Samor Book XI by Henry Hart Milman
Henry Hart Milman
From the National Portrait Gallery,
Henry Hart Milman (November 10, 1791 - September 24, 1868) was an English historian and ecclesiastic.
He was born in London, the third son of Sir Francis Milman, Bart., physician to King George III. Educated at Eton and at Brasenose College, Oxford, his university career was brilliant. He won the Newdigate prize with a poem on the Apollo Belvidere in 1812, was elected a fellow of Brasenose in 1814, and in 1816 won the English essay prize with his Comparative Estimate of Sculpture and Painting. In 1816 he was ordained, and two years later became parish priest of St Mary's, Reading.
Milman had already made his appearance as a dramatist with his tragedy Fazio (produced on the stage under the title of The Italian Wife). He also wrote Samor, the Lord of The Bright City, the subject of which was taken from British legend, the "bright city" being Gloucester. In subsequent poetical works he was more successful, notably the Fall of Jerusalem (1820) and the Martyr of Antioch (1822). The influence of Byron is seen in his Belshazzar (1822). Another tragedy, Anne Boleyn, followed in 1826. Milman also wrote "When our-heads are bowed with woe," and other hymns; an admirable version of the Sanskrit episode of Nala and Damayanti; and translations of the Agamemnon of Aeschylus and the Bacchae of Euripides. In 1821 he was elected professor of poetry at Oxford, and in 1827 he delivered the Bampton lectures on the character and conduct of the apostles as an evidence of Christianity. His poetical works were published in three volumes in 1839.
Turning to another field, Milman published in 1829 his History of the Jews, which is memorable as the first by an English clergyman which treated the Jews as an Oriental tribe, recognized sheikhs and amirs in the Old Testament, sifted and classified documentary evidence, and evaded or minimized the miraculous. In consequence, the author was violently attacked and his inevitable preferment was delayed. In 1835, however, Sir Robert Peel made him rector of St Margaret's, Westminster, and canon of Westminster, and in 1849 he became dean of St Paul's. By this time he had achieved popularity and occupied a dignified and enviable position. His History of Christianity to the Abolition of Paganism in the Roman Empire (1840) had been completely ignored; but the continuation of his work, his great History of Latin Christianity (1855), which has passed through many editions, was well received. In 1838 he had edited Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and in the following year published his Life of Gibbon.
Milman was also responsible for an edition of Horace, and when he died he had almost finished a history of St Paul's Cathedral, which was completed and published by his son, A Milman (London, 1868), who also collected and published in 1879 a volume of his essays and articles. Milman was buried in St Paul's Cathedral. By his wife, Mary Ann, a daughter of Lieut.-General William Cockell, he had four sons and two daughters. His nephew, Robert Milman (1816-1876), was Bishop of Calcutta from 1867 until his death, and was the author of a Life of Torquato Tasso (1850).
See AC Tait, Sermon in Memory of H. H. Milman (London, 1868), and Arthur Milman, H. H. Milman (London, 1900). See also the Memoirs of R. Milman, bishop of Calcutta, by his sister, Frances Maria Milman (1879).
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Mighty in thy endurance, in revenge
Mightier! thou shak'st thy dusky patience off,
Oh Britain! as a snake its wither'd skin,
That boastful to the sunshine coils and spreads
In bright and cruel beauty. Not in vain
Have those wild beacons rear'd their fires, thou wak'st,
The slumber falls from thee, as dewdrops shed
From the morn-kindling falcon's wing. On hill,
In vale, in forest and in moor, in field
And city, like the free and common air,
Like the wide-spreading golden hue of dawn,
Ranges the boundless passion uncontroll'd.
The "Vigilance," hath drop'd absorb'd away
From the fierce war-cry, one portending word
"Vengeance," rides lonely upon all the winds.
Alas, delicious Spring! God sends thee down
To breathe upon his cold and perish'd works
Beauteous revival; earth should welcome thee,
Thee and the West wind, thy smooth paramour,
With the soft laughter of her flowery meads,
Her joys, her melodies. The prancing stag
Flutters the shivering fern, the steed shakes out
His mane, the dewy herbage silver-webb'd
With frank step trampling; the wild goat looks down
From his empurpling bed of heath, where break
The waters deep and blue with crystal gleams
Of their quick leaping people: the fresh lark
Is in the morning sky, the nightingale
Tunes evesong to the dropping waterfall.
Creation lives with loveliness, all melts
And trembles into one mild harmony.
Man, only harsh and inharmonious Man,
Strews for thy delicate feet the battle field,
Makes all thy smooth and flowing airs to jar
With his hoarse trumpetings, scares thy sweet light
With gleams of violent and angry brass.
Away! it is a yearly common joy,
A rapture that ne'er fails the solemn Sun
In his eternal round, the blossoming
And fragrance of the green resolving earth.
But a fresh springtide in the human soul,
A nation from its wintry trance set loose,
The bursting ice of servitude, the bloom
Of freedom in the wither'd mind obscure,
The bleakness of the heart discomfited,
And over the bow'd shape and darkling brow
The flowering out of faded glories, sounds
Of cheering and of comfort to the rent
And broken by the tyrannous northern blast,
These are earth's rich adornings, these the choice
Of nature's bounteous, and inspiring shows.
Therefore the young Sun with his prime of light
Shall beam on ensigns; the blithe airs shall waft
Jocund the lofty pealing battle words;
And not unwelcome, fierce crests intercept
The spring-dews from the thirsty soil; the brass
For vestment the admiring earth shall wear
More proud than all her flowery robe of green.
In all the isle was flat subjection tame,
In all the isle, hath Freedom rear'd her, plum'd
With terror, sandal'd with relentlessness:
Her march like brazen chariots, or the tramp
Of horsemen in a rocky glen; and clouds
Of javelins in her front, and in her rear
Dead men in grisly heaps, dead Saxons strewn
Upon their trampled White Horse banners: them
Her fury hath no time to scorn, no pause
To look back on her deathful deeds atchiev'd,
While aught remains before her to atchieve.
Distract amid the wide spread feast of blood,
The wandering raven knows not where to feed,
And the gorg'd vulture droops his wing and sleeps.
