Imagens das páginas
PDF

212

KING ROBERT OF SICILY.

Yes, ma'am ; your ladyship is right,”

The figure straight replied ;
“ And hard for me it would have been

If I had never dyed.
“La! ma'am, you must have heard of me,

Although I'm no highflyer ;
I live just by, at No. 1,

I'm Billy Dip the dyer.
'Twas I, ma'am, Betty there employed

To dye your lustring gown ;
And I not only dye for you,
But dye for all the town.”

Anon.

KING ROBERT OF SICILY.

ROBERT OF SICILY, brother of Pope Urbane
And Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine,
Apparelled in magnificent attire,
With retinue of many a knight and squire,
On St. John's eve at vespers proudly sat,
And heard the priests chant the Magnificat.
And as he listened, o'er and o'er again
Repeated, like a burden or refrain,
He caught the words, Deposuit potentes
De sede, et exaltavit humiles ;
And slowly lifting up his kingly head,
He to a learned clerk beside him said,
“What mean these words?The clerk made answer meet-
“He has put down the mighty from their seat,
And has exalted them of low degree.”
Thereat King Robert muttered scornfully-
66 "Tis well that such seditious words are sung
Only by priests, and in the Latin tongue;
For unto priests and people be it known,
There is no power can push me from my throne !"
And, leaning back, he yawned and fell asleep,
Lulled by the chant monotonous and deep.
When he awoke, it was already night;
The church was empty, and there was no light,

KING ROBERT OF SICILY.

213

Save where the lamps that glimmered few and faint,
Lighted a little space before some saint.
He started from his seat and gazed around,
But saw no living thing and heard no sound.
He groped towards the door, but it was locked;
He cried aloud, and listened, and then knocked,
And uttered awful threatenings and complaints,
And imprecations upon men and saints.
The sounds re-echoed from the roofs and walls,
As if dead priests were laughing in their stalls.
At length, the sexton, hearing from without
The tumult of the knocking and the shout,
And thinking thieves were in the house of prayer,
Came with his lantern, asking “Who is there ?":
Half choked with rage, King Robert fiercely said,
“Open : 'tis I the king! Art thou afraid?":
The frightened sexton, muttering, with a curse,
“ This is some drunken vagabond, or worse !”
Turned the great key, and flung the portal wide :,:00!
A man rushed by him at a single stride, mis o bing
Haggard, half-naked, without hat or cloak,
Who neither turned, nor looked at him, nor spoke, for!
But leaped into the blackness of the night,
And vanished like a spectre from his sight.. :'.,,!!

Robert of Sicily, brother of Pope Urbane
And Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine,
Despoiled of his magnificent attire,
Bare-headed, breathless, and besprent with mire,
With sense of wrong and outrage desperate,
Strode on and thundered at the palace-gate;
Rushed through the court-yard, thrusting, in his rage,
To right and left each seneschal and page,
And hurried up the broad and sounding stair,
His white face ghastly in the torches' glare..
From hall to hall he passed with breathless speed
Voices and cries he heard, but did not heed-
Until at last he reached the banquet-room,
Blazing with light, and breathing with perfume. crisi
There on the dais sat another king,
Wearing his robes, his crown, his signet-ring 1, 7
King Robert's self in features, form, and height, voleu

204

THE DIVER. He spoke, and the cup from the terrible steep, s. :'ff'.

That, rugged and hoary, hung over the verge i ined Of the endless and measureless world of the deep, 135 1.

Swirled into the maëlstrom that maddened the surge. “ And where is the diver so stout to go I I ask ye again—to the deep below ??. ?; it not

..to numu And the knights and the squires that gathered around,

Stood silent, and fixed on the ocean their eyes ; ; il
They looked on the dismal and savage profound,

And the peril chilled back every thought of the prize.
And thrice spoke the monarch—“ The cup to win, 2,
Is there never a wight who will venture in ?"

And all, as before, heard in silence the king,

Till a youth with an aspect unfearing but gentle, 'Mid the tremulous squires, stepped out from the ring,

Unbuckling his girdle, and doffing his mantle ; And the murmuring crowd, as they parted asunder, On the stately boy cast their looks of wonder.

As he strode to the marge of the summit, and gave !!!.

