Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TRIUMPH OF WOMAN, by ROBERT SOUTHEY



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THE TRIUMPH OF WOMAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Glad as the weary traveller, tempest-tost
Last Line: And freed the nation best beloved of god.
Subject(s): Bible; Christianity; Sex Role; Victory; Women


GLAD as the weary traveller, tempest-tost,
To reach secure at length his native coast,
Who wandering long o'er distant lands has sped,
The night-blast wildly howling round his head,
Known all the woes of want, and felt the storm
Of the bleak winter parch his shivering form;
The journey o'er, and every peril past,
Beholds his little cottage-home at last;
And as he sees afar the smoke curl slow,
Feels his full eyes with transport overflow;
So from the scene where death and anguish reign,
And vice and folly drench with blood the plain,
Joyful I turn, to sing how woman's praise
Availed again Jerusalem to raise,
Called forth the sanction of the despot's nod,
And freed the nation best beloved of God.

Darius gives the feast: to Persia's court,
Awed by his will, the obedient throng resort:
Attending satraps swell the prince's pride,
And vanquish'd monarchs grace their conqueror's side.
No more the warrior wears the garb of war,
Girds on the sword, or mounts the scythed car;
No more Judæa's sons dejected go,
And hang the head, and heave the sigh of wo.
From Persia's rugged hills descend the train,
From where Orontes foams along the plain,
From where Choaspes rolls his royal waves,
And India sends her sons, submissive slaves.
Thy daughters, Babylon, to grace the feast
Weave the loose robe, and paint the flowery vest;
With roseate wreaths they braid the glossy hair,
They tinge the cheek which nature formed so fair,
Learn the soft step, the soul-subduing glance,
Melt in the song, and swim adown the dance.
Exalted on the monarch's golden throne,
In royal state the fair Apame shone;
Her form of majesty, her eyes of fire,
Chill with respect, or kindle with desire.
The admiring multitude her charms adore,
And own her worthy of the crown she wore.

Now on his couch reclined Darius lay,
Tired with the toilsome pleasures of the day;
Without Judæa's watchful sons await,
To guard the sleeping pageant of the state.
Three youths were these of Judah's royal race,
Three youths whom nature dowered with every grace,
To each the form of symmetry she gave,
And haughty genius cursed each favourite slave;
These filled the cup, around the monarch kept,
Served as he spake, and guarded whilst he slept.

Yet oft for Salem's hallowed towers laid low
The sigh would heave, the unbidden tear would flow;
And when the dull and wearying round of Power
Allowed Zorobabel one vacant hour,
He loved on Babylon's high wall to roam,
And stretch the gaze towards his distant home;
Or on Euphrates' willowy banks reclined,
Hear the sad harp moan fitful to the wind.

As now the perfumed lamps stream wide their light,
And social converse cheers the livelong night,
Thus spake Zorobabel: "Too long in vain
For Zion desolate her sons complain;
In anguish worn the joyless years lag slow,
And these proud conquerors mock their captive's woe.
Whilst Cyrus triumphed here in victor state
A brighter prospect cheered our exiled fate,
Our sacred walls again he bade us raise,
And to Jehovah rear the pile of praise.
Quickly these fond hopes faded from our eyes,
As the frail sun that gilds the wintry skies,
And spreads a moment's radiance o'er the plain,
Soon hid by clouds which dim the scene again.

"Opprest by Artaxerxes' jealous reign,
We vainly pleaded here, and wept in vain.
Now when Darius, chief of mild command,
Bids joy and pleasure fill the festive land,
Still shall we droop the head in sullen grief,
And, sternly silent, shun to seek relief?
What if amid the monarch's mirthful throng
Our harps should echo to the cheerful song?

"Fair is the occasion," thus the one replied,
"Now then let all our tuneful skill be tried.
While the gay courtiers quaff the smiling bowl,
And wine's strong fumes inspire the maddened soul,
Where all around is merriment, be mine
To strike the lute, and praise the power of wine."

"And while," his friend replied, "in state alone,
Lord of the earth, Darius fills the throne,
Be yours the mighty power of wine to sing,
My lute shall sound the praise of Persia's king."

