Page images
PDF
EPUB

Although the mortal, quite as fresh and fair,
Had all the advantage too of not being air.
And when into the cavern Haidee stepped

All timidly, yet rapidly, she saw
That, like an infant, Juan sweetly slept ;

And then she stopped and stood as if in awe (For sleep is awful), and on tiptoe crept

And wrapt him closer, lest the air, too raw, Should reach his blood; then o'er hi'n, still as death, Bent, with hushed lips, that drank his scarce-drawn breath. And thus, like to an angsl o'er the dying,

Who dic in righteousness, she leaned, and there All tranquilly the shipwrecked boy was lying,

As o'er him lay the calm and stirless air :
But Zoe the meantime some eggs was frying,

Since, after all, no doubt the youthful pair
Must breakfast, and betimes-lest they should ask it,
She drew out her provision from the basket.
And now, by dint of fingers and of eyes,

And words repeated after her, he took
A lesson in her tongue; but by surmise,

No doubt, less of her language than her look;
As he who studies fervently the skies,

Turns oftener to the stars than to his book;
Thus Juan learned his alpha beta better
From Haidee's glance than any graven letter.
'Tis pleasing to be schooled in a strange tongue
By female

lips and eyes--that is, I mean
When both the teacher and the taught are young;

As was the case, at least, where I have been ;
They smile so when one's right, and when one's wrong.

They smile still more, and then there intervenes
Pressure of hands, perchance even a chaste kiss;
I learned the little that I know by titis.

Haidee and Juan at the Feast

Haidee and Juan carpeted their 'eet

On crimson satin, bordered with pale blue; Their sofa occupied three parts complete

Of the apartment-and appeared quite new;
The velvet cushions-for a throne more meet-

Were scarlet, from whose glowing centre grew
A sun embossed in gold, whose rays of tissue,
Meridian-like, were seen all light to issue.
Crystal and marble, plate and porcelain,

Had done their work of splendour; Indian mats,
And Persian carpets, which the heart bled to stain.

Over the floors were spread; gazelles and cats,
And dwarfs and blacks, and such-like things, that gain

Their bread as ministers and favourites-that's
To say, by degradation-mingled there
As plentiful as in a court or fair.
There was no want of lofty mirrors, and

The tables, most of ebony inlaid
With mother-of-pearl or ivory, stood at hand,

Or were of tortoise-shell or rare woods made,
Fretted with gold or silver-by command,

The greater part of these were ready spread
With viands and sherbets in ice and wine-
Kept for all comers, at all hours to dine.
Of all the dresses, I select Haidee's :

She wore two jelicks-one was of pale yellow;
Of azure, pink, and white was her chemise

’Neath which her breast heaved like a little billow; With buttons formed of pearls as large as peas,

All gold and crimson shone her jelick's fellow,
And the striped white gauze baracan that bound her,
Like fleecy clouds about the moon flowed round her.
One large gold bracelet clasped each lovely arm,

Lockless—so pliable from the pure gold
That the hand stretched and shut it without harm,

The limb which it adorned its only mould ;
So beautiful-its very shape would charm,

And clinging as if loath to lose its hold: The purest ore inclosed the whitest skin That e'er by precious metal was held in, Around, as princess of her father's land,

A light gold bar above her instep rolled Announced her rank; twelve rings were on her hand;

Her hair was starred with gems; her veil's fine fold Below her breast was fastened with a band

Of låvish pearls, whose worth could scarce be told; Her orange-silk full Turkish trousers furled About the prettiest ankle in the world. Her hair's long auburn waves down to her heel

Flowed like an alpine torrent, which the sun Dyes with his morning light-and would conceal

Her person if allowed at large to run,
And still they seemed resentfully to feel

The silken fillet's curb, and sought to shun
Their bonds whene'er some Zephyr caught began
To offer his youžg pinion as her fan.
Round her she made an atmosphere of life; "

