Miss Porden

A Poem

On fam’d Vitoria’s proud but fatal plain
Estrella roam’s, the fairest maid of Spain.
The sun, declining in the western sky,
Fixed for a moment’s space her eager eye.
Oh! what reflections did that pause contain!
What varied horrors shot athwart her brain,
Ere o’er the dreary field she rang’d again.
That beam was lingering on the mountain side
When Carlos hastened from his trembling bride;
Oft had he left her, and that fatal word,
“Farewell,” tho’ sad she oft had calmly heard;
But then, tho’ still his tearless eye was bright,
And not a word betray’d the coming fight,
There was unwonted sadness in his air,
She knew not why — her bosom sunk with fear,
And while he grasp’d her trembling hand, and pressed
Her pallid lip, and strain’d her to his breast,
And earnestness she ne’er had mark’d before
Appear’d to whisper, “We may meet no more.”
In vain she strove her wonted calm to find,
His last, last look was rooted on her mind;
When, as he held his restless courser’s rein,
Sudden he turn’d him round, and gaz’d again,
And fix’d upon her face an earnest look,
That thrill’d her soul, and more than volumes spoke.
She strove to speak — his heart her meaning knew,
And durst not risk another sad adieu;
He wav’d his hand, and soon with loosen’d rein,
His steed impatient bore him o’er the plain.
Yet still she watched him, till the waning light,
And distance, hid him from her eager sight;
And still unmoved she linger’d on the spot,
The night grew dark and cold — she mark’d it not — 
Oh! still she felt his grasp, his form was there,
And his last words yet vibrate on her ear.

At length the moon in silver lustre throws
Her softer colouring o’er the mourner’s woes.
By slow degrees her magic beams impart
Their calm and pensive sadness to her heart,
And down her cheek each sparkling tear that stole
Appeared to win some sorrows from her soul.
And now once more the landscape meets her sigh,
Half sunk in shade, and half in glory bright,
Yon mountains that the far horizon bound,
And yon dark woods that stretch their ample round.
Here native beauty grac’d the lovely land,
And there it show’d the cruel spoiler’s hand.
In yon far convent, once the favoured dome
Of sacred peace, the raven builds his home.
Lone are its court; the bell is silent there
That call’d the simple sisterhood to prayer
And wak’d to piety the careless ear.
But war had spar’d that pensive willow grove
Where oft with Carlos she was wont to rove,
What time pale Cynthia’s pure and placid beam
Shone on the windings of Zadora’s stream.
While still, as now, the magic of the scene
Shed o’er their thoughtful hearts its calm serene.
There oft, responsive to her tender lute,
She sang, till Philomel herself was mute
While Carlos’ breath inspir’d the mellow flute.
That lute was near; she seized it, and her hand,
Unconscious half, its strings attun’d and spann’d.
Once where Valencia holds her ancient reign,
And Guadalaviar mingles with the main
Where, rich with flow’rs and many a fruitful tree,
Her father’s gardens sloped towards the sea.
At eve she oft within her jasmine bower,
That bears her name reflected in its flower,
Would sing so sweetly that the rowers near
Have often paus’d upon their oars to hear;
E’en the mute winds a soft attention gave,
And ravish’d ocean sooth’d his rugged wave.
But now, how mournful was the air she sung,
How hoarse and low her faltering accents rung;
But yet, tho’ sad, it sooth’d her pensive breast.
She sought her lonely couch and sunk to rest.
But what awak’d her? tho’ the sun is bright,
Those long dark lashes yet might shade the light,
And grief o’erwatched might yet prolong the night!
Whence comes that sullen roar, that hollow sound,
Frequent and long, and distant tho’ profound?
Alas! she knew — too well her practis’d ear
Had learnt to startle at the din of war.
Too well those sounds announced the deadly fight,
And all the truth now burst upon her sight.

