Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE GOOD PART.-THE SLAVE IN THE DISMAL SWAMP.

He did not feel the driver's whip,
Nor the burning heat of day;

For Death had illumined the Land of Sleep,
And his lifeless body lay

A worn-out fetter, that the soul
Had broken and thrown away!

The forests, with their myriad tongues,
Shouted of liberty;

And the Blast of the Desert cried aloud,
With a voice so wild and free,
That he started in his sleep and smiled
At their tempestuous glee.

[blocks in formation]

43

[graphic]

Where will-o'-the-wisps and glow-worms shine
In bulrush and in brake;
Where waving mosses shroud the pine,
And the cedar grows, and the poisonous vine
Is spotted like the snake;

Where hardly a human foot could pass,
Or a human heart would dare,
On the quaking turf of the green morass
He crouched in the rank and tangled grass,
Like a wild beast in his lair.

A poor old slave, infirm and lame;
Great scars deformed his face;

On his forehead he bore the brand of shame,
And the rags, that hid his mangled frame,
Were the livery of disgrace.

44

All things above were bright and fair,
All things were glad and free;
Lithe squirrels darted here and there,
And wild birds tilled the echoing air
With songs of Liberty!

THE SLAVE SINGING AT MIDNIGHT.—THE QUADROON GIRL.

All evil thoughts and deeds;

Anger, and lust, and pride;
The foulest, rankest weeds,
That choke Life's groaning tide!

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

ACT I.

SCENE I. The COUNT OF LARA's chambers.
Night. The COUNT in his dressing-gown,
smoking and conversing with DON CARLOS.
Lara. You were not at the play to-night, Don
Carlos;
How happened it?

There is a poor, blind Samson in this land,
Shorn of his strength and bound in bonds of
steel,

Who may, in some grim revel, raise his hand,
And shake the pillars of this Common-weal,
Till the vast Temple of our liberties
A shapeless mass of wreck and rubbish lies.

Gypsies, Musicians, &c.

Don C. I had engagements elsewhere.
Pray who was there?

Lara. Why, all the town and court.
The house was crowded; and the busy fans
Among the gayly dressed and perfumed ladies
Fluttered like butterflies among the flowers.
There was the Countess of Medina Celi;
The Goblin Lady with her Phantom Lover,
Her Lindo Don Diego; Doña Sol,
And Doña Serafina, and her cousins.

Students of Alcalá,
Gentlemen of Madrid.

Count of the Gypsies.
A young Gypsy.

Don C.

She is a Gypsy girl.

Lara.

Alcalde.
Alguacil.

Lara's Servant.

The easier.
Don C.

Victorian's Servant.

Innkeeper.

A Gypsy Girl.

A poor Girl.

The Padre Cura's Niece.
Preciosa's Maid.

I saw her in the Prado yesterday.
Her step was royal,-queen-like,-and her face
As beautiful as a saint's in Paradise.

Lara. May not a saint fall from her Paradise, And be no more a saint?

Why do you ask?

Don C.
Lara. Because I have heard it said this angel
fell,

And though she is a virgin outwardly
Within she is a sinner; like those panels
Of doors and altar-pieces the old monks
Painted in convents, with the Virgin Mary
On the outside, and on the inside Venus!
Don C. You do her wrong; indeed, you do
her wrong!

She is as virtuous as she is fair.

Lara. How credulous you are! Why look you, friend,

Don C. What was the play?

There's not a virtuous woman in Madrid, Lara. It was a dull affair; In this whole city! And would you persuade One of those comedies in which you see, As Lope says, the history of the world Brought down from Genesis to the Day of Judg

me

That a mere dancing-girl, who shows herself,
Nightly, half-naked, on the stage, for money,
And with voluptuous motions fires the blood
Of inconsiderate youth, is to be held
A model for her virtue?

