Story type: Theater
THE BRIDE OF MESSINA
Translated by A. Lodge
ISABELLA, Princess of Messina.
DON MANUEL | her Sons.
DON CAESAR |
DIEGO, an ancient Servant.
THE ELDERS OF MESSINA, mute.
THE CHORUS, consisting of the Followers of the two Princes.
[A spacious hall, supported on columns, with entrances
on both sides; at the back of the stage a large
folding-door leading to a chapel.]
[DONNA ISABELLA in mourning; the ELDERS OF MESSINA.]
Forth from my silent chamber’s deep recesses,
Gray Fathers of the State, unwillingly
I come; and, shrinking from your gaze, uplift
The veil that shades my widowed brows: the light
And glory of my days is fled forever!
And best in solitude and kindred gloom
To hide these sable weeds, this grief-worn frame,
Beseems the mourner’s heart. A mighty voice
Inexorable–duty’s stern command,
Calls me to light again.
Not twice the moon
Has filled her orb since to the tomb ye bore
My princely spouse, your city’s lord, whose arm
Against a world of envious foes around
Hurled fierce defiance! Still his spirit lives
In his heroic sons, their country’s pride:
Ye marked how sweetly from their childhood’s bloom
They grew in joyous promise to the years
Of manhood’s strength; yet in their secret hearts,
From some mysterious root accursed, upsprung
Unmitigable, deadly hate, that spurned
All kindred ties, all youthful, fond affections,
Still ripening with their thoughtful age; not mine
The sweet accord of family bliss; though each
Awoke a mother’s rapture; each alike
Smiled at my nourishing breast! for me alone
Yet lives one mutual thought, of children’s love;
In these tempestuous souls discovered else
By mortal strife and thirst of fierce revenge.
While yet their father reigned, his stern control
Tamed their hot spirits, and with iron yoke
To awful justice bowed their stubborn will:
Obedient to his voice, to outward seeming
They calmed their wrathful mood, nor in array
Ere met, of hostile arms; yet unappeased
Sat brooding malice in their bosoms’ depths;
They little reek of hidden springs whose power
Can quell the torrent’s fury: scarce their sire
In death had closed his eyes, when, as the spark
That long in smouldering embers sullen lay,
Shoots forth a towering flame; so unconfined
Burst the wild storm of brothers’ hate triumphant
O’er nature’s holiest bands. Ye saw, my friends,
Your country’s bleeding wounds, when princely strife
Woke discord’s maddening fires, and ranged her sons
In mutual deadly conflict; all around
Was heard the clash of arms, the din of carnage,
And e’en these halls were stained with kindred gore.
Torn was the state with civil rage, this heart
With pangs that mothers feel; alas, unmindful
Of aught but public woes, and pitiless
You sought my widow’s chamber–there with taunts
And fierce reproaches for your country’s ills
From that polluted spring of brother’s hate
Derived, invoked a parent’s warning voice,
And threatening told of people’s discontent
And princes’ crimes! “Ill-fated land! now wasted
By thy unnatural sons, ere long the prey
Of foeman’s sword! Oh, haste,” you cried, “and end
This strife! bring peace again, or soon Messina
Shall bow to other lords.” Your stern decree
Prevailed; this heart, with all a mother’s anguish
O’erlabored, owned the weight of public cares.
I flew, and at my children’s feet, distracted,
A suppliant lay; till to my prayers and tears
The voice of nature answered in their breasts!
Here in the palace of their sires, unarmed,
In peaceful guise Messina shall behold
The long inveterate foes; this is the day!
E’en now I wait the messenger that brings
The tidings of my sons’ approach: be ready
To give your princes joyful welcome home
With reverence such as vassals may beseem.
Bethink ye to fulfil your subject duties,
And leave to better wisdom weightier cares.
Dire was their strife to them, and to the State
Fruitful of ills; yet, in this happy bond
Of peace united, know that they are mighty
To stand against a world in arms, nor less
Enforce their sovereign will against yourselves.
[The ELDERS retire in silence; she
beckons to an old attendant, who remains.]
Old faithful servant, then true heart, cone near me;
Sharer of all a mother’s woes, be thine
The sweet communion of her joys: my treasure
Shrined in thy heart, my dear and holy secret
Shall pierce the envious veil, and shine triumphant
To cheerful day; too long by harsh decrees,
Silent and overpowered, affection yet
Shall utterance find in Nature’s tones of rapture!
And this imprisoned heart leap to the embrace
Of all it holds most dear, returned to glad
My desolate halls;
So bend thy aged steps
To the old cloistered sanctuary that guards
The darling of my soul, whose innocence
To thy true love (sweet pledge of happier days)!
Trusting I gave, and asked from fortune’s storm
A resting place and shrine. Oh, in this hour
Of bliss; the dear reward of all thy cares.
Give to my longing arms my child again!
[Trumpets are heard in the distance.]
Haste! be thy footsteps winged with joy–I hear
The trumpet’s blast, that tells in warlike accents
My sons are near:
[Exit DIEGO. Music is heard in an opposite
direction, and becomes gradually louder.]
Messina is awake!
Hark! how the stream of tongues hoarse murmuring
Rolls on the breeze,–’tis they! my mother’s heart
Feels their approach, and beats with mighty throes
Responsive to the loud, resounding march!
They come! they come! my children! oh, my children!
[The CHORUS enters.]
(It consists of two semi-choruses which enter at the same time
from opposite sides, and after marching round the stage range
themselves in rows, each on the side by which it entered. One
semi-chorus consists of young knights, the other of older ones,
each has its peculiar costume and ensigns. When the two choruses
stand opposite to each other, the march ceases, and the two leaders
speak.) [The first chorus consists of Cajetan, Berengar, Manfred,
Tristan, and eight followers of Don Manuel. The second of Bohemund,
Roger, Hippolyte, and nine others of the party of Don Caesar.]
I greet ye, glittering halls
Of olden time
Cradle of kings! Hail! lordly roof,
In pillared majesty sublime!
Sheathed be the sword!
In chains before the portal lies
The fiend with tresses snake-entwined,
Fell Discord! Gently treat the inviolate floor!
