Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MELAIA, by ELIZA COOK



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MELAIA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Twas in the age when arts and peace
Last Line: "told, in the words, ""melaia's friend."


'TWAS in the age when Arts and Peace
Revived once more in mighty Greece --
When Fame forsook the camp and blade,
And turned from purple fields to wreathe
Her meeds again for those who bade
The canvass glow, the marble breathe:
'Twas in this age Melonian stood
The highest in his sculpture art;
Known as the great, loved as the good;
With hand but rivalled by his heart.
His was the power to wake the gaze,
Yielding the spirit's speechless praise --
His was the spell that flings control
Over the eye, breast, brain, and soul;
Chaining our senses to the stone,
Till we become
As fixed and dumb
As the cold form we look upon.

Melonian was about to leave
His idle toil one summer eve,
When at his door a stranger guest
Appeared, in venerable guise,
Whose weight of years had dimmed his eyes,
And meekly lowered his "haught crest."
His garb was of a shape and sort
That plainly augured little wealth;
But his frank smile gave good report
Of rich content and placid health
No stern and frowning gloom was seen
To curl his lip or shade his mien;
His bending limbs, and silvered head,
Stricken with patriarchal age,
Gave ample sign that he had read
Life's volume to its closing page.

Melonian rose; the stranger bowed: --
"Artist," cried he, "I've come to scan
Thy blazoned works -- is it allowed?
Though great, perhaps thou'rt not too proud
To please an old and curious man.
The restless wings of Rumour waft
Fair tidings of thy works and craft!
Crowds speak of thee with lauding joy.
I like thy name, and would employ
Thy hand. Say, Artist, what may be,
The sum that forms thy common fee?"

The Sculptor smiled. "Friend," he exclaimed,
"My charge may startle, when 'tis named.
Excuse me, Stranger, if I say,
I deem 'tis more than thou canst pay.
Two thousand bizantines I ask
For simplest form or briefest task."
"Two thousand! 'tis indeed fair store
Of gold, but he deserved much more.
Have what thou wilt, 'tis ne'er too much;
Double the sum, it shall be thine;
But will thy chisel deign to touch
A form nor human nor divine?
I see thou hast a goodly band
Of gods and heroes scattered round;
But I invoke thy master hand
To carve me but a simple hound."

"A hound! a dog!" Melonian cried:
"How's this, old man, wouldst thou deride
My noble art? I blush with shame.
Say, dost thou mock my skill and fame?
I, first in Greece, think'st thou 'twould suit
Such hand to carve a cur! -- a brute?"

"Hold!" said the Guest. "I must not hear
Such light words thrown to one so dear.
Long as I've trod the world, I've found
Naught half so worthy as my hound;
And thou, Melonian, wouldst not spurn
His claims and merit, didst thou learn
The strange and strong, nay, holy tie,
That link'd so firm and tenderly.
Of all the boons that men possess,
To aid, to cheer, instruct, and bless,
The dog -- bold, fond, and beauteous beast --
Is far from either last or least.
His love lives on through change of lot;
His faith will chain him on our grave,
To howl and starve; but thou mayst not
Have proved their love and faith: I have.

"Thy guerdon's sure: look on this ring,
A precious, though a bauble, thing;
The meanest jewel would suffice
To render safe thy utmost price.
But do my bidding, and the stone
Of richest lustre is thine own.
Behold and judge!" -- The Sculptor gazed
Upon the slender hand upraised,
And saw a finger thin and white,
Encircled with a hoop of gold,
Imbedding diamonds of light,
Nor loosely worn nor cheaply sold. --
"Speak," cried the Stranger; "Dost thou choose
To carve my dog? decide and tell --
Enough: I see thou dost refuse
The favour craved. Artist, farewell."

Melonian seized his hand: "Nay, nay,
Thy parting is not thus with me;
Thy speech, thy bearing, all betray
Thou art not what thou seem'st to be;
There's more than meets the eye and ear
In thee. Say who, and what thou art!
I'm honest, and thou need'st not fear
A gossip tongue and traitor heart.
May I beseech thee to relate
Thy secret pilgrimage and fate?
You start -- aye, 'tis a bold request;
But you have stirred within my breast
That quick and sudden interest
Which is not easily suppressed.
The warmth you've kindled doth defy
The rules of gentle courtesy;
And prompts perchance to ruder word
And freer tone than should be heard.
Your pardon, if I give offence;
But, trust me, mine's no wily soul --
This fervour bursting all control,
Is not the seeming of pretence."

