The Bride of Abydos, by George Byron

Canto the Second.61

I.

The winds are high on Helle’s wave,

As on that night of stormy water

When Love, who sent, forgot to save

The young — the beautiful — the brave —

The lonely hope of Sestos’ daughter.

Oh! when alone along the sky

Her turret-torch was blazing high,

Though rising gale, and breaking foam,

And shrieking sea-birds warned him home;

And clouds aloft and tides below,

With signs and sounds, forbade to go,

He could not see, he would not hear,

Or sound or sign foreboding fear;

His eye but saw that light of Love,

The only star it hailed above;

His ear but rang with Hero’s song,

“Ye waves, divide not lovers long!” —

That tale is old, but Love anew62

May nerve young hearts to prove as true.

II.

The winds are high and Helle’s tide

Rolls darkly heaving to the main;

And Night’s descending shadows hide

That field with blood bedewed in vain,

The desert of old Priam’s pride;

The tombs, sole relics of his reign,

All — save immortal dreams that could beguile

The blind old man of Scio’s rocky isle!

III.

Oh! yet — for there my steps have been;

These feet have pressed the sacred shore,

These limbs that buoyant wave hath borne —

Minstrel! with thee to muse, to mourn,

To trace again those fields of yore,

Believing every hillock green

Contains no fabled hero’s ashes,

And that around the undoubted scene

Thine own “broad Hellespont”63 still dashes,

Be long my lot! and cold were he

Who there could gaze denying thee!

IV.

The Night hath closed on Helle’s stream,

Nor yet hath risen on Ida’s hill

That Moon, which shone on his high theme:

No warrior chides her peaceful beam,

But conscious shepherds bless it still.

Their flocks are grazing on the Mound

Of him who felt the Dardan’s arrow:

That mighty heap of gathered ground

Which Ammon’s son ran proudly round,64

By nations raised, by monarchs crowned,

Is now a lone and nameless barrow!

Within — thy dwelling-place how narrow!65

Without — can only strangers breathe

The name of him that was beneath:

Dust long outlasts the storied stone;

But Thou — thy very dust is gone!

V.

Late, late to-night will Dian cheer

The swain, and chase the boatman’s fear;

Till then — no beacon on the cliff

May shape the course of struggling skiff;

The scattered lights that skirt the bay,

All, one by one, have died away;

The only lamp of this lone hour

Is glimmering in Zuleika’s tower.

Yes! there is light in that lone chamber,

And o’er her silken ottoman

Are thrown the fragrant beads of amber,

O’er which her fairy fingers ran;66

Near these, with emerald rays beset,67

(How could she thus that gem forget?)

Her mother’s sainted amulet,68

Whereon engraved the Koorsee text,

Could smooth this life, and win the next;

And by her Comboloio69 lies

A Koran of illumined dyes;

And many a bright emblazoned rhyme

By Persian scribes redeemed from Time;

And o’er those scrolls, not oft so mute,

Reclines her now neglected lute;

And round her lamp of fretted gold

Bloom flowers in urns of China’s mould;

The richest work of Iran’s loom,

And Sheeraz70 tribute of perfume;

All that can eye or sense delight

Are gathered in that gorgeous room:

But yet it hath an air of gloom.

She, of this Peri cell the sprite,

What doth she hence, and on so rude a night?

VI.

Wrapt in the darkest sable vest,

Which none save noblest Moslem wear,

To guard from winds of Heaven the breast

As Heaven itself to Selim dear,

With cautious steps the thicket threading,

And starting oft, as through the glade

The gust its hollow moanings made,

Till on the smoother pathway treading,

More free her timid bosom beat,

The maid pursued her silent guide;

And though her terror urged retreat,

How could she quit her Selim’s side?

How teach her tender lips to chide?

VII.

They reached at length a grotto, hewn

By nature, but enlarged by art,

Where oft her lute she wont to tune,

And oft her Koran conned apart;

And oft in youthful reverie

She dreamed what Paradise might be:

Where Woman’s parted soul shall go

Her Prophet had disdained to show;7172

But Selim’s mansion was secure,

Nor deemed she, could he long endure

His bower in other worlds of bliss

Without her, most beloved in this!

Oh! who so dear with him could dwell?

What Houri soothe him half so well?

VIII.

Since last she visited the spot

Some change seemed wrought within the grot:

It might be only that the night

Disguised things seen by better light:

That brazen lamp but dimly threw

A ray of no celestial hue;

But in a nook within the cell

Her eye on stranger objects fell.

There arms were piled, not such as wield

The turbaned Delis in the field;

But brands of foreign blade and hilt,

And one was red — perchance with guilt!73

Ah! how without can blood be spilt?

A cup too on the board was set

That did not seem to hold sherbet.

What may this mean? she turned to see

Her Selim — “Oh! can this be he?”74

IX.

His robe of pride was thrown aside,

His brow no high-crowned turban bore,

But in its stead a shawl of red,

Wreathed lightly round, his temples wore:

That dagger, on whose hilt the gem

Were worthy of a diadem,

No longer glittered at his waist,

Where pistols unadorned were braced;

And from his belt a sabre swung,

And from his shoulder loosely hung

The cloak of white, the thin capote

That decks the wandering Candiote;

Beneath — his golden plated vest

Clung like a cuirass to his breast;

The greaves below his knee that wound

With silvery scales were sheathed and bound.

But were it not that high command

Spake in his eye, and tone, and hand,

All that a careless eye could see

In him was some young Galiongée.75

X.

“I said I was not what I seemed;

And now thou see’st my words were true:

I have a tale thou hast not dreamed,

If sooth — its truth must others rue.

My story now ’twere vain to hide,

I must not see thee Osman’s bride:

But had not thine own lips declared

How much of that young heart I shared,

I could not, must not, yet have shown

The darker secret of my own.

In this I speak not now of love;

That — let Time — Truth — and Peril prove:

But first — Oh! never wed another —

Zuleika! I am not thy brother!”

XI.

“Oh! not my brother! — yet unsay —

God! am I left alone on earth

To mourn — I dare not curse — the day76

That saw my solitary birth?

Oh! thou wilt love me now no more!

My sinking heart foreboded ill;

But know me all I was before,

Thy sister — friend — Zuleika still.

Thou led’st me here perchance to kill;

If thou hast cause for vengeance, see!

