Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
Preface to the First and Second Cantos
The following poem was written, for the most part, amidst the scenes which it attempts to describe. It was begun in Albania; and the parts relative to Spain and Portugal were composed from the author’s observations in those countries. Thus much it may be necessary to state for the correctness of the descriptions. The scenes attempted to be sketched are in Spain, Portugal, Epirus, Acarnania, and Greece. There, for the present, the poem stops; its reception will determine whether the author may venture to conduct his readers to the capital of the East, through Ionia and Phrygia: these two cantos are merely experimental.
A fictitious characer is introduced for the sake of giving some connexion to the piece; which, however, makes no pretension to regularity. It has been suggested to me by friends, on whose opinion I set a high value, that in this fictitious character, ‘Childe Harold,’ I may incur the suspicion of having intended some real personage; this I beg leave, once for all, to disclaim — Harold is the child of imagination, for the purpose I have stated. In some very trivial particulars, and those merely local, there might be grounds for such a notion; but in the main points, I should hope, none whatever.
It is almost superfluous to mention that the appelation ‘Childe,’ as ‘Childe Waters,’ ‘Childe Childers,’ &c., is used as more consonant with the old structure of versification which I have adopted. The ‘Good Night,’ in the beginning of the first canto, was suggested by ‘Lord Maxwell’s Good Night,’ in the Border Minstrelsy, edited by Mr. Scott.
With the different poems which have been published on Spanish subjects, there may be found some slight coincidence in the first part, which treats of the Peninsula, but it can only be casual; as, with the exception of a few concluding stanzas, the whole of this poem was written in the Levant.
The stanza of Spenser, according to one of our most successful poets, admits of every variety. Dr. Beattie makes the following observation: — ‘Not long ago, I began a poem in the style and stanza of Spenser, in which I propose to give full scope to my inclination, and be either droll or pathetic, descriptive or sentimental, tender or satirical, as the humour strikes me; for, if I mistake not, the measure which I have adopted admits equally of all these kinds of composition’. — Strengthened in my opinion by such authority, and by the example of some in the highest order of Italian poets, I shall make no apology for attempts at similar variations in the following composition; satisfied that if they are unsuccessful, their failure must be in the execution, rather than in the design, sanctioned by the practice of Ariosto, Thomson, and Beattie.
London, February, 1812.
Addition to the Preface
I have now waited till almost all our periodical journals have distributed their usual portion of criticism. To the justice of the generality of their criticisms I have nothing to object: it would ill become me to quarrel with their very slight degree of censure, when, perhaps, if they had been less kind they had been more candid. Returning, therefore, to all and each my best thanks for their liberality, on one point alone shall I venture an observation. Amongst the many objections justly urged to the very indifferent character of the ‘vagrant Childe’ (whom, notwithstanding many hints to the contrary, I still maintain to be a fictitious personage), it has been stated, that, besides the anachronism, he is very unknightly, as the times of the Knights were times of Love, Honour, and so forth. Now, it so happens that the good old times, when ‘ l’amour du bon vieux tems, l’amour antique, ‘ flourished, were the most profligate of all possible centuries. Those who have any doubts on this subject may consult Sainte-Palaye, passim, and more particularly vol ii. p. 69. The vows of chivalry were no better kept than any other vows, whatsoever; and the songs of the Troubadours were not more decent, and certainly were much less refined, than those of Ovid. The ‘Cours d’amour, parlemens d’amour, ou de courtesie et de gentilesse’ had much more of love than of courtesy or gentleness. See Rolland on the same subject with Sainte-Palaye. Whatever other objection may be urged to that most unamiable personage Childe Harold, he was so far perfectly knightly in his attributes — ‘No waiter, but a knight templar.’ By the by, I fear that Sir Tristem and Sir Lancelot were not better than they sould be, although very poetical personages and true knights, ‘sans peur,’ though not ‘sans reproche.’ If the story of the institution of the ‘Garter’ be not a fable, the knights of that order have for several centuries borne the badge of a Countess of Salsbury, of indifferent memory. So much for chivalry. Burke need not have regretted that its days are over, though Marie-Antoinette was quite as chaste as most of those in whose honour lances were shivered, and knights unhorsed.
I now leave ‘Childe Harold’ to live his day, such as he is; it had been more agreeable, and certainly more easy, to have drawn an amiable character. It had been easy to varnish over his faults, to make him do more and express less, but he never was intended as an example, further than to show, that early perversion of mind and morals leads to satiety of past pleasures and disappointment in new ones, and that even the beauties of nature and the stimulus of travel (except ambition, the most powerful of all excitements) are lost on a soul so constituted, or rather misdirected. Had I proceeded with the poem, this character would have deepened as he drew to the close; for the outline which I once meant to fill up for him was, with some exceptions, the sketch of a modern Timon, perhaps a poetical Zeluco.
- Not in those climes where I have late been straying,
- Though Beauty long hath there been matchless deem’d;
- Not in those visions to the heart displaying
- Forms which it sighs but to have only dream’d,
- Hath aught like thee in truth or fancy seem’d:
- Nor, having seen thee, shall I vainly seek
- To paint those charms which varied as they beam’d —
- To such as see thee not my words were weak;
- To those who gaze on thee what language could they speak?
- Ah! may’st thou ever be what now thou art,
- Nor unbeseem the promise of thy spring,
- As fair in form, as warm yet pure in heart,
- Love’s image upon earth without his wing,
- And guileless beyond Hope’s imagining!
- And surely she who now so fondly rears
- Thy youth, in thee, thus hourly brightening,
- Beholds the rainbow of her future years,
- Before whose heavenly hues all sorrow disappears.
- Young Peri of the West! — ’tis well for me
- My years already doubly number thine;
- My loveless eye unmoved may gaze on thee,
- And safely view thy ripening beauties shine;
- Happy, I ne’er shall see them in decline;
- Happier, that while all younger hearts shall bleed,
- Mine shall escape the doom thine eyes assign
- To those whose admiration shall succeed,
- But mix’d with pangs to Love’s even loveliest hours decreed.
