A romantic tale in 39 + 42 + 35 Spenserians, with interpolated lyrics. Zarrum, an African prince, loses his beloved Zemma in an attack by Spanish slavers; he extracts revenge before joining his lover in death. While the story recalls Oroonoko, many details of The African owe more to Ossian and Campbell's Gertrude of Wyoming. Perhaps the account of the raiding party and subsequent revenge resembles nothing so much as a Scottish border ballad. Largely self-educated, Dugald Moore worked for a Glasgow stationer. Compare the African poetry of Thomas Pringle, a contemporary Scottish Spenserian who actually spent several years in Africa.
Edinburgh Literary Journal: "A bridal party of Africans are surprised one summer evening in the midst of their festival by the unexpected appearance of a troop of Spaniards who have just landed. An affray immediately takes place, (why is not explained,) and Zemma, the bride of the African chief, is mortally wounded. She is carried during the night farther into the country, where she dies in the arms of her betrothed. At sunrise, the Africans, headed by their bereaved prince, return to renew the fight with the Spaniards, and inspired by the courage which a desire for vengeance prompts, their foes are massacred to a man. Zarrum then goes back to the grave of Zemma, and puts an end to his existence at the spot where she buried. These are all the incidents of the three cantos; but meagre as they are, one would think they afforded scope for considerable pathos. It is in the stormier part of the story, however, that our author excels, — in the heat of battle, and in the stern breathings of despair and hate.... There is a general resemblance, we may observe, between the style of the 'African' and Campbell's Gertrude of Wyoming, and the day may perhaps come when the author of the former may produce a poem worthy to rank beside the latter" (14 February 1829) 187-88.
Monthly Review: "Mr. Dugald Moore is already known, and not unfavourably to some of our readers, as the author of The African, in which, mingled with much of good poetry, sentiments of the purest benevolence towards the natives of that continent were found, and have since been more than once applied with effect by travellers, and others who have been engaged in discussions upon our settlements in that quarter" review of Moore, "The Bridal Night" S4 3 (1831) 471.
George Eyre-Todd: "It has been said that Dugald was apprenticed to a tobacco manufacturer, but the family account runs that it was to a maker of combs. Comb-making was not to his taste, and the method he took to have his indentures cancelled was ingenious enough. He never made a comb without breaking one or two of the teeth, till his master told his mother she had better send him to some other trade where good eyesight was not required. When at last he obtained a place in the copperplate printing department of Messrs. Lumsden & Son he found himself in a congenial atmosphere. By Lumsden's help, as already stated, Moore was enabled to publish The African and other Poems in 1829. The book ran to a second edition in 1830" The Glasgow Poets (1903) 276-77.
Day had departed o'er the waters blue,
Whose bosom mirror'd many a lovely star;
The fisher slumber'd in his light canoe,
Beneath some precipice's jutting bar;
The sea-birds wander'd to their homes afar;
Nought, ruder than the breeze that whisper'd by,
Came, the calm slumber of the eve to mar;
Earth seem'd to feel delight, and raised on high
Her lone but thrilling voice in gladness to the sky.
Oh, who shall say the solitude is mute,
Because no city-murmurs echo there;
Because earth sounds not to the human foot,
Nor man's rude hums torment the sleeping air?
Yet on the savage rock and mountain bare,
God may be traced as in the peopled clime,
And even in Afric's wildernesses, where
Silence is all that's chronicled by time,
Ruin and solitude breathe language all sublime.
Soon as the broad and burning sun had set,
When eve's fair queen rose from her couch of grey,
The dusky children of the desert met
To pass with mirth the starry hours away:
High o'er their head the bamboo's branches play;
The buskin'd warrior and his sprightly bride,
Dress'd in their variegated wild array,
Light as the antelope, together glide
In all the warmth of love and dignity of pride.
Yielding and light the glowing lovers spring,
While floats their stirring music to the sky;
The bracelets on the virgins' ankles ring,
As on they bound with spirits young and high:
Oh, love can breathe his vows of constancy,
In the wide waste, as in the glittering hall,
And rapture warm the heart and fire the eye
Of lovers met by rock or waterfall,
As nymphs or plumed knights that grace the carnival.
But who is she, whose dark eye seems to roll
In youthful rapture o'er the merry throng,
Whose every breathing feature teems with soul—
With tresses floating beautifully long?
She seems the queen of all she moves among,
Begirt in robes of bright and sparkling dyes:
'Tis Zemma famed in many an Afric song!
See as she guides the dance, her living eyes
Beam on a stately youth where all her passion lies.
He was a warrior of the solitude—
A wanderer of the desert, one whose life
Had but the two extremes of peace and blood,
Dark as the simoom in the hour of strife,
He swept life's tree, or gave it to the knife!
As stands the lion, monarch of the sand,
That stern one stood, where havoc's storms were rife,
The wilderness his empire, and the brand
The rod with which he ruled the thousands of his land.
Though in the battle, as the tiger wild
To scatter death, and stain with blood the field,
Yet, with his bow unstrung, the chief was mild:
'Twas war alone his fiery spirit steel'd.
When peace closed up his quiver, he would yield
Even to the weak; but if insulted, then
His dark eye gather'd lightning, and the shield
Must needs he strong to guard the insulter, when
'Gainst him young Zarrum rush'd like lion from his den.
Such was the chief, but now no war nor wrong
Gloom'd like a lowering tempest on his way:
With soul at peace, he joins the friendly throng,
Dancing with Zemma to love's roundelay;
The eagle's feathers 'mid his tresses play,
A lion's hide which show'd a chieftain's might
Swung gallantly above his light array;
As on he moved, each eye-ball dark and bright,
Follow'd its sable chief, the terror of the fight.
Oh, what is holier than love's golden dream,
Breathed in the lone and witching time of night,
When silence lulls life's dark unruly stream,
When all our passions heavenward take their flight:
When hearts are bounding, and when eyes are bright,
Free from the cloud the selfish world imparts!
Oh, 'tis an hour when beauty's magic might,
Through the wrapt spirit with more lustre darts,
And when the tide of life runs warm through kindred hearts.
Light frolick'd they through evening's holy hour
To the sweet harmony of sounds serene,
Till look'd the round moon from her highest tower,
Cloudless and calm, the sky's unwrinkled queen!
They pause! — one of their brethren now is seen,
His breath is quick — his eyes in terror start!