My breast is offered — take thy fill!

Far better with the dead to be

Than live thus nothing now to thee:

Perhaps far worse, for now I know

Why Giaffir always seemed thy foe;

And I, alas! am Giaffir’s child,

For whom thou wert contemned, reviled.

If not thy sister — would’st thou save

My life — Oh! bid me be thy slave!”

XII.

“My slave, Zuleika! — nay, I’m thine:

But, gentle love, this transport calm,

Thy lot shall yet be linked with mine;

I swear it by our Prophet’s shrine,77

And be that thought thy sorrow’s balm.

So may the Koran78 verse displayed

Upon its steel direct my blade,

In danger’s hour to guard us both,

As I preserve that awful oath!

The name in which thy heart hath prided

Must change; but, my Zuleika, know,

That tie is widened, not divided,

Although thy Sire’s my deadliest foe.

My father was to Giaffir all

That Selim late was deemed to thee;

That brother wrought a brother’s fall,

But spared, at least, my infancy!

And lulled me with a vain deceit

That yet a like return may meet.

He reared me, not with tender help,

But like the nephew of a Cain;79

He watched me like a lion’s whelp,

That gnaws and yet may break his chain.

My father’s blood in every vein

Is boiling! but for thy dear sake

No present vengeance will I take;

Though here I must no more remain.

But first, beloved Zuleika! hear

How Giaffir wrought this deed of fear.

XIII.

“How first their strife to rancour grew,

If Love or Envy made them foes,

It matters little if I knew;

In fiery spirits, slights, though few

And thoughtless, will disturb repose.

In war Abdallah’s arm was strong,

Remembered yet in Bosniac song,80

And Paswan’s81 rebel hordes attest

How little love they bore such guest:

His death is all I need relate,

The stern effect of Giaffir’s hate;

And how my birth disclosed to me,82

Whate’er beside it makes, hath made me free.

XIV.

“When Paswan, after years of strife,

At last for power, but first for life,

In Widdin’s walls too proudly sate,

Our Pachas rallied round the state;

Not last nor least in high command,

Each brother led a separate band;

They gave their Horse-tails83 to the wind,

And mustering in Sophia’s plain

Their tents were pitched, their post assigned;

To one, alas! assigned in vain!

What need of words? the deadly bowl,

By Giaffir’s order drugged and given,

With venom subtle as his soul,84

Dismissed Abdallah’s hence to heaven.

Reclined and feverish in the bath,

He, when the hunter’s sport was up,

But little deemed a brother’s wrath

To quench his thirst had such a cup:

The bowl a bribed attendant bore;

He drank one draught,85 nor needed more!

If thou my tale, Zuleika, doubt,

Call Haroun — he can tell it out.

XV.

“The deed once done, and Paswan’s feud

In part suppressed, though ne’er subdued,

Abdallah’s Pachalick was gained:—

Thou know’st not what in our Divan

Can wealth procure for worse than man —

Abdallah’s honours were obtained

By him a brother’s murder stained;

’Tis true, the purchase nearly drained

His ill-got treasure, soon replaced.

Would’st question whence? Survey the waste,

And ask the squalid peasant how

His gains repay his broiling brow! —

Why me the stern Usurper spared,

Why thus with me his palace spared,

I know not. Shame — regret — remorse —

And little fear from infant’s force —

Besides, adoption as a son

By him whom Heaven accorded none,

Or some unknown cabal, caprice,

Preserved me thus:— but not in peace:

He cannot curb his haughty mood,86

Nor I forgive a father’s blood.

XVI.

“Within thy Father’s house are foes;

Not all who break his bread are true:

To these should I my birth disclose,

His days-his very hours were few:

They only want a heart to lead,

A hand to point them to the deed.

But Haroun only knows, or knew

This tale, whose close is almost nigh:

He in Abdallah’s palace grew,

And held that post in his Serai

Which holds he here — he saw him die;

But what could single slavery do?

Avenge his lord? alas! too late;

Or save his son from such a fate?

He chose the last, and when elate

With foes subdued, or friends betrayed,

Proud Giaffir in high triumph sate,

He led me helpless to his gate,

And not in vain it seems essayed

To save the life for which he prayed.

The knowledge of my birth secured

From all and each, but most from me;

Thus Giaffir’s safety was ensured.

Removed he too from Roumelie

To this our Asiatic side,

Far from our seats by Danube’s tide,

With none but Haroun, who retains

Such knowledge — and that Nubian feels

A Tyrant’s secrets are but chains,

From which the captive gladly steals,

And this and more to me reveals:

Such still to guilt just Allah sends —

Slaves, tools, accomplices — no friends!

XVII.

“All this, Zuleika, harshly sounds;

But harsher still my tale must be:

Howe’er my tongue thy softness wounds,

Yet I must prove all truth to thee.”87

I saw thee start this garb to see,

Yet is it one I oft have worn,

And long must wear: this Galiongée,

To whom thy plighted vow is sworn,

Is leader of those pirate hordes,

Whose laws and lives are on their swords;

To hear whose desolating tale

Would make thy waning cheek more pale:

Those arms thou see’st my band have brought,

The hands that wield are not remote;

This cup too for the rugged knaves

Is filled — once quaffed, they ne’er repine:

Our Prophet might forgive the slaves;

They’re only infidels in wine.

XVIII.

“What could I be? Proscribed at home,

And taunted to a wish to roam;

And listless left — for Giaffir’s fear

Denied the courser and the spear —

Though oft — Oh, Mahomet! how oft! —

In full Divan the despot scoffed,

As if my weak unwilling hand

Refused the bridle or the brand:

He ever went to war alone,

And pent me here untried — unknown;

To Haroun’s care with women left,88

By hope unblest, of fame bereft,

While thou — whose softness long endeared,

Though it unmanned me, still had cheered —

To Brusa’s walls for safety sent,

Awaited’st there the field’s event.

Haroun who saw my spirit pining89

Beneath inaction’s sluggish yoke,

His captive, though with dread resigning,

My thraldom for a season broke,

On promise to return before

The day when Giaffir’s charge was o’er.

’Tis vain — my tongue can not impart90

My almost drunkenness of heart,91

When first this liberated eye

Surveyed Earth — Ocean — Sun — and Sky —

As if my Spirit pierced them through,

And all their inmost wonders knew!