The Stranger spoke not for a while,
But strove to check a rising sigh,
And fixed his calm and searching eye
Upon the Sculptor's brow. The smile
Which erst illumed his mouth had fled,
And with it every trace of red
From cheek and lips; a change had spread
O'er his fair mien, as though some deep
Keen pangs had woke from memory's sleep,
Where is the one who hath not had
Some anguish trial, long gone by,
Steal, spectre like, all dark and sad
On busy thought, till the full eye
And aching breast betrayed too well,
The past still held undying spell?
Some pensive vision of this kind
Seemed shadowing the Stranger's mind.

"My fate," said he, "hath been to see
And bear mortality's extremes.
My days have run 'twixt cloud and sun,
But oh! with more of dark than beams.
What I was once has been concealed
Right cautiously from other ears;
My tongue has never yet revealed
The state that marked my earlier years;
But thou shalt hear it. I will trust
The earnest radiance in thy face:
'Tis spirit-lit, and I can trace
The breathing of a soul all just.
Listen, Melonian; but I claim
Thy sacred vow, that words or name
Pass not thy lips, till death has laid
This breaking form in peace and shade.
Say, Sculptor, dost thou yield thine oath?"
"Ay!" cried Melonian; "but the troth
Of simple promise is, with me,
As strong a bond as there can be.
My oath! Ay, take it if thou wilt;
Yet is that bosom base and cold,
And little worth, that does not hold
A broken word as meanest guilt.
But stay, my friend, here's rich rare wine,
Of years, I ween, outnumb'ring thine;
I know its vintage to be good;
Pour, fill and drink -- 'twill warm thy blood;
Come, pledge me deep, thy cheek is pale;
First brace thy heart, then tell thy tale."

The cup was drained, and Friendship's power
Had grown so great in one short hour,
'Twere difficult for host or guest
To say which liked the other best.

"Now," cried the Stranger, "hear me tell
My simple tale; and mark me well,
Though my plain style may sound uncouth,
It yields naught else than bitter truth.
My long and chequered course began
Far hence, in sultry Hindostan.
Perchance I was a monarch's heir;
My toys the sceptre and the crown;
Shown like an idol to the stare
Of a vast nation; taught to wear
A princely port, and proudly share
A power I should one day bear.
All kingly -- all my own.

"I know full well ye cannot see
A trace of what there once might be;
My sand is almost out, and now
Ye find but furrows on my brow.
I know no records linger there,
Save those endorsed by age and care;
Heaven gives no stamp; Misfortune's tide
Brings prince and peasant side by side;
And who can tell the monarch when
He ranks and herds with other men?

"Ye smile, as though it were a thing
Absurd, a jest to rouse your mirth,
To say my sire might be a king,
And hold dominion o'er the earth.
Yet such he was and such was I.
Nay, start not! -- 'tis but empty sound;
Strip off the robes of purple dye,
Throw all the peacock trappings by,
And nothing more than man is found;
And often less -- some scorpion worm,
That crawls and stings in human form;
Some upright brute, whose ruthless might,
In covert of a regal den,
Lays waste all mercy, sense, and might,
Defies a God, and tramples men.
But who expects the sapling tree
To flourish, nursed in royalty,
Amid the worst the world can lend
To choke and tangle, warp and rend
Mid all to blast the goodly shoot,
And turn fair bloom to bitter fruit?
The monarch's glance hath little chance
To scan a page in Nature's book:
The lessons there are sealed with care --
He must not, dare not, cannot look.
Lulled by the songs that courtiers sing,
No harsher music suffered near,
If Truth should whisper, she would ring
A strange alarum in his ear.
Could ye but see what I have seen,
And know as much as I have known,
Ye would not wonder there have been
Such graceless tyrants on a throne.

"I had an empire at my nod,
And ruled it like a demigod;
I was caressed as one divine;
Wealth, might -- scarce limited -- were mine.
My word could free the veriest slave,
Or doom the guiltless to a grave.
I was a feared and homaged one,
Perched on Ambition's utmost height,
And thought, as other fools have done,
Ne'er to be lower or less bright.
But I was taught a mighty change,
In spirit, feeling, place, and word;
I've brooked the trials, wild and strange,
Which some might question if they heard.