I need not tell how wore the tedious day
In solemn anxious solitude away.
She listen’d still and mark’d the clouds of smoke
That o’er the far horizon broke.
Still the low thunder roar’d till evening came,
And then the sky was mark’d with streaks of flame
That show’d the field of blood — impelled by fear
Though mix’d with hope, she sought the village near
Some tidings of the doubtful fight to hear.
At length the cannon ceas’d, and with the night
The stragglers came, returning from the fight,
Some prisoners led, some dragg’d their plunder’d store,
Some limp’d along, and some the wounded bore;
But all with hurried steps and eager eye
Pass to their homes, nor heed a stranger’s cry;
Or speak in short and hurried speech alone,
“The French are vanquish’d and the day our own!”
And few would pause to talk, and none could tell,
Who still were living or who bravely fell:
But Spain and England’s flags victorious flew,
And still their troops the routed Gauls pursue.
But when Estrella saw a maid who press’d
Her hero, safe returning, to her breast,
The thought of home — and Carlos might be there,
And seek for her, in terror and despair,
And deem her lost — she fled across the plain,
And soon she reach’d the peaceful cot again,
But it is lonely, and the calls in vain.
In vain she seeks around, and strains her eyes,
Or stands intent to watch the moon arise,
For, veil’d in clouds, the moon withdrew her light,
And distant fires but added to the night.
Fain would she to the little town return,
Some later tidings of the fight to learn.
For oh! she was alone in sorrow here,
But there were many who her soul would cheer
With pleasing hope, or sympathize in fear;
Fain would she tempt the darkness of the night;
But hark! she hears the sounds of nearer fight.
Close to her cot a fighting band had stray’d,
Now fly, now turn, and skirmish thro’ the glade.
O’ercome with dread, she stayed th’intended flight,
And watch’d in anguish thro’ the tedious night.
The morning came, but Carlos came not too.
Eager she sought the little town anew.
Oh! alter’d was its aspect — numbers there
Bent o’er th’expiring man in fruitless pray’r,
Or fainted on the slain that strew’d the ground,
Or stanch’d with tender care the gushing wound.
And many from the field of conflict led,
In wagons borne, the dying and the dead.
Estrella sought, and gaz’d on every face,
But not the features of one friend could trace.
Yet many an aching limb her care reliev’d
And, sad herself, she sooth’d the heart that griev’d.

His comrades bore a soldier from the fray;
His tide of life was ebbing fast away.
His mother near in silent anguish stands,
Views his pale face, and clasps her aged hands;
His son, who gaily thro’ the busy throng
Had dragg’d in sport his little sword along;
His daughter too, whose slender arms with pain
An infant sister’s growing bulk sustain.
(But these three months since, its mother to the grave
Had sunk, the victim of the life she gave)
Stand o’er their wounded sire, and weep and cry,
And clasp their little hands, yet scarce know why.
Before him knelt Estrella on the ground,
And stanch’d with pious care the yawning wound,
When one who late had sought the field of fight
Told of the mingled horrors of the sight,
Told of the mangled corpses of the dead,
And countless wretches still in torture laid,
Who wish’d for death, yet call’d in vain for aid.
And Carlos might be there — yet he might live —
Or perish, reft of help which she could give.
Swift glanc’d the thought through her distracted brain,
To seek and find him on the battle plain.
Oh! little deem’d she of th’ensanguin’d green,
Th’unutterable horrors of the scene.
She started from her charge upon the ground,
Half closed the gashes, and half dress’d the wound,
And like a flash of lightning, swift, alone,
On towards the scene of conflict she is gone.

