Peru, A Poem: In Six Cantos

Helen Maria Williams

 


 

This internet edition of Peru is based on Poems, by Helen Maria Williams, in Two Volumes (1786)


TO HER MAJESTY.

MADAM, I am too sensible of the distinguished honour conferred upon me, in your Majesty's gracious protection of these Poems, to abuse it by adopting the common strain of dedication. That praise corresponds best to your Majesty's generous feelings, which is poured without restraint from the heart, and is repeated where you cannot hear. I suppress therefore, in delicacy to those feelings, the warmth of my own, and subscribe myself,

MADAM,

With profound respect,

Your MAJESTY'S Devoted servant,

HELEN MARIA WILLIAMS.

Williams image

PREFACE.

The apprehension which it becomes me to feel, in submitting these Poems to the judgment of the Public, may perhaps plead my excuse, for detaining the reader to relate, that they were written under the disadvantages of a confined education, and at an age too young for the attainment of an accurate taste. My first production, the Legendary Tale of Edwin and Eltruda, was composed to amuse some solitary hours, and without any view to publication. Being shewn to Dr. Kippis, he declared that it deserved to be committed to the press, and offered to take upon himself the task of introducing it to the world. I could not hesitate to publish a composition which had received the sanction of his approbation. By the favourable reception this little poem met with, I was encouraged still farther to meet the public eye, in the "Ode on the Peace," and the poem which has the title of "Peru." These poems are inserted in the present collection, but not exactly in their original form. I have felt it my duty to exert my endeavours in such a revision and improvement of them, as may render them somewhat more worthy of perusal. It will, I am afraid, still be found, that there are several things in them which would shrink at the approach of severe criticism. The other poems that now for the first time appear in print, are offered with a degree of humility rather increased than diminished, by the powerful patronage with which they have been honoured, in consequence of the character given of them by partial friends. Knowing how strongly affection can influence opinion, the kindness which excites my warmest gratitude has not inspired me with confidence.


 

When I survey such an evidence of the zeal of my friends to serve me, as the following honourable and extensive list affords, I have cause for exultation in having published this work by subscription. They who know my disposition, will readily believe that the tear which fills my eye, while I thank them for their generous exertions, flows not from the consideration of the benefits that have arisen from their friendship. It is to that friendship itself, that my heart pays a tribute of affection which I will not attempt to express—for my pen is unfaithful to my purpose.—While I am employed in testifying my thankfulness for the favours I have received, it is impossible that I should forget how much I owe to one Gentleman in particular, whose exertions in my behalf, though I was a stranger to him, have been so marked, so generous, and indeed so unexampled, that it is a very painful task which his delicacy has imposed upon me, in not permitting me to mention his name. But such goodness cannot be concealed. The gratitude of my own heart has proclaimed it to my private friends; and the noble and honourable subscribers his zeal has procured, cannot avoid being sensible to whom I am indebted for so illustrious a patronage.


 

PERU.

A POEM,

IN SIX CANTOS.

 

TO MRS. MONTAGU.

While, bending at thy honour'd shrine, the Muse

Pours, MONTAGU, to thee her votive strain,

Thy heart will not her simple notes refuse,

Or chill her timid soul with cold disdain.

 

O might a transient spark of genius fire

The fond effusions of her fearful youth;

Then should thy virtues live upon her lyre,

And give to harmony the charm of truth.

 

Vain wish! they ask not the imperfect lay,

The weak applause her trembling accents breathe;

With whose pure radiance glory blends her ray,

Whom fame has circled with her fairest wreathe.

 

Thou, who while seen with graceful step to tread

Grandeur's enchanted round, can'st meekly pause

To rend the veil obscurity had spread

Where his lone sigh deserted Genius draws;

 

To lead his drooping spirit to thy fane,

Where attic joy the social circle warms;

Where science loves to pour her hallow'd strain,

Where wit, and wisdom, blend their sep'rate charms.

 

And lure to cherish intellectual powers,

To bid the vig'rous tides of genius roll,

Unfold, in fair expansion, fancy's flowers,

And wake the latent energies of soul;

 

Far other homage claims than flatt'ry brings

The little triumphs of the proud to grace:

For deeds like these a purer incense springs,

Warm from the swelling heart its source we trace!

 

Yet not to foster the rich gifts of mind

Alone can all thy lib'ral cares employ;

Not to the few those gifts adorn, confin'd,

They spread an ampler sphere of genuine joy.

 

While pleasure's lucid star illumes thy bower,

Thy pity views the distant storm that bends

Where want unshelter'd wastes the ling'ring hour;—

And meets the blessing that to heav'n ascends!

 

For this, while fame thro' each successive age

On her exulting lip thy name shall breathe;

While woman, pointing to thy finish'd page,

Claims from imperious man the critic wreathe;

 

Truth on her spotless record shall enroll

Each moral beauty to her spirit dear;

Paint in bright characters each grace of soul—

While admiration pours a gen'rous tear.

 

HELEN MARIA WILLIAMS.

London, April the 24th, 1784.


 

ADVERTISEMENT.

That no readers of the following work may entertain expectations respecting it which it would ill satisfy, it is necessary to acquaint them, that the author has not had the presumption even to attempt a full, historical narration of the fall of the Peruvian empire. To describe that important event with accuracy, and to display with clearness and force the various causes which combined to produce it, would require all the energy of genius, and the most glowing colours of imagination. Conscious of her utter inability to execute such a design, she has only aimed at a simple detail of some few incidents that make a part of that romantic story; where the unparalleled sufferings of an innocent and amiable people, form the most affecting subjects of true pathos, while their climate, totally unlike our own, furnishes new and ample materials for poetic description.


 

PERU.

CANTO THE FIRST.

 

THE ARGUMENT.

General description of the country of Peru, and of its animal, and vegetable productions—the virtues of the people—character of Ataliba, their Monarch—his love for Alzira—their nuptials celebrated— character of Zorai, her father—descent of the genius of Peru— prediction of the fate of that empire.

 

Where the pacific deep in silence laves

The western shore, with slow and languid waves,

There, lost Peruvia, rose thy cultur'd scene,

The wave an emblem of thy joy serene:

There nature ever in luxuriant showers (5)

Pours from her treasures, the perennial flowers;

In its dark foliage plum'd, the tow'ring pine

Ascends the mountain, at her call divine;

The palm's wide leaf its brighter verdure spreads,

And the proud cedars bow their lofty heads; (10)

The citron, and the glowing orange spring,

And on the gale a thousand odours fling;

The guava, and the soft ananas bloom,

The balsam ever drops a rich perfume:

The bark, reviving shrub! Oh not in vain (15)

Thy rosy blossoms tinge Peruvia's plain;

Ye fost'ring gales, around those blossoms blow,

Ye balmy dew-drops, o'er the tendrils flow.

Lo, as the health-diffusing plant aspires,

Disease, and pain, and hov'ring death retires; (20)

Affection sees new lustre light the eye,

And feels her vanish'd joys again are nigh.

The Pacos[1], and Vicunnas[2] sport around,

And the meek Lamas[3], burden'd, press the ground.

Amid the vocal groves, the feather'd throng (25)

Pour to the list'ning breeze their native song;

The mocking-bird her varying note essays,

The vain macaw his glitt'ring plume displays.

While spring's warm ray the mild suffusion sheds,

The plaintive humming-bird his pinion spreads; (30)

His wings their colours to the sun unfold,

The vivid scarlet, and the blazing gold;

He sees the flower which morning tears bedew,

Sinks on its breast, and drinks th' ambrosial dew:

Then seeks with fond delight the social nest (35)

Parental care has rear'd, and love has blest:

The drops that on the blossom's light leaf hung,

He bears exulting to his tender young;

The grateful joy his happy accents prove,

Is nature, smiling on her works of love. (40)

Nor less, Peruvia, for thy favour'd clime

The virtues rose, unsullied, and sublime:

There melting charity, with ardor warm,

Spread her wide mantle o'er th' unshelter'd form;

Cheer'd with the festal song, her lib'ral toils, (45)

While in the lap of age[4] she pour'd the spoils.

Simplicity in every vale was found,

The meek nymph smil'd, with reeds, and rushes crown'd;

And innocence in light, transparent vest,

Mild visitant! the gentle region blest: (50)

As from her lip enchanting accents part,

They thrill with pleasure the reponsive heart;

And o'er the ever-blooming vales around,

Soft echoes waft each undulating sound.

This happy region Ataliba sway'd, 55

Whose mild behest the willing heart obey'd;

Descendant of a scepter'd, sacred race,

Whose origin from glowing suns they trace;

And as o'er nature's form, the solar light

Diffuses beauty, and inspires delight; 60

So, o'er Peruvia flow'd the lib'ral ray

Of mercy, lovelier than the smile of day!

In Ataliba's pure and gen'rous heart

The virtues bloom'd without the aid of art.

His gentle spirit, love's soft power possest, 65

And stamp'd Alzira's image on his breast;

Alzira, form'd each tenderness to prove,

That sooths in friendship, and that charms in love.

But, ah! in vain the drooping muse would paint

(Her accents languid, and her colours faint,) 70

How dear the joys love's early wishes sought,

How mild his spirit, and how pure his thought,

Ere wealth in sullen pomp was seen to rise,

And break the artless bosom's holy ties;

Blast with his touch affection's op'ning flower, 75

And chill the hand that rear'd her blissful bower.

