John Douglas Sutherland Campbell Argyll.

Guido and Lita : a tale of the Riviera online

. (page 2 of 5)
Online LibraryJohn Douglas Sutherland Campbell ArgyllGuido and Lita : a tale of the Riviera → online text (page 2 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Live in the glories of their country's song.
Let us then know the scenes, where varying fate



A TAT.K OF THK IMVIKHA.
"With partial hand, apportioned their estate.

But ere we reach the castle, note how well

The steep approach a foe's attack could quell.

'Twas not alone the l)attleniented wall,

With frequent tower, from whence the shot mit^lit fall ;

But every dwelling, in each close-ljuilt street,

Seemed half designed such venture to defeat.

High-storied, oft they over-arched the way

That, lost beneath them, scarce could see the day

For many a gloomy stretch; and when at last

It seemed the devious labyrinth was passed,

'Twas only for a moment that the sky

Might look upon its course of mystery;

(Save where before an ancient church there played,

In a broad space, a fountain's bright cascade ;)

For, (quickly buried, it was hid until,

Beyond the town, it climbed again the hill.

Through the tliick maze, a busy hive, close-pent,

Wound narrow tracks, that seemed where'er they went

With women, children, men, and mules, alive :

Some would pass quickly onward, but to dive



26 GUIDO AND LITA :

Beneath the vaulted arches; wives would spin

Chattering in doorways ; while, around, tlie din

Of little urchins rose, high shrilled, and clear,

Redoul)led at the sight of muleteer,

But luished as knights and guards came trampling neai

Close to the summit of the peopled ridge

The road led suddenlv to where a bridfje

Across a deep ravine, was lightly set.

Thin-arched and high, and void of parapet,

It spanned the chasm to the rough rock throne.

From which the castle's mighty lim])S had grown.

No barbican o'erlooked the natural moat :
The way leaped straight into the fortress' throat.
The entrance through a square-built pile was bored.
Where, on each flank, a rounded bastion soared.
Their massive face of masonry but showed
A casemate, here and there, toward the road.
But, circling inner courts, wide galleries ran.
Where through the open windows one might scan
The halls and stairways of the inner plan.



A TALE OF THE lUVIERA.

Throughout the spaces near the pouderous gate
Old halberdiers and armoured followers wait :
They guard the passages and line the hall
For stately trial or high festival ;
When to give sentence, or to pass decree,
The kniglit was seated 'neath the canopy
Betokening feudal sway, that only saw
Justice in him who made, and dealt the law.

What is possession of higli place, or state,
To him who, mocked by a pursuing fate.
E'en in his genius finds a dangerous bar
To turn his steps from Fortune's trembling star;
The finer temper that should make him rise
To Ije the leader in some great emprise ;
To point the path, though mountains interpose,
To days of glory that no night may close;
May warp to tame fastidiousness, and wake
Loathing of tools, he might have used to make
His phantom fancy change to sober truth.
The easy nature, born of affluent youth.
To be content with all around, lest change



28 GUI DO AND LITA :

Shall bring upon hiin things unloved and strange,
j\Iay wake no passion for the prompt redress
Of wrongs he only hears have wrought distress ;
Although if aid by clamoroiis grief be sought
Her piteous cry may wake to work and thought.

No chance had s])urred young (iuido to forget

The selfish aims to Avliidi his wishes set.

His father's rule, like some uncouth machine,

Creaked at its task, but worked in dull routine.

He hardly shared its Ijurdens, for the chase

Gave him in sport at least a better place,

And often would Ids spear, haft-driven, quell

The rage of boar or ^\■olf on mountain fell.

Yet lonely now, his pail he would not bear

In scenes of pleasure, or in days of care.

Old friends, old joys, could give liis life no zest,

Though to such charge his words had ne'er confessed.

In restlessness and yearning vain he spent

A time, when feigned hilarity Avas blent

AVitli liours of broddiiig, on ]iis thoucjhts intent.