The troops that march’d along the busy road,
The countless wagons, creaking with their load
Of war’s sad victims, or in proud array
That bore the spoils of that victorious day,
And, dreadful implements of death and war,
Th’artillery creaking on each loaded car,
From Joseph’s routed legions bravely won,
Or moving slow, in sullen triumph on,
Long mark’d the track, yet scarce Estrella knew
That her quick steps a beaten way pursue;
On every passing face she fix’d her eye,
Yet seem’d as if she gaz’d on vacancy,
For no impression was reflected there,
And her calm look but mock’d her hurried air.
But soon she left the road, by devious ways
Yet towards the scene of combat still she strays
And now the corn, that late in golden pride
Luxuriant waved upon the valley’s side,
Depressed and trampled, and the willows laid
Prone on the ground their foliage wont to shade,
Their branches loosely hung, or scorch’d and sear,
Proclaim’d the dreadful scene of carnage near.
And now, all mangled by the bolts of war,
Their torn and bloody limbs dispersed afar,
Lay man and steed — their horrors all revealed,
Or by the trampled harvest scarce concealed.
But yet Estrella shrunk not — o’er her brain
A dreadful apathy appear’d to reign,
And one sole image that possess’d her mind
All other thought had banish’d or confin’d.
All torn and pale, a corpse attracts her eye,
It was not Carlos, and she passed it by,
Thro’ scenes which scarce the sternest eye could brook,
Whence the firm warrior turn’d his shuddering look,
With steady step and eye unmoved she passed,
But oh! not long this horrid calm could last —
And now she turns, and far behind her sees
The distant summits of the Pyrenees,
To whose vast brows and pointed peaks were given
Th’etherial colouring of their native heaven.
Their middle heights the louring clouds deform,
The winds roar loud, and urge the mountain storm.
The thunder rolls, the lightning plays below —
Serene in beauty shines the awful brow,
Steals the clear azure of that cloudless height,
And deeply drinks the sun’s celestial light.
With brighter blue th’increasing glaciers glow,
The torrent foams beneath its arch of snow,
And o’er the whole serener skies diffuse
Those golden lights, those bright and fairy hues
That fancy sheds o’er islands of the blest
And regions where the sainted soul shall rest.
Estrella saw — she knew not whence it came,
But found new feeling shoot through all her frame,
And now Vitoria’s towers and spires were seen,
Yet half embosom’d in their leafy screen;
And turning, now she mark’d Puebla’s height
Already ting’d with evening’s crimson light;
And the bright orb of day, all broad and red,
Prepared once more to sink in ocean’s bed.
She saw, and all that she had felt or done,
Since Carlos parted with the setting sun,
That thro’ her brain, as from a trance she woke,
And the dire spell that bound her mind was broke.
It seem’d as on the ground she glanced again
That then she first beheld the battle plain,
Shuddering she saw, and nameless terrors stole,
And stronger horrors shot thro’ all her soul.
Again she gazed upon Puebla’s height,
Thought of the scene, and of the coming night.
It was not superstition, nor the dread
Of the pale spectres of th’unburied dead,
That made her fear, when day’s last beam was gone,
To wander o’er the field of blood alone.
And for her Carlos, she might there remain,
And seek him long, but ever seek in vain.
She turn’d her to her home, but as she passed
A rising knoll, and nearer glance she cast,
When lo! as startled from their feast of blood,
The vultures rising in a sable cloud,
And screaming loudly, soar’d upon the wind —
But what a scene of horror spread behind!
And Carlos there might lie — but could she brook
The dreadful thought, or dare a second look?
Her search, her hopes, her sorrows all forgot,
She only sought to fly the hated spot.
No more with earnest eyes she gazes round,
But looks to heaven, and fears to view the ground.
But soon she stumbled — ’twas a human corpse,
And near, the relics of his faithful horse,
That bore him off to fight, and when he died
Stuck to the spot, and perish’d by his side.
Again Estrella chang’d her course — again
Fled with the speed of terror o’er the plain.
But hark! she hears a groan, so loud and near,
It seemed to vibrate on her startled ear,
And her fix’d look convulsive horror drew
Tow’rds the sad object that she feared to view.
A Spaniard lay extended on the ground,
His face was turn’d away — a deadly wound
Yawn’d in his side — Estrella nearer drew,
But how she shrunk and sicken’d at the view
Of that gay scarf her slender fingers wove,
Her sweetest task, the first fond gift of love!
She sunk upon the ground; a second groan
More long, more deep and hollow in its tone
Arous’d her — hark! he speaks — she creeps more near;
Oh none but her intent accustom’d ear
Could those imperfect broken murmurs hear.

“Alas! again the golden sun is set
The night draws on — and must I linger yet?
I little thought, behind yon castled height
When last he sunk, again to view the light;
How long must I, ere comes the wish’d release,
In torture lie, and ask in vain for peace?
My poor Estrella — yet ’twas kindly meant —
I durst not tell her of our chief’s intent.
Yet she will wait, and watch, and weep, in vain,
For never will her Carlos come again!
My fate unknown, each slow-returning day
Shall steal some portion of her hope away,
Till hope expires, or should it still remain,
Shall only linger to augment her pain.
Oh! that her voice once more might soothe mine ear —
That she to close my dying eyes were near —
Vain thought! how can I dare, I wish her here!”

