John Cave Winscombe.

Tsoé, and other poems online

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/B E R K E L E Y\





















RED AND WHITE ROSES . . . . . $1


THE DAISY ........ 53

LILIA ........ 53














NAPOLEON III. . . . % . . . .86





EVENING BELLS . . . . . . 91





SCENES IN DREAMS . . . . . -97





IN the fertile land of the Moslem,
Where damask roses bloom,
Where many a scarlet poppy

Grows dusk in twilight's gloom ;
In a room in a great Harem,

Where through the latticed wall
The day had twined a sunny beam,

And parting let it fall ;
Upon a couch with roses decked,

And hung with curtains gay,
Beneath a silken coverlet,

A beauteous virgin lay.
Sleep weighed her snowy eyelids down ;

A smile was on her brow,
As though she dreamed of her native land,

So widely distant now,
Of her gentle mother's tender care,

Her baby sister's play,-
And of Circassia's shady bowers,

Where first she saw the day ;
And a tear broke from her oval eye,

And fell upon her breast,

4 2SOE.

And, like a stray pearl from the braid,

Rolled till it found its rest
On that swelling bosom, heaved by the breath,
Ceaseless in life, and silent in death.

Sleep on, bright image of dreaming rest !

With the smile on thy brow and the tear on thy breast;

For there is not a rosebud perfectly fair,

Till the dewdrop is resting and glittering there.

Sad is the tale of the sleeping maid,

Stolen away from the giant shade

Of the mighty mountains that tower and glow

In the pure, still light of eternal snow,

Whilst the crystal streams flow clear from their base,

Bordered by flowers of exquisite grace ;

A garden below and a fortress above,

Formed by one Maker for safety and love.

It had chanced one time, at the day's repose,
That the sun went down in amber and rose,
And when the latest beam was set,
The mountains shone in glory yet,
Though of brighter hues for a while bereft,
They blushed with the roses the day had left.
And Tsoe thought, as she gazed on the glory
Of the snow-capped mountain in evening rest,
Of the sweet and wonderful ancient story
Her mother had told of the land of the bless'd,

Where crystal fountains ever flow,

And brilliant gems for ever glow.


She gazed on the mountain, and thought, "It is there
That this wonderful land of bliss must lie,
For surely there is nothing half so fair
As the Caucasus' snow-white purity."

Her wandering fancy led her feet
To climb the rugged mountain's side;
Scarcely the earth they seemed to meet,
So lightly did they onward glide.

Short is eve in that sunny land,
Twilight is but a sombre link
That borders on night's darker brink
Whilst day still holds it with her hand.

Thus Tsoe, wandering far and high,
Her mind in a dreamy repose
That paints each fancy with the rose,
Thought not of night that gathered nigh,
Nor of the many beasts that roam
From sunless caves in their desert home,
Till the pale moon sent a silver streak
O'er the paler mountain's snow-clad crest,
And the eagle's loud and piercing shriek
Thrilled terror in her gentle breast.
She turned, and saw, far, far in the glade,
Her hamlet buried in evening shade,
And shuddered as the chilling cloud
Wound slowly round her like a shroud ;
First, all about her misty grew,
Then, all but mist was hid from view.


There is a wild, strange terror when we stand
With walls of rolling cloud on either hand,
Bewildering swiftness in their nearing gloom,
That forms for man a boundless, living tomb ;
Binds not, but yet controls the power to start,
And steals through every vital to the heart.
Thus Tsoe stands, lost in a wild dismay,
Afraid to stir, yet more afraid to stay ;
No star to guide her wandering footsteps home,
Nor teach the rover whither she may roam.
She turns towards each transient gleam of light,
Until she flieth only from the night ;
Then fear forbids the limbs to play their part,
And fain tn ess spreads through all the beating heart.

She sinks upon a moss-clad stone ;
The rising wind makes a dismal moan,
And dry, sere leaves from the wood below
In wheeling circles upward go,
And rustle with a dismal sound,
Tumbling along the stony ground ;
Whilst to the southward, far away,
She hears the yelping jackal bay.

Then hope was fled, and the dewy air
Clung coldly round her everywhere,
Till her eyelash shone like the crystal nets
That spiders spin o'er violets.


And Tsoe cried, " Oh, where oh, where,

The golden fields of light and air ?