"I've proved how hard it is to cope
With traitors' blows and blasted hope;
I've drunk the cup of dark despair,
E'en to the dregs; I've brunted all
Of searing pain and withering care
That Heaven can send to goad and gall;
Yet have I stood the trying test,
And found at last my hour of rest.

"Old age is garrulous, they say,
And this choice wine has wrought so well
That my tongue gains a swifter play,
And my lax heartstrings warmly swell.
But come, I'll speed my tale, and pray
None else may have such tale to tell.

"'Twas on the night-fall of a day,
When slaughter's red and fierce career
Had lasted from the breaking ray,
Leaving, as twilight died away,
Some thousands on one common bier.

"The night came on, the work was done,
The glory ours, the battle won;
My hand was tired of the sword,
And gladly to its sheath restored
The dripping blade; for though my life
Hath oft been risked in human strife,
Elate and proud to have my name
Grow dreaded for its soldier fame;
Though I have stumbled o'er the slain,
Mid splintered bone and scattered brain;
Though I have seen the streaming blood
Drench the green sod and tinge the flood;
Still, when the raging hour had sped,
I sighed to think such things had been;
And though I helped to strew the dead,
I sickened at the carnage scene.
My soul was reckless in the crash
Of ringing shield and striking clash.
Then I had all the tiger's will,
And all the lion's strength, to kill;
But when I trod the dead-strewn plain,
With mercy at her post again,
I felt a shuddering horror lurk
To think I'd mingled in such work.

"'Twas on the night of such a day,
Exhausted and o'erspent,
I flung my heavy mail away,
And hied me to my tent.
There, close beside my couch, I found
A young and almost lifeless hound;
Some random sword or falling spear
Had deeply gashed his neck and ear;
He panted fast, he freely bled,
His eyeballs had a glazy beam;
He moaned with anguish as his head
Fell weltering in his own life-stream.
I asked who owned him -- all were mute --
Not one stood forth to make a claim:
Who brought him there? -- None knew the brute,
Nor how, nor whence, nor when he came.
Poor wretch! I could not let him lie
Unheeded, there to bleed and die;
The girdle from my waist I tore,
To bind the wound and staunch the gore.

''Twas done -- I marked enough to see
He was a dog of noble breed:
A whelp that promised fair to be
The first in beauty, strength, and speed.
I liked the beast, and turned to give
Command that I would have him live.
It was enough: he found repose,
Secure from further wounds and foes.

Full soon he won my right good-will;
I liked him well,
As ye may tell,
By how he claims my homage still.
His fleetness held the longest chase;
He never knew the second place.
The prey once seized, he'd ne'er resign
His hold for any voice but mine;
The bribe was vain, the threat defied,
I was his lord, and none beside.

"He did not serve me for my throne,
Yet he was grateful, fond, and brave;
He loved me for myself alone.
He was that good and gracious thing,
That rare appendage to a king,
A friend that never played the slave.

"There was no other tie to hold
My heart -- I never loved but two.
That other -- must the name be told!
Yes, yes, -- it was my queenly bride,
My worshipped star, my joy, my pride!
But she was false -- my dog was true.

"I saw her in a lowly grade,
Too bright a blossom for the shade.
I wooed, but with an honest love;
I spread no snares to catch the dove;
The bar of rank was trampled down --
I stooped, and raised her to my crown.

"Oh, how I doted on her smile,
That sunbeam o'er a gulf of guile!
How I adored her orbs of blue,
Clear, full, and lustrous in their hue;
Rich as the deep cerulean light
Of Autumn's melting moonlit night!

"I've met their tender glance, half hid
Beneath the thick-fringed falling lid;
I've seen the pearly drops of grief
Swim like the dew on violet's leaf;
I've watched their pleasure-kindled ray
Flash out like summer lightning's play;
And thought, had old Prometheus caught
The gleaming spark from eyes like those
He would have found the fire he sought
On earth -- nor made the gods his foes.

"Her golden hair, with glossy sheen,
Fell round her temples rich and free,
With all the graceful beauty seen
In flowers of the laburnum tree.
Her soft cheeks made the maple fade,
Such tint, such bloom, was theirs alone;
The sculptor's art could ne'er impart
Her stately bearing to the stone.

"Oh, why does Heaven bequeath such gifts,
To fascinate all eyes that mark,
With magnet charm, till something lifts
The mask, and shows how foully dark
The dazzl ng reptile is within,
Beneath its painted harlot skin?
If it were so, the outward part
Bore witness of the mind and heart,
How many a one must shun the light,
Or show a leper to the sight!

