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The crowd collect ; the sentence is divulged;
With them Olindo comes, by pity swayed ;
It might be that the youth the thought indulged,
What if his own Sophronia were the maid !
There stand the busy officers arrayed
For the last act, here swift the flames arise ;
But when the pinioned beauty stands displayed
To the full gaze of his inquiring eyes, 'Tis she! he bursts through all, the crowd before him fies.
Aloud he cries : "To her, oh not to her
The crime belongs, though frenzy may misplead!
She planned not, dared not, could not, king, incur
Sole and unskilled the guilt of such a deed !
How lull the guards, or by what process speed
The sacred Image from its vaulted cell ?
The theft was mine! and 't is my right to bleed!”
Alas for him! how wildly and how well
He loved the unloving maid, let this avowal tell.
“ I marked where your high Mosque receives the air
And light of heaven; I climbed the dizzy steep;
I reached a narrow opening; entered there,
And stole the Saint whilst all were hushed in sleep :
Mine was the crime, and shall another reap
The pain and glory? Grant not her desire !
The chains are mine ; for me the guards may heap
Around the ready stake the penal fire;
For me the flames ascend ; 't is mine, that funeral pyre!"
Sophronia raised to him her face, — her eye
Was filled with pity and a starting tear :
She spoke — the soul of sad humanity
Was in her voice, “ What frenzy brings thee here,
Unhappy innocent I is death so dear,
Or am I so ill able to sustain
A mortal's wrath, that thou must needs appear?
I have a heart, too, that can death disdain,
Nor ask for life's last hour companionship in pain."
Thus she appeals to him ; but scorning life,
His settled soul refuses to retreat :
Oh glorious scene, where in sublimest strife
High-minded Virtue and Affection meet!
Where death 's the prize of conquest, and defeat
Seals its own safety, yet remains unblest !
But indignation at their fond deceit,
And rage, the more inflames the tyrant's breast,
The more this constant pair the palm of guilt contest.
He deems his power despised, and that in scorn
Of him they spurn the punishment assigned :
“Let," he exclaimed, “the fitting palm adorn
The brows of both! both pleas acceptance find!"
Beckoning he bids the prompt tormentors bind
Their galling chains around the youth — 't is done;
Both to one stake are, back to back, consigned,
Like sunflowers twisted from their worshipped sun,
Compelled the last fond looks of sympathy to shun.
Around them now the unctuous pyre was piled,
And the fanned fame was rising in the wind,
When, full of mournful thoughts, in accents wild,
The lover to his mate in death repined:
“Is this the bond, then, which I hoped should bind
Our lives in blissful marriage? this the fire
Of bridal faith, commingling mind with mind,
Which, I believed, should in our hearts inspire
Like warmth of sacred zeal and delicate desire ?
“Far other flames Love promised to impart,
Than those our envious planets here prepare ;
Too, ah too long they kept our hands apart,
But harshly now they join them in despair !
Yet does it soothe, since by a mode so rare
Condemned to die, thy torments to partake,
Forbid by fate thy sweetnesses to share;
If tears I shed, 't is but for thy dear sake,
Not mine, — with thee beside, I bless the burning stake!
" And oh! this doom would be indeed most blest,
My sharpest sufferings blandishments divine,
Might I but be permitted, breast to breast,
On thy sweet lips my spirit to resign;
If thou too, panting toward one common shrine,
Wouldst the next happy instant parting spend
Thy latest sighs in sympathy on mine!”
Sorrowing he spake; she, when his plaints had end,
Did thus his fond discourse most sweetly reprehend.
“ Far other aspirations, other plaints
Than these, dear friend, the solemn hour should claim.
Think what reward God offers to his saints;
Let meek repentance raise a loftier aim :
These torturing fires, if suffered in his name,
Will, bland as zephyrs, waft us to the blest;
Regard the sun, how beautiful his flame!
How fine a sky invites him to the west !
These seem to soothe our pangs, and summon us to rest."
The Pagans lifting up their voices, wept;
In stifled sorrow wept the Faithful too;
E'en the stern king was touched, - a softness crept
O'er his fierce heart, ennobling, pure, and new;
He felt, he scorned it, struggled to subdue,
And lest his wavering firmness should relent,
His eyes averted, and his steps withdrew :
Sophronia's spirit only was unbent;
She yet lamented not, for whom all else lament.
In midst of their distress, a knight behold,
(So would it seem) of princely port! whose vest
And arms of curious fashion, grained with gold,
Bespeak some foreign and distinguished guest;
The silver tigress on the helm impressed,
Which for a badge is borne, attracts all eyes,
A noted cognizance, th' accustomed crest
Used by Clorinda, whence conjectures rise,
Herself the stranger is, - nor false is their surmise.
