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Renounce it!—say that it shall never be!—
Never, as long as there are Gods in Heaven,
Or men in Aztlan!
That, the King replied,
The Gods themselves have answered. Never yet
By holier ardour were our countrymen
Possessed : peace-offerings of repentance fill
The temple courts; * from every voice ascends
The contrite prayer; daily the victim's heart
Sends its propitiatory steam to Heaven;
And if the aid divine may be procured
By the most dread solemnities of faith,
And rigour of severest penitence,
Soon shall the present influence strengthen us,
And Aztlan be triumphant.
While they spake,
The ceaseless sound of song and instrument łung through the air, now rising like the voice Of angry ocean, now subsiding soft, As when the breeze of evening dies away. The horn, and shrill-toned pipe, and drum, that gave Its music to the hand, and hollowed wood, Drum-like, whose thunders, ever and anon, Commingling with the sea-shell's spiral roar, Closed the full harmony. And now the eve Past on, and, through the twilight visible, The frequent fire-flies' brightening beauties shone. Anxious and often now the Priest surveyed The maize-strewn threshold; for the wonted hour was come, and yet no footstep of the God! More radiant now the fire of sacrifice, Fed to full fury, blazed, and its red smoke Imparted to the darker atinosphere Such obscure light, as, o'er Vesuvio seen, Or pillared upon Etna's mountain-head, Makes darkness dreadful. In the captives clieeks Then might a livid paleness have been seen, And wilder terror in their ghastly eyes, | Expecting momently the pang of death. Soon in the multitude a doubt arose, which none durst mention, lest his neighbour's fears, Divulged, should strengthen his—the hour was past, And yet no foot had marked the sprinkled maize!
Now every moment gave their doubts new force,
And each alarmed eye disclosed the fear
Which on the tongue was trembling, when to the King,
Emaciate like some bare anatomy,
And deadly pale, Tezozomoc was led,
by two supporting Priests. Ten paiuful months,
Immured amid the forest, had he dwelt,
In abstinence and solitary prayer -
Passing his nights and days: 97 thus did tile Gods
From their High Priest exact, when they enforced,
By danger or distress, the penance due
For public sins: and he had dwelt ten months
Praying and fasting and in solitude,
Till now might every bone of his lean limbs
Be told, and in his starved and bony face
The living eye appeared unnatural,
| A ghostly sight.
In breathless eagerness The multitude drew round as he began,— iO King, the Gods of Aztlan are not come; They will not come before the Strangers' blood Smoke on their altars: but they have beheld My days of prayer, and uights of watchfulness, And fasis austere, and bloody disciplines, And have revealed their pleasure.—Who is here, Who to the White King's dwelling-place dare go, And execute their will?
Scarce had he said,
When Tlalala exclaimed, I am the man.
Hear then! Tezozomoc replied—Ye know
That self-denial and long penance purge
The film and foulness of mortality,
For more immediate intercourse with Heaven
Preparing the pure spirit; and all eyes
May witness that with no relaxing zeal
I have performed my duty. Much I feared
For Aztlan's sins, and oft, in bitterness,
Have groaned and bled for her iniquity;
But chiefly for this solemn day the fear
Was strong upon me, lest her Deities,
Estranged, should turn away, and we be left
A spiritless and God-abandoued race,
A warning to the earth. Ten weary months
Have the raw maize and running water been
My only food ; but not a grain of maize
Hail stayed the gnawing appetite, nor drop
Of water cooled my parched and painful tongue,
Since yester morn arose. Fasting I prayed,
And, praying, gashed myself; and all night long,
I watched and wept and supplicated Heaven,
Till the weak flesh, its life-blood almost drained,
Sunk with the long austerity: a dread
Of death came over me; a deathy chill
Ran through my veins, and loosened every limb;
Dim grew mine eyes; and I could feel my heart
Dying away within me, intermit
Its slow and feeble throbs, then suddenly
Start, as it seemed exerting all its force
In one last effort. On the ground I fell,
I know not if entranced, or dead indeed,
But without motion, hearing, sight, or sense,
Feeling, or breath, or life. From that strange state,
Even in such blessed freedom from all pain,
That sure I thought myself in very leaven,
I woke, and raised my eyelids, and beheld
A light which seemed to penetrate my bones
With life and health. Before me, visible,
Stood Coatlantona ; * a wreath of flowers
Circled her hair, and from their odorous leaves
Arose a lambent flame; not fitfully,
Nor with faint flash or spark of earthly slowers;
From these, for ever flowing forth, there played,
In one perpetual dance of pointed light,
The azure radiance of innocuous fire.
