A Tale of the Tauride (1824)
Mute sat Giray, with downcast eye,
As though some spell in sorrow bound him,
His slavish courtiers thronging nigh,
In sad expectance stood around him.
The lips of all had silence sealed,
Whilst, bent on him, each look observant,
Saw grief's deep trace and passion fervent
Upon his gloomy brow revealed.
But the proud Khan his dark eye raising,
And on the courtiers fiercely gazing,
Gave signal to them to begone!
The chief, unwitnessed and alone,
Now yields him to his bosom's smart,
Deeper upon his brow severe
Is traced the anguish of his heart;
As full fraught clouds on mirrors clear
Reflected terrible appear!
What fills that haughty soul with pain?
What thoughts such madd'ning tumults cause?
With Russia plots he war again?
Would he to Poland dictate laws?
Say, is the sword of vengeance glancing?
Does bold revolt claim nature's right?
Do realms oppressed alarm excite?
Or sabres of fierce foes advancing?
Ah no! no more his proud steed prancing
Beneath him guides the Khan to war,--
Such thoughts his mind has banished far.
Has treason scaled the harem's wall,
Whose height might treason's self appal,
And slavery's daughter fled his power,
To yield her to the daring Giaour?
No! pining in his harem sadly,
No wife of his would act so madly;
To wish or think they scarcely dare;
By wretches, cold and heartless, guarded,
Hope from each breast so long discarded;
Treason could never enter there.
unto none revealed,
They bloom within the harem's towers,
As in a hot-house bloom the flowers
Which erst perfumed Arabia's field.
To them the days in sameness dreary,
And months and years pass slow away,
In solitude, of life grown weary,
Well pleased they see their charms decay.
Each day, alas! the past resembling,
Time loiters through their halls and bowers;
In idleness, and fear, and trembling,
The captives pass their joyless hours.
The youngest seek, indeed, reprieve
Their hearts in striving to deceive
Into oblivion of distress,
By vain amusements, gorgeous dress,
Or by the noise of living streams,
In soft translucency meand'ring,
To lose their thoughts in fancy's dreams,
Through shady groves together wand'ring.
But the vile eunuch too is there,
In his base duty ever zealous,
Escape is hopeless to the fair
From ear so keen and eye so jealous.
He ruled the harem, order reigned
Eternal there; the trusted treasure
He watched with loyalty unfeigned,
His only law his chieftain's pleasure,
Which as the Koran he maintained.
His soul love's gentle flame derides,
And like a statue he abides
Hatred, contempt, reproaches, jests,
Nor prayers relax his temper rigid,
Nor timid sighs from tender breasts,
To all alike the wretch is frigid.
He knows how woman's sighs can melt,
Freeman and bondman he had felt
Her art in days when he was younger;
Her silent tear, her suppliant look,
Which once his heart confiding shook,
Now move not,--he believes no longer!
When, to relieve the noontide heat,
The captives go their limbs to lave,
And in sequestered, cool retreat
Yield all their beauties
to the wave,
No stranger eye their charms may greet,
But their strict guard is ever nigh,
Viewing with unimpassioned eye
These beauteous daughters of delight;
He constant, even in gloom of night,
Through the still harem cautious stealing,
Silent, o'er carpet-covered floors,
And gliding through half-opened doors,
From couch to couch his pathway feeling,
With envious and unwearied care
Watching the unsuspecting fair;
And whilst in sleep unguarded lying,
Their slightest movement, breathing, sighing,
He catches with devouring ear.
O! curst that moment inauspicious
Should some loved name in dreams be sighed,
Or youth her unpermitted wishes
To friendship venture to confide.
* * *
What pang is Giray's bosom tearing?
Extinguished is his loved chubouk
Whilst or to move or breathe scarce daring,
The eunuch watches every look;
Quick as the chief, approaching near him,
Beckons, the door is open thrown,
And Giray wanders through his harem
Where joy to him no more is known.
Near to a fountain's lucid waters
Captivity's unhappy daughters
The Khan await, in fair array,
Around on silken carpets crowded,
Viewing, beneath a heaven unclouded,
With childish joy the fishes play
And o'er the marble cleave their way,
Whose golden scales are brightly glancing,
And on the mimic billows dancing.