You forget

And therefore won

ment.
There were three duels fought in the first act,
Three gentlemen receiving deadly wounds,
Laying their hands upon their hearts, and saying,
"O, I am dead!" a lover in a closet,
An old hidalgo, and a gay Don Juan,
A Doña Inez with a black mantilla,
Followed at twilight by an unknown lover,
Who looks intently where he knows she is not!
Don C. Of course, the Preciosa danced to-
night?
Lara. And never better. Every footstep fell
As lightly as a sunbeam on the water.
I think the girl extremely beautiful.

Nay, not to be won at all!
The only virtue that a Gypsy prizes
Is chastity. That is her only virtue.
Dearer than life she holds it. I remember
A Gypsy woman, a vile, shameless bawd,
Whose craft was to betray the young and fair;
And yet this woman was above all bribes.

Don C. Almost beyond the privilege of wo- And when a noble lord, touched by her beauty,
The wild and wizard beauty of her race,

man!

Offered her gold to be what she made others,
She turned upon him, with a look of scorn,
And smote him in the face!
Lara.
And does that prove
That Preciosa is above suspicion ?
Don C. It proves a nobleman may be repulsed,
When he thinks conquest easy. I believe
That woman, in her deepest degradation,
Holds something sacred, something undefiled,
Some pledge and keepsake of her higher nature,
And, like the diamond in the dark, retains
Some quenchless gleam of the celestial light!
Lara. Yet Preciosa would have taken the
gold.

Don C. (rising).
Lara.

First Mus. Gerónimo Gil, at your service.

Ch spa. Every tub smells of the wine that is in it. Pray, Gerónimo, is not Saturday an unpleasant day with thee?

First Mus. Why so?

Lara.

Chispa. Because I have heard it said that Saturday is an unpleasant day with those who Yes; persuade me. have but one shirt. Moreover, I have seen thee Don C. No one so deaf as he who will not at the tavern, and if thou canst run as fast as thou canst drink, I should like to hunt hares with thee. What instrument is that?

hear!

I do not think so.
I am sure of it.

But why this haste? Stay yet a little longer.
And fight the battles of your Dulcinea.
Don C. "T is late. I must begone, for if I stay
You will not be persuaded.

Lara. No one so blind as he who will not see! Don C. And so good night. I wish you pleasant dreams,

And greater faith in woman.

[Exit.

her.
Pray, dost thou know Victorian?
Fran.
Yes, my lord;
I saw him at the jeweller's to-day.
Lara. What was he doing there?
Fran.
I saw him buy
A golden ring, that had a ruby in it.
Lara. Was there another like it?
Fran.
One so like it
I could not choose between them.
Lara.
It is well.
To-morrow morning bring that ring to me.
Do not forget. Now light me to my bed.
[Exeunt.

down your heads. It is no disgrace to have an old father and a ragged shirt. Now, look you, you are gentlemen who lead the life of crickets; you enjoy hunger by day and noise by night. Yet, I beseech you, for this once be not loud, but pathetic; for it is a serenade to a damsel in bed, and not to the Man in the Moon. Your object is not to arouse and terrify, but to socthe and bring lulling dreams. Therefore, each shall not play upon his instrument as if it were the only one in the universe, but gently, and with a certain modesty, according with the others. Pray, how may I call thy name, friend?

Lara.
Greater faith!
I have the greatest faith; for I believe
Victorian is her lover. I believe
That I shall be to-morrow; and thereafter
Another, and another, and another,
Chasing each other through her zodiac,
As Taurus chases Aries.

(Enter FRANCISCO with a casket.)
Well, Francisco,

What speed with Preciosa?
Fran.
None, my lord.
She sends your jewels back, and bids me tell

you

She is not to be purchased by your gold.

Lara. Then I will try some other way to win shoe, and I see not low you can all sing in one

song. But follow me along the garden wall.
That is the way my master climbs to the lady's
window. It is by the Vicar's skirts that the
Devil climbs into the belfry. Come, follow me,
and make no noise.
[Exeunt.
SCENE III-PRECIOSA'S chamber. She stands
at the open window.