- Oh! let that eye, which, wild as the Gazelle’s
- Now brightly bold or beautifully shy,
- Wins as it wanders, dazzles where it dwells,
- Glance o’er this page, nor to my verse deny
- That smile for which my breast might vainly sigh
- Could I to thee be ever more than friend:
- This much, dear maid, accord; nor question why
- To one so young my strain I would commend,
- But bid me with my wreath one matchless lily blend.
- Such is thy name with this my verse entwined;
- And long as kinder eyes a look shall cast
- On Harold’s page, Ianthe’s here enshrined
- Shall thus be first beheld, forgotten last:
- My days once number’d, should this homage past
- Attract thy fairy fingers near the lyre
- Of him who hail’d thee loveliest, as thou wast,
- Such is the most my memory may desire;
- Though more than Hope can claim, could Friendship less require?
Canto the First
Oh, thou! in Hellas deem’d of heavenly birth,
Muse! form’d or fabled at the minstrel’s will!
Since shamed full oft by later lyres on earth,
Mine dares not call thee from thy sacred hill:
Yet there I’ve wander’d by thy vaunted rill:
Yes! sigh’d o’er Delphi’s long deserted shrine,[*]
Where save that feeble fountain, all is still;
Nor mote my shell awake the weary Nine
To grace so plain a tale — this lowly lay of mine.
Whilome in Albion’s isle there dwelt a youth,
Who ne in virtue’s ways did take delight;
But spent his days in riot most uncouth,
And vex’d with mirth the drowsy ear of Night.
Ah me! in sooth he was a shameless wight,
Sore given to revel and ungodly glee;
Few earthly things found favour in his sight
Save concubines and carnal companie,
And flaunting wassailers of high and low degree.
Childe Harold was he hight: — but whence his name
And lineage long, it suits me not to say;
Suffice it, that perchance they were of fame,
And had been glorious in another day:
But one sad losel soils a name for aye,
However mighty in the olden time;
Nor all that heralds rake from coffin’d clay,
Nor florid prose, nor honeyed lies of rhyme,
Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime.
Childe Harold bask’d him in the noontide sun,
Disporting there like any other fly;
Nor deem’d before his little day was done
One blast might chill him into misery.
But long ere scarce a third of his pass’d by,
Worse than adversity the Childe befell;
He felt the fulness of satiety:
Then loathed he in his native land to dwell,
Which seem’d to him more lone than Eremite’s sad cell.
For he through Sin’s long labyrinth had run,
Nor made atonement when he did amiss,
Had sigh’d to many though he loved but one,
And that loved one, alas! could n’er be his.
Ah, happy she! to ‘scape from him whose kiss
Had been pollution unto aught so chaste;
Who soon had left her charms for vulgar bliss,
And spoil’d her goodly lands to gild his waste,
Nor calm domestic peace had ever deign’d to taste.
And now Childe Harold was sore sick at heart,
And from his fellow bacchanals would flee;
‘Tis said, at times the sullen tear would start,
But Pride congeal’d the drop within his ee:
Apart he stalk’d in joyless reverie,
And from his native land resolved to go,
And visit scorching climes beyond the sea;
With pleasure drugg’d, he almost long’d for woe,
And e’en for change of scene would seek the shades below.
The Childe departed from his father’s hall:
It was a vast and venerable pile;
So old, it seemèd only not to fall,
Yet strength was pillar’d in each massy aisle.
Monastic dome! condemn’d to uses vile!
Where Superstition once had made her den
Now Paphian girls were known to sing and smile;
And monks might deem their time was come agen,
If ancient tales say true, nor wrong these holy men.
Yet oft-times in his maddest mirthful mood
Strange pangs would flash along Childe Harold’s brow
As if the memory of some deadly feud
Or disappointed passion lurk’d below:
But this none knew, nor haply cared to know;
For his was not that open, artless soul
That feels relief by bidding sorrow flow,
Nor sought he friend to counsel or condole,
Whate’er this grief mote be, which he could not control.
And none did love him: though to hall and bower
He gather’d revellers from far and near,
He knew them flatt’rers of the festal hour;
The heartless parasites of present cheer.
Yea! none did love him — not his lemans dear —
But pomp and power alone are woman’s care,
And where these are light Eros finds a feere;
Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare,
And Mammon wins his way where Seraphs might despair.
Childe Harold had a mother — not forgot,
Though parting from that mother he did shun;
A sister whom he loved, but saw her not
Before his weary pilgrimage begun:
If friends he had, he bade adieu to none.
Yet deem not thence his breast a breast of steel:
Ye, who have known what ’tis to dote upon
A few dear objects, will in sadness feel
Such partings break the heart they fondly hope to heal.
His house, his home, his heritage, his lands,
The laughing dames in whom he did delight,
Whose large blue eyes, fair locks, and snowy hands,
Might shake the saintship of an anchorite,
And long had fed his youthful appetite;
His goblets brimm’d with every costly wine,
And all that mote to luxury invite,
Without a sigh he left, to cross the brine,
And traverse Paynim shores, and pass Earth’s central line.
The sails were fill’d, and fair the light winds blew,
As glad to waft him from his native home;
And fast the white rocks faded from his view,
And soon were lost in circumambient foam:
And then, it may be, of his wish to roam
Repented he, but in his bosom slept
The silent thought, nor from his lips did come
One word of wail, whilst other sate and wept,
And to the reckless gales unmanly moaning kept.
But when the sun was sinking in the sea
He seized his harp, which he at times could string,
And strike, albeit with untaught melody,
When deem’d he no strange ear was listening:
And now his fingers o’er it he did fling,
And tuned his farewell in the dim twilight.
While flew the vessel on her snowy wing,
And fleeting shores receded from his sight,
Thus to the elements he pour’d out his last ‘Good Night.’
- Adieu, adieu! my native shore
- Fades o’er the waters blue;
- The night-winds sigh, the breakers roar,
- And shrieks the wild sea-mew.
- Yon sun that sets upon the sea
- We follow in his flight;
- Farewell awhile to him and thee,
- My native Land — Good Night!
- A few short hours and he will rise
- To give the morrow birth;
- And I shall hail the main and skies
- But not my mother earth.