She spake—Hear, Aztlan' and give ear, O King!
She said, Not yet the offended Gods relax
Their anger; they require the Strangers' blood,
The foretaste of their banquet. Let their will
Ile known to Aztlan, and the brave perform
Their bidding; I, meantime, will seek to soothe,
With all a mother's power, Mexitlis wrath.
So let the Maidens daily with fresh flowers
Garland my temple!—Daily with fresh flowers
Garland her temple, Aztlan and revere
The gentle mother of thy guardian God!
And let the brave, exclaimed young Tlalala,
Perform her bidding! Servant of the Gods,
Declare their will —Is it, that I should seek
The Strangers, in the first who meets my way
To plunge the holy weapon? Say thou to me
Do this;–and I depart to do the deed,
Though my life-blood should mingle with the foe's.
O brave young Chief! Tezozomoc replied,
With better fortune may the grateful Gods
Reward thy valour! deed so hazardous
They ask not. Couldst thou from the mountain holds
Tempt one of these accursed to pursue
Thine artful flight, an ambushed band might rise
Upon the unsuspecting enemy, *
And intercept return; then hitherward
The captive should be led, and Aztlan's Gods
On their own altars see the sacrifice,
Well pleased, and Aztlan's sons, inspirited,
Behold the omen of assured success.
Thou knowest that Tlaloc's annual festival
Is close at hand. A Stranger's child would prove
A victim, whose rare value would deserve
His certain favour. More I need not say.
Chuse thou the force for ambush; and thyself
Alone, or with a chosen comrade, seek
The mountain dwellers.
Instant as he ceased,
Ocellopan exclaimed, I go with thee,
O Tlalala! My friend!—If one alone
Could have the honour of this enterprise,
My love might yield it thee;—but thou wilt need
A comrade—Tlalala, I go with thee!
The Chief replied, whom should my heart select,
Its tried companion else, but thee, so oft
My brother in the battle? We will go.
Shedder of blood! together will we go,
Now, ere the midnight!
Nay! the Priest exclaimed,
A little while delay; and, ere ye go,
Devote yourselves to Heaven! Feebly he spake,
Like one exhausted; gathering then new force,
As with laborious effort, he pursued,—
Bedew Mexitlis altar with your blood,
And go beneath his guidage. I have yet
Strength to officiate, and to bless your zeal.
So saying, to the Temple of the God
He led the way. The warriors followed him :
And, with his chiefs, Coanocotzin went,
To grace with all solemnity the rite.
They pass the Wall of Serpents, and ascend
The massive fabric; four times they surround
Its ample square, the fifth they reach the height.
There, on the level top, two temple-towers
Were reared; the one Tezcalipoca's fane,
Supreme of Heaven, where now the wily Priest
Stood, watchful for his presence, and observed
The maize-strewn threshold. His the other pile,
By whose peculiar power and patronage
Aztlan was blest, Mexitli, woman-born.
Before the entrance, the eternal sire
Was burning; bare of foot they entered there.
On a blue throne, with four huge silver snakes,
As if the keepers of the sanctuary,
Circled with stretching neck and fangs displayed,
Mexitli sate; another graven snake
Belted with scales of gold his monster bulk.
Around the neck a loathsome collar hung,
Of human hearts; the face was masked with gold;
His specular eyes seemed fire; one hand upreared
A club, the other, as in battle, held
The shield; and over all, suspended, hung
The banner of the nation. They beheld
In awe, and knelt before the Terrible God.
Guardian of Aztlan' cried Tezozomoc,
Who to thy mortal mother hast assigned
The kingdom o'er all trees and arborets
And herbs and flowers, giving her endless life,
A Deity among the Deities;
While Coatlantona implores thy love
To thine own people, they in fear approach
Thy awful fane, who know no fear beside,
And offer up the worthiest sacrifice,
The blood of heroes!
- To the ready Chiefs
He turned, and said, Now stretch your arms, and make
The offering to the God. They their bare arms
Stretched forth, and stabbed them with the aloe-point.