"I know I carried much of taint,
That gave offence to Heaven and man;
But if ye seek a sage or saint,
Search courts, and find him if ye can.

"I was corrupt and did much wrong,
But never breathed of harm to her;
Mine was that passion, warm and strong
Which keeps its radiance pure and long,
However else the soul may err,
I loved her with a zeal intense,
That thralled each colder, wiser sense;
I drank the nectar from her lip,
As bees the honeyed poison sip;
I trusted her, my tongue revealed
All -- much that should have been concealed.
She labored not in vain, to wrest
Some potent secrets from my breast;
And then she leagued with traitor band;
A toil was spread, foul work was planned,
A rueful deed was to be done,
And I the victim, -- she the one --
Oh, mercy! have I speech and breath!
She, she to weave the mesh of death!

"What's this upon my cheek? a tear!
Weak drop, what business hast thou here?
I fondly hoped the shattered string
Had been by now a tuneless thing;
But touch it lightly as I will,
It gives a mournful echo still.
Oh! when the heart has once been riven,
The wound will firmly close no more;
Let Memory's searching probe be driven,
It bleeds and quivers, freshly sore.

"This must not be; -- more wine, I say;
Your nectar juice shall sweep away
The phantom pang. Fill up -- I'll drain
This bowl, and to my tale again.

"She leagued with traitors! 'Twas no dream!
I'd proof of all that hellish scheme;
I'd noticed much of late to make
The drowsiest suspicion wake.
Strange glances interchanged by those
I guessed were less of friends than foes;
And more than once I'd plainly neard
A whispered treasonable word.
But these I brooked, and thought to quel
All petty brawls that might betide;
Till I beheld the Hecate spell
Was conjured by my trusted bride.

"Chance gave a paper to my sight,
Meant for another eye to meet.
It stated that the coming night
Would render treachery complete.
It told what fiends would scarce proclaim,
Of treason, murder! -- and the same
Bore impress of her seal and name. --
Mute with dismay, I still read on;
And oh! the direst that could be,
I found her very honor gone --
She loved another, and not me. --

"I stood with fire in every vein;
My pulses beat with frenzied stroke;
I breathed with that short heaving strain
Which teaches what it is to choke.
A moment and there came a chill,
A stagnant icy chill, as though
The blood recoiled, afraid to fill
A heart made weak with such a blow.

"The jarring chaos could not last;
Such struggling state is quickly past;
Such conflict is too close and strong
For mortal strength to bear with long.
When we have learnt the very worst,
The spirit soon must yield or burst.

"I was betrayed, ay, e'en to life;
Sedition round, and death in view.
And they who see the assassin's knife
Must aptly think and promptly do.
My love was wrecked, my faith deceived;
The strokes that ever madden most.
Without these all had been retrieved;
With them I cared not what was lost.

"My kingship flitted o'er my brain,
My pompous sway, my courtier train;
I laughed, and rent the ermine vest,
That only mocked my abject state;
I dashed the jewels from my breast,
And sought my palace gate.

"I trod all soft and stealthily;
The path was clear I meant to fly.
Ne'er call me coward, till ye bear
The test by which I then was tried;
Remember, had I tarried there,
The stroke was sure -- I'd meanly died.

"I knew some minions round me then
Were more of demons than of men.
Their arm was sure, if life the mark;
Once set on blood, they'd keep the track,
And would not scruple in the dark
To sheathe their dagger in my back.

"With fearful haste, I saddled straight
An Arab courser, newly broke,
Whose strength and grace were fit to mate
With those that form Apollo's yoke.
'Twas no meet moment to restrain
His mettled zeal. Away he sped,
With tossing mane
And flinging rein,
Upon the way he chose to tread
The die was cast flight, instant flight,
Alone could lend me hope to live.
The monarch-born, the gem bedight,
The flattered god, the ever right,
Was now a friendless fugitive.

"Away! away! the clattering hoof
Re-echoed from the palace roof.
I fled, unrivalled by the wind,
Nor threw a single glance behind.
Crown, sceptre, throne -- such dreams were o'er;
Melaia was a king no more.

"I fled; but soon the deep-toned bay
Of bloodhound followed on my way;
And even now there's a rebound
Of joyous throb, a glow that steals
Swift through my frame, to tell I found
My gallant dog upon my heels.