- Deserted is my own good hall,
- Its hearth is desolate;
- Wild weeds are gathering on the wall;
- My dog howls at the gate.
- ‘Come hither, hither, my little page!
- Why dost thou weep and wail?
- Or dost thou dread the billows’ rage,
- Or tremble at the gale?
- But dash the tear-drop from thine eye;
- Our ship is swift and strong:
- Our fleetest falcon scarce can fly
- More merrily along.’
- ‘Let winds be shrill, let waves roll high,
- I fear not wave nor wind:
- Yet marvel not, Sir Childe, that I
- Am sorrowful in mind;
- For I have from my father gone,
- A mother whom I love,
- And have no friend, save these alone,
- But thee — and one above.
- ‘My father bless’d me fervently,
- Yet did not much complain;
- But sorely will my mother sigh
- Till I come back again.’ —
- ‘Enough, enough, my little lad!
- Such tears become thine eye;
- If I thy guileless bosom had,
- Mine own would not be dry.
- ‘Come hither, hither, my staunch yeoman,
- Why dost thou look so pale?
- Or dost thou dread a French foeman?
- Or shiver at the gale?’ —
- ‘Deem’st thou I tremble for my life?
- Sir Childe, I’m not so weak;
- But thinking on an absent wife
- Will blanch a faithful cheek.
- ‘My spouse and boys dwell near thy hall,
- Along the bordering lake,
- And when they on their father call,
- What answer shall she make?’ —
- ‘Enough, enough, my yeoman good,
- Thy grief let none gainsay;
- But I, who am of lighter mood,
- Will laugh to flee away.’
- For who would trust the seeming sighs
- Of wife or paramour?
- Fresh feeres will dry the bright blue eyes
- We late saw streaming o’er.
- For pleasures past I do not grieve,
- Nor perils gathering near;
- My greatest grief is that I leave
- No thing that claims a tear.
- And now I’m in the world alone,
- Upon the wide, wide sea:
- But why should I for others groan,
- When none will sigh for me?
- Perchance my dog will whine in vain,
- Till fed by stranger hands;
- But long ere I come back again
- He’d tear me where he stands.
- With thee, my bark, I’ll swiftly go
- Athwart the foaming brine;
- Nor care what land thou bear’st me to,
- So not again to mine.
- Welcome, welcome, ye dark-blue waves!
- And when you fail my sight,
- Welcome, ye deserts and ye caves!
- My native Land — Good Night!
On, on the vessel flies, the land is gone,
And winds are rude in Biscay’s sleepless bay.
Four days are sped, but with the fifth, anon,
New shores descried make every bosom gay;
And Cintra’s mountain greets them on their way.
And Tagus dashing onward to the deep,
His fabled golden tribute bent to pay;
And soon on board the Lusian pilots leap,
And steer ‘twixt fertile shores where yet few rustics reap.
Oh, Christ! it is a goodly sight to see
What Heaven hath done for this delicious land:
What fruits of fragrance blush on every tree!
What goodly prospects o’er the hills expand!
But man would mar them with an impious hand:
And when the Almighty lifts his fiercest scourge
‘Gainst those who most transgress his high command,
With treble vengeance will his hot shafts urge
Gaul’s locust host, and earth from fellest foemen purge.
What beauties doth Lisboa, first unfold!
Her image floating on that noble tide,
Which poets vainly pave with sands of gold,
But now whereon a thousand keels did ride
Of mighty strength, since Albion was allied,
And to the Lusians did her aid afford:
A nation swoln with ignorance and pride,
Who lick yet loathe the hand that waves the sword
To save them from the wrath of Gaul’s unsparing lord.
But whoso entereth within this town,
That, sheening far, celestial seems to be,
Disconsolate will wander up and down,
‘Mid many things unsightly to strange ee;
For hut and palace show like filthily:
The dingy denizens are rear’d in dirt;
Ne personage of high or mean degree
Doth care for cleaness of surtout or shirt;
Though shent with Egypt’s plague, unkempt, unwash’d, unhurt.
Poor, paltry slaves! yet born ‘midst noblest scenes —
Why, Nature, waste thy wonders on such men?
Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes
In variegated maze of mount and glen.
Ah, me! what hand can pencil guide, or pen,
To follow half on which the eye dilates
Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken
Than those whereof such things the bard relates,
Who to the awe-struck world unlock’d Elysium’s gates?
The horrid crags, by toppling convent crown’d,
The cork-trees hoar that clothe the shaggy steep,
The mountain-moss by scorching skies imbrown’d,
The sunken glen, whose sunless shrubs must weep,
The tender azure of the unruffled deep,
The orange tints that gild the greenest bough,
The torrents that from cliff to valley leap,
The vine on high, the willow branch below,
Mix’d in one mighty scene, with varied beauty glow.
Then slowly climb the many-winding way,
And frequent turn to linger as you go,
From loftier rocks new loveliness survey,
And rest ye at ‘Our Lady’s house of woe;’[*]
Where frugal monks their little relics show,
And sundry legends to the stranger tell:
Here impious men have punish’d been, and lo!
Deep in yon cave Honorious long did dwell,
In hope to merit Heaven by making earth a Hell.
And here and there, as up the crags you spring,
Mark many rude-carved crosses near the path;
Yet deem not these devotion’s offering —
These are memorials frail of murderous wrath:
For wheresoe’er the shrieking victim hath
Pour’d forth his blood beneath the assassin’s knife,
Some hand erects a cross of mouldering lath;
And grove and glen with thousand such are rife
Throughout this purple land, where law secures not life.[*]
On sloping mounds, or in the vale beneath,
Are domes where whilome kings did make repair;
But now the wild flowers round them only breathe;
Yet ruin’d splendour still is lingering there.
And yonder towers the Prince’s palace fair:
There thou, too, Vathek! England’s wealthiest son,
Once form’d thy Paradise, as not aware
When wanton Wealth her mightiest deeds hath done,
Meek Peace voluptuous lures was ever wont to shun.
Here didst thou dwell, here schemes of pleasure plan,
Beneath yon mountain’s ever beautious brow:
But now, as if a thing unblest by Man,
Thy fairy dwelling is as lone as thou!