Then, in a golden vase, Tezozomoc
Received the mingled streams, and held it up
Toward the giant Idol, and exclaimed,
Terrible God . Protector of our realm .
Receive thine incense! Let the steam of blood
Ascend to thee, delightful! So mayest thou
Still to thy chosen people lend thine aid;
And these blaspheming strangers from the earth
Be swept away; as erst the monster race
Of Mammuth, 39 Heaven's fierce ministers of wrath,
Who drained the lakes in thirst, and for their food
Exterminated nations. And as when,
Their dreadful ministry of death fulfilled,
Ipalnemoani, by whom we live,
Lade thee go forth, and with thy lightnings fill
The vault of Heaven, and with thy thunders rock
The rooted earth, till of the monster race
Only their monumental bones remained,—
So arm thy favoured people with thy might,
Terrible God! and purify the land
From these blaspheming foes!
He said, and gave
Ocellopan the vase—Chiefs, ye have poured
Your strength and courage to the Terrible God,
Devoted to his service; take ye now
The beverage he hath hallowed. In your youth
Ye have quaffed manly blood, that manly thoughts
Might ripen in your hearts;4° so now with this,
Which, mingling, from such noble veins hath flowed,
Increase of valour drink, and added force.
Ocellopan received the bloody vase,
And drank, and gave in silence to his friend
The consecrated draught; then Tlalala
Drained off the offering. Braver blood than this
My lips can never taste! quoth he, but soon
Graut me, Mexitli, a more grateful cup,
The Stranger's life!
Are all the rites performed?
Ocellopan enquired. Yea, all is done,
Answered the Priest. Go! and the guardian God
Of Aztlan be your guide!
They left the fane.
Lo! as Tezozomoc was passing by
The eternal fire, the eternal fire shot up
A long blue flame. He started; he exclaimed,
The God! the God! Tezcalipoca's Priest
Echoed the welcome cry, The God! the God!
For lo! his footsteps mark the maize-strewn floor!
A mighty shout from all the multitude
of Aztlan rose; they cast into the fire
The victims, whose last shrieks of agony
Mingled unheeded with the cries of joy.
Then louder from the spiral sea-shell's depth
Swelled the full roar, and from the hollow wood
Pealed deeper thunders. Round the choral band,
The circling nobles, gay with gorgeous plumes,
And gems which sparkled to the midnight fire,
Moved in the solemn dance; each in his hand,
In measured movements, lifts the feathery shield,
And shakes a rattling ball to measured sounds.
With quicker steps, the inferior chiefs without,
Equal in number, but in just array, -
The spreading radii of the mystic wheel.”
Revolve; and, outermost, the youths roll round,
In motions rapid as their quickened blood.
So thus, with song and harmony, the night
Past on in Aztlan, and all hearts rejoiced.
MFANTime from Aztlan, on their enterprize,
Shedder of Blood and Tyger of the War,
Ocellopan and Tlalala set forth.
With chosen followers, through the silent night,
Silent they travelled on. After a way
Circuitous and far through lonely tracks,
They reached the mountains, and amid the shade
Of thickets covering the uncultured slope,
Their patient ambush placed. The chiefs alone
Held on, till winding in ascent they reached
The heights which o'er the Briton's mountain hold
Impended: there they stood, and by the moon
Who yet, with undiminished lustre, hung
High in the dark blue firmament, from thence
Explored the steep descent. Precipitous
The rock beneath them lay, a sudden cliff
Bare and unbroken ; in its midway holes,
Where never hand could reach, nor eye intrude,
The eagle built her eyrie. Farther on,
Its interrupted crags and ancient woods
Offered a difficult way. From crag to crag,
By rocky shelf, by trunk, or root, or bough,
A painful toil and perilous, they past.
And now, stretched out amid the matted shrubs,
which, at the entrance of the valley, clothed
The rugged bank, they crouched.
By this the stars
Grew dim; the glow-worm hath put out her lamp ;
The owls have ceased their night-song. On the top
Of yon magnolia the loud turkey's voice
Is heralding the dawn; 4* from tree to tree
Extends the wakening watch-note, far and wide,
Till the whole woodlands echo with the cry.
Now breaks the morning; but as yet no foot
Hath marked the dews, nor sound of man is heard.