Peace to this royal dome!
Thus by the Furies’ brood we swore,
And all the dark, avenging Deities!
I rage! I burn! and scarce refrain
To lift the glittering steel on high,
For, lo! the Gorgon-visaged train
Of the detested foeman nigh:
Shall I my swelling heart control?
To parley deign–or still in mortal strife
The tumult of my soul?
Dire sister, guardian of the spot, to thee
Awe-struck I bend the knee,
Nor dare with arms profane thy deep tranquillity!
Welcome the peaceful strain!
Together we adore the guardian power
Of these august abodes!
Sacred the hour
To kindred brotherly ties
And reverend, holy sympathies;–
Our hearts the genial charm shall own,
And melt awhile at friendship’s soothing tone:–
But when in yonder plain
We meet–then peace away!
Come gleaming arms, and battle’s deadly fray!
The whole Chorus.
But when in yonder plain
We meet–then peace away!
Come gleaming arms, and battle’s deadly fray!
I hate thee not–nor call thee foe,
My brother! this our native earth,
The land that gave our fathers birth:–
Of chief’s behest the slave decreed,
The vassal draws the sword at need,
For chieftain’s rage we strike the blow,
For stranger lords our kindred blood must flow.
Hate fires their souls–we ask not why;–
At honor’s call to fight and die,
Boast of the true and brave!
Unworthy of a soldier’s name
Who burns not for his chieftain’s fame!
The whole Chorus
Unworthy of a soldier’s name
Who burns not for his chieftain’s fame!
One of the Chorus
Thus spoke within my bosom’s core
The thought–as hitherward I strayed;
And pensive ‘mid the waving store,
I mused, of autumn’s yellow glade:–
These gifts of nature’s bounteous reign,–
The teeming earth, and golden grain,
Yon elms, among whose leaves entwine
The tendrils of the clustering vine;–
Gay children of our sunny clime,–
Region of spring’s eternal prime!
Each charm should woo to love and joy,
No cares the dream of bliss annoy,
And pleasure through life’s summer day
Speed every laughing hour away.
We rage in blood,–oh, dire disgrace!
For this usurping, alien race;
From some far distant land they came,
Beyond the sun’s departing flame.
And owned upon our friendly shore
The welcome of our sires of yore.
Alas! their sons in thraldom pine,
The vassals of this stranger line.
Yes! pleased, on our land, from his azure way,
The sun ever smiles with unclouded ray.
But never, fair isle, shall thy sons repose
‘Mid the sweets which the faithless waves enclose.
On their bosom they wafted the corsair bold,
With his dreaded barks to our coast of old.
For thee was thy dower of beauty vain,
‘Twas the treasure that lured the spoiler’s train.
Oh, ne’er from these smiling vales shall rise
A sword for our vanquished liberties;
‘Tis not where the laughing Ceres reigns,
And the jocund lord of the flowery plains:–
Where the iron lies hid in the mountain cave,
Is the cradle of empire–the home of the brave!
[The folding-doors at the back of the stage are thrown open.
DONNA ISABELLA appears between her sons, DON MANUEL and DON CAESAR.]
Lift high the notes of praise!
Behold! where lies the awakening sun,
She comes, and from her queenly brow
Shoots glad, inspiring rays.
Mistress, we bend to thee!
Fair is the moon amid the starry choir
That twinkle o’er the sky,
Shining in silvery, mild tranquillity;–
The mother with her sons more fair!
See! blooming at her side,
She leads the royal, youthful pair;
With gentle grace, and soft, maternal pride,
Attempering sweet their manly fire.
From this fair stem a beauteous tree
With ever-springing boughs shall smile,
And with immortal verdure shade our isle;
Mother of heroes, joy to thee!
Triumphant as the sun thy kingly race
Shall spread from clime to clime,
And give a deathless name to rolling time!
(comes forward with her SONS).
Look down! benignant Queen of Heaven, and still,
This proud tumultuous heart, that in my breast
Swells with a mother’s tide of ecstasy,
As blazoned in these noble youths, my image
More perfect shows;–Oh, blissful hour! the first
That comprehends the fulness of my joy,
When long-constrained affection dares to pour
In unison of transport from my heart,
Unchecked, a parent’s undivided love:
Oh! it was ever one–my sons were twain.
Say–shall I revel in the dreams of bliss,
And give my soul to Nature’s dear emotions?
Is this warm pressure of thy brother’s hand
A dagger in thy breast?
[To DON MANUEL.]
Or when my eyes
Feed on that brow with love’s enraptured gaze,
Is it a wrong to thee?
[To DON CAESAR.]
Trembling, I pause,
Lest e’en affection’s breath should wake the fires
Of slumbering hate.
[After regarding both with inquiring looks
Speak! In your secret hearts
What purpose dwells? Is it the ancient feud
Unreconciled, that in your father’s halls
A moment stilled; beyond the castle gates,
Where sits infuriate war, and champs the bit–
Shall rage anew in mortal, bloody conflict?
Concord or strife–the fate’s decree
Is bosomed yet in dark futurity!
What comes, we little heed to know,
Prepared for aught the hour may show!
What mean these arms? this warlike, dread array,
That in the palace of your sires portends
Some fearful issue? needs a mother’s heart
Outpoured, this rugged witness of her joys?
Say, in these folding arms shall treason hide
The deadly snare? Oh, these rude, pitiless men,
The ministers of your wrath!–trust not the show
Of seeming friendship; treachery in their breasts
Lurks to betray, and long-dissembled hate.
Ye are a race of other lands; your sires
Profaned their soil; and ne’er the invader’s yoke
Was easy–never in the vassal’s heart
Languished the hope of sweet revenge;–our sway
Not rooted in a people’s love, but owns
Allegiance from their fears; with secret joy–
For conquest’s ruthless sword, and thraldom’s chains
From age to age, they wait the atoning hour
Of princes’ downfall;–thus their bards awake
The patriot strain, and thus from sire to son
Rehearsed, the old traditionary tale
Beguiles the winter’s night. False is the world,
My sons, and light are all the specious ties
By fancy twined: friendship–deceitful name!