Now female slaves in rich attire
Serve sherbet to the beauteous fair,
Whilst plaintive strains from viewless choir
Float sudden on the ambient air.
Heaven visits man with days of sadness,
Embitters oft his nights with tears;
Blest is the Fakir who with gladness
Views Mecca in declining years.
Blest he who sees pale Death await him
On Danube's ever glorious shore;
The girls of Paradise shall greet him,
And sorrows ne'er afflict him more.
But he more blest, O beauteous Zarem!
Who quits the world and all its woes,
To clasp thy charms within the harem,
Thou lovelier than the unplucked rose!
They sing, but-where, alas! is Zarem,
Love's star, the glory of the harem?
Pallid and sad no praise she hears,
Deaf to all sounds of joy her ears,
Downcast with grief, her youthful form
Yields like the palm tree to the storm,
Fair Zarem's dreams of bliss are o'er,
Her loved Giray loves her no more!
He leaves thee! yet whose charms divine
Can equal, fair Grusinian! thine?
Shading thy brow, thy raven hair
Its lily fairness makes more fair;
Thine eyes of love appear more bright
Than noonday's beam, more dark than night;
Whose voice like thine can breathe of blisses,
Filling the heart with soft desire?
Like thine, ah! whose inflaming kisses
Can kindle passion's wildest fire?
Who that has felt thy twining arms
Could quit them for another's charms?
Yet cold, and passionless, and cruel,
Giray can thy vast love despise,
Passing the lonesome night in sighs
Heaved for another; fiercer fuel
Burns in his heart since the fair Pole
Is placed within the chief's control.
The young Maria recent war
Had borne in conquest from afar;
Not long her love-enkindling eyes
Had gazed upon these foreign skies;
Her aged father's boast and pride,
She bloomed in beauty by his side;
Each wish was granted ere expressed.
She to his heart the object dearest,
His sole desire to see her blessed;
As when the skies from clouds are clearest,
Still from her youthful heart to chase
Her childish sorrows his endeavour,
Hoping in after life that never
Her woman's duties might efface
Remembrance of her earlier hours,
But oft that fancy would retrace
Life's blissful spring-time decked in flowers.
Her form a thousand charms unfolded,
Her face by beauty's self was moulded,
Her dark blue eyes were full of fire,--
All nature's stores
on her were lavished;
The magic harp with soft desire,
When touched by her, the senses ravished.
Warriors and knights had sought in vain
Maria's virgin heart to move,
And many a youth in secret pain
Pined for her in despairing love.
But love she knew not, in her breast
Tranquil it had not yet intruded,
Her days in mirth, her nights in rest,
In her paternal halls secluded,
Passed heedless, peace her bosom's guest.
That time is past! The Tartar's force
Rushed like a torrent o'er her nation,--
Rages less fierce the conflagration
Devouring harvests in its course,--
Poland it swept with devastation,
Involving all in equal fate,
The villages, once mirthful, vanished,
From their red ruins joy was banished,
The gorgeous palace desolate!
Maria is the victor's prize;--
Within the palace chapel laid,
Slumb'ring among th'illustrious dead,
In recent tomb her father lies;
His ancestors repose around,
Long freed from life and its alarms;
With coronets and princely arms
Bedecked their monuments abound!
A base successor now holds sway,--
Maria's natal halls his hand
Tyrannic rules, and strikes dismay
And wo throughout the ravaged land.
Alas! the Princess sorrow's chalice
Is fated to the dregs to drain,
Immured in Bakchesaria's palace
She sighs for liberty in vain;
The Khan observes the maiden's pain,
His heart is at her grief afflicted,
His bosom strange emotions fill,
And least of all Maria's will
Is by the harem's laws restricted.
The hateful guard, of all the dread,
Learns silent to respect and fear her,
His eye ne'er violates her bed,
Nor day nor night he ventures near her;
To her he dares not speak rebuke,
Nor on her cast suspecting look.