To them Zorobabel: "On themes like these
Seek ye the monarch of mankind to please;
To wine superior, on to power's strong arms,
Be mine to sing resistless woman's charms.
To him victorious in the rival lays
Shall just Darius give the meed of praise;
The purple robe his honoured frame shall fold,
The beverage sparkle in his cup of gold;
A golden couch support his bed of rest,
The chain of honour grace his favoured breast;
His the soft turban, his the car's array,
O'er Babylon's high wall to wheel its way,
And for his wisdom seated on the throne,
For the king's cousin shall the bard be known."

Intent they meditate the future lay,
And watch impatient for the dawn of day.
The morn rose clear, and shrill were heard the flute,
The cornet, sackbut, dulcimer, and lute;
To Babylon's gay streets the throng resort,
Swarm through the gates, and fill the festive court.

High on his throne Darius towered in pride,
The fair Apame graced the sovereign's side;
And now she smiled, and now with mimic frown
Placed on her brow the monarch's sacred crown.
In transport o'er her faultness form he bends,
Loves every look, and every act commends.

And now Darius bids the herald call
Judæa's bard to grace the thronging hall.
Husht is each sound—the attending crowd are mute,
The Hebrew lightly strikes the cheerful lute:

When the traveller on his way,
Who has toiled the livelong day,
Feels around on every side
The chilly mists of eventide,
Fatigued and faint his weary mind
Recurs to all he leaves behind;
He thinks upon the well-trimmed hearth,
The evening hour of social mirth,
And her who at departing day
Weeps for her husband far away;
O give to him the flowing bowl,
Bid it renovate his soul;
Then shall sorrow sink to sleep,
And he who wept no more shall weep;
For his care-clouded brow shall clear,
And his glad eye shall sparkle through the tear.

When the poor man heart-opprest
Betakes him to his evening rest,
And worn with labour thinks in sorrow
Of the labour of to-morrow;
When sadly musing on his lot
He hies him to his joyless cot,
And loathes to meet his children there,
The rivals for his scanty fare;
O give to him the flowing bowl,
Bid it renovate his soul;
The generous juice with magic power
Shall cheat with happiness the hour,
And with each warm affection fill
The heart by want and wretchedness made chill.

When, at the dim close of day,
The captive loves alone to stray
Along the haunts recluse and rude
Of sorrow and of solitude;
When he sits with moveless eye
To mark the lingering radiance die,
And lets distempered fancy roam
Amid the ruins of his home,—
O give to him the flowing bowl,
Bid it renovate his soul;
The bowl shall better thoughts bestow,
And lull to rest his wakeful woe,
And joy shall bless the evening hour,
And make the captive fortune's conqueror.

When the wearying cares of state
Oppress the monarch with their weight,
When from his pomp retired alone
He feels the duties of the throne,
Feels that the multitude below
Depend on him for weal or woe;
When his powerful will may bless
A realm with peace and happiness,
Or with desolating breath
Breathe ruin round, and woe, and death:
O give to him the flowing bowl,
Bid it humanize his soul;
He shall not feel the empire's weight,
He shall not feel the cares of state,
The bowl shall each dark thought beguile,
And nations live and prosper from his smile.

Husht was the lute, the Hebrew ceased the song,
Long peals of plaudits echoed from the throng;
Each tongue the liberal words of praise repaid,
On every cheek a smile applauding played;
The rival bard approached, he struck the string,
And poured the loftier song to Persia's king.

Why should the wearying cares of state
Oppress the monarch with their weight?
Alike to him if peace shall bless
The multitude with happiness;
Alike to him if phrensied war
Careers triumphant on the embattled plain
And rolling on o'er myriads slain,
With gore and wounds shall clog his scythed car.
What though the tempest rage! no sound
Of the deep thunder shakes his distant throne,
And the red flash that spreads destruction round,
Reflects a glorious splendour on the crown.