Fortune, light nymph! still bless the sordid heart,

Still to thy venal slave thy gifts impart;

Bright in his view may all thy meteors shine,

And lost Peruvia open every mine; 80

For him the robe of eastern pomp display,

The gems that ripen in the torrid ray;

Collected may their guilty lustre stream

Full on the eye that courts the partial beam:

But Love, oh Love! should haply this late hour, 85

One softer mind avow thy genuine power;

Breathe at thy altar nature's simple strain,

And strew the heart's pure incense on thy fane;

Give to that bosom scorning fortune's toys,

Thy sweet enchantments, and thy virtuous joys; 90

Bid pleasure bloom thro' many a circling year,

Which love shall wing, and constancy endear;

Far from this happy clime avert the woes,

The heart from alienated fondness knows;

And from that agony the spirit save, 95

When unrelenting yawns the op'ning grave;

When death dissolves the ties for ever dear;

When frantic passion pours her parting tear;

With all the cherish'd pains affection feels,

Hangs on the quiv'ring lip, that silence seals; 100

Views fondness struggling in the closing eye,

And marks it mingling in the falt'ring sigh;

As the lov'd form, while folded to her breast,

On earth's cold bosom seeks more lasting rest!

Leave her fond soul in hopeless griefs to mourn, 105

Clasp the pale corse, and bathe th' unconscious urn;—

Mild, to the wounds that pierce her bleeding heart,

Nature's expiring pang, and death's keen dart.

Pure was the lustre of the orient ray,

That joyful wak'd Alzira's nuptial day: 110

Her auburn hair, spread loosely to the wind,

The virgin train, with rosy chaplets bind;

The scented flowers that form her bridal wreathe,

A deeper hue, a richer fragrance breathe.

The gentle tribe now sought the hallow'd fane, 115

Where warbling vestals pour'd the choral strain:

There aged Zorai, his Alzira prest

With love parental, to his anxious breast:

Priest of the sun, within the sacred shrine

His fervent spirit breath'd the strain divine; 120

With glowing hand, the guiltless off'ring spread,

With pious zeal the pure libation shed;

Nor vain the incense of erroneous praise

When meek devotion's soul the tribute pays;

On wings of purity behold it rise, 125

While bending mercy wafts it to the skies!

Peruvia! oh delightful land; in vain

The virtues flourish'd on thy beauteous plain;

In vain sweet pleasure there was seen to move,

And wore the smile of peace, the bloom of love; 130

For soon shall burst the unrelenting storm,

Rend her soft robe, and crush her tender form:

Peruvia! soon the fatal hour shall rise,

The hour despair shall waste in tears and sighs;

Fame shall record the horrors of thy fate, 135

And distant ages weep for ills so great.

Now o'er the deep chill night her mantle flung,

Dim on the wave the moon's faint crescent hung;

Peruvia's Genius sought the liquid plain,

Sooth'd by the languid murmurs of the main; 140

When sudden clamour the illusion broke,

Wild on the surface of the deep it spoke;

A rising breeze expands her flowing veil,

Aghast with fear, she spy'd a flying sail—

The lofty mast impends, the banner waves, 145

The ruffled surge th' incumbent vessel laves;

With eager eye he views her destin'd foe

Lead to her peaceful shores th' advent'rous prow;

Trembling she knelt, with wild disorder'd air,

And pour'd with frantic energy her pray'r— 150

"Oh, ye avenging spirits of the deep!

"Mount the blue lightning's wing, o'er ocean sweep;

"Loud from your central caves the shell resound,

"That summons death to your abyss profound;

"Call the pale spectre from his dark abode, 155

"To print the billow, swell the black'ning flood,

"Rush o'er the waves, the rough'ning deep deform,

"Howl in the blast, and animate the storm—

"Relentless powers! for not one quiv'ring breeze

"Has ruffled yet the surface of the seas— 160

"Swift from your rocky steeps, ye condors[5] stray,

"Wave your black plumes, and cleave th' aerial way;

"Proud in terrific force, your wings expand,

"Press the firm earth, and darken all the strand;

"Bid the stern foe retire with wild affright, 165

"And shun the region veil'd in partial night.

"Vain hope, devoted land! I read thy doom,

"My sad prophetic soul can pierce the gloom;

"I see, I see my lov'd, my favour'd clime,

"Consum'd, and fading in its early prime. 170

"But not in vain the beauteous realm shall bleed,

"Too late shall Europe's race deplore the deed.

"Region abhorr'd! be gold the tempting bane,

"The curse that desolates thy hostile plain;

"May pleasure tinge with venom'd drops the bowl, 175

"And luxury unnerve the sick'ning soul."—

Ah, not in vain she pour'd th' impassion'd tear!

Ah, not in vain she call'd the powers to hear!

When borne from lost Peruvia's bleeding land,

The guilty treasures beam'd on Europe's strand; 180

Each sweet affection fled the tainted shore,

And virtue wander'd, to return no more.

  1. The pacos is a domestic animal of Peru. Its wool resembles the colour of dried roses.
  2. The vicunnas are a species of wild pacos.
  3. The lamas are employed as mules, in carrying burdens.
  4. The people cheerfully assisted in reaping those fields, whose produce was given to old persons, past their labour.
  5. The condor is an inhabitant of the Andes. Its wings, when expanded, are said to be eighteen feet wide.

 

PERU.

CANTO THE SECOND.

THE ARGUMENT.

Pizarro, a Spanish Captain, lands with his forces—his meeting with Ataliba—its unhappy consequences—Zorai dies—Ataliba imprisoned, and strangled—Alzira's despair, and madness.

Flush'd with impatient hope, the martial band

By stern Pizarro led, approach the land:

No terrors arm the hostile brow, for guile

Charms to betray, in Candour's open smile.

Too artless for distrust, the monarch springs 5

To meet his latent foe on friendship's wings:

On as he moves, with glitt'ring splendours crown'd,

His feather'd chiefs the golden throne surround;

The waving canopy its plume displays,

Whose varied hues reflect the morning rays; 10

With native grace he hails the warrior train,

Who stood majestic on Peruvia's plain,

In all the savage pomp of armour drest,

The radiant helmet, and the nodding crest.

Yet themes of joy Pizarro's lips impart, 15

And charm with eloquence the simple heart;

Unfolding to the monarch's wond'ring thought,

All that inventive arts the rude have taught:

And now he bids the purer spirit rise

Above the circle of surrounding skies; 20

Presents the page that shed religion's light

O'er the dark mist of intellectual night;

While thrill'd with awe the monarch trembling stands,

He dropp'd the hallow'd volume from his hands. [1]

Sudden, while frantic zeal each breast inspires, 25

And shudd'ring demons fan the impious fires,

The bloody signal waves, the banners play,

The naked sabres flash their streaming ray;

The martial trumpet's animating sound,

And thund'ring cannon, rend the vault around; 30

While fierce in sanguine rage the sons of Spain

Rush on Peru's unarm'd, devoted train;

The fiends of slaughter urg'd their dire career,

And virtue's guardian spirits dropp'd a tear.—

Mild Zorai fell, deploring human strife, 35

And clos'd with prayer his consecrated life.

In vain Peruvia's chiefs undaunted stood,

Shield their lov'd prince, and bathe his robes in blood;

Touch'd with heroic ardor, rush around,

And high of soul, receive each fatal wound: 40

Dragg'd from his throne, and hurry'd o'er the plain,

The wretched monarch swells the captive train;

With iron grasp, the frantic prince they bear,

And bless the omen of his wild despair.

Deep in the gloomy dungeon's lone domain, 45

Lost Ataliba wore the galling chain;

The earth's cold bed refus'd oblivious rest,

While throb'd the pains of thousands at his breast;

Alzira's desolating moan he hears,

And with the monarch's, blends the lover's tears—50

Soon had Alzira felt affliction's dart

Pierce her soft soul, and rend her bleeding heart;

Its quick pulsations paus'd, and, chill'd with dread,

A livid hue her fading cheek o'erspread;

No tear she gave to love, she breath'd no sigh,55

Her lips were mute, and clos'd her languid eye;

Fainter, and slower heav'd her shiv'ring breast,

And her calm'd passions seem'd in death to rest!—

At length reviv'd, mid rising heaps of slain

She prest with trembling step, the crimson plain; 60

The dungeon's gloomy depth she fearless sought,

For love, with scorn of danger arm'd her thought:

The cell that holds her captive lord she gains,

Her tears fall quiv'ring on a lover's chains!

Too tender spirit, check the filial tear, 65

A sympathy more soft, a tie more dear

Shall claim the drops that frantic passion sheds,

When the rude storm its darkest pinion spreads.

Lo! bursting the deep cell where mis'ry lay,

The human vultures seize the dove-like prey! 70

In vain her treasur'd wealth Peruvia gave,

This dearer treasure from their grasp to save:

Alzira! lo, the ruthless murd'rers come,

This moment seals thy Ataliba's doom.

Ah, what avails the shriek that anguish pours! 75

The look, that mercy's lenient aid implores!