He heard a sob — he started at the sound —
The blood well’d freshly from the stiffen’d wound.
He saw — his cheek grew brighter at the view,
And life’s long languid current flow’d anew.
“Estrella! wherefore here? but need I ask —
Yet how unfit art thou for such a task!
Oh! weep not yet — wait till one hour is o’er,
Then thou must sob, but I shall hear no more.
But think, Estrella, tho’ ’tis hard to part
While love and youth and pleasure warm the heart,
At least I linger not thro’ years of pain,
And in a happier world we meet again.
Nay fear not; tho’ perchance my soul receive
Not all the Church commands us to believe,
If faith in the eternal God above,
Faith in a Saviour’s death, a Saviour’s love;
If through my life the constant effort still
In humble hope to work my Maker’s will;
Or if the love of freedom, and my life
Shed in my injur’d Country’s noblest strife;
Be to our God a grateful sacrifice
To Him who views us with parental eyes,
Who promised endless life beyond the grave,
And grace to those who trust his pow’r to save:
When sinks the world, and Death himself shall die,
Trust me, Estrella, we shall meet in joy.
But stop — I feel the chain that held me, break,
The transient ease that gave me breath to speak
Is past — yet, oh — for I had much to tell;
Give me thy hand — Heaven soothe thy grief — farewell!”

The hours have passed away, the moon is bright
Upon Vitoria’s plain, Puebla’s height;
When one, a friar whom piety had led
To shrieve the dying and inhume the dead,
And who, regardless of the parting day,
Had bent o’er one that long in anguish lay,
Perceived Estrella, who, of sense bereft,
Lay o’er the form that life forever left.
He raised her; on his holy breast repos’d,
The mourner first her languid eyes unclos’d.
While calm but kind, his pious cares dispense
Religious comfort with returning sense.
He soothes the sorrows that he cannot cure,
And arms her soul with meekness to endure.
Compos’d in grief she stands, and lends her aid
To bear the body of the much lov’d dead.
Vig’rous and young, its boughs unscorch’d and green,
Alone upon a knoll an oak was seen;
A stunted race the general plain supplies,
But this gave promise of an ampler size:
Thither they bear him, there Estrella gave
Her long-loved Carlos to his humble grave.
The moon, now high in midnight splendour, threw
O’er his wan face a bright but ghastlier hue,
As her long leave the widow’d mourner took,
And sadly fix’d her last and lingering look.
The grave is closed, and o’er the quiet dead
The holy man his pious prayers has said,
Yet poor Estrella still would linger near
The cold remains of one in life so dear;
Slowly he leads her from the sad abode,
While from his heart the words of comfort flow’d.

“Oh come, my Daughter, see the dawning ray
Already o’er yon distant summits play,
The pale moon yields, oppressed by richer light,
To soft repose the sinking stars invite.
Come, cheer thy heart, and think that he who lies
In slumber here, to happier life shall rise;
Blest that his eyes on this sad scene may close,
No longer mourn his injur’d country’s woes.
Ill fall our tears for those who duly trod
On earth the sacred path that leads to God,
But, O fair mourner, when I gaze around,
And see from far the coat of scarlet dye
That veils the body of some brave ally,
I grieve to think that they who nobly came
To save my country and avenge the fame,
That they who as a rock unmov’d have stood
Th’impetuous shock of this o’erwhelming flood;
That they, so brave, so generous and so good
In darkness walk — that not to them is given
The sacred light that shows the way to heaven.”

“But will not He whose mercy saved mankind,”
Estrella said, “some means of pardon find,
Purge from their souls the stains of guilt away,
And turn the living from their devious way?”