Her giant weeds a passage scarce allow
To halls deserted, portals gaping wide:
Fresh lessons to the thinking bosom, how
Vain are the pleasaunces on earth supplied;
Swept into wrecks anon by Time’s ungentle tide!
Behold the hall where chiefs were late convened![*]
Oh! dome displeasing unto British eye!
With diadem hight foolscap, lo! a fiend,
A little fiend that scoffs incessantly,
There sits in parchment robe array’d, and by
His side is hung a seal and sable scroll,
Where blazon’d glare names known to chivalry,
And sundry signatures adorn the roll,
Whereat the Urchin points and laughs with all his soul.
Convention is the dwarfish demon styled
That foil’d the knights in Marialva’s dome:
Of brains (if brains they had) he them beguiled,
And turned a nation’s shallow joy to gloom.
Here Folly dash’d to earth the victor’s plume,
And Policy regain’d what arms had lost:
For chiefs like ours in vain may laurels bloom!
Woe to the conqu’ring, not the conquer’d host,
Since baffled Triumph droops on Lusitania’s coast.
And ever since that martial synod met,
Britannia sickens, Cintra! at thy name;
And folks in office at the mention fret,
And fain would blush, if blush they could, for shame.
How will posterity the deed proclaim!
Will not our own and fellow nations sneer,
To view these champions cheated of their fame,
By foes in fight o’er thrown, yet victors here,
Where Scorn her finger points through many a coming year.
So deem’d the Childe, as o’er the mountains he
Did take his way in solitary guise:
Sweet was the scene, yet soon he thought to flee,
More restless than the swallow in the skies:
Though here awhile he learn’d to moralize,
For Meditation fix’d at times on him;
And conscious Reason whisper’d to despise
His early youth, misspent in maddest whim;
But as he gazed on truth his aching eyes grew dim.
To horse! to horse! he quits, for ever quits
A scene of peace, though soothing to his soul:
Again he rouses from his moping fits,
But seeks not now the harlot and the bowl.
Onward he flies, nor fix’d as yet the goal
Where he shall rest him on his pilgrimage;
And o’er him many changing scenes must roll
Ere toil his thirst for travel can assuage,
Or he shall calm his breast, or learn experience sage.
Yet Mafra shall one moment claim delay,
Where dwelt of yore the Lusians’ luckless queen;
And church and court did mingle their array,
And mass and revel were alternate seen;
Lordlings and freres — ill-sorted fry I ween!
But here the Babylonian whore hath built[*]
A dome, where flaunts she in such glorious sheen,
That men forget the blood which she hath spilt,
And bow the knee to Pomp that loves to varnish guilt.
O’er vales that teem with fruits, romantic hills.
(Oh, that such hills upheld a free-born race!)
Whereon to gaze the eye with joyaunce fills,
Childe Harold wends through many a pleasant place.
Though sluggards deem it but a foolish chase,
And marvel men should quit their easy chair,
The toilsome way, and long, long league to trace,
Oh! there is sweetness in the mountain air,
And life, that bloated Ease can never hope to share.
More bleak to view the hills at length recede,
And, less luxuriant, smoother vales extend;
Immense horizon-bounded plains succeed!
Far as the eye discerns, withouten end,
Spain’s realms appear whereon her shepherds tend
Flocks, whose rich fleece right well the trader knows —
Now must the pastor’s arm his lambs defend:
For Spain is compass’d by unyielding foes,
And all must shield their all, or share Subjection’s woes.
Where Lusitania and her Sister meet,
Deem ye what bounds the rival realms divide?
Or ere the jealous queens of nations greet,
Doth Tayo interpose his mighty tide?
Or dark Sierras rise in craggy pride?
Or fence of art, like China’s vasty wall? —
Ne barrier wall, ne river deep and wide,
Ne horrid crags, nor mountains dark and tall,
Rise like the rocks that part Hispania’s land from Gaul:
But these between a silver streamlet glides,
And scarce a name distinguisheth the brook,
Though rival kingdoms press its verdant sides.
Here leans the idle shepherd on his crook,
And vacant on the rippling waves doth look,
That peaceful still ‘twixt bitterest foemen flow;
For proud each peasant as the noblest duke:
Well doth the Spaniard hind the difference know
‘Twixt him and Lusian slave, the lowest of the low.[*]
But ere the mingling bounds have far been pass’d,
Dark Guadiana rolls his power along
In sullen billows, murmuring and vast,
So noted ancient roundelays among.
Whilome upon his banks did legions throng
Of Moor and Knight, in mailèd splendour drest:
Here ceased the swift their race, here sunk the strong;
The Paynim turban and the Christian crest
Mix’d on the bleeding stream, by floating hosts oppress’d.
Oh. lovely Spain! renown’d, romantic land!
Where is that standard which Pelagio bore,
When Cava’s traitor-sire first call’d the band
That dyed thy mountain streams with Gothic gore?[*]
Where are those bloody banners which of yore
Waved o’er thy son’s, victorious to the gale,
And drove at last the spoilers to their shore?
Red gleam’d the cross, and waned the crescent pale,
While Afric’s echoes thrill’d with Moorish matrons’ wail.
Teems not each ditty with the glorious tale?
Ah! such, alas! the hero’s amplest fate!
When granite moulders, and when records fall,
A peasant’s plaint prolongs his dubious date.
Pride! bend thine eye from heaven to thine estate,
See how the Mighty shrink into a song!
Can Volume, Pillar, Pile preserve thee great?
Or must thou trust Tradition’s simple tongue,
When Flattery sleeps with thee, and History does thee wrong?
Awake, ye sons of Spain! awake! advance!
Lo! Chivalry, your ancient goddess, cries,
But wields not, as of old, her thirsty lance,
Nor shakes her crimson plumage in the skies:
Now on the smoke of blazing bolts she flies,
And speaks in thunder through yon engine’s roar:
In every peal she calls — ‘Awake! arise!’
Say, is her voice more feeble than of yore,
When her war-song was heard on Andalusia’s shore?
Hark! heard you not those hoofs of dreadful note?