Torn from thy clinging arms, thy throbbing breast,

The fatal cord his agony supprest:

In vain the livid corse she fondly clasps,

And pours her sorrows o'er the form she grasps— 80

The murd'rers now their struggling victim tear

From the lost object of her keen despair:

The swelling pang unable to sustain,

Distraction throbb'd in every beating vein:

Its sudden tumults seize her yielding soul, 85

And in her eye distemper'd glances roll—

"They come! (the mourner cried, with panting breath,)

"To give the lost Alzira rest in death!

"One moment more, ye bloody forms, bestow,

"One moment more for ever cures my woe— 90

"Lo where the purple evening sheds her light

"On blest remains! oh hide them, pitying night!

"Slow in the breeze I see the verdure wave

"That shrouds with tufted grass, my lover's grave:

"There, on its wand'ring wing in mildness blows 95

"The mournful gale, nor wakes his deep repose—

"And see, yon hoary form still lingers there!

"Dishevell'd by rude winds his silver hair;

"O'er his chill'd bosom falls the winter's rain,

"I feel the big drops on my wither'd brain: 100

"Not for himself that tear his bosom steeps,

"For his lost child it flows, for me he weeps!

"No more the dagger's point shall pierce thy breast,

"For calm and lovely is thy silent rest;

"Yet still in dust these eyes shall see thee roll, 105

"Still the sad thought shall waste Alzira's soul—

"What bleeding phantom moves along the storm?

"It is—it is my lover's well-known form!

"Tho' the dim moon is veil'd, his robes of light

"Tinge the dark clouds, and gild the mist of night: 110

"Approach! Alzira's breast no terrors move,

"Her fears are all for ever lost in love!

"Safe on the hanging cliff I now can rest,

"And press its pointed pillow to my breast—

"He weeps! in heav'n he weeps! I feel his tear— 115

"It chills my trembling heart, yet still 'tis dear—

"To him all joyless are the realms above,

"That pale look speaks of pity, and of love!

"My love ascends! he soars in azure light;

"Stay tender spirit—cruel! stay thy flight— 120

"Again descend in yonder rolling cloud,

"And veil Alzira in thy misty shroud—

"He comes! my love has plac'd the dagger near,

"And on its hallow'd point has dropp'd a tear"—

As roll'd her wand'ring glances wide around 125

She snatch'd a reeking sabre from the ground;

Firmly her lifted hand the weapon press'd,

And deep she plung'd it in her panting breast:

"'Tis but a few short moments that divide

"Alzira from her love!"—she said—and died. 130

  1. "Sudden, while frantic zeal, &c." PIZARRO, who during a long conference, had with difficulty restrained his soldiers, eager to seize the rich spoils of which they had now so near a view, immediately gave the signal of assault. At once the martial music struck up, the cannon and muskets began to fire, the horse sallied out fiercely to the charge, the infantry rushed on sword in hand. The Peruvians, astonished at the suddenness of an attack which they did not expect, and dismayed with the destructive effects of the fire-arms, fled with universal consternation on every side. PIZARRO, at the head of his chosen band, advanced directly towards the Inca; and though his Nobles crowded around him with officious zeal, and fell in numbers at his feet, while they vied one with another in sacrificing their own lives, that they might cover the sacred person of their Sovereign, the Spaniards soon penetrated to the royal seat; and PIZARRO seizing the Inca by the arm, dragged him to the ground, and carried him a prisoner to his quarters.—Robertson's History of America.

 

PERU.

CANTO THE THIRD.

THE ARGUMENT.

Pizarro takes possession of Cuzco—the fanaticism of Valverde, a Spanish priest—its dreadful effects—A Peruvian priest put to the torture—his daughter's distress—he is rescued by Las Casas, an amiable Spanish ecclesiastic, and led to a place of safety, where he dies—his daughter's narration of her sufferings—her death.

Now stern Pizarro seeks the distant plains,

Where beauteous Cusco lifts her golden fanes:

The meek Peruvians gaz'd in pale dismay,

Nor barr'd the dark oppressor's sanguine way:

And soon on Cusco, where the dawning light 5

Of glory shone, foretelling day more bright,

Where the young arts had shed unfolding flowers,

A scene of spreading desolation lowers;

While buried deep in everlasting shade,

Those lustres sicken, and those blossoms fade. 10

And yet, devoted land, not gold alone,

Or wild ambition wak'd thy parting groan;

For, lo! a fiercer fiend, with joy elate,

Feasts on thy suff'rings, and impels thy fate.

Fanatic fury rears her sullen shrine, 15

Where vultures prey, where venom'd adders twine;

Her savage arm with purple torrents stains

Thy rocking temples, and thy falling fanes;

Her blazing torches flash the mounting fire,

She grasps the sabre, and she lights the pyre; 20

Her voice is thunder, rending the still air,

Her glance the livid light'ning's fatal glare;

Her lips unhallow'd breathe their impious strain,

And pure religion's sacred voice profane;

Whose precepts, pity's mildest deeds approve, 25

Whose law is mercy, and whose soul is love.

Fanatic fury wakes the rising storm—

She wears the stern Valverda's hideous form;

His bosom never felt another's woes,

No shriek of anguish breaks its dark repose. 30

The temple nods—an aged form appears—

He beats his breast—he rends his silver hairs—

Valverda drags him from the blest abode

Where his meek spirit humbly sought its God:

See, to his aid his child, soft Zilia, springs, 35

And steeps in tears the robe to which she clings,

Till bursting from Peruvia's frighted throng,

Two warlike youths impetuous rush'd along;

One, grasp'd his twanging bow with furious air,

While in his troubled eye sat fierce despair. 40

But all in vain his erring weapon flies,

Pierc'd by a thousand wounds, on earth he lies.

His drooping head the heart-struck Zilia rais'd,

And on the youth in speechless anguish gaz'd;

While he, who fondly shar'd his danger, flew, 45

And from his breast a reeking sabre drew.

"Deep in my faithful bosom let me hide

"The fatal steel, that would our souls divide,"

He quick exclaims—the dying warrior cries,

"Ah, yet forbear!—by all the sacred ties, 50

"That bind our hearts, forbear"—In vain he spoke,

Friendship with frantic zeal impels the stroke:

"Thyself for ever lost, thou hop'st in vain,

"The youth replied, my spirit to detain;

"From thee, my soul, in childhood's earliest year, 55

"Caught the light pleasure, and the starting tear;

"Thy friendship then my young affections blest,

"The first pure passion of my infant breast;

"That passion, which o'er life delight has shed,

"By reason cherish'd, and by virtue fed: 60

"And still in death I feel its strong controul;

"Its sacred impulse wings my fleeting soul,

"That only lingers here till thou depart,

"Whose image lives upon my fainting heart."—

In vain the gen'rous youth, with panting breath, 65

Pour'd these lost murmurs in the ear of death;

He reads the fatal truth in Zilia's eye,

And gives to friendship his expiring sigh.—

But now with rage Valverda's glances roll,

And mark the vengeance rankling in his soul: 70

He bends his wrinkled brow—his lips impart

The brooding purpose of his venom'd heart;

He bids the hoary priest in mutter'd strains,

Abjure his faith, forsake his falling fanes,

While yet the ling'ring pangs of torture wait, 75

While yet Valverda's power suspends his fate.

"Vain man, the victim cried, to hoary years

"Know death is mild, and virtue feels no fears:

"Cruel of spirit, come! let tortures prove

"The Power I serv'd in life, in death I love."— 80

He ceas'd—with rugged cords his limbs they bound,

And drag the aged suff'rer on the ground;

They grasp his feeble form, his tresses tear,

His robe they rend, his shrivell'd bosom bare.

Ah, see his uncomplaining soul sustain 85

The sting of insult, and the dart of pain;

His stedfast spirit feels one pang alone;

A child's despair awakes one suff'ring groan—

The mourner kneels to catch his parting breath,

To sooth the agony of ling'ring death; 90

No moan she breath'd, no tear had power to flow,

Still on her lip expir'd th' unutter'd woe:

Yet ah, her livid cheek, her stedfast look,

The desolated soul's deep anguish spoke—

Mild victim! close not yet thy languid eyes; 95

Pure spirit! claim not yet thy kindred skies;

A pitying angel comes to stay thy flight,

Las Casas [1] bids thee view returning light:

Ah, let that sacred drop to virtue dear,

Efface thy wrongs—receive his precious tear; 100

See his flush'd cheek with indignation glow,

While from his lips the tones of pity flow.

"Oh suff'ring Lord! he cried, whose streaming blood

"Was pour'd for man—Earth drank the sacred flood—

"Whose mercy in the mortal pang forgave 105

"The murd'rous band, thy love alone could save;

"Forgive—thy goodness bursts each narrow bound,

"Which feeble thought, and human hope surround;

"Forgive the guilty wretch, whose impious hand

"From thy pure altar flings the flaming brand, 110

"In human blood that hallow'd altar steeps,

"Libation dire! while groaning nature weeps—

"The limits of thy mercy dares to scan,

"The object of thy love, his victim,—Man;

"While yet I linger, lo, the suff'rer dies— 115

"I see his frame convuls'd—I hear his sighs—

"Whoe'er controuls the purpose of my heart

"First in this breast shall plunge his guilty dart:"

With anxious step he flew, with eager hands

He broke the fetters, burst the cruel bands. 120

As the fall'n angel heard with awful fear

The cherub's grave rebuke, in grace severe,

And fled, while horror plum'd his impious crest[2],

The form of virtue, as she stood confest;

So fierce Valverda sullen mov'd along, 125

Abash'd, and follow'd by the guilty throng.

