Helen Maria Williams.

Poems (1786), Volume I online

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O'er her dear form he hung in speechless pain,
And still on Cora call'd, but call'd in vain; 110
Scarce could his soul in one short moment bear
The wild extreme of transport, and despair.

Now o'er the west in melting softness streams
A lustre, milder than the morning beams;
A purer dawn dispell'd the fearful night, 115
And nature glow'd in all the blooms of light;
The birds awake the note that hails the day,
And spread their pinions in the purple ray;
A zone of gold the wave's still bosom bound,
And beauty shed a placid smile around. 120
Then, first awaking from his mournful trance,
The wretched Capac cast an eager glance
On his lov'd babe; th' unconscious infant smil'd,
And showers of softer sorrow bath'd his child.
The hollow voice now sounds in fancy's ear, 125
She sees the dying look, the parting tear,
That sought with anxious tenderness to save
That dear memorial from the closing grave:
He clasps the object of his love's last care,
And vows for him the load of life to bear; 130
To rear the blossom of a faded flower,
And bid remembrance sooth each ling'ring hour.
He journey'd o'er a dreary length of way,
To plains where freedom shed her hallow'd ray;
O'er many a pathless wood, and mountain hoar, 135
To that fair clime her lifeless form he bore.
Ye who ne'er suffer'd passions hopeless pain,
Deem not the toil that sooths its anguish vain;
Its fondness to the mould'ring corse extends,
Its faithful tear with the cold ashes blends. 140
Perchance, the conscious spirit of the dead
Numbers the drops affection loves to shed;
Perchance a sigh of holy pity gives
To the sad bosom, where its image lives.
Oh nature! sure thy sympathetic ties 145
Shall o'er the ruins of the grave arise;
Undying spring from the relentless tomb,
And shed, in scenes of love, a lasting bloom.
Not long Iberia's sullied trophies wave,
Her guilty warriors press th' untimely grave; 150
For av'rice, rising from the caves of earth,
Wakes all her savage spirit into birth;
Bids proud Almagro feel her baleful flame,
And Cusco's treasures from Pizarro claim:
Pizarro holds the rich alluring prize, 155
With firmer grasp, the fires of discord rise.
Now fierce in hostile rage, each warlike train
Purple with issuing gore Peruvia's plain;
There, breathing hate, and vengeful death they flood,
And bath'd their impious bands in kindred blood; 160
While pensive on each hill, whose lofty brow
O'erhung with sable woods the vale below;
Peruvia's hapless tribes in scatter'd throngs,
Beheld the fiends of strife avenge their wrongs.
Now conquest, bending on her crimson wings, 165
Her sanguine laurel to Pizarro brings;
While bound, and trembling in her iron chain,
Almagro swells the victor's captive train.
In vain his pleading voice, his suppliant eye,
Conjure his conqu'ror, by the holy tie 170
That seal'd their mutual league with sacred force,
When first to climes unknown they bent their course;
When danger's rising horrors lowr'd afar,
The storms of ocean, and the toils of war,
The sad remains of wasted life to spare, 175
The shrivell'd bosom, and the silver'd hair: -
But vainly from his lips these accents part,
Nor move Pizarro's cold, relentless heart,
That never trembled to the suff'rer's sigh,
Or view'd the suff'rer's tear with melting eye. 180
Almagro dies - the victor's savage pride
To his pale corse funereal rites denied,
Chill'd by the heavy dews of night it lay,
And wither'd in the sultry beam of day,
Till Indian bosoms, touch'd with gen'rous woe, 185
In the pale form forgot the tyrant foe;
The last sad duties to his ashes paid,
And sooth'd with pity's tear the hov'ring shade.
With unrelenting hate the conqu'ror views
Almagro's band, and vengeance still pursues; 190
Condemns the victims of his power to stray
In drooping poverty's chill, thorny way;
To pine with famine's agony severe,
And all the ling'ring forms of death to fear;
Till by despair impell'd, the rival train 195
Rush to the haughty victor's glitt'ring fane;
Swift on their foe with rage impetuous dart,
And plunge their daggers in his guilty heart.
How unavailing now the treasur'd ore
That made Peruvia's rifled bosom poor! 200
He falls - no mourner near to breathe a sigh,
Catch the last breath, and close the languid eye;
Deserted, and refus'd the holy tear
That warm affection sheds o'er virtue's bier;
Denied those drops that stay the parting breath, 205
That sooth the spirit on the verge of death;
Tho' now the pale expiring form would buy
With Andes' glitt'ring mines, one faithful sigh!