“Heaven grant thy wish, Heaven pardon those from far
Who came to vex us with the storms of war.
Oh! my poor Country, sad devoted Spain,
How long must thou the spoiler’s rage sustain,
In thy lone halls the boding raven’s brood,
The vultures revel in thy noblest blood,
Thro’ ravag’d wastes the houseless peasant roam
While strangers riot in his plunder’d home,
Thy trampled harvests mourn like these, or feed
Reft from the sawer’s hand, th’oppressor’s need?
But thou who sitst on Gallia’s throne afar,
Whose smile is treachery, and whose frown is war,
Our wrongs, and friendship’s violated name,
Shall even tinge thine iron cheek with shame.
Tremble, thou tyrant; tho’ so long deferr’d,
Justice must fall, the suppliant’s prayer is heard.
This field, tho’ dyed with Spain’s illustrious blood,
Proves how her sons thy giant arm withstood,
And others, by her bright example led,
May join to hurl heaven’s vengeance on thy head.
Perchance when next yon radiant orb of light
Brings round the morning of Vitoria’s fight,
He may behold thee, from thy lofty throne
Hurl’d headlong down, an exile and alone,
And scarce one spot of thy extended reign,
A name, a shadow, of thy pomp remain.
E’en thou, who in their eyrie dared invade
The Northern Eagles, must their vengeance dread,
And rue the hour thou ledst thy legions forth
To freeze and famish in the icy North.
And should their hearts no heaven-born mercy melt,
No mercy, which thine own has never felt,
Perchance thy proud, thy vaunted Paris falls,
Or flames for Moscow’s self-devoted walls.
But say, my Daughter,” (for Estrella’s mind
Had wander’d from his theme) “where wilt thou find
A place of rest, or where may rest be found
While havoc rages uncontrolled around?
The peasant ill can guard his little right,
And loftier domes rapacious eyes invite;
In vain religion guards the sacred cell
Where pure and fair her virgin votaries dwell,
Those ruin’d tow’rs too well the truth attest,
Where birds obscene the sacred walls infest;
Hast thou no home, no parent to receive
Their widow’d daughter, and her woes relieve?”

“Alas! alas! my home is distant far,
Its roofless halls have been the seat of war,
And dead are all whom I could trust or love;
I have no friend, save Him who reigns above,
Nor heed I how my days are past, or where,
Till He shall call me from this world of care.
An aged matron dwells in yonder cot —
Ere this her son is dead — her lonely lot
May make her pity mine — her Lopez left
Three lovely children, now of all bereft;
Oft were they wont their mother to require,
And now, as vainly, may they ask their sire.
There let me rest, if she that rest will give,
There learn to tame my woes, and hers relieve;
For oh! the peaceful cot where once I dwelt
Too strongly tells of recent pleasure felt.”

Called from her Lopez’ bier, the aged dame
With tottering steps to meet Estrella came.
Few were her words, her welcome sad but kind,
It seem’d to soothe the lovely mourner’s mind.
They wept, and spoke of their unhappy doom,
Of sorrows past, and danger yet to come,
Till now, at once by grief and toil oppressed,
Exhausted Nature sunk at length to rest.

Estrella’s mother early died — before
The sprightly child could feel the loss she bore.
Her father’s castle near Valencia stands,
Its lofty wall the roaring deep commands.
Its aspect spoke of war, but time had long
The gates unbarr’d, the idle bow unstrung,
And the vast cannon, less for use than show,
Aw’d from th’embattled tow’rs the plain below.
There in a torrent that o’erlook’d the deep,
Where once the prisoner wont his lot to weep,
The grated windows long had passed away
And through the lattice stream’d the orient ray.
Around, the vine its purple clusters hung,
And to the trellis light the fragrant woodbine clung.
These soften’d, of the ocean breezes breathe
The spicy fragrance of the flow’rs beneath,
Or playing o’er the seas, would waft along
The sprightly sweetness of Estrella’s song.
For in that tow’r she often would deceive
With book or light guitar, the hours of eve;
Would listen to the billows’ ebb and flow,
Or mark’d the winding walks that play’d below
Where round her bow’r the blushing roses grow.
(Her taste those shady walks, that arbour plann’d,
The jasmines twined obedient to her hand.)
Nor distant was the chamber of her rest,
Or where her knee the velvet cushion pressed,
Her orisons with meek devotion pour’d,
Or Mary’s name with vesper songs ador’d.
And often to the tow’r, when all was mute,
She softly stole, and seized her gilded lute,
And pour’d her plaintive murmurs o’er the main,
Or anxious listen’d for the answering strain,
That ever spoke of love’s celestial flame,
Of love, tho’ sad and hopeless, still the same;
And when the moon in full-orb’d splendour bright
Pour’d on the deep a flood of silver light,
Oft has she watch’d to see the little skiff
Shoot from its shelter ’neath a craggy cliff,
And darting round the angle of the bay
Bear her dear Carlos to his home away.