War hath the garb of holiness, bear proof,
Thou vale of Clwyd, to our cold late days,
By the embalming of tradition named,
Maes Garmon, of that saintly Bishop. He
His gray thin locks unshaken, his slow port
Calm as he trod a chapel's rush-strewn floor,
Comes foremost of his Christian mountaineers,
Against th' embattled Pagans fierce array.
By the green margin of the stream, the band
Of Arngrim glitter in the morning light.
Their shadowy lances line the marble stream
With long and level rules of trembling shade;
The sunshine falling in between in streaks
Of brightness. They th' unwonted shew of war
Behold slow winding down the wooded hill.
"Now by our Gods," cried Arngrim, "discontent
To scare our midnight with their insolent fires,
They break upon our calm and peaceful day."
But silent as the travel of the clouds
At breathless twilight, or a flock that winds,
Dappling the brown cliff with its snowy specks,
Foldward along the evening dews, a bell
Now and then tinkling, faintly shrill, come on
Outspreading on the meadow the stern band
Of Britons with their mitred Captain; front
Oppos'd to front they stand, and spear to spear.
Then Germain clasp'd his hands and look'd to heaven,
Then Germain in a deep and solemn tone
Cried "Alleluia!" answer was flung back:
From cliff and cavern, "Alleluia," burst;
It seem'd strong voices broke the bosom'd earth,
Dropt voices from the clouds, and in the rush
Of waters was an human clamour, far
Swept over all things in its boundless range
The scattering and discomfiting appeal:
'Twas shaken from the shivering forest leaves,
Ceaseless and countless, lifeless living things
Multiplied "Alleluia," all the air
Was that one word, all sounds became that sound,
As the broad lightning swallows up all lights,
All quench'd in one blue universal glare.
On rush'd the Britons, but 'gainst the flying foes,
Quick smote the Britons, but no breast plate clove
Before them, then the ignominous death
First through the back found way to Saxon hearts.
Oh, Suevian forests! Clwyd's vale beholds
What ye have never witnessed, Arngrim's flight --
Fleet huntsman, thou art now the deer, the herd,
Whereof thou wert the prime and lofty horn'd,
Are falling fast around thee, th' unleash'd dogs
Of havock on their reeking flanks, and thee,
The herdsman of the meek and peaceful goats,
Thee, the soft tuner of the reedy flute
Beside Nantfrangon's stony cataract,
Mordrin pursues. So strong that battle word,
Its holy transmutation and austere
Works in the soul of man, the spirit sheathes
In the thrice folding brass of valour, swells
The thin and lazy blood t' a current fierce
And torrent like, and in the breast erewhile
But open to the tremulous melting airs
Of passions gentle and affections smooth,
Plants armed hopes and eagle-wing'd desires.
Therefore that youth his downy hand hath wreath'd
In the strong Suevian's knotted locks, drawn up
Like a wrought helm of ebon; therefore fix
His eyes, more us'd to swim in languid light,
With an implacable and constant stare
Down on the face of Arngrim, backward drawn,
As he its withering agony enjoy'd;
And therefore he whose wont it was to bear
The many sparkling crystal, or the cup
Of dripping water lily from the spring
To the blithe maiden of his love, now shakes
A gory and dissever'd head aloft,
And bounds in wild ovation down the vale.
But in that dire and beacon haunted night
King Vortigern his wonted seat had ta'en
Upon Caermerdhyn's topmost palace tower.
There, the best privilege of greatness fall'n,
He saw not, nor was seen: there wrapt in gloom,
'Twas his soul's treasur'd luxury and choice joy
To frame out of himself and his drear state,
Dark comfortable likenesses, and full
And frequent throng'd they this wild midnight. All
Cloudy and indistinct lay round; the sole
Dull glimmering like to light was what remain'd
Of day, just not so utterly extinct
And quench'd, as yet to shew splendour had been,
And was not; that dusk simile of himself
Delighted, royal once, now with a mock
And mimic of his lustre haunted. Why,
Why should not human glory wane, since clouds
Put out the immortal planets in the sky?
Why should not crowns have seasons, since the moon
Hath but her hour to queen it in the heavens?
Why should not high and climbing souls be lost
In the benighting shroud of the world's gloom?
Lo, one inglorious, undistinguish'd night
Gathers the ancient mountains in its train,
While e'er the dunnest and most turbulent clouds
Thicken upon the stateliest; but beneath
The lowly and contented waters lie
Asleep upon their weedy banks, yet they
Have all the faint blue brightness that remains.
Then moodier the fantastic humour grown,
Stoop'd upon mean and trivial things, them too
Wrought to his wayward misanthropic scope.
Amid the swaying, and disturbed air
The rooks hung murmuring on the oak-tree tops,
As plaining their uneasy loftiness.
While, solitary as himself, the owl
Sate calling on its deaf and wandering mate.
Him at that sound seiz'd merriment, that made
The lip drop, the brow writhe, "Howl on," he cried,
"Howl for thy dusky paramour," -- and turn'd
To where Rowena's chamber casements stood,
Void, silent, dark of their once-brilliant lights.
Sudden around 'gan spire the mountain tops
Each with its intertwisted sheaf of flame,
South, North, and East and West, fire everywhere,
Everywhere flashing and tumultuous light.
Then gaz'd the unking'd, then cried out the fallen,
"Now, by my soul, when comets gaze on kings
Even from the far and vaulting heavens, 'tis faith
There's hollowness beneath their tottering thrones;
But when they flash upon our earth, and stare
Close in our faces, 'tis ripe time and full
For palaces to quake and royal tombs
To ope their wide and all-receiving jaws.
What is't to me? ye menace at the Great!
Ye stoop not to be dangerous and dread,
Oh haughty and mysterious lights! to thrones
Low and despis'd like mine; in earlier days
Vortigern would have quail'd, he mocks you now.
Ye are not of the heavens, I know, I see,
Discomfiters of darkness, Conquerors
Of midnight, ye are of the earth. Why stands
Caermerdhyn and the realm of Dyfed black
Amid this restless multitude of flame?
