Part 8, Chapter 4


Chapter 4

IT is the tender twilight hour, when maidens in their lonely bower, sigh softer than the eve! The languid rose her head upraises, and listens to the nightingale, while his wild and thrilling praises, from his trembling bosom gush: the languid rose her head upraises, and listens with a blush.

In the clear and rosy air, sparkling with a single star, the sharp and spiry cypress-tree rises like a gloomy thought, amid the flow of revelry. A singing bird, a single star, a solemn tree, an odorous flower, are dangerous in the tender hour, when maidens in their twilight bower, sigh softer than the eve!

The daughter of the caliph comes forth to breathe the air: her lute her only company. She sits her down by a fountain’s side, and gazes on the waterfall. Her cheek reclines upon her arm, like fruit upon a graceful bough. Very pensive is the face of that bright and beauteous lady. She starts; a warm voluptuous lip presses her soft and idle hand. It is her own gazelle. With his large and lustrous eyes, more eloquent than many a tongue, the fond attendant mutely asks the cause of all her thoughtfulness.

’Ah! bright gazelle! ah! bright gazelle!’ the princess cried, the princess cried; ’thy lips are softer than the swan, thy lips are softer than the swan; but his breathed passion, when they pressed, my bright gazelle! my bright gazelle!

’Ah! bright gazelle! ah! bright gazelle!’ the princess cried, the princess cried; ’thine eyes are like the stars of night, thine eyes are like the stars of night; but his glanced passion when they gazed, my bright gazelle! my bright gazelle!’

She seized her lute, she wildly threw her fingers o’er its thrilling cords, and, gazing on the rosy sky, to borrow all its poetry, thus, thus she sang; thus, thus she sang:


He rose in beauty like the morn
That brightens in our Syrian skies;
Dark passion glittered in his eye,
And Empire sparkled in his form!


My soul! thou art the dusky earth,
On which his sunlight fell;
The dusky earth, that dim no longer,
Now breathes with light, now beams with love!


He rose in beauty, like the morn
That brightens in our Syrian skies;
Dark Passion glittered in his eye,
And Empire sparkled in his form!

‘Once more, once more! Ah! sing that strain once more!’

The princess started and looked round. Before her stood Alroy. She rose, she would have retired; but, advancing, the conqueror stole her hand.

‘Fair princess,’ said Alroy, ‘let it not be said that my presence banished at once beauty and music.’

‘Sire, I doubt not that Honain awaits you. Let me summon him.’

‘Lady, it is not with Honain that I would speak.’

He seated himself by her side. His countenance was pale, his heart trembled.

‘This garden,’ at length he observed in a low voice, ‘this garden, a brief, brief space has glided away since first I wandered within its beauteous limits, and yet those days seem like the distant memory of another life.’

‘It is another life,’ said the princess. ‘Ourselves, the world, all forms and usages, all feelings and all habits, verily they have changed, as if we had breathed within another sphere.’

‘’Tis a great change.’

‘Since first you visited my bright kiosk. Pretty bauble! I pray it may be spared.’

‘It is sacred, like yourself.’

‘You are a courteous conqueror.’

‘I am no conqueror, fair Schirene, but a slave more lowly than when I first bowed humbly in your presence.’

‘And bore away a token not forgotten. Your rosary is here.’

‘Let me claim it. It has been my consolation in much peril, beauteous lady. On the eve of battle I wound it round my heart.’

She held forth the rosary, and turned away her head. Her hand remained in his; he pressed it to his lips. His right arm retained her hand; he wound the other round her waist, as he fell upon his knee.

‘O beautiful! O more than beautiful! for thou to me art like a dream unbroken,’ exclaimed the young leader of Israel, ‘let me, let me breathe my adoration. I offer thee not empire: I offer thee not wealth; I offer thee not all the boundless gratification of magnificent fancy, these may be thine, but all these thou hast proved; but, if the passionate affections of a spirit which never has yielded to the power of woman or the might of man, if the deep devotion of the soul of Alroy, be deemed an offering meet for the shrine of thy surpassing loveliness, I worship thee, Schirene, I worship thee, I worship thee!

‘Since I first gazed upon thee, since thy beauty first rose upon my presence like a star bright with my destiny, in the still sanctuary of my secret love, thy idol has ever rested. Then, then, I was a thing whose very touch thy creed might count a contumely. I have avenged the insults of long centuries in the best blood of Asia; I have returned, in glory and in pride, to claim my ancient sceptre; but sweeter far than vengeance, sweeter far than the quick gathering of my sacred tribes, the rush of triumph and the blaze of empire, is this brief moment of adoring love, wherein I pour the passion of my life!

‘O my soul, my life, my very being! thou art silent, but thy silence is sweeter than others’ speech. Yield, yield thee, dear Schirene, yield to thy suppliant! Thy faith, thy father’s faith, thy native customs, these, these shall be respected, beauteous lady! Pharaoh’s daughter yielded her dusky beauty* to my great ancestor. Thy face is like the bright inspiring day! Let it not be said that the daughter of the Nile shared Israel’s crown, the daughter of the Tigris spurned our sceptre. I am not Solomon, but I am one that were Schirene the partner of my throne, would make his glowing annals read like a wearisome and misty tale to our surpassing lustre!’ He ceased, the princess turned her hitherto hidden countenance, and bowed it on his heart.

‘O Alroy!’ she exclaimed, ‘I have no creed, no country, no life, but thee!’