Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE VENETIAN BRACELET, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE VENETIAN BRACELET, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Those subtle poisons which made science crime
Last Line: "and, half effaced, a name -- ""amenaide."
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia


Those subtle poisons which made science crime,
And knowledge a temptation; could we doubt
One moment the great curse upon our world,
We must believe, to find that even good
May thus be turn'd to evil.

ANOTHER tale of thine! fair Italie --
What makes my lute, my heart, aye turn to thee?
I do not know thy language, -- that is still
Like the mysterious music of the rill; --
And neither have I seen thy cloudless sky,
Where the sun hath his immortality;
Thy cities crown'd with palaces, thy halls
Where art's great wonders light the storied walls;
Thy fountains' silver sweep; thy groves, where dwell
The rose and orange, summer's citadel;
Thy songs that rise at twilight on the air,
Wedding the breath thy thousand flowers sigh there;
Thy tales of other times; thy marble shrines,
Lovely though fallen, -- for the ivy twines
Its graceful wreath around each ruin'd fane,
As still in some shape beauty would remain.
I know them not, yet, Italie, thou art
The promised land that haunts my dreaming heart.
Perchance it is as well thou art unknown:
I could not bear to lose what I have thrown
Of magic round thee, -- but to find in thee
What hitherto I still have found in all --
Thou art not stamp'd with that reality
Which makes our being's sadness, and its thrall!
But now, whenever I am mix'd too much
With worldly natures till I feel as such; --
(For these are as the waves that turn to stone,
Till feelings keep their outward show alone) --
When wearied by the vain, chill'd by the cold,
Impatient of society's set mould --
The many meannesses, the petty cares,
The long avoidance of a thousand snares,
The lip that must be chain'd, the eye so taught
To image all but its own actual thought; --
(Deceit is this world's passport: who would dare,
However pure the breast, to lay it bare?) --
When worn, my nature struggling with my fate,
Checking my love, but, oh, still more my hate; --
(Why should I love? flinging down pearl and gem
To those who scorn, at least care not for them:
Why should I hate? as blades in scabbards melt,
I have no power to make my hatred felt;
Or, I should say, my sorrow: -- I have borne
So much unkindness, felt so lone, so lorn,
I could but weep, and tears may not redress,
They only fill the cup of bitterness) --
Wearied of this, upon what eager wings
My spirit turns to thee, and bird-like flings
Its best, its breath, its spring, and song o'er thee,
My lute's enchanted world, fair Italie.
To me thou art a vision half divine,
Of myriad flowers lit up with summer shine --
The passionate rose, the violet's Tyrian dye,
The wild bee loves them not more tenderly;
Of vineyards like Aladdin's gem-set hall,
Fountains like fairy ones with music's fall;
Of sorrows, too; for e'en on this bright soil
Grief has its shadow, and care has its coil,
But e'en amid its darkness and its crime,
Touch'd with the native beauty of such clime,
Till wonder rises with each gushing tear: --
And hath the serpent brought its curse even here?
Such is the tale that haunts me: I would fain
Wake into pictured life the heart's worst pain;
And seek I if pale cheek and tearful eye
Answer the notes that wander sadly by.
And say not this is vain, in our cold world,
Where feelings sleep like wither'd leaves upfurl'd:
'Tis much to wash them with such gentle rain,
Calling their earlier freshness back again.
The heart of vanity, the head of pride,
Touch'd by such sorrow, are half purified;
And we rise up less selfish, having known
Part in deep grief, yet that grief not our own.

I.