"How welcome are the words that tell
The culprit, doomed to death and pain,
That he may quit his chains and cell,
And rove the world all free again!
How precious is the ray of light
That breaks upon the blind one's eye,
Unfolding to his wondrous sight
The glorious scenes of earth and sky!
But never to despairing ear,
Or hopeless orb, was aught so dear
As he to me appeared to be
In that dark hour of flight and fear.

"I checked my steed, and lost some time,
To let that dumb retainer climb,
With whimpering joy, and fondly greet
The hand he ever sprung to meet.
I stooped above his glossy head,
And many a streaming tear I shed,
Ay, like a child; -- but recollect,
In perils we must not reject
The meanest aid. The straw or plank
Will lure us then to snatch and thank.
"I lingered, but, ere long, my ear
Had warning of pursuers near.
My rowels touched my Arab's side;
Away he leaped like rushing tide,
That rolls to fling its sweeping waste
With furious all-defying haste.

"On, on, we went, I took no heed
How such a strange career would end.
I urged my barb to meteor speed,
But cared not where that speed might tend.
He sprung, he flew, as though he knew
A phrensied wretch was on his back;
And kept his pace for goodly space,
Upon his own free chosen track.
He bore me on for many an hour,
With headlong sweep, and bounding power.
At last he faltered in his path;
I goaded, but the goad was vain.
Where was I? with the sun's full wrath
Around me on the desert plain.

"What an unthought-of goal I'd won!
Mercy! what wildering race I'd run!
'Twould soon be o'er, my failing horse
Was strangely wheeling on his course:
His strength was out, his spirit flagged,
His fire was spent, he faintly lagged;
His dripping flanks and reeking neck,
Were white with rifts of foaming fleck.
His laboured breath was quick and short,
His nostrils heaved with gasping snort;
He tottered on, -- his will was good, --
His work had not belied his blood.

"Another mile and then he fell.
His part was o'er -- he played it well.
With snapping girth, and reeling head,
He groaned, and sunk, -- my steed was dead

"Above me one vast concave spread,
No dappled clouds, no mellow blue;
Hot, darting rays, like torches, shed
A light of most unearthly hue.

"Below was one smooth glittering sheet,
That crisped and cracked beneath my feet;
No springing herb, no daisied sod, --
All barren, joyless, and untrod.
My dog was fawning by my side,
Untired by my rapid ride;
But I rebuked the sportive bound,
That scattered choking dust around.

"My breath was faint, my skin was dry,
The little moisture in my eye
Served but to scald; the striking beams
Fell on my form like sulphur streams.
What hideous change! I, who had known
The sickening splendour of a throne,
I, humbled wretch, was craving now
A moment's shadow for my brow.

"Thus to be left on such a spot,
Appeared the climax of my lot.
Death hovered there in such gaunt shape,
That Hope scarce whispered of escape;
But I was not in fitting state
To weigh the chances of my fate.

"I wended on with hasty stride,
'Twixt torrid earth and brazen sky,
Reckless of all that might betide,
To meet the worst, to live or die.
But some conjecture, quick and wild,
Flashed sudden o'er me, and beguiled
To flattering Hope. I vaguely guessed
That nigh the desert, in the west,
A city stood. That thought inspired,
And held me on awhile untired.

"I doubted if my wasting strength
Could last the unknown burning length.
It might: yet, oh! 'twas fearful risk,
To toil between the blazing disk
Of eastern sun and shining sand,
With lips unmoistened, cheek unfanned.
'Twas frightful ordeal, but yet
Dire evils pass if boldly met.

"I will not tire thy patient ear
With tedious detail of my woe;
But bring my rambling speech to bear
On what I wish thee most to know.

"Hour after hour brought on the night,
With something less of heat and light.
You may believe I was outworn;
And, trembling, famished, and forlorn,
I flung me on the dewless ground,
And fast and bitter tears I wept,
Till pillowed on my faithful hound,
Like a tired child, I sobbed, and slept.

"Slumber like mine wrought little good.
I started as the sun uprose,
And fancied that my boiling blood
Had gathered torture from repose.
I felt my temples glow, and beat
With faster pulse and fiercer heat.
I would have wept again, but now
My very tears refused to flow.

"I woke -- I lived -- to meet, to bear
With famine, thirst, and blank despair;
I cast my eager, straining eye,
From sky to sand, from sand to sky;
No, no relief! My hound and I
Were all that broke the vacancy.