I thought to find the dazzling throne

That Allah only calls his own,

Where warriors stand in glory dressed

With Houris evermore to rest ;

Where diamonds shine midst fadeless flowers

In the balmy breath of Eden's bowers,

Whilst every form you see is fair,

And peace pervades the hallowed air ;

Where fountains sparkle 'mid vases of gold,

And exquisite creepers around them enfold ;

Where lovely Peris, in garments of snow,

Backwards and forwards like meteors go.

But Eden's bowers are not for me ;

I know not whither now to flee ;

My hopes are passed in mist away,

And night usurps the place of day."

She lays her hand upon her heart ;

Alas ! its pulse is slow and chill,

As though it wearies of its part

As wearies oft the mountain rill,

Which slackens surely every hour,

Unwatered by the expected shower.

Then a footstep breaks upon her ear,
And there rings a voice both sweet and clear,
Musically soft as the strains that fall
From Roman bells at Carnival.


And a hunter's form strides out through the fog,-
Behind him there follows his faithful dog ;
And there hangs by his side a sabre gilt
With a strange device from the point to the hilt.
His locks are unconfmed and free,
As maidens' locks are wont to be : .
No turban binds his flowing hair,
The breath of the mountain is gambolling there,
Wantonly waving to and fro
Till it tangles with the scarf below.
His eye is of that mingled hue,
A mellow grey or sombre blue;
And in its clear and restless fire
Resolve seems blent with truth and ire.
Blue is the mantle round his form,
Though faded by the sun and storm,
And from that mantle's inmost fold
There shines a cross of purest gold.
He started when he saw the maid
Reclining 'neath the pine-tree shade,
And in a voice surprised, but clear,
He asked her, " Wherefore wander here ?
Dost thou not know the wolf and bear
At night steal from their secret lair ?
And that from yonder piles of snow
The avalanche is hurled below ? "
He took her gently by the hand
And led her to the lower land,
Where, like a globe of silvery light,
Fair Cynthia rode upon the night.


And many stars like lanterns gloam

Suspended to the azure dome.

Here first they pause, to gaze for a space

On views of excelling beauty and grace ;

Then Tsoe told him all her story ;

How she looked on the mountains in evening glory,

And thought that Allah must be there,

And all the hosts of Houris fair,

Where flowers never fade nor die,

And kindness speaks from every eye.

The warrior listened with a smile,
And held her hand in his the while,
And when she ceased he gently showed
That Eden lies beyond the flood,
And o'er its bright dominions fair
The Crucified is Ruler there.
Long did they commune, till the day
Spread o'er the east his foremost ray,
But ere they parted gave their plight
To meet again the coming night.

Fair Love ! how magic is thy power !
Queen of a life ! child of an hour !
Sometimes like a meteor darting,
Ere we meet we think of parting,
And sometimes long, and sure, and slow,
Deepening as we onward go ;
Ever bringing joy and sorrow j
Ever hoping for to-morrow ;

io TSOE.

Like the river ever blending
Where the ocean waves are bending,
Or like spring-time dying away,
Lost in the glowing summer day.
And so, 'twixt meeting hearts and eyes,
Bright, airy, winged Cupid flies,
Until a mutual feeling glows,
And then the tender passion flows,
In union knitting heart with heart,
Until it seems they ne'er can part.

O'er T'soe thus Love's magic power
Had cast its light though binding chain,
And oft she thought upon the hour
When she should see her friend again.
So swift does Love's alluring art
Make captive of the southern heart.
She did know from whence he came,
His birth, his lineage, his name,
And yet her hand, her heart, her all,
She would have yielded to his call.
But ere the night could form a screen
For her to steal away unseen,
Her freedom was for ever gone,
And she was an imprisoned one.

For Tsoe', a slave by the harsh law of birth,
That values a woman at half of her worth,
Gives power to parents of pitiless mould
To barter their children for riches and gold.


She was sold by her father, a covetous chief,
The small gain she brought him his only grief;

For when the trader came to buy,

Tsoe, with plaintive, wailing cry,

Wept through the long and sultry day,

Till half her beauty passed away ;

And when at eve her father brought

The scowling Turk to see his prize,

A passing stranger would have thought

There was no lustre in those eyes ;
For clouded and cold was the "violet hue,
And under each eyelid a broad band of blue,
Swollen and reddened by many a tear,
The silent result of horror and fear ;
And the smiling play of those lips was gone,
And the rose of the cheek was pale and wan,
And there was not a look nor a gesture there
But was stamped with the dye of unshaded despair.
" Chief," said the Turk, " is this the fair flower
You boasted would grace the Pasha's bower ?
This pale, blighted lily is scarcely worth
The pain that she cost her mother in birth ;
But since our bargain is partly proclaimed,
I'll give you the half of the sum you have named;
For though this poor flower is withered and cold,
I can see that the stem is of exquisite mould."