They stood beside the river, that young pair --
She with her eyes cast down, for tears were there,
Glittering upon the eyclash, though unshed;
He murmuring those sweet words so often said
By parting lover, still as fondly spoken
As his could be, the only ones not broken.
The girl was beautiful; her forehead high
Was white as are the marble fanes that lie
On Grecian lands, making a fitting shrine
Where the mind spoke; the arch'd and raven line
Was very proud, but that was soften'd now, --
Only sad tenderness was on her brow.
She wore the peasant dress, -- the snowy lawn
Closely around her whiter throat was drawn,
A crimson boddice, and the skirt of blue
So short, the fairy ankle was in view;
The arm was hidden by the long loose sleeve,
But the small hand was snow; around her hair
A crimson net such as the peasants weave,
Bound the rich curls, and left the temples bare.
She wore the rustic dress, but there was not
Aught else in her that mark'd the rustic's lot:
Her bearing seem'd too stately, though subdued
By all that makes a woman's gentlest mood --
The parting hour of love. And there they leant,
Mirror'd below in the clear element
That roll'd along, with wild shrubs overhung,
And colour'd blossoms that together clung --
That peasant girl, that high-born cavalier,
Whispering those gentle words so sweet to hear,
And answer'd by flush'd cheek, and downcast eye,
And roselip parted, with half smile, half sign.
Young, loving, and beloved, -- these are brief words,
And yet they touch on all the finer chords,
Whose music is our happiness: the tone
May die away and be no longer known
In the harsh wisdom brought by after-years,
Lost in that worldiness which scars and sears
And makes the misery of life's troubled scene; --
Still it is much to think that it has been.
They loved with such deep tenderness and truth, --
Feelings forsaking us as does our youth, --
They did not dream that love like theirs could die,
And such belief half makes eternity.
Yes, they were parting; still the fairy hope
Had in their clear horizon ample scope
For her sweet promises, without the showers
That are their comrades in life's after-hours.
They parted trustingly; they did not know
The vanity of youthful trust and vow;
And each believed the other, -- for each read
In their own hearts the truth of what each said.
The dews are drying rapidly: -- away,
Young warrior! those far banners chide thy stay.
Hark! the proud trumpet swells upon the wind, --
His first of fields, he must not be behind.
The maiden's cheek flush'd crimson, and her eye
Flash'd as the martial music floated by.
She saw him spring upon his snow-white steed, --
It dash'd across the plain with arrowy speed.
The beat of heart, the flush of cheek, are gone, --
AMENAIDE but felt she was alone,
The vow which soothed her, and the hope which cheer'd,
The pride which nerved, with him had disappear'd.
"LEONI, dear LEONI!" -- 'twas in vain: --
The mocking echo answer'd her again.
-- It is deep wretchedness this passionate burst
Of parting's earlier grief, but not the worst;
It is the lingering days of after-care
That try the wasted spirit most to bear.
Now listless, languid, as the world had left
Nothing to interest, of him bereft;
Now lull'd by opiate thoughts that but restore
The mind its tone, to make it sink the more;
Now fever'd by anxiety, for rife
Are fears when fancy calls them into life;
And then that nameless dread of coming woe,
Which only those who've felt it e'er can know:
These still have been in absence, still will be,
And these, AMENAIDE, were all for thee.
The valley in a summer twilight lay --
That fairy confine of the night and day --
When leant AMENAIDE behind the shade
The fragrant shrubs around her lattice made,
'Scaped from her nurse, and each consoling phrase
Sinking the spirit that it fain would riase.
The room was small and dark; but when the wind
Moved the green branches of the myrtle-blind,
A crimson beauty wooed the maiden's eye: --
She look'd and saw, where, dark against the sky,
His father's battlements rose on the air; --
Alas, how haughty and how high they were!
An orphan she, a rustic's nursling child, --
Oh, how could hope have ever so beguiled!
"AMENAIDE!" her kind old nurse's voice;
"Nay, come to me, dear child, come and rejoice."
Wondering, she enters, -- strangers round her stand,
And kindly takes their lordly chief her hand.
"So fair a peasant, sooth, but it is shame
To tell thee, maiden, of another name.
In the wild troubles which have rent our state
Thy noble father met an exile's fate; --
Nay, not that anxious look; he is no more,
And sorrowing Genoa can but restore
His honours to his child: I was aware,
Thanks to that faithful creature's parent care,
His daughter lived; and dear the task to me
To bring these words, and let AREZZI be
The first to greet and honour, Countess, mine,
Loveliest and last of ALFIORI'S line."

