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'T is Nature's doom - but let the wretch who toils,
Accuse not, hate not him who wears the spoils.
Oh! if he knew the weight of splendid chains,
How light the balance of his humbler pains !
Unlike the heroes of each ancient race,
Demons in act, but Gods at least in face,
In Conrad's form seems little to admire,
Though his dark eyebrow shades a glance of fire :
Robust but not Herculean to the sight
No giant frame sets forth his common height;
Yet, in the whole, who paused to look again,
Saw more than marks the crowd of vulgar men
They gaze and marvel how and still confess
That thus it is, but why they cannot guess.
Sun-burnt his cheek, his forehead high and pale
The sable curls in wild profusion veil ;
And oft perforce his rising lip reveals
The haughtier thought it curbs, but scarce conceals.
Though smooth his voice, and calm his general mien,
Still seems there something he would not have seen:
His features' deepening lines and varying hue
At times attracted, yet perplex'd the view,
As if within that murkiness of mind
Work'd feelings fearful, and yet undefined ;
Such might it be that none could truly tell
Too close enquiry his stern glance would quell.
There breathe but few whose aspect might defy
The full encounter of his searching eye:
He had the skill, when Cunning's gaze would seek
To probe his heart and watch his changing cheek,
At once the observer's purpose to espy,
And on himself roll back his scrutiny,
Lest he to Conrad rather should betray
Some secret thought, than drag that chief's to day.
There was a laughing Devil in his sneer,
That raised emotions both of rage and fear ;
And where his frown of hatred darkly fell,
Hope withering fled - and Mercy sigh'd farewell !
Slight are the outward signs of evil thought,
Within within 'twas there the spirit wrought !
Love shows all changes - Hate, Ambition, Guile,
Betray no further than the bitter smile ;
The lip's least curl, the lightest paleness thrown
Along the govern'd aspect, speak alone
Of deeper passions; and to judge their mien,
He, who would see, must be himself unseen.
Then with the hurried tread, the upward eye,
The clenched hand, the pause of agony,
That listens, starting, lest the step too near
Approach intrusive on that mood of fear :
Then — with each feature working from the heart,
With feelings loosed to strengthen - not depart:
That rise — convulse - contend that freeze or glow,
Flush in the cheek, or damp upon the brow;
Then Stranger ! if thou canst, and tremblest not,
Behold his soul — the rest that soothes his lot!
Mark - how that lone and blighted bosom sears
The scathing thought of execrated years !
Behold but who hath seen, or e'er shall see,
Man as himself — the secret spirit free?
Yet was not Conrad thus by Nature sent
To lead the guilty — guilt's worst instrument-
His soul was changed, before his deeds had driven
Him forth to war with man and forfeit heaven.
Warp'd by the world in Disappointment's school,
In words too wise, in conduct there a fool;
Too firm to yield, and far too proud to stoop,
Doom'd by his very
virtues for a dupe,
He cursed those virtues as the cause of ill,
And not the traitors who betray'd him still ;
Nor deern'd that gifts bestow'd on better men
Had left him joy, and means to give again,
Fear'd shunn'd belied - ere youth had lost her force,
He hated man too much to feel remorse,
And thought the voice of wrath a sacred call,
To pay the injuries of some on all.
He knew himself a villain -- but he deem'd
The rest no better than the thing he seem'd;
And scorn'd the best as hypocrites who hid
Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did.
He knew himself detested, but he knew
The hearts that loath'd him crouch'd and dreaded too.
Lone, wild, and strange, he stood alike exempt
From all affection and from all contempt :
His name could sadden, and his acts surprise ;
But they that fear'd him dared not to despise :
Man spurns the worm, but pauses ere he wake
The slumbering venom of the folded snake;
turn - but not avenge the blow; The last expires but leaves no living foe ; Fast to the doom'd offender's form it clings, And he may crush — not conquer - still it stings !
None are all evil --quickening round his heart,
One softer feeling would not yet depart ;
Oft could he sneer at others as beguiled
By passions worthy of a fool or child :
Yet 'gainst that passion vainly still he strove,
And even in him it asks the name of Love !
Yes, it was love - unchangeable - unchanged,
Felt but for one from whom he never ranged ;
Though fairest captives daily met his eye,
He shunn'd, nor sought, but coldly pass'd them by ;
Though many a beauty droop'd in prison'd bower,
None ever soothed his most unguarded hour.
