123

CANTO VI

I.


Now string the lyre anew: a different measure
Suits the sad tenor of the sinking lay—
Changing the chords that told of love and pleasure
To the slow dying fall of closing day.
Perhaps 'twere better, halting at midway,
To leave the last catastrophe untold;
And suffer hearts unskill'd in life's deep play
To hope, that free from danger, tranquil roll'd
Our married lovers' lives, in happiness grown old.

II.


It cannot be: she lov'd too fondly far
To be endur'd by one indifferent grown—
And what was still a more effectual bar,
She never flatter'd—and she was his own.
A thousand trifles daily clear had shown
He lov'd her not; had she not been so blind
As ne'er to doubt it possible that one
Whom she so doted on, could be unkind,
Or guess he loath'd the bond, which his free will confin'd.

124

III.


Had she lov'd little:—had her mind been slave
To wealth and flattery—prizing empire more
And the heart's empire less—a tardy grave
Had waited her upon her native shore,
With crowns, and arms, and trophies blazon'd o'er,
To tell how long she liv'd, how well she reign'd:
Less beautiful—the wayward fate that tore
Her from her parents' arms, had never pain'd
Their yearning hearts with sorrow, long as life remain'd.

IV.


Yet why lament her? many a branch the tree
Sees wither'd at its feet before its time;
And many a corpse, far from its ancestry,
Exil'd in death as life to foreign clime,
Lies far from prayer and tear—where never chime
Of merry bells was heard, nor solemn knell:
What matters it, if funeral rites begrime
With 'sembled hues of woe, when none can tell
Joy in disguise from grief, it acts its part so well

V.


E'en my own race, though vaults of ancient date
Ope their dark portals where their sires have lain,
Wide scatter'd o'er the globe by various fate,
Beneath the thin turf buried, show 'tis vain.
The world-divided Indies, France, and Spain
Receiv'd their bones, far from their land of birth;
Vain was his wish expiring midst the slain,
(To whom all proffer'd aid was nothing worth)
To drink his native spring, and lie in native earth.

125

VI.


Then why o'er poor Irene's lot bewail,
Gliding from fancied woe to real tears?
Or shrink unwilling from the closing tale,
Loathing the course the shatter'd vessel steers
Into the port, sole end of woes and fears,
That port of safety, where we all must moor
Has verse a glass through which plain truth appears
So galling to the heart, that to ensure
Endurance, soften'd down, its harshness we must cure?

VII.


Nonsense—the case occurs in every day
That rises on us—only some are tough,
And will not die, let happen what there may;
These are not few:—still there are left enough
Too fragile to encounter storms so rough,
That pine and pine away till health is flown,
And till life follows—while some lying stuff
Tells on their tomb, that cough or fever grown
Triumphant o'er their strength, laid them beneath that stone.

VIII.


E'en Dr. Johnson—that old twisted knot
Of pride, and prejudice, and crabbedness,
Declar'd, that in his mind he doubted not
That more had died for love than we can guess.
First, love is a disease that none confess;
Second, 'tis a disease no leech can cure:
And 'twere a shame to trust his axiom less
For his belief in ghosts—his words are sure,
Our Pope infallible, while England's realms endure.

126

IX.


Therefore 'tis true as Fate—the Doctor said it,
And woe betide you if you dare to doubt,
Or turn the question other than he made it;
Then bravely let me go my work about,
Nor flinch, but tell the truth with courage stout,
And make an end of my long rambling lay:
But could I here a friendly pen find out
To end it for me, 'twere in vain to say,
How glad to other hands I'd give the task away.

X.


Ah, blind confiding Love! what loyal heart
But pours deep Pity's tears thy woes upon,
When late conviction forces thee to part
With all the sacred treasures once thine own!
Like drops of burning lead, that one by one
Fall on a martyr's breast, when proofs conspire,
Still the poor sufferer stifles tear and groan,
Hugs self-deceit, and hopes with vain desire,
Till angels weep to see the flickering flame expire.

XI.


Expire, and leave all dark—and then if Heaven
Have placed the sorrow in a fragile mould,
Repose from pain and anguish soon is given,
Resting in narrow limits, calm as cold.
But when the vital thread is strong to hold
The bracing ties of life, life's farce goes on—
But oh! within that breast 'twould scare the bold
To see the springs at work when peace is flown,
A harrowing spectacle, reserv'd for Heaven alone.

127

XII.