Then first Occllopan beheld, where near,
Beneath the shelter of a half-roofed hut,
A sleeping stranger lay. He pointed him
To Tlalala. The Tyger looked around:
None else was nigh—Shall I descend, he said,
And strike him? here is none to see the deed.
We offered to the Gods our ming!ed blood
Last night; and now, I deem it, they present
An offering which shall more propitiate them,
And omen sure success. I will go down
He said, and, gliding like a snake,
Where Caradoc lay sleeping made his way.
Sweetly slept he, and pleasant were his dreams
Of Britain, and the blue-eyed maid he loved.
The Azteca stood over him; he knew
His victim, and the power of vengeance gave
Malignant joy. Once hast thou 'scaped my arm :
But what shall save thee now the Tyger thought,
Exulting; and he raised his spear to strike.
That instant, o'er the Briton's unseen harp
The gale of morning past, and swept its strings
Into so sweet a harmony, that sure
It semed no earthly tone. The savage man
Suspends his stroke; he looks astonished round ;
No human hand is near;... and hark' again
The aerial music swells and dies away.
Then first the heart of Tlalala felt fear :
He thought that some protecting spirit lived
Beside the Stranger, and, abashed, withdrew.
A God protects him to Ocellopan,
whispering, he said. Didst thou not hear the sound
Which entered into me, and fixed my arm
Powerless above him
Was it not a voice
From thine own Gods, to strengthen thee, replied
His sterner comrade, and make evident
Their pleasure in the deed?
Rejoined; they speak in darkness and in storms:
The thunder is their voice, that peals through Heaven,
Or, rolling underneath us, makes earth rock
In tempest, and destroys the sons of men.
It was no sound of theirs, Ocellopan!
No voice to hearten, for I felt it pass
Unmanning every limb; yea, it relaxed
The sinews of my soul. Shedder of Blood,
I cannot lift my hand against the man.
Go, if thy heart be stronger! -
Young Caradoc arose, of his escape
Unconscious; and by this the stirring sounds
of day began, increasing now, as all
Now to their toil betake them. Some 60 foll
The stately wood; some from the tree low-laid
Hew the huge boughs; here round the fire they char
The stake-points; here they level with a line
The ground-plot, and infix the ready piles,
Or, interknitting them with osiers, weave
The wicker wall; others along the lake,
From its shoal waters gather reeds and canes, -
Light roofing, suited to the genial sky.
The woodman's measured stroke, the regular saw,
The wain slow-creaking, and the voice of man
Answering his fellow, or, in single toil,
Cheering his labour with a cheerful song,
Strange concert made to those fierce Aztecas,
Who, beast-like, in their silent lurking-place
Couched close and still, observant for their prey.
All overseeing, and directing all,
From place to place moved Madoc, and beheld
The dwellings rise. Young Hoel at his side
Ilan on, best pleased when at his Uncle's side
Courting indulgent love. And now they came
Beside the half-roofed hut of Caradoc ;
of all the mountain-dwellings that the last.
The little boy, in boyish wantonness,
Would quit his Uncle's hold, and haste away,
With childhood's frolic speed, then laugh aloud,
To tempt pursuit, now running to the huts,
Now toward the entrance of the valley straits.
out wheresoe'er he turned, Ocellopan
With hunter-eye pursued his heedless course,
In breath-suspending vigilance. Ah me!
The little wretch toward his lurking place
Draws near, and calls on Madoc ; and the Prince
Thinks of no danger nigh, and follows not
The childish lure! nearer the covert now
Young Hoel runs, and stops, and calls again :
Then like a lion, from his couching place
Ocellopan leapt forth, and seized his prey.
Loud shrieked the affrighted child, as in his arms
The savage graspt him; startled at the cry,
Madoc beheld him hastening through the pass.
Quick as instinctive love can urge his feet
He follows, and he now almost hath reached
The incumbered ravisher, and hope inspires
New speed,—yet nearer now, and nearer still,
And lo! the child holds out his little arms'
That instant, as the Prince almost had laid
His hand upon the boy, young thalala
Leapt on his neck, and soon, though Madoc's strength,
With frantic fury, shook him from his hold,
Far down the steep Ocellopan had fled.