The very air seemed lighter from her eyes,
They were so soft, and beautiful, and rife,

With all we can imagine of the skies, And pure as Psyche ere she grew a wife

Too pure even for the purest human ties;
Her overpowerivg presence made you feel
It would not be idolatry to kneel.
Her eyelashes, thongh dark as night, were tinged

It is the country's custom-but in vain;
For those large black eyes were so blackly fringed,

The glossy rebels mocked the jetty stain,
And in her native beauty stood avenged :

Her nails were touched with henna; but again
The power of art was turned to nothing, for
They could not look more rosy than before.
Juan had on a shawl of black and gold,

But a white baracan, and so transparent
The sparkling gems beneath you might behold,

Like small stars through the Milky-way apparent; Elis turban, furled in many a graceful fold,

An emerald aigrette with Haidee's hair in 't Surmounted as its clasp-a glowing crescent, Whose rays shone ever trembling, but incessant. And now they were diverted by their suite,

Dwarfs, dancing-girls, black eunucbs, and a poet; Which made their new establishment complete;

The last was of great fame, and liked to shew it:
His verses rarely wanted their due feet-

And for his theme-he seldom sung below it,
He being paid to satirise or flatter,
As the Psalms say, 'inditing

a good matter.'

The Death of Haidee. Afric is all the sun's, and as her earth,

Her Human clay is kindled; full of power For good or evil, burning from its birth,

The Moorish blood partakes the planet's hour. And, like the soil beneath it, will bring forth:

Beauty and love were Haidee's mother's dower; But her large dark eye shewed deep Passion's force,

Though sleeping like a lion near a source. Her daughter, tempered with a milder ray,

Like summer clouds all silvery, smooth, and fair, Till slowly charged with thunder, they display

Terror to earth and tempest to the air, Had held till now her soft and milky way;

But, overwrought with passion and despair, The fire burst forth from her Numidian veins,

Even as the simoom sweeps the blasted plains. The last sight which she saw was Juan's gore, And he himself o'ermastered and cut down; His blood was running on the very floor

Where late he trod, her beautiful, her own; Thus much she viewed an instant and no more

Her struggles ceased with one convulsive groan;
On her sire's arm, which until now scarce held

Her writhing, fell she like a cedar felled.
A vein had burst, and her sweet lips' pure dyes

Were dabbled with the deep blood which ran o'er,
And her head drooped as when the lily lies

O'ercharged with rain : her summoned handmaids bore Their lady to her couch with gushing eyes;

Of herbs and cordials they produced their store: But she defied all means they could employ,

Like one life could not hold nor death destroy.
Days lay she in that state unchanged, though chill-

With nothing livid, still her lips were red;
She had no pulse, but death seemed absent still ;

No hideous sign proclaimed her surely dead:
Corruption came not, in each mind to kill

All hope: to look upon her sweet face bred
New thoughts of life, for it seemed full of soul
She had so much, earth could not claim the whole.
Her handmaids tended, but she heeded not;

Her father watched, she turned her eyes away';;
She recognised no being, and no spot,

However dear or cherished in their day;

They changed from room to room, but all forgot;

Gentle, but without memory, she lay;
At length those eyes, which they would fain be weaning
Back to old thoughts, waxed full of fearful meaning.
And then a slave bethought her of a harp:

The harper came and tuned his instrument:
At the first notes, irregular and sharp,

On him her flashing eyes a moment bent;
Then to the wall she turned, as if to warp

Her thoughts from sorrow through her heart re-sent;
And he began a long low island song
Of ancient days ere tyranny grew strong.
Anon her thin wan fingers beat the wall

In time to his old tune; he changed the theme,
And sung of Love; the fierce náme struck through all

Her recollection, on her flashed the dream
Of what she was, and is, if ye could call

To be so being: in a gushing stream
The tears rushed forth from her o'erclonded brain,
Like mountain mists at length dissolved in rain.
Twelve days and nights she withered thus; at last,

