"The Bride of the Greek Isle" by Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) Records of Woman: With Other Poems. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, & London: T. Cadell, 1828, second edition. pp. 21-34.
Fear!–I'm a Greek, and how should I fear death?
A slave, and wherefore should I dread my freedom?
* * * * * *
I will not live degraded.
COME from the woods with the citron-flowers,
Come with your lyres for the festal hours,
Maids of bright Scio! They came, and the breeze
Bore their sweet songs o'er the Grecian seas;–
They came, and Eudora stood rob'd and crown'd,
The bride of the morn, with her train around.
Jewels flash'd out from her braided hair,
Like starry dews midst the roses there;
Pearls on her bosom quivering shone,
Heav'd by her heart thro' its golden zone;
But a brow, as those gems of the ocean pale,
Gleam'd from beneath her transparent veil;
Changeful and faint was her fair cheek's hue,
Though clear as a flower which the light looks through;
And the glance of her dark resplendent eye,
For the aspect of woman at times too high,
Lay floating in mists, which the troubled stream
Of the soul sent up o'er its fervid beam.
She look'd on the vine at her father's door,
Like one that is leaving his native shore;
She hung o'er the myrtle once call'd her own,
As it greenly wav'd by the threshold stone;
She turn'd–and her mother's gaze brought back
Each hue of her childhood's faded track.
Oh! hush the song, and let her tears
Flow to the dream of her early years!
Holy and pure are the drops that fall
When the young bride goes from her father's hall;
She goes unto love yet untried and new,
She parts from love which hath still been true;
Mute be the song and the choral strain,
Till her heart's deep well-spring is clear again!
She wept on her mother's faithful breast,
Like a babe that sobs itself to rest;
She wept–yet laid her hand awhile
In his that waited her dawning smile–
Her soul's affianced, nor cherish'd less
For the gush of nature's tenderness!
She lifted her graceful head at last–
The choking swell of her heart was past;
And her lovely thoughts from their cells found way
In the sudden flow of a plaintive lay. 3
THE BRIDE'S FAREWELL.
Why do I weep?–to leave the vine
Whose clusters o'er me bend,–
The myrtle–yet, oh! call it mine!–
The flowers I lov'd to tend.
A thousand thoughts of all things dear,
Like shadows o'er me sweep,
I leave my sunny childhood here,–
Oh, therefore let me weep!
I leave thee, sister! we have play'd
Thro' many a joyous hour,
Where the silvery green of the olive shade
Hung dim o'er fount and bower.
Yes, thou and I, by stream, by shore,
In song, in prayer, in sleep,
Have been as we may be no more,–
Kind sister, let me weep!
I leave thee, father! Eve's bright moon
Must now light other feet,
With the gather'd grapes, and the lyre in tune,
Thy homeward step to greet.
Thou, in whose voice, to bless thy child,
Lay tones of love so deep,
Whose eye o'er all my youth hath smiled–
I leave thee! let me weep!
Mother! I leave thee! on thy breast,
Pouring out joy and wo,
I have found that holy place of rest
Still changeless–yet I go!
Lips, that have lull'd me with your strain,
Eyes, that have watch'd my sleep!
Will earth give love like yours again!
Sweet mother! let me weep!
And like a slight young tree, that throws
The weight of rain from its drooping boughs,
Once more she wept. But a changeful thing
Is the human heart, as a mountain spring,
That works its way, thro' the torrent's foam,
To the bright pool near it, the lily's home!
It is well!–the cloud, on her soul that lay,
Hath melted in glittering drops away.
Wake again, mingle, sweet flute and lyre!
She turns to her lover, she leaves her sire.
Mother! on earth it must still be so,
Thou rearest the lovely to see them go!
They are moving onward, the bridal throng,
Ye may track their way by the swells of song;
Ye may catch thro' the foliage their white robes' gleam,
Like a swan midst the reeds of a shadowy stream.
Their arms bear up garlands, their gliding tread
Is over the deep-vein'd violet's bed;
They have light leaves around them, blue skies above,
An arch for the triumph of youth and love!
Still and sweet was the home that stood
In the flowering depths of a Grecian wood,
With the soft green light o'er its low roof spread,
As if from the glow of an emerald shed,
Pouring thro' lime-leaves that mingled on high,
Asleep in the silence of noon's clear sky.
Citrons amidst their dark foliage glow'd,
Making a gleam round the lone abode;
Laurels o'erhung it, whose faintest shiver
Scatter'd out rays like a glancing river;
Stars of the jasmine its pillars crown'd,
Vine-stalks its lattice and walls had bound,
And brightly before it a fountain's play
Flung showers thro' a thicket of glossy bay,
To a cypress which rose in that flashing rain,
Like one tall shaft of some fallen fane.