That lovers are dull company, and rude,
The well-bred world has been aware for long:
Therefore, upon their leisure to intrude
Were to the full as tedious as 'twere wrong.
Yet sometimes Thought would thrust his face among
The flowers by which their nuptials were surrounded:
A stray unlucky word—a look—a song,
Would wake a nest of snakes that Florio wounded,
And then his mood so strange Irene quite confounded.

XIII.


At last there came the day, the unlucky day
(Not many days had pass'd before it rose),
In which he ask'd her how to find the way
Which from the tower a parting traveller goes:
And where the road leads forth, and whither flows
The rivulet that murmurs through the wood?
In short, he thought it time from their repose
To rise, and set forth home as best they could,
The kingdom's weal to seek, and join their parents good.

XIV.


A flood of tears her parents' names call down
From poor Irene's eyes—"Alas!" she cried,
"Did you not see when hither you had flown,
"That lofty crystal walls our lives divide
"From their dear love, and all the world beside?
"We are alone—and though our happiness
"Leaves not a wish that hence our feet could guide,
"Yet, dar'd I from my heart the truth confess,
" 'Twere a deep grief to me if I had lov'd you less.

128

XV.


"But as the Sylph such mercy shows at last,
"And watches o'er our happiness so well,
"Perhaps, when some few years away have past"—
Here Florio did what I'm asham'd to tell,
Stopping Irene's mouth with words whose spell
Was easy to his tongue, but not to ours;
He fairly wish'd the Sylph were d——d in hell!
And thunder'd imprecations in such showers
That she drew back aghast as the hot volley pours.

XVI.


She stood confounded—pale—more pale her cheek
Grew—and her lips their colour chang'd to white;
And chilly blue each nail began to streak,
So much did his wild violence affright.
Already could she fancy come in sight
The Sylph, with vengeance arm'd, to kill and slay—
Florio rav'd on, until exhausted quite,
His rage had left no more of curse to say,
And breath and strength were gone, and the storm died away.

XVII.


He leant his throbbing head upon his hand,
Covering his eyes, his fit of fury o'er,
Nor mark'd Irene still as rooted stand,
Fix'd to the spot where she had stood before.
Then slow he look'd her in the face, far more
Like a stern judge than lover: "Is this true?"
He said—"Where is this wall? I must explore
"It every inch, and its whole circuit view,
"And find or make a breach,—and make an exit too.

129

XVIII.


"Show me the way."—Irene strove to say
She could not show the crystal circuit well:
She had but known the place a single day
Before he came—Himself might see the spell,
Following the alleys till their close compel
To tread roughground, and thorns.—And then she sigh'd,
And look'd so wretched, while on earth there fell
Some scalding tears which she half turn'd to hide,
That any heart save one vice-sear'd to soothe had tried.

XIX.


But without further word, away he stalk'd,
As one offended, cross'd, and hardly used;
And down the nearest alley swiftly walk'd,
Till among bushes tall the sight, confused,
Lost him. Irene reason's gifts abused,
Though weeping still, in arguing with her sense,
That passion was short madness, and once loosed,
Its rage o'erleap'd all bounds, nor found a fence
In prudence, love, or reason, fit to warn it thence.

XX.


In some hours more she quite became convinc'd
That Florio staid so long, because his rage
Now seem'd so shameful to him, that he winc'd
At thoughts of joining her in mood more sage
And dared not see her—Would she had a page,
Who, sent with some small gift, the wound might cure.
And he, ere entering, receive a gage
That she forgave, and could not thus endure
To lose him from her sight—her pardon swift as sure.

130

XXI.


It was dark night before the youth return'd,
And when he came, he enter'd dull and slow;
No more upon his cheek hot choler burn'd,
No more the flame of rage rose o'er his brow.
Towards him she advanc'd: her arms of snow
Around his neck she threw—he turn'd away.
"Irene," he exclaim'd, "this childish show
"Of love were better for another day:
"Tis now mistim'd—I'm ill dispos'd at love to play."

XXII.


Irene then sat down—no further word
Broke on the silence of their tardy meal:
In vain rich dainties spread the tempting board,
Hearts ill at ease no appetite can feel.
Irene's pride supported her, though reel
Her thoughts in wild confusion: all the roots
Of her existence shaken—no appeal
Remains to her—complaint nor murmur boots
To ease the shivering doubt that through her bosom shoots.

XXIII.


