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His sabre's hilt and scabbard felt,
“Well, sire, with such a hope, I'll track
It was a court of jousts and mimes,
V. “I was a goodly stripling then ; At seventy years I so may say, That there were few, or boys or men, Who, in my dawning time of day, Of vassal or of knight's degree, Could vie in vanities with me ; For I had strength, youth, gaiety, A port, not like to this ye see, But smooth, as all is rugged now ; For time, and care, and war, have plough'd My very soul from out my brow; And thus I should be disavow’d By all my kind and kin, could they Compare my day and yesterday; This change was wrought, too, long ere age Had ta'en my features for his page : With years, ye know, have not declined My strength, my courage, or my mind, Or at this hour I should not be Telling old tales beneath a tree,’ With starless skies my canopy. But let me on : Theresa's form — Methinks it glides before me now, Between me and yon chestnut's bough, The memory is so quick and warm ; And yet I find no words to tell The shape of her I loved so well: She had the Asiatic eye, Such as our Turkish neighbourhood, Hath mingled with our Polish blood, Dark as above us is the sky;
1 This comparison of a “salt mine" may, perhaps, be permitted to a Pole, as the wealth of the country consists greatly in the salt mines.
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But through it stole a tender light,
VI. “We met — we gazed — I saw, and sigh'd, She did not speak, and yet replied ; There are ten thousand tones and signs We hear and see, but none defines — Involuntary sparks of thought, Which strike from out the heart o'erwrought, And form a strange intelligence, Alike mysterious and intense, Which link the burning chain that binds, Without their will, young hearts and minds; Conveying, as the electric wire, We know not how, the absorbing fire. — I saw, and sigh’d — in silence wept, And still reluctant distance kept, Until I was made known to her, And we might then and there confer Without suspicion — then, even then, I long'd, and was resolved to speak; But on my lips they died again, The accents tremulous and weak, Until one hour. — There is a game, A frivolous and foolish play, Where with we while away the day ; It is — I have forgot the name — And we to this, it seems, were set, By some strange chance, which I forget: I reck'd not if I won or lost, It was enough for me to be So near to hear, and oh to see The being whom I loved the most. — I watch'd her as a sentinel, (May ours this dark night watch as well .) Until I saw, and thus it was, That she was pensive, nor perceived Her occupation, nor was grieved Nor glad to lose or gain; but still Play'd on for hours, as if her will Yet bound her to the place, though not That hers might be the winning lot. * Then through my brain the thought did pass Even as a flash of lightning there, That there was something in her air Which would not doom me to despair;
And on the thought my words broke forth,
VII. “I loved, and was beloved again – They tell me, Sire, you never knew Those gentle frailties; if 'tis true, I shorten all my joy or pain; To you 't would seem absurd as vain; But all men are not born to reign, Or o'er their passiens, or as you Thus o'er themselves and nations too. I am — or rather was – a prince, A chief of thousands, and could lead Them on where each would foremost bleed; But could not o'er myself evince The like control – But to resume : I loved, and was beloved again; In sooth, it is a happy doom, But yet where happiest ends in pain. — We met in secret, and the hour Which led me to that lady's bower Was fiery Expectation's dower. My days and nights were nothing — all Except that hour which doth recall In the long lapse from youth to age No other like itself – I'd give The Ukraine back again to live It o'er once more — and be a page, The happy page, who was the lord Of one soft heart, and his own sword, And had no other gem nor wealth Save nature's gift of youth and health. – We met in secret — doubly sweet, Some say, they find it so to meet; I know not that – I would have given My life but to have call'd her mine In the full view of earth and heaven; For I did oft and long repine That we could only meet by stealth.
VIII. “For lovers there are many eyes, And such there were on us; — the devil On such occasions should be civil – The devil — I’m loth to do him wrong, It might be some untoward saint, Who would not be at rest too long, But to his pious bile gave vent— But one fair night, some lurking spies Surprised and seized us both. The Count was something more than wroth – I was unarm'd ; but if in steel, All cap-à-pie from head to heel, What 'gainst their numbers could I do 2 – 'T was near his castle, far away From city or from succour near, And almost on the break of day;
I did not think to see another,
LX. “‘Bring forth the horset'—the horse was brought; In truth, he was a noble steed, A Tartar of the Ukraine breed, Who look'd as though the speed of thought Were in his limbs; but he was wild, Wild as the wild deer, and untaught, With spur and bridle undefiled – 'Twas but a day he had been caught; And snorting, with erected mane, And struggling fiercely, but in vain, In the full foam of wrath and dread To me the desert-born was led : They bound me on, that menial throng, Upon his back with many a thong ; They loosed him with a sudden lash — Away 1 – away ! — and on we dash — Torrents less rapid and less rash.