SCENE II-A street in Madrid. Enter CHISPA, followed by musicians, with a bagpipe, guitars, and other instruments.

Chispa. Abernuncio Satanas! and a plague on all lovers who ramble about at night, drinking the elements, instead of sleeping quietly in their beds. Every dead man to his cemetery, say I; and every friar to his monastery. Now, here's my master, Victorian, yesterday a cow-keeper, and to-day a gentleman; yesterday a student, and today a lover; and I must be up later than the nightingale, for as the abbot sings so must the Sacristan respond. God grant he may soon be married, for then shall all this serenading cease. Ay, marry! marry! marry! Mother, what does marry mean? It means to spin, to bear children, and to weep, my daughter! And, of a truth, there is something more in matrimony than the wedding-ring. (To the musicians.) And now, gentlemen, Pax vobiscum! as the ass said to the cabbages. Pray, walk this way; and don't hang

First Mus. An Aragonese bagpipe.

hispa. Pray, art thou related to the bagpiper of Bujalance, who asked a maravedi for playing, and ten for leaving off?

First Mus. No, your honor.

Chispa. I am glad of it. What other instruments have we ?

Second and Third Musicians.

We play the

bandurria.

Chispa. A pleasing instrument. And thou?
Fourth Mus. The fife.

Chispa. I like it; it has a cheerful, soul-stirring sound, that soars up to my lady's window like the song of a swallow. And you others?

Other Mus. We are the singers, please your

honor.

Chispa. You are too many. Do you think we are going to sing mass in the cathedral of Córdova? Four men can make but little use of one

Prec. How slowly through the lilac-scented air
Descends the tranquil moon! Like thistle-down
The vapory clouds float in the peaceful sky;
And sweetly from yon hollow vaults of shade
The nightingales breathe out their souls in song.
And hark! what songs of love, what soul-like
sounds,
Answer them from below!

SERENADE.

Stars of the summer night!
Far in yon azure deeps,
Hide, hide your golden light!
She sleeps!
My lady sleeps!
Sleeps!

Moon of the summer night!

Far down yon western steeps,
Sink. sink in silver light!
She sleeps!
My lady sleeps!
Sleeps!

Wind of the summer night!

Where yonder woodbine creeps,
Fold. fold thy pinions light!
She sleeps!
My lady sleeps!
Sleeps!

Prec.
And yet I fear these dances will be stopped,
And Preciosa be once more a beggar.

Vict. The sweetest beggar that e'er asked for
alms;

(Enter VICTORIAN by the balcony.)

With such beseeching eyes, that when I saw thee
gave my heart away!
Prec.

Dost thou remember

Vict. Poor little dove! Thou tremblest like When first we met?

a leaf!

Vict.

It was at Córdova,

Prec. I am so frightened! "T is for thee I In the cathedral garden. Thou wast sitting tremble! Under the orange trees, beside a fountain. Prec. T was Easter-Sunday. The full-blossomed trees

I hate to have thee climb that wall by night!
Did no one see thee?

Vict.

Prec.

Dreams of the summer night!
Tell her, her lover keeps
Watch! while in slumbers light
She sleeps!

My lady sleeps!
Sleeps!

None, my love, but thou.
T is very dangerous; and when thou
art gone
I chide myself for letting thee come here
Thus stealthily by night. Where hast thou been?
Since yesterday I have no news from thee.

Vict. Since yesterday I have been in Alcalá.
Erelong the time will come, sweet Preciosa,
When that dull distance shall no more divide
us;

And I no more shall scale thy wall by night
To steal a kiss from thee, as I do now.

Prec. An honest thief, to steal but what thou
givest.

Vict. And we shall sit together unmolested, And words of true love pass from tongue to tongue,

As singing birds from one bough to another.

Prec. That were a life to make time envious!
I knew that thou wouldst come to me to-night.
I saw thee at the play.