Heavens! was it possible the Sylph judg'd right!
Was it all true that he so oft had said!
Was Florio chang'd to her? or was he quite
Estrang'd from all affection? War's wild trade
Most cruel havoc in his heart had made.
Might it not yet be soften'd? Dared she try,
Surely she might succeed—but still afraid,
She shrunk from his knit brow and turbid eye,
And the half-utter'd words, unheard, unnotic'd die,

131

XXIV.


He rose and left her; sought their couch and slept,
Or tried to sleep, nor e'en good night did say:
Still at the board her seat unmov'd she kept,
The lights burn'd low; the lamps scarce lent a ray:
Lower and lower still they sunk away,
When in the dimness of the ample hall
She thought she saw a face—'twas faint and grey,
And though she tried she could not see it all,
But sure it was a face—close by the darksome wall.

XXV.


A face so grim, that once it caught her eye,
She could not close it, nor yet look aside.
'Twas old and wrinkled—fierce, yet leering sly,
Grinning with a grimace that open'd wide
A mouth where malice seem'd at home to bide:
The expression such as fiends would wear, who see
An angel falling, or a mortal tried
Beyond his strength to bear: To rise and flee
Was done as soon as thought—near Florio safe to be,

XXVI.


"Oh Florio," she exclaim'd, "a ruffian grim
"Has burst into our hall!" He look'd amazed;
And while she told th' adventure o'er to him,
Sleepy upon her pallid cheeks he gazed.
"Be not alarm'd," he said, "your fears have crazed
"Your better reason, or th' old fellow's face
"Could not such terror in your heart have raised.
"He's my good friend; he penetrates all space,
"And all within their halls for him must find a place.

132

XXVII.


"I've known him long—to me he came disguised
"In petticoats and hood: and when well known,
"He saves a deal of trouble ill-advised,
"And makes the world roll smooth. You wish him gone,
"But you are wrong: as soon as he has shown
"The fruits of his experience, you will see
"That all which now annoys us both, far flown,
"Conjur'd like evil sprite beneath the sea,
"Will let us live in peace, from maudlin folly free.

XXVIII.


"His name is Disinganno. Soon or late
"We all shake hands with him: would he knew how
"To teach us to escape from such a fate
"As threatens us with endless prison now!
"Sleep mean while! but when morn's new-kindled glow
"Illumes the east, together let us try,
"If this accursed Sylph have left us no
"Outlet, however difficult, to fly
"From this detested cage, this den, this hole, this stye!"

XXIX.


He turn'd to sleep: Irene strove to find
A like repose, in slumber's balm to share.
The griesly face had seized upon her mind,
And still its likeness would unbidden glare
Upon her fearful vision, even there,
In the last sanctuary of dying hope:
Between the very curtains it would stare,
And grin as if in scorn, with taunt, and mope,
And mow, until she ceas'd with its fell power to cope.

133

XXX.


"Speak out," she cried, "nor longer thus with sign
"And gesture indicate some dreadful tale!
"Speak out, and let me try this heart of mine,
"If o'er its weakness I may yet prevail
"In all the ills that threaten to assail.
"Tell forth the worst, no word of truth unsaid;
"And then for ever leave me to bewail
"The fate, which brings unto our very bed
"A fiend whose gorgon eye turns life and joy to lead."

XXXI.


"Yes, I will speak," the fearful vision said,
"And tell thee in few words the lore I know;
"But yet within thy heart, unhappy maid,
"Thou feelest all that my deep lore can show.
"Thou feelest that the sunflower droopeth low
"While far to other lands the sun is gone;
"Thou feelest that the storm hath chas'd the bow
"Of hope and promise from thy dark sky flown—
"That thou art lov'd no more—that thou must love alone!

XXXII.


"Now weep, and weep, till thy still weeping eyes
"And aching head a fount of water turn:
"Weep till thy tears' perennial stream supplies
"With never-failing source some Naiad's urn:
"Weep till the lamp of life has ceas'd to burn,
"Weep till thy blood is dried, thy bosom stone—
"But never shall thy tears awake return
"Of vanish'd love, no more to be thine own—
"Thy doom is sign'd and seal'd—alone—alone—alone!"

134

XXXIII.


He disappear'd. The work of fate was done:
The veil for evermore in sunder torn:
Beside her lay the form which might have won
Suffrage of beauty from the God of morn.
Alone rang in her ears—her doom forlorn
While link'd to him she lov'd, more hard to bear:
She could not weep—she felt 'twould move but scorn,
Should tear, or sigh, or groan, her pangs declare:
And then the Sylph—'twas all a labyrinth of despair!