"The whirling blast, the breaker's dash
The snapping ropes, the parting crash
The sweeping waves that boil and lash,
The stunning peal, the hissing flash,
The hasty prayer, the hopeless groan,
The stripling seaboy's gurgling tone,
Shrieking, amid the flood and foam,
The names of mother, love, and home:
The jarring clash that wakes the land,
When, blade to blade, and hand to hand
Unnumbered voices burst and swell,
In one unceasing war-whoop yell:
The trump of discord ringing out,
The clamour strife, the victor shout; --
Oh! these are noises any ear
Will dread to meet and quail to hear.
But let the earth or waters pour
The loudest din or wildest roar --
Let Anarchy's broad thunders roll,
And Tumult do its worst to thrill,
There is a silence to the soul
More awful, and more startling still.

"To hear our very breath intrude
Upon the boundless solitude,
Where mortal tidings never come,
With busy feet or human hum;
All hushed above, beneath, around --
No stirring form, no whispered sound; --
This is a loneliness, that falls
Upon the spirit, and appals
More than the mingled rude alarms
Arising from a world in arms.

"This is a silence bids us shrink,
As from a precipice's brink;
But ye will rarely meet it, save
In the hot desert or cold grave.
Cut off from life and fellow men,
This silence was around me then.
'Twas horrible; but once again
I dragged along the scorching plain,
Till the consuming orb of day
Shot down the close meridian ray.

"Exhausted nature now had done
Its utmost 'neath a desert sun,
And moments of delirium came:
A staggering weakness seized my frame;
My feet refused their task, when, lo!
My gaze met
Many a minaret.
A city rose -- 'twas nigh; but, oh!
The beacon star now shone in vain!
Though short the space, I ne'er could gain
That other league. My limbs, my heart,
All failed. I felt my sinews start
With the last shudder of despair;
And Hope expired -- my grave was there.

"'Twas thirst, 'twas maddening thirst alone,
That wrung my spirit's inmost groan.
Hunger is bitter; but the worst
Of human pangs, the most accursed
Of Want's fell scorpions, is thirst.

"I looked upon this precious ring,
That few besides a king could buy;
What was its value -- would it bring
A cup of water? No! its gleam,
That flashed back to the brazen beam.
But taunted with its brilliancy.

"My strange distempered fancy wrought
The doom of Tantalus; for naught
Broke on my frantic waking dream
But the deep well and limpid stream.
Distorted vision conjured near
All that is cool, fresh, moist, and clear.
I saw the crystal fountain play
In leaping sheets of snowy spray;
I heard the undulating wave
Of the swift river gush and lave;
I saw the dew on grass and flower;
I heard the gentle summer shower;
With its soft pattering bubbles drip;
I heard the dashing water-fall --
Oh! it was cruel mockery all.
I laughed, and then my shrunken lip
Oozed thickened gore; with upraised hand
I sunk upon the shining sand,
A Maker's mercy to implore.
I fervently invoked a name
Which, I confess with much of shame,
I'd rarely called upon before.

"Mid pleasure, plenty, and success,
Freely we take from him who lends;
We boast the blessings we possess,
Yet scarcely thank the One who sends.
But let Affliction pour its smart,
How soon we quail beneath the rod!
With shattered pride, and prostrate heart,
We seek the long-forgotten God.
Let him but smite us, soon we bleed,
And tremble like a fragile reed;
Then do we learn, and own, and feel
The Power that wounds alone can heal.
Twas thus with me; the desert taught
Lessons with bitter truth replete.
They chastened sorely, but they brought
My spirit to my Maker's feet.
"My glance was for a moment thrown
Towards the heaven I addressed;
But the fierce rays came rushing down
Upon my brow
With furnace glow,
Dense, lurid, red,
Till my smete head
Fell faint and stricken on my breast.

"Thus while I knelt my hound looked up --
Fate was about to give the last,
The o'erflowing drop to Misery's cup --
He started, fled, and bounded fast.

"O! what a moment! all the past
Was blended in that little space.
He fled me at his utmost pace;
Like arrow from the string he flew
Right on -- he lessened to my view.
'Twas o'er; he vanished from my sight;
I breathed his name, and groaned outright.
I was alone;
My dog had gone --
He that I deemed the firmly true --
In the last hour he left me too.