A TALK OF THE HIVIEKA. 29

How could lie meet her, so that all unseen
His glance could rest upon her face and mien ;
That none should watch, or rally with a jest,
The sense that gladdened him, and yet oppressed ?
He had not even heard her speak, then why
Dream that the voice would flow in harmony,
Nor give tlie ideal of his heart the lie,
Betraying aught to break its sympathy?
What follies, treason, idle doubts, were these !
AVhate'er the tone — how could she speak but please ?
I'rom the fair lips that curved like Cupid's bow.
Love's lightning darts through all she said must flow.
What, though the eyes no look responsive gave ?
'Twas all he asked again their light to crave.

*So, stealing furtively away, once more
He passed to wliere along the gleaming shore
The waves, like vassals of an eastern king,
In lengthened lines, continuous, came to fling
Their load of diamond and of opal down.

And as lie (piickly strode to clutch the croMii



30 OUIDO AND LITA:

Of liis heart's hope, it was as if for lord
The wliole creation knew liiin, and adored.

So wild the tumult of his throbbing brain ;
It seemed the waters of tliat niasterinu' main
But chanted songs that urged liini to aspire
Until their motions owned l)ut his desire;
Whate'er his M'ishes' course, an answering God
"Would smooth it level as the sands he trod.

Tlius did Ids thoughts run riot till, afloat
AVithin three bowshots of the lieach, a boat
With only one witlun it, could be seen.
Then inland moving, till he readied a screen
Of tumbled rock and wood, he saw below
A row of fishers, who, with labour slow.
Dragged heavily their nets' sea-laden length.
And, drawing nearer, he could see their strength
Was guided by the single boatman's call.
Who cried to them to slacken or to haul.
And further off, along the bay, apj)eared
Another group like theirs, that slowly neared.



A TALE OF THE RIVIERA. 31

As at the net's still great, but narrowing, curve
Tliey pulled with rival force and weary nerve.

'Twas Carlo's voice commanded them ; and soon,
In the full brightness of the blazing noon,
Guido saw Lita standing on the shore.

Upon her head and o'er her brow she wore
A kerchief, pure and white, to turn the glare,
From under which, escaping, the dark hair
In long rich tresses, flowed upon the vest
That clothed her form from ankle unto breast.

Poised on white foot that, light as foam-flake, fell
Where sea and land in common came to dwell.
She moved, encouraging with blithest cheer
Each laggard loitering at the toilsome gear.
Sometimes her little hand would even tmne
A cord, loop-handled, round the great rope line.
And her slight aid, through their redoubled power.
Would shorten wondrously the arduous liour;
Until at last, the scanty harvest reaped.



r.T'lDi^ AND T.ITA :

Its silvery piles upon the shore were heaped.

He had not thought to meet her tlius among
Her kin and neiglibours, and liis sense was stiniL!,-
By a commingling of deliglit and doubt.
He could not dwell upon lier ways without
A shade of jealousy; for though the voice
Rang in his ears, and bade his soul rejoice,
He had but pictured her in quiet home,
Not as one lo\dng here and there tu roam ;
Taking her part in harsher task, and uv.nla
A joy to many, but too oft displayed.

And yet what modesty of manner glowed
Through the quick nature that her gesture showed
AVhat honest impulse 'mid the gidish grace
Lived in her word and shone within her face;
E'en from her lips^ when merriest laughter broke,
What innate dignity her bearing spoke I

She was not born to live her life away
In circuit bounded by her native bay;



A TALK OF TIIK IM VI KK A.

That beauty was not made to l)e tlie joy
Of common herdsman or of fisher-boy ;
Surely from such companionship to win
Her sweet affection, were no mortal sin ?
Let him then pass into the woods, and wait
Until slie came to seal his wavering fate.

Alone he paused where, tln-ough tlie olive grove.
He saw the dwelling he had learned to love ;
The door that opened to the lower space,
Where first he looked upon her witching face ;
The outM^ard stair that gained, still near the sod,
The upper chamber that her feet had trod ;
The tinted plaster and the narrow roof,
Where heavy tiles to wind and rain were proof;
The gnarled and twisted trees that round it rose,
As if to guard its shelter and repose ;
The dusky foliage where they thickly grew.
And chequered shade upon its brightness threw.