Now faint with virtue's toil, Las Casas' soul
Sought with exulting hope, her heav'nly goal: 210
A bending angel consecrates his tears,
And leads his kindred mind to purer spheres.
But, ah! whence pours that stream of lambent light,
That soft-descending on the raptur'd sight,
Gilds the dark horrors of the raging storm - 215
It lights on earth - mild vision! gentle form -
'Tis Sensibility! she stands confest,
With trembling step she moves, and panting breast;
Wav'd by the gentle breath of passing sighs
Loose in the air her robe expanded flies; 220
Wet with the dew of tears her soft veil streams,
And in her eye the ray of pity beams;
No vivid roses her mild cheek illume,
Sorrow's wan touch has chas'd the purple bloom:
Yet ling'ring there in tender, pensive grace, 225
The softer lily fills the vacant place;
And ever as her precious tears bedew
Its modest flowers, they shed a paler hue.
To yon deserted grave, lo swift she flies
Where her lov'd victim, mild Las Casas lies: 230
Light on the hallow'd turf I see her stand,
And slowly wave in air her snowy wand;
I see her deck the solitary haunt,
With chaplets twin'd from every weeping plant.
Its odours mild the simple vi'let shed, 235
The shrinking lily hung its drooping head;
A moaning zephyr sigh'd within the bower,
And bent the yielding stem of every flower:
"Hither (she cried, her melting tone I hear
"It vibrates full on fancy's raptur'd ear) 240
"Ye gentle spirits whom my soul refines,
"Where all its animating lustre shines;
"Ye who can exquisitely feel the glow
"Whose soft suffusion gilds the cloud of woe;
"Warm as the colours varying iris pours 245
"That tinge with streaming rays the chilling showers;
"Ye to whose yielding hearts my power endears
"The transport blended with delicious tears,
"The bliss that swells to agony the breast,
"The sympathy that robs the soul of rest; 250
"Hither with fond devotion pensive come,
"Kiss the pale shrine, and murmur o'er the tomb;
"Bend on the hallow'd turf the tear-full eye
"And breathe the precious incense of a sigh.
"Las Casas' tear has moisten'd mis'ry's grave, 255
"His sigh has moan'd the wretch it fail'd to save!
"He, while conflicting pangs his bosom tear
"Has sought the lonely cavern of despair;
"Where desolate she fled, and pour'd her thought,
"To the dread verge of wild distraction wrought. 260
"White drops of mercy bath'd his hoary cheek,
"He pour'd by heav'n inspir'd its accents meek;
"In truth's clear mirror bade the mourner's view
"Pierce the deep veil which darkling error drew;
"And vanquish'd empire with a smile resign, 265
"While brighter worlds in fair perspective shine." -
She paus'd - yet still the sweet enthusiast bends
O'er the cold turf, and still her tear descends;
The ever-falling tears her beauties shroud,
Till slow she vanish'd in a fleecy cloud. 270

Mild Gasca now, the messenger of peace,
Suspends the storm, and bids the tumult cease.
Pure spirit! in Religion's garb he came,
And all his bosom felt her holy flame;
'Twas then her vot'ries glory, and their care 275
To bid oppression's harpy talons spare;
To bend the crimson banner he unfurl'd,
And shelter from his grasp a suff'ring world:
Gasca, the guardian minister of woe,
Bids o'er her wounds the balms of comfort flow 280
While rich Potosi[B] rolls the copious tide
Of wealth, unbounded as the wish of pride;
His pure, unsullied soul with high disdain
For virtue spurns the fascinating bane;
Her seraph form can still his breast allure 285
Tho' drest in weeds, she triumph'd to be poor -
Hopeless ambition's murders to restrain,
And virtue's wrongs, he sought Iberia's plain,
Without one mean reserve he nobly brings
A massive treasure, yet unknown to kings: 290
No purple pomp around his dome was spread
No gilded roofs hung glitt'ring o'er his head;
Yet peace with milder radiance deck'd his bower,
And crown'd with dearer joy life's evening hour;
While virtue whisper'd to his conscious heart 295
The sweet reflexion of its high desert.