XXXIV.


The morn advancing, from the eastern skies
The shadowy veil of darkness slow withdrew,
When unrefreshing sleep weigh'd on her eyes,
And its dull gradual torpor o'er her threw.
She knew not that she slept: she scarcely drew
From thence the calm which soon it had bestow'd,
When Florio's voice pierced the thin slumber through,
And call'd her forth, to try to find a road
To leave the prison tower, his hated, loath'd abode.

XXXV.


She begg'd he would not ask her forth to go
Upon a quest to which she had small will.
It was enough for her to feel and know,
That all his efforts were directed still
Thence to escape, considering it an ill
Far too unbearable with her to bide.
"Go where you list," she said, "seek vale and hill,
"And when your search has fail'd,—though now denied,
"Some sympathy be mine, whom years of prison tried

135

XXXVI.


"In solitude and sorrow and the last
"Without the comfort of a jailor's voice,
"Or sight of living creature: yet it pass'd,
"Because my heart could still in hope rejoice,
"That Florio lived,—and lived for me; the noise
"Of the still rolling waves my fancy's ear
"Would shape into his accents: had the choice
"Of such a song as lulls the mariner
"From Syren's flute been mine, the sound had been less dear.

XXXVII.


"The floating clouds that pass'd above the cave,
"Sailing along the blue expanse of air,
"These were my messengers, who still could brave
"The power that held myself a prisoner there.
"I bade them hie to Florio, and declare
"With what firm constancy my griefs were borne:
"I bade them tell him ne'er to let despair
"Be victor, for that yet would dawn the morn,
"Which tenfold would repay the woes our hearts had torn."

XXXVIII.


Florio, who did not well know what to say,
And stood first on the left foot, then the right,
Thought that he had best e'en turn and walk away,
And shuffled off. Broad day now pour'd its light
On tower and tree in floods of radiance bright,
But to Irene's eyes the light was woe;
The very sunshine seem'd to shimmer white—
The very air seem'd poison round to blow—
The tinkling fountain stunn'd her with its endless flow.

136

XXXIX.


From room to room she wander'd, nor found rest,
Nor could sit down, nor could refreshment taste—
The sense of wretchedness her powers oppress'd;
Thoughts of lost joy her strength and courage waste.
And most of all she dreaded, that in haste
The Sylph would come, her anguish to console:
She saw the smile, the dreaded smile, that placed
Its wreath upon his lips, the look that stole
In triumph from his eyes, though trying to control

XL.


His radiant joy into a form of grief
By way of sympathy with what she felt;
And wish'd that instant death with sentence brief
Might save her from the shame such pity dealt.
And, ever and anon, on earth she knelt,
And, too disturb'd for prayer, again she rose;
Sometimes a thought of former days would melt
Her very soul to tears: but ere it flows
The new-drunk poison's chill again the current froze.

XLI.


Thus pass'd the day: the evening fell as sweet
As though it gilt a home affection bless'd:
Florio returning, sat him down to meat,
And in few words his ill success confess'd.
He said he meant for half an hour to rest,
And then by moonlight forth again would go;
Again Irene urgently he press'd
To aid his search, when sooner he might know
Where the long walls might seem most practicably low.

137

XLII.


She said 'twere better he should go alone,
For she was faint and ill for want of sleep:
He shook his head, and in a meaning tone
Ask'd, if 'twas her contrivance thus to keep
Him caged for ever? rather would he leap
From the high promontory to the sea,
And find a tomb below the rolling deep,
Than thus submit a very slave to be,
Subject to demons' spells from which no art can free.

XLIII.


"I do suspect," he said, "this Sylph has found
"Means how to please your fancy at my cost,
"And that this crystal spell has fenced us round,
"In order that his triumph be not lost.
"But why enclose me too? 'Tis no such boast
"To chain a rival, rival if he were:
"And far, far rather I'd resign a host
"Of wives or mistresses, than stay with her
"Who hath conspired against me with the fiends of air."

XLIV.


She gazed at him astonish'd—then replied,
"That if himself believed what he had said,
" 'Twere worth an answer:" and with honest pride
Look'd him straight in the face: his eye, afraid,
Fell beneath her's. Then rallying round he made
A sort of explanation, If, or And,
Which nothing meant: next all the blame he laid
Upon the Sylph, who cunningly had plann'd
A purgatory worse than mortal could withstand.

