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P A R I S I N A.
THE FOLLOWING POEM IS INSCRIBED BY ONE
VALUED HIS FRIENDSHIP,
the facts on which the story is founded. The SCROPE BERDMORE DAVJES, ESQ. name of Azo is substituted for Nicholas, as
“Under the reign of Nicholas III. Ferrara
was polluted with a domestic tragedy. By January 22, 1816.
the testimony of an attendant, and his own
observation, the Marquis of Este discovered ADVERTISEMENT.
the incestuous loves of his wife Parisina, The following poem is grounded on a and Hugo his bastard-son, a beautiful and circumstance mentioned in Gibbon's "Anti- valiant youth. They were beheaded in the quities of the House of Brunswick." -I am castle by the sentence of a father and husaware that in modern times the delicacy band, who published his shame, and suror fastidiousness of the reader may deem vived their execution. He was unfortunate, such subjects unfit for the purposes of poetry. they were guilty; if they were innocent, The Greek dramatists, and some of the best he was still more unfortunate; nor is there of our old English writers, wereof a differ- any possible situation in which I can sinent opinion: as Alfieri and Schiller have cerely approve the last act of the justice of also been, more recently, upon the con- a parent.”—Gibbon's Miscellaneous Works, tinent. The following extract will explain vol. III. p. 470.
It is the hour when from the boughs And heedless as the dead are they The nightingale's high note is heard ; Of aught around, above, beneath ; It is the hour when lovers' vows
As if all else had pass'd away, Seem sweet in every whisper'd word; They only for each other breathe; And gentle winds, and waters near, Their very sighs are full of joy Make music to the lonely ear.
So deep, that did it not decay, Each flower the dews have lightly wet, That happy madness would destroy And in the sky the stars are met,
The hearts which feel its fiery sway: And on the wave is deeper blue,
Of guilt, or peril, do they deem And on the leaf a browner hue,
In that tumultuous tender dream? And in the heaven that clear-obscure, Who that have felt that passion's power, So softly dark, and darkly pure,
Or paused, or fear'd in such an hour? Which follows the decline of day,
Or thought how brief such moments last? As twilight melts beneath the moon away. But yet-- they are already past !
Alas! we must awake before
We know such vision comes no more. But it is not to list tu the waterfall That Parisina leaves her hall, And it is not to gaze on the heavenly light With many a lingering look they leave That the lady walks in the shadow of night; The spot of guilty gladness past ; And if she sits in Este's bower,
And though they hope, and vow, they grieve, 'Tis not for the sake of its full-blown flower-- As if that parting were the last. She listens—but not for the nightingale- The frequent sigh--the long embraceThough her ear expects as soft a tale. The lip that there would cling for ever, There glides a step through the foliage While gleams on Parisina's face
The Heaven she fears will not forgive her, And her cheek grows pale-and her heart As if each calmly conscious star
beats quick, Beheld her frailty from afarThere whispers a voice through the rustling The frequent sigh, the long embrace,
Yet binds them to their trysting-place. A moment more---and they shall meet- But it must come, and they must part Tis past - her lover's at her fect.
In fearful heaviness of heart,
With all the deep and shuddering chill And what unto them is the world beside, Which follows fast the deeds of ill. With all its change of time and tide ? Its living things--its earth and sky-- And Hugo is gone to his lonely bed, Are nothing to their mind and eye. To covet there another's bride;
But she must lay her conscious head The guilt - the shame-the doom to her:
All circumstance which may compel
And Azo's tortured heart and ear
He was not one who brook'd delay :
Within the chamber of his state,
The chief of Este's ancient sway
Upon his throne of judgment sate;
His nobles and his guards are there, -O'er her who loves him even in sleep.
Before him is the sinful pair ;
With swordless belt, and fetter'd hand, He clasp'd her sleeping to his heart, Oh, Christ! that thus a son should stand And listend to each broken word:
Before a father's face !
The tale of his disgrace!
And still, and pale, and silently
Did Parisina wait her doom ;
How changed since last her speaking eye And whose that name? that o'er his pillow Where high-born men were proud to wait
Glanced gladness round the glittering room, Sounds fearful as the breaking billow, Which rolls the plank upon the shore,
Where Beauty watch'd to imitate And dashes on the pointed rock
Her gentle voice - her lovely mienThe wretch who sinks to rise no more,
And gather from ber air and gait So came upon his soul the shock.
The graces of its queen: And whose that name? 'tis Hugo's.---his
Then,--had her eye in sorrow wept, In sooth he had not deem'd of this!
