withstood the tide of war), with easier pace
The wanderers journeyed on; till having crost
Old Tagus, and the rapid Zezere,
They from Albardos hoary height beheld
Pine-forest, fruitful vale, and that fair lake
Where Alcoa, mingled there with Baza's stream,
Rests on its passage to the western sea,
That sea the aim and boundary of their toil.

The fourth week of their painful pilgrimage 2
Was full, when they arrived where from the land
A rocky hill, rising with steep ascent,
O'erhung the glittering beach; there on the top
A little lowly hermitage they found,
And a rude Cross, and at its foot a grave,
Bearing no name, nor other monument.

Where better could they rest than here, where faith
And secret penitence and happiest death
Had blest the spot, and brought good angels down,
And opened, as it were, a way to Ileaven?
Behind them was the desert, offering fruit
And water for their need: on either side
The white sand sparkling to the sun; in front,
Great Ocean with its everlasting voice,
As in perpetual jubilee, proclaimed
The wonders of the Almighty, filling thus
The pauses of their fervent orisons.
Where better could the wanderers rest than here?



Twelve months they sojourned in their solitude,
And then beneath the burthen of old age
Romano sunk. No brethren were there here
To spread the sackcloth, and with ashes strew
That penitential bed, and gather round
To sing his requiem, and with prayer and psalm
Assist him in his hour of agony.
He lay on the bare earth, which long had been
His only couch; beside him Roderick knelt,
Moistened from time to time his blackened lips,
Received a blessing with his latest breath,
Then closed his eyes, and by the nameless grave
Of the fore-tenant of that holy place
Consigned him earth to earth.

Two graves are here,
And Roderick transverse at their feet began
To break the third. In all his intervals
Of prayer, save only when he searched the woods
And filled the water-cruise, he laboured there;
And when the work was done, and he had laid
Himself at length within its narrow sides
And measured it, he shook his head to think
There was no other business now for him.
Poor wretch, thy bed is ready, he exclaimed,
And would that night were come!—It was a task,
All gloomy as it was, which had beguiled
The sense of solitude; but now he felt
The burthen of the solitary hours:
The silence of that lonely hermitage
Lay on him like a spell; and at the voice
Of his own prayers, he started, half aghast.
Then too, as on Romano's grave he sate
And pored upon his own, a natural thought
Arose within him, well might he have spared
That useless toil: the sepulchre would be
No hiding-place for him; no Christian hands
Were here who should compose his decent corpse
And cover it with earth. There he might drag
His wretched body at its passing hour,
And there the Sea-Birds of her heritage
Would rob the worm, or peradventure seize,
Ere death had done its work, their helpless prey.
Even now they did not fear him: when he walked
Beside them on the beach, regardlessly
They saw his coming; and their whirring wings
Upon the height had sometimes fanned his cheek,
As if, being thus alone, humanity
Had lost its rank, and the prerogative
Of man was done away.

For his lost crown And sceptre never had he felt a thought Of pain: repentance had no pangs to spare For trifles such as these, the loss of these Was a cheap penalty —that he had fallen Down to the lowest depth of wretchedness, His hope and consolation. But to lose His human station in the scale of things, To see brate Nature scorn him, and renounce Its homage to the human form divine;— Had then almighty vengeance thus revealed His punishment, and was he fallen indeed Below fallen man,—below redemption's reach,Made lower than the beasts, and like the beasts To perish –Such temptations troubled him By day, and in the visions of the night; And even in sleep he struggled with the thought, And waking with the effort of his prayers The dream assailed him still. A wilder form Sometimes his poignant penitence assumed, Starting with force revived from intervals Of calmer passion, or exhausted rest; When floating back upon the tide of thought Remembrance to a self-excusing strain Beguiled him, and recalled in long array The sorrows and the secret impulses Which to the abyss of wretchedness and guilt Led their unwary victim. The evil hour Returned upon him, when reluctantly Yielding to worldly counsel his assent, In wedlock to an ill-assorted mate He gave his cold unwilling hand: then came The disappointment of the barren bed, The hope deceived, the soul dissatisfied. Home without love, and privacy from which Delight was banished first, and peace too soon Departed. Was it strange that when he met A heart attuned,—a spirit like his own, Of lofty pitch, yet in affection mild, And tender as a youthful mother's joy, Oh was it strange if at such sympathy The feelings which within his breast repelled And chilled had shrunk, should open forth like flowers After cold winds of night, when gentle gales Restore the genial sun' If all were known, Would it indeed be not to be forgiven?— (Thus would he lay the unction to his soul,) If all were truly known, as Heaven knows all, Heaven that is merciful as well as just,A passion slow and mutual in its growth, Pure as fraternal love, long self-concealed, And when confessed in silence, long controlled; Treacherous occasion, human frailty, fear Of endless separation, worse than death, The purpose and the hope with which the Fiend Tempted, deceived, and maddened him;—but then As at a new temptation would he start, Shuddering beneath the intolerable shame, And clench in agony his matted hair; While in his soul the perilous thought arose, Ilow easy towere to plunge where yonder waves Invited him to rest. Oh for a voice Of comfort, -for a ray of hope from Heaven! A hand that from these billows of despair

