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110 BYRON'S WORKS.
CAN to i.
Alas! he told not—but he did awake
Books, for his volume heretofore was Man,
been. Why gazed he so upon the ghastly head Which hands profane had gather'd from the dead, That still beside his open'd volume lay, As if to startle all save him away 2 Why slept he not when others were at rest ? Why heard no music, and received no guest ? All was not well, they deem’d—but where the wrong 2 Some knew perchance—but 't were a tale too long; And such besides were too discreetly wise, To more than hint their knowledge in surmise; But if they would — they could"—around the board, Thus Lara's vassals prattled of their lord.
X. It was the night—and Lara's glassy stream The stars are studding, each with imaged beam; So calm, the waters scarcely seem to stray, And yet they glide like happiness away; Reflecting far and fairy-like from high The immortal lights that live along the sky: Its banks are fringed with many a goodly tree, And flowers the fairest that may feast the bee; Such in her chaplet infant Dian wove, And Innocence would offer to her love. These deck the shore; the waves their channel make In windings bright and mazy like the snake. All was so still, so soft in earth and air, You scarce would start to meet a spirit there; Secure that nought of evil could delight To walk in such a scene, on such a night! It was a moment only for the good : So Lara deem’d, nor longer there he stood, But turn'd in silence to his castle-gate; Such scene his soul no more could contemplate: Such scene reminded him of other days, Of skies more cloudless, moons of purer blaze, Of nights more soft and frequent, hearts that now.— No – no–the storm may beat upon his brow, Unfelt – unsparing—but a night like this, A night of beauty, mock'd such breast as his.
XI. He turn'd within his solitary hall, And his high shadow shot along the wall : There were the painted forms of other times, 'Twas all they left of virtues or of crimes, Save vague tradition; and the gloomy vaults That hid their dust, their foibles, and their faults; And half a column of the pompous page, That speeds the specious tale from age to age;
Where history's pen its praise or blame supplies,
XII. 'Twas midnight—all was slumber; the lone light Dimm'd in the lamp, as loth to break the night. Hark! there be murmurs heard in Lara's hall — A sound—a voice — a shriek—a fearful call ! A long, loud shriek—and silence — did they hear That frantic echo burst the sleeping ear 2 They heard and rose, and, tremulously brave, Rush where the sound invoked their aid to save; They come with half-lit tapers in their hands, And snatch'd in startled haste unbelted brands.
Cold as the marble where his length was laid,
Rests at his heart: the custom'd morning came,
XVI. Wain thought ! that hour of ne'er unravell'd gloom Came not again, or Lara could assume A seeming of forgetfulness, that made His vassals more amazed nor less afraid— Had memory vanish'd then with sense restored 2 Since word, nor look, nor gesture of their lord Betray'd a feeling that recall'd to these That fever'd moment of his mind's disease. Was it a dream 2 was his the voice that spoke Those strange wild accents; his the cry that broke Their slumber 2 his the oppress'd, o'erlabour'd heart That ceased to beat, the look that made them start 2 Could he who thus had suffer'd so forget, When such as saw that suffering shudder yet 2 Or did that silence prove his memory fix'd Too deep for words, indelible, unmix'd In that corroding secrecy which gnaws The heart to show the effect, but not the cause 2 Not so in him ; his breast had buried both, Nor common gazers could discern the growth Of thoughts that mortal lips must leave half told; They choke the feeble words that would unfold.
In him inexplicably mix'd appear'd
That smile might reach his lip, but pass'd not by,
None e'er could trace its laughter to his eye:
In vigilance of grief that would compel The soul to hate for having loved too well.
XVIII. There was in him a vital scorn of all : As if the worst had fall'n which could befall, He stood a stranger in this breathing world, An erring spirit from another hurl’d; A thing of dark imaginings, that shaped By choice the perils he by chance escaped; But 'scaped in vain, for in their memory yet His mind would half exult and half regret: With more capacity for love than earth Bestows on most of mortal mould and birth, His early dreams of good outstripp'd the truth, And troubled manhood follow'd baffled youth ; With thought of years in phantom chase misspent, And wasted powers for better purpose lent; And fiery passions that had pour'd their wrath In hurried desolation o'er his path, And left the better feelings all at strife In wild reflection o'er his stormy life; But haughty still, and loth himself to blame, He call'd on Nature's self to share the shame, And charged all faults upon the fleshy form She gave to clog the soul, and feast the worm ; Till he at last confounded good and ill, And half mistook for fate the acts of will : Too high for common selfishness, he could At times resign his own for others' good, But not in pity, not because he ought, But in some strange perversity of thought, That sway’d him onward with a secret pride To do what few or none would do beside; And this same impulse would, in tempting time, Mislead his spirit equally to crime; So much he soar'd beyond, or sunk beneath, The men with whom he felt condemn'd to breathe, And long'd by good or ill to separate Himself from all who shared his mortal state; His mind abhorring this had fix'd her throne Far from the world, in regions of her own: Thus coldly passing all that pass'd below, His blood in temperate seeming now would flow : Ah I happier if it ne'er with guilt had glow'd, But ever in that icy smoothness flow'd 1 'T is true, with other men their path he walk'd, And like the rest in seeming did and talk'd, Nor outraged Reason's rules by flaw nor start, His madness was not of the head, but heart; And rarely wander'd in his speech, or drew His thoughts so forth as to offend the view.