Without a groan, or sigh, or glance, to shew
A parting pang, the spirit from her passed :

And they who watched her nearest could not know
The very instant, till the change that cast

Her sweet face into shadow, dull and slow,
Glazed o'er her eyes-the beautiful,

the black-
Oh to possess such lustre, and then lack !
Thus lived—thus died she; never more on her

Shall sorrow light, or shame. She was not made
Through years or moons the inner weight to bear,

Which colder hearts endure till they are laid
By age in earth: her days and pleasures were

Brief, but delightful-such as had not stayed
Long with her destiny ; but she sleeps well
By the sea-shore whereon she loved to dwell.
That isle is now all desolate and bare,

Its dwellings down, its tenants passed away;
None but her own and father's grave is there,

And nothing outward tells of human clay;
Ye could not know where lies a thing so fair;

No one is there to shew, no tongue to say
What was; no dirge except the hollow seas
Mourns o'er the beauty of the Cyclades.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY was born at his father's seat, Field Place, near Horsham, in Sussex, August 4, 1792. His grandfather, Sir Bysshe Shelley, was then living, and his father, Timothy Shelley (who afterwards succeeded to the title and estate), was a member of the House of Commons. The family was of great antiquity, tracing its descent from one of the followers of William of Normandy. In worldly prospects and distinction the poet therefore surpassed most of his tuneful brethren; yet this only served to render his

happy and strange destiny the more conspicuously wretched. When ten years of age, he was put to a public school, Sion House, where he was harshly treated both by his instructors and by tyrannical schoolfellows. He was fond of reading, especially wild romances and tales of diableric; and when very young he wrote two novels, Zastrozzi,' and · St. Irvyne, or the Rosicrucian.' From Sion House, Shelley was removed to Ěton, where his sensitive spirit was again wounded by illusage and by the system of fagging tolerated at Eton. His resistance to all established authority and opinion displayed itself while at school, and in the introduction to his Revolt of Islam,' he has portrayed his early impressions in some sweet and touching stanzas:

Thoughts of great deeds were mine, dear friend, when first
The clouds which wrap this world from youth did pass.
I do remember well the hour which burst
My spirit's sleep: a fresh May-dawn it was,
When I walked forth upon the glittering grass,
And wept, I knew not why: until there rose
From the near school-room voices that, alas!
Were but one echo from a world of woes-
The harsh and grating strife of tyrants and of foes.
And then I clasped my hands and looked around,
But none was near to mock my streaming eyes,
Which poured their warm drops on the sunny ground;
So, without shame, I spake: 'I will be wise,
And just, and free, and mild, if in me lies
Such power, for I grow weary to behold -
The selfish and the strong still tyrannise
Without reproach or check.' I then controlled
My tears, my heart grew calm, and I was meek and bold.

And from that hour did I with earnest thought
Heap kuowledge from forbidden mines of lore;
Yet nothing that my tyrants knew or taught
I cared to learn, but from that secret store
Wrought linked armour for my soul, before
It might walk forth to war among mankind;
Thus power and hope were strengthened more and more
Within me, till there came upon my mind

A sense of loneliness, a thirst with which I pined.. With these feelings and predilections (exaggerated, however, in expression, as all his personal statements were), -Shelley went to Oxford. He studied hard but irregularly, and spent much of his leisure in chemical experiments. He incessantly speculated, thought, and read, as he himself has stated. At the age of fifteen he wrote two short prose romances. He had also great facility in versification, and threw off various effusions. The 'forbidden mines of lore' which had captivated his boyish mind at Eton were also diligently explored, and he was soon an avowed republican and sceptic. He published a volume of political rhymes, entitled Posthumous Poems of my Aunt Margaret Nicholson,' the said Margaret being the unhappy maniac who attempted to stab George III. ; and he issued a syllabus from Hume's · Essays.' at the same time challenging the authorities of Oxford to a

« PreviousContinue »