Zarrum beheld him with a scornful mien,
To see a warrior with a woman's heart—
Then frowning cried, be brief, and all your fears impart.
Sullen the Indian stood, and threw on high,
Like thunder scowl, one thrilling glance of pain,
Then silent pointed where the evening sky
Gather'd above the calm and lonely main.
Eager all stand, the dreadful sounds to gain
From one that's now a cold unwelcome guest:
The old men frown, the young to hear are fain,
The stranger cried, "The white men from the west!"
Each virgin wildly shrieks, and beats her naked breast.
Not so the warriors, like a beam of light,
A fearful flame rose in each hollow eye;
Their souls were burning for the distant fight,
And with wild fancy's aid they could descry
Havoc approaching through the sleeping sky!
The dance is o'er — the quiver's on each back,
And mirth has flung his tuneful numbers by;
No longer are the eager bowstrings slack,
But death on tip-toe stands to sound the wild attack.
Scarce had the stranger ceased, when wildly sprung
From shadowy copes, their foemen o'er the green!
Each virgin to her hero closer clung!
Love springs to valour in so dark a scene—
The quivering lip — the high and haughty mien—
The moveless eye, that looks its foeman through—
Says, Strong must be the arm — the struggle keen,
That now their stormy spirits will subdue:
When love and vengeance prompts, what will the heart not do?
Oh, love! thou'rt beautiful in peaceful bower,
Plighting the vow with spirit-speaking eye;
But thou art more divine in danger's hour,
When cold misfortune's storms are sweeping by;
'Tis then thou show'st thy faith and constancy,
And like the ivy clinging round the tree,
Though shiver'd by the falchion of the sky,
Yet fond as when its flowers were blooming free,
It scorns to leave the wreck, but withers, love, like thee.
And there are moments when the slightest thing
Can waft the soul an echo of the past,
And in her hour of loneliness re-wing
Her weary pinions to outbrave the blast:
Such moments o'er the heart of Zarrum flash'd,
Rapid as lightning; all those golden hours,
And love's bright vision, now so nigh its last,
Gave his young bosom all her fiercest powers,
And in his strength he stood, scorning the storm that lowers.
The plundering chief stalks sullenly in view,
His savage eye — his brow of gloomy pride—
His thick mustache — his cheek of sallow hue—
The trusty blade that glimmer'd by his side,
Reveal'd that shore, wash'd by the Atlantic tide;
And many a rank in silence strode behind,
In war's dark trade their brands have oft been dyed:
These are the plumes of Spain that kiss the wind,
And death, with sulphury arm has with the invaders join'd.
Yield! cried the chieftain of the roving band,
Yield! by yon host of stars, 'tis vain to fly!
'Twas then that Zarrum firmer griped his brand,
And darting on the foe his eagle eye,
That seem'd to blast him, while his heart beat high,
Savage and stern and silently he stood—
With look a moment turn'd upon the sky,
His right arm bared, his lip in scornful mood,
And eye that show'd a soul unshrinking, unsubdued!
A moment —and his eye began to range
Across his foemen, but he could not speak;
He felt no feeling then but dire revenge;
Nature had never taught her son to seek
Redress in words; all other tones were weak,
To soothe his spirit, but death's hollow yell:
The thirsty vulture never bathed her beak
With keener relish in a foe who fell,
Than he shall raise in joy the bold invader's knell.
The Indian shout mounts to the God of war,
Their javelins glitter in the cold moonlight,
Their tiger skins that cover'd many a scar,
Stream with their hair upon the breeze of night;
Zemma, who look'd the lovelier from the sight
Of danger gathering o'er their morning joy,
Stood with her chief to wait the coming fight;
Her lips reveal'd no murmur and no sigh,
And love, with all his charms, look'd through her tearless eye,
Whose glowing spirit, beautifully bright,
Like sunshine darting o'er the restless wave,
Mellowing, and thrilling in her woe — like light
Of heaven's fair arch amid its clouds, it gave
Her artless soul, and seem'd to bid him save
From the red vulture's beak, his trembling dove:
Her glance dispell'd the visions of the grave;
He felt her look, and long'd his faith to prove,
And stood like dusky war beside the form of love.
But ere they sever'd, with impassion'd clasp
She flung her arms about his manly breast;
There was a spirit in that parting grasp
That seem'd as loath to die or he at rest,
While Zarrum gazed on her and fondly press'd
The seal of love upon her throbbing brow;
Like eagle when the foe is in her nest,
His keen eye spoke a soul that would not bow,
Though death in darkness flapp'd his pinions round him now.
Savage and sullen is that look of strife,
Exchanged by foes when death is frowning night:
The last, the withering, stony look of life
Which lowers unalter'd till the strife is by—
Hate's quivering lip — the fix'd, the starting eye—
The grin of vengeance, anti the forehead pale—
The deep-drawn breath, the short hyena cry,—
All in one moment tell the dreadful tale
That life can tell but once, when havoc does prevail.
Seize on your prey, the white chief loudly cried,
The greatest wealth is his who conquers most;
Each rush'd upon the victim he has eyed—
But yet no easy prize; the sable host
Bent every bow, the glittering javelins toss'd,
And on the Spaniards all their fury pour'd:
They feel the shock — their long sought booty lost,
As they beneath the hissing volley cower'd,
The war-whoop rings amain, and havoc darker lower'd.
But, ah the white man, skill'd in fiery death,
Uplifts his hollow tube — the thunder flies!
Far through the night is heard the battle's breath;
The Indian warrior bravely fighting dies,
Heaves for his little ones his latest sighs,
Bends a last look upon his comrades dear,
Points with his cold hand to the starry skies:
As if he long'd their drooping hearts to cheer,
By showing them a home, for acting bravely here.
Echoes the yell of death along the sky,
As flash the falchions, when the foemen close—
The hills lift up their voices and on high
Night's starry dome rings wildly to their blows:
They grapple long — with stern embrace of foes.
That ceases not, till one has ceased to breathe;
They tug, they reel — life's purple torrent flows,
In one ensanguined river on the heath,
While hundreds withering lye beneath the stamp of death.
The tiger, roaming through the deadly brake,
May spare the victim trembling 'neath his fangs;;
The hungry lion, and the giant snake,
That round the panting stag devouring hangs—
The wildest thing may feel mild pity's pangs,
And spare his foe, before the human heart
Will own remorse; when vengeance loudly clangs
Her life-destroying tocsin, man will dart
Destruction all around and but with death depart.
