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The mountaineer, with dagger at his side,
With pistols in his belt, and carabine
Firm in his hand, seems like a ghost to glide
Along the rocky high horizon line.
Here looms a precipice : beneath it yawns
A nameless dizzy depth-an awful space : Down through its dim tremendous gulf the dawns
Each morn go shuddering, the dark to face.
Here ancient Chaos laughs at all the world :
Here in her stronghold does she scoff at Time : Here, 'mid the boulders in disorder hurled :
Here, 'mid the grotto's stalactites and slime.
Here from a topmost barren peak the eye,
Straining across the uncertain field to gaze, May catch a moonlit glimpse of waves that die,
Far off, on strands in breaker-haunted bays.
The spectral bat within the valleys dreams;
The vulture broods in thievish ease alone Among the jagged stones : the eagle screams
Upon his pinnacle with prey bestrown.
MORNING AT THE THRESHING-FLOOR.
I HEARD the music of a shepherd's reed,
And knew that morn was nigh.
The tender kids
Came bleating from the fold : the shadows sought
A refuge in the caverns, and the sun
Peeped over the world's rim, and, smiling, saw
The distant wave bright with his glory. We,
Worn out with marching, found a sheltered vale
Where, in a scanty terraced vineyard, grew
Small store of verdure, and around it stood
The hovels of the farmers. Here to rest
We sank. The camp was yet five leagues beyond.
A whining shepherd warned us to beware-
The Turks roamed in the neighbourhood ;- no soul
Of Christian in the village dared abide,
Save two starved refugees, who yestermorn
Arrived and camped upon the threshing-floor,-
An old man and a maiden,- from a town
Plundered and burned a dozen days ago.
The maid was beautiful : the man would die,
Bent down beneath the weight of years and grief,
Within a few short hours.
We rose, and climbed
Along the terraces, and past the church
Deserted and defiled by infidels,
And past the ruined cottages, and stood
Amazed, with frightened eyes fast fixed upon
The smooth stones of the village threshing-floor.
What need to hear the guide in broken Greek
Repeat the story? One quick glance sufficed.
The man was dead already, and the maid
Beside him knelt, and moved her lips in prayer.
Our weapons clashed.
She sprang, alert with fear, To face us. Tenderly and timidly She stretched her hands in supplication, when She knew us friends.
And now the sun apace With purple and with rose and amethyst Flooded the sky : circling before him drove The lingering vapours, and bewildering beams Sent down to touch and warm our weary hearts. Around the maiden's lovely form it threw
Bewitching halos, till I thought her face
Was Aphrodite's, and the Paphian queen
In great Olympian splendour had returned
To thrill the souls of men.
On earth, in air,
Was ever fairer vision than this girl?
I loved her and I worshipped her : my life
New inspiration and new purpose took.
The sweet caresses of her earnest eyes-
Her gentle majesty of innocence,
The gleaming of the sun upon her hair,
The perfume virginal and exquisite
Of her delightful presence-filled me so
With love and awe, that all my being shook
As shake the cedars on Thessalian hills
When storms are in the warm and summer sky.
My naked sword upon the pavement clanged ;
My hands were tremulous and weak : my knees
Bent slowly till I knelt as if to pray ;
And in my native Greek I cried to her,
"If I adore thee, vanish not, but stay,
For, flying, thou wouldst take my life with thee!'
A smile of wonder and of joy that rose
Above her sorrow and her fear, as rise
The stars in some black night, beamed from her eyes,
And with a perfect glory filled her face.
O great surprise ! in soft mellifluous Greek
The maiden answered, while with eager hand
She caught her cloak about her, bowed her head,
And blushed as roses blush before the sun.
'Rise, gentle youth,' she murmured : 'kneel to none
Save Him who sent thee to protect the poor
And helpless !'
While the guide stood gaping by,
I struggled to my feet, and bade her tell
The story of her sadness.
This good man,
Who on the threshing-floor lay dead, -and grand
In death,-a patriarch of ninety years,
Had been her only friend, her guardian,
Her teacher, her supporter, since the day
When she-a baby waif, scarce old enough
To lisp her name, deserted in the streets
Of quaint Sebenico by coward knaves
Who brought her there from Athens in their ship-
Had fastened on his robe with clinging hands,
And begged for bread.
The aged man, a priest,
Charged with a small church in a little town
High up among the rocks, the starving girl
Took to his heart; and, since that happy day,
Until this year of horror and of woe,
With him she had abode.
He knew the Greek,