One word alone can paint to thee

That more than feeling — I was Free!

E’en for thy presence ceased to pine;

The World — nay, Heaven itself was mine!

XIX.

“The shallop of a trusty Moor

Conveyed me from this idle shore;

I longed to see the isles that gem

Old Ocean’s purple diadem:

I sought by turns, and saw them all;92

But when and where I joined the crew,

With whom I’m pledged to rise or fall,

When all that we design to do

Is done,’twill then be time more meet

To tell thee, when the tale’s complete.

XX.

“’Tis true, they are a lawless brood,

But rough in form, nor mild in mood;

And every creed, and every race,

With them hath found — may find a place:

But open speech, and ready hand,

Obedience to their Chief’s command;

A soul for every enterprise,

That never sees with Terror’s eyes;

Friendship for each, and faith to all,

And vengeance vowed for those who fall,

Have made them fitting instruments

For more than e’en my own intents.

And some — and I have studied all

Distinguished from the vulgar rank,

But chiefly to my council call

The wisdom of the cautious Frank:—

And some to higher thoughts aspire.

The last of Lambro’s93 patriots there

Anticipated freedom share;

And oft around the cavern fire

On visionary schemes debate,

To snatch the Rayahs94 from their fate.

So let them ease their hearts with prate

Of equal rights, which man ne’er knew;

I have a love for freedom too.

Aye! let me like the ocean-Patriarch95 roam,

Or only know on land the Tartar’s home!96

My tent on shore, my galley on the sea,

Are more than cities and Serais to me:97

Borne by my steed, or wafted by my sail,

Across the desert, or before the gale,

Bound where thou wilt, my barb! or glide, my prow!

But be the Star that guides the wanderer, Thou!

Thou, my Zuleika, share and bless my bark;

The Dove of peace and promise to mine ark!98

Or, since that hope denied in worlds of strife,

Be thou the rainbow to the storms of life!

The evening beam that smiles the clouds away,

And tints to-morrow with prophetic ray!99

Blest — as the Muezzin’s strain from Mecca’s wall

To pilgrims pure and prostrate at his call;

Soft — as the melody of youthful days,

That steals the trembling tear of speechless praise;

Dear — as his native song to Exile’s ears,100

Shall sound each tone thy long-loved voice endears.

For thee in those bright isles is built a bower

Blooming as Aden101 in its earliest hour.

A thousand swords, with Selim’s heart and hand,

Wait — wave — defend — destroy — at thy command!102

Girt by my band, Zuleika at my side,

The spoil of nations shall bedeck my bride.

The Haram’s languid years of listless ease

Are well resigned for cares — for joys like these:

Not blind to Fate, I see, where’er I rove,

Unnumbered perils, — but one only love!

Yet well my toils shall that fond breast repay,

Though Fortune frown, or falser friends betray.

How dear the dream in darkest hours of ill,

Should all be changed, to find thee faithful still!

Be but thy soul, like Selim’s firmly shown;

To thee be Selim’s tender as thine own;

To soothe each sorrow, share in each delight,103

Blend every thought, do all — but disunite!

Once free, ’tis mine our horde again to guide;

Friends to each other, foes to aught beside:104

Yet there we follow but the bent assigned

By fatal Nature to man’s warring kind:105

Mark! where his carnage and his conquests cease!

He makes a solitude, and calls it — peace!106107

I like the rest must use my skill or strength,

But ask no land beyond my sabre’s length:

Power sways but by division — her resource108

The blest alternative of fraud or force!

Ours be the last; in time Deceit may come

When cities cage us in a social home:

There ev’n thy soul might err — how oft the heart

Corruption shakes which Peril could not part!

And Woman, more than Man, when Death or Woe,

Or even Disgrace, would lay her lover low,

Sunk in the lap of Luxury will shame —

Away suspicion! — not Zuleika’s name!

But life is hazard at the best; and here

No more remains to win, and much to fear:

Yes, fear! — the doubt, the dread of losing thee,

By Osman’s power, and Giaffir’s stern decree.

That dread shall vanish with the favouring gale,

Which Love to-night hath promised to my sail:109

No danger daunts the pair his smile hath blest,

Their steps still roving, but their hearts at rest.

With thee all toils are sweet, each clime hath charms;

Earth — sea alike — our world within our arms!

Aye — let the loud winds whistle o’er the deck,110

So that those arms cling closer round my neck:

The deepest murmur of this lip shall be,111112

No sigh for safety, but a prayer for thee!

The war of elements no fears impart

To Love, whose deadliest bane is human Art:

There lie the only rocks our course can check;

Here moments menace — there are years of wreck!

But hence ye thoughts that rise in Horror’s shape!

This hour bestows, or ever bars escape.113

Few words remain of mine my tale to close;

Of thine but one to waft us from our foes;

Yea — foes — to me will Giaffir’s hate decline?

And is not Osman, who would part us, thine?

XXI.

“His head and faith from doubt and death

Returned in time my guard to save;

Few heard, none told, that o’er the wave

From isle to isle I roved the while:

And since, though parted from my band

Too seldom now I leave the land,

No deed they’ve done, nor deed shall do,

Ere I have heard and doomed it too:

I form the plan — decree the spoil —

Tis fit I oftener share the toil.

But now too long I’ve held thine ear;

Time presses — floats my bark — and here

We leave behind but hate and fear.

To-morrow Osman with his train

Arrives — to-night must break thy chain:

And would’st thou save that haughty Bey, —

Perchance his life who gave thee thine, —

With me this hour away — away!

But yet, though thou art plighted mine,

Would’st thou recall thy willing vow,

Appalled by truths imparted now,

Here rest I— not to see thee wed:

But be that peril on my head!”

XXII.

Zuleika, mute and motionless,

Stood like that Statue of Distress,

When, her last hope for ever gone,

The Mother hardened into stone;

All in the maid that eye could see

Was but a younger Niobé.

But ere her lip, or even her eye,

Essayed to speak, or look reply,

Beneath the garden’s wicket porch

Far flashed on high a blazing torch!

Another — and another — and another — 114

“Oh! fly — no more — yet now my more than brother!”

Far, wide, through every thicket spread

The fearful lights are gleaming red;

Nor these alone — for each right hand

Is ready with a sheathless brand.