And soon along the pathway lie could mark
Her form approaching 'ncatli the sliadctws dark ;

F



34 nriDO AND T.ITA :

And waiting by its margin, lie could see

She slackened her (|uiek step reluctantly:
Then made as though to pass him, and haste on
'J'o where her home with friendly welcome shone.
When, dofling his plumed hat with courteous grace
Ami joyous look, he met her face tu face.

Vain as he was, he felt at first unmanned

By the calm glance that all his motions scaimed ;

But when she slowly answered his good cheer

"With morning greeting, he forgot his fear.

And questioned, "Whither went she?" "To prepare

For those who thro' the day have laboured where

Yon path does lead." — " Come they then soon to thee i '

" Yea, if they get enough from out the sea."

" Thou canst then give them all for which they care ? "

" Nay, Sir, you know how luunble is our fare."

" To me it seemed a feast for any prince."

" Our pride, indeed, has risen higher, since

Your gracious father said that he was pleased."

" And wilt thou not believe that I was seized

AVith gratitude to her, who, like tlie sun



A TALE OF THE KIVIERA. 35

Shone, when the storm dominion would have won 'i "

" Oh, Sir, you flatter me," she said, and then,

" But I must onward, or my father's men

Will find nought ready. Sir, I must begone." —

" Nay, have my words so little favour won,

Thou wilt not offer me again some food ? " —

" If you desire it. .'Twould indeed be rude,

And 'gainst my father's wish to close our door." —

" It is l)ut for a moment, and the store

Of thy sweet grace, is all I now implore." —

She laughed, and then, with grave and silent mien.

Led on, he following, o'er the herbage green.

And thus he entered, with a heart that l)eat.
The house wherein again her busy feet
Moved, as it seemed to him, in music sweet.
And as he sat, and watched how order grew
Beneath her fingers, as they deftly drew
Her tasks to end ; her every look and word
His passion deepened, and his wonder stirred.
How could sucli l)lossom grow on salted soil.
Such liloom and ]>cautv from a race of toil.



3(5 (U'IDO AND l.ITA :

Such ^laje and euluur near tJif (leadening spray ?
In childish days he heard the sailors say
That wundrons flnvers were fostered by the ray
That burned on At'ric's coast, and ghjwing leaves
lUu'st from the jjrickly jdants in dazzling sheaves,
Close to pale breakers of a fearful sea.

Such vision rose within his nnnd as he

Xoted her actions; — told her liow his thought

Had, since lie saAv her, his lone spirit brought

To be a sojourner, as now, beneath

Her roof; marked how a fleeting lilush wcndd breathe

An instant's brighter colour ctn her cheek ;

But pride or coyness would not let her speak

lieproof or pleasure. Then he drank to her

Of wine she offered, that he might aver

Her ha])piness was now his life's desire.

His ho])e to })lease her lived, — a l)eacon fire.

Then finding answer none, he sought to know

How simple ways could such distinction show.

He hearkened, half amused, as she would paint

In artless ]»hrases how sftmc favourite saint



A TALE OF THE ItlVlEKA. 37

" Upon tlie day named after him, had hlessed

AVith (h-aught of fish, miraculous (confessed

As such by e'en tlie very Priest himself),

The household nets ; — and thus, though for such pelf.

All knew the Father cared not, he had ta'en

Some coin and half the lisli, lest luck were vain,

To ])uy a picture of the circumstance,

Wrought by a youth whose fame he would advance ; —

The Virgin-Mother watching from a cloud

The happy fishermen and clamorous crowd ; —

To hang ui)on the chapel's wall. And more :

At the last feast the candles l)orne before

Tlie holy Father came from this, their wealth ;

Besides, what more went to the Church's health."

" But 'tis not from your nets," he said, " alone
You get your living, for you surely own
These trees that far around the sunlight break ? "
" No, no," she answered, " 'tis but ours to shake
Their laden branches with the tapering cane
And cause the olives' fall of fruitful rain ;
To gather them in baskets till thev fill



i:i94T)2



38 GriDO AND LITA :

The (lusty flooring' of the busy mill.

