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He seized his cloak — his head he slightly bow'd,
XXV. And Lara call'd his page, and went his way Well could that stripling word or sign obey : His only follower from those climes afar, Where the soul glows beneath a brighter star ; For Lara left the shore from whence he sprung, In duty patient, and sedate though young ; Silent as him he served, his faith appears Abore his station, and beyond his year3. Though not unknown the tongue of Lara's land, In such from him he rarely heard command ; But fleet his step, and clear his tones would come, When Lara's lip breathed forth the words of home : Those accents, as his native mountains dear, Awake their absent echoes in his ear, Friends', kindreds', parents', wonted voice recall, Now lost, abjured, for one - his friend, his all : For him earth now disclosed no other guide ; What marvel then he rarely left his side ?
In mute attention; and his care, which guess'd Each wish, fulfill'd it ere the tongue express'd. Still there was haughtiness in all he did, A spirit deep that brook'd not to be chid; His zeal, though more than that of servile hands, In act alone obeys, his air commands; As if 't was Lara's less than his desire That thus he served, but surely not for hire. Slight were the tasks enjoin'd him by his lord, 'To hold the stirrup, or to bear the sword; To tune his lute, or, if he will'd it more, On tomes of other times and tongues to pore; But ne'er to mingle with the menial train, To whom he show'd nor deference nor disdain, But that well-worn reserve which proved he knew No sympathy with that familiar crew : His soul, whate'er his station or his stem, Could bow to Lara, not descend to them. Of higher birth he seem'd, and better days, Nor mark of vulgar toil that hand betrays, So feminineiy white it might bespeak Another sex, when match'd with that smooth check, But for his garb, and something in his gaze, More wild and high than woman's eye betrays; A latent fierceness that far more became His fiery climate than his tender frame: True, in his words it broke not from his breast, But from his aspect might be more than guess'd. Kaled his name, though rumour said he bore Another ere he left his mountain-shore ; For sometimes he would hear, however nigh, That name repeated loud without reply, As unfamiliar, or, if roused again, Start to the sound, as but remember'd then ; Unless 't was Lara's wonted voice that spake, For then, ear, eyes, and heart would all awake.
XXVIII. He had look'd down upon the festive hall, And mark'd that sudden strife so mark'd of all; And when the crowd around and near him told Their wonder at the calmness of the bold, Their marvel how the high-born Lara bore Such insult from a stranger, doubly sore, The colour of young Kaled went and came, The lip of ashes, and the cheek of flame; And o'er his brow the dampening heart-drops threw The sickening iciness of that cold dew, That rises as the busy bosom sinks With heavy thoughts from which reflection shrinks. Yes — there be things which we must dream and dare, And execute ere thought be half aware : Whate'er might Kaled's be, it was enow To seal his lip, but agonise his brow. He gazed on Ezzelin till Lara cast That sidelong smile upon the knight he past : When Kaled saw that smile his visage fell, As if on something recognised right well; His memory read in such a meaning more Than Lara's aspect unto others wore : Forward he sprung -a moment, both were gone, And all within that hall seem'd left alone; Each had so fix'd his eye on Lara's mien, All had so mix'd their feelings with that scene, That when his long dark shadow through the porch No more relieves the glare of yon high torch, Each pulse beats quicker, and all bosoms seem To bound as doubting from too black a dream,
XXVI. Light was his form, and darkly delicate That brow whereon his native sun had sate, But had not marr'd, though in his beams he grew, The cheek where oft the unbidden blush shone
through; Yet not such blush as mounts when health would show All the heart's hue in that delighted glow; But 't was a hectic tint of secret care That for a burning moment fever'd there ; And the wild sparkle of his eye seem'd caught From high, and lighten'd with electric thought, Though its black orb those long low lashes' fringe Had temper'd with a melancholy tinge; Yet less of sorrow than of pride was there, Or, if 't were grief, a grief that none should share : And pleased not him the sports that please his age, The tricks of youth, the frolics of the page ; For hours on Lara he would fix his glance, As all-forgotten in that watchful trance; And from his chief withdrawn, he wander'd lone, Brief were his answers, and his questions none; His walk the wood, his sport some foreign book ; His resting-place the bank that curbs the brook : He seem'd, like him he served, to live apart From all that lures the eye, and fills the heart; To know no brotherhood, and take from earth No gift beyond that bitter boon - our birth.