They part — pursue — return, and wheel

With searching flambeau, shining steel;

And last of all, his sabre waving,

Stern Giaffir in his fury raving:

And now almost they touch the cave —

Oh! must that grot be Selim’s grave?

XXIII.

Dauntless he stood — ”’Tis come — soon past —

One kiss, Zuleika — ’tis my last:

But yet my band not far from shore

May hear this signal, see the flash;

Yet now too few — the attempt were rash:

No matter — yet one effort more.”

Forth to the cavern mouth he stept;

His pistol’s echo rang on high,

Zuleika started not, nor wept,

Despair benumbed her breast and eye! —

“They hear me not, or if they ply

Their oars,’tis but to see me die;

That sound hath drawn my foes more nigh.

Then forth my father’s scimitar,

Thou ne’er hast seen less equal war!

Farewell, Zuleika! — Sweet! retire:

Yet stay within — here linger safe,

At thee his rage will only chafe.

Stir not — lest even to thee perchance

Some erring blade or ball should glance.

Fear’st them for him? — may I expire

If in this strife I seek thy sire!

No — though by him that poison poured;

No — though again he call me coward!

But tamely shall I meet their steel?

No — as each crest save his may feel!”

XXIV.

One bound he made, and gained the sand:

Already at his feet hath sunk

The foremost of the prying band,

A gasping head, a quivering trunk:

Another falls — but round him close

A swarming circle of his foes;

From right to left his path he cleft,

And almost met the meeting wave:

His boat appears — not five oars’ length —

His comrades strain with desperate strength —

Oh! are they yet in time to save?

His feet the foremost breakers lave;

His band are plunging in the bay,

Their sabres glitter through the spray;

Wet — wild — unwearied to the strand

They struggle — now they touch the land!

They come — ’tis but to add to slaughter —

His heart’s best blood is on the water.

XXV.

Escaped from shot, unharmed by steel,

Or scarcely grazed its force to feel,115

Had Selim won, betrayed, beset,

To where the strand and billows met;

There as his last step left the land,

And the last death-blow dealt his hand —

Ah! wherefore did he turn to look116

For her his eye but sought in vain?

That pause, that fatal gaze he took,

Hath doomed his death, or fixed his chain.

Sad proof, in peril and in pain,

How late will Lover’s hope remain!

His back was to the dashing spray;

Behind, but close, his comrades lay,

When, at the instant, hissed the ball —

“So may the foes of Giaffir fall!”

Whose voice is heard? whose carbine rang?

Whose bullet through the night-air sang,

Too nearly, deadly aimed to err?

’Tis thine — Abdallah’s Murderer!

The father slowly rued thy hate,

The son hath found a quicker fate:

Fast from his breast the blood is bubbling,

The whiteness of the sea-foam troubling —

If aught his lips essayed to groan,

The rushing billows choked the tone!

XXVI.

Morn slowly rolls the clouds away;

Few trophies of the fight are there:

The shouts that shook the midnight-bay

Are silent; but some signs of fray

That strand of strife may bear,

And fragments of each shivered brand;

Steps stamped; and dashed into the sand

The print of many a struggling hand

May there be marked; nor far remote

A broken torch, an oarless boat;

And tangled on the weeds that heap

The beach where shelving to the deep

There lies a white capote!

’Tis rent in twain — one dark-red stain

The wave yet ripples o’er in vain:

But where is he who wore?

Ye! who would o’er his relics weep,

Go, seek them where the surges sweep

Their burthen round Sigæum’s steep

And cast on Lemnos’ shore:

The sea-birds shriek above the prey,

O’er which their hungry beaks delay,117

As shaken on his restless pillow,

His head heaves with the heaving billow;

That hand, whose motion is not life,118

Yet feebly seems to menace strife,

Flung by the tossing tide on high,

Then levelled with the wave — 119

What recks it, though that corse shall lie

Within a living grave?

The bird that tears that prostrate form

Hath only robbed the meaner worm;

The only heart, the only eye

Had bled or wept to see him die,

Had seen those scattered limbs composed,

And mourned above his turban-stone,120

That heart hath burst — that eye was closed —

Yea — closed before his own!

XXVII.

By Helle’s stream there is a voice of wail!

And Woman’s eye is wet — Man’s cheek is pale:

Zuleika! last of Giaffir’s race,

Thy destined lord is come too late:

He sees not — ne’er shall see thy face!

Can he not hear

The loud Wul-wulleh121 warn his distant ear?

Thy handmaids weeping at the gate,

The Koran-chanters of the Hymn of Fate,122123

The silent slaves with folded arms that wait,

Sighs in the hall, and shrieks upon the gale,

Tell him thy tale!

Thou didst not view thy Selim fall!

That fearful moment when he left the cave

Thy heart grew chill:

He was thy hope — thy joy — thy love — thine all,

And that last thought on him thou could’st not save

Sufficed to kill;

Burst forth in one wild cry — and all was still.

Peace to thy broken heart — and virgin grave!

Ah! happy! but of life to lose the worst!

That grief — though deep — though fatal — was thy first!

Thrice happy! ne’er to feel nor fear the force

Of absence — shame — pride — hate — revenge — remorse!

And, oh! that pang where more than Madness lies

The Worm that will not sleep — and never dies;

Thought of the gloomy day and ghastly night,

That dreads the darkness, and yet loathes the light,

That winds around, and tears the quivering heart!

Ah! wherefore not consume it — and depart!

Woe to thee, rash and unrelenting Chief!

Vainly thou heap’st the dust upon thy head,

Vainly the sackcloth o’er thy limbs dost spread:124

By that same hand Abdallah — Selim bled.

Now let it tear thy beard in idle grief:

Thy pride of heart, thy bride for Osman’s bed,

She, whom thy Sultan had but seen to wed,125

Thy Daughter’s dead!

Hope of thine age, thy twilight’s lonely beam,

The Star hath set that shone on Helle’s stream.

What quenched its ray? — the blood that thou hast shed!

Hark! to the hurried question of Despair:126

“Where is my child?” — an Echo answers — “Where?”127

XXVIII.