II.

Fit for a palace was that lovely room,
Hung with the azure of an eastern loom,
And carpeted with velvet, where the flowers
Companion'd those whereon the April hours
Had shed their beauty; numbers stood around
Of vases where each varying hue was found,
From the white myrtle-bud and lily-bell,
Like pearls that in the ocean-waters dwell,
To those rich tints which on the tulip lie,
Telling their southern birth and sunny sky,
The wine-cups of the sun: -- cach silken blind
Waved to and fro upon the scented wind,
Now closing till the twilight-haunted room
Was in an atmosphere of purple gloom,
First scarcely letting steal one crimson ray,
Then flung all open to the glowing day.
Pictures were hung above; how more than fair!
The changing light made almost life seem there.
A faint rose-colour wander'd o'er the cheek,
Seem'd the chance beams from each dark eye to break;
And you could deem each braided auburn wave
Moved, as its gold the glancing sun-light gave.
And fitting mistress had the charmed scene:
Leant, like a beautiful and eastern queen,
Upon a purple couch -- how soft and warm
Clung the rich colour to her ivory arm! --
AMENAIDE reclined. A while she lay, --
Then, as if movement hurried time away,
She paced the room, gazed on each pictured face, --
Then wreath'd the flowers, -- then watch'd, as if to trace
The evening close: again the couch was press'd,
But feverish, restless, more for change than rest:
And yet all this was only the excess
Of over-much impatient happiness.
Many a weary hour and day had past
For that young Countess, -- this day was the last.
He was return'd, with all war could confer
Of honourable name, to home and her.
LEONI would to-night be in the hall
Where Count AREZZI held his festival;
Would hear her history; how there was now
Nothing to chain the heart or cheek the vow.
-- And must they meet first in a careless crowd?
This was a moment's grief; though she felt proud
That he should see how well she could besecm
Her present rank, yet keep her early dream;
See her the worshipp'd of the courtly throng,
Sigh of each lip, and idol of each song;
Hear the fair flatteries offer'd, yet behold
Her courtesy so graceful, but so cold;
And know it was for him her heart's young throne
Was ever kept, the lovely and the lone.

III.

O pleasant was that night the toilet's care, --
What broider'd robe to don, what gems to wear!
Her hair was parted on her brow, each braid
Black as the dark-wing'd raven's darkest shade,
And gather'd up with diamonds, -- few there were, --
Just stars to light the midnight of her hair.
Well did the sweeping robe of emerald green,
Wrought in rich gold, suit with her stately mien.
"How beautiful she looks this evening!" burst
From every lip, when that fair Countess first
Enter'd AREZZI'S hall: her heart's content
To every lighted look its lustre lent.
Her beauty's fault had been, it was too cold;
Features too tranquil in their perfect mould,
A cheek somewhat too pale; but not to-night, --
The eye was sparkling, and the cheek was bright.
Gently she glided to a balustrade,
Where jessamine a pleasant shadow made:
It raised no marvel; never had her hand
With its white beauty link'd the saraband;
And seldom did she join the converse gay,
Where the light flattery gains its gilded way:
They seldom won more than a few cold words,
As when unskilful hands awake the chords
Of some lorn lute, the music of whose tone
Lives for one touch, and only for that one.
She dwelt within the circle of her heart,
A charm'd world, lovely, lonely, and apart,
Where it had seem'd to her as sin and shame
Aught there had enter'd, not in his dear name.
-- It was a spell-touch'd hour. That gorgeous hall,
With perfume floating and with music's fall,
Light steps, and gentle laugh and whispers bland, --
Was it their words or the sweet airs that fann'd
The beauty's cheek into a redder rose? --
And starry eyes, like what the clear night shows,
But wandering ones; and there were golden curls
Like sudden sunshine; and dark braids, whose pearls
Were lost on the white neck when there they fell;
And there were shapes, such as in pictures dwell;
It look'd like fairy land. With eager glance
She watch'd the door, and counted every dance;
Then time grew long, hope caught a shade of fear, --
"LEONI -- but they said he would be here!"
When sudden came AREZZI to her side, --
"Look there, the Count LEONI and his bride!
She with the violet wreath in her bright hair;
Sooth but to say, that English bride is fair!
But I must go and have my welcome paid."
Alone AMENAIDE stood in the shade, --
Alone! ay, utterly. A couch was nigh,
And there she sank, -- oh, had it been to die!