XXVII. If aught he loved, 't was Lara; but was shown His faith in reverence and in deeds alone;
When Ezzelin his charge may here unfold,
Such as we know is false, yet dread in sooth,
III. The hour is past, and Lara too is there, With self-contiding, coldly patient air; Why comes not Ezzelin ? The hour is past, And murmurs rise, and Otho's brow's o'ercast. “I know my friend ! his faith I cannot fear, If yet he be on earth, espect him here; The roof that held him in the valley stands Between my own and noble Lara's lands; My halls from such a guest had honour gain'd, Nor had Sir Ezzelin his host disdain'd, But that some previous proof forbade his stay, And urged him to prepare against to-day; The word I pledged for his I pledge again, Or will myself redeem his knighthood's stain."
He ceased — and Lara answer'd, “I am here
CANTO THE SECoxd.'
Proud Otho on the instant, reddening, threw
With cheek unchanging from its sallow gloom,
IV. Short was the conflict; furious, blindly rash, Vain Otho gave his bosom to the gash: He bled, and fell; but not with deadly wound, Stretch'd by a dextrous sleight along the ground. “ Demand thy life !” He answer'd not: and then From that red floor he ne'er had risen again, For Lara's brow upon the moment grew Almost to blackness in its demon hue; And fiercer shook his angry falchion now Than when his foe's was levellid at his brow;
II. 'Tis morn— 't is noon - -assembled in the hall, The gather'd chieftains come to Otho's call; 'Tis now the promised hour, that must proclaim The life or death of Lara's future fame;
'[Lord Byron seems to have taken a whimsical pleasure in disappointing, by his second Canto, most of the expectations which he had excited by the first. For, without the resuscitation of Sir Ezzelin, Lara's mysterious vision in his antique hail becomes a mere useless piece of lumber, inap. plicable to any intelligible purpose.
The character of Me dora, whom we had been satisfied to behold very contentedly
domesticated in the Pirate's Island, without inquiring whence or why she had emigrated thither, is, by means of some mys. terious relation between her and Sir Ezzelin, involved in very disagreeable ambiguity ; - and, further, the high-minded and generous Conrad, who had preferred death and torture to life and liberty, is purchased by a nightly murder, is degraded into a vile and cowardly assassin. — George Ellis.]
Then all was stern collectedness and art,
The seeming friendlessness of him who strove
VI. But where was he ? that meteor of a night, Who menaced but to disappear with light. Where was this Ezzelin ? who came and went To leare no other trace of his intent. He left the dome of Otho long ere morn, In darkness, yet so well the path was worn He could not miss it: near his dwelling lay; But there he was not, and with coming day Came fast inquiry, which unfolded nought Except the absence of the chief it sought. A chamber tenantless, a steed at rest, His host alarm'd, his murmuring squires distress'd : Their search extends along, around the path, In dread to meet the marks of prowlers' wrath : But none are there, and not a brake hath borne Nor gout of blood, nor shred of mantle torn; Nor fall nor struggle hath defaced the grass, Which still retains a mark where murder was; Nor dabbling fingers left to tell the tale, The bitter print of each convulsive nail, When agonised hands that cease to guard, Wound in that pang the smoothness the sward. Some such had been, if here a life was reft, But these were not; and doubting hope is left; And strange suspicion, whispering Lara's name, Now daily mutters o'er his blacken'd fame; Then sudden silent when his form appear’d, Awaits the absence of the thing it fear'd Again its wonted wondering to renew, And dye conjecture with a darker hue.
