Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE MINSTREL OF PORTUGAL, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE MINSTREL OF PORTUGAL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Their path had been a troubled one, each step
Last Line: Her humble lover perish'd!
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia
Subject(s): Minstrels


Their path had been a troubled one, each step
Had trod 'mid thorns and springs of bitterness;
But they had fled away from the cold world,
And found, in a fair valley, solitude
And happiness in themselves. They oft would rove
Through the dark forests when the golden light
Of evening was upon the oak, or catch
The first wild breath of morning on the hill,
And in the hot noon seek some greenwood shade,
Fill'd with the music of the birds, the leaves,
Or the descending waters' distant song.
And that young maiden hung delightedly
Upon her minstrel lover's words, when he
Breathed some old melancholy verse, or told
Love's ever-varying histories; and her smile
Thank'd him so tenderly, that he forgot,
Or thought of but to scorn, the flatteries
He was so proud of once. I need not say
How happy his sweet mistress was. -- Oh, all
Know love is woman's happiness!

COME, love! we'll rest us from our wanderings:
The violets are fresh among the moss,
The dew is not yet on their purple leaves,
Warm with the sun's last kiss -- sit here, dear love!
This chestnut be our canopy. Look up
Towards the beautiful heaven; the fair moon
Is shining timidly, like a young queen
Who fears to claim her full authority:
The stars shine in her presence; o'er the sky
A few light clouds are wandering, like the fears
That even happy love must know; the air
Is full of perfume, and most musical,
Although no other sounds are on the gale
Than the soft falling of the mountain rill,
Or waving of the leaves. 'Tis just the time
For legend of romance, and, dearest! now
I have one framed for thee: it is of love,
Most perfect love, and of a faithful heart
That was a sacrifice upon the shrine
Itself had rear'd: I will begin it now,
Like an old tale: -- There was a princess once,
More beautiful than spring, when the warm look
Of summer calls the blush upon her cheek,
The matchless ISABEL of PORTUGAL.
She moved in beauty, and where'er she went
Some heart did homage to her loveliness.
But there was one -- a youth of lowly birth --
Who worshipp'd her! I have heard many say
Love lives on hope; they knew not what they said:
Hope is Love's happiness, but not its life; --
How many hearts have nourish'd a vain fiame
In silence and in secret, though they knew
They fed the scorching fire that would consume them!
Young JUAN loved in veriest hopelessness! --
He saw the lady once at matin time, --
Saw her when bent in meek humility
Before the altar; she was then unveil'd,
And JUAN gazed upon the face which was
Thenceforth the world to him! Awhile he look'd
Upon the white hands clasp'd gracefully;
The rose-bud lips, moving in silent prayer;
The raven hair, that hung as a dark cloud
On the white brow of morning! She arose,
And as she moved, her slender figure waved
Like the light cypress, when the breeze of spring
Wakes music in its boughs. As JUAN knelt
It chanced her eyes met his, and all his soul
Madden'd in that slight glance! She left the place;
Yet still her shape seem'd visible, and still
He felt the light through the long eyelash steal
And melt within his heart! ...
From that time life was one impassion'd dream:
He linger'd on the spot which she had made
So sacred by her presence, and he thought
It happiness to only breathe the air
Her sigh had perfumed -- but to press the floor
Her faery step had hallow'd. He renounced
All projects of ambition, joy'd no more
In pleasures of his age, but, like a ghost,
Confined to one peculiar spot, he stray'd
Where first he saw the princess; and the court
Through which she pass'd to matins, now became
To him a home; and either he recall'd
Fondly her every look, or else embalm'd
Her name in wild, sweet song.....
His love grew blazed abroad -- a poet's love
Is immortality! The heart whose beat
Is echo'd by the lyre, will have its griefs,
Its tenderness, remember'd, when each pulse
Has long been cold and still. Some pitied him,
And others marvell'd, half in mockery;
They little knew what pride love ever has
In self-devotedness. The princess heard
Of her pale lover; but none ever knew
Her secret thoughts: she heard it silently.
It could not be but woman's heart must feel
Such fond and faithful homage! -- But some deem'd
Even such timid worship was not meet
For royalty. They bade the youth depart,
And the king sent him gold; he turn'd away,
And would not look upon the glittering treasure --
And then they banished him! He heard them say
He was an exile with a ghastly smile,
And murmur'd not -- but rose and left the city.
He went on silently, until he came
To where a little hill rose, cover'd o'er
With lemon shrubs and golden oranges:
The windows of the palace where she dwelt --
His so loved ISABEL -- o'erlook'd the place.
There was some gorgeous fete there, for the light
Stream'd through the lattices, and a far sound
Of lute, and dance, and song, came echoing.
The wanderer hid his face; but from his brow
His hands fell powerless! Some gather'd round
And raised him from the ground: his eyes were closed,
His lip and cheek were colourless; -- they told
His heart was broken! ....

His princess never knew an earthly love:
She vow'd herself to Heaven, and she died young.
The evening of her death, a strange, sweet sound
Of music came, delicious as a dream:
With that her spirit parted from this earth.
Many remember'd that it was the hour
Her humble lover perish'd!





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