At length the hoary victim, freed from chains,

Las Casas gently leads to safer plains;

Soft Zilia's yielding soul the joy opprest,

She bath'd with floods of tears her father's breast. 130

Las Casas now explores a secret cave

Whose shaggy sides the languid billows lave;

"There rest secure, he cried, the Christian God

"Will hover near, will guard the lone abode."

Oft to the gloomy cell his steps repair, 135

While night's chill breezes wave his silver'd hair;

Oft in the tones of love, the words of peace,

He bids the bitter tears of anguish cease;

Bids drooping hope uplift her languid eyes,

And points a dearer bliss beyond the skies. 140

Yet ah, in vain his pious cares would save

The hoary suff'rer from the op'ning grave;

For deep the pangs of torture pierc'd his frame,

And sunk his wasted life's expiring flame;

To his cold lip Las Casa's hand he prest, 145

He faintly clasp'd his Zilia to his breast;

Then cried, "the God, whom now my vows adore,

"My heart thro' life obey'd, unknowing more;

"His mild forgiveness then my soul shall prove,

"His mercy share—Las Casa's God, is Love!"150

He spoke no more—his Zilia's frantic moan

Was heard responsive to his dying groan.

"Victim of impious zeal, Las Casas cries,

"Accept departed shade, a Christian's sighs;

"And thou, soft mourner, tender, drooping form, 155

"What power shall guard thee from the fearful storm?

"Weep not for me, she cried, for Zilia's breast

"Soon in the shelt'ring earth shall find its rest.

"Hope not the victim of despair to save,

"I ask but death—I only seek a grave— 160

"Witness thou mangled form that earth retains,

"Witness a murder'd lover's cold remains.

"I liv'd my father's pangs to sooth, to share;

"I bore to live, tho' life was all despair—

"In vain my lover, urg'd by fond desire

165 "To shield from torture, and from death my sire,

"Flew to the fane where stern Valverda rag'd,

"And fearless, with unequal force engag'd;

"I saw him bleeding, dying press the ground,

"I drew the poison from each fatal wound; 170

"I bath'd those wounds with tears—he pour'd a sigh—

"A drop hung trembling in his closing eye—

"Ah, still his mournful sign I shiv'ring hear,

"In every pulse I feel his parting tear—

"I faint—an icy coldness chills each vein, 175

"No more these feeble limbs their load sustain:

"Spirit of pity! catch my fleeting breath,

"A moment stay—and close my eyes in death—

"Las Casas, thee, thy God in mercy gave

"To sooth my pangs—to find the wretch a grave."— 180

She ceas'd—her spirit fled to purer spheres—

Las Casas bathes the pallid corse with tears—

Fly, minister of good! nor ling'ring shed

Those fruitless sorrows o'er the unconscious dead;

Ah fly—'tis innocence, 'tis virtue bleeds, 185

And heav'n will listen, when an angel pleads;

I view the sanguine flood, the wasting flame,

I hear a suff'ring world Las Casas claim! 188

  1. LAS CASAS, &c. that amiable Ecclesiastic, who obtained by his humanity the title of Protector of the Indies.
  2. —On his crest Sat horror plum'd. Paradise Lost, iv. 988.

 

PERU.

CANTO THE FOURTH.

THE ARGUMENT.

Almagro's expedition to Chili—his troops suffer great hardships from cold, in crossing the Andes—they reach Chili—the Chilese make a brave resistance—the revolt of the Peruvians in Cuzco—they are led on by Manco-Capac, the successor of Ataliba—his parting with Cora, his wife—the Peruvians regain half their city—Almagro leaves Chili—to avoid the Andes, he crosses a vast desert—his troops can find no water —the rest divide in two bands—Alphonso leads the second band, which soon reaches a fertile valley—the Spaniards observe the natives are employed in searching the streams for gold—they resolve to attack them.

Now the stern partner of Pizarro's toils,

Almagro, lur'd by hope of golden spoils,

To distant Chili's ever-verdant meads,

Thro' paths untrod, a band of warriors leads;

O'er the high Andes' frozen steeps they go, 5

And wander mid' eternal hills of snow:

In vain the vivifying orb of day

Darts on th' impervious ice his fervent ray;

Cold, keen as chains the oceans of the Pole,

Numbs the shrunk frame, and chills the vig'rous soul— 10

At length they reach luxuriant Chili's plain,

Where ends the dreary bound of winter's reign;

Where spring sheds odours thro' th' unvaried year,

And bathes the flower of summer, with her tear.

When first the brave Chilese, with eager glance, 15

Behold the hostile sons of Spain advance;

Heard the loud thunder of the cannon crash,

And view'd the light'ning of the instant flash,

The threat'ning sabre red with purple streams,

The lance that quiver'd in the solar beams; 20

With pale surprise they saw the lowring storm,

Where hung dark danger, in an unknown form:

But soon their spirits, stung with gen'rous shame,

Renounce each terror, and for vengeance flame;

Pant high with sacred freedom's ardent glow, 25

And met intrepid, the superiour foe.

Long unsubdu'd by stern Almagro's train,

Their valiant tribes unequal fight maintain;

Long victory hover'd doubtful o'er the field,

And oft she forc'd Iberia's band to yield; 30

Oft tore from Spain's proud head her laurel bough,

And bade it blossom on Peruvia's brow;

When sudden tidings reach'd Almagro's ear

That shook the warrior's soul with doubt and fear.

Of murder'd Ataliba's royal race 35

There yet remain'd a youth of blooming grace,

Who pin'd, the captive of relentless Spain,

And long in Cusco dragg'd her galling chain;

Capac his name, whose soul indignant bears

The rankling fetters, and revenge prepares. 40

But since his daring spirit must forego

The hope to rush upon the tyrant foe,

Led by his parent orb, that gives the day,

And fierce as darts the keen, meridian ray,

He vows to bend unseen his hostile course, 45

Then on the victors rise with latent force,

As sudden from its cloud the brooding storm,

Bursts in the thunder's voice, the lightning's form—

For this, from stern Pizarro he obtains

The boon, enlarg'd, to seek the neighb'ring plains, 50

For one bless'd day, and with his friends unite

To crown with solemn pomp an ancient rite;

Share the dear pleasures of the social hour,

And mid' their fetters twine one festal flower.

So spoke the Prince—far other thoughts possest, 55

Far other purpose animates his breast:

For now Peruvia's nobles he commands

To lead, with silent step, her martial bands

Forth to the destin'd spot, prepar'd to dare

The fiercest shock of dire, unequal war; 60

While every tender, human interest pleads,

And urges the firm soul to lofty deeds.

Now Capac hail'd th' eventful morning's light,

Rose with its dawn, and panted for the fight;

But first with fondness to his heart he prest 65

The tender Cora, partner of his breast;

Who with her lord, had sought the dungeon's gloom,

And wasted there in grief, her early bloom.

"No more, he cried, no more my love shall feel

"The mingled agonies I fly to heal; 70

"I go, but soon exulting shall return,

"And bid my faithful Cora cease to mourn:

"For oh, amid' each pang my bosom knows,

"What wastes, what wounds it most, are Cora's woes.

"Sweet was the love that crown'd our happier hours, 75

"And shed new fragrance o'er a path of flowers;

"But sure divided sorrow more endears

"The tie, that passion seals with mutual tears"—

He paus'd—fast-flowing drops bedew'd her eyes,

While thus in mournful accents she replies: 80

"Still let me feel the pressure of thy chain,

"Still share the fetters which my love detain;

"Those piercing irons to my soul are dear,

"Nor will their sharpness wound while thou art near.

"Oh think not, when in thee alone I live, 85

"This breast can bear the pain thy dangers give,

"Look on our helpless babe in mis'ry nurst—

"My child—my child, thy mother's heart will burst!

"Methinks I see the raging battle rise,

"And hear this harmless suff'rer's feeble cries; 90

"I view the blades that pour a sanguine flood,

"And plunge their cruel edge in infant blood."—

She could no more; her falt'ring accents die,

Yet her soul spoke expressive in her eye;

Her lord beholds her grief, with tender pain, 95

And leads her breathless, to a shelt'ring fane

Now high in air his feather'd standard waves,

And soon from shrouding woods, and hollow caves,

A num'rous host along the plain appear,

And hail their monarch with a gen'rous tear: 100

To Cusco's gate now rush th' increasing throngs,

And such their ardor, rouz'd by sense of wrongs,

That vainly would Pizarro's vet'ran force

Arrest the torrent in its raging course;

In vain his murd'ring bands terrific stood, 105

And plung'd their sabres in a sea of blood;

Danger and death Peruvia's sons disdain,

And half their captive city soon regain.

With such pure joy the natives view their lord

To the warm wishes of their souls restor'd, 110

As feels the tender child whom force had torn

From his lov'd home, and bruis'd the flower of morn,

When his fond searching eye again beholds

His mother's form, when in her arms she folds

The long lost child, who bathes with tears her face,

And finds his safety in her dear embrace.—

Soon as Almagro heard applauding fame 115

The triumphs of Peruvia, loud proclaim,

Unconquer'd Chili's vale he swift forsakes,

And his bold course to distant Cusco takes;

Shuns Andes' icy shower, its chilling snows,

The arrowy gale that on its summit blows; 120

A burning desart undismay'd he past,

And meets the ardours of the fiery blast.

