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XIV. Count, said Pelayo, Nature hath assigned Two sovereign remedies for human grief; Religion, surest, firmest, first and best, Strength to the weak and to the woundëd balm ; And strenuous action next. Think not I came With unprovidëd heart. My noble wife, In the last solemn words, the last farewell With which she charged her secret messenger, Told me that whatsoe'er was my resolve, She bore a mind prepared. And well I know The evil, be it what it may, hath found In her a courage equal to the hour.
Captivity, or death, or what worse pangs,
She in her children may be doomed to feel,
Will never make that steady soul repent
Its virtuous purpose. I too did not cast
My single life into the lot, but knew
These dearer pledges' on the die were set ;
And if the worst have fall’n, I shall but bear
That in my breast, which, with transfiguring power
Of piety, makes chastening sorrow take
The form of hope, and sees, in Death, the friend
And the restoring Angel.' We must rest
Perforce, and wait what tidings night may bring,
Haply of comfort. Ho there! kindle fires,
And see if aught of hospitality
Can yet within these mournful walls be found !
Thus while he spake, lights were descried far off
Moving among the trees, and coming sounds
Were heard as of a distant multitude.
Anon a company of horse and foot,
Advancing in disorderly array,
the vale : before them and beside Their torches flashed on Sella's rippling stream;
Now gleamed through chesnut groves, emerging now, O'er their huge boughs and radiated leaves Cast broad and bright a transitory glare. That sight inspired with strength the mountaineers ; All sense of weariness; all wish for rest At once were gone : impatient in desire Of second victory alert they stood; And when the hostile symbols, which from far Imagination to their wish had shaped, Vanished in nearer vision, high-wrought hope Departing, left the spirit palled and blank. No turban'd race, no sons of Africa Were they who now came winding up the vale, As waving wide before their horses' feet The torch-light floated, with its hovering glare Blackening the incumbent and surrounding night. Helmet and breast-plate glittered as they came, And spears erect; and nearer as they drew Were the loose folds of female garments seen On those who led the
company. Who then Had stood beside Pelayo, might have beard The beating of his heart.
But vainly there Sought he with wistful eye the well-known forms
and plainly might it now be seen
That from some bloody conflict they returned
Victorious,... for at every saddle-bow
A gory head was hung. Anon they stopt,
Levelling in quick alarm their ready spears.
Hold! who goes there? cried one. A hundred tongues
Sent forth with one accord the glad reply,
Friends and Asturians. Onward moved the lights, ..
The people knew their Lord.
Then what a shout
Rung through the valley! From their clay-built nests,
Beneath the overbrowing battlements,
Now first disturbed, the affrightëd martins flew,
And uttering notes of terror short and shrill,
Amid the yellow glare and lurid smoke
Wheeled giddily. Then plainly was it shown
How well the vassals loved their generous Lord,
How like a father the Asturian Prince
Was dear. They crowded round; they claspt his knees;
They snatched his hand; they fell upon his neck,..
They wept; .. they blest Almighty Providence,
Which had restored him thus from bondage free :
God was with them and their good cause, they said ;
His hand was here, . . His shield was over them, .
His spirit was abroad, .. His power displayed :
And pointing to their bloody trophies then,
They told Pelayo there he might behold
The first-fruits of the harvest they should soon
Reap in the field of war ! Benignantly,
With voice and look and gesture, did the Prince
To these warm greetings of tumultuous joy
Respond ; and sure if at that moment aught
Could for awhile have overpowered those fears
Which from the inmost heart o'er all his frame
Diffused their chilling influence, worthy pride,
And sympathy of love and joy and hope,
Had then possessed him wholly. Even now
His spirit rose ; the sense of power, the sight
Of his brave people, ready where he led
To fight their country's battles, and the thought
Of instant action, and deliverance,..
If Heaven, which thus far had protected him,
Should favour still, .. revived his heart, and gave
Fresh impulse to its spring. In vain he sought
Amid that turbulent greeting to enquire
Where Gaudiosa was, his children where,
Who called them to the field, who captained them;