The Story of Zeladai and the Shepherd Alcidon
While the Moors held the kingdom of Grenada in Spain the family of Garules was one of the most distinguished among them. Even the Abencerrages and Almoradis did not surpass this valiant race. These three families had given many kings to Grenada who had supported with applause the glory of their names; and distinguished themselves still more by their mild and polished manners than by their achievements in war.
The brave Albrahim Garules had a daughter, the perfection of beauty. Many of the richest and most gallant lords of the court sought her in marriage; but she refused their offers and placed all her happiness in a life of retirement.
Her mother who loved her tenderly, remained a great part of the year in the country to indulge the solitary humour of her daughter. When winter stripped the country of its beauty, it was with extreme regret that this lovely princess quitted the dreary plains to become the ornament of a brilliant and voluptuous court. But love had touched her young heart; and upon these plains dwelt the object of her tender wishes, for whom she sighed without ceasing.
One morning as she watched in the fields which surrounded her father’s house, she insensibly advanced to a plain where several shepherds fed their flocks. Among these shephers, she saw one so handsome, welmade and active that she could not withold from admiring him, and her admiration soon grew into love. This shepherd was called Alcidon; he had not the rustic air of the rest; he used his crook with a grace peculiar to himself, his manners were polite & easy; in a word he seemed to be the god of love in the disguise of a shepherd.
The soft emotions which disturbed the bosom of the beautiful Zeladai prevented her from speaking to him; but the next evening a secret byass drew her to the same place; She saw again the young shepherd; She spoke to him, and the charms of his conversation completed his triumph over her heart.
From this moment the princess affected to take pleasure in the rustic simplicity of the shepherds, and frequently walked that way with her attendants. She endeavoured to disguise her partiality by conversing indifferently with every one she met. She talked of their sheep, of the profit they yeilded, of their families and mode of life. But it is difficult for tender and passionate love to conceal itself. Her favourite maid soon remarked it, and in a moment of sadness drew the secret from her bosom. This maid became her friend, her confident, the greatest consolation of her life. With her she would talk whole days of her shepherd. She complained that fortune had placed them at such a distance as destroyed all hope of a union. Why she would say, with her eyes bathed in tears, was I born of such exalted rank, or rather why is not this shepherd of princely blood. Is there in the court of Grenada one so worthy? Didst thou observe his stately carriage, his open manly countenance, the fire of his eye, tempered with a sweetness that speaks his heart as humane as it is generous. Heaven seems to have formed him for me, and capricious fortune to have destined him for another.
The princess became every day more and more in love and more unhappy; nor was Alcidon less to be pitied. He had not been insensible to the regards of Zeladai. He loved her with tenderness and respect; but without hope. His heart was noble and generous beyond his condition. As the vassal of her father he conceived it to be a treachery worthy of death, to declare his passion, yet with a casuistry which love well knows to reconcile with its honour, he neglected no opportunity of testifying that he was the most ardent of lovers. He fled the presence of the shepherdesses; they accused him of being cold and insensible to love. He spent the day in musing on the charms of Zeladai, in composing sonnets in her praise, or expressive of his unhappy state, and in playing a thousand tender airs on his pipe, which was now his only companion when the princess was absent. The hills and groves perpetually echoed the soft breathings of his empassioned heart. The following song was his favourite, he sung it frequently, and engraved it on the bark of a spreading chestnut tree, where the princess read it with tears of sympathetic tenderness.
My heart is worn with tender care
Nor dare my tongue my love reveal
Go Echo tell the princely fair
What fearful duty bids conceal.
Let each sad day the notes of woe
Declare the pains of hopeless love
These tears that never cease to flow
The justice of they tale shall prove.
My heart is worn with tender care
Nor dare my tongue my love reveal
Go Echo tell the princely fair
What fearful duty bids conceal.
Nothing flattered the passion of Zeladai so much as what did honour to her shepherd. In the games of address and agility, which the shepherds exhibited at different seasons of the year, Alcidon was always victorious. The princess was often a spectator and sometimes distributed the prizes with her own hand. With what transport she would present to him the wreath of oak or of roses, which was the simple reward of victory. But those little triumphs were nothing to the glory which accident once gave him opportunity to acquire. A furious bull broke from his stall and ran bellowing among the flocks, goring and destroying whatever opposed itself to his fury. The whole plain was in confusion, herdsmen, shepherds, sheep, flying on every side. The bull ran towards the princess. She shrieked, she fled, she called on Alcidon to defend her. Her danger, her cries, animated his heart; he attacked the raging animal with his crook; by his dexterity & address he avoided his fury; and seizing him by the horns as he bowed down his head to gore him, he overturned him on the ground. The herdsman now came to his assistance, the bull was secured in his trace, and led back to the stall, while the plain resounded with the praises of Alcidon. The princess more delighted with the glory of her shepherd than her own safety, overwhelmed him with the warmest acknowledgements and applauses, and so great was the joy of Alcidon, in having saved the life of Zeladai, that he fell at her feet, embraced her knees, and with difficulty avoided a declaration of his love.