Its gaudy flowers but deck our summer fortune,
To wither at the first rude breath of autumn!
So happy to whom heaven has given a brother;
The friend by nature signed–the true and steadfast!
Nature alone is honest–nature only–
When all we trusted strews the wintry shore–
On her eternal anchor lies at rest,
Nor heeds the tempest’s rage.
(taking their hands).
Be noble, and forget the fancied wrongs
Of boyhood’s age: more godlike is forgiveness
Than victory, and in your father’s grave
Should sleep the ancient hate:–Oh, give your days
Renewed henceforth to peace and holy love!
[She recedes one or two steps, as if to give them space
to approach each other. Both fix their eyes on the ground
without regarding one another.]
(after awaiting for some time, with suppressed emotion,
a demonstration on the part of her sons).
I can no more; my prayers–my tears are vain:–
‘Tis well! obey the demon in your hearts!
Fulfil your dread intent, and stain with blood
The holy altars of your household gods;–
These halls that gave you birth, the stage where murder
Shall hold his festival of mutual carnage
Beneath a mother’s eye!–then, foot to foot,
Close, like the Theban pair, with maddening gripe,
And fold each other in a last embrace!
Each press with vengeful thrust the dagger home,
And “Victory!” be your shriek of death:–nor then
Shall discord rest appeased; the very flame
That lights your funeral pyre shall tower dissevered
In ruddy columns to the skies, and tell
With horrid image–“thus they lived and died!”
[She goes away; the BROTHERS stand as before.]
How have her words with soft control
Resistless calmed the tempest of my soul!
No guilt of kindred blood be mine!
Thus with uplifted hands I prey;
Think, brothers, on the awful day,
And tremble at the wrath divine!
(without taking his eyes from the ground).
Thou art my elder–speak–without dishonor
I yield to thee.
One gracious word, an instant,
My tongue is rival in the strife of love!
I am the guiltier–weaker—-
Say not so!
Who doubts thy noble heart, knows thee not well;
The words were prouder, if thy soul were mean.
It burns indignant at the thought of wrong–
But thou–methinks–in passion’s fiercest mood,
‘Twas aught but scorn that harbored in thy breast.
Oh! had I known thy spirit thus to peace
Inclined, what thousand griefs had never torn
A mother’s heart!
I find thee just and true:
Men spoke thee proud of soul.
The curse of greatness!
Ears ever open to the babbler’s tale.
Thou art too proud to meanness–I to falsehood!
We are deceived, betrayed!
The sport of frenzy!
And said my mother true, false is the world?
Believe her, false as air.
Give me thy hand!
And thine be ever next my heart!
[They stand clasping each other’s hands,
and regard each other in silence.]
Upon thy brow, and still behold my mother
In some dear lineament.
Her image looks
From thine, and wondrous in my bosom wakes
And is it thou?–that smile
Benignant on thy face?–thy lips that charm
With gracious sounds of love and dear forgiveness?
Is this my brother, this the hated foe?
His mien all gentleness and truth, his voice,
Whose soft prevailing accents breathe of friendship!
[After a pause.]
Shall aught divide us?
We are one forever!
[They rush into each other’s arms.]
(to the Second).
Why stand we thus, and coldly gaze,
While Nature’s holy transports burn?
No dear embrace of happier days
The pledge–that discord never shall return!
Brothers are they by kindred band;
We own the ties of home and native land.
[Both CHORUSES embrace.]
[A MESSENGER enters.]
Second CHORUS to DON CAESAR
Rejoice, my prince, thy messenger returns
And mark that beaming smile! the harbinger
Of happy tidings.
Health to me, and health
To this delivered state! Oh sight of bliss,
That lights mine eyes with rapture! I behold
Their hands in sweet accord entwined; the sons
Of my departed lord, the princely pair
Dissevered late by conflict’s hottest rage.
Yes, from the flames of hate, a new-born Phoenix,
Our love aspires!
I bring another joy;
My staff is green with flourishing shoots.
(taking him aside).
Oh, tell me
Thy gladsome message.
All is happiness
On this auspicious day; long sought, the lost one
Discovered! Oh, where is she? Speak!
Within Messina’s walls she lies concealed.
(turning to the First SEMI-CHORUS).
A ruddy glow mounts in my brother’s cheek,
And pleasure dances in his sparkling eye;
Whate’er the spring, with sympathy of love
My inmost heart partakes his joy.
(to the MESSENGER).
Come, lead me;
Farewell, Don Manuel; to meet again
Enfolded in a mother’s arms! I fly
To cares of utmost need.
[He is about to depart.
Make no delay;
And happiness attend thee!
(after a pause of reflection, he returns).
How thy looks
Awake my soul to transport! Yes, my brother,
We shall be friends indeed! This hour is bright
With glad presage of ever-springing love,
That in the enlivening beam shall flourish fair,
Sweet recompense of wasted years!
Betokens goodly fruit.
I tear myself
Reluctant from thy arms, but think not less
If thus I break this festal hour–my heart
Thrills with a holy joy.
(with manifest absence of mind).
Obey the moment!
Our lives belong to love.
What calls me hence—-
Enough! thou leav’st thy heart.
No envious secret
Shall part us long; soon the last darkening fold
Shall vanish from my breast.
[Turning to the CHORUS.]
Stilled is our strife; he is my deadliest foe,
Detested as the gates of hell, who dares
To blow the fires of discord; none may hope
To win my love, that with malicious tales
Encroach upon a brother’s ear, and point
With busy zeal of false, officious friendship.
The dart of some rash, angry word, escaped
From passion’s heat; it wounds not from the lips,
But, swallowed by suspicion’s greedy ear,
Like a rank, poisonous weed, embittered creeps,
And hangs about her with a thousand shoots,
Perplexing nature’s ties.
[He embraces his brother again, and goes away
accompanied by the Second CHORUS.]
Wondering, my prince,
I gaze, for in thy looks some mystery
Strange-seeming shows: scarce with abstracted mien
And cold thou answered’st, when with earnest heart
Thy brother poured the strain of dear affection.