Her father knew their loves, but long withstood —
The youth was generous, of illustrious blood,
He saw and prized his worth; one cause alone
Denied the hand he else had freely won,
And when her suit Estrella blushing pressed,
He sigh’d and still the duteous maid caressed,
And bade her strive, while yet unfix’d and young,
To root the hopes that yet too fondly clung.
But in her fading cheek and stifled sigh,
He ever read her sad, but mute reply.
Then only sorrow check’d her sprightly cheer;
Then first her eye was clouded with a tear;
And her kind sire with secret anguish read
The fix’d attachment which her look betray’d:
And oft his eye and falt’ring voice revealed
The feeling which his sterner brow concealed:
And frequent, to the gentle maid unknown,
With her young suitor he discours’d alone.
Yet still his firm denial firmer grew,
And Carlos still with feebler hopes withdrew.

In youth, his father by his King’s command
Had sailed an envoy to Britannia’s land,
And there, with much of classic lore refin’d
And mystic science, fed his eager mind;
And many whisper’d, many more believ’d,
He with her learning Britain’s Faith receiv’d.
Not that he fail’d with them to join in prayer,
Or e’er refus’d the Church’s rites to share,
Or heedless seem’d the Virgin’s form to see
Or pass’d Her shrine with stiff unbending knee:
But oft when monks in pious rapture taught
Of miracles their patron saint had wrought,
The half-form’d smile that o’er his features play’d
The unacknowledg’d sceptic still betray’d;
And when of sterner inquisitors they told,
Who punish’d sinful heretics of old,
He shudder’d o’er their frequent scenes of death,
Their licens’d tortures, and their feasts of faith.
Strange! that the holy fathers did not seize
A man accused of heresies like these!
But he was cautious, not a word expressed
Whatever thoughts might slumber in his breast.
Lively and social, liberal of his wealth,
The stay of sickness, and the friend of health.
Revered for learning, for his wit desired,
Beloved by many, and by all admired.
Not e’en the priest disdain’d the frequent calls
That bade him to Gonsalvo’s festive halls,
Those halls where still the stranger found repose,
That on the weary wanderer never close.

But he is in his grave, and Carlos reigns
Heir of his castles and his wide domains,
Heir of his liberal heart, and wit refin’d,
His various learning, and expanded mind.
Free from the rash intemperance of youth,
From careless freedom, or restraint uncouth,
But less of prudence o’er his tenets thrown,
Thro’ the thin covering the reformer shone;
And more of deference to the Church of Rome
Its pow’r might claim, and his green age become.
And hence Estrella’s noble sire, whose mind
His father’s faith in strictest bonds confin’d,
Repuls’d his daughter’s pray’r, the youth’s demand,
And still denied him his Estrella’s hand.
E’en she, with all the eloquence of love,
Would often strive her lover’s soul to move;
Yet, tho’ so dear the lips that earnest spoke,
His fix’d resolves her Carlos never broke,
But still with weightier argument would roll
The tide of reasoning backward on her soul,
Till she resign’d the strife, alarm’d to find
How much that reasoning sway’d her changing mind.

But now, while yet the noise was heard afar,
Young Carlos kindled at the sound of war.
He left his home, and arm’d his gallant band,
To guard the passes of th’invaded land;
And many a month Estrella’s gentle frame
Had shook with fears she seldom dar’d to name.