IV.

Alas for the young heart thus early thrown
Back on itself, the unloved and the lone!
For this should be the lesson of long years,
The weary knowledge taught and traced by tears,
Till even those are frozen, and we grow
Cold as the grave that yawns for us below:
But this was like those sudden blasts that fling
Unlook'd-for winter on the face of spring, --
And worst woe for the heart, whose early fate
Leaves it so young, and, oh, so desolate.
She had one feeling left, -- it was of pride, --
Oh, misery, how much she had to hide!
And steps were now approaching her: she sprung
From off the couch, and every nerve was strung
For that worst rack, the rack of outward show.
Still haunts such vanity the deepest woe.
The heart may swell to bursting, but the while
The features wear the seeming of a smile:
The eye be lesson'd, and the lip be seal'd,
And wretchedness be, like the plague, conceal'd.
-- It was the Count AREZZI: "What, still here! --
Come, thou wild dreamer of another sphere,
I must shut out the sky, if thus it share
My stars, thine eyes, which should be shining there,
Making yon hall its equal; but to-night
You have, AMENAIDE, a rival light.
The English bride, -- see round they crowd to gaze
On the new loveliness her form displays.
Why, she should bear the name which once you bore,
-- The peasant countess, -- it would suit her more."
A moment, and the group were press'd aside,
She stood before LEONI and his bride.
He knew her history, and each met prepared;
Cold looks were given, careless converse shared:
At first LEONI shunn'd to meet her eye, --
A moment's awkwardness, -- but that pass'd by.
How much we give to other hearts our tone,
And judge of others' feelings by our own!
Himself was alter'd: -- all he sought to do
Was, to believe that she was alter'd too.
Her cheek was paler than 'twas wont to be, --
That was its round of midnight gaiety:
Her smile less frequent, and her brow more grave, --
'Twas her new rank its stateliness that gave:
New friends press'd round, -- their interview is o'er, --
And he pass'd on, to think of it no more;
And she to seem as thoughtless. Till to-night,
Like some fair planet in its own far light,
She shone apart; to-night she sought the crowd,
Join'd in their mirthfulness, and laugh'd aloud;
Was ready with gay converse, -- that light mirth
Which like the meteor has from darkness birth:
She watch'd her circle, -- ready smile or sneer, --
Sneers for the absent ones, smiles for the near,
Till every other hall sent forth its tide,
And half the guests were gather'd at her side.
It was an evil feeling that which now
Flush'd on her cheek, and lighted up her brow, --
Part bitterness, part vanity, part woe, --
The passionate strife which pride and misery know;
A burning wish to wake a vain regret
In that false one, who now had best forget;
To show LEONI how that she, the queen,
Made his fair EDITH nothing on the scene:
Her rival, -- hers, -- language has not a word
By woman's ear so utterly abhorr'd.
No marvel, for it robs her only part
Of sweet dominion, -- empire o'er the heart.

V.