"I saw no more; I snatched my breath
Like those who meet a drowning death;
One cry of hopeless agony
Escaped my lips, while earth and sky
Grew dark, and reeled before mine eye.
A whirling pang shot through my brain,
Of mingled madness, fire, and pain.
'Twas rending, but it was the last.
Thank God, it came like lightning flame,
And desolated as it past.

"No more of this; I only know,
I felt strange pressure on my brow;
The world was not; I can but tell,
That senseless, lone, and blind, I fell.

"The next that memory can mark,
Is of a clear and shrill-toned bark.
Sense tardily came back; I woke
Beneath a gentle pawing stroke.
I gazed with wild and doubting stare --
My dog! my noble dog was there --
It was my Murkim that I saw,
With blood, wet blood, upon his jaw.
What sight for eyes like mine to meet!
I shrieked, I started to my feet.
Judge of my joy: beside him lay
A small and lifeless beast of prey.
I seized it; I was in no mood
To play the epicure in food;
I waited not to think on what
That brey might be, or whence 'twas got.
Had you but seen me clutch and fall,
Like famished wolf or cannibal,
Upon that mangled, raw repast,
My hands, my teeth all tearing fast;
Had you beheld my dry lips drain
The current from each reeking vein!
No nectar half so sweet or fresh;
Oh, it was rare delicious fare;
I never quaffed such luscious draught,
Nor tasted viand like that flesh.
It soothed my brain, it cooled my eye,
It quenched the fire upon my brow;
It gave me breath, strength, energy;
And, looking to the city nigh,
I felt that I could reach it now.
Could I do less than kneel and bless
My Saviour in the wilderness?
But what will all of speech avail?
The choicest eloquence would fail;
The feeling that absorbed my heart
Was of that entrancing kind
Which doth defy the lips to find
A fitting language to impart
Its glowing zeal and passionate start.
My lips would falter to discuss
The sense he kindled in my breast:
My dog had snatched from death, and thus --
I leave thee to suppose the rest.
"Again I took my onward way,
Once more I tracked the desert ground;
Again I knelt to thank, to pray,
Nor deem me impious if I say
That next to God I held my hound.

I reached the city; many a year
Has rolled away,
Since that long day,
But yet, behold this truant tear
Proclaims that trying day is set
Among the few we ne'er forget.

"Methinks I'm getting sad -- and see,
The sun's behind yon orange tree:
'Tis well my tale holds little more;
It wearies, and I wish it o'er.
Some time, perchance, when thou'rt inclined,
I'll yield thee more of what befell
The throne and bride I left behind:
But now I do not care to dwell
On what, to me,
Will ever be
A most ungrateful theme to tell.

"I walked the world unmarked, unknown,
Remote from man, but not alone;
I kept one friend, the closely bound,
The dear, the changeless, in my hound
He had become my spirit's part,
And rarely did he leave my side;
He shared my board, my couch, my heart,
Till pressed by time, he drooped, and died
Of sheer old age. Why, Murkim, why
Did not Melaia too then die!
I miss thee still, I mourn thee yet.
But lo! again my cheek is wet
Fool that I am -- this will not do --
Artist, this suits nor me nor you:
My words have just worn down the sun:
One question, friend, and I have done.

"I've told thee how he bore and braved
The darkest chequer in my lot;
You know his worth! he served and saved.
Now, wilt thou carve my dog, or not!"

Pillars had mouldered, ages waned,
Since this plain tale beguiled an hour;
And Time and War had both profaned
The glory seat of arts and power;
Famed Greece, the beautiful and great,
Was but a wrecked and fallen state;
She was but as a funeral urn,
Holding the ashes worlds revere,
O'er which the coldest heart will mourn,
And strangers hang to shed the tear:
Each monument was laid in dust,
By some ungodly savage hand;
Her palace gates had gathered rust,
Her picture scrolls had fed the brand:
When mid the relics scattered round
One of surpassing skill was found;
The work was rare,
The marble fair,
The form, a bold and couchant hound.

The old and wise, with judgment stern,
In curious search were seen to turn
With careless glance from all the rest,
And own that image first and best.
The artist boy was seen to pause,
Ecstatic in his rapt applause.
No idle wanderer passed it by,
But marked with brighter, closer eye.
They lingered there to ask and trace
The legend such a form might lend;
But naught was known save what its base
Told, in the words, "Melaia's Friend."





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