Edward Bulwer Lytton Lytton.

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So sprang the wolf, — before the dreamer's breast

Death death encountered ; Murther found the fang,
The wolf the steel ; — so, starting from his rest

The saved man woke to save ! Nor time was here

For pause or caution ; for the sword or spear ;


Clasp'd round the wolf, swift arms of iron draw
From their fierce hold the buried fan2:s ; — on hi<>h

Up-ljorne, the baffled terrors of its jaw

Gnash vain ; — one yell howls, hollow, through the sky,

And dies abruptly, stifled to a gasp,

As the grim heart pants crushing in the grasp



Fit for a nation's bulwark, that strong breast

To which the strong arms lock the powerless foe ! —

Nor opes the vice till breath's last anguish ceast ;
'Tis done ; and dumb the dull weight drops below.

The kindred form, which now the King surveys,

Those arms all gentle as a woman's, raise.


The pale cheek pillow'd on the pitying heart.

He wipes the blood from face, and breast, and limb.

And joyful sees (for no humaner art

"Which Christian knighthood knows, unknown to him)

That the fell fangs the nobler parts forbore.

And, thanks, sweet Virgin ! — life returns once more.


Stared round the savage man : from dizzy eyes
Toss'd the wild shaggy hair ; and to his knee, —

His reeling feet — up stagger d — Lo, where lies
The dead wild beast ! — lo, in his saviour, see

The fellow-man, whom ; — with a feeble bound

He leapt, and snatch'd the dagger from the ground ;


And faithful to his gods, he sprang to slay ; [Ijlade ;

The weak limb fail'd him; gleam'd and dropp'd the
The arm hung nerveless ; — by the beast of prey

Murder, still baffled, fell ; — Then, soothing, said
Tlie gentle King — '' Behold no foe in me !"
And knelt by Hate like pitying Charity.



In suffering man he could not find a foe,

And the mild hand clasp'd that which yearn'd to kill I
^' Ha," gasp'd the gazing savage, "dost thou know

That I had doom'd thee in thy sleep ? — that still
My soul w^ould doom thee, could my hand ohey ? —
Wake thou, stern goddess — seize thyself the prey!"


*' Serv'st thou a goddess," said the wondering King,
" Whose rites ask innocent blood ? — brother, learn

In heaven, in earth, in each created thing,

One God, whom all call ' Father,' to discern !"

*' Can thy God suffer thy God's foe to live ?"—

*' God once had foes, and said to man, ' forgive !' "


Answered the Cymrian ! Dream-like the mild words
Fell on the ear, as sense again gave way

To swooning sleep ; which woke but with the birds
In the cold clearness of the dawning day. —

Strung by that sleep, the savage scowl'd around ;

Why droops his head ? Kind hands his wounds have
bound !


Ix)nely he stood, and niiss'd that tender foe ;

The wolf's glazed eye-ball mutely met his own ;
Beyond, the pine-])rand sent its sullen gloAV,

Circling blood-red the aAvful altar stone ;
Blood-red, as sinks the sun, from land afar,
Ere tempests wreck the Amalfian mariner j



Or as, when Mars sits in the House of Death
For doom'cl Aleppo, on the hopeless Moor

Glares the fierce orlj from skies without a breath,
While the chalk'd signal on the abhorred door

Tells that the Pestilence is come !^The pine

Unheeded wastes upon the hideous shrine ;


The priest returns not ; — from its giant throne,
The idol calls in vain : — its realm is o'er ;

The Dire Religion flies the altar-stone.

For love has breath'd on what was hate before.

Lured bj man's heart, by man's kind deeds subdued,

Him who had pardoned, he who wrong'd pursued.


Meanwhile speeds on the Saxon chase, behind ; —
Baffled at first, and doubling to and fro

At last the war dogs snort the fatal wind.

Burst on the scent which gathers as they go ;

Day wanes, night comes ; the star succeeds the sun,

To light the hunt until the quarry's won.