Where is the man who, with ennobling pride,
Beholds not his own nature? where is he
Who without awe can see
The mysteries of the human mind,
The miniature of Deity?
For man the vernal clouds descending
Shower down their fertilizing rain,
For man the ripened harvest bending
Waves with soft murmur o'er the plenteous plain.
He spreads the sail on high,
The rude gale wafts him o'er the main;
For him the winds of heaven subservient blow,
Earth teems for him, for him the waters flow,
He thinks, and wills, and acts, a Deity below!
Where is the king who, with elating pride,
Sees not this man—this godlike man his slave?
Mean are the mighty by the monarch's side,
Alike the wise, alike the brave
With timid step and pale, advance,
And tremble at the royal glance;
Suspended millions watch his breath
Whose smile is happiness, whose frown is death.

Why goes the peasant from that little cot,
Where peace and love have blest his humble life?
In vain his agonizing wife
With tears bedews her husband's face,
And clasps him in a long and last embrace;
In vain his children round his bosom creep,
And weep to see their mother weep,
Fettering their father with their little arms.
What are to him the war's alarms?
What are to him the distant foes?
He at the earliest dawn of day
To daily labour went his way;
And when he saw the sun decline,
He sat in peace beneath his vine.
The king commands, the peasant goes,
From all he loved on earth he flies,
And for his monarch toils, and fights, and bleeds, and dies.

What though yon city's castled wall
Cast o'er the darkened plain its crested shade?
What though their priests in earnest terror call
On all their host of gods to aid?
Vain is the bulwark, vain the tower;
In vain her gallant youths expose
Their breasts, a bulwark, to the foes.
In vain at that tremendous hour,
Clasped in the savage soldier's reeking arms,
Shrieks to tame Heaven the violated maid.
By the rude hand of ruin scattered round
Their moss-grown towers shall spread the desert ground.
Low shall the mouldering palace lie,
Amid the princely halls the grass wave high,
And through the shattered roof descend the inclement sky.

Gay o'er the embattled plain
Moves yonder warrior train,
Their banners wanton on the morning gale!
Full on their bucklers beams the rising ray,
Their glittering helms give glories to the day,
The shout of war rings echoing o'er the vale:
Far reaches as the aching eye can strain
The splendid horror of their wide array.
Ah! not in vain expectant, o'er
Their glorious pomp the vultures soar!
Amid the conqueror's palace high
Shall sound the song of victory:
Long after journeying o'er the plain
The traveller shall with startled eye
See their white bones then blanched by many a winter sky.

Lord of the earth! we will not raise
The temple to thy bounded praise.
For thee no victim need expire,
For thee no altar blaze with hallowed fire!
The burning city flames for thee—
Thine altar is the field of victory!
Thy sacred Majesty to bless
Man a self-offered victim freely flies.
To thee he sacrifices happiness
And peace, and love's endearing ties.
To thee a slave he lives, to thee a slave he dies.

Husht was the lute, the Hebrew ceased to sing,
The shout rushed forth—For ever live the king!
Loud was the uproar, as when Rome's decree
Pronounced Achaia once again was free;
Assembled Greece enrapt with fond belief
Heard the false boon, and blessed the villain chief;
Each breast with freedom's holy ardour glows,
From every voice the cry of rapture rose;
Their thundering clamours burst the astonished sky,
And birds o'erpassing hear, and drop, and die.
Thus o'er the Persian dome their plaudits ring,
And the high hall re-echoed—Live the king!
The mutes bowed reverent down before their lord,
The assembled satraps envied and adored,
Joy sparkled in the monarch's conscious eyes,
And his pleased pride already doomed the prize.
Silent they saw Zorobabel advance:
Quick on Apame shot his timid glance,
With downward eye he paused a moment mute,
And with light finger touched the softer lute.
Apame knew the Hebrew's grateful cause,
And bent her head, and sweetly smiled applause.

Why is the warrior's cheek so red?
Why downward drops his musing head?
Why that slow step, that faint advance,
That keen yet quick retreating glance?
That crested hand in war towered high,
No backward glance disgraced that eye,
No flushing fear that cheek o'erspread
When stern he strode o'er heaps of dead:
Strange tumult now his bosom moves—
The warrior fears because he loves.

