« 前へ次へ »
VISION OF DON RODERICK.
“Quid dignum memorare tuis, Hispania, terris,
Vox humana valet!"--CLAUDIAN.
JOHN WHITMORE, ESQ.
TO THE COMMITTEE OF SUBSCRIBERS FOR RELIEF OF
THE PORTUGUESE SUFFERERS.
IN WHICH HE PRESIDES,
COMPOSED FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE FUND UNDER THEIR
MANAGEMENT, IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED.
PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION, 1811.
The following Poem is founded upon a Spanish Tradition, particularly detalled in the Notes; but bearing, in general, that Don Roderick, the last Gothic King of Spain, when the Invasion of the Moors was impending, had the temerity to descend into an ancient vault near Toledo, the opening of which had been denounced as fatal to the Spanish monarchy. Tho legend adds, that his rash curiosity was mortified by an emble presentation of those Saracens who, in the year 714, defcated him in battle, and reduced Spain under their dominion. I have presumed to prolong the Vision of the Revolutions of Spain down to the present eventful crisis of the Peninsula; and to divide it, by & supposed change of scene, into THREE PERIODS. THE FIRST of these represents the Invasion of the Moors, the Defeat and Death of Roderick, and closes with the peaceful occupation of the country by the Victors. The SECOND PERIOD embraces the state of the Peninsula, when the conquests of the Spaniards and Portuguese in the East and West Indies had raised to the highest pitch the renown of their arms; sullied, however, by superstition and cruelty. An allusion to the inhumanities of the Inquisition terminates this picture. The LAST PART of the Poem opens with the state of Spain previous to the unparalleled treachery of BONAPARTE; gives a sketch of the usurpation attempted upon that unsuspicious and friendly kingdoin, and terminates with the arrival of the British succours. It may be further proper to mention, that the object of the Poem is less to commemorate or detail particular incidents, than to exhibit a general and impressive picture of the several periods brought upon the stage.
I am too sensible of the respect due to the Public, especially by one who has already experienced more than ordinary indulgence, to offer any apology for the inferiority of the poetry to the subject it is chiefly designed to commemorate. Yet I think it proper to mention, that while I was hastily executing & work, written for a temporary purpose, and on passing events, the task was most cruelly interrupted by the successive deaths of Lord President BLAIR, and Lord Viscount MELVILLE. In those distinguished char. acters, I had not only to regret persons whose lives were most important to Scotland, but also whose notice and patronage honoured my entrance upon active life; and I may add, with melancholy pride, who permitted my more advanced age to claim no common share in their friendship. Under such interruptions, the following verses, which my best est efforts must have left far unworthy of their theme, have, I am myself sensible, an appearance of negligence and incoherence, which, in other circumstances, I might have been able to remove.
EDINBURGH, June 24, 1811.
VISION OF DON RODERICK.
Lives there a strain, whose sounds of mounting fire
May rise distinguished o'er the din of war,
Who sung beleaguered Ilion's evil star?
Wafting its descant wide o'er Ocean's range;
All as it swelled 'twixt each loud trumpet change, That clangs to Britain, victory,—to Portugual, revenge!
II. Yes! such a strain, with all o'erpowering measure,
Might melodize with each tumultuous sound, Each voice of fear or triumph, woe or pleasure,
That rings Mondego's ravaged shores around; The thundering cry of hosts with conquests crowned,
The female shriek, the ruined peasant's moan, The shout of captives from their chains unbound,
The foiled oppressor's deep and sullen groan,
Skilled but to imitate an elder page,
The debt thou claim'st in this exhausted age ?
Those that could send thy name o'er sea and land, While sea and land shall last; for Homer's rage
A theme; a theme for Milton's mighty handHow much unmeet for us, a faint degenerate band !
Ye mountains stern! within whose rugged breast
The friends of Scottish freedom found repose ; Ye torrents ! whose hoarse sounds have soothed their rest,
Returning from the field of vanquished foes, Say, have ye lost each wild majestic close,
That erst the choir of bards or Druid's flung, What time their hymn of victory arose,
And Cattraeth's glens with voice of triumph rung,
As sure your changeful gales seem oft to say,
Like trumpet-jubilee, or harp's wild sway; If ye can echo such triumphant lay,
Then lend the note to him has loved you long !
That floats your solitary wastes along,
Of truant verse hath lightened graver care,
In phrase poetic, inspiration fair: Careless he gave his numbers to the air,
They came unsought for, if applauses came; Nor for himself prefers he now the prayer;
Let but his verse befit a hero's fame,
“ Minstrel ! the fame of whose romantic lyre, Capricious swelling now, may soon be lost,
Like the light flickering of a cottage fire;
Seek not from us the meed to warrior due:
Since our grey cliffs the din of conflict knew,
Save where the lingering fays renew their ring,
"Or round the marge of Minchmore's haunted spring; Save where their legends grey-haired shepherds sing,
That now scarce win a listening ear but thine,
And rugged deeds recount in rugged line,
IX. “No! search romantic lands, where the near sun
Gives with unstinted boon ethereal flame, Where the rude villager, his labour done,
In verse spontaneous chants some favoured namc; Whether Olalia's charms his tribute claim,
Her eye of diamond, and her locks of jet;
He sing, to wild Morisco measure set,
Of wild Nevada ever gleams with snows,
Barbaric monuments of pomp repose;
Than the fierce Moor, float o'er Toledo's fane,
An anxious glance, to spy upon the plain
Still lightens in the sun-burnt native's eye ; The statěly port, slow step, and visage dark,
Still mark enduring pride and constancy. And, if the glow of feudal chivalry
Beam not, as once, thy noble’s dearest pride, Iberia! oft thy crestless peasantry
Have seen the plumed Hidalgo quit their side; Have seen, yet dauntless stood—'gainst fortune fought and died.
XII. . “And cherished still by that unchanging race,
Are themes for minstrelsy more high than thine; Of strange tradition many a mystic trace,
Legend and vision, prophecy and sign; Where wonders wild of Arabesque combine
With Gothic imagery of darker shade, Forming a model meet for minstrel line.
Go, seek such theme !”- the Mountain Spirit said : With filial awe I heard—I heard, and I obeyed.
1. Rearing their crests amid the cloudless skies, _And darkly clustering in the pale moonlight. Toledo's holy towers and spires arise,
As from a trembling lake of silver wbite :