« AnteriorContinuar »
VISION OF DON RODERICK.
LIVES there a strain, whose sounds of mounting fire May rise distinguished o'er the din of war, Or died it with yon Master of the Lyre, Who sung beleaguered Ilion's evil star? Such, WELLINGTON, might reach thee from afar, Wafting its descant wide o'er Ocean's range; Nor shouts, nor clashing arms, its mood could mar All as it swelled 'twixt each loud trumpet change, That clangs to Britain, victory, to Portugal, revenge!
Yes! such a strain, with all-o'erpowering measure, Might melodize with each tumultuous sound, Each voice of fear or triumph, woe or pleasure, That rings Mondego's ravaged shores around; The thundering cry of hosts with conquest crowned The female shriek, the ruined peasant's moan, The shout of captives from their chains unbound, The foiled oppressor's deep and sullen groan, A Nation's choral hymn for tyranny o'erthrown.
But we, weak minstrels of a laggard day,
Timid and raptureless, can we repay
The debt thou claim'st in this exhausted age? Thou givest our lyres a theme, that might engage Those that could send thy name o'er sea and land, While sea and land shall last; for Homer's rage A theme; a theme for Milton's mighty handHow much unmeet for us, a faint degenerate band!
Ye mountains stern! within whose rugged breast
That ersta the choir of bards or Druids flung, What time their hymn of victory arose,
And Cattraeth's glens with voice of triumph rung, And mystic Merlin harped, and grey-haired Llywarch sung?
O! if your wilds such minstrelsy retain,
As sure your changeful gales seem oft to say, When sweeping wild and sinking soft again,
Like trumpet-jubilee, or harp's wild sway; If ye can echo such triumphant lay,
Then lend the note to him has loved you long! Who pious gathered each tradition grey,
That floats your solitary wastes along,
And with affection vain gave them new voice in song.
For not till now, how oft soe'er the task
Of truant verse hath lightened graver care, From muse or sylvan was he wont to ask,
In phrase poetic, inspiration fair; Careless he gave his numbers to the air,
They came unsought for, if applauses came; Nor for himself prefers he now the prayer; Let but his verse befit a hero's fame, Immortal be the verse!-forgot the poet's name.
b This locality may startle those readers who do not recollect, that much of the ancient poetry preserved in Wales refers less to the history of the principality to which that name is now limited, than to events which happened in the north-west of England and south-west of Scotland, where the Britons for a long time made a stand against the Saxons. The battle of Cattraeth, lamented by the celebrated Aneurin, is supposed by the learned Dr. Leyden to have been fought on the skirts of Ettricke Forest. It is known to the English reader by the paraphrase of Gray, beginning,
"Had I but the torrent's might,
With headlong rage and wild affright, &c."
But it is not generally known that the champions, mourned in this beautiful dirge, were the British inhabitants of Edinburgh, who were cut off by the Saxons of Deiria, or Northumberland, about the latter part of the sixth century.-(Turner's "History of the Anglo-Saxons," edition 1799, vol. i. p. 222.) Llywarch, the celebrated bard and monarch, was prince of Argood, in Cumberland; and his youthful exploits were performed upon the Border, although in his age he was driven into Powys by the successes of the Anglo-Saxons. As for Merlin Wylit, or the savage, his name of Caledonian, and his retreat into the Caledonian Wood, appropriate him to Scotland,
Hark, from yon misty cairn their answer tossed: "Minstrel! the fame of whose romantic lyre, Capricious swelling now, may soon be lost,
Like the light flickering of a cottage fire; If to such task presumptuous thou aspire,
Seek not from us the meed to warrior due:
Since our grey cliffs the din of conflict knew,
"Decayed our old traditionary lore,
Save where the lingering fays renew their ring, By milkmaid seen beneath the hawthorn hoar,
Or round the marge of Minchmore's haunted spring; Save where their legends grey-haired shepherds sing, That now scarce win a listening ear but thine, Of feuds obscure, and Border ravaging,
And rugged deeds recount in rugged line,
"No! search romantic lands, where the near sun Gives with unstinted boon ethereal flame, Where the rude villager, his labour done,
In verse spontaneous chants some favoured name;
Her eye of diamond, and her locks of jet;
"Explore those regions, where the flinty crest Of wild Nevada ever gleams with snows, Where in the proud Alhambra's ruined breast
Barbaric monuments of pomp repose;
• A belief in the existence and nocturnal revels of the fairies still
lingers among the vulgar in Selkirkshire. A copious fountain upon
the ridge of Minchmore, called the Cheesewell, is supposed to be sacred to these fanciful spirits, and it was customary to propitiate them by throwing in something upon passing it. A pin was the usual oblation, and the ceremony is still sometimes practised, though rather in jest than earnest.