May reach and snatch him ere he sink engulphed!
At length, as life when it hath lain long time
Opprest beneath some grievous malady,
Seems to rouse up with re-collected strength,
And the sick man doth feel within himself
A second spring; so Roderick's better mind
Arose to save him. Lo! the western sun
Flames o'er the broad Atlantic; on the verge
Of glowing ocean rests; retiring then
Draws with it all its rays, and sudden night
Fills the whole cope of Ileaven. The penitent
Knelt by Romano's grave, and, falling prone,
Claspt with extended arms the funeral mould.
Father! he cried; Companion' only friend,
When all beside was lost! thou too art gone,
And the poor sinner whom from utter death
Thy providential hand preserved, once more
Totters upon the gulph. I am too weak
For solitude,-too vile a wretch to bear
This everlasting commune with myself.
The Tempter hath assailed me; my own heart
Is leagued with him; Despair hath laid the nets
To take my soul, and Memory, like a ghost,
Haunts me, and drives me to the toils. O Saint,
While I was blest with thee, the hermitage
was my sure haven! Look upon me still,
For from thy heavenly mansion thou canst see
The suppliant; look upon thy child in Christ.
Is there no other way for penitence?
I ask not martyrdom; for what am I
That I should pray for triumphs, the fit meed
Of a long life of holy works like thine;
Or how should I presumptuously aspire
To wear the heavenly crown resigned by thee,
For my poor sinful sake? Oh point me thou
Some humblest, painfullest, severest path,
Some new austerity, unheard of yet
In Syrian fields of glory, or the sands
of holiest Egypt.13 Let me bind my brow
With thorns, and barefoot seek Jerusalem,
Tracking the way with blood; there day by day
Inflict upon this guilty flesh the scourge,
Drink vinegar and gall, and for my bed
Ilang with extended limbs upon the Cross,
A nightly crucifixion!—anything
Of action, difficulty, bodily pain,
Labour, and outward suffering,-anything
But stillness and this dreadful solitude!
Romano! Father! let me hearthy voice
In dreams, O sainted Soul! or from the grave
Speak to thy penitent; even from the grave
Thine were a voice of comfort.

Thus he cried,
Easing the pressure of his burthened heart
With passionate prayer; thus poured his spirit forth,
Till the long effort had exhausted him,
His spirit failed, and laying on the grave
His weary head, as on a pillow, sleep
Fell on him. He had prayed to hear a voice
Of consolation, and in dreams a voice
Of consolation came. Roderick, it said,
Roderick, my poor, unhappy, sinful child,
Jesus have mercy on thee!—Not if Heaven
Had opened, and Romano, visible
In his beatitude, had breathed that prayer:-

