Page images

And the fair castles of our ancient lords,
Where now the stranger banquets. Ye may hear,
From thence the peals of song and laughter rise
At midnight's deepest hour.


Alas! we sat In happier days, so peacefully beneath The olives and the vines our fathers rear'd, Encircled by our children, whose quick steps Flew by us in the dance! The time hath been When peace was in the hamlet, wheresoe'er The storm might gather. But this yoke of France Falls on the peasant's neck as heavily As on the crested chieftain's. We are bow'd E'en to the earth.

PEASANT's child.

My father, tell me when Shall the gay dance and song again resound Amidst our chesnut-woods, as in those days Of which thou ’rt wont to tell the joyous tale ?


When there are light and reckless hearts once more
In Sicily's green vales. Alas! my boy,
Men meet not now to quaff the flowing bowl,

To hear the mirthful song, and cast aside
The weight of work-day care they meet, to speak
Of wrongs and sorrows, and to whisper thoughts
They dare not breathe aloud.
PROCIDA (from the back-ground).

Aye, it is well
So to relieve th' o'erburden'd heart, which pants
Beneath its weight of wrongs; but better far
In silence to avenge them.


What deep voice Came with that startling tone ?


It was our guest's, The stranger pilgrim, who hath sojourn'd here Since yester-morn. Good neighbours, mark him well; He hath a stately bearing, and an eye Whose glance looks through the heart. His mien accords Ill with such vestments. How he folds round him His pilgrim-cloak, e'en as it were a robe Of knightly ermine! That commanding step Should have been used in courts and camps to move. Mark him!


Nay, rather, mark him not : the times
Are fearful, and they teach the boldest hearts
A cautious lesson. What should bring him here?


He spoke of vengeance !


Peace! we are beset
By snares on every side, and we must learn
In silence and in patience to endure.
Talk not of vengeance, for the word is death.

PROCIDA (coming forward indignantly.)
The word is death! And what hath life for thee,
That thou shouldst cling to it thus ? thou abject thing!
Whose very soul is moulded to the yoke,
And stamp'd with servitude. What! is it life,
Thus at a breeze to start, to school thy voice
Into low fearful whispers, and to cast
Pale jealous looks around thee, lest, e'en then,
Strangers should catch its echo ?-Is there aught
In this so precious, that thy furrow'd cheek
Is blanch'd with terror at the passing thought
Of hazarding some few and evil days,
Which drag thus poorly on?


Away, away! Leave us, for there is danger in thy presence.


Why, what is danger ?--Are there deeper ills
Than those ye bear thus calmly? Ye have drain'd
The cup of bitterness, till nought remains
To fear or shrink from—therefore, be ye strong !
Power dwelleth with despair.—Why start ye thus
At words which are but echoes of the thoughts
Lock'd in your secret souls ?-Full well I know,
There is not one amongst you, but hath nursed
Some proud indignant feeling, which doth make
One conflict of his life. I know thy wrongs,
And thine--and thine,-but if within your breasts,
There is no chord that vibrates to my voice,
Then fare ye well.

A YOUTH (coming forward).

No, no! say on, say on! There are still free and fiery hearts e'en here, That kindle at thy words.


If that indeed Thou hast a hope to give us.


There is hope For all who suffer with indignant thoughts Which work in silent strength. What! think ye Heaven O'erlooks th' oppressor, if he bear awhile His crested head on high ?-I tell you, no! Th' avenger will not sleep. It was an hour Of triumph to the conqueror, when our king, Our young brave Conradin, in life's fair morn, On the red scaffold died. Yet not the less Is justice throned above ; and her good time Comes rushing on in storms : that royal blood Hath lifted an accusing voice from earth, And hath been heard. The traces of the past Fade in man's heart, but ne'er doth Heaven forget.


Had we but arms and leaders, we are men
Who might earn vengeance yet; but wanting these,
What wouldst thou have us do ?


Be vigilant ;
And when the signal wakes the land, arise !
The peasant's arm is strong, and there shall be
A rich and noble harvest. Fare ye well.


« PreviousContinue »