'Tis not for idle or for fruitless show
That with such splendid violation Man
Infringeth on stern nature's laws, and rends
From night her consecrate and ancient pall;
Samor, thy hand is there! and Vortigern
Hath not yet learnt the patience cold and tame
To be outblaz'd and stifled thus." -- Down past
The Monarch from his seat; few minutes fled,
And lo, within that Palace all look'd red,
And hurried with a deep confusing glare:
And over it a vaulting dome of smoke
Surging arose and vast, till roaring out
Columns of mounting fire sprung up, and all
Whelm'd in one broad envelopment of flame,
Stood; as when in heroic Pagan song
Apollo to his Clarian temple came;
At once the present Godhead kindled all
Th' elaborate architecture, glory-wreath'd
The pillars rose, the sculptur'd architrave
Swam in the liquid gold, the Worshipper
Within the vestible of marble pure,
Held up his hand before his blinded eyes,
And so ador'd: but th' unconsuming fire
Innoxious rang'd th' unparching edifice.
But ne'er was Palace or was Monarch seen
More in that city, one a smouldering heap
Lay in its ashes white; how went the King
And whither, no one knew, but He who knows
All things. 'Twas frequent in the vulgar tale,
None saw it, yet all knew them well that saw,
At midnight manifest a huge arm came
Forth from the welkin; once it wav'd and twice,
And then it was not: but a bolt thrice fork'd,
Each fork a spike of flame, burst on the roof,
And all became a fire, and all fell down
And smoulder'd, even as now the shapeless walls
Lie in scorch'd heaps and black. At that same hour
A dark steed and a darker rider past,
With speed bemocking mortal steed, or man,
Down the steep hill precipitous: 'twas like
In shape and hue black Favorin, on whose back
King Vortigern was wont to ride abroad;
Like, surely not the same, for fire came out
From under his quick hoofs, and in his breath,
And sulphurous the blasted foot-tracks smelt,
Some dinted deep in the hard rock, some seared
On meadow grass, where never since have dews
Lain glittering, never the fresh verdure sprung.
Now is the whole Isle war. But I must crave
Pardon from those in meaner conflict slain,
Or conquerors; Poesy's fair treasure house
Contains not all the bright and rich, that gem
The course of humankind; in heaven alone
Preserves enroll'd th' imperishable brass,
In letters deep of amaranthine light,
All martyrs to their country and their God.
Oh that my spirit, holding the broad glass
Of its invention, might at once condense
All rays of glory from the kindling Isle
Full emanating, as of old 'tis famed
The philosophic Syracusan caught
The wide diverging sunbeams, by the force
Of mind creating to himself a right
And property in nature's common gifts,
And domineering the free elements.
He that heaven-seiz'd artillery pour'd forth
To sear the high beaks of the 'sieging fleet,
That burnt, unknowing whence, 'mid the wet waves.
So I the fine immortal light would pour
Abroad, in the long after-time to beam
A consecrate and vestal fire, to guide
Through danger's precipices wild, the slopes
Sleepy and smooth of luxury and false bliss,
All lovers of their country. They my song
Embosoming within their heart of heart,
Like mine own Samor should bear on, too strong
To perish, and too haughty to despair.
They happier, he uprearing on the sand
A Pharos, steady for a while to stem
The fierce assaulting waves, in after times
To fall; they building for eternity
Britain's rock-founded temple of renown.
In the Isle's centre is a champain broad,
Now broken into cornfield and smooth mead,
Near which a hill, now with the ruin'd towers
Of Coningsborough (from that fight of Kings
Nam'd in old Saxon phrase), soars crested, Dune
Skirts with her azure belt the level plain.
Morn dawn'd with all her attributes, the slow
Impearling of the heavens, the sparkling white
On the webb'd grass, the fragrant mistiness,
The fresh airs with the twinkling leaves at sport,
And all the gradual and emerging light,
The crystalline distinctness settling clear,
And all the wakening and the strengthening sound.
There dawn'd she on a battle-field superb.
The beauty that is war's embellishment,
The splendour under whose quick-glancing pall
Man proudly moves to slay and to be slain,
How wonderful! In semicircle huge,
Round that hill foot, the Saxon camps his strength,
A many-colour'd dazzling cirque, more rich
Than the autumnal woods, when the quick winds
Shake on them broken sunlight, than the skies
When thunder clouds are bursting into light,
And rainbow skirted hangs each fold, or fring'd
With liquid gold, so wav'd that crescent broad
With moving fire, bloom'd all the field with brass:
Making of dread volumptuousness, the sense
Of danger in deep admiration lost --
Oh beauteous if that morning had no eve!
The Eastern horn, his tall steeds to his car
Harness'd, whose scythes shone newly burnish'd, held
Caswallon; he his painted soldiery,
Their naked breasts blue-gleaming with uncouth
And savage portraitures of hideous things,
Human and monstrous terribly combin'd,
Array'd; himself no armour of defence
Cumber'd, as he were one Death dare not slay,
A being from man's vulgar lot exempt,
Commission'd to destroy, yet dangerless
Amid destruction, against whom war shower'd
All its stor'd terrors, but still baffled back
Recoil'd from his unwounded front serene.
The centre were the blue-eyed Germans, loose
Their fierce hair, various each strong nation's arms,
A wild and terrible diversity
In the fell skill of slaughter, in the art
Of doing sacrifice to death. Some helm'd,
Whose visors like distended jaws appear'd
Of sylvan monster, some in brinded furs
Wrapt shaggy, on whose shoulders seem'd to ramp
Yet living the fix'd claws; with cross-bows some,
Some with long lances, some with falchions curv'd.
The Arian, wont to make the sable night
A pander to his terrors, in swarth arms
He bursting from the forest, when the shades
Were deepest, like embodied gloom advanc'd,
Shap'd for some dreadful purpose, now he mov'd
Unnatural 'mid the clear and golden day.
Here Hengist, Horsa there amid the troop
Wound their war-horses; he his weapon fell
Shook, a round ball of iron spikes chain'd loose
To a huge pike-stave, like a baleful star,
Aye gleaming devastation in its sweep;
Hengist begirt with that fam'd falchion call'd
The "Widower of Women;" over all
The fatal White Horse in the banner shone.
