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Six HUNDRED years ago there lived a man
Whose life, like ours, was but a halting space
Between two mighty oceans, yet whose span
Of breath and action was so full of grace,
Of beauty, sorrow, love, and deep despair,
That when the genius faded from his face,
And Death instead had placed his silence there,
His fame was cherished by a grateful race,
While age past age with cunning swiftness ran.
Manol the architect arose one day
From broken sleep with visions vaguely filled,
And hastened at his prince's feet to lay
The story of a dream, which so had thrilled
His senses with presentiment of doom
That all his being trembled, and his soul,
Like a sad captive in a prison's gloom,
Was dull with misery: so great his dole,
He could not even shape his lips to pray.
O prince!' he cried, 'forgive me if I come
To fret thy noble court with idle tales !
A frown? I tremble, and my lips grow dumb:
My heart is breaking; all my courage fails.'
He turned to flee the presence, but a word
From Radu Negru, gently spoken, gave
Him life again, nor from the throne he stirred,
But told his dream ; and when he seemed to rave,
From courtiers' ranks arose satiric hum.
In all this exquisite Wallachian plain
No fairer site than Argech can be found;
And here, O prince, thy majesty would fain
Upbuild a church on consecrated ground.
Thy wish is law. I bend me to the task;
My walls for future ages will I rear :
But, Radu Negru, let thy servant ask
Permission to explain the sudden fear
Which seems to paralyse his heart and brain.
'I dreamed I wandered in a lonely wood By night, unlighted or by moon or star; And, while within an ancient grove I stood, I heard a voice say to me, from afar, “Manol, Manol: hast given thy soul to Art ?” I answered " Aye:” and fell upon my knees : “Then from thy true love shalt thou surely part, And never shalt thou know an hour of ease, But ever o'er thy sorrow shalt thou brood.”
•Thus said the mystic voice, and died away
Among the solemn murmurs of the leaves :
I thought 'twas like a morning breeze in May,
Or like the whisper of the rain that grieves
Outside the casement when the Spring is near ;
Or like those strangest warnings that do creep
At night through waving upland grasses sere,
To start the shepherd, trembling, from his sleep;
Or like a young bird's cry at dawn of day.
' Now in my dream I rose, and cried aloud,
And smote my breast, and fled, like one accurst,
Through vale and over mountain; then I bowed
My head, and wept as if my heart would burst.
The voice pursued me with its dreadful sigh :
I sought to hide myself; to hear it not;
In dull despair I begged that I might die;
But Fate reserved for me a ruder lot,
Nor heeded tear, nor prayer, nor menace proud.
"" To waste thy life in idle happiness
Were base, Manol, for thou art artist born;
Of loving arms to feel the close caress
Is fair delight at waking in the morn,
And sweet are kisses on the lips at night :
But thou these purest joys must now forswear;
With thy poor heart thy soul must learn to fight;
Thy jealous Art no rivalry will bear !”.
Thus sighed the voice, increasing my distress.
"At last the vision faded, and, awake,
Alone upon my couch I panting lay;
The sun began through early clouds to break,
And touched me with the splendour of new day:
But nothing save the well-remembered voice
Of her I love could cheer me.
When she came,
She made my fainting heart anew rejoice,
And through my soul she sent a sudden flame
Which might a poet's inspiration make.
'My wife, my blessed Flora of the Fields,
Before me knelt, and kissed me on my brow :
Ah prince ! the sceptre tender woman wields
Is light as air, but men before it bow !
I glory in the magic of her love,
Which holds me captive in its gentle bonds;
Its subtle power I fondly place above
The futtering of thousand fairy wands,
And me from all that is impure it shields !
'She crept beside me, and upon her arm
She raised my head. “And why in such sad plight ?”
She said. “Hast dreamed of any demon's harm?
For, while beside thy couch I watched last night,
Some fiend of darkness seized upon thy tongue,
And made thee utter cruel, burning words;
And even while the morning still was young,
While on the thatches scarcely stirred the birds,
Thy sleeping face was crowded with alarm!”
'I could not tell her of the awful dream,
Nor shock her senses with my fevered fear.
I gently chided her for care extreme;
I rose, and robed myself, and hastened here.