At the first gray of dawn, they halt before
The fretted arches of the giant caves ;

For here the tides rush full upon the shore.

The failing scent is snatch'd amidst the waves, —

Waves block the entrance of the gorge unseen ;

And roar, hoarse-surging, up the pent ravine.



And worn, and spent, and panting, fiag the steeds,
With mail and man bow'd down; nor meet to breast

The hell of waters, whence no pathwaj^ leads,
And which no phnnmet sounds ; — Reluctant rest

Checks the pursuit, till sullenly and slow

Back, threatening still, the hosts of Ocean go, —


And the bright clouds that circled the fair sun
Melt in the azAire of the mellowing sky ;

Then hark again the human hunt begun,
The ringing hoof, the hunter's cheering cry ;

Round and around, by sand, and cave, and steep.

The doubtful ban-dogs, undulating, sweep :


At kngth, one windeth where the wave hath left
The unguarded portals of the .gorge, and there

Far-wandering halts ; and from a rocky cleft
Spreads his keen nostril to the wdiispering air ;

Then, with trail'd ears, moves cowering o'er the ground

The deep bay booming breaks : — the scent is found.

Hound answers hound, — along the dank ravine

Pours the fresh w^ave of spears and tossing plumes ;
On — on ; and now the idol-shrine obscene

The dying pine-brand tlickeringly illumes ;
The dogs go glancing through the shafts of stone,
Trample the altar, hurtle round the throne ;



Where the lone priest had watch'd, they pause awhile ;

Then forth, hard-breathing, down the gorge they
Soon the swart woods that close the far defile

Gleam Avith the shimmer of the steel-clad troop ;
Glinting thro' leaves — noAV bright'ning thro' the glade,
Now lost, dispersed amidst the matted shade.


Foremost rode Harold, on a matchless steed,
Whose sire, from Afric coasts a sea-king bore.

And gave the Mercian, as his noblest meed,

What time (then beardless) to Norwegian shore

Against a common foe, the Saxon Thane (^)

Led three tall ships, and loosed them on the Dane :


Foremost he rode, and on his mailed breast

Cranch'd the strong branches of the groaning oak.

Hark; with full peal, as suddenly supprest.
Behind, the ban-dog's choral joy-cry broke !

Led by the note, he turns him back, to reach.

Near the wood's marge, a solitary beech.


Clear space spreads round it for a rood or more ;

Where o'er the space the feathering branches bend,
The dogs, wedg'd close, with jaws that drip with gore.

Growl o'er the carcase of the wolf they rend.
Shamed at their lord's rebuke, they leave the feast —
Scent the fresh foot-track of the idol priest ;



And, track by track, deep, deeper through the maze,
Slowly they go — the watchful earl behind.

Here the soft earth a recent hoof betrays ;

And still a footstep near the hoof they find ; —

So on, so on — the pathway spreads more large,

And daylight rushes on the forest marge.


The dogs bound emulous ; but, snarling, shrink
Back at the anger of the earl's quick cry ; —

Near a small water spring, had paused to drink
A man half clad, who now, with kindling eye,

And lifted knife, roused by the hostile sounds.

Plants his firm foot, and fronts the glaring hounds.


" Fear not, rude stranger," quoth the earl in scorn ;

" Not thee I seek ; my dogs chase nobler prey.
Speak, thou hast seen (if wandering here since morn)

A lonely horseman ; — whither wends his way ?"
" Track'st thou his steps in love or hate ?" — " Why, so
As hawk its quarry, or as man his foe."


" Thou dost not serve his God," the heathen said ;

And sullen turn'd to quench his thirst again.
The fierce earl chafed, but longer not delay'd ;

For what he sought the earth itself made plain
In the clear hoof-prints ; to the hounds he showed
The clue, and, cheering as they track'd, he rode.



But thrice, to guide his comrades from the maze,
Rings through the echoing wood his lusty horn.