Yes - it was Love - if thoughts of tenderness,
Tried in temptation, strengthen'd by distress,
Unmoved by absence, firm in every clime,
And yet - Oh more than all ! — untired by time;
Which nor defeated hope, nor baffled wile,
Could render sullen were she near to smile,
Nor rage could fire, nor sickness fret to vent
On her one murmur of his discontent ;
Which still would meet with joy, with calmness part,
Lest that his look of grief should reach her heart;
Which nought removed, nor menaced to remove –
If there be love in mortals - this was love!
He was a villain — ay — reproaches shower
On him — but not the passion, nor its power,
Which only proved, all other virtues gone,
Not guilt itself could quench this loveliest one!
He paused a moment till his hastening men
Pass'd the first winding downward to the glen.
" Strange tidings ! -- many a peril have I past,
Nor know I why this next appears the last !
Yet so my heart forebodes, but must not fear,
Nor shall my followers find me falter here.
'Tis rash to meet, but surer death to wait
Till here they hunt us to undoubted fate ;
And, if my plan but hold, and Fortune smile
We'll furnish mourners for our funeral pile.
Ay — let them slumber — peaceful be their dreams!
Morn ne'er awoke them with such brilliant beams
As kindle high to-night (but blow, thou breeze!)
To warm these slow avengers of the seas.
Now to Medora Oh! my sinking heart,
Long may her own be lighter than thou art !
Yet was I brave -- mean boast where all are brave!
Ev'n insects sting for aught they seek to save.
This common courage which with brutes we share,
That owes its deadliest efforts to despair,
Small merit claims but 't was my nobler hope
To teach my few with numbers still to cope ;
Long have I led them -- not to vainly bleed;
No medium now
we perish or succeed !
So let it be- it irks not me to die ;
But thus to urge them whence they cannot fly
My lot hath long had little of my care,
But chafes my pride thus baffled in the snare :
6 Is this
skill? craft ? to set at last Hope, power, and life upon a single cast? Oh, Fate ! accuse thy folly, not thy fate She may
redeem thee still nor yet too late."
Thus with himself communion held he, till
He reach'd the summit of his tower-crown'd hill :
There at the portal paused — for wild and soft
He heard those accents never heard too oft ;
Through the high lattice far yet sweet they rung,
And these the notes the bird of beauty sung:
Deep in my soul that tender secret dwells,
Lonely and lost to light for evermore,
Save when to thine my heart responsive swells,
Then tremble into silence as before.
2. 6. There, in its centre, a sepulchral lamp Burns the slow flame, eternal
but unseen; Which not the darkness of despair can damp,
Though vain its ray as it had never been.
3. “ Remember me Oh! pass not thou my grave
Without one thought whose relics there recline: The only pang my bosom dare not brave
Must be to find forgetfulness in thine.
4. My fondest -- faintest — latest accents hear
Grief for the dead not Virtue can reprove ; Then give me all I ever ask'd — a tear,
The first the last — sole reward of so much love !"
He pass'd the portal — cross'd the corridore,
And reach'd the chamber as the strain
o'er : “ My own Medora! sure thy song is sad
“ In Conrad's absence wouldst thou have it glad ?
Without thine ear to listen to my lay,
Still must my song my thoughts, my soul betray :
Still must each accent to my bosom suit,
My heart unhush'd - although my lips were mute !
Oh! many a night on this lone couch reclined,
My dreaming fear with storms hath wing’d the wind,
And deem'd the breath that faintly fann'd thy sail
The murmuring prelude of the ruder gale ;
Though soft, it seem'd the low prophetic dirge,
That mourn'd thee floating on the savage surge :
Still would I rise to rouse the beacon fire,
Lest spies less true should let the blaze expire ;
And many a restless hour outwatch'd each star,
And morning came
and still thou wert afar.
Oh! how the chill blast on my bosom blew,
And day broke dreary on my troubled view,
And still I gazed and gazed — and not a prow
Was granted to my tears
At length — 'twas noon
I hail'd and blest the mast
That met my sight - it near'd — Alas! it past !
Another came — Oh God! 't was thine at last!
Would that those days were over! wilt thou ne'er,
My Conrad ! learn the joys of peace to share ?
Sure thou hast more than wealth, and many a home
As bright as this invites us not to roam :
Thou know'st it is not peril that I fear,
I only tremble when thou art not here: