33 + 38 + 29 + 33 Spenserians. James Scott Walker, a Liverpool writer, describes the war for independence in Venezuela in a poem closely modeled on Thomas Campbell's Gertrude of Wyoming (1809). From Campbell Walker adapts not only a general manner, but the characters of Gertrude, her father, and the devoted Indian. In this story, however, all ends happily as Laura is united to her lover, the liberator Simon Bolivar (1783-1830). Both Campbell's poem and Walker's contribute to the complex series of poems concerned with the progress of genius developed out of Beattie's The Minstrel.
The South American received little attention from the reviewers, possibly for political reasons, and the edition of 1819 was likely a reissue. The poet had traveled to South America as a merchant, where he was present at the 1812 earthquake in Caracas. After publishing The South American, Walker worked as a journalist in Liverpool, where he was a friend of William Roscoe, another notable champion of civil liberty.
Bolivar's forces had been defeated by the Spanish loyalists in 1810 and 1815, though Bolivar would eventually be elected President of Venezuela in 1819 and triumph over the Spaniards in 1824. As events turned out, he did not prove to be the champion of civil liberties described by Walker. In this mode, one might compare James Hogg's burlesque of Byron, "The Guerilla" in the Poetic Mirror (1816) and the anonymous "Felix and Mariaquita" in the European Magazine 84 (October 1823) 313-16.
Preface: "With regard to the Poem, the author has to observe, that the three first cantos were written in the summer of 1815. It was then, however, laid aside, and was only, at a future period, resumed to dissipate the ennui and vexation mainly resulting from a total failure in the usual sources of enjoyment. From the favourable opinion of some of his friends, he has now been induced to lay it before the public, scarcely, however, daring to hope, that it is entitled to a favourable reception. He joyfully embraces the opportunity of returning his grateful acknowledgments to the many distinguished and respectable individuals, who have afforded their liberal patronage to his first and feeble essay. The author is sensible that there may be those who will neither approve of the subject of the Poem, nor of the tone in which it is treated; yet, while he reflects that Great Britain is the only nation on the face of the earth which enjoys the blessings of genuine liberty, he is well persuaded, that she will also be found the last to reprove its votaries" pp. xi-xii.
The Kaleidoscope: "A few weeks since, a friend recommended to our attention a small volume of poems, recently published by a young gentleman, now in Liverpool. The work, which is entitled The South American, a metrical Tale, in four cantos, with historical notes, together with other poems, by James Scott Walker, Edinburgh printed 1819. It is our intention to devote a column or two to extracts from this work, to the author of which we wish every success. The few stanzas selected below are chosen because the subject assimilates with the account of the earthquake, by Humboldt, which occupies so considerable a portion of this day's Kaleidoscope. In our next we purpose giving, as a continuation, a note from Mr. Walker's poems, descriptive of the great earthquake in the Caracas, to which we have just adverted; of which, it seems, Mr. Walker was an eye witness" 2 (23 November 1819) 80.
Analectic Magazine: "He has strung four Cantos of very common-place verse upon a very common-place story; and there is nothing to keep one's attention at all awake, except the fear of losing the zest of the Notes by neglecting the perusal of the poetry. The Notes, indeed, are the only things about the book, which induce us to notice it; and, although the author was (of course) led to publish the rhymes, by 'the favourable opinion of his friends,' we think his friend would have acted more dutifully by advising him to put them into the fire. Some stanzas, however, are worth reading" NS 9 (June 1817) 504-05.
John Evans: "He is evidently possessed of great facilities as a writer, and possesses considerable powers of invention in fiction and imagination in poetry. His South American is too well known to demand much comment. In many passages it is stamped with the indelible impress of poetic genius. Its earnestness of feeling and powerful descriptions, evidence all the elements of genuine poetry" Lancashire Authors and Orators (1850) 293.
The first canto opens with a description reminiscent of Gertrude; we are introduced to the fearless Bolivar, and his lover Laura, the only daughter of the venerable Montillo. Montillo has agreed to their marriage on the condition that Venezuela shall be free, but is concerned that Spain will quash any attempt at rebellion. All Venezuela is riven by an earthquake; Bolivar rescues Laura and the little band spends the night sleeping out of doors.
The second canto opens with a description of Bolivar's rural bower, where the family lives in innocence, peace, and contentment. The tranquility is disturbed when Spain sends an army to subdue the valley of Caracas. Bolivar rides off with five hundred men to defend the country, but is overwhelmed and imprisoned. Fleeing into the forest, Laura is taken in by an aged Indian and his family; Domingo describes his sufferings at the hands of the Spaniards and his present secluded life in a remote habitation.
Setting a sail to his canoe, Domingo bears Laura to the prison, where she has an interview with her father, and they plan an escape through the earthquake-weakened walls. Once freed, Bolivar, disguised as a fisherman makes a daring voyage to seek allies in Carthegena. He returns with 4,000 followers, the loyalists flee, and Caracas is liberated.
In the fourth canto Bolivar returns in triumph, pronouncing a hymn to Freedom. In response appears the allegorical figure Liberty, the guardian angel of Columbia. She advises him that the Spaniards will return, to avoid priestcraft, and to emulate the British in a generous love of commerce, liberty, and freedom under the law. Bolivar is united to Laura, and Caracas rises in splendor from its rubble.
Muse of the South! that erst hast loved to dwell
Where Venezuela's woody mountains raise
Their sunny tops: if one adventurous swell,
With genial fire, can animate thy lays,
Attune thy harp to deeds of latter days;
The patriot sing, first of his native plain,
That flourishes beneath the tropic blaze,
Who, when his country bore the yoke of Spain,
Rushed to th' embattled field, its freedom to maintain.
Drear were those woodlands, sunk in hopeless gloom,
And drear those plains, though Nature kindly shed
O'er steep and dell sweet flowers that ever bloom,
And many a winding mountain torrent led,
In playful tract, along its rocky bed;—
Though clustered fruit in wild luxuriance grew,
And bounding stags on dewy herbage fed,—
Yet man alone no joy, no rapture knew,
Till Liberty her mantle o'er his mansions threw!
The evening sun, with milder radiance, beamed
His parting, smile on Lake Valencia wide;
So smooth its breast, each distant island seemed
As if it floated on the glassy tide;
The town's white battlements afar descried,
And lofty domes peeped from a woody vale:
Beyond the plain, Andes, with giant pride,
His mountains piled, unseen their summits pale,
Save when the sombre clouds are swept before the gale.
To mellow flute, the boatman timed his oar—
That Indian flute, whose wildest measure fell
In lengthened cadence, lingering round the shore:
Valencia's halls rung with the merry swell
Of minstrel harp, and drum, and horn, and shell;
Joined in the dance, youths, maids and matrons old,
And ever and anon, their mirth to tell,
In louder voice — the cannon's thunder rolled—
And the bold warlike shout the wakeful echos told.
Ne'er did the youthful poet's fancy find,
In his most airy dream, a scene more fair;
Yet nor the scene, nor sprightly dance could bind
The gallant Bolivar to linger there,
Those beauties he diffused, himself to share:
But yestermorn, his patriot followers drew
Their battle blades, — Spain's legions saw the glare—
I ween, at eve, that glare was seen by few,
And Freedom's happy flag o'er field and rampart flew.
But not a damsel of the beauteous train
Could woo the warrior to her sylvan shade;
Straight to the east he gave his steed the rein,
Nor once looked back on mountain, grove, or glade,
Till, from afar, beneath his feet displayed,
Enlivened by the moon, Caracas lay;—
A moment then, his eager speed he stayed—
Gazed on its towers — haunts of his infant day—
Then down the verdant valley held his lonely way.
Where Guayra murmuring pours his crystal stream,
Or roars with frequent fall o'er rocky steep,
His tract now lay; — there scarce the slumbering beam
Could find an entrance through the foliage deep;—
The mountain boar, up-starting from his sleep,
Bushed thro' the withered leaves with rustling tread;—
And those wild fowls, that, when reposing keep
A watchful sentinel, by signal led,
In distant clamorous flight, sought to dispel their dread.
Ere Bona-Vista's smooth ascent was won,
Were heard the mingled sounds of music loud;
For in Caracas too, from morning sun,
To dance and banquet, hied the motely crowd:
The spacious street, and Merced's turrets proud,
(So many lamps adorned, of varied hue,)
Seem'd as enveloped in a flaming shroud:—
Paused not the chief, the fairy scene to view,
But to Augusta's domes, unwearied, onward drew.
Unknown, he frequent heard the patriot cry—
"Long live the hero of Victoria's field—
Long may our banners unmolested fly:—
In heart and hand still may we join, to shield
Our country's cause — nor to oppression yield:"—
Sweet was the applauding strain, yet sweeter far
Was Laura's voice, whose blush but ill-concealed
Her rising joy, when, from the din of war,
Back to his peaceful home, she welcomed Bolivar.
Although the rose its deepest glow denied,
And on her dimpled cheek but faintly smiled.
That crimson hue the lily well supplied,
And o'er each feature shed its influence mild:—
Her hair, in jetty ringlets, wantoned wild
Adown her neck, that of its tincture clear
The burning tropic beam had not beguiled:—
The glance of her dark eye to all was dear,
And when she blushing spoke — 'twas heaven itself to hear.
Montillo's only daughter was the maid,
And never father of his child might say,
More filial love towards him was displayed,
To gild the evening of his life's decay.
Ye, to whom love has failed to find the way,
Deem it no fault that in a heart so kind,
This powerful passion held its secret sway;—
Mysterious Love! — link of the human mind—
Sweet soother of our woe, and, source of joy refined!
I may not tell, why at the tale of war,
The listening Laura oft would heave a sigh,
Or why — erst brilliant as the morning star,
The pearly tear would sparkle in her eye:—
Perhaps the maiden, true to sympathy,
Dwelt on the sorrows of the deadly plain,
Where, heedless of their aim, death's arrows fly—
The widowed mother weeping o'er the slain,
And gazing on those eyes that ne'er can beam again.
Perhaps the virgin form by fancy made,
Weeps for the dauntless youth she loved so well—
Thinks on the lonely spot where he was laid.
The ruthless cannon tolling out his knell,
And thus her speechless sorrow seems to tell:—
"No more shall he behold the peaceful vale,
Where oft the livelong day he loved to dwell—
No more shall listen to the village tale—
Nor court the cooling breeze, nor hear the tempest rail!"
Nor need I tell why heaved fair Laura's breast,
Or why she sought her glowing hue to hide,
When thus young Bolivar her sire addressed:—
"Father! two tedious years have rolled their tide,
Since first I wooed thy daughter for my bride;
For your consent, the blissful day was stayed,
Now to your promise made wouldst thou abide,
That when fair Freedom's banner was displayed
On Venezuela's plains, you'd grant the willing maid?"
Hast thou e'er marked when blows the autumnal gale,
Chasing the straggling clouds in upper air,
How quick the sunbeams o'er the meadows sail;—
One moment, waving fields glow with the glare;
The next, a gloomy shadow hovers there:
Thus rushed alternate to the maiden's cheek
The ruby glow — and left its mansion fair;—
Nor could she look one kindly glance to seek,
Fearing her sire's rebuke — yet wishing him to speak.
"Consider well, my son," replied the sage,
"How unprotected yet remains the land—
Spain long against our rights a war may wage—
Pour her dark legions o'er our peaceful strand,
And seek to wrest this valley from our hand:—
Against an infant state dire shafts are hurled;
Even now, perhaps, some hostile ills are planned,
And should the unfriendly flag be yet unfurled,
Again in galling chains were laid the western world.
"Thy lands might then become the spoiler's prey—
Thy gladsome halls changed for a prison's gloom—
Thy life itself, perchance the meed should pay;—
Myself oppressed, or in the silent tomb,
What then would be my Laura's rigid doom!
But wave we this dark scene; ne'er may I see
The chill of woe steal o'er her youthful bloom!
Wait but one year, if then in liberty
Caracas' valley reigns, my daughter shall be free."
As the tired sailor, who, from India's clime,
Homeward careering by the impelling blast,
Chides the dull way, and thinks how long the time,
Since from the blythesome maid he parted last,
And oft will eager gaze from the high mast—
Was it not land! — vain fool! 'twas but a cloud
That o'er the haughty billows fleeting passed:—
He sighs; but Hope's bright visions backward crowd—
Greet transports yet to come, and every sorrow shroud:—
So sighed the chieftain for the happy day.
Lonely, he wandered by the Guayra's tide,
Counting each hour — for hours seem to delay,
When two fond lovers' converse they divide.—
Why did he roam afar the forest wide—
No longer seek by Laura's side to dwell!—
What made the lovers from each other glide!—
O, 'twas a nameless power, which none may tell,
Save those who own the sway of such bewitching spell!
But now the deep toned bells rung forth a peal,
Labour laid down the mattock and the hook,
And hastened at the holy shrine to kneel;
With choral hymns the fretted arches shook,
While many a priest, with rosary and book,
In solemn mood the long procession led,
And ever and anon, with upcast look,
Urged the Redeemer's love, whose hand had spread
Such bounties upon earth, and who for sinners bled.
With crimson silk was hung the sacred fane—
The marble floor was strewed with flowerets fair;
But ev'n the opening rose-bud might, in vain,
Strive with the blooming virgins to compare;—
There Laura too breathed forth the pious prayer:
So sweet their voices, mingled with the tone
Of the loud organ, mellowed, on the air,
Seemed as applauding angels down had flown,
And drawn seraphic strains from the celestial throne.
The hymn is o'er — the trembling echos pass:—
O, died they not with a prophetic sound
Speed, holy father! celebrate the mass!
It is too late: — the listeners gaze around,
For dire concussions shake the sainted ground;—
Earth's caverns shudder with appalling roar,—
The friar's voice 'mid frantic cries is drowned,—
And, while Heaven's bounteous mercy they implore,
The temple crashing falls! — the shrieks are heard no more!
Along the vale dark clouds of dust arose:—
Fell not in rugged heaps the shrine alone,
All Venezuela felt the fatal throes;—
But whelming fate, Caracas! was thine own,
Thy towers, thy domes, in prostrate piles were thrown:
Long shall the bard lament thy timeless doom—
Long tell the spot (which else may scarce be known),
Where revelled late, the youth in beauty's bloom,
But now where every stone became a sufferer's tomb!
Long shall he tell, how many a craggy rock,
Which erst the mouldering hand of Time defied,
Roused from its solid bed by the rude shock,
Impetuous rolled adown the mountain's side,
And curbed, with giant bulk, the Guayra's tide:
How wondering seamen eyed the distant land;
Saw, raised without a blast, the billows ride;
Inwrapped in dusky clouds, beheld the strand,
And deemed the shivering bark had struck some hidden sand.
The western breeze swept off, with gentle breath,
The darkened clouds that hovered on the air;
Then rose a scene of pity, woe, and death—
The feeble groan — the note of wild despair.—
See! the fond maiden tears her flowing hair!—
"My Henry! where art thou?" she frantic cries;
And looks around with keen, inquiring stare:—
Alas! to thee no kindly voice replies—
Deep, deep, beneath the wreck thy faithful Henry lies!
There the fond mother wails her darling son,
Who from her widowed arms is snatched away,
Ere yet his life's career had well begun:
But who the lover's sorrows can allay!
Tearless he bends, o'er Morna's lifeless clay,
For tears in woes like these refuse to flow.
In vain he cries, "O stay, loved spirit! stay!"
Pale are those lips; that heart that wont to glow
With warmest, purest love — is cold as Andes' snow.
But who is he that mounts the ruined pile?
Whose silver locks, loose on the breezes wave,—
Was there no kindly arm that could the while,
His only stay — his daughter Laura, save!
Or slumbers she, too, in the silent grave!—
"She lives! she lives! father be not dismayed!"
For, from the tottering walls, the chieftain brave,
The fainting maiden in his arms conveyed,
And at Montillo's feet the lovely burden laid.
"O Bolivar!" the thankful father said,
"How can I make thee retribution meet?"
"You owe me nought, — for who his arm had staid,
When helpless beauty languished at his feet!"
Back to the maiden's cheek the blood 'gan fleet;
To utter forth her thanks in vain she strove,
Yet cast a look so kind — so heavenly sweet;
No gifted tongue could soar that look above,—
It told her gratitude, — it half revealed her love.
"Here" said the chief, "no longer let us wait,
The western sun shoots forth his latest ray;
Though thousands hailed that rising sun of late,
Few, few, again shall meet the dawning day!"
Scarce o'er the ruins could they mark the way;
The shattered walls with every zephyr shook;
The dying and the dead around them lay:
Such scenes the trembling Laura ill might brook,
And oft the crimson tide her blanching cheek forsook.
The neighbouring fields their grassy carpet lent
To the survivors: many a tearful eye
Was backward on the lowly city bent:
Oft did they look, if, from the mountain high,
Or rising smoke, or flame they could espy,
That might volcanic prodigy betide:
But all was peaceful: cloudless was the sky:
The moon, unconscious of the havock wide,
Danced on the sloping hills, and kissed the Guayra's tide.
Down by a silent grove of stately trees,
That spread their ample branches o'er the stream,
And form'd an arbor, sheltered from the breeze,
Impenetrable by the paly beam,
(Those regions with such wild luxuriance teem),
Young Bolivar his weary partners led,
And lighted by the fire-fly's fitful gleam,
Strew'd with dry leaves the dew-bespangled bed,
And bade the embers glow to scare the panther's tread.
Full many a saddening wanderer lingered nigh;
Their only home that night the verdant field,
Their only canopy the azure sky:
In slumbers undisturbed no eye was sealed,
But harassed fancy frightful sights revealed:
The crash of matter, and the general shock,
Rung on the dreamer's ear: towers seemed to yield
And burst upon his head: — starting, he woke,
Yet still the restless earth seemed 'neath his feet to rock.
Then would the tale of wonder pass around,
Of tempest when the warring winds did rave,
And mariners, 'mid rocks and quicksands bound,
Who toiled in vain, at midnight hour, to save
Their labouring bark from the resistless wave:
How one, borne on a plank, was left to say
Where his companions found a watery grave.
Thus, awed by the disasters of the day,
In legendary lore passed the dull night away.
Sweet rose the cheering sun, with lively red,
Tinging the forest tops and mountain's side:
The Indian started from his mossy bed,
And throwing o'er his limbs the panther's hide,
On Oronooko's stream his paddle plied;
To throw the dart, or twang the bow, he knew,
For these his every luxury supplied:
Joyful he rose, his labours to pursue,
Ere yet the ardent sun drank up the rosy dew.
Roused by the glittering beams, the youthful stag,
The pearly moisture from his antlers shook,
Free as the wind, to climb the jutting crag,
Or paw the plain, or court the cooling brook.
The feathered tribe their little nests forsook,
And caroled loud from rock, and vale, and steep;
But, from that morn, that seemed so gay to look,
Could Venezuela's sons no transport reap,
And matrons rose to sigh, and maidens rose to weep.
Yet paused not thus, in unavailing woe,
The emboldened youth with massy bar and spade,
Ere yet the mid-day beams began to glow,
They from the ruins digged the silent dead,
And the last duty to their relics paid;
So numberless they were, that, in one tomb,
The poor, the rich, the weak, the strong, were laid;
Memorial sad! prophetic of that doom,
Which yet shall wrap the world in everlasting gloom!
That solemn office done, each 'gan to form
A shelter from the burning solar glow:
Huge trees, that oft had baffled tropic storm,
Unwilling, yielded to the axe's blow.
Straightway the rural huts, in graceful row,
Beneath a grove of cocoa nuts arose,
Worked with the yellow smooth bamboo below,
Thatched with the leaves, the lofty palm bestows;
And, save the Guayra's tide, nought broke the still repose.
Hard by the borders of a lonely wood,
Where, rippling o'er its bed, a torrent flowed,
The Chieftain's small romantic cottage stood:
There, hung with yellow fruit, bananas broad,
Waved to the wind, and stooped beneath the load:
Kind Nature seemed her choicest gifts to shower,
And Innocence maintain her blest abode.
Yet, of those sweets that decked the rural bower,
Was, Laura still, I ween, the best, the fairest, flower,
Sequestered thus, far from the giddy throng,
And busied still their mansion to adorn,
The lovers passed the fleeting hours along;
Oft listened to melodious measures borne,
From bush and brake, at early peep of morn;
Oft would they wander, on the mountain's breast,
By fields of sugar-cane, or waving corn;
Or, by the frowning mid-day sun oppressed,
On some cool mossy bank with aged Montillo rest.
Delightful regions! there, on every glade,
Unseen may thousand rosy flowerets spring,
And thousand birds in matchless plumes arrayed,
Unheard, from every spray, may softly sing,
And sweep the balmy air with circling wing:
No gloomy winter comes with aspect dread,
The honors of the forest withering;
But fruits and flowers, by spring eternal fed,
On the mild eastern breeze their dewy fragrance shed.
Well knew the chief those ample gifts to prize;
Yet would a rising sigh oft intervene,
When o'er the extended plain be cast his eyes,
Whence the bold ruins of the town were seen,
And thought on what it was, and what had been;
Oft by yon crumbling tower, by moonlight pale,
Had thousands danced upon the velvet green!
Now, through the ruins whistled sad the gale,
Seeming the fate of those who slept below to wail!
But deeper sorrows crowded to his mind,
When searching all the valley, far and wide,
A few small huts were all that he could find,
The humble relics of its former pride:
His legions, who had oft the foe defied,
Were all dispersed, or slumbered in the grave:
"O! if (he thought) that foe should stem the tide
And on these hapless shores their banner's wave,
Who will for freedom stand! O who my country save!
Too true forboding! Ere one month had rolled,
Ere pity and affection ceased to weep,
The fate of Venezuela, rumour told,
Where Porto Rico lifts her mountains steep;
Quick bounding o'er the Carribean deep,
The hostile fleet a numerous army bore,
Elate with hope the golden hour to reap:
White foamed the billows 'neath each dashing prore,
And soon they anchored safe on Coro's echoing shore.
Then poured the darkening armies o'er the strand,
And straight towards Caracas valley drew;
Their desperate rout was marked by fire and brand:
That general shock, in prostrate heaps that threw
The capital, was not by patriot true
So much bewailed, nor did so much appal,
As when again expanded to his view
The hostile flag: he shuddered to recall
The galling weight of chains, and Liberty's downfall!
Scarce had they landed, when young Bolivar
Bade his loud bugles blow, to summon fast
His scattered legions to the impending war:
Five hundred only heard the warlike blast.
Not so the call was answered when he last
Drew up his army by Valencia's Lake:
Again upon the breeze a note he cast—
It could arouse the echos from the brake,
But never from their sleep the lowly warriors wake!
Fain would Montillo too have clenched the glave,
But Age's frost had every limb unstrung;
A kind farewell to Bolivar he gave,
And prayed his flag might still be freely flung;
What heartfelt anguish Laura's bosom wrung,
When trembled on his lips the fond farewell!
The tear that to her eye that moment sprung—
The sigh that made her snowy breast to swell,—
O did they not all speech — all studied look excel!
The warrior o'er his shoulder graceful threw
His martial garment, seized his glittering spear,
Mounted his steed, and through the woodlands flew,
Leaving the cottage and the maiden dear.
She gazed upon his form, and lingered near,
Until his plumes in distant air did blend—
Till sounding hoofs no longer met her ear;
Then slowly to the sylvan bower 'gan wend,
And, kneeling, prayed that Heaven her country would defend!
Westward the chieftain scoured along the glen—
His banner o'er Caracas was displayed;
In dark array he there drew up his men,
All mounted, and for desperate strife arrayed:
Still were their ranks, save when a charger neighed;
So ere a tempest blow the wind is hushed—
Each primed his rifle, drew his battle blade,
To meet the approaching foemen forward pushed,
And, 'mid the files of death, like wintry torrent rushed.
The battle rages: as on some hill-side,
Chased by the breeze, fast sail the vapours blue,
So the dun smoke along the field did glide,
And shrouded every combatant from view.
The unerring balls in whizzing vollies flew,
Three times the echoes told the sound again.
In vain ye strive! In vain, ye gallant few!
O'erpowered by numbers — stretched upon the plain
Your bravest comrades lie — nor e'er shall rise again!
The gentle muse delighteth not to wing
Her airy flight where bursts the battle's swell—
Where murderous engines swift destruction fling,
And death-groans mingle with the charging yell:
Weak were her lay in measure apt to tell,
How oft the rallying shout alternate rose:
Rather amid the groves she loves to dwell,
And rural scenes and rural joys disclose
Where never cannon roared to mar the soft repose.
The rattling din of combat died around,
The mocking echoes ceased on hill and lea:
But who is he, 'mid guards securely bound,
Who wears the rosy badge of liberty?
Is it not Bolivar? — Alas! 'tis he;
A prisoner now, retracing, sad and slow,
The path he lately rode with hopeful glee!
Thus, even when man draws near the verge of woe,
Will Hope, beneath his feet her pleasing flowerets strew.
"See that ye give this chieftain guidance safe
Down to La Guayra's dungeons dark and deep;
For never man so much our mood did chafe,
Nor from our arms so long the victory keep:
(Our bravest lie in everlasting sleep).
Even when unhorsed, so desperately he fought,
Three of my captains felt his sabre's sweep.
Long have our bands this haughty leader sought,
Now, woe betide the day! our prize is dearly bought!
Thus spoke the leader of the invading train,
With lowering brow, and spurred his courser by,
Nor sought to meet, despight his lofty strain,
The dauntless glance of Bolivar's dark eye.
The weary sun blushed from the western sky,
Before the horsemen reached that steep ascent,
Whence, eastward far, the prisoner could espy
Those haunts of peace and love, and calm content,
Where oft the livelong day he with fair Laura spent.
Now, on the mountain's top, beneath them lay
The battlements of Guayra, snowy white;
Each distant bark, at anchor in the bay,
Appeared no bigger than a shallop light
On an extended lake, unmoved and bright:
There oft the curious traveller stays his pace,
When winding by some precipice's height;
Tries through the clouds below the scene to trace,
And, giddy, deems he sees eternity's dim space.
The ponderous drawbridge at the eastern gate
The horsemen reached: "Who comes?" the warder cried;
"Fernando's friends!" With heavy clang and grate,
The bridge was lowered, the gate was opened wide:
A bandage o'er the captive's eyes they tied,
And led him to a dungeon dark and lone:
Nought heard he, save the sea-wave raving wide,
Or, mingling with the captives feeble moan,
The clanking of his chains on the damp chilly stone.
'Vails not to tell what unrelenting fate
Was by the hapless conquered daily felt:
High on his iron throne Oppression sat,
And to his guilty bands dominion dealt.
Beats there a heart so hard that would not melt,
To see the tender Laura spurned away,
When, for her father's liberty she knelt!
To see him dragged, despight his tresses grey,
To the same dark abode where the young chieftain lay!
Vainly the mother pleaded for her son,
Vainly the child its little arms did rear;
The tyrant's mandates quickly must be done,
Though beauty plead, though orphans shed a tear.
Bright Liberty, to man for ever clear,
Scared from the valley, heavenward winged her flight,
And with her all those joys that wont to cheer
The village swain, and make his labour light;
Cheerless he passed the day, sleepless the weary night.
But Hope, the charmer! to the wretched kind,
Still hovered near, nor sought the azure sky:
She, who can soothe the drooping sufferer's mind,
Wipe off the tear that startles in his eye,
And lull his hours in gay perspective by;
She, who, when Misery claims relief in vain,
Can blunt the anguish of the rude reply,
Lightened the burden of the prisoner's chain,
And pictured to his soul his happiest days again.
How fares the tender Laura? Is she cast
On the wide world, without one friendly guide?
How shall that angel form endure the blast?
How the keen chill of poverty abide,
And churlish taunts of insolence and pride?
Her father's halls usurped, where shall the maid
From violence her head securely hide?
Will not her eyes grow dim, her cheeks too fade,
If doomed through such a flood of human woe to wade!
She to La Guayra took her lonely road:
Night closed around her robe of sable hue;
The voice of gathering tempest was abroad,
And darkness round impenetrable grew
Through the black forest mournfully it blew;
The rain in torrents fell: The maid no more,
Trembling and faint, the pathway could pursue,
But wandered, erring, to'ard the sea-girt shore,
'Gainst which the billows burst with loud enfuriate roar.
The thunder pealed, the vivid lightning flashed;
Seemed blended with the roar the distant cries
Of shipwrecked seamen by the billows dashed,
While the loud wave, high towering to the skies,
With unabating fury claimed its prize.
Why, stumbling at each step, did Laura shrink?
O! 'twas the piercing glare that struck her eyes,
And, with delusive horror, made her think
She held her tottering steps close to some crag's dark brink!
She paused: for all around the foliage green
Was brightened by a watch-fire's fitful glare;
Fear changed the waving of the trees between,
To figures tossing high their arms in air.
A voice exclaimed, "Approach, sad wandering fair!
What shelter my poor hovel will bestow,
Proud shall I be if you will deign to share:
There safely may'st thou rest till morning glow,
Nor heed though rain should pour, or howling tempest blow."
She gazed: an aged Indian forward pressed,
And frankly held his hand the way to guide;
Wooing her in such phrase to be his guest,
No longer might the proffer be denied.
Each crossing branch he careful pushed aside,
And reached, by wily turns, his small retreat,
Near to the margin of the crested tide:
The matron and her daughter rose to meet,
And hailed the stranger maid in guileless accents sweet.
It was a strange abode, of rudest form;
For many a gallant ship, from foreign land,
Driven by the fury of the midnight storm
Amid the pointed rocks that walled the strand,
Supplied with broken planks the builder's hand:
Caobas grew behind — huge, deep, and dark,
And o'er the roof their branches did expand.
From the white beach, in front, the eye might mark,
Careering o'er the wave, the distant stooping bark.
Well sheltered from the surf, a little cove
Gave hidden harbour to a shallop low;
Sea grapes and mangroves lent their shade above;—
These even from the briny flood will grow.
Thus on that shore the aspiring grove I trow,
Would seem the ocean's boundaries to dispute;
Beneath its shade, should it too fiercely blow,
The fisherman his little skiff may shoot,
And gather a repast from every shelly root.
For Laura, soon the Indian's humble board
With homely bread and fragrant fruits was piled;
For her, the ample calabash was stored
With the Palmetto's vinous essence mild,
And all her woes in kindness were beguiled.
Charmed with her modest speech, the matron old
Oft clasped her hand; well-pleased the old man smiled,
And when, unasked, her little tale she told,
He, in return, essayed his own thus to unfold:
"Where Merida's soft vallies fertile smile
My father dwelt; prince of his archers true,
Unknown to art, — unskilled in other wile,
Save the fleet antlered monarch to pursue
His joys were countless, and his wishes few.
The stranger came from yonder distant strand;
In vain the pointed arrows whistling, flew,—
My father fell: they chased his little band
Back to the lonely wilds, and reft from them the land.
"I, with my infant daughter in my arms,
Sought in these shades, — my Yara by my side,
Retired from vulgar ken, those peaceful charms
Which fortune in my native vale denied:
Here heaven has more than all our wants supplied;
The choicest fruits my frugal banquet grace,
And, when I launch my skiff upon the tide,
My nets are loaded with the finny race:
Nor do I e'er return less favoured from the chase.
"Now fifteen years have tranquil glided o'er,
Since, first our steps to this lone spot did bend;
Oft to La Guayra do I guide my prore,
My ripened fruit and scaly brood to vend.
When the wind howls, and awful thunders rend
The troubled sky, on yonder sloping height
I bid the midnight beacon's blaze ascend,
To meet the wary seaman's searching sight,
And warn him from the rocks, and breakers bursting white.
"But why these tears, fair lady? Bounteous heaven
Will the wild schemes of tyranny arrest;
Your father's foes may yet be homeward driven;
And all the plain, with peace and freedom blest,
Uplift with double joy her drooping crest.
Thou art fatigued; accept this rushy bed,
(I ween unworthy of so fair a guest!)
And when the morning gilds the wave with red,
For Guayra's sea-beat walls the little sail we'll spread."
Thus said the aged Domingo, and the maid,
With tearful eyes, her gratitude revealed.
Sleep o'er the humble roof his sceptre swayed,
And every eye in peaceful slumbers sealed:
Why, gentle god! dost thou to peasants yield
Thy soft embrace, yet shun the palace bright,
And downy couch, which richest tapestries shield?
Where innocence lies down thou lovest to light,
But never to the guilty wing'st thy balmy flight.
No more the storm blew mournful o'er the wild,
No more the clouds veiled heaven's ethereal blue;
The rising sun again benignant smiled,
And nature caught the glance like mirror true;
Sparkled on every leaf the rosy dew:
The humming-bird wooed by the balmy air,
Dressed his gay purple plumes, and twittering flew:
Well might a stranger deem, that never there
The ruthless tempest roared, to mar a scene so fair.
The Indian launched his shallop on the wave,
And with fair Laura skimmed along the shore:
To her the generous dame, at parting, gave,
Of ripened luscious fruit, a little store:—
"These for thy sire, but, when thy journey's o'er,
Thou wilt return, and here securely dwell,
Till pitying Heaven shall happier times restore;
And should Montillo 'scape from durance fell,
O bid him guide his steps towards our humble cell."
Cleaving the gentle surge with murmur low,
The light canoe left Catea's beach behind,
And where Cape Blanco rises white as snow,
Low leaning to the stronger rising wind,
Domingo in the sail a reef 'gan bind:
And now, the surf unable to withstand,
Struck the small mast, and paddling, strove to find
A smoother surface close along the land,
And soon they disembarked on Guayra's sounding strand.
Beneath the battlements they held their way;
The cold damp roof with stringy dews was hung;
Scarce might the loops admit a feeble ray;
At every step the vaulted dungeons rung:
Montillo to his grated wicket sprung,
Deeming he heard the keeper's haughty pace.
Her jetty locks, the maiden backward flung—
"Alas! my daughter! dost thou come to chase,
Far from a prisoner's thoughts, the horrors of this place?
"Say, whither comest thou? have the victors left,
To shield thee from distress, the sylvan shade?
Or strays my child, of every stay bereft,
On the wide world a friendless wanderer made?—
O tell the worst!" "Heaven," she replied, "forbade
Such dreadful ills should 'gainst me be combined;
Vainly for thy deliverance, I essayed;
Yon chieftain gave my prayers to the wind,
Your lands and fortunes all to forfeiture resigned.
"Last night, when wandering to'ard this dismal spot,
Thick fell the rain, the wind roared in the wood;
Across the pitchy sky the lightning shot,
And glaring on my sight with brilliance rude,
But served my feeble footsteps to delude:
Weary I strayed (led by a watchfire's sheen,)
Where this good Indian's lonely hamlet stood;
There have I found a home, seldom, I ween,
But from the sullen wave by passing seamen seen.
"O! couldst thou but escape, there wouldst thou find
A safe asylum from the shafts of hate.
Leave the dire factions of the world behind,
And in the depth of solitude await,
Till Heaven decide, thy suffering country's fate:
Are there no means? O say, can aught be done
To wrench, with giant strength, this cruel grate;
O! canst thou not their vigiliancy shun?
Or must thou languish here, shut from the cheering sun?
A kindly tear bedewed Montillo's cheek;
Hope, love, and gratitude the tribute bade;
He gazed on aged Domingo's aspect mild:
"How can I e'er repay my friend," he said,
Thy hospitality to this poor maid!"
"O speak not thus!" he answered, bending low;
"Unworthy of your thanks were all my aid;
My slender service welcome I bestow—
My roof, my light canoe, the product of my bow."
"I thank thee," said the captive; "in this cell
With me a noble youth is doomed to stay:
Last night, at tolling of the evening bell,
The keeper came and took our chains away,
And ever and anon he calm did say,
''Twere pity we such wretched doom should share;'
Deeming, I trow, by mild indulgent sway,
To wile from us, who of estate there were
Who in the patriot cause did arms or office bear.
"Our strength restored, we toiled the livelong night,
To pierce the wall, which erst unseen was riven
By earthquake's force: but vain had been our might,
Had not the ever-gracious hand of Heaven
A gentle shock to aid our purpose given,
Which loosened every stone: the seawave wide
Assisted too, by foaming tempest driven.
Thus we, when lowering shades all objects hide,
By sentinel unheard, may plunge into the tide.
"At midnight, near Cape Blanco's caverns hoar,
Thou may'st await us with thy light canoe:
Hence, will we silent swim along the shore,
And bootless may our enemies pursue;
For, ere to-morrow's breeze shakes off the dew,
Safe will we rest us in thy sylvan hall;
But now depart, suspicion to eschew.
Farewell! A captive's warmest wish is all
Montillo can bestow, till happier times befall."
He said: joy danced in Laura's brightening eye;
'Twixt the cold bars her lily hand she threw,
Which he, with all a father's extacy,
Did with Affection's purest drops bedew;
Ev'n the old Indian turned him from the view,
Nor could the tear of sympathy forbear.
Sure if't be sin thus to each feeling true,
To give our souls to joy, or stoop to care,
The angels of high heaven will half the record spare!
Again the little mast Domingo reared,
And to the eastern breeze the canvass gave:
Now plunging low, scarce half their heads appeared,
Now mounting high upon the steepy wave:
On Catea's shore they heard the surges rave;
There oft, 'tis said, the lonely mermaid springs,
To lure the lated fisher to her cave;
Sits on a rock, in plaintive accents sings,
And from her flowing hair the briny torrent wrings.
The twilight gathered round ere they could reach
The Indian hut: borne on the curling swell,
The flying shallop touched the snow-white beach,
Where stood the aged dame to greet them well:
Joyed she to hear what to the maid befell;
"Prepare the couch," Domingo playful cried;
"This day that lady bright hath wrought a spell:
I must away, to carry o'er the tide
Two gallant courtly knights," and pushed him from the side.
Glinted on every hill the soft moonlight,
The ocean's breast gave back the radiance pale.
Fair Laura gazed, till every breaker white
Seemed to her erring eye the distant sail:
"Blow, gentle breeze! blow, favouring eastern gale!
And waft my father from yon ruthless shore,
No more in dungeon's gloom his lot to wail;
Here peaceful may he rest, his sufferings o'er,
Nor dread war's angry blast, nor think of thraldom more!"
The boat appeared; white dashing from her prore
The bubbling spume: the fluttering sail now bound,
They plied their paddles to'ard the rocky shore,
With wary skill to tent the shallow ground:
From Yara they a joyous welcome found;
Already on the board the feast was heaped,
And the large shell with freshening beverage crowned;
Even the grim hound, who from his kennel crept,
Gave salutation glad, and whining round them leap'd.
Fast sped the hours, in mutual converse sweet,
The heavy hand of sleep no eye betrayed;
Aurora soon appeared, with rosy feet,
And every hill in golden robe arrayed.
But Bolivar affected not the shade,
Ignoble ease his generous soul disdained,
While yet his suffering country's woes forbade:
Thus, when to happiness, one step's attained,
Mortals more restless are till the wished height he gained.
"My friends," he said, "although this province stoops
Beneath a weight of foreign tyranny,
All disaffected are the victor's troops;
The mercenary band will from him fly,
When plundered wealth he can no more supply,—
The western country still maintains its sway,
And Freedom's banners o'er Granada fly;
What deem you, should I thither bend my way,
And spur our brother state to drive them from their prey?
"Could good Domingo grant me his canoe,
Tho' desperate the voyage, I'd onward steer,
To where St. Martha's towering mountains blue,
Amid the hovering clouds, their summits rear;
White Carthagena's towers would next appear.
In some smooth bay, or inlet might I moor,
Should the gale rise, or sable night draw near:
Arrayed in fishers' homely garments, sure
From foeman's searching eye, I thus might pass secure!"
Vainly they sought to curb the patriot's zeal,
Vainly the dangers of the way they told;
High beat his bosom for his country's weal,
And thirst of martial honour made him bold:
He parted with one sigh, one tear too rolled;—
That sigh was Laura's, lest he ne'er again
That voice should hear — that angel form behold:
The tear that fell was for his native plain,
Lest, freedom to restore, his toil should prove in vain.
Seven days the favouring breeze the skiff did urge
From point to point: despite the skilful guide,
I ween, full oft the saucy crested surge
Did threaten o'er the slender bark to ride.
He passed where Magdalena's copious tide,
Swelled by a thousand rills from Andes' height,
Whitened the ocean's bosom far and wide;
And now the Popa reared its cloister white,
And Carthagena's forts and turrets clustered bright.
Through Boca-Chica's passage next he bore,
And by that battery, rising from the wave,
Where gallant Vernon drew his fleet of yore,
And marked contagion 'mong his followers brave,
More fatal than the brazen canon — rave:
The verdant landscape now arose around,
And gentler tides the inland shores did lave;
Thick as a grove, the masts rose in the sound;
And now the weary chief to land his shallop bound.
Nor trod he long alone the friendly strand,
For exiles even from his native plain,
Welcomed him to the shore: the youthful band
Admiring heard, how, on the stormy main,
He toiled, in light canoe, the port to gain;
But, when the purpose of his voyage he spoke,
(To free his country from a foreign chain),
Thrice on the air their clamorous shouting broke,
"With thee we'll find a grave, or burst the foeman's yoke!"
Onward they marched; but feeble were my lay,
To tell how many anxious toils they bore,
Panting beneath the scorching solar ray
'Mid boundless wilds, and tracts, which ne'er before,
I ween, the foot of mortal did explore;
O'er what steep hills the cannon huge they drew,
When every steed lay down to rise no more;
How many rivers deep they forded through,
And eastward cut their way, led by the needle true.
Oft when fell famine weakened every joint,
And all sat down regardless of their fate,
Would Bolivar, from some high mountain, point
To where the plantane grew, and luscious date
Again they onward moved with hope elate.
Thus when Columbus o'er the deep careered,
His doubting crew no more the event would wait,
Till round the ship the green sea-weed appeared,
Then for the promised land with bolder effort steered.
Like them rejoicing, when with raptured eyes
They saw the distant hills, with verdure dressed,
Heaving their woody tops up to the skies,
Thought they might there from all their labour rest,
And the tall mast with ampler canvass pressed,—
So the young chieftain's toil-worn army viewed
The sun-beams gleam on Lake Valencia's breast;
Marked the white towers arising from the wood,
And, with redoubled strength, their closing march pursued.
The patriot flag was now on high displayed,
The cannon's voice foretold the approaching train;
Each gazed around him as he drew his blade
On scenes he ne'er, perchance, might view again:
The war-horn brayed: Valencia heard the strain:
Long had her sons hoped for that favoring call;
Fast from the bustling street they rushed amain
And joined young Bolivar, exclaiming all,
"No more shall foreign power our native land enthral!"
Before that bugle blew, the chief, I ween,
Had scarce five hundred followers in his band;
Now full four thousand round his flag were seen
All ready armed, and waiting but command,
To drive the rallying foemen from the land:
Eastward they moved: confused, ill could the foe
The impetuous tide of rightful arms withstand,
Down on the field their arms they instant throw,
And all the province yields without one adverse blow.
Nor did they stop until Caraca's walls
Did the loud shout of victory back repay:
I ween the long deserted ruined halls,
Ceased from that hour their terrors to display:
A thousand blooming virgins strewed the way,
And bound each warrior's brow with many a rose;
And when the sun beamed forth his parting ray,
They laid them down to taste that soft repose,
Which, to the good and brave alone, kind heaven bestows.
Who hath not felt his breast with rapture rise,
When, back returned from some far distant shore,
His native hills, his native fields, he spies?
Scenes, which, while toils and storms he patient bore,
Despaired he oft, perchance, to visit more!
Like transport fires the youthful patriot's breast,
When from the field he hastens to restore
Peace to that vale, by him still prized the best,
Where first his infant eye fixed on the warrior's crest.
Muse! canst thou touch thy harp with softer hand?
A gentler theme than war demands the lay,
For night has stretched her sceptre o'er the land,
And sweet the moonbeams on the mountains play;
The fanning eastern breeze has died away;
And, save the ceaseless murmurs of the deep,
Kissing with lazy pace the pebbled bay,
Or distant torrent tumbling down the steep,
All nature, undisturbed, seems wrapped in balmy sleep.
This is the hour, when, of his cares beguiled,
Labour lies down his vigour to recruit:
Oft in this hour, the poet, Fancy's child,
In fairy visions wrapped, with lingering foot,
Wanders the lonely grove, serene and mute,
Where erst upon the ear soft music stole:
Across the heavens the sparkling meteors shoot;
And while sublimity expands his soul,
In the bright twinkling stars, sees worlds unnumbered roll.
This is the hour, when, on his midnight watch,
Borne on Atlantic waves, the hardy tar
Spreads every sail, the auspicious breeze to catch,
And pacing slow the deck, seeks out afar,
The welcome brilliance of the northern star:
Hope paints the pleasures of his native soil—
His cot, secure from elemental war;
Pleased, from the prore he hears the billows boil.
And in fair Emma's charms forgets his every toil.
Love, ever wakeful, at this solemn hour
From Bolivar soft stealing slumber chased;
To greet the inmates of Domingo's bower,
He left the silent street with cautious haste,
And up the winding road the mountain paced:
Not such quick throbs he in his bosom felt,
When with his little band the foe he faced;
As now, approaching to the spot where dwelt
She, who his joys would share, or at his sorrows melt.
Now, clambering up the brink of some huge crag,
That threats with frowning brow the vale below,
His panting courser scarce forbears to lag;
For seldom there the dangerous path, I trow,
Will footing sure to nimble goat bestow:
Now o'er his head the closing branches spread,
Through which the straggling moonbeams faintly glow:
All, all is peaceful as the silent dead,
Save echo that repeats the horse's hollow tread.
As the fond father o'er that sleeping boy
Bends with Affection's kindly speaking eye,
Whom stern disease late threatened to destroy,
Withered his strength, and robbed him of the dye,
That with the rose erst on his cheek did vie;
Though gratitude to Heaven within him burn,
That health's returning powers his veins supply;
Yet still he dreads the fever may return,
And wrap his darling child in an untimely urn;
So Bolivar, emerging from the wood,
Fixed a fond look upon the view serene:
Here the dark ruins of Caracas stood,
With rising domes, and tufted trees between;
Beyond, the Guayra's stream alternate seen,
Wandered along the vale in playful maze,
And sought in distant shades its waves to screen;
Next, softly blended by the silver rays,
The blue majestic hills peeped from the dusky haze:
"Vale of my youth!" the enraptured patriot cried;
"Scenes formed for friendship, love, and calm repose;
O ne'er again may tyranny and pride
Ravish thy sweets, and triumph in thy woes!
Free be thy sons! Still on their crest the rose;
And may that flag, in Freedom's cause unfurled,
The Indian and his favourite tree disclose;
Their motto (discord to oblivion hurled),
'At peace with all mankind, and friendship with the world.'
"But if by Heaven above it be decreed
Oppression's galling yoke they yet shall bear,
And that, in this dread silence, I may read
The sad prophetic warning of despair,
Grant, O ye Powers that rule the earth and air,
That every heart swell like the stormy wave,
In Freedom's cause, to show the world we dare
Indignant burst the shackles of the slave,
And here with Freedom live, or clasp her in the grave!"
He said: Soft music stole upon his ear;
Now died away, now swelled in measure bold;
No sound so pure, so heavenly sweet, so clear,
From harp, or flute, or organ, ever rolled,
Touched by adventurous hand of mortal mould:
'Tis hushed: the strain in mellow cadence fled;
And from an azure cloud's translucent fold,
A female form angelic slowly spread
Her dew-bespangled wings, and hovered o'er his head.
Majestic was her mien; her ringlets wild,
Bound with the flowers that love a southern zone,
Strove vainly to conceal the lustre mild
Of her bright eyes, that with affection shone,
Speaking that peace to human-kind unknown;
The bow and quiver glittered in her hand,
A starry vestment o'er her limbs was thrown;
By which the wondering chief might understand,
The guardian angel she, of fair Columbia's land.
"Warrior!" she said, with look benignly kind,
"Know, He, to whom this world is as a grain,
Who can on Andes' top the tempest bind,
Or hurl it o'er the bosom of the main,
Whose voice the awful thunder can restrain,
Whose nod, the towering hills themselves can feel,
Has heard thy prayers for this thy native plain;
And unto me 'tis gifted to reveal
How best thou mayst ensure Columbia's future weal.
"Let strangers still the smile of welcome share,
The foreign bark still in your harbours ride;
But of unthinking confidence beware,
Nor in each bold adventurer confide,
Who boasts the power the helm of state to guide:
Grant suffrage unto all; let none intrude,
And if a hero rise, in danger tried,
Be his reward — (the dearest to the good,)
The applauses of the just — his country's gratitude.
"Thus shall Columbia firmer hold the helm,
And ride the storm until its force abate,
Which else, with furious speed, might overwhelm
The yet enfeebled vessel of the state:
For it is written in the book of fate—
(And here the guardian angel dropped a tear,)
That Spain shall yet, with unrelenting hate,
Strive on these shores her iron throne to rear,
Till Faith and Valour joined shall down her banners tear.