As in a dream thou stand’st, and lost in thought,
As though–dissevered from its earthly frame–
Thy spirit roved afar. Not thine the breast
That deaf to nature’s voice, ne’er owned the throbs
Of kindred love:–nay more–like one entranced
In bliss, thou look’st around, and smiles of rapture
Play on thy cheek.
How shall my lips declare
The transports of my swelling heart? My brother
Revels in glad surprise, and from his breast
Instinct with strange new-felt emotions, pours
The tide of joy; but mine–no hate came with me,
Forgot the very spring of mutual strife!
High o’er this earthly sphere, on rapture’s wings,
My spirit floats; and in the azure sea,
Above–beneath–no track of envious night
Disturbs the deep serene! I view these halls,
And picture to my thoughts the timid joy
Of my sweet bride, as through the palace gates,
In pride of queenly state, I lead her home.
She loved alone the loving one, the stranger,
And little deems that on her beauteous brow
Messina’s prince shall ‘twine the nuptial wreath.
How sweet, with unexpected pomp of greatness,
To glad the darling of my soul! too long
I brook this dull delay of crowning bliss!
Her beauty’s self, that asks no borrowed charm,
Shall shine refulgent, like the diamond’s blaze
That wins new lustre from the circling gold!
Long have I marked thee, prince, with curious eye,
Foreboding of some mystery deep enshrined
Within thy laboring breast. This day, impatient,
Thy lips have burst the seal; and unconstrained
Confess a lover’s joy;–the gladdening chase,
The Olympian coursers, and the falcon’s flight
Can charm no more:–soon as the sun declines
Beneath the ruddy west, thou hiest thee quick
To some sequestered path, of mortal eye
Unseen–not one of all our faithful train
Companion of thy solitary way.
Say, why so long concealed the blissful flame?
Stranger to fear–ill-brooked thy princely heart
One thought unuttered.
Ever on the wing
Is mortal joy;–with silence best we guard
The fickle good;–but now, so near the goal
Of all my cherished hopes, I dare to speak.
To-morrow’s sun shall see her mine! no power
Of hell can make us twain! With timid stealth
No longer will I creep at dusky eve,
To taste the golden fruits of Cupid’s tree,
And snatch a fearful, fleeting bliss: to-day
With bright to-morrow shall be one! So smooth
As runs the limpid brook, or silvery sand
That marks the flight of time, our lives shall flow
In continuity of joy!
Our hearts, my prince, with silent vows have blessed
Thy happy love; and now from every tongue,
For her–the royal, beauteous bride–should sound
The glad acclaim; so tell what nook unseen,
What deep umbrageous solitude, enshrines
The charmer of thy heart? With magic spells
Almost I deem she mocks our gaze, for oft
In eager chase we scour each rustic path
And forest dell; yet not a trace betrayed
The lover’s haunts, ne’er were the footsteps marked
Of this mysterious fair.
The spell is broke!
And all shall be revealed: now list my tale:–
‘Tis five months flown,–my father yet controlled
The land, and bowed our necks with iron sway;
Little I knew but the wild joys of arms,
And mimic warfare of the chase;–
Long had we tracked the boar with zealous toil
On yonder woody ridge:–it chanced, pursuing
A snow-white hind, far from your train I roved
Amid the forest maze;–the timid beast,
Along the windings of the narrow vale,
Through rocky cleft and thick-entangled brake,
Flew onward, scarce a moment lost, nor distant
Beyond a javelin’s throw; nearer I came not,
Nor took an aim; when through a garden’s gate,
Sudden she vanished:–from my horse quick springing,
I followed:–lo! the poor scared creature lay
Stretched at the feet of a young, beauteous nun,
That strove with fond caress of her fair hands
To still its throbbing heart: wondering, I gazed;
And motionless–my spear, in act to strike,
High poised–while she, with her large piteous eyes
For mercy sued–and thus we stood in silence
Regarding one another.
How long the pause
I know not–time itself forgot;–it seemed
Eternity of bliss: her glance of sweetness
Flew to my soul; and quick the subtle flame
Pervaded all my heart:–
But what I spoke,
And how this blessed creature answered, none
May ask; it floats upon my thought, a dream
Of childhood’s happy dawn! Soon as my sense
Returned, I felt her bosom throb responsive
To mine,–then fell melodious on my ear
The sound, as of a convent bell, that called
To vesper song; and, like some shadowy vision
That melts in air, she flitted from my sight,
And was beheld no more.
Thy story thrills
My breast with pious awe! Prince, thou hast robbed
The sanctuary, and for the bride of heaven
Burned with unholy passion! Oh, remember
The cloister’s sacred vows!
Thenceforth one path
My footsteps wooed; the fickle train was still
Of young desires–new felt my being’s aim,
My soul revealed! and as the pilgrim turns
His wistful gaze, where, from the orient sky,
With gracious lustre beams Redemption’s star;–
So to that brightest point of heaven, her presence,
My hopes and longings centred all. No sun
Sank in the western waves, but smiled farewell
To two united lovers:–thus in stillness
Our hearts were twined,–the all-seeing air above us
Alone the faithful witness of our joys!
Oh, golden hours! Oh, happy days! nor Heaven
Indignant viewed our bliss;–no vows enchained
Her spotless soul; naught but the link which bound it
Eternally to mine!
Those hallowed walls,
Perchance the calm retreat of tender youth,
No living grave?
In infant innocence
Consigned a holy pledge, ne’er has she left
Her cloistered home.
But what her royal line?
The noble only spring from noble stem.
A secret to herself,–she ne’er has learned
Her name or fatherland.
And not a trace
Guides to her being’s undiscovered springs?
An old domestic, the sole messenger
Sent by her unknown mother, oft bespeaks her
Of kingly race.
And hast thou won naught else
From her garrulous age?
Too much I feared to peril
My secret bliss!
What were his words? What tidings
He bore–perchance thou know’st.
Oft he has cheered her
With promise of a happier time, when all
Shall be revealed.
Oh, say–betokens aught
The time is near?
Not distant far the day
That to the arms of kindred love once more
Shall give the long forsaken, orphaned maid–
Thus with mysterious words the aged man
Has shadowed oft what most I dread–for awe
Of change disturbs the soul supremely blest:
Nay, more; but yesterday his message spoke
The end of all my joys–this very dawn,
He told, should smile auspicious on her fate,
And light to other scenes–no precious hour
Delayed my quick resolves–by night I bore her
In secret to Messina.