Within the place of thousand tombs

That shine beneath, while dark above

The sad but living cypress glooms128

And withers not, though branch and leaf

Are stamped with an eternal grief,

Like early unrequited Love,

One spot exists, which ever blooms,

Ev’n in that deadly grove —

A single rose is shedding there

Its lonely lustre, meek and pale:

It looks as planted by Despair —

So white — so faint — the slightest gale

Might whirl the leaves on high;

And yet, though storms and blight assail,

And hands more rude than wintry sky

May wring it from the stem — in vain —

To-morrow sees it bloom again!

The stalk some Spirit gently rears,

And waters with celestial tears;

For well may maids of Helle deem

That this can be no earthly flower,

Which mocks the tempest’s withering hour,

And buds unsheltered by a bower;

Nor droops, though Spring refuse her shower,

Nor woos the Summer beam:

To it the livelong night there sings

A Bird unseen — but not remote:

Invisible his airy wings,

But soft as harp that Houri strings

His long entrancing note!

It were the Bulbul; but his throat,

Though mournful, pours not such a strain:

For they who listen cannot leave

The spot, but linger there and grieve,

As if they loved in vain!

And yet so sweet the tears they shed,

’Tis sorrow so unmixed with dread,

They scarce can bear the morn to break

That melancholy spell,

And longer yet would weep and wake,

He sings so wild and well!

But when the day-blush bursts from high129

Expires that magic melody.

And some have been who could believe,130

(So fondly youthful dreams deceive,

Yet harsh be they that blame,)

That note so piercing and profound

Will shape and syllable131 its sound

Into Zuleika’s name.

’Tis from her cypress summit heard,

That melts in air the liquid word:

’Tis from her lowly virgin earth

That white rose takes its tender birth.

There late was laid a marble stone;

Eve saw it placed — the Morrow gone!

It was no mortal arm that bore

That deep fixed pillar to the shore;

For there, as Helle’s legends tell,

Next morn ’twas found where Selim fell;

Lashed by the tumbling tide, whose wave

Denied his bones a holier grave:

And there by night, reclined, ’tis said.

Is seen a ghastly turbaned head:132

And hence extended by the billow,

’Tis named the “Pirate-phantom’s pillow!”

Where first it lay that mourning flower

Hath flourished; flourisheth this hour,

Alone and dewy — coldly pure and pale;

As weeping Beauty’s cheek at Sorrow’s tale!133134

61 {178} Nov. 9^th^ 1813. — [MS.]

62 [Vide Ovid, Heroïdes, Ep. xix.; and the De Herone atque Leandro of Musæus.]

63 {179} The wrangling about this epithet, “the broad Hellespont” or the “boundless Hellespont,” whether it means one or the other, or what it means at all, has been beyond all possibility of detail. I have even heard it disputed on the spot; and not foreseeing a speedy conclusion to the controversy, amused myself with swimming across it in the mean time; and probably may again, before the point is settled. Indeed, the question as to the truth of “the tale of Troy divine” still continues, much of it resting upon the talismanic word “ἄπειρος:” [“apeiros”] probably Homer had the same notion of distance that a coquette has of time; and when he talks of boundless, means half a mile; as the latter, by a like figure, when she says eternal attachment, simply specifies three weeks.

[For a defence of the Homeric ἀπείρων [apeirôn], and for a résumé of the “wrangling” of the topographers, Jean Baptiste Le Chevalier (1752–1836) and Jacob Bryant (1715–1804), etc., see Travels in Albania, 1858, ii. 179–185.]

64 {180} Before his Persian invasion, and crowned the altar with laurel, etc. He was afterwards imitated by Caracalla in his race. It is believed that the last also poisoned a friend, named Festus, for the sake of new Patroclan games. I have seen the sheep feeding on the tombs of Æyietes and Antilochus: the first is in the centre of the plain.

[Alexander placed a garland on the tomb of Achilles, and “went through the ceremony of anointing himself with oil, and running naked up to it.” — Plut. Vitæ, “Alexander M.,” cap. xv. line 25, Lipsiæ, 1814, vi. 187. For the tombs of Æsyetes, etc., see Travels in Albania, ii. 149–151.]

65 [Compare —

“Or narrow if needs must be,

Outside are the storms and the strangers.”

Never the Time, etc., lines 19, 20, by Robert Browning.]

66 {181} When rubbed, the amber is susceptible of a perfume, which is slight, but not disagreeable. [Letter to Murray, December 6, 1813, Letters, 1898, ii. 300.]

67 [“Coeterum castitatis hieroglyphicum gemma est.” — Hoffmann, Lexic. Univ., art. “Smaragdus.” Compare, too, Lalla Rookh (“Chandos Classics,” p. 406), “The emerald’s virgin blaze.”]

68 The belief in amulets engraved on gems, or enclosed in gold boxes, containing scraps from the Koran, worn round the neck, wrist, or arm, is still universal in the East. The Koorsee (throne) verse in the second cap. of the Koran describes the attributes of the Most High, and is engraved in this manner, and worn by the pious, as the most esteemed and sublime of all sentences.

[The âyatu ‘l kursîy, or verse of the throne (Sura II. “Chapter of the Heifer,” v. 257), runs thus: “God, there is no God but He, the living and self-subsistent. Slumber takes Him not, nor sleep. His is what is in the heavens and what is in the earth. Who is it that intercedes with Him, save by His permission? He knows what is before them, and what behind them, and they comprehend not aught of His knowledge but of what He pleases. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and it tires Him not to guard them both, for He is high and grand.” — The Qur’ân, translated by E. H. Palmer, 1880, Part I., Sacred Books of the East, vi. 40.]

69 “Comboloio” — a Turkish rosary. The MSS., particularly those of the Persians, are richly adorned and illuminated. The Greek females are kept in utter ignorance; but many of the Turkish girls are highly accomplished, though not actually qualified for a Christian coterie. Perhaps some of our own “blues“ might not be the worse for bleaching.

[The comboloio consists of ninety-nine beads. Compare Lalla Rookh (“Chandos Classics,” p. 420), “Her ruby rosary,” etc., and note on “Le Tespih.” Lord Byron’s Comboloio is the title of a metrical jeu d’esprit, a rhymed catalogue of the Poetical Works, beginning with Hours of Idleness, and ending with Cain, a Mystery. — Blackwood’s Magazine, 1822, xi. 162–165.]

70 {182} [Shiraz, capital of the Persian province of Fars, is celebrated for the attar-gûl, or attar of roses.]