All feminine attractions, aims, and parts,
She from her childhood cared not to assume;
Her haughty hand disdained all servile arts,
The needle, distaff, and Arachne's loom;
Yet, though she left the gay and gilded room
For the free camp, kept spotless as the light
Her virgin fame, and proud of glory's plume,
With pride her aspect armed, she took delight
Stern to appear, and stern, she charmed the gazer's sight.
Whilst yet a girl, she with her little hand
Lashed and reined in the rapid steed she raced,
Tossed the huge javelin, wrestled on the sand,
And by gymnastic toils her sinews braced;
Then through the devious wood and mountain-waste
Tracked the struck lion to his entered den,
Or in fierce wars a nobler quarry chased;
And thus in fighting field and forest glen,
A man to savage beasts, a savage seemed to men.
From Persia now she comes, with all her skill
The Christians to resist, though oft has she
Strewed with their blood the field, till scarce a rill
Remained, that ran not purple to the sea.
Here now arrived, the dreadful pageantry
Of death presents itself, — the crowd — the pyre-
And the bound pair; solicitous to see,
And know what crime condemns them to the fire,
Forward she spurs her steed and hastens to inquire.
The throng falls back, and she awhile remains,
The fettered pair more closely to survey ;
One she sees silent, one she sees complains,
The stronger spirit nerves the weaker prey :
She sees him mourn like one whom the sad sway
Of powerful pity doth to tears chastise,
Not grief, or grief not for himself ; but aye
Mute kneels the maid, her blue beseeching eyes
So fixed on heaven, she seems in heaven ere yet she dies.
Clorinda melts, and with them both condoles ;
Some tears she sheds, but greater tenderness
Feels for her grief who most her grief controls, –
The silence moves her much, the weeping less;
No longer now does she delay to press
For information ; turning towards one
Of reverend years, she said with eagerness,
“Who are they? speak! and oh, what crime has won This death? in Mercy's name, declare the deed they've done!”
Thus she entreats; a brief reply he gives,
But such as well explains the whole event:
Amazed she heard it, and as soon conceives
That they are both sincerely innocent;
Her heart is for them, she is wholly bent
To avert their fate, if either arms can aid,
Or earnest prayers secure the king's consent;
The fire she nears, commands it to be stayed,
That now approached them fast, and to th' attendants said:
“Let none of you presume to prosecute
Your barbarous office, till the king I see;
My word I pledge that at Clorinda's suit,
Your fault he will forgive, if fault it be."
Moved by her speech and queenlike dignity
The guards obey, and she departs in quest
Of the stern monarch, urgent of her plea :
Midway they met ; the monarch she addressed
And in this skilful mode her generous purpose pressed.
“I am Clorinda ; thou wilt know perchance
The name, from vague remembrance or renown;
And here I come to save with sword and lance
Our common Faith, and thy endangered crown,
Impose the labor, lay th' adventure down,
Sublime, I fear it not, nor low despise ;
In open field or in the straitened town,
Prepared I stand for every enterprise,
Where'er the danger calls, where'er the labor lies!”
“'T would be assuredly a thing most rare,
If the reward the service should precede;
But of thy bounty confident, I dare
For future toils solicit, as my meed,
Yon lovers' pardon ; since the charge indeed
Rests on no evidence, 't was hard to press
The point at all, but this I waive, nor plead
On those sure signs which, urged, thou must confess
Their hands quite free from crime, or own their guilt far less.
“Yet will I say, though here the common mind
Condemns the Christians of the theft, for me,
Sufficient reasons in mine own I find
To doubt, dispute, disparage the decree;
To set their idols in our sanctuary
Was an irreverence to our laws, howe'er
Urged by the sorcerer ; should the Prophet see
E'en idols of our own established there?
Much less then those of men whose lips his faith forswear:
6. The Christian statue ravished from your sight
To Allah therefore rather I impute,
In sign that he will let no foreign rite
Of superstition his pure place pollute:
Spells and enchantments may Ismeno suit,
Leave him to use such weapons at his will ;
But shall we warriors by a wand dispute?
No! no! our talisman, our hope, our skill,
Lie in our swords alone, and they shall serve us still I”
She ceased ; and he, though mercy could with pain
Subdue a heart so full of rage and pride,
Relents, her reasons move, her prayers constrain.
Such intercessor must not be denied ;
Thus, though reluctant, he at length complied:
“ The plea for the fair pleader I receive;
I can refuse thee nothing; this,” he cried,
“May justice be or mercy, – let them live; Guiltless – I set them free, or guilty I forgive!”
Restored to life and liberty, how blest,
How truly blest was young Olindo's fate !
For sweet Sophronia's blushes might attest,
That Love at length has touched her delicate
And generous bosom ; from the stake in state
They to the altar pass ; severely tried,
In doom and love, already made his mate,
She now objects not to become his bride,
And grateful live with him who would for her have died.
Wiffen's Translation, Canto II.