But in a little garden, all mine own,

Some beauteous palms, beloved of God, have gi-own.

And of their drooping fringes I may keep

Some here, to grace the day of those who sleep

In martyrs' graves beyond the echoing deep :

Some for their jdace of martyrdom, I sell

To those, they say, who near their ashes dwell."

He, asking where this Eden garden lay ?

Watched her fair figure outlined 'gainst the day

That, through the open window near him, shone ;

And let her eager speech, unchecked, flow on,

As with her lifted hand, she pointed where

A palm-tree shot aloft t(j woo the glare :

Then showed each spot in narrow circuit rountl,

AVhere traces of her simple life were found.

But breaking through the tale of her content,
His stifled longing to her ear now sent
Its tones of praise, with fond entreaty blent :
And reaching out his arm that he might hold
Her hand, or only of her dress a fold



A TALK OF THE RIVIEUA. :iU

She shrank away from him, — if not with fear,
Yet with a start, as timid as the deer
AVho first has seen the hnig-accustomed food
Offered by strangers, and in doubtful mood
]ietires, distrustful for a space, to gaze
If it spy danger in their novel ways.

So in surprise, 1)ut feeling no dismay.

She stood and listened, for on many a day,

Her ears had heard the youths around her say

All that they thought would flatter or would please,

Till she ne'er wondered at such praise from these.

But he had startled her, and would have chased

Away the harsh remembrance of his haste

By soothing words ; but as she silent stood,

They heard the fishers coming through the wood,

With noise confused within its solitude :

And whispering he would see her soon, he sped

Through tracks again that to the castle led.

Thus first did (luido drink of what he sought.
Yet was he like a tbirstv waiiderci', hioULilit



40 Crino AND IJTA :

To some rich fouutaiii, risinjj; in (k'lii;iit,
A rainbowed pillar to the raptured sight,
That falls again in sucli a gentle spray
Within a basin broadening to tlie day,
That scarce a ripple conies to sweep away
The face reHected on its surface, wIkmh^
Unto the eager lips, the hands would bear
The copious treasure, of the guest aware.

He looked upon her l)eautv, and admired :
He drank therein of joy. as he desired;
But while he stoojied, his wislies to fulhl.
Himself he saw, and Self was master still.

His pride untutored, and by time unbent,
Saw in her silence only her consent ;
Read in her blushes' consciousness alone
The sign (^f feelings, he might make his own ;
Believed, (and half of what he thought was truth,)
That victory waited on his brilliant youth ;
And with no shame there passed before his view
Tiiat poorest triumpli man can e'er pursue:



A TAI>K OF Till-: IflVlKia. 41

The careless coiKjiie.st ut' affections true

That woman gives, not knowing she may rue !

Already, almost to herself unknoANii,

An interest in her l)reast for him had gi'owu ;

And with surprise she sometimes found her thought

]\Iuse on the morning that liis presence In-ought,

And sought to check the question that would rise,

How next to meet the searching of his eyes ;

Denying he would come, and if he came,

J]y silence she would prove her will the same.

And for a while it thus to him appeared.
As often now that olive gro^'e he neared
To interce[)t her on her homeward way,
And no persuasion could her footste}) stay.
A'^et had his manners, that with ease comhined,
A [)ride hy grace and gentleness refined,
JShown her the roughness of her hsher-folk,
('ontrasted with the world to which she woke ;
And his society had in time su}>iilied
A lofty stamlard hy whicli all wei'e tricif

(.;



42 (UIDo AND LITA :

Wluii wonder tlieu, that she cuuld nut deny
Thtit ])leasure came with knowledge he was nigh ?
No Avords of hers were uttered to persuade
That lingering partings should l)e yet delayed ;
Perhaps because she saw such conduct made
The moments lengthen as he, dallying, stayed 1

Still he, in Ijlindness, could not comprehend
AVhence came the firmness that to her could lend
Such strength of character, until the flame
That still consumed him, though it seemed the same,
Changed, Mith the light by adndration given.
To wear the radiance honour takes from heayen !
And ^\'ith the homage that his bearing spoke,
In time her shy reserve Avas loosed, and broke.
Frank had she ever been, in all beside
The feelings sacred to a maiden's j^ride.
Open and true, e'en these were not concealed,
Yvnien safety whispered, they might stand revealed.

