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THE LAMENT OF TASSO.

I.

LONG years!-it tries the thrilling frame to bear
And eagle-spirit of a child of Song—
Long years of outrage, calumny, and wrong;
Imputed madness, prison'd solitude,

And the mind's canker in its savage mood,
When the impatient thirst of light and air
Parches the heart; and the abhorr'd grate,
Marring the sunbeams with its hideous shade,
Works through the throbbing eyeball to the brain,
With a hot sense of heaviness and pain;

And bare, at once, Captivity display'd

Stands scoffing through the never-open'd gate,
Which nothing through its bars admits, save day,
And tasteless food, which I have eat alone
Till its unsocial bitterness is gone;

And I can banquet like a beast of prey,
Sullen and lonely, couching in the cave
Which is my lair, and-it may be-my grave.
All this hath somewhat worn me, and may wear,
But must be borne. I stoop not to despair;
For I have battled with mine agony,
And made me wings wherewith to overfly
The narrow circus of my dungeon wall,
And freed the Holy Sepulchre from thrall;

And revell'd among men and things divine,
And pour'd my spirit over Palestine,
In honour of the sacred war for Him,
The God who was on earth and is in heaven,
For he has strength'd me in heart and limb.
That through this sufferance I might be forgiven,
I have employ'd my penance to record

How Salem's shrine was won, and how adored.

II.

But this is o'er-my pleasant task is done :-
My long-sustaining friend of many years!
If I do blot thy final page with tears,

Know, that my sorrows have wrung from me none.
But thou, my young creation! my soul's child!
Which ever playing round me came and smiled,
And woo'd me from myself with thy sweet sight,
Thou too art gone-and so is my delight:
And therefore do I weep and inly bleed
With this last bruise upon a broken reed.
Thou too art ended-what is left me now?
For I have anguish yet to bear-and how?
I know not that-but in the innate force
Of my own spirit shall be found resource.
I have not sunk, for I had no remorse,

Nor cause for such: they call'd me mad-and why?
Oh Leonora ! wilt not thou reply?1

I was indeed delirious in my heart

To lift my love so lofty as thou art;
But still my frenzy was not of the mind;

1 [In a letter written to his friend Scipio Gonzaga, shortly after his confinement, Tasso exclaims-"Ah, wretched me! I had designed to write, besides two epic poems of most noble argument, four tragedies, of which I had formed the plan. I had schemed, too, many works in prose, on subjects the most lofty, and most useful to human life; I had designed to write philosophy with eloquence, in such a manner that there might remain of me an eternal memory in the world. Alas! I had expected to close my life with glory and renown; but now, oppressed by the burden of so many calamities, I have lost every prospect of reputation and of honour. The fear of perpetual imprisonment increases my melancholy; the indignities which I suffer augment it; and the squalor of my beard, my hair, and habit, the sordidness and filth, exceedingly annoy me. Sure am I, that if SHE who so little has corresponded to my attachment-if she saw me in such a state, and in such affliction-she would have some compassion on me."-Opere, t. x., p. 387.]

I knew my fault, and feel my punishment
Not less because I suffer it unbent.
That thou wert beautiful, and I not blind,
Hath been the sin which shuts me from mankind;
But let them go, or torture as they will,
My heart can multiply thine image still;
Successful love sate itself away;
may
The wretched are the faithful; 'tis their fate
To have all feeling, save the one, decay,
And every passion into one dilate,

As rapid rivers into ocean pour;
But ours is fathomless, and hath no shore.

III.

Above me, hark! the long and maniac cry
Of minds and bodies in captivity.

And hark! the lash and the increasing howl,
And the half-inarticulate blasphemy!

There be some here with worse than frenzy foul,
Some who do still goad on the o'er-labour'd mind,
And dim the little light that's left behind

With needless torture, as their tyrant will

2

Is wound up to the lust of doing ill :2
With these and with their victims am I class'd,

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'Mid sounds and sights like these long years have pass'd!
'Mid sights and sounds like these my life may close:
So let it be for then I shall repose.

IV.

I have been patient, let me be so yet;
I had forgotten half I would forget,
But it revives-Oh! would it were my
To be forgetful as I am forgot!

lot

Feel I not wroth with those who bade me dwell
In this vast lazar-house of many woes?

Where laughter is not mirth, nor thought the mind,
Nor words a language, nor ev'n men mankind;

2 [During the early part of Tasso's confinement he had one of those gaolers "with worse than frenzy foul," who treated him, as he wrote to his sister, "with every species of rigour and inhumanity."]

VOL. II.

G

Where cries reply to curses, shrieks to blows,
And each is tortured in his separate hell-
For we are crowded in our solitudes-
Many, but each divided by the wall,
Which echoes Madness in her babbling moods;
While all can hear, none heed his neighbour's call-
None! save that One, the veriest wretch of all,
Who was not made to be the mate of these,
Nor bound between Distraction and Disease.
Feel I not wroth with those who placed me here?
Who have debased me in the minds of men,

Debarring me the usage of my own,
Blighting my life in best of its career,

Branding my thoughts as things to shun and fear?
Would I not pay them back these pangs again,
And teach them inward Sorrow's stifled groan?
The struggle to be calm, and cold distress,
Which undermines our Stoical success?
No!-still too proud to be vindictive-I
Have pardon'd princes' insults, and would die.
Yes, Sister of my Sovereign! for thy sake
I weed all bitterness from out my breast,
It hath no business where thou art a guest;
Thy brother hates—but I can not detest;
Thou pitiest not-but I can not forsake.

V.

Look on a love which knows not to despair,
But all unquench'd is still my better part,
Dwelling deep in my shut and silent heart,
As dwells the gather'd lightning in its cloud,
Encompass'd with its dark and rolling shroud,
Till struck,-forth flies the all-ethereal dart!
And thus at the collision of thy name,
The vivid thought still flashes through my frame,
And for a moment all things as they were
Flit by me; they are gone-I am the same.
And yet my love without ambition grew;
I knew thy state, my station, and I knew
A Princess was no love-mate for a bard;

I told it not, I breathed it not, it was
Sufficient to itself, its own reward;
And if my eyes reveal'd it, they, alas!
Were punish'd by the silentness of thine,
And yet I did not venture to repine.
Thou wert to me a crystal-girded shrine,
Worshipp'd at holy distance, and around
Hallow'd and meekly kiss'd the saintly ground;
Not for thou wert a princess, but that Love
Had robed thee with a glory, and array'd
Thy lineaments in beauty that dismay’d—
Oh! not dismay'd—but awed, like One above!
And in that sweet severity there was
A something which all softness did surpass;
I know not how-thy genius master'd mine;
My star stood still before thee: if it were
Presumptuous thus to love without design,
That sad fatality hath cost me dear;
But thou art dearest still, and I should be
Fit for this cell, which wrongs me-but for thee.
The very love which lock'd me to my chain
Hath lighten'd half its weight; and for the rest,
Though heavy, lent me vigour to sustain,
And look to thee with undivided breast,
And foil the ingenuity of Pain.

VI.

It is no marvel-from my very birth

My soul was drunk with love, which did pervade
And mingle with whate'er I saw on earth;
Of objects all inanimate I made

Idols, and out of wild and lonely flowers,
And rocks, whereby they grew, a paradise,
Where I did lay me down within the shade
Of waving trees, and dream'd uncounted hours,
Though I was chid for wandering; and the wise
Shook their white aged heads o'er me, and said,
Of such materials wretched men were made,
And such a truant boy would end in woe,
And that the only lesson was a blow;

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