71 {183}

Her Prophet did not clearly show

But Selim’s place was quite secure. — [MS.]

72 [Compare The Giaour, line 490, note 1, vide ante, p. 110.]

73 And one seemed red with recent guilt. — [MS.]

74 {184} Her Selim — “Alla — is it he?“ — [MS.]

75 “Galiongée” or Galiongi [i.e. a Galleon-er], a sailor, that is, a Turkish sailor; the Greeks navigate, the Turks work the guns. Their dress is picturesque; and I have seen the Capitan Pacha, more than once, wearing it as a kind of incog. Their legs, however, are generally naked. The buskins described in the text as sheathed behind with silver are those of an Arnaut robber, who was my host (he had quitted the profession) at his Pyrgo, near Gastouni in the Morea; they were plated in scales one over the other, like the back of an armadillo.

[Gastuni lies some eight miles S.W. of Palæopolis, the site of the ancient Elis. The “Pyrgo” must be the Castle of Chlemutzi (Castel Tornese), built by Geoffrey II. of Villehouardin, circ. A.D. 1218.]

76 {185}

What — have I lived to curse the day? — [MS. M.]

To curse — if I could curse — the day. — [MS., ed. 1892.]

77 {186} I swear it by Medina’s shrine. — [MS. erased.]

78 The characters on all Turkish scimitars contain sometimes the name of the place of their manufacture, but more generally a text from the Koran, in letters of gold. Amongst those in my possession is one with a blade of singular construction: it is very broad, and the edge notched into serpentine curves like the ripple of water, or the wavering of flame. I asked the Armenian who sold it, what possible use such a figure could add: he said, in Italian, that he did not know; but the Mussulmans had an idea that those of this form gave a severer wound; and liked it because it was “piu feroce.” I did not much admire the reason, but bought it for its peculiarity.

[Compare Lalla Rookh (“Chandos Classics,” p. 373) — “The flashing of their swords’ rich marquetry.”]

79 {187} It is to be observed, that every allusion to any thing or personage in the Old Testament, such as the Ark, or Cain, is equally the privilege of Mussulman and Jew: indeed, the former profess to be much better acquainted with the lives, true and fabulous, of the patriarchs, than is warranted by our own sacred writ; and not content with Adam, they have a biography of Pre–Adamites. Solomon is the monarch of all necromancy, and Moses a prophet inferior only to Christ and Mahomet. Zuleika is the Persian name of Potiphar’s wife; and her amour with Joseph constitutes one of the finest poems in their language. It is, therefore, no violation of costume to put the names of Cain, or Noah, into the mouth of a Moslem.

[À propos of this note “for the ignorant,” Byron writes to Murray (November 13, 1813), “Do you suppose that no one but the Galileans are acquainted with Adam, and Eve, and Cain, and Noah? — Zuleika is the Persian poetical name for Potiphar’s wife;” and, again, November 14, “I don’t care one lump of sugar for my poetry; but for my costume, and my correctness on these points . . . I will combat lustily.” — Letters, 1898, ii. 282, 283.]

80 {188} [Karajić (Vuk Stefanović, born 1787), secretary to Kara George, published Narodne Srpske Pjesme, at Vienna, 1814, 1815. See, too, Languages and Literature of the Slavic Nations, by Talvi, New York, 1850, pp. 366–382; Volkslieder der Serben, von Talvi, Leipzig, 1835, ii. 245, etc., and Chants Populaires des Servics, Recueillis par Wuk Stephanowitsch, et Traduits d’après Talvy, par Madame Élise Voïart, Paris, 1834, ii. 183, etc.]

81 Paswan Oglou, the rebel of Widdin; who, for the last years of his life, set the whole power of the Porte at defiance.

[Passwan Oglou (1758–1807) [Passewend’s, or the Watchman’s son, according to Hobhouse] was born and died at Widdin. He first came into notice in 1788, in alliance with certain disbanded Turkish levies, named Krdschalies. “It was their pride to ride along on stately horses, with trappings of gold and silver, and bearing costly arms. In their train were female slaves, Giuvendi, in male attire, who not only served to amuse them in their hours of ease with singing and dancing, but also followed them to battle (as Kaled followed Lara, see Lara, Canto II. stanza xv., etc.), for the purpose of holding their horses when they fought.” On one occasion he is reported to have addressed these “rebel hordes” much in the spirit of the “Corsair,” “The booty be yours, and mine the glory.” “After having for some time suffered a Pacha to be associated with him, he at length expelled his superior, and demanded ‘the three horse-tails’ for himself.” In 1798 the Porte despatched another army, but Passwan was completely victorious, and “at length the Porte resolved to make peace, and actually sent him the ‘three horse-tails’” (i.e. made him commander-in-chief of the Janissaries at Widdin). (See History of Servia, by Leopold von Ranke, Bohn, 1853, pp. 68–71. See, too, Voyage dans l’Empire Othoman, par G. A. Olivier, an. 9 (1801), i. 108–125; and Madame Voïart’s “Abrégé de l’histoire du royaume de Servie,” prefixed to Chants Populaires, etc., Paris, 1834.)]

82

And how that death made known to me

Hath made me what thou now shalt see. — [MS.]

83 {189} “Horse-tail,” — the standard of a Pacha.

84 With venom blacker than his soul. — [MS.]

85 Giaffir, Pacha of Argyro Castro, or Scutari, I am not sure which, was actually taken off by the Albanian Ali, in the manner described in the text. Ali Pacha, while I was in the country, married the daughter of his victim, some years after the event had taken place at a bath in Sophia or Adrianople. The poison was mixed in the cup of coffee, which is presented before the sherbet by the bath keeper, after dressing.

86 {190}

Nor, if his sullen spirit could,

Can I forgive a parent’s blood. — [MS.]

87 {191} Yet I must be all truth to thee. — [MS.]

88 {192}

To Haroun’s care in idlesse left,

In spirit bound, of fame bereft. — [MS. erased.]

89 {193}

That slave who saw my spirit pining

Beneath Inaction’s heavy yoke,

Compassionate his charge resigning. — [MS.]

90

Oh could my tongue to thee impart

That liberation of my heart. — [MS. erased.]