One glance on the gulf of that merciless main,
Lo ! the wave that for ever devours the wave, je

Casts roaringly up the Charybdis again ; Per i And as with the swell of the far thunder-boom, still Rushes foamingly forth from the heart of the gloom.....

i

And it bubbles and seethes, and it hisses and roars,

As when fire with water commixed and contending, And the spray of its wrath to the welkin up-soars,

And flood upon flood hurries on, never ending; And it never will rest, nor from travail be free, Like a sea that is labouring the birth of a sea

Yet, at length comes a lull o'er the mighty commotion, And dark through its whiteness, and still through the

swell, The whirlpool cleaves downward and downward in ocean,

A yawning abyss, like the pathway to hell ;
The stiller and darker the farther it goes,
Sucked into that smoothness the breakers repose.

[blocks in formation]

The youth gave his trust to his Maker! Before

That path through the riven abyss closed again, Hark! à shriek from the gazers that circle the shore,

And behold ! he is whirled in the grasp of the main ! And o'er him the breakers mysteriously rolled, And the giant mouth closed on the swimmer so bold.

All was still on the height save the murmur that went

From the grave of the deep, sounding hollow and fell, Or save when the tremulous sighing lament

Thrilled fromlipunto lip, “Gallant youth, fare thee well!" More hollow and more wails the deep on the ear, More dread and more dread grows suspense in its fear.

If thou shouldst in those waters thy diadem fling,

And cry, “ Who may find it shall win it and wear ;”
God wot, though the prize were the crown of a king,

A crown at such hazard were valued too dear ;
For never shall lips of the living reveal
What the deeps that howl yonder in terror conceal.

Dh, many a barque to that breast grappled fast,

Has gone down to the fearful and fathomless grave; Again, crashed together the keel and the mast,

To be seen tossed aloft in the glee of the wave ! Like the growth of a storm, ever louder and clearer, Grows the roar of the gulf rising nearer and nearer.

And it bubbles and seethes, and it hisses and roars,

As when fire is with water commixed and contending ; And the spray of its wrath to the welkin upsoars.

And flood upon flood hurries on, never ending ; And, as with the swell of the far thunder-boom, Rushes roaringly forth from the heart of the gloom.

.

And lo! from the heart of that far-floating gloom,

Like the wing of the cygnet—what gleams on the sea ? Lo! an arm and a neck glancing up from the tomb !

Steering stalwart and shoreward. O joy ! it is he!
The left hand is lifted in triumph : behold,
It waves as a trophy the goblet of gold !

[blocks in formation]

And he breathed deep, and he breathed long,

And he greeted the heavenly delight of the day. They gaze on each other, they shout as they throng

“He lives ! lo, the ocean has rendered its prey ! And safe from the whirlpool and free from the grave, Comes back to the daylight the soul of the brave !"

And he comes, with the crowd in their clamour and glee ;

And the goblet his daring has won from the water He lifts to the king as he sinks on his knee; And the king from her maidens has beckoned his

daughter : She pours to the boy the bright wine which they bring, And thus spoke the diver_"Long life to the King ! “Happy they whom the rose-hues of daylight rejoice,

The air and the sky that to mortals are given ; May the horror below nevermore find a voice,

Nor man stretch too far the wide mercy of heaven ; Nevermore, nevermore, may he lift from the sight The veil which is woven with terror and night! “Quick brightening like lightning, the ocean rushed o'er

Wild floating, borne down fathom deep from the day; Till a torrent rushed out on the torrents that bore me,

And doubled the tempest that whirled me away. Vain, vain was my struggle—the circle had won me, Round and round in its dance the mad element spun me.

me,

“ From the deep, then, I called upon God, and He heard me;

In the dread of my need, He vouchsafed to mine eye A rock jutting out from the grave that interred me;

I sprung there, I clung there, and death passed me by, And lo! where the goblet gleamed through the abyss, By a coral reef saved from the far Fathomless.

“ Below, at the foot of that precipice drear,

Spread the gloomy, and purple, and pathless Obscure ! A silence of horror that slept on the ear,

That the eye more appalled might the horror endure ! Salamander, snake, dragon-Vast reptiles that dwell In the deep-coiled about the grim jaws of their hell.

« AnteriorContinuar »