Now o'er waste pastures where the wild bulls graze,
Now labouring up slow-lengthening headlands borne,

The steadfast hounds outstrip the horseman's flight,

And on the hill's dim summit fade from sight.

But scarcely fade, before, though faint and far.

Fierce Avrathful yells the foe at bay reveal.
On spurs the Saxon, till, like some pale star.

Gleams on the hill a lance — a helm of steel.
The brow is gained ; a space of level land.
Bare to the sun — a grove at either hand ;


And in the middle of the space a mound ;

And, on the mound a knight upon his barb.
No need for herald there his trump to sound ! —

No need for diadem and ermine garb !
Nature herself has crown'd that lion mien ;
And in the man the king of men is seen.


Upon his helmet sits a snow-white dove.

Its plumage blending with the plumed crest.

Below the mount, recoiling, circling, move
The ban-dogs, awed by the majestic rest

Of the great foe ; and, yet with fangs that grin,

And eyes that redden, raves the madding din.



Still stands the steed ; still, shining in the sun,
Sits on the steed the rider, statue-like :

One stately hand upon his havnich, while one
Lifts the tall lance, disdainful even to strike ;

Calm from the roar obscene looks forth his gaze,

Calm as the moon at which the watch-dog bays.


The Saxon rein'd his destrier on the brow
Of the broad hill ; and if his inmost heart

Ever confest to fear, fear touched it now ; —

Not that chill pang which strife and death impart

To meaner men, but such religious awe

As from brave souls a foe admired can draw :


Behind a quick and anxious glance he threw,
And pleased beheld spur midway up the hill

His knights and(^) squires; again his horn he blew.
Then hush'd the hounds, and near'd the slope where

The might of Arthur rested, as in cloud

Rests thunder ; there his haughty crest he bowed,


And lowered his lance, and said — " Dread foe and lord.

Pardon the Saxon Harold, nor disdain
To yield to warrior hand a kingly sword.

Behold my numbers ! to resist were vain,
And llight — " Said Arthur, " Saxon, is a word
From warrior lips a King should not have heard ;



^^ And, sootli to say, when Cymri's knights shall ride
To chase a Saxon monarch from the plain,

More knightly sport shall Cymri's king provide,
And Cymrian tromps shall ring a nobler strain.

Warrior, forsooth ! when first went warrior, say.

With hound and horn — -God's image for the prey ?"


Gall'd to the quick, the firey earl erect
Rose in his stirrups, shook his iron hand,

And cried — " Alfader ! (' ) but for the respect
Arm'd numbers owe to one, my Saxon brand

Should — but why words ? Ho, Mercia to the field !

Lance to the rest ! — yiQld, scornful Cymrian, 3'ield 1"


For answer, Arthur closed his bassinet,

Then down it broke, the thunder from that cloud !
And, even as thunder by the thunder met.

O'er his spurr d steed broad-breasted Harold bow'd ;
Swift through the air the rushing armour flash'd.
And in the shock commingling tempests clash'd !


The Cymrian's lance smote on the Mercian's breast,
Thro' the pierced shield, there, shivering in the hand.

The dove had stirr'd not on the Prince's crest,
And on his destrier bore him to the band.

Which, moving not, but in a steadfast ring.

With levell'd lances front the comins: Kin«:.



His shivered lance thrown by, high o'er his head,
Pluck'd from the selle, his battle-axe he shook —

Paused for an instant — breathed his foaming steed,
And chose his pathway with one lightning look :

From the hill's brow extending either side,

The Saxon troop the rearward woods denied ;


These gain'd, their numljers less the strife avail.

He jDaused, and every voice cried — "Yield, brave King!
Scarce died the word ere through the wall of steel

Flashes the breach, and backward reels the ring,
Plumes shorn, shields cloven, man and horse o'erthrown,
As the armed meteor flames and rushes on.