LEONI and his bride have left the hall.
Why does that cheek grow pale, that dark eye fall?
Why does that lip its wit, its smiling cease? --
It only pass'd for beauty's gay caprice.
She left the feast, -- but, oh, not yet alone;
Many a cavalier has eager flown
Upon her gondola's home course to wait,
And sigh farewell at her own palace-gate.
Her maidens gather'd round. What more, yet more,
To read the breast now throbbing to the core?
She hurried not their task, -- each silken braid
Of raven hair was in set order laid:
But once she show'd her weakness, -- when her hand
Strove vainly to unloose a glittering band,
It trembled like a leaf: -- but that pass'd by;
Struggle she might, but no one heard her sigh;
And when her last good night was courteous said,
Never more queenlike seem'd that lofty head.
The last step died upon the marble stair, --
She sprang towards the door, -- the bolt is there: --
She tried the spring, gave one keen look around,
Mutter'd "alone!" and dash'd her on the ground.
Corpse-like she lay, -- her dark hair wildly thrown
Far on the floor before her; white as stone,
As rigid stretch'd each hand, -- her face was press'd
Close to the earth; and but the heaving vest
Told of some pang the shuddering frame confess'd,
She seem'd as stricken down by instant death, --
Sudden she rais'd her head, and gasp'd for breath
And nature master'd misery. She sought,
Panting, the air from yonder lattice brought.
Ah, there is blood on that white lip and brow! --
She struggles still, -- in vain, -- she must weep now:
She wept, childlike, till sleep began to press
Upon her eyes for very weariness.
She sleeps! -- so sleeps the wretch beside the stake:
She sleeps! -- how dreadful from such sleep to wake!

VI.

She was both proud and cold: not hers the heart
Easy to lure, and ready to depart, --
A trifle, toy, -- but that fair Countess gave
No common gift when she became a slave;
And only did she hold her gift redeem'd
By that high worthiness she had but dream'd.
A peasant, yet she felt his equal still;
And when her lofty state beseem'd her will,
It was such pride, such pleasure, to have known
LEONI'S love was for herself alone.
And in her young romance's loftier view
One touch of vanity might mingle too:
It was the triumph of her lowlier state
She had been even then a noble's mate.
AMENAIDE had many faults; her youth
Had seen too soon life's bitterness and truth:
The cutting word, the cold or scornful look,
All that her earlier days had had to brook --
The many slights the humble one receives --
Lay on her memory like wither'd leaves;
And homage from the crowd, and lover's praise,
Were all too apt disgust and doubt to raise.
There was a something wayward in her mood;
She left her heart too much to solitude:
For kindly thoughts are social; but she held
A scornful creed, and sympathy repell'd.
That sullen barrier had one gentle break, --
She loved, -- she loved, -- and for LEONI'S sake
Believed there were some angel steps on earth: --
As truth that keeps the promise of its birth;
As faith that will not change, that will not tire,
And deems its gold the purer for the fire.
Her love was all her nature's better part,
The confidence, the kindness of her heart;
The source of all the sweet or gentle there:
But this was past, -- what had it left? -- despair!

VII.