Ah, meek Peruvia, still thy murmur'd sighs
Thy stifled groans in fancy's ear arise;
Sadd'ning she views thy desolated soul,
As slow the circling years of bondage roll, 300
Redeem from tyranny's oppressive power
With fond affection's force, one sacred hour;
And consecrate its fleeting, precious space,
The dear remembrance of the past to trace.
Call from her bed of dust joy's buried shade; 305
She smiles in mem'ry's lucid robes array'd,
O'er thy creative scene[C] majestic moves,
And wakes each mild delight thy fancy loves.
But soon the image of thy wrongs in clouds
The fair and transient ray of pleasure shrouds; 310
Far other visions melt thy mournful eye,
And wake the gushing tear, th' indignant sigh;
There Ataliba's sacred, murder'd form,
Sinks in the billow of oppression's storm;
Wild o'er the scene of death thy glances roll, 315
And pangs tumultuous swell thy troubled soul;
Thy bosom burns, distraction spreads her flames,
And from the tyrant foe her victim claims.

But, lo! where bursting desolation's night,
A sudden ray of glory cheers my sight; 320
From my fond eye the tear of rapture flows,
My heart with pure delight exulting glows:
A blooming chief of India's royal race,
Whose soaring soul, its high descent can trace,
The flag of freedom rears on Chili's[D] plain, 325
And leads to glorious strife his gen'rous train:
And see Iberia bleeds! while vict'ry twines
Her fairest blossoms round Peruvia's shrines;
The gaping wounds of earth disclose no more
The lucid silver, and the glowing ore; 330
A brighter glory gilds the passing hour,
While freedom breaks the rod of lawless power:
Lo on the Andes' icy steep she glows,
And prints with rapid step th' eternal snows;
Or moves majestic o'er the desert plain, 335
And eloquently pours her potent strain.
Still may that strain the patriot's soul inspire,
And still this injur'd race her spirit fire.
O Freedom, may thy genius still ascend,
Beneath thy crest may proud Iberia bend; 340
While roll'd in dust thy graceful feet beneath,
Fades the dark laurel of her sanguine wreath;
Bend her red trophies, tear her victor plume,
And close insatiate slaughter's yawning tomb.
Again on soft Peruvia's fragrant breast 345
May beauty blossom, and may pleasure rest.
Peru, the muse that vainly mourn'd thy woes,
Whom pity robb'd so long of dear repose;
The muse, whose pensive soul with anguish wrung
Her early lyre for thee has trembling strung; 350
Shed the weak tear, and breath'd the powerless sigh,
Which soon in cold oblivion's shade must die;
Pants with the wish thy deeds may rise to fame,
Bright on some living harp's immortal frame!
While on the string of extasy, it pours 355
Thy future triumphs o'er unnumber'd shores.

[A] The Lama's bend their knees and stoop their body in such a manner as
not to discompose their burden. They move with a slow but firm pace,
in countries that are impracticable to other animals. They are neither
dispirited by fasting nor drudgery, while they have any strength
remaining; but, when they are totally exhausted, or fall under their
burden, it is to no purpose to harrass and beat them: they will
continue striking their heads on the ground, first on one side, then
on the other, till they kill themselves, - _Abbé_ Raynal's _History of
the European Settlements._
[B] See a delightful representation of the incorruptible integrity of
this Spaniard in Robertson's History of America.
[C] "O'er thy creative scene." The Peruvians have solemn days on which
they assume their antient dress. Some among them represent a tragedy,
the subject of which is the death of Atabalipa. The audience, who
begin with shedding tears, are afterwards transported, into a kind of
madness. It seldom happens in these festivals, but that some Spaniard
is slain. - _Abbé_ Raynal's _History_.
[D] "On Chili's plain." - An Indian descended from the Inca's, has lately
obtained several victories over the Spaniards, the gold mines have
been for some time shut up; and there is much reason to hope, that
these injured nations may recover the liberty of which they have
been so cruelly deprived.



Siddons! the Muse, for many a joy refin'd,
Feelings which ever seem too swiftly fled -
For those delicious tears she loves to shed,
Around thy brow the wreath of praise would bind -
But can her feeble notes thy praise unfold?
Repeat the tones each changing passion gives,
Or mark where nature in thy action lives,
Where, in thy pause, she speaks a pang untold!
When fierce ambition steels thy daring breast,
When from thy frantic look our glance recedes;
Or oh, divine enthusiast! when opprest
By anxious love, that eye of softness pleads -
The sun-beam all can feel, but who can trace
The instant light, and catch the radiant grace!