Not if the grave had spoken, had it *

So deeply in his soul, nor wrung his heart
With such compunctious visitings, nor given
So quick, so keen a pang. It was that voice
Which sung his fretful infancy to sleep
So patiently; which soothed his childish griefs;
Counselled, with anguish and prophetic tears,
His headstrong youth. And lo! his Mother stood
Before him in the vision: in those weeds
Which never from the hour when to the grave
She followed her dear lord Theodofred
Rusilla laid aside; 4 but in her face
A sorrow that bespake a heavier load
At heart, and more unmitigated woe,
Yea a more mortal wretchedness than when
Witiza's ruffians and the red-hot brass
Had done their work, and in her arms she held
Her eyeless husband;" wiped away the sweat
Which still his tortures forced from every pore;
Cooled his scorched lids with medicinal herbs,
And prayed the while for patience for herself
And him, and prayed for vengeance too, and found
Best comfort in her curses. In his dream,
Groaning he knelt before her to beseech
Her blessing, and she raised her hands to lay
A benediction on him. But those hands
Were chained, and casting a wild look around,
With thrilling voice she cried, Will no one break
These shameful fetters? Pedro, Theudemir,
Athanagild, where are ye? Roderick's arm
is wither'd,—Chiefs of Spain, but where are ye?
And thou, Pelayo, thou our surest hope,
Dost thou too sleep?—Awake, Pelayo!—up!—
Why tarriest thou, Deliverer?—But with that
She broke her bouds, and lo! her form was changed!
Radiant in arms she stood! a bloody Cross
Gleamed on her breast-plate, in her shield displayed
Erect a lion ramped; her helmed head
Rose like the Berecynthian Goddess crowned
With towers, and in her dreadful hand the sword
Red as a fire-brand blazed. Anon the tramp
Of horsemen, and the din of multitudes
Moving to mortal conflict, rang around:
The battle-song, the clang of sword and shield,
War-cries and tumult, strife and hate and rage,
Blasphemous prayers, confusion, agony,
Rout and pursuit and death; and over all
The shout of victory—Spain and Victory!
Roderick, as the strong vision mastered him,
Rushed to the fight rejoicing : starting then,
As his own effort burst the charm of sleep,
He found himself upon that lonely grave
In moonlight and in silence. But the dream
Wrought in him still; for still he felt his heart
Pant, and his withered arm was trembling still:
And still that voice was in his ear which called
On Jesus for his sake.

O might he hear
That actual voice! and if Rusilla lived,—
If shame and anguish for his crimes not yet
Had brought her to the grave, sure she would bless
Her penitent child, and pour into his heart
Prayers and forgiveness, which, like precious balm,
Would heal the wounded soul. Nor to herself
Less precious, or less healing, would the voice
That spake forgiveness flow. She wept her son
For ever lost, cut off with all the weight

[blocks in formation]

T was now the earliest morning; soon the Sun,
Rising above Albardos, poured his light
Amid the forest, and with ray aslant
Entering its depth, illumed the branchless pines,
Brightened their bark, tinged with a redder hue
Its rusty stains, and cast along the floor
Long lines of shadow, where they rose erect
Like pillars of the temple. With slow foot
Roderick pursued his way; for penitence,
Remorse which gave no respite, and the long
And painful conflict of his troubled soul,
Had worn him down. Now brighter thoughts arose,
Aud that triumphant Vision floated still
Before his sight with all her blazonry,
Her castled helm, and the victorious sword
That flashed like lightning o'er the field of blood.
Sustained by thoughts like these, from morn till eve
He journeyed, and drew near Leyria's walls.
'T was even-song time, but not a bell was heard :
Instead thereof, on her polluted towers,
Bidding the Moors to their unhallowed prayer,
The cryer stood, and with his sonorous voice
Filled the delicious vale where Lena winds
Through groves and pastoral meads. The sound, the sight
Of turban, girdle, robe, and scymitar,
And tawny skins, awoke contending thoughts
of anger, shame, and anguish in the Goth;
The unaccustomed face of human-kind
Confused him now, and through the streets he went
with hagged mien, and countenance like one
Crazed or bewildered. All who met him turned,
And wondered as he past. One stopt him short,
Put alms into his hand, and then desired,
In broken Gothic speech, the moon-struck man
To bless him. With a look of vacancy
Roderick received the alms; his wandering eye
Fell on the money, and the fallen King,
Seeing his own royal impress on the piece,
Broke out into a quick convulsive voice,
That seemed like laughter first, but ended soon
In hollow groans supprest : the Musselman
Shrunk at the ghastly sound, and magnified
The name of Allah as he hastened on.
A Christian woman spinning at her door

Beheld him, and, with sudden pity touched,
She laid her spindle by, and running in +
Took bread, and following after called him back,
And placing in his passive hands the loaf,
She said, Christ Jesus for his mother's sake
Have mercy on thee! With a look that seemed
Like idiotcy he heard her, and stood still,
Staring awhile; then bursting into tears
Wept like a child, and thus relieved his heart,
Full even to bursting else with swelling thoughts.
So through the streets, and through the northern gate
Did Roderick, reckless of a resting-place,
With feeble yet with hurried step, pursue
His agitated way; and when he reached
The open fields, and found himself alone
Beneath the starry canopy of Heaven,
The sense of solitude, so dreadful late,
Was then repose and comfort. There he stopt
Beside a little rill, and brake the loaf;
And shedding o'er that unaccustomed food
Painful but quiet tears, with grateful soul
He breathed thanksgiving forth, then made his bed
On heath and myrtle.
But when he arose