XIX. With all that chilling mystery of mien, And seeming gladness to remain unseen, He had (if 't were not nature's boon) an art Of fixing memory on another's heart: It was not love perchance—nor hate—nor aught That words can image to express the thought ; But they who saw him did not see in vain, And once beheld, would ask of him again : And those to whom he spake remember'd well, And on the words, however light, would dwell: None knew, nor how, nor why, but he entwined Himself perforce around the hearer's mind; There he was stamp'd, in liking, or in hate, If greeted once; however brief the date
That friendship, pity, or aversion knew,
XX. There is a festival, where knights and dames, And aught that wealth or lofty lineage claims, Appear—a highborn and a welcome guest To Otho's hall came Lara with the rest. The long carousal shakes the illumined hall, Well speeds alike the banquet and the ball; And the gay dance of bounding Beauty's train Links grace and harmony in happiest chain: Blest are the early hearts and gentle hands That mingle there in well according bands; It is a sight the careful brow might smooth, And make Age smile, and dream itself to youth, And Youth forget such hour was past on earth, So springs the exulting bosom to that mirth !
xxI. And Lara gazed on these, sedately glad, His brow belied him if his soul was sad ; And his glance follow'd fast each fluttering fair, Whose steps of lightness woke no echo there : He lean'd against the lofty pillar nigh, With folded arms and long attentive eye, Nor mark'd a glance so sternly fix'd on his— Ill brook'd high Lara scrutiny like this: At length he caught it—'tis a face unknown, But seems as searching his, and his alone ; Prying and dark, a stranger's by his mien, Who still till now had gazed on him unseen: At length encountering meets the mutual gaze Of keen inquiry, and of mute amaze; On Iara's glance emotion gathering grew, As if distrusting that the stranger threw; Along the stranger's aspect, fix’d and stern, Flash'd more than thence the vulgar eye could learn.
“'T is he "the stranger cried, and those that heard
XXIII. It were too much for Lara to pass by Such questions, so repeated fierce and high ; With look collected, but with accent cold, More mildly firm than petulantly bold, He turn'd, and mct the inquisitorial tone— “My name is Lara ! — when thine own is known,
Doubt not my fitting answer to requite
“Thou shunn'st no question 1 Ponder—is there none
To-morrow, here, or elsewhere, as may best Beseem your mutual judgment, speak the rest; I pledge myself for thee, as not unknown, Though, like Count Lara, now return’d alone From other lands, almost a stranger grown;
And if from Lara's blood and gentle birth
“To-morrow be it," Ezzelin replied,
XXIV. “To-morrow !—ay, to-morrow !" further word Than those repeated none from Lara heard; Upon his brow no outward passion spoke : From his large eye no flashing anger broke : Yet there was something fix’d in that low tone, Which show'd resolve, determined, though unknown.
He seized his cloak – his head he slightly bow'd,
XXV. And Lara call'd his page, and went his way— Well could that stripling word or sign obey : His only follower from those climes afar, Where the soul glows beneath a brighter star; For Lara left the shore from whence he sprung, In duty patient, and sedate though young; Silent as him he served, his faith appears Above his station, and beyond his years. Though not unknown the tongue of Lara's land, In such from him he rarely heard command; But fleet his step, and clear his tones would come, When Lara's lip breathed forth the words of home : Those accents, as his native mountains dear, Awake their absent echoes in his ear, Friends', kindreds', parents', wonted voice recall, Now lost, abjured, for one—his friend, his all : For him earth now disclosed no other guide ; What marvel then he rarely left his side 2
Light was his form, and darkly delicate
xxWII. If aught he loved, 't was Lara ; but was shown His faith in reverence and in deeds alone;
In mute attention; and his care, which guess'd Each wish, fulfill'd it ere the tongue express'd. Still there was haughtiness in all he did, A spirit deep that brook'd not to be chid; His zeal, though more than that of servile hands, In act alone obeys, his air commands; As if 'twas Lara's less than his desire That thus he served, but surely not for hire. Slight were the tasks enjoin'd him by his lord, To hold the stirrup, or to bear the sword; To tune his lute, or, if he will'd it more, On tomes of other times and tongues to pore; But ne'er to mingle with the menial train, To whom he show'd nor deference nor disdain, But that well-worn reserve which proved he knew No sympathy with that familiar crew : His soul, whate'er his station or his stem, Could bow to Lara, not descend to them. Of higher birth he seem’d, and better days, Nor mark of vulgar toil that hand betrays, So femininely white it might bespeak Another sex, when match'd with that smooth check, But for his garb, and something in his gaze, More wild and high than woman's eye betrays; A latent fierceness that far more became His fiery climate than his tender frame: True, in his words it broke not from his breast, But from his aspect might be more than guess'd. Kaled his name, though rumour said he bore Another ere he left his mountain-shore; For sometimes he would hear, however migh, That name repeated loud without reply, As unfamiliar, or, if roused again, Start to the sound, as but remember'd then ; Unless 'twas Lara's wonted voice that spake, For then, ear, eyes, and heart would all awake.
