Page images
PDF
EPUB

"Sweet is our welcome of the brave
Who die thus for their native land;
But see, alas! the crystal bar.
Of Eden moves not. Holier far
Than even this drop the boon must be,
That opes the Gates of Heaven for thee."

Her first fond hope of Eden blighted,

Now among Afric's lunar mountains,
Far to the south, the Peri lighted,
And sleeked her plumage at the fountains
Of that Egyptian tide whose birth
Is hidden from the sons of earth
Deep in those solitary woods
Where oft the genii of the floods
Dance round the cradle of their Nile,
And hail the new-born giant's smile;
Thence over Egypt's palmy groves,

Her grots, and sepulchres of kings,
The exiled spirit sighing roves,
And now hangs listening to the doves
In warm Rosetta's vale, now loves

To watch the moonlight on the wings
Of the white pelicans that break
The azure calm of Moris' Lake.
'Twas a fair scene: a land more bright
Never did mortal eye behold.

Who could have thought, that saw this night,
Those valleys and their fruits of gold
Basking in heaven's serenest light;
Those groups of lovely date trees, bending
Languidly their leaf-crowned heads,
Like youthful maids, when sleep descending
Warns them to their silken beds ;
Those virgin lilies, all the night

Bathing their beauties in the lake,
That they may rise more fresh and bright
When their belovéd sun's awake;
Those ruined shrines and towers that seem
The relics of a splendid dream,

Amid whose fairy loneliness

Nought but the lapwing's cry is heard,

Nought seen but (when the shadows, flitting
Fast from the moon, unsheathe its gleam)
Some purple-winged sultana' sitting
Upon a column, motionless

And glittering like an idol bird! —
Who could have thought, that there, even there,
Amid those scenes so still and fair,
The Demon of the Plague hath cast
From his hot wing a deadlier blast,
More mortal far than ever came
From the red Desert's sands of flame!
So quick, that every living thing
Of human shape, touched by his wing,
Like plants, where the Simoom hath past,
At once falls black and withering!
The sun went down on many a brow,

Which, full of bloom and freshness then,
Is rankling in the pest-house now,

And ne'er will feel that sun again.
And, O! to see the unburied heaps
On which the lonely moonlight sleeps-
The very vultures turn away,
And sicken at so foul a prey!
Only the fierce hyena stalks
Throughout the city's desolate walks
At midnight, and his carnage plies —
Woe to the half-dead wretch who meets
The glaring of those large blue eyes
Amid the darkness of the streets!

66 Poor race of men!" said the pitying Spirit, Dearly ye pay for your primal Fall —

Some flowerets of Eden ye still inherit,

But the trail of the Serpent is over them all!" She wept the air grew pure and clear

Around her, as the bright drops ran ; For there's a magic in each tear,

Such kindly spirits weep for man! Just then beneath some orange trees,

1 A bird of brilliant plumage.

[ocr errors]

Whose fruit and blossoms in the breeze
Were wantoning together, free,
Like age at play with infancy—
Beneath that fresh and springing bower,
Close by the lake, she heard the moan
Of one who, at this silent hour,

Had thither stolen to die alone.
One who in life where'er he moved,

Drew after him the hearts of many;
Yet now, as though he ne'er were loved,
Dies here unseen, unwept by any!
None to watch near him-none to slake
The fire that in his bosom lies,
With even a sprinkle from that lake,

Which shines so cool before his eyes.
No voice, well known through many a day,
To speak the last, the parting word,
Which, when all other sounds decay,
Is still like distant music heard -
That tender farewell on the shore
Of this rude world, when all is o'er,
Which cheers the spirit, ere its bark
Puts off into the unknown Dark.

Deserted youth! one thought alone

Shed joy around his soul in death— That she, whom he for years had known, And loved, and might have called his own,

Was safe from this foul midnight's breath Safe in her father's princely halls, Where the cool airs from fountain-falls, Freshly perfumed by many a brand Of the sweet wood from India's land, Were pure as she whose brow they fanned.

But see who yonder comes by stealth,
This melancholy bower to seek,
Like a young envoy, sent by Health,
With rosy gifts upon her cheek?
'Tis she-far off, through moonlight dim
He knew his own betrothed bride,

[ocr errors]

She, who would rather die with him,
Than live to gain the world beside!
Her arms are round her lover now,

His livid cheek to hers she presses, And dips, to bind his burning brow,

In the cool lake her loosened tresses. Ah! once, how little did he think

An hour would come, when he should shrink With horror from that dear embrace,

Those gentle arms, that were to him
Holy as is the cradling-place

Of Eden's infant cherubim!
And now he yields—now turns away,
Shuddering as if the venom lay
All in those proffered lips alone —
Those lips that, then so fearless grown,
Never until that instant came
Near his unasked or without shame.
"O, let me only breathe the air,

The blessed air, that's breathed by thee,
And, whether on its wings it bear
Healing or death, 'tis sweet to me!
There, - drink my tears, while yet they fall,
Would that my bosom's blood were balm,
And, well thou know'st, I'd shed it all

To give thy brow one minute's calm. Nay, turn not from me that dear face

Am I not thine,-thy own loved bride, — The one, the chosen one, whose place In life or death is by thy side? Think'st thou that she, whose only light,

In this dim world, from thee hath shone, Could bear the long, the cheerless night,

grew

That must be hers when thou art gone?
That I can live, and let thee go,
Who art my life itself? — No, no—
When the stem dies, the leaf that
Out of its heart must perish too!
Then turn to me, my own love, turn,
Before, like thee, I fade and burn;
Cling to these yet cool lips, and share

The last pure life that lingers there!"

She fails, she sinks, -as dies the lamp

In charnel airs, or cavern damp,

[ocr errors]

So quickly do his baleful sighs
Quench all the sweet light of her eyes.
One struggle, and his pain is past
Her lover is no longer living!
One kiss the maiden gives, one last,
Long kiss, which she expires in giving!

"Sleep," said the Peri, as softly she stole
The farewell sigh of that vanishing soul,
As true as e'er warmed a woman's breast-
"Sleep on, in visions of odor rest,
In balmier airs than ever yet stirred
The enchanted pile of that lonely bird,
Who sings at the last his own death-lay,'
And in music and perfume dies away!"

Thus saying, from her lips she spread

Unearthly breathings through the place,
And shook her sparkling wreath, and shed
Such lustre o'er each paly face,
That like two lovely saints they seemed,
Upon the eve of doomsday taken
From their dim graves, in odor sleeping;
While that benevolent Peri beamed
Like their good angel, calmly keeping

Watch o'er them till their souls would waken.

But morn is blushing in the sky;
Again the Peri soars above,

Bearing to Heaven that precious sigh
Of pure, self-sacrificing love.

High throbbed her heart, with hope elate,
The Elysian palm she soon shall win,
For the bright Spirit at the gate

Smiled as she gave that offering in;
And she already hears the trees
Of Eden, with their crystal bells

1 The phoenix.

« PreviousContinue »