Page images
PDF
EPUB

Reiterating with persistent tongue, In half-articulate jargon, the old song: “Someone hath done a wrong, hath done a

wrong!

But ere he reached the belfry's light arcade
He saw, or thought he saw, beneath its shade,
No shape of human form of woman born,
But a poor steed dejected and forlorn,
Who with uplifted head and eager eye
Was tugging at the vines of briony.
“ Domeneddio!” cried the Syndic straight,
“ This is the Knight of Atri's steed of state !
He calls for justice, being sore distressed,
And pleads his cause as loudly as the best.”

Meanwhile from street and lane a noisy crowd
Had rolled together like a summer cloud,
And told the story of the wretched beast
In five-and-twenty different ways at least,
With much gesticulation and appeal
To heathen gods, in their excessive zeal.
The Knight was called and questioned; in reply
Did not confess the fact, did not deny;
Treated the matter as a pleasant jest,
And set at naught the Syndic and the rest,
Maintaining, in an angry undertone,
That he should do what pleased him with his own

And thereupon the Syndic gravely read
The proclamation of the King ; then said :
“ Pride goeth forth on horseback grand and gay,
But cometh back on foot, and begs its way;

Fame is the fragrance of heroic deeds,
Of flowers of chivalry and not of weeds!
These are familiar proverbs; but I fear

;
They never yet have reached your knightly ear.
What fair renown, what honor, what repute
Can come to
you from starving this

poor

brute ? He who serves well and speaks not, merits more Than they who clamor loudest at the door. Therefore the law decrees that as this steed Served you in youth, henceforth you shall take

heed To comfort his old age, and to provide Shelter in stall, and food and field beside."

The Knight withdrew abashed; the people all
Led home the steed in triumph to his stall.
The King heard and approved, and laughed in glee,
And cried aloud : “ Right well it pleaseth me!
Church-bells at best but ring us to the door;
But

go not in to mass ; my bell doth more:
It cometh into court and pleads the cause
Of creatures dumb and unknown to the laws;
And this shall make, in every Christian clime,
The Bell of Atri famous for all time.”

INTERLUDE.

“ YES, well your story pleads the cause

Of those dumb mouths that have no speech,
Only a cry from each to each
In its own kind, with its own laws ;
Something that is beyond the reach
Of human power to learn or teach,

An inarticulate moan of pain,
Like the immeasurable main
Breaking upon an unknown beach.”

[ocr errors]

Thus spake the Poet with a sigh;
Then added, with impassioned cry,
As one who feels the words he speaks,
The color flushing in his cheeks,

The fervor burning in his eye:
“ Among the noblest in the land,
Though he may count himself the least,
That man I honor and revere
Who without favor, without fear,
In the great city dares to stand
The friend of every friendless beast,
And tames with his unflinching hand
The brutes that wear our form and face,
The were-wolves of the human race ! ”
Then paused, and waited with a frown,
Like some old champion of romance,
Who, having thrown his gauntlet down,
Expectant leans upon his lance;
But neither Knight nor Squire is found
To raise the gauntlet from the ground,
And try with him the battle's chance.

“ Wake from your dreams, O Edrehi !

Or dreaming speak to us, and make
A feint of being half awake,
And tell us what your dreams may be.
Out of the hazy atmosphere
Of cloud-land deign to reappear
Among us in this Wayside Inn;

Tell us what visions and what scenes
Illuminate the dark ravines
In which you grope your way. Begin ! "

Thus the Sicilian spake. The Jew
Made no reply, but only smiled,
As men unto a wayward child,
Not knowing what to answer, do.
As from a cavern's mouth, o'ergrown
With moss and intertangled vines,
A streamlet leaps into the light
And murmurs over root and stone
In a melodious undertone;
Or as amid the noonday night
Of sombre and wind-haunted pines
There runs a sound as of the sea ;
So from his bearded lips there came
A melody without a name,
A song, a tale, a history,
Or whatsoever it may be,
Writ and recorded in these lines.

THE SPANISH JEW'S TALE.

KAMBALU.

Begun January 26, 1864.

Finished February 12, 1864

INTO the city of Kambalu,
By the road that leadeth to Ispahan,
At the head of his dusty caravan,
Laden with treasure from realms afar,
Baldacca and Kelat and Kandahar,
Rode the great captain Alau.

The Khan from his palace-window gazed,
And saw in the thronging street beneath,
In the light of the setting sun, that blazed
Through the clouds of dust by the caravan raised,
The flash of harness and jewelled sheath,
And the shining scimitars of the guard,
And the weary camels that bared their teeth,
As they passed and passed through the gates un-

barred
Into the shade of the palace-yard.

Thus into the city of Kambalu
Rode the great captain Alau ;
And he stood before the Khan, and said:
“ The enemies of my lord are dead;
All the Kalifs of all the West
Bow and obey thy least behest;
The plains are dark with the mulberry-trees,
The weavers are busy in Samarcand,
The miners are sifting the golden sand,
The divers plunging for pearls in the seas,
And peace and plenty are in the land.

“ Baldacca's Kalif, and be alone,
Rose in revolt against thy throne :
His treasures are at thy palace-door,
With the swords and the shawls and the jewels he

wore ;
His body is dust o'er the desert blown.

“ A mile outside of Baldacca's gate
I left my forces to lie in wait,
Concealed by forests and hillocks of sand,

« PreviousContinue »