Now as along the sultry waste they move,

The keenest pang of raging thirst they prove:

No cooling fruit its grateful juice distils, 125

Nor flows one balmy drop from crystal rills;

For nature sickens in th' oppressive beam,

That shrinks the vernal bud, and dries the stream;

While horror, as his giant stature grows,

O'er the drear void his spreading shadow throws. 130

Almagro's band now pale, and fainting stray,

While death oft barr'd the sinking warrior's way:

At length the chief divides his martial force,

And bids Alphonso, by a sep'rate course,

Lead o'er the hideous desart half his train— 135

"And search, he cried, this drear, uncultur'd plain:

"Perchance some fruitage withering in the breeze,

"The pains of lessen'd numbers may appease;

"Or Heav'n in pity, from some genial shower,

"On the parch'd lip one precious drop may pour." 140

Not far the troops of young Alphonso went,

When sudden, from a rising hill's ascent,

They view a valley, fed by fertile springs,

Which Andes from his lofty summit flings;

Where summer's flowers their mingled odours shed, 145

And wildly bloom, a waste by beauty spread—

To the charm'd warrior's eye, the vernal scene

That 'mid the howling desart, smil'd serene,

Appear'd like nature rising from the breast

Of chaos, in her infant graces drest; 150

When warbling angels hail'd the lovely birth,

And stoop'd from heav'n to bless the new-born earth.

And now Alphonso, and his martial band,

On the rich border of the valley stand;

They quaff the limpid stream with eager haste, 155

And the pure juice that swells the fruitage taste;

Then give to balmy rest the night's still hours,

Fann'd by the sighing gale that shuts the flowers.

Soon as the purple beam of morning glows,

Refresh'd from all their toils, the warriors rose; 160

And saw the gentle natives of the mead

Search the clear currents for the golden seed;

Which from the mountain's height with headlong sweep

The torrents bear, in many a shining heap—

Iberia's sons beheld with anxious brow 165

The tempting lure, then breathe th' unpitying vow

O'er those fair lawns to pour a sanguine flood,

And dye those lucid streams with waves of blood.

Thus, while the humming bird in beauty drest,

Enchanting offspring of the ardent West, 170

Attunes his soothing song to notes of love,

Mild as the murmurs of the mourning dove;

While his soft plumage glows with brighter hues,

And while with tender bill he sips the dews,

The savage Condor, on terrific wings, 175

From Andes' frozen steep relentless springs;

And quiv'ring in his fangs, his hapless prey

Drops his gay plume, and sighs his soul away. 178


 

PERU.

CANTO THE FIFTH.

THE ARGUMENT.

Character of Zamor, a Bard—his passion for Aciloe, daughter of the Cazique who rules the valley—the Peruvian tribe prepare to defend themselves—a battle—the Peruvians are vanquished—Aciloe's father is made a prisoner, and Zamor is supposed to have fallen in the engagement—Alphonso becomes enamoured of Aciloe—offers to marry her; she rejects him—in revenge he puts her father to the torture—she appears to consent, in order to save him—meets Zamor in a wood—Las Casas joins them—leads the two lovers to Alphonso, and obtains their freedom—Zamor conducts Aciloe and her father to Chili—a reflection on the influence of Poetry over the human mind.

 

In this sweet scene, to all the virtues kind,

Mild Zamor own'd the richest gifts of mind;

For o'er his tuneful breast the heav'nly muse

Shed from her sacred spring, inspiring dews.

She loves to breathe her hallow'd flame, where art 5

Has never veil'd the soul, or warp'd the heart;

Where fancy glows with all her native fire,

And passion lives on the exulting lyre.

Nature, in terror rob'd, or beauty drest,

Could thrill with dear enchantment Zamor's breast: 10

He lov'd the languid sigh the zephyr pours,

He lov'd the murm'ring rill that fed the flow'rs;

But more the hollow sound the wild winds form,

When black upon the billow hangs the storm;

The torrent rolling from the mountain steep, 15

Its white foam trembling on the darken'd deep—

And oft on Andes' height with eager gaze,

He view'd the sinking sun's reflected rays,

Glow like unnumber'd stars, that seem to rest

Sublime, upon his ice-encircled breast. 20

Oft his wild warblings charm'd the festal hour,

Rose in the vale, and languish'd in the bower;

The heart's responsive tones he well could move,

Whose song was nature, and whose theme was love.

Aciloe's beauties his fond eye confest, 25

Yet more Aciloe's virtues warm'd his breast.

Ah stay, ye tender hours of young delight,

Suspend ye moments your impatient flight;

For sure if aught on earth can bliss impart,

Can shed the genuine joy that sooths the heart, 30

'Tis felt, when early passion's pure controul

Unfolds the first affections of the soul;

Bids her soft sympathies the bosom move,

And wakes the mild emotions dear to love.

The gentle tribe Aciloe's sire obey'd 35

Who still in wisdom, and in mercy sway'd.

From him the dear illusions long had fled,

That o'er the morn of life enchantment shed;

Yet virtue's calm reflections cheer'd his breast,

And life was joy serene, and death was rest. 40

Tho' sweet the early spring, her blossoms bright,

When first she swells the heart with pure delight,

Yet not unlovely is the sober ray

That meekly beams o'er autumn's temper'd day;

Dear are her fading beauties to the soul, 45

While scarce perceiv'd the deep'ning shadows roll.

Now the charm'd lovers dress their future years

In forms of joy, then weep delicious tears,

Expressive on the glowing cheek that hung,

And spoke the fine emotions whence they sprung— 50

'Twas truth's warm energy, love's sweet controul,

'Twas all that virtue whispers to the soul.

When lo, Iberia's ruthless sons advance,

Roll the stern eye, and shake the pointed lance:

Oh Nature! the destroying band oppose, 55

Nature, arrest their course—they come thy foes—

Benignant power, where thou with lib'ral care

Hast planted joy, they come to plant despair—

Peruvia's tribe beheld the hostile throng

With desolating fury pour along; 60

With horror their ensanguin'd path they trac'd,

And now to meet the murd'ring band they haste;

The hoary chief to the dire conflict leads

His death devoted train—the battle bleeds.

Aciloe's searching eye can now no more 65

The form of Zamor, or her sire explore;

She hears the moan of death in every gale,

She sees a purple torrent stain the vale;

While destin'd all the bitterness to prove

Of mourning duty, and of bleeding love, 70

Each name that's dearest wakes her bursting sigh,

Throbs at her soul, and trembles in her eye.

Now, pierc'd by wounds, and breathless from the fight,

Her friend, the valiant Omar, struck her sight:

"Omar (she cried) you bleed, unhappy youth, 75

"And sure that look unfolds some fatal truth:

"Speak, pitying speak, my frantic fears forgive,

"Say, does my father, does my Zamor live?"

"All, all is lost, (the dying Omar said)

"And endless griefs are thine, dear wretched maid; 80

"I saw thy aged sire a captive bound,

"I saw thy Zamor press the crimson ground"—

He could no more, he yields his fleeting breath,

While all in vain she seeks repose in death.

But, oh, how far each other pang above 85

Throbs the wild agony of hopeless love;

That grief, for which in vain shall comfort shed

Her healing balm, or time in pity spread

The veil, that throws a shade o'er other care;

For here, and here alone, profound despair 90

Casts o'er the suff'ring soul a lasting gloom,

And slowly leads her victim to the tomb.

Now rude tumultuous sounds assail her ear,

And soon Alphonso's victor train appear:

Then, as with ling'ring step he mov'd along, 95

She saw her father mid' the captive throng;

She saw with dire dismay, she wildly flew,

Her snowy arms around his form she threw:

"He bleeds (she cries) I hear his moan of pain,

"My father will not bear the galling chain; 100

"My tender father will his child forsake,

"His mourning child, but soon her heart will break.

"Cruel Alphonso, let not helpless age

"Feel thy hard yoke, and meet thy barb'rous rage;

"Or, oh, if ever mercy mov'd thy soul, 105

"If ever thou hast felt her blest controul,

"Grant my sad heart's desire, and let me share

"The load, that feeble frame but ill can bear."

While the young victor, as she falt'ring spoke,

With fix'd attention, and with ardent look, 110

Hung on her tender glance, that love inspires,

The rage of conquest yields to milder fires.

Yet, as he gaz'd enraptur'd on her form,

Her virtues awe the heart her beauties warm;

And, while impassion'd tones his love reveal, 115

He asks with holy rites his vows to seal—

"Hop'st thou, she cried, those sacred ties shall join

"This bleeding heart, this trembling hand to thine?

"To thine, whose ruthless heart has caus'd my pains,

"Whose barb'rous hands the blood of Zamor stains! 120

"Can'st thou—the murd'rer of my peace, controul

"The grief that swells, the pang that rends my soul?

"That pang shall death, shall death alone remove,

"And cure the anguish of despairing love."