Sounds not the clang of conflict on the heath?
Saw ye not whom the reeking sabre smote,
Nore saved your brethren ere they sank beneath
Tyrants and tyrants’ slaves? the fires of death,
The bale-fires flash on high: — from rock to rock
Each volley tells that thousands cease to breathe;
Death rides upon the sulphury Siroc,
Red Battle stamps his foot, and nations feel the shock.
Lo! where the Giant on the mountain stands,
His blood-red tresses deep’ning in the sun,
With death-shot glowing in his fiery hands,
And eye that scorcheth all it glares upon;
Restless it rolls, now fix’d, and now anon
Flashing afar, — and at his iron feet
Destruction cowers, to mark what deeds are done;
For on this morn three potent nations meet,
To shed before his shrine the blood he deems most sweet.
By heaven! it is a splendid sight to see
(For one who hath no friend, no brother there)
Their rival scarfs of mix’d embroidery,
Their various arms that glitter in the air!
What gallant war-hounds rouse them from their lair,
And gnash their fangs, loud yelling for the prey!
All join the chase, but few the triumph share;
The Grave shall bear the chiefest prize away,
And Havoc scarce for joy can number their array.
Three hosts combine to offer sacrifice;
Three tongues prefer strange orisons on high;
Three gaudy standards flout the pale blue skies;
The shouts are France, Spain, Albion, Victory!
The foe, the victim, and the fond ally
That fights for all, but ever fights in vain,
Are met — as if at home they could not die —
To feed the crow on Talavera’s plain,
And fertilize the field that each pretends to gain.
There shall they rot — Ambition’s honour’d fools!
Yes, Honour decks the turf that wraps their clay!
Vain Sophistry! in these behold the tools,
The broken tools, that tyrants cast away
By myriads, when they dare to pave their way
With human hearts — to what? — a dream alone.
Can despots compass aught that hails their sway?
Or call with truth one span of earth their own,
Save that wherein at last they crumble bone by bone?
Oh, Albeura! glorious field of grief!
As o’er thy plain the Pilgrim prick’s his steed,
Who could foresee thee, in a space so brief,
A scene where mingling foes should boast and bleed!
Peace to the perish’d! may the warrior’s meed
And tears of triumph their reward prolong!
Till others fall where other chieftains lead
Thy name shall circle round the gaping throng,
And shine in worthless lays the theme of transient song.
Enough of battle’s minions! let them play
Their game of lives, and barter breath for fame:
Fame that will scarce reanimate their clay,
Though thousands fall to deck some single name.
In sooth ’twere sad to thwart their noble aim
Who strike, blest hirelings! for their country’s good,
And die, that living might have proved her shame;
Perish’d, perchance, in some domestic feud,
Or in a narrower sphere wild Rapine’s path pursued.
Full swiftly Harold wends his lonely way
Where proud Sevilla triumphs unsubdued:
Yet is she free — the spoiler’s wish’d-for prey!
Soon, soon shall Conquest’s fiery foot intrude,
Blackening her lovely domes with traces rude.
Inevitable hour! ‘Gainst fate to strive
Where Desolation plants her famish’d brood
Is vain, or Ilion, Tyre, might yet survive,
And Virtue vanquish all, and murder cease to thrive.
But all unconscious of the coming doom,
The feast, the song, the revel here abounds;
Strange modes of merriment the hours consume,
Nor bleed these patriots with their country’s wounds;
Nor here War’s clarion, but Love’s rebeck sounds;
Here Folly still his votaries inthralls;
And young-eyes Lewdness walks her midnight rounds;
Girt with the silent crimes of Capitals,
Still to the last kind Vice clings to the tott’ring walls.
Not so the rustic — with his trembling mate
He lurks, nor casts his heavy eye afar,
Lest he should view his vineyard desolate,
Blasted below the dun hot breath of war.
No more beneath soft Eve’s consenting star
Fandango twirls his jocund castanet:
Ah, monarchs! could ye taste the mirth ye mar,
Not in the toils of Glory would ye fret;
The hoarse dull drum would sleep, and Man be happy yet!
How carols now the lusty muleteer?
Of love, romance, devotion is his lay,
As whilome he was wont the leagues to cheer,
His quick bells wildly jingling on the way?
No! as he speeds, he chants ‘Vivä el Rey!’[*]
And checks his song to execrate Godoy,
The royal wittol Charles, and curse the day
When first Spain’s queen beheld the black-eyed boy,
And gore-faced Treason spring from her adulterate joy.
On yon long, level plain, at distance crown’d
With crags, whereon those Moorish turrets rest,
Wide scatter’d hoof-marks dint the wounded ground;
And, scathed by fire, the greensward’s darken’d vest
Tells that the foe was Andalusia’s guest:
Here was the camp, the watch-flame, and the host,
Here the bold peasant storm’d the dragon’s nest;
Still does he mark it with triumphant boast;
And points to yonder cliffs, which oft were won and lost.
And whomsoe’er along the path you meet
Bears in his cap the badge of crimson hue,
Which tells you whom to shun and whom to greet.[*]
Woe to the man that walks in public view
Without of loyalty this token true;
Sharp is the knife, and sudden is the stroke;
And sorely would the Gallic foeman rue,
If subtle poniards, wrapt beneath the cloke,
Could blunt the sabre’s edge, or clear the cannon’s smoke.
At every turn Morena’s dusky height
Sustains aloft the battery’s iron load;
And, far as mortal eye can compass sight,
The mountain-howitzer, the broken road,
The bristling palisade, the fosse o’erflow’d,
The station’d bands, the never-vacant watch,
The magazine in rocky durance stow’d,
The holster’d steed beneath the shed of thatch,
The ball-piled pyramid, the ever-blazing match,[*]
Portend the deeds to come: — but he whose nod
Has tumbled feebler despots from their sway,
A moment pauseth ere he lifts the rod;
A little moment deigneth to delay:
Soon will his legions sweep through these their way;
The West must own the Scourger of the world.
Ah! Spain! how sad will be thy reckoning day,
When soars Gaul’s Vulture, with his wings unfurl’d,
And thou shalt view thy sons in crowds to Hades hurl’d.