VIII. Within that land was many a malcontent, Who cursed the tyranny to which he bent; That soil full many a wringing despot saw, Who work'd his wantonness in form of law; Long war without and frequent broil within Had made a path for blood and giant sin, That waited but a signal to begin New havoc, such as civil discord blends, Which knows no neuter, owns but foes or friends; Fix'd in his feudal fortress each was lord, In word and deed obey'd, in soul abhorr'd. Thus Lara had inherited his lands, And with them pining hearts and sluggish hands; But that long absence from his native clime Had left him stainless of oppression's crime, And now, diverted by his milder sway, All dread by slow degrees had worn away. The menials felt their usual awe alone, But more for him than them that fear was grown; They deem'd him now unbappy, though at first Their evil judgment augur'd of the worst, And each long restless night, and silent mood, Was traced to sickness, fed by solitude : And though his lonely habits threw of late Gloom o'er his chamber, cheerful was his gate ; For thence the wretched ne'er unsoothed withdrew, For them, at least, his soul compassion knew. Cold to the great, contemptuous to the high, The humble pass'd not his unheeding eye; Much he would speak not, but beneath his roof They found asylum oft, and ne'er reproof. And they who watch'd might mark that, day by day, Some new retainers gather'd to his sway; But most of late, since Ezzelin was lost, He play'd the courteous lord and bounteous host: Perchance his strife with Otho made him dread Some snare prepared for his obnoxious head; Whate'er his view, his favour more obtains With these, the people, than his fellow thanes. If this were policy, so far 't was sound, The million judged but of him as they found; From him by sterner chiefs to exile driven They but required a shelter, and 't was given. By him no peasant mourn'd his rifled cot, And scarce the Serf could murmur o'er his lot; With him old avarice found its hoard secure, With him contempt forbore to mock the poor ;
VII. Days roll along, and Otho's wounds are heal'd, But not his pride; and hate no more conceal'd: He was a man of power, and Lara's foe, The friend of all who sought to work him woe, And from his country's justice now demands Account of Ezzelin at Lara's hands. Who else than Lara could have cause to fear His presence ? who had made him disappear,
If not the man on whom his menaced charge · Had sate too deeply were he left at large ?
The general rumour ignorantly loud,
The smoking ruin, and the crumbled wall ?
Youth present cheer and promised recompence
X. What boots the oft-repeated tale of strife, The feast of vultures, and the waste of life? The varying fortune of each separate field, The fierce that vanquish, and the faint that yield ?
XI. Fresh with the nerve the new-born impulse strung, The first success to Lara's numbers clung: But that vain victory hath ruin'd all ; They form no longer to their leader's call : In blind confusion on the foe they press, And think to snatch is to secure success. The lust of booty, and the thirst of hate, Lure on the broken brigands to their fate : In vain he doth whate'er a chief may do, To check the headlong fury of that crew; In vaia their stubborn ardour he would tame, The hand that kindles cannot quench the flame; The wary foe alone hath turn'd their mood, And shown their rashness to that erring brood : The feign'd retreat, the nightly ambuscade, The daily harass, and the fight delay'd, The long privation of the hoped supply, The tentless rest beneath the humid sky, The stubborn wall that mocks the leaguer's art, And palls the patience of his baffled heart, Of these they had not deem'd: the battle-day They could encounter as a veteran may; But more preferr'd the fury of the strife, And present death, to hourly suffering life : And famine wrings, and fever sweeps away His numbers melting fast from their array ; Intemperate triumph fades to discontent, And Lara's soul alone seems still unbent: But few remain to aid his voice and hand, And thousands dwindled to a scanty band : Desperate, though few, the last and best remain'd To mourn the discipline they late disdain d. One hope survives, the frontier is not far, And thence they may escape from native war; And bear within them to the neighbouring state An exile's sorrows, or an outlaw's hate : Hard is the task their father-land to quit, But harder still to perish or submit.
XU. It is resolved – they march --- consenting Night Guides with her star their dlm and torchless figlit: Already they perceive its tranquil beam Sleep on the surface of the barrier stream; Already they descry - Is yon the bank ? Away! 'tis lined with many a hostile rank. Return or fly! - What glitters in the rear ? 'Tis Otho's banner -- the pursuer's spear ! Are those the shepherds' fires upon the height ? Alas! they blaze too widely for the flight: Cut off from hope, and compass'd in the toil, Less blood perchance hath bought a richer spoil !
