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“ Equal ye are in courage and in worth;
“But on your generous valor I depend,
The chieftains acquiesce in this proposal.
The beam is produced, and of a size so enormous that the poet declares himself afraid to specify its weight. The first chieftains who engage in the trial support it on their shoulders five and six hours each ; Tucapel fourteen ; and Lincoya more than double that number, — when the assembly, considering his strength as almost supernatural, is eager to bestow on him the title of general : but in the moment he is exulting in this new honor, Caupolican arrives without attendants.
Though from his birth one darkened eye he drew
This accomplished chieftain is received with great joy by the assembly; and having surpassed Lincoya by many degrees in the trial, is invested with the supreme command. He dispatches a small party to attack a neighboring Spanish fort : they execute his orders, and make a vigorous assault. After a sharp conflict they are repulsed; but in the moment of their retreat Caupolican arrives with his army to their support. The Spaniards in despair evacuate the fort, and make their escape in the night : the news is brought to Valdivia, the Spanish commander in the city of Conception ; and with his resolution to punish the barbarians the canto concludes.
After a panegyric on clemency, and a noble censure of those enormous cruelties by which his countrymen sullied their military fame, the poet relates the dreadful carnage which ensued as the Indians approached the fort. The Spaniards, after destroying numbers by their artillery, send forth a party of horse, who cut the fugitives to pieces. They inhumanly murder thirteen of their most distinguished prisoners, by blowing them from the mouths of cannon : but none of the confederate chieftains whom the poet has particularly celebrated were included in this number; for those high-spirited barbarians had refused to attend Caupolican in this assault, as they considered it disgraceful to attack their enemies by surprise. The unfortunate Indian leader, seeing his forces thus unexpectedly massacred, escapes with ten faithful followers, and wanders through the country in the most calamitous condition. The Spaniards endeavor, by all the means they can devise, to discover his retreat: the faithful inhabitants of Arauco refuse to betray him.
Ercilla, in searching the country with a small party, finds a young wounded female.
She informs him that, marching with her husband, she had the misfortune of seeing him perish in the late slaughter; that a friendly soldier, in pity for her extreme distress, had tried to end her miserable life in the midst of the confusion, but had failed in his generous design, by giving her an ineffectual wound; that she had been removed from the field of battle to that sequestered spot, where she languished in the hourly hope of death, which she now implores from the hand of Ercilla. Our poet consoles her, dresses her wound, and leaves one of his attendants to protect her.
One of the prisoners whom the Spaniards had taken in their search after Caupolican is at last tempted by bribes to
betray his general. He conducts the Spaniards to a spot near the sequestered retreat of this unfortunate chief, and directs them how to discover it ; but he refuses to advance with them, overcome by his dread of the hero whom he is tempted to betray. The Spaniards surround the house in which the chieftain had taken refuge with his ten faithful associates. Alarmed by a sentinel, he prepares for defense; but being soon wounded in the arm, surrenders, endeavoring to conceal his high character, and to make the Spaniards believe him an ordinary soldier.
With their accustomed shouts, and greedy toil,
Our soldiers now, to catch the cooling tide,
“The stronger arm that in this shameful band
Whose name alone, unaided by thy arm,
“What now avail thy scenes of happier strife,
“Behold the burden which my breast contains,
As thus she spoke, with growing madness stung,
[LUIZ DE CAMOENS, the greatest Portuguese epic poet, was born about 1524 at Coimbra, where he studied the ancient classics in the university of that city. In consequence of a love affair with Donna Caterina de Ataide, a lady in attendance on the queen, he was banished to Santarem; joined the army of Africa; and lost his right eye in a naval battle. Subsequently he embarked for India and settled at Goa, whence he as exiled to Macao for a satire corruption of Portuguese officials. After various adventures in Goa, Macao, and Mozambique, he landed in Lisbon with no other possession than his epic “ The Lusiad.” He passed his last years in dire poverty, and died obscurely in the hospital at Lisbon, June 10, 1580. His principal work, “The Lusiad” (published in 1572), commemorates the achievements of Portuguese heroism, and is regarded in Portugal as the national epic. His minor works include sonnets, comedies, ballads, and epigrams.)
As thus in Jove's ethereal domicile,
The wind so gently wafted them along,
No cause perceived for tarriance, even brief,