Ah! what avails it now, that they, by whom
Madoc was standing to survey their toil,
Have missed their Chief, and spread the quick alarm"
What now avails it, that, with distant aid,
His gallant men come down? Regarding nought
But Hoel, but the wretched Llaian's grief,
He rushes on ; and ever as he draws
Near to the child, the Tiger Tlalala
Impedes his way; and now they reach the place
Of ambush, and the ambushed band arise,
And Madoc is their prisoner.
In vain thou leadest on the late pursuit'
In vain, Cadwallon, thv alarmed love
Caught the first sound of evil! They pour out
Tumultuous, from the vale, a half-armed troop ,
Each with such weapons as his hasty hand
Can seize, they rush to battle. Gallant men,
Your valour boots not It avails not now,
With such fierce onset that ye charge the foe,
And drive with such full force the weapon home!
They, while ye slaughter them, impede pursuit,
And far away, meantime, their comrades bear
The prisoner Prince. In vain his noble heart
Swells now with wild and suffocating rage;
In vain he struggles:—they have bound his limbs
With the tough osier, and his struggles now
tout bind more close and cuttingly the band.
They hasten on; and while they bear the prize,
Leaving their ill-doomed fellows in the fight
To check pursuit, foremost afar of all,
With unabating strength by joy inspired,
Ocellopan to Aztlan bears the child.
Good tidings travel fast.—The chief is seen;
He hastens on; he holds the child on high;
Ile shouts aloud. Through Aztlan spreads the news;
Each to his neighbour tells the happy tale.--
Joy, jov to Aztlan! the Blood-shedder comes'
Tlaloc hath #iven his victim.
Ah, poor child'
they from the gate swarm out to welcome thee,
Warriors, and men grown grey, and youths and maids,
Exulting, forth they crowd. The mothers throng
To view thee, and, while, thinking of thy doom,
They clasp their own dear infants to the breast
With deeper love, delighted think that thou
Shalt suffer for them. He, poor child, admires
The strange array; with wonder he beholds
Their olive limbs, half bare, their plumy crowns,
And gazes round and round, where all was new,
Forgetful of his fears. But when the Priest
Approached to take him from the Warrior's arms,
Then Hoel screamed, and from that hideous man
Averting, to Ocellopan he turned,
And would have clung to him, so dreadful late,
Stern as he was, and terrible of eye,
Less dreadful than the Priest, whose dark aspect
Which nature with her harshest characters
Had featured, art made worse. His cowl was white;"
His untrimmed hair, a long and loathsome mass,
With cotton cords intwisted, clung with gum,
And matted with the blood, which, every morn,
He from his temples drew before the God,
In sacrifice: bare were his arms, and smeared
Black: but his countenance a stronger dread
Than all the horrors of that outward garb,
Struck with quick instinct to young IIoel's heart;
It was a face, whose settled sullenness
No gentle feeling ever had disturbed:
Which, when he probed a victim's living breast,
Retained its hard composure.
Such was he
Who took the son of Llaian, heeding not
His cries and screams, and arms in suppliant guise,
Stretched out to all around, and strugglings vain.
ile to the Temple of the Water-God
Conveyed his victim. By the threshold, there
The ministering Virgins stood, a comely band
Of high-born damsels, to the temple rites
By pious parents vowed. Gladly to them
The little Hoel leapt; their gentle looks
No fe or excited; and he gazed around,
Pleased and surprised, unconscious to what end
These things were tending. O'er the rush-strewn floor
They to the azure Idol led the boy,
Now not reluctant, and they raised the hymn.
God of the Waters! at whose will the streams
Flow in their wonted channel, and diffuse
Their plenty round, the blood and life of earth;
At whose command they swell, and o'er their banks
Burst with resistless ruin, making vain
The toils and hopes of man,—behold this child!
0, strong to bless, and mighty to destroy,
Tlaloc' behold thy victims so mayest thou
Restrain the peaceful streams within their banks,
Aud bless the labours of the husbandman.
God of the Mountains! at whose will the clouds
Cluster around the heights; who sendest them
To shed their fertilizing showers, and raise
The drooping herb, and o'er the thirsty vale
Spread their green freshness; at whose voice the hills
Grow black with storms; whose wrath the thunder speaks,
Whose bow of anger shoots the lightning shafts,
To blast the works of man;—behold this child!