The wind threw back the curtain fraught with rose: --
Can sorrow be upon such gales as those?
Yes, for it waked the Countess. Up she sprung,
Startled, surprised, to see how she was flung
By the veranda, -- and that open, too;
Her hair was heavy with a weight of dew;
Scarcely aroused, painful and slow she raised
Her weary head, and round in wonder gazed.
It was her own fair room, -- some frightful dream,
But indistinct, -- she struggled with a scream:
Her eye has caught a mirror, -- that pale face,
Why lip and brow are sullied by the trace
Of blood; its stain is on her tangled hair,
Which shroud-like hides the neck that else were bare.
Around that neck there is a fragile chain,
And memory's flood comes rushing o'er her brain:
LEONI'S gift, -- its slight gold links are broken, --
So are the vows of which it was the token.
Who has not loathed that worst, that waking hour,
When grief and consciousness assert their power;
When misery has morn's freshness, yet we fain
Would hold it as a dream, and sleep again;
Then know 'tis not illusion of the night,
And sicken at the cold and early light?
How ever shall we pass the weary day,
When thus we shudder at its opening ray?
She gazed upon the glass, then glanced around,
In wonder at the contrast which she found.
The walls were faintly colour'd with the bloom
Which comes when morn has struggled through the gloom,
And blushes for success: the silken veil
Of the blue hangings seem'd to catch the gale,
Then keep its sweetness prisoner: on the floor
The Persian loom had spread its velvet store:
Vases stood round, each carved with such fine art,
The flowers that fill'd seem'd of themselves a part;
A sandal lute lay on an inlaid stand,
Whose rich-wrought ivory spoke its Indian land:
Shells of bright colours, foreign toys of gold,
And crystals wrought in many a curious mould;
Pictures, a prince's ransom in their worth;
Small alabaster statues; -- all that earth
Has rich or varied, all that wealth could buy.
Loathing she turn'd. "Yet what a wretch am I!
This must not be! -- stain'd cheek and fever'd brow
Too much the secret of my soul avow.
Aye deep as is the grave my heart shall keep
What burning tears AMENAIDE could weep.
Oh, never let LEONI know the worst:
'Tis well if he believe I changed the first.
Too much e'en to myself has been reveal'd.
-- And thus be every trace of tears conceal'd."
She sought the alcove where the fountain play'd,
And wash'd from lip and cheek their crimson shade;
And bathed her long hair, till its glossy curls
Wore not a trace but of the dewy pearls
The waters left, as if in pity shed;
She loosed the bolt, and sought her silken bed;
But easier far had been the rack, the wheel: --
When hath the body felt what mind can feel?

VIII.

The weary day pass'd on -- night came again: --
AMENAIDE has join'd the glittering train;
Self-torturer -- self-deceiver -- cold and high,
She said it was to mock the curious eye.
Such strength is weakness. Was it not to be
Where still, LEONI, she might gaze on thee?
-- She heard the history of his English bride:
A patient nurse at her pale mother's side
LEONI saw her first: -- that mother's hand
(A stranger she and wanderer in the land)
Gave the sweet orphan to his care, -- and here
Was all to soften, all that could endear.
Together wept they o'er the funeral stone,
His the sole heart she had to lean upon.
Now months had pass'd away, and he was come
To bring his beautiful, his dear one home.
Her beauty was like morning's, breathing, bright,
Eyes glittering first with tears, and then with light,
And blue, too glad to be the violet's blue,
But that which hangs upon it, lucid dew, --
Its first clear moment, ere the sun has burst
The azure radiance which it kindled first;
A cheek of thousand blushes; golden hair,
As if the summer sunshine made it fair;
A voice of music, and such touching smile,
AMENAIDE sigh'd "Well might they beguile!"
-- Love, what a mystery thou art! -- how strange
Thy constancy, yet still more so thy change!
How the same love, born in the self-same hour,
Holds over different hearts such different power;
How the same feeling lighted in the breast
Makes one so wretched, and makes one so blest;
How one will keep the dream of passion born
In youth with all the freshness of its morn;
How from another will thine image fade!
Far deeper records on the sand are made.
-- Why hast thou separate being? why not die
At once in both, and not leave one to sigh,
To weep, to rave, to struggle with the chains
Pride would fling off, but memory retains?
There are remembrances that will not vanish, --
Thoughts of the past we would but cannot banish:
As if to show how impotent mere will,
We loathe the pang, and yet must suffer still:
For who is there can say they will forget?
-- It is a power no science teaches yet.
O Love, how sacred thy least words should be,
When on them hangs such abject misery!

IX.