In vain th' enamour'd youth essay'd each art 125

To calm her sorrows, and to sooth her heart;

While, in the range of thought, her tender breast

Could find no hope, on which her griefs might rest,

While her soft soul, which Zamor's image fills,

Shrinks from the cruel author of its ills. 130

At length to madness stung by fix'd disdain,

The victor gives to rage the fiery rein;

And bids her sorrows flow from that fond source

Where strong affection feels their keenest force,

Whose breast, when most it suffers, only heeds 135

The sharper pangs by which another bleeds:

For now his cruel mandate doom'd her sire

Stretch'd on the bed of torture, to expire;

Bound on the rack, unmov'd the victim lies,

Stifling in agony weak nature's sighs. 140

But oh, what form of language can impart

The frantic grief that wrung Aciloe's heart,

When to the height of hopeless sorrow wrought,

The fainting spirit feels a pang of thought,

Which never painted in the hues of speech, 145

Lives at the soul, and mocks expression's reach!

At length she trembling cried, "the conflict's o'er,

"My heart, my breaking heart can bear no more—

"Yet spare his feeble age—my vows receive,

"And oh, in mercy, bid my father live!"— 150

"Wilt them be mine?" the enamour'd chief replies,

"Yes, cruel! see, he dies, my father dies—

"Save, save, my father"—"Dear, angelic maid,

"The charm'd Alphonso cried, be swift obey'd:

"Unbind his chains—Ah, calm each anxious Pain, 155

"Aciloe's voice no more shall plead in vain;

"Plac'd near his child, thy aged sire shall share

"Our joys still cherish'd by thy tender care"—

"No more (she cried) will fate that bliss allow,

"Before my lips shall breathe the nuptial vow, 160

"Some faithful guide shall lead his aged feet,

"To distant scenes that yield a safe retreat;

"Where some soft heart, some gentle hand, will shed

"The drops of comfort on his hoary head:

"My Zamor, if thy spirit trembles near, 165

"Forgive!"—she ceas'd, and pour'd her hopeless tear.

Now night descends, and steeps each weary breast,

Save sad Aciloe's, in the balm of rest.

Her aged father's beauteous dwelling stood

Near the cool shelter of a waving wood: 170

But now the gales that bend its foliage die,

Soft on the silver turf its shadows lie;

While, slowly wand'ring o'er the scene below,

The gazing moon look'd pale as silent woe.

The sacred shade, amid whose fragrant bowers 175

Zamor oft sooth'd with song the evening hours,

Pour'd to the lunar orb, his magic lay,

More mild, more pensive than her musing ray,

That shade with trembling step, the mourner sought,

And thus she breath'd her tender, plaintive thought. 180

"Ah where, dear object of these piercing pains,

"Where rests thy murder'd form, thy lov'd remains?

"On what sad spot, my Zamor, flow'd the wound

"That purpled with thy streaming blood the ground?

"Oh had Aciloe in that hour been nigh, 185

"Had'st thou but fix'd on me thy closing eye;

"Told with faint voice, 'twas death's worst pang to part,

"And dropp'd thy last, cold tear upon my heart! "

A pang less bitter then would waste this breast,

"That in the grave alone shall seek its rest. 190

"Soon as some friendly hand, in mercy leads

"My aged father, safe to Chili's meads;

"Death shall for ever, seal the nuptial tie,

"The heart belov'd by thee is fix'd to die."

She ceas'd, when dimly thro' a flood of tears 195

She sees her Zamor's form, his voice she hears.—

"'Tis he, she cried, he moves upon the gale,

"My Zamor's sigh is deep—his look is pale—

"I faint"—his arms receive her sinking frame,

He calls his love by every tender name, 200

He stays her fleeting spirit—life anew

Warms her cold cheek—his tears her cheek bedew—

"Thy Zamor lives, he cried: as on the ground

"I senseless lay, some child of pity bound

"My bleeding wounds, and bore me from the plain— 205

"But thou art lost, and I have liv'd in vain."

"Forgive, she cried, in accents of despair,

"Zamor forgive thy wrongs, and oh forbear

"The mild reproach that fills thy mournful eye,

"The tear that wets thy cheek—I mean to die! 210

"Could I behold my aged sire endure

"The pains his wretched child had power to cure?

"Still, still my father, stretch'd in death, I see,

"His grey locks trembling, as he gaz'd on me:

"My Zamor, soft—breathe not so loud a sigh— 215

"Some list'ning foe may pityless deny

"This parting hour—hark, sure some step I hear,

"Zamor again is lost—for now 'tis near"—

She paus'd, when sudden from the shelt'ring wood

A venerable form before them stood: 220

"Fear not, soft maid, he cry'd, nor think I come

"To seal with deeper miseries thy doom;

"To bruise the breaking heart that sorrow rends,

"Ah not for this Las Casas hither bends—

"He comes to bid those rising sorrows cease, 225

"To pour upon thy wounds the balm of peace

. "I rov'd with dire Almagro's ruthless train

"Thro' scenes of death, to Chili's verdant plain;

"Their wish, to bathe that verdant plain in gore,

"Then from its bosom drag the golden ore; 230

"But mine, to check the stream of human blood,

"Or mingle drops of anguish with the flood.

"When from those fair unconquer'd vales they fled,

"This frame was stretch'd upon the languid bed

"Of pale disease: when helpless, and alone, 235

"The Chilese spy'd their friend, the murd'rers gone,

"With eager fondness round my couch they drew,

"And my cold hand with gushing tears bedew;

"By day, they sooth my pains with sweet delight,

"And give to watchings the chill hours of night; 240

"For me their tender spirits joy to prove

"The cares of pity, and the toils of love.

"Soon as I heard, that o'er this gentle scene,

"Where peace and virtue mingled smile serene,

"The foe, like clouds that fold the tempest, hung, 245

"I hither flew, my breast with anguish wrung.

"A Chilese band the pathless desert trac'd,

"And softly bore me o'er its dreary waste;

"Then parting, at my feet they bend, and clasp

"These aged knees—my soul yet feels their grasp. 250

"Now o'er the vale with painful step I stray'd,

"And reach'd the shelt'ring grove: there, hapless maid,

"My list'ning ear has caught thy piercing wail,

"My heart has trembled to thy moving tale."—

"And art thou he! the mournful pair exclaim, 255

"How dear to mis'ry's soul, Las Casas' name!

"Spirit benign, who every grief can share,

"Whose pity stoops to make the wretch its care;

"Weep not for us—in vain thy tear shall flow

"For hopeless anguish, and distracting woe"— 260

"They ceas'd; in accents mild, the saint returns,

"Yet let me sooth the pains my bosom mourns:

"Come, gentle suff'rers, follow to yon fane,

"Where rests Alphonso, with his victor train;

"My voice shall urge his soul to gen'rous deeds, 265

"And bid him hear, when truth, and nature pleads."

While in soft tones, Las Casas thus exprest

His pious purpose, o'er Aciloe's breast

A dawning ray of cheering comfort streams,

But faint the hope that on her spirit beams; 270

Faint, as when ebbing life must soon depart,

The pulse that trembles, while it warms the heart.

Before Alphonso now the lovers stand;

The aged suff'rer join'd the mournful band;

While with the look that guardian seraphs wear, 275

When sent to calm the throbs of mortal care,

The story of their woes Las Casas told,

Then cry'd, "the wretched Zamor here behold—

"Hop'st thou, fond man, a passion to controul

"Fix'd in the breast, and woven in the soul? 280

"But know, mistaken youth, thy power in vain

"Would bind thy victim in the nuptial chain:

"That faithful heart will rend the galling tie,

"That heart will break, that tender form will die—

"Then by each sacred name to nature dear, 285

"By her strong shriek, her agonizing tear;

"By every horror bleeding passion knows,

"By the wild glance that speaks her frantic woes;

"By all the wasting pangs that rend her breast,

"By the deep groan that gives her spirit rest! 290

"Let mercy's pleading voice thy bosom move,

"And fear to burst the bonds of plighted love"—

He paus'd—now Zamor's moan Alphonso hears,

Now sees the cheek of age bedew'd with tears:

Palid, and motionless, Aciloe stands, 295

Fix'd was her mournful eye, and clasp'd her hands;

Her heart was chill'd—her trembling heart, for there

Hope slowly sinks in cold, and dark despair.

Alphonso's soul was mov'd—"No more, he cried,

"My hapless flame shall hearts like yours divide. 300

"Live, tender spirit, soft Aciloe, live,

"And all the wrongs of madd'ning rage forgive.

"Go from this desolated region far,

"These plains, where av'rice spreads the waste of war;

"Go, where pure pleasures gild the peaceful scene, 305

"Go where mild virtue sheds her ray serene."

In vain th' enraptur'd maid would now impart,

The rising joy that swells, that pains her heart;

Las Casas' feet in floods of tears she steeps,

Looks on her sire and smiles, then turns, and weeps; 310

Then smiles again, while her flush'd cheek, reveals

The mingled tumult of delight she feels.

So fall the crystal showers of fragrant spring,

And o'er the pure, clear sky, soft shadows fling;

Then paint the drooping clouds from which they flow 315

With the warm colours of the lucid bow.

Now, o'er the barren desert, Zamor leads

Aciloe, and her sire, to Chili's meads:

There, many a wand'ring wretch, condemn'd to roam

By hard oppression, found a shelt'ring home: 320

Zamor to pity, tun'd the vocal shell,

Bright'ning the tear of anguish, as it fell.

Did e'er the human bosom throb with pain

The heav'nly muse has sought to sooth in vain?