Round to the left Argantyr with the Jutes
And Anglians; these for Offa's slaughter wild
T' exact the usurious payment of revenge;
He sternly mindful of that broken fight
By Wye's clear stream, and his defrauded sword
Of its hope-promis'd banquet, Samor's blood.
Above the multitude of brass the heights
Were crowded with the wives and mothers, they
With their known presence working shame of flight,
And the high fear of being thought to fear.
With them the spoils of Britain, vessels carv'd,
Statues, and vestments of the Tyrian dye,
Standards with antique legend scroll'd of deeds
Done in old times, and gorgeous arms, and cups
And lamps, and plate, or by fantastic art
Minister'd to fond luxury's wayward choice,
Or consecrate to th' altar use of God.
And there the Saxon Gods, the wood and stone
Whereto that people knelt, and deified
Their own hands work; the Father of the race
Woden, all arm'd and crown'd; the tempest Lord,
The thunder-shaking Thor, twelve radiant stars
His coronet, and sceptred his right hand.
He on his stately couch reclining; fierce
In his mysterious multitude of signs,
Arminsul; and th' Unnameable, he fix'd
On his flint pedestal, his skeleton shape
Garmented scantly in a winding sheet,
And in his hand a torchblaze, meet to search
Earth's utmost, while in act to spring, one hand
Upon his head, upon his shoulder one,
His faithful Lion ramp'd in sculptur'd ire.
Southward, with crescent its out-stretching horns
Circling the foe, lay stretch'd the British camp;
The centre held King Emrys, on the right
Pendragon, on the left th' Armoric King,
With all his tall steeds and brave riders, they
The fathers of that fam'd chivalric race
Of knights and ladies, glorious in old song,
White handed Iseult, Launcelot of the Lake,
Chaste Perceval, that won the Sangreal quest.
But every where and in all parts alike
The Avenger held his post; all heard his voice,
All felt his presence, all obey'd his sway.
As western hurricane whirls up from earth,
And bears where'er it will, the loose-sheaf'd corn,
The fluttering leaves, the shatter'd forest boughs,
Even so his spirit seiz'd and bore along,
And swept with it those proud brigades. Nor there
Was not young Malwyn, he his helmet wore
Light shadow'd by an eagle plume, so sued
His sire, lest in the wildering battle met
Their cars should clash in impious strife, nor sought
The father more obedience from the son,
For Britain and with Samor fix'd to war.
And in his brown and weather beaten arms
Came Vortimer, a pine-tree stem his mace
That clove the air with desultory sweep.
But by the river brows'd a single steed,
Sable as one of that poetic pair,
On the fair plain of Enna, in the yoke
Of Pluto, when Proserpina let fall
From her soft lap her flowers, and mourn'd their loss
Lavish, nor for herself reserv'd her tears.
The horseman, not unlike that ravisher,
Wore kingly aspect, and his step and mien
Were as his realm were in a gloomier clime,
Amid a drearier atmosphere, 'mid things
Sluggish and melancholy, slow and dead.
As though disclaimed by each, and claiming none,
He lay, with cold impartial apathy
Eying both armies, as their fates to him
Were equal, and not worth the toil of hope.
But over either army silence hung,
Silence long, heavy, deep, as every heart
Were busied with eternity; all thoughts
Were bidding farewell to the Sun, whose rise
They saw, whose setting they might never see,
And all the heavens were thinly overdrawn
With light and golden clouds, as though to couch
The angels and the spirits floating there,
While Heaven the lucid hierarchy pour'd forth
To view that solemn spectacle beneath,
A battle waged for freedom and for faith.
First rose a clamour and a crowding rush
On the hill side, and an half-stifled cry,
"The Prophetess! the Prophetess!" was heard.
Upon a waggon, 'mid her idol Gods,
She of the seal'd lip and the haunted heart,
The aged Virgin sate; her thin gray hair
And hollow eyes in a strange sparkling steep'd:
Twice in the memory of the oldest spake
Her voice, when Gothic Alaric had set
His northern ensign on Rome's shatter'd walls,
That day along the linden shadow'd Elbe
She went, with bitter smile and broken song
That mock'd at grandeur fall'n and pride in dust.
Once more, when Vortigern in that fam'd feast
Crown'd the fierce Hengist; in the German woods
She roam'd, with lofty and triumphal tone,
Shrieking of sceptres dancing in her sight,
And Woden's sons endiadem'd that rose
And swept and glitter'd past her. Now with eye
Restless, and churning lip she sate, and thrice
She mutter'd -- "Flight! Flight! Flight!" Then look'd she out
Upon the orient Sun, and cried, "Down! down!" --
The westward turn'd she, and withdrew her hand,
From dallying with her loose and hanging chin,
And beckon'd to the faint remaining haze
Of twilight. "Back, fair darkness, beauteous gloom,
Back!" Still the Sun came on, the shades dispell'd.
Then rose she up, then on the vacant space
Between both armies fix'd her eye; half laugh,
Half agony her cheek relax'd. -- "I see,
I see ye, ye Invisible! I hear,
Soundless, I hear ye! Choosers of the slain!
Ye of the white forms hors'd on thunder clouds!
Ye of Valhalla! colourless as air,
As air impalpable! wind on and urge
Your sable and self-govern'd steeds; They come,
They whom your mantling hydromel awaits,
Whose cups are crown'd, the guests of this night's feast.
They come, they come, for whom the Gods shall leap
From their cloud thrones, and ask ye whom ye bring
In stern troops crowding to their secret joy."
She shook her low dropt lip, and thus went on:
"The bow is broken, and the shafts are snapt;
The lance is shiver'd, and the buckler rent;
The helm is cloven, and the plumes are shed;
The horse hath founder'd, and the rider fallen;
The Crown'd are crownless, kingdomless the Kings;
The Conquerors conquer'd, and the Slayers slain;
One falls not, but he shall not stand, the axe
Shall glean th' imperfect harvest of the sword;
The scaffold drinks the lees of battle's cup;
And one is woundless amid myriad wounds,
And one is wounded where there is but one.
Ho, for the broad-horn'd Elk that leads the herd!
Ho, for the Pine that tops the shattering wood!
Ho, for the Bark that Admirals all the fleet!