138

XLV.


"I do assure you," he continued, "soon
"You will be quite as tired of it as I;
"Nor could you find beneath the circling moon,
"A creature who could bear it. By-and-bye
"You will find out how wearing 'tis to sigh
"For human intercourse, and all the joys
"Of mingled life, which courts and camps supply:
"Their varied interests, bustle, motion, noise,
"In place of starting here at sound of one's own voice.

XLVI.


"I tell you now I cannot bear it—nay,
"I will not: and if still your power remains
"Over your winged lover, find a way
"To set us free from these detested chains.
"This is the mode, the only one, which gains
"My heart, respect, esteem, or what you will;
"Then while your bosom still the wish retains
"To please and to oblige me, show it still,
"By seeking every means my purpose to fulfil."

XLVII.


"Florio!" she said, "beware of what you say!
"Perhaps we are not (as we seem) alone:
"This is the fated hour of closing day,
"The hour when spirits all abroad have flown.
"Say that your love is cold, and past, and gone,
"Is e'en your Honour dead? that you can bear
"To stoop to acts a vassal would disown,
"Bidding your wife to woo the Prince of Air,
"Proving him right who call'd your heart beneath her care."

139

XLVIII.


"The lovely dream of life flies far away—
"Not self-deception can its youth renew:
"But rob me not of my last creed and stay,
"That I loved Honour's self in loving you.
"Confirm not tales of jealousy as true,
"Nor prove me duped, who ne'er would hear th' alarms
"That call'd you base, unstable, and untrue,
"When beauty e'en like yours had ne'er found charms
"To place you on our throne, or give me to your arms."

XLIX.


Florio could scarcely to the purpose speak,
But yet he tried to prove she was quite wrong:
To find dishonour there was quite a freak,
Considering trifles in a light too strong.
A few fair words were not a penance long,
And more, of course, he did not ask or want—
He'd leave to her discretion all along
The conduct of th' affair, but boon so scant
To call dishonour, sounded very much like cant.

L.


And cant was, of all things, the very thing
That least he could away with, or endure—
'Tis what all cunning people ever bring
To compass their own ends, through by-paths sure.
Honour was a fine thing, no doubt—a pure,
Of very pure and virtuous intent:
But, when it served a purpose to secure,
He always had observed that ladies leant
Most firmly to its stay, most rigidly unbent.

140

LI.


The truth is sad, yet had it best be told—
The more his hopes of freedom sunk and waned,
The more the ashes of his love grew cold,
Till, scatter'd all, not e'en their trace remain'd.
And, wandering round the wall, he scarce refrain'd
From cursing in his deepest soul the tie
Which there in bonds his spirit free retain'd:
While she, th' unwilling cause of misery,
No more Indifference shared, but Hate came creeping nigh.

LII.


And as he look'd at her, o'er every line
Of his fair features, gloomy darkness sent
Its staining clouds to veil each form divine,
Till Beauty scarcely its enchantment lent.
A deeper feeling far than discontent,
Lour'd cold and turbid o'er his lip and brow:
And eyes askance express the feelings pent
Within his heart, while e'en her face of woe
Awoke resentment new, caused bitter words to flow.

LIII.


"Do not suppose," he said, "that in the world
"I've lived so long, without some profit there:
"And women who, like you, have Honour hurl'd
"Right in my teeth, their neighbours' faults could share.
"And, once for all, I'll candidly declare
"The real state in which my mind now lies:
"Nor will I, from a squeamish scruple, spare
"To tell the truth—when surely one so wise
"Will the plain-dealing praise, which every word supplies.

141

LIV.


"Place not your fancy on that boyish love,
"Which as a boy and girl, we once held dear,
"For every year that farther on we move,
"Brings different views of life, more plain and clear.
"We now are married. Did you ever hear
"Of married people cooing all their lives?
"Or married men, who, out of fondness sheer,
"Continued constant worshipping their wives
"As goddesses of bliss from whom all joy derives?

LV.


"Yet you, who boast such love, the only thing
"I ever ask'd of you, can flat refuse
"And that with taunting words of venom'd sting
"Reflecting on my honour, while you lose
"All hold of me for ever: and you choose
"Here with a captive husband to remain,
"The jailor who his life in prison mews,
"The very lock which rivets on his chain,
"And yet expect his heart can boyish love retain!

LVI.