One evening from her slumb’ring sire she stole,
To vent alone the anguish of her soul.
And sadly musing, in her favorite tow’r
She sate, unconscious of the passing hour,
Till now the clouds and blushing waves begun
To wear the livery of the setting sun.
When sudden from the court and halls below
The sounds of tumult and the shrieks of woe,
The noise of muskets, and the dreadful din
Of clashing arms that rose without, within,
Broke her sad trance; she hastes, and armed band
Were in the hall — the vassals scarce withstand
The sudden inroad, and her sire along
Hastens alarm’d to parley with the throng.
But see, his darling child, the struggling prey
Of two stern ruffians, borne with speed away!
He saw Estrella’s tears, he heard her call,
And seiz’d a sword and buckler from the wall,
(For Moorish trophies every panel grace
And mark the prowess of his antient race.)
Oppressed by age, unus’d to war’s alarms,
His feeble hands scarce raise the ponderous arms.
Vain were Estrella’s hopes, a dreadful wound
Has laid her father senseless on the ground!
She yields in silent agony — away
Their fainting prize the conqu’ring host convey —
Again the clash of arms, the din of fight,
Recall’d her wand’ring senses to the sight,
The ruffians rude that hold her hands were gone,
Beneath the gate she sate, unbound, alone,
The routed vassals turn’d and fought again,
And lo! a gallant band that scour’d the plain,
And he their chief — Oh! ne’er romance had told
Of knight more strong, more active, or more bold.
He chas’d th’invaders that before him flew,
As from the stricken bough the glist’ring dew.
And now triumphant, on the victor came,
But oh! what strong emotion thrill’d her frame,
Beneath the sable plume, and garb uncouth,
She knew her Carlos in the stranger youth.

But soon must joy’s delusive flame expire
O’er the sad couch of her exhausted sire.
Faint was the voice that call’d her to his side,
And oft her mind th’imperfect speech supplied.
“Alas, I leave thee — (yes, thy tears forbear) —
Where most thy youth demands a father’s care.
Be heaven thy shield” — and turning now he view’d
Where on his couch th’afflicted Carlos stood.
“What is it thou? Brave youth, what thanks are thine!
May heaven thy sins forgive — and pardon mine!”
He seiz’d Estrella’s hand — “So long denied,
Take this,” he said, “be she to heaven thy guide.
Farewell — protect my child — ” he sunk and died.

Short was the time that they might give to grief;
For hark, the plunder’d hamlets ask relief,
The mountain warriors their guerilla chief.
The youth obey’d the call, and by his side
Rode on her milk-white steed his lovely bride.
Not that Estrella sought the scenes of war,
But she, wherever Carlos fought, was near,
Prepar’d his light repast, and still at night
To guide his steps she trimm’d her sparkling light;
And oft he listen’d, on his homeward way,
To plaintive notes that chid his long delay;
And while the hours on downy pinions steal,
With tales of victory sped their simple meal.

But Carlos sleeps upon Vitoria’s plain!
What hopes, what comfort, to his bride remain?
Her pious soul was mournful and sedate,
To pleasure lifeless, but resign’d to fate.
She shunn’d no duty, and was never seen
With garb unseemly, or disorder’d mein.
With ready hand and willing mind she came,
And eas’d of all her tasks the aged dame.
Oft o’er remember’d joys she sadly smil’d,
With book or lute her lonesome hours beguil’d.
She sung the songs her Carlos lov’d to hear,
And thought perchance his spirit hover’d near.
Amid the gay, her calm but mournful look
A mind absorb’d in other thoughts bespoke
Yet only when before the cross she knelt,
Her soul was wont in silent tears to melt;
And when the sun was sinking in the West
Was horror in her alter’d eyes expressed.
Yet oft around her Lopez’ orphans hung
To hear the words of wisdom from her tongue,
And she, their kind but unassuming guide,
A mother’s love, a father’s care supplied.
And tho’ their sports her soul could seldom share,
To their light hearts their pensive friend was dear.
And oft she told them of a world to come,
The good man’s happiness, the sinner’s doom;
Their sire was there — she hop’d forever blessed —
And there with him their duteous souls might rest.
But here perchance unbidden tears revealed
The wish she even from herself concealed;
The wish that heaven would end her course of pain,
The hope in bliss to meet her spouse again.

And oft, when time had slowly calm’d to rest
That grief that long her widow’d heart oppressed,
To Carlos’ grave with timid step she stole,
That spot most sad, most sacred to her soul.
And o’er her head the rustling oak would wave,
Th’aspiring oak that marks his lowly grave.
The name of Carlos on the rind appears,
Grows with its growth, and widens with its years,
And many a lofty tomb shall pass away,
Ere that memorial, rude but firm, decay.
With every passing hour Estrella’s mind
Appear’d more calm, her spirit more resign’d.
Yet every day, as worn by secret care,
Her cheek grew paler, and her form more spare;
With eye serene she mark’d th’approaching doom,
And sunk, a willing victim, to the tomb.


Philemon Beauclerc’s Prize Essay

Postive House 1815