The herd is scatter'd, and the Elk unscath'd,
The wood is levell'd, upright is the Pine,
The fleet is wreck'd, the Admiral on the waves.
That Elk is in himself a sacrifice,
That Pine shall have a storm its own, that Bark
Shall perish in a solitary wreck,
A sacrifice of shame! a storm of dread!
A bitter ignominious solitude!" --
She had not ended, when a single steed
Burst furious from the British line, with flight
That had a tread of air, and not of earth.
Fierce and direct he whirl'd to the hot charge
His youthful Rider. Upright sate the Boy
Arthur, at first with half reverted look,
As to his mother to impart his joy,
His transport. Early, oh fame-destin'd Child,
Put'st thou thy sickle in the field of fame.
Over his head a dome of fiery darts
And cross-bow bolts vault o'er th' encumber'd air.
Yet forward swept the child his rapid charge,
And all at once to rescue all the Chiefs
Rush'd onward; Uther's dragon seem'd to sear
The winds with its hot waving, Emrys struck
His coursers reeking flanks, his weapon huge
Rear'd Vortimer, and Malwyn's wheels 'gan whirl.
And on the other side Argantyr tall,
Hengist and Horsa, all the titled brave,
Burst from their tardy lines, that vast behind
Came rolling in tumultuous order on;
As when at spring time under the cold pole
Two islands high of ice warp heavy and huge
Upon the contrary currents, first th' assault
The promontories break, till meet the whole
With one long crash, that wakes the silence, there
Seated since time was born, far off and wide
Rock'd by the conflict fierce old ocean boils.
Still th' upright Child seem'd only to rejoice
In the curvettings of his wanton steed,
And in the mingled dazzling of bright arms.
But over him a shield is spread, before
A sword is wav'd, on every side the shield
Dashes rude death aside, whirls every where
The rapid and unwearied sword; the rein
Of the fleet steed hath Samor grasp'd, and guides
Amid the turmoil. As when the eagle sire
Up in the sunshine leads his daring young,
Sometimes the dusk shade of his wing spreads o'er,
And soft and broken in through the thick plumes
Gleams the unblinding splendour. So secure
Wag'd that fair Child his early war. But wild
The wavering fray rock'd to and fro, and burnt
Like one huge furnace the quick-flashing plain.
Ever as 'twere the same the Apostle saw
In the Apocalypse, Death's own pale steed,
Over the broad fight shook the White Horse, spread
Where'er its gleaming lighten'd the dun gloom,
Steamy and vast the curdling slaughter pools.
And such confusion burst around of lines
Mingling and interchanging, Valour found
No space for proud selection, forc'd to strike
What cumber'd and obstructed its free path,
To hew out through a mass of vulgar life
A passage to some princely foe; twice met
Horsa and Vortimer, Argantyr twice
Smote at Pendragon, but the whirlpool fierce
Asunder swept them, and the deep of war
Swallow'd them; many a broad and shapeless chasm
Was rent in either battle, but new fronts
Rush'd in, and made the shiver'd surface whole.
The sun was shut out by a sphere of dust
That wrapt the tumult, 'twas no sight for Heaven
That rending and defacing its prime work,
That waste of man, its masterpiece. But far
Th' Avenger had borne off the Child, his steed
First drew his breath before Igerna's tent.
With her soft face upon the dust she lay,
Struggling to hush her own lament, in hope
From the fierce din of war might haply come
Some sound of cheer and comfort; but when full
It rush'd upon her hearing, loud she shriek'd
To drown the very noise she strove to hear.
But when her Child's voice sounded, she look'd up
With a cold glance which said, "That sound I've heard
Every sad moment since he went, my soul
Is sick of self-deception, will not trust
Again, to be again beguil'd." She saw,
And forc'd a sportive look to her sad face
To lure him to her snowy arms. While he
Back to the battle, as a scene of joy,
Look'd waywardly, she clasp'd him to her breast
With a fond anger, and both smil'd and wept.
A moment Samor gaz'd on her, and -- "All
All have their hopes, and all those hopes fulfill'd,
But I, this side the grave no hope for me
And no fulfillment." -- Fast as sight could track
The battle felt him in its thousand folds.
But the undistinguish'd and chance-mingled fight
Brook'd not young Malwyn; he his virgin shield
Disdain'd mean blood should stain: where Hengist fought
He swept, the Saxon saw the eagle plume.
And turn'd aloof, and on some other head
Discharg'd the blow for him uprear'd. But he
Next plung'd where Horsa's starlike weapon shone,
Disastrous, shaking ruin, yet even that
Glanc'd aside from the eagle plume. The Boy
Utter'd a wrathful disappointed cry,
And 'gainst Argantyr drove his car. He paus'd,
And cried aloud, "The eagle plume," and plung'd
Elsewhere for victims. That Pendragon heard,
Even as he toil'd the third time to make way
Amid' the circling slain to the Anglian crest,
And taunting thus, -- "Methinks the eagle plume
Hath some few feathers of the dove, so soft
Spreads its peace-breathing influence." But the Youth,
"Ha, Father! thus, thus guil'st thou to a faint
And infamous security thy son?
Thus enviest thou a noble foe? thus guard'st
With a base privilege from peril? Off
Coward distinction! off, faint hearted sign!"
And helm and plume away he rent, his hair
Curl'd down his shoulders, radiant on his brow
The beauty of his anger shone, the pride
Of winning thus a right to glorious death.
Then set he forth on his bold quest again
Impatient. Him Prince Vortimer beheld
Sweeping between himself and Horsa, met
Their sea-shore fight by Thanet to renew;
But something of his sister in his face,
Something of Lilian harden'd and grown fierce,
As that ungodly creed were true, and she
Familiar to rude deeds of blood, had come
One of Valhalla's airy sisters hence
To summon him she lov'd. That gleam of her,
That though ungentle and unfeminine touch,
Exquisite, in mid air his rugged mace
Suspended; but fierce Horsa on the Boy,
Just on his neck, let fall the fatal spikes,
And him the affrighted steeds bore off. But then
Began a combat over which Death seem'd
To hover, as of one assur'd, in hope
Of both for victims at his godless shrine.