Her bath she sought by none attended,
Except her chosen female slave,
The Khan to her such freedom gave;
But rarely he himself offended
By visits, the desponding fair,
Remotely lodged, none else intruded;
It seemed as though some jewel rare,
Something unearthly were secluded,
And careful kept untroubled there.
Within her chamber thus secure,
By virtue guarded, chaste and pure,
The lamp of faith, incessant burning,
The VIRGIN'S image blest illumed,
The comfort of the spirit mourning
And trust of those to sorrow doomed.
The holy symbol's face reflected
The rays of hope in splendour bright,
And the rapt soul by faith directed
To regions of eternal light.
Maria, near the VIRGIN kneeling,
In silence gave her anguish way,
Unnoticed by the crowd unfeeling,
And whilst the rest, or sad or gay,
Wasted in idleness the day,
The sacred image still concealing,
Before it pouring forth her prayer,
She watched with ever jealous care;
Even as our hearts to error given,
Yet lighted by a spark from heaven,
Howe'er from virtue's paths we swerve,
One holy feeling still preserve.
* * *
Now night invests with black apparel
Luxurious Tauride's verdant fields,
Whilst her sweet notes from groves of laurel
The plaintive Philomela yields.
But soon night's glorious queen, advancing
Through cloudless skies to the stars' song,
Scatters the hills and dales along,
The lustre of her rays entrancing.
In Bakchesaria's streets roamed free
The Tartars' wives in garb befitting,
They like unprisoned shades were flitting
From house to house their friends to see,
And while the evening hours away
In harmless sports or converse
The inmates of the harem slept;--
Still was the palace, night impending
O'er all her silent empire kept;
The eunuch guard, no more offending
The fair ones by his presence, now
Slumbered, but fear his soul attending
Troubled his rest and knit his brow;
Suspicion kept his fancy waking,
And on his mind incessant preyed,
The air the slightest murmur breaking
Assailed his ear with sounds of dread.
Now, by some noise deceitful cheated,
Starts from his sleep the timid slave,
Listens to hear the noise repeated,
But all is silent as the grave,
Save where the fountains softly sounding
Break from their marble prisons free,
Or night's sweet birds the scene surrounding
Pour forth their notes of melody:
Long does he hearken to the strain,
Then sinks fatigued in sleep again.
Luxurious East! how soft thy nights,
What magic through the soul they pour!
How fruitful they of fond delights
To those who Mahomet adore!
What splendour in each house is found,
Each garden seems enchanted ground;
Within the harem's precincts quiet
Beneath fair Luna's placid ray,
When angry feelings cease to riot
There love inspires with softer sway!
* * *
The women sleep;--but one is there
Who sleeps not; goaded by despair
Her couch she quits with dread intent,
On awful errand is she bent;
Breathless she through the door swift flying
Passes unseen; her timid feet
Scarce touch the floor, she glides so fleet.
In doubtful slumber restless lying
The eunuch thwarts the fair one's path,
Ah! who can speak his bosom's wrath?
False is the quiet sleep would throw
Around that gray and care-worn brow;
She like a spirit vanished by
Viewless, unheard as her own sigh!
* * *
The door she reaches, trembling opes,
Enters, and looks around with awe,
What sorrows, anguish, terrors, hopes,
Rushed through her heart at what she saw!
The image of the sacred maid,
The Christian's matron, reigning there,
And cross attracted first the fair,
By the dim lamp-light scarce displayed!
Oh! Grusinka, of earlier days
The vision burst upon thy soul,
The tongue long silent uttered praise,
The heart throbs high, but sin's control
Cannot escape, 'tis passion, passion sways!
The Princess in a maid's repose
Slumbered, her cheek, tinged like the rose,
By feverish thought, in beauty blooms,
And the fresh tear that stains her face
A smile of tenderness illumes.
Thus cheers the moon fair Flora's race,
When by the rain opprest they lie
The charm and grief of every eye!
It seemed as though an angel slept
From heaven descended, who, distressed,
Vented the feelings of his breast,
And for the harem's inmates wept!
Alas! poor Zarem, wretched fair,
By anguish urged to mere despair,
On bended knee, in tone subdued
And melting strain, for pity sued.