She, who can still with harmony its sighs, 325

And wake the sound, at which affliction dies;

Can bid the stormy passions backward roll,

And o'er their low-hung tempests lift the soul;

With magic touch paint nature's various scene

Wild on the mountain, in the vale serene; 330

Can tinge the breathing rose with brighter bloom,

Or hang the sombrous rock in deeper gloom;

Explore the gem, whose pure, reflected ray

Throws o'er the central cave a paler day;

Or soaring view the comet's fiery frame 335

Rush o'er the sky, and fold the sphere in flame;

While the charm'd spirit, as her accents move,

Is wrapt in wonder, or dissolv'd in love. 338


 

PERU.

CANTO THE SIXTH.

THE ARGUMENT.

The troops of Almagro and Alphonso meet on the plains of Cuzco—Manco-Capac attacks them by night—his army is defeated, and he is forced to fly with its scattered remains—Cora goes in search of him— her infant in her arms—overcome with fatigue, she rests at the foot of a mountain—an earthquake—a band of Indians fly to the mountains for shelter—Cora discovers her husband—their interview—her death—he escapes with his infant—Almagro claims a share of the spoils of Cuzco—his contention with Pizarro—the Spaniards destroy each other—Almagro is taken prisoner, and put to death—his soldiers, in revenge, assassinate Pizarro in his palace—Las Casas dies—Gasca, a Spanish ecclesiastic, arrives in Peru—invested with great power—his virtuous conduct—the annual festival of the Peruvians—their late victories over the Spaniards in Chili—a wish for the restoration of their liberty—the Poem concludes.

At length Almagro, and Alphonso's train,

Each peril past, unite on Cusco's plain:

Capac, who now beheld with anxious woe,

Th' increasing numbers of the powerful foe,

Resolves to pierce beneath the shroud of night 5

The hostile camp, and brave the vent'rous fight;

Tho' weak the wrong'd Peruvians arrowy showers,

To the dire weapons stern Iberia pours.

Fierce was th' unequal contest, for the soul

When rais'd by some high passion's strong controul,10

New strings the nerves, and o'er the glowing frame

Breathes the warm spirit of heroic flame.

But from the scene where raging slaughter burns,

The timid muse with pallid horror turns:

The sounds of frantic woe she panting hears, 15

Where anguish dims a mother's eye with tears;

Or where the maid, who gave to love's soft power

Her faithful spirit, weeps the parting hour:

And ah, till death shall ease the tender woe,

That soul must languish, and those tears must flow;

20 For never with the thrill that rapture proves

Shall bless'd affection hail the form she loves;

Her eager glance no more that form shall view,

Her quiv'ring lip has breath'd the last adieu!

Now night, that pour'd upon her hollow gale 25

The moan of death, withdrew her mournful veil;

The sun rose lovely from the sleeping flood,

And morning glitter'd o'er the field of blood;

Where bath'd in gore, Peruvia's vanquish'd train

Lay cold and senseless on the sanguine plain. 30

Capac, their gen'rous chief, whose ardent soul

Had sought the rage of battle to controul,

Beheld with keen despair his warriors yield,

And fled indignant from the conquer'd field.

From Cusco now a wretched throng repair, 35

Who tread mid' slaughter'd heaps in mute despair,

O'er some lov'd corse the shroud of earth to spread,

And drop the sacred tear that sooths the dead:

No shriek was heard, for agony supprest

The fond complaints which ease the swelling breast: 40

Each hope for ever lost, they only crave

The deep repose which wraps the shelt'ring grave.

So the meek Lama, lur'd by some decoy

Of man, from all his unembitter'd joy;

Ere while, as free as roves the wand'ring breeze, 45

Meets the hard burden on his bending knees[1];

O'er rocks, and mountains, dark, and waste he goes,

Nor shuns the path where no soft herbage grows;

Till worn with toil, on earth he prostrate lies,

Heeds not the barb'rous lash, but patient dies. 50

Swift o'er the field of death sad Cora flew,

Her infant to his mother's bosom grew;

She seeks her wretched lord, who fled the plain

With the last remnant of his vanquish'd train:

Thro' the lone vale, or forest's sombrous shade 55

A dreary solitude, the mourner stray'd;

Her timid heart can now each danger dare,

Her drooping soul is arm'd by deep despair—

Long, long she wander'd, till oppress'd with toil,

Her trembling footsteps track with blood the soil; 60

In vain with moans her distant lord she calls,

In vain the bitter tear of anguish falls;

Her moan expires along the desert wood,

Her tear is mingled with the crimson flood.

Where o'er an ample vale a mountain rose, 65

Low at its base her fainting form she throws;

"And here, my child, (she cried, with panting breath)

"Here let us wait the hour of ling'ring death:

"This famish'd bosom can no more supply

"The streams that nourish life, my babe must die! 70

"In vain I strive to cherish for thy sake

"My failing strength; but when my heart-strings break,

"When my chill'd bosom can no longer warm,

"My stiff'ning arms no more enfold thy form,

"Soft on this bed of leaves my child shall sleep, 75

"Close to his mother's corse he will not weep:

"Oh weep not then, my tender babe, tho' near,

"I shall not hear thy moan, nor see thy tear;

"Hope not to move me by thy piercing cry,

"Nor seek with searching look my answering eye."

80 As thus the dying Cora's plaints arose,

O'er the fair valley sudden darkness throws

A hideous horror; thro' the wounded air

Howl'd the shrill voice of nature in despair;

The birds dart screaming thro' the fluid sky, 85

And, dash'd upon the cliff's hard surface die;

High o'er their rocky bounds the billows swell,

Then to their deep abyss affrighted fell;

Earth groaning heaves with dire convulsive throws,

While yawning gulphs her central caves disclose: 90

Now rush'd a frighted throng with trembling pace

Along the vale, and sought the mountain's base;

Purpos'd its perilous ascent to gain,

And shun the ruin low'ring o'er the plain.

They reach'd the spot where Cora clasp'd her child, 95

And gaz'd on present death with aspect mild;

They pitying paus'd—she lifts her mournful eye,

And views her lord!—he hears his Cora's sigh—

He meets her look—their melting souls unite,

O'erwhelm'd, and agoniz'd with wild delight— 100

At length she faintly cried, "we yet must part!

"Short are these rising joys—I feel my heart

"My suff'ring heart is cold, and mists arise

"That shroud thy image from my closing eyes:

"Oh save my child!—our tender infant save, 105

"And shed a tear upon thy Cora's grave"—

The flutt'ring pulse of life now ceas'd to play,

And in his arms a pallid corse she lay:

O'er her dear form he hung in speechless pain,

And still on Cora call'd, but call'd in vain; 110

Scarce could his soul in one short moment bear

The wild extreme of transport, and despair.

Now o'er the west in melting softness streams

A lustre, milder than the morning beams;

A purer dawn dispell'd the fearful night, 115

And nature glow'd in all the blooms of light;

The birds awake the note that hails the day,

And spread their pinions in the purple ray;

A zone of gold the wave's still bosom bound,

And beauty shed a placid smile around. 120

Then, first awaking from his mournful trance,

The wretched Capac cast an eager glance

On his lov'd babe; th' unconscious infant smil'd,

And showers of softer sorrow bath'd his child.

The hollow voice now sounds in fancy's ear, 125

She sees the dying look, the parting tear,

That sought with anxious tenderness to save

That dear memorial from the closing grave:

He clasps the object of his love's last care,

And vows for him the load of life to bear; 130

To rear the blossom of a faded flower,

And bid remembrance sooth each ling'ring hour.

He journey'd o'er a dreary length of way,

To plains where freedom shed her hallow'd ray;

O'er many a pathless wood, and mountain hoar,135

To that fair clime her lifeless form he bore.

Ye who ne'er suffer'd passions hopeless pain,

Deem not the toil that sooths its anguish vain;

Its fondness to the mould'ring corse extends,

Its faithful tear with the cold ashes blends. 140

Perchance, the conscious spirit of the dead

Numbers the drops affection loves to shed;

Perchance a sigh of holy pity gives

To the sad bosom, where its image lives.

Oh nature! sure thy sympathetic ties 145

Shall o'er the ruins of the grave arise;

Undying spring from the relentless tomb,

And shed, in scenes of love, a lasting bloom.

Not long Iberia's sullied trophies wave,

Her guilty warriors press th' untimely grave; 150

For av'rice, rising from the caves of earth,

Wakes all her savage spirit into birth;

Bids proud Almagro feel her baleful flame,

And Cusco's treasures from Pizarro claim:

Pizarro holds the rich alluring prize, 155

With firmer grasp, the fires of discord rise.

Now fierce in hostile rage, each warlike train

Purple with issuing gore Peruvia's plain;

There, breathing hate, and vengeful death they flood,

And bath'd their impious bands in kindred blood; 160

While pensive on each hill, whose lofty brow

O'erhung with sable woods the vale below;

Peruvia's hapless tribes in scatter'd throngs,

Beheld the fiends of strife avenge their wrongs.

Now conquest, bending on her crimson wings, 165

Her sanguine laurel to Pizarro brings;

While bound, and trembling in her iron chain,

Almagro swells the victor's captive train.