Till then, the danger shared, upon his crest,
Unmoved and calm, had sate the faithful dove,

Serene as, braved for some beloved breast
All peril finds the gentle hero, — Love ;

But rising now, towards the dexter side

Where stretch the woods, the prescient pinions guide.


Near the green marge the Cymrian checks the rein.
And, even forgetful of the dove, wheels round.

To front the foe that follows up the plain :
So when the lion, with a single bound,

Breaks through Numidian spears, — his den before

He halts, and roots dread feet that fly no more.



Their riven ranks reform'd, the Saxons move
In curving crescent, close, compact, and slow

Behind the earl ; who feels a hero's love
Fill his large heart for that great hero foe ;

Murmuring " May Harold, thus confronting all,

Pass from the spear-storm to the Golden Hall !"*


Then to his band — '' If prophecy and sign

Paling men's cheeks, and read by wizard seers,

Had not declared that Woden's threatened line,
And the large birthright of the Saxon spears.

Were cross'd by SKULDA,f in the baleful skein

Of him who dares ^ The Choosers of the Slain. 'J


" If not forbid against his single arm
Singly to try the even-sworded strife.

Since his new gods, or Merlin's mighty charm,
Hath made a host,§ the were-geld of his life —

Not ours this shame ! — here one, and there a field,

But men are waxen when the Fates are steel'd.

• Walhalla.

■\ Skulda, the Noma, or Destiny, of the Future.

i. The Valkyas (in Saxon, Valcyrge, Valcyrian), the Choosers of the Slain, who
ride before the battle, and select its viclims; to whom, afterwards, (softening their
character) they administer in Walhalla.

§ Id est — " Have made him a match for a host" — the line is imitated from an
old Saxon poem.



" Seize we our captive, so the gods command —
But ye are men, let manhood guide the blow ;

Spare life, or but with life-defending hand
Strike — and Walhalla take that noble foe !

Sound trump, speed truce." — Sedately from the rest

Rode out the earl^ and Cymri thus addrest : —


" Our steels have cross'd : hate shivers on the shield ;

If the speech gall'd, the lance atones the word :
Yield, for thy valour wins the right to yield ;

Unstain'd the scutcheon, though resign'd the sword.
Grant us the grace, which chance (not arms) hath won :
Why strike the many who would save the one ?"


" Fair foe, and courteous," answered Arthur, moved
By that chivalric speech, " too well the might

Of Mercia's famous Harold have I proved.

To deem it shame to yield as knight to knight ;

But a king's sword is by a nation given.

Who guards a people holds his post from heaven,


" This freedom which thou ask'st me to resign
Than life is dearer ; w^ere it but to show

That with my people thinks their King ! — divine
Through me all Cymri ! — Streams shall cease to flow,

Yon sun to shine, before to Saxon strife

One Cymrian yields his freedom save with life.



" And so the saints assoil ye of my blood ;

Return ; — the rest we leave unto our cause
And the just heavens ;" All silent, Harold stood

And his heart smote him. Now, amidst that pause,
Arthur look'd up, and in the calm above
Behold a falcon wheeling round the dove !


For thus it chanced ; the bird which Harold bore
(As was the Saxon wont(^) whate'er his way.

Had, in the woodland, slipp'd the hood it wore,

Unmark'd; and, when the bloodhounds bark'd at bay,

Lured by the sound, had risen on the wing.

Far o'er the fierce encounter hovering —


Till when the dove had left, to guide, her lord.

It caught the white plume dancing where it went ;

High in large circles to its height it soared,

vSwoop'd ; — the light pinion foil'd the fierce descent ;

The falcon rose rebounding to the prey ;

And barred the refuge — fronting still the way.


In vain to Arthur seeks the dove to flee ;

Round her and round, with every sweep more near,
The swift destroyer circles rapidly,

Fixing keen eyes that fascinate with fear,
A moment — and a shaft, than wing more fleet.
Hurls the pierced falcon at the Saxon's feet.