Rash the deed
Of sacrilegious spoil! forgive, my prince,
The bold rebuke; thus to unthinking youth
Old age may speak in friendship’s warning voice.
Hard by the convent of the Carmelites,
In a sequestered garden’s tranquil bound,
And safe from curious eyes, I left her,–hastening
To meet my brother: trembling there she counts
The slow-paced hours, nor deems how soon triumphant
In queenly state, high on the throne of fame,
Messina shall behold my timid bride.
For next, encompassed by your knightly train,
With pomp of greatness in the festal show,
Her lover’s form shall meet her wondering gaze!
Thus will I lead her to my mother; thus–
While countless thousands on her passage wait
Amid the loud acclaim–the royal bride
Shall reach my palace gates!
Command us, prince,
We live but to obey!
I tore myself
Reluctant from her arms; my every thought
Shall still be hers: so come along, my friends,
To where the turbaned merchant spreads his store
Of fabrics golden wrought with curious art;
And all the gathered wealth of eastern climes.
First choose the well-formed sandals–meet to guard
And grace her delicate feet; then for her robe
The tissue, pure as Etna’s snow that lies
Nearest the sun-light as the wreathy mist
At summer dawn–so playful let it float
About her airy limbs. A girdle next,
Purple with gold embroidered o’er, to bind
With witching grace the tunic that confines
Her bosom’s swelling charms: of silk the mantle,
Gorgeous with like empurpled hues, and fixed
With clasp of gold–remember, too, the bracelets
To gird her beauteous arms; nor leave the treasure
Of ocean’s pearly deeps and coral caves.
About her locks entwine a diadem
Of purest gems–the ruby’s fiery glow
Commingling with the emerald’s green. A veil,
From her tiara pendent to her feet,
Like a bright fleecy cloud shall circle round
Her slender form; and let a myrtle wreath
Crown the enchanting whole!
We haste, my prince.
Amid the Bazar’s glittering rows, to cull
Each rich adornment.
From my stables lead
A palfrey, milk-white as the steeds that draw
The chariot of the sun; purple the housings,
The bridle sparkling o’er with precious gems,
For it shall bear my queen! Yourselves be ready
With trumpet’s cheerful clang, in martial train
To lead your mistress home: let two attend me,
The rest await my quick return; and each
Guard well my secret purpose.
[He goes away accompanied by two of the CHORUS.]
The princely strife is o’er, and say,
What sport shall wing the slow-paced hours,
And cheat the tedious day?
With hope and fear’s enlivening zest
Disturb the slumber of the breast,
And wake life’s dull, untroubled sea
With freshening airs of gay variety.
One of the Chorus
Lovely is peace! A beauteous boy,
Couched listless by the rivulet’s glassy tide,
‘Mid nature’s tranquil scene,
He views the lambs that skip with innocent joy,
And crop the meadow’s flowering pride:–
Then with his flute’s enchanting sound,
He wakes the mountain echoes round,
Or slumbers in the sunset’s ruddy sheen,
Lulled by the murmuring melody.
But war for me! my spirit’s treasure,
Its stern delight, and wilder pleasure:
I love the peril and the pain,
And revel in the surge of fortune’s boisterous main!
Is there not love, and beauty’s smile
That lures with soft, resistless wile?
‘Tis thrilling hope! ’tis rapturous fear
‘Tis heaven upon this mortal sphere;
When at her feet we bend the knee,
And own the glance of kindred ecstasy
For ever on life’s checkered way,
‘Tis love that tints the darkening hues of care
With soft benignant ray:
The mirthful daughter of the wave,
Celestial Venus ever fair,
Enchants our happy spring with fancy’s gleam,
And wakes the airy forms of passion’s golden dream.
To the wild woods away!
Quick let us follow in the train
Of her, chaste huntress of the silver bow;
And from the rocks amain
Track through the forest gloom the bounding roe,
The war-god’s merry bride,
The chase recalls the battle’s fray,
And kindles victory’s pride:–
Up with the streaks of early morn,
We scour with jocund hearts the misty vale,
Loud echoing to the cheerful horn
Over mountain–over dale–
And every languid sense repair,
Bathed in the rushing streams of cold, reviving air.
Or shall we trust the ever-moving sea,
The azure goddess, blithe and free.
Whose face, the mirror of the cloudless sky,
Lures to her bosom wooingly?
Quick let us build on the dancing waves
A floating castle gay,
And merrily, merrily, swim away!
Who ploughs with venturous keel the brine
Of the ocean crystalline–
His bride is fortune, the world his own,
For him a harvest blooms unsown:–
Here, like the wind that swift careers
The circling bound of earth and sky,
Flits ever-changeful destiny!
Of airy chance ’tis the sportive reign,
And hope ever broods on the boundless main
Nor on the watery waste alone
Of the tumultuous, heaving sea;–
On the firm earth that sleeps secure,
Based on the pillars of eternity.
Say, when shall mortal joy endure?
New bodings in my anxious breast,
Waked by this sudden friendship, rise;
Ne’er would I choose my home of rest
On the stilled lava-stream, that cold
Beneath the mountain lies
Not thus was discord’s flame controlled–
Too deep the rooted hate–too long
They brooded in their sullen hearts
O’er unforgotten, treasured wrong. In warning visions oft dismayed,
I read the signs of coming woe;
And now from this mysterious maid
My bosom tells the dreaded ills shall flow:
Unblest, I deem, the bridal chain
Shall knit their secret loves, accursed
With holy cloisters’ spoil profane.
No crooked paths to virtue lead;
Ill fruit has ever sprung from evil seed!
And thus to sad unhallowed rites
Of an ill-omened nuptial tie,
Too well ye know their father bore
A bride of mournful destiny,
Torn from his sire, whose awful curse has sped
Heaven’s vengeance on the impious bed!
This fierce, unnatural rage atones
A parent’s crime–decreed by fate,
Their mother’s offspring, strife and hate!
[The scene changes to a garden opening on the sea.]