But the calm will, though shaken on its throne.
Still held tlie empire of her mind alone,



A TALE OF THE RIVIERA. 43

And gave sad answers to tlie doubts that pressed,
And with untimely grief lier life distressed.
How could it profit him that she should love
One placed hy fc^rtune such regard ahove ?
AVould it not hurt him, rather, thus to Lend
And to her level, from his own, descend i
Would his affection, now so fervent, last ;
Contempt not come when novelty had passed ;
If from his eyes the scales at length \vere cast ?

Thus tortured by misgivings that but grew
Stronger, the nearer to his love she drew.
Faithful to that she deemed would serve him most,
She sought no more the pathway to the coast ;
But would have hid herself, lest she might fill
And mar his life with some imagined ill.
'Twas therefore long before he could succeed
Again his cause with earnest tones to plead ;
AVdien to his sorrow, coldness seemed to reign
Within the breast where tender love had lain.
And cru.shed beneath the unexpected pain,
Tears, and U])braidiiig, and reproach, had s])iung



-It (illDo AND IJTA :

From the lull Iiciivt, with pain iiiid ])assi()ii wnnii!,".

Then rnnglily tried, there fled, dispelled at Icnj^th,

The false illnsion of her liorrowed strentitli.

To see him thus was more than she could hear.

"Think not," she cried, "my words betray no care;

J'.iit what \\'ild folly were it, did I dare

Tliy lordly lionie, thy niinhty name, to share ?

The scorn of kindred, and the strangers' smile,

Would mark tlie action thou must soon reviles

(rod ])lace(l me here because He knows I may

Lighten with joy my ])arents' waning day.

How could I be an honour to thy race,

A lowly weed transplanted from its place ?

Nay, hear me, Knight, for though my words are weak

'Tis only for thy good I dare to speak ;

And when a year has run its destined round,

A change, perchance, will in thy thoughts be found.

Oh, leave me — ^go ! — nor let the memory live

Of one unworthy of the love you give."

"You trust me not," he answered, " Lita, mine, —



A TALK OF TIIK IMVIKKA. 45

Fi»r luiiiL' I call thee, — since no force divine

1 know, would ever part iis ; and if Hell

IJise in dark legions, my pure love to quell,

What banded niiglit shall overthrow the pride

This year shall si;ive me, when I call thee bride.

Be my request but this: 'Tis not to hide,

Nor move from hence, if thus my troth be tried.

"'Tis best," she faltered, ''that thou come not here." —

"No power shall keep me from a place so de.ir,"

lie said ; and ere a week was i)assed, his eye

Looked on the scene, in wonder, to descry

(lrou})s of the ])easants scattered 'ncath the trees ;

And crowds that stood around tlie door, and these

Seemed scared; for, wafted on the breezy air

Hose the shrill plaint, and murmur of despair.

Some carried household L!;oods, and women's tears
Flowed on, unheeding e'en the ehildren's I'ears.
Others, from where a vessel, anchored, lay.
Landed in haste, and hurrying made their Avay,
Some to the woods, and some along the shore.
As though in peril safety to im])lore.



46 GUmO AN[) LIT A:

Then, stopping one who seemed in sore tlistress,
Guido demanded, "Wherefore do ye press
Onward, as thongh a foe were on yonr ti-ack ? "
The man, in silent horror, pointed Lack
To distant headlands, where arose a hlack
And spreading vapour he could well discern :
Then cried, "0 see'st thou not onr houses Imrn ?
The murdering fiends — may their names l)e cursed
Upon our sleeping towns at night have burst,
And all are massacred who could not fly ! "
"Take courage," said the knight, "our force is nigli."
" Yea," said the fugitive, " we know our lives
Here, at the least, are safe from murderous knives ;
But we, pursued by sorrow and by fear
Have lost the joys that made them once so dear.
Would that a wider space than this domain.
Were guarded by the men none dare disdain !
'Tis long indeed, we know, since Orles has seen
The fires of pillage light her nights serene."