XIII. A moment's pause - 't is but to breathe their band, Or shall they onward press, or here withstand ? It matters little - if they charge the foes Who by their border-stream their march oppose, Some few, perchance, may break and pass the line, However link'd to baffle such design. * The charge be ours ! to wait for their assault Were fate well worthy of a coward's halt.” Forth flies each sabre, rein'd is every steed, And the next word shall scarce outstrip the deed : In the next tone of Lara's gathering breath How many shall but hear the voice of death!
XVI. Day glimmers on the dying and the dead, The cloven cuirass, and the helmless head; The war-horse masterless is on the earth, And that last gasp hath burst his bloody girth; And near, yet quivering with what life remain'd, The heel that urged him and the hand that rein'd; And some too near that rolling torrent lie, Whose waters mock the lip of those that dic; That panting thirst which scorches in the breath Of those that die the soldier's fiery death, In vain impels the burning mouth to crave One drop- the last — to cool it for the grave; With feeble and convulsive effort swept, Their limbs along the crimson'd turf have crept; The faint remains of life such struggles waste, But yet they reach the stream, and bend to taste : They feel its freshness, and almost partakeWhy pause ? No further thirst have they to slake It is unquench'd, and yet they feel it not; It was an agony
- but now forgot !
XIV. His blade is bared, -in him there is an air As deep, but far too tranquil for despair; A something of indifference more than then Becomes the bravest, if they feel for men. He turn'd his eye on Kaled, ever near, And still too faithful to betray one fear; Perchance 't was but the moon's dim twilight threw Along his aspect an unwonted hue Of mournful paleness, whose deep tint express'd The truth, and not the terror of his breast. This Lara mark'd, and laid his hand on his : It trembled not in such an hour as this; His lip was silent, scarcely beat his heart, His eye alone proclaim'd, “ We will not part ! Thy band may perish, or thy friends may flee, Farewell to life, but not adieu to thce !”
The word hath pass'd his lips, and onward driven,
XVII. Beneath a lime, remoter from the scene, Where but for him that strife had never been, A breathing but devoted warrior lay : 'Twas Lara bleeding fast from life away. His follower once, and now his only guide, Kneels Kaled watchful o'er his welling side, And with his scarf would stanch the tides that rush, With each convulsion, in a blacker gush; And then, as his faint breathing waxes low, In feebler, not less fatal tricklings flow : He scarce can speak, but motions him 'tis vain, And merely adds another throb to pain. He clasps the hand that pang which would assuage, And sadly smiles his thanks to that dark page, Who nothing fears, nor feels, nor heeds, nor sees, Save that damp brow which rests upon his knees; Save that pale aspect, where the eye, though dim, Held all the light that shone on earth for him.
XV. Commanding, aiding, animating all, Where foe appear'd to press, or friend to fall, Cheers Lara's voice, and waves or strikes his steel, Inspiring hope himself had ceased to feel. Xone fled, for well they knew that night were vain; But those that waver turn to smite again, While yet they find the firmest of the foe Recoil before their leader's look and blow : Now girt with numbers, now almost alone, He foils their ranks, or re-unites his own; Himself he spared not once they seem'd to fly Now was the time, he waved his hand on high, And shook — Why sudden droops that plumed crest ? The shaft is sped - the arrow's in his breast ! That fatal gesture left the unguarded side, And Death hath stricken down yon arm of pride. The word of triumph fainted from his tongue; That hand, so raised, how droopingly it hung ! But yet the sword instinctively retains, Though from its fellow shrink the falling reins; These Kaled snatches : dizzy with the blow, And senseless bending o'er his saddle-bow, Perceives not Lara that his anxious page Beguiles his charger from the combat's rage: Meantime his followers charge, and charge again; Too mix'd the slayers now to heed the slain !