“Away ! – away ! — My breath was gone —
And snapp'd the cord, which to the mane
Had bound my neck in lieu of rein, And writhing half my form about, Howl'd back my curse; but 'midst the tread, The thunder of my courser's speed, Perchance they did not hear nor heed : It vexes me — for I would fain Have paid their insult back again. . I paid it well in after days: There is not of that castle gate, Its drawbridge and portcullis' weight, Stone, bar, moat, bridge, or barrier left;
Nor of its fields a blade of grass,
XI. “Away, away, my steed and I, Upon the pinions of the wind, All human dwellings left behind ; We sped like meteors through the sky, When with its crackling sound the night Is chequer'd with the northern light: Town — village — none were on our track, But a wild plain of far extent, And bounded by a forest black; And, save the scarce seen battlement On distant heights of some strong hold, Against the Tartars built of old, No trace of man. The year before A Turkish army had march'd o'er ; And where the Spahi's hoof hath trod, The verdure flies the bloody sod : — The sky was dull, and dim, and gray, And a low breeze crept moaning by — I could have answer'd with a sigh— But fast we fled, away, away – And I could neither sigh nor pray; And my cold sweat-drops fell like rain Upon the courser's bristling mane; But, snorting still with rage and fear, He flew upon his far career: At times I almost thought, indeed, He must have slacken'd in his speed ; But no — my bound and slender frame Was nothing to his angry might, And merely like a spur became : Each motion which I made to free My swoln limbs from their agony Increas'd his fury and affright: I tried my voice, —'t was faint and low, But yet he swerv'd as from a blow; And, starting to each accent, sprang As from a sudden trumpet's clang : Meantime my cords were wet with gore, Which, oozing through my limbs, ran o'er;
158 BYRON'S WORKS.
And in my tongue the thirst became A something fierier far than flame.
“We near'd the wild wood —'t was so wide,
But far apart — and well it were,
XIII. “The wood was past; 'twas more than noon, But chill the air, although in June;
1 [The reviewer already quoted says, -“As the Hetman proceeds, it strikes us there is a much closer resemblance to the fiery flow of Walter Scott's chivalrous narrative, than in
Or it might be my veins ran cold–
XIV. “My thoughts came back; where was I? Cold, And numb, and giddy : pulse by pulse Life reassumed its lingering hold, And throb by throb : till grown a pang Which for a moment would convulse, My blood reflow'd, though thick and chill; My ear with uncouth noises rang, My heart began once more to thrill; My sight return'd, though dim; alas ! And thicken'd, as it were, with glass. Methought the dash of waves was nigh; There was a gleam too of the sky, Studded with stars; — it is no dream; The wild horse swims the wilder stream 1 The bright broad river's gushing tide Sweeps, winding onward, far and wide,
any of Lord Byron's previous pieces. Nothing can be grander than the sweep and torrent of the horse's speed, and the slow, unwearied, inflexible pursuit of the wolves.”]
And we are half-way, struggling o'er
XV. “With glossy skin, and dripping mane, And reeling limbs, and reeking flank, The wild steed's sinewy nerves still strain Up the repelling bank. We gain the top: a boundless plain Spreads through the shadow of the night, And onward, onward, onward, seems, Like precipices in our dreams, To stretch beyond the sight; And here and there a speck of white, Or scatter'd spot of dusky green, In masses broke into the light, As rose the moon upon my right. But nought distinctly seen In the dim waste would indicate The omen of a cottage gate; No twinkling taper from afar Stood like a hospitable star; Not even an ignis-fatuus rose To make him merry with my woes: That very cheat had cheer'd me then! Although detected, welcome still, Reminding me, through every ill, Of the abodes of men.
XVI. “Onward we went—but slack and slow; His savage force at length o'erspent, The drooping courser, faint and low, All feebly foaming went. A sickly infant had bad power To guide him forward in that hour; But useless all to me. His new-born tameness nought avail'd — My limbs were bound; my force had fail'd, Perchance, had they been free. With feeble effort still I tried To rend the bonds so starkly tied — But still it was in vain; My limbs were only wrung the more, And soon the idle strife gave o'er, Which but prolong'd their pain: The dizzy race seem'd almost done, Although no goal was nearly won : Some streaks announced the coming sun– How slow, alas ! he came ! Methought that mist of dawning gray Would never dapple into day; How heavily it roll'd away— Before the eastern flame
Rose crimson, and deposed the stars,
xWII. “Up rose the sun; the mists were curl’d Back from the solitary world Which lay around—behind—before; What booted it to traverse o'er Plain, forest, river ? Man nor brute, Nor dint of hoof, nor print of foot, Lay in the wild luxuriant soil; No sign of travel—none of toil; The very air was mute; And not an insect's shrill small horn, Normatin bird's new voice was borne From herb nor thicket. Many a werst, Panting as if his heart would burst, The weary brute still stagger'd on ; And still we were — or seem'd — alone: At length, while reeling on our way, Methought I heard a courser neigh, From out yon tuft of blackening firs. Is it the wind those branches stirs 2 No, no from out the forest prance A trampling troop; I see them come ! In one vast squadron they advance 1 I strove to cry—my lips were dumb. The steeds rush on in plunging pride; But where are they the reins to guide 7 A thousand horse—and none to ride : With flowing tail, and flying mane, Wide nostrils—never stretch'd by pain, Mouths bloodless to the bit or rein, And feet that iron never shod, And flanks unscarr'd by spur or rod, A thousand horse, the wild, the free, Like waves that follow o'er the sea, Came thickly thundering on, As if our faint approach to meet; The sight re-nerved my courser's feet, A moment staggering, feebly fleet, A moment, with a faint low neigh, He answer'd, and then fell ; With gasps and glazing eyes he lay, And reeking limbs immoveable, His first and last career is done : On came the troop — they saw him stoop, They saw me strangely bound along His back with many a bloody thong : They stop — they start—they snuff the air, Gallop a moment here and there, Approach, retire, wheel round and round, Then plunging back with sudden bound, Headed by one black mighty steed, Who seem'd the patriarch of his breed, Without a single speck or hair Of white upon his shaggy hide ; They snort— they foam — neigh–swerve aside, And backward to the forest fly, By instinct, from a human eye. They left me there to my despair, Link'd to the dead and stiffening wretch, Whose lifeless limbs beneath me stretch,
1 [“Rose crimson, and forbad the stars To sparkle in their radiant cars.”-MS.