And thither Ianthis had brought his bride,
And the guests were met by that fountain-side;
They lifted the veil from Eudora's face,
It smiled out softly in pensive grace,
With lips of love, and a brow serene,
Meet for the soul of the deep wood-scene.–
Bring wine, bring odours!–the board is spread–
Bring roses! a chaplet for every head!
The wine-cups foam'd, and the rose was shower'd
On the young and fair from the world embower'd;
The sun looked not on them in that sweet shade,
The winds amid scented boughs were laid;
And there came by fits, thro' some wavy tree,
A sound and a gleam of the moaning sea.
Hush! be still!–was that no more
Than the murmur from the shore?
Silence!–did thick rain-drops beat
On the grass like trampling feet?–
Fling down the goblet, and draw the sword!
The groves are fill'd with a pirate horde!
Thro' the dim olives their sabres shine;–
Now must the red blood stream for wine!
The youths from the banquet to battle sprang,
The woods with the shriek of the maidens rang;
Under the golden-fruited boughs
There were flashing poniards and dark'ning brows,
Footsteps, o'er garland and lyre that fled,
And the dying soon on a greensward bed.
Eudora, Eudora! thou dost not fly!–
She saw but Ianthis before her lie,
With the blood from his breast in a gushing flow,
Like a child's large tears in its hour of wo,
And a gathering film in his lifted eye,
That sought his young bride out mournfully.–
She knelt down beside him, her arms she wound,
Like tendrils, his drooping neck around,
As if the passion of that fond grasp
Might chain in life with its ivy-clasp.
But they tore her thence in her wild despair,
The sea's fierce rovers–they left him there;
They left to the fountain a dark-red vein,
And on the wet violets a pile of slain,
And a hush of fear thro' the summer grove,–
So clos'd the triumph of youth and love!
Gloomy lay the shore that night,
When the moon, with sleeping light,
Bath'd each purple Sciote hill,–
Gloomy lay the shore, and still.
O'er the wave no gay guitar
Sent its floating music far;
No glad sound of dancing feet
Woke, the starry hours to greet.
But a voice of mortal wo,
In its changes wild or low,
Thro' the midnight's blue repose,
From the sea-beat rocks arose,
As Eudora's mother stood
Gazing o'er th' Egean flood,
With a fix'd and straining eye–
Oh! was the spoilers' vessel nigh?
Yes! there, becalm'd in silent sleep,
Dark and alone on a breathless deep,
On a sea of molten silver, dark,
Brooding it frown'd that evil bark!
There its broad pennon a shadow cast,
Moveless and black from the tall, still mast,
And the heavy sound of its flapping sail,
Idly and vainly wooed the gale.
Hush'd was all else:–Had ocean's breast
Rock'd e'en Eudora that hour to rest?
To rest?–the waves tremble!–what piercing cry
Bursts from the heart of the ship on high?
What light through the heavens, in a sudden spire,
Shoots from the deck up? Fire! 'tis fire!
There are wild forms hurrying to and fro,
Seen darkly clear on that lurid glow;
There are shout, and signal-gun, and call,
And the dashing of water,–but fruitless all!
Man may not fetter, nor ocean tame
The might and wrath of the rushing flame!
It hath twined the mast like a glittering snake,
That coils up a tree from a dusky brake;
It hath touch'd the sails, and their canvass rolls
Away from its breath into shrivell'd scrolls;
It hath taken the flag's high place in air,
And redden'd the stars with its wavy glare;
And sent out bright arrows, and soar'd in glee,
To a burning mount midst the moonlight sea.
The swimmers are plunging from stern and prow–
Eudora! Eudora! where, where art thou?
The slave and his master alike are gone.–
Mother! who stands on the deck alone?
The child of thy bosom!–and lo! a brand
Blazing up high in her lifted hand!
And her veil flung back, and her free dark hair
Sway'd by the flames as they rock and flare;
And her fragile form to its loftiest height
Dilated, as if by the spirit's might,
And her eye with an eagle-gladness fraught,–
Oh! could this work be of woman wrought?
Yes! 'twas her deed!–by that haughty smile
It was hers–She hath kindled her funeral pile!
Never might shame on that bright head be,
Her blood was the Greek's, and hath made her free!
Proudly she stands, like an Indian bride
On the pyre with the holy dead beside;
But a shriek from her mother hath caught her ear,
As the flames to her marriage-robe draw near,
And starting, she spreads her pale arms in vain
To the form they must never infold again.
One moment more, and her hands are clasp'd,
Fallen is the torch they had wildly grasp'd,
Her sinking knee unto Heaven is bow'd,
And her last look rais'd thro' the smoke's dim shroud,
And her lips as in prayer for her pardon move:–
Now the night gathers o'er youth and love! *
* Founded on a circumstance related in the Second Series of the Curiosities of Literature, and forming part of a picture in the "Painted Biography," there described.
* Originally published, as well as several other of these RECORDS, in the New Monthly Magazine.