Pale moon! thy mild benignant light
May glad some other captive's sight;
Bright'ning the gloomy objects nigh,
Thy beams a lenient thought supply:
But, oh, pale moon! what ray of thine
Can sooth a misery like mine!
Chase the sad image of the past,
And woes for ever doom'd to last.


Where are the years with pleasure gay?
How bright their course! how short their stay! -
Where are the crowns, that round my head
A double glory vainly spread?
Where are the beauties wont to move,
The grace, converting awe to love?
Alas, had fate design'd to bless,
Its equal hand had giv'n me less!


Why did the regal garb array
A breast that tender passions sway?
A soul of unsuspicious frame,
Which leans with faith on friendship's name -
Ye vanish'd hopes! ye broken ties!
By perfidy, in friendship's guise,
This breast was injur'd, lost, betray'd -
Where, where shall Mary look for aid?


How could I hope redress to find
Stern rival! from thy envious mind?
How could I e'er thy words believe?
O ever practis'd to deceive!
Thy wiles abhorr'd shall please alone
Cold bosoms, selfish as thy own;
While ages hence, indignant hear
The horrors of my fate severe.


Have not thy unrelenting hands
Torn nature's most endearing bands?
Whate'er I hop'd from woman's name,
The ties of blood, the stranger's claim;
A sister-queen's despairing breast
On thee securely lean'd for rest;
On thee! from whom that breast has bled
With sharper ills than those I fled,


Oh, skill'd in every baser art!
Tyrant! to this unguarded heart
No guilt so black as thine belongs,
Which loads my length'ning years with wrongs.
Strike then at once, insatiate foe!
The long, premeditated blow;
So shall thy jealous terrors cease,
And Mary's harrass'd soul have peace.



As roam'd a pilgrim o'er the mountain drear,
On whose lone verge the foaming billows roar;
The wail of hopeless sorrow pierc'd his ear,
And swell'd at distance on the sounding shore.

The mourner breath'd her deep complaint to night,
Her moan she mingled with the rapid blast;
That bar'd her bosom in its wasting flight,
And o'er the earth her scatter'd tresses cast!

"Ye winds, she cried, still heave the lab'ring deep,
"The mountain shake, the howling forest rend;
"Still dash the shiv'ring fragment from the steep,
"Nor for a wretch like me the storm suspend.

"Ah, wherefore wish the rising storm to spare?
"Ah, why implore the raging winds to save?
"What refuge can the breast where lives despair
"Desire but death? what shelter but the grave?

"To me congenial is the gloom of night,
"The savage howlings that infest the air;
"I unappall'd can view the fatal light,
"That flashes from the pointed lightning's glare.

"And yet erewhile, if night her shadows threw
"O'er the known woodlands of my native vale;
"Fancy in visions wild the landscape drew,
"And swelled with boding sounds the whisp'ring gale.

"But deep despair has arm'd my timid soul,
"And agony has numb'd the throb of fear;
"Taught a weak heart its terrors to controul,
"And more to court than shun the danger near.

"Yet could I welcome the return of light,
"Its glim'ring beam might guide my searching eye,
"The sacred spot might then emerge from night,
"On which a lover's bleeding relicks lie!

"For sure 'twas here, as late a shepherd stray'd
"Bewilder'd, o'er the mountain's dreary bound,
"Close to the pointed cliff he saw him laid,
"Where heav'd the waters of the deep around.

"Alas, no longer could his heart endure
"The woes that heart was doom'd for me to prove:
"He sought for death - for death the only cure,
"That fate can give to vain, and hopeless love."

"My sire, unjust, while passion swell'd his breast,
"From the lov'd Alfred his Euphelia tore;
"Mock'd the keen sorrows that my soul opprest,
"And bade me, vainly bade me love no more!

"He told me love, was like yon' troubled deep,
"Whose restless billows never know repose;
"Are wildly dash'd upon the rocky steep,
"And tremble to the lightest breeze that blows!

"From these rude storms remote, her gentle balm,
"Dear to the suff'ring spirit, peace applies" -
Peace! 'tis th' oblivious lake's detested calm
Whose dull, slow waters never fall or rise.

