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For if they thought you a spy disguised
From the haunts of robbers down below,
With whips they would have you catechised,
Would pummel you with their axes' helves,
And crack your bones with so many a blow,
That your soul and flesh would separate,
And as one who rushed upon his fate,
They would curse you as a thing unclean,
And send you spinning down the ravine.
I trembled lightly, as up at last
The good monks haled us and made us fast.
My old companion was landed first,
But when I sought to set foot upon
The crag, a storm of reproaches burst
Around and above me, and anon
A dozen daggers were at the rope.
I looked at the dreadful stones beneath,
And for a moment I ceased to breathe.
But the monk whose store I sought to steal
An hour before, made a strong appeal,
And breath came back, and with it came hope.
"Young Greek, though thou wert a bandit born,'
He said, 'we receive thee, and consecrate
Thy life anew. Thou must learn to scorn
The paths that thine erring feet have trod ;
Thou must learn to serve the Church and God,
And humbly somewhat to compensate
By valour against their enemies
For a life of sin, deceit, and hate.
And, when thy spirit is purified
By prayers and by counsels multiplied,
We shall send thee forth to noble work !
Saint Stephen shall make thy mission his,
And help thee to grapple with the Turk!'
A peace like the peace of Heaven fell
Upon me, as in a quiet cell
With the monk that night I sat, and heard
How Cantacuzene the Emperor,
Who loved the apostles of the Word,
Had founded this refuge high in air,
That priests in safety might linger there,
And worship in spite of horrid war ;
How, stirred by an ecstasy divine,
At morn in chorus the brethren sang
Of holy Helen and Constantine,
Of Stephen and of Saint Chrysostom,
Until all the chapel rafters rang :
How saintly Basil's parchments they read,
And recited tales of martyrs dead
Whom he took his inspiration from.
How Caralampos the good was killed
In Ephesus; how the heathen spilled
His innocent blood, which soon became
Of wondrous miracle-working fame.
I saw the head of the saint in a case
Of silver. Its compassionate face
Softened my heart. I fell on my knees :
And into my soul by slow degrees
There came a love for the saints ; and those
Who were counted as the saints' dread foes
I learned to hate and despise.
With rage as I saw the Moslems' trace
On the ancient walls. The invading race
By strategy gained the sacred crag,
And, rioting there, they had fiercely spurned
The shrines and relics beneath their feet,
As things for hate and derision meet,
In the years long gone : and they would drag,
If they dared, the monks to slaughter now !
I lingered-growing, I know not how,
A better man on the rock, for days,
Till the priests, with smiles and songs of praise,
Gave me money, food, a long sword keen,
A cloak for my back, an amulet ;
And just as the dawning came to fret
One morn the monastery's spires,
And to touch the filagrees with sheen,
They lowered me to the barren plain,
And to fight the Turk I took my way :
To fight the Turk in the rocky glens
Where the Montenegrins' beacon-fires
Had frightened the tyrants from their dens.
On their rock the monks had knelt to pray That the saints would keep my soul from stain.
SWEET Thessaly ! I love thy hills !
I love the odour of thy pines ; Each torrent that thy valleys fills
With waters ruddier than wines ; Thy slopes of Pindus where the gods
Walked with the Muses long ago ; But where to-day in silence plods
The Turkish soldier to and fro.
Sweet Thessaly ! if I forget
Thy beechen groves and ashen dells, May nevermore my lips be wet
With water from thy wayside wells. May never Tempe's vineyards show Their lustrous clusters to mine
I hear Penaëus flow
Through darkling vales when sunset dies.