Vict.
Sweet child of air!
Never did I behold thee so attired
And garmented in beauty as to-night!
What hast thou done to make thee look so fair?
Prec. Am I not always fair ?
Vict.
Ay, and so fair
That I am jealous of all eyes that see thee,
And wish that they were blind.

Pree.
I heed them not;
When thou art present, I see none but thee!
Vict. There's nothing fair nor beautiful, but
takes
Something from thee, that makes it beautiful.
Prec. And yet thou leavest me for those dusty
books.

Vict. Thou comest between me and those books too often!

I see thy face in everything I see!

The paintings in the chapel wear thy looks,
The canticles are changel to sarabands,
And with the learned doctors of the schools

I see thee dance cachuchas.

Vict. Is this?

Prec.

In good sooth,
I dance with learned doctors of the schools
To-morrow morning.

Vict. And with whom, I pray?

Prec. A grave and reverend Cardinal, and his
Grace

The Archbishop of Toledo.

Prec. It is no jest; Indeed it is not.
Vict.
Prithee, explain thyself.
Prec.
Why, simply thus.
Thou knowest the Pope has sent here into Spain
To put a stop to dances on the stage.

Vict. I have heard it whispered.
Prec.
Now the Cardinal,
Who for this purpose comes, would fain behold
With his own eyes these dances; and the Arch-
bishop
Has sent for me-

Vict. That thou mayst dance before them!
Now viva la cachucha! It will breathe
The fire of youth into these gray old men!
"Twill be thy proudest conquest!

Saving one.

Filled all the air with fragrance and with joy.
The priests were singing, and the organ sounded,
And then anon the great cathedral bell.
It was the elevation of the Host.
We both of us fell down upon our knees,
Under the orange boughs, and prayed together.
I never had been happy till that moment.
Vict. Thou blessed angel!
Prec.

And when thou wast gone
I felt an aching here. I did not speak
To any one that day. But from that day
Bartolomé grew hateful unto me.

Vict. Remember him no more. Let not his

shadow

Come between thee and me. Sweet Preciosa!
I loved thee even then, though I was silent!
Prec. I thought I ne'er should see thy face
again.

Thy farewell had a sound of sorrow in it.
Vict. That was the first sound in the song of
love!

Scarce more than silence is, and yet a sound.
Hands of invisible spirits touch the strings
Of that mysterious instrument, the soul,
And play the prelude of our fate. We hear
The voice prophetic, and are not alone.

Prec. That is my faith. Dost thou believe these warnings?

Vict. So far as this. Our feelings and our thoughts

Tend ever on, and rest not in the Present.
As drops of rain fall into some dark weil,
And from below comes a scarce audible sound,
So fall our thoughts into the dark Hereafter,
And their mysterious echo reaches us.

Prec. I have felt it so, but found no words to
say it!

I cannot reason; I can only feel!

But thou hast language for all thoughts and feel-
ings.

Thou art a scholar; and sometimes I think
We cannot walk together in this world!
The distance that divides us is too great!
Henceforth thy pathway lies among the stars;
I must not hold thee back.

Vict.

Is her affections, not her intellect!
The intellect is finite; but the affections
What mad jest Are infinite, and cannot be exhausted.
Compare me with the great men of the earth;
What am I? Why, a pygmy among giants!
But if thou lovest,-mark me! I say lovest,
The greatest of thy sex excels thee not!
The world of the affections is thy world,
Not that of man's ambition. In that stillness
Which most becomes a woman, calm and holy
Thou sittest by the fireside of the heart,
Feeding its flame. The element of fire
Is pure. It cannot change nor hide its nature,
But burns as brightly in a Gypsy camp
As in a palace hall. Art thou convinced?

Prec. Yes, that I love thee, as the good love
heaven;

But not that I am worthy of that heaven.
How shall I more deserve it?

Thou little sceptic! Dost thou still doubt? What I most prize in)

woman

« PreviousContinue »