0, strong to bless, and mighty to destroy,
Tlaloc' behold thy victim' so mayest thou
Lay by the fiery arrows of thy rage,
And bid the genial rains and dews descend.
0 thou, Companion of the powerful God!
Companion and Beloved —when he treads
The mountain-top, whose breath diffuses round
The sweets of summer; when he rides the waves,
Whose presence is the sunshine and the calm,
Aiouh, O green-robed Goddess, see this child !
Behold thy victim' so mayest thou appease
The sterner mind of Tlaloc when he frowns,
And Aztlan flourish in thy fostering smile.
Young Spirits! ye whom Aztlan's piety
Hath given to Tlaloc, to enjoy with him,
For aye, the cool delights of Tlalocan, 4–
Young Spirits of the happy; who have left
Your Heaven to-day, unseen assistants here,
Behold your comrade see the chosen child,
Who through the lonely cave of death must pass,
Like you, to join you in eternal joy.
Now from the rush-strewn temple they depart.
They place their smiling victim in a car,
Upon whose sides of pearly shell there played,
Shading and shifting still, the rainbow light.
On virgin shoulders is he borne aloft,
With dance before, and song and music round:
And thus they seek, in festival array,
The water-side. There lies the sacred bark,
All gay with gold, and garlanded with flowers :
The virgins with the joyous boy embark;
Ten boatmen urge them on; the Priests behind
Follow, and all the long solemnity.
The lake is overspread with boats; the sun
Shines on the gilded prows, the feathery crowns,
The sparkling waves. Green islets (loat along,49
Where high-born damsels, under jasmin bowers,
Raise the sweet voice, to which the echoing oars,
In modulated motion rise and fall.
The moving multitude along the shore
Flows like a stream; bright shines the unclouded sky;
Heaven, earth, and waters wear one face of joy.
Young Hoel with delight beholds the pomp;
His heart throbs joyfully; and if he thinks
Upon his mother now, "t is but to think
How beautiful a tale for her glad ear
He hath when he returns. Meantime the maids
Weave garlands for his head, and pour the song.
Oh, happy thou, whom early from the world
The gods require! not by the wasting worm
Of sorrow cankerd, nor condemn'd to feel
The pang of sickness, nor the wound of war,
Nor the long miseries of protracted age;
But called in youth, the chosen of the God,
To share his joys! Soon shall thy rescued soul,
Child of the Stranger! in his blissful world,
Mix with the blessed spirits: for not thine,
Amid the central darkness of the earth,
To endure the eternal void;—not thine to live,
Dead to all objects of eye, ear, or sense,
In the long horrors of one endless night,
With endless being curst. For thee the bowers
Of Tlalocan have blossom'd with new sweets;
For thee have its immortal trees matured
The fruits of Heaven; thy comrades even now
Wait thee, impatient, in their fields of bliss;
the God will welcome thee, his chosen child,
And Ainuh love thee with a mother's love.
Child of the Stranger! dreary is thy way!
Darkness and Famine through the cave of Death
Must guide thee. Happy thou, when on that night
The morning of the eternal day shall dawn.
So as they sung young Hoel's song of death,
With rapid strength the boatmen plied their oars,
And through the water swift they glided on.
And now to shore they drew. The stately bank
Rose, with the majesty of woods o'erhung,
And rocks, or peering through the forest shade,
or rising from the lake, and with their bulk
Glassing its dark, deep waters. Ilalf-way up.
A cavern pierced the rock; no human foot -
Had trod its depths, nor ever sunbeam reach'd
Its long recesses and mysterious gloom.
To Tlaloc it was hallow'd ; and the stone,
which closed its entrance, never was removed,
Save when the yearly festival returned,
And in its womb a child was sepulchred,
The living victim.46 Up the winding path
That to the entrance of the cavern led,
With many a painful step, the train ascend:
But many a time, upon that long ascent, -
Young Hoel would have paused, with weariness
Exhausted now. They urge him on, poor child!
They urge him on. —Where is Cadwallon's aid 7
Where is the sword of Ririd? where the arm
Of Madoc now 1–Oh! better had he lived,
Unknowing and unknown, on Arvon's plain,
And trod upon his noble father's grave, -
With peasant feet, unconscious!—They have reach'd
The cavern now, and from its mouth the Priests
Roll the huge portal. Thitherward they force