"Tho' for a time the conflict doubtful be,
And the proud victors boast a partial sway;
Driven from their hold, they yet shall learn that He
Who bids the tropic sun, with ardent ray,
Spread in your plains a spring without decay;
Who bids the stags free on your mountains leap,
Gave you as free an heritage to stray:
And shall a man in chains make other's weep?
No! Heaven shall from his seat the tyrant headlong sweep!
"Know, He, whose fostering power all creatures share,
First planted Freedom in the breast of man,
And dark destraction waits on those who dare
Subvert the wheels of Nature's mazy plan,
Which nor their art can reach, nor judgment scan:
Presumptuous mortals! since this nether ball
Around the lamp of day its course began,
Nations have risen, at proud Ambition's call,
But as by vice they rose — how dreadful was their fall!
"There is an isle, in Europe's genial zone,
Which the far stretched Atlantic billows lave,
Britannia's land: to her, and her alone,
Heaven, Freedom unconstrained, unsullied, gave,
Fair are her daughters, and her sons are brave.
Those, boast in silken ties to bind the soul,
These, are sole monarchs of the warring wave;
Their steadfast faith, e'en foemen must extol,
And Ocean, trembling, hears their vollying thunders roll.
"Court her alliance, for your country's cause;
To her, above the rest, be commerce given;
From her example learn to model laws:
But, above all, to gain support from Heaven,
Far from your shores be superstition driven:
Tear priestcraft by the root, that ranker weed,
Which here with baneful influence long has thriven;
Cut off inquisitors; who, for his creed,
Doomed man, in secret cells, with lingering pangs to bleed.
So shall fair Science, borne on gentle wing,
Waft to Columbia joys she faintly knows;
Peace and contentment every dawn shall bring,
And love and rapture every evening close;
So shall her sons be free — their crest the rose;
And on their flag, in Freedom's cause unfurled,
The Indian 'neath his favourite tree repose;
Their motto (discord to oblivion hurled)
'At Peace with all mankind, and friendship with the world.'"
She spake: and casting on the chief a look
Inspiring nameless joy, to'ard heaven she flew,
And from her spreading noiseless pinions shook
A gentle shower of odoriferous dew:
The chief respectful gazed, till from his view
Her form, envailed in radiant majesty,
Was lost amidst the far etherial blue
Then to Domingo's cot again did hie,
Hope dancing in his heart, and sparkling in his eye.
But now the dawn appeared with lingering pace,
And, from the east, the beams of rising day
Began, from wood and dell, the shades to chase,
Darting, in every nook, the enlivening ray,
And burnishing the ocean's watery way:
The panther in his cave no longer slept,
But watched, in thicket hid, his reckless prey;
The clamorous Monas up the the branches crept,
And oft, from tree to tree, in restless gambol leaped.
Now, far beneath, La Guayra's forts appeared,
Round which the ocean pressed with circling sweep;
There yet the straggling ruins proudly reared
Their mouldering tops o'er many a rugged heap:
Behind, — the mountain rose abrupt and steep,
Studded with rocks half loosened from their site.
The stately ships, that floated on the deep
Becalmed, with flapping canvass spreading white,
Gave to the smooth expanse their quivering semblance bright.
Say not, because the chieftain hurried on,
That he regarded not the scene so fair,
Or that the beams of morn unheeded shone,
Inviting Spring, her garlands to prepare,
And, with her balmy breath, perfume the air.
No, — Nature's gifts his generous heart confessed,
But never wished alone these gifts to share;
He to the woodland cottage forward pressed,
To mingle all his praise with hers he loved the best.
Cape Blanco's sandy top he left behind,
And Catea's beach, where not a wave was heard:
The bending branches, o'er the path entwined,
Oft strove his anxious journey to retard;
But vainly thorns and creeping tendrils barred,
Or torrent rolled, to sweep him from his stay:
Love, though the elements against him warred,
Or doating parents, far more rude than they,
Deeming each danger light, will still assert his sway.
Sweet to the seaman, who, by tempest cast,
Has guided long his restless rocking bark,
Is that wished hour, when, from the lofty mast,
He can the destined land, though distant, mark,
Like a faint cloud amid the vapour dark:
Sweet to the huntsman, when the shadows fleet,
The tints of morn, — the soarings of the lark;
But O, there is an hour, than these more sweet,
When friends of kindred soul, after long absence meet!
This cup of bliss the young Columbian drank,
When meeting aged Montillo, and the maid
Reclined upon a verdant flowery bank
Beneath the green banana's cooling shade:
A truant tear adown each visage strayed,
While he his ardent toils and dangers drew.
Ye, on whom Love his magic wand has laid,
With hearts to sympathetic feelings true,
The source of such a tear, — I need not tell to you!
Domingo's frugal board again was spread—
Here the ripe plantane — there the luscious pine,
Again the feathery Palmetto bled,
And filled the spacious shell with fragrant wine,
That well supplied the produce of the vine;
The bow, the net, the flambeau, and the snare,
To grace the simple banquet all combine:
The guests sat down, each on his mossy chair,
In the cool breezy bower, to taste this Indian fare.
"A welcome," said Domingo, "and this meal,
Is all, brave chief, we proffer on this strand;
But if my humble thoughts I may reveal,
From Don Montillo well thou mayest demand
A nobler gift — that gentle lady's hand;"
"Such slender boon," the aged sire replied,
"To the deliverer of Columbia's land
I freely grant: receive thy blushing bride,
Whose heart, by warmest love, to thine has long been tied.
"Though Fortune's smiles be fickle as the wind,
Let not the dread of future evil blight
The pleasures of this day: recall to mind
The power that withered up Oppression's might,
And know that power will ne'er desert the right;
The gifts that gracious Heaven, my children, lays
Now at your feet, receive with pure delight;
Let Virtue be your guide, and you shall raise
Love from your native plain, and from the stranger praise."
Thy harp is rude, my muse! and rudely strung,
T' express the joy that brightened every eye,
Such may be felt, but never can be sung;
(For ill the powers of sweetest minstrelsy
The secret transports of the heart supply!)
When noonday's vertic heat no longer glowed,
The sire and lovers, ere the night drew nigh,
Left, with a kind farewell, the lone abode,
And to Caracas towers, in jocund converse, rode.
Bright Liberty, again, by Valour wooed,
From her celestial mansions downward flew.
Again the plain with blooming flowerets strewed,
And bade Caracas all her pride renew:
Rank grass no more amid the ruins grew,
But lengthened streets rose in perspective gay;
And pointed turrets high their summits threw:
To the guitar the youth resumed the lay,
And with the sprightly dance closed the swift passing day.
Again did Commerce lift her drooping head,
Cutting, with dauntless prow, the briny tide,
Her snowy wings the bounding vessel spread,
And mutual wealth, and mutual want supplied;
Cheerful, the village swain to labour hied
Adown the vale, or up the mountain's breast,
Till every field was clothed in summer pride:
With peace, with plenty, and with freedom blest,
All Venezuela smiled; — I may not tell the rest!