"On to the charge! — the moon has hung on high
Her silver lamp, within her starry hall,
To cheer the spirits of the brave who die!
On, on, ye warriors! and revenge their fall."
Thus through the strife was heard the chieftain's call,
As on the foremost foes he wildly press'd;
He was the soul — the leading star of all:
They mix again, and far above the rest,
Like wild bird in a storm, waved Zarrum's eagle crest.
Thus raged the war; but where like beauty stood,
Amid her virgin train, the chieftain's bride,
A dreadful volley swept the groaning wood
With fearful hiss, and pierced her gentle side!
That fatal blight, the maddening warrior eyed—
Quick as the bolt that smites the towering oak,
Child of a thousand years, the forest's pride—
His arm of triumph's wither'd by the shock,
And his unconquer'd heart in one wild moment broke!
As o'er the storm the kingly eagle sweeps,
Careering grandly on his feathery car,
Laughing to scorn the tempest's wrath, he keeps
His path sublimely 'mid the clouds afar.
When in his pride the hunter's arrows mar,
And bring him headlong from his fields of light,—
Thus rose the chief exulting in the war—
Thus sunk the chieftain in his hour of might,
His fame a wither'd branch, his morning hopes a blight!
Her piercing shriek rang high above the rest,
But ere she fell, her warrior love had sprung,
Quick as hope's spirit, to the aching breast,
And fondly o'er her bleeding bosom hung,
Like hunted panther o'er his slaughter'd young!
She raised her fading eye, and look'd on him—
That languid glance anew his bosom wrung:
He saw death's twilight gathering o'er it dim,
Like evening's dark'ning shade o'er heaven's unsullied brim.
Still she clung to him — without shrinking, clung,
Though death stood darkly in her hollow eye;
She heeded not the fearful gash, that wrung
The last drop from life's fount, and left it dry—
She heeded not the wild shouts swelling high:
She saw but him who held her sinking load—
For him alone is heaved her struggling sigh,
While he gazed on the stars that o'er him glow'd,
As if he wish'd to reach, and seek revenge from God!
Cold lay she on his bosom; havoc's roar
Is thickening round, and he must fall or fly;
Death's thunder-cloud had roll'd in darkness o'er
The brightest star that sparkled in his sky,—
The moment is too wild for her to die!
To groves of peace his Zemma must be borne,
Where she may gently breathe her latest sigh;
Though from his crest the fairest plume is shorn,
Yet he shall have revenge, before the rise of morn.
With thoughts like these, the chieftain loudly blew
A well known blast throughout the car of night;
Across the battle-field the echoes flew,
And call'd his warriors from the distant fight,
Who round the bleeding maid, with weapons bright,
Stood in a dusky circle, sullen — black —
Like stormy clouds which gather in their flight
Round the sick moon; the foe is on their track,
They must be brief — away! or meet the fierce attack.
"Warriors! 'tis vain; the fight our Gods deny;
Fly to the mountain grove, and safely rest,
Till forth again, when darker glooms the sky,
Then lay in blood the stranger's lofty crest!"
Thus Zarrum spoke, and o'er his virgin's breast
He wrapp'd his mantle, and with look of woe
He bore her, like the falcon to his nest!
The maidens follow, weeping as they go—
The warriors close the rear, to guard them from the foe.
Breathless, the Spaniards hurried on their track
Through pathless woods, but mercy made it vain,
They only saw their shadows stretching black
Through the pale moonshine, and they sunk again:
The swarthy tribes have vanish'd from the plain—
None but the dead and dying helpless lay,
When, weary with insulting of the slain,
The foemen fired their huts, and far away
The bright flames cross'd the sky like flush of rising day.
Led by the wild and blood-red streak that flew
From the green plain along the murky sky,
They tried again to follow; but none knew
The wild retreats of mountain liberty:
There was no sound, no murmur, but the sigh
Of the blue ocean — and, at times, the shrill,
Deep melancholy groan of agony,
That travell'd with the night breeze o'er the hill,
From the red couch of war: all other sounds were still.
Soon did the sable tribe ascend the wild,
And gazing back, they saw, with looks of dread,
In the calm moonshine that around them smiled,
The broad red lustre of their dwellings spread!
Few are the tears that vengeance deigns to shed;
For they can see, from off the rugged steep,
Like wild-birds hush'd upon their ocean bed,
Their foemen's galleys slumbering on the deep—
They have not cross'd the wave, the winds are yet asleep.
Still onward toil'd the warrior host; but now
They tread a narrow path among the rocks,
And gain'd a cavern in a mountain's brow,
Shadow'd by giant palms, and rugged blocks
Of marble, shiver'd by the earliest shocks
Of all-destroying time: an infant stream
That gurgles on among the stones, and mocks,
With lulling melody, the vulture's scream,
Here held its path, unkiss'd by day's enlivening beam.
'Twas here they laid the virgin on a bed
Of tiger-skins and mountain-flowerets fair;
While Zarrum bent above her drooping head—
But though he felt, he scorn'd to look despair!
The heroes of his youth were standing there—
He knew their spirits brooded on revenge:
There was a savage demon in their glare,
Which, when each eye began o'er heaven to range,
Said, every wish would die, ere his dark empire change!
CANTO THE SECOND.
The strife is o'er and nature lies in rest,
Silence and beauty watching her repose:
The stars, like lovers, hang above the breast
Of the blue sighing ocean — whence arose
The groan of death, above yon field of woes!
All now is sad and mournful as the grave—
There nothing lingers, but the invading foes,
Gazing upon the sea, with looks that gave
A token that they thought on home, beyond the wave.
Cold lyes the lifeless limb — the cloven brow;
The moon, like guardian spirit of their sleep,
Looks in its solitary splendour now
From the blue wave of heaven's unruffled deep!
Their dirge is echoed by the winds that keep
Their journey on the mountains, and the tone
Of the wide ocean, whose young billows leap
As if they mock'd the last convulsive groan
Of parch'd and panting hearts, that break unmourn'd, unknown.
Where threw the lofty palms their branches green,
As if to guard for aye that cavern's gloom,
Buried in woe the Indians might be seen
Around their chief and her — upon whose tomb
The next pale flowrets of the night will bloom!
They bent so fondly o'er her, in their woe,
As if they still could change her awful doom—
Then would they turn and eye the vale below,
Grasp their red spears of death, and shake them at the foe.
That cheek, which, like their own calm evening sky,
Burn'd warm and beautiful — those eyeballs bright
Which shone like some pure star, that sparkles high,
The brightest in the coronet of night,—
They now beheld robb'd of their morning light,
They saw her bosom by the death-shot riven!
A thousand withering thoughts rose at the sight,
Like tempest o'er each soul they soon were driven,
Their yell of vengeance burst, and shook the startled heaven.
Our loves of early days — the beautiful
Flowers of hope's promise — oft are doom'd to die,
Yet there are moments, when those visions will
Lash the hot brain to maddening agony,
And call up vengeance for their bliss gone by!
That fiend who wanders, terrible and gaunt,
Like guilty Cain, with scowling murder's eye,
Mark'd out, from all the other thoughts that haunt
The desert of the mind — death's dark inhabitant.
So, this dark moment, bright, yet wildly flung
Life's early pleasures on the chieftain's brain—
Those hopes, that bloom'd for him when time was young,
Which now the invader's sword had render'd vain;
And in the dark and desolated reign
Of his despair, those visions beam more bright,
Like some lone stars in the etherial plain,
That start up through the blackness of the night,
To speak of hours gone by, when they were all our light.
For the first flower that we in youth cull'd up,
Can never in the blighted memory die;
And the calm hours, that gilt life's bitter cup,
Will lingering play before the weary eye,
Like clay's last radiance on a twilight sky!
And Zarrum felt in that long night of gloom,
Through rose life's early dreams, their warmth was by:
The one his spirit loved, had ceased to bloom—
Death, was his lover now — his bridal-hall, the Tomb.
Although a stoic 'mid his roving clan,
He had a heart that still could feel and weep;
And though a savage, yet he was a man
Whose soul was generous, and whose love was deep:
Although at times, he could his feelings keep
Chill'd in his bosom, still they flow'd for woe,
Like the pure Alpine torrent, that may sleep,
Frozen by winter, in its bed of snow,
Yet spring's enlivening warmth can make it brightly flow.
We build up hopes to glad our future years,
But while we dream, the early visions die—
The tree of life is water'd soon with tears;
Yet, as the oak blooms 'neath the coldest sky,
Child of the waste, so there are souls, who high
Soar o'er their fate, and brave the darkest shock:
'Twas not with Zarrum thus, — one gentle tie
Bound him alone to earth, and when it broke,
His hopes — his heart must break, beneath the fatal stroke.
'Twas now he felt he stood alone — with all
His brightest visions darkening round his brain:
The shock, was like a fiery tempest's fall
Upon the desert's scath'd and burning plain,
Kindling its hidden terrors up again!
He saw his fairest flower for ever nipp'd—
He could revenge, but not allay her pain:—
A thousand thoughts in that wild moment swept
Like lightning o'er his soul, and then he wept— he wept.
We weep, because we know in vain we weep,
That bitter knowledge, makes us madly drink
The sickening poison of despair more deep,
Standing on desolation's awful brink;
For then we see those gentle objects sink,
Which bound us to this world and all its woe,—
Though keen our grief, we still have room to think
On flowers, which fate's dark hand has levell'd low,
On which our tears may fall, but cannot make them grow.
Deem not the warrior shed unmanly drops:—
No, his were sorrows of a sterner kind—
His was the tribute due to wither'd hopes,
To wounds, which he had not the power to bind,
To vanish'd bliss he never more could find!
He could not all forget his morning dream,
Nor shut the magic eyelids of the mind,
Which gazed on many a bliss, whose fairy beam
Still play'd in mockery o'er life's dark and frozen stream.
Zarrum bent o'er his love; she felt his lips
Warm, on her forehead chilly as the stone—
Her soul was reeling in death's last eclipse,
The spirit of her eye now faintly shone—
The night of darkness cometh quickly on,
And she shall soon be nothing; o'er her bier,
The warrior of her love may stand alone,
And to her memory give the burning tear,
But where will be the voice his loneliness to cheer!
Still, with love's feeble strength, she fondly press'd,
In death's last hour, his bosom — deeply wrung;
Life pours its latest drops upon his breast,
While round his neck her icy arms are flung;
His half-form'd name dies faintly on her tongue,
Yet still it echoes in her parting sigh;
"Oh, hear!" he cried, as round her form he clung,
"Hear our just oath, before thy spirit fly!
And breathe it to our God, for vengeance in the sky!"
"Thou diest, but we shall meet the murdering horde!
Eternal Spirit! leave thy starry place,
And hover with us, till we make the sword
Leave not of them, a remnant nor a trace—
None, none shall live of all that serpent race!
But we shall dig their graves upon the strand,
And when I quit this earth, to join the chase
With thee, my Zemma! in the soul's far land,
Oh, we shall tread the sod, where rot that wolfish band!"
Cheer'd by his voice, she gazes o'er the crowd,
O'er many a well known face, and bloody brow;
Death, for a moment, drew his sunless shroud
From her dim eye! — Lo, what a spirit now
Kindles within them! — but 'twas like the bow
Of heaven, seen briefly through the tempest's gloom!—
She saw her chieftain, and she heard his vow—
Love snatch'd her soul an instant from the tomb,
She breathed her last—"farewell!" ere shrouded in its womb.
"Oh, fare thee well! I go to that blest shore,
Where we our fathers at the last will meet,
Where war's red tempest, shall be felt no more;
But where the olive's oil is always sweet,
And where the paths are flowery to the feet
Of the faint weary wanderer from the dead,
Whose soul is parch'd by Afric's burning heat—
Where the great sun no sickening rays will shed,
But everlasting palms shall blossom o'er our head."
Yet, when death's dreadful form at last appears,
And shows the parting soul his realms of night,
Oh, these are maddening moments, in which years
Flash all their visions on the reeling sight—
The deeds of other days! those moments bright,
Before the spirit knew affliction's smart,
Life's last farewell recalls once more to light;
Around the lonely brain again they dart,
Too late, alas! to cheer, but fit to break the heart.
"Farewell!" she paused — her soul stood on the wing,
Her struggling voice died in one long, low sigh
But ere her spirit took death's awful spring,
She bent upon the chief her closing eye—
That look, shall ever haunt his memory—
Then sprung she from her couch, and wildly press'd
His quivering bosom, ere she sought the sky—
A passing struggle! — Zemma is at rest;
She lyes a lifeless load upon her lover's breast!
