Page images
PDF
EPUB

Steps with a tender foot, light as on air,
The lovely, lordly creature floated on
To where her wounded brethren lay ; there stay'd ;

Knelt on one knee,—the child on one,—and prest

Their hands, and call’d them dear deliverers,

And happy warriors, and immortal names,

And said · You shall not lie in the tents but here,

And nursed by those for whom you fought, and served With female hands and hospitality.'

Then, whether moved by this, or was it chance, She past my way. Up started from

my

side

The old lion, glaring with his whelpless eye,
Silent; but when she saw me lying stark,
Dishelm'd and mute, and motionlessly pale,

Cold ev'n to her, she sigh'd ; and when she saw
The haggard father's face and reverend beard
Of grisly twine, all dabbled with the blood
Of his own son, shudder'd, a twitch of pain

Tortured her mouth, and o'er her forehead past

A shadow, and her hue changed, and she said :

· He saved

my

life : my

brother slew him for it'

No more : at which the king in bitter scorn
Drew from my neck the painting and the tress,

And held them up : she saw them, and a day

Rose from the distance on her memory,

When the good Queen, her mother, shore the tress
With kisses, ere the days of Lady Blanche :
And then once more she look'd at my pale face :
Till understanding all the foolish work
Of Fancy, and the bitter close of all,

Her iron will was broken in her mind;

Her noble heart was molten in her breast;

She bow'd, she set the child on the earth ; she laid

A feeling finger on my brows, and presently
• Sire,' she said, “he lives : he is not dead :

0 let me have him with

my

brethren here

In our own palace: we will tend on him
Like one of these ; if so, by any means,
To lighten this great clog of thanks, that make
Our
progress

falter to the woman's goal.'

She said : but at the happy word "he lives’ My father stoop’d, re-father'd o'er my wounds.

So those two foes above my fallen life,
With brow to brow like night and evening mixt
Their dark and gray, while Psyche ever stole

A little nearer, till the babe that by us,

Half-lapt in glowing gauze and golden brede,

Lay like a new-fall’n meteor on the grass,
Uncared for, spied its mother and began

A blind and babbling laughter, and to dance
Its body, and reach its fatling innocent arms
And lazy lingering fingers. She the appeal
Brook'd not, but clamouring out . Mine—mine--not yours,
It is not yours, but mine : give me the child'
Ceased all on tremble : piteous was the cry:
So stood the unhappy mother open-mouth'd,

And turn’d each face her way: wan was her cheek

With hollow watch, her blooming mantle torn,

Red grief and mother's hunger in her eye,
And down dead-heavy sank her curls, and half

The sacred mother's bosom, panting, burst

The laces toward her babe ; but she nor cared

Nor knew it, clamouring on, till Ida heard,
Look'd up, and rising slowly from me, stood
Erect and silent, striking with her glance
The mother, me, the child ; but he that lay
Beside us, Cyril, batter'd as he was,

Trail'd himself up on one knee: then he drew

Her robe to meet his lips, and down she look'd

At the arm'd man sideways, pitying, as it seem'd,

Or self-involved ; but when she learnt his face,

Remembering his ill-omen'd song, arose
Once more thro' all her height, and o'er him grew
Tall as a figure lengthen'd on the sand

When the tide ebbs in sunshine, and he said :

• O fair and strong and terrible ! Lioness

That with your long locks play the Lion's mane ! But Love and Nature, these are two more terrible And stronger.

See, your foot is on our necks,

We vanquish'd, you the Victor of your will. .
What would you more? give her the child ! remain

Orb'd in

your

isolation : he is dead,

Or all as dead : henceforth we let you be :

Win you the hearts of women ; and beware

Lest, where you seek the common love of these,

The common hate with the revolving wheel
Should drag you down, and some great Nemesis

Break from a darken’d future, crown'd with fire,

And tread you out for ever : but howsoe'er

Fix'd in yourself, never in your own arms

To hold your own, deny not her's to her,

Give her the child ! O if, I say, you keep
One pulse that beats true woman,

if
you

loved The breast that fed or arm that dandled you,

Or own one part of sense not flint to prayer,
Give her the child ! or if you scorn to lay it,
Yourself, in hands so lately claspt with yours,

Or speak to her, your dearest, her one fault

The tenderness, not yours, that could not kill,

« PreviousContinue »