The night was cold, and drear, and chill,
Swoln the flood of each mountain rill;

12 TSOE.

The moon looked out from a bank ot cloud
Pale as a corse 'neath pall and shroud ;
The pitiless blast made a dismal moan
O'er oak in the forest or crumbling stone,
And there remained but one small star in view,
Set in a lake of ethereal blue ;
Whilst all around was dark, dismal, and drear,
Like a desert that skirts a haunted mere.
And sometimes you heard the distant roaring
Of ceaseless cataracts onward pouring ;
And the wolves' harsh cry broke loud and shrill
As in leaguering packs they scoured the hill.

By Terek's wave gleams many a spear,

And slaves, upon their shoulders, lean

A closely curtained palanquin,

Painted with colours gay and clear.
There Tsoe sits, cold, silent, and alone,
Not a word, nor a tear, nor sigh, nor groan,
Could break from her lip, nor stream from her eye,
For strong feeling seemed numbed with agony,
As one wild passion held sway o'er her heart,
And sharpened the edge of base slavery's dart.
The trader rode at the head of the host,
Silent and calm to the outward eye,
As some old spectral midnight ghost,
That breathed in years long since gone by;
But in that calm and rigid form
Slept many a passion's hidden storm.

TSOE. 13

Well skilled was he in arts of war,

And fiercely fell his scimitar ;

But he was lord of baser strife :

Men said that the assassin's knife

Had stained his hand with treachery's dye,

That there must rest eternally.

But none dare thwart him ; all must cower

Before his vast but cruel power,

For in the Pasha's name he sought

New beauties, whom with gold he bought,

To grace the Harem's sunny bowers,

Fresh buds amongst its withering flowers.

They wander on from day to day
By many a verdant scene and way,
Or traverse many a woody dell
Where crystal fountains fling their spray,
And where the gentle young gazelle
Sports through the long and sunny day ;
Past gurgling streams, and woody glade,
By mountain, rock, and forest shade ;
Past crumbling stones, tradition's page,
Wrapt in the mystery of age,
Where subtle snakes in secret crawl,
And lizards glitter on the wall,
Till a lordly city rose to view
With orange groves, and vineyards fair,
And flowers of every varied hue
That fill with fragrance all the air ;

14 TSOE.

And from the stately groves arise,

In massive grandeur to the skies,

Great mosques and obelisks, that glow

And glitter in the noonday light,

With costly marble, pure as snow,

Or alabaster crystal white,

And golden minarets that shine

In brilliant splendour round their shrine.

And many streams of water clear

Go winding through the fertile plain,

Which spread their freshness everywhere

And circle many an ancient fane,

Glittering in the evening breeze

Like silvery threads amongst the trees.

Such views as these met Tsoe's eyes
Those eyes that were of yore so bright ;
She gazed with pensive, sad surprise
Upon the scene of matchless light.
Her cheek had lost its rosy dye ;
Her thoughts seemed wrapt in settled gloom;
She looked like that cold imagery
Which sculptors place above the tomb,
Stonily beautiful, deathlike, but fair,

Clad in the pale robes of icy despair.
Leave her in silence, leave her in sadness ;
Words cannot comfort, and tears cannot aid ;
Smiles will not wake one faint ray of gladness ;
Leave her alone in her palanquin shade.

TSOE. 15

Follow her not to the dark gilded Harem ;
Leave her to fade and to wither alone,
Beautifully pale as blows the fair arum,
Silent and cold, without even a moan.

One only she knows who can comfort her sorrow,
One who can lighten the gloom of her way ;
Surely his light form will come on the morrow,
E'en though he linger and tarry to-day.



DARK was the storm the floods were high ;
To torrents rose the mountain rills,
And whirling winds were in the sky,
That flung the clouds against the hills.
By Terek's wave a hunter bold
Stands sternly facing to the wind ;
Nought recks he of the rain or cold,
Nor thunder-clouds that roll behind ;
His thoughts are bent on such a light,
Or such a form of light and air,
That e'en can make the tempest bright,
And scatters radiance everywhere.

16 TSOE.

But wretched man ! so often sport of fate !
If morning shine, the eve is desolate ;
The fairest flower the foremost dies away,
Or, e'er it blossoms, withers in decay.

