Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BROKEN SPELL: THE FIRST PROVENCAL MINSTREL'S LAY, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE BROKEN SPELL: THE FIRST PROVENCAL MINSTREL'S LAY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Where on earth is the truth that may vie
Last Line: Of the knightly deeds which their numbers told.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia


WHERE on earth is the truth that may vie
With woman's lone and long constancy?
Lovers there have been who have died
For the love that they made a warrior's pride;
And a lover once, when a world was the prize,
Threw away his chance for a lady's eyes:
But not his the love that changes not
Mid the trials and griefs of an ill-starr'd lot;
Not like the rainbow, that shines on high
Brighter and purer as darker the sky.
But woman's creed of suffering bears
All that the health and the spirit wears;
Absence but makes her love the more,
For her thoughts then feed on their own sweet store;
And is not hers the heart alone
That has pleasure and pride in a prize when won?
Her eye may grow dim, her cheek may grow pale,
But tell they not both the same fond tale?
Love's lights have fled from her eye and cheek,
To burn and die on the heart which they seek.
Alas! that so often the grave should be
The seal of woman's fidelity!

On the horizon is a star,
Its earliest, loveliest one by far;
A blush is yet upon the sky,
As if too beautiful to die, --
A last gleam of the setting sun,
Like hope when love has just begun;
That hour when the maiden's lute,
And minstrel's song, and lover's suit,
Seem as that their sweet spells had made
This mystery of light and shade.

That last rich sigh is on the gale
Which tells when summer's day is over,
The sigh which closing flowers exhale
After the bee, their honey lover,
As to remind him in his flight
Of what will be next noon's delight.

'Tis a fair garden, -- almond trees
Throw silver gifts upon the breeze;
Lilies, each a white-robed bride,
With treasures of pure gold inside,
Like marble towers a king has made; --
And of its own sweet self afraid,
A hyacinth's flower-hung stalk is stooping,
Lovelier from its timid drooping:
But in the midst is a rose stem,
The wind's beloved, the garden's gem.
No wonder that it blooms so well:
Thy tears have been on every leaf;
And, MIRZALA, thy heart can tell
How lasting that which feeds on grief.

'Twas a branch of roses her lover gave,
Amid her raven curls to wave,
When they bade farewell, with that gentle sorrow
Of the parting that sighs, "we meet to-morrow;"
Yet the maiden knows not if her tears are shed
Over the faithless or over the dead.
She has not seen his face since that night
When she watch'd his shadow by pale moonlight,
And that branch has been cherished as all that was left
To remind her of love and hope bereft.

She was one summer evening laid
Beneath the tulip tree's green shade,
When from her favourite rose a cloud
Floated like those at break of day; --
She mark'd its silvery folds unshroud,
And there a radiant figure lay.
And in murmurs, soft as those
Which sweep the sea at evening close,
Spoke the Spirit of the Rose: --
"MIRZALA, thy lover sleeps
While his mistress for him weeps.
He is bound by magic spell,
Of force which woman's love may quell;
I will guide thee to the hall
Where thy faith may break his thrall.
Think thou if thy heart can dare
All that thou must look on there.
Turn not thou for hope nor fear,
Till the marble hall appear.
There thou wilt thy lover see
Dead to life, and love, and thee.
Only truth so pure as thine
Could approach the charmed shrine.
Press thy lips to the cold stone,
He will wake, -- the spell be done!
Hast thou courage like thy love?
Follow thou the snow-white dove."

And MIRZALA rose up, and there
Was a fair dove on that rose-tree,
With white wings glittering on the air,
Like foam upon a summer sea.
She follow'd it until she stood
By where a little boat lay moor'd
To the green willow, from the flood
But by a water flag secured.
She enter'd, and it cut the tide;
Odours and music fill'd the sail,
As if a rose and lute had sigh'd
A mingled breath upon the gale.
It was at first a lovely scene:
Leaves and branches wreathed a screen,
Sunbeams there might wander through,
Glimpses of a sky of blue,
Like the hopes that smile to cheer
The earthliness of sorrow here;
And like summer queens, beside,
Roses gazed upon the tide,
Each one longing to caress
Her own mirror'd loveliness,
And the purple orchis shone
Rich, as shines an Indian stone,
And the honeysuckle's flower
Crimson, as a sunset hour;
But too soon the blooms are past, --
When did ever beauty last?
And there came a dreary shade,
Of the yew and cypress made,
Moaning in the sullen breeze;
And at length not even these,
But rocks in wild confusion hurl'd,
Relics of a ruin'd world.
Wide, more wide, the river grew,
Blacker changed its dreary hue,
Till, oppress'd, the wearied eye
Only gazed on sea and sky --
Sea of death, and sky of night,
Where a storm had been like light.