As rolls a dark cloud o'er the silent moon,
That long had beam'd serenely in the night,
Death's sickening shade of langour darken'd soon
Those orbs that mock'd the summer's warmest light:
So quick upon her charms had fallen the blight,
That still the smile play'd faintly o'er her face;
Death could not mar her beauty with his might—
She by like statue, where the eye may trace
Upon its frozen brow, a wildly thrilling grace.
She look'd in death, like marble, where the smile
Of life seems wrought so nobly with the stone,
That it will charm for ever, even the while
We sigh to think 'tis nought we gaze upon!
Life seem'd but hush'd within her breast — not gone,
She look'd the same, as when the loveliest pair,
She and her warrior, graced their desert throne—
Those bright and happy moments, when they were
Light as the summer birds that wanton in the air.
He saw her soul depart — what boots it now,
To weep above the ashes at his feet?
If tears could bid life sparkle o'er her brow,
His burning drops would bathe her winding sheet!
Revenge is all that now to him is sweet!—
That glorious dream and he shall never part;
And, when his band their foemen darkly meet,
If he must weep — the tears which then shall start,
Will be the drops which death wrings from the expiring heart!
Stern, and collected now, he gazed on death,
And whirl'd on high his knotty spear again:
"Blood will have blood!" he cried — his spirit's wrath
Drank every calmer feeling from his brain;
"Blood will have blood!" — it echoed o'er the plain;
He roused the slumbering tiger, with his yell;
"Blood will have blood!" the hills peal'd forth amain;
His warriors spread from rank to rank the knell,
And the wild cry of "blood!" rang deeply o'er the dell.
Such was the dirge, that rung above his bride,
Who coldly slumber'd 'neath the stars of heaven;
But "farewell!" broke upon his soul of pride,
It was the last lone murmur she had given;
Like winds that echo through a harp's strings riven,
Lonely and wild — so o'er his shatter'd mind
That keen, that solitary word was driven!
Oh, who can number all the sorrows twined
With the drear word — farewell! when parts what long was join'd?
What is more sadly beautiful, than death?
What thrills so deeply on the gazer's heart,
When the cold lifeless lips have ceased to breathe,
While beauty veils them, as if loth to part?
Like marble, chisel'd by divinest art,
Each changeless feature meets the aching eye;
Though sorely marr'd by the destroyer's dart,
Enough remains of loveliness gone by,
Like twilight's sleepy charm, to make the bosom sigh.
That thrilling, changeless, bloodless, lifeless look,
O'er which mortality has coldly stole,
When with his icy fingers he has took
The charm of fair existence from the whole,
Speaks with a deathless language to the soul!
'Tis then we see those things that raised love's flame!
Beyond the stars that shine, the storms that roll,
We know creation blooms — but not for them,
We know, the grave will hide their virtues and their name.
Oft does the features, like an April sky,
Appear all sunny, when the heart is sear;
And stubborn pride oft drags into the eye
A monument's smile, to hide the starting tear,—
'Tis when we dread the rabble's taunt or sneer;
So Zarrum scorn'd in such an hour to bow,
The flowery scones of many a vanish'd year,
Raised round his soul their parting voices now,
And bade him write in blood his spirit's burning vow.
Now has the band prepared the virgin's grave,
With tears, they lay her in that couch of rest;
A wither'd tree seem'd in its grief to wave
Its melancholy branches o'er her breast;
Among the rocks the eagle had her nest,
And scream'd her farewell, from his misty cloud:
And richest plumes, shorn from some foeman's crest,
With a few flowers, are strewn upon her shroud,
And many a burning drop, in secret, from the crowd.
The chieftain gazed a moment on her clay,
As if his soul could slumber by her side;
He look'd but once, and then he turn'd away
From her lone sepulchre, with hasty stride;
He felt, when closed the grave above his bride,
That bitter pang, which makes the loftiest bow!
While she lay in his sight, though hope had died,
Love still could gaze upon her placid brow,
But shrouded in the dust: — he feels the parting now.
He lean'd in silence on his sheathless brand,
His long plumes waving proudly in the sky;
His war-cloak loose, lay on the sparkling sand:
He durst not turn upon that grave his eye,
But fix'd it deeply on the lights that high,
Brilliant, and beautiful, their lustre shed—
As if he saw his Zemma's spirit fly,
On the lone little clouds, which night had spread,
Like pillows for each star to rest its weary head.
The spell is broke — each maiden's tearful glance
Assumes a darker and a wilder light:
Their song recalls him from his cloudy trance,
As, like to fairy music in the night,
It meets him sweeping lonely in its flight,—
All is at peace — creation in her sleep,
Looks as her bosom ne'er had felt a blight;
The moon is dreaming on the sea, and deep
Rolls Zemma's funeral dirge, o'er plain and wooded steep.
Farewell, thou bright star!
Go where glory is beaming,
From death and from war,
Where the sun's ever gleaming;
No serpent is there,
To coil or to bit thee,
No lion will dare
With his roar to affright thee:
There no tempest sweeps
O'er the ocean-waves blue,
But the sea ever sleeps,
'Neath the gliding canoe:
And no simoom blows,
To give pain to thy breast;
And poison ne'er flows
From the flowers that are press'd:
But the spirit shall hover,
In fresh blooming bowers,
Surrounded for ever
By fountains and flowers!
Farewell, sweetest bird!
Which the earth ever nursed,
Thy name shall be heard
In the song, echoed first;
Thy fate a tear calls,
For thy virtues were bright,
As the dew, when it falls
In the calm of the night.
While to her goal
Thy spirit is rushing,
To cheer thy weary soul,
May streams aye be gushing—
Springs that will never cease,
Cool flowery fountains,
Till thou comest in peace,
O'er the blue mountains;
Where thou at the last
Thy companions will meet,
When life's way is past,
As they bathe their parch'd feet
In the glittering waters,
That glide 'mid the bowers;
Where th' sky's chosen daughters
Will crown thee with flowers,
And the olive thou'lt quaff,
Shall blossom for aye,
From thy palace thou'lt laugh
Earth and ocean away.
The strain expired, while its wild numbers spread
Like sweet, unearthly music o'er the sky,
Till, spent by distance on each mountain's head,
It melted slowly, like an infant's sigh;
Now all again is still! save when on high,
The ocean's murmurs float along the steep,
Like some great restless spirit wailing by—
The very breeze seems in its cave to weep
Above the dead, that strew'd the margin of the deep.