(steps forward from an alcove. She walks to and fro with an
agitated air, looking round in every direction. Suddenly she
stands still and listens).
No! ’tis not he: ’twas but the playful wind
Rustling the pine-tops. To his ocean bed
The sun declines, and with o’erwearied heart
I count the lagging hours: an icy chill
Creeps through my frame; the very solitude
And awful silence fright my trembling soul!
Where’er I turn naught meets my gaze–he leaves me
Forsaken and alone!
And like a rushing stream the city’s hum
Floats on the breeze, and dull the mighty sea
Rolls murmuring to the rocks: I shrink to nothing
With horrors compassed round; and like the leaf,
Borne on the autumn blast, am hurried onward
Through boundless space.
Alas! that e’er I left
My peaceful cell–no cares, no fond desires
Disturbed my breast, unruffled as the stream
That glides in sunshine through the verdant mead:
Nor poor in joys. Now–on the mighty surge
Of fortune, tempest-tossed–the world enfolds me
With giant arms! Forgot my childhood’s ties
I listened to the lover’s flattering tale–
Listened, and trusted! From the sacred dome
Allured–betrayed–for sure some hell-born magic
Enchained my frenzied sense–I fled with him,
The invader of religion’s dread abodes!
Where art thou, my beloved? Haste–return–
With thy dear presence calm my struggling soul!
Hark! the sweet voice! No! ’twas the echoing surge
That beats upon the shore; alas! he comes not.
More faintly, o’er the distant waves, the sun
Gleams with expiring ray; a deathlike shudder
Creeps to my heart, and sadder, drearier grows
E’en desolation’s self.
[She walks to and fro, and then listens again.]
Yes! from the thicket shade
A voice resounds! ’tis he! the loved one!
No fond illusion mocks my listening ear.
‘Tis louder–nearer: to his arms I fly–
To his breast!
[She rushes with outstretched arms to the
extremity of the garden. DON CAESAR meets her.]
DON CAESAR. BEATRICE.
(starting back in horror)
What do I see?
[At the same moment the Chorus comes forward.]
Angelic sweetness! fear not.
[To the Chorus.]
Retire! your gleaming arms and rude array
Affright the timorous maid.
Fear nothing! beauty
And virgin shame are sacred in my eyes.
[The Chorus steps aside. He approaches and takes her hand.]
Where hast thou been? for sure some envious power
Has hid thee from my gaze: long have I sought thee:
E’en from the hour when ‘mid the funeral rites
Of the dead prince, like some angelic vision,
Lit with celestial brightness, on my sight
Thou shonest, no other image in my breast
Waking or dreaming, lives; nor to thyself
Unknown thy potent spells; my glance of fire,
My faltering accents, and my hand that lay
Trembling in thine, bespoke my ecstasy!
Aught else with solemn majesty the rite
And holy place forbade:
The bell proclaimed
The awful sacrifice! With downcast eyes,
And kneeling I adored: soon as I rose,
And caught with eager gaze thy form again,
Sudden it vanished; yet, with mighty magic
Of love enchained, my spirit tracked thy presence;
Nor ever, with unwearied quest, I cease
At palace gates, amid the temple’s throng,
In secret paths retired, or public scenes,
Where beauteous innocence perchance might rove,
To mark each passing form–in vain; but, guided
By some propitious deity this day
One of my train, with happy vigilance,
Espied thee in the neighboring church.
[BEATRICE, who had stood trembling with averted eyes,
here makes a gesture of terror.]
I see thee
Once more; and may the spirit from this frame
Be severed ere we part! Now let me snatch
This glad, auspicious moment, and defy
Or chance, or envious demon’s power, to shake
Henceforth my solid bliss; here I proclaim thee,
Before this listening warlike train my bride,
With pledge of knightly honors!
[He shows her to the Chorus.]
Who thou art,
I ask not: thou art mine! But that thy soul
And birth are pure alike one glance informed
My inmost heart; and though thy lot were mean,
And poor thy lowly state, yet would I strain thee
With rapture to my arms: no choice remains,
Thou art my love–my wife! Know too, that lifted
On fortune’s height, I spurn control; my will
Can raise thee to the pinnacle of greatness–
Enough my name–I am Don Caesar! None
Is nobler in Messina!
[BEATRICE starts back in amazement. He remarks
her agitation, and after a pause continues.]
What a grace
Lives in thy soft surprise and modest silence!
Yes! gentle humbleness is beauty’s crown–
The beautiful forever hid, and shrinking
From its own lustre: but thy spirit needs
Repose, for aught of strange–e’en sudden joy–
Is terror-fraught. I leave thee.
[Turning to the Chorus.]
From this hour
She is your mistress, and my bride; so teach her
With honors due to entertain the pomp
Of queenly state. I will return with speed,
And lead her home as fits Messina’s princess.
[He goes away.]
BEATRICE and the Chorus.
Fair maiden–hail to thee
Thou lovely queen!
Thine is the crown, and thine the victory!
Of heroes to a distant age,
The blooming mother thou shalt shine,
Preserver of this kingly line.
And thrice I bid thee hail,
Thou happy fair!
Sent in auspicious hour to bless
This favored race–the god’s peculiar care.
Here twine the immortal wreaths of fame
And evermore, from sire to son,
Rolls on the sceptered sway,
To heirs of old renown, a race of deathless name!
The household gods exultingly
Thy coming wait;
The ancient, honored sires,
That on the portals frown sedate,
Shall smile for thee!
There blooming Hebe shall thy steps attend;
And golden victory, that sits
By Jove’s eternal throne, with waving plumes
For conquest ever spread,
To welcome thee from heaven descend.
Ne’er from this queenly, bright array
The crown of beauty fades,
Departing to the realms of day,
Each to the next, as good and fair,
Extends the zone of feminine grace,
And veil of purity:–
Oh, happy race!
What vision glads my raptured eye!
Equal in nature’s blooming pride,
I see the mother and the virgin bride.
(awaking from her reverie).
Oh, luckless hour!
Alas! ill-fated maid!
Where shall I fly
From these rude warlike men?
Lost and betrayed!