91 I must here shelter myself with the Psalmist — is it not David that makes the “Earth reel to and fro like a Drunkard”? If the Globe can be thus lively on seeing its Creator, a liberated captive can hardly feel less on a first view of his work. — [Note, MS. erased.]

92 The Turkish notions of almost all islands are confined to the Archipelago, the sea alluded to.

93 {194} Lambro Canzani, a Greek, famous for his efforts, in 1789–90, for the independence of his country. Abandoned by the Russians, he became a pirate, and the Archipelago was the scene of his enterprises. He is said to be still alive at Petersburgh. He and Riga are the two most celebrated of the Greek revolutionists.

[For Lambros Katzones (Hobhouse, Travels in Albania, ii. 5, calls him Canziani), see Finlay’s Greece under Othoman . . . Domination, 1856, pp. 330–334. Finlay dwells on his piracies rather than his patriotism.]

94 {195} “Rayahs,” — all who pay the capitation tax, called the “Haratch.”

[“This tax was levied on the whole male unbelieving population,” except children under ten, old men, Christian and Jewish priests. — Finlay, Greece under Ottoman . . . Domination, 1856, p. 26. See, too, the Qur’ân, cap. ix., “The Declaration of Immunity.”]

95 This first of voyages is one of the few with which the Mussulmans profess much acquaintance.

96 The wandering life of the Arabs, Tartars, and Turkomans, will be found well detailed in any book of Eastern travels. That it possesses a charm peculiar to itself, cannot be denied. A young French renegado confessed to Châteaubriand, that he never found himself alone, galloping in the desert, without a sensation approaching to rapture which was indescribable.

97 [Inns, caravanserais. From sarāy, a palace or inn.]

98 [The remaining seventy lines of stanza xx. were not included in the original MS., but were sent to the publisher in successive instalments while the poem was passing through the press.]

99 [In the first draft of a supplementary fragment, line 883 ran thus —

“and tints tomorrow with a fancied

an airy

ray.”

A note was appended —

“Mr. My. Choose which of the 2 epithets ‘fancied’ or ‘airy’ may be best — or if neither will do — tell me and I will dream another —

“Yours,

“Bn

The epithet (“prophetic”) which stands in the text was inserted in a revise dated December 3, 1813. Two other versions were also sent, that Gifford might select that which was “best, or rather not worst” —

And gilds

tints

the hope of morning with its ray.”

And gilds to-morrow’s hope with heavenly ray.”

(Letters, 1898, ii. 282.)

On the same date, December 3rd, two additional lines were affixed to the quatrain (lines 886–889) —

“Soft as the Mecca Muezzin’s strains invite

Him who hath journeyed far to join the rite.“

And in a later revise, as “a last alteration” —

“Blest as the call which from Medina’s dome

Invites devotion to her Prophet’s tomb.“

An erased version of this “last alteration” ran thus —

“Blest as the Muezzin’s strain from Mecca’s dome

Which welcomes Faith to view her Prophet’s tomb.”{A}

{A} [It is probable that Byron, who did not trouble himself to distinguish between “lie” and “lay,” and who, as the MS. of English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers (see line 732, Poetical Works, 1898, i. 355) reveals, pronounced “petit maître” anglicé in four syllables, regarded “dome” (vide supra) as a true and exact rhyme to “tomb,” but, with his wonted compliance, was persuaded to make yet another alteration.] ]

100 {196} Of lines 886–889, two, if not three, variants were sent to the publisher —

(1) Dear as the Melody of better days

That steals the trembling tear of speechless praise —

Sweet as his native song to Exile’s ears

Shall sound each tone thy long-loved voice endears. —

[December 2, 1813.]

(2)

Dear as the melody of better

youthful

days
That steals a silent

the trembling

tear of speechless praise

101 {197} “Jannat-al-Aden,” the perpetual abode, the Mussulman paradise. [See Sale’s Koran, “Preliminary Discourse,” sect. i.; and Journal, November 17, 1813, Letters, 1898, ii. 326.]

102 Wait on thy voice and bow at thy command. — [MS.]

103

Oh turn and mingle every thought with his,

And all our future days unite in this. — [MS.]

104 [“You wanted some reflections, and I send you per Selim, eighteen lines in decent couplets, of a pensive, if not an ethical tendency. . . . Mr. Canning’s approbation (if he did approve) I need not say makes me proud.” — Letter to Murray, November 23, 1813, Letters, 1898, ii. 286.]

105

Man I may lead but trust not — I may fall

By those now friends to me, yet foes to all —

In this they follow but the bent assigned,

By fatal Nature to our warring kind. — [MS.]

106 {198}

Behold a wilderness and call it peace, — [MS. erased.]

Look round our earth and lo! where battles cease,

“Behold a Solitude and call it” peace. — [MS.]

or,

Mark even where Conquest’s deeds of carnage cease

She leaves a solitude and calls it peace. — [November 21, 1813].

[For the final alteration to the present text, see letter to Murray of November 24, 1813.]

107 [Compare Tacitus, Agricola, cap. 30 —

“Solitudinem faciun — pacem appellant.”

See letter to Murray, November 24, 1813, Letters, 1898, ii. 287.]

108 Power sways but by distrust — her sole source. — [MS. erased.]

109 Which Love to-night hath lent by swelling sail. — [MS.]

110 {199} [Compare —

“Quam juvat immites ventos audire cubantem,

Et dominam tenero detinuisse sinu.”

Tibullus, Eleg., Lib. I. i. 45, 46.]

111 Then if my lip once murmurs, it must be. — [MS.]

112 [The omission of lines 938, 939 drew from Byron an admission (Letter to Murray, November 29, 1813) that “the passage is an imitation altogether from Medea in Ovid” (Metamorph., vii. 66–69) —

“My love possest, in Jason’s bosom laid,

Let seas swell high; — I cannot be dismay’d

While I infold my husband in my arms:

Or should I fear, I should but fear his harms.”

Englished by Sandys, 1632.]

113 This hour decides my doom or thy escape. — [MS.]

114 {200} [Compare —

“That thought has more of hell than had the former.

Another, and another, and another!”

The Revenge, by Edward Young, act iv.

(Modern British Drama, 1811, ii. 17).]

115 {202} Or grazed by wounds he scorned to feel. — [MS.]