Oh, blighting Time ! thy cold, remorseless hand
With mouldering dust obscures life's crystal sand ;
Wraps all the past in cold oblivion's shroud,
And paints the future like a golden cloud,
That lures us onward with bright visions fair,
Then fades, and leaves us maddened with despair.

Thus, whilst the hunter's fancy fled

From height to height of joy and bliss,

From nuptial feast to bridal bed,

From lover's smile to loving kiss ;

Onward through the glade there went

The trader's motley armament

Of turbaned Turk, and swarthy slave,

And horsemen, whose bright trappings wave

As golden banners in the breeze,

And glitter through the forest trees,

Like those bright birds in ancient story

Whose feathers are a robe of glory.
For hushed was the voice of the blast for a space,
And pale, through the dark gloom, fair Cynthia's face
Cast a soft shadow, or a misty light,
Silvering the turbans of purple and white,
And lightened the diamonds that flashed on the hilt,
Though clouded their rays by the dark stain of guilt.

7SOE. i7

Just then a wanton gust of air,
That turned and eddied like the tide,
And seemed to scramble everywhere,
Blew, for a transient space, aside
The litter curtain, where there lay
The fairest of the Moslem's prey.

Had a thunderbolt been hurled
From some distant, starry world ;
Had the moonbeams from on high
Changed to blood's deep crimson dye j
Or had all the hosts that dwell
In the darkest caves of hell,
Like myriad locusts o'er the sky
Met the astonished hunter's eye ;
He had stood unmoved by fear,
Spread they far, or came they near ;
But when all his hopes were laid
On the fair Circassian maid,
To see her from his power thrust,
And bartered to a dotard's lust,
Numbed his arm and chilled his heart,
Which ceased awhile to act their part ;
A dizzy sickness filled his head,
And left him to all semblance dead.

There is a sad confusion on the brain
When wakening reason comes to us again ;
Old scenes seem new, the new are strange and dread,
And fever throbs through all the aching head ;


i8 TSOE.

The cheek may flush, and yet the hand is chill ;
The parched lip craves water from the rill ;
The light distresses, and the darkness wears ;
Glad thoughts are crushed beneath a weight of cares
Thus when the sun had bronzed the orient gate,
The hunter rose confused and desolate,
Felt some strange trouble, some strong weight oppress,
And mingled thoughts of wrong and bitterness.
Then the whole truth rose dark before his brain,
Like a huge spectre on a haunted plain.

The earth now glowed with every hue ;
Night's curtain, from the darkness rolled,
Had left the sky one sea of blue,

The sun a globe of gold :
But had the scene been twice as fair,
Or had the day been bleak and chill,
Had fragrant balm perfumed the air,
Or thunder rolled above the hill,
He had not marked it, scarce could say
Whether it were the night or day.
He starts ! an object meets his sight,
Glistening in the morning light.
The warrior knew that gem of yore,
It is the ring that Tsoe wore
On her tapering finger white
When they met the other night.
And whilst he raised it from the ground,
And turned it slowly round and round,


An age'd slave towards him drew,
Carefully eyed him through and through,
Then asked him if he knew who wore
The ring that in his hand he bore.
Then she, weeping, sadly told
How the pensive maid was sold,
And how fast the rosy streak,
Faded from her tear-stained cheek,
And that she had bade her swear
Ne'er to cease from toil and care
Till she found the hunter true,
Who the name of Tsoe' knew,
And beg him long, and hard, and late
To save her from her cruel fate.

The hunter waved his sword above,
A sunbeam kissed it as it rose j
It seemed a sign of hate and love,
Sunshine and death together close.
He swore the mountain maid to save,
Or find a warrior's early grave
To meet the Moslem's sabre's blow
With blood for blood, and thrust for thrust,
And see life's parting current flow
From warriors levelled with the dust.
A moment knelt he on the ground,
Suppliant before the Lord of Light,
Then, with a strong determined bound,
In the dark wood he passed from sight.

20 TSOE.

He is gone ; his love unbroken,
His strong desire will not wait ;

And that single precious token
Turns the wavering scales of fate.

He is gone ; o'er brake and valley,
He is gone ; o'er brake and fell.

Will the hunter idly dally
Till he find his lost gazelle ?

He is gone ; may heaven speed him
Through the troubled waves of life,

Angels to his fair one lead him,
Guard him through the battle strife.



THERE stands a castle that grimly towers
Among Edessa's shadowy bowers,
And high in air above it rolled
A blood-red flag with cross of gold.
Within its courtyard ringing clear
Was heard the clash of furbished spear,
And many steeds impatient neigh
To gallop to the bloody fray.