A shudder o’er me came,
When of this race accursed–the brothers twain–
Their hands embrued with kindred gore,
I heard the dreaded name;
Oft told, their strife and serpent hate
With terror thrilled lay bosom’s core:–
And now–oh, hapless fate!
I tremble, ‘mid the rage of discord thrown,
Deserted and alone!
[She runs into the alcove.
Son of the immortal deities,
And blest is he, the lord of power;
His every joy the world can give;
Of all that mortals prize
He culls the flower.
For him from ocean’s azure caves
The diver bears each pearl of purest ray;
Whate’er from nature’s boundless field
Or toil or art has won,
Obsequious at his feet we lay;
His choice is ever free;
We bow to chance, and fortune’s blind decree.
But this of princes’ lot I deem
The crowning treasure, joy supreme–
Of love the triumph and the prize,
The beauty, star of neighboring eyes!
She blooms for him alone,
He calls the fairest maid his own.
Armed for the deadly fray,
The corsair bounds upon the strand,
And drags, amid the gloom of night, away,
The shrieking captive train,
Of wild desires the hapless prey;
But ne’er his lawless hands profane
The gem–the peerless flower–
Whose charms shall deck the Sultan’s bower.
Now haste and watch, with curious eye,
These hallowed precincts round,
That no presumptuous foot come nigh
The secret, solitary ground
Guard well the maiden fair,
Your chieftain’s brightest jewel owns your care.
[The Chorus withdraws to the background.]
[The scene changes to a chamber in the interior of the palace.
DONNA ISABELLA between DON MANUEL and DON CAESAR.]
The long-expected, festal day is come,
My children’s hearts are twined in one, as thus
I fold their hands. Oh, blissful hour, when first
A mother dares to speak in nature’s voice,
And no rude presence checks the tide of love.
The clang of arms affrights mine ear no more;
And as the owls, ill-omened brood of night,
From some old, shattered homestead’s ruined walls,
Their ancient reign, fly forth a dusky swarm,
Darkening the cheerful day; when absent long,
The dwellers home return with joyous shouts,
To build the pile anew; so Hate departs
With all his grisly train; pale Envy, scowling Malice,
And hollow-eyed Suspicion; from our gates,
Hoarse murmuring, to the realms of night; while Peace,
By Concord and fair Friendship led along,
Comes smiling in his place.
But not alone
This day of joy to each restores a brother;
It brings a sister! Wonderstruck you gaze!
Yet now the truth, in silence guarded long,
Bursts from my soul. Attend! I have a daughter!
A sister lives, ordained by heaven to bind ye
With ties unknown before.
We have a sister!
What hast thou said, my mother? never told
Her being till this hour!
In childhood’s years,
Oft of a sister we have heard, untimely
Snatched in her cradle by remorseless death;
So ran the tale.
And thou wert silent!
Hear how the seed was sown in early time,
That now shall ripen to a joyful harvest.
Ye bloomed in boyhood’s tender age; e’en then
By mutual, deadly hate, the bitter spring
Of grief to this torn, anxious heart, dissevered;
Oh, may your strife return no more! A vision,
Strange and mysterious, in your father’s breast
Woke dire presage: it seemed that from his couch,
With branches intertwined, two laurels grew,
And in the midst a lily all in flames,
That, catching swift the boughs and knotted stems,
Burst forth with crackling rage, and o’er the house
Spread in one mighty sea of fire: perplexed
By this terrific dream, my husband sought
An Arab, skilled to read the stars, and long
The trusted oracle, whose counsels swayed
His inmost purpose: thus the boding sage
Spoke Fate’s decrees: if I a daughter bore,
Destruction to his sons and all his race
From her should spring. Soon, by heaven’s will, this child
Of dreadful omen saw the light; your sire
Commanded instant in the waves to throw
The new-born innocent; a mother’s love
Prevailed, and, aided by a faithful servant,
I snatched the babe from death.
Blest be the hands
The ministers of thy care! Oh, ever rich
Of counsels was a parent’s love!
Than Nature’s mighty voice, a warning dream
Impelled to save my child: while yet unborn
She slumbered in my womb, sleeping I saw
An infant, fair as of celestial kind,
That played upon the grass; soon from the wood
A lion rushed, and from his gory jaws,
Caressing, in the infant’s lap let fall
His prey, new-caught; then through the air down swept
An eagle, and with fond caress alike
Dropped from his claws a trembling kid, and both
Cowered at the infant’s feet, a gentle pair.
A monk, the saintly guide whose counsels poured
In every earthly need, the balm of heaven
Upon my troubled soul, my dream resolved.
Thus spoke the man of God: a daughter, sent
To knit the warring spirits of my sons
In bonds of tender love, should recompense
A mother’s pains! Deep in my heart I treasured
His words, and, reckless of the Pagan seer,
Preserved the blessed child, ordained of heaven
To still your growing strife; sweet pledge of hope
And messenger of peace!
(embracing his brother).
There needs no sister
To join our hearts; she shall but bind them closer.
In a lone spot obscure, by stranger hands
Nurtured, the secret flower has grown; to me
Denied the joy to mark each infant charm
And opening grace from that sad hour of parting;
These arms ne’er clasped my child again! her sire,
To jealousy’s corroding fears a prey,
And brooding dark suspicion, restless tracked
Each day my steps.
Yet three months flown, my father
Sleeps in the tranquil grave; say, whence delayed
The joyous tidings? Why so long concealed
The maid, nor earlier taught our hearts to glow
With brother’s love?
The cause, your frenzied hate,
That raging unconfined, e’en on the tomb
Of your scarce buried father, lit the flames
Of mortal strife. What! could I throw my daughter
Betwixt your gleaming blades? Or ‘mid the storm
Of passion would ye list a woman’s counsels?
Could she, sweet pledge of peace, of all our hopes
The last and holy anchor, ‘mid the rage
Of discord find a home? Ye stand as brothers,
So will I give a sister to your arms!
The reconciling angel comes; each hour
I wait my messenger’s return; he leads her
From her sequestered cell, to glad once more
A mother’s eyes.