"Oh! spurn not such a suppliant's prayer!"
Her tones so sad, her sighs so deep,
Startled the Princess in her sleep;
Wond'ring, she views with dread before her
The stranger beauty, frighted hears
For mercy her soft voice implore her,
Raises her up with trembling hand,
And makes of her the quick demand,
"Who speaks? in night's still hour alone,
Wherefore art here?" "A wretched one,
To thee I come," the fair replied,
"A suitor not to be denied;
Hope, hope alone my soul sustains;
Long have I happiness enjoyed,
And lived from sorrow free and care,
But now, alas! a prey to pains
And terrors, Princess hear my prayer,
Oh! listen, or I am destroyed!
Not here beheld I first the light,
Far hence my native land, but yet
Alas! I never can forget
Objects once precious to my sight;
Well I remember towering mountains,
Snow-ridged, replete with boiling fountains,
Woods pervious scarce to wolf or deer,
Nor faith, nor manners such as here;
But, by what cruel fate o'ercome,
How I was snatched, or when, from home
I know not,--well the heaving ocean
Do I remember, and its roar,
But, ah! my heart such wild commotion
As shakes it now ne'er felt before.
I in the harem's quiet bloomed,
Tranquil myself, waiting, alas!
With willing heart what love had doomed;
Its secret wishes came to pass:
Giray his peaceful harem sought,
For feats of war no longer burned,
Nor, pleased, upon its horrors thought,
To these fair scenes again returned.
"Before the Khan with bosoms beating
We stood, timid my eyes I raised,
When suddenly our glances meeting,
I drank in rapture as I gazed;
He called me to him,--from that hour
We lived in bliss beyond the power
Of evil thought or wicked word,
The tongue of calumny unheard,
Suspicion, doubt, or jealous fear,
Of weariness alike unknown,
Princess, thou comest a captive here,
And all my joys are overthrown,
Giray with sinful passion burns,
His soul possessed of thee alone,
My tears and sighs the traitor spurns;
No more his former thoughts, nor feeling
For me now cherishes Giray,
Scarce his disgust, alas! concealing,
He from my presence hastes away.
Princess, I know the fault not thine
That Giray loves thee, oh! then hear
A suppliant wretch, nor spurn her prayer!
Throughout the harem none but thou
Could rival beauties
such as mine
Nor make him violate his vow;
Yet, Princess! in thy bosom cold
The heart to mine left thus forlorn,
The love I feel cannot be told,
For passion, Princess, was I born.
Yield me Giray then; with these tresses
Oft have his wandering fingers played,
My lips still glow with his caresses,
Snatched as he sighed, and swore, and prayed,
Oaths broken now so often plighted!
Hearts mingled once now disunited!
His treason I cannot survive;
Thou seest I weep, I bend my knee,
Ah! if to pity thou'rt alive,
My former love restore to me.
Reply not! thee I do not blame,
have bewitched Giray,
Blinded his heart to love and fame,
Then yield him up to me, I pray,
Or by contempt, repulse, or grief,
Turn from thy love th'ungenerous chief!
Swear by thy _faith_, for what though mine
Conform now to the Koran's laws,
Acknowledged here within the harem,
Princess, my mother's faith was thine,
By that faith swear to give to Zarem
Giray unaltered, as he was!
But listen! the sad prey to scorn
If I must live, Princess, have care,
A dagger still doth Zarem wear,--
I near the Caucasus was born!"
She spake, then sudden disappeared,
And left the Princess in dismay,
Who scarce knew what or why she feared;
Such words of passion till that day
She ne'er had heard. Alas! was she
To be the ruthless chieftain's prey?
Vain was all hope his grasp to flee.
Oh! God, that in some dungeon's gloom
Remote, forgotten, she had lain,
Or that it were her blessed doom
To 'scape dishonour, life, and pain!
How would Maria with delight
This world of wretchedness resign;
Vanished of youth her visions bright,
Abandoned she to fates malign!
Sinless she to the world was given,
And so remains, thus pure and fair,
Her soul is called again to heaven,
And angel joys await it there!
* * *
Days passed away; Maria slept
Peaceful, no cares disturbed her, now,--
From earth the orphan maid was swept.
