Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BAYADERE: AN INDIAN TALE, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE BAYADERE: AN INDIAN TALE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: There were seventy pillars around the hall
Last Line: "aza the queen of his heart and hall!"
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia


THERE were seventy pillars around the hall,
Of wreathed gold was each capital,
And the roof was fretted with amber and gems,
Such as light kingly diadems;
The floor was marble, white as the snow
Ere its pureness is stain'd by its fall below:
In the midst play'd a fountain, whose starry showers
Fell like beams on the radiant flowers,
Whose colours were gleaming, as every one
Burnt from the kisses just caught from the sun;
And vases sent forth their silvery clouds,
Like those which the face of the young moon shrouds,
But sweet as the breath of the twilight hour
When the dew awakens the rose's power.
At the end of the hall was a sun-bright throne,
Rich with every glorious stone;
And the purple canopy overhead
Was like the shade o'er the dayfall shed;
And the couch beneath was of buds half blown,
Hued with the blooms of the rainbow's zone;
And round, like festoons, a vine was roll'd,
Whose leaf was of emerald, whose fruit was of gold.
But though graced as for a festival,
There was something sad in that stately hall:
There floated the breath of the harp and flute, --
But the sweetest of every music is mute:
There are flowers of light, and spiced perfume, --
But there wants the sweetest of breath and of bloom:
And the hall is lone, and the hall is drear,
For the smiling of woman shineth not here.

With urns of odour o'er him weeping,
Upon the couch a youth is sleeping:
His radiant hair is bound with stars,
Such as shine on the brow of night,
Filling the dome with diamond rays,
Only than his own curls less bright.
And such a brow, and such an eye,
As fit a young divinity;
A brow like twilight's darkening line,
An eye like morning's first sunshine,
Now glancing through the veil of dreams
As sudden light at daybreak streams.
And richer than the mingled shade
By gem, and gold, and purple made,
His orient wings closed o'er his head;
Like that bird's, bright with every dye,
Whose home, as Persian bards have said,
Is fix'd in scented Araby.
Some dream is passing o'er him now --
A sudden flush is on his brow;
And from his lip come murmur'd words,
Low, but sweet as the light lute chords
When o'er its strings the night-winds glide
To woo the roses by its side.
He, the fair boy-god, whose nest
Is in the water-lily's breast;
He of the many-arrow'd bow,
Of the joys that come and go
Like the leaves, and of the sighs
Like the winds of summer skies,
Blushes like the birds of spring,
Soon seen and soon vanishing;
He of hopes, and he of fears,
He of smiles, and he of tears --
Young CAMDEO, he has brought
A sweet dream of colour'd thought,
One of love and woman's power,
To MANDALLA'S sleeping hour.

Joyless and dark was his jewell'd throne,
When MANDALLA awaken'd and found him alone.
He drank the perfume that around him swept,
'Twas not sweet as the sigh he drank as he slept;
There was music, but where was the voice at whose thrill
Every pulse in his veins was throbbing still?
And dim was the home of his native star
While the light of woman and love was afar;
And lips of the rosebud and violet eyes
Are the sunniest flowers in Paradise.
He veil'd the light of his glorious race
In a mortal's form and a mortal's face,
And 'mid earth's loveliest sought for one
Who might dwell in his hall and share in his throne.