At day-break and pursued his way, his heart
Felt lightened that the shock of mingling first
Among his fellow-kind was overpast;
And journeying on, he greeted whom he met
With such short interchange of benison
As each to other gentle travellers give,
Recovering thus the power of social speech
Which he had long disused. When hunger prest
He asked for alms: slight supplication served;
A countenance so pale and woe-begone
Moved all to pity; and the marks it bore
Of rigorous penance and austerest life,
With something too of majesty that still
Appeared amid the wreck, inspired a sense
Of reverence too. The goat-herd on the hills
Opened his scrip for him; the babe in arms,
Affrighted at his visage, turned away,
And clinging to its mother's neck in tears
Would yet again look up, and then again,
With cry renewed, shrink back. The bolder imps
Who played beside the way, at his approach
Brake off their sport for wonder, and stood still
In silence; some among them cried, A Saint
The village matron when she gave him food
Besought his prayers; and one entreated him
To lay his healing hands upon her child,
For with a sore and hopeless malady
Wasting, it long had lain, -and sure, she said,
He was a man of God.

Thus travelling on
He past the vale where wild Arunca pours
Its wintry torrents; and the happier site
Of old Conimbrica, whose ruined towers
Bore record of the fierce Alani's wrath. 16
Mondego too he crost, not yet renowned
In poets' amorous lay; and left behind
The walls at whose foundation pious hands
Of Priest and Monk and Bishop meekly toiled,—
So had the insulting Arian given command.
Those stately palaces and rich domains
Were now the Moor's, and many a weary age
Must Coimbra wear the misbeliever's yoke,

Before Fernando's banner through her gate
Shall pass triumphant, and her hallowed Mosque
Behold the hero of Bivar receive
The knighthood which he glorified so oft
In his victorious fields. Oh if the years
To come might then have risen on Roderick's soul,
How had they kindled and consoled his heart!—
What joy might Douro's haven then have given,
Whence Portugal, the faithful and the brave,
Shall take her name illustrious!—what, those walls
where Mumadona 7 one day will erect
Convent and town and towers, which shall become
The cradle of that famous monarchy!
What joy might these prophetic scenes have given,
What ample vengeance on the Musselman,
Driven out with foul defeat, and made to feel
In Africa the wrongs he wrought to Spain;
And still pursued by that relentless sword,
Even to the farthest Orient, where his power
Received its mortal wound.
0 years of pride!

In undiscoverable futurity,
Yet unevolved, your destined glories lay;
And all that Roderick in these fated scenes
Beheld, was grief and wretchedness, the waste
Of recent war, and that more mournful calm
Of joyless, helpless, hopeless servitude.
‘Twas not the ruined walls of church or tower,
Cottage or hall or convent, black with smoke;
'T was not the unburied bones, which, where the dogs
And crows had strewn them, lay amid the field
Bleaching in sun or shower, that wrung his heart
With keenest anguish: 't was when he beheld
The turban'd traitor shew his shameless front
In the open eye of Heaven, the renegade,
On whose base brutal nature unredeemed
Even black apostacy itself could stamp
No deeper reprobation, at the hour
Assigned fall prostrate, and unite the names
Of God and the Blasphemer, impious prayer,
Most impious, when from unbelieving lips
The accursed utterance came. Then Roderick's heart
With indignation burnt, and then he longed
To be a hing again, that so, for Spain
Betrayed and his Redeemer thus renounced,
He might inflict due punishment, and make
These wretches feel his wrath. But when he saw
The daughters of the land,-who, as they went
With cheerful step to church, were wont to shew
Their innocent faces to all passers' eyes,
Freely, and free from sin as when they looked
In adoration and in praise to Heaven,
Now masked in Moorish mufflers, to the Mosque
Holding uncompanied their jealous way,
llis spirit seemed at that unhappy sight
To die away within him, and he too *
Would fain have died, so death could bring with it
Entire oblivion. -

Rent with thoughts like these,
He reached that city, once the seat renowned
Of Suevi kings, where, in contempt of Rome
Degenerate long, the North's heroic race
Raised first a rival throne; now from its state
Of proud regality debased and fallen.
Still bounteous Nature o'er the lovely vale,
Where like a Queen rose Bracara august,

« ZurückWeiter »