And must they fall? the young, the proud, the brave,
To swell one bloated Chief’s unwholesome reign?
No step between submission and a grave?
The rise of rapine and the fall of Spain?
And doth the Power that man adores ordain
Their doom, nor heed the suppliant’s appeal?
Is all that desperate Valour acts in vain?
And Counsel sage, and patriotic Zeal,
The Veteran’s skill, Youth’s fire, and Manhood’s heart of steel?
Is it for this the Spanish maid, aroused,
Hangs on the willow her unstrung guitar,
And, all unsex’d, the Anlace hath espoused,
Sung the loud song, and dared the deed of war?
And she, whom once the semblance of a scar
Appall’d, an owlet’s ‘larum chill’d with dread,
Now views the column-scattering bay’net jar,
The falchion flash, and o’er the yet warm dead
Stalks with Minerva’s step where Mars might quake to tread.
Ye who shall marvel when you hear her tale,
Oh! had you known her in her softer hour,
Mark’d her black eye that mocks her coal-black veil,
Heard her light, lively tones in Lady’s bower,
Seen her long locks that foil the painter’s power,
Her fairy form, with more than female grace,
Scarce would you deem that Saragoza’s tower
Beheld her smile in Danger’s Gorgon face,
Thin the closed ranks, and lead in Glory’s fearful chase.
Her lover sinks, — she sheds no ill-timed tear;
Her chief is slain — she fills his fatal post;
Her fellows flee — she checks their base career;
The foe retires — she heads the sallying host:
Who can appease like her a lover’s ghost?
Who can avenge so well a leader’s fall?
What maid retrieve when man’s flush’d hope is lost?
Who hang so fiercely on the flying Gaul,
Foil’d by a woman’s hand, before a batter’d wall?[*]
Yet are Spain’s maids no race of Amazons,
But form’d for all the witching arts of love:
Though thus in arms they emulate her sons,
And in the horrid phalanx dare to move,
‘Tis but the tender fierceness of the dove,
Pecking the hand that hovers o’er her mate:
In softness as in firmness far above
Remoter females, famed for sickening prate;
Her mind is nobler sure, her charms perchance as great.
The seal Love’s dimpling finger hath impress’d
Denotes how soft that chin which bears his touch:[*]
Her lips whose kisses pout to leave their nest,
Bid man be valiant ere he merit such:
Her glance how wildly beautiful! how much
Hath Phoebus woo’d in vain to spoil her cheek,
Which glows yet smoother from his amorous clutch!
Who round the North for paler dames would seek?
How poor their forms appear! how languid, wan, and weak!
Match me, ye climes! which poets love to laud;
Match me, ye harems of the land! where now[*]
I strike my strain, far distant, to applaud
Beauties that ev’n a cynic must avow;
Match me those Houries, whom ye scarce allow
To taste the gale lest Love should ride the wind,
With Spain’s dark-glancing daughters — deign to know,
There your wise Prophet’s paradise we find,
His black-eyed maids of Heaven, angelically kind.
Oh, thou Parnassus! whom I now survey,[*]
Not in the phrensy of a dreamer’s eye,
Not in the fabled landscape of a lay,
But soaring snow-clad through thy native sky,
In the wild pomp of mountain majesty!
What marvel if I thus essay to sing?
The humblest of thy pilgrims passing by
Would gladly woo thine Echoes with his string,
Though from thy heights no more one Muse will wave her wing.
Oft have I dream’d of Thee! whose glorious name
Who knows not, knows not man’s divinest lore:
And now I view thee, ’tis, alas! with shame
That I in feeblest accents must adore.
When I recount thy worshippers of yore
I tremble, and can only bend the knee;
Nor raise my voice, nor vainly dare to soar,
But gaze beneath thy cloudy canopy
In silent joy to think at last I look on Thee!
Happier in this than mightiest bards have been,
Whose fate to distant homes confined their lot,
Shall I unmoved behold the hallow’d scene,
Which others rave of, though they know it not?
Though here no more Apollo haunts his grot,
And thou, the Muses’ seat, art now their grave,
Some gentle spirit still pervades the spot,
Sighs in the gale, keeps silence in the cave,
And glides with glassy foot o’er yon melodious wave.
Of thee hereafter. — Ev’n amidst my strain
I turn’d aside to pay my homage here;
Forgot the land, the sons, the maids of Spain;
Her fate, to every freeborn bosom dear;
And hail’d thee, not perchance without a tear.
Now to my theme — but from thy holy haunt
Let me some remnant, some memorial bear;
Yield me one leaf of Daphne’s deathless plant,
Nor let thy votary’s hope be deem’d an idle vaunt.
But ne’er didst thou, fair Mount, when Greece was young,
See round thy giant base a brighter choir,
Nor e’er did Delphi, when her priestess sung
The Pythian hymn with more than mortal fire,
Behold a train more fitting to inspire
The song of love, than Andalusia’s maids,
Nurst in the glowing lap of soft desire:
Ah! that to these were given such peaceful shades
As Greece can still bestow, though Glory fly her glades.
Fair is proud Seville; let her country boast
Her strength, her wealth, her site of ancient days;[*]
But Cadiz, rising on the distant coast,
Calls forth a sweeter, though ignoble praise.
Ah, Vice! how soft are thy voluptuous ways!
While boyish blood is mantling, who can ‘scape
The fascination of thy magic gaze?
A Cherub-hydra round us dost thou gape,
And mould to every taste thy dear delusive shape.
When Paphos fell by Time — accursed Time!
The Queen who conquers all must yield to thee —
The Pleasures fled, but sought as warm a clime;
And Venus, constant to her native sea,
To nought else constant, hither deign’d to flee,
And fix’d her shrine within these walls of white;
Though not to one dome circumscribeth she
Her worship, but, devoted to her rite,
A thousand altars rise, for ever blazing bright.
From morn till night, from night till startled Morn
Peeps blushing on the revel’s laughing crew,
The song is heard, the rosy garland worn;
Devices quaint, and frolics ever new,
Tread on each other’s kibes. A long adieu
He bids to sober joy that here sojourns:
Nought interrupts the riot, though in lieu
Of true devotion monkish incense burns,
And love and prayer unite, or rule the hour by turns.