MIRZALA was pale, yet still
Shrank she not for dread of ill.
She cross'd the sea, and she gain'd the shore;
But little it recks to number o'er
The wearying days and the heavy fears,
When hope could only smile through tears,
The perils, the pains, through which she pass'd,
Till she came to a castle's gate at last.

'Twas evening; but the glorious sky,
With its purple light and Tyrian dye,
Was contrast strange to the drear heath,
Which bleak and desolate lay beneath.
Trees, but leafless all, stood there,
For the lightning flash had left them bare;
The grass lay wither'd, as if the wind
Of the Siroc had mark'd its red course; behind
The bright clouds shone on the river's face,
But the death-black waters had not a trace
Of the crimson blaze that over them play'd:
It seem'd as if a curse were laid
On the grass, on the river, the tree, and the flower,
And shut them out from the sunbeam's power;
And with the last ray which the sunbeam threw,
The dove flew up, and vanished too.
And MIRZALA knew she had reached that hall
Where her lover lay sleeping in magic thrall;
And she sate her down by a blasted tree,
To watch for what her fate might be.
But at midnight the gates rolled apart with a sound
Like the groan sent forth from the yawning ground.
On she went with scarce light to show
That gulf and darkness were below, --
Light like the wan blue flames that wave
Their death-torch o'er the murderer's grave;
And flickering shapes beset the way,
Watching in gloom to seize their prey,
More terrible, for that the eye
Wandered in dim uncertainty:
But MIRZALA pressed fearless on,
Till every dreary shade was gone.

At once bursting into day
There a radiant garden lay.
There were tall and stately trees
With green boughs, in canopies
For the rose beneath, that smiled
Like a young and favourite child;
With its purple wealth the vine,
Mixed with silver jessamine,
Stretch'd around from tree to tree,
Like a royal tapestry;
Sweet sounds floated on the air,
Lutes and voices mingled there,
And a thousand flowers blent
Into one delicious scent;
Singing birds and azure skies,
Made a spot like Paradise.
MIRZALA paused not to lave
Her pale forehead in the wave,
Though each fountain was as bright
As if form'd of dew and light.
Paused she not for the sweet song,
On the rich air borne along.
Fair forms throng'd around with flowers
Breathing of spring's earliest hours;
Others from their baskets roll'd
Fruits of ruby and of gold.
Vainly! nothing could delay,
Nothing win the maiden's stay.
And the magic scene again
Changed to a white marble fane,
And as MIRZALA drew near,
Saw she two bright forms appear.
The first wore gorgeous coronet,
With topaz, pearl, and sapphire set,
And a diamond zone embraced
The rich robe around her waist;
And as conscious of her power,
In her great and royal dower,
With a smile that seem'd to say,
Only gold can clear thy way,
She her casket show'd, where shone
Precious ore and Indian stone.
"Oh! if gold could win his heart,
I would from the search depart;
All my offering must be
True and spotless constancy."
Then to the other shape she turn'd,
Whose cheek with crimson blushes burn'd
But to think love could be sold
For a heartless gift of gold:
From her lily-braided hair
Took the spirit-bud as fair
As if to summer suns unknown,
Gave it the maiden, and was gone.

Then MIRZALA stood by a portal barr'd,
Where held the Lion King his guard;
But touch'd by that bud the lion grew tame,
And the chained portals asunder came.
It was darkness all in that magic room,
But a sweet light stream'd from the lily's bloom.
And MIRZALA look'd on her lover's face,
And he woke at the touch of her soft embrace.
Joy, joy for the maiden, her task is done, --
The spell is broken, her lover is won!

THE next who rose had that martial air,
Such as stately warrior wont to wear;
Haughty his step, and sun and toil
Had left on his cheek their darker soil,
And on his brow of pride was the scar,
The soldier's sign of glorious war;
And the notes came forth like the bearing bold
Of the knightly deeds which their numbers told.





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