XXVIII. He had look'd down upon the festive hall, And mark'd that sudden strife so mark'd of all; And when the crowd around and near him told Their wonder at the calmness of the bold, Their marvel how the high-born Lara bore Such insult from a stranger, doubly sore, The colour of young Kaled went and came, The lip of ashes, and the cheek of flame; And o'er his brow the dampening heart-drops threw The sickening iciness of that cold dew, That rises as the busy bosom sinks With heavy thoughts from which reflection shrinks. Yes—there be things which we must dream and dare, And execute ere thought be half aware: Whate'er might Kaled's be, it was enow To seal his lip, but agonise his brow. He gazed on Ezzelin till Lara cast That sidelong smile upon the knight he past: When Kaled saw that smile his visage fell, As if on something recognised right well; His memory read in such a meaning more Than Lara's aspect unto others wore: Forward he sprung—a moment, both were gone, And all within that hall seem'd left alone; Each had so fix’d his eye on Lara's mien, All had so mix'd their feelings with that scene, That when his long dark shadow through the porch No more relieves the glare of yon high torch, Each pulse beats quicker, and all bosoms seem To bound as doubting from too black a dream,
Such as we know is false, yet dread in sooth,
xx Ix. The crowd are gone, the revellers at rest; The courteous host, and all-approving guest, Again to that accustom'd couch must creep Where joy subsides, and sorrow sighs to sleep, And man, o'erlabour'd with his being's strife, Shrinks to that sweet forgetfulness of life: There lie love's feverish hope, and cunning's guile, Hate's working brain, and lull'd ambition's wile; O'er each vain eye oblivion's pinions wave, And quench'd existence crouches in a grave. What better name may slumber's bed become 2 Night's sepulchre, the universal home, Where weakness, strength, vice, virtue, sunk supine, Alike in naked helplessness recline; Glad for awhile to heave unconscious breath, Yet wake to wrestle with the dread of death, And shun, though day but dawn on ills increased, That sleep, the loveliest, since it dreams the least.
31ata. CANTo The second."
Night wanes — the vapours round the mountains
II. 'T is morn—'tis noon—assembled in the hall, The gather'd chieftains come to Otho's call; 'T is now the promised hour, that must proclaim The life or death of Lara's future fame;
When Ezzelin his charge may here unfold,
III. The hour is past, and Lara too is there, With self-confiding, coldly patient air; Why comes not Ezzelin 7 The hour is past, And murmurs rise, and Otho's brow's o'ercast. “I know my friend his faith I cannot fear, If yet he be on earth, expect him here; The roof that held him in the valley stands Between my own and noble Lara's lands; My halls from such a guest had honour gain'd, Nor had Sir Ezzelin his host disdain'd, But that some previous proof forbade his stay, And urged him to prepare against to-day; The word I pledged for his I pledge again, Or will myself redeem his knighthood's stain."
He ceased — and Lara answer'd, “I am here
Proud Otho on the instant, reddening, threw
With cheek unchanging from its sallow gloom,
- IV. Short was the conflict; furious, blindly rash, Wain Otho gave his bosom to the gash : He bled, and fell; but not with deadly wound, Stretch'd by a dextrous sleight along the ground. “ Dernand thy life : " He answer'd not ; and then From that red floor he ne'er had risen again, For Lara's brow upon the moment grew Almost to blackness in its demon hue; And fiercer shook his angry falchion now Than when his foe's was levell'd at his brow ;
* [Ilord Byron seems to have taken a whimsical pleasure in disappointing, by his second Canto, most of the expectations which he had excited by the first. For, without the resuscitation of Sir Ezzelin, Lara's mysterious vision in his antique hall becomes a mere useless H.” of lumber, inapplicable to any intelligible purpose. he character of Medora, whom we had been satisfied to behold very contentedly
domesticated in the Pirate's Island, without inquiring whence or why she had emigrated thither, is, by mcans of some on ysterious relation between her and Sir Ezzelin, involved in very disagreeable ambiguity ; – and, further, the high-minded and generous Conrad, who had preferred death and torture to life and liberty, if purchased by a nightly murder, is degraded into a vile and cowardly assassin. — GeoRGE Ellis-l