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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 levelld at his brow;
Then all was stern collectedness and art,
Now rose the unleaven'd hatred of his heart;
So little sparing to the foe he felld,
That when the approaching crowd his arm withheld,
He almost turn’d the thirsty point on those,
Who thus for mercy dared to interpose ;
But to a moment's thought that purpose bent;
Yet look'd he on him still with eye intent,
As if he loathed the ineffectual strife
That left a foe, howe'er o'erthrown, with life ;
As if to search how far the wound he gave
Had sent its victim onward to his grave.
They raised the bleeding Otho, and the Leech
Forbade all present question, sign, and speech ;
The others met within a neighbouring hall,
And he, incensed and heedless of them all,
The cause and conqueror in this sudden fray,
In haughty silence slowly strode away;
He back'd his steed, his homeward path he took,
Nor cast on Otho's towers a single look.
But where was he ? that meteor of a night,
Who menaced but to disappear with light?
Where was this Eezzlin ? who came and went
To leave 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 enquiry, 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 paig the smoothness of 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.
Days roll along, and Otho's wounds are heald,
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 mad 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 mystery dearest to the curious crowd;
The seeming friendlessness of him who strove
To win no confidence, and wake no love ;
The sweeping fierceness which his soul betray'd,
The skill with which he wielded his keen blade
Where had his arm unwarlike caught that art ?
Where had that fierceness grown upon his heart?
For it was not the blind capricious rage
A word can kindle and a word assuage ;
But the deep working of a soul unmix'd
With aught of pity where its wrath had fix'd;
Such as long power and overgorged success
Concentrates into all that 's merciless :
These, link'd with that desire which ever sways
Mankind, the rather to condemn than praise,
'Gainst Lara gathering raised at length a storm,
Such as himself might fear, and foes would forni,
And he must answer for the absent head
Of one that haunts him still, alive or dead.
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 abhori?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 hin stainless of oppression's crime,
And now, dirried 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 unhappy, though at first
Their evil judgment augud 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 ;
Bui 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 :
Youth present cheer and promised recompense
Detain’d, till all too late to part from thence :
To hate he offerd, with the coming change,
The deep reversion of delay'd revenge ;
To love, long baffled by the unequal match,
The well-won charms success was sure to snatch.
All now was ripe, he waits but to proclaim
Thai slavery nothing which was still a name.
The moment came, the hour when Othe thought
Secure at last the vengeance which he sought:
His summons found the destined criminal
Begirt by thousands in his swarming hall,
Fresh from their feudal fetters newly riven,
Defying earth, and confident of heaven.
That morning he had freed the soil-bound slaves
Who dig no land for tyrants but their graves !
Such is their cry
— some watchword for the fight Must vindicate the wrong, and warp the right; Religion — freedom
vengeance what you will, A word's enough to raise mankind to kill ; Some factious phrase by cunning caught and spread, That guilt may reign, and wolves and worms be fed !
Throughout that clime the feudal chiefs had gain'd
Such sway, their infant monarch hardly reign'd;
Now was the hour for faction's rebel growth,
The Serfs contemn'd the one, and hated both :
They waited but a leader, and they found
One to their cause inseparably bound ;
By circumstance compelld to plunge again,
In self-defence, amidst the strife of men.
Cut off by some mysterious fate from those
Whom birth and nature meant not for his foes,
Had Lara from that night, to him accurst,
Prepared to meet, but not alone, the worst :
Some reason urged, whate'er it was, to shun
Enquiry into deeds at distance done;
By mingling with his own the cause of all,
E’en if he fail'd, he still delay'd his fall.
The sullen calm that long his bosom kept,
The storm that once had spent itself and slept,
Roused by events that seem'd foredoom'd to urge
His gloomy fortunes to their utmost verge,
Burst forth, and made him all he once had been,
And is again ; he only changed the scene.
Light care had he for life, and less for fame,
But not less fitted for the desperate game :
He deem'd himself mark'd out for others' hate,
And mock'd at ruin so they shared his fate.
What cared he for the freedom of the crowd ?
He raised the humble but to bend the proud.
He had hoped quiet in his sullen lair,
But man and destiny beset him there :
Inured to hunters, he was found at bay ;
And they must kill, they cannot snare the prey.
Stern, unambitious, silent, he had been
Henceforth a calm spectator of life's scene;
But, dragg’d again upon the arena, stood
A leader not unequal to the feud ;
In voice- mien - gesture savage nature spoke,
And from his eye the gladiator broke.
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 ?
The smoking ruin, and the crumbled wall?
In this the struggle was the same with all ;
Save that distemper'd passions lent their force
In bitterness that banish'd all remorse.
None sued, for Mercy knew her cry was vain,
The captive died upon the battle-plain :
In either cause, one rage alone possess'd
The empire of the alternate victor's breast;
And they that smote for freedom or for sway,
Deem'd few were slain, while more remain'd to slay.
It was too late to check the wasting brand,
And Desolation reap'd the famish'd land;
The torch was lighted, and the flame was spread,
And Carnage smiled upon her daily dead.