d The flexibility of the Italian and Spanish languages, and perhaps the liveliness of their genius, renders these countries distinguished for the talent of improvisation, which is found even among the lowest of the people. It is mentioned by Baretti and other travellers.
e Over a name sacred for ages to heroic verse, a poet may be allowed to exercise some power. I have used the freedom, here and elsewhere, to alter the orthography of the name of my gallant countryman, in order to apprize the Southern reader of its legitimate sound; Grahame being, on the other side of the Tweed, usually pronounced as a dissyllable.
Or where the banners of more ruthless foes
Than the fierce Moor, float o'er Toledo's fane,
There, of Numantian fire a swarthy spark Still lightens in the sun-burnt native's eye; The stately port, slow step, and visage dark, Still mark enduring pride and constancy. And, if the glow of feudal chivalry
Beam not, as once, thy nobles' dearest pride, Iberia oft thy crestless peasantry
Have seen the plumed Hidalgo quit their side; Have seen, yet dauntless stood-'gainst fortune fought and
"And cherished still by that unchanging race,
Legend and vision, prophecy and sign;
Go, seek such theme!"-the Mountain Spirit said: With filial awe I heard-I heard, and I obeyed.
Rearing their crests amid the cloudless skies,
As from a trembling lake of silver white; Their mingled shadows intercept the sight
Of the broad burial-ground outstretched below,
All save the rushing swell of Teio's tide,
Or, distant heard, a courser's neigh or tramp Their changing rounds as watchful horsemen ride, To guard the limits of King Roderick's camp.
For, through the river's night-fog rolling damp, Was many a proud pavilion dimly seen, Which glimmered back, against the moon's fair lamp, Tissues of silk and silver twisted sheen, And standards proudly pitched, and warders armed between.
But of their Monarch's person keeping ward,
Since last the deep-mouthed bell of vespers tolled, The chosen soldiers of the royal guard
Their post beneath the proud Cathedral hold: A band unlike their Gothic sires of old,
Who, for the cap of steel and iron mace,
Bear slender darts, and casques bedecked with gold, While silver-studded belts their shoulders grace, Where ivory quivers ring in the broad falchion's place.
In the light language of an idle court,
They murmured at their master's long delay, And held his lengthened orisons in sport:
"What! will Don Roderick here till morning stay, To wear in shrift and prayer the night away?
And are his hours in such dull penance passed For fair Florinda's plundered charms to pay ?"
Then to the east their weary eyes they cast, And wished the lingering dawn would glimmer forth at last.
But, far within, Toledo's Prelate lent
An ear of fearful wonder to the King; The silver lamp a fitful lustre sent,
So long that sad confession witnessing: For Roderick told of many a hidden thing, Such as are lothlys uttered to the air,
f Almost all the Spanish historians, as well as the voice of tradition, ascribe the invasion of the Moors to the forcible violation committed by Roderick upon Florinda, called by the Moors, Caba, or Cava. She was the daughter of Count Julian, one of the Gothic monarch's principal lieutenants, who, when the crime was perpetrated, was engaged in the defence of Ceuta against the Moors. In his indignation at the ingratitude of his sovereign, and the dishonour of his daughter, Count Julian forgot the duties of a Christian and a patriot, and forming an alliance with Musa, then the caliph's lieutenant in Africa, he countenanced the invasion of Spain by a body of Saracens and Africans, commanded by the celebrated Tarik; the issue of which was the defeat and death of Roderick, and the occupation of almost the whole peninsula by the Moors. Voltaire, in his General History, expresses his doubts of the popular story, and Gibbon gives him some countenance. But the universal tradition is quite sufficient for the purposes of poetry. The Spaniards, in detestation of Florinda's memory, are said, by Cervantes, never to bestow that name upon any human female, reserving it for their dogs.