A thousand warriors forth had leapt,
A thousand swords had sheathless shone, Tis Hugo's, - he, the child of one He loved - his own all-evil son
And made her quarrel all their own. The offspring of his wayward youth,
Now,- what is she? and what are they? When he betray'd Bianca's truth,
Can she command, or these obey ? The maid whose folly could confide
All silent and unheeding now,
With downcast eyes and knitting brow,
And lips that scarce their scorn forbear, He pluck'd his poniard in its sheath, Her knights and dames, her court-is there: But sheathed it ere the point was bare- And he, the chosen one, whose lance Howe'er unworthy now to breathe, Had yet been couch'd before her glance, He could not slay a thing so fair
Who -- werc his arm a moment free At least, not smiling - sleeping there- Had died or gain’d her liberty; Nay, more: he did not wake her then, The minion of his father's bride,-. But gazed upon her with a glance He, too, is fetter'd by her side; Which, had she roused her from her trance, Nor sees her swoln and full eye swim llad frozen her sense to sleep again Less for her own despair than him : And o'er his brow the burning lamp
Those lids- o'er which the violet vein Gleam'd on the dew-drops big and damp. Wandering, leaves a tender stain, She spake no more-but still she slumber'd Shining through the smoothest white While, in his thought, her days are That e'er did softest kiss invite
Now seemd with hot and livid glow
To press, not shade, the orbs below; And with the morn he sought, and found, As tear on tear grows gathering still.
Which glance so heavily, and fill, In many a tale from those around, The proof of all he fear'd to know, Their present guilt, his future woe; And he for her had also wept, The long-conniving damsels seek But for the eyes that on him gazed : To save themselves, and would transfer His sorrow, if he felt it, slept;
Stern and erect his brow was raised. | But she is in the grave, where he,
But wrong for wrong--this deem'd thy And hers, -oh, hers! he dared not throw
bride, One look upon that deathlike brow! The other victim of thy pride, Else had his rising heart betray'd Thou knowst for me was destined long. Remorse for all the wreck it made. Thou sawst, and covetedst her charms
And with thy very crime - my birth,
Thou tauntedst me-as little worth ;
Because, forsooth, I could not claim
Yet, were a few short summers mine, Well, - let that pass,—there breathes not one My name should more than Este's shine Who would not do as I have done :
With honours all my own. Those ties are broken - not by me;
I had a sword -- and have a breast Let that too pass :- the doom's prepared! That should have won as haught a crest Hugo, the priest awaits on thee,
As ever waved along the line And then - thy crime's reward !
Of all these sovereign sires of thine. Away! address thy prayers to Heaven, Not always knightly spars are worn Before its evening-stars are met
The brightest by the better born; Learn if thou there canst be forgiven;
And mine have lanced my courser's flank Its mercy may absolve thee yet.
Before proud chiefs of princely rank, But here, upon the earth beneath, When charging to the cheering cry There is no spot where thou and I Of “Este and of Victory!” Together, for an hour, could breathe:
I will not plead the cause of crime, Farewell! I will not see thee die --
Nor sue thee to redeem from time But thou, frail thing! shalt view his head
A few brief hours or days that must Away! I cannot speak the rest :
At length roll o'er my reckless dust ;Go! woman of the wanton breast;
Such maddening moments as my past, Not I, but thou his blood dost shed:
They could not, and they did not, lastGo! if that sight thou canst outlive,
Albeit my birth and name be base, And joy thee in the life I give.”
And thy nobility of race
Disdain'd to deck a thing like me And here stern Azo hid his face
Yet in my lineaments they trace For on his brow the swelling vein
Some features of my father's face, Throbb’d as if back upon his brain
And in my spirit-all of thec. The hot blood ebb’d and flow'd again;
From thee--this tamelessness of heartAnd therefore bow'd he for a space
From thee nay, wherefore dost thou
start? And pass'd his shaking hand along His eye, to veil it from the throng ;
From thee in all their vigour came While Hugo raised his chained hands,
My arm of strength, my soul of flame And for a brief delay demands
Thou didst not give me life alone, His father's ear: the silent sire
But all that made me more thine own. Forbids not what his words require.
See what thy guilty, love hath done!
I am no bastard in my soul,
I valued it no more than thou, Thy slaves have wrested from my hand, When rose thy casque above thy brow, Hath shed more blood in cause of thine And we, all side by side, have striven, Than e'er can stain the axe of mine: And o'er the dead our coursers driven: Thou gavest, and mayst resume my breath, The past is nothing - and at last A gift for which I thank thee not; The future can but be the past; Nor are my mother's wrongs forgot,
Yet would I that I then had died : Her slighted love and ruind name, For though thou work’dst my mother's ill, Her offspring's heritage of shame ; And made thy own my destined bride,
I feel thou art my father still;
She had forgotten :-did she breathe ? And, harsh as sounds thy hard decree, Could this be still the earth beneath ? 'Tis not unjust, although from thee. The sky above, and men around ; Begot in sin, to die in shame,
Or were they fiends who now so frown'd My life begun and ends the same:
On one, before whose eyes each eye As err'd the sire, so err'd the son,
Till then had smiled in sympathy? And thou must punish both in one. All was confused and undefined, My crime seems worst to human view, To her all-jarr'd and wandering mind; But God must judge between us two!” A chaos of wild hopes and fears:
And now in laughter, now in tears,
But madly still in each extreme, He ceased -- and stood with folded arms, She strove with that convulsive dream; On which the circling fetters sounded ; For so it seem'd on her to break: And not an ear but felt as wounded, Oh! vainly must she strive to wake! Of all the chiefs that there were rank’d, When those dull chains in meeting clank’d: Till Parisina's fatal charms
The Convent-bells are ringing,
But mournfully and slow,
With a deep sound, to and fro.