Thus passed away many years, without producing any event that could terminated their unhappyness or their love; but the time at length arrived which was to deprive them of the slender delights they now enjoyed and plunge them into the depths of despair. The beautiful Zeladai, one afternoon came to seek for Alcidon under the favourite chestnut tree that had been the faithful witness of many a tender conversation and bore on its bark the indirect confession of Alcidon’s affection.
The shepherd when he saw the princess approaching began to play, as was usual, some sprightly or tender air which he had composed during the day; but saw not now in the face of Zeladai that gaiety which his presence usually inspired; on the contrary her eyes were swimming in tears & her countenance pale with sorrow. “Shepherd,” said she, “I come to see thee for the last time; my father will arrive this evening; he has resolved to marry me. I took pleasure in walking on this plain; the simple manners of the shepherds, these shades, thy conversation, thy music, every thing charmed me, and I desired not the honours of the court. But I am compelled to quit these regions of innocent delight — perhaps, never to see them more. I am going to receive a husband that I know not & who must by my aversion. Remember shepherd that I heard thy songs with pleasure & that I saw thee with joy.”
She had just uttered these words when an attendant came to acquaint her that her father, and Ismael Almeradin, whose son she was to marry, were arrived. She was compelled to quite the place without saying more and the shepherd remained in a state of distraction. He scattered his sheep over the plain, he broke his crook and his pipe, and rushed into a neighbouring forest without knowing where he would go, or what he would do. On the farther side of the forest there was a mountain almost inaccessible. He climbed up its craggy side, and descended into a dark & frightful valley which seemed to be the abode of despair. Here his progress was stopped by a rapid torrent which fell from the neighbouring mountains, and rolled with horrid noise thro’ a narrow rocky channel, which chafed it into foam. — “Inexorable fortune!” he exclaimed. “Thy shafts are spent and death shall soon deliver me from thy persecution.” He then plunged into the torrent and in a moment was buried under its foaming waves.
In the meantime Zeladai, not less afflicted, went a weeping victim, to the fatal stroke which was to separate her from her shepherd forever. “My cruel father,” she cried, “will he marry me to the nephew of Ismael Almoradin, to what intrigues of state am I to be sacrificed, for what reason condemned to be the wife of a wretch whom the kingdom of Grenada despises and hates.”
When she entered into the presence of her father he tenderly embraced her, and presenting Prince Ismael Almoradin, “Behold,” he said, “the father of your husband. Till now you believed he had no children, but he has a son in these deserts every way worthy of your heart. He concealed him here to prevent his falling a victim to the factions which have so long distracted the kingdom of Grenada. These factions, however, having now given way to the mild government of Almoradin, the cousin of Prince Ismael, the danger is over, and he has determined to introduce his son immediately to the honours of his family. He has requested my alliance, I can refuse nothing to his rank and his friendship. Prepare then my daughter to receive him as the husband I have chosen for you and the man on whom your future happiness must depend.”
Zeladai was astonished at this discourse & the emotions of hope & fear deprived her of power to reply; but she bowed her head in reverence and submission to the will of her father. She saluted, according to the custom of her country Prince Ismael Almoradin, she examined the features of his face & love whispered they resembled her shepherd’s. “Great Prophet!” she inwardly prayed. “Oh suffer not disappointment to blast the hope which now springs in my bosom.”
The messenger who had been dispatched for the son of Prince Ismael now returned and acquainted them that the youth could not be found. This alarmed Prince Ismael and Albrahim Garules; and terrified the princess. She no longer doubted whether it was her shepherd, for the messenger had called him Alcidon; she recollected their late parting; she knew the torments of his heart by what had passed in her own bosom, and she trembled lest his despair should have driven him to some fatal act that would separate them forever. “Fly,” said she to her servant. “Search for him in the forest.” A number of messengers were dispatched, with orders not to return until they had found him; they explored every thicket of the forest; they called Alcidon on every side; but echo alone replied to them. She uttered his name; but she could not inform them of his fate.
Some of the most hardy among them ascended the mountain and sought him in the valley beyond it. Here they found his body, which the torrent had left in a cleft of the rocks.
“The Prince is dead!” they cried. “The Prince is dead!” echoed thro the forest; the fatal sounds reached the ears of Prince Ismael and Zeladai. The venerable father was thunderstruck. He sat in silence, without letting fall a tear or heaving a sigh; his eyes were fixed but they saw nothing; he was stupid & motionless with sorrow. But Zeladai was deprived of her reason, she wept, she tore her hair, she uttered the most piercing cries of grief and despair & and when the body was brought in she cast herself upon it, kissed its cold pale lips, and fainted. Her attendants removed her from the bier believing she was dead.
Albrahim Garules was the only person who preserved his reason in the midst of such accumulated calamity. He considered that Alcidon had not been long dead, and entertained some hope that he might recover from his trance; Dr Hawes being sent for, he caused the body of Alcidon to be agitated, to be chafed, and placed in bed after the water was discharged which he had swallowed. His care was rewarded by success, the body in a short time was seen to move, and breathe, & at the end of some hours the youth was in a condition to be made acquainted with his birth and the happiness which awaited him. Zeladai was also brought to herself. Nothing could equal the transports of the two lovers and of Prince Ismael. In a few days they were united, and for many years enjoyed uninterrupted felicity.