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'Twas evening, and the half-descended sun Tipped with a golden fire the many domes Of Athens, and a yellow atmosphere
Lay rich and dusky in the shaded street
Through which the captive gazed. He had borne up
With a stout heart that long and weary day,
Haughtily patient of his many wrongs,
But now he was alone, and from his nerves
The needless strength departed, and he leaned
Prone on his massy chain, and let his thoughts
Throng on him as they would. Unmarked of him,
Parrhasius at the nearest pillar stood,
Gazing upon his grief. The Athenian's cheek
Flushed as he measured with a painter's eye
The moving picture. The abandoned limbs,
Stained with the oozing blood, were laced with veins
Swollen to purple fulness: the grey hair,
Thin and disordered, hung about his eyes;
And as a thought of wilder bitterness
Rose in his memory, his lips grew white,
And the fast workings of his bloodless face
Told what a tooth of fire was at his heart.
The golden light into the painter's room
Streamed richly, and the hidden colours stole
From the dark pictures radiantly forth,
And in the soft and dewy atmosphere
Like forms and landscapes magical they lay.
The walls were hung with armour, and about
In the dim corners stood the sculptured forms
Of Cytheris, and Dian, and stern Jove,
And from the casement soberly away
Fell the grotesque long shadows, full and true,
And, like a veil of filmy mellowness,
The lint-specks floated in the twilight air.
Parrhasius stood, gazing forgetfully
Upon his canvas. There Prometheus lay,
Chained to the cold rocks of Mount Caucasus.
The vulture at his vitals, and the links
Of the lame Lemnian festering in his flesh;
And, as the painter's mind felt through the dim,
Rapt mystery, and plucked the shadows forth
With its far-reaching fancy, and with form
And colour clad them, his fine, earnest eye
Flashed with a passionate fire, and the quick curl
Of his thin nostril, and his quivering lip,
Were like the winged god's, breathing from his flight.
"Bring me the captive now!
My hand feels skilful, and the shadows lift
From my waked spirit airily and swift,
And I could paint the bow
Upon the bended heavens around me play
Colours of such divinity to-day.
"Ha! bind him on his back!
Look! —as Prometheus in my picture here !
Quick-or he faints! stand with the cordial near !
Now-bend him to the rack!
Press down the poisoned links into his flesh !
And tear agape that healing wound afresh!
"So-let him writhe! How long
Will he live thus? Quick, my good pencil, now?
What a fine agony works upon his brow!
Ha! grey-haired, and so strong!
How fearfully he stifles that short moan!
Gods! if I could but paint a dying groan!
"Pity' thee! So I do!
pity the dumb victim at the altar—
But does the robed priest for his pity falter?
I'd rack thee though I knew
A thousand lives were perishing in thine-
What were ten thousand to a fame like mine?
A whip to keep a coward to his track !
What gave Death ever from his kingdom back
To check the sceptic's laughter ?
Come from the grave to-morrow with that story-
And I'may take some softer path to glory.
"No, no, old man! we die
Even as the flowers, and we shall breathe away
Our life upon the chance wind, even as they!
Strain well thy fainting eye-
For when that bloodshot quivering is o'er,
The light of heaven will never reach thee more.
"Yet there's a deathless name!
A spirit that the smothering vault shall spurn,
And like a steadfast planet mount and burn
And though its crown of flame
Consumed my brain to ashes as it shone,
By all the fiery stars! I'd bind it on!
"Ay- though it bid me rifle
My heart's last fount for its insatiate thirst—
Though every life-strung nerve be maddened first
Though it should bid me stifle
The yearning in my throat for my sweet child,
And taunt its mother till my brain went wild-
"All-I would do it all—
Sooner than die, like a dull worm to rot-
Thrust foully into earth to be forgot!
Oh, heavens!--but I appal
Your heart, old man! forgive- Ha! on your lives! Let him not faint! rack him till he revives!
"Vain-vain-give o'er. His eye
Glazes apace. He does not feel you now-
Stand back! I'll paint the death-dew on his brow!
Gods! if he do not die
But for one moment-one - till I eclipse
Conception with the scorn of those calm lips!
Shivering! Hark! he mutters
that was a difficult breath Another? Wilt thou never come, O Death? Look! how his temple flutters !
Is his heart still? Aha! lift up his head!
He shudders gasps-Jove, help him !-so-he's dead.”
How like a mounting devil in the heart
Rules the unreined ambition! Let it once
But play the monarch, and its haughty brow
Glows with a beauty that bewilders thought
And unthrones peace for ever. Putting on
The very pomp of Lucifer, it turns
The heart to ashes, and with not a spring
Left in the bosom for the spirit's lip,
We look upon our splendour and forget
The thirst of which we perish! Yet hath life
Many a falser idol. There are hopes
Promising well; and love-touched dreams for some ;
And passions, many a wild one; and fair schemes
For gold and pleasure- yet will only this
Balk not the soul-Ambition only, gives,
Even of bitterness, a beaker full!
Friendship is but a slow-awaking dream,
Troubled at best-Love is a lamp unseen,
Burning to waste, or, if its light is found,
Nursed for an idle hour, then idly broken
Gain is a grovelling care, and Folly tires,
And quiet is a hunger never fed
And from Love's very bosom, and from Gain,
Or Folly, or a Friend, or from Repose
From all but keen Ambition-will the soul
Snatch the first moment of forgetfulness
To wander like a restless child away.
Oh, if there were not better hopes than these
Were there no palm beyond a feverish fame -
If the proud wealth flung back upon the heart
Must canker in its coffers if the links
Falsehood hath broken will unite no more-
If the deep-yearning love, that hath not found
Its like in the cold world, must waste in tears
If truth, and fervour, and devotedness,
Finding no worthy altar, must return
And die of their own fulness- if beyond
The grave there is no heaven in whose wide air
The spirit may find room, and in the love
Of whose bright habitants the lavish heart
May spend itself—what thrice-mocked fools are we !
STAY, Lady, stay for mercy's sake,
And hear a helpless orphan's tale!
Ah, sure my looks must pity wake,
'Tis want that makes my cheek so pale.
Yet I was once a mother's pride,
And my brave father's hope and joy;
But in the Nile's proud fight he died,
And I am now an Orphan Boy.
Poor foolish child! how pleased was I,
When news of Nelson's victory came,
Along the crowded streets to fly,
And see the lighted windows flame!
To force me home my mother sought;
She could not bear to see my joy,
For with my father's life 'twas bought,
And made me a poor Orphan Boy.