Returning with the people, who now sought
Friendship, and shelter, in their state distraught,



A TALE OF THK iilVlEKA. i^

He heard from iiiaiiy of tlieiv hard escape,
Whom Death had menaced in liis direst shape.

'Twas from the mountains that the heathen horde

Upon the smihng Eiviera poured,

AVithin a district, Mdiere deceitful Peace

Had blimted arms, as though their use might cease.

But for tlie darkness all had l)een undone:

Their ship had saved them ere the place was won.

And the Ijright flames, ascending,, had begun

To guide the hunters, like a midnight sim.

Soon round the walls, and hospitably fed,

The victims told full oft their tale of dread;

Or, harboured Ijy the townsmen, scarce believed

Their safety certain, or their lives reprieved.

And ever ministering to those in need,

Lita wrought daily many a holy deed.

Ihit loud and fierce among the exiles rose
The cry f(»r vengeance, on their cruel foes.
As ever greater grew the ravage made
In (Ustant liomesteads, where the robljers' raid



48 CrilX) AND IJTA :

I)re\v gdld ())■ 1i1(mm1, at Avill, IVdiii nifii (lisniaycil.
And e'en to fi^iit in tlieiv (U'feiici' afraid :
Surely the kniulit of Orles Avill raise liis hand
And be the saviour of a grateful land ?

Yet soon they found their ho])e had woke in vain :

"These jieople M'ere not his; not his their ])ain ;

Tliev nuist not euniher his industrious folk.

They niijd remain a little. Then the yoke

Of Saracen or Pirate liv the stroke

Of their o\\'n hands nnist perish. "Why should he

Arm for the men Avho knew hut how to flee ;

AVho for themselves should learn that woes but yield,

When SM'ovds, not tongues are loosed, to win the field.

And (iuido did not urge their suit, his own

A\'as in his tlioughts ; and these were fed alone

By envious Jiiusings, how he might prevail

That Lita should not hearken to the wail

Of these poor wretches, through the livelong (hiy.

He hated them that they should turn away

Her mind from him. And thus a month was passed



A TAIJ''. OF TIIK 1;1VIKI;A. 4!)

Ill idliii^u; leisure, till the Mdors at last
AVere said to l)e no longer in the land.
And few remained of all the ruined band
Who sought in Orles for safety or for aid.

But amongst these, a youth the crowd outstayed,
AVho oft had cheered them as he hravely ]ilayed
To rhyming song the strings of his guitar.
lie told of love, of chivalry in war,
Of feats that made world-famous oft of yore
The name Provence through lustrous ages l»ore ;
And noting with contempt and fierce disdain
The knights' indifference to their want and pain,
Xow 'neath the casemate of their proiul ai)ode,
He i»oured the verse that told his sorrow's load ;
And holdly thus, though helpless, rolihed, and poor,
I\ung thy reproach, thou gallant troul»adour!



50 GUIIH) AM) LITA :



Noble names, if nobly borne.

Live within a nation's heart
If of such thou bearer be,
Never let that name for thee
Point the scorn !



II.

Shrined within its narrow bound

Other hopes than tliine have part;
For it once in life was theirs.
Who from weight of earthly cares
Peace have found !



III.

They who wore it, free from blame,

Set on Honour's splendid height,
Watch, as spirits, if its place
Love the night, or daylight's face, —
Shame, or Fame.



A TALE OF THE KIVIEKA. 51

IV.

'Tis a precious heritage :

Next to love of God, a might


2 4 5

Online LibraryJohn Douglas Sutherland Campbell ArgyllGuido and Lita : a tale of the Riviera → online text (page 2 of 5)