Down, heavily it fell ; — a moment stirr'd

Its fluttering plumes, and roll'd its glazing eye j

But even before the breath forsook the bird,

Even while the arrow whistled through the sky,

Rush'd from the grove that screen'd the marksman's hand

With yell and whoop, a wild barljarian band —

LX. ,

Half clad, with hides of beast, and shields of horn,
And huge clubs cloven from the knotty pine ;

And spears like those by Thor's great children borne,
When Ca3sar arch'd with moving steel (^) the Rhine —

Countless they start, as if from every tree

Had sprung the uncouth defending deity ;


They pass the King, low bending as they pass ;

Bear back the startled Harold on their way;
And roaring onward, mass succeeding mass.

Snatch the hemm'd Saxons from the King's survey.
On Arthur's crest the dove refolds its wing ;
On Arthur's ear a voice comes murmuring :


^' Man, have I served thy God ?" and Arthur saw
The priest beside him, leaning on his bow ;

^' Not till, in all, thou hast fulfill'd the law

Thou hast saved the friend — now, aid to shie
And as a ship, cleaving the severed tides.
Eight through the sea of spears the hero rides.

"foe ;"
d the



The wild troop part submissive as he goes ;

Where, like an islet in that stormy main,
Gleam'd Mercia's steel ; and like a rock arose,

Breasting the breakers, the undaunted Thane.;
He doff 'd his helmet, look'd majestic round ;
And dropp'd the murderous weapon on the ground ;


And with a meek and brotherly embrace

Twined round the Saxon's neck the peaceful arm.

Strife stood arrested — the mild kingly face,
The loving gesture, like a holy charm

Thrill'd thro' the ranks : you might have heard a breath !

So did soft silence seem to bury Death.


On the fair locks, and on the noble brow.

Fell the full splendour of the heavenly ray ;

The dove, dislodged, flew up — and rested now,
Poised in the tranquil and translucent day.

The calm wings seem'd to canopy the head ;

And from each plume a parting glory spread


So leave we that still picture on the eye ;

And turn, reluctant, where the wand of Song
Points to the walls of Time's long gallery :

And the dim Beautiful of Eld — too long
Mouldering unheeded in these latter days,
Starts from the canvass, bright'ning as we gaze.




lovely scene which smiles upon my view,
As sure it smiled on sweet Albano's dreams ;

He to whom Amor gave the roseate hue

And that harmonious colour-wand which seems

Pluck'd from the god's own wing ! — Arcades and bowers,

Mellifluous waters lapsing amidst flowers,


Or springing up, in multiform disport.

From countless founts, delightedly at play ;

As if the Naiad held her joyous court

To greet the goddess whom the flowers obey ;

And all her nymphs took varying shapes in glee,

Bell'd like the blossom — branching like the tree.


Adown the cedarn alleys glanced the wings

Of all the painted populace of air.
Whatever lulls the noonday while it sings

Or mocks the iris with its plumes, — is there —
Music and air so interfused and blent.
That music seems life's breathing element.


And every alley's stately vista closed

With some fair statue, on whose gleaming base,
Beauty, not earth's, benignantly repose,

As if the gods were native to the place ;
And fair indeed the mortal forms, I ween,
Whose presence brings no discord to the scene !

BOOK III. 115.


fair tliej are, if mortal forms they be !

Mine eye the lovely error must beguile ;
See I the Hours, when from the lulled Sea*

Come Aphrodite to the rosy isle,
What time they left their orient halls above,
To greet on earth their best beguiler — Love ?


Or are they Oreads from the Delphian steep
Waiting their goddess of the silver bow ?

Or shy Napa3aB,f startled from their sleep,

Where blue Cythseron guards sweet vales below.

Watching as home, from vanquish'd Ind afar.

Comes their loved Evian in the panther-car ?


Why stream ye thus from yonder arching bowers ?

Whom wait, whom watch ye for, lovely band ? [ers.
With spears that, thyrus-like, glance, wreath'd with flow-

And garland fetters, linking hand to hand.
And locks, from which drop blossoms on your way,
Like starry buds from the loose crown of May ?