TSOE. 21

Their arched necks, and trappings bright,

All gorgeous in the morning light

Gascons, Normans, Celts are standing

Side by side together banding ;

Side by side they sternly stand,

Heart with heart, and hand with hand,

Each one harbouring deadly hate

To the ruthless sons of fate,

Who hold the shrine that God has given,

Most rare to earth, most dear to heaven.

And see the Moslems onward come

With cry of war, and roll of drum,

Their folded turbans of many a hue,

Like gems that sparkle, or sunlit dew ;
And swift are their chargers, and numerous their hordes,
And keen are their lances, and strong are their swords.

So they advance on, like the tide,

Which forward rolls on every side

Until some massive cliffs arise

To kiss the azure of the skies,
Then backward rushes with an angry sound,
Confusing the waves with their fierce rebound.

Thus the Moslems staggering reel
When they meet the Christian's steel ;
But on again, o'er bodies dead,
Fresh warriors pass with war-cry dread,

22 TSOE.

Then flash of arms, and clouds of dust,
And roll of drums, and sabre thrust,
With wild confusion fill the plain,
And slaughter holds her fierce domain.
And now the infidels gain ground ;
Again the Christians, turning round,
Still grimly face towards the foe,
And backward to their fortress go.
But there, a wild impetuous band
Engage the Moslems hand to hand j
So fierce their charge, so keen their lance,
They stay, and turn the foes' advance.
Champion-like, their leader's blow
Lays many an arme'd Tartar low ;
Though his sabre is red with the blood of the slain,
He strikes, and he waves it again and again ;
No iron plates his limbs enthrall,
But he passes unscathed where thousands fall ;
So light is his form, and so agile his limb,
That they strike at the air when they strike at him.

But oft when man will fight untired,

By hate and glory half inspired,
Night's gathering darkness steals the power away,
And bids the slayer cease awhile to slay.
The avenger turns, whilst all the Christian band
Essay to press the unknown's gory hand ;
And still one question ever to him came,
" Thy name, bold stranger, tell us now thy name."


He waved his hand, a silence fell ;

Each armed warrior seemed engrossed ;

His wild words cast a voiceless spell

O'er all that mighty mingled host.

" Brethren," he cried, " and all who bear

Christ's holy emblem on your breast,

Illustrious knights, who proudly wear

The waving plume and gilded crest,

My name is little known in strife ;

I dwell 'midst mountain, brake, and fen ;

And lead a common hunter's life,

Far distant from the haunts of men.

But hate of Moslem creed and thrall

Induced me hither to repair,

And ever a far distant call

Seems borne towards me on the air

For they have stolen the only form

I ever loved on this sad earth,

The only sunbeam 'midst the storm

That has pursued me from my birth.

And now a solemn vow is mine,

To save her from her cruel lord,

To tear the Moslem from his shrine,

And lay him prostrate on the sward.

Few are my comrades, but when zeal

Uprears the standard of my band,

Keenly falls our ready steel,

Heavy is our willing hand.

Onward I to-night will go,

And, if heaven will, surprise,

24 TSOE.

Destroy, and scatter all the foe,

Ere morning flushes in the skies.

In the darkness of the night

Thousands may be slain by ten,

Thousands may be put to flight,

Never to return again.

Adieu ! brave Christians, I'll away,

And fall or combat to the last ;

I cannot rest a single day ;

The page is turned the die is cast.

I start upon my deadly raid,

To save the unprotected maid,

Or dye the earth with Ronald's blood,

And red the crystal of the flood."

He ceased; approving murmurs ran
From knight to knight, from man to man ;
Then rose a wild, tumultuous cry,
That echoed where the rocks were riven,
And upward, swelling to the sky,
Died in the starry vault of heaven.
Then many a knight and warrior went
To join in Ronald's armament;
Stealthily their path they tread
O'er mingled heaps of unburied dead,
To where the watch-fires gleaming bright
Proclaimed the Moslem's camp that night.

O Hope ! thou dear deluder of the brain !
How false thy promises ! thy words how vain !

TSOE. 25

Like the deep swamp, that decked with many a bloom
Would lead us onward to a treacherous tomb ;
Its velvet verdure, of an emerald hue,
Conceals its dangerous qualities from view,
Tempts us to venture, then with gurgling flow
Engulfs us in the sepulchre below.

Thus Ronald's hopes received a blight,

For when he reached the Moslem host

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Online LibraryJohn Cave WinscombeTsoé, and other poems → online text (page 1 of 4)