But who knew when, or where, or how?
If prey to grief or pain she fell,
If slain or heaven-struck, who can tell?
She sleeps; her loss the chieftain grieves,
And his neglected harem leaves,
Flies from its tranquil precincts far,
And with his Tartars takes the field,
Fierce rushes mid the din of war,
And brave the foe that does not yield,
For mad despair hath nerved his arm,
Though in his heart is grief concealed,
With passion's hopeless transports warm.
His blade he swings aloft in air
And wildly brandishes, then low
It falls, whilst he with pallid stare
Gazes, and tears in torrents flow.
His harem by the chief deserted,
In foreign lands he warring roved,
Long nor in wish nor thought reverted
To scene once cherished and beloved.
His women to the eunuch's rage
Abandoned, pined and sank in age;
The fair Grusinian now no more
Yielded her soul to passion's power,
Her fate was with Maria's blended,
On the same night their sorrows ended;
Seized by mute guards the hapless fair
Into a deep abyss they threw,--
If vast her crime, through love's despair,
Her punishment was dreadful too!
At length th'exhausted Khan returned,
Enough of waste his sword had dealt,
The Russian cot no longer burned,
Nor Caucasus his fury felt.
In token of Maria's loss
A marble fountain he upreared
In spot recluse;--the Christian's cross
Upon the monument appeared,
(Surmounting it a crescent bright,
Emblem of ignorance and night!)
Th'inscription mid the silent waste
Not yet has time's rude hand effaced,
Still do the gurgling waters pour
Their streams dispensing sadness round,
As mothers weep for sons no more,
In never-ending sorrows drowned.
In morn fair maids, (and twilight late,)
Roam where this monument appears,
And pitying poor Maria's fate
Entitle it the FOUNT OF TEARS!
* * *
My native land abandoned long,
I sought this realm of love and song.
Through Bakchesaria's palace wandered,
Upon its vanished greatness pondered;
All silent now those spacious halls,
And courts deserted, once so gay
With feasters thronged within their walls,
Carousing after battle fray.
Even now each desolated room
And ruined garden luxury breathes,
The fountains play, the roses bloom,
The vine unnoticed twines its wreaths,
Gold glistens, shrubs exhale perfume.
The shattered casements still are there
Within which once, in days gone by,
Their beads of amber chose the fair,
And heaved the unregarded sigh;
The cemetery there I found,
Of conquering khans the last abode,
Columns with marble turbans crowned
Their resting-place the traveller showed,
And seemed to speak fate's stern decree,
"As they are now such all shall be!"
Where now those chiefs? the harem where?
Alas! how sad scene once so fair!
Now breathless silence chains the air!
But not of this my mind was full,
The roses' breath, the fountains flowing,
The sun's last beam its radiance throwing
Around, all served my heart to lull
Into forgetfulness, when lo!
A maiden's shade, fairer than snow,
Across the court swift winged its flight;--
Whose shade, oh friends! then struck my sight?
Whose beauteous image hovering near
Filled me with wonder and with fear?
Maria's form beheld I then?
Or was it the unhappy Zarem,
Who jealous thither came again
To roam through the deserted harem?
That tender look I cannot flee,
Those charms still earthly still I see!
* * *
He who the muse and peace adores,
Forgetting glory, love, and gold,
Again thy ever flowery shores
Soon, Salgir! joyful shall behold;
The bard shall wind thy rocky ways
Filled with fond sympathies, shall view
Tauride's bright skies and waves of blue
With greedy and enraptured gaze.
Enchanting region! full of life
Thy hills, thy woods, thy leaping streams,
Ambered and rubied vines, all rife
With pleasure, spot of fairy dreams!
Valleys of verdure, fruits, and flowers,
Cool waterfalls and fragrant bowers!
All serve the traveller's heart to fill
With joy as he in hour of morn
By his accustomed steed is borne
In safety o'er dell, rock, and hill,
Whilst the rich herbage, bent with dews,
Sparkles and rustles on the ground,
As he his venturous path pursues
Where AYOUDAHGA'S crags surround!
 A Turkish pipe.