Why does the youth delight to rove
Amid the dark and lonely grove?
Why in the throng where all are gay,
His wandering eye with meaning fraught,
Sits he alone in silent thought?
Silent he sits; for far away
His passioned soul delights to stray;
Recluse he roves, and strives to shun
All human-kind because he loves but One!

Yes, King of Persia, thou art blest;
But not because the sparkling bowl
To rapture lifts thy wakened soul.
But not because of power possest,
Not that the nations dread thy nod,
And princes reverence thee their earthly God.
Even on a monarch's solitude
Care, the black spectre, will intrude,
The bowl brief pleasure can bestow,
The purple cannot shield from woe.
But, King of Persia, thou art blest,
For Heaven, who raised thee thus the world above,
Has made thee happy in Apame's love!

Oh! I have seen his fond looks trace
Each angel feature of her face,
Rove o'er her form with eager eye,
And sigh and gaze, and gaze and sigh.
Lo! from his brow with mimic frown
Apame takes the sacred crown;
Her faultless form, her lovely face
Add to the diadem new grace:
And subject to a woman's laws
Darius sees and smiles applause!

He ceased, and silent still remained the throng,
Whilst rapt attention owned the power of song.
Then loud as when the wintry whirlwinds blow,
From every voice the thundering plaudits flow;
Darius smiled, Apame's sparkling eyes
Glanced on the king, and woman won the prize.

Now silent sat the expectant crowd: Alone
The victor Hebrew gazed not on the throne;
With deeper hue his cheek distempered glows,
With statelier stature loftier now he rose;
Heavenward he gazed, regardless of the throng,
And poured with awful voice sublimer song.

Ancient of Days! Eternal Truth! one hymn,
One holier strain the bard shall raise to thee,
Thee powerful! thee benevolent! thee just!
Friend! Father! all in all! the vine's rich blood,
The monarch's might, and women's conquering charms,
These shall we praise alone! O ye who sit
Beneath your vine, and quaff at evening hour
The healthful bowl, remember Him whose dews,
Whose rains, whose sun, matured the growing fruit,
Creator and Preserver! reverence Him,
O Thou, who from Thy throne dispensest life
And death, for He has delegated power,
And thou shalt one day, at the throne of God,
Render most strict account! O ye who gaze
Enrapt on beauty's fascinating form,
Gaze on with love, and loving beauty, learn
To shun abhorrent all the mental eye
Beholds deformed and foul; for so shall love
Climb to the source of virtue. God of truth!
All-just! all-mighty! I should ill deserve
Thy noblest gift, the gift divine of song,

If, so content with ear-deep melodies
To please all profitless, I did not pour
Severer strains; of truth—eternal truth,
Unchanging justice, universal love.
Such strains awake the soul to loftiest thought;
Such strains the blessed spirits of the good
Waft, grateful incense! to the halls of Heaven.

The dying notes still murmured on the string,
When from his throne arose the raptured king.
About to speak he stood, and waved his hand,
And all expectant sat the obedient band.

Then just and generous, thus the monarch cries,
Be thine, Zorobabel, the well-earned prize.
The purple robe of state thy form shall fold,
The beverage sparkle in thy cup of gold;
The golden couch, the car, and honoured chain,
Requite the merits of thy favoured strain,
And raised supreme the ennobled race among,
Be called my cousin, for the victor song.
Nor these alone the victor song shall bless,
Ask what thou wilt, and what thou wilt possess."

"Fallen is Jerusalem!" the Hebrew cries,
And patriot anguish fills his streaming eyes,
"Hurled to the earth, by rapine's vengeful rod,
Polluted lies the temple of our God.
Far in a foreign land, her sons remain,
Hear the keen taunt, and drag the captive chain;
In fruitless woe they wear the wearying years,
And steep the bread of bitterness in tears.
O monarch, greatest, mildest, best of men,
Restore us to those ruined walls again!
Allow our race to rear that sacred dome,
To live in liberty, and die at home."

So spake Zorobabel.—Thus woman's praise
Availed again Jerusalem to raise,
Called forth the sanction of the despot's nod,
And freed the nation best beloved of God.





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