Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE GUERILLA CHIEF, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE GUERILLA CHIEF, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: But the war-storm came on the mountain gale
Last Line: Marks the guerilla and the maiden's tomb!
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia


But the war-storm came on the mountain gale,
And man's heart beat high, though his cheek was pale,
For blood and dust lay on the white hair,
And the maiden wept o'er her last despair;
The hearth was cold, and the child was prest
A corpse to the murdered mother's breast;
And fear and guilt, and sorrow and shame,
Darkened wherever the war-fiend came.

IT stood beneath a large old chestnut-tree,
And had stood there for years: -- the moonlight fell
Over the white walls, which the vine had hung
With its thick leaves and purple fruit: a pair
Of pigeons, like the snow, were on the roof
Nestled together; and a plaining sound
Came from a fountain murmuring through the wood,
Less like the voice of sorrow than of love.
Tall trees were gathered round: -- the dark green beech;
The sycamore, with scarlet colours on,
The herald of the autumn; dwarf rose-trees,
Cover'd with their last wealth; the poplar tall,
A silver spire; olives with their pale leaves;
And some most graceful shrubs, amid whose boughs
Were golden oranges; and hollow oaks,
Where the bees built their honey palaces.
It was a silent and a lovely place,
Where Peace might rest her white wings. But one came
From out the cottage, -- not as one who comes
To gaze upon the beauty of the sky
And fill his spirit with a calm delight;
But with a quick though noiseless step, as one
Who fears the very echo of that step
May raise a spectre. When he reach'd the fount,
He sat down by its side, and turn'd to gaze
Upon the cottage: from his brow the sweat
Pour'd down like summer rain; there came no sound
From his white lips, but you might hear his heart
Beating in the deep silence. But at length
A voice came to his sorrow -- "Never -- never
Shall I look on their face again! Farewell!
I cannot bear that word's reproach, nor look
On pale lips breathing blessings which the tears
Belie in speaking! I have blighted all --
All -- all their hopes, and my own happiness!"

"LEANDRO!" said a sweet and gentle voice;
And a soft hand press'd on his throbbing brow,
And tears like twilight dew fell on his cheek.
He look'd upon the maiden: -- 'twas the one
With whom his first pure love had dwelt, -- the one
Who was the sun and starlight of his youth!
She stood beside him, lovely as a saint
Looking down pity upon penitence --
Perhaps less bright in colour and in eye
Than the companion of his infancy: --
But was that cheek less fair because he knew
That it had lost the beauty of its spring
With passionate sorrowing for him? She stood
One moment gazing on his face, as there
Her destiny was written; and then took
A little crucifix of ebony,
And placed it in his bosom from her own: --
"And this, LEANDRO! -- this shall be thy guide!
Thy youth has been a dream of passion; guilt
And evil has been round thee: -- go thy way!
The showers of thy youth will clear to summer.
My prayers be with thee!" -- "Prayers! -- oh! nothing more?
Have I then lost thy love -- thy precious love?
The only green leaf of my heart is wither'd!"
She blush'd a deep-red blush; her eloquent eyes
Met his almost reproachfully, and her face
Was the next moment hidden on his bosom.
But there was happiness even in that farewell,
Affection and deep confidence,
Tenderness, hope, -- for Love lights Hope -- and tears,
Delicious tears! the heart's own dew.

They parted.
LEANDRO kept that little cross like life:
And when beneath the sky of Mexico, --
When earth and even heaven were strange to him, --
The trees, the flowers, were of another growth;
The birds wore other plumes; the very stars
Were not those he had looked upon in boyhood.

'Tis something, if in absence we can see
The footsteps of the past: -- it soothes the heart
To breathe the air scented in other years
By lips beloved; to wander through the groves
Where once we were not lonely, -- where the rose
Reminds us of the hair we used to wreathe
With its fresh buds -- where every hill and vale,
And wood and fountain, speak of time gone by; --
And Hope springs up in joy from Memory's ashes.

LEANDRO felt not these: -- that crucifix
Was all that wore the look of other days --
'Twas as a dear companion. Parents, home,
And more than all, BIANCA, whose pure reign,
Troubled by the wild passions of his youth,
Had now regain'd its former influence, --
All seem'd to hear the vows he made for her,
To share his hopes, feel for his deep remorse,
And bless him, and look forward.

And at last
Once more the white sail bore him o'er the sea,
And he saw SPAIN again. But war was there --
And his road lay through ruin'd villages.
Though cold, the ashes still were red, for blood
Had quench'd the flames; and aged men sat down,
And would not leave the embers, for they said
They were too old to seek another home.
LEANDRO met with one whom he had known
In other days, and ask'd of his own valley; --
It yet was safe, unscathed by the war-storm.
He knelt down in deep thankfulness; and then,
Through death and danger, sought the grove once more.

His way had been through a thick beechen wood;
The moon, athwart the boughs, had pour'd her light,
Like hope, to guide him onwards.
One more turn, and he should gaze upon his home!
He paused in his heart's overflowing bliss,
And thought how he should wake them from their dreams --
Perchance of him! -- of his BIANCA'S blush!
He heard the music of the fountain come --
A sweet and welcome voice upon the wind --
He bounded on with the light steps of hope,
Of youth and happiness. He left the wood,
And look'd upon -- a heap of mingled blood
And blacken'd ashes wet upon the ground!

He was awaken'd from his agony
By the low accents of a woman's voice; --
He look'd, and knew BIANCA. She was laid
Beside the fountain, while her long black hair
Hung like a veil down to her feet: her eyes,
So large, so dark, so wild, shone through the gloom,
Glaring like red insanity. She saw
Her lover, shriek'd, and strove to fly --
But fell: -- her naked feet were gash'd with wounds.
"And have I met thee but to see thee die?"
LEANDRO cried, as he laid the pale face
Upon his breast, and sobb'd like a young child.
In vain he dash'd the cold stream on her face, --
Still she lay like a corpse within his arms.
At length he thought him of a giant tree,
Whose hollow trunk, when children, they had oft
Call'd "home" in playfulness. He bore her there;
And of fresh flowers and the dry leaves he made
A bed for his pale love. She waked at last,
But not to consciousness: her wandering eyes
Fix'd upon him, and yet she knew him not! --
Fever was on her lip and in her brain,
And as LEANDRO watch'd, his heart grew sick
To hear her rave of outrage, wrongs, and death; --
How they were waken'd from their midnight sleep
By gleaming steel -- curses -- and flaming roof!
And then she groan'd, and pray'd herself to die!

It was an evening when through the green leaves
Of the old chestnut shot the golden light
Of the rich sunset; into the fresh air
LEANDRO bore the maiden he had nurst
As the young mother nurses her sick child.
She laid her head upon his heart, and slept
Her first sweet, quiet sleep: the evening-star
Gleam'd through the purple twilight when she waked.
Her memory aroused not to the full --
Oh, that was mercy! -- but she knew her love;
And over her pale face a calm smile shone, --
Fondly though faintly breathed and blest his name!
That night the moonlight shone upon LEANDRO,
And in his arms -- a corpse!

He lived in one deep feeling -- in revenge:
With men he mingled not but in the battle; --
His mingling there was deadly! When the GAUL
Was driven from the land which he had spoil'd,
That dark chief sought BIANCA'S grave! -- A cross
Marks THE GUERILLA AND THE MAIDEN'S TOMB!





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