From her high hall of clouds, the moon looks down
Upon the chieftain and his gloomy band;
The sky upon them lower'd with fiery frown,
Red with their homes, that crumbled 'neath the brand:
Some eyed its radiance — some lay on the sand,
All waiting silent for the death-note; — now
Zarrum has blown the blast! — at his command,
Each spear is grasp'd, each hand is on the bow,
And death exulting sits on every cloudy brow.
The chieftain's eye reveal'd his stormy mind,
As, like the wolf, he seem'd to pant for blood;
His short, low growl came like the fitful wind,
As his strong spear he waved in savage mood,
Aloft — alone: amid his tribe he stood
The gloomiest, and the fiercest for the fight;
Death's hand had reck'd his hopes but not subdued
The fiery soul that nursed them; and the light
Of vengeance rose alone, to glad his weary sight.
The scene of strife, now lovely to his eye—
The hour of blood, his burning spirit fed
With soothing balm — 'twas now his heart beat high,
To view the quivering limb and cloven head,
And gasping lips, and hands in torture spread,
Tearing with strong convulsive nail, the heath—
The frozen eye, whose sparkling soul has fled—
The faded cheek — the marble brow of wrath—
Yea, all the gloomy wreck of the wide field of death.
Mute in their dream of wrath, those warriors stood:
But, lo! they start — a spy is by their side:
He shows his javelin, clotted o'er with blood,
And with a yell of triumph, loudly cried,
"Beneath this shaft of death, their bravest died—
I have kill'd many, many are to kill,
Their purple draught too largely have they plied,
And now they sleep beneath yon palm-clad hill;
Arise, while vengeance breathes, and conquer, if you will!
"You wonder, why I know the invaders sleep?
Then mark me well, ye warriors! — when ye fled,
Like the dark serpent that does silent creep
From sight, when hearing man's unwelcome tread,
I lurk'd unseen, until the flames had spread
Their warm breath through the sky — 'twas by their ray,
I saw each rover droop the heavy head,
And bounding, like the tiger, on my prey,
I bathed this spear in blood, but all I could not slay."
Oh, had you seen the gleam which cross'd each eye,
At the wild thought of gaining vengeance! — then
'Twas like the bolt that ploughs the thundery sky,
Which long lied lower'd above the halls of men:
They sung their wildest song of battle, when
They saw so near, the glorious field of blood;
"White men!" they cried, "sleep sound, but ne'er again
Shall ye awaken, to re-cross the flood—
No: with your flesh we'll feed the vulture's hungry brood!"
Cursed be the arm that lags a foe to smite,
When sweet revenge now peals his battle song;
"Come — come, ye spirits of the dead! and light
The brand of desolation them among,—
Now we will pay them deeply back each wrong,
Our father's shades are hovering in you sky,
Waiting for vengeance, but they'll wait not long:
Soon they will hear our yell — our battle cry,
Join'd with the hopeless groan of those who 'neath us die.
"Soon will the angel of destruction wave
His dark wings o'er them; on yon barren sand,
Oblivion soon will hide their lonely grave—
Their names shall wither at his stern command:
Long will their sisters, in their own fair land,
Bend the red eye across the mighty main;
Long will they stray beside its cheerless strand,
In hopes to see their white sails come again;
Ay — they may pray to heaven — their prayers shall be vain!
"Their ghosts may wander through the midnight air,
And tell the sires their children's hapless state;
But if their brothers come, they too will share
On Afric's shore, the same unhappy fate.
The vulture of the mountain is our mate,
The lion is alone our brother here;
The pard that walks the wilderness elate,
Flies from the dreadful glimmer of our spear—
The spirits of our foes shriek round us still in fear."
Thus sung the warriors of the desert; now
The band is ranged to leave the silent hill;
A settled calmness broods on every brow,
Yet Zarrum, in an hour so sweet and still,
Feels through his soul each former passion thrill,
As to his love, he bids again — "farewell!"
And leaves her shrouded in her mansion chill.
"Blood will have blood!" again the warriors yell,
And plunging from the steep, like tigers scour the dell.
CANTO THE THIRD.
Led by the blaze that from their dwellings shone,
Onward they move, that stern and savage band:
What heart but weeps to see youth's pleasures gone,
Smote by destruction's desolating hand?
Love's dreams of bliss, those visions right and bland,
Which rose to charm our being's early hours;
Oh! who can e'er forget his kindred land—
His hopes — his home — and all its living flowers;
No, no! the rudest heart must own their magic powers.
So felt the warrior tribe, as on they pass'd
The spots that innocence to them made dear;
By the long sigh and mournful look they cast
Upon the black walls, hanging lone and drear,
It seem'd as if their fathers' ghosts were near,
And pointed where to strike the sleeping foe.
The hissing flames still rose, and sparkled clear
Across the plain, as if in wrath to show
The slumbering men of blood, who laid their dwellings low.
What, though no lordly dome, nor mighty tower
To please their pride, rose grandly through the air;
Still the sweet bamboo grot, and palm-tree bower,
Were dear to them as pillar'd temple fair,
For love and freedom held their empire there:
There the first pleasures of their being bloom'd,
And many a thousand tender ties — which were
Razed with their homes, and to destruction doom'd;
Even liberty and peace were in the ruin tomb'd!
Moments there are, when fate his tempests roll,
Yet in the gloom, the bosom scorns to start;
Moments — in which the lightning of the soul
O'er many a faded hope can brightly dart;
Moments — which makes the spirit then a part
Of the wild elements that rule the hour;
Moments of darkness — when the burning heart
Must wildly act, in spite of fortune's lower,
Ere reason comes to cool her strong — her giant power.
So Zarrum felt that keen and restless thrill
At thought of vengeance, and the conflict dread;
The midnight sky, so beautiful and still;
The broad round moon, that glitter'd on the dead;
The lifeless limbs that marr'd his silent tread;
The quick bright sparkle of each sheathless brand;
The mountains, like his kindred, o'er his head,—
All made his spirit, in her wrath expand:
He felt as freemen feel, who tread their father's land.
From the broad sky, was hung the fading lamp
Of the cold moon; around her, burn'd each star:
Below, the Spaniards, in their coverings damp,
Lay mute, as if in scorn of Indian war;
They deem'd that vengeance hid her blade afar!
Around them were the watch-fires dying, when
Death yoked his sable children to his car,
And sighs came loaded from these stranger men,
With the sweet name of home — which slumber showed them then.