The loorie brought to his cinnamon nest
The bee from the midst of its honey quest,
And open the leaves of the lotus lay
To welcome the noon of the summer day.
It was glory, and light, and beauty all,
When MANDALLA closed his wing in Bengal.
He stood in the midst of a stately square,
As the waves of the sea roll'd the thousands there;
Their gathering was round the gorgeous car
Where sat in his triumph the Subadar;
For his sabre was red with the blood of the slain,
And his proudest foes were slaves in his chain;
And the sound of the trumpet, the sound of his name,
Rose in shouts from the crowd as onwards he came.
With gems and gold on each ataghan,
A thousand warriors led the van,
Mounted on steeds black as the night,
But with foam and with stirrup gleaming in light;
And another thousand came in their rear,
On white horses, arm'd with bow and spear,
With quivers of gold on each shoulder laid,
And with crimson belt for each crooked blade.
Then follow'd the foot ranks, -- their turbans show'd
Like flashes of light from a mountain cloud,
For white were the turbans as winter snow,
And death-black the foreheads that darken'd below;
Scarlet and white was each soldier's vest,
And each bore a lion of gold on his breast,
For this was the chosen band that bore
The lion standard, -- it floated o'er
Their ranks like morning; at every wave
Of that purple banner, the trumpets gave
A martial salute to the radiant fold
That bore the lion-king wrought in gold.
And last the elephant came, whose tower
Held the lord of this pomp and power:
And round that chariot of his pride,
Like chains of white sea-pearls,
Or braids enwove of summer-flowers,
Glided fair dancing-girls;
And as the rose-leaves fall to earth,
Their light feet touch'd the ground, --
But for the zone of silver bells
You had not heard a sound,
As, scattering flowers o'er the way,
Whirl'd round the beautiful array.
But there was one who 'mid them shone
A planet lovely and alone,
A rose, one flower amid many,
But still the loveliest of any:
Though fair her arm as the moonlight,
Others might raise an arm as white;
Though light her feet as music's fall,
Others might be as musical;
But where were such dark eyes as hers?
So tender, yet withal so bright,
As the dark orbs had in their smile
Mingled the light of day and night,
And where was that wild grace which shed
A loveliness o'er every tread,
A beauty shining through the whole,
Something which spoke of heart and soul.
The Almas had passed lightly on,
The armed ranks, the crowd, were gone,
Yet gazed MANDALLA on the square
As she he sought still glided there, --
Oh that fond look, whose eyeballs strain.
And will not know its look is vain!
At length he turn'd, -- his silent mood
Sought that impassion'd solitude,
The Eden of young hearts, when first
Love in its loneliness is nurst.
He sat him by a little fount;
A tulip-tree grew by its side,
A lily with its silver towers
Floated in silence on the tide;
And far round a banana tree
Extended its green sanctuary;
And the long grass, which was his seat,
With every motion grew more sweet,
Yielding a more voluptuous scent
At every blade his pressure bent.
And there he linger'd, till the sky
Lost somewhat of its brilliancy,
And crimson'd shadows roll'd on the west,
And raised the moon her diamond crest,
And came a freshness on the trees,
Harbinger of the evening breeze,
When a sweet far sound of song,
Borne by the breath of flowers along,
A mingling of the voice and lute,
Such as the wind-harp, when it makes
Its pleasant music to the gale
Which kisses first the chords it breaks.
He follow'd where the echo led,
Till in a cypress-grove he found
A funeral train that round a grave
Pour'd forth their sorrows' wailing sound;
And by the tomb a choir of girls,
With measured steps and mournful notes,
And snow-white robes, while on the air,
Unbound their wreaths, cach dark curl floats,
Paced round and sang to her who slept
Calm, while their young eyes o'er her wept,
And she, that loveliest one, is here,
The morning's radiant Bayadere:
A darker light in her dark eyes, --
For tears are there, -- a paler brow
Changed but to charm the morning's smile,
Less sparkling, but more touching now.
And first her sweet lip prest the flute,
A nightingale waked by the rose,
And when that honey breath was mute,
Was heard her low song's plaintive close,
Wailing for the young blossom's fall,
The last, the most beloved of all.
As died in gushing tears the lay,
The band of mourners pass'd away:
They left their wreaths upon the tomb,
As fading leaves and long perfume
Of her were emblems; and unbound
Many a cage's gilded round,
And set the prisoners free, as none
Were left to love now she was gone.
And azure wings spread on the air,
And songs, rejoicing songs, were heard;
But, pining as forgotten now,
Linger'd one solitary bird:
A beautiful and pearl-white dove,
Alone in its remembering love.
It was a strange and lovely thing
To mark the drooping of its wing,
And how into the grave it prest,
Till soil'd the dark earth-stain its breast,
And darker as the night-shades grew,
Sadder became its wailing coo,
As if it miss'd the hand that bore,
As the cool twilight came, its store
Of seeds and flowers. -- There was one
Who, like that dove, was lingering lone, --
The Bayadere: her part had been
Only the hired mourner's part;
But she had given what none might buy, --
The precious sorrow of the heart.
She woo'd the white dove to her breast,
It sought at once its place of rest;
Round it she threw her raven hair, --
It seem'd to love the gentle snare,
And its soft beak was raised to sip
The honey-dew of her red lip.
Her dark eyes fill'd with tears, to feel
The gentle creature closer steal
Into her heart with soft caress,
As it would thank her tenderness;
To her 'twas strange and sweet to be
Beloved in such fond purity,
And sigh'd MANDALLA to think that sin
Could dwell so fair a shrine within.
"Oh, grief to think that she is one
"Who like the breeze is woo'd and won!
"Yet sure it were a task for love
"To come like dew of the night from above
"Upon her heart, and wash away,
"Like dust from the flowers, its stain of clay,
"And win her back in her tears to heaven
"Pure, loved, and humble, and forgiven:
"Yes! freed from the soil of her earthly thrall,
"Her smile shall light up my starry hall!"