"Ah, what avails a parent's stern command,
"The force of conq'ring passion to subdue?
"And wherefore seek to rend, with cruel hand,
"The ties enchanted love so fondly drew!

"Yet I could see my Alfred's fix'd despair,
"And aw'd by filial fear conceal my woes;
"My coward heart cou'd separation bear,
"And check the struggling anguish as it rose!

"'Twas guilt the barb'rous mandate to obey,
"Which bade no parting sigh my bosom move,
"Victim of duty's unrelenting sway,
"I seemed a traitor, while a slave to love!"

"Let her, who seal'd a lover's fate, endure
"The sharpest pressure of deserv'd distress;
"'Twere added perfidy to seek a cure,
"And stain'd with falsehood, wish to suffer less.

"For wretches doom'd in other griefs to pine,
"Oft' will benignant hope her ray impart;
"And pity oft' from her celestial shrine,
"Drop a warm tear upon the fainting heart.

"But o'er the lasting gloom of love's despair,
"Can hope's bright ray its cheering visions shed?
"Can pity sooth the woes that breast must bear,
"Which vainly loves, and vainly mourns the dead!"

"No! ling'ring still, and still prolong'd, the moan
"Shall never pause, till heaves my latest breath,
"Till memory's distracting pang is flown,
"And all my sorrows shall be hush'd in death.

"And death is pitying come, whose hand shall tear
"From this afflicted heart the sense of pain;
"My fainting limbs refuse their load to bear,
"And life no longer will my form sustain.

"Yet once did health's enliv'ning glow adorn,
"And pleasure shed for me her loveliest ray,
"Pure as the gentle star that gilds the morn,
"And constant as the equal light of day!"

"Now those lost pleasures trac'd by memory, seem
"Like yon' illusive meteor's glancing light;
"That o'er the darkness threw its instant gleam,
"Then sunk, and vanish'd in the depth of night.

"My native vale! and thou delightful bower!
"Scenes to my hopeless love for ever dear;
"Sweet vale, for whom the morning wak'd her flow'r,
"Gay bower, for whom the evening pour'd her tear.

"I ask no more to see your beauties rise -
"Ye rocks and mountains, on whose rugged breast
"My Alfred, murder'd by Euphelia, lies,
"In _your_ deep solitudes oh let me rest!"

"And sure the dawning ray that lights the steep,
"And slowly wanders o'er the purple wave;
"Will shew me where his sacred relics sleep,
"Will lead his mourner to her destin'd grave. -

O'er the high precipice unmov'd she bent,
A fearful path the beams of morning shew,
The pilgrim reach'd with toil the rude ascent,
And saw her brooding o'er the deep below.

"Euphelia stay! he cried, thy Alfred calls -
"Oh stay, my love! in sorrow yet more dear,
"I come!" - In vain the soothing accent falls,
Alas, it reach'd not her distracted ear.

"Ah, what avails, she said, that morning rose?
"With fruitless pain I seek his mould'ring clay;
"Vain search! to fill the measure of my woes,
"The foaming surge has wash'd his corse away.

"This cruel agony why longer bear?
"Death, death alone can all my pangs remove;
"Kind death will banish from my heart despair,
"And when I live again - I live to love!" -

She said, and plung'd into the awful deep -
He saw her meet the fury of the wave;
He frantic saw! and darting to the steep
With desp'rate anguish, sought her wat'ry grave.

He clasp'd her dying form, he shar'd her sighs,
He check'd the billow rushing on her breast;
She felt his dear embrace - her closing eyes
Were fix'd on Alfred, and her death was blest. -



Expression, child of soul! I fondly trace
Thy strong enchantments, when the poet's lyre,
The painter's pencil catch thy sacred fire,
And beauty wakes for thee her touching grace -
But from this frighted glance thy form avert
When horrors check thy tear, thy struggling sigh,
When frenzy rolls in thy impassion'd eye,
Or guilt sits heavy on thy lab'ring heart -
Nor ever let my shudd'ring fancy bear
The wasting groan, or view the pallid look
Of him[A] the Muses lov'd - when hope forsook
His spirit, vainly to the Muses dear!
For charm'd with heav'nly song, this bleeding breast,
Mourns the blest power of verse could give despair no rest. -

[A] Chatterton.


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Online LibraryHelen Maria WilliamsPoems (1786), Volume I → online text (page 8 of 8)