The fountain's music murmur'd through the grove,
Like the first plaint that sorrow teaches love;
The orange boughs shut out the sultry sky,
While their rich scent, as pass'd the Countess by,
Came homage-like. For hours that chestnut tree, --
The only one that grew there, -- wont to be
Her favourite summer-seat; -- but now she paced
Hurriedly, though 'twas noon; her memory traced
Her galling wrongs, and many an evil thought
Envy and hatred in her bosom wrought.
She felt LEONI had not loved till now;
Hers was but youthful fantasy's light vow.
Had he not trifled with her? -- She, the proud,
The cold, had of such mocking suit allow'd.
Her heart was wrung, and worse, her pride was bow'd.
-- She hears a step: who is it dares intrude
On this her known and guarded solitude?
She sees an aged Jew; a box he bore
Fill'd with gay merchandise and jewell'd store.
Ere she could speak, he spread before her eyes
Those glittering toys that loveliest ladies prize: --
"Fair dame, in sooth so fair thou seem'st to be
That almost it is vain to offer thee
The many helps for meaner beauty made:
But yet these gems would light that dark hair's shade;
Well would these pearls around that white throat show
Each purple vein that wanders through its snow."
Angrily turn'd the Countess, -- "Fool, away!" --
"So young, so fair, has vanity no sway? --
But I have things most curious, and 'mid these
Somewhat may chance your wayward fancy please."
-- He took a bracelet, -- 'twas of fine wrought gold,
And twisted as a serpent, whose lithe fold
Curl'd round the arm: -- he spoke in whispering tone --
"Here, lady, look at this, I have but one:
Here, press this secret spring; it lifts a lid, --
Beneath there is the subtlest poison hid.
I come from Venice; of the wonders there
There is no wonder like this bracelet rare."
She started -- evil thoughts, at first repress'd,
Now struggled like a storm within her breast.
Alas! alas! how plague-spot like will sin
Spread over the wrung heart it enters in!
Her brow grew dark: -- "Amid thy baubles shine
This ruby cross, -- but be the bracelet mine."
Around her arm the fatal band is fast;
Away its seller, like a vision, pass'd.

X.

That night she join'd the revel; but not long
AMENAIDE was seen amid the throng.
No eye beheld her pace her lonely room:
Fearing the light, yet trembling in the gloom;
The ghastly cheek, as marble cold and white;
The wild eye flashing with unholy light;
The quivering lip, the forehead's dew-moist pore,
The sudden start, the rapid step once more, --
As if it would annihilate the time: --
But who may paint the solitude of crime?

XI.

That night there was another saddest scene:
Halls where mirth, music, festival had been
Were as the house of mourning; crowds stood nigh,
Horror and pity mark'd in every eye.
-- Upon a crimson couch -- a contrast strange
To those pale features in that ghastly change --
The young, the beautiful, the happy lay,
Life passing in convulsive sobs away.
Still 'mid her hair the red rose wreath was hung
Mocking her cheek with the rich dye it flung;
The festal robe still sparkled as it flow'd;
Still on her neck a few fresh flowers glow'd:
The warmth her sandall'd foot hath scarcely left,
Light from the dance, though now of motion reft!
-- The agony is over -- and she raised
Her feeble head, and round her faintly gazed:
She saw, she leapt upon LEONI'S breast,
Murmur'd his name, and sank as if to rest.
"EDITH, sweet EDITH, speak to me again!"
Thou fond one -- even thou must ask in vain:
Ay, kiss those lips, and fancy they have breath,
Till they chill even thee: -- they're damp with death.

XII.

