« PreviousContinue »
But useless all to me.
His new-born tameness nought avail'd,
My limbs were bound ; my force had faild,
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 run;
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,
And call’d the radiance from their cars,
And filld the earth, from his deep throne,
With lonely lustre, all his own.
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,
Nor matin 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 ?
No, no! from out the forest prance
A trampling troop; I see them come ! In one vast squadron they advance !
I strove to cry—my lips were dumb.
The steeds rush on in plunging pride ;
But where are they the reins to guide ?
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,
Relieved from that unwonted weight,
From whence I could not extricate
Nor him nor me—and there we lay
The dying on the dead !
And there from morn till twilight bound,
I felt the heavy hours toil round,
With just enough of life to see
My last of suns go down on me.
I know no more—my latest dream
Is something of a lovely star
Which fix'd my dull eyes from afar,
And went and came with wandering beam,
And of the cold, dull, swimming, dense
Sensation of recurring sense,
And then subsiding back to death,
And then again a little breath,
A little thrill, a short suspense,
An icy sickness curdling o'er
My heart, and sparks that cross'd my brain-
A gasp, a throb, a start of pain,
A sigh, and nothing more.
I woke— Where was I ?-Do I see
A human face look down on me?
And doth a roof above me close ?
Do these limbs on a couch repose ?
Is this a chamber where I lie ?
And is it mortal yon bright eye,
That watches me with gentle glance ?
I closed my own again once more,
As doubtful that the former trance
Could not as yet be o'er.
A slender girl, long-haired, and tall,
Sate watching by the cottage wall ;
The sparkle of her eye I caught,
Even with my first return of thought ;
For ever and anon she threw
A prying, pitying glance on me
With her black eyes so wild and free :
I gazed, and gazed, until I knew
No vision it could be,-
But that I lived, and was released
From adding to the vulture's feast :
And when the Cossack maid beheld
My heavy eyes at length unseald,
She smiled—and I essay'd to speak,
But failed—and she approach'd, and made
With lip and finger signs that said,
I must not strive as yet to break
The silence, till my strength should be.
Enough to leave my accents free ;
And then her hand on mine she laid,
And smooth'd the pillow for my head,
And stole along on tiptoe tread,
And gently oped the door, and spake
In whispers—ne'er was voice so sweet !
Even music follow'd her light feet ;-
But those she call'd were not awake, And she went forth ; but, ere she pass'd,
Another look on me she cast,
Another sign she made, to say,
That I had nought to fear, that all
Were near, at my command or call,
And she would not delay
Her due return :—while she was gone,
Methought I felt too much alone.
She came with mother and with sire-
What need of more ?-I will not tire
With long recital of the rest,
Since I became the Cossack's guest.
They found me senseless on the plain-
They bore me to the nearest hut
They brought me into life again-
Me—one day o'er their realm to reign ?!
THE STREAMLET FROM THE CLIFF.
(THE ISLAND, Canto iii. Stanza 3.)
A LITTLE stream came tumbling from the height,
And straggling into ocean as it might,
Its bounding crystal frolick'd in the ray,
And gush'd from cliff to crag with saltless spray ;
Close on the wild, wide ocean, yet as pure
And fresh as innocence, and more secure,
Its silver torrent glitter'd o'er the deep,
As the shy chamois' eye o'erlooks the steep,
While far below the vast and sullen swell
Of ocean's alpine azure rose and fell.