Nor her alone this day
Thy arms shall fold; joy pours through all our gates;
Soon shall the desolate halls be full, the seat
Of every blooming grace. Now hear my secret:
A sister thou hast given; to thee I bring
A daughter; bless thy son! My heart has found
Its lasting shrine: ere this day’s sun has set
Don Manuel to thy feet shall lead his bride,
The partner of his days.
And to my breast
With transport will I clasp the chosen maid
That makes my first-born happy. Joy shall spring
Where’er she treads, and every flower that blooms
Around the path of life smile in her presence!
May bliss reward the son, that for my brows
Has twined the choicest wreath a mother wears.
Yet give not all the fulness of thy blessing
To him, thy eldest born. If love be blest,
I, too, can give thee joy. I bring a daughter,
Another flower for thy most treasured garland!
The maid that in this ice-cold bosom first
Awoke the rapturous flame! Ere yonder sun
Declines, Don Caesar’s bride shall call thee mother.
Almighty Love! thou godlike power–for well
We call thee sovereign of the breast! Thy sway
Controls each warring element, and tunes
To soft accord; naught lives but owns thy greatness.
Lo! the rude soul that long defied thee melts
At thy command!
[He embraces DON CAESAR.]
Now I can trust thy heart,
And joyful strain thee to a brother’s arms!
I doubt thy faith no more, for thou canst love!
Thrice blest the day, when every gloomy care
From my o’erlabored breast has flown. I see
On steadfast columns reared our kingly race,
And with contented spirit track the stream
Of measureless time. In these deserted halls,
Sad in my widow’s veil, but yesterday
Childless I roamed; and soon, in youthful charms
Arrayed, three blooming daughters at my side
Shall stand! Oh, happiest mother! Chief of women,
In bliss supreme; can aught of earthly joy
But say, of royal stem,
What maidens grace our isle? For ne’er my sons
Would stoop to meaner brides.
Seek not to raise
The veil that hides my bliss; another day
Shall tell thee all. Enough–Don Manuel’s bride
Is worthy of thy son and thee.
Speaks in thy words; thus to himself retired
Forever would he brood o’er counsels dark,
And cloak his secret purpose;–your delay
Be short, my son.
[Turning to DON CAESAR.]
But thou–some royal maid,
Daughter of kings, hath stirred thy soul to love;
So speak–her name—-
I have no art to veil
My thoughts with mystery’s garb–my spirit free
And open as my brows; which thou wouldst know
Concerned me never. What illumes above
Heaven’s flaming orb? Himself! On all the world
He shines, and with his beaming glory tells
From light he sprung:–in her pure eyes I gazed,
I looked into her heart of hearts:–the brightness
Revealed the pearl. Her race–her name–my mother,
Ask not of me!
My son, explain thy words,
For, like some voice divine, the sudden charm
Has thralled thy soul: to deeds of rash emprise
Thy nature prompted, not to fantasies
Of boyish love:–tell me, what swayed thy choice?
My choice? my mother! Is it choice when man
Obeys the might of destiny, that brings
The awful hour? I sought no beauteous bride,
No fond delusion stirred my tranquil breast,
Still as the house of death; for there, unsought,
I found the treasure of my soul. Thou know’st
That, heedless ever of the giddy race,
I looked on beauty’s charms with cold disdain,
Nor deemed of womankind there lived another
Like thee–whom my idolatrous fancy decked
With heavenly graces:–
‘Twas the solemn rite
Of my dead father’s obsequies; we stood
Amid the countless throng, with strange attire
Hid from each other’s glance; for thus ordained
Thy thoughtful care lest with outbursting rage,
E’ en by the holy place unawed, our strife
Should mar the funeral pomp.
With sable gauze
The nave was all o’erhung; the altar round
Stood twenty giant saints, uplifting each
A torch; and in the midst reposed on high
The coffin, with o’erspreading pall, that showed,
In white, redemption’s sign;–thereon were laid
The staff of sovereignty, the princely crown,
The golden spurs of knighthood, and the sword,
With diamond-studded belt:–
And all was hushed
In silent prayer, when from the lofty choir,
Unseen, the pealing organ spoke, and loud
From hundred voices burst the choral strain!
Then, ‘mid the tide of song, the coffin sank
With the descending floor beneath, forever
Down to the world below:–but, wide outspread
Above the yawning grave, the pall upheld
The gauds of earthly state, nor with the corpse
To darkness fell; yet on the seraph wings
Of harmony, the enfranchised spirit soared
To heaven and mercy’s throne:
Thus to thy thought,
My mother, I have waked the scene anew,
And say, if aught of passion in my breast
Profaned the solemn hour; yet then the beams
Of mighty love–so willed my guiding star–
First lit my soul; but how it chanced, myself
I ask in vain.
I would hear all; so end
What brought her to my side, or whence
She came, I know not:–from her presence quick
Some secret all-pervading inward charm
Awoke; ’twas not the magic of a smile,
Nor playful Cupid in her cheeks, nor more,
The form of peerless grace;–’twas beauty’s soul,
The speaking virtue, modesty inborn,
That as with magic spells, impalpable
To sense, my being thralled. We breathed together
The air of heaven:–enough!–no utterance asked
Of words, our spiritual converse;–in my heart,
Though strange, yet with familiar ties inwrought
She seemed, and instant spake the thought–’tis she!
Or none that lives!
(interposing with eagerness).
That is the sacred fire
From heaven! the spark of love–that on the soul
Bursts like the lightning’s flash, and mounts in flame,
When kindred bosoms meet! No choice remains–
Who shall resist? What mortal break the band
That heaven has knit? Brother, my blissful fortune
Was echoed in thy tale–well thou hast raised
The veil that shadows yet my secret love.
Thus destiny has marked the wayward course
Of my two sons: the mighty torrent sweeps
Down from the precipice; with rage he wears
His proper bed, nor heeds the channel traced
By art and prudent care. So to the powers
That darkly sway the fortunes of our house,
Trembling I yield. One pledge of hope remains;
Great as their birth–their noble souls.
(after a deep silence).
In dread amaze I stand, nor know
If I should mourn his fate. One truth revealed
Speaks in my breast;–no good supreme is life;
But all of earthly ills the chief is–Guilt!