The Sabbath comes, a day of blessed rest:
What hallows it upon this Christian shore?
Lo! it is sacred to a solemn feast;
Hark! heard you not the forest-monarch’s roar?
Crashing the lance, he snuffs the spouting gore
Of man and steed, o’er thrown beneath his horn;
The throng’d arena shakes with shouts for more;
Yells the mad crowd o’er entrails freshly torn,
Nor shrinks the female eye, nor ev’n affects to mourn.
The seventh day this; the jubilee of man.
London! right well thou know’st the day of prayer:
Then thy spruce citizen, wash’d artisan,
And smug apprentice gulp their weekly air;
Thy coach of hackney, whiskey, one-horse chair,
And humblest gig through sundry suburbs whirl;
To Hampstead, Brentford, Harrow make repair;
Till the tired jade the wheel forgets to hurl,
Provoking envious gibe from each pedestrian churl.
Some o’er thy Thamis row the ribbon’d fair,
Others along the safer turnpike fly;
Some Richmond-hill ascend, some scud to Ware,
And many to the steep of Highgate hie.
Ask ye, Boeotian shades! the reason why?[*]
‘Tis to the worship of the solemn Horn,
In whose dread name both men and maids are sworn,
And consecrate the oath with draught, and dance till morn.
All have their fooleries — not alike are thine,
Fair Cadiz, rising o’er the dark blue sea!
Soon as the matin bell proclaimeth nine,
Thy Saint-adorers count the rosary:
Much is the VIRGIN teased to shrive them free
(Well do I ween the only virgin there)
From crimes as numerous as her beadsmen be;
Then to the crowded circus forth they fare:
Young, old, high, low, at once the same diversion share.
The lists are oped, the spacious area clear’d,
Thousands on thousands piled are seated round;
Long ere the first loud trumpet’s note is heard,
Ne vacant space for lated wight is found:
Here dons, grandees, but chiefly dames abound,
Skill’d in the ogle of a roguish eye,
Yet ever well inclined to heal the wound;
None through their cold disdain are doom’d to die,
As moon-struck bards complain, by Love’s sad archery.
Hush’d is the din of tongues — on gallant steeds,
With milk-white crest, gold spur, and light-poised lance,
Four cavaliers prepare for venturous deeds,
And lowly bending to the lists advance;
Rich are their scarfs, their chargers featly prance:
If in the dangerous game they shine today,
The crowd’s loud shout and ladies’ lovely glance,
Best prize of better acts, they bear away,
And all that kings or chiefs e’er gain their toils repay.
In costly sheen and gaudy cloak array’d,
But all afoot, the light-limb’d Matadore
Stands in the centre, eager to invade
The lord of lowing herds; but not before
The ground, with cautious tread, is traversed o’er,
Lest aught unseen should lurk to thwart his speed:
His arm a dart, he fights aloof, nor more
Can man achieve without the friendly steed —
Alas! too oft condemn’d for him to bear and bleed.
Thrice sounds the clarion; lo! the signal falls,
The den expands, and Expectation mute
Gapes round the silent circle’s peopled walls.
Bounds with one lashing spring the mighty brute,
And, wildly staring, spurns, with sounding foot,
The sand, nor blindly rushes on his foe:
Here, there, he points his threatening front, to suit
His first attack, wide waving to and fro
His angry tail; red rolls his eye’s dilated glow.
Sudden he stops; his eye is fix’d; away,
Away, thou heedless boy! prepare the spear:
Now is thy time to perish, or display
The skill that yet may check his mad career.
With well-timed croupe the nimble coursers veer;
On foams the bull, but not unscathed he goes;
Streams from his flank the crimson torrent clear:
He flies, he wheels, distracted with his throes;
Dart follow dart; lance, lance; loud bellowings speak his woes.
Again he comes; nor dart nor lance avail,
Nor the wild plunging of the tortured horse;
Though man and man’s avenging arms assail,
Vain are his weapons, vainer is his force.
One gallant steed is stretch’d a mangled corse;
Another, hideous sight! unseam’d appears,
His gory chest unveils life’s panting source;
Though death-struck, still his feeble frame he rears;
Staggering, but stemming all, his lord unharm’d he bears.
Foil’d, bleeding, breathless, furious to the last,
Full in the centre stands the bull at bay,
Mid wounds, and clinging darts, and lances brast,
And foes disabled in the brutal fray;
And now the Matadores around him play,
Shake the red cloak and poise the ready brand:
Once more through all he bursts his thundering way —
Vain rage! the mantle quits the conynge hand,
Wraps his fierce eye — ’tis past — he sinks upon the sand!
Where his vast neck just mingles with the spine,
Sheathed in his form the deadly weapon lies.
He stops — he starts — disdaining to decline:
Slowly he falls, amidst triumphant cries,
Without a groan, without a struggle dies.
The decorated car appears — on high
The corse is piled — sweet sight for vulgar eyes —
Four steeds that spurn the rein, as swift as shy,
Hurl the dark bulk along, scarce seen in dashing by.
Such the ungentle sport that oft invites
The Spanish maid, and cheers the Spanish swain.
Nurtured in blood betimes, his heart delights
In vengeance, gloating on another’s pain.
What private feuds the troubled village stain!
Though now one phalanx’d host should meet the foe,
Enough, alas! in humble homes remain,
To meditate ‘gainst friends the secret blow,
For some slight cause of wrath whence life’s warm stream must flow.
But Jealousy has fled: his bars, his bolts,
His wither’d centinel, Duenna sage!
And all whereat the generous soul revolts,
Which the stern dotard deem’d he could encage,
Have pass’d to darkness with the vanish’d age.
Who late so free as Spanish girls were seen
(Ere War uprose in his volcanic rage),
With braided tresses bounding o’er the green,
While on the gay dance shone Night’s lover-loving Queen?