Perhaps they see, beneath night's holy star,
The sleeping waters of some lonely lake,
And hear the honey'd sounds of that guitar,
Stealing the midnight echoes to awake
That gentle silvery tone, for whose dear sake,
They oft had deem'd it bliss to walk the night,
To breathe love's sigh within the flowery brake,
Kiss the soft thrilling hand, that look'd more white
Than the mild beam of heaven, which bathed it with its light.
Ay, they may sleep! but oh, whatever dreams
Bring the far shadows of their childhood back,
They vanish darkly in long dying screams!
The fiery foe has rais'd the wild attack;
The war-whoop rings, and havoc stains their track:
The sparkling spears are in a moment red;
The arms that smite for vengeance, are not slack;
And ere the cloud of slumber leaves the lid
Of many a dozing eye, death hath its spirit hid.
Like dark hyennas rushing on their prey
In the lone hour of night, the warriors sweep,
Wasting as hurricanes, upon their way;
The storm of death falls terrible and deep!
In vain the Spaniards, starting from their sleep,
Grapple their dusky foes — with savage eye
Looking death wildly — as they strive to leap,
And battle bravely, or as bravely die;
Ruin above them yells — they perish where they lye!
Oh, dreadful 'twas to see the victors stoop,
And plunge in death that crazed and hapless throng!
The woods re-echo to each rapid whoop,
And o'er the sky the yell is borne along—
The note of death — the warriors' battle song;
Their red eyes roll amid the fiery haze;
Revenge hath made the arm of woman strong,
Amid the war their piercing screams they raise:
Like sun-burst in a storm, again the falchions blaze.
As breaks a thunder blast upon the deep,
Flinging, with giant arm, its waves
Like lightning through a hurricane asleep, waves apart—
On the tired Spaniards fell the venom'd dart:
A wild convulsive heave — a sudden start—
A hollow groan — their souls are on the wing!
O God! when vengeance steels the burning heart,
The human spirit is a fearful thing,
A dark volcanic storm, blasting and withering!
But who the swarthy chieftain can describe?
Death in his hand and vengeance in his eye,
He was the fearless eagle of his tribe,
Who, in the hour of havoc, scorn'd to fly
To meaner quarry; and, with horrid cry,
Upon his prostrate foe he now alights:
Ah, soon their bravest 'neath his hatred die!
When, like the storm's red wing, his falchion smites
Alike the invading foe, who slumbers, flies, or fights.
Oh, had you seen him, in his hour of strife,
Like havoc, striding darkly o'er the slain,
Hewing the branches from the tree of life;
His gloomy soul, whirl'd to his burning brain,
Seem'd starting from his eyes' unearthly strain:
He look'd like Death, Time's solitary mate,
Upon the last wild morning of his reign,
Knowing his latest power, his coming fate—
Strikes with a tenfold rage, the victims of his hate.
As in those solitary wastes of sand,
A band of pilgrims in their path should meet
The tawny monarch of the cheerless land,
Stalking in gloomy majesty to greet
Their onward coming — who with trembling feet
Attempt to fly, but flying, fall a prey,—
So tried the Spaniards, for their last retreat,
To seek the creek wherein their galleys lay,
But met a coward's death, ere far upon the way.
"Tis done! — the strife is o'er; revenge is dead;
The victors stood alone upon the field!
No tears are dropp'd above the foemen's head—
Havoc has every swarthy bosom steel'd:
'Tis seldom vengeance spares the few who yield;
Death is the war-cry of the maddening heart;
In vain sweet mercy bends her starry shield,
Hate quickly drives that heavenly fence apart,
And smites the kneeling foe with his unsparing dart.
The strife is past! — the solitary strand,
And the blue ocean, hail the moon again,
And silence sits upon the gory sand;
But, list! the wolf prepares to leave his den,
Howling his song of blood, as joyful when
He hears the vulture on her misty flight;
But where the wild cries of the warring men
Rung loudly through the starry ear of night,
Death plumes his crest alone with the red spoils of fight.
'Tis something dreadful, when the strife is by,
To see the last remains of mortal clay
Stretch'd cold and solitary 'neath the sky;
The frozen features, ghastly in decay;
The half-shut eye, whose spirit is away;
The marble forehead, and the breast of stone:
The boney hand, clench'd as in battle 'fray;
The gory falchion into fragments strewn:
The shield — the shatter'd helm, whose masters lye o'erthrown.
Silence and desolation shrouding all;
The mighty sepluchre of tombless dead;
And the broad, beauteous midnight, like a pall
Flung dim and coldly o'er each warrior's head,—
All give a picture of that clay of dread,
When the archangel, on his throne sublime,
Rouses at last the millions of the dead,
Whose ashes in the dying hour of time,
Lye ready to revive in heaven's eternal clime.
How cold the rovers slumber on the sand,
The moon-beams resting on their bosoms chill:
The naked blade, grasp'd in the lifeless hand,
Tells with wild tale, the spirit's parting will!
They had not perished thus, if on the hill,
The foe had met them nobly, face to face;
But now the heart is cold — life's latest thrill
Has vanish'd darkly from its secret place—
Death's pale and shadowy form is all the eye can trace.
All may be soon forgotten — but the thought
Of vengeance, friendship, or of earliest love,
For those were things which from the world we bought
With pain and pleasure, never to remove
From the lorn heart; and like the arkless dove
Which hung above its wandering home, and traced
Its lonely shadow through the gloom above!
Those breathings of the soul, though oft defaced,
Will gleam on memory's eye, when all her world is waste.
Linger'd those feelings round the chieftain still,
And o'er his wither'd heart their gloom was east:
His Zemma's "farewell!" with convulsive thrill,
Rush'd through his bosom, when the strife was past:
To him, the world was now a desert vast,
His night of sorrow had no cheering ray;
'Twas now he thought on Zemma's words — at last
The hour of dark; revenge had roll'd away:
Alone he stands — a wreck, and amid his hope's decay.
Sear'd was the chaplet which in youth he wove,
Gone were the moments of delight to him;
The grave had closed ill darkness o'er his love,
Life's sparkling cup was now for ever dim;
The draught was bitter — to the very brim
It swam with wormwood deeply; never more
Shall he on moon-lit eves, with Zemma skim,
In light canoe, the ocean's bosom hoar,
Or pick the gilded shells from the untrodden shore.