116 {203} Three MS. variants of these lines were rejected in turn before the text was finally adopted —

(1) {Ah! wherefore did he turn to look

{I know not why he turned to look

Since fatal was the gaze he took?

So far escaped from death or chain,

To search for her and search in vain:

Sad proof in peril and in pain

How late will Lover’s hope remain.

(2) Thus far escaped from death or chain

Ah! wherefore did he turn to look?

For her his eye must seek in vain,

Since fatal was the gaze he took.

Sad proof, etc. —

(3) Ah! wherefore did he turn to look

So far escaped from death or chain?

Since fatal was the gaze he took

For her his eye but sought in vain,

Sad proof, etc. —

A fourth variant of lines 1046, 1047 was inserted in a revise dated November 16 —

That glance he paused to send again

To her for whom he dies in vain.

117 {204} O’er which their talons yet delay. — [MS. erased.]

118 {205}

And that changed hand whose only life

Is motion-seems to menace strife. — [MS.]

119 [“While the Salsette lay off the Dardanelles, Lord Byron saw the body of a man who had been executed by being cast into the sea, floating on the stream, moving to and fro with the tumbling of the water, which gave to his arms the effect of scaring away several sea-fowl that were hovering to devour. This incident he has strikingly depicted in the Bride of Abydos.” — Life of Lord Byron, by John Galt, 1830, p. 144.]

120 A turban is carved in stone above the graves of men only.

121 The death-song of the Turkish women. The “silent slaves” are the men, whose notions of decorum forbid complaint in public.

122 {206} The Koran-chapter chaunts thy fate. — [MS.]

123 [At a Turkish funeral, after the interment has taken place, the Imâm “assis sur les genoux à côté de la tombe,” offers the prayer Telkin, and at the conclusion of the prayer recites the Fathah, or “opening chapter” of the Korân. (“In the name of the merciful and compassionate God. Praise belongs to God, the Lord of the worlds, the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Ruler of the day of judgment. Thee we serve, and Thee we ask for aid. Guide us in the right path, the path of those Thou art gracious to; not of those Thou art wroth with; nor of those who err.” — The Qur’ân, p. 1, translated by E. H. Palmer, Oxford, 1880): Tableau Générale de l’Empire Ottoman, par Mouradja D’Ohsson, Paris, 1787, i. 235–248. Writing to Murray, November 14, 1813, Byron instances the funeral (in the Bride of Abydos) as proof of his correctness with regard to local colouring. — Letters, 1898, ii. 283.]

124 {207} [“I one evening witnessed a funeral in the vast cemetery of Scutari. An old man, with a venerable beard, threw himself by the side of the narrow grave, and strewing the earth on his head, cried aloud, ‘He was my son! my only son!’" — Constantinople in 1828, by Charles Macfarlane, 1829, p. 233, note.]

125 She whom thy Sultan had been fain to wed. — [MS.]

126 [“The body of a Moslemin is ordered to be carried to the grave in haste, with hurried steps.” — Ibid., p. 233, note.]

127 “I came to the place of my birth, and cried, ‘The friends of my Youth, where are they?’ and an Echo answered, ‘Where are they?’" — From an Arabic MS. The above quotation (from which the idea in the text is taken) must be already familiar to every reader: it is given in the second annotation, p. 67, of The Pleasures of Memory [note to Part I. line 103]; a poem so well known as to render a reference almost superfluous: but to whose pages all will be delighted to recur [Poems, by Samuel Rogers, 1852, i. 48].

128 There the sad cypress ever glooms. — [MS.]

129 {209} But with the day blush of the sky. — [MS.]

130 And some there be who could believe. — [MS.]

131

“And airy tongues that syllable men’s names.”

Milton, Comus, line 208.

For a belief that the souls of the dead inhabit the form of birds, we need not travel to the East. Lord Lyttleton’s ghost story, the belief of the Duchess of Kendal, that George I. flew into her window in the shape of a raven (see Orford’s Reminiscences, Lord Orford’s Works, 1798, iv. 283), and many other instances, bring this superstition nearer home. The most singular was the whim of a Worcester lady, who, believing her daughter to exist in the shape of a singing bird, literally furnished her pew in the cathedral with cages full of the kind; and as she was rich, and a benefactress in beautifying the church, no objection was made to her harmless folly. For this anecdote, see Orford’s Letters.

[“But here (at Gloucester) is a modernity, which beats all antiquities for curiosity. Just by the high altar is a small pew hung with green damask, with curtains of the same; a small corner-cupboard, painted, carved, and gilt, for books, in one corner, and two troughs of a bird-cage, with seeds and water. If any mayoress on earth was small enough to inclose herself in this tabernacle, or abstemious enough to feed on rape and canary, I should have sworn that it was the shrine of the queen of the aldermen. It belongs to a Mrs. Cotton, who, having lost a favourite daughter, is convinced her soul is transmigrated into a robin redbreast, for which reason she passes her life in making an aviary of the cathedral of Gloucester.” — Letter to Richard Bentley, September, 1753 (Lord Orford’s Works, 1798, v. 279).]

132 {210} [According to J. B. Le Chevalier (Voyage de La Propontide, etc., an. viii. (1800), p. 17), the Turkish name for a small bay which formed the ancient port of Sestos, is Ak–Bachi-Liman (Port de la Tête blanche).]

133

And in its stead that mourning flower

Hath flourished — flourisheth this hour,

Alone and coldly pure and pale

As the young cheek that saddens to the tale.

And withers not, though branch and leaf

Are stamped with an eternal grief. — [MS.]

An earlier version of the final text reads —

As weeping Childhood’s cheek at Sorrow’s tale!

134 [“The Bride, such as it is is my first entire composition of any length (except the Satire, and be damned to it), for The Giaour is but a string of passages, and Childe Harold is, and I rather think always will be, unconcluded” (Letter to Murray, November 29, 1813). It (the Bride) “was published on Thursday the second of December; but how it is liked or disliked, I know not. Whether it succeeds or not is no fault of the public, against whom I can have no complaint. But I am much more indebted to the tale than I can ever be to the most partial reader; as it wrung my thoughts from reality to imagination — from selfish regrets to vivid recollections — and recalled me to a country replete with the brightest and darkest, but always most lively colours of my memory” (Journal, December 5, 1813, Letters, 1898, ii. 291, 361).]

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