In vain his pleading voice, his suppliant eye,

Conjure his conqu'ror, by the holy tie 170

That seal'd their mutual league with sacred force,

When first to climes unknown they bent their course;

When danger's rising horrors lowr'd afar,

The storms of ocean, and the toils of war,

The sad remains of wasted life to spare, 175

The shrivell'd bosom, and the silver'd hair:—

But vainly from his lips these accents part,

Nor move Pizarro's cold, relentless heart,

That never trembled to the suff'rer's sigh,

Or view'd the suff'rer's tear with melting eye. 180

Almagro dies—the victor's savage pride

To his pale corse funereal rites denied,

Chill'd by the heavy dews of night it lay,

And wither'd in the sultry beam of day,

Till Indian bosoms, touch'd with gen'rous woe, 185

In the pale form forgot the tyrant foe;

The last sad duties to his ashes paid,

And sooth'd with pity's tear the hov'ring shade.

With unrelenting hate the conqu'ror views

Almagro's band, and vengeance still pursues;190

Condemns the victims of his power to stray

In drooping poverty's chill, thorny way;

To pine with famine's agony severe,

And all the ling'ring forms of death to fear;

Till by despair impell'd, the rival train 195

Rush to the haughty victor's glitt'ring fane;

Swift on their foe with rage impetuous dart,

And plunge their daggers in his guilty heart.

How unavailing now the treasur'd ore

That made Peruvia's rifled bosom poor! 200

He falls—no mourner near to breathe a sigh,

Catch the last breath, and close the languid eye;

Deserted, and refus'd the holy tear

That warm affection sheds o'er virtue's bier;

Denied those drops that stay the parting breath, 205

That sooth the spirit on the verge of death;

Tho' now the pale expiring form would buy

With Andes' glitt'ring mines, one faithful sigh!

Now faint with virtue's toil, Las Casas' soul

Sought with exulting hope, her heav'nly goal: 210

A bending angel consecrates his tears,

And leads his kindred mind to purer spheres.

But, ah! whence pours that stream of lambent light,

That soft-descending on the raptur'd sight,

Gilds the dark horrors of the raging storm— 215

It lights on earth—mild vision! gentle form—

'Tis Sensibility! she stands confest,

With trembling step she moves, and panting breast;

Wav'd by the gentle breath of passing sighs

Loose in the air her robe expanded flies; 220

Wet with the dew of tears her soft veil streams,

And in her eye the ray of pity beams;

No vivid roses her mild cheek illume,

Sorrow's wan touch has chas'd the purple bloom:

Yet ling'ring there in tender, pensive grace, 225

The softer lily fills the vacant place;

And ever as her precious tears bedew

Its modest flowers, they shed a paler hue.

To yon deserted grave, lo swift she flies

Where her lov'd victim, mild Las Casas lies: 230

Light on the hallow'd turf I see her stand,

And slowly wave in air her snowy wand;

I see her deck the solitary haunt,

With chaplets twin'd from every weeping plant.

Its odours mild the simple vi'let shed, 235

The shrinking lily hung its drooping head;

A moaning zephyr sigh'd within the bower,

And bent the yielding stem of every flower:

"Hither (she cried, her melting tone I hear

"It vibrates full on fancy's raptur'd ear) 240

"Ye gentle spirits whom my soul refines,

"Where all its animating lustre shines;

"Ye who can exquisitely feel the glow

"Whose soft suffusion gilds the cloud of woe;

"Warm as the colours varying iris pours 245

"That tinge with streaming rays the chilling showers;

"Ye to whose yielding hearts my power endears

"The transport blended with delicious tears,

"The bliss that swells to agony the breast,

"The sympathy that robs the soul of rest; 250

"Hither with fond devotion pensive come,

"Kiss the pale shrine, and murmur o'er the tomb;

"Bend on the hallow'd turf the tear-full eye

"And breathe the precious incense of a sigh.

"Las Casas' tear has moisten'd mis'ry's grave, 255

"His sigh has moan'd the wretch it fail'd to save!

"He, while conflicting pangs his bosom tear

"Has sought the lonely cavern of despair;

"Where desolate she fled, and pour'd her thought,

"To the dread verge of wild distraction wrought. 260

"White drops of mercy bath'd his hoary cheek,

"He pour'd by heav'n inspir'd its accents meek;

"In truth's clear mirror bade the mourner's view

"Pierce the deep veil which darkling error drew;

"And vanquish'd empire with a smile resign, 265

"While brighter worlds in fair perspective shine."—

She paus'd—yet still the sweet enthusiast bends

O'er the cold turf, and still her tear descends;

The ever-falling tears her beauties shroud,

Till slow she vanish'd in a fleecy cloud. 270

Mild Gasca now, the messenger of peace,

Suspends the storm, and bids the tumult cease.

Pure spirit! in Religion's garb he came,

And all his bosom felt her holy flame;

'Twas then her vot'ries glory, and their care 275

To bid oppression's harpy talons spare;

To bend the crimson banner he unfurl'd,

And shelter from his grasp a suff'ring world:

Gasca, the guardian minister of woe,

Bids o'er her wounds the balms of comfort flow 280

While rich Potosi[2] rolls the copious tide

Of wealth, unbounded as the wish of pride;

His pure, unsullied soul with high disdain

For virtue spurns the fascinating bane;

Her seraph form can still his breast allure 285

Tho' drest in weeds, she triumph'd to be poor—

Hopeless ambition's murders to restrain,

And virtue's wrongs, he sought Iberia's plain,

Without one mean reserve he nobly brings

A massive treasure, yet unknown to kings: 290

No purple pomp around his dome was spread

No gilded roofs hung glitt'ring o'er his head;

Yet peace with milder radiance deck'd his bower,

And crown'd with dearer joy life's evening hour;

While virtue whisper'd to his conscious heart 295

The sweet reflexion of its high desert.

Ah, meek Peruvia, still thy murmur'd sighs

Thy stifled groans in fancy's ear arise;

Sadd'ning she views thy desolated soul,

As slow the circling years of bondage roll, 300

Redeem from tyranny's oppressive power

With fond affection's force, one sacred hour;

And consecrate its fleeting, precious space,

The dear remembrance of the past to trace.

Call from her bed of dust joy's buried shade; 305

She smiles in mem'ry's lucid robes array'd,

O'er thy creative scene[3] majestic moves,

And wakes each mild delight thy fancy loves.

But soon the image of thy wrongs in clouds

The fair and transient ray of pleasure shrouds; 310

Far other visions melt thy mournful eye,

And wake the gushing tear, th' indignant sigh;

There Ataliba's sacred, murder'd form,

Sinks in the billow of oppression's storm;

Wild o'er the scene of death thy glances roll, 315

And pangs tumultuous swell thy troubled soul;

Thy bosom burns, distraction spreads her flames,

And from the tyrant foe her victim claims.

But, lo! where bursting desolation's night,

A sudden ray of glory cheers my sight; 320

From my fond eye the tear of rapture flows,

My heart with pure delight exulting glows:

A blooming chief of India's royal race,

Whose soaring soul, its high descent can trace,

The flag of freedom rears on Chili's[4] plain, 325

And leads to glorious strife his gen'rous train:

And see Iberia bleeds! while vict'ry twines

Her fairest blossoms round Peruvia's shrines;

The gaping wounds of earth disclose no more

The lucid silver, and the glowing ore; 330

A brighter glory gilds the passing hour,

While freedom breaks the rod of lawless power:

Lo on the Andes' icy steep she glows,

And prints with rapid step th' eternal snows;

Or moves majestic o'er the desert plain, 335

And eloquently pours her potent strain.

Still may that strain the patriot's soul inspire,

And still this injur'd race her spirit fire.

O Freedom, may thy genius still ascend,

Beneath thy crest may proud Iberia bend; 340

While roll'd in dust thy graceful feet beneath,

Fades the dark laurel of her sanguine wreath;

Bend her red trophies, tear her victor plume,

And close insatiate slaughter's yawning tomb.

Again on soft Peruvia's fragrant breast 345

May beauty blossom, and may pleasure rest.

Peru, the muse that vainly mourn'd thy woes,

Whom pity robb'd so long of dear repose;

The muse, whose pensive soul with anguish wrung

Her early lyre for thee has trembling strung; 350

Shed the weak tear, and breath'd the powerless sigh,

Which soon in cold oblivion's shade must die;

Pants with the wish thy deeds may rise to fame,

Bright on some living harp's immortal frame!

While on the string of extasy, it pours 355

Thy future triumphs o'er unnumber'd shores.

  1. The Lama's bend their knees and stoop their body in such a manner as not to discompose their burden. They move with a slow but firm pace, in countries that are impracticable to other animals. They are neither dispirited by fasting nor drudgery, while they have any strength remaining; but, when they are totally exhausted, or fall under their burden, it is to no purpose to harrass and beat them: they will continue striking their heads on the ground, first on one side, then on the other, till they kill themselves,—Abbe Raynal's History of the European Settlements.
  2. See a delightful representation of the incorruptible integrity of this Spaniard in Robertson's History of America.
  3. "O'er thy creative scene." The Peruvians have solemn days on which they assume their antient dress. Some among them represent a tragedy, the subject of which is the death of Atabalipa. The audience, who begin with shedding tears, are afterwards transported, into a kind of madness. It seldom happens in these festivals, but that some Spaniard is slain.—Abbe Raynal's History.
  4. "On Chili's plain."—An Indian descended from the Inca's, has lately obtained several victories over the Spaniards, the gold mines have been for some time shut up; and there is much reason to hope, that these injured nations may recover the liberty of which they have been so cruelly deprived.