Ne'er shall he rouse the lion from his lair,
Or climb the mountain, with his ashen bow
To strike the eagle in the whirling air,
That with his plumage he might deck her brow;
Ne'er shall she listen to his faithful vow!
He stands alone — his desolated heart
Can never quit with lighter pangs than now
The cheerless earth — 'tis done! he longs to part,
Since nothing blooms for him upon its dreary chart.
Lone, as a shadowy being of the grave,
The chieftain linger'd on the uplands, gray;
He stood in silence, gazing on the wave
That mingled with the broad sky, far away:
The foe that stemm'd it in their proud array,
Were lying lifeless on its sandy plain;
Nought meets his aching eyeballs, while they stray,
But those dull ranks that ne'er shall wake again,
And his dark warrior host re-mingling with the Slain.
Weeds which the vulture in his flight had sown
On the dark cliffs, some thousand years ago,
Nursed now by time, like spectres, waved alone
Their solitary branches to and fro,
They seem'd to wail his spirit's overthrow!
Beneath their mournful shade he took his stand;
Yet e'er he parted from this world of woe,
He bent one look upon his fathers' land—
One long, one farewell glance, upon his kindred band.
Some, he saw wandering with restless foot
Among the gory corses of the dead;
While others lean'd upon their falchions, mute,
As if they thought on some dear object fled;
And lovers rush'd, all ecstacy, to shed
Their souls into each other. As he gazed,
He thought upon his virgin's dreary bed—
His morning shrine, where love's first incense blazed,
Death's desolating hand had to its ashes razed!
Those sights were not for him — he turned away
To worship sorrow in the solitude;
He left the mountain's brink, and moon-lit ray,
And plunged into the darkness of the wood;
Now by that solitary heap he stood,
While e'er the midnight desert of his mind
Crept all the tenderness of woman's mood—
Those tears dissolved the ties that long had join'd
His proud but gentle soul to live with human kind.
Bosoms there are, that long their fate will bear,
Amid the scenes which youth has round them cast,
And flourish through their span — if fortune spare
Those early pleasures, brilliant to the last;
But they decay — soon as their spell is past—
As the pure glacier, bound by winter's belt
To its dark mountain, braves the rudest blast;
But when it's heart the summer's warmth has felt,
Th' eternal towers of ice are shiver'd when they melt.
So fell the chieftain's spirit — when the cloud
Of sorrow melted round his manly heart;
He gazed upon his lover in her shroud,
And smote his forehead with convulsive start!
"Revenge is o'er," he cried — "I must depart—
No more for me shall war his tempest roll—
Zemma! for thee was launch'd my latest dart—
My crest is sunk — life's race is at its gaol—
The beautiful has pass'd — the sunshine of my soul!
"Yet I will join thee in the spirits' land,
Beyond this sphere of misery and pain;
Some beauteous star is form'd for us, where stand
Bowers ever green, to shield young freedom's reign.
There we may skim some pure and summer main,
Brighter than that which washes Afric's shore;
Roam through the palm-tree groves at eve again,
And hear no serpent hiss — no tiger roar,
And quaff those pure cold streams, that gush for evermore.
"The night declineth — I must haste away
Ere the day lights his torch upon the deep;
The sun will rise, but only throw his ray
Upon our lowly tombs and dreamless sleep—
Shine on, bright soul of heaven! and freshly keep
Eternal spring-flowers round our lifeless brow—
I come, my Zemma! — but I will not weep;
In springing from the world, to join thee now—
I'll meet thee as thy love — a warrior of the bow."
Long his impatient heroes mournful stood,
Waiting their chief, till silver-footed day
Walk'd laughing o'er the blue and boundless flood,
That heaving in the calm of sunshine lay;
Long may they wait — his soul is pass'd away!
But now they wander by his Zemma's tomb:
They see him bleeding on her shrouded clay,
His dark eye closed in death's eternal gloom,
The blade within his grasp, which wrought his fearful doom!
Thus those two lovers of the wild are gone,
E'en in that hour when pure affection shed
Her balmy sunshine o'er each gentle one.
The mountain fern is now their bridal bed—
Their guests, the frozen and the ghastly dead—
Their song of joy, those wailings on the heath—
Their nuptial lamps, the cold stars o'er their head;
Darkness and dust, their wedding chamber — death
The solitary one, who twined their bridal wreath!
Soon will the desert know them not; their home
Is in the narrow house — yet where they lye,
The broad blue heaven is their unsullied dome,
And where is church that with such vault may vie
The snowy mountains, glittering cold and high,
Will look like marble pillars of the aisle—
The stars, those wanderers of eternity,
The gorgeous lamps to light the arch — the while
Ocean uplifts his voice, like organ through the pile.
His warriors wept, who seldom wept before,
And gazed upon his wound with heavy eye;
Then dipp'd their arrows in his recking gore,
And swore revenge, if ever 'neath the sky,
The banners of their foes were seen to fly!
They now have laid him with his lovely bride,
And hark, they raise his death-song wild and high:
Each with his naked falchion by his side,
Chants round the bier of him who once was Afric's pride!
We will not raise with tears his stone,
Lest he, from out yon starry sky,
Should scorn the heart so tender grown,
As make his epitaph — a sigh!
But let us chant his song of war,
Until it reach his sunny track
And make him gaze from out his star,
And wish to journey back
And join us, when we meet again
The strangers from the distant main!
No more the lion in his den,
Will hear thy battle cry;
No more the serpent in the fen,
Before thy dart will fly;
Ah, no! thou eagle of the fight,
Thy eye is dark — thy wing is broke—
Thy plume is wither'd in thy might,
Smit by the lightning's stroke;
Yet let thy foes in darkness flee,
'Twas not their brand that conquer'd thee.
Long will we guard thy lowly grave,
And keep the tiger far away;
And should the wanderers of the wave,
Venture again some future day,
We'll meet them on the ocean's beach,
True to thy battle word,
And give thy stern embrace to each—
The welcome of the sword;
Like thee, with havoc write their doom,
And strew their bones around thy tomb!
Thy dart transfix'd the foremost foe,
The antelope, that trod the wind;
Thy hand was first outstretch'd to woe,
The broken heart to bind.
May the great Spirit of the dead,
Thy soul to his calm regions waft;
A kinglier eagle never bled
Beneath the hunter's shaft:
But thou shalt plume thy wing on high,
And build thine eyry in the sky!