The night is over, -- night which seem'd to be
Endless, O lost AMENAIDE! to thee:
Yet what has daylight brought? -- a haunting dread.
Hark! the hall echoes to a stranger's tread --
It is the Count AREZZI: -- "My fair child,
How now! -- thy cheek is wan, thine eyes are wild.
Ah, well, the rose is bright'ning on thy cheek:
I was too hasty with my sudden break
Upon thy solitude; scarce may I tell
The crime and horror which last night befell.
I have no time. The Count LEONI'S bride --
You saw her -- by some sudden poison died;
And strange suspicions on her husband fall:
There were so many present who recall
He gave her the sherbet: -- 'twas not all drain'd;
Part of the venom in the cup remain'd.
Some say 'twas jealousy: -- I'm on my way
To the tribunal that will sit to-day.
-- AMENAIDE, dear, thou art very pale:
I would I had not told thee of this tale. --
Ha! 'tis the summons of the council bell. --
I loathe my task, -- sweet, hastily farewell."
She strove to speak, -- to only wave her hand, --
To rise, -- her trembling limbs refused to stand:
She sought her cross, she strove to think a prayer, --
She gasp'd for breath, -- no ruby cross is there;
But full in view the fatal bracelet shone:
"LEONI, this is what my love has done;
I who would willingly have died for thee, --
The fiend has triumphed in my misery.
I'll rush before the judges, -- is there time? --
But no, I cannot bear to own the crime!
And there is nought of proof, -- there can be none, --
And then his known love for that happier one; --
His noble house, -- his brave and stainless name: --
He must escape his doom, -- and I my shame."
Long hours pass'd by, she stirr'd not from her place,
A very statue, with that cold set face,
Save that red flushes came at each light sound,
While the wild eyes glanced fearfully around.
But still she moved not, spoke not, -- such distress
Seeks no distraction from its wretchedness.
There rose loud voices in the outer hall: --
She nerves her with despair, she will know all:
Her ear, acute with agony, can hear
A name at once so dreaded and so dear: --
"Yes, Lady, he is guilty! --" but no more: --
They raise her senseless from the marble floor.
Long did it last, that stony trance like death;
She roused, but scarce it seem'd with mortal breath.
She show'd no weakness, rose from off the bed;
Distinct, though low and few, the words she said.
She took a scroll and wrote, -- the phrase was brief;
But a life's sorrow was upon that leaf.
"To Count AREZZI this, with all thy speed;
And here, my page, is gold for present meed.
Now all away, -- my spirit is opprest:"
She flung her on the couch as if for rest:
They deem'd she slept; at length her maidens came
To ask her will, to light the lamps' sweet flame: --
Where is the Countess? why, the couch is bare. --
They search the halls in vain, -- she is not there.

XIII.

"Gold, oh! take double, so my prayer I win."
When hath such offer fail'd? -- She enter'd in:
Heavily iron chain and barrier fell,
Ere she could reach the prisoner's midnight cell.
They grated on her very heart. At last
She saw LEONI in his misery cast
Abject upon the ground: -- not her strange tread
Brought aught to make him raise his bow'd-down head.
She gazed upon him: -- has it come to this,
Her passionate love, her youth's long dream of bliss?
She felt her frame convulsed, her pulse grow weak:
"LEONI, O LEONI! hear me speak."
He started at her voice: -- "AMENAIDE!
I did not merit this from thee indeed;
And yet thy name was heavy on my heart:
I pray thee pardon me before we part."
He sought to take her hand; but back she fiung
The shrouding mantle that around her clung.
"Ah! start you at my livid lip and brow?
You are familiar with such signs ere now!
O for a few short words! I've own'd the whole:
Ere this the Count AREZZI has my scroll. --
The darkness gathers on my failing eye, --
LEONI, let me gaze on thee and die!
O God, unloose this bracelet's fiery clasp!" --
Her spirit pass'd in that convulsive gasp.
The struggle's o'er, -- that wild heart does not beat;
She lies a ghastly corpse before his feet.

XIV.

They show the traveller still a lonely tomb,
Hid in the darkness of a cloister's gloom;
As scarcely worthy of such holy ground,
No other monument is near it found.
A figure closely veil'd bends o'er the stone,
Only the arm with its strange bracelet shown --
A serpent twining round: beneath are graved
A few brief words, that passing pity craved --
"Pray for the wounded heart, the sinful deed;"
And, half effaced, a name -- "AMENAIDE."





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