"Call on the Sylph: tell him his wall to break,—
"Then leave me, if you will, on yon hill's side:
" 'Tis not the first time I have learn'd to make
"My way unfriended in a world so wide.
"And, if such prayer be still beneath your pride,
"Call on the Fiend that gnomes and sylphs obey,
"And make your mind up by his terms to bide,
"Let price of liberty be what it may.
"But by fair means or foul, I will get hence away!"

142

LVII.


Irene rose—unconscious if to go
Or stay—Her sense was stunn'd, her heart was dead—
Toward the door she totter'd, faint and slow—
Then stopping, placed her hands upon her head.
Her sight was dim—and yet, as if in dread
To see the face once worshipp'd, with her veil
She cover'd o'er her eyes—No tear she shed,
But stood so motionless—so soft—so pale,
She seem'd the gliding spirit of some midnight tale.

LVIII.


Softly—yet scarce perceptibly, a soft,
Light pressure on her powerless hand there lay,
Such as in youth that hand had met so oft,
Expressing all which words are poor to say.
Nor yet the covering veil she moved away;
And one of those dread moments o'er her past
In which thoughts crowd so thick, that many a day
Their bare recital given in words would last,
Though flying swifter than the storm-presaging blast.

LIX.


Love! it was past! No—never, never more!
The being she adored had ceased to be!
Unreal as the forms that swim before
The dreamer's eye from morning light that flee.
The hand which press'd her own 'twere pain to see:
It would but serve some bitterer drops to wring
From her torn heart, which throbb'd with agony.
Feeling Death wrenching up each nerve and string—
Oh Death—kind Death—she calls thee—swift deliverance bring!

143

LX.


Yes, it would kill her to behold that face
Once more by Love illumined—he would give
His honour for a price—and that—to place
Him far from her detested sight to live.
Then—let it kill! Let Death at once relieve
The unimagined misery she bore—
'Twas the sole boon that now she could receive—
One hand her covering veil in sunder tore,
While clasping one the Sylph her presence stood before.

LXI.


The evening shadows and the paly moon,
Alike had disappear'd before his light,
Gorgeous and glowing as the rays of noon,
In thousand changing hues of radiance bright.
Clouds roll'd around him, volumed thin and white,
Peopled with all the habitants of air,
Who, standing all prepared for joyous flight,
Lighter than gossamer, with flowers more fair
Than earthly gardens boast, their garlands sweet prepare.

LXII.


"Come, my own dear Irene!" thus began
The winged genius, "come a crown to bind
"Upon those temples, which the guilt of Man
"Weighs drooping to the earth, a grave to find.
"Mount with these airy myriads on the wind,
"Their Queen their Empress! than their air more pure;
"Where e'en stern Fate (his first decree resign'd)
"Shall grant thy life immortal to endure
"The amaranth flower of Earth, in endless bliss secure!

144

LXIII.


She raised her head, and with an accent low,
That trembled on the air, said, " 'Tis too late!
"But let due punishment my proud heart bow,
"Whose blind presumption rush'd upon its fate.
"My debt of gratitude, already great,
"I would increase—Destroy thy crystal wall!"
The Sylph raised high his arm with face elate,
And circling ran the crash that told its fall—
"Another boon,"—he said,—"thou hast not told me all!"

LXIV.


Again she spoke—"If my dear parents live,
"Tell them"—upon his downcast eyes with dread
She look'd—then said, "No answer need you give,
"I see they are at peace—that they are dead!
"I have no home—then to the bower instead
"Where first—yes—take me there!" and as the bower
She named, it seem'd as if new life had sped
Through her pale cheek; still was its memory's power
Alive when all was sere, the last remaining flower!

LXV.


'Midst clouds and flowers the sylphs Irene raise,
Their Prince beside her poising on the wing,
The moon abash'd, hid far her sickly rays,
The air was heavy, still and threatening.
The nightingales no more their descant sing,
Scared by the glare of light above them thrown
For showers of colour'd fires the spirits fling
With meteor-brightness to the skies unknown,
To bring their Queen in state unto her airy throne.

145

LXVI.


Joy of all brilliant hues around her play'd,
The joy of spirits gay, and pure, and light—
A thousand garlands of bright flowers they made,
A thousand gambols twined before her sight.
She stood in her long robes, all snowy bright,
Her hair dishevell'd, and her eyes cast down.
But, paler than her robes, her cheeks were white,
White as the foam upon the billows thrown,
When sailing on they pass, high o'er the ocean lone.