The moonlight is on a little bower,
With wall and with roof of leaf and of flower,
Built of that green and holy tree
Which heeds not how rude the storm may be.
Like a bridal canopy overhead
The jasmines their slender wreathings spread,
One with stars as ivory white,
The other with clusters of amber light;
Rose-trees four grew by the wall,
Beautiful each, but different all:
One with that pure but crimson flush
That marks the maiden's first love-blush;
By its side grew another one,
Pale as the snow of the funeral stone;
The next was rich with the damask dye
Of a monarch's purple drapery;
And the last had leaves like those leaves of gold
Work'd on that drapery's royal fold.
And there were four vases, with blossoms fill'd,
Like censers of incense, their fragrance distill'd;
Lilies, heap'd like the pearls of the sea,
Peep'd from their large leaves' security;
Hyacinths with their graceful bells,
Where the spirit of odour dwells
Like the spirit of music in ocean shells;
And tulips, with every colour that shines
In the radiant gems of Serendib's mines;
One tulip was found in every wreath,
That one most scorch'd by the summer's breath,
Whose passionate leaves with their ruby glow
Hide the heart that lies burning and black below.
And there, beneath the flower'd shade
By a pink acacia made,
MANDALLA lay, and by his side,
With eye, and breath, and blush that vied
With the star and with the flower
In their own and loveliest hour,
Was that fair Bayadere, the dove
Yet nestling in her long black hair:
She has now more than that to love,
And the loved one sat by her there.
And by the sweet acacia porch
They drank the softness of the breeze. --
Oh more than lovely are love's dreams,
'Mid lights and blooms and airs like these!
And sometimes she would leave his side,
And like a spirit round him glide:
A light shawl now wreathed round her brow,
Now waving from her hand of snow,
Now zoned around her graceful waist,
And now like fetters round her placed;
And then flung suddenly aside,
Her many curls, instead, unbound,
Waved in fantastic braids, till, loosed,
Her long dark tresses swept the ground:
Then, changing from the soft slow step,
Her white feet bounded on the wind
Like gleaming silver, and her hair
Like a dark banner swept behind;
Or with her sweet voice, sweet like a bird's
When it pours forth its first song in spring,
The one like an echo to the other,
She answer'd the sigh of her soft lute-string,
And with eyes that darken'd in gentlest tears,
Like the dewy light in the dark-eyed dove,
Would she sing those sorrowing songs that breathe
Some history of unhappy love.
"Yes, thou art mine!" MANDALLA said, --
"I have lighted up love in thy youthful heart;
"I taught thee its tenderness, now I must teach
"Its faith, its grief, and its gloomier part;
"And then, from thy earth-stains purified,
"In my star and my hall shalt thou reign my bride."

It was an evening soft and fair,
As surely those in Eden are,
When, bearing spoils of leaf and flower,
Entered the Bayadere her bower:
Her love lay sleeping, as she thought,
And playfully a bunch she caught
Of azure hyacinth bells, and o'er
His face she let the blossoms fall:
"Why I am jealous of thy dreams,
"Awaken at thy AZA'S call."
No answer came from him whose tone
Had been the echo of her own.
She spoke again, -- no words came forth;
She clasp'd his hand, -- she raised his head, --
One wild, loud scream, she sank beside,
As pale, as cold, almost as dead!

By the Ganges raised, for the morning sun
To shed his earliest beams upon,
Is a funeral pile, -- around it stand
Priests and the hired mourners' band.
But who is she that so wildly prays
To share the couch and light the blaze?
MANDALLA'S love, while scornful eye
And chilling jeers mock her agony:
An Alma girl! oh shame, deep shame,
To Brahma's race and Brahma's name!
Unmark'd, unpitied, she turn'd aside,
For a moment her bursting tears to hide.
None thought of the Bayadere, till the fire
Blazed redly and fiercely the funeral pyre;
Then like a thought she darted by,
And sprang on the burning pile to die!

"Now thou art mine! away, away
"To my own bright star, to my home of day!"
A dear voice sigh'd, as he bore her along
Gently as spring breezes bear the song,
"Thy love and thy faith have won for thee
"The breath of immortality.
"Maid of earth, MANDALLA is free to call
"AZA the queen of his heart and hall!"





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