Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TWO DEATHS: 2. DEATH OF CAMOENS, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE TWO DEATHS: 2. DEATH OF CAMOENS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Pale comes the moonlight thro' the lattice gleaming
Last Line: Camoens, by thy grave!
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia
Subject(s): Camoens, Luiz De (1524-1580); Death; Dead, The


PALE comes the moonlight thro' the lattice gleaming,
Narrow is the lattice, scanty is the ray,
Yet on its white wings the fragrant dews are streaming --
Dews -- oh how sweet after August's sultry day!
Narrow is the lattice -- oh let night's darkness cover
Chamber so wretched from any careless eye --
Over yon pallet whatever shadows hover,
They are less dark than the shadow drawing nigh --
Death, it is thy shadow!
Let the weary one now die!

Beautiful, how beautiful! -- the heavy eyes now closing
Only with the weight of the moolight's soothing smile --
Or do they recall another hour's reposing,
When the myrtle and the moonlight were comrades the while?
Yes; for, while memory languidly is fetching
Her treasures from the depths which they have lain among,
A fragile hand -- how thin -- how weak -- is sadly sketching
Figures and fancies that cell's white walls along.
On the lip there is a murmur --
It is the swan's last song.

Dark order of St. Dominick! thy shelter to the weary
Is like thy rule -- cold, stern, unpitying in its aid;
Cold is general charity, lorn the cell and dreary --
Yet there the way-worn wretched one may rest the dying head;
Who would remember him -- ah, who does remember! --
He the ill-fated, yet the young and gifted one?
Grief and toil have quench'd life's once aspiring ember:
High heaven may have pity -- but man for man has none!
Close thine eyes, Camoens;
Life's task is nearly done.

Feebly his hand upon the wall is tracing
One lovely face and one face alone,
E'en the coming hour -- other memories effacing --
Leaves that as fresh as when it first was known;
Faintly he traces with white and wasted fingers
What was once so lovely -- what is still so dear:
Life's latest look, like its earliest one, yet lingers
On the large soft eyes that seem to meet him here;
Love's ethereal vision
Is not of Earth's dim sphere!

Large, soft, and dark, the eyes, where he has blended
So much of the soul, are somewhat like his own;
So in their youth the auburn hair descended,
Such the sad sweet smile to either red lip known.
Like were they in beauty, so the heart's light trembled
On the flushing cheek and in the kindling eye;
Yet more clearly like -- the inward world resembled --
In its sweet communion -- the tender and the high;
Our cold world is cruel
To rend so sweet a tie.

Thro' a weary world-path known to care and sorrow,
Still was her influence o'er his being cast;
She was the hope that whispered of to-morrow,
She was the memoried music of the past --
She was in his numbers -- when those numbers breathing
Of his country's glory made it glorious more --
To its southern language long harmony bequeathing,
Haunting every wild wave dashing on its shore.
Ay, the poet's music
Is lovely as of yore.

Dream not that the love which haunts the poet's spirit
Is the common passion that sweetens daily earth:
From a world ethereal its nature must inherit
All the high imaginings that crowded round its birth;
From the pure, pale stars, amid their midnight watches,
It asks for inspiration lofty and divine;
From the small wild flowers amid the woods it catches
Charms, round the careless and the usual path to shine.
Such is the poet's passion --
Such, Camoens, was thine.

Flinging far below him each meaner thought that cumbers
Wishes born of wants, he lighted up life's dream
With the kindling light that warms the poet's numbers --
Yet are they sung by the Tajo's sunny stream.
Still was his country the theme of his inspiring,
How her bold vessels first swept the southern seas --
Still was her praise the meed of his desiring,
While telling how her heroes met the fierce and mighty breeze.
The past and its sea-triumphs --
His dreams wre fill'd with these.

How was he rewarded? -- how are such rewarded?
Those who thus lavish their inward wealth in vain?
Only one doom for the poet is recorded --
A present that must buy the future with its pain.
Long, long away, toss'd on the Indian billow,
Dream'd he sweet songs for his lady and his land;
Pale and wan he lies on his last neglected pillow --
None are near to minister with soft and soothing hand.
There let the poet perish --
So hath perish'd all his band.

Heavily, heavily his large black eyes are closing
On the twilight loveliness they are too faint to know;
O'er that pale high forehead a shadow is reposing --
Peace to the weary heart that languid beats below!
From that sweet lip its old songs are departed;
Take, ye wild winds, what it wont to breathe of yore --
There he is dying deserted, broken-hearted,
Like a broken lute, which no music wanders o'er.
Farewell to Camoens!
The swan will sing no more.

Yet not for this in the spirit's faith I falter,
Heavy though the doom be -- yet glorious is the meed.
Let the life be laid upon the fated altar --
It is but the sacrifice of an eternal creed.
Never yet was song breathed in this high believing,
But, like a star, it hath floated down time's wave!
While what lofty praises and what tender grieving
And what noble hopes, come to sanctify and save!
Even such the glory,
Camoens, by thy grave!





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