LXVII.


At last they near'd the bower—There, there, it stood,
Calm, fair, and tranquil, in the moon's faint ray;
There grew the ancient and accustom'd wood;
There hung the vines,—there twined the ivy spray.
Forward Irene leant—then sprang away,
And down, and down, and down through air she fell;
A moment on the ocean's surface lay
Amid the flashing waters: then they swell,
And deep within their flood she bade the world farewell.

LXVIII.


The Sylphs, less swift than swiftness of despair,
Spring to the waves, and spread their surface o'er;
Their Prince like lightning flew, now here, now there,
From deep to deep, from islet rock to shore.
In vain—his power the glassy surface bore,
Nor farther could it penetrate the waves,
Till hope was past, and she must be no more.
Nor Nymph nor Triton at his bidding saves,
And writhing in his grief, in rage and woe he raves.

146

LXIX.


He stood upon a rock, and gasp'd to weep,
But tears to spirits' griefs are still denied:
Then vainly in the waves he strove to steep
The anguish that each burning vein supplied.
At last the pangs that through his substance glide
He cast from either hand in bolts of fire,
And, scattering them o'er land and ocean wide,
The woods began to blaze, till high and higher
The roaring flames arose in many a volumed spire.

LXX.


Sulphureous vapours in the labouring earth
Rock'd, shaking to the deeps its deepest seat,
And, bursting upwards with terrific birth,
Flew furious their kin element to meet.
The air was loaded with unbreathed heat,
The sea no longer kept its bounds within;
For still the Sylph threw fire and fiery sleet
In showers upon the waves with hissing din,
Till scarce the ocean ends, where his own realms begin.

LXXI.


Next, midst the fire, a fountain rear'd its head,
Of lurid flame, that bright and brighter rose:
A mountain,19 from its source of crumbling red,
Forth from earth's entrails sent, increasing grows.
While many a fiery current liquid flows
Adown its sides, than melted ore more white,
And still the earth in wild convulsive throes
Shook, while in air above the new-raised height
Rose, like a spreading pine, a cloud more dark than night.

147

LXXII.


Of such as this is form'd that gloomy wood
Where spirits damn'd their nightly conclave hold:
Within those ancient realms where never flood
Of cooling water its clear current roll'd.
And now on earthly soil appearing bold,
It raised its canopy o'er smoke and flame,
In its dark mass the lightning thrones to fold
Of all the powers of fire, that upward came,
To see their element earth's weaker empire tame.

LXXIII.


The moon in dim eclipse had long been set,
And dawn, though light was none, had long begun;
The sun, who strove to master darkness yet,
Seem'd a blue meteor till his course was run.
Lightnings and thunderings still the ocean stun,
Still flames and fiery streams the mount run o'er—
Till the wild hurly, all its havoc done,
Subsiding slowly, leaves the desert shore
A blacken'd tract of ashes, lovely now no more.

LXXIV.


And as the Sylph ascending quits the place,
He breathes his curse upon the frighted air,
From thence all human intercourse to chase,
And keep it sacred to his own despair.
The temple and its grove the fire did spare,
Leaving an isle of bliss mid ruins drear:
But the Sylph's curse, extending even there,
Its influence sheds till none dare venture near,
Nor fishers throw the net, nor hunters cast the spear.

148

LXXV.


Where once the ancient woods so thickly grew,
The Solfatara spreads its noxious fields,
And heavy vapours of each sickly hue
The drug profuse of deadly mischief yields.
Still the Sylph's curse terrific empire wields
Along the shore, in air of poison'd breath:
Against its venom health nor vigour shields,
And he who sleeps the temple's shade beneath
Must pass from slumber's arms unconsciously to death.

LXXVI.


Irene in the depths of ocean sleeps,
Her tale forgotten, as her grave unknown;
For where's the heart which o'er a sorrow weeps,
However tragic, which is not its own?
And Florio, probably, return'd alone,
The vacant throne to claim as lawful heir:
A right legitimate as e'er was known.
Of course he lived until he died: but where,
Or when, I never heard, nor you nor I need care.

LXXVII.


Well! here the story ends—one little page
As an envoi remains: that done—the pen
I'll lay aside, and solemnly engage
Never to dip it in the ink again.
Many there are, who, reading, will refrain
From blaming Florio, blameable as he:
But I redeem my pledge, and give the strain
Illustrative of woman's lot to be,
The victim still of fate, and man's inconstancy.