Then wounded and bareheaded Malwyn urged
On Hengist his remaster'd steeds, the scythe
Ras'd his majestic war horse. But aside
He sprung, and flank'd the chariot; long the strife,
Long, though unequal, like a serpent's tongue
Vibrated Malwyn's battle axe, twice bow'd
The Monarch to his saddle bow. -- 'Twas fame
More splendid, thus with Hengist to have fought
Than to have conquer'd hosts of meaner men.
Heavy at length and fatal glided in
The wily Chief's eluding falchion stroke;
Fast flew the steeds, the master lay behind,
Dragging with his face downward, still the reins
Cling in his cold and failing fingers, trail
His neck and spread locks in the humid dust,
His sharp arms character the yielding sand.
On fly they, him at length deserting mute
And gasping on the bank, their hot hoofs plunge
Into the limpid Dune, and to the wood
Rove on. It chanc'd erewhile that thither came
To freshen with the water his spent steeds,
And lave the clogging carnage from his wheels,
Caswallon, he his huge and weary length
Cast for brief rest upon the bank; a groan
Came from a helmless head that in the grass
Lay undistinguish'd. "'Tis a Briton," cried
Caswallon, "cast the carrion off to feed
The dogs and kites, that thus irreverent breaks
Upon its monarch's rest." Even as a flower,
Poppy or hyacinth, on its broken stem,
Languidly raises its encumber'd head,
And turns it to the gentle evening sun,
So feebly rose, so turn'd that Boy his face
Unto the well-known voice; twice rais'd his head,
Twice it feel back in powerless heaviness;
Even at that moment from the dark wood came,
Lured by their partners in the stall and field,
His chariot coursers, heavily behind
Dragging the vacant car, loose hung the reins,
And mournfulness and dull disorder slack'd
The spirit of their tread. Caswallon knew,
And he leap'd up; the Boy his bloodless lips
With a long effort opened. -- "Was it well,
Father, at this my first, my earliest fight,
To mock me with a baffled hope of fame?
Well was it to defraud me of my right
To noble death?" -- and speaking thus he died
Above him his convuls'd unconscious hands
Horribly with his rough black beard at play,
Wrenching and twisting off the rooted locks,
Yet senseless of the pain, the Father lean'd.
Then leap'd he up, with cool and jealous care
Within his chariot plac'd the lifeless corpse,
And with his lash fierce rent the half-unyok'd
Half-harness'd steeds; disorderly and swift
As with their master's ire instinct they flew,
Making a wide road through the hurtling fray.
Briton or Saxon, friend or foe alike, 7
Kinsman or stranger, one wide enmity
'Gainst general humankind, one infinite
And undistinguishing lust of carnage fill'd
The Master and the Horses; so wild groans
Follow'd where'er he moved, 'twas all to him, 7
So slaughter dripp'd and reek'd from the chok'd scythes.
The low lay mow'd like the spring grass, down swept
On th' eminent, like lightning on the oaks,
His battle axe, each time it fell, each time
A life was gone, each time a hideous laugh
Shone on the Slayer's cheek and writhing lip;
As in the Oriental wars where meet
Sultan and Omrah, under his broad tower
Moves stately the huge Elephant, a shaft
Haply casts down his friendly rider, wont
To lead him to the tank, whose children shar'd
With him their feast of fruits: awhile he droops
Affectionate his loose and moaning trunk:
Then in his grief and vengeance bursts, and bears
In his feet's trampling rout and disarray
To either army, ranks give way, and troops
Scatter, while swaying on his heaving back
His tottering tower, he shakes the sandy plain.
Meanwhile had risen a conflict high and fierce
For Britain's royal banner; Hengist here,
Argantyr, the Vikinger, Hermingard,
And other Chiefs. But there th' Armoric King,
Emrys, and Uther, with the Avenger stood,
An iron wall against their inroad; turn'd
Samor 'gainst him at distance heard and seen,
The car-borne Mountaineer, then Uther met
Argantyr, Hengist and King Emrys fought,
The rest o'erbore King Hoel; one had slain
The standard bearer, and all arms at once
Seiz'd as it fell, all foreign and all foes.
When lo, that sable Warrior, that retir'd
And careless had look'd on, upon his steed
And in the battle, like a thundercloud
He came, and like a thundercloud he burst,
Black, cold, and sullen, conquering without pride
And slaying without triumph; three that grasp'd
The standard came at once to earth, while he
Over his head with kingly motion sway'd
The bright redeemed ensign, and as fell
The shaken sunlight radiant o'er his brow,
Pride came about him, and with voice like joy
He cried aloud, "Arles! Arles!" -- and shook his sword,
"Thou'st won me once a royal crown, and now
Shalt win a royal sepulchre." -- The sword
Perform'd its fatal duty, down they fell
Before him, Jute and Saxon, nameless men
And Chieftains; what though wounds he scorn'd to ward,
Nor seem'd to feel, show'r'd on him, and his blood
Ooz'd manifest, still he slew, still cried, "Arles! Arles!"
Still in the splendour the wav'd standard spread
Stood glorying the arm'd darkness of his form;
Stood from his wounded steed dismounted, stood
Amid an area of dead men, himself
About to die, none daring an assault,
He powerless of assailing. But the crown
That on the flag-staff gleam'd, he wrench'd away,
And on his crest with calm solicitude
Plac'd it, then planting 'mid the high-heap'd slain
The standard, to o'ercanopy his sleep,
As one upon his nightly couch of down
Composes quietly his weary head,
So royally he laid him down to die. --
But now was every fight broke off, a pause
Seiz'd all the battle, one vast silence quench'd
All tumult; slain and slayer, life and death
Possess'd one swoon of torpor, droop'd and fail'd
All passions, pride, wrath, vengeance, hate, dismay,
All was one wide astonishment: alone
Two undistracted on each other gazed,
Where helpless in their death-blood they lay steep'd,
The ebbing of each other's life, the stiff
Damp growing on of death; till in a groan
Horsa exhausted his fierce soul: then came
A momentary tinge, soft and subdued
As of affections busy at his heart,
On Vortimer's expiring brow, his lip
Wore something of the curl men's use, when names
Belov'd are floating o'er the thought, the flowers
On that lone grave made fragrant his sick sense,
And Eamont murmured on his closing ear.