Heavily to the heart they go! Her eyes unmoved, but full and wide,
Hark! the hymn is singing -Not once had turn'd to either side
The song for the dead below, Nor once did those sweet eyelids close,
Or the living who shortly shall bo so! Or shade the glance o'er which they rose,
For a departing being's soul But round their orbs of deepest blue
The death-hymn peals and the hollow The circling white dilated grew –
bells knoll: And there with glassy gaze she stood
He is near his mortal goal; As ice were in her curdled blood;
Kneeling at the Friar's knee; But every now and then a tear
Sad to hear-and piteous to see -So large and slowly gather'd slid
Kneeling on the bare cold ground, From the long dark fringe of that fair lid, With the block before and the guard around
And the headsman with his bare arm It was a thing to see, not hear! And those who saw, it did surprise,
ready, Such drops could fall from human eyes.
That the blow may be both swist and steady, To speak she thought-the imperfect note Feels if the axe be sharp and trueWas choked within her swelling throat,
Since he set its edge anew : Yet seem'd in that low hollow groan
While the crowd in a speechless circle Her whole heart gushing in the tone.
gather It ceased - again she thought to speak,
To see the Son fall by the doom of the Then burst her voice in one long shriek,
It is a lovely hour as yet
Which rose upon that heavy day,
He bends to hear his accents bless
Wipe our mortal stains away. (As bow-strings, when relax'd by rain, That high sun on his head did glisten The erring arrow launch aside)
As he there did bow and listen -
But brighter still the beam was thrown
The parting prayers are said and over That, as a mother's o'er her child,
It was a woman's shriek-and ne'er
In madlier accents rose despair;
In mercy wish'd it were the last.
Hugo is fallen; and, from that hour, All feelings seemingly subdued,
No more in palace, hall, or bower, In deep disdain were half renew'd,
Was Parisina heard or scen: When headman's hands prepared to bind
Her name—as if she ne'er had been -Those eyes which would not brook such Was banish'd from each lip and ear,
Like words of wantonness or fear; As if they dared not look on death.
And from Prince Azo's voice, by none "No--yours my forfeit blood and breath
Was mention heard of wife or son ; These hands are chain'd--but let me die
No tomb- no memory had they; At least with an unshackled eye
Theirs was unconsecrated clay; Strike;" and as the word he said,
At least the knight's who died that day. Upon the block he bow'd his head;
But Parisina's fate lies hid These the last accents Hugo spoke:
Like dust beneath the coffin-lid : “Strike”-and flashing fell the stroke
Whether in convent she abode, Roll'd the head-and, gushing, sunk
And won to heaven her dreary road, Back the staind and heaving trunk,
By blighted and remorseful years In the dust, which each deep vein
Of scourge, and fast, and sleepless tears; Slaked with its ensangnined rain;
Or if she fell by bowl or steel, His eyes and lips a moment quiver,
For that dark love she dared to feel; Convulsed and quick-then fix for ever.
Or if, upon the moment smote,
She died by tortures less remote; He died, as erring man should die, Like him she saw upon the block, Without display, without parade;
With heart that shared the headman's shock, Meekly had he bowd and pray'd,
In quicken'd brokenness that came, As not disdaining priestly aid,
In pity, o'er her shatter'd frame,
None knew-and none can ever know:
And Azo found another bride,
word but prayer - But none so lovely and so brave
And goodly sons grew by his side;
Or if they were-on his cold eye
Their growth but glanced unheeded by,
But never tear his cheek descended,
The intersected lines of thought; A cold electric shiver ran,
Those furrows which the burning share As down the deadly blow descended Of sorrow ploughs untimely there; On him whose life and love thus ended; Scars of the lacerating mind And with a hushing sound comprest, Which the soul's war doth leave behind. A sigh shrunk back on every breast; He was past all mirth or woe: But no more thrilling noise rose there, Nothing more remain'd below Beyond the blow that to the block
But sleepless nights and heavy days, Pierced through with forced and sullen A mind all dead to scorn or praise,
A heart which shunn'd itself-and yet Save one: - what cleaves the silent air That would not yield---nor could forget; So madly shrill, so passing wild ?
Which when it least appear'd to melt,