Oh! many a time and oft, had Harold loved,
Or dream’d he loved, since rapture is a dream;
But now his wayward bosom was unmoved,
For not yet had he drunk of Lethe’s stream;
And lately had he learn’d with truth to deem
Love has no gift so grateful as his wings:
How fair, how young, how soft soe’er he seem,
Full from the fount of Joy’s delicious springs[*]
Some bitter o’er the flowers its bubbling venom flings.
Yet to the beauteous form he was not blind,
Though now it moved him as it moves the wise:
Not that Philosophy on such a mind
E’er deign’d to bend her chastely-awful eyes:
But Passion raves herself to rest, or flies;
And Vice, that digs her own voluptuous tomb,
Had buried long his hopes, no more to rise:
Pleasure’s pall’d victim! life-abhorring gloom
Wrote on his faded brow curst Cain’s unresting doom.
Still he beheld, nor mingled with the throng;
But view’d them not with misanthropic hate:
Fain would he now have join’d the dance, the song;
But who may smile that sinks beneath his fate:
Nought that he saw his sadness could abate:
Yet once he struggled ‘gainst the demon’s sway,
And as in Beauty’s bower he pensive sate,
Pour’d forth his unpremeditated lay,
To charms as fair as those that soothed his happier day.
- To Inez
- Nay, smile not at my sullen bow;
- Alas, I cannot smile again:
- Yet Heaven avert that ever thou
- Shouldst weep, and haply weep in vain.
- And dost thou ask what secret woe
- I bear, corroding joy and youth?
- And wilt thou vainly seek to know
- A pang, ev’n thou must fail to soothe?
- It is not love, it is not hate,
- Nor low Ambition’s honours lost,
- That bids me loathe my present state,
- And fly from all I prized the most:
- It is that weariness which springs
- From all I meet, or hear, or see:
- To me no pleasure Beauty brings;
- Thine eyes have scarce a charm for me.
- It is that settled, ceaseless gloom
- The fabled Hebrew wanderer bore;
- That will not look beyond the tomb,
- But cannot hope for rest before.
- What Exile from himself can flee?
- To zones though more and more remote,
- Still, still pursues, where’er I be,
- The blight of life — the demon Thought.
- Yet others rapt in pleasure seem,
- And taste of all that I forsake:
- Oh! may they still of transport dream,
- And ne’er, at least like me, awake!
- Thorough many a clime ’tis mine to go,
- With many a retrospection curst;
- And all my solace is to know,
- Whate’er betides, I’ve known the worst.
- What is that worst? Nay, do not ask —
- In pity from the search forbear:
- Smile on — nor venture to unmask
- Man’s heart, and view the Hell that’s there.
Adieu, fair Cadiz! yes, a long adieu!
Who may forget how well thy walls have stood?
When all were changing, thou alone wert true,
First to be free, and last to be subdued:
And if amidst a scene, a shock so rude,
Some native blood was seen thy streets to dye,
A traitor only fell beneath the feud:[*]
Here all were noble, save Nobility!
None hugg’d a conqueror’s chain, save fallen Chivalry!
Such be the sons of Spain, and strange her fate!
They fight for freedom who were never free,
A Kingless people for a nerveless state;
Her vassals combat when their chieftains flee,
True to the veriest slaves of Treachery:
Fond of a land which gave them nought but life,
Pride points the path that leads to liberty;
Back to the struggle, baffled in the strife,
War, war is still the cry, ‘War even to the knife!’[*]
Ye, who would more of Spain and Spaniards know,
Go, read whate’er is writ of bloodiest strife:
Whate’er keen Vengeance urged on foreign foe
Can act, is acting there against man’s life:
From flashing scimitar to secret knife,
War mouldeth there each weapon to his need —
So may he guard the sister and the wife,
So may he make each curst oppressor bleed —
So may such foes deserve the most remorseless deed!
Flows there a tear of pity for the dead?
Look o’er the ravage of the reeking plain;
Look on the hands with female slaughter red;
Then to the dogs resign the unburied slain,
Then to the vulture let each corse remain,
Albeit unworthy of the prey-bird’s maw;
Let their bleach’d bones, and blood’s unbleaching stain,
Long mark the battle-field with hideous awe:
Thus only may our sons conceive the scenes we saw!
Nor yet, alas! the dreadful work is done;
Fresh legions pour adown the Pyrenees:
It deepens, still, the work is scarce begun,
Nor mortal eye the distant end foresees,
Fall’n nations gaze on Spain; if freed, she frees
More than her fell Pizarros once enchain’d:
Strange retribution! now Columbia’s ease
Repairs the wrongs that Quito’s sons sustained,
While o’er the parent clime prowls Murder unrestrain’d.
Not all the blood at Talavera shed,
Not all the marvels of Barossa’s fight,
Not Albeura lavish of the dead,
Have won for Spain her well-asserted right.
When shall her Olive-Branch be free from blight?
When shall she breathe her from the blushing toil?
How many a doubtful day shall sink in night,
Ere the Frank robber turn him from his spoil,
And Freedom’s stranger-tree grow native of the soil!
And thou, my friend! — since unavailing woe[*]
Bursts from my heart, and mingles with the strain —
Had the sword laid thee with the mighty low,
Pride might forbid e’en Friendship to complain:
But thus unlaurel’d to descend in vain,
By all forgotten, save the lonely breast,
And mix unbleeding with the boasted slain,
While Glory crowns so many a meaner crest!
What hadst thou done to sink so peacefully to rest?
Oh, known the earliest, and esteem’d the most!
Dear to a heart where nought was left so dear!
Though to my hopeless days for ever lost,
In dreams deny me not to see thee here!
And Morn in secret shall renew the tear
Of Consciousness awaking to her woes,
And Fancy hover o’er thy bloodless bier,
Till my frail frame return to whence it rose,
And mourn’d and mourner lie united in repose.
Here is one fytte of Harold’s pilgrimage:
Ye who of him may further seek to know,
Shall find some tidings in a future page,
If he that rhymeth now may scribble moe.
Is this too much? stern Critic! say not so:
Patience! and ye shall hear what he beheld
In other lands, where he was doom’d to go:
Lands that contain the monuments of Eld,
Ere Greece and Grecian arts by barbarous hands were quell’d.