But he, whose coming cast this silence on
Before it, as the night its widening shade,
Curtaining nature in its soundless pall,
An atmosphere of dying breath, where'er
He moved, his drear envelopment, his path
An element of blood: so fleet, so fast
The power to fly seem'd wither'd, ere he came,
Men laid them down and said their prayers and look'd
For the quick plunging hoofs and rushing scythes:
As when the palsied Universe aghast
Lay, all its tenants, even Man, restless Man,
In all his busy workings mute and still,
When drove, so poets sing, the Sun-born youth
Devious through heaven's affrighted signs, his Sire's
Ill-granted chariot, him the Thunderer hurl'd
From th' empyrean headlong to the gulph
Of the half-parch'd Eridanus, where weep
Even now the Sister Trees their amber tears
O'er Phaeton untimely dead. And now
Had the Avenger reach'd the path of death,
And stood in arms before the steeds, they came
Rearing their ireful hoofs to dash him down;
But with both hands he seiz'd their foaming curbs,
Holding them in their spring with outstrech'd arm
Aloft, and made their lifted crests a shield
Against their driver. He with baffled lash
Goaded their quivering flanks, but that strong arm
Held them above avoiding, their fore-hoofs
Beat th' unhurt air, and overspread his breast,
Like a thick snow-shower, the fast falling foam.
Then leap'd Caswallon down, back Samor hurl'd
Coursers and chariot, and, "Now," cried aloud,
"Now, King of Britain, in the name of God
I tender thee a throne, two yards of earth
To rot on, and a diadem, a wreath
Of death-drops for thy haught aspiring brow.
"There, there, look there," Caswallon cried, his hand
Stretch'd tow'rd his son, and in a frantic laugh
Broke out, and echoed. -- "Diadems and thrones!"
With rigid finger pointing at the dead.
A moment, and the fury burst again;
Down came the ponderous battle axe, from edge
To edge it rived the temper'd brass, as swift
As shot-stars the thin ether; but the glaive
Of Samor right into his bosom smote.
Like some old turret, under whose broad shade
At summer noon the shepherd oft his flock
Hath driven, and in the friendly cool rejoic'd,
Suddenly, violently, from its base
Push'd by the winter floods, he fell; his look
Yet had its savage blasphemy: he felt
More than the blow, the deadly blow, the cries
Of joy and triumph from each army sent,
Taunting and loud; to him to die was nought,
He could not brook the shame of being slain.
But other thoughts arose; hardly he crept
To where dead Malwyn from the car hung down,
Felt on his face the cold depending hand,
And with a smile half joy, half anguish died.
Th' Avenger knelt, his heart too full for prayer,
Knelt, and held up his conquering sword to heaven,
Yet spake not. But the battle, as set free,
Its rugged game renew'd, nor equal now
Nor now unbroken, Flight and shameful Rout
Here scattered, Victory there and Pride array'd,
And mass'd in comely files and full square troops
Bore onward. Mountaineer and German break
Around the hill foot, and like ebbing waves
Disperse away. Argantyr, Hengist move
In the recoiling flood reluctant. Them
Nought more resembled, than two mountain bulls
Driven by the horse and dog and hunter spear,
Still turning with huge brow and tearing up
The deep earth with their wrathful stooping horns.
But as the hill was opened, from the top
Even to the base arose a shriek and scream,
As when some populous Capital besieg'd,
Sees yawning her wide-breached wall, and all
Her shatter'd bulwarks on the earth, so wild,
So dissonant the female rout appear'd
Hanging with fierce disturbance the hill side.
Some with rent hair ran to and fro, some stood
With silent mocking lip, some softly prest
Their infants to their heart, some held them forth
As to invite the foe, and for them sued
The mercy of immediate slaughter. Some
Spake fiercely of past deeds of fame, some sang
In taunting tone old songs of victory. Wives
With eye imploring and quick heaving breast
Look'd sad allusions to endearments past;
Mothers, all bashfulness cast down, rent down
Their garments, to their sons displaying bare
The fountains of their infant nourishment,
Now ready to be plough'd with murtherous swords.
Some knelt before their cold deaf Gods, some scoff'd
With imprecation blasphemous and shrill
Their stony and unwakening thunders. Noise
Not fiercer on Cithæron side, th' affright
Not drearier, when the Theban Bacchic rout,
Their dashing cymbals white with moonshine, loose
Their tresses bursting from their ivy crowns,
And purple with enwoven vine-leaves, led
Their orgies dangerous. In the midst the Queen
Agave shook the misdeem'd Lion's head
Aloft, and laugh'd and danc'd and sung, nor knew
That lion suckled at her own white breast.
But Elfelin that Prophetess her seat
Chang'd not, nor the near horror could recall
Her eye from its strange commerce with th' unseen;
There had she been, there has she been in smiles
All the long battle; just before the spear
Or falchion drank a warrior's life-blood, she
Audible, as an high-tribunal'd judge,
Spake out his name, and aye her speech was doom.
Nor long the o'erbearing flight enwrapt thy strength,
Argantyr, thou amid the shattering wreck
Didst rise, as in some ruinous city old,
Babylon or Palmyra, magic built,
A single pillar yet with upright shaft
Stands, 'mid the wide prostration mossy and flat,
Shewing more eminent. Past the Saxon by,
And look'd and wonder'd, even that he delay'd;
Cried his own Anglians. -- "King, away, away!"
First came King Hoel on, whose falchion clove
His buckler, with a wrest he burst in twain
The shivering steel; came Emrys next, aside
His misaim'd blow he shook; last Uther, him
His war horse, by Argantyr's beam-like spear
Then first appall'd, bore in vain anger past.
From his late victory in proud breathlessness
Slow came the Avenger, but Argantyr rais'd
A cry of furious joy, "Long sought, late found,
I charge thee, by our last impeded fight,
I charge thee, give me back mine own, my sword
Is weary of its bathes of vulgar blood,
And longs in nobler streams to plunge; with thine
I'll gild and hang it on my Father's grave,
And his helm'd ghost in Woden's hall shall vaunt
The glories of his son." "Generous and brave,
When last we met, I shrunk to see my sword
Bright with God's sunlight, now with dauntless hand
I lift it, and cry On, in the name of God."