Behold how Alp on Alp shuts out the scene
From all the ruder world that lies afar ;

Deep, fathom-deep, the valley which they screen,
Deep, as in chasms of cloud a happy star !

What pass admits the stranger to your land ?

Whom wait, whom watch ye for, O lovely band ?

• Horn Hymn.

f Na.p:e]e, ihe most bashful of all the rural nymphs ; their rare apparition was
supposed to produce delirium in the beholder.



Ages agOj what time the barbarous horde.

From whose rough bosoms sprang Imperial Rome,

Drew the slow widening circle of the sword,
Till kingdoms vanish'd in a robbers home,

A wise Etrurian Lar, forwarn'd ('t was said)

By his dark CaBre, ( '' ) from the danger fled :


lie left the vines of fruitful Fiesole,

Left, with his household gods and chosen clan,

Intent beyond the Ausonian bounds to flee,

And Rome's dark shadow on the world of man.

So came the exiles to the rocky wall

Which, centuries after, frown'd on Hannibal.


Here, it so chanced, that down the deep profound
Of some huge Alp — a stray'd Etrurian fell ;

The pious rites ordained to explore the ground,
And give the ashes to the funeral cell ;

Slowly they gained the gulf, to scare away

A vulture ravening on the mangled clay ;


Smit by a javelin from the leader's hand.
The bird crept fluttering down a deep defile.

Through whose far end faint glimpses of a land,
Sunn'd by a softer daylight, sent a smile ;

This seen, the attendant seer, ordained the Lar

To take the glimmer for the guiding s!ar.



What seem'd a gorge was but a vista d cave,

Long-drawn and hollo w'd through the daedal stone ;

Rude was the path, but as, beyond the grave,
Elysium shines, the glorious landscape shone.

Broadening and brightening — till their wonder sees

Bloom through the Alps the lost Hesperides.


There, the sweet sunlight, from the heights debarr'd,
Gathered its pomp to lavish on the vale ;

A wealth of wild sweets glittered on the sward,
Screen'd by the very snow-rocks from the gale ;

Murmured clear waters, murmured joyous birds.

And o'er soft pastures roved the fearless herds.


His rod the Augur waves above the ground.
And cries, " In Tina's name I bless the soil."(''')

With veiled brows the exiles circle round ;
Along the rod propitious lightnings coil ;

The gods approve : rejoicing hands combine,

Swift springs a sylvan city from the pine.


What charm yet fails them in the lovely place ?

Childhood's gay laugh — and woman's tender smile.
A chosen few the venturous steps retrace ;

Love lightens toil for those who rest the while ;
And, ere the winter stills the sadden'd bird.
The sweeter music of glad homes is heard ;



And with the objects of the dearer care,
The parting gilts of the old soil are borne ;

Soon Tusca's grape hangs flushing in the air,
Soon lields wave golden with the rippling com ;

Gleams on gray slopes the olive's silvery tree,

In her lone Alpine child, — far Fiesole


Eevives — reblooms, but under happier stars !

Age rolls on age, — upon the antique world
Full many a storm hath graved its thunder scars ;

Tombs only speak the Etrurian's language ;* — hurFd
To dust the shrines of Naith ;f — the serpents hiss
On Asia's throne in lorn Persepolis ;


The seaweed rots upon the ports of Tyre ;

On Delphi's steep the Pythian's voice is dumb ;
Sad Athens leans upon her broken lyre ;

From the doom'd east the Bethlem Star hath come ;
But Rome an empire from an empire's loss
Gains in the god Rome yielded to the Cross !


And here, as in a crypt, the miser, Time,

Hoards, from all else, embedded in the stone,

One eldest treasure — fresh as when, sublime

O'er gods and men, Jove thundered from his throne.

Online LibraryEdward Bulwer Lytton LyttonKing Arthur → online text (page 6 of 25)