They met, they strove, as with a cloud enwrapt
In their own majesty; their motions gave
Terror even to their shadows; round them spread
Attention like a sleep. Flight paus'd, Pursuit
Caught up its loose rein, Death his furious work
Ceas'd, and a dreary respite gave to souls
Half parted; on their elbows rear'd them up
The dying, with faint effort holding ope
Their dropping eyelids, homage of delight
War from its victims thus exacting. Mind
And body engross'd the conflict. Men were seen
At distance, for in their peculiar sphere,
Within the wind and rush of their quick arms
None ventur'd, following with unconscious limbs
Their blows, and shrinking as themselves were struck.
Like scatter'd shiverings of a scath'd oak lay
Fragments of armour round them, the hard brass
Gave way, and broke the fiery temper'd steel,
The stronger metal of the human soul,
Valour, endur'd, and power thrice purified
In Danger's furnace fail'd not. Victory, tired
Of wavering, to those passive instruments,
Look'd to decide her long suspense. Behold
Argantyr's falchion, magic wrought, his sires
So fabled, by the Asgard dwarfs, nor hewn
From earthly mines, nor dipp'd in earthly fires,
Broke short. Th' ancestral steel the Anglians saw,
Sign of their Kings, and worship of their race,
Give way, and wail'd and shriek'd aloud. The King
Collected all his glory as a pall
To perish in, and scorn'd his sworded foe
To mock with vain defence of unarm'd hand.
The exultation and fierce throb of hope
Yet had not pass'd away, but look'd to death
As it had look'd to conquest, death so well,
So bravely earn'd to warrior fair as life:
Stern welcoming, bold invitation lured
To its last work the Conqueror's sword. Him flush'd
The pride of Conquest, vengeance long delay'd,
Th' exalted shame of victory won so slow,
So toilsomely; all fiery passions, all
Tumultuous sense-intoxicating powers
Conspir'd with their wild anarchy beset
His despot soul. But he -- "Ah, faithless sword,
To me as to thy master faithless, him
Naked at his extreme to leave, and me
To guile of this occasion fair to win
Honour or death from great Argantyr's arm."
"Christian, thy God is mightiest, scorn not thou
His bounty, nor with dalliance mock thy hour,
Strike and consummate!" -- "Anglian yes, my God,
Th' Almighty, is the mightiest now and ever,
Because I scorn him not, I will not strike." --
So saying, he his sword cast down. "Thus, thus
Warr'st thou?" the Anglian cried, "then thou hast won.
I, I Argantyr yield me, other hand
Had tempted me in vain with that base boon
Which peasants prize and women weep for, life:
To lord o'er dead Argantyr fate might grant,
He only grants to vanquish him alive,
Only to thee, well nam'd Avenger!" Then
The Captive and the Conqueror th' armies saw
Gazing upon each other with the brow
Of high arch'd admiration; o'er the field
From that example flow'd a noble scorn
Of slaughtering the defenceless, mercy slak'd
The ardour of the fight. As the speck'd birch
After a shower, with th' odour of its bark
Freshens the circuit of the rain-bright grove;
Or as the tender argent of Love's star
Smiles to a lucid quiet the wild sky:
So those illustrious rivals with the light
Of their high language and heroic act
Cast a nobility o'er all the war.
That capture took a host, none scorn'd to yield,
So loftily Argantyr wore the garb
Of stern surrender, none inclin'd to slay,
When Samor held the signal up to spare.
But where the Lord of that dire falchion nam'd
The Widower of Women? He, the Chief
Whose arms were squadrons, whose assault the shock
Of hosts advancing? Hath the cream-blanch'd steed,
Whom the outstripped winds pant after, borne away
His master, yet with hope uncheck'd, and craft
Unbaffled, th' equal conflict to renew?
Fast flew the horse, and fierce the rider spurr'd,
That horse that all the day remorseless went
O'er dead and dying, all that Hengist slew
All he cast down before him. Lo, he checks
Suddenly, startingly, with ears erect,
Thick tremor oozing out from every pore,
His broad chest palpitating, the thick foam
Lazily gathering on his dropping lip:
The pawing of his uplift forefoot chill'd
To a loose hanging quiver. Nor his Lord
Less horror seiz'd; slack trembled in his left
The bridle, with his right hand dropt his sword,
Dripp'd slowly from its point the flaking blood
Of hundreds, this day fall'n beneath its edge.
For lo, descended the hill side, stood up
Right in his path the Prophetess, and held
With a severe compassion both her arms
Over her head, and thus -- "It cannot be,
I've cried unto the eagle, air hath none;
I've sued unto the fleet and bounding deer,
I've sought unto the sly and mining snake;
There's none above the earth, beneath the earth,
No flight, no way, no narrow obscure way.
I've call'd unto the lightning, as it leaped
Along heaven's verge, it cannot guide thee forth;
I've beckon'd to the dun and pitchy gloom,
It cannot shroud thee; to the caves of earth
I've wail'd and shriek'd, they cannot chamber thee."
He spoke not, mov'd not, strove not: man and steed,
Like some Equestrian marble in the courts
Of Emperors; that fierce eye whose wisdom keen
Pierc'd the dark depths of counsel, hawk-like-roved,
Seizing the unutter'd thoughts from out men's souls,
Wrought order in the battle's turbulent fray
By its command, on the aged Woman's face
Fix'd like a moonstruck idiot. She upright
With strength beyond her bow'd and shrivell'd limbs
Still stood, and murmur'd low, "Why com'st thou not,
Thou of the Vale? thou fated, come! come! come!"
The foes o'ertook, he look'd not round, their tramp
Was round him, still he mov'd not; violent hands
Seiz'd on him, still the enchanted falchion hung
Innocent as a feather by his side.
They tore him from his steed, still clung his eyes
On her disasterous face; she fiercely shriek'd
Half pride at her accomplish'd prophecy,
Half sorrow at Erle Hengist's fall, then down
Upon the stone that bore her, she fell dead.